Kenyan Drake

Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports

NFL Week in review: Wild loss to Dolphins isn't real reason Patriots should be 'quivering in their Uggs'

WEEI
December 10, 2018 - 12:16 pm
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By John Andersen

This was the best week of football this season. We’ve become so desensitized that Sundays filled with games breaking 60 points just don’t get the juices flowing. Special teams action and wacky plays were what we needed, and this week we got it.

Here’s everything you need to know about Week 14 in the NFL:

TNF - Titans 30, Jaguars 9

Derrick Henry: 17 rushes, 238 yards, four touchdowns. A 99-yard touchdown run. Jaguars defenders avoiding Henry like the plague. Football is a very complex sport, but this game is really that simple. Henry made up for a lackluster performance from Marcus Mariota. The Jaguars’ offensive line, the left side of which consists of two players in Ereck Flowers and Patrick Omameh who comprised the right side of the Giants’ offensive line, a consensus “bad” offensive line, and were both cut, offered no protection for Cody Kessler. Whomever is calling the plays for the Jaguars following this week’s firing of OC Nathaniel Hackett had the radical idea of running behind the aforementioned Giants castaways not once, but twice from the one-yard line...both times into an 11 man box. Neither succeeded and the Jaguars turned the ball over, a microcosm of this game and the Jags’ season as a whole.

Dolphins 34, Patriots 33

“Miracle” seems like a positive term, but I don’t feel entirely comfortable to describe any event that adversely impacts me. “The Miami Meltdown” or “The Florida Folly” seem more fitting from my perspective, though the latter name is already taken by the 2000 Presidential Election. “Meltdown” is more accurate because although the final play, a 14-yard completion to Kenny Stills followed by two laterals and Kenyan Drake in the end zone, there were myriad steps the Patriots took leading up to the Dolphins even getting the chance to try for the lateral play. Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal and an extra point, Tom Brady very uncharacteristically showed a blatant lack of awareness on the final play of the first half and left three points on the field, and Bill Belichick put Gronk at safety when the Dolphins were 75 yards away from the end zone and have a QB that has yet to have his breakout season and probably wouldn’t have been able to reach the end zone even if he had enough time for his receivers to get all the way down there. All this talk of Gronk being slow and Mike Lombardi being Bill’s microphone was either confirmed on that play or disproven by Bill’s willingness to put Gronk out there in that situation. I’m not sure which. One thing is for sure -- the antics of this game will undoubtedly overshadow Albert McClellan blocking two punts, to the point where Miami’s punts were schemed around wherever McClellan was rushing from.

Cowboys 29, Eagles 26

There are not many stats I really care for. TD passes, completion percentage and interceptions don’t really move the needle - at least at face value. Even Dak Prescott’s near 500 passing yards are overshadowed by his mistakes. Two stats that I actually give the time of day are time of possession and turnover-worthy plays. The Cowboys possessed the ball for OVER 45 MINUTES. The fact this game went to overtime should be embarrassing for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offensive line. Dak tried...he really, really tried to lose this game, but Amari Cooper wouldn’t let him. Two of Cooper’s three touchdowns were horrible passes: first the underthrown go-ahead score in the fourth quarter which the Eagles tied, then the game-winner in OT which Dak threw off his back foot and which a cornerback not named Rasul Douglas easily could have taken to the house. Cooper’s adjustment and acceleration on the former made that ball look great. Dak’s lost fumble, the three sacks, and his reactions to constant pressure made this game a lot closer than it should have been.

Colts 24, Texans 21

It’s beginning to hit me that maybe the reason why Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson are having “career years” by advanced metric standards has less to do with Houston’s pass rushers being healthy and maybe a bit more to do with the level of competition. Andrew Luck now twice, Tom Brady in week one, and even Baker Mayfield a few weeks ago have absolutely torched this defense, the difference in the Browns game being Mayfield actually turned the ball over. Carson Wentz is the only above average QB they’ll see before the playoffs, in which they’ll likely have to face either Luck or Philip Rivers in the first round. The level of QB competition will be high in the playoffs, and if DeShaun Watson performs like he performed Sunday, the Texans will be one and done. Watson will likely have to match scores with an opposing offense that limits mistakes, and even be expected to produce big plays if Houston’s running game doesn’t show up like it didn’t on Sunday.

