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NFL Game Recaps: Week 15
Cardinals 12, Rams 6
I don't know what the Cardinals can do to make it happen, but they need to ask the NFL to get the Rams off their schedule. They swept St. Louis, but disaster struck in each of their meetings. Carson Palmer, of course, was knocked out for the year in the first matchup, and Drew Stanton injured his knee in this affair.
Arizona improved to 11-3 in the wake of this victory, but losing Stanton is the big news. He went down awkwardly on a hit in the third quarter and was carted into the locker room. If he's out for an extended period of time, it'll be interesting to see if Bruce Arians tells the media that they can go to the Super Bowl with Ryan Lindley or Logan Thomas at quarterback because the former was a train wreck. Lindley went 4-of-10 for 30 yards. He was highly inaccurate with the football and had an interception dropped by Janoris Jenkins when the ball barely scraped the ground.
Lindley and the Cardinals escaped this game with a win to preserve the No. 1 seed in the NFC for the time being, but they won't be able to beat competent teams with this type of quarterbacking. It's possible that Arizona won't win another contest this year because Lindley is that bad.
The Cardinals were able to prevail in this contest with tough defense and a strong running game. Kerwynn Williams and Stepfan Taylor were inexplicably effective, rushing for 75 and 61 yards, respectively on a near-equal share of 29 carries. The 136 yards on the ground made absolutely no sense, as the Rams had limited four of their previous five opponents to 66 rushing yards or fewer. Marginal talents like Williams and Taylor shouldn't be gaining nearly five yards per carry, but that's exactly what happened Thursday night.
As good as Arizona's ground attack was, the defense was so much better. The Cardinals made Shaun Hill look completely inept, while offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's predictable offense was an absolute failure. The Rams couldn't keep drives alive, going just 4-of-15 on third down. There were so many instances in which they had just one yard to go, but gave up and punted. That was the story of the game for them, as they moved the ball to the Arizona 1-yard line in the fourth quarter, but had to settle for a field goal.
The Rams, otherwise, made mistakes and blew opportunities. They committed their first error in the opening quarter when Tre Mason lost a fumble, setting up the Cardinals with a short field goal. They were flagged for offensive pass interference twice. They dropped two interceptions. They had a chance to pounce on a Kerwynn Williams fumble, but let Jared Veldheer get the ball. They nearly had some picks themselves, but the Cardinals couldn't convert either.
Shaun Hill, meanwhile, was an abomination. He went 20-of-39 for 229 yards and an interception on the final play of the game. That pick wasn't his fault, but as mentioned, he could've had several others. He had so many inaccurate passes, including at the very end, when he overthrew Stedman Bailey for a first down, and he went on a streak in which he completed just five of 14 attempts. St. Louis had five consecutive three-and-outs in the second half.
Tre Mason was a huge disappointment. He wasn't expected to have a strong outing against the Cardinals' ferocious run defense, but he had just two quality runs, gaining 33 yards on 13 carries. The fumble hurt, as it gave Arizona three points and ultimately forced the Rams to kick a field goal on the 1-yard line; they could've gone for it to take a 10-9 advantage, otherwise.
Another player who really struggled was Jared Cook. The Cardinals had been poor against tight ends all year, yet he managed just three catches (eight targets) for 22 yards. He had two receptions wiped out by offensive pass interference, but he failed to reel in a decent catch late in the game because he was able to get just one foot inbounds.
The Rams' leading receiver was Bailey, who logged five catches for 74 yards. Kenny Britt (5-65) wasn't too far behind him.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, made errors themselves. They had three penalties on their first two drives that forced punts. Stanton threw behind an open John Brown on a third down. He did the same thing later on a pass headed for Kerwynn Williams. And, as mentioned, Arizona nearly had three turnovers, but the Rams couldn't capitalize.
Stanton had a mixed game. He missed some open receivers, but he connected on a pretty, 49-yard rainbow to Michael Floyd (2-55), who later drew a 36-yard pass interference flag on Janoris Jenkins. Stanton also made a nifty move where he avoided a couple of sacks and found Larry Fitzgerald for a first down. Stanton (12-of-20, 109 yards) helped Fitzgerald snag the 900th reception of his NFL career.
Fitzgerald hauled in seven balls for 30 yards. He had a 27-yard reception wiped out by a holding penalty.
Steelers 27, Falcons 20
The Steelers often come up short when expected to win on the road, especially after big victories, so perhaps this game is a sign that they could have a special team. Pittsburgh handled a desperate Atlanta squad that tends to play better as hosts.
The Falcons simply had no chance based on how well Ben Roethlisberger performed. Roethlisberger torched a secondary missing safety William Moore, going 27-of-35 for 360 yards. Atlanta was doing a good job of pressuring him early on, especially deep in its own territory, which is why Pittsburgh had to settle for early field goals instead of touchdowns. That allowed the Falcons to hang around, but Roethlisberger was able to convert enough first downs on the final possession to keep the ball away from Atlanta.
Roethlisberger didn't throw any touchdowns, but he nearly had one when Antonio Brown caught a pass along the sideline at the 1-yard line. The play had to be reviewed, but the officials called it a catch after watching the replay. Brown impressively tapped both feet in, but the non-score could've hurt his non-PPR fantasy owners, as Le'Veon Bell ran into the end zone on the next play.
Speaking of Bell, he had another big game. He didn't run well at all, which was a huge surprise. The Falcons stacked the box and limited Bell to 47 yards on 20 carries. However, he scored twice, and he also caught five balls for 72 receiving yards.
Other Steeler players of note: Markus Wheaton (5-66), Heath Miller (4-68) and Martavis Bryant (3-31) all drew five targets each.
The Falcons made this a close game despite missing Julio Jones. The absence hurt though, as Matt Ryan had some issues early on. He threw behind Harry Douglas for what could've been a big gain and then lofted a pass that was too high toward Roddy White on a third down. He was pick-sixed in the second quarter and then took a devastating hit that drew a penalty, though I didn't think it should've been flagged. Ryan was down for about 15 seconds, but didn't miss a snap.
Ryan ultimately finished 26-of-37 for 310 yards, two touchdowns and the pick-six. He did a good job of moving the chains without Jones, but some missed opportunities in the red zone, as well as a three-and-out on his final offensive possession, allowed Pittsburgh to prevail.
With Jones out, Harry Douglas and Devin Hester stepped up. They were the two leading receivers, with Douglas snagging 10 balls for 131 yards, while Hester posted a 5-85-1 line. Hester nearly had a second score, but a poor Ryan throw plus a Douglas offensive pass interference negated it. Roddy White (7-58) also found the end zone.
