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WEEK 14 IN THE NFL

Late-game surges get the message across

December 10, 2007|Christine Daniels | Times Staff Writer

Mobile quarterbacks remain a luxury in today's NFL -- Kurt Warner, Vinny Testaverde and Trent Dilfer all started games Sunday -- but mobile phones have become a way of life.

In Week 13, fans unable to watch the all-important Green Bay-Dallas game on television could access updates and selected highlight clips with their cellphones.

In Week 14, the big news out of Tennessee could instantly be relayed via text message:

"LT OT TD"

For those preferring the more traditional old-media approach, the San Diego Chargers rallied to tie their game with the Tennessee Titans by scoring a touchdown in the final nine seconds of regulation to force overtime, then pulled out the victory, 23-17, on a 16-yard scoring run by LaDainian Tomlinson with 7:20 left in the extra period.

And that bulletin was accompanied by:

"TO 12-1"

(Much to the chagrin of the Detroit Lions, who blew a 13-point lead to Terrell Owens and the Dallas Cowboys, who clinched the NFC East championship at 12-1 with a 28-27 last-second triumph.)

And that was followed by:

"MIA 0-13"

And . . .

"NE 13-0"

(The polar opposites of the NFL, the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots, continued along their very low and high roads in very convincing fashion -- the Dolphins losing to the Buffalo Bills, 38-17, and the Patriots defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers, 34-13. Miami is now three losses away from the league's first 0-16 regular season, New England is three victories away from 16-0, and all the Dolphins want for Christmas is some way to cancel their Dec. 23 game against the Patriots.)

Less accessible via simple text was the New York Giants' 16-13 win over Philadelphia, but then, games involving Eli Manning are usually like that. Manning threw a touchdown pass for Plaxico Burress, Lawrence Tynes kicked three short field goals and then the Giants held their breath as the Eagles' David Akers drove his foot into a 57-yard field-goal attempt in the final seconds.

Akers, whose last-second field goal booted the Giants out of the playoffs in January, hit this one long enough, but after traveling such a long distance, the football hit something else.

The right upright.

By that much, the Giants improved their record to 9-4, moving them to within inches of a wild-card berth, despite all the travails that have come with Year 4 of the Erratic Eli Era.

Boding well for the Giants in the playoffs, if or when: Including Sunday's game at Lincoln Financial Field, the Giants have won their last six road games.

Of somewhat more concern: The Giants are 9-0 against teams with losing records and 0-4 against opponents with winning records.

Four of the Giants' victories have come against teams with three or fewer victories (Dolphins, New York Jets, Atlanta, San Francisco). Only two victories have come against opponents with 6-7 records -- Washington and Detroit.

Technically speaking, the Lions had a winning record when the Giants beat them, 16-10, in Week 11. But that was loss No. 2 in a five-game losing streak for Detroit -- a free fall that continued unchecked with the Lions' fourth-quarter collapse against the Cowboys. Detroit led, 27-14, after three quarters but failed to apply the icing (Jason Hanson missed a 35-yard field-goal attempt) and eventually watched Jason Witten make his 15th catch of the afternoon -- a career high -- for a 16-yard touchdown with 18 seconds left.

With that, the Lions have made it impossible for quarterback Jon Kitna to make good on his promise of 10 victories this season. After a 6-2 start, the best they can finish is 9-7 -- and that would require wins over San Diego, Kansas City and Green Bay.

Looking on the bright side, Detroit does have Miguel Cabrera.

Green Bay (11-2) clinched the NFC North title with a 38-7 triumph over the Oakland Raiders in an incredibly realistic re-creation of the second Super Bowl, when the Packers defeated the Raiders, 33-14. One difference: That Super Bowl was played in Miami; this was played in 18-degree weather in Green Bay. Another difference: Josh McCown is not Daryle Lamonica. And neither is Andrew Walter, who replaced McCown in the fourth quarter.

First place in the NFC North has been a foregone conclusion since Columbus Day. Second place, however, is a genuine stunner. At various points in this season, the Minnesota Vikings have been 1-3 and 2-5 and 3-6, but after their 27-7 defeat of San Francisco, the Vikings today are 7-6 -- a full game ahead of Detroit and two in front of 5-8 Chicago.

More than that, Minnesota has the sixth-best record in the NFC. And you know what that means.

That's right.

If the postseason started today, Tarvaris Jackson would be a playoff quarterback.

(We pause this column a moment to consider all the ramifications of the preceding statement.)

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