Packers 45, Vikings 7
The player: Aaron Rodgers is the Packers' MVP but Charles Woodson is the team's heartbeat. The Packers blitzed, blitzed and blitzed some more against quarterback Christian Ponder, and the rookie finished just 16-of-34 for 190 yards and an interception. Woodson blitzed up the middle throughout the game – a new wrinkle, he said – and finished with a game-high nine tackles, including stuffing Adrian Peterson for a loss of 6 in the third quarter.
The moment: The Packers set the tone from the get-go. The defense started the game with a three-and-out, and Randall Cobb returned the punt 80 yards for a touchdown. From there, the game never was in doubt.
The number: 35.7: Percentage of third downs converted by the Vikings (5-of-14). That was a dramatic improvement for the Packers' defense, which entered ranked 29th by allowing opponents to move the chains 43.6 percent of the time. Against Minnesota three weeks ago, Ponder and Co. converted 56.3 percent (9-of-16). Last week against San Diego, the Chargers converted 45.5 percent (5-of-11).
The key: >It wasn't anything that happened on the field as much as it was Woodson talking to defensive coordinator Dom Capers in the days leading up to the game. Woodson suggested that Capers open up his bag of tricks, and with Randall Cobb's 80-yard punt return helping jump-start a 17-0 lead just 17 minutes into the game, Capers obliged. Clay Matthews, with just three sacks in the first eight games, had two sacks, and Woodson's frequent blitzes up the middle allowed him to bat down three passes at the line of scrimmage.
Packers said: "Nothing but smiles from here. That's the kind of guys that we have on this team. We have aggressive guys, guys that like to play that style of football. When he calls it that way, you see the fun that guys have out there on the field. We had a great deal of fun tonight, and when we're having fun, we're winning." – CB Charles Woodson on defensive coordinator Dom Capers' aggressive game plan
Vikings said: "I thought we would come out and do a little better in that first half that we did. It was still a competitive game at the half, but obviously what they did in the second half shows the gap between our team and their team." – Vikings coach Leslie Frazier
Saints 26, Falcons 23
Key: The Saints stuffed Falcons running back Michael Turner on fourth-and-inches at the Atlanta 29-yard line in overtime after an apparent Atlanta first down had been overturned on by the replay official. The spot of the previous play, a short completion from Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to fullback Mike Cox, was changed to bring up fourth down. On the fourth play after the change of possession, Saints kicker John Kasay booted a game-winning, 26-yard field goal.
Falcons said: "Unfortunately, the decision we made did not work out today. Again, it's not anybody's fault. It's my responsibility as a head coach. You have to make tough decisions in a football game, and I take full responsibility for it." - Coach Mike Smith
Saints said: "It's not a blitz, but it's almost a blitz because in that situation you don't have to respect the pass, just go. They had some success with that play early in the game, but that's when we couldn't be aggressive and had to respect the pass. I just got to the gap before the end could block down on me." - Saints linebacker Scott Shanle, who helped stop Turner on the key fourth-down play.
Titans 30, Panthers 3
Key: The Panthers had three-and-outs on five of their first six possessions, including four straight. The only possession that lasted longer resulted in a lost fumble.
Titans said: "It's a great feeling to get to hit that quarterback. We had spies on him, we contained him and he couldn't do anything but sit there." -- DT Jurrell Casey
Panthers said: "That's not going to happen. We're not going to go 2-14 (like last year). We've got too many good players and too many good guys to let that happen." -- TE Greg Olsen
Steelers 24, Bengals 17
Key: The Steelers came into the game having forced just four turnovers all season, but they got the two fourth-quarter interceptions as the Bengals were driving in Pittsburgh territory. Lawrence Timmons got a tipped pass off the hands of Cincinnati wide receiver Andre Caldwell at the Steelers 33 with 12:16 to play, and William Gay stepped in front of a pass intended for Jerome Simpson at the Pittsburgh 19 with 2:30 left.
Bengals said: "I missed some things, and I have to play better. I had two interceptions in good field position, and we had a chance to win coming down. That's not acceptable." - QB Andy Dalton.
Steelers said: "We've been struggling with taking the ball away all season. The ball really hadn't been bouncing our way, but hopefully this will be the start of something." - LB James Farrior.
Rams 13, Browns 12
Key: The Browns were inside the red zone four times, but the Rams held them to a field-goal attempt each time. And Ryan Pontbriand's poor snap on a potential game-winning field goal let to a Phil Dawson miss of a 22-yard attempt with 2:13 remaining.
Rams said: "During film preparation we saw (Josh Cribbs) likes to have the ball exposed and he doesn't secure the ball very well. ... So I went for the ball, knowing we needed a big play." -- LB David Nixon on forcing a fumble on a Cribbs punt return in the fourth quarter.
Browns said: "It was a short field goal and I'm thinking, 'Get it off quick,' The trade-off, anytime you do that, is if anything is slightly off you'll have no time to react. I'm going fast, the ball get's deflected, and by the time Brad gets it down, I'm pretty much past the ball and I'm trying to somehow dig it up." - Dawson on his missed 22-yard field goal with 2:13 remaining
Cowboys 44, Bills 7
Key: Cowboys QB Tony Romo dissected the Bills secondary, throwing touchdown passes on Dallas' first three possessions for a quick 21-0 lead. The Cowboys were a picture of offensive execution early, while their defense pinned its ears back in going after Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. It was easily Dallas' most complete performance this season.
