Week 6 NFL Report-Card Grades for Every Team
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Are we really six weeks into the 2012 NFL season?
They say time flies when you’re having fun. But to date, it hasn’t been a very enjoyable season for a few perennial Super Bowl contenders, as well as a number of clubs that are coming off impressive seasons.
Consider that the Patriots (3-3), Packers (3-3) and idle Saints (1-4) have already lost as many or more games as they did all of last season, and the 2-3 Steelers are close.
So is it time to be concerned?
As we have spelled out in the past, the last two teams to win the Super Bowl, 10-6 Green Bay and the 9-7 New York Giants, were up and down most of the season before getting hot when it counted most.
With the exception of the Falcons (6-0), Ravens (5-1) and Texans (5-1), as well as the idle Bears (4-1), every team has already lost twice within the first six weeks of 2012.
It’s also worth noting that Baltimore and Houston are the lone teams in the AFC with a winning record at this time and the clubs square off this week at Reliant Stadium.
So we return with our grades. Please remember that they are based on a number of factors, not just wins and losses and statistics. They assess this week’s performance, not a team’s play this season.
Arizona Cardinals: C
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The Cardinals' fall from grace lasted a second straight week.
After opening the season with four wins, Ken Whisenhunt’s team now finds itself in the midst of a two-game losing streak after a 19-16 overtime loss to Buffalo, thanks to another rough outing by the Arizona offense.
For the sixth time in their last 15 games, dating back to last season, the Cards found themselves in overtime. For the second time in 2012, they saw their starting quarterback knocked out of action.
Sacked “only” five times (once for a safety), Kevin Kolb gave way to opening-day starter John Skelton late in the fourth quarter. And on cue, the Cards tied the game at 16-all thanks to a monster 61-yard field goal by Jay Feely. Unfortunately, with a chance to win it at the gun, his 38-yard attempt hit the left upright.
In the extra session, an interception thrown by Skelton (who was just 2-of-10 for 45 yards) set up the Bills’ game-winning kick, and that was all she wrote.
The Arizona defense didn’t keep the Bills’ offense at bay, surrendering a season-high 165 yards rushing.
Atlanta Falcons: B
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Throwing the ball to the opponent nearly led to the Falcons’ first loss of 2012.
Throwing the ball to the opponent was a big reason Atlanta remained unbeaten in 2012.
The sign of a good team is winning when you don’t play your best. And despite three interceptions by Matt Ryan, the Falcons’ quarterback led his team 43 yards in 30 seconds, and Matt Bryant’s 51-yard field goal with a tick left on the clock saved Mike Smith’s team in a 23-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders.
The Falcons were out-gained by the visiting Raiders by nearly 200 yards (474-286) and their offense managed only one touchdown. But cornerback Asante Samuel returned a Carson Palmer interception 79 yards for a touchdown to give Atlanta a short-lived 20-13 lead.
Two minutes later, Darren McFadden helped tie the score with a two-yard touchdown run that came with just 40 seconds remaining. But that was enough time for Ryan, who had thrown only three interceptions in his first five games.
You know the old saying: All’s well that ends…with a win.
Baltimore Ravens: B
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There are a lot of ways to win a football game. For the Ravens, this is not usually one of them.
John Harbaugh’s team surrendered a franchise-record 227 yards on the ground and a whopping 481 total yards. But it also played turnover-free football, dialed up long distance via the special teams and had a little luck in escaping the Cowboys, 31-29.
The Ravens were limited to 316 yards, including just 86 yards on the ground. Ray Rice would run for a pair of scores and Joe Flacco did throw for 234 and a touchdown while being sacked only once. And all Jacoby Jones managed to do is tie an NFL record with a 108-yard kickoff return for a score.
Baltimore’s once-proud defense, which came out of this game very banged up, was pushed around for the second straight week. The Cowboys' rushing total came one week after the team allowed the Chiefs to run for 214 yards.