Steven Jackson didn't get much on the ground. He gained 46 yards on 11 carries, but outside of two rushes, he didn't do very much.
Ravens 20, Jaguars 12
The Ravens didn't bother showing up to this game. They played very lethargically, but they apparently didn't need to try very hard because they were playing a miserable Jacksonville team with a completely inept offense.
Baltimore didn't seem completely prepared for Jacksonville. The team was caught off-guard on a Jacksonville onside kick attempt and then was fooled again on a fake punt in which punter Bryan Anger flipped a shovel pass that went for 19 yards. Combine that with a lost fumble - though it seemed like Kyle Juszczyk was down by contact - and two missed field goals, and that allowed the Jaguars to hang around in this game. Ultimately though, Jacksonville just couldn't sustain drives; the team averaged just 3.6 yards per play, converted only 5-of-18 third downs and bogged down in the red zone.
The Ravens, meanwhile, struggled offensively as well, but they moved the chains when they needed to at the very end. Joe Flacco ran for a first down, and then Bernard Pierce did the same, allowing Baltimore to kick a field goal and eat up lots of time. Blake Bortles took over, but didn't have enough time to do anything.
Flacco finished 20-of-30 for 221 yards. What won't show up in the box score is a nice throw he had to Torrey Smith downfield, which drew a long pass-interference penalty. Still, this was an underwhelming performance from Flacco, who has been enjoying the best season of his career thus far.
A big reason why the Ravens struggled to move the chains was Justin Forsett's ineptitude. Gaining just 48 yards on 16 carries, Forsett had many poor runs after looking so brilliant last week. He's playing injured though, so perhaps that was a part of the reason why he hurt his fantasy owners.
Speaking of disappointing fantasy players, both Smiths failed to produce. Steve Smith caught all five of his targets for 37 yards, while Torrey Smith (2-16), who shouldn't even be playing, did nothing positive outside of drawing that pass interference penalty. He also hurt his team with a holding infraction and a drop. Mike Brown (5-66) led the Ravens in receiving, while Owen Daniels (4-62) secured Flacco's sole touchdown.
Bortles, meanwhile, didn't have much of a chance behind his offensive line. He was constantly under siege, taking a ridiculous eight sacks. Some of the sacks were brutal, as they occurred in Baltimore territory, negating touchdown opportunities. Some drops, including one from Marcedes Lewis on what would've been a first down, didn't help either.
Bortles finished 21-of-37 for 210 yards and an interception, which occurred on the final real play from scrimmage on a desperate heave. The rookie signal-caller didn't have a poor outing; in fact, this showing was somewhat encouraging because it'll be interesting to see what Bortles can do once he has an offensive line that doesn't surrender eight sacks.
Only two Jaguars had more than 22 receiving yards. Those were Cecil Shorts (6-76) and Allen Hurns (6-70). Lewis (2-22) disappointed again, and he won't be on the roster much longer.
Toby Gerhart handled most of the workload. He had a quality performance considering the opponent, gaining 54 yards on 13 carries.
Bills 21, Packers 13
I didn't get much right this week, but one correct prediction I made was that the Packers were going to have trouble in Buffalo. The Bills, desperate for a win, boast a fierce defense, which was bound to give the Packers trouble. Green Bay had been red-hot offensively going into halftime of the Monday night affair against the Falcons, but the team looked so complacent in the second half, nearly allowing Atlanta to lead an improbable comeback.
Green Bay's lethargy trickled into this game. Aaron Rodgers just seemed so out of sync with his receivers all afternoon. He began by overthrowing Jordy Nelson, and then his wideouts didn't look for back-shoulder throws throughout the first half, which is a staple of the Packer offense. Rodgers got away with a couple of possible interceptions one of which would've went the other way for six, but the Bills eventually converted those opportunities when safety Bacarri Rambo picked him off twice. The first interception was behind a receiver, while the second came off a deflection.
In between the two interceptions, Jordy Nelson inexplicably dropped a 94-yard touchdown. The Green Bay wideouts were guilty of a half-a-dozen drops during the afternoon, with this one being an absolute killer. And just when it seemed like things couldn't get worse, Bryan Bulaga exited with an injury. That was a huge factor, as Mario Williams beat Bulaga's replacement on Green Bay's final drive, strip-sacking Rodgers in his own end zone for the game-ending safety.
This loss is potentially harmful for the Packers, but only if they don't win out (at Bucs, vs. Lions). Even if they maintain the No. 2 seed, they'll have to play the NFC Championship in Arizona, assuming the Cardinals even get there. The one issue is that Green Bay will have to battle the stronger winner of the wild-card round, assuming they handle their business at Tampa and against Detroit at Lambeau.
Rodgers' numbers, if you couldn't guess, were hideous. He went 17-of-42 for 185 yards and the two interceptions. Drops and miscues really hurt - especially Nelson's bobble on the potential 94-yard score, but Rodgers was inaccurate on many of his throws. He and the rest of his offense need a spark; being lazy in the second half Monday night really hurt the team.
Eddie Lacy and Randall Cobb were the two Packers who came to play. Lacy gained 97 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, while Randall Cobb led the Packers with seven catches for 96 receiving yards. Nelson was horribly inefficient, converting on just five of his 12 targets for 55 yards, though he broke up what was going to be a pick-six. If you have Nelson on your fantasy roster and lost by 15 or fewer points, you can thank the Packer wideout for ruining your potential trip to the championship.
Meanwhile, the Bills would've completely run away with this game if they had a competent quarterback. Kyle Orton was horribly inaccurate, going 14-of-27 for only 158 yards and an interception. Orton, who launched inaccurate balls and took numerous bad sacks because he held on to the ball too long, was constantly booed throughout the afternoon.
It was surprising to see Sammy Watkins struggle after Julio Jones lit up Green Bay's secondary on Monday night. Watkins caught a 28-yard pass, but that's all he did. You can blame Orton for that, as he constantly missed his star wideout. Still though, Watkins was second on the team in receiving, trailing only Bryce Brown and his 40 yards on just one reception.
Fred Jackson had a decent afternoon, gaining 71 yards on 20 carries. The Bills as a whole rushed for 117 yards, with Anthony Dixon (6-26) and Brown (4-20) picking up big chunks.
Panthers 19, Buccaneers 17
The Falcons lost Sunday afternoon, so even though the Panthers were missing Cam Newton in this contest, they were able to vault into first place of the NFC South, tying the Saints at 5-8. Carolina will have sole possession of first place if New Orleans loses Monday night.
Anderson had a solid showing at Tampa in the opener, and he once again played well against the Buccaneers, going 25-of-40 for 277 yards and a touchdown despite being guilty of some inaccurate passes in the opening half. He nearly had a second score when Kelvin Benjamin had his hands on a ball, but couldn't reel in a one-handed catch.
