A ton of irony, a changing of the guard and a wardrobe malfunction highlight the NFL Week 15 Recap.
2020 NFL Week 15 Recap
December 22, 2020, 12:01 AM
Thanks largely to a miserable first half in which they had more turnovers than first downs, Pittsburgh continued its freefall from 11-0 squad destined for homefield advantage to a floundering franchise that can’t even beat a Cincinnati team they’ve owned for more than five years. Though there’s precedent for recovery, if the Steelers can’t get right against a team quarterbacked by Ryan Finley, there’s no reason to believe they can beat Philip Rivers and the red-hot Baker Mayfield to stop this slide before the playoffs.
And, trust me, I take no joy in this because I grew up watching the great Steeler teams of the early 90s. So this performance in tandem with the news that the legendary pass rusher Kevin Greene suddenly died Monday is just a horrible way to start Christmas week in Pittsburgh.
This ironic game comes more than a week after Alanis Morissette released a new album.
Freddie Kitchens called plays against the team that fired him, leaving the Giants offense every bit as inept as you’d think a unit with Kitchens calling plays for Colt McCoy would be. Baker Mayfield won one for Odell Beckham and his swag is rightfully off the charts after strong showings in back-to-back prime-time games for Cleveland’s first 10-win team in 13 years.
The NFL’s best QB matchup ever didn’t live up to its billing because Drew Brees simply wasn’t ready to play, starting 0-for-6 with a pick, and never really looking comfortable after his awful rib injuries. New Orleans’ best shot at a Super Bowl rematch with Kansas City lies in resting Brees down the stretch.
DeAndre Hopkins’ sick, game-winning touchdown catch can only be fully appreciated on video.
And Doug Pederson apparently can’t appreciate good quarterback play. Jalen Hurts is the first Eagles QB with 300 passing yards, three passing TDs and a rush TD since Mike Vick’s Monday Night Massacre, yet can’t seem to quit Carson Wentz despite enjoying a 11-4 record with anyone other than Wentz starting at QB. Pederson should be fired for malfeasance if he botches this very easy decision.
And salute Larry Fitzgerald for what he and Frank Gore did …
… The two 37-year-olds scored touchdowns within minutes of each other to make NFL history and help their teams win.
Although, Gore’s touchdown may have been the only good result in Los Angeles; the Jets’ historically bad season is in vain if they don’t get Trevor Lawrence and the Rams’ loss might keep them from winning the NFC West (and officially does if they lose in Seattle next week). Of course, what good is home-field advantage to L.A. if they can’t beat a winless team at home?
Washington’s four-game gauntlet ends with a course-correcting loss that reiterates this reality: Even if the Burgundy and Gold defense were as good as the 2000 Ravens (and it’s not), consistent quarterback play is an absolute must in the present-day NFL. Someone under center better step up and play well if they’re going to win another game, let alone the NFC East title.
Dez Bryant had an emotional return to the end zone after a three-year absence, Yannick Ngakoue got his pound of flesh and Jacksonville now has the inside track on Trevor Lawrence. Everyone left Baltimore a winner.
Don’t let the score fool you: This was an embarrassing loss for Dallas. The Cowboys were flexed out of prime-time for the first time — and in favor of a division rival facing the Browns, no less — and only won because San Francisco essentially handed Dallas 24 points thanks to turnovers. Even as the rest of the NFC East lost on Sunday, they won in the long run because Jerry Jones’ delusions about his sagging franchise only grew stronger.
My, how far the mighty have fallen.
New England’s 12-year playoff streak, 12 straight wins against rookie QBs and 19 consecutive winning seasons were simultaneously snapped in a miserable day in Miami. The AFC East belongs to the Bills and Dolphins now, and it’s hard not to feel like it’s going to be that way for a good, long while.
And give it up for Salvon Ahmed, who called his shot for his sick grandmother and ended Miami’s 31-game drought without a 100-yard rusher. Something special is brewing on South Beach.
Instead of yelling at Kirk Cousins, Justin Jefferson should have spent the latest installment of his historic rookie season yelling at Minnesota’s depleted defense that let David Montgomery look like the second coming of Sweetness. Chicago’s win pulls them within a game of Arizona for the last NFC wild card, and the Bears making the playoffs would be the most upsetting survival since Thanos juked the Guardians of the Galaxy with the reality stone.
I was going to rant about how the Texans don’t deserve Deshaun Watson but 1) I already did that last week and 2) it’s far more important to give Rigoberto Sanchez some love for his inspirational return from cancer. Stay #RigoStrong, Mr. Sanchez.
Derrick Henry needs only 321 yards against bad rush defenses in Green Bay and Houston to lock up a 2,000-yard season? Go ahead and pencil that in along with the therapy Alexander Myers will need after getting stiff armed into oblivion.
Tom Brady has tortured a lot of teams but few as much as Atlanta. It’s not quite 28-3 in the Super Bowl, but the GOAT helped Tampa erase a 17-0 deficit and avoid a catastrophic loss that would have complicated their playoff hopes. Oh, and Brady is also one touchdown pass away from tying Jameis Winston’s single-season franchise record so his second act isn’t all bad.
Aaron Rodgers may think he should have more MVPs but he shouldn’t even get this year’s award after this game. Good for A-Rod becoming the first QB with three 40-TD pass seasons but Aaron Jones was the real catalyst of a crucial win that was a Teddy Bridgewater goal line fumble away from not happening at all.
It was a win a quarter century in the making.
Buffalo emphatically claimed its first AFC East title since 1995, riding the magical pairing of Josh Allen and former Terp Stefon Diggs that’s rewriting the Bills’ passing and receiving records. This team is one of the feel-good stories of 2020 and hopefully key injuries don’t derail Buffalo’s resurgent year.
Raiders 27 (OT)
Hats off to the Chargers for pulling off a rare late-game victory and their first division win since 2018. Justin Herbert is the kind of prime time performer deserving of Los Angeles.
And a literal hats off to Jon Gruden, the Teflon coach whose Raiders have the second-worst record in December/January games since his return to the sideline. I know Vegas was missing its offensive coordinator and four defensive starters due to COVID protocol, but Gruden’s seat should start getting warmer if/when the Raiders fail to make the playoffs — regardless of his hefty contract.
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