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NFL Football 2013: 5 Things We Learned From Week 15

Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys
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Another team clinched a playoff spot, and several upsets kept divisional races tight in Week 15 of the 2013 NFL Season. Here are five things we learned:

Ryan Tannehill Can Do A Good Tom Brady Impression

New England Patriots v Miami Dolphins
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New England (10-4) had a 20-17 lead late in the fourth quarter when Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill decided to channel his inner Tom Brady and lead Miami (8-6) on a seven-play, 60-yard drive that culminated with a 24-yard touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews. The real Brady was on the verge of another comeback win on the ensuing drive, but Danny Amendola couldn’t hold on to a sure TD pass, and Michael Thomas sealed the Dolphins’ 24-20 victory by intercepting a pass in the end zone. The Patriots blew a chance to clinch the AFC East and secure a playoff spot, while Miami put the pressure on Baltimore to win on Monday to keep pace in the AFC wild card race.


The Sports Illustrated Jinx Is Alive and Well

Philadelphia Eagles v Minnesota Vikings
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Quarterback Nick Foles and the Eagles made the cover of Sports Illustrated this week after Philadelphia (8-6) moved into first place in the NFC East during last week’s “Snow Bowl” win over Detroit. The Birds didn’t look as formidable inside the climate-controlled dome in Minnesota on Sunday as the Vikings (4-9-1) dominated Foles & Co. by a 48-30 margin without running back Adrian Peterson. Foles finished with solid numbers — 428 passing yards and three TDs — but much of that came when Minnesota had already taken a sizable lead and softened its coverage. The Cowboys loss to Green Bay later in the day allowed Philadelphia to maintain its division lead, but unless “Outhouse Weekly” needs a cover subject, the Eagles aren’t likely to be lauded in print this week.


The Chiefs Are Back in the Playoffs

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders
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Running back Jamaal Charles scored five touchdowns, including four on receptions, and Kansas City (11-3) beat hapless Oakland (4-10) in a 56-31 rout. The win meant the Chiefs will return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010, which is also the last time head coach Andy Reid, then with the Eagles, was in the post-season. Kansas City’s blowout victory over their hated rivals, whose fans doused Charles with beer after one touchdown, put the team back into a tie with Denver on top of the AFC West with just two weeks left in the regular season.


No Lead Is Safe With the Cowboys Defense

Green Bay Packers v Dallas Cowboys
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When Green Bay (7-6-1) trailed the Cowboys (7-7) by 23 points at halftime on Sunday, Dallas looked like a sure bet to pull back into a tie with the Eagles at the top of the NFC East standings. Not quite. The Cowboys’ defense stunk up AT&T Stadium in the second half, as the Packers scored five touchdowns — one for each of their possessions — and rallied for a 37-36 win. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo didn’t help his team by throwing two late interceptions. Neither did the offensive play calling, which eschewed the run for passes despite the big lead. If the Cowboys are home in January, this game will be a big reason why.


The Bengals Aren’t Opportunists

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers
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With Denver (11-3) and New England (10-4) both suffering upset losses in Week 15, Cincinnati (9-5) could have taken another step closer to the AFC North title — and a first-round bye — with a win over lowly Pittsburgh (6-8) on Sunday night. The Steelers had other plans, racing out to a 21-0 lead after one quarter en route to the 30-20 victory. The Cincinnati defense couldn’t cover any of the five receivers Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger targeted on the night, as he completed 80 percent of his throws. The Bengals might regret this loss if it causes them to draw Denver or Kansas City in the first round of the post-season.

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