BASN’s NFL Review: Week #11

By Lloyd Vance, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: November 25, 2009

PHILADELPHIA (BASN) — Week 11 of the 2009 NFL Season typified the topsy-turvy nature of the world’s best sports league.

This week started with a great slugfest on Thursday Night football between the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers – won 24-17 by the Dolphins (5-5) as RB Ricky Williams (See Game Balls) proved he has plenty left in the tank.

Then the week’s remaining 15 games provided some great action all the way through the Tennessee Titans’ 20-17 down-to-the-wire Monday Night Football win over the host Houston Texans.

Some of the other bigger headlines from this week included:

An unexpected great game with a thrilling finish – What a turn around when everyone was calling this one, Week 11′s “Toilet Bowl” before the game was even played.

Aided by a questionable pass interference play in the endzone as time expired, the Lions (2-8) got one last untimed down near the goalline.

Rookie QB Matthew Stafford (26-43, 422 yds, 5 TDs, 2 INTs) shook off a separated left shoulder to throw the game-winning score to rookie TE Brandon Pettitgrew on the “new” last play of the game and Ford Field exploded with the improbable 38-37 win over the Cleveland Browns (1-9). This game was an awesome high-scoring affair where both quarterbacks Stafford and the Browns’ Brady Quinn (21-33, 304 yds, 4 TDs) played extremely well.

Two overtime home team winners — The Kansas City Chiefs (2-8) ended their 10-game losing streak with a shocking 27-24 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, who did not have QB Ben Roethlisberger in the extra period due to concussion like symptoms. Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop provided the winning points on a 22-yard field goal with 8:28 left in overtime after both Steelers QB’s Roethlisberger and his backup Charlie Batch (wrist) had left the game with injuries. In the other overtime game, I guess the bye week after 4 straight losses was just what the NY Giants (6-4) needed. This overtime thriller saw the NY Giants jump out to an early 17-7 halftime lead over the Atlanta Falcons with things getting interesting late. The hard charging Falcons led by QB Matt Ryan (26/46, 268 YDS, 2 TD) scored 14 unanswered points on two touchdown passes late in the fourth to force overtime.. Then resurgent QB Eli Manning (25/39, 384 YDS, 3 TD, 1 INT) hit WR Mario Manningham (six catches for 126 yards) for a 29-yard reception just after overtime began to setup Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes 36-yard game winner.

Major upsets — The aforementioned Chiefs win over the Steelers and the Oakland Raiders beating the Cincinnati Bengals. The Raiders were a heavy home underdog, but led by new starter Bruce Gradkowski (17-34, 183 yds, 2 TDs, 1 INT) and their defense, they won a hard fought 20-17 home win. The key to Oakland surprising the Bengals was, the “overconfident” AFC North leader giving up 10 answered points in the final 33 seconds of the game. You have to believe the Bengals long flight back to Cincy was very quiet especially for kickoff return man Andre Caldwell, who lost a fumble in the game’s closing moments to set up Oakland’s game-winning field goal.

A total bore-fest – The week’s most boring game occurred in Jerry Jones’s billion dollar Dallas Cowboys stadium as the host Cowboys (7-3) woke-up just in time to put together one touchdown drive (QB Tony Romo’s 10-yard touchdown pass to WR Patrick Crayton with 2:41 left) to beat the Washington Redskins 7-6. Romo was 7-of-8 passes for 60 yards on the winning drive and kept several plays alive by eluding Washington’s pass rushers – finished with numbers 15/27, 158 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT. All I can say is, “A win, is a win”, but overall the Cowboys were lackadasical and they should send Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham some roses for missing two field goals in the second half that could have iced the game for Washington (3-7). The good news is the Cowboys got the win and may have found their running game (153 rushing yards including 99 yards by RB Marion Barber), but the bad news is their receiving corps was non-existent including zero catches for looking-more-like-bust- everyday WR Roy Williams.

Now the Cowboys have a short week to prepare for the Raiders on Thanksgiving.

