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NFL Week 11 Takeaways: How the Raiders Finally Closed a Game; the Lions Are Winning

Plus, Patrick Mahomes becoming Brady-esque in late-game situations, Zach Wilson’s words troubling for Jets, Burrow’s carrying Bengals and much more.
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MORE MMQB: How the Bills Dug Out of the Snow and Got Their Season Back on Track | Three Deep: How the Commanders Saved Their Season by Not Panicking | Six From Saturday: USC Quarterback Caleb Williams Is Positioning Himself as a Prospect for the 2024 NFL Draft

I think there’s greater meaning to the Raiders’ win over the Broncos than meets the eye for Josh McDaniels, and it has zero to do with the game happening in Denver. To me, it’s how it happened. Coming from behind. On the road. With the season on the line. And in a way in which it looked like, finally, everyone was on the exact same page.

How can I tell? Look at how open Josh Jacobs was at the end of the fourth quarter to set up the field goal to send the game to overtime. And look how open Foster Moreau and Davante Adams got to win it in overtime. It’s all right there for you, on three Derek Carr throws, good for the 111 yards that Las Vegas would need to take out the Broncos at Mile High.

“Josh did exactly what he was supposed to do under pressure—with the clock running in the two-minute drill, and we’re behind. Derek and Foster did the right thing in overtime, and then obviously Davante and Derek do the same thing on the touchdown,” said McDaniels after boarding the team plane to head home. “Look, you just said it. In order to get open like that, you have to do some things. You have to do the right things, and you have to do them the right way.

“Our team’s still growing and our team is still learning one another and what we’re doing and all the rest of it. I don’t think there’s any shortage of belief in it. It takes repetition. It takes commitment. And those guys have done nothing short of giving everything they have to try to put themselves in position to win. Unfortunately, we fell short a number of times. And today … today was a good day.”

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr celebrates after his team's overtime win against the Broncos in Week 11.

Carr tossed a game-winning touchdown pass in overtime to lead the Raiders over the Broncos.

So, first, let’s hit those three plays, starting with the 43-yarder to Jacobs.

On that one, from the 50, with 57 seconds left, the Raiders had seen a zone-heavy Denver defense start to trend toward playing more man.

“The first two or three plays of the drive were man-to-man, and then we were able to catch them with the clock running in the same call, and they had the linebacker matched up on him,” McDaniels said. “In two-minute drives, you try to find some chunk plays. And if you’re able to do it with a ’backer on a back and just make one move and get down the sideline, then obviously that’s a simple way to do it. And so the man-to-man coverage, the fact that they did it in the two-minute, I think that’s kinda what gave us the opportunity to hit it.”

The next two plays related to Jacobs, too—and the 109 yards he was able to grind out over 24 carries throughout the game.

That the threat was there, and real, opened up things off play-action first for Moreau for 33 yards and then Adams for 35 and the win.

“JJ gutted out over 100 yards, and we kept sticking him in there,” McDaniels says. “And the last two plays—the one to Foster and the one to Davante—I mean, the reason that you’re able to run those is because they come off of the running game. So to be able to use play-action at that point in the game, I think the reason we were able to do that is because we did eventually make some yards in the running game.”

Now, does this mean there’s been some revolutionary breakthrough in Vegas and the Raiders are about to tear off eight straight, get to 10 wins and make the playoffs? It does not. But I think there were a bunch of little victories in this win that, if McDaniels and GM Dave Ziegler wind up winning in Vegas, those guys may look back on this game as the point when they turned it around.

This game shows the players are still committed and proves that all the listening and learning they did came with a purpose.

“That’s what we signed up for,” McDaniels says. “Everybody hopes for it to go perfectly right off the bat. Look, we were 6–0 my first time in Denver, and that didn’t end very well. So how it starts isn’t necessarily the most important thing to me. The most important thing to me is we’re doing it the right way, we’re treating people the right way, we’re trying to teach the way that we believe in. And over time, which I’m just telling you, that’s my mentality. I didn’t come here to try to win one year. And so if it takes a little time, then it is what it is. That’s what’s gonna happen.

