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Top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 14 action

Vincent Frank

Sunday’s Week 14 action around the NFL was something else. The day started with one of the best games of the season, a thrilling San Francisco 49ers win over the Saints in New Orleans.

It culminated in the Los Angeles Rams surprising the masses with a blowout home win over the Seattle Seahawks. This means San Francisco is currently the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Over in the AFC, Tom Brady and the Patriots continued to struggle in a home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. These are among the top takeaways from Sunday’s event-filled NFL action.

Texans fall flat at home

One week after defeating the New England Patriots, it sure looked like Houston would dominate a lesser Broncos team at home on Sunday. Pretty much from the get, that was not the case. Houston was destroyed in front of boo birds by the score of 38-24.

Without J.J. Watt, the Texans’ defense made Broncos rookie quarterback Drew Lock look like John Elway. Almost literally. Making his second career start, the Missouri product completed 22-of-27 passes for 309 yards with three touchdowns in the blowout win. With this loss, Houston falls into a first-place tie with Tennessee. What a brutal performance from Bill O’Brien’s squad.

Browns remain alive

Despite the Pittsburgh Steelers’ win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, their division rivals remain very much alive in the AFC Playoff race. Cleveland took care of business at home in a 27-19 victory over the one-win Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

What’s interesting here is that Cleveland did this with Baker Mayfield putting up one of the worst performances of his career. The second-year quarterback completed 11-of-24 passes for 192 yards with two interceptions. Nick Chubb picked up the slack on the ground with 106 yards. It led to a hard-fought Browns win and a 6-7 record on the season.

Jimmy Garoppolo’s statement game

It wasn’t the San Francisco 49ers defense that was up to the task against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. In fact, New Orleans put up 46 points and 465 total yards of offense. That represented season highs for San Francisco’s defense. Despite this, Garoppolo and Co. came out on top in a thrilling 48-46 victory.

Garoppolo went toe-to-toe with Brees, proving his worth as an elite signal caller for the now 11-2 49ers. He completed all but nine of his 35 attempts for 349 yards with four touchdowns. Any thought given to the idea that Garoppolo would be a detriment to the 49ers’ success can now be thrown out the window. He’s put up 1,756 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions over the past six games.

Ryan Tannehill seems to be the answer in Nashville

The Tennessee Titans have now won six of Tannehill’s seven starts since he replaced an ineffective Marcus Mariota under center earlier in the season. Their latest win came in blowout fashion against the Oakland Raiders, pretty much eliminating another team from wild card contention.

Tannehill was brilliant all game, completing 21-of-27 passes for 391 yards with three touchdowns. That included this 91-yard bomb to A.J. Brown. Derrick Henry led a rushing attack that went for 161 yards in the 42-21 win. Now at 8-5 on the season, Tennessee is firmly in the AFC South and wild card races. No one could have envisioned this when the Titans started the season with a 2-4 mark. The one common denominator here being Mr. Tannehill.

Panthers eliminated in first post Ron Rivera game

The Carolina Panthers made the surprising decision to fire longtime head coach Ron Rivera this past week. That’s despite the fact that they were still somewhat alive in the NFC Playoff race at 5-7. This is no longer the case.

Carolina was blown out by a previously three-win Falcons team on the road Sunday, losing by the score of 40-20. Young quarterback Kyle Allen continued his struggles with two more interceptions. Meanwhile, the Panthers’ previously elite defense yielded north of 460 total yards in the loss. The time is now for Carolina to look to the future and find a head coach. The season is lost.

Terrible loss for the Colts

Indianapolis entered Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay at 6-6 and in the thick of the AFC South and wild card races. The expectation here is that Indy would take advantage of a mistake-prone Jameis Winston and remain viable in the playoff race. While the team did pick Winston off three times, he shredded the Colts’ defense to the tune of 456 yards and four touchdowns.

