By: Shawn Davis
Talk about a week of fantastic finishes; Week 11 had it all. Three games extended into extra time and others that weren’t decided until the last possession. A game that’s getting a lot of attention this morning was the contest between the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Why you ask would I highlight that contest? Because I’m sick of the upcoming, and pointless, quarterback controversy that Alex Smith is now in the middle of.
Well I am surprised by the criticism pointed towards the Texans for failing to put the Jaguars away earlier than they did. I don’t see it as a negative that the game was tighter than anyone expected it to be. Personally, I like when a top-tier team gets a test (or eight). I say that because it doesn’t take much (or prove anything substantial) to win in routs week after week; character is determined through adversity and I love the fact that the Jaguars (thank heavens Chad Henne finally got a chance to lead them with 354 yards passing and four touchdowns) almost took this one back to Florida. Additionally, regardless of record, division games tend to be played within tighter margins because of the familiarity teams share with one another.
Did you witness Andre Johnson and Justin Blackmon each morph into cartoon characters? I mean, I love big catches by wide receivers and it makes me giddy to see receivers have the type of afternoons that both men had. Blackmon finished the day with seven grabs for 236 yards and a touchdown while Johnson did even better with 14 catches, 273 yards receiving and the game-winning 48-yard touchdown in overtime. Man! I appreciate the effort all football players exert – even in the crap games – but I was so elated to stare at my laptop as I streamed the game. It was worth watching when I thought I’d be bored by it. I even put my food down a few times because I didn’t want to be distracted.
Matt Schaub tied Warren Moon for the second-best single-game performance in the HISTORY of the league with 527 yards through the air (with 5 TD/2 INT). Norm Van Brocklin is at the top of the list with 554 yards with a record that was set in 1951 when passing was still frowned upon. Even though it seems everyone is piling up chunks of yardage, an accomplishment like that still warrants mention…so I did.
The rest of the league should be on notice because the Texans win in every conceivable element: get them out of the dome and into the rain, on the road: they win; in a rout: they win; with their defense leading the way: they win; in a slugfest: victory; with the passing game being featured: victory; when their running game isn’t as dominant: same damn result. I never rush the postseason to arrive but when it does I’m keenly interested to see how they play.
On to it:
CHI 7 @ SF 32: I checked out of this game at halftime and paid attention, sparingly, as Mike Tirico and John Gruden sounded like they were about to leave their booth to ask Colin Kaepernick out on a date, during the second half. Let’s just get this out-of-the-way early: I like Kaepernick but is one game really enough to ignite the fire of a real quarterback controversy?
After attacking Chicago through the air – when I’m sure the Bears directed their scheme to limit the 49ers running game – San Francisco surprised everyone by putting the game squarely in the hands of Kaepernick and letting him play. After passing for 243 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start against the Bears defense, no less, he was decisive, mobile and accurate. He was 16-for-23 with a 133.1 passer rating to boot and played with a calm reserved for veterans.
I think it would be ill-advised for him to take the place of Alex Smith when the team is primed for another deep playoff run with Smith under-center. It reminds me of the 2006 season when (then Broncos coach) Mike Shanahan replaced Jake Plummer with Jay Cutler when Denver was 7-4 at the time, although the Broncos were in the midst of a two game losing streak. I didn’t like the move because the Broncos were tied for the division lead at the time of the switch and went on to finish 9-7, missing the postseason altogether after playing in the AFC Championship Game a year earlier.
I’m almost certain Kaepernick is the future of the 49ers; remember that Smith was re-signed this past off-season to a modest (by quarterback standards) 3-year contract. Yet we all know NFL deals are written in pencil…on toilet paper so Smith better play his heart out because these next few games are going on his reel, uh, I mean his resume for his next employer.
Coach Jim Harbaugh could have killed this early…but chose not to. Only he knows why. I think it’s a bad move.
BAL 13 @ PIT 10: The final score didn’t surprise nor did the real chance Byron Leftwich had to pull this one out if his ribs cooperated.
