What a captivating week in the National Football League! In fact, I'll make the case that Week 11 provided the best Sunday slate of action in a sensational season.
In this zero-sum game, though, each winner produces a corresponding loser. And sometimes, the defeated find themselves in dire straits.
With all of that in mind, this edition of the Schein Nine spotlights three things from the 11th Sunday of the 2020 campaign: the good, the bad and the ugly.
Patrick Mahomes is one of one. He's the list. He's the best. He's special. He's like Michael Jordan in the clutch: You know the game is over, the only question is how he'll end it.
In a terrific Sunday night game, the Raiders (6-4) outplayed the Chiefs (9-1) -- again -- for significant stretches. And Derek Carr, who was absolutely superb all night, found Jason Witten on an ad-libbed touchdown pass that gave Las Vegas a 31-28 lead late in the fourth quarter. But then you looked at the clock -- 1:43 remaining -- and instantly knew it was too much time. The Raiders held a three-point lead, but they'd effectively lost. No. 15 would unquestionably tear their heart out.
Turns out Mahomes didn't even need that much time. Over the span of just a minute and 15 seconds, the transcendent 25-year-old calmly and surgically guided Kansas City on a seven-play, 75-yard scoring drive. He completed throws of 10 yards, 9 yards, 16 yards, 15 yards and 3 yards before hitting a wide-open Travis Kelce for the game-winning 22-yard touchdown.
Mahomes, who completed 34 of his 45 passes on the night for 348 yards and two touchdowns (against one interception), makes it look so damn easy. But we can never take this for granted, never let it feel ordinary. Mahomes is a gem like no other.
As impressive as K.C.'s victory was, Tennessee nabbed the win of the week, storming back in Baltimore and taking down the Ravens, 30-24, in overtime.
The AFC is loaded with contenders. Strong, solid teams -- perhaps a 10-win team -- will miss the playoffs. With that as the backdrop, Sunday afternoon's comeback victory by the Titans (7-3) over the Ravens (6-4) was massive.
Down 21-10 midway through the third quarter and sputtering on offense, Tennessee looked to be on its way to a fourth loss in five games. But Mike Vrabel's team kept pounding. A.J. Brown simply would not be denied the end zone, breaking four tackles on a beastly fourth-quarter touchdown. And Derrick Henry played his typical role as the Titans' game-closing hammer. After managing just 44 yards on 18 carries (2.4 yards per carry) over the first three quarters, the reigning rushing king racked up 89 on 10 carries (8.9 a pop) in fourth quarter and overtime, eclipsing 1,000 yards on the season and retaking the current rushing lead from Dalvin Cook. Not to mention, he legitimately handed Baltimore an L -- look at the play diagram! -- on his 29-yard walk-off touchdown.
Honestly, Indianapolis should've won in regulation. After roaring back from a 14-point halftime deficit, Indy appeared to have the game in hand after a fourth-and-4 conversion with less than two minutes remaining. But then the Colts machine-gunned themselves in the foot with penalties, allowing Aaron Rodgers to send the game into overtime with a 10-play, 86-yard field goal drive.
After Green Bay won the coin flip, though, Matt Eberflus' great defense answered the bell once again. Colts safety Julian Blackmon, the third-round revelation who finds himself in the thick of the Defensive Rookie of the Year race, stripped Marquez Valdes-Scantling, immediately setting Indy up for what would ultimately be a 39-yard game-winning field goal.
What a win. And it had to happen, with the rival Titans having already stormed back to take their game in Baltimore earlier in the day. Both teams remain tied atop the AFC South at 7-3, but Indianapolis currently own the tiebreaker with a head-to-head win in Week 10.
Despite the flag follies late in the fourth quarter, the Colts had so much good come out of this game. Philip Rivers tossed three touchdown passes, while rookie RB Jonathan Taylor finally delivered the goods at running back, piling up 114 scrimmage yards and looking quite spry in the process. Meanwhile, the Darius Leonard-led defense forced four turnovers and held the Packers to their second-lowest yardage total of the season.
Just a gigantic win over Green Bay on a day when Rodgers was sensational, but didn't get enough help from his friends.
I strongly disagreed with the decision to start Taysom Hill at quarterback over Jameis Winston. Truth be told, I still do. But credit Sean Payton and Co. for notching a win in Game 1 with Drew Brees on IR.
