LOS ANGELES, October 21, 2014 — In this quarterback-driven league, Aaron Rodgers kept rolling, Drew Brees had an uncharacteristic meltdown, Tom Brady survived despite being out-played, Colt McCoy shined, and Kyle Orton gritted out another ugly win that has defined his career. Peyton Manning surpassed Brett Favre for the all-time touchdown passes record as some wondered whether Andrew Luck would do likewise in 2029. With that, here is the NFL 2014 Week 7 lessons learned and not learned.
New England Patriots 27, New York Jets 25 — The Thursday night game saw the Jets gash the Patriots for over 200 rushing yards. The Jets were denied the upset of the year when Nick Folk’s 58-yard field goal try at the gun was blocked. Folk hit his first four field goals, but this is why the Gang Green lost. The Jets fell to 1-6 because too many trips to the red zone result in field goals and not touchdowns. Rex Ryan should remind his players that the 1999 Jets began 1-6 and finished 8-8 for Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells.
Baltimore Ravens 29, Atlanta Falcons 7 — The Atlanta Falcons have always been derided as a dome team. This slur means they cannot win on the road. So far Atlanta has done nothing to refute this criticism as they remain winless away from the Georgia Dome. Joe Flacco led the Ravens to a 20-0 lead and Matt Ryan was sacked for a safety as the Falcons again got manhandled on both sides of the ball away from home.
Buffalo Bills 17, Minnesota Vikings 16 — Good quarterbacks survive miserable games and get it done when it matters most. Kyle Orton threw three interceptions and fumbled once as the Bills trailed by six late. With 1:18 to play and the Bills facing fourth and 20 from their own 40, Orton fired a 24-yard completion. With one second to play, Orton’s two-yard touchdown to Sammy Watkins provided Buffalo with the gutty Orton-style win.
Miami Dolphins 27, Chicago Bears 14 — The Bears live and die by the play of Jay Cutler. This week Cutler had an interception and a fumble gift-wrap 10 points for the Dolphins. Chicago won on the road against supposed better teams, yet turnovers cause them to lose against a weaker opponent at home. Chicago gifted the Dolphins a 14-0 lead that stretched to 24-7 before Chicago added a cosmetic score.
Detroit Lions 24, New Orleans Saints 23 — Even Hall of Fame quarterbacks make mistakes. Drew Brees finished 28 of 45 for 342 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but with 3:20 left and the Saints up by six, Brees gave the game away. An interception set up Detroit at the Saints 14-yard line. On third and goal at the five Matthew Stafford threw the winning touchdown with 1:48 to play. With 27 seconds left and the Saints facing fourth and 3 at their 40 needing only a field goal to win it, Brees threw incomplete. Jim Caldwell was so pleased he almost made a facial expression.
Green Bay Packers 38, Panthers 17 — There is no defense for a perfect throw, and Aaron Rodgers is throwing the ball as perfectly as it gets. A 59-yard bomb to Jordy Nelson started the deluge of points that had Green Bay up 28-0 in the first half. Carolina on the road contending with the Green Bay crowd and a pinpoint Rodgers were overmatched from the start.
Indianapolis Colts 27, Cincinnati Bengals 0 — These teams depend on Caveman Andrew Luck and Red Rifle Andy Dalton. On this day only one of them showed up. Luck and his beard went 27 of 42 for 344 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Dalton went 18 of 38 for 126 yards. The Bengals look lifeless on the road.
Jacksonville Jaguars 24, Cleveland Browns 6 — Beating up Bryan Hoyer and demanding Johnny Clipboard or saying these are the same old Browns would be a mistake. Jacksonville lost a couple heartbreakers and were due. Trailing 10-6 midway through the fourth quarter, Cleveland twice turned it over inside their own ten yard line on a fumbled punt and Hoyer interception. Cleveland is a young team that suffered a letdown after an emotional beating of hated Pittsburgh last week.
St. Louis Rams 28, Seattle Seahawks 26 — An 88-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 75-yard kickoff return saw the Rams jump all over the Seahawks 21-3 in the first half. This should not be a shock. The defending champs will face each opponent’s best every week. Even last year’s Super Bowl squad barely survived their game at St. Louis. Yet give this win to Jeff Fisher for having cojones of steel. With three minutes left and the Rams clinging to a two-point lead, Fisher called a fake punt with the Rams facing fourth and three at their own 18. The gamble worked as the Rams got the first down and ran out the clock.
Washington 19, Tennessee Titans 17 — NFL rules required that this game be played. Some people want Washington to change their name for political reasons. Others want the Washington and Tennessee to change their name for embarrassing people who see the names desecrated by bad football. With Jake Locker and RGIII injured, Charlie Whitehurst and Kirk Cousins played miserably. Jay Gruden benched Cousins at halftime and brought in third-stringer Colt McCoy. On the second play of the third quarter, McCoy hit Pierre Garcon on a short pass that went for a 70 yard touchdown. McCoy completed 11 of 12 passes and Kai Forbath hit four field goals, including the game winner at the gun. Washington won the Stupor Bowl.
Kansas City Chiefs 23, San Diego Chargers 20 — Carlo Santos hit three field goals, including the game winner from 48 yards with 21 seconds to play. The way to stop Philip Rivers is to keep him off the field. Kansas City held the ball for 39 minutes, which was just enough to eke out a win.
Dallas Cowboys 31, New York Giants 21 — Pablo Escobar delivered illegal drugs on the Mexican side of the border. His non-relative Gavin Escobar delivers touchdown catches for America’s team. His touchdown receptions of 15 and 26 yards plus a third touchdown pass thrown by Tony Romo allowed Dallas to get to 6-1. DeMarco Murray had over 100 yards rushing for the seventh straight game to start a season, an NFL record. Dan Bailey hit the 49-yard field goal with one minute left to lock up the win.
Arizona Cardinals 24, Oakland Raiders 13 — In 2006, the 0-5 Oakland Raiders hosted the Arizona Cardinals and won 22-9. In 2010, the Raiders lost to Arizona when Sebastian Janikowski missed a 32-yard field goal on the final play. This game brought neither result as the Raiders trailed by eight and failed to mount one drive on offense or one stop on defense. Carson Palmer torched his old team as a late field goal sealed the win for the 5-1 NFC West leading Cardinals. The Tony Sparano Raiders have produced as many wins as the Dennis Allen Raiders as Oakland at 0-6 remained the last winless team.
Denver Broncos 42, San Francisco 49ers 17 — The Sunday night game saw NFL history. Peyton Manning threw first quarter touchdown passes of three yards to Emanuel Sanders and 39 yards to Wes Welker. With 3:15 left in the half, Manning threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Denarius Thomas. Manning’s 509th touchdown moved him past Brett Favre for the most NFL touchdown passes. The crowd erupted as a white horse emblazoned with the number 509 on it ran across the field. It was the most exciting NFL moment involving a white Bronco since O.J. Simpson. It also put the Broncos up 21-3, effectively ending the game. Manning added one more touchdown pass in the third quarter for good measure, finishing 22 of 26 with 318 yards passing.
Pittsburgh Steelers 30, Houston Texans 23 — The Monday night game should have been dedicated to Jeremy Irons as Klaus Von Bulow since it was a major reversal of fortune. With Houston leading 13-0 with just over three minutes left in the half, the roof caved in. Pittsburgh’s four scores and 24 unanswered points to end the half were helped along by Houston turning the ball over twice inside their own ten yard line. While Mike Tomlin teams have always been resilient, this was a Texas-sized self-destruction effort as Houston did everything but butt-fumble.