In this week's edition of our NFL chatter, the guys dissect another fiasco in Dallas, if the Packers should re-access their perfect plans, the Tom Brady-Bill O'Brien flair up, and more Tebowmania.
When the Dallas Cowboys lose, they do it in spectacular fashion. This time the Cowboys blew a 12-point lead with more than five minutes remaining against the New York Giants, thus losing their grip atop the NFC East. Who's to blame for this latest fiasco?
Tony Care: I'll get to Tony Romo in a bit. Let's first look at the defence, which should be embarrassed for its performance, especially during the fourth-quarter meltdown. There is no excuse for allowing 14 points in the last five-plus minutes. Defensive co-ordinator Rob Ryan is a suborn man and it cost him. He continually called all-out blitzes, leaving a vulnerable and confused secondary susceptible to big plays. Having said all that, Romo could've avoided the ensuing heartbreak if he simply hit a wide open Miles Austin with more than two minutes remaining, which would've sealed the game.
Jesse Campigotto: This team has so many problems, doesn't it? Blame the defence for allowing Eli Manning to drive for two scores in the final five minutes, blame Tony Romo for missing a wide-open Miles Austin on a pass that would've sealed the game, and blame kicker Dan Bailey for allowing himself to be "iced" for a second straight week (though at least this time it was the opposing coach, not his own, that did it). The Cowboys visit reeling Tampa next week, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a Dallas fan that isn't expecting the worst.
Jason Davidson: Just when I thought this game was all locked up for the Cowboys, here come the G-Men. I'm going to have to pin the blame on defensive co-ordinator Rob Ryan here. A 12-point lead in the later stages of the fourth quarter and it gets erased like that? Don't know where else to point the finger. Eli Manning threw for 400 yards and Brandon Jacobs rushed for 101 yards. Simply put, the defence isn't making the big plays when it needs to.
In a blowout win against the Raiders, Green Bay lost WR Greg Jennings to a sprained knee that will keep him out of action for 2-3 weeks. The injury happened with the Packers well in control. Is it a mistake for Green Bay to keep playing its starters in pursuit of a perfect season?
Jesse Campigotto: No. Like I said last week, you've got to try for the perfect season because it's so much bigger than "just" winning the Super Bowl. Plus, the Packers won last year, so it's not like this is a downtrodden franchise that feels like it owes its fans a shot at a championship. Having said that... once a game is in the bag there's no need for the starters to be out there. Green Bay is lucky that Jennings will probably be back for the playoffs. But what if the injury had been worse? And what if it had been to Aaron Rodgers?
Jason Davidson: Luckily, it's only a knee sprain for Jennings and the Pack will be without him for about three weeks. He should be good to go for the playoffs. This is a tough one. Mike McCarthy wants a perfect season, make no mistake about it and with three games remaining, they can probably still pull it off even with Jennings sidelined. I'm going to go ahead and say no, it wasn't a mistake. What's wrong with seeking perfection? That being said, expect McCarthy to be a little more cautious with his key starters heading down the stretch.
Tony Care: Look, this injury could've happened in the first quarter and people would still criticize the Packers for taking too big of the risk. I don't blame them for taking a run at a perfect season. I'd do the same thing. Jennings got hurt in the third quarter. Just when we he supposed to be taking out? To that point, the Packers have at least seven key guys on offence. Should they rest them all? The bottom line is players are going to get hurt. It's just a fact of life. The Packers obviously did a great job last year handling injuries. They'll do it again.
After Tom Brady threw a pick in the end zone in Washington late in the fourth quarter, the Pats QB was involved in a heated exchange with offensive co-ordinator Bill O'Brien, forcing head coach Bill Belichick to step in and help break up. What did you make of this spat?
Jason Davidson: Well for starters, it was a pretty poor pass attempt by Brady to Tiquan Underwood and O'Brien let him know about it. New England almost let the Redskins come back and win this game. In the end, the Patriots held on for the win and improved to 10-3 on the season. Brady took responsibility for the interception and all was well afterwards. But as far as sideline encounters go, this was nowhere near as entertaining as Kevin Gilbride vs Buddy Ryan punching it up as members of the Houston Oilers coaching staff back in 1994.
Tony Care: The first thought was O'Brien might as well have shouted at Tony Soprano and then check under the car before driving away. But I understand both sides. From my view, the heated exchange stemmed from the fact both men don't trust the defence and that potential touchdown would've clinch the game for New England. Sure enough, the Redskins almost marched down the field and scored the tying touchdown. I've never seen Brady this testy. He's obviously feeling the pressure of scoring on every drive because of a porous secondary. Ditto for O'Brien.
Jesse Campigotto: Emotions can run hot during a close game, especially after a guy makes an embarrassing mistake. I wouldn't read too much into it. Remember last year, when Brady went ballistic on the sidelines during the Pittsburgh game? New England won that one, so everyone raved about his "leadership" and "intensity." Had the Pats lost, his antics probably would've been perceived more negatively, but they did the same thing here. New England won, so this is probably the last you'll hear of it.
Tebowmania struck again. Tim Tebow led another fourth-quarter comeback, erasing a 10-point deficit against the Chicago Bears to win in overtime. The Broncos are now 7-1 with Tebow at the helm. We all know the fans' take, but is Broncos' boss John Elway finally buying into Tebow?
Jesse Campigotto: Hard to argue with the end results, and Tebow (with the help of a smart and accommodating coach in John Fox) has turned Denver's offence around. But let's face it, Tebow deserves only a fraction of the credit for this week's win. He wasn't even on the field for arguably the two most crucial plays - the puzzling failure of Bears running back Marion Barber to remain in bounds with Denver out of timeouts late in the fourth quarter, and Barber's ensuing fumble in overtime with the Bears in field goal range. Tebow also was on the sidelines when Denver kicker Matt Prater made a 59-yarder to send the game to OT and a 51-yarder to win the game. Tebow is good, but he's also lucky as hell.
Jason Davidson: Once again, Tebow is mediocre for three quarters then Denver rallies for a dramatic overtime win and all we can talk about is him. If Matt Prater doesn't make a 59-yard field goal to tie the game, we're not even having this conversation. And how about that Marion Barber fumble in overtime? That resulted in Prater pulling off more heroics with a game-winning 51-yarder. If anyone's deserving of the praise for this win, it's the kicker. I think Elway is happy to go with Tebow for the time being (after all they are winning) but I doubt it will stop the Broncos from potentially drafting a quarterback in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Tony Care: It's looking that way. You can't fault Elway for taking the cautious approach regarding Tebow. He's doing what I suggested a few weeks ago in letting the season play out before making any decisions on his future quarterback. But whether you like him or not, you can't argue with the success Tebow is having. Again, it's still premature to anoint Tebow as a franchise quarterback moving forward, but I don't think anybody in Denver is worried about that right now.
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