HOUSTON, October 28, 2014 — Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger reminded the rest of the league that the old guard has not retired just yet. Tony Romo reminded us all that every player is one play away from catastrophe and every team is one play away from a lost season. Welcome to NFL 2014 Week 8 lessons learned and not learned.
Denver Broncos 35, San Diego Chargers 21. The Thursday night game only reinforced the notion that the Broncos with Peyton Manning are the class of the AFC. All the talk about Philip Rivers as MVP can subside as consecutive division losses have the Chargers again playing the role of good, but not good enough. Manning threw three more touchdown passes to reach 513. By the time Denver scored a rushing touchdown they led 28-7, with the fourth quarter being anti-climactic.
Detroit Lions 22, Atlanta Falcons 21 in London — Bad teams blow 21-0 leads. Good teams come back from 21-0 deficits. Jim Caldwell has turned the Lions into a resilient force, as this comeback win shows. At 6-2, the Lions are for real. This was redemption for Matt Prater, who was cut from Denver following a suspension for alcohol abuse. His winning kick at the gun is a great start to his second act.
Minnesota Vikings 19, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13, OT — Sometimes bad teams can come together and play a thrilling game. This was not that game, a 0-0 tie for nearly 30 minutes of football that should require the game tape be burned. The one game that definitely did not deserve overtime got exactly that. Thankfully the extra session lasted only one play. An awful game between awful teams ended with awful football, as a fumble by the Buccaneers was returned 27 yards for the winning Minnesota touchdown.
New England Patriots 51, Chicago Bears 23 — Those who knew nothing about football a few weeks ago declared the Patriots’ dynasty over and the Bears the new hot team. Those who actually watch football saw reality set in. The Patriots jumping to a 17-0 lead was one thing, but scoring 21 points in the final two minutes of the half saw the Bears in full meltdown mode. Coming back from a 38-7 halftime deficit would have made for a thrilling game had that actually happened. Tom Brady completed 30 of 35 passes for 354 yards and five touchdown passes. To be fair, Jay Cutler also completed a pass to the New England defense.
Kansas City Chiefs 34, St. Louis Rams 7 — The battle of Missouri was played early in the day to avoid the risk of having zero people watching the Royals. In typical dink and dunk game manager fashion, Alex Smith went 24 of 28 without a touchdown pass or an interception. With the Chiefs only up 10-7, a 99-yard touchdown return of the second half kickoff broke open the game and made Andy Reid one happy Walrus Lite. Kansas City fans then had to decide whether to watch another sport that night or Chiefs highlights.
Seattle Seahawks 13, Carolina Panthers 9 — For the third straight year Seattle traveled to Carolina. For the third straight year a pair of teams known for defense produced the expected defensive slugfest. After 59 minutes of field goals, Russell Wilson threw a touchdown pass with 47 seconds left for the win. The defending champions avoided a three-game losing streak to get to 4-3. With rumors of a divided locker room threatening to tear them apart, the Seahawks came together when it mattered most.
Buffalo Bills 43, New York Jets 23 — Geno Smith completed five of his first eight passes, but three of those completions went to the Buffalo defense. After 10 1/2 minutes, Rex Ryan benched him for Michael Vick. Vick added more turnovers, as the Jets closed a 24-7 deficit to 24-17 before bungling the game away. Kyle Orton only completed 10 of 17 passes, but four of them went for touchdowns. Ryan might be coaching the Jets next year had he gotten a quarterback from his general manager.
Miami Dolphins 27, Jacksonville Jaguars 13 — Blake Bortles threw a pair of touchdown passes, but both of them went to the Miami defense for a 17-3 Dolphins lead. Fourteen gift points were enough to make up for a Miami offense more boring and vanilla than a Joe Philbin press conference.
Houston Texans 30, Tennessee Titans 16 — This rivalry is as nasty as the Arab-Israeli conflict, which makes sense given that Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger could be Jewish and Houston is within driving distance of Palestine, Texas. While Jews have been around for nearly 6,000 years, Mettenberger was playing in his very first NFL game. It showed, as a pair of turnovers were part of 27 unanswered Texans points that turned a close game at the half into a 27-3 Texans rout.
