NFL Recap Week 12: Tennessee Titans rise, Matt Patricia is fired, and more

With Week 12 of the NFL season coming to a close, NFL Recap is back to break down all of the news, notes, and highlights from what can only be described as an interesting slate. We start with a look at some of the top storylines found in NFL Recap, then break down Tom Brady suffering another defeat, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry and his monster performance, analyze what Matt Patricia’s firing means for the Detroit Lions over the next several years, give out our Studs ‘n’ Duds, and finally review Kendall Hinton and the many faces at the quarterback position in Week 12.

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NFL Week 12 Recap & Highlights: Derrick Henry cruising, Tom Brady flailing, COVID threatening

The Green Bay Packers scored a big win on Sunday night, but they’re a hard team to believe in. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, on the other hand, are now almost impossible to believe in. The Kansas City Chiefs reaffirmed their status as the team to beat in the AFC, but that could change if the Pittsburgh Steelers-Baltimore Ravens game ever happens. The Detroit Lions now face an epic rebuild, and the Chicago Bears may be in the same predicament in a few weeks. Here are NFL Recap’s headlines from Week 12, with links to some of our deeper dives.

How the NFC playoff race will shake out is anybody’s guess

The Green Bay Packers proved in Sunday night’s 41-25 drubbing of the Chicago Bears that they are the best team in the NFC when they are on. Unfortunately, the Packers are a glorified NFC East team when they are off. The Taysom Hill-led New Orleans Saints are unbeatable as long as their opponents are incapable of scoring touchdowns. Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers are proving they are Wild Card hopefuls disguised as contenders, the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals take one step back for every step forward, and all we have to say about the NFC East is “first-place New York Giants.”

For more, here’s a deeper Recap dive into the Buccaneers and a look at some of Kliff Kingsbury’s blunders in the 20-17 Cardinals to the New England Patriots.

The AFC playoff race is much easier to handicap

The Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers are the best teams in the conference, the Tennessee Titans are #3, and a deep chase group of pretty good teams began to sort itself out in Week 12. For more, here’s a look at how Derrick Henry, Josh Allen, Jason Sanders, and others shaped the playoff race on Sunday. 

No more Mitch Trubisky, please

Some faltering young quarterbacks, like Sam Darnold, appear salvageable. But Mitch Trubisky appeared to be beyond repair in Sunday night’s loss to the Packers. To be fair, Trubisky actually looked OK until he lofted his first interception into double coverage. Then, his mistakes and terrible decisions snowballed until the Bears trailed 41-10.

Now that the Bears have lost five straight games and are no longer in serious playoff contention, it’s time for ownership to take a long look at general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy. Then, they can seek solutions to their quarterback situation, like Darnold, for example.

It will take the Lions years to recover from the Matt Patricia era

The Lions fired head coach Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn on Saturday, and that decision came at least 11 months too late. For more, here’s a deep dive into just how screwed up the Lions roster and payroll is and the tough decision the team faces about Matthew Stafford.

Quarterback injuries are forcing teams into survival mode

The Saints may be finding ways to win with Taysom Hill, but bottom feeders like the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals are now cycling through third-stringers, and a COVID crisis forced the Denver Broncos to bust out some Pop Warner tactics on Sunday. Need to get caught up on what Colt McCoy and Jacoby Brissett were doing on the field in Week 12? NFL Recap has you covered right here.

When it comes to COVID, the whole NFL world is crossing its fingers

Frankly, when it comes to COVID, the whole world is crossing its fingers. But the NFL was still hoping at press time that the Steelers and Ravens will be able to play on Tuesday night and that the league will be able to get through the next five weeks without interruption. NFL Recap is skeptical. The league has shut down facilities for two days to stave off potential post-Thanksgiving outbreaks. They should make it a week, postpone next week’s games until after Week 17, and spend the extra time drilling coaches, players, and personnel of the importance of, you know, not waltzing around the weight room with a fever and no mask.

The NFL will muddle through just like the rest of us, but the next few weeks threaten to be scary and disruptive on an unprecedented level. Hope for the best. But brace for the worst. 

NFL Week 12 Recap & Highlights: Buccaneers are in big trouble as the Brady Magic runs out

NFL Recap Week 12: Tennessee Titans rise, Matt Patricia is fired, and more

Two fourth-quarter Mike Evans touchdowns weren’t enough. Forcing Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs offense to punt on three straight second-half possessions wasn’t enough. With his flat first-half performance and two third-quarter interceptions, Tom Brady dug a hole so deep that not even he could climb out of it.

