NFL Week 11 Recap: Lions Comeback Highlights Bevy of Close Finishes
We noted in our Week 11 preview that some of pro football’s best teams needed to be weary of trap games. But with seven games decided by a single possession, it was NFL fans who ended up ensnared in yet another Sunday of dramatically unpredictable action.
Interdivisional games made up a good chunk of razor-thin finishes, with four such matchups going down to the final minute. All told, Week 11 delivered a buffet of late-game drama for NFL Red Zone host Scott Hanson, who weaved in and out of the frantic “Witching Hour” with the adroitness of a veteran air traffic controller.
Be sure to ask for Hanson to work your holiday flights. Here’s a review of an exciting Week 11.
— Week 11 Recap —
Byes: Falcons, Colts, Patriots, Saints
Lions 31, Bears 26
Detroit quarterback Jared Goff shook off a miserable day to direct two late touchdown drives to help the Lions’ overcome a 12-point deficit.
The Bears led 26-14 with 4:15 left when the Lions drove 75 yards in 1:16, the march capped off by Goff finding wide receiver Jameson Williams from 32 yards out. Unable to move the ball or take time off the clock the Bears punted, and Detroit went 73 yards to take the lead with 29 seconds left, when David Montgomery punched it in from two yards. The Bears had one final possession, but Lions DE Aidan Hutchinson knocked the ball free from Justin Fields for a two-point safety.
For most of the game, the Bears took it to the sleepwalking Lions, whose minds seemed to be more on Black Friday sales than taking care of business against a wobbly divisional opponent. No Lion was ditzier than Goff who threw three INTs on the day and should have had a fourth when Chicago’s Jaylon Johnson dropped what would have been a 99-yard pick six. Despite Goff’s holiday generosity, the Bears managed to convert those turnovers into just three points.
Chicago jumped on top early, taking the game’s opening kickoff 75 yards for a score when RB D’Onta Foreman scored on a one-yard run. The Bears welcomed back Fields, who missed multiple games with injured thumb. Fields threw for 169 yards and one TD, a 39-yard strike to D.J. Moore, the wideout’s first trip to the end zone since his three-TD performance against Washington in October.
Cleveland 13, Pittsburgh 10
Dustin Hopkins kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired to end a defensive struggle between two struggling offenses. The Steelers, in particular, were woeful when they had ball. They managed just 65 total yards in the first half — then RB Jaylen Warren outdid that on one run, taking the second play of the second half 74 yards for a game-tying score.
Cleveland started rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson and did manage enough offense to score on its opening drive and then take a 10-0 lead into halftime. Following Warren’s long-TD run, there was no scoring until Pittsburgh marched 62 yards, with some big runs by Warren (who finished with 129 yards), to tie the game at 10 on a 28-yard field by Chris Boswell midway through the fourth. The Browns defense, led by Myles Garrett, forced a punt with 1:18 remaining and rookie quarterback drove the offense down to the 17-yard line to set up Hopkins’ game-winner. Garrett, the frontrunner for DPOY, collected two sacks on the day.
It was the Browns’ fourth walkout win of the season. They close to within a game of the Ravens for the top spot in the AFC North.
Houston 21, Arizona 16
The Texans defense thwarted a last-minute drive by the Cardinals to get a key home win. Arizona QB Kyle Murray drove the Cardinals to the Houston 28, but Murray’s fourth-down pass was knocked away by safety Steven Nelson to secure the Texans win.
Murray, in his second game back, finished 20-of-30 for 214 yards, and helped the Cardinals off to a fast start, hitting Rondell Moore on a 48-yard TD bomb on Arizona’s opening drive. The dual-threat QB also had a terrific weaving touchdown on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line, which pulled Arizona to within in a single possession.
The Texans overcame not only Murray’s playmaking and a resilient Arizona squad but also three interceptions by quarterback C.J. Stroud. Those mistakes aside, the rookie sensation still made a bundle of big plays, throwing for 336 yards and two TDs, including a marvelous 41-yard strike to a Tank Dell in the end zone. The sprawling reception was one of eight catches on the day for the rookie wideout, whose 149 yards receiving complemented the 112 yards rushing by RB Devin Singletary. Singletary posted back-to-back 100-yard games for the first time in his career.
Houston moves to 6-4 on the year, a remarkable record given where many pundits had them finishing in 2023.
Cowboys 33, Panthers 10
In a game closer than the final score suggests, the Cowboys (7-3) scored 14 fourth-quarter points within a matter of seconds to turn away the upset-minded Panthers (1-9).
