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NFL Week 14: Forty-two takeaways from Sunday

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  • By Around The NFL staff NFL.com
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Sunday of Week 14 has come and gone with a few games coming down to the wire. Several teams are making their push for the playoffs. Here are some of our big takeaways from the games today:

» The Eagles believe Carson Wentz's season is over after suffering an ACL injury.

» The Chargers are a better squad right now than Kansas City and the club nobody wants to face in the playoffs.

» Jets quarterback Josh McCown broke his left non-throwing hand after taking a hit to the hand.

» Brett Hundley deserves some credit for keeping the Packers' playoff hopes alive, even as he heads back to the bench.

» A LeSean McCoy touchdown in overtime kept Buffalo in the AFC wild-card race.

Cowboys 30, Giants 10


1. MetLife Stadium exploded with raucous applause as Eli Manning returned under center following last week's inglorious benching. Manning opened 13-of-15 passing, throwing a pair of awful incompletions but making up for it with a pretty 35-yard connection to Evan Engram that helped set up the veteran's one-yard touchdown toss to Rhett Ellison. Manning's deep ball remains a mess, and it cost the Giants (2-11) on Sunday, but New York's offense -- with or without their ironman signal-caller -- remains a bare-cupboard operation that gave the team no shot in the second half, especially with wideout Roger Lewis dropping a catchable pass on third down that killed a critical Giants possession. A streak of seven straight punts down the stretch was only ended by a late-game interception from Manning that opened the door for the romp. Over and over, New York's unwatchable attack refused to live up to the moment.

2. Dez Bryant spent much of the first half as one reason Dallas (7-6) couldn't put away the Giants, dropping a pair of on-target throws including a deep shot down the sideline at New York's 6-yard line. With Dallas trailing 10-3, though, Bryant hauled in a Dak Prescott pass and raced 50 yards to pay dirt to tie the game. The Cowboys couldn't get out of their way before the break, but Prescott was magical in the third quarter with a next-level escape from Olivier Vernon to unfurl a chain-moving completion to Alfred Morris. The play of the game came midway through the fourth, when Prescott hit Cole Beasley on a connection that saw the marvelous slot receiver race through Big Blue defenders for 54 yards. Jason Witten's 20-yard touchdown catch on the following play put this game away as Dallas went on to score 27 unanswered points -- with a pair of scores by Rod Smith -- while Prescott threw for a career-high 332 yards.

3. The Cowboys saved their season with Sunday's tight win over the G-Men, but nothing grows easier for a team with its back against the wall in a massively top-heavy NFC. The task for Dallas is crystal clear: Take out Oakland next week and welcome Ezekiel Elliott back for season-closing tilts against the Seahawks and Eagles. It's no guarantee that 10 wins gets you into the postseason, but Dallas has a shot if they run the table.

-- Marc Sessler

Panthers 31, Vikings 24


1. While the Vikings (10-3) failed to take advantage of the opportunity to clinch the NFC North title, the Panthers (9-4) moved into a first-place tie with the Saints atop the NFC South. Carolina's offense was powered by a trio of big plays. In addition to Cam Newton's 62-yard read-option keeper, the 2015 MVP escaped pressure to find Devin Funchess in the end zone to open the second half. Jonathan Stewart raced 60 yards untouched to pay dirt on the opening drive of the first half to kick off the scoring. Stewart not only rushed for a career-best three scores, but also became the first back this season to clear the 100-yard mark against Minnesota's previously impregnable front seven.

2. By Mike Zimmer's own halftime admission to CBS' Tracy Wolfson, the Vikings were beating themselves with game-altering mistakes. The usually sure-handed Kyle Rudolph dropped a pass down the seam that would have gone for a big gainer. Although Adam Thielen came up clutch with a 52-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, he marred his All-Pro campaign by dropping a touchdown. Two plays later, he was victimized by the catch rule's "process" clause when he lost control of the ball as his elbow hit the ground at the back of the end zone. Just as Keenum was heating up for the first in a series of fourth-quarter comeback sallies, Stefon Diggs' drop bounced off his own helmet and into the hands of cornerback James Bradberry. Keenum played much better than his numbers would suggest, but this wasn't the fundamentally sound Vikings outfit we've come to expect.

