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NFL Week 12: What we learned from Sunday's games

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  • By Around The NFL staff NFL.com
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Thanksgiving has come and gone, but the football gods keep giving. Sunday's games boasted some breakout performances, back-and-forth bouts and one big blowout. Here are our main takeaways from Week 12 in the National Football League:

» The Eagles keep drives alive better than any other NFC team, which will come in handy in January.

» If the Bengals are postseason material, what does that tell us about the wanting AFC?

» Tevin Coleman deserves just as large of a role in the Falcons backfield as Devonta Freeman when both are healthy.

» Alvin Kamara is the real deal. The rookie running back's performance Sunday was arguably the best of his career.

» If Carson Palmer ends up missing the remainder of the season, Blaine Gabbert should receive an extended audition to increase his market value in a contract year.

Eagles 31, Bears 3


1. The one-loss Eagles (10-1) dominated the listless Bears from the opening snap to the final whistle. Philly's smothering defense clobbered Chicago in the trenches, pressuring and confusing an off-target Mitchell Trubisky. Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan & Co. obliterated the Bears running game and battered Trubisky. The Eagles D allowed six total rushing yards and earned seven tackles for loss, two sacks, five QB hits and two interceptions. Chicago's sad offensive effort resulted in zero first downs and 33 total yards in the first half. Philly showed Trubisky, who had the least accurate day of his young career, what it's like facing a quality defense. With the run game shut down and Eagles DBs sticking to receivers who can't get open, Trubisky was lost at sea without hope against Jim Schwartz's defense.

2. Alshon Jeffery showed his former team what they are missing. The big-bodied receiver made plays for Carson Wentz early, including an easy eight-yard TD grab to close a laugher of a first half. Philly once again displayed a diverse, deep offense that got whatever it wanted against Chicago's banged-up, lifeless defense. Zach Ertz became the first Eagles pass catcher to break the 100-yard plateau this season (103 on 10 catches). LeGarrette Blount carried the load, rushing for 97 yards on 15 totes with a fumble. Nelson Agholor chipped in with an athletic flip into the end zone and a fumble recovery for a score. Perhaps the most impressive part of Wentz's magical play is the ease with which the quarterback converts third downs, especially third-and-long. The Eagles keep drives alive better than any other NFC team, which will come in handy in January.

3. John Fox entered the season on the hot seat. Sunday's no-show should make his chair about 373.15 kelvin. While the talent disparity between the Eagles and Bears was evident, the discrepancy between the two coaching staffs on the field in Philly was mind-numbing. Fox's team looks rudderless, plays with zero fire, and the Bears' young QB shows little progress. Doug Pederson has his team playing inspired and Wentz guiding a lethal operation. Whereas Fox was punting in short-yardage situations and attempting long field goals, Pederson was going for it on fourth down in the first half. Falling to 3-8 heading into December, it could be Fox's last month on the job in Chicago.

-- Kevin Patra

Bengals 30, Browns 16


1. The Bengals (5-6) came into Sunday with a league-worst 68 rushing yards per game, but easily topped that figure in the first quarter alone en route to a season-best 154 yards on the day. The uptick was fueled by the Joe Mixon breakout performance Bengals fans have waited for all year, as the rookie plowed for 114 yards off 23 carries and piled up another 51 yards through the air. Mixon looked good doing it, too, getting the best of a Browns run defense that came in ranked sixth NFL-wide but fell to pieces early. It was impressive to watch the Bengals settle in after the half and chew up the clock with long scoring drives that put this tilt out of reach. It didn't help Cleveland's chances to see cover man Briean Boddy-Calhoun drop a pair of would-be picks by Andy Dalton.

2. This game looked in trouble for Cleveland early when Adam Jones returned a punt 55 yards to pay dirt. The score was called back by an illegal block, but the Bengals went on to chip in a field goal for the 13-3 lead. Was there any reason to believe the Browns would mount a comeback? Not really. Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer (18 of 31 for 268 yards) played one of his cleaner outings and brought the team within seven points midway through the fourth with a three-yard rushing score, but it wasn't enough. Desperately needing a big stop, Cleveland's defense couldn't overcome a questionable call on rookie safety Jabrill Peppers -- flagged for hitting a defenseless player -- that helped set up Mixon's game-sealing touchdown gallop with three minutes left on the clock.

