2007 NFL Week 15 Review

(Philadelphia, Pa) —- Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the football is so delightful so let it snow, let it snow.  Week 15 brought another record for Brett Favre (#4 passed Dan Marino to become NFL’s all-time yardage leader), the continuance of the trek toward perfection (Patriots won again to move to 14-0), the surprise ending of a winless streak (Dolphins beating the Ravens in overtime to post their first win of the season), division clinching wins (Chargers and Buccaneers) and some surprise wins (Eagles over the Cowboys and Jaguars over the Steelers in Pittsburgh), but it was the bad weather that was the big story in the NFL.

As the NFL season started toward its final stretch, the weather in the cold weather non-dome cities reared its ugly head as games including the Patriots-Jets, Browns-Titans, Giants-Redskins, and Steelers-Jaguars were played in less in than ideal conditions.  The wind, snow, rain, and sleet definitely seem were factors this week and in the future they will have a major impact on team’s playoff fortunes as much as their opponents.

This time of the year is the holiday season around the NFL and certain teams will either get a playoff “present” in their stocking or a “lump of coal” in the form of spending the playoffs at home.  The NFL should be happy though as parity has caused several playoff races to go down to the wire in particularly:

  • The AFC North crown where the Steelers and the surprising Browns are now tied with records of 9-5 with two games left.
  • The AFC wild card race where the Jaguars (10-4), Titans (8-6), Bills (7-7), Texans (7-7), and the aforementioned AFC North teams are battling for the final two spots in the NFL’s A-League.
  • The NFC wild card race where the Giants (9-5), Vikings (7-7), Redskins (7-7), Saints (7-7), and a bunch of 6-8 squads will be fighting it out through week 17 for the chance at the playoffs. 

Some game highlights included:

  • Forget “spygate” – With everyone concentrating on the Patriots trying to run up the score to get revenge on Mangini and the Jets for “spygate”, the weather (windy) caused the NFL’s golden boys to concentrate on running the ball and playing tough defense in their pedestrian 20-10 win.  The Patriots didn’t throw a touchdown, but they did show their toughness as Laurence Maroney eclipsed the 100-yard mark and linebackers Adalius Thomas (9 TKLs, 1.5 sacks, 2 FF) and Junior Seau (9 TKls, 2 sacks) had huge days.  The Patriots may have not been able to humiliate the Jets due to the weather, but they did knock their quarterback out (Kellen Clemens left with rib problem) and most importantly extend their winning streak to 14 games.  The Pats matched the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the only teams in history to win their first 14 games of a season.  Of course, Miami’s ’72 regular season was exactly 14 games, accounting for one of the NFL’s three undefeated/untied regular seasons in history (1934 Chicago Bears, 13-0; 1942 Chicago Bears, 11-0).  Now they will need to avoid a letdown against the “surging :)” Miami Dolphins.
  • The Dolphins Win, The Dolphins Win – All season everyone has been saying that this year’s Dolphins squad was bad enough to finish winless — the last team to achieve the unenviable lowlight were the 1976 Tampa Buccaneers who posted a 0-14 season.  Well everyone can stop with the speculation and jokes about the Dolphins as they showed that they may not be on the Patriots level, but they are good enough to take away a win in an NFL game.  The Dolphins led by quarterback Cleo Lemon refused to lay down and fought from beginning to end as they pulled off a huge “get the monkey off our back” win over the reeling Baltimore Ravens 22-16 in overtime.  Lemon connected with little used WR Greg Camarillo for a 64-yard touchdown pass to gain the relieving victory that left Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga in tears. 
  • Hey Philly Fans Get off McNabb’s Back – With everyone expecting America’s new golden boy Tony Romo to shine while his girlfriend Jessica Simpson watched.  But it was Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb who turned in one of his grittiest performances (tougher than a day old cheesesteak) as several fans in Philadelphia have been calling for #5 to go.  His numbers don’t tell the whole story (23-41, 208, 1 TD, 0 INT with 53 yards rushing) as the 9 year veteran showed Birds fans he is not the team’s biggest problem in 10-6 win over the hated Cowboys in Texas Stadium – by the way it is a lack of playmakers on the roster, but that is another conversation.  McNabb stood tall in the pocket taking hits when needed and showed mobility that has been rarely seen this season.  His 28-yard gallop showed that his wheels are slowly coming back around after his ACL injury in 2006.  The win did not come without questions as Fox sideline reporter Pam Oliver reported that she believed that McNabb did not expect to be back in Philly in 2008. Here’s hoping that she is wrong, but that decision is up to the Eagles braintrust of Lurie/Reid/Banner and not the fickle fans.
  • Who needs sunny Florida – The Jacksonville Jaguars may be a Sunbelt team by geographical standards, but they are a tough physical cold weather team at heart.  This was never more evident as they went into snowy Heinz field and handed the blue-collar Steelers their first home loss of the season 29-22 in a physical match-up.  The game was played in the slop and mud, but the Jags efficient passing behind quarterback David Garrard (17-33, 197 yards w/ 3 TD and 1 INT) and their physical running game led by Fred Taylor (25 rushes for 47 w/ 1 TD) kept churning as they put up 224 rushing yards in the win.  The Jags controlled the game with their disciplined style (only one turnover and penalty) and spun the clock for 37:39 to the Steelers 22:21.  The AFC better watch out for this big physical team in the playoffs as they showed that they travel well.
  • Move over Dan Again – Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre had already passed Dan Marino for the all-time touchdowns and passes attempted records, John Elway for the all-time victories record and even George Blanda for the career interceptions record this magical season. But it wasn’t until he completed a slant pass to his favorite receiver Donald Driver that he passed Marino again this time become the all-time NFL yardage king.  The 17-year veteran finished the game with 61,405 yards (Marino’s old record was 61,361). 2007 has been a great year for Favre and the Pack and after their 33-14 win Sunday at St. Louis, the 12-4 Packers are poised to have the road to the Super Bowl may go through the “frozen tundra” of Lambeau field.  Favre said of the record and Marino, “I’ve said this all along: I’ve never considered myself to be in the same league as Dan Marino”.  He added “What a great passer, maybe the greatest passer ever.

