Above any other sport the NFL is the one place where the impossible becomes reality, if only for a moment. No week better typified than than Week 14, where some of the most improbable performances came out of incredible places. While some of these could be a sign of things to come, others will exist frozen in time as examples of the league’s never-ending ability to wow us in unexpected ways.
There is no way to discuss this week’s kismet than beginning with Haason Reddick of the Arizona Cardinals. Reddick, taken in the first round of the 2017 draft, has been a decent linebacker, but nothing to really write home about. Good enough to be a starter, but not the game-changing defensive player the team hoped they were getting when they selected him.
For one week he utterly took over the game. Entering Week 14 Reddick had amassed 5.5 sacks in his NFL career, and forced three fumbles. Nothing too impressive over a three year career. Then on Sunday he went absolutely HAM to levels we have almost never seen in the NFL. Reddick recorded five sacks and forced three fumbles, both of which are Cardinals’ team records, in a performance so mind-blowing he wept at midfield when the game was over.
It’s important to realize just how close Reddick came to breaking two of the NFL’s most untouchable records — in the same damn game. The single-game sack record is 7.0, set by Derrick Thomas in 1990. It stands a testament to the mountaintop of pass rushing achievements, and is regarded as the league’s most solid record. It’s so easy to stuff a pass rusher that’s on fire these days. Teams will rotate tackles, use tight ends and backs to chip block, double team, the list goes on. Despite all this Reddick was on fire to such an extent he basically took over the game himself.
Then there’s those three forces fumbles, almost record-breaking in themselves. The NFL hasn’t made forced fumbles an officially tracked stat for very long, but the record belongs to Charles Tillman, who recorded four for the Bears in 2012. Again seen as impossible to top, again almost tied by Reddick on Sunday. His game stands as a testament to just how improbable and emotional the NFL can be, and watching it unfurl was perfect.
Of course, there were two other incredible and improbable performances from quarterbacks in the NFL. Drew Lock was on fire against a normally stingy Carolina Panthers defense, torching them for 280 yards and four touchdowns. It was a personal record for Lock, and Broncos fans will hope it’s a sign of things to come.
The other quarterback was, well … it was Mitchell Trubisky. It’s exceptionally rare we ever get to talk about the Bears’ quarterback positively. These days his name is most often mentioned in reference to the players Chicago passed on (Patrick Mahomes and DeShaun Watson), rather than anything Trubisky achieved himself. Credit where it’s due: He was sensational on Sunday, completing over 70 percent of his passes and throwing for three touchdowns in a rout over the hapless Texans.
Three of the biggest winners this week all came from unexpected places, and that’s beautiful.
Loser: DeShaun Watson.
There was functionally nothing really wrong with Watson’s game on Sunday, but we’ve got to start a petition, a GoFundMe, a Patreon … something, just to get him out of Houston.
The dramatic loss to the Bears is the perfect example of how a good team was turned to dust in the matter of months thanks to Bill O’Brien. Watson has no weapons, he was sacked seven times, and everything crumbled around him. It’s going to take years to fix this mess, and it’s so incredibly unfair that Watson will likely waste his best football years on an organization that can’t support him.
Winner: Derrick Henry.
At this point I might as well just copy/paste him in every single week. I’ve said it before, but in an era where the entire league is deemphasizing the running back, it’s nostalgic and refreshing to see one tear up the entire league into confetti.
Sunday was no different, as Henry ran for 215 yards at an astounding 8.3 YPA against the Jaguars. He also scored two touchdowns, because why not. Now he’s got 1,317 yards and 12 touchdowns on the year, with three games left to play. What an absolute monster.
Loser: New York Giants.
The NFC East has been a rollercoaster of mediocrity all season long, and just when it seemed like the Giants might be the ones to wrap things up, they disintegrate. This should have been a relatively evenly matched week for New York against Arizona, and they shit the proverbial bed, getting blown out 26-7 and never looking like they belonged.
This wouldn’t be a huge problem if there wasn’t another team surging in the division, but the Washington Football Team is now on a roll and looks like they want to wrap things up. This was one of those losses that demoralizes a team, and I honestly don’t know if the Giants can pull things back together to mount a run down the stretch.
This one deserves hyphens. If you’re the kind of person who just casually glances at box scores you’d see his middling passing game and be unimpressed. Then you scroll a little further and see that he ran for 106 yards on 18 carries and your eyes fall out of your head, clung to by their stalks.
This is something Carson Wentz could never, and will never do. Not only did Hurts prove that he can school an NFL defense, but he led the Eagles to a win over the Saints. Again, something I’m not sure Carson Wentz could have done this season.
If nothing else it makes Philadelphia watchable and fun, and that’s all fans could really ask for at this point in the season.
Loser: Dan Bailey.
It takes a special level of futility for me to mention a kicker at all, but for a guy with one job I have to say, YOU HAVE ONE JOB!
Generally speaking I think kickers get too much crap. They have one of the highest pressure jobs in the league, and all the time in the world to think of everything that could go wrong. In that vein, Bailey missed three field goals and an extra point — in a game Minnesota lost by 12.
Yes, for you mathemagicians that’s only 10 points — but keeping the game closer alters how you can call a game offensively. We’ll have to imagine what would have happened if those kicks went through. As it stand the Vikings’ playoffs hopes are in tatters.
Winner: The Bills trading for Stefon Diggs.
The assumption this season was that the Cardinals adding DeAndre Hopkins was going to be the difference maker to get Arizona over the hump, and to some degree that’s true — but the biggest value trade is going to end up being Stefon Diggs.
Buffalo got Diggs for a song considering his production this season. He’s fast become Josh Allen’s favorite go-to target, and that really showed on Sunday night when Diggs torched the Steelers en route to a big prime time win.
It isn’t just that Diggs is good, it’s how much better he is than the rest of the Bills’ receiving corps. Cole Beasley is a solid No. 2 guy, then the receiver fall off a cliff. If you push that entire depth chart up, and imagine Diggs wasn’t on the roster, it’s hard to believe Buffalo would be close to as potent as they are. This will be the trade of the season.