The Week 11 games on Sunday are in the books. Some teams that were on a hot streak came to an end this week. Here are some of our big takeaways from today:
» After benching Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman, Taylor entered the game following Peterman's 5 interceptions in the first half.
»Blaine Gabbert might have done enough to keep the starting QB gig in the desert, even if Drew Stanton is healthy enough to play next week.
» If Baltimore gets a competent offense, the Ravens will find themselves in the playoffs in January. That's how good their defense is.
- What has happened to the Chiefs offense? Is this really the same unit that hung 537 yards on the Patriots in the season opener? It's difficult to fathom how Kansas City could go four quarters and an overtime without scoring a touchdown against a Giants team that surrendered 82 points in its previous two games. Kansas City has now lost four of five with just seven touchdowns in that stretch. The question now is whether Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Matt Nagy can find a way to fix the Chiefs' attack before a once incredibly promising season turns to dust.
- We were told this week that Giants coach Ben McAdoo -- a constant target of derision during a 1-8 nightmare season -- had a "brutally honest" meeting with his players ahead of Week 11. To the coach's credit, the Giants responded with a spirited effort on defense, swarming to the ball and forcing three turnovers on a day. Both defense were aided by swirling winds at the Meadowlands that made a chore out of both kicking and throwing, but New York definitely showed up to play. If McAdoo has any hope of keeping his job beyond this seson, he'll need to have several more of these types of efforts before New Year's Day.
- Andy Reid teams almost always win coming out of a bye -- Reid entered Sunday 16-2 in such situations. It makes the team's general malaise on Sunday doubly confounding. Also confounding: The Chiefs' decision to have tight end Travis Kelce attempt a downfield pass with the game tied at 6 midway through the fourth quarter. Kelce may have played quarterback in high school, but asking for him to complete a deep strike in windy conditions was a recipe for disaster. Or, in this case, a drive-killing interception by Landon Collins. Just way too cute at that point of the game.
-- Dan Hanzus
1a. The ill-timed benching of Tyrod Taylor looks like one of the season's most disastrous decisions. Making his pro debut, Bills rookie quarterback Nathan Peterman unfurled a whopping five first-half picks over his first 14 NFL attempts. Korey Toomer returned the initial giveaway for a 59-yard pick six and safety Casey Hayward pulled down a pair of interceptions, while Tre Boston and Trevor Williams nabbed one apiece. Endless pressure from edge rusher Joey Bosa played a major role in Peterman tossing more interceptions in his first start than Taylor and Tom Brady have each flung all year.
1b. By the time Taylor entered in the second half, Buffalo trailed 40-7 with zero shot to win against a Chargers team with 31 points off takeaways. Taylor accounted for 196 total yards, generated 14 points, made good use of LeSean McCoy (114 rushing yards and two scores), and easily looked like the better option -- making his benching all the more unpalatable. Expect plenty of criticism all week long in Western New York, both inside and out team walls.
- Peterman's waterfall of gaffes handed the Bolts fantastic field position as Los Angeles jumped out to a 37-7 lead at the break, their highest first-half output in Chargers history. Their 54 points on Sunday were the most by a Bolts team since 1985. Philip Rivers came out throwing -- logging 30-plus attempts for the eighth time in nine games -- and played his best football in weeks. Melvin Gordon piled up 80 yards rushing while wideout Keenan Allen anchored the air attack with two touchdowns and 159 yards off 12 receptions. For all the heat dumped on Peterman, this Bills defense gave up 429 yards and never put up a fight.
- The Bills fall to 5-5, an incredibly depressing mark after Sean McDermott looked like a coach of the year candidate three weeks ago. It's tough to feel optimistic about Buffalo with the Chiefs up next and two games left against the robotically perfect Patriots. The Bolts, meanwhile, sit at 4-6 with an outside shot at a wild-card spot in the dangerously mediocre AFC. Their Thanksgiving Day tilt with the Cowboys looms large.
