Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 14 of the 2022 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:
Grant Gordon's takeaways:
- Herbert outduels Tua by a landslide. The game was close, but the much-ballyhooed showdown between Tua Tagovailoa, the 2020 NFL Draft's No. 5 overall pick, and Justin Herbert, the 2020 No. 6 selection, wasn't close. If it was a prizefight, Herbert would've won on a stoppage. Herbert was marvelous on Sunday night, while Tagovailoa was dreadful. On a prime-time stage filled with stars on both teams, Herbert shined and looked very much to be the best player on the field for most of the evening. With just 82 yards rushing, the Chargers offense was on Herbert's shoulders, and he completed 39 of 51 passes for 367 yards and a 10-yard second-quarter touchdown to Mike Williams. The TD gave the Chargers a 10-0 lead they somehow didn't relinquish. Herbert made beautiful throws, showed great pocket presence against the rush and was phenomenal on the run (he had a Next Gen Stats record with 13 completions on the run, which went for 97 yards and the TD). The Chargers are on the right side of the playoff bubble after this win and Herbert led them there.
- Healthy Williams makes an impact. Like so many Chargers this season, wide receiver Mike Williams has struggled to stay healthy. Playing in only his second game since Week 7 on Sunday night due to an ankle ailment, Williams looked healthy and outstanding. A consummate big-play wideout, Williams hauled in six catches for 116 yards and a ridiculously splendid 10-yard score in which he somehow made a sterling grab on a high ball and got both feet down inside the back of the end zone. The Bolts are 3-1 this season when Williams hits 100 yards receiving. More often than not, when Williams is making big plays, the Chargers are successful.
- Tagovailoa, Dolphins offense has ugliest of outings. The Dolphins offense is likely to collectively rejoice when it returns to South Beach. Miami's offense didn't travel with it on its West Coast swing. Last week against a sensational 49ers defense, the Dolphins were held to 17 points. But coming into Week 14, the Dolphins had the No. 4 offense going against the Chargers' No. 26 defense. When all was settled Sunday, the Dolphins had 17 points again and just 219 total net yards. Tyreek Hill accounted for both touchdowns, but one came on a fluke of a play in which a Jeff Wilson fumble bounced back to him and he motored 57 yards for a jaw-dropping, what-just-happened TD. Hill checked in again for a 60-yard score, but it was one of very few Tagovailoa passes that found their mark. Amid a season in which he's been celebrated and rightfully so, Tagovailoa had a horrendous night at the office to the tune of 10-of-28 passing for 145 yards, the TD and a 65.3 rating. His 35.7 completion percentage was the worst in a game since Sam Darnold with the Jets in 2019 (34.4%) and the worst for the franchise since David Woodley in 1980 (31%), per NFL Research. And his stats actually look better than the film. He and Jaylen Waddle (two catches for 31 yards) didn't seem to be in the same book, much less on the same page, and Hill's speed was the only saving grace. The Dolphins don't return home until Week 16. Before that comes an AFC East showdown at Buffalo. The Miami offense needs to wake up before then if it wants to have a shot at defeating the Bills once again.
Next Gen stat of the game: Tua Tagovailoa was 3-of-13 for 14 yards on passes with 2.5 seconds or more to throw. He had a 109.6 passer rating on such passes from Weeks 1-13.
NFL Research: Justin Herbert (13,056 passing yards) set a new record for the most yards passing in a player's first three seasons all time, passing the Colts' Andrew Luck (12,957). Herbert also joined the Dolphins' Dan Marino (98) as the only QBs to throw 90 or more touchdowns over their first three seasons in NFL history.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- The Brock Purdy legend grows. Years from now, Tom Brady can grab his grandkids and tell them quite the story: "Kids, once upon a time, Grandpa Tom played against Brock Purdy ... in his first NFL start." And it no doubt will blow their minds. By then, Purdy will be entering his 18th NFL season, attempting to overtake Brady's Super Bowl ring mark. Wait, too strong a reaction to Purdy's effort against the Buccaneers? Perhaps. But it was hard not to be impressed at Purdy's poise and touch, purloining the attention away from Brady in his return to the Bay Area. Purdy completed 16 of 21 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a TD, all while dominating the Bucs so much that FOX switched over to Sam Darnold versus Geno Smith mid-third quarter. And here's another wild one: In the second quarter alone on Sunday, Purdy completed more deep, outside-the-numbers TD passes (two) than Jimmy Garoppolo has had over the past three seasons combined. Christian McCaffrey and Garoppolo have the same number of such passes this season (one). The second of those Purdy TDs came right before halftime after Purdy appeared to have a first-half pick, but the Bucs were called for defensive holding on the play. On the next snap, Purdy went vertical -- taking a shot after the ball left his hand -- and delivered to Brandon Aiyuk to make it a stunning 28-zip lead for San Francisco. What was most striking was Kyle Shanahan's trust level in the former Mr. Irrelevant. Shanahan was giving him chances to make plays, not just not lose the game in his first start. Which looms large, considering …
