Week 14 NFL Report-Card Grades for Every Team

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor IDecember 10, 2012

Week 14 NFL Report-Card Grades for Every Team

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    It’s been another eventful week in the National Football League, capped off by the New England Patriots’ impressive 42-14 win over the Houston Texans in the Monday night showdown of AFC powers.

    How eventful?

    All four teams in the NFC East won on Sunday, all but the New York Giants in dramatic fashion.

    The top three teams in the AFC North and the NFC South all lost, while the last-place Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers each came away with victory.

    The top three teams in the NFC West all lost, with the Seattle Seahawks handing the plummeting Arizona Cardinals a quite memorable defeat.

    And we have a new leader in the NFC North.

    We now have this week’s grades for all 32 teams for Week 14. Please remember that each club’s mark is based on numerous criteria and not just wins, losses and statistics. And these grades are also being handed out for this week’s performance only and not the team’s overall play this season.

    Unfortunately, it won’t take too long to find the team that got a resounding failing grade.

Arizona Cardinals: F-

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    For the record, there was a thought as to giving the Arizona Cardinals a G…

    As in Gee Whiz.

    One week after dropping a 7-6 decision to the New York Jets, Ken Whisenhunt’s team was on the wrong end of a 58-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

    It was the most points ever allowed by the Cardinals’ franchise and the most points ever scored by the Seahawks.

    It was also the second straight week that Whisenhunt’s club failed to score a touchdown as quarterback John Skelton returned to the starting lineup and promptly threw four interceptions, with one returned for a score. Skelton also lost a fumble, part of the team’s eight turnovers vs. the Seahawks, and the Cardinals were outgained by Seattle by over 300 yards (493-154). And a worn-down Arizona defense surrendered 284 yards rushing.

    Four weeks into the season, the Cardinals were alone in first in the NFC West. With a loss next week to the Lions, the team will lock up last place in the division.

    Gee whiz indeed.

Atlanta Falcons: C-

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    Sooner or later, you figured “it” had to catch up with the Atlanta Falcons in a big way.

    “It” would be the inability to both run the football and stop the other team from doing the same.

    In Sunday’s unexpected 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Mike Nolan’s defensive unit gave up 195 yards rushing, including a 72-yard touchdown run by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Meanwhile, the Atlanta ground attack managed only 35 yards on 11 carries.

    True, Matt Ryan did complete 34 of 49 passes for 342 yards and a pair of scores but was also sacked twice and threw an interception. And while Mike Smith’s NFC South champions did turn a 23-0 third-quarter deficit into a 23-13 contest early in the fourth quarter, the Falcons’ defense simply couldn’t slow down a Carolina offense that rolled up 475 yards and controlled the clock for nearly 36 minutes by afternoon’s end.

    Smith’s club is still the front-runner when it comes to the top seed in the NFC. But a game in which the defense is exploited that badly on the ground will likely be the club's undoing in the postseason.

Baltimore Ravens: B-

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    The good news is that the Baltimore Ravens scored a season-high 28 points away from home (albeit not far away from home).

    The bad news is that the Ravens’ defense still isn’t what it once was. John Harbaugh’s club surrendered 420 total yards in a 31-28 overtime loss to the Washington Redskins.

    The Baltimore defense saw Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III sent to the sidelines with a knee injury late in the fourth quarter. But this unit, minus linebacker Terrell Suggs, couldn’t prevent backup Kirk Cousin from tying the score in regulation on a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion.

    The Ravens’ first two touchdowns of the afternoon belonged to veteran wideout Anquan Boldin, who had scored just twice in the team’s first 12 games this season.

    But there were also two turnovers once again for quarterback Joe Flacco, who threw for 182 yards and three scores while the Baltimore ground attack rolled up 186 yards.

    There were a lot of positives for Harbaugh’s team. Unfortunately, the defense continues not to be consistently one of them.

Buffalo Bills: C

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    It’s been a season of one step forward and two steps back for the Buffalo Bills.

    Off a 34-18 home win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Chan Gailey’s team was hoping to inch closer to the .500 mark with the improved St. Louis Rams coming to town.

    But Dave Wannstedt’s defensive unit gave up an 84-yard touchdown drive in the final five minutes as Buffalo ensured there would be no winning season in Orchard Park thanks to a 15-12 loss.

