When you don't play quarterback, it's not easy to get yourself inserted into the MVP conversation, but Jonathan Taylor might have actually done that after what he did in Buffalo on Sunday.
Taylor's performance was even more impressive because he did it against a Bills defense that was surrendering just 89.3 rushing yards per game going into Week 11, which was the best mark in the AFC and third-best in the NFL. There was no reason to think the Colts were going to total more than 260 yards on the ground, but that's exactly what they did and most of it came courtesy of Taylor, who simply couldn't be stopped.
On the Colts opening drive alone, Taylor carried the ball six times for 35 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown, and that was a sign of things to come on the day.
That score kickstarted a day that ended with him rushing for 185 yards. Every time the Colts got near the end zone, they called Taylor's number and every time they called, he answered. Not only did he have four rushing touchdowns, but he also added a 23-yard touchdown catch.
The five touchdowns by Taylor was even more impressive when you consider that the Bills had only surrendered five total touchdowns to running backs all season before Sunday. With his five scores, Taylor became the first player in Colts history to score five touchdowns, which is almost unbelievable when you consider that he plays for an organization that's had guys like Edgerrin James, Marshall Faulk, Eric Dickerson and Marvin Harrison walk through its doors.
Taylor now has eight straight games with at least one touchdown and 100 or more scrimmage yards, which makes him just the second player since 1950 to pull that off. The only other player to do it was LaDainian Tomlinson, which is notable, because Tomlinson ended up winning MVP in 2006, making him one of just two running backs to win the award over the past 15 years. Taylor might not win MVP this year, but in a season where there's no frontrunner, he certainly belongs in the conversation and if the Colts keep winning, he's only going to become a more prominent part of that conversation.
Thanks to Taylor and a defense that's slowly turning into one of the NFL's best, the Colts are not only looking like playoff contenders, but they're looking like a team that might be able to do some damage once the postseason rolls around.
Indianapolis 41-15 over Buffalo
|It was a historic day for the Colts as Jonathan Taylor scored a franchise-record five touchdowns (four rushing, one receiving) in the win against Buffalo. The Bills had no answer for him or the Colts rushing game in general as Indy rushed for 264 yards as a team on 5.7 yards per carry (185 yards from Taylor). However, it wasn't just a dominating day by Taylor as the defense also held Josh Allen and company to just seven points for the large majority of the game and also had a number of key turnovers early. The Colts played strong complementary football early in the first half as they were able to capitalize on two early turnovers by the Bills and turn each of those ensuing possessions into touchdowns to help build their sizable lead.|
|It was one of those days for the Bills where nothing seemed to be clicking. They were pushed around in the running game by Jonathan Taylor and couldn't adjust throughout the game to slow down the Colts back as he scored five total touchdowns. The Achilles heel for Buffalo in this loss was turnovers in critical moments, which were especially detrimental as the Colts came into this game as the No. 1 ranked team in points off turnovers. After a Josh Allen interception on the Bills opening drive, Indy went on an 11-play touchdown drive. Later in the first half, Isaiah McKenzie fumbled a kickoff return and that was also immediately turned into a touchdown by Taylor. That helped put Buffalo in a hole that they ultimately couldn't overcome. It also didn't help that kicker Tyler Bass missed both of his field goal attempts after coming into Week 11 connecting on 16-straight field goals. |
Colts-Bills grades by Tyler Sullivan (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Tampa Bay 30-10 over N.Y. Giants
|Everything about this game was embarrassing for the Giants. The defense was embarrassingly bad on a night where they got picked apart by Tom Brady. Offensively, Daniel Jones threw one of the most embarrassing interceptions that's been thrown by any NFL quarterback this year. The most embarrassing part about this loss is that the Giants came into the game off a bye and still managed to get blown out. Through 11 weeks, the Giants look like the worst team in the NFC East. |
|This game turned into the Tom Brady show. Things came so easy for the Buccaneers QB that it almost looked like he was playing against a scout team defense. With the Bucs basically giving up on their run game, the offense completely revolved around Brady, who threw for 307 yards on a night where he attempted 47 passes. Brady definitely seemed to enjoy the return of Rob Gronkowski to the lineup. Gronk finished with 71 yards and was one of four Buccaneers receivers who caught at least six passes. The Buccaneers also got a wildly impressive performance from a defense that absolutely shut down the Giants. Not only did they force three turnovers, but they also kept constant pressure on Daniel Jones making it nearly impossible for the Giants to do anything on offense. |
Baltimore 16-13 over Chicago
