December 14, 2017

Packers 24, Vikings 10

With the Minnesota Vikings defeating the Green Bay Packers in the final game of the regular season, that meant they would face off again in the first round of the playoffs.  So, on a cold night in Green Bay, the Packers and Vikings took the field and met for the third time this season.  Kicker Mason Crosby booted the ball five yards deep in the end zone and return man Marcus Sherels returned it to the Viking 32.

Starting quarterback Christian Ponder missed most of practice all week and tried to give it a go in warmups before the game.  He was unable to go and that meant Joe Webb would be the starter.  Like everyone expected, running back Adrian Peterson was a huge part of the game plan.  Two carries netted seven yards and on third and 3 from the 39, Webb took off up the right side for a 17 yard gain.  Just like that, the Vikings were in Packer territory.  Three more runs by Peterson moved the ball to the 18, but they would only get as far as the 15 and have to settle for a field goal attempt.  Kicker Blair Walsh made it from 33 yards out and the Vikings had an early 3-0 lead with nine and a half minutes to go in the first quarter.

That was all the scoring there was in the first quarter until with six minutes to go, the Packers started their next drive from their 18.  Running back DuJuan Harris got things started with two runs for eight yards.  On third and two, running back Ryan Grant got the call and gained two yards.  However, the Vikings were flagged for a neutral zone infraction and that gave the Packers a first down at the 31.  A short scramble by quarterback Aaron Rodgers and a 16-yard pass to Harris moved the ball to the Packer 49.  From there, Rodgers found tight end Jermichael Finley for ten yards and Harris for 12 more.  On second and 11 from the 25, Rodgers found Grant on a screen pass that went for 16 yards.  That made it first and goal at the nine and Harris ran up the middle for an apparent touchdown.  He was ruled down at the one, but the Packers challenged the play.  After review, it was ruled that he broke the plane and the call was reversed.  Kicker Mason Crosby made the point after and the Packers led 7-3 as the first quarter came to an end.

After the teams traded punts, the Packers got the ball at their 27 with a little under eight and a half minutes to go in the second quarter.  Passes to tight end Tom Crabtree and wide receiver James Jones moved the Packers to the Viking 39.  On fourth and five from the 34, Rodgers threw a short pass to wide receiver Greg Jennings who took it all the way down to the two-yard line.  An incomplete pass to Finley and two unsuccessful runs by fullback John Kuhn put the Packers in a fourth and goal situation from the one.  Instead of trying again, Packer head coach Mike McCarthy opted to go for the easy field goal.  The 20-yard attempt was good and the Packers increased their lead to 10-3 with 3:25 to go in the first half.

The Vikings had a quick three and out and the Packers took over at their 38 with just under two minutes to go.  Deep passes to wide receiver Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings gave the Packers a first and goal at the three-yard line.  This time, there would be no easy field goal attempt.  Kuhn ran off right guard for a Packer touchdown.  Crosby made the point after and the Packers now led 17-3 with 38 seconds to go in the first half.  The Vikings couldn’t do much with the ball with the little time that was remaining and the first half ended on an incomplete pass intended for wide receiver Devin Aromashodu.

Starting at their 20, the Packers went right to work.  Two runs by Harris and a nine-yard pass to Jones gave them a first down at the 37.  Another pass to Jones and two more to Harris quickly put them at the Viking 20.  The drive stalled at the 14 and Crosby was once again called on for a field goal attempt.  But, there would be no field goal attempt this time.  The Vikings were flagged for 12 men on the field and that gave the Packers a first down at the nine.  From the nine, Rodgers found Kuhn across the middle.  Kuhn bounced off a couple of Vikings and landed in the end zone for another Packer touchdown.  Crosby made the point after and the Packers now had a commanding 24-3 lead.

Try as they might, the Vikings just didn’t have the ability to come back from such a deficit.  What followed the touchdown by Kuhn was a whole lot of nothing.  The Packers ran the ball and took time off the clock.  However, there would be one more touchdown.  With four minutes to go in the game, wide receiver Michael Jenkins got loose and was wide open on the right sideline.  Webb spotted him and hit him in stride for a 50-yard touchdown.  Walsh made the point after and the Vikings now trailed 24-10 with a little over three minutes to go.  The Packers ran six plays and punted the ball back to the Vikings with 19 seconds to go.  Needless to say, that’s not enough time to score twice.  Final score: Packers 24 Vikings 10.

For the Vikings, Joe Webb completed 11 of 30 for 180 yards, one touchdown, one interception and one lost fumble.  He also had 68 yards rushing on seven carries.  Michael Jenkins and tight end Kyle Rudolph tied for the lead in receptions with three apiece.  Jenkins had the most receiving yards with 96 and one touchdown.  Adrian Peterson ended up with 99 yards on 22 carries and the Packers did a good job of not letting him get loose.  All totaled, the Vikings had 167 yards rushing on 29 carries.  Defensively, linebacker Chad Greenway led the Vikings with ten solo tackles.

For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers completed 23 of 33 for 274 yards and one touchdown.  He spread the ball around to ten different receivers and DuJuan Harris led the team in receptions with five.  Greg Jennings was the leader in receiving yards with 61.  Harris had the most rushing yards with 47 on 17 carries and one touchdown.  As a team, the Packers had just 76 yards on 31 carries.  Defensively, cornerback Sam Shields led the Packers with five solo tackles, two passes defensed and an interception.

With that win, the Packers head out to the Bay Area to take on the San Francisco 49ers next Saturday.  They met in week one in Green Bay and the 49ers came away with a 30-22 win.  A lot has changed since then.  In that game, the “replacement refs” threw 18 flags for 143 yards.  Something tells me that won’t happen this time and it should be a close game.


