LOS ANGELES, December 23, 2013—A thrilling Monday Night Football finish capped off an exciting NFL Sunday that saw the playoff picture become slightly more focused.
As John Randall reminds us, December football is when the big dogs come out. Here is the NFL 2013 Week 16 Wrapup.
Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills—Fred Jackson ran for the game’s only touchdown and Dan Carpenter added four field goals, three of them in the fourth quarter from short range. Miami at 8-7 is still in playoff contention but needs help. 19-0 Bills
New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers—This was gutty, December football, a defensive bare-fisted slobberknocker with everything on the line. A torrential rainstorm dominated a scoreless third quarter as the Panthers led 10-6 entering the fourth. Drew Brees moved the Saints 97 yards as an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham made it 13-10 Saints with 6 /2 minutes left in regulation.
The Panthers had one final chance with 55 seconds left at their own 35, zero timeouts, and no Steve Smith who went out earlier with a leg injury. Cam Newton fired to Tedd Ginn Jr. for a 37-yard gain and Greg Olsen for 14 more. From the Saints 14, Newton shucked off a blitzing defender and fired to Dominic Hixon in the end zone for the touchdown with 23 seconds left. Just like that, the entire NFC playoff picture was altered.
Brees moved the Saints after a touchback to the Carolina 46 with six seconds left. The Hail Mary was knocked down inside the five yard line. Ron Rivera was almost fired last year, and Newton was regressing. This year the 11-4 Panthers clinched a playoff birth and can win the division and a first round bye with a win next week at lowly Atlanta. 17-13 Panthers
Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals—Red Rifle Andy Dalton threw for 366 yards and four touchdowns, two of them to A.J. Green. Vincent Rey returned an interception 25 yards for another score as the Bengals jumped to a 28-7 halftime lead that would be stretched to 42-7. The 10-5 Bengals clinched the AFC North and have an outside shot at a first round bye. 42-14 Bengals
Denver Broncos at Houston Texans—The best played the worst, yet the Broncos only led 16-13 after three quarters against the lowly Texans. The fourth quarter was a microcosm of the 2013 season for both teams. Matt Schaub was quickly intercepted. Peyton Manning would throw touchdown passes of 10 and 20 yards to Eric Decker and 25 yards to Julius Thomas.
Denver locked up the AFC West and a first round bye. Denver still needs to win next week to clinch home field throughout the playoffs. Meanwhile, Manning’s fourth and final touchdown pass put him into the history books. He has thrown 51 touchdown passes in 2013, breaking the NFL single season record. He still has next week against reeling Oakland. Houston’s 13th straight loss gives them the top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. 37-13 Broncos
Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars—Tennessee trailed 16-6 in the third quarter when Shon Greene had a one-yard score for Tennessee. Early in the fourth quarter Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Nate Washington for a 30-yard touchdown and a four point Titans lead. Chad Henne was intercepted with 45 seconds to play as the Titans hung on. 20-16 Titans
Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs—Jamal Charles broke off a 31-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0 Chiefs but the rest of the game was all Colts. Donald Brown caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from Andrew Luck and broke free for a 51-yard touchdown run after a Matt Cassel interception. Adam Vinatieri added three field goals in the biggest shocker between these teams since the 1995 Lin Elliot meltdown.
Since starting 9-0, the Chiefs have lost four of six to render Andy Reid a concerned Walrus Lite. Both teams are in the playoffs, the Chiefs as a wildcard. The Colts have an outside shot at a first round bye. Both teams should be dispatched quickly. 23-7 Colts
Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins—Like Forrest Gump, nobody ever knows what to expect from the Cowboys. One week after blowing a 23 point lead, Dallas blew a 14-6 halftime lead to trail 23-14 in the fourth quarter. Dallas kicked a field goal with six minutes to play and got it back at their own 13 with 3 1/2 minutes left. At the two minute warning, Dallas had second and goal at the one. DeMarco Murray got the carry and got stopped.
