Here’s what we’ve learned so far from Sunday’s Week 12 games:
1. “The strength of our team is our defense and special teams,” Tom Brady said last week. His Patriots team emphatically underscored that point Sunday. A New England blocked punt in the first quarter set up the game’s only touchdown, and the Pats special teams ran circles around Jason Garrett’s squad. The best defense in the NFL once again suffocated its opponent. Stephon Gilmore completely wiped out Amari Cooper, holding the star receiver to zero catches on two targets with an INT. A diving Cooper couldn’t hang onto a 4th-and-11 pass over the middle that essentially ended the tilt. The Cowboys came in averaging 444.6 yards, tops in the NFL. New England held Dak Prescott & Co. to 321 total yards, a piddling 2-of-13 on third downs, and held Dallas to three measly field goals. Prescott, who put on gloves midway through the soaked tilt, completed just 19 of 33 passes for 212 yards, 6.4 yards per attempt, no TDs and an INT. The Pats didn’t sack the QB but got enough pressure to keep the Cowboys offense off-kilter all day. Once again, Bill Belichick’s squad won a sloppy tilt by mentally beating an opponent into submission.
2. Brady’s frustration with the Pats offense likely won’t disappear after another lackluster outing in which he completed just 45.9 percent of 37 attempts for 190 yards with a TD. The Pats, without Mohamed Sanu or Phillip Dorsett, struggled to move the ball consistently. Rookie receiver N’Keal Harry did have a nice back-shoulder TD, and fellow first-year WR Jakobi Meyers (4/74) caught some key first downs, but the youngsters’ growth remains a work in progress. The Patriots‘ three scoring drives all took advantage of Cowboys miscues: The TD drive went just 12 yards after a blocked punt; a field goal came after just three yards were gained following an INT; the final FG came on a 38-yard drive after the Pats got favorable field position following poor Cowboys punt-team execution. Despite the inconsistency, Brady’s unit did just enough to get an ugly W.
3. Jason Garrett once again got badly out-coached. The biggest question Garrett will have to answer is the decision to kick a chip-shot field goal with 6:08 left on 4th-and-7 deep in Patriots territory trailing by seven points. Predictably, the Cowboys never got closer to scoring again. The loss dips the Cowboys to 6-5 on the season. Where a win could have put a stranglehold on the NFC East after the Eagles lost earlier in the day, the defeat keeps Dallas with just a one-game lead entering the stretch run. With the Eagles owning a much easier schedule the rest of the way, the Cowboys still sit in a precarious spot. The Pats, meanwhile, moved to 10-1 to remain atop the AFC with yet another first-round bye all but cinched.
— Kevin Patra
1. Will Lutz nailed a 33-yard field goal with time expiring as the Saints fended off a wild Panthers comeback bid. New Orleans jumped out to a fast start, earning a 14-0 lead in a first-quarter that Drew Brees and Co. dominated, generating nine first downs on 19 plays to streak out of the gate. Brees, who tossed for 311 yards and three TDs with an INT on the day, was masterful on the game-winning drive after New Orleans got the ball back late following a Panthers missed field goal. The QB hit old reliable Michael Thomas for a 24-yard gain on the sideline on third-and-6, Alvin Kamara took a screen pass for 16 yards and ran for nine to set up the chip-shot winner. Thomas once again stuffed the stat sheet, picking up 10 receptions (104 on the season) for yet another 100-yard game (101) with a TD. No catch was bigger than his late-game grab. After letting the Panthers get back into the game after multiple double-digit leads, Brees once again proved he’s a guru in the two-minute drill.
2. Joey Slye will be kicking himself all week. The Carolina kicker missed two extra points and a potential go-ahead 28-yard field goal with two minutes left. The botched boots ruined a positive day for QB Kyle Allen, who bounced back from several disastrous performances to throw three TDs and commit no turnovers. Receiver D.J. Moore was a beast all game, taking advantage of a Saints defense without star corner Marshon Lattimore. Moore tortured New Orleans’ secondary all day deep and after the catch, generating two 50-plus yard catches and scored twice. Christian McCaffrey was stymied on the ground — 2.9 yards per attempt on 22 carries, with a TD — but was Allen’s security blanket out of the backfield, catching all nine of his targets for 69 yards and a score. The positive offensive performances all went for naught for Carolina after Slye’s misses.
