The Cardinals have a habit of upsetting teams at home. Detroit and Carolina confidently marched into Arizona this season as favorites, yet they both came away with losses. The Seahawks, however, proved that they're just way too good to fall into a trap like this. They dominated this contest, and the final score isn't indicative of how much of a blowout this really was. By the time the score was 34-16, Seattle had Arizona outgained, 336-119.
The scary thing is that the Seahawks will only get better once Russell Okung and Percy Harvin back from injury. The offensive line is a concern right now - the team allowed three sacks, two of which came from John Abraham - but Russell Wilson continued to get out of trouble and elude tacklers with his elite mobility. Wilson scrambled eight times for 29 rushing yards to go along with his great passing numbers, 18-of-29 for 235 yards and three touchdowns.
Wilson's only issue in this contest was failing to han on to the football. He fumbled thrice, losing possession on two occasions. This will all be fixed with upgraded pass protection. Okung will make a huge difference.
Wilson's three touchdowns went to different players, which is not a surprise because he always spreads the ball around. Sidney Rice (3-50), Zach Miller (5-40) and Kellen Davis all found the end zone. Rice's touchdown was the best of them all, as Wilson found him downfield for a 31-yarder on a broken play in which he was scrambling out of the pocket toward the right sideline.
Golden Tate didn't score, but he managed to snag four catches for 77 yards, which was impressive considering he had to battle Patrick Peterson. It's worth noting though that Peterson injured his fingers on a special-teams play. Peterson was removed from punt returns after that, but stayed in the game on defense.
The Seahawks had great success running the ball, as Marshawn Lynch was in full Beast Mode, blasting through big holes and shedding tackles with ease. Lynch gained 91 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Lynch appeared to score on a second occasion on a run in which he actually pulled off Darnell Dockett's helmet, but the officials ruled that he was on the ground just prior to crossing the goal line.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, didn't have nearly as much success on the ground. Rashard Mendenhall, proving that he's the worst starting running back in the NFL, mustered only 22 yards on 13 carries. He rewarded anyone who started him in fantasy with a 3-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Mendenhall is trash, and I have no idea why Arizona is wasting its time with him. Every time he touches the ball, it's a waste. Granted, he didn't have good running lanes, but there were a few instances in this contest that he had some room, and a superior running back would've picked up much more yardage.
The weird thing is that the Cardinals actually do have a better back. His name is Andre Ellington, but the coaching staff apparently forgot that he was on the roster. Ellington touched the ball five times the entire evening (3 carries, 3 yards; 2 catches, 10 rec. yards), which is just mind-boggling. Aside from Larry Fitzgerald, who is struggling with a hamstring problem right now, Ellington is the most explosive play-maker on offense. It's such terrible coaching that he didn't have at least 15 touches; let alone six. I can't believe how dumb Arizona's game plan was.
Something else that was completely idiotic was asking Carson Palmer to repeatedly take seven-step drops throughout the entire evening. Palmer doesn't have the appropriate protection to do so, and Seattle's pass rush is just too good. It seemed like Palmer was sacked every single time he dropped back in the pocket. The Seahawks got to him seven times.
Palmer went 30-of-45 for 258 yards and one touchdown, which isn't bad, but he threw his trademark two interceptions. The first was on an underthrow to Fitzgerald that was tipped. The second, which came as Palmer was hit, was nearly returned for a score by Brandon Browner, who inexplicably fell down at the 1-yard line. Lynch punched it in one play later.
Palmer simply can't function behind this offensive line. For the Cardinals to improve in terms of being offensively consistent, they need to keep Palmer in shotgun on most plays, and they need to involve Ellington as much as possible. I don't care how small he is; Ellington must touch the ball 20 times. Perhaps a better game plan will keep Palmer more interested. He looked like he quit at the end, simply throwing away a pass on fourth down because he was under pressure. He also fumbled earlier because he held the ball carelessly, but the ball trickled out of bounds.
Michael Floyd led the Cardinals with six catches for 71 yards. Fitzgerald struggled with his injury (2-17), but he had two excellent blocks, one of which knocked Richard Sherman off his cleats.
One final note on the game itself: The Cardinals were playing at home, but so many Seattle fans flooded the stadium. The NFL Network crew remarked afterward that they had never seen so many visiting fans in one stadium.
Two Brad Nessler gaffes: Nessler, who called Greg Little "Mr. Dependable" and then screwed up the name of a woman who died of breast cancer two weeks ago, called Rashad Johnson "Rashard Johnson." That one wasn't as bad as referring to Jay Feely as "Jim Feely." It's clear by now that Nessler mails in these Thursday night games. You could almost say that Palmer puts forth a better effort.
Panthers 30, Rams 15
Dropping to a 3-4 record usually doesn't indicate the effective conclusion of a team's season, but that's the case for the Rams, who fear that they have lost Sam Bradford to a torn ACL. It's sad news for Bradford, who had some bright moments in this contest. In fact, the Rams actually dominated the first half; they outgained Carolina, 172-119, but they killed themselves with dumb mistakes. This includes:
- Bradford's pick-six on the opening drive. The ball was underthrown as a result of Bradford's arm being hit by Quintin Mikell just as he released the ball.
- The Rams coming up with zero points on a first-quarter red-zone trip. They decided to go for it on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line. Instead of settling for a field goal or pounding the ball with Zac Stacy, they called for a Bradford pass. Bradford inexplicably backpedaled 10 yards and heaved the ball out of bounds.
- Tavon Austin lost a fumble in Carolina territory.
- Speaking of Austin, he hauled in a 63-yard bomb for a touchdown, but saw it nullified by a bogus Jake Long tripping penalty.
