NFL Week 14: Drama, Controversy Dominate

Dec 10, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Tylan Wallace (16) and quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) celebrate after Wallace's game-winning punt return touchdown in overtime against the Los Angeles Rams at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 10, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Tylan Wallace (16) and quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) celebrate after Wallace's game-winning punt return touchdown in overtime against the Los Angeles Rams at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jessica Rapfogel-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys-Eagles SNF showdown was anticlimactic by any objective measure. But given the drama that unfolded earlier in the day, NFL fans likely felt they were in need of a break from all the excitement. 


That and they needed to catch their breath before the late-game theatrics of Monday night's double-header.


Where to start our look at Sunday's slate of games? The Rams and Ravens engaged in an overtime marvel of NFL action. The Bucs-Atlanta divisional matchup went down to the wire and muddied up an already-soiled NFC South. And every offensive possession rolled in Vegas turned up snake eyes.


Oh, and the Bills-Chiefs nail-biter featured the most controversial officiating moment of the NFL season. 


Let us take a deep dive into a crazy Week 14. 



Chicago 28 Detroit 13


DJ Moore scored two touchdowns and the Bears defense limited Detroit’s passing game in the upset win. 


Quarterback Justin Fields threw for a score and ran for another as Chicago jumped ahead early and closed out the Lions with a strong finish. Moore scored the Bears’ first touchdown of the day as Chicago built a 13-0 first-half bulge, but Detroit came back on a Jahmyr Gibbs TD run and a Jared Goff touchdown pass to tie the game at 13-13 heading into the half.


Late in the third quarter, Moore factored in on the game’s most decisive play. 


Detroit head coach Dan Campbell’s reputation as a gambler on fourth down is well established, but he had the tables turned on him when Chicago head coach Matt Eburflus went for it on 4th-and-13 from Detroit’s 38-yard line. Moore got behind the Lions defense to haul in a touchdown bomb from Fields, which broke the 13-13 tie. Fields ran 11 yards for a fourth-quarter score and as Chicago scored 15 unanswered points to seal the decisive win.


Fields finished 19-of-33 passing for 223 yards. He also rushed for 58 yards. 


The Bears defense shut down any thoughts the Lions had of duplicating their furious comeback win in Week 10. The pass rush notched four sacks and was especially effective in the fourth.


Per usual in such upsets, turnovers played a key role. Goff threw two interceptions, and the Lions committed three giveaways in total. Chicago, none. 


With back-to-back wins over division rivals, the Bears are playing just well enough now to piss off Windy City fans wondering where was this winning football earlier in the season. Detroit is heading in the other direction. Though they split their two head-to-heads, the Bears completely outplayed the Lions in both. Mix in a Thanksgiving drubbing by Green Bay, and NFC North-leading Detroit, one of the best teams in the league through the first nine weeks, is limping to the finish line. 



Baltimore 37, Los Angeles Rams 31


In one of the great games of 2023, Tylan Wallace returned a punt 76 yards for the game-winning touchdown in overtime to lift the Ravens to victory.


The Rams took the opening possession of the extra period but the Ravens defense forced the punt that Wallace fielded and juked his away through and around defenders, stumbling but keeping his balance, and then finishing off one of the most electrifying special teams play of the season.


Despite a constant rain, the game was remarkably well played, with only one turnover committed between the two teams. Both squads surpassed 400 yards of total offense and the teams traded the lead seven times. The lead changed hands three times in the fourth quarter alone. After a Matthew Stafford-to-Demarcus Robinson pass put Los Angeles up 28-24, Lamar Jackson threw a 21-yarder to Zay Flowers to give Baltimore a 31-28 advantage with 1:16 left. 


Stafford again led the Rams downfield and set up a game-tying Lucas Havrisik 36-yard field goal to force overtime. For the second week in a row, Stafford passed for the three touchdowns against one of the league’s elite pass defenses. He threw for 294 yards and did not turn the ball over. His receiver tandem of Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua posted 115 yards and 84 yards receiving, respectively, and rookie running back Kyran Williams helped balance the Rams attack with 114 yards rushing on 25 carries.


Jackson’s dazzling dual-threat talents were on display all afternoon. He ran for 70 yards, passed for 316, and threw three touchdowns. His first was a 54-yard toss to Isaiah Likely in the first quarter. In the second quarter, he hooked up with Odell Beckham Jr. on a 46-yard score. Beckham Jr. led the Ravens with 97 yards receiving.


