Resident NFL expert, Eoin Purcell is here to discusses ‘The Good, The Bad and The Crazy’ of NFL week ten.
- Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson
Another week, another veteran QB tossing six TD passes. This time it was Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. The Packers faced NFC North divisional rivals Chicago and this match was never even close. Rodgers threw five TD passes in the first half of Sundays 55-14 rout.
After tossing his 6th TD pass of the game Rodgers stayed in the game for one more series in an attempt to tie the single game record for TD passes thrown, but Rodgers and the rest of the Green Bay starters took the fourth quarter off. Rodgers finished 18/27 for 315 yards and six TD’s.
With Rodgers throwing all these passes who was catching them? The ever reliable Jordy Nelson had another huge game, finishing with six catches for 152 yards and two TD’s. This duo once again showed why they are one of the best QB-WR combinations in the NFL.
- Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle ground attack
The Seattle Seahawks won the superbowl last season with a very clear blueprint of physical running and a dominant defence. Through nine weeks this season they had deviated slightly from this successful blueprint. On Sunday, against the New York Giants, Seattle went back to pounding the football and Marshawn ‘Beast Mode’ Lynch lead the way.
Lynch carried the ball 21 times and finished with 140 yards and four TD’s. Lynch’s 140 yards accounted for less than 50% of Seattle’s rush total. QB Russell Wilson added another 107 yards as the Seahawks ran all over the Giants, finishing with 350 yards total rushing.
If Seattle has been a little lost this season, Sunday night should serve warning to the rest of the league that they seem to have found their way again.
- New York Jets’ Defence
The Jets entered Sunday’s contest with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the middle of an eight-game losing streak. To make matters worse, Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger had thrown six TD passes in consecutive matches before Sunday, and the Jets have one of the worst secondaries in the league. From all vantage points this was not a favourable match-up for the Jets.
What happened Sunday must have surprised everybody. The Jets’ defence shut down Big Ben; creating four turnovers in the process. Jets’ Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett was Big Ben’s worst tormentor and he finished the contest with two interceptions, a sack and a fumble recovery, helping his Jets pick up a 20-13 home win.
Holding this Pittsburgh offence to 13 points is a massive achievement, and if the Jets hope to secure more wind this season the Defence will have to play to this level on a weekly basis.
- Chicago Bears
The Bears came into this season with high expectations, boasting one of the NFL’s top offences. The organisation clearly forgot that in order to win games you have to be able to stop opposing teams from scoring. The Bears’ Defence is a mess, and on Sunday night the Bears entered the NFL history books, for all the wrong reasons.
Sunday’s 55-14 loss to the Packers was the Bears’ second consecutive match allowing the opposition to score 50+ points. The Bears become the first team since the 1923 Rochester Jeffersons to accomplish this feat. The Bears’ hopes of securing a wildcard berth to the play-offs are all but gone.
The coaching staff need to focus on how to tighten up this defence to give them a chance of winning some games.
- Andy Dalton
This off-season the Cincinnati Bengals decided to reward QB Andy Dalton for leading the team to the play-offs in each of his first three seasons with a massive new contract worth $100m.
During regular season games, which are not being televised nationally Dalton looks every bit the $100m QB. On the big stage, in nationally televised games, or in the play-offs Dalton looks totally out of his depth. On Thursday night against NFC North rivals Cleveland it was the play-off version of Andy Dalton who showed up.
Dalton completed only ten of his 33 pass attempts for 86 yards. Dalton also threw three interceptions and had two sacks and finished with a passer rating of 2.0.
Bengals fans are becoming accustomed to seeing Dalton play poorly in the biggest games. It is a great achievement that Dalton has lead the Bengals to the play-off in each of his first three years in the league.
The problem is that Dalton is 0-3 in those play-off games. Thursday night’s game against Cleveland was a game that the Bengals would have expected to win, but Dalton never gave them the slightest chance of doing that.
- NFC South
It is difficult to explain just how disappointing the teams in the NFC South have performed this season. New Orleans, Atlanta and Carolina were all genuine play-off contenders before the season started, and Tampa Bay had enlisted a new QB and surrounded him with dangerous weapons.
After nine weeks the New Orleans Saints are winning the division with an awful 4-5 record. In week nine only one of the NFC South teams – the Atlanta Falcons – won their match, and that was only because they played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It is looking increasingly likely that eight wins will be enough to win this division, maybe even seven. It is also looking increasingly likely that whatever team does win this division will be eliminated from the play-offs early.
- Seahawks mascot takes a seat with the fans
Attending a Seahawks match at Century Link Field in Seattle is always going to be a memorable experience. The stadium is one of the loudest arenas in world sport, and the Seahawks usually put on an excellent performance. On Sunday the spectators had a thrilling experience that was in no way football related.
