Week 12 in the NFL saw the “Harbaugh Bowl” as John Harbaugh’s Baltimore Ravens defeated Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers 16-6 at the M&T Bank Stadium. As most of the United States relaxed after downing turkey and cranberry sauce to celebrate Thanksgiving, this contest presented a duel of two of the most impressive defences in the NFL and the hard smash-mouth battle that ensued reflected the personalities of two brothers who have competed in friendly sibling rivalry all their lives.
Despite the absence of defensive captain Ray Lewis, Baltimore was able to sack Niners quarterback Alex Smith nine times, led by Terrell Suggs with three. The Baltimore D held running back Frank Gore to a paltry 39 yards on 14 carries as the Niners weren’t able to establish even a modicum of a ground game. The defensive interception of Alex Smith on a key drive for the 49ers just before the half meant the Ravens went into the break ahead 6-3 as San Francisco held tight against Joe Flacco and the Ravens offence almost as admirably.
In the second half, San Francisco kicker David Akers connected from 52-yards to even the score at 6-6, forcing Baltimore to respond with the lone touchdown drive of the game. The drive took seven and a half minutes off the clock and covered 76-yards as Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco found tight-end Dennis Pitta in the end-zone for an 8 yard touchdown pass with around fourteen minutes left to play. San Francisco, who have not had issue in previous weeks finding their way into pay-dirt could offer no form of response and the only additional points came from the boot of Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff, taking him to nine points for the day and giving the game a two-possession score line that San Francisco were not going to recuperate from.
The two brother coaches hugged at the end of the game, with John Harbaugh covered in Gatorade from the bath the Ravens players gave him as the final quarter ended. The loss was a tough one for the 49ers but at 9-2 are still in great shape for a top seeding in the NFC. Their division is extremely weak, with next week’s game coming against the Arizona Cardinals who had managed a victory of their own in Week 12 against the truly disappointing St Louis Rams 23-20. The Cardinals are struggling with extremely poor quarterback play though and San Francisco should get back to winning ways. Baltimore go to 8-3 and find themselves atop the hotly contested AFC North with every game the rest of the way crucial as they try to hold off the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals.
Around the League
Also on Thanksgiving, the Dallas Cowboys kicked a last gasp field-goal to overcome the resurgent Miami Dolphins 20-19 in Miami. On Sunday, big Ben Roethlisberger and his Pittsburgh Steelers fought off the pain in Ben’s hand and a very game Kansas City Chiefs defence to squeak a 13-9 victory. Vince Young continues to demonstrate why he is really no Michael Vick as he and the Philadelphia Eagles were humbled 38-20 by the New England Patriots. The Tim Tebow bandwagon keeps rolling and seems to be gaining new members as he once again did enough (with a lot of help from Von Miller and his defence) to see off the woeful San Diego Chargers in overtime. If Norv Turner is not the next coach to be dismissed it should be regarded as very surprising.
Caleb Hanie who replaced the injured Jay Cutler failed to overcome the Oakland Raiders, as the Chicago Bears sunk 25-20. The Atlanta Falcons showed a little Jekyll and Hyde but, eventually got the job done against the Minnesota Vikings 24-14 with a huge heads-up play by cornerback Chris Owens to prevent a Percy Harvin return for a touchdown. The Carolina Panthers kept the Indianapolis Colts win less 27-19. The Colts have benched quarterback Curtis Painter and turn to Dan Orlovsky in a desperate move to get their first win. In the Monday game Drew Brees was sensational as the New Orleans Saints ripped apart the New York Giants 49-24.
When a player is named by his peers as the current “dirtiest player in the game “, you would have thought little effort would be made to try and exacerbate the stigma. Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has been a terror ever since he was drafted with the number two overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Nebraska. Fully aware of his own remarkable talent, Suh has bullied offensive linemen and crushed opposing quarterbacks, leading all defensive tackles with 10 sacks in 2010
On Thanksgiving during the Lions 27-15 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Suh pushed the helmet and stomped on the arm of Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith causing his immediate ejection from the game. The defensive tackle faces at least a two-game suspension and is likely to be forced to take anger management classes.
Suh’s fines now total $42,500 since entering the league and this latest incident is not long removed from a summit meeting between Suh and league officials to discuss the player’s behaviour. His reaction to the incident was a gritted-teeth apology, as he was adamant he was trying to remove himself from the situation and didn’t really do anything wrong. Speaking to the press, Suh claimed with all the eyes of the world on him he would never intentionally step on a player and “the man upstairs” knows this.
Hall-of- Fame running back Marshall Faulk found this fleeting reference rather comical, he said: “Suh made mention of the man upstairs. While he is likely referring to God, he will likely have to worry about the wrath of (NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell sooner.”
All change in Jacksonville
The Jacksonville Jaguars are being sold by principal owner Wayne Weaver 18 years after the city was awarded the franchise. The buyer, a business man out of Illinois named Shahid Khan, is the owner and CEO of Urbana, Ill.-based Flex-N-Gate Corp. Khan is reported to have spent $760 million of his own personal wealth and incurred $360 million worth of debt to arrive at the agreed price.
Although there were no assurances in the agreement, Khan is thought to be keen on keeping the team in Jacksonville. While this offers little in terms of confidence in local fans, Weaver has stressed that he believes in the integrity of Khan and his passion for the Jacksonville team.
The news broke very shortly after the firing of Coach Jack Del Rio as well as other personnel moves within the set-up. The 20-13 loss to the Houston Texans, who dealt with the Jags fairly handily despite having their third string rookie quarterback behind centre. The loss eliminates the Jaguars from play-off contention at 3-8 and prompted the immediate dismissal of Del Rio. Many believe the Jaguars have been a much better team than their record would suggest in numerous seasons and they have underachieved.
Rookie Blaine Gabbert at quarterback is struggling and unless improvement is shown the off-season could have Jacksonville once again looking for a long-term solution at the position. Perhaps inspiration can be taken from the team’s running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who has continued to play hard and put up good numbers despite the significant lack of talent around him.