It had the highest field goal probability of any missed FG this season.#CARvsNO
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ NFL Research (@NFLResearch)
November 24, 2019
3. Saints fans almost blew a gasket after a non-pass interference call was challenged by Panthers coach Ron Rivera and was overturned, giving Carolina first-and-goal with 2:21 left. The Saints D, which had been beaten up, stiffened, forcing the Slye missed field goal, and possibly avoiding a revolt. The win could prove huge for New Orleans’ quest for home-field advantage in the playoffs. Moving to 9-2 on the season, Sean Payton’s squad holds a massive lead in the NFC South (the Panthers are second at 5-6). With the Packers and 49ers facing off on Sunday night, the Saints could leap into first-round bye territory as we hit Thanksgiving.
— Kevin Patra
1. Jarvis Landry doesn’t seem like the guy who holds onto past wrongdoings, but based off his play Sunday, he totally is that guy. Well before the 2019 season, Landry wasn’t afraid to talk about how his time in Miami ended with fracture and then a stunning trade to Cleveland — a place considered to be a football wasteland at the time, with the Browns having come off an 0-16 season — and how he felt about the emotional move. He took out all of that anger on the lowly Dolphins on Sunday, catching 10 passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns and making each gain in demonstrative fashion, letting his opponents know he hasn’t forgotten who sent him to Cleveland “to die.”
Thanks to their connection, Baker Mayfield had one of his best outings of 2019, completing 24 of 34 passes for 327 yards, three touchdowns, one interception (thrown behind Odell Beckham Jr.) and a passer rating of 118.1. He even ended his touchdown drought with Beckham, throwing a 35-yard touchdown to the wideout in the first half as part of a 28-point output in the first two quarters.
The Browns‘ win on “TNF” wasn’t pretty, and Sunday was easier to watch, but they both count the same. Cleveland (5-6) has now won three straight and is back in the discussion for the wild-card race thanks in part to Oakland’s loss Sunday and another meeting with the 6-5 Steelers up next week. They’re steadily improving and winning games they’re supposed to win, though the road to the postseason is still an uphill battle.
2. In the meantime, the Browns still need to cut down on the penalties. They committed seven for 70 yards Sunday and could have had at least a few more added to that tally had Miami accepted them, were twice nailed for illegal man downfield violations due to indecision on run-pass options, and also committed their league-leading 17th personal foul of the season.
That foul was peculiar. The penalty was called against Damarious Randall, but might have been intended for Mack Wilson on what would have been a third-down stop in the third quarter. It gave Miami a fresh set of downs and eventually enough life to score a touchdown, cutting the deficit to 11.
These mistakes will allow a better team to complete a comeback and sink the Browns‘ slim postseason hopes. They’ve cut down on turnovers in recent weeks, save for Mayfield’s interception Sunday, but the penalties continue to be an issue.
3. We know the Dolphins‘ goals aren’t really about this season, but they sure don’t help themselves in winnable situations. On a third-and-long situation in the first quarter, Mayfield checked down to Landry on a drag that would have gone for less than five yards if completed, but an avoidable defensive pass interference instead gave the Browns a fresh set of downs. They ended up scoring a touchdown on the drive. And later, Miami was stopped in its own territory and ran a fake punt on fourth-and-long while trailing by 14. They were predictably stopped by one of the league’s better special teams units and gave Cleveland great field position, which the Browns turned into Landry’s second touchdown of the half. Finally, a personal foul for hitting a defenseless receiver above the shoulders erased Jerome Baker‘s red-zone interception, and the Browns scored two plays later.
Credit is due to the efforts of Brian Flores’ team, which kept battling behind its bearded, on-field leader who also happened to be the birthday boy Sunday. Ryan Fitzpatrick tried his hardest to lead the Dolphins to a comeback win, tossing a touchdown to rookie tight end Mike Gesicki and running one in himself, but it wasn’t enough. Ultimately, their self-inflicted wounds allowed the Browns to run away with the victory.
There’s winning football, there’s losing football and there’s getting in your own way of a chance of victory. The Dolphins (2-9) did more of the latter on Sunday.
