By Steve Silverman
The Miami jinx hit the Patriots once again — and it was one terrific blow. New England was up by five points with time for one more play, and the Dolphins had the ball at their own 31. That was too far away to attempt a Hail Mary, but the Dolphins needed a miracle. Ryan Tannehill hit Kenny Stills with a 14-yard pass, and he lateraled to DeVante Parker. The receiver found Kenyan Drake with another lateral, who ran the last 52 yards for a touchdown through a befuddled New England defense that gave Miami a shocking 34-33 win.
That was just one of the exciting Week 14 finishes. Here are the team grades:
Titans 30, Jaguars 9
Tennessee Titans: A-. The Titans are battling inconsistency, but they found the right formula against the Jaguars. It was a simple one, as they gave the ball to running back Derrick Henry, and he got the job done in a big way. Henry rushed for 238 yards and four touchdowns, as the Titans rolled to an easy victory.
Jacksonville Jaguars: D. Another awful game for the Jaguars, who saw their defense collapse against a motivated opponent. While not much is expected of the Jaguars on offense, it is somewhat shocking that their defense could get punished so badly by the Tennessee ground game.
Jets 27, Bills 23
New York Jets: B-. The Jets have been finding ways to lose all season, and it seemed that would be the case again in this game. But Elijah McGuire scored the winning touchdown on a fourth-and-1 play with 1:17 remaining, and the visitors stole a game in upstate New York.
Buffalo Bills: D. The Bills are not going anywhere this season, but they lost their chance of finishing with a .500 record in this loss. Josh Allen once again showed off his running skill with 101 yards and a touchdown, but a team that is trying to build something simply cannot lose to a team like the Jets on their home field.
Browns 26, Panthers 20
Cleveland Browns: B+. The Browns are a much better team than they have been, and are developing legitimate confidence. The primary reason for that is the play of their plucky quarterback, rookie Baker Mayfield, who threw for 238 yards and a touchdown.
Carolina Panthers: C-. The Panthers continue to fall apart, as they could not stop the suddenly competitive Cleveland offense. Carolina looked like they were assured of a playoff spot at mid-season but they have lost five games in a row, and Ron Rivera doesn’t know how to keep this team from unraveling.
Packers 34, Falcons 20
Green Bay Packers: B+. The coaching change had its desired effect, as the Packers not only won the game but looked quite powerful in the process. Aaron Rodgers did not have huge numbers, but he took what the Atlanta defense gave him, and threw two TD passes.
Atlanta Falcons: D. The Falcons have had their chances this year, but they have fallen on their sword nearly every time. That was not the case in this game, as the Falcons were beaten thoroughly. After Matt Ryan hit Julio Jones with the opening touchdown, Atlanta offered little resistance.
Colts 24, Texans 21
Indianapolis Colts: B+. The Colts showed that the Week 13 6-0 loss to the Jaguars was a fluke. They beat the hottest team in the league, even though they had to go to Houston. Quarterback Andrew Luck is playing with confidence, and he got the best of the Texans’ defense by throwing for 399 yards and two scores.
Houston Texans: C-. The Texans had reeled off nine straight wins, but their streak came to an end. They lost control of the game in the second quarter, when they were outscored 17-0. Deshaun Watson led a decent comeback, but the Texans will have to put this game behind them and try to start a new winning streak in Week 15 against the Jets. Houston still has a two-game lead over the Colts and Titans in the division.
Chiefs 27, Ravens 24
Kansas City Chiefs: A-. Patrick Mahomes seemed to break all the rules, as he threw late and back over the middle, with the hope of connecting on a fourth-down play to wideout Tyreek Hill in the final stages of the fourth quarter. Instead of being intercepted, Hill caught the ball and set the Chiefs up for the tying touchdown. Harrison Butker made up for a late miss by kicking the game-winning 36-yard field goal in overtime.
Baltimore Ravens: B. The Ravens had the game all but won, but they allowed the Chiefs to convert a fourth-down desperation play late in the fourth quarter that led to the tying touchdown. The Ravens had played a near-perfect road game until that point. The loss in overtime hurt that much more when the Pittsburgh Steelers lost later on in the day to the lowly Oakland Raiders.
Dolphins 34, Patriots 33
Miami Dolphins: A. The Dolphins were competitive throughout and basically answered every Patriots thrust with one of their own. Still, they found themselves trailing by five points after giving up a late field goal with 15 seconds remaining. There was no reason to believe that the Dolphins would make any use of the game’s final seconds to come up with their own miracle, but Kenyan Drake took a lateral and ran the final 52 yards to ruin New England’s potential clinching party.
New England Patriots: C-. If not for the last play of the game, the Patriots would have had a solid “B” for performance in this game. However, they were inept and indecisive on a last-second play in which they gave up 61 yards and the game-winning touchdown to the Dolphins. The Patriots have lost five of their last six games in Miami.