The Chiefs beat Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27-24 in Week 12, handing them their third loss in four games and throwing the Bucs’ playoff plans into peril. NFL Recap has been saying it all year, and we’re saying it again: The Buccaneers are in real trouble if the Brady Magic has run out. And frankly, it did run out. Last year, in fact.

Chiefs-Buccaneers Week 12 NFL Recap

Tyreek Hill went high-holy hog with 203 first-quarter receiving yards, just shy of the record for receiving yards in a single quarter (205, per ESPN Stats and Info, by Lee Evans of the Buffalo Bills in 2006), including 75 and 44-yard touchdown receptions. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers went three-and-out on three of their first four series, allowing the Chiefs to take a 17-0 lead.

Then came the soggy middle portion of the typical Chiefs game when both their offense and defense get sloppy. Fortunately for the Chiefs, the Bucs matched them mistake for mistake. Brady followed two big plays by his offense with rally-killing interceptions, and a pair of Mahomes interceptions were negated by defensive penalties. (In fairness, one of the picks came on an obvious yolo “free play”). Finally, a fourth-quarter Chiefs penalty spree simultaneously quashed their own drives (lots of holding) and extended Bucs drives (lots of roughing the passer), setting up two Brady-to-Evans touchdowns, which narrowed the Chiefs lead to 27-24.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid tried his best to mismanage the clock and give Brady one more chance with 4:10 to play, but Mahomes was having none of it. Mahomes alertly scrambled for a first down the moment he saw a gap in the defense on 2nd-and-3, weaved through the defense for another first down on 2nd-and-6, and found Hill along the sideline for their 13th connection of the game (for 269 yards) on a third-and-long to end the contest.

What Sunday’s loss means to the Buccaneers

The Buccaneers’ loss to the Saints in Week 9 was a cause for concern. Monday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams was a reason to worry. Sunday’s loss marks the beginning of a full-on crisis.

In the last month, the Buccaneers have gone from Super Bowl short-listers to the top of the Wild Card chase to the playoff bubble. And Brady is the team’s biggest problem: He threw five touchdowns and seven interceptions in those three losses, the Buccaneers passing game disappears for whole quarters at a time, and the best result on most of his wobbly deep throws is a possible pass interference penalty or a Breathing on Brady foul. (To be clear, both roughness calls against the Chiefs this week were legit and dumb). Brady is playing at a Kirk Cousins level, and the Bucs are getting Kirk Cousins-caliber results. 

NFL Week 12 Highlights | Brady with some costly interceptions

NFL Recap has been warning anyone who would listen since before the beginning of the season that the Buccaneers look like a 10-6 Wild Card team with the payroll and expectations of a prohibitive Super Bowl favorite. That’s never been more clear than it is right now.

With Antonio Brown (just two catches on Sunday) joining Evans, Rob Gronkowski, and a cast of thousands, it’s impossible to give Brady any more weapons. The Buccaneers defense has found its level against tougher opponents but is still rock solid when not faced with Hill in full Cheetah mode. The Bucs have maxed out as a team that consistently loses to the type of opponents they will be forced to face in the playoffs. They’re a Wild Card round disaster waiting to happen. 

If Brady cannot cut down on the interceptions and improve his consistency, the Buccaneers will be laughed out of the playoffs. That’s what happens when you paint a big target on your back, and suddenly everyone can hit the bullseye.

What’s next for Tom Brady and the Buccaneers

Who the heck scheduled a bye week for Week 13? Once they return, the Bucs host the Vikings, then face a murderer’s row of interim coaches: Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Falcons again. If the Buccaneers lose any of those last three games, Brady should preserve his dignity by just retiring right after the game.

NFL Week 12 Recap & Highlights: Derrick Henry takes charge of the AFC Playoffs race

Derrick Henry takes charge of the AFC Playoffs race

Thanksgiving is behind us, and you know what that means: it’s Derrick Henry season (and a recap of the NFL action in Week 12)! Derrick Henry’s 178 rushing yards and three touchdowns propelled the Tennessee Titans to a 45-26 victory over the Indianapolis Colts, positioning them as the top team in the AFC chase group behind the likely top seeds.

