Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 14 of the 2021 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:
- Green Bay Packers 45, Chicago Bears 30
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33, Buffalo Bills 27 (OT)
- Denver Broncos 38, Detroit Lions 10
- Los Angeles Chargers 37, New York Giants 21
- San Francisco 49ers 26, Cincinnati Bengals 23 (OT)
- New Orleans Saints 30, New York Jets 9
- Tennessee Titans 20, Jacksonville Jaguars 0
- Dallas Cowboys 27, Washington Football Team 20
- Kansas City Chiefs 48, Las Vegas Raiders 9
- Seattle Seahawks 33, Houston Texans 13
- Cleveland Browns 24, Baltimore Ravens 22
- Atlanta Falcons 29, Carolina Panthers 21
Grant Gordon's takeaways:
- Rodgers retains ownership. In the lead-up to the second Bears-Packers tilt of 2021, there was much ado about Aaron Rodgers' memorable "I own you" comment to a Chicago fan during Green Bay's win earlier this season. Rodgers said this week he had no regrets, but realizes at some point the line is likely to be used against him. This was not that night. Despite spotting the Bears a 10-point lead early, Rodgers was in his usual marvelous form. The Bears' pass rush was at times problematic, but Rodgers had the answer over 60 minutes, firing off short shots throughout that added up to big gains. He rallied the Packers and then salted away the win in the second half, which felt like a blowout even when Chicago trailed by only 11. With his latest mistreatment of the Bears, Rodgers improved to 23-5 (including the postseason) as a starter versus Chicago, tying Brett Favre for the most wins by any QB against the franchise, per NFL Research. He had a sterling, vintage performance with just eight incompletions on 37 throws, no interceptions, four touchdowns and 341 yards through the air. Rodgers has won each of his last six starts versus the Bears in the one-sided rivalry and has the Packers knocking on the door of a third consecutive NFC North title after his latest prime-time masterpiece.
- Don't forget about Davante. Rightfully so, Justin Jefferson and Cooper Kupp have been getting plenty of praise amid sensational seasons. That written, Davante Adams offered a resounding reminder of why he should always be considered among the leaders of the pack when it comes to the NFL's top receiving talents. If the Bears' early lead frightened Green Bay at all, the Packers certainly didn't show it. Rodgers and Adams went about their business, making the arduous look mundane as they carved up a once mighty Bears defense. Adams' 10 receptions, 13 targets, 121 yards receiving and two touchdown catches were all game-highs. But he just makes it so look so easy that perhaps he gets taken for granted. He shouldn't. His ability to separate is sensational and his hands are as dependable as they get. The Rodgers-to-Adams combination is one of, if not the, best combos in the league and Adams remains one of the best receivers, whether the noise is there or not.
- Grant gives Bears speedy spark. All 5 feet, 7 inches and 172 pounds of Jakeem Grant posed a huge problem for the Packers on Sunday night. Special teams issues have plagued Green Bay this season. And Grant, once a dynamic threat in the return game for the Dolphins who was acquired via trade from the Bears during this campaign, flashed his previous brilliance in historic ways. Grant burned the Packers' defense for a 46-yard TD reception from Justin Fields to bestow the Bears with a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. He then dazzled to the tune of a 97-yard punt return for a score in the second quarter for a 24-14 Chicago advantage. It was the longest punt return for a score in the history of a franchise that has employed all-time greats Gale Sayers and Devin Hester (though I doubt Sayers would've ever returned a punt from inside his 5-yard line). Grant reached a top speed of 20.86 MPH on his TD catch and 21.33 on his return, the top two speeds for a Bears ball-carrier this season, per Next Gen Stats. He offered a spark for the Bears that was predictably extinguished by the Packers, who also allowed an onside kick to be recovered and must surely address their special teams woes. The Packers struggled at catching up to Grant, but ultimately, they caught up to the Bears.
Next Gen stat of the game: Justin Fields had a 98.0% completion probability on his second-quarter touch pass to Jakeem Grant, the highest completion probability on any TD pass that came outside the red zone this season.
