NFL Holiday Weekend Recaps
Houston Texans @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The 9-5 Houston Texans traveled to face the 7-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, searching to secure a playoff berth. Despite a sloppy first half by both teams that ended in seven total turnovers, the Texans pulled out a 23-20 win to win the AFC South title and lock in their playoff spot.
Jameis Winston Opens the Game With a Score For Texans
It only took two plays before Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston threw his first pass, which ended in an interception to Texans cornerback Bradley Roby, who brought it back for a score to put the Texans up 7-0. Only three plays later, Winston threw another interception, this time to Justin Reid. Reid’s touchdown return would be nullified due to a blindside block call, but still led to a Texans field goal. The Bucs were able to make their way downfield on the next drive to set themselves up in field goal position and seemed poised to put up their first points on the board but the Texans blocked their kick, still leaving them without a score. Later in the second quarter, a fumble by Texans running back Duke Johnson gave Tampa Bay great field position, which Winston gave right back with an interception on his very first throw. The Texans went three-and-out, saving the Bucs from embarrassment until running back Peyton Barber fumbled on the first play of their drive. The Texans would an interception at the end of the second quarter, while Winston would have another interception late in the fourth quarter while attempting a comeback that would largely end the game. Winston finished with 335 yards and a touchdown on 25 completions out of 48 attempts, along with four interceptions.
Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots
It’s been a rougher season than what is typically seen from the Brady/Belichick-led New England Patriots, but they were still at 11-3 and at home to face the 10-4 Buffalo Bills. The Patriots found the score tied at halftime after Bills quarterback Josh Allen led a touchdown drive to end the half in a little over 30 seconds, and then found themselves playing from behind after another Bills touchdown drive in the third quarter. It wouldn’t be until the defense stepped up to stop the Bills after Brady orchestrated a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter that the Patriots were able to breathe a sigh of relief and walk away with their 24-17 win over their AFC East division rivals.
Patient Patriots Outlast Big Play Bills
While Josh Allen and the Bills showcased their quick-strike ability, including a deep pass to tight end Dawson Knox for 33 yards to set up the tying touchdown at the end of the first half and another deep pass to receiver John Brown for a 53-yard touchdown in the third quarter, the Patriots were content to work the clock with small gains. While the Patriots did give up a fumble on their opening drive, Tom Brady was never sacked in the game and he beat out strong-armed Allen with 271 yards on 26 completions out of 33 attempts. Meanwhile, the Patriots running game totaled 143 yards on 35 carries, with running back Sony Michel leading the way and even Brady picking up a key conversion with a three-yard run and throwing a key block . The differences in playstyle led to a vast difference in time of possession as the Patriots held on for nearly 39 minutes and the Bills barely had more than 21 minutes. The Patriots punted only twice, with one turnover on downs, while the Bills punted six times with a turnover on downs of their own.
Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers
The 11-3 San Francisco 49ers can’t seem to catch a break this year as they face continuously more close games as the season goes on, this time hosting their NFC West rival 7-7 Los Angeles Rams for the second time this year before facing fellow division rival Seattle Seahawks to end the season. The first half was filled to the brim with scores as both teams successfully led opening scoring drives. San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw an interception that set off five consecutive drives that ended in touchdowns for both teams, with the final one giving the 49ers the lead off a 46-yard interception return by linebacker Fred Warner. The second half opened with another Garoppolo interception and a missed field goal by the Rams and featured a punting position battle for much of the third quarter before the 49ers ended the game with a touchdown drive and a game-winning field goal by Robbie Gould.
Fierce 49ers Defense Outshined By Rams Defense
Though the 49ers would win in the end, the defense struggled against the Rams, allowing Jared Goff to throw for 323 yards and two touchdowns and never sacking him once as he averaged a little over three seconds to throw the ball. Sixteen of his passes were thrown deeper than ten air yards downfield, completing ten of them against the secondary that has looked amazing at times this season. In return, the Rams defense made Garoppolo antsy with six sacks and eight hits throughout the game and picking him off twice.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns
The 12-2 Baltimore Ravens traveled to face their AFC North rival 6-8 Cleveland Browns, and the differences between the two teams could not have been more apparent. The Ravens showcased their explosive offense with Lamar Jackson continuing his unprecedented run, while the Browns found themselves in more hot water with Odell Beckham Jr’s taunting penalty and heated discussion with head coach Freddie Kitchens on the sidelines. Still, the Ravens did not emerge unscathed in their 31-15 win as star running back Mark Ingram went down in the fourth quarter with a calf strain, and hope that the rusher will be able to be 100% for the playoffs.
Once again, Lamar Jackson showed just how much he thrives in the Baltimore system as he pulled off slick escapes and quite simply made real life look like a video game in ways not seen since Michael Vick split defenders in overtime against the Vikings. Jackson threw for 238 yards and three touchdowns with 20 completions out of 31 pass attempts along with 17 rushes for 103 yards and no sacks. The majority of his damage through the air was between five and ten air yards downfield, completing ten of his 20 completions within that range, with four completions out of seven throws deeper than ten air yards. Put quite simply, Jackson is the life of the Ravens offense and the contributions of running backs Gus Edwards, Mark Ingram, and Justice Hill added another 140 yards on 23 carries to a nearly-unstoppable offense.