There’s no underselling the importance of San Francisco’s overtime victory in New Orleans. It might’ve saved their season. First of all, it stopped the bleeding — preventing a first-ever three-game losing streak for Jim Harbaugh. Second, it was against a quality opponent. Third, it happened where the Saints don’t lose (Sean Payton had a 20-game win streak there). And, lastly, it bought them time. Figure 10-6 makes the playoffs, and San Francisco still has to play Seattle (twice) and Arizona. Plus, it should get Navarro Bowman, Aldon Smith, Glenn Dorsey and, presumably, Patrick Willis back for the playoff push, which improves its chances. So does this victory.
2. Congratulations to Greg Roman. The 49ers’ offensive coordinator remembered to give the ball to Frank Gore … and you saw the results. Those two first-quarter touchdowns by Gore and Carlos Hyde were the team’s first by rushing in six games.
3. I don’t care who says they’re “behind” Chicago’s Marc Trestman. The numbers don’t lie, and the numbers tell you the Bears are unraveling with each game. They’re not only stuck in a 1-5 rut; their defense is broken, their offense underperforms and they’re outcoached, outplayed and outmanned every Sunday — outscored 80-7 in the first half of their last two losses. Bad enough to stink; but to stink on national television … after a bye, no less … is a good way to get yourself fired. Trestman was supposed to reinvent Jay Cutler, but he failed. He’s 8-12 under Trestman and under siege now. So’s Trestman, and GM Phil Emery should be, too. He hired Trestman, and he gave Cutler the big contract.
4. This is what’s so maddening about the Steelers’ loss: If they’d just beaten Tampa Bay and the Jets, two of the worst teams in the NFL, they’d be 8-2 and cruising to a division title. Instead, no one can figure out just who these guys are.
5. And that, folks, is the difference between Pittsburgh and Baltimore. The Ravens beat the opponents they should beat, and the envelope, please: Under John Harbaugh, they’re 34-8 vs. teams with losing records.
6. That was the third straight come-from-behind victory for Detroit in the last two minutes, and it’s hard to argue with a 7-2 record when you have the league’s best defense. But now is when we find out about these guys. Their next two games are against the best teams out there, and they’re on the road — at Arizona (next weekend) and at New England (Nov. 23).
7. Any more questions about Aaron Rodgers’ hamstring? Someone? Anyone?
8. To Calvin Johnson, who says he would like to go down “as the greatest receiver to play the game,” I have two words: Jerry. Rice.
9. The good news for Seattle: You won again. The bad: Only one of your remaining seven opponents (St. Louis) has a losing record, and four of those games are on the road.
10. The more the Giants lose the more I wonder if Tom Coughlin walks away after this season.
11. All I’m certain about in the AFC North is that Cincinnati won’t win it. When Andy Dalton starts looking as bad during the season as he does in the playoffs, and five of your last seven games are on the road … it’s over.
12. Best chance (only chance?) for an Oakland win: Nov.30 at St. Louis. It’s the only losing team on the schedule, and it’s on the road.
13. Memo to Phil Emery: About that Jay Cutler contract …
14. The best team in the AFC East isn’t New England. It’s Kansas City. The Chiefs are 4-0 vs. the division.
15. Make the Patriots the biggest winners Sunday. They not only got the weekend off; they just put another game between them and Miami … and Buffalo.
16. Peyton Manning throws five TD passes, and nobody blinks. I’m not sure if that’s more a testament to Manning’s stature or the opponent he shredded — Oakland.
17. People tell me what a great defense Miami has, and Philip Rivers won’t disagree. All I know is that when it absolutely, positively had to protect last-minute leads vs. Green Bay and Detroit … it couldn’t.
18. “Cowboys concerned about Dez Bryant off the field” reads an NFL.com headline. This is news?
19. Let’s hear it for Bill Vinovich’s officiating crew for getting it right on an apparent Jimmy Graham Hail Mary TD — especially in that environment. Refs there did what replacement officials did not in the Fail Mary game two years ago in Seattle: Make the right call.
20. Chicago apologists tell me, “Don’t worry, beginning this week, the Bears play five of their next six at home.” Great. They haven’t won there all year.
21. Best tackle of the afternoon belonged to a quarterback. I’m talking about Ryan Tannehill’s stop from behind of James Ihedigbo after Ihedigbo intercepted a pass and nearly returned it for a touchdown. And he would’ve, too, were it not for Tannehill. Maybe the Dolphins should use Tannehill as a nickel back in their two-minute defense.
22. This is how bad the NFC South is: Atlanta is 3-0 within the division. It’s 0-6 against everyone else.
23. I’m sorry, but the NFL missed a perfect opportunity to honor Pat Tillman as part of its Veterans Day weekend. As a matter of fact, it should recognize him every year at this time. No one should forget what he did.
24. Tough weekend for Louisiana: Two OTs (New Orleans and LSU), two losses.
25. I know Bruce Arians can win with Drew Stanton. He’s done it before, and he did it again Sunday. But don’t tell me the loss of Carson Palmer isn’t significant. It’s huge. Stanton is a backup, and there’s a reason.