St. Louis squandering so many opportunities allowed the Panthers to eventually find their momentum without worrying about overcoming any sort of deficit. Cam Newton let the ball hit the ground just two times, going 15-of-17 for 204 yards and a touchdown. Mixed in was his usual, arrogant showboating, as well as 10 scrambles that went for 26 rushing yards.
There was a scary moment concerning Newton in the second half. Robert Quinn injured Newton on a read-option play. Newton went to the sideline, but missed only one play.
Newton's sole aerial score went to Steve Smith (5-69). Greg Olsen was the only other Panther to catch more than three balls (4-47), but didn't look healthy at all. He was wincing in pain following some of his receptions.
While the Rams couldn't do anything about stopping the pass, particularly in the second half, they did a good job of limiting DeAngelo Williams to 40 yards on 15 carries. Mike Tolbert (13-36) vultured another touchdown.
A common theme of this game was the chippiness between these two squads. There were several scrums and unsportsmanlike penalties. In fact, one Ram (Chris Long) was ejected for throwing a punch. Harvey Dahl was whistled for a 15-yarder as well because he was defending his quarterback. Panther safety Michael Mitchell was celebrating a bit too much following Bradford's major injury, so Dahl took matters into his own hands.
Bradford left the game and was replaced by Kellen Clemens, ending what had been an above-average afternoon. Aside from the pick-six, Bradford had done a good job of moving the chains in between the 20s, but was mostly inept inside the red zone. He finished 21-of-30 for 255 yards, one touchdown and the early interception. He took four sacks.
Aside from Brian Quick (2-97), Zac Stacy had the most yardage of any skill-position player in this contest. He rushed for 53 yards on 17 carries and also was a factor in the passing game, catching four balls for 34 yards and a receiving score.
It was nice to see St. Louis involve Austin more on offense. The eighth-overall pick had five catches for 39 yards, and he also found the end zone on a 63-yard bomb that was wiped out by a penalty. He also had the aforementioned lost fumble.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I'd like to use this space to vent about the two pick-sixes and fumble returned for a touchdown that all went against my combined 10 units in the first quarter. Of course something like that happened.
Matt Ryan gave an example of why he's a great player as he carried the Falcons to a much-needed win despite not having his starting wide receivers or running back. Ryan used Harry Douglas to move the ball against Tampa Bay's high-priced secondary. Douglas was awesome, and if he's available in your fantasy league, he would be a great addition.
Ryan built a lead for Atlanta with 24 first-half points. The initial scoring drive saw Ryan move the ball with Douglas. The Falcons finished it with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Jacquizz Rodgers after he got a step on Lavonte David on an out route. Ryan followed that by hitting a 59-yard pass to Douglas, who beat Leonard Johnson to break away downfield. Tampa Bay stopped Atlanta inside the 10 to hold the Falcons to a field goal. The Bucs had a bad drive and a terrible 20-yard punt to set up the Falcons at Tampa Bay's 37-yard line. On the first play after the punt, Ryan hit Douglas (7-149-1) for a score after he beat Johnthan Banks and Dashon Goldson with a double move.
In the third quarter, Falcons wide receiver Drew Davis had a nifty one-handed 24-yard catch for a nice gain. A pass to Gonzalez (2-30) set up Atlanta in the red zone. Ryan threaded a needle to Rodgers (8-16 rushing, 8-46-2 receiving) who squirted through the defense for an eight-yard touchdown. Ryan completed 20-of-26 passes for 273 yards with three touchdowns.
Tampa Bay's offense was carried by the unstoppable Vincent Jackson. However, Mike Glennon spotted the Falcons a quick lead via a William Moore strip-sack on the Bucs' first drive. Thomas DeCoud scooped up the loose ball for Atlanta and scored from 30 yards out. Glennon rebounded by throwing a 59-yard touchdown pass to Jackson after he spun free from Asante Samuel. Falcons' cornerback Robert Alford fumbled the ball away on a third-quarter punt return to set up the Tampa Bay at Atlanta's 23-yard line. That resulted in a short touchdown pass to Jackson (10-138-2). The Bucs had two fourth-quarter field goals, but simply ran out of time.
Glennon played well overall, completing 26-of-44 passes for 256 yards with two touchdowns. Mike Williams was held to four catches for 32 yards.
All game, Tampa Bay killed itself with penalties. The Buccaneers had five 15-yard penalties for unnecessary roughness, personal foul or facemasks. An illegal hands to the face on Davin Joseph canceled out a fourth-and-goal touchdown pass to Tiquan Underwood. Tampa Bay played extremely sloppy football like the team did in Weeks 1 and 2 this season.
Aside from the play where Rodgers beat him, Lavonte David was all over the field for the Bucs. David is a stud and should be a Pro Bowler. He and Gerald McCoy are the only defenders who seemed interested for Tampa Bay. The Bucs had zero pass rush outside of an occasional pressure from McCoy or a blitz against the Falcons' patchwork offensive line.
The Atlanta defense played well in stretches, but allowed the Bucs to rack up a lot of yards in the fourth quarter. Peria Jerry, Jonathan Massaquoi and Joplo Bartu recorded sacks.
Doug Martin went down with a shoulder injury in the second half after a hard hit on an incomplete pass. He didn't return to the game, and his status for Thursday night against Carolina is worth monitoring for fantasy owners.
Bengals 27, Lions 24
Box-score observers will see 51 points and a combined 729 passing yards, but this was a game of blown opportunities, particularly by the Lions.