Meanwhile, a brutal loss by the Las Vegas Raiders and “takin’ care of business”-type wins by the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, and Miami Dolphins provided a little more clarity in the AFC Wild Card picture — the AFC playoffs race is sure to be as messy as 2020 itself.

If you couldn’t keep up with all of Week 12’s early-game action, don’t despair: NFL Recap has you covered! Here’s how the AFC “field” behind the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs stacks up:

3. Tennessee Titans (8-3)

Derrick Henry went ham, but he had a lot of help. AJ Brown breezed past the Colts defense for an early 69-yard touchdown and shook off a minor injury to finish with four catches for 98 yards. Corey Davis added three catches for 70 yarders, including a sliding 37-yard catch on 4th-and-4 to set up a touchdown before halftime.

Ryan Tannehill (13-of-22, 221 passing yards, 1 TD) moved the ball efficiently in the first half and waltzed in for a read-option touchdown when all 11 Colts defenders tried to gang up on Derrick Henry after the Davis reception. And the Titans defense played rather well until the game got out of hand in the fourth quarter.

NFL Highlight Week 12 | Derrick Henry season has begun

The Titans are the most complete team in the AFC chase group behind the “Big Two.” And we all know that Derrick Henry loves late-season football: He averages rushing 88.9 yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry in December for his career. Judging by Sunday’s performance, he’s revved and ready to roll. Look for the Titans to take control of the AFC South, and they will be the team that no opponent takes for granted in the playoffs.

4. Buffalo Bills (8-3)

The Bills survived a scare when Josh Allen had his leg pretzel-twisted by Joey Bosa and another defender just before halftime. But Allen only missed one play, and the Bills overcame a somewhat sloppy performance by their offense for a 27-17 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.

NFL Week 12 Highlight | Joey Bosa sacks Josh Allen

Allen (157 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 32 rushing yards, and 1 TD) mishandled a snap, threw an interception off his back foot, and relied mostly on checkdowns and dump-offs all afternoon. He has settled into a groove somewhere between the mirage MVP candidate of September and the meme generator we sometimes saw in 2018 and 2019.

The Bills’ offense moves in fits and starts, and their defense remains leaky, but they are 4-1 in their last five starts and are finding ways to win games without quarterback heroics. They’ll be the favorite for the AFC East crown, and a stalwart in the AFC playoffs race.

5. Indianapolis Colts (7-4)

Take DeForest Buckner away from the Colts defense, and the whole darned thing collapses. At least, that’s what happened when Derrick Henry ran through wide-open cutback lanes for 140 yards before halftime on Sunday. By the time the Colts defense regained its composure, it was time for Philip Rivers to start pressing; Rivers threw just one interception, but several other passes hit defenders square in the belly and could not move the Colts offense until the game was out of hand.

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The Colts have no real superstars, which means A) they are in big trouble when they lose even one semi-superstar like Buckner; and B) they need quality opponents to make more mistakes than they do if they hope to win big games. The Titans made plenty of mistakes in their first meeting, as did the Green Bay Packers in Week 11.

Self-destructive December opponents like the Houston Texans (twice) will propel the Colts into a favorable setup in the AFC playoffs race, but they won’t be of much help once they get there.

6. Cleveland Browns (8-3)

The Browns know what weak opposition looks like. They’ve spent a generation being weak opposition. That may be why the Browns are so good at making sure they do not trip over weak opposition. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt trade carries, Baker Mayfield throws dinky rollout passes, the defense usually provides plenty of pass rush (though Myles Garrett’s absence was noticed on Sunday), and the Browns beat opponents like the Jacksonville Jaguars by not doing anything stupid. As opposed to last year, when the Browns did everything stupid.

Week 12 NFL Highlight | Even during a win, Baker Mayfield struggled

The Browns actually survived a late scare after a fourth-down stuff led to a late Jaguars penalty-assisted touchdown drive, but their defense stopped the Jaguars on a two-point conversion attempt, and their ball control offense ate up the clock to preserve a 27-25 win. The Browns still don’t have a true quality win in their portfolio. But they don’t have any stumbling block losses either, which puts them a notch above the next team on our list.

7. Miami Dolphins (7-4)

Ryan Fitzpatrick? Tua Tagovailoa? It doesn’t matter! At least not when the Dolphins are facing the New York Jets. Fitzpatrick spent most of Sunday scrambling around, spraying ineffectual short passes around, and watching his running backs fumble, but that’s all the Dolphins needed in a 20-3 lead.

