Imposters are exposed

KEN FIDLIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

That pffffffffft you heard yesterday was the air going out of the balloons of a lot of NFL imposters.

In the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys, now 8-1, made a major statement, separating themselves from the disappointing and disappointed New York Giants, and now must start being considered worthy of mention in the same sentence with the New England Patriots.

In the NFC North, the Green Bay Packers also established some position on their nearest pursuers, the Detroit Lions, who were eviscerated yesterday by the lowly Arizona Cardinals.

In Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Browns sought to draw level with the AFC North-leading Steelers and had their hopes dashed at crunch time.

The Giants were able to stay with the Cowboys for the first half, partly because of the boneheadedness of Dallas defender Kevin Burnett. With just a few seconds left in the second quarter, Dallas up 17-14 and the Giants perfectly content to kneel down and run out the clock, Burnett was nailed for a taunting penalty that put the Giants offence back in business.

After an Eli Manning-to-Jeremy Shockey pass, the Giants hit a 40-yard field goal to end the half.

But both these teams, and especially the frustrated Giants, ended up taking a boatload of stupid, undisciplined penalties as the day wore on. Worse, for the Giants, Manning was dreadfully inept when the game got down to its short strokes, taking a couple of delay of game penalties and failing as a leader to martial his troops.

Indeed, the Giants looked so bad in the fourth quarter that you have to wonder if they aren't about to slip into a downward spiral, just as the third-place Philadelphia Eagles are in recovery mode.

GAME OF INCHES

J.P. Losman needed about four inches for a first down. He put his head down and made it with, oh, about a half-inch to spare. On such tiny twists of fate are football games won and winless streaks extended.

With the Miami Dolphins leading 10-2 and almost able to smell their first win of the year, the Buffalo Bills and Losman, their QB, cruelly snatched it away by scoring 11 points in the final 10 minutes.

The critical play came with more than 11 minutes remaining and Losman facing fourth-and-inches at the Miami 24-yard line. When the pile was untangled, and the ball spotted, the Bills had a first down by the narrowest of margins.

If it's spotted one inch the other way, the Dolphins would have taken over and Buffalo's momentum would have been lost. Three plays later, Marshawn Lynch scored from three yards out, then added the two-point convert to tie the score.

The Bills eventually scored the winning field goal in the game's final minute to push their record to 5-4, while Miami sinks to 0-9.

BROWNS FALL SHORT

For a very long time yesterday afternoon at Heinz Field, it looked as if there might be an improbable tie at the top of the AFC North by day's end. The Browns had jumped out to a 21-9 lead on the the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first half. But the Steelers scored late in the third period, then QB Ben Roethlisberger gave Pittsburgh its first lead early in the fourth. The Browns had one more comeback on a 100-yard Joshua Cribbs kick return for a touchdown, but the Steelers put it away late and now have a two-game lead over Cleveland.

The Men of Steel have three consecutive games against league doormats -- the Jets, the Dolphins and the Bengals, who have a total of four wins among them -- before they take on the Patriots on Dec. 9.

PETERSON POPPED

A week after he set an NFL rushing record of 296 yards, Adrian Peterson plummeted back to earth, landing hard. The Vikings rookie rushed for only 45 yards, fumbled once and suffered a sprained knee. He has a date with an MRI machine today to learn the extent of the injury.


Videos

Photos