Several teams in the NFC East had the opportunity to record signature wins – and one still does heading into the Monday Night game – but at the end of the day on Sunday, all that those teams had to show for their efforts was major disappointment.
With the Philadelphia Eagles (3-5) in desperate need of a win against New Orleans tonight, here is what happened with the other three teams in the division on Sunday:
The New York Giants had a chance to improve to 7-2, take absolute control of the division, prove they are ready to defend their Super Bowl title by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers and also win for New York and New Jersey fans who suffered through Hurricane Sandy.
The Giants took a 20-10 lead into the fourth quarter, but unlike New York’s Week 2 final-quarter explosion against Tampa Bay, it was the Steelers who had one of their best quarters of the season, scoring twice to walk away with a 24-20 victory.
New York jumped out to a lead thanks to terrible officiating in the first half. Of note:
- A phantom 41-yard pass interference call against Keenan Lewis.
- A dreadful personal foul/hit-to-the-head call in the end zone against Ryan Clark on that same drive, after the Steelers had stopped the Giants on 3rd-and-goal – despite the fact that Clark never even came close to touching Victor Cruz’s head with any part of his body.
- Rewarding Andre Brown with a TD to end that drive, even though he was on the ground before the ball crossed the goal line.
- The blown call on the “Tuck Rule” play, turning what should have been an incomplete pass into a Giants TD.
- The referees somehow completing missing a blatant block-to-the-back against Heath Miller around the 10-yard line on Michael Boley’s subsequent fumble return.
To the Giants’ credit, they took full advantage of all the breaks they got, and were able to take a 14-7 lead. They added a pair of FGs in the second half to go up 20-10, but could not get anything going on offense in the fourth quarter.
State of the day: Eli Manning dropped back to pass 9 times in 3rd-down situations – he failed to convert all nine times, getting sacked two times, throwing six incomplete passes and completing a pass that was well short of a first down.
Here is what the Giants' offense did in the fourth quarter on Sunday:
- Two running plays that netted 1 yard
- Manning 1-for-5, 1 yard
- Manning sacked two times, for -20 yards
- Three punts
Total yards in quarter: Nine offensive plays, -18 yards
New York was able to sack Ben Roethlisberger four times, getting credit for the forced fumble and subsequent TD return; Corey Webster also intercepted Roethlisberger to cut short a Pittsburgh drive.
The Giants simply could not stop Isaac Redman and the Steelers ground game. Redman had a career-high 147 rushing yards, the final 28 coming on a late-game burst that sealed the game. The Steelers out-rushed the Giants 158-68, averaging 4.5 YPC in the process. New York, meanwhile, averaged just 3.1 YPC on its 22 attempts.
Redman proved very difficult to tackle, as he repeatedly broke tackles and churned out yardage after getting hit. The 35 rushing attempts allowed the Steelers to maintain ball control; Pittsburgh held the ball for 35:15, and ran 69 offensive plays compared to New York's 48.
Overall on offense, the Steelers out-gained the Giants 349-182.
- Competitive Cowboys not quite good enough
For the fourth straight game, Dallas played well enough to win. But for the third time in those four games, the Cowboys did not win. The Cowboys hung in against the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons all game long, getting to within a FG with under 6 minutes remaining.
But Atlanta controlled the ball for nearly all of the final 5:31, ending the drive with a FG, and leaving Dallas with just 22 seconds to try to move down the field for a winning TD. It didn’t happen, and the Cowboys lost 19-13.
Dallas should have defeated Baltimore on the road in Week 6, falling 31-29 on a missed FG as time expired. Dallas did beat Carolina, 19-14, before losing a heartbreaker last week to the Giants, 29-24.
It looked in that game as if Dez Bryant had caught the winning TD in the final minute, only to have it overturned because Bryant’s hand landed out of bounds. The Cowboys have been competitive in nearly every game this season (with the lone exception of the disastrous trip to Seattle in Week 2) – with six of the eight games being decided by a TD or less.
Jason Garrett’s team just hasn’t been able to do enough to win those close games.
Tony Romo played well last night, completing 71 percent of his passes for 321 yards and 1 TD. The running game for Dallas continued to be M.I.A., though, as the Falcons out-rushed the Cowboys 123-65. The Cowboys averaged a pedestrian 3.6 YPC.
On Atlanta’s final drive – 12 plays, 64 yards, 5:04 TOP – Dallas couldn’t make a stop on 3rd-and-6 or 3rd-and-8. The second was the back-breaker, as Orlando Scandrick was called for defensive holding and Atlanta awarded an automatic first down.
The Cowboys had a final chance to stop the drive, but Matt Ryan converted a 3rd-and-5 pass attempt, and by the time the Cowboys got the ball back, they needed some kind of miracle pass play that just didn’t happen.
- RG3, Redskins stopped short
Washington, and Robert Griffin III were twice stopped short on fourth down against Carolina on Sunday, for all intents and purposes bringing an end to any playoff hopes in the nation’s capital, and giving the final seven games a different focus.
With the 21-13 loss to Carolina, Washington falls to 3-6, remaining three games behind division-leader New York.
Trailing 7-3 in the second quarter, the Redskins drove the ball to the Panthers 7, setting up 1st-and-goal. Three plays netted 5 yards, leaving the ‘Skins with a fourth down. RG3 kept the ball on fourth down, but was unable to reach the end zone, ending the drive.
Carolina responded with a 98-yard scoring drive that put the Panthers up 14-3 at halftime.
Trailing 21-6 with 7:37 left in the game, the Redskins moved the ball out to their 43, and faced with a 4th-and-10, went for it again. RG3 was sacked for a nine-yard loss to end that drive. Later in the quarter, Washington did get into the end zone on an Evan Royster TD run, cutting the deficit to a one-possession game – but it was just a little too late.
Washington was able to convert on 3-of-5 4th-down opportunities, but the two misses were costly.
RG3 completed 59 percent of his passes, for 215 yards. He also rushed for 53 yards a week after being limited to just 7 yards on the ground.