San Francisco 49ers 22, Los Angeles Rams 21
What you need to know
San Francisco 49ers
- The bigger big story is one you probably know already: Carlos Hyde
suffered a season-ending MCL tear. The smaller big story that can only be told by watching the tape of San Francisco's offense was that, due to the superiority of the Rams' front seven vis-a-vis the 49ers' offensive line, Hyde and Shaun Draughn
had little running room to work with, and Colin Kaepernick
was stymied on every scramble attempt except for his 13-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. This combination completely neutered their offense for three-and-a-half quarters, but Los Angeles did them the favor of switching to a soft zone coverage with 10 minutes left and ahead 21-7 (which is weird given that hyperaggressive Gregg Williams is their defensive coordinator). In their ensuing two drives, San Francisco moved the ball with ease because receivers ran routes freely through the Rams' zones and there was minimal if any pressure from the Rams' pass rush. For the umpteenth time this season, their pass offense had success only when the opposing defense, either strategically or tactically, allowed them to do so.
Los Angeles Rams
- Despite giving up an early lead on the first drive of the game, the Rams had built a comfortable 21-7 lead going into the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the Rams defense gave up two late touchdowns and a 2-point conversion to blow that lead. Jared Goff
added two more interceptions and did not manage to break 100 yards passing on the day. Todd Gurley
also continued his trend of sub 100-yard rushing games against one of the worst rush defenses in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers only have 2 wins on the season and they have both come against this Rams team.
QB Colin Kaepernick
, 75 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 38 - 266 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 6 - 15 - 1 - Kaepernick struggled mightily until the Rams went into their prevent defense up 21-7 midway through the fourth quarter. From that point on, he went 13-of-18 for 122 yards and a touchdown pass, with 13 yards, a touchdown, and the game-winning two-point conversion added in on the ground. The problem beforehand was what it always seems to be for Kaepernick: An erratic arm coupled with a "one-read, then dump off or take off" style of quarterbacking. In this game, the Rams talented front seven easily neutralized the "take off" option. Aside from his 13-yard touchdown scramble, he took four sacks and gained only 2 yards on five other scrambles because a defensive lineman or linebacker was able to track him down before he could get out in open space. As for his passes, even including completed passes, he threw behind crossing receivers early and often. More egregious, however, was a badly overthrown interception that set up Los Angeles' ensuing one-play, go-ahead scoring drive; as well as missing two easy red-zone touchdowns on consecutive fourth-quarter plays. First, he badly underthrew a wide-open Garrett Celek
. Then, he badly overthrew a wide-open Jeremy Kerley
. If he's only going to throw the ball when his receivers are wide open, he can't be missing them so often when they are.
RB Shaun Draughn
, 42 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 17 - 0, Rec: 6 - 48 - 0 (7 targets) - Draughn suffered from the same lack of running room that plagued Carlos Hyde
in this game. The longest of his 10 runs went for only 3 yards. As a receiver, his first two receptions were the same exact play, one which the 49ers haven't used all year. He starts out lined up next to Colin Kaepernick
in shotgun. Just prior to the snap, he motions wide so as to be running parallel to the line of scrimmage at the snap. With two wide receivers out there, it essentially becomes a standard bubble screen, with Kaepernick immediately delivering the ball to Draughn a couple of yards behind the line, and Draughn having two blockers in front of him for run-after-catch. One of these went for 8 yards; the other 9. Two of his other targets (one reception for 11 yards) also came on identical routes; this time the Texas route. It's a staple of the West Coast Offense that Chip Kelly, apparently, decided to feature somewhat out of the blue. Draughn's three other targets were either dumpoffs, came against the Rams' fourth-quarter prevent defense, or both.
RB Carlos Hyde
, 31 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 38 - 0, Rec: 3 - 24 - 1 (3 targets) - Hyde's performance was hindered by the Rams' front not allowing much in the way of running room and tackling proficiently when they did. To wit, he gained over half of his scrimmage yards on three touches in the game's first six minutes. Working out of the pistol on San Francisco's first play, Hyde took a read-option handoff up the middle as designed. No lanes were open initially, but defensive end Eugene Sims had followed Colin Kaepernick
outside, so a hole opened up off left tackle. Hyde bounced into said hole and ran for 14 yards, the final few of which he gained via running over safety T.J. McDonald like he was a slalom gate. After a short run, he closed out their next drive with a touchdown reception. Hyde ran a Texas route that linebacker Alec Ogletree overpursued to the flat. When Hyde cut his route back toward the middle of the field, he was wide open. Kaepernick delivered the ball in stride at the 15-yard line, and Hyde's elusiveness in open space did the rest, running away from one tackle and easily brushing off another at the goal line. After that, nothing eventful happened until his season ended prematurely when cornerback E.J. Gaines dove at his knees as he turned upfield after making a nice hands catch in the flat. The box score says he lost a fumble on the play, but it was more a case of dropping the ball in agony when his MCL got torn.
WR Rod Streater
, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 63 - 1 (7 targets) - Streater made the most of his opportunity to start in place of the newly IR'ed Quinton Patton
. His first target was on a 3rd-down shallow crossing route through the Rams' zone that produced a tough 8-yard catch in traffic and a first down. His second target was also a shallow crossing route that should have also converted on 3rd down, but Colin Kaepernick
threw the ball too far behind him. Accuracy wasn't an issue on Streater's next target, as his deep out route beat the Rams' Cover-2 and Kaepernick's sideline pass was perfectly thrown between the cornerback and safety. From here, the rest of Streater's targets came with Los Angeles playing soft coverage while nursing their fourth-quarter lead. In this span, he had 4 receptions for 38 yards and the game-winning touchdown. On the touchdown, Streater's slant route came open immediately against E.J. Gaines's off-man coverage, Kaepernick hit him in stride, which prevented Gaines from being able to tackle Streater before he reached the end zone.
WR Jeremy Kerley
, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 62 - 0 (9 targets) - Through three quarters, Kerley had one catch for 12 yards on two targets. It wasn't until the Rams went into prevent mode up 21-7 midway through the fourth quarter that Kerley started contributing -- which is what you'd expect given that slot receivers do most of their damage against zone. His first target (and catch) in that time was on an intermediate corner route that got him wide open between the linebacker and safety. The second target fell incomplete because Colin Kaepernick
threw the ball at least a yard behind him on a wide-open slant. The very next play, Kerley was wide open on a short out route, but this time Kaepernick's throw was true for a 13-yard gain. Kerley could have had another 13-yard gain later in that drive, this time for a touchdown, were it not for Kaepernick overthrowing him wide open in the end zone. Kerley was once again in the slot, once again ran unabated through the Rams' zone, once again found himself wide open between the linebacker and safety, and once again had to be thinking to himself after the play, "Kaep's trolling me, right? He's gotta be trolling me." Kerley's final three targets -- for two receptions and 16 yards -- were more of the same: What baseball aficionados would call "defensive indifference."
WR Aaron Burbridge
, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0 (3 targets) - All three of Burbridge's targets came on third down. The first was a 13-yard catch on 3rd-and-3 in the second quarter. Motioning inside as the ball was snapped, Burbridge beat slot cornerback Blake Countess on a slant route and was able to haul in a pass thrown behind him. Later in the same drive, Burbridge ran a shallow cross from the rear of a bunch right formation and got open on 3rd-and-6. Colin Kaepernick
was hit as he threw the pass, so Burbridge had to reach back for the catch rather than doing so in stride. This allowed cornerback E.J. Gaines to make the tackle short of a first down. Burbridge's final target came on 3rd-and-9 midway through the third quarter. The play wasn't designed to go to him, but the Rams' pass rush forced Kaepernick to roll out of the pocket to his right, and Burbridge's comeback route along the right sideline was his only desperation option. Burbridge caught the ball, but couldn't keep both feet in bounds.
WR Chris Harper
, 37 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 (1 targets) - Harper's one and only target came just over a minute into the game. The play looked like a fake bubble screen designed to get Rod Streater
open deep. The Rams didn't fall for it, and so what started as a decoy route turned into Kaepernick's dumpoff option when no one else was able to get open. Harper caught the ball, but got tackled immediately.
TE Garrett Celek
, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 39 - 0 (7 targets) - Celek could have had a much larger fantasy output in this game if not for Colin Kaepernick
's erratic arm. He was open for 10 yards (or more) on his first target, having beaten safety Mark Barron, but Kaepernick overthrew him badly. After a 12-yard reception on a pick play targeting linebacker Alec Ogletree, Celek was once again the recipient of an overthrow, this time on a deep corner route that resulted in an interception. After beating safety T.J. McDonald on a pivot route for 12 yards on the first play of the second quarter, Celek didn't see another target -- a 3-yard reception -- until midway through the fourth quarter, when Los Angeles was playing prevent defense while nursing a 21-7 lead. His next target should have been a touchdown, as he was wide open on a corner route in the red zone for an easy walk-in score, but Kaepernick badly underthrew him. Celek's final target came during San Francisco's game-winning drive. He beat Ogletree's man-to-man coverage down the seam, and this time Kaepernick delivered a perfect throw in a tight window for 12 yards.
QB Jared Goff
, 59 offensive snaps, Pass: 11 - 24 - 90 - 1 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 2 - 4 - 0 - It has been trial by fire for Jared Goff
after he took over for Case Keenum
and the results have simply not been there. Goff threw one touchdown to backup tight end Tyler Higbee
, but added two interceptions and could not consistently move the ball against the worst defense in the NFL. The touchdown pass came on a third and goal from the two-yard line. Goff went play action, dropped back, and waited until he could find Higbee over the middle. This put the Rams up 21-7 early in the 4th quarter. Goff did have to deal with losing his top receiving threat in Kenny Britt
due to a shoulder injury, but even with him in the lineup, Goff was inaccurate and complacent. The Rams built a lead they felt comfortable with and then let up in the second half.
RB Todd Gurley
, 50 offensive snaps, Rush: 23 - 67 - 1, Rec: 3 - 20 - 0 (3 targets) - Today was Gurley's best chance to have a big game and go over 100 yards rushing, but even facing the league's worst overall defense could not help. Gurley did manage to take the ball right up the middle for a 1-yard touchdown in the first quarter, but that was his only saving grace on the day. He was given the chance in the 4th quarter on the goal line again, but after two failed attempts the ball was eventually put in the air to Tyler Higbee
. Gurley added another 30 yards receiving on the day, but with no Kenny Britt
to stretch the field there was not a lot of room for Gurley anywhere.
WR Tavon Austin
, 48 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 26 - 1, Rec: 2 - 14 - 0 (7 targets) - With the loss of Kenny Britt
, Tavon Austin
had a chance to step up and take over the offense. He was targeted a team-high 7 times but was unable to do anything with the extra targets. Jared Goff
was off the mark on several throws and Austin had to find other ways to contribute. This came in the way of a 30-yard rushing touchdown. Austin took the handoff off tackle and went untouched into the end zone. If Britt is out next week, look for a significant bump in touches for Austin.
WR Kenny Britt
, 31 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 15 - 0 (4 targets) - Kenny Britt
was able to give the Rams their first 1000-yard receiver since 2007, but unfortunately, he was sidelined with a shoulder injury early in this one. It is the same shoulder that has gave him issues coming into the game. It is unknown whether or not he will play next week, but with nothing on the line, there would be no reason to risk further injury.
TE Lance Kendricks
, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 36 - 0 (4 targets) - Lance Kendricks
again had a chance to step up this week with Kenny Britt
leaving due to injury. Unfortunately, the big tight end just could not help his team put points on the board. He only managed three receptions and was a nonfactor in the red zone. The big catch came on a 24-yard fourth and two pass to set up first and goal for the Rams. Kendricks was a simple check down option but was able to take the blown coverage down the sideline for 24 yards.
New York Giants 19, Philadelphia Eagles 24
What you need to know
New York Giants
- · Eli moved the ball well up and down the field but was very reckless at times with the football. He knows to get Beckham/Shepard involved in games and threw some very nice balls short- intermediate and along the sideline. His turnovers were quite poor and the decision making must improve or he will sink this team going forward this season.
· Perkins has begun to take the lead back role away from Jennings and it is about time as his talent is undeniable while Jennings has been ineffective this season. Shepard/ Beckham jr. remain strong plays, everyone else can be ignored.
- It has been a roller coaster all year long in Philadelphia, but they are showing a commitment to their young quarterback and his development. The real story was the Eagles defense today with three interceptions off Eli Manning
and even returned one for a touchdown. The other big story coming out of this one is running back Ryan Mathews
suffering a herniated disk in his neck. The Eagles top running back is expected to miss significant time and may have played his last snap for Philadelphia. The Eagles get the division champion Dallas Cowboys on New Year's Day to close out their season.
QB Eli Manning
, 89 offensive snaps, Pass: 38 - 63 - 356 - 1 TD / 3 INT - Eli Manning
threw for a lot of yards on Thursday night but his interceptions really dragged down the performance for himself and his team. Early in the game, he was forcing passes to Beckham that kept getting broken up due to tight coverage and ended up throwing a costly pick six. Manning made a terrible decision as he tried to squeeze a ball in between double coverage over the middle that was easily intercepted by the Eagle defense. He found Beckham open deep down the sideline with a perfectly placed ball over his shoulder to secure a big first down. Manning could not capitalise on this drive however. Shepard was open on a corner route in the redzone but the pass was too late and got broken up with a nice play from the Eagle secondary. Manning did find Shepard over the middle on a deep post but Shepard couldn’t come up with it and it fell incomplete. He was very accurate at times in this game, just made some terrible decisions and was reckless with the football. Manning hit Cruz with a perfect over the shoulder fade pass along the sideline, just giving his receiver enough room to catch it in bounds. His only touchdown came on a slant pattern in the redzone to Shepard. Shepard did an excellent job of creating massive separation from his defender at the line of scrimmage and gave Manning a big window to throw into. Manning was somewhat erratic for the rest of the game and never found the endzone again. He was picked off for a second time after one his balls was underthrown towards the sideline and easily snagged by the defense. Manning then did the opposite by overthrowing Beckham on a deep fade pattern, just missing his target by a yard or two. His final interception was more of a “hail-mary” attempt as time was expiring. Manning moved the ball well between the 20’s, but turnovers and settling for field goals sunk his team in this game.
RB Paul Perkins
, 34 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 68 - 0, Rec: 1 - 9 - 0 (2 targets) - Paul Perkins
is slowly turning into the lead back in this offense as it is evident that Jennings cannot carry this team on the ground. His workload has more or less slowly grown in every game in the second half of this season and he deserves an opportunity to grow in this offense. Perkins was not a factor in the passing game but this is typical for Giants backs as their dynamic receivers are the focal point of the offense. Perkins has excellent speed and quickness and did a good job of exploiting any gaps in the Eagle defense on Thursday. On several occasions, Perkins exploded into the open field with nice blocks set up front. He is slippery with the ball in open field and can make the first man miss in the hole. There isn’t a big variety of running plays to work with in this offense and he often gets simple dive/zone plays left or right. The running game is more of a complementary part of this offense as clearly the passing game is more dangerous for defenses. Regardless, the Giants show a commitment to the running game most of the time and especially when they can maintain a lead over the opposing team. Perkins has great potential moving forward in this offense but nothing is guaranteed.
RB Rashad Jennings
, 41 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 44 - 0, Rec: 4 - 7 - 0 (5 targets) - Rashad Jennings
owners should be worried as Paul Perkins
has begun to overtake the veteran running back in terms of touches and carries. The Giants seem more interested in giving the young Perkins a bigger workload than Jennings as Jennings has been ineffective for most of this season; expect this trend to continue into the New Year/ week 17. Jennings had a few nice runs, using vision to find massive gaps up the middle in the defense and exploding through them. He rarely gets goal line touches however, with a lot of that due to the offense in which he plays. His overall mediocre season cannot be ignored though and he should not be started in week 17. He got 4 catches out of the backfield, showing nice hands but was never able to convert these into big plays. Jennings is a simple one cut runner that does not have youth on his side anymore.
WR Odell Beckham Jr
, 88 offensive snaps, Rec: 11 - 150 - 0 (20 targets) - Beckham jr. wasn’t able to score on Thursday but was instrumental in keeping the Giants in this game. Beckham jr. looked dangerous everytime he touched the football and the Giants were intent on throwing him passes throughout the game to keep the Eagles worried. Manning somewhat struggled to find him early in this game but eventually the duo connected on a well thrown lofty bomb down the sideline. Beckham jr. then began to dominate over the middle of the field and picked up many big first downs on curls/in breaking patterns to take advantage of one on one coverage. His speed and quickness at the line of scrimmage is often too much for a defense to contain for the entire game. He turned a short slant outside pattern into a massive yards-after-catch gain as he outran several Eagle defenders along the sideline. Beckham jr. had a shot at a touchdown late in this game on a fade pattern but the pass was slightly overthrown from Manning and it fell incomplete.
WR Victor Cruz
, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 84 - 0 (13 targets) - Victor Cruz
had a surprisingly strong game on Thursday despite being largely ignored this season. He displayed strong pair of consistent hands for the most part and was crucial in converting several downs for the Giants. Cruz snagged a terrific over the shoulder grab from Manning deep down the sideline, doing an excellent job to keep his feet in bounds and keep the ball away from the defender. He continued to haul in short curls/outs to keep the Giants moving and had good separation at times from the Eagles defense. He was not targeted in the redzone/endzone much unfortunately and this level of production is more of an anomaly for Cruz this season. Beckham and Shepard are often targeted a lot more than Cruz and he doesn’t quite have the same level of speed/youth that they possess, leaving him on the outside. He is still a strong play with his hands and versatility but could be gone from the Giants after this season.
WR Sterling Shepard
, 88 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 2 - 0, Rec: 7 - 61 - 1 (11 targets) - Sterling Shepard
had a strong performance on Thursday night but could have even had a bigger day. Shepard was wide open in the endzone on a corner route but Manning was slow getting the ball to him and it was broken up as a result. Shepard was targeted over the middle on a deep post route but wasn’t able to haul in a slightly high pass from Manning. He was very important at converting short down/distance situations and providing his QB a window to throw into in times of trouble. Shepards touchdown was incredibly impressive in the redzone and displayed his amazing route running potential. He got off the line of scrimmage and put a move on his man outside before breaking inside to become wide open for an easy score. Shepard works well in the slot and Manning trusts the young receiver to make a play anywhere on the field, he is a solid fantasy receiver going forward.
TE Will Tye
, 60 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 23 - 0 (8 targets) - Will Tye
turns in another mediocre stat line that will confirm this player should not be anywhere near a fantasy line up. The Giants offense knows it needs to feed its young superstar receivers and Tye will never be the focal point of this offense. He got mostly checkdown patterns in this game and never got open downfield. He has solid hands but lacks dominant size/speed to go downfield.
QB Carson Wentz
, 50 offensive snaps, Pass: 13 - 24 - 152 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 4 - 27 - 0 - Carson Wentz
did just enough to help the Eagles win today. Wentz was not accurate whatsoever, completing just 54% of his passes on the day. The lone big play came on a 40-yard play action pass to Nelson Agholor
who simply ran away from the coverage on a deep crossing route. Wentz made half of an amazing play on his one interception for the day. With the pocket collapsing, Wentz was flushed to his right, reversed his field to evade another tackler, and unloaded a deep pass for Bryce Treggs
. Unfortunately, Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie followed the play the entire way and stepped inform of Treggs for an easy interception. Wentz had the pocket presence and mobility to extend the play but just did not make the smart throw down the field. Wentz also left the field for a series at the end of the third quarter after a late hit roughing the passer. He was able to return for the next drive in the fourth quarter.
RB Ryan Mathews
, 28 offensive snaps, Rush: 18 - 46 - 0, Rec: 1 - 16 - 0 (1 targets) - Coming off one of his best games of the season, Ryan Mathews
had a chance to cement his status in Philadelphia for next season. He got off to a hot start with a rush of 17 yards. Unfortunately, Mathews herniated a disk in his neck and is done for the season. Mathews played the majority of the game but did not see a carry in the fourth quarter after he was stuffed on a 4th and 1 at the end of the third. It has been a largely disappointing season for Mathews and it looks as if it will be the Darren Sproles
show for the rest of the season.
RB Darren Sproles
, 27 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 40 - 1, Rec: 2 - 23 - 0 (2 targets) - The Eagles went primarily with Ryan Mathews
in this one until the 4th quarter. Sproles has never really been given a full workload but has made the most of every touch he has gotten. The big play today came on a 25-yard rush where Sproles took a pitch and followed his blockers off the right side into the end zone. Ryan Mathews
had done a lot of the work to get the Eagles down the field, but it was Sproles who capped it off with the touchdown. Sproles also added his customary catches on third down out of the backfield. IT is going to be the Daren Sproles show next week with Mathews done for the season.
WR Nelson Agholor
, 54 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 5 - 0, Rec: 2 - 47 - 1 (5 targets) - In a game where Carson Wentz
was wildly inaccurate, Nelson Agholor
managed to come up big with a 40-yard touchdown catch to put the Eagles up 21-6 in the first half. Wentz dropped back on a play-action attempt and unloaded a deep ball for a streaking Agholor who had a step on his defender. This was an easy pitch and catch and Agholor simply outran the coverage. There was not much in the way of production outside of this touchdown catch, but it proved big in the end as the Giants mounted a furious comeback attempt in the second half.