3. Are the Vikes developing chinks in their armor? After taking just five sacks in his first 300 pass attempts over nine games this season, Keenum has gone down 10 times -- including six sacks by the Panthers -- on his last 104 attempts over the past three weeks. Already playing without right tackle Mike Remmers and center Pat Elflein, Keenum lost blindside protector Riley Reiff to an ankle injury on Sunday. Beyond the offensive-line issues, Kai Forbath appears to be battling a case of the yips, missing five kicks in the past four games.

-- Chris Wesseling

Chiefs 26, Raiders 15


1. Despite losing six of their past seven games, the Chiefs (7-6) have a superior coaching staff to Oakland. It showed up on Sunday when Alex Smith often found his first read open, while the Raiders' offense had no clue how to attack a struggling Chiefs defense. The final score was misleading here, with Kansas City more than tripling the Raiders in total yardage through three quarters. A handful of unforced errors by the Chiefs kept the score from being 38-0 entering the final frame after another desultory effort by the Raiders in a big game.

2. A two-play sequence might have all but sunk this Raiders season, now 6-7 and 2-3 in the division. Receiver Amari Cooper re-injured his left ankle, never to return, while blocking on a run play in the second quarter. On the next snap, Derek Carr was picked off while getting hit on a throw. The Raiders (6-7) had 104 yards through nine drives against a Chiefs secondary without star cornerback Marcus Peters.

"There is no easy way to put this one. We sucked," Carr said after the game.

Carr was a big part of the problem, misfiring regularly, not seeing open receivers down the field and not looking comfortable in the pocket. His first 15 passes resulted in 32 yards, an interception and a sack. Late in the game, in hurry up mode, Carr was still taking check downs over the middle.

3. Chiefs defensive end Chris Jones took this game over in the first half. He ended at least three drives with two big sacks and another pressure that ruined a third down attempt. He also crushed Carr on a throw that was picked off. After a stretch of play with little to feel good about defensively, the Chiefs won the battle up front against the Raiders.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

Steelers 39, Ravens 38


1. When the Ravens went up 31-20 late in the third quarter following the final of four consecutive scoring drives, you could hear boos rain down from the disappointed Heinz Field faithful. What followed in the next quarter-plus, to turn around a lost game and reignite a disheartened franchise, was the stuff of Steel City legend.

From that point on, the Steelers, led by Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown, outscored Baltimore 19-7, scoring on their final four drives to shock their division rivals and lock up the AFC North. After pulling within two points, Pittsburgh got the ball back with a chance to win just ahead of the two-minute warning. Big Ben entrusted Jesse James (a career-best 10 receptions for 97 yards) on one third-down conversion and then connected with Antonio Brown deep down the right side for 34 yards on another, setting up Boswell for the game-winning kick. Baltimore had a chance to march down the field and win when they got the ball back with 42 seconds left, but a T.J. Watt strip sack of Joe Flacco on third-and-10 sealed the comeback victory.

2. Baltimore had not allowed a 300-yard passer all season coming into Sunday night. Roethlisberger promptly threw for 506 yards on the Ravens' secondary missing Jimmy Smith, the third-such time in his career he had eclipsed the half-millennium mark. With Le'Veon Bell a bit gimpy, the Steelers relied heavily on the pass. Big Ben attempted 66 passes, completing 44 of them and a quarter of those to Brown.

Man, what can't Brown do for you? The Steelers wideout continued to mount his MVP campaign, hauling in 11 catches for 213 yards. Brown is nearly unstoppable, as Pittsburgh's last four games, all in prime time, have confirmed. The receiver has set up three straight last-second wins with his sure hands and balletic sideline composure. With Carson Wentz going down with an injury and Russell Wilson throwing a trio of picks, Brown is now legitimately in the running for Most Valuable Player, alongside Tom Brady. His contributions, week in and week out, are undeniable and irreplaceable.

3. To no one's surprise, the Steelers dearly miss their fallen leader, Ryan Shazier; their emotional tributes to the hospitalized linebacker were ever present before and during Sunday night's game. But Pittsburgh misses Shazier on the field too. Without the Pro Bowl defender, the Steelers have surrendered more than 100 yards on the ground in consecutive games for the first time all year. Last week, it was Bengals back Gio Bernard. This time, Alex Collins and his brilliant burst. Collins ran decisively through the Shazier-less front, often hitting the second level with speed, and tallied four touches of at least 10 yards.