As usual, the Dolphins defense clamped down (two interceptions and fourth-down stuff in the second half), while Jason Sanders did his best Justin Tucker impersonation with 51 and 54-yard field goals.

NFL Week 12 Highlight | Ryan Fitzpatrick tosses a touchdown pass to Mike Gesicki

The Dolphins face the Cincinnati Bengals next week before dealing with the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, Las Vegas Raiders, and Buffalo Bills down the stretch. They need better play from either quarterback and any of their running backs to survive that gauntlet as more than bottom-of-the-field Wild Card also-rans. Yet they can also afford to lose a few games and still escape with the final playoff berth.

If the Browns offense could somehow join forces with the Dolphins’ defense and special teams, that would be a team to be reckoned with in the AFC.

8. Las Vegas Raiders (6-5)

The Raiders out-Falconed the Atlanta Falcons in Week 12: five turnovers, 11 penalties, and more dopey mistakes than this Week 12 NFL Recap cares to recount in a 43-6 loss. The Raiders did the exact same thing in 2019 heading into the thick of the AFC playoffs race: they started the season 6-4, then lost 34-3 to the Jets in Week 12 to announce their swan dive into irrelevance.

Week 12 NFL Highlight | Raiders can’t stop Falcons from getting into the end zone

The Raiders face the Jets next week and have the Chargers and Denver Broncos on their upcoming schedule, so they could still claw their way into the playoff picture. But the overmatched bumblers we saw on Sunday were probably closer to the real Raiders than the team that upset the Chiefs and New Orleans Saints earlier in the season. And there are many teams ahead of them in the chase who appear to be too good to drop off and give them an opportunity.

NFL Week 12 Recap & Highlights: Matt Patricia leaves behind Lions problems that will linger for years

Matt Patricia leaves behind Lions problems that will linger for years

The Detroit Lions are in far worse shape now than they were when they hired Matt Patricia in 2018 – that’s the reality that owner Sheila Ford Hemp, team president Rod Wood, and the rest of the Lions top brass must face after firing Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn on Saturday.

Patricia and Quinn caused problems that may take years to correct. And from quarterback Matthew Stafford down through a roster full of former Patriots, creaky vets, and middling prospects, the Lions have some tough decisions to make. The Lions roster will likely look very different by the time the team is competitive again, in 2022 or beyond.

A Brief History of the Matt Patricia Era

Quinn, a long-time New England Patriots executive, became the Lions general manager in 2016. He fired head coach Jim Caldwell after back-to-back 9-7 seasons in 2016-17 and replaced him with Patricia, the flamboyant (by Patriots assistant coach standards) defensive coordinator who just gave up 41 points to Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.

Instead of sprucing up a roster that was already good enough to compete for the playoffs, Patricia and Quinn blew up Caldwell’s team and began transforming the Lions into the Great Lakes Region’s #1 Patriots Tribute Band.

The results of Patricia’s Bill Belichick impersonation were predictable and well-documented; consult Kalyn Kahler’s Bleacher Report feature on Patricia for lots of gory details on the locker room and more. Suffice to say, it was no surprise that former Lions players like Darius Slay and A’Shawn Robinson reacted strongly and positively to Patricia’s dismissal.

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Despite two years of squabbles with star players and revelatory failures (Patricia’s Lions were 0-10 against the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings), Patricia and Quinn still could have saved themselves from being fired with a handful of wins against an incredibly easy mid-season 2020 schedule. But the Lions were 1-4 in their last five games, including a shutout loss to the lowly Carolina Panthers, a loss to the Texans on Thanksgiving, and their only victory was a near disaster in which they nearly allowed the Washington Football Team to come back on them. 

When the Houston Texans ran away from the Lions in a humiliating 41-25 Thanksgiving romp, it was clear that the players were eager to just go through the motions and sim to the end of the 2020 season. Lions’ ownership could no longer pretend that their Belichick Buddies had a chance of turning the team around.

The Matthew Stafford Situation

The next general manager and head coach of the Lions have plenty of difficult decisions to make, starting at quarterback.

Stafford is now 32 years old and in the midst of a very ordinary season. Many Lions fans insist that Stafford would be a perennial Pro Bowler and Hall of Fame candidate given better receivers, protection, coaching, and so forth, but even Stafford’s “great” seasons look pretty ordinary statistically. At some point, a quarterback becomes what he has always been. In Stafford’s case, that’s a mid-tier starter who could never quite elevate his team beyond Wild Card status and appears to be at the start of his decline.

