Chops316 Monday Morning Quarterback: 2021 Week 17 Part Two
Welcome to Part II of my Monday Morning Quarterback Post for Week 17. Fair warning, most of these games were not pretty. However winning ugly counts the same in the NFL so you have to take what you can get. If nothing else most of these games helped clear up the playoff picture. 11 of the 14 spots have now been claimed. The seedings on the other hand are a different story. Only the Green Bay Packers have locked up their spot.
Oh well, at least there isn't any obituaries in this post. Just remember I'm a Dallas Cowboys fan and I'm extremely biased. Feel free to agree or disagree about anything mentioned here. All comments are welcome.
Hold Onto The Damn Ball!
Too bad for him wide receivers never win
Rams 20 Ravens 19
The weather wasn’t messy in Baltimore, but the turnovers still came. The Rams mistakes let the Ravens take a lead into the 4th quarter, but Matthew Stafford redeemed himself in the final period to let Los Angeles escape with a narrow victory.
Tyler Huntley started at quarterback for Baltimore as Lamar Jackson remained out with an injury. Points were going to be hard to come by against a stout Rams defense, but the Rams offense gave them a jump start. Matthew Stafford was picked off by safety Chuck Clark in the first quarter. Clark returned the interception for a TD and the Ravens took an early 7-0 lead.
Stafford compounded his first mistake by throwing another interception deep in Baltimore territory on the Ram’s next possession. Starting on their own 4-yard line, Huntley led the Ravens deep into Los Angeles territory. Despite getting a first and goal, the drive stalled on the 5-yard line and Baltimore settled for a field goal.
The Rams offense was stuck in neutral well into the 2nd quarter when Tyler Huntley cut them a break. Huntley threw an interception that set L.A. up with a short field and Stafford finished off the drive with a TD pass to Cooper Kupp. The Ravens got the ball back with less than a minute left in the half, but gained enough yards to tack on another field goal. Baltimore led 13-7 at the break.
The Rams took the opening kickoff for the second half and drove deep into Baltimore territory, but Stafford got stripped sacked and the Ravens recovered the fumble on their own 20-yard line. Baltimore turned the turnover into a field goal and held a 16-7 lead. The rest of the quarter was filled with punts so the score carried over into the 4th.
Stafford must have finally found some stickum because he managed to keep possession in the 4th quarter and mounted a comeback. Using another big pass to Kupp, Stafford set up Sony Michel for a TD run that cut the Ram’s deficit to 16-14. The Ravens responded with another field goal to increase their lead to 19-14 with 4 and a half minutes left on the clock. The Rams were going to need another TD to take the lead.
Fortunately for Los Angeles Stafford was up to the task. He drove the Rams deep into Baltimore’s side of the field and kept the drive alive with a 4th down pass to Odell Beckham. He then found Beckham again, this time in the end zone, to complete the comeback. Los Angeles went for two and failed, yet still had a 20-19 lead with only a minute left. The Ravens tried a hook and ladder play for a miracle, but came up short.
We saw both the good and the bad of Matthew Stafford. When he was bad he turned the ball over three times and helped the Ravens to 13 points. When he was good, in the 4th quarter, he led the Rams on back-to-back TD drives for the win. Stafford (26/35, 309 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 1 fumble) needs to tighten up his ball control for the playoffs or the Rams will face an early exit.
Stafford got help in the air from Cooper Kupp (6 receptions, 95 yards, 1 TD) and on the ground from Sony Michel (19 rushes, 74 yards, 1 TD). The defense was solid in keeping Baltimore from getting more points off of all those turnovers and sacked Huntley five times. The Rams improved to 12-4 and still lead the NFC West. If they win next week against the 49ers or the Cardinals lose the division title is theirs. If they lose and the Cardinals win Los Angeles will have to settle for a wild card berth.
