NFL Week 14 Grades: Seahawks get 'A' for win over Vikings, Patriots get a 'D' for self-destructing
Here are the Week 14 grades for every team that played on Sunday
In a game where Tom Brady threw for 358 yards and the Patriots blocked two punts, New England lost 34-33 because of something you almost never seem from Bill Belichick-coached team: Mental errors that led to their eventual self-destruction.
The mistakes came from everyone, including Brady to Belichick to kicker Stephen Gostkowski.
Belchick's biggest blunder probably came on the final play. With the Dolphins sitting at their own 31-yard line, the Patriots coach put in his Hail Mary defense even though a Hail Mary would have been nearly impossible at that point. Ryan Tannehill would have had to throw a ball nearly 75 yards, which just wasn't going to happen because it was a wet day, he only had one good ankle (due to an injury earlier in the game), and let's not forget, this is a guy who missed seven weeks with a shoulder injury.
The problem with having your Hail Mary defense on the field is that you just don't match up with they other team. The Patriots defense included Rob Gronkowski as the last line of defense, and although he's a fantastic tight end, he's not the guy you want on the field trying to tackle a speedy running back or wide receiver, two of the positions that will almost always be touching the ball in a game-ending situation. Belichick out-thought himself and it cost his team the game.
If you watch the Dolphins' miracle play, you'll notice that they almost went UNTOUCHED as they were scoring their winning touchdown, and that's because the the Patriots took their better defensive players off the field in favor of guys like Gronk who could potentially bat down a Hail Mary pass.
Of course, that Hail Mary was only part of the problem for the Patriots.
Gostkowski also struggled in this game. When you lose by one point, every missed kick is crucial, and Gostkowski missed two of them. The Patriots kicker missed an extra point in the third quarter and a 42-yard field goal in the third quarter. Gostkowski wasn't the only Patriots player who left points on the board though, Brady also deserves some blame for the way the first half ended.
With 21 seconds left, the Patriots had a first-and-goal at Miami's two-yard line. At the minimum, the Patriots should have walked away with a field goal in this situation, but they got nothing, because Brady took a sack on third down. The problem for the Patriots is that they didn't have any timeouts left, so the clock ran out before they could run another play. The sack came one play after Brady missed a wide open Chris Hogan in the end zone.
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In an odd coincidence, the Patriots had another odd situation near the goal line, but this time, it happened at the end of the game. With just under two minutes to play, the Patriots were leading 30-28 and they had a first-and-goal at Miami's 7-yard line. Instead of going for a touchdown, the Patriots were apparently trying to run out the clock because they called for three straight runs. Although they did get a field goal on the drive, they left the Dolphins with 16 seconds to work with, which was all Miami needed to pull off the miracle.
The miracle for the Dolphins wasn't the final play, but the fact that a team that rarely makes so many mistakes ended up making some costly mistakes.
Miami 34-33 over New England
Just to give you an idea of how crazy this loss was for the Patriots, it marked the first time in Tom Brady's career that New England lost a regular season game after he threw for more than 350 yards with zero interceptions. Before this week, the Patriots had been 23-0 in that situation. The one upside to this loss is that Gronk finally looked like Gronk with eight catches for 107 yards and a touchdown.
We don't have many rules here, but if you win on a miracle play, you get an 'A.' In the Brandon Bolden revenge game, the Dolphins won thanks to Bolden and a miracle. After only carrying the ball once all season, Bolden got two carries against New England and he made the most of them as he scored two touchdowns, one from 54 yards and one from six yards. it was probably a good feeling for Bolden, who signed with Miami this year after spending the first six seasons of his career in New England. Frank Gore also had a huge game, averaging 8.67 yards per carry on 12 rushes.
New York Jets 27-23 over Buffalo
After missing more than a month due to injury, Jets quarterback Sam Darnold returned with a bang on Sunday. Well, first he shook off some rust, and then he returned with a bang. With the Jets trailing 23-20, Darnold led his team on an impressive 61-yard drive that ended with New York scoring the game-winning touchdown with just 1:17 left. On the drive, Darnold threw for 52 yards, which was impressive considering that he only threw for 118 yards on all of New York's other possessions combined. Of course, Darnold also got some major help from a Jets defense that sacked Josh Allen three times and forced three turnovers.
