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The End Zone - Week 15


Alan
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The End Zone

Week 15 is now over, so we have just two more weeks of regular season action before the playoffs. Division titles were settled this weekend, but there is still a fair bit of work to be done for some teams who are so close to the playoffs its nail biting. Well onto this week’s edition, and the usual detailed round-up of the week’s results is here along with the game feature and Jets Talkin. This week the position profile has been left out due to space restrictions, but I should be able to fit it in next week. We will kick things off with the game feature, in which the New England Patriots took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

 

Game Feature

The New England Patriots have not had their best season this year, but even though they have been hit with injuries the team have been able to get the job done. Helped by the poor results by the teams in their division the Patriots could take home the AFC East division title with a win here today. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers needed a victory to move ahead of Carolina in the NFC South and give them a better chance of taking home the division title.

 

It was the Patriots who got the game under way, and they did so in typical New England fashion. Tom Brady was accurate as always with his passes, making three completions for 32, 13 and 7 yards to get the team deep into the Buccaneers red zone. Veteran tackle Tom Ashworth was eligible on a play from the 1 yard line, and Brady took advantage, finding him in the end zone for a 1 yard touchdown. This was Ashdown’s first career reception and therefore his first career touchdown. Tampa was unable to get right back into the game, as a few short gains were followed by three losses of yards, thus forcing a punt. Brady hit a 32 yard pass to begin the Patriots next drive, but then a three and out followed, giving the Buccaneers another chance to tie the game. Tampa didn’t get very far though, getting as far as their own 27 before the quarter ended.

 

Buccaneers QB Simms was sacked to open the second period, forcing a punt from Tampa. New England fell to an immediate three and out though, as did the Buccs as they regained possession, however the Pats got a good start on their next drive, with a pass to Dillon for 11 yards. Another three and out was forced by the Buccaneers defence, but their offence was held to the same by the New England defence shortly after. With 8 minutes remaining in the half the Patriots regained possession, and this time they were determined not to get held up by the Buccaneers defence. Helped by 35 yards of penalties against the Tampa defence New England were able to move into the Buccaneer red zone, setting up at the Tampa 3 just before the two minute warning. Although Ashworth and Vrabel were eligible on the play, it was Corey Dillon who ran in for a 3 yard score, giving the Patriots a 14-0 cushion. Could Tampa put some points on the board with a well worked two minute drill? Well the answer was no as they quickly fell to a three and out, handing New England back the ball with a minute remaining. The Patriots are renowned for their competent play in limited time situations, and they showed their dominance yet again as within three plays Brady had hooked up with David Givens for a 16 yard touchdown pass. Tampa were able to get one play off before the half, but Simms smartly took a knee.

 

A series of short passes by Simms got the Buccaneers gradually into the Patriots half as the third period opened, but no sooner had they got that far that tragedy struck. Well it was a tragedy for Tampa anyway as they were hit with a 5 yard penalty and Simms was sacked for an 11 yard loss! This effectively halted the drive, and they were forced to punt. Three and outs followed for both teams on their next possessions, then the Patriots looked to have made a mistake when they punted for the second time in the period. Tampa returned the punt 81 yards for what looked to be a touchdown, however a holding penalty agonisingly nullified the score, putting the Buccaneers at their own 24 to start the drive. It didn’t seem to affect Tampa though as they were able to move into Patriots territory fairly quickly. However again they were halted by the New England defence, and after being forced to go for it on 4th and 3 Simms was sacked for another 11 yard loss, thus turning the ball over yet again. The Patriots though couldn’t capitalise on the turnover, and gave the Buccaneers the ball back as the quarter ended.

 

As had been the pattern throughout the game, the Buccaneers couldn’t finish their drive, and again turned the ball over to the Patriots with a punt. Brady hit three consecutive passes to get the Patriots within scoring range, to which he added a two yard pass to Dillon for the touchdown, giving New England a 28-0 lead. There was still nearly 12 minutes left, so Tampa needed a quick score to have even the slightest chance of getting back into the game. They moved well at first, again getting into the New England half, but Simms was sacked again, this time for an 8 yard loss. The Buccaneers couldn’t recover, and were forced to punt on a 4th and 15 situation. New England had seven minutes to run down, and that’s exactly what they did. Dillon and Faulk took turns making short gains, gradually eating up the clock and frustrating the Buccaneers. They were able to keep the gains going for the whole seven minutes, closing out the game with the Patriots shutting out Tampa 28-0.

 

An embarrassing loss for the Buccaneers who early in the season were one of the few undefeated teams four or five weeks in. They are still within the playoff hunt in the NFC, but need other results to go their way if they want to be sure of a spot. New England come away with a surprisingly easy victory that sealed up the AFC East division title for them, guaranteeing them a spot in the playoffs.

