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NFL Monday Memo

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow dives on a

Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow dives on a rush in the second quarter against the Chicago Bears. (Dec. 11, 2011) Credit: MCT

Call it Comeback Week. With the Broncos, Falcons, Texans and Giants all staging late-game heroics, Week 14 offered a ridiculous share of excitement. Here’s a look at the best and worst:

First the comebacks ... in chronological order: 

Comeback of the Week, Part I: Texans rookie quarterback T.J. Yates did little more than serve as a practice quarterback at the Scouting Combine last February, but he has turned into a major find for Houston. He led one of the most important drives in franchise history, throwing a six-yard TD pass with two seconds left in a 20-19 win that clinched Houston’s first-ever divisional title.

Comeback of the Week, Part II: Falcons QB Matt Ryan throws two fourth-quarter TD passes to avoid a disaster in Carolina, as Atlanta rallies for a 31-23 win to stay alive in the NFC Wild Card race. It was Atlanta’s second fourth-quarter comeback against Carolina this season.

Comeback of the Week, Part III: In the late afternoon rendition of comeback mania, Tim Tebow did it yet again, this time against the Bears. He erased a 10-0 deficit in the final 2:08 in regulation, and set up Matt Prater’s game-winning 51-yard field goal with 8:34 left in overtime to give Denver a 13-0 win and move the Broncos one step closer to the AFC West title.

Comeback of the Week, Part IV: Eli Manning called himself an elite quarterback in August, and he showed why – again – in December. He rallied the Giants for 15 points in the final five minutes to score a stunning 37-34 win over the Cowboys and pull back into a first-place tie in the NFC East.

Giant of the Week, Part I: Manning. Without him, that comeback attempt is not happening. Manning is having an MVP type season, although he won’t beat out Aaron Rodgers. He will, however, enter into the discussion.

Giant of the Week, Part II: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE. He is emerging into a star less than two years into the NFL. He came to football later than most and had only one year of big-time college experience. But against the Cowboys, he had a sack that forced a first-quarter safety, a forced fumble that led to a third-quarter field goal, and then a blocked field goal in the final seconds to seal the Giants’ improbable win.

Jet of the week: Mark Sanchez, QB. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more as the Jets continued their late-season surge in a bid for an AFC Wild Card berth.

Quote of the week: Bears All Pro linebacker Brian Urlacher asked what he thinks about Tim Tebow: "He's a good running back, man. He runs the ball well." Ouch. Have a feeling this quote will be discussed and dissected for a long time. And used as further motivation for Tebow, who thrives on such skepticism.

Gutsy: Stillers QB Ben Roethlisberger played through a high ankle sprain to grind out a 14-3 win over the Browns on Thursday night. His 280 passing yards, which included a 79-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown with 2:52 remaining, kept Pittsburgh in the AFC North/playoff picture. Stillers only hope he can keep playing through the pain.

Awesome stat of the week: Ravens DT Terrell Suggs had three sacks and three forced fumbles in Baltimore’s 24-10 win over the Colts.

Awful stat of the week: The Browns’ loss to Pittsburgh was their 15th in the last 16 meetings against their AFC North foes. Not only that, but questions about whether Colt McCoy is indeed the right quarterback for this team beginning to surface.

Still skeptical: Felt all along that Christian Ponder was a reach for the Vikings in the first round, and still feel that way after Ponder throws three interceptions in a 34-28 loss to the Lions.

Coach on the hot seat: Raheem Morris, Buccaneers. His team has now lost seven straight, and his defense is collapsing. Could a change be in store.

Coach no longer on the hot seat: Chiefs GM Scott Pioli gave Todd Haley the gate this morning, less than 24 hours after a blowout loss to the Jets.

Defensive series of the week: The Saints stopped Titans QB Jake Locker on a 4th and 1 from the New Orleans 24 with 2:18 left, and then sacked Locker on the game’s final play of a 22-17 win.

Gronked: Pats second-year tight end Rob Gronkowski set an NFL single-season record for most TD catches in a season, catching his 14th and 15th scoring passes from Tom Brady in New England’s 34-27 win over the Redskins.

Letdown of the week: Perhaps content with clinching the NFC West last week, San Francisco may have taken the Cardinals lightly in a 21-19 loss to the Cardinals. Not a good game for Alex Smith, who was 18-of-37 and no touchdowns. 

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