NFL Research: With Rasul Douglas' first-half interception return for a touchdown, he became the first Packers player to return an INT for a score in back-to-back games in a season since Hall of Famer Herb Adderley in Weeks 1-2, 1965.
Chase Goodbread's takeaways:
- Tom Brady didn't miss a second chance to put it away. A third-down sack of Brady by Bills linebacker Matt Milano spoiled the G.O.A.T.'s chance to put it away in regulation. But after being pinned at his own 6-yard line for the Bucs' first overtime possession, Brady wasn't about to let it get away again. With help from a defensive pass interference flag, he drove the Bucs off the doorstep of their own goal line and hit Breshad Perriman on a crossing route for a 58-yard game-ending score. Brady threw for 363 yards, two scores and no picks against the NFL's No. 1-ranked pass defense. It was a classic finish by the best to ever play the position.
- What a day for Josh Allen. The Bills quarterback turned around a sluggish first half and ended up leading a fabulous comeback that forced overtime from a 24-3 halftime deficit and a 27-10 hole in the fourth quarter. Hobbled by a second-half injury that required taping on the sideline, he played through the pain and pushed the defending Super Bowl champs to the brink. With help from pass protection that improved a lot from one half to the next, Allen finished with 308 through the air and another 109 on the ground for his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.
- Playoff Lenny is getting hot early. Last year we were into the postseason before Leonard Fournette started putting his stamp on the Buccaneers' offense. This year, it appears he's getting primed for the postseason a few weeks early. Fournette posted a season-high 113 yards, including an early 47-yard TD romp that got Tampa Bay out to an early lead. It was just the second 100-yard game of the season for Fournette, but also his second in the last three weeks (the other vs. Indianapolis). Up next is another tough run defense: home versus New Orleans.
NFL Research: Tom Brady broke the NFL record for career completions, passing Drew Brees. He now has 7,156.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Broncos ride RBs Melvin Gordon, Javonte Williams to win over Lions. Denver came out of the gate plowing over Detroit with its potent running back duo. The tandem combined for 184 rushing yards and three rushing scores to control the game. Gordon returned from injury looking spry, jaunting for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 24 attempts. Williams continued plowing over defenders en route to 15 carries for 73 yards and a rushing score. The rookie added an impressive catch and spin for a touchdown. With the RBs churning out 14 rushing first downs, Teddy Bridgewater wasn't asked to do much, and Denver controlled the clock. It's the recipe the 7-6 Broncos need to replicate in their final four games, all against AFC clubs in the playoff hunt.
- Lions collapse after showing early fight. An already talent-deprived roster was further depleted by injury and illnesses. Undrafted running back Craig Reynolds -- who'd previously had two touches for seven yards in three years -- was called up from the practice squad and paced Detroit's offense. Reynolds showed some power and one-cut ability, netting 83 yards on 11 carries. That the Lions relied on Reynolds underscored the state of the club. Detroit kept it close for the first half, but the lack of talent showed up in the final two quarters, as the Broncos poured on 21 points to blow the game open. Jared Goff won't raise the level of talent around him. Detroit fumbled on the second half's opening possession, turned it over on downs, and Goff threw an INT, wiping out any chance of an upset. Dan Campbell's one-win team battled all game. But the talent isn't there to compete, especially with so many starters out.
- Denver honors Demaryius Thomas. The tragic death of the 33-year-old rocked the NFL. On Sunday, the Broncos honored the beaming life lost too soon. Denver took the field with 10 men, leaving Thomas' X-position vacant, a tribute to the career of the longtime Bronco. Honoring DT didn't end there. With each forced turnover, Denver defenders raced to the No. 88 painted on the sideline. After Justin Simmons, who played two years with Thomas in Denver, made an impressive diving INT, he placed the ball on the 88 emblem to honor his former teammate. It was a day of tribute for Thomas, whose memory in Denver will never fade.
