Recap – Week 15

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 12.56.21

LA Chargers v Kansas City Chiefs

29-28 

This was a battle between the only 10-win teams in the AFC.

The West looked won, until it wasn’t. The Chargers entered the fourth quarter facing a 21-14 deficit. They put up 15 points in the final period, including a touchdown with just seconds left on the clock followed by the 2pt conversion to win the game in dramatic style.

Down by two touchdowns midway through the fourth and without their leading rusher and receiver, Philip Rivers and Co. scored twice in the final four minutes against the conference-leading Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium, to pull even atop the division.

After forcing K.C.’s fourth punt of the game with a quick three-and-out with 2:37 left, Rivers connected deep with Travis Benjamin twice for key conversion to march his team into the red zone. With eight seconds left, LA earned a first down from the 1-yard line following a controversial pass interference call on Kendall Fuller covering Mike Williams, one of many suspect calls on both teams. Rivers went back to Williams on the next play for the touchdown. Instead of kicking for the extra point and settling for overtime coach Anthony Lynn called for the two-point conversion. Rivers went right back to Williams, who capped a career night (9 touches, 95yrds, 3 TDs) with a wide-open reception in the right corner of the end zone.

Following the comeback win and the on-field celebrations that followed, Lynn defended his decision saying “we didn’t come here for a tie. We came here for the win… So for me, it was a no-brainer.”

The improbable victory was LA’s second second-half comeback on the road against an AFC Playoff contender in three weeks. They pulled off a similar feat against the Steelers in Week 13. They clinched an AFC playoff berth with the win and are back in the postseason for the first time since 2013. More importantly they tied the Chiefs at 11-3 atop the AFC West. Though K.C. still control their destiny and will secure a division title and home-field advantage if they win out in Seattle and Oakland.

LA finish the season off at home versus the Ravens and Broncos.

 

Up Next:

Ravens v Chargers – Saturday, December 22nd (8:20pm)

Chiefs v Seahawks – Sunday, December 23rd (8:20pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 12.56.40

29-22 

In our first Saturday game of the season the Texans made the game tougher than needed. Their offense as a whole struggled, losing Lamar Miller to an ankle injury early on didn’t help matters. Houston can thank DeAndre Hopkins for bailing them out on multiple occasions and taking the team to 10-4 on the season. The wide receiver was an offensive monster, totaling 10 catches for 170 yards and two highlight-reel worthy touchdowns. To put his contribution into perspective, the Texans totaled 286 net yards of offense, that means Hopkins accounted for 59% of their production.

Hopkins showed off his speed on a 45 yard touchdown catch when he sprinted down midfield, splitting the defense, displaying his tremendous hands on a 14 yard circus grab in the end zone. He also became the second-youngest player (26yrs, 6 months and 9 days) in NFL history to reach 500 career receptions, trailing Larry Fitzgerald, who accomplished the feat at 26yrs and 192 days. Hopkins is well on the way to making the All-Pro team again, given he’s already eclipsed the 1,000 yard receiving mark.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson completed 22 of 28 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns. His impressive production through the air won’t tell the whole story of the night though, with six sacks on the game, the signal-caller has been sacked a league-high 52 times through 14 games. A lot of the blame will fall on the offensive line, however, some of the sacks against the Jets fell directly on Watson, who held the ball for too long.

New York’s future is clearly in good hands with rookie QB Sam Darnold, who had a head-turning performance against the defense ranked 13th in the league. The playmaker connected with nine different receivers en route to completing 24 of 38 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He continually showed off his arm strength and his ability to throw on the move, including an eye-popping 5 yard jump pass for a touchdown. On the play he sensed the pressure around him in the pocket before stepping up. The Houston defense quickly closed on him, likely thinking he’d run the ball. Darnold had other plans however, he turned slightly to his left just shy of the line of scrimmage, spotted Robby Anderson coming across the back of the end zone, then lifted off the ground to throw the wide receiver the ball. The QB also flashed his ability to hurt a defense with his legs, rushing six times for 35 yards.

