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On a play that was a design run from the snap, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick received excellent lead blocks from running back Frank Gore and offensive tackle Joe Staley. Their blocks allowed Kaepernick to get outside and run for an easy 12-yard touchdown.
With defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and inside linebacker Jerod Mayo sidelined with injuries, Miami was able to exploit New England’s defense in the first half by running between the tackles. The combination of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas rushed for 74 first-half yards against the middle of New England’s defense. Both Wilfork and Mayo are out for the season, so this problem’s likely to persist for the Patriots.
Every game has its turning point. For this one, it was Mike Wallace’s third-quarter drop on a second-and-2 inside New England’s red zone. Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill did throw the ball slightly behind him, but the receiver did get both his hands on the ball. After signing Wallace to a $60 million dollar contract last off-season, the Dolphins expect him to make these types of plays. He may have scored had he hung onto the ball, and at the very least, the play would’ve setup Miami with a first-and-goal. Two plays later, Miami kicker Caleb Sturgis missed a field goal attempt, breathing new life into the Patriots, who would score the game’s final 24 points en route to their 27-17 victory.
It may be another decade before we see another receiving clinic like the one Calvin Johnson put on against Dallas. His 329 single-game receiving yards were the second most in NFL history. His best play, however, may have come in the first quarter on an 87-yard reception. On the play, Dallas linebacker Ernie Sims bit on a play fake, leaving the middle of the field exposed for Johnson to exploit. Johnson, who ran a quick slant, got a clean release off the line of scrimmage, which was a theme throughout the afternoon. As he would do all day, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford hit Johnson in stride. Thanks to two miss tackles from Dallas defenders, Johnson was off to the races. The play wound up leading to Detroit’s first touchdown on a fourth-and-goal, which not coincidently, was a short pass to Johnson.
Detroit had four turnovers in this game, but none was as frustrating as Reggie Bush’s third-quarter fumble. While attempting to avoid Dallas defenders, Bush went to switch the ball from his right to left hand. He didn’t tuck the ball away, however, leaving it exposed for a defender to slap it out of his hand. That’s exactly what happened. There’s no excuse for his reckless ball security. Tucking the ball away is one of the first things you learn . . . as a kid.
Antonio Cromartie gave a textbook example as to why scouts love cornerbacks with long arms. On Cincinnati’s opening drive, wide receiver A.J. Green clearly beat Cromartie, but the latter was able to extend his right arm and deflect Andy Dalton’s pass away. Without Cromartie’s long arms, Green would’ve had a 78-yard touchdown.
The Bengals were aggressive early and often against the Jets. In the first quarter, Dalton threw four passes that traveled 20 or more yards in the air. He completed just one, though another drew a pass interference penalty. Nonetheless, it was evident early that Cincinnati was going to attack the Jets’ secondary deep. The Jets failed to realize this before it got out of hand.
Arizona wide receiver Michael Floyd deserves an assist on running back Andre Ellington’s second-quarter touchdown run. The Falcons did a nice job of plugging the middle, so the only way Ellington was going to do anything was if he broke outside. Atlanta cornerback Robert Alford’s responsibility was to contain the outside, but Floyd completely drove the rookie cornerback into the center of the field, opening up the outside for Ellington to exploit. He did for the tune of 80 yards.
Aaron Rodgers was phenomenal on third downs. He completed 10-of-10 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns. He also converted three third downs with his legs. Overall, the Packers had 15 third and fourth-down conversations, which is the most by a Green Bay team since the 1970 merger.
Because Minnesota was unable to get off the field, they were tiring into the second half. The Packers were able to exploit a worn down Vikings’ defense by running the ball to close out the game. Eddie Lacy (5-11 & 231 pounds) and James Starks (6-1 & 203 pounds) combined for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 21 second-half carries.