WR Jordan Matthews
, 39 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 12 - 0 (6 targets) - Jordan Matthews
suffered the inaccuracy of Carson Wentz
more than anyone else today. The Eagles leading receiver was targeted a team-high 6 times but only managed 2 receptions on the day. Since the ankle injury, Matthews has not found the same room against opposing corners as he did earlier in the season. Almost all of his targets today came with the ball traveling less than 10 yards in the air. The only reception of note came on a short 7-yard pass from Carson Wentz
TE Zach Ertz
, 48 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 33 - 0 (2 targets) - There was not the same connection between Carson Wentz
and Zach Ertz
today. The big tight end pulled in both of his targets but did not do very much with them. He was not utilized in the red zone again today and was briefly injured on the opening kickoff of the second half. Ertz has seen a much higher volume in previous weeks and today is more of an outlier than the rule. The Eagles were playing with a lead in this one and he did not need to do nearly as much as the past few weeks.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24, New Orleans Saints 31
What you need to know
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Doug Martin
was a healthy scratch in what was described as a "coach's decision" now that all of Tampa's runningbacks are now healthy. Coaches apparently considered Martin the weakest option at the position, preferring instead to give Jacquizz Rodgers
the start, with Charles Sims
mixing in on passing downs. Peyton Barber
was the 3rd active back, holding down special teams and backup duties. Tampa Bay couldn't stop the New Orleans offense or generate any turnovers, while Winston threw 2 interceptions to Jairus Byrd that the Saints capitalized on. Starting tight end Cameron Brate
scored an early touchdown but left with a back injury in the 3rd quarter. QB Winston struggled as weapons in the passing game dwindled. Tampa Bay again experimented with shuffling offensive line positions, and the changes seemed to help the run game, which started out strong in the first half.
New Orleans Saints
- New Orleans’ offense bounced back from a sluggish performance at TB just 13 days earlier that included three Brees INTs. This time, they tabulated 417 yards of offense and held the scoreboard advantage from wire-to-wire. The main difference this time was a commitment to a balanced attack, relying on Mark Ingram
to the tune of 18 consistently effective and well-blocked carries in order to stay in manageable downs and distances. Drew Brees
’ air attack provided Brandin Cooks
and Michael Thomas
with successful days. Cooks gained separation at all three levels of the field including a 43-yard vertical route down the left sideline while Thomas operated mainly in the short to intermediate vicinities of the field, with his best play coming on a 46-yard slant in which he made a pair of defenders miss after the catch. An efficient day with zero turnovers is a fine way to end a lost season for New Orleans, especially when since the victory allowed them to effectively end Tampa Bay’s playoff hopes.
QB Jameis Winston
, 61 offensive snaps, Pass: 23 - 35 - 277 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 3 - 14 - 0 - Winston had an up and down week 16, losing passing game weapon Cameron Brate
in the 3rd quarter. After the loss, Winston was throwing to Mike Evans
and a supporting cast that included Josh Huff
, Russell Shepard
, and Brandon Myers
. The lack of weapons showed as Winston struggled to find open receivers against a solid defensive effort from the Saints. New Orleans only managed 2 official sacks of Winston, but he was hurried and hit often throughout the game.
Winston's 1st touchdown of the day capped off a 2nd quarter drive with a quick pass to Cameron Brate
. The Bucs drove down to the Saints' red zone, lining up inside the 10 yard line in a 3WR set with Brate in-line on the left side of the formation. At the snap, Brate streaked straight up the field and Winston fired a laser pass through traffic for the touchdown. Winston's 2nd touchdown was a beautiful 34 yard bomb to Mike Evans
in the 3rd quarter. Evans lined up tight to the formation inside of wideout Shepard and TE Stocker, who was flexed out to the slot. Winston took a shotgun snap and threw a jump ball up for Evans, who made a physical catch on a deep corner route over tight defensive coverage for the touchdown. Winston threw a brutal interception on the first drive of the 3rd quarter. After Josh Huff
muffed a kick at the Tampa Bay 4 yard line, Winston was forced to operate out of his own end zone. He took the snap and dropped back, heaving a desperate throw for Mike Evans
streaking down the left sideline. Winston apparently never saw safety Jairus Byrd sitting back in coverage, and the Saint defender had an easy pick and a return well into the Tampa Bay red zone. Byrd had Winston's number for the day, picking him off again late in the 4th quarter. Russell Shepard
lined up wide left and ran a 10 yard-in route, but Byrd was sitting over the top of the zone in coverage, and jumped the pass as soon as Shepard cut inside.
RB Jacquizz Rodgers
, 37 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 63 - 1, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0 (2 targets) - Tampa Bay's coaching staff elected to bench Doug Martin
in favor of a healthy Rodgers. The move seemed to payoff. Rodgers, who is built similarly to Martin with a short, thick stature, made decisive cuts and took what the defense gave him, instead of dancing in the hole like Martin is prone to do. Rodgers started out hot, taking his first carry of the game off left tackle for a 14 yard gain. He carried the ball 4 consecutive times to start the game before Winston ever dropped back to pass. Rodgers got a couple of consecutive carries on the goal line in the 3rd quarter when a penalty set the Bucs up on the New Orleans 5 yard line. Rodgers punched it in on the second attempt, churning his legs and applying great leverage with his shorter frame. Rodgers finished the day with 15 carries for 63 yards.
Rodgers caught a checkdown pass out of the backfield on his first target of the day for a 3 yard gain. He caught his second target in the 3rd quarter, leaking out of the backfield and catching the ball in the flats for a 12 yard gain.
RB Charles Sims
, 24 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 12 - 0, Rec: 4 - 30 - 0 (4 targets) - Sims' role in the backfield essentially stayed the same as the Tampa Bay coaching staff substituted Rodgers for Martin in the early down/lead back role. Sims took most of his snaps on passing downs, lining up in the backfield and occasionally as a wide receiver.
He only carried the ball 3 times for a total of 12 yards. Sims made a couple of beautiful cuts to the outside on a 3rd quarter run that gained 14 yards, his longest carry of the game. Sims caught all 4 targets in the passing game for a total of 30 yards. His first was short out route out of the backfield in the 2nd quarter, then another short checkdown shortly after. Sims lined up wide right later in the 3rd quarter and caught a quick screen, taking it down the sidelines for a 13 yard gain. Sims caught a curl route for a 12 yard gain later in the 4th quarter.
WR Mike Evans
, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 97 - 1 (8 targets) - Evans was wide open on a post route for a 16 yard gain in the 2nd quarter. He picked up first down yardage on 2nd and 10 with a curl route on the left side of the formation in the 2nd quarter. Evans made a beautiful 34 yard touchdown reception late in the 3rd quarter. Russell Shepard
lined up wide left, with TE Stocker flexed out to the slot. Evans lined up inside Stocker, just a few feet away from the left tackle. Winston took the snap in the shotgun and threw a jump ball up for Evans, who was running a deep corner route. Evans went up and made an extremely physical catch right on the goal line while the defender actually drew a pass interference penalty for too much contact. Evans picked up a 9 yard gain on a bubble screen later in the 3rd while lined up wide left of the formation. He picked up another 7 yards and a first down on the next play with a quick slant route. Winston hit Evans for one final 14 yard connection on the Bucs' last offensive drive of the game. Evans finished the day with7 receptions on a team-high 8 targets for 97 yards.
WR Russell Shepard
, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 61 - 0 (5 targets) - Shepard was wide open on a crossing route at the end of the 1st quarter, hauling in his first target for a 12 yard gain. Shepard caught a deep comeback route for a gain of 23 later in the 4th quarter. Shepard lined up wide right and caught a deep post route for 24 yards on the Bucs' final drive of the game. Shepard was the target on Winston's 4th quarter interception to Jairus Byrd. Shepard lined up wide left and ran a 10 yard-in route, but Byrd was sitting on top of the zone in coverage, and jumped in front of Shepard right when he made his cut on the route.
WR Josh Huff
, 4 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 24 - 0 (3 targets) - Huff hauled in his first target-a WR bubble screen similar to those often run by slot man Adam Humphries
-for a 12 yard gain. Winston targeted Huff on a deep ball down the left side of the field on the next play, but couldn't connect downfield against strong coverage from the Saints. Huff caught another bubble screen on the opposite side of the formation in the 3rd quarter, picking up 1st down yardage on 3rd and long.
Huff returned kickoffs for the Bucs, fumbling the opening kick of the 2nd half and taking his time recovering it at the Bucs own 4 yard line. The Saints intercepted the ball on the ensuing drive, which started out with Winston in his own end zone.
WR Adam Humphries
, 33 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 12 - 0 (2 targets) - Humphries drew a pass interference flag as he was targeted on a deep post route in the 2nd quarter, setting the Bucs up inside the New Orleans red zone. Humphries' only official catch of the day was a 12 yard gain on a crossing route halfway through the 4th quarter. He was targeted just twice.
TE Brandon Myers
, 26 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 21 - 0 (6 targets) - Myers picked up the slack as the receiving tight end once Cameron Brate
left in the 3rd quarter with a back injury. Myers was targeted on the very next play, hauling in a crossing route for 9 yards. Myers picked up a first down 2 plays later with a curl route on the right side of the field that gained 12 yards. Myers was targeted by Winston in the end zone on a corner route at the end of the 4th quarter, but the pass was overthrown. Winston targeted him again on the next play, but the two couldn't connect on a deep post route. Myers finished the day with 2 catches on 6 targets for 21 yards.
TE Cameron Brate
, 32 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 12 - 1 (2 targets) - Brate's first target was a deep ball in the end zone halfway through the 2nd quarter. Brate went up strong and had a chance at the ball, but it bounced off his hands as he fought a pair of defenders for it. Later in the 2nd, Brate got another chance at the end zone, lining up in-line and making a great catch in traffic as he streaked up the seam for a touchdown. Brate was injured during the 3rd quarter on a 14 yard reception that was called back by a holding penalty. He took a shot to the back and was reportedly unable to stand on the sidelines without assistance.
QB Drew Brees
, 71 offensive snaps, Pass: 23 - 34 - 299 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 1 - 0 - New Orleans’ opening drive began promisingly, with two first downs achieved. An incompletion followed by a coverage sack forced a punt soon after. Brees led a balanced attack on the second series, connecting with Cooks and Fleener for sizeable chunks before giving way to Mark Ingram
for a six-yard TD rush to take a 7-0 lead. The Saints were dealt poor field position on their third possession; two incompletions and a negligible rush forced a quick punt. Brees bounced back with a 10-play drive his fourth time out, staying balanced between the run and short pass. The drive stalled in TB territory on a Cooks drop, which led to New Orleans settling for a FG to reclaim a 10-7 lead with 6:45 left in the half. Brees led another 10-play effort on his following possession, connecting with all three of his main targets to move into TB territory. From there, he took a sack, forced a screen pass for a loss and eventually the Saints had to settle for a FG with the first half clock waning towards zero, making the score 13-7 to their advantage. New Orleans received excellent field position following a TB interception, and Mark Ingram
put six points on the board in one play to make the score 20-7. Brees led another TD drive on his next time out, tossing a quick slant to Michael Thomas
for 43 yards after the catch, and then finding Cadet for an 11-yard TD before giving way to Ingram on a 2PC to raise the lead to 28-14 with 21:20 remaining. Brees led his team on an 11-play drive to link the third and fourth quarters, finding Brandin Cooks
deep up the left sideline with a pocket pass and then firing a bullet to Michael Thomas
on third-and-16. A pair of incompletions to Thomas on isolation routes at TB’s three yard-line led to a FG, extending the lead to 31-21 with 11:58 left. Brees continued to feed Thomas on the following drive with the two-possession lead, but a stuffed running game and an incomplete deep shot to Cooks led to a punt with 4:33 remaining. Following a TB FG, Brees and Co. proceeded to run out the clock to solidify their 31-24 win to essentially eliminate TB. It was a bounceback performance for the veteran QB, who erased memories of his struggles in TB two weeks earlier with a trademark superstar performance.
RB Mark Ingram
, 48 offensive snaps, Rush: 18 - 90 - 2, Rec: 2 - 3 - 0 (3 targets) - Ingram started the game with a carry off RT, side-stepping tackle and falling forward for a gain of nine. Two plays later, Ingram ran a flat route to the right side of the field for five. He re-entered the game late in the following series, and found a wide rushing lane up the middle for a six-yard TD. He showed some power midway through the second quarter, trucking a DB off LG for seven yards. Ingram ran for nine to begin his team’s next drive, decisively cutting upfield off RT. Ingram lost two yards on a short swing pass to the right flat later in the possession. Early in the third quarter, Ingram bounced a run off RT, proceeding to cut upfield to follow great blocking for an easy 14-yard TD. He stayed busy into the following drive, continuing to add body blows off the right side with another six-yard gain. He solidified the drive by bouncing off LG for an untouched 2PC. Ingram committed a facemask penalty early in the fourth period that negated a first down of his own off RT. Ingram was the focal point of New Orleans’ final drive intent on bleeding the clock to zero. He went for eight off RG on his first carry, two off LG on his second and sealed the deal with a determined ten off RG on his final give of the day. Perhaps his best day on the ground all year, Ingram consistently ripped off chunks of yardage in the balanced attack and found the endzone twice.
RB Tim Hightower
, 15 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 29 - 0, Rec: 1 - 11 - 0 (1 targets) - Hightower entered the game on his team’s second drive, putting his head down off RG for five yards. He carried the rock three additional times on the drive, but never gained more than four yards at a time. He went for a gain of four to open his team’s fourth drive, and caught an 11-yard screen in the left flat two plays later. Hightower’s next touch occurred midway through the fourth period, powering up the middle for seven on his first carry. Hightower was effective in his limited opportunities while clearly playing second fiddle to Mark Ingram
RB Travaris Cadet
, 5 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 16 - 1 (2 targets) - Midway through the first, Cadet lined up in the left slot and ran a short out route for five yards. He re-entered the game midway through the third period, running an angle route out of the backfield to gain decisive inside leverage on a LB for an easy 11-yard TD.
RB John Kuhn
, 31 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 3 - 0, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (1 targets) - Kuhn converted a third and short on his lone carry of the day. He elevated over a LB in the left flat early in the fourth quarter for seven yards off play-action.
WR Michael Thomas
, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 98 - 0 (8 targets) - Thomas ran a hitch route from the left outside position for his first catch, a five-yard pickup in the second quarter. Later in the half, Thomas ran an intermediate in route to gain 15 yards with inside leverage. Thomas recorded the play of the day midway through the third period, catching a three-step slant from the left boundary before turning upfield and making a pair of defenders miss en route to a 46 yard gain. He ran a deep hitch early in the fourth period, sitting down in front of man coverage before physically ripping the ball out of the air at the catch point for 17 yards and a critical first down. After failing to reel in an isolation fade and a quick slant deep in the redzone, Thomas bounced back on the following drive with another of his quintessential three-step slants for ten yards. The ball went right back in his direction on the following down, a quick hitch to the right boundary off a QB rollout for five more. A physical weapon still learning the intricacies of route running, NO’s top WR has his best days clearly ahead of him.
WR Brandin Cooks
, 48 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 98 - 0 (9 targets) - Cooks ran an intermediate crosser for his first catch of the day, settling in behind the LBs for 20 yards. He ran a comeback route midway through the second quarter, timing his pivot for 13 yards up the left sideline. Cooks committed a drop shortly later on the drive, costing his team a crucial first down. He ran another comeback route after the two-minute warning in the same spot for 14. Cooks stayed involved into the second half, running a quick hitch midway through the third for nine yards. He gained 43 yards down the left sideline late in the third quarter, selling an outside route before putting on the burners inside to gain separation for the deep pass. Another effective day for Cooks, who made his presence felt with speed and precise route running at all three levels.
WR Willie Snead
, 40 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 21 - 0 (5 targets) - Snead suffered a drop on a PA-pass early in the second quarter on a short crossing route. He settled down in a vacant zone over the middle on the following drive, falling at the chains for seven yards. Snead caught his second and final reception of the day on a comeback route to the right sideline off a flea-flicker, gaining 14 yards in the process. The quiet day for Snead included the aforementioned drop, but can also be partially attributed to NO’s wire-to-wire lead and commitment to the ground game.
TE Coby Fleener
, 30 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 30 - 0 (3 targets) - Early in NO’s opening drive, Fleener settled down underneath zone coverage up the right seam for nine yards. Fleener ran a vertical seam route on the successive series, elevating between second-level defenders for 21 yards.
TE John Phillips
, 47 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0 (2 targets) - Phillips gained five on a short stick route midway through the first quarter. Phillips gained ten on a quick-hitter off play-action late in the third period.
New York Jets 3, New England Patriots 41
What you need to know
New York Jets
- * Simply put, the game was one of the most futile moments in recent Jet history. A New England win was expected, but the lopsided nature of this decent was not. Bryce Petty
started the game, but injured his non-throwing shoulder on a fluke play and did not return. Early in the second quarter, Khiry Robinson
fumbled his first touch of the season and Petty injured his shoulder by trying to make the tackle. Ryan Fitzpatrick
replaced Petty, but wasn't any better. Through three quarters, the Jets had as many completions (four) as interceptions by its quarterbacks. It was a dismal effort by a team whose head coach chose to coach the game after spending the night in hospital.
New England Patriots
- Tom Brady
had an efficient performance and threw touchdown to three different receivers and the Patriots used their three-headed backfield to full effect. Waiver claim Michael Floyd
saw some action as the Patriots bring him into the fold and the Patriots defense had another strong game as they are coming on just in time for the playoffs.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
, 44 offensive snaps, Pass: 8 - 21 - 136 - 0 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 1 - 3 - 0 - For the second straight week, Ryan Fitzpatrick
came on in relief of an injured Bryce Petty
. Fitzpatrick, however, looked uninterested in playing. Fitzpatrick was incepted twice and only completed four passes prior to the fourth quarter. His decision making lazy and it's beyond obvious that his time as a Jet is nearing an end.
QB Bryce Petty
, 12 offensive snaps, Pass: 0 - 3 - 0 - 0 TD / 1 INT - Disastrous would be a fitting word to describe Bryce Petty
's performance against New England. Petty went 0-for-3 with an interception and two sacks in a quarter of action before suffering an injury to his non-throwing shoulder that ended his afternoon. Petty injured his shoulder by tackling a New England defender after Khiry Robinson
fumbled his first touch of the season. Prior to the injury, Petty looked uncomfortable in the pocket. He once again failed to quickly go through his reads and was left holding onto the ball, succumbing to the on-coming pass rush. In addition to the pressure applied by New England's defensive front, Petty didn't look comfortable playing in the rain. In fact, Petty admitted to the CBS announce team that he's only played one game in poor weather conditions. Petty is unlikely to play in Week 17 and is not the long-term answer at quarterback.
RB Bilal Powell
, 32 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 60 - 0, Rec: 2 - 14 - 0 (3 targets) - Bilal Powell
was given his second straight start and played well, but another negative game script limited his upside as a runner. When given carries, Powell ran with a low pad level, ran through arm tackles, and displayed good vision to find cutback lanes when needed. Matt Forte
was deemed inactive, so Khiry Robinson
functioned as his back-up and spelled him in throughout the game.
RB Khiry Robinson
, 17 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 22 - 0 - Khiry Robinson
was active for the first time this season, but failed to impress. Robinson fumbled on his touch of the season, which led to Petty's shoulder injury. He saw a few additional carries when the game was decided and earned minimal gains.
RB Brandon Wilds
, 10 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 14 - 0 - The young rookie was given four second half carries and showed some promise as an inside runner, but the game was already decided at this point.
WR Quincy Enunwa
, 54 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 12 - 0, Rec: 1 - 30 - 0 (5 targets) - Enunwa had one catch for 30 yards on a deep seam route. He saw a team high five targets, but struggled as the passing attack faltered.
WR Charone Peake
, 28 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 27 - 0 (3 targets) - Charone Peake
had one catch for 27 yards on a deep sideline route. Peake has some upside as a deep threat, but unfortunately, hasn't had many opportunities to make plays.
WR Devin Smith
, 13 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 20 - 0 (3 targets) - Seeing his first attack of the season, the second-year deep threat caught one pass for 20 yards, but dropped an easy touchdown in the fourth quarter.
WR Robby Anderson
, 43 offensive snaps (3 targets) - Robby Anderson
was shut-out, despite receiving three targets and functioning as the passing attack's top option. Anderson was targeted on Petty's interception as communication broke down between the two young players.
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins
, 4 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 17 - 0 (2 targets) - The big tight end had one catch for 17 yards on a deep post route that put the Jets in the red zone. Seferian-Jenkins dropped a sure-fire touchdown on his second target, which marks how poorly of a game it was for New York's offense.
QB Tom Brady
, 61 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 27 - 214 - 3 TD / 0 INT - In this case, the scoreboard did in fact reflect how both teams played. The Patriots dominated the Jets in every aspect of football, so much so that Tom Brady
didn't even play the third quarter. When he was in, for the most part, it was all systems go, with the line holding up relatively well, receivers doing their jobs in general, and a few great throws. The defense and special teams also put the offense in amazing position to win, with 4 turnovers generated. Tom Brady
's first touchdown was a short seam route to Martellus Bennett
, who looked like Rob Gronkowski
on the play in the sense that Gronk tends to dominate the seam. His second touchdown went to Matt Lengel
, he of the 0 previous career catches. Lengel wasn't the first read, but he came open on an 18 yard post route, and caught a good ball with a defender in coverage. Brady's last touchdown was a 25 yard deep toss to James White
, who simply outplayed his coverage. It was a great deep lob by Brady as well, who has really improved his deep passing versus the last couple years. Perhaps Brady's best pass was a rare display of athleticism from Brady, who did a 360 spineroo in the pocket before finding Julian Edelman
for 28 yards. Brady and Edelman also narrowly missed a touchdown early in the game, while James White
suffered a deep drop as well. Beyond that, fairly few blemishes as the Patriots look to wrap up the 1 seed.
RB LeGarrette Blount
, 30 offensive snaps, Rush: 20 - 50 - 2 - Though not the most efficient day, Blount still scored a pair of 1 yard touchdowns thanks to great field positioning. The sledding was notably tougher, and part of it was on the offense, but credit the stout Jets run defense as well. There weren't many signature plays to speak of for Blount.
RB Dion Lewis
, 27 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 52 - 0, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (1 targets) - Involved once again, Lewis touched the ball 17 times, with most of his touches being carries. Interestingly, Lewis continues to run well between the tackles, something he didn't do much of last year prior to his injury.
RB James White
, 19 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 14 - 0, Rec: 3 - 32 - 1 (4 targets) - As usual, White did his damage in the passing game, scoring a touchdown on a deep lob that saw him split zone coverage. White also dropped another deep pass earlier in the game that would have made his stat line a whole lot beefier, but luckily, it wasn't critical for this particular game.