3. The Browns are lost in the darkness at 0-11, but I'll offer one positive: Myles Garrett is a full-blown star. The rookie edge rusher recorded his fifth sack in six games, but this remains a roster with far too many burning question marks beyond the draft's first overall selection. As for the Bengals, rookie pass rusher Carl Lawson racked up 1.5 takedowns of his own, giving him seven on the year -- best among all first-year players. The win keeps Cincy's slim playoff hopes alive, but we can't assume that success will translate in remaining clashes with the Steelers, Vikings, Lions and Ravens. If the Bengals are postseason material, what does that tell us about the wanting AFC?

-- Marc Sessler

Bills 16, Chiefs 10


1. Averaging nearly 33 points per game while bedeviling defenses with college-spread concepts sprinkled into his West Coast attack, Andy Reid was the toast of the league until the Steelers broke his offense in Week 6. Over the past six games, defenses have turned to Cover-2 looks, adjusting to Reid's diverse formations and exotic array of run-pass options, fake jet sweeps, shovel passes and misdirection plays. A downtrodden Bills defense hemorrhaging 45 points per game over the past three weeks held the Chiefs to just one first down in the first half Sunday, the fewest surrendered by Buffalo before halftime since 2001. Albert Wilson's 19-yard touchdown on the opening drive of the second half ended a Kansas City drought of seven quarters and an overtime period without reaching the end zone. For all of those woes, Alex Smith had two chances at season-defining drives in a 16-10 game only to misfire on fourth-and-4 at the three-minute mark and toss the comeback attempt away with the White interception.

2. How big was this win for Buffalo? Since 1990, teams with a 6-5 record through 11 games reach the playoffs 45.2 percent of the time. That figure drops precipitously to 13.0 percent for teams that start out 5-6. That's why last week's premature decision to bench Tyrod Taylor for raw rookie Nathan Peterman left so many observers scratching their heads. As frustrating as Taylor might be for his penchant of going off script and leaving throws on the field, he's effective enough to keep the Bills competitive in a wide open AFC wild-card field. Taylor's performance at Arrowhead Stadium won't wow anyone, but he shepherded the offense by hitting Charles Clay and Zay Jones for big plays en route to four scoring drives. At the very least, Taylor will keep the offense from imploding as the Bills chase their first postseason appearance of the 21st century.

3. Although Smith deserves credit for sacrificing his body at the first-down sticks four times in the past two weeks, that won't prevent the hometown faithful from calling for talented first-round rookie Patrick Mahomes as the season threatens to slip away. The out-of-character downfield strikes that vaulted Smith into the October MVP discussion have evaporated, resulting in an aerial "attack" that has gone increasingly horizontal. The root of the problem might just be a stillborn running game that has lost Reid's confidence, as early-season sensation Kareem Hunt's averages have plummeted from 122 rushing yards per game and 6.3 yards per carry over the first five weeks to 47 and 3.2, respectively, over the past six contests. Even with the recent slump, Kansas City's scorching start and soft late-season schedule seemed to guarantee a postseason berth. That's no longer the case for a backsliding offense that has managed just one touchdown in its last 28 possessions. Judging by the past month's action, the Chargers have overtaken the Chiefs as the class of the AFC West.

-- Chris Wesseling

Panthers 35, Jets 27


1. The Panthers should send the Jets a thank you note after this one. A crucial turnover, a special teams breakdown, some ill-timed penalties and another generous helping of catch rule shenanigans helped to bail out Carolina and all but end the New York's playoff hopes. The Panthers stole the game with two huge second half plays -- a 34-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown by Luke Kuechly (in the middle of everything, per usual) and a 60-yard punt return touchdown by Kaelin Clay just 78 game seconds later. The Panthers needed these types of scores on a day when Cam Newton completed just 11 of 28 passes for a Carolina offense that managed just 299 yards.

2. Greg Olsen returned to action after missing more than two months with a broken foot, but was forced out of this game when he aggravated the injury in the third quarter. Coach Ron Rivera told reporters after the game Olsen was dealing soreness in his foot and said the team will know more about what he's dealing with Monday. Olsen was targeted four times and had one catch for 10 yards before his exit. The Panthers have successfully forged on without their star tight end, but Carolina is a far more dangerous offense with Olsen healthy and on the field.

3. A deeply frustrating game for the Jets, but excitement continues to build around Robby Anderson, who had two touchdown grabs and now has six scores in his last five games. Anderson has The Big 3 -- speed, quickness and strong hands -- so consider him a major score for a Jets braintrust that brought him in as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Temple last year. Pairing Anderson with Quincy Enunwa will give New York a legit 1-2 punch at receiver in 2018 and beyond.

