Forgive me if I wasn’t exactly gung-ho to watch a Saints team which had just posted 49 points, 625 yards and an all-time record 40 first downs on Dallas only seven days earlier. But here I was selected to cover this week’s action with arguably the second biggest game of the week being those same Saints hosting the San Francisco 49ers.
Let’s get the particulars out of the way. New Orleans used three Garrett Hartley fourth quarter field goals, including the last as time expired, to edge by the Niners 23-20 improving to 8-2 on the year (6-0 in the Superdome). What exactly does this mean? I’m glad you asked. The outcome can be deciphered numerous ways, but these three in particular standout more than the rest.
1. The Niners dropped to 6-4 and are suddenly tied for second place in the NFC West with the Arizona Cardinals. While Colin Kaepernick has looked good in moments, watching Niners fans’ very delicate relationship with the quarterback has been an extremely fascinating subplot to this NFL season. And somehow, Kaep’s social media vendetta trickles down to how he plays on the field. The commentators mentioned during the game Anquan Boldin pulled the second-year starter aside telling him to focus on the field and not what’s said about him on Twitter.
Something doesn’t sit right with a quarterback who focuses nearly as much on not becoming a trending topic than one neck deep in a playoff race.
2. By the way the rules are dictated now, Ahmad Brooks’ baptism/forced fumble of Brees was a “personal foul.” In essence, however, such was the call that altered the course the game. The refs gifted Kaepernick an incomplete pass when it probably should’ve been an intentional grounding/safety on the following possession. But with San Francisco up 20-17 and a momentum-changing turnover in the fourth putting the Niners in position to at least muster a field goal, it’s difficult to fault 49ers fans if they’re still salty Monday morning.
3. New Orleans visits Atlanta on Thursday, but after that, the next two weeks of their schedule become mighty, mighty interesting. Monday, December 2, New Orleans travels to Seattle in a slugfest which could be A) the best Monday night game of the year and B) a prelude to a rematch in late January. Six days later, Cam Newton and the suddenly resurgent Panthers visit the Big Easy in a crucial NFC South matchup.
— Whew, just when I thought the Jags were trying to sabotage their season by actually winning, they allowed Carson Palmer to resemble Joe Montana (419 yards, two touchdowns) in a 27-14 loss. For what it’s worth, Jason Babin totally dislodged Andre Ellington’s braids out of his head.
— A point was going to come when the Chiefs couldn’t simply intimidate teams on defense and Alex Smith was going to have to win a game for Kansas City with his arm. Well, the Broncos weren’t intimidated and Smith’s 230 yards and two touchdowns did very little to persuade the fans in Mile High to start panicking. The bad news? Kansas City did exactly what many figured when encountering a grossly talented offense in Denver (lose 27-17). The funny news? For all the talk about a bloodthirsty Chiefs defense, Peyton Manning was never touched. Not one time. The good news? The rematch is in two weeks.
— The Philadelphia Eagles sit atop the NFC East at 6-5 after a 24-16 victory over the Redskins that was much closer in the closing seconds than it should’ve been. After an ugly game all afternoon, Robert Griffin III led the charge on a fourth quarter comeback. Washington was driving to send the game into overtime until a costly and confusing floating interception. For the ‘Skins, it was all good just a year ago. For Philly, the W was their first at home in 413 days. I repeat, the Philadelphia Eagles are the top team in the NFC East as of November 18, 2013. Excuse me while I go vomit all over myself.
— BREAK UP THE BUCCANEERS! Tampa’s winning streak extends to two after a 41-28 drubbing over the Falcons. Following his 30 carries for 163 yards and two touchdowns, don’t expect Bobby Rainey to be a free agent in the majority of fantasy leagues this week. And speaking of life being all good a year ago, how often does the topic of next April’s draft and names like Jadeveon Clowney, C.J. Mosley and Anthony Barr come up in Arthur Blank’s office these days?
— The game ball goes to Vontaze Burfict, Vincent Rey and the Bengals defense in their 41-20 win over Cleveland. They picked off Jason Campbell three times, sacked him four times, hit him nine and even scored once. With my own two eyes, I saw Terence Newman deflecting passes and being an overall positive influence on the defensive end. Ask me how I know the devil is a lie.
— Calvin Johnson did normal Calvin Johnson things (six catches, 179 yards and two scores all in the first half), but it was Ben Roethlisberger going in full vintage mode. The two-time Super Bowl champ had his best game of the season tossing 367 yards and four touchdowns – including the score to put the game out of reach with less than three minutes.
Side note: Who else saw the irony of Big Ben in prison pinstripes?
— Exit Terrelle Pryor and Darren McFadden. Enter Matt McGloin and Rashad Jennings, both of whom combined for 347 total yards, four touchdowns and no turnovers. Oakland continues to hold on to faint playoff hopes after upending the Texans at home 28-23 with one hell of a goal line stand towards the end of regulation. Of the Texans’ decision to switch from Case Keenum to Matt Schaub, Gary Kubiak believed Keenum couldn’t handle the second half changes made to the offense. First of all, Gary, it’s great to see you back doing your job. Secondly, from my armchair offensive coordinator seat, allow me to throw the red flag and challenge such bullshit. Andre Johnson seems to agree.
— Scott Tolzien threw 339 yards in his first start for the Packers. Unfortunately, none of it resulted in touchdown passes and finished Sunday with three interceptions. The Giants used a fourth quarter pick six by Jason Pierre-Paul to put the game out of reach 27-13 and are now suddenly the owners of a four-game winning streak with an extremely important game next Sunday when Dallas comes to town. Excuse me while I continue to vomit over myself.
— Whether anyone notices, the Seattle Seahawks just keep winning and make their case of “best team in football.” The Hawks dumped Minnesota 41-20 allowing Russell Wilson (13-18, 230 yards, two touchdowns), Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman and company to head into their (late) bye week an extremely comfortable 10-1.
— Due to a tornado warning in Chicago, Bears/Ravens lasted a tad longer than expected. With a field that was as tattered and beaten due to heavy rain as we’ve seen in years, Chi-town needed a 38-yard field goal from Robbie Gould in overtime to defeat the reigning world champs 23-20.
— I was this close to saying something Miami bullying their way past the Chargers, but used my better judgement. The Dolphins – with all the controversy surrounding the team these past two weeks – needed a victory in the absolute worst way. A 20-16 win to keep their playoff hopes alive at 5-5 did the trick.
— The Colts 30-27 come from behind victory doesn’t exactly seal the deal in terms of an AFC South title. Yet, it’s going to be extremely, extremely, extremely difficult for Indy to screw this up.
— Geno Smith had eight completions and three interceptions. That’s never a winning formula. Buffalo was led by their own rookie quarterback EJ Manuel and his efficient afternoon – 20/28, 245 yards and two TDs – to a 33-17 victory. Also, a fan figured it would be a bright idea to slide down the upper deck’s railing. Needless to say, it didn’t go well. That and he’s lucky waking up this morning was even an option.
GIFs: Yahoo, SB Nation