WR Julian Edelman
, 36 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 89 - 0 (8 targets) - As usual, Edelman led the way for the Patriots passing attack. There was one missed touchdown connection early in the game, but it ended up not mattering much in the grand scheme of things. The best play of the day for Edelman was more Brady than Edelman, as the quarterback did a 360 in the pocket to avoid a sack, then fired a 28 yard strike to Edelman.
WR Malcolm Mitchell
, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 29 - 0 (5 targets) - Since the Patriots went up early, Mitchell's number was not called much in terms of volume. It was a fairly un-notable day.
WR Chris Hogan
, 64 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 22 - 0 (5 targets) - Similar to Malcolm Mitchell
, Hogan's number wasn't called much, as the Patriots didn't need their passing attack for much of the game. His one catch was a nice one handed leaping grab in traffic.
WR Michael Floyd
, 18 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 (2 targets) - Floyd made his Patriots debut on a handful of snaps, catching one pass from Jimmy Garoppolo
TE Martellus Bennett
, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 19 - 1 (2 targets) - Though Marty B snagged a touchdown, that was nearly it on the day, with a total of 2 catches. His touchdown was a short seam route that went for 5 yards, with a good catch by Bennett and good location from Tom Brady
Tennessee Titans 17, Jacksonville Jaguars 38
What you need to know
- The Titans had a very rough outing against the Jaguars, with the primary news being their loss of Marcus Mariota
to a fractured fibula / ankle. Matt Cassel
did not fair well as his replacement as the Jaguars played well defensively, keeping all receivers under 50 yards with only Rishard Matthews
and Delanie Walker
finding the end zone. Demarco Murray was shut down as the rushing attack was abandoned early in this game, while Derrick Henry
continues to find his way onto the field near the red zone.
- For the first time in the 2016 season, the Jaguars offense finally looked like the unit that everybody thought it would look like this season. Bortles had the best game of his season and one of the better ones of his career, as he remained turnover-free and consistently moved the ball when the team needed to. The season died long ago, but this game showed people the offense everybody was hoping they'd get. Allen Hurns
and Julius Thomas
did not play, and T.J. Yeldon
left the game very early.
QB Matt Cassel
, 30 offensive snaps, Pass: 13 - 24 - 124 - 1 TD / 1 INT - Matt Cassel
saw his first action of the season as he stepped in for the injured Marcus Mariota
at the end of the third quarter in Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars. Cassel inherited a pass-heavy game script as the Titans were trying to claw back into the game, but he did not have much success completing just over 50% of his passes for 124 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Cassel found Delanie Walker
from 14 yards out on a nice throw to the right side of the field on which Walker stepped in front of the defender to snag the ball before backing into the end zone. This would be Cassel’s only real highlight, as he followed up the touchdown with a tough interception that was returned for a touchdown by Jalen Ramsey. Cassel’s throw was decent, but Ramsey just made an amazing play on a good jump to cut off the route. Cassel will be a quarterback to avoid for Week 17.
QB Marcus Mariota
, 41 offensive snaps, Pass: 8 - 20 - 99 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 3 - 0 - Marcus Mariota
had to be carted off the field at the end of the third quarter with what we now know was a fractured right fibula / ankle. This injury will end the year for Mariota, as he will have surgery this week and be on a 4-5 month recovery timeline--planning to return in time for next season’s OTA’s. Prior to the injury, Mariota was having a very quiet day completing less than 50% of his passes for 99 yards and one passing touchdown to Rishard Matthews
near the goal line. Mariota will go into the 2017 season as a clear top-12 fantasy quarterback option based on his huge step forward taken this year.
RB DeMarco Murray
, 60 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 42 - 0, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 (4 targets) - Demarco Murray fell victim to a very negative game flow for the rushing attack as the Titans were playing catch-up the entire day after falling down 10-0 early in the first quarter. Murray carried the ball only 14 times for 42 yards while adding a couple receptions for 18 with no touchdowns. The Jaguars did a good job at focusing on the run and stacking the box, especially once Cassel came in at quarterback when Mariota was injured. Under normal circumstances, Murray could have expected much more of a workload--but the game flow along with losing snaps to Derrick Henry
in the red zone put a huge damper on his fantasy day.
RB Derrick Henry
, 17 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 13 - 0, Rec: 2 - 22 - 0 (2 targets) - Derrick Henry
did nothing of fantasy value in this game, rushing for only 13 yards with a couple receptions for 22 yards. Henry did have a nice 11 yard catch and run for a big first down to keep one of the Titans’ drives alive. Henry has now received a very consistent 18, 17, and 17 snaps in the last three weeks, and he continues to be heavily involved in red zone packages and favored for carries near the goal line. However, he will not be a great option next week against the Texans’ solid rushing defense.
WR Harry Douglas
, 35 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 48 - 0 (6 targets) - Harry Douglas
resurfaced in Week 16 to catch five balls for 48 yards against the Jaguars. Douglass had failed to amass more than two receptions all season until this game. He played his second most snaps all season here due to the Titans’ pass-heavy approach required, but he will not be a reliable option going forward as he usually averages less than 20 snaps on the field.
WR Tajae Sharpe
, 35 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 48 - 0 (8 targets) - Tajae Sharpe
saw only 35 snaps in this game--his lowest mark of the season. However, he led the team in receiving with 48 yards, hauling in three of eight targets. Sharpe had a highlight-reel catch on the sideline for a 24-yard gain, but that was his only big play of the game as both he and the other Titans receivers were relatively shutdown.
WR Rishard Matthews
, 67 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 31 - 1 (9 targets) - Rishard Matthews
led the team in targets yet again, however he--like all other Titans receivers--could not do much with them as he only amassed 31 yards on three receptions. Matthews did find the end zone, which somewhat salvaged his day from a fantasy perspective. The touchdown came from three yards out as Matthews did a great job finding some space and rolling with his quarterback as Mariota was trying to find an open option once the initial routes didn’t pan out. Matthews (along with the rest of the Titans receiving corps) will not be an attractive option next week against the Texans. Walker then added a couple of short garbage-time receptions for short yardage to round out an overall rough outing made palatable by his touchdown.
TE Delanie Walker
, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 23 - 1 (8 targets) - Delanie Walker
finished this week with eight targets, but only hauled in three of them for 23 yards-- his second fewest receiving yards in a game this season. It wasn’t until the first drive of the fourth quarter when Walker hauled in his first reception, but it was called back due to an illegal formation penalty. However on that same drive is when Walker found the end zone from 14 yards out by making a great play to step in front of the defender and snag the pass from Matt Cassel
before backing into the end zone.
QB Blake Bortles
, 72 offensive snaps, Pass: 26 - 38 - 325 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 7 - 0, Rec: 1 - 20 - 1 (1 targets) - Bortles had, easily, his best game of the 2016 season. The ball came out tighter and more accurate and he looked much better at reading the coverages that the Titans threw at him. He was more accurate on deep passes than he has been all season, and for the first time in 2016 he was able to lead the offense to points in much score situations. He scored two touchdowns; One passing, and one receiving (on a trick play pass from Marqise Lee
.) Bortles nightmare of a season can not be forgotten, but there was at least one good performance from him.
RB Chris Ivory
, 42 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 45 - 1, Rec: 4 - 69 - 0 (6 targets) - Chris Ivory
was tremendous as a runner and pass catcher, doing a great job of making explosive plays and gaining extra yards. He scored one touchdown from the goal line and the team made a point of featuring him there. The only downside to his performance was that he could not stop fumbling. He fumbled twice, though one was ruled down, and lost one of them. His ball security was awful all season.
WR Allen Robinson
, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 147 - 0 (12 targets) - Robinson, like Bortles, had a bounce back game in what has been a nightmare season. He finally looked exactly like the 2015 version of himself. Tough YAC, Great adjustments, and playing with attitude; He did it all. Perhaps the biggest adjustment he made was mental, as he was able to be the go-to target on the Jaguars final offensive drive, making clutch catch after clutch catch, which is something that he struggled with all season long.
WR Marqise Lee
, 61 offensive snaps, Pass: 1 - 1 - 20 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rec: 3 - 37 - 1 (7 targets) - Lee scored two touchdowns on the day for the Jaguars. The first one was a leaping adjustment to a back shoulder throw against great coverage. The second one was on a trick play, where he was handed the ball on a reverse and then threw it to a wide-open Bortles for a score. Lee was otherwise fairly quiet, though he did make one great snag on a drag route, extending to catch the ball way below his knees.
Minnesota Vikings 25, Green Bay Packers 38
What you need to know
- The ground game looked surprisingly effective against the Packers, though once the game got out of hand, the Vikings moved on from it to some extent. The Vikings offense was OK, for the most part, but mostly gained yards once the Packers sat back a bit with a big lead. They could have some success next week against the Chicago Bears, but the offensive line always makes the offense feel like a ticking time bomb. You never know when it will disappear.
Green Bay Packers
- The Packers passing offense is on fire, but this week the ground game was non-existent. That inconsistency makes it once again impossible to trust Ty Montgomery
, much less Christine Michael
, in Week 17. That said, Jordy Nelson
, Aaron Rodgers
and to a lesser extent, Davante Adams
, are all playing very well and are likely to see plenty of success against the Detroit Lions in week 17.
QB Sam Bradford
, 78 offensive snaps, Pass: 34 - 50 - 382 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 5 - 0 - Bradford threw the ball fifty times on Sunday, which is by no means optimal against a solid Green Bay Packers defense, but he completed 68 percent of those passes. As has been the case since Pat Shurmur took over as offensive coordinator, the gameplan mostly consisted of short passes, with an average of 7.64 yards per throw. Bradford has averaged 6.99 yards per attempt on the season, so this was a high water mark for the year, but he ranks 19th overall in that stat for this season, well behind the pack. That said, the Vikings really had no choice as Saturday marked their seventh different starting offensive line combination of the season. As if to remind us how that’s a bad thing, center Nick Easton misfired a snap into his own behind, fumbling the ball and turning it over to the Packers in the second quarter. It’s been that sort of season. The short-range offense the Vikings feature has been the team in survival mode, doing all they could to keep Bradford healthy. That doesn’t mean Bradford can’t air it out a bit, as he did on a 71-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen
. On that play, Bradford rolled out to his right and spotted Thielen as he juked a defender with a nice double-move and broke free. Bradford aired the ball out with a 30-yard throw, and two Green Bay defenders collided behind the play, leaving Thielen free to run the last 31 yards for the score. Bradford also found Stefon Diggs
for a score—the first time they hooked up since Week 8—on a nicely thrown ball into the end zone and then hit Thielen for a second score along the back of the end zone in the fourth quarter. Both the second touchdown to Thielen and the one to Diggs came with the game well out of hand and the Packers playing a more relaxed defense, but more of Bradford’s yards came in the first half, as he only added 151 of his 382 yards in the third and fourth quarters. As he has too often over the last month or so, Bradford also fumbled the ball without help from his center’s rear end, as he got crushed from behind by linebacker Clay Matthews and coughed up the ball.
RB Jerick McKinnon
, 54 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 50 - 0, Rec: 5 - 35 - 0 (6 targets) - Despite facing the No. 9 run defense in the NFL, McKinnon had some success on Saturday. Interestingly, McKinnon’s first two touches were passes, not carries. He was frequently thrown too throughout the day as the Vikings desperately tried to claw their way back into the game from early 14-3 and 28-13 deficits. McKinnon had one of his more effective days running, though, showing some nice burst and good vision as he ran well behind a shaky offensive line.
RB Matt Asiata
, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 34 - 0, Rec: 3 - 30 - 0 (4 targets) - Asiata wasn’t on the field a ton, just 25 offensive snaps on the day, as the team leaned more on Jerick McKinnon
. Despite limited snaps, Asiata was very effective running the ball, mostly in the red zone where he was able to gash the Packers defense, though he could never punch it into the end zone.
WR Adam Thielen
, 75 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 4 - 0, Rec: 12 - 202 - 2 (15 targets) - It’s pretty obvious that quarterback Sam Bradford
favors Thielen pretty heavily no matter the field position, down or distance. Next to tight end Kyle Rudolph
, nobody has been targeted more often since Week 10, and over the last four games, he is by far the most targeted wide receiver (again, just behind Rudolph over all). So it should come as no shock that Thielen was the most targeted player in the offense this past Saturday. The result was a career day for Thielen, who was the one player the Packers just had no answer for. Thielen had 142 yards and a touchdown in the first half, and just kept adding yards throughout the game. While the Packers did play a little softer with a large lead, they still just couldn’t come up with an answer for the receiver. On his first touchdown, Thielen ran a route down the sideline, did a little double move on his defender, then took off down the field again. Sam Bradford
delivered the ball to his receiver 30-yards down field. Two Packers collided behind Thielen, who was then free to run the last 31 yards for the score. Thielen’s second touchdown didn’t even require that much effort, as he ran a short route into the end zone, then drifted across the back line, uncovered. Bradford saw him and delivered the ball for a score.
WR Stefon Diggs
, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 29 - 1 (6 targets) - Diggs continues to barely be an afterthought in the offense, though he did score for the first time since Week 8. On the play, Diggs ran a corner route and had a step on the defender. Sam Bradford
threw a perfect pass ahead of Diggs, who hauled it in for the touchdown.
WR Cordarrelle Patterson
, 45 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 13 - 0 (4 targets) - Patterson didn’t touch the ball on returns Saturday, as the team opted to go with Adam Thielen
and tight end David Morgan
. He saw a limited role on passing downs, mostly in the second half and with limited success. His role seems to have been reduced across the board lately and it’s unclear what, if anything, that bodes for his future.
WR Charles Johnson
, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 16 - 0 (4 targets) - Johnson continues to be marginalized in the current offense, though two of his targets were on deeper passes. However, it appeared as if he and Sam Bradford
weren’t on the same page as Johnson didn’t seem to be where Bradford expected him to be.
TE Kyle Rudolph
, 75 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 53 - 0 (9 targets) - Rudolph continues to get solid amounts of targets but not a ton of yards. He has only cracked 70 yards once since Week 3 and has just one touchdown in his last six games. The Packers game was more of the same. It looked promising in the first half, as Rudolph made a nice catch over the middle with a defender draped over his shoulders, gaining 21 yards on the play. Then he largely disappeared the rest of the quarter, not being targeted again until the middle of the third quarter when he hauled in a 9-yard catch on a 3rd and 15. The Packers did a good job of blanketing him overall, and limiting his ability to find open space, reducing his role to almost nothing.
TE David Morgan
, 7 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0 (1 targets) - The rookie made his debut against the Packers, but not much of an impact. On the field for just seven snaps, the team was clearly just giving Morgan a chance to get his feet wet.
TE Rhett Ellison
, 21 offensive snaps (1 targets) - Ellison was on the field for just 21 offensive snaps, primarily as an extra blocker.
QB Aaron Rodgers
, 56 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 38 - 347 - 4 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 13 - 1 - Rodgers did well enough to earn a break in the latter half of the fourth quarter. The Packers quarterback continued his red-hot play and immediately had the once-feared Vikings defense on its heels as he completed 14 of his first 16 passes and tore it apart. Rodgers had thrown a pair of touchdowns by the end of the first quarter and three more—two passes and one run off of a scramble—by the end of the half. Rodgers was sacked four times, but the offensive line largely kept him protected. Even when pressured, Rodgers was efficient and accurate, extending plays with his legs (and not really suffering much obvious pain due to his numerous leg issues) when needed and standing in to deliver a pass even when hit. All told Rodgers was on point, completing 78 percent of his passes, never turning over the ball and creating plenty of the plays we always expect from him. All four of his passes were perfectly placed and he seems completely in sync with his receivers. Of course, Rodgers is most impressive when he is using his feet to create plays, and his 6-yard score just before the whistle at the end of the first half was as good an example of that as any. On the play, the Vikings pass rush got into the backfield quickly, but Rodgers was able to elude a defender and run out to his left. At first he kept his eyes in the end zone, looking for someone to throw to, but he quickly saw that his best bet was to run the ball in himself. He tucked the ball, gained the first down marker and then made a defender miss before diving into the end zone. The game was never in doubt and by the middle of the fourth quarter, Rodgers was on the bench preparing for next week’s game against the Detroit Lions.
QB Brett Hundley
, 3 offensive snaps, Pass: 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 TD / 0 INT - Hundley entered the game in relief for Aaron Rodgers
when the game was well in hand. He wasn’t asked to do much and was in for just one series.
RB Christine Michael
, 14 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 4 - 0, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 (1 targets) - There were some rumors pregame that Michael might see more work and cut into Ty Montgomery
’s workload, but that didn’t happen, though there wasn’t much workload to speak of. Michael didn’t even touch the ball in the first half, and saw all his carries in the second half. For the most part, Michael seems to have been reduced to a role as a kick returner.
WR Ty Montgomery
, 37 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 23 - 0, Rec: 4 - 17 - 0 (5 targets) - After last week’s huge game by Montgomery, we might have thought we would see him more regularly and consistently but the opposite happened. The Packers didn’t need the run game against Minnesota, so the backfield was an afterthought. Green Bay ran the ball just 15 times, including two on scrambles by Aaron Rodgers
. Montgomery struggled a bit when he did get carries, but some of that was not being able to get into a rhythm due to how inconsistently he was used. Even with the game well in hand, Montgomery didn’t see the ball much—he ran the ball just twice in the second half, and not at all in the fourth quarter.
WR Jordy Nelson
, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 154 - 2 (11 targets) - Nelson had a ridiculous day, continuing a tear he has been one since Week 8. Saturday saw his highest yardage total of the season, as well as the third game this year where he has scored multiple touchdowns. His nine catches were also the second highest amount this season. Nelson and Aaron Rodgers
carved up the Minnesota secondary like so much Christmas ham, with Nelson consistently able to find seams in the coverage and get open for his quarterback to get him the ball. Sometimes it was just a thin seam, as when he split the defenders for a 12-yard reception late in the second quarter. Sometimes it was just outlasting the coverage, as it was when he scored his second touchdown of the game. On that play, Rodgers was under pressure and scrambled to keep the play alive. Nelson did the same, running around the back of the end zone to find an open spot. The defenders covering him faltered just briefly, but it was enough for Rodgers to deliver the ball for a touchdown. More often than not, though, Nelson seemed to be wide open. He consistently was left alone and every time he made the Vikings pay as Rodgers continually hit him for big games.
WR Geronimo Allison
, 43 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 66 - 0 (7 targets) - Allison was tied with Davante Adams
for the second most targets on the team, and did a fantastic job of getting open for his quarterback. Many of his receptions came when he was wide open, with few defenders in the area. Probably his best catch came in a little tight coverage by safety Harrison Smith. On the play, Allison was running across the field with Smith right behind him. Rodgers delivered the ball a bit low, but Allison did a nice job of extending his body and scooping the ball before it hit the turf.
WR Davante Adams
, 55 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 44 - 1 (7 targets) - Adams has been a bit of a “good news/bad news” guy the last few weeks. The good news is he caught his fourth touchdown in five weeks. The bad news is he had yet another big drop in the end zone. On that play, Aaron Rodgers
threw a beautiful ball over two defenders and Adams extended his body and got his hands on it. He then bobbled it and dropped it to the turf. What causes people to pull their hair out about Adams is that he can do something like that and yet also make catches like the one he did to score his touchdown in the first quarter. On that play, a 20-yard score, Adams did a great job on his route, pushing his defender inside, and then leaving him behind with a nice cut before Rodgers delivered a perfect pass. Adams is capable of tremendous football, but also seems to be unable to get rid of his ongoing case of drops.
WR Jeff Janis
, 7 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (1 targets) - Janis was targeted just once, and ran a very nice route, driving the cornerback backwards and then cutting back for Aaron Rodgers
to deliver the ball.
TE Jared Cook
, 35 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 37 - 0 (5 targets) - Cook wasn’t a huge part of the offense but had a beautiful reception down the sideline early in the fourth quarter. On the play, Trae Waynes had really good coverage on Cook, but Aaron Rodgers
delivered the ball just over Waynes head, where Cook reached up and snatched the ball for a huge 30-yard catch. Earlier on, Cook could have had another great catch along the sideline, but failed to get both feet in bounds.
TE Richard Rodgers
, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 20 - 1 (2 targets) - Rodgers did a great job extending for a first down on one catch in his own end, and then scored on his second (and last) target. On that play, Rodgers sliced down the field, keeping the defender outside of the route, caught the ball on the run and dove into the end zone.
Indianapolis Colts 25, Oakland Raiders 33
What you need to know
- The Colts offense had 3 costly turnovers that stopped them from scoring more points. Andrew Luck
threw two ugly interceptions and Frank Gore
fumbled the ball. TY Hilton had over 100 yards but was not on the same page with Luck as the Raiders did a good job stifling the connection. Frank Gore
consistently found big holes running inside but the game script forced the Colts to go pass heavy. Doyle, Allen and Swoope each contributed and were used to exploit the Raiders linebackers and safeties in coverage. Donte Moncrief
scored a 24 yard touchdown thanks to a busted coverage but was otherwise not involved in the offense.
- The Raiders season took a drastic turn early in the fourth quarter. Ahead 33-14 and cruising towards their 12th win, Derek Carr
was hit and broke his fibula. He is reportedly out 6-8 weeks, which means his season is over. Fourth-year veteran Matt McGloin
steps in to try to fill the void. While he has shown some moxie in previous appearances, he has nowhere near the arm strength and accuracy of Carr and is a major downgrade. The Raiders will have to lean heavily upon their running game and defense in the playoffs. Oakland’s running game was excellent against Indianapolis, with the top three backs combining for 247 total yards. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the three-man RBBC looks like it is back and in full force. The touches were 17 for Latavius Murray
, 13 for DeAndre Washington
and 9 for Jalen Richard
. Washington led the backs in both rushing and receiving and scored twice in a breakout performance. All three runners shined, with the two rookies making some especially impressive runs. Amari Cooper
and Michael Crabtree
had solid games. But frustratingly for fantasy owners, Carr’s three touchdown passes went to a tight end, a backup running back and the #4 receiver.
