Stop if you’ve heard this before, but this past week in the AFC West Denver won while the other three teams lost. It sounds like a broken record, but it happens a different way every week. Let’s explore further with the good, the bad, and the ugly of Week 12.
Good – It wasn’t the prettiest or most convincing win for the Broncos, but when the game was on the line the offense orchestrated a game-clinching drive in the fourth quarter that sealed the game. Peyton Manning and the Denver offense took over at their own 16-yard line with 6:24 to play and gave the ball back after a field goal with just 14 seconds left on the clock. The final drive of game was vintage Manning and the ideal way for a good team to put away an inferior opponent and close out a game.
Bad – It was another sub-par game for Denver place kicker Matt Prater. For the third consecutive week Prater missed a field goal, going 1 for 3 against the Chiefs. Over the last three weeks Prater is just 6 for 10 on field goals. It hasn’t cost Denver in the win/loss column as of yet, but for a team to compete for a championship they need to have a confident kicker, and that’s something the Broncos aren’t sure they have at the moment.
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Ugly – The six-game winning streak hides it, but there are still some growing pains between Manning and his receivers. There are still drops by receivers and instances when Manning and his receivers aren’t quite on the same page. Prior to the final drive of the game, Manning completed just one of his nine passes in 4th quarter, an ugly stat that helped keep the Chiefs competitive deep into the 4th quarter.
Good – Much like we saw a few Monday nights ago against the Steelers, the Chiefs played with some competitive fire on Sunday against their old division rivals. Kansas City actually looked like a NFL team against the Broncos, as they ran the ball effectively and played good defense: the formula the Chiefs must follow if they’re going to have a chance to win games down the stretch.
Bad – Kansas City spent time with a lead on Sunday against the Broncos thanks to a pair of first quarter field goals, but they needed to be better about capitalizing on early opportunities. The Chiefs were in position to potentially take a 10-0 lead over the Broncos, which could have really gotten the home crowd behind them and put pressure on the Broncos. However, after settling for two early field goals, Peyton Manning and the Broncos were not intimidated by the crowd or the size of their deficit.
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Ugly – Early in the game, while the Chiefs were in the midst of settling for field goals, they attempted an ill-conceived trick play with running back Peyton Hillis taking the ball and attempting a throw back to quarterback Brady Quinn, who was running a wheel route. The pass fell harmlessly to the ground, well short of Quinn, and promptly ended the team’s first possession of the game. Kansas City is having enough trouble executing basic offensive plays, so why the coaches thought they could pull off a complicated trick play is anyone’s guess.
Good – If there’s a silver lining in Oakland’s blowout loss to the Bengals it may be that for once the Raiders didn’t beat themselves. Oakland committed just three penalties for a total of 25 yards, which is rather uncharacteristic of them, but it was one thing that didn’t contribute to their loss to Cincinnati.
Bad – It was not the kind of homecoming that quarterback Carson Palmer was hoping for, as he made his return to the city where his career got started. Palmer forced his way out of Cincinnati a couple years ago, thinking that the Bengals couldn’t win long term, but in his return to The Queen City on Sunday he was badly outdueled by Andy Dalton, the player the Bengals drafted to replace him.
Ugly – The Oakland offense was beyond ugly against the Bengals; they were downright pitiful. Cincinnati outgained Oakland 415 to 217, a frightening disparity. Palmer threw for just 146 yards, as the Raiders averaged 3.5 yards per pass play. Just four of Oakland’s 11 drives lasted for longer than five plays in what was one of their worst offensive games of the season.
Good – After scoring nine points and keeping the Chargers in the game last week, San Diego’s defense was stout again versus Baltimore, allowing just 16 points in five quarters of play. The Ravens came away with points just once in three trips to the red zone, as the San Diego defense pulled its weight. Obviously, they didn’t close out the game well, but the Charger’s offense should have been able to expand on their lead and do a little more to help out the defense.
Bad – When the defense is doing its part, at some point you have to throw them a bone, which the Charger’s offense failed to do. San Diego was 3 for 15 on third down opportunities, which means they weren’t staying on the field and giving their defense a chance to rest. They also weren’t giving them any kind of cushion to work with. Instead, they were putting more and more pressure on the defense as the game wore on, and eventually the Charger’s defense couldn’t hold on any longer without support from the offense.
Ugly – San Diego has found a lot of ways to lose in the fourth quarter this season, but this game might top them all. On a 4th and 29 play in their own territory, Baltimore running back Ray Rice gained 30 yards to pick up a first down and set up a game-tying field goal that forced overtime. The Charger’s biggest fault on the play is that they allowed Rice to run for over 20 yards after he made the catch on a short check down. If Rice had gained 28 yards or fewer on the play, San Diego would have won the game, but the Chargers couldn’t tackle him in time, and they ultimately lost the game because of it, redefining the low point of their season.