-- Dan Hanzus

Seahawks 24, 49ers 13


1. No team in the NFL is more reliant on their quarterback than Seattle (7-4). With a suspect ground game and facing endless free rushers, Russell Wilson is asked to save this offense on a weekly basis with his arm and play-extending artistry. That formula feels overdue to haunt the 'Hawks, but not against a team like the Niners (1-10). Seattle managed just seven points against five punts, a pick and a missed field goal over the first 38-plus minutes of play before Wilson put Seattle up 14-6 with a 17-yard scoring strike to Nick Vannett. The floodgates opened from there, but give credit to Niners coordinator Robert Saleh for drawing up a scheme that limited Wilson early (228 yards passing with a pick and two touchdowns) before nine punts by San Francisco's offense left the team a sitting duck. Today's win isn't the issue and Wilson is a pure magician, but long gone are the ground-and-pound 'Hawks of old that battered teams to open up big plays. This team's trying to do all of that in reverse.

2. I wrote a long, chunky bullet point about the Niners needing to play Jimmy Garoppolo. They might not have a choice after C.J. Beathard (201 yards passing with three sacks) was lost to a lower-leg injury with a minute-plus left in the game. He seemed to be in adequate shape walking off the field, but we'll need to hear more from the team. Garoppolo took over on third-and-five from the Seattle 18 and moved the chains with a scramble on his first snap for the club that shipped a second-round pick to the Patriots for his services. Three plays later, he flung a 10-yard touchdown strike to Louis Murphy as time expired. Beathard is a tough young player, but this should put to bed any more debate about slow-playing Garoppolo's launch with the Niners. This San Francisco attack is the most unwatchable offense league-wide. It's not an ideal scenario for any quarterback, but it's time to give this bored-to-tears fan base something to engage in. It's time for Jimmy G.

3. Seattle couldn't afford a let down here. Fighting for their playoff lives, the 'Hawks enter a stretch that feels like a pre-January playoff run with tilts against the Eagles, Jaguars and Rams before closing out the campaign with Dallas and Arizona. San Francisco, meanwhile, has its best shot at a win over the next two weeks with dates against the Bears and Texans.

-- Marc Sessler

Rams 26, Saints 20


1. After a disappointing loss to the Minnesota Vikings, Sean McVay's Rams came back with intensity usually reserved for a playoff game. From the opening kickoff returned by an amped Pharoh Cooper, the Rams played inspired football and appeared more than ready to get back to winning. Their first drive was efficient, covering 59 yards in seven plays and four minutes, with a touchdown pass on a hard slant to Sammy Watkins capping the possession. It almost looked too easy.

Things became more of a mixed bag as New Orleans adjusted, but Jared Goff was incredibly sharp in the first half, tossing two touchdown passes and helping Los Angeles build a 17-10 lead. Though he had his ups and downs, Goff's line was eye-grabbing: 28 of 43, 354 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Todd Gurley quietly made an impact on the ground, and Cooper Kupp set a new single-game high with eight catches for 116 yards. And perhaps most importantly, the Rams got Watkins involved again, which can go a long, long way toward future success for a team that doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon.

2. Alvin Kamara is the real deal. The rookie running back has seen a well-documented bump in touches since the departure of Adrian Peterson, but his performance Sunday was arguably the best of his career. Filling the envisioned satellite back role perfectly, Kamara became New Orleans' best option in both the running and passing game, rushing five times for 87 yards and a touchdown, and catching six passes for 101 yards and another score. Think about that: 188 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns on just 11 touches. Rarely does a player make such an impact in so few opportunities, and it's even more uncommon to see a rookie doing it. Each time he caught the ball, whether in the flats or running down the seam, it was must-watch action. He slipped multiple defenders on many of his runs and even hurdled another. New Orleans didn't leave with a win, but the kid should be proud of his effort -- and the rest of the league should be on notice from here on out.

3. A week after the Rams pressured but struggled to polish off sacks on Case Keenum, they found multiple routes to Drew Brees. Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald and Samson Ebukam recorded one sack each, and seemingly constant pressure had Brees looking hesitant in clean pockets during an important drive early in the fourth quarter. Penalties brought back what would have been touchdowns on that drive, and the Saints were forced to settle for three points after Los Angeles stood firm inside its own 10. As for the entire afternoon, Brees looked much less than the usual sharp passer he's been for much of the last decade and a half. On multiple occasions, Brees threw questionable passes into traffic, and was lucky to avoid at least two interceptions dropped by Rams defenders in the fourth quarter alone. The result was a Saints offense that looked like a shell of itself in the passing game, except when targeting Kamara. Minor concerns about Brees are justifiable after this week's performance.