Matthew Stafford was a mess. Fantasy owners won't care because he went 28-of-51 for 357 yards and three touchdowns, but he left so many points off the board because of poor throws and horrible mechanics. It started early when he overthrew Calvin Johnson by a bit in the end zone. Johnson managed to get a hand on it, but just barely. Stafford then missed both Kris Durham and Ryan Broyles for potential scores because of overthrows. He also made a poor decision by committing intentional grounding at the beginning of the fourth quarter, though he did come back to Megatron for a 50-yard score on the next play.
Calvin Johnson had a huge game, catching nine balls for 155 yards and two touchdowns, one of which came via a great leaping grab amid triple coverage. It could've been even better; as mentioned, he was overthrown a bit in the first quarter. He also had a 19-yard reception wiped out by replay review.
Elsewhere, Ndamukong Suh scored on an Andy Dalton strip-sack, but it was nullified because Ezekiel Ansah was offside. This was the second time this season that a Detroit defensive score has been taken off the board because of an Ansah penalty.
Much later, Detroit's worst mistake was a 28-yard punt that shanked out of bounds with 34 seconds remaining. The Bengals took over at midfield. After two plays, Mike Nugent drilled a 54-yard field goal to win the game.
As for the Bengals' mistakes, Dalton had his own overthrows. He had A.J. Green open downfield for long scores on two separate occasions, but simply underthrew him. Perhaps Dalton and Stafford can combine their abilities and hit players in stride more often.
To be fair, Dalton did find A.J. Green for an 82-yard strike, torching Chris Houston. Dalton finished 24-of-34 for 372 yards and three touchdowns, while Green completed the contest with six receptions for 155 yards.
Dalton's two other scores went to Marvin Jones (4-57) and Tyler Eifert (3-45), which was a pretty rainbow. Meanwhile, Jermaine Gresham (4-64) missed some time after committing a personal foul in the first half. It appeared as though Marvin Lewis removed him out of the game, but Gresham came back after intermission.
The Bengals didn't run the ball very well, with Giovani Bernard (7-27) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (10-24) both failing to gain four yards per carry. Bernard did catch five balls for 32 yards.
Some horrible news for Cincinnati: Cornerback Leon Hall tore his Achilles, marking the second time in as many seasons that he has suffered such an injury.
Going back to the Lions for a bit, Reggie Bush had a similar game to Bernard, gaining only 50 yards on 20 carries, but chipping in with three receptions for 44 yards.
Excluding Calvin Johnson, the only Detroit player with more than three receptions was Kris Durham (5-41), who, as mentioned, missed out on a possible touchdown. Joseph Fauria had just one catch and couldn't find the end zone.
Chargers 24, Jaguars 6
The Chargers managed to beat one of the worst teams of all time, but I think this victory is a sign of progress. There's a good chance San Diego would've lost this game under Norv Turner, as it was an obvious trap; coming off a great Monday night triumph over the Colts as underdogs, the Chargers had to travel all the way to an East Coast to battle a terrible opponent they haven't seen since 2011. But instead of coming out flat, San Diego put on a very strong showing, right from the opening kick. The team went 80 yards for a touchdown in 13 plays, spanning 7:37, and never looked back.
Philip Rivers, who has maintained a decent spread record in these early East Coast games - probably because he's the type of insane person to willingly wake up at 3:30 in the morning every day - was completely flawless in this contest. He let the ball hit the ground on just four occasions, going 22-of-26 for 285 yards and a touchdown. Thanks to his exceptional play, the Chargers punted only three times.
Rivers' one blemish on the afternoon was his decision to run into the end zone at the very end of the first half. Following about a billion Jacksonville penalties at the 1-yard line, Rivers tried to score a touchdown on the ground, but came up short. Time expired, so San Diego blew an opportunity to score more points. Ultimately, it didn't matter.
Rivers' lone score went to Eddie Royal (4-69), whose touchdown was reviewed, as he dived toward the pylon and managed to reach it just prior to falling out of bounds. Keenan Allen performed well again (3-67), though all of his production came in the first half. Antonio Gates caught six balls, but managed only 31 yards.
One of the reasons Rivers is playing so well is because of Danny Woodhead's presence. The tiny back rushed for 29 yards and a touchdown on nine carries and also caught four passes for 47 receiving yards. Ryan Mathews, meanwhile, had another strong outing with 110 yards and a score on 21 attempts.
As for the Jaguars, they were inept offensively until garbage time. They generated 353 net yards, but only 95 came in the first half. They couldn't get anything on the ground - Maurice Jones-Drew registered 37 yards on nine attempts - which forced Chad Henne to air it out 36 times. That's not a recipe for victory.
Henne went 23-of-36 for 318 yards and an interception. One of his top receivers had a solid statistical outing, but it wasn't Justin Blackmon (6-58). Cecil Shorts, who wasn't expected to play earlier in the week, caught eight balls for 80 yards.
As if the Chargers didn't have it easy enough, both the officials and the Jaguars helped them out. One key play in this game saw defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks give San Diego a first down on what would've been a third-and-33 because of a personal foul. Later on, Royal fumbled in the red zone, and the Jaguars recovered what should've been a touchback. However, senile official Walt Coleman overturned the call after reviewing it despite the fact that it was painfully obvious that Royal wasn't down by contact. I'll repeat, Coleman is way too old and way too inept to have a high-profile officiating job like this. He needs to be removed.
Bills 23, Dolphins 21
The Bills started their undrafted quarterback against Miami's first-round signal-caller. This should've been a major mismatch in the Dolphins' favor, but it was the complete opposite; Thaddeus Lewis outplayed Ryan Tannehill, with the latter making so many mistakes that it cost his team the game.