- Deebo Samuel's injury could be another cruel plot twist for 49ers. In a nearly perfect game for the 49ers, there was one big caveat. Just before halftime, Samuel was tackled by Bucs defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches and lost a fumble while his left leg was rolled up under Nunez-Roches' leg. When Samuel was eventually carted off the field (after staying on the ground in pain for some time), the entire 49ers sideline was on the field to support him. You love to see the love, but that's rarely a good sign. It was called a knee injury before being switched to his left ankle. The 49ers have had brutal injury luck this season. Due for a dose of good news, however, the early word is that it might not be a season-ender as Shanahan indicated Samuel likely suffered a high ankle sprain. Prior to the injury, Samuel was having another strong game with 69 yards from scrimmage on eight touches, scoring the first TD of the game. You can understand why Samuel fought so hard on his extension earlier this year to be paid commensurately with taxing running duties, and the first-quarter rush TD did activate a nice $150,000 bonus in his contract. But obviously, the concern is over his health. If Purdy plays at the same level he did Sunday every game and Samuel can return to the field this season, perhaps the 49ers still have realistic post-Garoppolo Super Bowl dreams.
- Buccaneers offense is downright hard to watch at times. We've written variations of this throughout what has been a trying season for Tampa Bay, but it's just so remarkable how labored and unnatural everything looks offensively. Even the "good" plays seem to end up poor in the end, as Sunday proved. Brady hit Mike Evans for what appeared to be a 68-yard TD pass, but Donovan Smith was called for a hold to wipe it out. Smith's hold last week against the Saints wiped out Brady's would-be game-winner before Tampa scored the next play. It was Smith's ninth penalty of the season and his third hold in a 13-minute game span going back to last week. After that play, Brady completed four of his next seven passes but only for 14 yards as the Niners upped their lead from 7-0 to 21-0. And they'd never look back. Brady ended up throwing for only 253 yards on 55 attempts, taking seven QB hits and throwing two bad picks. One might wonder why Brady was even playing in the fourth quarter -- with an injured hand, no less -- but it could be argued (unironically) that the Bucs offense actually needs the reps. That's how bad it has gotten this season. Tampa's defense (missing Antoine Winfield Jr. and Mike Edwards) didn't help matters with several big penalties and allowing Purdy to carve it up early on. But even against a high-quality 49ers defense, the struggles of the Bucs offense remain a huge mystery as the playoffs near ever closer. Oh, and by the way, the Falcons and Panthers are currently only one game back of the 6-7 Bucs in the NFC South. Yikes.
Next Gen stat of the game: Christian McCaffrey was expected to gain only 5 yards when he ran for a 38-yard TD run. McCaffrey reached a top speed of 20.27 mph on the run, his first play over 20 mph as a ball carrier since Week 9 of the 2019 season.
NFL Research: Brock Purdy is the first QB to beat Tom Brady while making his first career NFL start, with Brady 6-0 previously in those situations. Those other six QBs had a combined QB rating of 79.1 compared to Purdy's 134.0 rating on Sunday.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Panthers keep pounding rock, churn way to road win. Carolina ran over Seattle from the jump, controlling the line of scrimmage and playing bully ball. The Panthers rushed 46 times for a whopping 223 yards. Steve Wilks' club used a committee approach, and each gobbled up chunk gains. D'Onta Foreman (21 carries for 74 yards) and Chuba Hubbard (14/74/1) gashed the middle of a Seahawks defense missing key run stoppers. Undrafted rookie Raheem Blackshear added to the party, popping four carries for 32 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers offensive line mashing holes allowed Carolina to control the clock (39:16 time of possession). Carolina generated five drives of nine-plus plays and earned 24 first downs, including 14 on the ground. After Seattle turned a 17-0 deficit into a three-point game, Carolina took the air out of the ball. Following a goal-line failure, the Panthers rushed it 17 times on 19 plays. The plan milked the clock and blew the game open.
- Geno Smith has first multi-INT game of the season. The two miscues led to 10 Panthers first-half points, which dug Seattle into a hole. Sans Kenneth Walker III, Seattle's run game was nonexistent against a Panthers defense that ranked 25th against the rush. The lack of a consistent ground game in recent weeks feels like sacrilege for a Pete Carroll club, but it's who they are in 2022. Facing a good Panthers secondary led by Jeremy Chinn and Jaycee Horn, Smith had his least-efficient passing game of the season, completing 58.3% of his passes (a season-low) for 264 yards with three TDs and two interceptions. Seattle will be kicking itself for three consecutive punts -- including two bad three-and-outs -- in the second half with a chance to turn the tide. The third loss in four games drops Seattle out of playoff position and sets up a must-win game against NFC West rival San Francisco on Thursday.