— Nick Shook
1. A push to the playoffs is in full force in Buffalo and the Bills defense is leading the way. Though hardly opposed by an impressive offense, the Bills dominated just the same, holding the Broncos to a minuscule 134 yards and no touchdowns in a one-sided 20-3 victory. As the Bills (8-3) kept pace with the Patriots in the AFC East and with the AFC field for a postseason spot, they did so by utterly confounding a hapless Denver offense. Big afternoons were had by many such as Tre’Davious White (fourth interception of the season, four passes defended), Shaq Lawson (two sacks) and Matt Milano (six tackles, three passes defended) against the Broncos (3-8). Offense was scarce, but good defense was plentiful. Buffalo’s offense is improving, but the Bills defense continues to stand tall and that’s first and foremost why a playoff spot could well be ahead.
2. On the same day in which Frank Gore ran past Barry Sanders for third on the all-time rushing list, Bills rookie Devin Singletary carried himself like a running back poised to shine in the future. Against a staunch Broncos defense, Singletary produced his finest game so far with season-highs (and therefore career-highs) of 21 carries for 106 yards. It was a workhorse-type game as Singletary had a long of 11 yards. Josh Allen added 56 yards on the ground (along with 185 and a pair of touchdowns through the air) and the aforementioned future Hall of Famer named Gore chipped in with 65 yards. The rushing game of the Bills was 244 yards strong on Sunday, but Singletary led the way — just as the Bills are hoping he will for Sundays to come.
3. Ahead of Sunday, the Broncos had the 27th-ranked scoring offense with 17.2 points per game. They didn’t live up to the hype. With the offenses as cold as the temperature, the Bills clung to a 6-0 halftime lead, but they had 222 yards to the Broncos‘ 94. There was promise and it came to fruition in the second half. Denver never found such fortune or the end zone. Perhaps the offense’s biggest bright spot this season has been Courtland Sutton, but he was held to one catch for 27 yards (which snapped a streak of eight straight games with 50-or-more receiving yards that was third-best in the NFL). The Broncos offense has struggled all season long, but Week 12 was a low point. Praise should most certainly go to the Bills, but the questions of how to breathe life into the Broncos offense will continue until offseason changes bring about new hope.
— Grant Gordon
1. Thursday night gave us a bit of separation atop the AFC South with Houston’s win over Indianapolis, and Sunday brought a reminder that the Tennessee Titans (6-5) aren’t going anywhere just yet, either. Tennessee turned a close game on its head in the third quarter, putting up 28 points to blow open the contest with the division-rival Jaguars. They did it in a variety of ways, first opening up the fun part of the playbook (however small it may be) by running a halfback pass, with Derrick Henry targeting Jonnu Smith in the end zone. That pass fell incomplete but drew a pass interference, setting the Titans up on the Jacksonville 1. That’s when they gave a big fella some love, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill tossing a touchdown pass to swing tackle Dennis Kelly.
Henry asserted Tennessee’s desire to dominate on the Titans‘ ensuing possession, rumbling 74 yards for a score. Then the Titans forced a turnover and scored again, and they still weren’t done, still a 65-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to A.J. Brown away from finishing their scoring for the quarter. By the time they hit the fourth, they had a 35-11 lead.
“If they could bottle that third quarter, they’ll be a playoff team,” CBS play-by-play broadcaster Ian Eagle said at the conclusion of the game.
He’s right, and it starts with Tannehill, who’s playing some of the best football of his career (four total touchdowns Sunday). Tennessee is 4-1 with him as the starter, and after getting its first division win of the year, all signs are pointing toward more success.
2. It’s almost December, which means it’s Derrick Henry season. The bulldozing running back nicknamed “Tractorcito” ripped off his second 74-plus-yard touchdown run in Nashville against Jacksonville in as many seasons Sunday, the latest sign that we’re headed toward his most productive time of the year: winter.
Consider this: Since 2017, Henry has racked up 1,493 yards in games played on Nov. 10 or later, averaging 5.74 yards per carry in that stretch. He’s scored 16 touchdowns on the ground in that same span of time, and this season — thanks in part to his performance Sunday — he’s at his best pace yet, averaging 8.26 yards in his last two contests.
In years past, it was maddening to watch the Titans avoid handing Henry the ball until it was nearly too late in the campaign. It’s invigorating to see what might be Mike Vrabel’s staff learning from the mistakes of its own staff and its predecessors.
3. Sunday reminded at least one person (this writer) too much of last week’s loss for Jacksonville (4-7), in which the Jaguars played competitive football for a half, came out of the break sluggish, fell into a deep hole and awoke too late to have a legitimate chance at a comeback. The offense led by Nick Foles was again disjointed and unproductive more than anything, inspiring questions such as: Is Chris Conley a receiver whom the Jaguars want to target on one-on-one streaks down the sideline? He didn’t appear equipped to make a play in such a situation Sunday.
