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AFC North leaders suffer humiliating losses to AFC West doormats

Greg Trott / Associated Press
Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha takes the ball away from Bengals receiver Andre Caldwell on the last play of Oakland's upset of Cincinnati.
» Best of Week 11 | More photos


Raiders 20, Bengals 17
Tom Cable's decision to bench JaMarcus Russell looks great after Bruce Gradkowski rallied the Raiders for an improbable victory. He didn't put up spectacular numbers, but efficiently ran the offense and kept the unit in manageable situations. More importantly, he avoided the big turnover and distributed the ball evenly. With the offense showing some fight, the defense raised its level of play and provided Oakland with plenty of opportunities late. The Raiders may not emerge as a playoff contender, but the insertion of Gradkowski has given them life and makes them a potential spoiler down the stretch.

Chiefs 27, Steelers 24 (OT)
The Chiefs claiming Chris Chambers may have been one of their wisest moves of the season. He has been sensational since arriving in Kansas City, and his penchant for timely plays has helped spark an offense that has struggled to score. Chambers, who has averaged 24.9 yards per catch since his arrival, set the team up for victory with his 61-yard catch-and-run in overtime. With Dwayne Bowe sidelined for the next few games due to a league-imposed suspension, Chambers could continue to act as the team's top playmaker in the passing game.

Colts 17, Ravens 15
The Colts' defense continues to come up with big plays at critical moments. Gary Brackett's clinching interception was the unit's only takeaway ( Ed Reed's fumble occurred on a punt return), but it essentially sealed the victory. Although the defense continues to lurk in the shadows of Peyton Manning and Co., its penchant for forcing critical turnovers has helped the team win six games decided by seven points or less. With the team's playoff drive sure to include more close games, the emerging defense appears built for a deep postseason run.

Cowboys 7, Redskins 6
The Cowboys' late touchdown to get the win doesn't mask their recent offensive futility. The unit was out of sync and the much-maligned receiving corps was held in check for much of the day. Though the rushing attack came to life, the Cowboys' inability to muster a balanced attack allowed the Redskins to control the tempo of the game. If Dallas continues to get minimal contributions from its pass-catchers, it will have a tough time competing with the elite teams in the NFC.

Lions 38, Browns 37
If Matthew Stafford goes on to enjoy a legendary career, his 88-yard drive to beat the Browns may emerge as his defining moment. He calmly completed six passes on the final drive and guided the Lions to their second win. Although Stafford suffered an apparent shoulder injury late, he came through with a touchdown with no time remaining. On the deciding play, Stafford executed a play-action fake to the weak-side of the formation and fired a laser to Brandon Pettigrew against tight coverage. Detroit's execution on the play was flawless, but it was Stafford's pinpoint accuracy that showcased his star power. Few quarterbacks could successfully execute the pass, and the fact that he pulled it off with an injury made the feat even more impressive. The Lions may not win many games this season, but they may have finally found a franchise quarterback after years and years of searching.

Packers 30, 49ers 24
The Packers' decision to rely solely on their quick-rhythm passing game proved to be an effective counter to blitz pressures. Aaron Rodgers routinely connected with Donald Driver and Greg Jennings on a handful of quick throws that exploited the tight coverage the 49ers used on the outside. Additionally, the use of three- and five-step drops allowed Rodgers to get rid of the ball before the pass rush could get in his face. Although the 49ers sacked Rodgers twice, the team's selective use of the blitz never appeared to faze him, as he connected on 32 of 45 for 344 yards with two touchdowns. With the aerial attack on point, the Packers jumped out to a 23-3 lead that was too much for the 49ers to overcome.

Jaguars 18, Bills 15
The Bills came up short in their effort to beat the Jaguars, but their offensive approach should be lauded. With Jacksonville forced to start a pair of inexperienced corners ( Derek Cox and Tyron Brackenridge), Buffalo used a diverse passing game to attack a vulnerable secondary. Terrell Owens emerged as Ryan Fitzpatrick's top target while the team looked to exploit his favorable matchup against Brackenridge. Owens ran an assortment of intermediate routes over the middle, and repeatedly found openings between dropping linebackers and safeties to catch several balls between the hashes. The early success on underneath routes set Owens up for his 98-yard score. Although the Bills didn't win, their use of Owens opened up the offense and nearly led to an impressive upset.

