Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson were outstanding. Colin Kaepernick, Philip Rivers and Christian Ponder have seen better days.
Adrian Peterson was magnificent in a losing effort, Tom Brady did enough to win a division title with four games remaining, Aaron Rodgers pulled into a tie with the Bears and the Jets third-string quarterback played hero at the end of another embarrassing football game in New York.
It was a typical and yet atypical Sunday in the NFL – winners, losers, good players, bad efforts, off coaching, even odder officiating, some surprises and plenty of disappointments.
And there was also the scepter of murder and suicide as the Kansas City Chiefs tried to come to terms with Saturday’s tragedy involving linebacker Jovan Belcher and a gun.
“We need to work our way through the tragedy,” said Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel, lamenting the death of a young woman and a young player. “We know it’s not over and it will still go on tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. But life is going to go on as well, and we have to get through it. So that’s what we’re going to try to do.”
The NFL got through a strange Sunday in early December. Wild things happened on the field, tragic things happened off it (a Cleveland Browns groundskeeper committed suicide later Saturday night).
Stripped bare, there were 14 games during Week 13 of the National Football League season on Sunday. Let’s take a close look:
Kansas City 27 Carolina 21
Despite the murder suicide involving Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher, Kansas City won their second game of the year. Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn went 19-for-23 for 201 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions while Jamaal Charles rushed 27 times for 127 yards and Peyton Hillis had a rushing touchdown. The Chiefs are 2-10. Carolina’s Cam Newton went 15-for-27 for 232 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Steve Smith caught five passes for 120 yards and a TD for 3-9 Carolina. Ron Rivera has to be done.
Denver 31 Tampa Bay 23
Peyton Manning and the Broncos wrapped up the AFC West title as Denver improved to 9-3. Manning went 27-for-38 for 242 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Manning now has 29 touchdown passes this season and the Broncos have won seven straight. Demaryius Thomas caught eight passes for 99 yards and two TDs. Josh Freeman went 18-for-39 for 242 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for 6-6 Tampa.
New England 23 Miami 16
The Patriots win the AFC East at 9-3. Pats QB Tom Brady has a pedestrian day: 24-for-40 for 238 yards, one touchdown and one interception, but Miami’s Ryan Tannehill was awful: 13-for-29 for 186 yards, no TDs and no interceptions. Wes Welker caught 12 passes for 103 yards and a TD. Miami falls to 5-7.
Buffalo 34 Jacksonville 18
Buffalo has a great day on the ground. Fred Jackson carries 25 times for 105 yards while C.J. Spiller carries 14 times for 77 more and a touchdown. Ryan Fitzpatrick went nine-for-17 for 112 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Bills are now 5-7, the Jags fall to 2-10 and Mike Mularkey has to be done.
Green Bay 23 Minnesota 14
RB Adrian Peterson is sensational but Minnesota still can’t win because Christian Ponder has a piece of garden hose for an arm. Ponder threw two interceptions in the red zone while Peterson rushed for 210 yards on 21 carries including an 82-yard touchdown run. But again, the Vikings refuse to give Peterson the ball in the red zone and Ponder is horrible – 12-for-25 for 119 yards, one touchdown to TE Kyle Rudolph and two INTs. Aaron Rodgers went 27-for-35 for 286 yards, one touchdown and one interception. RB John Starks rushed for 66 yards and a TD as Green bay improved to 8-4 and the Vikings fell to 6-6.
Indianapolis 35 Detroit 33
Andrew Luck shocked the Detroit Lions with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery on fourth-and-10 on the final play of the game to win it. It’s obvious now that Detroit must fire head coach Jim Schwartz if Detroit ever intends to get better. The Lions have lost four straight and this time they had a 33-21 lead with two and a half minutes to play. Indy is now 8-4 as Luck went 24-for-54 for 391 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Luck is the first rookie quarterback to win eight games and Indy now has a lock on the Wild Card spot in the AFC. Matt Stafford went 27-for-46 for 313 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Calvin Johnson caught 13 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown. Avery caught five passes for Indy for 91 yards and two TDs including the winner as Detroit fell to 4-8.