Payton is an all-time head coach and play caller. He belongs in the Hall of Fame when his career is over. While I thought the decision to start Hill over Winston was a head-scratcher -- particularly given how much the Saints would have to reshape their entire offense -- I also know that Sean loves him some Taysom. That's why New Orleans gave the super utility man $16 million guaranteed this past offseason. And Sunday's showing is why Payton should end up in Canton. Hill entered the game with more career tackles than completions. Yet Payton put him in a position to throw for 233 yards, run for 51 (plus two scores) and lead the Saints to a 24-9 win over the rival Falcons. Hill had a few rough-looking throws, no doubt, but still was much better than I expected, completing 18 of his 23 passes. Hill immediately showcased a tremendous rapport with Michael Thomas, who caught nine of his 12 targets for 104 yards.
The Saints are 8-2. They own the tiebreaker in the NFC South after sweeping the Buccaneers. But they have loftier expectations than just the division title. With only one team getting a bye in each conference due to playoff expansion, they want the No. 1 seed. And now, with Green Bay's loss, they currently have it.
I still don't like the quarterback choice -- maybe I'm just stubborn -- but Payton's game plan and his team's execution were unassailably awesome.
In the wake of a 27-20 loss to lowly Houston, the 4-6 Patriots are dead. Honestly, they've been dead. Sure, credit them for the Week 10 win over Baltimore. But credit doesn't equal life. This season is when the streak of 11 straight postseason bids ends.
I was so happy for Deshaun Watson, a bona fide star who was sadly neutered by his own team this past March when Bill O'Brien inexplicably traded DeAndre Hopkins. Watson carved up Bill Belichick's defense for 344 yards and two touchdowns through the air, as well as 36 yards and another score on the ground. Watson was a one-man offense, bedeviling New England's D all afternoon. You cannot be surprised by this. Ravaged by free agency and COVID-19 opt-outs, the Pats' defense just isn't what it used to be.
Lacking defensive talent and Tom Brady? Yeah, that's just too much to overcome -- even for the best coach in football history.
I love this group. I love Brian Flores. I love how he benched Tua Tagovailoa because the rookie looked like a rookie and the Dolphins (6-4) were trying to win. But they didn't. In fact, they lost 20-13 to a flawed Broncos team that had allowed 30-plus points in each of its four previous games.
When you are trying to make the playoffs, you have to beat the bad teams, especially those within the conference. Miami's next two games (at Jets, vs. Bengals) are absolute must-wins, given the Dolphins' nightmare schedule in the last four weeks of the regular season (vs. Chiefs, vs. Patriots, at Raiders, at Bills).
On the heels of a thrilling, last-second win over the Washington Football Team in Week 10, Detroit had an opportunity to go on a run and get back in the playoff picture. A Sunday date with the reeling Panthers -- losers of five straight, playing without Christian McCaffrey and Teddy Bridgewater -- felt like a gift.
And then the Lions were shut out, 20-0. Zero points against an anemic Carolina defense. The first time Detroit's been shut out since 2009. The first time Matthew Stafford's been shut out in his entire career. Meanwhile, Panthers QB P.J. Walker won his first career start, showing much more than his veteran counterpart even with a pair of red-zone picks.
This is why the Lions have been rebuilding since 1957. They essentially live at rock bottom. And now they need a new general manager and new head coach. So the never-ending rebuilding continues.
Ugh. Joe Burrow's done for the year after suffering a brutal knee injury on Sunday. This just stinks, for the Bengals and the league. Over the first three months of his NFL career, the No. 1 overall pick clearly showed that he has everything you want in a franchise quarterback. He has it. And while Cincinnati only won two of his 10 starts, the Bengals were far more competitive than most people anticipated, providing great hope for the future. Burrow's season-ending injury obviously puts a huge damper on that. Especially given the Monday news that he didn't just tear his ACL, but his MCL, too. Hopefully, he's able to make a full recovery and be ready to rock next September.
And hopefully, this is a wake-up call for the Bengals to invest heavily in the offensive line this coming offseason. Cincy MUST protect its special investment.
It's ugly. It's stunning. It's sad. It's flat-out depressing.
Sure, there's a "chicken or egg" element to Carson Wentz's dreadful play. The Eagles have been ravaged by injuries, both on the offensive line and among the skill positions. Doug Pederson's game-planning leaves much to be desired.
But no, I can't sugarcoat it: Wentz has been a disaster this year. He holds the ball too long. He's a turnover machine. He's the unofficial leader in "Oh, no!" throws. It's like the guy has never played the position before.
And I love Carson. I called him a star when he went 4-0 against divisional foes in the final four weeks of the 2019 regular season, carrying a depleted team to the playoffs. He was on track to get my MVP vote back in 2017 before tearing his ACL.
All of that feels like a lifetime ago now, with Wentz currently posting career worsts in completion percentage (58.4), yards per attempt (6.17) and passer rating (73.3). Did I mention he leads the league with 14 interceptions? What a mess.