Monday Morning Realist Week 12

By Akiem Bailum, host of TRST’s “10 Minutes on the Clock”

Twitter: @Li495Akiem

Getting the L Train Back on the Right Track With a W

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In Week 11, the Minnesota Vikings were on their bye week. Meanwhile the Chicago Bears witnessed a weakness of their team when they were dominated on the road by the San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football. It, of course, got so bad that it created a quarterback controversy for the Niners—an organization that knows something about QB controversies.

Jason Campbell clearly wasn’t the answer to the Bears’ offensive problems and showed why he is a backup to Jay Cutler. It’s rare when a team starts mentioning how much they miss Cutler, but that’s the complex the Bears are in.

Historically, the Bears haven’t been good when it comes to QB play and Cutler may not be as much of a franchise QB as either Manning brother, Brady, Brees, or Rodgers. But it was clear that having Jay Cutler under center for the Bears would be a boost as they continue to press forward on a push to the postseason.

Prior to Chicago’s home matchup vs. their arch division rival Vikings, late word started to lead out to the press that Cutler was making significant progress in his recovery from the concussion injury he sustained on a Sunday Night Football loss to the Houston Texans. That progress became enough that he was cleared to start for the Bears in that game.

Cutler only went 23/31 for 188 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception—not uncommon numbers for Jay Cutler. But the Chicago Bears maintained possession for almost 40 out of the game’s 60 minutes. They also did better than the Vikings in converting on third downs. Chicago converted on 11 out of 19 while Minnesota only mustered 6 out of 16.

For the Bears, runningback Michael Bush would only rush for 60 yards on 21 carries, but scored 2 touchdowns. Brandon Marshall nearly had a 100 yard day as he caught 12 passes for 92 yards.

For the Vikings, of course Adrian Peterson would carry the load. He carried the rock 18 times for 108 yards despite the Vikes only possessing the ball for less than 23 minutes. Christian Ponder went 22/43 for 159 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception.

The 28-10 victory for the Chicago Bears sends them to 8-3 while the Vikings fall to 6-5, making the wild card situation much more interesting in the NFC with only 5 weeks left before the playoffs start. Next up for the Monsters of the Midway will be another home game—vs. the 6-5 Seattle Seahawks. The “Purple People Eaters” shall remain in the division as they travel to Lambeau Field to face off against the Green Bay Packers.

Steel Curtain Replaced By a Steel Deli

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The Bears and Steelers could relate to each other the past couple of weeks. Both teams have seen their quarterbacks sidelined and both teams know clearly what their offenses look like without them. While the Bears got their starter back off the shelf this week, the Steelers will have to wait a little while longer.

And the sight may not get any prettier for fans of the black and gold.

With both Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich out due to injuries, Pittsburgh would have to turn to veteran QB Charlie Batch to go under center for the Steelers this week. Their opponent would be the division rival Browns in Cleveland. Even with a 3rd-string QB, they couldn’t possibly lose to the Browns, right?

Right…?

Precisely…wrong. In fact, it would get worse for the Steelers than it was against the Ravens on Sunday Night Football and Baltimore is what Cleveland isn’t—a playoff bound team.

As the old saying goes, there’s a reason why Charlie Batch is a 3rd-string quarterback. He would only manage 199 yards going 20/34 with zero touchdown passes and 3 interceptions. Surprisingly, he’d only be sacked once.

But, those 3 interceptions would be 3 of 8 turnovers the Steelers committed in this game. Among them—all four Steeler runningbacks (Chris Rainey, Rashard Mendenhall, Jonathan Dwyer, and Isaac Redmond) would commit one fumble each.

The only other score for Pittsburgh would come via a Lawrence Timmons interception return that was returned 53 yards.

Brandon Weeden was a little bit better for the Cleveland Browns. He went 17/26 for 158 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. They’d also get an 85 yard performance from Trent Richardson who had those on 29 carries.

Plaxico Burress also made a much ballyhooed-return to the Steelers on this day. He’d be targeted twice and wouldn’t catch a pass.

It was a great defensive day for the Browns and the Steelers have seen (once again) what their offense looks like without Big Ben under center. I think they miss him…bad.

The Steelers are 6-5 and will play the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium, just two weeks after the two rivals matched up in the ‘Burgh @ Heinz Field in Week 13. The 3-8 Browns shall play the Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

Ten….Ten Wins

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The Houston Texans were the first team to reach double digits in victories for the 2012-2013 NFL season with their overtime win over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. On the Sunday after Turkey Day, the Atlanta Falcons had the opportunity to join them by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.

Last week, the Falcons played arguably their worst game of the season vs. the Arizona Cardinals at their Georgia Dome, and probably only got away with a win solely because they were playing the Arizona Cardinals and not a team with a real offense. They still managed to win, but other teams may have been given a blueprint as to how to beat them in the future.

Meanwhile, the Bucs were coming into this matchup as the hottest team in the NFL by winning their last five straight. Doug Martin (now nicknamed “Martin ScoresEasy” by plenty in the sporting press) is right up there with Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III as the top candidates for rookie of the year.

