Week 13 saw a bevy of divisional games finally start to put some space between contenders and pretenders in this the weirdest of seasons. The Falcons came close to wrapping up the NFC South and possibly the entire conference with another comeback victory against Tampa. Dressed in vintage orange unis, the Bucs took a ten point lead before an Eric Weems kickoff return brought the Dirty Birds within three points. Matty Ice sealed the deal with a late touchdown, on the road this time.
The NFC Central could come down to the last week’s Packers-Bears showdown as neither team shows any sign of slowing down. The Pack bounced back with an expected shellacking of the 49ers, highlighted by the catch and run efforts of Donald Driver.
The Bears were at the receiving end of a similar, more embarrassing effort courtesy of Calvin Johnson who tore through Bears defensive backs with stiff arms straight out forged on Cybertron.
While Megatron’s moves gave Detroit another halftime lead, the Bears defense was sufficiently motivated to shut down the Lions for the rest of the day. A late Jay Cutler TD combined with some help from an extremely questionable roughing call on Ndamukong Suh gave the Bears the victory. Next up for the Bears, an absolutely brutal slate against the beast of the AFC East and road visits to division rivals. They’ve proven themselves well thus far but closing out the season versus the Patriots, Vikings, Jets and Packers should be true tests of the Bears mettle.
On the West Coast, Oakland ended San Diego’s annual effort at a late season surge by taking it to the Chargers on the road. The combination of Daren McFadden and a feisty Raiders D was too much for Phillip Rivers and company to overcome. The Chiefs move two games ahead of the field with a win over the dismal Broncos.
– If the NFC West can be considered a professional division then Seattle should be patting themselves on the back for overcoming the 14 point lead they spotted league doormats Carolina. Dreams of a 7-9 division winner may have to be deferred.
– I’ve watched hundreds of football games in my life and can’t remember seeing the “fake going it on fourth down to draw the other team offsides,” play work. Therefore, congratulations are in order to the Cincinnati Bengals’ Pat Simms for jumping on Drew Brees’ hard count on fourth down and the Bengals up three with a minute remaining. The second chance for the Saints allowed them to take the lead and sneak away with a victory.
– The Redskins officially gave up on their season with a six turnover performance in Giants stadium in a comprehensive defeat. Hard to see how they keep Donovan after this season.
– Tally up 11 INTs for Peyton in three weeks, including this week’s four pick performance that Rex Grossman would be proud of. Two were returned for Cowboy touchdowns and one set up Dallas’ OT field goal. The Cowboys continue to relish their role of spoiler. With the success of the Boys and Vikings, look for more teams to turn to midseason firings in the future. Starting with Washington next week.
– Epitomizing their smash mouth football mantra, the Steelers went toe-to-toe with the Ravens in a battle for the ages. From the outset, the game was brutal, exemplified with Ben Roethlisberger catching a nose-shattering thwack by Ravens lineman Haloti Ngata in the first quarter. The Steelers stumbled but didn’t crumble and were saved by Troy Polamalu’s leaping defensive tactic that caused Joe Flacco to fumble away the pigskin and the Ravens’ chances.