    The Bills ran for only 61 yards and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was sacked five times in the setback. And while defensive end Mario Williams totaled at least one sack for the fourth straight game, it was the only time the Buffalo pass rush corralled Rams quarterback Sam Bradford.

    At 5-8, the Bills now look to avoid a fifth straight last-place finish in the AFC East. And that’s certainly not the goal the team had in mind when it began what it felt would be a season of improvement.

Carolina Panthers: A

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    Welcome to the highs and lows of an NFL season.

    A week after losing to a Kansas City Chiefs team that entered the game with one victory in 2012, the Carolina Panthers rolled to a 30-20 win over the Atlanta Falcons, who entered Sunday with just one loss this season.

    And after losing five straight to the Falcons and surrendering 31, 31, 31, 31 and 30 points in those setbacks, Ron Rivera’s team flipped the script and put 30 on the board against Atlanta.

    How impressive were the Panthers? In the first half, Carolina outgained the Falcons 270-35, held Atlanta to three yards rushing and controlled the ball for 23:48 of the game’s first 30 minutes.

    Quarterback Cam Newton would throw for 287 yards and a pair of scores and gained 116 yards rushing, most of that on a 72-yard touchdown run. The Panthers rolled up 475 yards on Atlanta’s defense.

    Obviously it was a huge win for Rivera and company. And it might evoke discussions of what could have been for the Panthers in 2012.

Chicago Bears: C-

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    It turned into a rough day for the Chicago Bears as the afternoon barely got started.

    Lovie Smith’s team found itself trailing the Minnesota Vikings 14-0 less than halfway through the first quarter, and when it was all said and done, the Bears lost their fourth game in the last five weeks via a 21-14 setback at the Metrodome.

    Chicago had allowed just 28 points in the first quarter in its first 12 games this season. A pair of short touchdown runs by running back Adrian Peterson, the second set up by the first of Jay Cutler’s two interceptions, put the Bears in a hole that they never dug themselves out of.

    Cutler’s second interception of the afternoon was returned 56 yards for a touchdown by Vikings rookie Harrison Smith, which gave Minnesota a two-score lead. Cutler then gave way to Jason Campbell after suffering an apparent neck injury.

    Just as important, Chicago gave way to the Packers in the NFC North after Green Bay’s 27-20 win over the Detroit Lions later that night.

Cincinnati Bengals: B-

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    The Cincinnati Bengals brought a four-game winning streak into Sunday’s tilt with the Dallas Cowboys and took a 19-10 lead into the fourth quarter against the Pokes.

    But it simply wasn’t meant to be as Marvin Lewis’ team was blanked in the fourth quarter while a 40-yard field goal by the Cowboys' Dan Bailey on the final play of the game sent the Bengals to a 20-19 defeat.

    It was a rough afternoon for quarterback Andy Dalton, who threw for 206 yards and a touchdown but was picked off once and sacked five times by an aroused Dallas defense.

    Meanwhile, the Cincinnati defense couldn’t close the door as Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw for 128 yards and a score in the fourth quarter.

    Despite the loss, the 7-6 Bengals remain very much in the postseason hunt thanks to losses by the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. But this setback was truly the one that got away.

Cleveland Browns: A+

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    Congratulations to the only team in the AFC North to win a game on Sunday.

    Actually, the Cleveland Browns have won three straight games, the latest a 30-7 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

    It didn’t start out well for Pat Shurmur’s club. After limiting the Raiders to 85 yards rushing in last week’s win at Oakland, the Cleveland defense watched Jamaal Charles go 80 yards on the team’s first play from scrimmage to help give the Chiefs a quick 7-0 lead.

    But it was all Browns after that. Running back Trent Richardson ran for a pair of scores, fellow rookie Travis Benjamin returned a punt 93 yards for a touchdown, and veteran Phil Dawson added three field goals in the team’s 23-point victory.

    Meanwhile, that Cleveland defense shook off the bad start and spent the rest of the day harassing Brady Quinn, sacking the Chiefs quarterback five times on the afternoon.

    Things are certainly looking up for the franchise these days.

Dallas Cowboys: A+

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    For the second straight week, real life (or unfortunately, the loss of one) became a storyline in the National Football League.

    And despite the tragedy, the Dallas Cowboys gathered themselves, saved their best for late in the game and stole one at Cincinnati with a last-second 20-19 victory over the Bengals.

