No one really thought they were going to witness something monumental by watching this horrific AFC South matchup, but it appears as though we were all wrong. That's because this may have been Gus Bradley's final game as head coach of the Jaguars.
A quick way to have a coach fired is to show very little effort during a game, especially one on national TV. That's exactly what the Jaguars did. They whiffed on tackles the entire evening, allowing Tennessee score on some huge plays they really shouldn't have. Between the lack of hustle and mental mistakes, it was quite evident that Bradley prepared his team poorly for this contest. Whether that's his fault or a symptom of Blake Bortles not taking his career seriously, it's inconsequential. Jacksonville's owner had already been attending meetings and reportedly contemplating a change. With an extended layoff until the next game, Shad Khan may decide to pull the trigger after watching his team absolutely humiliate itself on a national stage.
The thing is, it may not matter. Bradley doesn't appear to be a good head coach, but I don't think he's the problem. All I heard about Bortles coming out of Central Florida was that he was a heavy partier, and there were rumblings that he hasn't taken his career seriously. It really shows, as he's regressed despite having some excellent offensive coaching aiding him. Bortles' passes were all over the place. The final stats don't show it - Bortles finished 33-of-54, 337 yards, three touchdowns - but he began the game 4-of-11 for 26 yards and was 8-of-16 for 64 yards in the opening half. The rest of his numbers came in garbage time as the Titans played a very soft prevent defense. As he had done masterfully last season, Bortles racked up a ton of yards, as well as three touchdowns, in meaningless action.
The early-game numbers are very indicative of how poor Bortles was. He overthrew Allen Robinson a routine third-and-short conversion. His next third-down pass was nowhere near Robinson, who wasn't even looking for the ball. The Jaguars couldn't establish any sort of rhythm amid Bortles' struggles, mustering just 60 net yards in the opening half, averaging a laughable 2.7 yards per play. Tennessee was up 27-0 at the break.
Conversely, Marcus Mariota was excellent. It really is hard to say how great he would've been had the Jaguars actually shown up, but he shouldn't have to apologize for having a terrific performance.
Mariota misfired on just four occasions, going 18-of-22 for 270 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't run much - three carries, 11 rushing yards - but he didn't need to, as Jacksonville's defense gave up big gains all evening. The Titans sputtered on their first drive because of a DeMarco Murray fumble on a dropped pitch, but Mariota led six consecutive scoring drives after that.
The Titans ran all over a Jacksonville defense missing Roy Miller, though I'm not sure if the big defensive tackle would've helped their poor tackling. Murray, aside from the fumble, was terrific, gaining 123 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Murray missed some action with an injury, but he reentered the game following an extended absence. Derrick Henry looked great in relief, tallying 60 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts. He made some breath-taking cuts, as it's clear that Tennessee will have a strong rushing attack if Murray ever misses time. Henry also caught four balls for 37 yards.
Mariota did a good job of spreading the ball around, as four players caught exactly four passes on either four or five targets. Aside from Murray, those players were Kendall Wright (4-84), Delanie Walker (4-75) and Rishard Matthews (4-38). Wright and Matthews both found the end zone.
Going back to the Jaguars, Allen Robinson finally didn't post a disappointing stat line, though his six catches for 70 yards were very inefficient because he saw 15 targets. He and Bortles simply couldn't get on the same page until late in the game when the Titans stopped trying. Allen Hurns led the team with seven receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown, but he dropped a pass on a fourth-down attempt. Julius Thomas (3-28) also scored.
Sadly, Bortles led the Jaguars in rushing with 22 yards on four scrambles. T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory combined for only seven carries because the Jaguars trailed throughout. Ivory (4-6) was never going to do much, but Yeldon (3-20) at least looked pretty spry. Yeldon also caught four passes for 36 receiving yards.
Phil Simms quotes:
I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about these, especially with this being Simms' final appearance on Thursday Night Football. On one hand, I'm thankful that we only have to hear him once per week going forward. On the other hand, I'll miss posting his ridiculous quotes. There were three bad ones this week:
1. "Those errors are unexcusable."