Next up for the Ravens (9-4) is a Sunday night clash with Jacksonville. This was a tough loss for Rams (6-7) but their schedule softens up with games the Commanders, Saints (in LA) and Giants, so a run for a wild card should be in their sights.



Tampa Bay 29, Atlanta 25


Baker Mayfield threw an 11-yard TD pass to tight end Cade Otton with 31 seconds left, and Tampa Bay’s defense stopped the Falcons at the 3-yard line as time expired to give the Bucs a critical divisional win.


The win moves the Tampa into a three-way tie with Atlanta and New Orleans for first place in the NFC South. Because they hold tie-breakers, the Falcons presently hold sole possession of the division lead.


This game featured three lead changes in the final six minutes of action. Atlanta QB Desmond Ridder ran the ball in from six yards out to put Atlanta up, 25-22, with 4:11 left in the game. Then Mayfield, on the Bucs’ final drive, set up the TD pass to Otton with a 32-yard strike to WR Chris Godwin. 


But Atlanta had one more chance for the win. Ridder, who passed for 347 yards on the day, and has four game-winning drives this season to his credit (including in the first matchup against Tampa, in October), marched the Falcons into Bucs territory. From the 31-yard line, and with no timeouts, he connected with Drake London, but the Atlanta wideout was brought down short of the goal-line as time expired. It was one of London’s 10 catches on the day for 172 yards.


Mayfield was not as productive yardage-wise as Ridder but he made big plays when he had to. Tampa RB Rachaad White contributed 105 yards rushing to the cause and hauled in the other of Mayfield’s two TD passes, a 31-yard reception that gave the Bucs a 19-10 advantage in the third quarter.



Cincinnati 34, Indianapolis 14


In his third start since taking over for Joe Burrow, Jake Browning threw for 275 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score to lead the Bengals to a win pivotal in keeping their playoff hopes alive. 


Six days removed from his stunning, season-saving game last Monday Night in Jacksonville, Browning was again highly efficient, completing 18-of-24 passes. In the two games, Browning completed 50-of-61, a sparkling 81 percent.


Browning to Brown started off the scoring for Cincinnati when QB Jake connected with Chase Brown on a short pass that the speedy running back took 54 yards to the house. A Joe Mixon TD run gave the Bengals a 14-0 lead, but Indianapolis fought back in the second quarter to tie the game 14-14 going into halftime. 


But in the second half, it was all Cincinnati. A Browning scoring throw to Tanner Hudson and a one-yard TD run from Browning gave the Bengals a 28-14 lead heading into the fourth. They added two Evan McPherson field goals in the fourth, and the Cincinnati defense shut out the Colts after intermission.


For the Colts (7-6), nine penalties and two turnovers did them no favors, but Indy’s offense also failed to run the ball effectively. With Jonathan Taylor sidelined, the Colts’ running game managed just 46 yards. QB Gardner Minshew did throw for 240 yards, but Indianapolis finished just 3-of-11 on third down.  


The loss snaps the Colts’ five-game winning streak, but they’re still in the thick of the AFC wild-card chase. They host the crumbling Steelers next week, and the rest of their schedule includes winnable games. The victory puts Cincinnati (7-6) squarely in the playoff hunt, especially now with Browning playing so splendidly.


“Joe who?” Ok, even the most optimistic of Cincinnati fans are not asking THAT question. But the striped faithful can be forgiven for thinking that a savior for their team’s season came just in time for Christmas.  



New Orleans 28, Carolina 6


In the second NFC South matchup, Derek Carr threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to turn a one-possession game into a seemingly convincing win. 


But appearances can be deceiving. It was an odd game in that the Saints dominated the scoreboard but were outplayed in what, usually, are telling statistical measures. Carolina outgained New Orleans by nearly 100 yards and held nearly a 10-minute edge in time of possession. 


The play of the game came down to special teams. With the score 7-3 in the second quarter, New Orleans special teamer Nephi Sewell came in unblocked on Carolina punter Johnny Hekker, snuffing both Hekker and the kick. Sewell’s teammate D’Marco Jackson picked up the ball and took into the end zone to give the Saints a 14-6 halftime lead.


The Panthers’ defense held New Orleans scoreless in the third and closed the gap to single possession on an Eddy Pineiro field goal. 