    Quarterback Tony Romo threw for 268 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown strike to wideout Dez Bryant, and overcame three sacks and an interception in the process. And Romo led a 13-play, 50-yard drive in the final 3:44 to set up Dan Bailey’s 40-yard field goal at the gun.

    The win improved Dallas’ record to 7-6 and kept it tied with the Washington Redskins for second place in the NFC East. Both are just one game behind the New York Giants in the NFC East.

    And it’s also worth noting that a team much maligned for its play in December has won its first two games in the year’s final month.

    Simply put, Sunday was a job well done by the Cowboys’ organization.

Denver Broncos: B+

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    Last season, eight wins—and just as many losses—were enough for the Denver Broncos to win the AFC West.

    These days, eight refers to the longest current winning streak in the league, which belongs to Peyton Manning and company in the Mile High City, the latest a 26-13 Thursday night win over the struggling Oakland Raiders.

    Denver rolled up 428 total yards but scored only a pair of touchdowns, settling for Matt Prater field goals on four occasions in the red zone.

    The team’s first touchdown came via a reception by tight end Joel Dreessen from Manning, who threw for 310 yards but was picked off deep in Oakland territory in the second quarter and was sacked three times on the evening.

    The other score came on a one-yard run from former first-round pick Knowshon Moreno, who ran 32 times for 119 yards and caught four passes for another 48 yards.

    Meanwhile, the defense got the job done and outside linebacker Von Miller continued his hot play. The second-year pro got the Broncos’ lone sack, stripping the ball from Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer that was recovered on the Oakland 2-yard line, and two plays later, Moreno had his touchdown.

    All told, it’s always tough getting a road win on a short week. But John Fox’s team will have to play much better next week at Baltimore.

Detroit Lions: C+

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    The numbers are mind-boggling.

    The last time the Detroit Lions defeated the Green Bay Packers on the road was 1991, when quarterback Erik Kramer led the team to a 21-17 victory at Lambeau Field. It’s worth noting that the same season marked the Lions' last postseason win.

    Including a Wild Card loss in 1994 and three games in Milwaukee from 1992-94, the Men from Motown had dropped 21 straight road games in the series.

    Uh, you can make that 22.

    The Lions’ 27-20 loss was the latest example of Jim Schwartz’s team squandering a golden opportunity. In the first half, the Lions outgained their hosts in total yards 218-94, including 117 yards rushing. But Schwartz’s squad only owned a 14-10 lead at intermission, with Green Bay’s lone touchdown coming on a return of a Matthew Stafford fumble midway through the second quarter.

    The same Detroit offense that looked so great early on ran just eight times for 18 yards in the second half and managed only a pair of field goals. The Packers would score 17 points following intermission and would hand the Lions their fifth straight loss and the third in a row in which they owned a double-digit lead.

    In other words: mind-boggling.

Green Bay Packers: B+

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    The Green Bay Packers’ latest home victory over the Detroit Lions was hardly a thing of beauty.

    But it was still pretty satisfying. That’s because Green Bay rallied from a 14-0 second-quarter deficit to take down its division rival 27-20 in prime time at Lambeau Field. The 9-4 Packers are now in first place in the NFC North by themselves after the Chicago Bears’ loss at Minnesota earlier that day.

    Quarterback Aaron Rodgers only threw for 173 yards and lost a fumble on one of the three times he was sacked. Despite not throwing a touchdown pass, Rodgers did run 27 yards for a score as he and four running backs combined for 140 yards rushing by night’s end.

    However, the Pack’s longest play of the evening came courtesy of rookie defensive tackle Mike Daniels, who picked up a dropped ball by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and returned the gift 43 yards for a score.

    The Green Bay defense did give up 386 total yards, including 135 yards rushing. But the Lions ran only eight times for 18 yards in the second half, hence McCarthy’s club outgaining Detroit on the ground.

    After opening the season at 2-3, the Packers are 7-1 in their last eight games and now the front-runners in their division. And who knows where this team is headed once it gets back the likes of outside linebacker Clay Matthews and safety Charles Woodson?

Houston Texans: C-

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    Apparently the not-so magical number for the Houston Texans is…42?

    For only the second time this season Gary Kubiak’s playoff bound club lost a game. But the team’s 42-14 Monday night setback to the New England Patriots had an awful familiar feel to it.

    The Texans’ only previous loss in 2012 was a 42-24 defeat at home to the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who threw for six touchdowns.

