After picking apart one of the best defenses in the league, 49ers fans have to wonder if Colin Kaepernick’s performance on Monday night was lightning in a bottle or if they can expect games like that from him all the time when he plays. Whatever the case, the Bears defense looked ordinary after Kaepernick picked them apart to the tune of 243 yards with two touchdowns and no picks. He was making audibles and reading the defense like a veteran and the final score reflected this. Not only did the 49ers quarterback look good, but so did their entire defense; specifically Aldon Smith and NaVorro Bowman. Bowman racked up a total of 11 tackles with one assist while Smith exploded for 5.5 sacks plus two forced fumbles. The tackles for the Chicago Bears were beat, and beat badly. J’Marcus Webb was dominated on the left side and Gabe Carimi could not protect the right side. Chilo Rachal was also a weak link on the offensive line as San Francisco defenders were having their way with Jason Campbell. There may just be a team in the NFL that has as bad of an offensive line as the Philadelphia Eagles.
From the opening drive the 49ers dominated. Kaepernick drove his team right down the field for three points. On the next three drives they added two touchdowns and another field goal. The Niners ran the ball well and set up a lot of great play action passes. Chicago looked a step slow and a bit confused. Not much would have changed if Jay Cutler was in as quarterback because the offensive line would not have been able to stop the Smith brothers (Aldon and Justin). The Bears got punked yet again in the bay (which is typical considering they have been blown out there on Monday night a couple of times prior to this Week 11 face-off).
Since the Bears lost and the Packers won, Green Bay now owns first place in the NFC North since they beat Chicago in Week 2 this season. If they cannot straighten their problems on the o-line up then they may never taste first place again this season. Their problems on first down have snake-bitten them this season, putting them in bad situations right from the get go. They go home to take on the Vikings where Chicago can only hope Jay Cutler will be able to play. Meanwhile the 49ers’ defense will be tested in New Orleans against the re-surging Saints in a NFC-divisional round rematch. That should be a great game.
The Texans set multiple franchise records after this game was finished, but the only thing that matters is the fact that their record was elevated to a superb 9-1. Andre Johnson set a franchise record for receiving yards in a game with 273, and came within 63 yards of the all-time record (Flipper Anderson, 336). Matt Schaub also tied Warren Moon for second all-time with 527 passing yards in a game, plus he threw up five touchdowns. The Texans as a team obtained 39 first downs, which is also a franchise record. Even though these stats are flashy, there was a reason why the Texans needed them, and that was because of how well the Jaguars played. This was their best game this season by far, and it came on the arm of Chad Henne, who tossed four touchdown passes of his own. Blaine Gabbert left the game early and when Henne took over the offense exploded. Justin Blackmon racked up 236 yards of his own receiving with an 81 yard touchdown. It is obvious that Chad Henne was able to provide a spark for this offense that they have not seen in quite some time. Maybe he will take the starting job from Blaine Gabbert permanently. The Texans defense was exposed again in this game. This is the second game this season where Wade Phillips’ unit was embarrassed at home. Although they did win the game this time, Houston needs to tighten things up if they hope to hang with elite teams later this year. Then again they were able to beat Peyton Manning in Denver and they laid a beat down on Joe Flacco and the Ravens. Perhaps this game and the one against Green Bay were just blips on the radar.
The Buccaneers proved they had a lot of resilience with this win in Carolina. Josh Freeman threw multiple interceptions and the Bucs struggled to move the ball until their last few drives of the game, which is all that matters. Freeman proved that he had that “clutch trait” yet again with a touchdown to Vincent Jackson with less than 10 seconds left. Then on the first drive in overtime he took his team right down the field for the game winning score (to Dallas Clark). If Tampa Bay took a loss in this game, their season would have hit a humongous bump in the road, but instead they worked their way around the pitfall at the very end not only saving the year but making it stronger. The Buccaneers now have a three game winning streak and a nice looking 6-4 record. If the season ended today the Bucs would not be in the playoffs, but they are the closes team to getting in behind Seattle. Tampa has the tougher schedule moving forward, still having to face Atlanta twice and New Orleans again. If they hope to make the playoffs they have to beat the Falcons at least once this season. As for the Panthers what else is there to say? This was yet another game where they played well and coughed up the lead in the end. They have some serious problems closing out games and still cannot get their running game going. This team will not be successful until it straightens out those problems.
