Neil Reynolds' Pick Six includes Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Green Bay and New England
The weather was grim but the NFL was great, so Neil Reynolds' Pick Six sets the temperatures rising...
Last Updated: 09/12/13 2:48pm
But I can never remember a day's action quite like the one that unfolded on Sunday. Week 14 in the NFL simply had it all - breath-taking scoring plays, furious comebacks and some dramatic and truly unbelievable finishes.
And it was all set to the backdrop of some very wintry weather that hammered the United States and got us all in the early Christmas spirit in the Sky Sports studios. Who doesn't love a snow game?
Each week in the studios, I am handed several sheets of paper - one per game - to chart down the scoring plays as they unfold. Then as the scores fly in around the NFL, our stats maven Glen Schild updates me from the gallery, I fill out the sheets and then use them for reference when commentating over the day's highlights.
As I look at those sheets this morning, they look like they have been filled out by my five-year-old daughter. They are a mess! There are names and distances that have clearly been scribbled furiously in the heat of the moment and they are barely decipherable. Then there are names and plays crossed out and whole sections of information that are missing.
It was not a day for neat and orderly notes, but it was a day that reminded us all why we love the NFL so much.
Eagles are snow joke
What a scene! When our main game kicked off on Sunday night it was hard to even find the Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions players on the field (pictured above). A furious blizzard dumped eight inches of snow on the field in Philadelphia but rather than spoil the action, it enhanced this drama between these play-off-chasing clubs.
The difference in this game ended up being the fact that the Eagles got the ball into the hands of their main man - LeSean McCoy - while the Lions rarely got Calvin Johnson involved in the contest. Of course, given the conditions, it was easier for the Eagles to get the ball to their star running back than it was for Detroit to attack through the air with their all-world wide receiver.
The Lions were also undone by some mistakes that cannot be blamed on the weather - namely the early shotgun snap that quarterback Matthew Stafford was not expecting that resulted in a lost fumble. Those kind of mistakes have plagued the Lions for the best part of a month now and could yet de-rail their play-off challenge.
While the weather added a dramatic novelty value to this game, it was McCoy who was the star of the show as he enjoyed a performance for the ages, rushing for a club record number of yardsyards and two touchdowns.
Late drama Part One - the Baltimore edition
It's hard to conceive that with 2:06 left on the clock in snowy Baltimore, the visiting Minnesota Vikings were leading the hometown Ravens by a 12-7 scoreline.
By the time the two teams had battled through a furious final 126 seconds, we had witnessed five more touchdowns and it was the Ravens who sent their fans into an absolute frenzy with the 29-26 win.
The Ravens went ahead on Joe Flacco's touchdown pass to fit-again tight end Dennis Pitta with 2:05 remaining. The Vikings responded with Toby Gerhart's 41-yard run with 1:27 left on the clock. Minnesota then kicked off and watched in frustration as Jacoby Jones went 77 yards for the score with just 1:16 left in the game. Surely, the Vikings were done?
Not a chance. Matt Cassel tossed a pass into the right flat for Cordarrelle Patterson and the rookie wide receiver raced 79 yards downfield as defenders slipped to the ground in the atrocious conditions. With just 45 seconds left on the clock, surely the Ravens were done?
Nope. Flacco marched Baltimore back into position and kept them in pole position for the final wild card spot in the AFC with a nine-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Marlon Brown (pictured), who made a perfect, tip-toeing catch at the back of the end zone with just four seconds remaining.
This time, the Vikings were done. And they were left truly heartbroken.
Late drama Part Two - the Pittsburgh edition
You literally couldn't make up some of these finishes around the NFL on Sunday night and it was no different on a sloppy snowy, icy field in Pittsburgh as the hometown Steelers came within half an inch of the most dramatic victory of the night.
Trailing the Miami Dolphins 34-28 with just a handful of seconds left on the clock, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw a pass downfield to Emmanuel Sanders. And then it was a case of "I went to an American football game and a rugby match broke out!"
Sanders threw the ball back to receiver Jerricho Cotchery and the pigskin worked its way through the hands of running back Leveon Bell, offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger before ending up with wide receiver Antonio Brown, who raced down the sideline for what Steelers fans thought was a miracle touchdown.
But there was more sideline drama for the Steelers as Brown was ruled to have stepped out of bounds at the 12-yard line (pictured). It was game over and the Dolphins escaped with an impressive road win in the snow.
Late drama Part Three - the New England edition
I cannot say enough good things about the New England Patriots because each and every week they continue to find a way to win football games. Last night, it was a desperate and frenzied come-from-behind 27-26 victory over the plucky Cleveland Browns.
First, the Patriots had to overcome the mental blow of losing tight end Rob Gronkowski to what appears to be a season-ending torn knee ligament injury. And then they found themselves trailing the Browns - who were led by dominant wide receiver Josh Gordon - 19-3 and then 26-14 in the second half.
But, of course, on a night of late drama, there was no way the Patriots were finished. Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass to Julian Edelman with just over a minute remaining, New England recovered the onside kick and then Tom Terrific did it again, delivering a game-winning strike to Danny Amendola with 31 seconds remaining.
Even then the Browns nearly stole it at the death, but Billy Cundiff's 58-yard field goal attempt fell agonisingly short, even though it was arrow straight and heading along the right course.
As I said last night on Sky Sports, all these Patriots do is win. And they find a way. They lost Gronkowski in Week 14 but leaned heavily on Shane Vereen (pictured)- the running back caught 153 yards-worth of passes and added a rushing touchdown. That is the Patriot Way!
Demolition in Washington
If you want to gauge how angry Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder will be this morning following his team's 45-10 capitulation at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, check out this image (pictured) which could've been taken any time during the game!
Snyder is a proud owner and an even more fiercely competitive businessman. Can you imagine how many dollars he lost in merchandise and concessions with the fans heading for the exits before the teams had even emerged from the tunnel for the start of the second half?
That would have hurt him in the wallet - and NFL owners would rather get kicked in the family jewels than get hammered in the wallet. That loss - which was embarrassing in the extreme - was Washington's 10th of this 2013 campaign and probably makes Mike Shanahan a dead man walking.
The veteran coach may have won two Super Bowls in Denver, but that seems a long time ago now. His seat is so hot right now he needs to wear Teflon underpants. I expect Shanahan will be gone before the Christmas decorations come down.
Packers are still alive
With the Detroit Lions losing and Green Bay edging to a 22-21 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, the Packers cannot be ruled out of the race for the NFC North Division.
Matt Flynn (pictured) did some good things on Sunday in extreme weather conditions (-13 degrees centigrade at kick-off) but I still feel he is not talented enough to lead a play-off charge for the Packers. Fortunately for them, Green Bay remain in play-off contention due to the fact that no-one appears willing to take charge of their division.
But any success the Packers have with Flynn under center will be purely fleeting - for them to have any shot at the division and a lengthy post-season run, Green Bay needs to welcome Aaron Rodgers back from his collarbone injury.
Rodgers' status remains up in the air but this much remains true - he is one of the very best in the business and the Packers are simply not a play-off team with him on the sidelines.