That was too much for Jacoby Brissett and Co. to recover from as the Colts blew a 14-point second half lead. They yielded scoring drives of 55 yards and 64 yards with the game winner coming on a pass from Winston to Breshad Perriman. The end result was a disastrous 38-35 loss and irrelevance in the AFC Playoff race moving forward.

That’s all she wrote for the Jaguars

Jacksonville made the decision to go back to rookie late-round pick Gardner Minshew under center this week after Nick Foles struggled in a starting role. No matter who was playing quarterback on Sunday, the free-falling Jaguars had no chance against the Chargers in Los Angeles.

Embarrassing. That’s the best way to describe this game from Jacksonville’s perspective. The Jags fell by the score of 45-10, allowing Los Angeles to gain 525 total yards and 27 first downs. This represented Jacksonville’s fifth consecutive defeat, and could very well be the end of the road for head coach Doug Marrone in Duval.

Vikings win in ho-hum performance

Minnesota wasn’t really challenged against an injury-plagued Detroit Lions team at home on Sunday. Undrafted free agent David Blough couldn’t get anything going against an elite Vikings defense. He was sacked five times and threw two interceptions.

After opening up a 17-0 halftime lead, Minnesota pretty much sat on the ball in the second half en route to a 20-7 win. Kirk Cousins completed all but six of his passes, including this long connection to Stefon Diggs. Despite struggling on the ground, that’s all the Vikings needed to move to 9-4 on the season and keep pace with Green Bay in the NFC North.

Lamar Jackson and Co. keep it going

Following last week’s narrow win over San Francisco, the Ravens were forced to take on another elite-level defense in that of the Buffalo Bills on the road Sunday. For the second consecutive game, Jackson did not put up tremendous numbers. He tallied less than 200 total yards.

However, the MVP favorite threw three more touchdowns and controlled the game with amazing play after amazing play in a 24-17 win. More so than those highlight-reel plays, the Ravens find themselves at 11-2 and as the top team in the AFC. Going into Western New York and winning in December is no small thing. This team is absolutely legit.

Devlin Hodges remains undefeated as Steelers starter

Pittsburgh is inching its way to a playoff spot in surprising fashion after starting the season 0-3. Even without James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster on Sunday, the Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals in the desert by the score of 23-17. It’s undrafted free agent Devlin Hodges’ third win in as many starts this season.

Hodges wasn’t great, tallying just 152 passing yards. However, he managed the game extremely well for a Steelers team that forced three Kyler Murray interceptions in the game. Pittsburgh now sits at 8-5 and has won eight of its past 10 games. There’s now no going back to Mason Rudolph.

The Patriots are in trouble

Last week’s loss to the Houston Texans notwithstanding, the defending champs headed into Week 14 with a 10-2 record and as the No. 2 seed in the AFC. They were looking to rebound from said loss. Unfortunately, Tom Brady and Co. just did not have it against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Brady completed just 19-of-36 passes for 169 yards with one touchdown and one interception. That included a failed attempt to tie the game in a goal-to-go situation late in the fourth quarter as a Brady pass to Julian Edelman fell incomplete. Now at 10-3 on the season, New England is just one game ahead of Kansas City for a first-round bye. Here’s a team that could legit be playing Wildcard Weekend.

Rams shake up NFC with win Sunday night

The Seattle Seahawks were looking to keep pace with the first-place San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night. Little did we know that the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams would look like the legit title contender in front of their home crowd.

Los Angeles’ defense got to Russell Wilson for five sacks. Todd Gurley led a Rams rushing attack that went for 162 yards. It all led to a 28-12 win by Los Angeles, dramatically changing the NFC Playoff race in the process.

San Francisco is currently the top seed with an NFL-best 11-2 record. Green Bay comes in as the second seed because it has a better conference record than the Saints, both of whom are 10-3. Meanwhile, Seattle drops from the top seed to No. 5 overall. Oh, and the Rams remained very much alive in the playoff race. They are just one game behind Minnesota for the final wildcard spot.