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Ten biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 12

With playoff positioning on the line and plenty of desperate teams looking to get in, there was some tremendous football on display in NFL Week 12. Of course, there was a pu pu platter of ineptitude to be witnessed as well.

One of the best things that happened this week occurred for a losing team, as rookie quarterback Jared Goff threw his first three touchdowns of the season. His performance was a spark of hope for a franchise that desperately needs it.

On the other end of the spectrum, Houston Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler continued to underwhelm and absolutely threw the game away against the San Diego Chargers.

We’ll take a look at both of these performances and plenty more as we break down the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 12.

Winner: Justin Tucker is simply magnificent

The Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals were locked into a defensive battle that featured just two touchdowns and three turnovers. It was a sloppy affair in which Andy Dalton fumbled the ball four times (losing two) while Joe Flacco continued to struggle.

The biggest difference in the contest was the leg of Tucker. Baltimore’s kicker came into the weekend without a blemish on his record this season and stayed perfect with four made field goals on four attempts and a converted extra-point attempt. Three of his four made field goals were over 50 yards, making him the second kicker in NFL history to accomplish such a feat in one half.

In total, Tucker finished the game having accounted for 13 of Baltimore’s 19 total points. His feats of greatness were only further amplified when Cincinnati’s kicker, Mike Nugent, shanked his only extra-point attempt of the game.

After watching the league’s kickers set a new record in futility last weekend, Tucker’s continued excellence on Sunday was a breath of fresh air.

Loser: Bears receivers fail Matt Barkley

The Chicago Bears had a legitimate chance to log their third win of the season Sunday, but drops by receivers robbed them of breaking through.

In total, Chicago pass catchers dropped 10 passes at home against the Tennessee Titans, including two touchdowns on the game’s final offensive possession.

Receiver Deonte Thompson had the ball right in his hands on the final offensive play of the game for Chicago. At that point, the Bears were down by six, and the play should have given the Bears a chance to win.

Afterwards, Thompson lamented his inability to make the key play for his team, saying, “I should’ve had it. I saw it late. I’ve got to make that play,” per Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune.

Marquess Wilson added, “Us a receiving corps, we’re upset because it was in our hands and we didn’t answer the call.”

In a season marred by a constant stream of mistakes, Bears fans shouldn’t be surprised by Sunday’s inept display. But that doesn’t mean they took the brutal loss any easier.

The drops weren’t the only reason Chicago lost. Matt Barkley threw two interceptions, which led to three points for the Titans. But he was otherwise pretty darn good. The bottom line is this: When they had a chance to win the game, the Bears failed to execute on the most basic of levels.

Winner: Bills rediscover offensive magic as Sammy Watkins returns to lineup

The Buffalo Bills have been shorthanded on offense since Week 2, which was the last time receiver Sammy Watkins played. After re-aggravating the foot injury that cost him most of training camp, Watkins was placed on IR. The Bills finally activated him on Saturday and he made his return to action Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It was a triumphant game for Watkins, who aided Buffalo’s cause with three catches for 80 yards, including a 62-yard bomb over rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

The speedy receiver didn’t play a ton yet made his mark when he did get his chance to shine. This huge catch set up a Tyrod Taylor rushing score late in the third quarter.

Taylor was efficient, going 12-of-18 for 166 yards with a touchdown pass to Justin Hunter in the fourth quarter that proved to be the game-winning score. But the star of the game was LeSean McCoy, who ended up totaling 134 yards and two touchdowns on just 21 touches. He added this massive score for good measure in the first half (watch here).

In total, Buffalo put together an extremely clean game with 304 yards, four touchdowns and no turnovers to post their second win in a row and move to 6-5 on the season. With five games left to play, the Bills are right in the thick of things to potentially earn an AFC Wild Card spot and break their 16-year playoff drought.

Loser: Brock Osweiler continues to make rookie mistakes

In a game that was very winnable for the Houston Texans, Brock Osweiler laid an egg.

Throwing three interceptions total, including one on the game’s final play, Osweiler led an anemic offensive attack that managed just 13 points against a San Diego club that came into the game with the NFL’s fifth-worst scoring defense.

We’ll go ahead and discount the third interception, as it came on the final play of the game on a Hail Mary attempt. But his first two were inexcusable.

The first was a late throw on an out route — one of the cardinal sins for NFL quarterbacks. This led to a touchdown for the Chargers.