Saints 28, Buccaneers 14
New Orleans Saints: B. The Saints are not playing as well as they were during their 10-game winning streak, and it looked like they might lose to the Bucs for the second time this season, based on their first-half performance. However, the Saints found their game in the second half and outscored Tampa Bay 25-0 to earn the victory.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C+. The Bucs have shown some life in recent weeks. They traded punches with the Saints and looked good in the process, holding the Saints to three first-half points. However, reality came calling in the second half, and the Bucs were unable to function effectively when they had a chance to win the game.
Giants 40, Redskins 16
New York Giants: A-. The Giants smelled blood in the water, with Mark Sanchez starting at quarterback for the beleaguered Redskins. And they took advantage. It was a rare easy triumph for the Giants, who have suddenly won four of five. Saquon Barkley showed off his skill with 170 yards on 14 carries.
Washington Redskins: D. The Redskins were a first-place team just a few weeks ago, but they have fallen dramatically after losing quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colt McCoy. Sanchez was awful and replaced by Josh Johnson, but it was too little and too late.
Chargers 26, Bengals 21
Los Angeles Chargers: B-. The Chargers pulled an escape act, as they were pushed to the limit by the struggling Bengals. With a huge game coming up Thursday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Chargers were apparently looking ahead. However, they got the win, as Philip Rivers threw for 220 yards and a touchdown.
Cincinnati Bengals: C-. The Bengals were huge 14.5-point underdogs and were not expected to provide much opposition to the razor-sharp Chargers. But the Bengals showed some fight for the first time in weeks. Running back Joe Mixon scored a late touchdown that allowed the Bengals to get within two points, but the two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful
49ers 20, Broncos 14
San Francisco 49ers: B. The Niners have not played many credible games this year after losing Jimmy Garoppolo early in the season. However, the Niners received huge efforts from quarterback Nick Mullens (332 yards, two TDs) and tight end George Kittle (seven catches, 210 yards, one touchdown) to give the 49ers a rare win.
Denver Broncos: C-. The Broncos had an opportunity to build a winning record and put themselves in a better position to contend for wild-card spot. But they were unable to build on their three-game winning streak, as they allowed the struggling Niners to build a 20-0 lead. While the Broncos rallied in the second half, it wasn’t enough, and they suffered a crucial loss.
Lions 17, Cardinals 3
Detroit Lions: B+. The Lions have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the league under first-year head coach Matt Patricia, and their defense has been disappointing. That was not the case against the Cardinals, as the Lions shut down Arizona’s offense, and Darius Slay returned an interception 67 yards for a touchdown to give the Lions a two-score lead.
Arizona Cardinals: C-. The Cardinals have had a series of substandard efforts this season, and this was one of them. They were dominated by the Lions, a team in last place in the NFC North, and they could not muster any kind of effort, even at home. Josh Rosen threw for 240 yards and may be a decent quarterback in the future, but he is not there yet.
Cowboys 29, Eagles 23
Dallas Cowboys: B+. The Cowboys are the hottest team in the NFL, with five straight wins, and they have taken charge in the NFC East, with a 7-5 record. Dak Prescott threw for 455 yards and three touchdowns, and Amari Cooper had a huge game, with 10 receptions for 217 yards and three TDs, including the winner in overtime.
Philadelphia Eagles: C+. The Eagles desperately needed this game, and they mounted a strong fourth-quarter offensive showing to come back and force it into overtime. However, they were done in by a tipped pass that turned into a game-winning touchdown. A playoff spot seems like a long-shot at this point.
Raiders 24, Steelers 21
Oakland Raiders: B+. The Raiders built off a strong Week 13 performance, in which they dropped a 40-33 decision to the Chiefs. Derek Carr keyed the victory, with 322 passing yards and two TD passes, while the Oakland defense kept the Steelers’ offense in check.
Pittsburgh Steelers: D. The Steelers have lost three games in a row. And this loss was particularly galling, as it came against an Oakland team that has rarely played 60 solid minutes. The Steelers had no running game, but wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster caught eight passes for 130 yards and scored twice. Despite the losing streak, the Steelers still lead the AFC North.
Bears 15, Rams 6
Chicago Bears: A-. The Bears showed the NFL that they belong with the best teams in the NFC, as their defense came up with a magnificent effort. Roquan Smith, Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks continue to punish opponents and crush their spirits. The only negative was a disheartening 110-yard, three-interception performance by Mitchell Trubisky.
Los Angeles Rams: D+. The Rams have been an elite team the last two season with a prolific offense. That offense was stopped cold by the Bears Sunday night, as the Chicago defense made Jared Goff look like a struggling rookie. The only thing that head coach Sean McVay can look at positively is the play of his defense.
Seahawks 21, Vikings 7
Seattle Seahawks: A-. The Seahawks continue to play solid football. They completely shut down the Minnesota offense and made them look somewhat fearful as the game progressed. Seattle ran the ball well and imposed its will, and the Seahawks were able to add a couple of late touchdowns to put some major distance between them and their opponents. The Seahawks faced a major challenge and passed it with flying colors.
Minnesota Vikings: C-. The Vikings were inept on offense throughout most of the game and were pushed around physically by the Seattle defense. Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner was mic’d up, and he could be heard saying “they didn’t want to be here.” The Vikings offered no argument to that statement. While the defense played well, the offense could not make any inroads.