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  • Plus, how far the Steelers can go without Antonio Brown, Cam quietly thrives but Thomas Davis facing a suspension for the Panthers, a mind-bending overturn in Carolina, Mo Wilkerson doesn't show up, neither does Marvin Lewis and the Bengals
By Gary Gramling
December 17, 2017

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

Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About

Fake Spike Forever; the Idea Was a Good One: There’s a history of people making unwise decisions late in games on the goal line against the Patriots. But I loved the fake spike. The problem: Roethlisberger has to realize that he has one receiver, there are multiple defensive backs who aren't fooled and the only play is to airmail that ball into the 53rd row, which is the same result as a spike (Chris Boswell comes in the next play for the chip shot, overtime is next). A great play by Eric Rowe, who saves the game by Mutombo-ing that ball. (Duron Harmon has completely forgotten he is participating in an organized football game until the moment before the ball falls into his hands. Now he's a hero—what a world we live in!) But that ball can’t be thrown into that much traffic. (Obviously.)

Guh, Finish the Catch Jesse James!: You can think what you want about the NFL's catch rules (you think they're dumb, but only because they're dumb), but this was clearly ruled correctly. He's going to the ground. Even though his knee is down and he's broken the plane, he has to survive the ground.

That Drive by Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski: They were down five with two minutes left, and it had been a struggle for most of the day. But after a break on first down when Steelers safety Sean Davis couldn’t hang on to a deflected ball, it was Brady to Gronkowski on three straight plays covering . . . more than 68 yards, but fewer than 70, setting up the Dion Lewis winning TD. Incredible football by quite possibly the greatest ever at their respective positions.

Hmmmm, Sometimes When Your Defensive Coordinator Is Also Your Head Coach, It Can Take Away From the Defense: (Or maybe this is just an Eli Apple thing?)

There’s Aaron Rodgers!: If only briefly on Sunday.

Thomas Davis Earns a Week’s Vacation: The NFL has been an inconsistent mess when it comes to these hits, but they can’t be tolerated. The only way you get them out of the game is by handing out suspensions. Davis is a good man and a great ambassador for the game—and he immediately regretted the hit—but he has to sit next week.

This Overturned Challenge: Ruling that Damiere Byrd landed in-bounds on this catch. O.K., I guess maybe, but there’s 100% not a thread touching white grass there? Or it's 100% that, when his butt is fully pressed against the ground, it’s not touching any white? It would have stood if it had been ruled a touchdown on the field, but that’s . . . tough.


Things That Made Me Giddy

Shazier Sighting!:

What the Rams Just Did to the Seahawks: Should have carried an NC-17 rating. Congratulations to Sean McVay and Co., who clinch the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2004 in style.

Robbie Gould Wins Kicker Dance Off: Over Ryan Succop. By doing the robot and then kicking a game-winning 45-yarder.

Cam Runs Hot Enough: As usual he had a couple of misses that just make you weep. But he was on-target downfield and once again made a handful of plays with his legs. It’s looking more and more like 2015 in Charlotte.

Jimmy Garoppolo Still Unbeatable: That’s 5-0 as a starter, a record so impressive that you might forget how ridiculously handsome he is.

Todd Gurley’s Renaissance: What a difference a year makes. This summer we were wondering if he’d be a bust. Now, with 17 touchdowns, Gurley has more TDs through the first 14 games of this season than he had in his first two NFL seasons combined.

Jaguars Take Ownership of Texans From Bob McNair: It’s the law. Aggregate score this season: Jacksonville 74, Houston 14.

Martavis Bryant: Two big plays, which is two more than they’ve gotten out of him most weeks this season. (But mostly I’m excited because one of my predictions actually came true.)

Ninety-Six Yard Drive for Cleveland!: Granted, 64 of those yards came on a first-play run followed by a substitution penalty on the Ravens, but now is not the time to get picky with Browns highlights.

Rams Front Four: As most of Seattle’s opponents will tell you: It’s one thing to beat this offensive line, it’s another to actually bring Russell Wilson down. The Rams showed exceptional stamina play-to-play up front, consistently keeping Wilson from escaping.

Washington Sweeps the NFC West: Strange but true! They went 4-0 against the NFC West, including road wins over the Rams and Seahawks, then 2-8 against everyone else. Expect Dan Snyder to petition for realignment.

LeSean McCoy vs. Dolphins Linebackers: Not a fair fight. The Bills showed exactly what the Patriots should have done with their backs in the passing game last week in Miami.


Regrets

Packers D Fails to Realize Game Has Started, Again: They’ve given up 55 points on opening drives this season. No one else has allowed more than 42. Update those road signs!

