The last quarter of the season kicked off with a great slate of games. Here’s what I saw this week:
Eagles – They got a very ugly 26-10 win over Miami. The offence was bottled up for most of the day and the Eagles kept trying, but couldn’t get anything going in the running game. They capitalized on a couple of turnovers and short fields to put points on the board. Two things in particular I took note of that speak to the very rare showing of grit and toughness that helped them win this game:
1. The defence was the star of the game stopping Miami 6 times on 3rd or 4th down and less than 2 yards to go, sacking Miami QBs 9 times and forcing 3 turnovers. Without those stops, it would have been a very different game.
2. LeSean McCoy, although being bottled up in the run all day, he converted 5 of 6 attempts of 2 yards or less into first towns (or TDs).
The eternal optimist in me now knows the scenario by which the Eagles sneak into the playoffs – they need to win their last 3 games (Jets, at Cowboys, Redskins) and need Dallas and the Giants to both go 1-2 or worse. That’s a very remote shot, but it keeps things interesting for at least another week.
Steelers – They earned a hard fought win over the Browns and look to have escaped a devastating injury to their QB. Roethlisberger is a bit like a zombie – he just keeps getting back up to play. After leaving for one series after what looked to be a horrible ankle/leg injury, he hobbled back to lead the team to the win in the second half. The more troubling injury in this game may have been to their centre, Pouncey. He suffered a similar injury late lat year which kept him out of the Super Bowl.
Browns – On the opening drive of the game against the Steelers, they had a 4th down and goal from the 2 yard line. This is a team that is missing the playoffs, has an ever more disenchanted fan base and is riding a 1-10 streak in games against their division-rival played in Pittsburgh. Kicking a FG on the first drive of a game like this is akin to giving up before you get started. Whenever you’re playing a team that so clearly outclasses you in talent, you’ve got to be aggressive in every decision to get a win. Terrible decision made by a terrible coach of a (sadly) terrible team.
Bears/Broncos – All the press is about Tebow, but how about the things that happened that gave him a shot to earn the headlines. With less than 2:00 left, if Bears running back Marion Barber simply falls down in bounds rather than running out of bounds, the Broncos would have only had about :15 left to mount a comeback, rather than more than :50. Prater makes a 59 yard FG to tie the game and send it into overtime, then kicks another 50+ yard FG after Marion Barber fumbles the ball as the Bears were driving for the winning FG in OT. Barber may have cost his team a playoff spot with 2 inexcusable mistakes. The first one simply isn’t made by a smart football player. Tebow was impressive in the 4th and OT and the hype machine will be torqued up to max for next week’s game against Brady and the Patriots.
49ers – With their loss, they opened the door for the Saints to reach the NFC’s 2-seed for the playoffs. This team has got to figure out their red-zone troubles. Even though I haven’t followed many of their recent games closely, I keep noticing David Akers running out for field goals and have noticed FG-heavy scores. If they don’t start scoring more TDs, they could be in for an early playoff exit.
Patriots – Their secondary looks horrible. The Redskins shouldn’t be able to score 27 on anyone. It will be interesting to see if Brady and the offense can keep outscoring teams in the playoffs.