By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
Much like MLB’s All-Star break is commonly designated as the pseudo “beginning of the stretch drive”, Thanksgiving Week acts similarly in the NFL. This holds true especially this year with the “biggest season ever” slowly reaching a crescendo.
Last week saw some teams take steps forward and backward trying to get their invites to the postseason gala. Overall, it was the first week where the Field Generals failed to collectively have a winning record on the field.
Injuries are still playing a role as well as the Cardinals (even in a bye week) are still playing without Kyler Murray, the Saints continue to struggle without Jameis Winston, and Russell Wilson is still working out the rust in Seattle.
Let’s take a look back.
LAST WEEK: 3-5 (56-53 overall)
Dak Prescott, Dallas (Loss vs. Vegas)
In what CBS is calling, the most-watched regular-season game in nearly 30 years, Vegas handed Dallas its third loss in their last four games. The Raiders ended a three-game losing streak behind Daniel Carlson’s career-best fifth field goal in overtime. The sloppy affair saw both teams have season highs in penalties and yards. Dallas, the NFL leader in penalty yards coming in, had 14 for a franchise-record 166 yards and Las Vegas 14 for 110. Prescott had 209 of his 375 yards passing in the fourth quarter including a score that pulled the Cowboys (7-4) even at 30-30 with 2:54 remaining after they trailed almost from the start. The NFL’s No. 1 offense bounced back to finish with 437 yards, but the Raiders had a season-high 509. The Raiders (6-5) won on Thanksgiving for the first time since 1968. It was their fourth appearance on the holiday since then, with the previous two losses coming at the Cowboys.
Cam Newton, Carolina (Loss at Miami)
As impressive as Newton looked in his home debut last week, he looked just as bad in this loss to the Fish. Cam was pulled in the fourth quarter after completing just five of 21 passes for the Panthers (5-7), who lost for the seventh time in their past nine games. It was Newton’s worst statistical day as a pro. Newton finished with 92 yards passing, no touchdowns, and two interceptions. It all added up to a quarterback rating of 5.8, by far the worst of his career. He did have Carolina’s lone touchdown, a 1-yard spin in the first quarter. The Panthers are 0-7 when allowing 21 or more points this season, 5-0 otherwise. And the Dolphins had 21 on the board by halftime, thanks to a blocked punt and two scoring drives.
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami (Win vs. Carolina)
To say that Tua has stepped up his game since the DeShaun Watson trade rumors resurfaced would be an understatement. On Sunday, Tagovailoa completed 27 of 31 passes for 230 yards and a score as Miami (5-7), which became the sixth team in NFL history to immediately follow a 1-7 start with four consecutive wins. In that stretch, Miami has allowed 46 points and is now 16-7 in games played in November, December, and January in coach Brian Flores’ three seasons. In the win, the defense feasted off five sacks and three interceptions. When Miami went up 30-10 in the fourth quarter, it was the Dolphins’ first time enjoying a lead of 20 points or more since Nov. 1, 2020, against the Rams.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia (Loss at N.Y. Giants)
With a chance to enhance their playoff status in the NFC, Philly would up getting their feathers torched by their division rivals in Jersey. The Giants’ defense intercepted Hurts three times, forced four turnovers overall and held Philadelphia to a season-low in points. Hurts was 14 of 31 for 129 yards and finished with a dismal 17.5 quarterback rating. He also ran for a team-high 77 yards, but it was the picks that lead to the Eagles’ demise. They’ll be right back at Met Life Stadium on Sunday to try their luck against the other New York/New Jersey franchise that plays at the Meadowlands.
Tyrod Taylor, Houston (Loss vs. N.Y. Jets)
Speaking of the aforementioned Jets, they would go into Houston and outlast the Texans who were coming off their biggest win of the season. Taylor threw two touchdown passes in the second quarter to give Houston a 14-3 lead, but the Texans couldn’t do anything offensively after that. Taylor threw for 158 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. New York rookie QB Zach Wilson threw for 145 yards and ran for a touchdown in his return from a sprained right knee, helping the Jets snap a three-game skid.
Teddy Bridgewater, Denver (Win vs. L.A. Chargers)
The orange and blue roller coaster disguised as the Broncos pulled off another surprising win against their division rivals from L.A. Overcoming injury, Bridgewater returned after halftime and Denver closed out the win by running the ball behind a makeshift line, finishing with 147 yards rushing against the league’s leakiest run defense. After having his toughness questioned by the media weeks ago, No. 5 showed his true metal coming back into the game after an injury and leading Denver to victory. The Broncos’ big win sets up a showdown for the AFC West lead in Kansas City, where the game between Denver (6-5) and the Chiefs (7-4) already was flexed to Sunday night.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore (Win vs. Cleveland)
Was it a win? Yes. Was it ugly? Hell, yes. On a night he threw a career-high four interceptions, Jackson still produced one incredible moment of brilliance. No. 8 pulled off one of his signature scrambles in the third quarter, buying enough time to throw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Mark Andrews as Baltimore outlasted Cleveland in a key division win. Jackson, who returned after missing last weekend’s win over Chicago with an illness, was subpar aside from that one TD throw. Both teams spent much of their prime-time showcase making crucial mistakes. Baltimore only managed one touchdown, but Jackson made it a memorable one. Dogged by Cleveland’s pass rush all night, he zig-zagged all the way back to about the 35-yard line before lofting a throw over the middle to a wide-open Andrews in the end zone. Ravens coach John Harbaugh improved to 18-2 in prime-time games at home and 23-4 overall against the Browns.
Russell Wilson, Seattle (Loss at Washington)
In a virtual elimination game, Seattle’s playoff hopes seem all but over in a Monday Night loss to Washington. Wilson was 20 of 31 for 247 yards and two TD passes, but he missed several throws and lost three consecutive games for the first time as the Seahawks’ starting quarterback. Late in the fourth, Wilson led the Seahawks on a 10-play, 96-yard touchdown drive in just over two minutes. He connected with Freddy Swain on a 32-yard TD pass with 15 seconds left, but his 2-point throw to Swain was picked off by Fuller, preventing Wilson from leading a memorable comeback on his 33rd birthday.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa completed 27 of 31 pass attempts (87.1 percent) for 230 yards and one touchdown with a 108.3 rating in the Dolphins’ win against the Panthers. At 23 years and 271 days old, Tagovailoa joins Dak Prescott (88.9 completion percentage on 32 of 36 attempts, December 18, 2016, at 23 years, 142 days old) as the only quarterbacks under the age of 24 with a completion percentage of 85-or-higher (minimum 30 attempts) in a single game all-time. Tagovailoa, who completed 27 of 33 pass attempts (81.8 percent) in Week 11, is the fourth player in NFL history with a completion percentage of 80-or-higher (minimum 30 attempts) in consecutive games, joining Drew Brees (Weeks 1-2, 2018), Hall of Famer Peyton Manning (Weeks 3-4, 2013) and Kyler Murray (Weeks 2-3, 2021).
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.