Benjamin tied Greg Olsen for the team lead with 13 targets. He secured eight receptions for 104 yards, while Olsen snagged 10 passes for 110 yards. Anderson's sole touchdown went to Jerricho Cotchery (5-47). Those three players were the only Panthers who had more than one reception.
Jonathan Stewart had a disappointing performance after his awesome display at New Orleans last week. Stewart mustered 73 yards on 22 carries, but really hurt his team - and those who bet on the Panthers - with a lost fumble inside the Tampa Bay 5-yard line.
Speaking of fumbling, Josh McCown let two balls slip out of his hands in what was the worst showing for a quarterback on Sunday afternoon if it wasn't for Johnny Manziel. One of the fumbles came in the third quarter and led to Anderson's touchdown to Cotchery. McCown finished 13-of-28 for 154 yards, one passing touchdown and an interception. He also scored on a 16-yard rush for a back-door cover late in the game. However, McCown was otherwise hideous in the second half, going just 7-of-18 for 86 yards after intermission.
The Buccaneers didn't have many offensive plays worth noting, though two came on one drive. Doug Martin sprinted for a 63-yard gain in the first half, and that was followed by a Mike Evans touchdown in which he skied to bring the pass in on a fade. That was just one of his two catches for 13 yards and the score. Vincent Jackson (6-70) led the team in receiving once again.
Martin, meanwhile, didn't do much outside of that 63-yard sprint. He finished with 96 yards on 14 carries, so his line otherwise was 13-33. Charles Sims actually looked better; he dashed for 34 yards on the ground on just seven attempts, while snagging three passes for 45 receiving yards.
Some bad news for the Buccaneers: Gerald McCoy hyperextended his knee, which he injured at Detroit last week. Tampa should shut him down to prevent further damage. Perhaps this will help Tampa secure Marcus Mariota in the 2015 NFL Draft, which is what I have happening in my 2015 NFL Mock Draft.
Bengals 30, Browns 0
It's not usual that I can begin writing about a game in the second quarter, but that's how bad the Browns were in this game. They were so terrible on both sides of the ball that they looked like the worst team in the NFL. They did nothing well in this contest, looking miserable in every single regard.
It all starts with the quarterback, and Johnny Manziel had one of the worst performances from a quarterback in NFL history. He didn't even look like he belonged in the league, and if he has several more starts like this, he'll be out of the NFL in the near future, and the Browns will have to research the quarterbacks available in the 2016 NFL Draft - and only because they're out of position to land either Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston.
I can't believe how bad Manziel was. He didn't even look functional. It didn't seem like he prepared for this game at all, and his teammates played the same way. They were guilty of numerous false starts. Joe Thomas was even the culprit once, but only because Manziel screwed up the cadence. Manziel didn't even have his team ready coming out of the 2-minute warning, forcing the Browns to use a timeout. His offensive line surrendered a sack on a play in which Manziel misread the read-option. Andrew Hawkins dropped a pass. Terrance West went the wrong way and couldn't get the handoff. These were the types of mistakes Cleveland made throughout the afternoon.
Of course, Manziel's passing was atrocious. His stats don't even tell the whole story. He went 10-of-18 for 80 yards and two interceptions, but those numbers are misleading, as he was 5-of-12 for only 28 yards and the two picks by the time this game was 23-0. The trouble began when Manziel was picked on a late throw. He then passed way above Jim Dray's head on a third down. He tossed a high interception and laughed while walking off the field, but the play was negated by a penalty. It didn't matter though because he heaved his second pick later on the drive, carelessly launching the ball late across his body in the red zone. He nearly had another interception later, as he made the same mistake.
Johnny Arena League Football wasn't even effective as a runner. He had a 10-yard scramble late, but did nothing otherwise. His totals were 13 rushing yards on five scrambles, as the Bengals were fully prepared for him with a spy. The Cincinnati players constantly mocked Manziel throughout the afternoon, making his patented money sign whenever they made a big play. They were right in doing so, as Manziel is a complete joke, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if he's out of the league in a couple of years.
The Bengals, meanwhile, rammed the ball down Cleveland's throat early and often. They opened the game with multiple successful drives in which the Bengal running backs - especially Jeremy Hill - burst for gains of 6-10 yards on seemingly every carry. It was odd to see, as Cleveland's ground defense had been better lately, but the team just looked so inept trying to stop Hill, who finished with 148 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Giovani Bernard (15-79) also ran well, but it's clear that Cincinnati will be rolling with Hill as its featured runner from now on, and rightfully so. Bernard is a nice receiver out of the backfield, but Hill is so much better in between the tackles.
Cincinnati may have won this game 60-0 if it wasn't for Andy Dalton. The team prevailed in spite of him, as Dalton struggled once again. He went 14-of-24 for 117 yards and an interception, though he lucked out that the Browns were guilty of a low block on the return. Dalton was even more fortunate when Joe Haden dropped an interception of his. He also should've thrown a touchdown, but overshot an open Mohamed Sanu. Dalton is atrocious, but no one will talk about this because the Bengals prevailed in a blowout, as Manziel made Dalton look like the second coming of Joe Montana by comparison.
Dalton usually struggles versus Cleveland because Haden typically shuts down A.J. Green. That wasn't the case in this contest because Haden was knocked out with an injury in the second quarter. Green was still limited to five catches for 49 yards, thanks to Dalton's ineptitude.
Some other notes/stats for the Browns:
- Josh Gordon "led" the Browns in receiving, catching just three passes for 48 yards. Jordan Cameron (1 catch, 4 yards) didn't do anything either. Neither will be a fantasy factor until the Browns make the change back to Brian Hoyer.
- Manziel should've opened things up for the ground game, but that wasn't the case. Neither Terrance West (5-23) nor Isaiah Crowell (7-17) had any running room.
- Cleveland was guilty of several defensive penalties that hurt the team as well. Barkevious Mingo gave the Bengals a first down instead of forcing them to punt on the opening drive. Justin Gilbert then had a horse-collar tackle, allowing Hill to score an easy touchdown.
Chiefs 31, Raiders 13
The Chiefs kept their playoff hopes alive with a blowout victory over the Raiders, but this wasn't exactly a convincing victory. This was just a 10-3 game at intermission, and Kansas City didn't really jump out way ahead until Oakland began killing itself with mistakes in the second half.
Two things really hurt the Raiders. They recovered a lost fumble from Travis Kelce and had a chance to tie the game in the third quarter, but Derek Carr missed an open James Jones for a touchdown. A bit later, Carr fumbled the snap, giving the Chiefs a short field, which allowed Alex Smith to find Travis Kelce for six. A 70-yard score from Knile Davis later, and Kansas City suddenly found itself way in front of its divisional rival.
