Just a Kicker, Being a Kicker!
For missing two potential game-icing field goals, Redskins kicker Seann Suisham is one of "Lloyd’s Lackeys" for Week 11, which typified the topsy-turvy nature of the world’s best sports league.
This week started with a great slugfest on Thursday Night Football between the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers, won 24-17 by the Dolphins (5-5) as RB Ricky Williams (see Game Balls below) proved he has plenty left in the tank.
Then the week’s remaining 15 games provided some great action all the way through the Tennessee Titans’ thrilling 20-17 Monday Night Football win over the host Houston Texans.
Some of the other headlines from this week included:
Unexpected Great Game with Thrilling Finish
What a turnaround when everyone was calling this one Week 11’s “Toilet Bowl” before the game was even played. Aided by a questionable pass-interference play in the end zone as time expired, the Lions (2-8) got one last un-timed down near the goal line.
Rookie QB Matthew Stafford (26-of-43, 422 YDS, 5 TD, 2 INT) shook off a separated left shoulder to throw the game-winning score to rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew on the "second" last play of the game and Ford Field exploded with the improbable 38-37 win over the Cleveland Browns (1-9).
This game was an awesome, high-scoring affair where both quarterbacks—Stafford and the Browns’ Brady Quinn (21-of-33, 304 YDS, 4 TD)—played extremely well.
Two Overtime Home Team Winners
The Kansas City Chiefs (2-8) won a shocking 27-24 overtime game over the Pittsburgh Steelers, who did not have QB Ben Roethlisberger in the extra period due to concussion-like symptoms. Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop provided the winning points on a 22-yard field goal with 8:28 left in overtime after both Roethlisberger and his backup, Charlie Batch (wrist), left the game with injuries.
In the other overtime game, I guess the bye week after four straight losses was just what the New York Giants (6-4) needed. This overtime thriller saw the Giants jump out to an early 17-7 halftime lead over the Atlanta Falcons with things getting interesting late.
The hard-charging Falcons, led by QB Matt Ryan (26-of-46, 268 YDS, 2 TD), scored 14 unanswered points on two touchdown passes late in the fourth to force overtime. Then resurgent QB Eli Manning (25-of-39, 384 YDS, 3 TD, 1 INT) hit WR Mario Manningham (six catches for 126 yards) for a 29-yard reception just after overtime began to setup Giants' kicker Lawrence Tynes 36-yard game winner.
The aforementioned Chiefs' win over the Steelers and the Oakland Raiders beating the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Raiders were a heavy underdog, but led by new starter Bruce Gradkowski (17-of-34, 183 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT) and their defense, they won a hard fought 20-17 home game. The key to Oakland surprising the Bengals was the “overconfident” AFC North leader giving up 10 points in the final 33 seconds of the game.
You have to believe that the Bengals long flight back to Cincy was very quiet, especially for kickoff return man Andre Caldwell, who lost a fumble in the game’s closing moments to set up Oakland’s game-winning field goal.
The week’s most boring game occurred in Jerry Jones’s billion-dollar Dallas Cowboys stadium as the host Cowboys (7-3) woke-up just in time to put together one touchdown drive (QB Tony Romo’s 10-yard touchdown pass to WR Patrick Crayton with 2:41 left) to beat the Washington Redskins 7-6.
Romo (15-of-27, 158 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT) hit 7-of-8 passes for 60 yards on the winning drive and kept several plays alive by eluding Washington’s pass rushers.
All I can say is, “A win, is a win,” but overall the Cowboys were lackadaisical and they should send Redskins kicker Seann Suisham some roses for missing two field goals in the second half that could have iced the game for Washington (3-7).
The good news is the Cowboys got the win and may have found their running game (153 rushing yards, including 99 yards by RB Marion Barber), but the bad news is their receiving corps was non-existent including zero catches for looking-more-like-bust-everyday WR Roy Williams. Now the Cowboys have a short week to prepare for the Raiders on Thanksgiving.
Winning Streaks Continue
The Tennessee Titans won their fourth straight game, this time over the Houston Texans (5-5) on MNF , as Titans kicker Rob Bironas booted a 53-yard field goal with less than a minute left and then Texans kicker Kris Brown shanked a potential game-winner with one second left.
