Week 12 Takeaways: Cowboys Play it Too Safe, Wentz in Crisis

Plus, Gilmore makes his DPOY case, Raiders see it all come crashing down, Saints survive an atrocious defensive performance, Seahawks find a way again, the merciful end of the Mason Rudolph era, and much more.
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Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened in the Week 12 Sunday afternoon games...

Things That Made Me Giddy

Seahawks, Uh, Find a Way: Y’know, just like what Goldblum said. About life. In Jurassic Park. In Philly on Sunday, Seattle got three more fumble takeaways—one forced by a pass-rusher who had been pushed onto his butt and was presumed out of the play, another in a crowd at the end of a 15-yard catch-and-run—and dusted off Rashaad Penny for a game-clinching 58-yard TD run after Chris Carson couldn’t stop fumbling. Russell Wilson looked human again, and they had a couple of cringe-worthy drops to make him look worse. Still, the Seahawks came across country and won a game on their terms. That's a good way to get to 9-2.

Stephon Gilmore Adds to His Defensive Player of the Year Resumé: He erased Amari Cooper in Foxboro (officially zero catches; his one catch was erased by an offensive holding penalty). He added an exceedingly difficult interception on a drag route and, on a fourth-quarter red-zone play, fell off Cooper to break up a would-be touchdown intended for Jason Witten. Honestly, if Gilmore is not the Defensive Player of the Year right now, who is?

Good Bucs Make Their Monthly Appearance: Jameis Winston was still too reckless, but Chris Godwin make a couple of huge plays and Todd Bowles’ secondary was uncharacteristically on-point in an easy win at Atlanta.

Trubisky Approaches Competence: The QB ever-so-slightly singed the mistake-prone Giants at home for 19 points. And now the Bears get the Stafford-less Lions in four days. Winning streak coming in Chicago!

This Is What the Jets Were Supposed to Look Like: Amazing that this team lost to Miami. The quarterback looks confident and the defense is coming together thanks to strength up the middle. The arrow is pointing up.

Everything About Le’Veon Bell: His performance was very good under difficult circumstances in the first half of the season (tough to rack up rushing yards when the defensive line is in the backfield as soon as you get the ball), but you’re seeing what Adam Gase had in store for him now that the Jets (and their quarterback, specifically) are settling in. Bell is absolutely still a foundational back.

Pay Robby Anderson: The Jets were right to resist the temptation to trade him at the deadline—he continues to show he’s not only capable of blowing the top off a defense with his speed, but thoroughly underrated in contested-catch situations. He’s a franchise cornerstone and a must-keep free agent for their young quarterback.

T.J. Watt Rolling Over Speed Bumps in Cincinnati: He, Cam Heyward and Bud Dupree have been the ultimate power trio this season.

Derrick Henry: As we see once or twice every year, no one on the Jaguars was interested in tackling him. At one point, in the third quarter, the Titans had a first-and-10 from their own 26 and ended up getting two Henry touchdowns in a 16-second span (a 74-yarder, followed by the Jaguars fumbling back the ensuing kickoff then a seven-yard run). He finished with 19 carries for 159 yards, in case any of you out there play fantasy football.

Sean Payton, Hoisted With His Own Petard: On a coach’s challenge, the Saints were flagged on a third-down pass interference call in the final minutes to keep a Panthers drive alive in the red zone, which would have been a delicious bit of irony had Joey Slye not missed a would-be-go-ahead chip-shot field goal a few plays later. (Still, Payton deserves a little bit of torture for forcing that terrible rule upon the football-watching world.)

Browns Finally Got to Break Out All Those Touchdown Celebrations!: Yay!

Chris Godwin Magic: He had a 71-yard touchdown and a 1-yard touchdown in the first half in Atlanta, and the 1-yard touchdown was much more impressive.

Tyler Boyd on 50/50 Balls: He made ‘em on back-to-back plays—one for 47 yards, the next for a 15-yard score—to get the Bengals’ only touchdown on Sunday.

Don’t Bother Bringing Your Offense to Orchard Park: The Bills haven’t allowed a touchdown in their past two home games.

Shaquil Barrett Has Another Day: He was in Matt Ryan’s face all game in Atlanta.

Dwayne Haskins Gets on the Board: Good on him. He was pretty brutal again on Sunday and is quite clearly not ready to compete in the NFL, but he made a couple of gutsy plays to get his first career victory, including the throw that set up the game-winning field goal.

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Regrets

Carson Wentz Is in Crisis: We already knew the Eagles have no receivers and on Sunday—as has happened a few times this season—the offensive line struggled badly to protect. (First-round rookie Andre Dillard, filling in for Lane Johnson, was atrocious.) But Wentz is devolving at an alarming rate. It’s not easy to play quarterback when you rarely have windows to throw through—imagine throwing at a dartboard that is the bullseye alone, and what that would do to your psyche. But that's the reality in Philly. Wentz was atrocious on Sunday, and one problem that can’t be overcome by a coaching staff is when you don’t know where the ball is going to go when it comes out of your quarterback’s hand.

Garrett Taking the Field Goal: Sheesh. Their play-calling had hinted it was coming—they were second-and-7 and threw it twice. And football is more complicated than win probability graphs—do you have a play in your pocket that will work or no? Still, down seven with 6:08 to go at the opponent’s 11, that has to be a neon green light to go.

