Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Saturday's action in Week 16 of the 2022 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:
- Buffalo Bills 35, Chicago Bears 13
- Baltimore Ravens 17, Atlanta Falcons 9
- Carolina Panthers 37, Detroit Lions 23
- Minnesota Vikings 27, New York Giants 24
- Kansas City Chiefs 24, Seattle Seahawks 10
- Cincinnati Bengals 22, New England Patriots 18
- New Orleans Saints 17, Cleveland Browns 10
- Houston Texans 19, Tennessee Titans 14
Jeremy Bergman's takeaways:
- Steelers steal one, stay alive. On the 50th anniversary of the "Immaculate Reception," the Steelers and Raiders recreated the conditions of that fateful game on a frigid night in Pittsburgh by playing low-scoring, uh-ffensive football for three-plus quarters. Then came the finish. After a 14-play, eight-minute slog of a Raiders TD drive to open the game, neither team could puncture the red zone for the next 50 minutes of game time, swapping turnovers, missed field goals and chances and punts. But with 2:55 to go, following Las Vegas' third straight punt of the fourth quarter, Kenny Pickett led Pittsburgh on its finest drive of the night, a 10-play, 76-yard march leaning on youngsters Pat Freiermuth and Najee Harris to pick up three of five first downs. Pickett sealed the drive and the comeback victory with a sure midfield TD dart to rookie George Pickens, snatching victory from the ice-cold jaws of defeat. Pittsburgh's improbable win, though not as iconic as Franco Harris' miracle a half-century prior, kept the Steelers' faint dreams of a playoff berth alive and staved off Mike Tomlin's first losing season as head coach for at least another week. Not quite immaculate, but a fitting tribute to the late great Steelers RB.
- Raiders blow another game. Las Vegas' fourth quarter collapse should have come as no surprise. The Raiders have been handing teams late victories all season -- that is when their opponents aren't lateraling games away. Saturday's loss was Las Vegas' ninth of the season, ensuring a losing campaign in Josh McDaniels' first with the franchise, and its eighth by one score. Since climbing back into the playoff hunt with three straight wins to get to 5-7, the Raiders have dropped two road games on out-of-character, last-second drives by Pickett and off-the-plane Baker Mayfield. These recent striking defeats have mirrored the Raiders' blown leads of 20 points to Arizona, 17 to Kansas City and 17 to Jacksonville earlier in the season. More so than perhaps any team in the NFL this year, Las Vegas lacks a killer instinct on a defense that is prone to breakdowns and miscommunications in crunch time; second-half injuries to Chandler Jones and Denzel Perryman on Saturday night sure didn't help. While the Raiders aren't quite out of the AFC hunt at 6-9, they've done everything they could this season to ensure they won't play deep into January.
- Carr-Adams battery runs out of juice. The Fresno State friends are in a cold spell. Frigid temps gave way to a Derek Carr-Davante Adams connection that froze over on Saturday night. The quarterback targeted the highly touted offseason acquisition nine times against Pittsburgh, leading to just two catches for 15 yards. It marked the third straight game in which Adams reeled in four passes or fewer and caught fewer than 50% of his targets; the star WR had zero receptions on seven targets with less than 3 yards of separation, his first game with five-such targets since at least 2016. His chemistry with his former Bulldogs teammate fizzling, Carr looked to his forgotten Gruden-era targets, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller, whose seasons have been derailed by injury. The two combined for eight catches, 100 yards and a TD (Renfrow's first of the season) and were Carr's leading pass catchers on the night, just ahead of the Steelers defense (three INTs). Renfrow and Waller enjoyed their best games since September on Christmas Eve, offering a glimpse of what could have been if both had stayed healthy and Carr had developed a healthy rapport with all three Pro Bowl-caliber pass catchers.
Next Gen stat of the game: Derek Carr was 5 of 10 for 47 yards and three interceptions when targeting in-breaking routes. It was the Raiders QB's first career game with three such picks since at least 2018.
NFL Research: Clutch Kenny? Pittsburgh's game-winning TD drive was Pickett's second fourth-quarter comeback in 2022 (Week 12 at IND) and his third game-winning drive of the season (Week 10 vs. NO, Week 12 at IND).
