Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10, Carolina Panthers 38
What you need to know
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Tampa Bay actually drew first blood on a 39 yard Connor Barth
field goal in the 1st quarter, capitalizing on a Lavonte David fumble recovery. It was mostly Panthers after that, as Carolina's front 7 played a ferocious game, consistently pressuring Winston and penetrating the offensive line for sacks and tackles for loss. The Bucs lost 3 turnovers(two INT's and a fumble) and were on Carolina's 2 yard line when time expired in the first half. Kicker Connor Barth
converted his 1 field goal attempt and his lone extra point attempt.Tampa Bay was 8/16 on 3rd down attempts, and 1/2 on 4th down. Tampa Bay was without WR Vincent Jackson
and tackle Gosder Cherilus on offense.
- The lack of usage of Greg Olsen
in the passing attack was not as a result of the Buccaneers taking him away per se; instead, it was his increased usage in pass protection and Cam Newton
's trust in his outside receiving options that proved the difference.
Rookie running back Cameron Artis-Payne
showed well against a stout Buccaneers run defense. Despite being stonewalled early and often, Artis-Payne's terrific patience came to the fore, particularly late in the game. The rookie has a place in this offense for the foreseeable future.
It was a breakout game for another rookie, Devin Funchess
, who continues to develop nicely. Funchess did cough the ball up once on a fumble, but bounced back with a 100-yard performance and a touchdown after getting inside position on his defensive back on a quick slant and finishing strongly.
The offensive line did a good job with their run blocking, but the Buccaneers were able to attack Cam Newton
with blitzes that were not picked up very well. Newton holding onto the ball is partially to blame, but the line needs to do a better job as well.
QB Jameis Winston
, 74 offensive snaps, Pass: 29 - 47 - 325 - 0 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 3 - 14 - 1 - Winston had a rough day, but still managed to pass 4,000 passing yards on the season, making him just the 3rd rookie to ever do so. After Carolina got out to an early lead, Winston was forced to throw the ball a lot. With Josh Norman
and the rest of the Carolina secondary keeping the WR's on lockdown, and the Carolina 7 bringing constant pressure, Winston was forced to check down to his running backs often. He scored the Bucs' only touchdown of the day on a 6 yard bootleg run in the 3rd quarter. He faked the handoff to the right, and rolled out to the left, outrunning a couple of defenders to the edge and leaping over his last would-be tackler for the score. Winston set the play up with a 21 yard gain to TE Seferian-Jenkins the play before.
Winston threw an ugly interception to LB Thomas Davis in the 2nd quarter while looking for a double-covered Adam Humphries
. Winston had good protection, but threw the ball behind the receiver and made it an easy grab for the veteran linebacker. He threw another interception in the 4th quarter when his receiver, TE Brate, fell down on his dig route. Winston nearly had a 3rd interception late in the 4th quarter, but it bounced off the hands of a diving Josh Norman
in the end zone. Winston missed TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
twice in the end zone at the end of the 2nd quarter, and the Bucs failed to score any points after Charles Sims
took the ball to the 2 yard line with 10 seconds left in the half.
RB Doug Martin
, 41 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 48 - 0, Rec: 7 - 60 - 0 (7 targets) - Martin only managed 48 yards on 15 carries. The Carolina front 7 consistently penetrated the Tampa Bay offense line for sacks and tackles for loss, really making the day tough for Martin and Sims on the ground. The majority of Martin's ground yardage came on a 29 yard gain in the 3rd quarter. The Carolina defense parted like the Red Sea, and Martin shot right up the middle of the field, bouncing off of a couple of tackles in the secondary for the big gain. With Tampa Bay falling behind early, Martin did see some increased action in the receiving game as Winston was forced to checkdown to his running backs a lot. Martin was a perfect 7 for 7 on his targets, and caught his longest reception of the day(20 yards) on a RB screen out of the backfield in the 1st quarter
RB Charles Sims
, 33 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 15 - 0, Rec: 9 - 74 - 0 (11 targets) - Sims had a slow day on the ground, but gathered the most passing targets on the team, catching 9 of 11 for 76 yards. The Panthers got out to an early lead, and Sims was peppered with checkdown targets out of the backfield throughout the course of the game. Sims caught a halfback screen that he took to the 2 yard line just before halftime. With only 7 seconds left after the play, the Bucs tried two quick passing plays but missed TE Seferian-Jenkins both times, failing to score before halftime.
RB Bobby Rainey
, 1 offensive snaps - Rainey fumbled and lost a punt return deep in Tampa Bay's red zone in the 3rd quarter, leading to a Cam Newton
WR Mike Evans
, 68 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 99 - 0 (9 targets) - Evans was shadowed by shutdown CB Josh Norman
for the majority of the day, but still managed 4 receptions for 99 yards on his 9 targets. He was wide open on a deep crossing route in the 2nd quarter for a gain of 27 yards. Evans had another long gain on a deep post route in the 2nd quarter to convert 3rd and long right before halftime. He was overthrown on a fade route in the end zone at the end of the same drive. Evans drew a holding penalty on CB Josh Norman
in the 3rd quarter. Evans had 2 consecutive long receptions at the end of the 3rd quarter and that were hotly contested by CB Norman. Evans was overthrown in the end zone late in the 4th quarter and was ejected after the play, drawing 2 unsportsmanlike penalties for mouthing off to referees. Norman didn't shut him down, but definitely frustrated him over the course of the game.
WR Donteea Dye
, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 31 - 0 (7 targets) - Dye had one of his most productive games of his rookie season, catching 4 of 7 targets for 31 yards and a couple of chain-moving 1st downs. Dye gained 14 yards on a curl route in the 1st quarter to convert 3rd and long on the Bucs' first drive of the game, and had a clutch reception on a deep post route to keep a drive alive at the end of the 2nd quarter.
WR Adam Humphries
, 56 offensive snaps (2 targets) - Humphries was underthrown on Winston's first interception in the 2nd quarter, and he missed his only other target of the day, a WR bubble screen at the end of the 2nd quarter.
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 48 - 0 (7 targets) - ASJ's biggest catch of the day was a 21 yard gain on a corner route to set Tampa Bay up in the Carolina red zone in the 3rd quarter. Jameis Winston
capped the drive off with a touchdown run on the next play. ASJ was targeted in the end zone on a slant route just before halftime, but Winston threw the pass behind him. He was targeted on an out route on the next play, but he couldn't secure the pass, and time expired as he bobbled the pass.
TE Cameron Brate
, 28 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 10 - 0 (2 targets) - Brate fell down on his route for his first target, resulting in QB Winston's 2nd interception of the day in the 4th quarter. He caught his 2nd target for a 10 yard gain on a curl route later in the 4th quarter.
TE Luke Stocker
, 33 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (1 targets) - Stocker held down his usual blocking duties and caught his only target of the day for a 3 yard gain in the 2nd quarter.
QB Cam Newton
, 62 offensive snaps, Pass: 21 - 26 - 293 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 6 - 10 - 2 - After some early hiccups in pass protection, leading to back-to-back sacks, Cam Newton
and the offense began to settle into a familiar rhythm. Newton was very sharp early on, firing passes on time and on target to a variety of receivers. A nonchalant flick of the wrist on a pass to Devin Funchess
against the blitz was a thing of beauty, and a deep target for Corey Brown
was dropped in the end zone and should have been a touchdown. Newton was in full control at the line of scrimmage, checking into better plays often and managing to draw the Buccaneers offside with his cadence. Newton made his fair share of questionable plays, but none of them involved turning the ball over; instead, it was a sack he shouldn't have taken and a poor play to pass the ball beyond the line of scrimmage on the option. Newton scored his first of two rushing touchdowns on a naked bootleg in the red zone, a play that has become a staple of Carolina's offense. No Buccaneers defender had a chance to close the gap on him once he got moving, and it proved to be an easy score. Newton produced a Houdini play on the next series, somehow escaping a sack and flicking the ball for a 41-yard catch and run to Funchess. The ball was tipped by a Buccaneers defender in flight, but it ended up in Funchess' hands. Newton's second rushing touchdown came on a quarterback sneak, after a straightforward drive by the offensive line at the 1-yard line. The MVP candidate did an excellent job with his first passing touchdown. Coming off a timeout, the Panthers lined up quickly and caught the Buccaneers off guard. This allowed Newton to quickly scan the field and find Jerricho Cotchery
beyond the Buccaneers' last man in the secondary for a beautiful touchdown pass. The location of the ball to the back line of the end zone meant only Cotchery could have made the play. His second passing touchdown went to Funchess, who did an excellent job to gain separation on a quick slant, presenting a big target for Newton. Funchess caught the ball and dove for the goal line to finish the play. It was a polished display from Newton and the offense, who recovered well after the debacle in Atlanta.
RB Cameron Artis-Payne
, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 44 - 1, Rec: 2 - 17 - 0 (2 targets) - The rookie found little joy early on against the Buccaneers, who plugged up the running lanes very well. However, the trademark of Artis-Payne's game ñ his patience ñ shone through and the rookie began to pick his spots and burst through the hole at the right moment. He showed some nice moves in the open field after a pass to the flat looked like it would gain no yards; instead, he juked a defender and followed his convoy of blocks back into the middle of the field for a nice gain. His hard running against a stout front seven was rewarded with his first career touchdown, after an audible at the line by his quarterback. The backside guard pulled and the frontside was sealed off nicely by Greg Olsen
, allowing Artis-Payne to shoot the gap and score untouched.
RB Mike Tolbert
, 37 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 59 - 0, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (1 targets) - With Jonathan Stewart
still missing due to a foot injury, Mike Tolbert
got the first totes in this contest and looked powerful and swift early on, punishing defenders and showing nifty open field moves. Sharing the carries almost evenly with rookie Cameron Artis-Payne
, Tolbert's gritty style allowed the offense to keep grinding out tough yards, with the offensive line doing an excellent job blocking it up. Tolbert was unlucky not to cash in with a touchdown on a goal line carry.
WR Devin Funchess
, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 120 - 1 (8 targets) - While still not the finished article, this performance by Devin Funchess
showed why many in Carolina are high on his potential. Funchess showed good speed to beat a defender to the corner on an 18-yard shallow crossing pattern, making himself available to receive the pass after the Buccaneers sent a blitz. Funchess' next catch saw him fumble the ball after it was punched out by a Tampa Bay defender. However, the rookie rebounded nicely, catching everything thrown his way with incisive route-running and smooth hands. His most bizarre play came on a 41-yard catch and run; Newton somehow escaped a sack in the backfield and rolled right, finding Funchess down the right-hand side of the field after the pass was initially tipped by an underneath Tampa Bay defender. Funchess excelled on inside-breaking routes all game and cashed in with a late touchdown to put the game to bed. Afforded space to burst off the line of scrimmage, he quickly broke inside and Newton did not delay in getting the ball between his numbers. Funchess did the rest, shaking off a tackler and diving for the goal line.
WR Corey Brown
, 49 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 58 - 0 (6 targets) - Corey Brown
endured a rather inauspicious start to the day, dropping what should have been a touchdown on a bucket throw from Newton to the end zone. Brown had gained a yard of separation on the fly route, and the pass appeared to be catchable. The receiver got his hands on it initially, but couldn't secure it. Brown had another drop later in the game, this time on third down. The pass from Cam Newton
was low and away from the defender in coverage, forcing Brown to extend for it and dive to the turf, which led to a drop. The young receiver redeemed himself somewhat with a pair of nice catch and run plays, showing swift moves in the open field.
WR Jerricho Cotchery
, 32 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 52 - 1 (2 targets) - It was a reasonably quiet outing for Jerricho Cotchery
, who got the offense going with a 20-yard WR screen catch and run on their opening drive. Cotchery was the recipient of a beautifully placed touchdown pass from Cam Newton
after he got on top of the Tampa Bay defensive backs. The ball was thrown to the back line of the end zone, but such was the placement Cotchery needed only to reach his hands up.
TE Greg Olsen
, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 16 - 0 (2 targets) - While Greg Olsen
was lined up in his traditional spots all over the formation, he was not the focus of the passing attack against Tampa Bay. Instead, Newton targeted his outside receivers and relied on a steady dose of the ground game. After the Buccaneers had early success blitzing Newton, Olsen was often asked to stay in to block as an H-back, limiting his pass routes run. He had an excellent play to stop at the sideline and give his quarterback an easy read on a scramble drill. Later, he was stopped a yard shy of the end zone on a questionable pass zipped between defenders from Newton. Olsen burned a Tampa Bay defender on a seam pattern in the second half and drew a defensive pass interference penalty that kept the offense on schedule.
Tennessee Titans 24, Indianapolis Colts 30
What you need to know
- • Alex Tanney
may be better than Zach Mettenberger
• David Cobb
got his chance and was good, not great.
• Dorial Green-Beckham
's inconsistent season finishes on an inconsistent note.
• Delanie Walker
should have plenty left in 2016.
- The Colts managed a surprising amount of offense on Sunday with Josh Freeman
and Ryan Lindley
picked up off the street, although that didn’t translate for much fantasy success. We did see, however, strong finishes from Frank Gore
and Coby Fleener
, as well as some promising usage of Phillip Dorsett
. With the Colts’ potential coaching turnover and roster adjustments for next season, however, how much it matters is yet to be seen. Fleener and Dwayne Allen
both are up for new contracts, and both Gore and Andre Johnson
could be potential cap-casualties this offseason. The biggest thing about this Colts offense is how much it misses and effective Andrew Luck
. If that player returns next season, the upsides for the Colts’ skill players will skyrocket back to pre-2015 levels. But outside of T.Y. Hilton
nobody else has established themselves as weekly fantasy threats. Until the Colts’ get quality quarterback play once again, it will remain that way.
QB Zach Mettenberger
, 28 offensive snaps, Pass: 5 - 13 - 38 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 4 - 1 - Zach Mettenberger
was his usual inaccurate and sloth-like self in this game before being pulled for Alex Tanney
. Mettenberger was apparently injured, but his play was worthy of being benched either way. He did run for a five-yard touchdown when the Titans caught the Colts off guard. They spread the field close to the goal line and called a designed quarterback run so Mettenberger was able to walk into the endzone untouched. He left the game in the third quarter after being intercepted. His pass was tipped underneath before being caught in the flat, but his slow process gave the defense that opportunity to tip the ball.
QB Alex Tanney
, 30 offensive snaps, Pass: 10 - 14 - 99 - 1 TD / 0 INT - It was just one half, actually less than one half, and it was against the Indianapolis Colts, but Alex Tanney
showed off a lot in this game. It was immediately evident that he was more comfortable running the offense than the quarterback he replaced. Tanney showed off a quick process in the pocket with the arm strength to fit the ball into tight windows over the middle of the field. When he threw the ball downfield and/or outside the numbers he wasn't showing off great arm strength but he did rely on touch and ball placement to give his receivers a chance. Tanney didn't panic too much under pressure and generally improved the output of the offense.
RB David Cobb
, 33 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 73 - 1 - This wasn't the best game to measure David Cobb
against his teammates on the Titans roster. The Titans offensive line was able to get consistent push and create running lanes against the Colts front, something it hasn't done all season long for the team's other backs. Cobb did show up well to take advantage of the opportunities he was given though. He comfortably changed direction after recognizing where the space was going to be while also showing off an impressive burst of acceleration to advance onto the second level. Although he wasn't running over defenders he was able to break arm tackles in tight spaces to extend plays downfield.
RB Bishop Sankey
, 9 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 16 - 0 - Sankey was first involved midway through the second quarter. He took the ball off the right side and was stopped at the line of scrimmage but kept moving his feet to gain four yards downfield. The Titans went back to him a few plays later on Second-and-6. He got to the second level cleanly but couldn't extend the play to find further space for a big gain or first down. Sankey's most impressive run came in the fourth quarter when he ran off left tackle and picked his way through bodies to gain five yards. He didn't have enough touches to make any long-term impact on his status with the team though.
RB Antonio Andrews
, 16 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 3 - 0 (2 targets) - After losing time last week for fumbling, Antonio Andrews
didn't get a chance to redeem himself in Week 17. The Titans didn't give him a carry, instead pushing the bulk of the carries onto rookie David Cobb
. He did have two receptions but both were limited to minimal gains.
WR Harry Douglas
, 47 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 19 - 0 (2 targets) - Douglas caught his first target and it even went for a first down. It didn't come until the fourth quarter though. He ran a deep in route and caught an accurate pass with a defender on his back. Later in the game, he caught a quick out route against off coverage for a four yard gain.
WR Dorial Green-Beckham
, 47 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 21 - 1 (5 targets) - It hasn't been a great rookie season for Dorial Green-Beckham
, but there have been enough flashes of ability for Titans fans to be excited. This game was similar to most as he opened the day by dropping his first pass. Mettenberger's throw was slightly off target, but it was a catch that the receiver should have made. His first reception didn't come until the third quarter when he ran a deep out route before shielding the ball with his big body for a first down catch. In the fourth quarter, Beckham caught a five-yard touchdown pass by high-pointing the ball above a defender in man coverage. The Titans purposely threw him a jump ball on a fade route for him to win. He was targeted a couple more times on the day, but neither throw was catchable.
WR Tre McBride
, 16 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 8 - 0 (1 targets) - The rookie receiver had just two opportunities in this game. The first came on an end-around when he accelerated forward to space for eight yards. The second came when he ran a quick out route against off coverage but couldn't catch an accurate pass with his defender arriving.
TE Delanie Walker
, 41 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 36 - 0, Rec: 9 - 94 - 0 (14 targets) - No matter who plays quarterback for the Titans, Delanie Walker
is the team's most reliable receiver. It's not surprising because of how impressive a player he is. Walker was constantly open over the middle of the field against the Colts' slower linebackers. He couldn't take advantage of a couple of opportunities in this game, at times his quarterback's service stood out as problematic, but still managed two big plays. The first came on a rare rushing attempt when he took a disguised end around downfield for a 36-yard gain. The second came when he adjusted impressively to a backshoulder throw down the right sideline for a 29-yard gain. Walker had a very impressive season...again.
QB Josh Freeman
, 60 offensive snaps, Pass: 15 - 28 - 149 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 8 - 24 - 0 - Expectations for Josh Freeman
were as low as could be before Sunday’s game, after playing in the Fall Experimental Football League earlier this year. But Freeman was surprisingly effective in Sunday’s game, at least on a limited basis, but it was mostly on well-designed short passes. Freeman missed open receivers on countless occasions, though he did make a nice throw downfield to an open Coby Fleener
for a 57-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, one that may have been the difference in the game. The rest of his throws resulted in just 3.4 yards per attempt. Freeman was able to convert seven first downs on 16 attempts, a decent conversion percentage which was partially a function of a horrific Tennessee defense and strong short-passing gameplan. Freeman’s accuracy and pocket presence could still use some work, but he did show enough poise and mobility to potentially warrant another tryout somewhere next year.
QB Ryan Lindley
, 12 offensive snaps, Pass: 6 - 10 - 58 - 1 TD / 0 INT - Playing in relief of Josh Freeman
on a limited basis on Sunday, Lindley played reasonably well, leading the Colts on a 58-yard touchdown pass on his first of two drives. Still, he only averaged 5.8 yards per attempt, and his 18-yard touchdown pass was lucky to not be intercepted. Lindley missed several open receivers downfield, and it’s unlikely that he’ll get another shot at a gig after being signed off the streets. Expect the practice squad for Lindley next fall, but little else.
RB Frank Gore
, 50 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 76 - 0 (4 targets) - With a disappointing season behind him, Gore ran well against the Titans on Sunday, rushing for over 75 yards for the sixth time this season. Gore finished the year on a strong note, rushing for 161 yards on 4.7 yards per carry. After seven consecutive weeks with under four yards per carry, the strong finish was needed for Gore. Gore looked like his old self, running through tackles for big gains on three of the team’s field goal drives. Now the decision for the Colts is whether or not to retain the veteran running back for 2016. Gore is turning 33 next year, and 2015 resulted in his lowest yards per carry average of his career and first year without 1,000 rushing yards since he missed five games in 2010. Gore was publicly frustrated with the season after Week 17, and Jim Irsay (or the 2016 GM) will need to figure out if the aging vet is still worth $5 million next year.
WR Phillip Dorsett
, 52 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 11 - 0, Rec: 4 - 28 - 0 (9 targets) - Though an injury-plagued rookie season was a disappointment for first-round pick Phillip Dorsett
, the rookie had a promising game in Week 17. The Colts used Dorsett mainly as first-down machine in the middle of the field, and he was relatively effective. The team also used him on an end-around in the first half that went for an easy 11 yards with Dorsett’s speed. Totaling 39 yards from scrimmage isn’t anything to write home about, but it was encouraging to see Dorsett used in a variety of ways Sunday, and it could be a boosting point for his sophomore year, when Andre Johnson
’s potential absence could lead to a much bigger role.
WR Andre Johnson
, 44 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 46 - 1 (6 targets) - The Colts’ worst veteran signing of 2015 didn’t finish the year with any career lows, but that’s only because of a 2011 season in which he missed nine games. Johnson’s 41 catches and 503 total yards in 16 games was the second-worst season of his career, however, even worse than a nine-games season back in 2007. Johnson had 46 total yards on Sunday, his third-highest total of the year, if that gives any context to his season. Sure, Andrew Luck
missing most of the year didn’t help, but Johnson was bad with Luck on the field as well, and is a serious candidate to be cut this offseason to save on his $7.5 million cap hit next season.
WR T.Y. Hilton
, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 44 - 0 (7 targets) - The Colts’ leading receiver wasn’t able to get much going down the field on Sunday with the accuracy-limited Josh Freeman
and Ryan Lindley
. Hilton failed to gain 50 yards for the sixth time on Sunday, his fourth time in the final seven games. After hitting the 50-yard mark in seven of the first nine games, Hilton never strung together consecutive 50-yard games in the second half of the year. The fourth-year receiver is salivating at the prospect of getting Andrew Luck
back next season, as well as a potentially upgraded offensive line. With his third consecutive 1,000-yard season, Hilton should still be a hot fantasy commodity next season, and could be a potential steal if Luck bounces back.
