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Week 13 Takeaways: Lions Get What They Deserve, Classic-Ish Ben Shows for Ravens Week, Harbaugh Plays to Win

Plus, Chargers steal one in Cin City, Bears have gifts for Kyler’s return, Bucs’ Antonio Brown decision, Joe Brady fired, and more!

Welcome to the Week 13 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

The Lions Are On the Board!: Really, if this team played the Jaguars next week they’d win by two touchdowns. If they played the Texans they’d win by three touchdowns. Detroit has the worst record in football, but at no point this season have they been football’s worst team. So there is some justice in Dan Campbell, Jared Goff and Co. finally getting on the board this week, even if it was against an opponent that is better than they are:

Classic-Ish Ben Lives for Ravens Week: His pocket movement might most closely resemble Joe Pera (I will be going to this line frequently over the remainder of Ben's career), but Roethlisberger ultimately came up with enough plays to beat the Ravens in the fourth quarter. He delivered two TD passes and what turned out to be a crucial two-point conversion to upset the Ravens. He also made a handful (literally, five or fewer) of impressive throws, including one at the end of the first half that should have gone for a touchdown but was dropped by Diontae Johnson.

John Harbaugh Goes for Two: This isn't an analytics decision any more than going for a touchdown from the 2 instead of kicking a field goal in a three-point game. It was the right call because the Ravens have the right offense and they had the right play call. T.J. Watt made a play and got in Lamar Jackson’s face, causing the ball to be thrown three inches off-target, and that’s just the way it goes sometimes. For Baltimore, the alternative was leaving it up to a coin toss and, perhaps, your exhausted defense.

The Diontae Johnson Redemption Tour: After a baaaaad drop cost the Steelers four points at the end of the first half, Johnson delivered two touchdowns in the fourth quarter in Pittsburgh’s comeback win.

Bears Pass-Catchers Salute DeAndre Hopkins: Jakeem Grant and Cole Kmet, quite thoughtfully, batted passes into the hands of Cardinals defensive backs early, allowing Hopkins and Kyler Murray to ease back into action with a couple of short-field touchdowns (on a day of short-field scoring drives for Arizona). The Kmet play is simply incredible, managing to turn a routine third-down catch into a turnover and 78-yard field flip. (But, hey, Kmet did top the depth chart among Chicago’s five active tight ends on Sunday.)

Brian Johnson Drills It: Not exactly an easy task in his first game on Washington’s active roster, but the kicker snuck the game-winner inside the right upright from 48 to win it in Vegas.

Chargers Steal One in Cin City: It’s a team that’s walking a tightrope every week, typically looking at Justin Herbert to save them. On Sunday, they caught a couple early breaks (namely, Ja’Marr Chase bobbling a sure touchdown into a turnover), one late break (namely, Joe Mixon simply dropping the ball mid-run, leading to a long scoop-and-score TD). The Chargers also shot themselves in the foot a few times (namely, Austin Ekeler losing two fumbles) and Herbert left a few plays on the field. But in the end, they stole a road win from a quality opponent to move to 7–5, putting them in excellent position in a tight AFC wild-card race.

Hey, It’s Gardner Minshew: He got an afternoon to tango with the Madden-on-rookie defense that is the Jets and took advantage, leading three first-half touchdown drives.

Kyler and Hopkins Eeeeaaaaase Back In: I’ve written about the Cardinals—who are a legitimate Super Bowl contender—and their simply unprecedented run of good bounces in 2021, but Sunday was something else. They got four interceptions, two that bounced off a receiver’s hands, one deflected at the line of scrimmage and another on a screen pass. It resulted in touchdown drives of 28, 15 and 12 yards, plus a field-goal drive of 21 yards. They only had one sustained scoring drive, but between the turnovers and Matt Nagy essentially surrendering with a fourth-and-short punt at the end of the first half, there was no need for them to put together any sustained drives.


Regrets

Gerald Everett’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: He lost a first-quarter fumble, he lost a crucial fumble at the 1 on a shovel pass in the fourth quarter, and in the third quarter he pulled this one off. To be clear: No days are ever like this in Australia:

The Vikings Can’t Get Out of Their Own Way: It’s a good team—it really is, easily one of the seven best in the NFC—but it’s also a team that consistently plays up or down to the level of its opponent. They sleep-walked through the first half in Detroit, spotting the Lions a 14-point lead. They went 0-for-3 on two-point conversions (and now sit at 1-for-7 on the year). And they’ve now lost to the Lions and to the Cooper Rush-led Cowboys.

Xavier Woods and Cam Dantzler on the Game-Winner: Yeesh. Maybe a salute to the soft, awful coverage that led to the game-losing play for the Lions on Thanksgiving Day, but the Vikings can’t have two defensive backs on the same side of the field with their heels on the goal line against Jared Goff and this Lions receiving corps. Dantzler at least has to worry about Amon-Ra St. Brown breaking the route outside, though there’s not nearly enough urgency knowing that Goff probably won’t be extending the play. Woods is just completely lost, essentially making it a 10-man defense. Make Goff somehow drop one in over your head on the back line, or throw a frozen rope to the boundary. If that happens, so be it.