Tannehill open things up with a pick-six thrown right to Nickell Robey. He then was responsible for an awful end-zone interception. Many of his throws on the afternoon were wildly inaccurate, including one deep shot to an open Brian Hartline at the end of the game. Tannehill had Hartline for the go-ahead score, but overthrew him. Just before that, Tannehill allowed Buffalo to kick the decisive field goal because he lost a fumble on a strip-sack by Mario Williams (two sacks) as his team was trying to run out the clock.
Tannehill finished 19-of-37 for only 194 yards, three touchdowns and the two picks. The three scores are a bit misleading, as Tannehill had just one completion longer than 19 yards in this contest.
The lone exception in terms of Tannehill's completions, by the way, was a 46-yarder to Mike Wallace, who finished with five receptions for 76 yards. Brandon Gibson (5-40) scored twice, while Charles Clay (1-7) caught the third touchdown.
Miami's coaching staff once again foolishly gave Daniel Thomas more carries than Lamar Miller. Thomas had 60 yards on 12 carries, while Miller gained 43 yards on nine tries. The Dolphins' obsession with the untalented Thomas is inexplicable.
The Bills have the superior running backs, but both Fred Jackson and Tashard Choice failed to even match Miller's yardage total. Jackson, who had 36 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and four catches for 49 receiving yards, had a scary moment in which he grabbed his ankle following a 21-yard screen pass. Fortunately, he would end up being OK. As for Spiller, he mustered only 11 yards on six tries as his epic failure of a 2013 campaign continues.
Lewis went 21-of-32 for 202 yards. He did turn the ball over on an interception, but his arm was hit as he threw, so it wasn't all on him. He also scrambled five times for 13 yards. Lewis completed mostly short stuff that his targets were able to turn into larger gains, thanks to inept play by the Miami linebacking corps.
Stevie Johnson led all Buffalo wideouts with six catches for 61 yards. Robert Woods (3-24) disappointed.
Jets 30, Patriots 27
Rob Gronkowski's return has always been seen as a beacon of hope for the Patriots. Tom Brady had been struggling, but all he needed was his favorite intermediate target to get out of his funk. Well, it appears as though that's not the case.
Gronkowski didn't play all of the snaps in this contest - for example, he was on the field for 23 of 36 plays in the first half - but he did lead the Patriots with eight receptions for 114 yards. He also drew a holding penalty. However, Brady still barely completed half of his passes and failed once again to throw a touchdown. He continued to struggle to loft the football, unnecessarily throwing lasers downfield without any touch. He nearly lost a fumble, and Worst of all, he tossed a pick-six despite nursing a 21-10 advantage in the third quarter.
Brady went 22-of-46 for 228 yards and the pick. He had a chance to win the game in overtime, but completed just one of four passes in the extra session. His incompletions weren't even close. It must be noted that the Jets' defensive line did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage. Their four sacks aren't indicative of how much New York's line dominated New England's front.
A bit more on Gronkowski: He had two chances to find the end zone, but he and Brady had a miscommunication of sorts in the fourth quarter. A bit later, Gronkowski dropped a one-handed attempt.
With Gronkowski eating up targets - including penalties, he saw a whopping 19 balls go his way - the other New England players saw a statistical regression. Julian Edelman did OK (5-44), but Kenbrell Thompkins was quiet with just two catches for 16 yards. Aaron Dobson actually had more receptions than Thompkins (3-34), but he and Brady failed to connect on a back-shoulder throw in a key moment.
The Patriots found the end zone twice via the running game, as Stevan Ridley (11-50) and Brandon Bolden (8-36) both managed to score.
Despite Brady's struggles, the Patriots had a chance to win this game after Nick Folk missed a 56-yard field goal in overtime, which obviously would've set up New England with great field position. However, rookie defensive tackle Chris Jones, who had two sacks on the afternoon, committed some weird unsportsmanlike penalty in which he pushed his own teammate. Folk converted a 42-yarder several plays later to win the game for New York.
It was nice to see the Jets pull this one out because Geno Smith had a solid performance, bouncing back from a poor effort versus the Steelers. Excluding an early pick-six in the red zone when he stared down his target, Smith didn't make any mistakes. He opened things up with a 25-yard bomb to Jeff Cumberland. He then converted a third-and-21 with a 22-yard reception to Jeremy Kerley, as he did a good job of being patient in the pocket with no pressure in his face.
Smith finished 17-of-33 for 233 yards, one passing touchdown and the interception. He also had six scrambles for 32 yards and an impressive rushing score.
Smith's favorite target on the afternoon was Kerley, who had eight receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown. David Nelson (4-80) also played well.
There was no announced injury to Bilal Powell, but he must have gotten hurt because he had three early carries and then just disappeared. Chris Ivory handled the workload the rest of the way, gaining 104 yards on 34 tries.
Cowboys 17, Eagles 3
I wondered if Nick Foles' excellent first start at Tampa Bay last week was the result of the Buccaneers being distracted by all of their Staph infection problems (check out the Walking Bucs). As awesome as Foles was last Sunday, he was even worse in this contest. Foles went 11-of-29 for 80 yards. That's good for a YPA of 2.8. Both starting running backs had a better yards-per-carry average. Foles was 0-for-6 following intermission.
Foles' accuracy woes were disgusting. The Dallas pass rush had him hurried all afternoon, but that doesn't excuse him for missing his targets all afternoon. There was one occasion in which he had a wide-open Jason Avant in the end zone. Foles underthrew him terribly. Avant dived for the ball, which tipped up into the air and into the arms of a Dallas defender. It appeared as though it would stand as an interception, but replay changed the call.
Foles would eventually leave the game with a concussion. Fourth-round rookie Matt Barkley entered the contest afterward and represented a glimmer of hope when he completed his first three passes for 29 yards. However, he then threw an interception off his back foot right to Sean Lee - his first of three picks. He finished 11-of-20 for 129 yards with the three interceptions. Barkley simply doesn't have the arm strength to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. At the very best, he'll be a career backup, but even that is questionable.
