Welcome to the Week 14 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
Breshad Perriman in a Foot Race:
Bills Defense Finally Delivers: Six days after the Patriots beat them with a 46-to-3 run/pass ratio, and three weeks after Jonathan Taylor ran absolutely wherever he wanted against them, the Bills defense couldn’t get off the field in the first half in Tampa, their first game without Tre’Davious White. But they owned the second half and got a series of crucial stops in forcing overtime. And in OT, they were victimized by a barely-converted-third-and-short, a phantom pass interference flag, then a well-schemed play on the game-winner. This was, at least for a half, the defense they need.
Brandon Aiyuk to the Pylon: The 49ers survive Cin City (it must be miserable to play 69 defensive snaps against this Niners offense) as the third-best run-after-catch threat probably in the NFL and certainly on his own team walks it off.
Cleveland in December: Both the city, the weather and the team that plays in them. Regardless of the near-meltdown late, this was, stylistically, how the Browns are built to win games—dominant defense, run game and complementary passing offense.
Myles Garrett: AKA Alucard.
Cowboys Can Win in Different Ways: Dak Prescott was, simply put, struggling in Washington, but the defense—most notably and least surprisingly, Micah Parsons—took over early.
Taysom Hill Shows the Saints What They Were Missing: Specifically, a way to generate offense with their punchless receiving corps. He had 73 of the Saints’ 203 rushing yards against the Jets (including a 44-yard TD to clinch it), and added an unambitious but efficient 15-for-21 for 175 yards passing.
Broncos Are Hanging Around: They’re now 6–0 when they get multiple takeaways in a game (and 1–6 when they don’t).
George Kittle Nearly Saves Christmas: An exceptional third-and-10 catch to set up the should’ve-been-game-winning field goal. Kittle was incredible in Cin City, finishing with 13 catches for 151 yards.
NFL Schedule Makers Do Have a Sense of Humor: Sending the Giants defense to face Justin Herbert one week after getting Tua Tagovailoa in Miami. You couldn’t find two greater extremes as far as the stress the quarterback puts on a defense. It’s like sipping club soda then chasing it by chugging some 200,000-scoville hot sauce.
The ‘Wheels On The Bus’ Thing in Kansas City: Being petty is fun. Though I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary when beating an opponent for the 15th time in 18 matchups.
Lamar Jackson, Traveling Via Cart: Tyler Huntley was game in relief—that was the first time Baltimore scored 20 points in a game since the Week 9 overtime win over the Vikings—but this offense doesn’t work without Jackson, or possibly even without Jackson at near-100% health.
The No-Call on Carlton Davis: On the Bills’ final offensive play of regulation. It was an egregious penalty, and unlike a lot of pass interference calls, it came on a play where the pass-catcher outplayed the defender and the quarterback put the ball in a catchable spot.
Matt Rhule Follows Up One Panic Move With Another: The firing of Joe Brady after failing to roster a starting-caliber quarterback this season was Scapegoating 101. On Sunday, the Panthers lack of a coherent offensive game plan after the opening drive, plus the constant quarterback rotation, is how you lose a must-have game to a truly bad Falcons team in your own building.
This Was Ruled Defensive Pass Interference: And a 30-yard penalty at that!
Sean McDermott Taking His Offense Off the Field: Twice on fourth-and-short in the third quarter (one they ran a fake punt that failed, one they straight punted). It worked in that Buffalo forced overtime, but it (1) put the Bills on quite a tightrope in the fourth quarter, and (2) took the ball out of the hands of not only his best player, but the guy who will have to carry this team on his back against any quality opponent.
Taylor Heinicke’s Long Day: Garbage time resuscitated his box-score stats, but at one point he was 2-for-15 and Washington had 29 yards of offense on 29 plays. A minor knee injury didn’t help matters, but he was really struggling pre-injury as well.
Darius Phillips Fielding Punts: Muffing two punts for turnovers is problematic in any game, but against the 49ers—not only a quality opponent but one who is built to play as a front-runner due to their run game and pass rush.
An Erratic Zach Wilson: Last week was encouraging, just in that he was getting the ball out in rhythm and, generally, to the right spot. The Saints forced him to play later into the down, and Wilson responded with a lot of misses rooted in panicky mechanics. All of it is correctable in the longterm, but it would be nice to see some strides down the stretch this season.
Jaguars Do Slipnutz: It’s one thing to lose. It’s another thing to lose when this spectacularly unprepared, resulting in frequent humiliation. (It’s gonna be an all-night brain buster for the head coach to figure out who to blame.)
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Randy Gregory Masters the Tip Drill:
This Throw: And with the Giants in a split-safety look! (Though he did set his feet, so 9 out of 10.)
The Uncanny Toes of Donovan Peoples-Jones:
La’el Collins: Banned!: Though this is a bit of a soft ejection.
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Bills Still Have Time to Get Right: Super Bowl contenders don’t have moral victories, but getting back into it and forcing overtime in Tampa was a step in the right direction, especially for a defense that has played poorly against quality opponents. They looked hopeless in the first half with a sieve run defense and no Tre’Davious White, but they got right against Tom Brady in the second half. Buffalo is 7–6, but they still have home games against the Panthers, Falcons and Jets down the stretch (along with a chance for revenge against the Patriots in Foxboro).
The Browns Are Right There: Their next three games are vs. Las Vegas, at Green Bay and at Pittsburgh. If they win two of those three, they are very likely going to be hosting an AFC North title game against the Bengals in Week 18. This team is, theoretically, built for December—now they just have to keep proving it.
Urban Meyer and the Definition of “Winner”: He’s now 2–11 in his entire life coaching at the highest level of professional football (a reminder that, among Meyer’s 23-man hand-picked coaching staff of alleged “losers,” only one has a worst career win-loss record in the NFL than him). Thirteen games into his NFL tenure, Meyer has displayed a lack of interpersonal skills, professionalism and football acumen. And, more than anything, he continued to refuse to hold himself accountable for the failures that are squarely on him:
Justin Herbert Re-Enters the MVP Conversation: He had a couple of throws on Sunday that belong in the Louvre, to go along with his usual efficiency.
Ravens Running Out of Steam: They stacked wins early, but there was also an air of smoke and mirrors to all of it (to go along with some Lamar Jackson and Justin Tucker heroics). At this point the Ravens are just 1–3 in the division and would lose the tiebreaker to the Bengals or Browns. They have three home games left on their slate, but those are against the Packers, Rams and Steelers. They also go to Cincinnati. This was absolutely a team on the brink before Lamar Jackson’s ankle injury. Now, they’re going to need some magic just to make the playoffs.
Matt Rhule’s Melt Down: The 3–0 start threw expectations out of whack for Carolina, a team that lacked a starting-caliber quarterback and therefore shouldn’t have been banking on a playoff berth. It’s unclear what is causing this latest run of panic (an owner freakout?) but Rhule has failed spectacularly as a manager over the past month, mashing his palm on just about every incorrect button, whether it be the Joe Brady firing or the bizarre quarterback rotation they utilized on Sunday. There’s nothing wrong with a 10-loss season for a team with no quarterback, but Rhule seems to be going out of his way to reveal himself as unfit.
Joe Judge Is Reportedly Staying: But Sunday’s performance is going to result in some nervous laughter in the Giants' building.
Chiefs Continue to Remind Us They Were the NFL’s Best Team All Along: That is all.
• Question or comment? Email us.