What We Learned

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2022 NFL season, Week 12: What We Learned from Sunday's games

Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 12 of the 2022 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:

SUNDAY NIGHT

LATE GAMES

EARLY GAMES

Philadelphia Eagles
2022 · 10-1-0
Green Bay Packers
2022 · 4-8-0

Grant Gordon's takeaways:

  1. This was Jalen Hurts' night. Hurts was shot out of a cannon to begin Sunday night's game and when he finally came down, he had turned in a historic performance exemplifying the rare talent that he is. Hurts rushed for more than 100 yards in the first quarter and led the Eagles to touchdowns on each of their first two drives. The Packers battled back, but Hurts and the Eagles didn't back away from a fight and, unlike previous weeks, they were able to produce in the second half, too. Much of that was because of Hurts, who threw for 153 yards and a pair of scores and ran for 157 yards, becoming the first player since at least 1950 with 150-plus rushing and passing yards and multiple TD tosses in a game, per NFL Research. Hurts has transformed from a potential place-holder whose job was seemingly on the line to one of the elite QBs in the game leading one of the elite teams in the league. He was a superstar on Sunday night.
  2. Rodgers does not go softly into a lost season. Aaron Rodgers battled on Sunday night. He battled against the Eagles, he battled for his team's season and he battled through pain. There were glimpses of vintage Rodgers in the first half on a pair of touchdown tosses and a few other passes. It was all the more impressive considering he's playing with a busted thumb. Then, Rodgers' ribs were banged up and he was in visible pain after each throw. He finally exited the game, eventually jogging off to the locker room without his jersey on and never to return as Jordan Love took over. There was no romanticism to it all, though. Injury and pain pushed him out of this one and he said after the game he intends to play next week if his MRI results are negative. He wants to keep on fighting as long as there's a chance for the postseason. You can't help but appreciate the will of the 38-year-old, refusing to go easy as the grandest 2022 hopes have gone unfulfilled. But in the cold light of day, it's clear that some hard decisions need to be made.
  3. Run, Eagles, run. As dynamic as Hurts was on the ground, it wasn't just him. The Eagles ripped apart the Packers with their rushing attack. Hurts, who was just 21 yards shy of Justin Fields' single-game QB rushing record, Miles Sanders (21 carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns), Kenneth Gainwell (eight carries for 39 yards) and Boston Scott (three carries for 24 yards) were a band of mean motor-scooters who rolled through a Swiss cheese-like Packers defense as one of the best offensive lines in the league paved the way. Philadelphia's 363 yards rushing were an NFL season high and the most given up by Green Bay since 1977. This was the Eagles offense at its finest and it was impressive to behold. Those 363 yards were the most for the franchise since 1948. Remember Steve Van Buren? Maybe not, but he was a Hall of Fame running back on that squad who led them to an NFL Championship that year. Run, Eagles, run, indeed.

Next Gen stat of the game: The Eagles had plus-153 rushing yards over expected, which is the most by any team in a game since the Ravens had plus-201 in Week 17, 2020 against the Bengals.

NFL Research: Jalen Hurts is the first player since at least 1950 with 150-plus rushing yards, 150-plus passing yards and multiple passing touchdowns in a single game since at least 1950.

San Francisco 49ers
2022 · 7-4-0
New Orleans Saints
2022 · 4-8-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. 49ers defense continues streak of dominance. DeMeco Ryans' defense swarms to the ball with a violent, ill-intended ferocity that completely discombobulates opponents. On Sunday, the hard-hitting Niners wrecked the Saints, silencing Alvin Kamara and forcing two fumbles from the star running back. In the first half, the Niners D didn't allow more than one first down on any drive. The Saints earned a plebeian 260 yards for the game and went 4 of 11 on third downs against the Niners D. Every time New Orleans threatened to put points up late, San Francisco responded. Talanoa Hufanga flew in like a heat-seeking missile to force a Kamara fumble at the goal line. Then Nick Bosa sacked Andy Dalton on fourth-and-goal to end the Saints' final drive. The Niners haven't allowed a point in six quarters and have given up zero points in the second half of their last four games. Ryans has earned all of the head coaching interviews he should have coming.
  2. Jimmy Garoppolo, Niners offense do enough. With the run game stymied early, Elijah Mitchell suffering a knee injury and Christian McCaffrey dealing with knee irritation, Jimmy G threw 28 passes in the first half, making some key third-down strikes to Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings to move the chains. Garoppolo got hit a ton by the Saints' defensive front, but did well to get the ball out, taking just one sack. The ability of the Niners to stay out of negative plays was key in a defensive struggle. Coming off Monday's game in Mexico City, the Niners offense looked sluggish at times but churned out yards when it needed to close the game on the ground. Facing a high-flying Miami offense next week, San Francisco will need more oomph to continue its winning streak.
  3. Saints lost in the wilderness. Dennis Allen's club wasted a good effort from the defense, which slowed the run game the best it has all season and never allowed the Niners to get into a rhythm. The offensive ineptitude, however, continues to kill. The Saints committed disastrous turnovers, had a host of untimely penalties, and even missed a 48-yard-field goal. Allen's club is undisciplined, he coaches conservatively, and the team continually botches critical moments. The inability to get playmakers in space, particularly Kamara and Chris Olave, is criminal. What does this Saints team hang its hat on? With the Buccaneers and Falcons losing, the door was open for the Saints to leap back into the NFC South race. Instead, Allen's team laid an egg.