Collins' 120-yard night on the ground set up Baltimore' surprising success through the air. Joe Flacco averaged a near-season-high 7.7 yards per attempt, finding Mike Wallace and Chris Moore in the soft spots of Pittsburgh's suspect secondary. Steelers safeties Mike Mitchell and Sean Davis were posterized repeatedly by one of the league's worst yards-per-play quarterbacks; Davis, who had an especially rough night, was penalized twice for 15 yards on Baltimore scoring drives in the second half.

-- Jeremy Bergman

Eagles 43, Rams 35


1. The Eagles clinched the NFC East crown with their win on Sunday, but lost their most valuable asset. League MVP candidate Carson Wentz suffered a knee injury that NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports is believed to be a season-ending ACL injury. The development severely hinders Philadelphia's offense, taking it from a dynamic, explosive attack to one that relies on the run and throws when it needs to. That's what Philadelphia became on Sunday in the fourth quarter, struggling to gain more than a couple of yards at a time with the game hanging in the balance. Fortunately for the Eagles, they managed to do enough with Foles under center and Jake Elliott drilling two clutch kicks to hang onto a win that was topped with a defensive touchdown as time expired.

What's positive moving forward is Foles is still one of the league's better backups. The quarterback was 6 of 10 for 42 yards and looked predictably slow in the pocket. He doesn't own the big arm or uber-athleticism of Wentz, but he's not incompetent. This doesn't exactly torpedo Philadelphia's season, but does significantly hinder their Super Bowl chances.

"Guys have confidence in him," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said of Foles. "I have confidence in him."

"I'm absolutely ready," Foles said after the game. "That's why I'm here."

2. Other than the Wentz injury, what a game. Two high-level defenses met equally excellent offenses in a game that was clearly played between two playoff-bound and title-contending teams, with former consecutive first-round selections Wentz and Jared Goff going toe to toe through the first three quarters.

This game was the first true high-pressure test for both Wentz and Goff. In a playoff-like atmosphere, each had their ups and downs, with Goff's low point -- the strip sack -- proving to be the difference. Both shined, with Goff finishing 16-of-26 passing for 199 yards and two touchdowns and Wentz posting a line of 23-of-41 passing for 291 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in three quarters of work. Each engineered efficient offenses and moved past the previous class' top two quarterbacks (Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota) on the eye-test scale. Now, without Wentz, the Rams own the lone young arm in contention from the 2016 draft. They also own Todd Gurley (13 carries, 96 yards, two touchdowns). Should there be a postseason rematch, things might turn out differently.

3. Los Angeles doesn't come away with a win, but the Rams should be proud of what Sunday's test proved to them and the NFL: This team can hang with the league's best. After Los Angeles disappointed earlier this season against conference contender Minnesota, the Rams accepted the challenge and battled, including overcoming a 21-7 deficit to take a 35-31 lead in the fourth. In the final three minutes, it looked as though Goff would lead a go-ahead drive, but a Chris Long strip sack gave the Eagles the ball in Rams territory. With Foles, Philadelphia moved very little and had to settle for a field goal -- one that proved to be the difference when the Rams couldn't score the needed touchdown late.

-- Nick Shook

Bills 13, Colts 7 (OT)


1. You could almost hear the iconic Sam Spence-composed orchestral music playing in the background while watching Bills (7-6) and Colts players trudging through ankle-deep snow and blizzard-like conditions that only John Facenda could ever give justice to accurately describing. Still, the football-game-in-a-snow-globe scene won't just be remembered for its vivid picturesque quality -- it featured one of the most exciting finishes of the season. After the Colts (3-10) managed to tie it in the closing minutes of regulation in thrilling fashion, LeSean McCoy scored on a 21-yard walk-off sprint in overtime to keep Buffalo very much in the AFC wild-card race. McCoy's touchdown was set up by a spectacular 34-yard catch by Deonte Thompson on a pass from Joe Webb, who came in for the injured Nathan Peterman during the second half. McCoy finished with a season-high 158 yards on 32 carries and Peterman completed five of 10 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game to be evaluated for a head injury.

