Almost nobody has ever heard of A.D. Whitfield.
The little-known Redskins halfback -- and North Texas State Mean Green alum -- played three years with Washington in the 1960s, scoring six career touchdowns. Three of them, however, came during one outing in November of 1966: a 72-41 track meet that was hardly ever threatened as the NFL's highest-scoring game ever. Well, before Monday night.
The Chiefs-Rams video game not only lived up to the hype -- it blew past the hype. Probably sometime in the third quarter.
One hundred and five points on the board, 1,001 yards of offense and multiple defensive touchdowns. There were so many takeaways from this interconference explosion that I think a 40-year-old John Madden's head would explode. Don Coryell, of "Air Coryell" fame, would have loved it like a fat kid loves chocolate-covered chocolates. Defensive mastermind Buddy Ryan would have thrown up a time or three. At no previous point in NFL history had two teams put up 50 points in the same game. And yet, with the Rams' late punt, and Patrick Mahomes' late turnovers, did we get cheated out of a 60-point double-dip?
Whitfield got his money's worth 52 years ago. Those fans in Mexico City sure didn't.
On to your thoughts ...
Let the dissension commence!
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The Saints made it look all too -- pardon the unintended pun -- easy in New Orleans, dispatching with the Eagles in typical we'rethebestteamintheNFLandyoucan'tdoanythingaboutit fashion. Watch the Mark Ingram touchdown run that put the Saints up 17-0. You could have driven a maroon Toyota Tundra around that corner. Eagles DE Chris Long looked incredulous before the play was even half over. What was most impressive about the Saints' blowout win? The performance of Dennis Allen's defense, which proved it won't be an absentee unit going forward, forcing takeaways and making third-down stops. Yes, I still wish Dez were there.
**Side note:** Drew Brees, who made a few *redonkulous* throws Sunday, is completing 76.9 percent of his passes. These aren't of the dink-and-dunk-til-you-drop, none-yard-out variety. He is on pace to shatter his own league record of 72 percent, which was set a long time ago ... in 2017. </content:power-ranking>
I like football. That was the overwhelming thought pervading the Power Rankings brain following what was definitely the game of the year. The Rams *survived* the Chiefs, if such a verb is applicable for a team that put 54 freaking points on the board. A few notes from my K.C.-L.A. viewing:
**A)** Jared Goff is fearless throwing the ball outside the numbers.
**B)** As prolific as Sean McVay's offense was, Todd Gurley should have been more involved late.
**C)** Robert Woods is the heartbeat of this football team.
**D)** Oh, honey, can the Rams' secondary be had.
**E)** Aaron Donald was the premier player on the field, even in a 105-point affair. And on that note ... **F)** ... Wade Phillips' defense has fared below its talent level, but don't discount the unit's upside as we hit the back stretch of this season. You wanna bet against @SonOfBum? </content:power-ranking>
How do you quibble with anything 2018 Chiefs-related after seeing them score 51 points on the road in a game they weren't even supposed to be playing in this country? Kansas City proved, again, it can hang with any opponent in the NFL. The Chiefs are 9-2, with quality wins over the Chargers and Steelers, and one-score losses to the Patriots and Rams (both on the road, and both in games when Kansas City's offense ended up stopping itself more than anything else). Perhaps the largest oddity to emerge from that Monday night spectacle: Patrick Mahomes committed five turnovers, and the Chiefs still scored 51 points. Hate moving this group down.
