The Packers have only the Super Bowl to look forward to now
Somewhere, the most annoying former champs in sports, the 1972 Dolphins, are planning their annual toast to their own perfection, their status as the NFL's lone unbeaten champions secure for another year. The latest threat to Mercury Morris' only claim to relevance was derailed by a guy who was chased out of Denver with a 1–4 record.
That's right — Kyle Orton, the guy the Broncos jettisoned in favor of Tim Tebow, just outdueled the likely MVP. It's a funny game sometimes.
The Chiefs' 19–14 win over the Packers in Kansas City did more than deny the Pack a shot at perfection. It may have given Romeo Crennel a full-time job. The Chiefs' interim coach brought the perfect gameplan into Arrowhead Stadium, harassing Aaron Rodgers into his first sub-50 percent passing performance in more than a year with an invigorated pass rush and an effective nickel package. How bad did it get? The Packers made only five first downs in the first half and at one point lined up in the Wildcat despite possessing the game's best quarterback.
"Everybody had marked it off as a win for the Packers, but those guys in the locker room, they're football players," Crennel said. "They decided they were not going to lay down, they were not going to give up, so they went out and played a tremendous game."
Orton was solid in the win, completing 23-of-31 for 299 yards and helming an efficient attack that outgained the Packers 438-to-315 and didn't commit a turnover.
Afterwards, the Packers said all the right things, talking about the big picture and the greater goals. "I personally always viewed the undefeated season as, really, just gravy," said coach Mike McCarthy. "The goal was to get home-field advantage and win the Super Bowl. That's what we discussed."
But the game did reveal some alarming vulnerability. Rodgers looked lost at times without top target Greg Jennings, out for a few weeks with an injury. A team that had lost five of six and just fired its coach had its way at times, particularly on defense.
The road to the Super Bowl just opened up for some grateful NFC teams. The Chiefs provided a defensive blueprint for stopping the unstoppable.
• Yesterday, up was down, black was white, and dogs and cats were seen condo-shopping. While the Packers were losing, the Colts were winning, beating Tennessee 27–13 to improve to 1–13. Elias reports that it was only the third time in NFL history that a team as bad as 0–10 won while a team as good as 10–0 lost. The Colts' clincher came when the Titans forgot to tackle Donald Brown on an 80-yard TD jaunt. The loss was painful for the Titans, but there may be an upside for Tennessee and the rest of the AFC South: Jim Caldwell might have saved his job. To Caldwell's credit, though, his team did show up, while the Titans did not.
• So Tim Tebow is human. I think we knew that. But some of the rejoicing today is a little unseemly. Does anyone else find it a little unfair to rip Tebow for being outplayed by Tom Brady? So the guy can't beat this generation's Joe Montana. What exactly does that prove? Timmy's detractors are so starved for a little schadenfreude that they're the ones holding him to an impossible standard. Tebow certainly wasn't bad against the Broncos, accounting for 287 total yards and two touchdowns. But Brady was brilliant — 23-of-34, 320 yards, two TD passes and a rushing TD. And the Broncos provided way too much help, turning it over three times in a disastrous second quarter after a blazing start. Here's a fun thought: The Broncos might need a win over Kyle Orton and the Chiefs to clinch the AFC West. Now that'll be must-see TV.
• One week after the world was singing Eli Manning's praises, he dropped a three-interception deuce against the Redskins in a 23–10 loss that dealt a blow to the Giants' playoff hopes. Eli lives in a knee-jerk media fishbowl, but sometimes he just doesn't help himself. The Giants now need assistance in a tight NFC East race, and they’ve let the Dream Team back into the race. That's right — the Eagles, long given up for dead, still have a shot, although it's a longshot.
• While Aaron Rodgers struggled, Drew Brees cruised, climbing closer to Dan Marino's single-season record for passing yardage while also inching closer to Rodgers in the MVP race thanks to a breathtaking performance in New Orleans' 42–20 win over Minnesota. After his 412-yard, five-touchdown masterpiece, Brees is 304 yards away from Marino's record of 5,084 yards, with two games to play. Here's a boutique stat for you: Brees became the first quarterback to throw for more than 400 with five TDs, and complete 80 percent of his passes with no interceptions in a game.
• If the season started in December, the Chargers would win their division every year. The Bolts are riding the crest of another late-season wave, beating the Ravens 34–14 for their third straight win. San Diego is now 20–2 under Norv Turner in December/January games. The guy's come back from the dead more than an army of zombies.
— by Rob Doster