Week 15 showed why the NFL is the king of sports in the United States. This week showed fans everywhere that the unexpected can happen on any given Sunday. The week saw the Chiefs and Dolphins play for the first time with interim coaches after the firings of Todd Haley and Tony Sparano.
Both teams would go on to victory. None more surprising than the Chiefs win. The Packers suffered their first loss of the season to the Chiefs (in which Anthony Becht made a few surprising contributions), while the Colts won their first game. The slumping Redskins walked into the Meadowlands and upset the Giants.
The two primetime matchups saw two AFC teams travel west. On Sunday night, the Philip Rivers and the Chargers blew out the Ravens, slicing up their vaunted defense. On Monday night, the Steelers traveled to San Francisco before getting beaten handily after a series of power outages at Candlestick Park.
Brandon Hogan played the first game of his NFL career for the Panthers, and saw more action than many thought. Ellis Lankster was the active for the Jets for the first time in two weeks and made a key special teams play.
What other Mountaineers helped their teams out? Find out below in the weekly rundown. First, we start with Anthony Becht and the Chiefs.
Packers 14 – Chiefs 19
If you picked Week 15 against the Chiefs in your office pool for the Packers first loss of the season, then you’re a genius. Few people outside of Kansas City thought the Chiefs could pull off the upset against the undefeated Packers team who had not lost a game since losing to the Giants in the regular season… last year. The Todd Haley-less Chiefs played the game with Kyle Orton making his second appearance with the Chiefs at quarterback. Orton found TE Anthony Becht twice for 20 yards. One of them, a 16-yard reception that brought the ball to the Packers’ 6-yard line, led to a Chiefs touchdown three plays later.
After the game, Becht talked about the play of Orton.
“There was a lot of pressure on his shoulders,’’ tight end Anthony Becht said. “He’s given this team with three games left and your first game is against the Packers. He was able to keep us together. He kept things positive. He kept things focused.
“It’s a great start. For a head coach to come in, play against an undefeated team that people are talking about being the greatest thing since sliced bread, it says a lot. It’s not luck.’’
Then Orton talked about the tight end play, singling out Becht.
“I thought our tight ends showed up,” said Orton. “I don’t know if [Coach] expected them to catch that many passes but they were open and did a great job. They made some big plays. [Leonard] Pope made a couple of really big plays for us. Anthony [Becht] on the naked we ran to get the touchdown was a huge play. I think everybody stepped up. It was a total team win. It wasn’t just one guy. It wasn’t just one coach. It was everybody fighting together for a win.”
Panthers 28 – Texans 13
Brandon Hogan played on the Panthers’ kickoff coverage unit on the first play of the game. The special teams units were where Hogan expected to see most of his playing time on Sunday. The Panthers activated Hogan for the first time because of an injury to back-up corner Darius Butler. Hogan saw extended playing time in the second half after Captain Munnerlyn pulled a hamstring.
Texans quarterback T.J. Yates tried to pick on Hogan on his first play lined up at corner. Hogan played tight man coverage on Kevin Walter, and forced him out-of-bounds. Yates threw what looked like a wide open touchdown pass to Walter, but because Walter was the first person to touch the ball after stepping out-of-bounds, the play was called back for illegal touching. After Hogan knocked Walter out-of-bounds, the rookie let Walter go knowing he was ineligible at that point. It was a smart play on Hogan’s part, and head coach Ron Rivera singled Hogan out about his play.
“It was good, very pleased with it,” Rivera said of Hogan’s performance. “The big thing is it wasn’t too big for him. He came in and actually did a couple of really nice things.”
Dolphins 30 – Bills 23
The Dolphins won their first game without Tony Sparano. Steve Slaton was inactive for the Dolphins, and Corey McIntyre did not show up on the stat sheet for the Bills.
Titans 13 – Colts 27
The Colts won their first game of the season, throwing the Titans’ Playoff chances in jeopardy. It was the franchise’s first win in 14 years with a quarterback other than Peyton Manning. Pat McAfee had 7 punts for a 45.9 yard average. Although he did not record a tackle in the game, McAfee leads the Colts special teams in tackles on the season with 8.
Bengals 20 – Rams 13
Adam Jones had 5 tackles in the Bengals’ victory. Robert Sands was inactive for the Bengals this week after being active for the first time in his career last week.
Redskins 23 – Giants 10
In another one of the shocking wins of this past weekend’s slate of games, the struggling Redskins defeated the Giants. In Week 1, Chris Neild had a coming out party against Eli Manning and the Giants, recording 1.5 sacks. In this game, Neild did not repeat that performance, recording 0 tackles or sacks playing only 6 snaps.
Jets 19 – Eagles 45
The suddenly hot Eagles blew out the Jets at home on Sunday. For the Jets, Ellis Lankster returned to play for the first time in two weeks after sitting out with a lower back injury. He recovered two fumbles on special teams. One one muffed punt, and the other on fumbled kickoff return. He also recorded 1 tackle. Owen Schmitt did not show up on the stat sheet.
Steelers 3 – 49ers 20
In a game marred by two power outages, the Steelers struggled on the road against the 49ers. The outages delayed the game by about 35 minutes in all. Ben Roethlisberger played injured and threw 3 interceptions in the game. Ryan Mundy and Mortty Ivy played in the game, but neither showed up on the stat sheet.
Remember, because Christmas Day falls on Sunday this year, most of NFL Week 16 will be played on Saturday. Check back later this week for the Week 16 preview.