WR Donte Moncrief
, 24 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - -2 - 0 (2 targets) - After nursing a toe injury all week, the Colts’ No. 2 receiver played just 24 snaps on Sunday before a setback forced him to miss the remainder of the game. The injury slowed Moncrief down during the final two weeks of the season, limiting his production severely, as he caught just three passes for 13 yards in those two games. For the season, Moncrief showed relative progress, doubling his receptions from last season and nearly 300 more yards. That, of course, was without Andrew Luck
at quarterback. With Luck back next season, Moncrief has a potential to breakout, especially if Andre Johnson
TE Coby Fleener
, 48 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 88 - 1 (7 targets) - Coby Fleener
finished the year on a high note, with a season-high in yards and his third touchdown of the year. Fleener’s best play was a 57-yard touchdown pass in which he beat the Titans’ safety in single coverage and out-raced him down the seam. It was a great play, the kind of play the Colts envisioned for Fleener often. Unfortunately, the rest of the day was more like the rest of the 2015 season: six catches for just 31 yards as he was limited to quick passes underneath with little yards after the catch. For the season, Fleener finished 62nd out of 73 tight ends in yards after the catch per reception and 53rd in yards per reception, per Pro Football Focus. The Colts’ decision on whether or not to re-sign Fleener will likely come down to money. The tight end has physical talent, but has never been able to consistently translate that to production, but he and Andrew Luck
New York Jets 17, Buffalo Bills 22
What you need to know
New York Jets
- The New York Jets finished their season with a 10-6 record after suffering a 22-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. New York’s loss, coupled with Pittsburgh’s victory, knocked the Jets out of the playoffs. The story of the game was the dismal play of Ryan Fitzpatrick
; Fitzpatrick, who only threw one interception over his last five games, threw three, fourth quarter interceptions. Fitzpatrick’s first interception proved to be a fatal blow as Fitzpatrick underthrew Eric Decker
on a corner route in the end zone. A better pass would have resulted in a touchdown to give New York its first lead of the game. Right before the two minute warning, Fitzpatrick was hit by Marcell Dareus just as he threw and the pass was intercepted by Manny Lawson. Fitzpatrick had one last chance at redemption, but his final pass was intercepted by AJ Tarpley to seal a Buffalo victory. During New York’s last drive of the game, Fitzpatrick threw a 50-yard bomb to Kembrell Thompkins. Fitzpatrick hit Thompkins in stride deep down the right sideline, but a Buffalo defender made a last ditch effort and dislodged the ball. If Thompkins holds on, he easily races into the end zone for the game winning touchdown.
Outside of Fitzpatrick, New York’s ground game failed to develop a rhythm. Bilal Powell
(ankle) was inactive—and New York’s offense sputtered without him. Stevan Ridley
and Chris Ivory
alternated carries, but neither player was able to the void left behind by Powell.
On the other side of the ball, Darrelle Revis lost his one-on-one match-up against Sammy Watkins
. Revis gave Watkins a fairly sizable cushion, but Watkins was still able to get behind Revis. Watkins used his agility to make quick cuts in and out of his routes to beat Revis in one-on-one situations. Watkins is one of a few talented receivers to beat Revis in one-on-one match-ups this season, leaving fans to wonder whether Revis can still hold his own against the NFL’s top wide receivers.
As a side note, Mohammed Wilkerson, an impending free agent, broke his leg in the third quarter. His presence was sorely missed.
- The Bills once again end their season with a middling record. But things are looking up in their offense. Rex Ryan is an experienced HC, Tyrod Taylor
is competent enough to not lose games and is exciting enough to sometimes win them, Sammy Watkins
is slowly growing into the stud he can be, LeSean McCoy
and Karlos Williams
form a lethal 1-2 punch, and Charles Clay
is a decent-to-good TE. The Bills were hit with a lot of injuries and if they can improve their roster depth, they should be competitive for a Wild Card spot.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
, 57 offensive snaps, Pass: 16 - 37 - 181 - 2 TD / 3 INT, Rush: 2 - 12 - 0 - The loss is directly attributable to the poor play of Ryan Fitzpatrick
, who turned in a forgettable three interception performance. Two major factors, the wind and Buffalo’s pass rush, had a direct impact on his performance. New York’s offensive line had trouble slowing down Buffalo’s talented array of pass rushers. The wind, on the other hand, made downfield passing even harder for Fitzpatrick, who struggled all season with the deep ball. Fitzpatrick also threw three, fourth quarter interceptions that sealed his team’s fate. Midway through the fourth quarter, Fitzpatrick targeted Decker on a corner route, but underthrew him and the pass was intercepted by Leodis McKelvin. Fitzpatrick threw his third and final interceptions with just 20 seconds remaining. Fitzpatrick targeted Decker on a crossing route, but the ball was underthrown and intercepted to end the game.
Fitzpatrick did throw two more touchdown passes to Marshall and Decker, but a third scoring strike would have resulted in a playoff berth.
Overall, it was a forgettable performance by Fitzpatrick in New York’s biggest game of the last five seasons. Fitzpatrick, an impending free agent, had a great season and will have some leverage in his contract negotiations.
RB Stevan Ridley
, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 29 - 0, Rec: 2 - 0 - 0 (2 targets) - By virtue of some injuries to his team mates, Stevan Ridley
earned his first start in over a year. The results, however, were not encouraging. Over the course of the regular season, Buffalo’s run defense has deteriorated, but Ridley had trouble developing a rhythm in the first half. Due to game flow, New York abandoned the run during the second half.
RB Chris Ivory
, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 81 - 0 - Chris Ivory
, who was suffering from a minor knee injury, was used sparingly throughout the game. Stevan Ridley
started the game and served as New York’s early-down running back while Ivory came on in third downs. Ivory was largely contained, but ripped off a 58-yard run during the third quarter to surpass the 1,000-yard mark. New York trailed for the entire game and ultimately decided to abandon running the ball during the fourth quarter, so Ivory’s opportunities were limited. Alike Fitzpatrick, Ivory is an impending free agent who is coming off a career year.
WR Brandon Marshall
, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 126 - 1 (16 targets) - Brandon Marshall
finished his 2015 campaign with another big performance against Buffalo’s suspect secondary. When Fitzpatrick needed to make a big play, Marshall was targeted and more times than not, Marshall came through with a big play. Early in the second quarter, Fitzpatrick and Marshall hooked up for a 17-yard pitch and catch on a corner route. It’s a scoring play that we’ve seen week-after-week that defenses simply don’t have an answer for. Overall, Fitzpatrick struggled throughout the game and had several chances to find Marshall for big plays, but the throws were simply off target. After being discarded by Chicago, Marshall had a career year and will look to build upon it in 2016.
WR Eric Decker
, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 50 - 1 (9 targets) - Eric Decker
finished off his season in fitting fashion—by catching another touchdown pass. Decker secured his 12th touchdown grab in the third quarter. Decker ran a deep post route, slightly pushed off of his defender, and ran free for a 27-yard touchdown. Outside of this scoring play, Buffalo’s secondary held Decker in check. Fitzpatrick struggled for the majority of the game and his pass catchers ultimately suffered.
WR Quincy Enunwa
, 44 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (4 targets) - Quincy Enunwa
was used sparingly throughout the game, but saw some snaps as New York’s H-Back. Enunwa had a few opportunities to make plays, but was plagued by some costly drops. During the second quarter, on a 3rd-and-8 play in the red zone, Enunwa dropped an easy-to-catch shovel pass that would have resulted in a first down. New York settled for a field goal, but Enunwa’s drop was costly.
QB Tyrod Taylor
, 75 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 28 - 182 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 10 - 51 - 1 - Taylor started off the game not with a bang, but a whimper. His first pass was a short throw into the dirt. His second hit the receiver in the hands and fell harmlessly. His third was overthrown and would have been intercepted if Chris Hogan
had not committed an offensive pass interference penalty. The first series was his worst but Taylor still did not play great over the course of the game. Taylor put decent balls in the vicinity of Sammy Watkins
and Watkins was able to grab them through his own ability. Admittedly, having your best WR tangled up with Revis is not going to help your day but it was much more of the "Sammy Watkins
passing attack" than the "Tyrod Taylor
passing attack". As Taylor does, he won this game with his feet. The Jets' defense keep breaking the Bills' offensive line and Taylor salvaged most of those plays with his escape ability. Most critically, on a third and 3 he scrambled for an 18-yard TD.
The Taylor of the end of the season was much closer to preseason expectations than the Taylor that initially showed up. He is an extremely quick and savvy runner, he can throw pretty deep balls occasionally, and he doesn't tend to make very stupid mistakes. On a team with no QB talent behind him, Taylor is the undisputed best option and would probably be so compared to the free agent market as well. But a QB falling in the draft could make Buffalo stop for a moment and think.
RB Mike Gillislee
, 48 offensive snaps, Rush: 24 - 28 - 0 (1 targets) - Gillislee has performed well in his role as supplemental RB with the LeSean McCoy
and Karlos Williams
injuries. However, against the New York Jets his numbers came back down to earth. The Jets were consistently in the Bills backfield and stopping Gillislee short of the line of scrimmage. When there were small holes Gillislee was occasionally able to capitalize but for the most part he was taken down quickly. He is the third RB on the depth chart but his strong running when needed should solidify him a roster spot for 2016.
RB Karlos Williams
, 15 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 24 - 1, Rec: 3 - 3 - 0 (3 targets) - In the first half against the Jets, Williams was his usual bulldozer self. On a third and 2, he was first stopped two yards short but kept pushing the would-be tacklers backward. The play-by-play will show a 3-yard gain and a first down but that does not reflect the immense effort involved. Unfortunately, Williams' bruising style can bruise himself in turn. He missed games earlier in the season due to injury and in this game pulled up with a gimpy leg after hurdling a defender to convert a first down. On a fourth and 1 on the 2-yard line, Williams was given the ball and stopped by a Jet short of the endzone. Williams churned his legs as he often does and punched through for the TD. It was a pyrrhic victory; he did not return to the game after the play because of a knee injury gained during it. Williams is the clear choice for LeSean McCoy
's backup and should remain as such next year.
WR Sammy Watkins
, 69 offensive snaps, Rec: 11 - 136 - 0 (15 targets) - Watkins is getting the reps that he asked for earlier in the year. His 15 targets and 11 receptions were both career highs for him. Tightly covered by Revis for most of the game, Watkins was still able to make plays. And when the Jets decided to cover Watkins with a LB, it was a mistake. Watkins finished the game with 55% of his team's targets, 61% of the receptions, and 75% of the receiving yards. Watkins' biggest gain of the day was actually on a bobbled catch. As he initially caught the ball and turned, the ball flew up and out of his arms. He juggled the ball while running at high speed but hauled it back in and kept galloping for 38 yards. Watkins had a strong second year and should continue to grow as a player. Beyond him, the Bills will not be carrying a lot of WR talent into 2016. If the depth chart remains relatively unchanged, there will be a large gap between Watkins and the #2 WR at the start of next season.
WR Greg Salas
, 33 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 41 - 0 (5 targets) - Signed right before Christmas, Salas had his first game as a Bill in the last game of the season. Tyrod Taylor
had to throw the ball to someone other than Sammy Watkins
and Salas stepped up instead of Chris Hogan
. Picking Salas up was clearly an end-of-season roster move to see if there is any potential in him.
WR Chris Hogan
, 62 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 4 - 0, Rec: 1 - 2 - 0 (3 targets) - Ostensibly the #2 receiver for the Bills heading into the game, Hogan was out-targeted by newcomer Greg Salas
. His two plays of consequence were an offensive pass interference while running after an overthrown ball to prevent an interception (there was no flag on the play) and an aborted throw via a fleaflicker that turned into a running gain of a few yards. Hogan will be a RFA in the upcoming offseason but his play has not warranted a big new contract.
TE Chris Gragg
, 35 offensive snaps - Gragg had a key block on Tyrod Taylor
's TD run but was part of a TE group that received no targets in 28 throws. He will not be challenging Charles Clay
for the primary TE spot in 2016.
Minnesota Vikings 20, Green Bay Packers 13
What you need to know
- The loss of Rhett Ellison
could be a very big deal as the offensive line continues to struggle and Ellison was a big help in the run game as well as with some occasional pass blocking. The Vikings don’t have Teddy Bridgewater
throwing the ball all that much, but Seattle will focus on jamming up Adrian Peterson
and Ellison could be sorely missed. That could mean they’ll need to open the playbook a bit for Bridgewater against a tough defense and one of the better secondaries in the NFL. That’s a concern and it doesn’t seem good for the Vikings heading into Wild Card weekend.
Green Bay Packers
- Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers
are not getting along. The offense continues to be a hodgepodge of things that don’t appear to work and things that do work which are oddly abandoned. The Packers run game looked good early, for example, but the team got away from it. Then, when they were losing big, they actually went to it more frequently. It’s hard to predict an offense when it is doing unpredictable things like that.
QB Teddy Bridgewater
, 48 offensive snaps, Pass: 10 - 19 - 99 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 2 - 0 - Things didn’t get off on the right foot for Bridgewater Sunday night as he missed a wide open Jerrick McKinnon down the sideline and overthrew him by almost five yards. Three throws later, Bridgewater missed MyCole Pruitt
in the end zone by just a little bit. You can’t miss those throws, especially as the Vikings enter the playoffs. We know he can make the throws, as right after the miss on Pruitt he threw a dime to Jarius Wright
but the receiver was way too casual and went out of bounds before completing a catch he should have had. Bridgewater also makes some daffy decisions, such as his left-handed toss while being sacked. He was trying to get rid of the ball (that’s good) but threw with his off-hand and right into the hands of Micah Hyde (bad). While Hyde made a back-handed, one handed throw Bridgewater never should have thrown the ball. So it seems there continues to be good reason why they aren’t opening up the playbook, though where the Packers erred in putting their quarterback in the position of throwing 44 passes, the Vikings have the opposite issue. 19 passes is too few and at some point they will need Bridgewater to throw the ball and perhaps win a game. Limiting him makes sense given his current issues. Shutting him down does not.
RB Adrian Peterson
, 31 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 67 - 1, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 (1 targets) - Aside from a lower-back pain which forced him from the game for most of the fourth quarter, Peterson had an OK game. The offensive line gives him little help, but that hasn’t slowed him down all that much even if it often hampers his overall yards per carry. He still manages to make a first down or a big play when the team needs it. Peterson showed his vision and agility on a 10-yard carry in the third quarter where he took the handoff, got skinny and slipped through the hole and quickly got to the second level. He then used a jump cut to avoid another defender, then turned upfield again before being brought down for a first. Peterson also showed tremendous determination on his 3-yard touchdown run. He was held up at the one yard line but kept pushing and bulled his way and kept his legs pumping to the goal line. Peterson will be a huge factor going up against Seattle next week and is going to need some help—either with a pass game to loosen the defense up or better blocking up front- against the front seven of Seattle.
RB Jerick McKinnon
, 12 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 15 - 0, Rec: 3 - 33 - 0 (4 targets) - We’ve talked about the flexibility McKinnon brings more than once this season and this game seemed to be when the team finally realized it as well. He lined up in the backfield on third downs and when Adrian Peterson
was hurt in the fourth quarter. He lined up in the slot. He was out wide as the “z” receiver. He ran crossing routes, carried the ball and took on seam routes. McKinnon also made very good catches, often getting an extra few yards after the catch. McKinnon got some separation too, especially on Teddy Bridgewater
’s first pass of the game. On the play, McKinnon blew past rookie linebacker Jake Ryan and was wide open down the sideline. Unfortunately Bridgewater missed him by about five yards and cost the team what would have been a sure six points. McKinnon made a few nice catches and ran the ball hard on a pair of occasions. While he continues to remain behind Peterson running the ball, he is showing his ability to do a ton of things and the team should find ways to get him the ball against Seattle.
WR Adam Thielen
, 7 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 67 - 0, Rec: 1 - 16 - 0 (1 targets) - Thielen’s biggest contribution was on a fake punt where he took the ball and ran for a first down and a 41-yard gain. Later, Thielen took the ball and ran off the right end for a 26-yard gain. During both runs he showed some elusiveness and patience as he followed his blockers to maximize yardage before getting hauled down. Thielen was injured in the third quarter on a special teams play and didn’t see any action after he left the field.
WR Jarius Wright
, 28 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 21 - 0 (3 targets) - Wright made a lazy drop early in the game on a route down the sideline where Teddy Bridgewater
dropped the ball in perfect placement along the line, but Wright played it too casually and was unable to keep both feet in while securing the ball. Beyond that Wright was pretty quiet.
WR Mike Wallace
, 35 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 22 - 0 (3 targets) - Wallace’s claim to fame was being the target on Bridgewater’s ill-advised interception in the third quarter. He did have one other catch and continues to be a square peg in a round hole for this offense.
WR Stefon Diggs
, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (2 targets) - Diggs has cooled off in the late portion of the season and that continued Sunday night as he only saw two targets, catching one down the middle of the field for close to a first down. With just 19 passes, he isn’t getting much opportunity to make plays.
TE Rhett Ellison
, 20 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - -2 - 0 (1 targets) - Ellison made one catch and was injured. He tore his patellar tendon in his right leg and will be out for the postseason. It’s a big loss to the run game as Ellison is a solid blocker.
TE Kyle Rudolph
, 42 offensive snaps (1 targets) - Rudolph was oddly absent from the gameplan, his only target not really a target at all, but a throw-away. There was very little passing by the Vikings and so despite the fact that Rudolph was on the field for 88 percent of the offensive plays, much of which saw him blocking.
TE MyCole Pruitt
, 5 offensive snaps (1 targets) - Pruitt was the target in the end zone on a Teddy Bridgewater
overthrow. Pruitt gained a little separation on the defender and had a lot of room in the end zone, but the pass sailed a little on Bridgewater and the Vikings had to settle for a field goal.
QB Aaron Rodgers
, 79 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 44 - 291 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 3 - 12 - 0 - his was yet another in a long line of inconsistent Rodgers games, where one minute he’s fumbling the football or throwing a poorly thought out pass and the next he is making a ridiculous throw for a touchdown or scrambling for a big play. The worst play of his game was the fumble. On the play, defensive end Everson Griffin got around left tackle Josh Sitton to pressure Rodgers and force him inside. Rodgers was not quick enough though, and Griffen batted Rodgers’ arm before it moved forward. The ball flew from Rodgers’ hand and the only person not wearing white and purple who knew it was a fumble was the quarterback, who immediately got downfield to try and cut off the impending return. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn picked the ball up and headed for the end zone and while Rodgers nearly got him before he crossed the goal line, he couldn’t make the tackle. Rodgers’ interception was also a brutal turnover, especially coming in the end zone as it did. The play came on fourth and goal with just over two minutes left in the game. On the play, Rodgers had plenty of time but the receivers were all well-covered. He spotted James Jones
with a tiny bit of separation in the end zone, but Xavier Rhodes was lurking nearby. There was no room to throw, save for the sideline, but Rodgers instead threw the ball inside, directly at Rhodes, who easily picked the ball off. Why he didn’t go to the sideline where only James Jones
could make a play is hard to figure out. Rodgers one touchdown was to tight end Richard Rodgers
on an intermediate out route. Vikings safety Harrison Smith was a little slow coming up to cover R.Rodgers, and the tight end easily made the catch. Both Smith and cornerback Xavier Rhodes met R. Rodgers at the goal line and the tight end made one of the ugliest touchdown leaps across the goal line in the history of football. He got the score though. Rodgers got hot in the second half, but looked bad early on. The offensive line continues to be an issue —Sitton is a guard, not a tackle and struggled all day out of position —and the receivers struggle to gain separation. That isn’t to excuse Rodgers though, as he has not looked good for most of the season. The whole offense is out of sorts right now, and Rodgers is at the heart of it. If he cannot turn it around, the team will not win in Washington. On the other hand, the Packers cannot make Rodgers throw the ball 44 times and expect to win.
RB Eddie Lacy
, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 34 - 0, Rec: 2 - 7 - 0 (2 targets) - Lacy started off the game in fine fashion with seven carries for 28 yards, but the Packers got away from the run early and Lacy never got into a rhythm. The offensive line was also a mess, which made it hard to do much anyway. Lacy continues to look off this season, not running with as much power or showing the fluidity we’ve seen in past seasons. The Packers will want to try and lean on the run game going forward with Aaron Rodgers
’ struggles, but so far they haven’t seemed willing to commit. Lacy and James Starks
split snaps on offense almost evenly but even if you add the percentage they were on the field together, it only comes out to 67 percent of offensive snaps. That’s less than Davante Adams
. The Packers abandoned the run early even though it was paying off and they were trailing by just a field goal and the Vikings were able to just focus on rushing Rodgers and not worrying about the run game.
RB James Starks
, 28 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 24 - 0, Rec: 3 - 18 - 0 (3 targets) - Starks and Eddie Lacy
split snaps on offense almost evenly but even if you add the percentage they were on the field together, it only comes out to 67 percent of offensive snaps. That’s less than Davante Adams
. The Packers abandoned the run early even though it was paying off and trailing by just a field goal. Starks looked OK in his carries, but suffered from the same difficulties Lacy did with regard to the offensive line and that lack of dedication to the run.
RB John Kuhn
, 53 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 3 - 0, Rec: 2 - 14 - 0 (2 targets) - Kuhn was in a lot trying to keep Aaron Rodgers
upright as a blocker. The offensive line is a mess and he had little luck against a solid pass rush.
WR Randall Cobb
, 64 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 3 - 0, Rec: 6 - 37 - 0 (8 targets) - Cobb caught almost all of his targets but pretty much every catch was incredibly short in nature. Between an inability of breaking coverage and a brutal effort by the offensive line, the Packers had to have some short passes if they were going to complete any. Overall, Cobb has probably suffered from Jordy Nelson
’s absence more than anyone aside from Aaron Rodgers
and that continued to be the case. The Vikings also did an outstanding job of hitting him quickly after the catch, containing his very dangerous run after the catch ability.
WR James Jones
, 79 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 102 - 0 (13 targets) - James Jones
should never take off his hoodie, especially against the Vikings. That said, his overall numbers belie a pretty meh night as he caught only 25 percent of his 13 targets and most of them came in the fourth quarter as the Packers desperately tried to come back and win the game. He was the target when Aaron Rodgers
threw his game-sealing pick in the end zone with two minutes left in the game. Jones had some room along the sideline, and cornerback Xavier Rhodes on his inside. For some reason, Rodgers threw it inside, and Jones couldn’t make the play to keep the ball out of Rhodes’ hands. Jones seemed to be the only receiver who could gain any separation on the Vikings defense, and made a very nice catch along the sideline in the third quarter. On the play, he streaked down the sideline just in front of corner Terrance Newman. Rodgers dropped a dime just in front of Jones, who hauled it in before going out of bounds.
