SOUTH FLORIDA, November 24, 2014 — The losing is over. The Oakland Raiders won a football game. They will not be the 1976 Buccaneers or the 2008 Lions. NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders pointed out that the Raider Nation is among the most loyal sports fans in the world. Those who bleed Silver and Black never gave up. One win does not make a team winners, but Peyton Manning was 3-13 in his rookie season. Troy Aikman was 1-15. For Derek Carr, Khalil Mack, and the rest of the Silver and Black, there is finally a silver lining beneath the black clouds. Other teams played football, but this week was about the Raiders. With that, here are the NFL 2014 Week 12 lessons learned and not learned.
Oakland Raiders 24, Kansas City Chiefs 20 — The Thursday night game saw the Raiders benefit early from heavy rain and a 90-yard touchdown run by Latavius Murray to take a 17-3 second half lead. Both teams ran the dink and dunk West Coast Offense as badly as it is meant to be run. When game manager Alex Smith was finally unleashed, he got the Chiefs to a 20-17 lead with nine minutes to play. Raider Offensive Coordinator Greg Olsen finally shifted to a power running game featuring his fourth option, fullback Marcel Reece. Derek Carr hit Mychal Rivera for the winning touchdown with 1:42 to play as the defense got the big stops at the end. Carr got his first pro football win as did the 2014 Raiders.
Cleveland Browns 26, Atlanta Falcons 24 — This was the Bryan Hoyer story. With the Browns leading 23-14 in the fourth quarter, Hoyer twice threw interceptions that led to the Falcons taking a 24-23 lead with 45 seconds to play. After a touchback, Hoyer threw four straight completions. With five seconds left, Billy Cundiff came in for the 37-yard field goal try. Cundiff was good, the Browns got to 7-4, and Hoyer is still the most exciting quarterback since the 1980 Brian Sipe Cardiac Kids.
Philadelphia Eagles 43, Tennessee Titans 24 — The Eagles returned the opening kickoff 107 yards for a touchdown and jumped out to a 17-0 lead that was never truly in doubt. Chris Parkey hit five field goals as the beat down the Eagles suffered last week on the road was a distant memory.
New England Patriots 34, Detroit Lions 9 — Danny Amendola returned a kickoff 81 yards to set up one touchdown and Tom Brady threw a pair of touchdown passes to Tim Wright as the Patriots cruised to a 24-6 halftime lead. Detroit fans should not worry too much about consecutive losses against the top team in each conference since both losses were on the road. The entire league should be concerned about the Patriots, who have won seven straight and now have a defense.
Green Bay Packers 24, Minnesota Vikings 21 — Minnesota has been a house of horrors for Green Bay for the last quarter of a century, and even this relatively weak Vikings team put up a fight. Pass-happy Mike McCarthy now has a running back, and Eddie Lacy was the difference. Lacy scored from one yard out to open the scoring. Midway through the fourth quarter Lacy capped off an 11-play, 87-yard, 6 1/2 minute drive by scoring from ten yards out to make it 24-13 Packers. Minnesota only trailed by a field goal with 3 1/2 minutes to play. Desperately needing a stop, the Minnesota defense could not get one. Five straight carries by Lacy allowed the Packers to run out the clock.
Indianapolis Colts 23, Jacksonville Jaguars 3 — A hideous first half had the Colts up 6-3. They settled down in the second half as Andrew Luck shook off two earlier fumbles to throw a 73-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton. The Colts are far from perfect, but far from perfect was more than enough against the toothless Jaguars. An emotional Hilton cried after the game in double celebration since his daughter was born the morning of the game.
Cincinnati Bengals 22, Houston Texans 13 — Red Rifle Andy Dalton threw one touchdown pass to each team. Dalton was aided along by the defense getting a safety and Mike Nugent kicking two key field goals to put the game away after Houston rallied from 16-3 to get within 16-13. The Bengals are winning unimpressively and at 7-3-1 are primed for their typical first round playoff exit.
Chicago Bears 21, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13 — Lovie Smith saw the Buccaneers take a 10-0 lead but collapse in the third quarter. Twice Josh McCown was intercepted inside his own 20, and Matt Forte ran it in to put the Bears up 21-10. While the Buccaneers were trying to give the game away, the Bears refused to put it away. The battle of who wanted it least came down to McCown, who on fourth and one from the Chicago 36 took the quarterback sneak and got nothing. Lovie failed to beat the team that fired him after a 10-6 season, and both teams’ sides still regret that move.
