Top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 14 NFL action

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A whole heck of a lot of drama

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday’s Week 14 NFL action was about as crazy as it gets. From the Miracle in Miami to Amari Cooper’s brilliant performance in Big D, we were treated to a whole heck of a lot of drama.

The early-afternoon slate included Baker Mayfield and the Browns making a major statement in a win over the reeling Panthers. Meanwhile, the Cowboys pretty much ended the NFC East race with a win over the defending champions later in the afternoon.

These are among the top takeaways from one of the most eventful Sunday’s of NFL football we’ve seen in some time.


Rams offense exposed in a big way

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The Chicago Bears’ recipe for success Sunday night against a one-loss Los Angeles Rams team was pretty obvious. Their Vic Fangio-led defense focused primarily on stopping Todd Gurley, forcing Jared Goff to pretty much go it alone. The end result was an offensive performance from the Rams that we have not seen since the Jeff Fisher days.

Goff competed 20-of-44 passes for 180 yards with four interceptions in the 15-6 loss. Meanwhile, Gurley went for just 28 yards on 11 attempts. Making the Rams’ offense one dimensional proved to be successful for Chicago. And we can expect other teams to follow suit as the season comes to a conclusion.


Mark Sanchez makes Colin Kaepernick’s case for him

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The Washington Redskins’ decision to avoid Colin Kaepernick in free agency has come under fire recently. Once Alex Smith was lost for the season to a potentially career-ending leg injury, the Redskins decided to bring in Mark Sanchez off the streets. When Colt McCoy also suffered a serious lower-body injury, Washington added a quarterback in Josh Johnson who has not attempted a regular season pass since 2011.

All the while, Kaepernick remains unsigned as he continues with a collusion case against the NFL. If Sanchez’s performed during Sunday’s 40-16 loss to the Giants is any indication, Kaepernick is smiling ear to ear. Sanchez completed just 5-of-13 passes for net 16 passing yards with two interceptions in the first half alone. That included an absolutely brutal pick-six. All said, Sanchez finished the game with nine net passing yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions before getting benched in the blowout loss. Gross.


Dallas avoids meltdown, takes control of NFC East

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There’s a reason the Cowboys exhausted a first-round pick in a trade for Amari Cooper back in October. The former Oakland Raiders Pro Bowler has been absolutely dynamite since joining the Cowboys, catching 30 passes for 425 yards in five games. Cooper was back at it Sunday against the division rival Philadelphia Eagles. He nabbed 10 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns. That included this long score to put Dallas up late in the third quarter.

Even then, the Cowboys couldn’t separate themselves from Philadelphia. Instead, the Eagles forced overtime despite having yielded nearly 600 total yards of offense. That’s when Cooper came up big time. On third down and long from the Eagles’ 15, Cooper caught his third score of the game in walk-off fashion. By virtue of the 32-26 win, Dallas now boasts an almost insurmountable two-game lead in the NFC East.


Panthers are now completely toast

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Losers of four consecutive heading into Sunday’s game against the Browns, Carolina needed to get off the schneid in order to remain in the NFC Playoff race. Whether it was the team’s inability to stop Baker Mayfield or Cam Newton’s struggles in the red zone, it just didn’t happen. In the end, these Panthers lost by the score of 26-20 to fall to 6-7 on the season.

For his part, Newton completed 26-of-42 passes for 265 yards with zero touchdowns and one interception. Four of the Panthers’ drives in Cleveland’s end of the field resulted in a grand total of three points. That included a turnover on downs inside the 10 with the game on the line. Yeah, these Panthers are now officially declawed.


Broncos drop the ball big time

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There wasn’t really any reason to believe that the Broncos would go to Santa Clara and come away with a loss against the two-win San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. San Francisco had lost three consecutive games by a combined 49 points. The Broncos were in the midst of a three-game winning streak with victories over the Chargers and Steelers during that span.

Unfortunately for head coach Vance Joseph and Co., the team simply didn’t come to play in the first half. Denver trailed 20-0 at halftime with 49ers tight end George Kittle putting up north of 200 yards in the first two quarters. A valiant second half comeback attempt fell short. Now at 6-7 on the season, one can reasonably conclude the Broncos won’t be playing playoff football. If so, this one loss will be a primary reason why.


Patrick Mahomes is the NFL MVP

NFL star in the making, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes

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If we needed any more evidence of just how good this second-year quarterback really is, Sunday gave it to us. With his team down seven late in the fourth quarter, Mahomes threw a ridiculous pass to Tyreek Hill on fourth down, giving Kansas City an opportunity tie the game. Andy Reid’s squad did just that, ultimately winning in overtime.

We already know just how talented Mahomes is. That was evident heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. But the plays he continues to make never cease to amaze us. Sunday’s game was yet another example of this. Now, with his Chiefs at 11-2 on the season, Mahomes is the clear-cut NFL MVP.