 

Up Next:

Texans v Eagles – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

Packers v Jets – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 12.57.11

Cleveland Browns v Denver Broncos

17-16 

Coming into the game Denver had won 11 straight games versus the Browns dating back to the early 90s. Baker Mayfield also broke a personal bad streak on Saturday, the Browns were previously 0-3 in games where he had an interception and a lost fumble,  now that’s 1-3.

The rookie went 18 of 31 passing for 181 yards and threw two touchdowns. He got things going early in the game when he threw for an incredible 31-yard Breshad Perriman touchdown. His second of the game, a fourth quarter, 2 yard toss to fellow rookie Antonio Callaway turned out to be the game winner. Meanwhile rookie running back Nick Chubb totaled 100 rushing yards on 20 carries.

Chubb grew stronger as the game went on. 77 of his 100 yards came after the halftime break. His 40-yard run with 4:35 remaining in the game helped Cleveland eat up precious time before they turned it over on downs with less than two minutes left on the clock. His 100 yard effort marked the third time this season he’s reached the feat, the youngster now has 860 rushing yards on the season, leaving him 140 shy of a 1,000 yard campaign with two games to go. It’s a very attainable achievement and would be impressive for a rookie.

Denver’s Von Miller set a franchise sack record on Saturday night. His third quarter smash on Mayfield was his 98th career sack, the most in their history. It’s reason enough to pardon the eight-year veteran for sprinting down the field with one finger raised in the air. He surpassed the mark set by Simon Fletcher (1985-96, 97.5) who congratulated the edge rusher with a message on the stadium’s video board prior to the fourth quarter. The sack also moved Miller into 33rd on the NFL’s all-time list where he’s tied with former Steelers linebacker Joey Porter.

Following their week 14 loss, Broncos coach Vance Joseph expressed a desire for quarterback Case Keenum to throw the ball down the field more often. He heeded to his wishes and picked his spots to attack the Browns’ secondary, but the desired results weren’t there. He threw two costly picks for Denver and was sacked on fourth-and-10 in the final minute, ending his team’s comeback bid. The 30-year-old finished with 31 of 48 passes for 257 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per completion and the two interceptions for a 60.9 passer rating.

The Browns’ defense deserve plenty of credit for coming up big in the fourth quarter with an interception and the sack. Cleveland totaled two interceptions, two sacks and seven QB hits, all while holding the Broncos to 270 total yards of offense, almost 89 below their game average.

Phillip Lindsay seems to have been missing for the past two games, on Saturday he managed just 24 rushing yards on 14 carries. In Denver’s three-game winning streak from weeks 11-13, the running back rushed for 346 yards and five touchdowns on 44 carries. In the last two games however, the rookie has totaled just 54 yards rushing and a touchdown on 28 carries, averaging a mere 1.9 yards per attempt.

With their season on the line, the Broncos opted to kick a field goal on fourth-and-1 inside the 10. After cutting the deficit to 1pt, they never got a better chance to jump ahead of the Browns. The result leaves the 6-8 Broncos eliminated from playoff contention, however, the victory keeps the playoff hunt very much alive for the 6-7-1 Browns.

 

Up Next:

Bengals v Browns – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

Broncos v Raiders – Monday, December 24th (8:15pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 12.57.50

Tennessee Titans v New York Giants

17-0 

Derrick Henry paced a punishing ground attack on the Giants with 170 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries and the defense limited New York to 260 total offensive yards. Henry‘s game marked a second consecutive 150+ yards effort, he allowed the Titans to  hold an overwhelming 35:52 – 24:39 edge in the time of possession.

Defensively, the Titans swarmed a Giants offense without Odell Beckham (quad) and limited Saquon Barkley to 31 rushing yards on 14 carries. The victory improved Tennessee to 8-6 on the season and kept them in the hunt for the playoffs with two games  to go. Titans QB Marcus Mariota contributed to the physical aspect of the game early in the second with a block on Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree to spring Henry down the left sideline.

The Giants were undisciplined, totaling 10 penalties for 58 yards. Offensively, Eli Manning and his team failed to generate any consistency, as receivers dropped passes and went 3 for 16 on third-down attempts. Manning also had two back-breaking turnovers (interception and fumble) in the third quarter to seal NY’s fate.

