Gary Kubiak's Texans remain undefeated this season
Although we had our share of great finishes and intriguing results throughout the early stages of the season, we were looking at the first really important week of NFL 2012.
That’s because of the 15 contests scheduled this week, eight were of the divisional kind. And if you have serious plans of reaching the playoffs or perhaps securing a first-place finish, holding serve at home against your three biggest rivals is usually very important.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals, Falcons and Texans were all looking to stay unbeaten, while the Saints and Browns were hoping for their first victories of the season.
As it turned, all five clubs remained “perfect.”
So here we are with this week’s grades. Once again, keep in mind that they are based on a number of factors, not just numbers. And as a public service reminder, they are grades for this week’s performance, not the season to date.
Spoiler alert; we’ve given out the first F of the semester.
Any guesses? I’ll give you an H-I-N-T. Hint, hint, hint…
Two weeks ago, Ken Whisenhunt’s team stunned the football world by beating the Patriots, 20-18, in Foxborough.
Two weeks later, the unbeaten Cardinals were on the verge of an upset loss before one of their most scrutinized players came through once again.
Quarterback Kevin Kolb threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Andre Roberts with 22 seconds to play, placekicker Jay Feeley’s PAT basically sent the game into overtime and later, his 46-yard field goal in the extra session kept Arizona undefeated, 24-21.
A look at the final numbers and you’d have a tough time believing the victory was in the Cards. Whisenhunt’s team was outgained 480-297 in total yards, were held to 28 yards rushing and Kolb was sacked eight times.
Not a thing of beauty, but the bottom line is that this team won in overtime (for the fifth time in their last 13 games) when they didn’t play their best. And there’s plenty to be said for that.
BREAKING NEWS: The Atlanta Falcons trailed in a game for the first time this season.
WEEKEND UPDATE: For the fourth time in as many games in 2012, the Atlanta Falcons did not trail at the end of the game.
Off to their best start since 2004, Mike Smith’s team needed “Matty Ice” at his late-game best to preserve the team’s perfect record.
Down by a point and with the ball on their own 1-yard line with 59 seconds to play, the Falcons’ signal-caller drove his club into field-goal range (ironically, the big play a 59-yard completion to Roddy White) and placekicker Matt Bryant’s 40-yard boot with 5 seconds to play gave Atlanta a 30-28 win.
Incredibly, Atlanta’s four wins are double the total of their NFC South rivals as the Panthers, Buccaneers and Saints are now a combined 2-10.
Still, if you are looking for a red flag (and not the challenge variety), one thing that bears watching are the problems the Falcons have had against the run. Mike Nolan’s unit is allowing 146.3 yards per game on the ground so far this season, 199 of that coming in the win over the Panthers.
Chalk up another win over the Browns, even though this 23-16 victory had its moments for John Harbaugh’s team.
The fifth-year head coach remained perfect against this division rival (9-0) despite some anxious moments as the Ravens couldn’t put away Pat Shurmur’s club.
Joe Flacco threw for 356 yards and a score, but was picked off once and sacked four times. Meanwhile, rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden lit up the Baltimore defense for 320 yards through the air, although Harbaugh’s big-play defense did return his one interception (by Cary Williams) into a 63-yard touchdown.
Still, it was a solid win for a team playing its fourth game in 18 days and proof that the team didn’t have to be at the top of its game to get a victory, always a good sign during this long NFL season.
Maybe the Bills can petition the league for deportation out of the AFC East.
Chan Gailey’s team appeared on track after that 48-28 Week 1 loss to the Jets as the Bills handled the Chiefs and Browns en route to this showdown with the division nemesis. And after a few early miscues, Buffalo owned a 21-7 lead on the defending AFC champions.
But the Patriots would go on a Boston Celtics-like run, outscoring Gailey’s team a combined 45-7 the rest of the way for a rousing 52-28 win.
