Tom Brady wears pewter now, not red, white, and blue. He plays in the NFC, not the AFC. His logo is a pirate, not a patriot.
Yet the result Sunday was the same as ever: Brady defeating the Colts, and ripping their hearts out.
The Buccaneers’ 38-31 comeback win wasn’t their prettiest of the season. But they fortified their position in the NFC playoff race, put a dagger in the Colts’ chances, and improved Brady’s career record against the Colts to 16-4, including nine straight wins.
No matter the uniform, Brady always loves beating the Colts.
“Oh yeah, not a lot of love lost,” Brady said.
The Bucs’ win is where we begin the Week 12 review.
▪ Brady was more of a caretaker, with running back Leonard Fournette doing the heavy lifting. Brady threw for just 226 yards, with a touchdown and an interception, while Fournette led the way with 100 rushing yards, 31 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. Fournette also got the team fired up at halftime as it trailed, 24-14.
That last part is what made the win so impressive. NFL teams are now just 5-73 (.064) this year when trailing by 10 points at halftime. But Brady led the Bucs to three touchdowns and a field goal in their five drives after halftime, while the defense had three takeaways.
“When we turn it over, it gives them life,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “That’s No. 1. No. 2, they have Tom Brady.”
The 8-3 Bucs sit firmly in the No. 3 seed in the NFC, just a game behind Arizona for the No. 1 seed and a half-game behind Green Bay for No. 2. And the loss was a killer for the Colts, who fell to 6-6 and 10th in the AFC while snapping a three-game win streak.
▪ The trades for Von Miller and Odell Beckham were supposed to fortify the Rams as Super Bowl contenders. Instead, the 7-4 Rams are 0-3 since the trades, including a 36-28 loss to the Packers Sunday that wasn’t as close as the score would suggest.
Miller has been OK since coming aboard: eight tackles (two for loss), a QB hit, and no sacks in two games. And Beckham did have 81 yards and a touchdown Sunday. But the Rams are going backward on both sides of the ball.
Matthew Stafford has thrown a pick-6 in three straight games — losses to the Titans, 49ers, and Packers — and the loss of receiver Robert Woods to a torn ACL seems to have thrown Stafford and the Rams completely off their game.
Their defense also is struggling. Ranked No. 1 in points allowed last year under coordinator Brandon Staley, they currently rank No. 21 under Raheem Morris after allowing 28, 31, and 36 the last three weeks.
The Rams can kiss the No. 1 seed goodbye thanks to their losses to the Cardinals, Packers, and 49ers, and a division title is slipping from their grasp as well. They look good for a wild-card spot, but are just one game ahead of the 49ers for the No. 5 seed.
▪ The Ravens’ 16-10 win over the Browns was as ugly as it gets, with Lamar Jackson throwing four interceptions to give him a league-leading 12. But the win improved them to 8-3 and, combined with the Titans’ loss, moved them into the No. 1 spot in the AFC, a half-game ahead of the Patriots.
The Ravens have won three of four since their bye week, but have been living dangerously. They were shellacked by the Dolphins, and their wins have been close: an OT win over the Vikings, a 3-point win over the Bears with backup QB Tyler Huntley, and Sunday’s turnover fest against the Browns.
With a tough closing schedule that includes the Packers, Bengals, Rams, and two against the Steelers, the Ravens appear to have a couple more losses coming.
▪ The Bengals’ dominant 41-10 win over the Steelers sent the message that they are going to be a force for the rest of the season. Joe Burrow threw for only 190 yards, but the Bengals don’t need him to light it up. Joe Mixon rushed for 165 yards and two touchdowns, while the defense created three turnovers and sacked Ben Roethlisberger three times.
The 7-4 Bengals looked done after losing consecutive games to the Jets and Browns to drop to 5-4, but they have bounced back nicely the last two weeks with big wins over the Raiders and Steelers. They sit in fifth place in the AFC and are just one game behind the Ravens in the North, with a showdown coming in Week 16.
