So now we know. The Detroit Lions had a chance to make a statement the past two weeks, and they did. It goes like this: “We are not Super Bowl ready.” Not only did the Lions lose twice; they didn’t score a touchdown. Pathetic. I don’t care where the Detroit defense ranks. If Matt Stafford doesn’t beat a credible team on the road – and he’s 0-16 there vs. opponents that wind up with winning records – the Lions are dead meat.
2. Stafford vs. Arizona and New England the past two weeks: 36 for 76 (47.4 percent), 447 yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and a passer rating of 55.09. When you wonder why the Lions can’t be trusted, start here.
3. The good news for the Lions: Their next three are home, and they’re all vs. losing opponents (Chicago, Tampa Bay and Minnesota). The bad: The last two are on the road, and they’re in places (Chicago and Green Bay) where the Lions 1-11 the past six years. And if the NFC North comes down to the Green Bay game? Book the Packers now. The Lions haven’t won at Lambeau since 1991, dropping their last 19 (two games were in Milwaukee) there.
4. Three reasons the Patriots always, always, always are on the Super Bowl radar: 1) Tom Brady; 2) Bill Belichick; and 3) the second half of the season. Add the first two, and you have the third, with the Patriots 32-3 in the second half of the season the past five years.
5. So Seattle won a game it had to win. Great. The Seahawks were home, where they’ve won 22 of their last 24 (including the playoffs) … so they should’ve won. But we find out about these guys the next two weeks when they go to San Francisco and Philadelphia. And don’t forget they’re at Arizona on Dec. 21, where the Cards haven’t lost.
6. Consider that a wake-up call for Arizona. The Cards have 17 points in Drew Stanton’s last two starts, and I don’t know many defenses outside the ’76 Steelers that can hold up with an offense like that.
7. Maybe, just maybe, somebody might want to defend the fake-punt next time St. Louis is on the schedule.
8. I don’t care what happens to Miami next. The Dolphins found their quarterback.
9. I guess we know how much Josh Gordon means to Cleveland. He was targeted 16 times, one shy of Alshon Jeffrey for most targets in one game this season.
10. Just a reminder … that makes Atlanta 0-7 outside the NFC South. Now it’s up to the New Orleans Saints on Monday to keep the division from getting swept, and why don’t I trust them? It’s not just that they lost their last two at home; it’s that Baltimore is 5-1 following byes under John Harbaugh.
11. Watching the reaction of Denver teammates following another Brandon McManus miss, I’d say it’s time for a change. You can’t survive with a kicker nobody trusts.
12. Not sure where there’s more dysfunction in D.C. – inside or outside the Beltway.
13. Dear Santa, Please give me an alarm clock for Christmas. Without one, I can’t get on the field. Sincerely, Jonas Gray.
14. Sorry, but I can’t buy Philadelphia as a Super Bowl threat. Too many turnovers and not enough defense.
15. Philadelphia and Dallas aren’t the best two teams in the NFC East. San Francisco and Arizona are. Each was 4-0 vs. the East this season.
16. That last drive was big for Cleveland and bigger for Brian Hoyer. He saved his job … for another week.
17. Seeing San Diego owner Dean Spanos meet with Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke on the field before Sunday’s game, I had to wonder: How many times do you think the initials L. and A. came up in the conversation?
18. No one bends it like Beckham. With Odell Beckham’s leaping, one-handed TD stab, one a gushing Al Michaels called “the play of the year,” I say we just close the Offensive Rookie of the Year poll now.
19. Before throwing a parade for Tony Romo, let’s recognize the guys who made that second-half comeback possible: His offensive line. Those guys gave Romo the time — especially on the game-winning drive — Eli Manning didn’t have, and you saw the result.
20. There’s no better GM than Baltimore’s Ozzie Newsome, but I’ll never understand why he gave up Anquan Boldin.
FIVE HALL-OF-FAME SIZZLES
1. Cleveland RB Isaiah Crowell. Now you know why the Browns cut Ben Tate.
2. Indianapolis WR T.Y. Hilton. He said he wanted to deliver (get it?) for his newborn daughter, and he did – with a 73-yard touchdown catch that, in turn, earned him a game ball.
3. San Diego CB Marcus Gilchrist. His last-minute interception saved San Diego’s season, and I know that sounds like an overstatement … but look at the Chargers’ remaining schedule. It’s brutal. Not only do all five teams have winning records; their combined record is 37-17.
4. Green Bay RB Eddie Lacy. Looking for a Lion tamer? You just found him. In his last three games vs. Minnesota, Lacy has 125, 105 and 110 yards rushing. They comprise three of his four 100-yard games during that period.
5. Denver RB C.J. Anderson. I thought the Broncos’ rushing attack was supposed to be toast without Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman. Tell that to C.J. He produced a career-best 167 yards and threw in the go-ahead touchdown.
