12 Things We Learned in Week 12 | November 28, 2012
Week 12 seemed like it lasted a week! From Thursday evening to Tuesday morning we were treated to 16 NFL games. We discovered that some teams are done for the season, some are definitely playoff bound and some are…well there are still plenty of teams who’s fate is yet to be decided. All the teams around the .500 mark will be dreaming of a late season run to the Post Season, but it’s turning into a mad scramble for places (particularly in the NFC) and there are going to be plenty of disappointed fans at the end of the season. Anyway, here’s what we learned in Week 12:
1. Kicking is Difficult
I was tempted to point this out last week after a flurry of missed Field Goals in Week 11, but the latest round of fixtures saw even more hooks, pulls and shanks as the NFL kickers once again struggled under pressure. Both Shayne Graham and Jason Hanson missed game winning kicks on Thanksgiving Day – although Graham redeemed himself later on in Overtime. Matt Bryant missed 2 kicks in Tampa, including a 22 yard effort that was barely looking than a PAT, Blair Walsh and David Akers saw efforts blocked (Akers also missed a 50 yarder) and even Greg the Leg missed a relatively simple 35 yarder.
Of course, Phil Dawson didn’t join in with the misses and has now reached the anniversary of his last miss! A remarkable achievement and one that may not be repeated for a goodly while.
2. The Jets Season in 52 Seconds
When Shane Vereen took a short pass form Tom Brady and ran the length of the field, it put the Patriots 14-0 up on the 4-6 Jets. Still, the Jets were getting the ball and had a chance to get back in the game. Err, what happened next was a complete farce and summed up the way 2012 has gone for the Jets. Firstly, Mark Sanchez lost a fumble after running into Brandon Moore’s ample posterior and Shane Gregory chortled into the End Zone. Form the resulting Kick Off Joe McKnight was hit by Devin McCourty, leading to the in-form Julian Edelman taken his turn to get on the scoreboard. 28-0, game over, season over, and maybe Rex Ryan’s tenure over? It’s certainly looking unlikely that Mark Sanchez will be behind centre in 2013.
3. Best Overtime Ever
The first 60 minutes of the Texans-Lions clash were superb, but Overtime turned into an absolute masterclass of suspense and tension. We had misses from both kickers, a fumble by the Lions, an interception from Matt Schaub and finally a game winning kick form a mightily relieved Shayne Graham. The Overtime period seemed to have drama during every play and both teams seemed on the verge of victory. For that Texans, it was their second Overtime in 5 days and their second victory, one that all but sealed their Play Off spot. It all meant that Detroit lost for the 8th consecutive Thanksgiving and their season is as good as over.
4. Pittsburgh are Doomed Without Big Ben
Losing to the Browns is one thing, but to commit 8 turnovers whilst doing so is quite another. Credit to the Browns for a wonderful defensive effort, led by Joe Haden and Phil “the Power” Taylor, but a lot of the Steelers turnovers were of their own doing. 3rd string QB Charlie Batch was understandably rusty and threw 3 picks, but it was the Steelers run game that must take the bulk of the blame. 4 different runners coughed up the ball and their backfield looks a shambles at present. With the Bengals coming up fast on the rails, Mike Tomlin needs to get Big Ben back..and fast. Roethlisberger will take the pressure off the run game and is one of the best clutch play makers in the League. The timing of his return holds the key to Pittsburgh’s prospects for this season.
As for the Browns, well we discovered that if they can create 8 turnovers they can win a game…just!
5. Maybe The Jags Don’t Need to Draft a Quarterback
There was hardly an outpouring of grief when Blaine Gabbert picked up an injury in Week 11, but few Jags fans thought it would lead to such a dramatic transformation for the team. Back up Chad Henne threw for 4 touchdowns and over 300 yards in the defeat to the OT Texans. This week Henne carried where he left off, completing 2 more touchdown passes as the Jags won their first home game of the season. Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts and Mercedes Lewis are getting the ball far more often with Henne under center and suddenly the Jags receiving corps doesn’t look as bad as people have assumed. At the very least, Henne deserves a start for the rest of the season, a strong showing may convince Jacksonville that they already have their long term solution. Put it this way, the future looks brighter for the Jags than it does for the Chiefs!
6. Alex Smith Sweepstake Coming Soon!
Regardless of what Jim Harbaugh says, Colin Kaepernick is the future in San Francisco. He looks composed, he can make deep throws and his running out of the pocket is superb. All of which leaves poor Alex Smith sitting on the sideline wondering what he’s done wrong. In truth, all he’s done wrong is get get a concussion 2 weeks ago. Smith has been excellent over the last 2 seasons and looks likely to be a hot FA commodity if he decides to leave the Niners at the end of the season. There are plenty of teams in urgent need or a new QB for 2013 – the Eagles, Chiefs, Bills, Cardinals and Jets to name but 5.
Of course, being a much sought after QB in Free Agency doesn’t always lead to a starting spot – just ask Matt Flynn!
7. The Giants Turn Up For Big Games
Send them to Cincinnati for an early kick off and invariably the Giants will flop. Put them on prime time against one of the best teams in the NFL and you get fireworks. New York didn’t just beat the Packers, they absolutely destroyed them in a manner very similar to the way they beat San Francisco earlier in the season. Eli Manning is about the best in the business when it comes to big games, and he has a formidable band of receivers around him. The Giants haven’t secure a Play Off spot yet, but 3 more wins will get them in. And you can beat that no team will want to face Manning, Cruz, Nicks and co in January.
