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Thirty-six things we learned from Week 11

*Week 11 has been a cruel joke with no kicker for kickers. The league's most disrespected position players were under fire Sunday after they collectively missed 12 point-after attempts, breaking a single-week record. Even Adam Vinatieri got in on the miss-apolooza! *

This week's games weren't a lost cause for everyone though. Andrew Luck helped the Colts top the Titans for the 11th straight time; the Buccaneers quieted Alex Smith's Arrowhead attack; and the Cowboys are still the cream of the league. Here's what we learned from Week 11.

  1. No offense adjusts like the Cowboys. After four straight punts to start the game, the Cowboys finished the Ravens off with five straight scoring drives to end the game. Dak Prescott took a number of hits early and misfired as the Cowboys struggled to stop Baltimore's blitzes. By the time it was over, Prescott finished the game off completing 19 of his last 20 passes. He was incredibly accurate, made all the right decisions and Dallas' line protected him well after early struggles.
  1. Most teams have a "four minute offense." The Cowboys have an eight minute offense. Given the ball up just a touchdown with over eight minutes left, the Cowboys proceeded to squeeze the life out of the game with 13-play drive that ended Baltimore's hopes. Ezekiel Elliott earned 71 of his hard-earned 97 yards after halftime. It's amazing how easy Prescott and the Cowboys can make it look against a quality defense.
  1. Steve Smith Sr. may want to reconsider retirement again. He made a number of terrific catches and plays after the catch on the way to 99 yards and a touchdown on eight catches. Smith also passed 1,000 receptions for his career, with catch No. 999 a gorgeous leaping toe-tap after a typically poor Joe Flacco pass. Smith still shows burst, not to mention verbal fire while undressing some of Dallas' cornerbacks.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

  1. This is Seattle's time of year. Since Russell Wilson arrived in 2012, the Seahawks boast an NFL-best 31-6 record from the start of November through the end of the season. Now that Wilson, Jimmy Graham, Tyler Lockett and Thomas Rawls are all back to full health, this might just be the most explosive, big-play offense of the Pete Carroll era. Eluding pass rushers and putting pressure on Philadelphia's linebackers and defensive backs in coverage, Wilson led a high-octane attack that racked up 300 yards by halftime against a top-10 defense. C.J. Prosise kicked off the scoring with a 72-yard touchdown run, but sat out the second half with a shoulder injury. Even without the playmaking rookie tailback -- Carroll told reporters after the game Prosise would "be out for a while" -- the Seahawks appear to be on a collision course with the scorching Cowboys for a Jan. 22 NFC Championship Game showdown.
  1. Returning to action for the first time since Week 2, a hard-charging Rawls accounted for a season-high 88 yards on 17 touches. Whereas Rawls lacked burst in September after missing the majority of the offseason, he channeled tackle-breaking 2015 form on Sunday. Rawls has described his running style as possessed to the point of getting "out of his body." That physical element was missing from the ground attack prior to Sunday's game which established a Seahawks season high of 156 rushing yards.
  1. Carson Wentz padded his numbers in garbage time after flirting with a 30.0 passer rating in the first three quarters. He also lost a 57-yard touchdown pass to Zach Ertz on an illegal formation penalty by Nelson Agholor. The mistake-prone Agholor contributed yet another brutal drop, this time on a crossing route that could have gone for at least 25 yards. By the start of the fourth quarter, Russell Wilson had as many receiving yards (15) as the entire Eagles wide receiver corps. This has been a season-long issue in Philadelphia -- with no solution in sight.

-- Chris Wesseling

  1. Through two quarters, Luck was treating the Titans like Marcus Mariota treated the Packers last week. The Colts jumped out to a 21-0 lead, enjoying a dominant 234-77 edge in total yards with just over four minutes remaining in the first half. Brutal drops by Hilton and Dwayne Allen helped ease the Titans back into a one-score game. Mirroring his Week 9 performance in Green Bay, Luck closed out the victory with a clutch third-down conversion to Hilton, keeping the ball out of his opponent's hands to kill the clock. The Colts extended their winning streak over the Titans to 11 games.
  1. Backed into obvious passing situations on third downs early in the game, Mariota shook off a slow start to lead a spirited comeback attempt. His beautiful 34-yard play-action touchdown pass to Tajae Sharpe moved him past Warren Moon for most consecutive games (7) in franchise history with two or more scoring passes. His first touchdown throw was just as impressive, as he evaded a Hassan Ridgeway sack and fired a bullet to DeMarco Murray from three yards out. In 23 career starts, Mariota has 31 touchdowns without an interception in the red zone. Over his last seven games, Mariota has completed 67.6 percent of his passes at 8.4 yards per attempt for a 19:3 TD-to-INT ratio and 116.8 passer rating.
  1. As healthy as they've been all season -- including Week 1 -- the Colts defense deserves credit for limiting Murray to 3.3 yards per carry and stuffed him on fourth-and-short with the game on the line. The beleaguered pass rush also had its finest performance of the season, sacking Mariota five times. Although the secondary surrendered a few big plays, the improvement in tackling was noticeable. If the defense continues to play at this level, Indianapolis will make up ground on Houston by the time the two teams meet again in Week 14.

