2023 NFL season, Week 15: What We Learned from Sunday's games

2023 NFL season, Week 15: What We Learned from Sunday's games

Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 15 of the 2023 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:

Bobby Kownack's takeaways:

Lamar’s ridiculousness, chemistry with Likely powers Ravens’ win. Baltimore just got a reminder of what it’s like to have Lamar Jackson available for the playoff push. The former most valuable player was electric Sunday night, his first time suiting up beyond Week 15 since 2020. He wasn’t perfect through the air, committing one bad interception and amassing just 171 passing yards on the night, but he consistently made chain-moving throws or left defenders in his wake on highlight-reel runs when the Ravens required it. Jackson paced Baltimore’s 251-yard rushing outing with 97 of his own. He combined the best he has to offer with his arm and legs on the play of the night when he shrugged off a Dawuane Smoot sack, dropped farther in the pocket to buy time and uncorked a long ball for Isaiah Likely to collect with a leaping grab between two defenders. The jaw dropper set up an eventual Gus Edwards touchdown to start off the final stanza, and it was also an indicator of the trust Jackson has brewing for his backup tight end. Likely led the team with five receptions and 70 yards. He was also the recipient of Jackson’s lone TD pass, a tight-window laser and the TE’s second score in as many weeks.
Mistake-prone Jags hit three-game skid. Jacksonville seemed hell bent on throwing this game away. The Jaguars reached the Baltimore 36-yard line or farther on four straight drives at one point, yet came away with a goose egg heading into halftime. The first two of those possessions ended with missed kicks by Brandon McManus, while Trevor Lawrence was responsible for bungling the latter two. First, while scrambling into the red zone, Lawrence seemingly juked himself out of the ball, fumbling it for Baltimore’s Arthur Maulet to scoop up. On the ensuing drive, a two-minute drill that reached the Ravens’ 5-yard line, the franchise QB woefully mismanaged the running clock after a 36-yard dime by forgoing a spike in favor of a shotgun pass to rookie Parker Washington, who gained 1 yard and stayed inbounds to send the clock to triple zeroes. Lawrence and Co. did play cleaner (comparatively) in the second half, but spotting the Ravens a 10-point lead with two quarters remaining proved too large a deficit. On a night when Lawrence looked surprisingly unbothered by his high ankle sprain suffered two weeks ago and the Rayshawn Jenkins-led defense gave Jacksonville a shot, the Jags still dropped their third straight. The top of the AFC South now has a three-way tie at 8-6 with three to go.
Baltimore continues taking care of business. Back in Week 11, all four AFC division leaders were surging toward the end of the season with three losses apiece. Since then, the Dolphins have lost one, the Chiefs have dropped two and the Jaguars are mired in a three-game losing streak. The Ravens? They’re now winners of four straight. Baltimore’s offense is relentless on the ground, having just eclipsed 200 yards for the second time this season and surpassed 100 yards rushing in every game this year. The defense has perfectly complemented that, especially Sunday night, when it bent and allowed the Jaguars offense to break. After giving the Jaguars long drives to start the night, the unit tightened as the game went down the stretch to limit them to three plays each on three of their final four possessions. The fourth ended in a turnover on downs. The Ravens are now officially the AFC’s first team in the playoffs. They should be brimming with confidence heading into two matchups that could be game-of-the-year caliber against the 49ers and Dolphins.

Next Gen stat of the game: Lamar Jackson’s 26-yard completion to Isaiah Likely in the third quarter included 7.24 seconds to throw, 1.3 yards of target separation and a 18.7% completion probability, Jackson’s second-most improbable completion in 2023.


NFL Research: With his strip-sack against the Jaguars, Justin Madubuike became the third player (since sacks became official in 1982) to have 0.5-plus sacks in 11 consecutive games within a season.

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

MVP candidates shine as 49ers put up 40-burger in Arizona. Get ready for another round of most valuable player debates in the Bay Area this week. Quarterback Brock Purdy diced up the Cardinals' defense, tossing four touchdowns. Owning the ability to make plays out of the structure of the offense, Purdy threw seeds, touch lobs and perfectly placed balls in stride to give his pass-catchers space to run. Even on plays when the Cardinals had the 49ers' offense backed up in third and long, Purdy found answers. It helps to have Christian McCaffrey on the field. The running back was dominant, rushing for 115 yards with a TD and adding five catches for a team-high 72 yards and two more scores. CMC dominated the Cards this season, scoring seven total TDs in two contests. Deebo Samuel chipped in two scores, his third straight game with multiple touchdowns. The 49ers' offensive embarrassment of riches was on display in Arizona.  
Cardinals put up 234 yards rushing in loss. Arizona took advantage of the 49ers missing their top two defensive tackles, Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave, gashing the Niners on the ground for 234 yards, averaging 7.8 yards per rush. James Conner popped a 44-yarder, and Emari Demercado housed a 49-yard gallop. The Cards came in wanting to control the ball, which worked early, as the game sat at 14-13 late in the second quarter. But the better team pulled away. Despite piling up 436 total yards, Arizona's miscues sank any chances to keep the contest close. Kyler Murray threw an early fourth-down pick-six. A botched handoff eliminated a chance to score a third-quarter TD that would have made it an eight-point game. The Cardinals roster simply isn't talented enough to overcome errors, particularly against the NFC's top seed.
San Francisco clinches NFC West. With three games to play, Kyle Shanahan's club wrapped up the division title with a 12th consecutive division victory. Now, the Niners' eyes turn to the No. 1 seed. The pre-bye three-game losing streak feels like eons ago. San Francisco has won six consecutive contests to move to 11-3, averaging 34.5 points per game in those tilts. The 49ers close the season with games against the Ravens, Commanders and Rams. Win out, and the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC runs through Santa Clara.

Next Gen stat of the game: Brock Purdy went 5-of-7 passing under pressure for 96 yards and two TDs for a 153.3 passer rating and plus-8.9 CPOE.

NFL Research: Week 15 marked Brock Purdy's 13th career start with a 100-plus passer rating. Purdy's 13 such games only trail Patrick Mahomes (16) and HOFer Kurt Warner (14) for most games with a 100-plus passer rating in a QB's first 20 starts since 1950.

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