Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened on Sunday afternoon. Get the full Sunday breakdown from Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling on The MMQB: 10 Things Podcast. Subscribe now and it will be in your feed first thing Monday morning
Things That Made Me Giddy
Kirk Cousins: Not anything particularly clever or insightful to point out. Simply, what a game for Cousins in a losing effort at the Superdome. He has quietly made monster throw after monster throw this season despite all the injuries, first on his O-line, now to his weapons. As John Malkovich says in that bad poker movie Bill Simmons likes: Pay that man his money. Especially after making plays like this (that’s a lot of people hitting him!).
Patriots In the Elevation: Playing in Denver (5,280 feet above sea level) then Mexico City (7,280 feet above sea level), New England outscored opponents 74-24 the past two weeks.
Josh Doctson Up Top: That’s the stuff.
Ben McAdoo as Inspector Gadget: A fake punt (it worked!), an offensive tackle split wide (pretty good!), a halfback pass in the red zone (ehhhhh, maybe not so much!). These are the actions of a man who’s been pushed to the brink of madness. (Also, if you missed Conor Orr’s feature on McAdoo, you’ve made a huge mistake.)
LeSean McCoy: As bad as things get for the Bills, there's always Shady McCoy. My goodness is he great. (Might I suggest the Bills running the Wildcat 30 or so times every week?)
Surviving Soldier Field: Slow track, good defense, rookie QB who extends plays. That place is where favorites go to die. Or, in the case of the Lions on Sunday, win but not cover. That’s a better win for Detroit than it looks like on paper.
Latavius Murray: He ran big for the first time in a long time.
Eli Manning: It’s easy to criticize Manning (and fun!) for the occasional bone-headed play, but give him credit. Ben McAdoo’s offense is not built to work with inferior talent at receiver, and the Giants are running out a bunch of fourth- and fifth-caliber receivers. He’s making it work as well as it can.
Fake Punts Forever: As anyone who pays attention to beer commercials knows: Fortune favors the bold. Niles Paul (welcome back, buddy!) with the onions, running a fake punt on a fourth-and-1 from his own 15 in the second-half protecting a four-point lead. That's good coaching and a smart player. The drive ended with seven points.
The Chargers Are Sticking Around: Which I’m happy about, because I pick them to make the playoffs every year. But I’m pretty sure they’re just setting me up to break my heart again.
Case Keenum With Nothing to Lose: Testing tight windows and pulling off some borderline reckless plays after escaping. And it's all working right now
Like Elsa, the Cold Doesn’t Bother Leonard Fournette Anyway: With pretty much every able-bodied man in Cuyahoga County stacking the box, Fournette still managed to go for 111 yards on 28 carries, as the Jaguars win ugly again.
Matt Prater Saves Christmas While Connor Barth . . . I dunno . . . Ruins Hanukkah?: The game tied in the final two minutes, Prater hits from 52 (another 50-plus yarder!) to give the Lions the lead. The Bears drive back down and Barth goes wide right from 46 in the final seconds.
You Can’t Beat Ryan Fitzpatrick, Apparently: Why even try?
The Raiders Drop Everything: Derek Carr wasn’t particularly sharp in the Mexico City game, but the number of times a receiver got two hands on a ball and then put it on the ground was unacceptable.
Brett Hundley Is a Problem Again: It looked like the Packers might have found a way to make things work with Hundley under center, playing more two backs and power running. On Sunday, the Ravens stuffed the run game, and the veteran back seven toyed with Hundley.
Cooper Kupp Fumbles at the 1: It was the kind of play that you can't have when you’re facing a quality team on the road. The rookie also had a soul-shattering drop on a third down that would have gone for a big gain early in the second half. A tough day for a guy who’s going to be a good player in the league for the next decade.
The Broncos Can’t Make a Play to Save Their Playoff Lives: They held the Bengals to 190 yards of offense, but gave up a 100-yard INT return (setting up a Bengals touchdown) and let a struggling Bengals offense convert four key third downs in the fourth quarter (one a deciding touchdown pass to A.J. Green) to bleed the clock in Denver.
Leonard Floyd’s Serious Knee Injury: C’mon!
Kirk Cousins Needs to Get Down: He took one shot to the head on a late slide. He took another shot to the head getting twisted around on a scramble. Those franchise tags are just one-year deals guy; take care of yourself!
Jay Cutler: He should go back to his old job, getting paid for starring in memes. (Oh, did you not know that for every meme you make of him, you owe Jay Cutler 14 cents? And he breaks thumbs.)