All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: That’s back to back upsets for the Cardinals of division leaders. Good to see they still have some fight left in them…..Unfortunately, QB Kevin Kolb didn’t play long as he suffered a head injury early in the game and did not return. He has yet to practice in full this week and seems certain to be a game time decision this week…..Everyone thought WR Larry Fitzgerald would be the happiest guy in Arizona when the Cardinals signed Kolb, but he has had his best games this season with John Skelton under center.

Atlanta Falcons: Big comeback win by the Falcons over the Panthers last week. The Falcons are unlikely to catch the Saints in the NFC South, but are looking pretty solid to take one of the wildcard spots…..Although the Falcons keep stating it’s a minor injury, RB Michael Turner just hasn’t been the same since suffering a groin injury. He hasn’t missed any game action, but isn’t putting up his typical numbers either. If it is not the groin, maybe the long season is catching up with him.

Baltimore Ravens: It looks like LB Ray Lewis will be back in the lineup this week. The Ravens played it smart and kept Lewis out of the lineup until he and the team were sure he was ready to return…..WR Torrey Smith has been getting a bigger and bigger role in the Ravens offense each and every week. If he continues to develop, the Ravens may have an offense that can at least rival their defense, but more importantly it will take some of the opposing defense’s attention off of RB Ray Rice.

Buffalo Bills: The Bills came out and stated this week that they won’t take a QB in the first round of next year’s draft. Once again reinforcing their faith in Ryan Fitzpatrick. I have a feeling that’s a mistake. Fitzpatrick can look good at times, but still doesn’t have the look of a franchise quarterback…..The Bills will also have a big decision to make with WR Steve Johnson. Contract talks have broken off, so they may have to figure out if they want to use their franchise tag on him.

Carolina Panthers: QB Cam Newton finally played like a rookie last week, throwing two interceptions to open up the second half and with his team up 16 points in what eventually became a loss. Oh well, growing pains are a part of the job…..It looks like the only thing that may be keeping K Olindo Mare on the roster would be his four-year, $12 million contract. The Panthers brought in Adi Kunalic and promised he will kick Sunday if he outperforms Mare this week in practice.

Chicago Bears: If not for the injury to RB Matt Forte, Marion Barber may have been released before the plane hit the ground after failing to stay inbounds to keep the clock running on the Bears final drive of the 4th quarter; thus giving the Broncos the chance they needed to tie the game and send it to overtime. He than fumbled on the first drive of overtime when it looked like he was breaking into the clear, allowing Denver to win the game.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are quickly blowing what was a good start to the season. They have had trouble beating winning teams all season and it is quickly catching up to them. At this point they may have to win out to make the playoffs…..This all being said, the Bengals do get a layup this week in St. Louis, than Arizona, and even the last game versus Baltimore could be in their favor if the Ravens don’t have anything to play for with their playoff picture solidified.

Cleveland Browns: The Browns are catching plenty of heat for their handling of the concussion suffered by QB Colt McCoy versus Pittsburgh. Apparently no one on the Cleveland medical staff saw McCoy get hit by the oncoming truck that was LB James Harrison, and when they did check him out they were worried about his finger, not his head. Now apparently Browns players suffered multiple concussions during this game which may have spread the medical staff kind of thin, but still someone had to see that hit and say “Hey, you may want to check Colt out.”

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Sunday night, blowing a 12-point lead with five plus minutes left in the game…..Everyone seems to want to blame QB Tony Romo for missing WR Miles Austin with a pass that would have gone for a touchdown late in the 4th quarter, but Austin admitted that he lost the ball in the lights and that’s why he didn’t catch it. Criticizing K Dan Bailey for the block seems to be off base also since the kick wasn’t low. It was much more of a blocking problem or maybe it was just a great play by Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul.

Denver Broncos: QB Tim Tebow is starting to make a believer out of me. This guy finds a way to win every game, even if he did have a tremendous amount of help from the Chicago offense in this one. Now if the Broncos and Tebow are able to beat the Patriots on Sunday, I might be a true believer…..With Tebow being 7-1 as a starter, now the Broncos have little choice but to anoint Tebow as their starting QB next season.

Detroit Lions: Not sure what to make of the Lions who almost blew that game to Minnesota last week and if not for a missed face mask penalty on the final play of the game, may have blown it indeed…..The Lions right now are in a playoff spot but have an interesting schedule over the remainder of the season. They play an Oakland team that is fighting for their playoff lives, a San Diego team that may be doing the same next week, than a Green Bay squad that could be playing for a perfect season. It should be fun times in Motor City.

Green Bay Packers: The Packers can clinch home field throughout the playoffs with either a win or a San Francisco loss. Than the big question would remain, do you play your starters and go for a perfect season, or rest them and make sure you are completely healthy for the playoffs? Now the injury to WR Greg Jennings last week, which will keep him out for the remainder of the regular season, could push the Packers towards playing it safe. But they know that an undefeated season would be immortality, plus they did win the Super Bowl last season which should make going for 19-0 even more of a must.

Houston Texans: You just can’t stop these Texans no matter who is at the wheel. QB Tyler Yates led an impressive comeback over the Bengals last week, a game that was in Cincinnati and much more important to the Bengals than the Texans, but still Yates led them to a game winning drive. Impressive indeed, still though, I’m having a tough time seeing the Texans winning more than one game in the playoffs…..Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be away from the team for the next 7-10 days as he will have a procedure to deal with a kidney ailment. Good luck Wade.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Peyton Manning has started throwing again. The question is, does he have the same zip on the ball that he did before the surgery? Next question still remains, what will the Colts do with Manning after the season and are they still planning on having Manning get in some game action before the end of the season?…..TE Dallas Clark did indeed return to action and didn’t suffer any setbacks with the leg, but did suffer a stinger that has kept him from practicing this week.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The NFL officially ratified Shahid Khan as the owner of the team, and Khan for his part stated once again that he is not planning on moving the team. Now moving the team would be hard anyway as they do have a lease through 2029, but there is an out clause if the Jags lose money for three straight seasons…..RB Maurice Jones-Drew is having an incredible season for a bad team. The numbers he is putting up for a team that has no other offensive weapons is unbelievable.