The numbers say Smith had a strong performance, but that's far from the case. He finished 18-of-30 for 297 yards and two touchdowns, but 70 of those yards came on a short toss to Davis, who zoomed past the gassed Raiders and went the distance. Smith's other score, as mentioned, came off a Carr turnover. He otherwise didn't do much, outside of a nice, 48-yard completion to someone named Albert Wilson. Smith had an opportunity for another touchdown, but completely missed Dwayne Bowe in the red zone during the 2-minute drill.
Kelce was the only Chief who produced well from a fantasy perspective. In addition to his touchdown, he caught five of his six targets for 59 yards. Bowe and Wilson both reeled in three balls for an equal 69 yards. They would've tied for the Chiefs' team lead in receiving yards if it wasn't for Davis' 70-yard scamper.
Jamaal Charles hurt his fantasy owners, as Andy Reid, once again, inexplicably refused to run the ball. Charles gained 52 yards on just 12 carries. He was knocked out of the game with a head injury - he was cleared of a concussion - but that was at the end of the third quarter, so he still didn't see enough opportunities. I have no idea why Reid refuses to give his best player enough touches. It can't even be argued that he's saving him for the playoffs because there's no guarantee that Kansas City will even be there, given the frantic race for the AFC wild-card spots.
Speaking of not running the ball enough, the Raiders were guilty of that as well. At one point in the second quarter, Carr had 12 attempts compared to five runs from Latavius Murray, who tallied 40 yards on those attempts. Murray ultimately finished with just 59 yards on 12 attempts, as the Raiders did a poor job of taking advantage of Kansas City's league-worst run defense.
Carr had a terrible performance. His final numbers don't look that bad - 27-of-56, 222 yards, one touchdown - but those stats are strengthened by garbage time. Carr was just 12-of-25 for 81 yards heading into halftime. He was constantly under pressure, but struggled with accuracy while this game was still in doubt. He was extremely lucky to get away with several potential interceptions.
Carr's sole score was thrown to James Jones (8-57) at the very end of the game. Andre Holmes led the team with 70 receiving yards on five catches, while Mychal Rivera reeled in seven balls, but for only 39 yards. Rivera nearly had a touchdown, but the ball got knocked out of his hands.
Patriots 41, Dolphins 13
Fierce winds hindered both offenses in the early stages of this game. Both quarterbacks missed their targets for long touchdowns, with Ryan Tannehill actually completing a 50-yard bomb to Mike Wallace, but if it wasn't slightly underthrown, it would've gone for a score. Tom Brady had the same issue slightly later, failing to convert to Rob Gronkowski for a long touchdown.
While Brady eventually got things under control, Tannehill continued to struggle. He was guilty of two interceptions into New England's talented secondary, and both turnovers led to New England touchdowns. The Dolphins actually had this at 14-13 at halftime, and they were outgaining the Patriots by about 170 yards. However, the Patriots broke free in the third quarter, outscoring Miami 24-0 in that frame. Before long, this was a complete blowout, as the Patriots preserved the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Brady finished 21-of-35 for 287 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, which came early when Jason Trusnik tipped and picked off a pass. Brady was on fire in the second half, going 13-of-20 for 205 yards and a pair of scores following intermission. Brady had some awesome throws, fitting in a tight ball to Gronkowski for a touchdown. He also sprinted for a 17-yard scamper on a third-and-11, which featured a pump fake that caused a Miami player to bite.
Brady endured some drops, one of which came from Julian Edelman. However, the speedy slot receiver more than made up for it with seven catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. He trailed only Gronkowski in receiving, as the monstrous tight end generated 96 yards on just three receptions.
Elsewhere for the Patriots, Brandon LaFell registered six catches for 66 yards. I'm giving him his own entry to highlight a blunder by Dolphins' head coach Joe Philbin. The ball hit the ground on LaFell's 19-yard reception, but Philbin didn't even bother challenging. The two CBS announcers were clamoring for Philbin to throw the red flag, but he didn't even seem like he was aware that it was a close play that should be looked at. This was significant because the Patriots ultimately scored on that drive.
The Patriots ran well against the Dolphins, who were missing two starting linebackers. Jonas Gray saw the most work, though that came following intermission. He gained 62 yards on 11 carries. LeGarrette Blount (8-17) didn't find as much room, but he scored a touchdown. Shane Vereen did as well, though he mustered just five yards on six attempts.
Meanwhile, Tannehill was all over the place. He opened with the aforementioned 50-yard bomb to Wallace that was underthrown. He had a high pass that was picked off. He was almost intercepted again later, but Rob Ninkovich dropped the ball. However, Tannehill had some bad luck, as he found Damien Williams in the end zone for what should've been a score, but the running back dropped the ball.
Tannehill finished 29-of-47 for 346 yards, one touchdown and the two interceptions. He didn't fare well in the second half, going 15-of-27 for 149 yards and a pick after intermission.
Wallace hauled in Tannehill's sole score, though it was questionable. He made a one-handed grab in the end zone, but the ball appeared to be moving as he hit the ground and went out of bounds. It shouldn't have stood as a touchdown, but it didn't matter in the long run. Wallace led the Dolphins with 104 receiving yards on five catches. Jarvis Landry (8-99) also had a big game.
Lamar Miller was stymied on the ground, as he was limited to just 47 yards on 16 carries. He actually lost four yards in the second half on three attempts, as New England completely clamped down.
Giants 24, Redskins 13
Jay Gruden made the wrong decision to start Colt McCoy. There was no point in letting a career backup complete the season when Robert Griffin is the only potential long-term quarterback on this roster. The football gods did Daniel Snyder a favor, as McCoy aggravated his neck injury early on, forcing Griffin into the game.
Griffin performed well for the most part, but he made a couple of mistakes. He was nearly picked in the second quarter, but the big error came when he appeared to scamper into the end zone for a touchdown. The play went to review, to the confusion of the FOX announcers, and the officials ruled that he fumbled the ball before reaching the goal line, so it resulted in a touchback instead of six points. The Redskins were completely irate. Gruden barked at the officials, while Santana Moss got into the face of one ref and was ejected as a consequence. It seemed like a terrible call, and the two penalties Washington drew just made things worse. The Giants kicked off on their own 35-yard line following halftime, so they effectively had a free onside kick. New York recovered the ball and converted on a subsequent field goal. That ultimately helped them go up two scores.
