The good, bad and ugly

NFL Week 13 report: Garappolo era begins in San Francisco; Saints keep marching

Jimmy Garappolo is off to a good start. San Francisco 49ers

Another exciting week of football in the books! Week thirteen saw some of some endings, beginnings, and continuations of eras. The action was as expected with late season NFL football.

The Good

-The Jimmy Garoppolo era is under way in San Francisco as they beat the Chicago Bears 15-14 Sunday. The 49ers ended the swirling questions about when and where the former New England Patriots backup quarterback would end up by trading for him Oct. 30. Speculation out of 49ers camp was that Garoppolo wasn’t going to start this year. That changed Sunday when he not only made his first start as a 49er, but also collected his first win.

-The New Orleans Saints picked up their ninth win on the season beating the Carolina Panthers 31-21 Sunday. Once again, their rookie running back Alvin Kamara was a driving force totaling 60 yards and two touchdowns rushing, as well as 66 yards receiving. He once transferred from the University of Alabama because of a crowded backfield. Now he’s an emerging star on an NFC playoff bound team.

-Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson made the league MVP debate a bit more crowded Sunday night as he outdueled Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz in a 24-10 victory. Wilson is now directly responsible for 29 of the Seahawks’ 30 touchdowns on the season. That stat alone puts him squarely in the driver’s seat in my opinion.

The Bad

-The Buffalo Bills were beaten by the New England Patriots 23-3 Sunday. Despite their rollercoaster of a season, they came into Sunday’s game still within striking distance of a playoff spot. The loss puts them on the outside looking in of a murky AFC playoff picture. But perhaps most damaging to their chances was the injury to starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Taylor has a bruised patellar tendon and is listed as day to day. For an athletic quarterback like Taylor, a knee injury like this can limit his mobility, as well as take some heat of his passes because he won’t be able to plant and throw comfortably. The last thing Bills fans want is another Nathan Peterman performance.

-The Kansas City Chiefs fell to the New York Jets 38-31 Sunday. The once promising Chiefs season is now in jeopardy as they’re hanging on like that loose tooth your kid refuses to have plucked from his/her mouth despite being able to twist it around. While they are still leading the awful AFC West by an eyelash, they’re closer to imploding. Fans are calling for the Patrick Mahomes era to start and the team is showing signs of frustration on the field as their play declines. Losing six of your last seven after seeming like the team to beat will do that.

-The Factory of Sadness continued in Cleveland as the perpetually woeful Browns lost…again. After going down 19-10 to the Los Angeles Chargers, the Browns are now 0-12 on the season. They have pieces in place to build a la the Los Angeles Clippers of the NBA, but will ownership give the front office a chance to do so? They’re headed for another No. 1 overall pick and own the 4-8 Houston Texans’ first and second rounders. Couple that with what they’ve drafted recently and things could be finally looking up for the Dawg Pound.

The Ugly

-New York Giants now former head coach Ben McAdoo decided this was the week to bench quarterback Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith under the guise that the team needed to see what it has. He also said this was about the future and what’s best for the team. Manning’s consecutive starts streak ended at 210 Sunday while the team lost 24-17 to the Oakland Raiders. McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese were both fired Monday. I imagine handling this situation poorly, and bumbling the building of a proud franchise led to their exits.

- Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Ryan Shazier was carted off the field Monday night after suffering a spinal contusion. The injury came as he hit Cincinnati Bengal wide receiver Josh Malone. Shazier moved his arms after the hit, but didn’t appear to have moved his legs. He was taken to the hospital for observations where he will stay.

-The Washington Redskins turned the ball over four times in a 38-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday. Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw two interceptions and fumbled twice (one was recovered by running back Samaje Perine). For a guy who’s been banging the table for a long-term contract, he played more like the fourth round draft pick he was coming out of Michigan State as opposed to the guy who was worth a second franchise tag.

Around the league: Perhaps one of the most exciting plays of the weekend came when Bears rookie Tarik Cohen returned a punt 347 yards for a touchdown. So maybe it’ll go down as 61 yards officially, but with all the running around he did, it seemed closer to 347…Jets head coach Todd Bowles deserves some coach of the year consideration. Why you ask? The front office stripped the team down and the team was expected to compete for the first overall draft pick. Instead, they’re the 5-7 team no one wants to see down the stretch..Sure the Garoppolo era is underway in San Francisco, but it took five field goals to beat the Bears...Sure the Seahawks won, but Wentz still torched their defense for 348 yards.. Sure Cousins had a bad game against the Cowboys, but he’s still completing 66% of his passes for 3,289 yards with 21 touchdowns and 8 interceptions on the season. I say all that to say this: no matter how bad (or good) a situation looks in the NFL, there’s always the other side of the pillow.  

Drew Brees and the Saints escaped with an ugly win. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Saints have effectively wrapped up the NFC South with their 25-14 win over the Tampa Bay Bucs. Here's how I saw things:

The Good

-Michael Thomas got himself going this week after a subpar performance against the Cowboys last week. He finished with 11 catches for 98 yards. More of note was his record of most catches in first three seasons. He surpassed Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry on his second catch, his 289th of his career. I hope people take notice and realize how great of a player he is.

-Taysom Hill once again proved his worth as just a football player. He blocked a punt the Saints recovered at the Tampa 30 yard line. It helped set up their first touchdown. Hill is listed as the third string quarterback, but plays running back, wide receiver, and special teams. He also drew a double team penalty on a kickoff.

-Drew Brees is known for his pinpoint accuracy throwing the ball. However, his athleticism is underrated. He notched his fourth rushing touchdown on a 4th and goal play in which he leapt over the line and extended the ball across the plane. The Saints took the lead early in the fourth quarter on that play.

The Bad

-Right before the half, Brees threw an interception that set up Tampa's second touchdown. When this team is rolling, they are the ones scoring before the half when they're getting the ball back after the half.

-They totaled just three rushing yards in the first half on nine attempts. The longest run was from fullback Zach Line at four yards. Another component of this team's success is predicated on the run game.

-Alvin Kamara was held in check. He was limited to 87 yards on 17 touches. His 76 yards on three kick returns were a help, but this team needs him to get going running and catching passes in order to operate at full capacity.

The Ugly

-This was the second game in a row that the Saints failed to score a touchdown in the first half. It could be a sign of teams catching up to them, or it could be a sign of a team that's feeling complacent. Either way, they need to get their offense going again to start games. 24 plays and 104 yards of offense that produced only three points in the first half.

-On their opening possession of the second half, Brees was stripped in the pocket and the Bucs recovered. The pressure came from the left. Missing starting left tackle Terron Armstead is becoming more and more of a glaring issue.

-Brees was limited to less than 270 yards passing, while they also totaled less than 130 yards rushing. Being held below their season averages on offense and still winning is the definition of winning ugly.

The Saints are now 11-2 and firmly in second place in the NFC. Now, they sit back and hope the Rams drop another game down the stretch. They own the tiebreaker over the Rams and need to finish with the same record to get homefield throughout the NFC playoffs. Saints fans will be Bears fans tonight, as well as Eagles, Cardinals, and 49er fans the rest of the season. This is what happens when you drop games you should've won.

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