Next Gen stat of the game: Teddy Bridgewater was blitzed on just 11.5% of dropbacks (17 of 22, 174 yards, 2 TD vs. four or fewer rushers). He was 16 of 20 for 154 yards and a TD when not under pressure.
NFL Research: The Broncos have allowed fewer than 17 points in all seven wins this season (allowed 17 or more in all six losses). Seven such games are tied for the most by any team this season (with NE and CLE). Seven such games are the most in a season for the Broncos since 2015 (seven such games, 6-1 W-L) -- the 2015 Broncos went on to win Super Bowl 50.
Chase Goodbread's takeaways:
- A well-protected Justin Herbert is all but unstoppable. The Giants pass rush, ranked just 30th in the NFL in pressure percentage (23.0) and 25th in sacks, was the worst kind of matchup against Herbert. The result was predictable -- Herbert ate up the Giants' defense with big chunk gains. Along with a 59-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Guyton, Herbert also struck for 36 to Josh Palmer and 25 to Mike Williams, making easy work of the Giants' pass defense. Herbert finished 23 of 31 for 275 yards and three touchdowns. It wasn't good enough to extend a streak of three straight 300-plus-yard games, but it was more than enough for a clean, resounding win.
- The last two minutes of the first half told the story of the game. A Giants punt pinned the Chargers on their 4-yard line with 2:01 remaining, and a three-and-out stop by the New York defense set Mike Glennon and Co. up with a first down on the Chargers' 41. Desperate for points before the half, trailing 17-7, the Giants couldn't even make a first down and punted once again. Herbert made New York pay with a 59-yard deep ball to Guyton for a touchdown. Just a little offensive efficiency on the Giants' part would've generated at least three points and killed the clock for what should've been a 17-10 halftime deficit. Instead, they trailed 24-7 at the break, and were essentially out of the game.
- In a blowout loss, the lone silver lining for the Giants was the backfield tandem of Saquon Barkley and Devontae Booker. In the running game, they benefitted from the requisite push up front and moved the chains pretty well when Glennon's incompletions weren't getting in the way. The duo combined for 120 yards on 24 carries for an 5.0-yard average. As receivers, they were Glennon's go-tos in catching seven of his 17 completions, including a late TD catch for Barkley. The G-Men would've had to play much better defense for Barkley and Booker to keep things competitive on the scoreboard, but in an offense that's been dysfunctional all season, they were a bright spot in an ugly loss.
Next Gen stat of the game: Chargers pass rusher Joey Bosa generated three pressures, a sack and a turnover on 19 pass rush downs.
NFL Research: Justin Herbert needs 39 passing yards to pass Andrew Luck for the highest total for a quarterback in his first two seasons. Luck totaled 8,196 in his first two years; Herbert stands at 8,158.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- George Kittle is worth every cent of his $75 million deal. The star tight end singlehandedly kept the 49ers afloat late in a game that was quickly warming toward a meltdown. Kittle was Jimmy Garoppolo's safety valve, primary weapon and trusty target all at once, creating separation, hauling in passes and picking up extra yards to keep drives alive. His best grab of the day came on the final possession of regulation, which set up the 49ers for what would have been a game-winning field goal, had Robbie Gould converted. Thirty-eight of San Francisco's yards gained on their game-winning touchdown drive in overtime were picked up via passes to Kittle, including one on third-and-5 that moved the 49ers to the Cincinnati 12. A play later, Garoppolo found Brandon Aiyuk for a soaring, walk-off touchdown. Kittle finished with 13 receptions on 15 targets for 151 yards and one touchdown. He was the primary driver of an offense that needed every one of his catches to escape Cincinnati with a victory, and he transforms the 49ers into a contender when they have the football. It's that simple.