You mean, "inexcusable," right Emmitt? I mean, Phil?
2. "We talked to him last night. Not sure what he said."
I kind of feel the same way after listening to Simms for three hours.
3. "You know what's so great about winning? It's great."
You know what's so great about listening to Phil Simms? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
My fiancee watched the game with me. She took note of some of these, and she eventually grew tired of listening to Simms. She said something that cracked me up:
"That guy who's talking is a douchebag."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Bengals 27, Redskins 27
You wouldn't know it by this score, but the Redskins dominated half of regulation. They opened with a touchdown drive, converting all three third downs. By intermission, they had outgained the Bengals, 226-82, averaging 1.4 more yards per play. However, they maintained just a 10-7 lead, as they blew some opportunities. For instance, Robert Kelley was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 on what proved to be a long-developing play. Kirk Cousins threw short of the goal line on a third down. Josh Norman dropped what appeared to be a pick-six. A field goal was missed prior to halftime, albeit from long range.
The Redskins paid the price by allowing Cincinnati to hang around. The Bengals caught fire in the second half, and the difference proved to be Tyler Eifert. The talented tight end caught only two passes for 22 yards prior to intermission, but he came alive after the break, as Andy Dalton made it a point to throw to him on what seemed like every down. Eifert, who finally was 100 percent, provided the big boost that the Bengals' offense has desperately needed. Eifert caught six balls for 76 yards and a touchdown in the second half alone.
With Eifert and A.J. Green dominating the Redskins' defense, it appeared as though the Bengals would pull away. They entered the red zone, up three, but Dalton forced a poor throw while under pressure, and the ball sailed right to linebacker Will Compton. The Redskins were able to drive the field for a touchdown to take the lead, and the contest eventually went into overtime, the first extra session that British people have ever seen in person. Much like the last NFL overtime affair that everyone else witnessed on national TV, this contest came down to a short field goal, which was whiffed, as Dustin Hopkins was wide left from 34 yards. As a result, we've had a tie in consecutive weeks for the first time in nearly two decades.
It's pretty horrible to have to fly to London and just come away with a tie, but if there's a silver lining for the Bengals, it's that Eifert finally became a big part of the offense. Eifert caught nine passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. He's definitely back, and he'll help Cincinnati's offense immensely in the second half of the season.
Eifert's presence will undoubtedly be a boost for Dalton, who had a solid morning if some mistakes are ignored. Dalton finished 27-of-42 for 284 yards and a touchdown, but he was also guilty of a horrible interception that allowed the Redskins to crawl back into it. Dalton was lucky to get away with a couple of other picks, as Norman dropped a pair of passes. Dalton also lost a fumble on a third-down sneak late in overtime near midfield, negating a potential game-winning field goal for Cincinnati.
Only three Bengals caught more than one pass. In addition to Eifert, they were A.J. Green (9-121) and Tyler Boyd (5-38). Green was a monster, producing big numbers despite Josh Norman covering him on almost every play. Green's best instance was when he fought through several tacklers to move the chains on third-and-10. This led a touchdown that gave Cincinnati its first lead of the morning.
Cincinnati had some success running the ball, as both Jeremy Hill (20-76) and Giovani Bernard (11-52) scored touchdowns. Hill left the game twice with what seemed like minor injuries, while Bernard had a lost fumble that was negated by a defensive hold.
As for the Redskins, Cousins posted some huge numbers, going 38-of-56 for 458 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Cousins had a mostly positive performance, but he was guilty of some mistakes. As mentioned, he threw short of the goal line on third down. He was also picked off on a deep shot to DeSean Jackson. However, he moved the chains well for most of the game, and he deserves credit for having his team in position to win with a short kick, but Hopkins blew it.
