NFL: A blizzard helps blow in the liveliest weekend of the season so far
A round-up of the latest events and talking points from the world of NFL
With only three weeks left of the regular season, it’s a safe bet to assume that we won’t see another Sunday like the one at the weekend.
It wasn’t just the blizzard-like conditions in Philadelphia that were unusual though, Pittsburgh came within a toe’s width of beating the Dolphins, Baltimore and Minnesota couldn’t decide if they really wanted to win and New England pulled out another last gasp win in the liveliest weekend of the season so far.
In Philadelphia the snow was ankle deep, the Detroit Lions possessed one of the best run-stopping defences in the league yet LeSean McCoy still piled up 217 rushing yards, running for a franchise record during the Eagles wild 34-20 win.
Winning their fifth straight game in the process, and currently sitting atop of the NFC East, Chip Kelly’s side finished with 299 rushing yards, a remarkable total given the conditions and a Lions defence that was third in the league in terms of fewest yards allowed (82.7) and hadn’t conceded a touchdown on the ground in any of their previous eight games.
The Lions didn’t help themselves though, fumbling the frozen ball seven times in total, Joique Bell (in for the injured Reggie Bush) dropped two with Matthew Stafford responsible for the other five.
For the Eagles, it was a game of two-halves. Struggling in the torrid conditions during the opening exchanges, Kelly’s side scored all 34 of their points in the second half and recovered one fumble while their defence held Stafford without a touchdown.
Star receiver Calvin Johnson had a quiet day too, finishing with only 49 yards however, late in the first quarter; ‘Megatron’ ensured his legacy in Detroit with a 33 yard catch and run that meant he passed Herman Moore for the most receiving yards in Lion history.
‘To me, to you’
Setting an NFL record with six lead changes during the fourth quarter, the Baltimore Ravens and Minnesota Vikings ensured their wintery game will not be forgotten in a hurry.
With a total of five touchdowns arriving during the games final 125 seconds, anyone who went home early in search of warmth may well have wished they’d stayed.
“Do you believe in miracles?”
It’s an apt question and one that hadn’t escaped Ravens’ cornerback, Jimmy Smith who left the field smiling following their last gasp win.
It all started when Dennis Pitta, returning from a hip injury, scored to make it 15-12 with only 2:05 remaining.
Seconds later, the Vikings’ Toby Gerhart, in for the injured Adrian Peterson, rumbled 41 yards through a host of would-be tacklers to edge the visiting Vikings in front with 1:27 left on the clock.
Fielding the resulting kick-off, Jacoby Jones put the Ravens in front once more, sprinting the majority of the field to make it 22-19 with 1:16 left.
Unperturbed at the prospect of digging themselves out of another hole, Matt Cassel threw to Cordarrelle Patterson and the lively rookie did the rest, running it in from 79 yards.
The crowd were shocked, and so they should have been, but there were still 45 seconds left on the clock.
Throwing his third touchdown of the afternoon, the culmination of an 80-yard drive that took only 41 seconds, Joe Flacco belatedly secured the win with four seconds left as his pass was hauled in by Marlon Brown for the games’ final score.
With the win the Ravens (7-6) secured their third win in succession and kept alive their post-season hopes for another week. For the Vikings however, it was another case of what could have been.
Tough or lucky
It could easily be luck, but it could so easily be the unappreciated toughness of group that refuse to know when they’re beaten.
The Cleveland Browns committed two critical mistakes with the game on the line yesterday and, despite having held the Patriot offence scoreless, saw their efforts go unrewarded as they fell victim to another New England comeback.
It’s a familiar story and it’s one that wasn’t lost on Browns’ coach, Rob Chudzinski.
“How many times has he done that in his career?” he quipped, referring to Tom Brady’s final touchdown pass that came with only 31 seconds remaining.
It’s a familiar story for Brady and co., and one they may have to rely upon with yet another of their key players, Rob Gronkowski, ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Gronkowski, who missed the first six weeks of the season following multiple off-season surgeries, was hurt when Browns’ safety T.J. Ward – in compliance with new NFL rules – hit him low after a 21 yard completion.
“If I would have hit him up high, there’s a chance I would get fined and that other stuff. So, I’m just being safe” Ward said after, before the severity of the injury was made clear.
His absence will be a huge blow for a New England offense that has just hit its stride and Bill Belichick will have to find ways of stretching the field if he and Brady are to have any shot of a deep play-off run.
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