“And so if it takes work and effort, and there’s some hard losses in there—which there already has been—well that’s part of the adversity that you have to be able to handle if you want to keep climbing the mountain. And I think our guys have been tremendous, they stayed the course and the leadership on our team has been awesome.”

And in that leadership group is Carr. We’ll have more on him from McDaniels in the MAQB column in a few hours.

Thanksgiving just got more interesting, with the Lions’ having won three in a row. And in talking to Jared Goff as Detroit boarded the plane to return to Michigan on Sunday night—with the Buffalo game about 90 hours away—it sounds like the sudden change with this struggling franchise actually might relate back to a theme that Hard Knocks highlighted over the summer.

You remember the one where Dan Campbell tried to slap the dirt out of a pair of jeans, with the analogy being that the Lions needed to get the crap from the past out of their heads?

Well, if you do, listen to this.

“We had a lot of good moments,” Goff says. “We just weren’t finishing games, and I think the Giants were a good example. Throughout this year, they were playing really well in the fourth quarter, they finished games and they’ve won seven games for a reason. And we were kind of on the other side of that. We’d played well most of the game, and then couldn’t finish them in the fourth. That’s kinda clicked.”

Or at least it did the two weeks before this one, with fourth-quarter touchdowns making the difference in wins over the Packers and Bears.

This time, against the Giants (7–3), it was more about being able to close out a quality opponent—and the Lions did that in forcing a fumble in the fourth quarter, cashing that in for a touchdown and then churning out two first downs on the ground to set the stage for three Goff kneel downs to get the Lions to 4–6. Which, as Goff said, is about the opposite of what was happening before.

“It’s mostly just the belief that you can do it,” he continues. “Most of the plays are all the same. There’s a little bit more pressure, but believing that you can do it and believing that it can happen and go your way—or that somebody’s gonna make a play, you’re gonna get yourself open, you’re gonna make a big throw—is the most important thing. When our young guys are playing, they started believing they can do it.”

And that it’s happening on defense, too, after the catastrophic start the Lions got off to is also really important with young guys playing key roles all over the place. Aidan Hutchinson, the second pick in the draft, had another pick. Rookie safety Kerby Joseph, a fourth-rounder, had an interception, too. And there are young guys on top of those two, such as Alim McNeill and Jerry Jacobs, playing major roles to help the unit overcome its growing pains.

“It is so fun for me to watch and see Aidan make the plays he’s making,” Goff says. “He’s obviously such a talent. A guy like Kerby—fourth-round pick—but a guy where we didn’t know how much he was supposed to play this year, kinda been forced into that role and has just thrived in it. And we’ve seen it in practice for a while now, but it’s starting to come together for him pretty good.”

You could say that for the whole team. And Thursday against the Bills should be a good test of just how far they’ve come.

Cordarrelle Patterson's 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown gave him the NFL's all-time record for kickoff return touchdowns.

Patterson passed Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington for the most kickoff return touchdowns in NFL history with nine.

Congrats are in order for Cordarrelle Patterson, who exploded for a 103-yard kickoff return touchdown in Atlanta’s high-wire win over the Bears on Sunday and, in doing so, took first place on the all-time list with nine career kickoff return TDs. What’s even cooler, though, was the message he hopes young players take from his accomplishment.

Patterson, you’ll remember, came into the league a decade ago as a positional anomaly—a big, fast, athletic marvel without a real spot on offense or defense to call home. So his home with the Vikings—in the early years—became the return game, and that bought him time to develop other parts of his game and find a home, eventually, as a running back (which no one really predicted when he came out of Tennessee in 2013).

“Honestly, I’m kinda glad you asked me that question, because we were all superstars in college,” Patterson said while driving home from the game. “We get to the league, everybody is as good as you. You’re not in college anymore. You’re not in the Big Ten, not in the Pac-12, SEC, ACC, all that. Everybody’s as good as you. So you gotta separate yourself. We all can’t run for 1,000 yards every year. You all can’t catch for 1,000 receiving yards or throw for 30 touchdowns every year. So you gotta separate yourself.

“You gotta go play special teams. I tell everybody this every time, like, Bro, I’m still in the league because I’ve been playing special teams and I’ve been busting my ass everyday. You gotta separate yourself. Go play special teams. Go out and get two tackles a game and separate yourself, bro. Be an All-Pro in special teams.”

