Sunday rewind: Week 12

The National Football Post’s Matt Bowen breaks down Sunday’s Week 12 action in the NFL.

V.Y.’s winning drive

<a target="_self" href="http://nationalfootballpost.stats.com/fb/boxscore.asp?gamecode=20091129010&home=10&vis=22&final=true">Isn’t that what we were all waiting for from Vince Young? Sure, we knew he could be unconventional in that Titans offense with RB Chris Johnson (who looks faster to me every Sunday). They had installed the triple option with V.Y., and we all expect to see him on the movement passes and in the play-action game. But the knock has always been that Young wasn’t the type of QB who could bring a team back, who couldn’t sit in the pocket and deliver like the Bradys and the Mannings.

Sunday, he did. That 99-yard drive wasn’t perfect, and V.Y. got some breaks, but what QB doesn’t? Come on, folks, this guy converted three fourth downs, faced a mixture of pressure and coverage and got the ball to his receivers with room to run in front of them. It was a classic drive, and I was flat-out impressed that he could end it by stepping up into the pocket, pumping the football and throwing a TD pass in the back of the end zone — to a rookie.

From a scheme perspective, the Cardinals only rushed four and dropped seven into coverage on the last three plays of the game from the 10-yard line — which is a great job of defensive coaching against an athletic QB like Young. Bringing pressure forces defensive players to play tight man coverage in the back end and also forces those same defenders to turn their backs to the football. A nightmare against a QB who can pick and choose when he wants to tuck the ball and run. But Young beat the defense and beat the seven guys who dropped into coverage. And don’t forget about the rookie — Kenny Britt — who continued to run his route and find an opening in the coverage when he saw Young step up into the pocket. That was a veteran move from a first year wideout.

Loved that ending, and if you have the Titans on the schedule right now, do you really want to play them? Talk about a turnaround that could lead all the way to the postseason.

Favre, Minnesota continue to play big up front

I’ve been criticized this season because I didn’t buy into the Brett Favre hype last summer when he eventually signed with the Vikings. I thought Favre would fade down the stretch, but every Sunday this guy goes out and proves me dead wrong for assuming and predicting anything that goes against his skills. He’s unreal right now: 392 yards and three more TDs against Chicago. Twenty-four TD passes on the year.

But if you’re a Vikings fan, beyond Favre, and beyond the MVP talk — which is becoming more of reality every Sunday — you have to like what you’re seeing up front. I don’t know if there’s a team in the league that can compete with the Vikings up front on either side of the ball. They are so much more talented and so much more physical than their opponents that when January comes around, how do you beat them? Yesterday was a great example of how they can dominate someone along the offensive and defensive lines when they rolled Lovie Smith and the Bears. Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor can find running room, and when Favre drops back to pass against a four-man rush? Forget about it. That’s too easy for this team, and until I see an offensive tackle actually step up and handle DE Jared Allen, I can’t pick against them. You win up front in December, and you win up front in the playoffs. That’s why the Vikings look so tough right now — and having Favre only adds to it.

So long, Houston

How many times do we have to revisit this story with the Texans? And how many more chances is head coach Gary Kubiak going to get? Something to think about after his Texans laid down in the fourth quarter. Because when losing late in the game becomes more than a one-time affair, we have to look at the head coach. Houston was much more physical and much more effective up front against the Colts in the first half than I expected. They ran the ball productively, and they were making plays in the secondary against the best quarterback in the NFL.

But when you start playing around in the second half with your fundamentals, such as tackling, playing the football in the air and throwing interceptions, you will not win in this league. An absolutely brutal loss for that franchise, and another example of how good Peyton Manning and the Colts really are. Did you see any panic in Manning or in the Colts defense? I didn’t. Instead, we all saw it from the Texans. Way too much talent on the Houston team not to put away Indy when it had the chance.

And the NFP’s Michael Lombardi is going to be laughing all the way to the Springsteen concert. I know, Mike, you were right.

Another Ravens-Steelers classic

So many angles and so many ways to dissect one ballgame, but we have to talk about the defensive play made by Ravens rookie DE Paul Kruger to set up Baltimore for the game winning kick in OT. In a game that showed us how close these two franchises are in talent and the way they play the game, the one play that mattered was the interception by Kruger off Steelers QB Dennis Dixon. From the replay, you could see that Dixon saw an overload blitz with Kruger and Ray Lewis, which tells a young QB to hit the slant, or his “hot route.” But when Kruger dropped into a true zone blitz, the passing lane closed and the game was lost. I thought Dixon was very good for his first start in a prime-time game, in that rivalry, against that defense. Ray Rice was excellent, and both defenses played good football. Can’t wait to watch them play again — because it’s the most physical matchup on the schedule in the entire league.

And we can all save the talk about how this one would have turned out differently if Ben Roethlisberger was playing for Pittsburgh — because he wasn’t. Part of dealing with adversity in this league is playing without your top guys and finding ways to win on Sundays.

