By Nick Shook
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In baseball, if you succeed three out of 10 times, you’re pretty close to Hall of Fame status. By that way of thinking, this week’s road squads are deserving of induction into immortality.
Six visiting squads won, while the other six lost. For you math wizards at home, that’s a .500 winning percentage. The leaders away from home included blowout wins on the part of New Orleans, Dallas and Atlanta. We had a couple thrillers, too, but we’ll save the excitement for below. These are your road heroes from Week 9.
Greatest on the Road
Golden Tate, Detroit Lions
After connecting with Tate on nearly half of his completions in regulation, Stafford turned to the former Golden Domer for the play that would decide the contest and send Detroit home with a stunning victory. The quarterback found Tate on a deep out on third-and-8 in overtime, where Tate caught the ball and melted the faces of Minnesotans everywhere. Just … just watch.
There’s the balance to deke one defender (whiff, there goes Xavier Rhodes, diving into sideline oblivion), the disrespectful forearm shiver to banish Pro Bowl safety Harrison Smith to the turf, and the side flip celebration that was so rudely interrupted, but not ruined by Andrew Sendejo. The play capped an 11-catch, 79-yard day for Tate, who deserves to walk with his chest out and his head held high for a few days.
You got that right, Lions.
Also considered …
Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
Ingram rushed for 158 yards and a touchdown through San Francisco’s Swiss-cheese defense on 15 carries. His longest run of the day was a 75-yard gallop that saw him reach a top speed of 21.31 mph, per Next Gen Stats. That’s a lot faster than he’d have moved while seated on the bench.
San Francisco continues to struggle against the run. Ingram and teammate Tim Hightower combined for 245 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries. Oh, and Ingram scored earlier in the game on a touchdown reception too, as the Saints put up eye-popping numbers in a 41-23 win over the Niners.
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
It was mildly disappointing in late August when I drafted multiple fantasy football teams, and saw Jason Witten repeatedly overlooked for an injured Tyler Eifert and about 12 other tight ends I don’t care to name in this space. Such disrespect, I thought, for a guy who will almost certainly be in the Hall of Fame someday. I decided I’d fight for his honor by scooping him up late in every draft. Then, Witten’s Cowboys, 6-1 heading into Sunday and facing the league’s doormat in the Cleveland Browns — notoriously horrible against tight ends this season — decided to light it up with just about everyone, Witten included.
The tight end, who has been the most reliable player wearing the famed star in the last decade-plus, put the first points on the board for Dallas, running a flag route and lulling recently acquired Jamie Collins to sleep in coverage, where Witten caught the ball and cruised into the end zone. It only continued from there.
Witten racked up eight catches, with many coming where most receivers in this day and age are afraid to venture: the middle of the field. When I said Witten was reliable, I wasn’t kidding. I would trust him to watch my budding family of small children for hours without reading any reviews of his childcare skills on accredited babysitting websites.
I don’t have kids. But I do have two eyes, and great respect for the play of Jason Witten. His team-leading, eight-catch, 134-yard performance reminded me of the days of old, when he lined up as a legitimate weapon in a target groups that also included Terrell Owens, Miles Austin, Keyshawn Johnson, Terry Glenn, and yes, even Quincy Morgan (in 2004). I’m done gushing here. Good game, Jason — even if it was against the Browns.