Defensively the Giants couldn’t stop the Titans’ ground game, which totaled 216 yards on 44 carriers. The loss dropped them Giants to 5-9 on the season and left them preparing for offseason vacations, even though they entered the game mathematically in the running for a postseason place.

 

Up Next:

Redskins v Titans – Saturday, December 22nd (4:30pm)

Giants v  Colts – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 12.58.03

Miami Dolphins v Minnesota Vikings 

17-41

The backfield pairing of Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray rotated touches on a crisp opening drive that was capped off by a 13 yard scoring strike from Kirk Cousins to Steffon Diggs, which double as an effective tone-setter as Minnesota slashed Miami for 220 rushing yards, while Cook piled up 88 total yards in the first quarter alone, en route to a 20 touch, 163 yard, two TD afternoon.

The “Miami Miracle’ failed to follow them to the North Star state, as the AFC hopefuls looked lost straight out the gate, before they lost Frank Gore to an ankle injury. At one point the ‘Fins had 15 total plays to the Vikings 15 first downs, but the game soon shifted when rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick took a Cousins pick 50 yards to the house. Kalen Ballage spun hope and masked the loss of Gore with a beautiful 75 yard score to open the third quarter, but too many drives went nowhere as Ryan Tannehill found himself tossed about like a rag doll for an astounding nine sacks. They also went for a puny 2 for 12 on third down with just 193 total yards and no pass catcher topping 30 yards in the air.

The victory leaves the 7-6-1 Vikings locked in as the NFC’s sixth seed with a road bout in Detroit before closing the season at home to the Bears. The defeat for Miami (7-7) leaves their hot-and-cold operation backed into a corner with a home tilt next week against Jacksonville before ending the season in Buffalo.

 

Up Next:

Jaguars v Dolphins – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

Vikings v Lions – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 12.58.25

Washington Redskins v Jacksonville Jaguars

16-13 

Washington did just enough to win the game in Jacksonville. Josh Johnson and a trio of field goals from Dustin Hopkins, including a 36 yard game-winner with no time left, helped propel the Redskins to a 16-13 victory over the hosts in a game that kept Washington’s slim postseason hopes alive and served as a showcase of offensive ineptitude.

It’s that time of the season when quarterbacks such as Johnson, starting for the first time since 2011 and Jacksonville’s Cody Kessler, closing out a disastrous season for the Jags, find themselves on the field and in the country’s living rooms. In a matchup between two QBs you could’ve never predicted facing off against each other, it was Johnson, playing for his fourth NFL team, who did just enough to get his team the win. Better yet, he did less wrong and that’s why he was celebrating following Hopkins‘ final field goal, dropping to the field and slapping his throwing hand against the turf in celebration.

Like most of the stats in this game, Johnson‘s were ‘modest’ as he completed 16/25 passes for 151 yards and the game’s only offensive touchdown, a 6 yarder to Jeremy Sprinkle with 5:52 left in the game to tie it at 13. The back up to the back up quarterback also rushed for 49 yards on nine carries. Meanwhile Kessler struggled throwing for just 57 yards and an interception, whilst scrambling for 68 yards and giving up a fumble. At the end of the day it’s easy to say it was the Jag’s QB giving up the two turnovers and Johnson giving up none that truly sealed the game.

Entering half time it was the hosts who were leading 10-3, following a 74 yard Dede Westbrook punt return that was by far the most exiting play of the game, the teams had combined some simply horrendous statistics by this point. Ugly incompletions and sparse connections colored the day for Johnson, Washington’s fourth starting QB this season, and Kessler with the squads combining for 153 total yards of offense and eight first downs – season lows for the league through the first half. Some praise must go to both defenses, but this was truly a tedious offensive afternoon.

Despite their injury-plagued season, the Redskins finally snapped a four-game losing streak, their longest since 2014. But Jacksonville’s woes continued in their 2018 home finale as they lost their second in a row and ninth in the last 10. Many believe this was more than likely Bortles‘ last time donning a Jag’s uniform on their home field and might well be Doug Marrone’s final home game with the team, as their failure to get anything going offensively continued as it has all year. It’s scored 20 or fewer points 10 times this season and they still couldn’t find the end zone on Sunday.

