By Ben Morse, CNN
(CNN) — Between reignited rivalries, shock results and sideline scuffles, Week 13 of the 2023 NFL season had it all.
With crunchtime of the season fast approaching, the stakes have been ratcheted up with campaigns on the line in each game.
Whether it be playoff standings, postseason qualification, job security or draft position, every game has something riding on the results, so here is everything you need to know about Sunday’s action.
49ers dramatically enact playoff revenge
There was a lot on the line at a rainy Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Sunday.
Last season’s NFC Championship clash between the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles had big implications: the Eagles booked their spot in the Super Bowl while San Francisco’s promising year ended in disappointment as the Niners lost 31-7.
This time around, the pair faced off as two of the best teams in the league in an encounter which could go a long way in deciding postseason seedings for the conference.
And the 49ers enacted some measure of revenge for the loss, flipping the script and comfortably beating Philadelphia 42-19 this time round.
The team overcame a slow start where it fell behind the Eagles 6-0 in the first before coming online, scoring six straight touchdowns on six successive drives in what was a masterclass in offensive play calling and execution.
49ers quarterback Brock Purdy – who suffered a serious elbow injury in last season’s game against Philadelphia – thrived in the hostile atmosphere, throwing for 314 yards and four touchdowns in the face of a formidable Eagles defense.
Purdy’s favorite target was Deebo Samuel, who finished with 116 receiving yards and two touchdown catches. The multi-faceted wide receiver – who had some strong words for the Eagles defense after their previous match-up – also ran for 22 yards, including a 12-yard rushing touchdown.
It wasn’t just the passing game which did the damage for San Francisco; the team’s rushing attack also dissected Philadelphia with relative ease.
San Francisco totaled 146 yards on the ground, with Christian McCaffrey picking up the bulk of those with 93 yards and a rushing touchdown to his name.
Afterwards, Purdy said that the team’s offensive explosion was impressive but that he and his teammates weren’t getting ahead of themselves.
“I’m not getting caught up in it. It was literally every drive we have to continue to put up points, we have to score,” the second-year quarterback told reporters. “That’s just our mindset, that’s where we were at.
“Guys made plays. (San Francisco head coach) Kyle (Shanahan) called a great game. Defense got stops. And that’s our mindset. It was like, man, anybody can score a touchdown at any point with our offense and the guys that we have on offense.
“Was I going: ‘Alright, that’s four in a row, that’s five in a row?’ I wasn’t thinking like that. It was where are we at situationally in the game and we just wanted to keep the foot on the gas pedal and try to keep pulling away as best as possible.”
It was a statement victory by San Francisco who go some way into banishing the demons from last year. The result also shifts the power dynamic in the NFC as the 49ers establish themselves as arguably the team to beat by rounding into form at the right time.
With their combination of a genius head coach, offensive weapons and a stout defense, San Francisco has blossomed into one of the elite teams in the league as the season’s progressed and, although its record still sits below Philadelphia’s, the West Coast team has proven itself a much more formidable force at the moment.
While the result was different from their last encounter, the tempestuous nature in which the game was played remained the same.
And that all spilled over in the third quarter when 49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw was ejected after a physical altercation following the conclusion of a play with Eagles chief security officer Dom DiSandro.
“I just can’t believe someone not involved in a football game can taunt our players like that and put their hand in our guy’s face,” Shanahan said afterwards.
The 49ers improve to 9-3 while the Eagles fall to 10-2.
No stopping the Miami Dolphins
Mike McDaniel was known for his offensive creativity when he was part of Shanahan’s coaching staff in San Francisco. But in his second year as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, we are seeing just how effective his offense can be.
The latest display of the Dolphins’ explosiveness with the ball came on Sunday as they blew past the Washington Commanders 45-15, with multiple records being set along the way.
Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was electric early on, connecting with his favorite wide receiver Tyreek Hill for two long touchdowns in the first half to start the game in impressive fashion.
First came a 78-yard bomb in the opening quarter to begin the scoring before the same duo connected on a 60-yard pass in the second quarter for another long touchdown.
Hill finished Sunday with five catches and 157 receiving yards as well as the two scores – it was his fifth game this season with at least 150 receiving yards and a touchdown which is a record for the most such games in a single season in NFL history.
