Weekend Recap  

 

While Steelers stumble, Colts and Saints remain unbeaten

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Keith Srakocic / Associated Press
Raiders receiver Todd Watkins attempts to make a reception in the end zone against the Steelers.
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Raiders 27, Steelers 24
After watching Bruce Gradkowski orchestrate another come-from-behind win, fans have to wonder how well the Raiders would have done under his direction from the start. He has helped the team rally in two of the past three weeks. His sensational effort against the Steelers demonstrated the poise and confidence that led Tom Cable to make the move. Gradkowski completed 5 of 10 passes for 82 yards on the winning drive. Although some of the completions on the final possession can be attributed to extraordinary effort from Louis Murphy, the fact that Gradkowski had the confidence to allow his guys to make plays is a drastic improvement over JaMarcus Russell.

Saints 33, Redskins 30 (OT)
Jim Zorn may ultimately lose his job at season's end, but the Redskins' woes rest squarely on the shoulders of their players. Washington continues to lose games due to poor execution and questionable decision-making. Those problems appeared again in the closing minutes against the Saints, as Shaun Suisham missed a chip shot field goal attempt and LaRon Landry inexplicably allowed Robert Meachem to beat him on a double move to tie the game. In addition, Mike Sellers fumbled in overtime to set up the winning drive. Although mistakes are inherently part of the game, the Redskins' miscues would be classified as mental errors that the players are solely responsible for. Though this will not matter to an increasingly frustrated fan base, supporters should direct their ire towards the players, not to a coaching staff whose fate rests on their production.

Colts 27, Titans 17
The stars often grab the headlines for the Colts' offensive success, but it continues to be the contributions from the unsung pass catchers that fuel the unit. Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie accounted for 10 of Peyton Manning's 24 completions. Garcon, who finished with 136 receiving yards, had two receptions over 20 yards and emerged as Manning's top target with the Titans focused on shutting down Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. Though Collie only mustered 18 yards receiving, it was his four-yard touchdown that blew the game open. Indy will always be loaded with star power with Manning at the helm, but it is the continued development of the role players in the passing game that allows the Colts to thrive against various schemes defensive coordinator have attempted to use.

Dolphins 22, Patriots 21
It is easy to second guess the decisions of a coach after the fact, but Bill Belichick's failed fourth-down gamble in the second quarter came back to haunt him in a narrow loss. The confident coach elected to bypass a short field goal attempt with a 14-7 lead, and instead opted to run Sammy Morris between the tackles on a dive play into the heart of the Dolphins' defense. The attempt fell short and the failure to get those points allowed the Dolphins to creep back into the game. Given the fact that Patriots have lost two games due to questionable fourth-down calls, it will be interesting to see if Belichick continues to take bold chances down the stretch.

Cardinals 30, Vikings 17
The Cardinals were able to execute a game plan that few opponents have been able to successfully implement against the Vikings. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis’ troops stopped Adrian Peterson on first and second down, which forced Brett Favre to throw against blanket coverage in long-yardage situations. Arizona routinely dropped as many as eight defenders into coverage and forced the wily veteran to squeeze the ball into tight windows. With few openings down the field, the Cardinals eliminated Favre’s preferred deep ball and forced him to settle for check downs underneath the coverage. Although Favre has faced that kind of coverage all season, his eagerness to attack downfield led to some blunders. He threw two poor passes against the soft coverage that led to interceptions. The turnovers allowed Arizona to control the game from the outset.

Eagles 34, Falcons 7
Although Michael Vick's exploits will garner most of the attention here, it was the unexpected performance of fullback Leonard Weaver that keyed the Eagles' win. Weaver amassed 100 yards from scrimmage on only seven touches, and added a receiving touchdown. Given the fact that Weaver rarely touches the ball, the surprising production undoubtedly caught the Falcons off guard and got the Eagles' offense off to a terrific start.

