Week Sixteen is almost in the books and you gotta love the NFL on Saturday, no other games to click thru, just pure enjoyment. Plus it makes watching all the Sunday games easier, too, less work for your thumb clicking between channels. Free tip for the NFL: Why don’t you take it a step further, have one game on Thursday night and another on Friday night. Come on, you’re telling me that people wouldn’t love that? The caveat would be that we don’t want to see the ESPN broadcast team more than once, let’s spread that around. Those guys are too much to take for even just half a game, never mind two games.
As for the NFL games, a couple more teams punched their ticket into the playoffs and if you missed the end of the New Orleans/Jacksonville game, you need to seek out a television at some point to see the hilights. It was an ending that you will not believe unless you see it for yourself. Individual fantasy performances were pretty high, no doubt if your league’s championship game was this past week, you had to earn the title. 42 players will make this week’s story, though it wasn’t the usual case of characters. Let’s get right into the games…
Atlanta 30, at Tampa Bay 28
So this is the swan song for the defending Super Bowl champions. Atlanta got up early, and when the score was 30-7 heading into the fourth quarter, most of the home unfaithful made way for the exits. They ended up missing a furious rally where the Bucs scored 21 points in the final frame. In fact, the game was still hanging in the balance with 27 seconds left, but the Buc’s attempt at a two point conversion failed, and that was that. Brad Johnson (346 passing yards, 4 TD, 4 int), Charles Lee (10 catches for 88 yards, TD), and Keenan McCardell (6 catches for 122 yards, TD) did well in defeat. No Falcon did well enough to get a mention here, but they take the win.
at Minnesota 45, Kansas City 20
Kansas City simply did not look like a good football team in this game. Minnesota pretty much had their way all game as Player of the Week Ontario Smith (146 rushing yards, 3 TD) ran wild, and Randy Moss (7 catches for 111 yards, 2 TD) and Daunte Culpepper (260 passing yards, 3 TD, 1 int) got it done thru the air. Perhaps the play that set the Chiefs on the downward spiral happened on their first offensive drive. The Vikings had already scored in their opening possession, and Kansas City was looking to do the same on theirs. From just inside Viking territory, Eddie Kennison broke free and was heading down the sideline towards the endzone where Minnesota’s Brian Williams punched the ball loose from behind. As his momentum carried him clearly out of bounds, Williams batted the ball a second time back onto the field, where teammate Brian Russell recovered the ball at the three yard line. Kansas City challenged the play, but all the referee said when he came back onto the field was that “the play stands”. It wasn’t until much later that announcers picked up on it (not sure which replay they were watching? Seemed pretty clear from my angle at home), it was the wrong call. Even though the Vikings didn’t score on the ensuing possession, the damage was done and Kansas City never recovered. Priest Holmes (105 total yards, 3 TD) the only Chief to get a mention here.
New England 21, at New Jersey Jets 16
Once again, the New England D (5 turnovers, 4 sacks, return TD) did most of the work in getting the Patriots their 11th win in a row. Tedy Bruschi picked off a pass on the second play of the game, and the Pats offense worked efficiently, David Givens (2 TD) hauling in a pass on the very next play for the score. Chad Pennington (229 passing yards, 0 TD, 5 int, 2 rushing TD) and the Jets went back to work, and they put together a long scoring drive of their own to tie the game. To start the second quarter, it was the Patriot D again, this time Willie McGinest taking a Pennington offering in for the score, and the lead New England would not relinquish. No Patriot makes this week’s story.
Baltimore 35, at Cleveland nil
There is just something about Jamal Lewis (205 rushing yards, 2 TD) playing against the Browns this year. Despite being held to 41 yards in the first half, he exploded in the second half to push his two game rushing total to 500 yards against the Browns. Wow. The Raven D (4 turnovers, 5 sacks, return TD, shutout) did the rest as Cleveland never threatened in this one. Obviously no Brown to talk about.
at Carolina 20, Detroit 14
With most of their starters sitting out, it didn’t much matter. The Lions set the road loss record in this one, a game they never threatened to win.
