These teams had losing records entering Week 6, but there's obviously no questioning that there's a massive disparity between them. The Eagles, who have improved to 3-3, managed to keep their season alive and put themselves in position to perhaps lead the division by themselves after this weekend is over. The Giants, conversely, have dropped to 1-5, leaving their fans looking ahead to life beyond Eli Manning.
Though the Eagles won in a blowout, there was some worry to start this game. Philadelphia's offensive line struggled to begin the night. On one drive, Carson Wentz was hit as he threw the ball, and his pass easily could've been intercepted. A lineman then got flagged for holding, and that was followed by yet another instance in which Wentz was hit upon releasing the ball. The Eagles were able to get two quick touchdowns off a turnover and a great punt return, but weren't having much luck moving the chains in the opening quarter.
However, things changed as the night progressed. The Eagles got a touchdown drive going when Wentz hit Nelson Agholor with a 58-yard pass on a broken play, setting up a score by Zach Ertz. Beginning at that point, Philadelphia's offensive line improved. Perhaps this had to do with the struggling Jason Peters leaving the game. Olivier Vernon was dominating Peters, but the reserve, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, had better luck. Peters has looked done this season, so perhaps replacing him is the correct solution. Lane Johnson, meanwhile, will have 10 days to recover from an ankle injury that nearly kept him out of his game. Johnson couldn't finish the night, as he tried his hardest to play through the injury. Having a mini-bye should help immensely.
Wentz dealt with offensive line woes throughout the early stages of the night, but he was prolific throughout, particularly on third down. Wentz was 13-of-14 for 169 yards on third down, which is just spectacular. The Eagles, conversely, converted nine of their 16 third downs, picking up 23 first downs in the process.
Wentz finished 26-of-36 for 278 yards and three touchdowns. He was lucky not to be intercepted early when he was hit upon releasing the ball, but he delivered when it mattered most. Wentz, as mentioned, was terrific on third down, and he also was nearly flawless in the second half, going 12-of-15 for 103 yards and a score following intermission. Wentz is a very smart quarterback who is capable of figuring out what defenses are doing by halftime, so his improvement as the night progressed was hardly a surprise.
Two of Wentz's touchdowns went to Alshon Jeffery, who caught eight passes for 74 yards. He trailed only Agholor, who had three grabs for 91 yards. The New York corners struggled throughout, and this includes Janoris Jenkins, who was flagged for pass interference on one occasion.
Meanwhile, Zach Ertz hauled in Wentz's third touchdown. Ertz snatched seven of his nine targets for 43 yards. The Giants haven't been able to cover tight ends for years, so his production was hardly shocking.
With Jay Ajayi out for the year, Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement shared the workload. Smallwood had more carries, 18-11, and he also tallied more yards, 51-43. Clement, however, caught three passes for 26 receiving yards and was used on the goal line. Smallwood fumbled in the third quarter, but was able to recover.
As for the Giants, we're watching the final days of Eli Manning. It remains to be seen if he'll make it through the season, but what we do know is that they'll be targeting Oregon quarterback this April. I have New York taking him in my 2019 NFL Mock Draft.
Manning was atrocious, and his numbers - 24-of-43, 281 yards, one interception - don't tell the whole story. He threw way too many checkdowns, and when he tried to heave the ball downfield, his wobbly passes fell incomplete. His pick was an inaccurate ball thrown into traffic that was tipped. The Giants' offensive struggles definitely aren't all on Manning, as his offensive line stinks, but he's done. It's time for the Giants to move on.
The bright spot in the Giants' blowout loss was Saquan Barkley. The No. 2 overall pick has been as spectacular as promised. Barkley rushed for 130 yards and a touchdown on only 13 carries, while also catching nine passes for 99 receiving yards. Barkley was even better than those stats indicate. For example, he had just a 9-yard carry where he made some crazy jukes, cuts and hurdles. He then broke free for a 55-yard reception in which he broke half-a-dozen tackles. His touchdown, a 50-yard burst, came on a terrific cut. Barkley is amazing, and he's really the only reason New York fans have to be excited about the rest of this season.
Odell Beckham Jr. didn't have nearly as big of a stat line as he posted last week, catching six passes for 44 yards. Beckham did his usual whining and crying, and he even went into the locker room prior to halftime while the rest of his offense was on the field. OBJYN is a poor teammate, but the Giants will have to continue to put up with his nonsense because they're short on top-end talent.
Aside from Barkley, only one Giant accumulated more than 50 receiving yards, and that was Cody Latimer with his three grabs for 52 yards. Latimer, however, was knocked out early with a hamstring injury. Sterling Shepard had three receptions for 37 yards.
Falcons 34, Buccaneers 29
In a game featuring two poor defenses and a pair of dynamic offenses, the team that is more successful in the red zone will almost always prevail. That was certainly the case here, as the Falcons put sevens on the board, while the Buccaneers settled for too many threes, as well as two crucial zeroes.
One of those zeroes occurred at the very end. The Falcons, up two, kicked a 57-yard field goal to take a five-point, lead with 1:10 remaining. It looked like it was going to be a front-door cover for the Falcons, but the Buccaneers moved the ball quickly down the field. Perhaps too quickly, as Mike Evans had an opportunity to stop the clock on one instance by running out of bounds, but failed to do so. As a result, Tampa had just 12 seconds remaining by the time it reached the end zone. Following a spike and an incompletion, there were seven seconds on the clock, with Tampa having the ball on Atlanta's 20-yard line on a third-and-10. Two passes to the end zone could've worked, but Jameis Winston inexplicably scrambled up the middle. Perhaps realizing that time was about to expire, Winston, upon getting contacted, threw the ball backward. Adam Humphries bobbled it, and Mike Evans picked it up. He then lateraled to DeSean Jackson, who had no one in front of him. All he had to do was pick up the ball and sprint into the end zone. Jackson, however, bobbled the ball, and it trickled out of bounds. The Falcons prevailed because of Jackson's butter fingers.
That Jackson miscue turned out to be the difference in the game. However, as mentioned earlier, the Buccaneers had an earlier gaffe in the red zone. Winston threw into tight coverage, and the ball popped into the air. It was picked off by the Falcons. Had the Buccaneers settled for a field goal there, they could have just kicked the ball at the end to win the game.
As always with the Buccaneers, the small things did them in. Whether it's bad play-calling, a case of butter fingers, a deflected interception, or a receiver not going out of bounds when he needs to, or a missed extra point that forced this situation in the first place, Tampa is perennially a stupid team that kills itself with mistakes. The Buccaneers are now 2-3, and their promising 2-0 start seems like forever ago.
The Falcons, meanwhile, were able to keep their troubled season alive by improving to 2-4. Matt Ryan was excellent, which was hardly a surprise, given the incompetent secondary he was battling. The Buccaneers struggled to tackle and cover, which is what helped Ryan complete all 11 of his passes for 125 yards in the opening quarter. Ryan's first incompletion occurred early in the second frame when he threw a ball downfield while under heavy pressure.
Ryan slowed down a little bit in the second half when he lost Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu to injuries, but he still finished with a terrific stat line, going 31-of-41 for 354 yards and three touchdowns.
