With nine games kicking off at 1:00, you had a feeling that it might be difficult to keep up. That would be true on a normal Sunday, but week 14 provided some of the craziest games in recent memory. So let’s bring everyone up to speed on what they might have missed:
Miami 34, Pittsburgh 28
- The Steelers nearly pulled off the greatest multi-lateral play in NFL history. The play-by-play description: Ben Roethlisberger passed to Emmanuel Sanders to the right for 22 yard gain. lateral to Jerricho Cotchery. lateral to Le’Veon Bell. lateral to Marcus Gilbert. lateral to Ben Roethlisberger. lateral to Antonio Brown for 55 yards. Brown ran into the end zone, but the edge of his foot just barely touched the sidelines at the 13-yard line.
- The game featured four lead changes in the second half, which would be impressive on a normal day but just blended into the background on this Sunday. The Steelers shut down Mike Wallace in his return to Pittsburgh, but Charles Clay caught all seven of his targets for 97 yards and two touchdowns.
- Troy Polamalu returned a Ryan Tannehill pass for a touchdown, missed an easy interception earlier in the game, and was part of a nearly spectacular missed field goal return to end the first half.
- At 5-8 and with the Bengals on deck, the Steelers playoff hopes are on life support. If Pittsburgh can win out, though, they still have a chance since the Steelers win tiebreakers against the Jets, Ravens, and Chargers.
- At 7-6, the Dolphins are in great position to take the AFC’s 6 seed. But Miami tends to struggle inside the division (8-13 since 2010), and the final three games are against the AFC East. The Jets would own the tiebreaker if they defeat Miami in week 17.
Philadelphia 34, Detroit 20
- There was snow in several 1:00 games, but the effects were more significant in Philadelphia. This was one of the craziest games you’ll ever see in a very literal sense of the word.
- How crazy? Because of the snow, neither team attempted a field goal, and the Eagles went for two after after each touchdown. The Lions did the same after all but one, and when Detroit tried to kick the extra point, it was blocked. As a result, this became the first game since 1957 where no points were scored off of kicks. It was the first game since at least 1940 where both teams scored and no points were scored off kicks.
- Don’t let the final score fool you: early on, this game looked like it might end in a 0-0 tie. At one point, the over/under dropped to 17.5 in live betting. Philadelphia’s first five drives yielded 13 yards, while Detroit fumbled six times in the first 18 minutes. Joique Bell broke through with a touchdown in the second quarter, and Jeremy Ross returned a punt for a touchdown. Just when it seemed like the game would end 14-0, the fireworks began.
- With four minutes left in the third quarter, Nick Foles threw a touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson. Then, in a span of five plays early in the fourth quarter, three touchdowns were scored: first, a LeSean McCoy 40-yard run, then Ross returned the ensuing kickoff for the touchdown, and three plays later, McCoy rushed 57 yards for another touchdown.
- With a loss, the Lions have allowed the Bears and Packers to climb back into the NFC North race, while all but eliminating themselves from wild card contention. Philadelphia has now won 7 of 9, although Nick Foles did throw his first interception of the year.
- The Eagles scored just 6 points in the first three quarters before putting up 28 in the fourth. However, Brent Celek caught a pass on the first play after the two minute warning and could have scored an easy touchdown; instead, he took a slide to allow Philadelphia to kneel out the clock. Had he scored, the team would have had a chance to put up a record 36 points in the quarter.
Jets 37, Oakland 27
- The Jets had scored 37 or more points just twice in the last three years, but the Raiders were the cure for all the Jets woes. Geno Smith was 16/25 for 219 yards and a touchdown, and also ran five times for 50 yards and a score. Chris Ivory rushed 18 times for 76 yards and a touchdown, and the offense looked light years better with a healthy Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley.
- Dennis Allen alternated quarterbacks Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor, which… actually didn’t backfire too much. The Raiders had three plays of 40+ yards in the game, including touchdowns by Rod Streater and Marcel Reece. Oakland didn’t play well, but don’t blame the offense for this loss.