After the Panthers cut the Dallas lead to one possession early in the quarter, Dallas running back Tony Pollard scored on a punishing 20-yard run and DB DaRon Bland returned a Bryce Young pass 30 yards to put the game out of reach. It was Pollard’s first TD since Week 1. Remarkably, it was Bland’s fourth pick-six of the season, which ties an NFL record. He has six games left to stand alone in NFL history.
Before that point eruption, underdog Carolina showed itself intent on making a game of it. The Panthers went on a season-long 17-play touchdown drive, converting three fourth downs along the way, with TE Tommy Tremble doing the honors with a four-yard TD catch.
Other than that flicker of drama, the Cowboys seemed to be in control throughout. Quarterback Dan Prescott had a respectable if unspectacular day (189 yards, two TDs). Receiver CeeDee Lamb caught a TD but his hellacious roll faded in a six-catch, 38-yard afternoon. Micah Parsons recorded 2.5 sacks and Dallas notched seven total against Bryce Young, whose OL continues to betray him.
It was the kind of game Dallas needed to win — one in which their stars played OK but they nonetheleess dominated the scoreboard.
Dolphins 20, Las Vegas 13
Another game that went down to the final possession, the Dolphins defense, led by Jalen Ramsey, turned away three fourth-quarter drives in which the Raiders had a chance to take the lead. On Vegas' final chance, Ramsey made a leaping interception in the end zone of an Aidan O’Connell pass to seal the win. It was the second of two picks for the star cornerback.
For the second straight game, the Dolphins’ heralded offense failed to fully ignite, though it was through no fault of Tyreek Hill. Miami's All-Pro receiver continued his blistering 2023 campaign with 10 catches for 146 yards. His highlight was a 38-yard TD catch and run of a Tua Tagovailoa pass in the first quarter. Tagovailoa passed for 325 yards and two TDs, his second scoring throw going to rookie going to rookie De’Von Achane, who returned to the lineup from injury but eventually left the game because of a knee issue.
The Raiders (5-6) will regret a game in which their D contained the explosive Miami offense, forced three turnovers but could not nail down a win. O’Connell threw for 271 yards but his three INTs offset the three takeaways recorded by the Vegas defense. O’Connell did a throw 46-yard TD to Davante Adams — a thing of beauty — in the second quarter to put the Raiders up 10-7.
Miami (7-3) maintains a two-game cushion in the AFC East.
Packers 23, Chargers 20
Green Bay quarterback Jordan Love threw a 24-yard touchdown to Romeo Doubs, which proved to be the difference in a back-and-forth game that saw the Chargers (4-6) once again drawing the short straw.
Los Angeles had a final chance to tie or take the lead but turned the ball over on downs with less than a minute to play.
Tied 10-10 at intermission, the game saw four lead changes in the second half. Love, who threw two TDs on the day, threw his first TD to Christian Watson at the very end of the third quarter to put the Packers ahead. Keenan Allen, who earlier dropped two passes inside the Packers’ 5-yard line, redeemed himself with a TD grab midway through the fourth, reclaiming the lead for the Chargers.
Then Love and Doubs put Green Bay (4-6) ahead to stay with 2:33 left.
Love threw for a season-high 322 yards on the day. Rookie wideout Jayden Reed took a reverse in the first half 32 yards for a TD. But the Packers offense suffered a big blow when RB Aaron Jones left the game with a knee injury. (Update: Jones appears to have avoided a major injury and is listed as day to day)
For the Chargers (4-6), yet productive passing day for Justin Hebert (260 yards, two TDs) that nevertheless resulted in a loss. One of his TD throws was a 51-yard catch and run by one of Stone Smartt. In fairness to Herbert, drops killed him. In addition to Allen, rookie WR Quinton Johnson dropped a pass on LA’s final drive that would have, at the very least, put the Chargers on the cusp of a game-tying field goal.
As big a gut punch as the loss is for the Chargers’ playoff goals, it is overshadowed by the injury to Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa. There is not yet official word on the extent of the injury, but Bosa was in obvious emotional distress when carted to the locker room in the first quarter.
Jaguars 34, Tennessee 14
Quarterback Jacob Lawrence threw two TD passes, both to receiver Calvin Ridley, ran for another, and the Jaguars’ defense forced two Tennessee turnovers as Jacksonville rebounded from last week’s loss to San Francisco.
The first of Lawrence’s scoring passes to Ridley cam early in the first quarter after a sack on Tennessee rookie QB Will Levis resulted in a turnover. Jacksonville boosted its lead to 13-0 by halftime, then effectively put the game away in the third quarter when Lawrence again found Ridley to make it 20-0.
The lone highlight for the Titans (3-7), was Levis’ perfectly placed throw to DeAndre Hopkins on a 43-yard post pattern that made the score 27-7. Levis threw for 158 yards but, statistically anyway, enjoyed his best day since his four-TD debut against Atlanta in Week 8. The throw to Hopkins was one of two scoring passes the rookie QB from Kentucky threw against the Jags.
