Bills 30, Colts 7Beyond the Box Score
* The Colts left in Peyton Manning
exactly long enough for him to reach 4,500 yards passing. Pulled early in the second quarter, Manning also left just in time for the wind and snow at Ralph Wilson Stadium to really pick up. Inept rookie replacement Curtis Painter
failed to move Indianapolis into Buffalo territory on a single occasion after the Colts' initial second-half possession.
* Following three first-half TD passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick
against a mostly second-team Colts defense, Fred Jackson
took over as the game's dominant player in the final two quarters. Highly effective after contact, F-Jax literally carried Indy's subs on his back en route to 110 second-half rushing yards. He finished with 35 touches, while Marshawn Lynch
got two. Even fullback Corey McIntyre
, he of zero career carries entering the game, got the football more than Lynch.
* Joseph Addai
was active for the game, but didn't play a single snap for "rest" purposes. Donald Brown
started at tailback, but was yanked along with Manning, Reggie Wayne
, and Dallas Clark
early in the second quarter. Mike Hart
took over the backfield from that point on.
* Wayne and Clark both stayed in just long enough to reach 100 receptions on the season. Hank Baskett
and Jacob Tamme
, respectively, took their spots out wide for Painter to throw to. Pierre Garcon
, out the last two games with a hand injury, was active but played a handful of snaps and didn't see a target. Going Forward
* With a first-round playoff bye, the No. 1-seeded Colts can rest their starters this week without catching flak from fans. In the Divisional Round, Indianapolis will play the worst seed remaining from Saturday and Sunday's Wild Card Round games.
* No matter the Bills' next coaching staff, Jackson has made a convincing case to be the team's clear-cut featured back in 2010. Lynch could go on the offseason trade block, as he was rumored to be in spring of 2009. Buffalo has plenty of holes and will likely explore a scheme change away from the "Cover 2" defense it employed under Perry Fewell. Draft picks will be needed.
* Fitzpatrick flashed enough in 2009 to enter next season as Buffalo's primary backup, but the team must find a new starting quarterback. The free agent market will be as thin as ever, so look for the Bills to select a QB in the first or second round of April's draft.
* Notable Bills that likely played their last down for the team on Sunday: Impending unrestricted free agent receivers Terrell Owens
and Josh Reed
, reserve quarterback Brian Brohm
, and perhaps right defensive end Aaron Schobel
, who claims he may retire.Browns 23, Jaguars 17Beyond the Box Score
* The Browns did exactly what the Jaguars set out to do -- pound it down their opponent's throat. Calling just 11 pass plays compared to a whopping 49 runs, Cleveland simply out-schemed and out-toughed Jacksonville even though the Jags were the only team that had something to play for. Jack Del Rio's club, on the other hand, passed 39 times with just 24 runs.
* The Jaguars were clearly out to establish the ground game; it just never happened. They called for runs on each of their first five plays from scrimmage, even looking to get rookie No. 2 back Rashard Jennings involved in a potential two-headed monster with Maurice Jones-Drew
. But falling behind 13-3 in the first half, then 20-3 by the third quarter forced David Garrard
to pass too often for Del Rio's liking. A fairly disappointing day for Jones-Drew (88 total yards, no touchdowns) resulted.
* As pointed out by Football Outsiders
, Jerome Harrison
's 33 carries Sunday vaulted him into historic territory. Harrison piled up 106 carries in Weeks 15-17, breaking Earl Campbell's old record for the most carries in the last three games of a season (103). Rodney Hampton (102) is the only other back to top 100, although John Riggins did go for 111 in the 1982 playoffs.
* Two injury replacements stepped up big for Jacksonville, even if it didn't result in a win. Rookie TE Zach Miller
started in place of Marcedes Lewis
(concussion) and led the Jags in receiving, also scoring two touchdowns and dominating in the short receiving game. Mike Thomas
, normally only a slot receiver, started at flanker for Torry Holt
(finger) and hauled in a cool seven of his ten targets. Mike Sims-Walker
was a non-factor again, capping his slow finish to 2009.Going Forward
* Harrison's sterling finish (593 yards, five TDs in Weeks 15-17) puts him in fine position to enter 2010 as Cleveland's starting tailback. You know new club president Mike Holmgren watched this game closely. 2009 sixth-round pick James Davis
, Mangini-regime favorite Chris Jennings
, and perhaps a free agent or mid-round rookie will probably compete to back Harrison up in 2010 training camp.
* It will be interesting to see if the Jaguars entertain bringing in competition for David Garrard
in the offseason. Del Rio has flirted with the idea before, and Garrard's ups and downs were maddening throughout 2009. He was especially atrocious on the road, has not improved since taking over as Jacksonville's starter three seasons ago, and turns 32 in February. Using an early- to mid-round pick on a quarterback is at least a strong possibility.
* Notable players from Jaguars-Browns that likely played their last down for their current team on Sunday: Jaguars wide receiver Torry Holt
, Browns quarterback Derek Anderson
, Browns tight end Robert Royal
. Texans 34, Patriots 27Beyond the Box Score
* Despite all the talk of Bernard Pollard
being an Patriots assassin, Wes Welker
's injury was of the non-contact variety. His knee simply gave out as he cut, sending Welker to the ground. An emotional Welker tried to hide his tears on the sideline, knowing that his season was over.
