NFL Sunday Recap, Week 15: Walk-off finishes and huge comebacks define a whirlwind day across the NFL

Dec 18, 2022; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Detroit Lions tight end Brock Wright (89) celebrates his touchdown reception with teammates during the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Sunday Recap, Week 15: Walk-off finishes and huge comebacks define a whirlwind day across the NFL

Eagles 25, Bears 20

Both offenses got off to a surprisingly slow start between the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears, as a series of punts and a Jalen Hurts interception kept the scoreboard clear into the second quarter. The Eagles would break the seal first with a field goal in the second quarter for a 3-0 advantage. Chicago’s offense began to find its footing as well, primarily due to Justin Fields creating offense with his legs. After Fields converted a second-and-27 with a long run down to the Eagles nine-yard line, Bears’ running back David Montgomery ran in a touchdown to give Chicago its first lead. The Bears’ next drive ended strangely, as head coach Matt Eberflus passed up a potentially makeable field goal attempt in favor of punting from the Eagles 31-yard line. Philadelphia would break through in the final minute of the first half when the middle of the field opened up for Jalen Hurts, who sprinted 22 yards into the end zone for a 10-6 Eagles lead. After a deep pass to A.J. Brown set Philadelphia up on the Bears one-yard line on their first drive of the third quarter, Jalen Hurts snuck the football into the end zone to extend Philadelphia’s lead to 17-6. Despite the deficit, Chicago continued to look competent on offense. Justin Fields found David Montgomery for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 8:45 to go in the third quarter, pulling the Bears back within four points. Philadelphia drove into Chicago territory midway through the fourth quarter hoping to add to its lead, but could not do so when Jake Elliott’s field goal bounced off the upright. The Bears’ bid for a comeback took a major hit with seven minutes to play when Justin Fields was removed due to injury, causing Nathan Peterman to enter the game at quarterback. After Philadelphia took the football back moments later, Jalen Hurts connected with A.J. Brown on a 69-yard bomb down to the Bears three-yard line. Hurts would run for a score and a two-point conversion to cap off the drive, theoretically ending Chicago’s upset bid while extending Philadelphia’s lead to 25-13. Justin Fields would re-enter the game on the Bears’ next drive, and made yet another huge play to keep the Bears close when he connected with Byron Pringle on a 35-yard score to make it 25-20 with 2:53 to play. When Philadelphia converted a third down with A.J. Brown’s ninth catch of the afternoon on the ensuing drive, it would easily run the remainder of the clock out to preserve the road victory. Philadelphia reaches 13-1 with the win, ensuring it’ll maintain at least a share of first place in the NFC East regardless of its result with the Cowboys next weekend. 

Next Week: Philadelphia: at Dallas, Chicago: vs. Buffalo

Saints 21, Falcons 18

New Orleans entered Sunday’s game with zero room for error, needing a win over its rival from Atlanta to stay within reach of the NFC South title. The Saints’ offense started hot, producing a Juwon Johnson touchdown catch to cap off their opening drive and take a 7-0 lead. New Orleans extended its lead quickly thereafter on Rashid Shaheed’s 68-yard touchdown reception, adding to an impressive start by New Orleans’ passing game, which already had touchdown throws by both Andy Dalton and Taysom Hill in the first quarter. Atlanta, led today by rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder, made its first trip into the red zone early in the second quarter but would settle for a field goal. Despite Ridder’s first career interception starting Atlanta’s second half on the wrong foot, the Falcons would still find the scoreboard first in the third quarter when running back Tyler Allgeier burrowed into the end zone to make it 14-10. Andy Dalton and Juwon Johnson connected on a second touchdown with 3:34 to go in the third quarter, extending the lead to 21-10 in favor of the Saints. Atlanta’s punishing run game kept it within striking distance in the fourth quarter, as Cordarrelle Patterson became the second Falcons’ running back to score in the second half. After a facemask penalty against New Orleans nullified what appeared to be a failed two-point conversion attempt by Atlanta, the Falcons would convert on their next attempt to pull within a field goal. The Falcons began a drive downfield in the game’s final minutes with a golden opportunity to tie or take a lead, but lost the football when rookie wide receiver Drake London fumbled it away as the game reached its two-minute warning. Atlanta would get the football back in the game’s final seconds, but never really came close to tying the game or taking the lead. In a crucial divisional battle, the Saints emerged victorious – and at 5-9, tied Atlanta and Carolina while all three hoped for a Tampa Bay loss later in the afternoon. 