The Jaguars move to 7-3 and strengthen their grip on first place in the AFC South.
New York Giants 31, Washington 19
Six turnovers by the Commanders (4-7) pretty much commanded New York to win a game that dealt a severe blow to Washington’s playoff hopes.
The Giants defense forced Washington QB Sam Howell into three interceptions, including a game-clinching pick-six by linebacker Isaiah Simmons in game’s final seconds. The turnovers came early before the came often, as Washington coughed up the ball twice in the first quarter, allowing the Giants (3-8) to build a 14-3 lead midway through the second.
The Giants’ offensive line did its best to equalize the Commanders’ incompetence by allowing nine sacks of New York quarterback Tommy DeVito — five in the first quarter alone. It was the first time a defense recorded five sacks in one period since 2006.
As much heat as he got from pass rushes, DeVito also got a ton from fans and media in recent weeks. But today, the free-agent rookie from Syracuse looked every bit the capable NFL quarterback, throwing three touchdowns and playing error-free football. Two of his scoring throws went to RB Saquon Barkley, who added 83 yards on the ground.
Howell was careless with the football but he one very memorable play — seven-yard pinballing TD run late in the first half that instigated a scuffle among Giants and Commanders players near the stands.
Los Angeles Rams 17, Seattle 16
Our upset special hit pay dirt as the Rams rallied from a 13-0 first-half deficit to overtake the Seahawks late in the game. Seattle’s Jason Myers missed a 55-yard kick that would have put the Seahawks back in the lead with 1:28 left.
The loss knocks Seattle out of a first-place tie with the 49ers who beat Tampa Bay.
Myers, who had made his first three field goal attempts, missed the potential game-winner after Geno Smith drove the Seahawks 38 yards to the Rams’ 37-yard line. Moments earlier, the Rams took their first lead of the game after driving 75 yards to set up a 22-yard go-ahead field goal by Lucas Havrisik. The key play of that drive was a Matthew Stafford-to-Puka Nacua 32-yard pick-up. Stafford was 17-of-31 for 190 yards and one touchdown pass on the day.
His counterpart, Geno Smith (22-of-34, 233 yards) stayed away from the turnovers that upended the Seahawks’ offense in recent weeks. His lone TD pass went to D.K. Metcalf who caught six passes for 98 yards. But Seattle’s running game was once again an issue, generating just 68 yards and that, teamed with 12 penalties, kept the ‘Hawks from controlling the game and padding their early lead.
Given their pattern of playing tight games this season no matter the level of competition, it is hard to claim Seattle was looking ahead to its Thanksgiving night showdown at home with San Francisco. In any case, here is to hoping the loss does not know too much of the luster off that much-anticipated matchup.
Denver 21, Minnesota 20
QB Russell Wilson found a leaping Courtland Sutton in the back of the end zone with a minute left and placekicker Will Lutz made five field goals to give Denver (5-5) a scintillating win on Sunday Night Football.
The Vikings, with a chance to win it with a field goal, advanced no further than their own 36, as the Denver defense forced an intentional grounding penalty on Minnesota quarterback Josh Dobbs before getting a turnover on downs.
We’ve discussed Denver’s defensive turnaround in recent weeks, and Van Joseph’s unit made a statement early in the game as well as late. On the opening drive, Denver DB Kareem Jackson blasted Minnesota quarterback Dobbs on quarterback keeper, forcing a fumble that Denver converted into Lutz’ first field goal.
Minnesota took its first lead at the start of the second quarter, when Dobbs fought off a sack on the sideline and found TE Josh Oliver for a three-yard touchdown. A Vikings field goal followed by two more Lutz field goals for Denver made the score 10-9 at the half.
As he has done repeatedly since assuming the starting quarterback role, “Crazy Legs” Dobbs made a big play with his legs, putting Minnesota up 17-9 with a 10-yard TD run. Lutz kicked his fourth and fifth field goals in the fourth quarter to pull Denver to within two points.
Then a bit of post-Halloween trickery. With over nine minutes remaining, Minnesota faked a punt from its own 31. Running back Ty Chandler converted the 4th-and-4, picking up 31 yards. Chandler would add a 19-yard catch as the Minnesota possession continued. Placekicker Greg Joseph finished off the drive with a 30-yard field goal to put the Vikes up 20-16 with just over three minutes left.
Plenty of time for Wilson and Sutton and script their heroics.
Denver, a mess a month ago, evens its record with the win and is very much alive for a possible postseason appearance. The way the Broncos’ defense is playing, the thought of Sean Payton and his squad landing a wild card berth no longer seems so absurd.