How’s this for perspective? Prior to that visit to Kansas City, the Ravens had played 277 games (260 in the regular season, 17 in the playoffs) and allowed at least 200 yards rushing just four times.
More perspective: Harbaugh’s 5-1 team finds itself tied with the Texans for the best record in the AFC.
Buffalo Bills: B+
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The Bills’ gauge for success in 2012 is becoming rather predictable.
After allowing a stunning 1,201 total yards and 97 points in consecutive losses to the potent Patriots and 49ers, Chan Gailey’s club was hoping to get back on track against the formidable but offensively challenged Cardinals.
It took a little extra time, but Buffalo escaped the desert with a 19-16 overtime victory thanks to a solid ground attack and a defensive unit that took matters into its own hands.
The Bills ran for 165 yards on 33 attempts as the duo of C.J. Spiller (12-88) and Fred Jackson (16-53) combined for 141 yards rushing while each scored a touchdown.
On the other side of the football, the Buffalo pass rush reappeared after a pair of rough outings. Mario Williams and Nick Barnett each had a pair of sacks as Dave Wannstedt’s unit got to Kevin Kolb five times, including once for a safety, and also knocked him out of the game.
The defense treated John Skelton rudely as well. Safety Jairus Byrd picked him off in overtime, setting up Rian Lindell’s 25-yard game-winning kick.
The Bills have allowed 47 points and sacked the opposing QB 14 times in their three wins, while giving up 145 points and sacking the QB once in three losses.
You figure it out.
Cincinnati Bengals: C
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It seemed like it was bound to happen. Just not like this.
Back in Week 2, the Bengals held on to beat the Browns, 34-27, but the Cincinnati defense had its hands full with running back Trent Richardson, who ran for more than 100 yards and scored a touchdown rushing and receiving.
So Mike Zimmer’s defenders were ready this time around and kept the rookie in check before an injury limited his carries in the second half. Unfortunately, they didn’t do enough to stop the Browns’ other first-round pick in April, as Brandon Weeden threw for 231 yards and a pair of scores and was picked off just once.
But it was three interceptions by quarterback Andy Dalton (one returned for a touchdown) that ultimately spelled doom for Marvin Lewis’ team. The second-year signal-caller would throw for 381 yards and three scores, but the bottom line is that he now has five interceptions in his last two outings, both losses.
The loss spoiled another big outing by wideout A.J. Green, who caught seven passes for 135 yards and two scores.
Unfortunately, this latest setback probably has Lewis seeing red.
Cleveland Browns: A-
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Losers of 11 straight games and a dozen in a row to their AFC North brethren, Pat Shurmur’s club took aim at the Bengals for the second time in five weeks.
This time around, the Cincinnati defense kept rookie running back Trent Richardson under wraps, holding him to 37 yards on 14 carries, as the former Alabama star was injured in the first quarter and saw limiting playing time the rest of the game.
The Cleveland defense certainly looked healthy.
Dick Jauron’s unit held the Bengals to 76 yards on the ground and took advantage of quarterback Andy Dalton, sacking him twice and picking off three of his passes, including a 19-yard return for a score by veteran Sheldon Brown.
Meanwhile, Brandon Weeden did his part despite an interception, throwing for 231 yards and two touchdowns, including a 71-yard toss to rookie Josh Gordon. And Montario Hardesty did a solid job spelling Richardson, running for 56 yards and a score.
It took some time, but the team’s first win of 2012 was obviously worth the wait.
Dallas Cowboys: B
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Just watching Jason Garrett’s team on special teams on Sunday was entertainment enough. That is, if you like big plays and a nail-biting finish.
The Cowboys gave up a 108-yard kickoff return, recovered a crucial onside kick late in the game and watched Dan Bailey miss a game-winning 51-yard field-goal attempt as the Pokes fell, 31-29, at Baltimore.
