NFL Week 16 Takeaways: Browns’ dynamic duo Flacco, Cooper put on historic show


Manning and Harrison. Montana and Rice. Flacco and Cooper?

The dynamic duo of Joe Flacco and Amari Cooper put on a show as the Cleveland Browns took down the Houston Texans 36-22, with Cooper setting the Browns franchise record for receiving yards in a single game with 265 yards.

As for Flacco, seemingly having a second prime at 38 years old, he has thrown for over 300 yards in three straight games for the first time in his career and is behind just Tom Brady and Warren Moon as the oldest players to achieve that feat.

Cleveland’s starters were pulled up 36-7 as Flacco and Cooper had historic games, as Cooper became the second player in NFL history to record a 200-yard receiving game for three different teams as he did so with the Raiders and Cowboys as well. He joins Terrell Owens, who did so with the 49ers, Cowboys and Bengals.

The Texans’ defence clearly had no answer for the Browns, but their offence did them no favours to get to the end zone either.

Case Keenum completed 11 of 17 passes for 62 yards and two interceptions before he was pulled in the fourth quarter — and the Texans finally found some offensive spark.

Davis Mills came in to complete 15 of 32 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns, with Houston tallying 250 yards of total offence, but compared to Cleveland’s 418 yards from Flacco and Cooper’s chemistry, the game was too far gone.

Here are some other storylines from the Christmas Eve NFL slate.

Jets on top as 32nd-ranked Bowl champions

The 32nd ranked offence vs. the 32nd ranked defence faced off on Sunday — and somebody had to come out on top as the Last Ranked Bowl champions.

Sitting at 6-9, the Jets have shown flashes of brilliance this season, but have also fallen completely apart, which they nearly did on Sunday as Greg Zuerlein saved the victory with a 54-yard field goal with five seconds left after they blew a 20-point third-quarter lead.

Jacoby Brissett came in for the Commanders during the third quarter to replace a benched Sam Howell, who finished 6 of 22 for 56 yards and two interceptions. Brissett then led the Commanders to three-straight touchdown drives, including a two-yard run from Antonio Gibson that put Washington ahead 28-27 with 4:52 remaining.

Now a comeback win attempt, the Jets forced a Commanders three-and-out with less than two minutes left, and relied on Trevor Siemian, filling in for an injured Zach Wilson, to march downfield for the win — and he did just that.

Siemian finished 27 of 49 for 217 yards, one touchdown and an interception, while Breece Hall was a utility weapon as he ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns and also caught 12 passes for 96 yards.

After managing just 103 in a loss to the Dolphins, the league-worst offence finished with 381 yards — while Washington’s league-worst defence was dominated in the first half before finding some form in the second half.

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30 years later, the Lions run the NFC North

1993 was the last time the Detroit Lions won the NFC North. But an early Christmas gift came for the Lions, who went 3-13 just two years ago and now sit atop their division at 11-4 with a win over the Minnesota Vikings.

Jared Goff completed 30 of 40 passes for 257 yards and a touchdown, with Amon-Ra St. Brown catching 12 passes for 106 yards and a touchdown, as Jahmyr Gibbs added 80 yards on the ground with two touchdowns.

The offence was a well-oiled machine, converting on crucial third and fourth down attempts, and using the ground game to attack and move the chains.

For the first time in nine years the Lions won 11 games in a season, and their 20 wins over the last two seasons as the most in a two-year span in franchise history.

On the other side of the ball, Nick Mullens threw four interceptions despite recording two touchdowns and 411 yards, as what could have been the go-ahead touchdown turned into an Ifeatu Melifonwu interception that sealed the game for the Lions.

Justin Jefferson still finished with 141 yards and a touchdown on six catches, but the pressure the Lions defence applied on Mullens was too much for him to handle, throwing for interceptions and nearly throwing a handful more.

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Seahawks escape with last-minute win once again

The Seattle Seahawks won for a second week in a row and also did it in dramatic fashion for a second week in a row.

Unable to find a touchdown in the first half and trailing 10-3, with failed attempts to get into field goal range from plays by Zach Charbonnet, the Seahawks looked flat with little hope of saving their playoff dreams.

The third quarter consisted of only another Seahawks field goal, but the fourth quarter started to get heated as Geno Smith found DK Metcalf for an 11-yard catch, ruled a catch by a toe drag, but the Tennessee Titans and Derrick Henry answered back for the lead.

Needing to convert on third-and-14,  Smith found Jaxon Smith-Njigba for a first down at midfield and found Tyler Lockett for another 12 before a pass interference call moved Seattle up in position to score.

With the season on the line and trailing the Titans 17-13, Geno Smith found Colby Parkinson with a minute left on the clock, the same way Drew Lock had found Jaxon Smith-Njigba the week before.

Tennessee had one more chance as they got the ball back, but a game-winning drive was thwarted by Seattle’s defence as sacks by Boye Mafe and Dre’Mont Jones took time off the clock, and Riq Woolen made a tackle to run out the clock and secure the win.

Now sitting at 8-7, there’s still a slight chance that the Seahawks can see the postseason.

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Surging Bucs put damper on Jags’ playoff hopes

Talk about a comeback story: the Buccaneers won their fourth-straight game, going above .500 for the first time since Week 5, and Baker Mayfield followed up his perfect passer rating performance with another stellar showing of 283 yards and two touchdowns.

Mike Evans finished with seven receptions for 86 yards and two touchdowns, his 12th and 13th of the season, joining Hall of Famers Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss as the only players in NFL history to have at least 12 touchdown receptions in five different seasons.

But as for the Jacksonville Jaguars, who once sat at 8-3 and tied for the fewest losses in their conference, have now lost four straight games and are struggling to hold onto playoff hopes.

Tampa Bay’s defence forced four turnovers as Devin White intercepted Trevor Lawrence on Jacksonville’s first drive and rookie Yaya Diaby forced and recovered a fumble. Safety Antoine Winfield Jr. led the defence with a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery.

Trevor Lawrence’s turnover issues continue as he threw two interceptions in the first half, leading directly to two touchdowns for the Bucs, and his fumble on a Diaby sack in the third quarter led to a score as well.

Not allowing the Jaguars to score until after the game was already 30-0, the Bucs were simply dominant on both sides of the ball, while the Jags continue to slip with their franchise quarterback looking out of No. 1 overall pick form.

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Miami narrowly proves they can win against an over .500 team

The Miami Dolphins had not beaten an opponent with a winning record this season heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, and they just barely managed to secure the win as time expired.

Jason Sanders kicked five field goals, including a 29-yarder with 0:00 on the clock, as the Dolphins secured a playoff berth by completing a late comeback after allowing the Cowboys back into the game in the second half.

The Cowboys will be kicking themselves for red zone struggles early in the game, as while they have already clinched a playoff spot, plays like a fumble by Dak Prescott on first-and-goal from inside the one-yard line on Dallas’ first possession set the offensive tone for the first half.

The Cowboys took a 7-3 lead in the first quarter from a massive 49-yard touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb, but the Dolphins responded with 13 unanswered points including Raheem Mostert scoring his NFL-leading 21st touchdown of the season just before halftime, putting him over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.

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Sanders and Brandon Aubrey traded field goals in the third quarter, and Aubrey kicked a 33-yarder at the start of the fourth quarter to bring Dallas within six points, 19-13.

Prescott put Dallas in front 20-19 with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks with just over four minutes to play, but Tua Tagovailoa led a 12-play, 64-yard drive for one final Sanders field goal to secure a win over a team with a winning record for the first time this year.



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