Griffin later made one mistake during his comeback attempt. Following a scramble in which he had an awesome stiff-arm, he was strip-sacked on a fourth down. However, the officials once again screwed up, as they missed what should've been a 15-yard face mask penalty.
Though the Giants got a ton of help from the officials, they deserve credit for this victory. Following that horrible game against the Jaguars in which they blew a huge lead, they've come back to win a pair of games, both by double digits.
Eli Manning had one of the best quarterback performances this week. He finished 23-of-34 for 250 yards and three touchdowns. He was extremely sharp in the second half, going 14-of-18 for 171 yards and two touchdowns following intermission. He had just a couple of bad passes, one of which was nearly picked off by Perry Riley.
Odell Beckham continues to dominate. He reeled in 12 passes for 143 yards and a whopping three touchdowns. He even had what looked like a fourth, but had it negated by a holding penalty. The Redskins' inept secondary didn't have a clue of how to stop him. Beckham, who will be one of the top receivers in fantasy next year, was the only Giant who had more than 30 receiving yards.
Rashad Jennings had just one carry for three yards because he re-sprained his ankle, making it puzzling that he was even out there to begin with. The Giants couldn't run the ball as a result; Andre Williams managed just 44 yards on 18 attempts.
Some Washington stats/notes:
- Griffin completed two-thirds of his passes, going 18-of-27 for 236 yards and a touchdown. He also should've scored a second time on the ground. He showed a willingness to run, scrambling five times for 46 rushing yards. McCoy (4-of-7, 39 yards) shouldn't start again unless Griffin gets hurt.
- Alfred Morris didn't run the ball enough; he gained just 49 yards on 14 carries. It's surprising he didn't do better with Griffin in the backfield with him.
- DeSean Jackson played despite entering this game questionable. He saw eight targets, but secured just three of them for 15 yards. Pierre Garcon (4-36) was only marginally better. Washington's leading receiver was Andre Roberts (2-81).
- The Redskins surrendered seven sacks, thanks in part to Trent Williams' injury in the second half. Williams exited with a shoulder issue.
Editor's Note: Poor Ryan Fitzpatrick. Poor Texans. They may not even get a look at Tom Savage to help them decide what to do at quarterback this offseason.
The Colts' 13th-straight home victory over the Texans gave Indianapolis the crown of the AFC South and ended the slim playoff hopes for Houston. Indianapolis' offense was held in check by Houston's defense, but the Texans' flaccid offense was unable to produce points as it lost Ryan Fitzpatrick in the first half and was already playing without Andre Johnson (concussion). This wasn't an impressive victory for the Colts, but they got the job done and were the first team in the AFC, along with the Patriots, to clinch a postseason berth.
After trading some punts, the Texans got on the board first when Andrew Luck threw a pick-six on a third-and-9. Luck thought Coby Fleener was going to sit down in a hole in zone, but Fleener (2-32) kept running, and the pass flew to Kendrick Lewis returned it 27 yards for a score. Luck tied it up on the first play of the second quarter when he hit Hakeem Nicks (2-44), who was open in zone, and he darted into the end zone with a 26-yard touchdown. About 90 seconds later, Fitzpatrick injured his leg on a run and rookie backup Tom Savage had to enter the game as Fitzpatrick was carted off the field.
A.J. Bouye stripped the ball away from Reggie Wayne in the second quarter, but on the next play, Savage fumbled a handoff to Arian Foster that the Colts recovered. Indianapolis took advantage with a nice run by Boom Herron (11-60) and an 18-yard pass to Nicks to move the ball to the 3-yard line. Luck fired a fastball to Dwayne Allen (2-16) for a 3-yard touchdown on the next play.
Savage struggled, but did connect on a 35-yard pass to DeAndre Hopkins (5-77) to move the ball to midfield. The drive then stalled, and just before the half, the Colts stuffed a fake punt to give Luck the ball just short of midfield. However, J.J. Watt snuffed out the drive by drawing a holding penalty on Anthony Castanzo and getting his second sack of the game. If it weren't for some big plays by Watt and the pick-six, the Texans wouldn't have been in the game.
The Texans got going in the second half with a 30-yard pass to DeVier Posey (1-30). On a fourth-and-1, Foster exploded for a touchdown run of over 20 yards, but Posey was called for a questionable holding call, so Houston settled for a 53-yard Randy Bullock field goal. The Texans got the ball back and were around midfield, but Savage threw a few passes to nobody, including one on a fourth-and-4. Boom Herron ran the ball deep into Houston territory before the drive stalled and the Colts settled for a field goal. The Texans' final shot ended on a fourth-down throw that was picked off by Vontae Davis.
Luck finished completion 18-of-34 for 187 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Houston's defense really played an excellent game to limit the Colts' offense. T.Y. Hilton led Indianapolis in receiving with 50 yards on four receptions.
Savage was 10-of-19 for 127 yards. Foster ran for 99 yards on 26 carries.
Watt was double- and triple-teamed, but still had two sacks and a batted a pass, drew a holding call and made stops in the ground game.
Editor's Note: I've said it multiple times, and I'll say it again. The Jets should keep Rex Ryan. Does he make mistakes during the games? Yes, but he always gets his players to try hard, especially in meaningless games like this one. It's not his fault that John Idzik completely destroyed the roster. Idzik needs to go; not Ryan.
This was an elimination game for the No. 1 overall pick. The Jets lost that contest by winning this game, while Tennessee was able to get the job done with a clutch loss. In all likelihood, New York cost itself any chance of landing one of the top quarterback prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft with this meaningless victory. The Jets were 0-9 when trailing at the half, but they managed to comeback and beat a Titans team playing third-string backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.
Tennessee got on the board first. Jake Locker ran for a first down before completing a 26-yard pass to Nate Washington (6-102). Another completion from Locker moved the ball inside the 10-yard line, but the Titans moved backward on a loss of 16 with an errant shotgun snap. Tennessee took the lead with a 40-yard field goal from Ryan Succop. Shortly later, Jurrell Casey fired into the backfield to take down Geno Smith for a safety. The Titans' Leon Washington muffed the ensuing kick, but the Jets missed a 53-yard field goal. New York put a field goal drive together before the half to make it 5-3. Locker took a huge hit from Quinton Coples and was knocked out of the game with Charlie Whitehurst replacing him.
Whitehurst moved the ball down the field in the third quarter for another Succop field goal. The Jets had a shocking answer, as Smith lofted a pass to Eric Decker down the sideline. Decker took off for another 55 yards after the catch to get an 81-yard touchdown for New York. However, the review ruled that Decker (7-100) stepped out of bounds at the 33-yard line. A fight broke out during the review with Casey throwing a punch to land a 15-yard penalty and help New York. After Percy Harvin (one carry for 10 yards) dropped a potential touchdown, Smith tossed a touchdown pass to John Connor on a fourth-and-1.