Next Gen stat of the week: Jauan Jennings had a 31.3% completion probability on a 5-yard TD reception in the second quarter, the most improbable reception in his career.

NFL Research: The Saints snapped the NFL's longest active streak without being shut out (332 games). The last time New Orleans was shut out prior to Sunday was in Week 17, 2001, also against the 49ers.

Las Vegas Raiders
2022 · 4-7-0
Seattle Seahawks
2022 · 6-5-0

Eric Edholm's takeaways:

  1. Josh Jacobs is that dude. If you didn't appreciate how good a season Jacobs has been having before Sunday, then you have no more excuses -- it's time to take notice. After a slower start this season, Jacobs has been on an absolute heater of late, and his 86-yard touchdown run in overtime delivered the Raiders their best win of the season. Jacobs finished with 229 rushing yards and two TDs on 33 carries (second-most in an NFL game this season), while adding six catches (on seven targets) for 74 yards despite leaving the game with a calf injury in the second half. And with that game-winner, Jacobs surpassed his career high for rushing yards in a season -- with six games remaining. What Jacobs' free-agent market will look like will be absolutely fascinating. Will the Raiders, who declined his fifth-year option in April, step up to keep him? Since Week 4, Jacobs now has 174 rushes for 967 yards and nine TDs, along with 33 catches for 266 yards on 41 targets. Jacobs absolutely carried the Raiders in this game, and after getting stopped late on fourth down and nearly fumbling deep in Seahawks territory late in regulation, he called game for the Raiders' second straight win. This was as good a performance as a back can have in a game.
  2. Seahawks defense takes major step backward. Since Week 6, the Seahawks had kept scores way down, allowing no more than 23 points and 329 yards in their previous five games entering Sunday. But then the Raiders arrived and shocked the Seahawks with how readily they moved the ball, despite taking -- at times -- a fairly conservative approach. Seattle sandwiched defensive interceptions around a 75-yard Raiders TD drive and forced a punt in the first four series of the game. But outside of some stops in short-yardage situations, there were very few positives for Seattle defensively. The Raiders racked up 27 first downs (their most of the season) and 576 yards of offense, which was 169 more than Vegas had gained all season in a game. It hasn't been much of an issue this season because the offense has taken care of the ball well, but Seattle has now allowed touchdowns following nine of its 15 giveaways this season. A dream start to the season is now in danger of unraveling.
  3. DK Metcalf overturn stings, but Raiders gave Seahawks chances to win. The key play late in the game that hurt the Seahawks' chances to win was the overturned catch by Metcalf. In a 34-34 game with just over one minute left, Geno Smith hit Metcalf on what appeared to be a 12-yard catch close to midfield. That's how it was called on the field, as Metcalf dove, cupped his hands over the ball and rolled out of bounds. It went to replay, which revealed that Metcalf bobbled the ball slightly and therefore didn't complete the act of the proverbial catch. You know those words well by now. Was it incomplete by the letter of the law? We think so. But it looked and felt like a catch, and it hurts to have a player's excellent effort taken away from him. Yet, the Seahawks couldn't capitalize on some curious Raiders decisions and outcomes, such as them opting for a field goal on fourth-and-1 from the 7-yard line amidst a shootout, followed by some odd short-yardage play calls that helped put the ball back in Seattle's hands. Often, coaches who play for overtime -- and those who punt in OT -- will see it come back to bite them. But that didn't happen to Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels because the Seahawks let him off the hook. These are the games Seattle must win to be taken seriously as a contender.

Next Gen stat of the game: Raiders QB Derek Carr's game-tying TD pass in the fourth quarter to Foster Moreau had only a 30.6% completion probability, driven by Moreau's distance from the back of the end zone (0.3 yards). The play increased the Raiders' win probability from 20.9% to 36.9%.

NFL Research: Josh Jacobs is the only player since at least 1950 with 225-plus rush yards and 70-plus receiving yards in a single game.