In this one, Martin would be responsible for both Tampa Bay touchdowns, but carried the ball 20 times for just 50 yards. That means the Falcons (whose defense seems to be improving) has done what they have been unable to do for many of their games this season—prevent the other team from having huge days on the ground vs. them. Josh Freeman would throw for 19/30, 256 yards, with zero touchdowns or interceptions. 5 of those passes would be caught by Vincent Jackson for 97 yards.

Not that Atlanta’s rushing attack was much better. Jacquizz Rodgers had 10 carries for 49 yards, and the Falcons have been using him more than they have been using veteran RB, Michael Turner. Turner averaged just over 1 yard a carry—13 of them for 17 yards. Matt Ryan’s line would be 26/32 for 353 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 pick (Ronde Barber). It’d also prove to be another big day for Julio Jones—6 catches for 147 yards and the recipient of Matty Ice’s lone TD pass.

Late in the game, the Bucs played conservative (in my opinion) and tried to hit a 56 yard field goal that was out of Connor Barth’s range. Instead of going for it on 4th down, they tried to kick a field goal with the score at 24-23. On the next Falcons possession, they tricked the Bucs by throwing it once to Roddy White on 3rd down when most teams simply play it safe with run plays. The pass was caught and the game was over at that moment. Freeman’s hail mary pass on his last possession would be unsuccessful.

A five-game winning streak has been snapped for the 6-5 Bucs as they travel to play the Broncos next week in Denver. The 10-1 Falcons will go home to play the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football.

Speaking of Which…

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The Saints have looked like another one of the hot teams as of late. After starting 0-4, they came into their home game vs. the San Francisco 49ers with an extremely high amount of momentum. They’ve gone from 0-4 to 5-5 and thanks to Drew Brees and head coach Joe Vitt, more fans in the Gulf South have more confidence when they associate their team with the “p” word.

Jim Mora would know.

Meanwhile after an impressive performance vs. the Bears on Monday Night Football, it propelled Colin Kaepernick to immediately assume the position of starting quarterback for the Niners. The thinking perhaps was that coach Jim Harbaugh wanted to see what Kaepernick could do vs. a good offense after carving up a great defense last week.

Kaepernick didn’t disappoint. He’s very mobile and seemed to find unorthodox ways to make a lot of passes, but he made them and that’s all that mattered. He would rush for San Francisco’s first touchdown of the game that put them up 7-0.

It may not have been what he did vs. Chicago, but he still threw for 16/25 for 231 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. They’d also get good performances from runningback Frank Gore (19 carries for 83 yards), and wideouts Delanie Walker (3 receptions for 81 yards) and Mario Manningham (5 catches for 69 yards).

San Francisco’s defense also came to play, proving why it is a top-10 defense in this league. For the Saints, Drew Brees went 26/41 for 267 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

The two picks were both pick six’s.

One happened at the end of the 2nd quarter to Virginia’s Ahmad Brooks and the other went to Donte Whitner midway through the 3rd quarter. Brees would also be put under heavy pressure by the Niners’ defensive line—he’d be sacked 5 times. Brooks, Aldon Smith, and Justin Smith would each be credited with 1.5 sacks.

Passing would be equal, but the 49ers also outrushed New Orleans by almost a 3:1 ratio.

It brings the Saints to 5-6 and they shall now travel to Atlanta on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football to play a Falcons team whom they beat earlier this year at the Mercedes Benz Louisiana Superdome.

As for the 49ers, it means another week of speculation that Kaepernick is their quarterback going forward in the future. With Alex Smith at the end of this deal, it may turn out that he could be the biggest loser with all of this. There are plenty of teams that could use a quarterback right now, though. A certain team in New York automatically comes to mind. So does one in Arizona.

It may not be Joe Montana vs. Steve Young, but it certainly feels like the late 80’s once again in the West Bay. Next up for the 8-2-1 49ers—the Rams at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

4th and 29 for Baltimore = 4-Finished for San Diego

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Yeah, 4th and 29…but we’ll get into that later.

There’s no doubt that the San Diego Chargers (wearing their powder blues in this game) likely needed to defeat the Baltimore Ravens at home in Qualcomm Stadium to still have any outside shot at the playoffs. The Steelers lost earlier in the day to the Browns, but the Colts, Bengals, and Dolphins (the other 3 teams the Bolts need to somehow leapfrog to earn a Wild Card berth) all won their games in Week 12.

4th and 29! 4th and 29!….it’s coming.

For one half, it did look like the Chargers were playing with a sense of urgency and the Ravens looked lethargic on offense—which means one must give credit to the San Diego defense. Neither offensive line had a great day as Flacco was sacked 5 times while Baltimore got to Philip Rivers on six occasions. Arthur Jones (Ravens) and Antwan Barnes (Chargers) each came up with 2 sacks for their respective teams.

Things would of course change in the 2nd half with San Diego looking slow. Rivers’ day would include 23/36, 238 yards, 1 TD, and 0 interceptions. Ryan Matthews carried the ball 19 times for 72 yards and and Danario Alexander had 5 receptions for 74 yards.