    Houston was down 21-0 at halftime as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw the first three of what would be four touchdown passes, the third time this season the Texans allowed at least that many scores though the air in a game.

    Meanwhile, Kubiak’s offense looked tentative for most of the evening and quarterback Matt Schaub, who threw for a quiet 232 yards and threw a costly red zone interception, never seemed to find his groove.

    And the New England defense kept Arian Foster under wraps, although he did manage to score his usual touchdown. The workhorse runner was limited to 46 yards rushing on 15 carries and 15 of those yards came on one carry.

    Add in a pass rush that sacked Brady just once and more than a few defensive penalties and the Texans didn’t look ready for primetime this night.

    Now let’s see if Kubiak’s club responds to this loss like they did after falling to the Packers in October (43-13 win over the Baltimore Ravens).


Indianapolis Colts: B

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    The magical season known as the 2012 Indianapolis Colts continued with a 27-23 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

    And the latest chapter now includes a winning season for a franchise that won just two games in 2011.

    Quarterback Andrew Luck only completed 16 of 34 passes for 196 yards, was sacked four times and picked off twice (one of those a controversial pick-six when it appeared Luck’s knee was down before he threw the ball).

    But it still added up to a Colts’ win because the Indy defense limited Tennessee to 97 yards rushing and picked off quarterback Jake Locker twice, with Cassius Vaughn returning one of those thefts for a touchdown. And Chuck Pagano’s club came all the way back from a 20-7 halftime deficit by holding the Titans to a field goal in the final 30 minutes.

    For some, the Colts may be doing it with smoke and mirrors. But when the smoke clears, Luck and company certainly like what they see.

Jacksonville Jaguars: C-

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    It’s been a dreary year for the Jacksonville Jaguars. And the team’s 17-10 loss to the New York Jets didn’t do anything to change that reality.

    While Mike Mularkey’s defense held the visiting Jets to only 270 total yards, the Jaguars were eventually grounded and pounded as New York rolled up 166 yards rushing on 42 attempts. And while Mularkey’s club did force a pair of turnovers, quarterback Chad Henne offset that with a pair of interceptions.

    Speaking of Henne, the former Dolphins’ signal-caller has cooled off as of late. On Sunday vs. the Jets, he completed less than half of his attempts (21 of 43) for just 185 yards and was sacked three times by the New York defense.

    At 2-11, the third time in five seasons the franchise has lost at least 11 games, the Jaguars are now in danger of making some team history for all the wrong reasons.

Kansas City Chiefs: C

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    A week after an emotional weekend and later an emotional win over the Carolina Panthers, the Kansas City Chiefs got off to a good start in Cleveland, thanks to an 80-yard touchdown run by Jamaal Charles on the team’s first play from scrimmage.

    But there was little to cheer about the rest of the afternoon as Romeo Crennel’s return to Cleveland saw his team fall, 30-7, to the suddenly hot Browns.

    Charles would finish with 165 yards rushing, six more yards than quarterback Brady Quinn threw for in the game. The former Browns’ first-round pick completed just 10 of 21 passes, threw an interception and was sacked five times.

    Meanwhile, the Chiefs only gave up 352 yards of total offense and the coverage units gave up another 144 yards on punt returns, including a 93-yard score by Cleveland’s Travis Benjamin.

    And for the eighth time this season, Crennel’s club lost a game by 10 or more points.

    A long year indeed...

Miami Dolphins: B-

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    Another week and another formidable opponent for Joe Philbin’s Miami Dolphins, who just didn’t have enough horses to keep up with the San Francisco 49ers in a 27-13 loss.

    While there wasn’t a lot of scoring expected by either of these teams, the Miami offense managed only 227 yards and a single touchdown.

    Still, the Dolphins defense held its own and kept the San Francisco attack under wraps for most of the afternoon, sacking quarterback Colin Kaepernick four times (three by defensive end Cameron Wake) and limiting the Niners to 158 total yards and a pair of field goals in the first half.

    But Miami defenders gave up three touchdowns in the second half, including drives of 83 and 65 yards, and Kaepernick’s 50-yard scoring run with just over two minutes to play unfortunately sealed the deal for Philbin’s club.

Minnesota Vikings: B+

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    The Minnesota Vikings may indeed fall short of the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a successful season in the Twin Cities.

    Leslie Frazier’s club won its seventh game in 2012, more than doubling last season’s victory total of three, as a fast start turned into a 21-14 triumph over the slumping Chicago Bears.

