Call it "Statement Sunday."
A pair of NFC heavyweights didn't like the fact that most pundits were predicting losses on the road this weekend and showed up with attitudes.
After suffering a 20-17 overtime loss to the New York Giants in last season's NFC Championship Game, the narrative all week in the Bay Area was unfinished business. Things were certainly finished, but it was the Super Bowl champion G- Men who had San Francisco tapping out during a convincing 26-3 win.
Meanwhile in Houston, the sky was supposed to be falling on the 2-3 Green Bay Packers, but reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers never got the memo, throwing a career-high six touchdown passes as the Pack unceremoniously dumped the Texans from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 42-24 walloping.
The Giants didn't need overtime this time around thanks to an opportunistic defense. Antrel Rolle intercepted two passes and Prince Amukamara added another in New York's thumping of the Niners.
"I think this is our most complete game all year long," Rolle understated.
San Francisco came in riding high. During a 45-3 rout of the Buffalo Bills back on Oct. 7, the 49ers became the first team in NFL history with 300-plus yards passing and 300-or-more yards rushing in a game. They tallied just 314 yards of total offense against the Giants.
Niners quarterback Alex Smith, who came into the game with just one interception on the season, had his first three-pick game since Dec. 20, 2009, and finished with just 200 yards on 19-of-30 passing .
"We didn't do enough," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. "We put ourselves in a position we couldn't come back from, more turnovers than we're accustomed to. Plan-wise, it wasn't the right one."
The running game was perhaps the greatest indication of just how dominant New York was. Ahmad Bradshaw ran for 116 yards and a score on 27 carries for the Giants, becoming the first 100-plus yard rusher against the stingy 49ers' defense in 23 games.
"The statement made is that we're here to stay," said Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, who caught a touchdown in the contest.
Down in South Texas, Rodgers matched a franchise record with the six touchdown passes and Green Bay looked like the Packers of old during their rout of the previously unbeaten Texans,
Rodgers was superlative, completing 24-of-37 passes for 338 yards.
"This was an important game for us. We've had a couple not go our way," Rodgers said. "Two-and-four would have been very difficult. We've got a tough stretch still to play."
The Packers have desperately missed Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings, who is out with a groin injury, but Jennings' embattled supporting group stepped up big in Houston.
Fueled by a high-tempo game plan, Jordy Nelson caught nine passes for 121 yards and three touchdowns for Green Bay, which racked up 427 yards of total offense. Randall Cobb hauled in seven passes for 102 yards, James Jones caught a pair of TD passes for the third straight game and Tom Crabtree hauled in two passes for 62 yards and a score.
"We pretty much went exclusive no-huddle from the starting point of the game," Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy said. "We wanted to press their defense as much as we could."
Rodgers was clearly becoming weary of having to answer questions about the Packers' difficulties early this season and the signal-caller delivered that message to sideline reporter Michele Tafoya afterward.
"We were all just tired of answering questions about, 'What happened to the Packers?' (and) what happened to me," Rodgers told Tafoya. "It was a good team effort tonight."
Tafoya's follow-up was: "What do you think you told the critics tonight?"
Rodgers was as succinct as it gets.
"Shh," the superstar said as he walked away.
THE MONDAY REWIND:
RAVENS DOING IT DIFFERENTLY
When you think about the Baltimore Ravens, you usually start with defense, but that's all about to change.
From Sam Adams to Ray Lewis to Ed Reed to Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata, Baltimore has been dominating opposing offenses since arriving in the Charm City back in 1996.
Things have been more difficult early this season without the injured Suggs (Achilles) and his consistent pass rush to lean on, especially against teams who can stretch the field vertically.
The Ravens defense entered Sunday's contest against Dallas ranked a pedestrian 24th in the NFL and that was after a dominating performance in Kansas City, albeit against a very bad Chiefs team.
Things only figure to get worse now since the Baltimore "D" is preparing for disastrous news after the team's 31-29 win over the Cowboys. The 5-1 Ravens fear that Lewis (torn triceps) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (torn ACL) will miss the remainder of the season.
"Lardarius doesn't look good right now," coach John Harbaugh said after the win. "It looks like a potential ACL. We've got a problem there, but we'll find out for sure in a little bit. Ray had a tricep. We'll see on that."
The Ravens are now the polar opposite of the franchise's Super Bowl XXXV- winning club, which rode one of the generation's best defenses to the ultimate prize.
This group is going to have to get it done on the backs of Joe Flacco and the offense.
IS ADDERALL THE NEXT BIG PROBLEM?
Long before steroids were part of the sports lexicon, "Greenies" were running wild in baseball.
Greenies, of course, were actually amphetamines, perhaps the grandfather of today's performance enhancing drugs. They have had a long and accepted history in MLB with some teams placing them out in plain view back in the 1970s, so players could "fuel" up with a few, chased with a cup of coffee.
Adderall, on the other hand, is a brand name psychostimulant drug which belongs to the phenethylamine as well as the amphetamine chemical classes, and is generally used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as narcolepsy. At its core, however, it's still a form of "Speed."