▪ Cam Newton hit a buzzsaw in Sunday’s 33-10 loss to the Dolphins. The Panthers quarterback was benched after completing just 5 of 21 passes for 92 yards and two interceptions, giving him a 5.8 passer rating that was his lowest in 150 career games (including postseason).
Newton was brought back to keep the Panthers alive in the playoff race but they have lost two straight to fall to 5-7 and 11th in the NFC.
“Just because it’s a feel-good story doesn’t mean you’re going to win,” Newton said.
▪ The Dolphins, meanwhile, are suddenly one of the hottest teams in the NFL after securing their fourth straight win. The defense has allowed only 11.5 points per game in the streak, and Tua Tagovailoa has been impressively efficient. In three November games, Tagovailoa has completed 80.5 percent of his passes, averaging 8.6 yards per attempt, has thrown only one interception, and has a 110.0 passer rating that is third-best in the NFL.
The 1-7 Dolphins have turned into the 5-7 Dolphins, and can become the 6-7 Dolphins with a home win against the Giants this week. The Patriots’ Week 18 game at Miami suddenly looks a lot tougher.
Offensive Rookie of the Year candidates
1. Patriots QB Mac Jones: His 117.2 passer rating in November (with seven touchdown passes and two interceptions) leads all NFL quarterbacks.
2. Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase: His overall numbers are still impressive (50 catches, 906 yards, 8 touchdowns). But he had just three catches for 39 yards against the Steelers, and has not gone over 50 yards in any of his last four games.
3. Steelers RB Najee Harris: Had a tough day against the Bengals, with just 23 rushing yards and 14 receiving yards. But for the season, he is sixth in the NFL with 1,059 scrimmage yards.
4. Falcons TE Kyle Pitts: Had only two catches for 26 yards in a 21-14 win over the Jaguars. But he is third among tight ends with 661 receiving yards.
5. Dolphins WR Jaylen Waddle: Had his first 100-yard game vs. the Panthers (nine catches for 137 yards and a touchdown), and he ranks fifth in the NFL with 77 receptions.
Tracking former Patriots
▪ Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski: Had seven catches for 123 yards in the win over the Colts, his most receiving yards since going for 123 in the Patriots’ Week 1 win over Houston in 2018. It was Gronk’s 30th career 100-yard game, one behind Tony Gonzalez (31) for most all-time among tight ends.
▪ Panthers CB Stephon Gilmore: Had two tackles and played 43 of 74 defensive snaps in the loss to the Dolphins. Gilmore has two interceptions in five games and has played in 41 percent of defensive snaps.
▪ 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo: Overcame a bad first-quarter interception to throw for 230 yards and a touchdown in a 34-26 win over the Vikings. The 49ers have won four of five to improve to 6-5 and grab the No. 6 seed in the NFC. Garoppolo’s 110.9 passer rating in November is second only to Jones.
▪ Falcons RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson: Returned from a one-game injury absence to rush for 108 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-14 win over the Jaguars.
▪ Giants coach Joe Judge: His team is going nowhere at 4-7, and firing offensive coordinator Jason Garrett didn’t solve the many issues on offense. But Sunday’s 13-7 win over the Eagles will at least make life more pleasant for the next six days.
Stats of the Week
▪ The Patriots are 4-1 under Bill Belichick when allowing 250 rushing yards.
▪ Brady now has nine seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes, tied with Peyton Manning and Brett Favre and one behind Drew Brees (10) for most in NFL history.
▪ The 49ers’ Deebo Samuel is the first wide receiver since the 1970 merger to rush for a touchdown in three straight games.
▪ NFL teams are 6-91 since 2011 when throwing at least four interceptions. The Ravens’ win was the first such win since the Seahawks defeated the Packers in the 2015 divisional playoffs.
▪ Patriots CB J.C. Jackson is the first player since Richard Sherman in 2012-13 to record at least seven interceptions in consecutive seasons.
▪ The 276 combined penalty yards in Cowboys-Raiders were 14th-most all time and fifth-most this century.
Ben Volin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.