De’shaun Foster (114 total yards, TD) and Jake Delhomme (260 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 int) made sure the Panthers got up early, and if not for a couple of late scores, this one too would have been a shutout. No Lions to roar about here.
at Chicago 27, Washington 24
Chicago used a fourteen point third quarter to take the lead in this closely fought matchup, but it would come down to the very end. With the score tied and the winds at their strongest, Paul Edinger was good from 45 yards out giving the Bears the win and making up for two earlier misses. Anthony Thomas (141 rushing yards, TD) and Rex Grossman (249 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 int) did well for the winners while Laveranues Coles (7 catches for 94 yards, 2 TD) did well in defeat.
at Dallas 19, New York Giants 3
With Jim Fassel finishing out the string, so too are the Giants. Dallas got into scoring position on a long pass on the first play of the game, settled for the field goal, but were never worried about losing this one. Quincy Carter (240 passing yards, 1 TD, 0 int) played well and Billy Cundiff (4 FG, 1 PAT) provided most of the offense in victory. No Giants to speak of here.
at Jacksonville 20, New Orleans 19
I have watched many football games in my time, I am not sure that I have seen a finish to a game like this one. Let’s set the scene, New Orleans needs a win to have any hope of making the playoffs, and they think they are going to romp over the Jags even though the game is in Jacksonville. They find out like the Patriots last week, Jacksonville is a pretty good team. Fred Taylor (194 rushing yards, TD) has his way all game, and with seconds remaining, New Orleans finds itself down by seven points and 75 yards away from the endzone. Aaron Brooks (296 passing yards, 2 TD, 0 int) found Dante Stallworth down the right side for about 40 yards. He begins to cross the field, but he’s not going to make it, so he tosses the ball to the left side, and fellow receiver Michael Lewis. Lewis doesn’t go far before getting bottled up on the left side, he hands off to Duece McAllister (113 total yards). McAllister finds no room either, he laterals to Jerome Pathon in the middle of the field where Aaron Brooks throws a block that sets him free for the final 21 yards into the endzone. The play was reviewed (Stallworth’s lateral was VERY close to being forward), but it stood. John Carney lines up for the extra point to send the game into overtime with no time left….and he boots is wide right – NO GOOD. Game over. Season over. What an ending. Shades of 1996 when Jacksonville won in the last game of the season 19-17 when Morten Anderson of Minnesota missed his only field goal of the year, an easy 30 yarder, propelling the Jags into the playoffs.
Miami 20, at Buffalo 3
As I was watching this game, I grew a bit tired of hearing the Buffalo fans boo on pretty much every play. Yes, the Bills were pathetic (11 yards of offense in the first half), but the booing couldn’t have helped the home squad. Miami had many chances to put this one away, but they let the Bills hang around, though it didn’t matter. The Miami D (4 turnovers, 6 sacks, return TD, 3 points allowed, 177 yards allowed) the only fantasy entity from either side to get a mention here. The Dolphins keep their playoff hopes alive.
at St.Louis 27, Cincinnati 10
A game that both teams really needed to win. The Rams needed the win to stay in the hunt for home field advantage while Cincinnati needed the win in order to get into the playoffs. The Rams really left no doubt who the better team was on this day, coupled with Philly’s loss, they are now the top dog in the NFC and I think team’s are going to have a hard time going to St.Louis and winning. The usual trio of Marshall Faulk (121 rushing yards, 2 TD), Torry Holt (10 catches for 124 yards, TD) and Marc Bulger (229 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 int) get a mention here for the winners. On the other side, while the Ram D doesn’t get an official mention, they are responsible for no Bengal offensive players getting a mention here.
