40 things we learned from NFL’s Week 12 games


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Check out the top moments that helped define the outcomes of Sunday’s NFL matchups.
USA TODAY Sports

The 40 things we learned from Week 12 of the NFL season:

1. Sunday’s unquestioned hero was Antonio Brown. One week after his miraculous helmet catch, the Steelers receiver reeled in another astounding reception with a toe-tapping grab that helped put Pittsburgh in position for a last-second, game-winning field goal over the Packers. In the last two weeks, Brown has accounted for 20 catches for 313 yards and five touchdowns.

2. It’s difficult to tell if this was another case of Pittsburgh playing down to its opponent, but the defense presented cause for concern. With Jamaal Williams and Davante Adams scoring on TD receptions of 54 yards and 55 yards, respectively, Pittsburgh has now given up five passing TDs of 50+ yards in the last three games.

3. Green Bay came up short, but Brett Hundley bounced back nicely after being shut out at Lambeau last week. He threw for a career-high three touchdowns and repeatedly attacked the Steelers secondary for big gains. Perhaps most impressive was his composure on a 12-play, 77-yard drive that tied the game late in the fourth quarter.

4. Remember when Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry predicted Miami would sweep the Patriots in 2017? He told Sports Illustrated earlier this year: “It’s time for a change … they’re not our big brother anymore.” No, Jarvis, Tom Brady and Co. are actually still your daddy after Sunday’s 35-17 beatdown.

5. With the victory, the Pats ensured their 17th consecutive season with a winning record, a streak dating to 2001, Brady’s first season as the starter. 

6. Alshon Jeffery’s prediction is in much better shape. “I guarantee you we’ll win the Super Bowl next year,” the Eagles receiver said in January … when he was a member of the Bears. Jeffery caught a TD on Sunday in a 31-3 drubbing of his ex-mates. “I never said a team, though,” Jeffery hedged of his foresight earlier this week.

7. How high are the Eagles soaring? At 10-1, they have the league’s best record and have won each of their last five games by double digits, the average margin of victory 23.4 in that stretch. With a win next week or loss by the Cowboys on Thursday, Philadelphia will become the first team this season to wrap up a division title. 

8. Chicago’s 140 total yards were its fewest in a game since 2010. The Bears didn’t have a first down in the first half, the first team since 2012 failing to notch a first down before halftime since 2012, per NFL Research.  

9. The Falcons (7-4) seem to be back. Winners of three in a row, their largely disappointing offense exploded for 516 yards in Sunday’s win over the Bucs. Atlanta’s second-best output this year had been 403 yards. Last year, they averaged 416 yards under previous OC Kyle Shanahan.

10. Julio Jones’ 253 yards Sunday were the most by any receiver since … Julio Jones gained 300 on Oct. 2, 2016. Jones has now exceeded 200 receiving yards three times in his seven-year career.

More: NFL playoff picture through Week 12 games

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11. If the Falcons ever need to bench QB Matt Ryan, they should put WR Mohamed Sanu under center. Sanu threw a 51-yard TD pass to Jones on Sunday and is now 6-for-6 for 228 yards, three TDs and a perfect 158.3 passer rating in his five-year NFL career. A triple-option quarterback in high school, Sanu would probably be the best passer in Cleveland.

12. Speaking of Cleveland, the quarterback the Browns “wanted,” Bengals backup AJ McCarron, was seen exchanging hugs and handshakes with Browns coach Hue Jackson and owner Jimmy Haslam on the field prior to Sunday’s game in Cincinnati. We can only assume McCarron was thanking them for blowing the deal. 

13. Maybe Cleveland should be targeting Bengals starting QB Andy Dalton, a noted Browns killer. Dalton has now won his last seven starts against Cleveland and has 15 TD passes and zero INTs in his past six outings against the in-state rivals.

14. The Browns joined the 1976-77 Buccaneers, who lost 26 in a row, as the only teams since the 1970 merger to start consecutive seasons with 0-11 records.

15. The Titans swept the Colts for the first time since 2002. Tennessee had lost 11 in a row to Indianapolis entering this season.

16. The Colts opened the roof at Lucas Oil Field, and it was officially 47 degrees at kickoff, making it the coldest home game ever played in Indianapolis. Given the number of empty seats — the Colts announced a crowd of 62,000, which seems high — we have to wonder about literal fair-weather fans.

17. Colts QB Jacoby Brissett deserves hazard pay. Brissett, who suffered a concussion during the club’s previous game two weeks ago, was sacked eight times by the Titans. Indianapolis has allowed 47 sacks, the most ever during the Chuck Pagano era — and given the poor protection Andrew Luck received in recent years, that’s saying something.

18. Chiefs RB Kareem Hunt has slammed into the rookie wall, unable to gain 100 yards from scrimmage in the past four games. He reached the century mark in his first seven NFL games.

19. And we can officially declare Alex Smith’s MVP candidacy dead, thanks to a dreadful stretch from the Kansas City offense that includes just one touchdown since the third quarter of their loss to Dallas in Week 9. Smith’s interception late in the fourth quarter Sunday was both a terrible decision and a bad throw.

