Tipsheet: The NFL's fine line of failure

2012-12-17T12:10:00Z 2012-12-30T20:39:52Z Tipsheet: The NFL's fine line of failureBy Jeff Gordon stltoday.com

Earlier this season, the mighty New England Patriots lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals, a team the Rams handled twice this season.

On Sunday, the Patriots fell at home to the San Francisco 49ers, a team the Rams have beaten and tied.

Do you need any more proof of the NFL’s minimal comfort margin?

Any team can lose to any other team if it plays badly enough. And the Patriots stumbled for 2 1/2 quarters Sunday night, falling behind 31-3.

Tom Brady threw two interceptions and running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen each chipped in fumbles in the treacherous playing conditions. The wintry mix falling in suburban Boston got the best of Bill Belichick's juggernaut.

“We just never gave ourselves a chance,” Brady told reporters.

“The way we played, we can't beat anybody,” Vince Wilfork surmised.

Brady faced the same scenario Rams quarterback Sam Bradford faced against the Vikings: He had to throw, throw and throw some more while trying to erase a huge deficit.

The handsome Uggs pitchman was up to the challenge. Brady ran for one touchdown and threw for two more as New England tied the game 31-31. But the 49ers ultimately outlasted the Patriots 41-34, despite Brady’s 443 yards passing.

On any given Sunday . . .

ANOTHER CRAZY DAY FOR QBS

While Seahawks rookie Russell Wilson (three rushing touchdowns, one passing TD) continued to excel and rookie Kirk Cousins (filling in for rookie Robert Griffin III) led the Redskins to a huge victory, some big-name quarterbacks floundered:

Eli Manning, Giants: He completed just 13 of 25 passes for 161 yards and two interceptions during a stunning 34-0 loss to Atlanta. At least the New York media will leave Mark Sanchez alone for a week to hammer Peyton’s little brother.

Matthew Stafford, Lions: He misfired on 26 of 50 passes and suffered three interceptions — two returned for touchdowns — against the hapless Gridbirds. Stafford, the first overall pick of the 2009 draft, has thrown 17 touchdown passes this season after firing 41 last year.

Philip Rivers, Chargers: He completed 16 of 23 passes for just 121 yards and one touchdown as San Diego took a 35-7 beating from Carolina. The formerly prolific Rivers has just 36 more passing yards than Bradford this season.

Jay Cutler, Bears: He completed just 12 of 21 passes for 135 yards, one touchdown and one interception as Chicago fell to the Packers 21-13 at Soldier Field.     

PETE CARROLL WILL STEP ON YOU!

The animated Seahawks coach has no regard for diplomacy. Carroll keeps breaking up NFL decorum by running up the score on beaten opponents. Last week he kept throwing the ball while his team was up 50-0 on Arizona. This week, Seattle executed a fake punt while up 47-17 over the Bills.

Does he really believe the good times will never end and that payback will never come? He is not at USC anymore, operating without a salary cap. Life in the NFL can turn quickly.

So how could he run a fake punt while up 30 points?

“I feel bad about this,” Carroll told reporters with a straight face. “It was part of our game plan. It was something I could have called off and didn't.”

POINTED OBSERVATIONS

Click here for the latest on Kyle Lohse and the free-agent market for pitchers.

MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE

Questions to ponder while wondering if the Rams offensive line can regroup this week after losing right guard Harvey Dahl:

Who knew that a limber Australian hurdler could make dreams come true?

How many college basketball teams turn to their school's marching band for low post help?

Could the Lakers have seen all this trouble coming back on their media day?

QUIPS ‘R US

Here is what some of America’s leading sports pundits have been writing:

Mike Tanier, Sports on Earth: “With any combination of one more good Kirk Cousins game and one unimpressive Griffin game, the Redskins also clinch the opportunity to spawn a talk-radio quarterback controversy so mind-bogglingly stupid that it makes ‘First Take’ sound like Plato’s ‘Apology.’”

Bill Simmons, ESPN.com: “Even if I've been wrong about 10,000 things in this column over the years, I can always say I called ‘shotgun’ on the Russell Wilson Bandwagon. But here's what I never anticipated back in September when I picked Seattle to make the Super Bowl and everyone mocked me (you did, you mocked me) — 2012 has been The Year Of The Rookie QB, The Year Of The Replacement Refs, The Year Peyton Came Back, and The Year Goodell Totally Lost Control Of The Car So Badly That His Dad Had To Take The Wheel (probably in that order). In The Year Of The Rookie QB, wouldn't it make sense for one of them to actually play in the Super Bowl?”

Jerry Greene, Orlando Sentinel: “If the Mayans are right about Friday, at least it solves the Big East problem.”

Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle:Bobby Petrino says he will use his Arkansas fall from grace - and from Harley - as a life lesson that will pay off at his new job at Western Kentucky. Petrino said he will tell recruits' parents that his affair with a female ex-student, his pack of lies and his bad motorcycle riding ‘made me a better coach, a better person, and will make me understand their son better.’ The question every Western Kentucky recruit must ask himself: ‘Will I get the cute chicks, or will the coach?’”

MEGAPHONE

“Everybody was playing their (backsides) off. It's on me. I have to play better. I'll take that loss. I told those guys in there, that one is on me. It's on me to get it right and get this thing going in the right direction.”

— Stafford, after his team lost at Arizona 38-10.

Follow Jeff Gordon on Twitter @gordoszone

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Jeff Gordon

This is the new home for STLtoday.com sports columnist Jeff Gordon. Here you'll find his columns on the Cards, Rams, Blues and more, plus his daily "Tipsheet" blog about who's in and who's out in the world of sports.

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