Nine games come down to the final quarter and the Colts and Saints stay perfect. Brady Quinn and the last player drafted are the day's two hottest.
By Jim Buzinski
How I saw Week 11 in the NFL:
Great games galore: Sunday was the best week so far for close games, as nine games were decided in the fourth quarter or overtime; the winning team came from behind in the fourth quarter in seven of them.
|Ryan Succop was the last player drafted.|
|Brady Quinn played his best game as a pro.|
The Colts (10-0) needed a red zone interception inside of three minutes to hold off the Ravens (5-5), 17-15.
The Cowboys (7-3) scored one touchdown, but it was enough to nip the Redskins (3-7), 7-6.
The Giants (6-4) blew a big lead to Atlanta (5-5), before winning the overtime toss and going down to win the game, 34-31.
The Lions (2-8) needed a miracle pass interference call in the end zone on the game's final play, then a touchdown pass on an untimed down to beat the Browns (1-9), 38-37. In all my years of watching the NFL, I have never seen PI called on a Hail Mary pass. It seemed to be a legit call and symbolized the Brown's season.
The Packers (6-4) had a 20-point lead shrink to six, before holding off the 49ers (4-6), 30-24.
The Chiefs (3-7) rallied to tie the Steelers (6-4) late, then won in overtime in a huge upset, 27-24.
The Jaguars (6-4) needed a fourth-quarter touchdown to get past the Bills (3-7), 18-15. The Jags are the quietest 6-4 team in the league, having won three straight, and are firmly in the wild card chase.
The Raiders (3-7) scored 10 points in the final 30 seconds to stun the Bengals (7-3), 20-17. The Raiders tied the game on a TD pass, then won on a field goal set up by the Bengals fumbling the ensuing kickoff.
The Eagles (6-4) needed a 10-yard run by LeSean McCoy in the fourth quarter to beat the Bears (4-6).
Hotness galore: Sunday was also a great time to catch some NFL eye candy. Browns' quarterback Brady Quinn had by far his best game as a pro, throwing four touchdowns (it was against the Lions, so it's not a sign that Quinn will be a star). It led to tons of sideline shots of the hot-hot Quinn in his stocking cap.
In Kansas City, Ryan Succop (pronounced "suck-up") was the last player drafted this spring, earning the "Mr. Irrelevant" title. Succop, though, won the Chiefs' kicking job and his overtime field goal beat the Steelers, 27-24. We saw numerous shots of the studly Succop being mobbed by his teammates, and also led me to find a shirtless shot on the Internet (see left).
Also in KC, rookie Chiefs linebacker Andy Studebaker had two interceptions, and the sideline shots of him made Jim Allen and I say wow. Studebaker went to Division III Wheaton College, and is a candidate for our all-hot NFL team.
I'm with stupid: I watch every Colts game, so get a good feel for what other teams do against them. And every week I scratch my head at dumb calls made by opposing coaches, and how poorly they manage the clock. I think it's a reflection of how teams fear Peyton Manning and the Colts offense, so think they have to try some things different (or they just lose their common sense). This was most evident by the infamous "Fourth-and-2" call by Bill Belichick a week ago that blew up in the face of the Patriots.
I saw some more strange calls Sunday in Indy's 17-15 win at Baltimore. The Ravens couldn't get in for a touchdown despite having first-and-goal at the 1 in the fourth quarter. A call that almost always works against the Colts in these situations is a play-action pass. Instead, the Ravens ran three times up the middle, were stuffed and settled for a field goal.
Coach John Harbaugh also screwed up and wound up burning his last two timeouts after one play. Manning had hit Reggie Wayne on a short completion for a key first down with 2:15 left; Wayne stretched and was given the first down, though it was close. Harbaugh should have challenged the play immediately, since it would have stopped the clock. Instead, he called a timeout and then challenged the play.
When replay confirmed the call, Baltimore lost its third and final timeout. They could have used it when they forced a Colts punt with 30 seconds left; returner Ed Reed, in desperation mode, fumbled on a lateral and the game was over. Had Harbaugh saved his timeout, they would have had the ball on the Indy 40 with close to a minute left, plenty of time to drive down for a game-winning field goal try.
Close shaves: The Colts (10-0) have won their last four games by 4, 3, 1 and 2 points. If they play in the playoffs like they did Sunday (two interceptions and a goal-line fumble in a game they should have dominated), they could easily be one and done.
Trying to rub it in: Patriots Coach Bill Belchick has a penchant for trying to run up the score. He was at it again against the Jets when he had Tom Brady try a deep pass to Randy Moss with the Pats up 17 and only 30 seconds left. The pass was incomplete. This was part of a personal battle between cornerback Darrelle Revis and Moss.
In the team's first meeting, Revis shut down Moss, but the receiver said that was because he was doubled the whole game, which Revis took offense to. Sunday, Moss had one touchdown but only five catches for 34 yards and a long of 13, so Revis pretty much won that battle. Having Brady go deep with the game virtually over was classless and bush-league, but we've come to expect that from Coach Hoodie. Karma bit him in the butt two years ago when the Pats choked in the Super Bowl. You better believe the Jets and Revis won't forget Sunday for a long time; the question will be whether the Jets will ever be good enough to seriously compete with the Pats in the division and get their revenge.
Mr. Slot: Wes Welker of the Patriots had 15 catches for 191 yards; that's two games' worth for most receivers. Welker is only 5-9 but always seems to come up big for the Pats. He is the best slot receiver I have seen.
Snoozer: Every time I switched the Dallas-Washington game, they was a game stoppage. The worst was a ridiculous seven-minute stretch where the refs reviewed a play and then couldn't figure out whether to call or not call a penalty. It seemed to sum up what from all accounts was a dog of a game won by Dallas, 7-6.
Fall of Troy: I can't remember a defense that falls apart as much as Pittsburgh does when safety Troy Polamalu is missing. With him, they are maybe the league's best defense. Without him, they lost to the punchless Kansas City Chiefs, 27-24, in overtime. The bad news for the Steelers (6-4) is that Polamalu is expected to be out another three weeks with an injured knee. Missing Polamalu, the Steelers have blown leads in the fourth quarter three times this season; putting teams away had always been a Steeler trademark.
Dubious record: For the eighth straight game, the Steelers allowed a special-teams or defensive return for a touchdown. It's an NFL record. In 2008, they allowed zero special-teams returns for a score.
Perfect: The Colts and Saints are still unbeaten, only the third time in history that there have been two 10-0 teams. I predict we won't have two 11-0 teams. The Colts play at the Texans, a division rival that gives them fits (and that missed a game-tying field goal two weeks ago that would have sent the game into overtime). The Saints, meanwhile, have a huge Monday Nighter against the Patriots (7-3), by far the toughest team they have faced. One of the unbeatens will lose, and perhaps both.
Conference reset: There are still six games to go, so anything can happen, but in the NFC, the Saints (10-0), Vikings (9-1) and Cardinals (7-3) look like division locks. In the AFC, the Colts (10-0) would have to collapse to lose home field advantage. Pencil in the Patriots (7-3) and Chargers (7-3) as division winners (the 6-4 Broncos look done). In both conferences, the wild card race is still way too early to call. It looks like a fun final six weeks.