2. Until the final minutes of regulation, the Colts more or less played like a team that's used to having a retractable roof overhead. After lying dormant for most of the game, Jacoby Brissett, Frank Gore and the Colts pieced together an incredible 19-play drive that included a pair of fourth-down conversions and culminated in a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jack Doyle. Chuck Pagano then tried to win it all on a two-point conversion attempt only for the Colts to be called for offensive pass interference. Then, after some foot-induced snow plowing by the Colts' special teams unit to give him a more sturdy ball placement, Adam Vinatieri made an amazing, 43-yard extra-point to force overtime. It was truly spectacular feat for the Colts even if he ended up missing another 43-yard field-goal attempt just before the end of regulation following an interception by Matthias Farley. Gore finished with a season best 130 yards rushing on a career-high 36 carries and Brissett completed 11 of 22 passes for 69 yards.

3. The near-blinding conditions made things difficult for each team's offense to literally and figuratively find traction, but for a brief moment at the end of the first half, everything clicked for Buffalo. Peterman, starting in place for the injured Tyrod Taylor, found Kelvin Benjamin on a beautiful 21-yard pass. How Benjamin managed to see the ball through the driving snow and use his 6-foot-6 frame to perfection to make the catch over Colts rookie corner Kenny Moore is anyone's guess. On the next play, Peterman connected with Benjamin again on an 8-yard pass for the game's only score. The eight-play drive, which benefited early on from a 23-yard plow by McCoy early on, kept the Bills ahead for most of the game. 

-- Austin Knoblauch

Cardinals 12, Titans 7


1. The (8-5) Titans dropped to second place in the AFC South, as the (9-4) Jaguars earned a victory over the Seahawks. Tennessee's defense held up its end of the bargain, racking up eight sacks and shutting Arizona out of the end zone on multiple goal-to-go scenarios. The Titans have recorded 20 sacks over the past three weeks, more than the Buccaneers (17) have managed all season. The offense, however, continued its struggle to find an identity, with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry limited to 2.84 yards per on a combined 19 carries. Marcus Mariota remains a disappointment, uncorking two more interceptions with faulty mechanics as the primary culprit. We understand Mike Mularkey's desire for an exotic offense, but why was Mariota throwing to rookie cornerback Adoree Jackson on fourth down with the game on the line?

2. Now leading the NFC in receptions (87), Larry Fitzgerald had cruised past Marvin Harrison, Steve Smith Sr., Tim Brown, Tony Gonzalez and Isaac Bruce on the all-time receiving yards list entering Week 14. With Sunday's 44 yards bringing his career total to 15,311, he bypassed Randy Moss (15,292) for third place. Fitzgerald will have to wait until 2018 to catch Terrell Owens (15,934), who is 6,961 yards behind Jerry Rice, the greatest there ever was. If not for a fourth-quarter overthrow by Blaine Gabbert, Fitzgerald would have added an easy 14-yard touchdown to Sunday's stat line.

3. Arizona's lost season shouldn't overshadow the work of outside linebacker Chandler Jones, who took over the NFL's sack lead (14) while adding three tackles for loss and another hit on Mariota. Among the most disruptive edge rushers in the league, Jones is also tied with Houston's Jadeveon Clowney for the most tackles (25) at or behind the line of scrimmage this season.

-- Chris Wesseling

Jaguars 30, Seahawks 24


1. After a three-point first half, the Jaguars-Seahawks tilt exploded into a back-and-forth thrill ride in the second half, which featured a 31-point third quarter. At one point, Jacksonville scored on three consecutive plays from scrimmage and with 10 minutes left to go in the game, the Jags had extended their lead to 27-10, thanks to brilliant throws from Blake Bortles and skillful special teams play. But Russell Wilson responded with yet another sterling fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 30-24 with two quick TD strikes. Seattle got the ball back with over two minutes to go, but immediately went four-and-out, with the final stop coming as a result of an uncharacteristic Jaguars blitz. Jacksonville took control the AFC South and its destiny with the win, while Seattle stayed one game behind the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West.

