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Many of safety Brandon Meriweather’s critics call him a dirty player, citing his tendency to lead with his helmet. He did nothing to silence that criticism on Sunday. During Green Bay’s opening drive, Meriweather went headfirst into Green Bay running back Eddie Lacy, knocking the rookie out of the game with a concussion. He delivered a similar blow to running back James Starks later in the game. On that play, however, he knocked himself out with a concussion. Meriweather needs to get the memo on player safety. His recklessness isn’t just detrimental to an offensive player’s well-being, but as seen with Meriweather‘s hit on Starks, it’s also about protecting defensive players from themselves.
Starks’ 35-yard third-quarter touchdown run put him over 100 rushing yards. This marked the first time in 45 regular-season game that Green Bay had a 100-yard rusher. The stat doesn’t include playoff games, however. Of note, the Packers did have a 100-yard rusher in a 2010 Wild Card playoff game at Philadelphia. On that day, Starks ran for 123 yards on 23 carries.
It was a career day for Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The former MVP tied a Green Bay record -- set by Matt Flynn -- with 480 passing yards. He also added four touchdowns. Much of Rodgers’ success had to do with Green Bay’s plan to attack rookie cornerback David Amerson. Whether it was James Jones or Jordy Nelson, Rodgers attacked Amerson down the field. The rookie allowed 125 receiving yards and a touchdown.
This was the first time in Green Bay’s 94-year history in which they had a 400-yard passer and 100-yard rusher in the same game.
For Kansas City, their best drive of the day was arguably their first drive. Quarterback Alex Smith orchestrated a methodical drive that ended with a Kansas City touchdown. The Cowboys had no answer for Smith’s scrambling. He had 40 of his career-high 57 rushing yards on that drive, including a critical 17-yard run to convert a third-and-15.
Blitz pick-up could be an issue for the Chiefs. Running back Jamaal Charles whiffed on a block attempt during the fourth quarter, allowing inside linebacker Bruce Carter to pounce on Smith. The Chiefs were already in range for a 51-yard field goal attempt, but the sack took Kansas City out of kicker Ryan Succop’s range.
Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant is receiving praise for his Sunday performance, but much of his production came only in the first quarter. He caught five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown in the first 15 minutes, but had four catches for just 41 yards the rest of the game. In addition, during the fourth quarter, quarterback Tony Romo hit Bryant in stride on a deep pass down the sideline. The play could’ve changed the trajectory of the game, but Bryant let the ball slip through his hands.
On wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s 60-yard touchdown catch, San Diego safety Marcus Gilchrist left cornerback Shareece Wright on an island. Gilchrist was out of position, allowing Jackson to beat the corner for the score. However, late in the fourth, Gilchrist made amends by breaking up a third-and-10 pass attended for wide receiver Jason Avant. The play forced Philadelphia to tie the game with a field goal instead of converting a potential go-head touchdown. Shortly after, San Diego broke the tie with a game-winning field goal.
It may seem trivial, but San Diego’s game-winning field goal may never have happened if not for running back Danny Woodhead. On third-and-4, Woodhead caught a Rivers pass in the flat. Philadelphia linebacker Connor Barwin was in position to make the stop, but Woodhead somehow avoided the tackle, converting the key third down.
Give Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler his due. He was money in the clutch on Sunday. Minnesota cornerback Chris Cook was devastated after the game, but he wasn’t in a bad position, while defending tight end Martellus Bennett on the Bears’ game-winning touchdown. Had Cutler thrown the ball inside, Cook could’ve made a play on it. However, Cutler put the ball on the back-shoulder, making sure Bennett was the only player capable of making that catch. There’s no defense for a perfect pass.
Carolina’s secondary is still reeling after allowing the game-winning touchdown with just seconds remaining. Out of a two-receiver set, Johnson ran a corner route, while wide receiver Chris Hogan came underneath him. Both Carolina corners went with Hogan, leaving Johnson wide-open for the game-winning touchdown.
Less than a minute remaining and third-and-1, wide receiver Kenny Britt beat his man on a slant route. This is supposed to be as easy as they come in the NFL, but quarterback Jake Locker’s throw inexplicably sailed on him. The Titans punted the ball to Houston and never received another possession.
Cornerback Jason McCourty’s going to have nightmares about wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, as both of Hopkins’ big catches -- including the game-winning touchdown -- came with McCourty draped all over him. Neither play drew a penalty, but it didn’t matter, as the rookie made both plays.
A week after his awful performance against Baltimore, Denver wide receiver Eric Decker led the Broncos in targets with 13. He caught nine of those passes for 87 yards.
The Giants came out attacking the middle of the field Sunday. Wide receivers Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and tight end Brandon Myers all had plays of 20 or more yards. Denver made excellent halftime adjustments, however, taking away the middle of the field from quarterback Eli Manning. Eight of Manning’s second-half completions (47 percent) were outside the numbers. That’s opposed to just two of his 11 first-half completions (18 perception) coming outside the numbers.
Seattle’s defense was almost daring San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick to keep the ball on the read-option. The Seahawks seemed willing to concede yardage to Kaepernick rather than give up anything inside. Kaepernick led the 49ers in rushing with 87.
San Francisco’s wide receivers failed to make an impact against Seattle’s vaunted secondary. A week after catching 13 passes, wide receiver Anquan Boldin was targeted just four times, catching just one pass. In addition, the rest of the receivers didn’t pickup the slack. Including Boldin’s one reception, San Francisco receivers caught a combined six passes on Sunday night.