However, the story of the game was Titans quarterback Vince Young (12-of-22, 116 YDS, 1 TD, 73 YDS rushing)—now 4-0 as a starter in ’09—who returned to his hometown of Houston and continued his development as a Steve McNair-type leader . VY made plays with his arm and legs, while leaning on MVP-candidate RB Chris Johnson (29 rushes for 151 YDS and 5.2 AVG).
The Titans are right back in the thick of the AFC wild-card hunt at 4-6.
Another big streak that continued was by the San Diego Chargers (7-3) who won their sixth straight and moved into first place in the AFC West with their dominating 32-3 victory over Denver.
On the other side of the field there was no winning as the Broncos lost their fourth straight game.
The last winning streak winner was the Indianapolis Colts, who continued their 19-game streak with a 17-15 win over the Ravens. The 19-game winning streak is the second longest in NFL history behind the New England Patriots' 21-game streak from 2006 to 2008. Also keeping their winning streak alive was the New Orleans Saints, who won their 10th consecutive game (over Tampa Bay) for the first time in franchise history.
Of course the headline that I did leave out was the NFL’s two unbeaten squads (New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts) staying that way for another week. By virtue of the Saints 38-7 dismantling of the Tampa Bay Bucs (scored touchdowns all five times they entered the red zone) and the Colts tough win over the Baltimore Ravens; both teams are now 10-0 this season.
The pair’s records make them a true rarity in NFL history as it's only the third time in league history that two teams are 10-0 (1934 Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, along with the 1990 New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers).
The two games were drastic contrasts of one another, but in the end, both teams are on the threshold of greatness. I am not saying that the 1972 Miami Dolphins (perfect 17-0, including a Super Bowl win) or the 2007 New England Patriots (perfect 16-0 in the regular season) need to worry just yet, but both the Saints and Colts are moving close to their neighborhood.
The offensive Saints woke up from an early Bucs’ lead of 7-0 to put up 38 unanswered points, led by QB Drew Brees’ three touchdown passes. In contrast, the Colts in their return to Baltimore, were in a real street fight as the scrappy Ravens fought to the bitter end, when a last-chance lateral attempt by Ravens safety Ed Reed on a punt return was ruled a fumble and recovered by Indianapolis.
The Ravens defense, even though they did not sack QB Peyton Manning, limited the Colts high-powered offense to only 17 points, including just three in the second half.
However, it was too many field goals (five) for Baltimore’s offense and not enough touchdowns in the red zone that spelled their doom.
Surprisingly, one of the many heroes for the Colts was former Ravens kicker Matt Stover, who booted a 25-yard field goal to give his team the win.
In a crucial game that showed the grit of the Colts, they won on a bad day. The undefeated squad lost the turnover battle (3-1) and overcame a mediocre effort by Manning (2 INTs) to keep going.
With their win in “The Charm City Grudge Match,” the Colts have now won their two toughest games in the last two weeks by three points combined : Week 10 over the Patriots by a score of 35-34 and Week 11 over the Ravens by a score of 17-15.
Though I don’t think both the Saints and Colts can do the impossible (no pair has ever reached 11-0 together) and reach the 1972 Dolphins’ perfection— too many teams getting up for a fight with the “Town Bully”— I have listed both teams remaining games below:
Saints: NE, @WAS, @ATL, DAL, TB, @CAR
Colts: @HOU, TEN, DEN, @JAC, NYJ, @BUF
With only six games left to be played, there is much more separation left to do within the league’s standings.
There are still the “Have’s” (eight teams with seven wins or more, including two undefeated teams) and the “Have Nots” (nine teams with three or less wins), but the majority of teams (15) are still playing within former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle’s parity dream section.
With records ranging from 6-4 to 4-6, including four inconsistent teams stuck right at the .500 mark (Ravens, Texans, Dolphins, and Falcons), it is time for the “Contenders” and “Pretenders” to choose their status in the league’s last few weeks.
There are 12 coveted playoff spots up for grabs and you have to expect some teams will soon be giving thanks this turkey-day for their opportunity to make the playoffs.
Here’s the current division breakdown after Week 11:
Dallas Cowboys (7-3) have a one-game lead over the Eagles (6-4) and Giants (6-4). All three teams own a 2-1 record in their NFC East games. The Giants play the Cowboys in Week 13 and the Eagles in Week 14.
