NFL Winners and Losers: For one week, Bears and Mitchell Trubisky don't have to hear about Deshaun Watson
Every time Mitchell Trubisky’s failures get brought up, a mention of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson will typically follow.
Not that you haven’t heard this already, but Trubisky was drafted ahead of Mahomes and Watson in 2017. The Chicago Bears took him second overall, and that decision changed the fortunes of multiple franchises.
Mahomes has become the best quarterback in the NFL. Watson isn’t far behind. Trubisky hasn’t been Watson or Mahomes, to say the least.
Trubisky had a rough 2019, and the Bears traded for Nick Foles this past offseason and quickly benched Trubisky after a few games. Foles got hurt and Trubisky got another shot. The storyline on Sunday was too rich: The phenomenal Watson coming in with his Houston Texans to show up the Bears and Trubisky.
Sunday doesn’t change the fact that the Bears made a mistake. Watson is one of the NFL’s clear stars. But it had to be nice for Chicago and Trubisky to come up big in an easy win.
Trubisky outplayed Watson. Strange but true. Here’s where it’s worth a reminder that quarterbacks don’t play one-on-one like tennis and they shouldn’t be assigned individual records. Houston has done an impossibly poor job helping out Watson, and injuries took care of the rest. The Texans were incredibly thin around Watson on Sunday. The best players in Sunday’s game were Allen Robinson and Khalil Mack, and both play on Trubisky’s side. Houston’s defense is horrible, and Watson has nothing to do with that. Trubisky didn’t beat Watson; the Bears beat the Texans.
Still, Trubisky did his part and then some. At halftime he was 18-of-21 for 180 yards and three touchdowns. The Bears led 30-7 at halftime and won 36-7. Trubisky finished with a 126.7 passer rating.
One sequence summed up Watson’s issues. He threw a pass to a wide open Jordan Akins that Akins apparently lost in the sun and the ball bounce off his arm. Watson thought he had a touchdown on a dive into the end zone, but was ruled down just before the goal line. Watson was hit hard on the play after and briefly exited the game. It shouldn’t have to be this hard, but Houston has provided him very little help. That’s Bill O’Brien’s Houston legacy.
It’s not like the Bears have a great infrastructure either, but Trubisky took advantage of what he had on Sunday.
The Bears didn’t pick up Trubisky’s fifth-year option. They traded a draft pick for Foles and restructure his contract to guarantee him $21 million, the sign of a franchise that doesn’t know what it’s doing at quarterback. One nice game shouldn’t change how the Bears view Trubisky, though he could at least generate an interesting conversation with a strong finish. He was the second pick of the draft and made the Pro Bowl in 2018 (whatever that’s worth), and he wouldn’t be the first quarterback whose development took a while. For what it’s worth, he has looked better since coming back from a shoulder injury and replacing Foles.
Mostly it must have been nice for the Bears to have one positive day. They had lost six in a row. Trubisky, coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace have had to endure non-stop speculation about their future. Every time the Trubisky pick gets brought up, so does Mahomes and Watson. Everyone involved with the NFL is under constant pressure, and when you’re losing it becomes stifling.
The Bears can have a week without the relentless negativity. They still will regret passing on Watson. We’re a long way from assuming Trubisky has turned a corner. Nagy and Pace could still be fired. But on Sunday, Trubisky was better than Watson. Weird.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 14 of the NFL season:
Aaron Rodgers’ MVP chances: Before Week 14, something big needed to happen for Rodgers to have a real chance to catch Patrick Mahomes for MVP.
Sunday was a big shift. Mahomes had an uncharacteristic three-interception game. One of the main highlights in Mahomes’ resume was a silly TD-to-INT ratio, and that took a hit on Sunday even in a win.
Meanwhile, Rodgers played a nearly flawless game. He had 290 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a huge Green Bay Packers win over the Detroit Lions.
Mahomes is the better player and has had the better season, but late pushes often sway votes more than they should. Rodgers has had a great season. He is gaining ground in the MVP race too.
Green Bay Packers’ No. 1 seed chances: The Packers got a big assist from the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Packers were a game behind the New Orleans Saints for the top spot in the NFC heading into Week 14. They had the tiebreaker due to a win over the Saints but were a win behind. That’s not the case anymore.