-- Marc Sessler
- The Bengals managed just 12 first downs but credit Andy Dalton for converting a pair of back-breaking Broncos turnovers into touchdowns. Dre Kirkpatrick returned an interception 101 yards to set up a one-yard bunny to Tyler Kroft, and Dalton found A.J. Green from 18 yards out to capitalize on Vontaze Burfict's forced fumble as Denver was driving for the tying score early in the fourth quarter. Those takeaways by Cincinnati's defense were the key to a tight game.
- Although the defense showed improvement after allowing 121 points over the past three weeks, quarterback woes continue to haunt a Broncos organization in the throes of its first six-game losing streak since 1990. Failing to build on last week's promising outing, Brock Osweiler missed too many throws to complement a ground attack that showed a few sparks of life. Given a chance to tie the game in the two-minute drill, Osweiler took a second-down sack and failed to connect with Emmanuel Sanders on fourth down. Will we see 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch any time soon? Even with Osweiler nursing a sore shoulder entering halftime, coach Vance Joseph told CBS' Jamie Erdhal that Lynch would not be an option for the second half.
- The Bengals remain in the wild-card at 4-6, but the offensive line and ground attack are fatal flaws. Given a chance to salt the game away late in the fourth quarter, the offense had to rely on Dalton's legs and a pass interference penalty to move the chains. Rookie Joe Mixon has seen precious few holes at the line of scrimmage while the coaching staff has had trouble getting the ball to Giovani Bernard in space.
-- Chris Wesseling
- Kickers matter. Lions' Matt Prater drilled a 52-yard field goal down the pipe to give the Lions a three-point lead with 1:40 left. After Mitchell Trubisky drove the Bears into field goal range following a wild fourth-down scramble, Bears kicker Conner Barth blasted a 46-yard attempt roughly 25 yards wide, giving Detroit the win.
Matthew Stafford once again carried an inconsistent Lions offense with 299 yards and two touchdown tosses on 21-of-31 passing. Stafford's biggest throw of the game came with Detroit trailing 17-7 in the second quarter on 3rd-and-15 at his own 9-yard line. With pressure in his face, the gunslinger muscled the ball to T.J. Jones for 17 yards. The first down jumpstarted a sleepy Lions offense which scored 17 straight points. It wasn't pretty, but Stafford moved the ball well enough in a building he's annually struggled.
- Jordan Howard gashed the Lions with a bevy of long runs, including a 50-yard jaunt. Howard carried the ball just 15 times, but earned 125 yards and a TD, for an 8.3 yard-per-tote average. It's the fourth game of the season surpassing the century mark for Howard. Mitchell Trubisky needed the running back Sunday. The rookie struggled with accuracy much of the day, missing receivers high, wide, and in the dirt. Trubisky still has a long way to go on his footwork, which was the cause of much of his struggles against a Lions pass rush that didn't offer much pressure. Still, the rookie showed some onions late, with a huge 19-yard scramble on 4th-and-13, followed by a gun over the middle for 15-yards to set up a potential game-tying field goal. It's another baby step for Trubisky, but the flashes are undeniable as the Bears (3-7) build towards next season.
- The Lions earned their seventh return for a score of the season, tying a franchise record. Sunday's dash came from corner D.J. Hayden, who scooped up a Trubisky muffed snap for a 27-yard touchdown. The Lions defense has perfected giving up chunks of yards but making game-changing plays each week. The victory gave Detroit road wins over each of its divisional opponents this season. The Lions (6-4) remained within two games of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North ahead of a pivotal division battle on Thanksgiving.