Games Balls

Miami Dolphins QB Cleo Lemon – Many snickered earlier this week when beleaguered Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron named Lemon the starter versus the Ravens, saying the season was already lost.  But the former Arkansas State quarterback got the last laugh as he threw for numbers of 23/39, 315 yards, one huge touchdown pass (aforementioned 64-yard strike to Camarillo for the game winner) and zero interceptions plus 12 rushing yards.  With the win you know the fifth-year pro will get another chance to start next week as the Dolphins try to help their 1972 brethren and beat the Patriots (14-0) in Foxboro to stop their quest of an undefeated season.

Honorable Mention

Houston Texans DE Mario Williams – Everyone that scoffed at the Texans making him the first overall pick last year – including yours truly – now need to eat some crow as the former North Carolina State star has had a breakout season in year two.  Williams who has been compared to Bruce Smith has become a dominant force off the edge.  He has improved footwork and hand usage plus he now has a home at the left defensive end spot. Williams was huge on Thursday night harassing fellow ’06 draftee Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler and registering a career high 3.5 sacks and seven tackles.  He now has 10 sacks in his last seven games and look for him in the Pro Bowl as he leads the AFC with 13.5 sacks for the year.

Philadelphia Eagles RB Brian Westbrook – The little engine that makes the Birds go was everywhere in their big 10-6 win over their hated rival the Dallas Cowboys.  Westbrook returned one punt, continually picked up the blitz, and contributed his usual eye-popping dual threat numbers catching and running the ball (18 rushes for 81 yards plus 9 catches for 63 yards).  But B-West made the play of the game near the end of the 4th quarter when he had the chance to score after a burst up the middle instead choosing the intelligent and selfless play to stop at the Cowboys 1-yard line.  After Villanova product’s lay down, the two-minute warning came and went and the Birds ran the clock out with kneel downs.  You can also credit Eagles big right tackle John Runyan for telling B-West to “Get Down !!!”

Miami Dolphins DE Jason Taylor – The 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the year showed why he is so special in the Dolphins first win of the season.  He constantly harassed the Ravens quarterbacks producing four tackles and two sacks on defense plus he even lined up as a TE/WR at the goal line.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR/KR Michael Spurlock –  It took 32 seasons and 1,865 tries, but he former Ole’ Miss quarterback made history as he had a 90 yard kick return for a touchdown in the Bucs 37-3 over the hapless Falcons.  Did I fail to mention that kick return was the first for a touchdown in the Bucs’ history.   For the game, Spurlock had two returns for 98 yards with a 49-yard average. Spurlock said. “Everybody got their block, I hit it and found the end zone