- Can Steve Wilks' defense spearhead a postseason surge? Frankie Luvu was all over the field again Sunday, collecting a sack, two QB hits, two tackles for loss, and a pass defensed. Luvu is the thorn in the side of every offense Carolina faces. Alongside Shaq Thompson, Chinn and Horn, the Panthers own a defense that smothers opponents. The victory, coupled with Tampa Bay's blowout loss in San Francisco, thrusts the Panthers into a legit chance to swipe the dismal NFC South. Carolina (5-8) sits one game behind Tampa (6-7) with games against the Steelers, Lions, Bucs and Saints left. When he took over, Wilks promised his squad would battle, play good defense and offer a hardnosed rushing attack. The Panthers ticked each of those boxes Sunday in Seattle.
Next gen stat of the game: Jaycee Horn aligned across from DK Metcalf on 30 of 38 routes in Week 14 (79% shadow rate). Horn allowed three receptions for 49 yards on six targets to Metcalf.
NFL Research: Tyler Lockett has scored a receiving TD in six consecutive games (longest streak in Seahawks history). The last player to score at least one receiving TD in six consecutive games within a season was Davante Adams (eight-game streak) with the Packers in 2020.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Kansas City's backfield explodes. For the first 25 minutes of Sunday's game, the Chiefs were doing what they typically do against most teams: score in bunches. Kansas City sprinted out to a 27-0 lead thanks to two big-time plays in the passing game from Jerick McKinnon, who caught a desperate toss of a pass from Patrick Mahomes and took it 56 yards for a score, then caught another pass from Mahomes and sliced through traffic for his second touchdown, this time from 10 yards out. That was it for touchdowns from the Chiefs until some Mahomes magic produced another touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster from four yards out to make it 34-21. Kansas City can bank on these types of performances from Mahomes at this point, but what was somewhat unexpected was how it closed the game. McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco handled the ball on all but one play of Kansas City's final possession prior to Mahomes taking knees, with Pacheco's bulldozing 10-yard run emphatically sealing the win for the Chiefs, capping a 13-carry, 70-yard outing for the rookie. A two-headed attack of Pacheco and McKinnon likely isn't what most expected to see from Kansas City entering 2022, but it's working for them, especially when it comes to Pacheco. It certainly did Sunday, and there's no reason to believe it won't in the weeks ahead, especially after racking up 431 yards of offense against the NFL's third-ranked defense.
- Broncos show some life for the first time in ages. The NFL's lowest-scoring team looked up at the scoreboard with 4:32 left in the first half and discovered it was buried in a deep hole, facing what looked like an insurmountable 27-0 deficit with no reason to believe things would get better soon. Then, in seemingly a few blinks of the eyes, the Broncos put 21 points on the board and were right back in the contest. Denver's offense, a massively disappointing, discombobulated collection of 11 position players, suddenly figured out how to move the football just before halftime Sunday, and Jerry Jeudy became the star of the Broncos' turnaround, catching two touchdown passes in a span of 1:21. Russell Wilson transformed from a regressing quarterback into an effective playmaker, connecting with Jeudy, receiver Kendall Hinton and rookie tight end Greg Dulcich for completions, and picking up key yards with his legs to help the Broncos score in a hurry. The least surprising detail of all: The first two touchdowns came via short fields created by Denver takeaways. The Broncos sustained this momentum into the third quarter, covering 75 yards in five plays, with 66 coming on a screen to Marlon Mack in which the veteran did the rest, sprinting through the middle of the Kansas City defense and stiff-arming a would-be tackler before stumbling across the goal line for a triumphant score. The only thing that truly slowed Denver's offensive outburst was a concussion suffered by Wilson on another scramble. Brett Rypien produced points on that possession thanks to a perfect touchdown pass to Jeudy -- his third receiving score of the day -- but from there, that was it. Denver's season has been incredibly frustrating, but for a couple of quarters Sunday, Denver had reason to believe its expectations weren't entirely unrealistic. We'll see if it ends up proving to be anything more than a fleeting moment of joy.
