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6 winners from Week 11 of the 2019 NFL season

Michael Gallup paid tribute to his brother, and Maxx Crosby put on his Khalil Mack pants.

Cowboys WR Michael Gallup makes a catch over a Lions defender, superimposed on a blue, black, and white background with spiral graphics and X’s and O’s
Michael Gallup had a career day for the Cowboys on the one-year anniversary of his brother’s death.

Week 11 started with a defensive player of the year candidate clubbing a rival with his own helmet. Sunday was always going to be a bit anticlimactic after that.

A showdown between the Texans and Ravens turned into a blowout that only reminded the world Baltimore can nuke your defense a hundred different ways. Kyle Allen reverted back to backup form in a four-interception day. The most entertaining touchdown of the day didn’t count.

That didn’t mean there weren’t still plenty of reasons to remember Week 11’s biggest winners. Kirk Cousins looked like a third-stringer for two quarters, then one of the league’s top passers for his last two. Lamar Jackson got Deshaun Watson’s MVP vote. The Colts got Jacoby Brissett back from injury and broke their Brissett-less losing streak. Tom Brady found a new enormous coat!

Of course, this week’s winners went beyond the final scores. Who made the list of champions despite a relatively quiet day?

It wasn’t ...

Not considered: the Buccaneers, fiercely committed to finding creative ways to turn the ball over

Jameis Winston came into Week 11 with a league-leading 14 interceptions. It took him less than one quarter to get to No. 15 — though this one was not his fault:

O.J. Howard gift-wrapped an interception for Saints linebacker Demario Davis, and then was stapled to the bench for the remainder of the game — that was the tight end’s only target. That also meant Howard couldn’t be responsible for interception No. 16, which pinballed off Kiko Alonso‘s chest and into Vonn Bell’s hands.

And that wasn’t all! Winston added a pick-six and an interception in the end zone to cap his day and even had a botched snap he was able to recover deep in the New Orleans red zone. He’s now responsible for 18 interceptions and 11 fumbles in 2019, and it appears even pairing up with QB whisperer head coach Bruce Arians won’t be enough to rehabilitate a career marred by careless play and sloppy turnovers.

Now on to ...

Week 11’s actual winners

6. The Jets, who are 3-1 against the NFC East ...

... and 0-6 against everyone else.

It turns out the best way to keep Sam Darnold from seeing ghosts is to throw him in there against the worst teams the NFC has to offer. Last week he outshined the Giants with 255 total yards and two touchdowns (one rushing, one passing). On Sunday, he shredded the Washington defense for four touchdowns and 293 passing yards in a 34-17 win.

Darnold wasn’t the only player to perform some important resume building in against the East’s least successful team. Jamal Adams had three sacks on the season coming into Week 11, which makes sense since he’s a safety and not a defensive end. He doubled that season total vs. Washington, because for the first three quarters rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins was a lost fawn trying to to cross a frozen pond.

Haskins eventually finished his day with a pair of garbage-time touchdown passes to salvage his second start as a pro. With any luck, his front office can trade its impending No. 2 overall pick for a handful of assets who can help him reach his potential as a professional quarterback and give him the cast needs.

Or, in a much more likely development: Washington will squander the pick, use its cap space on veterans who won’t contribute, and eventually alienate an injured Haskins until he leaves in free agency four years from now or is released with an injury settlement before then.

For now, Washington is stuck as the fifth-best team in the NFC East, if you want to include the mighty Jets.

5. Jason Sanders, hands team member

Two players have recovered onside kicks in 2019. One was Cordarrelle Patterson, a dynamite returner who moonlights as a wide receiver and understands the ins and outs of how a kickoff bounces better than anyone. The other is a kicker who’d never officially possessed a ball in his year-plus in the NFL until Sunday.

NFL teams were 1 for 29 before Sanders broke out the sneaky Pete onside kick in the second quarter against Buffalo. Unfortunately for Sanders, and in true 2019 Dolphins fashion, Miami fumbled away possession on the very next play.

That led to a Bills touchdown, and eventually, Miami having its two-game winning streak snapped. It also marks the first time the Dolphins have lost since acquiring secret weapon Aqib Talib (who won’t play a single snap for the club this season).

4. The Falcons, who were one point better than a week of insufferable jokes

Atlanta has nothing to play for after a 1-7 start, except a chance to save head coach Dan Quinn’s job. If the last two weeks are any indication, the Falcons don’t want the man who led them to an NFC title in 2016 to go.