 

Up Next:

Redskins v Titans – Saturday, December 22nd (4:30pm)

Jaguars v Dolphins  – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 12.58.39

Dallas Stars v Indianapolis Colts

0-23 

Darius Leonard was the decisive winner in a Defensive Rookie of the Year clash with Dallas’ Leighton Vander Esch, racking up 11 tackles to go with a pair of well-timed pass deflections in coverage. AFC Defensive Player of the Week, Denico Autry, remained hot, blocking a field goal, forcing a key holding penalty and adding his sixth sack in his past three games.

All of the Cowboys’ losses this season have come against mobile quarterbacks, this game was no exception. Andrew Luck danced out of trouble in the pocket and extended plays with his scrambling ability in a fast attack that kept Vander Esch and Co. off balance. Marlon Mack was the star of the show, slashing Dallas’ third-ranked defense for 149 yards and a couple of touchdowns on 28 touches. Mack‘s the first Indy RB with three 110 yard rushing games in the same season since Joseph Addai in ’07.

Despite the loss, the Cowboys dominated time of possession before falling behind 17-0 early in the third quarter. Ezekiel Elliott‘s chain-moving attack churned out drives of 10, 15 and 14 yards to start the game off, with nothing to show for the effort. Brett Maher‘s field goal was blocked on the opening drive. Then Jamzie Olawale botched an easy TD catch, giving Margus Hunt a chance to stuff Elliott in the backfield on fourth down.

Tyquan Lewis, one of four second-round rookies for the Colts, sacked Dak Prescott to end their possession, pushing the visitors out of field goal territory. An O-line already falling apart without Zack Martin (knee) lost Xavier Su’a-Filo to an eye contusion in the first quarter.

Despite the defeat, the Cowboys remain heavy favorites to capture the NFC East.

 

Up Next:

Buccaneers v Cowboys – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

Giants v Colts – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 12.58.52

Oakland Raiders v Cincinnati Bengals

16-30

Cincy ended their five-game losing skid, but lost yet another key starter in the process. Shortly after becoming the first Bengals wideout not named A.J. Green to reach the 1,000 yard mark since Chad Johnson in ’09, Tyler Boyd went down with a knee injury. The breakout receiver and Joe Mixon (130 yards, 2 TDs on 29 touches) have carried the Bengals offense, emerging as nucleus players with Green and starting QB Andy Dolton lost to the injured reserve list for the final month of the season.

Rookie pass rusher Sam Hubbard recorded two sacks and a third hit on Derek Carr to lead a spirited defensive effort. Geno Atkins pitched in with three sacks of his own, bringing his season total to 10. Considering the concussion issues and his dwindling level of play Vontzae Burfict‘s roster spot might just be in jeopardy for next year.

The Raiders, who had to play without both of their starting guards, shot themselves in the foot with ongoing fumbling issues. Carr lost his career-high sixth of the season while Jalen Richard dropped his second in three weeks. Recently acquired from Baltimore’s practice squad, Darren Waller was a bright spark for Oakland. The tight end rushed once for 21 yards and hauled in a Carr pass for another 44. He is the great grandson of jazz legend Fats Waller

 

Up Next:

Broncos v Raiders – Monday, December 24th (8:15pm)

Bengals v Browns – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 12.59.06

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears

17-24 

Chicago clinched the NFC North division title for the first time since 2010 by silencing Aaron Rodgers and his Packers. In 14 of the past 15 years, at least one team’s finished in first place in their division after finishing last or tied last the previous year. Chicago finished last in each of the last four seasons.

Matt Nagy’s team beat the Packers at Soldier Field for the first time since 2010, though it didn’t come easy. A questionable fake punt was stuffed to help the Packers erase an 11pt half-time lead. With reminders of their Week 1 collapse to Rodgers and Co. in the forefront of their minds, the Bears didn’t wilt this time. Mitchell Trubisky performed well all day extending plays and finding targets downfield. He led his team to two fourth quarter scoring drives as they stiff-armed their way to the division crown.