- The Chiefs still need to get it together defensively. Yes, Kansas City did force two turnovers, but they weren't Herculean plays. They did make a difference, of course, with the first interception being returned by Willie Gay Jr. for a touchdown, and the second pick (on a deflected throw) ending Denver's comeback hopes. But overall, the Chiefs should be at least a little concerned with their performance on that side of the ball. Kansas City owns an average defense in terms of yards and scoring, and it's proven to be fairly bad against the pass, ranking 23rd entering Sunday and allowing Wilson to complete 23 of 36 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns (with one interception). Denver's offensive outburst was worrisome, considering its putrid state for most of the season. As we learned last week in Cincinnati, this won't fly against better teams. The Chiefs have one month left to fix things before they get real.
Next Gen stat of the game: Marlon Mack's 66-yard touchdown reception included plus-41 yards after catch over expected, the most YACOE on a single reception by a Denver receiver since Week 10 of the 2021 season.
NFL Research: Patrick Mahomes is now 10-0 against the Broncos, becoming the fourth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to have 10-plus wins without a loss against a single opponent, joining Andrew Luck (11-0 vs. TEN), Tom Brady (10-0 vs. ATL) and John Elway (10-0 vs. NE).
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Jalen Hurts authors MVP performance in demolition of division rival. The Eagles offense is so effortless when it's rolling. With all day in the pocket, Hurts diced up the Giants with his arm in the first half. The quarterback dropped deep bombs of 41 yards and 33 yards for touchdowns as Philly sprinted to a big lead. The Eagles opened the game with a 14-play, 84-yard TD drive, and followed it up with a 12-play, 91-yard scoring drive. After a botched Giants punt, Hurts hit A.J. Brown with a 33-yard TD the next play. The game felt over. Hurts had the answer for everything Big Blue threw at him. Free rusher in his face on third down, Hurts flips a dime to the sideline to move the chains. Drop into coverage, he finds Brown for a score. Then when New York threatened to make it close in the second half, the Eagles offense essentially said, "Fine, we'll just run with our All-World QB," who dashed for a rushing score to make it a 20-point game in the third quarter. Credit goes to the offensive line, which gives Hurts a ton of time in the pocket and creates gaping holes in the run game. The Philly offense steamrolls opponents when the pass and run are clicking like Sunday.
- Giants don't have playmakers to keep pace. Big Blue failed to generate any big plays before the score got out of hand. New York's longest play before the final quarter was a Daniel Jones 17-yard run. Getting down big off the bat didn't allow New York to hammer the Eagles' run D with Saquon Barkley. Jones and the offense couldn't generate consistency, with zero drives in the first half netting more than two first downs. A blocked punt set up New York's only first-half points. The lack of threats on the outside allowed the Eagles' defensive line to tee off on the quarterback. A compilation of swings and short throws isn't going to work against a Philly D with linebackers who flow to the ball. While the Eagles offense looked effortless, New York was pulling teeth to get first downs. One team sports stars, the other No. 3 and 4 wideouts.
- Eagles clinch playoff berth. The victory moved Philly to an NFL-best 12-1, clinching a postseason spot with four games remaining. Next on the docket is an NFC East title. Philly owns a two-game lead in the division following Dallas' comeback victory over Houston. The Vikings' loss in Detroit on Sunday gives Philly a stranglehold over Minnesota for the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye. For New York, the loss is a big blow to its playoff chances. At 7-5-1, Big Blue has a massive game against Washington next week, which could be a de facto playoff game.
Next Gen stat of the game: Jalen Hurts has more than twice as many carries (32) and first downs (19) than any other QB on designed runs in the red zone in 2022.
NFL Research: Jalen Hurts rushed for his 10th touchdown of the season. He joins Cam Newton as the only QBs in NFL history with 10-plus rushing touchdowns in multiple seasons and is the first to ever reach the mark in consecutive seasons.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas D-line essentially saved the Cowboys. Things were not looking good for Dallas when Dak Prescott threw an interception (his first in the second half this season) deep in his own territory, setting up the Texans with a golden opportunity at the Dallas 4-yard line with Houston clinging to a three-point lead. A touchdown there makes it incredibly tough for the Cowboys to beat a one-win, one-tie team at home. But on third-and-goal from the 1, Lawrence knifed into the backfield for a massive tackle for loss on Rex Burkhead, kicking the Texans back to the 3-yard line. Houston opted to go for it on fourth but was stopped when quarterback Jeff Driskel appeared to reverse pivot the wrong way on a speed option. Carlos Watkins, who made the tackle at the 1-yard line on second-and-goal, had tremendous penetration on the fourth-down stop. It shouldn't have been this hard, but Dak and the offense led them down on a 98-yard game-winning drive thereafter. But without the goal-line stop, the rest might have been moot.
