Week ten is nearly in the books and things are really starting to heat up in the NFL. Division battles, key wildcard battles, and a trifecta of overtime games dot the landscape this week. Some pre-game war of words turned into a brawl before one game and some other teams that were riding high continue their winning ways. Some strong individual fantasy performances were also turned in this week as a couple of guys that many have been touting as being done make this week’s story. Hopefully you have more players mentioned here than your opponent. On to the games!
Baltimore 20, at NY Jets 17 (overtime)
The first of our overtime trilogy opens up in New Jersey where a key wildcard battle was taking place. The Jets, having already beaten San Diego, could really control their destiny with a win over the Ravens. Opening drive, Baltimore is having their way, moving down the field in a slow and methodical pace, going to third down on nearly every set of downs. Baltimore pushes things to fourth and goal from the one and they go for it, but the Jets D is up to the task. From there, it’s all Jets. Curtis Martin (119 yds, 2 TD) scores twice as they race to the 14-nil lead. Late in the half they are looking for more, Martin can’t be stopped! Yet the play call is Lamont Jordan on the halfback option pass. His toss is surrounded by Ravens, and Ed Reed is there to make the pick five yards deep in the end zone. With thoughts of last week’s 106 yard return on his mind, he begins the journey out of the end zone…and wouldn’t you know it, it’s looking like he’ll score. Safety Will Demps is celebrating early, instead of noticing there is one last Jet to block, by the time he notices, it’s too late, he tugs the shirt for a holding penalty that would negate the scoring return. Not to worry, with momentum changed, though there was only a minute to go in the half, Clarence Moore (2 TD) caught the first of his two TDs to cut the lead in half. Second half action sees the Jets unable to move, with the Ravens having their way. Moore’s second TD catch put the Ravens up by three, yet the Jets would respond. A nice return by Jordan put the Jets on their own 40, where Herm Edwards immediately began thinking about the game tying boot. Curtis Martin broke a 21 yard gainer just before the two minute warning, putting the ball on the Raven 17. Quincy Carter would call his own number on third and six, gaining nine to keep the drive alive. Jordan gained one yard, and the ball was on the three yard line. The Jets would draw up a play, having used their second timeout, Carter rolled right but had to throw the ball away. Eight seconds remained, third down. Confusion then reigned and the Jets could not get a play called before the play clock ran down, Jets use their last time out. Edwards, eschewing a potentially game winning play, called for the FG unit. As it would turn out, both teams would see the ball twice in the OT, Jets three and out both times, Ravens doing just enough to get into Matt Stover’s range for the win.
at Jacksonville 23, Detroit 17 (overtime)
We shift the scene to Jacksonville, where the Jaguars open the fourth quarter with a 17-nil lead. Largely an uninspiring game up until that point, though Fred Taylor (144 yds) is having himself quite a day. The fourth quarter opens with the Jags punting, and it’s not a good one. Short and a mix of Jacksonville players are in the area looking to down the ball. Lion Eddie “Little” Drummond “Boy” picks up the ball and literally scoots 55 yards down the sideline for a score. On the next possession, Jacksonville moves the ball, but ends up being unsuccessful on fourth and one from the Detroit 34 yard line. Detroit quickly moves into position for a field goal to close the gap to seven. Neither team can move the ball in the next few possessions, and with under a minute to play, Jacksonville again lines up to punt. This time it’s a good one, Drummond fielding it cleanly at his own 17 yard line. Eighty-three yards later, the game is tied. In this game, there would be no comeback win. The Jaguars won the toss in overtime and David Garrard (198 yds, 2 TD) hooked up with Jimmy Smith (109 yds, TD) for a 36 yard score that ends the game.
Chicago 19, at Tennessee 17 (overtime)
We close out the trilogy with the last of the overtime games, this one in Tennessee. Another largely uninspring game where the pace really picked up in the late stages. Early on, it was Billy “The Kid” Volek (334 yds, 2 TD) hooking up with Derrick Mason (91 yds, TD) to open the scoring. Then it was the Bears D (3 sacks, 3 turnovers, 2 TD, safety) flexing their muscle, bringing back an interception and a punt for scores in the second and third quarters. Volek would put the Titans back up front, finding Drew Bennett (148 yds, TD) for the 47 yard bomb. The Bears would drive the field, tying the score on a field goal setting up the overtime. The Bears had the first chance, but had to punt, and what a punt it was, downed at the nine yard line. Volek would be sacked on second down, nearly taken down in the end zone. He would fade back into his own end zone again, this time he could not escape. In fact, the ball popped loose and though Tennessee recovered, it was in the end zone and the safety put an end to things. Not very often you see a safety end a game. Three games, all 17-17 after four quarters, all resolved in a different manner.
at New Orleans 27, Kansas City 20
With all the excitement of the first three games on this week’s card, hopefully you’ll find more to read about the rest of the way. Kansas City raced to the 10-nil lead in this one, only to see the Saints come marching back. Derrick Blaylock “and Key” (186 yds, TD) filled in very nicely for Priest Holmes, and Eddie Kennison (121 yds, TD) and Trent Green (311 yds, TD, 2 int) also played their way into this week’s story. But this one does not have a happy ending for the Chiefs. Joe Horn (167 yds, TD) hauled in a 42 yard pass from Aaron Brooks (259 yds, TD, rushing TD) to give New Orleans the margin for victory. Duece McAllister (127 yds, TD) also did well for the winners.
at Atlanta 24, Tampa Bay 14
Battle for division supremecy on the line, with the Falcons taking flight, and the win. Fast forward to the fourth quarter, Atlanta holding the three point lead and the Bucs driving. From the Falcon 28, the Atlanta D stuffed Michael Pittman, then stripped him of the ball, which lead to a touchdown return on the fumble recovery. Tampa Bay challenged the play, and officials ruled that forward progress had been stopped…or that a whistle had blown the play dead….or that…? In any case, the play was reversed, and Tampa had the ball again. Hoping to seize the opportunity, Jon Gruden went for it on fourth and one and missed badly. A few plays later, Algae Crumpler (118 yds, TD) caught a 49 yard touchdown pass and that was that. Michael Clayton (90 yds, TD) performed well in a losing effort.