Ryan's three touchdowns went to anyone but his top two receivers. Austin Hooper (9-71), Sanu (2-46) and Tevin Coleman all found the end zone. It was hardly a surprise to see Hooper go off, as the Buccaneers haven't been able to defend tight ends this year. Hooper has now thrived in consecutive games, so perhaps the athletic tight end is finally living up to his potential.
Ridley, as mentioned, left with an ankle injury, which would explain his meager stat line of three catches for 47 yards. Julio Jones led the team with 10 catches for 143 yards, but he once again failed to find the end zone. Jones dropped a pass and foolishly ran out of bounds with about 3:20 remaining in regulation. This nearly ended up costing Atlanta the victory.
The Buccaneers can't defend the pass at all, but they can at least stop the run. Coleman was limited to 35 yards on 10 carries to go along with his receiving score. Ito Smith, meanwhile, found the end zone, as a Gerald McCoy penalty kept a drive alive when the Falcons would've had to settle for a field goal instead. Curiously, Smith had more carries than Coleman with 11, but he predictably did less with them, tallying 22 yards.
Back to Tampa, Winston, despite the curious play at the end, had a magnificent stat line, going 30-of-41 for 395 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. Don't expect this every week, as Winston was battling one of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Though Winston did a great job of moving the chains between the 20s, some mistakes killed his team's chances. In addition to the third-and-10 run and Winston's deflected interception into the end zone, he was picked earlier in the game on a poor overthrow to Jackson.
Winston's scores went to four different players: O.J. Howard (4-62), Chris Godwin (6-56), Peyton Barber (4-24) and Cameron Brate (1-15). As with the Falcons, the Buccaneers' top receivers didn't catch touchdowns, as Evans was limited to four grabs for 58 yards, while Jackson reeled in four passes for 77 yards. Evans dropped a pass and was responsible for a penalty.
Despite the time off from the bye week, the Buccaneers still believe that Peyton Barber deserves to start over Ronald Jones. Barber was given 13 carries compared to Jones' one, and he outgained Jones 82-3. Barber, who had some very tough runs, was also a part of the passing attack, as referenced earlier.
Chargers 38, Browns 14
Any hope the Browns had of winning this game was flushed down the toilet when Baker Mayfield got injured. Mayfield scrambled on a promising drive and ran toward the sideline, but he began limping when he tripped on the first-down marker. Whatever was wrong with him was definitely serious, as Mayfield struggled to move around the rest of the afternoon. The possession concluded because he was sacked three plays in a row, though one sack was negated by an illegal contact penalty. On an ensuing drive, Mayfield limped off the field once again after getting sacked on a third down.
Mayfield's injury clearly affected his passing on top of his mobility, though earlier crucial drops didn't help. Mayfield had an overthrow on a fourth-and-2 prior to halftime, and he was picked off in the third quarter on a careless pass while drifting backward.
Meanwhile, two other things hurt the Browns, who were constantly over midfield in the opening half, but repeatedly got stuck around the 30-yard line because of the same mistakes. The first, as mentioned, were countless drops. Antonio Callaway should've caught a touchdown in the early going, for instance. There were several other drops throughout the game. The second item was one of the worst officiating moments you'll ever see. The Chargers scored a touchdown to go up 21-3 because the Browns stopped playing. They did so because Chargers left tackle Russell Okung clearly false started. Several Cleveland players ceased moving, anticipating the flag being thrown, but that never happened. Philip Rivers had an easy touchdown pass to Tyrell Williams as a result.
The Chargers, meanwhile, were able to move the ball successfully because Cleveland's defense had no answer for the outside toss. The befuddled Browns allowed constant big runs to the edge to Melvin Gordon. It was an embarrassing showing, as the Chargers went back to the well time and time again, and Gordon was able to rush for 132 yards on just 18 carries. He also scored thrice on those outside tosses.
Gordon wasn't the only runner getting to the edge. Keenan Allen, who caught four passes for 62 yards, was used as a rusher on several plays. He carried the ball four times on end-arounds and was able to gain 41 yards on the ground. He even had a 26-yard end-around negated by a penalty. Then, Mike Williams had a long end-around as well, as Cleveland showed no discipline or desire to tackle. This is something the Browns will obviously need to shore up, as other teams will utilize this strategy, especially if linebacker Joe Schobert is out. Schobert, Cleveland's best player at the position, also suffered an injury and had to leave the game.
Rivers barely completed half of his passes, but his YPA was off the charts, thanks to a pair of long passes to Williams on one drive. Rivers finished 11-of-20 for 207 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that occurred late because Gordon bobbled the ball, which bounced into the arms of a Cleveland defender. As mentioned, one of Rivers' scores shouldn't have counted because the officials missed one of the most basic calls in the history of football.
Thanks to 45- and 44-yard receptions on one drive, Williams led the Chargers in receiving by a wide margin, accumulating 118 yards and two touchdowns on just three catches. Excuding Williams and Allen, no Charger player generated more than 18 receiving yards.
Going back to Mayfield, he failed to complete half of his passes, going 22-of-46 for 238 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. I discussed the first pick earlier. The second occurred when Mayfield telegraphed a throw, staring down his receiver like a leering drunk. Desmond King read it perfectly.
As mentioned earlier, Mayfield suffered an early injury and wasn't himself for most of the afternoon. He just couldn't move at all. I don't think we learned anything about him from this game. It'll be interesting if he'll be limited in practice this upcoming week as the Browns prepare to battle the Buccaneers.
The Browns were missing several receivers due to injury, yet Jarvis Landry and Callaway were both on the field. However, they still were huge disappointments. Both caught two passes for 11 and nine yards, respectively. They each dropped passes and were woefully inefficient. They combined to see 19 targets, yet were able to reel in just four of them.
With Landry and Callaway both struggling, someone named Damion Ratley led the team in receiving with six grabs for 82 yards. David Njoku had a big game versus the Chargers' struggling linebackers, catching seven passes for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Carlos Hyde struggled to run the ball, as he was limited to 34 yards on 14 carries. He had an early 31-yard carry negated by a Desmond Harrison face mask. Nick Chubb (3-25) didn't get many opportunities - he also had a long gain negated by a penalty - while Duke Johnson led the team in rushing with 36 yards on just two attempts. Johnson was finally used in the passing attack, as he caught four passes for 73 receiving yards.
Seahawks 27, Raiders 3
The Seahawks won by an impressive score over the Raiders in London. While I'd like to say that they've finally gotten things corrected, and that they'll be strong following their bye next week, I really can't. This was simply a case of Seattle being far less bad than Oakland was.
Russell Wilson got the Seahawks to a 17-0 advantage by halftime with just four incompletions. However, 10 of those 17 points came off Raider turnovers. Frank Clark strip-sacked Derek Carr, easily beating Kolton Miller, who hasn't been the same since hurting his knee recently. This set up a touchdown. Carr later attempted a sneak on fourth-and-1 near midfield. He was short of the line to gain, and the Seahawks were able to drill a field goal just prior to intermission.
The Seahawks scored early in the second half on yet another Oakland blunder. Clark strip-sacked Carr once again, allowing the Seahawks to take over in the red zone. Seattle tacked on another field goal as a result.