- The Texans have a good one in Jalen Pitre. It wasn't hard to find bright sides for the Texans in the loss because most of their losses aren't this impressive. However, a big one has to be the rookie safety Pitre, who now has stacked some impressive games. The second-rounder led Houston in tackles with 12 and passes defensed with two. He absolutely walloped James Washington to break up one potential catch and then stepped in front of Cowboys wide receiver Noah Brown to make a big pass breakup. The latter was especially impressive because Pitre showed veteran poise not to make contact with Brown, timing up his hit perfectly. This is why the Texans used a top-40 pick on Pitre. He's a tone-setter who can cover, run and hit. He could be a gem for this team for a long time.
- The Cowboys need to flush this ugly performance quickly. Dallas finishes the regular season with four tough games, three of them on the road. Every win will be crucial. The Cowboys might be 10-3 now, but they're currently staring at the No. 5 seed and a road playoff game unless they can overtake the Eagles in the NFC East down the stretch. Losing Sunday would have made that nearly impossible. The Cowboys still have a shot, but they can't afford another performance of that quality again. Almost losing at home to a team that rotated Davis Mills and Jeff Driskel at QB is nearly grounds for playoff expulsion. Yet Houston had the Cowboys on the ropes all game and was two or three plays away from pulling a stunner. This is one of the worst offenses in the NFL, yet the Texans moved the ball pretty consistently. The Cowboys offense was stuffed in a goal-to-go situation and turned it over twice. Houston won the special teams battle in a big way. Dallas faces a suddenly hot Jaguars team, the Eagles at home and the last two on the road (at Tennessee and Washington). It'll have to play far cleaner games in those than it did Sunday.
Next Gen stat of the game: Dak Prescott was 6-of-14 passing for 148 yards and an interception on passes of 10-plus air yards in Week 14 (five touchdowns, eight interceptions on such passes this season).
NFL Research: New Texans wide receiver Amari Rodgers had more receiving yards from Jeff Driskel (28) and Davis Mills (29) in Week 14 than he ever had in a full game with Aaron Rodgers at QB (22 was his single-game high with the Packers).
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Welcome back, J.K. Dobbins. With Lamar Jackson out of the lineup, Baltimore's lead back picked a perfect day to return to form. Dobbins powered the Ravens offense throughout the afternoon, ripping off a 44-yard run to set up his own 4-yard touchdown for Baltimore's only trip to the end zone all day. His 120 yards on 15 carries amounted to a staggering average of eight yards per attempt, and he wasn't alone. Gus Edwards took his 2.9 yards-per-carry average of the last two weeks and nearly doubled it, gaining 66 yards on 13 attempts. Their combined efforts accounted for 186 yards and one touchdown, and when Tyler Huntley exited due to a head injury, the backfield duo became even more important. Edwards even put the game away, rushing for 13 yards between first and third down to gain the fresh set of downs necessary to run out the remaining clock. Third-string quarterback Anthony Brown didn't need to do much in this one, thanks to his team's rushing attack, which returned to form at just the right time.
- Mitchell Trubisky meets Baltimore's defense. Roquan Smith deserves a gold star for his performance Sunday, sacking Kenny Pickett to force an early stop (and unfortunately knocking the rookie out of the game), and his interception of Trubisky ended a promising Steelers drive midway through the second quarter. That was just the first of a few key takeaways for Baltimore, which intercepted Trubisky three times, including a fantastic play in coverage by Patrick Queen and a deep interception made by Marcus Williams, who slid over the top of a deep Trubisky pass intended for Diontae Johnson to wipe out another scoring opportunity for Pittsburgh. Those three turnovers kept the Steelers offense at bay just enough to allow Baltimore's rushing attack to preserve its lead. When we talk about complementary football, we can point to this game as an example -- even if it wasn't all that pretty.
- Pittsburgh receives a dose of reality. The loss of Pickett undoubtedly hurt the Steelers' chances on Sunday, and it also reminded their fans of the importance of the position. Trubisky showed flashes of potentially leading the Steelers to victory, especially on their five-play, 75-yard touchdown drive inside the game's final three minutes, but when viewed as a full game, it simply wasn't enough. After averaging 4.6 yards per carry in Weeks 10-13, Pittsburgh's rushing attack came back to earth, gaining just 65 yards on 20 attempts, hurting the Steelers' chances of moving the ball effectively with Trubisky forced into action. We were reminded of Trubisky's shortcomings, sure, but the lasting impression is that of a team that still lacks firepower, even with the young talent on its roster. Steelers fans will wonder if this one could've gone differently had Pickett remained in the game, which is encouraging for the franchise's long-term perspective, but frustrating on Sunday. It also stands as a reminder that the Steelers likely aren't a playoff team in 2022, even if their recent run gave their fans temporary hope.
Next Gen stat of the game: J.K. Dobbins thrived against Pittsburgh's defense Sunday, gaining 75 yards and scoring one touchdown on eight rushes attempted versus stacked boxes.