Arizona Cardinals (7-3) have a three-game lead over the 49ers (4-6). The Cardinals seem to be in the driver’s seat in this division, but QB Kurt Warner’s head injury will be something that needs to be monitored.
New Orleans Saints (10-0) have a five-game lead over the Falcons (5-5). It looks like the Saints will soon claim the NFC South title.
Minnesota Vikings (8-1) have a four-game lead over the Packers (4-5).
New England Patriots (7-3) have a two-game lead over the Miami Dolphins (5-5).
By virtue of their 32-3 shellacking of the Broncos this week, the San Diego Chargers (7-3) have a one-game lead over the reeling Denver Broncos (6-4).
Indianapolis Colts (10-0) have a four-game lead over the Houston Texans (5-4).
Cincinnati Bengals (7-3) maintained their one-game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-4) as the entire division lost in Week 11.
Before we move onto the "Game Balls" and "Lackeys" for this week, here are some of "Lloyd’s Leftovers."
Quarterback Talk None of Your Business
After the Eagles 24-20 win over the Chicago Bears on NBC Sunday Night Football , opposing quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Jay Cutler (24-for-43, 171 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT stretching his NFL-high interception total to 18) embraced in a man-hug for some “QB Talk” for what seemed like forever...But what was said?
Unfortunately, McNabb was mum on the subject in his postgame comments. “It stays between me and Jay,” McNabb said to NBC . “That’s just kind of the fraternity that we have, the quarterbacks. Just continue to have your confidence, keep strong and keep working hard. Things will work out well.”
I truly believe McNabb, who has been through the ringer at times in Philly, told Cutler to develop some tough skin because he will need it. After being acquired in April from Denver and being named the Bears' first superstar at quarterback since Jim McMahon in the 1980s, Cutler has clearly struggled and some have let him have it.
The Chicago Sun-Times' headline after Sunday’s loss read, "Jay Cutler is a bust.”
Injuries, Injuries, and More Injuries
I say it every week, “The NFL Season is a War of Attrition” and Week 11 brought that fact to light again. The team that suffered the worst blows was possibly the Green Bay Packers, who lost veterans CB Al Harris and OLB Aaron Kampman both to knee injuries for the season in their 30-24 win over the 49ers.
The multitude of other frontline injuries included: Steelers QB Charlie Batch (wrist), Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (concussion-type symptoms), Lions S Kalvin Pearson (hamstring), Lions QB Matthew Stafford (left shoulder), Dolphins DT Jason Ferguson (quad—season), Redskins RB Ladell Betts (knee—season), Seahawks S Deon Grant (hand), Rams QB Marc Bulger (broken tibia—six weeks), Lions WR Calvin Johnson (hand, knee), Bengals DT Domata Peko (sprained MCL), Bills C/GEric Wood (broken leg—season), Bills G Seth McKinney (knee—season), and Cardinals QB Kurt Warner (concussion).
Before we go to this week’s awards, our thoughts and prayers go out to former NFL LB Chris Spielman. The former Ohio State star lost his wife Stefanie Spielman (42) after she passed away after a courageous battle with breast cancer.
“Stefanie has gone home to be with the Lord,” Chris Spielman said in a statement released after his wife’s passing. “For that, we celebrate, but with broken hearts. I want to thank everyone for their support over the last 12 years. Together, with your help, hopefully we made a difference in this fight.”
The Spielmans have raised over $6 million for breast cancer research at Ohio State University.
RB Ricky Williams, Miami Dolphins
You thought at age 32, after his lengthy off-the-field, quirky nature (Drug use, including several NFL suspensions, playing in the CFL, studying holistic medicine, living in the Australian outback, “quitting his career”…I could go on and on) that Williams couldn’t even come close to replacing injured teammate Ronnie Brown.
Well you were wrong, as it was “Run Ricky, Ricky Run” time—in and out of the Wildcat— as the 2002 NFL rushing champ turned back the clock in the Dolphins’ Thursday night win over the Panthers. The former 1998 Heisman winner finished with 22 rushes (most carries since 2005), 119 yards, and 2 TDs. Plus he added a 14-yard touchdown catch for the Dolphins’ first score.
The Dolphins (5-5) are now back in the playoff picture after winning their fourth game out of their last six. “Our offense really clicked,” Dolphins left tackle Jake Long said. “Ricky ran great.”