For the most part, everything else went well. The Dallas ground attack rolled over the Ravens for 227 yards. Ray Lewis and company had no answers for DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones, who both ran for 90-plus yards despite Murray being injured in the game.
Dez Bryant also made his presence felt, catching a game-high 13 passes for 95 yards and two scores. But moments after his four-yard touchdown reception brought the Cowboys within two points, he failed to hang on to the two-point conversion attempt (albeit a tough catch).
Tony Romo threw for 261 yards and those two scores to Bryant and also managed to cut back on his interceptions this week from five to one.
Yes, the Pokes did a lot on Sunday against the Ravens. They just didn’t win.
Denver Broncos: A
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It was the fourth time that finally proved to be the charm for the Broncos, although it’s also a habit that they would love to break.
In what has become a disturbing trend, John Fox’s club dug itself a huge hole, falling behind by at least 20 points for the fourth time this season.
But while comebacks against the Falcons, Texans and Patriots all failed, Peyton Manning and company came all the way back on a Monday night at San Diego in a game that will be remembered for some time.
Down 24-0 at the half, the Broncos scored the final 35 points of the game for a huge 35-24 win that not only featured a hot Manning but a defensive unit that forced a half-dozen turnovers, five of those in the second half.
Peyton, who completed 13-of-14 throws in the final 30 minutes, put the Chargers in their place with three second-half touchdown passes, while the Denver defense chipped in by returning a pair of Philip Rivers’ miscues for scores.
On the other side of the ball, cornerback Tony Carter was Tony on the spot, returning a Rivers’ fumble 65 yards for a score and picking off a pass. And both of Rivers’ fumbles came courtesy of sacks by Broncos’ defensive end Elvis Dumervil.
Here’s an A for Amazing.
Detroit Lions: B+
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Give credit where credit is due.
Coming off an extra week of rest, Jim Schwartz’s team appeared to sleepwalk through the first three quarters. And when the Eagles took a 23-13 lead with just over five minutes left in the fourth quarter, a fourth straight loss seemed inevitable.
But Matthew Stafford would throw for 311 yards and a touchdown by afternoon’s end. And veteran kicker Jason Hanson sent the game into overtime with three seconds to play and later ended it via a 45-yard field goal.
Stafford, who would not only throw an interception but run for a score, saved his best for the fourth quarter and overtime. And the Detroit defense saved its best for the extra session, sacking Michael Vick twice and forcing a three-and-out that gave Schwartz’s team the ball back.
It wasn’t pretty, but for a change this season, the Lions made the big plays when they needed them most.
Green Bay Packers: A+
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The up-and-down season for Mike McCarthy’s team continued with a big thumbs-up at Houston.
The Packers’ 42-24 victory over the previously undefeated Texans saw quarterback Aaron Rodgers at his best. The 2011 league MVP threw six touchdown passes without an interception in the convincing win.
It also evened Green Bay’s record at 3-3, as the team continued its early trend of alternating losses and wins.
Rodgers, who had thrown for 10 scores and four interceptions in his first five outings, wasn’t picked off by one of the best defenses in the league. Houston had allowed just 275.6 total yards per game in the season’s first five weeks, but McCarthy’s club rolled up an impressive 427 yards.
Meanwhile, Dom Capers’ defensive unit held the Texans to 90 yards on the ground, sacked Matt Schaub three times and intercepted two of his passes.
It was an impressive performance from a team that has certainly mystified many in 2012.
The key is whether the Packers can do it two games in a row.
Houston Texans: C-
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It seemed like perfect timing for the unbeaten Texans.
Unfortunately, Gary Kubiak’s team found out that timing isn’t everything after all.
Houston took an AFC-best 5-0 record into its Sunday Night Football showdown with the Packers, but it figures to be a manic Monday for the club, as it had no answers for Aaron Rodgers. The Packers’ quarterback threw a half-dozen touchdown passes against a defensive unit that had allowed that same number in the season's first five games.