 

Week 15 Round Up

Three games took place on Saturday this week as things got off to an early start. As you have just read, the New England Patriots had an easy day as they took on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tampa’s offence just couldn’t get things going as Simms was sacked a total of seven times and threw for just 155 yards. Tom Brady though had a great game, throwing for 258 yards and three touchdowns to give them a 28-0 shutout victory and the AFC East division title. Next up were the New York Giants, currently chasing the NFC East division title, as they took on the Kansas City Chiefs. New York were playing behind an injury-hit front line, but it didn’t show as Tiki Barber ran for a franchise record 220 yards on 29 carries, also grabbing two touchdowns. Eli Manning had another shaky game for the Giants, throwing for 186 yards on 17 of 32, but he wasn’t troubled as the Chiefs QB Trent Green didn’t fare much better either, throwing for 176 yards on 15 of 28. New York overpowered the Chiefs as they came away with a 27-17 victory. The final game on Saturday saw the Denver Broncos take on the Buffalo Bills, where a win for Denver would guarantee them a playoff spot and put them closer to a division title. The Bills took an early lead on the back of a McGahee touchdown, but the Broncos were tied at the half thanks to Rod Smith catching a pass in the end zone. Then Denver really got to work as two third quarter touchdowns gave them a 21-10 lead, before a 6 yard run from Mike Anderson sealed things up in the fourth. The Bills managed to grab a touchdown to reduce the deficit, but the Broncos were the ones coming away with a 28-17 victory. Denver guaranteed their playoff berth, but would have to wait until San Diego played Indianapolis to see if they were to be crowned division champions.

 

Sunday’s games got under way with the San Francisco 49ers taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Niners have struggled this year, but they were optimistic coming into this encounter. Jacksonville were without starting QB Byron Leftwich, making their offence unable to function smoothly, and San Francisco were able to take an early 3-0 lead. The Jags took the lead during the second quarter after David Garrard ran in from 13 yards, but the Niners kept it close with another field goal. After a scoreless third quarter the Niners took the lead with a 33 yard field goal, and the Jaguars had to respond quickly. Scobee hit a 32 yard field goal to retake the lead for Jacksonville, and they held ton to scrape a 10-9 victory. Another close game took place on Sunday, this one between the Philadelphia Eagles and the St Louis Rams. Mike McMahon, the Eagles backup QB, had a tough day, throwing three interceptions and only gaining 97 yards, however he still made the big play at the end to take the game. St Louis had taken the lead early on, but an Eagles touchdown had turned things around as the quarter ended. The Rams put 10 points on the board during the second quarter to move ahead, and a field goal in the third gave St Louis a 16-10 lead. McMahon tossed a 3 yard pass to long-snapper Mike Bartrum during the fourth quarter for an Eagles touchdown, and that proved to be the decisive score, ending the game 17-16 Philadelphia. San Diego were in action Sunday as they looked to be the first people to beat the Indianapolis Colts this season. It started well for the Chargers as they took advantage of poor play from the Colts to go ahead 13-0 at the half. A field goal in the third quarter gave them a 16-0 lead, but then it turned sour. Indianapolis capitalised on two turnovers, scoring touchdowns on both possessions to move into the lead. A Chargers field goal set up an interesting finish, but the Colts couldn’t get into field goal range. San Diego finished the game with a stunning 83 yard touchdown run from Turner to win the game 26-17.

 

Houston had been on one hell of a slide this season, winning just one game so far. This week they hosted the Arizona Cardinals and were hoping to turn things around slightly. After Arizona took an early 3-0 lead, the Texans turned it on in the second quarter with 24 points. They then scored two field goals in the second half to grab a vital 30-19 victory. The New Orleans Saints have only been marginally better than Houston this season, and they faced a tough test against division rival Carolina this Sunday. The game looked close after a 7-7 first quarter, but the Panthers showed why they should be feared in the run-up to the playoffs as they scored 17 unanswered points over the next two quarters. A late field goal couldn’t start a Saints revival as Carolina walked away with a 27-10 victory. There were fears that the Seattle Seahawks would be sending out their back-ups in their remaining games after clinching the NFC West division title, but they continued with their starters as they took on the Tennessee Titans. The Seahawks took a 14-0 first quarter lead, but the Titans were not letting the game go away that easy. Steve McNair, who threw for 310 yards on the day, led Tennessee to 14 points in the second quarter to tie the game. The Titans then took the lead, going into the final period up 24-21. However it was part of Shaun Alexander’s 172 rushing yards that helped the Seahawks score a last quarter touchdown and take the win 28-24.

 

Pittsburgh needed to win this week to remain solid in their pursuit of a playoff spot in the AFC North, and this week they took on the Minnesota Vikings, who were in a similar situation in the NFC North. The extra-ordinary defence that Pittsburgh showed last week was apparent again this week as they held the Vikings to just 3 points. The Steelers opened up a 10-3 lead at the half, and continued to dominate into the final quarters, scoring two field goals and a safety to win the game 18-3. A tense division rivalry came to a head this past weekend as the New York Jets took on the Miami Dolphins. Miami were the first ones off the block, taking a 7-0 lead, but the Jets came back in the second period to tie the game at 10. The boys in green then took the lead in the third period with a touchdown, but Miami fought back in the final period to score two touchdowns and take a 24-20 victory. Oakland were looking to rebound from their loss last week to the Jets as they hosted the Cleveland Browns this past weekend. In an extremely low scoring game the Raiders were limited to just one touchdown whilst the Browns were limited to just three field goals. LaMont Jordan had a great days rushing for Oakland as he gained 132 yards on 25 carries, but that couldn’t stop Cleveland taking a 9-7 victory.