Next Week: Atlanta: at Baltimore, New Orleans: at Cleveland

Lions 20, Jets 17

The Detroit Lions and New York Jets are two of the NFL’s most surprising playoff contenders entering the season’s final four weeks, adding much more intrigue than expected to the Lions’ visit to Metlife Stadium. Detroit’s first drive was an impressive march down to the doorstep of the Lions’ end zone, but a fourth down stop gave New York back the football on their own two-yard line. Three plays later, the Jets were forced to punt – and with a short field to conquer, Lions’ punt returner Khalief Raymond ran the football into the end zone for a special teams touchdown and a 7-0 lead. New York tied the game in the second quarter on Zach Wilson’s deep pass to C.J. Uzomah, who broke a tackle at the five-yard line en route to a 40-yard score. After a 15-play Detroit drive resulted in a field goal midway through the second quarter, New York added a tying kick of their own to send the game into halftime 10-10. Jets’ quarterback Zach Wilson entered Sunday’s game with more interceptions than touchdowns on the season, and his first big gaffe came early in the third quarter. The interception set up Detroit deep in New York territory, but the Jets’ defense held the Lions to just a field goal. Zach Wilson continued to battle for New York, and eventually found Garrett Wilson on a deep pass into Lions territory. After what appeared to be a Zach Wilson rushing touchdown was called back a few plays later, Wilson instead found C.J. Uzomah for a second touchdown reception to give New York a 17-13 lead with 4:41 to go. The back-and-forth battle continued after the two-minute warning, when Jared Goff found a wide-open Brock Wright on the left sideline for a 51-yard touchdown for a 20-17 lead. The Jets’ offense took back over with 1:49 to go, needing to find their way into field goal range. New York would do enough to set up a 57-yard attempt at the buzzer for kicker Greg Zuerlein – but after the kick sailed to the left, Detroit escaped with a huge 20-17 triumph. The win moves Detroit to 7-7, and delivers a crushing blow to the Jets, who are also now 7-7. 

Next Week: Detroit: at Carolina, New York: vs. Jacksonville

Steelers 24, Panthers 16

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers both entered Sunday’s matchup in Charlotte at 5-8, but the Panthers found themselves just one game behind Tampa Bay atop the tightly-packed NFC South. It was the Steelers getting on the board first, as Najee Harris punched in a physical touchdown for a first-quarter lead. Carolina would respond with a tying touchdown early in the second quarter, a sliding catch in the front corner of the end zone by D.J. Moore. The back-and-forth first half scoring continued on the ensuing Steelers’ drive, which was capped off by Jaylen Warren’s short touchdown run to put Pittsburgh up 14-7. Pittsburgh’s offense would continue to look effective without starting quarterback Kenny Pickett in the third quarter, as backup Mitch Trubisky pushed his way into the end zone on a sneak to make it 21-7. Carolina’s offense, which had fallen dormant for two full quarters, finally produced a field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it 21-10. The Panthers would pull within eight on yet another Eddy Pineiro field goal with 6:20 to go, but would need a touchdown and a two-point conversion in the game’s final minutes to tie. Instead, each team would exchange a field goal in the game’s final two minutes and Pittsburgh escaped with a 24-16 win. The victory deals a crushing blow to Carolina’s slim playoff hopes, and keeps Mike Tomlin’s hopes of avoiding his first losing season as a head coach alive for now. 