|With Lamar Jackson out, Tyler Huntley got the start at quarterback for Baltimore and although he looked overmatched for the better part of three quarters, he made some magic happen when it counted the most. With the Ravens trailing 13-9, Huntley led a 72-yard TD drive in the final two minutes to win the game for Baltimore. Huntley threw for 56 yards on the drive, which ended with a game-winning TD from Devonta Freeman. Of course, Huntley wouldn't have been in a position to win the game if not for a huge performance from Baltimore's special teams. Not only did Justin Tucker kick three field goals, but the the Ravens also tipped a punt in the fourth quarter, which led to a 17-yard kick by the Bears. The short punt set up one of Tucker's three field goals. With Lamar out, the Ravens needed a big game from their defense and special teams and that's exactly what they got.|
|The Bears offense struggled for three quarters, but then it got a small spark in the second half when Andy Dalton entered the game following an injury to Justin Fields. Dalton threw two long touchdown passes, including one that gave Chicago the lead under two minutes left, but the Bears defense melted down over the final 100 seconds of the game. The defense was likely gassed due to the fact that it was on the field for 39 minutes and 50 seconds. The Bears had the ball for just 21:10 in this game and NFL teams are now 0-18 this season when their time of possession is under 22 minutes. A big reason their time of possession was so low is because they went just 2 of 11 on third down conversions. |
Cleveland 13-10 over Detroit
|The Lions offense was bad with Jared Goff at QB, but it was even worse with Tim Boyle. The Lions QB threw two interceptions on a day where he had just 77 yards passing, but the Lions were able to keep things close thanks to a spirited performance from De'Andre Swift and an even more spirited performance from their defense. Swift, who rushed for 136 yards and a TD, was basically Detroit's entire offense in the game. Defensively, the Lions picked off Baker Mayfield twice in the second half, which kept things interesting until the final minutes of the game. |
|It's a good thing Nick Chubb returned this week because the Browns needed him to carry the offense. With Baker Mayfield struggling (15 of 29 for 179 yards, two interceptions), the Browns turned to Chubb, who carried the ball 22 times for 130 yards. Defensively, the Browns held the Lions to just 245 yards, but it's hard to give them much credit because they couldn't stop the Lions ground attack. It wasn't a pretty win for the Browns, but on a day of upsets in the NFL, no one in Cleveland will be complaining about the fact that the Browns won by just three points.|
Houston 22-13 over Tennessee
|On a rainy day in Nashville, the Texans didn't even produce 200 yards of total offense, but they were still able to pull off the upset thanks to a nearly perfect performance from their defense. The Texans picked off Ryan Tannehill a total of four times with two of those interceptions coming from Desmond King. One of the biggest defensive plays came from Kamu Grugier-Hill, who picked off Tannehill in the red zone and then proceeded to return it 82 yards to the Titans' 6-yard line. Overall, the Texans defense forced a total of five turnovers and those five turnovers led to 13 points for Houston. With 190 yards of total offense, the Texans had the fewest offensive yards of any team in a win this season.|
|It's almost impossible to win in the NFL when your quarterback throws four interception and that's exactly what Ryan Tannehill did in this game. Tannehill's day got off to a rough start with a pick on Tennessee's second possession and things only got uglier from there. The interceptions weren't the only big mistakes made by the Titans: They also failed on a fourth-and-1, missed an extra point and muffed a punt that gave Houston possession at Tennessee's 5-yard line. It was an ugly day of mistakes for a team that now has losses to the Texans and Jets. |
Miami 24-17 over N.Y. Jets
|Every time everyone seems ready to write off Tua Tagovailoa, he comes through with a game like this. The Dolphins QB completed 27 of 33 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns and both scoring throws were clutch. The first one game in the third quarter when he hit Mack Hollins for a 65-yard TD that gave Miami a 14-7 lead. The second one, which went to Myles Gaskin, came in fourth quarter and iced the win.|
|Despite being down to their third QB this season (Joe Flacco), the Jets were almost able to steal this game, but they just made one too many mistakes. The first big mistake came on the second quarter when Flacco lost a fumble after taking a sack at Miami's 5-yard line. The Jets also had two missed field goals from Matt Ammendola. Those three missed opportunities overshadowed a fantastic game from Elijah Moore, who caught eight passes for 141 yards and a TD.|
San Francisco 30-10 over Jacksonville
|The 49ers basically took the game plan they used on Monday against the Rams and used it again on Sunday in Jacksonville. For the second straight game, the 49ers pounded the ball on the ground and for the second straight game they made sure to get the ball in the hands of Deebo Samuel. The receiver carried the ball eight times for 79 yards and a TD, pacing a 49ers rushing attack that ran for 171 yards on 42 carries. The rushing total marks the first time since 1987 that the 49ers have carried the ball 42 or more times in consecutive games. The 49ers' passing game was also sharp as Jimmy Garoppolo was nearly perfect, completing 16 of 22 passes for 176 yards and two touchdowns. .|