NFL Research: Justin Tucker's 42-yard field goal put the first points on the board for Baltimore on Sunday, and also moved him past kicker Matt Stover as the Ravens' all-time leading scorer in franchise history (1,466 points).
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Bills survive despite offensive struggles. The Jets defense once again gave Josh Allen and the Buffalo offense fits, generating pressure and smothering Bills wideouts all game. The contest opened as a punt-fest, with 10 consecutive drives ending in a boot. Buffalo generated just three first downs over its first five drives. Then Allen and Co. hit their stride, scoring on four consecutive possessions to work up a 20-7 lead. But three consecutive three-and-outs gave the Jets a chance to pull even late. Allen was off the mark on a host of throws as the offense went a woeful 2 of 13 on third downs and generated 232 yards of offense (compared to 309 for the Jets). With Stefon Diggs (three receptions for 32 yards) held in check, Allen's biggest plays came on the move, finding Dawson Knox for a half-ending touchdown and rushing for a tie-breaking score. It wasn't pretty, as Allen's 5.4 yards per attempt was his worst of the season, but games usually aren't pretty against this Jets D. All that matters in Buffalo, however, is a victory that gets it another step closer to a potential first-round bye.
- Mike White battles through injury as Jets come up short. No one can question the toughness of the Gang Green QB. White stood fearless in the pocket, taking several massive shots but delivering the ball. The QB exited twice due to injury only to return (good thing, too, because Joe Flacco looked decrepit against the Bills D in his brief appearances). With Tony Romo speculating that White suffered cracked ribs (something the former Cowboys QB knows a thing or two about), the Jets QB made a host of big-time throws. His timing and ball placement on out routes to Garrett Wilson is sublime and underscore the difference between White and Zach Wilson. White finished 27-of-44 passing for 268 yards while taking three sacks. But the Jets' slow first half, coupled with two fumbles (Flacco, Michael Carter), killed New York's chances of sweeping the season series against Buffalo.
- Gregory Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa step up for Bills defensive front. With Von Miller out for the rest of the season, Buffalo needs its young edge rushers to pick up the slack. Sunday, they did just that against a Jets offensive line that has struggled this season. Rousseau stuffed the stat sheet, earning two sacks, two QB hits, a tackle for loss, five QB pressures, a key batted pass and a strip of Flacco. Epenesa also played in the backfield, earning a sack and a forced fumble. The Bills applied pressure from every angle, with seven players generating at least three pressures, per Next Gen Stats. As usual, Matt Milano was all over the field, making massive plays in space. But moving forward, all eyes will be on the edge rushers stepping up to the plate. Sunday was an example of the talent still on the Bills' line, even with Miller out.
Next Gen stat of the game: Mike White was pressured on 19 of 47 dropbacks (40.4%; 19.5% in previous two starts). He was 7-of-16 for 95 yards when under pressure (20-of-28 for 173 yards when not pressured).
NFL Research: Garrett Wilson (868 yards through Sunday) passed Keyshawn Johnson (844) for the most receiving yards by a rookie in Jets history.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- The Lions are in the playoff hunt. Yes, you read that right. At the start of November, the Lions stood at 1-6 as the Dan Campbell afterglow appeared to be fading hard. The offense had hit the skids and the defense was tattered. Coaches were getting fired, and things were starting to look a bit ugly. But all of a sudden, the Lions have ripped off five wins in six games and are now one win away from .500. The Lions still have a ton of work left, and no team has made the playoffs after a 1-6 start, but they have an outside shot now following a massive win over the Vikings. The Lions are 3-1 in the NFC North and have a big head-to-head victory over the suddenly sinking Giants that could prove big come playoff tiebreaker time. But for now, let's just appreciate how far this team fell and how much it bounced back in a season many had written off. Even if the Lions don't reach the promised land this postseason, we expect them to receive the 2021 Dolphins treatment next offseason; the team that goes on a hot streak but misses the playoffs often is labeled next year's sleepers. It might be quite warranted here. Besides, how do you not love a team that throws to an offensive lineman as it did to Penei Sewell (and gains a first down) on third-and-7 in a one-score game with two-plus minutes late?
- The Vikings defense could be a problem come playoff time. The Lions became the fifth straight opponent that has racked up 400-plus yards of offense against Minnesota's defense. Outside of the opening-series three-and-out and their final drive when they were trying to bleed clock and tack on a field goal, the Lions gained at least 36 yards on each of their other eight possessions. The Vikings knew it would be tough without safety Harrison Smith in the game, but this was not the first bad defensive performance of the season. Is this Vikings team good enough to overcome that in the playoffs? We're not sure. Kirk Cousins has had a strong season, Justin Jefferson is an alien and Dalvin Cook can carry a team in January. But this offense has had five games with 24 or fewer points this season, and that might not work in the postseason. Cook's fumble on a bizarre jump pass on first-and-goal right before halftime proved that one bad play by the offense can change the complexion of a game quickly.
