By Nick Shook
Read full post on NFL.com
Some NFL teams had to spend Christmas Eve or Christmas Day on the road. Most of them looked like they’d rather be home.
You can’t blame them, of course, but their performances warranted coal in their stockings. Of the first 15 games of Week 16, road teams went 5-10. That’s worse than stale fruitcake or overcooked turkey. Christmas ham? Road squads weren’t getting any of that with these performances.
But then, there were the heroes of the holiday weekend. Miami saw its wrecking ball of a runner regain his steam, David Johnson broke enough records to surround a Christmas tree and a certain quarterback has Atlanta flying high into the playoffs.
These are your greatest guys from Week 16.
Greatest on the Road
Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
Ajayi took the league by storm in a two-week stretch of back-to-back 200-plus-yard games. We dove deep into what worked for Miami and Ajayi in this Next Gen Stats piece, but two weeks later, it disappeared.
Ajayi followed a 111-yard performance with six straight games with less than 100 yards from weeks 10-15. Miami became a pass-first team, piling up wins on the arm of Ryan Tannehill until he went down with a season-ending injury. Two weeks later, Miami again met Buffalo, the team that received the roughest treatment from Ajayi in 2016. The running back did it again Saturday.
Ajayi toted the rock 32 times for 206 yards and one touchdown, again serving as the life of the Dolphins‘ offense. Buffalo has struggled mightily to stop the run and couldn’t possibly look any worse than when Ajayi broke what would have been a Spencer Johnson tackle for loss, then stiff-armed a defender and won the sprint to the pylon for a score that might have stolen some of Johnson’s manhood. Ajayi topped a banner day with a 57-yard dash that set the Dolphins up for a winning field goal, and ultimately put the Dolphins in the playoffs.
Also considered …
David Johnson, Arizona Cardinals
With the playoffs no longer possible, the Cardinals didn’t have much to play for in the final weeks of the season. You wouldn’t have known it had you tuned into the game against Seattle, though.
Johnson has been playing for the record books as of late, though he might not be taking the field with the marks on his mind. The multi-talented runner tied Barry Sanders with his 15th straight game with 100-plus yards from scrimmage, catching two passes of 13 and 29 yards on the Cardinals‘ winning drive. Johnson finished with 95 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 28 attempts, breaking the Cardinals‘ single-season record for touchdowns with 18.
Johnson also broke 2,000 yards from scrimmage on the year, becoming the first Cardinal to do so. Oh, and his two catches on that final drive helped set up Chandler Catanzaro‘s wild field goal, which won the game for Arizona. Not a bad day at the office.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Ryan has been the model of efficiency in Atlanta’s three-game run of glory, and while they’ve come against less-than-stellar opponents, his effectiveness in the passing game can’t be ignored. Ryan opened the game 10 for 10 and the Falcons had yet another early lead. He finished 27-of-33 passing for 277 yards and two touchdowns, and another Falcons win.
Thanks to its passing game, the Falcons are soaring. They’re flying so high right now, Julio Jones didn’t even need to give it his all in his first game back from injury, and for good reason: Those important contests will come in January. Until then, Atlanta will keep throwing (and running) with relative ease, keep winning and keep moving toward its ultimate goal of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.