By Andy Benoit, NFLTouchdown.com
Thanksgiving Games Note
There is a scheduling flaw in the Thanksgiving games. Both the Cowboys and Lions had home games on Sunday. That’s not fair because their opponents this Thursday will have to travel. The NFL should force the Cowboys and Lions to play on the road before their Thursday game, that way both teams facing off Thursday will have had to travel in some form on the short week.
Baltimore Ravens 36, Philadelphia Eagles 7
By far the biggest news of the week came when Andy Reid shockingly benching Donovan McNabb. Watching this was like seeing a couple you’ve been friends with for years abruptly get divorced after you thought they had already survived the rocky parts of their marriage. Deep down you’re not necessarily surprised that the divorce came because there was a time, awhile back, that you were certain it would. But now that it actually has (seemingly), you’re absolutely floored. After 10 years, it just seems weird even thinking about Andy Reid ad Donovan McNabb not being together.
By the way, what in the world is Reid thinking? The stingy Ravens defense was giving his 10-year veteran problems, so to ameliorate the situation, he asks his callow second-year quarterback to make his debut and save the team’s playoff hopes in the process? And what does Reid do now? The Eagles have a short week….does he keep Kolb in there and hope for the best? There’s absolutely no way Reid thought this one through.
Other quick notes from this game….
Jarret Johnson was a beast for the Ravens, recording 1.5 sacks and disrupting about a half dozen more plays.
Ed Reed finally had another record-setting interception return. It had been a long time since the star safety took a pick back 100-plus yards.
The Eagles still can’t convert in short-yardage situations.
Joe Flacco was far from spectacular, completing less than 50 percent of his throws. But because he has a coach who puts him in positions to succeed (you listening, Andy Reid?) he managed to avoid any turnovers and toss two touchdowns.
New York Jets 34, Tennessee Titans 13
Great loss for the Titans. This unlikeliest of winning streaks had to come to an end at some point – might as well have it happen before any distractions stir up. And with a short week before playing Detroit, there’s virtually not time for anyone to dwell on this loss. The Titans will be 11-1 and under the radar before the holiday shopping season begins.
Chris Carr will be noted for his costly pass interference penalties in this game, which is too bad. The versatile defensive back has played extremely well since being forced into the starting lineup a few games ago.
Albert Haynesworth has been known to play with concussions, and sure enough, he was on the field in the second half after taking a shot to the head early on. Haynesworth now has 8.5 sacks on the season and remains, in my opinion, the NFL MVP.
Leon Washington is more than just an X-factor. He’s the best playmaker on New York’s high-scoring offense.
Back-to-back road wins against the Patriots and Titans is impressive, but I don’t know if the Jets want to be talked about as the AFC’s best team. When you have Brett Favre and play in New York, that creates a lot of added pressure – especially with the possibility of a subway Super Bowl being on the table.
Dallas Cowboys 35, San Francisco 49ers 22
Dallas is back, thanks in large part to a re-energized defense. Terence Newman did not have his best game Sunday, but a furious front seven helped make up for it, sacking Shaun Hill four times and limiting a Niners passing attack that started hot early on.
Terrell Owens did his thing, both during the week when he ran his mouth, and on Sunday, when he backed it up. Facing man coverage that looked more like “boy coverage”, Owens torched his former 49er team for seven catches and 213 yards. As obnoxious as T.O. can be, it’s hard to argue with his logic when he says that when he gets the ball, good things happen. Besides Calvin Johnson, there’s not a more unstoppable wide receiving when it comes to running downfield with a full head of steam.
One mistake Wade Phillips made was leaving Tony Romo and Marion Barber in the game down the stretch. Dallas had a comfortable lead and should have been thinking about preserving key players for Thanksgiving.
It was in a losing effort, but Isaac Bruce showed that he hasn’t slowed down much at all. The Reverend caught eight passes for 125 yards and a touchdown. True, Bruce’s numbers are down this year – he’s on pace for about 700 yards receiving – but that has more to do with San Francisco’s instability at quarterback.
Pacman Jones will be reinstated in time for the Pittsburgh game in a few weeks, but I’m not sure what Dallas will do with him. Newman and Anthony Henry are both playing well at corner, and the Cowboys are smitten over fifth-round rookie Orlando Scandrick in the slot. And don’t forget, sharing time with Scandrick at nickel back has been first-round rookie Mike Jenkins.
Indianapolis Colts 23, San Diego Chargers 20
Wanna know why the Chargers have lost four games inside the final 24 seconds this year? Because of things like the timeout they called right before Nate Kaeding’s game-tying field goal. With more than half the play clock left, San Diego erroneously used a timeout, which left Peyton Manning with 1:30 to conduct Indy’s game-winning drive. Norv Turner realized the mistake shortly after committing it – you may have noticed the f-bombs he was dropping right before Kaeding ran on the field.
John Madden flat-out said that LaDainian Tomlinson is not the same player he once was. Madden does not speak in hyperbole, and he does not throw players under the bus (no pun intended). The fact of the matter is, he’s right. L.T. does not look the same.
