Carolina Panthers 17, Green Bay Packers 31
The Packers put on another dominant performance Sunday against the Panthers, putting up points, forcing turnovers and establishing excellent field position on special teams.
Running back Ryan Grant was enough of a threat on the ground to keep the Panthers defense honest, opening up the play action pass for quarterbackBrett Favre. Favre threw for three touchdown passes on the day, tying Dan Marino with 62 career three-TD games. However, the highlight of the game came from the Packers special teams when Tramon Williams returned a fake field goal pooch punt 94 yards for a touchdown midway through the first quarter. The Packers stay atop their division and conference at 9-1, their best start since the Vince Lombardi era.
Though the Panthers stepped up their game late in the second half and established a solid running game with talented backs DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams, it was not enough to overcome the momentum of the Green and Gold. Ancient quarterback Vinny Testaverde had a decent performance considering the absence of wide receiver Steve Smith, but interceptions to defensive backs Aaron Rouse and Charles Woodson halted two key drives. The Panthers are still alive in the NFC South at 4-6, but injuries continue to plague their offense.
Chicago Bears 23, Seattle Seahawks 30
This game was played at a much higher level than I expected, and both teams executed well on offense and defense. Though good Rex Grossman showed up for the Bears, he was overshadowed by Matt Hasselbeck picking apart Chicago’s secondary in a dominant performance.
Despite the loss, Bears fans should be excited. Facing a stingy Seahawks defense, Grossman limited his mistakes and threw some good deep balls, while Cedric Benson broke a big run at the start of the game and improved his yards per carry. The defense gave up a lot of points, but it was more the skill of the Seahawks passing attack than any severe defensive breakdown for Chicago. The Bears fall to 4-6, but I feel getting this team back on track was more important than a win Sunday.
The Seahawks proved Sunday that they may be dangerous in the playoffs. The defense has been playing extremely well, especially Darryl Tapp, and Hasselbeck is looking really good now that all his receivers are healthy again. Maurice Morris has been doing a good job filling in for injured Shaun Alexander, and I expect this 6-4 team to emerge from the mediocre NFC West.
New York Giants 16, Detroit Lions 10
The two wildcard favorites put on a defensive chess match Sunday, with Michael Strahan leading the Giants defense to a good win for Big Blue in the low-scoring affair.
Jon Kitna, who throughout his career has hung onto the ball far too long, was forced into a lot of bad situations against the best pass rush in the league. Kitna was pressured and sacked all day, throwing three interceptions and really costing the Lions the game. The run game, though not given much of a chance to succeed, only gained 25 yards. This kind of play will not cut it with the very difficult schedule Detroit has down the stretch. Dropping two straight for the first time this season, the Lions fall to 6-4 and are now in serious risk of not making the playoffs.
Despite not putting up a whole lot of points, the G Men did exactly what they needed to do to win tough games like this. The defense played great, pressuring the quarterback and forcing turnovers, and Eli Manning continued the best season of his career, stepping up and leading his team to a win with 283 passing yards and a touchdown. Even though Dallas keeps rolling, the Giants are looking good for a wildcard playoff run at 7-3 if they can just avoid the choke job special of recent years.
Oakland Raiders 22, Minnesota Vikings 29
This battle of the nobodies turned out to be pretty exciting. The game featured high scoring and close competition throughout, including Daunte Culpepper’s return to Minnesota. It was a bit ugly with a lot of turnovers and mistakes, including an Oakland safety, but fun nonetheless.
Anytime someone puts together an epic season like Adrian Peterson, people seem to forget about the guy backing him up. With Peterson out of the picture with a knee injury, Vikings running back Chester Taylor had a great game against Oakland on Sunday, going for 202 total yards and a career-high three touchdowns. The Minnesota offensive line did a great job and the Vikes bounced back well after getting crushed last week at Lambeau. Minnesota is now tied for third with the Bears at 4-6 in the NFC North.
It seems Oakland is jealous of the winless Miami Dolphins. After getting the first pick in the draft last year, they are desperately trying to find new ways to lose games this year. I think this team has decent talent, a good young coach, and there is no reason why they should be losing. They finally announced this week that JaMarcus Russell will be starting Dec. 2, and it couldn’t have come soon enough. Oakland is officially hopeless at 2-8 and Al Davis must already be gearing up the crazy-old-man mojo for draft day. Sorry Raiders fans; at least you still have memories of the ‘70s.