With Sunday’s accomplishment, Patterson stamped himself as more than even that. His return helped Atlanta win a game—cutting the Bears’ lead from 17–7 to 17–14, in what would become a 27–24 win. And believe it or not, he actually did, sort of, call his shot.

Over the past week or so, Patterson told me he’d been messing with Atlanta’s equipment manager, telling him to be prepared, because he was “getting ready to store some s---.”

Then, it actually happened.

“It’s crazy that it happened,” Patterson continues. “I had to get my team a spark and I just tried to go out there and do it. I just gotta give my hats off to those 10 guys. They blocked their f---ing ass off, man, and they did everything they can to spring me loose, and I just appreciate those guys.”

A couple of hours later, Patterson was on a bus in Atlanta with family.

He was able to reflect on the meaning of it coming against a former team of his and also that he got there in an era when owners are trying to slowly phase the kick return out of football. Then he just had appreciation for everyone who helped get there as a return man and the two guys he passed Sunday.

“Those guys, Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington—they held that record for a long time,” Patterson says. “And to pass those guys, I know those guys are happy for me. They excited for me, and I just appreciate those guys. Because they paved the way for guys like me.”

And whether or not more come after Patterson (we’ll see where the rules go on that), it really is a heck of an accomplishment for the 31-year-old. He had to fight to find his niche as a pro football player and wound up as an all-time great at it.

Patrick Mahomes is becoming Tom Brady-level automatic in late-game situations. That, by the way, doesn’t mean Mahomes will get the Chiefs in the end zone every time he gets the ball with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. It does mean you should be terrified if your team is facing him in that kind of spot.

Against the Chargers on Sunday, he got it at his own 25 with 1:46 left and two timeouts, down 27–23 (so touchdown or bust). From there, he went 3-of-5 for 48 yards and picked up another 22 yards on two scrambles. He faced one third down, which was converted by a defensive holding flag, and nothing else looked remotely difficult. Two of his three completions were to guys not on the team last year.

The third was for 17 yards and the game-winning touchdown to old reliable, Travis Kelce.

Mahomes is the MVP of the league right now—he was a resounding pick in our execs poll two weeks ago—and this is why: With the game on the line, it’s like it was with Tom Brady in his prime. It feels like the game is over from the first snap he takes.

”When I went in the huddle, it was let’s just do it,” Mahomes said afterward. “Everyone had the mindset of take it one play at a time and get it when it counts.”

It’s really not that easy for anyone. But for Mahomes, it sort of seems like it is.

The Ravens’ defense is coming alive, which is a sign that 35-year-old coordinator Mike Macdonald is settling in and Roquan Smith is fitting in. And here’s what I know—there aren’t many defenses left in the NFL that can carry a team to a win. But that’s just what happened in Sunday’s Panthers-Ravens game, in which Baltimore generated an eye-popping three turnovers in the final nine minutes of a 13–3 win.

“For us to be able to turn ... back into being a turnover-creating defense is really a big deal,” coach John Harbaugh says. “We’ve got some guys that are ballhawks.”

First, Marcus Peters forced a fumble that Marlon Humphrey recovered and Lamar Jackson turned into the game’s only touchdown. Then, Humphrey picked off Baker Mayfield. Then, Jason Pierre-Paul—who kept telling Harbaugh how great his hands are (I’ll presume you get the joke)—got an interception of his own. And that was enough to salt away a win that moved the Ravens to 7–3, atop the AFC North.

If I’m the Jets, I’m really concerned with how Zach Wilson handled his press conference postgame after an anemic offensive effort in Foxborough. Wilson’s unit finished Sunday with 103 yards on 49 plays and just six first downs. In the second half, the Jets had two yards on 26 plays, which seems like a misprint, two first downs (one came on a penalty) and five three-and-outs.

So, naturally, Wilson was asked postgame by SNY’s Connor Hughes whether he felt like the offense had let a defense—that allowed just three points—down.

“No,” Wilson answered. “No.”