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Trading Stafford after the 2020 season would force the Lions to eat a $19-million cap hit, which could be cut in half and spread across two seasons. That’s not a prohibitive figure, and the new brain trust may decide to swallow a big wad of cap dough in what’s sure to be written off as a rebuilding year next season. After Tom Brady and Philip Rivers changed hands in 2020, anything is possible next offseason, including Stafford in a Denver Broncos or Washington uniform. (It’s hard to imagine the Lions trading him to the Bears, but who knows?) 

That said, it would be shocking to see Stafford unceremoniously cut after over a decade as the Lions’ most successful quarterback since Bobby Layne, and blockbuster quarterback trades remain rare and tricky to execute. The most likely scenario for the Lions in 2021 would be to draft a potential replacement, keep Stafford for one more year, and then (assuming he doesn’t flourish under the new regime) let him go with minor consequences after next season. 

The Stafford situation is just one reason why a Lions rebuild will take years: Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn squandered what should have been Stafford’s prime seasons with nothing to show for it, and they could not be bothered even tinkering with some late-round prospect or reclamation-project replacement, even though Stafford’s season-ending 2019 injury should have been a warning sign.

The Ex-Patriots Expatriates

Defensive end Trey Flowers will cost the Lions almost $20-million in cap space. Linebacker Jamie Collins will cost them over $11-million. Defensive tackle Danny Shelton will cost them over $5-million. (Check out for more details). The Flowers and Collins contracts will be nearly impossible to adjust, meaning that the new Lions brain trust will spend at least one more year paying for the right to reminisce about the 2016-17 Patriots.

At least Collins and (when healthy) Flowers are playing well, as are former Patriots safety Duron Harmon and receiver Danny Amendola, both free agents after this season. Quinn and Patricia spackled their starting lineups with ex-Patriots whenever they could not draft or develop a better option, which was often. Quinn has scattered some fine players like offensive tackle Taylor Decker and receiver Kenny Golladay across his draft classes since 2016, but the Lions possess nothing that could be seriously classified as a “young nucleus.” 

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The 2020 draft class has been a real mixed bag: running back D’Andre Swift has been great when healthy, but cornerback Jeff Okudah has looked nothing like the sure thing we expected out of Ohio State, and defensive lineman Julian Okwara’s role on the team so far has been to carpool with his older brother Romeo. It’s unclear how much of the team’s inability to consistently develop young talent is Patricia’s fault and how much falls upon Quinn, though Patricia is the one calling non-stop easy-to-read man coverage for Okudah and rotating Swift with Grampy Stat Compiler.

Speaking of whom …

The free agency plan for the Lions in 2021

Nothing underscores the futility of late-Matt Patricia era Lions football quite like 35-year old Adrian Peterson scoring short-yardage touchdowns in a meaningless Thanksgiving blowout loss to the Texans. The Lions are terrible, but they are also so overloaded with veterans that young players cannot really develop.

Peterson is a free agent in 2021, as are Golladay, Harmon, Amendola, Marvin Jones, Romeo Okwara, and a bunch of old-timers you probably forgot were on the Lions’ payroll. (Everson Griffen! Mohamed Sanu for some reason!). 

Golladay and perhaps Okwara are the only real re-signing priorities. In fact, Golladay is such a high priority that Quinn should have taken care of him instead of, say, spending money on Peterson, Griffen, and Sanu. Just about everyone else, including useful players like Jones and Harmon, should be sent packing as the Lions strive to get younger, cheaper, and less resigned to failure.

What’s next for the Detroit Lions after firing Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn?

The 2021 roster is likely to be expensive due to Stafford, Flowers, Golladay, and some absurdly overpriced veterans (don’t make me spell Halapoulivaati Vaitai), yet sharply depleted and talent-poor due to the loss of lots of veteran buttressing. In other words, the 2021 Lions will be worse than the 2020 Lions, at least on paper, and there’s nothing the new Lions coach and general manager can do about it unless they take a foolish, short-sighted approach.

The Lions didn’t really need a rebuild when Matt Patricia arrived. Now they need complete demolition. Let’s hope they select a new coach and general manager worthy and qualified for the job.