So where is that defense we have been waiting for? Against the Pats, Dave Wannstedt’s unit gave up 580 total yards, including 245 on the ground. The visiting Patriots had a pair of 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard pass-catchers as Tom Brady threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns by game’s end.
For the record, the Bills are now 0-2 vs. their AFC East rivals this season by a combined 100-56 score. And in those games, Buffalo managed a total of one sack.
Somebody needs to circle something…quickly.
Cue up Katy Perry when summing up what became the Panthers fifth straight loss to the Falcons.
“The One That Got Away”
With plenty of rest and that 36-7 Thursday night debacle of a loss to the Giants behind them, the Panthers did finally manage to keep Atlanta to less than 31 points (the exact total scored by the Falcons in their previous four meetings).
Of course, allowing 30 points wasn’t enough to get the job done. And it was the way their NFC South rival surrendered the last three that was the most disturbing.
Protecting a 28-27 lead, a Brad Nortman punt pinned the Falcons back on their own 1-yard line with 59 seconds to play. And that’s exactly how many yards Matt Ryan gained on his downfield throw to Roddy White, who made a leaping grab and put the ball at the Panthers’ 40.
A few plays later, Matt Bryant kicked a 40-yard field goal with five seconds to play and a sack of Cam Newton (who threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 86 yards and a score) dropped the Panthers to 1-3.
Alas, what could have been?
Did you hear the one about the Bear and the seven sacks and the four interceptions?
Boy, does that primetime debacle seem like ages ago as Lovie Smith’s team proved that they were ready for some football on Monday night in Dallas.
The Chicago defense picked off Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo five times and cornerback Charles Tillman (25) and linebacker Lance Briggs (74) returned those interceptions for scores as the Bears rolled to an impressive 34-18 win.
And we haven’t even gotten to the play of quarterback Jay Cutler, who played pitch-and-catch with old pal Brandon Marshall often, throwing him eight passes and connecting on seven for 138 yards and a touchdown. While Cutler did commit a turnover when he was sacked and stripped by Dallas’ DeMarcus Ware, he looked comfortable in the pocket, throwing for 275 yards and a pair of scores without an interception.
But more on the Bears’ defense, which limited Dallas to just 41 yards rushing, almost one-third of that on a run by Cowboys’ running back Felix Jones (13 yards). And Chicago’s special teams were solid as well.
It was a complete effort by Smith’s team, who have obviously put one bad night at Lambeau Field behind them in a hurry.
We got a little bit of everything from Andy Dalton as the Bengals played a very complete game in their 27-10 win at Jacksonville, which enabled them to keep pace with the 3-1 Ravens in the highly-competitive AFC North.
The second-year quarterback threw for 244 yards and a pair of scores, with one interception, plus added a rushing touchdown as Cincinnati rolled up 382 yards on the Jaguars’ defense. That included 138 yards on the ground and zero sacks allowed by the Bengals’ front.
Meanwhile, Mike Zimmer’s defense shackled Maurice Jones-Drew, holding the 2011 NFL rushing champion to 38 yards on the ground while sacking Blaine Gabbert six times, including a pair by defensive tackle Geno Atkins.
But the bottom line is that Marvin Lewis’ team won its third consecutive game this season, including two straight on the road, and continued to put that disappointing opening Monday-night loss at Baltimore in the rear-view mirror.
One more note. A week after fumbling for the first time in his NFL career, Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis fumbled twice (losing one). We’ll be watching the former Patriots back very closely the remainder of the season.
Another week and unfortunately, it was another close-but-no-cigar result for Pat Shurmur’s team.
Following a tough 23-16 Thursday-night loss to the Ravens in Baltimore, the team’s 12th consecutive setback to an AFC North rival, the Browns remained the lone winless team in the conference.
There were some positives as rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden threw for 320 yards. But he completed less than 50 percent of his passes (25-of-52) and threw a costly interception that was returned for a touchdown by Baltimore’s Cary Williams.
