By Rafael Garcia
Sr. Contributing Writer
December 7, 2011
Tennessee 23 Buffalo 17
One thing is for sure about this Titans team and that is you never know which team is going to show up. Sometimes they start slow, and that tends to bite them in the end. Other times, they get out quickly and get the win. This game was a must win for both teams. The Bills needed this one to avoid going 0-5 after a 5-2 start. The Titans had to have this one to keep pace with Houston in the division, as well as keep pace in the wild-card hunt. What we got was a good game that was not decided until the end.
Chris Johnson has been MIA most of the year. In recent weeks, he has shown some flashes. Last week he blew the gates open and ran for 190 yards against Tampa Bay. This day he would continue his resurgence with 153 yards on 23 carries with two scores. He found holes and got to the edge. He broke tackles and got plenty of yards after initial contact. On his 48-yard touchdown run it looked like he may not have that 4.24 speed he displayed at the combine. Now, after 12 games he has 852 yards with four games left. If he continues on the pace he has set the last four games, he could wind up with around 1500 yards rushing. That would be simply amazing for a guy that was having one of the worst years after signing a huge contract. He now trails rushing leader Maurice Jones-Drew by less than 300 yards. After the first eight games who would’ve thought that he would still have an outside shot at the rushing title. This all came during a week in which he was sick to the stomach and lost about 10 pounds.
The passing game was not as in sync as the running game. Matt Hasselbeck had only 140 yards passing with no touchdowns and no picks. The receiving corps did a good job when they had a chance. Nate Washington showed the heart of champion when he hurt his ankle and had to come out of the game. At one point he was said to be out for the game, but next thing you know there he was on the field. On that bum ankle he caught a big third down pass that would keep a drive alive. That drive would end up with a field goal. Damian Williams had a big catch for 18 yards to get a crucial first down. It was good performance all in all.
Defense was another story altogether. Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick showed why he got a big contract. He was 29-46 for 288 yards with a touchdown and a pick. He was able to get chunks of yardage, but the Titans were able to hold when they needed to. Rookie Chris Hawkins got more playing time when Jason McCourty suffered a concussion and looked good. Another rookie, LB Colin McCarthy continued to show why he was picked so high. He led the team with nine tackles and two fumble recoveries. He has played so well subbing for Barrett Ruud, some are asking if he should even go back to the bench.
Special teams were outstanding with P Brett Kern averaging almost 48 yards per punt and consistently putting the Bills inside their 20. Marc Mariani was his usual effective self in the return game.
With the victory the team moves to 7-5 and are right in the playoff hunt. This Sunday they play host to the Saints and it will take work to get a win in this one. Chris Johnson will have to have another day like he has had the last two weeks. He will have to chew up yards; help get first downs, and keep Drew Brees and the Saints offense off the field as much as they can. The defense will have to try to not give up the big play. Tennessee has to score and score often if they are to pull off this win. If they do their chances of making the post season rise dramatically.
Houston 17 Atlanta 10
T.J. Yates started his first NFL game and went 12-25 for 188 yards and a touchdown. Arian Foster did his thing with 111 yards on 31 carries. The defense held off Matt Ryan and the Falcons and the result was a big win that keeps this team two games up in the division.
The bad news is that WR Andre Johnson hurt his other hamstring in the game. The reports are saying that it is not as bad as the first injury. They had been playing well without him in the lineup but were relying on him down the stretch.
Now they will have to rely on Yates and their running game to get them to the finish line. Foster will have to stay healthy and Yates will need to manage the game. The fans in Houston have been used to being let down before, so they are not getting excited just yet.
New England 31 Indianapolis 24
The Colts have had a rough time of it this year and facing Tom Brady and the Pats would not make it any easier. Brady would torch them going 29-38 for 289 yards and two touchdown passes.
The Patriots receivers had a field day against the Indy defense. They were led by TE Rob Gronkowski’s three touchdowns. Two were by air, one was a lateral, and that continued his amazing year. Wes Welker was dominating once again with 11 grabs for 111 yards, Aaron Hernandez chipped in with seven catches for 43 yards and Dion Grant recovered the onside kick to end the game.
For the Colts, QB Dan Orlovsky replaced Curtis Painter and almost brought the Colts back from a 31-3 deficit. He was almost perfect going 30-37 for 353 yards and two late touchdowns to Pierre Garcon to make the game close.
No matter how they play the Colts are now locked in to the top pick in the draft next year. The questions will start with what happens with that pick. Will they take Luck with it, or will they trade it if Manning is ready to go? One thing is for sure, the Colts once again have a pick in the draft that just may turn out to be Manning part two.
San Diego 38 Jacksonville 14
Leave it up to the Jags to make Chargers QB Phillip Rivers look like he should have all year. He threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns to keep San Diego’s slim playoffs hopes alive. Ryan Matthews ran for 112 yards on just 13 carries.
The receivers all had a hand in beating the Indy secondary consistently. TE Antonio Gates is back to form and had six catches for 70 yards, Malcolm Floyd had four for 108 yards and Vincent Jackson had four of his own for 72 yards.
Jacksonville’s only weapon was none other than Maurice Jones-Drew. He had 20 carries for 97 yards and added six catches for 91 more. They scored just 14 points and that did not help their average one bit. The Jags have now scored 152 points in 12 games.
The season is not over just yet, but Jacksonville must be wishing it was by now. They will have so much to do in the off season. Who will the coach be and what players will stay or go? There are many questions with no answers to be found. I am starting to ask myself if there will even be a team in Jacksonville in the near future. We will see what happens as the drama down there continues to unfold.