New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers had every part to play for when the two heavyweights clashed however just one workforce would accomplish their mission. Right here’s what we learned from Sunday’s Week 16 slate of video games:
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 38, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS 31
1. Seattle bounced again from its setback in Santa Clara with a powerful victory over the AFC leaders on Sunday night time and punched its ticket again to the postseason for the sixth time in seven seasons. The Seahawks (9-6) clinched a playoff spot on the legs of Chris Carson, who ran for a near-season-high 116 yards and two scores; the arm of Russell Wilson, who launched three landing passes and escaped the pocket for 59 yards on the floor; and the robust arms of Doug Baldwin, who stepped up with a season-high 126 receiving yards. From the get-go, the Seahawks performed keep-away from Kansas Metropolis, dashing for 211 yards on the night, and by no means relinquished the lead it took into halftime. Even when Seattle took its slim lead into the fourth quarter, the Seahawks didn’t draw back from attacking with a killer intuition Kansas Metropolis’s depleted secondary, which was lacking Kendall Fuller, Ron Parker and, at occasions, Eric Berry. Seattle can safe the fifth seed subsequent week with a win over the D.O.A. Cardinals at the Clink. A matchup with the Cowboys in Arlington on Wild Card Weekend possible awaits.
2. To not be out-adlibbed, Patrick Mahomes bolstered his MVP marketing campaign in defeat by tossing three touchdowns of his personal, together with two second-half marvels. The Chiefs quarterback continues to throw passes at heretofore-unseen angles, surprising defenders and viewers alike together with his casually improvisational fashion. Even in defeat, Mahomes carried out like a quarterback primed for hostile environments to return in the upcoming postseason push. With one recreation left in the season, Mahomes is as much as 48 passing touchdowns, a feat solely Tom Brady and Peyton Manning (twice) have completed. Eight extra towards the Raiders in Week 17, and the single-season document is his.
Three. Following the Chargers’ loss to Baltimore on Saturday night time, Kansas Metropolis blew a chance to not solely clinch the AFC West, however seize home-field benefit all through the AFC playoffs. Driving their first two-game dropping streak of the season, the Chiefs (11-Four) now enter Week 17 not sure of their standing for the postseason. Although Okay.C. ought to deal with Oakland simply at Arrowhead and ultimately safe home-field, all is just not properly with the Chiefs, particularly on defence. Save for Chris Jones, who prolonged his sack streak on Sunday to a document 11 video games, and the Kansas Metropolis cross rush, the Chiefs defence was abysmal in Seattle. Kansas Metropolis allowed no less than 30 first downs for the second straight recreation, together with 5 by way of penalty. The Chiefs’ sieve of a secondary has been the membership’s Achilles’ heel all season. The final two weeks have confirmed, with or with out Berry, there’s no therapeutic that damage.
— Jeremy Bergman
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 31, PITTSBURGH STEELERS 28
1. Each groups had a lot on the line getting into Sunday, with the Steelers trying to safe its maintain on the AFC North and the Saints looking for to clinch home-field benefit all through the postseason. Just one group would accomplish their mission, of course, and the Saints got here out victorious in a hotly-contested recreation between two of the NFL’s greatest groups. NFC opponents now have the dire mission of coming by means of New Orleans on the street to the Tremendous Bowl in Atlanta, and the Saints are 6-1 this season with the season finale to play towards the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Steelers, on the different hand, have their playoff hopes on life help heading into the ultimate week. At Eight-6-1, Pittsburgh must beat the Bengals and have the Ravens lose to the Browns in safe a spot in the playoffs. If that doesn’t occur, Massive Ben and Co. will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
2. The Saints offence appeared higher when in comparison with the final three video games, and it definitely helped that Sunday marked the group’s first house recreation since the Thanksgiving vacation. Drew Brees paced an environment friendly first half with 151 yards passing and the Saints held a 17-14 lead. The second half, nevertheless, was a unique story, as the Saints struggled with consistency after going up 24-14 with two straight punts and a blocked area objective, after which needed to claw again with lower than two minutes in the recreation to return out forward. Regardless of the win, it doesn’t assist that the offensive line required some shuffling. Left deal with Terron Armstead, who was lately named to the Professional Bowl, returned to the lineup for the first time in 5 video games. However he briefly left the recreation in the first quarter, returned to complete the first half, after which sat out the fourth quarter. When the Saints have an intact offensive line, it’s amongst the league’s greatest and the engine that drives an elite offence. Having Armstead would assist the Saints’ possibilities in the postseason.