20. Meanwhile, by winning at Arrowhead Stadium, the Bills have temporarily reclaimed the AFC’s second wild-card position. We’re guessing Tyrod Taylor stays in the lineup awhile longer.

21. Expect calls for rookie QB Patrick Mahomes — no, Andy Reid isn’t listening — after the Chiefs lost for the fifth time in six games and saw their AFC West lead over the Chargers and Raiders drop to just one game.

22. Sunday featured two pairs of brothers literally facing off: Eagles DE Chris Long against Bears G Kyle Long and Bucs S T.J. Ward against Falcons RB Terron Ward. 

23. The Vikings still aren’t ready to fully commit to Case Keenum as their starting quarterback, which is hard to figure. Since he stepped in for injured Sam Bradford midway through Week 5, Minnesota is 7-0, and Keenum has a 97.0 QB rating. Would Teddy Bridgewater really be a better option even under ideal circumstances?

24. If you didn’t already believe in WR Adam Thielen, consider that he and Randy Moss are the only Vikings to have at least 70 catches and 1,000 receiving 11 games into a season. Thielen is also the Vikings’ first 1,000-yard receiver since Sidney Rice in 2009.

25. Apparently, LT Tyron Smith isn’t the Cowboys’ MVP, either. He returned to the lineup Thursday — and committed a key holding penalty to nullify a Dak Prescott TD run when the game against the Chargers was still in doubt — but Dallas got blown out for the third consecutive week.

26. The MVC (Most Valuable Cowboy) is either RB Ezekiel Elliott or LB Sean Lee. Since Elliott’s six-game suspension went into effect, Dallas is 0-3 and averaging 7.3 points. The team is 5-2 when Lee is on the field, 0-4 when injuries have kept him sidelined. The defense allows more than 100 yards more per game in Lee’s absence.

27. And enough on the notion Prescott is ready to carry Dallas in Zeke’s absence. The second-year quarterback has five INTs in the past two games. He had four last year.

28. After beating the Giants on Thursday night, Redskins QB Kirk Cousins is now 1-9 in games played on a week day (1-3 on Thursday, 0-6 on Monday).

29. The shrink wrap finally came off Niners QB Jimmy Garoppolo after C.J. Beathard was hurt with 67 seconds left in San Francisco’s loss to Seattle. Garoppolo, who hadn’t played since being acquired from the Patriots at the trade deadline, threw a 10-yard TD pass on the game’s final play. The question now is, who takes the team’s next snap?

30. Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s 33,313 passing yards are the most ever by a quarterback who hasn’t reached his 30th birthday — and Stafford’s isn’t until February. Of course it helps when you enter the league at age 21 and your team has trailed for much of your career. Still, credit to Stafford, who’s ironically played much of his best football since WR Calvin Johnson retired last year.

31. The wisdom of Twitter: If the Chargers had scored one point Thursday for each of QB Philip Rivers’ kids, they still would’ve beaten Dallas 8-6. 

32. The Chargers are the only team yet to allow an opposing player to have 100 yards receiving in a game this season.

33. The Chargers’ Keenan Allen has 331 receiving yards over the past two weeks, the most productive two-game stretch for any receiver this season.

34. The surging Chargers have won five of seven after an 0-4 start. The only team with a winning record they play the rest of the way is the spiraling Chiefs, the team Los Angeles aims to overtake in the AFC West.

35. The Raiders-Broncos game began with a brawl, as Oakland WR Michael Crabtree and Denver CB Aqib Talib exchanged punches. Both were ejected (as was Raiders G Gabe Jackson, who made contact with an official during the melee that ensued on the sideline). The feud between the Crabtree and Talib dates to last season, when Talib ripped a chain off Crabtree’s neck during a Week 17 game, which he seemed to do again Sunday. Earlier in the day, Dolphins CB Bobby McCain was ejected after throwing a punch (or was it throwing an elbow?) in New England.

36. The Raiders finally intercepted their first pass of the season when LB NaVorro Bowman picked off Broncos QB Paxton Lynch in the end zone. It was only fitting this weird streak would end against the Broncos, since Lynch was finally getting his chance to start after turnovers (and losses) doomed Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler.

37. The Lynch experiment was short lived after he suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter. Sieman threw a 25-yard touchdown to avert Denver’s second shutout loss of the season.

38. Calais Campbell Bowl
Calais Campbell Bowl > Blaine Gabbert Bowl.
Calais Campbell Bowl
Calais Campbell Bowl > Blaine Gabbert Bowl.
Calais Campbell Bowl
Calais Campbell Bowl > Blaine Gabbert Bowl.
Calais Campbell Bowl
Calais Campbell Bowl

39. The Cardinals became the first team to win a week after playing the Texans.

40. Tom Brady’s 26th TD pass gives him the most ever for a player in a season after his 40th birthday. (Brett Favre threw 33 TDs in 2009 but not all before he turned 40 that October.)

Contributing: Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz

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Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis and Lindsay H. Jones @bylindsayhjones

PHOTOS: Week 12 NFL action

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