Hundley finally gave them the performance they wanted on Sunday night. But at 5-6, the Packers might as well pack up
Antonio Brown stood up angry, having managed just two yards on a punt return with 17 seconds left in a tied game. Then Brown bailed Pittsburgh out, first with a toe-tapping catch on the boundary and second by creating enough space for an easier reception on the sideline, moving the Steelers from their own 30 into field goal range. Chris Boswell did the rest, scooting a 53-yarder over the crossbar as time expired in a 31-28 win.
Brown's heroics erased the best game of Brett Hundley's career. The Packers were two-touchdown underdogs in the Sunday nighter, but the Aaron Rodgers understudy kept Green Bay in it with three touchdowns, no interceptions and one huge fourth-and-6 pickup on the game-tying drive. Hundley also took a late sack and was unable to get a first down that would have guaranteed overtime. With the loss, Green Bay fell to 5-6. A playoff spot is now almost certainly out of reach, even if Rodgers, who was seen throwing before the game, is able to come back this year.
The Packers' fate is similar to that of the other preseason Vegas favorite to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 52: the Dallas Cowboys. Beset by injuries and the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, Dallas was non-competitive against the Chargers on Thanksgiving afternoon, falling to 5-6. The NFC playoff picture is now dominated by four fresh teams: the Eagles, Vikings, Rams, and Saints (with the last two years' respective surprises, Carolina and Atlanta, in the thick of things as well).
Meanwhile, the AFC looks more like a two-team race than ever before. The Steelers' defense was inconsistent on Sunday night, but their three offensive stars played at a championship level (with Le'Veon Bell and Brown combining for 352 scrimmage yards). After the win, coach Mike Tomlin acknowledged his team's shortcomings, and said he'd get them sorted out as Pittsburgh prepares for two divisional matchups and a huge Week 15 meeting with the Patriots. "We’ll work at it," Tomlin said. "But we’ll work being 9-2, and that’s a beautiful thing."
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1. Rams 26, Saints 20. Los Angeles never trailed at home in Sunday's marquee matchup of surprising NFC contenders. Jared Goff threw a fourth-quarter interception (which bounced off the hand of intended receiver Sammy Watkins) but came back to lead a 13-play drive that all but suffocated New Orleans. Goff finished with 354 yards passing, outshining Drew Brees, who was held in check by the Rams D.
2. Bills 16, Chiefs 10. The Upset of the Day shakes up the AFC playoff picture in a big way. Kansas City is now just one game ahead of the Chargers and Raiders in the AFC West, while the Bills lead the race for the final wild card spot at 6-5 (with 5-5 Baltimore set to host Houston Monday night). Once again, what had been an electric Chiefs offense disappeared, with drives of -2, 14, 5, and 42 yards in the fourth quarter before Alex Smith threw a game-ending interception with 1:25 remaining.
3. Raiders 21, Broncos 14. Speaking of the AFC West, Oakland stayed in the mix despite losing two of its best players to the Fight of the Day. Just a couple minutes into the contest, the long-running Michael Crabtree-Aqib Talib beef boiled over into full-on fisticuffs. The refs ejected those two (with Marshawn Lynch getting involved, because of course, by escorting Talib off the field) and Raiders guard Gabe Jackson (for contacting an official). Several other players are likely due for fines.
4. Falcons 34, Buccaneers 20. Atlanta seems to be back to its explosive ways, following Monday night's victory with another 34-point performance. This one featured a vintage Julio Jones. He had 253 yards receiving and two touchdowns, one of which came from fellow receiver Mohamed Sanu.
5. Panthers 35, Jets 27. Carolina trailed New York by two in the fourth quarter. Then Luke Kuechly scooped up a fumble and scored. Two minutes later, Kaelin Clay ran back a punt return to put the game out of reach.
6. Eagles 31, Bears 3. Another dominant defensive performance, another near-perfect Carson Wentz outing. Ho-hum. In the next two weeks, can the Seahawks or Rams slow down these Eagles?
7. Titans 20, Colts 16. Tennessee scored 14 unanswered to earn a comeback victory on the road. The Titans defense tallied eight sacks while keeping their team in the game despite a mediocre day for Marcus Mariota (17-of-25, 184 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions).
8. Cardinals 27, Jaguars 24. Blake Bortles had just 160 yards through the air, Leonard Fournette only gained 25 on the ground, and even with a Calais Campbell fumble recovery touchdown, Jacksonville fell to Arizona on a last-second 57-yard field goal from Phil Dawson.
9. Seahawks 24, 49ers 13. The most notable moment of this one came late when Jimmy Garoppolo took his first snap as a 49er, in relief of an injured C.J. Beathard. He threw a touchdown to Louis Murphy on the final play of the game.
10. Bengals 30, Browns 16. Cleveland gained 405 yards but converted only one of four red zone trips (that's how you wind up 0-11). In the win, Bengals rookie RB Joe Mixon gained a career-high 114 rushing yards.
11. Patriots 35, Dolphins 17. New England heads on the road for three straight after this win, but so what? Considering the Patriots' groove, they'd be six-point favorites in the Upside Down right now.
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The Bears offense was grounded in Philly yesterday. So was the rest of the team, as it sat stuck on the tarmac trying to get back home.
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