If Intel(Nasdaq: INTC) were a running back, it would be a beefy force with a propensity to fumble. But it would also be deceptively shifty; a slippery master of misdirection that keeps even the most nimble of padded defenders lunging yet missing.

The chip giant scored on its favorite play -- the end around. Three months ago, fourth-quarter targets fell just short of last year's $7.0 billion in revenue. The bottom line was pegged at $0.14 a share.

But a sidestep here, a juke move there, and Intel produced a pretty good run this time, posting $7.2 billion in revenue on a $0.16-a-share showing. A strong close to the period on the strength of the company's high-end chips and gains in Asia helped introduce much-needed good news to a roughed-up sector.

But not every chip ship will rise in the ocean. The company also revealed it will slash capital spending from last year's $4.7 billion. That's grim news for chip equipment makers such as Applied Materials(Nasdaq: AMAT) and Tencor(Nasdaq: KLAC), which are at the mercy of Intel's tightened purse strings. However, when you couple that lower capex figure with a workforce reduction and a growing cash bounty (being put to good use in aggressive share buybacks), you're left with a lean company setting itself up nicely for the eventual economic recovery.

If companies commit to upgrading their equipment and consumers start stocking up on new desktops and laptops, Intel will indeed be that elusive running back -- its goal well within sight. Let's just hope it doesn't drop the ball this time.