First Down, Fourth Down: Adrian Peterson as good as you remember
Each week, like clockwork, announcers marvel at Adrian Peterson's play, pontificating about how amazing it is that Peterson is doing what he's doing less than a year after blowing out his knee.
But as some point, it has to be time to move on. Peterson is back. Period.
Peterson entered Sunday on pace for more than 1,300 yards rushing this season, and he raised the bar higher with a 153-yard performance against Arizona. Peterson averaged 6.7 yards on his 23 carries -- the third time he's topped the 20-carry mark in 2012.
The Vikings do not seem at all concerned about Peterson's health, even with their star running back suffering from a sore ankle this week. They have not hesitated to turn to Peterson time and again, eschewing the Peterson-Toby Gerhart split in the backfield that many expected, at least early this season.
Peterson has rewarded that confidence time and again. Case in point: [si_launchNFLPopup video='a86d9e7882c544959747ea59ba54c212']a 13-yard TD run[/si_launchNFLPopup] in the first quarter Sunday, when Peterson blew through the line, broke a tackle, then fought through multiple tacklers to reach the goal line.
If Peterson continues on this path, he'll be right up there with Peyton Manning in the Comeback Player of the Year discussion. And if the Vikings somehow win the NFC North or claim a wild-card spot, Peterson might have an MVP case, too.
First Down: Lance Moore.
Four different Saints caught touchdown passes from Drew Brees on Sunday and Moore was not one of them. So why is Moore here instead of Marques Colston, Joe Morgan, Darren Sproles or David Thomas? Because without Moore, the Saints might not have been in position for any of those scores.
Moore hauled in nine receptions Sunday -- eight of them resulted in first downs for the Saints, including six off third-down plays. In fact, on all four New Orleans drives that ended in passing touchdowns, Moore made a third-down catch, with the subsequent snap resulting in a TD three different times.
It was one of the more under-the-radar clutch performances you'll see all year in the NFL.
Fourth Down: Josh Wilson and Madieu Williams.
The Redskins trailed the Giants, 20-16 late in the fourth quarter, before Robert Griffin III engineered a thrilling touchdown drive to take the lead. One play later, Washington gave it back, thanks to Wilson and Williams.
That pair totally botched coverage on Victor Cruz on the Giants' ensuing possession -- Wilson let Cruz blow past him at the line, then Williams failed to get deep with help. The result: [si_launchNFLPopup video='45313e681b754f19b3aee5cdeb609a6d']A 77-yard Cruz TD catch[/si_launchNFLPopup] from Eli Manning, a play that stood as the game-winner.
First Down: Chris Johnson.
Long-form love for Johnson here, so we'll keep this version short and sweet. But every once in awhile, Johnson breaks out and reminds us how he earned the moniker "CJ2K" by hitting the 2,000-yard rushing mark in a season. He was on his game Sunday. Granted, it came against Buffalo's atrocious run defense, but Johnson ran with authority from the outset.
Fourth Down: Baltimore's play calling.
The Ravens' game plan alone is not to blame for an embarrassing 43-13 loss, but it certainly didn't help. Since 2010, Rice has had less than 10 carries in six games now, and the Ravens are a measly 2-4. The game situation Sunday dictated more throws, with Houston jumping out to a big lead. But Baltimore turned away from Rice far earlier than it needed to and, in the process, put the offense behind the eight-ball.
First Down: Dan Bailey.
Let's not confuse the Cowboys-Panthers game with some grand work of art. It still was hugely important, with Dallas' 19-14 win keeping the 'Boys in the thick of the NFC East race and essentially eliminating Carolina from playoff contention again.
Tony Romo did just enough down the stretch to get Dallas in position for the win, but it was Bailey that pinned down the big road win. Bailey was responsible for the last nine Cowboys points, and he connected on all four of his field goal attempts, including a 49-yarder and the 28-yarder that put Dallas ahead for good.
This much we know: Arizona's offensive line is terrible, quite possibly the worst in the league. So, it's no shock to have seen Skelton taken down for seven sacks Sunday by the Vikings, three by Brian Robison alone.
Skelton committed the game's biggest mistake on his own, though, throwing a pick-6 to Harrison Smith that put Minnesota up 21-7 in the second half. Arizona would score to get within 21-14, but that's it.
The Vikings, then, escaped with a home victory despite a miserable day from Christian Ponder. The second-year QB had more incompletions (9) than completions (8), threw two interceptions and finished with 58 yards passing. Luckily for him, his defense -- and, of course, Adrian Peterson, stepped up.
First Down: Randall Cobb.
Following Sunday's 30-20 Green Bay win over St. Louis, in which Cobb tallied 131 total yards, the NFL's Director of NFC Communications, Randall Liu, tweeted this:
Versatility: @packers @rcobb18 only player in @nfl w/ 400+ rec, 400+ KR, 150+ PR & 50+ rush yards. And great 1st name
— Randall Liu (@RLiuNFL) October 21, 2012
How much you enjoy the name "Randall" is up to you, but there's no debating Cobb's impact on Green Bay's offense. When Cobb has the ball in his hands, good things tend to happen. Cobb scored twice on passes from Aaron Rodgers against the Rams, helping Green Bay pull away for an easy win.
Fourth Down: Trent Richardson.
"We just kind of didn't feel like he could play as effective as he'd been," Browns coach Pat Shurmur explained after his team lost to the Colts.
How tough was Week 7 for Richardson? He carried the ball eight times for eight yards -- not far off Hardesty's 28-yard, seven-carry day, but enough to keep Richardson glued to the bench. Richardson has been a dynamic play-maker for Cleveland so far in his rookie season, so it's worth wondering if Shurmur regrets pulling him from the lineup in a game Cleveland lost by four.
First Down: Rob Ninkovich.
The Patriots already have let three games that they could have won slip through their fingers this season. They were on the verge of falling apart late for the fourth time -- this one being even more important, with the AFC East lead up for grabs against the Jets.
New England managed to put up a field goal to start OT, however, then Ninkovich (with a big assist up the middle from Vince Wilfork) finished off the Jets. Ninkovich [si_launchNFLPopup video='423385faaf3a4336ad95fd9d913a4329']buried Mark Sanchez[/si_launchNFLPopup] as he dropped to throw, then recovered Sanchez's fumble to end the game. The Patriots still have a lot of work to do on both sides of the football, but Ninkovich's moment will keep them in playoff position as they work out the kinks.
Fourth Down: Jacksonville's season.
Ten weeks remain in the NFL's regular season, so a lot can change. Yet, Sunday's Jacksonville-Oakland game felt like one that will loom large come the 2013 NFL Draft. Both teams entered Sunday 1-4 -- the winner set to keep slim playoff dreams alive, the loser destined to be in No. 1 pick and league-worst record discussions.
Even with Blaine Gabbert and Maurice Jones-Drew departing because of injury, the Jaguars had Oakland on the ropes Sunday, with a 20-6 lead in the third quarter and 23-13 edge early in the fourth. Things went south from there for the Jags. Oakland rallied for 10 unanswered in the fourth quarter to force overtime, then Cecil Shorts coughed up a fumble on his own 21 in the extra session. That fumble put Oakland in position for a game-winning Sebastian Janikowski field goal ... and left the Jaguars contemplating where to go from here.