Winning streaks continuing — The Tennessee Titans won their fourth straight game this time over the Houston Texans (5-5) on MNF. As Titans kicker Rob Bironas booted a 53-yard field goal with less than a minute left and then conversely Texans kicker Kris Brown shanked a potential game-winner with 1 second left on the clock. However the story of the game was Titans quarterback Vince Young (passing numbers 12-22, 116 yds, and 1 TD plus 73 rushing yards), who returned to his hometown of Houston and continued his development as a Steve McNair-type leader – now 4-0 as a starter in ’09. V.Y made plays with his arm and legs while of course leaning on MVP-candidate RB Chris Johnson (29 rushes for 151 yards and 5.2 ypr average). The Titans are right back in the thick of the AFC wildcard hunt at 4-6. Another big streak that continued was by the San Diego Chargers (7-3) who won their sixth straight (over Broncos) and moved into first place in the AFC West with their dominating 32-3 victory. On the other side of the field there was no winning as the Broncos lost their fourth straight game. The last winning streak winner was the Indianapolis Colts, who continued their 19-game streak with a 17-15 win over the Ravens.

The 19-game winning streak is the second-longest in NFL history behind the New England Patriots 21-game streak from 2006 to 2008. Also keeping their winning streak alive were the New Orleans Saints, who won their 10th consecutive game (over TB Bucs) for the first time in franchise history.

Of course the one headline that I did leave out up top were the NFL’s two unbeaten squads (New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts) staying that way for another week. By virtue of the Saints 38-7 dismantling of the Tampa Bay Bucs (scored touchdowns all five times they entered the red zone — and the Colts tough win over the Baltimore Ravens, both teams are now 10-0 this season.

The pair’s records make them a true rarity in NFL history as for only the third time in league history that two teams are 10-0 (1934 Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions along with 1990 teams the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers). The two games were drastic contrasts of one another, but in the end both teams are on the threshold of greatness.

I am not saying that the 1972 Miami Dolphins (perfect 17-0 including a Super Bowl win) or the 2007 New England Patriots (perfect 16-0 in the regular season) need to worry just yet, but both the Saints and Colts are moving close to their neighborhood.

The offensive Saints woke-up from an early Bucs’ lead of 7-0 to put up 38 unanswered points led by quarterback Drew Brees’ three touchdown passes. In contrast, the Colts in their return to Baltimore were in a real street fight as the scrappy Ravens fought to the bitter end. The game didn’t end until a last chance lateral attempt by Ravens safety Ed Reed on a punt return was ruled a fumble and recovered by Indianapolis. The Ravens defense, even though they did not sack QB Peyton Manning, limited the Colts high-powered offense to only 17 points including only 3 points in the second half. But it was too many field goals (5) for Baltimore’s offense and not enough touchdowns in the redzone that spelled their doom. Surprisingly one of the many heroes for the Colts was former Ravens longtime kicker Matt Stover, who booted a 25-yard field goal to give his team the win. In the crucial game that showed the grit of the Colts, where they won on not their best day, the undefeated squad overcame losing the turnover battle (3 to 1) and effort that was not his best by Manning (2 INTs) to keep moving-on. With their win in “The Charm City Grudge Match”, the Colts have now won their two toughest games in the last two weeks by three points combined – Week 10 over the Patriots by a score of 35-34 and Week 11 over the Ravens by a score of 17-15.

Though I don’t think the Saints and Colts can do the impossible (no pair has ever reached 11-0 together) of reaching the 1972 Dolphins’ perfection – too many teams getting up for a fight with the “Town Bully” – I have listed both teams remaining games below.

Saints: NE @WAS @ATL DAL TB @CAR

Colts: @HOU TEN DEN @JAC NYJ @BUF

With only six games left to be played for all teams, there is much more separation left to do within the league’s standings before January’s playoffs. There are still the “Have’s” (8 teams with 7 wins or more including the league’s two undefeated teams — Colts and Saints both 10-0) and the “Have Nots” (9 teams with 3 or less wins, who are now basically spoilers). But the majority of the NFL (15 teams) are still playing within former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s parity dream section. With records ranging from 6-4 to 4-6 including four inconsistent teams stuck right at the .500 mark (Ravens, Texans, Dolphins and Falcons all 5-5) it is time for the “Contenders” and “Pretenders” to pick and choose their status in the league’s last six weeks. There are 12 covet playoff spots up for grabs and you have to expect that some teams will soon be giving thanks this Thanksgiving holiday for their opportunity for the playoffs.

Here’s the current division breakdown after Week 11:

NFC East – Dallas Cowboys (7-3) have a 1-game lead over the Eagles (6-4) and Giants (6-4).

All three teams own a 2-1 record in their NFC East games. The Giants play the Cowboys in Week 13 and the Eagles in Week 14

NFC West —Arizona Cardinals (7-3) have a 3-game lead over the Niners (4-6).