Madden also said that the Chargers offensive line has not been physical this year. Indeed, Kris Dielman has not been ferocious in the run game. Nick Hardwick has played well, but he’s not getting a lot of help from Mike Goff on his right. And Pro Bowl left tackle Marcus McNeil has hit some sort of a third-year slump, which I didn’t know even existed. Dwight Freeney was a menace against McNeil in this game.
Peyton Manning was excellent, but the Colts probably don’t win this game without the contributions of Joseph Addai. With San Diego successfully limiting Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark Sunday night, Addai stepped up and filled the void, rushing 16 times for 70 yards and catching seven mostly dump-off passes for 31 yards. Not huge numbers, but he touched the ball at important times.
Jamal Williams continues to have a monstrous season at the nose.
This isn’t football related, but NBC was promoting a new Rosie O’Donnell variety show. The phrase “what the hell?” comes to mind on so many levels.
New York Giants 37, Arizona Cardinals 29
Yet another statement win for the Giants. This time they went on the road – by the way, didn’t the white-jersey Giants look extremely familiar playing in University of Phoenix Stadium again? – and, without Brandon Jacobs or Plaxico Burress, beat a soaring Cardinals team.
Every week it seems like a Giants role player emerges for a big game. On Sunday, that player was rookie safety Kenny Phillips. The first-rounder is built like a rangy pass-defender, which he is, but he’s also very physical against the run.
Phillips worked alongside Aaron Ross a lot on the afternoon. Ross is having a Pro Bowl season.
Everyone is talking about Kurt Warner as an MVP and Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin as possibly the greatest receiving tandem since Swann-Stallworth. But upon closer inspection, Arizona’s utter lack of a rushing attack has to be a concern. I misguidedly assumed that rookie Tim Hightower would provide a burst on the ground, but the fifth-round pick from Richmond is averaging less than 3.0 yards per carry.
Mitigating matters is the fact that Arizona’s defense has improved. The biggest difference between this team early in the season and this team now is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He’s playing at a first-round level and conjuring big plays in the secondary.
We’ve heard all year that Tom Coughlin is the same hardnosed coach he’s always been. It’s probably true, but watching him on the sideline, you can’t tell me the man’s comportment has not mellowed out at least a little bit.
Washington Redskins 20, Seattle Seahawks 17
The scoreboard suggests that the Seahawks were in it, and yes, technically they were. But this West Coast offense had just 88 yards passing on the afternoon. How competitive could it have been?
It’s impossible to watch the tape on this game and not come away thinking Mike Sellers deserves to be the NFC’s fullback in the Pro Bowl. (Of course, on most weeks, you could say the same thing about New York's Madison Hedgecock.)
Matt Hasselbeck has no chemistry with his receivers right now. Not a single Seahawk had more than two catches on Sunday, and on several occasions – both of Hasselbeck’s interceptions included – there were major communication breakdowns.
Lorenzo Alexander had a nice game at defensive tackle for the Skins. Don’t be shocked if he winds up becoming a starter at some point.
Atlanta Falcons 45, Carolina Panthers 28
The Panthers were about as bad as any team could be in the first 20 minutes of this game. And they ended the game almost as poorly as they started it. Considering how meager their passing attack was the past two weeks against inferior competition (Detroit and Oakland) it’s fair to say that John Fox and his staff have some significant issues to address.
I look at Atlanta’s starting offensive line and simply can’t believe that this rushing attack has been so successful. Todd Weiner is a right tackle who surprisingly came back from serious knee surgery and has been filling in on the left side. Left guard Justin Blalock was unpolished coming into his second year. Center Todd McClure was supposed to start washing up this year. Not too long ago, right guard Harvey Dahl was regarded as more of a practice body than anything. And right tackle Tyson Clabo is better suited to play inside. And yet, this unit has been extremely stellar in 2008 (see Michael Turner’s 117 yards and four touchdowns in this game as the latest exhibit).
Harry Douglas had a coming-out part. The electrifying rookie has very supple hips and remarkable acceleration. He could be a slot receiver/kick return star.
DeAngelo Williams rushed for over 100 yards in a fourth-straight game. But Carolina didn’t get much from Jonathan Stewart (five carries, 15 yards).
I was hard on John Abraham in my Falcons preview report, mainly because in watching tape, I didn’t think the guy played with much fire against the run. But Abraham has changed this season. And he’s also become a more dominant pass-rusher (12 sacks). Funny what staying healthy can do for a man.
Oakland Raiders 31, Denver Broncos 10
With San Diego also losing, this game turned out to be more symbolic than anything for the two-game AFC West-leading Broncos. What did it symbolize? That they don’t have what it takes to advance in the postseason.
Johnny Lee Higgins did a back flip after his 89-yard punt return score, but the ref flagged him because he didn’t stick the landing (the missed landing caused him to place a hand on the ground). The latest NFL conformity rules stipulate that it’s a 15-yard penalty for going to the ground on a celebration. Okay, if the league wants to play it this way, then why don’t they start flagging players who take a knee in prayer after a score?
