Weekend Recap  


Confidence boost could have Ravens embarking on playoff run

Rob Carr / Associated Press
Ravens receiver Demetrius Williams catches a pass in front of Lions cornerback Phillip Buchanon.
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Ravens 48, Lions 3
The Ravens turned to the big play to run away from the Lions. Led by Ray Rice, Baltimore had seven plays cover more than 20 yards. The host of explosive plays allowed the Ravens to rediscover the rhythm that has been missing since the beginning of the season. Rice helped open the field up for his teammates and allowed Joe Flacco to get comfortable running the offense to help the quarterback shake his recent slump. Given the offensive output, it will be interesting to see if the effort gives the Ravens the confidence to make a postseason run down the stretch.

Saints 26, Falcons 23
The Saints' veteran-laden defense continues to come up with critical plays with the game on the line. This week it was Jonathan Vilma who delivered the two biggest defensive plays. Vilma picked off Chris Redman late in the fourth quarter and then made a big hit on Jason Snelling to stop him short on fourth-and-2 to seal the win. While Vilma's interception was an outstanding play, the stop of Snelling truly warrants kudos. Vilma quickly worked through the Falcons' bunch formation, and met Snelling immediately on the catch. The bang-bang play was an instinctive reaction from a wily veteran who was prepared with the game hanging in the balance.

Colts 28, Broncos 16
Denver's inability to cash in on numerous opportunities inside Indianapolis territory cost the Broncos a chance to upset the unbeaten Colts. The Broncos had nine possessions that ended in Indianapolis territory, but they only scored on three of those opportunities. Two drives ended on failed fourth down attempts and Kyle Orton ended another possession with an untimely interception in the red zone. Additionally, Matt Prater missed a 42-yard field goal that prevented the Broncos from closing the gap at a critical juncture near the end of the third quarter. The Broncos pushed the Colts to the brink, but a series of blunders kept the team from pulling off the road win.

Packers 21, Bears 14
The Packers got another stellar effort from their defense to beat the Bears. The unit surrendered only 254 yards. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers successfully blended in some overload pressures with the unit's conventional four-man rush to make Jay Cutler uncomfortable in the pocket. The tactic worked well, as Cutler threw a pair of interceptions while under duress. The defense has sparked Green Bay's recent stretch of good play, and its sensational showing in Chicago extended the team's winning streak to five games.

Chargers 20, Cowboys 17
While Dallas' secondary will face heavy criticism for its inability to slow down San Diego's aerial attack, the problems against the pass were the result of the Cowboys' non-existent pass rush. The Cowboys recorded only one sack and the absence of DeMarcus Ware rendered the pass rush useless. Philip Rivers routinely threw comfortably from the pocket and his ability to take deep shots to Vincent Jackson reflected the lack of pressure. Rivers finished with 272 passing yards, with the majority of the damage done on a series of explosive plays (passes of 20 yards or more).

Dolphins 14, Jaguars 10
The Dolphins' offense may not win many style points, but the smash-mouth approach is ideal for a playoff run. Although Ronnie Brown's absence has diminished Miami's use of the Wildcat, the running game continues to thrive behind the hard-nosed running of Ricky Williams. The effective rush attack also allows Chad Henne to throw off play-action. He worked efficiently against the Jaguars (21 of 29 for 220 yards) and managed the conservative game plan. Following a slow start, the Dolphins have seemingly found their stride and are back in playoff contention thanks to their balanced offense.

Texans 34, Seahawks 7
Andre Johnson's sizzling start sparked the Texans to an easy win. He tallied 10 receptions for 184 yards and two scores in the first half, which opened up the field for his teammates. Matt Schaub repeatedly targeted his No.1 receiver and used Johnson's success to throw for 365 yards. The deadly combination sparked the Texans to get points on their first four possessions and allowed Houston to enjoy a big lead that it didn't relinquish.