Tennessee 27, at Houston 24
Another game with another wild finish. Steve McNair (268 passing yards, 2 TD, 1 int) started despite being hurt and played well, but this one came down to the end. David Carr (242 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 int) drove the Texans down the field and with just under two minutes to play, they scored to take the four point lead. The fans were going nuts, and so were the players. Now maybe it’s just me, but anything over a minute in my mind is a lot of time and I wouldn’t be celebrating too much, but that’s just me. The Titan offense took the field, and went right to work, getting into position for a potential winning score. Facing a fourth down on the Houston 23 yard line, McNair hooked up with Drew Bennett with 17 seconds left to take away the win.
San Francisco 31, at Philadelphia 28 (overtime)
I am continually amazed (just look at my weekly picks) at some games in the NFL, especially this one. Philadelphia had so much to play for, home field advantage in the playoffs is going to be very critical to any team, yet facing a team that was winless on the road, they had no answers. In fact, if it weren’t for the returns of Brian Westbrook and some poor punting by the Niners, Philly might not have even made a game of this since their offense was so bad. Tony Parrish of San Francisco intercepted the first pass McNabb threw, setting the tone of the game, yet the half ended up tied at 14. San Francisco stalled on the second half’s opening possession, and Westbrook electrified the crowd by taking the punt back for a score. Kevan Barlow (154 rushing yards, 2 TD) and Jeff Garcia (225 passing yards, 2 TD) went back to work, as the Niners booted a couple of field goals to draw within one at the start of the fourth quarter. With five minutes to go in the game, Barlow found the endzone after a nice San Francisco drive, and the two point conversion gave the Niners a seven point lead. Then the Eagle offense came to life. The Eagles drove the field, converting on a fourth and nine to keep the drive alive. A tad over a minute remained, when McNabb found Todd Pinkston (5 catches for 121 yards, TD), who made an incredible catch in the end zone. The extra point was good and overtime was the call. The Eagles won the toss, but Parrish again stepped in front of a McNabb offering, returning it to the Philadelphia three yard line where the Niners didn’t miss. Duce Staley (2 TD) also did well in defeat. Of note, Terrell Owens left the game early with a broken his collarbone.
at Pittsburgh 40, San Diego 24
The Steelers scored early and often in this one, as they trounce the Chargers. Plenty of offense on both sides in this one, Jerome Bettis (115 rushing yards, TD), Hines Ward (6 catches for 94 yards, TD) and Plaxico Burress (2 TD) all making the print here for the winners. LaDainian Tomlinson (91 rushing yards, 2 TD) and Kassim Osgood (4 catches for 102 yards, TD) performed well in defeat but it was not enough to overcome.
at Seattle 28, Arizona 10
As usual, games involving the Cardinals are a bit of a struggle to write about. Their opponent usually puts up some nice offense, and they usually don’t put up much of a fight. This one is just that. Shaun Alexander (135 rushing yards, 2 TD) did most of the offense for Seattle, while Anquan Boldin (10 catches for 122 yards, TD) and Joshua McCown (274 passing yards, 1 TD, 0 int) get a mention here in defeat.
Denver 31, at Indianapolis 17
Again, here’s another game involving two teams with so much to play for. If you only watched the first drive of the game, you’d have thought it was going to be a beating in favor of the Colts. It was the total opposite. The crowd was really into it, and on the opening drive, Denver struggled, and the Colts picked off the third down pass and returned it for a touch. With the crowd even louder, it looked bad for the Broncos, yet Jake Plummer (238 passing yards, 2 rushing TD) hit Ashley Lelie for a 60 yard pass and they were in business. Enter the Denver ground game, and the score was tied. The Colts found offense of their own difficult to come by, yet Denver had no trouble, driving the field after the Indy punt. The Colts did manage to score to open up the second quarter, but again the Denver running game was not to be stopped, this time Plummer again doing the last few yards on his own. Indy punt, Denver running game, Denver score. Repeat. When it was all done, Denver ammassed 227 rushing yards as a team, most of which from Quinten Griffin (136 rushing yards) who filled in for the injured Clinton Portis along with Mike Anderson. The Broncos dominated the time of possession, and on the scoreboard for the win. No Colt makes the story.