Seattle Seahawks 19, Arizona Cardinals 3 — No Carson Palmer is bad enough. No Larry Fitzgerald was too much for the Cardinals to overcome. With a chance for Arizona to all but wrap up the division, the desperate defending champion Seahawks at home unleashed the Legion of Boom. Steve Hauschka kicked four field goals and the special teams blocked a punt. Russell Wilson hit Cooper Helmet for a 20-yard score. The lone touchdown was just insurance as the defense did the rest.
San Diego Chargers 27, St. Louis Rams 24 — One week after shocking Denver at home, the Rams traveled to San Diego. While giving the Chargers all they could handle, key mistakes killed the Rams. Early on, Shaun Hill was intercepted, setting up a short field and a Nick Novak field goal to open the scoring. The defense bailed out the offense as Jenoris Jenkins returned an interception of Philip Rivers 99 yards for a touchdown and a 10-3 Rams lead. The Rams missed a chance to extend the lead when Greg Zuerlein had a 46-yard field goal try blocked. Trailing by three, a 38-yard punt return by Tavon Austin had the Rams taking over at the Chargers 40 with 90 seconds to play. With one minute to go the Rams faced second and goal at the four. With a tie all but assured, there was plenty of time to go for the win. Hill was intercepted in the end zone as San Diego hung on.
Denver Broncos 39, Miami Dolphins 36 — After a stunning loss last week at St. Louis, Denver looked flat for long stretches of the first half against an average Miami team. By the end, this was a fine football game. Ryan Tannehill powered the Dolphins to a 28-17 lead after three quarters. When it mattered most, the Broncos dominated. Peyton Manning threw a five yard touchdown pass to Denarius Thomas, their third touchdown hookup on the day. After Denver got it back and took the lead, Tannehill made his only mistake of the game. A killer interception was returned 37 yards to the Miami eight. Manning hit Wes Welker for the two-yard touchdown. With just over three minutes to play, the Broncos had a 39-28 lead. Tannehill finished 26 of 36 for 228 yards, three touchdowns and the one interception. Manning finished 28 of 35 for 257 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
San Francisco 49ers 17, Washington 13 — The Jim Harbaugh era has been defined by ugly wins with just enough offense and stifling defense. Trailing 13-10 with 5 1/2 minutes left in regulation, Harbaugh decided to gamble with the 49ers facing fourth and one at their own 34. On the verge of facing Barry Switzer ignominy, the gamble paid off when Frank Gore gained three yards. Carlos Hyde ran it in from four yards out as the 49ers had the four point lead with three minutes to play. Washington went nowhere but got the ball back with 90 seconds to play. On third and eight from their own ten, Robert Griffin III was sacked and fumbled the ball away.
Dallas Cowboys 31, New York Giants 28 — The Sunday night game saw Eli Manning throw a pair of touchdown passes in the first half to Odell Beckham, the second of which was the greatest catch in Giants history not involving David Tyree. The circus catch powered the Giants to a 21-10 halftime lead, but a pair of touchdown passes by Tony Romo had the Cowboys up 24-21 after three quarters. Manning then found Andre Robinson for a touchdown to cap off a 93-yard drive. Down 28-24, the Cowboys still had three minutes on the clock. They did not need it. Romo threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Bryant with one minute to play. The Giants turned it over on downs when a fourth and two West Coast Offense dink and dunk pass was caught inches short of the marker. This was a fine football game that saw Manning finish 29 of 40 for 338 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Romo was 18 of 26 for 275 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
Buffalo Bills 38, New York Jets 3 from Detroit — Heavy snowstorms forced this game to be pushed back a day and offer fans a second Monday night game. Buffalo could not practice this week because of the snow. Buffalo was totally unprepared to play a pro football team. Luckily they were playing the Jets. Michael Vick was so awful that Geno Smith was allowed to play. He was also awful. The Jets only trailed 7-3 late in the half until Kyle Orton threw a touchdown pass. In the third quarter the Bills blocked a punt for another touchdown and a 21-3 lead. New Yorkers declared Buffalo to be the true New York team and the Jets part of New Jersey.
New Orleans Saints 34, Baltimore Ravens 27 — The actual Monday night game saw the best and worst of Drew Brees. The Saints’ quarterback completed 35 of 45 passes for 420 yards and three touchdowns, but much of it was in comeback mode. A tie game in the third quarter was broken open when Brees had an interception returned 44 yards for a Ravens touchdown. Justin Tucker drilled a 55-yard field goal to put the Ravens up 27-17. The Saints defense had no answer for Justin Forsett, who gashed New Orleans for 182 yards on 22 carries. In addition to his 13-yard run in the first half, Forsett broke off a 20-yard touchdown run with three minutes left to salt away the win after the Saints got within seven points. Despite being 4-7, the Saints are still very much in contention to win the hideous NFC South.