What's the sound when perfection goes poof?
Sunday, it was a thud, as New Orleans cornerback Jabari Greer batted away a fourth-down pass by the Atlanta Falcons, who were two yards away from a touchdown that would have kept them undefeated.
So nobody's perfect in the NFL — but, on the opening weekend of the season's second half, there was ample imperfection to go around.
It was a comedy of errors on both sides when St. Louis went to overtime at San Francisco.
On the Rams' opening possession of the extra period, an 80-yard pass play to Danny Amendola was wiped out by an illegal formation.
When the 49ers got the ball back, they blew a chance to win when the typically accurate David Akers missed a 41-yard field-goal attempt.
St. Louis got the ball back, drove into position to win with a long field goal, and rookie sensation Greg Zuerlein drilled a 53-yarder … but the field goal was negated by a delay-of-game penalty. The Rams were pushed back five yards, and Zuerlein missed wide.
The game ultimately ended at 24-24, the league's first deadlock since Philadelphia played to a tie in Cincinnati four years ago.
Sunday in Cincinnati, there was no such balance.
The New York Giants, who a few weeks ago looked like the cream of the NFL, got, well, creamed. The Giants lost at Cincinnati, 31-13, and Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw four touchdown passes to four receivers.
The defending Super Bowl champions stagger into the bye with consecutive losses and a star quarterback who has lost his luster. Eli Manning had two interceptions that led to touchdowns and was sacked a season-high four times. That, after a sputtering performance against Pittsburgh a week earlier.
"No, I'm not worried," Manning said. "Over the years, we've gone through stretches where we haven't played our best football and we've been able to bounce out of that, and that's what's going on right now."
A familiar feeling? Atlanta Coach Mike Smith can relate. His Falcons teams are 2-7 against the Saints, counting Sunday's 31-27 loss.
"It's not like they came out and won a game today," frustrated Falcons receiver Roddy White said. "I think we kind of gave it to them."
Moot point. The Saints are relevant again. The Falcons are good but not perfect. And the teams meet again in Atlanta at the end of the month.
Oh, and Greer kept his job. He confessed afterward that he was worried about his future with the team after giving up two long passes earlier in the game.
"I was kind of depressed before that play," he said of his game-clinching knockdown. "I saw my name on the waiver wire.... Being able to go out there and make a play for our team and be able to celebrate after everything that happened and just to win that way, it's a gift."
For the Saints, a perfect one.
L.A. and the Panthers
ESPN reported Sunday that high-powered California political officials have been courting Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson about moving the franchise to Los Angeles. The network cited a person familiar with the discussions.
The officials reportedly spoke to Richardson at last summer's Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., where L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was convention chairman.
An L.A. official called the ESPN report "misleading at best, inaccurate at worst."
"The Mayor did meet with Mr. Richardson in Charlotte during the DNCC, but he has not been courting the Panthers to move to LA," Peter Sanders, deputy mayor for communications, wrote in an email Sunday. "They discussed the return of NFL football to LA in general terms, as the Mayor has done with a number of league owners and officials, including owners whose teams are on very solid ground and have no intention of relocating anywhere."
Richardson issued a statement Sunday saying he's dedicated to staying: "It has always been my desire that the Carolinas would be home of our Panthers. Nothing has changed. As someone who was born in North Carolina and lived much of my life in South Carolina, I hope that there would be no doubts about my personal devotion to the Carolinas."
Perhaps it's not a coincidence that the Panthers are about to unfurl plans for a stadium renovation, and politicians in North Carolina have indicated that they'd be willing to help pay for them. What better way to firm up those commitments then to raise the possibility of a relocation to L.A.? That worked for Indianapolis, Seattle, New Orleans and others.
Adrian Peterson continues to defy the odds and pile up the yards.
The Minnesota tailback, who blew out his left knee at the end of the 2011 regular season, ran for 171 yards in 27 carries to lead the Vikings to a 34-24 win over Detroit.
"I still can get stronger. I'm still not there, man. I'm pressing to get there," Peterson said. "I'm going to come back stronger and better after the bye."
The Vikings could use that. They play at Chicago after a week off. Peterson came into Week 10 with a league-leading 957 yards rushing.
Calling for backup
Concussions to Philadelphia's Michael Vick and San Francisco's Alex Smith had those teams turning to backup quarterbacks.
Eagles fans were clamoring to see rookie quarterback Nick Foles, considering all of Vick's turnover problems, and Foles showed flashes of promise. He completed 22 of 32 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown but also had two interceptions run back for scores (one was negated by a penalty).
The Cowboys put the finishing touches on their 38-23 victory by stripping Foles at the one-yard line and recovering the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
In San Francisco, Colin Kaepernick played well in place of Smith, completing 11 of 17 passes for 117 yards, and running eight times for 66 yards and a touchdown.
According to ESPN, Miami's 37-3 loss to Tennessee ranks as the Dolphins' second-worst home defeat, topped —topped? — by a 48-3 loss to Kansas City in 1968.
In Sunday's game, rookie Ryan Tannehill was picked off three times after going six weeks without an interception.
Asked what he learned from the experience, Tannehill said: "Don't throw it to the other team."
That '70s show
He's been with the Broncos for only half a season and already Peyton Manning owns a club record. Sunday, for the seventh time this season, he completed at least 70% of his passes. He completed 27 of 38 passes, 71.1%, for 301 yards and a touchdown.
Manning also threw the 420th touchdown pass of his career, tying Hall of Fame member Dan Marino for second-most in history. Brett Favre threw 508.
Another Sunday, another blocked punt.
This time, Tampa Bay's Dekoda Watson barreled up the middle and blocked a punt by San Diego's Mike Scifres. Adam Hayward scooped up the ball and ran 29 yards for a touchdown for the Buccaneers.
There have been 15 blocked punts through the first nine games of the season, putting the league on pace for three times as many as last season (nine).
First … and anything but
It wasn't a good Sunday for quarterbacks taken No. 1 overall.
Cam Newton was sacked seven times and the Carolina Panthers lost at home to Denver. Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions lost at Minnesota. San Francisco's Smith was knocked out of the St. Louis game by a concussion, as was Philadelphia's Vick against Dallas. Eli Manning had a miserable game in a loss at Cincinnati. Carson Palmer and the Oakland Raiders found themselves on the wrong end of a 55-20 laugher in Baltimore.
Not all the top picks had a lousy Week 10. Andrew Luck won at Jacksonville on Thursday, and Peyton Manning beat the Panthers. As for Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, he neither won nor lost. Ugh, a tie.
SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL
Suddenly flawed Falcons part of an imperfection convection
Atlanta was two yards from a 9-0 record when a fourth-down pass was batted down by New Orleans. There was plenty of imperfect play elsewhere, especially in San Francisco, where the 49ers and Rams bumbled to the first NFL tie since 2008.
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