Bills 16, Chiefs 10
Buffalo's opportunistic defense keyed the win. The unit picked off four Matt Cassel passes, which allowed the Bills to overcome a dismal performance from their offense. Although the ball-hawking secondary deserves credit, the Bills' emerging pass rush keyed the performance. Spencer Johnson, Chris Kelsay and Aaron Schobel recorded sacks, and their ability to generate consistent pressure forced Cassel into his critical mistakes. The Bills' promising defense gives them a chance for a strong finish to an otherwise disappointing season.

Vikings 30, Bengals 10
The Vikings got back to basics in their dismantling of the Bengals. The team repeatedly went to Adrian Peterson and he responded. Though he failed to crack the 100-yard mark, his 26 carries allowed the Vikings to rely less on Brett Favre. While the approach didn't lead to the offensive fireworks that have accompanied the Vikings for much of the season, the run-first tactic helped them dominate the line of scrimmage and wear down a physical Bengals defense.

Patriots 20, Panthers 10
Wes Welker continues to be the driving force behind the offense. The diminutive playmaker specializes in making the tough catch over the middle, and his ability to routinely run away from underneath coverage gives the Patriots an added dimension. Against the Panthers, Welker repeatedly found openings between the hashes on short crossers and quick option routes. He finished with 10 receptions for 105 yards. More importantly, Welker gave Tom Brady a security blanket over the middle and allowed the Patriots to sustain drives in the clutch.

Jets 26, Buccaneers 3
The Jets used a variety of exotic pressures and complex coverage to force Josh Freeman into a dismal performance. The rookie connected on only 42 percent of his throws and threw three costly interceptions. Rex Ryan deserves credit for taking advantage of Freeman's inexperience by using a mixture of disguises and pressures. The Jets routinely sent five rushers in the game's early stages to force quick decisions, and then started dropping several defenders into coverage after showing blitz prior to the snap. Freeman has shown immense potential, but he looked like a rookie against the Jets.

Titans 47, Rams 7
The emergence of Chris Johnson as the most dangerous runner in the league has been the key to the Titans' resurgence. He has recorded eight straight 100-yard rushing games. His ability to turn a short play into a big gain has made the offense one of the most dangerous units in the league. Against the Rams, Johnson showcased his dynamic ability with two touchdowns of his three touchdowns covering more than 35 yards (39-yard run and a 66-yard reception). With their other dynamic weapon (Vince Young) sidelined due to a hamstring injury, the luxury of having another explosive threat allowed the Titans to roll.

Redskins 34, Raiders 13
The Redskins' defense has flown under the radar for most of the season, but the unit completely dominated the Raiders. Led by its ferocious pass rush, Washington tallied eight sacks, including six in the second half, en route to holding Oakland to only 227 total yards. Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter, in particular, overmatched the Raiders' offensive tackles and made life miserable for JaMarcus Russell. With the pass rush imposing its will, the secondary threw a blanket on the Raiders' aerial game to break open a tight contest.

Eagles 45, Giants 38
The Giants were undone by the DeSean Jackson show. He caught six passes for 178 yards with a 60-yard touchdown catch, and added a 72-yard punt return for a score. Although Jackson entered the game widely hailed as one of the game’s most explosive players, the Giants were unable to slow him down. He repeatedly got behind the secondary on deep routes, while his electrifying speed allowed him to run away from defenders on short crossers. The Giants attempted to double team him on occasion, but Jackson’s ability to run past their deep defenders rendered the tactic ineffective. Philadelphia’s offense continues to thrive as a quick-strike attack and Jackson makes the unit go.


Seven from Sunday

A look at seven statistical highlights from games played during the 14th week of the 2009 season.

» For the first time in NFL history, there are two 13-0 teams in the same season. The Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints both improved to 13-0 with their victories Sunday. The Colts defeated Denver 28-16 and the Saints won 26-23 at Atlanta. Entering this season, only five teams had started 13-0: 2007 New England (16-0), 1972 Miami (14-0), 1934 Chicago (13-0), 1998 Denver (13-0) and 2005 Indianapolis (13-0).