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- All eyes are on Ron Rivera after Taylor Heinicke is benched late. After Heinicke threw what at first looked like a pick-six to Jimmie Ward (but later was ruled down before scoring), Rivera delivered the bad news to his QB: They were making a switch. The ultra-competitive Heinicke didn't take the news well, and you could argue he hadn't played a terrible game to that point, but this move had been in the works for some time, you have to think. Rivera had not dismissed the idea of making a switch to Carson Wentz once he was cleared for action from his finger injury, and that played out late in the loss. Wentz looked good in leading the team down for a touchdown in what would be the longest scoring drive of the game, and the 49ers defense did send some pressure his way, not completely sitting back in zone. What did Heinicke in on this day were his two fourth-quarter turnovers on a fumble and the pick. Not converting a critical QB sneak likely didn't help either. Although the vertical passing game heated up a bit, and the red-zone execution was better with Heinicke, you have to wonder if he'll see the field going forward with Wentz healthy now and two home games remaining to try to lock up a playoff spot.
- Nick Bosa took over the game in the second half. No disrespect to Dallas' Micah Parsons, but Bosa probably has to be the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year after Saturday's win over the Commanders. Bosa had two sacks and a key fourth-down stop in a game where the defense took over late. Bosa's fourth-down tackle of Taylor Heinicke led to a George Kittle TD and a 14-point lead in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Bosa's second sack stripped the ball loose from Heinicke and into the arms of Jordan Willis deep in Commanders territory, leading to a 49ers field goal. On the ensuing drive, the Commanders used two blockers on Bosa, which freed up Arik Armstead to supply the pressure that led to a late interception by Jimmie Ward. Bosa now has 17.5 sacks, a personal best putting him only two shy of tying the 49ers all-time mark of 19.5, held by Aldon Smith. Then for good measure, after Washington scored late to make it a two-score game, Bosa sacked Carson Wentz on the two-point try. The 49ers defense is loaded with talent, but Bosa is their most critical player -- and he's arguably been the best defender in the NFL this season.
- Jahan Dotson is really, really good. In a year where no rookie quarterback has had a big season and three primary rookie backs have missed time with injury, you have to wonder what Dotson's chances to win Offensive Rookie of the Year might have been had he also not missed four games this season. As it is, he leads the Commanders with seven TDs in his 10 games this year, and he was pretty money on Saturday. Doston finished the game with six catches for 76 yards and a TD, taking over on the drive prior to the half that tied the game. He hauled in a tricky grab amid two defenders, using his sticky hands to snag it after a bobble, and finished the drive with a snazzy TD catch. He's now caught a touchdown pass in three straight games and has barely dropped anything this season. Even with uneven QB play, he and Terry McLaurin make for a very tough duo to handle. With another TD grab this season, Dotson would pass McLaurin and tie Charlie Brown for the franchise rookie season mark. Dotson did drop a deep ball, had another catch wiped out by a penalty and almost coughed the ball up late into the 49ers' hands. But he has been a difference maker all season when healthy and a budding star.
Next Gen stat of the game: Commanders RB Brian Robinson ran 22 times for 58 yards, which was minus-31 rushing yards over expected. Robinson had a combined plus-75 rush yards over expected between Weeks 12-15.
NFL Research: Brock Purdy is the second QB since 1950 to start 3-0 and throw multiple TD passes in each of his first three career starts. The other was future Hall of Famer Kurt Warner in 1999, when he won NFL MVP and Super Bowl XXXIV MVP that season.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Dallas' defense proves to be the difference. This contest was a 12-round, heavyweight title fight for the ages. Back and forth both sides went: The Eagles jumped out to a 10-0 lead, then found themselves tied at 17-17 inside the two-minute warning. They took a 27-17 lead in the third, then found themselves tied again before the end of the quarter. It happened again in the fourth at 34-34. But nearly each time the Cowboys managed to claw their way back into the game, it came courtesy of a takeaway. Dallas finished with four takeaways, including a key fumble recovery, while clinging to a three-point lead, justifying its No. 1 ranking in turnovers. Despite giving up 442 yards, the clutch plays swung the game in favor of the Cowboys, with a defensive stand on fourth down sealing the game. Sure, the Cowboys offense was excellent, breaking 400 yards of offense thanks to an explosive game from Dak Prescott and (especially) CeeDee Lamb, but it's hard to see them keeping pace without the takeaways. Oh, and that maligned rush defense in Dallas? It held Miles Sanders to 3.1 yards per carry.
