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Tunnel Vision - Week 12
David Dorey
November 29, 2010
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Sunday Salutes
Quarterbacks Yards TD
Tom Brady 341 4
Aaron Rodgers 344P 51R 1P 1R
Matt Cassel 233P 28R 4
Jay Cutler 247P 17R 4
Kyle Orton 347 3
Running Backs Yards TD
Peyton Hillis 194 3
Jamaal Charles 176 1
Fred Jackson 163 1
Arian Foster 218 0
Rashard Mendenhall 151 1
Wide Receivers Yards TD
Dwayne Bowe 170 3
Deion Branch 113 2
Ben Obamanu 159 1
Wes Welker 90 2
Brandon Lloyd 76 2
Tight Ends Yards TD
Billy Bajema 32 2
Todd Heap 79 1
Kevin Boss 74 1
Tony Gonzalez 51 1
Brent Celek 50 1
Placekickers XP FG
Nate Kaeding 3 5
Dan Carpenter 3 4
David Akers 2 4
Shaun Suisham 1 4
Garrett Hartley 3 3
Defense/Special Teams TDs Sacks TOs
Chargers 2 1 5
Jets 1 3 3
Panthers 1 2 3
Raiders 1 3 1
Giants 0 4 2

Bumps, bruises and bow outs

Adrian Peterson (MIN) - Ankle injury
Vincent Jackson (SD) - Calf injury
Bruce Gradkowski (OAK) - Shoulder injury
Javarris James (IND) - Sprained knee

That is a bad thing son... (wink, wink, say no more)

The Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan is a trash talker and tries to get under his opponent's skin - apparently he is pretty good at it. Last year, Andre Johnson was fined $7500 for yanking Finnegan to the ground by his facemask during a scuffle. This year they went full out, "what is this, hockey?" at each other.

Finnegan started it when he jabbed Johnson's neck and facemask at the line of scrimmage. Johnson then tore off Finnegan's helmet and he tore off Johnson's helmet. But Andre got in a couple good shots in to the neck and head before Finnegan could get back up since the referees arrived to break it up. Both players were ejected from the game and will likely be fined. When Johnson left the field, the fans gave him a standing ovation. In reality, he already had a touchdown and nine catches for 56 yards so Finnegan needs to work on coming up with some faster acting material.

Finnegan left the stadium without speaking to the media and Johnson expressed remorse for his actions. Titans owner Bob McNair said "I awarded it to Andre on points". In the first of many planned disciplinary actions, the Texans awarded Johnson with the game ball. Tomorrow - maybe ice cream or pizza.

ten random observations

1. I am already betting that the most improved team in 2011 will be the Buffalo Bills who are only 2-9 on the season but their last four losses were all by three points or less and they should have beaten the Steelers on Sunday to make it three straight wins. And I hope they don't change anything about the backfield because Fred Jackson has become a force since C.J. Spiller stopped wasting rushing attempts. Jackson had 162 total yards and a score on the Steelers this week, 146 yards and two scores on the Bengals and 172 yards and one score on the Lions over the last three games. He's a gamer and deserves more than to be the perpetual #2 running back.

2. The Colts-Charger game was one of those "let me rethink things" sort of game. The Chargers have suffered through catastrophic injuries and prospered with an offense that is clicking when it passes and can even run when they leave Ryan Mathews on the sideline and let Mike Tolbert do his thing. They look more like a January team than most of the other clubs with better records in the standings. And the Colts have never looked worse. It was like visiting someone you respect and admire but they show up in a bathrobe with a very bad cold. It was partially a matchup problem with the Chargers but for the first time that I have ever watched the Colts with Peyton Manning, I had one thought pop up - "they look old." Like they are missing a step and are a bit too easy to figure out. That would be a hard notion to have about the Colts but they have never looked so bad. Or is it old? Sick?

3. I get more impressed with Brandon Pettigrew each time I see him. He already has 60 catches for 621 yards and three scores and he is only in his second season. If I had to guess who would be new to the top three tight ends next season, it would have to be Pettigrew who acts more like a wide receiver for the Lions who already have secondaries backed up because of Calvin Johnson.

