Monday, December 17, 2007

Chargers Cruise, Redskins Roll!

Yesterday was certainly an interesting day in the NFL... the Dolphins finally got off the snide and scored their first win of the year, by a 22-16 margin against the Baltimore Ravens on a dramatic overtime touchdown pass - the same Ravens who were 20 seconds from beating the now 14-0 New England Patriots two weeks ago. As for the most interesting game of the day, that one had to be the Cleveland-Buffalo game which was played in a driving snowstorm. I sat pretty much glued to the TV for that one as both the Browns and Bills struggled to move the ball in the horrible conditions. You could barely see the yard markers, and at times, you could hardly see the players when the blizzard was at it's hardest. The Browns managed two Phil Dawson field goals, including a 49 yarder in the second quarter that barely seemed to get more than 10 feet off the ground. As with his game-tying kick a couple of weeks ago, the ball nailed the center post supporting the crossbar. This time, however, the ball went through (while knocking off a nice little clump of snow from the support). The Bills also gave up a safety after a bad snap over the head of punter Brian Moorman deep in their own territory. Moorman had the presence to kick the ball through the end zone, rather than try to recover it and/or give the Browns a chance at an easy score. The 8-0 final score was more than appropriate - an 8 is known as a "snowman" to those who play golf (it's never a good thing there though!)

Normally on a Sunday, when the San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts are playing, I'm pretty much going to flip back and forth between their respective games... the "snow bowl" though was just too much fun to turn away from. Also, the Chargers had pretty much complete control of their game against the reeling Detroit Lions from the start - LaDainian Tomlinson scored two touchdowns in the first quarter. Halfway into the second quarter it was 27-0, and it was in effect over. The Chargers managed to score on their first seven drives of the game, punting for the first time with 1:32 left in the third quarter. By that time, it was a 44-14 game. The Chargers would tack on another touchdown late in the fourth quarter to finish win a 51-14 win. For the Lions, it was their sixth straight loss after a 6-2 start. Remember that mirage? The Chargers clinched the AFC West title with the win, their fourth in a row and eighth in 10 games after their 1-3 start.

The Lions anticipated collapse has opened the door for many teams in the NFC who would like to sneak into the NFC playoffs as the final wild card. Going into last night, the New York Giants at 9-4 had all but sealed up one of the two wild card spots. The Washington Redskins at 6-7 were facing a must win to keep their slim hopes of nabbing the final playoff spot alive. Both teams came into the game with something to prove as well. The Giants had yet to defeat a team with a winning record this year, while the Redskins were looking to avenge a 24-17 loss to the Giants at RFK Stadium back in week three - a game the Skins led 17-3 at halftime. The conditions last night were horrible - freezing temperatures and a swirling wind that made passing and kicking an absolute nightmare. That said, Todd Collins managed to navigate the Redskins on five scoring drives (even though he only completed 8 passes on the night) in his first start in 10 years, and Shane Suisham judged the wind perfectly, hitting on field goals of 49, 31 and 28 yards. In conditions like yesterday's, moving the ball well on the ground was critical and Redskins RB Clinton Portis more than delivered the goods, churning out 126 yards on 25 carries including a 5 yard run early in the third quarter to give the Redskins a 22-3 lead. Brandon Jacobs moved the ball similarly well for the Giants, gaining 130 yards on 26 carries. The quarterbacks certainly struggled throughout as Collins was only 8-for-25 (32%) for 166 yards, while Giants QB Eli Manning was only 18-for-52 (35%) for 184 yards... When you consider that QB's typically complete about 2/3 of their passes, the stats on Collins and Manning certainly told the story yesterday night. Manning did manage to toss a touchdown pass late in the game to trim the margin to 22-10, but that was as close as they would get. With the win, the now 7-7 Redskins very much still have their playoff hopes alive!

Next Sunday is a critical game for the Redskins as they face the 7-6 Minnesota Vikings at home. The Vikings play the Chicago Bears tonight at home. If the Redskins could manage to beat the Vikings next week (regardless of what the Vikings do tonight), they would be the front-runner for that final NFC Wild Card spot. In their final game of the year, the Redskins take on the now suddenly mortal Dallas Cowboys, who lost at home 10-6 in a lackluster effort against the Philadelphia Eagles. Last weekend, the Cowboys had to rally to defeat the Lions by a 28-27 score in Detroit. Perhaps that victory against Brett Favre and the Packers the previous weekend made the Cowboys a little overconfident? I'm not sure what has happened since that game to them, but they certainly don't look like the same team as two weeks ago. Yes, Redskins fans, there is definitely hope!!! Speaking of Favre, some more congratulations to him as he broke Dan Marino's NFL record for passing yards yesterday with a five yard slant pass to Donald Driver.


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