American Football Expert & Columnist
Pick Six: 49ers deliver statement and Jason Garrett comes up short
Last Updated: 27/11/19 7:26am
There were some big games on the slate in Week 12 and some of the victors in those decisive contests showed they have the steel to go the distance in the race to reach Super Bowl 54 in Miami in February.
And that's where this Pick Six column starts with a San Francisco 49ers team that improved to an NFL-best 10-1 record on Sunday night.
49ers deliver statement win
The San Francisco 49ers went into Sunday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers about to embark on the toughest three-game run this late into a season in the Super Bowl era. After the Packers, the Niners visit the Baltimore Ravens and the New Orleans Saints.
Kyle Shanahan's men made the perfect start to that three-game stand by delivering a 37-8 beatdown on the Green Bay Packers. Jimmy Garoppolo looked sharp as he threw for 253 yards and two scores and the return of George Kittle at tight end (six catches for 129 yards and one touchdown) was most welcome.
But it was San Francisco's defense that stole the show, limiting the Packers to 81 net passing yards, sacking Aaron Rodgers five times and coming up with one sure tackle after another. There are tough challenges ahead, for sure, but these Niners do look like the class of the NFC.
Patriots deliver another team victory
In a driving rainstorm at Foxboro, the New England Patriots got a little of something from everybody in a 13-9 win over the Dallas Cowboys. There were just enough big plays from quarterback Tom Brady but, as he pointed out after last week's win at Philadelphia, these Pats are going to lean heavily on defense and special teams.
New England's top-ranked defense certainly won the battle of number ones, holding Dallas to just three field goals and Stephon Gilmore was particularly outstanding in the secondary. Matthew Slater and the special teams unit came up big with a blocked punt and, of course, coaching gave the Patriots a huge edge throughout the game.
There is rarely anything pretty about these Patriots nowadays, but they dig deep and hustle and battle to victories, which is why they are not going away this season. Winning is in this team's DNA as they completed an NFL record 17th straight campaign with at least 10 victories.
Garrett comes up short
There were a couple of strange coaching moments for Jason Garrett as the Dallas Cowboys fell to the Patriots. First up was an example of how teams sometimes seem to play scared against Bill Belichick.
Dallas were about to punt when Belichick came with a line-up that did not feature a return man. It completely blew the Cowboys' minds and they took a delay of game penalty. On the next kick, New England were backed up to their own 18 only for an illegal motion foul to be called against Dallas. When the Cowboys did finally punt the ball away, New England took over on their own 38.
But the worst call for Garrett came with just over six minutes remaining when the Cowboys kicked a short field goal instead of going for it on fourth down from the New England 11. Given the poor weather and New England's stingy defense, I would not have assumed getting that close would happen again. And it didn't, meaning Garrett's conservative nature came back to bite him.
Jets getting hot
It is too little, too late but the form of the New York Jets might yet keep Adam Gase in employment as head coach. And the showings from Sam Darnold at quarterback certainly offer hope for the future.
Darnold had one of the best games of his young career during Sunday's 34-3 demolition of the Oakland Raiders. He threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for another score as the Jets won their third in a row.
Wentz hears the boos
Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles heard the boos at home on Sunday after a second straight discouraging loss in front of their own fans. A week after playing poorly against New England, Wentz and the Eagles' offense were culpable in a 17-9 loss to Seattle.
Philly's only touchdown came with 20 seconds remaining in a game in which the Eagles turned the ball over five times. Wentz is indecisive and inaccurate far too often, but he also has to hold onto the ball for longer than would be ideal while he waits for a sub-par group of receivers to get open.
The good news for the Eagles is that their schedule softens over the next three weeks and they remain within striking distance of the Cowboys. The bad news is that they don't appear capable of making any noise at all if they do make the playoffs. And this year there can be no Nick Foles riding to the rescue.
Bills dominant on defense
What appeared to be a routine 20-3 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday night was actually quite significant for the Buffalo Bills, who are now 8-3 for the first time since 1996.
This contest allowed Josh Allen to continue his growth at quarterback and the Bills appear content to let him do it with his arm and his legs now. And this was also a game in which Buffalo reminded us that their defense is stern and tough to break down, particularly through the air where they held Denver to 49 net passing yards.
The Bills have allowed an NFL-low 43 passing touchdowns in 43 games under the leadership of Sean McDermott.