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Week 15 Takeaways: The Real Cowboys Finally Stand Up

Plus, “Defer-gate” becomes NFL’s latest embarrassment, Chiefs are peaking, Texans take control of AFC South in ugly fashion, Wentz figures it out, Eli is a winner, Packers barely hold on, Raiders leave Oakland with a bad taste in its mouth, and much more.

Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened in the Week 15 Sunday afternoon games...

Things That Made Me Giddy

Cowboys Do the Things They Are Supposed to Do: They have a better roster than the Rams, especially when it comes to their defensive line against L.A.’s offensive line. And one of their strengths—the run game—is one of the Rams defense’s weaknesses. They should have won on Sunday, and for once, they did! If Dallas takes care of the hospital wing that is the Philadelphia Eagles next week, they’ll be hosting a game in the first round of the tournament, and they’re absolutely talented enough to make noise in January.

Jason Garrett Up for 20-Year Extension: One would assume.

Chiefs Unaffected by the Elements: In what was at times a driving snowstorm at Arrowhead, Patrick Mahomes rolled up 340 passing yards—142 of them to an unguardable Travis Kelce—in an easy win over Denver. The Chiefs are healthy, the defense looks more than good enough, and they’re peaking at the right time.

Greg Ward Becomes the Receiver Philly Needs: In the most literal sense, because he and mistake-prone fellow rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside are the only healthy wide receivers they have left. Working out of the slot and mostly schemed open, he had seven catches for 61 yards at Washington, and his first career TD was the game-winner.

Kenyan Drake Is Finally a Winner: The back has actually been pretty good since coming over to the Cardinals, but he was a combined 0-11 between Miami and Arizona in 2019 (with a personal losing streak that stretched to 14 games). Leave it to the Browns to help him out.

Carson Wentz Deserves a Hug: It’s been a rough year, in part because of his shaky performance but mostly due to the dissolution of his supporting cast. He’s out there with a converted QB as his only serviceable wide receiver—and Greg Ward is still a fourth or fifth wideout on most rosters. Yet, Wentz has engineered back-to-back comeback wins which, regardless of the quality of opponent, is quite impressive.

Eli Manning Goes Out a Winner: Or, at least with as many wins as losses in the regular season over the course of his career. He was the most typical Eli in the victory over Miami, taking some unnecessary risks, sparking a couple big plays, throwing a couple of ugly interceptions, and having a face. He got a nice sendoff from the Meadowlands crowd.

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Dak Confused “Defect” and “Defer”?: Or maybe he said “defense”? Or “defend”? And threw in a “kick” at some point. In short, referee Walt Anderson took it to mean that the Cowboys wanted to kick off to start the game and give the Rams the option to receive/kick to start the second half, which is why the Cowboys almost kicked off to start the first and third quarters. Now, Dak should know the word he has to say. But also, this is an undeniably pointless, outdated and stupid procedural rule in a league teeming with them. (And God forbid Anderson give them an opportunity to clarify. Dak should’ve walked up to Anderson at halftime and said “sticklerturdboysezwhat?” And then after Anderson said, “what?” Dak would say, “exactly.”) Fortunately, New York stepped in and corrected what would have been another officiating debacle. Will they go the logical next step and just do away with the "defer" language since no team will ever choose to kickoff to start both halves?

Packers Trying to Close Out a Game: They went three-and-out on all four of their fourth-quarter drives and if not for Jesper Horsted’s poor decision might have been defending a two-point conversion to try to hold on. It was a blueprint for how to blow a 21-3 fourth-quarter lead. 

Jesper Horsted Takes Matters Into His Own Hands: Granted, he probably hasn’t run a whole lot of option in his life, but on the Bears’ last-ditch play at Lambeau a pitch to Allen Robinson seemed like a pretty sure path to a touchdown.

That Baker-to-Odell Chemistry: They’re like the original Odd Couple, but instead of one being clean and one being messy, one misreads coverages and airmails throws and the other runs routes so that his quarterback has no idea where he’ll end up.

49ers Take the Week Off: Though the loss to Atlanta has little impact if they beat the Rams and Seahawks each of the next two weeks. You get the feeling Kyle Shanahan kept a lot in his pocket on Sunday.