Arizona Cardinals
2022 · 4-8-0

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. Third time's the charm for Justin Herbert and the Chargers. With his reputation preceding him, Herbert seemed poised to lead a game-tying drive for much of the final quarter Sunday, yet he and the Chargers couldn't get anywhere near the end zone on their first two attempts. Luckily for Los Angeles, Arizona couldn't find a way to ice the game, either, giving the Chargers one more shot. Herbert did not waste it, covering 38 yards in seven plays and 1:33. The drive gave the Chargers the win and capped another solid day for the quarterback, who finished with a passing line of 35 of 47 for 274 yards and three scores, carrying the vast majority of the offensive load for a unit that finished with 311 total yards. They needed all three Herbert touchdown passes to take down the Cardinals and remain in the thick of the AFC wild card race.
  2. Cardinals waste a chance to get back on track. As documented in HBO's Hard Knocks: In Season, head coach Kliff Kingsbury has repeatedly stressed how many opportunities remain ahead for the Cardinals, but it sure feels like they wasted a great one Sunday. Kyler Murray's return jump-started an offense that struggled mightily in Week 11, with Murray accounting for all three of Arizona's touchdowns in his first game back from a hamstring injury. DeAndre Hopkins was once again effective, catching four passes for 87 yards and one touchdown. But the combined efforts only pushed the Cardinals to the doorstep of a much-needed victory, and when they needed to protect their lead by picking up a few first downs late Sunday, they repeatedly stalled. Kingsbury's offense regained possession three times following the Cardinals' go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, and each time, they went three-and-out. An offense that finished with 366 total yards gained just 16 in those three possessions combined, and too often called on its defense to do what the offense could not. The defense answered the call twice, but the Chargers' final touchdown almost seemed inevitable as soon as Arizona punted the ball back to Los Angeles with 1:48 left. This loss isn't on Arizona's defense; it's on Kingsbury, who couldn't scheme up even one first down on any of Arizona's final four possessions.
  3. Leave the "A" word at home. Brandon Staley has built a reputation for being aggressive in crucial moments, even if they don't always pay off. It was no surprise, then, to see him go for two with the game on the line Sunday. Los Angeles converted, but this point isn't about that -- it's about the discussion regarding the decision. The term "analytics" gets thrown around a ton, especially regarding individuals like Staley, but the call wasn't numbers-driven -- it was built almost entirely on context. The Chargers needed the Cardinals to fail to put the game away twice to even get a third chance at tying (or winning) the game, and that was only because Los Angeles fell short of the red zone twice on previous possessions. Knowing his offense wasn't finding the going easy, Staley realized the moment to win was not in overtime, but now, and proceeded accordingly. The designed play worked perfectly, distracting Arizona's linebackers just enough to create space for Gerald Everett to catch Herbert's pass for the go-ahead conversion. It likely had little to do with analytics, which would have produced a near-even likelihood of success for either a point-after try or a two-point attempt. Sometimes, it's simpler than relying on percentages. This time, it wasn't about analytics or aggression -- it was about capitalizing on the Chargers' clear best remaining chance of victory. They knew they might not get another one.

Next Gen stat of the game: Justin Herbert completed 6 of 7 passes attempted while on the run Sunday for 69 yards and two touchdowns.

NFL Research: With three touchdown passes Sunday, Justin Herbert officially threw the second-most touchdown passes in a player's first three seasons in NFL history, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (98).

Kansas City Chiefs
2022 · 9-2-0
Los Angeles Rams
2022 · 3-8-0

Bobby Kownack's takeaways:

  1. Chiefs had total control even when not at their best. Kansas City won in dominant fashion despite failing to capitalize on situations it usually handles in its sleep. The offense entered the game with a 72.1 touchdown percentage in the red zone, good for third in the league. Although the unit scored on six of its final seven drives, four of those ended in red-zone field goals. Another red-zone trip ended in a Patrick Mahomes interception that never seemed destined for anyone but Rams safety Nick Scott. Nonetheless, Kansas City still displayed offensive dominance without putting up a ton of TDs, compiling five drives of 66-plus yards (66, 68, 71, 93 and 100). The defense was sturdy throughout the game, forcing two fourth-quarter interceptions to prevent the Rams from trading any TDs for INTs, and pressuring quarterback Bryce Perkins on 30.8% of his dropbacks, per Next Gen Stats. The Chiefs can win in any way, and their penchant for complete team victories is a reason they're in pole position to host the AFC Championship Game for a fifth consecutive year.
  2. Chiefs rookies contribute across the board. The magic of Kansas City's six straight division titles obviously starts with Mahomes, whose 38 games with 300-plus passing yards are now the most by any player in his first seven NFL seasons, but another key element is continuing to hit on draft picks. The Chiefs' two first-round defenders both showed up on the stat sheet today. Cornerback Trent McDuffie had two pass deflections, and defensive end George Karlaftis helped set the tone with the defense's first sack. On offense, No. 54 overall pick Skyy Moore ingratiated himself a little bit more in Andy Reid's game plan by leading the team with five receptions, which he turned into 36 yards. The wideout might be playing himself out of a special teams job -- he recorded his third muff of 2022 -- but he's playing himself into the offense. Running back Isiah Pacheco was the biggest rookie contributor of them all. He carried the ball 22 times for 69 yards, including being trusted on 10 of Kansas City's last 11 plays to salt away Los Angeles. It must be a bitter pill for the now 3-8 Rams after forgoing the chance to build through the draft in recent years.
  3. The Rams are at their most punchless. Matthew Stafford is in concussion protocol, Cooper Kupp is out indefinitely, Allen Robinson requires season-ending foot surgery and the team's leading rusher entering Week 12, Darrell Henderson, is now a Jaguar after being waived Tuesday. The 29th-ranked scoring offense had been uncharacteristically inept under Sean McVay before heading to Kansas City, but this version of the Rams endured even mightier struggles. Perkins ended the first half with more rushing yards (38) than passing yards (16). The offense did show signs of life for one 14-play, 75-yard drive that concluded in the fourth quarter with Perkins' first career TD pass, but little else worked outside of that possession. The first-time starter finished the day with 100 passing yards, a team-leading 44 rushing yards, the touchdown and two INTs. No wideout had more than three catches or eclipsed 30 yards receiving. The Super Bowl champions' season appears to be going out with a whimper.

Next Gen Stat of the game: The Rams defense had a QB pressure percentage of 19, which is below their NFL-low 20.7% this season. This is the Rams' first season under 26% QB pressure in the Next Gen Stats era.

NFL Research: Travis Kelce, only in his 10th year, now has the most receiving yards in a tight end's first 11 seasons (9,918) in league history. Kelce did not record a catch in his first season.

New York Jets
2022 · 7-4-0
Chicago Bears
2022 · 3-9-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Mike White wakes up Jets offense. Zach Wilson isn't getting the starting job back anytime soon. White shined, dicing up a short-handed Bears defense with aplomb. The quarterback got the ball out on time and displayed calm in the pocket and accuracy on the move. White passed for 315 yards on 22 of 28 attempts with three touchdowns while taking just one sack. He became the only Jets QB to have multiple games with 300-plus pass yards and three-plus pass TDs in the last 30 seasons (also Week 8, 2021), per NFL Research. White's play opened up playmakers on the outside. Garrett Wilson (five catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns) exploded, and Elijah Moore (2/64/1) came to life with his first TD of the season. White spread the ball around, hitting 10 different receivers. The passing game clicking opened run lanes as the Jets gashed for 158 yards on the ground. From the jump, White led Gang Green on their first opening-drive TD of the season. This is how Mike LaFleur's offense is supposed to look.
  2. Bears offense slowed sans injured Justin Fields. Trevor Siemian got off to a good start, leading back-to-back scoring drives early, as Chicago found space after the catch. Siemian added a nice deep shot to Chase Claypool for a 31-yard gain. But the Bears offense scuffled from there, generating two first downs on the next five drives. The QB finished with 179 passing yards, a TD and an INT. Siemian is a fine backup, but his insertion into the lineup highlights the lack of playmaking around the QB -- particularly after Darnell Mooney left with an injury. The Bears offense has moved the ball in recent weeks thanks to Fields' dynamic ability. There was none of that in the final three quarters for Chicago. Without Fields, it's a bottom-three offense.
  3. Jets D surges down the stretch to push Gang Green into playoff position. The Jets D looked sleepy early, missing tackles and allowing chunk gains. But Robert Saleh's crew came on strong in the second half, generating two sacks and a game-sealing interception from C.J. Mosley in the red zone. It was the type of complementary performance from the Jets O and D we needed to see. The victory pushes New York ahead of the Patriots in the division and into a wild-card spot with big games against the Vikings and Bills on tap.

NFL Research: Sunday marked Mike White's second start with three TD passes out of four career starts. Zach Wilson has zero such games in 20 starts.

Next Gen stat of the game: Garrett Wilson generated plus-20 yards after catch over expected on 54-yard TD reception in the second quarter. Elijah Moore earned plus-22 yards after catch over expected on a 42-yard reception.