Kansas City Chiefs: So much for the Todd Haley era as he was fired this week. At least he won’t be around for the beating that the Chiefs are going to take from Green Bay this week. Look for the Chiefs to hire former Broncos head coach and current Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for the top job once the season concludes. He is the man they wanted instead of Haley in the first place, but Denver offered him the job first…..QB Kyle Orton has recovered from his dislocated finger and will start for KC this week.

Miami Dolphins: Head coach Tony Sparano was put out of his misery this week as well. The team certainly played hard for him even though we all knew he was a walking dead man. He won’t have any problems getting another job, either at the head coach or coordinator level…..QB Matt Moore left the game last week with a concussion and hasn’t practiced yet, but should be available to play this week against Buffalo.

Minnesota Vikings: Tough loss for the Vikings last week but some good did come out of it. QB/WR Joe Webb played pretty well after taking over for Christian Ponder and may be able to handle that role in the future. The problem is Minnesota also likes what he can do as a receiver. You really can’t have your backup QB playing receiver, too good a chance of an injury. Maybe you can have your third string QB play receiver though…..Ponder is expected to start this week even though Webb was more effective than he was last week.

New England Patriots: That was some pretty funny stuff watching QB Tom Brady and the Pats offensive coordinator yelling at each other on the sideline after Brady threw an interception last week. Seems though if any of the Pats coaches were going to yell at any of the players, it should be on the defensive side of the ball…..If that was the funny part of the game, than the ridiculous part was watching the Redskin defense trying to tackle TE Rob Gronkowski. It looked like a high school team trying to tackle a top college player–just a joke.

New Orleans Saints: If you’re not a fan of any team in the NFC, you have to be rooting for a Green Bay-New Orleans rematch in the championship game, hopefully in good weather. Now that would be entertainment….TE Jimmy Graham is dealing with a bad back that almost kept him out of the game against Tennessee. He was able to play and has also been able to practice this week so this may not be as serious as it once looked…..RB Mark Ingram has yet to practice this week and may yet miss another game due to turf toe.

New York Giants: What a win for the Giants over the Cowboys on Sunday. They are now in control of their own destiny in the NFC East, but things could get testy. They have what should be a gimme versus Washington this week, although the Skins played the Pats tough. They than have to play the Jets and then Dallas once again. Here’s hoping that last game is a winner take all…..The most impressive thing to me about the Giants’ win wasn’t the 37 points they scored but that they didn’t give up a sack.

New York Jets: The Jets have come alive once again and look like a team that could be dangerous come playoff time. They have a strong running game with Shonne Green and LaDainian Tomlinson, and QB Mark Sanchez has been more careful with the football in the past couple of games. The loss of S Jim Leonard is a blow to the defense, but he missed the playoff run last season as well due to injury.

Oakland Raiders: Not that the Raiders had much of a chance of beating Green Bay anyway, but that is back to back weeks that they virtually didn’t get off the plane. The team certainly has dealt with its share of injuries. Their receiving corps has been decimated and losing their biggest playmaker in RB Darren MacFadden has been huge, but that’s still no excuse for their play of late.

Philadelphia Eagles: QB Michael Vick had a successful return to action last week, but WR Jeremy Maclin did not as he had to leave the game early when his hamstring tightened up on him. He might give it a go once again this week but there is no way of knowing if he will be able to finish the game…..WR DeSean Jackson actually showed up last week and had a big game. The question is, can he do it again, especially with the games becoming more and more meaningless?

Pittsburgh Steelers: It seems unlikely that QB Ben Roethlisberger will play Monday night after suffering a high ankle sprain, an injury that looked pretty ugly when it happened. The Steelers need to think about the future. Sure they would like to win the division, but they have a wildcard spot all but locked up and need to make sure Ben is as close to 100% as possible for the playoffs…..C Maurkice Pouncey also suffered a high ankle sprain. He wants to play, but once again the Steelers may play it safe and hold him out.

San Diego Chargers: Can the Chargers make another miracle comeback in the division? Probably not, but they are once again giving it a go. If only Tim Tebow would stop pulling out these miracles…..With the rash of coaching changes that have been going on, it’s fair to wonder if Norv Turner could be let go when the Chargers next lose a game and are officially eliminated from playoff contention.

San Francisco 49ers: That’s two losses in a row for the 49ers and now they have the Steelers coming to town. Now they have a firm grip on the NFC West but that first round bye might be slipping away…..I still can’t see how this team can win a playoff game. They need to score points. Their defense is good, but not great…..RB Frank Gore is certainly beat up and the 49ers admit that he’s not 100%. But what running back is at this point in the season? The real question is, how far from full health is he?

Seattle Seahawks: RB Marshawn Lynch has set himself up to make a ton of money next season, assuming the Seahawks don’t franchise him. He’s as tough a runner as there is to bring down. Inconsistent, sure, but once he’s in the secondary he’s a runaway train. The Hawks must retain his services next season.

St. Louis Rams: It’s hard to believe that OC Josh McDaniels will be in high demand next season with the way the Rams offense has been this season. Of even more importance is that QB Sam Bradford has certainly regressed this season. Still look for McDaniels to be the Chiefs first choice…..If McDaniels were to leave, would free agent WR Brandon Lloyd leave with him?….Speaking of Bradford, his ankle seems to have taken a turn for the worse and as of now he is unlikely to play Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs look to be out of control and it seems unlikely that coach Raheem Morris keeps his job…..QB Josh Freeman stated that he still doesn’t have the same zip on his fastball due to injury. That could explain the problem he has had with interceptions this season. Freeman has to be one of the more disappointing players this season…..Freeman should be licking his chops at facing the Dallas secondary Saturday–Lord knows everyone else has this season.

