Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened in the Week 14 Sunday afternoon games...
Things That Made Me Giddy
Jalen Hurts Gets It Done: It wasn’t beautiful, but for a developmental QB thrown into the fire for a dysfunctional team against an elite defense, Hurts pretty much hit his ceiling on Sunday. His legs were a big factor in the read-option game, not only leading to a couple of big runs but creating opportunities for Miles Sanders. The passing offense was rocky once again. Along with a wonderful back-shoulder throw for a TD to Alshon Jeffery, Hurts threw what should have been a catastrophic pick-six—an out route that was late and inside—while protecting a three-point lead (CJ Gardner-Johnson dropped it). He also lost a fumble at midfield when Philly was trying to run the clock down, giving the Saints new life. But overall, this looked like a team that had a semblance of a functional offense for the first time in weeks.
Josh Sweat Saves Christmas: The Eagles’ talented but not always effective edge rusher had two huge sacks in the fourth quarter, the first resulting in a strip-sack turnover, helping take the burden off an injury-plagued and overmatched secondary.
The NFC Playoffs Run Through Lambeau: The Packers and Saints are tied, and Green Bay owns the tiebreaker based on their head-to-head win in New Orleans. As it stands now, the Packers would get the conference’s lone bye.
The Mahomes Rope-a-Dope: He had two interceptions and took two sacks—one of them for a 30-yard loss!—in the first quarter, as the Chiefs were down 10-0 in Miami early in the second quarter. Mahomes responded by putting up 21 points in less than 10 minutes (it was 30 unanswered points overall for the Chiefs, but nine came from special teams and defense and Mahomes doesn’t get credit for that charity).
Kliff Owes Vance Joseph a Coke: Arizona put all their tokens on the offensive side of the ball, only to see that unit struggle during this second-half slump. Meanwhile, Joseph’s unit lost their best player in Chandler Jones but has been carrying the load for the Cards. On Sunday, the Cardinals held the Giants to 159 yards of offense and recorded eight sacks in a dominant performance.
Haason Reddick Devours Andrew Thomas: A slow-starting first-rounder of the past had his way with a slow-starting first-rounder of the present. Reddick has had a mini-breakout for Arizona since Chandler Jones went down, and on Sunday he lit Thomas up for a franchise-record five sacks, including two strip sacks, in East Rutherford.
Chase Young Does Whatever He Wants: The highlight was the scoop-and-score at the end of the first half, but Young made a ton of single-handed impact plays against the 49ers. He stripped Jeff Wilson on backside pursuit to force another turnover, got one sack and was generally wreaking complete havoc throughout. The gap between him and the rest of the Defensive Rookie of the Year field is enormous.
T.Y. Hilton Awakens: One week after torching the Texans—something he typically does on a semi-annual basis—Hilton went for three catches, 65 yards and two TDs in the first half in Vegas.
The Bucs Have One Fall Into Their Laps: They played… fine. This wasn’t a bad performance from Tampa. But rarely do you have your opponent control the clock for nearly 40 minutes only to miss three field goals and a PAT and commit a number of boneheaded, unforced penalties.
Mitchell Trubisky Shows Deshaun Watson How It’s Done: First lesson: Don’t be on a team that trades your all-world receiver for pennies on the dollar. But in all seriousness, for the rest of his life Trubisky will be the recipient of taunts and barbs anytime he’s within a 1,000-mile radius of Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson. As he plays out the string on his Bears career, it was nice to see him deliver in a head-to-head matchup with one of those guys. That Texans defense doesn’t present much of a challenge, but Trubisky was sharp nonetheless: 24-for-33, 267 yards, 3 TDs, 0 turnovers.
Jonathan Taylor Runs Wild: He’s been in and out of the doghouse this season, but the Colts rookie ripped off 150 yards and two TDs, including a 62-yarder, in Vegas.
Kenny Moore Making Plays: One of the most underrated players in the league, part of one of the most underrated units in the league, delivered a huge red-zone interception as well as a forced fumble in the Colts’ victory in Vegas.
Jalen Reagor, Doing Stuff: It’s been a desperate struggle for the first-round receiver, but Reagor gave the Eagles a couple of big plays in the upset over New Orleans (a 39-yard catch and a 19-yard run). He and Hurts just missed a connection on another big play.
Drew Lock. Better.: Ball placement is still an issue, but on a day when his receivers were blowing away the defensive backs Lock finally started delivering the ball to the right spots as the Broncos won in Carolina.
Derrick Henry Restores Order: After a nightmare afternoon against the Browns last week, Henry took full advantage of a get-right opportunity in Jacksonville: 26 carries, 215 yards, 2 TDs.