It wasn’t pretty, but the Ravens find themselves victorious after a slug-fest with their rivals from the Steel City. It is not too often that a team wins a game without scoring an offensive touchdown, but Baltimore managed to. Apparently the 63 yard punt return from Jacoby Jones was all of the offense the Ravens would need in this hard-hitting affair. The Ravens’ defense looked like it had returned to form; only allowing a total of 10 points on 311 yards. They were able to weather the storm after Byron Leftwich and company started off on fire- a long pass interference call coupled with a 31 yard touchdown run by the quarterback himself in under one minute to begin the game was the lone bright spot on offense for Pittsburgh. At least the Steelers’ defense was able to hold the Ravens to 200 total yards because if they did not do their job then this game could have been a blowout.
Corey Graham played his best game of the year in this one. He had one interception of Leftwich plus a couple of key tackles. He also saved a touchdown when he defended Mike Wallace and Emmanuel Sanders beautifully. Paul Kreuger proved to be very disruptive at the line of scrimmage; Mike Adams had a hard time fighting him off with his hands and gave up a sack plus a forced fumble. Willie Colon made some big penalties as well and overall the Steelers’ offensive line was not as good as they have been for a majority of the season. Leftwich hung tough even though he looked to be in major pain for almost the entire game. America was close to seeing Charlie Batch take over at QB but Byron was able to tough it out and complete the game. The final drive for Pittsburgh was not executed well at all. Leftwich was making a lot of checkdowns in the middle of the field which costed the Steelers a lot of precious time. Then he was unable to heave the ball very far down the field. With an arm motion like his, one would think he could throw it a mile in the air, but that just wasn’t the case on Sunday night. It seemed like whenever he threw the ball, he could not put any air under his passes. They were all straight bullets that did not hang in the air for very long (which is the complete opposite of Joe Flacco who might have the best rainbow pass in the entire league).
Nobody on the Ravens’ offense had a huge game at all. Anquan Boldin came closest to a decent game with 8 receptions for 79 yards. Ike Taylor completely shut Torrey Smith down- he was in man coverage with the Baltimore big-play receiver for pretty much the whole game. Smith was only able to make one catch for 7 yards. It is easy to say the Ravens struggled on offense, but the Steelers gave them a game on defense as well hence the reason why this game was so close without Ben Roethlisberger. This was a win the birds needed and now they claim a two game lead in the division with all of the tie-breakers (4-0 record within the division plus a head-to-head victory). Roethlisberger being out for a while could prove to be a big problem for the Steelers. It is unlikely he will play next week against the Browns and he could miss the second game against Baltimore in a couple of weeks. The Pittsburgh cannot win without Big Ben then they may have to watch the postseason at home with their fans, but if one team can overcome losing their quarterback it is the Steelers. Their defense is going to have to carry them for the next few games, which could mean bad news for them if they have an off day.
This game was very similar to the match-up between the Broncos and Patriots from Week 15 of last year in the sense that it was a game between a hot young quarterback and the grizzled old veteran in Tom Brady. Both ended in the same fashion for the Brady challengers: a blowout loss despite a fast start. Andrew Luck came out and looked great in this game. A long pass interference penalty on the first drive helped out a bit, but Indy scored a touchdown on each of its first two drives. Of course Tom Brady answered the call hooking up with his big tight end Rob Gronkowski for a score in the first quarter. Then, to tie the game at 14 apiece, Julian Edelman ran a punt back 68 yards for a touchdown. On the next drive, the Patriots big mid-season pickup payed great dividends when he scored on a 59 yard pick six. Later in the game the Pats would pull away on the strength of another interception returned for a touchdown (Alfonzo Dennard), two rushing touchdowns (Vereen and Ridley), plus two more passing touchdowns from Brady to Gronkowski (again) and Edelman. New England looked great in all three phases and this was easily their best game played so far this season because of it.