The Texans’ offense had its issues as well. While he did run for a pair of touchdowns, running back Arian Foster was limited to season lows in carries (17) and rushing yards (29). And while quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 232 yards, he also served up a pair of interceptions and was sacked three times.
All told, Kubiak’s club turned the ball over three times, equaling the Texans’ total during their 5-0 start.
Mostly, it was about the inability to stop Rodgers and Green Bay’s explosive attack. With the Ravens up next, we’ll soon find out if this was a bump in the road or the start of some needed repairs for Wade Phillips’ defense.
Indianapolis Colts: D+
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Realistically, it was going to be tough to match the emotion of last week’s thrilling come-from-behind win over the Packers, especially on the road.
And when it was all said and done, the predictable indeed happened.
The Colts’ defense was mauled for 252 yards rushing and rookie quarterback Andrew Luck was sacked four times and threw two interceptions as Indianapolis fell, 35-9, to the Jets.
There was little solace in the loss. The ground game was limited to 41 yards and the Colts failed to score a touchdown, settling for three Adam Vinatieri field goals.
All told, the team’s turnover total (four), three by Luck, wasn’t far off its point production against a determined Jets’ team.
Now we’ll have to wait and see how long it will take this team to put this outing behind it.
Kansas City Chiefs: D-
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Understandably, Chiefs starter Matt Cassel was getting his share of the blame for Kansas City’s disappointing 1-4 start.
But with the quarterback on the shelf this week, it was Brady Quinn—making his first start since 2009—who hoped to quiet the jeers.
Romeo Crennel’s offense managed 260 total yards and Quinn’s biggest pass play came from the opposition, as one of two interceptions was returned 78 yards for a score by Buccaneers safety Ronde Barber. The Chiefs fell hard at Tampa, 38-10.
Frankly, the less said about this game from Kansas City's end, the better. Quinn threw for only 180 yards and failed to connect on a pass play of at least 20 yards. And Jamaal Charles and company had only 80 yards rushing on 30 carries.
Things are indeed looking grim for this team.
Miami Dolphins: B-
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The final numbers should make this obvious.
Total yards: Rams 462, Dolphins 192.
Rushing yards: Rams 162, Dolphins 19.
But they didn't.
Final score: Dolphins 17, Rams 14.
Good luck with this one. Joe Philbin’s team brought the league’s No. 1 rushing defense into the game and was pushed around by the St. Louis’ offense.
Miami’s pass rush sacked Sam Bradford three times, but couldn’t prevent him from throwing for 315 yards. And the Rams’ signal-caller wasn’t picked off.
But neither was rookie Ryan Tannehill, who hit on 21-of-29 throws for 185 yards and a pair of scores as Miami played turnover-free football. And with some timely punting by Brandon Fields, it all adds up to another victory for Philbin and company.
Minnesota Vikings: C
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After riding high for three weeks, Leslie Frazier’s team got a little dose of reality in the nation’s capital.
What made the Vikings’ 38-26 loss to the Redskins so surprising was that Washington was able to find a way to put points on the board. In its previous three games, all wins, Minnesota had allowed 33 total points in victories over the 49ers, Lions and Titans.
Another surprise was that except for a Jared Allen sack, the Minnesota pass rush was not that much of a factor.
While second-year quarterback Christian Ponder did throw for 352 yards and a pair of touchdowns, he was also sacked four times and committed three turnovers. One of his two interceptions was returned 24 yards for a score.
The Vikings’ running game also appeared to be a non-factor, as Adrian Peterson had 79 of the team’s 94 yards.
All things considered, it was an average outing for Frazier and company. But you’d better be better than average more times than not.
New England Patriots: C-
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While we’re not sure whether Tom Brady’s first game in Seattle proved to be "sleepless," he did leave the Pacific Northwest winless.