There was a bit of encouragement: Doug Marrone’s offense didn’t sprint away from handing the ball to Leonard Fournette as if he had the plague like it did last week. But ultimately it again wasn’t enough, and as mistakes snowballed, they faced a climb too steep to make. The chippiness late only illustrated Jacksonville’s recent frustration. It seems as if the 2019 Jaguars are getting close to accepting their fate, even with some (i.e., Yannick Ngakoue) playing inspired football.
— Nick Shook
1. Sam Darnold has been dealing the last two weeks — 5-1 TD-INT ratio, 112.0 passer rating, 261.5 pass YPG — albeit against teams with a combined 3-17 record (entering Week 12). The question surrounding Darnold coming into this game was how would he fare facing an improved Raiders defense that had forced seven turnovers over their last three outings. He wasted little time answering that question with an impressive 315 yards (20-of-29), three TDs (one rush) and zero turnovers in a 34-3 win. According to NFL Research, New York’s three-game streak of scoring 34 or more points is its third such streak in franchise history, and its first since 2008. Darnold has been responsible for eight scores during that stretch. Third-down conversions, among other things, have been the Jets‘ Achilles’ heel in 2019 as they have had the lowest conversion rate in the NFL. They went 5-of-12 in those situations against a Raiders D that ranked 10th in third-down conversion percentage. Darnold also accounted for 15 of the Jets‘ 21 first downs and took just one sack, the fewest he’s taken since Week 7. Darnold’s connection with receiver Robby Anderson (4/86/1) was revitalized after a few down weeks while RB Le’Veon Bell attributed 109 scrimmage yards (59 rush, 49 receiving). Darnold’s biggest play went to WR Braxton Berrios (remember him?) who burned Oakland on a 69-yard catch-and-run that set-up a one-yard Darnold TD pass to recently extended TE Ryan Griffin. Coach Adam Gase has a lot to be happy with after this one.
2. How about a round of applause for Jamal Adams (0.5 sacks, 3 QB hits, 7 total tackles) and the Jets defense, huh? Minus the 48-yard Daniel Carlson FG that opened the game, the Jets (4-7) forced punts on seven of the Raiders‘ 12 ensuing drives, tallied five passes defensed and created huge turnovers on two consecutive drives in the third. On fourth-and-2 from the OAK 39, safety Marcus Maye was in first to stop FB Alec Ingold on a carry for no gain; N.Y. scored a TD on the following drive. Things would get worse from there on Oakland’s next drive when Derek Carr‘s attempt to jump-start some momentum was stalled on a pass intended for WR Tyrell Williams. Jets LB Neville Hewitt was all over Williams in coverage with a hit as the ball came in that popped it into the air and into the arms of CB Brian Poole, who returned it for a 15-yard TD. Since Week 5, the Jets‘ run defense has been one of the NFL’s best, and they proved as much against rookie Josh Jacobs who rushed for 10 carries and a season-low 34 yards. To put into perspective how great that is, Jacobs’ 92.3 rush YPG is the most by a Raiders RB since Marcus Allen in 1985. Score one for Jets DC Gregg Williams.
3. A Jets defensive TD ballooned the lead to 31, and effectively ended Carr’s day as he was replaced soon after by Mike Glennon. Until he was yanked with 1:49 left in the third, Carr was in the midst of one of his least productive games of 2019, completing 15 of his 27 attempts for 127 yards, zero TDs and a pick. The receiving corps also couldn’t get much of anything going; team leader TE Darren Waller was held to three catches (six targets) for 41 yards while RB Jalen Richard led the team with 47 receiving yards. Williams and Hunter Renfrow combined for five catches and 49 yards. Week 12 was also the first game of Carr’s career where he had fewer than 150 yards, no TDs and at least one INT, per NFL Research. Jon Gruden’s playoff dreams took a hit with this bad loss, and now the Raiders (6-5) are really on the ropes heading into a crucial Week 13 showdown versus the Chiefs on the road.