The second was a simple overthrow in the middle of the field as he attempted to hit 6-foot-5 tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. And Osweiler threw way over his head.

All year long, we’ve been harping on the poor play of Osweiler, noting the Texans have won most of their games in spite of him, not because of him. Sunday’s game marked the ninth time this season that Osweiler threw at least one interception and was his third multi-interception game.

In total, he has thrown 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 11 games. That’s not good.

Houston is awfully lucky to be positioned in the AFC South right now. With a record of 6-5 it is still in first place. But there can be no doubt at this point that Osweiler is a liability, rather than the franchise passer the Texans thought they had when they gave him big money this spring.

Winner: Taylor Gabriel proves big things come in small packages

Atlanta Falcons receiver Taylor Gabriel isn’t the biggest guy in the locker room. In fact, he’s among the smallest players in the NFL at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds. But the diminutive receiver exploded with a humongous game for Atlanta Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, sparking a 38-19 win.

It all started near the end of the second quarter. Knotted up at 10-10, the two teams were engaged in what was at the time quite a competitive battle. Until this happened.

Taking a simple screen 35 yards to the house, Gabriel’s touchdown set the stage for what ended up being a home-cooked blowout for the Falcons. He added a 25-yard score on what appeared to be the identical play call in the third quarter.

Gabriel finished with four catches for 75 yards and the two touchdowns, leading Atlanta’s passing offense in a game that saw Julio Jones catch just four passes for 35 yards.

As one final note here, we were quite amused that whoever runs Atlanta’s Twitter feed took the opportunity Sunday to troll the Cleveland Browns for releasing Gabriel earlier this year.

Ouch.

Loser: Seahawks’ offense MIA in Tampa Bay

There isn’t much positive Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks can take away from their trip to Tampa Bay this Sunday. The young Bucs got off to a hot start, scoring two early touchdowns as Mike Evans owned Richard Sherman in the first quarter.

That’s all Tampa Bay would need. In a must-win game for the Buccaneers, their defense showed up huge to help deliver a 14-5 win over one of the best teams in the NFC this year.

Russell Wilson battled valiantly as we’ve grown to expect, but he had little help. Seattle’s offensive line allowed six sacks and a ghastly 11 quarterback hits as Tampa Bay’s front line teed off on the unfortunate Wilson.

Making matters worse, the offensive line was just as abysmal in the run game. Thomas Rawls managed just 38 yards on 12 carries, and Wilson ended up leading the team with 80 yards on eight carries as he ran for his life.

In the end, Wilson finished with two interceptions while the Seahawks totaled just 245 yards and converted just 1-of-11 third downs. This, coming against a defense that ranked among the bottom half of the league in yards and points allowed before Week 12.

At least Seattle can hang its hat on the fact that the rest of the NFC West lost Sunday as well.

Winner: Raiders still have that late-game magic

Derek Carr led the Oakland Raiders to yet another late-game win, his fifth of the year and 10th the past two years, in a 35-32 victory over the Carolina Panthers.

Obviously, this one wasn’t without its challenges. The Panthers fought tooth and nail in a losing cause, and Carr was forced out of the game after suffering a nasty injury to his pinky finger on his throwing hand, no less.

For a while it looked like the Panthers were going to run away with the game, scoring 25 unanswered points to lead by eight early in the fourth quarter. In the middle of all that, Carr threw a terrible interception to linebacker Thomas Davis and Cam Newton connected with Ted Ginn Jr. on an 88-yard strike (watch here).

It was natural to wonder if the Raiders were destined to see their four-game winning streak come to an end.

That’s when the team’s late-game magic machine kicked into high gear.

Carr engineered a 10-play drive drive in which he went 5-of-6 for 47 yards, showing no ill effects from his finger injury, and capped it off with a touchdown strike to tight end Clive Walford. Carr also hit Seth Roberts on the two-point conversion to tie the game up at 32-32.

The Raiders’ defense stiffened up on the next Panthers drive, forcing a punt. Then Oakland’s offense came through for the second time in a row with a 12-play drive that chewed up 82 yards in three minutes, 20 seconds and ended with a successful field goal.

At this point, there was still nearly two minutes remaining in the game, which was more than enough time for Newton and Co. to at least tie the game up. But that didn’t happen, thanks to the outstanding strip-sack of Khalil Mack, who had one of the best defensive days in the NFL since 2009 (more on that here).

