By Ben Morse, CNN
(CNN) — “Football season starts after Thanksgiving.”
It has become a trope from Bill Belichick during his storied run with the New England Patriots and, if the legendary head coach’s sage wisdom is to be followed, the 2023 NFL season has only just begun.
The remaining few weeks of the current campaign will separate the wheat from the chaff and show who’s a Super Bowl contender and who is not.
Without further ado, here’s everything you need to know about Week 12’s Sunday games.
Putting a Hurts on the Bills
Jalen Hurts’ breakthrough 2022 season ended in heartbreak as the Philadelphia Eagles fell agonizingly short from achieving the ultimate glory with a 38-35 loss in Super Bowl LVII to the Kansas City Chiefs.
But the 25-year-old quarterback and the rest of the Eagles squad have attacked the new year and their 2023 opponents with energy renewed as they look to overcome that final hurdle.
Week 12 brought the team’s most thrilling performance of the season so far, with Hurts leading the way with five touchdowns as the Eagles beat the Buffalo Bills 37-34 in overtime.
Despite seemingly troubled by a knee injury throughout the game, Hurts’ 12-yard touchdown run in the extra period clinched the impressive victory and was the exclamation point on an already statement performance.
It was the complete display from Hurts, whose dual-threat ability was laid bare for all to see. He displayed his accuracy throwing the ball with three passing touchdowns – one apiece to DeVonta Smith, AJ Brown and Olamide Zaccheaus – while also running two more into the endzone, including the walk-off score in OT.
Although he has arguably not reached the lofty heights he did last season – where he narrowly missed out on the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award to Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes – Sunday’s performance highlights Hurts still has the skillset to lead his team to the promised land.
“He made a lot of really clutch plays in that second half and then, you know, the big one, obviously at the end right there,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni told reporters afterwards. “We did a great job of blocking up front, and Jalen got himself through there for a touchdown in a clutch moment.
“Man, what you learn about him. I don’t think it’s anything you learn about him because you know that he’s clutch. He’s been clutch for us and clutch for this city and clutch for this team for the past three years now, so you know, he just kept going and put his head down and worked and made some big-time plays at the end.”
Hurts’ five-touchdown performance was the first time he has reached that mark in a single game in his four-year NFL career.
It was Hurts’ 11th career game with multiple rushing touchdowns, breaking a tie with Cam Newton for the most such games by a quarterback in NFL history, according to the NFL.
And he needed to be on his best to claim the victory, with his opposite number – Josh Allen – also showing up on the big stage.
The Bills quarterback finished with 339 passing yards, two touchdowns through the air as well as 81 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
But after Allen had led a 12-play, 53-yard overtime drive which ended in a Tyler Bass field goal to give the Bills a three-point lead, Hurts went one step further as he helped orchestrate a nine-play, 75-yard game-winning drive capped off by that game-winning touchdown run.
The win pushed the Eagles to a league-best record of 10-1 and, in doing so, Hurts became the second quarterback with more than 10 wins over his team’s first 11 games in back-to-back seasons since 1950. The only other player to reach that milestone is Hall of Famer Peyton Manning in 2005-06, according to the NFL.
“We just continue to find ways to win,” Hurts said afterwards. “We continue to find ways to win. We play together. We’ve shown our resiliency day in and day out. Game in and game out. We’ve been challenged in a number of different ways. We always find a way, you know?”
Ravens perched atop the AFC
Some teams grab the headlines while others fly under the radar.
The Baltimore Ravens have certainly fallen into the latter group to start the season, although their victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday might begin to scupper that narrative.
The Ravens won 20-10 in SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles – meaning they sit atop the AFC with the best record in the conference – due in large part to the team’s continued excellence on defense.
Baltimore’s D forced a combined four fumbles and interceptions, managing to hold a previously high-scoring Chargers offense to its lowest point output since Week 3 of the 2022 season.
Arthur Maulet intercepted Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert at the end of the first half and the stout Ravens defense forced two turnovers on downs in the fourth quarter with the home team needing a score to hold on to the victory.
The defense was able to make up for Baltimore’s stuttering offense, which struggled to find the groove it has so often been in this year.
Quarterback Lamar Jackson threw for just 177 yards and one touchdown, connecting with Zay Flowers for a three-yard score in the second quarter.
Flowers scored the team’s only other score too, with an impressive 37-yard rushing touchdown with less than two minutes remaining to seal the road win. In doing so, Flowers became the first Ravens wide receiver and/or rookie with a rushing and receiving touchdown in a game.
Jackson was full of praise for his wide receiver afterwards. “It was awesome,” the Ravens star – who became just the fourth quarterback to rush for 5,000 yards in their career – said. “We need a lot more, if anything. I’ve been waiting on him to score multiple times in a game, but having that last one with the run, that was a nice run.”
The win keeps the Ravens atop the AFC conference, one game ahead of the defending champion Chiefs who also won on Sunday.
Stroud, Texans narrowly miss out
The Houston Texans have been one of the surprise packages of the 2023 NFL season so far.
With a first-year head coach, rookie quarterback and unproven surrounding talent, not much was expected this year.
But behind the historic performances of No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, CJ Stroud, the Texans have a legitimate shot at reaching the playoffs.
And on Sunday, Houston came within the width of the goalpost crossbar from racking up another win in its remarkable season.
Facing their division rivals, the Jacksonville Jaguars, Stroud and his teammates had gone toe-to-toe with Trevor Lawrence and Co. all game as the teams exchanged blows at Houston’s NRG Stadium.
Following a 53-yard Jaguars field goal at the start of the fourth quarter, the Texans trailed by 10 needing a miracle.
A 17-yard touchdown pass from Stroud to Nico Collins brought Houston within three points with 5:15 remaining. Following a defensive stop and with time ticking down, the Texans had one final drive to score a touchdown to win the game or a field goal to send it to overtime.
Stroud was able to get the ball to the Jacksonville 39-yard line before the drive stalled meaning Texans kicker Matt Ammendola was called in to convert a 58-yard field goal to tie the game.
For a kicker whose career-long conversion was from 49 yards, it was a tall order. And although Ammendola’s aim was true, his effort agonizingly hit the upright of the goalposts before bouncing back unsuccessfully. As a result, the Jaguars held onto the 24-21 victory to improve to 8-3 on the season while Houston falls to 6-5.
Despite the loss, there were plenty of positives for the Texans, including the continued excellent of Stroud.
He continued his historic rookie season on Sunday, setting an NFL rookie record with his fourth straight game with 300-plus passing yards. He also he tied the rookie record with his fifth game of 300-plus passing yards and two-plus passing touchdowns, joining Justin Herbert and Andrew Luck.
“I thought CJ did a really good job of being able to move around and extend plays,” Houston head coach DeMeco Ryans said. “Made a couple of big plays for us. I thought he moved around well when he had to, took what the defense gave him.”
Full Week 12 Sunday scores
Away vs. home
New Orleans Saints 15-24 Atlanta Falcons
Pittsburgh Steelers 16-10 Cincinnati Bengals
Jacksonville Jaguars 24-21 Houston Texans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-27 Indianapolis Colts
New England Patriots 7-10 New York Giants
Carolina Panthers 10-17 Tennessee Titans
Los Angeles Rams 37-14 Arizona Cardinals
Cleveland Browns 12-29 Denver Broncos
Kansas City Chiefs 31-17 Las Vegas Raiders
Buffalo Bills 34-37 Philadelphia Eagles
Baltimore Ravens 20-10 Los Angeles Chargers
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