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🏈 Football Five
The longest active winning streak in the NFL belongs to … the Broncos! Courtland Sutton reeled in the game-winner from Russell Wilson in a 21-20 thriller over the Vikings. Denver has won four straight and is now 5-5.
After Deshaun Watson‘s season-ending injury, the formula for the Browns had to be defense + just enough offense. Sunday, it worked. Dustin Hopkins banged through a 34-yard field goal to lift Cleveland to a 13-10 win over the Steelers for Dorian Thompson-Robinson‘s first career victory. Najee Harrisripped his team’s offense after the loss. Cleveland, which added Joe Flaccoto the practice squad, is 7-3.
The Bills dominated the offensively inept Jets, 32-6, to get back over .500 at 6-5. The Jets benched Zach Wilson late, and Robert Saleh is unsure who will start against the Dolphins, which improved to 7-3 atop the AFC East. The Jets got an “F” in our weekly grades.
My goodness have things fallen apart for USC. The Trojans lost to UCLA, 38-20, their fifth defeat in six games after starting the season 6-0. Caleb Williams‘ NFL decision looms, but regardless, it’s a disappointing year.
🦁 Good morning to everyone but especially …
THE DETROIT LIONS
Go back 61 years ago, exactly, to 1962. The Lions, led by five Hall of Fame defenders — Night Train Lane, Dick LeBeau, Alex Karras, Yale Lary and Joe Schmidt — are 8-2 through 10 games after a comeback win over one of their biggest rivals.
Fast forward to today. This time, they’re led by a dominant David Montgomery-and-Jahmyr Gibbs rushing game, one of the NFL’s best receivers in Amon-Ra St. Brown and a rising defensive star in Aidan Hutchinson. The Lions are 8-2 for the first time since 1962 after a comeback win over one of their biggest rivals — this one even more thrilling. Detroit scored 17 points in the final 2:59 to stun the Bears, 31-26.
Teams down double digits inside the final 5 minutes of regulation were 0-84 this season. How did Detroit do it?
Jared Goff found Jameson Williams for a 32-yard touchdown with 2:59 left. It was a huge moment for Williams, who has been plagued by injuries, a suspension and drops.
After a Chicago three-and-out, Detroit went 73 yards on 11 plays over 2:04 with Montgomery plowing in from 1 yard away with 29 seconds left.
Hutchinson sealed the victory with a strip-sack of Justin Fields that resulted in a safety. It was Hutchinson’s first sack since Week 5.
I love the Lions. I love the way they play, and I love the way they’re coached. They didn’t completely abandon the run as so many other teams do late, but they also trusted Goff despite three interceptions. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson will be a head coach somewhere else next year because he’s so good, but Dan Campbell will be in Detroit for a long time because he’s so good, too.
I don’t know if the Lions are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but frankly, I don’t care: They are really good, they are fun, and for a franchise that’s been on the wrong end of so many heartbreakers, wins like these are truly joyous. I think that’s what I’ll settle on: This team is joyous.
😁 Honorable mentions
⚡ And not such a good morning for …
THE LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
The Chargers inventing new ways to lose is a tale as old as time, and Sunday produced the latest chapter. Los Angeles squandered opportunity after opportunity, blew a coverage late to allow the game-winning touchdown and then dropped a potential game-winner in a 23-20 loss to the Packers.
Justin Herbert found Keenan Allen for the go-ahead score midway through the fourth quarter, but the Chargers defense got shredded on Green Bay’s ensuing drive with Jordan Love finding a wide-open Romeo Doubs to reclaim the lead.
With under a minute left, Herbert lofted a ball deep to Quentin Johnston, who was behind the defense. Johnston dropped it. Johnston, the team’s 2023 first-round pick, was selected immediately ahead of Jordan Addison and Zay Flowers, who have both had terrific seasons. Johnston’s most memorable moment is now a nightmarish drop.
Of course, it’s easy to blame Johnston, but there were a plethora of other reasons the Rams lost, including just one touchdown on four red-zone trips (with one fumble lost and one turnover on downs).
It’s been an awful year for the Chargers. This is their fifth loss by three points or fewer. No other team has more than two. The defense is abysmal. Johnston’s been a huge disappointment following injuries to Mike Williams and Josh Palmer. Brandon Staley spent his postgame press conference snapping at reporters, and Jeff Kerr says Staley should be fired this week as part of overreactions and reality checks. The Chargers were also a “loser” in Cody Benjamin’s Week 11 winners and losers.
This was a game the Chargers needed to win, could have won, probably should have won, and yet still lost. Basically, it was just another Chargers game.
😐 Not so honorable mentions
😬 College football: Jordan Travis suffers brutal leg injury
For many college football teams, this was a weekend for blowouts and preparation for next week’s regular-season finales.
Woods admitted to having some soreness after recently caddying for his son, Charlie, and his walking will bear monitoring: He cannot use a cart, as this is a PGA Tour-sanctioned event. With only a 20-man field, though, it is a relatively low-stakes return.
📺 What we’re watching Monday
(All times ET)
🏀 No. 7 Tennessee vs. Syracuse, 2:30 p.m. on ESPN2 🏀 No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 11 Gonzaga, 5 p.m. on ESPN2 ⚽ Trinidad and Tobago vs. USMNT, 7 p.m. on TNT 🏈 Eagles at Chiefs, 8:15 p.m. on ABC/ESPN 🏀 UCLA vs. No. 4 Marquette, 11:30 p.m. on ESPN2