As we’ve seen so many times this year, Oakland is unflappable under pressure. Now with a record of 9-2, the Raiders are tied with the New England Patriots atop the AFC with five games left to play.

Loser: Colts prove how dependent they are on Luck

The Indianapolis Colts had zero chance of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving Day without Andrew Luck, who was out with a concussion.

Scott Tolzien managed to move the offense, throwing for 13 first downs and finishing with 205 yards and a touchdown on 22-of-36 passing. But he also threw two fourth quarter interceptions, which directly led to seven points for the Steelers.

Pittsburgh’s offense honestly didn’t have to do all that much to come away victorious. Yet thanks to the consistently bad defense the Colts have featured all year, they did more than enough. Ben Roethlisberger passed for 221 yards and three touchdowns while attempting just 20 passes, while Le’Veon Bell ran wild to the tune of 120 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

It’s quite clear that the Colts feature a terrible overall roster. Thankfully they have Luck to make up for a multitude of sins most games. But he was unavailable for this one, and the results speak volumes.

They lost by the score of 28-7, and the Steelers didn’t have to be on their A-game to win.

Winner: Jared Goff shows promise, throws three TDs 

It’s a rare thing to include a player from a losing team as a winner for our weekly list. But we had to make an exception for Los Angeles Rams quarterback, Jared Goff.

But before we get to the rookie, New Orleans deserves plenty of recognition for what it accomplished in a 49-21 blowout win over Goff’s Rams. Going up against a defense that had been shutting offenses down of late, Drew Brees was magnificent passing for 310 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Heck, head coach Sean Payton was feeling the flow so much that he called for a trick play late in the game that was pulled off to perfection for a 50-yard touchdown (watch here).

New Orleans desperately needed a win in order to remain within striking distance of the Falcons. And the Saints showed up big.

The same can be said for Goff, who was sharp for most of the game.

He finished with 214 yards on 20-of-32 passing with three touchdowns and one interception. Displaying all the traits that made him the No. 1 pick of the 2016 NFL Draft (watch his first touchdown here), Goff’s performance gave Rams fans something to look forward to as the team moves into the future.

Loser: Gary Kubiak gifts Chiefs with amazing field position late in OT

Let’s be honest, through most of the first three quarters, Sunday night’s game pitting AFC West rivals Kansas City against Denver was about as fun as a late-night trip to the emergency room.

But then things got interesting.

After being dead for most of the game, Alex Smith got Kansas City’s offense going late in the third quarter. The Chiefs scored a touchdown for the first time on offense after a crazy sequence gave them their first nine points (watch here), and suddenly a game that looked like it would inevitably fall to the home team wasn’t so certain.

Both teams put on an entertaining show in the fourth quarter, which saw the Broncos score two touchdowns before Smith led an improbable touchdown-scoring drive in the final seconds. He then tied the game up with a successful two-point conversion.

Overtime beckoned.

Both offenses moved the ball but were unable to convert touchdowns, trading field goals instead.

Trevor Siemian, who played an outstanding game, drove Denver into Kansas City territory late in the overtime period but could not quite move his team into normal scoring range. On 4th-and-10 at the Kansas City 44-yard line, Denver head coach Gary Kubiak got gutsy and called for kicker Brandon McManus to attempt a game-winning 62-yard field goal.

Not surprisingly, McManus missed, pulling it wide left as he attempted to drive it hard.

It’s easy to say Kubiak had to make that call or suffer a tie, except his defense had been all over Alex Smith all night long. If he had punted and pinned the Chiefs deep, then it’s quite possible the Broncos could have forced a turnover or even gotten the ball back.

Instead, he turned the ball over to Kansas City’s offense, which took over at Denver’s 48-yard line after the missed kick. An offsides penalty on DeMarcus Ware got the Chiefs even closer to field goal range, and just a few plays later, Smith had them right in range. Cairo Santos made the 34-yard field goal to win the game for Kansas City, 30-27.

Yet even this play wasn’t without its tense moments, as Santos banked the kick in off the left upright.

The win gave Kansas City a huge leg up over Denver in the competitive AFC Playoff race. Just one game behind Oakland, the Chiefs enter Week 13 with an 8-3 record and some momentum heading down the home stretch.

On the other side, Denver has now dropped two of its last three games and finds itself two games back.

Yardbarker: NFL