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In the NFL this season, deception is reality a lot of the time

Much of what we thought we knew to be true has turned out to be false. Just ask the Giants, and the Redskins, and the Cowboys, and the Bears, and the Ravens ...

December 16, 2012|By Sam Farmer, Los Angeles Times
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Trying to sort through the NFL this season is a little like trying to shut down a deceptive read-option offense.

Buy one fake pitch, and the real danger runs right past.

The pitch: The New York Giants are rounding into Super Bowl form. Just look at their 52 points in a rout of New Orleans last week.

The reality: Atlanta — fresh off a loss to three-win Carolina — handed the Giants a 34-0 shutout Sunday.

"We love the haters, man," Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel said. "The haters keep us going. So keep your hate coming. We love it."

The pitch: The Washington Redskins are doomed without super rookie Robert Griffin III.

The reality: With fellow rookie Kirk Cousins at quarterback, the Redskins beat surging Cleveland, 38-21, to move into a first-place tie in the NFC East at 8-6. (And Washington would win a tiebreaker over the Giants and Dallas.)

"I talked to him about being cool, calm and collected, and not to freak out," Griffin said of Cousins. "He did a good job of staying poised and staying confident in there."

The pitch: The Cowboys? Too unreliable. Too prone to turnovers. Headed for another forgettable season.

The reality: In an overtime thriller Sunday afternoon, Dallas beat Pittsburgh, 27-24, forging a three-way tie atop the division.

The pitch: If the Bears can keep Jay Cutler upright, this is their year. Just look how Chicago got off to a 7-1 start.

The reality: The NFC North still belongs to Green Bay, as the Packers proved with their division-clinching 21-13 win at Chicago on Sunday. Since their fantastic start, the Bears have lost five of six.

"It wears on me," Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. "It wears on everyone. You don't want to lose to your rival year-in and year-out. Then it's not a rivalry anymore. It's a domination."

The pitch: Baltimore, oh so close to a spot in the playoffs, just needed to make a tweak, firing offensive coordinator Cam Cameron last week in favor of Jim Caldwell.

The reality: The Ravens wheezed out 278 yards in a 34-17 home loss to Denver, missing for the third consecutive week the opportunity to qualify for the playoffs with a win. Later in the day, however, they secured a spot by virtue of Pittsburgh's loss at Dallas.

"We're a 9-5 football team , and we feel like we're 0-14 right now," said Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, whose team has lost three in a row for the first time in three years.

The pitch: Did we misjudge San Diego? Maybe the Chargers weren't so bad after all, in light of their impressive win at Pittsburgh last week.

The reality: Nope, accurate reading. The Chargers lost at home to the Panthers, 31-7.

In the unforgettable words of former NFL coach Dennis Green, they are who we thought they were.

Victims honored

Before every game Sunday there was a moment of silence in tribute to the victims of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

In Foxborough, Mass., the night sky was illuminated by 26 flares, one for each of those slain.

Teams and individuals paid their respects in various ways. Giants players had the letters SHES penned on their helmets for Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Patriots wore a decal with the Newtown seal and a black ribbon on it. Green Bay's Donald Driver retweeted the names of the victims.

Giants receiver Victor Cruz had "Jack Pinto, My Hero" written on his cleats, in honor of a 6-year-old who died.

"I don't even know how to put it into words," Cruz said. "There are no words that can describe the type of feeling that you get when a kid idolizes you so much that unfortunately they want to put him in the casket with your jersey on. I can't even explain it."

Division corralled

The Houston Texans can finally exhale. They clinched the AFC South with a 29-17 victory at home over red-hot Indianapolis.

That's huge for the Texans, who play the Colts again in their finale, because Houston needed to show it could shake off last week's lopsided loss to the Patriots.

"A lot of people were wondering how we were going to respond," receiver Andre Johnson said. "I think a lot of people doubted us after what happened last week. We [felt] like we had to show people what we were really about."

There's no coasting for the Texans now. They need one more win for a first-round bye, either at home against Minnesota on Sunday or at Indianapolis on Dec. 30. Houston would also clinch a bye if Denver loses either of its final two games.

No mercy

A week after Seattle stomped Arizona, 58-0, the Seahawks crushed Buffalo in Toronto, 50-17.

That included running a fake punt on the Bills when Seattle was ahead 47-17.

If Dale Carnegie drew up playbooks, let's just say that play wouldn't have been in his arsenal.

After the game, Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll was sheepish about running the fake.

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