NFL Week 15 Grades: Cowboys, Giants get an 'F' for ugly losses, Saints earn 'B' behind defense

The Dallas Cowboys had a chance to clinch the NFC East on Sunday, but instead, they got a Texas-sized beat down from the Indianapolis Colts

When you get shut out for the first time in 15 years, it takes a total collapse and that's basically what happened to the Cowboys during their 23-0 loss at LucasOil Stadium. The odd thing about this loss is that the Cowboys didn't play terrible, they just seemed to choke in every important situation that came up, starting with their opening drive. 

After getting the ball to start the game, the Cowboys immediately drove into field goal range, and that's when this happened:

It's almost fitting that Brett Maher's 48-yard field goal attempt got blocked, because that basically set the tone for the rest of the game, and not in a good way for the Cowboys. 

On their next drive, the Cowboys once again marched right down the field. This time, the Cowboys drove down to Indy's three-yard line, where they eventually faced a fourth-and-1, and like the field goal attempt, the Cowboys line got destroyed as the Colts made another big play. 

That was basically the story of the game. Every time the Cowboys took one step forward, they took two steps back and then shot themselves in the foot. Every time Jason Garrett took a risk, it blew up in his face. Including that failed run by Elliott, the Cowboys converted just one of five fourth down attempts in the game. 

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For a team that had a shot to clinch the division, the Cowboys didn't look ready to play and Garrett basically admitted that. 

"We didn't play well enough in any phase of our team in this ballgame to win it," Garrett said after the game, via the Dallas Morning News. "We didn't deserve to win, they did. They did a better job than we did and we are going to get back to work."

When your team doesn't show up for the biggest game of its season, that's on the coach. The Cowboys might have been the hottest team in football over the past five weeks, but after Sunday's loss, it's hard to feel confident about them advancing in the playoffs, especially if they're playing on the road. Garrett has struggled getting his team ready for road games this year with the Cowboys now 2-5 on the road after the loss to Indy.

The only good news for the Cowboys is that they won't have to leave Dallas for the wild-card round. As long as they win the NFC East, they'll be guaranteed at least one home playoff game.  

Indianapolis 23-0 over Dallas

Cowboys: F

The game started with a Cowboys' field goal getting blocked and things only seemed to get worse from there. The Cowboys couldn't protect Dak Prescott (sacked three times), they turned the ball over twice and they struggled on every down that mattered (4 of 12 on third down conversions, 1 of 5 on fourth down). Although the Cowboys held Andrew Luck in check, that didn't really matter because Marlon Mack steamrolled them for 139 yards. 

Colts: A+

If the rest of America isn't aware of how dominant the Colts defense has been this season, they are now. In a game where Andrew Luck threw for under 200 yards and zero touchdowns, the Colts rolled the Cowboys thanks to their defense and running back Marlon Mack. Defensively, the Colts came up with multiple big fourth down stops, including one in the second quarter where they stuffed Ezekiel Elliott on a fourth-and-1 from Indy's three-yard line. Overall, the Cowboys went just 1 of 5 on fourth down as the Colts defense came up with big play after big play. As for Mack, he rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns, which was a huge performance, considering it came against a Cowboys defense that went into Sunday's game ranked third in the NFL against the run. 

Minnesota 41-17 over Miami

Dolphins: D

The only miracle for the Dolphins in this game was that Ryan Tannehill made it out alive. The Dolphins quarterback got beat up by a Vikings defense that sacked him nine times. Tannehill was already playing on a bad ankle and his offensive line didn't do him any favors. The Dolphins only put up 193 yards in Minnesota and most of those came from running back Kalen Ballage, who scored on a 75-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.  

