Week 11 was an exciting one for Florida’s NFL teams. Tampa and Miami won in two completely different ways, and Jacksonville continued to be the front-runner to win the first pick of the 2014 draft.
The action in Jacksonville started fast and in the Jaguars’ favor as they hosted the Arizona Cardinals, as quarterback Chad Henne hooked up with wide receiver Danny Noble for a 62-yard touchdown to give the Jaguars the lead after only two minutes.
Arizona would answer back, as star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald scored a touchdown to tie the score. Jacksonville would score one more touchdown in the first quarter to hold a 14-7 lead after 10 minutes of play.
It would be the last points of the game for the Jaguars.
Arizona scored 20 straight points through the final three quarters. In the third quarter, Cards quarterback Carson Palmer stood with his back foot in his own endzone before throwing to wide receiver Michael Floyd, who caught the ball at the 26-yard line. Floyd shrugged off the three Jags defenders before sprinting for a 91-yard touchdown.
Palmer finished with 419 yards and two touchdowns. More notably, he threw zero interceptions while Henne had two. Both teams struggled running the ball; Jacksonville’s 32 yards of rushing was more than double Arizona’s 14. The 27-14 loss keeps the Jaguars in last place. As the only 1-9 team (four teams, including the Buccaneers, are 2-8), Jacksonville would have the first pick of next year’s draft if the season ended today.
On the subject of the Buccaneers, Tampa is starting to look like the unit that was expected at the start of the season. The Bucs dropped the most points they have scored all season on the Atlanta Falcons, who scored most of their points once the game was out of contention.
The 41-28 shellacking featured two interceptions by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Mason Foster. Meanwhile Bucs quarterback Mike Glennon had 20 completions on 23 pass attempts, the second-most accurate performance in franchise history (Vinny Testaverde was 22-for-25 against the Patriots in 1992).
“The biggest thing is that we didn’t turn the ball over once,” Tampa coach Greg Schiano said. “We protected the football and we took it away, and if you can do that, you can win games.”
Schiano continued to break open the playbook. This week, running back Bobby Rainey took a direct snap from the 23-yard line before attempting a pass to wide receiver Vincent Jackson, which ended up incomplete.
Schiano said coming into the game that with three running backs down, the rest of the backs would have to “ham-and-egg it,” and Rainey delivered a Grade-A performance. On 30 carries, he had 163 yards and two touchdowns. He caught an additional touchdown in the third quarter.
“He’s only been here for three weeks,” Glennon said about Rainey. “You have to give a lot of credit to him for working hard and being a good player, but . . . a lot of credit has to go to the offensive line. Regardless of who the running back has been the past few weeks, we’ve been rushing for a lot of yards.”
In Miami, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw for 268 yards and a touchdown but had to fidget anxiously on the sideline as he watched San Diego Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers launch a desperation heave to the end zone to close out the game.
The pass would first hit the hands of cornerback Brent Grimes, then fall safely to the ground. The time was all zeroes, the score 20-16. The Dolphins held on to even their record at 5-5.
“We’ve obviously had our ups and downs,” Tannehill said, “but the confidence has always been there. Now it’s just a matter of building on this and keeping it rolling.”
Miami would like it to roll all the way to the postseason. With the first wild card slot all but reserved for the AFC West’s second-place team, two 5-5 and six 4-6 teams are competing for the No. 6 seed. That spot is currently held by the Jets, a team the Dolphins still have two games against.
The win allows Miami to focus on the positives, at least for a while. The team endured a month-long losing streak earlier in the season, was dissected by the media in coverage of the situation between Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito and lost last week to the then-winless Bucs, but as the cliché goes, winning cures everything.
The problems may not be resolved, but they seem less pressing in the aftermath of victory.
“We told the team in the locker room after the Tampa Bay game ‘you either have faith and confidence in one another, or you don’t,’” ‘Phins coach Joe Philbin said. “You can’t swing back and forth based on the particular outcome of a single game. I felt confident that these guys would come out, play hard and play like a team, and they did.”
The Dolphins will host the Carolina Panthers next week. Jacksonville will be in Texas to face the struggling Houston Texans in an AFC South matchup, and Tampa will play in Detroit against the Lions.
To hear what players and coaches are saying about Sunday’s games, click the links below.
Mike Glennon - Buccaneers Quarterback: “Regardless of who the running back has been the past few weeks, we’ve been rushing for a lot of yards.”
Greg Schiano - Buccaneers Head Coach: “We protected the football and we took it away, and if you can do that, you can win games.”
Ryan Tannehill - Dolphins Quarterback: “We’ve obviously had our ups and downs . . .”
Joe Philbin - Dolphins Head Coach: “We’ve got a good, hard-working group of guys . . .”
Joe Philbin - Dolphins Head Coach: “I felt confident that these guys would come out, play hard and play like a team, and they did.”