Three. The Steelers just about deserted the operating recreation after gaining 41 yards on 12 carries in the first half, and unleashed Ben Roethlisberger on the Saints’ move defence. Roethlisberger accomplished 33 of 50 passes for 380 yards and three touchdowns as he discovered Antonio Browns and JuJu Smith-Schuster for giant performs. Brown was a monster, hauling in 14 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns, whereas Smith-Schuster totalled 11 catches for 115 yards. On the recreation, the Steelers rushed for 65 yards on 18 carries, an enormous disparity in the pass-run ratio (50:18). Clearly, the Steelers would like a extra balanced strategy on offence, however the continued absence of operating again James Conner probably means a pass-heavy strategy when the postseason arrives.
— Herbie Teope
CHICAGO BEARS 14, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 9
1. It wasn’t fairly, however the Chicago Bears took care of enterprise on the street. In a scrappy, mistake-filled contest, the greatest defence in the NFL stood tall when it mattered. Danny Trevathan received an early Christmas current when a cross from Nick Mullens bounded off the arms of 49ers receiver Marquise Goodwin and into the linebacker’s lap for an interception as San Francisco was driving for a rating. On the subsequent drive, the Bears appeared poised to shut out the recreation. On Third-and-Three Allen Robinson caught a slant and gained sufficient floor to earn first down. Had the receiver merely slid down, Chicago might have kneeled out the recreation. However Robinson stored operating and had the ball popped out from behind by Tarvarius Moore, giving the Niners new life. Once more, the Bears D stood tall thwarting a comeback bid. On a day that Mitch Trubisky (25/29, 246 yards, 1 TD) performed properly, some sloppy performs by Chicago stored a feisty 49ers workforce in the recreation. A terrific defence, nevertheless, can masks these points on the street.
The victory retains the Bears (11-Four) in the hunt for a potential playoff bye. Chicago will probably be San Francisco followers subsequent week. Matt Nagy’s workforce wants a victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Week 17 coupled with a Rams loss versus these 49ers to leapfrog L.A. for the No. 2 seed.
2. There isn’t a give up in Kyle Shanahan’s group. The Four-11 Niners fought tooth-and-nail with the NFC North champions regardless of racking up extra accidents. An already decimated offence misplaced operating again Matt Breida (ankle), receiver Dante Pettis (knee), and tight finish Garrett Celek (concussion) early in the contest. Regardless of the accidents, San Francisco nonetheless moved the ball properly versus one of the greatest defences in the NFL, together with changing 7 of 14 third downs. Nick Mullens continued his stellar play, throwing strikes and standing robust in the face of the Bears strain. The signal-caller is fearless in the face of rushers. The season could be misplaced, however the Niners battling down the stretch ought to deliver a modicum of optimism heading into 2019.
Three. The sport was marred by a late 4th quarter sideline struggle that led to the ejections of 49erscornerback Richard Sherman, and Bears receivers Anthony Miller and Josh Bellamy. The donnybrook occurred after a Trubisky scramble. The quarterback slid and took a late hit by Niners security Marcell Harris in entrance of the Bears’ sideline. Then the battle broke out throughout which Sherman appeared to be taking over the whole Chicago roster. After a prolonged delay, the three gamers have been kicked out. Fines are more likely to be coming this week.