Dak’s Shaky Day in Foxboro: There’s no shame in it—the opposing defense is great, and the elements were tough. But, just like in the New Orleans loss early in the year, the defense kept Dallas around and just needed another play or two from the quarterback. Dak never delivered it.

Tripping Call on Travis Frederick: That phantom call can’t be made at any point in the game, let alone on third down with two minutes left in a four-point game.

The Merciful End of the Mason Rudolph Era : Since Ben Roethlisberger went down, Rudolph made a few NFL-caliber throws against the Rams two weeks ago, but that’s been it. When the Steelers have generated points, it’s been a smoke-and-mirrors approach on offense and, mostly, a defense that takes the ball away and scores point of their own. Rudolph has been a mess more often than not, and Sunday in Cincinnati he was finding new lows. Duck Hodges isn’t the answer either, but Rudolph has shown that he, definitively, is not.

Patriots Kicking Woes: Nick Folk missed from 46 and 48. Sure, it was wind and rain on Sunday, but they, y’know, sometimes get some weather in Foxoboro in January. Considering how badly the Patriots are struggling to score points, the kicking game could play a big role this postseason. Is Folk the guy? (My advice: Bring in Cody Parkey you cowards!)

The Dan Quinn Revival Hits a Snag: It looked like the early-season Falcons hosting Tampa on Sunday, as they let Chris Godwin take an in-breaking route up the middle of the defense for a long touchdown early, and the offense struggled to get anything going throughout the day.

Drew Brees Deep Balls: They are really all over the place. That was an issue last January, and it's something to keep in mind down the stretch this year.

Joey Slye Has a Long Day: Carolina’s rookie kicker missed two PATs, and with Marcus Davenport hurdling the center and bearing down on him, pushed a would-be-go-ahead 28-yard attempt with two minutes left.

That’s What the Saints Defense Was Supposed to Look Like Without Marshon Lattimore: They had their hands full against Kyle Allen—a few self-inflicted wounds didn’t help, but they couldn’t get off the field. New Orleans was lucky to comes away with a win on Sunday.

Eagles Defending Gadget Plays: The Patriots got ‘em twice last week, including one for the game-winning touchdown, and Russell Wilson and the Seahawks got ‘em for a touchdown this week, safety Rodney McLeod biting just a little too hard on a throwback again.

P.J. Williams Trying to Cover People on the Outside: It rarely ends well for the Saints.

The Inexplicable Clete Blakeman: This is a third-down roughing the passer call on Maurice Hurst (No. 73). It kept a Jets drive alive and resulted in a touchdown. If you see what Clete Blakeman saw, say something.

Zak DeOssie and Aldrick Rosas Get Simultaneous Yips: DeOssie, the Giants' long-time long snapper, delivered two of the worst snaps you’ll see on Rosas’s second-quarter field goal attempts. Rosas missed both, leaving six points on the field, and opened the second half by flubbing a kickoff out of bounds to set up Chicago with a short field. (It wasn’t all bad for the operation on Sunday, Riley Dixon got both of DeOssie’s disastrous snaps down and had a great day punting.)

Cam Jordan Just Giving Away Points: This was after a third-and-16 sack that would have had Carolina punting from their own 29 with 3:30 left in the first half. Instead, the Panthers kept their drive alive and scored a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half.

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Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About

James Washington vs. B.W. Webb in the Open Field:

Welcome, N’Keal Harry: Anyone who saw him at Arizona State recognizes this as a very N’Keal Harry-ish play for his first NFL touchdown.

Vita Vea for Six: If you don’t think he could break into the Eagles receiving corps right now you’re kidding yourself.

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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week

Nothing Lasts Forever: Even cold November rain. (Which is good news for the Raiders, Eagles, Cowboys, and a few others.)

Anyone Want the NFC East?: The Eagles are still in this thing, especially considering they get the Cowboys at home in Week 16. But, for 6-5 Dallas and 5-6 Philly, it looks an awful lot like 10 wins will take it, maybe even nine.

Evoke Thoughts of the Titans: Their schedule is not friendly, but of the 6-5 teams competing for the final playoff spot in the AFC (Colts, Titans, Steelers, Raiders), the Titans and Colts are clearly on another level. If Tennessee can steal one in Indianapolis next week, things get very interesting.

Get ‘Em Next Year, Gruden: The Raiders find themselves in a dark place with a trip to Kansas City, to face a rested and healthy Chiefs team, coming up next week. Still, they’ll go down as one of 2019’s true overachievers.

Put Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn Firmly on the Hot Seat: They can squeeze into one seat together. It’s not necessarily because of Sunday’s humiliating loss in Washington, which featured failures in every phase of the game (against a competent team that might be a 30-point loss). Firing folks over a single loss, no matter how bad, is silly. Rather, it's because they’re squandering the second half of Matthew Stafford’s MVP-caliber prime, Patricia continues to get the least out of his defense, and so many of Quinn’s head-scratching roster moves have made them objectively worse.

Door Is Probably Open for Drew Lock: Brandon Allen was overwhelmed in Buffalo (to be fair, it has happened to much better quarterbacks than him). If the Broncos feel Lock might be ready to see the field, now’s as good a time as any.

An In-Depth Preview of the Bills-Cowboys Thanksgiving Game:

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