- Gardner Minshew proves to be a worthy substitute. The top-seeded Eagles shifted from favorite to underdog this week solely because of one reality: Minshew was going to have to replace the injured Jalen Hurts. Such a change under center would lead one to believe the Cowboys might take this game by a double-digit margin, but Minshew was not about to let that happen. The man behind Minshew Mania once again surfaced as a player with a knack for timely completions, tossing a number of excellent passes under duress to convert key third downs. Philadelphia finished 8 of 14 in such situations, and one drive saw Minshew convert three third downs, with the last being a touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith (who also had a fantastic day). Although Minshew threw two interceptions, the Eagles didn't lose this game because of him. And they have to feel pretty good about their chances with him in the lineup until Hurts is ready to return.
- Wouldn't it be great to get a rubber match in the playoffs? Dak Prescott wasn't able to play in their first meeting, and Jalen Hurts missed the rematch. Why not run it back a third time with both quarterbacks (presumably) healthy? The postseason will have to sort itself out before we can even think about how a third meeting would go, but this classic deserved the playoff stage. Prescott and Minshew traded scoring drives like haymakers, and Smith and Lamb each delivered uppercuts with every reception. The numbers were remarkably similar, save for the turnover differential. This was, in a word, fun -- outrageously fun. Dallas could mount a late-season push for the NFC East title, but as we saw with Minshew's performance Saturday, the Cowboys can't bank on the Eagles losing out. Regardless of seeding, a rubber match would be a tremendous viewing experience. If it ends up deciding the conference, even better.
Next Gen Stat of the game: In what was essentially the play of the game, T.Y. Hilton had a 22.5 percent completion probability on his 52-yard reception on third-and-30 in the fourth quarter. The completion added 19.3 percent to Dallas' win probability.
NFL Research: CeeDee Lamb had his second career game with 10-plus receptions, 100-plus receiving yards and two-plus receiving TDs, tied with Amari Cooper for the most in Cowboys history. Lamb has more such games than the rest of the 88 Club combined (Dez Bryant, Michael Irvin and Drew Pearson).
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Bills' ground game spearheads runaway victory in Windy City. Josh Allen couldn't generate much through the air in Chicago's freezing, blustery conditions. The rushing attack, however, was plenty hot enough to skate for a blowout victory. Buffalo rushed for 254 yards on 31 attempts with three ground scores. Trailing 10-6 at the half, Devin Singletary and James Cook scorched the Bears defense, running through gaping holes for chunk gains. Singletary (12/106/1) got the second half started with a 33-yard TD scamper. Cook (11/99/1) matched that with a 27-yard gallop on the next drive to blow the game open. With Allen struggling in the wind, throwing two ghastly interceptions, the Bills showed they could lean on a rushing attack. Heading into the postseason, knowing the run game can create explosive plays and churn out first downs provides reassurance if the bad weather continues to follow the Bills around.
- Buffalo defense stymies Justin Fields, Bears offense. Fields couldn't provide many jolts to best a Bills defense keying on the dual-threat QB. Fields rushed just seven times for 11 yards, never finding space with Matt Milano and the rest of the Bills D lurking. Playing in poor conditions and lacking weapons, the Bears didn't trust Fields much to throw after the opening drive. The QB did splash a gorgeous 44-yarder to Velus Jones to close the third quarter, but outside of that play, the Bears offense was back to the inconsistent malaise we saw early in the season. A hoard of run-run-ask-Fields-to-create-magic drives wasn't going to get it done against the Bills. Buffalo stacked the box, spied Fields and dared the Bears to move the ball through the air. It worked, holding Chicago to 209 total yards, including 80 rushing.
- Bills clinch AFC East title. For the third consecutive season, Sean McDermott's club took the division crown. Buffalo had gone 24 straight seasons (1996-2019) without a division title prior to 2020. The victory is Buffalo's sixth straight to improve to 12-3 and keeps the Bills in the No. 1 spot ahead of Kansas City heading into the final two weeks. Buffalo faces the AFC North-leading Bengals next week and the Patriots in Week 18.
Next Gen stat of the game: Justin Fields went 3-of-4 for 70 yards and a TD on passes of 10-plus air yards (12-of-18, 49 yards on passes of fewer than 10 air yards).
