NFL Quick Hits: Week Seven

colts-broncosNothing could overshadow the big game of the day in Indianapolis, but an interesting call in the Meadowlands and a rash of big name injuries tried their best.

Perfect no more for the unstoppable* Broncos. Denver spent the first six weeks of the season obliterating most of the NFL’s offensive records. They spent Week Seven getting beat up by the Colts until a 4th Quarter rally nearly led to a comeback.

That just shows you how fickle the NFL can be week-to-week. Indianapolis looked like a powerhouse in taking down San Francisco earlier this year, looked downright pedestrian last Monday against San Diego, then put up another Super Bowl quality effort against the Broncos. If there was anyone who didn’t believe in Andrew Luck before now, you officially have no platform to hold up your baseless beliefs.

  • What was one of the biggest factors in this game? It has to be the defense and special teams of the Colts. They sacked Manning four times and picked him off once. They also caused two fumbles, one leading to an early touchdown that helped jumpstart the Indy offense. That defense allowed the Colts to average starting their drives at their own 36-yard line. That number ties for the top average in the NFL this year.
  • About the only thing that went wrong for Indianapolis was the knee injury of Reggie Wayne. It’s too early to know what the injury is, but Wayne didn’t take long to head back to the locker room after he gingerly walked off. Andrew Luck took the blame for the injury, saying his pass caused it, but the way things are going week-to-week, it seems tougher to not get injured at this point.
  • Peyton Manning never got going the way he has most of the season. He completed just 50% of his passes, well below his NFL-leading 74.2%. There were two reasons. The pass rush (with both of his tackles out of the game) was on him all night, and the extremely physical defensive backs had the Broncos’ receivers off their rhythm. Multiple times Eric Decker was begging refs for pass interference calls before the ball was even to him. Denver’s pass catchers lost focus, and the Colts’ secondary gets the credit.
  • My final thought on this game, and I hate giving him the publicity, but it seems appropriate. Everyone’s favorite (read: least favorite) shock jock Skip Bayless 6 days before this game:
  • The second biggest story of the day has to be the call that handed a 27-24 win to the Jets at home against New England. Nick Folk sent a 56-yard game-winning field goal wide left, but then things turned zany. The Patriots’ Nick Jones was flagged for pushing his teammate into the offensive line, giving the Jets a first down. It’s a brand new rule this year, and that was the first time it’s been called.

Jones Gif-The rule is 9-1-3. There are two parts to it, but only the second half applies here. It says: “When Team A presents a field-goal or Try Kick formation: Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.”

Folk then hit the game-winner, and the AFC East got a little more interesting. The Pats are 5-2 with New York right behind at 4-3.

  • There wasn’t quite as much excitement in Miami for the other AFC East battle, but it came down to the wire as well. Thad Lewis is filling in nicely at quarterback for Buffalo, completing 2/3 of his passes for 200 yards, but when the Bills win it’s usually because of the defense and that unit came up with two interceptions and a fumble that led to the game-winning field goal with :33 on the clock.
  • Another down-to-the-wire early slate game was the Redskins‘ 45-41 win at home against Chicago. The big story is the Bears’ possible loss of Quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler went down with a groin injury and never returned. The positive: Chicago’s off next week before playing again in Week Nine.
  • As for the other quarterback in that game, Robert Griffin III looked like RGIII Version 1.0, not the slowed down model we’d witnessed all year to this point. Griffin threw for 298 yards and ran for another 84. Mike Shanahan angered Fantasy football fans everywhere, though, with Skins back Roy Helu running for three touchdowns to none for Alfred Morris.
  • Chicago wasn’t the only 1st place NFC North team to lose a close one. The Lions were hosting Cincinnati, and it looked favorable when Bengals shutdown corner Leon Hall left with what appears to be a torn Achilles. Detroit couldn’t take full advantage, though. Sam Martin’s 28-yard punt for Detroit set the Bengals up at their own 49 with :26 seconds left. Passes of 8- and 7-yards was all they needed before a Mike Nugent 54-yard field goal put Cincinnati two games ahead of the field in the AFC North.
  • Might as well finish the run through the Black-and-Blue Division. Aaron Rodgers came in without Randall Cobb and James Jones at receiver, then he lost Jermichael Finley to an unspecified neck injury (enough injuries this week for you?) so what does he do? He turns Jarrett Boykin into a star. 8 receptions, 103 yards, and a touchdown in the 31-13 win. The Packers were doubted big time after a 1-2 start, but now they’re 4-2 and in first place alone.
    • Let’s get back to the nail biters, shall we? In the words of my friend John Gray:

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Pittsburgh led the entire game until the Ravens tied it with under 2:00 left. Then it looked like the Steelers clinched it with an Emmanuel Sanders kick return touchdown. Not so fast. He stepped out of bounds, forcing Ben Roethlisberger to take the team 39 yards before Shaun Suisham put it on ice.

  • It’s a travesty it took this long to get to them, but the Chiefs are officially the quietest 7-0 since, well probably since the Chiefs were 7-0 in 2003. It wasn’t easy, but sometimes it won’t be. Kansas City’s defense is a legitimate beast, adding another five sacks to their league high 36 total. They did only force one turnover, though, a testament to Houston‘s Case Keenum, making his first pro start.
  • This season’s sad story got even worse for the Texans, who lost their 5th straight. There was no pick six this time, ending the NFL-record streak at five, but injuries hit like a tidal wave. Arian Foster (hamstring) and Brian Cushing (broken leg) were knocked out of the game, and Ben Tate and J.J. Watt both had scares of their own. Needless to say, it’s a great time for a Bye week in Houston.
  • The Cowboys and Eagles were supposed to have a shoot out in Philly, but it was the Dallas defense finally having its day. The group has struggled much of the year, but they were just fine today, staking the ‘Boys to first place alone in the NFC East. The defense got three interceptions, all of them off rookie Matt Barkley after the Eagles’ Nick Foles was knocked out with a concussion. It makes you wonder if Mike Vick tries to hurry back from his hamstring injury or if he’s satisfied to let his team struggle it out with Barkley at the helm.
  • Another potentially big game that wasn’t was the 49ers‘ blowout of Tennessee. The Titans have been competitive all season and with Jake Locker back from injury there was hope of a good one. Instead, San Fran staked itself to a 24-0 lead when Colin Kaepernick played like last year’s dual threat version. Similar to RGIII, he started running the ball this week, finishing with 68 yards on 11 carries.
  • We go back to the Thursday Nighter where the Seahawks improved to the NFC’s best record, 6-1. Russell Wilson has been fantastic recently, and this week was no different. He threw three touchdown passes without a turnover, and by the end of the 3rd Quarter, this one was over. Now that the ‘Hawks are winning on the road, who’s going to stop them?
  • The Rams and Sam Bradford had no such luck at Carolina. Bradford tore his ACL, and Cam Newton had a record day in the Panthers’ win. Newton said a team record for completion percentage, connecting on 15-of-17 passes for 204 yards. All of a sudden, that previously weak Carolina secondary has turned into a ball hawking bunch too. They have eight interceptions in the last four games, and Sunday Captain Munnerlyn took one back for a touchdown.
  • Last, and maybe least in the line of interesting games, the Chargers coasted to a ho-hum win over now 0-7 Jacksonville. Philip Rivers continued his renaissance season, going 22-26 for 285 yards and a touchdown.
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