It's also evidently en vogue with NFL defensive backs. First it was Cleveland's Joe Haden and now Adderall has taken down Tampa Bay's Aqib Talib for four games.
It's probably not all that hard to argue Talib might need Adderall considering his past, which includes a fistfight with Cory Boyd at the NFL rookie symposium in 2008, the alleged battering of a taxi driver in '09 as well as an indictment for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after the talented but troubled corner was accused of firing a gun at his sister's boyfriend.
But forget any of the excuses, Talib took the Adderall without a prescription and actually copped to it.
"Around the beginning of training camp, I made a mistake by taking an Adderall pill without a prescription," Talib said in a statement issued by the team on Saturday.
"This is especially regrettable because, for the past several months, with coach (Greg) Schiano's help, I've worked very hard to improve myself -- professionally and personally -- as a player and a man.
"I am truly sorry to my teammates, coaches and Buccaneers fans, and I'm disappointed in myself. I will work diligently every day of this suspension to stay in top football shape and be ready to help this team in the second half of the season. I have chosen to be immediately accountable for the situation I put myself in, which is why I will not exercise my appeal rights and will begin serving the suspension immediately."
It's nice to see the 26-year-old Talib, a 2008 first-round pick who has totaled 21 tackles and one interception this season, show the maturity to admit his mistake and accept his punishment.
But for the NFL, there are more serious issues here.
The league has to understand -- once is an accident, twice may be a coincidence but three times? That's a trend the NFL doesn't need.
CONCUSSIONS ARE A PROBLEM
Perception is often greater than reality and the perception remains that NFL teams continue to push "important" players back from concussions while being overly cautious with lesser players.
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III started Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, a week after leaving against Atlanta with what was eventually described as a "mild" concussion.
Griffin was brilliant, showing no ill effects from the concussion. The dynamic RG3 threw for 182 yards and a touchdown while adding another 138 yards and two TDs on the ground, helping the Redskins snap an eight-game home losing streak by topping Minnesota, 38-26.
"I felt like, aside from the interception, I played one of my best games. Just doing what I was asked to do, being fundamentally sound and helping the team win," Griffin said.
Despite the superlative performance and the empirical evidence that the No. 2 overall draft selection in 2012 and reigning Heisman Trophy winner was healthy, the Redskins are still reportedly facing a "hefty" fine from the NFL for their handling of RG3's concussion.
Washington first described Griffin as being "shaken up" after the injury, but the NFL, which is facing a mountain of litigation in the coming years, wants all 32 teams to "immediately acknowledge a head injury to prevent concussed players from getting pushed back on field."
When will coaches learn?
Veteran kickers aren't spooked by a whistle and a few extra minutes to think about a potential game-winning kick. And most of them like a practice kick to make sure their fundamentals are sound.
Raiders rookie coach Dennis Allen was the latest to find that out on Sunday when he attempted to ice Atlanta's Matt Bryant. The Falcons kicker lined up for a 55-yarder with six seconds left and hooked it, although it was clear he understood the timeout was called and just going throw his kicking motion.
Like a golfer using a practice swing to get everything squared away, Bryant then knocked it 300 yards down the fairway, nailing his second game-winning field goal in the last three weeks.
Bryant's latest game-winning field goal was the 14th of his career and his fifth as a member of the Falcons.
At some point, you have to think coaches will realize they are only helping competent kickers with their obtuse strategies.
"It's about handling the moment," Bryant said of the game-winning kick. "Handling adversity, whatever it takes.
- The Falcons' Matt Ryan improved to 29-4 (.879) in home starts, the best record by a starting quarterback as the host since 1970 (minimum 20 starts). Flacco, who piloted the Ravens to their 31-29 home win over Dallas on Sunday, ranks second with a 31-5 (.861) mark.
-The Ravens' Jacoby Jones had a 108-yard kickoff-return touchdown in the Ravens, matching the longest in NFL history matching Ellis Hobbs (Sept. 9, 2007) and Randall Cobb (Sept.8, 2011).
- Griffin now has six rushing touchdowns this season and fellow rookie Alfred Morris has five for the Redskins, becoming the first rookie teammates to each rush for at least five touchdowns in a team's first six games.
- Tampa Bay defensive back Ronde Barber had a 78-yard interception-return for a touchdown in the Buccaneers' 38-10 win over Kansas City. Barber now has eight career interception return touchdowns and four fumble return touchdowns. His 12 combined defensive TDs are tied for the second-most in NFL history with Aeneas Williams and current Green Bay safety Charles Woodson. Only Hall of Famer Rod Woodson and Darren Sharper have more with 13.
- The New England Patriots gained 475 total yards in the team's 24-23 loss at Seattle, marking the 15th consecutive time they have gained at least 350 total yards. That passes the 1982-83 "Air Coryell" San Diego Chargers (14) for the second-longest streak in NFL history. The 1999-2000 "Greatest Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams hold the record at 16 consecutive games.
- The Lions' Jason Hanson connected on all four of his field-goal attempts, including the game-winner in overtime, during Detroit's 26-23 win at Philadelphia. Hanson now has 2,074 career points, the most ever by a player with one franchise, and passed John Carney (2,062) for the third-most points in NFL history.