— Jelani Scott
1. On a blustery day in Philadelphia when Russell Wilson didn’t always look like his MVP self and Tyler Lockett was held in check, the Seahawks turned to a much-maligned former first-round pick to provide the juice: Rashaad Penny. The 2018 first-rounder easily had the best game of his career, showing power and balance throughout the day to carry Seattle to victory. Penny ripped off three runs of 20-plus yards, including a 58-yard house call in the fourth quarter to give Seattle a 14-point lead. Penny finished with 129 yards on only 14 carries, easily outpacing backfield mate Chris Carson (eight carries for 26 yards). It wasn’t a perfect day on offense, Wilson was sacked six times, D.K. Metcalf dropped a would-be touchdown and Carson struggled with ball security. Those are issues that will need to be addressed, but if Penny can put together more outings like this one, the Seahawks (9-2) will be even harder to defend.
2. The Seahawks‘ defensive line still was a difference maker despite missing Jadeveon Clowney, who was inactive with hip, knee and core muscle issues. You wouldn’t have guessed Seattle was short a dominant defender, however, given the pressure the front seven put on Wentz throughout the day. The Seahawks had three sacks and a forced fumble in the first half with Ezekiel Ansah supplying much of the damage. Ansah easily had his best showing as a Seahawk with 1.5 takedowns (he also had a strip sack negated by a penalty), and the interior defenders led by Poona Ford largely held the ground game in check. On a day when the offense wasn’t exactly clicking against a stout Eagles front, the defense came through and showed why Seattle will be a tough out come January.
3. If the Eagles (5-6) miss the playoffs, people can point to these back-to-back losses that doomed the season. Philadelphia lost a pair of winnable games at home to two of the best teams in the NFL on days when the defense posted an effort that should have equaled victory. But as was the case against the Patriots, Carson Wentz struggled to lift his supporting cast. Granted, Wentz was quarterbacking a unit besieged by injury (Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Howard and Lane Johnson were inactive), but Wentz (33-of-45 for 256 yards) was repeatedly off on a windy day and struggled with ball security (two interceptions and two lost fumbles). Some of that can be attributed to the shortage of skill-position players (Greg Ward, signed off the practice squad this week, finished third in targets after TEs Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert), but Wentz struggled throwing the ball down field (5.7 YPA) and making sound decisions under duress. A garbage-time touchdown ended a streak of 22 straight drives that failed to generate a TD. If the Eagles are to rebound, fixing the offense needs to be Doug Pederson’s top priority.
— David Ely
1. For a second there, it looked like Cincinnati might win its first game this season. But then the Steelers made a change at quarterback. Mason Rudolph continued to struggle after a disastrous Week 11 loss to the Browns. After getting sacked on the first play in the third quarter, Pittsburgh decided that it had seen enough. The Steelers benched Rudolph (8-of-16, 85 yards, 1 INT) in favor of Devlin “Duck” Hodges. A few plays later, he hit wideout James Washington for a 79-yard touchdown and the Steelers finally scored their first touchdown of the game. Hodges finished the day 5-of-11 for 118 yards, one touchdown and a 115.0 rating. Hodges has now led Pittsburgh to two wins on the road in as many tries as the Steelers (6-5) continue to fight for an AFC wild-card spot. Will the Steelers ride with him for the rest of the season? After the game coach Mike Tomlin said he felt like the offense just needed a spark and “Mason wasn’t doing enough.” He wouldn’t share his thoughts yet on who will be starting at QB next week.
2. The Steelers defense came to play, again. According to the team, it has registered at least one sack in 52 consecutive games, which is the longest active streak in the NFL, after linebacker T.J. Watt recorded a sack in the first quarter. A promising drive in the fourth quarter for the Bengals ended with linebacker Devin Bush forcing a fumble on a 22-yard catch by Tyler Boyd that Minkah Fitzpatrick recovered and returned for 36 yards. Another big play came when Bud Dupree strip-sacked Ryan Finley and recovered the fumble to seal the game.
3. After being upset over the lack of targets against the Raiders last week (one catch for zero yards), Tyler Boyd got his wish and received the ball more. Finley’s longest pass of the day was when he hit a deep pass up the middle to Boyd for 47 yards, which by the way Boyd caught with ONE HAND! Then Finley connected with Boyd on the next play for a 15-yard touchdown. Boyd finished with five receptions on nine targets for 101 yards and one TD. Lesson of the day for the Bengals (0-11): Get the ball to Tyler Boyd.