-- Nick Shook

Steelers 31, Packers 28


1. This was supposed to be a walk. The AFC leaders with the greatest running back-wide receiver tandem in the league against a foundering foe without its starting quarterback, a team that had been shut out at home by a lesser AFC North opponent just one week ago. And yet, thanks to a brilliant evening from Brett Hundley, Le'Veon Bell and the night's hero, Antonio Brown, this midseason prime-time clash morphed into a classic.

After Hundley, who had been mocked and forgotten after a three-INT showing against the Ravens last week, led Green Bay on a 12-play, 77-yard game-tying drive right before the two-minute warning, the Steelers responded in kind three drives later. Pittsburgh's ferocious front seven stuffed Green Bay with a three-and-out in its own territory, forcing the Pack to punt with 17 seconds left. That's all Ben Roethlisberger needed.

On the first play, Roethlisberger launched his best toss of the night, a 23-yard dart to the left sideline, where Brown hauled it in with a deft Julio-esque toe-tap. Brown followed up that unbelievable catch with another, this one a 14-yard grab to get Pittsburgh in field-goal position. Chris Boswell redeemed his earlier extra point miss soon after, knocking in a Heinz Field-record 53-yarder as time expired to seal the victory.

2. Even before the game-winning march, Brown was playing savior. The league's best wide receiver (period) hauled in two more touchdowns on Sunday night, making that five in two weeks for the Steelers' eminent pass-catcher. Brown toyed with whichever Packers cornerback was unfortunately lined up against him; on the final drive, Green Bay rookie Kevin King, who had been dealing with a shoulder injury, was the victim. Brown reeled in 10 balls on 12 targets for 169 yards on the evening, his second consecutive 10-catch game.

3. This game wouldn't have even been a contest without Brett Hundley, who authored his best half of the season in the first two frames in the Steel City. The Packers' backup followed up a career-worst showing with a near-perfect passer rating in the first half, throwing two touchdowns and completing seven of nine attempts -- one of those scores came on a long Jamaal Williams screen, but the point remains. With a clean pocket, Hundley showed great touch and Rodgersian confidence on deep throws to Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. The house of cards collapsed in the second half as Pittsburgh broke through Green Bay's front line and the pressure increased -- his management of Green Bay's last drive, which included a clock-killing dump-off was amateur -- but Packers fans should be encouraged with their young QB's bounce-back performance.

-- Jeremy Bergman

Falcons 34, Buccaneers 20


1. Nice to see you, Julio Jones! Atlanta's star receiver emerged for the first time in 2017 in a big way Sunday, catching 12 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns. His play was reminiscent of his 300-yard game against Carolina in 2016, and it came at a time when Atlanta really needed it. As a result, the Falcons looked as good offensively as they have all season -- until they started to rest on their laurels in the second half, which almost cost them. Fortunately, Atlanta woke up and sealed the victory with an 11-play, 82-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth.

Credit is due to offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who has been under fire for his unit's lack of production, but has seen an uptick in output in recent weeks. For the first time in 2017, I was wowed while watching Atlanta's offense (with much credit due to Jones). It's a great time for things to start to come together for the Falcons.

2. Watching Ryan Fitzpatrick is maddening. He has the obvious experience and wisdom to execute the offense efficiently, and at times, he puts passes right where they're supposed to be. On a few occasions, he squeezed throws into the arms of Chris Godwin and DeSean Jackson. But much more often, his throws were errant -- outside and wide when they should have been on the inside, or well short of receivers running down the boundary. Tampa Bay's quarterback situation is a microcosm of its season: budding with potential but too often failing to fulfill it. With Winston sidelined, the Fitzpatrick-led Buccaneers just don't bring enough of a consistent punch on offense. Against a team that appears to be nearing its peak, that was too much to overcome, even if the Buccaneers gave a valiant effort.

3. I made the point a couple of weeks ago, and it didn't take all that much for it to be reinforced on Sunday: Tevin Coleman deserves just as large of a role as Devonta Freeman when both are healthy. Coleman again was the engine of the Atlanta running game, taking 19 totes for 97 yards and two touchdowns, including the final score that put the game away for the Falcons. Coleman's speed brought another dimension to Atlanta's rushing attack, serving as the difference on that final run and making him a constant threat that Tampa Bay had to honor. As FOX analyst Mark Schlereth said after the final score, it's just unfair for a running back to have such speed and vision. If Atlanta wants to continue creeping closer to its historic output of 2016, Sarkisian would be wise to keep putting the ball in Coleman's hands.

