- Frank Schwab at Shutdown Corner1 day ago
This is how fast the NFL can change: When Joseph Fauria scored for the Lions with 2:21 left on Monday night, the Lions were winning 16-15 and in first place in the NFC North.
By the time that 2:21 was over, the Lions were in third place in the NFC North and in danger of being eliminated from the playoffs next week.
If Green Bay and Chicago both win next week, the Lions are eliminated. Chicago and Green Bay are both ahead of Detroit, and one of them has to win a Week 17 showdown. Detroit can't get a wild-card spot either. That's how quickly Ravens kicker Justin Tucker's 61-yard kick changed the Lions' outlook.
That was just one of many really bad losses in the NFL in Week 15. The Saints lost control of the NFC South by dropping a game at St. Louis. Denver blew a chance to keep the lead in the race for the No. 1 seed, then New England blew a chance to take over the No. 1 seed from Denver, then Cincinnati blew a chance to take over the No. 2 seed from New England. And we don't even need to mention what happened to Dallas.
- Frank Schwab at Shutdown Corner1 day ago
Monday night's win summed up the Baltimore Ravens perfectly.
Baltimore's offense did not score a touchdown. But Justin Tucker hit six field goals, including one of the best clutch kicks you'll ever see, quarterback Joe Flacco brushed off a banged-up knee to complete a huge third-down pass to Jacoby Jones on the game-winning drive, and the defense was magnificent. Then safety Matt Elam, the rookie probably best known for trash talking Calvin Johnson in the lead up to the game, picked off Matthew Stafford to win it.
The Super Bowl champions refuse to die. Their tough, ugly 18-16 win, on Tucker's 61-yard field goal with 38 seconds left, improved their record to 8-6. That keeps them in the final wild-card spot in the AFC, and now they're only a game back of the Bengals in the AFC North race. If the Ravens win out, including a win at Cincinnati in Week 17, they'll win the division. Not bad for a team that was once 3-5 this season.
The Ravens didn't win it in pretty fashion, but they rarely do.
At some point, military families who are honored on the field at sporting events while their husband/wife/father/mother is supposed to be deployed will catch on that something is up.
But on Sunday night, the streak of surprises continued.
The Lemasters family was honored before Sunday night's Steelers-Bengals game, and thought that U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Cory J. Lemasters was still deployed in Afghanistan.
Then Lemasters came out through the tunnel to the wonderful surprise of his family, who embraced him.
No matter how many times that scene plays out in stadiums, it's always special.
- - - - - - -
The focus of the Dolphins' win on Sunday won't be on the Dolphins. The Patriots are one of the NFL's marquee franchises and when they lose, especially with the chance to get a No. 1 seed in the playoffs, that's the story.
But don't ignore the Ryan Tannehill story.
Tannehill, the Dolphins quarterback, got lost in the avalanche of star quarterbacks in the 2012 draft. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the top two picks, grabbed all the attention. Nick Foles and Russell Wilson were drafted long after Tannehill, who went eighth overall, but they've overshadowed Tannehill too.
So he's used to not getting a lot of credit. And he won't get much notice in the "What's wrong with the Patriots?" teeth gnashing that is coming this week. But he was fantastic in Miami's 24-20 win on Sunday, one that might be the difference in the Dolphins getting to the playoffs.
Tannehill was 25-of-37 for 312 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was great on the Dolphins' game-winning drive. Very Tom Brady-like, even.
By the time the Cincinnati Bengals kicked off on Sunday night, they knew they got the help they needed in the AFC playoff race.
Miami's late win over New England gave the Bengals the inside track to the No. 2 seed in the AFC and a first-round bye. And the Bengals stumbled coming out of the gate, then got trampled.
The Steelers rolled the Bengals. They were up 21-0 in the first quarter. Nobody had even settled into the NBC broadcast, and it was over. Pittsburgh ended up winning 30-20.
This is why nobody trusts you, Bengals.
No matter how good the Bengals look at times, and no matter how much talent they have, it's hard for people to buy into them as a Super Bowl contender. There's always a "Bungles" joke dropped at their expense whenever you think it's time to take them seriously.
