Plenty of meaningful football took place on Thanksgiving this week, including the most memorable side-step of all time, but Sunday also featured some great games and major performances.
DeMarco Murray and Reggie Bush did their best to entertain and amaze out of the backfield on Thursday, scooting around the field like Sonic the Hedgehog, but it was the wide receivers who stole the show on Sunday. Josh Gordon and Alshon Jeffrey both went over 200 yards for the second time this season — the second time in two weeks for Gordon — and Eric Decker threw four touchdowns up on the board just for good measure.
Ryan Tannehill kept the Dolphins’ playoff hopes alive for one more week with a big win against the rival Jets, while the Titans and Browns all but had a fork stuck in their postseason chances. There were plenty of other exciting games and big performances to note, so let’s try and highlight the best and worst of Week 13 with some of this week’s rapid reactions.
1. Eric Decker — The top spot realistically could have belonged to Josh Gordon, Alshon Jeffrey or Eric Decker, but considering that the Broncos were the only of the three teams to win on Sunday, Decker seemed like the best candidate. He picked up the slack for an ailing Demaryius Thomas, limited Wes Welker and unavailable Julius Thomas in the passing game, catching eight passes for 174 yards and four touchdowns just one week after he was held to just one catch for five yards in New England. Those four touchdowns proved vital, too, as Denver narrowly escaped the Chiefs 35-28 to give them the outright lead in the division.
2. Nick Foles — Mr. Perfect remains perfect for at least one more week. Nick Foles continued his aerial assault on the NFL in Week 13, this time taking advantage of the Cardinals’ secondary with three more touchdowns to bring his season total to 19 touchdowns and zero interceptions — yes, you read that right. Foles has not only proven to be an effective NFL quarterback, much to the chagrin of the 31 teams that bypassed him in last year’s draft, but he’s also shown to be more than capable at running Chip Kelly‘s offense. Oh, and did I mention that the Eagles are 5-1 with him as a starter this season — sounds like they might be playoff bound.
3. Baltimore Ravens — Mike Tomlin almost got in the way, but the Ravens ran over the Steelers in Baltimore on Thursday night and celebrated the fact that their playoff destiny is now firmly within their own grasp. Baltimore got their third win in four games on Thursday, and got back to .500 for the first time since Week 6. The AFC North title is all but out of the question at this point, but the Ravens are still in line for a wild card spot and seem to be playing their best football at the perfect time.
1. Marc Trestman — The Bears should have beaten the Vikings in regulation, but Marc Trestman’s decision making on the afternoon didn’t help matters. Trestman took a lot of heat following Chicago’s loss because of his decision to kick a potential game-winning field goal from 47 yards out on second down late in the overtime. Kicker Robbie Gould missed the kick, giving the Vikings prime field position to get themselves in place for their eventual game-winner. The decision to kick on second down wasn’t Trestman’s only mistake in the game, though, as his play calling throughout the fourth quarter — which the Bears entered with a 10-point lead — as well as his use, or lack thereof, of timeouts in the second half was dismal. He couldn’t even take advantage of a 57-yard return by Devin Hester late in the fourth quarter that gave them the ball at the 50-yard line with 20 seconds left and all three timeouts remaining.
2. NFL Officials — As if there weren’t enough questions about officiating coming into Week 13, calls in the Cardinal-Eagles and Giants-Redskins games only served to tack onto the problems. Referee Tony Corrente allowed a botched holding call to dictate the end of the Eagles’ game, taking any hope at a victory away from Arizona late in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Jeff Tripplette didn’t get control of his crew during the final drive in the fourth quarter on Sunday night, confusing Mike Shanahan and the Washington offense on a would-be first down. Granted, these officials are better than the replacement refs from last season, but there are still too many mistakes happening on a consistent basis.
3. Rex Ryan’s job status — Four weeks ago, Rex Ryan looked like he had bought himself one more season as the head man in Florham Park, N.J. After Sunday, I’m not sure anything could keep him around after this season. Two straight weeks with no touchdowns to speak of, and five games in a row without a passing touchdown doesn’t bode well for his future. The Jets are also on the outside of the playoff picture looking in now, after holding full control of their postseason destiny just three weeks ago. The only thing that could save Rex at this point is if Geno Smith shows significant progress over the final four games and the Jets pull off at least a 2-2 finish.