Ben Roethlisberger, quarterback, Pittsburgh Steelers: With the playoffs on the line, the Steelers needed a big game from Roethlisberger to hold off the visiting Cincinnati Bengals, a team they had dominated in recent seasons, particularly in Heinz Field. Roethlisberger would not deliver, completing just 14-of-28 pass attempts for 220 yards, was sacked four times, and had a pair of costly interceptions that helped the Bengals to a 13-10 win that eliminated the Steelers from the playoffs.
Roethlisberger's first interception was to cornerback Leon Hall, who returned it 17 yards for a touchdown to give the Bengals a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter. Roethlisberger's second interception came on a deep pass to Mike Wallace in the game's final 30 seconds. Bengals safety Reggie Nelson snared the overthrown pass at his own 44-yard line and returned the INT to the Steelers' 46-yard line. A quick strike from Andy Dalton to A.J. Green set up a 43-yard, game-winning field goal by Josh Brown, clinching a playoff spot for the Bengals and assuring the Steelers of a longer than expected offseason.
The New York Giants defense: The Baltimore Ravens offense had struggled so much lately it fired its offensive coordinator (Cam Cameron) and replaced him with quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, who had never called plays at the college or professional levels. The Giants may have been playing without Justin Tuck, but that's no excuse for allowing the Ravens to convert 11-of-18 third down opportunities, run 81 plays and gain 533 yards of total offense. The Giants could not get to Joe Flacco, who passed for over 300 yards with a pair of touchdowns, or stop a Ravens running game that churned out 224 yards on the ground, including over 100 yards each for running backs Ray Rice and rookie Bernard Pierce. The Giants were in control of their playoff destiny, but with to the Ravens, will now need to beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and get losses by the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears to make the post-season.
Tim Tebow, quarterback/personal punt protector, New York Jets: According to Rich Cimini and Jane McManus of ESPN New York, after learning that he was being bypassed for the starting job in favor of Greg McElroy, Tebow informed the coaching staff that he did not want to be used in Wildcat packages against the San Diego Chargers. This report runs contrary to everything we've come to know about the accountable and highly competitive Tebow and makes us wonder why the Jets even bothered to give him a jersey on Sunday. Tebow dressed, but was a conscientious objector on Sunday, not appearing on offense or special teams in the 27-17 loss.
Tebow will not be a Jet next season and declining to participate would normally be a red flag for an acquiring team. But with the Jacksonville Jaguars a "virtual certainty" to be the team that lands Tebow in 2013, Sunday's news item is unlikely to impact Tebow's value. The Jaguars' interest is primarily motivated by a desire to generate more interest at the box office, with putting a quality product on the field and/or an NFL-caliber starting quarterback in the huddle lower on the list of priorities.
Jerome Boger, referee – Boger gets the nod for throwing a flag on Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy for roughing the passer on what appeared to be a clean, legal hit to the midsection of Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer, causing an incomplete pass attempt to Denarius Moore. We're all for protecting quarterbacks, but you should be able to hit them when they're in the process of throwing the football.
Boger was also involved in one of the more talked-about items after flagging Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who was targeted by the Raiders after the Palmer injury, for unsportsmanlike conduct after Raiders safety Mike Mitchell drove Newton into the ground well after the ball was released. No flag was thrown and Palmer brushed into Boger, who had stepped in between Mitchell and an angry Newton, who took the high road, apologizing publicly to Boger after the game.
Jake Locker, quarterback, Tennessee Titans: To be fair, Locker sat for pretty much his entire rookie season and missed a good chunk of 2012 with a left shoulder injury. Locker is also playing behind an offensive line that is being held together with duct tape and could possibly be improved if head coach Mike Munchak came out of retirement and strapped up on a pair of shoulder pads. Still, Locker is being evaluated by the front office (and the owner) and completing just 13-of-30 pass attempts for 140 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, while taking seven sacks, in a 55-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers did little to help Locker's cause.
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