Thoughts from a thrilling slate of late games on Sunday:
Best batch of late games ever?
Earlier we trashed the early games, so I suppose karma helped out and gave us a handful of late games that had us quoting Bob Cole whilst trying to dominate the art of channel surfing. In the end, we had an electrifying run of dramatics between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. ET. I have to change my pants and Sean Tomlinson, who’s with me here at GLS headquarters, suddenly has a bald spot.
But it was worth it.
Four one-score games and a thrilling comeback for Denver (notice I didn’t say “Tebow” — this is a team game, dammit!).
You had Eli Manning repeating himself in New England with another last-second touchdown pass to slay the Patriots and end another historic streak. You had Green Bay hanging on for dear life to stay perfect in an 83-point shootout in San Diego. You had the Bengals moving to 6-2 — 6-2! — in a close comeback road victory over Tennessee. You had 24 unanswered points from the Broncos in a win that turned the AFC West upside down…again. And even in Glendale, where two borderline-professional teams combined for more safeties than offensive touchdowns, the Cardinals finished off the Sunday afternoon schedule in particularly exciting fashion, with rookie Patrick Peterson going 99 — 99! — yards on an overtime punt return to edge the Rams.
This is why we’re obsessed with this game.
History repeats itself in Foxboro
Same announcers. Same uniforms. Same quarterbacks. Same result. This time, it wasn’t with the Lombardi Trophy on the line, but Eli Manning was heroic again in two-minute-drill form, leading the Giants over the Patriots in the Super Bowl rematch de semaine.
Tom Brady’s 31-game home winning streak is over. The Pats have lost a regular-season game at Gillette for the first time since 2008. And it’s only the third time they’ve lost back-to-back games since 2003.
Aside from being a compelling and rich story, does it mean much else? Here are a few conclusions I’ve made in typical knee-jerk style:
1. The AFC East is as wide open as the AFC West. Both divisions now have three-way ties for first place. The Jets have battled back from what seemed like rock bottom to become a serious contender, and the Pats’ defense is proving that it might be an Achilles heel that won’t be overcome.
2. If you’re New England, it wasn’t a bad home game to lose. You’d rather take your lumps against non-divisional opponents, and that’s what happened here. The Pats probably hated losing to Manning and the Giants again, but they keep that 4-2 conference record intact, which could be key for breaking ties in early January.
3. Could be a turning point for the Giants. Despite the 5-2 record, they hadn’t played well seven games into the season. In fact, they had only scored 10 more points than they had given up. I thought they were pretenders, but these are the kinds of high-emotion victories that change seasons. With a slew of injuries, they defied some ridiculous odds today. It’ll be interesting to see if they rally from this point forward. It won’t take much — the win puts them two games clear of everyone else in the NFC East.
Is there any way Aaron Rodgers doesn’t win the MVP? And can the Packers run the table?
Rarely do you see a guy have a lock on an award like Rodgers does in Week 9. The guy had only five incomplete passes and once again had a passer rating above 120 (145.8). Four touchdowns, no picks. Give him 24 and three on the season. And the Pack moves to 8-0. Just off the charts.
Give Rodgers’ teammates credit. They probably don’t win this game if not for two pick sixes. But it’s still mainly about Rodgers and the offense.
It’s a bit disconcerting that Green Bay allowed 38 points on defense, but it’s not easy going up against a team like San Diego on the road, especially considering the Chargers were hungry coming off a tough loss. The Packers are getting takeaways and they rarely turn it over. They’re healthy, rested and have the hottest quarterback in the game.
That all has people wondering, of course, whether this is a team that can run the table. The San Diego game might have been their biggest challenge of the year, and now they’re at home for five of their final eight games. If they can beat the Lions and Giants on the road in Weeks 12 and 13 (no easy task), then they might have 16-0 in them. It might also help that San Francisco keeps winning and the Lions are still within reaching distance, which might force them to keep playing the starters down the stretch.