The Jags' ending, the Pats dominance, the 'Boys win and more in Sunday Takaway.
Reportedly, the Jacksonville Jaguars don’t actually practice the Hail Mary play; quarterback David Garrard fakes the heave, and the receivers act out the results. Apparently, non-practice makes perfect. The Jags executed that rarest of feats, a successful Hail Mary, to defeat the Texans 31–24, with a little assist from the woeful Texans pass defense. With the game tied at 24 and time for one final play, Garrard launched a 50-yard pass into the end zone, where Texans cornerback Glover Quin awaited. Quin attempted to knock the ball to the ground; no problem there. Unfortunately, though, Quin batted the ball forward, into the waiting arms of Jags receiver Mike Thomas, the team’s designated “scoop” guy on the Hail Mary. The winning touchdown capped another career day for Garrard, who completed 24-of-31 passes for 342 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions and now sits a few tenths of a point behind Michael Vick for the NFL lead in passer rating. So how rare is a successful last-play Hail Mary? This was only the fourth game in NFL history to end on a game-winning TD pass of 50 or more yards with no time remaining.
Jason Takes the Meadowlands
Color commentator Troy Aikman remarked during the Cowboys-Giants game that Jason Garrett was such a quality guy that he could run for president, then added that the Cowboys job was probably tougher. Well, Garrett had a better weekend than Barack Obama. In his first game as ringmaster of the Cowboy circus, Garrett coaxed some inspired football out of his formerly listless charges, as the ’Boys stormed the New Meadowlands and left with a 33–20 win over the Giants. Led by castoff Jon Kitna, the Cowboys’ moribund offense awoke to amass 427 yards against the top-ranked defense in the NFL, including touchdown passes of 71 yards (to Felix Jones) and 24 yards (to Miles Austin). The defense forced three turnovers, including Bryan McCann’s 101-yard pick-six, the longest interception return against the Giants in their history. “I thought the intensity was there in all three areas,” Garrett said. “Guys were fighting for each other. We were challenged in all areas and I think we stepped up.”
Pats Put on a Clinic
Bill Belichick may be a better rebounder than Wilt Chamberlain. The Pats’ testy coach doesn’t take losing well, and the P-men had looked bad in losing to the Browns last week. We should have known what was coming. The Pats put on a bounce-back performance for the ages, dominating the Steelers 39–26 in Pittsburgh behind a vintage performance from an emotionally charged Tom Brady (30-of-43 passing, 350 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions). The recipient of all three Brady TD passes, rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski, became only the fifth rookie with three TD catches in a single game in the last 15 years. The Pats set the tone with a majestic 70-yard TD drive to open the game, then repeated the feat with a 78-yard drive to open the third quarter and essentially end the suspense. “We made big plays when we needed to make them,” Brady said. “It’s an exciting game for us in this locker room. We haven’t been this happy in a long time. We’re pretty good when we execute the right way.” I’ll say.
The big subplot entering the Jets-Browns matchup involved the coaching battle between the twin Ryan brothers — Jets head coach Rex and Browns defensive coordinator Rob. Well, Cleveland ain’t exactly the City of Brotherly Love, and any familial tenderness went out the window at the kickoff of an intense game of ebbs and flows, attacks and counterattacks, that wasn’t decided until 16 seconds were left in overtime and Santonio Holmes caught a 37-yard TD pass from Mark Sanchez. “At 1 o’clock, everybody becomes nameless, faceless objects — whether it is your twin brother or a friend,” Rex Ryan said. “I feel bad for Cleveland. They played their hearts out. I don’t want to do this game over.” Sanchez showed his competitive mettle, throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns as the Jets held the ball for a staggering 47:08 in becoming the first team in NFL history to win consecutive overtime games on the road. Kudos to the Browns for not playing to tie; Cleveland could have essentially run out the overtime clock deep in their own territory but instead played to win and were ultimately forced to punt, giving the Jets a short field for their winning score.
Bills Win! Bills Win!
Coming into yesterday’s game against the Lions, Buffalo might have been the best 0–8 team in NFL history. The Bills were coming off consecutive overtime road losses to Baltimore and Kansas City and a three-point home loss to Chicago, so it seemed likely that they would get off the schneid against a team that had lost a record-tying 24 consecutive road games. Make that a record-setting 25 — but it wasn’t easy, nor was it pretty. Buffalo almost squandered a 14–3 third-quarter lead, and the Lions had a chance to tie with 14 seconds left, but were thwarted on a two-point conversion try and were unable to recover the ensuing on-side kick. “Relief,” said cornerback Leodis McKelvin said. “We won. We’re not going to be talking about being an 0-16 team or nothing like that.”