2. All season long, the rub on the upstart Jaguars has been that they'd be a bona fide playoff contender, if only for that meddlesome schmo under center. On Sunday, Bortles proved his detractors wrong. The Jacksonville QB played his best game of the season on the biggest stage of his career, outplaying an MVP candidate across the field for much of the afternoon and proving himself worthy of carrying Jacksonville to a division title. Bortles showed pristine touch and accuracy on his two touchdown passes. His 75-yard bomb to rookie Keelan Cole was his longest completion since December of 2015. Sunday marked the first time this season that Bortles has thrown at least two touchdowns in consecutive weeks. His throwing motion is still wonky and he lacks a fastball, but in leading Jacksonville to the top of the AFC South, Bortles isn't just avoiding mistakes and getting out of the way of a good thing. He's pacing the Jags to victories.

3. It turns out Wilson can't do it all. Seattle's Swiss Army gunslinger stretched himself too thin against the league's best defense, throwing three interceptions on ill-advised deep balls, two intended for Doug Baldwin and one for Jimmy Graham. Give Jacksonville's All-World secondary credit -- it was the first time all season and only the fourth in 105 career games that Wilson had thrown at least three picks -- but Wilson was at fault for taking unnecessary shots fifty yards downfield. While Wilson did erupt in the fourth quarter, as he is wont to do, his errors put Seattle behind the eight ball too early. By the time the Seahawks cut the lead to six, it was too late.

-- Jeremy Bergman

Chargers 30, Redskins 13


1. The white-hot Chargers (7-6) surged out of the gate with scoring drives on their first five possessions in a game that looked lost for Washington right away. Veteran passer Philip Rivers was pristine, using the marvelous Keenan Allen (6/111) as an anchoring force and finding Tyrell Williams (4/132/1) for a 75-yard touchdown on a play that saw Redskins cover man Josh Norman burnt to a crisp. This take-no-prisoners attack played with urgency from wire to wire, with Rivers thriving against the blitz and making good use of tight end Hunter Henry (4/50/1). After the Bolts piled up 354 yards before the break -- their most in a first half since at least 1991, and the most by any team since 2010 -- the Chargers kept their foot on the gas as Rivers tossed a 51-yard strike to Allen on a razzle-dazzle downfield strike that set up Melvin Gordon's 1-yard touchdown burst to rubber stamp the blowout. Crossing the 30-point barrier for the fourth straight game, Los Angeles has emerged as one of the league's most fascinating developing storylines.

2. The Redskins (5-8) came out of the gate with Kirk Cousins countering a fierce Chargers pass rush with a rash of quick throws. The veteran quarterback looked good tossing a 23-yard scoring strike to the ageless Vernon Davis, but managed just 112 passing yards with a pick in the first half before throwing for just seven yards in the third quarter as the game slipped away in vicious fashion. While the defense allowed yardage and points galore, Washington's offense was held scoreless for 37-plus minutes at one stage until cornerback Bashaud Breeland dialed up a late-game, 96-yard pick six of Kellen Clemens -- the only real mistake of the day for the Chargers.

3. Sunday's win keeps Los Angeles notched atop the AFC West with the Chiefs, who will host the Bolts on Saturday in a high-octane divisional showdown. No reason to look beyond that tilt, but the Chargers then go on the road to play the Jets before hosting the flat-lining Raiders in the regular-season finale. One of the weirder, friskier teams in the AFC as January nears, the Chargers are a better squad right now than Kansas City and the club nobody wants to face in the playoffs. They've caught fire at the ideal time.

-- Marc Sessler

Bears 33, Bengals 7


1. Jordan Howard and the Bears' run game took advantage of an injury-ravaged Bengals defense that was missing linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil, corner Dre Kirkpatrick, safety Shawn Williams, and banged-up Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins played sparingly. Against a Cincy D that appeared to move in slow motion, Howard dashed through the gut repeatedly, finishing with 147 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. The seas parted time after time for the running back, who wasn't even touched on a 21-yard touchdown gash to open the scoring. A Chicago (4-9) ground game stymied in recent weeks was averaging 7.2 yards per rush before two final dives salting away the clock dropped the number to 6.1.

2. Mitchell Trubisky played his best game of the season. With the run game galloping, the rookie quarterback took advantage of play-action and bootlegs to find huge throwing lanes. We didn't see any field-stretching connections, but Trubisky got the ball out quick on slants and crossers, hitting eight different targets. The rookie went 25-of-32 passing for 271 yards, 8.5 yards per attempt, a TD pass and a four-yard scamper score. Trubisky continually picked on the Bengals depleted linebacker corps in space, especially sixth-round rookie Jordan Evans, for chunk gains. The Bengals (5-8) allowed Kendall Wright to catch 10 passes for 107 yards. A Bears offense that earned 287 yards combined the past two weeks generated 256 in the first half alone on Sunday. Chicago finished with 482 yards and 29 first downs. Scoring 27 straight points, the 33-7 win marked the Bears' first game with 28-plus points since November 15, 2015.

