North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Dolphins swim past sinking Bills – NFL Notebook

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How did that Smashing Pumpkins song go? The end is the beginning of the end? Well, week 13 is the beginning of the end of the NFL season and is a good time to see when teams are for real and when an easy schedule has inflated them.

Anyway, I only watched two games this week, so here’s my take on them, plus a few notes on games I only saw highlights of.

Eagles/Giants:

For a team that’s supposed to be the best in the NFL, the Giants couldn’t get anything going against the Eagles. Early on it was all going their way – Eli was making passes and Eagles defence was playing loose, getting called for penalties.

But early on, two plays went bad for them. Opening drive: on a second and five the Giants tried to stir things up with a reverse, but lose 12 yards in the process. They made it a fourth and four after a nice quick pass to the side, but when Eli went for it, the team looked confused. An Eagles blitz threw off Eli’s timing and he dumped an incomplete pass.

The other came a bit later. Early in the second quarter, Manning tested the Eagles secondary, aired out a long pass for Hixon, hitting him in the numbers. But Hixon couldn’t haul it in.

Thing about this game was that the Giants couldn’t, didn’t take advantage of their chances. After that long bomb, Eli missed his next five of six and the Giants found themselves down 10-0.

It’s a cliché to call a low-scorer a defence battle, but that’s what this was: each defence blocked two field goals (the Giants scored their first major returning one of them) and neither QB got more then 200 yards passing. Manning was held to just 123 yards and a 48 per cent completion rate, both his lowest of the season.

On the other side, McNabb threw for more yards and completed more passes, but you can’t say he outplayed Eli by much: his 191 yards were the second lowest of the year and after his picking apart the Cards last week, he seems to have drifted back down to Earth.

But it was cold and windy in Jersey on Sunday and it reminded of an old line by Don DeLillo: when it’s bad weather, favour the underdog.

The Giants were eight point favorites. The Eagles won by six. They’re seven and five now and are still alive. Don’t count them out yet.

***
Miami / Buffalo

In the first regular season game to be played in Canada, fans paid through the nose, with about $183 Canadian the average price for a ticket. Expensive, yes.

Worth it? No.

What all of the paying fans saw was the Bills –and not even their hometown Bills, a neutral crowd if anything – look listless and flounder against their divisional rivals.

They saw a game with only one touchdown and one that resolved almost nothing in a crowded AFC East. The Bills, at 6-7, are done. Finished. The Dolphins are 8-5, tied with the Jets and Patriots.

Lost in this, though, was Pennington throwing a great game – nearly perfect at 23 of 29, for 181 yards and a major. Maybe it’s come to be expected of him, though: this was his fifth game where his QB rating was in triple digits and the fourth where he completed at least three-quarters of his passes.

It’s got something to do, I’m sure, with their receiving corps; yet their starters include Anthony Fasano and Devone Bess. Those who know not those names are forgiven. The more highly regarded Greg Cahey

Nonetheless, this match meant a lot less then it should have: the Bills who started off so hot, have fallen off the map. The Dolphins, who won only one game last year – in overtime, no less – could win 10 this year and could find themselves in the playoffs.

Not all of this is on Pennington, yes. But what a difference he has made from Trent Green, from Cleo Lemon and from John Beck. His sharp and accurate passing has made all the difference for the Dolphins.

****
Assorted notes:

Another week, another close game for the Texans. This time, though, they pulled one out, winning on a last second field goal over Green Bay. But don’t read too much into their stats: it was another time where the Texans couldn’t put it away and this time they got lucky. Matt Schaub shouldn’t throw for over 400 yards and only barely win…. The Falcons had their first major test of the year on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. How did they fare? Not badly; Matt Ryan threw for over 300 yards. And they kept in the game, which wobbled back and forth. It’s a loss, yes, and it could hurt them in a busy NFC South. But as far as losses go, it’s a good one: it showed the Falcons can keep pace with good teams playing for their season. … I know it’s late to the party, but this years Lions team is maybe the worst I’ve ever seen. Last year the Dolphins almost went 0-16, but a few breaks here and there, they could have been a three, four game winning team. That’s not even close to the case with the Lions.

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Written by M.

December 9, 2008 at 2:32 am

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