Next Week: Pittsburgh: vs. Las Vegas, Carolina: vs. Detroit

Raiders 30, Patriots 24

The New England Patriots stayed in the southwest after Monday night’s win in Arizona, desperately needing a second straight win on the road in Las Vegas. The Raiders would get on the board on their first drive, capping off the 64-yard journey with a field goal by Daniel Carlson. Las Vegas, who had struggled mightily all season when its opponent entered the red zone, came up with a huge goal line stand on the ensuing Patriots’ drive to force a field goal that tied the game 3-3. The Raiders finally scored the game’s first touchdown in the second quarter, when Derek Carr connected with Darren Waller for a 25-yard touchdown. The score was Waller’s first since September 18, after he had missed more than two months with an injury. Las Vegas would extend their first-half lead again when Derek Carr found Mack Hollins for a touchdown with four seconds left in the half, giving the Raiders a 17-3 lead at the break. The Raiders, who have struggled to maintain leads all season, saw their second half get off to an ugly start. Derek Carr’s attempt at a screen pass was intercepted for a touchdown by Kyle Dugger, and suddenly the Patriots trailed just 17-10. Patriots’ kicker Nick Folk added two field goals las the game progressed into the fourth quarter, trimming the deficit to just one. The Raiders’ collapse finally resulted in a deficit when Rhamondre Stevenson broke free for a 34-yard New England touchdown run, putting the Patriots ahead 24-17 with 3:43 to go. After the Patriots forced a Raiders’ punt for a fifth consecutive time on the next series, the crowd in Las Vegas grew restless knowing their fate was close to sealed. Nevertheless, the Raiders’ offense found it when they needed to. Derek Carr completed an acrobatic pass to Keelan Cole Sr. in the back corner of the end zone, and Las Vegas tied the score at 24 with 32 seconds to go. New England’s drive to win the game approached midfield, but ended in epic disaster. A confusing offensive decision led to the Patriots trying to lateral the ball all over the field as time expired, but the ball wound up in Raiders’ linebacker Chandler Jones’ hands. Jones ran 48 yards into the end zone with the football as the clock hit zeroes, handing the Las Vegas Raiders an incredible 30-24 win. The win hurts the Patriots’ playoff hopes immensely, cause for celebration amongst other AFC fan bases. 

Next Week: New England: vs. Cincinnati, Las Vegas: at Pittsburgh

Broncos 24, Cardinals 15

The Arizona Cardinals meeting with the Denver Broncos today at Mile High Stadium was a game played for pride more than anything else, with both teams out of playoff contention. Each offense entered the game without their starting quarterbacks available, and predictably struggled. Each team managed only a field goal heading into the final minutes of the second quarter. Arizona would take a lead heading into the half with their second field goal, making it 6-3. Already without Kyler Murray, the Cardinals also lost Colt McCoy due to injury in the third quarter. Trace McSorley was thus forced into action at quarterback, and he would lead Arizona to a field goal that extended the lead to 9-3. Denver would finally break through for the game’s first touchdown with 5:58 to go in the third quarter, capping off an 80-yard drive with a short run by Marlon Mack for a 10-9 advantage. The Broncos continued their sudden offensive competence on their first drive of the fourth quarter, punching in a score with Latavius Murray to extend their lead to 17-9. Arizona’s unraveling continued when Trace McSorley’s interception gave Denver a possession deep in plus territory, and Brett Rypien found tight end Eric Tomlinson for a touchdown and a 24-9 lead. The Cardinals finally got into the end zone when James Conner ran in with six minutes to play, but a failed two-point conversion left Arizona behind 24-15. Arizona would eventually possess the football once more in the final moments, but Patrick Surtain II’s interception of Trace McSorley put the Cardinals out of their misery. 

Next Week: Arizona: vs. Tampa Bay, Denver: at L.A. Rams

Chargers 17, Titans 14

Sunday afternoon’s game in Los Angeles got off to a terrible start for the Titans, who lost starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill to injury on their opening possession. The Chargers drove down field on their second possession of the afternoon shortly thereafter, going ahead 7-0 on a rushing touchdown by Joshua Kelley. Tannehill would eventually return at quarterback in the second quarter, as would Tennessee’s offense. The Titans tied the game on Derrick Henry’s rushing touchdown with 10:09 to go in the second quarter. The Chargers threatened to retake the lead before halftime, but an incredible, volleyball-style interception executed by two Tennessee defenders ended the threat and ensured the 7-7 score would remain at the break. Both defenses controlled the game through almost the entirety of the second and third quarters, exchanging punts along with interceptions – two for Justin Herbert and one for Ryan Tannehill – as the game moved into the fourth. Austin Ekeler finally fought his way into the end zone for a touchdown with 10:28 to play, putting the Chargers ahead 14-7. Tennessee’s offense woke up just in time, as Ryan Tannehill made big plays to his tight ends on his way to running in a touchdown himself. The score tied the game 14-14 with just 48 seconds left, giving Justin Herbert and Los Angeles an opportunity at a game-winning drive. Herbert and the Chargers managed exactly that, driving into Titans’ territory before Cameron Dicker’s game-winning field goal sent the L.A. fans home happy. 