4. How are you liking your quarterback? On one hand, those first taken - Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning have mostly performed to expectations and they are all around the top of the position in fantasy points. Tom Brady is too but he had a long painful stretch of under performing games. But Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, Joe Flacco, Kevin Kolb and Ryan Matthew have done nothing to make a difference. Philip Rivers has been the best QB pick you could have made considering he was going as the 7th best quarterback in drafts last summer. So the question comes - take a top three quarterback early with a great chance of them remaining a top player. Or wait and hope you land a Rivers knowing that even without him you can still have a great fantasy team. What the current reality is tha there is not as much overall difference in the top as in past seasons. Do the best teams in your league all have a top quarterback?

5. What do you do with the Bengals? They had a surprisingly good 2009 season with 1251 rush yards and six scores from Cedric Benson. He averaged 4.2 yards per carry. But now Benson is only averaging around 3.6 yards per carry and he's making no difference. Bernard Scott is never going to get a shot apparently but the Bengals are back to being the same sad team that they had before the false hope of 2009. There will be a new coach of course. But what will that new coach want to retain from the current crew? Terrell Owens is old. Benson is ineffective. Ochocinco is more of a concept than a player. Carson Palmer is feasting on trash time but there are serious questions about his accuracy and arm strength. I think they will be the most different looking team in 2011. Or they look the same and lose most their games. Yeah, that sort of feels right actually.

6. Toby Gerhart will be the first player taken in free agency this week if Adrian Peterson's ankle is a problem that will extend beyond just this game. Gerhart ran for 76 yards on 22 runs and scored once against the Redskins and this coming weekend is at home AGAINST THE BILLS. So yeah, open another window up and go put a claim on him before you read the rest of the Tunnel Vision.

7. So did you get him? Imagine last summer if I tried to convince you that the top ten running backs this week included six who were not drafted in many leagues - Peyton Hillis, Fred Jackson, Mike Goodson, Maurice Morris, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Mike Tolbert. I am starting to think that you cannot possibly draft enough backup and third string running backs because so many of them are turning in at least a handful of good games this year. I think that consistency in any position is a thing of the past. Except for Peyton Hillis and Dwayne Bowe.

8. Ahmad Bradshaw owners beware. After losing his fifth fumble of the season in Philadelphia in week 11, he was "benched" for Brandon Jacobs because it has been several weeks since Jacobs pissed off HC Tom Coughlin. And playing against the visiting Jaguars saw Jacobs run for 87 yards on 14 carries while Bradshaw only took nine runs for 49 yards but added 34 yards on four catches. It was much more like 2008 when the Giants were winning games with a vaunted rushing attack and Bradshaw was the change of pace back to Jacob's 219 carries for 1089 yards and 15 touchdowns that year. Not that Jacobs is going to start to score like that again, but he looked good running the ball and holding onto it. Reverting to Bradshaw getting 20 carries in a game again may be hard to expect until Jacobs does something to annoy Coughlin.

9. Peyton Hillis is already a fan favorite in Cleveland and there's one guy in every league who probably has built an small altar to him out in the garage (you thought we did not know). He has been beyond believable and he's a fun player to watch. I just have to wonder one thing that the announcers seem to discount when they talk about how Hillis will be a fixture in the pro bowl for many years (and they did say this). How long is Hillis going to last? He runs with the same abandon as a man on fire. He's about as powerful a runner as I have seen in the way he seeks out contact and when he meets with defenders, it is usually they who are bouncing back. The important thing about Hillis success is that it will begat yet other players getting chances who may not have in the past. Jerome Bettis comes to mind and he did play for 13 years which was freakish. John Riggins was smaller at only 230 pounds (Hillis is 250-ish) but had the same style and lasted for 14 years. And while Hillis is having lots of carries and hits now, he didn't in the past. Unlike a back who comes to the NFL with plenty of mileage, Hillis did little in college behind Felix Jones and Darren McFadden. Makes you want to pay a bit more attention to those rookie fullbacks next year - you can bet the NFL will.

10. This is the season of the big game for wide receivers. Looking at total numbers through the first 12 weeks of this year and 2009, most of the stats for the positions are the same. Running backs are down slightly in yards and scores. Quarterbacks are a bit higher so far and tight ends are almost exactly the same - it's just not the same tight ends each week doing the damage.