NFL Week 12 Recap & Highlights: Tyreek Hill, Kliff Kingsbury headline Week 12’s Duds ‘n’ Studs

NFL Recap Week 12: Tennessee Titans rise, Matt Patricia is fired, and more

Tyreek Hill had a game that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defender forced to cover him won’t soon forget. Kliff Kingsbury called a game against the New England Patriots that he would like to forget. And an Atlanta Falcons defender went where no Atlanta Falcons defender has gone before.

Throw in Deebo Samuel and one of the greatest coverage mismatches of the 2020 season, and you have the Week 12 edition of NFL Recap’s Studs ‘n’ Duds!

NFL Week 12 Recap Stud: Tyreek Hill, Wide Receiver, Kansas City Chiefs

Poor Carlton Davis. He was tasked with covering Hill for most of Sunday’s 27-24 Chiefs victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, shadowing Hill from the left to the right to the slot for much of the game. Davis, typically a solid defender, is currently a smoldering pile of kindling after Hill lit him ablaze for much of the damage in a 13-catch, 269-yard, three-touchdown performance. 

NFL Week 12 Highlight | Mahomes airs it out to Hill

Hill’s performance was a reminder that success in the NFL often comes down to having players that no opponent has an answer for. The Chiefs have two such players in Hill and Patrick Mahomes. The Bucs were forced to choose between crossing their fingers with Davis or playing such soft coverage where the rest of the Chiefs’ weapons could easily pick them apart (the Buffalo Bills philosophy). Perhaps they chose poorly. But they really didn’t have much of a choice.

Dud: Kliff Kingsbury, HC, Arizona Cardinals

Kingsbury coached like he had a bad case of the Foxborough Yips in Sunday’s 20-17 Cardinals loss to the New England Patriots. Two ultra-conservative decisions stand out among the many that cost the Cardinals a game they played well enough to win: 

1) Kingsbury ordered a punt on 4th-and-2 instead of going for it from the Cardinals’ 48-yard line early in the third quarter; Andy Lee thudded a low line drive, and while Gunner Olszewski’s touchdown return was nullified by a penalty, the Patriots turned excellent field position into a short touchdown drive.

2) Kingsbury made a bigger mistake after a Dre Kirkpatrick interception gave the Cardinals the ball near midfield with the score tied at 17-17 late in the fourth quarter. Kingsbury called five rushes on six plays, essentially taking the game out of Kyler Murray’s hands, then sent Zane Gonzelez out to attempt a 45-yard field goal on 4th-and-1. The attempt sailed wide right, giving the Patriots the ball at their own 35-yard line and setting up a short game-winning field goal drive.

The Cardinals looked unready for the playoff spotlight on Sunday. That’s on Kingsbury. If he coaches like he has a lump in his throat every time he faces a former boss or a team with a big reputation, his young team is unlikely to respond.

Stud: Deebo Samuel, Wide Receiver, San Francisco 49ers

Samuel returned after missing three games with a hamstring injury to catch 11 passes for 133 yards in the 23-20 49ers victory over the Los Angeles Rams. Samuel mixed his signature glorified handoffs — quick tosses into the flat and “push passes” that are basically end-arounds — with long, rugged rumbles through the Rams defense after short passes over the middle. 

NFL Highlights | Deebo Samuel shakes off Rams’ defenders

Samuel makes the 49ers’ offense viable despite multiple injuries elsewhere on both sides of the ball. It’s almost certainly too late for the 49ers to scratch their way into the Wild Card picture, but Samuel’s presence diversifies Kyle Shanahan’s game plans enough to allow them to play spoiler to some playoff hopefuls (Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, various NFC East hard-luck cases) down the stretch.

Dud: Matthew Adams, Safety, Indianapolis Colts

Adams threw a couple of punches when he was supposed to be protecting his punter late in the second quarter of the Colts’ loss to the Tennessee Titans. Adams was disqualified for the foul, and his 15-yard penalty gave the Titans the ball on the Colts 44-yard line, setting up a touchdown drive that gave the Titans a 35-14 lead before halftime. Dumb mistakes like that can have dire consequences when a team is battling for a division title.

And now for the NFL Recap Week 12 awards!

Defensive Player of the Week

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a historic, unprecedented moment: A MEMBER OF THE ATLANTA FALCONS HAS WON DEFENDER OF THE WEEK. 