Vikings: A-

With offensive coordinator John DeFilippo getting canned last week, the play-calling duties in Minnesota went to Kevin Stefanski on Sunday and he got off to a blazing hot start. With Stefanski in charge, the Vikings scored a touchdown on their first three offensive possessions. Stefanski's smartest move was probably getting Dalvin Cook the ball as often as possible. Cook totaled 163 yards and two touchdowns on 20 touches. Oh, and let's not forget about a Vikings defense that racked up nine sacks. There have only been three NFL games this season where a team recorded nine or more sacks and the Vikings have two of them. The Vikings scored as many points in this game as they had in their past three games combined. 

Cincinnati 30-16 over Oakland

Raiders: D

With the Raiders coming from the pacific time zone, this game felt like a 10 a.m. kickoff for them, which might help explain why their offense appeared to be asleep at the wheel for most of the first half. On the Raiders' first five possessions of the game, they punted the ball three times and lost two fumbles. By the time Oakland put together something that even remotely resembled a drive, they were already down 17-0 and there was no coming back. The Raiders put up just 297 yards against a Bengals defense that went into Sunday's game ranked dead last in the league in total defense, giving up 421.9 yards per game. 

Bengals: B+

The Bengals offense has suddenly turned into "The Joe Mixon Show," which seemed to work out for everyone on Sunday, except for the Raiders. With a 129 yards and two touchdowns, Mixon led a Bengals rushing attack that totaled 171 yards. The Bengals ran the ball 41 times, which was their highest total since 2014. Defensively, Derek Carr is probably going to have nightmares about Geno Atkins this week. The Bengals defensive tackle tallied a career-high three sacks in a game where Cincinnati had five total. 

Tennessee 17-0 over New York Giants

Titans: A-

If the Titans are going to make the playoffs, it looks like their plan is to ride Derrick Henry all the way there. One week after setting the franchise-record with 238 yards, Henry went off again, carrying the ball 33 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants. The only thing more impressive than Henry was the play of the Titans' defense. Tennessee sacked Eli Manning three times, forced two turnovers and pitched their first shutout in 18 years. 

Giants: F

If the Giants are still thinking about letting Eli Manning be their starting quarterback in 2019, maybe film from this game will change their mind. Manning started the second half by turning the ball over on New York's first two possessions. The first turnover was an interception that came deep in Titans' territory. The second turnover was a lost fumble that gave the Titans possession inside of New York's 15-yard line and led to a Tennessee touchdown. 

Washington 16-13 over Jacksonville

Redskins: B

On a day where the Redskins were starting a quarterback (Josh Johnson) who hadn't started a game since 2011, Washington's defense made things easy for Johnson by carrying the Redskins to a win. The Redskins absolutely manhandled the Jaguars offense. Not only did they rack up six sacks, but they also forced two turnovers, including a key fourth quarter interception by Fabian Moreau that set up an eventual game-winning field goal from Dustin Hopkins. As for those sacks, Ryan Kerrigan and Jonathan Allen did most of the damage with two each. 

Jaguars: C

The Jaguars might want to think about going back to Blake Bortles after the way Cody Kessler performed against the Redskins. Kessler threw for just 57 yards as the Jags' offense was unable to move the ball. As a matter of fact, the offense didn't even score a touchdown in this game (The only Jacksonville TD came on a punt return by Dede Westbrook). The Jags have now only scored one offensive TD in Kessler's three starts. 

Baltimore 20-12 over Tampa Bay

Buccaneers: C

The Buccaneers knew exactly what the Ravens were going to do on offense -- RUN THE BALL -- and they still couldn't stop it. As a matter of fact, things got so ugly that the Bucs gave up 242 yards on the ground, which is the most Tampa has given up in a game since the 2011 season. Offensively, the Bucs got big games from Mike Evans (four catches 121 yards) and Peyton Barber (19 carries, 85 yards, one TD), but Jameis Winston struggled in the rain, completing just 13 of 25 passes. Winston also threw an ugly interception in the fourth quarter of game where he threw for just 157 yards. 