Incredible comeback in Jacksonville, though maybe not in term of points, as the Jaguars never led by more than 16. As usual, the Steelers fell victim to their habit of playing down to the opponent, which has become all too common for this group following big-time wins -- except this time, Ben Roethlisberger would not let Pittsburgh lose. His deep ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster with less than 2 minutes left was the game-turning play, making it clear that this was as much the Steelers' day to win as it was the Jaguars' day to lose. Smith-Schuster attacked the football, outbidding A.J. Bouye on an eBay auction gone wrong for the Jags. The *game-winning play* came when Roethlisberger, upon seeing that Vance McDonald was bottled up on the designed shuttle pass, made the (quick) executive decision to put the ball in the paint himself for the 20-16 lead. Awesome. The national media might not be convinced about this Pittsburgh team after such a close call against the struggling Jags, but finding ways to win when s$%^ goes awry shows the character of a locker room. Of course, divvying up Le'Veon Bell's swag probably wasn't a prime example of this. </content:power-ranking>
The Patriots headed into their Week 11 bye licking their wounds after a pack of wild ex-teammates thrashed them down in Nashville. The extra week of preparation for this weekend's game against the Jets also meant additional time to incorporate what went wrong against Tennessee into the film study. Sometimes, coaches might not linger too long on a disastrous outing, for fear of crushing a young team's confidence. In this particular case, the Pats -- and particularly Tom Brady -- must determine how to protect against and outsmart the blitz packages Titans coordinator Dean Pees threw at them. Otherwise, everybody else is gonna do it, including in mid-January.
Even before it actually happened, the Chargers flirted with losing to the Broncos enough to make Tinder blush. The Bolts had no business falling Sunday, not while playing at home and not when they owned a two-score lead as late as the third quarter. Philip Rivers made a few boneheaded throws, like that second interception, which Von Miller snared. Oh, and the penalties ... 14 of 'em. Then came the total breakdowns in the secondary during the last couple of stanzas of the fourth quarter, making Case Keenum look like his boss out there. A team should never rack up 479 yards of offense at home and not win. The Chargers ran 72 offensive plays, for crying out loud, and converted 60 percent of their third downs. And still they lost. Ugh.
Forgive the romanticism here, but the Bears brought back fond memories of years gone by against the Vikings this past weekend. The way this defense puts up points recalls the final season of the Lovie Smith administration, when Chicago was scoring tons courtesy of Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Peanut Tillman and the gang. The famed Bears of 1985 also dominated, again on the shoulders of an aggressive defensive unit, although that D (surprisingly) only scored five touchdowns. The 2018 Monsters of the Midway have already reached that number and, due to Khalil Mack and Co., could claim the franchise's first NFC North title since 2010. Ah, the Caleb Hanie era ...
The Texans won their seventh in a row, although approximately no one seems to believe in this team. Houston found itself in a scrap in D.C., letting the Colt McCoy-infused Redskins back into the game every time the Texans earned a small lead. The largest issue for Deshaun Watson and the offense was the inability to pad a lead, as drive after drive in the second half stalled when it mattered most. Settling for field goals was almost the undoing of Bill O'Brien's group. But the defense -- which should, by all rights, have been gassed -- put the heat on McCoy, and Houston held the fort. After playing down to the level of McCoy and other teams this season, can the Texans play up to potential playoff foes like the Chiefs and Patriots?
Lost in the shuffle of Chiefs- Rams, the Saints' ongoing blitzkrieg through their schedule and the media gurgling nothingness into the deep abyss over another Cowboys win ... the Panthers made one of the odder decisions of 2018. After Cam Newton's touchdown pass to DJ Moore trimmed the Lions' lead to 20-19 with 1:07 left, Ron Rivera eschewed a game-tying extra-point try to go for the two-point conversion. What? Detroit would have had plenty of time to move into position for a Matt Prater field-goal attempt. Perhaps Rivera was worried about his own kicker. Graham Gano shanked an extra-point try and a field-goal attempt earlier in the afternoon. Or maybe Rivera thought seizing the lead would place additional pressure on Matt Stafford and the Detroit offense. Considering Stafford owns the most fourth-quarter comebacks in the league since 2011 ... that's doubtful.
