NFL Week 14 Grades: Cowboys get an 'A' for routing Giants, Bengals get an 'F'
The Cowboys needed a win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive and Rod Smith clearly got that memo, because he responded by having the biggest game of his career.
Not only did the Dallas running back rush for 47 yards and a touchdown, but he also caught five passes for 113 yards and another touchdown in the Cowboys’ 30-10 win over the Giants on Sunday.
The 160 total yards by Smith was just slightly more than his previous career high of 66. You know you have an unlikely hero when even he’s somewhat surprised by his numbers, and that was Smith after the game when he found out that he totaled 160 yards.
“I didn’t know that,” Smith said, via quotes distributed by the team. “It felt good, it felt good. I’m really out there just being me. I’m not trying to do too much to tweak, nothing too special. Just out there playing my game and they gave me an opportunity and I’m definitely going to take full advantage of it.”
Although this came against the lowly Giants — who have turned into a circus over the past two weeks — it’s still huge for the Cowboys for multiple reasons.
For one, it keeps them in the thick of the NFC playoff race. At 7-6, the Cowboys will be at most two games out of the No. 6 seed by the time Week 14 ends, and they’ll only be one game out if the Seahawks lose to the Jaguars.
Also, let’s not forget that a win like this probably gives the Cowboys some confidence. Remember, the Giants were the one team that was able to manhandle the Cowboys last season. In 2016, the 13-3 Cowboys got swept by the Giants. This year, the Cowboys returned the favor, and Dak Prescott believes that can be a confidence builder.
“Definitely, it’s confidence anytime you’re doing well and then you’re growing and you’re feeling yourself and you’re growing off of what your teammates are doing,” Prescott said. “So, yeah, it’s definitely confidence and it’s good for us moving forward.”
Prescott might have actually gained more confidence than anyone from this game. Not only did the Cowboys quarterback throw for a career-high 332 yards, but he also threw three touchdown passes and completed a total of three passes that went for 50 or more yards, including an 81-yard touchdown to Smith in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys might seem like a long shot to get to the playoffs at this point, but things are slowly starting to fall in place for them. Not only are they healthy — the return of Sean Lee completely rejuvenated the Cowboys’ defense on Sunday — but they’ll also be getting back Ezekiel Elliott in just seven days. The suspended running back is eligible to return to practice on Dec. 18.
Dallas 30-10 over New York Giants
The Cowboys needed a win to keep their faint playoff hopes alive and Rod Smith delivered with having the biggest game of his career. Not only did the Cowboys running back rush for 47 yards and a touchdown, but he also caught five passes for 113 yards and another touchdown. The 160 total yards by Smith was slightly higher than his previous career-high of 66. Dak Prescott also had a huge game (20 of 30, 332 yards), throwing three touchdown passes and completing a total of three passes that went for 50 or more yards, including an 81-yard TD to Smith in the fourth quarter.
Maybe Ben McAdoo was right to try and move on from Eli Manning. In his first game since being benched in Week 13, Manning didn’t make a strong argument for keeping his job. Although Manning got off to an impressive start, he cooled down considerably in the second half with two interceptions. On the Giants’ final six possessions, five of them ended with either a three-and-out or an interception. Of course, it’s not like this loss was entirely Manning’s fault — the Giants have had multiple problems on both sides of the ball this year and all of them seemed to be on display against the Cowboys. The 454 yards by Dallas was the most the Giants have surrendered to a divisional opponent this season.
Chicago 33-7 over Cincinnati
For the first time all season, everything clicked for Chicago, and when we say everything, we mean everything. For one, Jordan Howard (147) and Tarik Cohen (80) helped the Bears total 232 yards on the ground, the team’s highest rushing total since 2014. Although Cohen and Howard have been rolling for most of the season, they haven’t really received any help from Mitchell Trubisky. However, that chance against the Bengals as Trubisky had the most impressive game of his young career (25 of 32 for 271 yards and one touchdown). If the Bears played the Bengals every week, they’d be 13-0 and on their way to the playoffs.
The Bengals played so badly on Sunday that it almost looked like they were trying to get Marvin Lewis fired. With Lewis’ Cincinnati future still up in the air, this game probably isn’t going to help things when owner Mike Brown has to make a decision about Lewis at the end of the season. The Bengals looked absolutely helpless against a Bears team that went into Sunday on a five-game losing streak and hadn’t hit the 30-point mark against any opponent all season. If this is the beginning of the end for Lewis, it’s almost fitting that it came in this game: The 26-point loss was the Bengals’ worst home loss in the Andy Dalton era and the worst one overall since 2008.
Detroit 24-21 over Tampa Bay
Not even an injured throwing hand could slow down Matthew Stafford in Tampa. With basically no running game behind him, Stafford was forced to carry the Lions to victory, which is exactly what he did. Although Stafford made two mistakes late in the first half with two interceptions in the final two minutes, the Lions quarterback was almost perfect on every other throw in the game, finishing 36 of 44 for 381 yards and a touchdown.