The Chargers Win It Late?: Ah, against the Falcons, that makes more sense. The Chargers caught a break when Michael Davis picked off Matt Ryan late in a 17-17 game. Justin Herbert moved them into field-goal range, and in a change of strategy for their special teams units they sent exactly 11 players onto the field, snapped it, held it and kicked it between the uprights.
Revenge Is a Dish Best Served to Someone Starting Brandon Allen at Quarterback: For those watching for history, Andy Dalton indeed surpassed Joe Burrow for most QB wins in Cincinnati since the start of 2019 (three to Burrow's two). The ex-Bengal got to take it easy thanks to an early defensive touchdown and a hapless Cin City offense—just 25 dropbacks for the Red Rocket.
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Pobody’s Nerfect, Even Taysom Hill: He had to work with a multi-score deficit for the first time at Philadelphia, and while things got interesting he made a couple of crucial mistakes in the fourth quarter—failing to feel the blindside heat and losing a strip-sack on a third-and-short, and getting sacked on the ensuing possession to force a 58-yard field-goal attempt (which was missed) instead of one inside 50 that would have made it a one-possession game. Overall, Hill struggled until the Eagles had a rash of injuries in the secondary. Sean Payton falls to 8-1 without Drew Brees over the last two seasons.
Fumbilitis Redux in East Rutherford: The Giants hadn’t had multiple turnovers in a game during their four-game winning streak and had only lost one fumble in their last five games. They lost two in the first half, and both included huge field-position swings. On a second-and-10 on the opening drive, Daniel Jones was strip-sacked at the 50 and it was returned to the Giants 9. And after allowing a field goal midway through the second quarter, Dion Lewis coughed up the ensuing kickoff—the Cardinals scored a touchdown four plays later. For good measure, their final offensive snap of the game was Colt McCoy getting strip-sacked.
Abracadaniel Didn’t Have It: He wasn’t moving well, and his internal clock issues came back in a big way against Arizona—he took six sacks on 27 dropbacks, threw for 127 yards and didn’t have a single rushing attempt. He’ll still have a chance to play this team into the postseason, but Sunday was discouraging.
Dan Bailey: One on the most reliable kickers of alltime in his prime, Bailey is, sadly, falling apart. One week after missing two extra points and a field goal, forcing the Vikings into overtime with Jacksonville, Bailey went 0-for-4 in Tampa (a PAT and FG attempts of 36, 46 and 54), leaving 10 points on the field in a crucial game.
Chargers’ Clock Management (Again): With less than 20 seconds left and no timeouts, they tried to run for the first on a third-and-1 but got stuffed. They couldn’t spike it and couldn’t get the field-goal unit on the field in time before the half ran out.
Russell Wilson Takes the Fourth Quarter Off: With the Seahawks clinging to a 37-3 lead against a Jets team that was on the verge of an offensive explosion. Does Russ have a work-ethic problem? Seems like a good topic for one of those daytime cable debate shows.
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Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
A.J. Brown With 2 x 1 – 1 Hands: Off a flea-flicker even!
A Hail Mary Pass Interference: I’m undecided. This is a 46-yard penalty on the final play of the half, so this flag is essentially awarding three points to the Bucs. Game situation dictates you don’t call it. But also, Todd Davis plays this as poorly as you could possibly play it—what in the world is he doing?
Ha! Kenny Moore Thinks He’s a Wide Receiver:
The Eagles Almost Falcon the Onside Kick:
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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Chiefs Vs. the Field as Super Bowl Champs Is Even Money: Mahomes’s worst performance in a couple of months resulted in a relatively comfortable road win over an 8-4 opponent.
Do Not Pull the Plug on the Eagles: The upset over New Orleans snaps a four-game losing streak and moves them to within a game-and-a-half of Washington, whom they host in Week 17.
Can Dwayne Haskins Rescue This Football Team Offense?: I mean, they’ve won four straight with the most conservative offense the league has seen in years, so maybe the question is: Do they want this offense to be rescued? Against the 49ers on Sunday, they had a halftime lead thanks to 13 points that came from: a 29-yard drive for a field goal, a 13-yard drive for a field goal, and a scoop-and-score by the defense. Haskins, stepping back in for an injured Alex Smith, led a 73-yard drive for three more points to start the second half, the last of the nine points the offense put up in yet another improbable win.
Cardinals Re-Take the Seventh Seed: Arizona one again has a one-game lead on the Vikings and Bears. And because they knocked off the Giants, this underwhelming playoff race can once again look down its nose at the NFC East race.
What Do the Texans Do Now?: On the heels of this, Cal McNair witnessed his team get outclassed on Sunday by a hapless Chicago team starting a benched quarterback, and watched his franchise quarterback get beaten to a pulp in the process.
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