In the last week of football before Thanksgiving, I am thankful for first-time starters, for 59 points, for favorites holding on for their lives in overtime thrillers and for not being a Cardinals fan. I wasn’t as thankful for the Thursday Night game though.
The Bills and Dolphins kicked things off in a lackluster matchup of sub-.500 teams on Thursday Night Football with the Bills getting the win, 19-14. They did so without scoring an offensive touchdown for the first time since 2007. Marcus Thigpen became the first Dolphin to ever return a kick and a punt for a touchdown in the same season. The Bills had a punt return TD and a fumble recovery in the same game for the seventh time since 2001 and improved to 6-1 in those games. Only seven points were scored in the 2nd half with Miami getting a 4th quarter touchdown.
Sunday was a much better day, which we learned early on with three of the early eight having exciting finishes in overtime. The Texans held on for their lives as the 1-9 Jaguars gave them all they could handle in a crazy 43-37 overtime game. Matt Schaub went off for 527 yards and five touchdowns in the win – both were career highs for him and the 527 passing yards were good for the 2nd-most in a game in NFL history. Andre Johnson caught 14 balls for 273 yards and a 48-yard touchdown to win the game in overtime. Seven of his catches came in the 1st half for 132 yards. His 273 total yards marked the most in a game by a wide receiver since Terrell Owens had 283 in 2000. Houston had been down by 14 in the 4th quarter before rallying to force overtime.
Though they did make it quite a game, the Jags have now lost seven in a row after blowing a chance to salvage their season in the spoiler role. Their offense was resurrected after starter Blaine Gabbert went down and backup Chad Henne replaced him. Henne ended up throwing for 354 yards and a career-high four touchdowns – the first time a quarterback has thrown for four touchdowns and no interceptions off the bench since Steve Young did it in 1987. Henne also extended the game with a conversion on 4th & 10 in overtime. He entered the day with four total TD passes in his last five starts. Rookie receiver Justin Blackmon finally had a day worthy of a top-10 draft pick, catching seven balls for 236 yards and a touchdown. His highest yards total coming into the day was 67. His 81-yard TD catch was also good for the 2nd-longest in Jacksonville history behind Troy Edwards, who caught one from 84 yards out in 2003. With another one on Sunday, Cecil Shorts became the first player this season with four touchdown catches of 35 yards or more.
The game was only the second in NFL history to feature two 200-yard receivers. Should the Jags have been able to upset the Texans, it would have been the first time since 1985 that a team with a record of 1-8 or worse had beaten a team with a record of 8-1 or better. Wow, that was a lot. And that’s only just the first game.
In Carolina, the Bucs came back from 21-10 down in the 2nd half to beat the Panthers 27-21 in overtime on a Josh Freeman touchdown pass to Dallas Clark. Vincent Jackson caught a touchdown pass and two-point conversion with 12 seconds left to tie the game and send it to overtime. Rookie running back Doug Martin rushed for 138 yards and a TD and recorded his sixth straight game with 100 or more yards from scrimmage. The win was the fifth in the last six games for Tampa Bay and their fourth in a row.
In the final overtime game, the Cowboys came back from a 13-0 halftime deficit to defeat the Browns, 23-20 in overtime. A late touchdown pass from Brandon Weeden to Benjamin Watson gave the Cowboys the ball back with too much time on the clock and they kicked a field goal to send it to overtime. Cleveland hasn’t won in Dallas since 1993. The comeback marked just the second time in Cowboys history that they have won a game they trailed by 13 points at the half. In a shocking twist, Tony Romo has not thrown an interception in any of his last three games (2-1). All three overtime losers blew double-digit leads.
The Eagles lost their sixth (yes, sixth) game in a row in a 31-6 manhandling at the hands of their NFC East rivals from Washington. It is the first time under head coach Andy Reid that Philly has lost six straight games. To make things worse, rookie quarterback Nick Foles, who was filling in for the injured Michael Vick, threw interceptions on his first two series’ as a starter and LeSean McCoy sustained a concussion. For the Redskins, Robert Griffin III continued to amaze as he finished 14-15 and his completion percentage of 93.3 percent was the highest by a quarterback since the aforementioned Young in 1994 as well as a rookie record. He joined Rex Grossman as the only two Redskins’ QB’s in the last seven seasons to throw four or more touchdowns in a game. He also threw his third touchdown pass of 60 or more yards.
The Super Bowl bound Jets (if you ask them) broke their three-game losing streak with a win against the Rams, 27-13. St. Louis fell to 0-3 against the AFC East this year and has dropped their last seven against AFC East opponents. New York improved to just 4-10 in their last 14 road games. The Jets D forced three turnovers and Tim Tebow hardly played again a few days after he was anonymously criticized by one of his defensive teammates. They did manage their first offensive touchdown in more than 10 quarters though with a 2nd quarter pass from Mark Sanchez to Chaz Schilens.
After not holding a lead at any point during the first nine weeks, the Chiefs jumped out in front 3-0 early against the Bengals, but of course they wouldn’t be able to hang on as Cincinnati beat them 28-6 behind three touchdowns (1 rush) from Andy Dalton. A.J. Green caught a touchdown pass in his ninth straight game, the longest active streak in the NFL, and moved into 2nd-place for most consecutive games with a touchdown in Bengals history.
