The Arizona Cardinals finally hit a bump in the road on Sunday, dropping a 19-3 decision to the Seattle Seahawks at The Clink.
There's no shame in losing to a good team on the road, much less to a team that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in February. But Bruce Arians is going to have to fight hard to keep doubt from creeping into the Cardinals' locker room.
At 9-2, Arizona remains in great position to pull off its upset win of the NFC West. But Seattle and San Francisco -- the two recognized superpowers of the division (and conference) -- are not too far in the rear-view. Both teams sit at 7-4, and the schedule tells us the Cardinals are going to have to earn this thing.
Where we stand, nothing is decided.
Here's what else you need to know from Week 12:
- Odell Beckham is the ultimate silver lining. Even in a lost season, Giants fans can take solace in watching an absolute superstar and perhaps the most exciting player in the league. Just as broadcast analyst Cris Collinsworth was praising an uncoverable Beckham as the quickest receiver ever, in and out of his breaks, the hyper-athletic rookie came down with the most amazing catch we have ever witnessed. Beckham is averaging eight catches and 126 yards since entering the starting lineup a month ago. He would have added another 87-yard touchdown Sunday night had Eli Manning looked his way as he was running wide open with no defenders within 15 yards.
- Tony Romo looked noticeably more limber coming out of the bye week. As long as he doesn't take another bone-jarring hit to his torso, he should be out of the woods on the back woes. His 143.4 passer rating ranks in the top five for his career and is the third time in his past four games that he has been over 135.0. He's on the periphery of the MVP discussion, along with DeMarco Murray.
- Murray reached the century mark for the 10th time in 11 games. Murray is now on pace for 388 carries, 1,956 yards and 10 touchdowns. There's no reason to believe the Cowboys will lighten his workload while fighting for the division title and a playoff berth.
-- Chris Wesseling
- Josh Gordon trotted out with the starters and immediately looked like the best player on Cleveland's roster. The back-from-suspension wideout was used all over the field and showed off his patented after-the-catch ability with 120 yards off eight grabs. Playing the entire way, Gordon led the team in targets but also suffered bouts of miscommunication with quarterback Brian Hoyer, who misfired on way too many deep shots to last year's league-leading wideout.
- Falcons passer Matt Ryan was picked off and strip-sacked on back-to-back first-half drives that triggered a pair of Cleveland scores. He recovered to complete 27-of-43 passes for 273 yards, but Ryan was hassled all day by a Browns pass rush that dialed up three sacks and six hits. Completing 14 of his final 18 throws, Ryan made plenty of plays to Julio Jones and Roddy White, who combined for 168 yards off 14 catches. Don't blame Ryan for Atlanta's disastrous season.
- Coming off his worst game of the year, Hoyer doubled down to put together the ugliest start of his career, throwing a trio of killer interceptions that kept Atlanta alive. The second pick saw Hoyer wipe out a potential game-sealing scoring drive in the final quarter with an ill-advised toss to Gordon in the end zone. Hoyer's 10-4 mark as a Browns starter is no mirage, but neither is his NFL-worst completion percentage.
-- Marc Sessler
- The Bears' offense was pathetic in the first half, gaining just 68 yards. It didn't get much better in the second half, as the unit totaled just 204 yards for the game. However, Chicago capitalized off two Josh McCown turnovers deep in the Bucs' own end to take control of the game early in the third quarter and hang on. Jay Cutler did nothing all game, finishing with 130 yards passing on an average of 4.8 yards per pass. He also fumbled again, extending his NFL turnover lead (18).
- The Bears didn't win the game so much as the Bucs' offense lost it. McCown's lack of awareness led to a fumble, and then he badly overthrew a ball that was tipped for a pick. A Vincent Jackson red-zone fumble killed a promising drive on the subsequent possession. McCown had zero running game to help and was constantly under siege (he tallied five sacks). He finished 25-of-48 passing for 341 yards. His two turnovers, however, cost the Bucs a chance to win.
- This was a terribly painful game to watch by two bad teams in the rain on a sloppy turf. They combined for five turnovers and 14 penalties for 122 yards. The Bucs punted six times, and the Bears punted nine times -- including two shanks. This contest was as depressing as the weather in which it was played.
-- Kevin Patra
- It's good to have A.J. Green back in the lineup. He set a career high with 12 catches, seemingly all of them contested catches on third-and-long. Green's ability to high point passes was the key to Cincinnati maintaining the ball for more than 39 minutes. Watching cornerbacks Darryl Morris and A.J. Bouye try to cover Green was unfair.