QB Andrew Luck
, 55 offensive snaps, Pass: 19 - 29 - 288 - 2 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 4 - 12 - 1 - Andrew Luck
had an up and down game against the Raiders. Luck dropped a dime to Erik Swoope
who beat Nate Allen deep for a 45 yard gain but the drive quickly stalled. Luck was hit as he threw and the ugly pass was intercepted by Nate Allen who jumped the route and got in front of TY Hilton. Luck got the Colts into Raiders territory with 2 completions to Jack Doyle
and some nice inside runs by Frank Gore
. Luck capped the drive with a 24 yard touchdown to Moncrief who came wide open thanks to a busted coverage. Luck forced the ball to TY Hilton downfield as he escaped the pocket and the pass was intercepted by Reggie Nelson. On the ensuing possession, Luck once again was hit as he threw but hit Hilton perfectly in stride for 39 yards moving the Colts inside the 5 yard line. Luck found Robert Turbin
uncovered underneath for a 3 yard touchdown to cap the drive. After a 3 and out Luck again marched the Colts down the field. Luck worked the ball underneath to his tight ends and connected with Hilton for 15 yards. Luck finished the drive escaping a collapsing pocket and scrambling for an 11 yard score. Luck threw on the money to TY Hilton for the 2 point conversion. Luck connected with Hilton over the middle for 29 yards to set up a field goal attempt.
RB Frank Gore
, 26 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 73 - 0, Rec: 1 - 12 - 0 (2 targets) - Frank Gore
was very effective and efficient on his touches outside of a fumble. The Colts were forced to go away from Gore because of the game script or Gore could have had a big game. Gore snuck through a hole behind Erik Swoope
for a 13 yard gain. Gore got low and found 7 yards behind Ryan Kelly. Gore looked slow and only picked up 9 yards despite a massive hole opening on the right side of the offensive line. Gore picked up 9 yards with a burst up the gut. Gore broke a 13 yard carry up the middle but was stripped by Malcolm Smith and the ball was recovered by Oakland. Gore caught a screen pass and made two men miss on his way to a 12 yard gain.
WR T.Y. Hilton
, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 105 - 0 (9 targets) - TY Hilton broke 100 yards but caught less than half his targets. Hilton made his first catch for 13 yards running a slant route. Hilton was the target on both of Luck's interceptions but both were bad decisions and throws. TY Hilton beat TJ Carrie running a 9 route and caught a perfect pass from Luck for 39 yards. Hilton picked up 15 yard working out of the slot and making a grab in front of Nate Allen. Hilton converted a 2 point conversion attempt running a quick out route. TJ Carrie fell as Hilton made a catch running an in route allowing Hilton to escape up field for a gain of 29.
WR Donte Moncrief
, 36 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 30 - 1 (3 targets) - Donte Moncrief
was not involved in the Colts offense. Moncrief was overthrown by Luck on his target. Moncrief came wide open on a busted coverage for a 24 yard touchdown. Moncrief picked up 6 yards running a quick out route.
TE Jack Doyle
, 35 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 46 - 0 (7 targets) - Jack Doyle
came wide open crossing the middle of the field and Luck found him for 17 yards. Doyle picked up 3 yards running a quick out route. Jack Doyle
picked up 7 running a quick out route. Doyle picked up 7 more yards the following play beating the Raiders linebackers in coverage. Doyle picked up 10 running a quick out route.
TE Dwayne Allen
, 35 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 31 - 0 (4 targets) - Dwayne Allen
came wide open underneath and picked up 10 yards, Allen caught a pass in the flat and ducked out of bounds after a gain of 11. Dwayne Allen
picked up 11 again coming wide open underneath.
QB Derek Carr
, 63 offensive snaps, Pass: 20 - 30 - 228 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 8 - 0 - Carr suffered a fractured fibula. According to Adam Scheffer, he is out 6-8 weeks. His season is almost certainly over. His loss is a crushing blow for the offense and the Raiders playoff hopes. The injury came on a hit from Trent Cole with the Raiders firmly control, leading 33-14 early in the fourth quarter. Carr had been having an excellent season with 28 touchdown passes and seven come from behind fourth quarter victories. Before the injury, Carr was outstanding. He threw three first half touchdown passes: a 1-yarder to Andre Holmes
, a 5-yarder to Clive Walford
and a 4-yarder to Jalen Richard
QB Matt McGloin
, 13 offensive snaps, Pass: 2 - 3 - 29 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - -3 - 0 - McGloin steps in with the Carr injury and will have to lead the Raiders the rest of the way. He is in his fourth season as an undrafted quarterback out of Penn State. His arm strength is not NFL-starter quality, but he has shown a nice grasp of the offense and decent leadership ability. McGloin’s first attempt was a wobbly, but accurate 10-yard completion to Andre Holmes
on 3rd-and-6 to keep the drive moving. Holmes was McGloin’s go-to target in the preseason. With the Colts mounting a bit of a comeback attempt, McGloin was able to seal the win with a perfect pass to Amari Cooper
for a 19-yard completion and first down that allowed the Raiders to kneel three times for the victory. McGloin threw the ball up high and let his talented receiver go up and get it despite double coverage.
RB Latavius Murray
, 31 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 40 - 0, Rec: 2 - 11 - 0 (2 targets) - Murray got the start and made arguably his best run and catch of the season on his first touch of the game. He took a short pass on 3rd-and-ten and made a filthy cut to elude a pair of would-be tacklers and pick up the first down. Murray received a pair of goal line carries in the first quarter but was twice stuffed shy of the end zone.
RB DeAndre Washington
, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 99 - 2, Rec: 1 - 18 - 0 (1 targets) - It was a breakout day for the Raiders rookie back who had been a healthy scratch off an on over the past month. Washington showed tremendous vision, speed and burst and broke off a number of big plays. His first big gain came in the final minute before halftime. He was wide open on a short crossing route and took it for an 18-yard gain. He was finally knocked down inside the Colts five-yard line. Washington really got rolling in the third quarter. He keyed a long touchdown drive to open the second half with back-to-back runs up the middle for 9 yards and 10 yards. A few plays later, he broke off a spectacular 22-yard touchdown run. He make a tackler miss in the backfield with a sick jump cut and then burst through a narrow seam through the secondary and into the end zone. A few minutes later, a Colts fumble setup another 22-yard touchdown run for Washington. This one didn’t require much from the running back, as the Raiders opened up a massive hole off of right tackle and Washington easily sprinted through it untouched into the end zone. Washington continued his monster third quarter effort with an 11-yard run on a 3rd-and-5 draw play the next drive.
RB Jalen Richard
, 15 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 66 - 0, Rec: 3 - 13 - 1 (3 targets) - Richard keyed a touchdown drive late in the second quarter. He had three consecutive runs that went for 12, 15 and 9 yards. He was excellent on the next drive as well, starting off with a beautiful cutback run for 19 yards. He found no room to the left and cut fully back across the grain for a big gain down the right sideline. Richard caught a 4-yard touchdown in the final seconds before halftime. He ran a quick outside screen from the slot and the Raiders outside receivers blocked well to free up space for Richard to get into the end zone.
WR Michael Crabtree
, 39 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 90 - 0 (10 targets) - Crabtree was again the go-to guy for the Raiders on third downs and in the red zone. He started slowly with an early drop and wasn’t able to pull in any of his first three targets. Crabtree got rolling late in the first quarter with a pair of key receptions. He picked up 15 yards on a red zone catch and nearly found the end zone. He was ruled out at the one as he dove for the pylon. A few plays later, Crabtree was targeted in the end zone and drew a pass interference call. Crabtree made a beautiful over-the-shoulder 35-yard catch against tight coverage on third and long. With the big lead, Crabtree was able to rest for almost the entire fourth quarter.
WR Amari Cooper
, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 72 - 0 (6 targets) - Cooper caught a leaping 34-yard reception down the left sideline in the two-minute offense in the final minute before halftime. It was another disappointing fantasy outing for Cooper, who wasn’t really needed in Week 16. The Raiders run game was dominant and with Oakland jumping out to a 26-point lead early in the second half, the game script was tough for Cooper. He isn’t much of a factor in the red zone, where Carr tends to look for his bigger targets. And the Raiders didn’t need to take any shots deep down the field after the first quarter. Cooper sealed the game late with a spectacular 19-yard leaping catch over Vontae Davis on 3rd-and-8. The Raiders were able to kneel out from there to seal the 8-point win.
WR Andre Holmes
, 42 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 33 - 1 (5 targets) - Holmes is getting some snaps as the fourth receiver in the red zone offense. He drew a pass interference call in the end zone on a fade route. Two plays later, Carr again went back to him in his one-on-one outside matchup and Holmes made a nice diving catch for a 1-yard touchdown. It’s worth noting that Holmes showed a great rapport with Matt McGloin
in the preseason and he may be a favored target of the backup quarterback going forward. McGloin’s first pass attempt in relief was a 10-yard completion to Holmes.
WR Seth Roberts
, 51 offensive snaps (3 targets) - Roberts continues to be a favorite target of Carr near the end zone. He nearly caught a 3-yard touchdown pass. He appeared to come down with the ball, but had it knocked out as he went to the ground.
TE Clive Walford
, 64 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 20 - 1 (2 targets) - Walford caught a 5-yard touchdown pass. He ran a short out route and was able to jump inside an awful tackle attempt from rookie T.J. Green to turn upfield and get into the end zone.
Miami Dolphins 34, Buffalo Bills 31
What you need to know
- The Miami Dolphins kept their playoff hopes alive, while ending that of the Buffalo Bills, by defeating the Bills, 34-31 on Saturday. Matt Moore
continued his stellar play in relief of Ryan Tannehill
, completing 16 of 30 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Jay Ajayi
had his best game in five weeks, rushing for 206 yards and one touchdown while breaking numerous big plays against a porous Bills defensive front. Devante Parker bounced back in a big way, catching four passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. Kenyan Drake
also chipped in for 56 yards and a touchdown on only four carries. Kenny Stills
caught three passes for 35 yards and a touchdown while Jarvis Landry
had a quiet day, catching only three passes for 29 yards.
- The Bills were eliminated from any chance at the playoffs by the Miami Dolphins. Over the season, their offense has improved as their key players have gotten healthy but they are still not a strong team without a deep group of wide receivers. They should challenge again for the playoffs next season.
QB Matt Moore
, 69 offensive snaps, Pass: 16 - 30 - 233 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0 - Matt Moore
's job of stepping in for the injured Ryan Tannehill
, while simultaneously keeping the Dolphins playoff hopes alive, was not an easy one, but he has responded with three fantastic performances. On Saturday against the Bills was no different, as Moore completed 16 of 30 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns and one interceptions. Moore has not had to have the playbook trimmed down for him, and did a marvelous job of putting the Dolphins skill position players in the best position to succeed and only turning the ball over once. While it may appear as though Moore has been nothing more than a game manager due to a lack of gaudy stats, that is the furthest thing from the truth. The Dolphins run a ball control offense that depends on quick strikes, and Moore has done a great job of finding his receivers with great timing and accuracy, allowing them to create yards after the catch. This was especially true on his touchdown pass to Devante Parker. On third and six from the Miami 44 yard line, Moore dropped back and hit Parker perfectly in stride coming across the middle of the field from the left hash mark. Parker deserves all the credit from there, as he turned the play into a 56 yard touchdown, but it is plays like that show Moore's poise in the pocket. Moore also connected with Kenny Stills
for a six yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.
RB Jay Ajayi
, 52 offensive snaps, Rush: 32 - 206 - 1, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (1 targets) - With Ryan Tannehill
on the sidelines the last three weeks, Miami has continued to ride Jay Ajayi
, despite having opposing defenses stack the box time and time again. AJayi responded with perhaps his best performance to date, rushing 32 times for 206 yards and a touchdown while keeping the Dolphins in the game. The Miami offensive line also played well against a Buffalo defensive front that is not one of the better units in the league, and this showcased Ajayi's ability to dominate a game when he is not seeing three defenders in the backfield on every play. Ajayi broke numerous big plays in this game, but none bigger than his 57 yard run late in overtime that set up the winning field goal for Miami. One of Ajayi's best qualities is that he gets stronger as the game goes on, and while defenses start to tire, he punishes them with his physical running style. Ajayi's ability to handle a huge work load most likely saved Miami's season on Saturday, as the Bills were moving the ball very well and generating big plays almost at will.
WR Jarvis Landry
, 66 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0, Rec: 3 - 29 - 0 (6 targets) - Coming off a big game the week before, Jarvis Landry
was not featured much against the Bills, catching only three passes for 29 yards. The games in which Landry has big production, opposing wide receiver Devante Parker does not, and vice versa. On Saturday, it was Parker's time to step up. Landry did not receive his full compliment of targets, but that is not surprising considering Jay Ajayi
rushed 32 times and Matt Moore
completed only 16 passes on the day.
WR DeVante Parker
, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 85 - 1 (7 targets) - After four weeks of poor performances, Parker picked a great time to step up and provide one of his best plays of the season in a game that the Dolphins needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Parker caught four passes for 85 yards and a touchdown, but none bigger than his 56 yard touchdown reception in the third quarter. With the Dolphins facing a third and six at their own 44 yard line, Parker ran a shallow in-route from the left side of the formation.
He made a quick move to gain separation from his defender and caught the ball four yards from the line of scrimmage, before shaking off several arm tackles, juking two Bills defenders out of their socks, and turning a four yard in-route into a 56 yard touchdown reception. Parker is not necessarily known for his ability in the open field, but on this play he showed why he is the complete package. He can be effective as a possession receiver in the short passing game, get down field and use his athleticism to make big plays, and he can also turn a short gain into a long touchdown with a nice blend of size and speed.
WR Kenny Stills
, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 35 - 1 (8 targets) - Kenny Stills
had a solid game for the Dolphins, catching three passes for 35 yards and a touchdown. While Stills has regularly seen deep targets, he has also become more involved in the intermediate passing game with Matt Moore
at quarterback. Stills is not known for his hands, but he did a good job in making several tough catches against the Bills. Stills scored on a rather easy six yard touchdown reception that saw him gain separation quickly from his defender before Matt Moore
found him uncovered in the endzone.
QB Tyrod Taylor
, 93 offensive snaps, Pass: 26 - 39 - 329 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 12 - 60 - 0 - Tyrod Taylor
had a good game throwing the ball all over the place. While he missed a few throws, he was mostly accurate hitting receivers running short and medium routes. His best throw of the game was an absolute beauty to Watkins in the endzone for the long range TD. When the Bills needed Taylor to score late in the game, he was able to direct his team downfield until the eventual Charles Clay
touchdown. In overtime, he did sustain a decent drive but the kicker shanked a field goal. It was a shame to see Taylor essentially removed from play by two gimmick plays in overtime. It would most likely have been better for the Bills if Taylor was in position to actually make plays. Taylor is a QB who can take a team into the playoffs but he needs to be surrounded by talent to do so. He has the #1 WR, RB, and TE; if the Bills can shore up their once-great defense and fill out their receiving corps, they will be a strong team next year.
RB LeSean McCoy
, 70 offensive snaps, Rush: 24 - 128 - 1, Rec: 5 - 17 - 0 (6 targets) - LeSean McCoy
continued his excellent season with yet another grand display. He is so, so quick and can't be caught when he gets to the edge. McCoy knows how to take every small hole to its extreme end with massive chunks of yardage. Tyrod Taylor
also keeps McCoy involved in the passing game with many dumpoff targets. With the Bills eliminated from the playoffs, McCoy should be rested the final week and protected from injury. The Bills need McCoy fully healthy for the start of next year.
RB Mike Gillislee
, 20 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 91 - 0 - Mike Gillislee
had a great game running the ball. He showed excellent speed and ran hard. His black mark on the day was the failure to convert consecutive 3rd and 2, 4th and 1 carries. As the season has gone on, Gillislee has played well and has proven his status as LeSean McCoy
WR Sammy Watkins
, 84 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 154 - 1 (10 targets) - Sammy Watkins
had a great day tearing up the Dolphins' defense. He did miss a deep ball because he couldn't track the ball in the air and Tyrod Taylor
underthrew a pass while Watkins was streaking down the field but almost every other target ended with a catch. He was able to tiptoe inbounds on a sideline catch and caught a beautiful throw in the endzone for a passing TD. This was Watkins' best game of the season and it's not particularly close. If Watkins can close the season out strong, and avoid getting injured before Week 1 2017, the Bills will know that they have a #1 WR.
WR Robert Woods
, 79 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 43 - 0 (6 targets) - Robert Woods
was utilized in crossing routes but his most effective damage was done when he was wide-open on a fleaflicker play. In a game where Taylor threw a ton, Woods was part of the offense but not a key cog.
WR Marquise Goodwin
, 33 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 16 - 0 (5 targets) - Marquise Goodwin
was targeted five times but was unable to break coverage from most of them. He was only able to haul in one 16 yard catch.
TE Charles Clay
, 88 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 85 - 2 (10 targets) - Charles Clay
had his best game this season against the Dolphins and it could have been even better. Every time he had the ball, which was often, he was difficult to take down. His first TD reception had two defenders collide into Clay with both of them falling down but Clay remaining standing. He was able to walk into the endzone after taking two hard simultaneous hits. Clay caught another TD falling to the ground for a late score but the Bills were unable to take advantage. Clay also received two other endzone targets that were almost touchdowns; on one he didn't drag his second foot inbounds, on the other he was very clearly interfered with. This was the Charles Clay
that the Bills gave big money to.
Detroit Lions 21, Dallas Cowboys 42
What you need to know
- The Detroit Lions traveled to 'Jerry World' on Monday night to take on a Dallas team playing for nothing as they've locked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Lions offense looked very good for just over a quarter but the Cowboys defense was fantastic in the last three quarters as they made Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford
uncomfortable via pressure. They also made it very difficult for Stafford to diagnose the defense as Dallas deployed unique looks to confuse him and then brought pressure from many different spots which made Stafford force some throws that weren't there. In the end, the Cowboys thrashed the Lions up front and dominated this game and ran away in the end, winning 42-21.
- The Cowboys were involved in a shootout against the Lions, but as Detroit’s offense stumbled in the third quarter, Dallas kept their foot on the gas and kept scoring touchdowns. Dallas’ offensive line was solid, but not spectacular as Prescott ran the offense to perfection at the line of scrimmage. As stated by Dallas brass throughout the week, the Cowboys stars all played significant snaps until the game was well out of reach with Dez Bryant
and Ezekiel Elliott
logging five touchdowns between them. As Dallas had nothing to play for this week (and next), they emerged relatively unscathed on the injury front with Tyron Smith tweaking his knee but remaining standing on the sideline with ice after exiting the game.
QB Matthew Stafford
, 71 offensive snaps, Pass: 26 - 46 - 260 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - 1 - 1 - Stafford and the Lions passing offense came out of the gate strong and were bolstered by a surprisingly strong rushing attack that kept the Cowboys defense off balance. However, it was a tale of two halves for Stafford and the passing offense as Stafford was able to pick apart the Cowboys for about 1-1/2 quarters. At that point the Lions abandoned the running game and things devolved from there. Stafford came out and was accurate early in the game as he was accurate on nine of his first 10 throws with the sole inaccurate pass being a relative throwaway. He hit mostly short throws that generated yards after the catch but was effective in getting the Lions into the end zone three times in the first half. Stafford's best throw in the first half came on a back shoulder to wide receiver Marvin Jones
in the red zone that went out at the one-yard line. This pass went for 16 yards and helped to set up Stafford's one-yard plunge that tied the game at 14. Stafford used his mobility to climb the ladder and escape the pocket right and left and this allowed him to hit open receivers working back to him to create positive gains. Stafford threw 21 passes in the first half but two were thrown away so only 19 passes ended up as being graded. He was accurate on 15-on-19 throws in the first half. The second half saw the Lions abandon the running game which allowed the Cowboys pass rushers to pin their ears back and generate pressure on Stafford an a pretty consistent basis. Stafford was hit a lot in the second half and he became far too aggressive as the game wore on and as the Lions fell behind. He still distributed the ball to all parts of the field and did an admirable job playing through the physical pressure he was under. He went to tight end Eric Ebron
a lot in the second half (7 targets) but was hurried consistently and he made very bad choices with the ball at times. While rolling left to avoid pressure, he threw a laser to receiver T.J. Jones
but he was completely covered and Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr knocked the ball into the air and safety J.J. Wilcox came down with the interception. The Lions receivers didn't help Stafford as multiple balls were dropped that could/should have been caught. In summary, the Cowboys defense created pressure which put Stafford into the weakness of his game as he doesn't deal with pressure well at all. Also, the Cowboys scheme confused Stafford as they brought blitzers to the line of scrimmage which forced Stafford to read the alignment a specific way pre-snap. The Cowboys would back out players post-snap and bring blitzers from different spots which caused problems in the spacing/timing of the offense and it wreaked havoc on the passing attack. Accuracy wise, Stafford was 18-of-24 on throws that were graded in the second half. Overall, he was 33-of-43 in the game for an adjusted-accuracy rate of 76.7 percent.
RB Zach Zenner
, 54 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 67 - 2, Rec: 2 - 25 - 0 (3 targets) - Zenner was incredibly effective on Monday night as he showed great vision and patience throughout the game as a runner and a receiver. Interestingly, Zenner had 12 total carries in the game but 10 came in the first half. Zenner tallied 64 yards on his 10 first-half carries and scored twice in the first half. He also caught both of his targets and totaled 25 yards receiving in the first half. Zenner had 3 yards on his two carries in the second half and was targeted once in the screen game but the ball was batted down at the line of scrimmage. Zenner's first carry went for 20 yards and he displayed great patience and vision, and he was helped by a solid scheme and good blocking as the Lions trapped the defensive end who came too far up the field as Zenner ran between him and the guard into space. Zenner runs with very good pad level and power and when the Lions allowed him to get through a hole without contact he gave the Cowboys fits as he was tough to bring down and always fell forward gaining that extra little bit of yardage on every play. Zenner scored on a seven-yard touchdown on another play that allowed the defensive end (Randy Gregory) to aggressively come up the field. Zenner ran into that opening and showed great vision to cut the ball outside and he ran untouched into the end zone. Zenner continued to show great patience and vision in the first half and scored on another run, this one coming from five yards out. Zenner got through the right side of the line of scrimmage untouched and fell forwards near the goal line and got just enough the score the touchdown. Zenner isn't an electric runner and looks like a plodder but he gets the job done and played a very good game in Dallas on Monday night.