Tennessee Titans: Tough loss by the Titans versus the Saints. They had a chance to beat them at the end. They might have had an extra play had rookie QB Jake Locker thrown the ball on the final play. He had time. Even if he throws the ball away, he still would have had another play. Then he could have run around forever and tried to make a play. You can’t take a sack, even if you just heave it up for grabs. Give your team a chance.

Washington Redskins: On that great run by TE Rob Gronkowski last week, did anyone notice CB DeAngelo Hall observing the play while two of his teammates were being dragged by Gronk? Way to get involved…..Coach Mike Shanahan stated this week that QB Rex Grossman is auditioning for the starting job next season. While that may be true, the Skins are sure to use their first-round pick on a rookie quarterback.

Raiders 27, Vikings 21

The Oakland Raiders took their show on the road to Minneapolis, Minnesota to take on the Minnesota Vikings.  The Raiders were coming off a 24-17 win over the San Diego Chargers and the Vikings suffered a 45-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

The Raiders won the toss and deferred to the second half.  The Vikings set up shop at their own 32.  On the very first play of the game, a flag was thrown on the Vikings for a false start.  We’ll be seeing a lot more of those stupid flags as this article progresses.  The penalty gave the Vikings a first and 15 at the 27.  Two carries by running back Adrian Peterson and a completion to tight end Kyle Rudolph netted the Vikings 14 yards and they were forced to punt.  Punter Chris Kluwe got off a good one and the ball went out of bounds at the Raider 16.

The Raiders were still without running back Darren McFadden and that meant Michael Bush would once again get the start.  Some short runs by Bush and Marcel Reece and two completions to tight end Kevin Boss moved the Raiders to the 35.  That was as far as they would go as quarterback Carson Palmer was sacked on third down.  Punter Shane Lechler came on and punted the ball away.

The Vikings started their next drive at their 23.  On second and 11 from the 22, rookie quarterback Christian Ponder scrambled for ten yards to set up a third and one.  On third down, Ponder found fullback Ryan D’ Empirio for a gain of six and a first down at the 38.  Peterson was stuffed for a loss of seven on first down, but Ponder found wide receiver Percy Harvin for a gain of ten on second down to set up a third and seven at the 41.  On the next play, defensive tackle Tommy Kelly beat his man and sacked Ponder.  However, Kelly was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty that gave the Vikings a first down at the 48.  Kelly didn’t have much of a choice when it came to sacking Ponder.  He was behind him and grabbed the back of his jersey and threw him to the ground.  Still, the referee threw the flag.  From there, Ponder found Rudolph for a gain of two.  After that play, another flag was thrown.  This time, it was on linebacker Aaron Curry for a helmet to helmet hit.  My thinking on this penalty was that the referee thought Rudolph was a defenseless receiver.  He caught the pass and started to head up-field.  How does that make him defenseless?  That gave the Vikings 15 more free yards and the ball was moved to the Raider 35.  Percy Harvin got the call on first down and ran up the left side for a 35-yard touchdown.  But, another flag was thrown.  This time it was holding during the run on the Vikings.  That gave them a first and two at the 27.  Harvin was stopped for a loss of six and an incomplete pass to wide receiver Greg Camarillo gave the Vikings a third and eight from the 33.  Ponder connected again with Harvin for a gain of nine down to the 24.  After this play, another flag was thrown for a facemask penalty on safety Tyvon Branch.  After further review, the replay showed that Branch grabbed Harvin by the shoulder and threw him out of bounds.  That moved the ball down to the 12 and Peterson finished the drive with a 12-yard run right up the middle.  Kicker Ryan Longwell made the point after and the Vikings led 7-0 with a little over five minutes to go in the first quarter.

A 46-yard return by return man Taiwan Jones gave the Raiders the ball at their own 45.  A short run by Bush and an incomplete pass set up a third and eight.  On third down, Palmer found Bush for a gain of ten and a first down.  Next, Bush ran up the middle for nine more yards and Reece added 20 more.  That put the ball at the Viking 14.  But the Viking defense stiffened and the Raiders had to settle for a 29-yard field goal from kicker Sebastian Janikowski.  That made the score 7-3 with just under a minute to go in the first quarter.

The Vikings started their next drive at their own 20 and on first down, defensive tackle Desmond Bryant sacked Ponder and forced a fumble.  The ball would roll out of bounds for a loss of ten on the play.  On second down, Peterson ran up the middle for a gain of 12.  On this play, Peterson would injure his ankle and would not return to the game.  He was replaced by running back Toby Gerhart.  With Peterson out and facing a third and eight, Ponder decided to show his mobility and he ripped off a 28-yard run up the right side for a first down at the 50.  Ponder then found Harvin again for a gain of 24.  Short runs by Harvin and Gerhart gave the Vikings a third and five at the 23.  On third down, Ponder threw to the right side looking again for Harvin.  Instead, he found safety Matt Giordano at the five-yard line.  Giordano returned the ball to the Raider 47.

On first down, Palmer finally hooked up with wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey for a nice 31-yard completion.  However, this play would not stand as left tackle Jarred Veldheer was flagged for holding.  But, on second and 21, Palmer found tight end Brandon Myers for a gain of 21.  Myers made a nice diving catch and that gave the Raiders a first down.  A gain of six by Bush and a defensive holding penalty gave the Raiders another first down at the 27.  Palmer then hooked up with wide receiver Denarius Moore for a gain of 14.  An incomplete pass and a short gain by Myers set up a third and eight at the 11.  Palmer looked to his right on third down and fired a pass in between two Viking defenders that was caught by wide receiver Chaz Schilens for an 11-yard touchdown.  Janikowski sent a knuckle ball through the uprights and the Raiders led 10-7 with nine minutes to go in the first half.

