NFL Recap: Andy Dalton, Mark Andrews headline Week 16’s Studs ‘n’ Duds

Andy Dalton has kept the Dallas Cowboys in the playoff chase. Mark Andrews has helped Lamar Jackson look like an MVP again. And while the New York Jets have lost the first pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to the Jacksonville Jaguars, they’ve regained a bit of their dignity in the bargaining. All this, plus some great offensive line play, terrible coaching decisions, and much more in the Week 16 edition of NFL Recap’s Studs ‘n’ Duds.


Stud: Andy Dalton, Quarterback, Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are on a three-game winning streak. Andy Dalton has thrown for 771 yards, seven touchdowns, and just one interception in those three games. On Sunday, Andy Dalton threw for 377 yards, three touchdowns, and a pick in the Cowboys’ 37-17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys are now 6-9, and you know what that means: THEY ARE NFC EAST CONTENDERS, BABY.

Andy Dalton has proven that he can help a team as a veteran backup, spot starter, and possible mentor. Yet, Andy Dalton has not proven that he’s a future challenger or replacement to Dak Prescott. NFL Recap of Week 16 just felt the need to state that on the record before some narrative takes on a life of its own.

Duds: Interim head coaches who endanger their quarterbacks

Interim head coaches don’t make good long-term decisions because they hope to attract their next employer by winning a few late-season games at any cost. They also sometimes feel like they lack the authority to make big picture decisions.

That means interim coaches like Romeo Crennel of the Houston Texans and Darrell Bevell of the Detroit Lions are prone to leave franchise quarterbacks in meaningless games to take a beating instead of doing the right thing and protecting their team’s most important player.

Watson in Houston

Deshaun Watson suffered a strange and frightening arm injury when his throwing arm got caught in defender Sam Hubbard’s facemask late in the Texans’ 37-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Yet, Watson returned to the Texans’ final series and was on the field for a “wacky lateral” sequence at the end of the game. That is just the sort of play where a banged-up quarterback might take another unnecessary shot. 

Stafford in Detroit

Matthew Stafford insisted on trying to play through multiple injuries on Saturday. Who was Bevell to tell him he could not? Stafford ended up picking up an all-new foot injury as a result of the 47-7 massacre at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

For good measure, he had to hop on one foot into the locker room after the injury. Granted, the Lions were practically being coached by members of the legal, accounting, and catering departments because most of what’s left of Bevell’s staff was in isolation. But even the assistant towel folder should have the authority to call for a golf cart for the franchise quarterback.

Stud: Mark Andrews, Tight End, Baltimore Ravens

Mark Andrews’ six-catch, 76-yard afternoon in the Baltimore Ravens’ 27-13 victory over the New York Giants doesn’t leap off the stat sheet. But Mark Andrews caught five of those passes for 69 of those yards in the first half when the Ravens built a 20-3 lead they could nurse for the rest of the game.

Andrews made a leaping 20-yard catch in traffic along the sideline to set up one Ravens field goal drive and ripped the ball away from a defender. He turned upfield for 25 yards to spark a second field goal drive, though Mark Andrews couldn’t quite haul in a Lamar Jackson paint-the-corner low fastball in the end zone. 

Mark Andrews has 22 receptions for 377 yards and two touchdowns in his last five games. He’s giving Jackson the security blanket over the middle that he needs to keep the Ravens offense multi-dimensional and help his team climb back into the Wild Card picture.

Dud: Doug Marrone, Head Coach, Jacksonville Jaguars

Marrone decided to start human turnover dispensary and midweek 7-on-7 drill Hall-of-Famer Mike Glennon over a healthy Gardner Minshew against the Chicago Bears. The results were predictable and embarrassing. Glennon threw two interceptions and failed to move the ball after a few early blips against his former team, resulting in a 41-17 Bears victory. 

Before you tankologists explain the 2021 NFL Draft order to NFL Recap, here’s what a head coach says if he’s slyly trying to lose games.

“Gosh, Minshew is important to the Jaguars moving forward, and we want to shut him down for the rest of 2020 to rest his hand injury, so this is a great opportunity to further evaluate rookie Jake Luton!”

Instead, Marrone said, “Duhhhhhh, I cannot tell the difference between a scrappy third-tier starter who generally keeps us competitive and a Little League pitching machine!” The Jaguars responded to Marrone’s decision with 10 penalties and began going through the motions in the second half. That’s not tanking; it’s sheer incompetence.

