by Tuesday Morning Tailback
Just when we marveled about how good football was last week, the football played on December 8th was the most entertaining in memory.
Many of these games were played in a heavy snow and followed similar patterns of careful, low-scoring play early and wild, high-scoring play late. Of all these snow games, only the Kansas City v. Washington game was not close, as the Chiefs won 45-10. But, this was still somewhat fascinating, just to marvel at the opposite trajectory of these two teams.
The best of these was just up the road in Baltimore, where an incredible deluge of big plays took place over the course of 121 seconds of playing time. In that short time, 36 points were scored, spinning a 12-7 snoozer into one of the most exciting finishes in NFL history with the Ravens and Vikings each taking several turns scoring and thinking they had just won the game. It would not be settled until Marlon Brown made an incredible catch in the back of the end zone with 4 seconds left to give the Ravens a 9-6 victory and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Not far away in Pittsburgh, was another back and forth snow game featuring exciting plays throughout. None more than the last second, 80-yard, multi-lateral play where Steelers’ returner Antonio Brown barely stepped out of bounds by about an inch on the 12 yard line, on what otherwise what have been a miraculous, game-winning play. Instead, the Miami Dolphins held on to win 34-28. Across the state in Philadelphia, the most severe blizzard occurred. The Detroit Lions dominated, bringing a 14-0 deep into the third quarter. But then, “Shady” McCoy and the Eagles woke up and went on a tear that brought them a 34-20 victory in this battle of first place teams. The weather was so bad that nobody even attempted an extra point save one by Lions’ kicker David Akers, which was blocked in the third quarter. The Lions also had 7 fumbles, which certainly contributed to the loss. But it was McCoy who really shined, breaking Steve Van Buren’s 64-year-old franchise rushing record, which was set in 1949, coincidentally the same year the Eagles beat the Cardinals in an NFL Championship Game in Philadelphia played in a blizzard.
In Foxboro, MA, the game was actually a little north of all the snow, but still made for a memorable afternoon. The underdog Cleveland Browns dominated the Patriots for 58 and a half minutes, and took a 26-14 lead when Jason Campbell hit Jordan Cameron with under two minutes remaining. Tom Brady quickly led the Patriots on long TD drive in short time, hitting Edelman for a score with 1:01 remaining. Then a perfectly executed onside kick was recovered, followed quickly by a very questionable pass interference foul which gave the Patriots the ball on Cleveland’s 1 yard line, so they could score with 31 seconds left and take a 27-26 lead. The Browns did get ball to Patriots 40 with 1 second left, setting up Billy Cundiff with a chance to redeem himself for sins past, but his 58-yard field goal attempt fell just short, preserving the victory for the NFL’s darlings.
Even if Cundiff would have hit that FG, it wouldn’t have been the longest on the day as Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos hit the longest field goal in NFL history. The 64 yarder at the end of the first half, broke a record which had stood for 43 years when Tom Dempsey hit the first of several 63 yard field goals. Oh by the way, Peyton Manning threw four more touchdowns, threw for just shy of 400 yards and set a team record of 39 completions in the Broncos 52-28 rout, proving he actually can play in cold (it was 18 degrees at kickoff).
Beyond all the incredible football above were a bunch of plain old solid, late season matchups. The Bengals defeated the Colts in another matchup of first place teams. In a battle of second place teams, the Bears crushed the Cowboys in a bitter cold Soldier Field. For the second straight week, the New Orleans Saints were involved in huge matchup which ended in a rout, this time in their favor, 31-13 over division rival Carolina. The game featured two 9-3 teams coming in and saw the Saints bounce back after getting trounced in Seattle last Monday. Finally, Seattle had their own divisional showdown, traveling to San Francisco, where the 49ers proved their not yet dead by coming back to win late in the fourth quarter and keep their NFC West hopes alive.
What are the chances we’ll get the trifecta with a third straight week of excellent football? I t is hard to tell. Coming up this week are some desperation matches, where the losers may be done, including Green Bay at Dallas on Sunday and Baltimore at Detroit on Monday. Stay tuned.
Tuesday Morning Tailback is a weekly article during football season which take a critical look at the NFL. We do this from the base belief that NFL football is the greatest game in the history of mankind, but some recent policies and the overall direction of the league has chipped away at this greatness. Our primary goal is to spark debate on these subjects, so please leave your own opinion on this article in the comment box below.