WR Davante Adams
, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 54 - 0 (6 targets) - Adams actually played relatively well and on his very first catch in the second quarter, he made a catch on a short route, then slipped a tackle before running for an extra 20 yards. Adams was never quite able to slip away from a tackler again though he almost managed it on a 17-yard catch down the middle of the field where he nearly stayed on his feet after a hit. Overall though, while he did well, he wasn’t used all that much and had some issues breaking open on too many routes which probably explains his poor target total.
TE Richard Rodgers
, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 59 - 1 (8 targets) - Aaron Rodgers
looked for Richard Rodgers
a lot on Sunday, but an awful lot of the tight end’s catches were short yardage. R.Rodgers isn’t a guy with the speed to gain separation and break past even linebackers, though he can use his size for big plays and catches. He was the target on Aaron Rodgers
’ lone touchdown which came in the fourth quarter on a short out route. Other than that, R.Rodgers continues to be Aaron Rodgers
’ favorite and most effective red zone target and should remain so going forward.
TE Andrew Quarless
, 31 offensive snaps (1 targets) - Quarless saw the field a fair amount (31 of 79 snaps) as a blocker and was targeted once on a short pass. He will see the field as a blocker for the most part and will not be a part of the offensive gameplan in the playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks 36, Arizona Cardinals 6
What you need to know
- The Seattle Seahawks embarrassed their division rival Arizona Cardinals in Week 17 36-6 and are riding some momentum on offense going into the Wildcard round. Russell Wilson
threw three touchdowns in this one and set franchise records for both yards and touchdowns. Doug Baldwin
was held out of the end zone for the first time in six games and Christine Michael
had his first 100-yard game of his career. Tyler Lockett
was a huge factor in the punt return game continuously giving the Seahawks great field position which they repeatedly took advantage of before the game got out of hand
- While the loss was a less than ideal way to enter the post-season, there seems to be little concern within the team about their ability to make a Super Bowl run when they are dialed-in. The team absolutely has its weaknesses, pass-rush and pass-protection among them, that are cause for concern, it is the kicking of Chandler Catanzaro
that is currently giving the most pause. Cat missed his fifth extra-point of the season (along with a field goal as well) on Sunday, and while those missed extra points have at yet to come back and bite the team, it is simply not a mistake that can be made come playoff time. Whether the issue is mental or physical, Catanzaro must get it corrected in the next two weeks.
QB Russell Wilson
, 59 offensive snaps, Pass: 19 - 28 - 197 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 13 - 0 - The Seahawks had little problem with the Arizona Cardinals defense in Week 17 led by quarterback Russell Wilson
. They were able to spread out Arizona and use short passes to their advantage early on. Wilson would ultimately complete 19-of-28 passes for just 197 yards but three touchdowns in the 36-6 win. He would also add 13 yards on the ground on five carries. He completed 13 of his first 15 pass attempts and threw for all three touchdowns before he even had three incompletions. Wilson did well with his opportunities of great field position after some great punt returns by rookie Tyler Lockett
. Wilson’s first touchdown pass came in the second quarter on 2nd and goal where off a play fake lobbed a ball over top of the defense to a wide open Will Tukuafu
for the score. Not even three minutes later the Seahawks would score again, this time from eight yards out to Chase Coffman
of a nearly identical play. This time Wilson made it to his second read which was a crossing route to Coffman who broke the plane un-touched. 1:43 later Wilson would put his third touchdown score on the board. Out of the shotgun, Wilson found Jermaine Kearse
down the left sideline where he absolutely roasted Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel. The Seahawks remained in control from there were the Cardinals took out the majority of their starters to start the second half. Wilson finishes the year with career highs in passing yards and passing touchdowns with 4,024 and 34 respectively. He also set a franchise record for passer rating at 110.1 and is the first player in the NFL to ever throw 30 touchdowns and have 500 rushing yards in the same season.
RB Christine Michael
, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 17 - 102 - 0 (1 targets) - Christine Michael
contributed his first 100-yard game of his career in Week 17 against the Cardinals and out-touched Bryce Brown
17-10 in the backfield. He was the clear lead back in route to his 102 yard performance and will continue this role if Marshawn Lynch
is unable to go in the playoffs. After Arizona was forced to punt on the first drive of the game, Michael broke off a 45-yard run out of the shotgun that lead to the eventual Bryce Brown
1-yard touchdown. Michael was hitting holes hard all night and was physical with Arizona defenders. He is running with a new level of desire, which is good news for the Seahawks.
RB Bryce Brown
, 20 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 20 - 1 - Bryce brown was out-touched 17-10 in this game by Christine Michael
but he did get the loan rushing score on the night from one yard out. He rushed ten times for 20 yards in the win. He was outgained 102-20 in yards and will likely be behind Michael again in the playoffs if Marshawn Lynch
is still not ready to go.
WR Doug Baldwin
, 46 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 46 - 0 (7 targets) - We finally saw some regression with wide receiver Doug Baldwin
who was held out of the end zone for the first time in six games. He caught 5-of-7 targets for 46 yards in the Seahawks win. They didn’t need much after an explosive first half to get this win and Baldwin wasn’t much of a factor after the first few drives.
WR Tyler Lockett
, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 7 - 0, Rec: 2 - 36 - 0 (4 targets) - Rookie Tyler Lockett
was the clear x-factor for the Seahawks in Week 17. Although he was not a huge factor on offense with just 36 yards on two receptions the Cardinals were completely incapable of keeping the dynamic punt returner in check. He repeatedly gave Seattle great field position, which Russell Wilson
continued to take advantage of. In the first half the Seahawks could not be stopped and a massive punt return set up the Jermaine Kearse
touchdown. His four first half punt returns totaled 139 yards where the Arizona offense only had 147 total yards at the time. It could have been even more ridiculous but Lockett’s first return was called back on borderline holding penalty.
WR Jermaine Kearse
, 43 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 34 - 1 (3 targets) - Jermaine Kearse
was a non-factor in Week 17 outside of a 24-yard touchdown grab in the second quarter. He absolutely roasted cornerback Justin Bethel deep down the left sideline where Russell Wilson
had no problem hitting him in stride out of the shotgun formation. Kearse finished the game with three catches off of three targets for 34 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. He finished the season with 49 catches, 685 yards, and five touchdowns.
QB Carson Palmer
, 34 offensive snaps, Pass: 12 - 25 - 129 - 1 TD / 1 INT - According to Head Coach Bruce Arians, pulling Palmer at the half was always part of the plan, despite telling the media otherwise. What clearly was not part of the plan, broadcast or not, was the effort displayed in the first half and the absolute domination at the hand of a division rival because of it. Palmer undoubtedly played his worst game, or half, of the season, but was done no favors by his teammates. Incorrect routes run by receivers led to Palmer’s lone interception, nearly caused another and left many yards on the field. Dropped passes failed to convert first downs and an offensive line that did little to provide a run game nor much pass protection were all at fault as well. Nevertheless, Palmer was not sharp, and like the rest of the team, not invested in Sunday’s game. Nothing should be taken away from the Seahawks effort, a team every bit as scary heading into the postseason as they have been the previous three years, but whether it was from reading their press-clippings or treating the game like an exhibition, this Cardinals team did not show much interest in the outcome of their week 17 matchup. Possibly the most troubling stat from Palmer that came out of this game was his 5.2 yard average, over three full yards lower than his season-long average. Pushing the ball downfield against Seattle always poses a challenge, but if these two teams do play each other again in the playoffs, Palmer must find a way to connect on more of the chunk plays that have driven this Cardinals offense all season long.
RB David Johnson
, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 25 - 0, Rec: 3 - 34 - 0 (8 targets) - After a revelatory four games as the team’s starter, David Johnson
came crashing back to earth on Sunday. Aggressively gang-tackled back to earth may in fact be the more appropriate way to describe it. Johnson looked timid and untrusting of his blocking, something the Seahawks defensive front has done to many runningbacks, and failed to break into the Seahawks second level even once on Sunday. While plenty of blame for Johnson’s poor effort can rest on the shoulders of an overwhelmed offensive line, Johnson also fell victim to the same mistake nearly ever runningback who faces Seattle makes; trying to bounce plays outside for bigger gains. Nearly every young runningback who has had success must learn at some point that not every run can be a homerun, and with two weeks of rest and practice between now and their next game, there is little fear that Johnson will not learn that lesson quickly.
RB Andre Ellington
, 19 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 2 - 0, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (2 targets) - Ellington played in mop-up duty and otherwise was not featured in the game at all. He still possess the ability to be somewhat of an offensive x-factor for this team in the playoffs, but it is nearly impossible to determine the role Arians will (or will not) have for him going forward.
WR Larry Fitzgerald
, 41 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 55 - 1 (7 targets) - Unsurprisingly, it was Fitzgerald who appeared to play with a modicum of intensity on Sunday, or at least more than his teammates can claim. Fitzgerald continued to do his usual thing, working the middle of the field with relative success and even finding the end zone for the team’s lone score, but in an offense as disjointed as the Cardinals’ was on Sunday, drives were not sustained long enough for his possessions to make an impact. Fitzgerald’s touchdown, a 17-yard reception, came on a simple slant to the inside when Fitzgerald’s defender misdiagnosed an out-route leaving Larry relatively wide-open.
WR John Brown
, Rec: 4 - 45 - 0 (11 targets) - Brown entered the week 17 game 42 yards shy of 1,000 for the season, so his 45-yard game was arguably the only positive to come from the loss. Drops, once again plagued Brown, an issue that seemingly has sprung out of nowhere the last few weeks of this season. Two games out of a two-season career does not indicate a trend, but is also something that cannot happen come playoff time where the importance of every possession is greatly amplified. Brown has not really broken loose since the emergence of Michael Floyd
, but will be counted on heavily come playoff time and must put forth a better showing.
WR Michael Floyd
, 44 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 16 - 0 (4 targets) - Floyd sat out the early-week practices, bothered by a bad knee that appeared to still be bothering him on Sunday. Floyd lacked a bit of his explosiveness and walked a bit gingerly on a few occasions, making one wonder why he was suited up to play in a meaningless game in the first place. Nevertheless, with two weeks to rest, Floyd should be in good shape come the Cardinals first playoff game. Floyd also contributed to the team’s drop issues on Sunday, failing to secure two easy first down catches. Again, the malaise of the offensive unit affected all on Sunday. Prior to Sunday’s dismal effort, Floyd had been playing at a superstar level for several weeks in a row, making many believe he had finally turned that proverbial corner of his career. Hopefully the rest and practice leading up to the Cardinals first playoff game will be enough to get Floyd and the rest of this passing offense back on track moving forward.
Pittsburgh Steelers 28, Cleveland Browns 12
What you need to know
- The Steelers punched their ticket to the playoffs with a 28-12 victory over the Cleveland Browns. DeAngelo Williams
left the game during the 2nd quarter with an ankle injury. Antonio Brown
had another dominant performance vs. the Browns. Ben Roethlisberger
was inconsistent throwing some spectacular passes along with making some questionable decisions.
- The Browns finished their disappointing season by losing to Pittsburgh, allowing their rivals to secure a playoff berth while Cleveland goes back to the drawing board yet again. A few hours after the game ended, both general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine were fired by owner Jimmy Haslam. Pittsburgh's offense wasn't especially sharp in this one, but the Browns' offense led by Austin Davis
was just not able to capitalize on mistakes.
QB Ben Roethlisberger
, 56 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 36 - 349 - 3 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 2 - -2 - 0 - Ben Roethlisberger
had 24 completions on 36 attempts for 349 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Early 1st quarter, Roethlisberger led a 8 play-70 yard touchdown drive. On the drive, Roethlisberger completed passes of 27, 6, and 26 yards to Antonio Brown
, 7 and 6 yards to DeAngelo Williams
and 2 yards to Heath Miller
. On the touchdown pass, Roethlisberger moved to his right in the pocket to buy time for Miller who made the reception in the back-middle of the end zone. Late 1st quarter, Roethlisberger threw his 1st interception on a pass intended for Martavis Bryant
. On the play, Cleveland defensive back, Jordan Poyer, jumped the curl-route to make the interception. Late 1st quarter, the Steelers started a 9 play-50 yard drive which ended with a missed field goal. On the drive, Roethlisberger completed passes of 20, 19, and 1 yards to Brown. Late 2nd quarter, Roethlisberger led a 6 play-80 yard touchdown drive. On the drive, Roethlisberger completed passes of 40 yards to Wheaton, 5 yards to Miller, and 18 and 17 to Brown. Roethlisberger capped off the drive with a 17 yard touchdown pass to Brown. On the play, Roethlisberger made a good pass in-between 2 Cleveland defenders where only Brown could make the reception. At halftime, Roethlisberger had 227 passing yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Early 3rd quarter, Roethlisberger threw his 2nd interception on a pass intended for Brown. On the play, the pass was under-thrown by Roethlisberger and the route was jumped by Cleveland defender, Craig Robertson. During the next series on 3rd and 2, Roethlisberger completed a 66 yard pass to Darrius Heyward-Bey
. On the play, Roethlisberger hit Heyward-Bey running in stride down the middle of the field. Early 4th quarter after a Browns fumble, Roethlisberger threw an 8 yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton
. On the play, Roethlisberger rolled out to his left and found Wheaton running across the end zone. Roethlisberger converted the 2 point attempt with a pass to Fitzgerald Toussaint
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint
, 33 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 24 - 0 - Fitzgerald Toussaint
had 12 rushes for 24 yards. Toussaint entered the game mid 2nd quarter after an injury to DeAngelo Williams
. As soon as he entered the game, he received 2 rushing attempts on runs up the middle for gains of 2 and 5 yards. Early 4th quarter, Toussaint converted a 2 point attempt. On the play, Toussaint ran a slant for the reception to complete the 2 point conversion. As the Steelers were running out the clock, Toussaint received some rushing attempts for minimal yardage.
RB DeAngelo Williams
, 21 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 8 - 0, Rec: 2 - 13 - 0 (2 targets) - DeAngelo Williams
left the game with an ankle injury early in the 2nd quarter. As Williams was being tackled, his right ankle was caught under the defender. At the time of the injury, Williams could not put pressure on the ankle. Williams later returned to the sideline but did not return to the game. Prior to the injury, Williams had 5 rushes for 8 yards with 2 receptions for 13 yards. Early 1st quarter, Williams caught a screen pass for a 7 yard reception. A few plays later, Williams caught another screen pass for a 6 yard reception before being tackled on the 2 yard line.
WR Antonio Brown
, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 13 - 187 - 1 (17 targets) - Antonio Brown
led all receivers with 13 receptions for 187 yards and 1 touchdown. Early 1st quarter on 3rd and 2, Brown ran an out-route for a 3 yard reception. A couple of plays later, Brown ran a curl-route for a 13 yard reception. On the play, Brown was stripped and fumbled the ball as he was being tackled resulting in a turnover. During the next series, Brown ran a comeback-route for a 27 yard reception. On the play, Brown got past the defensive back and ran down the left sideline. A couple of plays later, Brown ran a curl-route for a 6 yard reception. A couple of plays later, Brown ran a slant for a 26 yard reception. On the play, Brown was shoestring tackled from behind or the play would have resulted in a touchdown. Early 2nd quarter, Brown ran an out-route for a 20 yard reception. On the next play, Brown ran a comeback-route for a 19 yard reception. Late 2nd quarter, Brown ran a slant for a 18 yard reception. A couple of plays later, Brown ran a vertical-route for a 17 yard touchdown reception. On the play, Brown ran in-between 2 Cleveland defenders as he turned back for the ball after crossing into the end zone. Brown had 10 receptions in the first half. Early 4th quarter, Brown ran a crossing-route for a 16 yard reception. Mid 4th quarter, Brown ran a comeback-route for a 17 yard reception. A couple of plays later, Brown caught a shovel pass for a 4 yard gain before being tackled on the Browns 3 yard line.
WR Markus Wheaton
, 41 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 57 - 1 (5 targets) - Markus Wheaton
made an impact with 3 receptions for 57 yards and 1 touchdown. Late 1st quarter, Wheaton ran an out-route for a 9 yard reception. Late 2nd quarter, Wheaton ran a vertical-route for a 40 yard reception. Early 4th quarter, Wheaton caught an 8 yard touchdown reception. On the play, Wheaton ran a crossing route and made a diving reception on the left side of the end zone.
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
, 30 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 74 - 0 (5 targets) - Darrius Heyward-Bey
made an impact with 2 receptions for 74 yards. Early 1st quarter, Heyward-Bey ran an out-route for an 8 yard reception. Early 3rd quarter on a 3rd and 2, Heyward-Bey ran a vertical route for a 66 yard reception. On the play, Heyward-Bey got behind the defender and was tackled from behind.
WR Martavis Bryant
, 12 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 0 - 0 (3 targets) - Martavis Bryant
had an off-game with 1 reception for 0 yards. Bryant entered the game questionable to play due to illness. Early 1st quarter, Bryant caught a screen pass but could not get past the line of scrimmage.
TE Heath Miller
, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 18 - 1 (4 targets) - Heath Miller
had 3 receptions for 18 yards and 1 touchdown. Mid 1st quarter, Miller caught a 2 yard touchdown reception. On the play, Miller ran a crossing route in the back-middle of the end zone before making the reception in traffic. Late 2nd quarter, Miller ran a curl-route for a 5 yard reception. Early 4th quarter, Miller ran a curl-route for a 11 yard reception.
QB Austin Davis
, 83 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 46 - 240 - 0 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 3 - 22 - 0 - Davis did not play well, showing why he is nothing more than a backup quarterback. He completed just 24-of-46 passes and added two interceptions and one lost fumble. He also took seven sacks. Many of the sacks came as a result of Davis holding onto the ball too long as his pocket awareness was not good. He also struggled against pressure, which the Steelers brought often. His stat line could have looked much worse, but the Steelers defense helped him out by dropping a few balls that should have been interceptions. Davis' second pass of the game was right in Mike Mitchell's hands, but he did not hold onto the interception. Davis took a deep shot to Benjamin in the first quarter which was incomplete, but the play resulted in an illegal contact penalty. He missed an opportunity to keep a drive going in the second quarter by throwing high and behind Darius Jennings
on what should have been a first down reception. Jennings was able to get his hand on the ball, which was almost intercepted by Will Allen after it was tipped by Jennings. At the end of the first half, Davis had three chances to throw a touchdown, having a pass to Terrelle Pryor
broken up at Pittsburgh's two yard line and then overthrowing Travis Benjamin
on the right side on the ensuing play. On his third attempt he threw a good pass which went right through Darius Jennings
' hands. Later, in the third quarter, Davis threw a back-breaking interception directly into James Harris
ons' hands in Pittsburgh's end zone. On the team's second-to-last drive he threw his second interception of the game on a bad pass. He had targeted Benjamin, but did not throw the ball hard enough and William Gay was able to jump in front of it easily. He was almost intercepted two plays earlier, but a diving Sean Spence was unable to hold onto the ball.
RB Isaiah Crowell
, 45 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 53 - 0 - Crowell saw a decent workload in this game, but wasn't able to do much outside of a few good runs. He did seem to struggle with his footing throughout the game, as he slipped at the end of several carries. One of his best runs came on his second carry where he was able to turn the corner on the right and pick up 15 yards, putting the Browns in the red zone. On the next play he saw a carry from Pittsburgh's nine yard line but ran East-West instead of attacking the line of scrimmage, losing two yards on the play. In the second half Crowell had a carry from Pittsburgh's 10 and it looked like he had a shot at scoring, but Arthur Moats was able to make an ankle tackle at the five yard line.
RB Duke Johnson
, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 11 - 0, Rec: 4 - 34 - 0 (6 targets) - Johnson ran hard and fought for extra yardage all game, breaking several tackles along the way. The rookie showed a lot of heart. Like usual, his biggest contributions came through the air as he did little on the ground. Johnson's first catch came in the second quarter on a swing pass. The sure-handed receiving back did have a rare drop on a red zone target at the end of the first half. He put on a tackle-breaking clinic in the middle of the game. He broke at least two tackles on a 20-yard catch at the end of the second quarter, stiff-arming his way to midfield and followed that up in the third quarter by breaking a two more tackles for a first down pickup on a third-and-two.
WR Darius Jennings
, 78 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 45 - 0 (10 targets) - Jennings did not have a great game, dropping several passes and fumbling while fighting for extra yardage. One of his drops would have been a touchdown. His first catch came on a short swing pass. He made a big catch for a first down toward the end of the half as he dove toward the marker. He should have caught a touchdown at the end of the first half, but he allowed a catchable pass to go right through his hands in the end zone. His fumble came in the second half after making a catch, but the Browns were able to recover the ball. The rookie was productive based solely on volume in this game.
WR Travis Benjamin
, 81 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0, Rec: 5 - 53 - 0 (11 targets) - Benjamin saw a few deep targets against Pittsburgh, but did all of his damage on short and intermediate routes. His first catch came on a short swing pass and his second one came on a short slant. One of the deep targets that Benjamin saw came in the first quarter, but his defender was penalized for illegal contact. Later in the quarter he saw a red zone target but he dropped the pass. The play would have put the Browns around the five yard line. Toward the end of the first half, he saw a second red zone target but the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage. He was open on a slant route, but a waiting safety would have prevented him from crossing the goal line. At the end of the second quarter, he saw an end zone target but the pass was thrown poorly and was uncatchable. Benjamin did see another deep pass in the fourth quarter which was overthrown.
WR Terrelle Pryor
, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 42 - 0 (6 targets) - Pryor, although he only made one catch, saw several looks in the red zone, but he and Davis were unable to connect. Pryor made his first catch as an NFL receiver, hauling in a 42-yard strike from Davis. Pryor was well-covered and showed great body control to leap up and secure a tough catch. He came back and saw a red zone target on the next play, but the pass was broken up by Antwon Blake. Later in the third quarter, he saw a deep shot down the left sideline. Pryor came up looking for pass interference on the play, but nothing was called.
WR Taylor Gabriel
, 6 offensive snaps - Gabriel did not record a stat in the game and departed early after getting poked in the eye. He did not return to action.
TE Gary Barnidge
, 79 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 66 - 0 (13 targets) - Barnidge was Cleveland's leading receiver, acting as a safety valve for Austin Davis
on short-to-intermediate throws. He was sure-handed and fought for extra yardage, like usual. His first catch came on a fourth down in the middle of the field, short of a first down. He saw an end zone target while double covered in third quarter, but the ball was thrown too high.
