Running backs covering for their quarterbacks’ poor performances seemed to be a theme in Week 14 of the NFL season.
Not all quarterbacks who imploded were fortunate enough to be rescued by a running back, however. The quarterbacks who stunk up the joint were among the biggest surprises of Week 14, and AFC South action was loaded with surprises.
Le’Veon Bell tears up the record book
It’s no surprise that Le’Veon Bell was a big part of the Steelers’ offense in their 27-20 win at Buffalo. He had run for more than 100 yards in each of the Steelers’ previous three games.
But who expected Bell to break a franchise record for rushing yards in a single game?
Bell’s 236 rushing yards broke Willie Parker’s previous mark of 223 set in 2006. Bell also ran for three touchdowns and caught four passes for 62 yards to lead the Steelers (8-5) to their fourth straight win.
Bell has 100 yards from scrimmage in nine of his 10 games this season and on Sunday he bailed out Ben Roethlisberger, who threw no touchdowns and three interceptions for just the fourth time in his career. The Steelers are now 1-3 in those games.
Bell needs 160 rushing yards to pass Rocky Bleier, Barry Foster, Dick Hoak and Frank Pollard and move into fifth place on the Steelers’ all-time rushing list.
And he’s only 24.
Packers rout Seahawks
Just three weeks ago, the Packers’ season was heading toward oblivion and the Seahawks looked like legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
On Sunday, those lost Packers hammered those elite Seahawks 38-10 at Lambeau Field.
The Seahawks (8-4-1) hadn’t lost that badly since they were beaten 41-7 at home against the Giants in Week 9 of the 2010 season.
The Packers (7-6) intercepted Russell Wilson five times. It was the first time in his career that Wilson has been intercepted five times. He had never even been intercepted four times. He had been intercepted three times just once, and that was in his rookie year.
As ugly as that was, perhaps the Seahawks should be more concerned about their problems on the other side of the ball. With Earl Thomas sidelined for the season, they gave up a season-high 38 points.
This is no time for the Seahawks to R-E-L-A-X.
Drew Brees throws three interceptions again
Drew Brees has thrown three or more interceptions without a touchdown pass seven times in his career. That can happen every now and then in a 16-year career.
But five of those games came in 2012 or earlier. The last two have come in each of the last two weeks.
Brees completed 25 of 41 passes for 257 yards with three interceptions in the Saints’ 16-11 loss at Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers (8-5) held Russell Wilson to 118 yards two weeks ago and Philip Rivers to 211 yards last week. Brees can join the club.
The Saints (5-8) are staring at their fourth straight non-playoff season. They haven’t gone that long without a postseason appearance since Brees and Sean Payton arrived in 2006.
Jameis Winston goes without a touchdown
Who would have thought the Saints and their 27th-ranked defense, on the road, would be the team to break Jameis Winston’s touchdown streak.
For the first time in his career, Winston didn’t throw a touchdown pass or run for a touchdown. That 28-game streak was nice, but Winston has been doing something more important recently.
He’s been winning.
The Buccaneers (8-5) won their fifth straight and remain tied with the Falcons for first place in the NFC South.
Winston completed 16 of 26 passes for 184 yards, ending a two-game interception streak and letting his defense do the work.
Texans sweep Colts for first time in franchise history
The Colts seemed to have the momentum heading into Sunday’s AFC South showdown against the Texans. They had won three of their last four, including a 41-10 road domination of the Jets on Monday Night Football. The Texans, meanwhile, had lost three in a row and their only road win of the season had come at lowly Jacksonville.
Now, the Texans (7-6) lead the division after their 22-17 win at Indianapolis. It’s the first time in franchise history, which dates back to 2002, that the Texans have defeated the Colts twice in the same season.
The Texans have the same record as the Titans, but currently have the tiebreaker because they beat the Titans this season. They host Jacksonville and Cincinnati over the next two weeks before a Week 17 game at Tennessee that could decide the division. The Colts, meanwhile, are at Minnesota and Oakland over the next two weeks before finishing at home against Jacksonville.
The trajectory of Andrew Luck’s first three seasons suggested that the Colts would make the Super Bowl by now. They lost in the wild-card in 2012, the divisional round in 2013 and the conference championship in 2014. But they veered off that path last year and could be looking at a second straight non-playoff season.