Chiefs 27, Ravens 24

If the Chiefs had pulled out the win in the MNF shootout against the Rams a few weeks the following statement would not be true: for once, the Chiefs’ defense actually won them a game. Well, it would’ve won them the game had Harrison Butker not shanked what would’ve been the game winning field goal following a timely Dee Ford strip sack of Lamar Jackson, but in other ways the KC defense showed up. Jackson’s accuracy problems are known at this point but his ability to run is what opens up Baltimore’s offense. His receivers, while not racking up much yardage, saw more targets than usual with Jackson under center as Baltimore’s defense was able to hold Kansas City off enough for Jackson and the offense to keep up. Patrick Mahomes still threw for 377 yards and was very much himself, completing a no-look pass that from the right angle seemingly had a “Wanted: Weapons of Fate” style curve to it, completing another pass on 4th-and-9 in the fourth quarter that broke all the rules of passing, and a lone interception that came when he was hit as he threw. Unless these two meet again in the postseason, this may be the best defense the Chiefs face the rest of their season, so Mahomes’ ability to find ways to beat it should have the Patriots quivering in their Uggs.

Saints 28, Buccaneers 14

Drew Brees must’ve started doing something different in his routine, as he’s visibly not been himself the past few games. Depending on his level of neuroticism this could be anything from putting his socks on to the Grammy nomination of Greta Van Fleet for “Best New Artist” - a heinous reality everyone is dealing with but Brees may be reacting to rather poorly. Brees really had nothing to do with the Saints’ big second half as he barely broke 200 yards; it was the combination of the Saints’ rushing attack and the Buccaneers’ inability to score touchdowns, which twice ended in missed field goals. Bottom line: the Saints are built to win games like this and the Buccaneers are not, from both personnel and coaching standpoints.

Jets 27, Bills 24

Working take: Josh Allen and Mitch Trubisky are essentially the same QB, except Allen is one year younger. Both flip on Blues Traveler and run around at any sign of pressure, are more effective when playing outside their offensive systems, and miss a lot of open passes. The difference I’m seeing is that for the passes both miss, Allen oft makes the impressive throw a bit more than Trubisky, and with a wildly less talented supporting cast. Allen’s passing stats in this game are diminished by dropped passes and while he wasn’t a stranger to turnover-worthy plays his athleticism kept the Bills in the game when no other aspect of their offense would. Allen’s fellow first-round pick Sam Darnold had a pretty brutal first three quarters that included a short sojourn to the locker room after aggravating his foot injury. But toward the end of the third Darnold came out and led a swift scoring drive to take the lead and Josh Allen took care of the rest via errant passes.

Packers 34, Falcons 20

The first Packers game post-McCarthy saw the Packers enter the fourth quarter up 34-7 before Atlanta grabbed some garbage time points that at least made the game seem closer than it actually was. Aaron Rodgers went off to start the game before handing the game over to Aaron Jones as a closer. The Falcons’ offense couldn’t keep up especially after Matt Ryan threw a pick six to Bashaud Breeland. Much of Green Bay’s offensive success didn’t necessarily come by way of doing the things Mike McCarthy was often criticized for not doing: there wasn’t much pre-snap motion and I only noticed handful of mesh concepts. It seemed more straightforward than anything conceptual, as Randall Cobb, one of Rodgers’ “guys,” was back in the lineup, the Packers were at Lambeau against the most injury-ravaged defense in the league, and Kenny Clark continued his campaign of carnage against opposing offensive lines.

Giants 40, Redskins 16

This game is simpler than the Titans win: Saquon Barkley had himself a day and Mark Sanchez also had himself a day, just in a different way, a more, “6-of-14 for 38 yards and two interceptions, get benched for a guy who’s been on the team for six days, which is only 10 more days than you, and neither of you are anywhere near as talented as another available QB who’s proven himself in various systems but your organization is full of BS and signs domestic abusers,” type of way (that may have been harsh and Sanchez had nothing to do with it; bottom line he stunk). Now the NFL world will be graced with a marquee Josh Johnson vs. Cody Kessler matchup in Week 15 that is sure to shatter the ratings record in places like Neverland, Westeros, and Whoville.

Browns 26, Panthers 20

If it isn’t apparent already then this game should be confirmation that Cam Newton’s shoulder is seriously injured. The only evidence contrary to this was Norv Turner’s insistence to throw when Christian McCaffrey gave the Panthers a second and goal from the three-yard line. Sure, you have to do something else as an offense other than give the ball to McCaffrey every other play, but it was only three yards and the three passes to the outer edges of the end zone were bound to be impacted accuracy-wise by Newton’s shoulder. A few weeks ago seem like a dream, when I stated the 6-2 Panthers might as well be written in to the first NFC Wild Card spot. Now they’re 6-7 after Baker Mayfield only threw four incompletions, Nick Chubb averaged 5.1 yards per carry, and Jarvis Landry averaged 27 yards per carry in Carolina’s latest flop. The Browns next three games come against the Broncos, Bengals and Ravens as they make the prophesized push for 8-7-1 and undoubtedly have America on their side.