Hours after the game, ProFootballTalk.com reported that QB Eagles No. 7 could be back for the Week 8 matchup against the Giants. It's amazing how quickly his hamstring healed in the wake of Foles' poor performance. It's almost as if there's some sort of correlation!
QBDK's return would help a running game that hasn't done much in his absence. LeSean McCoy mustered only 55 yards on 18 carries. He also caught six balls for 26 receiving yards.
Riley Cooper somehow led Philadelphia in receiving (6-88). DeSean Jackson disappointed (3-21), but he can't be blamed for that. Jackson expressed frustration with Foles' accuracy woes throughout the afternoon. He also appeared to injure his ankle in the third quarter when he grabbed it in pain, but he missed only a few plays.
In addition to poor quarterbacking, the Eagles were guilty of some horrible coaching decisions. Chip Kelly has proven himself to be incapable of making big choices in key moments thus far in his NFL career. At the end of the first half, the Eagles had the ball just over midfield with 14 seconds and one timeout remaining. Faced with a fourth-and-1, Kelly opted for a 60-yard field goal despite there being some wind. The two better options would've been to go for it and pick up extra yardage, or to simply punt it away. The long kick, which was predictably missed, set up Dallas in great field position.
The Cowboys didn't have a great offensive showing themselves, mustering only three points in the first half. It was odd, but Philadelphia's defense actually played well for the first time all year. Then again, the Cowboys' inability to score wasn't all because of the Eagles; Dallas kicked itself in the foot repeatedly with dumb penalties, as the team was whistled for nine infractions in the opening 30 minutes alone.
Tony Romo went 28-of-47 for 317 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, though one of the picks came on a Hail Mary attempt.
Romo's lone aerial score was thrown to Terrence Williams (6-71), who is really coming on in his rookie campaign. Miles Austin-Jones didn't catch a single pass; he's been phased out of the offense, as he was targeted only three times.
Dez Bryant led the team with eight catches for 110 yards. Most of his production (6 receptions, 76 yards) came after halftime.
DeMarco Murray was out, so Joseph Randle started and did OK, gaining 65 yards on 19 carries. However, he was replaced in short-yardage situations. Phillip Tanner was stuffed on a third-and-1 near midfield on the opening drive, but later vultured a touchdown.
Redskins 45, Bears 41
Poor Bears. They lost one of their key defensive players in Henry Melton a few weeks ago. Now, their most important offensive player is hurt. Jay Cutler was injured in the second quarter on a sack. He limped off the field and into the locker room, and wasn't seen from for the remaining of the afternoon. Two sources told the NFL Network that his groin injury "could be bad." It's not a good sign that Chicago signed Jordan Palmer on Sunday evening.
Cutler looked like crap before he left the game. He went 3-of-8 for 28 yards and a pick-six that was a pass bobbled by Alshon Jeffery. That may not have been Cutler's fault, but he did have two interceptions dropped by DeAngelo Hall.
All hope seemed to be lost when Josh McCown stepped onto the field, but he proved to be a capable replacement. He went 14-of-20 for 204 yards and a touchdown to go along with 33 rushing yards on four scrambles. He consistently kept drives going, as Chicago punted the ball only once when McCown was in the game. I don't want to make it sound like the Bears will be better with McCown because they won't be - remember how bad Washington's defense is - but they'll still be a functional football team.
Of course, it helped McCown's cause that he could hand the ball off to Matt Forte, who had 91 yards on 16 carries. He didn't do much in the passing game - two catches, 18 yards - but he found the end zone on three occasions.
Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery had to hate seeing Cutler leave with an injury, but their numbers weren't affected. They had statistical lines of 6-75 and 4-105, respectively.
Devin Hester scored his 19th-career special-teams touchdown, thanks to an 81-yard punt return.
The winning team saw more improved play from its quarterback. Robert Griffin went 18-of-29 for 298 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He still showed flawed mechanics and awkward throwing ability, but he continued to do more on the ground. He scrambled 11 times for 84 rushing yards.
Griffin's two scores went to Jordan Reed (9-134) and Aldrick Robinson (2-75). Reed, a rookie tight end, is a dynamic athlete emerging as one of Griffin's favorite weapons. Pierre Garcon didn't find the end zone, but managed to catch five balls for 58 yards.
Alfred Morris fantasy owners have to be pissed off. Their back had a good game, gaining 95 yards on 19 carries, but watched Roy Helu vulture a whopping three touchdowns. Helu tallied 41 rushing yards on 11 attempts.
49ers 31, Titans 17
Is there still any doubt that the 49ers are a top-five team? They may have started 1-2, but they've rattled off four victories in a row, looking completely dominant in three of them.
San Francisco owned the line of scrimmage in this contest on both sides of the ball. Chris Johnson was limited to 39 yards on nine carries, though he did break free for a 66-yard receiving touchdown in garbage time. Jake Locker, meanwhile, saw a good amount of pressure in his face. He took three sacks, two of which came from Justin Smith.
Speaking of Locker, this game was a testament to how poorly Tennessee is coached. First of all, Locker shouldn't have even played. His numbers look solid - 25-of-41 for 326 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, along with three scrambles for 29 rushing yards - but he didn't appear close to being ready to play football. His pick was horrible, as he severely underthrew Nate Washington, as he simply looked like he was throwing it up for grabs. Locker barely practiced and was limping around on Friday. With a bye coming up, he should've been given two extra weeks to heal. Instead, the 49ers, who otherwise probably would've looked past Tennessee, were completely focused for this meaningless non-conference matchup.
