SPARTANBURG, S.C., December 17, 2013 — The Dallas Cowboys led the Green Bay Packers 26-3 at halftime. Then came the second half.
Games like this get coaches fired. They get perrennial backup quarterbacks rich starting contracts on other teams. Games like this get star quarterbacks forever being told they cannot win the big one. They get owners like Jerry Jones to consider blowing up his $1.2 billion metropolis for the insurance money.
The entire NFL playoff picture remained scrambled due to an epic comeback or an epic collapse, depending on which side of the field you were. This was not the Ice Bowl, but it did see a team go ice cold in a game for the ages.
With that, here is the NFL 2013 Week 15 Wrapup.
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos was the Thursday night game. Philip Rivers threw touchdown passes of 19 and ten yards to Keenan Allen and Ryan Mathews raced for a 23-yard touchdown as San Diego turned a 10-3 deficit into a 24-10 lead after three quarters in front of a stunned home crowd. After a Peyton Manning touchdown pass, with five minutes left an interception of Manning gave the Chargers a short field. Nick Novak hit a 35-yard field goal with 2 1/2 minutes to play to give San Diego a 27-17 lead. Needing two scores, Manning quickly led the Broncos to a 42-yard Prater field goal with 30 seconds left. The onside kick failed and the Chargers had the shocking upset. San Diego at 7-7 is still alive, while 11-3 Denver still has a one game lead for home field throughout the playoffs. 27-20 Chargers
Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons — A pair of awful teams played an exciting game filled with turnovers, including fumbles on three consecutive plays. With the Redskins up 20-17 in the third quarter, the Falcons faced fourth and goal at the one. Stephen Jackson got the carry and got nothing. On the next play from scrimmage, Kirk Cousins was intercepted. Atlanta got the ball right back at the two and Jackson got in to put the Falcons up 24-20. It was Kirk Cousins and not the benched RGIII who had a chance to play hero with the game on the line. Down 27-20 with 3 1/2 minutes left, Cousins led the Redskins 80 yards to a three-yard touchdown to Santana Moss with 30 seconds to play. With the team 3-10 and everyone about to be fired, Mike Shanahan decided to go for the two-point conversion. There was nothing to lose but the game, which Washington did when Cousins threw incomplete. 27-26 Falcons
Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns — Jay Cutler returned as Josh McCown went back to the bench. Both Cutler and Jason Campbell threw a touchdown pass to the other team. A fumble by Chicago was then returned 51 yards by Ward for a second defensive touchdown and a 24-17 Browns lead. Chicago’s offense turned it on in the fourth quarter. Cutler came back with a 45-yard touchdown to Alshon Jeffery and a four-yard touchdown to Earl Bennett. Michael Bush raced 40 yards for a touchdown to make it 38-24 Bears with three minutes left. Campbell got Cleveland in the end zone again with one minute left but the onside kick failed as the Bears stayed in the thick of the NFC North race. 38-31 Bears
Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts — Andrew Luck threw touchdown passes of 14 yards to Griff Whalen and nine yards to Trent Richardson. Adam Vinatieri hit three field goals as the Colts took a 20-3 halftime lead and coasted. The Colts have locked up the AFC South and the Texans under Wade Phillips looked no better than under Gary Kubiak. Houston’s 12th straight loss has them on the verge of the top pick in the 2014 Draft. 25-3 Colts
Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars — A pair of bad teams put on a good game. Trailing 20-10 at halftime, Jacksonville battled back as Josh Scobee hit a 55-yard field goal and Chad Henne hit Marcedes Lewis for a 13-yard touchdown and a 20-20 game. E.J. Manuel led the Bills 80 yards as a one-yard touchdown pass to Frank Summers with 9 1/2 minutes left in regulation was the difference. Henne led the Jaguars after a touchback to 1st and goal at the Buffalo one with four minutes to play. A run lost four yards and on 3rd and goal Henne was intercepted in the end zone. 27-20 Bills
New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins — A thrilling football game saw the Patriots lead 10-0, fall behind 17-10 and retake the lead 20-17 when Tom Brady hit Julian Edelman for a 24-yard touchdown pass with four minutes left in regulation. With 2:40 to play the Dolphins faced fourth and five from their 45. Joe Philbin decided to go for it and Ryan Tannehill hit Charles Clay for six. Tannehill would find Marcus Thigpen for a 14-yard touchdown. Brady got the ball back down by four with all three timeouts and 1:15 left to go 80 yards. Everything came down to fourth and five from the Miami 13 with seven seconds left. Brady fired to the end zone and was intercepted by Michael Thomas. Miami remained alive for the playoffs and the Patriots missed a golden opportunity to snatch home field throughout the playoffs. 24-20 Dolphins
Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings — Matt Cassel threw a 57-yard touchdown to Greg Jennings and ran for a six-yard score while Matt Asiata scored from one yard out in place of Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart. With the Vikings leading 24-9 in the third quarter, Eagles coach Chip Kelly decided to summon the ghost of Barry Switzer by gambling on fourth and one from his own 24. Kelly’s gamble failed, giving Minnesota a gift field goal and a 27-9 lead. Nick Foles would throw a couple touchdown passes to get the Eagles within 27-22, but Minnesota’s offense exploded in the fourth quarter as Asiata scored his second and third touchdowns. Philadelphia saw their five-game win streak snapped, but they remained one game ahead of Dallas in the NFC Least. 48-30 Vikings
Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants — Marshawn Lynch ran for a two-yard touchdown and Steve Hauschka kicked three field goals. In the fourth quarter, one of Eli Manning’s four interceptions set up a 12-yard touchdown from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin as Seattle moved closer to locking up home field. 23-0 Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Colin Kaepernick threw touchdown passes of four yards to Michael Crabtree and 52 yards to Vernon Davis as the 49ers jumped to a 17-0 first half lead. Tampa got within 20-14 early in the fourth quarter, but the 49ers literally ground the Bucs into dust. Kaepernick led a mind-numbing 17-play, 77-yard drive that consumed 10 1/2 minutes off the clock. The 49ers settled for a 21-yard Phil Dawson field goal to lead 23-14. The Buccaneers fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Kendall Hunter returned it two yards for another touchdown to ice things. The 49ers at 10-4 are rounding into fine playoff form. 33-14 49ers
New York Jets at Carolina Panthers — Graham Gano hit three field goals and Cam Newton found Deangelo Williams for a 72-yard touchdown, but the Panthers only led 16-13 after three quarters. With 13 minutes left in regulation, the Jets had a punt blocked, setting Carolina up at the Jets’ 14. Mike Tolbert plunged in from one yard out. Geno Smith then had an interception returned 41 yards for a touchdown by Captain Munnerlyn to put the game away. Carolina at 10-4 is tied for the NFC South lead and hosts New Orleans next week in what will most likely decide the division crown and a first round bye. 30-20 Panthers
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys — This game will be spoken of for years. With Aaron Rodgers still out and Matt Flynn in, the Packers’ hole grew deeper. Tony Romo led the Cowboys to a 26-3 halftime lead with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten, four Dan Bailey field goals, and a one-yard DeMarco Murray touchdown run. Flynn caught fire in the second half, as touchdown passes to Jordy Nelson, Andrew Quarless, and James Starks got the Packers within 29-24 with 13 minutes left in regulation. Romo hit Dez Bryant for a five-yard touchdown to give Dallas breathing room up 36-24 with eight minutes left. Flynn’s fourth touchdown pass to James Jones from three yards out had the Packers within 36-31 with 4 1/2 minutes left. Then came the most controversial decision since LeBron James’ The Decision.
With three minutes left, Dallas faced second and six from their 35 and the Packers were down to their last timeout. Jason Garrett called a running play. The entire stadium was in shock when Romo audibled to a pass play, nearly got sacked and threw an interception at midfield. Eddie Lacy got in from one yard out as the Packers led by a point with 90 seconds to play. Romo was then intercepted again. Flynn now holds the Packers records for passing yards in one game and biggest comeback in team history. Dallas, after this meltdown, remained one game back in the NFC Least at 7-7, while the Packers can still win the NFC North. 37-36 Packers
New Orleans Saints at St. Louis Rams — Both of these teams are far better at home, as the Rams led by Jeff Fisher’s defense jumped all over Sean Payton’s offense. Drew Brees had a miserable game. Kellen Clemens threw a pair of touchdown passes and Zac Stacy ran for a 40-yard touchdown, as the Rams took a 27-3 lead after three quarters. Brees led a furious fourth quarter rally as the Saints scored a pair of touchdowns and executed a successful onside kick with three minutes left.
