So, I was a bit concerned in the first moments of the first quarter in the Giants game, when the special teams screw up allowed the Raiders to take a 7-0 lead early on. The Giants responded, but they did not look at all dominant. They made a lot of mistakes.
Fortunately for them, so did the Raiders. This was a game that was defined by mistakes and, ultimately, the Giants finally managed to win it. But it was hardly the kind of win that the Giants can take extreme comfort in. It was more along the lines of their having escaped a bad performance with a "W", and having the luxury of correcting their mistakes without it having cost them - and a loss would have cost them dearly!
One thing that should serve as a positive sign was that the Giants running game was really on for this game. I had to listen to the latter part of the game on the radio, while driving to work, and Carl Banks suggested that the Giants offensive approach on this day was more typical of the Giants of the eighties, when they enjoyed a dominant running game that killed the clock and allowed their ball control offense to wear opposing defenses down. So, that was one of the positives to take away from it.
With the win, the Giants managed to stay relevant in the NFC East. It was their third straight win, although none of them have been very dominant. They have been more careful than anything else, but they will likely have to step it up a few more notches if they hope to really make a run, as their remaining schedule is tough.
With Washington losing in a stunner, as well as a truly heartbreaking setback, the G-Men now are tied for worst in the division, rather than in sole possession of it. This could be seen as a sign that they are catching up, having at least tied one team now. More importantly, the division leading Cowboys were picked apart by the Saints in New Orleans, in an absolute destruction. The Cowboys lost badly, 49-17, and now rather limp into their bye week. Dallas just was not competitive at all, as the Saints exploded to break the game open late in the second half, and they never looked back. The Saints piled up 625 yards of offense and collected 40 first down. Brees was magnificent, completing 34 of 41 pass attempts, for 392 yards and four touchdowns. The 'Boys were simply overwhelmed. This gave the other teams, hopefully especially the Giants, the chance to catch up.
Those two games were the good news for New York. The bad news was that the Eagles won again. Like last week, they won again on the road, this time against a team that, until very recently, ranked among the relative elites. But the Packers are playing without Rodgers, and that is putting their season in jeopardy now. They lost convincingly at home to the Eagles, and they are also the Giants next opponent. Even though Philly winning is not good news for the Giants, Rodgers likely being out for next week's game should bode well for New York, and give them a better chance at winning, and closing the margin even more. Unfortunately, at this point, the Giants really have no wiggle room, because of their extremely poor, 0-6 start.
For the Packers, this has been a disastrous six or seven day span. They suffered injuries to starters, with the most obvious and limiting one being to Aaron Rodgers. They also not only lost two games in a row, but those were at home in Lambeau Field, which usually is a powerful advantage for the team. Green Bay is not normally an easy place to play in, and the Packers usually rely on that. Two losses in a row there for them is definitely not good news.
Neither is the fact that the Lions seem to be shooting ahead of everybody, and appear to now have a head of steam as they approach the final stretch. They hung on and won a tough road game against their division rivals, the Chicago Bears. It was a slugfest but, ultimately, Detroit was creative and hung in there to preserve the win.
Elsewhere, the Broncos and Seahawks kept on rolling, catching the Chiefs with 9 wins each. Those three teams have a combined record of 27-1 so far! Seattle dominated the Falcons in Atlanta, where up until this season, Matt Ryan and the Falcons usually dominated. But this year, it appears to be a very different story, and Seattle simply took control early and never let up in an easy win. As for the Broncos, they won a tougher game on the road, but it was costly. Manning was roughed up, and was hit particularly by his knees a couple of times. He did managed to finish the game, but there were reports that he was limping a bit in the locker room after the game. Still, a win is a win, and Denver will surely take it. But they had better hope that Manning is ready for the Chiefs next week!
This was a weekend of shockers in the NFL. First, Minnesota shocked Washington, winning in a stunning, come from behind fashion. Then, the Jacksonville Jaguars notched their first victory of the season over the Tennessee Titans, something that most people, myself included, did not see coming. Perhaps the most shocking result was the Rams going into Indianapolis and simply blowing out the Colts! That the Rams might win, even if it seemed improbable, was certainly within the realm of possibility. But that they dismantled the Colts before their own home crowd? That was something that I did not see coming, admittedly. Few others did, either, surely. The Colts blew an opportunity to place themselves in a more favorable position in the AFC South race and put some cushion between them and the Titans as a result of this loss. The big win keeps the Rams relevant in the NFC West, which may just be the toughest division in football. The Seahawks are clearly elite, and the 49ers, last year's NFC Conference champions, are considered one of the front runners again this season. The Rams have had some impressive wins, and have an explosive offense, as they showed today.
And then there are the Cardinals, who somehow have managed to compile a winning record to this point about as silently as any team can. They won again yesterday, handing Houston their seventh straight defeat in a tight 27-24 decision. Arizona, who did not exactly figure prominently in most people's predictions beforte the season, are suddenly 5-4, and in position to at least compete for a playoff berth.
The 49ers, another team that is usually considered an elite team, were sporting a five game winning streak going into today's showdown with the Panthers, who themselves had won four in a row coming in. San Francisco was not able to light up the boards, exactly. But they still managed to build what appeared a fairly solid lead as the first half was expiring, with three field goals for a 9-0 lead.
But the Panthers were able to get on the scoreboard inside of the two minute warning, with a 27 yard run to the end zone by running back De Angelo Williams, to cut into San Francisco's lead. The game was a defensive battle, but the Panthers managed to get in scoring range again in the fourth quarter. it was a long attempt, but Carolina's placekicker Graham Gano was able to get a 53-yarder through the uprights, giving the Panthers their first ever lead. Again, this was a defensive battle, and the Carolina Panthers were able to make it stand up, as this one field goal proved to be the only points scored by either team in the second half. The Panthers won, albeit narrowly, 10-9, on the road at Candlestick Park.
Otherwise, the Bengals had gotten dominated for most of the division rivalry game in Baltimore. But they suddenly exploded in the fourth quarter, as Andy Dalton hit Giovani Bernard for an 18-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, to close the gap to 17-10. Then, in the final play of regulation, Dalton was able to hit AJ Green in the end zone to stun the home crowd, and force the game into overtime.
But it was all for naught, as the Ravens' Justin Tucker was able to hit the winning 45-yard field goal to clinch the win, keeping the Ravens very relevant in the AFC North, by handing the Bengals their second straight heartbreaking loss in as many weeks.
Finally, the Steelers were able to defeat the Buffalo Bills in Pittsburgh, 23-10.