Rodgers was huge on Sunday. What else did Athlon learn from Week 16?
And I don’t mean Kerry Collins. I include the Chiefs in this space not just to use that brilliant headline above, but also to celebrate a team that nobody should want to play right now. Kansas City displayed its full arsenal of weapons in a 34–14 win over the lifeless Titans. Quarterback Matt Cassel was brilliant, completing 24-of-34 passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns. Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones were effective on the ground, combining for 128 yards rushing. Charles, who is averaging 6.39 yards per carry, is threatening to supplant Mercury Morris (1973) and Jim Brown (1963), both of whom averaged 6.4 ypc in those seasons, as the most effective per-rush back since 1960. Dwayne Bowe recaptured much of his down-the-field magic from earlier this season, catching six passes for 153 yards and a decisive 75-yard touchdown. Defensive back Eric Berry turned in a marvelous pick-six just before halftime, eluding Titans players like Devin Hester or DeSean Jackson in showing a remarkable nose for the goal line. Meanwhile, Cincinnati was beating San Diego to give the Chiefs the AFC West crown a year after KC went 4–12. “Everybody that's worked really hard and had to go through some difficult days, this is a day to enjoy and feel good about ourselves,” said coach Todd Haley.
More than two years ago, Mike Singletary announced his arrival in San Francisco by boldly asserting, “I want winners.” Now, the Niners want a new coach. San Francisco has finally had enough of Singletary’s antics, which would have been fine had they been accompanied by the requisite number of wins. The Niners entered the season as the favorites to win a there-for-the-taking NFC West, but yesterday’s 25–17 loss to the Rams dropped them to 5–10, giving Singletary an 18–22 record in two-plus seasons. As you would expect, Singletary was gracious in his exit statement, but another head coaching job seems like a longshot for the volatile former Bear, whose sideline blowup with quarterback Troy Smith was the last in a string of embarrassments. “One of the greatest experiences of my life was having the opportunity to coach the San Francisco 49ers,” Singletary said. "What made it so special were the players. They were some of the most outstanding men I have ever been around in my life. The coaches were truly professionals. I wish the 49ers nothing but the best. I am thankful to the York family for having given me the opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. I am indebted to them for that. I am also thankful for the Faithful fans, I am just sorry I couldn’t give them more.”
Two more coaches, in the process of disappointing their owners and fans one more time, seem destined to join Iron Mike on the scrap heap. It’s a wonder they’ve lasted this long. Jack Del Rio’s Jacksonville Jaguars, who two weeks ago seemed poised to win a division title, are now clinging to life and are a Colts win over the dead-in-the-water Titans away from sitting at home yet again. Del Rio bravely faced the media and blamed the loss on quarterback David Garrard in what could be the last desperate act of his disappointing tenure. Meanwhile, in Houston, Gary Kubiak seems to have run out of chances. This season, rather than following their usual blueprint of starting slowly and rallying late to fall just short of the playoffs, the Texans have taken a different tack: They started 4–2 but have lost eight of nine. Houston scribe John McClain tweeted that he would be “shocked” if Kubiak survived. So would I. A third AFC South coach, Jeff Fisher, saw his team drop another steamer on the Kansas City turf, the Titans’ seventh loss in eight games. Owner Bud Adams wanted another Super Bowl run late in his life; instead, he got an implosion. It’s ironic that the only coaching survivor in the division could be clueless Jim Caldwell.
They’re No. 1
Has any team ever played better than New England during their seven-game winning streak? Here are the P-men’s point totals during their epic run: 39, 31, 45, 45, 36, 31, 34. Tom Brady has reached new heights of efficiency; in yesterday’s 34–3 win over Buffalo, during which the Patriots clinched homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, Brady set an NFL record for consecutive passes without an interception, extending the streak to 319 tosses. Asked about the record, Brady shrugged, “I guess I’m glad I’m not throwing interceptions.” I guess the Patriots are darn near unbeatable right now.
With apologies to Jay Cutler and the Bear, who clinched the NFC North with a 38–34 win over the Jets, the day’s most clutch performance came from fellow north signal-caller Aaron Rodgers, who kept the Pack on track for a playoff berth while dealing the Giants a possible death blow in a 45–17 rout at Lambeau Field. Rodgers bounced back from a concussion to set the Giants’ heads spinning, throwing for a career-high 404 yards and four touchdowns. “Those guys were ready to play,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. “They were sick and tired of hearing about how tough the Giants were all week.”