But just as was the case in the 34-27 loss at Cincinnati two weeks ago, it was too little and too late for Shurmur’s club.
Still, with Weeden making some progress, rookie runner Trent Richardson opening some eyes and the defense showing signs of a pass rush (via four sacks of Joe Flacco), this team may not be too far away from their first win of 2012.
Unless you’re a fan of punting, there wasn’t much to cheer about in Big D on Monday night if you’re a Cowboys’ fan.
Jason Garrett’s team laid a 34-18 primetime egg against the opportunistic Bears as Chicago kept on taking advantage of every errant pass by Tony Romo, who threw for 307 yards and one score but served up five interceptions, two returned for scores and four of the five miscues in the second half.
What made the Cowboys’ signal-caller’s performance so surprising was his play leading into this game. In his previous 14 contests dating back to last season, Romo had thrown 27 touchdowns passes and been picked off only seven times.
Meanwhile, the Dallas’ defense deserves its share of the blame, allowing Jay Cutler to complete 75 percent of his passes (18-of-24) for 275 yards and a pair of scores, with basically half of those yards (138) to wideout Brandon Marshall, who caught seven passes, one for a score. The Cowboys’ pass rush sacked the Bears’ quarterback twice and while one resulted in a fumble, Romo threw the ball to linebacker Lance Briggs, who returned the pick 74 yards for a touchdown.
On the plus side, new Dallas’ punter did put two of his three kicks inside the 20. But all of that happened before halftime, and it was all downhill from there for Romo and company.
It looked like a lot of hard work was going to go for naught after 30 minutes of play by the Broncos in the first of their annual tilts with the Silver and Black.
John Fox’s team outgained their guests, 264-163, in total yards in the first half but owned only a 10-6 lead at intermission.
But while the Denver defense shut out the Raiders in the second half, Peyton Manning and Co. would nearly equal that yardage output in the second half. And when it was all said and done, it added up to a methodical 37-6 win over their AFC West rivals.
The balanced Broncos held the ball for 37:25 and their defense was especially efficient, holding Darren McFadden to 34 yards rushing and thwarting Oakland, who was 1-of-12 on third down, when it counted most.
Most importantly, it was a comfortable win for Fox’s team after back-to-back rallies against the Falcons and Texans fell short.
We got trouble…right here in Motor City (apologies to “The Music Man”)
Jim Schwartz’s team struggled in Week 1 but rallied to beat the Rams. But it’s been all downhill ever since, mostly due to unprecedented kick coverage that proved costly for the second straight week.
In the 20-13 home loss to the Vikings, Detroit’s special teams allowed a 105-yard kickoff return (to Percy Harvin on the opening play) and a 77-yard punt return to Marcus Sherels, both for touchdowns.
This was just one week after the Titans scored on a 65-yard punt return and a 105-yard kickoff return in Detroit’s overtime loss at Nashville.
The good news was that the Detroit defense did keep the Minnesota offense out of the end zone. The bad news was that the Vikings nearly returned the favor, as the Lions’ lone touchdown came with just under three minutes to play and Matthew Stafford was sacked five times as Schwartz’s team lost for the third straight week.
Aaron Rodgers stayed upright and kept on firing, and Mike McCarthy’s team needed every bit of it after going winless in Seattle on Monday night.
The reigning MVP completed 31-of-41 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns (one interception) and wasn’t sacked in Green Bay’s 28-27 win over the Saints.
The Packers’ offense also got a solid effort from running back Cedric Benson, who ran for 84 yards on 18 carries and caught four passes for 22 yards. Also, veteran wideout James Jones was on the receiving end of two of Rodgers’ four scoring passes.
Still, the Green Bay defense survived one of those monster outings from Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees, who threw for 446 yards and three scores on the afternoon.
And McCarthy’s team also survived several questionable calls (or non-calls) by the officiating crew, which we’re sure will be a topic of discussion.
All good things must come to an end.
Well, not all good things.
