Everything You Need to Know: Week 12
Let’s face it: While there’s nothing better than NFL Sundays, it can be a little intimidating keeping up with what’s going on in every game. You can analyze the box scores or scan Twitter, but we’ll make it even easier. Here you’ll find the most important points from every day game, so you’ll be prepared no matter what comes up at the water cooler Monday morning. We’ll be updating throughout the games, so keep checking back.
1. The Rams may want to install the Devin Hester rule — Never kick it to Devin Hester — when they play the Cardinals. Three weeks after Peterson returned a punt for a touchdown in overtime against St. Louis, the Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate did it again in regulation, taking a Rams punt 80 yards in the third quarter to give the Cardinals a 10-point lead at the time. It was Peterson’s fourth punt return TD of the season, tying an NFL record. But the rookie is the only player to have all four go for 80 yards or longer.
2. Remember when there was talk about how the Cardinals should start John Skelton? Yeah, this week should officially end that. After posting a 10.5 QB rating last week, Skelton wasn’t been much better this week, going 12 for 23 for just 114 yards and two interceptions, for a QB rating of 30. If it weren’t for Beanie Wells (228 of the Cards’ 374 yards), Arizona would be sunk.
3. Sam Bradford rebounded from a weak start to post solid numbers in the game, but the Rams’ downfall was that they couldn’t match the Cardinals on the ground. The team had just 86 yards compared to the Cardinals’ 268, helping Arizona sustain time of possession. Arizona had 11 first downs on the ground.
1. Andy Dalton welcomed his favorite receiver back in style. Though Dalton performed admirably missing A.J. Green last week, the duo didn’t waste time getting together for big plays. Green had 110 yards on just three catches, including a 51-yarder. Dalton’s lone touchdown on the day went to Jermaine Gresham, but Green’s big-play ability was needed for a Bengals team that let the Browns hang in.
2. The Browns denied Cedric Benson on a 4th-and-goal from the Cleveland 1 in the first quarter. But Benson bounced back later with a 16-yard scamper to the end zone to tie the game at seven. Add in a 33-yarder and Benson’s day was productive: 106 yards on 21 carries, with another 24 yards through the air.
3. Cleveland hoped to have both Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty back Sunday. One out of two ain’t bad. Hillis reclaimed his spot as the Browns’ starting running back, but Hardesty’s calf tightened during warmups, relegating him to the sideline for another week. Hillis had 65 yards on 19 carries for Cleveland in his first action in a while.
1. Indianapolis had two chances to get even in the fourth quarter after falling behind 27-19. Both Colts possessions ended the same way — with a Curtis Painter interception. His second one came on 2nd-and-goal from the Carolina 3 and moved the Colts ever closer to the dreaded 0-16 season.
2. Cam Newton found the end zone again, running one in from 14 yards out to give Carolina a 10-0 second quarter lead on the Colts. That TD was Newton’s 10th on the ground this season, which tied him with LeSean McCoy for the second most rushing touchdowns in the league, just one behind Adrian Peterson.
3. DeAngelo Williams helped turn this one in Carolina’s favor in the second half — he put up a 25-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to break the 10-10 halftime tie, then found pay dirt early in the fourth quarter to push the Panthers’ lead to 24-13.
1. The Titans are still in the race thanks to the win and the Texans’ continued injury woes at quarterback, but Tennessee has to be worrying about its own quarterback. Matt Hasselbeck played despite an elbow injury last week, but he looked like something was bothering him. Hasselbeck was limited to mostly short throws, and threw two interceptions, including a pick-6 to Aqib Talib in the third quarter that had the Bucs leading at the time.
2. It was a good game for the running backs. Chris Johnson had, by far, his best game of the year, rushing for 190 yards on just 23 carries and showing an explosive element we haven’t seen all season. LeGarrette Blount, meanwhile, got 20 carries, over five more than his season average. He had 103 on the ground, and complemented it with a rare 56 yards receiving, including a big 35-yarder that saw Blount hurdle a Titans defender who was standing almost completely straight.