- Ryan Mallett couldn't back up his solid first NFL start. He looked awful from the first minute of this game, throwing high, wide and consistently off the mark. His inaccurate passes reminded us of his preseason games in New England. His misses were usually unforced errors where he gave his receivers absolutely no chance to make a play.
- Andy Dalton was responsible for Houston's only touchdown, but he actually played a strong game overall. If you take away Dalton's pick six, he played outstandingly for a second consecutive week -- we didn't chart him for a bad pass until deep into the third quarter, and he made a number of pinpoint throws. The Bengals have found an identity with long drives on the road the last two weeks, with Dalton bouncing back strong the last two weeks from his meltdown against Cleveland.
-- Gregg Rosenthal
- The Colts' pass protection was a mess early on, allowing the Jaguars to get to Andrew Luck for four sacks in the first quarter. Luck was sacked just once the rest of the way, giving him the opportunity to make some plays downfield. Luck's mobility came in handy here; he rushed for 51 yards on six carries before two late kneel-downs.
- Another uneven effort from rookie Blake Bortles, who once again failed to move the offense. Bortles averaged just 5.4 yards per attempt, dangerously close to the dreaded Gabbert Zone. Jaguars fans don't like hearing that name associated with their young QB.
- T.Y. Hilton arrived at the stadium shortly before kickoff following the birth of his daughter. That didn't stop him from another big day, which included 122 yards receiving and a 73-yard touchdown reception. Hilton has entered the conversation as a top-10 wide receiver in football.
-- Dan Hanzus
- Even in the games that won't be considered Aaron Rodgers' best, there is an element of calculated fearlessness that is so fun to watch. On a first-and-goal from the Minnesota 1-yard line, he throws a nearly blind touchdown pass entirely across his body while rolling to the opposite sideline. For almost any other quarterback, a play demanding that much air on a ball across the field gets scrapped.
- It's hard to believe now, but the Vikings are two or three players away from being a very good football team, and most of those players are on the offensive line. Bridgewater's development needs to coincide with the development of a young core up front, especially if Adrian Peterson isn't returning. Still, Mike Zimmer showed glimpses of what he's capable of with the talent he has in the secondary and managed to force Rodgers into some uncomfortable throws while living dangerously with a single-high safety.
- Teddy Bridgewater, after staring receivers down for a majority of the game, steadied himself in time for a crucial fourth-quarter drive that put the Vikings down by a field goal with just a few minutes left to play. The Packers were inviting him to run all afternoon, which resulted in a career-high 32 rushing yards. With this offensive line, he's going to have no choice but to diversify his game a bit.
-- Conor Orr
- If a charismaticBruce Arians is the favorite for Coach of the Year honors, Bill Belichick is nipping at his heels. One week after deploying an unheard-of six-man offensive line as base personnel in a dominant ground attack, the Patriots went pass-heavy with a two wide receiver, two tight end base package to exploit the middle of the field against the NFL's top-ranked run defense. Over the past two months, the Patriots have won in convincing fashion against teams that were in first place in the AFC North, AFC West, AFC South and NFC North.
- Week 11 sensationJonas Gray went from the penthouse to the outhouse after oversleeping and missing Friday's practice. Passing-down specialist Shane Vereen started, while newly acquiredLeGarrette Blount settled in as the power-back complement. Gray didn't play a single snap. Blount has scored 10 touchdowns in his last five games with the Patriots. The roles in the backfield will continue to vary depending upon the strengths and weaknesses of each opponent.
- Lions coach Jim Caldwell's conservative bent has been a liability against Arians and Belichick the past two weeks. After decades in the NFL, "Riverboat" Ron Riverareached an epiphany last October that settling for field goals is a losing proposition and eschewing fourth-and-short opportunities early means being forced to try fourth-and-long late. Caldwell needs to get that religion.
-- Chris Wesseling
- The Eagles proved what most expected on Sunday: The Titans don't have the horses to keep up with them in a shootout. Chip Kelly's offense piled up 462 total yards, getting a 300-yard passing day from Mark Sanchez and a 100-yard rushing day from LeSean McCoy. Each time the Titans threatened to make a game of it in the first half, the Eagles responded with a score. Philly has put up 40-plus points twice in the past three weeks.
