It’s common knowledge in sports that, if you take care of your own business, you don’t have to worry about anybody else as far as the standings are concerned.
While this is entirely true, getting some help along the way is never a bad thing. This column will be compldetely dedicated to the results of the other three NFC South teams throughout the season, and hopefully we’ll be able to bask in their failures together.
The division is out of reach for the Falcons at this point, but let’s keep up with how the division foes are doing anyway.
The Dallas Cowboys officially clinched the NFC East with this victory against the Buccaneers. It was a game which they were in control of throughout almost the entire afternoon.
Tampa Bay took the lead on the first drive of the game, after Jameis Winston marched his offense down the field and settled for a field goal. Dallas immediately answered with a touchdown via Dak Prescott on a run. On Tampa’s ensuing drive, Winston fumbled and had it recovered for a touchdown by Jaylen Smith.
Dallas never relinquished their lead, although the Bucs did score a touchdown to make it 17-13 right before the half. They had the opportunity to get within one point but missed yet another field goal, which sparked a run of 10 points unanswered by the Cowboys.
Dallas would lead by 14 points through most of the fourth quarter before a Mike Evans touchdown cut that advantage in half. With so little time remaining following that score, however (just 2:12 minutes), an onside kick recovery by Dallas sealed the game.
Dak Prescott recorded 161 passing yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, while adding two rushing yards and the rushing score. Ezekiel Elliot had 85 yards on the ground, and added 24 receiving yards. Michael Gallup was the leading receiver with 53 receiving yards and a score.
Jameis Winston accounted for 336 passing yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Peyton Barber was once again largely inefficient with 43 rushing yards on 17 carries, while Mike Evans was the main receiving threat with 90 receiving yards and the lone touchdown through the air.
It felt like the Pittsburgh Steelers had overcome an absolutely atrocious penalty call which set up New Orleans’ first touchdown, to stake their claim to a victory in the Superdome, but then they shot themselves in the foot.
The Saints, aided by a couple of highly questionable (and borderline ridiculous) pass interference penalties, got out to a 14-6 lead after Taysum Hill threw an interception on their first drive. The Steelers showed that they weren’t going away following a 15-play touchdown drive in the second quarter, which they used to tie the game. It would be the first of three straight TD drives for Pittsburgh, who took control with a 28-24 lead and possession.
In field goal range and with that lead, Pittsburgh dialed up a run play to Steven Ridley on 3rd-and-2 out of a one-receiver set goal line I-formation. Against a stacked box (obviously), Ridley fumbled and gave the ball away.
Following a block on Wil Lutz’s field goal attempt and a Steeler 4-and-out, New Orleans used a 10-play touchdown-scoring drive to take a 31-28 lead. The Steelers made it back into FG range but Juju Smith-Schuster fumbled away their opportunity.
Ben Roethlisberger had 380 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Jaylen Samuels had 53 rushing yards in his third straight start in relief of the injured James Connor. Antonio Brown exploded with 185 receiving yards and two touchdown catches.
Drew Brees accounted for 326 passing yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Mark Ingram was the leading rusher with 35 yards and a score, while Alvin Kamara had two rushing touchdowns. Michael Thomas was the leading receiver with 109 yards and a score.
NFC South Standings after Week 15
2. Atlanta Falcons (6-9 overall record; 3-2 divisional record) - Next at Buccaneers
3. Carolina Panthers (6-9 overall record; 1-4 divisional record) - Next at Saints
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-10 overall record; 2-3 divisional record) - Next vs. Falcons