NFL Research: Josh Allen (174) passed Dan Marino (171) for the most offensive touchdowns in a player's first five seasons in the Super Bowl era.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Ravens do just enough offensively to win again. That's now three wins in four games following Saturday's grind-it-out victory over Atlanta, and in each one of them the Ravens have failed to pass the 17-point mark. The Falcons outgained the Ravens, had more first downs and ran 17 more plays but settled for field goals and had two possessions end on downs. What made it a successful day for the Ravens when they took control in the second quarter and converted the only TD drive of the game for either team. After forcing a turnover on defense, the Ravens took over and ran the ball 11 straight times before Tyler Huntley hit Demarcus Robinson for the 6-yard TD, which held up on replay. Gus Edwards and J.K. Dobbins fueled that drive and combined for 158 yards on 23 carries on the day, with Huntley chipping in 31 yards on his first eight runs (before three kneeldowns). Dobbins' recent resurgence is a good sign for the Ravens. It wasn't a pretty performance, but it's what the Ravens know they need to do with Lamar Jackson still on the mend. Baltimore still controls its fate for the division and is now in the playoffs after the Pats lost to the Bengals.
- Desmond Ridder shows a few flashes in incomplete performance. Ridder's second NFL start was much cleaner than his first, when his pocket presence was lacking and his nerves seemed to get the best of him. On Saturday, though, Ridder settled in after a quiet start and found some nice rhythm for a few stretches. The biggest development was Ridder finding Drake London consistently, including a really impressive throw to London for 20 yards down to the Baltimore 4-yard line in the fourth quarter. The Falcons couldn't convert, getting stopped on fourth down. But it is notable that Ridder and London now have hooked up 14 times in two games (on 20 targets) for 166 yards after the rookie had only 16 catches (on 26 targets) for 132 yards the previous six games with Marcus Mariota at QB. If you're a Ridder fan, Saturday was a nice incremental step in his development with 2023 in mind. Atlanta likely will bring in QB competition in the offseason, but Ridder's play down the stretch will be fun to watch.
- Falcons blow a few golden chances to win this game. The end-of-half execution was an indictment on head coach Arthur Smith as the Falcons tried to cut into a 14-0 deficit. Starting the play with 43 seconds until halftime, Ridder hit Avery Williams on a 7-yard pass to the Baltimore 1-yard line. Smith, with one timeout in his pocket, let the clock run. Ridder snapped the first-and-goal play with 25 seconds remaining; it was a slow-developing rollout, pressure forced Ridder to get rid of the ball, and intentional grounding was called. Only then did Smith use a timeout, and the Falcons had to settle for a field goal (that barely made it through). Those were potentially lost points. The Falcons then had the ball in TD range in the fourth quarter, facing a 17-6 deficit, but stalled with some questionable play calls and were stopped on fourth down. If the Falcons want to be a run-heavy team that wins close games, they likely will need to clean up these kinds of miscues. They've been happening quite often this season and are a big reason why the team's 5-10 and out of playoff contention.
Next Gen stat of the game: Ravens running back Gus Edwards had plus-52 rushing yards over expected, which was the third-most in a single game in his career.
NFL Research: Demarcus Robinson scored the only touchdown of the game. He was the first Ravens wide receiver to catch a TD since Devin Duvernay in Week 3. The Ravens had not thrown a TD pass in their three previous games.
Michael Baca's takeaways:
- Panthers' dominant rushing attack keeps improbable season alive. Carolina gashed the Lions defense for 320 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, outright controlling a fast-paced game in frigid temperatures and setting the franchise's all-time mark for rushing yards in the process. Chuba Hubbard set the tone for such a day with a 30-yard scamper on the game's opening play, prompting an eye-opening showcase of big run plays initiated by the tremendous blocking from the Panthers' offensive line. D'Onta Foreman got into the mix as well with a couple of big gains and would soon eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark along with Hubbard to help propel the Panthers into halftime with a commanding 24-7 lead. While Detroit was better prepared to stop the run in the second half, Carolina kept churning away on the ground to eat up clock with a lead and allowed its passing game to open up. Needing a first down to maintain possession late in the fourth quarter, Foreman ran up the middle for 28 yards to surpass the team's previous record of 299 total rushing yards in a game. Foreman (165 yards; TD) and Hubbard (125) set career-high marks in the effort, and with the Panthers notching wins in three of their past four games, interim head coach Steve Wilks has his team eyeing an implausible playoff berth amid a tumultuous season.