-- Nick Shook

Cardinals 27, Jaguars 24


1. Can the Jaguars embark on a deep playoff run with a quarterback they don't trust? Although Blake Bortles made a series of plays with his legs, he misfired on too many throws, took costly third-down sacks, got away with a fumble and a pair of near-interceptions and was picked by Tyrann Mathieu late in the fourth quarter. Backed up deep in his own territory with just over a minute remaining, coach Doug Marrone had so little faith in his quarterback that he called a first-down run and allowed the clock to bleed rather than affording Bortles the opportunity to lead a field-goal drive. Marrone then got caught hedging his bets on the idea of playing for overtime, dialing up a head-scratching pass call that ultimately left just enough time on the clock for Blaine Gabbert to hit a pair of sideline throws and set up Phil Dawson's 57-yard game-winner.

2. A couple of weeks ago, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport noted that many people around the league are intrigued by the possibility of reputed quarterback whisperer Bruce Arians breathing life into Gabbert's career. Although the Jaguars' ballhawking defense served up a pair of potentially back-breaking turnovers, Gabbert showed impressive arm talent and resiliency, standing tough in the pocket and delivering a series of big throws in key situations. His 83.3 passer rating was nearly 20 points higher than the average quarterback posts against Jacksonville. Flashing a scout-team rapport with converted wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones for the second straight game, Gabbert has proven to be a clear upgrade on Drew Stanton. If Carson Palmer ends up missing the remainder of the season, Gabbert should receive an extended audition to increase his market value in a contract year.

3. The stars of the game for Arizona's defense were Mathieu and edge rusher Chandler Jones. Mathieu was in the heart of the action as a blitzer, enjoying his best game of the season. Now the league-leader in tackles for loss, Chandler Jones sacked Bortles twice and recorded three tackles behind the line of scrimmage as the Cardinals stymied rookie power back Leonard Fournette (12 rushes, 25 yards). Jones has been as disruptive as any outside linebacker in the league this season.

-- Chris Wesseling

Patriots 35, Dolphins 17


1. Tom Brady didn't feed Gronk on Thanksgiving, but he fed him the ball early and often against the Dolphins. Miami seemingly had little recourse in getting picked apart by perhaps the greatest quarterback-tight end collaboration in NFL history, which tallied 82 yards and two touchdowns on five connections. Gronk's 75 career receiving touchdowns are the most in the NFL since 2010. The trademark performance by the Patriots duo reaffirms the Patriots' place in the AFC hierarchy but also sees them nearing their potential on the cusp of December, a defining Bill Belichick-Tom Brady era characteristic. The Patriots weren't perfect in this one -- there were some gaffes that surely annoyed "no days off" Belichick -- but they got their seventh consecutive win. Brady completed 18 of 28 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns and Dion Lewis was too much for the porous Dolphins defense, rushing for 112 yards on 15 carries.

2. Dolphins coach Adam Gase promised changes on offense, and it looks as if some of those adjustments paid dividends even if it couldn't topple a streaking Patriots team. Quarterback Matt Moore, filling in for the concussed Jay Cutler, had his moments despite being under frequent Patriots pressure. Moore connected on 23 of 34 passes for 215 yards a touchdown. It was an improvement over the 40-0 drubbing Miami suffered against Baltimore in Moore's last start and it's debatable whether Cutler would have fared any better.

3. Although the Patriots are the better team, there were at least a few moments when New England was its worst enemy. A botched snap on a play-call miscommunication in the second quarter led to Reshad Jones scooping the ball away from a prone Brady and scoring on a 14-yard return. Dolphins cornerback Bobby McCain then intercepted a pass in the second quarter to prevent the Patriots from going up by more than two touchdowns. Another botched snap in the second half wasn't as costly for the Patriots. Of course, the Dolphins had their share of follies. Moore threw two interceptions, including an end-zone pick by Stephon Gilmore just before halftime that immensely hurt their comeback cause. McCain's third-quarter ejection for throwing a punch at Danny Amendola didn't help anything.

