Pittsburgh Steelers over New England Patriots, 33-10
This was a very disheartening game for New England Patriots fans. New England did not, in any manner, resemble a playoff caliber team. It was a disjointed, mistake prone display of offense, and a completely pathetic, anemic, wimpy showing on defense.
Let’s start with the obvious. The Patriots lost the turnover battle by a ratio of 5-1, and the scores directly off turnovers 17-7. But turnovers cost teams more than any scores after a lost possession, they take away scoring opportunities and keep the defense on the field. The offense, other than Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk, didn’t seem to show up for the game. Moss and Gaffney dropped passes, the running game never did get going consistently, and Matt Light gave up two easy sacks to James Harrison who stripped the ball from Matt Cassel for two turnovers.
The defense was even more pathetic. Where was the tackling? The Steelers offense ran through our defense like they were foam filled tackling dummies. It was embarrassing to watch. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such a pathetic display of tackling. The defense tried to get by on anemic arm tackles instead of bone crunching hits. It wasn’t the defensive scheme that failed. It was a lack of execution and toughness.
At this point in the season there is nothing positive to take away from this game. The Patriots seem to be on a win one, lose one roll, and as a result are likely to roll right out of the playoffs. Last year our weak defense was masked the incredible offense, but this year they are exposed. The loss of Rodney Harrison and Adalius Thomas hurt the defense badly, but if the players on the field aren’t going to at least attempt to make solid tackles then why are then even out there? We don’t have a tough, intimidating, hard hitting presence on the field without Harrison. I always hoped Brandon Meriweather would turn into that guy, but he hasn’t. Our defense scares no one, except Patriots fans!
The only glimmer of hope in this game is that our offense can move the ball even against the best defense if we play up to our abilities and hold on to the ball. There were flashing of this. Moss dropped a long ball and a touchdown pass, Gaffney dropped passes, and if Matt Light hadn’t gotten beat so badly on those two Harrison sacks we might have made a game of it.
The road to the playoffs looks very sketchy. I can only hope we can win out and at least get a shot to defend our AFC Championship. But as one fellow Patriots fan said to me via e-mail, if we make it to the playoffs with this defense, we’ll be probably be one and done.
As for Pittsburgh? I’ve been saying all year they have the best, nastiest, toughest defense in the league and they proved it once again on Sunday. In fact, behind the Giants, I think they are the second best team in the league because of their defense. Their offense is mostly just along for the ride.
And one final thought. Poor Wes Welker got totally jacked up by Steeler safety Ryan Clark on one of the hardest hits I have seen this year. I hated seeing that and it pissed me off. I don’t want to see one of my guys get jacked up. Was it a dirty hit? The ball was tipped and uncatchable so I thought it called for a 15-yard penalty but it was not a dirty hit. This is football not patty-cake. Had Rodney Harrison lit up one of the Steelers receivers like that, especially Hines Ward, I would have been cheering, penalty or no penalty, and calling for him to do it again! Pittsburgh has what our defense lacks and needs, big hitters and an intimidation factor. The hit on Welker made me envious we don’t have that on our side of the ball.
MVP: James Harrison, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
New York Giants over Washington Redskins, 23-7
Lethargic. Apathetic. Uninterested. Stale. Those are the words I would use to describe the Washington Redskins the past few games. Like the Patriots, I don’t think it’s the offense scheme that’s at fault working, the players simply are not executing on the field. The pass blocking is porous, the receivers, other than Santana Moss, are terrible, and Jason Campbell is sketchy at times. The Redskins defense has played reasonable well this year, but since they stacked up to stop the run the supposedly top notch defensive backfield got chewed up by Eli Manning and the Giants receivers, particularly Domenik Hixon. The Redskins certainly do not look like a playoff caliber team and seem to lack any fire or emotion. This is particularly surprising since the late Sean Taylor, the great safety who was murdered last year by thieves, was placed in the Redskins Ring of Honor before the game.
The Giants just keep rolling along. Want to stop our league leading running game? Fine, we will just pass the ball instead. At 11-1 they are the best team in the NFL.
One more thought: PLAXICO BURRESS IS AN IDIOT!!!!!
MVP: Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
Minnesota Vikings over Chicago Bears, 34-14
The Minnesota Vikings have played in some of the most wildly entertaining games all year long. They had a crazy, topsy-turvy shootout with New Orleans, a close game they gave away to the Indianapolis Colts, another close and entertaining game they tried to give away to the Green Bay Packers but Adrian Peterson’s heroics saved them, and now another wild game with the Bears.
This series of plays encapsulates the game. Minnesota is down 7-3 and backed up against their goal line and goes three and out giving Chicago good field position after a punt. They stop the Bears on third down but get a close but legitimate unnecessary roughness penalty giving the Bears a first down in great field position. Matt Forte breaks off a 26 yard run and is just pushed out at the one yard line. First and goal at the one yard line. The Bears seem to be dominating the game and are about to go up 14-3.
But not so fast! Minnesota has a great goal line stand with Jared Allen getting one of the tackles. The Bears go for it on fourth down and don’t make it. Oh well, the Vikings are backed up to their one yard line anyway. Then Gus Frerotte
unleashes a beautiful long pass to a wide open Bernard Berrian for an NFL record tying 99 yard touchdown pass and a 10-7 lead. The game was pretty much the Vikings from there on out.
The Vikings had a lot of guts trying a long pass in the end zone so they were clearly playing the game to win and weren’t playing scared. And the Vikings defense had a phenomenal day, especially defensive end Jarred Allen who was instrumental on the goal line stand, was in the backfield most of they day, and had three sacks. They might not be the best team headed into the playoffs but they certainly are an entertaining one.
MVP: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings
Houston Texans over Jacksonville Jaguars, 30-17
The interesting thing about this game was that one of the best wide receivers in the league, the Texans Andre Johnson, and their promising rookie running back, Steve Slaton, got to show off their talent to a national audience. And they took full advantage of it. Jacksonville was never in the game. The Texans should have a better record than 5-7 but they lost their starting quarterback Matt Schaub and gave some games away with turnovers.
Jacksonville has completely imploded this season. Fred Taylor, the 11-year veteran running back who has played for the team his entire career, says this is the worst team he has ever played on. Granted they had devastating injuries all across the offensive line, but it looks like a team that has given up. I wonder if head coach Jack Del Rio will be back next year?
MVP: Andre Johnson, WR, Houston Texans
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive Player: Mark Clayton, WR, Baltimore Ravens, 5 catches, 164 yards, 1 td, 1 td passing
Defensive Player: Jared Allen, DE, Minnesota Vikings
Offensive Lineman: Chris Snee, G, New York Giants
Special Teams: Rob Bironas, K, Tennessee Titans
Rookie of the Week: Steve Slaton, RB, Houston Texans, over 180 total yards