The Cardinals seem to be in the driver’s seat in this division, but QB Kurt Warner’s head injury will be something that needs to be monitored.

NFC South — New Orleans Saints (10-0) have a 5-game lead over the Falcons (5-5). It looks like the Saints will soon claim the NFC South title.

NFC North – Minnesota Vikings (8-1) have a 4-game lead over the Packers (4-5)

AFC East – New England Patriots (7-3) have a 2-game lead over the Miami Dolphins (5-5)

AFC West — By virtue of their 32-3 shellacking of the Broncos this week, the San Diego Chargers (7-3) have a one-game lead over the reeling Denver Broncos (6-4).

AFC South – Indianapolis Colts (10-0) have a 4-game lead over the Houston Texans (5-4)

AFC North — Cincinnati Bengals (7-3) maintained their 1-game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) as the entire division lost in Week 11.

Before we move onto the Game Balls and Lackey’s for this week, here are some Lloyd’s Leftovers.

Quarterback talk is none of your business – After the Eagles 24-20 win over the Chicago Bears on NBC Sunday Night Football, opposing quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Jay Cutler (NFL-high interception total to 18 and had passing numbers 24-for-43, 171 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT) embraced in a man-hug for quite some time after the game for some “QB Talk” for it seemed forever….But what was said. Unfortunately McNabb was mum on the subject in his postgame comments. “It stays between me and Jay,” McNabb said to NBC. “That’s just kind of the fraternity that we have, the quarterbacks. Just continue to have your confidence, keep strong and keep working hard. Things will work out well.”

I truly believe McNabb, who has been through the ringer at times in Philly, told Cutler, to develop some tough skin because he will need it. After being acquired in April from Denver and being named the Bears first Super Star at quarterback since Jim McMahon in the 1980′s, Cutler has clearly struggled and some have let him have it. Here’s an example, the Chicago Sun-Time headline after Sunday’s loss read”Jay Cutler is a bust.”

Injuries, Injuries, and more Injuries – I say it every week, “The NFL Season is a War of Attrition” and Week 11 brought that fact to light again. The team that suffered the worst blows were possibly the Green Bay Packers who lost veterans CB Al Harris and OLB Aaron Kampman both to knee injuries for the season in their 30-24 win over the Niners. The multitude of other frontline injuries included: Steelers QB Charlie Batch (wrist), Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (concussion type symptoms), Lions S Kalvin Pearson (hamstring), Lions QB Matthew Stafford (left shoulder), Dolphins DT Jason Ferguson (quad-season), Redskins RB Ladell Betts (knee – season), Seahawks S Deon Grant (hand), Rams QB Marc Bulger (broken tibia – 6 weeks), Lions WR Calvin Johnson (hand, knee), Bengals DT Domata Peko (sprained MCL), Bills C/GEric Wood (broken leg – season), Bills G Seth McKinney (knee – season), and Cardinals QB Kurt Warner (concussion).

Before we go to this week’s awards, our thougts and prayers go out to former NFL LB Chris Spielman.

The former Ohio State star sorrowfully lost his wife Stefanie Spielman (42) after she passed away after a courageous battle with breast cancer.

“Stefanie has gone home to be with the Lord,” Chris Spielman said in a statement released after his wife’s passing. “For that, we celebrate, but with broken hearts. I want to thank everyone for their support over the last 12 years. Together, with your help, hopefully we made a difference in this fight.” The Spielmans have raised over $6 million dollars for breast cancer research at Ohio State University.

Game Balls

Miami Dolphins RB Ricky Williams – And you thought at age 32 and after his lengthy off the field quirky nature (Drug use including several NFL suspensions, playing in the CFL, studying holistic medicine, living in the Australian outback, “quitting his career”… I could go on and on) that Williams couldn’t totally even come close to replacing injured teammate Ronnie Brown.

Well you were wrong as it was “Run Ricky, Ricky Run” time — in and out of the Wildcat — as the 2002 NFL rushing champ turned back the clock in the Dolphins’ Thursday Night win over the Panthers.

The former 1998 Heisman winner finished with rushing numbers 22 rushes (most carries since 2005), 119 yds, and 2 TDs plus he added a 14-yard touchdown catch for the Dolphins’ first score. The Dolphins (5-5) are now back in the playoff picture after winning their fourth game out of their last six. “Our offense really clicked,” Dolphins left tackle Jake Long said. “Ricky ran great.”