FIVE HALL-OF-FAME SIZZLES
1. San Francisco LB Chris Borland. No, he’s not Patrick Willis, but he’s been doing a terrific job in his place, and it was his 17 tackles and recovery of a Drew Brees fumble that launched San Francisco to a critical overtime victory.
2. NY Jets S Jaiquawn Jarrett. He replaces Calvin Pryor in the starting lineup and responds with two interceptions, one sack, 10 tackles and a fumble recovery. He didn’t have an interception in 38 previous games, and his two Sunday? They doubled the Jets’ total this season.
3. Kansas City DB Ron Parker. Not only did he force a Bryce Brown fumble near the Chiefs’ goal line, he added three pass break-ups at or near the end zone on a late Buffalo drive.
4. Green Bay WR Jordy Nelson. Make that four straight home games with a touchdown catch of 59 or more yards. Nelson has four 100-yard games this season — all at home.
5. Arizona WR John Brown. In a draft class loaded with star receivers, the unheralded rookie is one of the best. Twice in the past three weeks he’s gotten behind a defense to haul in a game-winning catch. Bruce Arians says he doesn’t worry who quarterbacks this team, and having Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald are reasons why. But so is this guy.
FIVE HALL-OF-FAME FIZZLES
1. Tennessee RB Shonn Greene. His goal-line fumble on Tennessee’s first series was the signal that, yep, it was going to be another dog day afternoon.
2. Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown. He fumbles a catch. He muffs a punt. Browns is a difference maker. Unfortunately for the Steelers, he made a difference for the the New York Jets.
3. Anyone with the Chicago defense. That wasn’t a dismal performance. It was a disgrace. Sunday night’s meltdown marks the third time in the past 11 games the Bears have been waxed for 50 or more points. There are no more excuses for this team. It stinks, and hard decisions must be made.
4. New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Make that the fourth time the Saints lost a game this year where they were leading in the last two minutes. I know, it was Drew Brees’ fumble that led to the loss, but how do you let Michael Crabtree get behind your Cover-2 defense for a 51-yard catch? On fourth down, no less?
5. Buffalo RB Bryce Brown. He fumbles as he’s going into the end zone. Worse, the ball rolls out of the end zone. So instead of getting six, the Bills get nothing. Brutal. Granted, Kansas City’s Ron Parker made a terrific strip, but Brown had a reputation for fumbling in Philadelphia.
WHAT WOULD LOMBARDI DO?
Green Bay is up 45-7, and it’s midway through the third quarter. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one touchdown pass short of tying an NFL record for most touchdowns (7) in a game, and the crowd wants more, more, more. So W.W.L.D.? Sit him, of course, which is precisely what Mike McCarthy did. He remembers what happened last year when Rodgers missed half the season with injuries. The Packers need Rodgers more than Rodgers needs another record.
ON THE HALL-OF-FAME RADAR
1. Dallas QB Tony Romo. He has a bad back. He has to fly 10 hours to London. And he produces his best passer rating (138.8) of the season. OK, so it was against Jacksonville. It stopped a two-game skid.
2. Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch. It wasn’t Russell Wilson who beat the Giants; it was Lynch, running for 140 yards and scoring four times for the first time in his career. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell last week promised to get Lynch more touches, calling him “THE best player on our offense.” Now you see why.
3. Kansas City QB Alex Smith. That makes him 37-12-1 the past four seasons. I can’t stand it when people call him a “game manager.” The guy knows how to win and keep this in mind: It was his touchdown run that put Kansas City ahead for good Sunday.
4. Arizona CB Patrick Peterson. His fourth-quarter interceptions — yep, he had two, returning one for a TD — preserved another Cardinals’ victory, and you gotta believe.
5. Detroit QB Matt Stafford. He hits 7 of 9 passes on the Lions’ game-winning drive, including the clinching TD while he’s rolling left and under pressure. Yes, he throws too many interceptions, but he makes a lot of big plays, too — and don’t remind Miami.
THIS WEEK’S HALL-OF-FAME NOMINEE
Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. Never has he looked better than Sunday night when, frankly, it appeared he and the Packers might as well have been playing against air. He throws for six touchdown passes … in the first half. He throws for 315 yards … in the first half. He produces a nearly perfect passer rating … in the first half. That makes him12-2 vs. Chicago, with 10 TDs and no interceptions this season, and it should make everyone in the NFC North realize that as long as Rodgers is upright they’re playing for second.
THIS WEEK’S HALL-OF-FAME QUOTE
“When you win, everything’s better. The food’s better, your girlfriend’s prettier, and your wife is better looking.” — N.Y. Jets’ coach Rex Ryan.
0-4 — Jay Cutler at Lambeau Field
3 — Denard Robinson runs of 30 or more yards this year, second only to Arian Foster (6)
4 — Punt or kick blocks by Miami
8-1 — Mike McCarthy following a bye
9-3 — Baltimore vs. rookie quarterbacks, dating back to 2008
10 — Times Peyton Manning has 5 or more TD passes in a game (including the playoffs)
11 — Unsuccessful field-goal attempts by Detroit, most in the NFL
15 — Straight Oakland losses
164-5 — Jets’ first-quarter edge in yards over Pittsburgh
350 — Yards rushing for Seattle, a franchise record
1978 — Last time the Giants allowed five rushing TDs in one game