- Joe Burrow's it factor is gaining strength. Sunday's game was a tale of two halves, and the Bengals nearly ran out of time before Burrow and the Cincinnati offense woke up. What followed was a masterful pair of scoring drives, with Burrow extending the play to find Ja'Marr Chase for a touchdown to make it 20-13 with 9:20 left, then following that up with a seven-play, 87-yard touchdown capped by a 32-yard strike from Burrow to Chase. The receiver expertly ran a route that freed himself down the sideline and hauled in a perfectly placed pass from Burrow, who one-upped himself by following an incredible 29-yard pass completed under significant pressure to Tyler Boyd with the strike to Chase. In what felt like an instant, Burrow threw the Bengals back into the game, then helped them take the lead in overtime, demonstrating the physical ability and moxie that made him the clear No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft. It's just too bad he doesn't also play defense.
- The 49ers may have just saved their season. Sunday's wild finish was setting up to be an emotionally devastating loss for San Francisco, which watched its 14-point lead disappear in the fourth quarter, then failed to make a game-winning field goal. Losing the coin toss only felt appropriate for what was close to becoming a full-scale collapse, but San Francisco rose to the occasion, holding Cincinnati to a field goal before covering 80 yards in seven plays for the game-winning touchdown. A loss in such circumstances could have realistically sank San Francisco's hope in the final month ahead, but the resiliency displayed by Kyle Shanahan's squad was the stuff of winners. Cincinnati can be proud of its effort, too, though it'll likely wish it didn't wait until the fourth quarter to wake up offensively. Instead, both teams continue ahead with identical records and four games left to determine their fate.
Next Gen stat of the game: George Kittle caught all nine of his targets down the seams, gaining 105 yards on such receptions.
NFL Research: Bengals defensive end Trey Hendrickson recorded a sack in his ninth straight game, tying him for the fourth-longest sack streak in NFL history. It's the longest sack streak for any player since Kansas City's Chris Jones recorded a sack in 11 straight games from Weeks 5-16 in the 2018 season.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Welcome back, Alvin Kamara! After missing the past four weeks, the dynamic running back returned to help the Saints snap a five-game losing streak. Kamara completely changes the tenor of the New Orleans offense. His ability to make defenders miss in space and turn a would-be 2-yard gain into 10 is vital to the Saints' success. Kamara brought the excitement to an otherwise sleepy affair. The running back was the New Orleans offense for much of the afternoon, generating 94 of 129 total first-half yards. Kamara finished with 27 rushes for 120 yards and a TD and added four catches for 25 yards. It's not hyperbole to suggest no non-QB is more important to his offense than Kamara. On Sunday, he proved it once again.
- Zach Wilson remains a work in progress. It's not yet time to panic in New York, but the rookie quarterback continues to struggle. Yes, he was playing without his top two receivers against a good Saints defense and was hurt by several drops. But Wilson still looks like his head is spinning. He missed a ton of makeable throws, often behind targets, going 19-of-42 passing (45.2%) for 202 yards on 4.8 yards per attempt while taking three sacks. It's frustrating watching the rookie botch throws professionals should easily make. Wilson plays with no rhythm, doesn't see the field well and gets sped up when his first read isn't there. The arm talent is unquestionable, but the rest of the rookie's game has a long way to go to play winning football.
- Taysom Hill battles through injury to help Saints snap skid. In his second game as the starting QB this season, Hill struggled early with his finger injury, missing several passes and not looking like he could grip the ball well. The signal-caller bounced back in the second half, making a few strikes and running for a 2-yard TD and a 44-yarder to ice the game. Hill completed 15 of 21 attempts for 175 yards. It appeared that Sean Payton didn't want to call Hill's name in the run game much this week against the hapless Jets, asking the QB to make short throws. Hill completed just one pass of 10-plus air yards, per Next Gen Stats. With Kamara back to carry the offense, it was enough to beat a bad New York squad. With the Saints in the thick of the NFC playoff race, Payton will need more dynamic plays from Hill moving forward.
Next Gen stat of the game: The Saints defense generated 21 QB pressures, with Carl Granderson, Marcus Davenport and David Onyemata each generating four.
NFL Research: Alvin Kamara (362) broke a tie with Roger Craig (358) for the most receptions by a running back in their first five NFL seasons.