Meanwhile, the Titans' coaching staff was also completely unprepared for Colin Kaepernick's scrambling ability. It was baffling, as Tennessee didn't seem to be aware that Kaepernick would be able to run. The Titans allowed Kaepernick to scramble 11 times for 68 rushing yards and a score on the ground to go along with his average passing stats (13-of-21, 199 yards).
Kaepernick's top target was Anquan Boldin, who came alive after being blanketed by Patrick Peterson last week. Boldin, who finished with five grabs for 74 yards, made some awesome circus catches in the second quarter. The 49ers struggled to move the ball prior to that, but his impressive snags sparked his team.
Vernon Davis, conversely, had a much quieter outing compared to last week. He hauled in four balls for 62 yards. It's understandable though, as Kaepernick had to throw the ball only 21 times.
All of San Francisco's offensive scores came on the ground. Kaepernick, as mentioned, rushed one in. Frank Gore found the end zone twice himself with 70 yards on 24 carries.
Going back to the Titans for a bit, Locker's two touchdowns were hauled in by Johnson and Delanie Walker (3-52). Kendall Wright led the team with nine catches for 98 yards.
Packers 31, Browns 13
It was obvious the Packers would win this game, so the most relevant news concerning this contest was that they incurred yet another injury. Jermichael Finley took a fierce helmet-to-helmet hit from safety Tashaun Gipson in the fourth quarter and was down on the field for quite some time. He was carted off, but appeared to have full movement in his extremities. However, he could still be out for at least one game, and another banged-up player is the last thing Green Bay needs right now, considering how much of the team's personnel is sidelined.
The Packers played this contest without James Jones and Randall Cobb, but Aaron Rodgers was still able to go 25-of-36 for 260 yards and three touchdowns against a stout defense. He also appeared to cure his team's red-zone woes, converting three out of four tries deep inside Cleveland territory.
Rodgers' main target wasn't Finley (5-72, TD) or Jordy Nelson (5-42, TD), who did his best to get open against Joe Haden's shutdown coverage. Rodgers threw most to Jarrett Boykin, a second-year receiver out of Virginia Tech. Boykin caught eight passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. He's playing Cobb's old role, so expect him to remain a factor even when Jones returns from injury.
Eddie Lacy once again put together a big performance. He rushed for 82 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and also happened to catch five balls for 26 receiving yards.
The Packers didn't really need a strong performance from Rodgers and his weapons in this matchup because Cleveland's offense did a great job of imploding on its own. The main culprits, as usual, were Brandon Weeden and Greg "Mr. Dependable" Little.
Weeden is the worst and should probably be cut. He went 17-of-42 for only 149 yards, one garbage-time touchdown and an interception. He did the dumbest things ever in this contest. For instance, his interception came off a horrible throw off his back foot. He then tried a moronic throw that rivaled his backhanded attempt from last week when he lobbed up an underhanded pass carelessly under pressure. He's insanely lucky it wasn't picked off. There was another hilarious instance in which Weeden fired the ball as hard as he could to his running back, who was two yards in front of him. The pass fell incomplete because the running back wasn't paying attention because he was blocking.
As for Mr. Dependable, he caught four balls for 49 yards, but dropped his trademark big catch - this time in the end zone. He also ran the wrong route on one occasion deep in Green Bay territory.
The two talented Cleveland offensive players are Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon. Cameron had a decent outing (7-55, TD), but Gordon was limited to just two catches for 21 yards. He was targeted a couple of times in the end zone, but Weeden kept lofting up uncatchable fade passes.
I suppose it's worth noting that Willis McGahee gained 39 yards on 11 carries. He's the slowest running back in the NFL, so Chris Ogbonnaya and Fozzy Whittaker should have more of a workload. But that would require an inept coaching staff to make a smart decision, which isn't happening. Rob Chudzinski made another bad call in which he went for it down 11 at the Green Bay 31 despite being stuck in a fourth-and-long situation. Kicking the field goal would've made much more sense because it was a two-possession game, but there hasn't been that much that has made sense in Cleveland for a very long time.
Chiefs 17, Texans 16
Have the Texans found their new quarterback? It certainly looked like that might have been the situation when Case Keenum opened up 8-of-12 for 151 yards and a touchdown in the first half against the league's top defense. However, Kansas City started giving Keenum complicated blitzing schemes in the second half. They sacked Keenum four times in the final quarter alone, with the final one being a strip-sack to end the game.
Still though, Keenum played well enough to keep this job after next week's bye. He finished 15-of-25 for 271 yards and a touchdown along with a 9-yard scramble. Most importantly, he didn't throw a pick-six, marking the first time in six week that a Houston quarterback hasn't been guilty of that sort of give-away.
Houston's offense has other concerns though - specifically, the injuries to their running backs. Arian Foster (4 carries, 11 yards) left the game in the first quarter with a hamstring, allowing Ben Tate to carry the workload. However, Tate also got hurt, though he was able to stay in the contest. Tate gained 50 yards on 15 carries, as he just didn't have any running room against Kansas City's elite stop unit.
Keenum's lone aerial score was a beautiful lob to DeAndre Hopkins for 29 yards. Hopkins caught three balls for 76 yards, and just missed out on a second score, as the pass that was thrown to him was knocked out of his hands at the last second. Garrett Graham (3-38) also just barely missed a touchdown, falling short by one yard.
Andre Johnson led Houston with four grabs for 89 yards. Though Johnson didn't find the end zone, he was instrumental in getting Keenum settled in; he had catches of 10 and 11 yards on the opening drive.
