The (Monday) Morning After: Heat in the East

NEED TO KNOW
  • NFC East is heating up with wins by Washington, Dallas, loss by Giants
  • Niners take the Pats in a nail-biting, frigid night game
RGIII's backup, Kirk Cousins, came in and led the Washington Redskins over the Cleveland Browns.

49ers 41, Patriots 34. When it rains in New England, it pours. The weather played a factor early in this game and continued to do so throughout. It appeared to be all but won for the Niners in the third quarter, but then Tom Brady and the Patriots proceeded to score four straight touchdowns to tie the game at 31. With 6:43 left in the game, San Francisco wasted no time regaining their lead with a two-play touchdown drive. A failed fourth-and-one conversion by the Pats led to an easy David Akers field goal to make it a two-possession game. Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 41-yarder to make it 41-34 with less than one minute left. Too little, too late. --Chelsea Catlette @chelseacatlette

Seahawks 50, Bills 17. The Buffalo Bills are not the Arizona Cardinals. They were not going to be shutout by a soaring Seahawks team as Bills running back CJ Spiller reached 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his career and scored a touchdown. However, Buffalo still could not stop Seattle from being the first NFL team since 1950 to pile up 50 or more points in back-to-back games. Playing in Canada with a halftime performance by Korean pop star PSY of "Gangham Style" fame, rookie quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks were a "50 Points of Grey" international bestseller, what with their wolf-grey uniforms and absolutely dominating performance. -- Valencia @ChocLadyBengal

Vikings 36, Rams 22. The Vikings were able to run away with this game -- literally! Running back Adrian Peterson ran for 212 yards and worked his way closer to breaking the all-time record for most yards in a single season. The Rams were unable to stop or catch up to Peterson and the Vikings, despite quarterback Sam Bradford throwing for 377 yards on 35 completions. The Vikings are well on their way to claiming a coveted NFC wild card spot, while the Rams are slowly slipping away.  -- Lahari  @Lahari_S

Saints 41, Buccaneers 0.  On paper, this NFC South Divisional matchup should have been closer. Or close. Or not the 41-0 blowout it turned out to be. But, Tampa Bay got the “Buc” knocked out of them as the New Orleans Saints rolled to its first shutout since 1995. On a night when everything went the Saints’ way, there were glimpses reminiscent of the 2009 Super Bowl champions. The Saints’ cornerbacks had a great time catching four of Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman’s errant passes.  Apparently, someone was on the naughty list but instead of a lump of coal, they got a goose egg in their stocking.  -- Keila Thomas @DatNolagirl

Cowboys 27, Steelers 24. They're back! The Cowboys beat the Steelers and are now in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East. Dallas put points on the board in the first half with scores coming from a Dan Bailey field goal and a 17-yard pass from Romo to Witten. In the second quarter, with Roethlisberger at the helm, the Steelers tied the game at 10-10.  The fourth quarter saw a touchdown pass from Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown. Dallas came right back with scores from Bryant and Murray and regulation ended tied 24-24.  In overtime, the Steelers received the first possession, but on the second play, Roethlisberger was picked off by Brandon Carr. Dan Bailey kicked the winning field goal and the Cowboys improved to 8-6. -- Fonda Bryant @proudmom72

Broncos 34, Ravens 17. At least one Manning brother got a victory Sunday, but it was due less to his average-by-Peyton-standards stats and more to the stellar play of the Broncos defense. In a play indicative of the Raven’s first-half struggles, QB Joe Flacco was intercepted at the Broncos' 2-yard line by Chris Harris, who returned the pick for a 98-yard touchdown, the longest in Denver history. Adding injury to insult, Flacco caught Harris close to the goal line but earned only a bloody lip for his efforts as Harris stumbled in for the score.  It was the first win for Denver in Baltimore, providing the Broncos with a huge road victory going into the playoffs. --George Atkins @girlgeorge84

Redskins 38, Browns 21. No RGIII, no problem. Backup QB Kirk Cousins led the Redskins to their fifth straight win in his first NFL start, further confirming that this is the year of the rookie. Cousins’ 329 yards were the second most by a Washington rookie in franchise history and the Redskins are now in first place in their division. Browns rookie Trent Richardson had two touchdown runs, but quarterback Brandon Weeden seemed to struggle from the start of the game, ending the team’s winning streak at three.  The Browns' playoff hopes now look very grim. Things still look lively for the Redskins and RGIII will be back in no time. -- Taylor Benson @FirstAndTay

Panthers 31, Chargers 7. Many of Cam Newton’s loyal doubters still believed that the sophomore slump would level his ego and render him undeserving off his “Superman” celebration. The Carolina Panthers have won three of their last four games and have silenced the notion that bringing Newton into the picture was a mistake. Mike Tolbert’s “dougie” dance could not have been easy to stomach for the Chargers, who were thoroughly embarrassed by the still developing franchise. Yet, as Newton continues to progress as a quarterback, fans are beginning to bear witness to the decline of Philip Rivers. Once considered a top-tier QB in the league, Rivers is now nothing more than an afterthought. -- Joye