Detroit Lions 24, Chicago Bears 20
What you need to know
- The Lions have been a different team since making changes in-season at offensive coordinator, largely due to Stafford's comfort with the offense and his decision making. He continues to take sacks instead of forcing a throw, and miraculously, his accuracy has soared since the change. Calvin Johnson
tamed the defense with his ability, and the offense worked their way up the field easily against the Chicago defense.
- The season finally is over for the Chicago Bears. The team finished with a 6-10 record under new head coach John Fox. To cap off the season, the Bears dropped fell to the Detroit Lions by the score of 24-20.
A very depleted Bears team took the field Sunday, without the likes of Alshon Jeffery
, Kevin White
, Eddie Royal
, Marquess Wilson
, Martellus Bennett
and Zach Miller
. Basically, the Bears were missing every offensive skill player not named Jay Cutler
, Matt Forte
and Jeremy Langford
Playing about as well as any quarterback could have given the lack of talent on the field, Cutler completed 17 of 23 passes for 245 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Cutler reverted back to the old Cutler by trying to fit balls in windows of which they don’t fit, leading to interception after interception after interception. Matt Forte
contributed 110 all-purpose yards in what looks to be his final game as a Chicago Bear.
Not much else to report here. Let’s now see how Ryan Pace and John Fox build this team in the offseason.
QB Matthew Stafford
, 65 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 39 - 298 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 6 - 10 - 0 - Continuing his hot streak, Matthew Stafford
delivered again facing the Bears and finished 2015 strong. Wasting little time on the first drive, Stafford went deep to Calvin Johnson
for a 25 yard hook-up. He then continued to work the field hitting five different receivers on five passes, finishing with a Tim Wright touchdown out of a bunch formation that created separation for the tight end. Later in the first quarter, Stafford and the offense failed to take advantage after a turnover, as the line collapsed twice causing back-to-back sacks for the quarterback. The second quarter's time of possession was dominated by the Lions and saw a heavy dose of Stafford and the pass attack. With the pocket collapsing early in the second quarter, Stafford hung tough and found Eric Ebron
on an out route for 8 yards. On the next pass Stafford threw a perfect back-shoulder pass to Calvin Johnson
20 yards down the field. Backyard Stafford also made an appearance, executing a clever side arm throw around a defender to catch Ebron in stride and keep the offense moving. While he piled up plenty of yardage, Stafford was unable to score in the second quarter.
Things warmed up for the Detroit offense on their second possession of the third quarter, as Stafford quickly moved the ball downfield. Using his feet to scramble for 12 yards, Stafford followed up his run with a bomb to Johnson. With two defenders in the receiver's vicinity, Stafford placed a pass perfectly for Johnson to work in between the two defenders and make the catch for a 36 yard touchdown. Later, Joique Bell
helped pad Stafford's stats on a 36 yard catch and run with nearly all of the yards after the reception. Theo Riddick
added another 18 after motioning out of the backfield for a short catch across the middle as well. On Stafford's final touchdown of the game, Stafford hit Ebron in the back of the end zone on a crossing route for a 1 yard touchdown. Stafford played another great game of mistake free football and gave Detroit a moral win to close out their 2015 season.
RB Ameer Abdullah
, 26 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 44 - 0, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (1 targets) - The primary runner for Detroit, Ameer Abdullah
was effective on the ground. He wasn't stopped for a loss all day, and only had one run for no gain. He was able bounce outside the line, but did see diminished success between the tackles. Abdullah was only targeted once through the air, but was able to find room to work on the play.
RB Theo Riddick
, 31 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 4 - 0, Rec: 4 - 29 - 0 (5 targets) - Theo Riddick
's usage was sporadic throughout the game. He failed to break any big plays early on, but did execute on two plays in the fourth quarter. Working the middle of the field on both passes, Riddick had gains of 10 and 18 yards, the second of which he motioned out of the backfield and had a quick double move to lose the defender as he headed downfield.
RB Joique Bell
, 12 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 9 - 0, Rec: 2 - 49 - 0 (2 targets) - Running less than Matthew Stafford
, Joique Bell
collected all of his ground yardage on two of his three runs. His major contributions were on short passes that he was able to churn for additional yardage. In the fourth quarter, Bell's best play came when he caught a pass near the line of scrimmage and busted through defenders and to the inside for a 36 yard gain.
WR Calvin Johnson
, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 10 - 137 - 1 (15 targets) - Seeing a heavy dose of single coverage, Stafford looked in Calvin Johnson
's direction much against the Bears. The connection started strong with the second pass of the game going to Johnson 25 yards down field. A perfectly thrown back shoulder pass to Johnson added another 20 yards early in the second, and the two continued their success throughout the quarter. In the second half, Johnson caught a 36 yard touchdown between two defenders to get things rolling, and continued to reel in short and intermediate passes to move the chains through the fourth quarter. Since the change in coaching, Stafford and Johnson have had a resurgence in their efficacy.
WR Golden Tate
, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 34 - 0 (6 targets) - Golden Tate
had a bit of a quiet day. Targeted on shorter routes, he found success in getting yards after the catch, with a prominent 12 yard gain after a nifty spin move to break a tackle and head up field. Tate did not touch the ball in the second half of the game.
WR T.J. Jones
, 17 offensive snaps (1 targets) - Targeted on a 30 yard pass in which Stafford scrambled from right to left, the pass was too far in front of the receiver to make a catch but the receiver put forth an extra effort to get open in the secondary.
TE Eric Ebron
, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 25 - 1 (7 targets) - Seeing the second most targets for Detroit receivers come his direction, Eric Ebron
played a role in keeping the offense alive. Stafford found him often as a safety valve when the pocket collapsed and Stafford scrambled to find an open receiver. Late in the game, Ebron executed on a crossing route deep in the end zone for a 1 yard touchdown.
TE Timothy Wright
, 7 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 9 - 1 (1 targets) - Only seeing one target in the game, Tim Wright caught a 9 yard touchdown when he was used in a bunch formation where the defenders got crossed up and left Wright wide open in the end zone.
QB Jay Cutler
, 52 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 23 - 245 - 2 TD / 3 INT, Rush: 1 - 11 - 0 - The idea of saving your best for last doesn’t really apply to Jay Cutler
. The Bears’ quarterback managed to go 15 games without throwing multiple interceptions in the same game -- a feat he blew out of the water in Sunday’s 24-20 loss to the Lions.
Now, the loss definitely does not fall on Cutler’s shoulders. The quarterback did about as much as he could given the lack of offensive talent on the field. He completed 17 of 23 passes for 245 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions. Averaging 10.7 yards per pass by throwing to unknowns like Josh Bellamy
, Cameron Meredith
, Marc Mariani
(better known for his PR duties) and Deonte Thompson
Surprisingly, the offensive game plan seemed to be more open against the Lions than in recent weeks, when Cutler found himself throwing most of his passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. This was not the case Sunday, as Adam Gase certainly showed more depth during a time when his team had very little to show.
Not much else to discuss here. Take away the three interceptions from Cutler and the box score looks pretty nice. It looks like a version of Cutler the Bears might want to bring back next season.
RB Matt Forte
, 43 offensive snaps, Rush: 17 - 76 - 0, Rec: 3 - 34 - 1 (3 targets) - Matt Forte
’s career as a member of the Chicago Bears is likely over. The eight-year veteran finished out the season with a vintage performance, contributing 110 total yards and a touchdown -- 17 carries for 76 yards and three receptions for 34 yards (1TD).
Following a few consecutive weeks in which Jeremy Langford
saw more playing time, Forte played the role of bell cow in Sunday’s loss. Forte carried the ball 17 times while Langford saw only five carries. Forte saw three targets in the passing game while Langford received zero.
There’s no doubt Forte ran hard for the fans who cheered him for eight great seasons, but there’s also no doubt that Forte simply does not run as hard as he used to. Forte’s lack of burst at the line of scrimmage was ever-so apparent Sunday. His longest carry of the day went for 13 yards. Take away said carry and Forte only averaged a very pedestrian 3.9 yards per attempt.
Let’s not allow his lack of burst to take away from the story, though. Sunday was Matt Forte
day at Soldier Field (not really, but it felt that way).
RB Jeremy Langford
, 14 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 14 - 0 - This one is going to be short, mostly because Langford barely saw the field in Sunday’s 24-20 loss to the Lions. With Matt Forte
likely playing his last game as a member of the Chicago Bears, offensive coordinator Adam Gase made sure No. 22 got the ball early and often.
Langford saw only five carries against Detroit, while Forte saw 17. Langford received zero targets in the passing game, while Forte received three.
Leading up to the game, knowing how depleted the Bears were on offense -- without the likes of Alshon Jeffery
, Kevin White
, Eddie Royal
, Marquess Wilson
, Martellus Bennett
and Zach Miller
-- one would have thought Langford would have played a huge role in the game plan. This would have been the spot for Gase to use Langford as a receiver, as much as he could.
You have to wonder if Langford’s catching problem was the primary reason to keep him off the field. If you’ve been following along here week by week, you’d know Langford has a propensity to drop the football when it’s thrown his way. Perhaps management was sending him a message, or perhaps not.
Barring something completely and utterly unforeseen, Langford will be the Bears starting running back next season.
Oakland Raiders 17, Kansas City Chiefs 23
What you need to know
- For the 7th time in the Raiders’ final eight games, they failed to top 20 points. The only offensive touchdown of the game for Oakland came with two minutes left to play and arguably should have been called back for offensive pass interference. The offensive line opened few holes in the running game against the Chiefs talented front and struggled to protect Carr. Even when Carr had time initially, he often held the ball too long and ended up taking six sacks. After the game, head coach Jack Del Rio pinned the blame for the Raiders late-season struggles squarely on the offense and indicated changes would be made on that side of the ball in the offseason.
Kansas City Chiefs
- Despite being previously eliminated from playoff contention, the Oakland Raiders came to play on Sunday and provided a stiff test for the playoff bound Kansas City Chiefs, who ultimately held on for a 23-17 victory, their 10th consecutive win. A typically mistake-averse Alex Smith
uncharacteristically threw two picks, one of which was returned for a score by the Raiders David Amerson. The picks were only the sixth and seventh of the season for Smith, who otherwise delivered a typical efficient performance. The Chiefs opened things up with an eight-play, 80-yard drive culminating with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Jeremy Maclin
. Smith would cap off another drive with a touchdown toss in the third quarter, this time a 15-yard strike in the end zone to Demetrius Harris
. The committee approach returned to the Chiefs backfield with Spencer Ware
toting the rock 16 times to Charcandrick West
's 13 carries. Ware found the end zone in the first quarter, capping of a 12-play, 87-yard drive with a three-yard run through a large hole opened up by the Chiefs offensive line. All told, the Chiefs leaned towards the running game with 39 total carries yielding 189 yards versus 25 pass attempts resulting in 150 yards. The Chiefs deviated from their normally very tight distribution of targets among the key cogs in their offense as eight different Chiefs were targeted on the day. Jeremy Maclin
's three catches for 54 yards and a score were enough to qualify him as the Chiefs top receiver for the game, while Albert Wilson
's six targets was tops on the team. The Chiefs enter the playoffs as the hottest team in the league courtesy of their 10-game winning streak and will face a stiff test in the opening round in the form of an improving Houston Texans team that has won three straight.
QB Derek Carr
, 57 offensive snaps, Pass: 21 - 33 - 194 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 12 - 0 - Carr didn’t have much to work with against the Chiefs. His receivers weren’t getting open and the lack of a consistent running game often put the Raiders in tough downs and distances, which allowed them to pin their ears back and come after them. Carr did exacerbate the protection issues by holding onto the ball for far too long on many occasions. He needs to make quicker decisions and throw it away if nobody is open. He threw an interception after holding the ball too long. He rolled left and threw the ball deep across his body trying to hit Amari Cooper
in the end zone. The pass came up well short of where it should have been thrown and was easily picked off. The mistake cost the Raiders a field goal opportunity. He did make some nice throws at times though and his physical abilities remain obvious. He made a ridiculous throw sprinting to his right that was on the money to Crabtree, but catch was overturned after review. The ball was thrown on a rope and placed perfectly. It was the type of play that only a handful of NFL quarterbacks are able to make. Carr’s only touchdown pass came with two minutes left. With pressure in his face he lofted the ball up for Michael Crabtree
in the end zone. Crabtree got away with pushing his defender to the ground, which allowed him to easily make an uncontested catch.
RB Latavius Murray
, 40 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 31 - 0, Rec: 4 - 25 - 0 (6 targets) - Murray ran hard and got the most out of what was blocked. Unfortunately, against the Chiefs tough run defense, there was often little room to operate. The Chiefs were often able to force Murray to run East-West and string out the play for little-to-no-gain. Murray’s biggest weakness this season has been his inability to convert in short yardage situations. Facing a key 3rd-and-1 deep in Chiefs territory, Murray was stuffed for a loss. Much of the blame for the consistent failures in these situations lies with the Raiders mediocre offensive line, but Murray’s height and upright running style also has hurt him in these situations where it often comes down to the old adage “low man wins.” Murray was slightly more involved in the passing game again, though two of his catches came on dump offs in the final minute with the Raiders trying to gain enough yardage for a desperation “Hail Mary” attempt.
RB Roy Helu
, 15 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 5 - 0, Rec: 2 - 23 - 0 (4 targets) - Helu looked good on a pair of receptions in the two-minute drill before halftime. Backed up deep in their own territory and facing 3rd-and-12, Helu caught a screen pass with one blocker ahead of him and raced towards the first-down marker then made a sweet move on a would-be-tackler to pick up an extra five yards and dive forward for the first down. On the next play, he caught a check-down pass over the middle for nine yards.
RB Jamize Olawale
, 6 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 14 - 0 (1 targets) - Made a man miss on a short swing pass and then punished the next defender who tried to bring him down as he rumbled for an impressive 14-yard gain.
WR Seth Roberts
, 44 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 20 - 0 (3 targets) - Roberts was extremely quiet but drew a pass interference penalty late in the game on a smooth stop-and-go route that would have gone for a big gain had the defender not grabbed him when he blew past.
WR Michael Crabtree
, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 34 - 1 (7 targets) - Crabtree salvaged his fantasy day with a late touchdown. With the Raiders down two scores in the final two minutes, he grabbed a 31-yard touchdown pass after a relatively blatant push in the back of Marcus Peters that sent the rookie corner sprawling to the ground. With Peters down, Crabtree was left all alone for an easy catch in the front corner of the end zone. He almost made a spectacular sideline grab for a 16-yard gain and the play was initially ruled a catch. He did a fantastic job of snagging the ball with his hands and dragging his toes but was not able to maintain possession as he hit the ground and the ruling of a completion was reversed.
WR Amari Cooper
, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 20 - 0 (5 targets) - Cooper made a nice sliding catch on a slant route for a 14-yard gain that helped the Raiders escape the shadow of their own end zone. He suffered yet another drop on a ball that hit him in the chest on a 15-yard dig route. For the first time in weeks, the Raiders attempted to hit Cooper with a wide receiver screen but the Chiefs were ready for it and blew it up for an incompletion.
TE Clive Walford
, 25 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 46 - 0 (4 targets) - Walford was again one of Carr’s top targets in the passing game. His most impressive play came on a 3rd-and-7; he made three guys miss after catching it short on a crossing route to pick up the first down. His run-after-the-catch skills have impressed in recent weeks.
QB Alex Smith
, 65 offensive snaps, Pass: 14 - 24 - 156 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 9 - 61 - 0 - Alex Smith
uncharacteristically threw two picks on Sunday, but otherwise delivered a typical efficient performance in leading the Chiefs to victory. The Chiefs wasted little time in putting points on the board as Smith engineered an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the opening possession. The drive followed a familiar formula for the Chiefs with short, efficient passes complemented by the running game. Smith would hook up with his top target for the final two plays of the drive as he hit Jeremy Maclin
with a short pass for a 12-yard gain from the Raiders 37-yard line, followed by a 25-yard catch-and-run by Maclin for the Chiefs first touchdown of the day. The Chiefs would have another long drive on their next possession, this time a 12-play, 87-yard drive capped off with a Spencer Ware
three-yard touchdown run. The picks would come on back-to-back possessions in the second quarter, with both interestingly coming on the first play of their respective drives and wrapped around an interception by the Raiders David Carr
. The second pick was snagged by the Raiders David Armeson, who was able to return it 24 yards to pay dirt. The picks were only the sixth and seventh of the season for the veteran signal caller. Smith would redeem himself in the third quarter with a four-play, 53-yard drive that culminated with a 15-yard strike to Demtrius Harris in the end zone for the Chiefs final points of the day. The Chiefs relied a little more heavily on the running game for Sunday's affair, with 39 rushing attempts (nine of which belonged to Smith) versus 25 passing attempts. We'll have to wait and see if that trend continues on Wild Card weekend against the Houston Texans or if the Chiefs will return closer to a 50/50 split.
RB Spencer Ware
, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 76 - 1 - After being limited for the two previous games with a rib injury, Spencer Ware
reassumed his role in the Chiefs running back committee with Charcandrick West
. On the day, Ware was the more effective of the two backs with his 16 carries yielding 76 yards and a score versus West's 13 carries for 34 yards. When it came time to punch it in from short yardage, Ware was the one who had his number called. Facing first and goal from the Raiders three-yard line, Ware took the handoff from Alex Smith
through a massive hole created by the offensive line for the Chiefs second touchdown of the day. Ware would handle the bulk of the carries as the game developed and appears to be fully healed up heading into the playoffs. We'll look for the committee approach to remain in place for Wild Card weekend, with Ware the apparent choice for red-zone carries.
RB Charcandrick West
, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 34 - 0, Rec: 1 - -2 - 0 (1 targets) - After handling the bulk of the work in the Chiefs backfield for two consecutive games, Charcandrick West
found himself in a committee with Spencer Ware
once again. West carried the ball 13 times versus 16 carries for Ware, with Ware posting the more productive day with 76 yards and a score versus West's 34 rushing yards, 13 of which came on a single run on the Chiefs first possession. Facing 2nd and 10 from the Chiefs 38-yard line, West took the handoff from Alex Smith
through a hole up the middle for a 13-yard gain. West was basically held in check for the remainder of the game. It's safe to assume the committee approach will remain in place for the first round of the playoffs and beyond if the Chiefs advance.
WR Jeremy Maclin
, 49 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 18 - 0, Rec: 3 - 54 - 1 (4 targets) - Jeremy Maclin
did his part to help the Chiefs put their first points of the day on the board as he delivered the final 37 yards of an eight-play, 80-yard, opening possession touchdown drive. He would haul in a 12-yard reception to bring the Chiefs to the Raiders 25-yard line, followed by a 25-yard catch-and-run touchdown on the next play. Those two plays accounted for the bulk of Maclin's production on Sunday as he would haul in only one more pass for a 17-yard gain the rest of the way. The Chiefs received a scare in the second half when Maclin took a hard fall and landed on his hip, but he was able to return after briefly exiting the game. There's no word on any injury concerns at this point and Maclin should be good to go for a first-round playoff date with the Houston Texans on Saturday.
WR Albert Wilson
, 49 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 24 - 0 (6 targets) - Sunday was Albert Wilson
's turn to lead the Chiefs in targets, but six targets in a conservative, short passing game did not lead to a productive fantasy outing. Wilson hauled in three of his targets for 24 yards, 14 of which came on a single play in the second quarter. Facing 2nd and 9 from the Chiefs 17-yard line, Alex Smith
was able to connect with Wilson on a short left pass that Wilson was able to extend for a 14-yard gain. Heading into the playoffs, Wilson will remain behind Jeremy Maclin
and Travis Kelce
as the third option in the passing game.
TE Travis Kelce
, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 10 - 0 (2 targets) - It was an extremely quiet Sunday for Travis Kelce
as he was targeted only twice out of Alex Smith
's 24 passing attempts. He hauled in his lone reception on the Chiefs opening possession, a short right pass that he was able to extend for a 10-yard gain to place the Chiefs at the Raiders 37-yard line. Smith would connect with Jeremy Maclin
on the next two plays to take the Chiefs the remainder of the way for their first points of the day. It's been a very quiet season overall for Kelce, who was expected to take a leap forward in 2015. Perhaps a date with the Houston Texans in the opening round of the playoffs will inspire the Chiefs to get Kelce more involved in the offense. Back in Week 1, Kelce had his finest game of the season against the Texans, hauling in six passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns.
New England Patriots 10, Miami Dolphins 20
What you need to know
New England Patriots
- The Patriots seemed feeble against an underwhelming Dolphins unit. The wide receivers aren't contributing much and Rob Gronkowski
can't do it all himself. The running game wasn't much better with newly signed veteran Steven Jackson
at the helm.
- The Dolphins are going back to square one again, but at least they had a glimpse of a brighter future for Ryan Tannehill
, Jarvis Landry
, DeVante Parker
, and maybe Lamar Miller
. The Dolphins offense had one of their better games lately in an effort that cost the rival Patriots home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
QB Tom Brady
, 56 offensive snaps, Pass: 12 - 21 - 134 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0 - It was a bad day for the Patriots offense as a whole and an odd day for gameplanning, as the Patriots went fairly vanilla for much of the game. The first half saw a slew of runs compared to only a few passes from Tom Brady
, whereas the script was flipped in the second half despite a Brady ankle injury. When the passing game was in session, it was so bad that Tom Brady
was actually yanked at the end of the game, something you never see. He was relentlessly harassed by pressure and his receivers weren't getting open, all of which has been nothing new over the last month or so. Brady did overthrow a few deep balls, and almost half his yardage came on one James White
slant. Other than that, it was short passes or throwaways to avoid pressure. Brady didn't complete more than 2 passes to any receiver, which is very rare. As long as the Patriots get healthy for the playoffs, that matters most, but the way the Patriots have limped into the playoffs is fairly sobering for their outlook.
RB Steven Jackson
, 24 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 35 - 1, Rec: 1 - 20 - 0 (1 targets) - Jackson was thrown into the fire in the first half and a forgotten man in the second half, as gameplanning called for just that for some reason. Jackson ran with little elusiveness, but did show power on a few runs, converting one or two short conversions and running a short scamper in for a touchdown, bowling over a defender or two in the process. Jackson also saw a 20 yard dumpoff, one of the only decent plays on the day from the Patriots. If the Patriots line can block better, Jackson might see slightly more yards per carry.
RB Brandon Bolden
, 17 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 31 - 0, Rec: 2 - 5 - 0 (2 targets) - Bolden mixed in with Steven Jackson
on running downs, and ran several plays from the shotgun formation. He was afforded very little room, and didn't do much with any of his carries. Bolden caught 2 passes, but only gained 5 yards on them, as they were very short in nature.