Chase Goodbread's takeaways:
- Titans essentially played offense by committee Sunday, slogging past an inferior opponent without a big-play threat. Julio Jones made his return from injured reserve, but the Titans didn't turn to the just-mended veteran to lead the way (four catches, 33 yards). Instead, it was a wide distribution for pedestrian gains that were just consistent enough to move the chains and keep Tennessee's suffocating defense well-rested. Thirteen Titans got their hands on the ball, but there wasn't a 50-yard rusher or a 50-yard receiver among them. As the club awaits the injury returns of WR A.J. Brown and RB Derrick Henry, the wins might not be pretty. But against Jacksonville, this one didn't have to be.
- There were individual exceptions -- LB Damien Wilson, for one -- but as a whole, the Jaguars looked like a team that didn't want to play. Yes, Jacksonville lost to a decisively better team, and Trevor Lawrence's four-interception day would've quashed even a spirited effort. Still, the Jaguars' body language spoke as loudly as the scoreboard. Given the barrier between coach Urban Meyer and the rest of the Jaguars building -- that barrier apparently having a lot to do with Meyer's ego -- it's fair to judge Jacksonville's new coach in the homestretch of his first season as much on his team's effort as game results. In that sense, Sunday represented a loss on both counts. If the embattled coach hasn't lost his locker room, Sunday provided little indication of it.
- Coming off a bye, Titans offense managed to clean up turnover woes, but pass protection remains an issue. Tennessee's offense played turnover-free ball after coughing up nine over its previous two games. That's a critical improvement for a unit that's playing short-handed in a playoff push. But pass protection continues to be a problem for this team. Ryan Tannehill entered as one of the NFL's most oft-pressured quarterbacks at a 33% rate, and a Jacksonville pass rush that ranks 27th in the NFL in sacks was able to drop Tannehill for four of them. The aforementioned Wilson notched one, along with 10 tackles, two for losses. If Tannehill takes too much of a beating in the coming weeks, there might not be much left of him upon Henry's return.
Next Gen stat of the game: Trevor Lawrence was 7-of-19 for 79 yards with three interceptions on passes with a time to throw of 2.5+ seconds.
NFL Research: Titans coach Mike Vrabel improved to just 2-5 against rookie quarterbacks. Both those wins came against Trevor Lawrence this season.
Chase Goodbread's takeaways:
- Micah Parsons was at it again Sunday. The Cowboys' ultra-talented rookie helped open an 18-0 lead with a strip-sack that was scooped for a touchdown return by Dorance Armstrong. Parsons beat four-time Pro Bowler Brandon Scherff on the play, blitzing through the B-gap on the offense's right side to drop Taylor Heinicke. He followed with another sack later in the first half. He added five pressures on a total of 17 pass rushes, and his 20.1% pressure rate for the season is on pace to be a record for the Next Gen Stats era (2016-present). The guy has been a force of nature all year. It marked his sixth straight game with at least one sack, and Jevon Kearse's rookie sack record of 14.5 appears in grave jeopardy.
- Washington's four-game win streak was impressive, but its slip back under .500 feels much more like a reality check than a setback. WFT's hopes for a playoff push badly needed a win here. This was a chance to knock off the division leader and command a higher level of respect and, instead, Washington was soundly outplayed for most of the game before a late pick-six added some drama. It's still in the postseason hunt, but that has as much to do with an uninspiring NFC wild-card field as anything else. Still haunted by a 2-6 start, Washington took its margin for error nearly to zero.
- Dallas' playmakers on defense are breathtakingly talented. Now that pass rushers Randy Gregory and Demarcus Lawrence are healthy and back in the lineup, the Cowboys' defense looks primed for an exceptional late-season run. More than just the aforementioned Parsons, playmakers were everywhere on Sunday on the Dallas defense. Gregory was a real thorn for Washington, getting a self-tipped interception in the first half and a strip-sack late in the fourth quarter for a turnover that sealed the win. Trevon Diggs had a trio of pass breakups and blanketed Washington's Terry McLaurin. Lawrence added a sack, as well. Heinicke was dealing with some elite talents who looked hungry to put on a show. Even the less-heralded made their share of plays -- Jourdan Lewis forced and recovered a fumble, and Neville Gallimore got into the party for his first career solo sack.