A Very Meek Matt Nagy: In a jaw-dropping instance of waving the white flag before halftime, the Bears were facing fourth-and-2 at the Cardinals' 49 with 81 seconds left in the first half, and after generally steamrolling the Cardinals with the run game through the first two quarters. Nagy chose a draw-them-off-then-punt scenario, leaving an opportunity for points before halftime on the board.

49ers Choose the Wrong Week to Shoot Themselves in the Butt: Three giveaways, 10 penalties and a 73-yard fake punt TD allowed in Seattle. It’s a real good way to give one away to a not-very-good opponent.

Robert Saleh Loses It, Just a Little: It was a fairly typical comedy of errors from the officiating crew in East Rutherford, but a phantom defensive pass interference that converted a third down on an Eagles touchdown drive, followed by an incredible lack of a flag on a blatant penalty against the Eagles on a third-down throw for Elijah Moore, led to Saleh, knit hat askew, giving it to some striped shirts.

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Taylor Heinicke’s Fourth Quarter of Yikes: Granted, he’s not supposed to be carrying this team to wins, but he threw two of the most disastrous passes you’ll see in the NFL. One was intercepted (after the entire Vegas defensive backfield put hands on it), and the second went through rookie safety Trevon Moehrig’s hands on what should have been a game-ending interception. But Moehrig dropped it, the drive continued (with a bubble screen and a run play), and Brian Johnson hit the kick to win it in Vegas.

Defensive Back Ball Skills Matter: This Trevon Moehrig drop is the difference between 7–5 and 6–6 for the Raiders.

Jaylen Waddle: Small-Play Threat: At some point, the league office needs to intervene in the matter of this Dolphins offense. Waddle, one of the most electrifying big-play threats to come into the league in years, had nine catches for 90 yards on Sunday and is averaging 9.9 yards per catch on the year, as Miami continues to turn him into Danny Amendola.

The Unfortunate Hands of Ja’Marr Chase: He’s quite obviously a superstar, but this one is absolutely soul-crushing, turning a touchdown into a turnover.

Diontae Johnson Wastes a Good One: There are only so many of these arrows left in Ben Roethlisberger’s quiver, and this one deserved better than a four-point drop.

Jaguars on the Road: Have been outscored 152–73 over five games. And apparently they’re gonna ride this thing out with Urban Meyer.

C.J. Mosley’s Long Day: Long tenure with the Jets, really. But on Sunday, he was a glaring liability in coverage and, incredibly, managed to jump offside in an obvious fourth-down draw-them-off scenario in the third quarter.

They Say the Grinch's Heart Grew Three Sizes that Day: But it was actually Joe Burrow’s mangled right pinky.

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Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About

Pressley Harvin Does Punt Magic:

Seahawks Should Install an All-Fake Punt Offense:


What We’ll Be Talking About This Week

The Bucs Decide on Antonio Brown, Part II: Brown is in Tampa because a year ago Bruce Arians parted with his last shred of dignity in order to appease Tom Brady. Arians proclaimed “He screws up one time, he’s gone,” as the policy at the time. Will Arians keep his word in light of Brown’s vaccination-card suspension? Or will Arians concede that he needs Brown because he simply can’t build a functional offense with merely the greatest quarterback of all-time, two-All Pro receivers, a top-five offensive line and a Hall of Fame tight end?

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Panthers Fire … Joe Brady?: Maybe a tad unfair when you saddle your offensive coordinator with the worst starting quarterback in football to start the year, and then replace that quarterback with a street free agent in November, all behind a bottom-five offensive line. (This smells a little like the Jaguars scapegoating Nathaniel Hackett less than a year after he schemed his way to 45 points in a playoff game with Blake Bortles, then watching Hackett emerge as a coaching star in Green Bay while the Jaguars are now saddled with Urban Meyer and Co.)

QB Controversy Brewing in Houston: Will it be Tyrod Taylor next week? Or Davis Mills? Or me? Or you? Does it matter as long as the organization is completely disinterested in winning games?

The Miami Hot-Ish Streak Continues: The offense continues to look like they’re about to petition for membership in the Sun Belt Conference, but the defense is stepping up. What can you take from a win over the Mike Glennon-led Giants? No much. But like the four wins that preceded it, they all count the same as if they’d just beat the time-traveling ’85 Bears by four touchdowns.

The NFC Wild-Card “Race”: An ugly loss for the Vikings, the 49ers literally give it away in Seattle, Washington outlasts the shorthanded Raiders in Vegas. Why don’t we just say five playoff teams in the NFC.

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