The 32 things we learned from Week 11 of the 2022 NFL season:
1. It’s easy enough to snicker when coaches mention special teams as the third phase of football, as if it equates to the importance of offense or defense. While that’s pretty obviously not true – most of the time – Sunday was a reminder, especially in a year when scoring is down throughout the league significantly, that games can easily turn when the role players are on the field.
2. That was most obviously true in New England, where the Patriots beat the New York Jets for the 14th consecutive time overall (and 14th straight in the regular season at Gillette Stadium) courtesy of rookie Marcus Jones 84-yard punt return for a TD with 5 seconds left in a 10-3 victory.
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2a. The Pats’ 14-game win streak against the NYJ is the league’s longest active run by any team over another.
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3. Jones’ decisive TD is the second latest to come off a go-ahead punt return in the final minute of regulation since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. DeSean Jackson’s 65-yarder at the gun as the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New York Giants in 2010 is the only one to occur later.
3a. Jones’ score was the first on a punt return in the NFL this season.
4. The Jets’ last win at Foxborough came when they stunned the top-seeded Patriots in the divisional round of the 2010 playoffs. Gang Green’s last regular-season triumph in New England happened in 2008 … when Brett Favre was their quarterback.
5. And regarding football’s three phases, special teams are actually superior to the Jets offense given it provided their three points Sunday. New York’s offense generated all of six first downs and 103 yards – and a mere 2 (on seven possessions) after halftime. NYJ coach Robert Saleh characterized the performance as “dog(expletive).” The Jets averaged 2.1 yards per play on the day.
5a. Jets rookie WR Garrett Wilson echoed Saleh with an expletive of his own. “We got our ass beat on offense, and the results showed,” said Wilson, one of the team’s three first-round picks in 2022. He had two catches for 12 yards on a day when QB Zach Wilson struggled mightily … once again.
6. Worse for the Jets, their defeat booted them from the AFC’s projected playoff field as they were overtaken by the Bengals (also 6-4). Cincinnati’s Week 3 win over the NYJ currently gives the defending AFC champs the third wild-card spot. At the start of Week 11, the entire AFC East was projected to qualify for the playoffs. That would mark the first time a complete division advanced to postseason. New York (6-4), which would have claimed first place in the AFC East with a win, is now in eighth place in the conference.
7. Special teams also proved pivotal in Atlanta, where the Falcons squeezed out a 27-24 win over the Chicago Bears. Atlanta got a 103-yard kickoff return for a TD by Cordarrelle Patterson and a game-winning 53-yard field goal from Younghoe Koo with less than two minutes remaining.
8. Patterson’s TD was the ninth of his career on a kickoff, a new NFL record that he formerly shared with Joshua Cribbs and Leon Washington.
8a. Patterson now has seven career TDs of at least 100 yards in length, four more than anyone else in league history.
8b. And the 103 yards he covered on Sunday’s TD runback … yes, equaled the Jets’ entire offensive output.
9. Bears QB Justin Fields played impressively in his hometown, passing for 153 yards and rushing for 85. He joined Arizona Cardinals QB Kyler Murray as the only players in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to reel off five consecutive games with a rushing and passing TD.
10. Back to the specialists. Dallas Cowboys K Brett Maher outscored the Minnesota Vikings 16-3. He converted four extra points and drilled four field goals – three from at least 50 yards and one of those from 60.
11. Of course, Maher had a little help in Dallas’ 40-3 blowout of a Vikes team that entered the game tied for the league’s best record at 8-1. Cowboys RBs Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott combined for 236 yards from scrimmage and four TDs. Dallas also sacked Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins seven times.
12. The Cowboys’ 37-point win was their largest on the road in the franchise’s 63-season history.
13. The Eagles overcame a 13-3 fourth-quarter deficit to get back into the win column, edging the Indianapolis Colts 17-16. It was the first time in 44 games, dating to Jackson’s “Miracle in the Meadowlands II” punt return on Dec. 19, 2010, that Philly won despite starting the fourth quarter down by double digits.