— Kevin Patra
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES 32, HOUSTON TEXANS 30
1. Nick Foles shook off a misplaced fumble, an unsightly interception and some errant first-half throws to dismantle a Texans secondary that misplaced three of its prime 4 cornerbacks throughout the proceedings. On the power of a stunning 83-yard bomb to Nelson Agholor, a 37-yard move play to Darren Sproles and an uncanny reference to stud tight finish Zach Ertz, Foles broke Donovan McNabb’s single-game franchise passing document with 471 yards. He’s additionally the solely Eagles quarterback ever to document a number of video games of no less than 400 yards and 4 touchdowns. After Deshaun Watson overcame an undermanned offence for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns and a momentary 30-29 lead, Foles shook off a Jadeveon Clowney blow to his sternum, orchestrating a picture-perfect two-minute drill to arrange Jake Elliott for the game-winning area objective as time expired.
Houston coach Invoice O’Brien opted to punt from midfield in key fourth-and-manageable conditions, in stark distinction to Philadelphia’s aggressive Doug Pederson. The Eagles constructed their lead on the fourth-and-2 scoring play by Sproles and a fourth-and-Three conversion to Dallas Goedert that led to a fourth-and-1 landing by Ertz. With Dallas clinching the NFC East title on Sunday, Philadelphia wants Minnesota to lose at residence versus Chicago in the season finale to earn a wild-card berth.
2. Watson deserved a greater destiny, carrying an offence that couldn’t run the ball, struggled in cross safety and misplaced Demaryius Thomas to an damage believed to be a torn Achilles tendon. With the recreation on the line, Watson escaped three totally different sackers to hit Jordan Akins for 22 yards on third-and-11, establishing a gorgeous 35-yard rainbow to No. 5 receiver Vyncint Smith in the again of the finish zone. His defence proceeded to let him down in the two-minute drill. As a result of the Colts and Titans every gained this weekend, the Texans should go into Jacksonville and beat a frisky Jaguars defence to safe the AFC South title in Week 17. In the meantime, New England has leapfrogged Houston for the AFC’s No. 2 seed and the postseason bye.
Three. Locked in a three-man dogfight with Kansas Metropolis’s Travis Kelce and San Francisco’s George Kittle for the first-team All-Professional spot, Eagles tight finish Zach Ertz bolstered his resume with a masterful efficiency. One of the league’s most sure-handed possession receivers, Ertz hauled in a dozen passes for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Alongside the approach, he broke Jason Witten’s single-season receptions report for tight ends, bringing his complete to 113 receptions to go together with 1,148 yards and eight scores with one all-important recreation left to play at Washington.
— Chris Wesseling
DALLAS COWBOYS 27, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 20
1. The Cowboys sorely wanted a robust efficiency to scrub out the aftertaste of final week’s shutout loss — they usually kind of obtained that towards the Buccaneers regardless of an uneven efficiency. The Cowboys (9-6) clinched their third NFC East title in 5 years with the win, and the defence prompted a lot of havoc for Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers (5-10). Offensively, Dak Prescott put in a gentle if unspectacular efficiency that has characterised many of his post-2016 video games. He accomplished 20 of 25 passes for 161 yards and a landing. Ezekiel Elliott had 85 yards dashing on 18 carries to assist present a gentle drip of offence that was tremendously enhanced by a pair of defensive turnovers. Whereas it wasn’t the most spectacular performances contemplating the Cowboys’ division-winning pedigree, it was an excellent bounce-back recreation for a Dallas staff that might be this yr’s playoff underdog consultant from the NFC East.
2. Two key defensive turnovers performed an enormous position in delivering the win for Dallas. Randy Gregory’s blindsided sack on Jameis Winston to drive a fumble that was promptly picked up by Jaylon Smith and returned 69 yards for a landing was like a slasher film combined with a automotive chase. The entire world noticed Gregory bearing down on Winston, who fumbled the ball when the defensive finish’s 6-foot-5, 242-pound body got here crashing into him. Smith’s trek down the sideline was equally thrilling, and should have been successful in the JerryWorld suite. Afterward, Gregory recovered one other fumble — this time on the Buccaneers’ 6-yard line — to assist the Cowboys rating a landing two performs later. Dallas’ contributions on defence have performed an enormous position in the group’s second-half surge towards NFC relevance.