But wide receivers are showing up with bigger games and that has a huge bearing on fantasy football where high weekly scores are a must to beat a randomly selected opponent each week. Consider what has happened with wide receivers so far and this is not counting whatever happens in the Monday night game against the Cardinals and 49ers.

WR as of week 12... 100 yard games 150 yard games 2 TD games 3 TD games Total Touchdowns
2009 93 17 32 1 295
2010 115 21 48 8 351

100 yard games are up almost 20% and almost two more per week on average. 150 yard games are up about the same amount but where we see the biggest change is in scoring. There has been a 50% increase in games where a receiver has scored twice and that been more than one addition game per week on average. For the biggest of them all, consider that there was only one game with a receiver scoring three times in 2009. This year? Already eight such games. We have also seen about a 20% increase in overall touchdowns to wide receivers. But those delicious monster games with three scores have been a big change from last year.

Makes you think running backs will be the bargains in drafts next August.

Huddle Player of the Week

Dwayne Bowe - This could just as easily be the other huge surprise this year - Peyton Hillis. Bowe ended his game in Seattle with 13 catches for 170 yards and three touchdowns even though all other wide receivers combined for just two catches and 30 yards for the Chiefs - why do they cover anyone besides Bowe? This gives Bowe a ridiculous 14 touchdowns on the season and seven scores over just the last three games.For a player that was dropping passes early in the season, he's been a major benefit for all fantasy owners who hung on through those painful first four weeks.

Salute!

Drama 101 - Somebody has to laugh, somebody has to cry

Comedy Line-up Yards TDs Tragedy Line-up Yards TDs
QB Chad Henne 307 2 QB Ben Roethlisberger 246 0
RB Mike Goodson 136 1 RB Chris Johnson 7 0
RB Maurice Morris 75 2 RB Cedric Benson 41 0
WR Jacoby Ford 108 1 WR Dez Bryant ZIp 0
WR Ben Obamanu 159 1 WR Terrell Owens 17 0
WR Marlon Moore 57 1 WR DeSean Jackson 29 0
PK Dan Carpenter 3 XP 4 FG PK Rob Bironas nope

