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NFL Week 17 Takeaways: Patriots Run Out of Time, Chiefs (!) Get the Bye, Derrick Henry Gets the Rushing Title

A stunning loss to Miami (their fifth win this season!) means that New England will be playing in the wild-card round for the first time since the 2009 season. Also, the Packers clinch a bye, Derrick Henry runs to the NFL’s rushing title as the Titans get a playoff spot, the Browns close out a disappointing season with a loss to the NFL’s worst team and more from Week 17.
Damien Williams

Subbing in for Gary Gramling today to react and overreact to everything that happened in the Week 17 Sunday afternoon games…

Things That Made Me Giddy

The Drama of the 1 p.m. Window of Games: The AFC’s No. 2 seed was decided in dramatic symphony this afternoon. The Chiefs scored a touchdown that secured a win against the Chargers moments before the Dolphins scored their go-ahead touchdown against the Patriots. That left Tom Brady just 24 seconds to either get New England into position to attempt a game-tying field goal, or to score a game-winning touchdown. That last-chance drive failed, and the crowd in Arrowhead heard that news while their Chiefs were kneeling out the clock. Kansas City clinched the No. 2 seed, and the Patriots won’t have a first-round bye for the first time in a decade, a major shake-up in the AFC. Those games ended just in time to watch the final two minutes of the Packers’ thrilling comeback against the Lions to earn their first-round bye. That was fun.

Brian Flores’s Future in Miami: Given a roster designed to tank, the first-year head coach won five games this season. Ultimately this could make it more difficult for the Dolphins to get their desired quarterback in next year’s draft, but it sure looks like they have the right coach.

Ryan Fitzpatrick Gains Another Life: If you live anywhere outside of the six New England states, how could you not appreciate the 37-year-old quarterback—who, this past offseason, admitted he needed to lose weight because he had eaten too much cake at his seven kids’ birthday parties—running through the vaunted Patriots defense to get in the end zone for a score. Or the fact that Fitzpatrick kept targeting DeVante Parker despite the fact he was covered by prospective defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore. Another person giddy by this performance: Fitzpatrick’s agent.

Elandon Roberts, Revelatory Offensive Weapon: If you caught only the end of the play, No. 52 sprinting toward the end zone with the football, you might have assumed this was a Fitzpatrick pick-six returned by Roberts. Rather, this was Roberts the fullback, catching a pass on a wheel route out of the backfield entirely uncovered for a 38-yard score. While it’s not a great sign that New England had to dump out its bag of tricks to keep pace with the Dolphins at home, Roberts has been one cheery spot for a Patriots offense that has been grappling all season to find its groove.

Derrick Henry Wins the Rushing Title: Even against a Texans team that rested its starters, Henry’s return from the hamstring injury that sidelined him Week 16 was a reminder of the force he is for the Titans offense. Coming out of halftime, the Titans took a 21-7 lead on a 10-play drive. Henry took the ball on seven of those plays, rushing for 46 yards and a touchdown. His second touchdown was pure power. Then, his third touchdown on a 53-yard run clinched both the rushing title and a playoff berth. The bruising back simply wears down defenses as the game progresses, which makes the Titans an intriguing wild-card matchup.

Mason Crosby’s Bye-Clinching Kick: The Packers kicker has had a challenging year, personally. His wife, Molly, had surgery to remove a rare tumor in her right lung days before the season started. His sister-in-law, Brittany, passed away after a years-long battle with ovarian cancer the day after Thanksgiving. In the context of difficult news at home, the game of football is very small. But it has been nice to see Crosby experience professional joy this year, making a career-best more than 90 percent of his field goals, including the 33-yarder that clinched the first-round bye.

David Montgomery and the Great Pile Push: The Bears RB was swarmed by no fewer than four Vikings defenders at the five-yard line, but he bulldozed his way into the end zone, with a little extra push from his offensive linemen. (At least one Viking, linebacker Kentrell Brothers, thought the play was over long before it was, given the way he loitered nearby without jumping in on the pile).

David Blough’s First Career Touchdown Catch: Well, of course it was his first. Blough, the Lions’ rookie quarterback, only has four touchdown passes. Trick plays are always great, and this one was a beauty. Blough faked the handoff to the RB and flipped it to Danny Amendola, who was motioning across. Blough, totally unaccounted for by the Packers defense, then slips up the field to make the catch on the throw by Amendola. Blough did also make a throw on the play—he launched the football into the stands after he crossed the goal line.

Baltimore’s Fake Punt. Deep within their own territory. With a nine-point lead in a game that did not matter. That’s how you know it’s a hot rivalry.

Big Week For Weak-Side: It’s been a bumpy year for The ORRacle, but don’t count the Weak-Side Podcast out of the prognosticatORR business just yet. On last week’s pod, we predicted that there would be a surprise non-firing this year, naming Dan Quinn as the most likely candidate to be brought back. Check. We stated that the Raiders’ biggest hurdle to an unlikely playoff berth would be the Raiders beating the Broncos. Check. AND, Orr may have been the only member of the national media to pick the Dolphins to beat New England. Check. Anything seems possible, friends. Please tune in next week.

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Regrets

The Freddie Kitchens Hire: A report from NFL Network Sunday morning suggested that Kitchens’s future as the Browns head coach could be determined by the Week 17 game against the Bengals. That notion sounded absolutely absurd until Kitchens’s Browns actually lost to the worst team in the league, 33-23. No team has been more disappointing in 2019 than the Browns. This was a fitting finale.

