Bill Belichick blows it as Colts stage stunning comeback; Bengals show they are for real, the Broncos fade continues, hot player of the week.
By Jim Buzinski
How I saw Week 10 in the NFL:
With 4:13 left in the fourth quarter, the Indianapolis Colts trailed the New England Patriots, 34-21, and I was all prepared to write how sloppy the Colts played and give credit to a great game plan by New England. But in a shocking, unbelievable ending, the Colts scored two touchdowns in the final 2:27 to win the NFL game of the year, 35-34. The game-winner came on a Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne pass with 12 seconds left.
The goat is someone I never thought I would call a bonehead -- the usually brilliant Patriots coach Bill Belichick. His inexplicable time management and play calling allowed the Colts (9-0) back into the game and left fans scratching their heads everywhere,
Belichick, first off, used all three timeouts, even though his team led the whole fourth quarter, the last before a stuptifyingly dumb decision to go for it on 4th and 2 from the Colts 28 with 2:08 left. Kevin Faulk juggled a pass and was tackled about a half-yard shy of the first down. While it was clear Faulk was short since he juggled the ball and did not get possession until he lost the first down, Belichick had no timeouts left, so he could not challenge the call (and stranger things have happened on challenges).
What was also weird is the Belichick kept saying, "I thought we could make a yard." They did make a yard, but they needed two. Did he not know how much they had to gain? If so, that is truly baffling since the difference between one and two yards in this case was a loss.
Mike Florio wrote this on Pro Football Talk about the call: "Barry Switzer tried that once for the Cowboys in a game against the Eagles and he was labeled a moron." Belichick has won three Super Bowls, so he gets a bit of a pass, but there was no excuse for his decision to go for it.
On NBC after the game, former Patriot Rodney Harrison was brutally honest, saying it was the worst call he has ever seen Belichick make. I thought Harrison was going to cry. It left the Colts needing only 30 yards to score the game-winner. As Harrison said, what Belichick was telling his defense was that he had zero confidence in their ability to stop Manning, even had a punt forced the Colts to drive 70 yards (and this same defense had picked Manning twice in the second half.)
When the Patriots (6-3) went up by 17 with 14 minutes left, I texted Cyd and said, "It's over." After the game, he texted back that I always call games over too early. Perhaps (I'm a nervous Nellie fan), but the Patriots under Belichick had never lost a game they led by 13 or more in the fourth quarter, so I was not sandbagging.
With the Colts winning, the key play in the game (besides the Belichick call) was Lawrence Maroney's fumble into the end zone into the third period. That took away at least three points that likely would have put the game away.
What it means: Cyd also texted me that he thought neither the Colts nor the Patriots would win the Super Bowl. I am not sure why he thinks that. These are the two best teams I've seen this season. The Saints are 9-0 but struggled to beat the Rams and fell behind double digits to the Dolphins and Panthers, both sub-.500 teams. The Vikings are 8-1 but could easily be 6-3 and have one quality win.
In the AFC, the Bengals don't have much of an offense, while the Steelers will need to be playoff road warriors. The most dangerous AFC team is San Diego, since they give the Colts fits and match up well against the Patriots. There are still seven weeks left in the season, so it's premature to make any definitive statements about the Super Bowl.
What it mostly means is that the Colts won't have to travel to Foxboro, Mass., if they meet the Patriots in the playoffs. Something tells me these teams will see each other again in about two months.
|Dallas Cowboy receiver Miles Austin has quickly become an Outsports fan fave. Also, a good butt shot.
Earning their stripes: Anyone who thought the Cincinnati Bengals were frauds (and this includes every Steeler fan I know) were proven wrong when the Bengals went into Pittsburgh and came away with an 18-12 win. It leaves the Bengals 7-2, a game ahead of 6-3 Pittsburgh. More importantly, it gives the Bengals a sweep of both the Steelers and Ravens, meaning Cincy wins any division tiebreaker.
With games left against Kansas City, Oakland, Detroit and Cleveland, the Bengals are on track to win at least 11 games, which would almost certainly give them the division and at least one home playoff game. Almost no one, myself included, would have predicted this before the season.
The Bengals' defense is legit. They held the Steelers to four field goals and only 226 yards and sacked Ben Roethlisberger four times. It was the best I've seen a defense contain Big Ben in a while. It was the Bengals' first sweep of the Steelers since 1998. The Steelers won the Super Bowl last season by getting a bye and having two home playoff games. If they hope to repeat, their road will be a lot tougher.
Heads up play of the year: Maurice Jones-Drew pissed off his fantasy football owners everywhere, but helped his Jacksonville Jaguars get a big 24-22 win over the New York Jets. The Jags, down 22-21, had the ball at the Jets' 14 with 1:48 left and playing for the winning field goal. MJD took a handoff and had a huge hole. He easily could have scored -- and the Jets looked like they were letting him score to get the ball back -- but he took a knee at the 1. The Jets had no more timeouts and the Jaguars let the clock run down to two seconds before having Josh Scobee kick a chip-shot 20-yard field goal to win the game.
"To my fantasy owners, I apologize," Jones-Drew said. "I have myself today, so it was a tough call. But whatever it takes for a victory, that's all that counts." Obviously, Scobee could have missed the kick, but the strategy was still sound. Still, any fantasy owner that lost by a couple of points will be cursing MJD all week.
Change of fortune: When the New York Jets started 3-0, some "experts" were already tabbing them as a playoff team. Now, at 4-5, the Jets' season is unraveling.
Three games ago, in contrast, the Tennessee Titans dropped to 0-6 after losing 59-0 at New England. After a bye and after inserting Vince Young at quarterback, the Titans have won three in a row. At 3-6, the playoffs are still a stretch for the Titans, but right now they are a better than a Jets team that was the toast of New York back in September.
Day's hot jock: Dallas receiver Miles Austin didn't do a whole lot against Green Bay, but I guarantee gay fans everywhere were still drooling. He has been on the radar screen of our readers for a few weeks and check out the shot above to see why.
Downfall: It was not a surprise when the Denver Broncos lose consecutive games to Baltimore and Pittsburgh. But a 27-17 loss to lowly Washington tells me the wheels are coming off in Denver. Yes, QB Kyle Orton got hurt, but allowing 27 points to the anemic Redskins shows that the Broncos defense - so dominant early in the year - is coming back to Earth.
At 6-0, the Broncos looked like a playoff lock but with games coming up against the Eagles, Giants, Colts and Chargers, I say Denver would be lucky to finish above .500.
Coming on: The NFC playoff race is still wide open (at least for a wild card), and don't count out Carolina. The Panthers started 0-3 but have won four of six and gave the Saints fits a week ago. Carolina can run the ball, which takes pressure off of Jake Delhomme, and their defense is stepping it up.
Good time for a bye: The New York Giants are in disarray, having lost four in a row. But being off Sunday was the best thing that could have happened to them. While they were resting, they gained a half-game in the playoff race when the Bears, Eagles, Cowboys and Falcons all lost.