Kansas City's defense continues to be amazing. The unit is giving up 11.6 points per contest on the season and still hasn't allowed more than 16 points to any team. Their 35 sacks lead the league. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is doing a fantastic job and deserves consideration for a head-coaching job.
The offense, meanwhile, had its struggles. Jamaal Charles lost a fumble in the third quarter, while Alex Smith tossed an interception. He easily could've thrown a second pick, but Kareem Jackson, who recovered Charles' fumble, flat out dropped it.
Having said that, Charles and Smith did have their moments. The former rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries to go along with three catches for 37 receiving yards. Smith, meanwhile, went 23-of-34 for 240 yards and the pick. He also scrambled six times for 28 yards and a score on the ground. Included in this was a 23-yard scamper.
Smith didn't take too many shots downfield, but looked deep a bit more often than usual. As a consequence, Dwayne Bowe caught five balls for 66 yards. It's a sad state of affairs for Bowe fantasy owners that this sort of output is now considered a good game for their receiver, but such is the case when the quarterback mostly dinks and dunks.
You may notice that Dexter McCluster led the Chiefs with 70 receiving yards off four catches. McCluster had a great run-after-catch in the second half when he converted a third-and-21 with a 43-yard gain, thanks to poor containment. Ed Reed, who was injured on the play, had yet another dreadful afternoon. I saw someone nickname him "Ahman" Reed (after Ahman Green, another failed Houston signing), which is fitting.
Speaking of Houston's offense, the unit suffered a huge blow when Brian Cushing was carted off into the locker room. It was later determined that Cushing broke his leg and tore his LCL. He's out for the year.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I heard that this is Baltimore's worst start since 2005. That's interesting because a 3-4 record isn't that bad. It's also funny because the Browns are 3-4, and yet everyone says they're overachieving.
This ended up a typical Steelers-Ravens contest featuring two physical teams slugging it out for four quarters. Pittsburgh looked like it had turned back the clock as they rediscovered their running game. Some clutch fourth-quarter throws by Ben Roethlisberger led them to their second win of the season. While Pittsburgh won ugly, Baltimore dropped a critical game to fall to 3-4 on the season. The Ravens' offense just doesn't look playoff-caliber.
In the first half, Pittsburgh had a good drive that ended with a short shovel pass to Heath Miller (2-17) for a touchdown. Miller then had a nice gain on a crossing route, but Daryl Smith smacked the ball out of his hands and Matt Elam recovered it for Balitmore in Pittsburgh territory. That spotted the Ravens their second field goal and cut the Steelers' lead to 10-6.
Roethlisberger had one of his trademark plays in the third quarter after Terrell Suggs had missed a tackle on a potential sack and Roethlisberger took off on a 19 yard run. Suggs came back to get a sack a few plays later, but a Elvis Dumervil face mask took away a Haloti Ngata sack on a third down. That drive ended in a Pittsburgh field goal.
Joe Flacco responded by hitting a 41-yard bomb to Torrey Smith after he got a step on Ike Taylor. Baltimore tacked on three more and then tried a surprise onside kick, but the Steelers recovered. That ended up spotting Pittsburgh a field goal. Flacco got going with some big third-down conversions on a long 16-play drive. He hit Dallas Clark on third-and-goal from the one to tie the game at 16 with two minutes remaining.
The ensuing kickoff saw Emmanuel Sanders (1-7) race down the sideline for a touchdown, but he stepped out at the 35-yard line. The Steelers moved the ball with a penalty on Lardarius Webb and completions to Antonio Brown (6-50) to set up a 42-yard field goal from Shawn Suisham on the final play of the game.
Roethlisberger completed 17-of-23 passes for 160 yards and a score. Bell ran for 93 yards on 19 carries.
The real star of the game was Pittsburgh's defense. The unit contained Smith (3-61) and Ray Rice (15-45 rushing; 4-27 receiving). Flacco completed 24-of-34 for 215 yards with a touchdown. Lamarr Woodley had a big sack to knocked Baltimore out of field goal range. Lawrence Timmons was all over the field with a great game. He had 17 tackles.
The Ravens' defense also played well. Suggs had seven tackles with a sack. Brandon Williams, Elvis Dumervil and Ngata all recorded sacks for Baltimore.
Colts 39, Broncos 33
Brett Favre absolutely slaughtered the Packers in his first trip back to Lambeau in an enemy uniform, so many expected Peyton Manning to do the same thing to his former team, especially in the wake of Jim Irsay's questionable comments during the week. However, the Indianapolis crowd was much more respectful for Manning, giving him a standing ovation for a solid minute. Perhaps that quelled Manning's anger a bit because he was a huge disappointment in his failed revenge attempt.
Manning's numbers don't show it - 29-of-49 for 386 yards, three touchdown, one interception - but he sucked in this contest. His arm strength had been questioned throughout the start of this season, but the ball really fluttered out of his hand on many occasions. When the game was 36-17, Manning's numbers were a meager 16-of-28 for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and he easily could've had several passes intercepted. He finally did throw a pick, as his arm was hit as he threw a pass in the middle of the fourth quarter. He similarly had a lost fumble for a safety much earlier.
Manning eventually got into a groove and compiled junk yardage (and 16 points) against a prevent Indianapolis defense, but still had issues dealing with the Colts' pressure. He was sacked four times (twice by Robert Mathis), which isn't indicative of how frequently his pocket collapsed. Of course, it didn't help that Indianapolis' secondary had outstanding coverage for most of the evening, blanketing all of Manning's wideouts. It's amazing how much the Colts' stop unit has improved since the beginning of the season.
Manning happens to be the headliner for obvious reasons, but the rest of the Broncos screwed up. For instance...
- Denver failed twice on two runs on third-and-1 in the first quarter. With Manning and four great targets, why run the ball?
