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January 21, 2021
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What we learned in Week 12: Titans, Vikings are back; Raiders, Cardinals are in trouble

Week 12 in the NFL began with two blowout wins on Thanksgiving. On Sunday, the Falcons followed suit by routing the Raiders in a 37-point victory. The Giants got win No. 4 to move into first in the NFC East, the Titans made a statement in the AFC South and the Patriots kept their dim playoff hopes alive with a last-second field goal. Elsewhere, the Browns escaped an upset scare and the Vikings pulled off a game-winning drive to get by the Panthers.

In the afternoon slate, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs bested Tom Brady and the Buccaneers and the 49ers earned a division win against the Rams. But the story of the window was the Broncos, who went into their contest against the Saints without a quarterback.

All that and more in Week 12‘s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

Jump to a matchup:
ARI-NE | TEN-IND | LV-ATL
LAC-BUF | CAR-MIN | MIA-NYJ
NYG-CIN | CLE-JAX | SF-LAR
NO-DEN | KC-TB | HOU-DET | WSH-DAL | GB-CHI

Standout performer: Patriots K Nick Folk, 2-for-2 FGs, 50-yard game winner

It’s a fine line in football, and Cam Newton was walking it in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win over the Cardinals. His late-game interception could have been the backbreaker that essentially ended the Patriots’ playoff hopes. But when the team got a second life after a missed field goal, Newton willed the offense into field goal range with a 14-yard run on third-and-13. That determination was critical, as was a 15-yard penalty on Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons at the end of the play. Had the Cardinals won, the question of whether it was time for the Patriots to turn things over to Jarrett Stidham might have been asked. But Newton’s resolve was critical to the final outcome, as the Patriots (5-6) still cling to long shot postseason hopes. — Mike Reiss

Next game: at Chargers (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Cardinals saw their playoff hopes take a hit. But they also saw more of the blueprint to stop quarterback Kyler Murray, who ran for 31 yards in the loss. His inability to make plays with his feet had a clear impact on the rest of Arizona’s offense. If the Cardinals want to have success moving forward and possibly make the playoffs, the rest of the offense needs to find a way to make plays when Murray isn’t able to. — Josh Weinfuss

Next game: vs. Rams (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Standout performer: Titans RB Derrick Henry, 178 rushing yards, 3 TDs

The Titans now hold sole possession of the AFC South lead as they turn their attention to a showdown with the Browns at home next week. Once again, the Titans rode Henry to a big first-half lead, and he finished with 178 rushing yards and three touchdowns. — Turron Davenport

Next game: vs. Browns (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Colts went from being in position to get a grasp on first place in the AFC South and an automatic playoff spot to having an uphill climb to get into the postseason. The Colts’ final five games are against Houston (twice), at Las Vegas, at Pittsburgh and versus Jacksonville. The Raiders and Steelers are the only teams with a winning record remaining on Indianapolis’ schedule. — Mike Wells

Next game: at Texans (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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0:43

Derrick Henry puts on a show in the first half with 140 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Standout performer: Falcons DT Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, 5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries

The Falcons played their best defensive game of the season against the Raiders, forcing five turnovers and producing five sacks. It was the type of defensive effort the Falcons have been looking for over the past few seasons. If they’re able to put together similar performances in the final weeks of the season, Raheem Morris has to like his chances of becoming the permanent head coach. — Harry Lyles Jr.

Next game: vs. Saints (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Raiders are not elite, and they are not a playoff team. Getting embarrassed in Atlanta showed the Raiders were not ready on Sunday. The question: Can they avoid a repeat of the letdown that sank their season last year — a 34-3 loss at a terrible Jets team that dropped the Raiders’ record to 6-5 en route to a 7-9 finish — in 2020? Las Vegas’ record after the thumping it took in Atlanta? Yeah, 6-5. And guess where the Raiders play next week? Indeed, at the Jets. “I apologize to the Raider Nation,” Las Vegas coach Jon Gruden said after the game. — Paul Gutierrez

Next game: at Jets (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Standout performer: Bills LB A.J. Klein, 13 tackles, 0.5 sacks

Buffalo’s defense is back. Although the Bills didn’t put together a full, four-quarter effort on both sides of the ball, Sunday’s win over the Chargers represented their best defensive performance of the season, despite allowing 367 (mostly garbage-time) yards. It was the Bills’ fifth consecutive impressive game, after holding Los Angeles to 3-of-15 on third down. And it’s a positive sign as they enter an important stretch to close the season. Buffalo’s three fourth-quarter turnovers were brutal, but the Bills remain atop the AFC East for at least one more week. “We’re 8-3,” Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen said. “That’s what our goal was entering this game, whatever it takes.” — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: at 49ers (8:15 p.m. ET, Dec. 7)