Wilson played well, though it's worth noting that he was going up against arguably the worst defense in the NFL. He failed to complete just six of his passes, going 17-of-23 for 222 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Doug Baldwin caught six passes for 91 yards. He finally got back on track, and he did most of his damage in the second half; he had just two grabs for eight yards by intermission.
Baldwin didn't quite reach the end zone, but David Moore (2-47), Tyler Lockett (3-13) and Jaron Brown (1-5) managed to do so.
The Seahawks didn't run the ball very well, as Chris Carson was limited to 59 yards on 14 carries. Rashaad Penny saw more action this week, as he took nine attempts and turned them into 43 yards.
Going back to the Raiders, Amari Cooper suffered an injury. He took a vicious hit by safety Bradley McDouglad on a helmet-to-helmet blow. Remarkably, there was no penalty flag thrown even though it was a blatant penalty. Cooper's catchless afternoon ended very early. The silver lining is that the Raiders have a bye week coming off, so Cooper will have extra time to clear concussion protocol.
Carr finished with a miserable stat line. He completed 23 of his 31 passes, but was limited to a pathetic 142 yards. Don't blame Carr though, as he took a ridiculous six sacks. His offensive line is in shambles. Both tackles are injured - though Kolton Miller is playing through his knee problem - and guard Kelechi Osemele was out as well. Carr hurt his non-throwing arm late in the game, forcing A.J. McCarron into the game. Like Cooper, Carr will have the luxury of an extra week to overcome his injury.
With no time to throw, Carr had to check the ball down early and often. That would explain why Jalen Richard led the team with seven catches for 48 yards. Seth Roberts (5-31) was next, followed by Martavis Bryant (2-18). Jared Cook was a big disappointment, snatching just two balls for 10 yards. Carr simply didn't look down the field at all.
Marshawn Lynch had an opportunity to get revenge against his former team, but he did anything but that. He was limited to just 45 yards on 13 carries. He dropped a pass on what was a miserable sequence for the Raiders in the second quarter. Following Lynch's drop, Carr took a sack, and the longer field goal was missed.
Dolphins 31, Bears 28
When it was announced that Brock Osweiler would start for an injured Ryan Tannehill, this spread soared from -4 to -7. It appeared as though Chicago would win easily, and that appeared to be the case in the second half when Chicago held a 21-10 lead. And that's when the mistakes and fatigue surfaced.
The Bears had a chance to put this game away. Up eight, they appeared to score a touchdown on a Tarik Cohen reception to increase the margin to 15. However, offensive pass interference negated the score, and Mitchell Trubisky heaved an interception into heavy traffic into the end zone on the very next play. Cohen later lost a fumble. These turnovers kept the Dolphins in the game, and they were able to score dual touchdowns in the fourth quarter on 43- and 75-yard catches by Albert Wilson. Osweiler fired intermediate throws to Wilson, and he did the rest. The Bears' usually dominant defense, wilting in 100-degree heat and humidity, looked very gassed trying to run down Wilson.
The game went to overtime, and the exhausted Bears appeared to surrender a touchdown drive. Osweiler completed a pass on third-and-long on a very lucky deflection, and then Frank Gore had a long run. Gore was tured, so the Dolphins put Kenyan Drake on the field, and Drake proceeded to fumble at the goal line. The Bears took advantage with some long runs of their own, but they decided to keep the ball on the ground on a third-and-4. Jordan Howard was stuffed, so the Bears made the horrible decision to settle for a 53-yard field goal. The kick was wide right, and the Dolphins proceeded to kick their own field goal, thanks to a short field.
The Bears only have themselves to blame for this loss. In addition to the late blunders, they made some early errors as well. Cohen had a chance to convert an early fourth-and-1 at the Miami 42-yard line, but instead of cutting upfield, he continued to run to the edge and was tackled by Reshad Jones. A bit later, Howard fumbled at the goal line. The Bears easily could've put this game away and prevented the nonsense the Dolphins scrambled together late in regulation when the Bears were dying of heat exhaustion.
Trubisky had a great stat line, going 22-of-31 for 316 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. He did some good things in the second half, but the interception in the red zone was a killer. He also made another insanely dumb pass, heaving the ball across his body, and he was lucky that wasn't picked off as well. Perhaps this is why Matt Nagy didn't trust Trubisky in overtime. Staying aggressive on the aforementioned third-and-4 could've given Chicago a better chance to win the game, but the team had to try a 53-yard field goal instead.
While Trubisky made some terrific deep passes in this game, he struggled in the early going. He overthrew Anthony Miller for a deep touchdown on the opening drive. Hen then missed Cohen for a slant for a 15-yard gain, and a second-and-15 pass of his was way too high. Trubisky followed that up by skipping a pass to Jordan Howard in the flat. Had Trubisky been sharp in the opening half, the Bears could've established a big lead and put this game away.
Trubisky's touchdowns went to Allen Robinson (5-64), Miller (1-29) and Trey Burton (4-23). Robinson made an absurd catch, making a crazy back-shoulder reception while falling out of bounds. This put the Bears in the red zone in the second half.
While Taylor Gabriel didn't find the end zone, he managed to lead the Bears in receiving. He caught all five of his targets for 110 yards. He snatched two deep balls, including one with a single hand.
Both Chicago running backs made huge mistakes. Howard, who gained 69 yards on 14 carries, had a fumble at the goal line. Cohen, meanwhile, gained 31 yards on five carries while also catching seven passes for 90 receiving yards. He scored a touchdown, but fumbled and made a bad run on fourth down.
As for the Dolphins, Osweiler's stat line is bloated by the two aforementioned passes to Wilson, which were mostly on the receiver. Osweiler was also very lucky to convert a third down in overtime, as a tipped pass of his magically found its way into the arms of Kenny Stills. Osweiler finished 28-of-44 for 380 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. One of Osweiler's picks was a telegraphed sideline throw, and it set up a Chicago touchdown.
Wilson had a monstrous day, catching six of his nine targets for 155 yards and two touchdowns. However, if you exclude the two long touchdowns, which occurred because the Bears were wilting in 100-degree heat and humidity, Wilson caught just four balls for 37 yards and no scores. He also dropped a pass on the opening drive of the game, which could've been a 30-yard reception. Wilson will be an overrated fantasy signing this week. You can add him if you want, and if you do, I would trade him right away.
As for Miami's other receiving targets, Danny Amendola reeled in eight of his 11 targets for 59 yards. Amendola, who dropped a pass, was body slammed into the grass by Leonard Floyd in the early going, but he managed to stay in the game. Meanwhile, Stills caught just one pass, the weird deflection in overtime that turned out to be a 35-yarder.
Gore and Drake shared the workload, as Gore saw slightly more carries, 15-13, and he out-gained Drake, 101-57. Drake, as mentioned earlier, nearly cost his team the game with a fumble, but the Dolphins ended up winning anyway. Drake was in tears on the sideline after his fumble, but his teammates came up big for him.
Vikings 27, Cardinals 17
The Vikings already blew a home game to a rookie quarterback earlier in the year, and it appeared as though they were trying to do that again in this contest. Minnesota was very sloppy in the opening half. The team failed on an early fourth-and-2, as Kirk Cousins' pass was batted up into the air. Cousins later had an interception when he panicked under heavy pressure and foolishly heaved up the ball for grabs. Cousins had yet another mistake after that, as he was strip-sacked, and Arizona returned the turnover for a touchdown.