The Colts have now won 22 consecutive regular-season games, surpassing the 2006-08 New England Patriots (21) for the longest streak in NFL history.

Indianapolis has 114 regular-season wins since the start of the 2000 season, the most by a team in a single decade. The San Francisco 49ers registered 113 wins in the 1990s.

» The San Diego Chargers improved to 10-3 with a 20-17 win at Dallas. Dating back to a 24-21 victory at Buffalo on Dec. 3, 2006, the Chargers have won an NFL-record 16 consecutive games in December. The previous mark was set by the 1968-1972 Dallas Cowboys, who won 13 games in a row during the month.

» Denver wideout Brandon Marshall had 21 catches for 200 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Indianapolis. Marshall's 21 receptions set an NFL record for most catches in a game. Terrell Owens previously held the record with 20 receptions on Dec. 17, 2000 with the San Francisco 49ers.

» Tennessee running back Chris Johnson totaled 186 yards from scrimmage (117 rushing, 69 receiving) in the Titans' 47-7 victory over St. Louis. Johnson leads the NFL with 2,017 yards from scrimmage and became only the fifth player in NFL history to reach 2,000 yards from scrimmage in his team's first 13 games. He joins Pro Football Hall of Famers Jim Brown (2,008 in 1963), Walter Payton (2,051 in 1977) and O.J. Simpson (2,120 in 1975) as well as former Kansas City running back Priest Holmes (2,104 in 2002) as the only players to accomplish the feat.

» New England wide receiver Wes Welker had 10 receptions for 105 yards in the Patriots' 20-10 win over Carolina. Welker, who played in his 11th game Sunday, leads the NFL with 105 receptions and tied Marvin Harrison for the fewest individual games played to reach 100 receptions in a season in NFL history. Harrison caught 100 passes in his first 11 games of the 2002 season en route to an NFL-record 143 catches.

Welker also joined Harrison (4), Jerry Rice (3) and Herman Moore (3) as the only players to have 100 receptions in three consecutive seasons.

» Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson had 10 receptions for 184 yards and two touchdowns in the first half of the Texans' 34-7 win over Seattle. Johnson is the first player to record at least 10 catches, 180 yards and two touchdowns in the first half of a game since Jacksonville's Jimmy Smith did it on Sept. 10, 2000.

» San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for one touchdown in the Chargers' 20-17 win at Dallas. Tomlinson has now rushed for at least 10 touchdowns in each of the first nine seasons to start his career, the longest such streak in NFL history.

Monday night

Cardinals at 49ers: When Arizona and San Francisco met in the season opener, the Cardinals' high-powered offense was out of sync and the 49ers' passing game was an afterthought. This meeting will probably have an entirely different look. Led by a surging offense, the Cardinals look to clinch their second straight NFC West title when they visit a 49ers team featuring a new passing attack.
» Game preview

Fantasy studs

Who was this week's best fantasy player? Was it Drew Brees, who continues to be a fantasy hero? What about Peyton Manning? Or, was it Chris Johnson? Check out all of Michael Fabiano's nominees and cast your vote.
» Vote for Week 14 fantasy stud


The NFL delivered more exciting games and performances this weekend, including the Chargers' big win over the Cowboys in Dallas. Check out the memorable moments from Week 14.

» Fans of the NFL
» NFL cheerleaders during Week 14
» 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 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 14:

» Browns pull off huge upset | Vote
» Saints go to 13-0 | Vote
» Chargers love December | Vote
» Career day for Chiefs' Charles | Vote
» Colts set wins record | Vote
» Dolphins come up big | Vote
» Grant leads Packers' charge | Vote
» Titans' Johnson runs past Rams | Vote
» Jones scores twice vs. Bucs | Vote
» Marshall's record-setting day | Vote
» Orakpo has four sacks | Vote
» Rice runs wild vs. Lions | Vote
» Schaub-to-Johnson a hit | Vote
» Brady finds Welker often | Vote
» Eagles' Jackson goes deep | Vote

» Vote: Week 14's top performances



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