NFL Week 10 Sunday Studs and Duds

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- I spent most of Week 10 at Lambeau Field, where the Philadelphia Eagles evened their record and the Green Bay Packers stepped further into the injury abyss. But I've taken a good portion of Sunday evening to review the rest of the league's action. What follows is an abbreviated edition of our weekly Studs and Duds post.

Before we begin, however, let's offer some credit to the wonders of ancient technology. I listened to the first half of Sunday's game at the Superdome via old-fashioned radio. No satellite. Just a regular radio, antenna and moving vehicle.

And what stations did I listen to while driving across Wisconsin? I picked up WWL in New Orleans, about 1,100 miles away, and KMOX in St. Louis, a mere 500 miles out. Hooray for night radio signals. One day we'll tell our grandchildren about them.

Anyhoo …


1. Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams receiver: On Sunday, Austin touched the ball a modest eight times. He had four punt returns, two receptions, one rush and one kickoff return. But the plays he made within that structure were a reminder of why he was a preseason favorite to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. For one of the first times this season, we saw the breakaway speed that caught the eyes of scouts at the February combine. He scored on a 98-yard punt return, an 81-yard pass and a 57-yard pass. Before Sunday, Austin hadn't produced an offensive play longer than 25 yards.

2. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers coach: Raise your had if you had Rivera as the coach of a team that would be 6-3 with seven games to play. After the Panthers lost their first two games, there were rumors that Rivera might not make it to the end of the season. Since that point, the Panthers have won six of seven games, including five in a row. The latest was a 10-9 road victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Rivera has built this team in his image, with a physical defense that limited the 49ers -- a team that had scored at least 30 points in five consecutive games -- to single digits. The Panthers held the 49ers to 45 yards in the second half and sacked quarterback Colin Kaepernick six times.

3. Hail Mary defense, Baltimore Ravens: Safety James Ihedigbo's decision to tip Andy Dalton's last-second throw into the air, rather than knock it down or intercept it, led to A.J. Green's touchdown catch that forced overtime. But it also produced a rare play in NFL history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there have been only three other instances since 1970 of a touchdown pass of least 50 yards tying or winning a game on the final play of the fourth quarter. The Ravens recovered to win in overtime. Still, Ihedigbo had three choices, two of which would have worked in that situation. He picked the third.


1. Defense, Dallas Cowboys: The New Orleans Saints' offense deserves some credit for the 49-point, 625-yard beatdown they administered Sunday night. But at times it appeared the Cowboys were hardly competing. The decision to move on from defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, and replace him with Monte Kiffin, looked pretty embarrassing on national television. Ryan's Saints held the Cowboys to 193 yards and nine first downs, while the Saints pummeled Kiffin for 40 first downs -- an NFL single-game record. Drew Brees would have become the fifth quarterback this season to throw for at least 400 yard in a game against the Cowboys if coach Sean Payton hadn't called 12 consecutive running plays to end the game.

2. Decision-making in Chicago: Last week, we praised Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman for an unconventional decision to go for it on fourth down deep in his own territory. Here in Week 10, we have to wonder what went into the decision to allow quarterback Jay Cutler to continue playing against the Detroit Lions after it was clear that his mobility was limited because of what was assumed to be a re-injured groin (but was later insisted to be an ankle injury). The situation is complex: Cutler is approaching the expiration of his contract, Trestman is still feeling his way through their relationship and backup Josh McCown has been unexpectedly effective. Sunday felt forced. Did a reduced Cutler give the Bears a better chance to win than a completely healthy McCown? Sunday, that didn't appear to be the case.

3. Tennessee Titans: We'll deliver a bit of sympathy to a team that has now lost quarterback Jake Locker for the second time in a month, and this time perhaps for the rest of the season. And the Titans made a game of it Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter to come up just short in a 29-27 loss. But let's face it: If it weren't for the Titans, the Jaguars would be, well, even worse. The Jaguars have won two games in their past 22. Both have come against the Titans. And since the start of the 2011 season, three of their eight victories have come against them. When the Jaguars have your number, well, I mean …