Week Nine of the NFL continued to prove that football came be an imperfectly perfect game, and it seems every season there is at least one week where more games than usual escalate to downright spectacular level. Perfection proved to be imperfect as we touch upon below -
Patriots perfect and Belichick won't have any of it - Belichick will likely stress that the Patriots on offense weren't that crisp, scoring only 27 points, coughing up two turnovers, and then losing utility back Dion Lewis for the year (torn up knee). A 17-point win isn't anything to be ashamed of, but it isn't good enough. The way the Patriots played at times won't reassure Belichick as they face the dragon that broke their heart twice in the Superbowl next week, so Belichick will make sure his guys understand they need to fix the mistakes.
Panthers have a problem closing out games - For two straight weeks the Panthers raced to a multi-touchdown lead, yet could not close the game out, blowing a 17-point lead to the Colts and needing overtime to win, then blowing most of a 23-point lead to the identically-overrated Packers before Aaron Rodgers once again failed on a comeback attempt, this time via a hot zone INT. This is Green Bay's second straight loss after starting unbeaten, and Rodgers stays stuck on just six true comeback wins with only two wins from down more than one score. Frontrunning fraud, thy name remains Aaron Rodgers, while Carolina had better address these blown leads.
Peyton Manning gags against his old team again - Peyton Manning still hasn't sealed the deal on an unbeaten season and for the third time in four meetings failed against the Indianapolis Colts. The play that killed his chances was so appropriate - needing three yards to become the NFL's all-time passing yardage leader, he threw a pick, and never saw the ball again as Andrew Luck's Colts won a taut affair 27-24. If Aaron Rodgers is a fraud, the vaunted Denver defense was exposed as a fraud also, and its season-long inability to handle good tight ends showed again - and has pending tight ends on Denver's schedule licking their chops.
For Andrew Luck, suddenly there's sign his game is changing, as his new O-coordinator appeared to have him apply that West Coast approach he seemed stubbornly refusing a week or two back. And it wasn't too soon for the Colts, because.......
The Titans pull off their biggest win in years - Sure, it's farfetched to think the Titans can overcome a 1-6 start, but Marcus Mariota kept fighting even in losses - the loss to the Colts remains the bitter pill of the season - and that fight translated into Tennessee's biggest comeback win in years, less in terms of the gap erased than in terms of beating a quality opponent and establishing teamwide confidence and momentum, especially after a coaching change that arguably was overdue. Mariota and the Titans proved they have real fight, now they've begun to translate it into success. The Titans may not reach 8-8 this year, but that or even better suddenly aren't implausible anymore; they're now building something.
The subplot for both the Titans and Colts is just how important coaching is - the Titans changed head coaches and win their biggest comeback in years; the Colts changed coordinators and suddenly Andrew Luck started playing smarter football.
The Forty-Niners win with Blaine Gabbert - for real - His reputation was perhaps as the worst mistake in NFL draft history since Ryan Leaf. Ryan Leaf, though, was too addicted to his illicit substances to try and get a second chance, where Blaine Gabbert took over a moribund Niners squad and did something stunning - he didn't just win, he showed some courage in doing so and beat a Falcons team considered a playoff contender. The playoffs look out of reach for the Niners, though the way Gabbert played there may be reason for short-term optimism in San Francisco.
As for the Falcons, that playoff contender reputation takes another hit; these may not be the rebirth of the Dan Reeves Dirty Birds, never mind of Too Legit To Quit, after all.
The Steelers beat the Raiders but the Raiders may win this latest war - Ben Roethlisberger was downed in the fourth quarter with a foot injury and is out for several weeks, this after just getting back onto the field from an earlier injury. His understudy Landry Jones watched Derek Carr whip the Raiders to the tying touchdown - this after a horrible endzone INT - and then lofted a gigantic completion to Antonio Bryant on his way to a Steelers-record 284 receiving yards. The winning field goal left Pittsburgh as 38-35 winners, but the Raiders' continued fight shows a team that's only getting better and leaves the Steelers once again uncertain going forward.
Have the Lions reached the point of no return? - They didn't play this week but the Detroit Lions still made news between some wholesale coordinator firings on offense and word that Matthew Stafford may get the axe himself between his cap hit and reported refusal to adapt to a new offense; he'd played noticeably more conservatively in 2014 and despite 11 wins his coaches admitted he played conservatively to a fault. His collapse this year became downright graphic in the loss to the Broncos and we've seen no sign of any turnaround.
The question now becomes - if Stafford gets the axe from Detroit, will any team want him? Talent-wise they should, but the coach killer rumor about him may now be true.
Eagles may now be back on track while the Cowboys put up with double jeopardy advocacy - The topsy-turvy NFC East became more of such as the Eagles fought off a determined Dallas Cowboys effort with a Sam Bradford touchdown in overtime. Philly's poor start was such that their recent surge has gone largely unnoticed, while the collapse of the Cowboys has been one of the stories of the year.
It got worse for the Cowboys when Deadspin did a lengthy piece on the Greg Hardy violence arrest with some 50 photos taken by police. It led to widespread media demand that Hardy be cut by the Cowboys or banned by the league - seemingly everyone oblivious to the fact they're advocating punishment to Hardy for something for which he was already punished because we now see photographic evidence as if it changed any fact. Last time I checked, double jeopardy is illegal.
We know what Greg Hardy is, but more armchair lawyering will solve nothing - on the contrary, the continued collapse of the Cowboys does Hardy more damage than media anger can.
You know your season is ruined when you lose to Jay Cutler - The San Diego Chargers' mediocre decade just got worse with an astonishingly disgusting loss to the worst quarterback in the game, leaving their season over at the halfway mark. To call the Chargers underachievers doesn't do justice to just how revolting this Monday Night loss is. Jay Cutler remains the same malicious retard that's cost his teams every year of his career; his fights with Philip Rivers when he was in Denver were a humorous subplot given Rivers' obvious superiority in talent, character, and career - and now it doesn't mean jack.
So the league now counts down to Week Ten.