With 9 games in the tank it's safe to say the rest of the League has figured out the Buffalo Bills. After posting a 6-2 start in the first 8 games, the wheels have seemingly come off the cart. Dallas' Tony Romo had his best game of the season throwing for 3 scores, no picks and maintained a zero sack sparkly clean jersey. The 9 year veteran posted a season high quarterback rating of 148.4 having completed 23 of 26 tosses. Running back DeMarco Murray had yet another fine day rushing the ball. The rookie out of Oklahoma has rushed for over a hundred yards two weeks in a row. Since getting the starting nod, due to injuries to Felix Jones, Murray has racked up over 600 yards of turf in just 5 games. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick posted his lowest quarterback rating of the season 46.6 one week after delivering a 51.9 rating in a two touchdown loss to the Jets. The Bills travel south for a division match-up with the surging Dolphins (3-7) who are winners of their last three.
The woes continue in Indy as division-mate Jacksonville improves to 3-6 while handing the Colts their 10 th loss in as many tries. Indianapolis' hopes for a win were high going into the half tied 3-3 after an Adam Vinatieri kick from 42 yards out. After struggling most of the first half, rookie Blaine Gabbert put together the Jaguars longest scoring drive of the game early in the third quarter. Gabbert's 11 yard slant pass to wide out J Dillard capped a 16 play, 86 yard drive that turned out to be the game winning score. Maurice Jones-Drew added another score in the 4th capitalizing on J Mincey's fumble producing sack of Curtis Painter at the Colts 11 yard line. The Colts have a week off to regroup, get healthy and forge a new plan of attack. Jacksonville travels to Cleveland to face the 3-6 Browns. (Inset Photo of Maurice Jones-Drew, James Witherspoon)
When the great General Sun Tzu penned the line "Keep your friends close but your enemies closer", I'm pretty sure he wasn't talking about the score against your division rival. With the top seat in the division hanging in the balance, playing it close to the cuff is about as uncomfortable as it can get. The Saints and the Falcons played an irritatingly close game of tit for tat trading scores the entire game. New Orleans prevailed by making the most out of each scoring opportunities. The Falcons had more opportunities to score touchdowns but wound up exchanging 3 for 6 twice in the opening half. The last drive of the first half ended with a missed Matt Bryant field goal from 41 yards out. The magic number for New Orleans, at least in the first half, was 40. New Orleans scored both times it advanced beyond the Atlanta 40. On its sole possession nearest the redzone, Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham hooked up for a 21 yard touchdown (video below).
After trailing 10-6 at the half, Atlanta regained the lead on a Jason Snelling touchdown. Snelling went into full beast mode dragging and running over 8 to 9 Saints defenders the last 10 yards. An impressive run equaled only by the acrobatic 33 yard touchdown catch by the Saints Robert Meachem.
Even though Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud was tighter on Meachem than a pair of Batman underoos, the rangy receiver still managed to make a leaping catch in the back of the endzone while keeping his feet in bounds (video below). New Orleans reeled off two more field goals before the Falcons could respond. When they did it was in routine fashion, Ryan to Gonzalez for 6.
The Saints left the window open for a dramatic Falcons comeback when a holding penalty nullified a 45 yard John Kasay field goal. Atlanta got the ball back at their own 6 yard line with just under two minutes to play but they had been in that situation before. On the first play Ryan found slot receiver Harry Douglas for a 23 yard gain. Douglas made the next two receptions to move the Falcons across midfield and into range for a long distance field goal. With the game on the line, the drop bug came back to bite the Atlanta receivers. Three separate receivers dropped 4 passes from Ryan inside the redzone including a certain touchdown pass to Roddy White. Atlanta settled for the game tying field goal and overtime.
Overtime is supposed to favor the home team. It started out that way as the Falcons won the toss and secured the first possession. From the outset, defense set the tone. Both offenses were forced to punt after 3 plays, which made Atlanta Head Coach Mike Smith's decision on the next offensive series all that more confusing. "First we were gonna punt the football, then I had a change of heart and I wanted to go for it," said Smith after the game. "I thought that the ball was inside a half a yard and thought that we could get it. Did not want to give the ball back to the Saints in previous games…in close games that we've played'em and you know we've punted the ball back and they've gotten the ball with 3 minutes to go in the ball game and we never saw it again. And they ended up winning the ball game. That was the decision making process that I went through." Some of that explanation makes sense because New Orleans is capable of striking from all over the field. However, the defense had just held the Saints to 9 yards on the previous possession. The decision to go for the first down backfired as the Saints defense stuffed Michael Turner for no gain at the Atlanta 29. New Orleans picked up another 15 yards before calling on Kasay for the game winning 26 yard field goal.
For their effort, the Saints not only take a two game lead in the NFC South but also, because of the upcoming Bye Week, they'll get 15.5 days to rest and prepare before they host the Giants on Monday night of Week 12. Atlanta will attempt to stay close in the standings as they go for a win at home against the visiting Tennessee Titans.
Tennessee rolled into Bank of America Stadium and over the Carolina Panthers. The Titans jumped all over the Panthers following the opening series. Return man Marc Mariani returned the punt from Johnson 79 yards to take a 7-0 lead a little over a minute into the game. Carolina attempted to answer back but a fumble by TE Greg Olsen at the Tennessee 10 gave the ball back to the Titans. The fumble ended what could have been an 83 yard scoring drive that had started on the Panthers 17. Tennessee capitalized on Carolina’s mistake almost immediately. Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck dumped down to Damian Williams just across the 40 and the receiver turned it into a spectacular 43 yard touchdown run. Carolina’s defense played well enough to limit the Titans offense to two touchdowns and 3 field goals. Unfortunately for the home team, the offense needed a guide dog to find the Titans endzone. Rookie Cam Newton continued to make a case for ROY honors rushing for a team high 55 yards and completing 23 of 40 passes for 212 yards with only 1 interception.
Tennessee travels down I-85 to face the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina heads to Detroit to take on the Lions.
(Titans-Panthers photos James Witherspoon)
The loud thud emanating from the 20 mile perimeter surrounding the origin of the Chesapeake Bay was the hearts of Ravens fans falling to the ground in unison. Coming off an emotional season sweeping win over their black and yellow clad arch rivals, Sunday's game against the (3-6) Seattle Seahawks barely registered in the interest Richter scale for the 6-3 Ravens. On Seattle's second possession Tavaris Jackson needed just 6 plays to give the Seahawks a 7-0 lead. Marshawn Lynch carried the ball the final yard for his only score of the game. Lynch finished with 109 yards rushing on 32 carries. The Ravens Joe Flacco had an underwhelming performance. The 4th year starter put the ball in the air an incredible 52 times finding the endzone only once. Heck, running back Ray Rice threw for as many touchdowns as Flacco, a 1 yarder to ironically the same receiver tight end Ed Dickson. Baltimore looks to get back on track when they face the surprisingly 6-3 Bengals.(Tarvaris Jackson photo Kevin C. Cox)
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