The Jerusalem Post
Patriots escape Pittsburgh with W More teams clinch divisions
Here are the 40 things we learned from Week 15 of the NFL season: 1. Centralized replay review from New York doesn’t work. Saw it in Charlotte, saw it in Pittsburgh. More later... after we cool off...
2. Fitting, then, that Sunday would end with one of football’s most widely-loathed calls: the dreaded touchback after a fumble out of the end zone. Yes, Derek Carr appeared to lose the ball while extending it. But no, there’s nothing to love about this rule (unless you’re a Cowboys fan).
3. With RB Todd Gurley scoring a career-high four TDs, the Rams went into the Seahawks’ backyard and won 42-7, establishing themselves as the new bullies of the NFC West.
4. The Jaguars are going to the playoffs. Repeat, the Jaguars are going to the playoffs after securing their first postseason berth in 10 years Sunday after completing a season sweep of the Texans. Jacksonville outscored Houston 74-14 this season.
5. If Jacksonville DL Calais Campbell wins the NFL sack title, he can thank the Texans. Campbell sacked T.J. Yates twice Sunday, meaning six of his 14½ in 2017 have come against Houston quarterbacks.
6. Jaguars QB Blake Bortles – deemed “trash” by Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney – was nearly flawless Sunday with 326 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. But the most impressive part of the Jags offense was that it racked up 464 yards while rookie RB Leonard Fournette was in street clothes with a quadriceps injury.
7. Jacksonville rookie WR Jaydon Mickens entered Sunday with one catch in seven appearances. In his eighth game, he had four receptions and took two to the house.
8. And one more great stat from that game: Jags rookie WR Keelan Cole had 186 receiving yards... matching the Texans’ total offensive output.
9. Who knew Carson Wentz’s knee injury would affect the Eagles defense so much? Philadelphia survived the Giants but surrendered 29 points to a New York offense that hadn’t score more than 24 this season and averaged 15.3 entering Sunday.
10. At least the Eagles can feel good about QB Nick Foles in his first start of the season. He threw for 237 yards and four touchdowns (0 INTs) and was sacked only once in the 34-29 win. That kind of performance could hurt Wentz’s dwindling MVP chances.
11. After losing to the Eagles in Week 3 on a walk-off field goal by rookie Jake Elliott, kicking game issues also doomed the Giants on Sunday. Aldrick Rosas had a PAT and go-ahead FG attempt blocked.
12. The NFL missed you, Aaron Rodgers. Welcome back.
13. But the notion that simply having Rodgers back would save the Packers’ season was misguided. He was clearly rusty – as his three interceptions illustrated – and he underthrew several passes. Rodgers’ last three-INT game occurred in 2009.
14. If the Falcons win Monday night, Green Bay will be eliminated from the playoff chase ... and it would be worth wondering at that point if the Pack will continue to play Rodgers.
15. Don’t look now, but the Cowboys are 8-6 and get Ezekiel Elliott back for a Christmas Eve game against the Seahawks. That race for the final NFC wildcard spot could get mighty interesting.
16. Carolina’s Damiere Byrd was somehow granted a touchdown on review when officials determined he landed inbounds on his... backside, overturning an incompletion. So... one cheek equals two feet?
17. Meanwhile, Gene Steratore busting out a folded index card to help measure a first down is the best evidence yet that this is all somewhere between guesswork and a farce.
18. Julius Peppers now has 10 or more sacks in 10 different seasons.
19. You know things are going well in Minnesota when even the field goals are banking through.
20. The Minnesota crowd gave Teddy Bridgewater a standing ovation as he entered the game in the fourth quarter of a blowout win against the Bengals. They were his first regular-season snaps since he suffered a gruesome knee injury in practice right before the start of the 2016 regular season. Unfortunately, his first pass was deflected and intercepted.
21. AJ McCarron Siren! The backup led the Bengals to their only touchdown in a 34-7 loss at Minnesota, maybe boosting his value a tick more heading into the offseason.
22. Browns QB DeShone Kizer threw his 18th and 19th INTs of the season Sunday, the most in the NFL this year.
23. Kizer is still nine picks shy of matching Peyton Manning’s rookie record, set in 1998.
24. Meanwhile, Cleveland is 0-14 for the second consecutive season and two defeats shy of becoming the second club to finish a season 0-16.
