Week 14 featured quite the unique variety of events.
The action got kicked off with a veteran player saving the game for the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday night, was headlined by a revenge matchup gone south in Philly and Andy Dalton put the season of the Cincinnati Bengals in jeopardy.
Along with a horrific shutout, some quarterback temper tantrums and untimely injuries, here are this week’s notable NFL winners and losers.
Winner: Cardinals Dwight Freeney’s strip-sack on Teddy Bridgewater saves the game
With just seconds left on the clock, pass-rusher Dwight Freeney, new to the Cardinals this year, made a game-winning play to advance Arizona to 11-2 in the NFC West.
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) December 11, 2015
Unstoppable, Freeney came from behind at the Arizona 31-yard line and strip-sacked quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, resulting in a fumble recovered by defensive end Calais Campbell.
At the time of the game-ending sack, the score was 23-20 and the Vikings were at third and 10. Should Minnesota have decided to go for a field goal attempt on that play, the game would have gone into overtime with a successful kick.
The sack by the 35-year old All-Pro was his fourth of the year, and it came perfectly timed to seal the victory for the Cardinals who currently occupy the second spot overall in the NFC.
“That’s why I came back, because moments like this, you can’t duplicate those in life,” Freeney said, per Pro Football Talk.
For the Vikings, a win would have helped put the heat on the Green Bay Packers, along with helping their overall standing in the NFC. Now they’re in a much tougher spot with three games left to play.
Loser: Andy Dalton’s botched tackle was really stupid
Couldn’t Andy Dalton have just left the tackling up to the Cincinnati Bengals’ big guys after he threw an interception early in the first quarter?
Unfortunately, the quarterback attempted to take down Steelers defensive tackle Stephon Tuitt after he was picked off at the Pittsburgh five-yard line. As a result, Dalton lost to the 304-pounder, injuring his right thumb in the process. The injury is reportedly season-ending, with the best-case scenario being a return in the playoffs, per Bob Holtzman of ESPN.
Dalton’s smooth move landed him in a hard cast with backup A.J. McCarron taking over. As for those who started the Red Rifle in fantasy lineups with playoff statuses at stake, Dalton earned less than one fantasy point.
And beyond destroying fantasy hopes, Dalton’s thumb injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Bengals, who up until this game owned first place in the AFC, really didn’t need Dalton’s botched heroics at this point in the season. If the Bengals are going to have to rely upon a mediocre McCarron for any extended period of time, the team will be at an extreme disadvantage moving forward.
As for the Steelers, the team swooped in like vultures and preyed on the vulnerable Bengals sans Dalton, beating Cincinnati handily, 33-20. For this, Pittsburgh advances to 8-5 and is only two wins behind Cincinnati with three left to play.
Winner: Russell Wilson making quite the case for MVP of the year
Over the past four games, Seattle Seahawks multi-million dollar quarterback Russell Wilson has truly been phenomenal, passing for no less than 260 yards and three touchdowns per game.
In another chart-topping performance that came at the expense of a beat-up Baltimore Ravens, Wilson passed for 292 yards and five touchdowns while remaining interception-free once again in the 35-6 blowout. Doug Baldwin was the lucky recipient of three touchdowns and rookie Tyler Lockett caught two.
At this pace, Wilson is making a quite a case to be a candidate for Offensive Player of the Year.
Russell Wilson has gone from 'not worth contract' to 'too concerned with celebrity' to dark horse MVP.
— Joe Ovies (@joeovies) December 13, 2015
In looking at grand totals for Wilson’s past four games, he has tallied 1,171 passing yards, 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. And this was all accomplished while completing a stunning average of 75.5 percent of his passes.
With Wilson and the Seahawks steamrolling ahead at full speed, they remain notched at fifth place in the NFC and appear to be securely playoff-bound at this point.
Loser: Could the Atlanta Falcons be more of an embarrassment?
After being shut out by Super-Cam Newton and the undefeated Carolina Panthers, 38-0, inquiring minds and embarrassed fans would like to know what is going on with a pathetic Atlanta Falcons team.
— Falconihilist DW (@FalcoholicDW) December 13, 2015
Newton and Co. were essentially unstoppable against a horrific Falcons. The Panthers defense had their way all game long against Matt Ryan. At the end of the day, the quarterback managed only 224 yards for zero scores, one interception and one lost fumble. He was also sacked five times for a loss of 42 yards.
On the ground, the Falcons scraped up only 54 yards, including a lost fumble by Devonta Freeman.
