The Award Section
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Tom Brady, quarterback, New England. If there was ever a time that the Patriots may have been vulnerable, this seemed like the season, and this team seemed like the one to capitalize. Buffalo was playing at home, with recent success running the ball and playing solid defense. But in the first 14 minutes, Brady took the air out of the manic crowd, completing eight of 11 for 107 yards and two touchdowns as the Pats took a 14-3 lead. The second touchdown pass was a classic. Rex Ryan sent the house at Brady from the New England 47, and just before the rush got home, Brady hit Chris “Not A Bad Homecoming” Hogan with a perfectly placed 53-yard touchdown throw that looked like it just dropped for the sky. So the streak remains intact: No AFC East foe in 16 seasons has swept Brady and the Patriots in the season series. That’s one amazing stat.
Ezekiel Elliott, running back, Dallas. He didn’t have his best game of the season, and he didn’t score a point. But for the fifth straight game he contributed at least 145 total yards to a Dallas offense that’s been reborn behind him and Dak Prescott. Elliot’s 96 rushing yards and 52 receiving yards against the best defensive front the Cowboys have faced were vital in Dallas’ sixth straight win.
Derek Carr, quarterback, Oakland.See earlier in this column. The greatest day by a quarterback in Raiders history—40 of 59, 513 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions—deserves to share top billing with Brady this weekend.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Sean Lee, linebacker, Dallas.A dominant performance in the 29-23 win over the Eagles on Sunday night, with two of the prettiest tackles you’ll ever see. Among his 11 tackles were two behind the line, both on the elusive Darren Sproles. Before the season, everyone was concerned about who would rush the passer for Dallas, and rightfully so. But what we all forgot is how much the oft-injured and remarkably instinctive Lee would mean as a consistent force in the middle.
Star Lotulelei, defensive tackle, Carolina.With the first three-sack game of a starry career, Lotulelei keyed an eight-sack uprising for Carolina against Carson Palmer. The Panthers, more than any team in football, needed a win this weekend, and the Lotulelei-led D took the lead role.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Caleb Sturgis, kicker, Philadelphia. Most impressive thing in the kicking game I saw Sunday? Sturgis’ performance at the end of the first half in Texas on Sunday night. In 51 NFL games before this one, Sturgis’ longest field goal was from 54 yards. Here, he lined up with one second left in the second quarter of a 10-10 game for a 55-yarder. Snap, kick, wait … timeout, Dallas … and the kick was drilled inside the left upright. Would have been good from 63. So he has to kick again, and this time the kick was right down the middle, and would have been good from 65.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Bill Musgrave, offensive coordinator, Oakland. The well-traveled Musgrave—he’s coached for seven NFL teams—has formed the kind of bond with Derek Carr that produces greats results, such as Sunday’s 626-yard offensive explosion in Tampa Bay. Musgrave, with an aggressive brand of play-calling Sunday, fits just what Carr and this offense does best—take chances down the field with a talented group of receivers.
HERO OF THE WEEK
Keith Washington, side judge, New England-Buffalo game. At first, during the Pats-Bills game when Tom Brady threw a pass intended for Chris Hogan near the Buffalo goal line, it looked like a flag came from the end zone. That was no flag. The object bounced, and the more you looked at it, the more you said, It can’t be. Oh, it be. After the play, a couple of Bills looked at it, and I do believe if they weren’t wearing their helmets, we would have seen them laughing. Then Washington walked toward the rubber object, stared at it, seemed to say, Well, I’m certainly not picking that up, and kicked it toward the sideline, where it finally disappeared into the crowd.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
Roberto Aguayo, kicker, Tampa Bay.This is turning into a debacle. The man for whom the Bucs traded up in the draft to select in the second round missed a fourth-quarter extra point, hooking it wide left against the Raiders. The score was 17-16, Oakland, when he lined up for the PAT. The score remained 17-16.
Washington. A team award. Fifteen penalties. A shanked 34-yard field goal in overtime by Dustin Hopkins. Instead of using a timeout with 24 seconds left to try to convert a fourth down near midfield and try a last-gasp game-winning field goal, coach Jay Gruden let the clock run down to try a poorly executed Hail Mary. Bad day for old D.C.
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Right Combination of the Week
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and his group of new receivers. Ryan has meshed tremendously with a cadre of new pass-catchers. On Sunday, in the 33-32 win over Green Bay, Ryan was 17 of 18—right, one incompletion all day—to new wideouts Mohamed Sanu and Taylor Gabriel and new tight end Austin Hooper. In the transient world of pro football, making the right combination, and making it fast, is vital to success, and Ryan has made it work smoothly with three newbies, On Sunday, it led to the Falcons’ biggest win of the year.
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Stat of the Week
It’s not your imagination that officials are throwing more flags. Compared to seven years ago, it’s a significant increase.
Accepted Penalties Per Gm
Total Penalties Per Gm
2009 (267 gms)
2016 (107 gms)