Thanks to this score, the Cardinals were able to tie the game at 10, and they were down by just three entering intermission. It looked as though they would be able to hang around, but the Vikings finally got their act together. Minnesota was able to establish a 27-10 lead before a late Arizona touchdown pushed the margin to 10.
Cousins had a miserable opening half, but remained clean following intermission. He completed just six passes, though his line of 6-of-8 for 59 yards was solid enough for the Vikings to keep the Cardinals at bay.
Cousins as a whole was 24-of-34 for 233 yards, one touchdown, an interception and a lost fumble. The completion percentage was nice, but Cousins' mistakes prevented the Vikings from having an easy victory. He also had a whopping six passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. If the Cardinals were more competitive, they could've pulled the upset.
Cousins didn't have to much in the second half because Latavius Murray was a beast. The Cardinals couldn't bring Murray down very easily, as he gained 155 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Murray's score featured a nasty stiff-arm where he pushed safety Antoine Bethea aside. His only blemish on the afternoon was a drop.
Adam Thielen eclipsed the 100-yard barrier for the sixth-straight game to start the season. If he gets 100-plus again next week, he'll tie the all-time record for most 100-yard performances to start a season. Thielen reeled in 11 balls for 123 yards and a touchdown. His best play was a great diving catch to convert a third-and-13 right after halftime, which eventually set up his own touchdown. He widely outgained Stefon Diggs (3-33), who was locked down by Patrick Peterson for most of the afternoon. Peterson actually switched to Thielen toward the end of the third quarter, but by then, the damage had already been done.
As for the Cardinals, Josh Rosen made just one mistake, which was an interception in the second half. He stared down his receiver and didn't see the defender, who jumped the route. Rosen finished 21-of-31 for 240 yards and a pick. His longest pass was a 40-yard bomb to Ricky Seals-Jones in the second quarter, while his best throw may have been when he hit Christian Kirk early in stride for a gain of 35 yards.
Rosen saw lots of pressure during the afternoon. He never had a chance on several instances. Otherwise, the Cardinals may have been more successful. Rosen otherwise had a mixed afternoon. He had those two long balls to Seals-Jones and Kirk, but he also overthrew some of his targets as well, including Larry Fitzgerald on a third down during the opening drive.
Seals-Jones was finally able to get going after some dud performances, taking advantage of a good matchup versus a Minnesota defense that can't defend the middle of the field. Seals-Jones finished with five catches for 69 yards, while Kirk (6-77) led the team in receiving. Kirk made a terrific sliding catch in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Fitzgerald (5-39) still doesn't seem like he's 100 percent, but made some nice plays. He caught a pass in traffic to get down to the 5-yard line, and he drew a pass interference in the end zone on the next play.
David Johnson, who has been the subject of some trade rumors concerning the Eagles, was limited to 55 yards on 18 carries. He also scored once. However, Johnson had a couple of bad moments. He lost a fumble on his own 31-yard line in the early going, and he later was stuffed on a fourth-and-1.
Both teams suffered significant injuries in this game. Vikings rookie cornerback Mike Hughes tore his ACL, while Cardinals guard Justin Pugh broke his hand. Hughes will obviously be out for the year, while Pugh may play with a cast.
Jets 42, Colts 34
Andrew Luck's supporting cast has been devastated by injury, and they've killed him with 12 drops in the two prior games entering this contest. It was "same s**t, different toilet" for the Colts, as Luck's "weapons" betrayed him with mistakes.
If drops were the worst thing to happen to the Colts, they might have been fine. However, two of the drops turned into interceptions. Marlon Mack bobbled the ball on the second play of the game, and it bounced into the arms of a Jet player who took it back for six. Ryan Grant them similarly dropped a pass, and yet the ball bounced into the hands of a New York defender. This set up the Jets with a field goal.
These weren't the only mistakes the Colts were guilty of. Several other players dropped passes, including Nyheim Hines, who let a possible touchdown fall through his hands. Robert Turbin lost a fumble. And Luck fired a third interception in the second half that actually happened to be his fault.
Meanwhile, the Jets did well to capitalize on all of Indianapolis' blunders. They had some mistakes of their own, but they moved the chains well and scored points on the Colts' give-aways.
One of the Jets' mistakes came via Sam Darnold. The third-overall pick had a very good game, but was guilty of one abysmal error. Darnold, rattled under pressure on a third down, heaved the ball up for grabs, and the Colts easily picked it off. However, Darnold bounced back and improved as the afternoon progressed. He was especially accurate in the second half, going 9-of-11 for 112 yards and a touchdown following intermission.
Darnold's final numbers were 24-of-30 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and the aforementioned interception. Granted, he was battling an injury-plagued defense, but this was a nice confidence-builder for Darnold following his abysmal showing at Jacksonville two weeks ago. Darnold was impressive outside of the aforementioned pick. He seldom checked down, attacking Indianapolis' defense instead. This was apparent when he aggressively fired a slant downfield on a second-and-20 to move the chains early in the final quarter on what turned out to be a scoring drive.
It's normally a good sign when Quincy Enunwa doesn't accomplish much, as it means that Darnold isn't checking down. Enunwa caught just one pass for nine yards, and he also fumbled. However, that's because he left with an ankle injury. Instead, Jermaine Kearse (9-94) and Terrelle Pryor (5-57) led the Jets in receiving, with Pryor and tight end Chris Herndon (2-56) finding the end zone. Kearse handled Enunwa's slot duties. Meanwhile, Robby Anderson was targeted for a potential touchdown, but Darnold couldn't connect with him because of a slight overthrow. Anderson caught three passes for 39 yards.
Isaiah Crowell was a game-time decision entering this game, so it's no surprise that Bilal Powell out-carried him, 15-13. Powell had more yardage, 59-40.
Back to the Colts, Luck finished 23-of-43 for 301 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Two of Luck's interceptions were a result of drops, as his supporting cast, aside from Eric Ebron, is severely lacking in talent. It was so bad that Indianapolis dropped seven passes in this game, one of which should've been a score. It was an embarrassing effort, and Luck's numbers could've been much better. That said, Luck was fortunate not to have a second pick-six, as cornerback Parry Nickerson dropped a pass. The blown opportunity for the Jets resulted in a Colts touchdown.
To no surprise, Ebron led the Colts in receiving, hauling in four balls for 71 yards and a touchdown. He was Luck's only reliable target. Luck's other scores went to Chester Rogers (4-55), Marcus Johnson (2-52) and Erik Swoope. Rogers had three drops, including one on the first play from scrimmage.
Mack, who was responsible for Luck's pick-six, had a strong rushing day. He gained 89 yards on 12 carries, but couldn't get more opportunities because of the early deficit. He also nearly scored a touchdown twice, but was tackled just shy of the goal line on both occasions. Of course, Mack was responsible for his team being in a hole, so we can't quite call him unfortunate.
