As the temperature drops and the daylight begins to fade, it means NFL games begin to matter just that little bit more.
And that was on display during Sunday’s slate of games, with dramatic finishes, emphatic scorelines and important results marking the occasion.
Here’s everything you need to know from Sunday’s games in Week 14.
Cowboys show Super Bowl credentials
The Dallas Cowboys have risen to be the cream of the crop as the season has progressed.
While the defense has been on point all year, the offense – spearheaded by quarterback Dak Prescott – is firing on all cylinders now.
The latest example of their Super Bowl credentials came on Sunday when ‘America’s Team’ completely demolished its NFC East rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, 33-13, avenging its Week 9 loss to Philly.
It’s quite the dramatic turnaround for Dallas, which endured a worrying stretch of the season where it looked like its title aspirations might be falling away.
But the Cowboys’ ship has been righted in an emphatic way, with their victory over the Eagles being another display of why this year might be a bit different.
Like he has in previous weeks, Prescott led the way for Dallas, helping his team score three touchdowns on its first four drives with two touchdown throws to take a 24-6 lead at halftime.
The second half wasn’t quite as explosive offensively, but it didn’t need to be as the defense picked up the slack to stifle a usually dynamic Philly offense.
In their late season surge, the Cowboys have now won five games straight, scoring 30 points in each. According to NFL Research, they became the first team in NFL history to score 30 or more points in each of their first seven home games in a season.
Afterwards, Prescott was quick to stress the importance of the “big” win over their division rivals.
“We needed it. Let’s not sugarcoat that. We needed that. Obviously, I’ve talked about it before, and (Dallas head coach) Mike (McCarthy) talked about grabbing a huge chunk of confidence and moving forward,” the 30-year-old quarterback told reporters afterwards.
“Being able to do that against a team like that here at home, a place that we’ve had a lot of success at over the last two years, puts us tied for the front of the division. Yeah, but with a couple games left with both teams and understanding, as I’ve talked about, it’s about us running our own race and checking it out there at the end. This was huge.
“It was a great team win and a much-needed win. But we’ve got to turn the page quick, especially in this league, and especially with where we’ve placed ourselves. I can’t sit here and celebrate on this. This was our expectation of tonight and we played to our standards, so now it’s doing that again next week.”
Conversely, it was another alarming week for the Eagles who have suffered two damaging defeats in a row now following a thorough Week 13 home loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Its usually formidable defense has looked out of sorts for weeks now and the typically multi-faceted offense isn’t going on the scoring outbursts fans are used to.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts threw for just 197 yards in the losing effort and the defense had no answers for what the Cowboys threw at it. It’s the first time the Eagles haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in a game since 2019.
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni talked about his role in turning the ship around if his team wants to make a deep playoff push.
“Just the same way as it is if you win five in the row or win two in a row: play the next play. Move on. Learn from your mistakes,” Sirianni told reporters when asked what this moment demands of an NFL head coach. “Get the guys ready to play physically. Get the guys ready to play mentally. Have the right message for the week based off of what’s going on. Manage the game well.
“[The] role’s the same as it’s always been, and now we’re going through some adversity. And so adversity can do a couple of things to you. It can break you or it can make you way better. And I know that everybody that’s in that locker room has been through sh*t in their lives and has made it to this point. They’ve made it to this point because of the sh*t they’ve been through.
“And so that adversity has made a lot of us in that locker room where we are today, and we’ve got to remember that. We’ve got to internalize that, and we’ve got to make sure that they have adversity that we’re facing right now we’re able to get through and make sure we get better from it.”
The Eagles would’ve clinched a playoff berth with a win over the Cowboys, but now the Cowboys have moved atop the NFC East – although both have a 10-3 record – and are in pole position to win the division.
The most dramatic ending possible
The Baltimore Ravens and the Los Angeles Rams had played out a thriller. The teams were so evenly matched that they couldn’t be separated in regulation time, so it went to overtime.
The Ravens got the ball first in overtime but couldn’t do anything with it, so they punted. Then it was the Rams’ turn and they also couldn’t do anything with it so they also punted.
Thus stepped forward Tylan Wallace.
The 24-year-old safely gathered the ball, ran to his right, spun away from a Rams defender before splitting other defenders perfectly to race down the sideline.
Just as he was reaching the end zone, it looked like Wallace might have tripped up, but he was able to maintain his balance right at the last moment and sprint to the end zone to win the game in the most dramatic of fashion.
Wallace’s 76-yard walk-off return – which caused mass scenes of celebration with even Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson involved in the scrum that followed – won the game for Baltimore, 37-31, over the Rams.
The moment was made even more special due to the fact that Wallace was only fielding punts because the Ravens’ regular punt returner, Devin Duvernay, suffered an injury in the first half.
“Moments like this don’t …” Wallace said, trailing off. “You could say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime moment to be able to sit down and soak that all in while catching my breath at the same time.”