25. Last week, RB Kapri Bibbs posted Redskins practice video on his Instgram account that highlighted his route running. Sunday, days after he was signed off Washington’s practice squad, he took a screen pass from Kirk Cousins 36 yards for a touchdown.
26. Why defenses continue to play single-high safety looks against the Chiefs is baffling. Sure, Alex Smith might not have the best reputation as a deep ball passer, but he also never had a receiver like Tyreek Hill. Hill is too fast for any corner in the NFL to cover on a go route, as the Chargers learned Saturday night when he scored on a 64-yard touchdown, courtesy of a perfectly placed deep pass from Smith. It was Hill’s 11th touchdown of longer than 50 yards in his career — and he’s done it in just 20 games.
27. TE Antonio Gates’ role in the Chargers offense has diminished greatly this season. But there was one more special moment Saturday night against the Chiefs, when the 37-year-old and QB Philip Rivers connected for their 86th touchdown.
28. That’s the second most by any quarterback-receiver duo in NFL history after Gates and Rivers passed 49ers Hall of Famers Steve Young and Jerry Rice. The Chargers tandem is 29 scores behind Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison for the NFL record.
29. Speaking of old players still making the highlight reel, that was 39-yearold Vikings CB Terence Newman intercepting former Bengals teammate Andy Dalton on Sunday. It was Newman’s first pick of the year – but his 42nd since entering the NFL in 2003.
30. In a season marred by serious injuries, the statement made by Lions rookie LB Jarrad Davis on Saturday that he “doesn’t want to make (football) safe” is extremely misguided and naïve. Davis isn’t wrong to want to be an intimidating linebacker, but disregarding his own health – and that of his opponents – is an outdated mentality.
31. Six days after playing his best game of the year in an upset of the Patriots, Jay Cutler imploded in the Dolphins’ loss to the Bills, throwing three interceptions and no touchdowns. It was a day that basically summed up his disappointing run as the Dolphins’ replacement quarterback.
32. Bills RB LeSean McCoy reached 10,000 career rushing yards in that win against the Dolphins, and he did it on his 2,145th carry. That puts McCoy in elite company. Only Jim Brown, Adrian Peterson, Barry Sanders and O.J. Simpson reached the 10K mark in fewer carries.
33. Jimmy Garoppolo is now 5-0 as an NFL starter after he led the 49ers to a late comeback over the Titans. The last quarterback to win his first five NFL starts was Ben Roethlisberger.
34. The Broncos have nothing left to play for this season, but the quarterback intrigue continues. After Trevor Siemian suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Thursday’s win at Indianapolis, Denver will once again switch starters. Will it be Brock Osweiler, who played well after he replaced Siemian, or will Paxton Lynch get another shot given he’ll be cleared to practice this week after rehabbing an ankle injury? Osweiler likely gives the Broncos the best chance to win, but the Broncos need to give Lynch more live snaps.
35. Another team facing a big QB question is the Cardinals, because Blaine Gabbert is looking less and less like a viable option for 2018 should Carson Palmer decide to retire. Gabbert threw a pick and lost a fumble while only throwing for 189 yards in a loss to Washington.
36. Saints RB Mark Ingram had a 50-yard run and 54-yard reception Sunday on his way to 151 yards from scrimmage and two TDs. It could be another step toward an all-pro selection that would allow Ingram to void his contract and cash in as a free agent next year.
37. Before suffering a calf injury that landed him in the hospital, Steelers WR Antonio Brown became the first player with at least 100 catches in five consecutive seasons.
38. We still haven’t seen the ball hit the ground on what should have been a game-winning TD catch by Steelers TE Jesse James. But the guys in New York did. Apparently.
39. Now with the inside track to the AFC’s No. 1 seed, Sunday’s win was huge for the Patriots, who have had a bye week all seven times they’ve reached the Super Bowl with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
40. Tom Brady, 40, was intercepted by the Steelers on Sunday, the first time Pittsburgh had picked the Patriots quarterback off in 12 years. Brady had been INT-free in his previous seven matchups vs the Steelers.