THE TOP THREE STORYLINES:
The Surprising Kansas City Chiefs Outduel the Green Bay Packers 19-14, Ending the Defending Super Bowl Champions’ Quest for a Perfect Season
In fairness, the Green Bay Packers (13-1) were missing five top players, including leading receiver Greg Jennings and leading rusher James Starks, but they still took the Kansas City Chiefs (6-8) too lightly. Under the leadership of defensive guru and interim head coach Romeo Crennel, the Chiefs’ defense played a great game, limiting the prolific Green Bay offense to just two touchdowns while sacking Aaron Rodgers four times and hitting him numerous other times – especially following the loss of starting right offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee sprain) and his backup, Derek Sherrod (broken leg). A lot of fantasy teams that were loaded with Packers likely went down to defeat. Rodgers (235-1-0 and 3-32-1) logged his least-productive game of the year. Ryan Grant (12-66-0 and 3-35-0 receiving), Jermichael Finley (3-83-0) and Jordy Nelson (2-29-0) were the Packers’ offensive leaders, but their stat lines obviously were disappointing.
The Kansas City offense, which was led by new starting quarterback Kyle Orton, did enough to win, but three first-half trips to the red zone that resulted in two field goals and a failed fourth-down try could have instead yielded three touchdowns and a 21-0 halftime lead. Orton (23-of-31 for 299-0-0) spread his passes around, and Dwayne Bowe (4-49-0) and Steve Breaston (4-50-0) were his top two targets. Jackie Battle (10-37-1) and Thomas Jones (15-48-0) paced the rushing attack. If Orton continues to play solidly, will we have a quarterback controversy – Orton versus Matt Cassel – in Kansas City next season?
The New England Patriots Bring Tim Tebow Back Down to Earth, Clinching a Playoff Berth With a 41-23 Triumph Over the Denver Broncos
There is no joy in
Tebowville Denver today following a cold, hard dose of reality delivered by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. This brought to an end Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos’ six-game streak of improbable victories that included four fourth-quarter comebacks that captured the imagination of many football fans around the country and inspired loathing among others. However, it’s time to face the truth: Tebow and the Denver Broncos (8-6) feasted on weaker teams during their streak and didn’t measure up to a playoff bound New England Patriots (11-3) team that clinched its eighth AFC East title in the last nine seasons. While the Broncos are much improved from last year and Tebow has shown some overall improvement during the course of the season, this Denver team clearly does not belong in the ranks of the NFL’s elite. Denver is more curiosity than contender.
In case you didn’t see this emotional, hard-fought contest, Denver put up a fight from the get-go, taking a 16-7 lead into the second quarter. New England responded with a barrage of 20 unanswered points before halftime. Turnovers were the key: Denver turned the ball over three times in the second quarter, which led to the Patriots’ scoring outburst, and the Broncos didn’t get any timely turnovers from New England. The Denver defense also struggled with tackling and problems in the secondary. The Patriots scored two touchdowns in the second half while holding Tebow (sacked four times) and company to one touchdown.
The Broncos deserve credit for shredding the New England defense on the ground. As a team, Denver rushed for a whopping 252 yards, which included good production from Tebow (12-93-2), Lance Ball (11-64-1) and Willis McGahee (7-70-0). Tebow was very mediocre as a passer (11-for-22 for 194-0-0) while Demaryius Thomas (7-116-0) was his top target. For New England, Brady (23-for-34 for 320-2-0 and one rushing touchdown) was his usual productive self. Since the Broncos held Rob Gronkowski (4-53-0) and Wes Welker (4-41-0) in check most of the day – by the way, quite a few Gronkowski and Welker-led fantasy teams were bounced out of the playoffs – Aaron Hernandez (9-129-1 and 1-16-0 rushing) helped pickup the slack. BenJarvus Green-Ellis (10-17-1 and 2-32-0 receiving), Danny Woodhead (7-40-1) and Stevan Ridley (11-65-0) carried the Patriots’ rushing attack.
LeSean McCoy Sets a Franchise Record by Scoring His 20th Touchdown to Help the Philadelphia Eagles Shock the New York Jets 45-19; The Jets’ Playoff Hopes Take a Hit
Did the Philadelphia Eagles (6-8) and the New York Jets (8-6) switch uniforms before the game? This one was the biggest head-scratcher during what was an overall strange afternoon of NFL football. Hello, Dream Team, it’s nice of you to visit and keep your playoff hopes on life support. Yes, the Eagles are still mathematically alive for a postseason berth. The beleaguered Philadelphia defense dominated much of this contest, sacking Mark Sanchez four times and forcing him to turn the ball over three times (two picks and one lost fumble). The Eagles scored on a 47-yard fumble return by Juqua Parker and set the offense up with some easy scoring drives, which propelled Philadelphia to a 28-0 second-half lead. The New York Jets (8-6) closed the gap to 28-13 at the half but could not get any closer as the Eagles poured it on.
While the Eagles’ offense did not dominate, this unit made enough big plays and scored enough points to pull its weight. LeSean McCoy rushed for 102 yards scoring his 18th, 19th and 20th rushing touchdowns on the season to shatter the 66-year-old franchise record set by Hall-of-Famer Steve Van Buren. Although Michael Vick (274-1-1 and 5-32-1 rushing) is still playing hurt, he played solidly overall. Vick logged his first rushing touchdown of 2011 after scoring a whopping 10 of them last year. Brent Celek (5-156-1) led all receivers with a career-best outing. New York’s secondary kept DeSean Jackson (2-28-0) and Jeremy Maclin (3-57-0) under wraps.
The loss dropped the Jets into a tie with the Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) for the last AFC Wild Card slot. New York struggled on both sides of the ball in this contest. While the defense logged three sacks and one interception, New York had some breakdowns and fell apart in the second half. Offensively, Sanchez (15/26 for 150-2-2) was mediocre. Santonio Holmes (4-40-1 and one lost fumble) and Plaxico Burress (1-9-1) paced the passing attack with some very sub-par numbers. Shonn Greene (18-73-0) was held in check.