You knew Dak Prescott would have a real rookie moment in a big spot, and there was no bigger spot than in New York on Sunday Night Football. Prescott was a pedestrian 17-of-37 with two interceptions and a fumble. No, we’re not here to talk about Tony Romo (not yet, at least).
But Prescott, with a chance to lock up the division title, threw as many interceptions in one game as he had in the previous 12 combined.
On one hand, it wasn’t totally surprising: The Cowboys just secured a playoff berth, so the pressure was off a little, and plus, the Giants had just lost their best pass rusher, Jason Pierre-Paul, for the regular season.
The Dallas offensive game plan was ultra conservative, and the Giants were well-prepared. It was as if they knew everything that was coming on 3rd down: Dallas converted just 1-of-15 on 3rd. (Combined with the 1-of-9 last week vs Minnesota and the Cowboys are now 2-of-24 on 3rd down the last two weeks.) They averaged a paltry 4.0 yards per play. They didn’t get into the red zone once.
In a week where three of the top four seeds in the playoffs lost (Dallas, Seattle, Oakland), nobody looks insurmountable, and that includes the Cowboys.
ATLANTA HAS MORE TOUCHDOWNS THAN THE RAMS IN LA ALL YEAR
The saddest number of the day in the NFL: five. The Rams scored two touchdowns (in garbage time) against the Falcons, and have now scored a total of five TDs in five home games. Jared Goff should have been able to have his way with a mediocre Atlanta secondary down its top cornerback; instead, he was 24-of-41 for just 235 yards with two picks. He was sacked twice. The line stinks, and poor Todd Gurley has no chance (only 61 yards rushing), but hey, let’s give Jeff Fisher an extension.
Reminder: The Rams have five TDs at home this season. The Falcons scored six touchdowns Sunday against the Rams in the Coliseum.
MATT BARKLEY A BRIGHT SPOT ON UGLY BEARS SEASON
Everyone knows Matt Barkley’s story by now – he was a star at USC, and returned to school with his sights set on winning the Heisman, maybe a National title, and then becoming the #1 pick.
None of them happened. He fell to the 4th round of the draft, and in his 4th year in the NFL, he’s finally getting a shot with two Bears QBs knocked out. And Barkley’s been good, average and good in three straight starts. The Bears only won one of them, but Barkley had them in position to win the other two. Drops plagued his receivers in the Tennessee loss; penalties held them back on a final drive in Detroit Sunday.
It’s only a 3-game sample size, but the Bears appear to have found a backup QB for the foreseeable future. And remember – he’s not playing with the starting RB (Jeremy Langford, injured) or the team’s best WR (Alshon Jeffery, suspended).
Barkley’s completion percentage has improved each game, and his QB rating has been climbing as well. His key number the last two weeks: 0. No turnovers. He threw two in his first start against Tennessee, but has played much smarter since.
RUSSELL WILSON ONLY LOSES BIG IN GREEN BAY
Russell Wilson has had a remarkable 4+-year run with the Seahawks – one Super Bowl ring, two trips to the Super Bowl, and four trips to the postseason. But this might be his most amazing stat – Russell Wilson has lost only two games in his NFL career (77 games!) by 10+ points.
Both have come against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau. The Seahawks lost 27-17 in Lambeau in week two last year, and were destroyed, 38-10 Sunday.
Wilson was intercepted five times Sunday in the worst game of his career, but it wasn’t totally his fault as three of the picks were deflected. But Wilson missed an open Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham early in the game on potentially huge plays.
Given how Seattle has struggled to score in five road games this year (they were fine against the Jets and Patriots), and what happened in the playoff game in Minnesota last year, and then the first half against Carolina a week later … I’m not sure how anyone is confident Seattle is getting to the Super Bowl.
MIKE TOMLIN FINALLY GETS IT: FEED LE’VEON BELL
Le'Veon Bell set a Pittsburgh franchise record by rushing for 236 yards against the Bills, in the snow. The previous mark was 223 yards, set by “Fast” Willie Parker in 2006.
Bell’s starting to finally hit his stride, which is a scary prospect with the postseason less than a month away. Bell rushed for 144 yards in his debut against KC, but then was quiet in the next five games (four losses).
It’s no surprise that as Mike Tomlin has fed Bell more, the Steelers are winning more (four straight). In those four wins, Bell has topped 115 yards in each game. More Bell means less time on the field for the below-average defense, and now the Steelers are 8-5 and if the Ravens lose Monday, Pittsburgh will be in 1st place in the NFC North.
7 PUNTS, 6 COMPLETIONS, YET THE TITANS WIN?
If this was your QB’s stat line, do you think the team would have any chance at a victory?
Marcus Mariota: 6-of-20, 88 yards, 4.4 ypa, 0 TD, 0 INT, rating of 45.4.
Of course not. The Titans were outgained by the Broncos, had fewer 1st downs, and averaged a paltry 3.9 ypp. Other than a 70-yard opening drive that resulted in a DeMarco Murray TD, and a lengthy 2nd quarter drive that led to a field goal, the Titans couldn’t move the ball at all.
Tennessee punted seven times and Mariota had six completions. The defense bent against Trevor Siemian (35-of-51, 334 yards, but only 6.5 ypa), but also dominated the line of scrimmage: Denver rushed for 18 yards on nine carries, and the Titans had three sacks, four tackles for loss, and 10 QB hits.
BIG PLAY DESEAN APPROACHES BIG MARK
It was his 22nd touchdown of career of 60+ yards. The record? Jerry Rice has scored 23 such touchdowns. Jackson just turned 30 this month, and should be able to catch Rice.