3. If the Marvin Lewis era is coming to an end, it's limping to the finish. Yes, injuries stemming from Monday night's physical loss to the Steelers decimated the Bengals. The injuries don't explain the listless, sleepwalking squad Lewis put on the field Sunday. Defenders missed tackle after tackle. The flagging offense looked disjointed, with the Andy Dalton-A.J. Green connection lost in the wilderness the past six quarters. Dalton tossed an interception on a tipped ball to Green and could have thrown several others. Green was later stripped with the Bengals driving in the 4th quarter. Both players hit the bench before the end of the fourth quarter. Outside of Giovani Bernard taking advantage of limited touches as the featured back, there was nothing positive for Cincinnati to take away Sunday. "I'm at a loss of words everybody...today. Our football team I thought had a good week of preparation and we did not play close to the kind of football to win the football game today we needed to," Lewis told reporters after the game.

-- Kevin Patra

Broncos 23, Jets 0


1. The Jets overachieved with a roster that wasn't playoff ready for most of this season, but in Sunday's 23-0 loss to the Broncos, New York looked like the team most pundits had them pegged to be prior to the season. The offense was abysmal against a Broncos defense that had leaked oil all year (giving up 30.1 points per game the last eight weeks). In the first half, the Jets had 27 rushing yards on 11 attempts while Josh McCown, who lost a fumble, completed just three of six passes for 18 yards and a pick. It got worse in the second half. McCown (hand) got hurt and couldn't finish the game. The team couldn't move the ball. In the end, the Jets finished with a whopping 100 total yards, six total first downs and two turnovers.

2. Bryce Petty earned his first run of the season with McCown out because of a hand injury and there wasn't too much exciting from the young New York QB. He went 2-for-9 for 14 yards. He missed a fourth-down throw high to Jermaine Kearse in the third quarter and later in the fourth quarter missed an open Robby Anderson for what would have been a big gain. Most of his time under center was spent handing the ball off, as John Morton and the Jets clearly didn't trust the young signal-caller, even in a 23-0 game. New York, with its slim playoff hopes all but over with Sunday's loss, appears headed for another long offseason looking for a franchise QB.

3. Demaryius Thomas showed he still has it if the Broncos ever need it. The wide receiver is having his worst year since his sophomore season in 2011, but he proved he can still be a playmaker if Denver feeds him the football. The big wideout, despite a couple bad drops, scored a pretty jump-ball TD over Morris Claiborne early in the game and finished with eight grabs for 93 yards and a score on 12 targets.

-- Edward Lewis

Packers 27, Browns 21 (OT)


1. Brett Hundley still looked a lot like the quarterback we've seen in the last month or so, but in Green Bay's most important game to date, he came through when it was needed most. The quarterback engineered a drive of 13 plays for 75 yards to cut Green Bay's deficit to seven, then utilized great field position gained via a 65-yard Trevor Davis punt return to tie the game in the final seconds. While Cleveland inexplicably took the pressure off Hundley in the fourth quarter (and in overtime, at which point the Browns rushed only three on a play), the quarterback shifted from attempting to air it out to taking what the defense gave him. It resulted in a sterling line (35 of 46, 265 yards, three touchdowns) and another overtime victory.

2. The Packers are alive. Green Bay was on the mat at an eight-count on Sunday before rising, wobbling and soldiering through the later rounds of its bout with Cleveland before scoring a knockout punch that downed its winless opponent and preserved its playoff hopes. Aaron Rodgers is slated to return next week, and the Packers have somehow exited the Brett Hundley period with a 7-6 mark and a shot at a Wild Card berth.

Green Bay's sleepwalk through the second and third quarters should be worrisome, but the Packers should also be applauded for waking up before it was too late. Against most teams, it would have been too late; against this Browns squad, it thankfully wasn't. With Rodgers returning, Green Bay becomes one of the most intriguing teams to watch in the final three weeks. Hundley deserves some credit for that, even as he heads back to the bench.

