Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened in the Week 11 Sunday afternoon games...
Things That Made Me Giddy
Lamar Outclasses Deshaun: It was not close, even when you factor in the differences in opposing defenses. Lamar Jackson looked dynamic, confident and completely in control, which has been the case in his past four games. Watson on the other hand—even before tweaking his ankle—looked skittish and was far too conservative, firing short-hop after short-hop.
The Vikings Did It for the Drama: The question is always whether Kirk Cousins and Co. can do it when they’re not front-running. They very much did on Sunday, coming back from a 20-0 deficit at halftime, and 23-7 deficit after three quarters, to win it without the benefit of a huge second-half mistake by the Broncos. The defense topped it off with a gutsy red-zone stand to seal it—yes, it was only Brandon Allen, but the Broncos have some power forwards who got some one-on-one chances to win it.
The Calming Hand of Jacoby Brissett: Order is restored in the AFC South, with Brissett and the Colts trouncing the Jaguars even without T.Y. Hilton. The run game carried the load offensively for Indy, but Brissett delivered a couple late-in-the-down plays they needed. There might not be a larger gap between starter and backup in the NFL than Brissett-to-Hoyer right now.
They Dared Garoppolo to Throw: And throw he did against the Cardinals. Forward passes, mostly. A tipped interception late (pressure forced a high throw) was nearly a killer, but thankfully for the Niners Kliff Kingsbury's offense is thoroughly mediocre—Cardinals went three-and-out and Garoppolo got another shot. He rolled up 423 yards on 9.4 yards per attempt, and all without George Kittle.
This Dwayne Haskins Throw: It’s the lone highlight of his NFL career so far, and in true Washington fashion it was called back because of a hold.
Darrell Bevell Is Having a Great Year: Detroit’s first-year offensive coordinator opened up the offense and got an MVP-caliber season out of Matthew Stafford, and is now making it work well enough with Jeff Driskell. (If only the Lions had the right coach to run the other side of the ball. Or the right guy to build the roster. Oh well.)
49ers Work Off the Monday Night Hangover: As banged up as they are, and coming in after 70 minutes of football on Monday night, that was a gutsy victory, even if it was only the Cardinals.
Courtland Sutton Has Arrived: He got a decisive win in his battle against Xavier Rhodes.
Bills Put Their Foot on Miami’s Collective Throat: Sunday was a reminder that the Bills are still pretty good—it was nice to see Josh Allen take advantage downfield against a really bad Dolphins secondary—and the Dolphins are still an embarrassment. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s seven sacks taken were an accurate indication of Bills D vs. Dolphins O.
Irv Smith Scores a Touchdown: Ending the NFL’s nearly 20-year Irv Smith touchdown drought.
The New and Improved Derek Carr: This is not the kind of play he ever made prior to this season. He’s suddenly a second-reaction force.
Justin Houston Turns Back the Clock: It was like 2014 all over again, as he was embedded in Nick Foles’s face again and again. And again and again and again.
Kyler Carries Cardinals: It’s just not a very impressive system they’re running in Arizona, but if not for Kyler Murray making some exceptional throws they would have been blown out in Santa Clara.
Josh Allen and John Brown Are the Perfect Couple: Allen’s arm plus Brown’s legs. Brown was just a great offseason signing by Bills GM Brandon Beane.
Joe Mixon Runs for a . . . Touchdown?!: It was the Bengals first rushing TD not scored by Andy Dalton this season.
Rich Scangarello Calls a Good Game: The Kyle Shanahan disciple has done nice work with Brandon Allen and an Emmanuel Sanders-less receiving corps for Denver. This is shades of the Nick Mullens 49ers a year ago, a much tougher out than anyone expects them to be.
Nick Foles Is Back!: And, well, it was a long one on Sunday. Indy’s physical corners were up to the task against the Jaguars’ receivers (a tip of the hat to you, rookie CB Rock Ya-Sin).
Jason Sanders Is an Onside Kick Hero: And most likely a Jukebox Hero, as well. (Because how could you be one but not the other?)
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Not Pass Interference, Huh?: Look at the triple-check by Marlon Humphrey, looking for the inevitable flag—he was as stunned as anyone! (That’s not true, everyone was equally stunned.) If you can’t overturn this on review, don’t make pass interference reviewable. And if your on-field officials can’t recognize this infraction, just do away with pass interference as a rule. Let anarchy reign. Even more so.
My Heart Shatters for Nelson Agholor: That dude is going to be all over him next time he saves a bunch of kids from a burning building. But the game-ending “drop” on Sunday would have been an exceedingly difficult catch, trying to stay in bounds and haul in a high-trajectory throw over the wrong shoulder (wrong in part because of Agholor's shaky ball-tracking, but still).
Deshaun Watson’s Ankle: The Texans had all kinds of issues before Watson got rolled up on late in the first half, but post-injury he looked like a completely different—and completely limited—player.