The Saints’ upset loss at Philadelphia combined with Green Bay’s win puts the Packers back in pole position for the No. 1 seed and the lone bye in the conference.
You can’t assume three wins for any team, but the Packers are guaranteed the No. 1 seed if they win out. Sunday was a huge day for them. It was a really bad loss for the Saints, who get the Kansas City Chiefs next week and can’t afford another loss if they want the No. 1 seed.
Chase Young: You won’t often see a defender take over a game like Young did on Sunday. And considering it was a rookie, it was especially impressive.
Young was everywhere in the Washington Football Team’s 23-15 win on Sunday. He dropped into coverage, then exploded forward for a sack. He hunted Jeff Wilson down from behind and forced a fumble. Then he showed off his speed on a 47-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. Washington’s defense also scored on a pick-six in a big win that gives them sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
Young was the No. 2 overall pick for a reason. He was a phenomenal prospect. Even though Washington passed on some good quarterbacks with the second pick, they shouldn’t have many regrets.
Derrick Henry’s awards push: Running backs don’t win MVP anymore. It’s a quarterback award and something really weird has to happen for a running back to be in the mix. It would be fun if all positions were considered, but they’re not.
Voters will give running backs consideration for NFL Offensive Player of the Year, and Henry is making a great argument for that.
Henry had a monster game as the Tennessee Titans got back on track with a 31-10 win against Jacksonville. He had 180 yards and two touchdowns not even halfway through the third quarter. If the Jaguars were competitive, Henry would have had a shot at 300 yards and the single-game record. It’s not like Jacksonville could stop him.
Henry is going to win another rushing title, and his brilliance makes the Titans a tough out in the playoffs just like last season. Henry is great and worth the four-year, $50 million deal Tennessee signed him to. He might even get an award after this season, even if it’s not the MVP.
Drew Lock and John Elway: It seems fair to assume Elway and Lock are joined at the hip, but that might not be true. Elway is a Denver icon and the Broncos’ ownership situation is a fiasco, so Elway might not be in any trouble, even if Lock is his latest failure at quarterback.
But it would be better for the Broncos if Lock finished this season well. Lock played his best game this season at the Carolina Panthers as the shorthanded Broncos won easily. Lock threw four touchdowns, a career high. His final score, a nice deep pass to K.J. Hamler, gave the Broncos some insurance points and they finished a 32-27 win with a late stop.
Lock looked good enough late last season that the Broncos committed to him as their 2020 starter. With each Lock mistake this season, the Broncos had to wonder if they were going to have to try something else at QB next offseason. If Lock can string some more games like Sunday together, he might buy himself another year.
Andy Dalton: It’s not like a 3-9 team beating a 2-9-1 team is that big of a deal, but it probably felt pretty good for Dalton.
Dalton came back to Cincinnati, where he was the longtime starter with the Bengals, and led the Dallas Cowboys to a win. Dalton was replaced in Cincinnati, and it’s not like that was a controversial decision after the Bengals got the first overall pick and took LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. It still was a chance for Dalton to go back and beat his former team that let him go. Dalton threw for 185 yards and a pair of touchdowns in an easy 30-7 win.
Dalton has calmed down the Cowboys’ offense and at least made that unit somewhat competitive. He can’t do much about the defense or the Cowboys’ sorry record. But on Sunday, he got some revenge.
Jon Gruden’s playoff push: What has happened to the Las Vegas Raiders?
Only a ridiculous defensive call by the Jets in Week 13 has kept them from one of the worst three-game losing streaks you’ll see in the NFL. They were embarrassed by the Atlanta Falcons, should have lost to the winless Jets and then were pounded by the Indianapolis Colts 44-27 on Sunday.
The Raiders were tracking toward a playoff spot before this stretch. They were 6-3 with some quality wins. The schedule eased up in the second half of the season. But the Raiders can’t beat anyone lately (other than the Jets on a miracle TD), and it’s going to cost them a playoff spot.
New York Jets: So much for the Jets being competitive.
New York had played reasonably well recently, and should have beat the Las Vegas Raiders if not for one of the worst defensive play-calls you’ll ever see.
