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Bills outclass Cowboys and Brock Purdy continues MVP campaign: Everything to know about Week 15’s Sunday NFL games

By Ben Morse, CNN

(CNN) — Ahead of holiday festivities and celebrations, some NFL teams clinched playoff spots, other franchises’ postseason hopes took a dent, while a number of players continued their excellent seasons.

Here’s everything you need to know from Sunday’s NFL games in Week 15.

Bills’ late-season surge continues with win over Cowboys

The Buffalo Bills’ season has been a rollercoaster.

From disappointing losses against the New York Jets and New England Patriots to the Week 14 win over the Kansas City Chiefs – the reigning Super Bowl champion – it has been hard to predict which version of the Bills will take the fie

And on Sunday, the most impressive and title-contending version of the Bills came to play at Highmark Stadium in New York as it completely dismantled the previously high flying Dallas Cowboys 31-10.

Buffalo did most of its damage on the ground as the Bills regularly dissected Dallas’ run defense, finishing with 266 rushing yards in comparison to the visitors’ 89.

Most of those yards went to second-year running back James Cook, who completed a monster outing with 179 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown, as well as 42 receiving yards and a touchdown catch.

Per the NFL, Cook became just the fourth Buffalo player ever to record 200-plus scrimmage yards, a rushing and a receiving touchdown in the same game.

Buffalo’s ability to consistently run the ball effectively allowed them to dominate the time of possession throughout and restrict Dallas’ ability to make any sort of comeback.

By halftime, the Bills had amassed a 21-3 lead after quarterback Josh Allen’s one-yard touchdown. The Cowboys scored their only touchdown of the game late into the fourth quarter when the result was all but decided.

It was an impressive victory for a team who had Super Bowl aspirations before the season, but a rocky road saw its prospects look increasingly murky.

But now, at 8-6 and peaking at the right time, the Bills look like one of the AFC’s teams to beat.

After praising various facets of the Bills offense – including its offensive line and skill position players – Allen called Sunday’s result a “complete team win.”

“We’re getting better as the season goes on,” the 27-year-old quarterback told reporters.

“I think that’s what we’re built for, games like this and finding ways and our defense went out there against a fantastic offense and did their thing.”

For the Cowboys, it was a disappointing return to earth after weeks of excellence had catapulted the team into the tier of Super Bowl contenders.

Off the back of an impressive victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last week, Sunday was a surprising no-show for the Cowboys offense, who totaled just 195 yards.

For a team that had scored over 33 points in each of its last five games, defeat by the Bills continued a concerning trend for Dallas – it is unbeaten at home but is 3-4 away from AT&T Stadium, perhaps highlighting the need for home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Both Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Dak Prescott acknowledged the difference in the team’s displays at home and on the road after the defeat, with both saying it is something that needs addressing.

“It’s a huge difference and, really, that’s what these next couple weeks are about – figuring out that difference, and trying to close that gap,” Prescott told reporters.

“We want to come out and start how we do at home, and that’s just not been the case. We’ve gotta find out what those answers are … we can’t be two different teams: winning at home against a good team last week and then come out here today and not get anything done in all three phases.”

Purdy, 49ers continues to roll

We all know the Brock Purdy story.

Last year’s ‘Mr Irrelevant’ – the final pick of the NFL Draft – was thrust into the starting role with the San Francisco 49ers and flourished with the star-studded team.

After last season ended in a disappointing playoff defeat and a disappointing elbow injury, Purdy has taken things to another level in his second year.

With just three weeks left of the NFL season and with the 49ers’ spot in the playoffs secured, the second-year quarterback is putting an exclamation point on an excellent season, one in which he is now the favorite to be named the NFL’s 2023 Most Valuable Player (MVP).

Purdy’s latest impressive display came on Sunday, with the quarterback throwing for four touchdowns as San Francisco beat the Arizona Cardinals 45-29 in Phoenix.

Purdy was ably assisted by Christian McCaffrey – the running back, who is also in the MVP race, finished Sunday’s win with 115 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown as well as five catches for 72 receiving yards and two more scores.

