Some things never change, but a lot of things do.
There was not a passing of the torch from Tom Brady to Andrew Luck on Sunday, as the Patriots dominated the Colts in every sense of the word. The Pats’ 59-24 stomping of Indianapolis showed the NFL that Foxboro is still not a place any team wants to travel come January.
But it was the Patriots’ defense as opposed to their offense that made a statement in this game, returning two Luck interceptions for touchdowns.
The Patriots are a contender once again; that hasn’t changed. But several contenders find themselves in jeopardy because of a change at quarterback.
The Steelers, Bears, 49ers, and Eagles all suffered injuries to their starting QBs, and it could spell disaster for all of them.
Or will it?
Backup QB Colin Kaepernick filled in for a concussed Alex Smith on Monday night against Chicago and ran up the score on that formidable Bears defense. Kaepernick led his team on a 32-7 romp of Chicago, prompting head coach Jim Harbaugh to say the 49ers will start “the hot hand” at QB.
Meanwhile, across from Kaepernick, Bears backup Jason Campbell struggled mightily, throwing for just 107 yards. Campbell also threw two interceptions and was sacked six times.
5.5 of those sacks came courtesy of Aldon Smith, a Monday Night Football record.
The fill-ins for the Steelers and Eagles were much more Campbell than Kaepernick. Byron Leftwich, playing for an injured Ben Roethlisberger, came out with guns blazing but sputtered in the end.
Leftwich began the game by leading the Steelers on a two-play touchdown drive that was capped off by his own 31-yard touchdown scamper.
And that was about all Pittsburgh got from Leftwich, who was able to put only three more points on the board in a 10-13 loss to the Ravens. Leftwich not only lost the game, but suffered broken ribs to boot. He likely won’t play on Sunday for the Steelers, who now call on veteran Charlie Batch to keep their postseason hopes alive.
In Philadelphia, the fans finally got what they wanted in QB Nick Foles. After weeks of crying for Michael Vick to be benched, I’m sure Eagles fans are eating their words now. Foles got his first NFL start and fell flat on his face in a 31-6 drubbing at the hands of the Washington Redskins. The Eagles are now the cellar dwellers in the NFC East at 3-7.
One quarterback changed his play in a dramatic way this week, throwing for the second-most yards in a game in NFL history. That quarterback, Houston’s Matt Schaub, hadn’t thrown for 300 yards in a game all season until he chucked for 527 yards and five scores against Jacksonville this week. Schaub got more than a little help from his star wideout Andre Johnson, who reeled in 15 of Schaub’s passes for a whopping 273 yards. Johnson was the hero of the game, taking a screen pass 48 yards for the game-winning score in extra time. Johnson’s 273 yards were good for the 9th-best game all time in terms of yardage.
Schaub also became the only NFL quarterback with multiple games of 497 yards or more.
Schaub and Johnson’s heroics lifted the Texans past the Jaguars, running their record to 9-1.
Also improving to 9-1 were the Atlanta Falcons, who, like the Texans, were tested by a lesser team. Arizona gave Atlanta a good fight, but the Falcons overcame five Matt Ryan interceptions to win 23-19.
Change continues to take over the NFL, bringing about questions of playoffs, home-field advantage, and Super Bowl runs.
Can the Bears win without Jay Cutler? Can the Steelers do so without Ben Roethlisberger?
Even with injuries, are the Ravens a contender?
The Texans and Falcons are the best teams in their respective conference in terms of record. Are they contenders or pretenders?
Where will Andy Reid coach next year? What about Sean Payton? It certainly seems Reid will be ushered out of Philly, but will Payton leave New Orleans? Rumor has it that Jerry Jones wants to fill a dump truck with hundreds and drive it over to Payton’s house.
Only time, and not my speculation, can answer these pressing questions.
I’ll only offer this bit of advice I once heard.
“Times, they are a-changin.”
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