NFL Quick Snap Recap: Week 15
Two divisions were clinched, the lead in another changed hands and curiously, after only two sides had previously been shut out in games this season, that tally grew to five.
One of those shutouts was of no surprise as the struggling Kansas City Chiefs were blanked by the Oakland Raiders 15-0. In a dull game without a single touchdown, five field goals from Sebastian Janikowski, the third of which from 57 yards, proved the difference.
The New Orleans Saints also recorded a shut-out victory, thumping their divisional rivals the Tampa Bay Buccanneers 41-0. Drew Brees had a day out, becoming the latest in an increasingly long line of quarterbacks to torch the Buccaneers secondary as he threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns. This is an area Tampa Bay must address in the offseason, their run defence is the best in the league, but their inability to stop the pass has killed them this season.
The third of the shut-outs proved a big surprise as the Atlanta Falcons destroyed the New York Giants 34-0, quashing suggestions they are the number one seed purely as a result of a soft draw. Matt Ryan was nearly perfect on the day, going 23-28 for 270 Yards and three touchdown’s. The Giants have now slipped from the NFC East lead and face a battle to even make the playoffs.
Replacing them are the surging Washington Redskins who made it five wins in a row despite the absence of RGIII, beating the Cleveland Browns 38-21. Kirk Cousins stepped in at QB and performed admirably, leading his side to 28 second half points as he threw for 329 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Making it a three way tie at 8-6 in the NFC East were the Dallas Cowboys, who triumphed over the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 in overtime. Ben Roethlisberger was picked off by Brandon Carr on the second play of overtime and took the ball all the way to the one yard line to set up a Dan Bailey chip shot to make it two game winning field goals in two weeks.
The Denver Broncos continued to roll on, making it nine in a row to improve to 11-3 with a comprehensive win over the Baltimore Ravens 34-17. For once it was not on the back of a Peyton Manning master class, he threw for only 204 yards as Knowshon Moreno ran for 118 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Ravens fans, so delirious at the firing of Cam Cameron, may not be so delirious now, as incredibly Ray Rice was not targeted or given the ball once on a third down in this game!
The Chicago Bears fall from grace continued as they dropped a fifth game in six weeks, this time to the Green Bay Packers who won a hard fought game 21-13. Aaron Rodgers hit James Jones on all three touchdowns, to hand the NFC North title to the Packers. With games against Arizona and Detroit in the final two weeks the Bears can still fight back into a wildcard spot but as it stands they are out of the playoffs.
Jumping above the Bears into second in the NFC North and joining the log jam of sides at 8-6 in the NFC were the Minnesota Vikings who put up 23 points in the second quarter on their way to a 36-22 win over the St Louis Rams. Once again it was the Adrian Peterson show, as he rushed for 212 yards on 24 carries, including a game breaking 82 yard score to move within sight of Eric Dickerson’s single season record. He needs 294 in the final two weeks to break the 2105 mark of Dickerson.
Another man within sights of a record is Calvin Johnson; he had another 121 receiving yards to move within 182 yards of the single season receiving record. It was the only bright spot in a bad day for the Detroit Lions as they were stunned by the Arizona Cardinals 38-10. It marked an incredible 86 point turnaround from their 58 point loss last week to the Seahawks.
Speaking of the Seattle Seahawks, suddenly they are red hot and looming as a playoff threat. They made it back to back weeks posting 50 points as Russell Wilson ran for three touchdowns in a 50-17 rout of the Buffalo Bills. With it they improved to 9-5 and now occupy the fifth seed in the NFC.
The Houston Texans bounced back from their hiding at the hands of New England last week and sewed up the AFC South with a 29-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts. The Texans key playmakers all put up big numbers as Arian Foster ran for 165 yards, Andre Johnson had 11 catches for 151 yards plus a touchdown and J.J. Watt registered 10 tackles and three sacks.
The Carolina Panthers made it two wins in a row as they continued to build for next season and piled more misery on an awful season for the San Diego Chargers with their 31-7 win. Former Charger Mike Tolbert ran in two touchdowns and Cam Newton threw for two more to lift the Panthers to 5-9. Phillip Rivers had another miserable day as he was sacked six times and managed only 121 passing yards.
In another somewhat irrelevant game, the Miami Dolphins were too good for the Jacksonville Jaguars as Chad Henne made an unspectacular return to Miami. The Jaguars managed just a solitary field goal as they went down 24-3. Rookie Ryan Tannehill had one of his better NFL games, going 22-28 for 220 yards and two touchdowns.
To cap off a great days action we had the game of the day, if not game of the season that saw the San Francisco 49ers win a thriller over the New England Patriots 41-34. The 49ers jumped out to a 31-3 lead before Tom Brady led his side back with four consecutive touchdown drives of 73, 86, 66 and 92 yards to level it with 6.43 remaining. A 62 yard kick-off return from LaMichael James set up a 38 yard Kaepernick pass to Crabtree for a touchdown which proved the winner for the 49ers and sealed a classic prime time game.