By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
We cannot move forward without reflecting on the passing of NFL legend John Madden. An unknown 32-year-old linebacker coach who was promoted by Al Davis in 1969, Madden was the 1969 AFL Coach of The Year and led the Raiders through the 1978 season.
In 10 years under Madden, the Raiders won seven division titles and Super Bowl XI. His .759 winning percentage (103-32-7) in the regular season is the highest by any coach in NFL history (minimum 100 games).
He retired from coaching and became a broadcaster known for his demonstrative and everyman calls such as “Boom!” entering the lexicon. He worked with CBS from 1979 to 1994, with Fox until 2002, ABC until 2006, and NBC until 2009.
Younger generations of fans, though, know Madden from the omnipresent video game that bears his name and has sold around 200 million copies since its release in 1988. Madden was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and was presented by Al Davis.
Rest in peace, Coach.
LAST WEEK: 4-4 (73-69 overall)
Kyler Murray, Arizona (Loss vs. Indianapolis)
Despite the clinching of a playoff berth, Arizona’s season-ending slump is eerily similar to 2020. The Cardinals (10-5) lost for a third straight week and are 3-5 since starting the season 7-0. The Cardinals grabbed a 13-12 lead early in the third quarter when Murray hit Antoine Wesley for a 24-yard touchdown, which was the first of Wesley’s NFL career. The Colts managed to cobble together a drive late in the third quarter capped by a 37-yard field goal for a 15-13 lead. Indianapolis caught a break a few minutes later in the fourth quarter when Matt Prater’s 41-yard field goal bounced off the right upright. That set up a seven-play, 69-yard Indy drive that ended with Carson Wentz connecting with Dezmon Patmon for the game-winning score. As for Murray, he threw for 245 yards and a touchdown while also running for 74 yards.
Cam Newton, Carolina (Loss vs. Tampa)
After an embarrassing shutout loss last week, the Bucs made Carolina suffer. Tampa put up 391 yards on offense in a rout of the Panthers as they clinched their first NFC South title since 2007. The Bucs’ defense had no problems shutting down Carolina’s dual-quarterback approach as they had seven sacks and limited the Panthers (5-10) to two field goals. Newton was 7 of 13 for 61 yards and ran for 42 yards en route to losing his 13th straight game as a Carolina starter, a streak that dates back to the 2018 season. Sam Darnold, who was greeted by boos as he entered the game for the first time, finished 15 of 33 for 190 yards. The Panthers fell to 10-21 in two seasons under Rhule, who heard chants of “Fire Rhule” during the game and was booed as he walked off the field after the game.
Josh Johnson, Baltimore (Loss at Cincinnati)
With both Lamar Jackson and Tyler Huntley out, it was Johnson’s turn to go under center for the reeling Ravens. However, at the end of the day, it was his opposite number that made all the headlines. Joe Burrow’s franchise record-breaking 525-yard passing performance against Baltimore put the Bengals in first place of the AFC North with two games left. Burrow, who snapped Boomer Esiason’s team record of 522 yards, was 37 of 46 with two touchdown passes to Tee Higgins and one each to Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon as the Bengals swept the Ravens for the first time since 2015. Cincinnati won 41-17 at Baltimore on Oct. 24. Burrow’s 500-yard passing day was the 24th in the NFL and the first this season, and he became the 20th QB to reach the half-century mark. As for Johnson, who was signed 10 days before the game, he was 28 for 40 for 304 yards with two touchdown passes and an interception. Baltimore is now on the bubble to make the AFC playoffs and will hope to get some key players back from injuries and the COVID-19 list for its final two games, both at home, against the Rams and the Steelers.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia (Win vs. N.Y. Giants)
The Eagles (8-7) have won six of eight after opening the season losing five of seven and moved into the seventh playoff spot in the NFC. They could clinch a playoff berth with a win and some help next week. Hurts shook off a dismal first half and threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns to push the Eagles over .500 for the first time since they won the season opener. The Eagles scored 31 points in the second half, none quite as cool as the 5-yard pass from Hurts to Lane Johnson early in the fourth that made it 27-3. Johnson, the standout right tackle, reported as eligible and was left all alone when Hurts hit him for the easy score. Johnson, who had missed three games this season to address depression and anxiety, became the first Eagles lineman to score a TD since 2010.
Russell Wilson, Seattle (Loss vs. Chicago)
This time it was No. 3 that was on the other run of a last-gasp finish as Chicago nipped Seattle behind former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. It was a stunning conclusion to a rare snow game in Seattle that eliminated the Seahawks (5-10) from the NFC playoff picture. Seattle was already assured of a losing season, and coach Pete Carroll reached double-digit losses for the first time in his tenure. As for Wilson, he was 16 of 27 for 181 yards and two touchdowns, including the first TD for DK Metcalf since Oct. 31, a 41-yarder in the first quarter. Seattle entered with a mathematical shot at reaching the playoffs but couldn’t hold onto a 17-7 halftime lead.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City (Win vs. Pittsburgh)
Even without two of his key weapons, No. 15 and the Chiefs had no problem with the struggling Steelers. Mahomes was masterful in throwing for 258 yards and three touchdowns and the defense dominated Pittsburgh in a drubbing at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs (11-4) remained a game ahead of Tennessee for first place overall in the AFC with their eighth straight win. That would give them the conference’s lone first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. Meanwhile, the Steelers (7-7-1) continued to fall apart down the stretch. They became the first team in NFL history to trail by at least 23 points at halftime in three straight road games. They have failed to score a touchdown in the first half of five straight games for the first time since 1940.
Dak Prescott, Dallas (Win vs. Washington)
Speaking of drubbings, Prescott threw four touchdown passes DeMarcus Lawrence returned an interception for a score and the Cowboys celebrated their clinching of the division crown with a rout of Washington on Sunday night. Dallas didn’t need to win to add the division title to the playoff berth that was sealed with San Francisco’s loss to Tennessee three nights earlier. Las Vegas’ 17-13 victory over Denver took care of that about an hour before kickoff, giving the Cowboys a tiebreaker over Philadelphia. The Cowboys (11-4) tied the franchise record for points in an opening half while taking a 42-7 lead and scored its most points, playoffs included, since a 59-14 victory over San Francisco in 1980.
Tua Tagovailoa, Miami (Win at New Orleans)
A Dolphins defense that intercepted Saints rookie quarterback Ian Book twice and sacked him eight times was more than enough to push Miami’s winning streak to seven games. The Dolphins beat the short-handed Saints on Monday night, becoming the first NFL team to win seven straight after losing seven in a row. Tagovailoa, who entered the game with an NFL-best 69.9% completion rate, connected on 19 of 26 passes (73.1%) for 198 yards. Also, rookie wideout Jaylen Waddle caught 10 passes for 92 yards and a touchdown in his return from the COVID-19 list. The Dolphins’ eight sacks tied a team record for a game. They became the first team in the Super Bowl era to have that many sacks, score a defensive TD, and hold an opponent under 200 total yards while allowing no TDs or third-down conversions. The Saints went 0 for 12 on third down.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.