The regular season is over and this was not a great week. Really, really not great, if you couldn’t tell by the picture I selected.
We have to start with LaPorta. He had a “great news, bad news...but maybe not THAT bad” game on Sunday in Detroit’s 30-20 win over Minnesota. The win took Detroit to 12-5, which tied a franchise record for wins in a season. With Dallas winning later in the day, Dallas gets the 2-seed while Detroit is the 3.
First, LaPorta finished this game with 5 receptions for 29 yards and a score. The 5 reception took him to 86 for the season, which is now the rookie record for a tight end, eclipsing the mark of 81 set by Keith Jackson in 1988 with Philadelphia. The touchdown - a 2-yard reception to put Detroit up 7-0 - takes him to 10 for the year, which is tied for second all-time with Rob Gronkowski and two behind Mike Ditka’s record set in 1961. He finished the regular season with 86 receptions for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns.
But - here’s the bad news part - he left the game shortly before halftime with a knee injury. Those are always gross so I definitely won’t clip it here, but safe to say, LaPorta’s knee buckles in a way it shouldn’t. He was able to get off the field without a cart, but went to the dreaded blue tent and THEN was carted off.
If there is a sliver of good news here it’s that, as of this writing, the injury does not appear to include ligament damage. There was a diagnosis of a bone bruise and a hyperextension, but no ACL or MCL damage like the injury TJ Hockenson suffered in Week 16 against the Lions (hey Minnesota and Detroit - stop hurting Iowa tight ends, please). It seems likely that he will miss the Wild Card round against the Los Angeles Rams, but that there is no structural damage is the proverbial bullet dodged, and Dan Campbell has not totally ruled LaPorta out for Wild Card weekend yet. Hopefully he can return at some point in the playoffs - perhaps a divisional round rematch in Dallas?.
Still - a magnificent season for LaPorta! Hopefully he gets another game or two this year in what has been a really fun season for the Lions.
Jack Campbell had a solid rookie season as well, and he showed out in the win over the Vikings. Campbell finished with 12 tackles (7 solo) and 1 sack. Campbell finished the season with 95 tackles and 2 sacks. That’s a really solid rookie campaign.
This one also stinks. This is a painful one to write.
Goodson finally broke through to a full roster this year and played in five regular season games. He made his first appearance Week 13 and played in every game the rest of the way as the Colts battled running back injuries. His breakthrough was an 11-carry, 69-yard game against Pittsburgh Week 15, which also included 2 receptions for 10 yards. He initially scored in that game but was ruled down just short of the end zone (then saw the TD vultured. God I hate TD vultures. Terrible creatures).
So naturally, with a playoff spot on the line, the Colts ride Jonathan Taylor until a 4th and 1 while also running the clock down, where they rushed to the line to get Houston to jump offsides but had to burn a timeout instead (leaving them with 2 and just over a minute left), to run this play to Goodson with the season on the line (fun fact - after that Week 15 breakout against Pittsburgh, Goodson had 4 total touches combined Weeks 16 and 17). So it’s even worse - ride Taylor to a season-defining play, don’t use him, but instead through to Goodson who had barely touched the ball the last few weeks. GREAT.
Never liked the idea of keyboard warriors piling on a player after a catastrophic mistake.— Mike Daddino (@mike_daddino) January 7, 2024
Feel for Tyler Goodson. Worked his whole life for this moment.
Ok, yes, the throw hits Goodson’s hands, and he said after the game that because of that, he should have caught it. But come on - that is a terrible throw by Gardner Minshew. Low and behind Goodson? If the throw is on target, it’s an easy first down, maybe some additional yardage, and an easy spot for him to go out of bounds to preserve their final timeouts. I love the play call, but to Goodson, after barely touching the ball for 2+ games? THAT part I don’t love, and he’s catching flak for not catching what was otherwise a poor throw. What a terrible way for him and Indianapolis to end the season.
Woof. The Broncos had a shot at their first season with a winning record since 2016 but they fell short, 27-14, to lose to the Raiders for the 10th time in 11 meetings, including eight-straight. Tough to sugar coat any of this - this has been a dreadful run for the Broncos organization post-Super Bowl 50 win in February of 2016. They have not made the playoffs since that season and have only been over .500 once, in the 2016 season.
Jewell finished with 9 tackles and a sack against the Raiders and finished his season with 108 tackles, three sacks, two tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. He had a great season overall as the Broncos mostly recovered from their disastrous start on that side of the ball. Once the turnover variance evened out, it was curtains for Denver (plus the drama around Russell Wilson didn’t help).
Riley Moss also had a tackle in this game.
Anthony Nelson, Tristan Wirfs and Ihmir Smith-Marsette
Nelson and Wirfs see their season continue, as the Bucs beat ISM’s Panthers, 9-0, to clinch the NFC South. Wirfs was the standout from this game, with PFF giving him a 96.4 overall grade from this game. He’s just the second player this season to have an overall game grade higher than 95.
Nelson finished this game with 2 tackles, taking his total to 21 for the season. He also chipped in with 3 sacks.
Meanwhile, ISM had 1 catch for 6 yards to go with 3 punt returns for 51 yards. This was a dreadful season for the Panthers, finishing 2-15. They would have the first overall pick this year, but the Chicago Bears have the pick due to a trade in last year’s draft that sent Bryce Young to the Panthers.
Lastly, we have Belton. Belton piggy-backed off last week’s 3 turnover game with 6 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and a sack in New York’s surprising win over the suddenly-weak Eagles.
The #Giants disguise Dane Belton's blitz until the eleventh hour to create a 4v3 away from Kelce w/ a LB/EDGE twist— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) January 8, 2024
Belton gets in and finishes the sack, something free rushers still seem to struggle with against Hurts pic.twitter.com/5qVP5d6NdA
Iowa had two key players sit this week in George Kittle and Geno Stone. With San Francisco and Baltimore sitting in the 1-seeds in their respective conferences, neither player lined up this weekend (San Francisco lost to the Rams, 21-20, while the Ravens fell to Pittsburgh, 17-10). Newly-minted Pro Bowler Tyler Linderbaum did play Saturday, but took only 22 snaps as the Ravens rotated heavily going into their Wild Card round bye week.
Kittle finished the season with 65 reception for 1,020 yards and 6 touchdowns, while Stone finished with 68 tackles and 7 interceptions on the year, good for second in the league.