Everything You Need to Know: Week 11
Let’s face it: While there’s nothing better than NFL Sundays, it can be a little intimidating keeping up with what’s going on in every game. You can analyze the box scores or scan Twitter, but we’ll make it even easier. Here you’ll find the most important points from every day game, so you’ll be prepared no matter what comes up at the water cooler Monday morning. We’ll be updating throughout the games, so keep checking back.
1. Raheem Morris' Bucs put up a heck of a fight Sunday in Green Bay, but at least two (and maybe three) Morris decisions loomed large. Down 14-10 in the second quarter, Morris opted for a surprise onside kick. The Packers recovered, then went in for a touchdown and 21-10 halftime lead. Tampa Bay fought back within 21-19 two minutes into the fourth quarter, when Morris opted to go for a two-point conversion -- it failed, leaving Tampa Bay swimming upstream. And finally, after a TD made it 28-26 with 4:31 left, Morris called for a second onside kick, which also failed.
2. In case you needed more evidence that the Packers' offense is borderline unstoppable, they punched in a first-quarter TD on a 1-yard run by ... B.J. Raji. Green Bay's monster defensive tackle came into the game as a blocking back on the goal line and got the nod to punch it in. The Pack's next TD was scored by Tom Crabtree, who also had not found the end zone yet this year.
3. Aaron Rodgers threw a rare pick -- just his fourth of the year -- and definitely did not have his best game Sunday. He still wound up with 299 yards passing and three touchdowns.
1. Detroit brought back Kevin Smith with Jahvid Best slow to return from a concussion. And Smith, who finally is healthy, looks like the guy the Lions drafted out of Central Florida four years ago. Smith finished with 203 total yards and three touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving), part of Detroit's offensive explosion Sunday after spotting Carolina a 24-7 lead. His efforts also helped free things up for Matthew Stafford, who rebounded from a four-INT Week 10 and two early turnovers Sunday to throw five touchdown passes.
2. This is the type of game that won't show up in the stats for Ndamukong Suh, who's still well off his sack total from last year, but it's been an impressive effort nonetheless. Suh has gotten penetration on several Carolina plays, and forced a key Cam Newton interception in the third quarter by busting through the line and hammering Newton as he let go of the ball.
3. That mistake was one of four Newton interceptions Sunday, three of them coming in the second half and two in very costly situations. With Carolina down 28-27 and driving late in the third quarter, Newton was picked by DeAndre Levy. Then, after the Lions took a 42-35 lead, Chris Harris intercepted a tipped pass to help put the game away.
1. Without question, the most important play in this one came in OT, with Dallas facing a 3rd-and-15 near midfield. Tony Romo slid to his left, then gunned a strike to Dez Bryant for a 26-yard pickup. Three plays later, Dan Bailey hit the game-winning field goal.
2. Washington put up a great fight Sunday, only to fall short. The Redskins tied it at 24 just 14 seconds before regulation ended when Rex Grossman delivered a perfect pass to Donte Stallworth for a touchdown. Graham Gano then had a chance to win it in OT for the 'Skins but pushed a 52-yarder wide.
3. A Grossman-to-Jabar Gaffney touchdown pass late in the first half gave Washington its first lead -- at any point, in any game -- since Week 5 in St. Louis. Even with the Redskins on a five-game losing streak, that's an amazing stat to think about, and it emphasizes just how bad things have been lately.
1. Jacksonville ran four plays from inside the Cleveland 10 at the end of the game but failed to find the end zone. After picking up a first down at the 3, Maurice Jones-Drew ran for a yard, forcing the Jaguars to call their final timeout. Blaine Gabbert then threw a pair of incompletions to end it.
2. Chris Ogbonnaya finally broke loose for the Browns Sunday -- he's been filling in for injured running backs Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty. Ogbonnaya rumbled for 115 yards and a touchdown against the Jaguars, by far his best effort this season.
3. Cleveland's best drive of the game led to what would be the winning touchdown. Starting from their own 15, the Browns ripped off a 12-play march that ended with a Colt McCoy TD pass to Josh Cribbs.
1. Andy Dalton has been unflappable for most of his rookie season, but Baltimore victimized him twice in a row in the second half to take control of a close game. Cincinnati had the ball down 17-14 when Dalton threw an INT deep in his own territory. After the Ravens scored to up the lead to 24-14, Dalton turned it over again, which led to a 31-14 Baltimore advantage.
2. The big question heading in to Sunday was how Baltimore's defense would react to being without Ray Lewis for the first time since 2007. Lewis, who's suffering from a toe injury, could be out of the lineup for a few games. The Ravens did force three turnovers, including those two big ones in the second half, but also gave up nearly 500 yards of offense.
3. Going to the air backfired on Baltimore last week -- Ray Rice had just five carries in the team's surprising loss to Seattle -- but Joe Flacco woke up a sleepwalking offense with the pass Sunday. Down 7-0, Flacco hit Anquan Boldin for a long TD, then came right back with a pair of big passes to Torrey Smith.