Atlanta Falcons
2022 · 5-7-0

Eric Edholm's takeaways:

  1. Daron Payne, Kendall Fuller come up big late. Things were looking pretty dire late for the Commanders as the Falcons drove all the way to the Washington 2-yard line with a chance to take a lead with less than a minute to go. That's when Payne delivered for a second time in a critical situation in the Commanders' win. Payne tipped Marcus Mariota's pass on second-and-goal, which was intercepted on a terrific play from Kendall Fuller. The Commanders needed to run the clock out thereafter, but the pick effectively ended the game. Earlier, Payne led the way -- along with Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat -- to stop Cordarrelle Patterson on a fourth-and-short run near midfield. Payne finished the game with six tackles (two for losses) and the game-changing tip. The Commanders' run defense, which was giving up 103.1 rushing yards per game coming in, was uncharacteristically poor against the Falcons, giving up 167 on the ground with four Falcons ball carriers running for a long of at least 12 yards. But when it counted, the big boys up front made their presence felt for Washington.
  2. No reason to go away from Taylor Heinicke. Sunday was not Heinicke's finest performance since taking over for Carson Wentz, but it was good enough to deliver a much-needed victory. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 138 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. The pick was a bad one -- no sugar coating -- coming immediately after a turnover on downs and costing the Commanders three points thereafter. But otherwise, it was a typically solid performance from the quarterback who has led Washington to a 5-1 record on his watch. He received good pass blocking, but also got rid of the ball quickly and was moderately efficient moving the ball, with four drives longer than 58 yards. Washington's run game was a big part of that, and the Falcons did get their hands on a few Heinicke passes. Heinicke, who was listed on the injury report with a back ailment, also kept grabbing his elbow or forearm in the second half. But even with the news that Wentz has been activated to start practicing again, Ron Rivera has few reasons to switch back now, even after a quiet day from the passing game.
  3. Falcons' run defense can't get enough stops. Atlanta's chances of winning ultimately swung dramatically because of a red-zone interception in the final minute. But there were too many breakdowns defensively -- mostly against the run -- in the game's first 50 minutes to put it all on one turnover. Had the Falcons tackled and taken on blocks better, they'd have evened their record at 6-6 and come away with a big conference road win. Instead, they're 5-7 with their playoff chances starting to slip away. Commanders running back Brian Robinson Jr. set a career high for rushing yards with 105 on only 18 carries. Throw in Antonio Gibson, Jonathan Williams, Curtis Samuel and Terry McLaurin, all of whom contributed to the ground game, and the Commanders tallied 176 rushing yards on 37 carries. Eleven of Washington's 20 first downs came on the ground. The return of cornerback A.J. Terrell once again made a difference in a much-maligned pass defense, just as it did last week vs. Chicago. But suddenly, the run defense has become unreliable -- a disappointing result after it had shown signs of improvement in Weeks 5 through 7.

Next Gen stat of the game: Falcons QB Marcus Mariota was 6-of-10 passing for 43 yards and an interception on quick passes vs. the Commanders. He was 9-of-15 passing for 131 yards and a TD on passes with 2.5 seconds or more time to throw.

NFL Research: Since Taylor Heinicke took over as the Commanders' starting QB in Week 7, they are second in the NFL with 37.0 carries per game and with an average time of possession of 34:30. Washington has won the time-of-possession advantage in all six of Heinicke's starts, which is the longest active streak in the NFL.

Miami Dolphins
2022 · 8-3-0
Houston Texans
2022 · 1-9-1

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Tua Tagovailoa starts hot as Dolphins surge to big lead. "MVP" chants rained down from Hard Rock Stadium fans as Tua shredded the Texans defense early. The quarterback was sharp out of the gate, finding wide-open receivers in the middle of the field for chunk gains. Miami marched up and down the field, scoring on five of its six first-half possessions. Were it not for red zone struggles, the score would have been more lopsided than 30-0 at the break. When Tua is in rhythm and seeing the field like Sunday, the Dolphins offense is dangerous. Add in nifty ad-lib plays like his TD toss to Durham Smythe, and it's electric. Tua tossed for 299 yards and a TD before being shut down late in the third quarter with a big lead Miami was able to hold.
  2. Kyle Allen fares no better than Davis Mills. For the first half, Allen looked worse than Mills, throwing one-hoppers, looking frazzled in the pocket, and leading a lifeless offense. The Texans generated three first downs in the first half (one by penalty) for 32 total yards on 25 plays (1.3 yards per play). Allen threw two ghastly interceptions in the game and was sacked five times. A three-play stretch in the second quarter encapsulated the Texans offense: Screen pass nearly intercepted, strip-sack (Houston recovery), fumble returned for TD. Allen hit a better stretch in the second half, including 14 consecutive completions when the Dolphins defense took a nap with a big lead. The truth is Allen was never going to solve what ails a woeful Texans team. With the No. 1 pick nearly secured, a new QB will be under center in Houston in 2023.
  3. Terron Armstead's injury is cause for concern. The star left tackle exited with a pectoral injury and didn't return. Armstead's absence led to one stretch in which Tua was sacked four times in nine plays. The Texans' ability to pressure with the LT in the locker room was likely a key reason head coach Mike McDaniel took Tagovailoa out with 3:18 left in the third quarter. Armstead suffered a strained pectoral, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported. He'll miss some time, but it's not as bad as originally feared. Depending on just how much time Armstead misses, it could be rough for the Dolphins, who leapt back into the AFC East lead over Buffalo with the win.