Save for a flurry of points down the stretch, the Vikes were overmatched in Chicago, as evidenced by the fact that, midway through the fourth quarter, they had managed 129 total yards of offense against a stout Bears defense. Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray saw a deep-dish pizza's worth of Chicago's front seven on just about every carry, mustering a scant 17 yards on 13 carries. Kirk Cousins started dealing late, but it wasn't enough following two earlier interceptions, including a pick-six. Now the Vikings must navigate their way through treacherous schedule waters: vs. Packers, at Patriots and at Seahawks over the next three weeks. They must win two of those three -- otherwise, winning the NFC North is likely out of the question.
Give Lamar Jackson a plate full of crab cakes, props, whatever. Not only did the rookie win his first career start against a division opponent, but he was essential to the Ravens' victory. This was not a case of an offense going so conservative that the defense was leaned on to deliver the W. OK, so Baltimore OC Marty Mornhinweg's risk-averse play sheet made you think he spent 10 hours debating whether or not to call plays out of the single wing. But he did not limit Jackson's touches. The dynamic rookie was all over the place, rushing 27 times for over 100 yards while completing 13 of 19 passes for 150 yards (a solid average of 7.9 yards per attempt). The kid showed a boatload of poise, calmly keeping for numerous first-down runs and also tucking it in the belly of Gus Edwards for several forays into the Bengals' defense. What a ground attack; you don't see NFL offenses chalk up close to three bills on NFL defenses too often.
Huge win for the Seahawks, who've made a habit of giving winning teams all they can handle before falling short at the end. There was Week 2 at Soldier Field, either matchup against the Rams, Week 9 against the streaking Chargers (when a dropped touchdown pass made the difference) and Week 11 against the Pack ... er ... wait ... no, not this time! Seattle's defense rose up late, causing all of social media to attack Mike McCarthy without taking into account clutch plays by Pete Carroll's team. You know, like the offense only needing two plays to run (easily) for a first down when Green Bay's defense knew what was coming. The Seahawks will face an uphill battle when it comes to squeezing a sixth seed out of their current 5-5 record, but this postseason push is far from over. Next up: at Panthers. Uh, kind of an important game, huh?
Could the Cowboys -- after a season of controversy, belittled trades, shaky quarterback play, no Dez, no Witten and, uh, questionable coaching decisions -- end up being your NFC East champs? They might not have performed like an NFC juggernaut in their win over the Falcons on Sunday, though they sure are the favorites to take their division. With the Redskins limping into town led by a QB2 and a shaky offensive line, the Cowboys could secure a tie for first place.
**Side note I:** Listened to the end of the fourth quarter on Dallas radio. Brad Sham (the voice of the Cowboys in my childhood) and Babe Laufenberg were awfully careful not to be too critical of Dallas' play-calling, which has earned the criticism it's received this season. (They were slightly more diplomatic than Dale Hansen. I miss Dale's salty Cowboy takes.)
**Side note II:** Sham has the rare distinction of having been Dallas' color analyst prior to being moved to play-by-play man. He held the former position from 1976 to 1983, before moving over to his current chair. The Cowboys' previous play-by-play man? Verne Lundquist. </content:power-ranking>
Wow. The Colts are the surprise of 2018, having now stacked up five wins on the season (and four in a row) to keep the pressure on the Texans in the AFC South. With Marcus Mariota hurt (and the Titans looking awful every few games) and the Jaguars blowing a big lead Sunday, the division looks to be a two-horse race. Can Indy stay with Houston? Much depends on Frank Reich's defense, which allowed Tennessee just 185 yards of offense going into the fourth quarter of the Colts' win before Blaine Gabbert tacked on a gaggle of garbage yards and points. Offensively, Indianapolis is protecting Andrew Luck magnificently, as the franchise quarterback played his fifth straight game without a sack. Don't look now, but Reich is a straight-up contender for Coach of the Year, joining Andy Reid, Sean Payton or any other coach you can name.