- Trindon Holliday lost a fumble on a punt return, setting up the Colts with a quick touchdown.
- Ronnie Hillman lost a fumble inside the 5-yard line, which prevented the Broncos from making it a one-score game in the fourth quarter. Why the turnover-prone Hillman was given the ball in such a key situation is beyond me. That's just terrible coaching.
- Kevin Vickerson chest-bumped Luck after he misfired on a pass. This gave the Colts a free first down when the Broncos were trying to prevent them from running out the clock. It must be noted that Manning suffered a more blatant late hit a bit earlier, but the officials didn't call it.
Some quick Denver stats: Eric Decker (8-150), Demaryius Thomas (4-82) and Julius Thomas (5-41) all caught touchdowns. Wes Welker didn't find the end zone, but he still caught seven balls for 96 yards. Knowshon Moreno gained 40 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, but was stuffed in some short-yardage situations early in the game. Champ Bailey left the game with an injury.
Oh, and there was a winning team. The Colts have now beaten the Broncos, Seahawks and 49ers (on the road). They're pretty damn good. Their defense has been a big surprise, but it's mostly about Andrew Luck, who was outstanding in this matchup. Luck went 21-of-38 for 228 yards and three touchdowns. He also scrambled four times for 29 rushing yards and a fourth score.
Luck was very sharp for the most part, but he made two key mistakes. The first was a pass that he threw right to Paris Lenon, who dropped an easy pick. The second was an underthrow to Reggie Wayne, who could've scored a long touchdown. Wayne (5-50) reached down awkwardly for the ball and injured his knee. He was down for a couple of minutes, as the crowd continued to chant "Reggie! Reggie!" He limped off into the locker room and reportedly had some tears in his eyes. He's a class act, so hopefully he receives some good news.
Wayne wasn't the only Colt who suffered an injury in this contest. In fact, a large number of Indianapolis players went down. Center Samson Satele injured his knee. Cornerback Greg Toler was knocked out with a groin. Josh Gordy, another corner, was also sidelined. Pat Angerer and Vontae Davis were dinged up, but remained in the contest. Oh, and speaking of Davis, he told the NBC sideline reporter that he prepared all week for Tom Brady. Davis became the first player in NFL history to beat Brady and Manning in the same game. Congrats, Vontae!
Luck's touchdowns went to Darrius Heyward-Bey (4-44), Coby Fleener (5-38) and Stanley Havili. T.Y. Hilton couldn't get anything going downfield, catching only two balls for 27 yards.
Trent Richardson struggled once again. Showing very little burst, he mustered only 37 yards on 14 carries. He also lost a fumble, which helped spark Denver's near-comeback. Donald Brown looked more explosive.
Giants 23, Vikings 7
I've been covering football games for this Web site since 1999, and this might be the worst-played professional football game I've ever written about. Both teams looked like they were trying their best to give this contest away. The Vikings were ultimately most successful in that regard, thanks to a red-zone interception, a fumbled punt return and a fumbled kick return. Oh, and Minnesota gave us some of the worst quarterbacking anyon has ever seen.
That's not hyperbole. Josh Freeman connected on 16 out of 46 passes prior to his final drive. That's the worst completion percentage for a large sample in six years. Freeman ultimately went 20-of-53 for 190 yards and an interception carlessly thrown up for grabs to Antrel Rolle. He's incredibly lucky he didn't throw at least three other picks, as the New York defensive backs had stone hands. When Freeman wasn't tossing passes to players in blue uniforms, he was overthrowing his own targets. He also took a horrible sack to take his team out of field goal range. Freeman looked so completely lost and stupified that it almost seemed as though the Vikings took a fan out of the stands and used him as their quarterback.
To be fair, Freeman didn't know any of the plays or audibles, so much of the blame should be on Leslie Frazier. It was totally irresponsible for Frazier to use Freeman this early when he was so unprepared. Christian Ponder should be Minnesota's starting quarterback until Freeman is ready for another chance.
Something else that's ridiculous is that Adrian Peterson ran the ball just 13 times compared to Freeman's 50 pass attempts. Peterson couldn't get anything going with the Giants stacking the box; he mustered only 28 yards on 13 carries, though he did chip in with three catches for 22 receiving yards.
Freeman's top receiver was Greg Jennings (4-41), who made one nifty play to move the chains. Jerome Simpson (3-32) dropped a potential touchdown.
Minnesota's only points came on a Marcus Sherels 86-yard punt return. It was humorous to see NFL.com's stat logic fail for punter Steve Weatherford's numbers:
Anyway, Sherels later lost a fumble when he fell to the turf untouched. Sharrif Floyd later coughed up a kick return.
The Giants also tried their best to throw this game away. They allowed the Sherels special-teams score. Rueben Randle fumbled on a punt return. Hakeem Nicks (2-28) had his usual drops. Eli Manning, meanwhile, nearly tossed two interceptions, including one that was heaved right into the numbers on Sherels' jersey. Sherels, who could've easily run the pick back for six, flat out dropped the ball.
Manning went 23-of-39 for 200 yards and a touchdown. He didn't turn the ball over and managed to complete half of his passes, but he had accuracy issues throughout the evening. He constantly missed receivers, including Nicks, who was open in the end zone early on.
With Brandon Jacobs out, Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox split carries. The latter mustered only 23 yards on 11 carries and failed to handle a simple handoff. He fumbled the ball, but was lucky that a teammate recovered. Hillis gained 36 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He was also key in the passing game, catching five balls for 45 yards.
Victor Cruz tied Hillis for the team lead in catches and paced the squad with 50 receiving yards. Randle (3-40) caught the touchdown.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.