Two six-game winning streaks came to an end in Week 13 of the 2016 NFL season.
That and a couple of breakout performances are among the most surprising events of Sunday’s games.
Lions defense stops Saints in Superdome
The highest over-under Sunday was in New Orleans, where the Lions visited the Saints. This was no shootout, however. The Lions topped the Saints 28-13.
Detroit’s 15th-ranked defense was without leading tackler Tahir Whitehead, but held the Saints to their lowest point total at the Superdome since Week 11 of the 2014 season.
Drew Brees threw three interceptions without a touchdown for the first time since 2012.
Perhaps none of this should have been surprising. The Lions (8-4) have won seven of their last eight and have a two-game lead on the rest of the field in the NFC North.
The Saints (5-7) missed an opportunity to make a move in an NFC South that no one is running away with.
Panthers bench Cam Newton for one play
The Panthers took the opening kickoff Sunday night in Seattle, and when their offense took the field Derek Anderson was under center.
On the first play, Mike Morgan intercepted Anderson and the Seahawks turned that takeaway into a field goal.
So where was Cam Newton?
Apparently he was stripped of his start because he violated team rules. NBC reported during the game that it was a dress code violation.
Newton entered the game on the Panthers’ next series.
The Panthers came into the game 4-7, not the kind of season the defending NFC champions expected to have. Newton’s deferred start was just another oddball twist.
Eric Berry returns interception for winning points
If this were a movie script, it would be rejected because the storyline would seem unrealistic.
But Eric Berry’s homecoming Sunday wasn’t fiction.
The Chiefs safety grew up near Atlanta and was there for the first time since he was treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2014.
“I shed a few tears before the game, I shed a few tears during the game and I shed a few after,” Berry told the Associated Press via ESPN.com.
Just getting on the field was an accomplishment for Berry with all he’s been through, but he did a little more than just step on the field in the Chiefs’ 29-28 win.
Berry returned an interception 37 yards with 37 seconds left in the first half to give the Chiefs a 20-13 lead.
The Chiefs’ lead grew to 27-16 in the third quarter, but the Falcons came back and took a 28-27 lead when Matt Ryan threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson with 4:32 left in the game. The Falcons went for two to stretch their lead to a field goal.
But Berry intercepted Ryan’s pass on the two-point attempt and took it to the house for two points, giving the Chiefs the lead.
The Chiefs (9-3) ran out the clock to secure their second straight win, both on the road. Their next three games are at home and they have a chance to beat the Raiders (10-2) a second time and earn the tiebreaker over them in the AFC West.
They’re in this enviable position thanks to Berry.
49ers bench Colin Kaepernick
The terms “Colin Kaepernick” and “bench” are no strangers to each other in the same sentence. It was mildly surprising, however, to see Blaine Gabbert come out of mothballs in the fourth quarter of the 49ers’ 26-6 loss at Chicago.
Kaepernick had thrown eight touchdown passes and two interceptions in his previous four games entering Sunday’s action. He also was regaining his form as a mobile quarterback, rushing for 113 yards in last week’s 31-24 loss at Miami.
On Sunday, Kaepernick completed just one of five passes for four yards and was sacked five times through three quarters. Despite those puny numbers in the snow, Kaepernick was caught off-guard when he was pulled.
“I was surprised. It wasn’t something I expected … It’s not my place to really argue on the sideline,” he told NFL.com.
Kaepernick didn’t raise a stink because, you know, he would never do anything to make a spectacle of himself on the sidelines.
Jordan Howard scores three touchdowns
Bears rookie running back Jordan Howard entered Sunday’s game ninth in the NFL with 766 rushing yards.
There might have been some people still not aware of the promising rookie, however, because of the Bears’ irrelevance.
Now the secret is out.
Howard ran for 117 yards and three touchdowns in the Bears’ 26-6 victory. He had just two touchdowns going into the game.
Howard and his fellow rookies gave the Bears something to look forward to next year, but not before the 49ers (1-11) took a 6-0 lead in the snow at Soldier Field.
Then came Howard’s three touchdowns. The first one came from a yard out with 31 seconds left in the first half. Then he scored on a 2-yard run and a 5-yard run in the third quarter to give the Bears a 21-6 lead.
Not bad for a fifth-round pick.
DeAndre Hopkins scores one touchdown
Texans’ wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who caught 11 touchdown passes last season, has just three this season. He caught one Sunday, his first since Week 5.
The 44-yard delivery from Brock Osweiler with 1:51 left at Green Bay kept the Texans alive, narrowing their deficit to 21-13. But they couldn’t recover the onside kick.
Hopkins caught just three passes for 58 yards. He hasn’t caught more than five passes in a game since Week 6. He’s been one of this season’s biggest disappointments. Then again, so has the guy throwing him the ball.
Giants allow a 100-yard rusher
Le’Veon Bell rushing for 100 yards isn’t going to stop any presses, but he became the first back to reach the century mark against the Giants this season.
Bell ran for 118 yards on 29 carries as the Steelers beat the Giants 24-14 at Heinz Field and ended their six-game winning streak.
It’s the first time in Bell’s career that he’s run for 100 yards in three straight games.
Bell ran for 4.1 yards per carry against a team that was third in the league with 3.5 yards allowed per carry.
The Steelers (7-5) beat the Giants at home for the first time since 1971. Sure, this was just the Steelers’ third game in Pittsburgh against the Giants since then while the Giants have hosted the Steelers six times. But it’s a neat little “Did You Know.”
Ravens score 38 points
Two things happened in Baltimore Sunday that hadn’t happened since Week 6 of the 2014 season.
The Ravens scored 38 points and Joe Flacco threw four touchdown passes.
Baltimore ended Miami’s six-game winning streak with a 38-6 victory. Flacco completed 36 of 47 passes for a season-high 381 yards.
The last time Flacco threw this many touchdown passes and the Ravens scored this many points, they beat the Buccaneers 48-17 in 2014. Flacco had five TD passes in that game. The Bucs were a 2-14 team. The Dolphins (7-5) looked like they were heading in that direction after starting the season 1-4, but turned their season around before running into a brick wall Sunday.
The Ravens improved to 7-5, just like the Steelers. The Ravens beat a team Sunday that had won six in a row, just like the Steelers. The Ravens seem to have recovered from a four-game losing streak earlier in the season, just like the Steelers.
The AFC North is a two-horse race, and while the division looked shabby back in October, it now looks like it will take better than a 9-7 record to win it.
Paul Turner catches six passes
It was in a losing effort, but Eagles wide receiver Paul Turner caught his first NFL pass Sunday at Cincinnati.
Then he caught five more.
Jordan Matthews was out, so the rest of the Eagles receivers moved up the depth chart.
And Turner moved way up the depth chart.
The undrafted rookie made his debut Monday night against the Packers, but didn’t catch a pass. He put himself on the map in Sunday’s 32-14 loss to the Bengals with six catches for a team-high 80 yards.
This might be a name to remember.
Carson Palmer doesn’t throw an interception
For the first time since Week 7, Carson Palmer didn’t throw an interception.
Palmer completed 30 of 46 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns in the Cardinals’ 31-23 home win over the Redskins.
Palmer had thrown at least one interception in four straight games and the Cardinals (5-6-1) went 1-3 in those games. On Sunday, however, he out-shined Mr. You-Like-That Kirk Cousins and breathed a little life into the Cardinals’ playoff hopes.
The Cards are a game and a half behind the Buccaneers for the final playoff spot. Now the Redskins (6-5-1) are on the outside looking in and would lose a tiebreaker with the Cardinals.
Palmer and the Cardinals still have to go to Miami and Seattle, but their season isn’t lost just yet.