By Anthony McClean, Editor-In-Chief Emeritus
We’re heading down the home stretch for the NFL and the Field Generals. On one end, some teams are jockeying for playoff positions and postseason dreams. On the other end, some players and teams are already fighting for their jobs in 2021.
Some teams are putting their best foot forward, while others are hoping that’s not you know what they’re stepping in. It always makes for a great finish when spoilers come along and mess it up for folks fighting for a trip to the playoff dance.
This week was no different. Let’s take a quick look back.
Cam Newton, New England (Loss at L.A. Rams)
After playing turnover-free football in four of the last five games, the Pats’ offense completely folded in a bad loss to the Rams. At one point, the yardage difference was 140 to one through the first 10 minutes of the game, and it got progressively worse. In three of the Pats’ last four outings, Cam passed for less than 120 yards still led to wins. Newton recorded 119, but the run game (29/107) failed to a produce a TD for the first time since Week 7. No. 1 also went 1-of-4 for 30 yards and took four sacks before getting pulled.
Kyler Murray, Arizona (Win at N.Y. Giants)
The Cardinals (7-6) climbed back into a playoff spot with three games left, thanks to their win and the Vikings’ loss to the Buccaneers. The defense dominated, sacking New York QBs eight times and holding the previously NFC East-leading Giants (5-8) to 159 yards. As for Mr. Murray, he had 13 carries for 47 yards (and three of those attempts, for minus-5, came on kneel downs at the end) in addition to 24-of-35 passing for 244 yards and no turnovers. Most importantly, Arizona snapped their 3-game losing skid and put themselves back in the postseason picture. Up next: a home game against Jalen Hurts and Philly.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (Win at Miami)
A slow start in Miami? No problem. Two picks in the first three possessions? I gotcha. Fall behind 10 points? Hold my beer. No. 15 showed once again why they may be engraving his name on another MVP trophy and more. K.C. would outscore the Fish 28-0 in the final 10:22 of the game to outright steal another win. No. 15 finished the game with 393 passing yards and two touchdowns, marking his sixth-consecutive game with 300+ passing yards and his league-leading ninth overall such performance on the year. Mahomes also extended his touchdown streak to 23 straight games with a score — the longest active stretch in the NFL — and he also topped 4,000 passing yards for the season on Sunday, joining Peyton Manning and Dan Marino as the only three players in league history to tally 4,000+ passing yards in three of their first four years as a professional.
DeShaun Watson, Houston (Loss at Chicago)
Before they knew what hit them, the Texans were down 14-0 and never recovered as the Bears pummeled Houston. No. 4 completed 21-of-30 passes for 219 yards, with one touchdown and a 101.9 passer rating. Watson also rushed for 38 yards on seven carries. He and A.J. McCarron were sacked for combined 7 times as the offense never got on track. On the other side of the ball, the Houston D got bludgeoned as Mitchell Trubisky threw three touchdown passes. The loss means the Texans will have their first losing season since 2017.
Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina (Loss vs. Denver)
Sunday’s loss to the Broncos was similar to so many games this year, and they’re stacking up fast. That’s seven losses by one score so far this season, leaving them 4-9 with three games against likely or at least possible playoff teams (at Green Bay, at Washington, New Orleans at home). Despite just putting out 88 yards in the first half, Carolina had a shot to tie the game late in the fourth. But they fell short — again. As for Bridgewater, he had 283 yards on 30-of-40 passing. He also rushed for 31 yards and a touchdown. No. 5 now has 239 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns in 2020, both career highs.
Russell Wilson, Seattle (Win vs. N.Y. Jets)
You just had the feeling that the Seahawks would not go 0-2 against New York/New Jersey teams this season. Seattle and Mr. Wilson got back on track Sunday, looking more like the team that led the NFL in scoring for much of the season. No. 3 threw four touchdown passes to four different receivers, giving him 36 for the season, breaking his own franchise record. The Seahawks also ran the ball well with 174 yards on the ground, were five-for-six in the red zone, coming up short only in the fourth quarter with the starters out of the game, had 28 first downs, and scored on six of eight offensive possessions while the starters were in the game. It was Seattle’s most lopsided win since a 2012 58-0 win over the Cardinals.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia (Win vs. New Orleans)
After offering some brief glimpses in the final minutes at Green Bay, Mr. Hurts showed the whole arsenal against the NFC’s No. 1 overall defense Sunday. In his first NFL start, Hurts supported the Eagles in their biggest win of the season against the NFC South-leading Saints by throwing for 167 yards and a touchdown, while also gaining 106 yards on the ground. Hurts was not sacked once as the Eagles amassed 246 ground yards on the league’s No. 2-ranked rushing defense.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (Win at Cleveland)
In one of the best Monday Night games in a while, it was one Heisman Trophy winner out dueling the other as the Ravens outlasted the Browns in an epic shootout in Cleveland. The 89 combined points were the most in a game this season and the third-most on Monday Night Football history. The Los Angeles Rams-Kansas City Chiefs combined for 105 points in 2018 and the Washington Redskins-Green Bay Packers combined for 95 points in 1983. The combined 9 rushing touchdowns tied an NFL record dating back to 1922. It happened twice that year, but in both games one team (the Rock Island Independents and Racine Legion) scored all nine touchdowns. The Ravens and Browns became the first pair of teams in NFL history to each have four or more rushing touchdowns in the same game. But it was Jackson’s TD pass following the 2:00 warning that proved to be the game-winner.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Making his first career start, Philadelphia rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts passed for 167 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions and added 106 rush yards in the Eagles’ 24-21 win over New Orleans. He joins Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson (119 rushing yards in Week 11, 2018) as the only quarterbacks with at least 100 rushing yards in their first career start in NFL history.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at email@example.com.