RB Dwayne Washington
, 16 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 22 - 0, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0 (2 targets) - Washington wasn't utilized early in the game but he was put on the field when the Lions went to their hurry up look in the second half, and that's when he got the majority of his work. He did have a red zone carry in the first half and he missed a very big cutback lane as he could have easily had a rushing score from the Dallas one-yard line. He took the carry and ran it into a pile of bodies and was tackled for no gain. Washington is big and explosive, but at times he will drop his eyes and miss holes and that leaves yards on the field. He ran with great effort again in this game but the Lions made little attempt to get him to the edges as most of his carries went into the middle of the line. He did have a nice run in the second half that went for nine yards on a stretch run to the left side of the line. Washington had seven carries that went for 22 yards total and he was targeted twice, both in the screen game. He dropped one pass that would have gone nowhere and caught the other late in the game that went for four yards.
WR Golden Tate
, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 58 - 0 (6 targets) - Tate was not targeted as heavily in this game as he has been recently, but he was efficient as he converted six targets into six catches that went for 58 yards. Tate was targeted early in the game in the red zone as he ran a crosser with tight end Ebron clearing out space for him. He gained eight yards on a first-and-goal from the 15-yard line. Tate was utilized on slant routes into the middle of the field as he caught slant passes of 14, 16 and seven yards. He was targeted in the red zone late in the game on a fourth down and caught a six-yard pass when the Lions needed three yards to move the chains. Tate was only targeted once in the screen game and that came late on a bubble screen that went for six yards.
WR Anquan Boldin
, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 33 - 0 (7 targets) - Boldin continues to work in the middle of the field, lining up out of the slot on either side. He works in the dirty areas of the field and continues to help the Lions generate first downs. Boldin caught a pass working out of the left slot on the Lions first offensive snap of the game that went for nine yards. He caught a screen pass working towards the sideline and finished the play gaining five yards, but they were tough yards as he worked into traffic with the ball. Boldin's next two catches went for first down as he caught a six-yard pass needing two on third down and another that went for eight when the Lions needed seven yards. That's the strength of his game as he helps the Lions move the chains and stay in rhythm, and that helps to keep the offense on the field and the defense off of it.
WR Marvin Jones
, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 16 - 0 (7 targets) - Jones had another quiet game Monday as physical play at the line of scrimmage and down the field proved to be too much for him. He is struggling to get off of press coverage and he had a tough time with contested catches in this game. He was targeted seven times but only caught one pass that went for 16 yards. The 16-yard completion came in the red zone as Stafford placed a perfectly thrown back shoulder pass to Jones who caught the ball while going to the ground. This set up the eventual Stafford rushing touchdown. The rest of Jones' targets went down the field, but interestingly he was targeted three times in the red zone in this game. Jones struggled to come down with the ball when it was contested as the physicality the Cowboys defenders played with proved to be too great for Jones.
TE Eric Ebron
, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 93 - 0 (12 targets) - Ebron was targeted in the short and intermediate parts of the field on Monday and presented big challenges for the Cowboys defense in coverage. At times, Ebron would sit into an opening around five yards down the field as the Cowboys coverage allowed the Lions to complete these short passing plays. The Lions lined up Ebron closer to the tackle than they normally do, and it gave Ebron a little more room to run in the secondary. Ebron was very effective in the intermediate areas of the field, but his size and short area quickness gave the Cowboys fits all over the field on Monday. Ebron caught a pass about four yards down the field and beat Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee to the corner and took it for a 21-yard gain. He had two catches of 12 yards that both went for first down while lined up tight to the tackle. Stafford looked for Ebron throughout the game and Ebron continued to work the middle of the field. Ebron did a really nice job working to get open for Stafford as pressure forced Stafford from the pocket. He worked inside, and then quickly out to the sideline as Stafford flushed to his left and hit Ebron near the sideline. Ebron took the pass for a 16-yard gain and finished the play very physically, punishing the defender and putting him on his back. Ebron did drop a pass early in the game on a slant route and the Cowboys broke up a few passes that might have been caught, but the balls weren't perfectly placed and the defenders did a nice job of getting physical with Ebron to jar the balls free. Ebron was a bright spot for the Lions in this game.
QB Dak Prescott
, 57 offensive snaps, Pass: 15 - 20 - 212 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - 35 - 0 - It was another low-volume but high-efficiency game for Prescott this week against Detroit. Prescott threw just 20 passes, his second-lowest total of the season, but had three highlight touchdown passes. Twice he identified Dez Bryant
in single coverage, delivering accurate passes into contested windows for long touchdowns. Early in the game, Prescott kicked off the scoring with a seam throw to Brice Butler
for another score. Prescott excelled with accuracy this week and had an opportunity for a fourth touchdown as Jason Witten
was not looking for a seam pass in the red zone. Prescott was not needed in the fourth quarter as much of his production was centered in the first two and a half quarters, including 71 passing yards on the opening drive of the game alone. Prescott ran effectively, but did take multiple big hits as a runner, an unwelcome sight for a Dallas team with no incentive for wins in the final two weeks of the regular season.
RB Darren McFadden
, 21 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 49 - 0 (1 targets) - McFadden saw sparse snaps as expected in the first half against Detroit. As Dallas gained a sizeable lead in the second half, McFadden expanded his role with Ezekiel Elliott
resting. McFadden, in just his second game back from injury this season, ran well specifically on perimeter runs where his speed was on display. In the pass game, McFadden dropped his lone target as an accurate Dak Prescott
pass uncharacteristically clanged off McFadden’s hands on a third down in the second quarter.
RB Ezekiel Elliott
, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 80 - 2, Rec: 1 - 12 - 0 (1 targets) - Elliott continued his touchdown rampage against Detroit, finding the end zone twice on his lowest volume of the season. It was a slow start for Elliott, rushing for just five yards on three carries during Dallas’ opening drive, but the rookie runner heated up quickly. Elliott amassed a significant share of his yardage (55) on a single long touchdown run, finding the backside alley and outrunning the defensive back to the corner of the end zone. Later in the red zone, Elliott bounced to the perimeter for an easy score. Elliott saw just a single target, breaking a tackle on the reception, his lowest passing volume since Week 9. Elliott has 16 touchdowns with one game to go, already No.5 in NFL history for rookie running backs. With another score in Week 17, Elliott would move to second.
WR Dez Bryant
, 42 offensive snaps, Pass: 1 - 1 - 10 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rec: 4 - 70 - 2 (5 targets) - Bryant had his most impressive performance in more than a month against Detroit. Not only did Bryant optimize his five targets in the pass game, he also threw for a touchdown. Bryant took an end-around to the perimeter, finding a wide open Jason Witten
for a red zone touchdown. Through the air Bryant dominated with two highly contested deep passes, converting both for touchdowns. Also, Bryant drew a long defensive pass interference penalty beyond the box score. This marked Bryant best performance of the season on just five official targets, his second-lowest total of the season.
WR Cole Beasley
, 27 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 25 - 0 (5 targets) - In what has been a common occurrence this season, Beasley logged another four receptions against the Lions. Beasley was the primary chain-mover on short routes for Dallas, highlighted by three key first downs. Beasley easily separated on out routes for two of the first downs, navigating through a Dez Bryant
slot screen block on the other. While Beasley’s yardage is down from earlier in the season of late, his impact on key third downs remain for Dak Prescott
and Dallas’ offense to stay on the field.
WR Terrance Williams
, 38 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 61 - 0 (4 targets) - It was a low-volume game for Dallas’ efficient passing game, but Williams still performed well. Specifically, Williams logged three straight catches on a single third quarter drive. Williams made an outstanding high-point reception on a comeback route and deep corner route contested catch of the trio. Williams saw plenty of single coverage this week with Dez Bryant
and Ezekiel Elliott
being the focal point of Detroit’s defensive game plan and Williams excelled with his opportunities.
TE Jason Witten
, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 33 - 1 (4 targets) - Targets were at a premium in Dallas’ pass game in the comfortable win over Detroit. Witten was wide open on both of his catches. The first came early in the game off a play-action look and Witten escaping out the backside for most of his yardage for the game (23). Witten caught Dez Bryant
’s first NFL touchdown pass as the tight end was wide open in the end zone after the end-around action in the backfield. Witten had an opportunity for a second touchdown, coming open down the seam in the red zone, but he did not get his head around in time to locate the Dak Prescott
Arizona Cardinals 34, Seattle Seahawks 31
What you need to know
- It was too little too late for the Cardinals, but Saturday’s win was in many ways a glimpse at what this team could have been this season. In the end the victory will push the Cardinals further up the draft order, the only positioning they are unfortunately playing for right now, but sticking it to a division rival at home and jeopardizing their post-season home field advantage was well worth the tradeoff.
- It's almost as if two different teams played the first and second halves. In the first, the Seahawks offense looked terribly overmatched, giving up five sacks and sporting a rushing 'attack’ of 8 yards on 8 carries. To add insult to injury, the Cardinals stood up the Seahawks at the goal line on four straight plays, and followed it up with three more in the red zone. Out of those two promising situations, the Seahawks came away with a mere three points. The Seahawks suffered a big loss when they lost Tyler Lockett
, who will be out for the season. Running back Thomas Rawls
looked even worse - if that is possible - than he did last week, and was replaced with Alex Collins
, who looked pretty good. Doug Baldwin
shouldered most of the load one Lockett was gone; but the whole of the receiving corps really stepped up as well. Paul Richardson
could emerge as the most likely replacement for Lockett. Russell Wilson
did in fact lead the team to a comeback, but left too much time on the clock and the Cardinals had the last laugh with a late game winning field goal.
QB Carson Palmer
, 60 offensive snaps, Pass: 16 - 26 - 284 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0 - Despite a makeshift line and without one of his top targets for the 2016 season, Palmer played a spectacular game Saturday up in Seattle. It was a controlled effort from Palmer, only dropping back for 26 attempts, taking fewer shots downfield, and throwing with a pinpoint accuracy that ensured he would not turn the ball over. Palmer’s highlight of the day, an 80-yard bomb to J.J. Nelson
came nearly immediately after Seattle Safety Kam Chancellor left the game with an injury, displaying the smarts and savviness he played with all afternoon. After a difficult season in which Palmer both clearly regressed and also ultimately was blamed for far more of the team’s woes than he was responsible for, he has played some of his best football of the year of late, proving that while the Cardinals need to find their eventual replacement, he is still a viable option going forward.
RB David Johnson
, 59 offensive snaps, Rush: 28 - 95 - 3, Rec: 4 - 41 - 0 (7 targets) - It was a quiet afternoon for much of the game for Johnson. Despite his role as the team’s feature player, Johnson only managed 37-yards at half. With his streak of consecutive 100-scrimmage yard games in jeopardy, Johnson exploded in the 4th quarter, picking up over half of his scrimmage yards in the final period alone. Johnson also dominated short yardage conversions, picking up multiple first downs and scoring three touchdowns all within the 2-yard line. While his MVP campaign will likely fall short, Johnson showed why many consider him the league’s best offensive player, and doing so against a dominant defense.
WR Larry Fitzgerald
, 56 offensive snaps, Pass: 0 - 1 - 0 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rec: 4 - 31 - 0 (4 targets) - After a few weeks filled with questions about retirement, Fitzgerald’s contribution to Saturday’s win was rather minimal, but his excitement afterwards was anything but. Despite only four targets, Fitzgerald made the most of his limited use, catching all four balls, including an incredible, contested over-the-shoulder grab at the 1-yard line to set up a David Johnson
touchdown, as well as the last reception of the afternoon leading to Catanzaro’s game winning field goal. Whether or not Fitzgerald returns for the 2017 season will likely remain a mystery well into the offseason, but Saturday’s win clearly gave Fitzgerald a much-needed sense of rejuvenation.
WR J.J. Nelson
, 42 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 132 - 1 (7 targets) - Nelson was spectacular on Saturday, playing arguably the best game of his young career. It was not simply Nelson’s stat-line, as impressive as it was, but having done nearly half his damage against one of the league’s best cornerbacks in Richard Sherman. Sherman was not the victim of Nelson’s 80-yard touchdown bomb, but was beat both on a crucial first down catch early in the first quarter directly setting up David Johnson
’s first score, as well as the 44-yard catch and run to the 1-yard line, setting up Johnson’s third and final touchdown of the day. While there were some clear bumps along the way, Nelson’s development has been one of the few bright spots and gives genuine hope the offense will be able to rebound in 2017.
WR John Brown
, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 12 - 0 (2 targets) - Brown was only targeted twice on Saturday, catching one pass. Brown’s lack of involvement appeared more a function of the offense’s game plan, minimizing downfield targets and taking advantage of J.J. Nelson
’s speed, than his health issues, a hopefully encouraging sign moving forward.
TE Jermaine Gresham
, 51 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 40 - 0 (4 targets) - For the second time in last three weeks, Gresham’s solid play was overshadowed by a boneheaded, costly penalty. Unlike his tantrum in Miami, Gresham’s frustration was well warranted after a bad cheap shot by a Seattle defender, but his 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty pushed the Cardinals out of field goal range, forcing a punt instead. Gresham has become a vital cog in this offense, displaying a strong rapport with Palmer, but the penalties because of emotional outburst have become far too frequent and far too costly. Simply put, they need to stop.
QB Russell Wilson
, 83 offensive snaps, Pass: 29 - 45 - 350 - 4 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 10 - 36 - 0 - We know by now that we are getting either a very good Russell Wilson
or a very, very bad version. In this game, we saw both. Considering that Wilson put together his finest fantasy score of the season, it's tough to explain just how awful his first half was. He was sacked five times and faced constant pressure. He and the Seahawks got stood up at the goal line - twice - over seven consecutive attempts. Playing from behind in the second half, and clearly making some much needed adjustments, his bag of tricks included several accurate deep passes - though on one, he lost one of his best weapons, Tyler Lockett
, for the season. After the Lockett injury, he leaned heavily on Doug Baldwin
, who caught nearly everything Wilson could throw at him, including a great pass with three defenders rushing him, which became a scoring play of 42 yards early in the fourth quarter. And although Baldwin was far and away the go to option, Wilson still mixed it up, with additional TD passes to Jermaine Kearse
, Jimmy Graham
, and Paul Richardson
. He was able to make some excellent throws when he had time in the pocket, which he finally got later in the game. The biggest difference from first half to second, though, was the emergence of a running game. In the first half, the ground game fizzled entirely, whereas in the second, it was healthy enough that Wilson was able to bring back the read option play with much success, finishing as the team's leading rusher. Once he got that play working, everything else opened up for him. Ironically, he was too successful on the final drive: running out of bounds to stop the clock, and getting to the end zone too quickly to tie the game, gave the Cardinals enough time to kick one more field goal.
RB Alex Collins
, 43 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 28 - 0, Rec: 4 - 19 - 0 (4 targets) - Collins is a bit of a wild card going forward. He subbed in after Thomas Rawls
's dismal first half showing. And he looked fantastic. Collins showed excellent Speed, burst, and good hands on receptions, fighting for every inch. But it was a limited sample size and there is no guarantee that he will see the field that much next week. It all hinges on Rawls and whether or not he gets another crack at it after two terrible showings in a row.
RB Thomas Rawls
, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 8 - 0 (1 targets) - Rawls had a bad game. A Really, really, really bad one. He got caught again and again waiting for running lanes to develop, and rather than run north-south for at least a short gain, he tried to follow blocks that weren't really there for him, which resulted in a 1 YPC average. On one hand, the Cardinals defense was awesome in the first half; but on the other, this was the second game in a row that Rawls flirted with the one yard per carry average. He was replaced in the second half by Alex Collins
, who had much success.
WR Doug Baldwin
, 77 offensive snaps, Rush: 2 - 6 - 0, Rec: 13 - 171 - 1 (19 targets) - Baldwin was money today. He started out humbly, with a number of short receptions, but he just kept going - becoming an even bigger focus of the offense after the Tyler Lockett
injury. It took a while, but eventually the short gains gave way to a few big plays, and though nothing came easy, especially in the first half, Baldwin was able to gain big separation on one long catch near the end of the half. As it turned out, that would be a sign of things to come, as he was leaned on heavily as the Seahawks played catch up. His hard work and consistency paid off finally with an almost ordinary looking short catch over the middle that he was able to turn into a 42 yard TD. It was a perfect storm of sorts: Baldwin's discipline and skill on the field met with opportunity and turned into a huge day.
WR Jermaine Kearse
, 66 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 37 - 1 (9 targets) - Kearse shone on his acrobatic TD play, as he stretched for the ball in the back of the end zone. It was slightly reminiscent of the big plays he's made for the Seahawks in the past. This year, however, has been a write off. Next week, with Tyler Lockett
out of the lineup, Kearse will have an opportunity to produce a little more, but the most likely scenario is the he makes a couple of short catches while ceding playing time to Paul Richardson
WR Paul Richardson
, 49 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 42 - 1 (5 targets) - Richardson, who had been dealing with an injury, and who played no more than a dozen snaps over the last two games, suddenly saw more action after Tyler Lockett
left the game. He made a couple of good short catches, and showed good quickness running after the catch - a good sign that his hamstring is not an issue. The yardage total wasn't huge, but Richardson nearly won the game for Seattle in the final minute. He first made a big red zone catch to convert on 3rd and long; then, on the very next play got wide open in the end zone for the score.
WR Tyler Lockett
, 26 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 38 - 0 (3 targets) - Lockett, of course, is out for the rest of the season. Before the injury, he was building on his long awaited week 15 breakout. He was heavily involved early on, and in fact the only Seahawks receiver with a catch for most of the opening quarter. And twice he came close to scoring. First, he nearly made a spectacular one handed catch heading into the end zone, but couldn't hang on in tight coverage. And on the play that he got hurt, he did make a brilliant one-handed 28 yard catch, but was brought down just shy of the goal line.
TE Jimmy Graham
, 68 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 43 - 1 (3 targets) - Except for a couple of low percentage opportunities early on, Graham was called on to block rather than run routes all day. That happens when your quarterback is sacked five times before the first half is done. But just when he'd become the forgotten man, Graham made a huge play as he found an opening over the middle, late in the game. He outran the close proximity linebackers, and the defensive back tried but couldn't take him down as he found the end zone.
Denver Broncos 10, Kansas City Chiefs 33
What you need to know
- Heavy rain before the game and lighter rain throughout the contest made the field a soggy mess, and slowed both passing games considerably. Denver unfortunately found themselves down by 14 points halfway through the 1st quarter, so they had to try to make something happen with the passing game. It was a miserable, ugly night for QB Siemian and his cast of receivers. Safety Justin Simmons intercepted Alex Smith
in the 1st quarter, returning the ball to the KC 6 yard line. Kicker Brandon McManus
drilled a 52 yard field goal in the rain during the 2nd quarter. McManus ran the ball on a fake FG at the end of the 2nd quarter, but only picked up 6 yards on 4th and 10. Rookie tight end Henry Krieger-Coble was promoted from the practice squad with Virgil Green
and AJ Derby inactive.
Kansas City Chiefs
- The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Denver Broncos for the second time this season, 33-10, bringing them one step closer to a division title and home field advantage in the playoffs. Alex Smith
completed 25 of 36 passes for 244 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Spencer Ware
rushed 13 times for 62 yards while also catching two passes for 20 yards. Tyreek Hill
did all of his damage in the running game, rushing for 95 yards and a touchdown on only six carries. Travis Kelce
continued his dominant play, catching 11 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown, his fifth 100+ yard game in the last six weeks.
continues to work himself back into game shape, but was not heavily targeted in this game, finishing with only three catches for nine yards. Tight end Demetrius Harris
saw his most extensive game action of the season, catching six passes for 37 yards and a touchdown.
QB Trevor Siemian
, 60 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 43 - 183 - 0 TD / 1 INT - Siemian was simply unable to push the ball downfield in week 16, with rainy conditions and a strong defensive effort from KC slowing the Broncos' passing game considerably. Siemian checked the ball down often, targeting halfback Booker with a team-high 10 targets, most halfback screens or checkdowns out of the backfield. Siemian targeted Demaryius Thomas
deep down the left sideline in the 1st quarter, but overthrew him badly. Siemian nearly managed a touchdown pass to Thomas later in the first, hitting him with a slant on the KC 6 yard line that DT took to the half-yard line. Siemian had Emmanuel Sanders
open on another deep ball late in the 2nd quarter, but his accuracy was off as he heaved the ball in the rain. Siemian was nearly intercepted by CB Ron Parker as he targeted Thomas on a curl route at the end of the 2nd quarter. Siemian finished the day with a miserable completion percentage, connecting on only 17 of 43 pass attempts for 183 yards.
RB Devontae Booker
, 33 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 27 - 0, Rec: 6 - 44 - 0 (10 targets) - Booker picked up 10 yards on his first carry of the game, one play after taking a screen pass 16 yards down the field.He finished the day as the Broncos' leading rusher, doing more with his 5 carries(27 yards) than Forsett did with his 5 carries(11 yards).
Booker was featured heavily in the passing game, leading the Broncos with 10 total targets. His 44 yards receiving were also the most by any Bronco in week 16. Booker caught his first target in the 1st quarter, a screen pass out of the backfield that he turned into a 16 yard gain. Siemian targeted him on the same play later in the same drive, but sailed the pass high. Booker caught another dumpoff for a 3 yard gain to start the 2nd quarter out. The Broncos went back to the well again with the same halfback screen to Booker in the 2nd quarter on 3rd and 19, picking up only 10 yards. Booker ran the same play yet again later in the 2nd for his biggest gain of the day, a 21 yard catch and run. The Broncos tried to set Booker up on a halfback screen that was blown up by a savvy KC linebacker late in the 4th quarter. He lost a 4th quarter fumble that was punched loose as he was being tackled.