3. Turnovers plagued both sides on a rainy day. The Bucs and Titans combined for nine total — Hasselbeck’s two interceptions, one for Josh Freeman, and a combined six fumbles lost (four alone for Tampa Bay). Josh Freeman fumbled the snap on 4th and 1 from the Titans’ 25 with the 40 seconds left and the Bucs looking for the go-ahead touchdown. Freeman recovered the fumble, so it wasn’t a turnover, but it ended Tampa’s comeback homes and served as evidence of how the sloppy ball-control issues impacted the game.
1. It was a good day to face your former team. Ex-Bill Aaron Maybin, who was a draft bust in Buffalo, had two sacks on Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ex-Jet Brad Smith, meanwhile, caught four balls for a game-high 77 yards, including a beautiful 36-yard touchdown catch in which he tipped the ball back to himself just before crossing the goal line.
2. How did Mark Sanchez respond to the criticism surrounding him of late? Like his typical rollercoaster self. The Jets’ QB was up and down all game. The stats show four touchdowns and just one interception, but Sanchez made poor decisions throughout the game (the interception was particularly egregious) and wasn’t able to get much going deep. At one point in the second half the New York crowd booed Sanchez as he fired three straight incompletions to set up a Jets punt.
3. Stevie Johnson set up a nice home for himself on Revis Island, but blew it in the end. The first time the two teams met, Johnson did better than most do against Revis, catching three balls for 84 yards. He outperformed Revis again, catching eight passes for 75 yards and a touchdown as the Bills seemingly decided to pick on Revis entering the game. But when the Bills needed a touchdown late, Johnson had two bad drops, including one in the end zone that would have given Buffalo the win.
1. This game was still in doubt in the closing moments, right up until the Falcons stuffed the Vikings after a 104-yard Percy Harvin kick return gave Minnesota a 1st-and-goal at the 3. Down 24-14 at the time, Minnesota opted to go for it on 4th down from the 1, but Atlanta stuffed running back Toby Gerhart to turn the ball over.
2. Michael Turner did not have a great game for Atlanta — 60 yards on 19 carries — but Matt Ryan was nearly flawless. Ryan hit on 27-of-34 passes for 262 and three touchdowns. His first score went to Harry Douglas, whose role in the Atlanta offense continues to increase as Julio Jones struggles to stay healthy.
3. Up 17-0 and facing a 4th-and-1 from his own 47 in the third quarter, Falcons coach Mike Smith — who, you’ll recall, opted to go for it on a 4th-and-short in overtime against the Saints a few weeks back — chose the punt this time around. And just like against New Orleans, the decision backfired, as Minnesota marched 80 yards after Atlanta’s punt for its first touchdown of the day. With renewed life, the Vikings closed within 17-14 a few minutes later.
1. The Texans’ QB situation went from bad to worse in the second quarter. Matt Leinart, forced into the starting lineup by a season-ending injury to Matt Schaub, left the game with a left shoulder injury after being driven to the turf on an incomplete pass. With Leinart out the Texans had to turn to rookie T.J. Yates, their fifth-round pick in April — and the immediate word after the game was that Leinart may be done for the season.
2. Arian Foster managed a mere 65 yards on the ground, with 53 of those coming on an early touchdown drive. On Houston’s second offensive play, Foster coughed up a fumble, which Jacksonville’s Ashton Youboty scooped up and took to the house for a 7-0 Jaguars lead. But later in the first quarter, Foster carried Houston to a score of its own to know the game at seven.
3. Given Blaine Gabbert’s never-ending struggle to find a groove in the passing game, the numbers Maurice Jones-Drew has compiled this season are nothing short of amazing. He went over 1,000 yards rushing on the year Sunday and topped 100 total yards in the third quarter. Gabbert, meanwhile, was replaced by Luke McCown in the fourth quarter.