The Falcons’ injuries

No team was hit harder by injuries than Atlanta in its 20-17 win over the Bucs. Losing Matt Ryan and Michael Turner in the same game should equal a loss, but I give credit to backup QB Chris Redman for his ability to make the throw to Roddy White to beat Tampa.

But if Ryan can’t go, or if Turner is out longer because of the ankle, I have a hard time believing this Falcons team can actually make a push for a wild-card spot. I have no problem giving credit to Redman, but will the offense — which is the backbone of this football team — be able to play up to and beat better competition in December when Sundays become crucial for survival? That remains to be seen, but it could have been a lot worse if Redman didn’t make that throw. Big play for a guy who hasn’t seen the field in a long time.

Another T.O. sighting

How about Terrell Owens? Two games under interim head coach Perry Fewell and he starts throwing up big numbers in the box score. Yesterday, he had another big TD catch, and he seems to have found a QB in Ryan Fitzpatrick who can get the ball down the field to him — plus the offense looks like it has opened up under Fewell. We know that Buffalo under Fewell could compete and score points against a team like the Dolphins, who need these wins. Bad loss for Miami. Real bad.

The opening kickoff

Because the Eagles won, and because the Eagles were able to come back and beat a Redskins team destroyed by injuries, the call to go with the onside kick to open the ball game won’t come under much heat. But does anyone see the logic behind it? At this level, no matter how much you look down at an opponent, there isn’t much room for error. By going with the onside kick — and failing — the Eagles gave the ‘Skins seven points. I didn’t like the call, and even if it did work, why do you take a chance like that when you’re sitting in a position to claim a wild-card spot? Instead, Philly had to come back and win because of it.

Hello again, L.J.

When Larry Johnson signed with the Bengals, I didn’t expect to see much from the former K.C. Chief until Cincy had some injury issues, and with Cedric Benson out for the second straight game, L.J. showed some solid production: 22 carries for 107 yards, good for an average of almost 5 yards a carry. Not bad for a guy who was stuck behind a below-average offensive line in Kansas City and averaged only 2.7 yards every time he got his hands of the football. Good teams can change that.

LT moves up the charts

How about some love for LaDainian Tomlinson? Not a great day in a cakewalk win for the Chargers over the Chiefs, 43-14, but LT puts up 39 yards and moves ahead of Marcus Allen and Edgerrin James into 10th on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. And he scores two TDs in the red zone — something the Bolts couldn’t get done early in the season and something that has helped them put together a six-game winning streak. A much different team than we saw in September because they can run the ball in short-yardage goal-line situations.

Delhomme needs to go

I gave Panthers head coach John Fox a pass earlier this season after he said he was sticking with QB Jake Delhomme because he gave Carolina the best chance to win on Sundays. But after what happened Sunday in New York, how can Fox still think the same way? Delhomme threw four picks in a 17-6 loss to the Jets, and I can’t see why Carolina won’t look for the future of the QB position this offseason.

Containing MJD

It isn’t likely that we’ll see a defense completely shut down Jags running back Maurice Jones-Drew, but the Niners found a way to limit his touches — especially in the running game — because they were able to play with a lead and play effective third-down defense. The Niners forced Jacksonville to go 3 for 12 on third downs, and when you have third-down numbers like that as a defense, the running game can’t be a huge factor. And having Alex Smith protect the football doesn’t hurt either. Still shocked that the Niners could handle the Jags so easily.

The wild-card picture

Let’s take a quick look at where the league stands in the wild card race — along with next’s week’s scheduled games for the contenders:

NFC

Green Bay (7-4) vs. Baltimore
Philadelphia (7-4) at Atlanta
NY Giants (6-5) vs. Dallas
Atlanta (6-5) vs. Philadelphia
San Francisco (5-6) vs. Seattle

AFC

Denver (7-4) at Kansas City
Jacksonville (6-5) vs. Houston
Baltimore (6-5) at Green Bay
Pittsburgh (6-5) vs. Oakland
Miami (5-6) vs. New England
Houston (5-6) at Jacksonville
NY Jets (5-6) at Buffalo
Tennessee (5-6) at Indianapolis

Quick hits

* Bears LT Orlando Pace doesn’t have the feet or the overall skill to start in the NFL anymore.

* We get to see how far Brady Quinn has to go as a pro QB when he plays top competition. His numbers against Detroit were big, his numbers against Mike Zimmer’s defense in Cincy were below average: 15-34 for 100 yards.

* Seattle RB Justin Forcett now has two 100-yard days for the Seahawks this season. The second-year back went for 130 yards and 2 TDs on 22 carries in Seattle’s win.</p>

* Titans RB Chris Johnson now has TD runs of 85, 89 and 91 yards this season.

* Why would the Dolphins want Ricky Williams to throw the ball out of the wildcat in the red zone? That was seven points that Miami should have had and could have had by running the ball downhill.

* Who do you have tonight in New Orleans? I’m going with the Patriots to knock off the Saints.

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