Another tough day for Bryce Young. The No. 1 overall pick completed just 13-of-36 passes, a woeful 36 percent. But New Orleans’ Carr was not much better, finishing with just 119 yards passing. But then came the fourth when he threw TD passes to Chris Olave and veteran tight end Jimmy Graham to put the game away. 


Carolina (1-brutal) keeps pushing for the No. 1 overall pick for the second straight season. The Saints (6-7) made it into a tie with Atlanta and Tampa Bay. We think the Bucs have the tiebreakers. At least that’s what our followers in Tampa keep telling us.



New York Jets 30, Houston 6


For those very few who contend that NFL games should be reduced from 60 minutes to half that amount, this game was for you. 


Scoreless at halftime, the second half produced a month’s worth of Jets points as New York somehow scored 30 in 30 en route to a dominating win over Houston. 


And for those looking for confirmation that the Jets’ pass defense is the game’s best need only watch their performance against quarterback C.J. Stroud, the surefire winner of the NFL’s Rookie of the Year, holding him to 91 passing yards passing, easily the lowest of his sensational first year in the league. Stroud left the game with a concussion following a hit by the Jets’ Quinnen Williams, with Davis Mills replacing him. But, up until the that play, the Jets throttled Stroud as no other NFL defense did to this point.


Meanwhile, the Jets’ offense found life with the return of Zach Wilson to the starting lineup — not in the first half, mind you. But eventually.


Wilson threw 36 times, completing 27 for 301 yards. He passed for two TDs in that luxurious second half. More important, he avoided the soul-crushing turnovers that consigned him and his AFC Eastern Seaboard quarterback doppelgänger Mac Jones to their respective benches. 


Garrett Wilson caught nine passes for 108 yards, and RB Breece Hall put up nice numbers as a receiver (eight catches for 86 yards) as the Jets’ offense overcame a weak running game to ignite in the second half.


A disappointing performance by Houston (7-6) —  really their first in weeks. What is particularly discouraging for Houston fans is their team blew a golden opportunity to close to within a game of Jaguars who lead the AFC South. As for the Jets (5-8), they gave their fans a reason to tune in next week.



San Francisco 28, Seattle 16


Brock Purdy threw two TD passes and for a career-high 347 yards, and receiver Deebo Samuel caught one touchdown and ran for another as San Francisco beat its division rival for the fifth straight time.


Christian McCaffrey hammered his way to 146 rushing yards, including a 72-yard run on the first scrimmage play of the game, which set up three-yard scoring run by Jordan Mason.


Seattle made a game of it in the first half, withstanding the shock of McCaffrey’s game-opening play to take a 10-7 lead. QB Drew Lock, filling in for Geno Smith, fit a 31-yard scoring pass into D.K. Metcalf, who made a great catch along the sidelines, to tie the game on Seattle’s opening possession..


The Niners struck back when Purdy hit Deebo Samuel on a deep throw to give San Francisco a 14-10 halftime lead. Samuel then scored on a 1-yard record-setting TD run in the third quarter, his 19th career rushing touchdown, the most ever by a wide receiver.


Seattle answered with a three-play drive that cut the 49ers lead to 21-16, but Purdy and the San Francisco offense responded immediately. The second-year QB found George Kittle on a 44-yard pass to make it 28-16, with the tight end weaving the last 20+ yards through the Seattle secondary. 


Purdy continued his magnificent play of late. He threw 13 TDs in the Niners’ five-game win streak and completed at least 70 percent of his passes over seven straight games — only the fourth QB ever to accomplish that feat. Yesterday saw a career best for Purdy not only in passing yards but also yards per attempt (13.6). 


Lock played solid football in place of Smith, ruled out hours before kickoff with a groin injury he sustained Thursday in practice. Smith’s status for next week’s game against Philadelphia is uncertain. The Seahawks (6-7) were once 6-2 but have now lost five straight. The frustration of that losing streak and the 49ers recent dominance over them boiled over near the end of the game, when Metcalf and San Francisco’s Fred Warner got into a skirmish that eventually involved pushing and jawing among scads of players from both teams. Metcalf was ejected.


The 49ers (10-3) can lay claim to both the best record in football and the fair-weather status of being anointed by punditry as the NFL’s best team. San Francisco travels to Arizona to take on the Cardinals, which could be a trap game with the Ravens coming to Levi’s Stadium on Christmas Day.



