On Monday night, Dec 7, 2015, tight end Jason Witten made his 1000th NFL catch and his Dallas Cowboys defeated the Washington Redskins by the final score of 19-16. Up until the final moments, the game had been a bit of a snoozer, but then it changed quickly and quite dramatically. Not surprisingly, most of the drama centered around emotional Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
The score was tied 9-9 when Dallas punted the ball with under two minutes to play. The speedy Jackson was on the return for Washington. He fielded the punt at his own 16-yard line, but then reversed field back to his own one-yard line and turned up field, in hopes of making a big play. The result was a fumble by Jackson. Dallas punter Chris Jones recovered the loose ball and his team took over at the Washington 15-yard line.
On the ensuing Cowboys possession, it took just two plays for running back Darren McFadden to punch the ball into the end zone with just 1:19 remaining. Leading 16-9, Dallas then kicked off. On the Redskins fourth play from scrimmage, quarterback Kirk Cousins hit Jackson for a 28-yard touchdown to tie the game with 49 seconds left.
Off the Washington kickoff, Lucky Whitehead returned the ball all the way to the Redskins 44-yard line. The Cowboys offense were only able to gain eight additional yards, but that was enough for kicker Dan Bailey to nail a 54-yard game-winning field goal with just a few seconds remaining.
This Monday night thriller brought to a close, the thirteenth week of play in the 2015 NFL season. With all teams now having played 12 games, here is a look at the latest NFL Power Rankings.
1) Last week # 1: Carolina Panthers (12-0) How good is quarterback Cam Newton ? He has actually made a star out of wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. That alone may be reason to name him NFL MVP this season. Not to mention, after surviving a tough test in New Orleans in Week 13, he has his team just four games away from regular season perfection.
2) LW # 4: Cincinnati Bengals (10-2) As expected, the Bengals destroyed Cleveland in their Week 13 matchup. The table is now set for a big Week 14 tussle with the surging Pittsburgh Steelers. This is a decades-old rivalry which on paper, looks like it will be one of the most memorable matchups in recent history. Very good chance it will be the most entertaining game of the week.
3) LW # 3: Arizona Cardinals (10-2) Big test coming this week. Rookie running back David Johnson will have to have a strong outing in order to keep the swarming Minnesota defense, honest. The defense will also be tested, as they must contain Vikings running back Adrian Peterson who seems to have a strong game every other week; last week he ran for just 18 yards.
4) LW # 9: Seattle Seahawks (7-5) At this most important time of the year, the Seahawks are playing their best football. They won a shootout with Pittsburgh in Week 12, and then crushed Minnesota in Week 13. One of the keys has been running back Thomas Rawls who has filled in admirably while Marshawn Lynch remains on the mend.
5) LW # 2: New England Patriots (10-2) The Pats blew a 14-point lead for the second straight week. This is not about a lack of focus, but rather the injury bug has been rather unkind. An offense forced to operate without the services of running back Dion Lewis, wide receiver Julian Edelman and tight end Rob Gronkowski, is bound to start running short on options.
6) LW # 5: Pittsburgh Steelers (7-5) With the emergence of wide receiver Markus Wheaton, the Steelers now have one of the most prolific passing attacks in the NFL. Running back DeAngelo Williams continues to do a great job in the absence of LeVeon Bell. Gamblers would do well to play the ‘over’ in this week’s game against Cincy.
7) LW # 8: Green Bay Packers (8-4) The struggle, scrap, fight and do whatever else is necessary to remain in the playoff hunt. Last week’s unlikely win over Detroit was a testament to their resolve. Erasing a 20-0 second-half deficit is not easy, no matter which teams are playing.
8) LW # 7: Denver Broncos (10-2) Now 3-0 in the Brock Osweiler era. Broncos have a big game with Pittsburgh coming up in Week 13 and will have to be careful to not look past Oakland this week. The question of whether it will be Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler who leads them into the playoffs, remains to be seen.
9) LW # 6: Minnesota Vikings (8-4) As energetic and promising as this team is, this week’s dreadful loss to Seattle continued a troubling trend of not playing well against good opponents. They will face a tough test on Thursday night in Arizona, where Adrian Peterson must be the player to set the table for the offense.
10) LW # 10: Kansas City Chiefs (7-5) The hard part appears to be over. Just so long as they do not get caught “exhaling”, expect the win streak to continue. Winners of six straight games, the Chiefs will finish out the season with games against San Diego, Baltimore, Cleveland and Oakland. It is now quite realistic to think this win streak may reach 10 games.
Honorable mention: New York Jets (7-5) Beat the Giants for bragging rights in New York City. Now they must continue the playoff push. Houston Texans (6-6) Playoffs ? Maybe. They face New England, Indianapolis, Tennessee and Jacksonville in last four games. Indianapolis Colts (6-6) The clock may have struck midnight on 40-year old quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, as the team awaits the return of quarterback Andrew Luck. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6) It is hard not to write about rookie quarterback Jameis Winston every week. Oops. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) Any team which leads a division after 13 weeks (even if it is a three-way tie), must be mentioned.