By Nick Shook
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Another week has come and almost gone, and the road teams have something to hang on their collective mantles, right above their stockings and wedged between framed photos of an awkward Eli Manning face, Antonio Brown‘s most memorable touchdown celebrations and shots of Bill Belichick’s sideline attire, arranged like your favorite seasonal catalog. Want to buy Belichick’s winter hat, cut from the oppressive clutches of elastic? Mail in the order form and a check, and you can pair it with your long-sleeved hoodie cut into a short-sleeved hoodie for the deal of the century at just $29.99 plus shipping.
But enough with your holiday wardrobe selections. As the road teams deck the halls with boughs of holly, they can gather for a family photo with big grins displaying their pride in their Week 14 performances. That’s right — this week, the squads away from home went 7-8 with Baltimore owning a Monday night chance to ship a gift of a .500 week back to road team headquarters. As gifts are wrapped, eggnog is sipped and candy canes unwrapped to be enjoyed, we take a look at the week’s stars on the road.
Greatest on the Road
Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers
Snow is part of life in the northeast and midwest. Rosters of teams located in cities in these regions take into account a changing climate and a shift in strategy as the temperature drops and precipitation rises. No need to worry about throwing a wet football — that’s what a bellcow running back is for.
No team embodied this approach more in Week 14 than the Steelers. Pittsburgh arrived to the cold, heartless welcome of a steady snowfall in western New York and didn’t blink, handing the ball to Bell early and often. The runner made the Steelers‘ front office thinkers resemble geniuses in Week 14, rushing for 236 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries. No matter that the grounds crew kicked up piles of rubber pellets at halftime — the snow provided plenty of cushion for the running back, who took carries, found holes and bounced off defenders en route to big gains.
Bell even caught four passes out of the backfield for 62 yards, bringing his all-purpose yards total to 298 for the day. The combo of Bell on the ground and in the air made a nightmare of a Sunday for the reeling Bills and an even uglier outcome for fantasy owners facing him. Heavy snowfall in forecast? Ring the Bell. Pittsburgh reaped the reward Sunday.
Also considered …
Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons
Entering Sunday deadlocked for the NFC South lead with Tampa Bay, Atlanta needed a victory to at least ensure the tie would remain. The Falcons did that and more in Los Angeles.
A swarming Atlanta defense harassed rookie quarterback Jared Goff all afternoon, piling on the Rams‘ mistakes by creating more. Beasley was at the center of the pressure, recording all three of the Falcons‘ sacks, including a strip sack that turned into six points for Atlanta. Beasley burned right tackle Rob Havenstein, batted the arm of Goff to force the fumble, recovered the loose ball and sprinted to the end zone to extend Atlanta’s lead to 42-0 and cap a blowout win over the Rams.
The pressure forced Goff into an interception returned for a touchdown and another that bounced off his intended receiver’s hands, kept the Rams off the scoreboard and, with Tampa Bay later winning at home over New Orleans, secured a much-needed road win to remain in a tie for the division lead.
Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
As the unexpected leader of the Redskins, Cousins has Washington in the thick of the playoff race. A win with each week is crucial to remain in contention, and late in the fourth, things looked dire for the Redskins. That’s when Cousins went to work.
He’s often been referred to as surgical by the Redskins faithful, and he was just that on the final drive. After completing an 80-yard touchdown to DeSean Jackson earlier in the contest, Cousins hit receivers left and right as the Redskins moved down the field. He placed a pass between two defenders to Jamison Crowder to put the Redskins into Philadelphia territory, found Pierre Garcon on fourth-and-1 to continue the drive and moved Washington inside Philadelphia’s 25, where running back Chris Thompson capped the winning drive with a touchdown run.
Cousins’ final line: 14-of-21 passing, 234 yards, two touchdowns. Led by Cousins, Washington’s offense did just enough to squeak past Philadelphia and improve to 7-5-1.