With 1:54 to play, Garrett Hartley came in for a chip shot 26-yard field goal try to make it a one-score game with another onside kick to come. Hartley missed it. The loss eliminated the Saints from home field throughout as they are now at 10-4 tied with Carolina for the NFC South lead. New Orleans and Carolina have their showdown rematch next week in Carolina with the division and first round bye on the line.
Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans — This shootout saw the Titans lead 17-13 before Arizona ripped off 21 unanswered points. When Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted by Antoine Cason, the 20-yard touchdown return meant a 34-17 Cardinals lead with only six minutes left in regulation. Fitzpatrick led a monster rally, hitting Michael Preston from ten yards out with just over three minutes left. Rod Bironas hit from 24 to get the Titans within 34-27. The onside kick worked as the Titans took over at the Arizona 46 with 44 seconds left. On third and goal from the eight with 14 seconds left, Fitzpatrick’s fourth touchdown pass on the day to Preston meant overtime.
On the third play of overtime, despite 402 yards passing, Fitzpatrick’s second interception was a killer. Arizona took over at their own 46 and Jay Feely would hit the 41-yarder to win it. The Munchak era is probably done in Nashville, while the Cardinals, at 9-5 under Bruce Arians, are still alive for a playoff spot. 37-34 Cardinals, OT
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders — The Chiefs behind Jamal Charles belted the Silver and Black from the first play from scrimmage. Charles caught touchdown passes of 49 and 39 yards from Alex Smith and Matt McGloin had an interception returned 47 yards for another score by Eric Berry as the Chiefs led 21-3 after the first quarter. Charles ran it in from the one and caught a 16-yard touchdown from Smith to make it 35-10 Chiefs in the second quarter. McGloin led a furious rally. Rashad Jennings’ second one-yard touchdown run and touchdown passes of six yards to Holmes and 14 yards to Rivera had the Raiders within 35-31 in the third quarter and toying with a comeback for the ages.
Not on this day. Smith went to Charles for a 71-yard touchdown and then hit McGrath for a six-yard score. In the fourth quarter, Davis ran it in from 17 yards out as the Raiders gave up the most points in franchise history. The Chiefs are 10-4 under Walrus Lite Andy Reid and have clinched a playoff spot. The Raiders for some reason have not fired Dennis Allen despite being 4-10. Alex Smith finished 17 of 20 with five touchdowns and zero interceptions. Charles had five touchdowns, only one on the ground. McGloin threw four interceptions and Terrelle Pryor was brought in again by Allen to disrupt the offense. Pryor went one for four with 12 yards passing and an interception of his own. 56-31 Raiders
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers was the Sunday night game.Le’Veon Bell ran it in from one yard out after a fumbled snap on a punt. Ben Roethlisberger threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown. Brown also returned a punt 67 yards for a score as the Steelers led 21-0 after the first quarter. Pittsburgh cruised from there. Three Shawn Suisham field goals had the Steelers up 30-7 after three quarters. Andy Dalton threw a pair of fourth quarter touchdown passes to get the Bengals within ten points with 5:46 to play, but Big Ben bled the the clock to zeroes. The Steelers got to 6-8 while the Bengals, at 9-5, still have not clinched the AFC North or silenced critics who think these Bengals are paper tigers. 30-20 Steelers
Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions was the Monday night game. Five Justin Tucker kfield goals had the Ravens clinging to a 15-10 fourth quarter lead. Matthew Stafford then moved the Lions to a 14-yard touchdown pass to Justin Fauria with 2:21 to play. The two-point conversion failed as Detroit led by a point. With 43 seconds left, the Ravens faced fourth and seven at the Baltimore 43. Although the Ravens initially planned to go for it, John Harbaugh called timeout and then decided to have Tucker try a 61-yard field goal.
Tucker had hit 32 straight, but this was a lot to ask with the game on the line. Tucker drilled his sixth field goal just over the crossbar and just inside the right upright. Stafford was then quickly intercepted for the third time as the Ravens at 8-6 and Lions at 7-7 are both still alive for the playoffs but one game back in their respective divisions.
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities.
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