Rodgers‘ NFL record streak of 402 passing attempts without an interception was snapped late in the final period of the game. Eddie Jackson swiped a tipped pass in the end zone as Green Bay’s season was squashed. With Aaron Jones leaving early with a knee problem, the Packers ground game did very little, forcing Rodgers to throw into the arms of one of the best defense in the NFL. The signal-caller, who appeared to tweak his leg on a Hail Mary attempt at the end of the first half, was off-target for most of the day, completing only 59.5% of 42 attempts for 274 yards and 0 touchdowns. The QB couldn’t find the range deep, missing several open wideouts that could have changed the tone of the entire affair. They are now officially eliminated from the postseason.


Up Next:

Packers v Jets – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

Bears v 49ers – Sunday, December 23rd (4:05pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 12.59.21

Detroit Lions v Buffalo Bills

13-14

Josh Allen hit Robert Foster for a 42 yard touchdown to give the Bills a 14-13 lead early in the fourth quarter, a score which would eventually win the game and give them their fifth victory of the season. It may not always be pretty but Allen is making strides each week, and given the low expectations for Buffalo entering the season, Sean McDermott could warrant a Coach of the Year consideration.

The Lions defense focused on not allowing the rookie to scramble this week (16 yards on nine carries with a three yard TD), the No.7 overall pick was forced to move the ball through the air as a result. His accuracy remains an issue, especially when throwing deep. Buffalo could have blown the game wide open early had the rookie been a little more accurate on a few deep throws. However, his willingness to fling it so deep is refreshing, he also displayed his cannon arm, firing the ball in a few tight windows. His numbers on the game; 13/25, 204 yards, 1TD. He continues to display growth heading through his first season. His development over the past few weeks alone has been encouraging, giving Bills fans something to watch over the next two weeks and heading into the offseason.

Kenny Golladay owned the first half. The Lions receiver made a bevy of strong catches down the field, earning four catches in the first two quarters for a career-high 115 yards, the most by a Lions receiver in the first half since Calvin Johnson recored 131 in 2014 against the Giants. Golladay finished with seven catches for 146 yards and was quieted in the second half.

Matthew Stafford and his Lions earned 117 yards in the final two quarters on six possessions, including three three-and-outs and a missed go-ahead field goal attempt. Their anemic second half saw them eliminated from the playoff hunt. The QB and his offense have struggled to move the ball consistently since trading Golden Tate and Kerryon Johnson suffered his injury. In the offseason they’ll need to upgrade the skill position and get a new offensive coordinator if coach Matt Patricia decides to replace Jim Bob Cooter.

Buffalo earned the W despite spending much of the game riding with their fourth-string running back. With LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory inactive due to injury, Marcus Murphy got the start but left early with a dislocated elbow. That left rookie Keith Ford as the only active option. He himself went down with an ankle injury at one point but returned later after getting taped up. The running back situation underscored the need for the Bills to buffer Allen with playmakers across the offense in the offseason.

Both teams have tough divisional matchups in week 16. The Bills travel to New England, while Detroit host the Vikings.

 

Up Next:

Vikings v Lions – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

Bills v Patriots – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 12.59.34

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Baltimore Ravens

12-20 

It was a sloppy Sunday for both teams, but ultimately, it was the new look that the Ravens have as a running team that propelled them to victory. After Tampa broke the scoreless tie with a touchdown, they didn’t find the end zone for the rest of the game thanks to an awoken Baltimore defense, and a Ravens offense that dominated time of possession through the ground attack. Gus Edwards rushed 19 times for 104 yards (which included a 26 yard run right before the two minute warning to seal the win) and a touchdown. Lamar Jackson ran 18 times for 95 yards and frequently kept the ball in Baltimore’s hands by scrambling past the line to gain on third down. It was a frustrating day for the Bucs, who had defensive stops in reach on many occasion but couldn’t secure them.

Fresh off their heartbreaking overtime loss to the Chiefs, the Ravens looked flat early and appeared primed for an upset defeat that would have seriously hindered their postseason aspirations. Instead they bounced back, awoken from their slumber by Tampa’s early scores. They rode on the shoulders of Jackson and relied on their stout defense in the key moments. Marlon Humphrey‘s interception and the defense’s two-play stonewall of Peyton Barber and a Jameis Winston attempt to Chris Godwin produced a huge turnover on downs that all but ended Tampa’s afternoon. Baltimore deserve credit for their resilience.