The Titans answered with a 51-yard field goal from Succop to take a 11-10 lead. After stopping the Jets on a third down and poised to get great field position, Wesley Woodyard was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty that gave New York a first down. It was a critical play in the game. Chris Johnson (10-55) then took off on a run of 37 on a wildcat play to set up the Jets at Tennessee's 4-yard line. That was the only noteworthy play for Johnson going against his former team. A few plays later, Chris Ivory (12-25) ran the ball into the end zone for the game-winning score.
Whitehurst was 10-of-24 for 203 yards while Shonn Greene (16-50) led Tennessee on the ground. Delanie Walker had four receptions for 93 yards. He nearly scored on a crazy play at the very end that resembled the Music City Miracle, but he ran out of bounds about 10 yards short of the end zone.
Smith completed 16-of-28 for 179 yards for the Jets. He wasn't impressive, but avoided turnovers.
Both teams got good games out of their defenses. Casey and Coples both stood out with impressive play.
Broncos 22, Chargers 10
The Broncos' chances in the playoffs obviously depend on Peyton Manning, so you have to believe that the players, coaches and fans all held their collective breath when the future Hall of Famer went into the locker room with a leg injury at the end of the second half. Manning, who was already sick and needed an IV, suffered a thigh injury when he was trying to block for C.J. Anderson.
Manning reentered the game in the third quarter, and even though he was limping around on occasion, he still played well, converting some key third downs to keep the Chargers off the field. In fact, Manning was more accurate in the second half, misfiring just twice on eight attempts. He had some trouble early on, getting strip-sacked twice by Melvin Ingram, who had his way with Ryan Clady. Manning, however, was fortunate. Clady recovered the first fumble, while the second was negated by a defensive hold.
Manning finished with meager numbers by his standards, going 14-of-20 for 233 yards and a touchdown. The issue was that Manning missed a valuable chance for a 2-minute drill at the end of the second quarter, and then the Denver coaching staff called a ton of rushing plays in the second half. Manning obviously didn't have much of a chance to post great fantasy numbers with just eight passes in more than a half of action.
The Broncos ran the ball a whopping 35 times. Anderson led the way again, though he didn't find much room against San Diego's improved front, gaining just 85 yards on 29 carries. He appeared to score once, but the officials ruled he was short of the goal line following a replay. Anderson also suffered what seemed like a serious injury after a big hit at one point, but he was able to reenter the game after a brief absence.
Only one of Manning's targets had a decent outing. Demaryius Thomas registered six catches for 123 yards and a touchdown, while no other player had more than 53 receiving yards. That player was Emmanuel Sanders, who logged just three receptions. Julius Thomas, meanwhile, caught only one ball for 30 yards, absolutely killing the fantasy owners of his who were lucky enough to be on a bye last week.
Before moving on to San Diego, I have to discuss Adam Gase's strange play-calling at the end of the first half. Despite Manning's absence, Gase had Brock Osweiler throw multiple times. One pass was nearly intercepted on a tip. The next one was ruled intentional grounding. Following Anderson's poor decision to run out of bounds, Eddie Royal returned a punt to the red zone for 58 yards, setting up the only field-goal attempt in which Novak was successful. I have no idea what Gase was trying to do, but he nearly cost his team the game; had the Chargers converted a touchdown off Royal's return, Rivers would've been only a few yards away from tying the contest at the very end.
The Chargers played some tough red-zone defense and did a good job of limiting Denver's offense to 22 points, but they killed themselves on the other side of the ball. They made dumb mistakes throughout the afternoon. For instance, an offensive pass interference negated a nice gain. D.J. Fluker ruined a drive with a blow to the head, though that was a weak call. Novak missed two field goals, one of which was from 37 yards. And then, during two comeback attempts, Rivers fired two horrible interceptions, one of which occurred in the red zone right after Antonio Gates drew a pass-interference flag.
Rivers struggled mightily. He failed to get into a rhythm going because it appeared as though he was worried too much about the pass rush. The numbers don't look terrible - 24-of-41, 232 yards, one touchdown and the two picks - but the Chargers averaged just 4.7 yards per play because of his mediocre quarterbacking. Rivers also nearly lost a fumble; it was initially called that way, but the officials ruled that his arm was going forward after watching a replay.
Rivers' one score went to Gates, who was able to secure an impressive, one-handed catch in the second quarter. He led the team in receiving with six catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. Keenan Allen (3-18) did nothing because of Chris Harris' elite coverage. Rivers tried throwing the ball to Allen, who drew eight targets, but the two simply couldn't connect. Allen left with an ankle injury in the third quarter.
With Rivers constantly under siege, he had to constantly dump the ball off to his running backs, which would explain why Branden Oliver and Donald Brown each caught four balls. They generated 44 and 38 receiving yards, respectively.
Oliver and Brown, however, couldn't find any running lanes. Oliver mustered just 26 yards on 12 carries, while Brown (5-18) had a higher average.
Lions 16, Vikings 14
Shame on the Vikings for blowing this game. They should have prevailed, as they outplayed Detroit throughout the afternoon. They had 10 more first downs, converted a higher percentage of third downs, gained more than 125 net yards of offense, committed fewer penalties and averaged nearly a yard per play more. The Vikings, who completely shut down Detroit's scoring attack with countless three-and-outs, held a 14-0 advantage. And then the turnovers happened.
Teddy Bridgewater had some bright spots this week, but he absolutely killed his team with two interceptions. His first was a high pass, which Glover Quin took back to the red zone, setting up a Golden Tate touchdown. Bridgewater then fired a pass behind his target, which Darius Slay picked off. The Lions were able to add three points, suddenly putting themselves within striking distance.
The mistakes continued in the second half. The Vikings were in field-goal range, but Bridgewater took a terrible sack because he held on to the ball too long. That helped force a Blair Walsh kick, which was blocked. Bridgewater had a chance to lead his team back in the fourth quarter once Detroit established the lead, but fired a pass way over an open Jarius Wright's head, ultimately forcing Walsh to try another attempt from 68 yards out. The attempt, which would've been an NFL record, went wide left, securing the victory for the Lions.
It's a shame that Bridgewater made those errors because he was great otherwise. He misfired on just 10 attempts, going 31-of-41 for 315 yards, one touchdown and the two interceptions. He also moved around well, scrambling thrice for 30 rushing yards. Even with the turnovers, this performance has to be encouraging because Bridgewater was battling such a tough defense.