- Lions couldn't climb out of early hole. Detroit set the table for a shootout in Charlotte answering the Panthers' opening scoring drive with a touchdown, but the Lions' lone turnover on the day ruined such a scenario. Jared Goff's lost fumble on the snap not only ended a long Lions drive that reached the red zone, but concluded the quarterback's impressive streak of zero turnovers over the past six games (five wins). Detroit never really recovered after allowing a TD on the ensuing Panthers drive and put itself in a precarious spot as its leaky run defense affected the rhythm of its streaky offense. The Lions went three-and-out on their two remaining drives of the first half and offered the same result for their two possessions coming out of halftime. Goff eventually got the offense going late in the third quarter, totaling 355 passing yards and finding three TDs to Shane Zylstra, but this was far from an impressive game his final stat line may suggest. The Lions' 45 total rushing yards on the day were another glaring factor of Detroit's disappointing day, and Dan Campbell's squad will go forward needing help from other teams in order to have a chance of getting into the playoffs.
- Sam Darnold making his case in Carolina. Benefiting from a rushing attack that couldn't be stopped, the Panthers quarterback exploited the Lions defense through the air in the second half to ensure a stress-free win. It was a demonstration of what could be in Carolina when the offense is firing on all cylinders. Darnold's 47-yard connection to D.J. Moore on the Panthers' opening second-half possession exemplified the type of splash plays that could be had in Carolina with a capable quarterback. The play set up Darnold's back-breaking TD throw to Moore to extend its first-half dominance, and while the Panthers QB managed his way toward an easy win, he was able to make all the throws asked of him. The 25-year-old completed 15 of 22 passes for 250 yards and a TD while adding 19 rushing yards and another score in the first half. Darnold found Moore five times for 83 yards and continues to prove a healthy rapport with Carolina's top receiving threat. It's performances like these that make one wonder if Darnold -- the Panthers' third starting QB of the season -- has been the man all along for Carolina in 2022. With two road games remaining against NFC South foes (at Buccaneers, at Saints), Darnold certainly has an opportunity to not only make that case but become Carolina's saving grace.
Next Gen stat of the game: The Carolina Panthers' +130 rushing yards over expected in the first half are the most by any team since RYOE was introduced in 2018.
NFL Research: The Panthers offense set new franchise records in total yards (570) and rushing yards (320) vs. the Lions behind 165 rushing yards from D'Onta Foreman and 125 rush yards from Chuba Hubbard, which is the first time in team history that two players each had at least 125 rushing yards in the same game.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Of course it came down to the end, and these teams could see each other again. In what might have been a playoff preview, the Vikings outlasted the Giants in a one-score game -- something both teams have been quite immersed in this season. According to NFL Research, the Vikings are now 11-0 in games decided by one possession in 2022 -- the most one-possession victories in a season all-time. Strangely, the game didn't appear to have a dramatic effect on the playoff tiers. The Vikings kept their remote hopes alive for the top playoff seed, and despite the loss, the Giants were helped by other teams' losses elsewhere. It's entirely possible these teams are back at U.S. Bank Stadium in a few weeks for a wild-card round game if things stay the course in the NFC. The Giants can look at losing the turnover margin (2-0) and the penalty battle (7-2) as two big reasons why they came up a bit short. Dropped passes didn't help. Neither did picking off Kirk Cousins twice only to see both -- one by penalty, one by review -- be overturned. But they hung tough and gave themselves a chance in the end. If these teams indeed do square off again, a close game that comes down to a few plays feels almost inevitable.
- T.J. Hockenson comes up huge in the win. The Hockenson trade has been a crucial element to the Vikings' stretch run, as he's caught three-plus passes in every game with Minnesota and easily integrated himself into the offense. Saturday was his best game as a Viking yet -- and statistically one of the best of his career. Hockenson matched his career high for catches (10) with 14 minutes left in the game and finished with 13 grabs for 109 yards and two touchdowns, only the second multi-TD game of his career. The Vikings never trailed after Hockenson's 15-yard TD early in the fourth quarter, and it was a fantastic catch in traffic against tight man coverage. He also took a few shots in this game and kept getting up and churning out first downs. He and Justin Jefferson both helped bail out Cousins in what was an uneven day for the quarterback.
- Daniel Jones isn't to blame for the Giants' loss. Jones' interception early in the fourth quarter was a poor throw and a tough blow after the Giants had moved into scoring range in a four-point game. But it was his first INT since Week 11 and was about the only thing to mar his record on this day. Sure, this is a Vikings defense that has made a habit of bringing out the best in opposing quarterbacks. But Jones threw with confidence in completing 30 of 42 passes for 334 yards and one TD with Isaiah Hodgins, Richie James and Darius Slayton as his top targets. Jones also showed some real toughness to keep fighting in a game where he took three sacks and 11 hits, and he ran four times for 34 yards. After some recent games where the passing game appeared limited, this was a positive development, especially if the Giants get to face this defense again. The holes in the secondary were there. The chances were, too. The Giants can win the possible rematch if Jones plays this well again and they take advantage of their chances better.