RB James White
, 23 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 5 - 0, Rec: 2 - 63 - 0 (3 targets) - Curiously, James White
was underutilized in the game, as he had the only good Patriots play to speak of, a 68 yard catch and run on a slant route. Other than that, it was tough sledding all around for White and the rest of the offense, though White's touch count was only 5.
WR Danny Amendola
, 23 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 17 - 0 (4 targets) - Amendola may not have been at 100%, as Tom Brady
rarely looked his way and Amendola wasn't getting the separation and spacing he normally does. As a result, he wasn't able to do much with the Dolphins.
WR Brandon LaFell
, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 7 - 0 (4 targets) - LaFell's miserable 2015 ends with another clunker, as he was able to do next to nothing with his targets and catches. As usual, the Brady-LaFell deep connection also missed a couple times. Ideally, LaFell will be a bit player in the playoffs.
WR Keshawn Martin
, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0 (2 targets) - Much less involved this week than the prior few weeks, Martin's lack of involvement was partially due to gameplan, and partially due to the passing game's complete ineffectiveness. If Julian Edelman
returns for the playoffs and Amendola is healthy, Martin may not have a fulltime role.
TE Rob Gronkowski
, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 (7 targets) - Gronk was targeted plenty, but wasn't getting his usual separation. The Dolphins defense played him well, and on many of his routes, the throws were rushed thanks to pressure on Tom Brady
. As a result, Gronk had a few narrow misses, but ultimately had a bad day at the office. Things should be better in a couple weeks.
QB Ryan Tannehill
, 75 offensive snaps, Pass: 25 - 38 - 350 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 17 - 0 - Ryan Tannehill
wrapped up 2015 (in 2016) with likely his best game of the season. While expectations have to be tempered slightly due to the Patriots missing some key front-7 defenders (Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Sealver Siliga), the Dolphins were able to play a role in thee 2015 playoffs, spoiling New England’s hopes of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Pats missing some of those key players did afford Tannehill some clean pockets, and he was able to look downfield more willingly than he’s usually been afforded in games this season. Most of the biggest plays of the day for Miami weren’t on blown coverages or big catch and runs (outside of one Greg Jennings
play). Tannehill had time and threw a number of beautifully placed and lofted throws downfield. He was letdown by a few more drops by his receivers, which, had they hung on, the Dolphins may have broken the game open earlier. If Tannehill and his offensive line could’ve produced the consistently clean pockets that he received against the Pats on Sunday, there would’ve been a few more big plays for Miami and probably a few more W’s in the win column. His first TD pass to DeVante Parker
was a great recognition, pre-snap, that the Pats were in zone. With Parker in the slot, and running a fade to the front pylon, Tannehill had to place the ball high and let Parker do the rest. While a good performance in Week 17 probably won’t make up for the poor play throughout the season, Tannehill can feel good about knocking the Pats out of the #1 seed.
It’s been a broken record, but when Tannehill consistently has time to throw, he makes plays. With a new coach and offensive coordinator finally set to hit South Beach, and armed with DeVante Parker
, Jarvis Landry
and Jay Ajayi
at least, a dynamic hire at OC would still have the needle pointing up for Tannehill.
RB Lamar Miller
, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 60 - 0, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (2 targets) - In possibly his final game as a Dolphin, Lamar Miller
saw his second most carries in a game during 2015. After busting outside early for a gain of 29, he was bottled by a run defense that was getting Rob Ninkovich back and saw Jamie Collins back to his old self after an illness had sapped him of some his weight during the middle of the season. While the Miami offensive line was strong against the pass rush, they weren’t getting much push against the New England front-7. After the game, the 4th-year back was non-committal to his future. Miller averaged 4.5 yards per carry for his third time in 4 years in Miami, the Dolphins “held” him to under 200 carries for the third time in 4 years as well. The free agent running back market has been devalued in a big way over the last several years, but Miller will be one player who will command a decent number. The Dolphins would be wise to hang onto him, and his slight drop in touches may be a way of trying to get a discount on him.
RB Jay Ajayi
, 16 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 2 - 0 - Ajayi again struggled as his rookie season came to a close on Sunday against the Pats. While he’s opened some eyes with his physical, explosive runs as a backup to Lamar Miller
, he had plenty of negative runs as well. He was consistently caught behind the line of scrimmage by the Pats, and it was his major problem throughout his rookie season. As many explosive runs through the hole he would make, he was caught behind the line of scrimmage a similar amount as well. Between that and his chronic knee issues that will likely shorten his NFL career, that may force the Dolphins to seriously consider resigning Lamar Miller
. If Miller does leave though, Ajayi will definitely get the first chance to replace him, barring a high draft pick at running back.
RB Damien Williams
, 20 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 11 - 0, Rec: 3 - 38 - 0 (3 targets) - Miami’s special teamer and change of pace back, Damien Williams
, continued to see a not insignificant role as receiving back for Week 17. He actually made a few plays, first turning a lost play into a first down with a fancy move. Then, he got loose on a wheel route against Jamie Collins (with help from a Jarvis Landry
pick) for another third down conversion. With the specialized running back role becoming the norm in the NFL, Williams may have a role for the Dolphins next year. However, he’s not much more than a replacement level talent and won’t be asked to contribute much more than he already does.
WR Jarvis Landry
, 62 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 6 - 0, Rec: 6 - 72 - 0 (11 targets) - Jarvis Landry
closed out his sophomore season in the NFL with another consistent game for the Dolphins. He broke Miami’s single-season receptions record with 110 this season. He continued to be a heavily-targeted player after DeVante Parker
’s emergence and is Ryan Tannehill
’s go-to receiver on 3rd–down plays. While his target and catch numbers may take a hit next season with a fully healthy DeVante Parker
. However, with increased attention by defenses toward Parker, and ideally, an offensive line that can protect the quarterback, Landry may be able to get more targets downfield. While it may be a stretch of a comparison as a whole, Landry compares physically to Anquan Boldin
. He won’t wow you in anyway with physical tools, but he’s intelligent player. DeVante Parker
could be the Larry Fitzgerald
to Landry’s Boldin: a physical talent who can go up and make plays downfield. If Miami finds an offensive line and time for their quarterback, both WRs will have opportunities to make plays. Both could be WR2s for fantasy purposes in 2016.
WR DeVante Parker
, 68 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 106 - 1 (6 targets) - DeVante Parker
capped off his rookie season with another outstanding game against the Patriots. While his rookie season was under threat of not getting off the ground through 10 weeks, Rishard Matthews
’ season-ending injury gave him more of a role, and he did not disappoint. Despite only receiving more than 6 targets twice in the final 6 weeks, he averaged nearly 75 yards per game and scored 3 touchdowns. He was a big play machine, recording at least one play of 30+ yards in 5 of those final 6 games as well. His body control was impressive as a rookie, as he reminded many of the plays that he made while staring at Louisville. His touchdown catch came against zone coverage; running out of the slot on the left side of the formation, he ran a fade to the front pylon, going up in front of Devin McCourty to make the play. He also set up the second TD of the game with another long catch. While there was an element of luck to it, as Tannehill just threw the ball up, and it was tipped into the air, it’s the type of jump-ball plays that prototypical #1 WRs are asked to make regularly. Without any setbacks to his foot, which the Dolphins should remain cautious with, Parker looks like a major candidate for a second-year breakout. He will be a major threat at all levels of the field, on the inside and outside the formation.
WR Greg Jennings
, 31 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 74 - 0 (5 targets) - Greg Jennings
had easily his best game of the season on Sunday vs. the Patriots. Once Kenny Stills
left the game, Jennings was the clear #3 receiver. He first turned a screen into a 20-yard play early in the game. Then, he ran under a perfectly thrown deep ball for a 31-yard play. His final big play came on a 3rd and long play, which was reviewed, before being ruled a catch. Jennings hadn’t cleared the 40 receiving yards mark prior to Week 17. At a $5.5 million cap hit in 2016, and his former coach, Joe Philbin, no longer in town, Jennings will be out the door. Green Bay could really use his services right about now.
WR Kenny Stills
, 20 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 11 - 0 (4 targets) - Stills closed out his disappointing 2015 by getting injured and leaving the game after making one catch. Stills received multiple targets downfield on Sunday, but looked like he pulled up on one, not finishing the play. The other play, in the end zone, was slightly underthrown and he did well to help break up the play. Stills was repeatedly passed over, first by Rishard Matthews
, later by DeVante Parker
on the depth chart during the season. However, he’ll likely be back in Miami due to a cheap final year to his rookie deal. He’ll battle for snaps behind Jarvis Landry
and DeVante Parker
TE Dion Sims
, 48 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 40 - 0 (3 targets) - Dion Sims
didn’t have much of an impact in 2015, but stands to benefit from a potential Jordan Cameron
departure in the offseason. While Sims isn’t natural at catching the ball, and is far from the most athletic guy on the field, he is a viable check-down target for Ryan Tannehill
, who often flees from the pocket. Sims’ biggest plays as a Dolphin have come on broken plays where Tannehill has found him for a 10-15 yard dump-off. Miami unquestionably gets better at run blocking as well. With DeVante Parker
available to be the “go-up-and-get-it” red-zone weapon, Sims may serve as an adequate tight end until a better replacement is found. He likely won’t be on the fantasy radar though.
TE Jordan Cameron
, 46 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 6 - 1 (4 targets) - Jordan Cameron
closed out his disappointing season with the Dolphins by catching his third touchdown of the season. It was a simple quick out by Cameron from the 2-yard line, and it may have been designed for him specifically, as his disappointing season was coming to a close and he was having another terrible game. Even with the TD, Cameron was still held to under 10 yards receiving for the 5th time in his last 9 games. With an unfriendly $7.5 million due to him, Cameron’s likely out in Miami. He will be a fantasy sleeper again, as he’ll likely latch on to a team and become a red-zone option immediately again.
Jacksonville Jaguars 6, Houston Texans 30
What you need to know
- This game was a complete and utter mess on the offensive side of the ball for the Jaguars. Their OL was allowing pressure on nearly every pass play and that lead to 8 sacks and several fumbles and swatted passes. The offense couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm passing or throwing the ball, and when they did show some sliver of life they shot themselves back in the foot and that sliver disappeared, for good.
- - Nate Washington
left the game after injuring his hip trying to block downfield. he only had one reception to that point for six yards.
- Cecil Shorts
III said he is returning for the playoffs after the game from a hamstring injury that has kept him out the past few games.
- Keith Mumphery
got some snaps with injuries to Washington, he struggled. Had three targets and dropped two of them that were catchable footballs.
QB Blake Bortles
, 57 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 32 - 239 - 0 TD / 2 INT - Bortles had one of his roughest performances of the season. The constant pressure and hits he was absorbing clearly got to his mental state during the game, as he began to press more and more each time the Jaguars got the ball. He showed some nice flashes of being able to avoid pressure and create positive plays in chaos but ultimately it was too much for him to overcome. Outside of a few chunk plays he was largely inaccurate or late on getting the ball out. He committed 3 turnovers. 1 fumble after being sacked and 2 INTs, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and the other at the end of the first half. Really the only positive plays that came out of his performance was when he forced the ball to Allen Robinson
RB Denard Robinson
, 14 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 9 - 0 (1 targets) - Denard had his 3rd consecutive rough game and eventually lost carries to Jonas Gray
, who was picked up from off the street a few weeks ago. Denard was ineffective when carrying the ball due to a lack of vision and some passive running though the blocking did him no favors. Ultimately the nail in the coffin for Denard was a fumble, his 4th in his last 30 carries.
WR Allen Robinson
, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 108 - 0 (9 targets) - Robinson is probably the only Jaguars offensive player who played an even above average game. He showed good precision on routes and was able to haul in several difficult passes. It got to the point where Bortles was blatantly forcing him the ball, something that everyone watching and participating in the game noticed. He almost made a terrific catch along the left sideline but was hit low by the safety as he extended for the ball. His biggest impact was getting yards after the catch, becoming an outlet for Bortles on several scramble drills and turning them into big plays.
WR Marqise Lee
, 28 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 30 - 0 (6 targets) - Like Hurns, Lee didn’t really get much of a chance to make plays due to the lack of execution by the OL and Bortles, and the fact that Robinson was seeing the lion's share of the viable targets. He turned one Bortles pass into a sizeable gain due to ability after the catch, but it was a quiet day outside of that.
WR Allen Hurns
, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 17 - 0 (5 targets) - Hurns had a fairly quiet day due to the lack of effectiveness of the offense as a whole. He saw a few short targets he was able to haul in but the only target over 10 yards that he had a real chance at was ultimately an incomplete because the DB made a good play on the ball. Hurns didn’t play good or bad but was a prisoner of the circumstances.
WR Rashad Greene
, 13 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (2 targets) - Greene was a nonfactor in the passing game, with his only reception coming on a screen pass. He did have a few nice punt returns, including a 20-yard return. This kind of performance really defines what kind of season it has been for Greene. An afterthought at times as a WR, but still makes an impact due to his ability on Special Teams.
TE Julius Thomas
, 35 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 12 - 0 (6 targets) - Thomas didn’t see many targets and left the game at one point due to injury. The targets he did see were of the short-yardage variety though he had one bad drop on a 3rd down that would have been enough to convert for a first down.
QB Brian Hoyer
, 76 offensive snaps, Pass: 25 - 40 - 249 - 1 TD / 1 INT - It was Brian Hoyer
’s first game since sitting out the past two games recovering from a concussion. Hoyer was feeling pressure that was not there early in the game but he settled in and did work underneath all day. He attempted only one pass over 20 yards but it was an uncatchable ball intended for DeAndre Hopkins
that carried him out of bounds. Hoyer threw a much better football that allowed he receivers get some catch and runs in and Jaelen Strong
was a firm example of this. Hoyer had simple throws under five yards that turned into solid gains due to his skill players making defenders miss. Hoyer did have an interception on a high pass to Hopkins that he reached up and tipped that fell into a Jaguars defenders hands. His longest throw of the day came on a crossing route he hit Hopkins on for 20 yards on a play action pass. Hoyer looked solid and threw some big passes when needed and helped the Texans reach the AFC South title.
RB Alfred Blue
, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 21 - 102 - 0, Rec: 1 - 2 - 0 (1 targets) - One thing is for sure, Alfred Blue
is not going to get style points for the way he runs. Blue had 11 runs attempts on first down, five of those runs went for first downs (11,11,12,12,12) and he had a 65 yard run wiped out due to a holding call. Blue averaged 4.9 yards a rush and his success on 1st down was the difference. Blue had one reception for two yards, but the offense seems to click better when Blue is getting his carries. His patience was the key and he had some strong run where he finished through Jaguar defenders by running through their arm tackles. Blue did not score on the day but he did enough to set up the offense in good position to put point on the board.
RB Jonathan Grimes
, 22 offensive snaps, Pass: 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 26 - 1, Rec: 4 - 28 - 1 (5 targets) - It was another typical day for Jonathan Grimes
, eight total touches but he was rewarded with two touchdowns in the process. Grimes got the scoring started for the Texans when he took as two yard catch in the flats and turned it up field for a 12 yard touchdown. He also had a draw play on the three yard line for a touchdown marking his second score of the day. Grimes also had his longest run of the day for 11 yards on a simple zone play that saw him get by the first Jaguars defender to get into the second level. Grimes even got a pass attempt out of the wildcat but it was run to the short side of the field in the end zone to C.J. Fiedrowicz and the Texans ran out of room. Grimes had a solid day and it started with him being efficient inside the red zone.
RB Akeem Hunt
, 7 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 28 - 0, Rec: 1 - 27 - 0 (3 targets) - The rookie back has cut himself a niche in the Texans offense and Akeem Hunt
is proving to be a big play threat with the offense. Hunt had five touches on the day and averaged 13.8 yards a touch. He had a 55 yard reception negated because he did not get set prior to catching the tunnel screen. Hunt had a 27 yard screen pass, that is one of the few run successful this season, that flipped the field for the Texans. Hunt had a 25 yard run where he used his quickness to make people miss and break down a safety in the middle of the field to end a nice run. Hunt has big play capability and he is tapping into that with the chances he has been getting over the past month.
WR DeAndre Hopkins
, 76 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 89 - 0 (12 targets) - It was a solid work day for DeAndre Hopkins
with seven receptions. He was only targeted once more than 20 yards where he ended up catching the pass but unable to tap two feet in. There was also another target for Hopkins that should have drew a flag inside the five yard line on what looked like an pass interference. Hopkins worked under 10 yards and racked up the underneath stop routes continuously for 13 yards twice and 10 yards on easy pitch and catches. Hopkins longest reception came on a placation roll out where Hoyer hit him for 20 yard gain on a crossing route. The Jaguars did a good job of keeping him getting deep but Hopkins did what he had to do to get open. He took what was given and racked up catches and yards on simple plays. There were not many chances for Hopkins in the end zone for targets but he is still the go-to player for the offense through the air.
WR Jaelen Strong
, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 56 - 0 (7 targets) - Talk about waiting your turn and that is what Jaelen Strong
has done to get on the field for the Texans. When he touches the football good things happen. He turned a simple two yard reception in the flats into a 20 yard gain eating up yards making defenders miss. He did that in two more receptions of 9 and 11 yards that resulted in a way reception and he had some yards after the catch. Strong has put the work in to make him a viable player in either the slot or as a split out receiver. His catch and runs made some key first downs to extend the drive. It will be interesting to see how Strong fits into the offense if everyone is healthy but he has proved he can be an important piece of the offense.
TE Ryan Griffin
, 42 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 27 - 0 (3 targets) - Griffin has struggled catching the football since coming back from his knee injury but that was put to rest against the Jaguars. Griffin showed his hands on tough passes thrown in one on one coverage. He has a three receptions where he had to extend using his hands where the ball was placed where he could only catch it. Receptions of 7 and 8 yards helped the Texans move the chains but he had a nice 12 yard reception in the middle of the field beating one on one coverage to extend a drive.
Washington Redskins 34, Dallas Cowboys 23
What you need to know
- Washington established some consistency down the stretch which ultimately helped them secure the division title. Kirk got in a groove offensively and they got healthy on that side of the ball at the right time. Consistency has been an issue all year and they finally strung together some good games. They shored up their road woes and pulled off some huge wins which were an issue for them as well. If they want to win a playoff game next week they will need to keep it up. They will need their bottom ranked run defense to be better next week as well as they will have the task of stopping Eddie Lacy
. Kirk has been superb at home all season so it will be interesting to see how he performs on the big stage against one of the better teams. Green Bay is struggling but they will still be one of the better opponents Washington has faced. Especially when you consider majority of their wins have been against teams with losing records.
- The Cowboys finished out the season a shell of their Week 1 starting lineup, without Tony Romo
, Dez Bryant
, and Joseph Randle
on the field against Washington. Darren McFadden
has shown his mettle as the starting running back for most of the season, while a limited passing game did little to balance the attack. With a good sample size, Kellen Moore
’s arm strength limitations have shown through where Dallas will need to seek greener pastures for a potential Tony Romo
replacement for next year and beyond.
QB Kirk Cousins
, 24 offensive snaps, Pass: 12 - 15 - 176 - 3 TD / 0 INT - Kirk Cousins
only played one quarter but that was all he needed to stay sharp. He wasn't going to play much due to the fact that their playoff berth was already in stone. Kirk completed his first 7 passes and threw 3 touchdowns in 1 quarter of action. He went 12 for 15 overall and the highlight for him was a perfect 39 yard touchdown pass to Pierre garcon in stride down the sideline. He also connected with Jamison Crowder
and Ryan Grant
on short touchdown passes in the red zone. Kirk ran the offense efficiently and looked ready for a postseason run based on how firm a grasp he has of the Washington offense. As usual, he was precise on the quick pass attack that seems to fit him well.
QB Colt McCoy
, 41 offensive snaps, Pass: 7 - 11 - 128 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - -3 - 0 - Colt McCoy
started his outing for this game in catastrophic fashion by fumbling on a roll out pass situation. However, he regrouped well to manage the game. Washington kept the passing game to a minimum as they wanted to shorten the game and get out of Dallas without injuries. He completed 7 of 11 passes and threw a 71 yard touchdown to Rashad Ross
on a busted coverage play. Colt wasn't asked to do much once he entered the game in the 2nd quarter as Washington went very conservative the rest of the way.
RB Alfred Morris
, 30 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 100 - 0 - Alfred Morris
had one of his more productive games of the year as he topped 100 yards with 19 carries. He was used primarily as a clock killer in a conservative game plan. Alfred ran with power and clearly has fresh legs based on the fact his workload has been so volatile from week to week. He failed to score a touchdown but his longest carry went for 23 yards as the Cowboys weren't interested in tackling this game. Alfred does deserve credit for displaying the hard nose running style we are accustomed to seeing. Alfred's workload is usually connected to game script and this game was in his favor based on the circumstances.
RB Pierre Thomas
, 17 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 30 - 0, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (2 targets) - Pierre Thomas
had 7 carries and 8 total touches in this game. He wasn't extremely productive but he remained involved while Matt Jones
is out. His longest play was an 11 yard run but he didn't have much success statistically aside from that. His veteran presence is clearly trusted as the coaching staff leans on him for passing downs and protection. It will be interesting to see what his opportunities look like when or if they get Matt Jones
back next week for the playoffs.
RB Chris Thompson
, 18 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 19 - 0 - Chris Thompson
was fairly quiet in this game as he had 7 carries but minimal impact yardage wise. He wasn't utilized as much in the passing game but the coaching staff also kept things conservative in this game.
WR Jamison Crowder
, 40 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 109 - 1 (7 targets) - Jamison Crowder
was the busiest of all receivers in this game and also the most productive. He had five catches but went over 100 yards on the day. Jamison's first catch went for 44 yards on a screen pass in which he almost scored before being tackled at the 1 yard line. He also found the end zone as well on the 2nd possession of the game as Kirk Cousins
continues to be on a good groove. Jamison played extensively in this game as the starters were out after the first quarter. That gave him a chance for a few additional looks even though Washington was run dominant majority of this game.
WR Ryan Grant
, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 18 - 1 (4 targets) - Ryan Grant
had 3 catches but he made his biggest impact on a red zone touchdown. Ryan wasn't really involved much in this game but he did get in the end zone for an 11 yard score.