Three. It’s arduous to consider Dirk Koetter will maintain his job even when the Bucs’ entrance workplace hasn’t decided on his 2019 standing but. Koetter was employed to develop Winston right into a franchise quarterback, and the No. 1 general decide of the 2015 NFL Draft hasn’t lived as much as long-ago hype. Towards the Cowboys, Winston tallied respectable numbers, finishing 34 of 48 passes for 336 yards and a landing whereas being sacked 3 times, however the Buccaneers as soon as once more struggled to translate yards into factors as they went 4 for 13 on third downs. With the operating recreation dormant and holding penalties stymieing drives, the Buccaneers have been doomed to their fifth 10-loss season in six years. Whether or not that may jump-start a bevy of offseason modifications in Tampa stays to be seen.
— Austin Knoblauch
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS 24, BUFFALO BILLS 12
1. Buffalo’s defence did a bang-up job for 2 and a half quarters (comparatively talking), however the Payments’ season was embodied by one play: A Julian Edelman catch and obvious deal with. As an alternative of the play being over, although, Edelman landed on the defender with out hitting the floor, then received up and raced into the finish zone for six. A Patriots offence that was struggling to take benefit of alternatives acquired a present of one, and that’s what finally sank the Payments, who couldn’t cobble collectively many factors offensively. A vibrant spot, although: Zay Jones caught 5 passes for 67 yards and located the finish zone.
2. Recent off the robust loss to Pittsburgh, the Patriots rebounded properly. New England’s defence triggered Josh Allen all types of issues, leading to two interceptions and a 52.6 passer score. The Patriots bottled up Buffalo’s dashing assault, too, limiting LeSean McCoy to 9 yards on six carries. It was a bizarre recreation, although, with the groups buying and selling turnovers early and New England once more not absolutely separating from Buffalo till time made it a non-factor. Tom Brady threw an uncharacteristically ugly interception to Lorenzo Alexander, which adopted an Allen interception on an excellent learn made by rookie UDFA J.C. Jackson. Rex Burkhead fumbled in uncommon style, however Stephen Hauschka doinked a area aim off the submit, losing a Payments alternative. In the finish, although, the workforce well-versed in success got here out on prime and punched its ticket to the postseason.
Three. This Patriots group doesn’t encourage a ton of confidence in the place it’s headed in the postseason, however one can’t argue with its dominance. New England clinched the AFC East for the 10th straight time, an unprecedented and beforehand unimaginable run of excellence. The Patriots reached double-digit wins, but once more. They soothed considerations for at the least every week, and took care of enterprise in a recreation that would’ve gone off the rails. That’s sufficient for a cheerful Sunday in New England as Christmas approaches. Cease wringing your arms about soccer and go ice skating, people.
— Nick Shook
GREEN BAY PACKERS 44, NEW YORK JETS 38 OT
1. In a recreation that seemingly wouldn’t finish between groups needing merciful ends to their seasons, Aaron Rodgers appeared like his previous self when he slung a laser to Davante Adams for a 16-yard game-winning rating in extra time for a 44-38 conquer the Jets. Heading into Sunday, Rodgers, regardless of a borderline ridiculous 23:2 touchdown-interception ratio, was having one of his least productive seasons with a 97.2 quarterback score (ninth-best in his profession) and 1.6 touchdowns per recreation (final). Alas for the Jets (Four-11) and their questionable play-calling down the stretch, Rodgers continues to be Rodgers late in a recreation — a minimum of on this Sunday. Down 35-20 in the fourth quarter, Rodgers orchestrated three scoring drives as the Packers (6-Eight-1) outscored the Jets, 18-Three, in the stanza to ship the recreation to additional time. Rodgers scored twice on one-yard runs and added a two-point conversion rush for a 38-35 lead. Then he hit Adams (who had 11 catches for 71 yards and is a reception away from tying the single-season group document) in OT. Rodgers threw for 442 yards and two touchdowns, accomplished 37 of 55 passes with nary an interception and ran for 2 scores. The Aaron Rodgers of previous continues to be round — no less than on this Sunday.
