Kenbrell Thompkins burned rookie Byron Jones for a 43-yard catch, setting up the game-winning field goal to propel the New York Jets (9-5) to a 19-16 win over the Dallas Cowboys (4-10) on Saturday night. Here's what you need to know:
- Following the script for losing to an inferior opponent, the Jets were fortunate to squeak out a victory in an error-filled performance. They committed too many penalties, had costly special teams mistakes, were outplayed on both lines and couldn't stop fourth-string quarterback Kellen Moore from leading a game-tying field-goal drive late in the fourth quarter. Credit goes to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who came through with the game on the line. He followed an impressive nine-play touchdown drive with the 43-yard strike to Thompkins, lifting his team to victory. Fitzpatrick is not only enjoying his best season, but also making a strong argument for the second big contract of his career.
- The Cowboyshad little choice but to yank starting quarterback Matt Cassel, who introduced the football cognoscenti to the concept of the intentional grounding interception, missed an easy touchdown to Dez Bryant and took an ugly 18-yard sack. Moore tossed three interceptions -- one via a game-ending "Hail Mary" -- but moved the offense well enough to leave Dallas fans wondering why he hadn't replaced an ineffective Cassel weeks earlier. Even if Moore lacks the arm talent to be a high-end NFL backup, he plays a more exciting brand of football than Cassel.
- Dallas' offensive and defensive lines were the two dominant units in this game, but they couldn't overcome four interceptions from their quarterbacks. Regardless of whether free agent Greg Hardy is brought back for 2016, the front seven is well-stocked with DeMarcus Lawrence emerging as a star and rookie Randy Gregory showing flashes of pass rushing potential. Lawrence controlled the line of scrimmage with four tackles for loss, including his sixth sack in his last six games.
- Darren McFadden rushed for 100 yards at more than six yards per carry against the NFL's No. 1 run defense. Although McFadden didn't start a game until late October, he has more 100-yard rushing performances than every running back with the exception of Adrian Peterson. No matter what you hear about the Cowboys' offensive line being overrated, left tackle Tyron Smith, right guard Zack Martin and center Travis Frederick belong in the Pro Bowl while DeMarco Murray stews in Philadelphia.
- Reigning NFL Executive of the Year Jerry Jones was savvy enough to import McFadden on the cheap, but this game showed a contrast in trading acumen between the two franchises. Whereas the Jets acquired Ryan Fitzpatrick, Chris Ivory and Brandon Marshall for late-round draft picks, Jones' late-round swaps resulted in Cassel, Christine Michael and Brice Butler. The Gang Green trio all merit Pro Bowl consideration while Cassel has been benched, Michael released and Butler turned into an afterthought. Not so coincidentally, the Cowboys have been eliminated from postseason contention with a 4-10 record in the NFC's weakest division.
- Don't be surprised if Todd Bowles auditions free agent kickers in Week 16. Randy Bullock missed an extra point and pushed a 45-yard field goal attempt wide right with a chance to take the lead entering halftime. The Jets' special teams have not been so special this season.