WR Terrell Owens, Buffalo Bills
Speaking of turning back the clock, T.O. re-emerged, in Jacksonville of all places. Owens (9 REC, 197 YDS—the most since gaining 213 yards for Dallas in Week 11 last season—and 1 TD) was unstoppable at times in the Bills’ road loss to the Jags.
The VH1 reality star has definitely developed a great camaraderie with new quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick as shown by their franchise-record 98-yard touchdown hookup. Though Owens had to endure being mocked by Jags WR Mike Sims-Walker on the Jags’ game-winner, he clearly was a lot happier than in past weeks.
T.O.’s season numbers are now a little more respectable at 35 receptions for 563 yards, 16.1 AVG, and 2 TDs.
“Well, it doesn’t mean that I am washed up,” Owens joked after the game. The petulant one now has 14,685 career receiving yards, which moved him into fourth place on the NFL’s all-time list, ahead of Marvin Harrison (14,580).
QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
What a gutsy performance as the 2009 NFL Draft’s first overall player selected led the Lions to a huge home win over the Browns, with phenomenal numbers (26-of-43, 422 YDS, 5 TD, and 2 INT).
Apparently Stafford feels no pain as he willed himself back on the field to throw the game’s winning score despite dislocating his left shoulder on the play earlier. The Lions QB’s 422 passing yards are the most by a rookie in a single game in NFL history, besting the mark set by Arizona’s Matt Leinart (405 yards, Nov. 26, 2006).
Stafford is also the second rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw five touchdown passes in a game, joining Ray Buivid of the Chicago Bears who had five on Dec. 5, 1937.
WR Wes Welker, New England Patriots
Wow. Is there anyone better out of the slot than Tom Brady’s security blanket? What didn’t Welker do in the Patriots’ win over the NY Jets? He finished with 15 receptions for 192 yards, and 0 TDs (who cares) with an additional 11 yards rushing.
QB Brett Favre, Minnesota Vikings
America’s greatest comeback story gets better each week. Favre (22-of-25, a career-best 88 percent, 213 YDS, 4 TD) continued to turn back the clock in the Vikings’ 35-9 thrashing of the Seahawks. The 40-year old passer even looks like a strong contender for the 2009 NFL MVP Award, which would be his fourth honor.
The Vikings are now 9-1 and right on the heels of the undefeated Saints for NFC playoff home field advantage.
CB Leigh Bodden, New England Patriots
This man really had some sticky hands in the Patriots’ 31-14 win over the Jets—tying a Patriots’ franchise record—including returning an interception 53 yards for a touchdown.
QB Vince Young , Tennessee Titans : Won his eighth consecutive start and led the Titans to their fourth straight win on Monday Night Football .
WR DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles : Had eight receptions for 107 yards and one TD of 48 yards, plus a 10-yard run in the Eagles’ win.
WR Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions: Megatron was in the house, producing seven receptions, 161 yards, and a touchdown of 75 yards in the Lions’ win.
RB Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers : Ran hard, producing rushing numbers of 21 rushes for 129 yards, 6.1 AVG, and one TD.
QB Eli Manning, New York Giants : Was dominant, going 25-of-39 for 384 yards, three TDs, and one INT in the Giants' overtime win.
Tackles Jared Gaither and Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens : Held Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis without a sack for the first time all season.
WR Hines Ward , Pittsburgh Steelers : This future HOF produced awesome numbers again with 10 receptions for 128 yards and one TD.
Kicker Billy Cundiff, Baltimore Ravens : The only Ravens player to score kicked five field goals, in a close loss to the Colts.
QB Mark Sanchez, NY Jets
What happened to the kid and team that started this season 3-0?
Sanchez looked like a quarterback that only had 16 starts in college at USC as he threw for awful numbers: 136 yards, one TD, and four INTs. Sanchez now has 16 INTs this season, plus one lost fumble.
The Patriots frazzled the young passer in the pocket and his turnovers were indicative of the NFL now being prepared for his tendencies. Some have said, “Put in backup quarterback Kellen Clemens,” but I attribute much of Sanchez’s problems to just being a rookie.
Head Coach Josh McDaniels, Denver Broncos
The Broncos now have lost four straight games and lost the lead in the AFC West after a 32-3 butt kicking by the San Diego Chargers this past Sunday.
