NFL Week 14 takeaways: Eagles find winning formula; Bears’ offense breaks out


Week 14 in the NFL saw offensive outbursts from the Broncos, Bears and Titans, an AFC West-clinching win for the Chiefs, a big letdown for the Giants and a huge win for the Buccaneers in their chase for an NFC wild-card spot. In all, six of the week’s opening eight games — including a Rams victory on Thursday night — were multiple-score blowouts.

All that and more in Week 14‘s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

Jump to a matchup:

Standout performer: Chiefs TE Travis Kelce, 136 receiving yards, 1 TD

The Chiefs’ defense can’t finish out a game. For the second time in three weeks, Kansas City almost wasted a three-score lead in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs will have to win a lot of high-scoring games if they’re going to repeat as Super Bowl champions. — Adam Teicher

Next game: at Saints (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Dolphins traded big plays with the Chiefs largely due to their playmaking defense and a resurgent Tua Tagovailoa, but their offensive flaws were too big to overcome in the loss. The biggest lesson from Sunday’s game is that the Dolphins’ defense is ready to compete with and ultimately beat the AFC elite, but the offense isn’t there yet. The Dolphins have been one of the NFL’s best stories this year, going from a 5-11 season in 2019 to playoff contenders, but there’s one key area where Miami is clearly still rebuilding and needs to target additions this offseason: offensive playmakers. — Cameron Wolfe

Next game: vs. Patriots (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer: Buccaneers S Antoine Winfield Jr., 11 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble

After two consecutive losses going into a bye week, the Bucs got back on track and improved to 8-5. The slow starts and chemistry issues that were exploited by better teams during the most grueling portion of their season weren’t magically resolved during the break. But Tom Brady threw two touchdown passes, and the Bucs stayed committed to the run behind Ronald Jones II, who had 80 yards on 18 carries to keep the Vikings off-balance. “We wanted to set up play-action. We didn’t hit as many as we’d hoped. But when asked earlier in this week about our identity, I think we just showed our identity,” coach Bruce Arians said. “We can do any damn thing we want to do.” — Jenna Laine

Next game: at Falcons (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Vikings have to make a change at kicker to keep their playoff hopes alive after Dan Bailey missed 10 points worth of kicks. There’s no way for this offense (and defense) to function when the kicker’s confidence is clearly shot, and the playcalling reflects a lack of trust in his ability. The Vikings were forced to make some unconventional decisions because they didn’t trust Bailey after he missed an extra point and three field goals. They might be able to get away with that against some teams, but it’s too much to risk when there’s little to no room for error with three games remaining and the Vikings on the outside looking in at the seventh spot in the playoffs. — Courtney Cronin

Next game: vs. Bears (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer: Cardinals LB Haason Reddick, 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles

With their win Sunday over the Giants, the Cardinals moved into the final spot in the NFC wild-card chase. They also found a recipe to keep them in the playoff picture: a defense that held the Giants to 159 total yards with eight sacks, and an offense that found a rhythm, thanks in part to Kyler Murray‘s running. The Cardinals are now 8-1 when Murray runs at least 10 times. — Josh Weinfuss

Next game: vs. Eagles (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Daniel Jones was back for the Giants but clearly wasn’t his normal healthy self, throwing for 127 yards after missing a game with a hamstring injury. Coach Joe Judge said he had “no regrets on playing him.” The Giants knew Jones wouldn’t bring his normal running element (zero carries) and wasn’t going to be as mobile; he was sacked six times and limped throughout the contest. It led to an uneven offensive performance, as the Giants (5-8) had their four-game winning streak snapped. They need to get Jones right if they are going to win the NFC East. — Jordan Raanan

Next game: vs. Browns (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer: Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky, 267 passing yards, 3 TDs

The Bears waited until Week 14 for the much-maligned offense to string together four respectable quarters of football. Better late than never, I suppose. Sunday’s home game against the depleted Texans turned out to be a laugher. The Bears (6-7) snapped their six-game losing streak as quarterback Mitchell Trubisky passed for 267 yards and three touchdowns. Big picture, not much changes. But for once, it was just nice to watch the Bears play a complete football game without the usual elements of self-sabotage and confusion. — Jeff Dickerson

Next game: at Vikings (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

There is going to be a lot of work for whomever is hired as general manager after the season. That starts by figuring out how the team can do a better job of protecting its franchise quarterback. Deshaun Watson was sacked a combined 11 times in Weeks 13 and 14 and has taken too many hard hits. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Sunday was the 13th game in which Watson was sacked five or more times, tied for the third-most such games through a player’s first four NFL seasons since the merger in 1970. — Sarah Barshop

