Welcome to Around the NFL, where Cale Berger of Steelers Now will recap early-week action and take a look ahead at some of the most important matchups from the Pittsburgh Steelers perspective.
AROUND THE NFL THIS WEEKEND
Buffalo Bills 48 Denver Broncos 19
Josh Allen and the Bills kept their dream season rolling Saturday night, as the rising star quarterback led his squad to their first division title since 1995.
Stopping Allen and wide receiver Stefon Diggs was going to be a tall task for Denver to begin with, but the Broncos clearly got more than they bargained for. The third-year starter passed for 359 yards and scores four total touchdowns (two passing, two rushing), with the bulk of his completions and yardage going to Diggs per usual. Buffalo’s top weapon caught eleven passes for 147 yards Saturday, and has now posted double digit receptions in four of his last five outings.
Run, @JoshAllenQB, Run!
— Buffalo Bills (@BuffaloBills) December 19, 2020
The Bills’ run game was strong beyond Allen as well. Running backs Zach Moss and Devin Singletary combined for 149 yards and a score on the ground. As a team, it was Buffalo’s largest rushing total since their Week 8 win against New England.
The defense built on their strong showing against Pittsburgh, and held up their end of the bargain to stifle Denver’s youthful offense. Buffalo sacked quarterback Drew Lock three times, including a strip sack by cornerback Tre’Davious White that defensive end Jerry Hughes returned for a 21-yard score. The Broncos were able to find some slight success on the ground of their own, with running back Melvin Gordon rushing for 61 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Buffalo will look to extend their win streak to five games when they visit New England on Monday Night Football next week.
Indianapolis Colts 27 Houston Texans 20
Indianapolis secured a season sweep and remained in the thick of the AFC playoff race with their win over Houston.
Colts quarterbacks Philip Rivers was near flawless through the air, while rookie running back Jonathan Taylor continued his hot run of form on the ground. Rivers completed 79% of his passes for 228 yards and a pair of touchdowns, both to wide receiver Zach Pascal. Taylor followed up his career day in Week 14 with 83 yards and a touchdown. He now has 414 yards over the last four games.
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson may have had himself a day as well, but it was the key plays of the Colts defense that secured the victory in the end. Watson passed for 373 yards and two touchdowns, his eight 300-yard outing this season. Still, Indianapolis’ outstanding defense neutralized Watson’s big day, holding Houston to just 83 yards rushing and sacking him five times. Defensive end DeForest Buckner recorded three of those sacks, but it was star linebacker Darius Leonard that forced this game-sealing fumble.
THE DEFENSE DID IT AGAIN!!!
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) December 20, 2020
Winners of three-straight, the Colts put their win streak on the line when they visit the Steelers next Sunday. Houston hosts Cincinnati in Week 16.
Kansas City Chiefs 32 New Orleans Saints 29
Patrick Mahomes outdueled another future Hall of Fame quarterback Sunday, as the Chiefs topped the Saints in New Orleans for their ninth-straight victory.
Mahomes was marvelous again, tossing for 254 yards and three touchdowns on a strong Saints defense. It was Mahomes’ 21st career game with three scores through the air, tying Pro Football Hall of Famer Kurt Warner for the second-most in league history through a player’s first three seasons. Only fellow Hall of Famer passer Dan Marino has more with 27. His performance Sunday was even more impressive beyond the numbers, as Mahomes was up to his usual superhuman antics, like this pinpoint throw to wideout Mecole Hardman.
TOE. DRAG. SWAG.
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) December 20, 2020
Their passing performance may have been par for the course, but the Chiefs did finally spark their running game by taking advantage of a porous Saints rush defense. Rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 79 yards, his largest rushing performance since Week 6, but left the game in the fourth quarter with a discomforting lower body injury. Former Steeler Le’Veon Bell added 62 yards and scored his second touchdown as a Chief. If Edwards-Helaire is to miss extended time, Kansas City’s mid-season acquisition of Bell could prove more of a necessity than a luxury.
Drew Brees made a surprise return after missing the previous four games with a rib injury, shaking off a rough start to throw three second half touchdowns. He looked out of sync and rusty early, at one point starting the game zero for six with an interception. Still, Brees’ turnaround and Taysom Hill’s rushing score proved all for naught, with the Saints offense unable to overcome going a dreadful 1-11 on third down.
Kansas City will pursue ten in a row when they host Atlanta next Sunday. Losers of back-to-back games for the first time since Week 3, New Orleans will attempt to right the ship at home against Minnesota on Christmas.
Cleveland Browns at New York Giants, 8:20 p.m., WPXI-TV
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield was surgical Sunday night, as Cleveland earned their first ten-win season in 13 years with a win over the Giants.
Mayfield continues to play the best football of his young career, as he made light work of a fairly formidable Giants defense. He carved the G-men up for 297 yards and two touchdowns, while completing 27 of 32 passes, good enough for the second-best, single game completion percentage of his career. Mayfield has now thrown ten touchdowns with a single interception over the last four games.
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) December 21, 2020
The Cleveland defense demonstrated significant improvement from its rough showing against Baltimore last week, albeit against an undermanned New York offense. The Browns held the Giants to just 74 yards on the ground, while holding their opponent without a touchdown for the first time since Week 2 of last season. Still, their strong pass rush never found a way to take advantage of New York’s vulnerable offensive line and consistently pressure quarterback Colt McCoy, sacking him just once.
The Browns inched a step closer to snapping their 17-year postseason drought Sunday, which they will have the chance to end when the return to the Meadowlands to face the lowly Jets next week. The Giants travel to Baltimore with their own playoff hopes in series jeopardy.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE
- Los Angeles Chargers 30 Las Vegas Raiders 27 (OT)
- Green Bay Packers 24 Carolina Panthers 16
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 Atlanta Falcons 27
- Seattle Seahawks 20 Washington 15
- Dallas Cowboys 41 San Francisco 49ers 33
- Tennessee Titans 46 Detroit Lions 25
- Miami Dolphins 22 New England Patriots 12
- Chicago Bears 33 Minnesota Vikings 27
- Baltimore Ravens 40 Jacksonville Jaguars 14
- New York Jets 23 Los Angeles Rams 20
- Arizona Cardinals 33 Philadelphia Eagles 26
- Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns, Monday, 8:15 p.m., ESPN