Atlanta Falcons, Branden Bolden, Cincinnati Bengals, DeVante Parker, Green Bay Packers, Joe Philbin, Kenny Stills, Kenyan Drake, LA Chargers, Matt Haack, Miami Dolphins, Miami Miracle, New England Patriots, NFL, Reggie McKenzie, Rob Gronkowski, Ryan Tannehill, Stephen Gostkowski, Tom Brady
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have seen the light! On Sunday evening, I witnessed nothing short of a miracle at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami… but I’ll go into a bit more on that in a minute.
It’s nearly Christmas, and at this point of the season I should really be thinking about editing Gee’s sleigh-bells into the podcast, but as it goes this year, we’ve got none of that. Instead, we’ve got some really interesting football goings-on, which if you think about it is even more exciting (although I understand that’s difficult to believe!). One surprise for me was how close the Bengals managed to keep their game on Sunday night with the Chargers, and I promise you I mean that kindly. I know how much Gee was dreading the game (because, well… he told me he was) but actually they kept the game really close. It’s not easy to keep up with the Chargers at all this season, especially when you’re without your starting QB and star receiver, so to keep the game within just 5 points was actually quite impressive.
Once again though, the Dolphins are absolutely adamant that they’re going to finish me off before the end of the season, and in the very final play of the game, an awesome lateral play (Tannehill to Stills, to Parker, to Drake) saw the ‘Fins beat the Patriots by 34 points to 33.
It was a fantastic game for the neutral with 9 changes in the lead throughout the game, which I believe to be a season record, and one more change than seen in the Bucs/Saints game earlier in the year. It really was a case of ‘anything you can do, we can do better’… except for Kicking. Stephen Gostkowski uncharacteristically missed his first Extra Point of the year, along with a failed FG try, and Dolphins punter Matt Haack had a few punts blocked, giving the Pats some good field starting positions throughout the game.
The end of the first half was a bit of a scary time for the Dolphins too. Ryan Tannehill, who is only a couple of weeks removed from a Shoulder injury, took a nasty knock to his right ankle from a member of his own line, leading to some time on the sidelines, a return with some very heavy strapping, and a heck of a lot of hobbling in the second half! He took a lot of hits, especially in the first two quarters, but still managed a 155.2 passer rating, despite 4 sacks.
Another player who had a hell of a day for the Dolphins was Branden Bolden. The former Patriot clearly had a chip on his shoulder going into this game, and a wish to show his former employers what they’re missing, and despite going into the game with just 1 carry, he ran twice on Sunday, scoring TDs on both occasions!
But the real beauty of the game came in the final minute. Let me set the scene: New England had just charged up the field (with the help of a pass interference call) and despite our best efforts, the Dolphins couldn’t stop them from kicking 3 points, putting the Pats 5 points ahead with just under 20 seconds to go. After a short kick return, Miami had just 7 seconds remaining, with no Timeouts, backed up on their own 31. It’s game over, right?
Well… not exactly. Tannehill took a quick step back, throwing to Kenny Stills for about 15 yards. He spun around, throwing the ball back to De’vante Parker, who overlapped his run and in turn threw it back to Kenyan Drake. Drake cut in from the touch line and perfectly judged the angle of his run. With the help of a couple of lovely blocks, he headed towards the goal line, causing Gronkowski (who had been put into the play in anticipation of a Hail Mary) to slip, allowing Drake to head into the end-zone with no time remaining, giving the Dolphins the win by just 1 point! It was nothing short of an incredible finish to an exciting game, and once again for the 5th time in his last 6 attempts, Tom Brady came away from Miami with a loss. And it all means that the Dolphins are still in with a shout of some January football, although there are now 4 teams on 7-6 vying for that last AFC Wildcard spot.
Elsewhere, there’s been another firing this week – this time it’s Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie who has faced the music. The Raiders have been poor this season, but timing of this one is a little curious given that they picked up their third win of the season on Sunday over the Steelers, who currently sit atop the AFC North. I’m not sure what they’re hoping to get from that firing. I can only think that there was a little more to it than meets the eye.
You’ll remember that the Packers got rid of their Head Coach last week and had former ‘fin Joe Philbin calling the shots this week in the Interim position. As is often the case, the team had a ‘bounce’ this week, beating the Falcons convincingly.
I took a new tactic this week for my picks. As I’ve been terrible all season, I decided that I would go completely against my instincts. I’m not sure if I should be pleased or depressed about it, but that saw me hit my first double-digit week of the season, and believe it or not, it almost puts me back into contention (albeit with an extremely slim chance). I’m torn as to what tactic I’m going to go with for the rest of the season now given the success of last week…!
Rams watch: Second loss of the year this week, so here’s what the bet is looking like…
When I next write, there’ll be just a week left until Christmas. What do you want from your team over the festive period? And are you expecting any merch from your favourite team? Get in touch on Twitter – I’d love to hear about it!
Until next time…