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The Schein Nine

NFL Week 11 heroes: Travis Kelce, Marcus Jones and Mike McCarthy among Sunday's biggest stars

Andy Dalton told the critics -- like me -- to pipe down by offering up near perfection in the Saints' 27-20 win over the Rams. Completing 21 of 25 passes for 260 yards and three touchdowns against the defending Super Bowl champs? Not too shabby, even though Los Angeles is scuffling through a serious hangover season.

So, who else provided inspiration during the 11th Sunday of the 2022 NFL season? Here are my heroes, Schein Nine style.

Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs KC · QB
Travis Kelce
Kansas City Chiefs KC · TE

It was special. It was sensational. And honestly, it was inevitable.

After Justin Herbert hit Joshua Palmer for the go-ahead touchdown on Sunday night, the clock showed 1:46 remaining, and you knew the game was over -- for the Chargers.

Patrick Mahomes promptly led Kansas City on a six-play, 76-yard touchdown drive in 1:15, ultimately giving the Chiefs a 30-27 win -- and a three-game lead -- over their AFC West rivals. In the postgame, Mahomes said that, prior to the game-winning march, "There was no doubt we were going to be fine." And who can blame him for such confidence? Kansas City is now 4-0 this season in games where it was trailing at halftime. Mahomes has now won 25 straight games in November/December -- per NFL Research, this is the longest win streak in any two-month span since QB wins were first recorded in 1950. The 27-year-old, who leads the NFL in passing yards (3,265, or 326.5 per game) and passing touchdowns (28), is the league's most unstoppable force. And he's the clear-cut leader in the MVP race. Though he wouldn't have prevailed on Sunday without some notable help from one particular pass-catching friend.

Tyreek Hill is in Miami. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman couldn't suit up for the game, while Kadarius Toney suffered a hamstring setback in the first half. Fortunately, Mahomes still had the guy in the No. 87 jersey. Travis Kelce caught six balls for 115 yards and three touchdowns, including the 17-yard game-winner with 31 seconds remaining. Kelce now leads the entire league with 11 TD grabs, and he just broke a tie with Rob Gronkowski for most career 100-yard games by a tight end with his 33rd. He's the best tight end in the sport today, and it's not even close.

This roster is far from perfect, but Kansas City has future Hall of Famers at quarterback and tight end. That'll do at winning time, especially when the man in charge -- head coach Andy Reid -- is also Canton bound. Owning the AFC's best record at 8-2, the Chiefs are right on track to hit a fifth straight conference title game -- and no one will be surprised if they end up hoisting another Lombardi Trophy.

Marcus Jones
New England Patriots · CB/PR

The rookie third-round pick provided the "WOW" moment of Sunday -- in fact, it was one of the most pulsating plays of the season, especially given how dull Jets-Patriots had been up to that point.

Both offenses were wretched in this AFC East rivalry bout, which is why the game was tied 3-3 with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. To the Patriots' credit, they had at least moved the ball a little bit, but couldn't finish drives and missed field goals. Meanwhile, the Jets managed just 103 total yards, including 2 -- yes, TWO -- yards in the second half. Zach Wilson (9-for-22, 77 yards) did not look like an NFL quarterback. Still, it appeared this rock fight of a game was heading to an overtime period that nobody needed.

Then Marcus Jones saved us all!

On his 10th kick of the game, Jets punter Braden Mann left the ball in the middle of the field. Jones made him pay, taking it back 86 yards to the house for the first punt-return touchdown of this NFL season. It was a stunning, lightning-bolt finish to a sleepy Sunday afternoon struggle.

This marks the Patriots' seventh straight season sweep of the Jets, giving New England the last 14 wins in this "rivalry." And don't look now, but at 6-4, the Pats are now squarely in the playoff picture, currently holding the AFC's No. 6 seed. Bill Belichick has gone old school, winning with defense and special teams. Feels right.

Mike McCarthy
Dallas Cowboys · HC

Now that is how you bounce back from a frustrating overtime loss in Green Bay. I think the Cowboys just scored again!

One week after blowing a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead at Lambeau, McCarthy's squad stormed Minnesota and blew the doors off the Vikings, 40-3. That's the most lopsided road win in the proud history of the Cowboys franchise -- and it came against a Vikings team that started the day at 8-1! Dallas (7-3) outclassed Minnesota in every aspect, winning the yardage battle 458-183 despite taking the foot off the pedal in the fourth quarter. Dak Prescott played his best game of the season, completing 22 of his 25 throws (88 percent) for 276 yards and two touchdowns. Tony Pollard continued to make his case as the team's best back, racking up 189 scrimmage yards and two scores on 21 touches. And the Micah Parsons-led defense terrorized Kirk Cousins, totaling seven sacks while allowing the Vikes to convert just one of their 11 third-down attempts.

McCarthy rarely gets the credit he deserves, but he doesn't lack respect around these parts. I love the guy! Sunday's statement victory was a total team effort, confirmation that this well-rounded bunch can win on the road -- in staggeringly dominant fashion, to boot. Touché, coach.

Derek Carr
Las Vegas Raiders LV · QB
Davante Adams
Las Vegas Raiders LV · WR

It's been a season of gross underachievement for the Raiders, but it could be worse. Just ask the Broncos.

In the wake of three straight losses, Las Vegas traveled to Denver and completed a season sweep of the rival Broncos with a 22-16 win, walking it off on the home team with a 35-yard touchdown on the opening drive of overtime. And the two players who connected on that game-winning score -- Derek Carr and Davante Adams -- really needed the positive juju.