Cincinnati Bengals 27, Baltimore Ravens 24 — Two turnovers in three minutes by Red Rifle Andy Dalton turned a 20-14 Bengals lead into a 24-20 deficit with four minutes left. Give Dalton the true grit award for moving the Bengals 80 yards. With one minute left on fourth and goal at the one, Dalton took the sneak himself and blasted into the end zone. As for the Ravens, Flacco’s miracle 80-yard touchdown bomb to Steve Smith with 47 seconds left was nullified by offensive pass interference on Smith. Ice up, Steve.
Arizona Cardinals 24, Philadelphia Eagles 20 — These teams had their biggest matchup since the 2008 season NFC Title Game where the Cardinals mounted a fourth quarter comeback in the desert to win a thriller. History repeated itself as a pair of one-loss teams played a fine football game. Nick Foles threw the ball 62 times, completing 36 of them for 411 yards. Carson Palmer was 29 of 42 for 329 yards. Both quarterbacks threw two touchdown passes but Foles was also intercepted twice. The key decision came at the two minute warning when Chip Kelly, on fourth and one at the Arizona one yard line, went for the field goal in a tie game. Carson Palmer then threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to John Brown with 90 seconds left. With the Eagles down by four instead of tied, it came down to one play from the Arizona 16 with one second left. Foles went to the end zone, but it was caught out of bounds incomplete and the Cardinals won another desert thriller. A rematch in the NFC Title Game would be a blockbuster.
Pittsburgh Steelers 51, Indianapolis Colts 34 — Ben Roethlisberger started out 18 of 20 for 274 yards pass and four touchdown passes in the first half in powering the Steelers to a 35-10 lead. Andrew Luck led a furious rally to get the Colts within 42-34, but a safety and one more touchdown pass from Big Ben closed the door. Roethlisberger nearly broke the NFL record in finishing with 522 yards passing while completing 40 of 49 passes and six touchdown passes without an interception. Those who want to anoint the Colts and bury the Steelers should remember that Roethlisberger has been to three Super Bowls, winning two rings.
Cleveland Browns 23, Oakland Raiders 13 — A field goal battle had the Raiders trailing 9-6 late in the third quarter. With the Raiders driving for the tie and possibly the lead, Darren McFadden fumbled the ball away at the Cleveland 20, leading to the game’s first touchdown for the Browns. Another fumble in their own red zone led to another Cleveland touchdown Derek Carr finished 34 of 54 for 328 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions, but he has little help. The only statistic that matters is zero wins, seven losses and another fourth quarter collapse as the Raiders try to avoid the third winless season in modern NFL history.
New Orleans Saints 44, Green Bay Packers 23 — The Sunday night game featured the 2009 and 2010 Super Bowl MVPs who opened 2011 with a shootout in Green Bay won by the Packers 42-34 when Green Bay stopped the Saints from the one yard line on the final play. The 2014 version in New Orleans saw Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees raining bombs in a game tied 16-16 at halftime. Rodgers finished 28 of 39 for 418 yards while Brees was 27 of 32 for 311 yards. The difference was that Brees had three touchdown passes, all of them after halftime, to break open the game and make it 37-16 Saints. Brees was not picked off while Rodgers opened the game with a touchdown bomb but the rest of the way only threw a pair of interceptions.
Dallas Cowboys 20, Washington 17, OT — The Monday night game could reverberate for the rest of the year. Midway through the third quarter Romo got belted on a clean blindside hit and stayed down for several minutes. He eventually got up and walked off under his own power, Brandon Weeden entered the game and led a couple scoring drives, but Romo’s health is the difference between Dallas being a real Super Bowl contender and missing the playoffs entirely. Romo returned at the two-minute warning to a tie game that went into overtime. Yet, it was Colt McCoy who won the battle of backups as his overtime drive set up Kai Forbath for the 40-yard winning field goal.