- Sanchez has thrown for more than 300 yards in each of his three starts -- Brian Schottenheimer's Jets' offense has never seemed so far away. It was an uneven performance on balance, with two uglyinterceptions. But Sanchez continues to look very comfortable in this offense, has shown good arm strength and a nice rapport with his receivers, particularly rookie Jordan Matthews.
- Here's the McCoy performance that bitter fantasy owners expected often this season. The Eagles are nearly unstoppable on offense when McCoy is finding holes and busting into the second level.
-- Dan Hanzus
- Outside of a decisive 10-play, 61-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, it was another week without progress for Robert Griffin III. The Redskins' passing game lacks structure because Griffin struggles to read defenses and is only completing dumpoffs, screens and crossing routes. His footwork and pocket presence are out of sync. Jay Gruden's hands are tied from a scheming and play-calling perspective with Griffin behind center. Don't be surprised if Gruden turns back toColt McCoy.
- Although Michael Crabtree is finally starting to re-emerge as a playmaker over the past three weeks, Vernon Davis remains the picture of ineffectiveness. He had a bad drop Sunday and ran his routes a yard short of the sticks on a pair of third-down receptions. Anquan Boldin is the only consistent week-to-week threat of offense. He came up huge with three catches on the game-winning touchdown drive.
- Alfred Morris had his first 100-yard game of the season against a 49ers defense that entered the game sixth in run defense. Morris ran hard, and Gruden clearly didn't want the game in Griffin's hands.
-- Chris Wesseling
- Shaun Hill will have nightmares about this one for a while. He threw an interception on the goal line with under a minute to go, telegraphing his throw and forcing the ball into coverage on second-and-goal when the Rams were headed for overtime at worst.
Some folks will criticize offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for calling a pass in the situation, but you have to play to win. It's on Hill for making such a critical mistake.
- It's fitting the Chargers' defense made the play to win the game. The Rams' offense only scored 10 points on their own until late in the fourth quarter, and seven of those came on a short field after a turnover. On a day when it took the Chargers' offense a while to get going, defensive coordinator John Pagano's crew made enough plays.
- San Diego, now 7-4, was staring at its playoff mortality for a while. The game was briefly 17-3 before a penalty erased a long touchdown by Hill to Kenny Britt late in the first half. Philip Rivers ran a nice two-minute drive to cut the deficit to 10-6 before halftime, and then pulled off two touchdown drives in their first three possessions of the second half. San Diego beat St. Louis' talented defense with quick throws and a resurgent running game.
-- Gregg Rosenthal
- Seattle (7-4) turned in a defensive masterpiece to save its season and gain ground inside the division. Holding Arizona (9-2) to just 117 first-half yards, the Legion of Boom shut down passing lanes and kept Arizona to three of 12 on third down. Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton was held to just 86 yards with a pick over the first 44 minutes of play and visibly missedLarry Fitzgerald.
- Both defenses played out of their minds. The Cardinals held the Seahawks to just nine first-half points despite Seattle running 20 of 25 plays in Arizona territory. Sneaky MVP candidate Calais Campbell dialed up three sacks and three quarterback hits for an Arizona outfit that dropped Wilson a season-high seven times, equaling the career-worst pounding he took from the Rams last autumn.
- After looking better than ever over the past two weeks, Marshawn Lynch was slowed for much of the first half with a back injury before returning to grind out 39 yards off 15 totes. Not gaudy numbers, but Beast Mode also sustained drives with a trio of clutch catches for 43 yards.
-- Marc Sessler
- The Broncos' offense could not have played much better. They had the ball nine times, punting only once, with no turnovers. If not for a short missed field-goal attempt, the Broncos would have put up a 40-burger on one of the NFL's best defenses. Peyton Manningfinishedthe gamewith fourtouchdowns.
- Denver adapted to their recent offensive line struggles with dinks and dunks. They kept extra protection in when they dialed up some big plays, and Manning did not face much pressure against Miami's talented front seven. The Dolphins only had one QB hit and one sack on the day.
- Miami's offense put up three first-half touchdowns due to Ryan Tannehill's locked-in play. He made smart decisions, was accurate and was throwing well on the move. He couldn't quite sustain that pace in a game where he had no margin for error. An interception on a tipped pass in the fourth quarter was too much to overcome. Tannehill played well enough to win.
-- Gregg Rosenthal
The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Sunday game from Week 12 and discusses Ryan Tannehill's progression. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.