Vikings 35, Seahawks 9
Brett Favre continues to make a strong push for MVP consideration by delivering in a complementary role. He was sensational against the Seahawks, completing 88 percent of his passes to go with four touchdowns. Surprisingly, Favre's big day didn't include any vertical shots, as he efficiently picked apart the defense with an assortment of quick-rhythm throws to Sidney Rice, Visanthe Shiancoe and Percy Harvin before the coverage could converge. Given the trio's explosive abilities, Favre's decision to get them the ball in favorable positions in space is not only a smart play, but one that comes thanks to years of experience.

Giants 34, Falcons 31 (OT)
The Giants' young receivers stepped up and carried the team to an overtime victory over the Falcons. Mario Manningham, Steve Smith and Hakeem Nicks combined for 15 receptions for 270 yards, while providing numerous big plays in the clutch. Manningham, in particular, did most of the damage down the stretch with a 27-yard catch on a critical fourth-quarter touchdown drive and a 29-yard grab in overtime. With Kevin Boss also chipping in (five receptions for 76 yards and two touchdowns), the diverse passing game allowed the team to overcome a sluggish performance on the ground and snap a four-game losing streak.

Saints 38, Buccaneers 7
The Saints continue to roll up wins in impressive fashion, but it has been their defense that has quietly lead the way. In dismantling the Bucs, the unit surrendered only 219 yards and forced four turnovers. They also tallied three sacks while harassing Josh Freeman into an erratic performance. With defensive coordinator Gregg Williams relentlessly dialing up the pressure, the Saints are beginning to dominate games without needing much assistance from Drew Brees and Co.

Cardinals 21, Rams 13
Arizona's emerging rushing attack gives the team a balanced look that puts opponents in a quandary. With defensive coordinators overly concerned with stopping Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, the formidable one-two punch of Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells are allowing the Cardinals to take advantage of the soft seven-man fronts opponents are using. Hightower and Wells combined for 184 rushing yards against the Rams, and their success on the ground allowed Arizona to control the clock after Warner departed due to a head injury. Although the Cardinals will remain a pass-happy bunch with Warner under center, the emergence of the rushing attack is quietly positioning Arizona for a deep postseason run.

Chargers 32, Broncos 3
The Chargers took advantage of a miscalculated gamble to run away from the Broncos. Josh McDaniels' curious decision to attempt an onside kick after a third-quarter field goal backfired when Legedu Naanee scooped up the loose ball at Denver's 41-yard line. The great field position allowed the Chargers to use a gadget play where LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers connected on a double pass to Antonio Gates to put the ball inside the one-yard line and San Diego took an insurmountable 20-3 lead. While McDaniels' attempt to build some momentum at that point of the game is understandable considering the Broncos' losing streak, the unrewarded risk allowed the Chargers to blow open a tight game and knocked the Broncos out of first place for the first time this season.

Patriots 31, Jets 14
The Jets' once high-flying offense has been grounded due to the scattershot play of Mark Sanchez. The rookie QB has struggled making his reads in recent weeks, and his indecision has led to an extraordinary amount of turnovers. Against the Patriots, Sanchez had five turnovers and never appeared to get into a solid rhythm. New England added to the confusion by showing clever pre-snap disguises, which often kept Sanchez dazed in the pocket. Unsure of which defenders were blitzing, he routinely forced the ball into coverage and threw four interceptions that could've been avoided with better decision-making under duress. Although Sanchez's dip in production is definitely part of a rookie quarterback's natural progression, the Jets need him to grow up fast if they are going to make a postseason run this year.

Eagles 24, Bears 20
The surprising balance by the Eagles opened up big plays in the passing game. While Philly came in with a reputation for passing extensively, LeSean McCoy’s success on the ground allowed Donovan McNabb to incorporate vertical throws off play-action to attack the Bears down the field. McCoy had enough success on runs between the tackles that Chicago’s safeties overreacted to the strong run-action fakes executed by McNabb, which allowed the receivers to sneak past them on deep routes. DeSean Jackson’s 48-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter was the result of a strong play-action fake holding the backside safety long enough for him to split the center of Chicago’s two-deep coverage. Although it took a picture perfect throw by McNabb, the score was among a handful of big plays undoubtedly set up by McCoy’s running. With the Eagles experiencing so much success with the combination of running and play-action, it will be interesting to see if Andy Reid shows a stronger commitment to balance going forward.