Ravens: B

The Ravens should probably change their team logo to a bulldozer and that's because their rushing attack has been bulldozing the opposition ever since Lamar Jackson took over as starting quarterback. In the win over Tampa, the Ravens totaled 242 yards on the ground, with 104 of those coming from Gus Edwards and 95 coming from Jackson. It's easy to see why John Harbaugh probably loves this new-look offense for Baltimore: Since he took over as coach in 2008, The Ravens are 12-0 when rushing for 215 or more yards in a game with three of those wins coming this year with Jackson at quarterback. This game probably could have been a blowout, but the Ravens turned the ball over twice, which led to 10 points for Tampa. 

Buffalo 14-13 over Detroit

Lions: B-

The Lions are probably going to be kicking themselves over the way they lost this game. Detroit played good enough to win, but the Lions special teams ended up choking in two key situations. After Detroit's first touchdown, Matt Prater didn't even get to attempt the extra point due to a botched snap, which cost the Lions a point. Prater also missed a 48-yard field goal. The Lions' ugly special teams performance overshadowed a huge game from Kenny Golladay, who caught seven passes for 146 yards. 

Bills: B

At one point in this game, the Bills were literally down to zero running backs due to injuries, so Josh Allen did something he almost never does: He showed off his arm. In the fourth quarter, Allen threw a 42-yard touchdown to Robert Foster that ended up being the game-winner. Allen only completed 50 percent of his passes against Detroit (13 of 26), but he came through when it mattered. The Bills other touchdown came on a three-yard run by Allen. 

Atlanta 40-14 over Arizona

Cardinals: F

The Cardinals offense has been pretty bad all season, but it might have finally reached rock-bottom in Atlanta. Josh Rosen single-handedly turned the ball over three times in the first half, which led to 21 points for the Falcons. Of course, you can't completely blame Rosen for his struggles and that's because he got beat up playing behind an Arizona offensive line that surrendered seven sacks (six on Rosen and one on Mike Glennon). Basically, the worst offense in the NFL played like the worst offense in the NFL. 

Falcons: A

It probably came about five weeks too late, but the Falcons finally put together their best game of the 2018 season. The Falcons dominated the Cardinals in every way you can dominated a team. Arizona had no answer for Tevin Coleman, who rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown on just 11 carries. Julio Jones also caused some problems for the Cardinals, catching six passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. The Falcons defense even got in on the action with seven sacks and a pick-six by Deion Jones

Chicago 24-17 over Green Bay

Packers: C-

With their season on the line, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense just couldn't get it done in the red zone. The Packers made four trips to the red zone in this game, but only walked away with one touchdown. When you're playing a defense as good as Chicago is, you have to maximize your point-scoring opportunities and Green Bay just couldn't do that. Rodgers had a rough day in Chicago. Not only did he get sacked five times, but he threw his first interception since Week 4. 

Bears: B+

After being terrorized by Aaron Rodgers for the past 10 years, the Bears finally got sweet, sweet revenge on the Packers quarterback. Thanks to their win in this game, the Bears clinched the NFC North and they did it by smashing Rodgers. The Bears defense sacked him five times with 2.5 of those coming from Khalil Mack. Eddie Jackson also had an interception, which is notable because it basically clinched the win and ended Rodgers' NFL-record of 402 pass attempts without a pick. Mitchell Trubisky also proved that he can come up big when the Bears need him. The second-year quarterback threw for 235 yards and two touchdowns. 

San Francisco 26-23 over Seattle (OT)

Seahawks: B-

It's hard to grade the Seahawks for their performance in this game and that's because it felt like they were getting penalized on nearly every other play. The Seahawks were flagged 14 times for 148 yards, which is mostly notable because that's the highest penalty yardage total in franchise history and the highest total against any NFC team this season. Despite the penalties, the Seahawks had plenty of chances to win this game. The Seahawks had three offensive possessions over the final 4:30 of the fourth quarter and overtime, and came up empty on each drive. The loss wasted a bruising performance from Chris Carson, who rushed for 119 yards and had what might go down as the greatest one-yard touchdown run in NFL history. (You can click here to see the run). 

