Neil Reynolds praises the Patriots' fighting spirit after their thrilling comeback win over the Buffalo Bills.
Last Updated: 01/10/12 12:10pm
Sunday evening saw golf lovers from both sides of the Atlantic on the edge of their seats as Europe took on the United States. But it wasn't all about the Ryder Cup as America's number one sports league also served up its fair share of drama.
In the same way that dramatic, nail-biting finishes have become par for the course in the bi-annual meeting between golf's superpowers, the same can be said for the NFL.
The NFL is a fascinating sporting soap opera that presents new twists and turns each weekend. It was no different in Week 4 and here is what caught my eye...
Patriots don't panic
Early in the third quarter of a vital division match-up with the Buffalo Bills, the New England Patriots were on the ropes and reeling. Playing away from home against a Buffalo team that had won two in a row, the Patriots were facing a rare third successive defeat.
New England were making way too many mistakes. Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski lost fumbles and normally-reliable (until this season!) kicker Stephen Gostkowski had missed two makeable field goals.
When Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Donald Jones for a 68-yard touchdown, the Bills led 21-7. While lesser teams might have reached for the panic button, the Patriots showed their class with a response that spoke volumes about their self-confidence and ability to deal with adversity.
New England rattled off 35 unanswered points before the Bills responded with a consolation touchdown. The Pats ran out massive 52-28 winners, sending a timely reminder to the rest of the AFC East that they remain the alpha males in this division.
The Patriots saw many key players contribute to the win. Tom Brady threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns, while the previously-unheralded running back duo of Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden combined to rush for 243 yards and three scores.
If the Detroit Lions knew how to stop a big play, they might be dangerous. But as that vital task seems beyond them at the moment, they are well on their way to becoming the biggest disappointment of the 2012 campaign.
The Lions fell to a 20-13 home defeat at the hands of the surprising Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night. And it was a failure to eliminate big plays that hurt them once more.
One week after allowing the Tennessee Titans to score an NFL record five touchdowns over 60 yards, the Lions gave up a 105-yard kickoff return touchdown to Percy Harvin and a 77-yard punt return score to Marcus Sherels.
Without examining each play that much closer, that kind of developing theme suggests a lack of focus and commitment from the Lions and it also serves as a damning indictment to head coach Jim Schwartz and his assistants. His team are lacking in some basic but essential skills and it is hurting them.
The Lions were in the playoffs last season but face an uphill struggle to return. They've lost three in a row and have just one win to their name this term - and even that victory against the St. Louis Rams required some frantic, last-gasp heroics. Instead of growing into kings of the jungle, these pussy cats have taken a major step in the wrong direction in 2012.
It was bound to happen sooner or later. New York Jets fans were calling for backup quarterback Tim Tebow last night after Mark Sanchez struggled badly during a 34-0 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers. But this is what the Jets signed up for when they traded for Tebow in the off-season.
Sanchez is not a good quarterback but it should be noted that a lot of very good passers struggle against a dominant 49ers defense that is one of the very best in the league. Do Jets fans really think things will be better with Tebow at the helm?
I would say Jets fans should be careful what they wish for. Sure, Tebow might provide a spark in the running game and create some initial excitement, but he has shown no improvement whatsoever, in my opinion, as a passer and you cannot win with him in the long-term.
Some might argue he led Denver to the playoffs so is worth a shot in New York. My argument would be that if Denver loved him so much, why did they look to off-load him so quickly in the off-season? Broncos Vice-President of Football Operations and former Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway knows a thing or two about the position. And he, like me, does not see a quarterback on the field when Tebow is under center.
Add in the fact that star receiver Santonio Holmes suffered a serious foot injury and the Jets are in trouble.
Honeymoon over for officials
It didn't take long for the regular officials - back from their industrial dispute with the NFL - to start hearing the boos in the NFL.
Referee Jeff Triplette marched onto the hallowed turf at Lambeau Field to rapturous applause from the Green Bay fans and was clearly enjoying his brief moment in the sun. Towards the end of the fourth quarter, the fans were incensed, Triplette and his crew had bungled several calls and it looked like they were going to need a police escort off the field!
This was always going to happen. The replacement officials were awful, but the regular guys have some bad moments as well.
The officials in this game almost cost Green Bay a game they eventually went on to win 28-27. On a New Orleans kickoff return late in the contest, Darren Sproles clearly fumbled and the Packers recovered the loose ball. But somehow the officials ruled him down by contact.
It was a bad call and it would have been tragic if poor officiating had cost the Packers a second game in a row. As it was, a costly penalty hurt the Saints and Garrett Hartley missed the match-winning field goal from 48 yards.
Texans look Super
There is a long way to go in this 2012 NFL season but the Houston Texans look like the class of the AFC and the team most likely to represent the American Conference in the Super Bowl.
Matt Schaub always does just enough at quarterback and rarely makes a big mistake, Arian Foster and Ben Tate are studs at running back and the defence has that bullying look that conjures up images of the 1985 Chicago Bears, the 1986 New York Giants and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.
The Texans knocked Jake Locker out of this game, scored twice off interceptions thrown by his replacement Matt Hasselbeck and cruised to a 38-14 victory. It was a dominant display and the Texans are 4-0 for the first time in team history.
Birds soar in Week 4
The Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals had to dig deep on Sunday but they showed real character in overcoming the Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins respectively.
The Falcons needed a late field goal by Matt Bryant and some aerial heroics from quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Roddy White to see off the Panthers by a 30-28 scoreline. The Cardinals needed overtime to record a 24-21 win over the Miami Dolphins.
Both clubs had some defensive letdowns on Sunday - Arizona allowed Miami's Ryan Tannehill to set a rookie record with 431 passing yards - but they came back with some offensive fireworks of their own. That is to be expected from the Falcons but maybe not so much from the Cards. But Kevin Kolb, who was harassed all day by the Dolphins defence, never backed down and led from the front by throwing for 324 yards and three touchdowns.
Although they were pushed all the way over the weekend, the Falcons and Cardinals showed the mental fortitude to be taken very seriously after one quarter of the 2012 season.