With the way Josh Allen is running, maybe the Bills should think about becoming an option team, because this throwing thing doesn't seem to working too well for their rookie quarterback. Although Allen had another huge game on the ground (nine carries, 101 yards, one touchdown), he threw two picks, including a crushing interception on Buffalo's final drive that killed any chances the Bills had of a comeback win.
New York Giants 40-16 over Washington
The Giants probably could have won on Sunday with their 'D' game, but they brought their 'A' game anyway. The Giants defense terrorized Mark Sanchez, sacking him five times, with 1.5 of those coming from Olivier Vernon. The Giants also picked off Sanchez twice, including a first quarter interception that Curtis Riley returned nine yards for a touchdown. Oh, and let's not forget about Saquon Barkley, who steamrolled the Redskins for 170 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries.
The Redskins haven't contacted Colin Kaepernick about their quarterback job yet, but maybe they should, just so no one has to sit through another Sanchez start ever again. Sanchez was so bad in this game that the Redskins decided to bench him in the second half for someone who hadn't thrown a regular season pass since 2011 (Josh Johnson). Sanchez finished 6 of 14 for just 38 yards and he also threw two interceptions, including a pick-six. Even if the Redskins don't sign Kaepernick, Sanchez might not start another game, and that's because Johnson came in and threw for 195 yards and a touchdown, while also adding 45 rushing yards and another touchdown on the ground. For a guy trying to shake off seven years of rust, it was actually a decent performance.
Kansas City 27-24 over Baltimore (OT)
Baltimore held the Chiefs to just 24 points in regulation, Kansas City's lowest total of the year, but it wasn't enough for the Ravens, because their offense couldn't come through in the clutch. The Ravens offense had two chances to end this game with a touchdown, but they came up empty both times. One of those chances came at the end of regulation, but the Ravens drive quickly ended after Lamar Jackson lost a fumble. Lamar Jackson's accuracy (13 of 24 for 147 yards) is still an issue, and it will be interesting to see what the Ravens do once Joe Flacco is completely healthy.
Patrick Mahomes might have locked up the MVP vote with the way he played on Sunday. Going up against the NFL's top defense, Mahomes threw for 377 yards and two touchdowns. Although he's put up bigger numbers this season, this game might have been his most impressive performance. Mahomes made multiple clutch throws, including an amazing 48-yard completion to Tyreek Hill on fourth-and-9 with 90 seconds left to play that allowed Kansas City to stay in the game. The Ravens had no answer for Hill, who caught eight passes for 139 yards. Defensively, Justin Houston might have saved the game for Kansas city when he stripped Lamar Jackson and the Chiefs recovered on Baltimore's final offensive possession of regulation.
New Orleans 28-14 over Tampa Bay
After sleep-walking through the first half, the Saints offense caught fire in the second half, With Tampa leading 14-3 in the third quarter, the Bucs went on a roll where they scored a touchdown on three straight possessions. Drew Brees made up for two early turnovers with a rushing touchdown and a passing touchdown. Defensively, the Saints held the Bucs to just 81 yards in the second half after getting rolled for 198 yards in the first half. Cameron Jordan came up big for New Orleans by tallying two of his team's four sacks.
The Buccaneers might have been able to pull off the upset in this game if their special teams didn't decide to take the day off. Not only did kicker Cairo Santos miss two field goals (46, 40), but the Bucs also had a punt blocked in the third quarter that basically let New Orleans back in the game. Having a punt blocked seemed to deflate the Buccaneers because they only totaled 33 yards on their final four offensive possessions combined.
Cleveland 26-20 over Carolina
If you've been watching the Panthers during their losing streak, which has not reached five games, you've probably noticed a formula: Christian McCaffrey keeps the Panthers in the game and then Cam Newton loses it. McCaffrey had a big game in Cleveland (22 touches, 101 yards, two touchdowns), but Newton couldn't get it down done the stretch. With Carolina sitting at Cleveland's 3-yard line and less than four minutes left to play, Newton couldn't get his team in the end zone. The Panthers quarterback actually got another shot to lead a comeback, but he threw an interception on Carolina's final possession of the game. Newton has now thrown eight picks over the Panthers' past five games after just throwing four interceptions through Carolina's first eight games.
The Bake Show is for real. Although the Browns made plenty of mistakes in this game (two lost fumbles, missed extra point), they won because Baker Mayfield was nearly perfect. Mayfield completed 18 of 22 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown against Carolina. Mayfield also got some serious help from Jarvis Landry, who became Cleveland's version of Christian McCaffrey. Not only did he catch three passes for 57 yards and a touchdown, but he also added 54 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown.
