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NFL: Packers Rule The Roost

football

Week thirteen of the NFL season is now in the books, and what a week it was. Thanksgiving week can sometimes disappoint, particularly as the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys have struggled in recent times, but this year we got three cracking games to be thankful for. We also had a full slate of action on Sunday, due to the end of the bye weeks. With so much action to look back on, let’s get straight to our review.

Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco Forty-Niners (19-3)

The Seattle Seahawks laid down another major marker in their late season surge towards defending their Super Bowl crown with a win on the road at their divisional rivals. Marshawn Lynch averaged over five yards per carry as he went over a hundred yards, Russell Wilson completed 15/22 for 236 yards and the defense forced a lot of turnovers. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that was the Seahawks formula for winning the Super Bowl last year. They have gotten important players back from injury in the back seven, and Seattle looks very dangerous all of a sudden. Tony Moeaki, a journeyman tight end who didn’t have a catch in 2013, has turned into a sneakily effective weapon for Wilson. He only caught one ball, but it did go for 63 yards. Wilson put the ball in eight receivers’ hands, and that variety can only help them down the stretch. Seattle is rolling.

The San Francisco Forty-Niners drifted to the periphery of the playoff race with this disheartening home loss. Colin Kaepernick clearly is not playing better than ever, as was claimed in prior weeks, throwing two crucial interceptions to Richard Sherman, who seemed as if he knew exactly where Kaepernick was going. He only mustered 121 yards through the air, and could not move the offense, which only put up one field goal all day. Frank Gore got shut down, and San Francisco got battered. Knives have been out for Jim Harbaugh all year, and this loss will only encourage his detractors.

Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (33-10)

This game suited the Philadelphia Eagles in a strange way, with their fast paced offense ideal for counteracting a strong run attack that would dominate time of possession. Mark Sanchez came out strong early, putting two touchdowns on the board and making their divisional rivals chase the scoreboard. Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy both had whopper days, but it was the Eagles defense that really made a statement, forcing three turnovers (including two Tony Romo interceptions) and keeping DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant well under a hundred yards each. The division is now in the Eagles’ hands and, if their defense can keep playing like this, they have no reason to fear anyone.

The Dallas Cowboys’ season is unravelling fast. They have now lost three of the last five games, and have fallen out of the playoff spots, as things stand. With two games against the Eagles in quick succession, the Cowboys badly needed to take the home game, but they were overmatched from the start. An inability to put LeSean McCoy on the ground opened everything up for Mark Sanchez’s passing game, and the offense could find no way past the stuffed boxes and solid outside coverage that Philadelphia was able to set up. The Cowboys are still right in the shake up for the post-season, but now is a bad time to be losing games.

New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers (21-26)

The irresistible force of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field held up in this one, but the immovable object got closer than any other team has this season. Aaron Rodgers had a lot of time and room to make throws in the first half, and he duly took advantage of it by scoring 23 first half points. The crucial score was the crossing route to Jordy Nelson at the end of the first half that he took 45 yards into the end zone, giving the Packers a two score buffer at the half. Nelson only had two catches on the day, as Darrell Revis reined him in, but that play was crucial, and could be very important come the last day of the season. Davante Adams and Randall Cobb had big days, as did Eddie Lacy on the ground. That being said, the Pack only scored three second half points, and it was very close in the end, with Ha Ha Clinton Dix doing just enough to knock the ball out of Rob Gronkowski’s hands in the end zone. The defensive line stood tall though, getting their first sack on Tom Brady on the next play, the last time he would touch the ball.

The New England Patriots were real close here, but just couldn’t get it done in the end. The sight of Rob Ninkovich constantly tracking Randall Cobb in coverage didn’t bode well, and that was how it turned out in the end. Bill Belichick’s half time adjustments really shut down the Packers, but the damage had been done. Brady was good, but travelling to Lambeau means the minimum requirement is to be great. Still, if this was a Super Bowl preview, it will be a great game in Arizona.

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (29-16)

The Denver Broncos took a two touchdown lead in the first quarter, putting enough breathing space between them and their divisional challengers early on that they were always comfortable. While Peyton Manning only completed 50% of his passes (albeit for two touchdowns), C.J. Anderson continued his impressive streak running the rock for the Broncos. Taking a huge 32 carries for 168 yards, Anderson offered the different dimension the Broncos required with Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman hurt. How the pecking order looks when those guys return will be interesting. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas remain dynamic threats at wide receiver, and the defense controlled the offense that couldn’t stretch the field with relative ease.

This was a blow for the Kansas City Chiefs hopes of making the post-season. Dwayne Bowe’s huge contract looks more and more out of whack every week, with this offense desperately in need of a game-changing receiver. His two catches for eighteen yards failed to provide that. It was very peculiar that Knile Davis had no involvement offensively, allowing the Broncos to hone in on Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce with ease. Andy Reid has done a good job since joining the Chiefs, but he is going to need to make some magic happen in their last few games if they are to make the playoffs. Restoring the run defense to its level from two weeks ago would be a big start.

San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens (34-33)

The San Diego Chargers rallied hard in the fourth quarter here, putting up twenty-one points in the fourth quarter to pip the home side to the win. Philip Rivers went to town on a banged up secondary, completing 34/45 for 383 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. Keenan Allen was over a hundred receiving yards, but the contributions of Eddie Royal, Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd (who all had around eighty yards each) really speaks to an overmatched secondary. Rivers had to go the air, because they were down early and also the run game was limited. Their own defense, particularly at cornerback, is no prize either, but Rivers was able to get them over the line to secure what could be a huge win in the wild card race. The Chargers seem to have a knack of getting hot at the right time of the season.

The Baltimore Ravens only have themselves to blame. Given a commanding lead, favourable field positions all day because of the Chargers fears of Jacoby Jones’ return ability and a rusher with over one hundred yards, and they still couldn’t win. The Ravens gave up some awful penalties, including Elvis Dumervil being pinged for being in the neutral zone on three separate occasions. Steve Smith was a non-factor, most notable for dropping a bomb from Joe Flacco at a crucial juncture. An ill-disciplined team with issues at receiver and corner is not the recipe for emerging from a crowded field down the stretch. Jim Harbaugh has bemoaned a crucial pass interference penalty on Anthony Levine, but Baltimore only have themselves to blame.

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