Next Gen Stats: Trevon Diggs shadowed Terry McLaurin, lining up across from him on 17 of his 18 pass routes. Diggs did not allow McLaurin a reception on two targets.
NFL Research: With seven catches, CeeDee Lamb passed Herschel Walker for the most catches by a Cowboy in his first two NFL seasons. Lamb now has 138; Walker posted 136 over his first two years in Dallas.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Chiefs D dominates, causing five turnovers. On the first play from scrimmage, Jarran Reed forced a Josh Jacobs fumble, and Mike Hughes scampered for a touchdown. The play set the tenor for the entire game. K.C.'s D brought the heat on Derek Carr all game, with Frank Clark (seven QB pressures) and Chris Jones (five QB pressures) leading the way. The Chiefs D controlled the line of scrimmage and hit on the second level. Any time the Raiders threatened, the Chiefs made a big play. Hughes was all over the field, generating two forced fumbles and a team-leading nine tackles to go along with his TD. Earning one INT and four fumble recoveries on the afternoon, it was apropos that the Chiefs slammed the door after the only Raiders TD of the game, forcing two fumbles to end the contest. Not allowing more than 17 points during the Chiefs' six-game win streak, it's past time to consider Steve Spagnuolo's playmaking unit one of the best defenses in the NFL.
- Disaster for Raiders. Vegas players decided it was a good idea to hold their pregame hype meeting on the Arrowhead field logo. It was not. From the first play to the last, the Raiders were dominated by their division rival. When they weren't turning it over, Vegas was stagnant on offense for much of the first half, generating just five first downs on their first six drives of the game. The Raiders got mowed down by big plays by the Chiefs offense, earned 290 yards on offense with five turnovers and committed nine penalties for 85 yards. The icing on the embarrassment cake was a missed PAT by kicker Daniel Carlson, whom the team just signed to an extension. The humiliating loss now puts the Raiders' playoff hopes on life support.
- Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs love playing Raiders. When K.C. needs to get out of offensive doldrums this season, it needs to schedule the Raiders. Twice in the past seven games, the Chiefs have put up more than 22 points; both came against Vegas. While other opponents have been able to slow the Chiefs' big plays, Mahomes and Co. splashed early and often Sunday. Four K.C. pass catchers had at least one reception of 23-plus yards (not counting Travis Kelce's 19-yard catch and run). Mahomes spread the ball around, hitting eight targets. Even Josh Gordon got in on the action, earning his first TD since Week 1, 2019, with New England. For the first time in weeks, it looked relatively easy for Mahomes. The Chiefs moved the chains, converting 9 of 13 third downs. After a three-and-out to open the game, the Chiefs scored four straight TDs and put up points on seven straight possessions.
Next Gen stat of the game: K.C. pressured Derek Carr on 34.7% of dropbacks, the highest in any game for the Chiefs this season.
NFL Research: Scorigami! The Chiefs won 48-9 versus the Raiders (39-point differential) in the first game in NFL history to have a final score of 48-9. It was the largest Chiefs win since Week 4, 2006 vs. SF (won 41-0). The Chiefs have won by 20-plus points in two games this season (both vs. Raiders).
Jelani Scott's takeaways:
- Penny shines bright as lead back. For too long, the phrase "If he could just get healthy" has defined Rashaad Penny's career. On Sunday, the former first-rounder displayed what his future could look like if he remains on the field and off the sidelines. Penny torched the Texans en route to an all-around career-best performance as the top option in a backfield that's been light on success this season. The numbers? Sixteen carries. 137 yards. Two touchdowns. Not to mention, Penny's physicality and YAC monster potential. The 25-year-old certainly didn't let what, despite his own team's struggles, looked like a favorable matchup temper his excitement as he kept and signed the ball with which he notched his first score of the season. And if he keeps it up, he'll be making more additions to his personal trophy case on a regular basis in no time.