49ers: B+

It's not often your special teams unit carries you to a win, but that's what happened for the 49ers on Sunday. Special teams accounted for 20 of San Francisco's 26 points in the 49ers wild win. Despite a torrential downpour in California, Robbie Gould was still able to nail four field goals, including a game-winner in overtime. Richie James also had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter that gave the 49ers an early lead. Although he's not on special teams, Nick Mullens was also pretty special, throwing for 275 yards and a touchdown. 

Pittsburgh 17-10 over New England

Patriots: C-

Bill Belichick is probably going to have a meltdown when he watches film of this game with his team. The Patriots made plenty of mistakes in this game, including an ugly red zone interception from Tom Brady in the fourth quarter that killed a New England scoring drive. Speaking of the red zone, the Patriots offense couldn't get anything done in that part of the field. The Patriots got inside of Pittsburgh's 15-yard line three times in this game and only came away with three total points. 

Steelers: B+

With James Conner out due to an ankle injury, Jaylen Samuels saved the day for the Steelers with 142 yards rushing on 19 carries. Despite those numbers, Samuels might have been outshined by a Steelers defense that basically shutdown the Patriots for the better part of three quarters. After giving up a 63-yard touchdown pass on New England's opening possession, the Steelers didn't let the Patriots in the end zone again for the rest of the game. Everything about the Steelers' defensive performance was perfect: They constantly pressured Tom Brady and when they weren't pressuring him, he still had trouble throwing the ball because the coverage was tight. 

Philadelphia 30-23 over Los Angeles Rams

Eagles: B+

Not only did the Eagles pull off a stunning upset in Los Angeles, but they did it with their backup quarterback. Playing in his first game since Week 2, Nick Foles threw for 270 yards and kept the Eagles offense moving all night long. Foles' favorite target was Alshon Jeffery, who caught eight passes for 160 yards. Wendell Smallwood also came up big for Philadelphia with the first multi-touchdown game of his career. With the Eagles now back in the thick of the playoff race, it might be time for them to break out the dog masks again. 

Rams: C

For the second straight week, the Rams' offense struggled; for the second straight week, it was mostly because of Jared Goff. Although Goff threw for 339 yards, he also threw two interceptions, including an inexcusable pick in the third quarter that led to an Eagles touchdown. The Rams also made several ugly mistakes late in the game, including a muffed punt that the Eagles recovered in the fourth quarter. The Rams also seemed to have zero situational awareness. On the team's final offensive drive of the game, Todd Gurley cost his team nearly 15 seconds of game time when he didn't go out of bounds after catching a short pass from Goff. The Rams could have used those 15 seconds because the clock ran out with L.A. at Philly's 18-yard line for the final play of the game. 

MONDAY

New Orleans 12-9 over Carolina

Saints: B

The Saints offense got shut down for most of the night, but that didn't matter, because their defense shined under the primetime lights of Monday Night Football. Not only did the Saints defense sack Cam Newton four times, but they came up with two huge turnovers. The first big play came when Eli Apple picked off Newton in the end zone just before halftime. The second big play came in the third quarter when Vonn Bell forced a fumble after a big run by D.J. Moore brought the Panthers inside the Saints' 25-yard line. The New Orleans defense was so good, it allowed the Saints to pick up their first win since 1998 in a game where they scored 12 points or less. 

Panthers: B-

The Panthers needed a big game from Cam Newton and they definitely didn't get that. Newton, who seems to be getting worse by the week, threw for only 131 yards while also throwing an interception. The best quarterback for Carolina in this game was Christian McCaffrey, who threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Chris Manhertz in the first quarter. McCaffrey also tacked on 120 total yards (53 rushing, 67 receiving) as he personally accounted for 170 of Carolina's 247 offensive yards. This game could have turned into a blowout if not for a Panthers defense that held the Saints offense in check for most of the night. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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