The game spoke to the value of Jackson, was was playing in unfavorable, wet conditions as he continues his path to comfort in the pass game, he was the main reason Baltimore defeated Tampa Bay. His passing touchdown to Chris Moore came on a well-time misdirection jet sweep play and perfectly summed up the day, which the Ravens won through old-school grit and grind, with a modern twist.

There weren’t many positives that came out of the game for the Buccaneers, but there were a couple of offensive highlights for them. Barber ran well (19 carries, 85 yards, 1 TD) against the league’s 4th ranked rushing defense; Mike Evans broke 120 receiving yards on just four catches, thanks in part to a 64 yard reception and Godwin exists on the team, even though he didn’t have a single catch in the game. Unfortunately their inability to muster much of anything and the failure to capitalize on a few Ravens fumbles put their defense in a tough spot, having to stop a productive Baltimore rushing attack (242 yards on 49 attempts) on a wet afternoon.

 

Up Next:

Buccaneers v Cowboys – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

Ravens v Chargers – Saturday, December 22nd (8:20pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 12.59.50

Arizona Cardinals v Atlanta Falcons

14-40 

Atlanta found a heartbeat in the backfield when Tevin Coleman (145 yards rushing) ripped off a 65 yard gallop to set up an early field goal before they buried Arizona with a 43 yard scoring burst midway through the third quarter. Coleman also had a 44 yard touchdown romp called back by a penalty.

Through the air, Matt Ryan leaned on Julio Jones once again, who managed 82 yards from six receptions but also spent a fair amount of time in the sideline with a rib injury. It was discouraging to see the Falcons settle for field goals on a pair of drives that ended at the Cardinals 14 and 7 yard line, but those kicks did help forge a 26-7 HT lead.

Though Arizona may be a lost cause, their fans have something to care about in Josh Rosen. The rookie authored one of his finest drives all year with an eight-play, 64 yard march highlighted by a deep shot to David Johnson, who capped the march with a 1 yard scoring burst. Unfortunately for the first-year playmaker, on the following possession his pass was tipped by Vic Beasley into the arms of Deion Jones, who raced 41 yards to the house.

 

Up Next:

Rams v Cardinals – Sunday, December 23rd (4:05pm)

Falcons v Panthers – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 13.00.09

Seattle Seahawks v San Fransisco 49ers

23-26 (OT)

Just two weeks after demolishing the Niners in Seattle, the Seahawks blew an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth by falling to their division rivals. After scoring a touchdown on their opening drive, Seattle spent the rest of the game playing from behind due to a missed Sebastian Janikowski extra point and an ensuing 49ers kick return TD.

Behind Chris Carson (148 yards) and Dougie Baldwin (77 yards, 2 TDS), the visitors eventually pulled back when Janikowski kicked a game-tying field goal with five minutes left to lock things at 23. In overtime, Seattle got the ball first and nearly broke through with a deep pass to J.D. McKissic, however, the play was called back due to a holding penalty on Ethan Pocic, one of a season-high 14 penalties for the team. A pass interference foul on third down on San Fransisco’s next possession led to Robbie Gould‘s game-winning field goal.

The 49ers upset was their first win over Seattle in five years. The last time it happened Jim Harbaugh was roaming the sidelines, Colin Kaepernick was under center and the fans were perched up high at the Stick.

The Niners saw an impressive afternoon from its young players in the front seven. DeForest Buckner reached 11 sacks on the season with a dynamic two-sack, 10-tackle performance. Fred Warner was special again in the middle of Robert Saleh‘s defense.

Unfortunately for John Lynch, SF lost a lot of ground in the race for the draft’s No.1 pick. After entering the game with the top slot, the 49ers (4-10) fell to fourth in line for the first selection, behind the Cardinals (3-11), Raiders (3-11) and Jets (4-10).