But let’s be honest—4th and 29 was the game, the Chargers’ season, and possibly, the job security of head coach Norv Turner.

Rice’s huge move on 4th and 29 rivals that of his alma mater (Rutgers) to the Big Ten. Part of the beauty of the 4th and 29 play to Rice (which he was credited for 30 yards on) was that it happened on a screen play. Multiple Charger defenders had a chance to get one tackle on him before he got the required 29 yards, but they instead looked like their Kansas City Chiefs circa 2008 who couldn’t tackle worth beans.

The play would be reviewed for about 10 minutes, but it always looked like it would stand. It did and the Ravens took advantage. Justin Tucker would kick the game-tying and game-winning field goals for Baltimore—both from 38 yards.

The Ravens got themselves a huge victory, as the old phrase goes, by “hook or crook”. It brought them to 9-2, still one game behind the Houston Texans for the best record in the AFC. Also with the Steelers losing, they’re now 3 up on both them and Bengals for the AFC North. Lost in the 4th and 29 hoopla was that Torrey Smith also had a huge day and was probably the player of the game (not named Ray Rice) for Baltimore. He’d have 7 catches for 144 yards including his own huge play on a 3rd down in overtime that set up the game winner from Tucker.

As for the San Diego Chargers, they’re 4-7 in a division they can’t win with the Peyton Manning-led Broncos in it. They’re finished. 4th and 29 was a microcosm of their season this year. It was enough of a mental blow to give up the play, and it was an even bigger mental blow to not atone for it by scoring in overtime. They’re not making the postseason this year and Norv Turner may have not had less job security than he does now.

Eat your hearts out, Donovan McNabb and Freddie Mitchell.

In Week 13, Baltimore plays the Steelers at home while San Diego has to find some way to regroup to play another AFC North team at home—the 6-5 Cincinnati Bengals.

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The theme of this week seems to be hot teams in the NFC that got derailed this week. We’ve already seen what has happened to the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Green Bay Packers would also face a similar fate.

With a 7-3 clip coming into their matchup vs. the New York Giants in the East Rutherford Meadowlands, they were winners of five consecutive games dating back to the last time they played on Sunday Night Football. That was when they dominated and frustrated the Houston Texans in Reliant Stadium in Houston.

But, despite winning a five-game winning streak that would give Green Bay control of the NFC North, they would come into their game vs. the G-Men shorthanded on the defensive side of the football. No Charles Woodson and no Clay Matthews. No Greg Jennings on offense added to their scoring difficulties.

It showed, and showed often.

After a 2-yard touchdown run from Andre Brown, the Packers were able to answer with an Aaron Rodgers 61 yarder to Jordy Nelson. That tied the game at 7-7 and it began to look like it would be a shootout at the Meadowlands.

It would be the only touchdown for Green Bay on the day.

The Giants would extend their lead to 24-7 and ultimately to 38-10 in the victory. Rodgers would go 14/25 for 219 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. Eli Manning would return after the bye week in impressive fashion. He went 16/30 for 249 yards, and 3 touchdowns.

In addition, the Giants would sack Rodgers 5 times with Mathias Kiwanuka the recipient of two of the hits on Rodgers.

The win gets New York back on the right track at 7-4 and go up on the Cowboys and Redskins in the NFC East by 2 games. Late news broke, though, that somewhat sapped the euphoria of victory for Big Blue. Coach Tom Coughlin had announced in the Giants’ post-game press conference that runningback Andre Brown broke his fibula. He’d finish the game with 13 carries on 64 yards rushing including the 1st quarter touchdown.

The Packers are also now 7-4, but thanks to the Bears beating the Vikings earlier in the day, they’re now back in 2nd place a game behind the Bears. The simple issue with the Packers is that they have to get healthy. In a tough NFC, they can ill afford any losses to anyone else right now. They need to get Clay Matthews, Sam Shields, Greg Jennings, and Charles Woodson healthy for the final push for the postseason or they may be leapfrogged by the Bucs or Vikings. In addition to all of that, 4 of their last 5 games are in their own division—including two vs. the Minnesota Vikings.

If the Playoffs Began Today….

AFC:

Texans 10-1

Ravens 9-2

Patriots 8-3

Broncos 8-3

Colts 7-4 (WC)

Steelers 6-5 (WC)

NFC:

Falcons 10-1

49ers 8-2-1

Bears 8-3

Giants 7-4

Packers 7-4 (WC)

Seahawks 6-5 (WC)

Ironically, the Pack and G-Men would play each other if the playoffs began today. They may see each other this year one more time before the Lombardi Trophy is issued to the Super Bowl winner in February.

That’s for later, though. As for now, both teams now look to Week 13. New York will be on Monday Night Football as they take on RGIII and the Washington Redskins in Landover’s FedEx Field. The Packers will play one of those two games vs. the Vikes also in Week 13. That will be a home game for the Green and Gold at Lambeau Field.

Stay tuned to TRST for the most in NFL coverage, including The NFL Final Score every Sunday!

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Posted on November 26, 2012, in NFL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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