WR Pierre Garcon
, 21 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 49 - 1 (4 targets) - Pierre Garcon
played sparingly in this game but he left his mark with a 39 yard touchdown grab. Pierre is mainly used in the intermediate passing game but he caught his longest touchdown of the year going up the sideline for the score. It is rare for Pierre to catch touchdowns but he has found the end zone more often as of late. He totaled 3 catches in this game but made the best of it by scoring before exiting for good.
WR Rashad Ross
, 43 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 71 - 1 (3 targets) - Rashad Ross
only had 2 catches but he had the biggest highlight of the game. He scored on a 71 yard pass play in which he took full advantage of busted coverage. The Dallas secondary got their assignments mixed up and Rashad practically skipped in the last 20 yards for the touchdown.
WR DeSean Jackson
- DeSean Jackson
did not record a stat in this game as he was under wraps with the playoffs coming up.
TE Jordan Reed
, 13 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 45 - 0 (4 targets) - Jordan Reed
had 4 catches for 45 yards in this game as Kirk wanted to keep their good chemistry flowing. Jordan didn't play many snaps but he made the most of his limited playing time. His longest play went for 26 yards and he was done by the end of the first quarter. He will be relied upon heavily next week when the playoffs start. He wasn't needed as much this week with they had things wrapped up in the division.
QB Kellen Moore
, 68 offensive snaps, Pass: 33 - 48 - 435 - 3 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0 - The final stat line looks impressive for Moore eclipsing 400 yards and adding three touchdowns, however, the game was never in question against Washington. Moore logged plenty of production on underneath routes in the second half, trailing by multiple scores. Moore had glaring first half mistakes, only fueling Washington’s offense bolting out to a big lead. Moore airmailed Jason Witten
on a third down pass over the middle, resulting in an easy interception. Moore also fumbled a snap under center, staking Washington in scoring range again. Down the stretch Moore made a handful of better throws than in previous weeks, including hitting Terrance Williams
between defenders for a chunk gain. Overall, Moore has shown an NFL backup baseline level of ability going forward.
RB Darren McFadden
, 61 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 92 - 0, Rec: 5 - 53 - 0 (8 targets) - McFadden capped off a rebound season as one of the few offensive highlights in a sound defeat at the hands of division rival Washington. McFadden ran hard with his signature burst, including a strong backside cut for nearly 30 yards. On McFadden’s best touchdown opportunity, getting to the perimeter on a third down carry, he was stripped just before crossing the goal line – one of many glaring errors by Dallas in the game. McFadden is under contract for 2016 and showed well (plus remained healthy) for more than two months as Dallas’ feature back.
RB Robert Turbin
, 6 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 6 - 0, Rec: 1 - -1 - 0 (1 targets) - Turbin saw minimal work against Washington to close the season. Dallas fell behind early and Darren McFadden
dominated passing down work as the Cowboys offense was in catch-up mode. Turbin’s best chance for relevance in 2016 would be maintaining his primary backup role to McFadden, needing an injury for an expanded role.
WR Terrance Williams
, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 173 - 0 (9 targets) - After miring through most games as Dez Bryant
’s lead receiver replacement, Williams broke out for his best game of the season against Washington. While Dallas shifted quickly into catch-up mode with a big early deficit, Williams won perimeter routes with regularity. He reversed his field for 19 yards off a hitch route and gained separation on multiple deep routes. On one perimeter route, Williams was wide open and a better throw from Kellen Moore
would have turned a long gain into a potential touchdown. For the first time all season, Williams strung together quality plays for an entire game – flashing more than situational deep threat ability.
WR Brice Butler
, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 60 - 0 (10 targets) - While Terrance Williams
dominated the box score, Butler continued to show progression as the No.2 option against Washington. Butler is the athletic upside option on Dallas receiver depth chart and he churned out yards after contact in the first half on two receptions. With Dallas trailing in the second half, Butler nearly hauled in a diving touchdown reception. A healthy Dez Bryant
and Terrance Williams
in 2016 limit Butler’s opportunities, however, Butler has emerged to play the best football of his NFL career to-date this season.
TE Jason Witten
, 67 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 58 - 1 (8 targets) - Witten ended his touchdown drought to close the season against Washington. Not finding the end zone since Week 1, Witten converted a goal line out route where upon review he got across the pylon. Witten held on down the seam through a big hit on another reception before two catches late in garbage time. Witten’s 9.3 yards-per-reception on the season marks a career-low as he rarely ventures downfield or breaks tackles.
San Diego Chargers 20, Denver Broncos 27
What you need to know
San Diego Chargers
- Quarterback Philip Rivers
looked like he had a solid game, but it should be noted that the vast majority of his production came on one play with broken defensive coverage. Aside from the relatively fluke pass to Tyrell Williams
, he had just 148 yards and 1 touchdown. He was under duress for most of the game, and his receivers had a lot of trouble gaining any type of separation
Tight end Antonio Gates
found the end zone in the season finale. Gates missed the first four games of the year due to a suspension, but finished with another productive campaign and capped it with another highlight-reel type of score.
The San Diego running back tandem of Danny Woodhead
and Donald Brown
combined for 36 touches out of 64 offensive plays for San Diego. The conservative script was due in part to Denver's quality defense, but also San Diego's lack of explosiveness in the passing game. The two had 153 total yards on those touches, but neither really broke any huge plays aside from Brown's 20-yard scamper early on.
- Whether it’s Brock Osweiler
or Peyton Manning
under center, Denver’s offense is only as good as its running game.
QB Philip Rivers
, 72 offensive snaps, Pass: 21 - 35 - 228 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - 5 - 0 - Rivers faced a barrage of pressure, particularly early on. The Chargers kept getting the ball in decent field position due to some early Denver turnovers, but San Diego kept coming up short in terms of capitalizing on any of them. Rivers rarely looked down the field for big gains, in large part due to the lack of protection up front. Once the running game got going a little bit, it opened the passing game to do a bit more. When Rivers was afforded some time to throw, he was effective as usual. He found tight end Antonio Gates
for a touchdown by flipping up a 50-50 jump ball to Gates, who did a terrific job of going high to snag it over his man. Rivers' second touchdown was a bit easier, a deep heave to wide receiver Tyrell Williams
for a wide open 80-yard bomb with no defender within 20 yards of Williams on the play. Williams was also the target on a late pass attempt by Rivers over the middle with the game on the line, but the ball was mis-thrown since Rivers was under pressure. It was the story of the season for the Chargers, as offensive line protection broke down and forced a poor pass. The lone interception thrown by Rivers was also to Williams, but the pass was put a bit high and behind the target. It went through Williams' hands and into the waiting arms of a Denver defender. Announcer Phil Simms
initially felt the pass should have been caught. It certainly COULD have been caught, but it's tough to say that it should have been. Either way, it was the lone turnover on Rivers' day, though running back Danny Woodhead
bailed him out of a second one. Rivers bobbled a snap straight in the air. Woodhead alertly grabbed the ball out of the air to save Rivers from another turnover. With all of the offensive line turmoil Rivers faced in 2015, it's hardly a surprise that something like that happened. The Chargers will need to make a focused effort on improving the line in 2016 if they hope to keep their aging franchise quarterback upright for another 16-game season.
RB Donald Brown
, 41 offensive snaps, Rush: 21 - 81 - 0, Rec: 2 - 10 - 0 (3 targets) - The stat line doesn't overwhelm you, but Brown was actually very effective against arguably the league's best defense. He consistently fought for extra yardage, and showed a lot of patience in building up his tally. His big gain was a very strong run up the middle, bouncing off of a would-be tackler en route to picking up 20 on the play. With Melvin Gordon
as the centerpiece of this backfield, Brown doesn't appear to have much of a future in San Diego. But he showed some nifty inside running and determination in grinding out a very solid performance in the season finale.
RB Danny Woodhead
, 43 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 11 - 0, Rec: 8 - 51 - 0 (10 targets) - Woodhead didn't do much on the ground, but as usual the NFL's top receiving back this season did the majority of his damage in the passing game. Oddly though, he was taken down short of the first down marker for more often than usual in this game. Charger fans are used to seeing Woodhead taking catches out of the backfield and consistently picking up just enough yardage to keep the chains moving. He's one of the more elusive players in the entire league. But in this one, the Denver defense did a great job of clamping down on him and wrapped him up before he could really do a lot of damage. Late in the game, he saved Philip Rivers
from a turnover by grabbling a bobbled snap that had popped straight up in the air. Unfortunately that play ended up costing him a handful of yards since it was recovered in the backfield. On the next play, he caught a short pass but was taken down behind the line of scrimmage, costing himself a few more yards. The quiet afternoon is not an ideal way to end what was a quality season, but he'll return next season with Melvin Gordon
to form a formidable 1-2 punch in the San Diego backfield.
WR Javontee Herndon
, 43 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 13 - 0, Rec: 3 - 18 - 0 (4 targets) - Despite the early exit of Malcom Floyd
and the late exit of Dontrelle Inman
, Herndon didn't really see a big spike in opportunities. If anything, he nearly cost them the game when he mishandled a punt late in the game. He tried to catch and spin all in one motion, instead fumbling it as he absorbed a big hit. A few players missed it while it lay on the ground, so the Chargers were fortunately able to recover.
WR Dontrelle Inman
, 70 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 25 - 0 (6 targets) - Inman was targeted on a deep ball on the opening drive, but it went nowhere as the pass was well overthrown. For most of the remainder of the game, he couldn't get any separation as he was swarmed by defenders any time the ball got anywhere near him. Late in the game, he made a handful of short receptions in the flat to keep drives moving. But it was his last catch that was his downfall. On a 3rd and 15, he caught a pass and tried to hurdle a defender in the open field. Unfortunately, he failed to clear him and he was hit awkwardly as he somersaulted. He left the field with some assistance, although under his own power, with what appeared to be a lower back injury of some sort.
WR Tyrell Williams
, 24 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 90 - 1 (5 targets) - The unheralded Williams was very nearly the hero of the game for San Diego. With the Chargers trailing 17-13 early in the fourth quarter, Williams broke loose in the secondary for an 80-yard touchdown (his first career reception). The man who Philip Rivers
calls "the fastest wide receiver on the team" got into the secondary where a mis-read by the defensive back allowed Williams to get open with nobody within twenty yards of him. He hauled in the pass at the 45-yard line and outran the rest of the defenders for the easy score. He was later targeted on the game-clinching interception, as the pass from Rivers was thrown a bit high and behind him. The ball went through his hands, where it was intercepted by the Broncos to essentially end the game.
WR Malcom Floyd
, 15 offensive snaps (2 targets) - Floyd's swan song didn't quite go as planned. Playing in the final game of his career, he mis-timed his jump on a 50-50 ball down the sideline early on. As he fell to the ground, he hit his head on the turf. Later in the half, he was seen jogging to the locker room. And in the middle of the fourth quarter, he was officially ruled out from returning with a concussion
TE Antonio Gates
, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 34 - 1 (5 targets) - Gates wasn't terribly busy, doing his usual work on crossing routes and underneath work over the middle. While he has slowed from his heyday, he's still simply too big to cover at times. And never was that more evident than on his touchdown reception. He went up and over his defender to grab the ball right over his head, somehow corraling a pass that the defender had better positioning than he did. To add to the difficulty, he also had to maintain possession as he fell hard to the ground and held on with one hand to establish the catch.
QB Brock Osweiler
, 37 offensive snaps, Pass: 14 - 22 - 232 - 1 TD / 2 INT - Brock Osweiler
’s statistics against the San Diego Chargers tell the story of a player with extreme highs and lows. In reality, his play was pretty middle of the road; he didn’t move the ball as well as his 10.5 yards per attempt suggest, nor was he as careless with the football as his 2 interceptions and lost fumble imply.
Instead, Osweiler’s statistics were padded by a pair of huge catch-and-run plays by his starting wide receivers that accounted for 118 of his 232 yards. At the same time, his turnovers came on a pass tipped by a defender, a pass tipped by the intended receiver, and a lost fumble after a blindside sack.
While Osweiler played a decent game against a weak and wounded defense, the quick hook Denver gave him in the second half in favor of Peyton Manning
suggests the Broncos believe Manning gives them a better chance to win going forward.
QB Peyton Manning
, 29 offensive snaps, Pass: 5 - 9 - 69 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - -2 - 0 - Active for the first time since his disastrous game against Kansas City in week 10, Peyton Manning
figured to rest his ailing foot in advance of the playoffs. Instead, an early deficit against the San Diego Chargers with home field advantage pressed Manning into service.
While everyone is naturally curious how healthy Manning really is, he unfortunately wasn’t asked to do enough to get a great read. On some plays, his mechanics looked a bit awkward, notably kicking his foot up after a short pass over the middle. On the other hand, while his deep passes still fluttered and hung up, Manning made terrific reads, throwing the ball cautiously wide of any defenders and finding receivers who were wide open. With a bye secured, Peyton Manning
will have another two weeks to heal his ailing foot while coach Gary Kubiak
decides who will get the start for Denver in the playoffs.
RB Ronnie Hillman
, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 117 - 1, Rec: 2 - 10 - 0 (3 targets) - Against a poor and injured San Diego defense, Ronnie Hillman
was at his best, using his speed to hit the big plays he’s become known for at a terrific rate. Eight of Hillman’s 15 carries gained at least six yards. That total includes a trio of 20-yard runs, such as a 23-yard touchdown in the 4th quarter that provided Denver with the winning margin. On most plays, Hillman was simply able to explode through the hole and gain additional yards before the defense had a chance to react.
RB C.J. Anderson
, 28 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 95 - 1, Rec: 1 - -5 - 0 (3 targets) - While he may lack backfield-mate Ronnie Hillman
’s top-end speed, C.J. Anderson
showed off his explosive power against the San Diego Chargers, leveraging good blocking at the point of attack to build up some speed and punish would-be tacklers. Emblematic of his day was a carry on 2nd-and-10 where his offensive line got him a crease and he lowered his shoulder to level a linebacker two yards past the line of scrimmage, bouncing off and falling forward through another tackle for a five-yard gain. Anderson also had a three-play sequence after Denver lost the lead to San Diego where he ran to left corner of the end zone for a touchdown, only for replay to rule him down at the one. He then ran behind the right tackle for a touchdown, only for replay to rule him down at the one again. Finally, he slammed the ball in between the tackles, this time leaving no doubt that he crossed the goal line.
As terrific as Anderson’s running was, a crucial fumble early in the 3rd quarter set the Chargers up in Denver’s territory, leading to his team relinquishing the lead and eventually to the benching of Brock Osweiler
WR Demaryius Thomas
, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 117 - 1 (9 targets) - Throughout his career, Demaryius Thomas
has made a name for himself by taking short passes through the teeth of the defense for long touchdowns. Against the San Diego Chargers, Thomas added yet another such play to his career highlight reel, taking a quick sideline pass on Denver’s second play, spinning out of the tackle attempt, outrunning two defenders while tight-roping the sideline, then cutting back to the middle of the field for a 72-yard score. The rest of his game couldn’t match the excitement of that one play, but he was able to get wide open on an intermediate targets after Peyton Manning
entered the game. Thomas also had a poorly-timed drop inside the 20-yard line with Denver trailing 20-17, on a drive where Denver had to settle for a field goal.
WR Emmanuel Sanders
, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 99 - 0 (8 targets) - Typically known for his consistency and reliability over the last two years, Emmanuel Sanders
got into the action in Denver’s 5-turnover performance against the San Diego Chargers early. On his first target of the game, Sanders caught a pass deep down the left sideline, raced away from the defense to get the ball inside the 10 yard line, only for it to get punched out and recovered by San Diego at the 5. Early miscue aside, Sanders immediately showed his rapport with Peyton Manning
when the latter returned in the third quarter; Sanders was the target of 3 of Manning’s 4 intermediate-to-deep passes, catching one, having no shot on another, and missing out on a third after Manning threw it well wide of him when he was open.
TE Owen Daniels
, 45 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 15 - 0 (1 targets) - With a run-heavy gameplan and both Thomas and Sanders playing well, Owen Daniels
only received a single target against the San Diego Chargers, a short pass over the middle on 3rd-and-4 that Daniels took for 15 yards.
Philadelphia Eagles 35, New York Giants 30
What you need to know
- It's never fair to catalog a game as meaningless. Though it may not change the outcome of a season for either contestant, winning is important. Winning molds locker rooms and unites teammates. Ending a season on high a note, especially one that was soured with underachievement and sunk a great coach in his first professional effort, means much more than the resulting losing record. Such was the case for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. The only thing that would change is their draft position come April. Otherwise, beating a division foe meant nothing more than city pride and devotion to improving rather than giving up. The Eagles, with their head coach now unemployed, hit the road to New York and took control of the game early. But, as has been the case for most of the year, they let their lead slip away via turnovers and bad defense. Said defense allowed a mediocre running back bash them over and over again. But it also kept one of the best receivers in check and turned a pick-six into a game-changer. Offensively, they were excellent. The Eagles converted 100 percent of their red-zone trips into points, while also converting 10 of 13 third downs. Altogether, they netted 435 yards and overcame a pair of costly turnovers. The net result was a well-balanced attack that featured efficient passing with productive running. There is no shortage of talent on this roster. Should they find some consistency with whomever takes the reigns in the 2016 season, the NFC East championship will be much harder to acquire.
New York Giants
- · Manning squandered a redzone opportunity late in the game as he lost a fumble which prevented him from having a very strong final game of the season.
· Beckham jr. returned but Randle stole the show again as his deep threat potential is evident still. Randle’s speed is not elite but he has a tendency to make big plays down the field.
· Will Tye
is clearly the Giants best tight end option and should be in the discussion next season as a top 15 player at his position.
QB Sam Bradford
, 66 offensive snaps, Pass: 30 - 38 - 320 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 2 - -2 - 0 - There were times this season that Sam Bradford
looked like a bad investment. There were other times, such as these last few games, where he looked every bit capable of leading any offense to a playoff berth. That berth isn't in the cards this year, but he was excellent in his last showing of the 2015 season. The running game helped alleviate pressure for most of the afternoon, highlighted with a 54-yard touchdown to open things up. As a result, Bradford connected on 79 percent of his throws on his way to one of the most efficient performances of his career. His one interception came as a result of a batted pass that could have been a touch higher, but it was hardly a result of inaccuracy or poor decision-making - two things that are generally to blame for turnovers by quarterbacks. There were a couple of throws that were off the mark, neither of which held any negative consequence. He also put a few passes right on the numbers that were dropped by his receivers. In the end, Bradford closed out the season with an encouraging performance. Even if his final stat line of 3,725 passing yards (a career high) with 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions won't win him any Hall of Fame vouchers, look for him to excel in 2016.
RB DeMarco Murray
, 26 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 69 - 1 (1 targets) - DeMarco Murray
and Chip Kelly's system weren't compatible. Usually, it's preferable to call plays that allow a between-the-tackles runner to run between the tackles rather than parallel to the line of scrimmage. Yet, game after game, play after play, there was No. 29, bouncing towards the sidelines and often met by defenders in the backfield. But when given opportunity and good blocking - a trait every runner needs regardless of skill set - Murray proved capable of pushing forward and pounding through defenders. Such was the case on his first carry of the day - a 54-yard touchdown powered by great blocking and just enough speed to elude the chasing safety. It was the longest run of his season - a rare occasion where his blockers cleared a monster hole and he was able to square his shoulders and take advantage of his natural abilities as a runner. Unfortunately, his 11 other attempts gained 15 total yards, as if the ghost of Kelly controlled the playbook.
RB Kenjon Barner
, 18 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 18 - 0, Rec: 5 - 21 - 0 (5 targets) - For some reason Kenjon Barner
saw a lot more action without Chip Kelly on the sideline. His 10 total touches ranked second to DeMarco Murray
's 12, but Barner failed to make much use of them. Seven of his 18 rushing yards came on one play and 12 of his 21 receiving yards came on one reception.
RB Darren Sproles
, 11 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 24 - 1, Rec: 3 - 20 - 0 (3 targets) - Darren Sproles
managed only six touches but made every one of them count. His day started with a five-yard reception on a 3rd-and-3, and was highlighted by a cut-and-run six-yard touchdown in which he weaved past the first defender before accelerating to the end zone. He continued to be one of the most efficient players of the Eagles' offense by gaining chunks of yards both out of the backfield and as a receiver. His only low-light came in the form of one-yard carry blown up by poor blocking. Otherwise, he continued his age-defying ways by exploding from the mesh point and will finish his season just below four yards per carry.
RB Ryan Mathews
, 11 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 11 - 0, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (2 targets) - Ryan Mathews
was barely used in this contest, despite getting the first crack at carries. His best play of the day a catch and run in which he bullied a few defenders on his way to a solid gain - was erased by an offensive tripping penalty called on the right tackle. Seven of his 11 rushing yards came on one run. He had the fourth fewest touches among Eagles' running backs on the day.
WR Jordan Matthews
, 49 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 54 - 2 (9 targets) - Jordan Matthews
' consistency and relationship with his quarterback is materializing all too late. The Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs a week ago, but he still went out and played like this game was just as important as any. He routinely beat his defender, particularly on both of his touchdowns. The first one came with the Eagles set up on the three-yard line. He cut out of the slot and worked a yard lead on his defender before securing a rocket pass from Sam Bradford
. His second touchdown was very similar - another goal line toss from the three-yard line in which he easily broke free of his defender and caught the pass without contention. His other highlight of the day came on a 25-yard sprint across the middle. He also dropped a pass that hit him in stride on a third down play that might have gone for a huge touchdown had he reeled it in.
WR Nelson Agholor
, 46 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 23 - 0 (3 targets) - Nelson Agholor
nearly made a highlight reel catch after taking a short throw and turning up field for 16 yards. It was an impressive display of speed and vision that made at least one defender miss, but he closed off his run with a cut towards the final defender before being tackled down at the three-yard line. Had he stayed straight, or waited before making his final move, he may have scored. He was also concussed on the play and didn't see another target.
TE Zach Ertz
, 49 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 152 - 0 (9 targets) - Zach Ertz
came into the day with a great matchup and ranked second in both receptions and yards for the Eagles. He responded by catching all nine of his targets for 152 yards, including a 60-yard catch-cut-and-run early in the game. As has been the case for the last three weeks, Ertz found a way to get open by locating the soft spot in coverage, beating his man or just flat out making a great catch on his way to a career day. While that 60-yard catch certainly helped him pad his box score, he was nothing short of spectacular in this game with all but three of his catches counting for double-digit yardage.