Viking return man Marcus Sherels returned the kick 35 yards to give the Vikings a first down at their 45.  A short run by Gerhart, a completion to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and a false start gave the Vikings a third and eight at the 47.  Ponder once again took off running and this time he ran for 17 yards up the right side to give the Vikings a first down at the Raider 36.  The Vikings got as far as the 31 and were forced to try a field goal.  On the field goal attempt, holder Chris Kluwe had the ball down, but Longwell did not attempt to kick it.  Tyvon Branch threw Kluwe backwards for a loss of 12.  That gave the Raiders the ball at their own 43.  On second and seven, Bush rumbled up the left side for a gain of 28 to move the ball to the Viking 26.  On third and eight from the 24, Palmer found Heyward-Bey for nine yards and a first down.  On second and nine, Reece caught a pass for a gain of 12 down to the two.  Bush finished the job from there with a two-yard touchdown run.  Janikowski made the point after and that gave the Raiders a 17-7 lead with a little over a minute to go in the half.

On the ensuing kickoff, return man Lorenzo Booker was hit hard by Brandon Myers and fumbled.  The ball was recovered by rookie cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke.  That gave the Raiders excellent field position at the Viking 16.  A short run by Bush and an 11-yard catch by Boss set up a first and goal at the one with time ticking away.  Palmer tried to sneak it over the top on first down and was stopped for no gain.  Raider head coach Hue Jackson called the third timeout and with 12 seconds to go, Palmer once again went over the top.  This time, the ball crossed the goal line for a touchdown.  Janikowski made the point after and the Raiders led 24-7 at the end of the first half.

In the third quarter, both teams could do nothing with the ball.  It was a punt-fest until four minutes remained in the quarter.  On first down from his own 20, Ponder threw a pass intended for wide receiver Michael Jenkins.  The ball was tipped by cornerback Lito Sheppard and came down into the arms of  big Tommy Kelly.  He was brought down immediately, but the Raiders now had a chance to go up 31-7 and put the game away.  A completion to Boss and two more runs by Bush put the ball at the Viking 12 for a first down.  Bush got eight more, but a false start on offensive tackle Khalif Barnes moved the ball back five yards.  Bush was stuffed on the next play and Palmer couldn’t connect with Boss in the end zone on third down.  Janikowski was called on to make a 26-yard field and the kick was good.  It was now 27-7 with 51 seconds to go in the third quarter.

The Vikings took over at their own 32.  On third and six from the 36, Ponder hit wide receiver Devin Aromashodu for a gain of 42 down to the Raider 26.  On the very next play, Ponder found Harvin again and this time it was for a 26-yard touchdown.  Longwell made the point after and the score was now 27-14 with an entire quarter to play.

The Raiders started out at their own 36 and two more completions to Heyward-Bey moved the ball to the Viking 33.  A gain of three by Bush and a sack made it third and 12 from the 35.  Palmer found Heyward-Bey across the middle for a gain of four.  Heyward-Bey went down and did not get up.  As he was going down, Linebacker E.J. Henderson hit him in the back of his helmet and Heyward-Bey was taken off the field on a stretcher.  (After the game, it was reported that he was in a neck brace, but made the trip home with the team.)  That led to another field goal attempt by Janikowski.  This one was blocked and the Vikings had good field position at their own 40.

Three plays by the Vikings gained eight yards and they decided to go for it on fourth and two.  A pass intended for Jenkins was incomplete.  But, illegal contact was called on Lito Sheppard to give the Vikings a first down.  Again, Ponder showed his mobility and on first down, he ran up the left side for 17 yards down to the Raider 33.  Linebacker Rolando McClain was called for illegal contact on the play and that gave the Vikings five more yards.  On second and ten from the 28, Gerhart ran up the left side and was promptly met by three Raiders.  He was stopped for a loss, but a fourth Raider decided to get in on the act as Desmond Bryant dove on top of Gerhart when he was already down.  Guess what happened next?  A flag was thrown.  Who do you think the penalty was on?  You guessed it.  The penalty was on the Raiders for unnecessary roughness.  If you’re scoring at home, that was the fourth personal foul on the Raiders in this game.  That gave the Vikings a first down at the 15.  On the next play, Ponder was sacked for no gain.  However, another flag was thrown.  This time it was on safety Michael Mitchell for defensive holding.  Hue Jackson looked like he wanted to kill someone.  I’m sure I did too.  A gain of four by Gerhart and a one-yard pass to Harvin gave the Vikings a third and five at the five.  Ponder threw to his right looking for Aromashodu.  But, he found cornerback Stanford Routt instead.  Routt picked off the ball in the end zone, got two feet down and went out of bounds.

That was just what the Raiders needed and with eight minutes to go, they could turn the ball over to Michael Bush and run some time off the clock.  Starting from their own 20, Bush ran the ball three straight times for 24 yards.  But, on his fourth carry, Bush fumbled the ball away and it was recovered by defensive end Brian Robison.

Ponder and the offense took over at the Raider 38 and he wasted no time as he fired a strike between two defenders across the middle to Shiancoe for a gain of 37.  From the one, he found Rudolph for a one-yard touchdown.  Longwell made the point after and it was now 27-21 with five minutes to go.

So, with five minutes to go and their 20 point lead now cut to six, the Raiders still had some work to do.  They would have to start from their own nine after a holding call on the kickoff return.  A run by Reece for 13 and two penalties on the Vikings put the ball at the Raider 33.  On third down from the 39, Palmer had time, but couldn’t find an open receiver.  He was sacked for a loss of nine by E.J. Henderson.  Lechler punted the ball away and the Vikings had the ball at their own 29 with three minutes to go and one timeout remaining.

