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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, November 18, 2013 at 9:16 AM




By Jim Hurley

Do you happen to remember those old NFL Films episodes where the late/great Al Davis of Oakland Raiders fame used to proclaim that, “The quarterback must go down … and he must go down hard!”

Wow, gotta admit those little 1970s and 1980s sound bites still get to us to this day, but you get what Davis was saying in terms of NFL defense:

Make the quarterback pay for his passing yards and his passing attempts.

Let’s just say the Kansas City Chiefs didn’t adhere to Mr. Davis’ comments in their Sunday Night game at Denver – a rock-solid 27-17 win/cover by the 7 ½-point home team:

Not only did Broncos’ QB Peyton Manning not get sacked a single time, but he was barely touched – if you watched his post-game interview with NBC’s Michelle Tayofa then you noticed he didn’t have any dirt or grass stains on his “uni”.

The Chiefs came into the prime-time game with an NFL-best 36 quarterback sacks, but even though Manning had his injured ankles tapped to the hilt, they couldn’t get to him all night long, one of the major keys to victory for the Broncos (9-1), who climbed into a first-place tie with the Chiefs (also 9-1) in the AFC West.

Manning wound up the evening throwing for 323 yards and one touchdown and was an absolute maestro when it came time to whittle away game clock in the fourth quarter – the Chiefs simply didn’t get their hands on the ball much when it mattered most and didn’t do enough when they did have it for 73 offensive snaps that produced a pair of touchdowns but just one second-half score.

Meanwhile, it’s the cumulative effect of Manning not going down and not going down hard that really is key here:

Yes, the Chiefs get another crack at the Hall-of-Fame to-be slinger in another two weeks at what will be a raucous Arrowhead Stadium, but wouldn’t it have been a good idea to throw some scare into Manning here?

The truth of the matter is the Chiefs – otherwise – played a pretty heady game and have to find out a way to get the ball in the hands of RB Dexter McCluster more.

His 5 catches for 53 yards may not have sounded off any Pro Bowl bells and whistles, but we believe the Andy Reid game plan should have called for McCluster to get at least a dozen touches here while looking to challenge a Denver defense that pretty much “kept everything in front of them” on this night.

No biggie that KayCee finally lost a game – did anyone really think this Chiefs team would go 16-and-oh? – but on a night when Manning was treated with kid gloves and where the Broncos scored three TDs on four trips into the red zone, it almost seemed as if the Chiefs didn’t empty out their goody bag and we’re wondering why not?

We’ll dig into a few more NFL Week 11 key storylines in just a second, plus get you’re the MNF preview/forecast of the game between the New England Patriots at the Carolina Panthers but first this key reminder …

My handicappers and bloggers have everything all mapped out for tonight’s NFL Week 11 tilt and you can get the Side & Totals winners when you check with us here at the Vegas Sportsmasters' office toll free at 1-888-777-4155 or right here online at

Get all the NCAA Football (once again there’s games every night this week beginning with a pair of Mid-American Conference tilts on Tuesday evening), NFL Week 12 starting with Thursday’s New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons bash and there are NBA/NCAA Basketball winners too as we roar through the month of November with another major hot streak.

Here’s some quick-hitter comments regarding a couple of Sunday’s NFL Week 11 games …

On a radio show just last week we were asked what NFL coaches “mean” to their teams and our basic response was we think (and have for quite a long time) that most NFL head coaches actually “cost” their teams points/games while there are only a handful or less sideline generals that really are worth their proverbial weight in gold.

Take two of Sunday’s NFL Week 11 games as Exhibit A and Exhibit B:

NEW ORLEANS 23, SAN FRANCISCO 20 – The Saints (8-2) had plenty of key statistical advantages in this rock-‘em, sock-‘em game inside the Louisiana Superdome as the NFC South crew registered 387 offensive yards to San Fran’s 196 yards, plus New Orleans possessed the ball for nearly 10 more minutes than the Niners, but where this game really was decided was in the final two-plus minutes of play:

New Orleans head coach Sean Payton elected to utilize a pair of time outs on the north side of the two-minute warning as he didn’t want troubled PK Garrett Hartley (who had missed four of his previous six field-goal tries) to have a long wait at the two-minute warning to boot his game-tying 42-yard field goal – it was a brilliant move and not totally picked up by the Fox game announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman.

When Payton called a time out following a sack of San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick with just 2:01 left in a tie game, he forced the Niners’ hand who then saw Kaepernick throw incomplete.

Now it was 3-and-19 for San Fran at its own 11 yard-line with 2:01 left and that meant N’Orleans – if it held the Niners (6-4) from getting a first down and it did after a Kaepernick scramble didn’t net first-down yardage and then the clock stopped for the two-minute warning – would get the ball back with plenty of time, and let’s face it: the Saints really capitalized when SF was flagged for a correctly called fair-catch interference penalty that brought the ball out to the New Orleans 40-yard line.