Panthers 16, Buccaneers 6
The Buccaneers have hitched their future to Josh Freeman, but his inexperience as a game manager cost them a road win. Freeman's dismal five-interception performance included three picks in the red zone, and the other two occurred deep in Carolina territory. Although rookie quarterbacks are expected to experience their fair share of struggles, Freeman's turnover woes appeared to be avoidable with better decisions. He will eventually learn that getting points is critical when inside the opponent's 20-yard line. In a game that was ultimately decided by 10 points, the Buccaneers can't help but wonder if the outcome would've been different with improved game management from Freeman.

Bears 17, Rams 9
The Bears won an ugly affair against the Rams, but should be encouraged by the solid performance of Matt Forte. He rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. The rushing total represents Forte's second best this season, and is only the fifth time he has gone over 50 yards this year. While Jay Cutler has been taken to task, it has been the lack of production from Forte and the running game that has been the key to the team's demise. With the Bears finally finding some success on the ground, they may be able to give Cutler the help he needs to orchestrate a strong finish.

Bengals 23, Lions 13
The Bengals vowed Cedric Benson would remain the team's workhorse, even with the success of Bernard Scott and Larry Johnson in his absence. Cincinnati stayed true to its commitment against Detroit. Benson had 36 carries for 110 yards in his return and his hard running allowed the Bengals to control the tempo. Although Benson didn't have a run over 11 yards, his steady grinding is critical to the offense and is one of the primary reasons the Bengals are 9-3.

Jaguars 23, Texans 18
The Texans' inability to run the ball and their penchant for turnovers cost them against the Jaguars. Houston had three interceptions, including a pick on a halfback pass from Chris Brown and finished minus-two in the turnover battle. Additionally, the Texans were outgained 107-68 on the ground. Although their offensive explosiveness nearly allowed them to overcome the miscues, the Texans' failure to win these two categories is the primary reason the team sits below .500 with four games remaining.

Broncos 44, Chiefs 13
The defense rediscovered its swagger and dominance in the Broncos' shellacking of the Chiefs. The unit held Kansas City to only 222 yards of total offense and forced Matt Cassel into a dismal performance in front of his home fans. Additionally, Denver forced three turnovers and kept Kansas City from finding a consistent offensive rhythm. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan deserves the credit for the effort, as the savvy play-caller repeatedly dialed up an assortment of zone dogs to destroy the timing of the passing game. The mixture of pressure and coverage clearly confused Cassel and led to one of his worst performances as a pro.

Chargers 30, Browns 23
The Chargers' offense was nearly flawless in their execution in the victory over the Browns. The unit racked up 477 yards of total offense and only punted once. In addition, the offense wasn't penalized and didn't have a turnover. Given the unit's efficient play in all aspects, it is not surprising that San Diego scored on six of its 10 possessions and quickly appeared in complete control.

Giants 31, Cowboys 24
The Cowboys' inability to win the kicking game prevented them from getting an important road victory. Among the blunders, a pair of missed field goals by Nick Folk and a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown by Domenik Hixon. While the punt return touchdown included several missed tackles, it's Folk's shaky performance that should concern the Cowboys. He's now missed five of his last seven attempts. Given the intense pressure and slim margin of error that accompanies big games down the stretch, the Cowboys must address the critical third phase of the game to make a playoff push.

Seahawks 20, 49ers 17
The 49ers' solid offensive outing was undermined by an inability to convert on third-down (1 of 13). The failure to consistently move the chains prevented San Francisco from seizing control of the game. While better execution on early downs would greatly improve the 49ers' chances on third down, the fact that they failed to convert from all distances suggests that the team needs to improve in critical situations. San Francisco has made significant strides offensively throughout the season, but its ability to win critical downs over the next month will ultimately determine if the 49ers sneak into the postseason.

 

Seven from Sunday

A look at seven statistical highlights from games played during the 13th week of the 2009 season.