Alas, the Houston Texans finally gave up a touchdown in the first half this season. In fact, they also gave up one in the final minute of the game.
But in between, Gary Kubiak’s team was busy scoring on both offense and defense, and a 38-14 win over the visiting Titans kept Houston unbeaten.
Despite the fact that the Texans only totaled 297 yards of offense, Matt Schaub completed 20-of-28 passes for 202 yards and two scores without being sacked.
Arian Foster ran for 86 yards and a score, while Wade Phillips’ defensive unit returned a pair of interceptions for touchdowns at the expense of veteran Matt Hasselbeck, who replaced an injured Jake Locker late in the first quarter.
The AFC’s lone unbeaten team is a long way from accomplishing anything at the moment, but they have the look of a club destined for some big things in 2012.
One step forward and a couple of steps back.
Following their first win of the season, a thrilling come-from-behind victory at Indianapolis, Mike Mularkey’s team returned home looking to even their record as they hosted the Bengals.
The Jaguars were gracious hosts, to say the least.
Jacksonville’s offense managed a mere 212 total yards and quarterback Blaine Gabbert was sacked six times in the 27-10 loss. Mularkey’s attack managed only one play of 20 or more yards, a 23-yard Gabbert-to-Marcedes Lewis pass on the drive that resulted in the Jaguars’ lone touchdown of the game.
Meanwhile, it was another shaky outing for Mel Tucker’s defensive unit, which allowed 138 yards rushing and didn’t record a sack of Andy Dalton. The Cincinnati quarterback threw for 244 yards and a pair of scores.
And even when things went right, they went wrong. Linebacker Kyle Bosworth picked off Dalton on the latter’s first pass attempt of the game, only to fumble the ball away on the return.
Romeo Crennel’s team was torched in their first two games, giving up a combined 75 points in losses to the Falcons and Bills.
Last week, Kansas City appeared to have righted the ship as they rallied from an 18-point deficit to stun the Saints at the Superdome.
Welcome to the S.S. Poseidon.
Before you could say “pass me the barbecue sauce,” the Chiefs found themselves down 17-0 less than 10 minutes into the game.
And while they played the visiting Chargers to a standstill for the remainder of the contest, the damage had been done in what proved to be a 37-20 loss, the third time in four games Crennel’s team allowed at least 35 points.
Of course, much of the damage was self-inflicted as quarterback Matt Cassel served up three more interceptions and running back Jamaal Charles, he of the 233 rushing yards last week at New Orleans, lost a pair of fumbles. On the afternoon, Kansas City coughed up the ball six times.
It is worth noting that the Chiefs’ defense only gave up 293 total yards, picked off Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers once and sacked him three times. But you’re usually not winning a game when you hand the ball to the opposition a half-dozen times.
Apparently, it’s back to the drawing board.
Give Joe Philbin and the Dolphins their due. Obviously, they love playing football.
So much so that for the second consecutive week, Miami found itself playing a few extra minutes.
But two weeks and two overtime losses have now dropped Philbin’s team into last place in the AFC East.
The Dolphins’ defense did their job, for the most part. They limited the Cardinals to 28 yards rushing and sacked Kevin Kolb eight times. But they also allowed Arizona to tie the game with 22 seconds remaining on a Kolb-to-Andre Roberts 15-yard touchdown connection.
Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to stand out, although he had his ups and downs vs. Arizona. The former Aggie threw for 431 yards and a score, but he also committed three turnovers and was sacked four times.
And wideout Brian Hartline set a franchise record with 253 receiving yards (on 12 catches).
But despite a game effort in the desert, Miami’s upset chances eventually proved to be a mirage.
Leslie Frazier’s 2-1 team ventured into the Motor City not only in position to equal last season’s win total in four games but looking to snap the franchise’s 11-game losing streak vs. divisional rivals.
Mission accomplished on both fronts.