Julian Edelman was amazing in this one. Obviously the punt return for a touchdown was huge, but he also had 5 receptions for 58 yards (one was the touchdown in the third quarter). Not to mention he was the Patriots’ leading rusher in this game with 47 yards. All 47 of them came on one play which almost went for a TD. He could have been one of the first (if not the first) players to have a punt return for a TD, an receiving TD, and a rushing TD all in one game. Tom Brady was, once again, lethal with his accuracy completing a high percentage of his throws (69%). On the season he has an astounding 21 touchdowns to only three interceptions. He has completed at least 60% of his passes in all 10 of his games so far this season- these are MVP-type numbers. Its too bad he will have to compete with the likes of Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan for that honor this season.
Overall Andrew Luck did not look too bad. He did take some chances and paid for them but he also made some fantastic throws. A couple of catches Reggie Wayne had in this game were amazing. He could have the best hands in football. The thing that killed the Colts in this game was their running attack, or lack thereof. When they had it going in the first quarter they were very efficient and could use the play-action pass since the defense had to respect the run. As the game wore on the Patriots’ front four really clogged the line of scrimmage and forced the running backs to run laterally instead of downhill. Although the stats would not indicate it, Vince Wilfork had a great game. He hurried Luck a couple of times and forced him to throw one of his two interceptions. He also came close to having one of his own when he tipped the rookie QB’s pass in the air and dove to make the catch. As always he was good in run defense as well. In this game it wasn’t so much about how bad the Colts were but rather how good the Patriots were. They just dominated the final three quarters en route to a huge win.
The Colts still remain in the drivers seat for a wild card spot. They have a rough road coming up with two divisional tilts with Houston, plus a road date with Detroit but games with the Bills, Titans, and Chiefs should offset this. A 10-6 finish is a very good possibility at this point and that is almost guaranteed to be a playoff worthy record. By the way T.Y. Hilton had his third 100 yard receiving game this season. He is quickly becoming one of the best young wide-outs in the game today.
Von Miller is an absolute beast: he forced two fumbles and recorded three sacks in a rather impressive Denver Bronco win. Peyton Manning was able to pass Dan Marino and stand alone in second place all time with 423 passing touchdowns in his surefire Hall of Fame career. Once again, the Broncos put forth a solid team effort. The offense accumulated 386 yards while their defense held the Chargers to only 287 yards and 13 first downs. This loss kills the Chargers. Many people questioned how good they were to begin with seeing as how their only two wins since Week 2 are against the Chiefs. Not to mention their other two wins came against teams with losing records as well (Oakland and Tennessee). The Broncos will be in contention for a first round BYE. Their losses to Houston and New England will hurt them quite a bit down the road with regards to seeding. However, when a team has Peyton Manning they are almost a lock to go far in the playoffs. Things will get very interesting come January.
The Saints have officially fought back from an 0-4 start to a .500 record. Drew Brees threw yet another TD pass (or three in this case) to extend his streak to 53 consecutive games. Carson Palmer had another game where he eclipsed 300 yards but still lost big. Marcell Reece was pretty good, running 19 times for 103 yards. He was also the leading receiver in this game with four catches and 90 yards. This is a fullback ladies and gentlemen, one this league has not seen since 2009 when the Eagles had Leonard Weaver. Lance Moore had a nice game turning in two catches, both for touchdowns. In the eyes of the Saints, their defense had its best game of the season so far- allowing only 404 (a season low) and forced two turnovers. It is safe to say that New Orleans is rolling right now, and if nothing else they can build a ton of momentum for next year when they will get Sean Peyton back. They do have loftier intentions however; a playoff spot is still a possibility for this team and if they get in they would be a team that nobody wants to face. Next week’s match-up with San Francisco will tell a lot about this club.