David Montgomery has kept the Chicago Bears offense from becoming a non-stop punt factory. Bill Belichick waved the surrender flag with one of the worst coaching performances of his career. An Indianapolis Colts punter accomplished something we can all feel good about. And Justin Jefferson said what we have all thought for years about Kirk Cousins. Or did he? All this and more in a king-sized edition of NFL Recap’s Week 15 Studs ‘n’ Duds.
Studs: David Montgomery, Running Back, Chicago Bears
David Montgomery rushed for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in a 33-27 victory over the Minnesota Vikings that kept the Bears playoff hopes alive.
David Montgomery has now rushed for 434 yards and five touchdowns in his last four games, adding 13-137-1 as a receiver. He’s the reason why the Bears offense looks somewhat functional these days. If you thought Mitch Trubisky’s “improvement” was the reason in Week 15 and not David Montgomery, well, NFL Recap doesn’t know what to tell you.
Good for you, David Montgomery.
Duds: Bill Belichick, Head Coach, New England Patriots
The Patriots were eliminated from the playoffs for the first time since 1945 (2008, actually) when they lost 22-12 to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. And Bill Belichick was the reason why the Patriots lost.
Bill Belichick ordered a punt from the Dolphins’ 39-yard line in the first quarter; it was 4th-and-9, but a punt remains a terrible percentage play in that situation. Facing 4th-and-3 at the Dolphins 27-yard line, he ordered Cam Newton to try to draw the Dolphins offsides, then called timeout and settled for a field goal. Facing 4th-and-2 at the Dolphins 27 when trailing 7-6 in the third quarter, guess what the greatest coach in NFL history called for? You guessed it: another field goal.
NFL Highlights | Lynn Bowden makes Patriots defense look silly
Remember when Cam Newton was one of the NFL’s most dangerous short-yardage runners? That was this year, folks. Belichick just forgot.
In short, Belichick played the Dolphins the way opponents played his Patriots for the last 20 years: terrified to make a mistake and desperate to keep the score close. As a result, the Patriots didn’t score enough points to beat a sloppy Dolphins team that kept trying to hand the game back to them.
Enjoy the rebuilding era, Patriots fans. Let’s hope Bill Belichick has the stomach for it.
Studs: Matthew Stafford, Quarterback, Detroit Lions
The Lions lost 46-25 to the Tennessee Titans, but Stafford battled through rib and throwing-hand injuries to 252 yards and one touchdown, keeping the game close until early in the fourth quarter and only giving way to backup Chase Daniel when mop-up time arrived.
Duds: Darrell Bevell, Interim Head Coach, Detroit Lions
Stafford spent much of Sunday afternoon for the (now) 5-10 Lions handing off to Adrian Peterson and throwing passes to Danny Amendola and Mohamed Sanu. Does … does interim coach Darrell Bevell realize that the Lions really need to evaluate younger players? Eh, that’s not really his problem.
That’s one of the dangers of firing both a head coach and general manager late in the year. The team runs on auto-pilot, and no one keeps an eye on the big picture.
Studs: Tony Pollard, Running Back, Dallas Cowboys
Pollard stepped in when Ezekiel Elliott was scrapped with a calf injury and rushed for 69 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries in a 41-33 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, adding six catches for 63 yards.
Cowboys fans and fantasy owners alike can look forward to at least twelve-and-a-half more months of Pollard getting slightly fewer touches than Elliott despite the fact that everyone with a smaller bank balance than Jerry Jones knows that Pollard is the better option.
Duds: AJ Terrell, Cornerback, Atlanta Falcons
Look, somebody on the Falcons has to screw things up after taking a 17-0 lead, especially against Tom Brady, and Terrell’s name must have been one of the ones pulled out of the hat.
NFL Highlight | Brady and the Buccaneers cut into the Falcons lead
Terrell managed to commit 28 yards of penalties on one play when the Falcons were clinging to a 24-14 lead over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers while covering Mike Evans: 13 yards for pass interference when Evans reached the top of a short sideline route and 15 more for grabbing Evans’ facemask while trying to jostle his way back into position to make a play. The double penalty gave Brady a rapid pass to the end zone, and the rest was a microcosm of Falcons history.
There’s plenty of blame to go around in the Falcons’ eventual 31-27 loss to the Bucs. But if we start naming everyone who chokes in the second half of the Falcons’ loss, NFL Recap will never have time to cover anything beyond Week 15.
Studs: Rigoberto Sanchez, Punter, Indianapolis Colts
Sanchez returned to the field just two weeks after having a cancerous growth surgically removed. He punted twice, kicked off, and held for field goals in the Colts victory over the Houston Texans.
NFL Recap is committed to wrapping up Week 15 and 2020 with all the inspirational health news that we can get.
