By Josh Satler www.profootball101.org
The game of the week took place in Pittsburgh on Sunday. The 8-4 Cowboys gave the 9-3 Steelers all they could handle, but with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Dallas self-destructed like they’ve done in each of the last two Decembers.
After thoroughly dominating the first three quarters, and overcoming four turnovers in the first half (three for Romo alone), Dallas stopped the Steelers on a key fourth-down and goal at the one and appeared to suck the life out of Pittsburgh and their fan faithful.
But after Roethlisberger guided the team down the field for a FG to move the game to 13-6, the Steelers forced a three-and-out and got the ball back with under five minutes left.
Big Ben drove down the field to score the game tying TD and then Romo, after Dallas received the ball at the 20 with two minutes left and score 13-13, overthrew TE Witten on a miscommunication which was intercepted and returned for six. And game over.
With the win, the Steelers moved to 10-3 and closer to a first-round bye while the loss put Dallas at 8-5 and into a situation they were desperately trying to avoid.
In New York, the Giants fell to the Eagles 20-14. Unless you were a fan of either football team, it was a boring game to watch, but the Giants saw their six-game winning streak come to a crashing halt as McNabb and Westbrook methodically took apart the Giants’ defense with a mixture of smart running and short pass plays.
There’s no way to measure how much the distractions of Plaxico Burress and Antonio Pierce were to the team today, but one thing that was evident is the team came out flat on Sunday.
They missed a few huge opportunities (WR Domenik Hixon saw an 85-yard TD go through his hands), and just seemed to be elsewhere mentally throughout the game.
But the Eagles deserve a lot of credit because they were left for dead after two horrific games vs. the Bengals and Ravens a few weeks ago, but after beating the Cardinals on Thanksgiving night and defeating the Giants today, their playoff hopes are still alive.
With the Dallas loss on Sunday, the Giants actually clinched the NFC East Title to guarantee a first-round playoff game, but they know there’s work to be done before next week’s game in Dallas where they have a chance to end the Cowboys’ playoff chances.
The Falcons allowed a golden opportunity to slip through their fingers today. Division games are never easy, but losing to the Saints didn’t help their playoff chances as they remained tied with the Cowboys for the sixth seed in the NFC.
QB Matt Ryan was once again solid, but the defense couldn’t keep the Saints out of the end zone late in the game and fell 29-25.
The Cards clinched the NFC West with a 34-10 romping over the St. Louis Rams. It was 33 years in the waiting, but if finally happened.
It helped to have three of the worst teams in football in the division but nonetheless, it’s something for Arizona fans to be happy about. And they actually have a chance for a first-round victory in the post season because the win guaranteed one home playoff game.
Switching conferences, let’s go to the best race in NFL: the AFC East. There’s now a three-way tie at 8-5 in the division since both the Patriots and Dolphins won and the Jets laid another egg in San Francisco. Now I’m not sure about you, but I’ve got to think that Mangini is feeling the pressure right about now.
The Patriots weren’t expected to be here after losing Tom Brady in week one and the Dolphins are playing with house money after winning just one game last season, but the Jets have the other team in NY to contend with and just spent tons of money in the off-season to make the playoffs.
Mangini’s already shown he’s not yet ready to handle success with losses to the Broncos and 49ers after handing the Titans their only loss of the season, so we’ll see how things finish off for the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS! A pink slip might find its way onto Mangini’s desk if New York can’t regroup and make the post-season.
The Colts kept their hot streak alive with an annihilation of the Bengals on Sunday. With their sixth straight win after a 3-4 start, they’re going to be a dangerous wild card team as they should have starting C Jeff Saturday and S Bob Sanders back for the playoff run.
Lastly, the Broncos all but assured their ticket to the playoffs with a close win (24-17) over the Kansas City Chiefs. They improved to 8-5 on the season and hold a three game edge over the San Diego Chargers with three games to play.
Hopefully the weather’s nice at the beach in San Diego because the Chargers won’t have to worry about the playoffs this season.