By Nick Shook | NFL.com
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The word of Week 14 is “mobility.”
Mobile quarterbacks put on impressive road performances, and a certain running back (whom we’ll mention later) used his mobility to become the first since Walter Payton to post 200-plus yards from scrimmage in three straight games.
Week 14 was also a great week for mobile teams — those playing away from home — which won 10 of 15 road games.
Mobile quarterback Teddy Bridgewater posted his fifth win as a starter, a total greater than the rest of the rookie quarterbacks combined this season.
Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck used his mobility to score a rushing touchdown in a hotly contested game that produced a road victory for the Colts. Speedy receiver T.Y. Hilton wasn’t too shabby, either, scoring the game-winning touchdown in the final minute and posting a final stat line of 10 catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. That man canmove.
Here are this week’s most magnificent men of mobility.
Greatest on the Road …
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Cam Newton has been a shell of himself all season, which is part of the reason why Carolina has only rarely looked like the reigning NFC South champions. None of this was true on Sunday.
Newton still didn’t look nearly as fast as he has in the past, but against the Saints, he was slippery. The quarterback sparked the Carolina offense on second-and-5 with a run that was about twice as long laterally as it was vertically to put the Panthers in Saints territory. Newton then found Kelvin Benjamin in the corner of the end zone four plays later to quickly give the Panthers the lead.
A Graham Gano field goal and New Orleans turnover later, Newton was back on the offensive, capping a six-play, 60-yard drive with a two-yard dive up the middle for six. Of course, that’s when things got feisty.
|Cam Newton‘s last seven games|
|Week 7-13||Week 14|
Fracas is a fun word to say, but it’s not always fun to experience first-hand. Newton did his trademark Superman celebration, but it was a little too close to the grill of Curtis Lofton, who took offense. Then the fracas broke out.
I have two younger sisters. When they were young children, they’d often put on dance performances for whichever passing soul would stop and watch. Then, in the middle of said performance, they’d disagree on who owned the lead role, argue, push, shove, slap fight and maybe pull some hair. It always escalated rather quickly. This was similar that, except it was grown men in football gear in front of 70,000 people and a regional television audience. And it got much more violent.
Skirmish or not, Newton’s touchdown stood, and it only fueled a Panthers team that suddenly appeared unstoppable. Later in the half, Newton found tight end Greg Olsen wide open in the end zone for another touchdown, and the rout was on.
SuperCam finished with 21 completions on 33 attempts, 226 yards passing, three touchdowns, 83 yards rushing and another touchdown on the ground. That’s four total touchdowns for those of you counting at home, and one win for a Carolina team that is inexplicably still in the hunt for the NFC South crown.
Also considered …
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
I swear, I don’t play favorites with quarterbacks. But as Chris Wesseling said in Around The NFL’s Week 14 podcast, Wilson was the best player on the field in Philadelphia on Sunday.
This was a pretty big game for both teams. Sitting atop the NFC East thanks to its high-flying offense, Philadelphia welcomed the reigning Super Bowl champions to the Linc, with the Eagles eager to prove they’re ready to sit at the adult table.
Seattle, a team that appears to be exiting hibernation in the nastiest and angriest of ways, dropped the hammer on backup quarterback Mark Sanchez, limiting him to just 10-of-20 passing for 96 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. More importantly, the defense held Sanchez and the Philadelphia offense, averaging 35 points a game under Sanchez, to 14 points. All Wilson had to do was not screw up, right?
Wrong. Philadelphia’s defense might not be the stingiest statistically, but it still presents quite a challenge, one that Wilson attacked most effectively when he was able to freelance.
Freelance. We hear that word a lot nowadays in reference to the mobile quarterback generation, but it’s very apparent that when Wilson takes matters into his own hands, he’s at his best.
I mean, look at his highlight reel from Sunday; it’s filled with plays that Wilson extended with his feet and completed with both his feet and his arm. He drops back on one play just before halftime, turns one way to run, then jukes the opposite way and sends Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox stumbling and barrel rolling to the turf. I still can’t stop laughing at that film. That play should be on an Instagram highlight reel of killer crossovers. Double-tap if you like Russell Wilson‘s moves.
Early in the third quarter, Wilson rolled right, and by now the Eagles‘ defense decided it should honor his mobility. Bad move.
Wilson floated right, stopped and looked left like he had planned it all along, lofting a pass to Marshawn Lynch, who had snuck out of the backfield. Lynch caught the pass, broke a helpless defender’s attempt at a tackle and waltzed into the end zone.
Wilson ran one in himself as well, and found Doug Baldwin on a touchdown pass that extended Seattle’s lead to 24-14 early in the third, a score that stood firm through the final whistle. Final stats: 22-of-37 passing, 263 yards, two passing touchdowns; 10 rushes, 48 yards, one rushing touchdown. Not a bad day at the office.
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
I’m a traditionalist, which means I adhere to the Woody Hayes philosophy of “Three yards and a cloud of dust.” I still believe a good running game will win you games, and in turn, win you a title.
This was incredibly evident in the fourth quarter, when the Steelers — trailing 21-17 — hung a 25-spot on the Bengals. They started the fourth with a bang, handing the ball off to Bell, who took it 53 yards to the Cincinnati 27. The drive ended in a field goal, bringing the Steelers within one at 21-20.
Four plays after an Andy Dalton fumble at Cincinnati’s 24, Bell took a handoff off left tackle. The former Michigan State Spartan broke multiple tackles on his way to the goal line, a plane he broke with an outstretched arm and football in hand, giving the Steelers a 28-21 advantage they would not relinquish.
If that didn’t show how important Bell — and the run game in general — is to Pittsburgh’s success, a 94-yard play-action bomb from Ben Roethlisberger to Martavis Bryant might help.
Facing a first-and-10 deep in its own territory, Pittsburgh clung onto a one-possession lead. Cincinnati stacked six defenders on the line, expecting a run to Bell like everyone else in attendance. Luckily for Stiller Nation, Todd Haley wasn’t going down that easy, dialing up a fake handoff to his marquee back and unleashing Bryant against man-free coverage. Bryant’s top-flight speed was on display, burning every Bengals defensive back for six.
Finally, we return to Bell with less than six minutes to play. On a six-play drive, the bruising back toted the rock four times for a combined 41 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown run that iced it for Pittsburgh. Final stat line for Bell: 26 carries, 185 yards, two touchdowns.
Bell is arguably the best running back in football right now, and in an era somewhat devoid of big names in the backfield, it’s refreshing. What’s played out, however, is the “For whom Le’Veon Bell tolls” puns. Let’s retire those, and keep watching the man carve up and bulldoze defenses.