Lucky and Good. Even though Robert Griffin III seems a lock to win rookie of the year, it may well be that the guy making the headlines in the post-season is the only player taken higher in the draft. Andrew Luck led his Indianapolis Colts to a stunning last-ditch victory in Detroit Sunday, as the team won a wild game 35-33. With time expiring, the poised Luck threw a short but smart pass to Donnie Avery, who managed to run the 14 yards virtually uncontested. The two teams now have opposite records, as the Colts improved to 8-4 with the Lions slumping to 4-8.
While Luck and the Colts look unlikely to reel in the Houston Texans, who, at 11-1, are running away with the AFC South, a playoff spot is theirs to lose. As for the man who stepped into Peyton Manning’s shoes, Luck has now won more games than any rookie quarterback drafted No. 1 overall in the Super Bowl era. His performance had good points (391 yards with four TD passes) and bad (he matched a season-high three interceptions) but he got the all-important win. As for the hapless Lions, they’re the first team in 12 years to lose three straight games when leading with 2 minutes left in regulation, and the first team since at least 1983 to blow leads with barely any time left on the clock in three home games in a row. Time is certainly running out on Detroit’s season but the Colts, and Luck, continue to roll.
(MORE: Peyton Who? How Andrew Luck Arrived In Indy)
The Healing Begins. Many thought that the decision to allow the Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers to play their game, just 24 hours after linebacker Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide tragedy, was the wrong one. But in the words of coach Romeo Crennel, who saw his side snap an eight-game losing streak by defeating the Panthers 27-21, “as far as playing the game, I thought that was the best for us to do, because that’s what we do. We’re football players and football coaches and that’s what we do. We play on Sunday.” Chiefs owner Clark Hunt backed up his coach, stating that “It’s been an incredibly difficult 24 hours for our family and our entire organization. We have so many guys on our team and our coaching staff who are really, really hurting.” Perhaps center Ryan Lilja, one of the team captains who made the decision to play, summed it up most eloquently: “None of the options were good. The least worst option was to play. There was no precedent for this, and I don’t know if it was the right or wrong choice. But we chose to do it together.”
Despite the best efforts of Cam Newton (232 yards, three touchdowns), the Chiefs held on though sport was very much of secondary importance. Before kick off, the Chiefs players held a brief prayer in the tunnel while fans held signs about the shootings. There was also a moment of silence to remember all victims of domestic violence.
(MORE: How the Kansas City Chiefs, and NFL, Are Coping with Tragedy)
Buyers Remorse? It’s been well documented that the New York Jets are having a horrible season. On Thanksgiving, the nation saw the team cough up three touchdowns in 51 seconds, with quarterback Mark Sanchez the literal butt of all jokes. Surely a home game against a woeful Arizona Cardinals side, who had lost seven straight, would be the perfect opportunity to right a few wrongs. Not so much. With the Jets behind in a predictably ugly affair, coach Rex Ryan finally placated an unhappy fanbase by benching Sanchez in the third quarter (10 of 21 for 97 yards and three interceptions). But instead of backup QB Tim Tebow saving the day – he was recovering from two broken ribs – it was third choice Greg McElroy who stepped up and threw a touchdown pass to cap his first ever NFL drive, resulting in a 7-6 win.
Over on the West coast, the San Francisco 49ers hadn’t looked back since retaining their back up, Colin Kaepernick, despite starter Alex Smith being fully fit after a brief bout on the sidelines. But with Kaepernick responsible for most of the St. Louis Rams’s points – a safety and late touchdown from a poor pitchout that ultimately resulted in the Rams prevailing 16-13 in overtime – will the 49ers revert to Smith next week? Chances are that Kaepernick will keep his place in the lineup as coach Jim Harbaugh blamed his staff for the pitchout. An onlooking Smith may figure that his best chance of suiting up once again could come next season … but not for the 49ers but rather the Jets if Sanchez is finished in New York.