Amazing what losing three of four will do to you. Blame for Mike McCarthy orbits the twittersphere. One guy I know fairly well, who covers the Packers professionally and knows the ins and outs of the organization as well as anyone, believes part of the responsibility lands at Aaron Rodgers' feet. Think everybody knows where Rodgers lays it. The blame, that is. Then you see tweets from the national media calling Rodgers the greatest player -- not just quarterback -- ever. My take: This is an average team with a 10-win ceiling. Several pieces would grade between "B" and "A-", but they don't necessarily fit in Green Bay. (SEE: Graham, Jimmy.) It hasn't helped matters that an inconsistent game plan is surrounded by an uncertain organizational culture. Maybe former general manager Ted Thompson wasn't the most popular exec with fans, but at least you knew what the franchise was going to do: draft and retain. Dipping into free agency was usually a no-go. The Packers did happen to win a Super Bowl that way, too.
Rough outing for the Redskins, who lost starting quarterback Alex Smith for the season on their way to losing to the Texans. Colt McCoy pinch-hit admirably, yet in the end, the Washington defense could not stop the Houston offense between the 20s, particularly when Josh Norman was called for a key holding penalty late, extending another drive that burned valuable ticks off the clock. Perhaps Dustin Hopkins wouldn't have been forced to boot it from Rockville to try and win the game. Time to put Sunday's outcome to bed and get McCoy ready on a short week. Winning in Dallas on Thanksgiving has been darn near impossible for this franchise.
The Falcons gave it more than a good college try Sunday. The absence of linebacker Deion Jones in the middle was arguably the difference, as Atlanta had no answer for No. 21 in the Cowboys backfield, much like the Eagles the Sunday prior. Matt Ryan certainly came up clutch at the right time, engineering a six-play, 68-yard march that ate up only 2:10 to tie the game. Unfortunately, the Falcons' secondary came up small after keeping everyone not named Ezekiel Elliott under wraps most of the day. With Atlanta at 4-6, all is not lost, especially with the Panthers, Packers and Eagles losing. That debacle in Cleveland sure is starting to stick to the ribs, though.
The Broncos, often victims of playing just well enough to get beat, finally closed out a game Sunday. After going down 19-7 in the third quarter, Case Keenum led a fourth-quarter comeback for the third time this season (out of only four Denver victories), making a few on-point throws when the Broncos had to have them. The strike to Courtland Sutton to maneuver his team into Brandon McManus' range was perfect; Keenum hit his rookie wideout in stride in front of the coverage. Denver's numbers, however, were far from striking. The Broncos were outgained 479-325. They held the ball a paltry 22:11. Most important figures: 8 of 12, 146 yards and 12.2 yards per attempt. That was Keenum's fourth-quarter line.
Losing 38-10 to the Colts was so ... so ... *Titans-y.* It's pick-your-poison with this group, but not in a good way. Penalties, too many sacks and turnovers all marred the follow-up act to the pinnacle of Tennessee's season: blasting the Patriots in Nashville. Put another way: The Titans are the most consistently inconsistent team in pro football. The most surprising aspect of Sunday's shellacking was how easily Andrew Luck operated Indy's offense against what had been the league's stingiest defense in terms of points allowed. The Titans didn't get to Luck once all game. </content:power-ranking>
The Lions came out fast Sunday and held on for dear life late against the Panthers. In what evolved into one of the cleanest games on the NFL slate, Detroit did not turn the ball over and was called for one 5-yard penalty the entire afternoon. Kerryon Johnson rumbled like a quality Day 2 pick, picking up the vast majority of his yards after contact. (There is a not-so-bright spot, though: Johnson is questionable for the showdown with the Bears on Turkey Day.) Kenny Golladay also spelled out what could be a bright future in Detroit, continuing his evolution in a Golden Tate-less offense to a certifiable WR1 with eight catches, 113 yards and a touch. It's touching to write about the Lions after a win. Hallmark moments don't come around with this team too often.