Huddle Fantasy Points = 126

Huddle Fantasy Points = 16

Sunday Snippet

NE 45, DET 24 Turkey Day #1 went off as expected though the Lions had an early lead. Maurice Morris was a surprise replacing Jahvid Best and scoring twice on nine runs for 55 yards. Calvin Johnson had his standard four catches for 81 yards and one score but Shaun Hill only threw the one touchdown on his 285 passing yards. Brady was at his best carving up the Lions for 341 yards and four touchdowns that were split two each for Deion Branch (3-113) and Wes Welker (8-90). BenJarvus Green-Ellis also scored twice with 59 yards on 12 runs. This was a perfectly competitive game for the first half but then the Pats outscored them 35-7 in the second half. The win keeps the Pats at 9-2 for the best record in the league.
CIN 10, NYJ 26 Turkey Day #3 was another reading of the script. The Bengals only got 135 yards and one score from Carson Palmer who threw two interceptions. No receiver had more than 41 yards and Cedric Benson also rushed for exactly 41 yards on 18 carries. Mark Sanchez only needed to throw for 166 yards and one score that went to Santonio Holmes (5-44) but most of this game was about rushing with LaDainian Tomlinson (13-49) and Shonn Greene (18-70) doing the damage though Brad Smith scored on a 53 yard run. The win makes the Jets remain tied with the Pats for the best record in the NFL. The loss drops the Bengals to only 2-9 with an eight game losing streak. They are tied for the worst record in the league.
TB 10, BAL 17 What a yawner. The Bucs cannot beat a team with a winning record and the Ravens did just enough to win this snore-fest. Josh Freeman only managed 162 pass yards with one score that amazingly went to Kellen Winslow (4-44) but no other receivers had more than 41 yards for the Bucs. LeGarrette Blount gained 55 yards on 13 carries in this largely punchless offensive attack. The Ravens got 289 yards and two scores from Joe Flacco that went to Derrick Mason (8-87) and Todd Heap (2-79) but Anquan Boldin only caught three passes for 27 yards. Ray Rice never scored but had a solid showing with 85 rushing yards and seven receptions for 47 yards. The loss drops the Bucs to 7-4 and two games behind the Falcons while the Ravens remain tied with the Steelers are 8-3 with their big rematch coming on this weekend.
GB 17, ATL 20 This was an even game until Matt Bryant kicked a 47-yard FG with nine seconds left. It was mostly just a defensive matchup with Aaron Rodgers passing for 344 yards and one score and he was also the Packers leading rusher with 51 yards and another touchdown. Only late game runs kept Brandon Jackson from having negative rushing yards. Greg Jennings (5-119) had a big game but it was Jordy Nelson (5-61) catching the score that tied the game with 56 seconds left. Matt Ryan passed for just 198 yards and one score because Michael Turner gained 110 yards and a score on 23 carries. Tony Gonzalez (6-51, TD) had one of his best games of the year while Roddy White (5-49) had one of his worst. The win elevates the Falcons to 9-2 for the best record in the NFC. The loss drops the Packers one game behind the Bears in the NFC North.
PIT 19, BUF 16
OT
Man. What a boring game. In overtime no less. The Steelers were thinking ahead to the BAL game this weekend and barely escaped with a win over the Bills who have pretty much perfected the close loss by now. Ben Roethlisberger passed for just 246 yards and no scores while Hines Ward (7-107) had a big game and Mike Wallace (3-33) did not. Rashard Mendenhall had to do most all the work with 36 carries for 151 yards and one touchdown. Ryan Fitzpatrick passed for 265 yards and a score that went to Fred Jackson as the lead receiver (5-104) though he only had 12 carries to gain 59 yards. Steve Johnson (7-68) did not score which is news and even more unbelievable was that he dropped what would have been a 40-yard game winner touchdown at the end of the game. The win keeps the Steelers tied with the Ravens for the all-important matchup this weekend. The Bills should have won this game and they know it.
CAR 23, CLE 24 What a great game where no game was expected to be. On one hand, at least one team got to win. On the other, the winner could barely avoid a loss and the Panthers had their last second field goal attempt graze the outside of the left goal post. The win allowed Jake Delhomme to put one over his old team that dumped him. He passed for 245 yards and two interceptions though. The star of the game,. as always, was Peyton Hillis who ran for 131 yards and three scores and added 63 yards on six catches as the lead receiver. Why the defense does not load up against only him is unknown because he accounted for 194 yards of the 396 offensive yards gained by the Browns and all of the touchdowns. By this point, every Brown offensive player is there to either block for Hillis or give him a chance to catch his breath. The Panthers put up a very good fight in the loss which has not always happened in the past. Jimmy Clausen only passed for 195 yards and one interception but Jonathan Stewart gained 98 yards on just 12 runs and Mike Goodson had a touchdown on his 14 carries for 55 yards.
TEN 0, HOU 20 Okay. This was a surprise. One of the worst defenses in the league not only pitched a shutout, but held Chris Johnson to only five yards on seven carries. Yes, that is the 2000 yard dude. Rusty Smith now has a chance to be the Texans defensive coordinator next season since there is no one else in the entire NFL that could make the Texans defense look that good. Smith only passed for 138 yards and three interceptions. Randy Moss caught a season high three passes for 23 yards as a Titan. Matt Schaub threw for 178 yards and two scores while Arian Foster rushed 30 times for 143 yards and was the lead receiver with 75 yards on nine receptions. Andre Johnson also had nine catches for 56 yards and a score before having to leave early for karate lessons. Randy Moss is no longer "startable" even in a "what about potential" sort of way. The loss drops the Titans to 5-6 like the Texans and both of those are just one game behind the Colts and Jaguars in the amazingly even AFC South.
JAC 20, NYG 24 The Giants trailed by 11 at the half and scored the go-ahead touchdown with only three minutes left to play in the game. David Garrard only passed for 162 yards but rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown, Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 113 yards but lost the rushing score to Rashad Jennings (7-53). Mike Sims-Walker (4-48) was the lead receiver but the Jags rushed 34 times. Eli Manning gained 226 passing yards and two scores that were split between Mario Manningham (3-61) and Kevin Boss (3-74). Brandon Jacobs was the starting running back and gained 87 yards on 14 carries but Ahmad Bradshaw left the doghouse enough to turn in 49 yards on nine rushes and he had a team high four catches that gained 34 yards. The Giants finally woke up and took the win that now makes them tied with the Eagles for the NFC East at 7-4. The Jaguars fall to 6-5 but remain tied with the Colts for the AFC South lead.
