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Upon Further Review

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

CHARGED brings you musings and observations from week 11 of the NFL.

Upon Further Review

Each week, CHARGED takes a closer look at the NFL action with "Upon Further Review."  Here's what we thought was interesting in Week 11.

More Injuries

- The Chicago Bears are the latest team to lose a key player at a critical point in the season.  Starting quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a broken thumb during the Bears' win over the San Diego Chargers yesterday, and the injury may cost him the rest of regular season.  This is a huge blow to the Bears' offense, who have now won five straight and are atop the NFC wild card standings.  Cutler has played very well for Chicago over this stretch and the Bears will have to turn to backup Caleb Hanie.

Just like the Texans having to turn to Matt Leinart, the Bears will have to go with Hanie.  Despite throwing just 34 passes in his NFL career, Hanie might be up to the task.  Of those 34 throws, 20 came against the Packers in last year's NFC Championship game, a game that Hanie had to enter because of another Cutler injury.  Hanie completed 65 percent of those passes and almost led the Bears back from a 14-0 deficit.  The Bears still have Matt Forte and the defense is playing great right now, so all hope is not lost without Cutler behind center.

- The Philadelphia Eagles lost several starters going into last night's game against the New York Giants, but they didn't miss anybody.  Michael Vick, Jeremy Maclin, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie all were ruled out.  It took Vick's replacement Vince Young a while to get acclimated, but he led an incredible 18-play, 9:00+ minute touchdown drive that ate up most of the fourth quarter.  The game-winning touchdown was thrown to Maclin's replacement, Riley Cooper, who caught five passes in total during the game.  Young converted on six third downs in the drive, including that final touchdown pass.

This might be delaying the inevitable for Philadelphia, but the Eagles are now just two games behind the Giants and Cowboys in the NFC East.  For the Giants, it's a missed opportunity with tough games against Green Bay and New Orleans coming up the next two weeks.

- Titans QB Matt Hasselbeck was injured in the middle of Tennessee's game against the Atlanta Falcons, and hi replacement didn't do too poorly either.  Rookie Jake Locker came in facing a 23-3 deficit and threw a 40-yard touchdown to Nate Washington on his third pass of the game.  He ended up going 9-19 for 140 yards and two touchdowns as he almost brought the Titans out of a huge hole. 

Atlanta got strong performances from their big three.  Matt Ryan threw for 313 yards and a touchdown, Michael Turner ran for another 100 yards and a score, and Roddy White broke out with seven catches for 147 yards.  The Falcons needed this win after last week's OT loss to the Saints, and they are still alive in the wild card hunt.

- The Buffalo Bills entered yesterday's game against the Miami Dolphins reeling.  They left it reeling even more after an embarrassing 35-8 loss.  Injury was added to insult for Buffalo as they lost CB Terrence McGee for the rest of the year, WR Donald Jones was injured, and star RB Fred Jackson had to leave the game.  The Bills have lost three straight after starting 5-2 and things look grim in Buffalo.

But the skies are clearing in Miami.  The Dolphins are now winners of three straight and are playing with the vigor and energy of a postseason contender.  Since taking over for the injured Chad Henne, Matt Moore has played some pretty solid football.  He's completed 63.6 percent of his throws, thrown just five interceptions, and produced eight total touchdowns for Miami in seven games.  Who needs Andrew Luck when you've got Matt Moore?

- Detroit needed a win in the worst way yesterday against the Carolina Panthers.  Chicago was nipping at their heels and a loss before the Thanksgiving showdown with the still undefeated Packers wouldn't be ideal.  Midway through the second quarter, it looked like the Lions were going to get caught looking ahead.  They trailed Carolina 24-7 after three turnovers had stalled the offense. 

That's when Matt Stafford and Kevin Smith came alive.  From that point on, Detroit outscored Carolina 42-10.  Stafford threw four touchdown passes and finished with five total on the day and 335 yards passing.  After catching an early touchdown pass from Stafford, Kevin Smith burned the Panthers with two touchdown runs.  He finished with 201 total yards (140 rushing, 61 receiving) for a Lions team that was still looking to replace the production lost when Jahvid Best got injured.  Smith hasn't played since he tore his ACL in week 14 of the 2009 season, and to be able to return from that injury almost two years later and perform at the level he did yesterday is remarkable news for Detroit.

- Andy Dalton probably could have used his favorite target AJ Green yesterday against the Baltimore Ravens.  The rookie receiver had to miss yesterday's key divisional game, but it didn't slow Dalton down.  He still threw for 373 yards and a touchdown, but also included three interceptions.  The Ravens were able to overcome an injury of their own to pester Dalton.  Ray Lewis was forced to sit out for the first time since 2007.  Baltimore got huge games out of Ray Rice (104 rushing yards, 2 TD) and rookie receiver Torrey Smith (six catches for 165 yards and a score).

Cincinnati falls a full game behind the Ravens with the loss and Baltimore reclaims first place in the AFC North with the win.  The Bengals are now 0-2 against the top two teams in the division and they still have meetings with both teams up ahead.  Cincinnati has played both games extremely tough, though.

- As if the Vikings' season couldn't get any worse, Adrian Peterson left yesterdays game against the Oakland Raiders with an ankle sprain.  It apparently isn't that serious, but the injury had a big impact on the game.  Before Peterson got hurt at the end of the first quarter, Minnesota was up 7-3 and Peterson was averaging 4.3 yards a carry.

Without Peterson, Oakland jumped on the Vikings for 24 straight points.  Carson Palmer and Michael Bush led the attack, and with the win the Raiders maintain their one game lead over the San Diego Chargers Kansas City Chiefs Denver Broncos in the AFC West.  That felt weird to type.

Odds and Ends

- Aaron Rodgers threw an interception in Green Bay's 35-26 win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Instead of being on pace for 4.8 interceptions this year, he is now on pace for 6.4 picks.  The Packers might want to look into a trade or something.

- The San Francisco 49ers got their eighth straight win yesterday after beating up on the Arizona Cardinals.  The score ended up 23-7 but could have been much worse in favor of the 49ers.  David Akers missed three field goals (two of them were blocked) and Alex Smith threw an interception in the end zone at the start of the fourth quarter.

- Dallas escaped Washington with an overtime win to get their third straight victory and move into a tie for first place in the NFC East.  DeMarco Murray's presence in the starting lineup has turned this team around.  It's amazing what a solid running game can do for a struggling offense, and Murray has injected life into Dallas' offense.  When you look at Dallas' upcoming schedule, you have to think they have the edge over the New York Giants when it comes to playoff positioning.  But you can't decide games on paper, and as the saying goes,  "That's why they play the game."

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