Thanks to a pair of special-teams touchdowns (via Percy Harvin and Marcus Sherels) and a defense that corralled the Lions for most of the afternoon, the Purple Gang snapped its long losing streak to NFC North rivals and also won their third game in four weeks, quite a turnaround for a team that was 3-13 in 2011, tying a franchise record for losses in a season.
Once again, the running game took center stage as Adrian Peterson totaled 102 yards on 21 carries. Christian Ponder threw for only 111 yards but was sacked just twice and Frazier’s team didn’t commit a turnover.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota pass rush dumped Matthew Stafford five times and kept Detroit out of the end zone until there were less than three minutes remaining in the game.
After back-to-back wins over a pair of 2011 playoff teams in the 49ers and Lions, these Vikings may warrant a little more attention.
Apparently, the Patriots are starting to enjoy spotting the Bills a lead before breaking their hearts.
When it was all said and done, Bill Belichick’s team turned a 21-7 deficit into a rousing 52-28 victory and continued their dominance of this series, beating the Bills for the 22nd time in the teams’ last 24 meetings.
It certainly looked like New England was on the verge of a third straight loss for the first time since losing four in a row in 2002. A pair of early interceptions by Bills’ quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald amounted to zero points for Belichick’s team and Stephen Gostkowski missed on his first two field-goal attempts.
But who would have guessed that the Pats would score 45 second-half points and by game’s end both Brandon Bolden (137) and Stevan Ridley (106) would rush for 100-plus yards and Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski would each total a C-note receiving. The quartet combined to score four touchdowns.
All told, New England rolled up 580 yards of total offense and Tom Brady would throw for 340 yards and three scores while being sacked just once.
And while Fitzpatrick did throw for 350 yards and four scores, he also served up four interceptions.
It added up to a satisfying win for the Patriots, who did what they usually do when their backs are against the wall.
In the previous three meetings with the Packers that date back to 2006, the two recent Super Bowl champions have combined for 61, 80 and 76 points. So a combined 55-point performance by these two teams was about par for the course.
Unfortunately, so was another Saints’ loss as they remained one of two winless teams in the league and have now dropped more games than they did a year ago when Sean Payton’s 13-3 club won the NFC South.
Once again, the defense was the issue. Steve Spagnuolo’s unit did a respectable job against the run, holding the Packers to 102 yards, but never got to Aaron Rodgers (save for an inadvertent poke in the eye). The reigning NFL MVP threw for 319 yards and four touchdowns and was not sacked.
Still, the team had their chance at the end to steal a victory. But Garrett Hartley’s 48-yard field goal attempt with less than three minutes to play was the last time the Saints saw the football.
On a side note, congratulations to Drew Brees, who tied one of the longest standing records in NFL history by throwing a touchdown pass in his 47th consecutive game.
Few teams looked better than the Giants this season on that Thursday night at Carolina, when they made it look easy via a 36-7 win featuring big performances from reserve running back Andre Brown and wideout Ramses Barden.
But Tom Coughlin’s team couldn’t carry that momentum over to their next prime-time affair. And when the smoke cleared, the defending champions found themselves on the short end of a 19-17 score.
There’s hardly a reason to panic, but there may be a little cause for concern.
But not when it comes to Eli Manning, who threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns without being sacked, although his end-zone interception on the first play of the fourth quarter was a drive killer, to say the least.
The worries are in regards to the New York defense, which allowed 422 total yards, including 191 on the ground. And if the Giants don’t fix that soon, they will wind up with far too much time in the offseason to address it.
The Green and White may be switching their team colors to Black and Blue after a visit from the 49ers.
The 49ers rushed for 245 yards on 44 attempts and would more than double the Jets in total yardage (379-145). Sanchez hit on just 13-of-29 passes for 103 yards, was sacked three times and was responsible for three of New York’s five turnovers.
The Jets also had a punt blocked, while a catch and fumble by Santonio Holmes was picked up and returned 51 yards for a score.
