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NFL: Cowboys Reign In London

football

Week ten of the NFL season is now over, and it was a dramatic weekend dominated by fourth quarter comebacks. Perhaps that is to be expected when a host of games pitted contenders against contenders. There was plenty of back and forth games, as well as the few big shocks that are now to be expected with the end of the regular season in sight. Everyone is still jockeying for position, and the intensity is only growing. With the hits getting harder and each play more and more crucial, lets take a look back at the week ten action.

New York Giants at Seattle Seahawks ( 17-38)

The Seattle Seahawks move on to a 6-3 record, but they had to work for this one.  They were a little scatty in the first half, going in trailing 17-14 at the half. Yet they had seen, through a series of Russell Wilson keep-and-run plays that the defense wasn’t being disciplined in protecting the outside channels. Wilson gashed the defense for four big plays in a couple of first half minutes. This set the scene nicely for Marshawn Lynch to pummel that defense in the second half, as he ran for 140 yards and four touchdowns on just 21 attempts. Wilson also went over a hundred on the ground, but looked less sure throwing the ball, giving up two interceptions. The defense played ok, but is clearly missing the injured Kam Chancellor, amongst others.

The New York Giants had the Twelfth Man worried there for a while, before failing to score a single point in the entire second half. The Giants have been up and down a lot this year, and they were just overpowered and overmatched when the game was really on the line. Odell Beckham looks like a tremendous player, and next year he will be a formidable option alongside Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle. But the Giants have a lot of basic football elements to get right between now and then, if they are to contend. The same was said last year, though.

San Francisco Forty-Niners at New Orleans Saints (27-24)

The San Francisco Forty-Niners won this must-win battle, but they were really let off the hook.  They surrendered a fourteen point lead in the second half, only for the secondary to blow a coverage on fourth and ten to give Michael Crabtree a free catch in field goal range to force overtime. Even then, San Francisco were a little fortunate that Jimmy Graham was flagged for pushing off on a hail mary at the end of regulation. The Niners offense suffered a huge amount of drops, including three in a row on that game-tying drive. The defense came good, forcing Drew Brees to cough up possession with a sack to set up the winning field goal. But San Francisco continues to look unimpressive. They could still be dangerous if they get to the post-season, but it’s a long road to get there.

The New Orleans Saints really blew this one. Drew Brees finished with three turnovers on the day, which helped to kick-start a San Francisco team that was dangerously close to fading away into irrelevance throughout the second half.  Brees’ second pick, in particular, left points behind them at the end of the second quarter, which was to prove pivotal in the end. The secondary must take its share of the blame for the blown coverage on Crabtree, but it never should have come to that for the Saints. They still look good atop the NFC South, but they are an incomplete team.

Miami Dolphins at Detroit Lions (16-20)

The Detroit Lions have added another win to their impressive total, with the Lions pass rush a huge factor once again. Ndamukong  Suh was a force to be reckoned with, disrupting the offensive line time and again. Preventing Ryan Tannehill from ever truly getting comfortable, while also cutting down on the running possibilities, made this game Detroit’s to lose. And, considering that, they were uncomfortable winners, with a last-minute Theo Riddick touchdown the difference in the end. When you take into account Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate both had one hundred receiving yards, the Lions points tally was pretty low. They go into a match next week against the Arizona Cardinals, as first and second seed of the NFC square off, but there is something not clicking in the Detroit attack. Nonetheless, Ndamukong Suh looms as a very interesting free agency prospect come the off-season.

Tough road loss for the Miami Dolphins. Mike Pouncey and co were torn asunder on the offensive line by Suh and his team mates. Considering the rampant pressure, Ryan Tannehill was playing pretty well. That being said, sixteen points won’t win you a whole lot of games in the NFL. Mike Wallace continues to vent his frustrations with the lack of deep ball being thrown, and that particular relationship is starting to turn ugly fast. The Miami defense deserves a lot of credit for sticking with the Lions offense. Johnson and Tate are always going to put up numbers, but they gave their team a chance by only conceding two touchdowns and two field goals. That is a very strong unit, and one they will rely on as they continue to chase a wild card spot.

Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills (17-13)

The Kansas City Chiefs showed off their ruthless side in this one, by putting up two unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter to come out of Buffalo with a massive win in terms of the AFC wild card race. Alex Smith’s unit had been under ferocious pressure all day, and only scored three points in three quarters, but they got it done when it mattered.  Jamaal Charles had a massive impact, notching 98 yards and a touchdown on fifteen plays. Dwayne Bowe made some dirty yards, finishing with eight receptions for 93 yards. Bowe has to help his quarterback out like this more often.  He really is their only serious passing threat. The Chiefs pass rush made big plays too though, with Dontari Poe, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston giving Kyle Orton no time. They may have only sacked Orton once, but they pressured him plenty and it got to him in the end. The Chiefs have given up the fewest points of any NFL team in the fourth quarter, and that’s a stat winning teams have.

The Buffalo Bills blinked. Kyle Orton’s offense failed to put up a good enough lead, despite dominating for three quarters of the game. The three fumbles lost by Buffalo receivers can hardly be put on Orton, but he certainly missed a few opportunities in the red zone that would have put the game beyond the Chiefs. Scoring zero points in the fourth quarter is a recipe for losing tight games. The Bills are still right in the AFC wild card race, but they should have won this game. That being said, is there a better front four anywhere in football right now? The Bills ransacked the Chiefs line all day, doing everything they could to bring home the win. The offense just couldn’t provide it.

Dallas Cowboys at Jacksonville Jaguars (31-17)

The final score made it look somewhat close, but this game was never a contest outside of the first quarter. The Dallas Cowboys got back to winning ways, as they swatted away the Jacksonville Jaguars in the final London game of the year. Tony Romo started and played well, completing 20/27 for 246 yards and three touchdowns.  DeMarco Murray ran for one hundred yards, and Dez Bryant had six receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns. All the things that have to happen for Dallas to win games happened here. They will have sterner tests down the road, and their players seemed to really enjoy London’s nightlife, but the Cowboys remain a threat in the NFC.

Jacksonville’s struggles are not getting any easier to watch. They were pretty poor in London, only showing their skills in flashes. They are a young side with a lot of offensive potential in particular, but they must learn to play their best for sixty minutes. That defense is getting ripped apart, and a few new pieces will need to be added in the off-season if the Jaguars are to get closer to respectability next year. They will almost certainly have a top five draft pick to help add some more playmakers into their mix.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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