The new popular thing in Denver is comparing Peyton Hillis to Mike Alstott. I see the connection (white fullback/running back hybrid, one of those tough battering ram type guys) but let’s wait and see the rookie perform in a starring role for at least six games before making any drastic proclamations.
Ashley Lelie probably enjoyed this game. Facing the team that drafted him in the first round before cutting him after an ugly contract dispute, Lelie caught four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.
By the way, JaMarcus Russell had his best day as a pro, and he only threw 11 passes. He ought to take Justin Fargas – 24 carries, 107 yards – out for a nice steak dinner.
Houston Texans 16, Cleveland Browns 6
If I weren’t such a fan of Monday Night Football (which has both of these teams remaining on the schedule) I’d declare that this game was utterly irrelevant.
Actually, some important news came from this game: Romeo Crennel publicly declared that he is scared to death about losing his job. How did Crennel declare this? By benching an ineffective Brady Quinn for Derek Anderson. Quinn played with a broken index finger and was awful (8/18, 94 yards, two interceptions). But instead of allowing his young quarterback to endure a tough learning experience and fight his way through it, Crennel panicked and disrupted what little team chemistry the Browns had left by going back to the man he discarded three weeks ago.
For those counting at home, Braylon Edwards had three more drops Sunday. That puts him at 15, matching his touchdown total of a year ago.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38, Detroit Lions 20
The Lions jumped out to a 17-0 lead, which had me worrying that they’d ruin the most intriguing storyline for Thanksgiving (Detroit’s pursuit of 0-16). Fortunately, in true Ford fashion, they fell in the red after the first quarter and wound up getting outscored 38-3.
Give some praise to the Lions front four in this game. They reached Jeff Garcia six times and recovered both of the quarterback’s fumbles.
Ronde Barber got abused by Calvin Johnson early on, but the cagey veteran responded later with two vintage Barber interceptions (both on pure anticipation). He returned the second interception for six points.
Although he looked rusty at times (e.g. his forced fumble on Jeff Garcia, when he didn’t know where to go in pass protection) it was great to see Cadillac Williams back on the field. He saw his first action since early in the ’07 season and actually got 16 carries.
Buffalo Bills 54, Kansas City Chiefs 31
The Chiefs started okay in this game, but this was one where you watch a few plays, change the channel for an hour or so, and then check back in and say, “What the heck happened?”
Marshawn Lynch is playing like it’s his job to carry the Bills. You have the admire the young runner’s heart – even if his impatience forces him to refer to it more often than he should.
I have taken it easy on the Chiefs all season because I believe they’re building something from scratch. But you can’t give up 54 points at home like this. These are the type of losses that can build up and turn good franchises into longtime losers.
Chicago Bears 27, St. Louis Rams 3
The best part about this game was that seeing the Bears back in the Whatever They’re Calling It These Days Dome made me think about Devin Hester’s two touchdown returns on Monday Night in December 2006.
Hester hasn’t been returning anything this year, but he at least made a few things happen Sunday with a team-high five receptions (52 yards) and 32 yards rushing on two carries.
For the eighth time this season, Matt Forte had at least 20 rushing attempts. The rookie responded with 132 yards and two touchdowns.
Marc Bulger was knocked out of the game early and had to be replaced by Trent Green. Scott Linehan might be interested to know that Green did not rally the troops. Instead, he threw four interceptions.
New England Patriots 48, Miami Dolphins 28
Don’t look now, but here come the Patriots. That backup quarterback of theirs who everyone trashed at the beginning of the season has now thrown for over 400 yards in two consecutive games. Simply put, Matt Cassel is looking like a star, and Bill Belichick – who planned for this all along – is looking like a genius yet again.
Randy Moss is a good barometer for how your quarterback is playing. Because Moss runs poor routes and isn’t physical after the catch, just about all of his production comes directly from the quarterback’s arm. The fact that Moss had three touchdowns Sunday tells you that Cassel is becoming more confident in stretching the field.
It should be noted that Tony Sparano gave Bill Belichick an icy handshake at the end of this game. Apparently the animosity is rampant across the AFC East.
The Patriots need their offense to click. Injuries are starting to deplete the defense. Miami put up 28 points, mainly by dissecting New England through the air.
Ted Ginn Jr. had some ugly drops in this game. I only point this out because the guy has been playing so well as of late that when he does struggle, it’s now noteworthy.
Vince Wilfork won’t make the Pro Bowl because the AFC is loaded with good DT’s this season, but he is having a very impressive ’08 campaign.
Minnesota Vikings 30, Jacksonville Jaguars 12
It was almost over before it even began, thanks to two Jacksonville fumbles that turned into 14 Minnesota points.
Troy Williamson ran his mouth about wanting to fight Brad Childress this week. However, the disappointing former first-round pick did not even make it into the boxscore.
Adrian Peterson was benched for the first two possessions for being late to a team meeting. All that really did was screw a few fantasy owners.
Here’s all you need to know about the Jaguars this season: against Minnesota they ran the ball 14 times for 35 yards.
For more from Andy Benoit, visit NFLTouchdown.com
Posted by Andy Benoit at 11/24/2008 7:47:00 AM