NFL overreactions, Week 11: Cowboys are a lock in NFC East
Taysom Hill is the Saints’ next franchise QB
One start, one win, one overreaction. Or is it?
We knew Taysom Hill could run, but the jury was still out on his passing prowess. Well, the highly versatile fourth-year pro provided a clear verdict in his first career start under center, completing 78.3 percent of his passes for 233 yards and posting a passer rating of 108.9 in a rout of the Falcons on Sunday. Among starters in Week 11 heading into Monday Night Football, Hill had the second-highest completion percentage, behind Russell Wilson (82.1), and ranked seventh in passer rating. Despite having a total of 10 career completions heading into Sunday, the 30-year-old was poised against pressure, connecting on all seven attempts against the blitz for 106 yards, per Next Gen Stats.
Hill did not shy away from the running game, either, as he led the Saints in rushing yards (51) to go along with two scores on the ground. Hill and Daunte Culpepper are the only players in the Super Bowl era with at least 50 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in their first QB start. (Culpepper did it in Week 1 of the 2000 season, vs. the Bears.)
So, to recap, Hill passed the arm test and was dynamic once again with his legs — he became the only player since 1950 to win his first QB start with a passer rating of more than 100 with 50-plus rush yards. Sean Payton should probably give him a Mahomes-esque commitment.
Taysom Hill shares how Drew Brees helped his first NFL start at QB
Table is set for Cowboys to win the NFC East
Could I have replaced the Cowboys in this subhead with the Eagles, the Giants or Washington? Maybe. But of all the NFC East teams, I like Dallas’ recipe for claiming the division title the most.
The Cowboys are the only NFC East team with all three division foes left on their schedule, starting Thanksgiving Day with Washington. Along the way, the Cowboys will also get the Joe Burrow-less Bengals and injury-plagued 49ers.
On Sunday, the Cowboys won a game that was started by a QB not named Dak Prescott for the first time since Week 13, 2015 (when Matt Cassel beat Washington). Andy Dalton had three passing TDs and a passer rating of at least 100 for only the second time in the last two seasons (the other time: when he played for Cincinnati against Miami in Week 16 of 2019).
Ezekiel Elliott finally had 100 rushing yards, snapping his career-long drought of nine straight games without hitting the century mark. Keep in mind, the Cowboys are 23-4 when Elliott has 100 or more rush yards and 20-27 when he falls short of that mark.
CeeDee Lamb continues to impress in Year 1, as he broke the franchise rookie record for receptions (48), passing Bob Hayes, who set the mark previous mark of 46 in 1965.
The biggest factor working in Big D’s favor might actually be the D. The Cowboys were allowing 36.3 point per game in their first six games, by far the worst in the NFL. That number has dropped to a respectable 25.0 since Week 7.
All four teams in the NFC East have exactly three wins, marking the only instance since 1970 where every team in a division has had the same number of wins and a losing record in Week 11 or later. So the door is definitely wide open for Dallas.
Derrick Henry is the Mariano Rivera of the NFL
Major League Baseball fans know that with a league-record 652 career saves, Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer in the history of the sport. On the football field, that title goes to Derrick Henry.
In Week 11 against the Ravens, Henry became the first player with multiple overtime rushing touchdowns in a single season in NFL history. Henry’s 29-yard walk-off run was the longest overtime rush TD since C.J. Anderson went 48 yards for the Broncos against the Patriots in 2015.
Henry has punished teams late in games with an NFL-best 419 rushing yards in the fourth quarter and overtime this season. For perspective, the next-closest player, Dalvin Cook, has 299 rushing yards. In case math isn’t your thing, that’s a 120-yard difference. In fact, Henry has rushed for more yards in just the fourth quarter and overtime of games this season than David Johnson (408), Devin Singletary (401) and Adrian Peterson (389) have overall in 2020.
Justin Herbert’s year is greatest by a rookie QB
Yes, records are made to be broken — but I don’t think the person who coined that term meant all at once.
After another 300-passing yard, three-TD game in Sunday’s win over the Jets, Chargers QB Justin Herbert is in position to rewrite a laundry list of rookie records.
The current record for passing TDs in a season by a rookie is 27, set by Baker Mayfield in 2018. The record for passing yards by a rookie is 4,374, set by Andrew Luck in 2012. And the record for highest passer rating by a rookie is 104.9, set by Dak Prescott in 2016. Herbert currently sits at 2,699 passing yards, with 22 TDs and a 104.7 passer rating.
The passing TD record will fall first, as Herbert already has five games of at least three passing TDs, which is the most by a rookie in NFL history. It took Herbert just nine games to reach 20 passing TDs, which ties him with two-time NFL champion George Ratterman for the fourth-fastest (by games). Only Kurt Warner, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were faster (all reached the total in eight games).
The passing yards record is next, as Herbert is averaging a whopping 299.9 passing yards per game, which is 26.5 more than Luck during his record-setting rookie campaign (273.4 yards per game in 2012). At Herbert’s current pace, he will finish with 4,498 passing yards, checking yet another achievement off the list.
Finally, there’s Prescott’s passer rating mark, which Herbert trails by 0.2 points. The Chargers’ remaining schedule sets up nicely for Herbert to have a shot at this one, as four of his final six opponents rank outside the top 10 in opponent passer rating allowed. The other two (Raiders and Chiefs) are teams Herbert torched for 300 yards earlier this season.
Deshaun Watson has figured out Bill Belichick
Bill Belichick gave Deshaun Watson high praise in the week leading up to Sunday’s matchup between the Texans and Patriots. The Houston QB responded in kind with 344 passing yards, two passing TDs and one rush TD in a win over New England.
Watson now has seven total touchdowns and zero giveaways against the Patriots in their last two meetings. He is the only QB to log at least five passing scores and no interceptions against Belichick’s defense since 2019. The opportunistic Patriots entered Week 11 tied with the fourth-most takeaways in the NFL (15), but they recorded their first takeaway-free game of the season.
Watson did basically everything for Houston, accounting for 380 of the team’s 399 offensive yards (95.2%). He notched his sixth career game of multiple touchdown passes with at least one rushing score.
More importantly, Watson handed the Patriots their sixth loss of the season and, in doing so, joined Patrick Mahomes as the only QBs to defeat New England twice since last season.