Next Week: Tennessee: vs. Houston, Los Angeles: at Indianapolis

Bengals 34, Buccaneers 17

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had struggled with slow starts all season, needing late comebacks to win on several occasions just to stay near .500. Sunday saw the Bucs singing a different tune, jumping out to a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter. After intercepting Joe Burrow early, Tampa Bay kicked a field goal and followed it up with Tom Brady’s fourth-down touchdown pass to Russell Gage. Tampa extended its lead to 17-0 on Brady’s touchdown pass to Chris Godwin later in the second quarter, and would take a 17-3 lead into the break after a late Bengals’ field goal. The Buccaneers’ punt team committed a blunder trying to snap the football early in the third quarter, setting the Bengals’ up in Tampa Bay territory – but after Cincinnati’s offense stalled out near the goal line, a field goal made it 17-6. The Bengals’ defense came up with a huge play on the next series, intercepting Brady to take back the football in Bucs’ territory again. This time, the Bengals cashed in the opportunity for a five-yard touchdown pass to Tee Higgins to pull within five. Tom Brady’s disastrous third quarter continued on the Buccaneers’ next series when he fumbled the football away on a sack, and suddenly the Bengals possessed the football with an opportunity to take the lead. Joe Burrow found Tyler Boyd for a touchdown, and after a two-point conversion, Cincinnati led 20-17. Unbelievably, the Buccaneers turned the ball over in their own territory again when they next had the football. Leonard Fournette’s fumble was the culprit this time, and Joe Burrow again punished Tampa Bay for its mistake with a touchdown. This time Joe Burrow connected with Ja’Marr Chase to make it 27-17. Cincinnati added to the onslaught in the final minutes with another touchdown, suddenly running away with a three-possession lead. The 34-17 win moves Cincinnati into first place in the AFC North alone, and keeps the other three teams in the NFC South in contention behind Tampa Bay.
Next Week: Cincinnati: at New England, Tampa Bay: at Arizona

Giants 20, Commanders 12

The New York Giants and Washington Commanders were flexed into Sunday Night Football for their Week 15 rematch, a game with massive playoff implications on both sides. Both defenses started the evening with plenty of intensity, forcing opening punts on both sides. Washington eventually got the scoring started with a Joey Slye field goal, but the tables turned quickly. Rookie Pass rusher Kayvon Thibodaux turned the game on its head with his sack of Taylor Heinicke, taking the ball from the Commanders’ quarterback and chasing it himself into the end zone for a 7-3 New York lead. The Giants offense found its footing before halftime as well, extending their lead to 14-3 when Saquon Barkley powered in for a score. Washington began to open up its pass game on its first offensive possession of the third quarter, and found success. Taylor Heinicke found Jahan Dotson for a 19-yard touchdown to cap off the impressive drive, pulling the Commanders back within five points after a missed extra point. Each team kicked a field goal as the game moved into the fourth quarter, making it 17-12 New York with 12:31 to play. With six minutes left, the Commanders drove the ball down inside the Giants 20-yard line with a chance to take the lead – but after Taylor Heinicke’s second fumble of the night was recovered by New York moments later, the threat was erased. The Giants began feeding running back Saquon Barkley the football over and over, devouring precious portions of the clock in the process. After six straight run plays moved New York into Washington territory, Commanders’ head coach Ron Rivera was forced to begin burning timeouts. Graham Gano would drill a 50-yard field goal to cap off the Giants’ drive, leaving Washington just 1:50 on the clock while trailing 20-12. The Commanders drove the length of the field to set up a goal-to-go scenario, but a penalty pushed them back for a final chance from the six-yard line on fourth down. New York’s defense made the huge play it needed in the end zone on the final play, preserving a 20-12 win that does wonders for its playoff chances.

Next Week: New York: at Minnesota, Washington: at San Francisco

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