    The amazing Adrian Peterson rushed for 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns, the seventh straight game in which he reached the century mark on the ground, and rookie safety Harrison Smith returned a Jay Cutler interception 56 yards for a touchdown.

    While the Vikings were severely outgained by the Bears (438-248) in total yardage, Frazier’s team made the stops when it had to.

    And if second-year quarterback Christian Ponder can eliminate the interceptions, it could be an interesting three weeks for the Purple Gang.

New England Patriots: A+

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    Known for their stellar play during the second halves of seasons, the New England Patriots left little doubt in the first half of Monday night’s showdown with the Houston Texans of who was the better team this evening.

    Bill Belichick’s rolled to a convincing 42-14 victory over a Texans’ team that had lost just once in its first 12 games. Quarterback Tom Brady threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns while being sacked just once all evening.

    Tight end Aaron Hernandez scored twice while wideouts Brandon Lloyd and Donte’ Stallworth scored on receptions of 37 and 63 yards, respectively. And the running game was its clock-killing best late in the contest, totaling 130 yards on 33 attempts by night’s end.

    It was the latest example of an opponent coming to New England for what appeared to be a clash of powers and leaving Foxborough with their helmets down. And credit the Patriots for their excellent play rather than downgrade the performance of what appeared to be an overwhelmed Texans’ club.

    Of course, we’ve also seen this sort of hot play from Belichick’s team (winners of seven straight games) a lot in recent seasons and the Patriots have been unable to close the championship deal.

    But that’s a topic for a different day. And on this Monday night, there was little doubt who the better team was this time around.


New Orleans Saints: D

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    The New Orleans Saints had a few extra days to prepare for the New York Giants.

    Apparently, they didn’t take advantage of the opportunity.

    Despite putting up 487 total yards on the New York defense, the Saints’ offensive unit managed only a pair of touchdowns as four turnovers helped spell doom for the Cajuns, 52-27.

    Quarterback Drew Brees continued to put up big numbers both good and bad, throwing for 354 yards and a score. But the former Pro Bowler also threw two more interceptions, bringing his total to nine picks in the last three games.

    Last but certainly not least, New Orleans’ kick coverage units were abysmal. Joe Vitt’s team gave up a mind-boggling 287 yards on kickoff returns, including a 97-yard score in the first quarter that quickly wiped out the team’s 7-0 lead.

    The Saints’ playoff run of sorts has now turned into three straight losses since getting back to the .500 mark at 5-5.

    And an 8-8 finish would certainly make a not-so-good 2012 season somewhat better...


New York Giants: A-

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    Oh, those wacky New York Giants.

    After watching (or hearing) that the other three teams in the NFC East had won earlier in the day, Tom Coughlin’s club needed a victory against the New Orleans Saints to avoid a three-way tie atop the division.

    And the Giants used all facets of their game to hold off the Saints, 52-27, as rookie running back David Wilson had his breakout game of the season.

    The team’s first-round pick in April, Wilson not only wound up with 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 13 carries but ran back four kickoffs for 227 yards and a score. The kickoff return for a touchdown, which spanned 97 yards, helped Coughlin’s club respond after a pick-six by quarterback Eli Manning on New York's second drive of the game.

    The Giants signal-caller would throw another interception but did wind up with 259 yards and four touchdown passes in this clash between two franchises that had combined to win three of the last five Super Bowls.

    Meanwhile, New York did force four turnovers, two of those interceptions by safety Stevie Brown.

    For the Saints, they don’t figure to be getting another opportunity at a title this season.

    For the Giants, the quest to repeat may be just beginning.

New York Jets: B+

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    There’s still a little life in the New York Jets after all.

    While a 17-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars doesn’t put Rex Ryan’s team on a fast track to the playoffs, it was the team’s second straight win after a 4-7 start.

    New York ran 42 times for 166 yards and a pair of touchdowns, the majority of that from the combination of Bilal Powell (78) and Shonn Greene (77), each of whom scored on the afternoon.

    Meanwhile, the Jets defense handled old friend Chad Henne, whom the team is more than familiar with during his days with the Dolphins. Ryan’s pass rush produced three sacks and picked off Henne twice. And while the Jets gained only 270 yards of total offense by game’s end, that rushing total was all the team really needed this day.

    Perhaps Ryan and company may be able to salvage something from this season after all.

