NFL Week 14 Recaps
Baltimore Ravens @ Buffalo Bills
The 10-2 Baltimore Ravens traveled to face the 9-3 Buffalo Bills looking to cement their playoff spot while the Bills found themselves in prime position to challenge the New England Patriots for the AFC East lead. Although Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White got a peek at the Baltimore playsheet and Ravens safety Chuck Clark was penalized for bending the rules a little bit, they fell to the Ravens, 17-24. The Ravens advanced to 11-2 and clinched their playoff spot, while the Bills remained a game behind New England at 9-4.
Ravens Punt Season-High Seven Times
For virtually the first time all season, the Ravens struggled on offense as punter Sam Koch was called upon seven times. Baltimore managed only two scores in the first half with both coming off of Buffalo mistakes as a 35-yard punt gave Lamar Jackson the ball on Buffalo’s end of the field and a fumble by Josh Allen gave Jackson the ball at Buffalo’s 26. Jackson ended the day with 16 completions out of 25 attempts for 145 yards, three touchdowns, and 40 rushing yards. While he avoided most mistakes, a pass did get away from him that led to an interception off the hands of receiver Willie Snead. The running game was productive with Mark Ingram leading the way for 50 yards on 15 carries, but was not incredibly dominant as it has been throughout this season. Despite the lessened offensive output, the defense pulled through as they pressured Josh Allen throughout the day.
Josh Allen Struggles Through the Air
Allen could find no respite from the aggressive Ravens defense as was sacked six times and hit 12, leading him to hobble off the field with an ankle injury in the second quarter. Although it was taped up and he appeared to play fine through the rest of the game, it was clear the Ravens would not allow him to sit comfortably in the pocket. Allen finished with 17 completions out of 39 attempts for 146 yards and only one touchdown, and was contained to only nine yards rushing. Rookie Devin Singletary had 89 yards on the ground on 17 attempts, but taking away his long 38-yard run leaves him with only about a three yard average per carry. The Ravens defense held strong in the end, even as Allen attempted a game-tying drive, with his pass falling incomplete on a fourth-and-eight at Baltimore’s 16 to seal the win for the Ravens.
San Francisco 49ers @ New Orleans Saints
The 10-2 San Francisco 49ers arrived in New Orleans to face the 10-2 Saints after their close loss to the Baltimore Ravens, looking to stay the best record in the NFC. In a wild offensive battle, the stout San Francisco defense crumbled as Drew Brees put up five touchdowns through the air, but it would be Jimmy Garoppolo who orchestrated a 63-yard drive in less than a minute to allow Robbie Gould to nail the game-winning kick. With the 48-46 win, the 49ers keep their hands on the top seed in the NFC while the Saints find themselves still in search of a first-round bye, but very much in the playoff picture.
Garoppolo, Kittle Come Up With Win
In a big game against a fellow NFC powerhouse, Jimmy Garoppolo came up clutch with the help of his receivers as he tied his season-high for touchdown passes in a game with four against the New Orleans secondary. He completed 26 of his 35 passes for 349 yards while taking three sacks and throwing an interception that was off the hands of receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who was also their leading receiver with 157 yards and seven receptions. The running game was explosive with Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida, Deebo Samuel, and Tevin Coleman combining for 162 yards on 21 carries. On a fourth-and-two, down by two points with 39 seconds left and at their own 33, Garoppolo completed a short out route to tight end George Kittle for a 39 yard gain and a facemask penalty on the Saints that put the ball well within kicker Robbie Gould’s range. As time expired, he drilled the 30-yard game-winner, giving the 49ers the win in a wild NFC offensive duel.
Brees Comes Back From Lackluster Performance
Just a week after Drew Brees recorded only 184 passing yards and a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons, he put up five touchdowns through the air and one on the ground against a San Francisco defense that has shut down so many other great offenses this season. The five passing touchdowns mark the most he’s had in a game this season, while his 349 passing yards are the most since a win over the Arizona Cardinals back in October. Against the 49er defense, Brees completed 29 of his 40 passes and was not sacked once as he opted for the quick passing game that did not allow the pass rush to work effectively, averaging 2.45 seconds to throw.
Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots
In a rematch of last season’s playoff loss, the 8-4 Kansas City Chiefs took on the 10-2 New England Patriots in Foxboro where the Chiefs looked to lock up their hold over the AFC West title while the Patriots were trying to stay ahead of the Buffalo Bills in the AFC East. The Patriots started strong with an opening touchdown drive but found themselves unable to keep their offense on track while the Chiefs scored 23 unanswered points. Though the Patriots launched a furious comeback in the second half, they were ultimately unable to finish as Kansas City won 23-16. The Chiefs secured a playoff spot with the win, while the Patriots remain one game ahead of the Bills with three games left.
Patriots Offense Lacks Threat
Tom Brady put up another mediocre performance in what has been a mediocre season for New England’s offense. Throughout the game, Brady was pressured and frustrated by the lack of success on offense, which certainly translated to the box score as he finished with 19 completions out of 36 attempts for 169 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. The first half started out well with a touchdown on the first drive, but quickly fell apart as the Patriots failed to sustain drives, had a field goal blocked, and a pass by Brady intercepted on the first play after the Chiefs scored a touchdown to take the lead. Only two mistakes by the Chiefs, a blocked punt and a fumble, allowed the Patriots to score again and they would fail to convert on a fourth-and-three right at the edge of the goal line for what could have been the tying touchdown with a minute left in the game. It was clear throughout the game that the Patriots offense is missing explosive weapons as receiver Julian Edelman was blanketed on most of his routes and left Brady without any other options as the Chiefs recorded three sacks, six hits, and largely kept him hurried in the pocket. The combination of pressure and lack of receivers contributed to only three passes completed of over 10 air yards out of 11 thrown.
Chiefs Lucky To Survive Mistakes
Early in the game, Patrick Mahomes suffered a hand injury that he kept holding throughout a good portion of the game, which seemed to affect his throwing ability. Despite this, he still threw 40 total times with 26 completions for 283 yards and a touchdown. One interception did get away from him, but he largely stayed away from mistakes while taking only one sack and five hits. Whether due to gameplan or the injury to his hand, 27 of his passes were thrown within five air yards or behind the line of scrimmage, which is something typically not see from the strong-armed Mahomes. Meanwhile, the running game was of no help with LeSean McCoy as the team’s leading rusher for 39 yards on 11 carries, forcing Mahomes to carry the offense. Despite this, it was clear that the Chiefs had the offensive weapons that the Patriots lacked, and this led to their win.
Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans
On paper, the 4-8 Denver Broncos traveling to face the 8-4 Houston Texans was no big deal as the Broncos were at the bottom of the AFC West while the Texans were dueling it out at the top of the AFC South with the Tennessee Titans. That was until rookie quarterback Drew Lock made his second start for the Broncos and led them to a 31-3 lead going into halftime. Although the Texans battled back to bring the end score to a more respectable level, it is still a bad sign as the Broncos beat them 38-24 while the Titans won this week to reach Houston’s record with only three games left. The Texans face the Titans next week and then again for the last game of the season, and the AFC South title could very well end up in the hands of either team.
Drew Lock Leads Fast Start
The Broncos could not be stopped in the first half as rookie quarterback Drew Lock led the offense to scores on all four of their first half possessions. It was a breath of fresh air for a Broncos offense that has struggled mightily this season, and a boost for Broncos fans to be able to root for an exciting young prospect after recent seasons of mediocre quarterback play. Lock put up three touchdowns with 22 completions out of 27 attempts for 309 yards as well as one interception. While most of the yardage was from yards after the catch, mainly from fellow rookie Noah Fant, Lock showed great zip on his throws as well as the ability to improvise plays. Fant was the leading receiver for Denver with 113 yards and a touchdown only four receptions. On the ground, Phillip Lindsay rushed for 51 yards on 16 carries with Royce Freeman contributing with 24 yards on eight carries.
Broncos Defense Puts Up Vintage Performance
Deshaun Watson threw the ball 50 times against the Broncos, completing 28 of them for 292 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The majority of his passes were intended around five yards from the line of scrimmage as the Broncos secondary locked down deep options. Only three of his passes thrown over 10 air yards deep were completed out of 14 attempts, of which two were intercepted. The Broncos defense got the better of the Texans offense for most of the game, with three sacks and six hits as well as a fumble returned for a touchdown that contributed to Houston going into the half down 3-31. While Watson would engineer three touchdown drives in the second half to bring the game back within reach, his two interceptions thrown would ultimately leave them just short as they became the first team with a winning record that the Broncos have beat this season.