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner helped the Falcons defense remove the albatross from around their necks with two fumble recoveries, including one after his own strip-sack of Derek Carr. Tuioti-Mariner was also in on the first quarter 4th-and-1 stuff of Josh Jacobs that set the tone for the rest of the shocking 43-6 Falcons blowout of the Las Vegas Raiders.

NFL Week 12 Recap & Highlights | Falcons put up over 40 against the Raiders

Tuioti-Mariner is the first Falcons player to win Defensive Player of the Week since Tommy Nobis in 1972. No, we’re not sure how Deion Sanders never won. We’re even less sure how we loaded NFL Recap into WordPress back in 1972.

Offensive Line of the Week

Let’s see … the Saints ran through a Denver Broncos defense demoralized by their lack of a quarterback, and the Cleveland Browns won last week. So let’s not overthink things: The Titans offensive line of David Quessenberry, Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones, Nate Davis, and Dennis Kelly had another fine week, giving Derrick Henry and company lots of wide-open cutback lanes so the Titans could rush for 229 yards and four touchdowns. 

Quessenberry is the Titans’ third left tackle of the season. Mike Vrabel and his staff, particularly line coach Keith Taylor, deserve credit for being able to juggle personnel at a critical position without significant disruption to their offense. 

Special Teamers of the Week

We’re splitting this week’s award among three Cincinnati Bengals teammates. Brandon Wilson raced through the New York Giants coverage units for a 103-yard kickoff return touchdown. Veteran special teams ace Shawn Williams surprised the Giants with a first-down run on a fake punt. And Alex Erickson gave the Bengals a chance to win the game with a 29-yard punt return with 1:11 to play in a two-point game.

Brandon Allen threw interceptions after Williams’ and Erickson’s big plays, meaning they were both for naught, but NFL Recap won’t let a terrible quarterback stand in the way of recognizing outstanding special teams.

Best Supporting Actor in Someone Else’s Highlight

Ifeadi Odenigbo is an edge rusher by trade. He wears #95 and weighs about 260 pounds. As an edge rusher, he is very occasionally tasked with dropping into coverage on a zone blitz. When that happens, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer and his coordinators generally hope that Odenigbo isn’t isolated against someone really fast. Like a wide receiver.

A wide receiver like, say, Robby Anderson, who is among the fastest players in the NFL. Because if Odenigbo is forced to actually cover someone like Anderson instead of just occupying a spot on the field and dissuading the quarterback from throwing his way, the results look something like this, and everyone ends up looking very, very silly. 

NFL Week 12 Recap & Highlights: Kendall Hinton and the rise of the quarterback randos!

NFL Recap Week 12: Tennessee Titans rise, Matt Patricia is fired, and more

Kendall Hinton? Brandon Allen? Just who the heck are these guys? They’re just two of the many quarterback randos who took the field in Week 12 due to injuries, outbreaks, or the limitations of their expensive franchise starters. Throw in a few familiar-faced backups who did just enough to beat hapless opponents, and it was a big week for weird quarterback predicaments.

Week 12 NFL Recap is here to help you sift through the chaos and keep all these backups and no-names straight.

Kendall Hinton, Denver Broncos: 1-of-9, 13 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs

Have you ever wondered what would happen if some high school quarterback or playground legend was forced to suit up at quarterback for an NFL game? Well, wonder no more! As you almost certainly know, Hinton, a rookie practice-squad wide receiver from Wake Forest, was pressed into emergency quarterback duty when all of the real Broncos quarterbacks (such as they are) were rendered inactive by close contact exposure.

NFL Week 12 Recap & Highlights | The Wildcat worked, but not for long

Vic Fangio and Pat Shurmur tried to make the best of things. They spent most of the first half ordering direct snaps directly to running back Phillip Lindsay for Wildcat-type plays, which went nowhere. Every once in a while, Hinton took the snap himself and launched a deep pass in the general direction of a receiver.

Eventually, Lindsay mishandled a low snap for a fumble, Hinton’s heaves resulted in two interceptions, and the poor Broncos defense (which was on the field for over 35 minutes) completely caved for an easy 31-3 New Orleans Saints victory.

NFL Recap lacks the ethical wisdom to determine whether or not this game should have been played under these circumstances on Sunday. But Hinton (whose lone completion was a screen to Noah Fant) provided a fun underdog story, a stat line for the ages, and a reason to keep checking in on the Broncos’ offense.

We wouldn’t have gotten any of those things if, say, Jeff Driskel played one of his typical games, and the Broncos lost 31-13. 

