SOUTH FLORIDA, December 2, 2014 — The Seahawks brought the defense, the Chargers brought the offense, and the Vikings brought the special teams. The Giants fumbled away everything in sight while the Rams and Texans scored on almost every play. The Raiders hit rock bottom while the Broncos, Patriots, Packers and Eagles all staked their claim for the top. The Jets tried to win a game without throwing the ball. On this quintessentially American Thanksgiving weekend, there was the quintessentially American game of football offering a hearty feast for pigskin fans. With that, here is the NFL 2014 Week 13 lessons learned and not learned.
Detroit Lions 34, Chicago Bears 17 — The Thanksgiving morning game early on was Jay Cutler throwing a pair of touchdown passes that powered the Bears to a 14-3 lead after the first quarter. After that reality set in. Matthew Stafford finished 34 of 45 for 390 yards, and 0 interceptions. A pair of second quarter touchdown passes to Calvin “Megatron” Johnson and a couple of one-yard runs by Joquie Bell got the Lions got to 8-4 and all but knocked the Bears out of the playoff race.
Philadelphia Eagles 33, Dallas Cowboys 10 — The Thanksgiving afternoon game for first place in the NFC East saw the revival of Mark Sanchez continue. Sanchez ran for a touchdown and threw for another one as the Eagles led 14-0 after one quarter and romped. Chris Parkey hit three field goals to put the Eagles up 23-7 at halftime. LeSean McCoy broke off a 38-yard third quarter touchdown run for the exclamation point.
Seattle Seahawks 19, San Francisco 49ers 3 — Ten months after Richard Sherman out-dueled Michael Crabtree in an NFC Title Game for the ages, the defenses again ruled in the Thanksgiving night game. Russell Wilson threw a first quarter touchdown pass, concluding the offensive highlights. After that the Legion of Boom clamped down. Steve Hauschka kicked four field goals, leading Seattle to its second consecutive 19-3 win against a division opponent. Richard Sherman silenced the crowd with two interceptions.
San Diego Chargers 34, Baltimore Ravens 33 — Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are retired, and the Ravens have serious problems on defense after blowing a 30-20 fourth quarter lead. Leading 30-27 and facing third and four at the San Diego 13, Joe Flacco was unable to put the game away. The defense got called for a killer defensive pass interference penalty. In the end football is about blocking and tackling. When Flacco completed a pass with time running out, a very long field goal was a possibility. In a game of offense, Brandon Flowers made the critical tackle inbounds that allowed the clock to run out without a field goal try.
Buffalo Bills 26, Cleveland Browns 10 — With the Browns leading 3-0 in the third quarter, two plays changed the game. Facing fourth and three at the Cleveland 37, Doug Marrone decided to go for it. Kyle Orton went deep for a 34 yard gain and on the next play threw the touchdown pass. On the next play from scrimmage a Cleveland fumble was returned 18 yards for another touchdown and a 14-3 Bills lead. Dan Carpenter added four field goals and Johnny Manziel replaced an ineffective Bryan Hoyer in the second half.
Houston Texans 45, Tennessee Titans 21 — Ryan Fitzpatrick went 24 of 33 for 358 yards, six touchdown passes and zero interceptions. His 58-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins had the Texans up 24-0 at halftime. They connected again in the third quarter on a 34-yard score to put Houston up 31-14. J.J. Watt caught another touchdown pass, becoming an iron man sensation. Zach Mettenberger was injured and replaced with Jake Locker, who lost a fumble and threw two interceptions, although a penalty nullified one of them.
Indianapolis Colts 49, Washington 27 — Colt McCoy got the nod over Robert Griffin III. McCoy finished 31 of 47 for 392 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, but Washington was playing catchup the whole time. Andrew Luck was ridiculous, completing 19 of 27 for 370 yards, five touchdown passes and one interception. Luck’s 30-yard touchdown to Coby Fleener powered the Colts to a 21-3 lead. Leading only 35-24, Luck went bombs away in the fourth quarter with touchdown passes of 73 yards to Fleener and 79 yards to Dante Moncrief.
Jacksonville Jaguars 25, New York Giants 24 — The Giants jumped to a 21-0 early lead against the toothless Jaguars. All the Giants had to do to protect the lead was protect the football. This was too much to ask. In the third quarter from the Giants 15, Eli Manning went back to pass, was sacked, fumbled, and saw the Jaguars recover in the end zone for a gift touchdown. A fourth quarter fumble was returned 41 yards for another Jacksonville defensive touchdown and a 22-21 Jacksonville lead. The Giants retook the lead and Blake Bortles setup Josh Scobee to take it back. With 28 seconds left, Manning was sacked and fumbled the ball away again. Coughlin failed to get revenge against the team that fired him. He now for the first time has consecutive losing seasons with his second team, which could lead to him being permanently retired. Coughlin is a disciplinarian. He can’t make his quarterback hold on to the football.