Bridgewater's primary wide receiver once again was Charles Johnson. The athletic wideout continued to shine, as he caught five passes for 72 yards. He was one of three players to draw seven targets. The others were Kyle Rudolph (7-69) and Matt Asiata (7-50). Greg Jennings (3-43) hauled in Bridgewater's sole touchdown. He mad a great adjustment on one of Bridgewater's throws, but it appeared as though he had one foot out of bounds. Jim Caldwell challenged, but he strangely did not win the review.
Though Asiata had a nice performance as a pass-catcher, he did very little as a runner, as he struggled to find room against Detroit's ferocious front line. He mustered just 36 yards on 11 carries, though he did score a touchdown. He did something stupid on the final drive, flopping forward for a 9-yard gain instead of running out of bounds. That ended up costing Minnesota precious seconds.
As for the Lions, they were really fortunate to get those turnovers from Bridgewater because they did nothing offensively all afternoon. They converted just 2-of-11 third downs, as Matthew Stafford faced a ridiculous amount of pressure from Minnesota's ferocious pass rush. He struggled with his accuracy as a result, failing to find Calvin Johnson for most of this contest.
Stafford went 17-of-28 for just 153 yards and a touchdown. About two-thirds of that yardage came in the second half, as Stafford did enough on one drive to set up the team with a game-winning field goal.
Another reason why Stafford couldn't connect with Megatron was because Xavier Rhodes did a great job of covering him. Most conrerbacks struggle against the best receiver in football, but the 6-foot-1 Rhodes is tall enough - and talented enough - to deal with him. Johnson still led the team in receiving, but had just four catches for 53 yards. A big chunk of that came on a short crossing pattern on the game-winning drive.
Stafford's sole score was thrown to Golden Tate, who caught all seven of his targets, but for only 38 yards.
Reggie Bush was a non-factor - he touched the ball only four times - but Joique Bell had a great afternoon, rushing for 62 yards on 15 carries and also catching four balls for 41 receiving yards.
Seahawks 17, 49ers 7
Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh aren't exactly the greatest of friends, though I'm sure Carroll will miss going against his arch rival until he has to meet him in Oakland in 2018. This was Harbaugh's last stand, after all. He had previously checked out and had the 49ers playing poorly against the Redskins and Raiders, but he and his team were desperate to avenge a loss to the Seahawks that occurred on Thanksgiving. It looked like they were going to achieve that when they held a 7-3 lead going into halftime, but the Seahawks scored twice after intermission and came away with a 10-point victory, eliminating San Francisco from the playoffs.
Colin Kaepernick, whose struggles have been the main reason why the 49ers have underachieved, started the game well. He made some nice scrambles, one of which converted a third-and-8 from deep in his own territory. He ended up rushing nine times for 46 yards on the ground, and it helped that he had Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde ripping off some nice gains. This ended, however, when both Gore and Hyde were knocked out of the game. Gore (11-29, TD) exited with a concussion, while Hyde (6-55), who had a 38-yard gain nullified by an illegal block, left with a back injury in the third quarter.
Most of Kaepernick's rushing came in the first half (30 yards), while his passing numbers were very mediocre, as he finished 11-of-19 for 141 yards. He missed numerous open receivers and took bad sacks because he didn't seem to recognize the pressure.
All of Kaepernick's targets disappointed against the Legion of Boom. Anquan Boldin (2-23) was missed deep, while Michael Crabtree (3-19) did all of his "damage" in the second half. Vernon Davis, who hasn't tried all year, failed to secure either of his two targets, though Kaepernick missed him when he was open on one attempt.
San Francisco's leading receiver was Bruce Miller, who caught four balls for 56 yards. He was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 on the Seattle 38 in the middle of the fourth quarter, effectively ending the game, though Kaepernick seemed to assume that the contest was over at that point, as he showed no sense of urgency on his final couple of drives.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, struggled to run the ball in the first half, but really pounded the rock well following intermission. Marshawn Lynch, who gained 91 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, accumulated all but 15 of his yards after the break. Robert Turbin (5-33) also picked up some big chunks.
Russell Wilson, who completed half of his passes, was involved on the most controversial play of this game. Wilson misfired on third down in the red zone, which would've set up the Seahawks with a field goal that could've made this game 13-7. However, Ed Hocchuli called the 49ers for an illegal hit to the quarterback on what looked like a simple, routine tackle, which granted Seattle a first down and a subsequent trip into the end zone, giving the team a 10-point lead. This was an atrocious call that had Troy Aikman ranting for what seemed like 10 minutes. It effectively decided the game, though the 49ers didn't look as though they were going to do much offensively.
Wilson finished 12-of-24 for 168 yards, one touchdown, and one of the worst interceptions he's ever thrown. Wilson moved his team into field-goal range at the end of the first half, but on a third-down try with about eight seconds remaining, he took a poor shot downfield, which was intercepted by Eric Reid and nearly taken the other way for a pick-six. Not only did Wilson cost his team three points, but had he actually converted with his receiver, the Seahawks would've been tackled short of the end zone with no timeouts remaining. I have no idea what Wilson was thinking.
Having said all of that, Wilson should've posted bigger numbers; his receivers let him down with some bad drops. He ultimately found the end zone on a pass to Paul Richardson (3-30). Wilson didn't do much scrambling, as the 49ers limited him to 27 rushing yards.
A different Seattle wideout leads the team in receiving yardage each week, and this time, it was Jermaine Kearse, who made five grabs for 78 yards. Doug Baldwin (3-53) and Richardson were the only other Seahawks with more than one reception.
Left tackleRussell Okung had to go to the hospital after coughing up blood on the sidelines. He was released after a couple of hours, but his status for Week 16 is uncertain.
Cowboys 38, Eagles 27
It really appeared that the Cowboys were going to revert to the same, old narrative. They burst out to a 21-0 lead, thanks to poor play from the Philadelphia secondary, some great throws from Tony Romo and a couple of strange calls. The Eagles, however, made the charge back, taking a 24-21 lead in the third quarter. In the past, Dallas had always begun hot but withered away in the final week of the year. This game looked like it was going to epitomize all of the Cowboys' late-season failures.
The Cowboys, however, took control. They reestablished the lead with a great drive, and thanks to several Philadelphia turnovers, they were able to prevail with a 38-27 victory.
Romo, as mentioned, was exceptional. He had a sequence in the middle of the game in which he had some consecutive drives that went nowhere, one of which featured a fumble of his because he held on to the ball for an eternity. However, he went on a tear once the Eagles went in front, completing 8-of-11 attempts for 114 yards and a touchdown following the break.
Romo's final numbers were 22-of-31 for 265 yards, three touchdowns and a lost fumble. He was nearly picked early, but he torched Philadelphia's beleaguered secondary all evening.