Cousins focused on targeting Jordan Reed early and often. Reed racked up nine catches for 99 yards and a touchdown, trailing only Jamison Crowder (9-107), who also found the end zone. Crowder and Reed share the middle of the field, so it's surprising to see both of them post huge numbers.
Elsewhere, Vernon Davis (5-93) and Pierre Garcon (6-67) both had solid performances. Jackson (3-48) left the game with a concussion.
The Redskins were missing Matt Jones, allowing Kelley to start. Kelley had a solid showing, gaining 87 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Chris Thompson was given just seven carries (14 yards), but he did catch five balls for 27 receiving yards.
Saints 25, Seahwks 20
The Seahawks came into this game at 4-1-1, well ahead of everyone else in the NFC West, so they had a lot of leeway in terms of taking a loss. However, there is a major issue with their team, which, of course, happens to be the offensive line.
Seattle struggled to sustain drives in this contest, and it was apparent early that moving the chains would be a problem all afternoon. The team's left tackle, a guy named George Fant, was making his first start as a football player since the seventh grade! And no, I'm not making that up. Fant naturally struggled, as he was guilty of clipping on the opening drive, and then he surrendered a sack and was flagged for a false start.
Russell Wilson was actually sacked only once, but had to release the ball quickly to avoid taking hits. As a result, the Seahawks weren't able to stay on the field for a long time, allowing New Orleans to win the time-of-possession battle by about 13 minutes. You can't give Drew Brees that much time to lead his offense and expect to win, and naturally, New Orleans was able to pull the upset.
Wilson finished 22-of-34 for 253 yards and an interception. The pick was a rare one, as it was Wilson's first in 203 attempts. It occurred because Wilson didn't see linebacker Nathan Stupar dropping into coverage. Wilson threw better than he did at Arizona, but missed Jermaine Kearse in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown on the final play of the contest. Wilson clearly isn't 100 percent, as he hesitated to run. He scrambled three times for 11 rushing yards. He picked up a first down with his feet on one occasion, but he didn't do much else with his legs. He'll need to be completely healthy to give the Seahawks a chance to make a deep playoff run so that he can overcome his horrible blocking.
Despite the poor pass blocking, the Seahawks oddly did not try to run the ball very often. Christine Michael was given just three carries in the opening half, which simply doesn't make any sense. Michael finally got some work following intermission, and he and C.J. Prosise showed well in their limited opportunities. Michael gained 40 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, while Prosise registered 23 yards on four tries. Seattle had a successful drive in which Michael and Prosise were given carries, so it's weird that they shied away from that the rest of the afternoon.
Prosise actually led the Seahawks in receiving yardage, as he had four catches go for 80 yards. He looked great, and it's easy to see why the Seahawks cut C.J. Spiller this week in order to get Prosise more touches.
Wilson otherwise spread the ball around. Jermaine Kearse (4-57), Doug Baldwin (4-51), Jimmy Graham (3-34) and Tyler Lockett (4-32) all posted underwhelming numbers.
Moving on to the Saints, Brees was sharp the entire afternoon. He misfired on just eight occasions, going 27-of-35 for 265 yards and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). He was precise on third downs, converting nine of 15 attempts.
The big news regarding New Orleans' offense was Mark Ingram being benched in favor of Tim Hightower. Ingram was guilty of a crucial fumble for the second consecutive week, as his turnover was returned for a touchdown in the first quarter. Ingram justly didn't get a touch after that, as Hightower handled the full workload and was relieved by Daniel Lasco. Hightower registered 102 yards on 26 carries, and his YPC would've been better had he not been stuffed near the end zone so often. Seattle's goal-line defense was amazing, though it did surrender a sneak to Brees.
No Saint receiver posted a big stat total. Michael Thomas and Willie Snead led the team with six catches for 63 and 56 yards, respectively. Brandin Cooks (4-44) snared Brees' lone aerial score, while Coby Fleener (4-36) didn't do very much.
