NFL insider notes: Mahomes' brilliant performance ends MVP race, debacle in D.C. and more from Week 14
Plus the Browns might have a head coach, the Panthers might have a problem and more from Week 14
Patrick Mahomes is the NFL's Most Valuable Player.
I have seen enough. Go ahead and engrave the trophy now. I don't care if he doesn't play another snap this season. I don't care about any counter-arguments (although at this point Aaron Donald might be the best/only serious opposition he has). This kid is the best football player in the NFL right now, and he is doing things no one else does.
Mahomes was, to me, more impressive than ever on Sunday. This wasn't going to be a week where the Chiefs came out and scored on five straight drives to open the game. They weren't going to always be playing with the lead. They were going against the league's best defense and Baltimore did, in fact, shut down and beat up the opposing quarterback for a good portion of this game. It was a day in which the Chiefs offense would go large portions of the day without the football as the Ravens' RPO ground attack rolled up another 198 yards of rushing.
It was going to be a day where the Chiefs would have to win ugly and overcome their defense in order to clinch a playoff spot, avoid the Chargers nipping at them in the AFC West standings and take full advantage of an afternoon when the Texans and Patriots lost games they were favored to win. And make no mistake, with Kareem Hunt released a week ago, Sammy Watkins hurt agai, Tyreek Hill limping around, Spencer Ware needing medical attention and Kansas City's offensive line bullied by Baltimore's pass rush, it was Mahomes who made it all happen in a wild, 27-24 overtime win.
He completed a ridiculous no-look pass to key a monster drive. He kept another play alive forever under duress before firing across his body for 50 yards to Hill to set up the game-tying score in the dying minutes. That's all. He only made about a half dozen throws that no one else completes right now, and probably only Aaron Rodgers would even try. If Mahomes was a half-step slower, just a smidge less brilliant in his ability to see the field and diagnose defenses mentally, with an arm that was just a touch less strong or a bit more inaccurate, the Chiefs lose this game and are staring at an uncomfortable crossroads.
Instead, because of the 23-year old passer, Andy Reid was left speechless and flabbergasted on the sidelines at the insane plays Mahomes made, repeatedly, as he rolls toward his 50th touchdown pass of the season. Instead, he made the Ravens contemplate their own mortality for the season, as he threw for 377 yards (topping 4,000 for the season) and two more touchdowns (he's up to 43, now) against the unit that came into this game allowing the worst passer rating in the NFL.
Mahomes looked at an array of blitzes the likes of which he had never before seen and was rarely gifted a clean pocket or much time to operate, but he gutted through it, stayed composed and released his gunslinger to capture the victory. It felt like a playoff game, and it was Mahomes' toughest task yet given the injuries and lack of so many impact players. No first-time starter has looked like this since Dan Marino, and it should be reflected in the postseason hardware.
Debacle in D.C.
Washington's covenant with their fans has long been broken, and Sunday's latest debacle – being down 40-0 to the lowly Giants, at home, on the heels of the Reuben Foster disaster, and watching Mark Sanchez pretend he has any business in the NFL -- will only intensify the calls for owner Dan Snyder to make bold moves. It should all start with the firing of Bruce Allen, who runs football operations in Washington, though I'm not sure how much they gain by letting Jay Gruden go as head coach.
No top candidate will want this job, which has only gotten worse in recent weeks with Alex Smith still owed two more years of guaranteed salary, no viable quarterback option for 2019 on the roster, an owner who has never won at this level and things looking quite bleak all around. Adrian Peterson hit the wall at midseason that I thought he would hit by Week 4. Washington as no skill players to speak of with Jordan Reed now banged up again, and this certainly appeared to be a team that quit on Sunday.
Maybe Snyder will get a sweetheart deal from the government to build his downtown stadium, and maybe that will help coax people into caring about his football team again. But this season the only thing Washington leads the league in is empty stadiums, and that was the case even when they were shockingly atop the NFC East. The best thing I can say about them right now -- as they appeal fully capable of losing their final seven games of the season -- is that the Bengals will probably lose their last eight.
More Week 14 notes
- The Packers blew out the Falcons as expected in their first game since whacking Mike McCarthy as their head coach, but, I'm still kinda baffled that Joe Philbin could in the first 90 seconds of the game. That red flag better head straight to Canton. There is no way Philbin will truly be considered for this job.
- On the other hand, Gregg Williams is building quite the case as the interim head coach in Cleveland. The Browns are 3-2 since he took over for Hue Jackson, and they knocked off a desperate Panthers team Sunday with spirited play on both sides of the ball for all four quarters. At 5-7-1, the Browns still have a chance to finish above .500 into mid-December. That's phenomenal by their standards, and I believe they have at least a couple more wins still in them.
- Some suspect officiating in the Ravens-Chiefs game on Sunday. Not a well officiated game at all and it seemed around the league that crews were going overboard on ticky-tack stuff.
- The lowest point of Week 14 had to be Dolphins stadium employees trying to repair huge chunks of the field during play. A league with these resources and revenue streams had best start prioritizing issues like this. The players are your primary asset, owners. Start acting like it more often.
- If the Saints go on another long playoff run, point to the second half of Sunday's slog-fest with the Bucs as a possible reason why. That offense was stuck in a bog again in the first half and this looked like a game the Bucs might steal to send New Orleans toppling a bit. Sean Payton took an uber-physical posture to win it down the stretch, but it was a game that could have gone either way, and you'd have to wonder about the Saints' psyche a little had they lost it. It was hardly a masterpiece, but it was vital.
- Poo-poo it if you like, but Ron Rivera is in deep water. His owner, David Tepper, watched the Browns be a doormat for virtually all of his time as a minority owner of the Steelers, and that response by the defense that Rivera now coaches won't be seen as close to good enough. Five straight losses would make any owner ask some questions, and the collapse in Carolina is going to prompt pointed inquires there.
- I have to hand it to the Dolphins. They are a scrappy bunch that finds ways to string together enough plays to win games, and
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