As Week 9 of the NFL season winds down, we take a look back at some notable performances and key plays.
It was a great day for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots with their 43-21 win over the Denver Broncos, but few players on the Pats' side had bigger days than Edelman, who set a franchise record with the fourth punt return touchdown of his career with 8:33 left in the first half on this 84-yard beauty.
(H/T: Bleacher Report)
Edelman had caught a five-yard pass for a touchdown a few minutes before, and he almost had another touchdown in the third quarter, when he made a sweet fake dig route move on Aqib Talib with 38 seconds left in the first half. But he couldn't quite hold on, and the Pats ended that drive two plays later with a five-yard touchdown pass to Shane Vereen.
Not a bad little day for the former undrafted quarterback from Kent State. -- Doug Farrar
LVP: San Francisco's offensive line
When the San Francisco 49ers went to the Super Bowl at the end of the 2012 season, they did so on the strength of the NFL's best offensive line. How quickly things change, as the line the 49ers trot out every week this season appears to be a pale imitation of that former front five. The 49ers came into Sunday's game with the St. Louis Rams ranked 21st in Football Outsiders' Adjusted Line Yards metric and 28th in Adjusted Sack Rate -- they were first in ALY in 2012, and around the same as now in ASR. This 49ers line is getting pushed around in the run game, and they're having a great deal of trouble protecting Colin Kaepernick. Against the Rams, that line allowed six sacks in the first half alone, and eight on the day -- this two weeks after allowing six sacks against the Broncos; clearly the bye in between didn't help at all. There have been five different line combinations in San Francisco this season due to injuries, but this issue actually started last season, when the push for the power run game seemed to dissipate. -- DF
Must-See GIF: Marshawn Lynch carries Oakland's defense into the end zone
Lynch has a history of pushing entire defenses around when he's not running over them, and the Raiders got a hit of that (literally) when the Seahawks' running back took the ball with 4:07 left in the first quarter from the Oakland three-yard line in Seattle's eventual 30-24 nail-biter.
Lynch got some help from his linemen as he dove into the end zone, but that was a pure Beast Mode move to stay up from first contact. -- DF
(H/T: Bleacher Report)
Head-Scratching Decision: San Francisco's Quarterback Sneak
So ... here's a bit more about the 49ers' offensive line. To wit, the small matter of rookie Marcus Martin's errant snap to Colin Kaepernick with two seconds left in the game. The 49ers were down 13-10 with nine seconds left, and had the ball at the St. Louis one-yard line. If you're Jim Harbaugh, you have these options open to you.
A. Hand the ball to Frank Gore and hope the Rams don't stack the middle. If they do, it's fourth down, and you can use your last timeout;
B. Hit a fade to a receiver, knowing that if your quarterback is under siege as always, he can at least throw it away and you can kick a short field goal for the tie;
C. Simply kick the field goal and prepare for a kickoff and overtime;
D. Call a Colin Kaepernick quarterback sneak with a rookie center against a defensive line that has torn your offense up all damned day.
Inexplicably, Harbaugh chose "D." And this is what happened:
(H/T: Bleacher Report)
A fumbled snap, the Rams recover and the 49ers fall to 4-4 on the season. Harbaugh will have some 'splainin' to do on that call. It was Martin's first NFL start, which makes the decision even more curious. -- DF
Key Injury: Nate Irving, LB, Denver Broncos
Irving is one of the unsung stars of Denver's defense, and his departure from the field in the fourth quarter of the Broncos blowout loss was indeed injury added to insult. Irving was rolled up on in the fourth quarter and suffered what appeared to be a pretty serious knee injury. It may be tomorrow before the Broncos have clear word on Irving's condition, but losing him for any length of time would be a major hit to a defense that has improved through most of the season.
MVP: Jeremy Maclin.
The Eagles' star receiver came through with one big play after the next, opening the scoring with a 59-yard strike from Foles and closing it with a difficult eight-yard TD grab from Sanchez. Maclin also had a critical 21-yard pickup on Philadelphia's next-to-last drive, right after Houston had clawed back within three points.
Add this week's outing to his Week 8 performance in Arizona and Maclin now has 345 yards and four TDs over the past two Sundays.
"I want to become one of the best receivers to play this game," Maclin told SI's Austin Murphy recently. "Whether I get there or not, who knows? But the great ones -- Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, Randy [Moss] -- they worked to get better each and every day."
Maclin is not there yet, but he's getting closer. After missing the 2013 season with an ACL injury, Maclin already is closing in on career-highs in receiving yards and touchdowns -- he had 964 and 10, respectively, back in 2010; this season, he's now sitting on 790 and eight.
More importantly, though, he helped Philadelphia get back in the win column Sunday after a tough loss to the Cardinals in Week 8. -- Chris Burke
LVP: Philip Rivers.
The Chargers' 5-1 start feels like ages ago. They have dropped three straight headed into a Week 10 bye, capped by Sunday's humiliating 37-0 setback in Miami -- their first shutout since 1999.
Rivers' early MVP candidacy has gone up in flames, too. While he was not all that awful in losses to Kansas City and Denver, the longtime Chargers' QB endured a nightmare Week 9. Rivers threw three interceptions and fumbled once before exiting the game in the third quarter (San Diego already trailed 37-0 at the time).
The 31.0 QB rating Rivers posted was the third-lowest of his career, and the worst since a 2007 game versus Indianapolis. -- CB
Must-See GIF: The New York Jets' season in three seconds ...
Calvin Pace actually made a terrific play here, reading Alex Smith's eyes and jumping into the passing lane. Unfortunately for Pace and the Jets, the ball deflected right into the arms of Anthony Fasano, who crawled into the end zone for what I guess we have to call a #ButtTouchdown. -- CB
Head-scratching decision: Tampa Bay bails on the run.
Trailing by five at the two-minute warning, the Buccaneers faced a 2nd-and-1 from Cleveland's 37. They threw the ball four straight times -- three incompletions plus an offensive pass interference penalty -- and lost.
One carry for Bobby Rainey might have changed the complexion of that final drive. Rainey enjoyed a strong first half, churning out 80 yards on the ground as Tampa Bay grabbed a 10-9. He had just seven yards rushing and a mere five touches after the break, though, as the Buccaneers put the game on the arm of Mike Glennon.
Perhaps we'll find out at some point that Rainey was banged up. Even if that's the case, head coach Lovie Smith has to be lamenting not taking one short-yardage shot on the ground during that decisive final drive. -- CB
Key injuries: Arian Foster and Nick Foles.
What would a week of NFL action be without a lengthy list of injuries? Listing Foster (groin) and Foles (shoulder) here barely scratches the surface, even in the Philadelphia-Houston game. The Eagles, for example, also may have lost defensive leader DeMeco Ryans to an Achilles injury, which occurred in non-contact fashion as he attempted an interception. And Houston's top cornerback, Jonathan Joseph, left early because of a concussion.
The Cowboys will be crossing their fingers on McClain -- his surprising reemergence has been key to their unexpected defensive success. Foster's injury looms extremely large for the Texans, too, given how well he has played so far in 2014.
Philadelphia may be able to survive the Foles injury if Sanchez can replicate his relief performance from Sunday. Plugging the hole left by Ryans' injury will be far more difficult. -- CB