- Jameson Williams is finally unleashed for the Lions. Following his eight-snap debut last week, Williams had the training wheels taken off in Week 14. The first-round pick caught his first career pass Sunday, which just so happened to be a 41-yard touchdown that gave the Lions an early 7-0 lead. Williams was so wide open on the play, Jared Goff could have pooch punted it to him. To be fair, that TD was more about the Vikings' busted coverage, and they missed the injured Smith more than once on Sunday. Williams later had a drop on an easily catchable pass and wasn't targeted the remainder of the game. It was clear the Lions had a package of plays for Williams, and he's still gearing up to top speed after the torn ACL he suffered less than a year ago this week. But if Williams can keep ramping up each week, he has a chance to be a difference maker in what could be Detroit's first playoff push in years. And again, even if they come up short of that goal, the future of the Lions' receiving corps is in great shape. They have Williams, Amon-Ra St. Brown and D.J. Chark, plus others, on affordable deals next year and might have the makings of a really nice group for Goff going forward.
Next Gen stat of the game: Justin Jefferson gained 190 of his 223 yards against press coverage in Week 14, the most in a game since Julio Jones in Week 4 of 2016 season (254 yards). The most yards versus press coverage since 2020 is Jefferson with 1,889; Davante Adams with 1,416; and Diontae Johnson with 1,168.
NFL Research: The Lions have scored 25 or more points in five straight games for the first time since 1954. This ties the single-season franchise record.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Ja'Marr Chase proves his importance. In just the first quarter, Cincinnati lost two of its top three receivers to injuries. Tyler Boyd left after two plays with a finger injury, and Tee Higgins exited after one snap due to a hamstring he aggravated during pregame warmups. That left Joe Burrow with a pass-catching corps largely reliant on Chase, Trenton Irwin and Trent Taylor, with Chase leading the way by a wide margin. The star receiver caught 10 of 15 targets for 119 of Cincinnati's 227 net passing yards and a touchdown he likely didn't see coming until the pass had arrived in his stomach. He was a constant problem for Cleveland's secondary, even drawing a pass interference penalty on Denzel Ward to pick up 33 yards on the Bengals' first touchdown drive of the day. Without Chase, it's tough to envision the Bengals winning this game, especially considering how slowly they started offensively. But because Chase was available, Cincinnati walked away with a win that wasn't as difficult as the score might indicate. Chase carries that type of game-changing potential every time he steps on the field, and on Sunday, it was enough.
- Browns waste opportunity with sloppy play. Unlike last week's game, Deshaun Watson was not the problem for Cleveland on Sunday. Watson was sharp for most of the afternoon, completing 17 of his first 23 passes for 201 yards and his first touchdown with the team before desperation tanked his final numbers. Watson's worst two mistakes were brutal -- his pass intended for Donovan Peoples-Jones was intercepted by Jessie Bates early in the fourth, and his final attempt to Amari Cooper on fourth down was slightly off target -- but overall, he kept the Browns in the game with his arm and legs. The team as a whole, though, was incredibly undisciplined, committing nine accepted penalties for 89 yards. At one point, Cleveland had more penalty yards than Chase had receiving yards, and Cincinnati's first touchdown drive was largely built on Browns penalty yards. Cleveland was flagged for roughing the kicker on a punt, producing the start of that drive, and a third-down sack was nullified by an illegal hands to the face penalty. Every time the Browns appeared to succeed, their mistakes doomed them. They are undoubtedly a 5-8 team that had its chances to win on Sunday but certainly didn't deserve a victory. The bright side: Watson wasn't nearly as rusty as he was in his debut.
- Cincinnati's defense puts together a stellar performance. Based on their play Sunday, the Bengals might have taken this rematch personally. Cincinnati gave up over 140 rushing yards to Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in their first meeting, and set out Sunday to shut that element of Cleveland's offense down. Shut it down, they did, holding Chubb to 2.4 yards per carry and Hunt to 1.5, effectively eliminating half of the Browns offense and creating countless third-and-long situations for Watson to attempt to convert. As stout as they were up front, the Bengals were just as good on the back end of their defense, forcing Cleveland to punt four times and denying half of Cleveland's six fourth-down attempts, including a pass breakup in the end zone on a pivotal fourth-and-goal. Rookie Cam Taylor-Britt was responsible for that PBU, which capped a stellar afternoon for the Nebraska product tasked with handling one-on-one coverage on a number of snaps. Cincinnati didn't have its best showing offensively -- although I will admit, that flea-flicker touchdown was marvelous -- but thanks to its defense, it can finally mark a tally in the win column against the Browns for the first time since 2019.