Texans 20, Bills 13
The Texans may have won this game to move into a three-way tie atop the dreadful AFC South, but the bigger story was that Houston easily could've lost. The Bills were engaged with Houston in a close game when their starting quarterback, Josh Allen, suffered an injury upon releasing the ball. Replacement Nathan Peterman scored a quick touchdown following a Houston turnover, but with the game tied at 13, the inept Peterman heaved a pick-six, which was the decisive score in this game. Peterman had one more chance, but he foolishly threw late across his body. The Texans came up with another pick to seal the victory.
Peterman was terrible, so it's fair to wonder if the Bills would've won with Allen. Not that Allen dominated as a passer, but he was great running the ball. Besides, all Peterman had to do was take care of the football, which is what Allen did. The Texans' offense, after all, couldn't generate anything.
And no, that's not an exaggeration. Despite Peterman playing part of this game for the Bills, Houston was still outgained, 229-216, and Buffalo averaged more yards per play, 3.9-3.8. The reason for this was Deshaun Watson's pass protection, which was atrocious. Watson was sacked seven times. Of course, the Texans' blocking is always brutal, but it was especially felt in this contest because Watson was banged up with a chest injury heading into the game. Watson, as a result, was a turnover machine. He was strip-sacked in the second quarter, but while a teammate recovered the ball, Watson followed that up with a horrible interception in field goal range where he threw late across his body. Watson then had a pick on a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage in the third quarter, and he was strip-sacked after that, which set up Peterman's touchdown. Watson nearly the gave the game away in the fourth quarter with yet another fumble, but was lucky that a teammate of his pounced on the ball once again.
The Texans scored just one offensive touchdown in this game, and that came off a Bills muffed punt in the opening quarter. In fact, 17 of Houston's 20 points came off Buffalo's errors. There was the muffed punt, a blocked punt that turned into a field goal, and Peterman's pick-six. Houston's offense otherwise did nothing, as Watson's stat line - 15-of-25, 177 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, two fumbles - was indicative of how poorly he played.
Despite Watson's struggles, DeAndre Hopkins posted decent numbers. Hopkins caught five of his six targets for 63 yards and a touchdown. It wasn't the best stat line of his, but it was an impressive one considering the horrible flow of the game. Will Fuller (2-33) and Keke Coutee (3-33) barely did anything per the box score, though a Fuller drawn pass interference in the end zone set up a Houston field goal.
The Texans failed to run block in addition to their poor effort to pass protect. Lamar Miller mustered just 46 yards on 15 carries. D'Onta Foreman will return soon.
Meanwhile, Allen, as mentioned, was doing a good job with some timely scrambles. He ran four times, picking up 20 yards, which doesn't sound impressive, but he did a good job of keeping some drives alive with his legs. That includes a third-and-10 conversion in the red zone. Allen didn't do much aerially, but he at least completed half of his passes, going 10-of-17 for 84 yards. He should've gone over the century mark, but a long Kelvin Benjamin reception was wiped out because of an illegal formation.
It's a shame Allen got hurt, as Peterman (6-of-12, 61 yards, TD, 2 INTs) self-destructed at the end and ruined a potential upset. Peterman made two nice passes to start, throwing a pretty touchdown to Zay Jones and then drilling a third-and-15 conversion, prompting a CBS announcer to say, "There's something here with Peterman. He's showing it a little bit right now." That quickly changed when Peterman gave the game away.
The Bills announced that they weren't going to trade LeSean McCoy to the Eagles. McCoy had a decent afternoon, gaining 73 yards on 16 carries to go along with three catches for 21 receiving yards.
Benjamin created some controversy prior to kickoff when he refused to run routes for Allen. Yet, he still led the Bills in receiving, catching two of his six targets for 43 yards. As mentioned, he had a long reception nullified by a silly penalty. Jones (3-35) caught Peterman's touchdown.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Man, remember when I listed D.J. Moore as a top sleeper before the preseason started? What a huge disappointment. The Panthers looked lethargic in this game, and yet they still could've won had it not been for Moore's blunders.
With the Eagles looking like they are starting to find their stride, Washington badly needed a bounce-back performance after last Monday night's debacle in New Orleans. The Redskins' defense came through with some timely turnovers caused by Josh Norman, and an opportunistic offense with a well-managed game by Alex Smith. This badly needed win keeps the Redskins in first place in the NFC East.
The Redskins were set up for points in the first quarter when Panthers rookie D.J. Moore fumbled away a punt return. Smith made Carolina pay on the very next play by finding Vernon Davis wide open in busted coverage for a 22-yard touchdown. After a Carolina punt, Smith found Davis again wide open for a 21-yard reception to get deep into Carolina territory. Adrian Peterson ran the ball to inside the 10, and on third-and-goal, Smith found Paul Richardson (3-31-1) in the back of the end zone to give Washington a 14-0 lead. The Redskins continued to control the game, and Newton threw a terrible pass up for grabs that was picked off by Norman, his first interception since 2016.
The Panthers had a drive going into Washington territory when they completed a pass to Moore downfield, but Norman punched the ball out, and Mason Foster recovered the fumble for Washington. The Redskins turned that into a field goal and a 17-0 lead. The Panthers responded by finally holding onto the ball and getting a scoring drive. Newton used his arm and legs to move the ball before throwing a 23-yard touchdown to Devin Funchess. The extra point was no good, and Washington took a 17-6 lead into the locker room.
In the third quarter, the Panthers' defense stopped Washington on a fourth down to set up their offense near midfield. Newton turned that into a field goal, but the Redskins matched it when Dustin Hopkins hit a 56-yard field goal.
Newton led a scoring drive in the fourth quarter, using Torrey Smith (5-43) as the Panthers attacked Norman to connect for four receptions for 34 yards, with Funchess chipping in a big catch. The drive finished with Smith catching a short touchdown and two-point conversion to make it 20-17 Washington with eight-and-a-half minutes remaining. Peterson ran for some critical yards to get the Redskins a short field goal and a 23-17 lead. Newton almost led a Carolina comeback, getting the ball inside the Washington 20-yard line, but the Redskins' defense forced a few incompletions to clinch the win.
Alex Smith was 21-of-36 for 163 yards with two touchdowns. Peterson ran for 97 yards on 21 carries.
Vernon Davis led the Redskins in receiving with three catches for 48 yards.
Newton was 27-of-40 for 275 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Funchess led the Panthers in receiving with five catches for 74 yards and a touchdown.
Christian McCaffrey was held to 20 yards on eight carries on the ground and seven receptions for 46 yards.
EDITOR'S NOTE: It was clear to me that the Bengals were going to lose this game when they punted on a 4th-and-1 on Pittsburgh's 40 in the second half. It was a 14-14 tie at that point, but it was such a loser move. As it so happens, Pittsburgh put together an 89-yard scoring drive following the punt.
The Bengals' strong start to the season took a step backward on Sunday, as they hosted division rival Pittsburgh and lost a heart-breaker in the final seconds. Coming into this matchup, the Bengals had lost six straight and 15 of their last 17 games at home to Pittsburgh, but there was reason for optimism as the Steelers brought along a 2-2-1 record compared to the Bengals' 4-1 mark, but unfortunately for Cincinnati, old habits die hard.
