Week 12 Superlatives: Wilson keeps Seattle alive, Lions offense again flat
Let's take a look back at some notable performances and key plays from Week 12 of the NFL season.
When Russell Wilson is on, opposing defenses can sack him over and over and limit his target options, but he will still find ways to win. That was the case for Arizona's outstanding defense in Seattle's 19-3 win over the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon.
Seattle's porous (to be kind) offensive line opened the floodgates, and Wilson was sacked five times in the first half alone -- defensive end Calais Campbell took down Wilson three times (Campbell's single-game career-high) before the first half was over. In the end, Arizona sacked Wilson seven times and pressured him constantly, but they could not prevent him from making plays whenever he was miraculously upright.
Wilson ended the game with 17 completions in 22 attempts for 211 yards, a touchdown and no picks -- not majestic numbers by any means, but under the circumstances, few quarterback performances were more valuable today. The 7-4 Seahawks are still alive in the playoff race, and could still win a division crown. And when you add in that Wilson also led the team with 73 rushing yards on 10 carries, his value was obvious. -- Doug Farrar
It's always tough to put a respected veteran like Gore in this category, especially when the 49ers extracted a 17-13 win over the Washington Redskins. But this was a close game for a team that is trying to keep hope alive for a postseason berth, and Gore sadly did little to help the cause with 36 yards and a key fumble on 13 carries. -- DF
Must-see Play: Janoris Jenkins' all-the-way pick-six
Things haven't been going well for San Diego's passing game recently, and when Philip Rivers threw this quick pass to Keenan Allen with 11:52 left in the first half, St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins was on the spot to handle Allen, jump the route and take it back 99 yards for a touchdown.
Jenkins hasn't always made the best on-field decisions since the Rams selected him in the second round of the 2012 draft -- he can be beaten on more complex routes and he isn't always where he needs to be -- but he was certainly in the right place on this play. Actually, he's been very productive when picking off passes; out of his seven career picks, five have been returned for touchdowns.
Sadly for Jenkins, it wasn't enough for his team -- the Chargers squeaked this one out by a 27-24 margin. -- DF
Head-scratching Decision: John Fox's interception challenge
With 1:40 left in the first quarter of Denver's game against the Miami Dolphins, Ryan Tannehill threw a short pass that was more a bounce than anything that could have been completed or intercepted. Bradley Roby tried to make it look like a pick, but it was pretty obvious that the Dolphins would have 2nd-and-10 from the Denver 47-yard line. Still, Broncos head coach John Fox called for a challenge, and the officiating crew easily burned the timeout Fox apparently didn't want.
Or, if that's not head-scratching enough for you, we could go with Denver's early offensive playcalling. The Broncos went down early, 14-3, and by that point, they had called 10 running plays to four passes, and the passes weren't much to write home about -- Manning was 3-of-4 for 11 yards. Yes, Manning had his issues of late -- he'd thrown two picks in each of his last three games -- but the Broncos entered this game with their top two running backs (Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball) out of commission.
Eventually, sanity prevailed, Manning threw for four touchdowns, and the Broncos stayed on top of the AFC West. But things did get curious for a while in the Mile High City. -- DF
Key Injury: Aqib Talib, CB, Denver Broncos
Talib, who has been a major part of Denver's improved secondary this season, was forced from Sunday's contest against the Broncos with a hamstring injury. He tried to play through it for a while, but was out in the second half. The 8-3 Broncos could breathe easy after beating Miami in a 39-36 thrillride, but losing Talib for any length of time would obviously be a major hit. The Broncos will be crossing their fingers when those medical tests happen on Monday. -- DF
MVP: Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
The Vikings made Green Bay work for win No. 8, and though Aaron Rodgers was steady again, it was the grinding effort by Lacy that really pushed the Packers over the top. Coming into Sunday, Lacy had just one 100-yard game under his belt this season; he had failed to reach even 70 yards in his other nine outings.
Packers head coach Mike McCarthy stayed persistent in feeding his running back against Minnesota, though, resulting in a 125 yards rushing on 25 carries, plus two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). A Rodgers-to-Lacy shovel pass provided the final score Green Bay needed to escape with a victory.
The Packers still needed Lacy again before it was over, after the Vikings cut a 24-14 deficit to 24-21. McCarthy put it on Lacy -- not Rodgers -- to seal the victory in the closing minutes, and he did just that, picking up two first downs on the ground. -- Chris Burke
LVP: Detroit's offense
On the opposite end of the NFC North spectrum ... the Lions now find themselves behind Green Bay in the division standings mainly because their vaunted offense has been nonexistent. With Sunday's 34-9 drubbing in New England coming after a 14-6 loss in Arizona, Detroit now has gone eight quarters without scoring a touchdown.
The gap between New England's offensive execution and Detroit's was staggering. Even when the Lions managed to protect Matthew Stafford and get their receivers open downfield -- the two occurrences rarely happening together -- they still could not deliver any real meaningful plays. Joseph Fauria and Corey Fuller both dropped potential touchdown passes, Eric Ebron was all out of sorts and neither Golden Tate nor Calvin Johnson created any consistent mismatches.
"Well, I think we've had spurts where we've shown that we can do it," Detroit offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said this week," so I know that the players are good and I trust in the coaches and what we're doing. And so it's just a matter of tweaking and keep working, chopping wood and it'll come around."
Will it? Time's running out. -- CB
Must-see GIF: T.Y. Hilton's touchdown celebration
Hilton's wife gave birth to a baby girl in the wee hours of Sunday morning. A few hours later, before the game started, the Colts' receiver told his agent (who shared the comment via Twitter) that "it's the right thing to do to get her a TD."
He came through in the second half, then paid tribute to his new daughter with this celebration:
Following the game, Hilton nearly broke down into tears while talking about his daughter in a postgame interview. -- CB
Head-scratching decision: Mike Smith's clock management
In Week 8, the Falcons were unable to salt away a victory against Detroit, thanks to some unusual play calling. They botched yet another late-game situation Sunday, this time turning what could have been a 26-24 win into a 27-26 loss.
Atlanta trailed by two but had the ball on the fringe of field-goal range in the final minute against Cleveland when Matt Ryan hit Harry Douglas for a completion. The Browns showed no immediate urgency to stop the clock with their own timeout -- thereby saving a few seconds in case Atlanta took the lead.
For whatever reason, Falcons head coach Mike Smith did them the favor of calling a timeout instead. After Douglas' 7-yard grab put the ball on Cleveland's 35, Smith immediately signaled for a timeout at the 55-second mark, allowing the Browns to keep all three of their timeouts.
The Falcons then threw incomplete on 3rd-and-2. Despite Matt Bryant's subsequent field goal, Cleveland still had 44 seconds and their full allotment of timeouts to answer.
They did, marching for a game-winning field goal. And again, Smith's plan backfired. -- CB
Key injury: Tashuan Gipson
A potentially big loss to go with the Browns' big win. Gipson, with a league-leading six interceptions, had to be carted off the field with a knee injury, which occurred when Gipson collided with teammate Joe Haden as the two defended a pass.
Cleveland improved to 7-4 with its win in Atlanta, but its defense continues to struggle keeping folks healthy. --CB