Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened in the Week 13 Sunday afternoon games...
Things That Made Me Giddy
Baker in the Sun Belt: Were they world-beating defenses the past two weeks? Nope. Considering his struggles from muddy pockets does it help that neither the Titans nor the Jaguars have anything resembling a pass rush? Yup. But they’re all professional football players, and Baker Mayfield was very good in Jacksonville last week and then great in Nashville on Sunday.
Sheldon Richardson Has the Derrick Henry Kryptonite: Everyone wants to play with a lead, but the Titans and Browns in particular are front-runners. That’s what made Richardson’s first-quarter playmaking so huge. The Browns defensive tackle made brought down Derrick Henry for a stop on fourth-and-1 to end the Titans’ first drive, and stripped Henry to force a turnover on the Titans’ next offensive play. Cleveland's offense followed up with a touchdown after both those turnovers.
Kevin Stefanski Calling Plays in the First Half:
Russell Wilson-Colt McCoy I goes to Colt McCoy: Obviously, he wasn’t asked to do much (12-for-22, 105 yards), but McCoy made a couple of plays on third-and-medium, and the Giants found the formula with defense and run game. Wayne Gallman looked like a young Marshawn Lynch pushing the pile for 135 rushing yards, and the Giants combined for 190 on the ground.
Rams Back In Charge of the NFC West: They are, objectively, the division’s best team, and proved it once again by smashing the Cardinals on the road. But they’ll need some help down the stretch after gacking two games against the 49ers.
Darrell Bevell Is on the Board: He is no longer a head-coaching candidate like he should have been six or seven years ago, but Bevell gets the road win at Chicago in his first game as the Lions’ interim head coach.
Taysom Hill 3-0 as a Starter: Which means Saints are 8-0 when starting a quarterback who isn’t Drew Brees the past two seasons. (I mean, like, do they even want Brees back?)
Patrick Graham’s Defense: Creative blitzes, blurry zone looks… the Giants had Russell Wilson struggling all day.
Tua Made ’Em Sweat: And not in a good way. He turned it on enough in the second half against a Bengals team that should be relegated to the new XFL—and in Tagovailoa’s defense, if Jakeem Grant doesn’t drop what was going to be a been a loooong walk-in touchdown there’s a much different feel at halftime—but Brian Flores was nearly staring down the barrel of another Ryan Fitzpatrick relief appearance.
This Mike Gesicki One-Hander: As David Byrne once said: Take a look at these hands / TAKE A LOOK AT THESE HANDS…
Jordan Brailford Arrives Literally and Figuratively: Quite the debut for the rookie seventh-rounder, scooped up from Washington two months ago, in Minnesota: He forced a fumble and helped force Mike Glennon into a sack for a safety.
Dan Bailey Wins it After All: After two missed PATs and a missed 51-yarder than would have won it in regulation, Bailey’s game-winner from 23 in overtime took on the feel of allowing a frustrated child five extra shots, from closer and closer in, to make a basket in driveway hoops.
Jalen Reagor Doing Something: As in, a long punt return TD, which is better than the nothing the Eagles' first-round WR had been doing.
Alfred Morris Scores Two Touchdowns:
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Players Don’t Tank, But…: The Jets were protecting a four-point lead. Las Vegas had the ball at the Jets' 46, with 20 seconds left and no time outs. So the Jets didn’t need to guard against a shorter throw to set up a field goal—it was touchdown or nothing. Yet on back-to-back plays, the Raiders got a receiver running wide-open in single-coverage, no safety help, behind the defense. Derek Carr overthrew Nelson Agholor in the end zone on the first one. The second time—the game-winner—it was Henry Ruggs (of the 4.2 speed) working against Lamar Jackson (of the 4.7 speed), in single coverage, with Jackson “biting” on a double-move. I mean, if they were on trial for tanking, the Jets would need none other than the great Ben Matlock to bail them out.
Xavien Howard and Tyler Boyd Tossed: For… for this?
Trubisky’s Giveaway: Protecting a three-point lead in the final two minutes, on a third-and-4 from his own 9, Trubisky spoiled an otherwise pretty OK day by holding the ball too long and losing a crushing fumble. Detroit scored two plays later to seal the Bears’ sixth straight loss (though they’re still only a game out of the seventh seed in the NFC).
Bears Defense Checks Out: They’ve carried this team for the past three seasons, but this unit picked quite a time to mail it in. One week after getting steamrolled by the Packers, they allowed 34 points and 460 yards at home to the Lions.
Chargers Show Little Interest in Playing Football: Their special teams have been unfathomably bad this year, and it continued in a blowout loss to the Patriots: In the first half they allowed a 70-yard punt return TD, missed a field goal, and had another field goal attempt blocked and returned for a touchdown to end the first half.
That Russell Wilson MVP Candidacy: Everyone loves to cite the fact that he’s never gotten an MVP vote, and, well, that will still be a talking point for at least another 13 ½ months.
Eagles Should Forfeit Their Remaining Games: It is excruciating to watch this team get exponentially worse every week.
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Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
People Punching Each Other: After multiple cheap and/or reckless shots on Dolphins return specialist Jakeem Grant.
Tackle-Eligible Giveth, Tackle-Eligible Taketh Away: See, if not for the lack of clarity on tackle-eligible procedures, this neat touchdown would have counted!
Baker Toe Tap:
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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
This Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad NFC Wild-Card Race: Well, not that mad. The Cardinals are pretty crummy, falling to 6-6. The Vikings are pretty crummy, but they beat the Panthers and Jaguars back-to-back at home to improve to 6-6. The injury-ravaged 49ers could make it a three-way tie if they upset the Bills at “home” (Arizona’s State Farm Stadium) on Monday night. And the Bears, losers of six straight, are one game back.
Hurts Vs. Wentz: After Jalen Hurts was kind of, relatively, O.K. in garbage time at Lambeau, who will suffer the dreaded fate of starting at quarterback for the Eagles next week?
Cleveland Browns Are Scientifically Proven to Be Winners: They’re very likely to grab a Wild-Card spot, but regardless: The Browns have nine wins, clinching their first winning season since 2007.
Trevor Lawrence Still New York-Bound: The Jets blew one late while the Jaguars lost in overtime—the intrigue continues!
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