There was no need to worry about a bad call sinking the Jets on Sunday, and not just because Gregg Williams was fired. The Jets were never in the game against the Seattle Seahawks, getting embarrassed in a blowout 40-3 loss. Russell Wilson was pulled before the third quarter was even over.
The Jets are 0-13 and that’s really not the worst news anymore. That means they’re three losses from securing the first pick of the draft. The Jets need it, just to give the franchise some hope. The Jaguars keep losing and seem intent on finishing 1-15 this season. The Jets might need to lose out to secure the first pick.
On Sunday, they didn’t leave the loss up to chance.
Matt Ryan: The Atlanta Falcons will eventually move on from Ryan. Ryan might be speeding up the process.
Ryan has been mediocre at best most of the season and on Sunday he threw two awful interceptions that cost the Falcons a potential win. In Los Angeles Chargers territory in the final five minutes, Ryan never saw Jahleel Addae, who stepped in front of Hayden Hurst for an interception.
Justin Herbert then threw a bad interception near midfield with less than two minutes left that gave the Falcons another shot to win. And Ryan threw another interception near the sideline. That set up a Chargers drive and a game-winning field goal.
Ryan was bad on Sunday and he hasn’t been very good most of the season. It’s not like he has no talented receivers to throw to. Ryan has a massive $40.9 million cap hit next year so it’s unlikely he’ll be going anywhere. But the Falcons can’t feel great about him rebounding, given his pedestrian play this season.
Dan Bailey: He might have kicked the Minnesota Vikings out of a playoff spot, and kicked himself out of a job.
Bailey had four opportunities to score on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He missed an extra point early on. Then he missed three field goals. Bailey missed a 36-yarder, then a 54-yarder that wasn’t even close. By the fourth quarter, Mike Zimmer probably didn’t want to let Bailey try again but the Vikings’ offense went backwards and had fourth-and-goal at the 28-yard line. The Vikings had to kick. And Bailey missed a 46-yarder.
The Vikings played well enough in many ways to win. A rare pass interference penalty on a Hail Mary hurt them. But they still had a shot if their kicker was remotely decent. He wasn’t. And for a team that came into Week 14 with a 6-6 record and was battling for a wild-card spot, the 26-14 loss was brutal. And a lot of it is on Bailey.
Daniel Jones: The New York Giants would have been better off if Jones took another week to get his hamstring healthy. Or maybe more than one more week.
The Giants’ hot streak came to a sudden stop Sunday with a 26-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Jones was back from a hamstring injury and was horrible, going 6-of-12 for 44 yards in the first half. He took three sacks and fumbled twice, losing one. The Giants had 58 yards and four first downs at halftime against a Cardinals defense that hasn’t been very good. The Giants didn’t even pass midfield until past the midway point of the third quarter. They would have been better off with Colt McCoy, last week’s starter. McCoy replaced Jones in the fourth quarter.
The Giants still have a shot to win the NFC East, but Sunday’s ugly loss was an opening for the Washington Football Team to take over first place. New York has done a lot of things right lately, but it need much better play from its quarterback, whoever it is going forward.
Catching the Chiefs: The Miami Dolphins were playing well, at home and forced Patrick Mahomes into more mistakes than he’d made the rest of the season combined. And the Dolphins still couldn’t win.
Mahomes threw three interceptions and took a 30-yard sack, but the Chiefs still found themselves leading by 20 in the second half. It’s not like Miami is a bad team. It’s just that it’ll be hard to beat the Chiefs, even when they make a ton of mistakes.
The Chiefs can turn any game into a laugher with big plays. Tyreek Hill had a 32-yard touchdown run and a 44-yard touchdown catch. Mecole Hardman returned a punt 67 yards for a touchdown. The Dolphins led 10-0 and before long they were down 30-10. They rallied to cut Kansas City’s lead to 30-24, but it’s not like getting a stop against he Chiefs is easy. Kansas City drove for a field goal after that and got a 33-27 win, clinching the AFC West title.
That’s why the Chiefs are favored to win another Super Bowl. Even when they’re bad, they can still beat a playoff contender with relative ease.
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