RB Justin Forsett
, 16 offensive snaps, Rush: 5 - 11 - 1 (1 targets) - Denver started the game with Forsett in the backfield, handing him the ball on 1st down and targeting him on a pass(incomplete) on 2nd. Forsett stayed in to pass protect on 3rd down, showcasing his complete skill set on the very first drive. Forsett punched a touchdown in from the half-yard line in the 1st quarter. Safety Simmons returned an interception to the KC 6 yard line, where Demaryius Thomas
caught a quick slant route just short of the goal line, setting Forsett up for the easy plunge. Forsett was a non-factor for the 2nd half of the game other than pass-blocking. He finished the game with just 11 yards rushing on his 5 carries, and no receptions.
RB Juwan Thompson
, 13 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 19 - 0 (1 targets) - Thompson started the game at fullback, and saw limited snaps in this role. Late in the 4th quarter with a win beyond reach, the Broncos rested Forsett and Booker and featured Thompson for a drive. Thompson picked up a few carries, including a long of 19 on a 3rd and 19 draw play that saw the Kansas City defense fielding a prevent unit.
WR Demaryius Thomas
, 48 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 20 - 0 (8 targets) - Thomas was targeted with a deep ball down the left sideline in the 1st quarter that was badly overthrown by Siemian. After safety Simmons intercepted Alex Smith
and returned the ball to the KC 6 yard line, DT lined up and caught a quick slant route, falling down just short of the goal line. Justin Forsett
punched the ball in from the half-yard line on the next play. DT's next reception was an outside curl route on the left side of the field, good for a short gain. Thomas was targeted on a deep ball down the left sideline late in the 4th quarter that was underthrown and batted down by a defender. Siemian targeted DT again on the next play on a short curl route, good for 8 yards. Thomas finished the day 2nd in targets with 8, totaling 20 yards on 3 catches.
WR Jordan Norwood
, 18 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 17 - 0 (1 targets) - Norwood secured his only target of the day, a deep comeback route down the right seam at the end of the 2nd quarter, as the Broncos attempted one last offensive drive with less than 2 minutes in the half. Norwood was replaced on punt returns by Khalif Raymond, who had his own issues on kickoff returns.
WR Bennie Fowler
, 18 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 5 - 0 (2 targets) - Fowler saw limited action at receiver and secured one catch for a 5 yard gain during Denver's final 2 minute drive of the 1st half.
WR Emmanuel Sanders
, 47 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 26 - 0 (3 targets) - Sanders struggled to get open downfield, and QB Siemian couldn't push the ball deep in the rainy conditions. Sanders gathered a couple of deep targets that didn't even come close. He had a 15 yard gain negated by a holding penalty in the 2nd quarter. Sanders' only reception was an impressive back-shoulder catch down the left sideline in the 3rd quarter, good for a 26 yard gain. He finished with just 3 official targets.
WR Jordan Taylor
, 28 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 26 - 0 (4 targets) - Taylor's first target was an underthrown back-shoulder pass down the left sidelines in the 1st quarter. Siemian targeted Taylor again on a flea-flicker pass later in the 2nd quarter that did not develop properly. Taylor caught an out route on the left sideline and took it upfield for 27 yards as the Broncos desperately tried to catch up late in the 4th quarter.
TE Jeff Heuerman
, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 32 - 0 (6 targets) - Heuerman saw the most action of his young career with Virgil Green
and AJ Derby sidelined. He caught his first target, an out route on the Broncos' first offensive drive, for a 1st down on 3rd and 8. Heuerman picked up another 10 yards on a crossing route early in the 2nd quarter. Heuerman picked up another nice gain on a streak route down the seam late in the 2nd quarter.
QB Alex Smith
, 75 offensive snaps, Pass: 25 - 36 - 244 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 4 - 46 - 1 - Alex Smith
bounced back after a weak performance last week, completing 25 of 36 passes for 244 yards and one touchdown with one interception. Smith was also very effective rushing the ball, gaining 46 yards and a touchdown on four carries. Smith was sharp against the Broncos, and he keyed in on Travis Kelce
from the very beginning, eventually completing 11 passes to his ultra-athletic tight end. Smith did a very good job of clearing out coverage to one side of the field, while finding Kelce with quick, accurate strikes that allowed him to gain yards after the catch nearly every time he touched the ball. One such play
happened on a second and six from the Chiefs 20 yard line. Kelce lined up on the right side of the formation, and after taking the snap and dropping back, Smith hit Kelce on a perfectly timed slant that was out in front of his receiver. Kelce did the rest from there, lumbering 80 yards for a touchdown after displaying impressive speed and some nifty moves for a big guy in the open field. The Chiefs had the Broncos off balance from the start of this game, running both Tyreek Hill
and Spencer Ware
out of the Wildcat formation, which allowed Smith to pick the normally stingy Broncos secondary apart.
RB Spencer Ware
, 37 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 62 - 0, Rec: 2 - 20 - 0 (3 targets) - Although Ware's stats do not indicate that he had a big game, he was a key cog in the Chiefs offense against the Broncos. Ware gained 62 yards on 13 carries, and caught two passes for 20 yards. What doesn't show up in the stat sheet was Ware's ability to orchestrate the offense out of the Wildcat formation, where he was able to gain positive yardage and keep the Broncos defensive front off balance. His presence the Wildcat formation was a big reason why Tyreek Hill
was able to run for a 70 yard touchdown, as Ware deftly sold option fakes when lining up with Hill as his backfield mate. Ware continues to be the mainball carrier for the Chiefs, and despite not having the same success as he did early in the season, he is contributing as not only a ball carrier now, but as a decoy that has helped generate big plays for the Chiefs.
WR Tyreek Hill
, 28 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 95 - 1 (5 targets) - For the second week in a row, Hill failed to catch a pass after being heavily involved as a pass catcher in Jeremy Maclin
's absence. That hasn't stopped him from making big plays though, as he was very productive as a runner, gaining 95 yards and a touchdown on only six carries, which led the Chiefs in that department. Hill made what seemed like his 1000th big play of the season on a first and ten from the Kansas City 30 yard line. Lining up in the backfield, Hill took a handoff off-tackle on the left side of the formation, before bursting through the line, making two quick cuts and then he was off to the races, scoring on a 70 yard run. Hill has been without a doubt, the most electric player not only for the Chiefs this season, but perhaps in the entire NFL. He has also been very dangerous in the return game, which when combined with the big play ability of the Kansas City defense, has made up for the Chiefs conservative offense.
TE Travis Kelce
, 70 offensive snaps, Rec: 11 - 160 - 1 (12 targets) - Travis Kelce
caught 11 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos. It was the fifth time in the last six games that Kelce has broken the 100+ yard mark, and his play in the second half of the season has cemented him as the best tight end in football this season. With his receptions, yards and touchdown this week, he has broken his career mark in all three categories. Kelce's biggest play of the night came on a second and six from the Kanas City 20 yard line. After lining up on the left side of the formation, Kelce ran a shallow slant that was designed as a clear out route for him to gain yards after the catch. And that is exactly what he did, breaking an initial arm tackle and making several quick cuts where he weaved his way through the Broncos secondary. The play went down as an 80 yard touchdown reception, the longest play of the season for Kelce. The Chiefs conservative offense made it very difficult to project them moving deep in the playoffs against the high powered offenses in the AFC. However, with Tyreek Hill
's emergence, and Kelce dominating the opposition, the Chiefs are now a force to be reckoned with. It will be fun watching them in the playoffs, as they can beat you in a variety of ways. Kelce deserves to be on the big stage, and he will have that opportunity this season as the go-to playmaker for Kansas City.
Washington Redskins 41, Chicago Bears 21
What you need to know
- Washington bullied a weak opponent in Chicago as expected, a get well game after their relative no-show effort in Carolina in Week 15. Wide receivers were running free routinely on intermediate and deep routes, fueling Kirk Cousins
’ highly efficient game. With Jordan Reed
out of the lineup, the wide receivers were front and center as Vernon Davis
rarely saw a target. Rob Kelley
dominated backfield snaps over Chris Thompson
until Mack Brown
cleaned up in garbage time. Thompson, however, was a focal point in the red zone of the Washington backfield.
- There were a lot of smart people out there that thought the Bears could upset Washington in Week 16. Five Matt Barkley
interceptions later … Barkley threw two touchdowns along with the five-spot of picks, but it’s worth mentioning that he went over 300 yards passing for the third time in five starts. Jordan Howard
once again looks great, rushing for 119 yards on 18 carries. Cameron Meredith
led the team in receiving with nine catches on 12 targets for 135 yards and a touchdown. Alshon Jeffery
, up against Josh Norman
for most of the game, caught five passes on 10 targets for 92 yards. While the Chicago Bears as a team aren’t very good, there definitely are some viable offensive options from which to choose.
QB Kirk Cousins
, 67 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 29 - 270 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 5 - 30 - 2 - Cousins had a career day on the ground, rolling up 30 yards and two scores. The opening drive was capped off by Cousins eluding an unblocked rusher and finishing in the end zone after a 15-yard scamper. Washington’s receivers regularly separated from Chicago’s secondary, creating clear passing windows for Cousins. While he was accurate on most throws, notably a deep sideline route to Pierre Garcon
, a handful of inaccurate passes prevented a monster passing performance by Cousins. A rare Washington punt early in the game was the result of Cousins missing a wide open Jamison Crowder
on an out route. Later, Cousins overthrew DeSean Jackson
behind the defense, a sure touchdown. Finally, Vernon Davis
was wide open in the end zone, but Cousins under pressure missed Davis on fourth down. Cousins hit 300 total yards and three scores, but 400 yards and five scores were well within reach.
RB Rob Kelley
, 34 offensive snaps, Rush: 19 - 76 - 0, Rec: 2 - 6 - 0 (3 targets) - Kelley dominated the backfield snaps while the game against Chicago was still in doubt, ultimately giving way to Mack Brown
in garbage time. Kelley was workman-like in his efforts, grinding out yards near the line of scrimmage. His best run came when he broke two tackles and churned for 15 yards into the red zone for 15 yards. Kelley sustained a knee injury which took him to the sideline in the middle of the game, but he returned in the third quarter. While 21 touches marked Kelley’s highest workload since Week 11, finding the end zone eluded him this week. Kelley was tackled at the one-yard-line on a red zone carry, only to see Kirk Cousins
sneak in for the goal line touchdown. Kelley also logged a dropped pass. Garbage time fueled Mack Brown
to a career day in relief as Kelley saw an early end to his afternoon.
RB Chris Thompson
, 22 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 20 - 1, Rec: 1 - 17 - 1 (1 targets) - Rob Kelley
kept Thompson’s snap count low against Chicago. However, Thompson averaged nearly 10 yards per touch and totaled two touchdowns on minimal work. Thompson did not see a snap until the mid-first quarter, but found a huge running lane for a red zone carry for an easy score. Again in the red zone, Thompson’s next touch was a perfect screen pass call against a blitz where Thompson ran into the end zone untouched for another score. Thompson logged a perimeter run later in the game for 10 yards as well. The lack of playing time compared to Rob Kelley
is concerning, but Thompson maximized his offensive involvement this week with red zone usage and efficiency.
WR DeSean Jackson
, 30 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 114 - 0 (7 targets) - Jackson was the clear feature element of Washington’s pass game against Chicago. Jackson separated easily on intermediate and deep routes. In addition to his 114 yards, his third straight 100-yard games and fourth in five weeks, Jackson drew a long defensive pass interference penalty and got behind the defense for a sure touchdown, but Kirk Cousins
overthrew Jackson on the play. A 200-yard game with a touchdown was well within reach. Jackson’s best catch came on an uncharacteristic play for the thin-framed speed merchant. On a deep in-cut route on third down, Jackson high-pointed the pass, absorbed a big hit, and held on to convert in field goal range. Adding this highlight play to Jackson’s display of speed, sharp route running, and after-catch ability on his other receptions, this was Jackson’s most complete effort of the season.
WR Pierre Garcon
, 44 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 94 - 0 (5 targets) - Like teammate DeSean Jackson
, Garcon had his way with the overmatched Chicago secondary in Washington’s comfortable win. Three of Garcon’s four receptions were on intermediate or deep routes, uncommon for the chain-moving receiver. Garcon beat press coverage on a post route for more than 25 yards as Washington emerged from the shadow of their own end zone. Again in the first half Garcon torched Chicago, winning easily on a deep route for more than 40 yards. While the volume was not there as Washington shifted to reserves on the field in the fourth quarter, Garcon had one of his best games of the season.
WR Jamison Crowder
, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (2 targets) - With DeSean Jackson
and Pierre Garcon
dominating the high-efficiency, low-volume Washington pass game this week, Crowder was the odd man out of the receiver corps. The slot maven saw just two targets. One featured a poor throw from Kirk Cousins
on a deep out route on three down, a bread-and-butter play for Crowder to convert and move the chains. It was a rare stalled drive for Washington this week. Two targets marked Crowder’s lowest total of the season and now he has gone a month since eclipsing 50 yards in a game.
TE Vernon Davis
, 64 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 13 - 0 (2 targets) - With Jordan Reed
out of the lineup, Davis filled in as the starter. It was a low-key performance, however, with just two targets and none before the mid-third quarter. Davis converted a third down out route on his lone reception. Davis’ other target offered a touchdown opportunity, wide open in the end zone, but a pressured Kirk Cousins
could not deliver an accurate pass on fourth down. Davis has rebounded with a quality season as he is set to enter free agency this coming offseason as his reception and yardage totals are his high-water marks dating back to 2013.
QB Matt Barkley
, 69 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 40 - 323 - 2 TD / 5 INT - Sunday’s 41-21 loss to the Washington Redskins is the low point of Matt Barkley
’s short career as a member of the Chicago Bears. Barkley threw five interceptions in the loss to go along with 323 yards passing and two touchdowns. He’s now thrown eight interceptions in the past two games, many of which are inexplicable. Triple coverage didn’t stop Barkley from targeting Deonte Thompson
on a seam route into the end zone, a ball that was intercepted with ease. Throwing off the back foot is not recommended, but that didn’t stop Barkley from mis-throwing a few due to a bad footwork. For all the bad, there were some nice throws, like the 21-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Meredith
. The only thing stopping Barkley from being a half-decent quarterback is himself and his inability to not turn over the ball. But hey, he’s putting up some decent numbers if you ignore the picks. He’s registered eight touchdowns and has gone over 300-yards passing in three of his five starts.
RB Jordan Howard
, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 18 - 119 - 0, Rec: 1 - 9 - 0 (3 targets) - Jordan Howard
has been a 100-yard machine this season for the Chicago Bears. The rookie amassed 119 yards on 18 carries, upping his season rushing total to 1,178 yards. Howard broke seven tackles on the day, according to Pro Football Focus. Matt Barkley
’s five interceptions significantly altered the game script; all the while Kirk Cousins
and the Washington offense were scoring touchdowns. Playing from behind has been a killer for Howard’s stat line. If you look up and down the top ten of the rushing leaders list, Howard has the fewest amount by a decent margin. Eating into Howard’s touches Sunday was a shoulder injury that kept him sidelined for a series and a Jeremy Langford
series inside the Washington 10-yard line.; a drive that resulted in a Langford rushing touchdown. Howard is one of the lone bright spots during this awful season of Chicago Bears football.
RB Jeremy Langford
, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 19 - 1, Rec: 1 - 4 - 0 (2 targets) - Jeremy Langford
made the most of his few touches Sunday against Washington. Despite only carrying the ball seven times for 19 yards, Langford found the end zone on a one-yard run one play after Matt Barkley
found Cameron Meredith
for 32 yards. As long as Jordan Howard
continues to run all over opposing defenses, carries will be few and far between for Langford.
WR Cameron Meredith
, 62 offensive snaps, Rec: 9 - 135 - 1 (12 targets) - Aside from rookies Jordan Howard
and Cody Whitehair, arguably no one on the Chicago Bears has been better this season than Cameron Meredith
. A guy who wasn’t even in the conversation when the season started, Meredith is putting up some pretty big receiving numbers. Meredith was the Bears top receiver in Sunday’s 41-21 loss to Washington. He secured nine passes on 12 targets for 135 yards and a touchdown. Since Alshon Jeffery
returned to the lineup two games ago, Meredith’s numbers only have gotten better. With Jeffery back, Meredith moved into the slot, which is a high-percentage throw for Matt Barkley
. Meredith has caught 18 passes on 25 targets for 239 yards with a touchdown in the past two. He’s clearly Barkley’s favorite receiving option.
WR Alshon Jeffery
, 66 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 92 - 0 (10 targets) - Alshon Jeffery
put up a pretty strong effort in Sunday’s 41-21 loss to Washington. Up against cornerback Josh Norman
for the majority of the game, Jeffery caught five passes on 10 targets for 92 yards. Only one of Jeffrey’s catches (14 yards) came on someone not named Norman. What hurts Jeffery the most is Matt Barkley
’s inability to throw a deep ball or 50/50 ball with any success. “Snatchability,” a term created by legendary former Chicago Bears wide receiver Tom Waddle
, is one of Jeffery’s best attributes. Barkley simply hasn’t been able to get his big receiver the ball in those situations. Barkley has been much more successful throwing crossing routes in the middle of the field to Cameron Meredith
. Even though the Bears have nothing to play for aside from losing to move up in the draft, Jeffery has a lot on the line in Chicago’s Week 17 matchup against Minnesota -- contract dollars.
WR Deonte Thompson
, 37 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 34 - 1 (4 targets) - Deonte Thompson
found the end zone on a three-yard pass from Matt Barkley
in Sunday’s 41-21 loss to Washington. One week after catching eight passes on 10 targets for 110 yards, Thompson played a fair quiet game aside from the touchdown. Alshon Jeffery
and Cameron Meredith
accounted for over half of the targets from Barkley. Thompson caught three of his four for 34 yards and the score. He’s not really someone you can count on for consistent production.
WR Josh Bellamy
, 31 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 11 - 0 (2 targets) - Josh Bellamy
’s bad hands have cost him targets over the past few weeks. Chicago’s most prolific pass-dropper only has seen five targets in the past two games after a three-game stretch of seeing 22 targets. Obviously it doesn’t help that Alshon Jeffery
returned to the field. But it’s very obvious that Bellamy’s inability to hang onto the football at key moments of the game has put him in the dog house. Deonte Thompson
has shown to be a more reliable third-or-fourth receiving option for Matt Barkley
San Diego Chargers 17, Cleveland Browns 20
What you need to know
San Diego Chargers
- Despite the obvious (losing to the previously-winless Browns), Philip Rivers
had another afternoon to forget. While his counting stats were solid, and he went over 4,000 passing yards for the eighth time in nine seasons, he was under a lot of pressure for most of the game and lacked the accuracy needed on a day when the running game was largely ineffective.
again drew the start in place of the injured Melvin Gordon
. Farrow looked very good on the opening possession, but his relevance was limited as the game went on. By the end of the game, San Diego was taking to the air on nearly every pass attempt and Farrow was alternating series with Ronnie Hillman
. It was reported during the game that Farrow had suffered a shoulder injury, and in fact he has since been placed on season-ending injured reserve by the team.
continues to defy Father Time. He was the team leader in receptions and yardage, and added a 1-yard touchdown early on. He was consistently the favorite target of Philip Rivers
, and continued his resurgence over the second half of the season to stake his claim as the team's top tight end over newcomer Hunter Henry
- The Browns' march toward infamy was halted as they were able to pull off a victory over the Chargers, ensuring there would not be a 0-16 season in Cleveland. The team was aided by a blocked field goal and, later, a missed field goal by the Chargers. The Browns offense came to play in the first half of the game, engineering two touchdown scoring drives on their first two possessions and scoring on three of the first four times they touched the ball. San Diego had no answer for the scrambling ability of Robert Griffin III
, who kept several drives alive with timely rushes. Cleveland's offense began to stall out in the second half as the Chargers started teeing off on the quarterback, first Griffin and later Cody Kessler
after the former was lost to a concussion. Kessler could be under center for the regular season finale against the Steelers if Griffin is not cleared in time.
QB Philip Rivers
, 68 offensive snaps, Pass: 23 - 46 - 322 - 2 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0 - Rivers had a highly inefficient 300-yard, 2-touchdown afternoon. He completed just half of his pass attempts, and averaged just seven yards per attempt. This, despite completing a 50-yard bomb on his first attempt of the game. That pass, in fact, should have gone for a lot more than fifty yards but Rivers hung it up in the air quite a bit and Travis Benjamin
had to wait for it to come down. Rivers did eventually cap that drive with a wide open touchdown pass to Antonio Gates
off a play action fake. But after the early success, it was very difficult for San Diego to move the ball. Despite Cleveland's woeful defense, Rivers was under duress most of the game. It didn't help that three more previously healthy lineman were injured during this game, and starter Kenneth Farrow
was also briefly lost for some time with a shoulder injury. So with a lot of the defensive attention focused on Rivers and the passing game, it was tough for him to step into his throws. He floated one to Tyrell Williams
on a crossing route that went too high and was nearly picked off, and then later in the first half he horribly underthrew Gates for his league-leading 18th interception of the season. To make matters worse, Gates had beaten his man by several yards and was streaking down the left sideline wide open on the play. Rivers settled down a bit to open the second half, dropping a perfect pass to Williams to convert a third down right out of halftime. And he later floated one in the end zone from a yard out to Williams, who made a terrific individual effort in snagging the pass with one hand and cradling it in for the score. But that was pretty much the end of his efficiency for the game. On the rare occasions he had time to throw, his passes just lacked crispness. He was off-target on consecutive passes to Dontrelle Inman
early in the fourth quarter, and then was late on an end zone attempt to Tyrell Williams
late in the fourth quarter that would have given San Diego the lead. With the game on the line, he just repeatedly peppered Gates with targets in an attempt to get San Diego into field goal range. They did get into range - twice, in fact - but the first kick was blocked, and the second was missed as time expired.