8. Ray Rice has a Really Long Torso!
This isn’t to detract from the astonishing run that Ray Rice made with his team facing a 4th and 29 in the final 2 minutes of their game in San Diego. It was a remarkable effort by Rice, as it seemed like the entire Chargers defence was chasing him across the field. When Joe Flacco dumped the ball off to him, he still had around 25 yards to go. He was helped by a suspicious looking block by Anquan Boldin, but nonetheless it was arguably the run of the season. However, he was downed at the 35 yard line , when he needed to reach the 34 yard line for the first down. Not surprisingly, the chains and a video relay were called for. After a ridiculously long amount of time, the referees decided that the spot of the ball was wrong so moved it a bit, but still decided that Rice had reached the first down mark. Given that the ball was tucked under his arm and his near was down on the 35 yard line, it seems pretty much impossible that he made the first down.
I’m all in favour of video replays in sport, but the two aspects of it that need to be adhered to are that it should never delay the game longer than necessary and secondly, the correct decision should be reached. The referees in San Diego failed badly on both of these fronts.
9. The Chargers Can Always Find a Way to Lose!
Ignoring the fact that Rice was probably a foot or two shy of a first down, he should never have been allowed to get anywhere near the mark. The Chargers D got art one of the play spot on, they covered Torrey Smith and co downfield, stopping Joe Flacco from launching a bomb. However, once Flacco shoved the ball to Ray Rice things quickly went wrong. Instead of just lining up between Rice and the 35 yard line they decided to chase the runner across the field, leading to something that looked like the end of an episode of the Benny Hill Show (There’s one for the teenagers!). It still took a monster effort from Rice to get anywhere near the first down mark, but it should have been a simple stop for San Diego.
We shouldn’t be surprised at San Diego conjuring up defeats from nowhere, but this one was among their best. At 4-7 their season is over, despite a soft schedule. And surely Norv Turner’s time in San Diego will soon be over too. Then again, we’ve all thought that before.
10. Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud in Philly
All hail Bryce Brown! The rookie running back marked the first start of his NFL career with a whopping 178 yards and 2 touchdowns. The highlight was a 65 yard TD run that showcased his frightening speed and agility. But as with pretty much everything Eagles related this year, there was also a downside. – Namely, 2 fumbles that gave the Panthers possession. The eagles stumbled to their 7th consecutive defeat, Andy Reid muttered something about needing to play better, more players got injured and the crowd booed. Just another Philadelphia game-day then.
11. Ryan Tannehill’s Magical Quarter
After appearing to his the Rookie wall in recent weeks, Ryan Tannehill continued to struggle for three quarters of the Dolphins match-up with Seattle But with the game on the line in the 4th quarter, Tannehill produced a superb display of clutch quarterback play and led Miami to victory. Twice he took the Phins from their own 20 yard line into the Seahawks Endzone. Then with less than 2 minutes remaining he drove them from their own 10 yard line into Field Goal range. Dan Carpenter did the rest and Miami just about kept their season alive.
Tannehill will continue to have some bad days as he finds his feet in Miami, but Dolphins fans can be confident that they have found their franchise QB for the next few years.
12. RGIII Can Do it All
As if we didn’t know it already. Robert Griffin produced his best NFL display since Week 1 as he ripped through the Cowboys on Thanksgiving night. As elusive as ever whilst running out of the pocket, he also produced an array of scoring passes – we had the deep bomb to Aldrick Robinson that hit the rapid receiver in stride, the eye of a needle short sling to Santana Moss and the play action shot to Niles Paul (who?!), a play that tricked the Dallas D to such an extent that Paul had time to fall over, have a quick nap, play a bit of Angry Birds,pick himself up and stroll across the line. For his other TD pass, Griffin was helped out by an outrageous grab from Pierre Garcon in midfield.
With Alfred Morris having a great rookie season at RB, Kai Forbarth solving their kicking troubles and the D beginning to make a few plays, the Skins could be an outside shot for a late play off run. This week’s game with the Giants is pivotal and if RGII can carry on producing the goods it could end up being a season to remember in Washington.
Star of the Week: Janoris Jenkins – That’s how you respond to being disciplined by your Head Coach! Jenkins scored 2 pick 6′s against the Cards on Sunday and whilst rookie QB Ryan Lindley can claim the assists, both TDs showed remarkable anticipation from Jenkins. It should certainly get him back in Jeff Fisher’s good books.
Flop of the Week – Carson Palmer – That’s not how you show the Bengals what they are missing! Comprehensively outplayed by Andy Dalton, Palmer had a day to forgot on Sunday. He was sacked twice on the opening possession, and struggled to get much going all game. In all he threw for just 146 yards and an interception. Meanwhile Dalton had another superb game with 3 TD passes. Of course, we got the usual flash of class from Palmer, as he threw an inch perfect rainbow pass for the Raiders only TD of the day. But it just added to the frustration for Palmer and everyone associated with the Raiders.
Highlight of the Day - Has to be the 4th and 29 play. It was gone midnight in the UK and I was on the verge of calling it a night. What happened next encapsulated what is great about the NFL – anything can happen! It reminded me of the Bears-Broncos clash from last season; you think the game’s over, but then something absurd happens and you get another half hour of drama. More of the same this week please!