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter should probably have a long talk with Jameis Winston this week about the importance of protecting the ball, because Winston seems to have some trouble with that concept. The Buccaneers quarterback turned the ball over three times against the Lions — two interceptions and one lost fumble — which led to 14 points by Detroit. With the loss, the Bucs are now 0-7 in Winston’s past seven starts.
Green Bay 27-21 (OT) over Cleveland
Josh Jones might have just saved Green Bay’s season. The Packers safety picked off Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer in overtime, which set up Brett Hundley’s game-winning touchdown to Davante Adams. This game was important for one reason: By beating the Browns, the Packers kept their playoff hopes alive, which means Aaron Rodgers will be returning as soon as this week as long he’s medically cleared. If the Packers do make the playoffs, no one will remember that they almost suffered one of the most embarrassing losses in franchise history at the hands of the Browns.
For the first time all year, the Browns actually held a fourth quarter lead, but this is the Browns we’re talking about, so you know this didn’t end well for them. Of all the Browns’ losses this season, this one is probably going to sting the worst and that’s mainly because Cleveland blew a 21-7 fourth quarter lead. DeShone Kizer’s inexplicable overtime interception wasted impressive games from Isaiah Crowell (121 rushing yards) and Josh Gordon (69 receiving yards, one touchdown).
Buffalo 13-7 (OT) over Indianapolis
The fact that the Colts scored any points in this game was basically a miracle considering the blizzard-like conditions. Even though the Colts lost in Buffalo, Frank Gore should probably win some sort of award this week for what he was asked to do on Sunday. Gore, 34, carried the ball 36 times for 130 yards, which has never been done before by a player his age. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, no player 34 or older had ever carried he ball more than 33 times in a game.
LeSean McCoy must be part eskimo because he had no problem running through the blizzard that was falling in Buffalo. With Nathan Peterman under center, the Bills did the smart thing and decided to have McCoy carry the ball as often as possible in this game, which translated to 32 carries for 156 yards and a touchdown for McCoy. Shady’s biggest run came in overtime when he scored the game-winning touchdown from 21 yards out. The 32 carries for McCoy was a career-high for the veteran, who’s been in the NFL since 2009.
Carolina 31-24 over Minnesota
After rolling through the first 13 weeks of the season, it looks like the Vikings might have a weakness that other teams can expose: their offensive line. The line has been dealing with injuries and that could be an issue going forward if Case Keenum continues to get pressured like he did in Carolina. Keenum spent of the game on Sunday running for his life. At times, it worked out for him as he rushed for 40 yards. However, most of the time, it didn’t work out at all. The Vikings quarterback was sacked six times and threw two interceptions as he faced constant pressure.
Before Sunday, no team this season had rushed for more than 115 yards on the Vikings, but that changed in Charlotte thanks to an impressive performance from Jonathan Stewart. The Panthers running back, who hadn’t had a multi-touchdown game all season, ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns on the Vikings defense. Cam Newton also added 70 yards rushing as the Panthers totaled 216 yards on the ground. Stewart picked a good week to go off because the Panthers needed this win if they wanted to have a realistic shot of winning the NFC South or even getting a first-round bye in the NFC.
Kansas City 26-15 over Oakland
Derek Carr might want to just stay in Oakland the next time the Raiders play in Kansas City because he never seems to show up for games at Arrowhead Stadium. Including Sunday’s loss, Carr is now 0-4 in Kansas City, and most of those losses have been ugly for him, including this one. Carr threw two picks and although he did throw a late touchdown pass, the game was out of reach by the time he did that in the fourth quarter. The Raiders get a big fat “F” because with first place in the AFC West on the line, they forgot to show up. Well, except for Bruce Irvin. The Raiders linebacker had two sacks and was one of the few bright spots for Oakland.
Just in time for the Fantasy playoffs, Kareem Hunt finallly decided to emerge from hibernation. After going nine weeks without scoring a touchdown, the rookie running back showed up with a vengeance against the Raiders, carrying the ball 25 times for 116 yards and a touchdown, When Hunt’s rolling, that usually means the entire Chiefs offense is rolling, and that was the case in this game. With the Raiders worrying about Hunt, Tyreek Hill (75 yards), Travis Kelce (74 yards) and Albert Wilson (72 yards) were all able to capitalize by going over 70 yards receiving.
San Francisco 26-16 over Houston
Jimmy Garoppolo’s agent is probably seeing dollar signs in his head every time Garoppolo takes the field for the 49ers. For the second straight week, Garoppolo started for the Niners and for the second straight week, they won. With 334 yards passing and a touchdown, Garoppolo looked like a franchise quarterback. Amazingly, Garoppolo is still unbeaten in his career as a starter. With the win, Garoppolo is now 4-0 in four career starts.
It doesn’t really matter who the quarterback is for the Texans as long as the person under center knows to throw the ball as often as possible to DeAndre Hopkins. That’s exactly what Tom Savage and T.J. Yates did on Sunday, as Hopkins caught 11 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Unfortunately for the Texans, Hopkins was really the only player who looked good for them against the 49ers.