FIVE HALL-OF-FAME FIZZLES
1. Any Detroit kicker. The Lions this year are 8-for-20 on field goals longer than 30 yards. Someone contact the MLS. There must be someone there who can kick a straight ball.
2. Miami CB Jamar Taylor. It’s third-and-20 late in the first half, and he’s suckered by Emmanuel Sanders for a game-changing mistake. Brutal. Now I know how these guys blew two games in the last minute. All Taylor had to do was keep Sanders in front of him. Instead, he jumped the short route, grabbed at Sanders as he blew by him and watched him make a 35-yard catch that led to a touchdown with 12 seconds left.
3. New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. A year ago, it was offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride who was released after a losing season. Now, the entire staff may go. If not, I don’t see how Fewell survives — especially after that meltdown on Dallas’ last drive when his players couldn’t get near Tony Romo, couldn’t cover his receivers and couldn’t keep Dallas from scoring a game-winning touchdown.
4. St. Louis QB Shaun Hill. He’s this close to clinching a second consecutive win, and what happens? You saw it. The one throw he can’t make … he makes, and ballgame. Had he done nothing … the Rams would’ve kicked a game-tying field goal. Instead, this. Oh, and by the way, Hill also had a fumble returned for a touchdown.
5. Referee Jeff Triplette. It was his crew the whistled Rams’ linebacker Marshall McFadden and cost the Rams a huge Tavon Austin punt return. I saw the replay. So did you. The ball was bogus.
I’m curious what the NFL does with Detroit center Dominic Raiola now that he’s admitted to trying to injure New England defensive lineman Zach Moore. Rewind the videotape to the Lions’ last snap, and you’ll see Raiola fire out at Moore’s legs. It didn’t seem like much at the time. But then Raiola confessed that he cut-block him in retaliation for the Patriots’ scoring a late touchdown. “It’s not a big deal,” Raiola said. “It’s football.” We’ll see about that. My guess is that the NFL thinks it IS a big deal. This is the outfit that made player safety a priority, and with someone confessing to trying to hurt an opponent that commitment will be tested. The NFL must respond, and it must respond quickly.
WHAT WOULD LOMBARDI DO?
You’re down by 2, and it’s third-and-2 at your opponent’s 35-yard line. There are 55 seconds left, but your opponent has all three of its TOs left. Clock management is key, but so is getting three yards. So W.W.L.D.? First of all, let the clock run. You have all three of your timeouts left, too. Second, play it safe. Either dial up a run you think can work, or look for Julio Jones/Roddy White with a short pass. Even if either fails, you have a 53-yard field goal that your kicker can make. Too bad nobody clued in Atlanta’s Mike Smith. He called a timeout with 55 seconds left, then watched quarterback Matt Ryan throw a deep shot to Devin Hester. Devin Hester? The pass falls incomplete, Matt Bryant kicks the 53-yarder and, predictably, the Falcons leave too much time on the clock. Result: Another Falcons’ loss. You can’t make this stuff up.
FIVE GUYS ON THE HALL-OF-FAME RADAR
1. New England QB Tom Brady. Make that seven straight games with multiple touchdown passes. So what’s new? I swear, I never tire of watching this guy dissect opponents.
2. Cleveland WR Josh Gordon. Not only does he have a team-high 120 yards in catches; he makes a critical 24-yard reception on the Browns’ game-winning drive.
3. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh. Say this about the guy: He’s not afraid to make the tough call. Twice he goes for it on fourth down, including fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter, and twice he cashes in — first, gaining a field goal just before halftime, then a fourth-quarter TD. The 49ers’ offense isn’t right, but Harbaugh stands behind his guys with decisions like these. And I like that.
4. Denver WR Demaryius Thomas. So he didn’t have another 100-yard game. That’s the first time that’s happened in eight games. He still had three touchdowns to sink the Dolphins
5. Dallas QB Tony Romo. No, I don’t trust him in big games, either, but he seldom looked better than in the second half vs. the Giants when he threw three of his four TD passes, including the game-winner, with just over a minute left. Over his last two starts, or since returning from a back injury, Romo has completed 72 percent of his passes, with seven touchdowns, no interceptions and two victories.
THIS WEEK’S HALL-OF-FAME NOMINEE
Denver QB Peyton Manning. He throws four more touchdowns and leads Denver to a come-from-behind victory that was harder than it should’ve been. Manning now has a TD pass in 50 straight games, good for third on the all-time list.
THIS WEEK’S HALL-OF-FAME QUOTE
“He’s great with a capital G, at the highest level of great.” – San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh on Colin Kaepernick.
1-4 – Arizona in games without Larry Fitzgerald
4 – Different Patriots with multiple-touchdown games
4 — Times St. Louis had three or more turnovers this season
6 — Consecutive Giants’ defeats
10 – Philadelphia returns for touchdowns
14 — Straight winning seasons for New England
63 – 300-yard games by Tom Brady, tied for third most with Dan Marino
68 – First-half yards for Chicago
201 – Rushing yards Denver put on Miami