MIN 17, WAS 13 Wow, what a downer. 30 total points. The Vikings responded well to the firing of Brad Childress and won their first game under interim coach Leslie Frazier. Brett Favre passed for 172 yards and while he had no touchdowns, he had his first game with no interceptions and not being a liability is enough for the Vikings to win. Adrian Peterson gained 36 yards on six carries and scored once before hurting his ankle and letting Toby Gerhart play for about three quarters. Gerhart also scored once on his 22 carries for 76 yards. Sidney Rice (1-20) no longer seems like much of a big deal and Percy Harvin (5-32) was no gem either. Donovan McNabb only threw for 211 yards and one score to Fred Davis (3-25). No Redskins receiver had more than 53 yards and now you know that James Davis (6-11) will be used more than Keiland Williams (3-5). The Skins - at home no less - only rushed for 29 yards on 13 carries as a team. The Vikings are 4-7 and still hunting for respectability while the Skins fall to 5-6 and remain two games out of the NFC East lead.
MIA 33, OAK 17 Sometimes you have to think teams just get a bit tired of the whole practice thing and take a week off. That would explain how the Raiders ended up being dominated by the visiting Dolphins. Both Oakland corners were open for business though with CB Chris Johnson out and CB Nnamdi Asomugha still hampered by a sprained ankle. That allowed Chad Henne to pass for 307 yards and two scores which went to Marlon Moore (1-57) and Patrick Cobbs (2-32) who were not used as fantasy starters on any team in the world. Davone Bess (6-111) was the lead receiver though Brian Hartline (4-75) had a nice game as well. Ricky Williams rushed for 95 yards on 20 carries that included a 45 yard touchdown romp. Ronnie Brown gained 85 yards on 24 runs. For the Raiders, Jacoby Ford was the only thing that worked. He opened the game with a kickoff return for a score and ended with four catches for 108 yards and one score. Darren McFadden has suddenly reverted to the pumpkin that he was the two previous years. He only gained two net yards on eight runs but had seven receptions for 63 yards to salvage his fantasy value somewhat. But the Raiders only rushed for 16 yards on 12 carries as a team. Bruce Gradkowski passed for 252 yards and a score but had two interceptions. If Jacoby Ford was not there, it would have been a throwback to the worst of days for the Raiders. The loss drops the Raiders two games out of contention for the AFC West while the Fins rise to 6-5 and yet still need recreational drugs to believe they have a shot at a wildcard this year.
KC 42, SEA 24 The Chiefs had no problem dispatching the Seahawks in a game where everything worked. Jamaal Charles rushed for 173 yards on 22 runs with one score while Thomas Jones added 20 runs for 68 yards. And yes, that is giving equal carries to two guys that average either 7.9 YPC or 3.4 YPC. Must be that new math as to how those players are equals or how Thomas Jones starts all games. Matt Cassel went against his old college coach who never made him a starter and passed for 233 yards and four touchdowns. That of course went almost entirely to Dwayne Bowe who ended with 13 catches for 170 yards and three touchdowns. No other Chiefs receiver had more than 24 yards. There were only nine other completions thrown by Cassel. The Seahawks have no discernible rushing game with only 12 rushes for 20 net yards in the game. Matt Hasselbeck continues to have a resurgence lately with 282 yards and two touchdown passes that went to Ben Obamanu (5-159) and Chris Baker (1-13). The win keeps the Chiefs one game ahead of the Chargers in the AFC West while the Seahawks fall to 5-6 where they are, wait for it, still tied for the lead in the NFC West with a losing record.
PHI 26, CHI 31 Unfortunately the Bears had not read all the press clippings about Michael Vick or heard the pregame show sponsored by the Vick Association of Media Professionals. Vick passed for 333 yards and two scores but one painful interception. Jason Avant (8-83) was the lead receiver and the scores were split between Jeremy Maclin (4-47) and Brent Celek (3-50) who apparently still plays for the Eagles. LeSean McCoy gained 53 yards rushing and had eight catches for 67 yards. And all that was not enough because Jay Cutler had a career best four touchdown passes with 247 yards that were distributed with two going to Earl Bennett (4-56) and one each for Johnny Knox (3-68) and Greg Olsen (1-9). Devin Hester was surprisingly effective with 86 yards on three catches. Matt Forte gained 117 yards on 14 carries thanks to a 61 yard gain but he only added two catches for 22 yards. The win makes the 8-3 Bears one game in the lead of the NFC North thanks to the loss by the Packers. The Eagles drop to 7-4 and are now tied with the Giants for the NFC East lead.
STL 36, DEN 33 Definite contender for Game-of-the-week but it had no scores in the final two minutes and a 20 point fourth quarter by the Broncos fell short of a comeback win. The Rams won on the road in an outside stadium thanks to Sam Bradford passing for 308 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Danario Alexander (4-95) is back and while the top three wideouts had most of the yards, the tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui (1-36, TD) and Billy Bajema (3-32, 2 TD) did all the scoring. Steven Jackson was not very effective with only 72 yards on 29 carries and only one catch for a six yard loss. Worse yet, Kenneth Darby came in and stole the touchdown run. Kyle Orton passed for 347 yards and three scores that went to Brandon Lloyd (4-76, 2 TD) and Eddie Royal (6-74, TD). Knowshon Moreno only ran 12 times but gained 56 yards and one score along with 62 yards on six receptions. The game was exactly what the Rams needed and propels them into a tie for first place in the NFC West with a lofty 5-6 record. This was exactly what the Broncos did not need since Josh McDaniels has already been fined for his part in the video scandal and has a 3-8 record on the season along with yet another home loss.
SD 36, IND 14 This was a "WOW" game. For the first time in eight years, the Colts cannot win 12 games in a season. For the first time since Peyton Manning was still at the University of Tennessee, the Colts lost by 22 points at home. Philip Rivers only passed for 185 yards and no scores because that was all he needed to do. Antonio Gates was able to play and was the lead receiver with just 46 yards on four catches. Mike Tolbert gained 103 yards on 26 carries with one touchdown. But the Chargers defense scored two touchdowns and Nate Kaeding kicked five field goals. Peyton Manning passed for 285 yards and two scores but had four interceptions and Javarris James lost a fumble. Donald Brown only gained 24 yards on 11 runs for a team that has missed Joseph Addai badly. Jacob Tamme (7-64, TD) had the best game while Reggie Wayne only finished with 42 yards on five catches. This was a bad beat for the Colts who are now 6-5 and tied with the Jacksonville Jaguars for the AFC South. The Chargers rise to 6-5 and are still one game behind the Chiefs for the AFC West lead.