1. An absolutely wild ending to this one. Chicago trailed 25-20 in the final seconds and had time to spike the ball, then throw a Hail Mary to the end zone. But Caleb Hanie, making his first start in place of the injured Jay Cutler, faked the spike, looked to throw a quick pass, then spiked it. One problem: Spiking the ball is intentional grounding unless it’s done immediately. The flag came with a 10-second runoff, which killed the clock, since Chicago was out of timeouts
2. Had the Raiders lost, they would have been kicking themselves for a myriad of missed chances. Despite living in Chicago territory in the first half, Oakland wound up with just 12 points at halftime — all on field goals. The fourth three-pointer came after Oakland got down to Chicago’s 1 with five seconds left but opted to kick rather than go for the end zone.
3. You won’t have to tell his fantasy owners this, but Sebastian Janikowski is having an incredible season. He hit an Oakland team record six field goals Sunday, including four from beyond 40 yards. It’s the second time this year he’s had more than three field goals in a game.
1. Rex Grossman finished the first quarter 13-of-14 through the air with a touchdown. But his first pass of the second quarter was intercepted, leading to a game-tying Seattle touchdown, and the Redskins did not score again until the fourth quarter. They put up 16 in the final 15 minutes, though, with Grossman’s 50-yard bomb to Anthony Armstrong going in the books as the game-winning play.
2. Whether or not the Redskins have a new quarterback, coach and so on next season, they have to feel good about what they’ve found in Roy Helu. Not only is Helu carrying the load on the ground — he finished with 108 yards rushing — but he also had seven catches, just a couple weeks after making a team-record 14 receptions.
3. Seattle had three chances to steal this one late — two possessions down by three points and one down by six — but couldn’t even pick up a first down. Credit Washington’s defense for stepping up, though Seattle’s loss of Sidney Rice to an injury in the third quarter did not make Tarvaris Jackson’s job any easier.
1. Philadelphia’s frustrated fans reached their tipping point in the third quarter, after a Vince Young play-action pass on 4th-and-1 from the New England 2 sailed out of the end zone. Before the game’s next play, the fans launched in to a very loud “Fire Andy” chant, directed at Eagles head coach Andy Reid.
2. Not that anyone needed a reminder how good Tom Brady is, but the Patriots’ QB pulled out a highlight-reel play in the first half. Under pressure from the Philadelphia front, Brady stepped up in the pocket, spotted Deion Branch to his left, pointed to an open spot on the field where he wanted Branch to go, then delivered a strike for a 63-yard gain. BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored a 1-yard TD on the next play.
3. Philadelphia came out attacking the Patriots’ shaky secondary, with Vince Young connecting on Riley Cooper for a 58-yarder to set up a LeSean McCoy touchdown run, then Young finding DeSean Jackson for 44 yards on the Eagles’ next possession. The plan backfired a few minutes later, when Young was picked off by Antwaun Molden.
1. The calls for Norv Turner’s job will be louder than ever in San Diego this week. With their season on the line, the now 4-7 Chargers coughed up a 10-point lead at home and, worse yet, played extremely conservatively. Turner opted to take a knee at the end of the first half with San Diego up 10-7 and approaching midfield. Then in overtime, Turner settled for a 53-yard field goal attempt, which Nick Novak pushed wide right.
2. Tim Tebow didn’t complete a pass until late in the second quarter, but he hit some big plays when he needed to. The two most critical came late in the fourth quarter, with Denver driving for the game-tying field goal. On 3rd-and-11 from his own 25, Tebow found Eric Decker — who made an amazing catch — for 39 yards. Two plays later, he hit Dante Rosario for 23 yards down to the San Diego 12.
3. Let’s not overlook what the Broncos’ defense is doing. Despite allowing 137 yards to Ryan Mathews on the ground, Denver held the Chargers in check and allowed just three points after halftime. Tebow’s heroics are getting all the attention, but Denver would not be 6-5 without its stellar defensive play.
– Tom Mantzouranis contributed to this post