Atlanta won:

  • its second straight game
  • against a NFC South rival
  • on the road
  • by double digits

Four wildly unlikely things that came together for one unexpected streak (if we’re being generous) after a bleak start. Last week, the Falcons cracked open the Saints and spilled them all over the Superdome. In Week 11, they would up dispatching the Panthers — and got a perfect 2-for-2 performance on extra points from kicker Younghoe Koo to keep the game from becoming a meme.

That made the final score 29-3, one day after Baylor put together a stunning throwback to Super Bowl 51 by blowing a 28-3 lead against Oklahoma — a loss the Falcons social media team was fully aware of.

That’s a significant display of symbolism. If the Falcons are going to be successful under Quinn, the franchise has to put the specter of 28-3 and the greatest collapse of all time behind it. Sunday’s win, following a season of adversity, was a statement about how this team can move forward. It showed they’re one better than 28-3. And with two straight wins over divisional opponents, they’re showing they believe in their coach too much to just roll over and die.

Or, maybe it just means Kyle Allen isn’t as good as he seemed and the Falcons are too talented to be a 2-14 team and are more likely a 5-11 one. Either way.

3. Tony Romo, still our low-key football psychic

Romo knew exactly what the Patriots needed when they faced third-and-11 from the Eagles’ 15 in a game where three different drives to the red zone had already stalled out with field goals.

“Now you have to have some kind of cool play,” he opined for a Patriots offense that’d struggled to catch Philadelphia off guard. “The only problem is, all the cool plays take time.”

It turns out he was right on both counts, almost as if he knew the rarely discussed trivia tidbit that Julian Edelman was once a MAC quarterback.*

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels dug into his bag of tricks and dialed up a lead-taking double throw that included both of Tom Brady’s most trusted targets. The future Hall of Famer spun a lateral out to Edelman, who had two-plus seconds to turn his attention downfield and find a wide open Phillip Dorsett in the end zone for six points. It was New England’s only touchdown in a 17-10 win.

That pivotal play was cool, took time, and worked on third down. Romo knew it was coming, and that wasn’t the only time he’d be vindicated during the broadcast (even if Bill Belichick didn’t agree).

*nearly as overlooked as the salient points that both Jimmy Graham and Antonio Gates were college basketball players.

2. Maxx Crosby, the Khalil Mack replacement we all expected him to be

Oakland’s pass rush was nearly nonexistent in 2018. The Raiders had traded away wrecking ball Khalil Mack that offseason, and a toothless group managed just 13 sacks — far and away the lowest total in the NFL.

Head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock spent big to overhaul their offense in the offseason but only brought in one big-name defender: safety LaMarcus Joyner. That put the pressure of rebuilding a low-octane group of edge rushers on some ineffective incumbents, as well as first-rounder Clelin Ferrell and fourth-round pick Maxx Crosby.

This week, Crosby stepped up to deliver a fresh dose of misery atop the Bengals’ smoldering pile:

Crosby abused the Bengals’ inept offensive line for the biggest day of his NFL career, sending fill-in quarterback Ryan Finley to the turf four times for a net loss of 37 yards and one fumble. He was part of a unit that harangued the rookie QB into a 13-of-31, 115-yard, zero-touchdown afternoon.

Crosby only had 2.5 sacks in the half-season leading up to the game against Cincinnati’s AAA lineup, so it’s fair to doubt whether this breakout was a sign of things to come or just an outlier performance. Either way, it helped the Raiders improve to 6-4 with a 17-10 victory, and Oakland is now in the thick of the postseason hunt less than a year and a half after Gruden gutted the roster.

If Crosby can be half the player he was in Week 11 through the end of the season, the Raiders could be a real headache as 2019 winds down.

1. Michael Gallup, who did his brother proud

One year ago Sunday, Gallup learned his brother Andrew had passed away at the age of 23. He used his memory to fuel him against the Lions — and that motivation helped carry him to one of the biggest performances of his budding career.

Gallup had a personal-best nine catches and 148 yards as the Cowboys outlasted the Lions in a 35-27 win. After the game, he acknowledged how he carried his brother with him on the field.

“Obviously it’s going to be tough around this time every year,” Gallup told reporters after the game. “His birthday was Nov. 10, so it’s always a hard one.

“But to go out here and have fun and do what I love – he knows that I’ve always loved this game, and he was up there watching me. So it’s a good feeling to be able to do that for him and have the family watch as well.”

That was the second-year pro’s third 100+ yard game of the 2019 season. More importantly, it was a fitting tribute to a family member.