Ponder took to the air right away and on second down, he hooked up with Jenkins for a gain of 15.  From the 44, Ponder found Jenkins again for a short gain.  On second down, a pass intended for Aromashodu fell incomplete.  On third down, Tommy Kelly sacked Ponder for no gain.  So, with two minutes to go and with a fourth and eight, Ponder went looking for Harvin.  The pass was knocked away by Tyvon Branch and the Raiders took over with 1:52 to go.  Bush ran for four yards on first down and the Vikings called their final timeout.  Bush was stopped for minimal gains on second and third down and that led to another punt by Lechler with 13 seconds remaining. Two things on this play confused me.  The first thing was why wasn’t the ball punted out of bounds or through the end zone?  The Raiders have allowed two punt returns for touchdowns this season.    The second thing that confused me was when Marcus Sherels fielded the punt, why did he run all the way across the field on the return?  He should have called a fair catch.  Granted, he got 12 yards, but he let some precious seconds tick off the clock during the return.

That gave the Vikings one last chance to score with two seconds on the clock.  From his own 23,  Ponder found Jenkins at the 35.  Jenkins tried to lateral it to Gerhart, but the ball popped loose and was recovered by Aaron Curry to give the Raiders a 27-21 win.  The win gave the Raiders a six and four record and they remained in first place in the AFC West.  The loss dropped the Vikings to two and eight.

Carson Palmer had an efficient game and completed 17 of 23 for 164 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a one-yard touchdown run.  He was sacked four times, but he looked comfortable out there and didn’t force any bad throws.  Darrius Heyward-Bey led the team with four catches for 43 yards.  Michael Bush had 30 carries again this week and he rushed for 109 yards, one touchdown and had one costly fumble.  He also had 20 yards receiving.  Another valuable member of this team is fullback Marcel Reece.  Reece had six carries for 45 yards and 16 yards receiving.  Altogether, the Raiders had 162 yards rushing.

For the Vikings, rookie quarterback Christian Ponder completed 19 of 33 for 211 yards, two touchdowns and he was picked off three times.  He also added 71 yards rushing on five carries.  With Adrian Peterson leaving due to an injury, Ponder was the leading rusher for the Vikings.  Before leaving the game, Peterson had six carries for 26 yards and a touchdown.  Altogether the Vikings rushed for 124 yards.  Percy Harvin was the leading receiver with six catches for 73 yards and a touchdown.  He also had 21 yards rushing.

After the game, Raider head coach Hue Jackson was glad his team won, but he was very unhappy with the officiating and thought that the calls were very one sided.  The Raiders were flagged 12 times for 117 yards and the Vikings were flagged nine times for 50 yards.  Jackson says he is going to bring this to the attention of the league and wants the referees to call the games fairly.  Hue, I wish you all the luck in the world.  Previous head coaches have tried to do the same thing and it has fallen on deaf ears.  When Jon Gruden was the head coach, he was documenting all the penalties called against the Raiders.  He made a tape of them and brought it to the league office.  Nothing was done about it.  Those silver and black uniforms are magnets for yellow flags and they always have been.  It’s just something that Jackson is going to have to deal with.  For his sake and the sake of the team and the fans, I hope things improve, but I have my doubts.  Still, he’ll probably be fined for his comments too.

I like the fact that the Raiders came away with a win despite all those penalties.  What I didn’t like was they let the Vikings back in the game.  The normally loud crowd at the Metrodome was totally out of it by halftime.  But, a win is a win and I’ll take it.  The next game on the schedule for the Raiders is a home game against the Chicago Bears.  The Bears will be without quarterback Jay Cutler, but they are still a very dangerous team.  Running back Matt Forte is the leader of a solid offense and not only is he a good rusher, he is a very dangerous receiver.  Add return man Devin Hester and speedy wide receiver Johnny Knox and the Raider defense and special teams will have their hands full.  The Bear defense also does a great job at forcing turnovers and they’ll be looking to get to Palmer.  Maybe we’ll finally see Darren McFadden active again and hopefully wide receiver Jacoby Ford will be back too.  Time will tell.  Until then, take it easy.

The Raider Guy




All Out Blitz

Arizona Cardinals: Hopefully the bye week will allow the Cardinals passing game to figure things out. Teams are bracketing WR Larry Fitzgerald which forces QB Kevin Kolb to search for other options, and as nice an early season surprise as Early Doucet has been, he’s just not the answer…..There are whispers in the desert that Ken Whisenhunt’s job could be in jeopardy if the team doesn’t turn this season around. How far that Super Bowl appearance must seem now.

Atlanta Falcons: With the team having a bye in Week 8 and WR Julio Jones still dealing with a hamstring injury, look for the Falcons to play it safe and keep Jones on the bench once again…..WR  Roddy White has knee and thigh issues.  Although neither one is considered a serious injury, they must be the reason for his subpar start to the season.

Baltimore Ravens: WR Lee Evans is still dealing with an ankle injury and is once again unlikely to play this week–not that it matters much since rookie Torrey Smith has filled the void quite well so far…..Rookie CB Jimmy Smith is expected to return this week. He won’t start, but he’ll fortify the secondary…..Ravens play the Jaguars on Monday Night Football. When did the schedule makers think this would be a good prime time game?

Buffalo Bills: As good as QB Ryan Fitzpatrick as been this season, those pair of interceptions he threw to the Giants Corey Webster lost the game for Buffalo last week, but that hasn’t stopped the team and Fitz from coming close on a new contract that will pay Fitzpatrick quite a few more dollars than he is making now…..With the Bills depth at WR being tested due to injuries, C.J. Spiller will remain on the outside for the time being–not like he was going to get many carries over Fred Jackson anyway.