-- Kevin Patra
- Pregame fights erupted in snowy Cleveland as Browns players reacted to the midweek words of safety Tashaun Gipson, who said he hoped to drop a 40-0 bomb on his ex-teammates. The Jaguars (7-3) backed up the boast with a formula that has worked all season: Generate just enough from your offense while allowing the league's stingiest defense to squeeze the life out of your enemy. Leonard Fournette acknowledged he hates the cold, but broke out of his funk with 111 yards on the ground against a solid gang of Browns run-stoppers. Cleveland (0-10) made life hell for Blake Bortles, though, forcing nine punts and six three-and-outs behind a stellar game from Browns rookie pass-rusher Myles Garrett. Bortles managed just 145 yards passing and saw multiple lobs batted away before hurting his team with a third-quarter strip sack recovered by Garrett, giving Cleveland possession down 10-7. The Browns, however, could do nothing with the ball -- a theme that endured all afternoon.
- Credit Cleveland's defense for keeping the winless Browns alive in a game that saw the offense struggle as expected. Generating just 68 total yards in the first half, the Browns went into the break down 10-7 thanks to Kizer's 27-yard touchdown dart to Duke Johnson. The Browns quarterback, though, also threw two killer picks -- he leads the league with 14 interceptions -- and spent the day looking relatively lost before ending the affair with two lost fumbles in the game's final two minutes, with the second snatched up by speedy Telvin Smith for a touchdown. Jacksonville's defense was sterling, with Smith and A.J. Bouye nabbing the picks while Yannick Ngakoue, Malik Jackson and friends piled up five sacks and allowed just 28 yards from Cleveland's backs. If it's any consolation, the Browns aren't the first team to utterly fail through the air against Jalen Ramsey and Bouye, the finest cornerback duo in the NFL. The Browns also went penalty-free for the first time since 1962, but it wasn't enough.
- The win moves the upstart Jaguars into sole possession of first place in the AFC South. The offense is a work in progress, but I simply trust this outfit more than the uninspiring Titans. With games against the Cardinals, Colts, Texans and 49ers down the stretch, it's hard to imagine Jacksonville as anything other than a promising, double-digit-win playoff entry with the kind of defense that can test the Steelers and Patriots.
-- Marc Sessler
- It's a shame this tightly contested contest had to have a loser, as both teams showed enviable resolve and resiliency for 60 minutes. Down by a pair of touchdowns and a two-point conversion with three minutes remaining, Drew Brees completed his final 11 passes on twin scoring drives to send the game to overtime. Following a Cameron Jordan sack and drops by Vernon Davis and Samaje Perine on the Redskins' opening possession of the extra period, Mark Ingram rumbled for 51 yards on two carries to set up Wil Lutz's game-winning kick. Riding the swell of a wild comeback victory en route to the first ever eight-game winning streak by a team that started the season 0-2, the Saints surf into Los Angeles to do battle with the 7-3 Rams next week.
- Beset by a plague of injuries that left All-Pro cornerback Josh Normanshaking his head in disbelief, the Redskins have profited from a season-long unshakeable toughness that has allowed them to hang around the periphery of a strong NFC wild-card field. For 59 minutes, Kirk Cousins stood as the avatar of that firm backbone, authoring one of the finest performances of the 2017 season. Had Washington held on for the victory, the defining drive of the season would have featured Cousins shaking off a helmet-to-helmet blow, leading the team down the field and getting clobbered by the Saints blitz just as he unloaded a 40-yard scoring strike to Ryan Grant. From nailing pinpoint throws to converting crucial third and fourth downs and responding each time New Orleans threatened the lead, Cousins was spectacular until a shaky intentional grounding call and poor clock management upended his attempt at a game-winning field-goal drive to close out regulation time. No quarterback is doing more with less than the twice-franchised Cousins, who -- along with coach Jay Gruden -- has shown more than enough to earn a contract extension in the coming offseason.
