By Anthony McClean, Editor-In-Chief Emeritus
Before we get started, we’d like to congratulate four of the Field Generals: Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, and Kyler Murray for making the Pro Bowl. The 2021 Pro Bowl Game originally was scheduled to be played Jan. 31 in Las Vegas, but was canceled due to COVID-19.
As for Week 15, we saw more jockeying for the postseason party on one end and spoilers rearing their heads as well. While Buffalo officially ended New England’s reign atop the AFC East, the NFC least looks even more jumbled.
While there will be football on Christmas Day, you can add a third contest to Saturday. All three games will have playoff implications. We’re also trying to figure out just what the hell is going on in Pittsburgh and L.A. as the Steelers and Rams are limping down the stretch.
Let’s take a look back at the action.
Teddy Bridgewater, Carolina (Loss at Green Bay)
Once again, close but no cigar for the Panthers. After falling behind 21-3, Carolina would rally a get within a touchdown of tying the game. But a costly fumble by No. 5 at the goal line proved to be the Panthers’ undoing. It was especially painful as the Carolina D held the league’s No. 1 offense to 3 points in the second half. Carolina held Green Bay to just 49 net yards in the second half, the Packers’ second-fewest in the second half over the past 20 seasons. As for Bridgewater, he finished 21-of-35 for 258 yards and a rushing TD. The Panthers played in their 10th game this season decided by eight points or fewer. They are now 2-8 in those games.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (Win vs. Jacksonville)
The Ravens have now won three straight games since their COVID-19 outbreak, including Sunday’s balanced win over the free-falling Jaguars. As for Jackson, he went 7-of-22 for 243 passing yards and four total touchdowns against Jacksonville. He also has returned to his MVP-caliber form during the last three games, completing 71.4 percent of his passes for 513 yards, six touchdowns, and two picks in those games while averaging 9.16 yards per attempt and tallying a 120.6 passer rating. He’s added 253 yards and four scores on the ground. With Pittsburgh struggling down the stretch, the Ravens still find themselves just on the outside and looking in for the postseason Baltimore cannot win the division title even if they are victorious in their final two games, and they might not even make the seven-team AFC playoff field. They’re currently the eighth seed and will need help.
Russell Wilson, Seattle (Win at Washington)
It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. While there was a serious hangover following the shellacking of the Jets, it was enough to overcome Washington. And while Seattle’s offense stalled out in the second half, the Seahawks did score on four of their first five possessions to build a big lead. The Seahawks finished the game with 181 rushing yards, their second most this season, doing almost all of that damage in the first three quarters. As for Wilson, he was 18 for 27 for only 121 yards and a touchdown, and no completions longer than 15 yards. With the win, the Seahawks are playoff bound for the ninth time in 11 seasons.
Dwayne Haskins Jr., Washington (Loss vs. Seattle)
In his first start in 10 weeks, Haskins found himself down 17 points and staring at a blowout. He bounced back and set career highs in completions (38) and attempts (55) to go along with 295 yards and a touchdown. However, it was not enough to come back for the win. But it was his transgression off the field that caused more headlines. The second-year QB admitted he violated the league’s COVID-19 protocols on Sunday while attending a private party and not wearing a mask during a public gathering of more than 10 people. He was fined by the team and was stripped of his captaincy.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (Win at New Orleans)
There he goes again!! Mahomes completed 26-of-47 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday, tallying his 21st career game with 3+ touchdowns. In other words, with just 45 starts under Mahomes’ belt as a professional, he’s thrown for 3+ scores in 47 percent of his outings. Mahomes also extended his touchdown streak to 24 straight games with a scoring strike. It’s the longest active stretch in the NFL. Also, Kansas City racked up 179 rushing yards in Sunday’s victory, which were the second-most New Orleans has allowed all season. Sunday’s victory secured an 8-0 record away from Arrowhead Stadium this season, marking the Chiefs’ first undefeated season on the road since 1966. Kansas City is one of just eight teams to go 8-0 on the road since the 16-game schedule was introduced in 1978.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia (Loss at Arizona)
Down double digits in the first quarter on Sunday, Hurts was forced to throw in order to get the Eagles back in the ballgame. He responded with 338 yards passing and three touchdowns for a 102.3 QB rating. He also had 63 rushing yards and a touchdown. In his two starts, both against playoff contenders, Hurts completed 55 percent of his pass attempts for 505 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 94.7 passer rating. He’s also churned out 169 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He’s only turned the ball over once. The Eagles are 4-9-1 with a chance to still take the NFC East. They need to win their final two games and get some help in the form of a Washington loss this weekend to Carolina and one Giant loss over the next two weeks.
Kyler Murray, Arizona (Win vs. Philadelphia)
The Cardinals (8-6) remain in control of their playoff hopes, the seventh and final seed in the NFC with two games left following Sunday’s win against Philly. It was an odd game for the Cards, who had 526 yards of offense — their highest total since Kliff Kingsbury became coach — but converted only 3-of-10 third downs, making many drives harder than necessary. As for Murray, he had a career-high 406 yards passing to go with three touchdown passes, and he ran one in too. Up next: a rematch with the 49ers which leads to next week’s showdown against the Rams.
Deshaun Watson, Houston (Loss at Indianapolis)
With apologies to Yogi Berra, it was “déjà vu all over again” for the Texans in their loss to the Colts. After starting the game in a 14-0 deficit, the Texans battled back to tie it, 20-20, in the fourth quarter. The final possession of the game ended in a similarly heartbreaking fashion to Houston’s Week 13 home loss to the Colts, on a fumble near the goal line. Watson completed 33-of-41 passes for 373 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He finished with a 120.8 passer rating, and also ran six times for 25 yards.
Cam Newton, New England (Loss at Miami)
After 11 straight appearances in the playoffs, the 6-8 Patriots were eliminated with the loss to the Dolphins. New England couldn’t solve the Miami rushing attack, allowing 250 yards on the ground, and couldn’t find the end zone for a second-straight week, losing their eighth game of the season. It was a disappointing ending for the Patriots, allowing a season-high in ground yardage and showing many of the same issues that were exposed last week against the Rams. As for No. 1, he was 17 of 27 for 209 yards and ran for 38 yards on nine carries.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Arizona’s Kyler Murray passed for 406 yards with three touchdowns and one interception for a 127.8 rating and added a rushing touchdown in the Cardinals’ 33-26 win over Philadelphia. Murray has nine games with both a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown this season, the most by a quarterback in a single season in NFL history.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.