Carolina Panthers: TE Greg Olsen has a toe injury, but it won’t keep him from the game this week…..There were some rumors that QB Cam Newton would be told to not take off and run as much as he has been, but apparently that is not the case. Still one has to wonder if that demand will be coming in the future…..I’m really starting to regret trading Newton in a dynasty fantasy league before the season began.

Chicago Bears: QB Jay Cutler and offensive coordinator Mike Martz seem to be at odds over how the offense is run. Funny timing as Cutler had his best game of the week last Sunday, and that may have been partly due to Martz keeping more blockers in than usual to stop Cutler from taking a beating each and every week…..WR Devin Hester left the game early Sunday with a chest injury, but is expected to play in London this week.

Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals seemed to have done pretty well in trading QB Carson Palmer to the Raiders before the trade deadline, getting a 1st round pick next year, and a 2nd round pick in 2013 (could upgrade to another 1st rounder if the Raiders make the championship game in one of the next two seasons). Seems GM Mike Brown was able to extract a small fortune from Oakland due to good timing (Jason Campbell’s injury) and Brown’s stance that Palmer would never be traded. Good move for Cincinnati, they have their QB of the future in Andy Dalton, and now they get extra draft picks to build around him.

Cleveland Browns: There were plenty of rumors floating around at the trade deadline that RB Peyton Hillis could be on the block. It appears the team and Hillis just haven’t been on the same page this season and with Hillis due a new contract after the season, there was some thought they would ship him out…..CB Joe Haden is still dealing with a knee issue but it looks like he may be able to give it a go this week…..GM Mike Holmgren has stated that Colt McCoy will be the starting QB for the Browns for this season and beyond.

Dallas Cowboys: Is there anyone else that has noticed how badly outcoached Dallas seems to get every game? After throwing three picks in that loss to Detroit, it was almost like Patriots coach Bill Belichick knew that Dallas would look to play it conservative and take the ball out of QB Tony Romo’s hands and run the ball more than usual. Belichick had a strong run game plan and Dallas couldn’t get anywhere on the ground. Someone has to explain to me why Dallas coach Jason Garrett thought Dallas would be able to run the ball for a first down on that final drive. They couldn’t run the ball when NE didn’t know it was coming, more or less when they did.

Denver Broncos: Broncos fans will get what they wanted this week when the Tim Tebow era begins. You have to like the Broncos giving Tebow all the help they can by trading his best receiver, Brandon Lloyd. Hopefully the Broncos will design the offense around Tebow’s strengths, putting him in the shotgun as much as possible and letting him throw on the run. I have a feeling coach John Fox is not going to tell Tebow to curtail his running, that may be the only way they gain yardage.

Detroit Lions: RB Javhid Best won’t play this week due to suffering yet another concussion last week. There are also rumors that some believe Best should sit out the remainder of the season. While that may be the correct choice for his health, it looks like Best will play as soon as he is cleared…..The Lions tried to beef up the running game with the acquisition of Ronnie Brown, but that trade was voided due to health concerns with Jerome Harrison. Maurice Morris will handle the running load for Detroit for now.

Green Bay Packers: TE JerMichael Finley only had one reception for 20 yards last week. If you take away his three TD performance against Chicago, Finley has really had a disappointing season so far…..Green Bay is a good team, but you have to wonder if their lack of a running game and injuries to the offensive line will eventually catch up to them.

Houston Texans: WR Andre Johnson is getting closer to a return, but it won’t be this week. The Texans are hurting without their best offensive player in Johnson and best defensive player in DE Mario Williams…..WR Jacoby Jones is also dealing with a groin injury, but should be good to go this Sunday…..The Texans really need to win this week. A loss to the Titans would put them a game and a half behind Tennessee, and with Indianapolis self-destructing without Peyton Manning, this has to be the season Houston wins the division and makes the playoffs.

Indianapolis Colts: If I had an MVP vote, I would have to give serious consideration to placing Peyton Manning on the ballot. NFL experts have thought for years that the successful Colts weren’t the most talented of teams but rather a product of Manning’s greatness. That theory seems to have been proven this season. I might not place him atop the ballot, but he’d be on it…..RB Joseph Addai is battling a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable to play Sunday night, but most expect him to go.

Jacksonville Jaguars: How desperate were the Jaguars at WR to re-sign Mike Sims-Walker, a player they had no interest in re-signing this off-season…..Former Jaguars QB David Garrard will need to undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, bad timing as he may have been the choice for the Raiders had he been healthy. His season is pretty much done. I’m sure he will want to compete for a starting job next season but seems ticketed for a backup job.

Kansas City Chiefs: Rookie WR Jon Baldwin has recovered from his broken thumb but will still be a game-time decision Sunday…..Fantasy owners have probably flocked to RB Jackie Battle after his big Week 5 performance, but that game may be the highlight of his season rather than a sign of more things to come…..Any kind of running game however would help out Matt Cassel and the passing game. WR Steve Breaston has been impressive of late with defenses paying more attention to Dwayne Bowe.

Miami Dolphins: If you look at WR Brandon Marshall’s numbers, it looks like he is having a solid season but it could be much better if he would stop dropping touchdown passes. By most accounts, he has dropped four this season and that doesn’t even count last week where after catching a pass and not having a defender within 10 yards, he ran out of bounds. I still haven’t heard an explanation as to why that happened.

Minnesota Vikings:  Let the Christian Ponder era begin! Good luck kid, you get to face the defending Super Bowl Champion Packers, and yeah, they are undefeated…..One has to wonder if this is the end of the line for Donovan McNabb. Sure, some team would probably take him as a backup next season, but would this possible Hall of Famer want to go in that direction…..RB Adrian Peterson is going to be facing eight man fronts constantly until Ponder proves he can beat defenses with the pass.