RB Kenneth Farrow
, 37 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 28 - 0, Rec: 4 - 29 - 0 (4 targets) - Farrow started off the game exceptionally well, showing good vision and power in helping move the team downfield and into the red zone. On the opening possession, San Diego opted to go for it on fourth down rather than attempt a field goal, and Farrow converted, taking it down just inside the 1-yard line. He was very close to a score on the play, but on the ensuing first down play the Chargers opted to use play action to Farrow and throw a touchdown to a wide open Antonio Gates
. It should be noted that Farrow likely would have been stuffed if they had given him the ball on the play, as the defense collapsed right at the middle of the attack around Farrow, expecting him to get the ball. Later in the half, he picked up 16 yards on a designed screen pass. He showed good vision and patience, and some nice downfield blocking enabled the play to develop as well as it did. Farrow whose reputation is that of a bruiser who charges straight ahead, has shown more competence in the passing game than many expected. He added another reception in the second half, using an excellent spin move to shake his defender and pick up the first down. As the second half went on, he continued to be used somewhat sparingly. The team trailed throughout, so the game plan called for more of the passing game. But Farrow also briefly left the game for a bit with a shoulder injury, which likely helped contribute to the extra work for Ronnie Hillman
. With Hillman largely ineffective, Farrow kept getting work but there simply wasn't much there in terms of space. On the team's last-gasp drive, Farrow missed a blitzer and appeared to acknowledge his mistake to Rivers after Rivers yelled at him for the blown assignment.
RB Ronnie Hillman
, 26 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 6 - 0 (2 targets) - Rookie Kenneth Farrow
fumbled twice last week, and Hillman looked good in limited action. So coming into this game, it was assumed that the Chargers might employ more of a committee approach. That theory went out the window on the team's opening possession, when Farrow got all of the work out of the backfield. That trend continued the entire game, aside from a short period of time when Farrow injured his shoulder and had to leave the game for a bit. Hillman simply showed zero escapability whatsoever. If he tried stretching a play out wide, the defense easily ran him down. If he ran up the middle, he had no strength to move the pile. Hillman was given a carry from the goal line after Antonio Gates
had drawn a pass interference in the end zone, but Hillman was stuffed and the play went nowhere.
RB Derek Watt
, 13 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 16 - 0 (1 targets) - With starter Melvin Gordon
inactive and temporary starter Kenneth Farrow
having left the game briefly due to injury, there won't be a greater chance for Watt to get in on the offensive gameplan. Yet despite the bump up the depth chart, he saw just one offensive touch in the game. It happened to be a key third down conversion after leaking into the flat late in the third quarter, but it was his only target of the afternoon.
WR Tyrell Williams
, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 64 - 1 (9 targets) - Williams hasn't quite seen the volume of targets in his direction that he was seeing earlier in the season, but he has learned to become very efficient with the ones he is seeing. He picked up 27 yards on a crossing route over the middle early on. He turned up the sideline and actually sought out contact with the defender to try and fight for more yardage. In the second half, he turned in consecutive nice receptions - the first a 20-yard gain to convert a 3rd and ten pass play. And the next went for 16 yards despite taking a big hit at the end of the sliding grab. That hit forced him to the sideline where he was seen squatting on the ground in apparent pain. But he returned soon thereafter to demonstrate his tremendous athleticism on a goal line pass play. San Diego has tried getting the ball to Williams in the red zone on many occasions this season, with varying success. On this play, he ran a crossing route from right to left as Philip Rivers
flipped a floater up over his head. Williams reached up, cradled the ball with one hand against his body, and secured it for the score. This wasn't simply a case of batting the ball to himself or getting lucky; he showed tremendously soft hands in guiding it all the way in. He nearly added a second score late in the fourth quarter that could have gone for the game-winner, but the pass from Rivers was knocked away by a defender at the last second. If the ball had led him a bit more, he might have hauled it in. But the pass seemed to get there a split second late.
WR Travis Benjamin
, 50 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 75 - 0 (4 targets) - Benjamin has had a very quiet campaign, considering what the Chargers expected from him when they brought him in from Cleveland. He did manage to connect on a long reception in this game, beating Joe Haden for a long 50-yard reception. It actually should have gone for a touchdown because he beat his man by a good 4-5 yards, but the Rivers pass hung up quite a bit and Benjamin had to wait for it to come down. After the long catch, he added a short curl (beating his man with a spin to pick up another 7 yards or so), and a key third down conversion where he went in motion and caught it in the flat to pick up a nice gain up the left sideline. But after halftime, Benjamin essentially wasn't heard from again.
WR Dontrelle Inman
, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 44 - 0 (10 targets) - Inman has shown a lot of consistency in recent weeks and had seemingly become a favorite target of Philip Rivers
over that time. And while he did see a fair share of looks in this game, he wasn't able to really break free. Most of his work was done on sideline out routes and passes underneath. He was sort of targeted a couple of times in the end zone, but both times the ball was rushed out due to Rivers being under duress and Inman wasn't really open anyway. His first catch of the game didn't even come until there was about a minute left in the first half. He did come close to a couple of second half receptions, one going for a drop, one getting reversed to an incompletion after the officials huddled up, and one a diving catch near the sideline that was overturned due to an offensive holding penalty on San Diego. Inman did add a nice diving reception for 19 yards on the very next play anyway, which at least helped offset the previous loss.
TE Antonio Gates
, 57 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 94 - 1 (13 targets) - Between the former presence of Ladarius Green
and the current presence of Hunter Henry
, Gates has been written off by several pundits for the last several seasons. Yet he is going to close out yet another campaign as San Diego's top pass-catching tight end, and showed in this game that he's still got the complete trust of quarterback Philip Rivers
. He started his afternoon off with one of the easiest touchdowns of his career on San Diego's opening possession. From the goal line, he leaked out into the flat off play action and there wasn't a defender within ten yards of him by the time he caught the ball. He added a couple more receptions later in the half, but really got busy in the second half. He drew a long pass interference penalty in the back corner of the end zone to set up another first and goal. And on the potential game-tying drives late in the fourth quarter, he was consistently Philip Rivers
' first look. Gates made a wide open 20-yard grab to put the ball at the 13-yard line, but the ensuing potential game-tying field goal attempt was blocked. On the next drive, Gates made an incredible shoestring grab off the turf with the defender hanging all over him and trying to rip it away. He added a sideline grab on the next play, and then connected on a game-saving 4th and 10 pass play over the middle for 25 more yards. He was wide open on the play, and the catch put San Diego into field goal range. His final reception of the game came on a third down pass play. He couldn't quite push the pile far enough ahead to pick up the first down, so the Chargers were unable to spike the ball since it was now fourth down. With the team out of timeouts, they had to rush the field goal unit onto the field, which may have helped contribute to the kick being rushed a bit. It was missed wide right.
TE Hunter Henry
, 19 offensive snaps - After a hot start to the season, Henry has taken a back seat to Antonio Gates
in terms of the tight end targets. In this game, Gates led the team in both receptions and yardage, and added a touchdown for good measure. He was constantly the favorite target of Philip Rivers
at just about every key moment. Henry, meanwhile, didn't see a single pass in his direction all afternoon.
QB Robert Griffin III
, 61 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 25 - 164 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 6 - 42 - 0 - Griffin's rushing ability is a main reason the Browns were able to move the ball against San Diego, extending drives and forcing the Chargers to account for him on every play. He did take a lot of sacks yet again in this game, many being his fault for holding on to the ball too long. Most of San Diego's sacks came in the second half. Griffin's first pass of the game, to Terrelle Pryor
, was not completed, but it resulted in a pass interference call for a 13-yard pickup. Later on the team's first drive, Griffin almost threw a red zone interception. The ball just barely short-hopped the defender, although the play would have been nullified by a roughing penalty on the Chargers. Griffin made a fantastic play to extend the Browns' second drive, eluding several defenders on 3rd-and-8 to scramble for a first down. He did so again on Cleveland's third drive, rushing for a first down on 3rd-and-8. Griffin tried several deep shots throughout the game, but was unable to connect on any. He went long to Corey Coleman
twice in the first half. On the first attempt it looked like he had Coleman down the left side of the field, but the receiver was tripped by a Chargers defender. No flag on the play. In the second quarter Griffin went back to Coleman and he made the catch by the pylon, but his feet came down out of bounds. On the Browns' final drive of the first half he took a deep end zone shot to Terrelle Pryor
, putting the ball right in his hands. Pryor didn't make the catch, with Casey Hayward breaking the play up at the last second. Griffin also came close to scoring in the third quarter as he found Andrew Hawkins
in the back of the end zone. Hawkins made the leaping catch, but was unable to keep his feet inbounds when he landed. Griffin sustained a concussion early in the fourth quarter when he took a hard hit trying to avoid the pass rush.
QB Cody Kessler
, 10 offensive snaps, Pass: 2 - 3 - 11 - 0 TD / 0 INT - Kessler came into the game in the fourth quarter after Robert Griffin III
sustained a concussion. Kessler was only called upon to pass three times as the Browns were dialing up mostly runs in attempts to ice the clock and hold on to a three-point lead. Kessler's first pass was a very catchable one to Corey Coleman
that was dropped. He bounced back to make a clutch throw to Coleman to convert a third down and extend a drive. Kessler has a chance at starting the last game of the season if Griffin is not cleared in time.
RB Isaiah Crowell
, 38 offensive snaps, Rush: 16 - 54 - 2, Rec: 4 - 4 - 0 (5 targets) - Crowell had a big game, scoring both of the Browns' touchdowns. He ran hard, like usual, and benefitted from some great blocking, especially from the right side of Cleveland's offensive line. The game started off slowly for Crowell as he lost four yards on a dump off and was then stuffed on his first carry of the game. He bounced back to score on an eight-yard touchdown run for Cleveland's first points of the game. The run went to the right side where he got great blocks from Gary Barnidge
, Jonathan Cooper, and Austin Pasztor, and a great lead block from his fullback, Danny Vitale. Crowell was barely touched on the run for the easy score. On the Browns' second possession Crowell again benefitted from great blocking, ripping off a 14-yard run before scoring again on a four-yard rush. This time one defender got a hand on Crowell's shirt, but he was basically untouched again. In the third quarter, Crowell could have had a huge gain as he shot up the right side of the field on a carry. He was unable to maintain his balance along the sideline, however, and was ruled out after a 10-yard gain. He saw one last red zone carry in the third quarter but was stuffed by the Chargers.
RB Duke Johnson
, 33 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 28 - 0, Rec: 2 - 21 - 0 (2 targets) - Johnson saw the Browns' first red zone touch, picking up three yards from San Diego's 18. In the second quarter he picked up 17 yards after an electric catch-and-run. He made a jump cut almost instantly after making the catch, avoiding two Chargers defenders to tack on some extra yardage. In the third quarter, Johnson had a 22-yard rush which brought the Browns down to San Diego's eight yard line. In the fourth quarter, Johnson appeared to injure his ankle following a run. He was on the ground for a minute or so before later being seen having his left ankle tended to on the sideline. He was able to return to action on the ensuing drive.
WR Terrelle Pryor
, 66 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 36 - 0 (5 targets) - Pryor had the potential for a big game, but was unable to win a few contested balls with Casey Hayward. Both would have been tough catches, but were definitely makeable for Pryor and would have boosted his stat line considerably. He drew a pass interference on his first target of the game for a 13-yard gain for the offense. His second target was catchable, but the pass was broken up by Hayward. Pryor's first catch of the game came in the second quarter on a slant which went for an 18-yard gain. He saw a deep end zone target toward the end of the first half, but was unable to make the catch. It was a great pass which hit him in the hands, but he couldn't finish for the touchdown. Credit goes to Hayward for another breakup, but Pryor should have made the grab. In the second half Pryor added another slant for 11 yards before finishing with a seven-yard catch on 3rd-and-10. He was given a large cushion to operate with and was tackled as soon as he made the catch.
WR Corey Coleman
, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0 (5 targets) - Coleman had a slow game. The opportunity was there for more production, it just didn't come to fruition. The rookie receiver saw two deep shots but was unable to connect with Robert Griffin on either. The first deep shot came in the first quarter, but Coleman was tripped by a San Diego defender. No flag was thrown and the play looked promising had Coleman stayed on his feet. He saw another deep pass near the pylon in the second quarter. He was able to make the catch, but his momentum carried him out of bounds before he could get his feet down. In the fourth quarter he dropped a catchable ball before rebounding to make a big grab on third down to extend a drive.
TE Gary Barnidge
, 68 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 42 - 0 (6 targets) - Barnidge had his biggest game of the second half of the season and led the team in receiving. All of his work came on short routes, mostly in the middle of the field. His first catch came on the first drive of the game and was a first down conversion on 4th-and-6. He did well to catch a wobbly pass from quarterback Robert Griffin III
on the play. He made another big play in the third quarter on a third down. He caught the ball short of the marker, but was able to bull his way forward for a first down, carrying defenders with him.
Baltimore Ravens 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 31
What you need to know
- The Ravens offense played well against the Steelers but left points on the field. Flacco was efficient and kept the Ravens in favorable down and distances most of the game. Steve Smith
looked determined to make plays and delivered with a nice 18 yard touchdown catch. Kenneth Dixon
showed impressive effort and power finishing runs and creating yards after contact. Dennis Pitta
was very involved and made plays over the middle against the Steelers underneath coverage. Mike Wallace
did not see his usual involvement in the passing game against his former team.
- The Steelers gave a Christmas gift for all their fans as they won the AFC North Division Title with a dramatic 31-27 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. After a slow first half, the Steelers offense exploded with 21 fourth-quarter points. When the Steelers were down by 10 points late in the game, the offense leaned on LeVeon Bell
and Antonio Brown
. Bell had 2 TDs and rushed for an impressive 122 yards against the NFL’s number two ranked rush defense. The Steelers offensive line did a remarkable job opening holes for Bell throughout the game. After only 1 reception during the first half, Brown was a focal point of the passing game down the stretch. Brown saved the drama for the Steelers final offensive play. With 13 seconds on the clock and no timeouts, The Steelers had the ball on the Ravens 4-yard line. Brown ran a quick slant and made the reception just shy of the end zone. While Brown was being held up by Ravens Safety Eric Weddle, Brown outstretched the football across the plane of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
QB Joe Flacco
, 75 offensive snaps, Pass: 30 - 44 - 262 - 1 TD / 1 INT - Joe Flacco
played one of his best games of the season against the Steelers. Flacco was efficient and kept the Ravens in favorable down and distances. The offense sustained drives throughout the game but struggled to put the ball in the end zone and left points on the field. Flacco connected with Steve Smith
over the middle who picked up 30 yards after the catch and set up a field goal attempt. A holding penalty and an ugly sack taken by Flacco stalled a Ravens drive that was being fueled by the run game. Flacco moved the Ravens deep into Steelers territory and set up another field goal attempt with completions to Dennis Pitta
and Breshad Perriman
. An interception gave the Ravens great field position and Flacco threw a strike to Smith down the seam for a 18 yard touchdown. Flacco threw a dime to Darren Waller
in the corner of the end zone but Waller had the ball knocked out of his hands as he secured the pass forcing another field goal attempt. Flacco methodically moved the Ravens down the field trailing by 4 points with 7 minutes remaining in the game. Flacco connected with Pitta 3 times on the drive and converted a 3rd and 10 with a nice throw to Perriman. Kyle Jusczcyk capped the drive with an impressive 10 yard touchdown run.
RB Terrance West
, 23 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 27 - 0, Rec: 3 - 28 - 0 (3 targets) - West was efficient with his touches and earned some tough yards running inside. West caught a check down and followed a block for a 9 yard gain. West found a nice hole running behind Yanda on 3rd and 1 for a 7 yard gain. West outflanked James Harris
on and escaped down the sideline for 16 yards on a pass to the flat from Flacco.
RB Kenneth Dixon
, 28 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 57 - 0, Rec: 1 - 1 - 0 (3 targets) - Kenneth Dixon
played well and showed great effort picking up yards after contact. Dixon followed excellent blocking through a nice hole then dragged Ross Cockrell for 5 yards before finally being pushed out of bounds after a 17 yard gain. Dixon had two noteworthy mistakes the first was a missed blitz pick up leading to a Laurence Timmons sack. The second was a fumble Dixon managed to recover. Dixon showed great balance and strength running between the tackles and staying on his feet as a scrum formed around him. He was stopped after a 8 yard gain on 3rd and 1. Dixon had a 14 yard gain negated by penalty.
WR Steve Smith
, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 79 - 1 (7 targets) - Steve Smith
was the only Ravens receiver making plays downfield against the Steelers. Smith played with an attitude the whole game and looked to determined to help his team win. Smith came open running a dig route, made a nice grab, and spun out of two tackles before racing down the sideline for a 44 yard gain. Smith gained 9 running a curl route against zone coverage. Smith picked up 4 yards running a shallow crossing route. Lined up in the slot Smith got a match up with Ryan Shazier running down the seam and hauled in a strike from Flacco for a 18 yard touchdown. Smith converted the 2 point attempt after the touchdown running a nice curl route. Smith gained 4 yards running a curl route.
WR Mike Wallace
, 63 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 21 - 0 (7 targets) - Mike Wallace
had a rough game against his former team. Wallace beat his man with a nice inside move running a slant route for a 14 yard gain on the Ravens first offensive play. Wallace gained 3 yards running a slant route and was dropped after a 4 yard gain on a shallow crossing route. Wallace did not follow his blockers and was stopped after a 1 yard gain on a screen pass.
TE Dennis Pitta
, 58 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 75 - 0 (11 targets) - Dennis Pitta
converted some key third downs and just missed on two potential touchdowns. Flacco targeted Pitta down the seam and Pitta almost made a spectacular one handed catch for a 27 yard touchdown. Pitta found the soft spot in the zone defense for a 17 yard gain and a 3rd down conversion. Pitta was targeted downfield on consecutive plays in the red zone but the first pass was thrown behind him and Pitta could not get his feet in-bounds on the second. Pitta picked up 8 more yards running a curl route over the middle. Pitta gained running a quick out route. Pitta gained 5 on a check down from Flacco, Pitta gained 11 finding the hole in the zone coverage and converting another 3rd down. Pitta picked up 9 more yards running another curl route against the Steelers underneath coverage.
QB Ben Roethlisberger
, 58 offensive snaps, Pass: 24 - 33 - 279 - 3 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0 - After a slow first half, Ben Roethlisberger
ended the game with 279 passing yards and 3 TDs. On the Steelers opening drive, Roethlisberger finished a 9-play 87-yard drive with a 20-yard TD pass to TE Xavier Grimble
. On the play, Roethlisberger showed great touch as he put the pass in a perfect spot for Grimble. On the first play from scrimmage during the 3rd quarter, Roethlisberger was off target on a pass intended for David Johnson
. The pass was high an intercepted by Ravens LB Zachary Orr. Late in the 3rd quarter, Roethlisberger threw his 2nd interception on a pass intended for Jesse James
. On the play, Ravens LB C.J. Mosley jumped the route for the interception. Both interceptions were on poor throws from Roethlisberger. With the Steelers down by 10 points in the 4th quarter, Roethlisberger tightened his chin strap and went to work. Roethlisberger led 4th quarter drives of 75, 90, and 75 yards. He leaned on WR Antonio Brown
during the 2nd half. Early in the 4th quarter, Roethlisberger threw his 2nd TD pass of the game on a 7-yard screen pass to LeVeon Bell
. On the play, Roethlisberger rolled out to the right and settled for the short pass to Bell, who did all the work carrying multiple Ravens defenders into the end zone. Late 4th quarter with the Steelers down 27-24 and 1 minute 18 seconds left on the clock, Roethlisberger delivered in the clutch. He was cool under pressure completing three passes to TE Jesse James
. Roethlisberger also mixed in passes to Eli Rogers
and DeMarcus Ayers
. With 13 seconds on the clock and no timeouts, The Steelers had the ball on the Ravens 4-yard line. Roethlisberger completed a short pass to Brown just shy of the end zone. While Brown was being held up by Ravens Safety Eric Weddle, Brown outstretched the football across the plane of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
RB LeVeon Bell
, 57 offensive snaps, Rush: 20 - 122 - 1, Rec: 3 - 15 - 1 (4 targets) - LeVeon Bell
had another impressive performance with 137 total yards and 2 TDS. The Steelers offensive line did a remarkable job creating space for Bell to run against a stout defensive front. Bell ran with patience and focus throughout the game. He grinded out yards during the first half but the Steelers were only able to come away with 7 points. Early 4th quarter, Bell ran for a 7-yard TD. On the play, Bell ran a delayed handoff around the left side of the line for the score. He showed excellent vision on the play as he understood how the play was going to break down. The Steelers went right back to Bell on the first play of the next series as he cut back to the right sideline for a 23-yard gain. Two plays later, Bell ran up the middle for a 13-yard gain. He capped off the drive with a 7-yard TD reception. On the play, Bell caught a screen pass and refused to be tackled as he carried multiple Ravens defenders over the goal line.
WR Antonio Brown
, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 10 - 96 - 1 (11 targets) - It was a tale of two halves for Antonio Brown
, who had only 1 reception in the first half. Brown also drew an offensive pass interference which wiped out a 68-yard third-down reception. With the Steelers down by 10 points in the 2nd half, the Steelers leaned on Brown, who finished with 10 receptions for 96 yards and 1 TD. Brown completed receptions of 21-yards and 26-yards early in the 4th quarter before the Steelers scored on a LeVeon Bell
TD. Brown saved the drama for the Steelers final offensive play. With 13 seconds on the clock and no timeouts, The Steelers had the ball on the Ravens 4-yard line. Brown ran a quick slant and made the reception just shy of the end zone. While Brown was being held up by Ravens Safety Eric Weddle, Brown outstretched the football across the plane of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
WR Eli Rogers
, 44 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 6 - 0, Rec: 4 - 84 - 0 (5 targets) - Eli Rogers
continued to make an impact in the passing game with 4 receptions for 84 yards. The most impactful play was a 20-yard reception during the Steelers game-winning drive. On the play, Rogers ran a crossing-route and completed the diving reception as the play broke down. During the 3rd quarter, Rogers ran a post-route for a 39-yard reception, the longest play of the day from scrimmage for the Steelers.
WR Cobi Hamilton
, 29 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 6 - 0 (1 targets) - Cobi Hamilton
was not a factor in the passing game as he had only 1 reception.
WR DeMarcus Ayers
, 16 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 9 - 0 (1 targets) - DaMarcus Ayers made his 1st reception as a Pittsburgh Steelers during the game-winning drive.