Falcons 34, Giants 0. The Falcons had something to prove, and prove it they did. In the 2011 playoffs, the Giants handed Atlanta an embarrassing 24-2 loss en route to Super Bowl XLVI. This Sunday, the defending champs were the ones receiving the drubbing. In fact, this game was virtually the polar opposite of that playoff matchup, with the Falcons dominating the Giants on offense -- 394 total yards and four TDs -- and on defense, shutting out the Giants on the scoreboard and on fourth down conversions. Last time, Atlanta couldn't covert on two fourth and short situations. This time, the Giants failed on not one, not two, but three fourth down attempts. Now, Atlanta’s playoff picture is looking as sweet as this victory.   -- Hollie Mendillo @AFanDivided

Dolphins 23, Jaguars 3. Tannehill beat Henne. That’s really the only thing that stands out about this game. The Dolphins' first touchdown came when Tannehill threw to fullback Jorvorski Lane. Tannehill went 6-for-6 on the drive and scored for the first time. The Fins played the best four quarters of the year, escaping Jacksonville, 24-3, for just their second win since Halloween. – Julia

Texans 29, Colts 17.  Texans and horseshoes usually go together like, well, a horse and carriage, but Sunday they wrestled to clinch their division.  The Houston Texans clinched the AFC South for the second consecutive year with a big Texas win against the Indianapolis Colts. With three sacks, J.J. Watt was a thorn in Andrew Luck's side. In the second quarter, LB Bryan Braman scored a special teams touchdown for the Texans on a blocked punt. By the third quarter, the Colts had caught up with two touchdowns to make it a one-possession game. Houston K Shayne Graham scored two more field goals in the fourth quarter to help his team seal the deal. --Ashley Kirklen @AKirklen

Packers 21, Bears 13. Green Bay has now defeated arch-rival Chicago six consecutive times, the latest of securing their second straight NFC North Championship. Clay Matthews returned and had six tackles and two sacks on the night, injecting new life into the Packers defense. Meanwhile, the offense was anchored by wide receiver James Jones, whom Rodgers found in the end zone three times. Jones now leads the league with 12 receiving touchdowns. The game was reminiscent of the Packers' defeat of the Bears earlier in the season, with Jay Cutler throwing as many interceptions as touchdowns, and spending a majority of his night on the ground. The Bears' sloppy play may have fumbled their chances at a playoff run, while the Packers are now setting their sights on securing a first-round bye. -- Michelle Noyer-Granacki @michellewthonel

Raiders 15, Chiefs 0. Two weeks removed from the murder-suicide of teammate Jovan Belcher, the Chiefs are still searching for their third win of the season.  Looking at the box score, it would appear that the Raiders thoroughly dominated the 2-12 Chiefs. However, despite totaling nearly 400 yards of offense and holding the ball for a whopping 40 minutes, the Raiders failed to score an offensive touchdown against the Chiefs' bend-not-break defense.  Any fans with Sebastian Janikowski on their fantasy teams were in for a huge boost, as he scored all 15 of the Raiders points. After gaining only 119 total yards, with just 10 on the ground, the Chiefs will need to go back to the drawing board to try to finish the season on some semblance of a good note. – Nikki Sickles @HerGameLIfe

Cardinals 38, Lions 10. In this almost meaningless game, Calvin Johnson appeared to be the wasted receiver talent on the field, not Larry Fitzgerald. In past seasons, the Detroit Lions have steadily progressed. Unfortunately this season has a new headline, “Regression.” The Cardinals are probably the worst team in the league, however the franchise managed to make Matthew Stafford look like a rookie with three interceptions and a 37.6 QBR. Arizona, on the other hand, appeared to be a football team that Larry Fitzgerald could finally appreciate. There are still going to be a lot of errors corrected during the offseason as the franchise attempts to become a contender. Yet, Sunday afternoon was an interesting ride for any fan that had already given up on the Cards. -- Joye

HGL CRYSTAL BALL

Jets vs. Titans. When ESPN was picking its “Monday Night Football” schedule, I don’t they anticipated these two teams being -- let’s just be honest here -- dismal. Yet somehow, the Sanchez-led New York Jets find themselves in playoff contention. Tennessee will hope to find some consistency with their second year quarterback Jake Locker, who as of late has struggled to finish out games. New York head coach Rex Ryan will need a solid performance from his dynamic running duo Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell if he wants to come out of Nashville with a win. The good news? Maybe ‘Tiny’ Tim Tebow will get a chance at the reins. It certainly would be a Christmas miracle. –Claire Atkins @claire_atkins

 

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