Next Gen stat of the game: Tua Tagovailoa had almost all of his production targeting the seams, completing 18 of 25 passes for 262 yards and a TD.

NFL Research: The Dolphins' 30-0 lead over the Texans was Miami's second-largest first-half lead over the last 30 seasons. Their largest was a 41-0 lead in the first half in Week 7, 2015, also against the Texans.

Carolina Panthers
2022 · 4-8-0
Denver Broncos
2022 · 3-8-0

Michael Baca's takeaways:

  1. Return of Darnold wakes up Moore. Making his first start of the season, Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold led a mistake-free offense toward a comfortable win, maintaining the team's undefeated home record since interim coach Steve Wilks took over. Darnold's return enlivened wide receiver D.J. Moore, who had been held to under 30 receiving yards the past three games. Moore hauled in the Panthers' first offensive touchdown scored in the first quarter this season and went on to total four catches for 103 yards, his second game this year with 100-plus yards receiving. Moore's 52-yard reception to begin the fourth quarter was the type of splash play missing in Carolina, and Darnold seems to be the QB able enough to present those opportunities. With Carolina's defense dominant and its rushing attack consistent, Darnold (11-of-19 passing for 164 yards, TD) wasn't asked to do much but made a heady play at the goal line by rolling into the end zone after recovering his own fumble. The 25-year-old Darnold seems to be the man who can take advantage of Carolina's star receiver, and Wilks has already named him the starter for next week at Seattle.
  2. Wilson earns 300th career TD to little avail. A career milestone was reached by Russell Wilson with a late TD throw, but there was no celebrating another frustrating day on offense for the Broncos. With Wilson sitting at 299 since Week 10, getting that one TD has been rough sledding. Denver botched its first red-zone possession with three fruitless runs, and frustrations mounted in the lead-up to its only TD of the game in the fourth quarter. It took several tries to finally get there with a penalty and a review nixing would-be TD completions. A Panthers defensive penalty on fourth down then saved the Broncos from getting held out of the end zone completely, as Wilson finally found Brandon Johnson for a 1-yard score to become just the 14th QB in NFL history to reach 300 passing TDs, tying John Elway on the all-time list. Latavius Murray, who found his way to Denver in Week 4, led the team with 93 rushing yards on 13 carries (7.1 YPC) and was the only bright spot on an offense that is resorting to a change in play-callers to find something that works. Against a tough Carolina defense, the Broncos' offensive woes continued and the season-long annoyance was seen drawing frustrations on the sidelines among Broncos players.
  3. Burns continues record-threatening pace. Panthers pass rusher Brian Burns reared his head on just about every broken pass play by the Broncos, producing two sacks and a forced fumble turnover that led to points. Burns made life impossible for whichever unlucky tackle or tight end was assigned to block him as the 25-year-old also produced six pressures and three QB hits on the afternoon. Disrupting the backfield is something Burns has been able to do all season as he turned in his fourth straight game with at least one sack. The fourth-year pro boosted his season sack total to 10.0 on Sunday, and is well on pace for the franchise record of 15.0, co-held by Kevin Greene and Greg Hardy.

Next Gen stat of the day: D.J. Moore's six targets were on passes of 10-plus air yards (four receptions, 103 yards, TD).

NFL Research: Steve Wilks is the fourth coach with whom Sam Darnold has earned a QB win in his five-season NFL career (Todd Bowles, Adam Gase, Matt Rhule). Darnold is also the third QB to earn a win with the Panthers this season.

