In this week’s edition of ‘The Good, The Bad & The Crazy’, resident NFL expert Eoin Purcell takes us through all the action from NFL week nine.
- Ben Roethlisberger
For the second week in a row Big Ben showed the form that has helped him become a two-time superbowl winning quarterback. For the second week in a row Big Ben tossed six touchdown passes, setting a new NFL record for TD passes thrown in consecutive games. Roethlisberger also becomes only the second QB in league history to have two six-TD games in the same season.
More importantly for Roethlisberger and the Steelers this performance on Sunday lead them to a crucial win over AFC North Division rivals Baltimore; their third win in a row. The Steelers, and Roethlisberger, have been a picture of inconsistency so far this season, but these two performances back-to-back could be a signal of a team getting hot at the right time. Big Ben finished Sunday night’s game completing 25 of 37 passes for 340 yards and 6 TD’s.
- New England Patriots
The Patriots’ match against the Denver Broncos on Sunday was a huge match for so many reasons. Many experts had it coined as Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning, two future Hall-of-Fame QBs doing battle for the 16th time in their illustrious careers.
This match pitted the two best players of the past 14 years against each other. More importantly for each organisation it was a battle of the AFC’s top two teams, and a chance to take a lead in the race for home field advantage throughout the play-offs.
It was the home team New England who scored the crucial win, and did so in emphatic fashion. QB Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick have made Gillette Stadium a tough place for road teams during their time together and Sunday night was no different. The Patriots totally outplayed the Broncos leading to a 43-21 victory in which Brady tossed 4 TD passes. New England has taken hold of the top spot in the AFC, but Denver remain hot on their trail.
- Miami Dolphins
Although the Patriots-Broncos match took all the attention this weekend there was another AFC East vs AFC West match with crucial play-off implications taking place when the Miami Dolphins hosted the San Diego Chargers. Both of these teams had outside shots at winning their division, but prior to kick-off both teams were in the thick of the competitive AFC wildcard race.
It was the Dolphins who seized the opportunity in a 37-0 rout of the Chargers. Miami have been a hit and miss team for the past number of years, and Sunday was certainly a hit. This performance showed a confident team who believes they can make the play-offs, and it will take more performances like this to secure a play-off berth.
- Jeremy Maclin
When WR DeSean Jackson left Philadelphia this off-season Jeremy Maclin was touted as the man to fill the void. Due to a combination of factors, including injuries and a misfiring QB in Nick Foles Maclin had quite a slow start to his season.
The past two weeks Maclin has showed his value to the Eagles organisation by having two massive performances back-to-back. On Sunday Maclin caught six passes for 158 yards and a pair of TD’s in a 31-21 win over the Houston Texans. What’s more impressive is that Maclin accomplished this feat with back up QB Mark Sanchez under centre.
- Philip Rivers
For as good as the Miami Dolphins performed on Sunday, the San Diego Chargers and their QB Philip Rivers were very poor. At one point early in the season there was talk of Philip Rivers as league MVP. The Chargers were involved in a massively important match in terms of the AFC wildcard race this weekend and they never showed up.
For his part Rivers completed 12 of his 23 passes for 138 yards and no scores. Rivers also threw three interceptions, in his own territory leading to Miami scores. This weekend was the first time the Chargers have been shut out in 15 years.
For a team with play-off aspirations this type of performance is well below par.
- San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers keep finding new ways to disappoint their fans. All season there have been talks of disputes between senior players and the coaching staff. San Francisco have had players suspended, underperform and play with what looks like little effort at times, but Sunday night was as bad as it gets.
In front of their home fans San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick was sacked 8 times, and fumbled the ball twice in a 13-10 loss to the St.Louis Rams. Entering the game the Rams were the worst team in the league at sacking the opposing QB, but they managed to get pressure on Kaepernick all game long.
The 49ers find themselves three games behind NFC West leaders Arizona after Sunday’s results. The good news for San Fran is that the NFC wildcard race is much weaker than the AFC so they still have a chance at making the play-offs that way, but they need to start improving, and quickly.
- Dallas Cowboys without Tony Romo
It is important to note that Dallas’ loss to the league-leading Arizona Cardinals (7-1) on Sunday is not a terrible result. The performance of the Cowboys was not all that bad, considering they were playing without their starting QB Tony Romo. The problem for Dallas is that they look incapable of producing wins without a 100% healthy Romo.