Sure signs of improvement from the Bengals, despite coming away losers in Baltimore. That includes the defense, which Marvin Lewis spearheaded this weekend after former coordinator Teryl Austin was fired. The task was unique, if not nearly as formidable as it was against the Saints in Week 10, in that no one knew what to expect of rookie Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, including how much he would play. While Jackson was the headliner, the headscratcher must be Joe Mixon. Cincy got nothing out of its lead tailback, unless you get randy over 12 carries for 14 yards. The Bengals' use of Mixon has been, in a word, haphazard ... he's received 11, 13, 21, 11 and 12 carries over the last five games. Hardly bell-cow stuff there. The creases weren't there in Baltimore. Nor was the offense: 255 yards and 21:51 time of possession ain't gonna cut it.
Baker Mayfield was feelin' it against the Falcons in Week 10. Just what you want a young quarterback to experience: playing his best game before heading into a bye. Seems like that has happened several times with teams this year, where they play their finest football ... only to head into the off week. Although after 10 games, every organization in the league could use some space to balance the checkbook, per se: cold-tub time, training, stepping into Terrell Owens' hyperbaric chamber, that kind of stuff. The Browns expected to be better than 3-6-1. But there *are* a few areas in which they've excelled. Heading into this past weekend, they ranked first in the NFL in takeaways at 25. In the same vein, Cleveland has surrendered zero giveaways in the red zone, which is impressive with a rookie quarterback starting. The running game has started chugging, too, as the Browns are now up to 133.2 rushing yards per game, fifth in the league. </content:power-ranking>
At .500, the Dolphins are still more than in the postseason race. If Miami is to stay pertinent in the postseason discussion, it must figure out a different approach to stopping the run, where it is the third-worst outfit in the league. The Dolphins are also allowing offenses to score far too quickly, partially because opposing run games are producing or setting up chunk plays. Opponents have scored on three plays or fewer on 23.8 percent of their drives against Adam Gase's defense. Think about that for a sec. That is easily the worst in the league. Gase's opportunity to right the Fin comes this week in Indy.
To put it as eloquently as possible, the Eagles sucked on Sunday. That was a terrible showing at New Orleans, the worst by the team in Doug Pederson's 2.5 years running the operation. Carson Wentz played poorly (19 of 33 for 156 yards, zero TDs, three picks and a 31.9 passer rating). The defense was dominated so thoroughly that the Saints seemed to be taking group photos on every offensive series. Oh, wait -- maybe that was their defense. The sorriest Philadelphia performance your friendly writer had ever seen before last week came on the final day of the 1983 season, when the Eagles were down 31-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth quarter at a snow-filled Busch Stadium, closing out Marion Campbell's initial season with a whimper. Yes, Sunday's loss was worse than meeting defeat at the hands of Neil Lomax. Oy.
Oh, boy -- how did the Jags lose that deal Sunday? They dominated the clock, the game flow and the Steelers' offense for approximately 55 minutes. Then WOT happened? Start with a Jacksonville offense that made love with three-and-outs all afternoon. Forget the end of the game, or allowing Pittsburgh to creep back in -- the whole day was gnarly, as the Jags managed to do the three-plays-and-a-punt do-si-do eight times, including four straight possessions in the fourth quarter. That's damn hard to accomplish.
**Side note:** So is recording 64 net passing yards. Read into that what you will. </content:power-ranking>
Eli Manning couldn't give two squirrel farts about what you think about him, folks. Sunday might not have been his mic drop, but he dropped a few dimes against soft -- very soft -- Bucs coverage. A few numbers to digest: Manning completed 94.4 percent of his passes while collecting an astronomical 12.8 yards per throw. According to Pro Football Focus, the dude went 10-of-10 for 155 yards and a touchdown on play-action. Good grief. Of course, faking to the run is always more effective when the guy you are faking to rushes for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Saquon Barkley became the first Giants rookie to post two rushing touchdowns and one receiving score in the same game since Tucker Frederickson did it in 1965.
