Oh how the mighty have fallen
Sunday's NFL schedule provided its fare share of highs and lows complete with surprise wins and heroic storybook endings. For starters, if you are a fan of the Washington Redskins, then your heart likely stopped for a solid 30 seconds as you watched your franchise quarterback clutching his knee in pain, courtesy of a fourth quarter hit from Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
But just as quickly as Redskins fans feared their playoff chances were gone, backup quarterback and fellow rookie Kirk Cousins provided some late game heroics of his own.
Cousins, having only played in one other game this season, came in to the game and not only threw a laser perfect touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon, but then took the ball on a quarterback drawl into the end zone for the 2 point conversion to take the Ravens into overtime. And as if scripted in a movie, the Redskins had a great punt return, setting up Kai Forbath for a 34-yard field goal to win the game 31-28.
While the game proved to be a big win for the Redskins, it also was a tough loss as players and fans questioned when RG3 would be able to play again. Thankfully, an MRI did not show any ACL tears, but the badly sprained knee could potentially keep RG3 out for the Redskins next game versus the Cleveland Browns.
The situation brings up yet again the question of whether Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan should be trying to limit how much RG3 makes those runs outside of protection? But in doing so, does that take away from his explosiveness and playmaking abilities? An early season concussion and now a badly sprained knee may be all Shanahan needs as reason for having his quarterback make less of those lengthy runs, where he is a moving target.
As Redskins fans breathed a sigh of relief, elsewhere in the league fans were in shock.
In front of a home crowd, the last place Carolina Panthers (4-9) took down the red-hot Atlanta Falcons (11-2) in a surprising win that showcased a version of quarterback Cam Newton not seen since his rookie season. Newton threw for 287 yards, in addition to running 116 yards and scoring on a 72-yard run in the Panthers 30-20 win over Atlanta. Equally as impressive was the fact that the Panthers did all of this without several key starters, and their defense held the Falcons to not score for 2 ½ quarters.
And we certainly cannot talk about surprising games on Sunday, and fail to mention the Seattle Seahawks (8-5) beating the Arizona Cardinals (4-9) to a pulp in a shutout win of 58-0. ESPN blogger Mike Sando describes it best when he wrote, “The Cardinals were blasted out of Seattle on Sunday in a fashion that shouldn’t be tolerated by an NFL franchise.”
Not only did the Seahawks force 8 Cardinals’ turnovers, but the team also set a franchise record for points scored. The dominating performance by the Seahawks was made even more apparent by the variety of ways players were scoring – recovering fumbles, making interceptions, leaping runs down the field. The Seahawks were pretty much putting on a clinic for the Cardinals, and unfortunately the students did not pick up on anything.
The shutout is reportedly the fourth largest in the NFL since 1940, a statistic that is likely sticking in the minds of the Cardinals fans whose team owner has already said the coach would finish out the season (ouch).
Another surprise Sunday was the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) getting as one of its players put it “whupped” by the San Diego Chargers (5-8) in what many said would be the triumphant return of Ben Roethlisberger to Heinz Field. But that was certainly not the case as the Steelers looked confused and out of sync. By the fourth quarter the team was behind by 24 points, when Roethlisberger finally looked to be trying to get his team back in a winning position. But it was too little too late, with a combination of San Diego’s running game and the inconsistent play of the Steelers causing the team to lose in front of its home town crowd.
As for Monday’s night game, (while it pains me to write this) the New England Patriots proved yet again why no one should forget their existence. Even up against the Houston Texans, a team with the league’s best record, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady rode in on high horse and went to battle, dismantling the Texans defense, throwing for four touchdowns and 296 yards.
Like many others, I was expecting a game that was going to pit two highly competitive and dangerous teams against each other, but instead it was the Brady show and the Texans were audience members.