2. In a matchup of groups far eliminated from the postseason race, the storyline promoting level, proper or flawed, was Rodgers versus Jets first-round decide Sam Darnold. Darnold was on level from the recreation’s genesis, finishing eight of 10 passes for 111 yards in the first quarter. Maybe most impressively — thanks largely to an enormous Andre Roberts 99-yard landing for the Jets together with the Packers having the ball to finish the first half and open the third quarter — Darnold got here off an elongated respite and was as wonderful as ever to open the second half. After the Pack minimize the rating to 21-20 on the first drive of the third stanza, Darnold was an ideal 5 for 5 on the ensuing drive, culminating with a 5-yard rating to Chris Herndon. One other huge Gang Inexperienced particular groups play netted a fumble restoration on the following kickoff and Darnold accomplished a 20-yard landing to Elijah McGuire for a 35-20 lead. After which the Jets acquired drastically conservative with their offensive and defensive play-calling. After the Jets’ fourth-quarter collapse, Darnold, who accomplished 24 of 35 for 341 yards and three scores with no picks, drove the Jets down for a game-tying Jason Myers subject aim, as nicely. It was a loss for the Jets, however Darnold confirmed his first-round type.
Three. Something however street warriors, the Packers performed pre-Lombardi ball this season. With the win at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Inexperienced Bay prevented a winless season on the street, going 1-7 away from Lambeau Area. It might’ve been the Packers’ first winless season on the street since 1958, which is in any other case generally known as the season earlier than Vince Lombardi took over. With the victory, the Packers even have one final probability to win back-to-back video games for the solely time this season. Ought to they lose to the Lions subsequent week, it is going to be the first time the franchise has did not win back-to-back video games in a marketing campaign since 2005, which was the final season earlier than the just lately fired Mike McCarthy took over. Both method, Joe Philbin is 2-1 as interim coach, however when this Packers season concludes subsequent week at Lambeau, there’s an excellent probability a brand new period will begin for Inexperienced Bay.
— Grant Gordon
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 28, NEW YORK GIANTS 27
1. The never-say-die angle that has fuelled the Colts’ second-half surge was on acute show towards the Giants. Indianapolis trailed for the overwhelming majority of the recreation, however as grim because it checked out occasions, the Colts by no means seemed to be in a dire state of affairs. Andrew Luck spearheaded the rally, piecing collectively a effective, eight-play drive that included a 14-yard run by Luck and a 12-yard cross to T.Y. Hilton earlier than culminating in a 1-yard TD move to Chester Rogers to provide the Colts (9-6) their first lead of the afternoon with 2:48 left in the recreation. Malik Hooker’s interception off Eli Manning closed out the recreation, heralding a standing ovation from a Lucas Oil Stadium crowd that has seen the pesky Colts win eight of their final 9 video games after beginning the season 1-5.
2. The everlasting debate relating to Eli Manning’s standing as a bona fide NFL starter swung towards the quarterback on Sunday. Manning confirmed flashes of brilliance all through the recreation, however couldn’t get the job completed when the Giants (5-10) wanted him most. Getting the ball again with 55 seconds left and down by one level with one timeout left, Manning was picked off by Hooker in the center of the subject to shut out the recreation. Regardless of the Giants’ post-bye week surge, Manning’s struggles in crunch time proceed to forged doubt over his capability to steer the Giants again to the postseason. Outdoors of the interception, he had a robust recreation, connecting on 25 of 33 passes for 309 yards and a landing. Nonetheless, Luck did what Manning couldn’t — lead his staff to the finish zone with the recreation on the line.
Three. Though Indy’s defence had some points holding Manning in examine, they discovered methods to restrict Saquon Barkley’s effectiveness. In a matchup between the doubtless offensive and defensive rookies of the yr, Colts linebacker Darius Leonard placed on a barely extra spectacular efficiency, tallying eight tackles for an Indy defence that definitely bent however didn’t break in securing the win. Barkley was restricted on the floor to 42 yards and a TD on 21 carries, however he additionally had 5 catches for 34 yards.