Pray for Marshon Lattimore’s Ankle: He hurt it in the first half, returned for the opening series of the second half and immediately re-injured it. He’s the most indispensable guy in the revamped New Orleans defense. It’s not a coincidence that the Saints defense looked very Saints defense-y in the second half on Sunday.
We Miss You, Ryan Tannehill: In August, we wondered if there was a scenario in which the Gase-Cutler magic of 2015 could be rekindled, muddying up Tannehill’s future. That did not happen.
Nathan Peterman: The Bills’ Hail Mary change at quarterback was intercepted. Then intercepted four more times in one half of football. (For the record: The first one was not his fault, the second two were more a product of horrific protection, the fourth and fifth were two instances of really bad quarterbacking.) The only thing that could really go wrong for a Bills team that, as I wrote this morning, just isn’t good enough to win was a meltdown for their rookie QB. Peterman might never get over this one (and he might not get a chance to).
Healthcare in Washington: Chris Thompson getting taken away on a cart was the last straw. This offense plays flag-football rules for the rest of the year. It’s only fair.
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
The Legend of Adam Thielen: He typically does stuff like this. (Future generations of the Countess family will feel it in their ankles any time it rains.)
And then there was this:
Plus, he went to Minnesota State, where he was presumably recruited by Craig T. Nelson (under-30 readers, ask a parent about that reference) and wanted to be a dentist. Or at least was almost a dental equipment salesman—I assume they all really want to be dentists.
Alvin Kamara Is a Magician: The cool kind of magician. Which is every kind of magician.
Dre Kirkpatrick Vs. the Thin Air: He’ll get mocked for the self-forced fumble here, but I got winded just watching this run back. Running 100 yards in the thin air is not an easy task. (And a 100-yard return but no TD. That’s so cruel. The Bengals got the TD three plays later anyway.)
Roger Lewis’s Football Equivalent of an And-1 to Win It: The pass interference, and the absurd catch. (And it didn’t technically win it, but it set up the winning kick)
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Drew Brees Still Has It: Remember Drew Brees? He can still win a game if he has to. And with the defense losing Marshon Lattimore and struggling in the second half against Washington, Brees had to. If Marshon Lattimore is healthy, this Saints team can beat you in a variety of ways.
Mike Zimmer Has Your Kryptonite: The Vikings benefitted from a couple of mistakes by the Rams, but this was a shutdown after the Rams opened the game with a 75-yard TD drive. L.A. finished with 254 yards of offense after rolling up 400-plus in three straight weeks. The Rams only got inside the Vikings’ 49 twice the rest of the game, one of those instances a garbage-time drive. We’ll keep talking about the quarterbacks, but Keenum or Bridgewater almost doesn’t matter with this defense.
Panic in K.C.: We knew there was a certain amount of smoke-and-mirrors involved with this offense, but they’ve been silenced of late. The Chiefs have two touchdowns over the last two games, and one of them was that Tyreek Hill catch-and-run Hail Mary at the end of the first half in Dallas.
Ben McAdoo Forever: This team was cooked as soon as Odell Beckham Jr. went down, so the only question is whether the effort will be there from here on in. Our Conor Orr detailed McAdoo’s week on the brink, and the early returns are promising. Those nerds in the Giants front office said they’re gonna wait until after the season to make a decision (are you not on Twitter, John Mara?); playing close games works in McAdoo’s favor. Beating a good Chiefs team will go a long way toward the coach coming back in 2018, for an organization that doesn't want to pull the plug so early.
The Ravens Are Going to the Playoffs: Right? Today’s win in Lambeau was a big one. They’re 5-5 with an extremely favorable schedule down the stretch, in an AFC wild-card race that everyone is trying to lose.
The Danger of Fluky Good Starts for Bad Teams: I covered this in-depth in my Gameday column and (for once) it still holds true 24 hours later. 2017 was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Bills; this roster was never good enough to consistently win. But some bounces went their way early, and that shiny 5-2 record in a down year for the AFC put them just close enough. The sentiment I heard from Western New York was that the Tyrod Taylor benching was not an unpopular move. It was viewed as a bold move, a desperate move by a team that wasn’t good enough, and one that McDermott will get killed for in plenty of corners because of Nathan Peterman’s meltdown. The good news for McDermott is that the 2018 quarterback is not on the roster. Also—this will sound harsh—it’s not a death knell if he loses some of this locker room; there aren’t a lot of guys good enough to build around.
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