NFL ICYMI: Baker gets a win, and sends his best to Hue
Maybe it was Baker Mayfield’s way of saying “Merry Christmas” to his old coach.
OK, maybe not.
Mayfield threw for 284 yards and three scores in engineering the Browns to yet another win Sunday, but his staredown of fired Browns coach Hue Jackson grabbed more attention than anything. It came after the rookie quarterback connected with David Njoku for a 66-yard gain that sealed a 26-18 victory over Cincinnati.
Jackson, canned by the Browns eight weeks ago and now working as an assistant for the Bengals, was standing on the sideline while Mayfield glared in his direction for a good 10 seconds.
Mayfield played it coy when asked about the staredown: “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” he said.
Everyone else did.
After Cleveland’s win in Cincinnati four weeks earlier, Mayfield passed on a postgame hug with Jackson. Criticized for dissing his former coach, Mayfield shot back on Instagram by saying, “I didn’t lose 30 games be fake and then do that .”
“That,” in Mayfield’s words, was taking a job with Cleveland’s in-state and divisional rival so soon after leaving the Browns.
But there’s no doubt, Mayfield and the Browns have come out ahead in the deal.
After finishing 0-16 last season, Cleveland is 7-7-1 (5-2 since Jackson left) and has a chance to close out 2018 with a winning record. Despite sitting on the bench the first two games — Jackson’s call— the first pick in the 2018 NFL draft goes into the finale with 24 TD passes, two shy of the rookie record held by Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson.
And to think, Mayfield owned the internet over a good chunk of Sunday’s action, even in a game with no playoff implications.
Speaking of which, here’s some other notable news, in case you missed it, from Week 16:
HOMEWARD BOUND, DOMEWARD BOUND: If the Steelers miss the playoffs, which now seems more likely than not, they’ll look back and cringe at the last 4:15 of their 31-28 loss to the Saints. It included:
—A fake-punt gamble that came up short, much to the surprise of Roosevelt Nix .
—Pass interference on fourth-and-2 and the inability to stop New Orleans on third-and-20, allowing the Saints to score the go-ahead touchdown.
—A drive for the game-tying field goal that ended when JuJu Smith-Schuster lost a fumble at the New Orleans 34.
Suddenly, the team that had won six in a row, that beat the Patriots last week, that held a 2½-game lead in the AFC North as recently as five weeks ago, is 8-6-1 and needs a win next week along with some help to make the playoffs.
The Saints? With the win, they secured home-field advantage through the playoffs.
NOT BAD FOR A BACKUP: Last season, Nick Foles replaced the injured Carson Wentz and led the Eagles to a Super Bowl title. This season, Foles replaced the injured Wentz and set a franchise record. The backup’s 471 yards passing were the most in the Eagles’ 86-year history. He led the Eagles on a 72-yard drive for a field goal with no time left that gave the Eagles a 32-30 win over the Texans and kept them in the playoff hunt. Among those pumped about the performance: the Patriots , who got beaten by Foles in the Super Bowl last season. Houston’s loss puts New England in position to capture a first-round bye.
PLAYS OF THE DAY: Usually he catches them. This time, Larry Fitzgerald got to throw one . The 15th-year receiver, in possibly his final home game with the Cardinals, took a lateral from Josh Rosen and threw a picture-perfect spiral to David Johnson for a 32-yard score. It was Fitzgerald’s first NFL touchdown pass. Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the Vikings took the lead for good when Kyle Rudolph snatched a desperation heave from Kirk Cousins for a TD at the end of the first half. Final: Minnesota 27, Detroit 9. The Vikings are in the playoffs with a win next week against Chicago.
STOP, DROP AND KICK: They call them specialists for a reason. Seahawks punter Michael Dickson got pulled into emergency kickoff duty with Sebastian Janikowski ailing after a defender dove into his lower leg. But punting is not an option on a kickoff, so Dickson had to turn to one of the rarest plays in the game — the drop kick. He bounced the ball ever so slightly off the turf, then booted a pair of kickoffs, one of which warbled down to the Kansas City 3 and another that went out of bounds. It brought back memories of Doug Flutie, who drop-kicked an extra point for the Patriots in 2006.
FANTASY FINISH: The Lombardi Trophy? That’s more than a month away. The real prizes: all that cash (and bragging rights) being doled out after Week 16, which traditionally serves as championship weekend for fantasy football. Turns out, one of the season’s biggest difference-makers wasn’t on many fantasy rosters — or any NFL roster — as recently as last Monday. That would be running back C.J. Anderson, picked up Tuesday by the Rams, who were without the services of Todd Gurley for their game against the Cardinals. Anderson ran for 167 yards and a touchdown, providing gobs of points for those who picked him up to replace Gurley. The Week 16 finale is only for the truly desperate: Think Phillip Lindsay (Denver) vs. Derek Carr (Oakland) on Monday night.