By Nick Shook
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It’s a good thing we lovers of football and various hearty dishes had a holiday to celebrate this week, because the road squads sure didn’t give us a reason to party.
If it wasn’t for Kansas City’s stunning overtime win over Denver on Sunday Night Football, we’d have only had five wins for teams away from home all week. Thankfully, we’re sitting at 6-9 with the Packers-Eagles contest yet to be played. We can become the equivalent of the Jeff Fisher era in St. Louis and Los Angeles if the Packers pull out a victory tonight. Hope springs eternal, even if this column doesn’t have the future of it riding on the shoulders of Jared Goff.
We’re riding a defensive theme, because a couple of edge rushers embarrassed some offensive linemen this week. May their dreams (or nightmares) consist only of happy thoughts, like effective pass protection drops and successfully blocked stunts.
These are your road heroes from Week 12.
Greatest on the Road
Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs
So much for being injured.
In his second game of a season that saw a late start, Justin Houston looked like his old self, if not better than ever. The outside linebacker bullied any offensive lineman the Denver Broncosplaced in his path, obliterating Ty Sambrailo (a guard who looked uncomfortable playing tackle), then putting a clown suit on Russell Okung (resulting in a safety) and also shifting right past Donald Stephenson.
Houston employed an array of pass-rushing moves, using the speed rush and bull rush against Sambrailo, juking inside and using a rip move against Stephenson and just sprinting between Okung and guard Max Garcia with no regard for their presence whatsoever. Houston wreaked havoc that affected Denver even when he wasn’t getting to quarterback Trevor Siemian (would you want to line up against a pass rusher who is that good?). Denver had to account for Houston on all downs, and his defensive presence, as well as his plays made resulted in three sacks, a forced fumble and 10 total tackles. Oh, and a division victory on the road for the Chiefs.
Also considered …
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Thanksgiving Day gave us two hefty helpings of thrilling football. The third dish left some to be desired.
Antonio Brown made sure of that from the outset. Brown victimized Vontae Davis in man coverage, scoring twice on the corner in the first half as the Steelersbuilt a 21-7 lead. We don’t even need to explain what he did to beat Davis, because we see it on an almost weekly basis. Quick cuts, precisely run routes and top-end speed put AB in the end zone twice, and again a third time in the fourth quarter when Brown ran a wheel route through zone coverage and caught his third touchdown of the day, which iced the win for the Steelers.
Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants
Harassing a Browns quarterback hasn’t been a tall task this season, thanks to their offensive line that was patchwork at best and barely still standing at this point. Regardless, Pierre-Paul deserves this honor.
The Giants‘ famed rusher dominated Austin Pasztor, leaving Browns quarterback Josh McCown with little time to throw and nowhere to run. JPP was even there to catch a pass that was knocked out of McCown’s hand, ruled a fumble, which Pierre-Paul returned 44 yards for an uncontested touchdown that sealed the win for New York. Pierre-Paul’s final stat line was, somehow, even more impressive than the tape: five tackles, two assists, three sacks and one forced fumble. The Giants‘ front four looks stronger with each week.
Be sure to watch Tuesday’s new episode of “Tackle My Ride” on NFL Network at 8 p.m. EST, featuring Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.