» For the first time in NFL history, there are two 12-0 teams in the same season. The Indianapolis Colts, who clinched the AFC South last week, improved to 12-0 with a 27-17 win over Tennessee. The New Orleans Saints reached the 12-0 mark for the first time in franchise history with a 33-30 overtime victory at Washington. With the win, New Orleans also clinched the NFC South.

The Colts have now won 21 consecutive regular-season games, tying the 2006-08 New England Patriots for the longest streak in NFL history.

» Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre has now played in 283 consecutive regular-season games, passing Vikings legend Jim Marshall for the longest consecutive game streak in NFL history by a non-kicker/punter. New York Giants punter Jeff Feagles has played in an NFL-record 348 consecutive regular-season games, including Sunday's 31-24 win over Dallas.

» The Cincinnati Bengals improved to 9-3 with a 23-13 win over Detroit. The Bengals' nine victories are an eight-win improvement over last season (1-10-1) through the first 12 games. Cincinnati is tied with the 1963 Oakland Raiders (0-12 in 1962; 8-4 in 1963) and the 1999 Indianapolis Colts (2-10 in 1998; 10-2 in 1999) for the best win improvement through 12 games from one season to the next in NFL history.

» Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning threw for 270 yards and one touchdown in the Colts' 27-17 win against Tennessee. Manning has 3,685 passing yards and 25 touchdowns this season. He is the first player all-time to pass for at least 3,500 yards in 12 consecutive seasons and is also the first player in NFL history to throw at least 25 touchdown passes in 12 straight seasons.

» Tennessee running back Chris Johnson rushed for 113 yards in a 27-17 loss against Indianapolis. Johnson leads the NFL with 1,509 rushing yards and became only the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 1,500 yards in his team's first 12 games. He joins Pro Football Hall of Famers Jim Brown, Walter Payton and O.J. Simpson as well as former Denver running back Terrell Davis as the only players to accomplish the feat.

» San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for a touchdown in the Chargers' 30-23 win against Cleveland. Tomlinson, who has scored 150 total touchdowns (135 rushing, 15 receiving) in 137 career games, is the fastest player in NFL history to reach 150 total touchdowns. Tomlinson joined Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith as the only players to score 150 career touchdowns.

Tomlinson rushed for 64 yards against the Browns and has 12,321 career rushing yards. He passed Marshall Faulk (12,279) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown (12,312) to move into eighth place on the all-time rushing list.

» New England wide receiver Randy Moss had 66 receiving yards in the Patriots' 22-21 loss at Miami. Moss has 1,058 receiving yards this year and joined Jerry Rice (14) as the only players in NFL history to record 10 1,000-yard seasons.

Monday night

Ravens at Packers: The Packers and Ravens are in the thick of the playoff race in their respective conferences. That means both have little room for error down the stretch.
» Game preview

Fantasy studs

Who was this week's best fantasy player? Was it Bruce Gradkowski, who led the Raiders to an unlikely win in Pittsburgh? What about Brady Quinn? Or, was it Drew Brees? Check out all of Michael Fabiano's nominees and cast your vote.
» Vote for Week 13 fantasy stud

Photos

The NFL delivered more exciting games and performances this weekend, including the Dolphins rallying for a win over the division-rival Patriots. Check out the memorable moments from Week 13.

» Fans of the NFL
» NFL cheerleaders during Week 13
» 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 those on the show. Come back Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. to see the results.

Top 15 moments of Week 13:

» Broncos manhandle Chiefs | Vote
» Brees does it again | Vote
» Meachem goes deep for Saints | Vote
» Dolphins upset Patriots | Vote
» Garcon comes up big | Vote
» Garrard keeps Jags winning | Vote
» Gradkowski sparks huge upset | Vote
» Murphy reels in winner | Vote
» Ochocinco catches on for Cincy | Vote
» Revis shuts down T.O., Bills | Vote
» Rivers lights up Browns | Vote
» Romo valiant in defeat | Vote
» Panthers' Stewart carries load | Vote
» Vick, Eagles rout Falcons | Vote
» Cardinals defense shines | Vote

» Vote: Week 13's top performances


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