Seattle 23 Chicago 17 (OT)
The Seahawks won a rare road game by scoring a late touchdown in regulation and then adding the winner with 7:33 left in OT. Russell Wilson hit Sidney Rice on a 13-yard TD pass to win it. Wilson finished 23-for-37 for 293 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions as he easily out-dueled Jay Cutler. Cutler went 17-for-26 for 233 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. Brandon Marshall caught 10 passes for 165 yards for the Bears. Rice caught six passes for 99 yards and the game winning TD, Seattle is now 7-5, Chicago falls to 8-4, tied with Green Bay for first in the NFC North.
NY Jets 7 Arizona 6
Mark Sanchez was brutal: 10-for -21 for 97 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. So with Tim Tebow hurt, Rex Ryan went to No. 3 Greg McElroy who went five-for-seven with a TD pass and no interceptions and the Jets stole one from a horrible Arizona team. Arizona’s No. 3 QB Ryan Lindley went 10-for-31 for 72 yards, no touchdowns and one interceptions. The 4-8 Cardinals have lost eight straight. The Jets “improve” to 5-7.
St. Louis 16 San Francisco 13
There is now, officially, a quarterback controversy in San Francisco and you have to wonder what Jim Harbaugh really thinks of Colin Kaepernick now. The hot-shot second-year QB who stole Alex Smith’s job went 21-for-32 for 208 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions and rushed nine times for 84 yards and no TDs. Trouble is, he could manage only 13 points as San Francisco lost in OT and fell to 8-3-1. Greg Zuerlein kicked a 54-yard field goal with 30 seconds left in overtime to win it. St. Louis improved to 5-6-1 as Sam Bradford went 26-for-39 for 221 yards, no TDs and no interceptions. Kaepernick was not as dynamic as Harbaugh had hoped.
Houston 24 Tennessee 10
Texans QB Matt Schaub goes 21-for-35 for 207 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions as Houston improves to 11-1 and clinches a playoff spot. Jake Locker went 21-for-45 for 309 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions as the Titans fall to 4-8. The Texans defence had six sacks and forced six turnovers.
Pittsburgh 23 Baltimore 20
The Steelers Shaun Suisham kicked a 42-yard field goal with no time left as Pittsburgh finally beat Baltimore without Ben Roethlisberger. Charlie Batch went 25-of-36 for 276 yards and one touchdown. He put up 10-points late to come back from a 20-13 deficit in the fourth quarter. The Steelers are now 7-5 while the Ravens fall to 9-3. Joe Flacco was an unspectacular 16-for-34 for 188 yards and one touchdown.
Cleveland 20 Oakland 17
Browns QB Brandon Weeden went 25-for-36 for a career-high 364 yards and one touchdown as he led the Browns to their first win in 13 games on the road. Carson Palmer went 34-for-54 for 351 yards, two touchdowns and a late interception. Cleveland goes to 4-8 while Oakland falls to 3-9.
Cincinnati 20 San Diego 13
Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton ran up the middle for a six-yard TD with 4:11 left for the go-ahead touchdown as the Bengals improved to 7-4 and won their fourth straight game. The Chargers fell to 4-8 and lost their fourth straight and seventh out of the last eight. Dalton finished 25-for-39 for 211 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Benjarvus Green-Ellis carried 25 times for 118 yards. Philip Rivers went 26-for-48 for 280 yards, no TDs and one interception. The Chargers are 4-8 and Norv Turner has to be in trouble.
Dallas 38 Philadelphia 33
The Dallas Cowboys scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to come from behind and beat the Eagles. Tony Romo threw three touchdown passes to break Troy Aikman’s career franchise record. The Eagles lost their eighth straight and fell to 3-9 despite the fact Bryce Brown carried 24 times for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Romo went 22-for-27 for 303 yards and three TDs. Philly’s Nick Foles went 22-of-34 for 251 yards and one TD. At 6-6, the Cowboys are still in the NFC playoff hunt. First thing Monday morning, Andy Reid fired his defensive line coach, Jim Washburn, the guy who publicly criticized the sacking of DL Jason Babin.
Washington 17 NY Giants 16
Robert Griffin III threw for one touchdown and had a fumble turn into another by Joshua Morgan as Washington came from behind to improve to 6-6 and stay in the playoff race. The Giants, meanwhile, have lost three of their last four and are now 7-5, just a game ahead of Washington in the NFC East. Griffin completed 13-of-21 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown and carried five times for 72 yards. Griffin has now rushed for 776 yards this season, breaking Cam Newton’s record for rushing by a rookie quarterback.