What We Learned From Week 13 in the N.F.L.
Offense, offense, offense. The early goings in the N.F.L.’s Week 13 saw teams post higher than expected scoring totals from unexpected sources, and one rare tie between two teams — the Giants and Commanders — who searched high and low for points but couldn’t find them. The Eagles’ adaptation on offense helped Philadelphia down a tough Titans defense, the Lions put up 40 points, the Browns got three touchdowns from their defense and special teams, and Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett continued a promising upward trajectory.
The Eagles have mastered week-to-week adjustments.
Good offenses dictate how the defense has to play. With a 25-10 trouncing of the Titans, the Eagles (11-1) offense looked not just good, but great at manipulating N.F.L. defenses with their versatility.
Coming off a Week 12 win in which Jalen Hurts let loose as both a designed runner and scrambler to rip through the Packers defense with Miles Sanders, Philadelphia opted to almost exclusively throw the ball against the Titans (7-5) defense that was ranked third-most effective against the run coming into the matchup.
Hurts threw for 268 yards passing and two touchdowns with one rushing score in the first half alone. The easy scoring was perhaps best exemplified by Hurts’s 41-yard touchdown throw to a wide open A.J. Brown in the second quarter, to put the Eagles up, 14-7.
On Philadelphia’s first series of the second half, Hurts again found Brown, threading a 29-yard toss into one-on-one coverage and letting Brown win the catch in the end zone over the 5-foot-11 cornerback Tre Avery.
The approach made sense. Tennessee, led by defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons and linebacker David Long, were allowing the second-fewest yards per carry and third-fewest yards per game in the N.F.L. but the Titans’ talented outside cornerbacks, Kristian Fulton and Roger McCreary, both measure in at 5-foot-11 and lack the length to disrupt the Eagles’ tremendous receiving duo of Brown (eight catches, 119 yards) and DeVonta Smith (five catches, 102 yards and a touchdown).
Hurts finished with 29 of 39 passing for 380 yards. He had three passing touchdowns and added a score on the ground. Playing with a lead most of the game, Philadelphia’s maligned run defense held Tennessee to 87 total rushing yards, including Derrick Henry’s 30.
The Eagles, more than any other offense, find the one button the defense does not want them to push and smash it repeatedly. In Week 1, Nick Sirianni went to run-pass options to put the Lions’ subpar linebackers in a bind. Against the Cardinals in Week 5, the Eagles spammed zone-read calls to take advantage of Arizona’s weak edge rushers and poor discipline up front.
The Eagles’ week-to-week adaptability is immensely valuable heading into the postseason, where equally weighted contests are decided by picking apart matchups. The Eagles offense has enough talent to find ways to answer any potential opponent.
The Giants struggle to move the ball when Daniel Jones isn’t a running threat.
The more Daniel Jones can get moving and the less he has to be a pocket passer, the better the Giants offense usually is. Coach Brian Daboll’s game-planning against the Commanders acknowledged as much, allowing Jones to add value in the run game (12 carries for 71 yards) and make a majority of his passing attempts on screens, run-pass option rollouts, in a game that was supposed to decide which N.F.C. East team with a winning record would occupy the division’s last place.
That tactic worked for three quarters against the Commanders’ above-average defense, but stalled out in the fourth quarter. Washington tied the game on a 28-yard Taylor Heinicke pass to Jahan Dotson with 1:45 remaining and the Giants (7-4-1) punted on their final four possessions of regulation, to send the game to overtime. After trading possessions, Jones completed two passes to get the Giants to the Washington 40-yard line where kicker Graham Gano missed a 58-yard field goal attempt as time expired.
The Commanders (7-5-1) have struggled all year against mobile quarterbacks, which is why Daboll leaned into getting Jones involved in the run game early as well as rolling the quarterback out of the pocket repeatedly for designed runs and a number of short, easy throws, a formula that helped Jones finish with 25 of 31 passing for 200 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.
Daboll also did just enough to back the defense off from collapsing on all of the underneath throws, most notably cooking up a 55-yard shot to Darius Slayton early in the second quarter, the team’s lone completion of over 15 yards.
But through the end of the fourth quarter and the overtime period, Jones was forced to be more of a dropback passer to try to capture the win. He missed all three pass attempts on the Giants’ two-minute drive at the end of regulation.
Around the N.F.L.
Steelers 19, Falcons 16
Packers 28, Bears 19
Lions 40, Jaguars 14
Vikings 27, Jets 22
Commanders 20, Giants 20 (OT)
Eagles 35, Titans 10
Ravens 10, Broncos 9
Browns 27, Texans 14