-- Chris Wesseling

  1. Giants fans wondering why this is the team's first five-game winning streak since 2010 or first 7-3 record since the 2007 Super Bowl season have to realize just how significant the offseason investment in Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison has been. The end of the Tom Coughlin era was recognized for the team's inability to win close games, so this offseason the Giants went out and got themselves some closers. Vernon was beastly on Sunday even if the box score did not recognize it. Jay Cutler's final act of the night -- a backpedaling scramble and deep interception -- was indicative of the entire afternoon in East Rutherford.
  1. While the Giants managed to reverse field and dominate the second half physically, the underlying factor of luck was ever-present. The Bears dropped a pair of potential red-zone interceptions on Sunday and missed the chance to recover a botched punt return in the fourth quarter on Sunday -- not to mention a completely ill-advised pass that Manning sailed on a third down with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter that was batted down by Rashad Jennings. It's bizarre how moments like these -- long the source of Giant agony -- can come to define a season..
  1. A scary -- and disheartening -- moment for the Bears with a few minutes to go in the fourth quarter. First-round pick Leonard Floyd was carted off the field after lowering his head in attempt to make a tackle on Jennings. The terrifying moment was broken up only because Floyd was almost insisting he did not need any treatment. Before being strapped into the cart, he was moving his arms and legs and acknowledged several teammates on the way off the field. The young core of this Bears defense is just about the only bright spot amid a bleak 2-8 season and Floyd is most certainly in the running for Defensive Rookie of the Year.

-- Conor Orr

  1. Employing a conservative but effective game plan, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger ran this contest like a preseason affair, barely dipping into the playbook during a game that saw running back Le'Veon Bell pile up 201 total yards on 36 touches. Milking the clock from wire-to-wire, Big Ben helped the Steelers chew up a wild 18-plus minutes over Pittsburgh's first two drives. Bell (28/146/1) crossed the 100-yard rushing mark midway through the third quarter against a Browns defense allowing a ridiculous 158.6 ground yards per game over their past seven tilts.
  1. It was a minor victory for Cleveland's woeful defense to hold the Steelers to field goals over their first two drives, but Hue Jackson's offense took another step back. Rookie passer Cody Kessler was picked on the opening drive for an attack that finished 4 of 15 on third down and plummeted to just 3.4 yards per play against a swarming Pittsburgh defense that piled up eight sacks. Kessler completed just three first-half passes before a vicious Lawrence Timmons hit knocked him out of the game with a concussion in the third quarter.
  1. How little does Steelers coach Mike Tomlin think of Cleveland's offense? Pittsburgh's final drive before the half told us everything we need to know. Nursing a 6-0 lead, the Steelers refused to kick a field goal, with Roethlisberger firing an incompletion into the end zone as the second quarter expired. A Browns penalty handed Pittsburgh a fresh set of downs with 00:00 remaining, but the Steelers again refused to kick, with Big Ben throwing another incompletion. Yet another Browns penalty was called, though, giving the Steelers one final shot. Refusing to give up, Pittsburgh handed the ball to Bell, who punched it in for the score. The Steelers then dialed up a two-point conversion to go up 14-0 at the break.

