Offence was at the forefront in Week 9 as both the Patriots and Eagles made statements – a rejuvenated Tom Brady and Co. dropped 55 points on the Steelers (the most allowed in franchise history) while Nick Foles tied an NFL record after throwing seven touchdowns against the Raiders. Running backs were running wild (Chris Johnson, Mike James, Zac Stacy, Adrian Peterson) but it was the defence that helped the Chiefs remain undefeated scoring twice on the Bills. Yet Kansas City wasn’t the only team to complete a comeback on Sunday.
In the thick of the Super Bowl preseason conversation, the Texans instead got off to a disappointing 2-5 start as injuries and uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position derailed the group. Yet all that seemed like a distant memory when Houston jumped out to a 21-3 lead on Indianapolis as Case Keenum threw three touchdowns and the defence kept Andrew Luck on his toes (J.J. Watt also blocked a field goal). Everything was going their way until halftime when head coach Gary Kubiak collapsed on the field and with few answers, the Texans unravelled as Luck and the Colts went to work. After scoring three times and recording 190 yards in the opening 30 minutes, Andre Johnson had just 39 the rest of the way while Randy Bullock missed three field goals including a 55-yarder which would have forced overtime. Indianapolis took advantage of Houston’s lack of focus and Luck did what he does best engineering yet another fourth quarter game-winning drive (10 and counting now for the sophomore QB). The Colts have an uncanny ability to fight back when the odds are at their longest and Sunday was no exception. It was another feather in the cap for a team that’s becoming more and more dangerous with each passing signature win. Yet unfortunately this one came at the expense of someone’s health and you can hardly blame the Texans for being distracted.
While Indianapolis rallied from an 18-point second half deficit, Seattle was just as impressive. Coming off a lacklustre performance a week ago, the Seahawks once again found themselves in trouble against a team with a losing record. This time the situation was even more troubling considering the opponent (the Bucs have yet to win a game) and the environment (the loud confines of CenturyLink Field). Led by rookie Mike Glennon, Tampa scored on three of its first four possessions gaining 350 total yards on one of the top defences in the league. The Bucs dominated the line of scrimmage, their running game was clicking (Mike James ran for a career-high 158 yards) plus the defence was applying all kinds of pressure on Russell Wilson. But like many times before, the Seahawks came to life after halftime erasing a 21-0 Bucs lead and winning the game in overtime to complete the largest comeback in franchise history. Wilson was able to shake off a rough first half (and a couple of interceptions) to improve to 12-0 at home as a starter, but with two sub-par efforts in a row, there is some concern in Seattle. Yes the defence held Tampa to only 76 yards over its final five drives, but the group allowed another 200 rushing yards, the first time it’s done that in back-to-back games in 11 years. Wins like Sunday’s however go a long way and the Seahawks are learning valuable lessons that will only strengthen the team moving forward.
Unfortunately, not everyone was as lucky in Week 9. In the battle of the Ryan Brothers, it was Rex who once again got the better of Rob as the Jets continued their string of alternating wins and losses. But this one came as a surprise considering how well the Saints had been playing on both sides of the ball. Is it time to start paying closer attention to New York? Even though New Orleans was missing a couple of key contributors (Marques Colston was out with a knee injury while Darren Sproles left with concussion-like symptoms), the team still had Drew Brees and the impossible to defend Jimmy Graham (who has an NFL-best 10 touchdowns). But the Saints quickly became one-dimensional because of their inability to run the football (41 yards) making life easier for the Jets. The defence intercepted Brees twice and limited New Orleans to just six points after halftime. With the high-flying Saints neutralized, the Jets offence sprung to life using a motivated Chris Ivory (139 yards against his former team) and an arsenal of big plays (seven went for 19 yards or more) to pull off the upset. Rex Ryan proved the old theory true once again – that defence and a solid rushing attack wins games.
Don’t look now, but things are starting to get interesting in the NFC South. Flying under the radar is Carolina who has won four in a row and now sits just a game back of the division lead. The Panthers may be known for their prolific offence fronted by Cam Newton (which has scored at least 30 points in every game during the winning streak), but it’s their defence that continues to impress. Carolina held Atlanta to 289 yards on Sunday forcing four turnovers (including three Matt Ryan interceptions) as the unit has allowed 13.2 points per contest, tops in the NFC. The Saints knew another South division title wouldn’t come easy, but they probably thought the Falcons would be their biggest threat, not the Panthers. Carolina sure has everyone’s attention now.
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