* Coach Bill Belichick had a plan to remove Tom Brady
in all two-minute, pass-heavy situations. Brady has reportedly been playing through three broken ribs and a fractured finger. He was pulled late in the second quarter and again late in the fourth, down by one touchdown with two minutes left. Brian Hoyer
, predictably, was unable to muster a comeback.
* Brady was sacked once by Mario Williams
, the first time he's been taken down in five weeks.
* Jacoby Jones
was headed toward goat status when he whiffed on a Matt Schaub
throw that was returned 91 yards for a touchdown by Pats rookie Darius Butler
. He redeemed himself, however, with an athletic one-handed, toe-tapping catch in double coverage at back of end zone and a 31-yard punt return that set up the game-winning score.
* The Texans came close to making the playoffs, needing the Bengals to knock off the Jets on Sunday Night Football. Their comeback against the Pats was admirable, down two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter. Going Forward
* Early reports on Welker are stark, with both his ACL and MCL torn. Julian Edelman
will step into Welker's starting role for the playoffs, and the team will have to address wide receiver in the offseason.
* It's tough to read into the deactivation of Laurence Maroney
and Kevin Faulk
. Maroney was believed to be in the doghouse after fumbling again last week, so the pairing with Faulk is puzzling. Expect the Pats to use a four-man committee in the playoffs. Fred Taylor
's two red-zone scores could leave him as the favorite for goal-line work.
* Coming off back-to-back impressive performances, Arian Foster
is putting himself in the Texans' backfield picture for 2010. Though not as strong as Steve Slaton
in the passing game, he's still above average. Foster is easily the team's strongest runner as well as the best red-zone option. The Texans were expected to address the position in the draft, but Foster will enter the offseason as the starter.
* Jacoby Jones
has outshone Kevin Walter
in limited playing time all season, and he continued his stellar play this week. Similar to the Saints' Robert Meachem
, Jones is a big-play receiver in need of an increased role. Expect him to push Walter for the starting job in 2010.
* The ice surrounding kicker Kris Brown
just got a little bit thinner. Continuing his season-long struggles, Brown missed two field goals as well as an extra point. Though he just signed a long-term extension last offseason, the team will have to bring in competition in 2010.Packers 33, Cardinals 7Beyond the Box Score
* Jermichael Finley
could have had a monster game. He had a 30-yard gain called back on an illegal procedure penalty and couldn't quite get his second foot down on a back-of-the-end zone grab.
* Aaron Rodgers
surprisingly played through the third quarter while Kurt Warner
left after the first frame.
* Matt Leinart
failed miserably as Warner's caddy, throwing two picks and struggling to move the offense. He would have added a third interception, but it was called back for a safety on a holding penalty in the end zone.
* Larry Fitzgerald
played the entire game, seemingly in a failed attempt to reach 100 catches. He did manage to grab his 13th touchdown in garbage time with Brian St. Pierre
* The two teams didn't do a great job of avoiding key injuries. Anquan Boldin
suffered left ankle and knee injuries when he had his leg trapped underneath his body. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
was carted off with a knee contusion after being spiked and having his leg slammed hard on the turf. Calais Campbell
suffered a fractured left thumb. Charles Woodson
, who recorded his third pick-six of the season, left with a shoulder injury.Going Forward
* Boldin and Rodgers-Cromartie both say they are "OK," but they'll likely miss practice time this week. We'd tentatively expect them to play at less than full health in the rematch next week. Campbell will undergo tests Monday and may need screws in his thumb. Woodson said he was fine and could have gone back in the game if needed.
* Coach Ken Whisenhunt expressed confidence in Leinart after the game, but the Cardinals have to be hoping that Warner puts off retirement for another season.Steelers 30, Dolphins 24 Beyond the Box Score
* Ben Roethlisberger
injured his right (throwing) arm when he reached for a fumble in the fourth quarter. He could barely move it between plays, but still managed to throw the ball with zip and finished off the win. Concussion problems aside, Big Ben again showed real toughness this season.
* Chad Henne
didn't play in the second half after taking a hard hit to the head on a sack by LaMarr Woodley
. He had blurred vision that worsened when he sat down in the locker room. Henne will see an eye doctor on Monday, but should be fine.
* Lex Hilliard
can play. Aside from his brute power between the tackles, Hilliard's best asset may be his underrated pass-catching ability, which was on display during his touchdown in this one. Even if Ronnie Brown
gets healthy for next season, Hilliard should have some kind of role.
* The Steelers are a passing team now and that's not going to change. They opened the game in a five-wideout set and continued to run out of spread formations. Going Forward
* If this was Willie Parker
's last game as a Steeler, he went out in style. Parker played his biggest role since Week 3 and even had a touchdown called back due to a holding call. Still, this performance doesn't overshadow how slow and ineffective the artist formally known as Fast Willie was most of the year.
* Ricky Williams
says he wants to play one more season and then retire. Assuming that's the case, he'll be fantasy asset again in 2010. He continues to run really, really hard. We'll see what Ronnie Brown
's status is for Week 1 of next year.
* Hines Ward
continues to defy any kind of generalities related to age. He was clearly limited by a nagging hamstring injury, but was the exclusive target on all kinds of screens and outs. Ward, 33, caught 95 passes this season. We'll still bet against him playing in all 16 games again next season.
* We hate to pick on a guy that probably suffered a severe concussion in this one, but Pat White
is not an NFL quarterback right now. He can't make any kind of throws to the sideline and misread the Steelers' blitzes repeatedly.