Adams' reunion with Carr -- the two players starred together at Fresno State -- was supposed to take this Las Vegas team to the next level. That clearly hasn't transpired, with the Raiders now sitting at 3-7. But still, it was nice to see the two close friends finish an emotional week with a hard-fought win.

Following a tough loss to the Colts in Jeff Saturday's coaching debut in Week 10, Carr was fighting back tears in his postgame presser. In the days that followed, Carr and Adams both expressed support for first-year Raiders coach Josh McDaniels. Then the two accomplished veterans went out and really supported McDaniels with stellar production on the gridiron: Carr threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns, while Adams caught seven balls for 141 yards and two scores. Facing great adversity -- and the league's top-ranked pass defense -- Carr and Adams answered the bell with inspiring play. Great stuff.

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell watches his players warm up before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)
Dan Campbell
Detroit Lions · HC

Break up the Lions! How cool is this? Detroit (4-6) is on a heater! Dan Campbell's squad has won three straight games, with the past two coming on the road. That is something, considering the Lions went 0-11-1 in their first 12 road games under Campbell. And Sunday's result -- a 31-18 pasting of the Giants that was more of a blowout than that score might indicate -- felt like Campbell's most impressive win in the big chair.

The Giants came into Sunday with a 7-2 record fueled by an offense that ranked third in rushing and turnovers. On Sunday, the G-Men managed just 89 yards rushing while committing a season-high three turnovers. This is a major credit to Detroit's defense, which has vastly improved over the course of the season. Rookie Aidan Hutchinson had another special game, notching his second interception and a fumble recovery. The No. 2 overall pick is really coming into his own. On offense, Jared Goff continues to rock steady -- he's leading the league's No. 6 offense, after all! And what a day from RB Jamaal Williams, who scored three more touchdowns on Sunday and now leads the entire league with 12 total scores. As anyone who watched Hard Knocks knows, Williams is an easy guy to root for -- and the heartbeat of this team.

Suddenly, the Lions have become tough and clutch and, quite frankly, fun to watch. Kudos to Campbell, who has Detroit back on track in Year 2 of this rebuild.

Buffalo Bills

It was easy for the haters to pile on my guy Josh Allen during Buffalo's two-game skid. Chill out. He's still elite, and so are the Bills. Despite a disjointed week of practice due to the snowstorm that moved this game from Buffalo to Detroit, the Bills easily dispatched the Browns to improve to 7-3. Don't let the final score of 31-23 fool you -- Buffalo held a 28-10 lead halfway through the fourth quarter.

With four picks and three fumbles during back-to-back losses in Weeks 9 and 10, Allen needed some help in the form of offensive balance. The Bills found it on Sunday, with Devin Singletary and rookie James Cook providing 86 rushing yards apiece. Per NFL Research, Buffalo is the only team this season to have multiple backs rush for 85-plus yards in a single game -- and it only happened once last year, when D'Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard accomplished the feat for the Titans.

The Bills used a workmanlike approach to break the Browns, imposing their will on the ground in a manner that could put the team over the top in December, January and, yes, February.

Joe Burrow
Cincinnati Bengals · QB

While the reigning AFC champions haven't exactly lit the world on fire this year, I remain bullish on their potential to make another run in January. That's because of the unflappable star under center.

Joe Burrow is only in Year 3, but the man is a seasoned vet. No Ja'Marr Chase? No Joe Mixon for most of the second half on Sunday? No problem. Burrow carved up the rival Steelers for 355 yards and four touchdowns (against two picks) in Cincinnati's 37-30 win at Pittsburgh.

At 6-4, Burrow's Bengals are back in the playoff picture -- currently holding the AFC's No. 7 seed -- and NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports that Chase is off crutches and nearing a return to action. You gonna bet against this team getting hot down the stretch?

Cordarrelle Patterson
Atlanta Falcons · RB/KR

This cat is special. Patterson scampered his way into the record books with another brilliant and breathtaking kickoff return on Sunday. The 103-yard score, the ninth kick-return touchdown of Patterson's dynamic career, broke a tie with Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington, giving Patterson the all-time mark. And it proved to be gigantic in Atlanta's rather huge 27-24 win over Chicago, keeping the Falcons' playoff hopes alive in the weak NFC South. Atlanta was losing 17-7 with just under five minutes remaining in the first half when Patterson received the kick 3 yards deep in the end zone. His return sparked the Falcons (5-6), who scored 17 unanswered to retake control of the game before eventually winning thanks to a late Younghoe Koo field goal.

Oh, and the former receiver also ran for 52 yards at a healthy 5.2 yards a pop. Arthur Smith does a great job taking advantage of Patterson's unique skill set. All hail the kick-return king!

Washington Commanders

After Washington stunned Philadelphia on Monday Night Football -- handing the Eagles their first loss of the season -- it was easy to envision a short-week hangover for the Commanders. Not the case. Washington improved to 6-5 by handling its business in a 23-10 victory at Houston. And the dominant win -- the Commanders led 20-0 at halftime -- was largely fueled by the team's game-wrecking defensive front.

The Commanders have invested a lot of high draft picks and money in the defensive line, and it has paid off. Houston was an innocuous opponent, and Washington's big boys up front pounded the one-win Texans into submission. The Commanders sacked Davis Mills five times. Dameon Pierce, Houston's ultra-talented rookie running back, was held to 8 yards on 10 carries.

Having won five of their past six games, the Commanders have surged into the playoff race. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who has won four of his five starts, deserves credit as a winner whom the team rallies around. But the defense has really been the driving force. Since Week 6, Washington has allowed just 15.8 points and 276.7 yards per game, racking up 12 takeaways during this six-contest span of dominance. The D-line is the tone-setting engine, and the unit should be even more dangerous going forward, with Chase Young being activated on Monday.

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