The Drew Lock Sequel: Regardless of the conditions, Arrowhead has been a tough place for opposing quarterbacks the past two seasons. You can give him a pass for Sunday’s performance, but it did little to soothe the jangled nerves of anyone in the Broncos front office who thinks they should be looking at quarterbacks again next spring.

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Titans’ Non-Cody Parkey Kickers: They’re a combined 5-for-15 on field goals this year, including Ryan Succop’s 0-for-5 from beyond 35 yards, after his first-quarter 45-yard attempt was blocked (it was technically a block, but the approximate trajectory of the kick had it burrowing through the Earth’s crust).

Raiders Offense in the Second Half: They’ve now been shut out in back-to-back second halves, and put up 16 points against the Jaguars despite having the ball in Jacksonville territory on nine of their 10 possessions. That’s truly difficult to do.

Josh Norman on the Wrong End of One More Highlight: It’s been a brutal year for the vet, and giving up a touchdown to a 5’ 10” converted quarterback on a back-pylon throw might have signaled an all-but-official end to a fine career.

The Regrettable Acquisition of Mohamed Sanu: Maybe an offseason in the system will get him caught up, but then again, physically he has looked terrible since joining the Patriots. Along with issues creating separation, he had another fourth-down drop and managed to cough up a fumble when protecting a two-touchdown lead late (he was saved by four Bengals penalties on that one).

Jameis Has Linebacker Blindness: The linebacker level has been an issue going back to Florida State. Jahlani Tavai’s opening-drive pick was Winston’s ninth interception to a linebacker this season.

Muppets Shilling for Facebook: “Rainbow Connection” was sacred, you monsters.

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Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About

Justin Reid and Whitney Mercilus Join Forces to Save Christmas: This was a huge swing in a scoreless game, not only taking points off the board (this was a first-and-goal from the 5) but Mercilus’s 86-yard return setting up the Texans’ first touchdown of the day.

Lonnie Johnson, Like Roger Daltrey, Won’t Get Fooled Again: To be fair, I don’t know if Lonnie Johnson was ever fooled a first time. But the Titans have gotten a few teams on special teams trickery over the past two years, and Johnson played the ball on this fake punt perfectly.

Julio at the Buzzer: Well, not quite the buzzer (as anyone who bet under the total of 49 will tell you), but still very late:

Randy Bullock With the Perfect Onside Kick: No one got hurt, and it ended in the obvious outcome. If the NFL continues to be too stubborn to do away with the onside kick, root for this to happen every time.

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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week

Another Sad Farewell to Oakland: Their last “last game in Oakland” ended with a 23-6 loss to the Bears, with future Raider Vince Evans throwing three touchdowns. This time, it ended with getting shut out in the second half for a second straight week, while allowing two late touchdown drives to a quarterback who had engineered one touchdown drive—coming in a 35-point game—in his previous two starts. When you’re abandoning your fanbase, might as well leave them with the worst possible taste in their mouths.

Texans Take Control of the AFC South: It wasn’t beautiful—Deshaun Watson mixed some bafflingly poor throws with his usual brilliance, though the Titans proved to be just as mistake-prone (a third-down drop then blocked field goal on their first drive, a deflected red-zone INT and 86-yard return in the second quarter). Due to their 4-1 mark within the division, the Texans’ magic number is 1.

Eagles-Cowboys for All the Marbles: Or at least eight wins worth of marbles, at the Linc next Sunday.

The Ugly End of the Bob Quinn Era in Detroit: The Lions have undergone as bad a four-year roster-building run as any team in football under the GM Quinn; the Quandre Diggs giveaway and subsequent collapse of the secondary provided an exclamation point. The defensive head coach he brought in is now overseeing the worst unit—arguably on either side of the ball—in the NFL. Matt Patricia is probably out too considering he was Quinn’s hand-picked guy. What a mess Quinn has made.

Urban Meyer Watches a Football Game: With Dan Snyder! Right next to him! Maybe even on his lap! No, not on his lap? Well, who knows for sure what did happen. All we know is that Urban is champing at the bit to be a part of that well-run organization.

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