The Tuesday Stew: Tom Brady, Robert Griffin III, Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson and More
Welcome football fans to a weekly column served hot and fresh every week, NFL Soup’s Tuesday Stew. Here, I will recap the top headlines and stories from this past week’s games, go over some absurdly awesome stats and show the week’s most mind-blowing play. So sit back, relax and fill up on everything NFL.
Week 14 is in the books, and it’s time to dish out all the action. So without further ado, here’s what I’m serving up in this week’s stew:
Touchdown: Six Points On Week 14
1. Cowboys Earn Emotional Win
Last week, the Chiefs organization had to play an emotional game following Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide. The team rallied to victory, despite the harrowing event still at the forefront of their minds.
This past Saturday, the Cowboys organization went through a similar scenario when they were informed of a car accident involving two players. Nose tackle Josh Brent was arrested following a drunk driving accident in which teammate and friend Jerry Brown was killed. Brent is being charged with intoxication manslaughter.
Like the Chiefs, the last thing the Cowboys probably wanted to do was play football. But play they did, displaying emotion, resiliency and professionalism in the process. In a game against the Bengals that was a must-win for both teams, the Cowboys rallied from a 19-10 fourth quarter deficit. Quarterback Tony Romo led a touchdown drive that cut the score to 19-17 midway through the fourth. Then after the defense forced a quick stop, the offense marched down the field to set up kicker Dan Bailey’s game-winning 40-yard field goal, giving the Cowboys a 20-19 comeback victory.
2. Kirk Cousins, Nick Foles Lead Comebacks
This season truly is becoming the year of the rookie quarterbacks. In a back-and-forth game between the Ravens and Redskins that is sure to be an instant classic, it was Redskins rookie Kirk Cousins, not Robert Griffin III, that pulled off the comeback. Down 28-20 late in the fourth, Griffin was leading a final, potential game-tying drive before getting injured and going to the sidelines. He was only there for one play though before coming back out onto the field, but after four more plays, he became too injured to continue and exited the game.
Enter Kirk Cousins. He came in and threw a beautiful 11-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon with less than half a minute to play. On the ensuing two-point conversion, Cousins called his own number to tie the game at 28 and force overtime. After the Redskins defense forced the Ravens to punt on the first drive of overtime, another rookie, Richard Crawford, returned the kick 64 yards, setting up Kai Forbath’s game-winning 34-yard field goal, capping off the comeback.
RG3 Injury Update: An MRI on Griffin’s knee revealed a Grade 1 MCL sprain, and he is listed as “day-to-day” for Week 15’s matchup against the Browns.
As for the Eagles, who were on an eight-game losing streak, they rallied behind rookie quarterback Nick Foles, who impressed everyone with his clutch play and great decision-making. After jumping out to an early 10-0 lead over the Buccaneers, which included a ten-yard touchdown run by Foles, the Eagles were on the brink of losing yet another game when they found themselves down 21-10 midway through the fourth quarter.
That’s when Foles, who was already playing pretty well, began to play his best. Foles threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Clay Harbor following the Buccaneers last touchdown, making the score 21-16 after a failed two-point conversion with just under four minutes to play. After the Eagles defense got the offense the ball back, Foles orchestrated a masterful 13-play, 64-yard game-winning drive in the last three minutes of the game. The drive included a 22-yard gain from Foles to Jason Avant on fourth down, with the game-winning one-yard touchdown pass from Foles to Jeremy Maclin directly following. This gave the Eagles a 23-21 victory as time expired, as well as their first win since September.
3. Adrian Peterson, Calvin Johnson Eye Records
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson are arguably the best players at their respective positions in the entire NFL. And with three weeks left to play, both are in striking distance of two of football’s most regarded single-season records, each held by Hall of Famers.
Peterson, who has 1,600 rushing yards through 13 games this season, has not only a legitimate shot at surpassing 2,000 yards, but also breaking Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105 yards in a season. Though it may seem like a stretch, since Peterson needs 506 yards in three games to own the record, his recent play should make nobody doubt his ability to do so. He has seven straight 100+ yard rushing games, and is making it near impossible for any opposing defense to stop him. Simply put, Peterson cannot be stopped, only slowed down, but it doesn’t seem like anyone can even do that.
Johnson, who has 1,546 receiving yards through 13 games this season, is on pace to break Jerry Rice’s record of 1,848 yards in a season, and possibly join Peterson in that 2,000 club. Johnson needs only 303 yards over the final three games to own the single-season record, and with six straight 100+ yard receiving games, seems like a shoe-in to break Rice’s mark. The more challenging feat would be topping 2,000 yards, since he would need 454 yards in three games to get to 2,000. But with the way he’s playing recently, it’s definitely a possibility.
4. New York Giants Inconsistent Consistency
I don’t get this team. I never do. I likely never will.
I don’t understand how the Giants look like unstoppable champions one week, then mediocre contenders the following week, then unstoppable champions again the next week. (And then, of course, somehow make the playoffs, dominate, and beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.) But seriously, what is it about this team? How do they do it? How do they just flip this switch and play amazing after looking so average?
It has to be the matchups and schemes they face. The Giants can blowout two teams led by elite quarterbacks with championships—Aaron Rodgers with the Packers and Drew Brees with the Saints—but lose a very close game and look average against Robert Griffin III and the Redskins.
Their remaining schedule consists of the Falcons, Ravens and Eagles—all winnable games by their standard, but also games they can easily slip up in and lose. It’s December football for them though, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they start getting on a hot streak heading into January. If that is once again the case, the rest of the NFC playoff teams better watch out. The last thing anyone should want to do is play the Giants in the playoffs.
