Giants blow a 21-point lead in a crippling loss; DeSean Jackson is a punk; Colts get a must-win; Jets, Pats survive; big loss for the Saints; hot player of the week.
By Jim Buzinski
How I saw Week 15 in the NFL:
Some amazing thrillers this week as the season heated up with the playoffs on the line.
What a giant choke job by the New York Giants, who lost to the Eagles, 38-31, on DeSean Jackson's 65-yard punt return with no time left. It was the first time in NFL history that a team won a game on the final play with a punt return touchdown. With 8:17 left, the Giants led 31-10 and then the roof caved in. The Eagles, behind Michael Vick's running and throwing, scored three offensive TDs to tie it before Jackson's heroics. Philly also needed to recover an onsides kick that totally caught the Giants off guard.
|Hot player of the week: Michael Ray Garvin
Giants rookie punter Matt Dodge made the biggest bonehead play of the season when he kicked to Jackson instead of booting it out of bounds and send the game into overtime. It was baffling and inexplicable and Coach Tom Coughlin gave him a deserved chewing out as the Eagles celebrated. Coughlin after the game blamed himself and absolved Dodge, but that was just a coach covering for his player.
Jackson is a fantastic player but he comes across like a total arrogant a-hole. Instead of simply running into the end zone on his punt return, he taunted the Giants by running across the goal line, even though the clock had run out. He has pulled this garbage in games before and has become one of my least favorite players in the league. Combine him with Vick and the Eagles (10-4) are an easy team to root against. But they are very good and now look likely to do no worse than the No. 2 seed in the NFC. An Eagles-Patriots Super Bowl would be my worst nightmare.
It was a crushing loss for the Giants (9-5), whose chances of winning the NFC East are basically done. They now need to win out to get a wild card and a road playoff game. With eight minutes to go, the division was theirs, and eight minutes later their season is on life support.
Not dead yet: The Colts (8-6) gutted out a 34-24 win over the Jaguars (8-6), depriving the Jags of a chance to win the AFC South. The Colts never trailed but still needed a kickoff return TD by linebacker Tujuan Hagler on an onsides kick to put the game away.
For the second game in a row, Peyton Manning played near flawlessly, with two TD passes and no interceptions. He was helped by the return of Austin Collie, who had eight catches and two TDs, but who went out again with another concussion. From that moment on, the Colts' passing game stalled; Collie is that important, especially with Dallas Clark and Anthony Gonzalez on injured reserve. I think he should be shut down for the season since multiple concussions make getting another one much more likely. With so many key weapons on the shelf, a playoff spot would be quite an accomplishment for the Colts, but they won't do much damage if they do get in.
Here is a stat no one would have foreseen: Rushing yards: Colts 155, Jags 67. So much for Jacksonville being the more physical team. Donald Brown had a 43-yard touchdown run, the longest TD run by a Colt since 2001.
If the Colts win their next two they win the division; the Jags need to win both and get some help from either the Raiders or Titans beating the Colts.
Still in control: The Chiefs (9-5) won a huge game, 27-13, over the Rams (6-8), to stay a game ahead of the Chargers (8-6). Kansas City wins the division with two more wins (can't see San Diego losing to the Bengals or Broncos, so figutre the Chargers to go 10-6), and it's likely they will need to beat archrival Oakland in the final week.
The Rams are still amazingly in the NFC West race, which looks more and more likely to be won by a 7-9 team.
Hanging on I: The Jets (10-4) beat the Steelers (10-4), 22-17, for their first win ever in Pittsburgh. But it took until the game's final play for the Jets to win as two Ben Roethlisberger passes into the end zone fell incomplete on the Steelers' last drive. The Jets had played tough defense all day but went into the infamous "prevent" defense on the final drive that almost prevented them from winning. It always baffles me why a team plays one style of defense for 58 minutes that is working, then shifts to one that allows a team to march down the field with zero pass rush. The Jets survived but got lucky.
Hanging on II: The Patriots (12-2) looked like they were going to breeze through the remainder of the regular season and into the playoffs, especially Sunday night when they hosted a Green Bay team without Aaron Rodgers, its starting quarterback. Matt Flynn was making his first start for the Packers (8-6) and the Pats were a two-touchdown favorite. The Patriots wound up winning, 31-27, but it was a lot closer than anyone expected. The Packers wound up with the ball inside the Patriots 20 late in the game, but horrendous clock management allowed 19 precious seconds to burn off on their final drive and New England survived. Flynn played generally pretty well but he showed his inexperience by wasting so much time before the final play.
The key play of the game was a bizarre 71-yard kickoff return to the Packers' 4 by Patriots' 313-pound offensive lineman Dan Connolly late in the first half. It led to a touchdown that cut a 10-point lead to three at halftime. It was the longest kickoff return in league history by a lineman.
Flameout: Miami's slim playoff chances went south with its 17-14 loss to Buffalo (4-10). The Dolphins (7-7) may be weirdest team in the league - they are 6-1 on the road and 1-6 at home.
Big loss: The Saints (10-4) lost a huge road game, 30-24, to the Ravens (10-4). With the Falcons (12-2) beating the Seahawks (6-8), this means Atlanta wins the NFC South (and clinches NFC home field) with a win next week against the Saints or in Week 17 against the Panthers.
People have rightly criticized Peyton Manning for his interceptions this season, but why not the same criticism for Drew Brees, who has thrown more? It helps that the Saints have had a cushy schedule, with four games against teams with winning records vs. seven for the Colts.
The Saints will likely be the No. 5 seed in the NFC, a huge break since they will play at the awful NFC West winner (Seattle, St. Louis or San Francisco). Never had the five seed looked so inviting.
Falling apart: The Houston Texans (5-9) peaked in Week 1 when they beat the Colts and acted like they had won the Super Bowl. Now they're fighting each other. Teammates Brian Cushing and Antonio Smith got into a fight in the second quarter of the team's 31-17 loss to the Titans (6-8). It's the most fight the Texans have shown on defense all season.
Hot player of the week: Michael Ray Garvin is not on a current NFL roster (he was waived by Detroit this season) but does play in the UFL and has an amazing body, so we'll count him. And who cares where he plays? The only criteria for this item is hotness.