— Austin Knoblauch
CLEVELAND BROWNS 26, CINCINNATI BENGALS 18
1. Squaring off for a second time towards the exiled Hue Jackson, Cleveland’s teaching employees operated aggressively, ignoring its punter on a pair of early fourth-and-short conditions. The primary — from its 42 — was blown up by a penalty, however the second — from Cincy’s 15-yard line — noticed quarterback Baker Mayfield hit Jarvis Landry for 9 yards to arrange a wonderfully positioned leaping landing seize by David Njoku three performs later. The sport turned for good proper there, with Cincy’s offence drifting right into a winter’s nap. Landry returned on the following drive to toss an ultra-dime to Breshad Perriman for 63 yards to arrange Mayfield’s fairly landing strike to Darren Fells. That scoring lob — his 23rd on the yr — tied Mayfield with Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson for the second most as a rookie passer. He’d end with 284 yards and three scores, placing him on their lonesome in third place in that rookie race behind Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson (26). It was extra of the similar from first-time play-caller Freddie Kitchens, dialling up wideout choice bombs, misdirection gallops, direct snaps to the more-involved Duke Johnson (62 yards off eight touches) and a flurry of on-the-money darts from Mayfield, who at one level hit 15 straight completions.
2. The Bengals offence is amongst the league’s most banged-up and it seemed it on Sunday, with backup passer Jeff Driskel opening the recreation with 5 straight punts and producing simply 37 first-half yards — with minus-15 yards passing — whereas the Browns put up a whopping 493 on the day. A fourth-quarter blocked punt sparked a late-game Bengals rally, however it was too little, too late. Dangerously sloppy, flag-prone and past bland, can the Bengals (6-9) actually afford to dial up one other yr of Marvin Lewis, whose worn-out defence sat on the area for 35:31 towards a Browns membership (7-7-1) that additionally dialled up three sacks and nabbed a sweep over Cincy for the first time since 2002?
Three. Browns wideout Rashard Higgins (6/60/1) made a handful of juicy catches, one wildly inventive leaping scoring seize and — IMO — shouldn’t have been referred to as for offensive move interference on a 55-yard catch-and-run from Mayfield. Chubb (19/112) ran with uncooked energy, broke the group’s rookie dashing document and once more appeared like a star-in-the-making, whereas the defence was led by constant strain up the center by linebacker Joe Schobert, Chris Smith, Larry Ogunjobi and Genard Avery. There’s additionally the case of Perriman, who washed out in Baltimore, however continues to stand up as a big-play machine for the Browns. Outdoors of some effective runs by Joe Mixon and spice from special-teamer Clayton Fejedelem, the Bengals ought to toss Sunday’s recreation tape into the xmas log blaze.
— Marc Sessler
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS 17, MIAMI DOLPHINS 7
1. If the Miami Miracle was the Dolphins’ high-water level of the season, the final two weeks have been a waterfall — or an enormous drain. Miami has fallen flat in two straight weeks, first getting blown out by the Vikings in Minneapolis, after which failing to muster something greater than seven factors towards a really beatable Jaguars group. How beatable are the Jags? Jacksonville discovered itself in the purple zone on a possession Sunday and ended up punting three downs later, on fourth and 46. These sorts of errors are wonderful of their rarity, but Miami didn’t take benefit of any of them. And worst of all, when tied 7-7 halfway by means of the fourth, the Dolphins collectively crumbled, capped by Telvin Smith’s pick-six of Ryan Tannehill, which adopted Jacksonville’s go-ahead subject objective. The Dolphins misplaced to a Jaguars group so befuddled offensively, it turned to Blake Bortles when it turned clear a banged-up Cody Kessler couldn’t cause them to a win.
