NFL scores, news and highlights: What happened Sunday in Week 15
The Cowboys and Seahawks got a step closer to the top spot in the NFC this week. Johnny Manziel did some stuff that wasn’t pretty. Let’s take a look back at Sunday.
Cowboys take control of the NFC East
By Danny Kelly
Two weeks after being blown out by the Eagles at home, the Cowboys went to Philly and returned the favor with a 38-27 win. Dallas now has the lead in the NFC East and an outside shot at the conference’s No. 1 seed.
Dallas jumped out to a 21-0 lead before stumbling, allowing Philadelphia to crawl back into it and eventually take a 24-21 lead. The Cowboys fought their way out of the corner with a flurry of haymakers, taking command of the bout with a DeMarco Murray rushing touchdown and a Dez Bryant touchdown catch.
The Cowboys look like the real deal right now, winners of four of their last five, and it doesn’t hurt that Tony Romo is slinging it right now. Romo finished 22-of-31 for 265 yards against the Eagles, hooking up with Dez Bryant for three scores without throwing a pick. In fact, in the five games since returning from two fractures in his back, Romo has completed 71 percent of his passes for 1,190 yards, 8.56 yards per attempt, with 13 touchdowns to only two picks. Not too shabby. What makes Dallas even more dangerous than ever, though, is that it has a devastatingly effective run game to pair with Romo. DeMarco Murray’s 554 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his last five games ain’t shabby either.
Dallas has a tough stretch run. It will host a hot Colts team next week then finish at Washington, a team the Cowboys lost to earlier this season. Nonetheless, they’ve positioned themselves well for a playoff berth.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers falter in Buffalo
By Danny Kelly
The Packers went into the matchup against the Bills on Sunday with a solid path to the NFC’s No. 1 seed. But, after struggling on offense in a 21-13 loss to an inspired Bills team, Green Bay’s inside track to grabbing home-field advantage at Lambeau Field throughout the playoffs in peril.
Aaron Rodgers played his worst game in recent history, connecting on just 17-of-42 passes (40 percent), for 185 yards and two interceptions — a passer rating of only 34.3. That’s a career-low passer rating and the only time he’s registered a zero touchdown, multiple interception day. His 25 incompletions were also a career-high. Obviously, not a great day for a passer that had been on fire recently. He was uncharacteristically way off target on a few occasions. That said, his receivers weren’t helping him a ton either, dropping multiple passes. Jordy Nelson dropped what looked to be a sure touchdown bomb on a double move up the seam.
The Bills allowed 116 yards rushing in the first half but clamped down, limiting Green Bay to just 42 yards on the ground in the second half. As Green Bay went to its pass game more, the Bills picked Rodgers off twice to hold on to the lead. The game’s biggest play came with 1:58 remaining and Buffalo leading by six. Mario Williams sacked Rodgers and forced a fumble, which was recovered in the end zone by the Packers for a safety.
The Bills move to 8-6 and still have an outside shot at the Playoffs. A Bills’ appearance in the postseason would be interesting because of that suffocating defense. In their last two games against a couple of the league’s most elite passers, they’ve held Peyton Manning and Rodgers to a combined 358 passing yards, while allowing zero touchdowns and grabbing four interceptions.
By Eric Sollenberger
Johnny Manziel was already one of the most-polarizing NFL quarterbacks before he ever started a regular season game.
Johnny had a no-good, terrible, bad day against the Browns‘ in-state division rivals from Cincinnati. The 30-0 loss marks a remarkable 51-point swing from the Bengals 24-3 home loss to the Browns just more than a month ago. Manziel looked lost at times behind an offensive line that, to be fair, really didn’t do much in the way of protecting him.
The worst part about Manziel’s debut is that it wasn’t even exciting-bad. It was just plain old boring-bad. He made basic rookie mistakes like forcing throws and bugging out of the pocket early, only to lob passes up for grabs in traffic. Manziel was supposed to provide a spark, but instead he seemed to suffocate any tiny glimmer of an offensive identity the Browns might have had.