Tyler Huntley (20/32, 197 yards, 1 INT) isn’t Lamar Jackson, although he does a fairly good impression. He did gain 54 yards on the ground with nine carries. The Ravens defense created a lot of scoring opportunities, but they had to settle for too many field goals. Baltimore fell to 8-8 and their playoff hopes took a major blow. To grab a wild card spot they will have to beat the Steelers at home next week and have the Chargers, Dolphins and Colts all lose. Not impossible, yet on the other hand not very possible either.
Big Sendoff For Big Ben
Steelers 26 Browns 14
Ben Roethlisberger has been leaving plenty of hints that 2021 will be his final season in the NFL. And for good reason since the quality of his play at quarterback has been in steep decline. Yet on Monday night Najee Harris and the Steelers defense ensured that what was most likely his last start in Pittsburgh was a successful one.
Then again the Browns game plan on offense did a pretty good job of making sure Ben would get the win as well. I have no idea what head coach Kevin Stefanski was thinking. Baker Mayfield has been playing poorly with the burden of his numerous arm injuries. The Browns are supposed to be a run first offense and the Steelers defense has been susceptible to the run. Basic common sense would dictate Cleveland should have ridden on the legs of Nick Chubb. Instead they leaned on Mayfield and the results were a disaster.
This was how the first half went for Cleveland: punt, turnover on downs, punt, punt, interception, punt. Yikes. At one point Baker Mayfield had ten consecutive incompletions. The Steelers offense is hardly a juggernaut behind the aging Roethlisberger, but they were smart enough to use Najee Harris to move the ball. The Steelers held a 10-0 lead at halftime.
Cleveland started the second half with a few more punts as the Steelers tacked on a field goal to increase their lead to 13-0. The Browns got a break late in the 3rd quarter as the defense pinned the Steelers deep in their own territory and the resulting punt gave Cleveland the ball on the Steelers side of the field. Mayfield as finally able to complete a long pass that set up a TD. The Steelers lead was cut to 13-7 entering the 4th quarter.
Pittsburgh was able to extend their lead to 19-7 with two field goals. Late in the period the Browns were able to put together another TD drive with the help of a couple of penalties by the Steelers. They cut their deficit to 19-14, but barely more than a minute remained in the game. Cleveland tried an onside kick that the Steelers recovered. Najee Harris iced the game with a 37 yard TD run to make the final score 26-14.
Ben Roethlisberger got plenty of love from the home crowd, but his game stats (24/46, 123 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) showed why he is ready to hang up his cleats. Najee Harris (28 rushes, 188 yards, 1 TD) had the best game of his rookie season to drive the Steelers offense.
The Steelers defense destroyed Baker Mayfield, sacking him nine times. Pittsburgh improved to 8-7-1. The win ensures Ben will end his career without a losing record in any season. It also kept the Steelers faint playoff dreams alive. Pittsburgh needs to win in Baltimore next week and have the Colts lose to Jacksonville. They can beat the Ravens, but needing Jacksonville to win isn’t good.
The Browns were eliminated from the playoffs with this loss. Not really a big deal because they weren’t going to win any playoff games anyway. Baker Mayfield (16/38, 185 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) was battered and bruised by the Steelers defense. Playing chuck and duck was a bad idea. Nick Chubb (12 rushes, 58 yards), who is one of the best running backs in the league, didn’t get nearly enough chances. I was watching the Manning cast and Peyton was screaming at Kevin Stefanski to put Chubb in the game. I imagine everyone in Cleveland was doing the same thing.
The only reason this game didn’t get completely out of hand was the solid effort by the Cleveland defense. They held Pittsburgh to a bunch of field goals to keep the score within reach. In theory at least. The Browns dropped to 7-9. They will finish up at home against the Bengals next week.
Around The League
Packers 37 Vikings 10
The fading Minnesota Vikings needed to pull off a miracle on Sunday night to keep their playoff hopes alive: beat the Green Bay Packers for the second time this season, this time in Green Bay. If that wasn’t a stiff enough challenge, Minnesota would have to do it without quarterback Kirk Cousins. Uh oh. Predictably the Packers smashed the Vikings.