Lloyd’s Lackey

Former Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Bobby Petrino – You can count me among the thousands of fans, media, and NFL personalities that are piling on the “turncoat” coach.  Petrino signed a long-term deal with the University of Arkansas after basically turning in his resignation to beleaguered Falcons owner Arthur Blank on a cocktail napkin.  The Falcons who have endured the whole Michael Vick fiasco deserved more.  Petrino sensing that the NFL is a “real” job where you have to work rather than recruit bolted for the safe grounds of BCS (or is it BS) college football after a 3-10 record.  Petrino not only showed disrespect to the players by not giving them the deficiency of an explanation, but he also left a whole football staff out in the cold after they had moved to Atlanta to work for him.  The poor Falcons as expected lost badly to the Bucs 37-3 (including 4 Turnovers  and 0-9 on 3rd downs) with respected veteran NFL man and interim head coach Emmitt Thomas at the helm.  Here’s hoping that they get Darren McFadden, Andre Woodson, or another franchise player in the draft to build around.

Dishonorable Mention

Dallas Cowboys Safety Roy Williams – The hard-hitting safety committed his third “horse collar” tackle of the season this time on Eagles QB Donovan McNabb.  The NFL put this rule in specifically for Williams yet the former Oklahoma star continues to try and hurt opposing players with the illegal tactic (The NFL on Monday fined and suspended Williams for 1-game).

The Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals – These two “potential
 playoff teams at the halfway point of the season have limped home.  They both had a great chance to make the playoffs, but penalties, turnovers, and a lack of heart will keep them home for the playoffs.  The Lions lost for the sixth straight time, this week getting smoked by the Chargers 51-14 as they committed six turnovers.  The Cardinals committed ten penalties and had two turnovers in a 31-24 loss to Saints.   

Detroit Lions QB Jon Kitna – So much for Kitna’s bold preseason statement that the Lions would make the playoff and have ten wins.  The journeyman quarterback was abysmal in a 51-14 shellacking by the Chargers as they lost their sixth straight game.  Kitna’s numbers were just as bad as his prediction as he threw for ugly numbers of 26-45, 302 yards, 2 touchdowns with 5 interceptions.  For the season, the Lions big mouth quarterback now has 17 touchdowns and 17 interceptions for the season.

The Baltimore Ravens – How do you lose to the formerly winless Dolphins (1-13)?? Plus they wasted a good effort by RB Willis McGahee (29 rushes for 104 yards), lost LB Ray Lewis to a broken hand, didn’t do much with 31:13 Time of Possession, and couldn’t handle defensive pressure that caused quarterback Kyle Boller to leave with a concussion.

Game Notes

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reliant Stadium

Broncos (6-8)   0   6   7    0      13

Texans (7-7)    7   3   7   14      31  

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Monster Park

Bengals (5-9)   0   10   0   3      13

49ers (4-10)    0   14   6   0      20    

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Qualcomm Stadium

Lions (6-8)      0    7    7   0      14

Chargers (9-5)  17   17   10   7      51  

Texas Stadium

Eagles (6-8)    0   7   0   3     10  

Cowboys (12-2)  0   3   3   0      6  

McAfee Coliseum

Colts (12-2)   10   0   3   8      21

Raiders (4-10)  0   7   0   7      14  

Heinz Field

Jaguars (10-4)   3   7   12   7   29

Steelers (9-5)   0   7    0  15   22  

Superdome

Cardinals (6-8)   7    7    7   3      24

Saints (7-7)      7   14   10   0      31  

Dolphin Stadium

Ravens (4-10)    3   10   0   3   0   16

Dolphins (1-13)  0    3   7   6   6   22  

Arrowhead Stadium

Titans (8-6)   7   3   10   6      26

Chiefs (4-10)  0   14   3   0      17  

Cleveland Browns Stadium

Bills (7-7)   0   0   0   0      0

Browns (9-5)  3   5   0   0      8

Bank of America Stadium

Seahawks (9-5)   0   0   0   10      10  

Panthers (6-8)   0   0   0   13      13  

Edward Jones Dome

Packers (12-2)   7   10   10   6      33

Rams (3-11)      7    7    0   0      14

Raymond James Stadium

Falcons (3-11)       3     0    0   0       3  

Buccaneers (9-5)  14   13    3   7     37  

Gillette Stadium

Jets (3-11)       0    7    0   3      10  

Patriots (14-0)  7   10   0   3      20  

Giants Stadium

Redskins (7-7)    3   13   6   0      22  

Giants (9-5)        0    3   7   0      10  

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome

Bears (5-8)    3   10   0   0      13  

Vikings (8-6)  0    6    6   8      20  

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