First Down/Fourth Down: John Abraham, Peyton Manning shine on NFL's snow day
Traveling to the upcoming Super Bowl might be a hassle in the event of a winter snowstorm. The MetLife Stadium employees would face the tall task of keeping the field and seats clean, fans (and some cranky journalists) might be miserable and the players could struggle in the elements.
But here's what the NFL action Sunday reminded us of: Football in the snow is awesome.
Sure, the play itself can be kind of clunky -- an argument some made in advance against a New York/New Jersey Super Bowl. As a television spectacle, though, few sporting events can compete with a football winter wonderland. Pittsburgh, Washington, Baltimore and Green Bay all saw some flakes during Sunday's games, while the action in Philadelphia was impossible to turn away from as the snow piled up.
A Super Bowl in similar conditions would be a mess logistically. It also might be one of the greatest TV moments the sports has ever produced.
Some more thoughts on Week 14:
• First Down: John Abraham.
The Cardinals defense took a huge hit Sunday when it lost Tyrann Mathieu for the season. It may not be all that wise to bet against that group, though, given how it's performed this season. That D was dominant again Sunday in a 30-10 win over St. Louis, led by the 35-year-old Abraham, who had three sacks (one for a safety) and a forced fumble.
Abraham now has 11 sacks on the year, his highest total since 2010 (13). His addition has been one of the keys to Arizona's surprising turnaround -- and the now-3-10 Falcons have not really been able to replace his pass-rushing prowess.
• Fourth Down: The Peyton Manning cold-weather "narrative"
"Whoever wrote that narrative can shove that one where the sun don't shine," Manning told Denver's KOA radio Sunday of the argument that he cannot win in cold-weather games. Manning (1-8 entering the week in games where temps were below 30 degrees at kickoff) had no issues against Tennessee: 39-of-59 for 397 yards and four touchdowns in temperatures that hovered around 15 degrees.
Manning may have to win exclusively in those conditions in the playoffs -- right now, Denver would host the divisional round and AFC Championship Game should it advance, with the Super Bowl set for New Jersey in February.
• First Down: LeSean McCoy.
The Lions took a 14-0 lead on Philadelphia in the third quarter Sunday and it looked as if that might be the final. The Eagles, to that point, had done absolutely nothing on offense. But then McCoy found his footing in a half-foot of snow.
McCoy rushed 11 times for 148 yards and two touchdowns ... just in the fourth quarter. All told, he finished with 217 yards -- an Eagles team record -- as Philadelphia rallied for a 34-20 victory.
• Fourth Down: That pass interference call on Cleveland.
Also, that "touchdown" in Cincinnati, that roughing the passer penalty in the aforementioned Lions-Eagles game and any other head-scratching officiating decision that came about Sunday. The MMQB's Peter King hit on what was a really rough day for the men in black and white in his Monday column, and the call against the Browns may have been the worst of them all.
The Patriots were 30 yards away from completing their miraculous comeback, after having recovered an onside kick, when Tom Brady went deep for Josh Boyce. The attempt fell incomplete, but Leon McFadden was flagged for pass interference because ... well, quite frankly, it's hard to stay. There was barely any contact there and none that appeared to impact Boyce's attempt to catch the football.
• First Down: The Saints' passing attack.
Carolina entered Week 14 with the league's top-ranked defense. That success, though, had been predicated on the brilliant play of the front seven and on the Panthers' ability to get to the passer. Sunday night, they failed in that task. Drew Brees made them pay. The Saints' QB again turned in a gem at home, despite almost no help from the run game, finishing 30-of-42 for 313 yards and four touchdowns. Two of those scores landed with Marques Colston, who had two TDs in New Orleans' first 12 games.
• Fourth Down: Pittsburgh on plays by the sideline.
Last week, Mike Tomlin got a little too close to Jacoby Jones for comfort. And though his weird action essentially prevented a touchdown, the Steelers lost that game to Baltimore anyway, Tomlin was fined $100K and the team may lose a draft pick.
Sunday, the sideline bit them again. This time, on a dramatic final play against Miami, as the Steelers attempted to execute the Cal-Stanford band play to lateral their way to a game-winning TD. They more or less accomplished the feat too -- except that Antonio Brown's left foot clipped the sideline just as he broke free toward the end zone.
• First Down: Ryan Tannehill's early legacy.
There has been a lot of talk since the 2012 draft about Andrew Luck's role in turning around the Colts quickly, as well as about Robert Griffin III's roller-coaster NFL experience. Nick Foles has since stormed his way into the spotlight, while Brandon Weeden's future in Cleveland and Kirk Cousins' in Washington (for different reasons) have been hotly debated.
Meanwhile, Miami's Ryan Tannehill has flown mostly under the radar. Perhaps no longer. The No. 8 pick in last year's draft, Tannehill followed up a career-best performance in a Week 12 win over the Jets by tossing three touchdowns Sunday to beat Pittsburgh on the road. He may not be having a Pro Bowl season, but he's been irreplaceable under center for the Dolphins, who sit tied record-wise for the AFC's final wild-card spot.
• Fourth Down: The Washington Redskins.
Well, that was (not all that much) fun while it lasted. Mike Shanahan's four-year run in Washington appears headed to an unceremonious end. A report surfaced Sunday that Shanahan had packed his things and was set to leave the Redskins after the 2012 season. Hours later, Shanahan's team rolled over against the Chiefs, in front of the smallest home crowd in FedEx Field history.
• First Down: Da'Rick Rogers.
That a Colts player earned a "First Down" spot is not a knock on the Bengals. Cincinnati was terrific Sunday in an important 42-28 win, with Andy Dalton playing about as well as he can play (24-of-35, 275 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions).
But plenty of folks have been waiting to see what Rogers can do, and he delivered with six catches for a game-high 107 yards and two TDs in his NFL debut. Undrafted after failed drug tests led to a year-long suspension at Tennessee (and forced Rogers to transfer to Tennessee Tech), the talented receiver bounced from Buffalo to Indianapolis. With the Colts thin at WR and struggling in the pass game, Rogers got a shot. He should see a lot more opportunities in the future, given how his debut went.
• Fourth Down: Injuries.
Some weekends just seem to be worse than others when it comes to injuries in the NFL. Week 14 was one of those bad weekends.
Adrian Peterson had to be carted off with a foot injury, then Rob Gronkowski tore his ACL on a low hit and Tyrann Mathieu suffered a serious knee injury on a kick return. Jonathan Stewart, Willis McGahee and Wes Welker were just a few of the others who could miss an extended period after being banged up Sunday.
Another tough day on the injury front.
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