Green Bay 34-20 over Atlanta
After scoring a touchdown on their opening drive, the Falcons offense went colder than the outdoor temperature in Green Bay. Here's what happened on their six possessions after the TD: Missed field goal, punt, Matt Ryan throws a pick-six, punt, punt, punt. It was an ugly performance for a Falcons offense that did most of its damage in garbage time.
In their first game since firing Mike McCarthy, the Packers arguably had one of their most impressive all-around performances of the season. Defensively, the Packers came up with multiple big plays, including a 22-yard pick-six by Bashaud Breeland in the second quarter that basically turned the game into a rout. Offensively, Aaron Rodgers showed off his arm and his legs. Not only did the Packers quarterback throw for 196 yards and two touchdowns, but he also ran for 44 yards. Davante Adams continued an impressive season with seven catches for 81 yards and a touchdown.
Indianapolis 24-21 over Houston
Andrew Luck might get all the headlines, but the Colts defense continues to come up big for Indianapolis. A big reason the Colts were able to pull off this upset is because Indy absolutely harassed Deshaun Watson. The Colts sacked Watson five times in the game, with two of those coming from Denico Autry. Of course, Luck probably also deserves some credit for this win. All he did was throw for 399 yards and two touchdowns in a game that the Colts had to win if they wanted to keep their playoff hopes alive and their chances of winning the AFC South. Nearly half of Luck's passing yards went to T.Y. Hilton, who caught nine passes for 199 yards, which was the second-highest total of his career. Hilton seems to love Houston: The receiver has only gone over 175 yards a total of four times in his career and three of them have come in Houston.
The Texans nine-game winning streak came to an ugly end in this game. The Texans biggest problem is that their offense just never got into any rhythm against the Colts. Deshaun Watson got sacked five times and rarely had time to throw. The Texans tried to take some pressure off Watson by going to their ground game, but the Colts shut that down, holding Houston to just 89 yards on 25 carries. The offensive struggles meant three three-and-outs and a season-high eight punts for Trevor Daniel.
San Francisco 20-14 over Denver
All you need to know about this game is that the Broncos couldn't move the ball on a 49ers defense that was came into the week giving up 28 points per game, which ranked 28th in the NFL. The Broncos offense works best when they can get the running game going, but Phillip Lindsay (14 carries, 30 yards) got shut down by the 49ers.
It looks like the 49ers might have found their newest version of Joe Montana to Jerry Rice and it's Nick Mullens to George Kittle. Wait, what? OK, those two might not be on the Montana-Rice level just yet, but they did combine for a monster game to lead the 49ers to the upset win. Kittle caught seven passes for 210 yards, which is the second highest total ever for a tight end. As for Mullens, he completed 20 of 33 passes for 332 yards and two touchdowns. It was an impressive performance for a rookie quarterback going up against one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Los Angeles Chargers 26-21 over Cincinnati
It took 14 weeks, but the Bengals finally figured out what makes their offense work, and that's giving the ball to Joe Mixon. Mixon kept the Bengals in this game by running all over the Chargers defense with 26 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown. Of course, the biggest surprise in this game is that the Bengals defense was able to hold the Chargers to just 288 yards, which marks just the second time this season they've held a team under 300 yards and is the lowest total Cincinnati has allowed all year.
With a showdown looming on Thursday against the Chiefs, it almost looked like the Chargers were sleep-walking through this game. In a twist, the best performance of the game for the Chargers might have actually come from their kicker. The team that always seems to struggle at the position got a 4-for-4 performance from Michael Badgley, which included a franchise record 59-yard field goal to end the first half.
Oakland 24-21 over Pittsburgh
Flying to the west coast always seems to turn into a nightmare for the Steelers and that continued on Sunday. The Steelers had to play part of this game without Ben Roethlisberger, who left with a rib injury. However, Big Ben did return and set the Steelers up for a possible game-tying field goal, but Chris Boswell slipped and missed his 40-yard attempt on the final play of the game. Boswell also missed a field goal attempt from 39 yards in what has been a disastrous season. With the loss, Roethlisberger is now 0-4 all-time in Oakland.
After the Raiders defense kept things close for three quarters, Derek Carr took over in the fourth quarter and won the game for Oakland. With the Raiders trailing 14-10 to start the quarter, Carr led his team on two scoring drives where he threw for a total of 131 yards and two touchdowns. The Steelers defense had no idea how to stop Jared Cook, who caught seven passes for 116 yards.