Cincinnati Bengals
2022 · 7-4-0
Tennessee Titans
2022 · 7-4-0

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. Joe Burrow gets another win over Tennessee. Cincinnati has its own demons to overcome in its division, but when it comes to fellow AFC contenders, the Bengals consistently find ways to get the job done. Count Sunday as the latest example, a game in which Burrow took the field without Joe Mixon and Ja'Marr Chase, but still managed to throw for more than 250 yards. It wasn't a statistical explosion, and the Bengals weren't stellar on third down, but Burrow and Co. made enough plays to once again take down the Titans. Plenty of credit is due to Tee Higgins (more on him later), but Cincinnati's defense deserves a game ball for how it largely contained Derrick Henry. His longest play (a screen pass that went for roughly 75 yards) ended in a Treylon Burks touchdown, but the Bengals nearly turned it into a takeaway thanks to a well-placed punch, forcing a Henry fumble. When it came to the ground game, the Bengals suffocated Henry, allowing an average of 2.2 yards per carry and forcing the Titans to throw 34 times. Much like their AFC Divisional Round showdown, the Bengals did just enough to win. In these matchups, that's what usually matters most.
  2. Small errors doom Titans. Tennessee didn't make a ton of mistakes Sunday and was effective on third down, limiting Cincinnati to 5 of 14, but the little misses ended up proving to be the difference in this game. Rookie Caleb Shudak made his NFL debut Sunday, just hours after he was officially elevated to the active roster, and converted his first two kicks. He pushed his third attempt wide right, though, costing the Titans a chance to take a lead into halftime. Tennessee remained very much within range of regaining the lead, with Shudak converting a field goal attempt late in the fourth to make it 20-16, but another special teams blunder -- Kevin Strong was penalized for contacting the long snapper on a late Bengals field goal -- gave Cincinnati a fresh set of downs, allowing the Bengals to kneel the remaining time off the clock. Instead of earning Ryan Tannehill one more opportunity to try to win the game, Strong's mistake ruined Tennessee's chances, bringing an entertaining battle to an anticlimactic end. As was the case for the Bengals in the point above, sometimes these little details make a huge difference. Tennessee walks away with another frustrating loss to Cincinnati.
  3. Tee Higgins deserves more love. The Bengals receiver is entrenched as the second fiddle to Chase, and when they're both on the field, they combine to make quite a receiving tandem. But Chase hasn't been able to play in the last two weeks due to injury, leaving Higgins as Cincinnati's best option. Instead of struggling, Higgins thrived Sunday, catching seven passes for 114 yards and a massively important touchdown in the fourth quarter. Most of his catches were rather difficult -- he caught two of three tight-window targets for 56 yards and a touchdown -- yet he consistently made them look easy, as he has for most of his career. Without Higgins, it's fair to wonder if the Bengals would have emerged victorious Sunday. It's time we redirect some of Chase's deserved praise toward Higgins, especially when his contributions made a huge difference for Cincinnati like they did Sunday.

Next Gen stat of the game: After facing a pressure rate over 32% in the AFC Divisional Round against the Titans last season, Joe Burrow was pressured on 18.4% of dropbacks Sunday.

NFL Research: The Bengals are the only team to play the Titans three or more times and remain undefeated against them since Mike Vrabel was hired in 2018.

Baltimore Ravens
2022 · 7-4-0

Eric Edholm's takeaways:

  1. Doug Pederson, Trevor Lawrence deliver their biggest Jaguars win. The start of the game was delayed by lightning, but the thunder didn't arrive in Jacksonville until much later. There were 33 points scored in the fourth quarter alone, as the Jaguars and Ravens jockeyed back and forth in a wonderfully entertaining late shootout. But in the end, it was the Jaguars who came out on top thanks to their three scoring drives in the final six minutes of the game. Lawrence led two touchdown drives of 75 yards, capping the last one with a 10-yard score to Marvin Jones and a two-point play to Zay Jones to gain the lead. It was the best drive of the season for Lawrence, no doubt. And though he lost a critical fumble in the third quarter that led to a two-score lead for the Ravens -- and almost coughed up another one with two minutes left -- Lawrence looked the part of a franchise quarterback. Pederson had nothing to lose going for two late, but it was the confidence he showed in Lawrence that made all the difference. We won't go overboard here, but it's not hard to see the light if you're a Jaguars fan, even with Lawrence occasionally looking sketchy versus pressure. By and large, days such as this might be foreshadowing for what could be a special QB-head coach combo in 2023.
  2. Ravens' first blown lead in several games stings badly. Entering Sunday, Baltimore's four-game win streak, with a couple of close ones in there, helped ease many minds over the Ravens' propensity for letting leads slip away late. Gone are both the win streak and the eased minds. The Ravens led, 19-10, for more than half the fourth quarter, but allowed the Jaguars to come back and take the lead, with a Gus Edwards fumble deep in his own end gifting Jacksonville the go-ahead field goal. To his credit, Lamar Jackson struck quickly to take back the lead. But for all his high points in this game, Jackson lost a fumble and misfired on half of his 32 passes. The Ravens also bogged down three times early in the red zone, kicking field goals that could have been TDs. And yet we'd be remiss not to mention the failures of the Ravens' defense late, allowing the Jaguars to come alive late after Baltimore had dominated them in the third quarter. This one is going to sting for the Ravens, who watched the Bengals match their 7-4 mark to tighten the AFC North even more.
  3. JaMycal Hasty comes up big with Travis Etienne out. Etienne went down late in the first quarter with a foot injury, and though he was seen on the sideline in full pads in the second half, he never returned to the field. Enter Hasty, who hadn't had more than four carries in a game this season. But he stepped into a surprisingly big role Sunday, carrying the ball 12 times for 28 yards and catching five passes for 67 yards, including a 28-yarder to give the Jaguars a second-quarter lead. Not bad for a player who had never had more than 13 touches or 73 yards from scrimmage in a game in his three-year career. He'd finish the game with three of the Jaguars' 10 longest plays from scrimmage. Hasty committed a late false start penalty that threatened to take him from hero to goat quickly, but the Jaguars helped atone for the mistake to come away with a big victory for a franchise that's ready to hang its hat on any positive developments.