Sunday's Couch Commentary

The week started with three good games on Thanksgiving with plenty of fantasy points generated while digesting that turkey and pumpkin pie. On Sunday we forced to witness six games that could not produce more than 40 total points if even 30 points. The afternoon games came through with more points and better results. The Broncos fell short of a big comeback. The Chiefs scored 42 points in a road game. As it ended up there was only one game with decent points scored and an ending that made it all worth watching.

So take that turkey sandwich out and let's recall the Game-o-the-Week.

Saints 30, Cowboys 27

This game has always been a big advantage for the Cowboys who remain at home on the very short week. The Cowboys had won on Thanksgiving for several years despite the otherwise spotty record in the other games in the season. Add in that the Saints were upset in New Orleans by the Cowboys last year and there was some revenge the Saints wanted. And yet the Cowboys were 2-0 under interim headcoach Jason Garrett. It all started badly.

The Cowboys kicked off to the Saints who only needed five plays to cover 80 yards and have Chris Ivory score a three-yard touchdown run. Their cause was aided by the Cowboys committing a defensive holding and a defensive off-sides. 7-0 and only 1:45 was missing from the clock.

When Dallas took over on their own 24-yard line, they only needed five plays to reach their 40-yard line and throw an interception that was returned to the DAL 31-yard line. The Cowboys actually held them to a field goal and the 10-0 lead at the 9:11 mark in the first quarter.