The explosive wide receiver already has 1,481 receiving yards this campaign which is more than any player has had in their first 12 games of a season in the Super Bowl era. Hill is on pace for 2,098 receiving yards this season, with the NFL single-season record sitting at 1,964, achieved by Calvin Johnson in 2012.
Hill has had a storied career already in the league having made a name for himself with the Kansas City Chiefs and catching passes from Patrick Mahomes, in particular nine receptions for 105 yards in the team’s Super Bowl LIV victory.
But the 29-year-old admitted after the victory over the Commanders that this is his best personal season.
“I feel like I’m doing a great job of being in the right spot for the quarterback and making sure I’m doing a great job blocking and just understanding this whole offense,” he told reporters. “I think this past offseason, I really had a chance to just look back and just understand my mistakes from last year and I took it head on because I’m the type of player, I put a lot of accountability on myself.
“I feel like as one of the leaders on this team, I just had to step up and be better. Obviously, the stats looked good last year, but there was a lot of room for improvement for myself and I was like ‘You know what? I’m not gonna settle for that,’ you know. I feel like I can be a whole lot better, so that’s just me believing in myself.”
There were more offensive records achieved elsewhere on the field for the Dolphins.
Rookie running back De’Von Achane added another dynamic to the team’s offense with 103 total yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
The 22-year-old now has nine touchdowns in the six games he has played in the NFL. According to the NFL, the only player in league history with more touchdowns in his first six career games was Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson in 1983 with 10. Achane tied Hall of Famer Gale Sayers and Ockie Anderson 1920 who both had nine touchdowns in their first six career games.
The other milestone reached was by Miami’s other running back, Raheem Mostert, who scored his 16th touchdown of the season on a one-yard run at the end of the first half against the Commanders.
Mostert became the fifth player in NFL history to enter the league undrafted and score more than 15 touchdowns in a single season.
The Dolphins improve to 9-3 with the victory while the Commanders slip to 4-9.
Texans continue unlikely playoff push
CJ Stroud and his young NFL career just keep on getting better and better.
Stroud has personally set records in his rookie year, and now, he has his Houston Texans in position to make an unlikely playoff push.
The latest impressive moment came on Sunday with Houston’s 22-17 victory over the surging Denver Broncos to improve to 7-5 on the year.
It wasn’t a perfect display – with some miscues on offense – but the Texans’ defense helped bail the team out, in particular, rookie Will Anderson’s breakout performance with a season-high two sacks, four quarterback hits and eight pressures in a disruptive afternoon.
The defense intercepted Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson three times, twice by Derek Stingley Jr. and once by Jimmie Ward.
It wasn’t a classic Stroud performance in what has been an excellent season for the No. 2 pick in the 2023 draft, but he was able to make yet more history in what is becoming a commonplace occurrence this year for the 22-year-old.
With his 274 passing yards on Sunday, Stroud has 1,740 passing yards in his last five games, the most passing yards by a rookie in a five-game span in NFL history.
The victory sees the Texans draw level with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns in a tight battle for an AFC Wild Card playoff spot.
Houston currently sits on the outside looking in with the No. 8 seed, but with five weeks to go this year, there is still all to play for in the young team’s season.
“We’re taking steps in certain areas that we needed to and we just have to keep it going,” Stroud said afterwards. “It’s hard to win after Thanksgiving. It’s playoff football, the term has already started, so we just have to keep it going and stack these wins.”
The only negative for Houston was the loss of star rookie wide receiver Tank Dell to a serious injury.
Dell – who has 47 receptions for 709 yards as well as seven touchdowns after being drafted in the third round out of the University of Houston – suffered a fractured fibula on Dameon Pierce’s three-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
The 24-year-old was involved in blocking for the touchdown but was on the ground afterwards and had to be carted off the field.
Full Week 13 Sunday scores
Away vs. home
Los Angeles Chargers 6-0 New England Patriots
Detroit Lions 33-28 New Orleans Saints
Atlanta Falcons 13-8 New York Jets
Arizona Cardinals 24-10 Pittsburgh Steelers
Indianapolis Colts 31-28 (OT) Tennessee Titans
Miami Dolphins 45-15 Washington Commanders
Denver Broncos 17-22 Houston Texans
Carolina Panthers 18-21 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cleveland Browns 19-36 Los Angeles Rams
San Francisco 49ers 42-19 Philadelphia Eagles
Kansas City Chiefs 19-27 Green Bay Packers
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