NFL Research: The Jaguars had been 0-11 against teams entering the game four-plus games over .500 in the past five seasons, entering Week 12. (The Ravens entered the game with a 7-3 record.)

Next Gen stat of the game: Trevor Lawrence was 7-of-8 passing for 125 yards and two TDs on intermediate passes, his first career game with two-plus TDs on such passes.

Cleveland Browns
2022 · 4-7-0

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. Browns finally rewrite their script. Cleveland has often been a team that starts games with great opening touchdown drives, then disappears. In the Browns' last three losses, they've gone at least 44 minutes between their first and second touchdowns, and Sunday was no different. What changed for Cleveland, though, was its defense in crucial situations. The Browns overcame multiple pass interference penalties and unlikely positive Buccaneers gains to repeatedly stop Tampa Bay when they needed it most, buying their offense just enough time to mount a last-ditch effort to tie. Tight end David Njoku made the catch of his life on fourth down to tie it at 17 in the fourth quarter, and Jacoby Brissett's 46-yard completion to Amari Cooper set up a short Nick Chubb touchdown to win. The latter detail might be the most important of all: After falling short of getting Chubb to the 20-carry mark for most of 2022, Cleveland committed to handing the ball to its top back, who ripped off a 28-yard gain to set up the Njoku touchdown and finished off Tampa Bay with his overtime score. Chubb walked off the field with a final line of 26 carries, 116 yards and the deciding score, moving the Browns to 4-0 when he breaks the 20-carry mark. Head coach Kevin Stefanski might have finally learned that trusting Chubb gives his team its best chance of victory. It certainly did Sunday.
  2. Sunday proves to be a costly one for Buccaneers. Tampa Bay's secondary required a lot of attention from the training staff in Week 12, with a number of defensive backs going down with injury. Antoine Winfield Jr. left to be examined for a head injury before re-entering the game, and Mike Edwards and Carlton Davis exited before returning. The offensive side saw the worst of it, though, when Tristan Wirfs went down with an ankle injury that might end up proving to be the most significant. Tampa has already been forced to deal with enough losses up front, and Wirfs' exit hurts the most. The Buccaneers will wait to see just how serious it is, but it didn't look good Sunday -- and it might not bode well for them in the long run, especially for an offense that mustered just 17 points against the NFL's 22nd-ranked scoring defense. (Wirfs is expected to miss 3-4 weeks, per NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport.)
  3. Jacoby Brissett goes out on a good note. With Deshaun Watson's suspension set to end after Week 12, Sunday stood as Brissett's final anticipated start in 2022. He certainly made the most of it in what has been a career year for the veteran. Brissett completed 23 of 37 passes for 210 yards, one touchdown and a meaningless interception at the end of the first half, which dropped his passer rating but didn't impact the outcome. Brissett was sharp for most of the afternoon, even while under frequent duress from Tampa Bay's pass rush, and his completion to Cooper in overtime set up the game-winning touchdown. Cleveland had plenty of reasons to lose yet another game Sunday, but Brissett didn't lose faith, continuing to take chances when available. Though it required a heroic catch, Brissett's touchdown pass to Njoku was perfectly placed and gave the Browns new life when they were staring at another defeat. He's far from perfect, but he was undoubtedly good enough to help the Browns get back in the win column. He deserves plenty of praise for his efforts this season.

Next Gen stat of the game: David Njoku's game-tying touchdown catch had a completion probability of 27.6%, the fifth-most improbable reception of his career.

NFL Research: Amari Cooper recorded his fifth game with 90-plus receiving yards this season. He's averaging nine receptions and 106.5 receiving yards in four career games versus Tampa Bay, ranking fourth among receivers in both categories since 2000 (minimum three games played against Tampa Bay).

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