Kyle Allen’s Desperate Struggle: It’s over. Another red-zone pick in the first half, followed by an almost comedic overthrow INT when in scoring range late in the first half (and, for good measure, one more interception from just outside the red zone in the fourth quarter). He can sometimes get it done as a game-manager, but it’s a whole other story when playing from behind. To say it’s a lock that the Panthers are moving on from Cam Newton after this season is crazy sauce on crazy bread. Allen is a long-term backup.
Lions Defense Finding New Depths: After Dak Prescott’s 444-yard performance in Detroit on Sunday, this is opposing quarterbacks against Detroit over the past five games: 125.6 passer rating, 16 TDs, 313.2 yards per game, 31.1 points per game. And keep in mind, that’s three Lions home games, and one of the opposing quarterbacks was Mitchell Trubisky. Matt Patricia’s group has quietly devolved into arguably the worst defense in football.
This Patriots Offensive Line: Among all their other problems, they’re struggling badly to protect Tom Brady right now.
These Eagles Receivers: With no DeSean Jackson and no Alshon Jeffery, this group rivaled the 2017-18 Bills for worst receiving corps of the decade.
Mike Evans Honors Injured Marshon Lattimore By Playing Terribly Anyway: Usually, it’s Lattimore de-pantsing Evans. On Sunday, Evans took down his pants all by himself (in the interest of maintaining the metaphor). Evans had two catches for 20 yards before some garbage-time stat-padding.
Andy Janovich Goes Down: Along with the Denver fullback’s injury being stomach-turning (his arm ended up with a joint that it didn’t used to have), it’s really disappointing for an offense that’s at its best with two backs (with Janovich being one of those backs).
Josh Norman Lit Ablaze: It’s been a rough season for the former All-Pro cornerback, but this might have been his worst afternoon. He got baited by Sam Darnold and beat on the Jets’ first touchdown, got beat the old-fashioned way on the Jets’ second touchdown, and made an unfortunate business decision on a run play before the game was out of hand. With one year left on his deal an a chance for Washington to save $12.5 million, it’s difficult to picture him in burgundy and gold next year.
This Bucs Secondary, Man: You know that thing they do at minor-league baseball gamers where they pluck some folks out of the stands, have them spin around a bat for 30 seconds then ask them to run a race? It looks like Bucs defensive backs do that before every snap.
Adam Gase’s Third-and-Long Draws: I understand the hesitancy when Luke Falk is your quarterback, but the skill-position starters are back, the Jets were on the road facing another team with nothing to play for, and yet Gase is calling draw plays on third-and-11. It’s not easy to convert 3-and-10-plus, but the Jets came into the day doing so at a 6.3% clip this season (the league average is 18.9%)—on pace to be the worst conversion rate in those situations since the 2001 Chicago Bears (5.5%).
First-and-Goal False Start Flag on Raiders: I don’t have the heart to dig up the clip, but three Bengals defenders jumped into the line on first-and-goal from the 1 and somehow the flag was thrown on Oakland. If I’m coaching a team I’m telling my defense to do that every time we’re on the goal line, because you have absolutely no idea what these officials are going to call, and the downside if a half-yard penalty.
It Is Unfair to Put Dwayne Haskins on the Field: He is completely and utterly unfit to play in an NFL game right now. He has no internal clock, no clarity when surveying the field, and sluggish mechanics that lead to scattershot accuracy. This is doing more harm than good. (That said, he owned garbage time against the Jets.)
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Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Courtland Sutton Throwing This Ball: How do you even try throwing that ball, you goof! Good on him.
This Brees-to-Cook TD: Call up the Louvre.
What Lamar Jackson Did to Zach Cunningham:
Fine, This One Too:
Quenton Nelson’s Almost Touchdown: But mostly the celebration that ultimately went for naught:
Julian Edelman Squeezes the Tight-Window TD Throw: Reeeeeally had to fit that one in there. (Nice play design.)
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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Now You Can Start the Lamar Jackson MVP Bandwagon: To this point, the late-September/early-October three-game swoon he had was objectively too much to overcome when comparing him to Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson (early-season games count too, y’know). But with Jackson’s performances against New England and now Houston (combined with Watson’s dud on Sunday), he is squarely in the MVP conversation.
Eagles Are Still Very Much Alive: They’ll be favored in each of their final six games, and are still only a game back of the Cowboys (who will play a much tougher schedule) with their remaining head-to-head matchup at Philly.
Patriots Offense Isn’t Getting Better Anytime Soon, Is It?: They’re short on weapons, the loss of James Develin has short-circuited that two-back rushing attack, and the lack of a Gronk-like chess piece is noticeable. Plus, their offensive line is suddenly not very good. It took a gadget play to get into the end zone in Philly. This is just a slog for Brady and Co.
But Is Vic Fangio in Trouble?: There was a CBS report that a mutiny is brewing, but the Broncos keep playing hard, the defense has been very good despite losing Brandon Chubb, and the offense is moving the ball despite their No. 3 quarterback under center. Maybe there are things going on behind the scenes, but at least from the outside this team looks like the best version of itself.
Bills Vs. Colts Vs. Texans Vs. Raiders: It seems like that’s your four front-runners for three playoff spots in the AFC.
Falcons Are Wondering When the Season Starts: Because now they’re ready to play.
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