- At 6-7, the Jets are still alive for the 6 seed. Even losing to the Panthers on Sunday won’t hurt the team too much. For New York, the path is: (a) win at home against Cleveland and at Miami; (b) have Miami lose to either New England or Buffalo; (c) have the Ravens lose out, with those games being at Detroit, against New England, and at Cincinnati; (d) have each of the Steelers, Titans, and Chargers each lose at least one more game. That’s a lot of contingencies, but frankly, the biggest impediment to the Jets getting into the playoffs at 8-8 is probably beating both Cleveland and Miami. Of course, winning in Carolina would change this dramatically, but the odds of that seem really, really, low.
Baltimore 29, Minnesota 26
- You can read my review of the record-setting fourth quarter here. It’s hard to quantify craziness — the Auburn/Alabama ending was better, and many fourth quarters were more exciting from start to finish — but I don’t think there’s ever been a final 2:30 minutes of a game quite like this one.
- In much less exciting news, Adrian Peterson left the game with an injury, and he may miss the rest of the year. Fortunately, it doesn’t appear to be too serious of a foot injury, but there’s no reason for the Vikings to take any chances.
- Baltimore has the tiebreaker over the Dolphins, so pulling out the win keeps the Ravens in line for the AFC 6 seed. Even with a loss, Baltimore is not in bad shape (assuming Pittsburgh does not win out): At 8-8, the Ravens would hold tiebreakers over the Jets and Dolphins due to head-to-head, and over the Chargers based on win percentage in conference games. But the Ravens schedule is brutal, and the team will likely be an underdog in each of its final three games. The big threat is Miami, who could easily finish 9-7, which would require Baltimore to pull two upsets in the next three weeks to make the playoffs.
Tampa Bay 27, Buffalo 6
- This game had no playoff implications, but it’s worth taking a second and reflecting on what happened here. The 2013 Bucs, 2013 Jags, and 1978 Cardinals are the only teams in NFL history to start a season 0-8 and then win four of their next five games. Will this save Greg Schiano’s job? I kind of doubt it, as the team’s final three games are brutal (San Francisco, at St. Louis, at New Orleans).
- The Tampa offense struggled despite scoring three touchdowns. Bobby Rainey ran 80 yards on the first play from scrimmage, but the team gained just 164 yards the rest of the game. Mike Glennon was 9/25 for just 90 yards.
- C.J. Spiller had an 80+ yard touchdown run called back, leaving him with nothing to offset his 11 carries for 22 yards. EJ Manuel threw four interceptions. At 4-7, the Bills had an easy enough schedule to still be alive for the playoffs. Back-to-back losses to the Falcons and Bucs is tough to stomach, and now Buffalo heads to Jacksonville. A loss there and, well, nobody really cares what happens to the Bills, I guess.
Kansas City 45, Washington 10
- I find the RG3/Mike Shanahan drama completely boring, but it seems pretty clear that we’re now just counting the days (hours?) until Shanahan is fired. Hours after yet another Shanahan/Griffin/Snyder story broke, Washington was embarrassed at home by the Chiefs. The big beneficiary here is St. Louis, who will wind up with a top two pick.
- Jamaal Charles rushed 19 times for 151 yards and scored two touchdowns, but the big story of the day was the Washington special teams. Quintin Demps returned a kickoff 95 yards for a score, and Dexter McCluster averaged 25 yards per punt return on seven returns. McCluster joined Eddie Drummond, Travis Benjamin, and Reggie Bush as only players with 175+ punt return yards in a game since 2000.
- At 10-3, the Chiefs are all but locked into the 5 seed. At this rate, the Colts are basically in the same boat with the 4 seed. But before facing each other in the first round of the playoffs, the teams will battle in week 16. That game will be meaningless, which presents some interesting game-planning decisions for those two head coaches.