-- Marc Sessler

  1. The Lions have trailed in the fourth quarter in all 10 games this season, with each contest decided by seven or fewer points. They're the first team in NFL history to have each of their first 10 games decided by seven or fewer points. Coming out of a bye against a bad team, it wasn't the crisp game Detroit fans hoped for, but Jim Caldwell's team remains atop the NFC North ahead of a Thanksgiving tilt versus Minnesota.
  1. Blake Bortles cannot throw down the field. The Jaguars quarterback was grossly off-target on all but one of his throws of more than 10 yards -- even the 29-yarder to Marqise Lee (his longest of the day) forced the receiver to make a tough sideline catch. Bortles dinked-and-dunked his way for 202 yards on 35 attempts (5.8 average) with two short touchdown tosses. The struggling quarterback was battered all day, exiting at one point to have his shoulder checked at the end of the first half. He threw his 10th career pick six and another INT to end the ballgame. Against a Lions defense that was allowing a 112.4 passer rating, Bortles put up a meager 73.8 rating. His inability to stretch the field allowed Lions DBs to bum-rush short throws and make drive-stalling tackles.
  1. The Lions won a game in which they averaged 0.7 rush yards per attempt. That's not a typo. Detroit carried the ball 21 times for 14 yards. Rookie Dwayne Washington led the team with 13 carries but was repeatedly pounded in the backfield for losses and finished with 6 yards. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that Ameer Abdullah would visit Dr. Robert Anderson to check out his injured foot on Tuesday in hopes he could return from IR later this season. The Lions sure need the help.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. Wind? What wind? Kirk Cousins and the Redskins wideouts defied Mother Nature on Sunday night, executing big-play post and seam routes with ease against an undermanned Packers secondary. Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder -- who both went over 100-plus receiving yards -- were the beneficiaries of two fourth-quarter Cousins missiles that sailed crisply through a thick head wind and went for at least 53 yards. Cousins (375 yards, 3 TDs) went over 300 yards in the air for the 16th time in his career, breaking Sonny Jurgenson's franchise record. It goes without saying that Captain Kirk has a lucrative future ahead of him, and Washington will be the better for it.
  1. It wasn't just the passing game that lit Green Bay's defense aflame. Rob Kelley had his third consecutive monster outing, running for 137 yards and three touchdowns for his first career 100-plus-yard game. With Matt Jones sidelined, Kelley has taken the starting running back role by force. His head-down, straight-away running style makes him one of the league's most difficult backs to bring down and puts the 'Skins in easy down-and-distance situations on every drive.
  1. Jared Cook returned from his seven-week absence with a bang. The tight end, acquired by the Packers in the offseason, had by far his best game in the green and gold and his best since Week 1 of 2013. Cook finished with 105 yards on six catches and a team-high 10 targets, providing Rodgers with a consistent receiving threat in the middle of the field.

-- Jeremy Bergman

  1. Ryan Tannehill showed up when Miami needed it most. The Dolphins quarterback was on pace for his worst career outing -- at one point in the fourth quarter, he was averaging two yards per pass attempt -- before leading two consecutive fourth-quarter touchdown drives. Tannehill developed a connection with DeVante Parker, hitting the second-year wideout five times for 57 yards and the game-winning touchdown down the stretch. Parker has put together his best two-week output of the season during Miami's stay in Southern California (13 rec, 182 yards) and looks to be a fixture in the Dolphins' passing game as they continue their playoff push.
  1. Jared Goff was nothing to write, text and/or snap home about it in his rookie debut. Still green around the edges, Goff was skittish in the pocket, often throwing off his back foot when pressured. Like his predecessor, Case Keenum, he looked most comfortable throwing to his backs on routes short of the first down marker. When Goff was asked to mount a 59-yard, game-winning TD drive with 29 seconds, the rookie missed toward the sideline on two deep efforts and then threw his last-ditch Hail Mary too quickly, so much so that there were no Rams in the end zone when it was deflected out. Jared Goff is a work in progress. Proceed with patience.
  1. For much of Sunday afternoon, Miami's shorthanded offensive line was no match for Los Angeles' front seven. Already down Branden Albert and Mike Pouncey, the Fins lost rookie left tackle Laremy Tunsil midway through to a shoulder injury. From then, Tannehill was swarmed in the pocket by Dominique Easley (two sacks), Robert Quinn (one sack) and the rampaging Rams line.

-- Jeremy Bergman

  1. Arizona tried its best to extend it, but mercifully, Minnesota's losing streak has come to an end. In a role reversal, the Vikings moved the ball efficiently through the air and even found success on the ground. For the first time in weeks, it was evident that Minnesota has some talent at its skill positions when the offensive line isn't folding in on itself. Adam Thielen was a focal point of a passing game and opened scoring with a fantastic toe-tapping touchdown grab inside the pylon.
  1. Minnesota's secondary bounced back in quite a way. Xavier Rhodes recorded two interceptions, including a 100-yard interception return for touchdown that wiped out a lengthy Arizona drive that had the Cardinals poised to retake the lead in the second. Trae Waynes, who was victimized repeatedly by various quarterback/receiver duos earlier in the season, blanketed whomever he covered. Sometimes it wasn't enough -- see Larry Fitzgerald's incredible one-handed catch -- but often, it forced Palmer to hold onto the ball longer and look elsewhere.
  1. The Cardinals need to take a long look in the mirror and realize their strength, which lies in the backfield. Palmer still brings it from time to time, but he's showing signs of his age (especially when under pressure) and it's hampering Arizona's offense. David Johnson broke 100 yards and scored a rushing touchdown, while also catching seven passes for 57 yards and another score, and Andre Ellington made a cameo on five carries for 21 yards, showing the bursts of speed that had Cardinals coaches and fans salivating just two seasons ago. That pairing can be lethal when turned to with volume. It's hard to come back from a multiple-score deficit on the ground, but a slight shift to the run could have prevented Rhodes' pick-six, caught on the goal line with Arizona deep in the red zone.