Next Gen stat of the game: Giants head coach Brian Daboll lost 5.6% win probability on his decision to kick a field goal on fourth-and-5 from the Minnesota 37-yard line in the fourth quarter.
NFL Research: Justin Jefferson now holds the Vikings' single-season receiving-yards record that was previously held by Randy Moss (1,632 yards in 2003).
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Patrick Mahomes, painter of happy little TDs. We know Mahomes is a magician with the football in his hands, but much of his performance on Saturday wasn't an act -- it was art. Mahomes' ability to extend the play produced a number of completions that didn't seem possible just seconds earlier, and one play stands out in particular: A 27-yard completion to Travis Kelce on third-and-5 in which Mahomes put the perfect amount of touch on his pass, dropping one over the shoulder of Teez Tabor and right into Kelce's arms for a key pickup that led to the Chiefs' second score of the day. Statistically, Mahomes didn't light up the scoreboard -- he finished 16-of-28 for 224 yards and two touchdowns -- but he made a number of key throws to keep the Chiefs offense moving, building an early 17-0 lead that felt rather insurmountable. His touchdown run was the icing on top of the Chiefs' sugar cookies.
- Seahawks waste a good day from Kenneth Walker. It had been more than a month since Walker broke 100 yards on the ground entering Saturday. Instead of continuing to struggle, Walker took advantage of Kansas City's defense, which began Week 16 tied for 24th against the run, rushing 26 times for 107 yards. He provided most of Seattle's offensive firepower for the majority of the game, but the Seahawks couldn't get out of their own way, converting just 2 of 14 third-down attempts and turning it over once. Though the Seahawks weren't buried on the scoreboard, one look at the win probability graph tells the story of this game. Seattle never had more than a 23 percent chance of victory against Kansas City. Walker's effort proved to be irrelevant as a result in a game that wasn't even as close as its 14-point difference. After losing three straight and four of their last five, it's fair to wonder whether the Seahawks have run out of gas. It sure seems like it.
- Kansas City's defense makes a late-season surge. The Chiefs have not been very good defensively this season, ranking 18th entering Week 16 and 28th in big plays allowed. Saturday was a different story for Kansas City, which constantly harassed Geno Smith with a bevy of different pass rushers. Chris Jones registered a career-high eight QB pressures to go along with a sack on 36 rushes (22.2 pressure percentage), per Next Gen Stats, and he was far from alone. George Karlaftis made a pair of important plays early, batting down a Smith pass on fourth-and-3 in the first quarter to end a Seattle drive. He followed that up with a third-down sack deep in Seattle territory, forcing another Seahawks punt. Four Chiefs finished with two or more pressures: Jones, Karlaftis (two), Carlos Dunlap (three) and Frank Clark (two). That wasn't all for the Chiefs defense, which tempered Walker's solid day by watching seven of its defenders register at least one run stuff. If Kansas City can play like this every week, they're in a fantastic position to return to the Super Bowl. It's about consistency from here on out.
Next Gen Stat of the game: Patrick Mahomes completed 13 of 19 passes of fewer than 10 air yards for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
NFL Research: Patrick Mahomes threw two touchdown passes of fewer than 10 yards Saturday, increasing his total of such touchdown passes to 24 in 2022. He trails only Peyton Manning (25 in 2013) and Aaron Rodgers (29 in 2020) for the most such touchdown passes in a season in NFL history. Both Manning and Rodgers won MVP in those seasons.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Joe Burrow starts hot, Bengals hang on late. Burrow completed his first 11 passes as the Bengals offense did whatever it wanted in the first half. Cincy outgained the Pats 303 yards to 70 at halftime as the Bengals built a 22-0 lead. Burrow was firing darts, dropping dimes and churning out first downs (15 passing through two quarters). Burrow completed 28 passes, the most by any QB in a half this season. If not for a red zone interception by Burrow, the half would have been even more lopsided. In the second half, the Patriots defense turned the tables, holding Cincy to 118 yards. Burrow threw a pick-six on a miscommunication with Ja'Marr Chase. Later, the star wideout fumbled, giving the Patriots a chance to take the lead late. Toss in a missed field goal, and the aplomb play of the first half from the Bengals dissipated. Luckily, the defense came up with a huge stop late after the offense scuttled. All that matters for Zac Taylor's club: It survived on the road for a win.