As did the remainder of the team, as the New England defense squandered a 13-point fourth-quarter lead, allowing Seahawks wideout Sidney Rice to get behind the secondary for a 46-yard, game-winning score in a 24-23 loss, the Patriots’ third in six games.
Keep in mind that this was a 13-3 team a year ago and an NFL-best 27-5 the previous two seasons.
But to point the finger of blame at one unit would be foolish. Despite throwing 58 passes for 395 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Brady also served up a pair of interceptions. And simply put, Bill Belichick’s team failed to put the Seahawks away when it had the chance.
On a positive side, wideout Wes Welker remained hot, catching 10 passes for 138 yards and a score. And Aaron Hernandez returned and caught six passes for 30 yards and a score.
Too bad there weren’t a few more bright spots in the secondary.
New York Giants: A+
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When push came to shove, the defending Super Bowl champs did a lot of both.
As a result, the rematch of last January’s NFC title game proved to be no match.
The Giants' convincing 26-3 win at San Francisco was further evidence that Tom Coughlin’s club apparently can simply flip the switch when needed. While some will say this was another case of Eli Manning at his best, we beg to differ.
New York’s receiving corps, led by Victor Cruz, made its share of tough catches. For the second straight Sunday, Ahmad Bradshaw came up big, rushing for 116 yards and a score. The slumbering Giants pass rush awoke in a big way, with six sacks of quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick. Smith was also picked off three times, including a pair by safety Antrel Rolle,
Once again, the Giants came up big when it counted. You just can’t count on it being every week.
New York Jets: A
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Now that was ground and pound.
Rex Ryan’s club piled up 106 yards on the ground before intermission and 252 by game’s end, as the Jets cruised to a comfortable 35-9 win over the visiting Colts.
Keep in mind that in their previous four games, the Jets had failed to reach the 100-yard mark on the ground. And in their previous best rushing effort, a 48-28 win over Buffalo in the season opener, they managed only 118 yards on the ground.
Led by Shonn Greene, who enjoyed a career day with 161 yards rushing and three touchdowns, Ryan’s team rushed 44 times while Mark Sanchez threw just 18 times, completing 11 for 82 yards. But the oft-criticized quarterback threw a pair of touchdown passes and played turnover-free football.
Meanwhile, New York’s defense treated rookie Andrew Luck quite rudely, sacking him four times and picking off two of his passes. And the Colts were kept out of the end zone all afternoon.
Game. Set. Match.
Oakland Raiders: C+
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There’s little solace in a moral victory. There's even less when you’ve only won one game all season.
Dennis Allen’s team lost for the fourth time in five outings, although in many ways, the Raiders outplayed the unbeaten Falcons. But all they had to show for their trouble was a tough 23-20 setback.
Oakland rolled up 474 total yards against Atlanta’s suspect defense. But it was Allen’s own defenders who looked like they would be the stars of the game.
The Raiders led, 13-7, at the half thanks mainly to three interceptions of Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Not only did that equal the number of takeaways by the Silver and Black in their first four games, but it was the first time they had picked off an opposing passer in 2012.
Unfortunately, it was a 79-yard interception return for a touchdown by Asante Samuel off quarterback Carson Palmer, who threw for 353 yards and a score, that put Atlanta back on top in the fourth quarter. Then, after the Raiders tied the score on a two-yard touchdown run by Darren McFadden, Oakland’s defense couldn’t stop Ryan’s late heroics in the final seconds, making for a long flight home.
Philadelphia Eagles: D+
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It was only a few weeks ago, following a Sunday-night win over the Giants, that everything seemed to be falling into place in Philadelphia.
Two games later, we’re back to that “what’s wrong with the Eagles” discussion.
Twice in the fourth quarter, Andy Reid’s team held a 10-point lead over the visiting Lions, who had lost three straight.
But the Birds failed to put Detroit away, giving up the final 13 points of the game, the last three in overtime, to lose, 26-23.