With that, let’s stay in Indy to kick off our Week 15 awards …
NFL Recap’s awards for Week 15 (won’t include Bill Belichick)
Defender of the Week
Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner recorded three sacks in a down-to-the-wire 27-20 victory over the Houston Texans.
Buckner’s first sack forced a Deshaun Watson fumble to set up the Colts’ second touchdown. His third sack came with the Texans driving far too easily downfield late in the fourth quarter. It forced the Texans to burn a timeout. It set up the wild 4th-and-5 series in which Darius Leonard poked the football loose as receiver Keke Coutee was approaching the end zone, allowing Bobby Okereke to seal the Colts’ win with an end zone fumble recovery.
Offensive Line of the Week
Lamar Jackson, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, and mop-up quarterback Tyler Huntley combined for 159 rushing yards, and Jackson looked like his MVP self at times in the 40-14 Baltimore Ravens blowout of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Yes, it was the Jaguars. But the Ravens’ offense struggled through the middle of the season, and the team needed step-up performances from their offensive line over the last three weeks to stay in the playoff hunt.
The Jaguars are now frontrunners for the #1 overall pick.
So this week’s award goes to Orlando Brown, Bradley Bozeman, Patrick Mekari, Ben Powers, and D.J. Fluker. There are a few unfamiliar names on that unit. But no franchise plays “next man up” quite as well as the Ravens.
Special Teamer of the Week
Ezekiel Turner made two huge special teams plays for the Arizona Cardinals. He blocked a punt in the first quarter that not only set up a short touchdown but knocked Philadelphia Eagles punter Cameron Johnston out of the game. Turner later caught a 26-yard fake punt pass up the middle of the field from Andy Lee.
Week 15 NFL Highlights | DeAndre Hopkins with an insane catch
Turner’s blocked punt had significant repercussions. Johnston is the Eagles holder for field goals. The Eagles failed to kick an extra point which would have given them a 27-26 fourth-quarter lead when Zach Ertz could not handle Rick Lovato’s snap. (It was a bad snap, but all sorts of things can go wrong with the operation when a team changes placekick holders). The Cardinals went on to win 33-26.
Best Supporting Actor in someone else’s highlight
The entire Colts offense gets this week’s award by celebrating first-quarter touchdowns by Jonathan Taylor and Zach Pascal by performing the “Apache” dance by Sugar Hill Gang (often misnamed “Jump On it”) in the end zone.
For those of you under 40: back in the early 1980s, the DJ would play “Apache” at the junior high dance, and all the girls would take the floor in leg warmers, their hair teased up in a miasma of Aqua Net, and sashay around the church basement the way the Colts did in the end zone. Then, one of the really cool boys would grab a hunk of cardboard and attempt to breakdance.
This would be too much for the nuns, who then ordered “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra as the next song, which was everyone’s cue to leave. Once the dance was over, any future sportswriters would return home to listen to Moving Pictures on cassette and play Defender on their membrane-keyboard Atari 400 computers while sorting through the confusing feelings stirred by that “Apache” dance.
Perhaps we’ve dwelled a little too long on this particular sequence of events. Let’s move on.
Worst Supporting Actor in someone else’s highlight
Dolphins defender Brandon Jones peanut-punched the football loose as Cam Newton was scrambling for first-down yardage in the second quarter of the Dolphins’ victory over the Patriots. Cornerback Xavien Howard scooped and scored for a patented Dolphins defensive touchdown. Unfortunately, defensive lineman Christian Wilkins was loitering on the edge of the play, and replays showed that the ball bounced off Wilkins’ fender when his feet were out of bounds just before Howard grabbed it. The Patriots retained possession and kicked a field goal as a result.
Sorry, Wilkins. We know you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But every background extra in a movie or play knows that you just have to hit your mark. Standing one foot out of place can ruin a shot. Or a touchdown, as the case may be.
Oh, and there are three players named B. Jones (Brandon, Byron, and Benito) on the Dolphins defense. No wonder opponents always look so confused.
Most Controversial Actor in a highlight
Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson earned NFL Recap its first R-rating in Week 15 by improvising some dialogue after Kirk Cousins waited too long to pull the trigger and overthrew him in the end zone.
There are many interpretations of what Jefferson said making the Internet rounds. But NFL Recap spent our early 1980s childhood listening to heavy metal records backward seeking secret devil messages when not attending dances in the church basement. So trust our carefully-tuned ears when we tell you that Jefferson said, “F**k! Kirk! C’mon! Throw the damn flag!”
In other words: [Expletive], that pass was too high, Kirk! You could have gotten my ribs broken! And c’mon, ref: there was contact, and I want a flag because I am just generally angry at how things are going!
Also, if you listen to Jefferson’s rant backward, he clearly says, “Here’s to my sweet Sam Bradford.”
Stay tuned for Mike’s full NFL recap of Week 15 that goes beyond David Montgomery, Bill Belichick, and — GULP — a New York Jets win.