Meanwhile, in the locker room, receivers who’d shown frustration during the game were sounding off and taking responsibility for what had gone down over the previous three hours. “This s--- is not O.K.,” rookie Garrett Wilson said. “Straight up, it is not O.K. How many yards did we have? This s--- is not gonna fly.”

Here’s the thing: It’s on the quarterback to take responsibility and be accountable in these situations. I had a franchise-level quarterback once explain to me that in all situations where his offense succeeded, it had to be “we,” and in situations where his offense failed, it had to be “me.” So put in this sort of situation Sunday, Wilson implicitly said, “Don’t look at me.” And that’s really troubling coming from a quarterback who still hasn’t shaken some of the things, on the field and off, he was knocked for coming out of BYU.

One of those things definitely came to mind Sunday, and that’s that he wasn’t elected a captain as a returning starting quarterback in 2020. A lot of people waved that off before the ’21 draft. It seems relevant now.

When we’re talking about Josh Allen and Mahomes, don’t forget to keep including Joe Burrow. The third-year pro outpunched the Steelers in Pittsburgh with 355 yards passing and four touchdowns, while overcoming the absence of Ja’Marr Chase and the in-game loss of Joe Mixon in a 37–30 win.

The Bengals’ run game struggled, their defense was up and down, and it didn’t matter, thanks to Burrow.

“He’s always comfortable,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor says. “The whole world could be falling down around him [and it doesn’t faze him]. ... He’s a special player.”


Before we dive into the Titans’ big Thursday win in Green Bay, there’s the issue of offensive coordinator Todd Downing’s DUI that the league is now dealing with. There’s going to be a lot to dig into here. According to FlightAware tracking, the team plane landed in Nashville at 2:07 a.m. According to WSMV, Downing was pulled over for speeding at 2:30 a.m. So you could surmise, given that chain of events, that drinking on the plane led to Downing’s arrest.

That’s on Downing. One-hundred percent. And now he’s put his team in a tough spot. No excuses at all.

As for how the NFL will handle this—in the wake of the Britt Reid incident—the former Kansas City assistant and son of the Chiefs’ coach was sentenced to three years in prison just three weeks ago for driving drunk, speeding and hitting two parked cars, and leaving a 5-year-old girl with brain damage—the league office will have to take action here. Downing, like Reid, was coming from work when he was arrested.

Ron Rivera (a former Reid assistant), for his part, disciplined Commanders players for drinking on the plane home from last Monday night’s win over the Eagles. In the wake of that last Tuesday, I got a text from a football-ops type who immediately raised the questions in the aftermath of the Downing incident. He said drinking happens but is against the rules, and then he pointed out most players and coaches drive themselves to the airport for the charter, so they’re going right from the plane into their cars.

Should a player or coach be able to have a drink after work on the plane, the way most of us who fly for business can? It’s reasonable to say yes, and that’s probably why you haven’t heard much about teams or players getting in trouble for it over the years. But it’s also fair to say an incident such as Reid’s can, and should, change the climate around drinking on the job. So we’ll see how the NFL handles the Downing case.

There was a lot to like from the Titans’ win in Green Bay. And the win itself may have produced the most mind-blowing stat of the season (at least until the Patriots’ defense met the Jets’ offense Sunday)—Tennessee ran 27 of the first 30 plays of the second quarter Thursday night at Lambeau.

That led to an edge in time of possession of nearly two-to-one at the end of the first half, and really the game was won there for the Titans, who took a 14–6 lead into the break and just volleyed with the Packers through the second half, to a 27–17 win.

Tennessee had a grand total of one three-and-out in the game’s first three quarters. The Titans converted more than half of their third downs. And all that happened despite Derrick Henry’s being held to just 87 yards on 28 carries. Ryan Tannehill, who passed for 333 yards, said afterward that the goal for the offense is what it’s always been—to be a “balanced attack.” That the Titans are doing it without A.J. Brown or Taylor Lewan is really impressive.

Remember, Mike Vrabel’s crew was the No. 1 seed going into last year’s playoffs.

Matthew Judon has 13.5 sacks on the season and is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year after Week 11.

Judon has been dominant rushing the passer for the Patriots with 13.5 sacks on the season.

We’ve got quick-hitter takeaways coming for you … right now.

