Back to normal
With little less than a minute remaining in the third quarter, New England scored at Denver to put the Pats up 34-14. That was a 20-point deficit for the Broncos against a marquee opponent, at home. A perfect script for another Tebow-esque performance that would have surpassed the previous six comeback wins. It would have been Iron Chef material, with apologies to Geoffrey Zakarian. The final act caved however. Instead of running through brick walls, Tebow’s Broncos traded fourth quarter TDs with the Patriots to let the thin air out of the big Mile High Balloon. It wasn’t in the cards. Of course neither were the previous heroic wins. Thousands of people actually do heroic things every day. God is a busy man. Far too busy for a man making a living playing professional sports. Teach a man to fish…
It was the Lions that took over the penchant for the dramatic comeback. In a crucial game for both sides at Oakland, Detroit was down 27-14 with only seven-plus minutes remaining in the game. Who needs Tim Tebow when you have Matthew Stafford? On an afternoon where the former Sooner threw for 391 yards and four TDs, he led his charges in the final quarter on a 10-play, 71-yard scoring drive, and followed that with a 98-yard drive that took only 1:35 off the clock to put his Lions ahead 28-27. The Raiders had just enough time to put Sebastian Janikowski in position for his thunder-leg to kick a game-winning, NFL-record-setting 65 yard field goal. It was blocked.
A 65-yard field goal would not have been normal. Nor would it have been normal for this season, or any season, to include a 0-16 team and a 16-0 team. The Colts, well on their way to a winless campaign, surprised their fans and all football fans with a thoroughly dominant second half to win at home, 27-13. In the first win without Peyton Manning in 14 years, the Colts stuck with Dan Orlovsky, a quarterback who was 0-9 in his NFL career as a starter, and who had been one of the quarterbacks for Detroit in 2008 when the Lions finished 0-16. Today, he passed for less than a hundred yards, and won.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Packers were seemingly a shoe-in to burst into the playoffs undefeated. On Sunday, they were in Kansas City for one of those classic banana-skin match-ups. The Pack outscored the Chiefs in the second half, but it was the ineptness of Green Bay’s scoreless first half that did them in. The result was a lackluster 19-14 bust. A lot of Miami Dolphins fans and alumni must be partying like it was 1972.
Sunday was a day that will go down in NFL history as only the third time in which on a single day, a team lost that was at least 10-0, and a team won that was at least 0-10. Sunday was the end of the undefeated team, the end of the winless team, and the end of a mile-high magic carpet ride that will soon be relegated from paragraph to footnote in the history of professional football. Sunday was back-to-normal day.