Mistakes were once again costly for the Eagles, who gave up the ball three times, including a pair of interceptions by Michael Vick. It was the fifth time in six games this season and the 17th time in their last 22 games that the Eagles committed two or more turnovers.
Of course, blowing a fourth-quarter lead was also reminiscent of last season, when the team finished 8-8.
However, unlike 2011, when the Eagles had a ferocious pass rush, they failed to record a sack Sunday for the third consecutive game.
An off-week couldn’t come at a better time.
Pittsburgh Steelers: C-
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Mike Tomlin’s up-and-down team has been somewhat easy to gauge if you’re big into home-field advantage.
The 2-3 Steelers have played three road games in their first five contests and have come up short in all three.
On Thursday Night Football, the outcome was decided on the final play for the third straight game, as the Titans pulled out a 26-23 win in Nashville.
Yes, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 363 yards, including an 82-yard score to Mike Wallace, but he also threw a crucial interception that cost his team possible points at the end of the first half and led to a Tennessee field goal.
Later, with the score tied at 23, Tomlin opted for a 54-yard field-goal attempt by Shaun Suisham that came up short. That led to a game-winning, 40-yard field goal by Rob Bironas.
Injuries have certainly been a factor, but the Steelers did not execute consistently versus the Titans. Combine that with a few bad decisions, and you have a club that looks out of sync.
St. Louis Rams: B-
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It certainly looked like a winning formula.
Run for 162 yards on the NFL’s best rushing defense and watch your quarterback play turnover-free football while throwing for 315 yards. Plus, hold the opposition to 17 points. That should do the trick.
But the "L" in NFL doesn’t stand for logical.
Somehow, the Rams lost a game at Miami in which they out-gained the Dolphins by 270 yards. Simply, it was a matter of timing, and a few missed kicks as well.
Bradford was sacked three times as St. Louis spent a lot of the afternoon getting out of its own territory. And rookie Greg Zuerlein, perfect on field-goal attempts entering the game and in the second quarter (after giving his team a 6-0 lead), missed his final three tries from 52, 37 and 66 yards, two of those hardly chip shots.
Meanwhile, the potent Rams pass rush that sacked Arizona QB Kevin Kolb nine times only dropped Ryan Tannehill twice.
This loss will be tough for Jeff Fisher to swallow.
San Diego Chargers: F
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Once upon a time, Norv Turner’s team was on its way to a 4-2 start as they made it look easy in the first half on Monday night against the Broncos.
But while the game time temperature read a pleasant 78 degrees, there was a meltdown in San Diego by the home team.
Leading 24-0 at halftime, the Bolts watched Denver do all the scoring after intermission thanks to a big assist from Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers as Turner’s team ended the evening with a thud, 35-24.
After committing a modest eight turnovers in their first five contests this season, San Diego gave up the ball six times, all of those via Rivers (four interceptions and two lost fumbles) and five of those in the second half. The Bolts had the ball four times in the fourth quarter and each possession ended with a turnover.
That means the Chargers have now given up the football 14 times in six games this season, and 12 of them by Rivers. Shades of last season’s erratic play by the former Pro Bowl quarterback, who had all but three of the team’s 28 turnovers a year ago.
More importantly, Turner’s club has an extra week to contemplate just what went wrong. And instead of making it 3-for-3 vs. their divisional foes this season, they let one get away in front of the home folks.
Call it an F for Fail.
San Francisco 49ers: C-
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It seems like the supposed bully got a little push back this week.
When it was all said and done, the 49ers are still a very good team. But the Giants are defending Super Bowl champions for a reason.
After pushing around the Jets and Bills the previous two weeks by a combined score of 79-3, it was push-comes-to-shove time and the Niners didn’t push back.
San Francisco’s 26-3 home loss saw its ground game limited to 80 yards on 17 carries, while quarterbacks Alex Smith (four) and Colin Kaepernick (two) were sacked six times. Smith also threw three interceptions, as the offense never really got on track.