- Davis Mills making strides. In a rare bright spot for Houston, Mills showed flashes that may encourage team brass to hand him the reins entering next season. Although the rookie QB remains winless in seven starts, Mills made history by completing 14 straight passes to start the game, the most by a rookie since 1991 and the most consecutive completed passes in Texans history. His poise in leading Houston to its first opening drive score since Week 5 also indicated that his development may be trending in the right direction. On the day, Mills completed a career-high 33 passes on 49 attempts for 331 yards and a TD and no turnovers; the unflappable Brandin Cooks (8/101) and Nico Collins (5/59) were the beneficiaries of a game plan that looked as alive as it has been in weeks.
- "Russ + Lockett" 4ever. The 2021 season hasn't been as fruitful as Seattle hoped, but the Russell Wilson-Tyler Lockett connection continues to bear results -- and, most importantly, points. Wilson's big arm was put to good use time and time again on bombs to his favorite target. Lockett hauled in 142 of Wilson's 260 passing yards on just five receptions -- a whopping 28.4 YPC average. The veteran gunslinger's ability to air it out also benefitted greatly by the O-line's ability yield zero sacks for the first time this season. With the Seahawks' playoff hopes all but dashed, no one knows what the future holds for this team. But for at least the next four weeks, the 12s should be treated to a few more episodes of the "Wilson and Lockett Show."
Next Gen stat of the game: Tyler Lockett leads the NFL in receptions (15) and yards (601) on deep passes this season (T-most TDs with four, Ja'Marr Chase)
NFL Research: Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett connected for their eighth TD of 50-plus yards, the most in the NFL since 2016 (only Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill (seven) have more in that span).
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- The Browns survived thanks to the efforts of their defense. Joe Woods' unit put together quite a performance against Baltimore for the second straight time, holding Baltimore to 1 of 12 on third-down conversion attempts and limiting the Ravens to just three points in the first half. Cleveland harassed Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley, recording four total sacks, including Myles Garrett's strip-sack and fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. Because of the Browns' efforts without the ball, they were able to win the time of possession battle by nearly seven minutes. The Browns appeared poised to lose the game in the final moments, but the defense stood tall one final time, riding a Jadeveon Clowney sack and an excellent tackle by Denzel Ward to force a turnover on downs. Cleveland hasn't been able to get much going offensively for a while now, but if the Browns' defense can turn in performances like it has in the last month, it'll have a fighting chance in every game remaining. The Browns might need it if they want to mount a late-season playoff run.
- Injuries have exposed the Ravens for who they are. Baltimore has been able to weather a massive amount of health-related losses thanks to the heroics of Jackson, but when Jackson suffered an injury of his own and wasn't able to return Sunday, the cracks in Baltimore's foundation began to show. Huntley performed admirably in relief and was able to help Baltimore claw its way back into the game, but a handful of errors ultimately downed the Ravens. Huntley's fumble (which was returned for a touchdown by Garrett) proved to be the game-deciding score, and his interception on a questionably timed two-point attempt kept the Ravens from completing their comeback. Baltimore was incredibly sloppy, committing 10 penalties which were accepted for 125 penalty yards and assisted the Browns in their scoring efforts. With Jackson unavailable, the Ravens didn't quite have enough to make a comeback, dropping their second straight game in painful fashion. It seems Baltimore -- a team that has secured six of its eight wins by a single possession -- isn't quite equipped to weather the injury storm when its most important player is also banged up. The Ravens are far from the only team to be forced to admit this reality, but they haven't looked much like a division leader in the last month.