Dallas 29-23 over Philadelphia (OT)
Doug Pederson loves to take risks and maybe he should have taken one by going for two after his team scored a game-tying touchdown with just 1:39 left to play in regulation. The reason for that is because the Eagles defense looked exhausted, which made sense, considering they were on the field for 45 minutes in this game. Although the Eagles defense gave up 576 yards -- the team's most since 1966 -- it's hard to fault them for the loss. Philly's offense did absolutely nothing in the first half and this game could have easily turned into a blowout if the Eagles defense didn't come up with several huge turnovers.
The Cowboys could have given up two first-round picks for Amari Cooper and they'd probably still feel like they won the trade after what Cooper did to the Eagles. The former Raiders receiver exploded on Philadelphia, catching 10 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning touchdown from 15 yards away in overtime. Of course, let's not forget about Ezekiel Elliott who was a perfect compliment to Cooper with 193 total yards (114 rushing, 79 receiving).
Detroit 17-3 over Arizona
The Lions got a pick-six from Darius Slay in the third quarter and that was basically all they needed to beat Arizona. Slay's score was big because the Lions offense couldn't move the ball at all on the Cardinals. The Lions totaled just 218 yards, which marks just the second time since 2011 that they've been held under 220.
The Cardinals defense forced a turnover and held Matthew Stafford to the second-lowest passing total of his career (101 yards), but it wasn't enough, because the Cards couldn't get anything going on offense. Josh Rosen got sacked three times and giving the ball to David Johnson wasn't really an option, because the Lions were ready for him. Johnson totaled just 61 yards on 23 touches, which is an ugly 2.65 yards per touch.
Chicago 15-6 over Los Angeles Rams
This game was basically a disaster from start to finish for the Rams offense. Playing in the ice cold weather of Chicago, Jared Goff looked highly uncomfortable all night. The Rams quarterback threw a career-high four interceptions in a game where the Rams didn't even hit the 225-yard mark on offense. Things were so ugly that the Rams were held to their lowest point total under Sean McVay (six) and their lowest yardage total (214). The Rams defense kept things interesting by picking off Mitchell Trubisky three times, but in the end, it meant nothing, because L.A.s offense couldn't capitalize on the Bears' mistakes. Of course, the good news for the Rams is that if they earn at least the two-seed in the NFC, they won't have to play in any more games in the arctic weather they saw in Chicago.
It's not easy to shut down the second-highest scoring team in the NFL, but that's exactly what the Bears defense did on Sunday. The Bears defense almost single-handedly won this game with a performance that included four interceptions, three sacks and a safety. Chicago also shut down Todd Gurley, holding him to just 28 yards, the third lowest total of his career. Even more impressive is probably the fact that the Bears kept the Rams out of the end zone, marking the first time in the Sean McVay era that the Rams didn't score a TD.
Seattle 21-7 over Minnesota
The Vikings might be having buyer's remorse with Kirk Cousins after the way he played in Seattle. Although Cousins threw for 208 yards, 70 of those came during garbage-time on the Vikings' final drive when the game was well out of reach. During non-garbage time, Minnesota's $84 million man couldn't get the Vikings offense going at all. In the first half, Cousins threw for just 27 yards, which was the lowest of his career for a first half. Although the scoreboard says this was a beatdown, this was actually a close game until the Vikings had a field goal blocked in the fourth quarter on a controversial play. Seattle's Bobby Wagner illegally used his teammate as leverage to jump over the line and block the kick, but no flag was thrown. At that point, the score was 6-0. After that, the Seahawks scored two touchdowns, including one that came off a Cousins fumble. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer probably isn't going to be happy with Cousins or the refs after both their performances in Seattle.
If the NFL handed out an award for best defensive performance of the season, the Seahawks would probably win it for what they did to the Vikings on Monday. In an absolute masterpiece, the Seahawks defense scored a touchdown, had a goal line stand and blocked a field goal as they basically willed Seattle to a win. Offensively, although the Seahawks did absolutely nothing through the air (Russell Wilson threw for just 72 yards and also had an inexplicable interception), the ground attack more than made up for air struggles with a 214-yard performance. The Seahawks rushing performance was extra impressive because it came against a Vikings defense that was giving up less than 100 yards per game on the ground.
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