NFL: Cardinals And Saints Make Big Moves


Week eight of this topsy turvy NFL season is now confined to the record books. It was a crazy week, where the Atlanta Falcons did their best to steal the show in the London game, before being pegged back late by the Detroit Lions. The Dallas Cowboys choked badly on Monday Night Football, losing to that division’s whipping boys. And the New York Jets quarterback pair combined for a whopping six turnovers between them, sending them spiralling towards the fight for the no.1 overall pick in the 2015 draft. Yet there was so much more action, so let’s recap it here.

Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals (20-24)

The Arizona Cardinals pulled out yet another big win here. Carson Palmer obliterated the secondary, with big help from Larry Fitzgeral (160 yards and a touchdown) and John Brown (119 yards and a touchdown). The run game was unspectacular, with Andre Ellington notching one big run, but losing a fumble and not finding too many big holes. Still, he did enough to open things up for Palmer, who duly took advantage. The Cardinals won the fourth quarter 10-3, which was the difference in the end. Winning the fourth has been a very good habit Bruce Arians team have gotten into. It’s hard to totally shut down Chip Kelly’s offense, but Jeremy Maclin’s big day will be a worry for the Cardinals.

It’s hard to be overly critical in the aftermath of a one score loss to a team with a 6-1 record, but Nick Foles did attempt 62 passes in this game. He completed 36 of them, for over four hundred yards and two touchdowns. Yet the two interceptions he threw seem an inevitable consequence of being asked to toss the ball so often. The Cardinals are strong against the run, but LeSean McCoy was doing well enough to retain the balance. Jeremy Maclin’s huge 187 yard day puts some gloss on it, but attempting over 50 passes in a game is asking for trouble. Chip Kelly likes taking on traditional NFL values, though.


Baltimore Ravens at Cincinnati Bengals (24-27)

The Cincinnati Bengals stopped the rot in this one, coming out with a big home win that gives them a tie breaker over the Baltimore Ravens. The timing of their first win in four games could not have been better. The Bengals had looked lost in recent weeks, but finally started creating some turnovers on defense. Sure, the teams ended level in that respect, but parity is a big improvement for the Bengals of late. The run game isn’t what it needs to be, and Andy Dalton looks shaky, but Cincinnati are back in charge of the AFC North. Mohamed Sanu sure has been a big player for them in the absence of AJ Green and Marvin Jones, gaining 125 yards on Sunday.

The Baltimore Ravens got completely shut down in the passing game, with running back Lorenzo Taliafero’s two receptions for 42 yards topping their sheet. It was a big surprise, as the Smith’s out wide had been tearing it up a lot of the time. Joe Flacco tossed two picks and only completed 50% of his passes, as the Ravens struggled to cope with the Bengals defenses ferocity. Justin Forsett is surely a candidate for comeback player of the year, and he has continued his impressive showing with four yards per carry on Sunday. He obviously can’t win games on his own, though. A missed opportunity for the Ravens here.

Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers (34-51)

The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to astound and defy all logic. They have been up and down all year, but last Sunday Ben Roethlisberger put on one of the greatest displays in NFL history, completing 40 out of 49 passing attempts for 522 yards and six touchdowns. Those are numbers he is unlikely to see again in his career, and although Big Ben was outstanding, a lot of credit must go to Antonio Brown, Heath Miller and Le’Veon Bell. At times it seems like those are the only weapons Roethlisberger has at hand, but Brown in particular has been unstoppable this season. Those boys scored 28 points in a wild second quarter, which effectively put the game to bed. The defense played a lot better (despite giving up 34 points), with Dick Le Beau’s unit confounding Andrew Luck, forcing two interceptions.

Tough day at the office for Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Wily old Dick Le Beau suckered him more than once, with his complex defensive schemes finally paying off. It will be a learning experience for the young gunslinger, and he did all he could to drag his team back into this one. The weapons at his disposal are frightening, with Donte Moncrief the latest one to put his hand up with a hundred yard game. But that Colts defense was left horrifically exposed by Ben Roethlisberger, who carved them open with ease. The Colts could easily be one and done in the playoffs if they don’t tighten up.

Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints (23-44)

A big win here (finally!) for the New Orleans Saints, as they try to claw their way back towards the hunt for a playoff spot. A 3-4 record wouldn’t have you competitive in too many divisions, but the name of the game in the NFC South this season is avoiding losing streaks. The big difference maker on Sunday Night Football was surely Mark Ingram, who gave the Saints that extra dimension they have so desperately needed. Ingram gashed the defense for 172 yards on just 24 carries, which opened the game up beautifully for Drew Brees, who had his most complete game of the year. This is the formula for success in New Orleans. It was an even game for the first half, but the Saints kicked on to score four touchdowns in the second half, to claim the win.

The Green Bay Packers went down in the second half shootout, and Aaron Rodgers (for once) couldn’t match the opposing QB stride for stride. Rodgers threw for a big chunk of change, with over four hundred yards, but two crucial picks really held up the Packers. Randall Cobb and, somewhat surprisingly, Eddie Lacy went for over a hundred yards on receptions, but Lacy didn’t get much on the ground, and Jordy Nelson was more or less held in check by the Saints. No question though, the Packers lost this game up front, with a defensive line that just could not get a hand on Mark Ingram. Those questions about Dom Capers’ defensive scheming are coming back.

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers (13-9)

What a tight game that was. With just one touchdown in the entire game, the Seattle Seahawks were able to close this one out with their traditional strong defense. Having forced Cam Newton off the field time and again, they only gave up three field goals, which is a great return to form on that side of the ball. Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson ran pretty successfully, while Doug Baldwin continued to show as Wilson’s security blanket on the outside. Baldwin doesn’t put up huge numbers, but he makes clutch catches time and again. The Seahawks offensive plan was more coherent, and they were able to stretch the opposition by putting the ball in nine different receivers hands. Hard to say if the Seahawks are “back”, but this was a very necessary win.

The Carolina Panthers took the Super Bowl champions all the way, but they are clearly a franchise that is still re-tooling on the fly. Cam Newton is playing hard, but the Seahawks took away his running room, as they also shut down Greg Olsen. It is hard to say any first round draft pick is a find, but Kelvin Benjamin has been outstanding, putting up another monster performance. Jonathan Stewart ran well, and that will serve the Panthers well in the coming games. Yet the run defense is routinely giving up big yards, and something which was a strength last year has become a problem now. How that holds up down the stretch may go a long way to determining the Panthers post-season hopes.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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