Sunday was Dallas’ second loss in a row, and Romo has been hurt or not playing in both matches. Compare that to Dallas’ opposition on Sunday, the Cardinals, who won multiple matches this year when starting back-up QB Drew Stanton in Carson Palmers absence.
Dallas is one of the top 10 teams in the league at the moment, but Romo has a history of back injuries and is struggling to make next Sunday’s Wembley match. If the team cannot perform without him then they may struggle to reach the play-offs.
- Alex Smith TD Pass to Anthony Fasano, via a NY Jet hand
The game report reads Alex Smith tossed two TD passes, one to each of his tight ends. What the game report leaves out is the unusual way TE Anthony Fasano ended up with the ball.
The play started at the New York 4 yard line. Smith took the snap and looked to find WR Dwayne Bowe in the end zone. For this play TE Fasano was in pass protection. Before Smith released the pass, Fasano was pushed to the ground by his opponent. Smith released his pass, aiming for Bowe. The ball struck the upstretched hand of one of the New York Jet lineman, popped up in the air and fell into the lap of Fasano who was still on the ground at the 2 yard line.
Following this massive slice of good fortune, Fasano had the reactions to realise that he had not been touched and before any New York defenders could reach him he rolled into the end zone for the score.
It doesn’t matter how you do it, the aim of the game is to get the ball into the end zone, but I don’t think the Chiefs will be drawing up this play again any time soon.
Game of the Week
Tight finishes were at a premium this weekend around the league, and although the two teams involved in this match have losing records, the week nine game of the week saw the Washington Redskins travel to challenge the Minnesota Vikings.
The redskins welcomed back QB Robert Griffin III while the Vikings continued to play without star RB Adrian Peterson who was facing legal issues. Both teams entered Sunday’s contest with a 3-5 record, facing the reality of a season ending without a play-off berth.
Before kick-off this was a match that nobody would have highlighted as a must see match, but it ended up as a competitive, entertaining encounter. Buoyed by the return of RGIII, and lead by the power rushing of Alfred Morris Washington took an early 10 point lead, and were ahead by 3 at half time. The second half is when the match really got going, and the teams traded the lead 5 times.
Midway through the 4th quarter Minnesota RB Matt Asiata scored his second of three TD’s to give the Vikings a slender advantage at 21-20. The Redskins responded with a TD from Alfred Morris to take a 26-21.
Instead of kicking the extra point the Skins went for a two point conversion to put 7 points between the teams. This 2 point conversion attempt failed, handing the Vikings the ball back, needing a TD to win.
The Vikings marched the ball down the field, 72 yards on 11 plays before Matt Asiata scored his third TD of the game to give the Vikings a one point lead. It was the Vikings turn now to attempt the 2 point conversion, which again Asiata converted.
Washington got the ball back with enough time for one Hail-Mary play, and after avoiding the Viking pass rush RGIII heaved the ball deep, but his pass sailed out of bounds to end a highly entertaining, back and forth contest.
Top 5/Bottom 5
- Arizona Cardinals (7-1) – The Cardinals won a crucial NFC match against Dallas to cement the top spot in both the NFC, and the entire league.
- New England Patriots (7-2) – The Patriots took a big step toward the AFC #1 seed with a win over Denver.
- Denver Broncos (6-2) The Broncos may have lost badly at Foxborough, but they are still favourites to meet the Patriots in the AFC championship game.
- Philadelphia Eagles (6-2) The Eagles overcame Nick Foles’ injury to beat Houston and move top of the NFC East.
- Detroit Lions (6-2) – The Lions defence has made them a very tough team to beat, even without Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson producing on offence. They currently sit atop the NFC North.
- Tennessee Titans (2-6) – A bye week was the only thing that could save the Titans from another loss.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-7) – The Bucs racked up loss number seven of the season at Cleveland this weekend despite the strong play of rookie WR Mike Evans.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (1-8) – Despite losing (again) the Jags look to have found some bit of a spark from RB Denard Robinson. Another positive is QB Blake Bortles only threw one INT this past weekend.
- New York Jets (1-8) – Whether its Mike Vick or Geno Smith under centre this Jets team is going to struggle.
- Oakland Raiders (0-8) – The Raiders nearly scared the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, but ultimately Oakland remain winless on the season.
Eoin Purcell, Pundit Arena
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