As sharp as the Packers offense was in dissecting the Vikings defense, I don’t think it made a lick of difference Cousins was out. The one criticism Green Bay has received this season is that they don’t put teams away early. That wasn’t the case in Week 17. The Packers took a commanding 20-3 lead into halftime and kept piling on the points in the second half.
Minnesota’s head coach Mike Zimmer has a history of coming up with defensive schemes to contain Aaron Rodgers. It worked in the 1st quarter as the Packers only managed to kick one field goal with their first three possessions. It ended there however as the Pack would go on to score points on their next possessions. After the 1st quarter they didn’t punt again until very late in the 4th.
On defense the Packers loaded up the box to prevent Vikings running back Dalvin Cook from finding any open lanes. That put the ball into the hands of backup quarterback Sean Mannion. Mannion wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t really good either. Minnesota stood no chance of competing with Green Bay’s high powered offense.
Aaron Rodgers (29/38, 288 yards, 2 TDs) used wide receivers Davonte Adams (11 receptions, 136 yards, 1 TD) and Allen Lazard (6 receptions, 72 yards, 1 TD) to burn the Vikings secondary. The ground attack duo of Aaron Jones (8 rushes, 76 yards) and A.J. Dillon (14 rushes, 63 yards, 2 TDs) provided plenty of support. It was the most complete game played by Green Bay’s offense all season, just in time for the playoffs. The Packers improved to 13-3 and clinched the #1 seed in the NFC. The road to the Super Bowl runs through Lambeau Field in the NFC.
The Vikings had no prayer. Dalvin Cook (9 rushes, 13 yards) was completely boxed up by the Packers defense. Sean Mannion (22/36, 189 yards, 1 TD) couldn’t match Aaron Rodgers. The Vikings dropped to 7-9 and are out of the playoffs. Disappointing season for Minnesota, they lost so many close games that they had legitimate shots to win. The Vikings will finish up at home against Chicago next week.
Eagles 20 No-Names 16
For the second week in a row the Eagles were sluggish in the first half and didn’t play well. Yet for the second week in a row the Eagles rebounded in the second half to get a win. Unlike the blowout of the Giants, this game went down to the wire.
The No-Names scored on all four of their first half possessions to take a 16-7 lead into halftime. That was good, but Washington did settle for field goals on three of those drives. They failed to put the Eagles down big early and it came back to haunt them.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts found some rhythm after the break and led the Eagles on a long TD drive to open the 3rd quarter. The score cut Washington’s lead to 16-14. Washington’s offense disappeared after halftime and the score stayed 16-14 until the 4th quarter.
The Eagles started off the final quarter with a drive that ended with a field goal and gave Philadelphia their first lead of the day at 17-16. After Washington turned the ball over on downs at midfield, the Eagles gained enough yards to kick another field goal and extend their lead to 20-16.
Washington got the ball back on their own 25-yard line with a little over two minutes left in the game. They needed a TD. For the first time in the second half the No-Names put together a drive and went deep into Eagle’s territory. Washington had a first down on the Eagles 20-yard line, but Taylor Heinicke was intercepted in the end zone. The Eagles ran out the final seconds and escaped D.C. with a come from behind win.
It was another ugly game for Philly, but style points don’t count in the NFL. Ugly will do if you end up with a win. Jalen Hurts (17/26, 214 yards) was more impressive with his legs (7 rushes, 44 yards) than his arm. The Eagles ground attack was slowed down by Washington, but Boston Scott (14 rushes, 47 yards, 2 TDs) turned up the heat at the goal line.
Defensively the Eagles struggled in the first half, but made adjustments at the break and shutout the No-Names after that. Philadelphia improved to 9-7 and clinched a wild card spot. They will end up with either the #6 or #7 seed. The Eagles will host the Dallas Cowboys next week.
Washington still had an outside chance at the playoffs coming into Week 17 and in the first half they played like it. Yet they ran out of juice after halftime. Taylor Heinicke (27/36, 247 yards, 1 INT) was sharp early and faded late. He nearly redeemed himself in the end, but his pick closed out the day. Washington fell to 6-10 and are eliminated. They head up to New York to play the Giants next week.