Cowboys said: "That's as good as we've played against a team that credible. I'd say overall, the balance, feeling like we could basically create a problem for the defense, I haven't felt like that since (Jason Garrett has) been the head coach." -- Owner Jerry Jones.
Bills said: "We ran into a buzz saw today. We've got to give them credit. They came out ready to play." -- RB Fred Jackson.
Jaguars 17, Colts 3
Key: With the score tied 3-3, Jacksonville staged a 16-play, 86-yard scoring drive, with rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert hitting wide receiver Jarett Dillard with an 11-yard touchdown pass
Jaguars said: "It's nice to start the second half of the year with a good division win. The defense was strong." - coach Jack Del Rio
Colts said: "We have yet to play a complete game in all three phases for 60 minutes." - Safety Antoine Bethea
Broncos 17, Chiefs 10
Key: Denver's willingness to run the ball and stick with that plan throughout the game. The Broncos never deviated from their pre-game plan and it allowed them to rack up 244 rushing yards and a more than seven-minute advantage in time of possession.
Chiefs said: "A lot of people will assume the world has ended for our team. But it's a four-horse race and the season is going to continue on. If we can come out and play better football, we will be right in this." - Chiefs Coach Todd Haley.
Broncos said: "I just think it's one more thing for teams to prepare for. It's not like we went in there and we did it a lot today. But it's something that you have to scheme for, have to prepare for and you have to be sound." -- QB Tim Tebow on the read option offense.
Dolphins 20, Redskins 9
Key: The Miami defense came up with more than its share of big plays at key times against a reeling Washington team. The Dolphins held the Redskins to just six points on four trips to the Miami 20-yard line or closer, and the Redskins went 5-for-14 on third-down conversions against a defense that had been among the league's worst in that category.
Dolphins said: "I see 2-7 as being a hill, not a mountain. You (the media) see it as being a mountain. The players in there see it as being a hill." -- Coach Tony Sparano.
Redskins said: "I've got to be more careful with the ball, especially on first down in the red zone. It was a crucial point in the game, but at the same time, we hadn't scored (a touchdown), and I was trying to put one in there." -- QB Rex Grossman, on his fourth-quarter interception.
Cardinals 21, Eagles 17
Key: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald was double-covered for much of the game, but he managed to shake loose for some big catches and those plays were the difference in an otherwise evenly-played game. That included a seven-yard touchdown pass from QB John Skelton that was tipped into Fitzgerald's hands to reach a 14-14 tie.
Cardinals said: "Well, we exorcized a lot of demons today. Winning on the East Coast, stopping them on the last drive defensively, being able to drive down and score offensively - all the things we haven't been able to do, we were able to do today." - Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt
Eagles said: "I can't pinpoint a reason for it, but I do know there are no excuses for it. We have too much talent to be losing games like we've been losing them. It's an embarrassment." - TE Brent Celek on the Eagles' fourth-quarter collapses.
49ers 27, Giants 20
Key: The 49ers' plan entering the game was to spread the field with the passing game. Knowing that the Giants would try to load the box to stop the run, quarterback Alex Smith went 19 of 30 for 242 yards and a touchdown, leading the 49ers to an impressive 8-1 record.
49ers said: "It feels good to be 8-1. I managed myself into a victory." - QB Alex Smith, on criticism by the Giants' Justin Tuck that Smith is merely a game manager.
Giants said: "We came to win, we didn't win. We played hard and we fought hard, and that's the thing we can take away from this." - Coach Tom Coughlin.
Seahawks 22, Ravens 17
Key: The Seahawks twice forced Baltimore's David Reed into kick return fumbles, leading to six points for Seattle. Reed was replaced by rookie Torrey Smith on returns in the second half after the second fumble.
Ravens said: He's a young guy. It's going to happen. He's going to grow from this. He's going to learn. But everybody realizes you can't put the ball on the ground. You can't have turnovers. But we're not worried about it. We know David didn't want to fumble the ball. It just happened that way. - LB Terrell Suggs.
Seahawks said: The special teams energy today was beautiful. The hitting, forcing a couple turnovers was extraordinary. And we couldn't ask for more than that. - Head coach Pete Carroll.
Bears 37, Lions 13
Key: There was not much of a secret to how this game was decided. Chicago's defense forced six turnovers, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns, and the Bears also scored a touchdown on a Devin Hester punt return.
Lions said: "This was out of character for us. We have to own up to this game. This didn't not happen. We put it out there and we have to make sure it doesn't happen again." -- Coach Jim Schwartz.
Bears said: "We just couldn't afford another loss. Our guys have gotten better and better each week. We've gotten better in all areas." -- Coach Lovie Smith.
Patriots 37, Jets 16
Key: With the Patriots on the verge of going without a touchdown in the first half for the second straight game, Tom Brady marched New England 80 yards in six plays and capped the drive with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski with nine seconds left in the second quarter to give the Patriots the lead for good at 13-9.
Patriots said: "Losing two straight, you have 14 days of you just feel crappy." -- Brady Brady
Jets said: "We just can't let this one slip away like we did." WR Santonio Holmes