-- Nick Shook

  1. As the rain slowed, Tom Brady found his accuracy and boy, did it show on a few throws. Brady rolled left inside the 15 and, as he was falling down, lofted a pass over the defense to Danny Amendola in the back of the end zone to put New England ahead by 10. Brady did it again with this laser over a defender to Malcolm Mitchell, who ran 56 yards for his first career touchdown reception that essentially iced it for New England. Dion Lewis was also a welcome addition to the passing game, showing glimpses of how dangerous he can be as a target out of the backfield. New England's offense only figures to get better as it works Lewis more into the game plan to offset LeGarrette Blount -- and don't forget about James White, either.
  1. There's not much we can say that's positive about San Francisco, but Vance McDonald continues to look good at tight end. The athletic pass-catcher hauled in his second receiving touchdown in the last three weeks and finished with three catches for 46 yards. Colin Kaepernick showed flashes of what made him one of the rising stars of the league in years past, but too often he was pounded into the turf by a Patriots defense that easily broke through a subpar offensive line.
  1. Played on a sopping wet field in what was a steady downpour for much of the afternoon, this contest was sloppy to say the least. It was expected that Kaepernick would miss a receiver here and there, as that is often the case with the signal-caller. But it was eye-opening when Brady sailed a handful past his targets. Errant throws (often high) and troubles handling a wet football made the first half difficult to watch at times and resulted in a 13-10 score at halftime.

*-- Nick Shook *

  1. Kansas City's top corner Marcus Peters sitting out was a big break for Mike Evans. The star wideout came into Sunday leading the NFL in targets with 108 in nine contests (12 per game). Winston threw his way 13 times at Arrowhead Field, which Evans converted into six receptions and 105 yards. None of his catches were bigger than his 14-yard grab on third down late in the fourth, which effectively sealed the upset win. Tampa Bay ended up converting 11 of its 16 third-down attempts, a key toward winning the time of possession battle by more than 10 minutes against a team usually very adept at owning a majority of the clock.
  1. The Chiefs came into this contest winning 17 of their past 19 regular season games. The main reason for their success? Turnovers. Before Sunday, Kansas City led the NFL with a plus-14 turnover differential. Against the Buccaneers, that number was a giant zero. Since Andy Reid took over, the Chiefs dropped to 11-15 when they tie or lose the turnover battle. That record is 27-5 when that metric is in their favor.
  1. Even with the return of pass-rushing specialist Justin Houston, the Chiefs were unable to generate much pressure. Winston was taken down only once and had ample time to make his progressions on several of his dropbacks. Kansas City's front seven took a major blow when Dee Ford went down with a hamstring injury in the middle of the game. Ford was tied for the NFL lead with 10 sacks coming into the game, and his absence was certainly felt by this defense. Winston has taken 7.4 quarterback hits (tied for most in the NFL with Andrew Luck) per game over the first nine contests, so it was disappointing to see the Chiefs unable to take advantage of Tampa's banged-up offensive line.

-- Max Meyer

  1. The Buffalo Bills' defense held strong Sunday, staving off a late-fourth quarter comeback attempt by the Bengals. Andy Dalton was dealt the daunting task of facing a defense that's amassed 30 sacks thus far, while his offensive line has allowed a whopping 28 this season. Dalton finished 24-of-43 passing for 207 yards passing with one touchdown and two interceptions. After A.J. Green's early exit in the first quarter, Dalton was forced to rely on receiver by committee.
  1. The injury bug plagued both rosters, starting with Green, who tore his hamstring during an incomplete pass on the second play of the game. Since 2011, the Bengals are winless sans Green. His absence Sunday was definitely felt in this must-win game for Cincy. The Bills lost running back LeSean McCoy in the second quarter to a dislocated thumb. Prior to his injury, McCoy netted 33 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals.
  1. It was wacky day all-around -- all year, really -- for kickers and the Bengals were not absolved of the league's kicking epidemic. Typically solid Bengals kicker Mike Nugent missed two extra points vs. Buffalo -- he was 19 of 20 prior to today's contest (95 percent).

-- Andie Hagemann

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