Antonio Brown’s Calf: What a brutal way to go for the guy who is, by a pretty wide margin, the most valuable non-quarterback in football. Just makes you wanna puke, or poop, or something.

People Tweeting “Take My [Injured Body Part], [Injured Player]”: It was kinda funny for a second. (More cute then funny, but I won’t split hairs.) But that was two months ago; now it’s just stale. So stop doing it. That is my final answer. [Twerks]

Wait, That’s Not Aaron Rodgers!: A rough first 20 minutes in The Return. He flat-out missed on back-to-back throws to end his first drive, and underthrew Davante Adams badly on the Daryl Worley interception. In the second half he underthrew Randall Cobb up the seam and later Jordy Nelson on the right sideline, turning would-be big plays into interceptions. My theory: that was definitely an imposter. Or maybe just Aaron Rodgers with a bunch of metal screwed into his shoulder.

Bobby Wagner’s Hamstring: He had to play because of the magnitude of the game and the absence of K.J. Wright and Kam Chancellor, but no just god would have done this to a player as special as Wagner. He couldn’t move out there.

Everything About the 2017 Tennessee Titans: They basically needed to go out West and get one of two in Arizona and San Francisco to keep the inside track. They ot swept. This was the equivalent of spelling your name wrong on the SATs.

Marvin Lewis: If you’re going to be job-hunting this winter, maybe leave this week’s game off your résumé.

The Burfict Hit Celebration: Yeah, could have done without that.

Mo Wilkerson: As we saw last offseason, the market is saturated with quality interior defensive linemen. It’s a good position group in the 2018 draft, and it’s shaping up to be an incredible position group in the 2019 draft. Granted, Wilkerson got $15 million at signing last time around, which is enough to stock your outdoor freezer with enough Hot Pockets for you, your children and your children’s children. He was left home on Sunday for being chronically late for meetings. And at 28 years old and now with the increasing reputation as a malcontent, his earning power is dropping precipitously.

Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland’s Leading Receiver Through 35 Minutes: With three catches. For -12 yards. And it wasn’t just one fluky negative play. It was catches of -5 yards, -6 yards and -1 yard.


What We’ll Be Talking About This Week

My God, the Breaks the Patriots Catch In These Games: Don't get me wrong, it's been an all-time great run for the Brady/Belichick Patriots. But the Sean Davis dropped INT and the Jesse James dropped TD both would have won this game for Pittsburgh. And the odds that Eli Rogers and Eric Rowe would get tangled just enough for Rowe to get a hand on that ball . . . living well, I suppose.

What Are the Steelers Without Antonio Brown?: If it’s a postseason rematch with the Patriots and Brown isn’t available, you have to think the Patriots will come in with a much different approach. As they showed on Sunday, Pittsburgh is obviously capable of beating New England. But the Steelers’ offensive identity shifts to a more predictable, run-heavy offense if Brown is out; that makes it an even steeper climb now that the AFC playoffs almost certainly will go through Foxboro.

Russell Wilson Finally Overwhelmed: What a year he’s had—no player in the league has had to carry the burden Wilson has had. Earlier this week my podcast co-host and childhood pen pal from Latvia Andy Benoit wrote about the good and bad of a Wilson-led offense (you know, the column that sparked a thousand off-brand-FJM takes from folks who insist they know more than an analyst who crowd-sources offensive coaches at the highest levels of football to inform his opinions). For most of this year, we’ve seen the good. On Sunday (and for a second straight week), it was the bad. The Rams were fully prepared for Wilson’s out-of-structure playmaking, and Seattle had nothing else to turn to. The offensive line was an issue as always, though the Seahawks rely on Wilson to cancel out their poor pass protection with his mobility. On Sunday, all the problems with that approach showed up.

Nick Foles Is Not Carson Wentz, But That’s O.K. for One Day: First off, they spell and pronounce their names differently. Second, Foles can’t extend plays like Wentz can. He has to be precise as a thrower, and he ran hot and cold on Sunday, not nearly as good as the box score suggests (had it not been for the Washington Generals populating the Giants’ secondary, it would have been a much different narrative). Still, he looked more comfortable in the second half, and there were signs that he’d be “good enough” if the defense and run game maximize their potential.

Have a Billion Dollars Lying Around and Want to Own the Carolina Panthers?: You’re in luck! Because after reading this SI exclusive detailing the allegations against owner Jerry Richardson, he seems destined for a fate similar to ex-Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

Vikings Win the North: With Case Keenum under center for 80% of the season. If you see Mike Zimmer or anyone on his staff, give them a pat on the butt.

Does Rodgers Keep Going?: With a chance to spoil the No. 1 seed for the Vikings and Anthony Barr?

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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