5. Tom Terrific Torches Texans
Ain’t alliteration awesome? But seriously, what began as a potential AFC Championship Game preview in Foxborough between the Texans and Patriots quickly turned into a blowout, with Belichick and Brady once again sending a message to the rest of the league: watch out.
I said in the game picks last week that Brady, with all of his offensive weapons, could make this game like the Packers-Texans game from earlier this season. In that game, Aaron Rodgers threw for over 300 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. Wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb topped 100 yards receiving. The Packers won that game 42-24. And on Monday Night Football, Brady used his weapons and audibles against the Texans defense, just like Rodgers did against them, and absolutely obliterated their secondary. Brady threw for just under 300 yards, with four touchdowns, no interceptions and was only sacked once. All game long, Brady had good protection, was patient in the pocket, and made terrific pre-snap reads and changes that turned into big plays.
Credit must also be given to Belichick’s game plan and that Patriots defense. Unlike recent years, they finally have a formidable front seven and an aggressive secondary. They shut down running back Arian Foster, who had just 46 yards on 15 carries. They also contained wide receiver Andre Johnson, who, despite having eight receptions for 95 yards, didn’t beat them deep and open up the Texans offense.
Going forward, it’s hard to say the Patriots aren’t the best team in the league, giving the big win over the Texans, who many people thought were the most complete team in the league. But we’ll see if they can do the same thing against the 49ers next Sunday night, or if the 49ers can shut down this high-powered Patriots offense. If the Patriots do to the 49ers what they did to the Texans, no one may beat this team to the title (well, except the Giants in the Super Bowl, of course).
6. Playoff Races Heat Up
With three weeks left to play, the push for the postseason is getting more intense by the minute. While some teams gain momentum, other teams begin spiraling downward, making the playoff picture very intriguing. Before getting into some of the bigger playoff spots and key games left, a complete list of playoff scenarios can be found here at NFL.com, and ESPN.com has a playoff simulation which allows you to pick outcomes of games and they’d affect the playoffs.
And to keep this clean and simple, I’ll give a quick rundown on each team, with their current record and playoff seeding.
#1 Texans (11-2): Still in driver’s seat for home-field advantage, but one slip up against the Vikings or Colts twice could open up door for Patriots. Can clinch division this week with win against Colts, and a first-round bye with a win and a Patriots loss to 49ers and Broncos loss to Ravens.
#2 Patriots (10-3): In control of own destiny for first-round bye with remaining schedule versus 49ers, Jaguars and Dolphins. Hold tiebreakers over Texans and Broncos, but not against Ravens.
#3 Broncos (10-3): Already AFC West champions, the Broncos are basically hoping for losses from Texans and Patriots, since both teams hold head-to-head tiebreakers over them.
#4 Ravens (9-4): Starting to spiral out of control, the Ravens face a tough matchup against those Broncos, but if they win then they win AFC North. If they lose, they can still win division if Bengals lose to Eagles and Steelers lose to Cowboys. Could be in trouble, especially with games against Giants and Bengals in Week 16 and Week 17, respectively.
#5 Colts (9-4): Play the Texans two out of the last three weeks, but get the Chiefs in between. This team is pretty much destined for the postseason, just depends on whether it’s the fifth or sixth seed.
#6 Steelers (7-6): Control their own destiny for the postseason with remaining games against the Cowboys, Bengals and Steelers. Closest competitor for the sixth seed is the Bengals at 7-6, so that Week 16 matchup could determine who’s in and who’s out.
#1 Falcons (11-2): Still in control of home-field advantage, but could be in trouble with remaining games against the Giants, Lions and Buccaneers. Can clinch a first-round bye this week with a win against Giants or a Packers loss to Bears or 49ers loss to Patriots.
#2 49ers (9-3-1): That tie is either going to help or hurt them when it’s all said and done in regards to playoff seeding. If they beat the Patriots this week, they’re in the playoffs. They can clinch NFC West with win and a Seahawks loss to Bills.
#3 Packers (9-4): That “Fail Mary” game is likely going to screw them in regards to home-field advantage or first-round bye. But if they win out and 49ers lose once, they’ll be the second seed. Can clinch NFC North this week with win against Bears.
#4 Giants (8-5): Nothing to clinch this week, but are in driver’s seat in NFC East. Tough remaining schedule of Falcons, Ravens and Eagles could determine if they win division, clinch wildcard or don’t make it at all.
#5 Seahawks (8-5) and #6 Bears (8-5): In control of own destinies for playoff spots, but face close competition with Cowboys, Redskins and Vikings, who are all 7-6. Oh, and things could get real interesting if those 6-6-1 Rams win out and everyone else falters.
Extra Point: Crucial Games Still To Play
These games could play a key role for playoff teams and playoff seedings.
Week 15: Giants at Falcons, Packers at Bears, Vikings at Rams, Broncos at Ravens, Colts at Texans, Steelers at Cowboys, 49ers at Patriots
Week 16: Bengals at Steelers, Vikings at Texans, Giants at Ravens, 49ers at Seahawks
Week 17: Ravens at Bengals, Texans at Colts, Packers at Vikings, Cowboys at Redskins, Rams at Seahawks
Most Mind-Blowing Play
This week’s most mind-blowing play comes courtesy of Eagles wide receiver Jason Avant, who somehow found a way to haul in this pass with just one hand from quarterback Nick Foles. Un-freaking-believable!