One last note. The best play made by the defense of Washington didn’t come from their players, but by their decrepit, falling apart stadium:
Luckily everyone was O.K. But for Christ’s sake Washington get your shit together. Fed Ex Field has been spraying sewage all over the place and visiting teams have to bring their own heated benches. Now the railing is falling apart. Dan Snyder you cheap bastard spend some money and fix stuff before someone gets hurt.
49ers 23 Texans 7
With starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo out with an injured throwing hand, the 49ers had to turn to rookie Trey Lance to make his second career start. He was rusty to start the game, but found his groove in the second half to lead San Francisco to victory at home.
Neither team could move the ball much to begin the game and the 1st quarter ended in a scoreless tie. Trey Lance tried to jump start the 49ers in the 2nd quarter with a deep pass, but it was picked off by Houston on their own 20-yard line. Despite that bad starting position, Davis Mills led the Texans on their best drive of the game that culminated in a TD pass. The Niners finally got on the board right before time expired in the quarter with a field goal, but the Texans had a 7-3 lead at the break.
San Francisco got the ball first in the second half, but Houston forced a turnover on downs. The Texans tried to expand their lead, but Davis Mills was intercepted at midfield. The Niners took advantage of the turnover with a TD and took a 10-7 lead. Houston had a chance to tie the game late in the period, but missed a 45 yard field goal attempt.
The 49ers took control of the game in the 4th quarter by scoring 13 points as the Texans defense began to collapse. The Texans offense was spent by then as well and failed to muster any kind of come back.
Trey Lance (16/23, 249 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) had a fine second half to lead San Fran to victory. He got help on the ground from Eli Mitchell (21 rushes, 119 yards), who returned after missing several games with an injury. The Niners defense took it from there by sacking Mills three time and only giving up 7 points. The Niners improved to 9-7 and control their own destiny. They’ll make the playoffs with a win or a tie next week against the Rams in Los Angeles. If they lose they can still move on if the Saints lose or tie against the Falcons.
The Texans gave it a shot, but the 49ers were too much for them. Davis Mills (21/32, 163 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) was stuck with a lot of short passes. The ground attack wasn’t much help, only gaining 86 yards on 27 carries. Houston fell to 4-12 and will finish up the year with a home game against the Titans next week.
Seahawks 51 Lions 29
It’s been a lost season for the Seattle Seahawks, who were considered a playoff contender early in the year. Since then the defense has struggled and the offense has been hampered by the injured thumb of quarterback Russell Wilson. Yet few things in the NFL can make you feel better than having a home game against the Lions.
This game was never in doubt for Seattle. The Seahawks punted after receiving the opening kickoff, then went on to score with their last five possessions of the half. Seattle had a whopping 31-7 lead at halftime.
The one good thing you can say about Detroit is they never give up and in the second half they kept fighting. The offense started to put some scores after the break, but the defense never figured out how to slow down the Seahawks. Seattle poured on a few more TDs of their own to win this game with ease.
Rashaad Penny (25 rushes, 170 yards, 2 TDs) bulldozed the Lions defense and led a running attack that piled up 265 yards. All that ground support let Russell Wilson (20/29, 236 yards, 4 TDs) choose his spots wisely. D.K. Metcalf (6 receptions, 63 yards, 3 TDs) nabbed most of those TD throws. The Seahawks closed out their last home game in style and improved to 6-10. They will travel to Arizona next week.
The Lions have been lousy on the road all season. They didn’t win a single road game all year, finishing 0-8-1 away from Detroit. Tim Boyle (22/37, 262 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs) filled in for Jared Goff and had too many turnovers. Rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (8 receptions, 111 yards, 1 TD) continued to show promise. The Lions fell to 2-13-1. They close out the year with a home game against the Packers. The Packers have nothing to play for and might rest a lot of starters, so maybe Detroit can eke out one more win.
