Winners, losers from NFL Week 15 Saturday tripleheader: Jared Goff tosses five TDs, Tee Higgins scores two TDs

The NFL rolled out a tripleheader for folks on Saturday in Week 15 and it didn’t lack drama. Out of the gate, the Bengals and Vikings needed overtime to determine a winner in the first game. Cincinnati was able to rally with a 21-point fourth quarter to force OT and eventually gave way to Evan McPherson for the game-winner to keep their playoff hopes alive. Meanwhile, there’s still Steelers-Colts, along with Broncos-Lions left on the Saturday slate. 

So, who shined the brightest in this three-game winder? And who may want to forget this game ever happened? Here are the winners and losers from Saturday’s collection of games. 

Bengals 27-24 over Vikings (OT)

Winner: Tee Higgins

You have to go all the way back to Week 2 to find the last time that Tee Higgins found the end zone before Saturday. Oddly enough, he scored twice in that game against Baltimore and again made two trips to paydirt in this come-from-behind win against Minnesota. With Ja’Marr Chase injured with a shoulder injury, Jake Browning leaned on Higgins during a two-minute drill to try and force overtime, and the wideout delivered one of the more electrifying touchdowns of the season. With 39 seconds to play in regulation, Browning heaved a ball toward the end zone, Higgins was able to get under it, secure the catch just outside the goal line, and then extend his arm to knot the game at 24. 

Higgins finished with four catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns. 

Loser: D.J. Reader

Cincinnati looks like they may have lost their star defensive tackle for the foreseeable future. On just the second defensive play for the Bengals on the afternoon, D.J. Reader went down with what the team called a knee injury. He was carted off the field and quickly ruled out. NFL Media later reported that Reader has a potentially significant quad injury that will require an MRI to determine the severity. After the game, head coach Zac Taylor told reporters that the injury is feared to be season-ending.

Winner: Ty Chandler 

Chandler was a bright spot in Minnesota’s defeat. The back got the lion’s share of the touches with Alexander Mattison sidelined due to injury and he made the most of it. He rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries (5.7 yards per carry). Chandler also caught three of his four targets for 25 yards. He was explosive with the majority of his touches and it’s a mystery as to why Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell didn’t ride with the hot hand in overtime when the team faced a third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 situation. Despite that, Chandler certainly has earned more touches as we head down the final stretch. 

Loser: Nick Mullens 

It was a wild ride for the Vikings quarterback. In his first start of the season (first since 2021), Mullens had several critical gaffs, including two red zone interceptions. The second was the most egregious as he threw the ball into the arms of defensive tackle B.J. Hill instead of simply taking a sack to possibly set up a field goal attempt. 

Mullens also failed to convert twice on back-to-back QB sneaks with less than a yard to go to move the chains, which allowed the Bengals to march down the field and kick the game-winning field goal in overtime. Those poor throws and inability to push for a first down overshadowed any glimmers of promise in this start. 

Colts 30, Steelers 13

Winner: Gardner Minshew

Tasked with keeping Indy in the playoff race, the veteran seamlessly picked apart Pittsburgh’s secondary, especially while sending the ball to the perimeter in key spots. With three TDs, no turnovers and a 123.4 rating, he couldn’t have been much better. And on a day where the Steelers benched their fill-in QB for their No. 3, he was also a reminder of the importance of a QB insurance policy.

Loser: Mike Tomlin

Yikes. Tomlin is a respected leader; that’ll never not be true. But boy did his decision-making leave a lot to be desired in such a critical spot. Pittsburgh wasn’t just undisciplined, racking up more than 100 yards in penalties, and a total flop on third downs (4 of 12), but Tomlin settled for a late punt rather than a field goal to potentially pull within one score. It was a play-not-to-lose mentality.

Lions 42, Broncos 17

Winner: Jared Goff

He got a lot of flak in recent weeks for his inability to control the ball, but boy was he sharp back on Ford Field turf against a Broncos defense that had lately been hyped up for its return to form. With three passing TDs by halftime and another two after the break to seal a lopsided victory, he simply had no trouble spreading the ball all over Denver’s secondary to get Detroit to 10-4.

Loser: Sean Payton

Just not a whole lot of preparedness from the Broncos, at least by the looks of Denver’s ugly start to Saturday’s contest, which saw them drop into a 21-0 halftime hole. Things didn’t get much prettier late in the game, when a fourth-and-goal scoring attempt went awry and had Payton ripping into Russell Wilson after one of the Broncos’ O-linemen was flagged for offsides.

Winner: The Lions’ offensive future

It’s just hard not to like their long-term prospects at the skill spots when you actually see all the speed in working order. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jahmyr Gibbs and even Jameson Williams were involved in the Lions’ big win over the Broncos, showcasing their shiftiness in different ways. No matter how this season finishes in Detroit, the arrow is pointing up for their weaponry.

The NFL tripleheader on Saturday in Week 15 was filled with drama. The first game between the Bengals and Vikings went into overtime, with the Bengals rallying in the fourth quarter to force OT and eventually winning the game. Tee Higgins was the standout player for the Bengals, scoring two touchdowns, including a game-tying touchdown catch in the final seconds of regulation. However, the Bengals also suffered a loss as star defensive tackle D.J. Reader went down with a potentially season-ending knee injury. In the second game, the Colts dominated the Steelers, with quarterback Gardner Minshew leading the way with three touchdowns and no turnovers. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin’s decision-making was questionable, and the team struggled with penalties and poor performance on third downs. The final game saw the Lions defeat the Broncos, with quarterback Jared Goff shining with five touchdown passes. Lions coach Sean Payton’s lack of preparedness was evident, and the Lions’ offensive future looks bright with the performance of their young players.

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