Panthers 30, Cardinals 20
The Cardinals were coming off an extremely grueling, defensive battle with the Seahawks that lasted 75 minutes, and they were asked to fly across the country and play an early game against a desperate 1-5 team. And they played exactly like that in a game that was seemingly decided almost instantly. The Panthers quickly led 21-0 and were up 30-7 midway through the third quarter in a truly one-sided contest.
Arizona couldn't do anything offensively, as the offensive line had some major issues. Carolina's defensive front was playing with great passion and energy, while the Cardinals sluggishly struggled to block in all regards. That was apparent early when Carson Palmer was strip-sacked, and the Panthers returned the ball for a touchdown. Palmer then took a sack on each of several drives, save for one where he was flagged for intentional grounding. On one possession, Palmer was sacked on consecutive plays, and on the second instance, he was fortunate to avoid a safety. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott relentlessly dialed up blitzes, and the Panthers' defensive front was absolutely relentless, all while the Arizona blockers committed penalties, stalling the team's drives.
Meanwhile, Cam Newton didn't post the prettiest stats, but he did a good job of moving the chains, as he was more willing to scramble than he was in New Orleans in his first game back from his concussion. However, Newton took some crushing hits. He had a shot to the head on one play, and then the Cardinals went low on his legs, causing him to cover up his face in pain while sitting down on the sideline. Curiously, there was no penalty, as Newton complained to senile official Walt Coleman, who probably asked what year it was in response. In his post-game press conference, Newton told the media that he'll discuss the matter with Roger Goodell.
Newton barely completed half of his passes, going 14-of-27 for 212 yards. However, he was battling a strong defense, and he was also able to scramble seven times for 43 rushing yards. Newton, as mentioned, was banged around quite often. He was also fortunate to get away with not throwing an interception, as he appeared to launch a pick on a deep underthrow to Greg Olsen. The play ended up being overturned by replay review.
Newton completed a couple of deep throws to Kelvin Benjamin; a 50-yarder and a gain of 23. That was it, however, as Benjamin snatched just two of his five targets because of Patrick Peterson's great coverage. Olsen (1-11) didn't do anything, and Devin Funchess (3-38) wasn't much better. Olsen will rebound, as Arizona happens to cover tight ends extremely well.
Jonathan Stewart "stole" two touchdowns from Newton, as he rushed for 95 yards on 25 carries otherwise. One of his scores was a heoric effort, as he managed to break four tackles on he play.
Going back to the Cardinals, Palmer posted a completely misleading stat line. His numbers will tell you that he was great - 35-of-46, 363 yards, three touchdowns, an interception and a lost fumble - but most of that occurred when Arizona was already down 21-0. Palmer never had a chance; as mentioned, he was pressured relentlessly, and it didn't help him that Larry Fitzgerald dropped a pass on the second possession.
While Palmer never did much until the game was out of hand, David Johnson could never do anything on the ground. Arizona's offensive line couldn't open up any sort of holes versus Carolina's stout front, as Johnson mustered just 24 yards on 10 carries. He did, however, catch seven passes for 84 receiving yards, as Palmer had to constantly dump off passes to him to avoid Carolina's pass-rushers.
Johnson may have led the team in receiving, but J.J. Nelson (8-79) and Larry Fitzgerald (10-74) were close. Nelson reeled in two of Palmer's touchdowns, while John Brown (4-49) had the third. Michael Floyd didn't catch a single pass, as he played only 29 snaps.
It's worth noting that three key players got knocked out early. Shaq Thompson (knee) and Ryan Kalil (shoulder) left for the Panthers, while Arizona lost Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder).
Chiefs 30, Colts 14
The Chiefs have rebounded from their 2-2 start to improve to 5-2, but there's a dark cloud over this victory. That would be the concussion that Alex Smith sustained when he tried to scramble for the first down in the third quarter. An Indianapolis defender hit him as he was sliding, but the defender's arms inadvertently hit Smith's helmet, causing it to hit the turf. Smith, who was knocked out for a couple of drives earlier in the contest, had to leave the game for good.