-- Austin Knoblauch

Raiders 21, Broncos 14


1. With Michael Crabtree (ejection) and Amari Cooper (concussion) sidelined in the first half, Oakland had to rely on a shorthanded receiving corps and its running game, paced by Marshawn Lynch, to salt this one away. Beast Mode's numbers weren't pretty -- he toted the ball a season-high 26 times for 67 yards -- but his grinding gains came at opportune moments and wore down Denver's front over time, putting the Raiders ahead by 21 heading into the fourth quarter. But after the Broncos pulled within one score late in the fourth, Lynch was stuffed on two runs, forcing Oakland to air it out. Off of his back foot on third-and-8 in the shadow of his own goalpost, Derek Carr lobbed a parabola to Cordarrelle Patterson, who reeled it in for the first down over backup corner Brendan Langley and then broke Langley's "tackle" for a 55-yard gain. If Oakland is to make a run at the postseason or the AFC West -- the Raiders and Chargers are now within one game of Kansas City -- the Raiders will need more gutty performances like this one. Matchups with the lifeless Giants and the struggling Chiefs loom. 

2. Denver's quarterback situation is devolving into an absolute quagmire. The Broncos started Paxton Lynch this week after originally benching Trevor Siemian for Brock Osweiler, and then shelving Osweiler after three starts for their second-year project. Unfortunately for the Broncos' front office hoping for a respite from poor QB play, Lynch was wholly ineffective in his third career start, his first since Week 12 of 2016, and exited with an ankle injury in the third quarter. Siemian entered the game, leading two touchdown drives, but the damage was done. Lynch was inaccurate all afternoon, settling for short gains and taking sacks instead of testing Oakland deep. When he did take a chance, it backfired. Lynch's first-half red-zone interception, thrown into triple coverage and landing in the lap of NaVorro Bowman for Oakland's first INT (!) of the season, changed the momentum of the entire game. At 3-8, Denver's season is all but over, and there are serious questions at the QB position, where John Elway has employed three backups and not a single signal-caller of the future. Suddenly, in a wide-open AFC West, the Broncos are the odd team out.

3. The trajectory of this one turned early on a skirmish between Aqib Talib and Michael Crabtree. After Talib successfully snatched Crabtree's necklace early in the first quarter -- the second time the corner had literally yanked Crab's chain in a calendar year -- both threw punches at each other and were ejected from the game. Denver lost its feistiest corner, and Oakland, its most reliable receiver -- Crabtree didn't even return to the sideline, watching the rest of the game from a Coliseum box, Beast Mode-style. Talib's loss ultimately hurt the Broncos more as the aforementioned Langley, thrust into duty, was beaten on two of the game's most decisive pass plays (a Cooper TD haul and the Patterson third-down conversion). With Crabtree out, the Raiders reaped good showings from Patterson and Johnny Holton (five receptions, 125 yards combined).

-- Jeremy Bergman

Titans 20, Colts 16


1. The Titans should thank their lucky stars, and the 2002 league realignment for two matchups with the Indianapolis Colts this season. Even then, Tennessee looked like it would lose a very winnable game in embarrassing and inexplicable fashion, that is, until the Colts out-mediocred them by fumbling inside their own 5 late in the third quarter. Tennessee scored a play later to cut the Indianapolis lead to 16-13, and the comeback was on. It wasn't furious, though, instead requiring a couple of quick changes of possession via punts and a methodical Titans drive that took nearly six minutes before Tennessee scored the go-ahead touchdown. For much of the contest, it looked like the Titans, a rumored good team at 7-4, were going to lose to a bad team by being worse than said bad team. Fortunately for Tennessee, the bad team ended up doing bad team things, which were enough for the Titans to exit with a close victory and season sweep of the Colts.

2. Can we officially pass the torch to Derrick Henry? Tennessee has spent much of the season forcefully splitting carries between he and DeMarco Murray, but if any game served as concrete proof of who should be the bellcow, it was Sunday's. Murray rushed 12 times for nine yards and a touchdown. Henry rushed 13 times for 79 yards. I don't think we need to dive too deep into this one.

Thanks to recognizing which back was the better fit at least between the 20s, Tennessee was able to move the chains repeatedly with a run-based offense in the final two quarters. Henry was the one taking the handoffs on a majority of these runs. It resulted in a win, even if it was an ugly one. Again, not too complicated.

3. OK, time for some positives for the Colts, who were much more competitive than their 3-8 record implies. Jacoby Brissett was adequate (17-of-29 passing, 196 yards), ageless wonder Frank Gore scored a rushing touchdown (17 carries, 62 yards) and the Colts gave their fans reasons to cheer before ultimately heading home with their heads hanging after another crushing loss. It's almost painful to imagine this team with Andrew Luck under center. Credit is due to the Colts' players, though, who even at 3-7 entering Sunday haven't shown any signs of giving up.

-- Nick Shook

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