Oakland Raiders: C-

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    Following back-to-back victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs in late October, the Oakland Raiders were one win away from getting back to the .500 mark.

    That moment obviously came and went.

    Thursday night’s 26-13 loss to the Denver Broncos was the Silver and Black’s sixth straight setback, currently the second-longest such streak in the league, and at 3-10, the franchise has now lost double-digit games for the eighth time in the last 10 seasons.

    On the positive side, Oakland’s defense played well in the red zone as the Broncos settled for more field goals than touchdowns.

    But it was the offense that had its issues. The turnover problems continued for quarterback Carson Palmer, who threw an interception and lost a fumble near his own end zone that set up an easy Denver touchdown. The former Pro Bowler has now given up the football 19 times in 13 games this season.

    Throw in 11 penalties for 94 yards (the Raiders ran 16 times for 61 yards) and it was another frustrating outing for the Silver and Black.

Philadelphia Eagles: A-

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    It’s over, it’s all over.

    Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles were mathematically from the playoffs on Sunday. But Andy Reid’s team also won a football game for the first time since Week 4 by rallying from a 21-10 fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23-21.

    Rookie quarterback Nick Foles threw a one-yard touchdown pass to wideout Jeremy Maclin on the final play of the game roughly four minutes after completing a 11-yard scoring pass to Clay Harbor that narrowed Philadelphia’s deficit to 21-16.

    Foles, who also ran for a team-high 27 yards and a touchdown, threw for 381 yards and those two scores despite being sacked six times. But the rookie quarterback did not fumble or commit a turnover as the Birds snapped an eight-game losing streak.

    Just in the Nick of time (just couldn’t resist)...

Pittsburgh Steelers: D-

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    Every once in a while a good football team has a tendency to lay an egg.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers’ 34-24 loss to the San Diego Chargers at Heinz Field resembled an omelet.

    The final score doesn’t indicate how poorly Mike Tomlin’s team played in what many felt would be the usual home win over the Chargers, especially with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back after missing three games.

    But the Pittsburgh ground game managed only 69 yards, the Steelers’ defense couldn’t get off the field on third down (San Diego controlled the ball for 36:46), and one of Roethlisberger’s two turnovers was a backward pass gone wrong that resulted in a touchdown recovery in the end zone for the Bolts.

    On a Sunday in which both the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals lost on the final play of their respective games, the Steelers found themselves down 34-10 in the fourth quarter to a team that had lost its previous four games.

    And even a pair of late touchdown passes by Roethlisberger couldn’t mask, arguably, one of the worst performances of the Tomlin era.


St. Louis Rams: A-

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    So the St. Louis Rams can beat someone outside of the NFC West after all.

    All kidding aside, Jeff Fisher’s improved team entered Sunday’s visit to Buffalo with an impressive 4-0-1 mark within its division but a 1-6 record outside of it. And three of those six losses were to the AFC East’s Patriots, Jets and Dolphins.

    So a 15-12 victory over the Buffalo Bills at Orchard Park was a big step in more ways than one. Third-year quarterback Sam Bradford led his team on a 14-play, 84-yard touchdown drive in the final five minutes to win the game. And with three straight wins, the Rams are now 6-6-1 following a dismal 2-14 season.

    St. Louis’ defense held the Bills to 281 total yards and sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick five times. Buffalo’s ground attack was limited to 61 yards, three less than Rams running back Steven Jackson managed on the afternoon.

    Kudos to Fisher and his staff for a job well done as his rebuilt team continues to surprise.

San Diego Chargers: A+

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    You heard the statistic all weekend.

    The San Diego Chargers were 0-14 lifetime in the regular season at Pittsburgh.

    The Chargers are now 1-14 lifetime in the regular season at Pittsburgh thanks to an impressive 34-24 win over the stunned Steelers at Heinz Field.

    Quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 200 yards and three touchdowns and was sacked only once, and he and his team played turnover-free football. The Bolts controlled the ball for 36:46 and ran 79 offensive plays. And don’t be fooled by the fact that the Steelers actually won the total yardage battle.

    Meanwhile, the San Diego defense limited Pittsburgh to 69 yards rushing and forced returning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger into a pair of costly turnovers.

    With word these last few days of changes coming in San Diego, it was a strong performance by Norv Turner’s team, to say the least.

San Francisco 49ers: B+

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    While it didn’t come easy, the San Francisco 49ers rebounded from last week’s frustrating overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams with a 27-13 triumph over the game Miami Dolphins.