**Historical note:** You might not have heard of Frederickson, but he was as highly touted as Barkley, if not more so, back in 1965. In fact, he went even higher in the draft, being picked first overall that year. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie for a so-so Big Blue squad. Sadly, knee injuries derailed his career, starting as early as 1966, when the Giants dipped to 1-12-1. But the guy was a helluva prospect. </content:power-ranking>
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston can't imitate art, but they sure can mirror each other. Yuck. Fitzpatrick pulled Winston's old multi-turnover-game-on-the-road trick out of his sleeve in the loss to the Giants, allowing Winston to sneak back into the starting rotation. For his part, Winston made the most of what seems like his 37th chance, throwing the ball down the field whilst pushing Tampa back into the contest. The former-starter-turned-current-starter (again) took advantage of fine pass protection and not-as-fine Giants coverage to darn near even the score. Amazingly, one week after securing 501 yards of offense and losing, the Bucs produced 510 ... and lost. </content:power-ranking>
As with the Browns, the Bills' off week couldn't have come at an odder time: right after they blew an opponent out. Who knows if Matt Barkley is the answer at quarterback, but the bright side here is, he had an additional week to assimilate the offense. Thus, if he gets the call at any point this Sunday, he will be better prepared to face the Jaguars, whose defense is still talented, despite Jacksonville's otherwise disappointing record. For now, Josh Allen is slated to start. About the Jaguars, though: The game in Buffalo is their season, so you can bet whoever plays quarterback for the Bills will get Jacksonville's best effort, including via a ferocious pass rush that has surprisingly struggled to get to opposing passers (21 sacks, 27th in the NFL).
A couple weeks ago in this space, I opined on Nick Mullens' incredible Week 9 start, a career debut that surpassed those of Joe Montana, Steve Young, John Brodie, Y.A. Tittle and Jeff Garcia. Well, in Week 10, Mullens made up for it by following the lead of Elvis Grbac, Tim Rattay, Jim Druckenmiller, Steve Spurrier and J.T. O'Sullivan. OK, maybe it wasn't *that* bad; those last three comparisons were not fair. In case you were wondering, the Ol' Ball Coach once quarterbacked these 49ers before moving on to start for the expansion Bucs in 1976. Current 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan must get his team ready for Tampa this week, potentially Mullens' first road start. </content:power-ranking>
Congratulations to the Raiders and Jon Gruden, who, following the late field goal, looked like a man seeing his bathroom for the first time after two weeks out camping. So many Oakland players can claim a piece of the win over Arizona. Jalen Richard made hay running and in the air game. Doug Martin picked up 52 rushing yards in part-time duty. Jared Cook found the end zone again. How about Marcell Ateman, catching four balls for 50 yards in his first NFL action? And a major tip of the silver-and-black helmet to Derek Carr, who mastered the pressure to move the offense into field-goal range in 1:53. Carr has absorbed much flak this season, including a mouthful from his coach this past weekend, but he showed plenty of professional pride in a season going nowhere.
The Jets roared into their bye week after looking like a prop plane in front of their home crowd at the Big Snoopy. OK, so the Peanuts characters stopped repping MetLife a while ago. Maybe they could change their mascot to Snoke now, so that opponents would potentially fear playing Todd Bowles' team. Bowles seems like a decent guy. At times, it looks like he's gotten a weaker team to play over its head; at other times, New York looks terrible. The Jets have scored a grand total of 43 points the last four weeks. The Bills (THE BILLS!) nearly matched that in New York, when last the Jets played. Next up: a highly motivated Patriots team. Great googly-moogly.
Would love to type that the Cardinals wouldn't have lost if David Johnson's would-be home run in the fourth quarter had stood. But that was one egregious hold by tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, nullifying D.J.'s 57-yard scamper. (Johnson also sprinted for 53 yards earlier in the quarter.) While that penalty definitely hurt, and while the passing game was anemic, the culprit Sunday was the defense deflating on the Raiders' final possession. Arizona keeps tallying up sacks, with 33 on the season (third in the NFL), including four on Sunday and two more from Chandler Jones. Sacks are sexy. Coverage wins games.