After just a week of practice (since his serious hamstring injury in Week 4), Chargers running back Austin Ekeler looked great with 14 rushes for 44 yards and 11 catches for 85 yards. But the offense couldn’t capitalize on the play of the defense, which provided three takeaways in the second half. — Shelley Smith

Next game: vs. Patriots (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Standout performer: Justin Jefferson, 70 receiving yards, 2 TDs

Coach Mike Zimmer’s assessment of the Vikings’ thrilling win was spot on: Minnesota was “very fortunate” to come away with a victory against Carolina. There have been only a few instances this season when the Vikings successfully clawed back from a deficit and closed out an opponent, after blowing chances to do so against Tennessee and Seattle, which are two playoff-caliber teams. In two of the past three weeks, Minnesota has been able to do it, albeit against lackluster competition in the Bears and Panthers. But that does not diminish what quarterback Kirk Cousins accomplished on those late drives. The two aforementioned decisions weren’t pretty, but when it mattered, the Vikings got the job done and kept their playoff hopes alive. — Courtney Cronin

Next game: vs. Jaguars (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had a chance to be a hero in his return to Minnesota. He wasn’t good enough. Kicker Joey Slye had a chance to be a hero in the final seconds with a 54-yard field goal. He wasn’t good enough. The defense had several chances to be heroic in the final minutes. It wasn’t good enough. In the end, Sunday’s loss to the Vikings summed up this season, in that the Panthers (4-8) aren’t good enough to be a playoff contender, and this loss made sure they won’t be a factor. “Instead of pointing fingers, I’d rather point the thumb back at me. I’m disappointed in myself and my staff tonight,” coach Matt Rhule said. — David Newton

Next game: vs. Broncos (1 p.m. ET, Dec. 13)

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0:31

Trailing by six with under a minute to play, Kirk Cousins fires a pass to the end zone for Chad Beebe, who reels in the 10-yard touchdown to put the Vikings ahead.

Standout performer: Dolphins CB Xavien Howard, 1 INT, 3 pass breakups

No matter the quarterback, the Dolphins’ playoff push will depend on their defense. All season, Miami’s D has been key to the team’s success, and Sunday’s win was another example. The Dolphins’ defensive unit got two interceptions, making it 17 consecutive games with at least one takeaway, best in the NFL. The Jets are a bad team, but the Dolphins continue to show they have a playoff-caliber defense. They’re just waiting for the offense to catch up. — Cameron Wolfe

Next game: vs. Bengals (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Quarterback Sam Darnold returned to the lineup after a two-game absence due to a shoulder injury, but he threw two interceptions and failed to get the offense in the end zone — another step backward in his 2020 regression. Clearly, the Darnold-Adam Gase marriage has failed, and they won’t be together much longer. Darnold could be traded in the offseason, and Gase’s days are numbered. — Rich Cimini

Next game: vs. Raiders (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Standout performer: Giants RB Wayne Gallman, 94 rushing yards, 1 TD

The Giants snuck out of Cincinnati with a win and a share of first place in the NFC East. Technically, they’re in first place because they swept Washington. But Sunday’s win didn’t come without a price. Quarterback Daniel Jones left in the third quarter with a hamstring injury and was replaced by Colt McCoy. Jones will have an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the injury. Coach Joe Judge said he was “optimistic” about Jones being back next week based on what he knows about him as a competitor. Jones said he wasn’t discouraged and was taking it day by day. He conceded it was “tough to say” at this point if it will be a long-term injury. The Giants (4-7) better hope not. Up next, four teams (Seattle, Arizona, Cleveland and Baltimore) with winning records. The Giants haven’t beaten a team with a winning record this season. — Jordan Raanan

Next game: at Seahawks (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Bengals need more from their offense if they want to have a chance at winning another game this season. That means an uptick in production from their quarterbacks not named Joe Burrow. On Sunday, Brandon Allen made his fourth career start and couldn’t find a rhythm. He was 17-of-29 passing for 136 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a lost fumble that stifled any hopes of a miraculous comeback. When Burrow was on the field this season, the 2020 top overall pick was able to move the offense effectively. While Allen looked good at times, he wasn’t able to do enough to help the Bengals steal a win against the Giants. For the moment, Allen is the best option on the roster. Cincinnati has to hope more reps with the first-team offense for Allen this week will be enough to boost the offense. — Ben Baby