TE Jesse James
, 49 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 49 - 0 (5 targets) - Jesse James
only had 4 receptions but 3 of them came during the Steelers game-winning TD drive. After a 3-yard reception to start off the drive, James found a soft spot in the middle of the field for a 16-yard reception. Late in the drive, James completed a critical first down on 3rd and 4 with a 9-yard reception.
TE Xavier Grimble
, 9 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 20 - 1 (2 targets) - Xavier Grimble
made an impact with a TD on the Steelers first series. Grimble ran a post-route and completed the 20-yard TD reception in the end zone as he took a big hit from a Ravens defender.
Cincinnati Bengals 10, Houston Texans 12
What you need to know
- The highlights were few and far between for the Bengals offense in another ugly primetime game. Brandon LaFell
took a fourth-quarter slant for an 86-yard touchdown, but otherwise the offense did very little, except for a pair of nice drives in the two-minute offense. In the final minute before halftime, Dalton led a long drive for a field goal to break the scoreless tie. In the final minutes of the fourth quarter, Dalton led what should have been a game-winning drive into field goal range. But newly signed kicker Randy Bullock
missed the kick and the Bengals suffered yet another frustrating close loss. With Jeremy Hill
completely ineffective, Rex Burkhead
is getting an extended audition at the position. He out-touched Hill 16-to-7. It was expected A.J. Green
would make his return in Week 16, but team management and the training staff made the late call to hold him out. His status for Week 17 is uncertain.
- - Lamar Miller
sat out due to an injured ankle. He worked out prior to the game but the team thought it was in his best interest to sit out and get ready for the playoffs.
- Akeem Hunt
continues to get plays with the offense and he had the longest reception of the game for 24 yards beating a blitz out of the backfield with Savage hitting him in stride. He is getting 2-3 touches a game but not enough to warrant consideration for more.
QB Andy Dalton
, 63 offensive snaps, Pass: 28 - 41 - 268 - 1 TD / 1 INT - Dalton was without his top three targets (A.J. Green
, Tyler Eifert
and Giovani Bernard
) and playing behind a makeshift offensive line that featured a pair of overmatched young offensive tackles. The lack of surrounding talent showed. With no fear of the running game, the Texans defense was able to pin their ears back and rush. Dalton took three more sacks and had to throw the ball away on a number of other occasions. Dalton’s interception went right through the hands of his intended receiver Tyler Boyd
. He probably put slightly too much speed on the pass, but it was till a catch his receiver should have made. Over a third of Dalton’s pass yardage came on an 86-yard touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell
. It was a short slant and LaFell did the damage with his run after the catch. On an otherwise miserable offensive day, Dalton deserves credit for his work in the two-minute drill. He led a field goal drive in the final minutes before halftime to break the scoreless tie. He also led a late fourth-quarter drive to set up the Bengals for a last second, game-winning field goal (that Randy Bullock
RB Rex Burkhead
, 49 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 42 - 0, Rec: 4 - 25 - 0 (4 targets) - Burkhead led the Bengals with 16 touches and was again the most effective running back on the roster. With the Bengals line struggling to open holes, it has been incumbent upon the running backs to make the first man miss to pick up positive yardage. Burkhead has done a decent job of that, showing quick feet and nice vision. He has seen his role in the offense grow down the stretch. He has at least nine touches in each of the past four games and should be in for a relatively solid workload again in Week 17. Burkhead is a free agent in the offseason and the Bengals may continue to give him an extended audition since there is nothing to play for down the stretch.
RB Jeremy Hill
, 13 offensive snaps, Rush: 7 - 8 - 0 - Aside from a pair of big games against the Browns, 2016 has been a nightmare season for Hill. He had no room to operate against the Texans and did nothing to make anything happen on his own. On the one play where the Bengals beleaguered line opened up a decent hole for Hill, he turned what should have been a 7-yard gain and first down into a gain of just four yards by cutting backwards to try to get outside and losing yards at the end of the run. Rex Burkhead
has been the better back over the past month and that says more about how poorly Hill is playing (and the way the Bengals are using him) than it does about Burkhead.
WR Cody Core
, 39 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 39 - 0 (14 targets) - A.J. Green
was forced to sit out by the Bengals front office, with the edict coming down on Saturday. It looked like the Bengals stuck with the original A.J. Green
game plan though with Core playing the role of Green. The rookie receiver led the team with a whopping 14 targets. Core had only been targeted eight times all season coming into the game. He wasn’t able to make much happen with the heavy volume (less than 3.0 yards per target), but it was in part due the overall struggles of the offense. Core was often targeted on short, quick-hitting routes against the Texans off coverage when Dalton had to get rid of the ball quickly. When Core was targeted down the field on 50/50 balls, he was unable to make the play. While he is an impressive size/speed athlete, Core doesn’t show the natural ball skills to be a consistent deep threat and is likely designed to settle into a backup role where he should stick due to his special team value.
WR Brandon LaFell
, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 130 - 1 (10 targets) - LaFell had the only highlight of the game for the Bengals offense. He took a 3rd-and-5 slant for an 86-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. He lined up outside used a slight rub from the slot receiver to get open and caught the short pass in stride. He cut upfield, made one man miss and was off to the races. LaFell isn’t a blazer, but he has solid enough speed (4.54) to make the occasional big play. The veteran has been a strong addition to the Bengals receiving corp and the Bengals will likely make him a priority target in free agency.
WR Tyler Boyd
, 46 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 25 - 0 (4 targets) - Boyd was responsible for the Bengals only turnover of the game. He had the ball go right through his hands on a short crossing route and it bounced straight to the trailing Safety. The pass had a little heat on it, but it shouldn’t have been too much of a problem for the normally sure-handed rookie.
TE C.J. Uzomah
, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 28 - 0 (6 targets) - The third string tight end saw his first action in six weeks with Tyler Eifert
and Backup Tyler Kroft
both sitting due to injuries. He provided a solid underneath target for Dalton and caught five of his six targets. If Eifert and Kroft are out again next week, Uzomah would be a decent, low-upside desperation play at the position in Week 17.
QB Tom Savage
, 64 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 29 - 176 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 1 - 11 - 0 - It was a tale of two halves for Tom Savage
with his first half littered with 3-and-outs. Savage went 2 of 7 for 13 yards and it was filled with 3 sacks. Timing on his drops and some suspect pass protections, it was not a pretty sight for Savage. He had an early completion to Will Fuller
for 6 yards but that is about as exciting it got for Savage. In the second half for Savage, the Texans opted to go no huddle and it naturally sped him up. Savage was much more under control and hit 16 of 22 attempts and allowed his receivers work. Savage had some drops around him specifically C.J. Fiedorowicz
and DeAndre Hopkins
. He had big throws and one went to Akeem Hunt
for 33 yards on a simple rail route to beat an all out blitz. he worked underneath and only had five passes over 10+ yards. Fiedorowicz had key receptions for 14 and 12 and Savage tried to get Hopkins going on offense. Hopkins had a drop and two offensive pass interference calls and one wiped out a decent gain for Hopkins. Savage was not flashy but consistent late in the game for the offense and it proved to be a solid game that started slow.
RB Alfred Blue
, 45 offensive snaps, Rush: 21 - 73 - 1, Rec: 4 - 17 - 0 (4 targets) - Alfred Blue
took over the running game and like spot starts he has had over his career, he wears on a defense. Blue plugged away and had his normal 3 to 4 yard gains and rarely has a negative run. His big run came on a 24 yard run that ended up in the end zone to give the Texans the lead. Blue had some nice blocking and got a key block from DeAndre Hopkins
to get him into the second level to run away from defenders. Blue remains a solid back for the Texans when he gets the opportunities and he continued to show why in a spot start.
WR DeAndre Hopkins
, 64 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 43 - 0 (6 targets) - Tom Savage
continues to do what he can to get Hopkins involved with the offense. Hopkins had two offensive pass interference go against him; with one coming in the end zone and another negating a 12 yard gain for pushing off. Hopkins also had a drop that hit him right in the hands across the middle which was at a critical moment. His biggest reception came on a 21 yard gain making a defender miss to set up the Alfred Blue
touchdown. Hopkins remains Savage’s favorite target and that should be expected to continue.
WR Will Fuller
, 61 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 39 - 0 (6 targets) - IT was a quiet day but he is getting targets with Savage and with 6 targets it was on his season average. Fuller had reception for 6 yards to open the game and had receptions for 19 and 14 late in the game. Fuller continues to have the ability to make catch and runs and on his 19 yard reception, he turned that into that long of gain from a simple 5 yard reception.
TE C.J. Fiedorowicz
, 43 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 42 - 0 (7 targets) - His first game back from a concussion, Fiedorowicz took some time to get going. With two key drops early to start the game, he showed up late with receptions of 14 and 12 to keep drives going. It was a slow game for Fiedorwicz but it was clear he was not comfortable early on the field.
Atlanta Falcons 33, Carolina Panthers 16
What you need to know
- Atlanta scored on back shoulder fade to rookie tight end Joshua Perkins on the first drive and Atlanta picked off Cam Newton
on Carolina's first drive to get into Carolina territory twice on consecutive Atlanta possessions to begin the game, but Perkins--a rookie from Washington--committed an after-play penalty that put Atlanta into a 3rd and 21 and resulted in a field goal and a 10-point lead rather than an extended drive inside Carolina's 25. Ryan routinely earned or bought additional time in the pocket to find his second and third reads, beginning 10-for-10 in the first quarter. Ryan hit 10 different receivers during the first 20 minutes of the game, including two rookie tight ends, one of them recent practice squad promotion D.J. Tialavea
for a one-yard score on a flush to the right to go up 20-3. Atlanta picked off Newton over the middle on a crossing route late in the half. Cornerback Jalen Collins read the crossing route from the opposite side and undercut the ball, taking it up the sideline to the Carolina 21. Ryan drove Atlanta inside the 10 in the mid third quarter with multiple passes of less than 15 yards culminating in a third field goal and a 23-6 lead. When Carolina got within 7 points in the fourth quarter, Atlanta answered with a 3rd and 21 pass up the left sideline to Coleman against a poor zone defensive effort and followed with a 55-yard touchdown run by Coleman against an even worse tackling effort to seal the game 30-16.
- Cam Newton
's game clearly requires a reboot of sorts. A combination of poor decision-making, sloppy footwork and inaccurate passes had the Panthers offense stuck in a mire of ineptitude early that they couldn't recover from. Newton was guilty of missing both Greg Olsen
and Kelvin Benjamin
on routine touchdown passes. His offensive line let him down at times, but the protection was ideal at times; Newton simply didn't pull the trigger. Jonathan Stewart
was wiped out by a game script that had the Panthers in comeback mode from the beginning. Benjamin was the bright spot for Carolina. His touchdown catch and solid play in the second half will have Ron Rivera smiling. Greg Olsen
was held in check as the Panthers offense simply lacked the consistency to get him going.
QB Matt Ryan
, 63 offensive snaps, Pass: 27 - 33 - 277 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 9 - 0 - He hit Jones on a quick slant to begin the game and two plays later avoided a strip attempt from the right edge to find Freeman while under pressure and Freeman earned the first down on the dump-off during this first drive. Ryan delivered a back shoulder fade that arrived perfectly over Thomas Davis and under the safety help for the first touchdown. Perkins, a rookie from Washington, made a good catch with his hands between the two defenders tight to him and he fell into the end zone from the two. It was the throw outside Davis' coverage and under the safety that made this play so good. Ryan avoided pressure after a good bit of time in the pocket on a first down after an Atlanta interception of Cam Newton
and the QB flushed right and found Julio Jones
at the 28 of Carolina on a crossing route for a first down. Ryan found Robinson in the middle of the field with his third read for a first down near midfield to begin the third drive. A double-A Gap look forced the line to squeeze inside and the outside pressure arrived to force Ryan to slide and hit the outlet to Patrick DiMarco
for enough yards to give Atlanta a 51-yard field goal on the following play and a 13-point lead. Ryan got sacked by Shaq Thompson on an LB blitz past FB Patrick DiMarco
on the fourth series. Ryan found 8 receivers within the first 20 minutes of this game. He took a hit hitting Gabriel on a slant while hit in the chest from the Carolina 5 to the 1. Ryan got sacked on an A-gap safety blitz past Alex Mack who missed his protection assignment. Ryan got discombobulated in the pocket on a 3rd and 3 inside the 15 of Carolina and had a settling for a short gain. The resulting field goal attempt was blocked. Ryan was strip-sacked by Kony Ealy past Jake Matthews inside the Carolina 8 but Atlanta recovered and added another 3 points. Ryan found Jones on a deep cross to begin the fourth quarter, but underthrew it and let the cornerback rake the ball away. He was sacked on the following play up the middle. Ryan found Coleman for a gain of over 30 yards on 3rd and 21 and set up a 55-yard TD by Coleman on an outside zone play.
RB Devonta Freeman
, 34 offensive snaps, Rush: 13 - 53 - 0, Rec: 8 - 35 - 0 (8 targets) - Freeman got the first down on a second and short run around right end for seven yards. He pushed ahead for a gain of four yards between the tackles on his second run on the following play to set up 2nd and 6. Freeman took a dump-off on the third straight play heading to him, earning the first down.He gained 10 yards on an I formation run up the middle on a cutback off the fullback's pancake of the linebacker. He followed with a stuff for a loss of seven against Jake Matthews. He earned a pair of four-yard gains off right tackle early in the second quarter. Freeman earned 9 yards off left guard with a dip downhill and inside the linebackers with 8:00 left to reach the Carolina 8. Freeman beat Thomas Davis in the right flat on third down to set up first and goal from the five wth 6:33 in the half. He earned a pair of short passes after the Jalen Collins INT with a couple of minutes left to get inside the Carolina 15. Good second and third efforts up the middle for five yards during the mid-third quarter where the initial crease was tight. Freeman took a 3rd and 1 shotgun run and bounced the play to the backside and made a second bounce on the short corner for a 10-yard gain and kept Atlanta in a four-minute offense.
RB Tevin Coleman
, 23 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 90 - 1, Rec: 3 - 45 - 0 (3 targets) - Coleman earned two through a tight crease and lowered his pads to push at the line of scrimmage. Coleman earned a throw-back dump off to the left edge on the weak side of a two tight end set and hit the RB on a swing pass for 13-14 yards. He earned seven yards on 2nd and 16 on a delay up the middle through a nice crease at the line. He fell to the ground on a screen pass inside the 15 of Carolina when he slipped cutting downhill at the 13. He gained a yard on a short run to left end. Coleman gave up a sack on Matt Ryan
early in the fourth quarter, but he caught a route up the left sideline on 3rd and 21 in a wide open space for a gain of over 30 yards. Coleman followed up with a 55-yard run up the right sideline on an outside zone play for a game-sealing TD for a 30-13 lead. Carolina's effort to tackle were criticized roundly by the TV staff and the angles were indeed back and the effort to dive and wrap was not there. He followed up with a toss up the left sideline for 15 midway through the final quarter.
WR Julio Jones
, 39 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 60 - 0 (7 targets) - He led off the game with a quick slant against tight coverage and a nice release that showed he could make a cut on that foot. He left the field with a slight limp at the end of the second drive but returned to earn a target on a sail route, but a defender held Jones' leg during his release on a 1st and 10 play action pass to begin the third drive. Jones hopped a bit off the field with 13:00 in the second quarter and was not on the field for 3rd and 2 and Ryan got sacked on a blitz with Jones out. The receiver was covered step for step and pinned up the right sideline on 2nd and 10 with 10:30 in the half and forced a throw out of bounds. Jones earned his third catch on a deep slant on a diving grab of a low throw. Jones got 11 yards on a 3rd and 1 pass on a stick route from the slot in the third quarter against a zone defense. Jones had a deep cross raked by the trailng CB to begin the fourth quarter.
WR Mohamed Sanu
, 45 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 56 - 0 (4 targets) - He got a first down from middle trips left on a dig route with a nice sail outside to get across the middle for over 15 yards and took them near midfield. Sanu earned aover 20 yards to get inside Carolina's 20 on a deep cross two plays later. A quick out for a nine-yard gain with 8:00 in game.
WR Taylor Gabriel
, 28 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 15 - 0 (4 targets) - He gained a few yards up the right flat on a 3rd and 21 WR screen during the second possession. He caught a quick slant to the 1 on 2nd and goal from the 5, setting up a Ryan scramble right and touchdown to the tight end D.J. Tialavea
WR Aldrick Robinson
, 23 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 15 - 0 (1 targets) - Ryan found Robinson in the middle of the field with his third read for a first down near midfield to begin the third drive.
TE Levine Toilolo
, 48 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 10 - 0 (1 targets) - He earned eight yards in the right flat for a first down to get past midfield during the first drive.
QB Cam Newton
, 69 offensive snaps, Pass: 18 - 43 - 198 - 1 TD / 2 INT, Rush: 8 - 36 - 0 - A scattershot Cam Newton
was unable to carry forward the positive momentum from the performance against the Redskins, instead regressing in a putrid display at home. It was the usual inconsistencies from Newton: poor footwork, late throws, decision making. The offense couldn't establish a rhythm in the early stages, and that seemed to hurt Newton's confidence. What would have dented it even more was a poor interception in the first half. Targeting Ed Dickson
on a deep dig route, Newton failed to see Bryan Poole sinking underneath the throw, reading the eyes of the quarterback. However, it appeared as though the pass would not have been close to Dickson anyway, such was its inaccuracy. At times Newton was afforded decent pass protection, although even then his footwork was spotty and sloppy. He made good decisions to throw the ball away and did not take any unnecessary sacks, but the line let him down at times in the second half with immediate pressure up the gut. Newton was guilty of missing a wide open Greg Olsen
in the end zone for what should have been a touchdown; he was too late as he rolled out to the right, and his hesitancy allowed the Falcons defenders to close on the intended target. The very next play saw Newton sail a pass to Kelvin Benjamin
in the end zone. The no-huddle offense kick-started things in the second half, but it would prove to be a false dawn as Newton tossed his second interception. On this occasion he seemed to telegraph his intentions, and the zone coverage DB read his eyes and broke on the throw. Even so, there did not appear to be a receiver on the end of the pass had the DB not been there. He saved his game with a beautiful touchdown pass to Benjamin on a nine route, lofting it high for his behemoth receiver to attack. It was the lone bright spot in a thoroughly forgettable game for the quarterback.
RB Jonathan Stewart
, 40 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 50 - 0, Rec: 1 - 2 - 0 (2 targets) - With the Panthers in comeback mode throughout, Jonathan Stewart
was simply not afforded the opportunity to get into a rhythm. A pass-happy approach from the Panthers meant it was often Fozzy Whittaker
or Mike Tolbert
ñ and not Stewart ñ in the game on obvious passing downs. Even when Stewart was given carries, he was often met at the line of scrimmage by an aggressive Falcons front seven. Stewart had a nice run out of the read option as he bounced off the right side for 20 yards, but overall it was a forgettable outing.
RB Fozzy Whittaker
, 18 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 30 - 0, Rec: 1 - 14 - 0 (1 targets) - In a quiet outing for Fozzy Whittaker
- apart from kick returns, where he showed off his burst and quickness ñ his best play came on a quick toss into the left flat when he weaved between blockers and defenders for a sizeable gain.
WR Kelvin Benjamin
, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 63 - 1 (8 targets) - Perhaps in an effort to quell the fiery criticism directed at him in recent weeks, Kelvin Benjamin
responded with a terrific outing. Despite the struggles of Cam Newton
, who consistently airmailed his targets and left his receivers plenty of work to do, Benjamin made the best of it. He bossed the middle of the field early with a lovely catch in traffic. He will have been disappointed in his technique on a lofted sideline pass; with the DB in trail position, Benjamin tried to haul in the football with one hand rather than attack it with both. A subsequent end zone target was fired over Benjamin's head, but he managed to secure a touchdown catch in the second half. It was a beautiful lofted pass from Newton that allowed Benjamin to execute a subtle push-off on his defender, reach up above his frame and come down with safely. His best play of the day came on a simple shallow crossing pattern. Catching the ball in stride, Benjamin unleashed a wicked stiff arm to knock a defender on his backside before trucking up field and spinning away from another tackler for a nice gain.
WR Ted Ginn
, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 29 - 0 (9 targets) - Ted Ginn
Jr. endured a difficult outing as the Panthers passing attack sputtered from the outset. Cam Newton
's accuracy played a big part in the inability of the Carolina offense to find a rhythm; every promising pass was followed by a pass sailed over his receivers' heads. Ginn was limited to short receptions as the Falcons were content to give up the small chunks. Newton looked for Ginn deep at times but was consistently trigger shy as the Falcons secondary marshalled him well.
WR Corey Brown
, 46 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 12 - 0 (2 targets) - Corey Brown
played a larger role than he typically would, what with the Panthers in comeback mode from the first few minutes of this game. He will feel aggrieved about a defensive pass interference penalty that was not called after he beat the Falcons secondary deep. At the moment of truth, Brown's feet appeared to get tangled up with those of an Atlanta defensive back, but there might have been contact too. He was unlucky not to get a touchdown after a deep shot from Cam Newton
ended up being broken up by Devin Funchess
in the end zone; Brown was in his vicinity and ready to haul in the heaved pass.
WR Devin Funchess
, 15 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 9 - 0 (5 targets) - Devin Funchess
had a forgettable game as the offense seemed to trip over itself constantly in a listless effort. An early target off play action on a slant route wasn't exactly where it needed to be for Funchess to secure the catch. A similar pass pattern in the red zone was broken up by the Falcons DB; Funchess almost managed to tip toe the back line of the end zone and secure the football, but he ran out of room. He was forced to leave the game in the second half with an injury and did not return.
TE Greg Olsen
, 40 offensive snaps, Rec: 6 - 59 - 0 (12 targets) - It was a memorable occasion for Greg Olsen
on a personal milestone basis, as he became the first tight end in NFL history with three consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons. However, an all-too-typical down day from the offense meant he was limited to short catches over the middle as the Falcons' comfortable lead allowed them to play conservatively. Any time Olsen was targeted downfield the pass was either too high due to a scattershot Cam Newton
's accuracy, or there was a miscommunication between quarterback and tight end. Olsen briefly left the game after making a routine catch, but was held in check by a combination of the offensive struggles and having to stay in and block to cover up the offensive line's issues.