And of all teams, the defense barely laid a hand on backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who rushed for 50 yards on five carries, including a 7-yard touchdown in the second quarter that was quite Tebow-esque.
You can bet any number of people will be screaming for a quarterback change. That doesn’t appear that it’s going to happen. But don’t be surprised if Ryan and Co. do some tweaking from top to bottom.
Off their first victory of the season, a surprise of the Steelers in Oakland, you would have that that the Silver and Black stood a decent chance of making it five straight wins in the Mile High City.
Not a chance.
A 10-6 halftime deficit turned into a 37-6 setback as the Broncos’ offense rolled up 503 total yards. Dennis Allen (Denver’s defensive coordinator a season ago) saw his team allow 165 yards on the ground while Peyton Manning threw for 338 yards and three scores and wasn’t sacked.
After totaling 34 points in last week’s victory over Pittsburgh, the Oakland offense failed to reach the end zone. Darren McFadden was limited to 34 yards on the ground and while quarterback Carson Palmer didn’t throw an interception, he was sacked three times.
The Raiders find themselves at 1-3 and with two losses in the division already. For those looking for last week’s win to be a springboard for bigger and better things, keep those thoughts on hold.
Andy Reid’s team is beginning to make the nail-biting win an art form.
For the third time in four games, the Birds put the squeak into squeaker, holding on for a 19-17 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Giants.
And it was a game you wouldn’t associate with this year’s Eagles. First, they did not commit a turnover after coughing up the ball 12 times in their first three games this season. Quarterback Michael Vick was sacked only twice and both came in the fourth quarter. And the Eagles’ potent pass rush was held without a sack for the evening.
But the most impressive aspect of the win came via the ground attack. Philadelphia finished with 191 yards rushing on 36 carries, with 172 yards coming in the second half on 24 attempts. LeSean McCoy finished with 123 yards on the ground after a slow start and his ability to turn the corner on the Giants’ defense proved to be huge.
Yes, it took a missed field goal at the end to preserve the Eagles’ win. But give credit to Reid and Co. on their shift to the ground attack, which proved to be huge when it was all said and done.
My guess is that both St. Louis kickers got a game ball or two after the club’s 19-13 win over the Seahawks.
That’s because they basically accounted for all of the points in the Rams’ six-point victory.
Rookie placekicker Greg Zuerlein, the sixth-round pick from Missouri Western who did all the scoring in last week’s 23-6 loss at Chicago, was far more impressive this week, connecting on field goals of 58, 48, 60 and 24 yards.
And just when you thought all he could do was kick, he made a pretty good decoy as rookie punter John Hekker fired a 2-yard touchdown pass to Danny Amendola off a fake field goal in the second quarter, giving the Rams a 10-7 lead they would not relinquish.
The good news for the Rams’ defense was that they picked off Russell Wilson three times. The bad news was allowing 179 yards rushing to Marshawn Lynch and Co.
The win enabled the team to equal last season's victory total of two. But it’s also two straight games that the St. Louis offense failed to score a touchdown.
The previous two seasons, the Chargers have fallen short of the playoffs.
Coincidentally, the Bolts also came up short at in their last two visits to Arrowhead Stadium.
Norv Turner and Co. took care of Part 2 on Sunday. Now they have to see if it makes a difference when it comes to Part 1.
Taking advantage of what proved to be six Chiefs’ turnovers by game’s end, San Diego opened up a 20-0 second-quarter lead and cruised to a 37-20 win over their division rival.
While San Diego totaled only 293 yards of offense, it was more than enough to thwart the Chiefs as Matt Cassel was picked off three times, one of those returned 21 yards for a score by linebacker Donald Butler.
More importantly, it was an impressive effort following last week’s 27-3 humbling home loss to the Falcons.
If you had to use one word to describe the Niners’ 34-0 win over the Jets, it may be thorough.
Jim Harbaugh’s team was back to playing turnover-free football while San Francisco watched their hosts cough it up four times by game’s end. One of those was a catch and fumble by Jets’ wideout Santonio Holmes, with cornerback Carlos Rogers scooping up the ball and returning it 51 yards for a touchdown.