Stud: Jamison Crowder, Wide Receiver, New York Jets

Adam Gase can be accused of many things — about 25% of NFL Recap’s coverage this season has consisted of accusing Gase of many things — but tanking down the stretch is not one of them. Crowder made Sunday’s 23-16 upset of the Cleveland Browns possible with seven catches for 92 yards and one touchdown, plus a 43-yard pass to Braxton Berrios on a nifty trick play that will probably earn Gase (ugh) another decade as an NFL offensive coordinator.

The Jets have now lost any chance of getting the first overall pick. And that’s OK because trying to out-stink the Jaguars over the last few weeks just would not have been worth it. 

Dud: Rod Marinelli, Defensive Coordinator, Las Vegas Raiders

With the Miami Dolphins trailing 25-23 at their own 25-yard line with 19 seconds left and no timeouts, interim Raiders coordinator Rod Marinelli called what NFL Recap is 99.99% certain was a Tampa-2 defense.

Tampa-2 features four pass rushers, four defenders in short zones, two defensive backs in deep zones, and one defender racing up the middle of the field to join them. The primary weakness of Tampa-2 is that it leaves a gap between the zones along the sidelines about 20-25 yards downfield, exactly where a quarterback with no timeouts wants to throw if he hopes his receiver can get out of bounds near field goal range.

The secondary weakness of Tampa-2 is that it’s a defense that has been around since the late 1990s and can be easily diagnosed by a veteran quarterback, like Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The absolutely ridiculous conclusion to the Dolphins/Raiders game

You know what happened. Fitzpatrick found Mack Hollins for a 34-yard completion up the left sideline, Arden Key tacked on 15 yards by trying to unscrew Fitzpatrick’s skull to have a peek at his Harvard brain, and the Dolphins won on a game-winning field goal, knocking the Raiders out of the playoffs.

The Raiders would have won if Marinelli called something more appropriate like basic quarters coverage, which takes away the deep sideline.

They would also still be in the playoff hunt if Jon Gruden had not fired Paul Guenther on a short practice week before the Los Angeles Chargers’ loss and replaced him with an old Tony Dungy lieutenant who still thinks he’s coaching the 1997 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

And now it’s time to go beyond Andy Dalton and Mark Andrews and ramp up for the NFL Recap’s Week 16 awards.

Defender of the Week

Don’t blame Chase Young for the Washington Football Team’s 20-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Young strip-sacked Teddy Bridgewater and recovered the fumble himself in what should have been a momentum-changing play.

Unfortunately, Washington settled for a field goal. Young also hit Bridgewater’s arm as he threw late in the second quarter, resulting in a Kamren Curl interception. Washington gave the ball right back, however, on an interception just a few plays later. So yes, please, totally blame Dwayne Haskins for their loss.

Offensive Line of the Week

Happy holidays, Drew Brees! You throw a football these days as if you are hoping the arthritis medication kicks in before the senior citizen aqua-Pilates class starts. Still, at least the offensive line of Terron Armstead, James Hurst, Erik McCoy, Cesar Ruiz, and Ryan Ramczyk has been ready to rise to every occasion.

Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, and others rushed for 264 yards and 5.9 yards per carry. Brees was not sacked once as the Saints’ offensive line blew the Minnesota Vikings defensive front off the ball snap after snap. 

Special shoutouts to Hurst, who has played well while bouncing from left tackle to left guard to cover various injuries this season, and sixth lineman Will Clapp who has seen a lot of action blocking for both the Taysom Hill Experience and Grampy Wobblers on Christmas Day.

Special Teamer of the Week

Seattle Seahawks punter Michael Dickson nailed four kicks inside the 20-yard line, forcing the Los Angeles Rams to start drives at their own 13, 12, 14, and 12-yard lines after punts. Field position made a huge difference in a 20-9 win that allowed the Seahawks to clinch the NFC West.

Best Supporting Actor in Someone Else’s Highlight

Bobby McCain has had a fine year as the Dolphins’ free safety. But McCain found himself in a hopeless situation when Nelson Agholor caught a sideline pass over cornerback Byron Jones and broke free in the open field. McCain spun back to his right to try to make a play as Agholor cut back toward the middle of the field. McCain twirled back to his left when Agholor cut back toward the sideline.

Ultimately, a safety is either in position to make a play, flicks the dive stick to make things look cool, or spends the tail end of a touchdown highlight looking like he’s getting juked out of his cleats while hoping a teammate races up to make a play from behind. No teammate ever did. 

NFL Recap of Week 16 is contractually obligated to link to this clip every time Agholor is mentioned because it will never not be funny. 

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