2. It is going to be fascinating to see how these final two weeks have an effect on Adam Gase’s future as head coach of the Dolphins. His tenure has been crammed with tumult, but in addition promise. That they had the look of a workforce which may have been succesful of a playoff look, however fell brief. On one hand, you’ve gotten a coach who managed to maintain his staff aggressive regardless of dropping his beginning quarterback and being pressured to switch him with Brock Osweiler. However the different hand consists of these final two video games, which have been terrible shows from a group in playoff rivalry. He and GM Mike Tannenbaum might be the focus of discussions getting into January.
Three. That is the Jaguars defence we anticipated to see for many of the season. Recent off a 16-13 loss to a Josh Johnson-led Washington group, the Jaguars stood tall and did a lot of what led them to an AFC South crown final yr: They pressured the quarterback (six sacks as a staff), stored the opponent out of the pink zone (one journey) and accomplished the trifecta with the ever-important defensive rating. We’re teetering on the Jaguars probably blowing it up after this season, however this might be a win that forestalls them from doing so, as an alternative addressing their offence whereas holding most of the defence — which may nonetheless do its job, as evidenced Sunday (and twice towards the Colts) — intact.
— Nick Shook
ATLANTA FALCONS 24, CAROLINA PANTHERS 10
1. In a recreation between two groups destined to observe the playoffs from their couches, the Falcons’ aerial assault proved to be the distinction. Matt Ryan burned the Panthers’ secondary with two third-quarter bombs (a 75-yard strike to Calvin Ridley on the first play after halftime and a 44-yard toss to Mohamed Sanu) that broke open a recreation tied at 10 after two quarters.
These two strikes have been sufficient to offer the Falcons (6-9) the win and remove the Panthers (6-9) from playoff rivalry. The loss is the seventh straight for Carolina this season, and whereas NFL Community Insider Ian Rapoport expects Ron Rivera to return subsequent season, anticipate a lot of modifications forward.
2. Christian McCaffrey’s stellar season cemented itself in the document books after one other productive Sunday. McCaffrey proved to be an efficient safety blanket for first-time starter Taylor Heinicke, who gamely battled via what seemed like an unsightly left elbow damage to complete the recreation. McCaffrey corralled 12 passes on the afternoon to push his season complete to 106, passing Matt Forte to set the NFL season report for receptions by a operating again. McCaffrey additionally topped Steve Smith for the group document in receptions in a season.
McCaffrey additionally cleared the 100-yard mark on the floor for the fourth time this season and have become the first Panthers again to hurry for 1,000 yards since DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart each did so in 2009. Run CMC is also the third again in NFL historical past to log 1,000 dashing yards and report 100-plus catches in a single season. Forte and Corridor of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson are the different two to realize the feat .
Three. Falcons punter Matt Bosher delivered one of the hits of the yr throughout the first half. Sure you learn that proper. Panthers returner Kenjon Barner discovered a crease down the proper sideline on a second-quarter kickoff and was rudely met by Bosher at the Carolina 36-yard line. Bosher picked Barner up and clotheslined him with an ideal type deal with that added insult to the Panthers’ last residence recreation of the season.
— David Ely
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 27, DETROIT LIONS 9
1. A sleepy offensive begin put the Vikings in an early 9-Zero gap earlier than Kirk Cousins & Co. awakened. Minnesota compiled 5 complete yards on its first 4 drives and didn’t earn a primary down till Three:48 left in the second quarter. Credit score the Vikings D for holding Detroit to 3 subject objectives to provide the offence an opportunity to seek out its groove. Discover it they did. Minnesota closed out the first half with back-to-back touchdowns in the remaining 1:32 to take management. Cousins took benefit of a blown protection on Adam Thielen for a 40-yard achieve to arrange a Stefon Diggs rating. Kyle Rudolph then skied for a half-ending 44-yard Hail Mary landing that stole any momentum Detroit may need gained early. In the second half, Dalvin Prepare dinner lastly heated up, bludgeoning Detroit’s D as the Vikings squeezed the life out of a cratering Lions group, scoring 27 straight factors to shut the recreation.