Per the NFL, Wallace’s overtime punt return was just the fourth in the sport’s long history. The last time it happened actually came this season when Xavier Gipson’s 65-yard return sealed the victory for the New York Jets over the Buffalo Bills in Week 1.
Prior to this season, the only players with an overtime punt return touchdown were Patrick Peterson in 2011 and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Tamarick Vanover in 1995 against the San Diego Chargers.
It came after a thrilling encounter at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, where both teams showed why they are likely to be in the playoffs come the end of the season.
The Rams were in position to win the game with just a few minutes remaining, largely in part due to the brilliance of quarterback Matthew Stafford and second-year running back Kyren Williams.
Stafford finished with 294 passing yards and three touchdowns – one apiece to Cooper Kupp, Davis Allen and Demarcus Robinson – and Williams finished with 114 yards on the ground.
Los Angeles led 28-23 with 4:41 left in the fourth quarter before Jackson masterminded a brilliant touchdown drive capped off with a two-point conversion to take the lead again – the Rams would score a late field goal to take the game to overtime.
2017 NFL MVP Jackson showed why he’s in the running again for that award, finishing with 316 passing yards, three touchdowns through the air and 70 rushing yards.
Afterward, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was full of praise for his quarterback after the dramatic victory.
“Lamar deserves so much credit. You forget Lamar sometimes. All these other things are happening, and we’re not going to talk about Lamar Jackson who drove the offense,” Harbaugh told reporters.
“[He] runs around, scrambles [and] finds guys downfield. He’s a very unique player, and, most of the time, it works out really great just like any player. He’s one of a kind. There’s nobody like Lamar Jackson.”
The Ravens returned to the top of the AFC with the victory as they improved to 10-3 on the season, while the Rams slip to 6-7, just outside the NFC playoff picture.
A low-scoring affair in Las Vegas
Often, it is the high scores and touchdowns which grab the headlines. But in Las Vegas, fans were treated to one of the most bizarre games we’ve seen in a while.
The Minnesota Vikings beat the Las Vegas Raiders 3-0 at Allegiant Stadium in a scoreline more reminiscent of a soccer or baseball game than an NFL match-up.
It’s the eighth time since 1950 that an NFL game has finished with that scoreline and the first since the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Miami Dolphins 3-0 in a rainy affair in 2007.
It wasn’t an offensive masterclass by anyone’s definition, with both teams combining for a total of 433 yards and 17 punts.
The Vikings were hampered when star wide receiver Justin Jefferson was ruled out with a chest injury in the second quarter after only just returning from the injury list having missed the last seven games with a hamstring problem.
Minnesota also chose to switch quarterbacks midway through the game to give its offense a spark, benching Josh Dobbs in favor of Nick Mullens.
Greg Joseph proved the game-winner in the fourth quarter though, his 36-yard field goal being the only score of the game. Joseph had earlier missed a 49-yard field goal in the first half.
But it was the defense that was the real game changer, holding Las Vegas scoreless with a combination of excellent defensive plays and offensive miscues by the Raiders.
Rookie linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. intercepted Raiders quarterback Aidan O’Connell near the end of the fourth quarter to help clinch the victory as the Vikings held their opponent to a shutout for the first time since a 2017 clash against the Green Bay Packers.
Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell – who became the fastest head coach in franchise history to secure 20 wins, reaching the milestone in 30 games – praised his team’s defense for making up for the offensive shortcomings his side was showing.
“Individual players thriving in their roles, but it’s the collective effort of those guys over there. We’re playing a lot of guys, different personnel groupings,” O’Connell told reporters.
“[Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores] and his staff continue to do a great job, not worrying at all about anything else than going out there and doing their job and what that looks like as we tried to overcome some health adversity on offense, and then just didn’t have a very good day of execution, either pitching, catching or sustaining a drive.
“We really leaned on them, and I thought they were huge and just gave us a chance. We talked about it, we’re going to win the turnover battle today. It was a non-starter for us and maybe affected the way we did things at times, but to win the turnover battle just teaches you a lesson. It’s not always going to be pretty, there’s going to be a lot of things that are tough to deal with and execution that we’ve got to clean up.
“Certainly, we all can do better on offense, but if you win the turnover battle and your defense plays the way they did, you’ve got a chance to win a football game in this in this league.”
Full Week 14 Sunday scores
Away vs. home
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 29-25 Atlanta Falcons
Los Angeles Rams 31-37 Baltimore Ravens (OT)
Detroit Lions 13-28 Chicago Bears
Indianapolis Colts 14-34 Cincinnati Bengals
Jacksonville Jaguars 27-31 Cleveland Browns
Carolina Panthers 6-28 New Orleans Saints
Houston Texans 6-30 New York Jets
Minnesota Vikings 3-0 Las Vegas Raiders
Seattle Seahawks 16-28 San Francisco 49ers
Buffalo Bills 20-17 Kansas City Chiefs
Denver Broncos 24-7 Los Angeles Chargers
Philadelphia Eagles 13-33 Dallas Cowboys
For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com