It's actually shocking that Smith hasn't sustained more head injuries in his career, given his stature and willingness to scramble so much. Nevertheless, he had to leave the contest, though there wasn't much of a drop-off between Smith and Nick Foles, though Indianapolis' abomination of a defense may have had something to do with it. The Colts, who were already brutal defensively, lost Vontae Davis to a concussion. Indianapolis surrendered countless third-and-longs, especially earlier in the contest, as its linebackers didn't have a prayer of covering Travis Kelce. As a result, the Chiefs were able to prevail despite Foles playing under center, which has to be utterly embarrassing for the Colts.
Foles, statistically, was better than Smith, which just sounds wrong. Smith went 9-of-19 for 127 yards and a touchdown, though he did have a 28-yard completion wiped out by penalty. Foles, meanwhile, finished 16-of-22 for 223 yards and two touchdowns. His numbers could've even been better, as he had a 37-yard reception to Kelce negated by replay review. The numbers are legitimate, as Foles looked as great as he did during his 27-touchdown, two-interception season. I don't know how sustainable this is, especially given that he was battling perhaps the worst defense in football that was missing its top player, but Andy Reid has been able to work magic with poor quarterbacks before.
Both Smith and Foles targeted Kelce very heavily, as the dynamic tight end caught seven passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, abusing Indianapolis' horrid linebackers. He was a problem all game, converting third-and-10 and third-and-13 on the opening drive. As mentioned, he also had a deep reception overturned by replay, as he dropped the ball prior to hitting the ground out of bounds.
Jeremy Maclin (3-43) and Tyreek Lannister Hill (5-98) also caught touchdowns. Maclin just missed out on a score just prior to his touchdown, nearly reeling in a pass with one hand. Hill, meanwhile, also was able to help the offense with a nice return.
Spencer Ware had a disappointing performance, gaining 19 yards on seven carries - all of which occurred in the opening half. He didn't even play after intermission because he sustained a concussion. Charcandrick West (14-52) handled the workload late in the game as a consequence.
It's difficult to say which statement is more true: Kansas City's defense was stellar in this contest; Indianapolis' offense was dreadful in Week 8. Regardless, Dee Ford went absolutely nuts. Ford racked up 3.5 sacks, exposing a huge weakness on Indianapolis' offensive line. The right tackle spot is a nightmare, and I'm sure general manager Ryan Grigson will blame Andrew Luck's contract - and not his piss-poor drafting - for not being able to address that position.
Luck finished 19-of-35 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and the interception. It was a very disappointing showing against a defense that isn't 100 percent yet, as Justin Houston still wasn't available. Drew Brees went 37-of-48 for 367 yards, three touchdowns and a pick against the Chiefs last week, so it has to be discouraging for the Colts that Luck couldn't even come close to duplicating that.
No Colt accumulated more than 41 receiving yards. The leader was Donte Moncrief (4-41), who secured one of Luck's touchdowns. The other went to Frank Gore (2-25), who broke a Derrick Johnson tackle to scamper into the end zone. Hilton, meanwhile, snatched just one ball for 20 yards. He missed a series with a hamstring injury, but the issue may have affected him throughout the duration of the contest. As mentioned, Hilton had a 40-yard reception negated by a hold. He dropped a deep ball and two other passes as well.
Constantly trailing, Gore didn't get too many opportunities to carry the ball. He gained 37 yards on just nine tries. He and Luck were responsible for a fumble early in the game on a botched exchange, but the Chiefs couldn't score because Cairo Santos whiffed on a 28-yard kick.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I'd like to congratulate the Texans on their victory, but they were playing an overrated Detroit team. Besides, DeAndre Hopkins caught just four passes for 44 yards despite battling a secondary without its top corner. It seems like Hopkins' days of being an elite fantasy receiver are over because of Brock Osweiler's struggles.