SD 23 @ DEN 30: It’s going to be interesting to see if their running backs will be able to keep the ground game a threat with Willis McGahee on the shelf for 6-8 weeks. Keep it up Broncos; I need you guys to win until the season ends.
IND 24 @ NE 59: Take your lumps now Mr. Luck. You will be dishing them out on other young quarterbacks for the next decade.
NO 38 @ OAK 17: Carson Palmer is completing 60 percent of his passes, ranks third in the league in passing yardage (3,035), is averaging a smidge over seven yards per completion, has 17 touchdowns versus 11 interceptions; good numbers so what’s the problem in Oakland? They cannot run the ball and they DO NOT defend.
New Orleans has won five of their last six to get to 5-5 but here’s a look at what awaits them as they attempt to make the playoffs after beginning the season at a shiny 0-4: SF, @ ATL, @ Giants, TB, @ DAL, and CAR to finish it out. They will need to win EVERY SINGLE game – and have the teams in front of them collapse.
Anyone want to go to Vegas with those odds?
ARI 19 @ ATL 23: In another contest where the victor is being picked apart for winning a game, that apparently, “they shouldn’t have won” according to the screaming television heads; Atlanta did find a way to have more points when time ran out. Last time I checked, that declares the winner.
The Cardinals didn’t deserve to win the game although their entire defense deserves an offense that can actually give them some hope after they intercepted Matt Ryan five times. You’re not supposed to force five interceptions and leave the field with your head hanging…unless your offense doesn’t do their job. The Cardinals need a quarterback – and they would be doing Larry Fitzgerald a disservice not to acquire one in the draft or by trade.
CLE 20 @ DAL 23 (OT):Dallas tried their hardest to lose this game but they actually held on to take this in one of the great nail-biters on Sunday. Can you believe they’re actually on the Giants’ tail with the season they’ve had thus far.
However don’t we all know what the ‘Boys do once they have expectations?
GB 24 @ DET 20: The Lions were desperate but I said in last week’s picks column that Aaron Rodgers would be the remedy; he was.
CIN 28 @ KC 6: Every single week that I see the Chiefs vomit all over the field, I’m sure the Saints are going to kick themselves for letting them come into their dome and take one. When they see the final scores from week-to-week and see the teams in front of them in the NFC wildcard chase, I have to believe they are disgusted they let that one go.
NYJ 27 @ STL 13: Where is the progression of Sam Bradford? Did I miss it?
PHI 6 @ WSH 31: On an afternoon where Robert Griffin ran onto the field clutching the most beautiful flag (I’m biased, I admit), he let everyone know why he now wears a captain’s “C” on his right chest. He beat the Eagles through the air (14-of-15 for 200 yards passing and 4 TD) and on the ground (84 rushing yards on 12 carries) in a composed, mature, and surgically efficient performance. Is he really a rookie?
TB 27 @ CAR 21 (OT): After being early season antagonists by attacking teams in the victory formation, these Buccaneers have come on strong over the last six weeks to make sure they control their own destiny in the wildcard race. I’m impressed at the play of their leader Josh Freeman as he is controlling a team that has taken five of their last six while averaging 34 points a game.
The football world went ape-shit last year by questioning whether he was the future at the position in Tampa; he’s 24 years of age and everyone is in love with him again. It’s funny how so many experts spouted sweeping declarations of him being “done” and now he’s “one of the next greats at the position”. The bandwagon must be about to crash, right? I’m with you Freeman, keep it up man.
JAC 37 @ HOU 43 (OT): Andre Johnson is STILL one of the best receivers in the league, currently. Like today, right now – and over the last 10 years. Don’t throw dirt on the man just yet. With his legs appearing to look strong and refreshed again, he has a lot of explosive plays left in his body.
As for Jacksonville: Chad Henne should remain at quarterback. Trust me.
MIA 14 @ BUF 19: A contest dominated by special teams when neither offense found a consistent rhythm. Go Bills! It was a Thursday game that I forced myself to sit through, I think.