The 23-year-old Purdy’s timing is perfect, his accuracy is erring on the elite and he is doing everything required of him from head coach Kyle Shanahan to perfect this 49ers winning machine.

According to the NFL, Purdy’s Week 15 performance was his 13th career start with a 100-plus passer rating which trails only Patrick Mahomes and Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner for the most games with a 100-plus passer rating in a quarterback’s first 20 starts since 1950.

With the NFC West title sewn up and the team in prime position to claim the No. 1 overall seed in the conference, Purdy is now leading the race to win this year’s MVP award, a remarkable achievement for a player drafted in the seventh-round last year.

He’s gone from being ‘Mr Irrelevant’ to ‘Mr Relevant’ in the space of a year.

However, although the bookmakers have Purdy as the leader in the race for MVP, he endorsed McCaffrey to win the award following the victory.

“I think Christian should be MVP,” Purdy told reporters. “I really do believe that. He does everything for us, runs the ball well, catches the ball, he does everything. And so in my eyes that’s an MVP.”

Purdy was equally magnanimous when he was asked about his own candidacy for the award.

“I’m honored but I think (we have) a great team, a great team around me and guys willing to make plays and stuff so I’m trying to do my part and help my team win. I’m very honored to hear it but I think we have an MVP team overall.”

With six wins in a row under its belt, the 49ers sit at 11-3. And with three regular games left of the season, San Francisco is in pole position to wrap up the No. 1 seed and home advantage in the playoffs as a result.

The Joe Flacco renaissance continues

Joe Flacco’s new lease of life in the NFL continued on Sunday as he helped lead a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback victory for the Cleveland Browns in their 20-17 win over the Chicago Bears.

Flacco did throw three interceptions, but importantly connected with Amari Cooper for a 51-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to level the scores before leading a nine play, 68-yard drive which ended in a 34-yard field goal from Dustin Hopkins which proved the game winner.

Having only signed with the team a few weeks ago, the 38-year-old is the Browns’ fourth quarterback of the season but has provided a spark to a team which looked to be succumbing to a spate of injuries.

Playing behind an offensive line decimated by injuries, Flacco struggled under pressure from defensive players but when given time to throw, was able to show why he led the Baltimore Ravens to Super Bowl glory in 2013.

The game-winning drive was Flacco’s first since Week 2 of 2022, after the Browns signed him off the street with no other teams clamoring for his acquisition.

Flacco is quickly becoming a fan favorite among Cleveland supporters after revitalizing the team’s season.

After the Browns’ win, Flacco talked about the mental resilience he had to show after throwing three interceptions to keep bouncing back and lead the game-winning drive.

“Believe me, part of you wants to crawl into a hole somewhere and hide from everybody, but you can’t do that – especially, somebody like me,” he told reporters. “I mean, I’ve been in this league a long time and you’ve seen so much happen.

“You just have to keep your eyes on what’s next. You have to continue to look forward and continue to have faith that your teammates are going to get themselves in the right positions for you to get the ball to them.

“It might not happen, and today it just happened to work out for us. And like I said, I don’t think enough can be said about how well our defense played with all the turnovers that we had and the little amount of points they let up.”

The Browns sit fifth in the AFC playoff race with a record of 9-5. With other teams hotting up below them in the standings, they will need to continue winning to ensure a postseason spot.

Full Week 15 Sunday scores

Away vs. home

Atlanta Falcons 7-9 Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears 17-20 Cleveland Browns

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-20 Green Bay Packers

New York Jets 0-30 Miami Dolphins

New York Giants 6-24 New Orleans Saints

Houston Texans 19-16 (OT) Tennessee Titans

Kansas City Chiefs 27-17 New England Patriots

San Francisco 49ers 45-29 Arizona Cardinals

Washington Commanders 20-28 Los Angeles Rams

Dallas Cowboys 10-31 Buffalo Bills

Jacksonville Jaguars 7-23 Baltimore Ravens

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