Matthew Stafford his division-leading Detroit Lions have grown to be unafraid of overcoming deficits in the fourth quarter. With their seventh fourth-quarter comeback completed, the Lions now sit atop the NFC North division comfortable, for now. Stafford started the game with a seemingly mechanical 12-play, 75-yard drive that seemed quicker than Aretha Franklin's National Anthem pre-game. Stafford was 6 for 6 with 52 yards on the opening drive. After Sam Bradford lead his Vikings down the field on their next drive, the touchdowns ceased and the teams both added field goals. After the Vikings went up 13-10 with a field goal at the 12:38 mark in the fourth quarter, both teams traded punts until the Lions got the ball back with 5:02 left pinned at their own two-yard line. Stafford orchestrated a 10-play 68-yard drive that put the Lions into field goal range. Stafford’s 6 for 8 passing was MVP-esque, tying the game at 13 a piece. An interception by the Lions defense three plays after the kickoff put the Lions in game-winning field goal position to win their fourth straight Thanksgiving Day game.
While there’s a lot of talk about the Cowboy rookies and Tom Brady for MVP, Matthew Stafford deserves to be in the conversation. He’s not setting passing or efficiency records, but he’s undoubtedly the only reason the Lions are in the division lead. In his eighth season, the gunslinger has pivoted to methodical comeback artist. If he can keep winning, the voters will have no choice but to include Stafford in the conversation.
After serving his time on injured reserve, Justin Houston returned last week against the Buccaneers – but it wasn’t until this week’s Sunday Night game against the Broncos that Houston looked like the dominant pass rusher before his knee injury. Houston put together a monstrous performance, recording 10 tackles (five of them for loss), three sacks, a forced fumble and a pass deflection. Looking more confident in his knee, Houston manhandled the Broncos offensive line without his pass rushing counterpart, Dee Ford. The Broncos keyed on Houston but could not stop him, and expect him to play a large role in the Chiefs playoff push going forward.
While A.J. Green was inactive nursing his hamstring in hopes of returning this season, Patriots rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell was actively beating Jets’ premiere cornerback Darrelle Revis. Revis has had a tough time with former Dawgs this year, as Green left pieces of Revis all over the field in his 12-catch, 180-yard and one touchdown performance back in week one. This past week, the rookie caught two passes on Revis, one of them was the game winning touchdown with 1:54 left in the game. Mitchell made the most of his five catches, scoring on both. He was also targeted in the end zone after the first touchdown, but the pass slipped through his fingers on a diving effort.
Mitchell has received praise from his future Hall of Fame quarterback, Tom Brady. Brady has compared Mitchell to tight end Rob Gronkowski with his large hands, stature and work ethic.
“He shows up every day with his hard hat on ready to go to work…I’ve just been impressed with him since the day he came in, and just his personality’s infectious. He’s a very positive person, and he made a great play today, made a lot of great plays. He’s growing along with everybody else. It’s been really great to see,” said Brady
With injuries opening opportunities for Mitchell to climb up the depth chart, the rookie has earned the trust of his quarterback and looks to be New England’s deep ball threat as they ready for the playoffs.
When the Los Angeles Rams opted to start their rookie quarterback Jared Goff, the expectation was that it would open running lanes with a capable passer behind center. It could have been because Todd Gurley was limited in practice late in the week with an illness, but Gurley was only given 13 carries against the Saints. His 50 yards rushing was the third lowest total all season and even though the Rams scored more touchdowns than they usually do, Gurley’s production was unchanged. In addition to his production slumping this season, Gurley’s Rams don’t look playoff bound, and Gurley seemed frustrated after the loss, saying, “It’s the same stuff every week,” but the effort is there.