Next game: at Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Standout performer: Browns WR Jarvis Landry, 143 receiving yards, 1 TD

Though it wasn’t pretty, the victory clinched Cleveland’s first non-losing season since 2007; the Browns are tied for the second-longest streak of consecutive losing seasons in NFL history. More importantly, the win edged the 8-3 Browns one step closer to ending the longest playoff drought in the league (18 years). Minus multiple key starters, Cleveland’s defense didn’t make many plays on Sunday. The Browns’ defense did, however, make the final one. Safety Andrew Sendejo batted down Jacksonville’s passing attempt at a game-tying two-point conversion, and Cleveland escaped Sunday with a victory over the one-win Jaguars. — Jake Trotter

Next game: at Titans (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Mike Glennon gives the Jaguars the best chance to win, and he should be the team’s starting quarterback the rest of the season. Glennon completed 20 of 35 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns, but most importantly, he drove the Jaguars down the field late and had them in position to tie the game and potentially force overtime. It was the best this offense has looked in more than a month. While losing out and going 1-15 would be the best thing for the franchise’s future — guaranteeing the Jaguars, at worst, the No. 2 pick and a shot at quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) and Justin Fields (Ohio State) — that’s not the way coach Doug Marrone or any of the players are thinking. Go with Glennon over Gardner Minshew II and Jake Luton. — Mike DiRocco

Next game: at Vikings (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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0:46

Jarvis Landry catches eight passes for 143 yards and a touchdown as the Browns improve to 8-3 with a 27-25 win vs. the Jaguars.

Standout performer: 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, 133 receiving yards

The 49ers seemingly have plenty of reasons to want this injury-ravaged season to end, but they’re too proud and too well-coached to call it a year and move on. Sunday’s gutsy win against a NFC West rival showed exactly what the Niners are made of and proved, even at partial strength, these Niners aren’t an easy out. “What they’ve gone through all year, but especially these last two weeks, and especially these last 24 hours, I did have a lot of concerns,” San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of those guys.” At 5-6, the Niners sit a game out of the final playoff spot in the NFC, and though they have an uphill climb to claim it given who they’re missing, they’re going to be playing meaningful games in December. — Nick Wagoner

Next game: vs. Bills (8:15 p.m. ET, Dec. 7)

Coach Sean McVay and QB Jared Goff must solve their inconsistency — which on Sunday included four turnovers — for good if the Rams want to make a playoff run in a division that has proved to be the NFL’s best. The Rams fumbled a chance to gain an edge in the NFC West on Sunday, losing to the injury-plagued 49ers, who have now won four straight against the Rams. Aaron Donald and the Rams’ defense forced three turnovers and scored a touchdown, but even that wasn’t enough with an offense that stumbled throughout and turned the ball over four times. — Lindsey Thiry

Next game: at Cardinals (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Standout performer: Saints RB Latavius Murray, 124 rushing yards, 2 TDs

The Saints’ defense was supposed to feast against a Broncos team with zero QBs — and, wow, did it ever. The Saints set a franchise record with 112 yards allowed and forced three turnovers while winning their eighth consecutive game. But this was no fluke. They have now allowed one total TD over the past four games. It didn’t even matter that QB Taysom Hill suffered a big drop-off in his second NFL start, with both Hill and coach Sean Payton stressing that it was an extremely conservative game plan. — Mike Triplett

Next game: at Falcons (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

NFL football is exceedingly difficult to play without any quarterbacks. With the Broncos using a practice squad wide receiver behind center to go with running backs Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman, they completed all of one pass. Drew Lock, Brett Rypien and practice squad quarterback Blake Bortles were all ineligible to play in Sunday’s game due to concerns over COVID-19 contact tracing protocols (quarterback Jeff Driskel tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday). Kendall Hinton, who practiced Saturday as a practice squad wide receiver, was 1-of-9 passing. The Broncos will take very little away from the game and now must hope the three quarterbacks are cleared to practice this week because next Sunday, they are at Kansas City. — Jeff Legwold

Next game: at Chiefs (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Standout performer: Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill, 269 receiving yards, 3 TDs

The Chiefs can’t trust their defense. After allowing 30 points in each of their two previous games, the Chiefs almost wasted a 27-10 third quarter lead against the Bucs. It was around this time last season when the Chiefs showed dramatic defensive improvement. They’ve showed no signs of doing the same this year. — Adam Teicher

Next game: vs. Broncos (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)

For three weeks, the Buccaneers have said, “The playoffs start now.” But after back-to-back losses, they’ve shown they can’t overcome the league’s better football teams. Their lone signature win is still the Week 6 upset of the Packers. As they fall to 7-5 heading into their bye week, they look like a fringe playoff team with an uphill climb ahead to try to win Tom Brady a seventh Super Bowl title. “We go compete with all of ’em, but competing is not enough,” outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett said. “We’ve gotta make the plays. We can’t keep being close; we’ve just gotta make ’em.” — Jenna Laine

Next game: vs. Vikings (1 p.m. ET, Dec. 13)

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0:51

Patrick Mahomes shines bright with 462 yards passing and three touchdowns as the Chiefs defeat the Buccaneers 27-24.