• There were a couple of third-down sequences Sunday, one in which the Patriots ran it on third down and fourth down (and failed to convert), that made me question the trust the staff has in Mac Jones. Yes, it was windy in Foxborough. But this wasn’t that Buffalo game from last year, and wind and cold is part of the deal for any quarterback playing in the Northeast (Wilson, too, for that matter).

• Matthew Judon is a legit Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He has 13.5 sacks, and it seems like he impacts just about everything an offense does against New England’s defense.

• Good for Nick Sirianni for going to bat for his guy . I can just tell you from talking to Sirianni over the years how much he genuinely thinks of, and cares for, Frank Reich. It feels like more than half the time he tells you a story about something he learned in coaching, he credits the lesson to Reich.

• It’s silly how easy this throw looks for Justin Herbert . It’s from his own 40 to the goal line near the pylon, and has to be close to 75 yards in the air.

• Bottom line: The Texans should be showing more progress. I’m not sure there’s a less relevant franchise in the league right now.

• Bears QB Justin Fields said the pain in his left shoulder was “pretty bad” postgame, and I wonder whether this will lead the Chicago staff to dial back his workload in the run game if he plays next Sunday against the Jets. I’m all for getting him out on designed runs. But he’s had more than a dozen carries in five of his last six games, and that’s a lot.

• Sunday’s game against the red-hot Buccaneers coming off their bye is shaping up as a must-win for the Browns, a week before Deshaun Watson is eligible to return in Houston against the Texans on Dec. 4.

• I’ll say this—through two weeks—Jeff Saturday’s Colts are no clown show.

• I’ll give the Vikings a mulligan this week after their 40–3 loss to the Cowboys. It’s deserved for a first-year coach and GM who came into Week 11 at 8–1. And I’ll be very curious to see how they look against the 6–4 Patriots on Thursday night.

• The Steelers (3–7) have to go 6–1 the rest of the way to avoid Mike Tomlin’s first losing season. He’s in his 16th year as Pittsburgh’s coach after Bill Cowher made it “only” 15 there.

Three for Monday

1. Since the Christian McCaffrey trade, Jimmy Garoppolo is 65-of-90 for 778 yards, four touchdowns, a pick and a 108.5 rating. And as Kyle Shanahan continues to work the offense to fit a positively loaded skill group—with George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk alongside McCaffrey—the 49ers should only get more dangerous. Which is why on this international stage in Mexico City, Garoppolo has a pretty nice opportunity to reintroduce himself with some of the rust created by missing so much of the spring and summer now worked off.

2. Kliff Kingsbury told his team a couple of weeks back that the three-game stretch they’re in the midst of—at Seattle, vs. the Rams, vs. the 49ers in Mexico City—would define their season. And after splitting the first two of those, the Cardinals coach’s words are proving prescient. A win in this one would get Arizona to 5–6 and within striking distance in the NFC West. A loss might bury them, so those are the stakes for the team, with perhaps even more on the line for a few important figures in that organization.

3.It’ll be interesting to see the atmosphere in Mexico City on Monday night with the context now of the party that became of the Germany game. Football’s more ingrained in both Mexico and Germany than it is in the U.K. And this is a good chance to show that for a Mexican fan base that lost its games the past two years because of the pandemic.

One Thing You Need to Know

I’m not sure if it got enough attention that the NFL has decided to dedicate Thursday’s games to the late, great John Madden. Starting this year, the annual three-game slate will be called the John Madden Thanksgiving Celebration.

The league is far from perfect, of course, but this specific act by the NFL is, in fact, perfect.

“No one cared more or contributed more to our game than John Madden,” Roger Goodell said in the announcement. “Honoring his memory and impact on the NFL is important and Thanksgiving Day brings all of the elements significant to John to life—family, football, food and fun.”

For everyone my age, older and even a little younger, Madden was forever a part of our Thanksgivings, whether he was in Dallas or Detroit, and eating Turducken or serving turkey legs to the players. And in so many ways, that legacy lives on in the broadcasts of those games. So good on the NFL for formalizing his legacy on this particular holiday in a really cool way.

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• How the Commanders Saved Their Season by Not Panicking