— Lakisha Wesseling
1. The Bears staved off a late Giants rally to take the win at home and move to 5-6 on the season. But the campaign started slowly for both teams. For the fifth consecutive game, the Bears were scoreless in the first quarter and it wasn’t until a second-quarter field goal by Eddy Pineiro that the Bears finally got on the board after trading punts with Big Blue. Ahead of the Week 12 tilt, questions surrounded Mitchell Trubisky‘s game status and future with Chicago after the quarterback suffered a hip pointer injury in last week’s game. Trubisky, determined to play through the pain, suited up in the hopes of leading his struggling squad to a much-needed win. On a couple occasions Trubisky was slow to get up, limping and in visible pain, but ultimately remained in the game. His lone touchdown pass came on an early third-quarter toss to Allen Robinson (six receptions, 131 yards). Robinson’s big game marked his first 100-yard game this season, and the 11th of his career. Trubisky finished the day throwing 25 completions for 278 yards with two interceptions and one rushing TD. The Bears‘ run game was once again stagnant, putting up a pathetic 65 total rushing yards on 26 carries. Surely, coach Matt Nagy will be fielding inquiries about his puzzling offense again this week as the Bears continue to underwhelm.
2. Like the Bears, the Giants offense continues to struggle week after week but showed flashes of improvement on Sunday. Daniel Jones (21-of-36 for 150 yards) had a pair of touchdown passes to Golden Tate and Kaden Smith. Darius Slayton had another big game (four receptions on 67 yards), which will be underscored by the Giants‘ miscues. Tate’s TD in the fourth put the Giants in position for a comeback win as they trailed by five. But on New York’s final drive of the game, Jones sealed his team’s fate throwing a trio of incomplete passes and turning the ball over on downs. Saquon Barkley toted the ball 17 times for 59 yards, averaging 3.5 yards per carry. Barkley has struggled to regain his former self since dealing with a high-ankle sprain earlier this season, but in the back’s defense, he was facing Khalil Mack and a stingy Bears D. Perhaps Barkley can get back on track in the five remaining games of the 2019 season.
3. The Bears defense kept its streak alive by not allowing its opponent to score an opening-drive TD for the 21st consecutive game. Sunday marked a breakout game for the sack king Mack, whose strip-sack in the third quarter helped set up the Bears for a crucial TD. Mack’s sack was just his second in seven games — which seems insane. The three-time All Pro has 17 third-quarter and 34.5 second-half sacks since 2015. The defense, which has battled its own woes in recent weeks, clearly came up big for the struggling Bears offense. With a Thanksgiving matchup against the rival Lions on Thursday, perhaps the win will boost the Bears‘ spirits for the rest of the campaign.
— Andie Hagemann
1. A telling graphic flashed just before Tampa Bay’s first snap accurately prepped viewers for the type of game this would be against the Falcons (3-8). Coming into Week 12, Jameis Winston had 300-plus passing yards in five straight games — 1-4 record — but contributed 17 turnovers during that stretch. On his first dropback of the afternoon, Winston threw an interception to CB Desmond Trufant on a deep ball intended for Mike Evans. And then, in true head-spinning, “Jameis Experience” fashion, he led a five-play, 97-yard TD drive, capped off by a fantastic 71-yard catch-and-run score from WR Chris Godwin. Winston then threw an INT on the Bucs’ third drive on a wonky, jump pass that went behind RB Dare Ogunbowale and ended up in LB De’Vondre Campbell‘s hands. I mean, he really outdid himself in this one. In all, the Buccaneers (4-7) finished with over 400 total yards for the sixth time, and Winston concluded with 313 yards (18-of-28), three first-half TDs and the two INTs that made him the league leader (21). The bulk of this point may be dedicated to Winston but Godwin really deserves massive recognition for his two TDs and career-high 184 yards on seven catches; he’s been absurd all year. His second score came on a tough, one-handed snag from a yard out that should’ve probably been dropped given how Falcons CB Kendall Sheffield mauled him as he tried to bring it in. Oh, and how about this for one final Winston stat? His third TD came on a 1-yard pass to none other than DT Vita Vea because why not? Man, this was the most Winston game of any Winston game he’s ever had. Still, Bucs coach Bruce Arians will take it as the win that kept their playoff hopes alive (barely) and snapped a five-game losing streak to their division rival.