Standout performer: Texans WR Will Fuller V, 171 receiving yards, 2 TDs

Deshaun Watson has been playing well for most of the season, but he had perhaps his best game in Thursday’s victory. He has now thrown 15 passing touchdowns and no interceptions over his past six contests. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, he is just the fifth different quarterback to post at least that many passing touchdowns without a pick over a six-game span within a single season. In just the Texans’ second game of the season on national TV, Watson gave a great pitch for candidates for the Texans’ head coach job. — Sarah Barshop

Next game: vs. Colts (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Lions have fired general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia, sending the franchise into a complete reset. Team owner Sheila Ford Hamp said Saturday the losses to Carolina and Houston made it clear change needed to happen. Patricia ends his tenure at 13-29-1, having never won more than two consecutive games in his two-plus seasons in Detroit. It was, frankly, a move that needed to be made. Darrell Bevell will be the interim head coach as the Lions try to figure out who they want to lead their front office and their football team for 2021 and beyond. — Michael Rothstein

Next game: at Bears (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)


Standout performer: Washington RB Antonio Gibson, 115 rushing yards, 3 TDs

Washington running back Antonio Gibson is becoming a dangerous player. His patience and vision have improved every week, and the nation saw what the rookie third-round pick can do on Thursday. Thanks to Gibson, Washington is developing an identity on offense. He has the ability to make big plays, but he also has been consistently getting positive yards on first down of late — those four-yard gains that might be nondescript but coaches love. Washington has many holes, but it has improved enough to factor into the NFC East race over the final five games, thanks to players such as Gibson. — John Keim

Next game: at Steelers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

At 3-8, the Cowboys aren’t out of the NFC East race — but their 41-16 defeat to Washington was crushing in many respects. The day after the death of strength and conditioning coordinator Markus Paul, there was the calf injury suffered by Zack Martin, curious coaching decisions, an ineffective offense and a porous run defense. “All of these things that we’re experiencing right now, it’s only going to make us stronger,” linebacker Jaylon Smith said. “We don’t have any quitters. We have fighters in this organization from top to bottom.” — Todd Archer

Next game: at Ravens (5 p.m. ET, Dec. 7)

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Aaron Rodgers deals four touchdowns while eclipsing 50,000 passing yards in his career vs. the Bears.

Standout performer: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers: 21-29 passing, 211 yards, 4 TDs

Sunday night’s win over the slumping Bears at Lambeau Field once against raised the question: Who’s better than the Packers (8-3) in the NFC? Maybe the Saints, who are a game ahead of the Packers at 9-2; but the Saints beat a team without a quarterback — literally — on Sunday, and the Packers handled them in New Orleans back in Week 3. There’s certainly no one better in the NFC North, where one team (Detroit) just fired its coach and general manager, one (Chicago) has a five-game losing streak and the other (Minnesota) had to win four of its past five just to get back to 5-6. The Packers still get to play the Bears and Lions again and have only one game left against a team currently with a winning record — the Titans (8-3), in Week 16. — Rob Demovsky

Next game: vs. Eagles (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Bears (5-6) resemble a team headed toward massive offseason change. Chicago might technically still be “in the hunt” for one of three NFC wild-card berths, but coach Matt Nagy’s team is way worse than its record indicates. The Bears have lost five straight, and all of a sudden they suffered a crisis of confidence on defense during Sunday night’s loss to the Packers. The Bears’ D — the bedrock of the team — failed to stop the run, pressure Rodgers (zero sacks, zero hits) or cover wide-open Green Bay receivers downfield. Couple that with the expected subpar play of the offense — Mitchell Trubisky threw three touchdowns but committed three costly turnovers in his return — and the Bears’ season feels like it’s spiraling out of control. — Jeff Dickerson

Next game: vs. Lions (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Click Here to Visit Orignal Source of Article https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/30416031/nfl-week-12-takeaways-stat-leaders-concerns-raiders-cardinals-tough-losses

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