The Packers won their fifth straight game and all but ended the Lions‘ season as they fell to 4-6 with the loss. Green Bay improved to 13-1 in their last 14 against their NFC North rivals. A 72-yard interception return for a touchdown by M.D. Jennings was the longest by a Packer since Aaron Rouse took one back 99 yards in 2008. With two more misses on Sunday, Packers kicker Mason Crosby has missed seven of his last 12 field goal attempts. Aaron Rodgers has 17 touchdown passes during the team’s five-game win streak. Calvin Johnson recorded his league-leading sixth 100-yard receiving game of the year for the losers.
Now, if I told you that a quarterback would throw five interceptions in a game, what are some things you would assume? Well, first, that it was probably Tony Romo and second, that his team probably lost, right? Wrong. Matt Ryan threw five interceptions Sunday against the Cardinals, including three in the 1st quarter alone. But, the Falcons came back and won 23-19 to give the Cards their sixth straight loss following their 4-0 start. Ryan threw his first interception of the day on his first passing attempt and the Falcons fell behind by 10+ points for the first time since Week 10 in 2011. Ryan joined Peyton Manning as the only two quarterbacks to throw three 1st quarter interceptions in one game in the last four years and joined Romo as the only two to throw five interceptions in a game this year.
Somehow the Falcons were able to improve to 9-1 and Ryan improved to 31-4 at home in his career, the best home win percentage for any quarterback in the Super Bowl era. Arizona quarterback John Skelton went 2-7 for six yards and was pulled for 3rd-stringer Ryan Lindley, who was sacked and fumbled on his first career drop-back. The fumble was returned for a touchdown.
New Orleans kept rolling with their fifth win in their last six games after starting the season 0-4. They beat up on the Raiders, 38-17 and Drew Brees threw three touchdowns to extend his NFL record to 53 straight games with a TD pass. Lance Moore caught two touchdowns and the Saints‘ biggest lead of the game was 25. The 17 points was the 2nd-lowest total New Orleans has given up this season. Brees is six yards behind Ryan for the most passing yards in the league through 11 weeks.
In what some thought could have been the game of the week, the Colts traveled to Foxborough to take on the first-place Patriots. It only worked out well for one team though. And it wasn’t the Colts. New England’s offense dominated Indy while putting up a franchise-record 59 points. Tom Brady extended his streak to 42 straight games with a touchdown pass and had his 51st career 300-yard passing game, which is good for sixth all-time. Rob Gronkowski caught his 36th and 37th career touchdowns, which is good for the 3rd-most in a player’s first three seasons, but, in a huge blow for the Pats, he broke his arm late in the 4th quarter and will be out anywhere from four to eight weeks. He also became the first tight end ever to record three straight 10+ touchdown seasons. New England improved to 18-0 in the second half of the season since 2010.
The Pats are now 26-1 in their last 27 regular season games that they have scored at least 24 points before the half in. The Pats D had two interception returns for touchdowns for the first time since a 2001 game against the Panthers and they also added a punt return TD. Alfonzo Dennard, the 224th pick in last year’s draft had one of those picks against the No. 1 pick Andrew Luck. Luck missed a chance to become the first rookie quarterback to win in Foxboro since Kerry Collins did it in 1995, but did set a rookie record for the most 300-yard passing games in a season with five. The last team to have two games of 50 or more points in the same season was the 2007 version of the Patriots.
In the other late game, Peyton Manning passed Dan Marino for the 2nd-most TD passes ever with his 421st and for the 2nd-most win ever with 147 in his team’s 30-23 win over the Chargers. Von Miller had a day, recording three sacks and forcing two fumbles, for the 7-3 Broncos, who have scored 30 or more points in five straight games now (all wins). Denver improved to 48-1 in their last 49 home games they have led by at least 10 points at the half. The news wasn’t all good for the 1st-place Broncos, however, as they lost Willis McGahee for six to eight weeks with a torn MCL.
On Sunday night, it was two AFC North powers meeting in Pittsburgh with the 1st-place Ravens remaining on top with a 13-10 win over Byron Leftwich and the Steelers. Baltimore has now won 12 straight in the division and 16 consecutive home games. Leftwich has lost seven straight starts and does not have a win since 2006 against his former team, Jacksonville. He did rush for 31 yards and a touchdown on the third play of the game before later suffering a rib injury that he has already been deemed out for Week 12 with. Third-stringer Charlie Batch should get the start for Pittsburgh. In a weird coincidence, the last five times these two teams have met in the Steel City, the game has been decided by exactly three points with Baltimore winning three out of the five.
Finally, Monday night featured a battle of top NFC teams in the Bears and the 49ers. Only one of them looked like a top team though as San Francisco won easily, 32-7. With Jason Campbell and Colin Kaepernick both making their starting debuts at QB in 2012, the game was very one-sided as the Niners got out to a 27-0 lead and Campbell, at one point, had -13 yards passing. The home team has won 11 straight games in this series and the Bears haven’t won in San Francisco since their championship season of 1985, getting outscored 271-49 in that span. The only time the Bears have ever overcome a 20+ point halftime deficit (1-48) was in 2006 against the Cardinals when Dennis Green famously proclaimed that “the Bears are who we thought they were.”
San Fran jumped out to a 10-0 lead after the 1st quarter. The Bears had allowed just 15 total points in nine 1st quarters entering the game. The 49ers improved to 87-2 all-time when leading by 20+ points at halftime. Aldon Smith sacked Campbell 5.5 times in the game – a Monday Night Football record – and his 28 sacks in his first 26 career games are an NFL record. Kaepernick’s quarterback rating of 97.5 was the highest of any quarterback making his first start in the last five years. Finally, the Bears’ opponents in their seven wins are a combined 25-44-1, while the three teams to beat them are 23-6-1.
That’s all from this exciting week of football.
Some info taken from ESPN Stats & Info.
Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.