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Row12.com - A Community of Sports Writers and Fans!                                               ***Attention Writers***
Week 13 Observations
By Matt Horkman

Detroit humiliated Green Bay in front of a national audience. The Packers ran 21 first-half plays for 43 yards. That’s an average of about two yards per play. By comparison, Detroit ran 44 first-half plays for 340 yards. That’s an average of just under eight yards per play. In other words, in the first half, the Lions ran more plays than Green Bay gained yards.

The humiliation didn’t end at halftime, though. In 12 of their 14 possessions, Detroit snapped the ball in Green Bay territory. The Packers, meanwhile, had drives end with negative yardage in six of their seven drives. The first of those drives started in the second quarter with the last coming early in the fourth quarter. The Packers spent half the game going backward.

Are officials going to flag every hard hit? Detroit linebacker DeAndre Levy was called for a personal foul penalty in the third quarter for a hit he delivered on Green Bay tight end Ryan Taylor. However, Levy’s helmet contacted Taylor’s shoulder and not his head. But his hit looked and sounded violent, so the officials threw a flag. It was a bad call. The sad thing of it is the announcers are giving the referees a free pass. They’re accepting these calls as part of the game, even though 15 free yards is no minor infraction. The competition committee needs to consider subjecting these calls to replay. College football does something similar, but with player ejections. Instead of ejecting players, the NFL could tweak their rule to incorporate taking away the penalty altogether. In my view, if the NFL intends to regulate the violence in football, then this is the next logical step replay must take in order to protect the integrity of the game.

New England’s offensive line deserves an assist on Rob Gronkowski’s first-quarter touchdown against Houston. The Patriots’ offensive line stymied Houston’s pass rush, giving Tom Brady about five seconds of a clean pocket.

The Texans remained competitive against New England because of their balance on offense. In their first 40 plays, 20 were passes and 20 were runs.

After underwhelming in the first two months of the season, the Patriots are quietly beginning to look like a Super Bowl contender. Frankly, I still have reservations about their defense and skill players, but the Pats weren’t penalized once in this game. That’s a sign of a team ready for playoff football.

San Diego tight end Ladarius Green’s second-quarter touchdown is an excellent example as to why teams want to run against a cover two defense. Now, the Bengals aren’t a pure cover two defense, but they did play a cover two on this particular play. In this coverage, you need athletic linebackers capable of holding their own in coverage that also have the discipline to not bite on play action. Both of Cincinnati’s linebackers bit on San Diego’s play fake, creating a void within the middle of the field for Green to exploit. This is precisely why teams want to run versus the cover two, even if they‘re running game isn‘t churning out five yards per attempt. There are holes in the middle of the field for an accurate quarterback to attack. Rivers did just that by finding Green for a 30-yard touchdown. Therefore, the next time you’re impatient with your favorite team running the ball for just two or three years against a cover two, just remember that your offensive coordinator (and quarterback) is setting a trap for the opposing linebackers.

On Alex Smith’s opening-drive interception, the Kansas City signal caller was late in spotting an open Anthony Fasano in the end zone. Because of a play fake, Fasano came open immediately, but he was Smith’s third read. The first was fullback Anthony Sherman and the second was tight end Sean McGrath. By the time Smith spotted Fasano, Denver linebacker Wesley Woodard was able to recover and make the interception.
Demaryius Thomas
This is the second week in a row where a Kansas City defensive back failed to bump a receiver at the line of scrimmage. Last week it was Sean Smith against San Diego wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu on the Chargers’ game-winning touchdown. This week it was Marcus Cooper against Denver wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. In the third quarter, Cooper whiffed on jamming Thomas at the line of scrimmage, allowing Thomas a clean release. Manning hit Thomas in stride about 22 yards downfield and the Denver receiver was off to the races. The 77-yard pass and catch would setup an Eric Decker touchdown, which gave Denver their first lead of the game. They never relinquished this lead.

Kansas City had two crucial drops on the ensuing drive. The first was from wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, who was unable to complete the process of the catch going to the ground on a downfield pass from Smith. The other was from Fasano, who bobbled a diving catch attempt on a crucial third-and-8 situation. Fasano actually suffered a concussion on the play, as his head bounced off Arrowhead Stadium’s turf. Both drops occurred in Denver territory. While they were difficult catches, they were play you have to make if you’re going to outduel Peyton Manning.

Starting at their own five-yard line, Denver running back Montee Ball came though with a crucial third-quarter run to set the Broncos up with their final touchdown of the day. On the play, the Chiefs had two opportunities to bring Ball down. Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson could’ve stopped him for a short gain and cornerback Sean Smith could’ve stopped him for about a 10-yard gain. Ball shed both would-be tacklers, though, and broke into the open field for a gain of 45 yards.

Entering Monday night’s game, New Orleans’ defense was allowing 309.9 yards per game. In the first half of their loss in Seattle, they gave up 315 yards.

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