TE Brent Celek
, 31 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 38 - 0 (2 targets) - Brent Celek
contributed 38 yards on a pair of catches. The first of which went for 14 yards on a play in which the defense forgot about him. His second catch was much more impressive - a 24-yarder in excellent coverage. Celek was able to secure the catch despite his defender having two hands on the ball. He was also concussed on the play and didn't return.
QB Eli Manning
, 84 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 43 - 302 - 2 TD / 0 INT - Eli Manning
had a slightly above average performance in a disappointing final game for the Giants 2015 season. Manning was able to audible and utilise the running well a lot as Rashad Jennings
was a force on the ground. This helped out the pass protection and kept the Eagles guessing defensively for most of the game as they could not focus on any one area to defend. Manning targeted a wide open Myles White
on a deep corner route in the first half but the pass was off target unfortunately and it fell incomplete. Manning was kept upright for the most part but did take 2 key sacks in critical situations, including a third down. Manning found Randle over the middle on a post route and placed the well in an excellent location for his receiver. Manning then connected with Will Tye
in the redzone for his first touchdown. Tye faked a block at the line before uncovering on a slant out pattern and juking his defender in coverage to extend his arm just enough for the score. Manning got his second touchdown to Randle deep on a deep in& up pattern. Randle got good separation from his defender and Manning fired an accurate ball that Randle was able to haul in and fall into the endzone. Manning almost hit Beckham jr. on a post route in the endzone but the defender was flagged for defensive holding which caused the play to be interrupted. Disaster struck Manning later in the game as he was hit from behind in the pocket and the ball flew into the air before an Eagles defender brought it back for a touchdown, it was later correctly ruled as a fumble return touchdown and not an interception. Manning kept the Giants in the game as he bought time scrambling out of the pocket and throwing on the run. Manning almost connected deep with Beckham jr. for a potential touchdown but the pass was slightly underthrown for Beckham’s position. Hakeem Nicks
later failed to haul in a well thrown pass from Manning on the sideline, letting the ball hit the ground as he dove for it. The Giants ultimately failed to convert a 4th down in a subsequent drive which ended the game.
RB Rashad Jennings
, 45 offensive snaps, Rush: 27 - 170 - 1, Rec: 2 - 6 - 0 (5 targets) - Rashad Jennings
had a very strong performance on Sunday against the Eagles and looked dominant at times on the ground. Jennings ripped off big chunks of yards throughout the game and helped the Giants stay competitive in this contest. Jennings was aided by some terrific run blocking up front by the Giants offensive line. The line sprung Jennings many times down the sideline, sealing some key blocks and preventing Eagle defenders from getting near him for a few seconds. Jennings converted a lot of third downs on toss plays, getting a good push again from his line and getting chances to burn the Eagles on the outside. The offensive line routinely kept defenders away from Jennings at the line of scrimmage and Jennings was able to burn the Eagles up the middle on many occasions. Jennings was given the ball many times in the redzone but always seemed to come up just shy, until the second half. Jennings was taken down 1 yard short on a carry but scored on the very next play, ploughing his way over the line of scrimmage as 2 Giants lineman created enough of a gap in the defense. Jennings has without a doubt been the most productive and useful back the Giants have seen in this offense and would do well to keep him for another year. He has developed some strong chemistry with the offensive line who have made him look very good for 3 straight games. Will this running game get a chance to return next year; only the Giants know.
RB Shane Vereen
, 30 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 12 - 0, Rec: 6 - 72 - 0 (8 targets) - Shane Vereen
accomplished very little on the ground on Sunday in only 4 carries but excelled in the passing game which he is better known for. Vereen got into a groove on one particular drive late in the game and managed 4 straight touches of the ball. The Giants isolated Vereen against an Eagle linebacker over the middle in the passing game and Vereen was able to beat him inside on every play. Vereen showed good route running as he successfully faked outside before cutting back inside which caught the Eagle linebacker off guard. Vereen was very useful as a check down option for Manning and he picked up several first downs this way. Vereen had a lot of space to work with out of the backfield and took advantage of one on one man coverage when possible. He also got his hands on a screen pass but was unfortunate not to score as he was taken down a few yards shy of the goal line.
WR Rueben Randle
, 84 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 79 - 1 (7 targets) - Randle was scarcely involved on Sunday in this game but made his presence felt with a big touchdown catch. Randle ran an excellent in & up pattern, gaining big separation from his defender before Manning fired a deep pass his direction. Randle showed good awareness to secure the ball and score, despite the defender catching upto him as the ball got near. Randle also made a terrific catch on a post route deep, adjusting very well to a wobbly ball over the middle from Manning. Randle was able to get open in this game and made the clutch catches when asked to by Manning. Randle does not have the speed to fly by defenses but his route running can make defenders guess at times. Randle was a strong deep threat in this game and produced more than can be expected for a low end #2 receiver.
TE Will Tye
, 67 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 67 - 1 (8 targets) - Will Tye
had a very solid performance on Sunday to finish off his strong season overall as a tight end in this offense. Tye created some mis matches against the defense and was able to score again this week. Tye faked a pass block set up well before unravelling on slant out pattern to the outside. Tye hauled in the pass and juked his defender before outstretching the ball just enough to secure the score. Tye showed good spatial awareness of how to score in that situation and solid hands throughout this game. Tye also showed good chemistry with Manning in the passing game as Manning looked his way for a first down on a scramble out of the pocket. Tye caught several more balls over the middle, showing athletic ability to gain separation and strong concentration to hold onto a variety of balls that went his way. Tye has been more consistent in this offense than Larry Donnell
was prior to his injury. Tye has earned his right to compete for the number one tight end spot next season.
New Orleans Saints 20, Atlanta Falcons 17
What you need to know
New Orleans Saints
- New Orleans’ 7-9 season ended positively with a win over the division-rival Falcons. An efficient passing attack led by Brees’ underneath passing was sparked by him spreading the ball around to eight different receivers. It was a functional offensive day amongst a season fraught with an uncharacteristic presence of dysfunctional games. The main storyline heading into New Orleans’ offense will be the futures of head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees
. The team seems prepared to allow Payton to shop around various coaching vacancies around the league, while Brees’ upcoming $30 million cap hit would be a concern to any franchise. On one hand, it’s tough to envision this duo moving on after all the success they’ve had in New Orleans, along with the fact that they’re still very much in demand at their respective positions. However, on the other hand, anything can happen in what seems like an instant in the modern NFL, so it would be far from a surprise if both parties were in different uniforms to open the 2016 season.
- Atlanta played better on offense, but the unit still had problems that plagued them all season. The good begins with Devonta Freeman
, who earned 1000 yards rushing this season—its first 1000-yard rusher in four years. Atlanta also found success against New Orleans’ zone looks by running a lot of trips sets in this game and took advantage of the weak pass unit. When it wasn’t in trips, the Falcons used a lot of play action bootlegs and stretch plays. Matt Ryan
was able to generate big plays to Julio Jones
, Roddy White
, Jacob Tamme
and Tony Moeaki
n the first half. Between the two teams there was only one punt in the first half. But Atlanta continued to have issues that they’ve experienced much of the year. There was a bad snap and awkward exchanges and the unit also tried too hard to run stretch plays in the red zone where the defense has an easier time shutting down these plays with a compressed field in their favor. With the team’s running backs trading untimely fumbles inside the opponents’ five yard lines late in the game tied at 17, the game came down to Matt Ryan
throwing an interception at Atlanta’s 25 with 1:42 left that gave the Saints an easy drive capped off with a field goal to win it.
QB Drew Brees
, 68 offensive snaps, Pass: 32 - 42 - 323 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - -5 - 0 - Brees’ Saints started off the day conservatively, with a pair of handoffs and underneath checkdowns. One first down was picked up, but a punt was forced after only five offensive plays. More success was found on New Orleans’ second possession, as Brees connected with Travaris Cadet
and Ben Watson
on two plays that combined for 58 yards before relying on the legs of Tim Hightower
to guide the offense into the end zone and take a 7-3 lead late in the first. Similar offensive firepower was achieved on the following drive for New Orleans, with Cadet continuing to play a large role out of the backfield. Brandon Coleman
and Brandin Cooks
pitched in, as well, before Watson grabbed a touchdown on a wheel route up the left sideline to make the score 14-10. Brees looked to be leading his offense right back down the field before halftime by continuing to kill Atlanta slowly with checkdowns to his RBs. However, once in the red zone, the Saints rolled the dice on fourth-and-two with a pick play to Willie Snead
before an Atlanta defender made a dynamic break and tackle to force a turnover on downs, leaving the score 14-10. An eleven-play drive preceded a successful 41-yard field goal attempt to tie the score at 17 solidly into the third quarter. Brees’ attack continued to rely on underneath passing with the exception of Willie Snead
’s 22-yard deep crosser, but it proved effective enough to put points off the board and take five minutes off the clock before Atlanta’s defense stiffened up when backed against the wall. Early in the fourth quarter, Brees and Co. embarked on a 16-play drive that elapsed eight minutes of the game clock. The successful ball-control attack involved spreading the ball around to all members of the offense, chiefly underneath the teeth of Atlanta’s defense. However, an attempted no-huddle run on Atlanta’s three yard-line ended in a lost Saint fumble, allowing a sure three points and a possible hard-earned seven slip through their fingers in the form of a continued 17-17 tie. Three plays without a first down forced New Orleans to punt on their following drive, as an incompletion to Ben Watson
up the left sideline seemingly sealed the Saints’ fate as they opted to punt the ball back to Atlanta with under two minutes left. However, New Orleans got the ball right back after their defense forced a clutch interception. Tim Hightower
ran off the last bit of clock by picking up a critical first down to set up a game-winning field goal. Brees ended his season much like several games throughout the 2015 campaign: efficiently. He led his offense down the field several times with completion after completion, mostly taking advantage of Atlanta’s usually soft defensive coverage. This won’t go down as the veteran QB’s best season, but, on a list of reasons why this team didn’t end up reaching the playoffs, his right arm doesn’t belong.
RB Tim Hightower
, 33 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 66 - 1, Rec: 5 - 41 - 0 (5 targets) - Hightower started New Orleans’ offense off predictably, with a run off right guard for two yards. He received a few relatively uneventful carries before becoming a major part of his team’s red zone attack on their second possession. After having one touchdown nullified by a holding penalty, Hightower made an impressive cutback off right tackle for 11 yards before plunging for a one-yard touchdown on the next play. Hightower stayed involved to begin the second quarter, utilizing play-action to find space over the middle of the field for a 12-yard checkdown. He snuck out of the backfield again two plays later with a screen to the left flat for three yards. Midway through the second period, Hightower again found ample space in the middle of the field as a checkdown option in the form of 21 easy yards. He followed it up on the very next down with an aggressive run off right tackle for five yards. His busy receiving day continued two plays later with a shallow wheel route for two yards, directly followed by a swing pass to the left flat for three more. Hightower opened the second half for the Saints with a decisive run off right guard for ten yards. The veteran RB kept his offense on schedule with modest gains through the teeth of the defense through the majority of the fourth quarter, including several first-down conversions. After a clutch interception on the other side of the ball, Hightower was tasked with setting up New Orleans’ game-winning field goal. He overachieved this goal by picking up a first down on three running plays against a loaded box. He continued to ably carry his team’s ground game for the third straight week as a consistent, if not explosive rushing option. He figures to remain a capable NFL ball-carrier going forward, likely in a committee, but his future in New Orleans is largely up in the air given his head coach’s fluid situation.
RB Travaris Cadet
, 30 offensive snaps, Pass: 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 6 - 0, Rec: 6 - 77 - 0 (6 targets) - Cadet was busy out of the backfield on Sunday. His role began with what appeared to be a designed dump-off on New Orleans’ second play from scrimmage for nine yards. Cadet’s first carry began his team’s second possession, a rush off right guard for seven yards. He won inside leverage with an option route out of the backfield on the following down, winning his matchup with a Falcon LB for 36 yards. An inside handoff for his third straight touch ended up losing a yard. He continued to gain yardage out of the backfield on their third drive with a reception while matched up with an Atlanta DE in the left flat for eight yards. Lining up in the slot two plays later, Cadet ran an out-route to the left sideline for a quick six yards against the Atlanta blitz. Early in the second half, Cadet continued to win inside leverage on option routes with a nine-yard reception. Cadet’s next touch didn’t come until it was fairly late in the final quarter, but he won his individual matchup on a LB out of the backfield on an arrow route for nine pivotal yards. However, on the very next down, he tried to show power as a runner through the middle of Atlanta’s defense, but ended up coughing up the football for a costly fumble on Atlanta’s one yard-line. Cadet served as a plus playmaker out of the backfield by consistently winning his individual matchups, and seems capable of doing just that as a depth option going forward.
WR Brandon Coleman
, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 81 - 0 (8 targets) - Coleman broke into the game on New Orleans’ third possession early in the second quarter with an impressive back-shoulder adjustment on a perfectly thrown ball down the left sideline for 22 yards. He stayed involved on the following drive with an easy curl-route against off coverage for 13 yards. Early in the fourth quarter, Coleman ran an out-route to the left sideline before Drew Brees
dropped a pass in the bucket for 13 yards. Later on the same drive, Coleman found space in front of Atlanta’s safety with a deep slant from the left sideline to pick up 21 yards for another first down on third-and-long. He stayed involved on the following down against soft coverage as Brees rolled out of the pocket to find Coleman for 12 additional yards. His receiving day was over at this point, but he suffered a brutal drop on the following drive in wide-open field. Coleman’s big body will serve as his biggest chance to stick as an NFL contributor. He has one year left on his contract with the Saints.
WR Brandin Cooks
, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 22 - 0 (6 targets) - Cooks’ first reception occurred on the fifth play from scrimmage, a crossing route over the middle that accrued five yards but failed to move the chains. His next touch came two drives later, early in the second frame when he sat down on the sticks deep in Atlanta territory to provide an easy window for four yards and a new set of downs. Cooks lost three yards on New Orleans’ first second-half drive on a bailout pass to the left flat. A few plays later, he ran a curl route against off zone-coverage to pick up 12 yards underneath the defense. Cooks stayed active underneath the Atlanta defense early in the final period, with a four-yard crossing route attempting to regain some lost yardage. It was a disappointing day for Cooks after last week’s positive statistical day. He is locked in for at least two more years with New Orleans, but only carries volatile WR2/3 value given the questions surrounding the franchise.
WR Willie Snead
, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 35 - 0 (4 targets) - Snead’s first reception came late in the second quarter, a short pass to the left flat that went for no gain and a turnover on downs after an impressive break and tackle by Atlanta CB Robert Alford. Snead got involved early in the second half with a 22-yard deep crosser through the middle of Atlanta’s defense. Early in the fourth quarter, he won inside leverage on a slant route from the left boundary for 13 yards and a critical first down. Snead was a nice find off Cleveland’s practice squad for the Saints. The possession option has the inside track on a roster spot for next year as a reliable possession option.
TE Ben Watson
, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 59 - 1 (10 targets) - Watson’s first catch came midway through the first quarter in which he ran a vertical route up the left seam for 22 yards deep into Atlanta’s red zone. He ran a wheel route up the left boundary from an in-line position, beating Charles Godfrey to the corner of the end zone for an athletic 13-yard touchdown. Watson stayed busy as a receiver early in the second half, running a shallow stick route to the right seam for five yards to set up third-and-medium. He continued as Brees’ trusted checkdown option for seven yards early in the fourth to keep the offense on schedule. He caught a similar stick route as described earlier later on this possession for five yards to set up third-and-short. His receiving day, and year, finished with yet another dumpoff to the left flat for seven yards to precede third-and-short. Brees looked back in his direction on the following down, but a solid defensive play prevented the first down late in the fourth. Watson will hit free agency after his career year in New Orleans, but it’s also possible he hangs up his cleats and chooses retirement. The veteran tight end provided a capable seam option for various offenses throughout the year, and 2015 will be remembered as his best campaign to date.
QB Matt Ryan
, 67 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 36 - 334 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0 - The Falcons quarterback had several good plays in this game and a productive yardage output. In addition to finding Julio Jones
on digs, crossers and deeper routes, he also hit Jacob Tamme
and Tony Moeaki
on bootleg action routes to move Atlanta down the field. Moeaki had consecutive receptions in the second quarter and one of them was a 42-yard score on a drag route that he took up the sideline. Ryan also found Roddy White
on multiple intermediate routes but overshot the receiver a couple of times when White didn’t drop the ball. One of those drops was a perfect throw in the second half up the left sideline. Ryan also overshot Jones on some deeper routes. The Falcons line allowed one sack all game and Ryan was able to keep the game close, taking the lead with a drag route to Devonta Freeman
under the zone in the second half. But after the teams traded fumbles in each opponent’s red zone, Ryan delivered a check-down over the middle to Freeman with 1:42 left at the Atlanta 25 that a Saints defender jumped for the interception. From the broadcast angle, it appeared to be an egregious error on Ryan’s part. From the overhead angle of the replay, a decent amount of credit must go to the defender anticipating the route and leaving his zone to jump the route as the assigned zone defender inside also converged. This turnover cost Atlanta the victory. Ryan’s production was once better than we’ve seen much of the season thanks implementing concepts that took advantage of zone coverage. The team still needs a second receiver capable of winning man coverage if it wants a more competitive and consistently productive passing game in 2016.
RB Devonta Freeman
, 59 offensive snaps, Rush: 24 - 81 - 0, Rec: 2 - 18 - 1 (4 targets) - The Falcons runner gashed New Orleans early for gains in chunks of 7-10 yards during the first half. Most of these gains came on runs to the edges of the defense or cutbacks on plays designed to go off tackle. Atlanta’s passing game earned enough yardage on early downs to set up second-and-short carries that Freeman exploited. The Saints slowed down the Falcons ground game early in the third quarter and forced Freeman to work harder for yards. He was often up to the task, creating off difficult cut backs against penetration behind the line or finding secondary creases inside the line of scrimmage. By the end of the third quarter, Freeman was earning larger chunks of yards and making timely receptions. Despite keeping drives alive in the fourth quarter, Freeman also killed a pivotal drive late in the game with a fumble inside the Saints’ three. Despite the Saints killing a long drive of its own with a fumble inside the one, Atlanta lost the game on a pass intended for Freeman over the middle that the Saints intercepted and earned a short field to kick the game winner. When Atlanta can throw the ball and set up short down-and-distance situations on early downs, Freeman is difficult to stop. When teams sell-out against the run and aren’t afraid of the passing game, Freeman has to work harder for minimal gains.
RB Patrick DiMarco
, 19 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (1 targets) - The fullback took a short flat route for seven yards from inside the Atlanta one late in the game after the Saints fumbled away it’s 8-minute, 94-yard drive. It was his only meaningful play as ballcarrier or receiver in this game.
RB Terron Ward
, 4 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 11 - 0 - Ward got wide of deep penetration off tackle and turned what looked to be a loss off left end for 10 yards and a first down while subbing for Freeman on the first drive. It was his only significant gain of the game. Freeman was the only meaningful ballcarrier for Atlanta in this contest.
WR Julio Jones
, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 149 - 0 (11 targets) - Matt Ryan
overshot a wide-open Jones on a play-action pass on a deep cross against the safety and it had a good shot to go for a touchdown. On the second series, Jones caught a crossing route for a first down. Later, he dropped a deep comeback on a play-action roll out on 2nd and 8 that hit the receiver in the hands but for added context, he had to dive opposite his momentum for the target. Two plays later, Jones reached the Saints’ 29 on a naked boot to the right. Jones got inside the two yard line from a trips set with Jones finding the shallow hole in the Saints’ zone. Late in the half, Jones left the field for the locker room after the Falcons scored with 0:26 left in the second quarter to have his ankle taped. Early in the third quarter, Jones made a quick catch at the left sideline for a first down on a short out. He let a curl at the left sideline go through his hands on 2nd and 20 during this first drive of the second half, but the Saints roughed Matt Ryan
on the play and the Falcons got the first down. Jones ten caught a crossing route with 5:00 in the third quarter, but left the field after this 20-yard catch because he aggravated that re-taped ankle. Jones limped back in after a few plays and made some pivotal plays despite playing with the injury. He caught a deep corner route at the sideline for a 29-yard gain and caught his ninth ball on the following play, a deep dig to get past midfield with 4:02 left for 27 yards. Jones had an incredible season. If Atlanta can improve its pass protection and get a second receiver capable of beating man coverage routinely, Jones might see fewer receptions but also more vertical routes in 2016.
WR Justin Hardy
, 45 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 34 - 0 (6 targets) - The rookie caught a shallow cross in the fourth series late in the half, setting up a third and four during the series. This came after Ryan threw a third-down skinny post behind Hardy that led to a blocked field goal. Hardy reached the 15 late in the third quarter for a curl under the zone in the flat for a first down on a third-down target. He later caught a short out inside the three at the top of the fourth quarter then a short drag route inside three minutes, but he was short of the fist down marker and a personal foul on Atlanta resulted in a fourth down for the Falcons and led to a punt. Hardy has displayed competence with getting open and catching the ball with routes in the shallow zone, but that’s all. He’s had very limited opportunities to face man coverage. He’ll have to prove that he can produce against single coverage for his career to progress beyond a small supporting role in this offensive scheme.
WR Roddy White
, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 10 - 0 (4 targets) - The veteran got open up the right flat, but he was overthrown late in the half and a connection had a favorable shot of becoming a scoring play. White caught a third down rollout to the right for 10 yards to reach the Saints 21 with 1:40 in the half. He also dropped a deep cross up the sideline on 2nd and 8 early in the second half on a perfect throw that also could have resulted in a scoring play. White’s age is catching up with him. The multiple ankle injuries have taken away White’s abilities to come to sudden stops, maintain his balance during his acceleration phase of route running, and the pinpoint change of direction. These skills made him one of the best route runners in the league who could beat man coverage and bracket coverage at will on timing routes with Matt Ryan
. Now White is restricted to zone routes and he’s not consistently reaching the ball or catching it when he does.
TE Jacob Tamme
, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 61 - 0 (5 targets) - Matt Ryan
threw behind Tamme on an intermediate cross and the tight end made a highlight-reel grab with one hand fully extended behind him while falling in the opposite direction during the first drive for the Falcons. It was by far the most impressive catch of the game. Later, Ryan overshot Tamme up the left sideline. The safety gets some credit for slowing down the receiver at the line of scrimmage. This led to a 51-yard field goal for Shayne Graham
. Ryan converted a 3rd and 1 on the third drive with a roll to the left, tossing the ball over a shallow defender in the flat to Tamme for a 32-yard gain and a first down. Tamme also caught a curl in the flat on the third drive and earned 13 yards on a crossing route as a check-down on the opening play of the second half. A nice utility player, Tamme becomes more valuable when a team has multiple weapons in the passing game. But when he has to be a primary option or top-end secondary target, he lacks the athletic skills to consistently win plays. Atlanta would be wise to keep Tamme, but continue to add more receiving talent.