Minnesota 3, Las Vegas 0


Placekicker Greg Joseph kicked a 36-yard field goal with 1:57 left in regulation for the lone score in one of the weirdest games of 2023.


The 3-0 score was the lowest point total in the NFL since Pittsburgh beat Miami 3-0 in 2007. The game was 1:57 away from being the first scoreless tie at the end of regulation since 1943. 


And we are talking about two defenses that allow over 20 points per game. But by the second half, you would have thought the 2000 Ravens and the ’85 Bears had taken the field.


The game featured 17 punts, as each offense failed to reach 250 yards. Minnesota’s passing attack was especially ineffective. Once as popular in Minnesota as the Northern Lights and Prince, Vikings quarterback Josh Dobbs was benched after an especially tough-to-watch 10-of-23, 63-yard performance. His replacement Nick Mullens fared better against a swarming Raiders defense, going 7-of-10 on the 56-yard drive that set up Joseph’s game-winner. 


The Raiders had one final shot to tie or take the lead, but QB Aidan O’Connell’s first pass attempt after Joseph’s kick was intercepted by Minnesota corner Ivan Pace Jr. 


Given the low score, surely the two superstar edge defenders we spotlighted in our preview stepped up and posted big games. One of them certainly did: Maxx Crosby notched two sacks and seven tackles. Meanwhile, his counterpart for Minnesota, Danielle Hunter, failed to get to O’Connell and had just one tackle. Minnesota still managed to sack the Raiders QB four times. 


A big win for Minnesota (7-6), which now travels to Cincinnati to start a tough four-game stretch, which features two games against Detroit, to close the season. For the Raiders (5-8), the loss was gut-punch to their playoff hopes. They host the Chargers next week.



Buffalo 20, Kansas City 17


Buffalo kicker Tyler Bass made a 39-yard field goal with just two minutes remaining to give the Bills a much-needed road win over the struggling defending Super Bowl champs.


But the game will remembered for a controversial offsides call that took a last-minute lateral for a touchdown off the board and denied the Chiefs a dramatic victory. 


The Bills jumped out in front, 14-0, in the first half. QB Josh Allen threw for one touchdown (to RB James Cook) and ran for another, and the Bills’ defense stymied Kansas City’s opening drive with an interception of Patrick Mahomes. Later in the half, the Chiefs’ defense returned the favor, picking off Allen near midfield. Kansas City capitalized on the quarterback’s league-leading 14th pick, driving 52 yards and scoring just before halftime on a Jerick McKinnon seven-yard run to make the score 14-7.


A Bass field in the third quarter stretched Buffalo’s advantage to two possessions, but a Mahomes-to-Rashee Rice four-yard TD pass narrowed the gap to 17-14. 


Kansas City’s defense forced three straight Buffalo punts, and the Chiefs eventually drove deep into Buffalo terriitory. But, as has been a pattern this season, Kansas City’s offense stalled in the red zone, forcing the Chiefs to settle for a Harrison Butker 27-yard field goal and a 17-17 tie. 


The Bills’ game-winning drive was not the most efficient — it took them 12 plays to go 48 yards. But they did convert three third downs when they converted just 3-of-10 on all the previous drives. Allen and wideout Deonte Harty hooked up on the biggest of the conversions, a 25-yard pass play that took the ball to KC’s 40 yard line. A few plays later Bass kicked what turned out to be the game-winning field goal.


But then came the call. With 1:19 left and down by three, Mahomes hit Travis Kelce down the middle of the field. Reaching Buffalo’s 20 yard-line, Kelce fired a lateral towards the sideline to Kadarius Toney, who went the final 20+ yards untouched for an apparent go-ahead touchdown. But the officials ruled that Toney lined up offsides and replays seemed to confirm that the front half of his foot was in the neutral zone.


Seemed to. Mahomes and Andy Reid both called out the officiating in their postgame comments and should brace for fines for the NFL at some point this week.


The Chiefs (8-5) seemed to be in total control of the AFC West a few weeks ago. No longer. The loss reduces their lead over Denver to a single game. The Bills came up with what might be a playoffs-salvaging win. But no time for Buffalo to relax — their next biggest biggest game of the year happens Sunday when the red-hot Cowboys visit Orchard Park.


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