Honorable Mention

Buffalo Bills WR Terrell Owens – Speaking of turning back the clock, T.O re-emerged in Jacksonville of all places. Owens (9 Rec, 197 Yds — the most since gaining 213 yards for Dallas in Week 11 last season – and 1 TD ) was unstoppable at times in the Bills’ road loss to the Jags. The VH1 reality star definitely has developed a great camraderie with new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick as shown by their franchsie record 98-yard touchdown hook-up. Though Owens had to endure being mocked by Jags WR Mike Simms-Walker on the Jags’ game-winner, he clearly was a lot happier than in past weeks. T.O’s season numbers are now a little more respectable at 35 receptions for 563 yards, 16.1 ypc, and 2 TDs. “Well, it doesn’t mean that I am washed up,” Owens joked after the game. The petulant one now has 14,685 career receiving yards, which moved him into fourth place on the NFL’s all-time list, ahead of Marvin Harrison (14,580).

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford — What a gutty performance as the 2009 NFL Draft’s first overall player selected led the Lions to a huge home win over the Browns.

Stafford put up phenomenal numbers 26-43, 422 yds, 5 TDs, and 2 INTs.

Apparently Stafford feels no pain as he willed himself back on the field to throw the game’s winning score despite dislocating his left shoulder the play earlier. The Lions rookie’s 422 passing yards are the most by a rookie in a single game in NFL history, besting the mark set by Arizona’s Matt Leinart (405 yards; November 26, 2006). Stafford is also the second rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw five touchdown passes in a game, joining Ray Buivid of the Chicago Bears who had five TD passes on December 5, 1937.

New England Patriots WR Wes Welker – Wow is there anyone better out of the slot than Tom Brady’s security blanket. What didn’t Welker do in the Patriots’ win over the NY Jets. He finished with 15 Receptions for 192 yards, and 0 TDs (who cares) with an additional 11 yards rushing.

Minnesota Vikings QB Brett Favre – America’s greatest comeback story gets better each week.

Favre (22 of 25 — a career-best 88% — 213 yds, and 4 TDs) continued to turn back the clock in the Vikings’ 35-9 thrashing of the Seahawks.

The 40-year old passer even looks like a strong contender for the 2009 NFL MVP Award – would be his fourth honor. The Vikings are now 9-1 and right on the heels of the undefeated Saints for NFC playoff homefield advantage,

New England Patriots CB Leigh Bodden — This man really had some sitcky hands in the Patriots’ 31-14 win over the NY Jets. Bodden intercepted Jets’ QB Mark Sanchez a career-high three times – tied a Patriots’ franchise record — including returning one 53 yards for a touchdown.

Other Honorees

Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young (won his eighth consecutive start and led the Titans to their fourth straight win while producing numbers 12-for-22 for 116 yards and a TD and 73 rushing yards on Monday Night Football).

Philadelphia Eagles WR DeSean Jackson (had eight receptions for 107 yards and 1 TD of 48 yards plus a 10-yard run in the Eagles’ SNF win).

Detroit Lions WR Calvin Johnson – (Megatron was in the house producing 7 Rec, 161 Yds, and 1 TD of 75 yards in the Lions’ win).

Green Bay Packers RB Ryan Grant (ran hard producing rushing numbers 21 rushes for 129 yards, 6.1 ypr, and 1 TD); NY Giants QB Eli Manning (was dominat while throwing for numbers 25-39, 384 yds, 3 TDs, and 1 INT in the Giants overtime win).

Baltimore Ravens tackles Jared Gaither and Michael Oher (held Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis without a sack for the first time all season).

Pittsburgh Steelers WR Hines Ward (this future HOF produced awesome numbers again with 10 receptions for 128 yards and 1 TD).

Baltimore Ravens Kicker Billy Cundiff (the only Ravens player to score as he kicked five field goals, in the Ravens close loss to the Colts… Steven Hauschka who)

Lloyd’s Lackey

NY Jets QB Mark Sanchez — What happened to the kid and team that started this season 3-0.

Sanchez looked like a quarterback that only had 16 starts in college at USC as he threw for awful number 136 yards, 1 TD, and 4 INTs – now has 16 INTs this season — plus 1 lost fumble. The Patriots frazzled the young passer in the pocket and his 5 turnovers were indicative of the NFL now being prepared for his tendencies. Some have said, “Put in backup quarterback Kellen Clemens”, but plain and simple I attribute much of Sanchez’s problems to just being a “rookie”.