TE Tony Moeaki
, 11 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 47 - 1 (3 targets) - The tight end was targeted during the second series on a crossing route and he took a big hit as the ball arrived. A few plays later, he caught a 3rd and 1 play-action pass that was a check-down I the right flat for a first down. The following play, he scored on a long run after the catch up the sideline from a play-action drag route for 42 yards. In theory, Moeaki has the athletic ability and football skills to become a productive every-down playmaker, but his health history has been the limiting factor. If he can stay healthy or the Falcons can develop a plan to get high-leverage usage, there’s promise to mine for 2016. It’s probably best to remain skeptical.
TE Levine Toilolo
, 26 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (2 targets) - The big, blocking tight end earned the first reception of the game for Atlanta on the opening series with an 8-yard pass over the middle. Ryan then threw behind Toilolo on a 1st and 10 route with a delayed release inside two minutes of the third quarter. Toilolo’s value comes primarily as a blocker.
Baltimore Ravens 16, Cincinnati Bengals 24
What you need to know
- Maxx Williams
, Kamar Aiken
, and Jeremy Butler
showed some future promise and Ryan Mallett
might have won himself a backup job with a chance to run the first team offense this spring and summer while Joe Flacco
- The Cincinnati Bengals relied on great defense and an inspired performance by the running game to get passed the Baltimore Ravens 24-16 in Week 17. A.J. McCarron
go off to a slow start but was able to get things going throwing two touchdown passes, one to Tyler Eifert
and A.J. Green
. Jeremy Hill
had his longest run of the season with a 38-yard touchdown run and handled the majority of the work in the backfield over Giovani Bernard
. Marvin Jones
tied for the team lead in targets with five with Green.
QB Ryan Mallett
, 80 offensive snaps, Pass: 30 - 56 - 292 - 1 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 1 - 4 - 0 - Ryan Mallett
stood tall in the pocket in the face of pressure and was efficient on 3rd down conversions. t faced consistent pressure behind a makeshift offensive line against the Bengals explosive pass rushers. Geno Atkins blew by Ryan Jensen for a 3rd down sack on the Ravens opening possession. Mallett converted two 3rd downs with completions to Butler and Aiken for nice gains. The Ravens leaned on the run game early to set up manageable down and distances. However, back to back procedural penalties stalled the drive and kept the Ravens out of field goal range. Starting in good field position, Mallett helped move the Ravens inside the Bengal’s 10 yard line. Mallett threw a dangerous pass late towards Javorius Allen
that should have been intercepted by Dre Kirkpatrick but instead Tucker knocked in a short field goal. Fading away from pressure, Mallett made a perfect throw to a well-covered Maxx Williams
to convert another 3rd down. Mallett again connected with the rookie tight end to convert a 3rd and 8. Mallett threw low to Jeremy Butler
who took the screen pass for a 32 yard touchdown, but the score was nullified upon review because the pass hit the turf before Butler secured it. The Ravens settled for a long field goal instead. Mallett orchestrated an impressive scoring drive running the 2 minute offense before halftime. Mallett executed well and looked comfortable and confident. Mallett connected with Aiken, Williams, Butler, and Allen setting up a 50 yard field goal and giving the Ravens the lead. Mallett threw a costly interception with pressure in his face trying to force a pass to Allen. Mallett responded well after the interception. Finding Butler for a nice gain and moving the Ravens into Bengals territory. The drive stalled thanks to a Chris Mathews drop on 3rd down and Maxx Williams
dropping a slant on 4th down. The offense began to look out of sync on the following two possessions as the Ravens abandoned the run game down 12 and had multiple miscues with receivers apparently running the wrong routes. Mallett tried to force a deep pass to Chris Givens
and Reggie Nelson saw it coming a mile away but dropped the easy interception. Mallett bounced back and put together a nice drive with 4 minutes remaining. He made accurate throws to Aiken, and connected twice with Chris Matthews
over the middle to move the Ravens into the red zone. Mallett capped the drive finding Juszczyk wide open off of play action in the flat. The Ravens got possession with 40 seconds remaining, no timeouts and deep in their own territory down 8. Mallett promptly threw an ugly interception into a sea of Bengals’ defenders.
RB Javorius Allen
, 49 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 38 - 0, Rec: 6 - 32 - 0 (10 targets) - Javorius Allen
reassumed his starting role after a strong performance against the Steelers. Allen saw all the touches on the Ravens opening possession including a reception for negative yardage because of slip in the backfield. Allen dropped his second target that was thrown slightly behind him on a dump off over the middle. Allen followed Marshal Yanda around the edge and into the open field for 14 yards on his best run of the day. Allen picked up 7 more yards again running right and plowing through traffic. Allen made a 10 yard catch over the middle and nearly slipped a Vincent Rey tackle for more yardage. The catch set up a field goal as time expired in the 2nd quarter. In the second half the Ravens abandoned the run game in part because of inefficiency and part game script. The Ravens found success in some matchups downfield but the success faded as the Bengals no longer felt the threat of the Ravens rushing attack. Allen saw far fewer carries in the second half at lower yards per attempt than the first. Allen caught a pass in the flat and tip toed down the sideline for a 9 yard pick up. Allen again caught a pass in the flat and outraced Rey down the sideline for 13 more yards.
WR Jeremy Butler
, 65 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 57 - 0 (8 targets) - Jeremy Butler
played one his best games as a Raven. Butler beat Leon Hall out of the slot on 3rd and short for a 12 yard gain. Jeremy Butler
took a screen pass for a 32 yard touchdown cutting across the field and following his blockers who formed a convoy all the way to the end zone. However, upon review Butler allowed the ball to touch the ground as he secured it and the big play was nullified. Butler beat Hall down the seam with a nice stutter step for 16 yards. Mallett found Butler in the flat who ducked out of bounds after an 11 yard gain. Butler ran a nice out route from the slot and came wide open for 17 yards.
WR Kamar Aiken
, 74 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 76 - 0 (13 targets) - Kamar Aiken
played well and could have had a much bigger statline. Aiken had separation on a deep comeback route but Mallett’s pass came up short. Aiken and Mallett were frequently just off on deep sideline targets. On 3rd and long Aiken ran a nice out route from the slot picking up 18 yards and a first down. Aiken made his second grab on a deep crossing route for 20 yards against zone coverage. Aiken picked up 17 running an in route against Reggie Nelson. Aiken had his arm held by Adam Jones as he tried to make a play on what would have been a 15 yard completion. Aiken picked up 8 yards running a curl route against Dre Kirkpatrick. Aiken drew an 11 yard pass interference penalty on Kirkpatrick with a nice double move but the completion would have gone for much more yardage because Aiken had room to run. Aiken again beat Kirkpatrick on a curl route and turned up field for 13 yards.
TE Maxx Williams
, 75 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 53 - 0 (10 targets) - Maxx Williams
played his best game as a Raven against the Bengals. On his first reception Williams reached back and made a nice grab on a crossing route for a 15 yard gain. Williams made 3 catches in quick succession. The first was a 3rd down conversion against tight coverage for 12 yards. The second was an impressive one handed catch he pinned on his shoulder with a linebacker draped all over him. The third was a nice curl route to convert a 3rd down and 8. Maxx Williams
got away with a push off and picked up 10 yards against Vontaze Burfict. Williams made a diving attempt at a low pass from Mallett that would have gone for 21 yards but the call was reversed upon review. Williams then dropped a slant on 4th and 2 a few plays later. Williams was held out of his break on what would have been a 5 yard score.
QB A.J. McCarron
, 61 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 27 - 160 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 2 - 0 - The Bengals offense got off to a slow start in Week 17 against the Ravens but ultimately A.J. McCarron
would overcome a poor showing to get the win. McCarron threw two touchdown passes on 17-of-27 pass attempts for 160 yards. The Bengals were 0-9 on third down but the running game was extremely impressive. McCarron was in fact battling through a strained wrist but it was on his non-thrown hand. He threw touchdown passes to both Tyler Eifert
and A.J. Green
. Eifert’s score came after a 23-yard defensive pass interference penalty in the second quarter. Eifert found some room down the left seam and came down with the ball for the highly contested 22-yard touchdown. The Bengals would make it 14-9 to start the second half after McCarron hooked up with A.J. Green
on back-to-back plays. It started off of a Ravens interception where McCarron threw a ball up on the sideline and Green somehow came down with it and got both feet down in bounds. The pass had no business being completed and the very next play McCarron would throw a fade over cornerback Shareece Wright to a great spot where only Green could catch it. It was a 10-yard touchdown pass to the five-time pro bowl receiver.
RB Jeremy Hill
, 37 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 96 - 1, Rec: 2 - 19 - 0 (3 targets) - Jeremy Hill
boasted a 16-96-1 stat line in Week 17 and had his longest run of the season on a key fourth down play where he took the ball 38-yards to the house in the third quarter. He did a good job behind backup tackle Jake Fisher following him to the left and cutting to the right through the hole that was created by Fisher. 70 of his 96 yards came on seven touches but the running game came up big for a Bengals team struggling on third down all night. Hill has been receiving more carries with A.J. McCarron
at the helm and has looked more like his 2014 self in a lead back role. His 5.6 yards per carry in Week 17 is a vast improvement on times this season where he had trouble finding the line of scrimmage and couldn’t protect the football.
RB Giovani Bernard
, 21 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 36 - 0, Rec: 1 - 12 - 0 (3 targets) - Giovani Bernard
had just seven touches in Week 17 in a game that was dominated by running mate Jeremy Hill
. He had 36 yards on six attempts and also caught one pass for 12 yards on three targets. Bernard has enjoyed less of a role without Andy Dalton
as the Bengals have made the switch to more of a power running game that better suits Jeremy Hill
. Bernard had a nice 12-yard run off of a dump pass he was able to bounce outside behind guard Kevin Zeitler.
WR Marvin Jones
, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 38 - 0 (5 targets) - He tied for the team lead in targets with A.J. Green
with five and had five receptions for 38 yards in the Bengals win over the Ravens in Week 17. The offense struggled on third downs all night but was content to coast to victory once they got a lead. Tyler Eifert
coming back from injury hurt Jones a bit as there just wasn’t a ton of volume to go around. Jones drew a key pass interference penalty that set up Eifert’s touchdown in the second quarter.
WR A.J. Green
, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 34 - 1 (5 targets) - A.J. Green
caught 4-of-5 targets in Week 17 against the Ravens for just 34 yards. He did have a spectacular receiving touchdown in the third quarter to get the Bengals lead to 14-9. He caught back-to-back passes on the drive, both at the sideline and able to get both feet in bounds. On his touchdown grab he leaped over cornerback Shareece Wright on a fade route and was able to again get both toes in bounds. It was a 10-yard touchdown grab and Green tied for the team lead in targets with Marvin Jones
in this one. The Bengals were content relying on great defense and the run game in this one as McCarron had just 27 pass attempts.
TE Tyler Eifert
, 37 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 51 - 1 (4 targets) - In his return from a concussion, Tyler Eifert
caught all four of his targets for 51 yards and a receiving touchdown. He got the Bengals on the board after a slow start with a nice 22-yard touchdown set up by a pass interference penalty committed by the Ravens. It was a tightly contested touchdown grab with Eifert coming down the left seam. Eifert was able to knock off some rust before playoffs and will continue to be a factor for this offense in the red zone going forward.
St. Louis Rams 16, San Francisco 49ers 19
What you need to know
St. Louis Rams
- The Rams lost in overtime 19-16 to the 49ers after a Greg Zuerlein
field goal was blocked. Todd Gurley
was inactive with a toe injury. Tre Mason
was ineffective filling in but found the end zone. Tavon Austin
was the centerpiece of the Rams offense on the ground and in the air.
San Francisco 49ers
- In the passing game, Gabbert channeled Houdini at times. Most other times, his gaudy yardage number was the result of wide-open receivers, open-field runners after an easy catch, miscues by the Rams' defensive backs, and schematic errors by St. Louis at the worst times. In the running game, San Francisco ended up with an above-average yards per carry, but that was primarily due to DuJuan Harris
once again running for large gains thanks to wide-open lanes created by the 49ers' offensive line. In the end, San Francisco won this game, but their offenses stats were almost entirely misleading.
QB Case Keenum
, 71 offensive snaps, Pass: 22 - 37 - 231 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0 - Keenum had 22 completions on 37 attempts for 231 yards. Early 1st quarter, Keenum completed a 54 yard pass to Kenny Britt
. On the play, Keenum hit Britt running in-stride down the middle of the field. Mid 2nd quarter, Keenum led a 12 play-66 yard drive which ended with a field goal. During the dive, Keenum completed passes of 12 yards to Brian Quick
, 11 yards to Wes Welker and 9 yards to Tavon Austin
. At halftime, Keenum had 126 passing yards. During the 3rd quarter, Keenum led a 14 play-46 yard drive which ended with a missed field goal. During the drive, Keenum completed passes of 5 yards and 12 yards to Kendricks, 9 yards to Britt, 7 yards to Austin, and Cunningham for 11 yards. In overtime, Keenum led a 12 play-51 yard drive which ended with a blocked field goal. On the drive, Keenum completed passes of 6 yards to Kendricks, 18 yards to Britt, and 13 yards to Cunningham.
RB Tre Mason
, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 18 - 44 - 1 - Tre Mason
had 18 rushes for 44 yards and 1 touchdown. Mason had little room to run throughout the game. Early in the 1st quarter, Mason ran up the middle and fumbled before the Rams recovered the ball. Late 2nd quarter on 2nd and goal, Mason ran a HB pass option to the right for a 4 yard touchdown run. On the play, Mason looked as if he was going to pass the ball before keeping it and running into the end zone for the touchdown. In overtime, Mason ran up the middle and fought for a 11 yard gain.
RB Benny Cunningham
, 22 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 38 - 0, Rec: 3 - 34 - 0 (3 targets) - Benny Cunningham
had 4 rushes for 38 yards with 3 receptions for 34 yards. Late 2nd quarter, Cunningham ran up the middle before cutting to the left sideline for a 40 yard gain. Late 3rd quarter, Cunningham caught a screen pass and ran for a 11 yard reception. Late 4th quarter, Cunningham caught a screen pass and ran for a 10 yard reception. In overtime, Cunningham caught a screen pass for a 13 yard reception.
WR Tavon Austin
, 61 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 32 - 0, Rec: 5 - 30 - 0 (8 targets) - Tavon Austin
had 5 receptions for 30 yards with 6 rushes for 32 yards. Early 1st quarter, Austin ran up the middle before bouncing to the right sideline and cutting back to the middle of the field for a 13 yard gain. Late 1st quarter, Austin ran a curl-route for a 7 yard reception. Early 2nd quarter, Austin caught a screen pass and ran for a 7 yard reception. On the next play, Austin caught another screen pass for a 10 yard reception. Mid 2nd quarter, Austin ran an end-around for a 4 yard gain. A few plays later, Austin ran a curl-route for a 9 yard reception. Early 3rd quarter, Austin caught a screen pass for a 7 yard reception.
WR Kenny Britt
, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 81 - 0 (5 targets) - Kenny Britt
had 3 receptions for 81 yards. Early 1st quarter, Britt ran a vertical-route for a 54 yard reception. On the play, Britt ran undefended down the middle of the field. Early 3rd quarter on 3rd and 5, Britt ran a comeback-route for a 9 yard reception. In overtime, Britt ran a crossing-route for a 18 yard reception.
WR Brian Quick
, 30 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 23 - 0 (5 targets) - Brian Quick
had 2 receptions for 23 yards. Early 2nd quarter, Quick ran a crossing-route for a 11 yard reception. Mid 2nd quarter, Quick ran a slant for a 12 yard reception.
WR Wes Welker
, 13 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 16 - 0 (3 targets) - Wes Welker
had 2 receptions for 16 yards. Mid 2nd quarter, Welker caught a screen pass and ran for a 11 yard reception. Late 4th quarter, Welker caught a screen pass for a 5 yard reception.
TE Lance Kendricks
, 48 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 37 - 0 (5 targets) - Lance Kendricks
had 5 receptions for 37 yards. Early 1st quarter, Kendricks ran a curl-route for a 8 yard reception. A couple of plays later, Kendricks ran an out-route for a 6 yard reception. Early 3rd quarter, Kendricks caught a screen pass for a 5 yard reception. A couple of plays later, Kendricks caught another screen pass and ran for a 12 yard reception. In overtime, Kendricks ran a curl-route for a 6 yard reception.
QB Blaine Gabbert
, 82 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 44 - 354 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 7 - 7 - 0 - Wait a second: Gabbert threw for over 350 yards in this game? Girl, you know it's true. The thing is that 244 of those yards came on only eight pass plays, and five of those eight were successful for reasons other than Gabbert himself. Example No. 1: On his 33-yard touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin
, the defender fell down at the top of the route. Example No. 2: Quinton Patton
's 33-yard catch and run in overtime was the result of a negative-2-yard catch, and a 35-yard run. Example No. 3: DuJuan Harris
' 31-yard reception came on a screen pass. Example No. 4: Torrey Smith
's 31-yard reception doesn't happen unless cornerback Janoris Jenkins slips on the turf in coverage. Example No. 5: Gabbert's overtime pass to Vance McDonald
resulted in a 24-yard gain thanks to 24 yards of run-after-the-catch. All in all, that's 154 passing yards of which Gabbert had zero to minimal influence. He threw for 354 against the Rams, so this math leaves 200 yards outstanding. And yes, Gabbert gets credit for manufacturing most, if not all, of it. That includes perhaps the signature play of the 49ers' season: Gabbert's desperation heave to Boldin for 27 yards after narrowly -- miraculously, even! -- escaping the Rams' pass rush with two minutes left in fourth quarter.
RB DuJuan Harris
, 47 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 67 - 0, Rec: 8 - 86 - 0 (12 targets) - As a runner, Harris had the same kind of boom-bust game he had last week, perhaps even more so: Of his 61 rushing yards, 47 came on one carry. And the similarities don't end there. As was the case against Detroit in Week 16, Harris' longest run came on an inside handoff out of a shotgun formation, with San Francisco's offensive line parting the Red (and Gold) Sea. To wit, he wasn't even touched this time until he had gained 45 of the 47 yards. As a receiver, Harris largely assumed the role of "dump-off target extraordinaire" that Jarred Hayne filled last week. That said, and this may come as a shock, but his longest receiving gain (31 yards) came on a screen pass where -- wait for it -- he wasn't touched until 25 yards after the catch.
RB Mike Davis
, 27 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 34 - 0, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0 (3 targets) - Like DuJuan Harris
, Davis' production was mostly a byproduct of good run-blocking: 22 of his 34 rush yards came on two rushes behind an offensive line that cleared out open space. Unlike Harris, however, when San Francisco called Davis' number, the 49ers' offensive intelligentsia made sure the run-blocking scheme was power, not zone. To wit, Davis' longest run, a 13-yard scamper in the middle of the first quarter, involved a lead-blocking Bruce Miller
, and there was no contact between the time Davis got the handoff and the time he was tackled.
WR Torrey Smith
, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 61 - 0 (8 targets) - Boom-bust Torrey Smith
reared his ugly head once again in this game. With the 49ers facing 2nd-and-12 down 3 points to start the fourth quarter, Blaine Gabbert
had Smith wide open on a slant route, and Smith treated the ball like a hot potato. The very next play, Smith drew a defensive holding penalty on a route that had no chance. Five minutes of game time later, Smith somehow found himself open on a corner route even though St. Louis had five defenders covering three receivers. After slipping, cornerback Janoris Jenkins wasn't able to recover his position in time, so Smith's reception went for 31 yards.
WR Anquan Boldin
, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 71 - 1 (8 targets) - After 16 weeks of failed bubble screens to Boldin, his first target was -- wait for it -- a bubble screen that gained 1 yard. Boldin's second target was his statistical highlight of the game, although there wasn't much personal skill involved. Lined up outside the numbers of a twin left formation (which has been exceedingly rare for him during his San Francisco tenure) in 22 personnel (i.e., 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, 1 tight end), Boldin ran a skinny post against Janoris Jenkins' man-to-man coverage. He got zero separation on his route, but Jenkins slipped on the Levi's Stadium turf at the top of it, so he was able to catch the pass and waltz 15 yards into the end zone for an easy touchdown. I'd mention his late fourth-quarter reception that will be included in all Blaine Gabbert
highlight reels from here to eternity, but a desperation heave that Boldin just happened to be the recipient of shouldn't be construed as a reflection of his own ability or performance.
WR Quinton Patton
, 31 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 33 - 0 (2 targets) - Patton had only one catch (and only two targets), but it essentially won the game. With four minutes left in overtime, and just outside Phil Dawson
's range, Blaine Gabbert
made a sight adjustment based on the Rams' blitz look and the 9-yard cushion that cornerback Tramon Williams was giving Patton outside the numbers in a four-receiver set. At the snap, Gabbert immediately threw Patton's way. After the catch, Patton cut inside, juked strong safety Maurice Alexander, then juked free safety Rodney McLeod 8 yards further downfield, and then sprinted towards the end zone. If there was any nit to pick on the play, it's that, despite being a wide receiver in full sprint, Patton was actually caught from behind by defensive tackle (!!!) Ernie Sims.
TE Vance McDonald
, 70 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 37 - 0 (5 targets) - For all of his targets, and most all of the routes he ran, McDonald was matched up against strong safety Maurice Alexander. His first reception was on a short out route, but Alexander's tight man-to-man coverage allowed him to tackle McDonald immediately. His second reception was on another short out, but this time McDonald had room to run after the catch because Alexander was in zone. His final reception saw Alexander once again in man-to-man, but McDonald was lined up next to Blaine Gabbert
in the pistol formation, so he got a free release on his flat route. Alexander was delayed in his coverage for a moment by Quinton Patton
's crossing route, which give McDonald several yards of separation, thereby allowing him to pick up an additional 7 yards after the catch. Finally, with respect to McDonald's incomplete targets, both were the result of "random" circumstances throwing off the timing between quarterback and receiver: On one, he slipped; on the other, he was the victim of illegal contact that went unpenalized.