To make matters worse, McDaniels took off his coach’s hat before the game and engaged in smack-talk with the Chargers’ linebackers during warm-ups. Chargers linebacker Stephen Cooper claimed after the game that McDaniels said, "We own you."
I guess the NFL’s 32-year-old wonder-kid coach was wrong.
QB Chris Simms, Denver Broncos
Making his first start since rupturing his spleen as a member of the Buccaneers more than three years ago, Phil’s boy was terrible.
In fact, Simms was so terrible (2-for-4 with 10 yards passing and a lost fumble on the game’s opening series) that the Broncos went back to ailing Kyle Orton (ankle) rather than leave him in.
Maybe the Tampa Bay was right about Simms.
WR Brandon Marshall, Denver Broncos
Had only three receptions for 26 yards in the Broncos loss to the Chargers. Marshall also caused the game’s biggest commotion as he got in the face of rookie RB Knowshon Moreno on the sidelines after the youngster fumbled at the goal line.
After the game Marshall said, “Those are the plays that kind of kill drives. We’ve just got to punch it in next time.” Later, Baby T.O. added, “I don’t regret anything. This is a playoff game. If there were guys on the sideline that weren’t angry, who didn’t have a lot of emotion, they need to look themselves in the mirror. This is a game where you’ve got to have it. None of us can make any terrible plays.”
K Sean Suisham, Washington Redskins
Though a perfect 12-12 going into the Cowboys game, Suisham was awful. The ‘Skins kicker missed two big field goals: a 39-yarder at the end of the first half and a 50-yarder in the fourth quarter that could have iced the game.
For the game, Suisham finished 2-4 on FG attempts with a long of 45 yards and six points.
Special Teams Coordinator Bob Ligashesk, Pittsburgh Steelers
On Sunday in Kansas City, the Steelers gave up a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown by Jamaal Charles on the opening kickoff. Charles’ return marked the fourth time in five games an opposing kick returner has taken one to the house against the Steelers.
Ligashesky’s unit has a lot of work to do or the coordinator could be hitting the street after the season. It's hard to believe the Steelers had the NFL’s top-ranked kick-coverage unit last season.
QB Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Overthrew at least three potential touchdowns in the Bears loss to the Eagles, and, though it was a tipped-pass interception by safety Sean Jones, Cutler threw another pick giving him 18 INTs for the season.
For the game, Cutler had pedestrian numbers of 24-of-43, 171 yards, one TD, and one INT. Maybe former Bears' quarterbacks like Jim Miller and Henry Burris were not that bad after all.
RB Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
Where has the running game gone for the Bears and this former 2008 NFL Rookie of the Year candidate? Forte only produced 14 rushes for 34 yards and a poor 2.4-yard average in the Bears’ home loss to the Eagles.
QB Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Maybe it is possible that Flacco and Falcons QB Matt Ryan are experiencing “sophomore slumps” after their magic-carpet-ride rookie seasons. Flacco produced zero touchdowns and one interception in the Ravens’ home loss to the Colts and he now has just one passing touchdown in his last four games.
Seattle Seahawks Defense
For the fifth time in five road games, the Seahawks lost by double-digits.
NFL Week 11
THU, NOV. 19
Miami (5-5) over Carolina (4-6), 24-17
SUN, NOV. 22
Washington (3-7), Dallas (7-3), 7-6
Cleveland (1-9), Detroit (2-8), 38-37
San Francisco (4-6), Green Bay (6-4) 30-24
Pittsburgh (6-4), Kansas City (2-8), 27-24 in OT
Atlanta (5-5), NY Giants (6-4), 34-31 in OT
New Orleans (10-0), Tampa Bay (1-9), 38-7
Buffalo (3-7), Jacksonville (6-4), 18-15
Indianapolis (10-0), Baltimore (5-5), 17-15
Seattle (3-7), Minnesota (9-1), 35-9
Arizona (7-3), St. Louis (1-8), 21-13
NY Jets (4-6), New England (7-3), 31-14
Cincinnati (7-3), Oakland (3-7), 20-17
San Diego (7-3), Denver (6-4), 32-3
Philadelphia (6-4), Chicago (4-6), 24-20
MON, NOV. 23
Tennessee (4-6), Houston (5-5), 20-17
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).