Despite the fact that the Colts lost their first game this season at home to the Jets, the Saints loss to the Bucs was a much bigger upset for many reasons. First, the Colts pulled their starters in the third quarter of a meaningless game, since they already have locked up the one-seed in the AFC. The Saints meanwhile, had something to play for, as a win would have locked up the one-seed for them in the NFC, and all they had to do was beat the lowly Bucs. New Orleans raced out to a 17-0 lead before putting it on cruise control and ultimately allowing the Bucs to tie the game on a 77-yard punt return by Michael Spurlock. The Saints had a chance to win it, but kicker Garrett Hartley missed a 37-yard field goal with five seconds left in regulation that could have won it, shocking the already-celebrating Saints crowd, and giving the Bucs a chance to steal this game in overtime on a 47-yard field goal by Connor Barth. This was only the second time in NFL history a team with as many as 12 losses beat a team with as many as 13 wins. The Saints have now dropped two in a row and are looking like anything but a sure thing in the NFC.
Game MVP: Michael Spurlock (7 returns, 196 yards, TD)- Spurlock was the reason the Bucs even had a chance in this game, taking a late fourth-quarter punt 77 yards to the house to tie this game at 17. The Bucs are an offensively inept football team, and they needed a spark from their special teams in order to tie the game, and that’s exactly what Spurlock did, scoring the biggest touch down of his young career.
Game LVP: Garrett Hartley (1/2 FG, missed game-winning 37 yarder) – You hate to pin a loss solely on a kicker, especially when a team blows a 17-0 lead to a team as sorry as the Bucs, but that’s exactly what I’m going to do here. Hartley missed what amounts to a chip shot for most NFL kickers, a kick that everyone in New Orleans was so sure was going to be good they celebrated as soon as the ball was snapped. But Hartley hooked the potential game-winner left to the shock of the crowd, and was never given a chance to redeem himself as the Bucs won it in overtime. Seriously though, we could have given him LVP just for the picture.
It’s not often that the Monday Night game delivers us the Game of the Week, so last nights game was surprisingly good. The Vikings went in as heavy favorites against a Bears team that has struggled all season long, but came out completely lethargic and looking like anything but a team trying to lock up a first round bye in the NFC playoffs. The Bears capitalized and raced out to a 23-6 third quarter lead before the Vikings slowly made their push. Brett Favre lead a second half comeback for the Vikings, throwing for over 270 yards in the half alone and tying up the game at 23 after a TD run by Adrian Peterson. But the fun was just getting started at this point. Danieal Manning took the ensuing kick off back deep into Viking territory, setting up a go ahead touch down pass from Jay Cutler to Earl Bennett for a 30-23 Bears lead with just under five minutes remaining. Favre then showed his fourth quarter moxie, leading the Vikings on a scoring drive that culminated in a 6-yard TD pass from Favre to Sidney Rice on fourth and goal in the final seconds to force an overtime with the game tied at 30. The Bears got the ball first, driving quickly and setting up a field goal that kicker Robbie Gould missed to give the Vikings another chance to win it. But the Bears defense stood strong, getting back-to-back sacks to force a three and out, and from there Cutler moved quickly, not giving his kicker a chance to choke again and instead hitting Devin Aromashodu for a 39-yard game winning touchdown. The win gave the Bears some kind of closure on the season, while the loss has the Vikings needing a win this weekend to avoid playing on Wild Card weekend, something that seemed like a sure thing just a few weeks ago.
Play of the Week:
Smith gets this weeks Play of the Week not for having the most impressive play, but for his toughness on this one. Panthers QB Matt Moore drops back and hits Smith for a 27-yard TD that put the Panthers up 31-0 early in the third and all but sealed the upset win over the Giants. The impressive part of this play is that Smith takes a hard hit from the Giants secondary, and is able to stay standing and get into the end zone. Look at the video and not only will you see the hit, but you’ll notice Smith holding his left arm while celebrating, that’s because the hit he took broke his arm, yet he was still able to stay focused and fight his way into the end zone.
Stud of the Week:
Devin Aromashodu, WR, Chicago Bears (7 catches, 150 yards, TD) – Who? That’s the first thing that has to pop into your head. The little known receiver out of Auburn had a huge game Monday Night, becoming Jay Cutlers go to receiver in an upset win over the Vikings. After posting totals of 12 catches and 102 yards all season, Aromashodu exploded onto the scene with 150 yards and the game winning 39-yard touchdown catch in overtime. Aroshamodu repeatedly beat Vikings CB and Pro-Bowler Antoine Winfield (as seen on the game winning catch) for position and helped the Bears offense keep moving, showing that his name may be one you want to remember next season as the Bears look for a go-to receiver.
NFL Top 5 After Week 16:
1. San Diego Chargers (12-3)- Before jumping into this, I’ll give you guys a couple minutes to scream bias and complain about the Colts dropping even though they only lost because they pulled their starters. Waiting…..waiting….done? Okay good, now let’s get to the facts. The Chargers are by far the hottest team in the league right now, having won 10 straight games, and coming off a dismantling of the equally red-hot Titans in Tennessee on Christmas Day. The Colts may have the better record, but they have looked shaky all season, and the Chargers have looked nothing but stellar since stumbling out to a 2-3 start. San Diego has no weaknesses, and are the one team that the Colts definitely do not want to see come playoff time.
2. Indianapolis Colts (14-1)- I know, I know, they only lost once, and it was because their starters got pulled otherwise they’d be a win away from a perfect season. But let’s look at reality, this team has struggled mightily against some inferior opponents, and they aren’t even close to playing on the level the Chargers are playing on right now. Indy is still a favorite to reach and win the Super Bowl, but the road to the Super Bowl is definitely not going to be an easy one, especially with so many good teams in the playoff hunt going into the final weekend.
3. Philadelphia Eagles (11-4)- After Week 14, we were all sure of two things, the NFC East was wide open, and the Saints and Vikings were the two best teams in the NFC. Two weeks later and it seems we were wrong on both counts. While Philly still has to beat Dallas to clinch the NFC East, one thing is clear, the Eagles are playing better than both the Saints and Vikings right now, and both those teams should be very afraid of what Philly can do come playoff time. With Donovan McNabb hitting Desean Jackson, big plays are not only likely, they are inevitable for the Eagles, and this team is out to prove that it has been over-looked all season long.
4. New Orleans Saints (13-2)- What a difference a couple of weeks makes. Two weeks ago the Saints were 13-0, and headed for an undefeated season and a Super Bowl birth. Back-to-back losses to Dallas and Tampa Bay and suddenly the Saints are a very shaky one-seed heading into the playoffs. While they still possess the quick-strike capabilities that have made this offense so dangerous, they look confused and unsure of themselves heading into the final week of the regular season. If the Saints are going to go as far as they should come playoff time they need to step up their game and do it quickly. Otherwise when they ask Who Dat down in New Orleans, the answer will be a one and done Saints team.
5. Minnesota Vikings (11-4)- Uh oh. That’s the only thing that has to be going through the minds of Vikings fans right now. After a 10-1 start, the Vikings have dropped three of four and suddenly look very beatable. Brett Favre is looking every bit of 40, Adrian Peterson has a case of fumble-itis and the Vikings defense is getting lit up for 36 points and four touchdowns by the likes of Jay “Biggest Loser on Earth” Cutler (harsh nick-name, but seriously, who doesn’t hate the guy?) Minnesota is limping towards the playoffs, and if they are going to do any damage they need to iron out their in-house differences and figure out a way to let AP control the ground and the clock so they can have a chance come playoff time.