Under all the criticism and pressure, the Texans (5-3) needed a bounce-back performance, and they got it, taking care of business at home against the Lions (4-4). Brock Osweiler didn't dominate, but he turned in a quality start to manage the game into a victory for Houston. The real leader was the Texans' defense. It was strength versus strength, and Houston's pass defense did a nice job of limiting Matthew Stafford to keep the Texans in sole possession of first place in the AFC South. Detroit was dropped to .500, but still remains in the NFC wild-card race.
To start the first quarter, the Lions had a drive into Houston territory, but Matt Prater missed a 49-yard field goal. The Texans got moving after that with Oswieler hitting passes to DeAndre Hopkins and C.J. Fiedorowicz, plus converting a third-and-10 to Ryan Griffin for a first-and-goal. Osweiler hit Fiedorowicz for the score and a quick lead. The Lions went three-and-out, and Osweiler continued to rip the ball through the Detroit secondary using his tight end and Hopkins making a beautiful one-handed catch to move the ball to the 1-yard line. From there, Lamar Miller scored to give Houston a 14-0 lead. A Jadeveon Clowney sack led to a punt that set up the Texans in Lions territory with 80 seconds remaining in the half. However, Osweiler threw an interception to Johnson Bademosi. It was really the only bad play of the game for Osweiler and was a nice move by Bademosi. Stafford responded by moving the ball into the Texans' territory with a 33-yard pass to Eric Ebron, and this time, Prater was good on a 47-yarder to cut the lead to 14-3 at the half.
In the third quarter, Osweiler led a drive past midfield. Jim Caldwell didn't challenge a potential fumble by Hopkins that was ruled incomplete and recovered by the Lions. A 23-yard pass to Will Fuller (1-23) set up a Houston field goal. Stafford answered by moving into Texans territory with two passes to Theo Riddick for almost 30 yards and a third-down conversion to Ebron. A pass interference on Corey Moore on Ebron in the end zone put the ball at the 1-yard line. A short touchdown pass to Theo Riddick cut the Texans' lead to 17-10 early in the fourth quarter. Houston put a clock-eating drive together led by Miller and Alfred Blue running the ball into the red zone. However, guard Xavier Su'a-Filo ruined the drive with a holding call and then allowed a sack on third down, so the Texans settled for a Nick Novack field goal. Detroit got a good return to midfield and with quick passes to Tate (7-42) and Riddick, and moved the ball to Houston's 21-yard line. The Texans' defense a stopped the Lions there, and Prater hit a short field goal to cut it to 20-13 with just under three minutes remaining.
Surprisingly, Detroit went for an onside kick with 2:52 remaining and all three timeouts available. The Texans easily recovered the ball, and that set them up in Detroit territory. It made more sense to kick it deep and make the Texans drive the ball while aiming for getting the ball back in better field position. In the end, it didn't matter because Miller ran well to get a few first downs and run out the clock on the Lions.
Stafford was 27-of-41 for 240 yards with a touchdown. The Texans have one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, and they proved it against the Lions, who were red hot entering this game. Cornerback A.J. Bouye played well against for Houston, while veteran cornerbacks Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph had bounce-back performances and were very good in coverage.
Eric Ebron (7-79) led the Lions in receiving and ate up Texans safety Corey Moore. Marvin Jones (3-33) and Anquan Boldin (1-4) were non-factors. One mistake the Lions made was not running the ball more against Houston's vulnerable run defense. Theo Riddick was his normal dangerous self with 11 carries for 56 yards and eight catches for 77 yards with one touchdown.
Osweiler completed 20-of-29 passes for 186 yards with one touchdown and an interception. He plays much better at home and will have to improve his road performances coming off the bye.
Lamar Miller (17-56-1) struggled to get any yardage until the fourth quarter. DeAndre Hopkins (4-44) and C.J. Fiedorowicz (5-43-1) were the Texans' leading receivers.
