THE TOP STORYLINES:
The New York Giants Rally From a 12-Point Deficit to Stun the Dallas Cowboys 37-34 and Grab First Place in the NFC East; A Missed Field Goal Attempt Costs Dallas a Possible Victory For the Second Straight Week
If you didn’t see Sunday Night Football, you sure missed a very entertaining game between two teams that laid it all on the line for a chance to claim supremacy in the NFC East. Down by 12 points late in the fourth quarter, the New York Giants (7-6) put together two touchdown drives in the final 3:14 to go ahead 37-34 thanks to some clutch play by Eli Manning (27/47 for 400-2-1), who has been carrying the G-Men on his back most of the season. Yes, I think Eli has joined the ranks of the elite NFL triggermen. How about you?
Getting the ball back with 46 seconds left, Tony Romo (21/31 for 321-4-0) displayed some clutch play of his own, quickly driving the Cowboys down to set up Dan Bailey for a 47-yard field goal attempt that, if successful, would force overtime. The rookie Bailey, who missed a game-winner two weeks ago against the Arizona Cardinals, made the field goal; however, it didn’t count because the Giants called time out to ice him. When Bailey attempted the do-over, New York’s Jason Pierre-Paul partially blocked it, sealing the desperately needed triumph for the G-Men.
For Dallas, Laurent Robinson (4-137-1), Miles Austin (4-63-1) and Dez Bryant (1-50-1) paced the passing attack. DeMarco Murray (broken ankle) was replaced after just five carries by Felix Jones (16-106-0 and 6-31-0). On the New York side, Brandon Jacobs (19-101-2) made the most of the extra touches that he received while starting in place of Ahmad Bradshaw (8-12-0 and 1-7-0), who sat during the first half as punishment for violating team rules. Hakeem Nicks (7-154-0), Victor Cruz (7-83-0), Mario Manningham (2-62-1) and Jake Ballard (4-52-1) were the key contributors.
Tim Tebow Rallies the Denver Broncos to Another Dramatic Come-From-Behind Win, Upending the Chicago Bears 13-10 In Overtime; Tebow Is 7-1 as a Starter
Even if you despise Tim Tebow and the AFC East-leading Denver Broncos (8-5), there is no denying that something special has been happening in the Mile High City. Tebow’s teammates – especially the guys on a vastly improved defense – believe in him, and the fans adore him. And the Chicago Bears (7-6) were the latest team to get Tebow’d.
You probably know what happened: Trailing 10-0 late in regulation, Tebow connected with Demaryius Thomas for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 2:26 left to make the score 10-7 in favor of Chicago. Denver’s onside kick attempt failed. On the Bears’ ensuing possession – this is key – Marion Barber ran out of bounds, stopping the clock with 1:56 seconds left in regulation. Otherwise, Chicago likely could have milked the clock all the way to quadruple zeroes – and game over. However, Tebow got the ball back, drove his team down the field again, setting up Matt Prater for a lengthy game-tying 59-yard field goal. Chicago won the overtime toss and was moving the ball when Barber put it on the carpet, and Denver recovered. Tebow drove them down the field, using seven plays to set up Prater’s game-winning 51-yard boot. Is it just me, or did the finish to this game just seem downright weird?
T.J. Yates Throws for 300 Yards and Hits Kevin Walter on a Last-Second Touchdown Pass to Lift the Texans to a 20-19 Victory over the Cincinnati Bengals; The Texans Clinch Their First AFC South Division Title and Playoff Berth in Franchise History
Talk about the one NFL quarterback that seemed least likely to pass for 300 yards in game – especially without Andre Johnson (hamstring) in the starting lineup. The Houston Texans (10-3) were trailing 16-3 at halftime. With the Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) bottling up Arian Foster (74 total yards, no touchdowns) and Ben Tate (97 total yards, no touchdowns) all afternoon, the Texans had no choice but to turn Yates loose (26-of-44 passing), and he delivered with two second-half touchdown passes. The Bengals clearly gave this one away, mustering just a field goal in the second half. Andy Dalton (16/28 for 189-1-0) hit Jerome Simpson on a 17-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter for Cincinnati’s only only score. A.J. Green (5-59-0) and Cedric Benson (21-91-0) were the Bengals’ other offensive leaders.
The Detroit Lions Survive a Last-Second Scare, Holding Off a Scrappy Minnesota Vikings Team by a Final of 34-28 to Stay in the Thick of the Playoff Race
With Christian Ponder (hip) playing at less than 100 percent and Adrian Peterson (ankle) not playing at all, it had looked like the Detroit Lions (8-5) were going to run the Minnesota Vikings (2-11) out of Ford Field, but the Lions learned a lesson about not finishing off a weaker opponent. They almost squandered a 31-14 halftime lead and survived thanks to a goal-line stand with time running out. You’ve probably seen the mad scramble for a Joe Webb fumble that Detroit finally secured around the 50-yard line.
The Lions defense sacked Minnesota quarterbacks four times, notched three picks and returned two turnovers for scores. For Detroit, Matthew Stafford (227-2-0) and Calvin Johnson (3-29-0) both had quiet games, while Titus Young (4-87-1) and Brandon Pettigrew (6-57-1) carried the load. The Vikings deserve a huge nod for not giving up after Christian Ponder (115-2-3) was replaced by Joe Webb (84-1-0 and 7-109-1 rushing) – coach’s decision. Minnesota’s offensive leaders were Toby Gerhart (99 total yards, one touchdown) and Percy Harvin (109 total yards, one touchdown).