Saints 18 Panthers 10
Remember when I said style points don’t count in the NFL? Good thing for the New Orleans Saints because this was an ugly win.
The Saints got quarterback Taysom Hill back for Week 17, but the offense was still struggling. The Panthers offense got off to a decent start by scoring on their first two possessions to take a 10-3 lead. It went downhill from there. A Sam Darnold fumble set the Saints up with a field goal and New Orleans squeezed another before the break. The Panthers led 10-9 at halftime.
The 3rd quarter saw a lot of kicking as the two teams combined for four punts before the Saints kicked a field goal and then the Panthers missed one. The Saints took a 12-10 lead into the 4th quarter. The Saints put together their one and only TD drive of the game to lead of the 4th, but fittingly for this game missed the extra point. They were still only ahead by one score at 18-10, but it didn’t matter. The Panthers offense couldn’t move the ball anymore, they ended up with -2 yards of offense in the final period. Yup, -2.
The Saints had trouble finding the end zone, but gained enough yards to kick four field goals. Taysom Hill (17/28, 222 yards, 1 TD) was okay through the air. The ground is where the Saints offense really struggled, only picking up 73 yards on 28 carries. However it was enough as the defense clamped down on the Panthers after giving up a couple of early scores.
The Saints improved to 8-8 and can still make the playoffs with help. They’ll have to beat the Falcons in Atlanta (doable) and hope the 49ers lose to the Rams.
The Panthers have been a complete flop since their 3-0 start back in September. Sam Darnold (17/26, 132 yards, 1 INT, 1 fumble) is not the answer moving forward at quarterback. The defense did a good job in containing the Saints, but that doesn’t matter when the offense can’t score. The Panthers fell to 5-11 and will travel to Tampa Bay next week.
Chargers 34 Broncos 13
For a change the Los Angeles Chargers played mistake-free football and beat the Denver Broncos with relative ease. The Chargers scored in all four quarters and the Broncos tacked on 10 points in garbage time to make the final score look not so bad. But we know the truth Denver.
The Chargers returned the opening kickoff to midfield and Justin Herbert led the offense into the endzone for a quick 7-0 lead. A lot of punting followed until Los Angeles tacked on 10 more points in the 2nd quarter. The Broncos got on the board right as the half ended with a 61 yard field goal. The Chargers led 17-3 at the break.
Los Angeles only scored three points in the 3rd quarter, but they shut the Broncos out. The Chargers got a long TD pass from Herbert to Mike Williams and a 101 yard kickoff return for a TD to blow out the Broncos in the final period. Denver got some garbage time scores, but they were meaningless. When the game was still in contention the Broncos only scored three measly points.
The Chargers had to punt a few times, but the offense was still able to put up 34 points. Justin Herbert (22/31, 237 yards, 2 TDs) wasn’t lights out, but he made some big throws and didn’t turn the ball over. Austin Ekeler (17 rushes, 58 yards, 1 TD) led the running back committee that piled up 104 yards on the ground. The Chargers defense held the Denver offense at bay by letting the Broncos only convert 3/11 3rd down plays and ¼ 4th down attempts. The Chargers improved to 9-7 and their playoff destiny is clear as day. Beat the Raiders in Las Vegas next week and they are in, lose and they are out. They can also sneak in with a tie.
The Broncos have had an up and down season and it has been ending on a low note. No Teddy Bridgewater meant Drew Lock (18/25, 245 yards, 1 TD) had to start at quarterback. He wasn’t terrible, but there is a reason why he lost the job in the first place. He got little help on the ground as the Broncos gained 83 yards on 27 carries. The strength of the Broncos is supposed to be the defense, but outside of forcing a few punts they did little to stop the Chargers. Denver dropped to 7-9 and will host the Chiefs in their season finale.
Well we've reached the end of Week 17 so bring on the playoffs! Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. In their endless quest for all the money in the world the NFL has gifted us with another week of regular season football. I love football, but 16 games was enough. If a name player gets injured this week the commissioner's ears will be burning.
Thanks for reading and feel free to make a comment below.