Pittsburgh 24, at Cleveland 10
With the war of words raging on all week, this one was looking like a good battle. The Steelers were coming off back to back wins over undefeated opponents, and the Browns wanted to get back into the division race. Tempers spilled over before the game, as William Green went “Robbie Alomar” in the face of Joey Porter and as they say in brawls, “It was ON”. Green and Porter landed a few punches and as a result of their foolishness, they were ejected from the game – before it began! As for the game, not much else to report. Jerome Bettis (103 yds, 2 TD) and the Pitt D (4 sacks, 4 turnovers, TD) were the story as the result of this one was never really much in doubt.
at St.Louis 23, Seattle 12
What is this, Mike Martz getting tough? Hee hee hee, ho ho ho. Martz vowed before the game that players would start being accountable, this as the Rams were coming off an embarassing defeat at the hands of New England last week. On the other side, Seattle was looking to avenge an earlier home loss to St.Louis where they choked on a huge fourth quarter lead. Division supremacy was on the line in this battle. The Rams came out throwing early and often, 13 pass plays called to start the game. Kevin Curtis the recipient of a Marc Bulger (262 yds, TD) 15 yard pass to get the scoring going. St.Louis ran the score up to 17-nil before Seattle finally struck for two field goals. Marshall Faulk (139 yds) ram wild for the home team, while on the other side, Shaun Alexander “The Great” (176 yds) was doing the same. Only problem was that it was Josh Brown (4 FG) that was doing all the scoring for the Seahawks. The game was epitomized in the fourth quarter when Alexander ripped off a long run, only to fumble the ball when tackled inside the ten yard line. Rams salt it away and take tie breaker advantage from Seattle.
at Indianapolis 49, Houston 14
We’ll just touch this one briefly as it was the Peyton Manning (320 yds, 5 TD, 2 int) show. What a streak the guy is on, three games this season with 5 TD passes?!? Wow. Colts D (5 sacks, 4 turnovers, 2 TD), Brandon Stokley (132 yds, 2 TD), and Dallas Clark (102 yds, 2 TD) will also get a mention here. In a losing effort, Player of the Week Domanick Davis (152 total yds, 2 TD) gets a mention here for having a great game that goes by the wayside.
Cincinnati 17, at Washington 10
Zzzz, ho, hum. Bengals coming off a win over Dallas move to the nation’s capitol to take out the Redskins. Rudi Johnson (102 yds, TD) the only mention from either team in this snoozer of a game.
at Green Bay 34, Minnesota 31
A tale of two halves this one was. First half belonging to Green Bay, second belonging to Minnesota. The Packers raced to a nice 24-10 cushion here as Brett Favre (236 yds, 4 TD) and Ahman Green (145 yds) helped build the big lead. Daunte Culpepper (363 yds, 4 TD) hooked up with Nate Burleson (141 yds, TD) early in the second half as the Vikings began their comeback. Culpepper’s fourth touchdown toss to Moe Williams tied the score late in the fourth quarter. Not to worry, Favre got the Packers moving into Ryan Longwell’s range and he kept this game from becoming the fourth overtime contest, booting a 33 yarder as time expired. Jermaine “The” Wiggins (94 yds, TD) also performed well in a losing effort.
at Arizona 17, NY Giants 14
Ok, the Giants have officially become the mystery team of 2004. They’ve looked so good at times this season (drubbing Minnesota on the road), yet they’ve also looked so bad (two bad losses at home to eliminate 80% of the nation from their “elimination” pools). This one ends up also going in the bad column. Arizona blitzed early and often, sacking Kurt Warner six times. Emmitt Smith (2 TD) was most of the offense for the Cardinals and all that spelled was an Arizona victory. Tiki Barber (108 yds, TD) performed well, but it was not enough to overcome.
Carolina 37, at San Francisco 27
The Panthers and their injury troubles continue to be tough to overcome, Stephen Davis placed on IR ending his season before the game. Then San Francisco ran up a 17-3 halftime lead on the visitors, mostly thanks to Kevan Barlow (2 TD). However, Carolina did not give up, and they score 34 points in the second half to take the nice win. Muhsin Muhammed (123 yds, 3 TD) had a monster game as Jake Delhomme (303 yds, 3 TD) led the charges. Kicker John Kasay had to leave the game in the third quarter, but punter Todd Sauerbraun filled in, booting four extra points and even adding a 34 yard field goal that gave the Panthers the lead they would not relinquish. Good win for a team that has been struggling this season.
at New England 29, Buffalo 6
We close out this week with the defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots taking on rival Buffalo. The Bills were coming off a Jet victory, and many were somehow thinking that Buffalo was a team that was going to jump right back into the playoff race. Not so fast. The Patriot D (5 turnovers, 3 sacks, 125 yds allowed) was stifling, not allowing the Bills to get on track all game. On the other side, Corey Dillon (151 yds) was putting the Buffalo defense in its place while Adam Vinatieri (5 FG, 2 PAT) once again did his thing. New England raced to a 20-nil lead at the half, pretty much making the second half mute. Buffalo would get a score, on a punt return, but that would be all. They even went for two after that score and could not get in. It was going so well for New England that even WR Troy Brown, once again forced to play some defense, was able to pick off Drew Bledsoe pass.