The New Orleans Saints made it nine wins in a row in their seemingly relentless march towards the Super Bowl by inflicting a record 48-7 defeat on the Philadelphia Eagles, the reigning champions.
Drew Brees, the Saints’ 39-year-old quarterback, scored four touchdowns to help hand out the worst defeat for any defending Super Bowl champions, and could well be an Most Valuable Player Award contender with many more performances like that.
It has been a tough year for the Eagles who now have a 4-6 record and are barely clinging on in the play-off race. Questions will be asked of head coach Doug Pederson if they become just the seventh Super Bowl winners to slump to a losing record the following season.
The Saints are looking one of the most likely sides to replace the Eagles as Super Bowl champions as they topped 40 points for the sixth time in 10 games – another NFL record.
“It blows my mind, too, trust me,” said Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins. “I think everybody knows how special we can be and everyone knows the end goal. If everybody here isn’t thinking Super Bowl then they’re in the wrong locker room.”
Brees was at the helm when the Saints won their only Super Bowl in 2009 and, on current form, he could them back to the big game in February – a few weeks after his 40th birthday.
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NFL week 11: Big Ben rescues Steelers, Bears prove their worth
The Pittsburgh Steelersproduced a remarkable comeback to beatthe Jacksonville Jaguars20-16 in the final seconds, despite being held scoreless for almost 43 minutes.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger dived over the goal-line with five seconds left on the clock to complete a 20-point surge from Pittsburgh. It sealed a sixth win in a row and condemned the Jacksonville Jaguars to a sixth straight defeat.
The Baltimore Ravenskept in touch with the Steelers as young quarterback Lamar Jackson marked his first start by helping them win their divisional scuffle withthe Cincinnati Bengals.
Although a quarterback, Jackson is a superb runner and carried the ball 27 times while throwing just 19 times. Baltimore leaned heavily on his scrambling ability to win 24-21, ending a three-game losing streak and taking them above the Bengals in the standings.
The Los Angeles Chargerslost for just the third time this season, beaten 23-22 at home by divisional rivalsDenverafter a last-second field goal from Broncos kicker Brandon McManus.
Andrew Luck,the Indianapolis Coltsquarterback, extended his run of success againstthe Tennessee Titansto 10-0 and maintained his incredible touchdown run in a 38-10 victory to put his team in the play-off picture at 5-5.
In the AFC South, the Colts are still behindthe Houston Texans,who made it seven wins in a row with a tight 23-21 victory atthe Washington Redskins– who lost quarterback Alex Smith to a horrific leg injury.
Things are hotting up in the NFC play-off race after Brett Maher kicked a 42-yard field goal forthe Dallas Cowboysas time expired againstthe Atlanta Falcons.The Cowboys’ 22-19 win kept alive their season but just about ended the Falcons’ hopes of playing the Super Bowl in their home stadium.
The Detroit Lionsare well out of it but dealt the play-off huntingCarolina Panthersa blow with a one-point win. The Panthers lost 20-19 after their coach Ron Rivera’s unsuccessful attempt to grab a two-point conversion in the final minute instead of kicking the easier one-pointer that would have sent the game to overtime.
In the NFC North,the Chicago Bearsare surprise leaders, and look a decent bet to make the post-season after a tough 25-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field.
What’s left in week 11?
Kansas City Chiefs @ LA Rams (01:15 GMT)
The season’s biggest game so far sees two of the NFL’s best teams meet in Los Angeles, after the game was moved away fromMexico City’s Azteca Stadium because of an unplayable pitch.
Both teams are 9-1, have young quarterback stars with plenty of offensive talent and middle-of-the-road defences, meaning that points will flow freely.
Several rival teams may not agree, but many people believe this could be the Super Bowl match-up in Atlanta come February.
Plays of the week
- Washington’s defeat by Houston saw the first lead change in a game involving the Redskins all season – their first nine games had seen whoever took the lead first stay in front.
- Andrew Luck joins Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks to throw three or more touchdowns in seven consecutive games in the same season.
- Luck also tied with Aaron Rodgers in second place with 160 touchdown passes in his first 80 games – Dan Marino leads the way with 182 in his first 80 NFL games.
- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s 27 rushing attempts are the most in the Super Bowl era – five more than the previous high mark set by Tim Tebow.
- Saquon Barkley is the only bright spark for the New York Giants this season – he became the first rookie to score a rushing and receiving touchdown in a game for 36 years on Sunday.
- For the third time this season, the Atlanta Falcons lost after leading or drawing in the final 30 seconds of the game – only the Cleveland Browns can match that record.
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Gruden and Carr go at it on the sidelines
There should be a close relationship between a quarterback and his head coach, but every so often temperatures flare on the sidelines – as Derek Carr and John Gruden showed during the Oakland Raiders game.
Gruden has struggled since returning to the NFL from the broadcast booth on his whopping $100m deal, failing to get the best out of the talented but underperforming Carr at quarterback.
The angry exchange of wordsmay have actually helped in this case, though, as Oakland actually managed to win the game against Arizona.
Bears only sing when they’re winning
The Chicago Bears haven’t had much love this season despite being a surprise success, which they took a step further when beating the Minnesota Vikings to stretch their lead at the top of the NFC North.
Since the NFL relaxed the rules on touchdown celebrations, the players have been getting ever more creative by the week, and Eddie Jackson pulled out all the stops with his number.
Heads-up play of the week
New York Giants linebacker Alec Ogletree showed remarkable hands to scoop the ball out of the grasp of his own team-mate before scoring an interception return touchdown.
Janoris Jenkins initially got his hands on the ball against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but, as he rolled around trying to control it, Ogletree came flying in and picked it up out of his grasp.
He then turned a pick into a pick six by rumbling into the end zone to complete one of the plays of the week.
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