Champion Buccaneers running back had his best game of the season to secure victory
First impressions regarding individual performances on Sunday Week 12 again point to the quarterbacks stepping aside to make room for running backs and wide receivers again.
Only one quarterback is placed on this week’s top list, but one runner repeats as the best of the date – ironically – to the player who was succeeded as Colossus of the Week.
The champion is not dead. After a streak of two consecutive losses followed by a victory not necessarily convincing – by the caliber of the rival – in the last three weeks, the Buccaneers seem to regain form as a repeat favorite in the Super Bowl.
Fournette had a lot to do with it.
The Tampa Bay running back charged the rock 17 times for 100 yards and three touchdowns, his first triple-digit rushing game and his second game with multiple rushing touchdowns. Although, that was not all. Fournette also contributed seven receptions for 31 yards and an additional touchdown. It was his first touchdown on a catch so far this season.
Fournette’s two touchdowns in the first half were particularly significant, given the moment of the game in which they arrived. In the third quarter, Fournette scored the first points of the second half on the 4-yard rushing game that momentarily cut the gap to 24-21.
Later, Fournette scored the final points of the game – which proved to be the final distance – when he ran 28 yards into the promised zone. That touchdown followed a grueling offensive drive by the Colts culminating in Jonathan Taylor, our Colossus from last week, who seemed to have restored the moment to Indianapolis.
Fortunately for Tampa Bay, Fournette had something else in mind.
Tee Higgins, wide receiver, Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals had one of the most decisive wins of the day, beating the Steelers at home. Higgins was the receiver on six for 114 yards with a touchdown as part of a fairly comprehensive offensive effort by Cincy.
Elijah Mitchell, running back, San Francisco 49ers. Mitchell set a franchise record, en route to leading the Niners to victory over Minny with 27 carries for 133 yards with a touchdown on the ground. In addition, he contributed five receptions for an additional 35 yards, through the air. And what was the record we mentioned earlier? Well, Mitchell reached four games of at least 100 rushing yards on the season, a new record for a San Francisco rookie. Not bad when not only was he not expected to be the 49ers’ top running back for the year, but he wasn’t even expected to be the rookie running back with the most minutes in his debut season: Mitchell was picked 116 at-bats after teammate Trey. Sermon.
Joe Mixon, running back, Bengals. Had it not been for Fournette, we clearly would have handed Mixon top honors for Week 12. There were 28 carries for 165 yards and two rushing touchdowns for Cincy’s star running back in a dominant performance over a Pittsburgh defense that continues to be mentioned among those of respect in the NFL. With this afternoon’s win, driven by Mixon, the Bengals completed the season sweep over the Steelers, something worth showing off in Cincinnati.
Cordarrelle Patterson, wide receiver, Atlanta Falcons. Playing for Atlanta warrants less media attention because of the Falcons’ current state, but Patterson is ridiculous at times this season. Today, he posted 16 carries for 108 yards and two rushing touchdowns, plus two receptions for 27 more yards through the air. He wears the No. 84 but should we continue to call him a ‘wide receiver’?
Aaron Rodgers, quarterback, Green Bay Packers. The controversy surrounding his COVID-19 infection and, above all, his poor handling of his vaccination status, have probably robbed Rodgers of the possibility of being named MVP for the second consecutive year, but this point of the season, no quarterback is playing better. Against the Rams at Lambeau Field, he completed 28 of 45 pass attempts for 307 yards with two touchdowns without interceptions, and scored once on the ground in a key game in the NFC postseason run.
Pat Surtain II, cornerback, Denver Broncos. The rookie cornerback basically robbed the Chargers of any chance at a comeback against the Broncos in the fourth quarter, grabbing two interceptions on passes from Justin Herbert. The first occurred in his own end zone early in the final quarter, denying a potential touchdown from Jared Cook, a tight end who takes several pounds off him. Moments later, Surtain raised his bonuses further with a second interception to Herbert in which he returned the ball 70 yards to the opponent’s end zone, opening the gap to 28-13 in the fourth period to secure the win.
Jaylen Waddle, wide receiver, Miami Dolphins. Don’t look now, but the Dolphins have won four in a row, and today might have been their best win of those four games. Waddle added his grain of sand with nine catches for 137 yards – the most of the day for a player – and a touchdown in the beating of Carolina. It’s not too late to score Waddle’s name among the Offensive Rookie of the Year contenders, by the way.