All told, the 49ers out-gained the Jets in the first half a combined 210-83 and held New York to a mere 62 total yards in the final 30 minutes.
And last but not least, Harbaugh’s ground game rolled up 245 yards on 44 carries, 50 of those and a touchdown on five carries by backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Meanwhile, the Niners’ defense shackled Kaepernick’s counterpart in Tim Tebow, who gained zero yards rushing on two carries.
Seattle’s defense opened plenty of eyes in recent week, playing a big part in consecutive wins over the Cowboys and Packers in holding those teams to a combined 19 points.
In fact, Pete Carroll’s team entered Week 4 having allowed an NFL-low 39 points in three games. And the Rams’ struggling offense didn’t figure to put up much of a fight.
In essence, they didn’t. But neither did rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, who threw for only 160 yards, was sacked twice and threw three interceptions.
And while Marshawn Lynch rumbled for 118 of Seattle’s 179 yards on the ground, his 18-yard scoring run less than five minutes into the game was the lone touchdown of the afternoon for the team.
All told, there is still plenty of work to be done on the offensive side of the ball. But that defense will keep Carroll’s club in plenty of games.
It’s safe to say that the opening-day win over the Panthers seems like a long time ago.
While three straight losses, all of the narrow variety, shows us that while the Buccaneers are definitely improved, they still have to learn how to win again.
In fact, all four of Tampa’s games this season have been decided by seven points or less. But the latest had to be particularly frustrating considering what we had seen to date in 2012.
After allowing only 142 yards rushing in their first three games (quite an improvement for last season’s worst defense against the run), Buccaneers’ defenders gave up 153 yards on the ground. All told, Washington rolled up 474 total yards on Greg Schiano’s defense.
And after rallying from a 21-6 deficit to take a one-point lead with 1:42 to play, the Bucs allowed Robert Griffin III and Co. to drive 56 yards in 1:39 and a Billy Cundiff field goal sent Tampa to its third straight loss.
There was some good news, but plenty of bad news for Mike Munchak’s team, who fell and fell hard at Houston, 38-14.
After rushing for a mere 45 yards on 33 carries in his first three outings this season, running back Chris Johnson awoke against the Houston defense, rolling up 141 yards on the ground on 25 carries.
It’s a shame Matt Hasselbeck didn’t enjoy the same kind of success. Replacing an injured Jake Locker, the veteran quarterback threw for 193 yards and a pair of scores but was sacked three times, and both of his interceptions were returned for scores.
So while all of it can’t be blamed on the defense, and the Titans’ did limit their hosts to only 297 total yards, the fact remains that Tennessee has given up an astounding 34-plus points in every game this season and a total of 151 points in four games.
And after totaling five touchdowns of 60-plus yards in last week’s overtime win over the Lions, the team’s longest play of any kind vs. the Texans covered 25 yards.
All’s well that ends well.
When your offense rolls up 474 yards on the ground, your quarterback throws for 323 yards and no interceptions and your starting running back rolls up 113 of the team’s 153 yards on the ground, the last thing you need is to watch your kicker miss three field goals.
But the fourth time actually proved to be a charm as veteran Billy Cundiff connected from 41 yards out with three seconds to play to give Washington a hard-earned 24-22 victory.
For a bit, it appeared that the Redskins would blow their second 21-6 lead in three weeks. But after falling behind with less than two minutes to play, Robert Griffin III drove his team 56 yards on seven plays, setting up Cundiff for his heroics.
It’s been a tense few weeks for Mike Shanahan and Co., who followed their opening-day surprise of the Saints with a three-point loss to the Rams and a seven-point setback to Cincinnati. But the team is back at .500 in more ways than one via the two-point win at Tampa.
For the season, the Redskins have scored and allowed exactly 123 points. Now let’s see where the rest of 2012 takes them.