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ON THE NFL


ON THE NFL
On a Sunday when Denver had its first two-way starter, and Cincinnati played host to a rare two-way decision -- the NFL's first tie in six years -- some surprising games could have gone either way.


Detroit almost beat Carolina. Seattle almost beat Arizona. San Diego almost beat Pittsburgh. Oakland almost beat Miami.

In the end, of course, "almost" means zilch.

Zilch, as in the number of Tennessee losses.

As in victories by Detroit.

As in Raiders offensive touchdowns over the last 13 quarters.

"You can't have an offense that doesn't score points," said Oakland running back Justin Fargas, putting a G-rated voice to what Al Davis must be thinking.

Whereas the Dolphins picked up their fourth consecutive victory -- winning, 17-15 -- the Raiders dropped their fourth in a row. Interim Coach Tom Cable tried to put a positive spin on the loss, saying: "This is good for us. It hurts because we lost, but we're getting closer."

The Lions are getting closer, too. Closer to an unprecedented 0-16 record, which would eclipse the 0-14 mark of the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers .

Like Cable, Detroit Coach Rod Marinelli is holding out hope. His team had a chance to tie Carolina in the fourth quarter before the Panthers pulled away to win, 31-22. It's hard to tell whether the glass is half full or half empty for Marinelli, only that he'll bust it over the head of anyone who suggests he might quit.

"Have we failed? Yes. Have I failed? Yes. Am I going to give up? No way," Marinelli said. "Am I discouraged? No way. I'm not."

Marinelli must have the most stamina this side of Spencer Larsen. He's the rookie who became the first Denver player to start on both offense and defense in the same game. He was the Broncos' No. 1 middle linebacker and fullback Sunday at Atlanta, and even started on special teams.

Although he didn't have a carry or catch on offense, he was third on the team with seven tackles in a 24-20 victory. It's just the type of versatility that's needed on a team that has lost all three projected starters at linebacker, and five tailbacks -- four of them for the season.

Banged up as they are, the Broncos are still comfortably atop the AFC West, two games ahead of 4-6 San Diego. The Chargers came oh-so-close in the wet, snowy muck at Pittsburgh before losing on a last-second field goal. It was the first 11-10 final score in NFL history.

For those keeping score at home, that's once in 12,837 games.

(Afterward, officials admitted they mistakenly waved off a touchdown by Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu on the last play of the game. Regardless, the Steelers still won, and the bizarre score stands.)

Games that finish in a tie aren't as uncommon as that, but they're still a very rare occurrence. When Philadelphia and Cincinnati were deadlocked after overtime, 13-13, it was the first NFL tie since the Steelers and Falcons played to a draw in 2002.

Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, a 10-year veteran, confessed he wasn't even sure how such games were decided -- if at all. He incorrectly assumed play would continue until one team scored, the way it would be in a playoff game.

"I've never been part of a tie," he said. "I never even knew it was in the rule book. I was looking forward to getting the opportunity to get out there and try to drive to win the game. But unfortunately with the rules, we settled with a tie."

Some outcomes were never in doubt. In a matchup of interim coaches, Mike Singletary's 49ers rolled over Jim Haslett's Rams by 19. Green Bay throttled Chicago by 34, with Ryan Grant running for 145 yards -- nearly double the average rushing yards allowed by the Bears this season. It was Chicago's most lopsided loss in the Lovie Smith era.

Baltimore, meanwhile, had the league's top rushing defense, which had yielded an average of 65.4 yards on the ground in the first nine games. The Ravens couldn't do much to stop New York Giants backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw.

The 264-pound Jacobs bashed his way to two touchdowns, with 73 yards in 11 carries, and might have had more if not for tweaking his knee in the first half. He had just two carries in the second half. Bradshaw had nine carries for 96 yards, 77 of which came on one run.

If Giants-Ravens was a Super Bowl preview, as some billed it beforehand, the NFL should consider lowering its ticket prices for that matchup. In the 30-10 victory, the Giants ran for 207 yards against a defense that hadn't allowed more than 76 yards on the ground in a game this season.

"They are the world champions," Ravens defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "My money is on them to win the NFC at this point."

As for the AFC, who can question Tennessee's success?

The Titans improved to 10-0 by overcoming a 14-3 halftime deficit on their way to a 24-14 victory at Jacksonville.

They are an outstanding team. No two ways about it.

--

sam.farmer@latimes.com



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 17, 2008

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Yamon Figurs Name: Yamon Figurs
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