- In addition to Ingram's overtime heroics, rookie playmaker Alvin Kamara came up big with a juggling touchdown catch and New Orleans' first two-point conversion of the season to tie the game at 31. Since the mid-October trade of Adrian Peterson, Ingram leads the NFL with eight touchdowns in 36 days. The veteran power back is averaging 120.7 yards per game over that span, with Kamara pitching in 112.8. The NFL's best complementary backfield is on pace for a staggering 3,082 yards from scrimmage this season. How impressive is that projection? The Browns' 1985 tandem of Ernest Byner and Kevin Mack is the only one in history with each back totaling at least 1,400 yards from scrimmage.
-- Chris Wesseling
- Well, this one was pretty easy to summarize. Tom Brady leads the league in passing, and on Sunday, he showed why: Deep connections with Brandin Cooks and precise hookups with the rest of his targets (especially Danny Amendola) on a 30-of-37 passing day that included 339 yards and three touchdowns. In the second quarter, Brady found Cooks on a long pass down the seam on which he simply ran through the double team to open space (hitting a max speed of 20.23 mph in the process, per Next Gen Stats), which put New England squarely in Oakland territory and eventually led to a touchdown. Later, Cooks ran right past Obi Melifonwu -- a safety playing corner -- and the rest of the Raiders' defense on a 64-yard touchdown reception. These plays alone were massive blows to Oakland's hopes of getting back into the game on a day in which it felt like the Raiders started with a deficit.
- We can talk about how big of a day it was for Cooks (and it was), and how Amendola fills his role within a Brady-led offense so well, but for the second straight week, we should really be looking at Dion Lewis. The running back finished with 60 yards on 10 carries and added four receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown, further emphasizing his role as New England's best all-around back. The Patriots lack a true workhorse, but they haven't needed one (except in goal-line situations) for the last few years, anyway. With the way New England moves around and targets its backs, the versatile, multi-dimensional runners are better suited for this offense, and Lewis is the best of that bunch.
- The Raiders had a grand opportunity in front of them Sunday. Kansas City inexplicably lost to the New York Giants earlier in the day, meaning with a win, Oakland would be just a game behind the division leaders. Instead, they flat out blew it. An interception ended an early drive after New England took a 7-0 lead, and a Seth Roberts fumble killed another promising drive with the Raiders already trailing 14-0. A Stephen Gostkowski field goal followed at the end of the half, and the Raiders hit intermission in a 17-0 hole. They never recovered.
-- Nick Shook
- Carson Wentz shook off an uncharacteristic first half, during which he completed 39 percent of his passes and blew two opportunities to turn turnovers into points, to shellack the Cowboys in the final two frames. Wentz led three straight touchdown drives out of the half, aided by a guess-who running game (more on that soon), throwing two TD passes and running a better boot game than Dak Prescott in the Cowboys quarterback's own building.
Thanks to Philly's bounce-back half, the Eagles put up more than 30 points for the sixth time in 10 games and the fifth over their last six. Wentz is the league leader in touchdown passes (25) on the team with the best record in all of football. That's usually a guarantee for MVP consideration, if not a recipe to run away with the honor altogether. With the NFC East race in the rear view, the Eagles have the look of a bona fide Super Bowl contender with Wentz as their capable captain.
- Philadelphia's running-back-by-committee approach is paying dividends just three weeks into the Jay Ajayi Era. LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement and Kenjon Barner each got meaningful snaps against the Cowboys, but it was Ajayi, in only his second game as an Eagle, who broke the game open in the second half. On Philly's back-to-back scoring drives, Ajayi set the pace. First: An eight-yard first-down run shortened the distance for the Eagles' first third-down conversion of the game, a picture-perfect roll-out and toss-back to Brent Celek. Then: Ajayi's career-best 71-yard run, sprung by Jason Kelce on Anthony Hitchens, took Philly out of the shadow of its own end zone and into scoring position. Ajayi's change of pace changed the course of the game, and his night underscores Philly's most vital advantage over most of its opponents: The Eagles have more talent on offense, man-to-man, than you do. When you focus too much on one position or one player, you get exposed for big gains without warning.