- Patriots choke away another chance at a comeback victory. After a pathetic first half from New England's offense, Mac Jones finally found life by taking shots to Kendrick Bourne. After throwing for 34 yards in a scoreless first half, Jones netted 206 and two touchdowns -- including one on a heave that was batted and fell to Jakobi Meyers -- in the second half to get the Patriots back into the game. Following a second missed PAT from Nick Folk that kept the game at four points, Matt Judon forced a Chase fumble to give the Pats a chance to take the lead. With the Bengals out of timeouts, the Patriots had an opportunity to control the game and score to take the lead with little to no time left. However, for the second straight week, New England bumbled their way to the end. Rhamondre Stevenson fumbled the ball on first-and-goal from the 5-yard-line with 59 seconds left. Following last week's mind-numbing pitch play, Stevenson's fumble was another choke job with a chance to make a playoff push.
- Bengals remain atop AFC North; Patriots' playoff hopes on life support. Cincy's victory moved them to 11-4, keeping their one-game lead over the Ravens (10-5) intact with two to play. Having clinched a playoff spot, the Bengals will try to win back-to-back division titles in the final two weeks. Cincy faces the No. 1 seeded Bills in Week 17 and the Ravens in Week 18. Meanwhile, the last two weeks have been brutal for the Pats' playoff chances. Instead of pulling out second-half wins, Bill Belichick's club now needs help to keep its postseason hopes alive with AFC East matchups against the Dolphins and Bills left.
Next Gen stat of the game: Bengals receiver Trenton Irwin had a 25.6 percent completion probability on an 18-yard TD reception (the most improbable catch in his career).
NFL Research: Marcus Jones has a receiving TD, punt return TD and INT return TD as a rookie. The only other player in the Super Bowl era to score a 40-plus-yard TD each of those ways in his entire career is Deion Sanders.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Saints defense stands tall in terrible conditions. Saturday stood as the third-coldest game played in Cleveland in franchise history, with the seven-degree temperature cold enough to freeze fans' beverages before they could finish them in the stands. Logically, this would make things quite difficult for a road team that's used to playing in a climate-controlled dome. Not these Saints, though, who gave up 10 first-half points, then denied Cleveland in the game's final two quarters. An interception off a deflected pass set up New Orleans' go-ahead score, and the unit's ability to stifle Cleveland's offense produced two turnovers on downs, preserving the one-score advantage. Nick Chubb finished with a per-carry average under four yards, and Deshaun Watson posted the worst passer rating (47.1) of his career. Some of this is certainly due to the conditions, but it would've been easier for the Saints defense to give up after falling behind by 10. Instead, Dennis Allen's bunch proved to be tougher with a physical brand of football that sent the Browns to a loss. So much for home-field advantage.
- Kevin Stefanski is entering dangerous territory. The Browns' coach and play-caller has made a number of questionable decisions on key downs throughout this season, and Saturday was no different. After taking a 10-0 lead, Cleveland's offense went into a shell on both the sideline and the field. Watson's cast of pass catchers repeatedly dropped well-placed passes -- especially on the Browns' desperate final drive -- and Stefanski didn't do his quarterback any favors, calling two passes on third-and-2 and fourth-and-2 in a game played amid wind gusts of over 20 mph. Stefanski's rushing attack struggled to get going, falling victim to a predictable approach that New Orleans had no problem defending. The timing of his pass plays didn't make much sense, either, consistently putting the Browns behind schedule and forcing Watson to attempt low-percentage passes. The defense, unsurprisingly, fell apart in the second half, allowing the Saints to score 17 unanswered points. And when the Browns needed a touchdown most, they failed, sending them toward an irrelevant two-game stretch to close another disappointing campaign. Stefanski's seat isn't hot, but even with the Browns' late quarterback change considered, it should be warm. There's just no excuse for the way he called Saturday's game, which should have been a winnable one for the Browns. With very little left to play for in the final two weeks of 2022, Stefanski will need to do his best to ensure Cleveland doesn't end the campaign in ugly fashion.