3. For Cleveland, this one hurts more than the rest. A team struggling to hang onto leads and just finish a game, any game, again fails in its most epic collapse of the franchise's most nightmarish season ever. This time, it came by way of conservative defense (Browns fans will think back to the team's lone playoff appearance since 1999 when reading this), allowing Hundley -- who threw for 84 yards last week in an overtime win over Tampa Bay -- complete passes of 9 yards, 5 yards, 9 yards, 6 yards...you get the point. Hundley dinked and dunked the Packers to a touchdown to cut Cleveland's lead to 21-14, and a special teams gaffe on the part of the Browns gave Green Bay great field position, of which the Packers took advantage. A DeShone Kizer interception and ensuing Green Bay touchdown completed the comeback and capped a colossal meltdown on the part of the Browns, who saw their best chance to avoid an 0-16 season evaporate in a quarter and a half.

All of the goodwill gained from the hiring of new general manager John Dorsey and his decision to cut Kenny Britt on his first day on the job melted into oblivion as Davante Adams crossed the goal line in overtime. The offseason remains bright for a young Browns team that still hasn't learned how to finish a win. But these next three weeks won't be fun for Cleveland.

--Nick Shook

Lions 24, Buccaneers 21


1. Apparently Matthew Stafford's injured hand is all right. The Lions quarterback did what he seemingly always does in Lions wins, throwing for huge yards and leading a late fourth-quarter, game-winning drive. The Lions quarterback started out the game on fire, going 17-for-19 for 210 yards and a touchdown. Despite a five-pass stretch that featured two interceptions following that start, the QB finished strong, ultimately ending the game 36-for-44 for 381 yards. His 6-for-6 performance on the Lions' final drive put Detroit in position for Matt Prater's game-winning 46-yarder. The Lions (7-6) go as Stafford goes, and on Sunday, Stafford certainly went.

2. This one was less about who played football better and more about who could hang on to the football better. The amount of turnovers, and the amount of near turnovers, were staggering. Stafford threw two picks. Jameis Winston threw two INTs. The two teams combined for five fumbles (three lost by Tampa, one lost by Detroit). In the end, the Bucs' minus-two turnover ratio was probably the difference in the game.

3. Sunday's loss was yet another reason the disappointment in Tampa Bay should be at an all-time high. Even with Mike Evans banged up, the Bucs (4-9) showed potential all over their offense. Rookies O.J. Howard (four catches, 54 yards, one touchdown) and Chris Godwin (five catches, 68 yards) flashed star power. Adam Humphries (three catches, 25 yards) was a playmaker in the slot. DeSean Jackson (four catches, 41 yards; one rush, 23 yards) was a speedy threat both down the field and on gadget plays. It's one of the NFL's biggest mysteries as to why the Bucs aren't more productive on the field, though Winston's turnovers (three more on Sunday) likely don't help matters. Perhaps that's why the head coach and quarterback are butting heads.

-- Edward Lewis

49ers 26, Texans 16


1. For the first time since 2014, the San Francisco 49ers (3-10) have won consecutive road games. The Niners' swap to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo continues to pay dividends for Kyle Shanahan and Co. Garoppolo tallied 334 yards passing and logged his second touchdown pass as a Niner. Against a tough Texans defense featuring a recently-reinstated Brian Cushing, the Niners stuck to air connecting with Marquise Goodwin for 106 receiving yards. Running back Carlos Hyde also racked up 78 rushing yards on 14 carries.

2. Texans quarterback Tom Savage exited the game after suffering a concussion in the second quarter. A backup to the backup, T.J. Yates tossed the team's only two touchdown passes of the day, both to receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins continues to be remarkable week after week despite playing with multiple signal callers this year (let alone many more throughout his stint in Houston). Hopkins tallied more yards (151) than the rest of his teammates combined. Though Savage's status remains uncertain for next week, the Texans (4-9) can always rely on Hopkins to keep it interesting.

3. Speaking of interesting: In a season of kicking woes across the league, 49ers kicker Robbie Gould was perfect again today. Gould extends his kicking streak to 14 for 14 after nailing four field goals (and posting 12 of the 49ers' 26 points).

-- Andie Hagemann

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