For many, NFL Week 17 was the last hurrah until next fall. A wild slate of games featured some stunning outcomes and quarterback performances to remember.
One former first overall pick set multiple records that nobody ever wanted. A career journeyman knocked off the defending champs in one of the biggest upsets in recent memory. These were among the best and worst quarterback performances from the final regular-season weekend of the 2019 season.
Best: Ryan Fitzpatrick plays hero ball
If you had read our weekly preview on upset alerts, you’d have been ready to embrace FitzMagic and the Miami Dolphins from the start of Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots. The savvy veteran outplayed Tom Brady and sparked the biggest upset in the NFL this season.
Fitzpatrick’s legendary grit was on display throughout the contest, as he made gains on the ground and hung tough in the pocket. Then, with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter, down by four points, Fitzpatrick led a 13-play, 75-yard drive that culminated with a game-winning touchdown pass to tight end Mike Gesicki.
Truly a performance to remember from Fitzpatrick, who continues to be one of the most entertaining players in the NFL.
Worst: Jameis Winston sets dubious NFL records
On Sunday, Jameis Winston became a member of the NFL’s exclusive 5,000-yard club. He also made one of the best throws we’ve seen all season on a touchdown pass (watch here).
Yet what this season will be remembered for is his NFL record — one nobody ever wanted to set. And he did it at the worst possible time.
With the game on the line in overtime, Winston threw a game-sealing pick-six to linebacker Deion Jones, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a single season. Along the way, he also set another NFL record with seven pick-sixes in a single season.
Best: Drew Brees keeps hot streak going
To nobody’s surprise, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints rolled over the hapless Carolina Panthers on Sunday, winning 42-10.
Brees got plenty of help from Alvin Kamara and from his defense, but he continued to deal strikes when it was his turn to keep things moving along. All told, Brees passed for 253 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions as the Saints improved to 13-3 on the season.
The best part for Brees and the Saints is that he’s gotten hot when it matters most: Heading into the playoffs, the veteran has 22 touchdowns passing with just one interception in his past seven games.
Worst: Baker Mayfield threw the game away
Baker Mayfield threw some impressive passes Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, including a touchdown to Odell Beckham Jr. on fourth down that was among the best we’ve seen all year.
But he also doomed his team once again with another multi-turnover game as the Cleveland Browns stunningly lost to the one-win Bengals.
Mayfield endured six sacks as he held onto the ball far too long too many times, and he threw three interceptions, including the game-sealing pick. Cleveland’s offense has been a dysfunctional mess all year, and this game was no different.
Best: Dak Prescott’s shoulder is just fine, thanks
It came a week too late but Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had a fabulous outing at home against the Washington Redskins. Getting Amari Cooper involved for the first time in weeks, Prescott came up big in a must-win game for the ‘Boys.
Leading a blowout win, Prescott totaled 338 yards from scrimmage while throwing four touchdowns and mostly avoiding the turnover bug (one lost fumble) while playing with a sore throwing shoulder. He’s had some down games this season, but ending on a high note will certainly bode well for him as he approaches a new (record-breaking?) contract.
Worst: Kyler Murray made rookie mistakes
Kyler Murray continued to show why he was so highly valued with outstanding throws under pressure against the Los Angeles Rams in NFL Week 17.
Passing for 325 yards with a couple of touchdowns, Murray wasn’t all bad on Sunday. Unfortunately, he threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles — which turned into 14 points for the Rams — as the Cardinals lost their final game of the season by seven points.
Best: Jared Goff finishes off campaign on high note
Jared Goff’s 2019 season has been a major disappointment, especially in light of his record-breaking contract extension earlier this year. But on Sunday, the former No. 1 overall pick had the kind of game that reminded Rams fans why he was so highly coveted coming out of college.
Goff completed 29-of-45 passes for 319 yards, tossed three touchdowns and, most importantly, did not turn the ball over once. Looking back at his past three games against the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Cardinals, Goff finished off his season with seven touchdowns and two interceptions to close out the campaign on a high note.
Worst: Sean Mannion is backup for a reason
The Minnesota Vikings rested many starters Sunday in a relatively meaningless game for them after having clinched their playoff spot last week. Sean Mannion, playing for starter Kirk Cousins, reminded everyone why he’s been a career backup with a very poor performance.
Mannion completed just 12-of-21 passes for 126 yards with no touchdowns, two interceptions and one lost fumble. The Vikings didn’t need to win Sunday, but they would have if Mannion had played even slightly better, ultimately losing 21-19.
Best: Jimmy Garoppolo was money
Needing a win to secure the top seed in the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers went into Seattle and walked out with their first win at CenturyLink Field since 2011. A big reason they did was that Jimmy Garoppolo, who was a big reason they lost last time against Seattle, was phenomenal.
The story of Sunday night’s game was the ending, when the Seahawks came within an inch of winning it on fourth-and-goal. But Garoppolo was razor sharp when his number was called as the 49ers eked out the huge win. He finished the game with 285 yards on 18-of-22 passing to spark one of the biggest victories for the franchise in decades.
Worst: Philip Rivers with depressing potential finale
There is a very real possibility that Philip Rivers played his final game as a member of the Chargers organization on Sunday. It’s been widely speculated and reported that the Chargers are considering a full rebuild on offense with another quarterback as its centerpiece.
If this was Rivers’ final game with the Bolts, that’s a shame. He struggled with turnovers as he has much of the season, tossing two interceptions to reach 20 on the season, while the Chargers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs to finish the season with a 5-11 record. Afterward, Rivers made it clear he won’t retire and noted he would consider playing for another team if the Chargers move on without him.