Week 12 NFL Takeaways: Live by the field goal, die by the field goal

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On Sunday, the NFL made up for its Thanksgiving product that was more sleep-inducing than wolfing down a half-pound turkey in one afternoon. Jordan Love’s late-season turnaround was worthy of a hat tip, but the rest of the day would have been better spent arguing about the 2024 election.

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Week 12 was saved by a couple of thrilling Sunday matchups and everyone involved in getting Scott Hanson safely back into the studio to finish his day on the air following that fire alarm. We only get 18 weeks a year of RedZone, and his providing commentary on every single meaningless late-window touchdown when only one game is competitive is part of the package.

However, Sunday’s featured matchups ended up being two of the better games of the season. The Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars played for the lead in the AFC South. It took every second of regulation to decide that game. The Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills needed more than 60 minutes for one of them to emerge victorious.

The stars of the day in each game were the quarterbacks. Trevor Lawrence had one of his national champion, No. 1 overall pick performances against the Texans, but the Jaguars still had to fend off a C.J. Stroud comeback to hold onto their place atop the division. On a cold, rainy daylight-savings-time late afternoon in Philadelphia, Josh Allen collected stats like a reservoir. The Eagles’ offense played in the first half like their engine was flooded, but it revved back to life with scores on five of their possessions in the second half and overtime. They needed every one of them to improve to 10-1 on the season.

As well as these two teams played, kickers ended up playing crucial roles in the outcome. A couple of near 60-yard attempts went on to reverberate throughout the NFL playoff picture.

Even in a controlled climate, a 58-yard field goal try is not the best way to win a game

There is no holding down C.J. Stroud.

The Jaguars’ defense held the Texans’ offense in check for much of the game. That performance was necessary to recover from a turnover on the opening play of the second half that led to the Texans taking a 14-13 lead.

Stroud and Co. did not score again until more than half of the fourth quarter had been completed. During that stretch, Lawrence put the ball wherever he wanted. Over the shoulder, back shoulder, it all added up to 364 yards passing on 9.6 yards per attempt. For most of the afternoon, the Jaguars played like the team that pushed a gimpy Patrick Mahomes to the brink last postseason.

With more than half of his rookie season completed, a Stroud run appears to be a likely occurrence for the rest of his NFL career. It took him less than two minutes of game action to lead the offense down the field for that fourth-quarter touchdown that the Texans scored. Trailing by only three points on what would be the final drive of the game, there was a chance that a missed field goal would come back to haunt the Jaguars.

Fortunately, for them, the Texans had also missed a field goal so a successful attempt on the final drive would only tie the game. Stroud made some big plays on that drive, but Jags pass rusher Josh Allen stayed in his airspace, sacking him twice. As a result, Matt Ammendola was forced to try a 58-yard field goal to tie the game. The roof was open at NRG Stadium, and he still aimed the kicked dead center.

Ammendola did not have enough leg, as the ball hit the crossbar.

Josh Allen was at his best during an ugly afternoon/evening in Philly

We really need to be past the point in which every turnover is a referendum on Allen’s entire career. He did not play well his first two seasons in the NFL. Those years were 2018 and 2019, you know, before that whole pandemic thing.

Since then, he has made plays that no other quarterback in the NFL is capable of, and that includes No. 15 in Kansas City. No matter what Jim Nantz tells you, his comp is not Ben Roethlisberger. Allen plays like peak Cam Newton. He is a bit smaller and not as elusive in the open field, but is still able to literally shake defenders off his back and also speed right past them.

Allen showed off the whole package against the Eagles. Anyone who left that field believing Jalen Hurts is the better quarterback is intoxicated by bias. Allen made one mistake, an early fourth-quarter interception. The Eagles went on to take the lead, but the Bills got it back later.

Allen passed for 339 yards and was also the Bills’ leading rusher on the day. He scored two touchdowns on the ground and two others with his arm. Rainy days off of I-95 are commonly a struggle for quarterbacks. Allen used his strength to play arguably his best game of the year against the team with the best record in the league. It was a game the Bills desperately needed to win. If not for special teams, and poor game management by Sean McDermott, they would have improved to 7-5.

Jalen, Jalen and Jake for the win

All of the best players do not participate on special teams. It is largely a phase of the game reserved for young players and those grasping at a roster spot. While the greatest of NFL athletic talent does not always play special teams, that group is still necessary for victory.

The placekicker is usually the first person thought of on a special teams unit. They actually have a direct impact on the score of a game. If the placekicker makes the field goal, his team scores points. If he misses, the attempt is basically a turnover.

Jake Elliott made one of the biggest plays of the 2023 season, but since he would not deserve all of the blame had he missed that 59-yard field goal attempt, other Eagles players should be acknowledged for their contributions.

One star for the Eagles did make a massive special-teams play — Jalen Carter. He has played this season like the best prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft. Among all of his quarterback pressures and run stops this season, he stepped up and blocked a Bills field-goal attempt in the first half. That play turned out to be crucial because the Eagles fumbled on the next drive and the Bills scored a touchdown. Without that play, maybe the Eagles need more than three points on their final drive of regulation.

The waning minutes of the game were also part of Jalen Hurts’ bounce back. He had a rough first half, completing four passes for 33 yards and rushing for 22. Just like on Monday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Eagles were down, 17-7, at halftime.

They opened the second half with a punt, but Bills’ placekicker Tyler Bass would go on to miss a field goal on the next drive. The Eagles scored touchdowns on their next three possession and took the lead.

Once the game went to overtime, it became the Hurts show. The only yardage he did not account for on the Eagles’ single overtime drive was a 16-yard run by D’Andre Swift. During that possession, Hurts passed for 32 yards and ran for 27, including a 12-yard touchdown off a QB draw.

Hurts may not have that opportunity if McDermott does not try to ice Elliott on a 59-yard field goal attempt during a rainy autumn evening. With two timeouts and 20 seconds remaining, maybe Allen could have done to the Eagles what the Chiefs did to the Bills two seasons ago in the playoffs.

Instead, the Bills took a knee and ran those final seconds off the fourth-quarter clock. That, after Elliott squeezed a 59-yard field-goal attempt just inside the uprights to tie the game in that harsh northeastern football weather.

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