A Very Un-Brady Interception: Brady threw an awkward pass that floated between Julian Edelman and Sony Michel, prime for Eric Rowe to pick it off and return it for a 10-0 Dolphins lead that was a harbinger of things to come.

Jaire Alexander Body-Slams Amendola: It may just be me (it’s definitely just me) but this reminded me a bit of the infamous Bachelorette moment when Luke P. body-slammed Luke S. during a rugby match on a group date. Alexander’s extra violence on the tackle earned an obvious unnecessary roughness penalty that set up a Lions’ first-and-goal in the second quarter.

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Greg Zuerlein’s Shaky Year: Zuerlein missed a 47-yarder, one of his nine missed field goals this season. This may be an offseason of change for the Rams, and Zuerlein, who will be a free agent, may be one of those changes.

People Who Started Mike Boone in Fantasy Finals Last Week: The Vikings RB opened the game with a 59-yard run, more than double his entire rushing total last week. His next play was a fumble on a mishandled pitch from QB Sean Mannion, but Boone kept going, racking up 148 yards and a rushing touchdown, with a whopping 8.7 yards per carry average. The Vikings are hoping Dalvin Cook, who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, will be back for the playoffs but if they need Boone to contribute in January, his Week 17 performance was far more encouraging than Week 16.

Tackling is not Greedy Williams’s Strength: That’s probably why he was still on the board when the Browns picked in the second round, even though Williams was viewed by many as the top cover corner in last year’s draft. “Corners are paid to cover,” GM John Dorsey said after the team picked Williams. That’s true, but that also results in plays like this one: Williams spinning around on what looked like a halfhearted effort to stop Bengals RB Joe Mixon, who took off for a 41-yard run.

The Wildcat Lives, Dies: It’s rarely a joy when the Wildcat pops up every now and then. For the Jets, it resulted in Le’Veon Bell going nowhere on a third-and-two on the Jets’ first drive in Buffalo.

Me, Picking The Giants This Week: There’s been a lot of talk, including from me, about whomever will back into a playoff berth by winning the NFC East. But with the performances the Eagles put together the past two weeks, despite being ravaged by injuries, the Eagles deserve to be a division-winner.

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Moments They’ll Be Talking About Next Decade

The New Single-Season Record Is 149 catches: Saints WR Michael Thomas broke the single-season mark last week, and he extended it with four more catches today.

The Saints Won A Pass Interference Challenge: A somewhat tongue-in-cheek entry in this category, but… Sean Payton challenged that there was DPI on Thomas in the end zone, and he won. I have doubts that PI will remain challengeable next season, given the wild inconsistency with which it has been applied, but you can’t say Payton didn’t get anything from the rule change he forced through.

Jameis Winston Passed For 5,000 yards: …While also throwing 30 TDs and 30 INTs. There may be no stronger stat to illuminate the NFL’s transformation into a passing league during the past decade than Winston, a former No. 1 pick whose current team is undecided on if they’ll keep him. He joins a group of elite passers in throwing for 5,000 career yards, but he is the only QB in the very undesirable 30-30 club. Put me down for saying it's hard to get on board with re-signing a player who has shown no signs of learning to take care of the football.

Terrell Suggs Is Eighth All-Time in Career Sacks: Playing for his third NFL team in his 17th season, Suggs recorded sack No. 139. It was also his first sack with the Chiefs, who claimed him off waivers two weeks ago and are starting to round into form as a defense.

Brady Sets Career Benchmark on a Pass to a Linebacker: A true mark of the Patriots’ positional flexibility that Brady’s throw to Roberts was the one that catapulted him past Peyton Manning into second place for career passing TDs.

Kyler Murray Joins A Club: A very good club. The rookie became just the sixth QB in history to rack up 3,500 passing yards and 500 rushing yards in a season. The other five: Daunte Culpepper, Randall Cunningham, Cam Newton, Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson.

Philly loves Boston: Boston ... Scott, the former practice-squad RB who scored three touchdowns to help clinch the division for the Eagles.

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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week

How good are the Packers? I have some doubts. Aaron Rodgers’s missed throw to a wide-open Aaron Jones in the end zone just before the half, forcing the Packers to settle for a field goal, is just one example the kind of easy throw we were not used to the QB missing in past seasons. Rodgers rallied back after starting the game 2-of-11 passing, but coupled with the stumbles against the Blough-led Lions, I’m not sold on The Pack.

The Saints built a 35-0 first-half lead: It was a 42-10 win against the toothless Panthers, but, it’s a stark contrast to Green Bay’s Week 17 performance.

The Patriots Waving the White Flag on the First Half: What does it all mean? An evergreen question when analyzing the Patriots, especially this year. There will be plenty parts of the Patriots’ Week 17 doozy to over-analyze in the hours and days ahead but this one is a head-scratcher. The Patriots had three time outs left when the Dolphins did not convert on third down just inside the two-minute warning before halftime. Instead, they let Miami run the clock down to 1:05 before punting, and when they got the ball back, New England drained the rest of the clock. Why weren’t they aggressive there?

Mike Vrabel Goes To Foxborough: Fresh off a loss to another protégé, Brian Flores, Bill Belichick will now face Vrabel, who got the better of him in their last meeting, a 34-10 Titans win in November 2018. Could Vrabel be the one to end the Belichick-Brady dynasty?

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