49ers 20, Broncos 14

These two teams matched wits in each half as Denver opted to not tackle George Kittle for the entire first half, in which the tight end eclipsed 200 yards receiving, and Kyle Shanahan decided to go Limbaugh-conservative in the second half, which has never failed him in the past, yielding exactly zero points for the 49ers. This allowed the Broncos to weasel their way back into the game but their offense just couldn’t get anything going, whether it be Philip Lindsay’s fall to earth or Case Keenum’s lingering on earth. Emmanuel Sanders’ season-ending achilles injury may spell the death of Denver’s passing game. The Broncos relied on Tim Patrick, a name that sounds like it was generated in Madden franchise mode but allegedly belongs to Denver’s second-year, undrafted wide receiver out of Utah, just a tad more than any offense should rely on Tim Patrick. Regardless, Kyle Shanahan’s strong first-half game plan was enough to put the game out of reach for the Broncos and likely end their slim playoff hopes.

Chargers 26, Bengals 21

The Chargers came pretty close to having that Chargers type of game that everyone expected them to have last week, this week. LA’s defense has proven to be one of the top squads in the league, and Sunday they faced a Bengals offense missing AJ Green and Andy Dalton. LA’s offense has proven to be one of the league’s best offenses, and Sunday they faced one of the worst defenses in the league. All logic would point to this being a blowout, but the Bengals stayed in this game into the two minute warning. Philip Rivers didn’t have  a great day throwing the ball as an injury to Austin Ekeler removed any sort of complementary aspect to LA’s offense. Joe Mixon took over the game for the Bengals and essentially was their offense. When it came down to actually having to push the ball down the field to try to take the lead at the end of the game, obviously Jeff Driskel fell short. The win keeps the Chargers a game and half back on the Chiefs as the two face off this Thursday night in Kansas City.

Raiders 24, Steelers 21

He almost pulled another fast one on us. Big Ben began the process of faking his own death a little early this time, in the second quarter in fact. He remained out long enough for Josh Dobbs to do nothing and for Derek Carr to begin the Raiders’ comeback. When Ben resurrected himself it was just too late. James Conner’s absence removed running from the Steelers’ offense, which instead took the form of JuJu Smith-Schuster. JuJu put up numbers, 130 yards and two touchdowns, but Gareon Conley made enough plays covering JuJu when it mattered to aid in preventing Pittsburgh’s win entering a huge game with the Patriots.

Lions 17, Cardinals 3

Remember all that jargon up top about great games and entertainment? Doesn’t apply here. Do I fulfill the assignment of conveying, “Everything you need to know about Week 14 in the NFL,” or do I commit to the bit?

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There was a pick six.

SNF - Bears 15, Rams 6

“Have you ever been to a magic show?” Exclaimed Cris Collinsworth seconds before Bears tackle Bradley Sowell caught the first touchdown of this game in the third quarter. Yes I have Cris, it was a few weeks ago between the Rams and the Chiefs, and before that is was my first viewing of “The Prestige,” which made me feel like a fool. Likewise, all the talk during the aforementioned magic show made people who checked the final score cry wolf about the death of defense. Sunday night’s game featured a lot of defense from the Bears and Mitchy Trubisky handing the ball to LA’s defense even though his offensive line did a phenomenal number up front to Aaron Donald and company. The debate will rage this week about whether Goff can handle cold weather, whether the weather matters for the Rams the rest of the way, and if the Rams will be able to weather Vic Fangio’s defense if it comes down to a rematch. Gurley fantasy owners yapping at Todd on Twitter will attest to Gurley being shut down in this game, which disabled Sean McVay from doing the trick where he hands a game to Gurley. When Jared Goff hands Chicago’s defense their 22nd, 23rd, 24th, and 25th interceptions of the season, Gurley needs to be an option for the Rams, and in this game he wasn’t. LA’s offensive line succumbed to Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman, who recorded the safety that made this a funky score. I stress the impact of Chicago’s defense, as Mitch Trubisky’s 14 incompletions and three interceptions have me rethinking the Josh Allen comparisons from before...hm. The Bears are now up three and half games on the Vikings in the NFC North, while the Rams’ loss cedes the No. 1 seed back to the Saints, for the time being.

MNF: Vikings @ Eagles 8:15pm (ESPN & Westwood One)

Written under duress by John Andersen, award-winning NFL journalist who has written books on Joique Bell and Malcom Floyd...maybe. You can follow John on Twitter @JohnWEEI.

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