There isn't much comparison to what Peyton Manning is doing this year.
At 37, following multiple neck surgeries, he is turning in what is probably going to end up the greatest regular-season performance in NFL history. He has the fourth-most touchdown passes (47) in a season, with two games to go. His 4,811 yards are already 12th best all time. He needs 666 yards to break Drew Brees' record for yards in a season. His 112.9 rating is fourth all time. He'll win his unprecedented fifth MVP award. The season the Denver Broncos' star quarterback is having is unique in many ways.
And for his incredible 2013, Manning was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. He's just the eighth professional football player to win the award. The announcement was made at halftime of NBC's "Sunday Night Football."
The Dallas Cowboys led the Green Bay Packers 26-3 at halftime, and if you turned it off at that point, it's understandable ... except that it's the Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas, which finds ways to torture its fans, blew it. The Cowboys inexplicably lost 37-36. And not to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. To backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who looked absolutely incompetent before halftime.
The Packers, who were born in 1919, a year before the NFL was formed, had only once come back from a deficit of at least 23 points to win. That happened in 1982 against the Rams. So, again, this seemed like a done deal at halftime.
But ... it's the Dallas Cowboys.
The Cowboys' defense, which is in contention to statistically become the worst defense in NFL history, let Flynn go nuts in the second half. Flynn had four second-half touchdowns. Dallas' offensive play-calling was baffling. Instead of running to drain the clock, the Cowboys just kept passing the ball. Tony Romo eventually threw an interception in the fourth quarter. The Packers turned that into a 1-yard touchdown run by Eddie Lacy with 1:31 left to take a 37-36 lead.
On the first play from scrimmage against the Raiders, Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles took a pass 49 yards for a touchdown.
He and the Chiefs never stopped pouring it on after that.
The Raiders, who allowed a NFL record-tying seven touchdown passes to Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles earlier this year, let Charles score five times in Kansas City's 56-31 win. Charles' fifth touchdown came with 3:38 left in the third quarter, so it seemed he had a good shot at history.
In NFL history, only three players have scored six touchdowns in a game: Ernie Nevers (Chicago Cardinals, 1929), Dub Jones (Cleveland Browns, 1951) and Gale Sayers (Chicago Bears, 1965).
But Charles never got another. Tight end Sean McGrath scored a 6-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. Charles' backup Knile Davis scored a 17-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. At that point the score was 56-31 and there was no reason to leave Charles in.
If you're going to run a trick play, you should probably practice it a few times.
Otherwise, it ends up looking like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' feeble attempt at trickery.
In the fourth quarter against the 49ers, the Buccaneers needed a spark, as they trailed 23-14. If you're going to have the trick plays in the game plan, that's a decent time to try them out.
So Eric Page took a kickoff return, and went to hand it to Russell Shepard on a reverse. Most handoffs look very easy because they're practiced a lot. But receivers usually don't practice handing off to other receivers. So Page tried to hand it to Shepard and it never got there. Even if you want to claim that Page's handoff itself was where it should be, it bounced off Shepard immediately. The ball bounced on the ground, and 49ers running back Kendall Hunter scooped up the fumble for the easiest touchdown of his life. Ballgame over.
The Buccaneers had played a lot better after an embarrassing 0-8 start this season. The botched trick play is a reminder of Tampa Bay's worst days this season.
- - - - - - -
When NFL players give us a true, honest-to-goodness blooper, it's pretty hilarious.
That's because these guys don't really screw up that often. NFL players are the elite of the elite. Even the "mistakes" like an interception generally caused by a pretty good defensive play.
But the Dolphins' field-goal attempt in the second quarter was something you'd see in Pop Warner. Punter Brandon Fields is the Dolphins' holder. And long-snapper John Denney must have thought he was ready, because he fired the ball back to Fields. The problem is, Fields had turned to check in with the kicker to make sure he was ready, and when he looked back to the snapper ... DOINK. Right off the facemask.
So the ball was fumbled, and the Dolphins obviously didn't get the kick off. The Patriots took over possession.
Be prepared to see that play a few times on blooper reels.
- - - - - - -