Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened on Sunday afternoon. Get the full Sunday breakdown from Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling on The Monday Morning NFL Podcast. Subscribe to The MMQB Podcasts now and it will be in your feed first thing Monday morning
Things That Made Me Giddy
This Steelers Fake Field Goal Is the Real Meaning of Christmas: The kicker gets to throw one, everyone’s favorite offensive lineman gets to catch one, the team gets to celebrate. (It was an especially nutsy call as the last play of the half—there’s no consolation prize of pinning the Broncos deep if they don’t get it.)
And This Reaction Shot by Vance Joseph: Is better than anything you’ll find in your favorite Adam Sandler sports films.
Seahawks Keep Finding A Way: Yup, they caught a break with the Graham Gano miss. But the Seahawks stopped the Panthers on a red-zone fourth-and-short in the first quarter, and Bradley McDougald made an outstanding play picking off Cam Newton in the red zone later. Then Russell Wilson made two magnificent plays: A fourth-and-3, 35-yard, game-tying TD to David Moore down the left sideline; on the final drive, he extended a play—busting the Panthers’ zone coverage in the process—and found Tyler Lockett for 43 yards to set up the game-winning TD to get the victory in Carolina.
Andrew Luck Is Mr. Congeniality: He can’t be considered as an MVP candidate at this point because Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes have pulled so far away from the pack. But he put up another three-TD game, actually caught a fourth-down conversion, and led the game-winning field-goal drive as the Colts gutted out a win over Miami. I’ll email him a certificate he can print out and put on his fridge.
Browns Spread It Out: They’d gone smashmouth in the win over Atlanta two weeks ago, but coming out of the bye week Cleveland opened things up a little bit against that sieve Bengals defense, with Baker Mayfield picking them apart. This one was over early.
Philip Rivers’s Perfection: He completed 25 straight to start the game, the most consecutive completions in a single game and tied for the most consecutive completions across multiple games. He also set the single-game mark for completion percentage (28-for-29, 96.6%). And yet, did it really happen if no one was in the stadium to see it? (Sorry, sorry, those Chargers attendance jokes are hackneyed now. I won’t do any more. Well, I’ll only do a few more.)
Jalen Ramsey Was a Good Sport: He found Josh Allen on the field after the final snap of the Bills’ win over Jacksonville (presumably to share some kind of pleasantries). When folks stick a recorder in your face and demand, “Give me all your takes!” and you do it, you eventually have to eat crow. A lot of crow. Jalen Ramsey is eating unfathomable amounts of crow this season.
The Ebron Reclamation Tour Catches TD Nos. 10 and 11: Every time Ebron makes another play, Lions fans must rack their brains trying to figure out how Detroit is using a TE trio of Michael Roberts, Luke Willson and Levin Toilolo this season. The inability to use him properly while he was in Detroit—Ebron’s 11 TDs in 11 games with the Colts is the same number he scored over four seasons and 56 games with the Lions—will haunt Jim Bob Cooter. The nonsensical Golden Tate trade is fresher on everyone’s minds, but the decision to let Ebron walk is tough to square and tougher to stomach at this point.
Shelby Harris’s Ball Skills: The Steelers’ last play was a mess from the start—Bradley Roby might have picked off that throw anyway. But it’s not often a 290-pounder comes down with a game-clinching interception, and for that we salute you, Shelby Harris, and the Broncos for their upset of Pittsburgh.
The Champs Stay Alive: Was is beautiful? No. Do they look good? No. Is it annoying to ask and answer your own questions? Yes. The Eagles needed this win over the Giants, and to get it after falling behind 16 late in the first half. If they can get some bodies back in the secondary, they have a path to the tournament.
Gronk Reunited With the End Zone: His first TD since the season opener in the Patriots’ easy road win over the Jets. Neat, Gronk!
Xavien Howard Picks Off Luck Back-to-Back Plays: Toward the end of the first half. On the first one, Howard tracked a slight underthrow well downfield. Then, after a Mike Gesicki lost fumble, Howard fell off his receiver and stole a touchdown from Eric Ebron, two outstanding plays from a rising young star.
The Browns Are Road Warriors: First road win since October 2015!
Vita Vea: Like Super Grover 2.0, you showed up! Nice to see the Bucs’ mildly maligned first-round pick make an impact in the Bucs' win over the 49ers.
Leonte Carroo Up Top: Makes a great play downfield for a 74-yard touchdown, and Carroo is a guy the Dolphins need to step up with Albert Wilson and Jakeem Grant out. (And not to get all pessimistic, but they traded up to get him in the third round of the 2016 draft and this is the first time I can remember him making a play.
Leonard Fournette Running the Ball: He was really good against a solid Bills D and running behind a patchwork offensive line on Sunday.
Leonard Fournette Throwing Punches: After review, this pass was ruled complete but down at the 1 rather than a go-ahead touchdown, and in the meantime this brawl broke out. Fournette starts trying to punch Shaq Lawson in the helmet (always a bad idea), gets tossed, and the Jaguars proceed to false-start at the 1, pick up a (ticky-tack) offensive pass interference, and ultimately a series that started at the 1 ends in Josh Lambo’s shanked 42-yard field goal. Josh Allen needed three plays (and a couple of Jaguars penalties) to put the Bills in the end zone and up for good.
Pittsburgh’s Empty Trips: Four times they took it inside the 30 and came away with zero points in Denver (a blocked field goal, a Xavier Grimble fumble, a James Conner fumble and the game-ending interception). You can’t win an NFL game doing that.
