Monday, 19 December 2011

NFL's Moving Day

In golf's majors you have the Saturday (Day 3) which is regularly referred to as moving day - where a leader cements his dominance by extending his lead, where second place novices wilt with the exposure and attention served to them; or a fan favourite starts moving up the leaderboard with a birdie charge.  Sometimes the major is not so much won on the last day but the day before.

In baseball, you have the wild card chase which can bring some amazing results.  Ask the St.Louis Cardinals who somehow overturned a deficit to get into the play-offs and then being the team wiht the momentum wind up winning the World Series.

For the NFL you can call Moving Day, Week 15 - so many storylines, so many things happening, upsets, history chasers, bible bashers being bashed, playoff contenders wilting and teams on the charge being cemented.

It all started as history beckoned for the Green Bay Packers at the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium as the Packers seeking a 16-0 perfect regular season (to join the 1972 Miami Dolphins and 2007 Patriots) were defeated 19-14 by the 6-8 Chiefs. 

The Chiefs had fired coach Todd Haley this week after a fouth consecutive loss inspite of an improving defence led by interim head coach Romeo Crenel - the Packers were the makers of their own downfall however.  For once Aaron Rodgers did not click (17-35 for 235) as there were numerous dropped from such names as Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley, as they missed the injured Greg Jennings especially.  The rushing game suffered also as it accounted for only 5 of the 15 first downs.

Tellingly, the Packers had never trailed in the fourth quarter and they have been prone to moments of panic when the game is close as it was against the Buccaneers and Giants - however, credit should go to Kyle Orton who showed himself to be a top quarterback with a 23-31 for 299 yards with no turnovers; and he controlled the clock keeping Rodgers off the field for much of the game, leaving Green Bay to stew over their mistakes.  Orton finished with a QB rating of 104.1 in comparison to Rodgers of 80.1, the first time this season he finished a game under 100.

The Packers have games left against the woeful Bears and hungry Lions to get the one win to cement the one seed and home field advantage.  Expect the Pack to get both wins, yet as they have noted going 18-1 and winning the Superbowl would be more memorable than the Patriots season which ended with no ring and no memories.

As for the Patriots they put the snooze button on Tebow Time defeating the Broncos 41-23 which along with a Jets loss to the Eagles gave them the AFC East division and along with defeats for the Ravens and Texans means they are in the No.1 seed front seat and looking to cement home-field advantage throught the playoffs.

The atmosphere at Mile High Stadium was electric as the Broncos came storming out of the blocks utilising their running game to great effect garnering 167 yards on the ground alone in the first quarter compared to a paltry 4 by the Patriots.

The Broncos raced to a 16-7 lead after a 8yd Tebow run, a 32 yd run from Lance Ball and a field goal from Prater, nullified only by a first TD reception by Chad Ochocinco of 33 yards for the Patriots first score.

In registering their sixth consecutive victory, the Patriots as they did on the road to the Eagles a few weeks back when they fall behind early they are confident enough in their gameplan and their weapons being managed by Tom Brady to comeback and outscore any team.  Tellingly, the defence stepped up and forced some turnovers and the offense then scored off of them.  A muffed punt return led to a Gostkowski 34 yard FG to give a 27-16 halftime lead which would have been unthinkable fifteen minutes earlier.

And once they were ahead the Patriots never looked backed, Rob Gronkowski has been gaining the headlines lately but it was the other tight end Aaron Hernandez who had a big day (9 recs for 129, 1 TD) and the little nugget Danny Woodhead who provided an alternative to the running game (7 car, 40 yds, 1TD).

The defence stepped up in the second quarter when it needed to stop the run and did so, unfortunately they have lost Andre Carter for the season after he twisted his knee it is suspected he requires surgery.  This was another mental victory for this young defence who won another big game on the road in an hostile atmosphere and are slowly growing into roles.

Tebow did not play bad, 287 total yards (194 pass, 93 run) means they stuck to the gameplan but when they play against the elite QBs they come up short - against Rodgers, Brees, Brady and Rivers they have a 1-4 record. Tebow is 7-2 as a starter this season, they remain atop the AFC West with a 8-6 record due to the Raiders losing at home, but the Chargers are coming following their win over Baltimore. 

The playoff future of the Broncos are in their own hands, one more win should do  yet this will be the ultimate test of character to come back from.  Yet they need to know their place, Tebow is not elite and with him you cannot see the Broncos winning a playoff game.  And how ironic of the scheduling that they have to play at home to Kyle Orton/Kansas City in the last week, a game they may have to win to get into those playoffs.  The truth is stranger than fiction.

Congratulations to the Colts who won their first game of the season (1-13) to defeat the Titans 27-13, the Colts oddly enough could miss out on the Andrew Luck/Peyton Manning farce with one more win as the St.Louis Rams are still 2-12 (they lost 20-13 to the playoff chasing Bengals), and the Colts have a winnable game at home to the Jaguars in Week 17.  The Rams would appear a better ready fit for Luck if he is the No.1 draft pick, although following Robert Griffin III's Heisman winning performance that does not appear a foregone conclusion.

Baltimore did themselves no favours again, losing on the road again all four of their losses have been on the road - Tennessee, Jacksonsville, Seattle and now San Diego - calling into question whether they are a false team.  Pittsburgh travel to San Francisco tonight for Monday Night Football, and if they win they will probably remain atop the AFC North and grab the 1 seed owing to their victory over New England.  The Ravens are odd, as each loss comes with low output from Ray Rice who although he can change games as he did against the Cardinals, too often it is hot and cold from this team who search for dominance.

As for odd, go for the Giants who lost 23-10 at home to the Redskins dropping them back to 7-7, 4 losses have come at the MetLife stadium and seemingly every time they have a big week or performance they reply with a woeful display - Eli Manning so good at the moment and MVP quality supposedly (23-40, 257 yards, no TDs but 3 INTs).  Following Dallas' Saturday night cakewalk over the Bucs, they sit at 8-6 meaning it will come down to the Week 17 showdown in New York between the Giants and Cowboys for the playoff spot at home to either the Falcons or Lions.

Such a crazy week of scores, headlines and storylines.  The notion of the NFL is that on 'Any Given Sunday' something miraculous can happen, usually it does, but this Sunday was magical and amazing.

No comments:

Post a Comment