New England Patriots: RB Kevin Faulk, remember him, could be taken off the IR after the Pats bye. He has recovered from his ACL tear. Just what fantasy owners need, more confusion in the Patriots backfield…..I am kind of surprised New England didn’t make a stronger play for WR Brandon Lloyd. He would seem to be the kind of player coach Bill Belichick likes, a veteran who is playing for a new contract–plus he could’ve used the bye week to learn the offense.

New Orleans Saints: TE Jimmy Graham, who may be the best tight end in the NFL this season, is dealing with an ankle injury and is iffy to play Sunday night. Not good for those fantasy owners who need to set their lineup before the early games…..The return of WR Marques Colston and the continued emergence of Graham have made WR Robert Meacham more of an afterthought in the offense. He’ll still have some big games here and there, but he is rarely the go to receiver on any given play.

New York Giants: Living in New York, it’s sort of amusing to hear the Giants players feuding with former teammates Antonio Pierce and Michael Strahan. It seems the current Giants don’t appreciate their former teammates being critical of several players not playing through injury…..With the return of one of those players, DE Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul could see his snaps reduced. This would be a shame as Pierre-Paul has been playing well and is second in the NFL with 7.5 sacks.

New York Jets: The Jets are going to have RB LaDainian Tomlinson start versus his former team this week. It is safe to say LT and CB Antonio Cromartie may have a little extra motivation to beat their former mates…..With the Jets ground game being somewhat lethargic this season, there are some that believe Joe McKnight should be given a bigger role. While it’s true he is not built to take a pounding, we have all seen what he has done on special teams, might as well find out if he can add that same spark to the offense.

Oakland Raiders: Not a big fan of the Raiders trade for QB Carson Palmer. I understand you are 4-2, have a shot to win the division, lost Jason Campbell for most of the season, probably can’t win with Kyle Boller, but was it really worth a 1st round choice next season, and a conditional 1st round pick in 2013 for a QB that could have an elbow problem? If Palmer is healthy and can make all the throws, than the price is not all that exorbitant as Palmer is only 31 years old and could be your franchise QB for the next five years or so, but if he’s not, this could bury the Raiders for quite a while.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles changed up their offense last week versus Washington, using quite a few more three-step drops than usual to avoid QB Michael Vick taking all those hits. It should be interesting to see if coach Andy Reid will continue with that change in the weeks to come…..You think Lions RB Jerome Harrison owes the Eagles doctors a Christmas card. After he was traded to the team, during his physical he told the doctors that he had been experiencing headaches. The doctors then discovered a benign tumor in his head. The trade may have been voided, but without it, this tumor may have never been found. Harrison is out for the year, but his continued health is all that’s important.

Pittsburgh Steelers: S Troy Polamalu was caught making a cell phone call on the sidelines during last week’s game and was fined $10K for doing so. Polamalu said he was calling his wife–feel free to insert your own joke here…..There has been some worry that WR Mike Wallace might miss this week’s game with a hamstring injury, but he is listed as probable and should be good to go.

San Diego Chargers: TE Antonio Gates is still struggling with his foot injury but still might give it a shot this week. The Chargers need his presence in the offense to take away some of the defensive focus off of WR Vincent Jackson, not to mention he’s a pretty good TE…..RB Mike Tolbert hasn’t had any post concussion  symptoms during the bye week and has been cleared to play Sunday…..Tolbert’s partner Ryan Matthews is also completely healthy, but as we all know with him that can change after one carry Sunday.

San Francisco 49ers: Bye week comes at a pretty good time for the 49ers as they need to get their WR corps back in gear. Hopefully Braylon Edwards can return in Week 8…..Tell me you weren’t wishing that Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz wouldn’t have slugged it out after last week’s game. You have to love when the coaches act worse than the players. I’m not sure why the league insists on the coaches exchanging handshakes after the game anyway–this is bound to happen again–the teams just battled each other for three hours and there is so much pressure to win, a cooling off period would seem to be a must.

Seattle Seahawks: It’s looking more and more likely that QB Tarvaris Jackson will miss the game with his chest injury, meaning Charlie Whitehurst will make the start. It would seem that no matter how well Whitehurst plays, it’s still Jackson’s job when he returns…..K Steven Hauschka has only attempted six FGs so far this season. The offense just doesn’t move the ball, even into FG range.

St. Louis Rams: I know the Rams need WR help and Brandon Lloyd had the best season of his career in a Josh McDaniels’ offense, but the Rams are 0-5, this certainly looks like a lost season, and Lloyd is a free agent after the season who will be looking for a big pay day. Why give up any draft pick for such a player at this point in time? Perhaps they will make a big run at re-signing him…..QB Sam Bradford is doubtful to play this week with a high ankle sprain. It might be a good idea to sit out a game rather than being a statue for LBs DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs are once again playing in England and you have to wonder if they would like to make this an annual occurrence as the Glazer family owns Manchester United as well as the Buccaneers…..RB LeGarrette Blount will once again miss the game in jolly old England with his knee injury, but Earnest Graham was more than a capable fill-in last week and should be once again…..TE Kellen Winslow is not on the injury report but still admits that his knee isn’t 100% and most likely won’t be for the remainder of the season.

Tennessee Titans: Some are wondering if the Titans are the most likely landing spot for WR Terrell Owens once he is declared healthy enough to play…..Look for the Titans to increase the role of WR Donnie Avery now that he has had two weeks to learn the offensive system…..A win by the Titans this week and they will be in the driver’s seat in the AFC South.

Washington Redskins: Not exactly a big shock that the Skins changed QBs. The Shanahans seemed to prefer John Beck in the off-season but when he was outplayed by Rex Grossman, they gave Rex first crack. Does anyone really believe Beck will be the starter for the remainder of the season? I know I don’t…..TE Chris Cooley is going to miss a considerable amount of time with a finger injury, and this might be the best thing for Washington as Fred Davis is a much better player and now won’t have to worry about Cooley stealing his reps.