- Cleveland's offense is far from fixed. The Browns began the afternoon with a quick three-and-out before following it with three straight scoring possessions, building a 17-0 lead in the process. Sounds great, right? Well, it was more complicated than that. Cleveland again struggled to run the ball with consistency and made its way down the field on its first scoring drive with a massive amount of help from Baltimore, which racked up 41 penalty yards on the seven-play, 60-yard possession which ended in a field goal. The Browns were able to get a bit of momentum going on their touchdown drives without the help of Baltimore mistakes, but the 24 points they scored in the first half were all they'd put on the board for the afternoon. Cleveland's offense retreated into its shell in the second half, compiling just one drive of over 50 yards in the final two quarters. Baker Mayfield was better statistically (22 of 32, 190 yards, two touchdowns), but threw an ugly interception in the third quarter and couldn't lead the Browns on a single put-away drive in the fourth. A win is a win, but the Browns still have a lot to figure out offensively if they hope to finish strong and sneak into the postseason.
Next Gen Stat of the game: Takkarist McKinley shined Sunday, recording four QB pressures, one sack and a turnover caused by pressure on 20 pass rushes, good for a pressure rate of 20%.
NFL Research: Myles Garrett recorded three tackles, including one sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery he returned for a touchdown. With 15 sacks on the season, Garrett is now the Browns' record holder for the most sacks in a single season.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- The opportunistic Falcons aren't going away without a fight. Atlanta came to Charlotte sporting an identical record, but made the plays to prove it was the better team Sunday. The Falcons were essentially holding serve with the Panthers until Mykal Walker slid underneath a Cam Newton pass, picked it off and returned it for a touchdown. The interception threw Atlanta's offense a bone and gave it a bit of room to operate, helping the Falcons keep the Panthers at bay. Arthur Smith called an offensive game that was good enough to frequently move the Falcons into scoring range, capitalizing on three Younghoe Koo field goals, and the Falcons scored a significant blow via a 10-play, 49-yard touchdown drive in the middle of the fourth. Matt Ryan was sharp and avoided errors, taking what Carolina's defense gave him on his way to a 19-of-28 day for 190 yards and one touchdown. In a game between two similar teams, the Falcons did what was necessary to emerge victorious, capitalizing on Carolina's mistakes and limiting their own.
- Matt Rhule's spaghetti-at-the-wall approach is growing tiresome. Rhule fired his offensive coordinator a week ago, then spent the week preparing to play both Newton and P.J. Walker in some sort of convoluted attempt to keep the opponent on its heels defensively. Instead, it just created a lack of consistency for the Panthers, who are already without Christian McCaffrey. Newton threw an interception and fumbled away possession, and Walker threw a terrible interception just before the half. The three combined turnovers ended up being the difference in this game, which was grinding toward a sleepy finish before Walker led a late touchdown drive to make things interesting. Rhule's Panthers seem to be headed nowhere, and the coach is trying just about anything to see if something will stick and jump-start his team's offense. Though Carolina outgained Atlanta, it didn't have the desired effect and only further illustrates the wayward state of the Panthers at this point in the 2021 season.
- Is Carolina headed toward a reckoning in January? The Panthers have a defense good enough to keep them competitive in most games, but as the season has grown older, we've seen that isn't enough to win those games. Newton was Carolina's leading rusher, gaining 47 yards and scoring one touchdown on 10 attempts. Chuba Hubbard followed with 10 carries for 33 yards and a touchdown. The bright spots were there, as they've often been for the Panthers, but they weren't frequent enough to take down a scrappy team. The little things -- the mistakes, penalties and lack of ability to convert on third down (4 for 11 Sunday) -- end up being the difference in matchups like these, and the first game after canning Joe Brady didn't show enough to accurately pin the blame on the departed coordinator. Games like Sunday's give us the feeling that change could be ahead, because the path the Panthers are on now just isn't good enough -- especially for a new owner with deep pockets.
Next Gen Stat of the game: Matt Ryan completed 16 of 19 passes for 126 yards and one touchdown on passes of fewer than 10 air yards.
NFL Research: The Falcons recorded a pick-six for a second straight week, scoring defensive touchdowns in consecutive weeks for the first time since Weeks 3 and 4 of the 2016 season.