14. The Iggles (9-1) also reopened a one-game lead on the Vikings, whom Philadelphia also beat in Week 2, atop the NFC standings.
15. The Buffalo Bills got back on track – ending their two-game slide by besting the Cleveland Browns 31-23 even though Sunday’s “home” game had to be moved to Detroit because Western New York was buried by snow.
16. The Bills will be back in Ford Field – almost certainly with a smaller percentage of Bills Mafia – on Thursday, when they face the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving.
17. The Los Angeles Rams’ Sean McVay has lost four in a row for the first time in his head coaching career.
18. If Rams QB Matthew Stafford, who didn’t finish Sunday’s loss to the New Orleans Saints, goes back into the concussion protocol, you can officially stick a fork in the reigning Super Bowl champions … if you hadn’t already.
19. The Lions upset the New York Giants 31-18, forging their first three-game winning streak under second-year coach Dan Campbell.
20. Who figured Detroit (4-6) for a better record than the Rams (3-7) after Week 11?
21. Of the NFC’s final four playoff teams (Rams, Buccaneers, 49ers, Packers) in the 2021 postseason, only San Francisco (5-4) currently has a winning record.
22. The Washington Commanders smoked the Houston Texans 23-10, QB Taylor Heinicke was credited with the win while officially being named the team’s starter by coach Ron Rivera. The rationale, per Rivera, even with Carson Wentz poised to return from a finger injury: “Winning,” he said. “That’s the truth. That’s where we are.”
23. A loss by the Niners on Monday night will move Washington (6-5), winners of five of the past six, into the NFC’s projected playoff field.
24. The Commanders paid tribute to the three football players slain at the University of Virginia, which is about two hours from the nation’s capital, last week. “They’re our neighbors and a part of our community,” Rivera said. “We’re very sad for them. We just wanted to at least give them a shoutout to let them know that we are thinking about them and they’re in our thoughts and prayers.”
25. The AFC North-leading Baltimore Ravens improved to 12-3 following a bye under coach John Harbaugh, his .800 post-bye winning percentage second to Andy Reid (.875) among active coaches. Only the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 12-3 record after the bye over the past 15 seasons matches Baltimore’s.
26. Over their past two games, both wins, the Bengals have benefited from the eight TDs scored by RBs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, who had three scoring catches Sunday while filling in for Mixon (concussion protocol). The duo were also teammates at the University of Oklahoma.
27. If you’re going to beat the Las Vegas Raiders – not all that tough a task in 2022 – better do it in regulation. The Silver and Black prevailed in overtime Sunday in Denver, beating the Broncos 22-16. WR Davante Adams’ 35-yard TD grab from QB Derek Carr won the game.
28. It was Adams’ third career OT TD, tied with Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson for most in NFL history. Carr’s 8-2 record during bonus football is the best among quarterbacks with at least 10 overtime appearances.
28a. Adams also became the sixth player in NFL annals with double-digit TD receptions in at least six seasons. The other five men are all Hall of Famers: Cris Carter, Marvin Harrison, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice.
29. Las Vegas ran the ball 24 times Sunday, every single one of them (at altitude) by RB Josh Jacobs (for 109 yards).
30. Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is now 14-0 on the road against AFC West foes after Sunday night’s 30-27 escape from the Chargers in Los Angeles.
30a. K.C.’s 8-2 record is the AFC’s best, but the Chiefs only have a two-game lead on the (currently) seventh-seeded Bengals in the bigger AFC picture.
31. In Thursday’s win at Green Bay, Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry became the fifth player in league history with at least 10 rushing touchdowns in five consecutive seasons.
32. Week 11 will conclude with the 49ers and Arizona Cardinals clashing in Mexico City, this season’s final International Series matchup. Seventeen years ago, these same teams met at Estadio Azteca in the first regular-season game played outside the United States.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.