|With nine minutes left in the second quarter, the Jaguars had only run four offensive plays and that was basically the story of their day: Their offense couldn't move the ball and their defense couldn't get off the field. If you can't do those things, you're not going to win in the NFL. The Jags had the ball for just 21:38 in this game and NFL teams are now 0-18 this season when their time of possession is under 22 minutes. |
Minnesota 34-31 over Green Bay
|Hard to fail them for coming so close to ruining every Vikings fan's afternoon; Aaron Rodgers was straight-up dealing in crunch time, making a potential comeback look too easy. But what was with the sloppy, undisciplined start? Losing Elgton Jenkins didn't help, but they got manhandled by the Vikings up front too often early on. Their secondary, meanwhile, had absolutely no answers for Justin Jefferson, especially when it mattered most.|
|To beat the Packers, you need to be able to make big plays in big moments, and they did just that. Kirk Cousins played with authority down the stretch, and Justin Jefferson did it even more. Their defense was victimized in the second half, nearly surrendering the entire game, but the fact they threw Aaron Rodgers and Co. off balance out of the gate made a big difference in the final result, forcing Green Bay to play catch-up for most of the day. Wild Card contenders? Definitely.|
Packers-Vikings grades by Cody Benjamin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Philadelphia 40-29 over New Orleans
|Trevor Siemian looked like a backup quarterback against an Eagles defense that attacked him and forced the veteran to make some errant throws in the first half, two of which were picked off and led to 14 Philadelphia points. The run defense was slaughtered by the Eagles ground game and the defensive line was beat up by the Eagles offensive line all afternoon. The Saints really missed Alvin Kamara in the offense, even though Mark Ingram carried the football well. This is a banged up football team that missed six starters on offense and continue to have special teams woes in the kicking game (another missed extra point). Sean Payton also made a questionable coaching decision by kicking a field goal down 33-19 with 7:22 left, deep in Eagles territory. The Saints were down two scores at the time and remained down two scores. Not a good day for New Orleans in all three phases of the game. |
|What else can one say about that performance. The Saints entered the game with the No. 1 run defense (72.9 yards allowed per game) and were No. 1 in yards per carry allowed (3.07) and the Eagles torched them for 242 yards and 4.8 yards per carry on 50 attempts. Jalen Hurts became the first quarterback since 2012 to run for three touchdowns in a game -- and the first in Eagles history -- while Miles Sanders had 94 yards in his return. Philadelphia's defense forced two huge takeaways in the first half that led to 14 points, highlighted by Darius Slay's 51-yard interception return for a score to put the Eagles up 27-7. The Saints tried to come back in the fourth, but the Eagles used the run game by Hurts and Sanders to put New Orleans away and hang up 40 against one of the best defenses in the league. Philadelphia is in a playoff race in the wild NFC, winning three of its last four. This team is starting to figure out its identity. |
Saints-Eagles grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Washington 27-21 over Carolina
|Cam who? This homecoming was not about Cam Newton or Ron Rivera. It was about Taylor Heinicke. The former Panthers backup completed 16 of 22 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns, and had the upper-hand on the No. 1 passing defense in the NFL all afternoon. For the second straight game, the defense stood tall as well, and forced the Panthers to turn the ball over on downs on their final two drives of the game. Two weeks, two upset wins. Washington is playing pretty well right now with Heinicke.|
|Cam Newton actually played well in his first start for the Panthers since Sept. 12, 2019, as he completed 21 of 27 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown. It's unfortunate he couldn't lead a game-winning drive even though he had a few chances. The Carolina defense was the most confusing facet of this loss. The No. 2 unit in the league struggled to stop Taylor Heinicke all afternoon, as Washington racked up 369 yards of total offense. Terry McLaurin was always open downfield, and Antonio Gibson rushed for 95 yards despite being benched for the whole second quarter.|
Titans-Saints grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Cincinnati 32-13 over Las Vegas
|When you're going up against one of the worst rushing defenses in the NFL, it makes sense to run the ball and that's exactly what the Bengals did against Las Vegas. Joe Mixon gashed up the Raiders for 123 yards and two touchdowns on a career-high 30 carries. Those two scores were more than enough for a Bengals defense that absolutely dominated the Raiders, forcing two turnovers and holding them to under 280 yards. Although Joe Burrow only completed 20 passes, 10 of them went for first downs on a day where Cincinnati absolutely dominated the time of possession. The Bengals also got four big field goals from Evan McPherson, including three that came from beyond 50 yards. Not everyone goes home from Vegas as a winner, but the Bengals definitely did and now they're right back in the thick of the AFC playoff race.|
