Huddle Up Week 4: Comeback Sunday by Jason King

Although it was only the second Sunday with no division games since 1970, yesterday was filled with quality football and memorable comebacks.  The most fascinating comeback of the day came from Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions. 

 Everyone is now officially on the Lions bandwagon.  They overcame a 24-point deficit (the largest deficit overcome in franchise history) to defeat the Dallas Cowboys 34-30.  Tony Romo’s two third quarter pick sixes helped the comeback tremendously, but Matthew Stafford put the team in position to win the game with a gutsy fourth quarter performance.  He was 10 of 17 with 121 yards and 2 touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

A game in which the Lions had no business winning, Stafford made sure they won.  Legends are made with fourth quarter comebacks like the one Stafford orchestrated yesterday inIrving,Texas.  On the third play of the fourth quarter, Stafford made a questionable decision to throw the ball to Calvin Johnson, who was triple covered.  Johnson leaped above the defenders and made the catch for a 23 yard touchdown which cut the Dallas lead to 30-24.  The Lions added a field goal midway through the fourth quarter that cut the Cowboys lead to 30-27.  The Detroit defense held and Stafford led the Lions down the field and found Calvin Johnson for a 2 yard touchdown, which gave Detroit their first lead of the game.

The Lions defense gave up 434 yards of total offense but they forced three Dallas turnovers.  Expect the defense to get better as the season continues along and once they get DT Nick Fairley back in the lineup. Stafford and Johnson are headlining one of the most explosive offenses in the league.  As these two grow together it will become increasingly hard to stop this Lions attack.  For Detroit, it’s been two straight weeks and two impressive second half road comebacks.  Through the first quarter of the NFL season these Lions are the real deal.

The Buffalo Bills walked into Cincinnati yesterday as the feel good story of the NFL season so far.  They had all the momentum in the world following a wild win against the Patriots last week. On Sunday though, the story wasn’t the Bills, but the resilient Cincinnati Bengals who fought their way to .500.

The Bengals racked up 458 yards of total offense against the Bills.  They fought through two Andy Dalton interceptions to overcome a 14-point halftime deficit and defeat the Bills 23-20.  The formula for the Bengals yesterday was simple: run the ball effectively and stop Fred Jackson. Jacksonwas held to 66 yards on the ground and the Bengals racked 171 rushing yards on the Bills defense.

The Bengals defense was terrific in the second half.  The Bills only had 99 yards of total offense and scored 3 points.  They didn’t force any turnovers but after the first quarter they were stingy.  The old saying in the NFL is that good defense and a good running game is a young quarterback’s best friend.  Jay Gruden made it a point to establish Cedric Benson yesterday and it helped asDaltonbecame more comfortable as the game went along.

The play of the game was 3rd and 3 at midfield. Dalton dropped back to pass, didn’t see any receivers open and scrambled to his right.  He ran along the sidelines and before going out of bounds, dove the ball towards the first down marker.  After a review they ruled thatDalton got the first down.  The drive was kept alive and Mike Nugent kicked a 43 yard game winning field goal as time expired.

If it weren’t for Cam Newton and the season he is having, people would be talking aboutDaltonas the offensive rookie of the year. Daltonis growing in Gruden’s offense and the Bengals are 2-2.  They beat a solid Bills team Sunday in impressive fashion.

The San Francisco 49ers have two impressive comeback wins the last two weeks, both on the East Coast.  Sunday, they trailed the Philadelphia Eagles 20-3 at the half and 23-3 early in the third quarter.  They scored 21 unanswered points on their way to a 24-23 victory.  Frank Gore ran through the Eagles defense to the tune of 15 carries for 127 yards and 1 touchdown.  In the fourth quarter alone Gore had 8 carries for 65 yards.

The 12-yard touchdown run gave the 49ers the lead and runs of 4,8,4,5, and 5 helped seal the game.  The Eagles had plenty of chances to put this game away but some of the credit has to go to the 49ers for taking advantage of the Eagles miscues.  A game in which Michael Vick accounts for 491 total yards of offense you would think the 49ers would be overmatched.

Quite the opposite was the case.

They made key plays when they needed to and none was bigger than DT Justin Smith’s forced fumble with just over 2 minutes to play and SF holding on to a one-point lead.  Jeremy Maclin caught a quick pass from Vick ran up field for a nice gain and Smith came from behind and stripped him.  Dashon Goldson recovered the fumble and the Eagles never touched the ball again.

Jim Harbough has this team playing pretty good football.  If they hadn’t given up a two touchdown lead at home in the fourth quarter in week 2 they would be 4-0.  Harbough has to get credit for Alex Smith’s improved play.  Smith had another solid game yesterday (21 of 33, 289 yards, 2 TD).  In what many consider to be the weakest division in football, the 49ers have a 2 game lead with 12 to play.  It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that they could run away with the division.

Then again, it is the NFC West.