This has to be the end of the road for Dan Quinn

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The Falcons went into Green Bay facing interim head coach Joe Philbin and a reeling Packers team on Sunday. They came out of the game with a 34-20 loss and a 4-9 record on the season. This is regression that has rarely been seen on the NFL stage in recent years. It was just two seasons ago that Atlanta won the NFC.

Now losers of five consecutive games, the Falcons are as irrelevant as they have been since all the way back in 2013. Realistically, one now has to wonder whether Dan Quinn should be fired following this disastrous performance at Lambeau. Simply put, the Falcons are a shell of their former selves. And someone needs to take the fall.


Statement win for the Colts

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Fresh off a shutout loss to the last-place Jaguars in Week 13, Indianapolis needed to make a major statement against the first-place Texans on Sunday. A loss here and the Colts would have fallen to under .500 and pretty much out of the playoff race. Instead, Andrew Luck and Co. delivered big time.

Luck outplayed Deshaun Watson, completing 27-of-41 passes for 399 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Meanwhile, the Colts’ defense took down Watson to the tune of five sacks in the 24-21 victory. By virtue of coming out on top, Indianapolis ended Houston’s five-game winning streak and remained very much alive in the AFC Playoff race.


Steelers’ collapse continues in Northern California

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On a Sunday that saw both Baltimore and Cincinnati lose, Pittsburgh had a real opportunity to take a stranglehold on the AFC North race. The team was set to take on a two-win Raiders squad after having dropped its past two games. In the end, Ben Roethlisberger was correct in saying it would be a tough game.

Oakland came out on top after a late-game scenario that reminds us just how absurd the game of football can be. Roethlisberger himself was banged up throughout the afternoon. And in the end, the Steelers just couldn’t make enough plays to fend off a third consecutive loss. Now at 7-5-1 on the season, the AFC North is wide open. More than that, Pittsburgh is in no way guaranteed even a playoff spot after yet another defeat.


Josh Allen in the record books

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It might have come in a losing effort against the New York Jets on Sunday, but this Bills rookie quarterback continues to help his otherwise talent-stricken team remain competitive. That included Allen putting up 101 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine attempts.

With 335 rushing yards over the past three games, Allen just broke Michael Vick’s record for the most rushing yards for a quarterback during a three-game span in NFL history. Sure he only completed 18-of-36 passes for 206 yards, but Allen continues to act as a dual-threat for the Bills. That’s a positive for the otherwise fledgling team.


These aren’t the same old Patriots

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The Patriots fell victim to the NFL’s version of The Play Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. With an opportunity to wrap up their 10th consecutive AFC East title, the Patriots fell by the score of 34-33. Even if New England was able to avoid the upset, this game tells us a story of a team that’s just not on par with previous versions.

The Dolphins went for 189 rushing yards on 21 attempts, including 60-plus from both Frank Gore and Brandon Bolden. Meanwhile, the Patriots themselves put up just 77 yards on 30 attempts. The end result here was a surprising loss and pretty much an end to New England’s hopes of earning home-field advantage in the AFC Playoffs. It’s going to be tough sledding for this squad come January.


Baker Mayfield has his Browns relevant again

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The first half of last week’s game notwithstanding, this rookie quarterback has played some near-flawless football of late. That continued Sunday in a win over the now free-falling Carolina Panthers. Mayfield completed 18-of-22 passes for 238 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions. It’s the third time in four outings that Mayfield has not thrown an interception.

This came with Cleveland winning its fifth game of the season and for the third time in four outings. We’re now talking about a team that’s relevant on the broader NFL stage for the first time since all the way back in 2007. Mayfield is the primary reason for this.


We’ll have a new champion this February

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson

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Barring a miracle, the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles will not be playing postseason football come January. That possibility pretty much ended with a back-breaking loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Philadelphia couldn’t do anything on offense in the first half. And when that side of the bell finally stepped up, the team’s defense struggled stopping Dallas en route to being swept in the season series.

The Eagles allowed 576 total yards of offense and 32 first downs. Amari Cooper scored three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Doug Pederson seemingly forgot about the rushing attack. Josh Adams touched the ball just seven times. Now at 6-7 on the season, it’s reasonable to conclude the Eagles are toast.


Bears’ defense makes team a true contender

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Sure Mitchell Trubisky struggled big time in his return to action Sunday night. That could be troubling for the Bears moving into the playoffs. But this defense continues to show out in every possible way. Sunday night against the Rams, it included holding one of the most-potent offenses in the NFL to 214 total yards and six points in a nine-point Bears win.

Kyle Fuller continued to play well at cornerback. Despite taking on triple teams, Khalil Mack was still a consistent force in the backfield. Meanwhile, rookie top-10 pick Roquan Smith played his best game as a pro. All of this has Chicago at 9-4 heading into Week 15 and looking like a dangerous force in the NFC.


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