 

Seven from Sunday

A look at seven statistical highlights from games played during the eleventh week of the 2009 season.

» The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints both won Sunday to improve to 10-0. It marks the third time in NFL history that the league has had two 10-0 teams. There were two 10-0 teams in 1934 ( Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions) and 1990 ( New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers).

The Colts have won 19 consecutive regular-season games, the second-longest streak in NFL history (New England, 21). The Saints have won 10 consecutive games for the first time in franchise history.

» Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre tossed four touchdowns in the Vikings' 35-9 win over Seattle. Favre has thrown for at least four touchdowns 22 times in his career and passed Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (21) for the most such games in NFL history.

Favre completed a career-high 88.0 percent of his passes (22 of 25). It's the second time this season (85.2 percent, Week 2 vs. Detroit) he has posted a completion percentage of at least 85.0. Entering 2009, he had no such games.

» Detroit rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford set career-highs with 422 passing yards and five touchdowns in the Lions' 38-37 win against Cleveland.

Stafford's 422 passing yards are the most by a rookie in a single game in NFL history, besting the mark set by Arizona's Matt Leinart (405 yards; November 26, 2006).

Stafford is the second rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw five touchdown passes in a game, joining Ray Buivid of the Chicago Bears. He had five TD passes on Dec. 5, 1937.

At 21 years, 288 days old, Stafford is the youngest player in NFL history to pass for five touchdowns in a game. Buivid accomplished the feat at 22 years, 112 days old.

» Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning passed for 299 yards in the Colts' 17-15 victory at Baltimore. Manning, who has 3,171 passing yards this year, has now thrown for at least 3,000 yards in 12 consecutive seasons, the most in NFL history.

» Indianapolis tight end Dallas Clark and wide Reggie Wayne combined for eight catches in the Colts' 17-15 win at Baltimore. Wayne (76) and Clark (65) have combined for 141 receptions, the most by a pair of teammates in the first 10 games of a season in NFL history.

» Buffalo wide receiver Terrell Owens posted a season-high 197 receiving yards in the Bills' 18-15 loss at Jacksonville. Owens' 98-yard touchdown reception, the longest in team history, gives him 25 career 50-yard touchdowns from scrimmage (rushing or receiving), tying him with Pro Football Hall of Famer Lenny Moore for the fourth-most in NFL history.

» New England wide receiver Wes Welker had 15 catches for 192 yards in the Patriots' 31-14 win over the New York Jets. Welker has 302 receptions in his first 40 games with the Patriots and is the first player in NFL history to record 300 catches in the first 40 games with a new team. The previous record for the most receptions in a player's first 40 games with a new team was 269 by Denver's Lionel Taylor.

Monday night

Titans at Texans: While the Houston Texans emerge from their bye week firmly in the hunt for the first playoff berth in franchise history, their next opponent is already relishing its role as a spoiler.
» Game preview

Fantasy studs

Who was this week's best fantasy player? Was it Brett Favre? What about Matthew Stafford? Or, was it Brady Quinn? Check out all of Michael Fabiano's nominees and cast your vote.
» Vote for Week 11 fantasy stud

Photos

The NFL delivered more exciting games and performances Sunday, including the Raiders' shocking upset of the Bengals. Check out the memorable moments from Week 11.

» Fans of the NFL
» NFL cheerleaders during Week 11
» NFL.com photo gallery archives

Weekly Countdown

NFL Weekly Countdown, which airs each Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network, lets fans program the show. Check out the 15 nominations for the best performances, and then rank them in the order you want to see them on the show. Come back Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. to see the results.

Top 15 moments of Week 11:

» Chiefs stun Steelers in OT | Vote
» Bodden makes three picks | Vote
» Chargers' D dominates | Vote
» Colts improve to 10-0 | Vote
» Favre goes for four TDs | Vote
» Grant grounds up 49ers | Vote
» Eli Manning posts big numbers | Vote
» T.O. jaunts past Jags | Vote
» Quinn breaks through | Vote
» Raiders upset Bengals | Vote
» Rodgers leads Pack vs. 49ers | Vote
» Brees, Saints go to 10-0 | Vote
» Stafford doesn't quit | Vote
» Vikings' D shuts down Seattle | Vote
» Williams powers past Panthers | Vote

» Vote: Week 11's top performances


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