1. Matt Moore could give the Dolphins some pause before they decide on their future at QB. Moore has looked better and better each week since taking over for Chad Henne, and he torched Buffalo Sunday for three touchdowns and 160 yards passing.
2. The Bills were reeling a bit already before losing center Eric Wood to a season-ending injury last week. Wood's absence Sunday was noticeable -- running back Fred Jackson had just 17 yards rushing before leaving with an injury of his own, and the Bills never came close to getting in an offensive rhythm.
3. Reggie Bush did not have his best day as a Dolphin, but Miami still got him 19 touches (15 carries, 4 receptions) and he managed to find the end zone again. Daniel Thomas matched Bush with 15 carries of his own. For all issues on offense earlier this season, the Dolphins have developed a nice balance in recent weeks.
1. Minnesota had an early 7-3 lead on Oakland and looked like it might give the first-place Raiders a game -- that is, until Adrian Peterson hobbled off with an ankle injury. He did not return, and it took the Vikings until the fourth quarter before they found any spark again on offense.
2. One week after scorching the Chargers' defense, Michael Bush needed a little while to get going Sunday. But he turned in another impressive effort in relief of Darren McFadden, finishing with 109 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries.
3. The Raiders struggled to deliver the knockout punch in this one, despite racing out to a 27-7 lead. Minnesota cut that to 27-14 early in the fourth quarter, then scored again with 5:12 left and managed to get the ball back for one more legitimate possession. Oakland's defense stuffed the Vikings at midfield, though, ending the Vikings' hopes by breaking up a Christian Ponder fourth-down pass.
1. Give credit to Seattle's defense: Not only did the Seahawks force Sam Bradford into a difficult day (20-for-40 for 181 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT), but they held Steven Jackson to 42 yards on 15 carries. St. Louis scored an early TD off a Seattle turnover, then didn't get back across midfield until the third quarter.
2. Bradford talked this week about how frustrated he's been with his play this season, but he did nothing to turn the tables Sunday. The worst part of his performance against Seattle is that he's still missing on passes that he should be hitting at this point in the season and in his career. St. Louis needs Bradford to close this year strong to lay a foundation for a bounce-back 2012.
3. Tarvaris Jackson started as poorly as a QB can -- two interceptions on his first two passes -- but settled down after that to throw for 148 yards and a touchdown. Jackson's ability to take care of the ball from then out also let Marshawn Lynch get going on the ground.
1. Michael Crabtree finished with seven grabs for 120 yards, his first time over the 100-yard receiving mark since Week 16 of last season. If San Francisco plans to take this incredible season deep into the playoffs, getting Crabtree to take the next step in his development would be huge.
2. Any possible QB controversy in Arizona died Sunday. John Skelton had delivered two Arizona wins with Kevin Kolb banged up, but Skelton was awful in Week 10, completing just six passes and throwing three interceptions. He was benched in the second half for Richard Bartel.
3. San Francisco's Dashon Golden was ejected in the fourth quarter after getting into a scrap with Arizona's Early Doucet. Golden threw several punches in the fracas. He had two tackles and an interception prior to getting tossed.
1. With Matt Hasselbeck suffering an elbow sprain and Tennessee down 23-3 in the second half, the Titans turned to rookie QB Jake Locker. And he responded with an impressive close. Locker threw a pair of touchdown passes to Nate Washington to rally the Titans within 23-17, but Tennessee could not get a defensive stop to give Locker a chance to finish the comeback.
2. So much for Chris Johnson turning things around. He had 12 carries Sunday (though just three in the second half) and produced a mere 13 yards -- or four less than quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who gained 17 on one scramble.
3. The last three plays of Atlanta's opening scoring drive looked pretty similar: Matt Ryan to Tony Gonzalez. The QB-TE duo hooked up on three straight completions, which covered 39 yards and culminated in a 17-yard touchdown.
1. Two San Diego turnovers nudged a back-and-forth in Chicago's favor. After the Bears took a 24-17 lead, Charles Tillman punched the ball out of Ryan Mathews' hands on a run play, then pounced on the fumble -- two plays later, Jay Cutler hit Johnny Knox for a TD. Then, with the Chargers in the red zone down 31-20 in the fourth quarter, Philip Rivers threw a terrible interception, taking at least three points off the board.
2. Jay Cutler turned in another impressive outing -- 18-for-31 for 286 yards and two touchdowns (plus an interception that came because his receiver fell down). But give some credit to Mike Martz' play calling as well. Martz kept the Chargers off balance, especially late, when he burned San Diego with a couple of screen passes to help milk the clock.
3. A good sign for Chicago's on-again, off-again offense: Matt Forte didn't even get to the 60-yard plateau on the ground, but the Bears still hung 31 points on San Diego. Their outstanding return teams and the Tillman forced fumble helped, but Chicago looked comfortable on offense all afternoon. Follow @ChrisBurke_SI