Next Gen stat of the game: Joe Burrow thrived against single-high safety shells, completing 9 of 13 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Against split-safety shells, he completed just 9 of 20 passes for 118 yards, one touchdown and an interception (caught by Deion Jones off a pass deflected by Jadeveon Clowney).
NFL Research: Ja'Marr Chase has 2,276 receiving yards and 20 receiving touchdowns in his career, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss as the only players in NFL history with 2,000-plus receiving yards and 20-plus receiving touchdowns prior to his 23rd birthday. Bonus fact: After a trick play resulted in a sack of Chase, the second-year wideout joined Davante Adams (Week 1 of this season) and former Broncos star Brandon Marshall (Week 14, 2007) as the only players with 10-plus receptions in a game in which they were also sacked.
Michael Baca's takeaways:
- Lawrence enjoys his finest hour in Tennessee. Putting up a career-high 368 yards and accounting for all four of his team's touchdowns, Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence secured a big divisional road victory off what should be considered the 23-year-old's best game to date. Lawrence's number was called early and often as the Jaguars' rushing attack was non-existent all afternoon. He completed 30 of 42 passes with three touchdowns and added a heady rushing score amid the 29 unanswered points Jacksonville rattled off from the first quarter on to make it a one-sided affair. Tight end Evan Engram was the main benefactor of Lawrence's spectacular day, catching 11 balls for 162 yards and two TDs as a reliable safety valve for the Jags QB once he was flushed out of the pocket. Lawrence was just as decisive and accurate when given time to throw and could've easily had a bigger stat line if it were at all necessary as the passing game played downhill. Though Lawrence had already shown signs of growth in his second season, Sunday's performance against the Titans was the type of slam-dunk outing that could spark residual effects throughout the rest of the team and bring assurance to Jacksonville going forward. It was also a big one for a franchise trying to turn a corner, as Lawrence delivered the first Jaguars win in Tennessee since 2013.
- Jaguars defense brings the pain and the turnovers. Jacksonville forced four turnovers and parlayed all of them into points to come out of Nashville with a win. The hard-hitting play the Titans encountered produced several mistakes that aided the Jaguars' dominance. Rookie pass rusher Travon Walker strip-sacked Ryan Tannehill in the first quarter to begin the mistake parade; Andrew Wingard then picked off the Titans QB on a confounding route where the wideout seemingly heard footsteps; Shaquille Quarterman laid a massive, highlight-reel hit on Derrick Henry to force a fumble at the end of the first half to halt a threatening Titans drive, and the Jags' impending threat off the edge and up the middle induced Henry's second fumble of the day on a botched direct snap. Josh Allen, Arden Key, and Foley Fatukasi each found a sack and their pressure as a collective allowed the Jags secondary to take risks successfully. At the end of the day, the Jags forced four turnovers, five three-and-outs and a turnover on downs in the Titans' final possession to cap a big win.
- Limited offense the impetus to Titans' struggles, three-game losing streak. Everything seemed fine for Tennessee after Henry produced a career-high 96 yards in the opening frame, including a 50-yard scamper, several crowd-pleasing romps and the game's first score. But what seemed to be another classic rock fight from the pesky Titans turned ugly quick once the turnovers started happening. Tannehill was pressured on 40.5% of dropbacks, according to Next Gen Stats, and all it took was one stop of a Henry run on any given series to pit the rhythm-less Titans into their discomfort zone with third-and-longs. Without leading wideout (Treylon Burks) on the field, Tannehill struggled to find any open receivers in the allotted time he was given and the offense failed to sustain long possessions after opening the game with a 10-play, 66-yard TD drive. The turnovers made things all that much worse as the normally stout Titans defense was burnt out midway through the third quarter. The home loss should sting in Tennessee and perhaps serve as a wake-up call for a Mike Vrabel squad that hasn't lost three in a row since the 2018 season.
Next Gen stat of the day: Trevor Lawrence went 9-of-13 for 154 yards and two touchdowns on passes of 10-plus air yards versus Tennessee; six touchdowns, zero interceptions on passes of 10-plus air yards since Week 9 (11 TD, 15 INT in first 25 career games).
NFL Research: Evan Engram became just the sixth Jaguars tight end to eclipse the 100-yard mark and joined Todd Christensen, Kellen Winslow, Shannon Sharpe, Darren Waller and Travis Kelce as the only tight ends since 1950 with 10-plus receptions, 150-plus receiving yards, and two-plus receiving TDs in a game.