On third and goal Murray lost nine yards. These are the Cowboys, as Jerry Jones prepared to fire everyone. On fourth and goal at the 10, Tony Romo hit Murray for the touchdown and the lead with one minute left. These are the Redskins, as Daniel Snyder prepared to fire everyone. Dallas remained alive at 8-7 for the NFC Least division title. 24-23 Cowboys
Cleveland Browns at New York Jets—Trailing 10-0 late in the half, Rex Ryan was on the verge of being fired at halftime. Call it a Christmas miracle, but Geno Smith threw touchdown passes of six and five yards to David Nelson and ran for a 17-yard touchdown with less than three minutes to play to put the game out of reach. Ryan may be fired anyway despite getting more out of these butt-fumblers than any other coach could. 24-13 Jets
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at St. Louis Rams—Stedman Bailey in the second quarter put the Rams up 14-7 by rumbling through the Bucs defense like they were Oprah Winfrey for a 27-yard touchdown. With the Rams clinging to a 14-13 lead in the second half, Greg “the Leg” Zuerlein took over with field goals of 54, 25 and 28 to put the game out of reach. 23-13 Rams
Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks—Last year Seattle beat Arizona at home 58-0. This year three Jay Feely field goals had the Cardinals leading 9-3 in the fourth quarter. Russell Wilson hit Zach Miller for an 11-yard touchdown and a 10-9 Seahawks lead. Carson Palmer then led Arizona 80 yards as a 31-yard touchdown pass to Michael Floyd and a successful two-point conversion run by Rashaard Mendenhall had the Cardinals up by seven with just over two minutes to play. Wilson immediately went deep and was intercepted by Karlos Dansby.
The Arizona win in front of a shellshocked home crowd got the Cardinals to 10-5 and still alive for the playoffs. The Seahawks could have rested everybody next week. Instead the 12-3 Seahawks still need to win next week at home against St. Louis to lock up the division and home field throughout the playoffs.
New York Giants at Detroit Lions—The Giants had nothing to play for except Tom Coughlin. Detroit had everything to play for. Detroit overcame a 13-3 halftime deficit to lead 20-13 in the fourth quarter. Matthew Stafford went looking for the knockout blow and delivered it to his own team. He was intercepted by Hill, who returned it 38 yards for a touchdown to tie the game 20-20 with five minutes to go.
In overtime after each team had the ball, the Giants faced fourth and 7 from the Detroit 42. Coughlin decided to go for it with nothing to lose. Eli Manning hit Jernigan for 15 yards to set up Brown for a 45-yarder to win it. Brown’s third field goal was good as the Lions were eliminated from playoff contention, plcing Jim Schwartz seriously on the coaching hot seat. 23-20 Giants, OT
New England Patriots at Baltimore Ravens—Blount ran it in from one yard out and Tom Brady threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Shane Vereen as the Patriots jumped to a 14-0 first quarter lead. Stephen Gostkowski added a pair of field goals to make it 20-0 Patriots after three quarters. Baltimore eventually cracked the end zone, but the Patriots exploded for three touchdowns in the final 2:10. LeGarrette Blount ran it in again, the New England defense recovered a fumble in the end zone and returned an interception for a score.
New England finally clinched their division for the 12th time in 13 years and solidly avenged their AFC Title Game loss last year. Baltimore with the loss cannot win their division but will make the playoffs next week if they win at Cincinnati. 41-7 Ravens
Oakland Raiders at San Diego Chargers—Tied 10-10 at the half, the Raiders self-destructed under penalties and turnovers. Philip Rivers hit Keenan Allen for a four-yard touchdown and Nick Novak then added three of his four field goals as the Chargers led by 13 late. With 4 1/2 minutes left Matt McGloin went bombs away and the Raiders celebrated a 39-yard touchdown. Officials, however, ruled the ball incomplete. Rod Streater clearly hit the ground with two hands on the ball and had it ripped out of his hands after the play was over.
McGloin got Oakland to 4th and inches from the one with one minute remaining. A false start was followed by another easy pass to the end zone that was dropped as a justifiably angry McGloin walked to the sideline.
San Diego with the win got to 8-7 and remains alive for a playoff spot. They need help. The Raiders at 4-11 need a lot more help, and unless he is fired, Dennis Allen will continue inspiring nobody as the losses mount. 26-13 Chargers
Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers—This was a snow thriller that included a fake punt and a blocked field goal that became a touchdown for the offense. It ended when two Super Bowl winning Mikes in McCarthy and Tomlin both made very puzzling coaching decisions. Matt Flynn was intercepted by Cortez Allen, who returned it 40 yards for a score as the Steelers led 31-21 after three quarters. Green Bay tied the game, got the ball back, and at the two-minute warning faced third and eight at their own 10. Flynn took off running and was hit by Troy Polamalu. The resulting fumble was recovered by Bret Keisel and his beard at the Green Bay 17.
On fourth and three from the 10 with 1:35 to play, Suisham came in for the go-ahead field goal. Green Bay jumped offsides. This terrible blunder meant an automatic first and goal at the five. Pittsburgh got down to the one and McCarthy smartly was willing to let the Steelers score. Rather than bleed the clock and kick the field goal at the gun, Tomlin had Bell run it in to put the Steelers up 38-31.
Green Bay had no timeouts, but Hyde returned the ensuing kickoff 71 yards to the Pittsburgh 30 with 1:14 remaining. A couple completions got the ball to the five yard line with 45 seconds left, plenty of time. At this point McCarthy stunningly called a running play, which got the ball to the one. By the time the ball was snapped again, only 20 seconds remained. A false start was a killer. Since the clock was moving, Green Bay was penalized a 10 second runoff. It was second and goal, but rather than spike the ball immediately and have eight or nine seconds to work with, Flynn waited until three ticks were left to snap the ball. Flynn threw incomplete and Pittsburgh had the win. Pittsburgh is only 7-8 and Green Bay 7-7-1 and both of these teams are clinging to playoff life. 38-31 Steelers
Chicago Bears at Philadelphia Eagles was the Sunday night game. Both of these 8-6 teams came in knowing that they could be anywhere from division champs to out of the playoffs altogether over the next couple weeks. It was all Eagles from the start as Chip Kelly put pedal to metal. Nick Foles threw touchdown passes of five yards to Riley Cooper and 10 yards to Captain Morgan Brent Celek sandwiched around a LeSean McCoy one-yard touchdown run as the Eagles led 21-0 after the first quarter.
In the second half, Philadelphia blasted Chicago to pieces. McCoy and Polk had touchdown runs, Boykin returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown, and Brown took a handoff 65 yards for the final score. Despite the loss, Chicago leads Green Bay by half a game.
Those teams have a showdown next week in Chicago. The winner claims the NFC North crown and the loser is out of the playoffs. Despite the win, the Eagles are at archrival Dallas next week. The winner of that game wins the NFC East and the loser misses the playoffs. 54-11 Eagles
Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers was the Monday night game. The 49ers came into the final game ever at Candlestick Park needing only a win over pathetic Atlanta to clinch a playoff birth and maintain an outside shot at winning the NFC West and home field throughout the playoffs. Trailing 10-3 at halftime, the 49ers woke up in the second half.
Colin Kaepernick threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Anquon Boldin and ran for a four-yard score as the 49ers led 20-10 in the fourth quarter. After Atlanta got within a field goal, Frank Gore ran it in from one yard out with five minutes left to make it 27-17 49ers. The game appeared over. It was not. Matt Ryan threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez with 2:10 to play. A personal foul on the defense had the Falcons kicking off from midfield, and a perfectly executed onside kick gave the Falcons the ball at the Frisco 30.
Atlanta reached the ten yard line with plenty of time to pull off the upset of the year. With 90 seconds left, a routine short pass was bobbled, juggled, and ripped out of the receiver’s hands straight into the arms of 49ers defender Navarro Bowman. Bowman raced 90 yards the other way for an exclamation point on the season for both teams. 34-24 49ers
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