EDITOR'S NOTE: So, let's get this straight... the second-round kicker missed an extra point, but the first-round kicker upstaged him by whiffing on a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation and following the opening drive of overtime. Hmm... here's an idea, and let me know if this is crazy or not... DO NOT PICK KICKERS EARLY IN THE DRAFT!!!
The Raiders decided to stay in south Florida after their win over the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, so they could stay focused and acclimated to the time zone, weather, and so forth, but after 23 penalties and 200 penalty yards allowed, I don't think you can give the Raiders much credit for their focus. What you can give them credit for is perseverance and a nice young passing game, which led them to a 30-24 overtime win in Tampa Bay.
This game was all over the map, but the one constant was Derek Carr, who threw the ball an amazing 59 times, completing 40 of those to nine players for 513 yards and four touchdowns. And with that explosion of offense, this game was still in no way an easy win for the Raiders, as they had their quarterback set the team record for the most passing yards in a game, but they also, as a team, set the team record for the most penalties and penalty yards.
Tampa Bay had trouble moving the ball, but the Raiders continued to give the Bucs penalty yards. Just in one drive, the Buccaneers were given four first downs on Oakland penalties, with three of those coming on third downs. The fact, Tampa Bay ended up losing this game is really astonishing considering.
Jameis Winston came into this game having put up strong numbers against weak defenses, but today he only completed 50 percent of his passes for 180 yards. He did throw for two touchdowns, but with so many second chances and the Raiders' secondary allowing the most passing yards coming into the afternoon, it was a disappointing showing.
This contest truly came down to Carr just outplaying everyone, including his own team. Would he have needed 59 pass attempts and 513 yards passing if his team hadn't put them in a hole by 200 yards? They did though, but he put them on his back. There were mistakes, don't get me wrong. When you pass 59 times, you will make mistakes, but going on the road and playing that well while your team sabotages you, that's the sign of a very good quarterback.
Jacquizz Rodgers was once again the bell-cow back for the Buccaneers, rushing 19 times for 69 yards and a touchdown, plus catching one pass for nine yards. He didn't get the yardage we grew accustomed to over the last two contests, but finally got into the end zone. The bad news is that he hurt his foot and couldn't finish the game.
Oakland's penalty woes became comical near the end of regulation as Tampa Bay drove while down 17-16. On two plays during the drive, the Raiders lined up with 12 men on the field. It is, of course, an inexcusable penalty, but they happen and you move on, but for it to happen twice on the Buccaneers' final drive of the game, which could have been the game winner, it's beyond stupid. Then to top off the comedy of errors, after Tampa Bay had scored, the Bucs went for two to make it a seven-point game, and got it on a pass to Mike Evans, but they had a little help from the Raiders, who only had NINE players on the field! If the Raiders stop that two-point conversion, the ensuing drive to tie up the game would have been a game-winning drive. How Oakland won this game is beyond me.
We've had two ties in the last couple of weeks in the NFL, and this game was looking like it might be the third, as Sebastian Janikowski missed two field goals in overtime, but with less than two minutes left in the game, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio smartly went for it on fourth-and-4 at midfield. Carr hit Seth Roberts over the middle, and after a broken tackle, Roberts flew into the end zone for the game-winner. Del Rio saved us from another tie and kept his team riding high.
The Raiders are now undefeated on the road (5-0) and stay atop the AFC West with a 6-2 record, while the Bucs fall to 3-4 and 0-3 at home. The Raiders are sitting pretty right now, while the Bucs continue inconsistent play and were once again exposed as a team that can easily be passed on for record-breaking amounts of yardage.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Bill Belichick is now 11-0 against the spread in same-season, divisional revenge games as head coach of the Patriots. Here's an idea: The next time a divisional opponent beats him, they should sent him a dozen roses, a stuffed animal, chocolates, and a letter of admission that they were lucky to win the game. Perhaps this will keep Belichick from acting like a scorned ex-girlfriend in his divisional rematches.
