THE TOP STORYLINES:
Looking Primed For a Second Straight Super Bowl Run, the Green Bay Packers Blast the Detroit Lions 27-15; the Motor City Crew Has Lost Eight Straight Thanksgiving Contests
So much for the highly anticipated Thanksgiving Day clash of NFC North playoff contenders in Motown. What did we learn from this game? The talent-rich team wearing the green and gold uniforms has the mental toughness and knowhow to win big games; however, the talent-rich team wearing Honolulu Blue and silver lacks the mental toughness and knowhow to win big games – at least for right now.
A contest that was scoreless for the first 25 minutes turned into a 24-0 Green Bay Packers (11-0) lead late in the third quarter. The two keys to the game: (1) the injury to Detroit Lions (7-4) running back Kevin Smith (ankle), and (2) Detroit defensive tackle Nadamukong Suh’s ejection in the third quarter for stomping on the arm of Packers’ offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith. When Kevin Smith, who had been dominant as a runner, left the contest, the Packers were able to focus exclusively on containing Detroit’s passing attack. The Lions’ players already were showing outward signs of frustration and seemed to let down following the Suh ejection. Detroit also committed numerous penalties, which obviously didn’t help their cause.
Overcoming a fierce Lions’ pass rush in the first quarter, Aaron Rodgers (22-of-33 for 307-2-0) torched the Lions’ injury-depleted secondary. James Jones (3-94-1) and Greg Jennings (5-74-1) led all Green Bay receivers. As a team, the Packers rushed for a net of 53 yards, but this anemic running attack never seems to hold the offense back. For Detroit, Stafford tossed three picks but still had a decent day (276-1-3 on 32-of-45 attempts). Calvin Johnson (4-49-1) caught Stafford’s lone touchdown pass while Maurice Morris (7-39-0 rushing and 9-81-0 receiving) led all Detroit pass-catchers in receptions and yardage.
Although Suh has apologized publically for the incident, he is expected to receive a suspension of a least one game, and the announcement could come as early as today.
The Thanksgiving Nightcap Battle of the Harbaugh Brothers Lives Up To The Hype; Baltimore Ravens’ Head Coach John Harbaugh hands San Francisco 49ers’ Head Coach Jim Harbaugh’s Team Just Its Second Loss of the Season
Did you know the Baltimore Ravens’ (8-3) 16-6 triumph over the San Francisco 49ers (9-2) was the most watched program ever on NFL Network? As many expected, the key matchup that decided this contest was between the ferocious Baltimore defense and the pedestrian-but-productive San Francisco offense. The Ravens, despite playing without Ray Lewis (toe), throttled the 49ers’ offense, sacking Alex Smith nine times and hitting him quite a few other times. Smith went 15-of-24 for just 124-0-1 while Michael Crabtree led all San Francisco receivers with just 6-54-0. Frank Gore chipped in with just 14-39-0 and 1-9-0 receiving. Baltimore managed to muster just 254 total yards against an impressive 49ers’ defense. Joe Flacco went 15-of-23 for 161-1-0. Anquan Boldin (4-63-0) topped all Ravens’ receivers while Dennis Pitta (2-19-1) caught Flacco’s lone touchdown pass. Ray Rice (21-59-0 and 3-24-0) was held in check.
The Ravens seem like a lock to make the playoffs, but their pattern of playing much better at home than on the road could make a Super Bowl run difficult. San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh deserves a ton of credit for turning around a team that was 6-10 a year ago without the benefit of spring mini-camps and practices. While San Francisco can win in the regular-season (playing in the watered-down NFC West helps) with its impressive defense, this team lacks the necessary offensive playmakers to make a Super Bowl run.
The New England Patriots Crush the Philadelphia Eagles 38-20 at the Linc, Ending Their Slim Playoff Hopes; The Eagles Drop to 1-5 at Home, and Things are Getting Ugly in the City of Brotherly Love
The Philadelphia Eagles (4-7) gave their fans some false hope early in this one, jumping on top of the mighty New England Patriots 10-0, but the Patriots outscored the Eagles 38-3 the rest of the way. Philadelphia is 1-5 at home this season and has lost eight of its last nine games played at Lincoln Financial Field (“The Linc”). Tom Brady carved up the Eagles’ defense, completing 24-of-34 for 361-3-0. Wes Welker (8-115-2), Deion Branch (6-125-0), Rob Gronkowski (4-59-1) and Aaron Hernandez (6-62-0) caught passes with little resistance during portions of the game. BenJarvus Green-Ellis led the Patriots’ committee backfield with 14-44-2.
The Eagles fell apart after the Patriots took the lead. Vince Young, who was making his second start in relief of Michael Vick (ribs), went 26-of-48 for 400-1-1, and he probably could have compiled an even bigger passing effort if DeSean Jackson hadn’t put forth a half-hearted effort. Although Jackson amassed 4-73-0, he dropped two potential scoring passes and “alligator armed” a few other throws before head coach Andy Reid benched the mercurial receiver in the fourth quarter. Some Eagles’ fans are complaining that Jackson’s recent case of “alligator arms” is giving them Todd Pinkston flashbacks. Jason Avant led all Eagles with 8-110-1. New England successfully contained LeSean McCoy, limiting him to 10-31-1 and 4-30-0 receiving.
What else happened besides the Jackson benching? Angry fans serenaded Reid with chants of “Fire Andy!” Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and defensive line coach Jim Washburn, according to media reports, got into a shouting match on the sideline, but nobody seems to know what sparked the exchange. With no timetable for the return of Vick and Jeremy Maclin (shoulder, hamstring) the Eagles will travel to the northwest to face the Seattle Seahawks and the 12th Man on Thursday Night Football.