Brandon Allen, Cincinnati Bengals: 17-of-29, 136 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 1 fumble

Allen surrendered a strip-sack fumble when the Bengals got the ball near midfield with a chance to win the game after a long punt return late in the fourth quarter. When not squirting four-yard tosses into the flat, Allen could be seen trying to rifle passes through four defenders in the middle of the field in Sunday’s 19-17 loss to the New York Giants.

Allen spent three full seasons hiding on the backs of benches before getting a cup of coffee (and spilling it all over himself) with the Broncos last year. At least Ryan Finley, who replaced Joe Burrow last week, is a quasi-prospect. Allen is a bottom-rung journeyman whose only purpose in Cincinnati is to nod knowingly when Zac Taylor explains the game plan, speak with a clear and commanding voice in the huddle, and ultimately assure the Bengals a high draft pick.

Mike Glennon, Jacksonville Jaguars: 20-of-35, 235 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs

Glennon has 22 prior starts in an eight-year career and entered Sunday with 36 career touchdowns, making him Aaron Rodgers compared to some of the other quarterbacks on this list. Glennon has always been able to fool observers into thinking he’s a credible quarterback when not pressured, and with Myles Garrett on the reserve list, Glennon had time to stand in the pocket and deliver a few downfield strikes against the Browns, nearly leading a fourth-quarter comeback in a 27-25 loss.

NFL Week 12 Recap & Highlights | Glennon makes some impressive throws

The fact that both Glennon and Jake Luton looked somewhat competent and led near upsets over the last month should prompt you to reevaluate both the Jaguars offensive line (it has been pretty good for three years) and Gardner Minshew (he’s not a franchise quarterback in any way).

Colt McCoy, New York Giants: 6-of-10, 31 yards, 0 TD, 0 INTs

The 34-year old McCoy specializes in fastening himself to the bottom of quarterback depth charts like a lamprey. He spent years in Washington laughing at Jay Gruden’s jokes and clinging to his job from the Robert Griffin/Kirk Cousins controversy era through last year’s Dwayne Haskins/Colt McCoy extravaganza.

He must have hacked into a Giants Zoom meeting in April and introduced himself as Daniel Jones’ backup, hoping Joe Judge and Jason Garrett would both think, “yeah, of course, I knew that” and keep him around. It must have worked because McCoy took over when Jones suffered a hamstring injury against the Bengals.

McCoy has not won a game as a starter since 2014. And it was easy to see why on Sunday.

Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints: 9-of-16, 78 yards, 1 INT, 10 rushes for 42 yards, and 2 rushing TDs

Some clown in The New York Times referred to Hill as “a Mary Sue written into the Saints fan fiction” and “a nondenominational Tim Tebow surrogate” earlier in the week. NFL Recap doesn’t pretend to know what any of that means, but we can say for absolute certain that Hill is a much better NFL quarterback than Kendall Hinton. 

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins: 24-of-39 for 257 yards, 2 TDs

At one point in the fourth quarter, Fitzpatrick heaved a dying quail that Jakeem Grant nearly had to come to a full stop to turn and make a play on. Fortunately for Fitzpatrick, Jets defender Arthur Maulet got hopelessly confused and crashed into Grant for a 30-yard pass interference penalty, the second such foul of the drive.

That set up the short Fitzpatrick touchdown toss to Adam Shaheen that finally gave the Dolphins a secure 20-3 lead against the most moribund team in the NFL. What NFL Recap is saying is that anyone who claims that there should be a Fitzpatrick/Tua Tagovailoa quarterback controversy in Miami did not really watch Sunday’s game.

Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts: 0-of-2 passing, 4 rushes for 3 yards and 2 TDs

Colts head coach Frank Reich now regularly uses Brissett as a goal-line and short-yardage quarterback, making Brissett the NFL’s most terrifying fantasy leech. Reich has also used Brissett as his Hail Mary specialist a few times. So Philip Rivers is now only responsible for plays that don’t involve running or throwing the football very far. All for the low price of $25-million! What a bargain! 

Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles, and Robert Griffin, Baltimore Ravens: TBD

The Eagles are promising/threatening to expand their Hurts Wildcat package on Monday night. And with Lamar Jackson in isolation, Griffin is the probable starter if the Tuesday night Ravens-Pittsburgh game goes on as rescheduled. In the unpredictable world of 2020 football, quarterback randos are the gift that keeps on giving.