One of the biggest reasons the Bengals have come on strong this season is the breaking out of third-year wide receiver Tyler Boyd. The Pittsburgh native also was the reason Cincinnati got out to a lead, as he caught a 2-yard touchdown to cap off an 11-play drive. Boyd ended up catching both of Andy Dalton's passing touchdowns, as he caught 7-of-9 targets for 62 yards and those two scores. His consistency over the middle has been a staple for this offense on thir down, and Boyd continued that strong play this week.
Down 7-0, the Steelers returned the favor on their next possession, going 75 yards on 10 plays over five minutes and were powered by James Conner, who bulldozed defenders for 40 yards rushing on four carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game up.
The Steelers took the lead in the second quarter with another long drive; this one highlighted by Vance McDonald trucking over defenders and JuJu Smith-Schuster making an incredible catch, which was ruled down just before the goal line as his head hit the ground while rolling over the defender. That missed touchdown set Conner up for his second short touchdown plunge of the day, but the Bengals, just like the Steelers, answered with a drive of their own on their next possession.
Dalton and company had just 1:07 on the clock, but got a great start with Alex Erickson returning the kick 47-yards into Pittsburgh territory. After that, Dalton had no trouble cutting through the Steelers' defense with passes to A.J. Green and Boyd. Green got off to a tough start in this one with two bad drops, but he also made some great receptions to make up for it, with one on this drive to set up the second Dalton-to-Boyd connection, which went for a 14-yard touchdown to tie the game up at halftime.
These Bengals/Steelers games usually are filled with unsportsmanlike penalties, but for the most part, the game felt cleaner than their usual tilts. Of course, Vontaze Burfict had to get into it a few times and even had a nasty hit to Brown's head, which caused Brown to be evaluated for a concussion, but Burfict wasn't penalized. The situation was reminiscent of an illegal hit that Burfict knocked Brown out of a game with in 2015, which the Steelers rallied around to win the game, but this contest was nothing like that 2015 affair, which was a street brawl at best.
After halftime, the Steelers forced a three-and-out from the Bengals and then marched down the field, gobbling up time and yardage until Roethlisberger hit Conner for a 25-yard gain, which looked as if Conner had just broken the ball over the goal line, but since he was called down, Mike Tomlin would need to challenge and he didn't. Maybe Tomlin felt comfortable with first-and-goal from the 1-yard line, but he shouldn't have, as the Bengals made their best defensive plays of the day to shut down the Steelers and James Conner and force a field goal. The Steelers kicked another field goal late in the fourth quarter to give themselves a six-point lead with 3:32 left on the clock. And that's when things got interesting.
Dalton led his team down the field only needing to convert one third down and then relying on A.J. Green to get them down to the 4-yard line with 1:24 left. From there, Joe Mixon ran the ball in for a touchdown and the one-point lead. Unfortunately for the Bengals, that gave Roethlisberger and company 1:08 to win the game.
On that final drive, Roethlisberger's main man was Smith-Schuster, who caught three passes for 41 yards to get the Steelers to the Bengals' 31-yard-line with 15 seconds remaining. After a timeout, the Steelers could have worked for better field position for a game-winning field goal, but kicker Chris Boswell has been inaccurate this season. Instead, Roethlisberger hit Antonio Brown on a quick slant that he took for the 31-yard touchdown to win.
The Steelers made up ground on the division leaders and look to be a half game back, but a half game back from both the Ravens and Bengals. Pittsburgh gets its bye next week and possibly gets Le'Veon Bell back from his holdout. It will be interesting to see how the team uses Conner, who has been lights out in Bell's absence.
The Bengals will take their division lead to Kansas City next Sunday night. Coming off a tough home loss to their division rival with a matchup against the Chiefs' electric offense is not going to be an easy task.
EDITOR'S NOTE: NFL teams slack off from time to time, but I was sure the Jaguars wouldn't, given that they were coming off a blowout loss. Instead, they put zero effort into this game, allowing Dallas to win by 33. Doug Marrone is a horrible coach, but this type of miserable performance was still very shocking to me.
During this game, an executive from an NFC team was texting with me and saying that all four AFC South teams suck this year. Following the Jaguars being blown out by Dallas, it is hard to argue with that. The Cowboys lost in overtime last week against Houston, but they absolutely dominated Jacksonville from start to finish. The Jaguars' defense looked confused and slow, while Blake Bortles continues to struggle, although his offensive line also turned in a pathetic performance. The Cowboys' win keeps them in the hunt in the NFC East, where the Redskins are maintaining first place and the Eagles appear to be rounding into form.
The Cowboys took their opening possession down the field for a field goal. Special teams set up Dallas around midfield, and then Cole Beasley beat A.J. Bouye for 15 yards. Prescott had a fluky play where he fumbled the ball and caught the ball on a bounce to run for a first down. To finish the drive, Prescott ran into the end zone from 17 yards out.
The Jaguars got moving with a third-down conversion to Keelan Cole (4-41) to get into Dallas territory, but Maliek Collins came through with a clutch sack to knock Jacksonville out of field goal range. The Cowboys answered by moving the ball at will on Jacksonville and then opening up a 17-0 lead when busted coverage let Beasley score a 17-yard touchdown. Just before the half, Prescott found Beasley again open in zone coverage for a short touchdown, and the Cowboys took a 24-0 lead into the locker room. Bortles was only 6-of-8 for 35 yards at intermission, but a lot of that was because his offensive line was getting whipped by the Dallas front seven.
In the third quarter, Jacksonville finally got on the board with a nice drive led by Bortles that ended with Dede Westbrook (3-38-1) hauling in a 34-yard touchdown. Dallas answered with a field goal drive. Promptly, Bortles threw into triple coverage, and the pass was picked off by Jeff Heath, who returned to it inside the Jaguars' 10-yard line. Dallas settled for a field goal from there. Jacksonville quickly gave the ball back to Dallas when Keelan Cole (4-41) fumbled the ball away. Ezekiel Elliott put the game on ice with a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Prescott completed 17-of-27 passes for 183 yards with two touchdowns. He also ran for 82 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown.
Elliott ran for 106 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown. Beasley caught nine passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
Bortles completed 15-of-26 passes for 149 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
T.J. Yeldon ran for 41 yards on eight carries with three receptions for 29 yards. Yeldon played a decent game, but Jacksonville clearly is missing Leonard Fournette.
Rams 23, Broncos 20
The Rams weren't playing a divisional rival on the road this time, but they were battling shockingly brutal October weather. It was 25 degrees in Denver, and yet the Rams still managed to prevail to improve to 6-0.
The Los Angeles passing attack wasn't as lethal as normal because of the conditions and some injuries, but it didn't need to be because of Todd Gurley. The dominant running back had yet another explosive performance in this game. He began with a mistake by dropping the ball in the red zone - really, more of a botched hand-off - but he ended up registering a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. The Broncos, who surrendered 300 rushing yards to the Jets, had no answer for Gurley, who is certainly in the running for MVP.
This win, however, nearly came at a price for the Rams. Jared Goff's most reliable receiver, Cooper Kupp, was brutally horse-collar tackled in the second quarter. He was down for a while and had to be carted off the field. It looked like Kupp would be out for the year with a knee injury, but he miraculously managed to return in the second half. Kupp didn't catch a pass, but it's great that he was able to play after leaving the game. Similarly, left tackle Andrew Whitworth left the field, but managed to reappear. However, starting guard Rodger Saffold injured his knee and didn't return to the field.