Bradley Fletcher was especially victimized. Dez Bryant had his way with him throughout the entire contest, shredding him for six catches for 114 yards and three touchdowns. Cary Williams had issues with Bryant when he had to cover him as well, getting whistled for a pair of illegal contacts, one of which occurred when he pushed the All-Pro receiver out of the back of the end zone. This helped Dallas score a touchdown in the first quarter.
Only two other Cowboys had more than a couple of receptions: Jason Witten (7-69) and Cole Beasley (4-42).
DeMarco Murray has been dominant all year, but he's had trouble against Fletcher Cox and Philadelphia's strong defensive front in two performances. Murray had a nice 21-yard gain, but struggled for yardage otherwise, gaining 81 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 31 carries.
The Eagles have benefited from great special-teams plays all year, but that unit hurt them in this contest. The Cowboys started with a short opening kickoff that bounced in front of Josh Huff and behind the up men. No one knew what was going on, and Dallas recovered the loose ball to set themselves up in the red zone right away. The team found the end zone, which was the beginning of the early onslaught.
Give Philadelphia credit for coming back. Part of the Eagles' revival came when Mark Sanchez found Jeremy Maclin for a 72-yard gain in which Brandon Carr made a poor decision of biting for a potential interception. Maclin was tackled at the 1-yard line, setting up Chris Polk for the score. Following the ensuing, aforementioned Romo fumble, the Eagles took the lead.
Sanchez had a meltdown after that. He was picked off twice late. One was a wide throw that bounced off Zach Ertz, which subsequently led to a touchdown. Another was underthrown, sealing the victory for Dallas. A Brent Celek lost fumble in between didn't help. Sanchez finished 17-of-28 for 252 yards and the two picks. He had some nice moments, but made too many mistakes. In addition to the interceptions, he overthrew LeSean McCoy on a third-and-long and once again passed too high toward Huff. He also took some bad sacks.
There's not much to note from Philadelphia's receiving corps. Maclin led the way with 98 yards off four receptions, but 72 of those yards came on the aforementioned big play. Ertz (3-32) disappointed yet again, while Jordan Matthews didn't log a single catch. He dropped a pass in Dallas territory.
My condolences if you're a LeSean McCoy fantasy owner. McCoy averaged four yards per carry (16-64), but was vultured a whopping three times at the goal line. Chris Polk found the end zone twice, while Darren Sproles ran in on the third occasion. It's hard to criticize Chip Kelly for this, given that the Eagles converted each time, but it has to be frustrating for those who started McCoy in the semi-finals.
Bad news for the Eagles: Trent Cole left this game to have an X-ray on his hand. No word on his status yet.
Saints 31, Bears 15
It wasn't pretty, but the Saints prevailed on the road to keep their playoff hopes alive. They vaulted into sole possession of first place, though their big game is next week against Atlanta. Still, this was an important one to have, as it'll give New Orleans control of its own destiny; the Panthers would've had that, otherwise.
The Saints began this game sloppily. They continued to make the same sort of mistakes that have plagued them all year. It began when Nick Toon lost a fumble inside the opposing 5-yard line, mirroring a turnover that occurred last week. Following that, Drew Brees fumbled the ball (he was lucky to recover), and then the Saints botched two field goal attempts, with one featuring a poor snap, and the other having a bobbled hold.
New Orleans got out to a 7-0 lead, but the errors persisted throughout the first half. The Saints wasted timeouts, Brees took a bad sack to take his team out of field goal range, and then New Orleans was guilty of a delay of game. This contest appeared as though the winner would be the first team to 10 points, but Brees eventually caught fire. He had a streak in which he completed 14 passes, and he torched the Bears mercilessly in the final two-and-a-half quarters.
Brees finished 29-of-36 for 375 yards and three touchdowns. A bulk of his yardage came early on two long screens to Pierre Thomas, but he had way more success throwing downfield as the game progressed. One of his best plays was when he broke free of a sack and found Nick Toon for a gain of 17 near the goal line.
Four Saints tied for the team lead with five receptions: Jimmy Graham, Thomas, Kenny Stills and Marques Colston, who registered 87, 83, 67 and 65 yards, respectively. Colston had one of the touchdowns, while Josh Hill scored twice on his only catches. Graham, meanwhile, tallied all but 10 of his yards in the second half. There was one play in which he impressively leapt over an opponent, but he doesn't look 100 percent yet.
The Saints didn't run all that well, as Chicago has been solid versus opposing ground attacks. Mark Ingram still had a nice fantasy outing though, thanks to a garbage-time touchdown. He gained 59 yards on 17 carries.
As for the Bears, Jay Cutler was booed throughout the entire night, and rightfully so. Looking as lethargic as ever, Cutler #yoloed a bunch of throws, took terrible sacks and committed numerous turnovers. The Bears didn't even score until the fourth quarter when the Saints were already up 24-0, and the game was no longer in doubt.
Cutler finished 17-of-31 for 194 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions, but those numbers are enhanced by the same type of garbage-time stats he compiled against the Cowboys. By halftime, Cutler was just 6-of-14 for 56 yards and two picks, so that should give you an idea of how much he struggled despite battling one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
If you want a better idea, Cutler opened the game with an interception that was thrown behind Martellus Bennett. He was then sacked on a screen and nearly picked on a low pass that was challenged by the Saints. He tossed his second pick near halftime on an underthrow. The problems continued throughout the second half, as he opened with a third interception, which was a high heave where he stared down Alshon Jeffery. He otherwise took seven total sacks behind his battered offensive line, which ruined plenty of drives.
Cutler was so bad until the very end that Jon Gruden suggested that Marc Trestman should see what he has in Jimmy Clausen. The fans exited early, and there was barely anyone at the post-game press conference, which lasted less than a minute because no one showed up:
Cutler wasn't the only one who was screwing up. A hold negated a nice Matt Forte run. The Bears ran a fake punt, but inexplicably had just 10 players on the field. Alshon Jeffery false started on a two-point conversion and then ran a terrible route on what should've been a completion. Forte dropped a screen pass. Marquess Wilson false started on a fourth down. It's stuff like that why the Bears have been playing miserably for more than two months now.
Some fantasy numbers worth noting:
- Forte disappointed, gaining just 78 yards on 16 carries. He caught only two passes for 21 receiving yards.
- Jeffery was a dud as well until a garbage touchdown in the final minute. He caught four balls for 78 yards otherwise.
- Bennett (4-36) was a non-factor, though he was second on the team with six targets. Wilson, meanwhile, barely did anything, outside of reeling in a touchdown. He finished with three catches for 16 yards, as he started for the injured Brandon Marshall.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.