 

The Cincinnati Bengals were sitting at the top of the AFC North, and a win this week would give them the division title. In their way were the Detroit Lions, who were languishing near the bottom of the NFC North. It looked to be a whitewash early on as Carson Palmer led the Bengals to 17 points in just the first quarter. Another one in the second added to their lead, however Detroit finally put points on the board with a touchdown of their own. The second half saw Cincinnati score two more touchdowns and a field goal as they romped to a 41-17 victory, sealing the AFC North division title. Another division rivalry occurred late on Sunday as the Washington Redskins took on the Dallas Cowboys. Many thought this would be a close game, but it turned out to be very different. The Redskins took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but it was in the second that they really stepped up a gear. Washington scored 21 points in the second period alone, and a touchdown in the third quarter effectively handed them the game. Although the Cowboys put 7 points on the board in the final quarter they were condemned to a 35-7 loss. Finally on Sunday the Atlanta Falcons took on the Chicago bears in what was assumed to be a defensive-minded game. It didn’t disappoint, well at least from the Bears point of view as they restricted Michael Vick and the Falcons to a field goal. Chicago were able to have their own way with Atlanta, scoring 10 third quarter points to win 16-3. And finally on Monday night the Baltimore Ravens had their best showing from quarterback Kyle Boller as he threw for 253 yards and 3 touchdowns. Their opponents were the Green Bay Packers, but they didn’t put up much of a fight as the Ravens demolished Brett Favre and company, easing to an 18-3 victory!

 

Week 15 Standings

AFC

The New England Patriots are the AFC East division champions, sitting there with a 9-5 record, whilst Miami hold second at 7-7 and Buffalo are third at 4-10. Resting at the bottom are the Jets with a 3-11 record. Cincinnati have taken the AFC North division crown wit an 11-3 record, whilst Pittsburgh look to take a wild card spot in second at 9-5. Baltimore and Cleveland occupy third and fourth spots respectively with 5-9 records. The Colts have the AFC South title, a first round bye and home field advantage through the playoffs with their 13-1 record. Jacksonville hold second at 10-4, whilst Tennessee are third at 4-10 and Houston are fourth with 2-12. Finally the Denver Broncos have confirmed their playoff spot but not the AFC West title just yet as they sit top with an 11-3 record. San Diego is second at 9-5, followed by Kansas in third at 8-6 and Oakland in fourth at 4-10.

 

NFC

The New York Giants came a step closer to taking the NFC East title this past week, resting t the top at 10-6, although Washington and Dallas still have a chance in second and third with 8-6 records. Philadelphia are bottom at 6-8. Chicago are top of the North at 10-4, and could win the division title next week, however Minnesota are in a close second at 8-6. Third is Detroit at 4-10 whilst at the bottom is Green Bay at 3-11. Carolina top the South at 10-4, followed by Tampa in second at 9-5. Atlanta could miss out on the playoffs in third at 8-6, and New Orleans are rooted to the bottom with a 3-11 record. Seattle have the NFC West division title and a first round bye with their 12-2 record, second is the Rams at 5-9, third is Arizona at 4-10 and bottom of the pile is San Francisco with a 2-12 record.

 

Jets Talkin’

We had a big game this week, any time we face off against the Miami Dolphins it’s going to be a tough encounter. We were hoping to string together two victories for the first time this season, and from the numbers of Brooks Bollinger, some may say we should have done! Bollinger was on fire, completing 28 of 42 passes for 327 yards and two touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback since Testaverde in 2003 to throw for over 300 yards against Miami. Rookie running back Cedric Houston rushed for 84 yards on 15 carries, and tight end Doug Jolley caught 9 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. That all looks good, but the Dolphins were the ones who took an early 7-0 lead. They made it 10-0 early in the second quarter, but then the Jets fought back. Coles caught a 4 yard pass from Bollinger for a touchdown, and then Mike Nugent hit a 42 yard field goal to tie the game at the half. Jolley had a 60 yard touchdown as he caught a pass from Brooks during the third quarter, and the Jets had the lead! Miami scored 14 points in the final period, and even Mike Nugent’s late field goal couldn’t stop the Dolphins from taking a 24-20 victory.

 

Next week it’s the Patriots on Boxing Day, should be an interesting game. Even more so that Bollinger is becoming a great quarterback and guys like Houston and Jolley are putting up decent numbers. It’s been a while since we’ve beaten the Patriots, can we do it this time with a depleted squad?

 

Wrap Up

First of all I would like to offer my congratulations to all the teams that have sewn up division titles and playoff spots over the last week. Looks like their seasons will be going on longer than most! Sorry about the lack of the position profile, I just spent too much time on the feature and round up, don’t worry, it will show up before the end of the season! All the usual features will return next week, but as I won’t be talking to you again until after Boxing Day, have a merry Christmas everyone! The pass has been thrown; will you catch it next week, in The End Zone?

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