- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2008



Cough, gasp, choke. Those were the sounds Sunday from teams that were supposed to be playoff bound.

The haughty Dallas Cowboys, the team with stars on their helmets and seemingly at every position, were outscored 41-0 by the Philadelphia Eagles in Sunday’s second and third quarters en route to a 44-6 rout. Dallas lost three of its last four to increase its playoff victory drought to 12 seasons.

The New York Jets and 39-year-old three-time MVP Brett Favre were a great story with an 8-3 record on Thanksgiving. But the Jets lost four of their final five games, including Sunday’s 24-17 home defeat to the Miami Dolphins and Chad Pennington, the quarterback dumped in August to make room for Favre.

The Denver Broncos went from being on the verge of the AFC West title three weeks ago to out of the playoff picture after their 52-21 loss to San Diego on Sunday that gave the Chargers the division with an 8-8 record.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in the thick of the NFC South race as December began, but they lost at home to Jon Gruden’s former team, the ugly Oakland Raiders.

It wasn’t quite as dramatic, but the Chicago Bears, after pushing the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC North title, lost to the going nowhere Houston Texans. The Vikings beat the Giants 20-19, so they didn’t back into the playoffs.



After losing to the Redskins 10-3 in Week 16, Philadelphia was a long shot to make the playoffs. Not only did the Eagles have to win their final game against the Cowboys, they needed the Buccaneers to lose at home to the Raiders and the Bears to fall to the Texans.

First, the Bucs gagged against the Raiders. Then the Bears folded against the Texans. And then the Eagles walloped the Cowboys to make the playoffs for the sixth time in the nine full seasons of the Andy Reid/Donovan McNabb partnership.

The Eagles gained just 303 yards, but their defense forced five turnovers, with Chris Clemons and Joselio Hanson returning fumbles 73 and 96 yards for touchdowns.


1. DeAngelo Williams is a player to watch in the playoffs. Carolina’s third-year running back ran for 178 yards in the 33-31 victory over New Orleans that gave the Panthers a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. Williams set a franchise season record with 1,515 yards.

2. It wasn’t a good weekend for Bill Belichick. The three-time Super Bowl-winning coach’s New England Patriots became just the second 11-5 team to miss the playoffs. Hours later came the news that both of his former assistants who had gone on to coach their own teams, the Jets’ Eric Mangini and the Browns’ Romeo Crennel, were fired.

3. Records shouldn’t be broken on the cheap. After John Kasay’s 42-yard field goal with a second left gave the Panthers the 33-31 lead, the Saints’ Drew Brees had time for one last pass to try to break Dan Marino’s NFL record of 5,084 yards in a season. The ball fell incomplete. Brees said that wasn’t “necessarily the way that record deserves to be broken.”

4. No player can feel better about the final weekend’s results than Chad Pennington. He returned to the Meadowlands, where he had played for eight seasons, and was terrific in leading Miami to its first playoff berth since 2001. In doing so, Pennington also ended any chance the Jets had of making the playoffs and helped lead to Mangini’s firing.

5. The 1976 Bucs are finally off the hook. The NFL’s only winless team of the 14-game season era has been topped by the 2008 Detroit Lions. In becoming the first 0-16 team, Detroit allowed 517 points, the second most in league history. Coach Rod Marinelli followed general manager Matt Millen into unemployment Monday.


The big injuries from Week 17:

QB Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers (concussion): Roethlisberger left the game against visiting Cleveland in the second quarter and didn’t return. He is expected to be back for Pittsburgh’s playoff opener, which will be Jan. 11.

RB Cadillac Williams, Buccaneers (knee): Williams left the game against visiting Oakland in the fourth quarter with a seemingly serious injury to his left knee and didn’t return. Williams returned in November after missing 14 months with a major injury to his right knee.


Not many 11-5 teams cut it as close as the Dolphins did this season. In winning the AFC East, the Dolphins outscored their opponents by a mere 28 points. Eight of their victories were by a touchdown or less. There’s something to be said about living dangerously, though. Other 11-5 clubs over the years that have won a lot of close games have fared well in the playoffs.


2004Falcons340337+3Lost NFC title game

2003Panthers325304+21Lost Super Bowl

2000Vikings397371+26Lost NFC title game


1991Bears299269+30Lost in first round

1979Oilers362331+31Lost AFC title game


The Panthers’ DeAngelo Williams joined an exclusive club this season by becoming the sixth back in NFL history to rush for 1,500 yards and average 5.5 yards a carry. Three running backs - Jim Brown, O.J. Simpson and Barry Sanders - did it twice. And Williams didn’t even make the Pro Bowl. Here’s the select company he has joined:

YearPlayer, TeamAttYdsAvg

1958Jim Brown, Browns2571,527*5.9

1963Jim Brown, Browns2911,863*6.4

1973O.J. Simpson, Bills3322,003*6.0

1975O.J. Simpson, Bills3291,817*5.5

1984Eric Dickerson, Rams3792,105*5.6

1994Barry Sanders, Lions3311,883*5.7

1997Barry Sanders, Lions3352,053*6.1

2002Clinton Portis, Broncos2731,5085.5

2008DeAngelo Williams, Panthers2731,5155.6

*Led league

Dan Daly

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