Next game: at Colts (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer: Broncos QB Drew Lock, 280 passing yards, 4 TDs

Broncos quarterback Drew Lock had his first zero-interception day in a full game since the season opener. And it was the way he did it — taking the high-percentage throws early and challenging the Panthers deep once they adjusted with their safeties — that was exactly what he needed as he tries to close out December strong to give the Broncos a little better feeling about him moving into 2021. It helped that the Broncos had a good day running the ball and kept Lock in plenty of play-action situations. — Jeff Legwold

Next game: vs. Bills (4:30 p.m. ET, Saturday)

The Panthers continue to find ways to lose in the fourth quarter. They had a realistic shot in Sunday’s loss to Denver but again had clock mismanagement down the stretch and made too many costly mistakes. None were bigger than Teddy Bridgewater‘s delay of game penalty inside the Denver 10-yard line in the final six minutes and then rushing a third-down play to beat the two-minute warning when it wasn’t necessary. Bridgewater was steady but again didn’t prove to be good enough to win the game on his own. — David Newton

Next game: at Packers (8:15 p.m. ET, Saturday)

Standout performer: Titans RB Derrick Henry, 215 rushing yards, 2 TDs

The Titans got a much-needed win over the Jaguars to push their playoff chances to 94% and strengthen their hold on the AFC South title. Derrick Henry posted his fourth career 200-yard rushing game to get the Titans’ offense back on track. They’ll need a strong performance from Henry down the stretch, but it’s also important that Tennessee balances things out with the passing game. That’s exactly what A.J. Brown provided with seven receptions for 112 yards and a touchdown. — Turron Davenport

Next game: vs. Lions (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The play of rookie running back James Robinson is the one positive thing during an otherwise awful season in Jacksonville. He ran for 67 yards against the Titans to become just the fourth undrafted rookie to rush for 1,000 yards and third in Jaguars franchise history (he now has 1,035). Robinson has a chance to pass Fred Taylor’s rookie record of 1,223 rushing yards set in 1998. He is one of the few consistent performers in 2020 for Jacksonville and a major building block for the franchise’s overhaul. — Mike DiRocco

Next game: at Ravens (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Standout performer: Cowboys QB Andy Dalton, 185 passing yards, 2 TDs

During the week, Andy Dalton tried to downplay what his return to Cincinnati meant. But after the 30-7 win against the Bengals, he admitted, “This one was special.” Dalton was one of the Cowboys’ three captains for the game, delivered the last speech to the players before kickoff and — after throwing two touchdown passes — received a game ball. As Dalton entered the locker room, he was doused with water by his celebratory teammates. “It feels good to come back where I was for a long time and to get a win,” Dalton said. At 4-9, the Cowboys can have hope in the NFC East. — Todd Archer

Next game: vs. 49ers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Under second-year coach Zac Taylor, the Bengals have been in a few games they arguably should have won, including Taylor’s debut in 2019 in a road loss at Seattle. At the time, that performance indicated potentially good things to come for the Bengals under the young but unproven coach. But with its loss to Dallas on Sunday, Cincinnati now has just four wins over the past two seasons and likely squandered its last chance at a victory in the 2020 season. Cincinnati lost fumbles on each of its first three drives. That left Taylor as exasperated as anyone after the game. Taylor’s thoughts on those turnovers: “Irate. Stunned. Irate.” — Ben Baby

Next game: vs. Steelers (8:15 p.m. ET, Monday, Dec. 21)

Standout performer: Rams RB Cam Akers, 171 rushing yards (and 23 receiving yards)

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald said before Thursday night’s game against the Patriots that he felt “a little bit more push just for a little payback” after a crushing defeat in Super Bowl LIII. The stakes certainly weren’t comparable, but Donald got his revenge. The Rams had six sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown, as the defense continues to peak at the perfect time. The team improves to 9-4 and will enjoy a long weekend before preparing for the home stretch, which includes a game against the Jets and division matchups against the Seahawks and Cardinals. The Rams remain in first place in the NFC West, holding a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Seahawks, and are nearing their third division title in four seasons. — Lindsey Thiry

Next game: vs. Jets (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Patriots didn’t look like a playoff team as the Rams ran right through them, and the limitations in the passing game on offense were glaring on a night when they saw their postseason chances dip to 6%, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. While there is still something to play for, a case could also be made that the Patriots would benefit from turning things over to Jarrett Stidham at quarterback so they can get a thorough evaluation on him heading into 2021. The Patriots aren’t used to thinking big-picture like that at this time of year. — Mike Reiss

Next game: at Dolphins (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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