By Paul Gotham
Big weekend for the tavern owners
Somewhere in the rank and file of the NFL must be soft spot for bar owners across the United States of America. How else can one explain the NFL Network? This whole notion that the NFL builds a following over the last 4+ decades only to now limit access is crazy. Tavern owners across the States must have been exchanging high fives as a pair of undefeateds played separate games on the elite network this weekend. Those unwilling to part with the cash necessary for the NFL Network subscriptions scampered to the local watering holes for a glimpse.
Indy did not disappoint. New Orleans did.
Indy and Jacksonville opened the season at Lucas Oil Stadium. Jacksonville failed on a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter, and Indy held on to win, 14-12. The two combined for 593 yards.
Fourteen weeks later saw a different battle but the same result. The Jaguars gained 345 and Indy 369. Peyton Manning threw four tds. David Garrard tossed three. Indy led at half, trailed late, and struck on time to win, 35-31.
Manning connected with Dallas Clark and Austin Collie in the second quarter. Chad Simpson returned a kickoff 93 yards, and the Colts led 21-17 at half.
Garrard hooked up with Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas to give Jacksonville a third quarter lead, 31-28.
But as they have so many times this years, the Colts figured out a way. Manning hit Reggie Wayne on a 65-yard touchdown and the Colts improved to 14-0. With all the other accolades (consecutive regular season wins and wins in a decade) the Colts added one more. Indy joined the ’72 Dolphins and ’07 Patriots as the only 14-0 teams in NFL history. Hey Mercury! Peyton is in the zip code.
Blind squirrel and the acorn
As the old saying goes – even a blind squirrel eventually finds an acorn. It was bound to happen that the Tony-Romo-led Dallas Cowboys would win a meaningful game in December. The ‘Pokes ended the New Orleans quest for perfection, 24-17. Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly Tony Romo doing the leading. The ‘Poke defense gave Saint QB, Drew Brees, fits all night. As a result, the usually balanced Saint attack resorted to 45 passes in comparison to just 13 rushes. It’s only fitting that the Dallas win would happen in front of the teeniest of television audiences thanks to the NFL Network. The situation with the NFL Network brings up one of the great philosophical questions: If the Pokes win, and the game was covered by NFL Network, did the game actually occur?
New England by default
For a fleeting moment the AFC East had the potential of a log jam. Fleeting being the most important word in the previous statement. New England looked vulnerable last week. They entered this week having not won a game on the road this season. After one quarter at the Ralph, Buffalo held a 3-0 lead on the Pats. Okay, okay it was mildly delusional to think the Bills could pull off this one. But don’t forget, Buffalo held a lead late in the fourth quarter in Foxboro week one. At the same time yesterday, Miami led Tennessee3-0, and the Jets took a 7-0 lead on Atlanta.
That’s where the fleeting comes into play. Tom Brady and Randy Moss reconnected. New England triumphed, 17-10.
Miami sort of held Chris Johnson in check (Tennessee’s leading rusher only gained 104 yards on the ground), overcame an 18-point deficit, forced overtime, and then lost 27-24.
Matt Ryan hooked up with Tony Gonzalez on a fourth down play with 1:38 remaining and the Falcons grounded the Jets, 10-7.
Just like that New England grabbed a two-game lead in the AFC East. Meanwhile, the AFC wild card picture – you can “pick up a flat rock and skip it across” because it resembles a Green River. Suddenly, there are eight teams within one game, battling for two spots.
Up off the deck
Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers looked to be KO’d. Now the Steelers will get the same reaction Clint Eastwood received in Hang ‘Em High. Having been left for dead, Eastwood’s assailants were surprised when Jed Cooper returned to town alive…with rope scars on his neck. Troy Polamalu is due back. How many teams want to see the Steelers from here on out?
Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers combined for 800+ yards in the air as the Steelers struck late to win, 37-36.
Roethlisberger found Mike Wallace in the end zone as time expired for the win. The lead changed hands five times in the game’s final nine minutes.
Roethlisberger completed 29-46 for 503 yards and three touchdowns. He joins Y.A. Tittle and Warren Moon as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 500 yards in a game with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Pittsburgh is now one of six AFC teams with a 7-7 record. The other five – Jaguars, Dolphins, Jets, Titans, and Texans. Right now, the Ravens and Broncos hold the wildcard spots at 8-6. Pittsburgh hosts Baltimore next weekend and travels to Miami the final weekend of the regular season.
Speaking of the Broncos
As if things could get any stranger with the Oakland Raiders. It’s ‘Off”JaMarcus Russell to the rescue? The Raiders have now defeated the first-place Eagles (10-4), the first-place Bengals (9-5), the Steelers (7-7), and now the Broncos (8-6). “Just put me in a wheelchair, get me to the show, hurry, hurry, hurry before I go loco.”
Introducing Jerome Harrison
Move over Jim Brown. Cleveland has a new single-game rushing leader. Jerome Harrison carried the ball 34 times for 286 yards. Harrison scored on runs of 71, 8 and 28 yards as the Browns outscored Kansas City, 41-34. Josh Cribbs added two dramatic moments with a pair 100-yard kickoff returns. Cribbs set an NFL record with his 7th and 8th career kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Somewhere in the frozen swamps of Jersey
Mother nature and her arctic blast delayed two games yesterday. Atlanta at the Meadowlands against the Jets was not one. Mark Sanchez showed he could “burst just like a super nova” when he hit Braylon Edwards on a 65-yard strike. Finishing 18-32 with three picks shows “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City.”
Monday night lights.
Oh boy. The Giants’ season hangs in the balance as they visit D.C. Washington is celebrating the end of the Vince Cerrato era. This can’t be good. Eli is going to have to do a little better than playing a broken guitar.
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