The Seahawks mascot, a live hawk, has been entertaining football fans for years. On Sunday night some lucky fans got a little bit closer to the mascot than they were expecting. On a routine flight around the arena the mascot got away from its handler and landed in the crowd, perched on the shoulder of a spectator.
What could have been a terrifying moment turned out to be a memorable one as the spectator remained calm and even posed for pictures with the mascot on her shoulder. The handler swiftly rescued the fan and returned the mascot to its perch. The day got even better for the lucky fan as the Seahawks claimed victory over the New York Giants.
Game of the week
There were a number of closely contested matches in week ten which had significant play-off implications, including the Dolphins @ Lions and the Chiefs @ Bills. The most entertaining game of week ten, which also had play-off implications for both teams, was the 49ers’ trip to play the Saints in New Orleans.
San Francisco needed a win to stay in the hunt in the NFC wildcard race. New Orleans entered Sunday atop the terrible NFC South, knowing a win would extend their hold on the division, but also knowing a loss would not eliminate them from play-off contention. San Fran needed the win more than New Orleans, and they played like a team needing a win early on.
The 49ers established the run game early on with Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde who both scored TD’s to give the 49ers an early 14-0 lead. Second quarter scores from Saints’ WR Brandin Cooks and 49ers’ WR Anquan Boldin gave the visiting team a 21-10 lead at half time.
As has been the pattern this season, the 49ers never got going in the second half. The New Orleans Saints’ QB Drew Brees and TE Jimmy Graham hooked up for scores in the 3rd and 4th quarter to give the Saints a three point lead with only 1:55 left on the clock when San Francisco got the ball back.
The 49ers season seemed to be over as they failed to move the ball and faced a 4th down and ten from their own 22-yard line with 1:34 left on the clock. They needed to secure a first down or the game was over.
QB Colin Kaepernick received the snap and was forced to his right due to a collapsing pocket. Just when it looked as if he had nowhere to go Kaepernick stopped and hoisted a 51 yard pass across his body, deep to the other side of the field where Michael Crabtree was standing with no New Orleans player within 15 yards of him.
Crabtree had to stop to catch the pass, which was slightly behind him, and this pause allowed him to be tackled. Had the pass been in front of Crabtree he would have walked into the end zone untouched for the score and probably the win. Four plays later K Phil Dawson hit a 45-yard field goal to tie the game at 24, with 49 seconds left.
Drew Brees and the Saints took over knowing a field goal will win the game. The Saints managed to move the ball to the 49ers’ 47-yard line with four seconds left.
Outside field goal range Brees threw up a Hail-Mary pass in the direction of his superstar TE Jimmy Graham. Graham out-jumped the four defenders in his area and caught the ball for a TD, only to have the play ruled out for offensive pass interference, meaning the match went to overtime.
Neither team managed to score on their first overtime possession. On New Orleans’ second possession the 49ers managed to sack Brees, forcing a fumble which the 49ers recovered.
The 49ers wasted no time and Phil Dawson kicked the game-winning field goal on the next play to end a game which was full of drama. This win keeps the 49ers in the hunt for the play-offs, while this loss doesn’t remove New Orleans from top spot of the NFC South.
Top 5/Bottom 5
- Arizona Cardinals (8-1) – The Cardinals won, but they lost QB Carson Palmer for the rest of the season. Can Drew Stanton lead this team to the play-offs?
- New England Patriots (7-2) – The Patriots remain the top AFC team through their bye week.
- Denver Broncos (7-2) – The Broncos righted the ship against the Raiders to remain hot on the heels of the Patriots.
- Philadelphia Eagles (7-2) – The Eagles dismantled the Panthers to remain in touch in the race for the NFC’s #1 seed.
- Detroit Lions (7-2) – The Lions needed a TD in the final seconds to overcome a strong Dolphins team and stay top of the NFC North.
- Tennessee Titans (2-7) – Only losing by two scores to the Ravens is much better than most expected for the Titans in Week 10.
- New York Jets (2-7) – An unlikely win against the Steelers thanks to the Jets D could spark some life back into New York.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-8) – There is nothing pretty about losing at home to a divisional rival who is playing poorly all year, and Josh McCowns tears during his press conference reflect the feeling around the Bucs at the moment.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9) – The Jags took their mess of a season international this week and showed Wembley how poor they are. A welcome bye week awaits.
- Oakland Raiders (0-9) – Hosting Peyton Manning and the Broncos was always going to end in defeat. There is always next week.
Eoin Purcell, Pundit Arena