The idea to return the spot of kickoffs to their former home of the 35-yard-line was to create more touchdbacks and reduce the flying bodies on return plays. That has happened. But it also has created more "Why is he taking that out of the end zone???!!!??" moments as return men try to show their skills no matter how deep the ball goes. Jacoby Jones (pictured) might have had a few fans asking just that when he returned the second-half kickoff from 8 yards deep. Well, 108 yards later, we had our answer and Jones had matched an NFL record. Jones' daring play helped the Ravens squeak by with a 31-29 victory over the Cowboys. It also emboldened antsy returners around the league to try to follow suit. Good luck matching that.
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Let’s hold off on passing the NFC torch
Last season, the Giants and the 49ers met twice in San Francisco, the 49ers winning in a regular-season thriller before the Giants advanced to the Super Bowl with an OT win in the NFC title game. So Week 6’s contest on Sunday was viewed by many as an early measuring stick of NFC dominance, particularly with the 49ers having outscored opponents 79-3 over the previous two games. But instead of a classic, we got a mauling, with New York dominating from start to finish on the road, winning 26-3. What was most impressive by the G-Men was their manhandling of the San Francisco offense. Alex Smith threw for only 200, threw three interceptions, fumbled once and was sacked six times. The 49ers were held to 80 yards on the ground. And San Francisco committed six penalties to the Giants’ two. How controlling was the Giants’ defense? New York had only 28 more yards of offense (342-314) and Eli Manning failed to throw for 200 yards. Yet New York won by 23 points and, despite both teams sitting at 4-2, they couldn’t have looked further apart on Sunday.
And while we’re talking about the NFC torch, apparently the Packers want to bear that burden, as well. Sitting at 2-3 and heading to 5-0 Texans, the Packers looked about as lost through five weeks in 2012 as they did fine-tuned in 2011 (when they started out 13-0). Well, a Texas-sized butt-kicking was handed out, but it wasn’t by the team that actually calls the state home. Thanks to six — yes, SIX — touchdown passes from Aaron Rodgers (pictured), Green Bay steamrolled Houston, winning 42-24 on the road. With the Vikings losing Sunday and the Rams, Jaguars, Cardinals and Lions next on the schedule, the Pack may indeed be the leaders of the NFC North when they head to New York to face the Giants on Nov. 25.
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Bill Belichick may be out-Belichicking himself
Never one to go with conventional wisdom, Coach Hoodie (pictured) may have outsmarted himself on Sunday. It used to be that Patriots offense could dictate any game and New England would be a pretty safe bet to win. In recent seasons, some of those old blowouts became uncomfortably close wins. In 2012, they are becoming losses (see Arizona in Week 2, Baltimore in Week 3). In the two games prior to Sunday, the Patriots ran for nearly 500 yards and seven TDs combined. It appeared as if Tom Brady suddenly had the best running game of his career at his disposal. Fast forward to Sunday and New England, despite leading much of the game, threw the ball a whopping 58 times. Sure Brady nearly threw for 400 yards, but he threw two INTs, the Patriots were unable to run out the clock with the lead, and the host Seahawks scored two TDs in the game’s final 7:26 for a 24-23 Seattle win that dropped New England to 3-3.
Any coach will tell you nothing in the NFL is more important, or more difficult, than getting the win. Well, Washington surely got that on Sunday, beating the Vikings 38-26 to improve to 3-3. So what’s the problem? Superstar rookie QB Robert Griffin III (pictured) led the charge, throwing for 182 yards and a score and running for another 138 — including a 76-yard TD. But the storyline entering the game was whether RG3 would even play, having suffered a concussion the week before. With the offense’s dependence upon its leader seeming to grow every week, what happens the next time his health is in question for a game? Does the pressure intensify — from the QB, the coaching staff or both — to get him on the field?
The toughest team in the NFL to figure out may be the Cardinals
Weeks 1 & 2: Narrow wins over Seattle at home and at New England. Week 3: A blowout of the Eagles that has the league buzzing. Week 4: An amazing comeback and an OT win … leaving them at 4-0 but quietly raising concerns. Week 5: A Thursday-night drubbing at St. Louis that leaves them with questions about their quarterback and their O-line, and has people wondering if they were a first-month wonder. So enter Week 5, a gut-check game if ever there was one. But despite giving up a safety and replacing Kolb with John Skelton after Kolb was injured, the Cards gutted it out and tied the game with a 61-yard field goal from Jay Feely. But Skelton was picked off in OT and Buffalo got the 19-16 win in the desert. So that’s three close wins with a blowout victory sprinkled in, a surprising beat-down, a refusal to quit leading to another amazing comeback before a heartbreaking loss at home. Anybody wanna guess which Cardinals show up in Minnesota next week? About the only certainty for these birds is Larry Fitzgerald (pictured), who had 93 yards and a TD in the loss.
The Raiders had a nice two-minute drive to tie the game in the final minute, but, really, the game was over when this play happened. Matt Ryan's pass midway through the third quarter hit safety Matt Giordano flush on the helmet, and the ball bounced directly to Falcons receiver Harry Douglas, who made the catch on the ground for a first down. Just because. It's the Raiders. The ensuing 79-yard pick six by Atlanta's Asante Samuel and game-winning 55-yard field goal by Matt Bryant just had to be. The Raiders won the statistical battle Sunday. The Falcons took the karma war, 23-20.
Despite Tim Tebow's second completion of the season and two touchdown passes from Mark Sanchez, the Jets did nothing to solve their problems at quarterback. But they rolled past the Colts 35-9 on Sunday as they remembered they have a rather useful running back named Shonn Greene (pictured) on the roster. He ran for a career-high 161 yards and three touchdowns. The Colts rank in the bottom seven in run defense in the NFL, but it's still a big reminder to the Jets that as long as they control the line of scrimmage, their quarterbacks won't be in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Go ahead and celebrate, Josh Gordon (13) and Trent Richardson (33). If you're going to wait six games to get your first win, it might as well come at the expense of your intrastate rival, right? The Browns beat the Bengals 34-24 after Gordon put them on the board with a 71-yard touchdown reception. Are the Browns making progress or are they the lucky bystanders of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton's four-turnover day? If it's the latter, it probably will be another six games before the Browns celebrate again.
It has been six years since his twin brother, Tiki, called it a career, but Ronde Barber is still going strong in the NFL. The safety was a force in the Buccaneers' 38-10 stomping of Kansas City. Barber intercepted a pass intended for Dexter McCluster (pictured) and returnd it 78 yards for a touchdown. Barber also blocked a punt. Amazing thing is he's 37. Doesn't look like he'll be auditioning for the "Today" show anytime soon.
Jeff Fisher (pictured) could have been the Dolphins' coach. He opted for St. Louis. On Sunday, his rejects beat his subjects 17-14. Fisher could take comfort in the fact the Rams had a 462-192 advantage in yards gained, a sign he picked the team with superior talent. Or he could chew on the fact his squad committed 12 penalites, a sign he has plenty of coaching to do.
Just like this interception by Nnamdi Asomugha, the Eagles had a win in their hands Sunday. Asomugha held on; the team dropped the ball. Philadelphia led 23-13 with 5:16 left in regulation, only to let the Lions score the final 13 points and win 26-23 in overtime. It was the second straight week the Eagles frittered away a lead in the final minutes. "They wanted it more. We blew it," said Eagles cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. No argument here.