|Matt McGloin gets given a big BEAR hug. Get it?|
At one point during the second quarter in Philadelphia yesterday it was reported that some parts of the field were buried under eight inches of snow. While there was also inclement weather in Washington, Pittsburgh and Baltimore it was the Eagles and Lions who were made to compete in the most ludicrous conditions, with the game dubbed the ‘Snow Bowl’ by the local Philadelphia media. All told it was the most wacky of NFL weekends, with multiple games not settled until the final seconds and a record 90 touchdowns scored, the most ever for a single day in the league. Scroll down to read my take on the Snow Bowl, New England getting out of jail, my Monday Night Football preview and much more.
Shady McCoy Snowploughs His Way Into the Record Books
With 217 yards on the ground last night Eagles running back LeSean “Shady” McCoy broke Steve Van Buren’s franchise record for rushing yards in a single game. However it took a while for McCoy and the Philly offense to break out; they actually went into half-time down 14-0. Chip Kelly deserves credit for adapting to the conditions in the second half and a mixture of deep passes and up-the-middle runs combined to see the Eagles put up 34 points after the break, including 28 in the fourth quarter alone to win 34-20. Right now McCoy is surely one of the top two backs in the NFL alongside Adrian Peterson, the later doubtful for next weeks Minnesota-Philadelphia clash with an ankle injury. With five wins in a row the Eagles are looking more and more dangerous by the week and I’d hazard a guess that Pete Carroll and Sean Peyton would rather not have to face the streaking birds in the play-offs – even in their own building.
Onsides Kick Recovery and Dubious PI Call Help Patriots Edge Browns
With just over a minute left of the fourth quarter New England trailed Cleveland 26-14, a seemingly insurmountable deficit. However after Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass to Julian Edelman the Patriots miraculously recovered Stephen Gostkowski’s perfectly weighted onsides kick to give Brady the ball back with more than enough time on the clock to score the touchdown that would give them the lead by a score of 27-26. Leon McFadden will count himself dreadfully unlucky to have been flagged for the defensive pass interference penalty that gave the Patriots the ball at the Cleveland one, and having watched the replay I’m afraid to say McFadden’s grievance is entirely valid. The Patriots appear to get the rub of the green more often than not and Cleveland will be devastated at having failed to hold on to win a game that was well within their grasp. Ultimately however the result will bear little impact on the final standings this season, with New England almost certain to be the number two seed in the AFC while Cleveland were a long shot to make the post-season even before this latest defeat.
49ers Earn Big Win Over Division Rivals Seattle, Take Big Step Towards Play-Offs
After San Fransisco were blown out by Seattle earlier in the year not many people gave them a chance yesterday in the return engagement at Candelstick Park. Despite this disturbing lack of faith from most people (I’d like to point out I picked them to win in my weekly predictions piece) the 49ers were able to overcome the Seahawks in a defensive struggle by a score of 19-17. One interesting statistic surround the game and the NFC west is that for all the talk about Seattle’s incredible home field advantage San Fransisco are now unbeaten at home within the division since 2008(!). Neither team was really ever able to get anything going on offense, but when Frank Gore was able to sneak through the Seahawks defense and gain 51-yards late in the fourth quarter he gave Phil Dawson the opportunity to kick his fourth field goal of the day and give San Fransisco an invaluable win. Neither Russell Wilson nor Colin Kaepernick was able to top 200 yards passing on the day, which can be read one of two ways. Yes both of these teams have formidable defenses but questions remain about each quarterbacks ability to put the team on their back when needed. Despite the loss Seattle are still two games up on the 49ers in the standings, but they’ll have to be careful not to lose their one game lead over New Orleans in the race for home field throughout the play-offs.
Saints Snap Panthers Eight Game Winning Streak
When Carolina were 1-3 their fans would’ve bitten your hand off if you’d have offered them a 9-4 record with just three games remaining of the regular season. Nonetheless after heading into last nights clash with the Saints tied with New Orleans in the standings, the Panthers will have been disappointed to have succumbed so meekly to their division rivals in the Louisiana Superdome. The 31-13 beat down was a real statement performance from Drew Brees and Sean Peyton, who’ll have been delighted with their sides offensive output against what has been a stout Carolina defense. Marques Colston caught two touchdowns as did tight end Jimmy Graham, demonstrating the wealth of weapons that Brees has to throw to. Cam Newton will wish he had the same kind of talent outside as he was repeatedly dropped behind the line while scanning the secondary. Newton was sacked five times before the game was over, a large number for such a strong and mobile quarterback. These two teams face off again in Carolina in a fortnight where Ron Rivera’s Panthers will be looking for sweet, sweet revenge.
In terms of play-off relevance and excitement those four games were the ones that made the headlines yesterday, but that doesn’t mean the other games didn’t contain plenty of drama themselves. Below are a few more things I took away from week 14 of the NFL season, followed by my Monday Night Football prediction.
– After giving up 37 points to the Jets (the Jets!!) it’s safe to say the Oakland Raiders don’t have one of the better defenses in football.
– Peyton Manning put up 51 big ones against the Titans in Denver, so maybe those rumblings about his ability throwing in cold weather will quieten down.
– Nice bounce back performance from Arizona, who beat St. Louis 30-10 to launch themselves back into the NFC wild card race.
– Mike Shannahan’s seat isn’t warm, it’s on fire. He could be gone before the season is out. At least the Redskins will have a high first round pi.. what, they traded it to St. Louis? Oh.
– How did the Steelers Antonio Brown not stay in bounds on that last second dash for the end-zone? After a series of laterals Brown was sprung free and had a path to pay dirt along the left hand sideline, only to miscalculate the size of his foot (maybe he thought he was an eight instead of a nine?) and barely graze the edge of the field of play. Had Pittsburgh won they’d have been just one game behind Baltimore in the race for the final wild card in the AFC.
Monday Night Football Preview: Dallas @ Chicago
Jay Cutler misses out for the Bears, a big blow for Chicago although they do have one of the leagues better QB understudies in Josh McCown. Both teams are in the hunt for a division title so expect a ferocious intensity throughout in what promises to be an excellent prime time contest. Tony Romo has quietly performed well in recent weeks despite his penchant for folding in the months of November and December and he’ll face his sternest test so far at Soldier Field in cold conditions on a notoriously poor surface. I think the game will be close, there’s no doubt in my mind about that, but with the Bears D suffering in recent weeks and with Romo able to call on weapons such as Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray and Jason Witten I’m going for a road win in the windy city. Cowboys 34, Bears 27
That’s it from me today, you can contact me in the comments or tweet me @fredjstanley. I’ll be back on Thursday night with the American Football Focus podcast. Until then..