New England 27, Cleveland 26
- For the first 43 minutes of the game, the Patriots were shut out. New England’s final five drives: 11 plays, 68 yards, field goal. 3 plays, 72 yards, touchdown. 12 plays, 49 yards, field goal. 11 plays, 82 yards, touchdown. 2 plays, 40 yards, touchdown.
- Josh Gordon caught an 80-yard touchdown, six other passes for 71 yards, and had a rush for 34 yards. He bettered his own mark for most receiving yards in a three-game span (now 649) and also set a mark for receiving yards in four consecutive games (774). Include his rushing yards, and Gordon joins Walter Payton, Tiki Barber, Marshall Faulk, O.J. Simpson, Thurman Thomas, and Priest Holmes as the only players to record 800 yards from scrimmage over four consecutive games.
- With 2:35 left in the game, New England trailed by 12 points and had the ball on its own 18-yard line with just one timeout remaining. But Tom Brady marched New England down the field in 1:38, and the Patriots recovered the onside kick for the first time since 1995. Then, after a controversial pass interference penalty, Brady threw a one-yard pass to Danny Amendola for the game-winning score.
- The Patriots offense really missed Shane Vereen over the first three months of the year. He had 17 targets and 12 catches for 153 yards against the Browns. But now that Vereen is healthy, the other shoe has dropped: Rob Gronkowski took a brutal hit on the knee from T.J. Ward late in the game, and it appears that the hit resulted in a torn ACL for the star tight end.
Cincinnati 42, Indianapolis 28
- First, the ridiculous: Jeff Triplette was involved in another controversy, this time mistakenly awarding BenJarvus Green-Ellis a touchdown on 4th-and-goal to give the Bengals a 14-0 lead.
- Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton combined for 601 yards, 7 touchdowns, and no interceptions, but this wasn’t a back-and-forth shootout. Cincinnati led 14-0 at halftime, 21-0 early in the third quarter, and Indianapolis never cut the lead to fewer than 14 points. In other words, the Game Script was (again) not very good for the Colts.
- At 9-4, Cincinnati now has some breathing room in the AFC North, and distanced themselves from the Colts for the 3 seed. That’s huge this year, as it means avoiding the Chiefs in the first round of the playoffs. The Bengals can still get a bye, and would have moved into the #2 spot had the Patriots not mounted that miracle comeback.
- The Colts have gone 19-10 over the last two seasons despite terrible Game Scripts and points differentials. One bright spot for Indianapolis: Da’Rick Rogers had a breakout game with 107 yards and two touchdowns, and LaVon Brazill also scored twice. If that means we’ll see less of Darrius Heyward-Bey going forward, that’s good news.
Green Bay 22, Atlanta 21
- In any other week, this game would have been one of the more interesting of the day. Matt Ryan had a chance but couldn’t mount a final drive to steal the game, allowing the Packers to improve to 6-6-1.
- Matt Flynn posted solid numbers, but Packers fans are praying that this was his final start. The stage is now set for Aaron Rodgers to return with a chance for the team to make a late playoff push: Green Bay needs to make up one game on Detroit, which won’t be easy to do. The Lions host Baltimore and the Giants before finishing the year in Minnesota. That leaves little margin for error; a 2-1 finish for Detroit means Green Bay will need to win in Dallas, against Pittsburgh, and then in Chicago.
- As it turns out, the tie against Minnesota will likely end up as valuable as a win. A loss would have been disastrous to the team’s playoff hopes. But because Detroit will likely finish with the better division record than the Packers by virtue of the Bears sweep, even had Green Bay beaten Minnesota, the Packers would be practically a half-game behind the Lions due to the tiebreaker. Now, by tying, Green Bay is in reality a half-game back. The same situation would apply for the 49ers for the 6 seed.
Nine games, and an incredibly three-and-a-half hours of football. I don’t think I could do the 4:00 games justice after watching those games. The Broncos and Peyton Manning (and Matt Prater) continues to be on pace to break every record, the 49ers won but little has changed for either San Francisco or Seattle, the Chargers and Cardinals are clinging to faint playoff hopes, and the Rams and Giants are looking towards 2014.