Titans beat Broncos
Considering the struggles of the Broncos’ run defense and Trevor Siemian, it’s really not all that surprising that the Titans beat the defending Super Bowl champions 13-10 in Tennessee.
What makes it surprising is that they did it despite Marcus Mariota’s 6-for-20 passing day.
In his worst game this season, Mariota threw for just 88 yards. The Titans (7-6) rode DeMarco Murray’s shoulders on Sunday. Murray ran for 92 yards and a touchdown.
The Titans have a winning record for the first time since they beat the Buccaneers in last year’s season opener.
Harry Douglas’ dirty block not flagged
The most noteworthy act by any Titans receiver Sunday, and probably the most eventful part of this 13-10 snoozer that the Titans won, was Harry Douglas’ low block on Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr.
This could have been a career-ender.
Douglas wasn’t penalized for the block, but Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib went after him and a brawl ensued.
Todd France is the agent for both Talib and Douglas.
“So when I see his a– in Atlanta, I’m going to beat his a–,” Talib said, according to NFL.com.
It should be a fun client picnic.
Matt Moore leads Dolphins’ game-winning drive
The Dolphins (8-5) remained in the wild-card mix with their 26-23 victory over the Dolphins. But it was a hollow victory.
Ryan Tannehill was injured with what could be a torn ACL.
The surprising part of this unfortunate situation is that Matt Moore entered the game in the fourth quarter and led his first game-winning drive since 2011, the year before Tannehill arrived.
Moore completed three of five passes for 47 yards. Two of those completions and 41 of those passing yards came in a pouring rain in the final minute and a half, setting up Andrew Franks’ game-winning 21-yard field goal.
Another somewhat surprising aspect of Tannehill’s injury is the fact that for all the criticism directed his way, he’s never missed a game in his five-year career.
Jets show some life in win
The Jets’ game in San Francisco wasn’t exactly the marquee matchup of Week 14. But what the Jets did in their 23-17 overtime win shouldn’t be overlooked.
Matt Forte suffered a knee injury in the second minute of the game. Bilal Powell did more than just fill in. He ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns, including the 19-yard game-winner in overtime. Powell had run for more yards only once, and that was three years ago.
In his second career start, Bryce Petty completed 23 of 35 passes for 257 yards. He threw an interception, but he did complete a 10-yard pass to Charone Peake on fourth-and-2 with the Jets trailing 17-6 and nine minutes left in regulation. That kept alive a 15-play, 66-yard drive that ended with Powell’s five-yard touchdown run and Petty’s two-point conversion run with five minutes left.
Nick Folk tied the game with a 50-yard field goal in the final minute and the Jets (4-9) dealt the 49ers (1-12) their 12th straight loss in OT.
Six days after going down 41-10 at home against the Colts, the Jets could have folded their tent after falling behind 17-3 in the second quarter. But they fought back.
As bad as the 49ers are, perhaps this win decreases the temperature a few degrees on Todd Bowles’ seat.
Cam Newton continues to struggle
It’s clear that Cam Newton isn’t the player he was last year, but his string of bad games should be a little concerning.
The Panthers beat the Chargers 28-16 Sunday, but Newton completed just 10 of 27 passes for 160 yards with a touchdown and an interception. It was the fourth straight game that Newton has failed to complete half of his passes.
Newton’s interception came at the goal line with 11 minutes left in the game and the Panthers leading 26-16. Trovon Reed appeared to return it 100 yards, but after review he was ruled down at that San Diego 3-yard line. Newton’s mistake could have put the Chargers right back in the game. His 54.6 passer rating was his second-lowest of the year. His lowest, 47.6, came against the Vikings in Week 3. The Vikings had the NFL’s third-ranked passing defense entering Sunday’s games. The Chargers were ranked 23rd.
The Panthers (5-8) scored 28 points, but two came on a safety. They scored just two touchdowns and kicked five field goals. Even Newton acknowledged that the offense needs some work.
“Not to rain on the win, but we have to put up points,” Newton told The Charlotte Observer. “As in, getting touchdowns. If we do that, that game is out of hand earlier and that’s what imposing our will is.”
What a difference a year makes.