Week 14 saw a variety of dynamic road performances. Six of 14 games were won by away teams, and three home squads were held to no touchdowns. Three playoff contenders -- Seahawks, Steelers and Patriots -- surged ahead with major victories, while fringe players -- Redskins and Raiders -- kept their postseason hopes alive with close wins. To top it off, we had a hodgepodge of great performers -- one established Super Bowl-winning quarterback, a once-discarded defensive end and the East Bay's rising pass rusher.
Greatness on the Road
The Little Brock Engine That Could went off the rails Sunday afternoon after colliding with a Mack truck; there were five casualties. The Broncos were supposed to cruise past the fading Raiders en route to another AFC West title and a first-round bye, but the second-year Oakland linebacker had other plans.
Mack totaled a career-high five sacks at Mile High, all of which came in the second half, and a forced fumble, which resulted in a game-changing safety. His five takedowns of Osweiler tied Howie Long's single-game franchise sack record and were the most since Aldon Smith's 5.5 sacks in 2012. Mack has at least two sacks in each of the past three games and leads the league with 14 on the season.
The Making the Leap candidate made a clown suit out of right tackle Michael Schofield, earned a Derrick Thomas comparison from his legendary teammate and disrupted Denver's second-half offense, leading Oakland to a crucial 15-12 victory. Cue the music!
Praise be to nanobubbles! Recovery Water spokesman Russell Wilson has made one heck of a recovery from his early-season slump. The Seahawks quarterback continued his -- and his team's -- hot streak of play with another five-touchdown performance, this one coming in a win over the Ravens. Over the past four weeks, Wilson has tossed 16 touchdowns and averaged 292.8 passing yards with a 75.4 completion percentage in four Seattle wins. As we expected, Wilson and the Seahawks are getting hot at the right time -- or the wrong time, for the rest of the NFC -- despite losing their two best running backs and their expensive tight end in injury.
All the talk going into Sunday night's contest between the Texans and the Patriots was about how J.J. Watt would recover from a broken hand. But by the end of the evening, there was only one defensive performance worth talking about. Sheard tallied two of New England's six sacks of Brian Hoyer and T.J. Yates and forced two fumbles in the Patriots' easy 27-6 win at NRG Stadium. The Patriots defensive end made a name for himself along New England's deep front seven, and an awesome name at that. Jabaal. Sheard. Rolls off the tongue.