After five offensive plays – three of them completed passes of 9, 20 and 12 yards by QB Drew Brees – there was Hartley stepping back onto the field to attempt a 31-yard field goal with three seconds left.

The kick was good and Payton had played out the game’s final two-plus minutes like a surgeon:

His N’Orleans defense got ‘em the ball back, his offense made some plays against a tired San Francisco defense and wound up with plenty of time to navigate down the field (thanks to Payton preserving clock) and Hartley’s long-lost confidence returned too with a pair of successful kicks late.

Sheer genius!

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PITTSBURGH 37, DETROIT 27 – Let’s just say no one in the NFL is ever gonna confuse Lions head coach Jim Schwartz with Vince Lombardi!

The failed and fatal fake field goal that didn’t work early in the fourth quarter when Detroit already was up 27-23 wound up changed the entire complexion of this interconference game, and hats off to NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders for pulling no punches on Sunday night when he said the decision (and then the loss) would come back to haunt Detroit sooner or later this 2013 season.

In the jumbled NFC North where Detroit and Chicago now share first place with identical 6-4 records, the Lions out-and-out blew this game in the Steel City when Schwartz elected to have his holder Sam Martin run with the football on a fake field goal from the 10-yard line and he was promptly tackled and lost the ball after gaining just three yards (it was a fourth-and-five play).

Forget the fact that a field goal by veteran PK David Akers would have given the Lions a full TD lead at 30-23 with 12:56 remaining in the game, and forget the fact it was absolutely pouring rain for much of the time, the decision was a real rock-head move that not only backfired immediately when Pittsburgh went 97 yards on 16 plays (a drive that ate up eight-plus minutes), but it showed Schwartz had no confidence in his defense and then they “didn’t let him down” by rolling over and playing dead right then and there.

You take the TD lead, kick off and hope for the best if you’re the Lions:

Okay, so if Pittsburgh (4-6) is gonna go on a long drive anyway and get a touchdown, it only ties up the game at 30-30, and your high-octane offense still has time to win it, but once the Steelers took the lead at 30-27 then panic set it, Detroit QB Matthew Stafford aired an INT by Steelers’ DB Will Allen, and shortly thereafter the Pittsburghers moved into position to ice the game on a QB Ben Roethlisberger-to-WR Jericho Cotchery 20-yard scoring strike.

Afterwards, Schwartz claimed he didn’t regret going for the fake field goal even though it was attempted on a sloppy field and with a non-skilled player trying to run for the first down/touchdown, but remember this is the same dude who cost his club a Thanksgiving Day game against Houston last year for a challenge he couldn’t make, and he’s never reigned in this undisciplined club for years now when it comes to personal foul penalties and the like.

Sheer madness!

If the Lions don’t make it to the post-season and this play is brought up, discussed and analyzed in late December, then Schwartz may be paying for it with his job!

In tonight’s NFL Week 11 Monday Night Football game, it’s …

NEW ENGLAND (7-2) at CAROLINA (6-3) -- 8:40 p.m. ET, ESPN

You know how this all works:

The good folks at ESPN hype the “team-on-the-rise” – a/k/a the Carolina Panthers who have won their last five games in a row – while teasing you with all sorts of film clips and head shots of New England Patriots QB Tom Brady.

Then the all-sports network keeps fingers crossed that this game will resemble the Super Bowl 38 matchup between these teams that the Pats won 32-29 on an Adam Vinatrieri field goal … remember him, Pats fans?

In any event, Brady has been the master of Monday Night Football with a 13-4 SU (straight-up) mark in these under-the-lights games while Carolina QB Cam Newton shoots for the stars despite his basic pedestrian stats this year that include 1,970 yards passing with 13 TDs and 8 INTs.

If the Panthers – a solid 3-point betting favorite for this game – are gonna march to the winner’s circle for a sixth consecutive game, then Newton must be a chain-mover on third downs (the Panthers rank third in the NFL with a third-down conversion rate of 46.2 percent) and that stifling Carolina defense starring LB Luke Kuechley – who collected 11 tackles in last Sunday’s 10-9 win at San Francisco – must be a star and the Panthers must get Brady’s uniform dirty here.

Note that New England TE Rob Gronkowski is averaging 11 targets per game through his three games played – tell us right here and right now that “Gronk” is gonna be a red-zone menace and we’ll tell you whether Brady’s MNF record gets upgraded by yet another win.

Spread Notes – Carolina rolls into this prime-time tilt riding a five-game spread winning streak that includes home covers against St. Louis and Atlanta while New England is an electric 13-3 ATS (against the spread) as underdogs since the start of the 2006 season.



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