NEW YORK(RushPRnews)12/14/08-It is often said that a team’s success on offense starts at the quarterback position and then trickles down to the rest of the players. Maybe so, but when old man winter starts to make his presence felt, a strong rushing game dictates the tempo on offense. Teams who are able to lean more heavily on the running game will increase their chances as the year comes to an end.
Jets 31, Bills 27
Same old Jets? Hard to say, but Brett Favre and company are one step closer in clinching the division title with their win over the Buffalo Bills. The Jets control their own destiny and have a good chance to top the AFC East division by winning out.
Many questions surrounding which Brett Favre would show up at the game were answered early on, as the future hall of famer opened the game by scoring on his first two possessions. When Favre wasn’t slinging it, Thomas Jones carried the load and scored his 13th rushing touchdown, the most in a season in Jets history. But it was Buffalo’s running game that flexed a little more muscle. Bills Marshawn Lynch refused to be tackled and embarrassed the Jets secondary for 127 yards on 21 carries. Was it good running by Lynch, or poor tackling by the Jets defense? Either way you slice it, Lynch chewed off big gains on the ground and placed his team in perfect position to win the game. Sadly for the Bills, head coach Dick Jauron had to call pass plays as a change of pace. Right play call, wrong guy for the job. Backup quaterback J.P. Losman, who got the start for injured Trent Edward, was the victim of three interceptions, despite good protection from his offesive line. Jauron decided to keep the ball in his quarterback’s hands, a task easier said than done. Jets safety Abram Elam sacked Losman, forcing a fumble, and defensive end Shaun Ellis recovered the ball and took it back into the end zone, putting the Jets back ontop with just under two minutes to play.
Texans 13, Titans 12
Good things happen when teams play with confidence and the Huston Texans are the perfect example. The Texans were not intimated by the mighty Titans and did just enough to pull off the upset of the week. As far as single game performances go, Texan’s Andre Johnson was unstoppable. It did not matter who has lined up in front of him, Johnson was in the zone, hauling in 11 receptions with a career-high 207 yards and a touchdown. Not a bad day’s work. But Huston’s offense did not revolved around one guy and one guy alone. Rookie Steve Slaton eclipsed the century mark and helped his club pick up their four straight win, the most in franchise history.
Despite being eliminated from playoff contention, the Texans (7-7) still want to salvage something of their season. Their new aim is to finish on a positive note and more importantly with a winning season (a feat never accomplished for this franchise.)
Tennessee (12-2) has already clinched the AFC South and a first-round playoff bye, but home-field advantage is still up for grabs. So, rumors that the Titans had nothing to play for, ultimately demising Huston’s accomplishment, should fall to rest.
Dolphins 14, 49ers 9
Pounding the rock, a conservative passing game and winning ugly are staples of the Miami Dolphins. But why deviate from the formula if it works? Since introducing the “wildcat” formation earlier in the season, the Dolphins offense seems rather blank. It’s not exciting, but Miami are winners of three straight. As usual Chad Pennington relied on his tight ends to come up big and they did. Both Joey Haynos and David Martin caught a touchdown pass from their new favorite quarterback, who always seems to look for them during crunch time. But let’s not kid ourselves. The defense is the backbone of this franchise- hands down.
Sunday’s win against the 49ers was the third consecutive game without a touchdown scored on the Dolphins defense. Believe it or not, it’s true. Joey Porter continues to be a disruptive force for opposing quarterbacks and has had a monster season piling up 17.5 sacks, a career high. Porter is making it a habit to end games with a sack and come through for his team in clutch situations. Sunday was no different as he wrapped his paws around Shaun Hill, taking him down to end the game.
After being spoilers for AFC East team during the past two weeks, San Francisco will have to go back to the drawing board and try to find their identity for the rest of the season.
Vikings 35, Cardinals 14
The cardinals have been on fire playing at home and then the Minnesota Vikings came and blew their flame out. Bernard Berrian got things rolling scoring Minnesota’s first two touchdowns on an 82-yard punt return and 41-yard reception from Tarvaris Jackson. Then Jackson began handing the ball to Adrian “All Day” Peterson and he plucked the Cardinals and exposed their soft run defense. Peterson rushed for 165 yards on 28 carries and recorded his ninth 100-yard game of the season. It’s hard to imagine a running back racking up these kinds of yards, especially when defensive coordinators prepare for him all week. Ok, maybe shutting down the league’s rushing leader is rather optimistic; however, limiting the damages is surely reasonable one would think.
In a pleasant surprise, Jackson threw for four touchdowns as the Vikings (9-5) looked like a balance attack in winning their fourth game in a row.
The Vikings stay atop the NFC North and lived up to its reputation as a run first pass second offense with a total of 44 rushing attempts. Peterson and first downs on offense and defense are the keys for Minnesota. If they can do that for the remainder of the way, they will have a very good chance to win football games.
Steelers 13, Ravens 9
The December cold was the last thing on players’ minds as the leagues best defensive units went at it. No surprise here that the only offensive touchdown, in this defensive battle, came late in the fourth quarter. The play was reviewed because it appeared that Santonio Holmes, who caught the four yard touchdown pass, had his feet the end zone but the ball appeared to be in front of the goal line. The play stood.
The Pittsburg Steelers use another fourth quarter comeback to squeak out a victory against Baltimore. The Steelers (11-3) defense bent but would not break as they prevented the Baltimore Ravens from busting this one open and getting in the endzone.
With the win against the Ravens, Pittsburg clinched the AFC North title.
Photo courtesy of the National Football League.