Surprise, surprise, the Green Bay Packers aren’t dead yet. With a commanding 27-13 victory over the Eagles on Monday night, the Packers (5-6) remained alive in the NFC North hunt while the Eagles (5-6) fell back into a crowded field for the Wild Card spots. Sports media folks eager to rip Aaron Rodgers can stash away any remaining theories about what’s eating him into the “theories” cabinet for another day. Let’s pick right up with a look at those Eagles.
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The Eagles in the trenches on both sides of the ball
The semi-vaunted Eagles front seven failed to generate much pressure on Rodgers as the Packers QB operated in a clean pocket, completing 30 of 39 pass attempts for 313 yards. He didn’t get sacked once and only got hit twice. And of course he bought time with his uncanny pocket maneuvering as needed. While the Eagles hardly got a finger on Rodgers, Carson Wentz spent most of the night running for his life and on occasion barely had enough to let the running backs slip out for a screen. The Packers took down Wentz four times on 40 dropbacks for 43 drive-stalling yards lost.
AP PhotoMatt Rourke
Broncos starting right tackle Ty Sambrailo
In the week leading up to the Sunday night game, Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak said that both second-year man Sambrailo and veteran tackle Donald Stephenson would both get snaps because neither has done enough to seize the starting job. Kubiak hoped that one of them would "be the guy who we can't take off of the field.” Sambrailo played 20 snaps and had to be the guy Kubiak took off the field.
Of course the tackles had an extremely difficult assignment with Justin Houston coming off the edge (Broncos QB Trevor Siemian is pictured mid-sack after beating LT Russell Okung), but Sambrailo and the tackles are professionals, too. This is a story best told using real-time tweets from folks as the game unfolded.
@ChiefsReporter Ty Sambrailo is really struggling to block Justin Houston.
@JonHeathNFL Houston is destroying Ty Sambrailo. Destroying him.
@CameronWolfe That whole right side of the offensive line has been bad. Ty Sambrailo just gave up another sack. Gotta get Sambrailo outta there.
@linelbienvenu Ty Sambrailo looks like a baby giraffe taking its first steps trying to block Justin Houston.. change is going to have to be made.
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Chicago Bears wide receivers
With starters Alshon Jeffery (suspended) and Eddie Royal (toe) out of action, Chicago turned to Cameron Meredith, Marquess Wilson, Josh Bellamy and others to get the job done for one-time third-string QB Matt Barkley in his first career start. Barkley played pretty darn well under the circumstances, completing 28 of 54 pass attempts for 316 yards and two scores; meanwhile an astonishing 10 of those incompletions resulted from dropped passes, none more costly than the potential comeback-sealing, game-winning touchdown by Josh Bellamy in the end zone on a ball that doinked off the middle of this chest on a 1st and goal. The Bears aren’t playing for anything but pride at this point and that would have been a nice win.
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The Cincinnati Bengals' entire offense
The offensive line got absolutely worked by a ferocious Ravens pass rush that spent much of the game in the Bengals backfield. Terrell Suggs filled the stat sheet with two sacks, Elvis Dumervil added a sack and DT Brandon Williams gobbled up center Russell Bodine, who actually got benched mid-game. Meanwhile the A.J. Green-less Cincinnati offense that also lost running back Gio Bernard recently couldn’t run the ball at all and managed only one touchdown. The Bengals playoffs streak is not officially over yet, but it’s over.
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The official who fell for Vontaze Burfict’s hilarious acting job
The oft-maligned and fined Bengals linebacker Burfict found himself on the receiving end of some extracurricular activity from Steve Smith Sr. and performed a hearty flop that would make Manu Ginobili proud. Steve Smith Sr. drew a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty on the play, which was probably deserved even without the acting after the wideout shoved his hemet into Burfict’s chest. If you’re not flopping, you’re not trying.
The Rams defense
Saints QB Drew Brees makes life miserable for almost every team that steps into the Superdome and he made it especially so for the Rams, whose defense had been its strength up to this point in the season. The Saints absolutely gashed the Rams for 209 yards rushing and Brees completed 28 of 36 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns. Adding insult to to a blowout, perhaps in a parting shot to Bountygate-era Saints and now Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the Saints dialed up a trick play that saw wideout Willie Snead launch a touchdown pass to running back Tim Hightower for a 50-yard touchdown and a 49-21 lead.
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The Seattle Seahawks offense
After taking down New England on the road and throttling the Eagles at home, Seattle turned in an absolute dud in a somewhat predictable letdown spot. Still, it was pretty magnificent dud in which the offensive line, missing center Justin Britt to leave three rookies up front, allowed four first-half sacks and six total and managed a measly 70 yards of total offense in the first half. Seattle moved the ball a bit better in the second half but was putrid on third downs all day, converting just once on 11 third-down tries in a 14-5 loss.
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The Cardinals get clipped along with the entire NFC West
The Buccaneers stymied the Seahawks and the Rams got torched in New Orleans as mentioned above, meanwhile the Falcons squashed the Cardinals 38-19 once Atlanta’s offense got rolling in the second half. And in Miami, San Francisco put forth a valiant comeback effort but fell to the Dolphins 31-24, completing a division-wide golden sombrero as Seattle’s commanding 3-game lead remained intact.
Chargers head coach Mike McCoy’s late-game management
San Diego’s season began with a series of brutal late-game collapses, so you can somewhat understand McCoy’s trepidation in the fourth quarter. But in a season when more coaches are highlighting the value of aggressive play calling, McCoy neutered his offense late in a 21-13 victory when the Chargers could have iced a win without spiking fans' blood pressure.
Unless Rivers audibled for a run, San Diego did not call for a single Rivers pass attempt in the Chargers’ final drive that began with 4:25 with a 21-10 lead. Five Melvin Gordon runs, one first down, a punt and Houston answered with a field goal, a successful onsides kick and two terrifying launches into the end zone that fortunately for Chargers fans did not result in another disastrous loss.
Getty ImagesDoug Pensinger
The Redskins in the red zone in the first half
Let’s not forget the Thanksgiving action. Washington’s offense had no trouble moving the ball as it became just the second team in NFL history out of 34 to lose a game despite netting 505 yards of offense without turning the ball over or allowing a sack. The Redskins are 29th in the league in red zone touchdown conversion rate and it showed as they stalled at or near the red zone, turning four drives deep into Cowboys territory into just six points. Those offensive stats are pretty but the only the letter -- W or L -- matters.