    Jim Harbaugh’s club ran for 155 yards and Colin Kaepernick had 53 of those yards and a touchdown. The second-year quarterback also threw for 185 yards without an interception despite being sacked four times. All told, the 49ers played turnover-free football on the afternoon.

    The Niners’ defense limited the Dolphins to 227 yards of total offense and just one touchdown.

    Still, San Francisco owned just a 6-3 lead at halftime as the teams combined for three field goals and four punts in the first half.

    But it was a much-needed victory for the 49ers, who continued to keep the hot Seattle Seahawks at bay in the very interesting NFC West.

Seattle Seahawks: A+

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    Happy 20th anniversary, Seattle Seahawks.

    In 1992, the franchise set an NFL record for the fewest points scored in a 16-game season with 140. On Sunday at Seattle the ‘Hawks set a team record with 58 points in a whitewash of the Arizona Cardinals.

    Running back Marshawn Lynch ran 11 times for 128 yards and three touchdowns, rookie Robert Turbin added 108 yards in 20 carries, and Pete Carroll’s team forced eight turnovers in the shutout victory.

    And what of quarterback Russell Wilson on this record-setting day, do you say? The rookie dropped back 14 times, completed seven throws for 148 yards and a score, was sacked once and threw his first interception at home this season.

    As for the defense that held the Cardinals to 154 total yards, cornerback Richard Sherman returned a John Skelton interception 19 yards for a score and wound up with three of the Seahawks’ takeaways.

    Good times indeed for the high-flying Seahawks.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C-

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    It’s been a theme for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers all season.

    While the team has made plenty of improvements during head coach Greg Schiano’s first season at the helm, the Bucs have had a habit of squandering double-digit leads.

    Tampa Bay owned 14-point leads earlier this season vs. the Giants and Saints, and both of those resulted in losses. And with a 21-10 advantage in the fourth quarter on Sunday vs. the Philadelphia Eagles, Schiano watched rookie quarterback Nick Foles throw two touchdown passes in the final four minutes to hand Tampa its third straight loss, 23-21.

    Rookie running back Doug Martin ran for 128 yards and a score, and quarterback Josh Freeman threw a pair of touchdown passes. And the Buccaneers played turnover-free football. But Tampa’s porous pass defense gave up 381 yards through the air to Foles despite sacking the Eagles quarterback six times.

    Good teams know how to close the door on opponents when necessary. For Schiano’s young team, it’s a lesson that it still needs to learn.

Tennessee Titans: C+

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    It’s been a reversal of fortunes for Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak.

    One season after winning nine games, Munchak’s club has already lost nine contests, the latest a 27-23 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in which the Titans squandered a 20-7 halftime lead.

    Quarterback Jake Locker threw for 262 yards and a score but was also picked off twice, one of those returned three yards for a touchdown. And the Titans’ ground game was limited to 97 yards, with Locker (51) outrushing Chris Johnson (44) on the afternoon.

    One bright spot was the play of wideout Kenny Britt, who was targeted nine times and totaled eight receptions for 143 yards.

    Unfortunately for Munchak and his team, the highlights have been few and far between and haven’t added up to many victories in 2012.

Washington Redskins: A-

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    It was business as usual for the Washington Redskins thanks to their rookie quarterback.

    Well, let’s make it rookie quarterbacks.

    With Robert Griffin III knocked out of the game against the Baltimore Ravens, Kirk Cousins took the controls and threw a 11-yard touchdown pass to wideout Pierre Garcon with 29 seconds to play to narrow the team’s deficit to two points. And the former Michigan State Spartan sent the game into overtime with his run for the two-point conversion.

    In the extra session, Richard Crawford returned a punt 64 yards, setting up Kai Forbath’s 34-yard field goal in the extra session to give Mike Shanahan’s team its fourth straight win, 31-28.

    Griffin would throw for 246 yards and a score and once again got plenty of help from fellow rookie Alfred Morris, who shook off a lost fumble and finished the afternoon with 122 yards rushing and a score.

    The Washington defense was pushed to the limit, allowing 186 rushing yards while Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw three touchdown passes. But London Fletcher and company also forced the Baltimore quarterback into a pair of key turnovers.

    Whether Griffin is able to play next week, Shanahan’s club is rolling. And there’s a lot to be said for momentum in this league.