Seattle’s defense took a minor backward step after their elite evening against the Vikings last Monday. The Seahawks struggled to stop Nick Mullens for the second time in three weeks; the rookie QB completed 65% of his passes for 689 yards in two games against their divisional rivals. Poor coverage and a slip by Tedric Thompson led to the Niners first offensive touchdown. Seattle’s defensive woes weren’t helped by the aforementioned penalties, on one SF scoring drive they committed three straight 15 yard penalties.

After looking so assuredly in the postseason picture, the Seahawks (8-6) now find themselves just half a game ahead of Minnesota and one game ahead of Washington in the wild-card race. If they can’t dominate Mullens and Co. things don’t bode well for their matchup with the 11-3 Chiefs.

 

Up Next:

Chiefs v Seahawks – Sunday, December 23rd (8:20pm)

Bears v 49ers – Sunday, December 23rd (4:05pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 13.00.27

New England Patriots v Pittsburgh Steelers

10-17 

Pittsburgh snapped a five-game losing streak against the Patriots with a hard-fought win and improved to 8-5-1 on the season. They accomplished it with a stellar running game led by Jaylen Samuels, who exploded with 142 yards on 19 carries. Ben Roethlisberger outdueled Tom Brady when it mattered most, engineering a scoring drive with less than there minutes remaining in regulation. The Pittsburgh defensive effort was impressive too, limiting one of the NFL’s top offenses to just 10 points.

The Steelers’ win kept them as the No.4 seed atop the AFC North, but it also affected the AFC playoff race. New England fell out of No.2 seed to No.3 after being leapfrogged by the Texans, who won on Saturday.

Upon his 8-yard completion to Rex Burkhead in the third quarter , Brady became just the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for 70,000 career yards, joining all-time leader Drew Brees (73,908), Peyton Manning (71,940) and Hall of Famer Brett Favre (71,838). That was the best thing to come out of Sunday’s loss for the Patriots.

From dropped passes to a staggering 14 penalties for 106 yards, New England had plenty of reasons to bemoan the defeat. The result marked the first time they’ve lost consecutive games in December since 2002.

 

Up Next:

Bills v Patriots – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

Steelers v Saints – Sunday, December 23rd (4:25pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 13.00.38

Los Angeles Rams v Philadelphia Eagles

23-30

Without Carson Wentz and with their playoff chances hanging by a thread, Nick Foles and the Eagles returned to LA, where their stunning Super Bowl run began last year, and pulled off one of this year’s biggest upsets. Philly handed the Rams their first home loss of 2018 in a balanced effort laden with big plays and hits.

Alshon Jeffery worked Aquib Talib en route to a season-high 160 yards on eight receptions. The Eagles’ offensive line held Defensive Player of the Year favorite Aaron Donald and Dante Fowler in check. On the other side of the ball, members of Philadelphia’s injury-riddled secondary, led by Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox played outside themselves against one of the league’s most dynamic offenses.

The Eagles were up by 17pts in the fourth quarter before LA mounted a slow comeback. Philly almost blew their three-score lead in the final frame when Jake Elliott missed what would have been a game-sealing field goal with just over a minute remaining. The Rams mismanaged the clock on the ensuing drive, failing to get out of bounds on two plays and Jared Goff‘s last-gasp 18 yard lob to Josh Reynolds flew high and out of the end zone.

The Rams team that went shot for shot with Kansas City in mid-November, hasn’t shown up for three weeks. Post-bye LA have been a shadow of their former offensive selves, averaging just 324 yards per game against Detroit, Chicago and now Philly. Goff was an inaccurate turnover machine on Sunday night, throwing two picks and regularly missing wide-open receivers. The Eagles swarmed the QB like the Bears did in Week 14, sacking him once but recording seven hits and forcing a silly game-changing interception.

Todd Gurley (124 yards) was targeted a lot more than he was in Chicago (10 touches, 1st quarter), but went away from him after he suffered a knee injury in the third. By the time the Rams were able to string together a few scoring drives, time was running out and players weren’t as sharp. JoJo Natson fumbled a punt that nearly killed LA’s comeback chances and Gerald Everett and Gurley made crushing choices on the final drive to stay in-bounds to gain under-par yardage.