|The Raiders lost their third straight game and this time, it was because their offense simply couldn't make any big plays when it mattered. Through the first three and a half quarters, the Raiders didn't convert a single third down, which led to a lot of punts and not a lot of points. The offense also turned the ball over twice in the second half, which led to 10 points for the Bengals. Although the defense slowed down the Bengals' passing game, it had no answer for Joe Mixon. For the third straight year, the Raiders are in the midst of a November collapse that's likely going to leave them on the outside looking in come playoff time.|
Kansas City 19-9 over Dallas
|So, why didn't the Cowboys walk away with a resounding "F" in this game? it's because while that's the grade earned by their offense -- fueled by poor play from the offensive line, Dak Prescott and his wide receivers -- the defense arguably landed an "A" for holding Patrick Mahomes to no touchdowns (on the ground or in the air) and grabbing an interception while also seeing rookie first-round pick Micah Parsons sack him on multiple occasions. Time and again, the Cowboys defense created opportunities, even without several starters, so the fact that their offensive counterparts didn't do the same in the absence of two star receivers isn't forgivable; and it balances out the overall grade as average.|
|For stringing together four wins and downing the high-flying Cowboys, the Chiefs earn a high grade here. Chris Jones logged a career-high four sacks in helping to lead the charge against a usually strong Dallas offensive line, and the pressure forced Dak Prescott into several bad throws -- whenever he wasn't picking grass out of his helmet from being planted over and over again. This was a game dominated by the Chiefs defense, and not Mahomes, who had a mostly forgettable game that pulled the overall grade down a bit for the Chiefs. If Mahomes was on, or rather if the Cowboys defense allowed him to be, this would've been another blowout loss for Dallas. It's a statement win, indeed, but for the much-maligned defense and not the offense that didn't fly as high as many thought they would.|
Cowboys-Chiefs grades by Patrik Walker (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
Arizona 23-13 over Seattle
|The Cardinals took care of business on the road to retake the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and they didn't even need Kyler Murray or DeAndre Hopkins. Colt McCoy completed 35 of 44 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns -- both of which went to tight end Zach Ertz. The defense held Russell Wilson to just 207 passing yards and 13 points, as this one never felt very close. Even when Seattle pulled within three points late in the fourth quarter, Arizona answered with a 10-play, 67-yard touchdown drive to put it away.|
|There are two reasons why the Seahawks "failed" in Week 11. One, they were dominated on their home field by a divisional opponent's backup QB, and two, this loss greatly hurts their playoff chances. If you want to know how this one went, the 12th man in Seattle released a flock of boo birds as early as the Seahawks' second offensive possession, and they were heard frequently throughout the entire game. Russell Wilson still doesn't look quite right, and then the defense made Colt McCoy look like a fringe MVP candidate. Not great.|
Cardinals-Seahawks grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
L.A. Chargers 41-37 over Pittsburgh
|Pittsburgh's defense could not overcome the absences of starters T.J. Watt, Joe Haden and Minkah Fitzpatrick. The defense allowed the Chargers to score on each of their first five possessions. The absence of Haden and Fitzpatrick was especially felt on Justin Herbert's game-winning touchdown pass to Mike Williams, who was wide open down the near sideline. Pittsburgh had no answer for Herbert, who made almost as many plays with his legs as he did with his arm. |
While Sunday marked the first time the Steelers scored 30 points this season, they left some points on the board after having to settle for field goals on two of their drives inside the Chargers' 20-yard line. They also failed to get much going on the ground, as Najee Harris ran for 39 of Pittsburgh's 55 yards before leaving the game midway through the fourth quarter. Harris left the game after sustaining a hit to the head after making a reception. Pittsburgh received a solid game from Ben Roethlisberger, who has nine touchdowns and no interceptions over his last five games. Johnson caught seven passes for 101 yards, while Chase Claypool caught five passes for 93 yards.
|Los Angeles received a big game from each of its main offensive playmakers. Herbert went 30 of 41 for 382 yards and three touchdowns and his one interception. He also led both teams with 90 rushing yards; his 36-yard carry set up Austin Ekeler's fourth touchdown of the game. Ekeler, who caught and ran for two touchdowns apiece, amassed 115 all-purpose yards on just 17 touches. Keenan Allen caught nine passes for 112 yards, while Williams caught five passes for 97 yards that included the game-winning, 53-yard touchdown. They weren't great, but the Chargers' defense did come up with two key red-zone stops in the first half that included Derwin James and Joe Gaziano's fourth-down stop of Pat Freiermuth on fourth and goal. They also forced a field goal after Joe Schobert's fourth-down stuff of Ekeler with 3:48 left and the score tied at 34. Joey Bosa had one of the Chargers' two sacks on Pittsburgh's final offensive drive that ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down.|
Steelers-Chargers grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)
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