Week 11 on the NFL schedule is almost in the books (we still have Monday Night Football) and the best performances deserve to be recognized by our MMQB staff. Even if you’re feeling down because your team didn’t win, maybe one of your favorite players or coaches gets awarded a game ball by our staff.
Here are this week’s standouts:
Mitch Goldich: Marcus Jones, punt returner, Patriots. This comes down to a philosophical viewpoint on the concept of game balls. Must they be reserved for the players who made the biggest overall impact throughout the game? Or can you give one out for a single game-changing play? I think in this particular case, we can highlight a guy for one play. Jones scored the only touchdown of the day in Foxborough on an 84-yard punt return with just five seconds left as he crossed the goal line to break a 3–3 tie between the Patriots and Jets. It’s hard to have a bigger swing in win probability than on a play like that, so we’ll give him the game ball for his efforts. (If he wants to share this honor with his blockers, that’s his call.)
Michael Fabiano: Jamaal Williams, RB, Lions. Some players are said to have a nose for the end zone, but when it comes to Williams, it’s more like a magnetic pull. The Lions running back had a touchdown hat-trick in the team’s Week 11 upset of the Giants. No running back has scored more than once against New York after it allowed just four scores to running backs in its first nine games. Williams now leads the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns.
Claire Kuwana: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Lions. There was a lot of talk surrounding whether or not Hutchinson would live up to being the second pick in the draft, but the Rookie out of Michigan has had no problem Proving his worth this season, and this win against the Giants solidified that. His two takeaways—one recovered fumble and one interception—make him the only player in the league this season with at least three sacks and three takeaways, and the only rookie to have multiple sacks and interceptions. He’s a uniquely dynamic defensive lineman, and his versatility will help him build a case for Defensive Rookie of the Year.
John Pluym: Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, Falcons. Patterson owns the NFL record now for kick return touchdowns with nine after his 103-yarder for a score against the Bears on Sunday. Patterson, a former first-round pick of the Vikings, is also tied for the longest touchdown in NFL history with a 109-yard return against the Packers. Although Patterson may find himself as the all-time leader in kickoff return touchdowns, he’s still well off the pace of the league’s record for combined return scores. That mark still belongs to Bears great Devin Hester, who returned a total of 20 kickoffs and punts for touchdowns during his time in the NFL.
Conor Orr: Jalen Hurts, QB, Eagles. While it was a ho-hum day, the Eagles need to show they can survive these dog days now that the league has figured out what they do best. And Hurts led a game-winning, 75-yard drive that included a key fourth-down conversion and the drawing of a pass-interference penalty. While the Eagles were always going to hit their metaphorical wall, their ability to survive the games that feel like a fistfight with a hot clothing iron will serve them well in the postseason.
Gary Gramling: Jacoby Brissett, QB, Browns. He’ll have one more start before the Browns hand their franchise over to this, which means one more game for Brissett to solidify himself as a starter somewhere in 2023. Who knows what next week will bring, but on Sunday in Detroit, Brissett was —as the young people say—dealing. The Browns have about 53,000 problems (we’re talking just the on-field product now) that have nothing to do with the quarterback, and that was the case on Sunday. Brissett, going opposite Josh Allen, had his way with a very good Bills defense, showing off his improved processing speed and accuracy in-structure, and repeatedly creating out of structure; this game might have been much different had Browns tight ends not dropped back-to-back touchdowns during a second-quarter red-zone possession. Brissett is a free agent after this season. He’s no one’s franchise quarterback, but he’s as good as it gets as a bridge guy. There are surely a handful of teams (*cough* Denver *cough*) around the league who are surely looking at him right now and thinking, Man, we’d be a lot better off with that guy.
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