Dishonorable Mention

Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels – The Broncos now have lost 4-straight games and lost the lead in the AFC West after a 32-3 butt-kicking by the San Diego Chargers this past Sunday. To make matters worse, McDaniels took off his coach’s hat before the game and engaged in pre-game smack talk with the Chargers’ linebackers during warm-ups. Chargers linebacker Stephen Cooper claimed after the game that McDaniels said, “We own you”….

I guess the NFL’s 32-year old wonder kid coach was wrong.

Denver Broncos QB Chris Simms – Making his first start since rupturing his spleen as a member of the Buccaneers more than three years ago, Phil’s boy was terrible. In fact, Simms was so terrible (2-for-4 with 10 yards passing and a lost fumble on the game’s opening series) that the Broncos went back to ailing Kyle Orton (ankle) rather than leave him in. Maybe the Tampa Bay were right about Simms.

Denver Broncos WR Brandon Marshall – Had only 3 receptions for 26 yards in the Broncos loss to the Chargers.

Marshall also caused the game’s biggest commotion as he got in the face of rookie RB Knowshon Moreno on the sidelines after the youngster fumbled at the goalline. Speaking specifically about the confrontation with Moreno, after the game Marshall said, “Those are the plays that kind of kill drives. We’ve just got to punch it in next time.” Later, Baby T.O added: “I don’t regret anything. This is a playoff game. If there were guys on the sideline that weren’t angry, who didn’t have a lot of emotion, they need to look themselves in the mirror. This is a game where you’ve got to have it. None of us can make any terrible plays.”

Washington Redskins K Shaun Suisham – Though a perfect 12 for 12 going into the Cowboys-Redskins game, Suisham was awful. The ‘Skins kicker missed two big field goals – a 39-yarder at the end of the first half and a 50-yarder in the fourth quarter — that could have ‘iced’ the game for the Redskins. For the game, Suisham finished with numbers 2 for 4 on FG attempts with a long of 45 yards and 6 points.

Pittsburgh Steelers special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky — On Sunday in Kansas City, the Steelers gave up a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown by Jamaal Charles on the opening kickoff. Charles’ return marked the fourth time in five games an opposing kick returner has taken one to the house against the Steelers. Ligashesky’s unit has a lot of work to do or the coordinator could be hitting the street after the season. Hard to believe, the Steelers had the NFL’s top-ranked kick-coverage unit last season.

Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler – Over threw at least 3 potential touchdown producing receivers in the Bears loss to the Eagles. And though it was a tipped pass interception by Birds safety Sean Jones, Cutler threw another pick giving him 18 INTs for the season. For the game Cutler had pedestrian numbers of 24-43, 171 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Maybe former Bears quarterbacks like Jim Miller and Henry Burris were not that bad after all.

Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte – Where has the running game gone for the Bears and this former 2008 NFL Rookie of the year candidate. Forte only produced numbers of 14 rushes for 34 yards and a poor 2.4 ypc averge in the Bears’ home loss to the Eagles.

Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco – Maybe it is possible that Flacco and Falcons QB Matt Ryan are experiencing “Sophomore Slumps” after their magic carpet ride seasons as rookies in 2008. Flacco produced zero touchdowns and 1 INT in the Ravens’ home loss to the Colts and he now has just one passing touchdown in his last four games.

Seattle Seahawks Defense — For the fifth time in five road games, the Seahawks lost by double-digits.

NFL Week 11

Thursday’s result

Miami (5-5) over Carolina (4-6), 24-17

Sunday’s results

Washington (3-7), Dallas (7-3), 7-6

Cleveland (1-9), Detroit (2-8), 38-37

San Francisco (4-6), Green Bay (6-4) 30-24

Pittsburgh (6-4), Kansas City (2-8), 27-24 in OT

Atlanta (5-5), NY Giants (6-4), 34-31 in OT

New Orleans (10-0), Tampa Bay (1-9), 38-7

Buffalo (3-7), Jacksonville (6-4), 18-15

Indianapolis (10-0), Baltimore (5-5), 17-15

Seattle (3-7), Minnesota (9-1), 35-9

Arizona (7-3), St. Louis (1-8), 21-13

NY Jets (4-6), New England (7-3), 31-14

Cincinnati (7-3), Oakland (3-7), 20-17

San Diego (7-3), Denver (6-4), 32-3

Philadelphia (6-4), Chicago (4-6), 24-20

Monday’s result

Tennessee (4-6), Houston (5-5), 20-17