2. It wasn’t a crisp recreation for the Eight-6-1 Vikings, however Mike Zimmer’s squad took one other step towards the postseason with a street division win. Zimmer’s defence held the Lions out of the finish zone for the second time on the yr, utterly smothering Matthew Stafford in the ultimate two quarters. Heading into Week 17, Minnesota hangs onto playoff positioning. With the Philadelphia Eagles’ come-from-behind victory over Houston, nevertheless, the Vikings didn’t clinch a postseason berth with Sunday’s win. Minnesota will host the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears in the season finale with a playoff spot on the line.
Three. Matt Patricia’s group wasted golden alternatives to take an enormous lead early. Starting the recreation with nice subject place, the Lions offence settled for 3 subject objectives. Profitable groups rating touchdowns; dropping squads kick area objectives. The Lions are a field-goal workforce. The margin for error for Matthew Stafford and the Detroit offence is so small they can’t persistently beat good defences. Stafford compiled a minuscule 116 passing yards earlier than a mercy yanking for the ultimate two drives. On Stafford’s final 5 possessions, the Lions punted 4 occasions and turned it over on downs. Detroit earned 37 yards on these 5 drives. Because of a defensive collapse at the finish of the first half, Detroit trailed 14-9 at the break regardless of proudly owning a 19:45 to 10:15 time of possession benefit. The top-of-half meltdown destroyed any constructive vibes Detroit may need generated. Patricia’s staff put up zero battle in the ultimate 32 minutes of the recreation. The coach ends his first season at the helm travelling to Inexperienced Bay in Week 17. Detroit will finish the season in the cellar of the NFC North.
— Kevin Patra
LOS ANGELES 31, ARIZONA CARDINALS 9
1. Los Angeles snapped its ugly two-game dropping streak with a get-right victory over the hapless Cardinals. With out injured Todd Gurley, who was dominated out pre-game with a lingering knee damage, the Rams handed the ball and the reins to former Broncos and Panthers operating again C.J. Anderson, who had the recreation of his life. Anderson rushed for 167 yards, one brief of a profession excessive, at a wild Eight.Four yards per carry clip and scored his first landing of the season. Signed by the Rams this week after failed stints with Carolina and Oakland (104 dashing yards in 9 video games), the 27-year-old again rammed by means of Arizona’s entrance seven and helped maintain L.A.’s first-half scoring drives. The constant assault opened up L.A.’s play-action recreation and lessened the beating on Jared Goff, who had his most strong outing (216 yards, TD, one sack) since the Rams’ bye. Along with Anderson, Robert Woods picked up some slack with 89 yards and a rating via the air and one other landing on the floor. That being stated, the offensive line continues to be displaying indicators of leakage in cross safety and will wilt towards a extra critical move rush in the postseason. With New Orleans’ win on Sunday, the Rams can’t safe home-field benefit in the NFC. However they will guarantee themselves a first-round bye in the event that they defeat the 49ers subsequent week in the Coliseum.
2. Aaron Donald’s runaway Defensive Participant of the Yr marketing campaign rolled on Sunday afternoon as the defensive deal with tacked on three extra sacks. That provides Donald 19.5 sacks heading into the last week of the season, three behind Michael Strahan’s single-season report of 22.5. Donald’s 19.5 QB takedowns are the most in a single season by an inside lineman in NFL historical past and by a Rams participant in franchise historical past. In Donald’s crosshairs subsequent week? 49ers rookie Nick Mullens, who has taken 14 sacks in seven begins.
Three. If this was Larry Fitzgerald’s ultimate house recreation as a Cardinal, it was a memorable one. Properly, not the whole recreation; the future Corridor of Famer put up a pedestrian six catches for 53 yards. However Fitzgerald did one thing on this affair that he had not completed in his storied 15-year profession: Throw a landing move. The 35-year-old WR took a second quarter took a tos from Josh Rosen and heaved it down the sideline to a streaking David Johnson for a 32-yard rating. It was Fitz’s fourth move try, his second completion and his first TD toss. Add to it the resume. Not that he wanted it.
— Jeremy Bergman