Scully's NFL Notebook: Patriots make statement in Buffalo
The AFC playoff chase promises to be compelling over the next five weeks.
By virtue of 7-5 records, Buffalo, Cincinnati, and the Los Angeles Chargers presently own the three Wild Card berths, but Cleveland, Denver, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, and Pittsburgh all lay in wait with at least six wins.
Let’s get to this week’s Notebook!
Pats impose their will upon Buffalo
Facing adverse conditions in high winds, Bill Belichick decided to run the ball on Buffalo, and New England’s physicality at the line of scrimmage proved to be the difference.
From 49 plays, New England ran it 46 times. The Patriots didn’t need to be versatile in a statement win.
The Patriots threw one pass in the first half, a completion for a first down, and then kept on running it, outgaining Buffalo 222-99 in rushing yards.
Buffalo’s lone touchdown came via a muffed punt – New England was better on both lines of scrimmage, forcing the Bills to throw more than run, despite the blustery weather.
Tom vs. Bill would move the needle
The most likely Super Bowl matchup now, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, is Tampa Bay-New England.
Plenty remains to be decided, but the prospect of a Super Bowl showdown between Tom Brady and Belichick probably makes league executives giddy.
Detroit picks up elusive win in thriller
Detroit is winless no more.
Defense kept the Lions in the game most of the contest, limiting Minnesota to 15 points over the first three quarters.
After the Lions coughed up the lead late, Jared Goff led a 14-play, 75-yard drive to prevail on the final play.
Detroit improved to 1-10-1.
Gamble fails for Baltimore
John Harbaugh cited his depleted secondary as the reason to go for a two-point conversion following a late touchdown from Baltimore. He didn’t want to allow Pittsburgh’s offense to get the ball back in overtime.
After scoring 17 points on three consecutive drives in the fourth quarter, and taking their first lead with 1:48 remaining, the Steelers stopped the conversion attempt to deny Baltimore’s comeback.
Baltimore’s top cornerback, Marlon Humphrey, was lost to a season-ending shoulder injury, the seventh member of the secondary to be sidelined by injury or illness.
Despite three losses in the last six games, Baltimore remains atop the AFC North at 8-4. However, a difficult schedule remains, including non-conference games against Green Bay and the Los Angeles Rams.
Game of the Week
Tue, December 14 2021, 1:15 AM
Los Angeles snapped a three-game losing slide, rolling to a 30-point win over Jacksonville last week, and it’s now or never for its NFC West divisional hopes. The 8-4 Rams must defeat 10-2 Arizona to stay alive.
It won’t be easy in the desert. Kyler Murray returned from a three-game absence with a sharp performance in Week 13, leading the Cardinals to an easy road win, and Arizona ranks first among NFC teams in defensive efficiency.