- Tyron Smith's absence loomed large over the Cowboys for a second straight loss. Byron Bell took the place of Chaz Green, who was posterized by Adrian Clayborn and his six sacks last week, at Smith's left tackle spot. Bell fared better against Derek Barnett, but man, that's a low bar. Bell was beaten by the destructive Eagles rookie defensive end at the worst times, surrendering three QB hits, two Barnett sacks and a game-sealing strip-sack touchdown. Smith has only four days to recover before the Cowboys play next. If he's not available, Bell and right tackle La'El Collins will have to go at it alone against the Chargers' dynamic duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. That spells trouble.
-- Jeremy Bergman
- This is Vikings coach Mike Zimmer's dream team. The Vikings are tougher than their opponents on a weekly basis on both sides of the ball, a fact that showed up dramatically in the second half Sunday. Minnesota's offensive line wore down the Rams front, opening up huge holes for their running backs on their way to 171 rushing yards, while Rams running back Todd Gurley was repeatedly stymied by the heavyweight Vikings defensive line.
- Vikings receiver Adam Thielen continues to be the MVP of this team and an early favorite for postseason All-Pro honors. He made a handful of difficult grabs throughout the day to keep drives going, then took a short pass 65 yards for a backbreaking touchdown in the fourth quarter. That big play came against Rams cornerback Dominique Hatfield, who was only on the field because of injuries to two Rams cornerbacks: Nickell Robey-Coleman and Kayvon Webster. The Rams have enjoyed exceptional injury luck all season, but it bit them Sunday.
- Rams receiver Cooper Kupp has enjoyed a terrific rookie season, but he's had some costly plays in the team's biggest games. His fumble on the goal-line in the first half took points off the board and was the turning point in the game after a very evenly played first half. Kupp later had a brutal third-down drop that could have put the Rams into the red zone when the game was still in doubt. Los Angeles had few chances in this game, so each one of those mistakes were killers.
-- Gregg Rosenthal
- If Baltimore gets even a shred of competent offense on a consistent basis (especially in the passing game), the Ravens will find themselves in the playoffs in January. That's how good their defense is. Matt Judon was a force all over the field, recording six tackles and two sacks and forcing the first fumble from a Packers running back all season. Willie Henry recorded two more sacks of his own, and Terrell Suggs polished off a six-sack defensive day with two more quarterback takedowns. Green Bay is below average offensively with Brett Hundley at quarterback, but Baltimore's relentless rush made things much worse for the Packers on Sunday, resulting in a rare shutout.
- Speaking of Suggs, whoever was lined up across from him had a difficult assignment. Despite his age (35), Suggs worked over most of his opposition, whether it was right tackle Justin McCray, left tackle David Bakhtiari, or a combination of McCray and right guard Jahri Evans. Spotlighting Suggs alone, especially on passing downs, told the story of how Baltimore posted a goose egg on Green Bay's side of the scoreboard. His strip sack of Hundley in the fourth punctuated the day for the Ravens (and really, for the Packers, too). Credit is also due to Baltimore's secondary, especially for rookie corner Marlon Humphrey, who had himself quite a day in coverage.
- Green Bay couldn't get out of its own way offensively. Hundley committed three turnovers on his own (two interceptions, one fumble) and Devante Mays fumbled. Occasionally, Hundley hit open receivers in stride, but far too often he was hesitant, which became even more apparent as his own turnovers started to pile up. If Packers fans are questioning Hundley's status as starter, they're justified in their uncertainty. The only problem: He's still their best option, even after an ugly day like Sunday. If Baltimore's offense was actually good -- the lone "wow" play of the day for the Ravens came on Mike Wallace's one-handed touchdown catch over Damarious Randall -- this would have been a blowout.