Thanks to the cold weather, and some key players getting knocked out of the game, Goff managed to complete just half of his passes, going 14-of-28 for 201 yards and an interception, which was a bizarre deflection off the helmet of Josh Reynolds. Goff was pressured more than he's used to, as he took five sacks. Rookie Bradley Chubb brought him down thrice.
With Kupp seeing just one target the entire game, and Brandin Cooks (2-53) schemed out of the game by the Broncos, it was up to Robert Woods to lead the Rams' receiving corps, and he did just that. Woods snatched seven of his 10 targets for 109 yards. He converted a key third-and-13 on a bubble screen to get the Rams an easy field goal try.
Meanwhile, the Broncos appeared to be making a quarterback switch in the second half. Following some poor throws from Case Keenum, promising backup quarterback Chad Kelly entered the game to kneel down prior to intermission. I was looking forward to seeing Kelly, but head coach Vance Joseph opted to stick with Keenum, who apparently was just getting tested for a concussion. It was a foolish decision, as Keenum proved to be largely effective for the entire afternoon, save for a couple of drives in garbage time where the Broncos scored 10 of their 20 points.
Keenum finished 25-of-41 for 322 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Those numbers look good, but they're not indicative of how Keenum performed. Keenum threw mostly checkdowns and took some bad sacks. He threw an interception in Rams territory on an overshot. He made some great throws, but was very inconsistent. He had the crowd moaning and groaning throughout the afternoon. If Joseph weren't an incompetent head coach, he would've given Kelly a chance to lead a comeback in the second half. Keenum managed to throw a late touchdown, but it was too little, too late, and the Rams were in prevent anyway.
Considering that the Seahawks just ran all over the Rams, Phillip Lindsay had a disappointing fantasy game. He rushed just four times for 18 yards, getting outgained by Royce Freeman (9-22), who had more attempts for some reason. Lindsay managed to catch six passes for 48 receiving yards, but he dropped a ball. He also had a possible touchdown negated by offensive pass interference.
Emmanuel Sanders made a very stupid mistake in this game. He caught seven passes for 115 yards and a touchdown, but he nearly had a second score. It was ruled that he was tackled at the 1-inch line. The blunder was that after snatching what Sanders thought was a touchdown, he was flagged for taunting because he yelled at the opposing corner. Following the review, the Broncos were pushed back to the 16-yard line, and so they had to settle for a field goal, rather than having a first-and-goal try at the 1-inch line.
Sanders led the Broncos in receiving, while Demaryius Thomas (3-57) caught a late touchdown. Courtland Sutton (3-58) was second on the team in receiving.
Like the Rams, Denver lost a key offensive lineman in this game. Ronald Leary went down with an injury in the second half. His condition is far worse, as he tore his Achilles. That's going to be a huge loss.
Ravens 21, Titans 0
The Ravens have sported tremendous defenses over the years, so when their stop unit breaks a franchise record, it's worth discussing. That franchise record happens to be 11 sacks, which they accumulated against a struggling Marcus Mariota.
Let's break down all of the sacks, as this was a monumental figure that Baltimore achieved:
1. There was confusion on the play, and Taylor Lewan, in particular, looked like he was befuddled when Baltimore rushers flooded the pocket and brought down Mariota.
2. This was a coverage sack, as Mariota held on to the ball too long.
3. Mariota ran out of bounds, taking a loss. By rule, that's a sack. Mariota tried to throw the ball away, but the officials ruled that he stepped out before releasing the ball.
4. Mariota, already under heavy pressure, was sacked by a delayed blitzer.
5. Za'Darius Smith blew by Quinton Spain and hit Mariota, who lost the ball. Mariota, however, was able to pounce back on it.
6. Mariota was brought down by Terrell Suggs, as he held on to the ball too long.
7. This was another coverage sack.
8. Mariota tried to scramble for a first down on a third-and-5, but Kenny Young wrapped him up behind the line of scrimmage.
9. Matt Judon blew by Lewan, who was definitely not 100 percent in this game despite not being listed on the injury report.
10. The entire offensive line was pushed back into Mariota. The sack could've been rewarded to anyone.
11. There was pressure inside, so Mariota stepped up in the pocket, only to be devoured by Smith.
Remarkably, the Ravens registered more sacks than Tennessee did first downs (7). The Titans were just 1-of-10 on third down. They accumulated 106 net yards of offense. It was an abysmal showing, as Baltimore's defensive front absolutely dominated in the trenches. Lewan, as mentioned, really struggled. He clearly wasn't himself, as he's clearly hurt. Right tackle Jack Conklin was flagged for two penalties on the same play to negate a first down even though it seemed like Baltimore should've been flagged for a face mask on the play.
Meanwhile, Baltimore's offense wasn't explosive, but it certainly was economical. The Ravens put together a 94-yard touchdown drive in the opening quarter, spanning 17 plays and 9:09 on the clock. Baltimore was 12-of-17 on third down on the afternoon, winning the time-of-possession battle by 15 minutes.
Joe Flacco went 25-of-37 for 238 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The pick wasn't his fault, as it was a deflection off Willie Snead. Flacco was solid overall, and he made some great plays as well, including a 23-yard dart to Snead to convert a third-and-17 just after halftime. Flacco's worst pass was a poor overthrow in Snead's direction.
Snead (7-60) trailed only Michael Crabtree on the receiving chart. Crabtree snared six of his nine targets for 93 yards and a touchdown. He made two great catches; one was by the sideline, and Crabtree somehow got both toes inbounds before falling out of play. Another was a great leaping snag near the sideline.
John Brown (2-28) didn't have a good stat line, but he made a great, leaping catch to move Baltimore in the red zone. The Ravens capped off the drive with an Alex Collins rushing touchdown.
Speaking of Collins, he scored twice. He didn't do much otherwise, mustering 54 yards on 19 carries versus a stout run defense. Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson saw some action, scrambling once for 22 yards to move the Ravens near the goal line.
With the Titans failing to convert third downs and barely controlling the ball, their numbers were suppressed. For example, Mariota was just 10-of-15 for 117 yards. He had zero time to throw, obviously, and the broadcasters constantly harped that Mariota still can't feel some of his fingers. This was perhaps evident when Mariota committed a horrible overthrow in Taywan Taylor's direction for what should've been a long touchdown.
The Titans' run blocking was just about as bad as the pass protection. Derrick Henry was limited to just 21 yards on seven carries, while Dion Lewis was restricted to only nine yards on five attempts. In fact, Mariota led the team in rushing with 25 yards on the ground on two scrambles.
Corey Davis caught just one of his four targets for 24 yards. Tajae Sharpe (2-33) led the team in receiving.
Patriots 43, Chiefs 40
The Patriots appeared to have an answer for Patrick Mahomes. They established a 24-9 lead, and while the Chiefs were able to move the chains in between the 20s, they stalled in the red zone. New England even forced Mahomes into two interceptions.