Cleveland only managed 107 yards on the afternoon and just five first downs. The Bengals controlled the hell out of the clock by relying on their brick-wall-on-a-treadmill rookie Jeremy Hill who rushed for 148 yards. Cincinnati ran the dang ball 45 times and doubled the Browns in time of possession.
Meanwhile, the NFL’s other poster-boy for public QB drama, Robert Griffin III, got another chance to prove himself as Washington took on the Giants in New York. Starting quarterback Colt McCoy was knocked out late in the first quarter after appearing to re-aggravate a neck injury he suffered last week against the Rams.
Griffin got off to an impressive start by completing his first six passes and appeared to run for a spectacular touchdown as time expired in the first half. The call was reversed after replays appeared to show Griffin losing the ball in midair as he leapt over the pylon. Referee Jeff Triplette ruled that Griffin failed to recover possession of the ball and overturned the touchdown, giving the Giants the ball at their own 20 after a touchback. Several Washington players and coaches confronted Triplette on their way to the locker room and the officials responded by ejecting veteran WR Santana Moss.
RG3 had a solid, but unspectacular game coming off the bench, but Washington’s 10 penalties for 135 yards and utter inability to cover Odell Beckham Jr. proved to be too much to overcome as it lost 24-13.
Two big names, two big losses today for dual-threat Heisman winners. Griffin is likely to return to the bench in favor of McCoy anyway. Manziel could find himself back at second string if he can’t find a way to create a little bit of the same frenetic excitement on the field as he has off it.
Seattle’s sights set on the top spot
By Danny Kelly
Well, it wasn’t pretty, but in the NFC West, that’s par for the course.
The Seahawks rode their defense in their 17-7 win against the 49ers, holding Colin Kaepernick to 11-of-19 passing and 141 yards, harassing him constantly while racking up six sacks and 10 quarterback hits. The Niners had to do their damage on the ground and managed 140 yards against the NFL’s best run defense, which helped keep them in the game, but it ultimately wasn’t enough.
Russell Wilson finished a subpar 12-of-24 for 168 yards, a touchdown and a pick against the Niners’ tough defense, but came up big when the Seahawks needed him to (with some help from a bad roughing-the-passer call), connecting with Paul Richardson for a touchdown with 13:20 remaining.
That touchdown put the Hawks up by two scores, and the Niners weren’t able to match it on their subsequent two drives. Seattle ran the clock out after taking over with 2:38 remaining.
For the Seahawks, it puts them among a logjam of NFC teams looking to win their final two games to grab the conference’s No. 1 seed. With the Cowboys, Packers, Lions, and Cardinals all in contention, the Seahawks hold several tiebreakers in head-to-head matchups and currently have a NFC-best 8-2 conference record that could help them get the No. 1 spot for the second year in a row. As we saw last year, home-field advantage at CenturyLink Field could pay huge dividends for the Seahawks.
Seattle has now won seven of its last eight. During that stretch, teams are averaging a paltry 12.25 points. During the Seahawks’ last four games, all wins, teams are averaging seven points and 188 yards of total offense. That’s absurd. Pete Carroll’s crew is red hot at the right time and will attempt to finish the year strong against the Cardinals and Rams.
As for the Niners, they are now eliminated from playoff contention and face the reality that head coach Jim Harbaugh is very likely coaching his final two games in San Francisco. After leading his team to three NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl appearance in his four-year tenure, Harbaugh somewhat illogically finds himself on the trade block or hot seat, according to most reports. For players, fans, CEO Jed York, GM Trent Baalke, and Harbaugh, the next couple of weeks will be strange.
3. RG3 and Jay Gruden are friends again … for a moment anyway.
4. Wondering about Steve Smith’s stamina? Ask his wife.
New York Giants 24, Washington 13 (final)
Indianapolis Colts 17, Houston Texans 10 (final)
Cincinnati Bengals 30, Cleveland Browns 0 (final)
Buffalo Bills 21, Green Bay Packers 13 (final)
Minnesota Vikings 14, Detroit Lions 16 (final)
Seattle Seahawks 17, San Francisco 49ers 7 (final)
Dallas Cowboys 38, Philadelphia Eagles 27 (final)