It was even an off day for usually reliable David Akers, who missed 2-of-3 field goal attempts.
A loss is just a loss. But it does shape up to be a helmet-scratching week for Jim Harbaugh and his staff.
Seattle Seahawks: A
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Despite a 3-2 record and coming off a road win at Carolina, there was talk that rookie quarterback Russell Wilson may be getting ready to give way to Matt Flynn.
Hold that thought.
The talented quarterback threw for 293 yards and three touchdowns, two of those scores in the final seven-plus minutes, as Pete Carroll’s club stunned the visiting Patriots, 24-23.
Despite allowing a season high in points, the Seahawks found a way to win and frustrate Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Although Brady was able to throw for 395 yards and a pair of scores, the Seattle secondary picked him off twice, courtesy of cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas.
Wilson’s game-winning 46-yard scoring pass to Sidney Rice was one of many big pass plays. Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin also caught passes of 50-plus yards.
More importantly, the ‘Hawks won a game many felt they couldn’t. And that will do wonders for any team.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: A
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If there was one word to describe the Bucs’ 38-10 win over the Chiefs, it would be thorough.
Tampa Bay’s destruction of Romeo Crennel’s team saw quarterback Josh Freeman complete just 15 passes, but for a whopping 328 yards and three touchdowns (one interception), while the Buccaneers’ running game rolled up 145 yards, with more than half (76) by rookie Doug Martin.
Elsewhere, Greg Schiano’s defense made easy work of its guests. The Chiefs’ lone touchdown came when Tampa Bay punter Michael Koenen did his best Garo Yepremian impression, scooping up a blocked punt and trying to throw downfield. His midair fumble was returned for a score.
But these Bucs wouldn’t stop when it came to the big play. Freeman’s first touchdown pass was a 62-yard adventure by wideout Mike Williams, while veteran Ronde Barber returned a Brady Quinn interception 78 yards for a score.
It was a resounding way to put an end to a three-game losing streak.
Tennessee Titans: B+
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So the Titans can hold a team under 30 points after all.
And apparently there’s still some life left in quarterback Matt Hasselbeck’s arm.
The veteran signal-caller got his second straight start in place of Jake Locker and came up big against the Steelers’ defense. He threw for 290 yards, including a 25-yard completion to tight end Jared Cook that helped set up Rob Bironas’ 40-yard field goal on the final play of the game that beat Pittsburgh, 26-23.
In some ways, it was an even bigger night for running back Chris Johnson, who didn’t score a touchdown but ran hard, gaining 91 yards rushing on 19 carries while catching four passes for 23 yards. And although his longest play of the night was just 13 yards, he kept Dick LeBeau’s struggling unit on its heels.
On the other side of the ball, some sloppy tackling led to big plays by the Pittsburgh pass-catchers, most notably running back Isaac Redman. But while Jerry Gray’s defense allowed Ben Roethlisberger to throw for 363 yards (82 on a touchdown to Mike Wallace), the Steelers’ offense scored only two touchdowns.
Now, we’ll have to wait to see if this proves to be a turning point for Mike Munchak’s club.
Washington Redskins: A-
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Mike Shanahan’s team finally delivered at FedEx Field.
The Redskins snapped a surprising eight-game home losing streak by using the formula that has been their mainstay this season: running the football.
Only this time, the vast majority of the yards came from their rookie signal-caller.
Robert Griffin III threw for just 182 yards and a score with one interception. But the former Heisman winner ran 13 times for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 76-yard jaunt, as Washington got back to .500 with a 38-26 win.
While the Vikings would out-gain their hosts, they would also outdo them in the miscue department. Christian Ponder committed all three Minnesota turnovers, including a pair of interceptions, one returned 24 yards for a score by veteran safety Madieu Williams.
Also credit the Redskins’ offensive line, which paved the way for another big rushing day against a tough Vikings defense that sacked Griffin III just once.