With a 15-point lead in the third quarter, it seemed as though the Patriots would have an easy victory, but that's when Mahomes came alive. He heaved a 67-yard bomb to Kareem Hunt on a third-and-2. Mahomes then found Tyreek Hill for two touchdowns off a Tom Brady strip-sack and a long kickoff return to the New England 4-yard line. And if that wasn't enough, Mahomes, down 40-33, heaved up a 75-yard bomb to Hill with three minutes remaining.
The Chiefs erased multiple touchdown deficits to tie the game at 40, but they left too much time for Brady. The 41-year-old quarterback launched a 42-yard bomb to Rob Gronkowski, and a Kansas City defender foolishly tackled him inside the red zone, rather than letting him score. As a result, the Patriots were able to milk the clock down to just a few seconds, and Stephen Gostkowski drilled the decisive kick, giving New England a 43-40 victory.
Mahomes had some struggles early, as he overshot Hunt for a potential touchdown. He was also picked twice. The first interception occurred when Mahomes didn't see Dont'a Hightower in the middle of the field, while the second happened as he threw late across his body into heavy traffic while under duress in the red zone. However, he had a big second half. Mahomes was 9-of-13 for 186 yards and four touchdowns following intermission. The Patriots had no answer for him following halftime, and they're lucky there wasn't more time remaining because Mahomes would've put together another scoring drive.
Hill scored three touchdowns, hauling in seven passes for 142 yards. He had a huge night, as Bill Belichick's plan heading into this game was to put the clamps on Travis Kelce. The Pro Bowl tight end was limited to just five catches for 61 yards.
Hunt also had a big game. He was able to carry the ball just 10 times because the Chiefs were in a constant deficit, but he turned those attempts into 80 yards. He also caught five passes for 105 receiving yards and a score.
As for Brady, he came through in the clutch, but didn't play his best game. Brady, as mentioned, was strip-sacked because he held the ball forever on what turned out to be a coverage sack. He also should've been charged with an interception on an underthrown ball to Josh Gordon. Some key third-down passes in the second half were unchracteristically off the mark as well. This would've been understandable had Brady been battling a great defense, but the Chiefs have one of the worst stop units in the NFL. Kansas City was also missing Justin Houston, so as crazy as it sounds, New England should've been able to score more than 43 points, given the pace of this game.
Brady finished 24-of-35 for 340 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed in a score when rookie defensive end Breeland Speaks tackled him, but let go because he thought Brady released the ball. It was a tough spot for Speaks, as he would've been flagged for a penalty had Brady passed already.
Gronkowski clearly isn't the same player, but he came up big when it mattered most. Gronkowski hauled in three of four targets for 97 yards. He led the Patriots in receiving, with Chris Hogan (4-78), Julian Edelman (4-54), James White (5-53) and Gordon (5-42) behind him. Most of Hogan's yardage came on a 45-yard chunk play to set up Brady's rushing score, while Edelman caught Brady's sole touchdown. Gordon was in position for a deep touchdown, as he beat a Kansas City corner, but Brady released an underthrown ball.
Sony Michel trampled Kansas City's poor run defense. He ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries.
Packers 33, 49ers 30
For 58 minutes, the 49ers were the better team on the field. They had more success offensively, while their defense rattled Aaron Rodgers. They put heavy pressure on Rodgers, who took sacks, was flagged for an intentional grounding and suffered a very bloody elbow. Meanwhile, C.J. Beathard looked like the second coming of Joe Montana, torching Green Bay's incompetent secondary that really missed first-round rookie cornerback Jaire Alexander. The 49ers had a lead throughout the second half, including a 30-23 advantage late in the fourth quarter.
And then, everything made sense again. Rodgers managed to tie the game on a pass to Davante Adams. The 49ers took over, and Beathard's magical carriage turned into a pumpkin when he launched a deep ball that was intercepted by Kevin King on Green Bay's 10-yard line. It seemed as though this game would go to overtime, especially when the 49ers stopped Green Bay on third down, but a defensive hold on Richard Sherman extended the drive. Rodgers took advantage of this with a 19-yard back-shoulder throw to Equanimeous St. Brown, then a dart to Adams down the sideline. Green Bay was suddenly in field goal range, and Mason Crosby was able to redeem himself with the decisive kick.
Thanks to his comeback, Rodgers was able to post a tremendous fantasy stat line, going 25-of-46 for 425 yards and two touchdowns. Rodgers had a very uneven game. He started and finished hot, but couldn't move the chains in the second and third quarters, as well as most of the final frame. Rodgers saw tons of heat, and when he had time, he had several miscommunications with his receivers. Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb being out of the lineup almost proved to be very costly.
With Adams and Jimmy Graham being the most familiar targets for Rodgers, it's not a surprise that they were the leaders on Green Bay's receiving chart. Adams snatched 10 of his 16 targets for 132 yards and two touchdowns, while Graham secured five of his nine targets for 104 yards. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, playing for Allison, also eclipsed the century mark (3-103), thanks to an early 60-yard reception. However, Valdes-Scantling didn't play all that well, as he screwed up on a route, prompting Rodgers to yell at him.
Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams split the workload once again, with Jones having more carries, eight to six. Jones also had more yardage, 41-29. Jones appeared to score a touchdown on Green Bay's first possession, but replay review ruled him down at the 1-yard line. Jones was given one more chance to score, but he was stuffed. Ty Montgomery found the end zone on a bubble screen on the next play.
If you're wondering what the Packers must do to improve their defense, they need some new edge rushers so that they can apply pressure on the quarterback without blitzing everyone like they did against San Francisco. Clay Matthews, in particular, was awful in this game. Shannon Sharpe tweeted it perfectly, "Clay Matthews running around the field like a blind dog in a meat house."
As for the 49ers, they were unstoppable offensively for most of the afternoon. That changed in the fourth quarter, but Beathard looked like a franchise quarterback for most of the night. He torched Green Bay relentlessly, as the San Francisco offense averaged 10 yards per play in the opening half. For reference, only one NFL team has averaged 10 yards per play in a game this year, and that was the Rams in their Week 4 Thursday night victory over the Rams. The 49ers, in the opening half, were just as explosive as the Rams were in that game. That's how miserable Green Bay's defense was.
San Francisco's yards-per-play average dipped to 7.3 by the end of the game, but Beathard left a great impression overall. He went 16-of-23 for 245 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. It was a stark contrast to how he performed at home against the Cardinals last week, as he settled for just checkdowns in that game. He took a different approach in this contest, relentlessly attacking the Packers downfield. Unfortunately for Beathard, his final downfield shot ended up losing the game.
Marquise Goodwin was the recipient of most of Beathard's downfield bombs. Goodwin caught four passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Goodwin scored on a 67-yarder with his blazing speed, while his other touchdown featured a ridiculous route in which he fooled the unfortunate defensive back tasked to cover him. Goodwin is finally healthy, and if Jimmy Garoppolo were playing, I'd say it wasn't a surprise that he went off like this.
Elsewhere in the 49er receiving corps, Pierre Garcon (4-37) was next on the stat sheet, while George Kittle hauled in four balls for 30 yards.
San Francisco also ran very well against the Packers. Matt Breida dashed for 61 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, while someone named Raheem Mostert tallied 87 yards on 12 attempts, thanks to a 26-yard burst.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.