- Alvin Kamara deserves a medal for this performance. Consider this: The Saints won a game in frigid conditions by throwing for fewer than 92 yards. As a team, they gained 244 yards. Those numbers typically don't reflect a winning team, but because of Kamara, the Saints left Cleveland in triumphant fashion. Following a Daniel Sorensen interception, the Saints moved right down the short field, and Kamara punched it in from four yards out by redirecting behind the line of scrimmage and running through would-be tacklers across the goal line. Kamara also caught a key third-down pass in the fourth quarter, extending a drive that would eventually stall, but not before moving down the field enough to pin the Browns deep in their own territory. Of those 244 yards, Kamara was responsible for 110 and one of New Orleans' two touchdowns. New Orleans doesn't win this game without Kamara, who tied Marques Colston for the most total touchdowns in Saints history (72) Saturday.
Next Gen stat of the game: Alvin Kamara and Taysom Hill combined to finish with +40 rushing yards over expected in Saturday's win.
NFL Research: Saturday was the third time in franchise history in which the Saints won a game in which they finished with fewer than 100 passing yards and zero passing touchdowns.
Coral Smith's takeaways:
- Houston finally gets a W in a close game. The last two weeks, the Texans have looked like they had a chance to upset a better team late in the game, but against both the Cowboys and the Chiefs, they couldn't close things out for the win. That wasn't the case on Saturday. Despite small mistakes which kept the game's outcome in question late in the proceedings, the Texans were able to make the important plays when it mattered most, securing the victory over the Titans to take home that elusive second win of the season and end a nine-game losing streak. A close game throughout, Houston trailed 14-10 early in the fourth quarter when linebacker Jake Hansen forced a fumble from Derrick Henry, setting up a short field and a chance to take the lead with a touchdown. Though the drive stalled near the goal line and the Texans had to settle for a field goal, Davis Mills and the offense were able to take the lead on the next drive. After it failed to convert a two-point attempt to make it a seven-point game, Houston had to get a stop against a Tennessee offense trying to put together a game-winning drive with under three minutes left. But the Texans foiled that attempt, with Christian Harris intercepting Titans QB Malik Willis. Though Houston's offense couldn't close it out there, going three-and-out and punting it with 70 seconds left, the defense was still able to win it at the last second, intercepting Willis' Hail Mary attempt as time expired. It wasn't the cleanest victory and the Texans left the door open on multiple occasions, but nevertheless, the Titans couldn't take advantage of their opportunities and Houston got the win.
- Henry struggles, Titans lose fifth straight. Derrick Henry was expected to be a big factor for the Titans going into Saturday's matchup, both because of Tennessee's continued reliance on his production in tough situations and because of his historical dominance of Houston. But despite Henry putting together his eighth game this season of at least 100 rushing yards, it wasn't enough. Part of this is that, with Willis starting his third-career game with Ryan Tannehill out, the passing game just never got going, and the Titans finished with under 100 yards through the air. Henry also had his fair share of issues. He had a 48-yard touchdown in the first half, making defenders miss on his way to the score, but other than that his numbers weren't stellar. Excluding that one TD run, Henry had 78 yards on 23 attempts, averaging roughly 3.4 yards per carry. Multiple times he was stuffed at or before the line of scrimmage. And on top of all that, he had a key fumble in the fourth quarter, which marked his fourth in the last three games after having fumbled only twice in the first 12 games this season. With neither aspect of the offense working on Saturday, the Titans lost their fifth straight game and their spot atop the AFC South. Not a great weekend in Tennessee.
- Mills' perfect drive gives Texans the win. Davis Mills has struggled all season leading a banged-up offense, and that was largely still the case for most of the game on Saturday. But with the Texans trailing and in need of a scoring drive late, he came through and delivered a perfect drive to give Houston a lead it would not relinquish. Mills was 13 of 24 for 109 yards and an interception excluding this one possession, but in that march down the field with five minutes left, he was 4 of 4 for 69 yards, finding four different receivers for gains of 6, 20, 37 and 6 yards. The last of those throws was a completion to Brandin Cooks for a touchdown on the fifth play of the 73-yard drive to give Houston the 19-14 lead. That one possession secured the Texans the win, and Mills' performance spearheaded the effort.
Next Gen stat of the game: Texans defensive end Ogbo Okoronkwo had six QB pressures and two sacks on 17 pass rushes, giving him a 35.3 pressure percentage in the win.
NFL Research: With his 48-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter, Derrick Henry now has 12 career rushing touchdowns against the Texans. This broke a tie between him and Maurice Jones-Drew for the most by any player versus the Texans in NFL history.