Minnesota Vikings 31, Carolina Panthers 13— For the first time since 1990, an NFL team had two blocked punts returned for touchdowns. Adam Thielen returned one blocked punt 30 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0 Vikings. Eversen Griffen returned a blocked punt 43 yards for another touchdown as the Vikings led 28-6 at halftime.
New Orleans Saints 35, Pittsburgh Steelers 32 — What looked like a defensive struggle early on turned into an aerial show. Trailing 6-0 in the second quarter, Drew Brees finally got going and just exploded. Bree finished 19 of 27 for 257 yards, five touchdown passes, and zero interceptions. Ben Roethlisberger finished 32 of 58 for 435 yards, but half of those yards and his only two touchdown passes came on the final two drives with the Steelers down 35-16 and the outcome not in doubt. Big Ben was also intercepted twice.
St. Louis Rams 52, Oakland Raiders 0 — After taking ten days to celebrate finally winning a game, the Raiders went back to continuing their march toward the top draft pick. The Rams scored touchdowns on their first five drives. Tre Mason caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill and ran for an 89-yard touchdown. Already trailing 28-0, Derek Carr threw a pair of interceptions as the Rams led 38-0 at halftime. Down 45-0 in the fourth quarter, Carr was pulled to avoid getting the only halfway decent player on the offense killed. Matt Schaub finally saw action. On his first series he was sacked and fumbled the ball away. Then Schaub was intercepted for the seventh Rams touchdown. On Schaub’s third series he was sacked and fumbled.
Cincinnati Bengals 14, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13 — A flu-ridden Andy Dalton threw three interceptions in the first half, but managed to run for a 5-yard touchdown and throw a 13 yard-touchdown pass to A.J. Green as the Bengals overcame a 10-0 deficit. With 43 seconds to play the Buccaneers had first and five at the Cincinnati 31, with a winning field goal try a near certainty. Instead an offensive holding penalty moved the Bucs back. On the next play Josh McCown’s 21-yard completion to Louis Murphy was nullified due to 12 men on the offense on the field. With 12 seconds left on fourth and 20 from the Cincinnati 46, Lovie Smith decided against a 64-yard field goal try. Rather than throw past the marker, a 13 yard completion saw the Buccaneers turn it over on downs as the Bengals at 8-3-1 lead the AFC North by 1 1/2 games.
Atlanta Falcons 29, Arizona Cardinals 16 — Some games are just head scratchers. Matt Ryan threw a pair of first quarter touchdown passes as the Falcons led 17-0 after the first quarter. Arizona got within 17-10 but Matt Bryant kicked five field goals on the day to deliver the upset. Ryan finished 30 of 41 for 361 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Julio Jones had 189 yards receiving. At 5-7 the Falcons can still win the NFC South. After starting 9-1, back to back losses have the Cardinals going from home field throughout the playoffs to barely leading their division.
Green Bay Packers 26, New England Patriots 21 — If this is a potential Super Bowl preview, the NFL can only hope that game is as exciting as this one. Early on it was all Packers as Aaron Rodgers threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to his non-relative Richard Rodgers to make it 13-0 Packers. After Tom Brady got the Patriots within two points with one minute left in the half, Rodgers countered with a 45-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson for a 23-14 Packers halftime lead. Down by five with third and nine at the Packers 20, Brady was sacked followed by a missed field goal. With 2 1/2 minutes left and New England out of timeouts, everything came down to third and four at the Packers 43. Rodgers found Randall Cobb for a seven-yard gain as the Packers hung on for the tough win. Both of these teams are now 9-3 and tied for the top record in their respective conferences. 26-21 Packers
Denver Broncos 29, Kansas City Chiefs 16 — The Sunday night game saw Peyton Manning throw first quarter touchdown passes of 23 yards to Denarius Thomas and 15 yards to CJ Anderson as the Broncos led 14-0 after the first quarter. Anderson also contributed 168 yards on the ground. Newly acquired Denver kicker Connor Barth did the rest, kicking five field goals in a game the Broncos never trailed. Denver still leads the AFC West and is now tied again for the top conference record.
Miami Dolphins 16, New York Jets 13 — In the Monday night game, for the second straight year a Dolphins team with everything to play for had difficulty with a Jets team with nothing to play for. This game was Rex Ryan ground and pound taken to the extreme. In 58 minutes the Jets ran the ball 49 times for 277 yards while allowing Geno Smith only eight pass attempts. He completed four of them for 42 yards. Miami overcame a 10-0 deficit and tied the game. Nick Folk missed his winning field goal try for the Jets, while Caleb Sturgis made his for the Dolphins at the two-minute warning. Forced to throw on the final drive, Smith completed three of five passes for 23 yards before a ball into triple coverage that could have been caught was intercepted.