Regarding the Panthers offense, the ever-so resilient Newton brought his A-game as usual when he passed for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Ted Ginn Jr. was the star of the show totaling 120 yards on just two catches for two touchdowns, including a brilliant 74-yarder.
The loss for the Falcons disturbingly makes for their sixth in a row, and the Panthers can give much thanks to the horrible team for helping them clinch a first-round bye.
Winner: Oakland Raiders tamper with AFC standings
The Oakland Raiders sneaked in and pulled off a win 15-12 over the now 10-3 Denver Broncos.
And due to the Raiders timely sixth win in the season, it caused the Broncos to fall to third in the AFC with a hungry Kansas City Chiefs (8-5) very much in the hunt in the AFC West. With the fall of the Broncos and fall of the Cincinnati Bengals (10-3), the New England Patriots by default regained the lead overall in the AFC heading into Sunday night.
As for the turnout of the game, Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler passed for 308 yards but was held without a touchdown. Derek Carr passed for much less yardage (135) but threw two touchdowns, outplaying his opponent. Overall, the game was low-scoring with both teams putting up a lackluster ground game. But just enough was accomplished by the Raiders to outfox the Broncos, who also lost possession on two fumbles along the way.
Due to the result of Oakland’s win, the picture in the AFC got much more interesting. And we must wonder if a Peyton Manning return is necessary to help salvage the Broncos’ season.
Loser: LeSean McCoy kisses and runs
Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy welcomed his former stomping ground with a kiss upon arriving to get his revenge against Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles.
How did LeSean McCoy announce his return to Philly?
With a kiss of course. pic.twitter.com/SozRm0Q7LF
— ESPN (@espn) December 13, 2015
Unfortunately, the Bills didn’t bring enough to reign victorious, and McCoy bolted off the field and down the tunnel after losing (23-20). As for McCoy’s performance, he totaled 74 rushing yards and 35 receiving yards but failed to score. And an interception of Tyrod Taylor by safety Ed Reynolds with just a slightly more than a minute on the clock sealed the fated doom for the Bills.
The loss for the Bills (6-7) separates them two games behind the New York Jets, who just won their eighth game by a landslide against the Tennessee Titans.
Meanwhile the Eagles, who were only moderately impressive, did just enough to foil McCoy’s best-laid plans and to remain in second place in the NFC East.
Winner: Johnny Manziel autographs and outbursts but leads Browns to a win
Perhaps feeling extra-confident at the start of the Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel autographed a fan’s $100 bill by signing “Money Manziel.”
Though the happy-go-lucky quarterback was also seen smashing a Microsoft tablet on his head after a late first-half interception. Fortunately, Manziel regrouped and threw a touchdown in the second half to make up for the pick.
“I probably overreacted a little bit,” Manziel said, via ESPN after the incident.
At the end of the day, Manziel completed 21-of-31 passes for 270 yards and one touchdown caught by tight end Gary Barnidge when the Browns handily beat the 49ers, 24-10. The win for the Browns was a much-needed ego-booster that snapped a terrible seven-game losing streak.
Providing Manziel minds his P’s and Q’s and starts in Week 15, he will have his hands full against the Seattle Seahawks.
Meanwhile on the 49ers side of the field, we were reminded that the team still has its shortcomings led by Blaine Gabbert, who endured nine sacks throughout the course of the game.
Loser: Indianapolis Colts disastrous quarterback situation
The Indianapolis Colts finished up Sunday’s loss with third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst under center when Hurricane Jacksonville Jaguars stormed through and beat them 51-16.
Whitehurst took the field when Matt Hasselbeck went down in the fourth quarter for what could be further damage to his ribs. After being shoved out of bounds by Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith, Hasselbeck couldn’t help but melting down.
Matt Hasselbeck throwing a temper tantrum after Telvin Smith shoved him out of bounds. https://t.co/9y5iddql4E
— Ryan Day (@ryaneatscake) December 13, 2015
Hasselbeck’s situation only adds insult to injury with Andrew Luck still out. Plus, the loss for the Colts caused the team to fall to second behind the Houston Texans in the AFC South heading into Sunday night.
As for Blake Bortles and the Jaguars, the offense unleashed a total of 380 yards and five touchdowns against the Colts extremely porous defense. Jacksonville’s defense was handy as well, managing an interception against Whitehurst, who completed only two-of-eight passes for eight yards.
If the team has to move forward with Whitehurst calling the signals while Luck and Hasselbeck remain sidelined, it is going to be a sad state of affairs in Indy, which is having anything but a dream season.