2. Considering that Winston and Matt Ryan were fourth and fifth, respectively, in pass YPG and are tied for the most 300-plus yard passing games with seven, this game was set up to be a slobberknocker. It was not. Ryan (23-of-46, 271 yards, INT) was simply not up to par, registering his lowest completion percentage (50.0) of 2019 and a season-high six sacks (14 QB hits). One of those sacks turned into a six-yard Ndamukong Suh scoop-and-score after a strip by Jason Pierre-Paul late in the fourth when the game was essentially out of reach. Any QB in the league has the chance at a good day with Julio Jones on the field but, even with the receiver’s brief injury scare, this was another low-key Jones showing; he had five catches (nine targets) for 68 yards and finished without a TD for the eighth straight game. Props to Bucs CB Carlton Davis (five PDs, five tackles, INT) for his above-average coverage against Jones in his second game back from injury. Jones’ 121.1 rec YPG versus Tampa is the most by any WR against an opponent in the Super Bowl era, per NFL Research but Tampa’s D was hellbent on preventing a breakout game. The Falcons‘ run game was M.I.A. in its second week without Devonta Freeman (19/57/1); Pierre-Paul, Suh, Vea and linebackers Devin White (2.0 sacks, eight total tackles) and Shaquil Barrett (sack, five QB hits, FF) were all instrumental in those efforts.
3. After a dominant two-week run, the Falcons defense came back to earth in the loss. Atlanta allowed 6.0 PPG and 64.5 rush YPG and totaled 11 sacks in Weeks 10 and 11 (both wins vs. NO, CAR). Against an inconsistent Bucs offense, they allowed over 30 points for the first time since Week 7, and 133 rushing yards, the most since Week 8. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and LB Vic Beasley couldn’t get to Winston, who avoided a sack for the first time in 2019. Tampa’s 446 total yards were also the most Atlanta’s given up since Week 5 (vs. HOU). The D did leave with two INTs and five PDs but this was an L the Falcons and Dan Quinn really couldn’t afford.
— Jelani Scott
1. As the Lions and Redskins gathered together at FedEx Field with empty seats scattered about in the background and a combined seven straight losses, it was Washington that came away with what was likely the best outcome the franchise could have hoped to gain. Rookie first-round quarterback Dwayne Haskins, excitement beaming, drove the Redskins down the field and Dustin Hopkins finished his perfect day with a 39-yard game-winning field that sent Washington to a 19-16 triumph over Detroit. Haskins (13-of-29 for 156 yards, no touchdowns, an interception and 47.5 rating) hardly looked good, but he notched his first win as an NFL starter. Rookie wideout Terry McLaurin (five catches for 72 yards), long seen as the brightest note in this forgettable season, had his best game since Week 6. Undrafted rookie returner Steven Sims Jr. had a 91-yard kickoff for a score. Rookie linebacker Cole Holcomb had a game-high 13 tackles. There was a little bit of promise to be had when all was said and done and that’s been the rarest of currencies for the Redskins (2-9). Haskins, who came away with an injured wrist but said he was fine, began the game with a fumble on the first drive and ended it nowhere to be found as Case Keenum took the final knee. Interim coach Bill Callahan told the media after the game that they simply couldn’t find the jubilant Haskins. “We were looking for him, too,” Callahan grinned. “I think he thought the game was over.” There was reason to smile for the Redskins for just a second time in a ridiculously trying campaign. And, with all the question marks that lay ahead for the franchise, it would be folly to say clarity was had in just one game during a lost season. But on this Sunday, at least a little bit of the sun appeared through the dark clouds.
2. There was much ado about whether cornerback Josh Norman would play on Sunday or be a healthy scratch. Norman ended up being active, but it was cornerback Fabian Moreau who provided the secondary presence needed. As Lions quarterback Jeff Driskel ventured to the island of Moreau, the Redskins DB came away with two interceptions, including the game-clinching pick on the Lions‘ last gasp of a drive. The third-year cornerback turned in a stellar day and his first two interceptions of the season as Washington busted loose from a four-game skid.
3. Bo Scarbrough turned in 98 yards on 18 carries. Playing in just his second game, Scarbrough has shown some promise. That’s about it when it comes to Lions (3-7-1) highlights, as they lost for the fourth consecutive game and for the seventh time over eight games after a 2-0-1 start that teased promise and has come to this. Driskel ran for his life and was sacked six times and threw three interceptions but talk will venture to whether Matthew Stafford should be shut down for the season. The Lions were a dark horse to contend for the playoffs and after the first month seemed like they could surprise some people. There are no surprises left to be had in this season for Detroit, it would seem. At least not any pleasant ones.
— Grant Gordon