-- Nick Shook
- In the clash between two teams ravaged by injuries to the point where pride might only overshadow a faint playoff pulse, the Texans emerged victorious behind a consistent effort by its defense and quarterback Tom Savage. After last week's disaster of a performance, Savage looked much more composed under center. He completed 22 of 32 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. He also benefited from a decent ground game. Rookie D'Onta Foreman had 65 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries before disaster struck. He was carted off the field following a 34-yard TD run in the fourth quarter with what is believed to be a torn Achilles tendon, a source informed of the situation told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. Lamar Miller added 61 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Foreman's TD run came one play after Adrian Peterson failed to convert on fourth-and-1, prompting Cardinals coach Bruce Arians to say he "cost our team the game" with his decision to go for it. Whether the Texans could replicate these numbers against a bona fide playoff contender is debatable, but the performance was certainly encouraging for a Houston squad that appears to be getting a little better in the post-Deshaun Watson void.
- It wasn't a pretty performance, but Blaine Gabbert might have done enough to keep the starting QB gig in the desert, even if Drew Stanton is healthy enough to play next week. The former 49ers signal-caller mostly dinked and dunked his way to 257 yards on 22-of-34 passing and three touchdowns. He had a few nice passes. His 20-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald was mostly a result of some typical Fitzmagic on the play, but he also showed a smidgen of his former first-round pick pedigree. Gabbert was smart enough to target the future Hall of Famer early and often, connecting nine times for 91 yards. He also found Ricky Seals-Jones for touchdown passes of 11 and 28 yards. Gabbert's play in the final minutes of the game, however, might have annoyed Arians to keep him on the sideline next week. Gabbert was picked off by Eddie Pleasant and Andre Hal on consecutive drives late in the fourth quarter to devastate the Cards' comeback chances. It was encouraging performance behind a depleted offensive line, but the Gabbert/Stanton starting narrative will probably linger for at least another week.
- The on-again, off-again performances by Adrian Peterson dropped out of its clockwork-like efficiency at NRG Stadium. Since arriving on the Cardinals, Peterson has had a big game followed by a forgettable performance each week. He was due for another meaningful performance Sunday, but the Jadeveon Clowney-led defense snuffed out the Cardinals' run attack. Peterson finished with 26 yards on 14 carries, forcing the Cards to rely too heavily on the Gabbert-led passing attack. Clowney finished with two sacks and three tackles and Benardrick McKinney had seven tackles. It's hard to see Arizona playing the role of NFC West spoiler if teams can find ways to shut down Peterson.
-- Austin Knoblauch
- Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler exited the game and underwent evaluation for a concussion. Prior to leaving, Cutler tossed three interceptions and got Miami on the board with a short touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry in the first quarter. In Cutler's absence, Matt Moore assumed QB duties. Moore marched the Dolphins down field in the third quarter on back-to-back drives but settled for a pair of field goals. Kenny Stills and Moore connected for a 61-yard touchdown, tying the game up with minutes remaining. Despite being tossed into the mix at halftime, Moore's outing was strong, finishing 17 of 28 with 282 passing yards. Though Cutler's status remains unclear, should he be sidelined for Week 12 against the Patriots, Moore proved today he has the ability to command the Dolphins' offense effectively.
- Sunday's tilt featured the return of Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans who served a one-game suspension last week for violations incurred during the team's Week 9 loss to the Saints. In Week 10 without Evans, only two Bucs players eclipsed 20 or more yards. With Evans back in the fold, the Buccaneers had a more balanced passing attack. Evans himself had 92 yards on 5 receptions. Despite facing a battered Dolphins' defense, who also released linebacker Rey Maualuga following an off-the-field incident, Buccaneers running back Doug Martin couldn't break through the Dolphins' D. Martin was held to 38 yards rushing, which forced Ryan Fitzpatrick and co. to rely on the passing game.
- After starting the season 4-2, the Dolphins have lost four straight games -- and to add insult to injury -- two of their next three are against New England. It should be interesting to see in the coming weeks, barring the team's health -- if this Dolphins squad can turnaround this disappointing 2017 campaign.
-- Andie Hagemann