On the heels of a disappointing overtime loss to division rival New Orleans, Atlanta reeled off 13 points in the first 26 minutes before the Titans could get on the board. Matt Ryan connected with tight end Tony Gonzalez on three consecutive pass plays including a 17 yard touchdown on the Falcons first possession. Atlanta's defense followed the offenses' lead picking off Matt Hasslebeck to give the Falcons a short field. The Falcons managed to get within a yard of the endzone before similarities of the failed 4th and inches play against the Saints replayed itself on third and goal. Enter kicker Matt Bryant to add a field goal and salvage the drive. Tennessee waited until the final minute of the first half before getting its first points of the game. Hasslebeck went 4 for 6 in through the air moving the ball 62 yards in a scant 59 seconds. Once inside the 30 Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak sent in Rob Bironas for a 46 yard field goal. The first half may have looked quite a bit different had Roddy White been able to hold on to the pass in the endzone.
White made up for that drop with a 43 yard reception to the Titans 12 yard line to set up the Falcons second touchdown of the day. After a pass interference penalty on the Titans, Michael Turner bashed his way for a 4 yard touchdown run. A score the Falcons would later realize was the game winner. Atlanta added a third field goal and final score on their next possession. Down 23-3, Coach Munchak inserted rookie quarterback Jake Locker for Hasselbeck. Hasslebeck was injured on the previous possession when Falcons defensive end grabbed the quarterback's arm on a pass attempt. Presented with a short field, thanks to a 49 yard kick return from Marc Mariani, Locker showcased why the Titans valued him so highly in the draft. Two plays in; Locker hooked up with Nate Washington at the Falcons 18. Washington made a move, dropped a stiff arm and sprinted into the endzone. The excitement just kept coming with Locker at the helm. Titans rookie linebacker M McCarthy came up big with the Falcons threatening to put the game out of reach inside the 10. McCarthy put his shoulder pad right on Michael Turner's left arm knocking the ball backwards where Will Witherspoon recovered it at the 14. Back on stage, Locker didn't disappoint. The future of the franchise moved the length of the field in 14 plays to draw with a touchdown. What made the drive so incredible was the number of positive yardage plays. Of the 14 total plays only 5 advanced beyond the line of scrimmage including the 4 yard touchdown pass to Nate Washington. But the 12 minutes the Falcons drained off the clock before turning the ball over didn't leave Locker much to work with. Rather than attempting an onside kick, the Titans opted to trust their defense and kicked the ball deep. The Falcons offense responded to the challenge springing Michael Turner for a 27 yard run on the first play. Atlanta sputtered on the next two plays gaining just 4 yards and giving the Titans hope for a stop on 3rd and 6. A hope that lasted only a moment as Ryan found Harry Douglas across the middle for a first down. The Titans may not have pulled off the upset but they didn't leave upset having seen a glimpse of a bright future with Locker leading the way.
Next up for Atlanta is the struggling Minnesota Vikings. Tennessee returns to Nashville for a match up with the equally struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6).
At times the Giants are their own worst enemy. Just a few weeks ago the GMen were sitting atop the NFC East at 6-2 and after just smacking the New England Patriots in the mouth looking every bit the juggernaut the team name implies. A week later they fell to the red hot SF 49ers (9-1) by a touchdown. Enter the sliding 3-6 Eagles with Vince Young at the helm for the injured Michael Vick. This was supposed to be a bounce back game. Right? Absolutely wrong. The Giants got absolutely nothing from their running backs. Brandon Jacobs rushed for a grand total 21 yards on 12 totes. At a monsterishly large 6'4" and 260 plus pounds Jacobs needed only to fall down 10 times to gain more than that. Young led the Eagles to two first half scores including a 14 yard touchdown toss to, of all people, former Giants receiver Steve Smith. After all the comments following Smith's departure don't think for one second that went over well with NYG Head Coach Tom Coughlin or the front office. (Coughlin made statements about Smith and his agent Ben Dogra that inferred pair did not operate in good faith before signing with the Eagles) Eli Manning managed to draw the game even with a 24 yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz. Cruz led all receivers with 6 catches and 128 yards on the night. But the night and glory belonged to Vince Young, who must have been channeling his inner UT Longhorn. Young overcame 3 interceptions to lead the Eagles on an 18 play 80 yard scoring drive that drained nearly 9 minutes off the 4 th quarter clock. The 8 yard slant pass to receiver Riley Cooper gave the Eagles the game winning score. Philadelphia will try to stay on the winning track when the New England Patriots hit town. The Giants get an extra day to practice before hitting up the Big Easy to take on the New Orleans Saints. Laissez le bon temps rouler.
Detroit fans welcomed the return of 2008 and 2009 leading rusher running back Kevin Smith. After being placed on the Lions injured reserve list for a second year in November 2010, the third round pick out of Central Florida found himself without a job on March 3, 2011. With Jahvid Best still out of action, the Lions resigned Smith in the Bye Week. In his second start, Smith ignited the Silver and Blue rushing attack with 140 yards on 16 carries. It was just the boost the Lions needed to outlast the score happy Panthers. The two teams threw defense aside enroute to a combined 904 yards of total offense and 84 points.
After trailing the entire first half, the Lions picked up where they left off on their last possession of the first half. Matthew Stafford took advantage of a short field orchestrating a three play scoring drive to cut the lead to 7. On the Lions next possession, Stafford grabbed the lead with a 17 yard touchdown pass to Tony Sheffler and never looked back. Detroit tied the game at 35 but couldn't match the Lions offensive burst in the last half of the 4 th quarter.
The Lions will test their new found offensive production when they face the undefeated Green Bay Packers in the traditional Thanksgiving skirmish. Carolina gets a rested and extremely hungry Indianapolis Colts team that is searching for their first win of the season.
Kansas City gave Tom Brady and the Patriots offense fits for the first quarter. Too bad the Chiefs offense was unable to do anything with the ball. Kansas City was only able to get a field goal out of its offense in the opening quarter. The Chiefs sputtered behind quarterback Tyler Palko who was starting his first NFL game. While KC sputtered New England started to find its groove. Brady opened up the offensive flood gates with a simple 17 yard pass to Rob Gronkowski that the tight end turned into a spectacular 52 yard score. It was, as they say, all over but the shouting. The Patriots scored on four of their next five possessions. New England travels to Philly to take on the Eagles (4-6) and Kansas City returns to Arrowhead Stadium to face the Pittsburgh Steelers.
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