The reigning champions saved their playoff hopes with Sunday’s win. They close out the season hosting Houston and traveling to D.C., but need the Vikings to lose one of their games in either Detroit or Chicago to sneak in. Meanwhile the Rams lost ground in their pursuit of home-field advantage in the NFC. Already trailing the Saints due to a head-to-head tiebreaker, Sunday’s loss puts them at risk of not only losing the No. 1 seed, but falling out of a first-round bye.

 

Up Next:

Rams v Cardinals – Sunday, December 23rd (4:05pm)

Texans v Eagles – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-22 at 13.00.50

New Orleans Saints v Carolina Panthers

12-9 

The once unstoppable Saints offense looked deflated for the third time in as many weeks, but did just enough against a fierce Panthers defense to come away with their league-best 12th victory of the season.

Behind an offensive line missing Terron Armstead and Max UngerDrew Brees saw good pressure and even better coverage from Carolina, resulting in his rhythm being thrown off for much of the evening. The signal-caller relied on Alvin Kamara (109 yards, 21 touches) to move his side along for the majority of the game. New Orleans churned best when Michael Thomas (7 rec, 49 yards) found a rare soft spot in the Panthers’ defense.

Brees threw a pick in the run of play on an underthrow near the end of the first half, then tossed another on the goal-line when going for the two-point conversion after NOLA’s lone touchdown of the game. He was attempting to get the ball to Kamara but instead threw right at rookie Donte Jackson, who used his incredible speed to take the ball from one end zone to the other for the ever-rare pick-two.

Monday night’s loss sees the Panthers’ season all but over. They fall to 6-8, one-and-a-half games behind the Vikings and trail both the Eagles and Redskins by a game in pursuit of the sixth seed. Carolina would need an unlikely confluence of events (winning out, whilst Washington and Minnesota lose out).

Christian McCaffrey had yet another impressive game for the Panthers. He was the only player on the field with a touchdown pass, a 50 yarder to Chris Manhertz. That’s one more than both Brees and Cam Newton, the two quarterbacks, could muster up. The sophomore running back finished the affair with 53 rushing yards on 15 carries, 67 receiving from 8 receptions and the TD lob.

To put the 22-year-old’s game in perspective he broke the franchise record for most scrimmage yards in a single season. With his 120 yards he passed DeAngelo Williams‘ mark set in 2008 (1,636). He has been the heart and soul of the Carolina offense for the bulk of this season and proved once again that he can be at the center of the big plays. His touchdown throw came after he took a handoff from Newton, faked an outside run and launched the ball deep. The only other player ever to achieve at least 50 passing, rushing and receiving yards in a single game is Walter PaytonForget calling McCaffrey a double-threat, he is now a triple-threat.

It should be appreciated that the Panthers’ defense went out with a bang. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis combined for 25 tackle, Davis earned a pass defensed on Brees’ first half pick and Kuechly was a fiend from sideline to sideline. He made a beautiful shoestring tackle on Kamara in the fourth quarter to deny New Orleans a first down. The two were backed by an aggressive coverage from JacksonJames Bradberry and Eric Reid.

For all the defensive success, Newton’s offense couldn’t respond. Newton finished with only 131 passing yards, his fourth-fewest ever, threw an interception and completed just 16 of 29 attempts. Already playing with a roughed up shoulder, the playmaker took plenty of hard hits and appeared distressed on and off the field. He wasn’t the only offender on offense, DJ Moore‘s third quarter fumble in Saints territory directly led to the game-winning touchdown drive.

After many fans took to social media calling for Newton to be rested, head coach Ron Rivera was asked by the media in the post game press conference whether he’ll adhere to the fans now their playoff hopes are all but extinguished. His response? “What we’re going to do is see how he goes… We will continue to evaluate and see what the doctors say.”

The result sees New Orleans take a six-game advantage at the top of the NFC South on 12-2, with the Panthers second on 6-8.

Up Next:

Steelers v Saints – Sunday, December 23rd (4:25pm)

Falcons v Panthers – Sunday, December 23rd (1pm)

 

ALL TIMES U.S. EASTERN

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: