NFL Recap: Week 13
By: Nicholas Rose
Even with Week 13 in the books and the playoffs right around the corner, we still have no idea who will make it to the postseason, especially in the AFC. There are eight teams in the conference who are legitimate wild card contenders, six of which share a 7-5 record. In the NFC, divisional races are really heating up, as each division leader is only a game or less ahead of their closest competitor. So, needless to say, Week 13 offered a huge slate of games with playoff implications.
This week began with the Lions annual Thanksgiving Day home game. In this year’s edition, they squared off against their divisional foes, the Chicago Bears. Detroit entered the contest one game behind Green Bay in the division, so they needed a win to keep pace in the NFC North. Although the Lions found themselves trailing 14-3 after two first quarter hookups between Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery, they took control of the game in the second quarter and never looked back. Matthew Stafford looked great all afternoon, completing 76% of his passes for 390 yards and two touchdowns. Both of those touchdown passes went to Calvin Johnson, whose 146 receiving yards made him the fastest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 career receiving yards. Detroit’s defense also played well, sacking Cutler three times and picking him off twice to ensure the 34-17 victory.
Next up was the Cowboys-Eagles game. Unfortunately for Dallas, their traditional game was a disaster from the start. Mark Sanchez marched the Eagles down field on the game’s opening drive and capped it off with a two yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper. This set the tone of the game early, as Philadelphia ran the ball all over the Dallas defense. LeSean McCoy finished with 159 yards and a touchdown, and the Eagles ran for a whopping 256 rushing yards as a team. Tony Romo threw for a paltry 199 yards and two interceptions in what was arguably his worst game of the season. The Eagles asserted their dominance in the 33-10 win, which moved them into sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
Thursday’s final game was another divisional matchup, as the Seahawks traveled to San Francisco to battle the 49ers. This game was all Seattle. The Seahawks defense, led by Richard Sherman and his two interceptions, held the 49ers to a measly 164 total yards. The 19-3 win also marked the Seahawks first win in San Francisco since 2008.
Sunday brought us more playoff-relevant games. At 5-6, the Texans desperately needed a win to not fall too far behind in the congested AFC wild card race. Hosting the Titans, they needed to play great, and they did just that. In his first action since Week 9, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick delivered a near perfect game, throwing for 358 yards and six touchdowns. Budding star DeAndre Hopkins also had a career day, hauling in 9 catches for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Houston routed Tennessee by a score of 45-21, and as if things couldn’t get any worse for Tennessee, rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger suffered a shoulder injury and is questionable for next week.
Elsewhere in the AFC, the Colts added another win to their record by defeating Washington, 49-27. Andrew Luck played like an MVP candidate yet again, throwing for 370 yards and five touchdowns. Additionally, Indianapolis may have found an answer in their lack-luster running game. Daniel Herron rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown on an impressive 11 yards per carry. As for Washington, Colt McCoy delivered the best quarterback performance the team has seen all season, gaining 392 yards through the air and tossing three touchdowns.
In the AFC’s tightest divisional race, the AFC North, three of the four teams who are battling for the crown suffered defeat. Cleveland fell to Buffalo on the road by a score of 26-10. The Bills didn’t play all that great, but the Browns shot themselves in the foot by giving up three costly turnovers. Johnny Manziel came into the game in relief of the struggling Brian Hoyer, and scored his first career touchdown on a 10 yard scamper in a too little, too late effort. The Steelers lost 35-32 at home against the Saints, but the final score makes the game appear closer than it really was. Pittsburgh looked great early on. They had a 6-0 lead and their defense was shutting down Drew Brees through the first quarter and a half. However, the Steelers secondary had a meltdown for the remainder of the game. Brees threw for five touchdowns from that point on, and Kenny Stills posted a career high 162 yards by repeatedly burning Pittsburgh’s Ike Taylor in his first game since Week 3. The Ravens lost to the Chargers in what was probably Week 13’s most exciting game. After Baltimore jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, the two teams traded scores with each other until late in the fourth quarter. Following a 31 yard field goal by Justin Tucker, the Ravens led 33-27 and kicked off to San Diego with 2:22 remaining in the game. Philip Rivers then drove the Chargers 80 yards down field and won them the game by throwing a one yard touchdown strike to Eddie Royal with 38 seconds remaining.
With all of their counterparts losing, the division-leading Bengals cashed in with a win over the Buccaneers. Cincinnati was nursing a 14-13 lead late in the fourth quarter as Tampa Bay was marching down the field for a potential game-winning score. Just after Josh McCown connected with Louis Murphy for a 21 yard gain to the Cincinnati 20 yard line, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis threw his challenge flag to protest that Tampa Bay had 12 men on the field. Since challenges aren’t allowed in the final two minutes, the Bengals were charged a time-out. However, the referees then reviewed the play on their own and determined that the Buccaneers were guilty of the infraction. So, the play was erased and the Bengals held on to win, rendering the loss of the time-out irrelevant.
In one of the day’s only games without playoff implications, the Raiders went on the road to face the Rams. St. Louis dismantled the league’s worst team in what appeared to be Tre Mason’s breakout game. He rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns and added another 47 yards and a score through the air. The Rams defense was outstanding as well. The unit forced five turnovers, piled up six sacks, and shut out Oakland in the 52-0 win.
The marquee game of the day featured the Patriots against the Packers, arguably the best team in each conference. The Packers took control early with a 13-0 first quarter lead, and although the Patriots came back to make the game competitive, Green Bay never relinquished the lead and wound up winning 26-21. Aaron Rodgers out-dueled Tom Brady by throwing for 368 yards compared to Brady’s 245. Each threw for two touchdowns as well.
In the other 4:25 game, the Cardinals suffered their second straight loss, as their struggles without Carson Palmer continue. The Falcons took down the NFC West leaders in a 29-18 game. Rashad Johnson had an 88 yard interception return for the Cardinals, but their offense only put up 11 points against Atlanta’s last-ranked total defense. Their offense will have to improve to fend off the surging Seahawks.
On Sunday night, the Broncos beat the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium to extend their division lead to two games. On a night where Peyton Manning only completed 50% of his passes, C.J. Anderson had a monster game, rushing for 168 yards. The Denver defense stepped up as well, sacking Alex Smith six times and holding Jamaal Charles to 35 rushing yards.
Finally, the Monday night game provided an unexpected close finish. The Dolphins were projected to run away with this one, but the Jets scored first on a 20 yard end around by Greg Salas. The Jets defense kept the Dolphins at bay until the fourth quarter, which they entered with a 13-6 lead. However, Miami then tied the game with a Lamar Miller 4 yard touchdown run, and eventually won on a 26 yard Caleb Sturgis field goal with 1:57 left.
Other scores: Jaguars 25, Giants 24; Vikings 31, Panthers 13