There was plenty of good football to watch around the NFL on Sunday. OK, maybe it wasn’t exactly playoff preview football, but Week 15 of the NFL season at least produced some must-see games.
Arguably the biggest upset of the day happened in Miami, where the Dolphins finally broke their seven-game losing streak against the Patriots, but that wasn’t the game to watch on Sunday. That honor goes to the Packers’ epic comeback in Dallas.
After allowing 23 unanswered points to Tony Romo’s crew to end the first half, the Packers looked like dead fish waiting to be scooped out of their pond of misery. They had less than a 4 percent chance of winning the game, and even less of a chance of making the playoffs at that point. But then, just when Mike McCarthy seemed ready to throw in the figurative towel, the Cowboys happened — almost on cue.
With a three-score lead and 30 minutes to kill en route to reclaiming at least a share of the lead in the NFC East, Jason Garrett decided to abandon any form of offensive balance and give Green Bay every chance to comeback. Of Dallas’ 32 offensive snaps in the second half, 24 of them were pass plays and just eight were runs, which makes the late-game pass calls even more ludicrous considering DeMarco Murray was averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
So, only moments after watching Romo choke his way into another head-scratching giveaway, Garrett went straight back to the pass and let Romo do his best impersonation of, well, himself and cement the loss.
In the end, Matt Flynn outplayed Romo, McCarthy out-coached Garrett and the Packers scored 34 second-half points to keep their playoff hopes alive and prove the Cowboys ineptitude once again.
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore. The Cowboys have won just one playoff game in the last 17 years, and this team specifically has had a knack for the dramatic — err, inconceivable — over the past three years, during which they’ve gone a perfect 23-23. So, if Sunday showed us anything, it’s that nothing has changed in Dallas. Whatever the outcome next weekend, just know that come Week 17, if the Eagles don’t find a way to beat Dallas then the Cowboys certainly will. Because that’s what the Cowboys do.
Anyway, enough Cowboys venting, here are some winners and losers from Week 15.
1. Jamaal Charles — If you were a fantasy owner playing against Charles this week (I was), then better luck next year. Aside from the irrational fantasy anger and personal biases, though, Charles had arguably the best performance this season of any player not named Peyton Manning. Charles set a new career high with 195 receiving yards, more than doubled his receiving touchdowns total (four on Sunday gives him seven total) and posted a new career best with five total touchdowns in the game. And he did it all while running for a season-low 20 yards on the ground. Manning is still No. 1 in the MVP balloting, but now Charles has finally given us a firm No. 2.
2. Indianapolis Colts — After allowing almost 31 points per game over the previous six weeks, the Colts’ defense finally decided to show up on Sunday. Indy allowed just three points in a blowout win against the Texans, limiting them to just 239 total yards and 12 first downs. Granted the effort came against Case Keenum and the lowly Texans, but, hey, it’s a start. Oh yeah, and Trent Richardson actually showed up, too. Sure, he gained just 12 yards on his first 11 carries — earning him the “Trent 1.1″ nickname in the first half — but he managed eight carries for 52 yards (6.5 yards per carry) in the second half, which gives Colts fans at least a glimmer of hope for the playoffs.
3. Jay Cutler — A pair of first-half interceptions had many in and around Chicago shouting for Josh McCown, but a strong second-half effort earned Jay Cutler his job, and his team, back. Cutler looked uncomfortable and out of sync to start the day, but he finished the game with the supreme confidence and efficiency seen at the start of the season. He completed nine of 12 passes (22 of 31 on the day) in the second half and led the Bears on three fourth-quarter touchdown drives to secure the win. The Bears are now in control of their own destiny with games against the Eagles and Packers to close out the season, and Cutler’s play will be crucial in determining whether they win the NFC North or not.
1. New York Giants — A 5-1 stretch midway through the season had many believing that Giants could actually make the playoffs, even after their 0-6 start. Those dreams were shattered on Sunday, as Eli Manning threw five more interceptions, bringing his league lead to 25, and the Giants failed to score a point for the second time this season (Week 3 at Carolina). The Giants are officially underachievers and only evading harsher criticism because of the absolute crapshow that is the NFC East — especially Washington. Some big changes need to be made before next season, and, at this point, benching Eli shouldn’t be completely out of the question.
2. New Orleans Saints — One week after seemingly locking up the NFC South title, the Saints spontaneously combusted in St. Louis and suddenly their destiny isn’t so cut and dry. Three turnovers and another defensive breakdown allowed for a 27-16 loss, and now the Saints will travel to Carolina for a winner-take-all division decider against the Panthers. The Saints are just 4-3 over their last seven weeks and continue to look less and less like a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
3. Desean Jackson — He was brilliant on the field yet again on Sunday, catching 10 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown, but Jackson’s sideline antics overshadowed an otherwise great performance. Jackson has been a head case in the past, causing headaches for Andy Reid and the Eagles’ front office. However, he’s been much more reserved and pleasant under Chip Kelly, likely because the Eagles are actually winning games again. Even so, lashing out like a child on the sidelines only goes to undermine the culture Kelly has built in Philly and the playoff push they’re in the middle of.