Broncos, Seahawks are battle-tested

During the final drive of a one-score game at Washington on Sunday night, officials indicated first down when it was actually third down, then moved the chains to show first down, then didn't halt play to correct the chains and down marker, saying that would have stopped the clock in a beat-the-clock situation. Yours truly scanned the 114-page NFL rules and couldn't find any stricture declaring officials should allow their own mistakes in the endgame. You will not be surprised to learn the words "Jeff Triplette" are attached to yet another zebra blunder.

Atlanta trailing 31-24 and facing second-and-5 on the Buffalo 23 just before the two-minute warning at Toronto, Matt Ryan threw incomplete. Bills' safety Aaron Williams was called for illegal contact, giving Atlanta first down on the 18 rather than third down on the 23. Not only did Williams not make illegal contact with Tony Gonzalez, the man he was guarding, Williams didn't make any contact. He was playing "off," expecting a deep route. Check the tape. The call isn't even close.

TMQ thinks illegal contact should be only five yards, not an automatic first down. Readers have replied that it should be a first down because the contact might have prevented a long gain. True, but almost any penalty might have prevented something more valuable than the walk-off. There are too many automatic first downs in NFL rules. Under the National Federation of High Schools rules used in most states, roughing the passer isn't an automatic first down -- it is a 15-yard walk-off. And as of this season, defensive pass interference is no longer an automatic first, it's 15 yards and replay the down.

Eagles Winning with Defense?? Philadelphia's up-down-up season is confounding all predictions. One subtle factor for the Nesharim is that the same five offensive linemen have started every game, and now understand what Chip Kelly wants them to do. Another is that Nick Foles is studying the playbook and following it; Michael Vick, for all his talent, was prone to freelancing. The key is an improving Eagles defense, which allowed 35 points per game in the first month of the season, and has allowed 18 points per game since.

Cold Coach = Victory: Interim coach T.J. Weist took over the winless University of Connecticut squad and, among other things, began wearing short sleeves on game day, regardless of temperature. This appeases the football gods! Saturday, with kickoff temperature at 32 degrees, Weist wore a polo shirt, no jacket or hat, as the Huskies upset Rutgers for their second consecutive win with a cold coach.

Another Routine New England Win: In the first half at Houston, as New England fell behind, Tom Brady threw was 11-for-18 and an interception; in the second half, as New England rallied to win, Brady was 18-for-23 with no picks. The Flying Elvii are now assured their 13th consecutive winning season under Bill Belichick.

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