Huddle Up

  1. Aaron Rogers is the best player in the NFL right now. Rogers is on pace to have another historic season.  Through the first 4 weeks of the season he has 1,325 yards passing, a ridiculous 73.1 completion percentage, 12 TD, 2 INT, and a 124.6 quarterback rating.  He has surpassed Brady and Brees and his biggest competition for best player in the league may be on his team CB Charles Woodson
  2. The Jets and Steelers, both participants in last season’s AFC Championship Game, don’t look like playoff teams.  Surprisingly both teams calling cards, defense, seems to be the problem.  The Steelers let Arian Foster rush for 155 yards against them.  The Steelers defense also didn’t force any turnovers against aHouston team that was missing WR Andre Johnson for most of the game.  The Jets defense was better than it was a week ago against Oakland only giving up 112 yards rushing to the Ravens Sunday night.  Although they sacked Joe Flacco twice the biggest concern on the Jets defense is getting pressure on the quarterback.  Both of these teams also have offensive line issues.  Big Ben was hit time and time again yesterday and left Houston in a walking boot.  Mark Sanchez turned the ball over 4 times on Sunday night including 3 fumbles.  The Jets troubles should be helped out once C Nick Mangold comes back.  Both of these teams could be on the outside looking in come January.
  1. Mike Munchak and Matt Hasselbeck have the Titans rebuilding on the fly.  This was supposed to be a rebuilding season inTennessee.  Munchak had no previous head coaching experience before taking this job and Hasselbeck was a washed up old quarterback.  Together they have the Titans playing as good as anybody in the NFL.  The Titans have a top 5 defense, are solid on both the offensive and defensive lines, and have a good special teams unit.  If they can get Chris Johnson on track (23 carries for 101 yards yesterday) and overcome the loss of WR Kenny Britt they could compete for the AFC South title. Houston might not run away with the division after all.
  2. The lockout is affecting St. Louis tremendously.  Sam Bradford has not grasped Josh McDaniels offense.  The Rams defense is one of the worse in football especially against the run (179.8 opposing rushing yards per game).  Sam Bradford their franchise quarterback and $50 million man has regressed from his rookie season to this one.  All of these are direct results of having no OTA’s this offseason and free agents signing with their teams little more than a month before the start of the regular season.  A team likeSt. Louis that had a lot of free agent signings, is implementing a brand new (and very complex) offensive scheme, and has a second year quarterback is really suffering from a weird offseason.
  3. The Vikings continue to find ways to lose games.  All day the Vikings defense would bend but wouldn’t break.  Then Matt Cassel hooked up with Dwayne Bowe on a 52 yard touchdown pass.  The Vikings defense played good all game long.  The offense never found its rhythm.  Leslie Frazier is going to have to make a decision over the next few weeks.  How long does Christian Ponder hold the clipboard?
  4. Wes Welker is having an unbelievable season so far.  Teams have got to know that Welker is Tom Brady’s favorite target.  He has 40 catches for 616 yards and 5 TD through Week 4.  He is on pace for 160 catches for 2,464 yards and 20 TD.  If defenses continue to play him the way they are playing him now those numbers may not be out of the question for Welker.  If I’m Rex Ryan Welker would be onRevisIsland this weekend in Foxboro.
  5. Lost because of a controversial call was the Giants comeback win over Arizona.  If Eli Manning is going to be put on Tom Brady’s level he is going to need more performances like the one yesterday in the dessert.  Down by 10 with 5:16 left in the game Manning led the Giants to two scoring drives to take a 31-27 lead.  Hakeem Nicks had a great game catching 10 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown.  When it looked like the Giants were done after a Beanie Wells 2 yards touchdown score Eli rallied them to win the game.  That’s the kind of win you look back on and say was a season defining win.
  6. Speaking of that call, I believe it was incorrect.  Giants WR Victor Cruz caught an Eli Manning pass and stumbled to the ground.  No Cardinals player touched him but he got up, placed the ball on the ground and started back to the Giants huddle.  The Cardinals, assuming that it was a live ball, jumped on it.  The officials ruled that Cruz had given himself up and the play couldn’t be challenged.  No fumble.  I’m from the old school where you play until the whistle.  There is no giving yourself up if you are a receiver or running back.  More and more we are taking a contact sport and trying to make it flag football.
  7. Devin Hester does it again.  Hester’s 69 yard punt return touchdown gave the Bears the breathing room it needed in beating the Panthers 34-29.  Teams continue to kick the ball to Hester and he keeps making them pay.  This return was special because it was the 11th of Hester’s career, setting the all-time record for most punt returns in a career.  As long as teams are dumb enough to keep kicking it to him, the more he will add to that record.
  8. Reggie Bush is not a feature running back.  Through 4 games Bush has 40 rushes for 119 yards and 0 touchdowns.  He is averaging 3.0 yards per carry and he longest run is 16 yards.  Bush is a third down back at best.  That is the least of the Dolphins concerns who are 0-4 entering their bye week.  At least head coach Tony Sprano is “safe” through the bye.

Jason King is a contributing writer at Taking It to the House and can be reached at jdk2032@yahoo.com

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