After a three-and-out by the Cowboys, the Saints took over on their own 42-yard line and needed just five plays to throw a 28-yard touchdown to Devery Henderson. But it was reversed on a challenge and placed down on the six yard line. That meant that Chris Ivory would score his second touchdown from six yards out on the next play. 17-0 with three minutes left in the first quarter and the Saints had scored every time they touched the ball. The Phillips-brand Cowboys were showing up.

The Cowboys drove from their own 20-yard line and by the time the second quarter started, they were at the NO 21-yard line with a fourth-and-one. Marion Barber was smothered on the play and the Saints took over. But they actually were unable to get a first down and punted it back. Starting on their own 18-yard line, the Cowboys drove the field and ended with a David Buehler field goal for a 17-3 deficit that did not last long because the Saints then drove the field as well and took their own field goal and a 20-3 lead with only 47 seconds left to play.

But the Cowboys did not just let the clock run out when they got it with 37 seconds left on their own 24-yard line. Jon Kitna completed four straight passes and with five seconds left to play, Buehler was good on a 53-yard field goal attempt. 20-6 was less painful but still was two touchdowns behind.

In the third quarter, the Cowboys started on their own 32-yard line and after a eight yard gain by Felix Jones, Miles Austin burned the Saints for a 60-yard touchdown run. With only one minute gone, the Cowboys only trailed 20-13.

But the Saints first possession ended with a 28-yard field goal and a 23-13 lead with 9:32 left in the third quarter.

Tit for tat.

The Cowboys drove 88 yards in 13 plays and Marion Barber scored from the 1-yard line on fourth down. It was a gutsy move that made the Cowboys draw within three points at 23-20.

The Saints closed out the quarter with a drive that reached the DAL 34-yard line where they went for it on fourth-and-five but it was incomplete. Too far to kick a field goal, too short to punt.

The next series for the Cowboys ended in a strange play. After reaching the Saints 35-yard line, the Cowboys elected to punt but Matt McBriar dropped the long snap and instead of picking it up, he punted the ball as it bounced up from the turf. It was ruled as a fumble instead and an illegal touching that was declined by the Saints who were happy enough with the ball on their own 16-yard line. So it was a 19 yard fumble of sorts. For the record, the exact same thing happened to my punter when I coached peewee football and not only did the refs let it count, it was probably the best punt the kid ever had. But I digress.

On their third play, Drew Brees threw an interception that was returned to the 39-yard line. After two passes to Roy Williams reached the 3-yard line, Tashard Choice came in and scored a touchdown with only 5:56 remaining in the game. For the first time, the Cowboys led in the game 27-23.

Even more impressive - holding the Saints to no first down and getting the punt on the DAL 38-yard line with 4:10 left to play. After two runs only gained three yards, Kitna found Roy Williams for a 47 yard gain but as Williams was being tackled at the Saints 11-yard line, he was stripped of the ball by a defender coming from his blind side. Had he held it the Cowboys may have run out the clock or scored a touchdown or at least get a field goal for a seven point lead. But no. Saints take over on their own 11-yard line with 3:03 left to play.

Brees hits Marques Colston for 22 yards.

After two incompletions, Brees connects with Robert Meachem running free down the right sideline for a 55 yard gain to the DAL 12-yard line. At the two minute warning, Brees hits Lance Moore for the touchdown on the next play. 30-27 and the Cowboys only needed a field goal to tie.

In five plays they reached the NO 41-yard line. But from there they threw three incompletions and with only 31 seconds left, were forced to try a 59-yard field goal that went wide left.

Cowboys lose. On Thanksgiving. After a 17 point comeback. And with that the tradition that has become the 2010 season. Find a way to lose.

The season is winding down and fantasy playoffs are drawing near. Some big contest may have already started and within a week or two all leagues will be culling out the non-contenders and pitting the best records head to head. It has been a wild season with much parity that reflects in fantasy leagues with winning records almost always contending for a playoff spot - any winning record.

And so week 12 ends. Not with a bang or a whimper. But with a flurry of punches from Andre Johnson, a punted fumble and the realization that thanks to Manning and Hillis, the most common name for baby boys is going to be "Peyton".

Now get back to work...

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