Saquon Barkley Spends Second Half on a Milk Carton: He had 127 scrimmage yards in the first half, then five touches in the second half of the Giants' loss in Philly.
Hue Jackson: You wouldn’t think a guy who just came off a 3-36-1 run as a head coach would be able to find a new low, but here we are. Jackson, on to help Marvin Lewis with the Bengals defense, saw that defense get carved up by the rookie quarterback and offense he was coaching a month ago.
No Trust in Ryan Tannehill: Adam Gase is a heck of a coach—the fact that the Dolphins have stayed competitive despite all the injuries is a testament to that. But on a third-and-10 from his own six, in a tie game with 3:34 left, you have to give your quarterback a chance to get that first down. Instead the Dolphins ran it then punted, putting the ball in Andrew Luck’s hands near midfield, and soon after the game was over.
Jaguars Are Just About Out of Offensive Linemen: Big-money free-agent signee Andrew Norwell was carted off in Buffalo, presumably joining let tackle Cam Robinson and center Brandon Linder in extended absences.
Teams That Go Shotgun with the Ball Six Inches From the Goal Line: That banning this approach wasn’t a ballot initiative across all 50 states earlier this month is a failure of our democracy.
Tear the Bengals Down: They are on a trajectory to replace the Browns as the NFL’s laughingstock. They need a new coach, a new front seven on defense, a new offensive line, and probably a new quarterback.
James Conner’s Ball Security Is Problematic: None of this is to say Conner is bad or belongs on the bench. His fumble on his own 1-yard line turned a win into a tie in Cleveland to start the season, and the team needed to bail him out after two brutal drops in Jacksonville last week. His fumble on a layup of a screen play, caused by a player in clear view, swung the game in Denver on Sunday. Xavier Grimble fumbled a touchdown through the end zone, too, but Grimble is a bit player. When the Steelers chose to jerk Le’Veon Bell around they were making a big bet on Conner. The young RB’s crushing mistakes could end up costing them postseason homefield advantage.
Nick Mullens: It was a good story, but unlike the early-90s Jonathan Brandis vehicle, it was not a neverending story. The 49ers should discuss whether Mullens or C.J. Beathard is their backup of the future.
Giants Playing With a Lead: Granted, they haven’t been in this position often, but Big Blue took a 19-3 lead with four minutes left in the first half, and ended up losing 25-22.
That Vontae Davis Commercial That Played Every Other Break: Sorry, the moment has passed, guys. That ad needed to come, oh, about two months ago.
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Chris Carson’s Flip:Technically the knee did touch down (sorry to ruin your holiday season), but this is still something that should only be possible via CGI.
Big Ben the Fade-Away, JuJu From Long Distance: Antonio Brown gets the block, JuJu finishes off the last two would-be tacklers with a stiff arm. Smith-Schuster scored a 97-yarder in Detroit last year too. Because he’s at his most dangerous precisely three yards from the goal line in the shadow of his own goalposts.
Damarious Randall, Ice-Cold Troll: I’m no Hue softie, but this is rough.
This Josh Allen Throw Is Insane:
This Bradley McDougald INT: The second time in this game the Seahawks shut out the Panthers on a red-zone trip.
David Njoku: Bad hurdler, good football player (with some help on this one).
This Nick Chubb Catch: Like Globetrotters vs. Generals.
Jared Cook: The correct number of Cooks.
Cordarrelle Patterson: In his own words.
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Do the Ravens Keep Rolling With Lamar Jackson?: Mmmmmm… why not. Things were still a little choppy despite the matchup with the hapless Raiders this week (offense put up 416 yards, though only 20 points), but the Jackson-Gus Edwards tandem has the run game going, and it seems like they can eke out a big play or two through the air every week off that run game. Road games are a different beast, but it’s Atlanta and K.C. coming up, followed by a home game vs. Tampa. The Ravens have an opportunity to keep building out this offense.
Mike Brown’s Loyalty Must Have Its Limits: I think I’m done picking on Hue Jackson—he did it to himself with that ridiculous farewell tour, but at this point it all seems gratuitous. However, if Brown is truly considering Hue Jackson as Marvin Lewis’s heir apparent, the league office has to intervene.
The Broncos Are Still In This Thing!: The path to 9-6 is a fairly easy one, as they’ll be favored in each of their next four games before a regular-season finale at home against the Chargers. Vance Joseph’s guys keep playing for him.
The Panthers Are Losing Their Grip: They came away with zero points on two red-zone trips and Graham Gano missed a 54-yarder late. The line between wins and losses in the NFL is razor-thin, and Carolina has been on the wrong side of it the past two weeks. You’d like to see them roll up big days in Tampa and Cleveland the next two games, because they get the Saints twice in the season’s final three weeks.
The Josh Allen Narrative: From self-proclaimed draft experts working off box scores (he’s not an athlete, look at his rushing stats!) and GIFs (remember that time he threw 18 inches too high for the net at a practice!) and inside jokes that provided minutes of hilarity for your uncle, it’s been a year of really dumb takes regarding Allen. He’s still raw, but his talent is undeniable. And he’s doing it with guys like Robert Foster, Jason Crooms and the worst O-line in the league. You can put Allen up there with the best young quarterbacks in football.
Can the Steelers Give Le’Veon Bell His Contract Now?: Would’ve been nice to have him the past two weeks. Ben Roethlisberger and the defense bailed them out in Jacksonville. The Steelers didn’t have enough in Denver on Sunday. And, now, an AFC title game in Pittsburgh looks like a longshot. Kids, if you ever run an NFL team, take care of your players.
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