Welcome to the Week 12 edition of the Sunday FreakOut, where we react and overreact to everything that happened in the Sunday afternoon games. For the full Sunday roundup podcast-style, be sure to subscribe to The MMQB Podcast, in your feed every Monday morning...
Things That Made Me Giddy
Gronk After Catch: This was a vintage Rob Gronkowski performance. Not a can’t-control-the-volume-of-his-voice-in-an-insurance-ad performance, but a mauling-his-way-for-chunks-of-extra-yardage performance.
Bengals-Steelers Is Not a Rivalry: That would imply that the Steelers are competitive when the teams play. Over the last three games, it’s Bengals 92, Steelers 37.
Patrick Graham’s Defense Still Works: Even with Logan Ryan out again, this Giants defense had free defenders getting to the right spots to ruin Jalen Hurts’s afternoon and throw the Eagles’ playoff hopes into peril.
Adrian Amos’s Fourth-Down Stop:
That Broncos Secondary: Particularly Patrick Surtain in this one, who was excellent again including a 70-yard pick-six. It was one of two interceptions of Justin Herbert, as the Broncos are now 5–0 when they get multiple takeaways.
Deebo Samuel With the Ball in His Hands: He’s the Kyle Shanahan-iest of all the Kyle Shanahan receivers. He had two rushing TDs on Sunday, giving him five on the year (before leaving with a groin injury).
Tua Getting Better: Franchise quarterback better? No. But baseline level of competence better? Yes! He is showing better movement within the pocket, which will hopefully lead to the Dolphins expanding this offense at some point (assuming they’re not going to get three interceptions and a special teams TD every week, in which case it doesn’t really matter what they do offensively).
Dolphins D on a Run: Granted, no world-beaters on the schedule of late, but they haven’t given up more than 17 points in a game since Halloween. Will the takeaways—10 during their four-game win streak after nine in the first eight games—keep coming?
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Kene Ngwanu’s Speed, Still: This time it was a 99-yard kickoff return, the second of the year for the Vikings rookie. Again, read all about him from friend of the show Marcus Krum.
Kevin Byard Blitzing From Deep: He’s a special player for a lot of reasons, but twice on Sunday he lined up somewhere in Braintree and still managed to get there on a blitz (one for a pressure, one for a sack), completely throwing off Mac Jones’s pre-snap read.
Vita Vea’s Tooth: Fortunately the players’ association didn’t trade their dental plan for a keg of beer (yet).
Titans Come to Foxboro Bearing Gifts: Even if they did hand them out a few hours before the official start of Hanukkah. Three different Titans running backs lost fumbles, Ryan Tannehill threw a fourth-and-goal interception at the 1, and Randy Bullock doinked a PAT and a 44-yard attempt in the first half, all turning what was a bit of a dogfight into a blowout in the end.
Cam Newton Fizzles: Oof, we did just see the Dolphins get the better of Lamar Jackson and the Ravens a few weeks ago. But on Sunday they made Newton look every bit like a guy who couldn’t find a roster spot until November. The Panthers struggled to protect, frequently failed to pick up blitzes and there was a smattering of drops, but Newton’s two interceptions were primarily on him—one ball came out far too late, the other was a force to a receiver covered perfectly by Xavien Howard. The performance absolutely matched the final stat line (5-for-21, 92 yards, two INTs, 5.8 passer rating), and he was mercifully pulled for P.J. Walker late.
Dalvin Cook’s Knee: He was carted off with a knee injury, on a play on which he lost a fumble to set the 49ers up with a short field, in what was a brutal moment for the Vikings offense.
Jalen Reagor’s Hands: It’s been a tough first season-plus for the 2020 first-round pick (selected *sigh* one spot ahead of Justin Jefferson). Sunday featured two drops on the goal line in the final minute of a six-point loss. The first was an over-the-shoulder attempt, one with a moderately high degree of difficulty. The second was… yeesh. He had a reputation for inconsistent hands coming out of TCU. (Maybe we’re looking at a Nelson Agholor career path?)
The Eagles Miss Too Many Opportunities: Not just the two Reagor drops, but the third-and-goal from the 1 interception to end the first half, one of two red-zone INTs. It was a nightmare scenario in a game where points were at a premium.
Rams Return Game: J.J. Koski, the rookie return man from Cal Poly, ran into Sony Michel on one kickoff return, filled in for Cooper Kupp on a punt return and proceeded to fumble it away for a turnover, then muffed another kickoff, pinning the Rams at their own 20. Kupp came back for the next punt return and failed to field it, letting the ball roll an extra 15 yards to the 1-yard line.
The Onside Kick Had to Go Away Years Ago: We all know that the competition committee is often asleep at the switch when it comes to… well, football. But it’s incredible that this is still something we subject players to in 2021:
Officials Leave Their Mark in Indy Again: It’s unclear whether it was Frank Reich or Matt Eberflus who peed in the punch bowl at the Fraternal Order of Back Judges Annual Gala, but the pass interference flags that came out in the third quarter against the Colts were both game-altering and utterly brutal. There was a mutual-hand-fighting, 37-yard penalty that Scotty Miller(!) drew to set up a Bucs touchdown, and on the subsequent drive a third-and-goal stop was erased by a phantom P.I. flag that, if anything, should have been thrown on the offense. Instead, it resulted in a free four points for Tampa.
Jackrabbit Has Myxomatosis: This is… some kind of effort in the open field:
Whatever Is Happening in Houston: Justin Reid, one of the few players you could identify as a potential part of the team's future, was a healthy scratch on Sunday due to some kind of disciplinary action and was confused and dismayed to say the least. We’ve written about the Texans' bizarre "culture" a few times here, and the fact is you’re shrinking your pool of potential players with whatever this is they're insisting on doing. So not only will finding players be a challenge, but retaining the talented ones already on the roster will be too. Reid, by the way, is in the final year of his rookie contract. Oh, also, on Sunday they got de-pantsed, at home, by the Jets.
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Mike Vrabel’s Very Angry Challenge: Rightfully so, considering sky judge is supposed to correct obviously incorrect calls on the fly. And even if the NFL rule that a player must be touched down is objectively dumb (nothing like adding a subjective “giving himself up” judgement to already overwhelmed officials), Nick Westbrook-Ikhine was five yards deep in the end zone before anyone on the Patriots touched him.
This Antoine Winfield Jr. Pick: Kryptonite for the Carson Wentz Underthrow play.
Chris Myarick: On the Knees Team.
Whatever Mac Jones Is Celebrating: Though if we ever had a year when an officiating crew was going to mis-spot a ball by three yards…
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Those Heartbreak Colts: After offensive red-zone struggles cost them early in the season, they’ve been near-dominant over the past two months but have lost three games: two in overtime, one because of a kicker injury, and two marred by atrocious officiating. On Sunday, they were in control against Tampa until a rash of second-half turnovers—a strip sack, a phenomenal defensive play on a deep ball (that was, in reality, closer to pass interference than either of the game-altering flags thrown against Colts defenders), and a muffed punt. Indy can play with anyone in the NFL, but at 6–6, and with the Patriots and a trip to Arizona still on the schedule, there’s now virtually no margin for error.
Ben’s Last Stand: The question is whether it will take place in December, or if we already saw it take place last December.
Next Monday Night’s Game: ESPN’s turn to subservience to the NFL pays off, as instead of getting, say, Dolphins-Giants next week the NFL gives them the actual game of the year, one with honest-to-God playoff implications: Patriots at Bills.
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