This was a hard game to watch. Though the final score says that the Patriots won by 16, it felt like a lot more. They had a big lead on the Bills for most of the second half, and they really did not even have to try in the fourth quarter. This was a huge win for the Patriots, but it was probably an even bigger loss for the Bills, who are now 4-4.
The Bills were absolutely brutal for most of the day. Their biggest problems started on the defensive side of the ball. The team did benefit from the return of Marcell Dareus, as their pass rush improved early in the game. They were able to put some pressure on Tom Brady, ending up with three sacks. Buffalo's secondary, however, was atrocious during this contest.
The Bills were just unable to cover New England's receivers. There were numerous plays where the Bills did not matchup properly, which was a disaster. On a play that was called back by a penalty, the Bills left Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman wide open on one side of the field. No defender was within 10 yards of either of them. Edelman would have had the touchdown had it not been for the penalty.
Later, the Bills made the mistake of somehow putting Nickell Robey-Coleman on Rob Gronkowski. Coleman is a 5-foot-8 slot corner, while Gronkowski is a 6-foot-6 monster. The big tight end easily beat Coleman for a 53-yard touchdown. It was the easiest throw that Brady made all day long.
Of all the corners on the field on Sunday, the worst may have been Stephon Gilmore. He was terrible in this game. Something must be wrong with him. Gilmore was torched repeatedly by the Patriots, and he allowed a 53-yard touchdown to Chris Hogan. Gilmore was beaten by two steps on the play, and Hogan does not have great speed. Perhaps Gilmore is hiding an injury.
On offense, the Bills were only marginally better. This game was probably one of Tyrod Taylor's worst performances of the year. The starting quarterback went 19-of-38 for 183 yards during the contest. He simply did not look very good, especially on his deep passes. Taylor continuously lofted the ball down the field and overthrew his intended receiver by a couple of steps on seemingly every attempt. Taylor did complete some nice passes midway down the field, but his deep accuracy is a major weakness. Taylor has to work to improve that, or he may further regress.
On the bright side, Taylor was solid on the ground. He took five carries for 48 yards and a touchdown. Taylor had two great scrambles that really showcased his mobility. The first came on a fourth-and-3 near the Patriots' red zone. The Bills called a draw, and Taylor had an open lane up the middle. He used his speed to break through and get a 26-yard touchdown run. On the other scramble, Taylor escaped a Patrick Chung tackle in the backfield and impressively ran for a first down. Taylor needs to keep running to help the Bills out.
Buffalo's running backs in this game played decently with limited opportunities. Mike Gillislee was the lead back, and he looked good in place of the injured LeSean McCoy. Gillislee carried the ball 12 times, totaling 85 yards and a touchdown. He opened the game with a 28-yard burst where he outran some of New England's defenders. He was smooth, working at in an out of cuts, and he definitely has some explosive ability. Gillislee will be a good FLEX play as long as McCoy is out.
The Bills' receivers struggled for the most part on Sunday. Walter Powell (3-59) and Robert Woods (4-50) led the way in terms of yardage. Charles Clay (2-6) was a huge disappointment. None of Buffalo's receivers is worth starting in fantasy as long as Taylor continues to have problems.
For the Patriots, this game was a huge revenge win. The Bills had shut them out in Week 4, and the Patriots had to be licking their chops before this matchup. After all, Tom Brady was back, so this was always supposed to be an easy win. In short, it was, and that was largely due to the play of Brady.
Brady was absolutely phenomenal. He took advantage of the Bills' porous secondary, going 22-of-33 for 315 yards and a whopping four touchdowns. He looked sharp and is definitely hitting his stride. Brady made many perfect throws, including the long touchdowns to Hogan and Gronkowski. Brady's play is going to make the Patriots the favorites in the AFC, given the issues with other teams in the conference.
Thanks to Brady's superb play, his receivers had fantastic performances. Rob Gronkowski (5-109) paced the team in terms of yardage and also caught a touchdown. Three other receivers found the end zone, including Chris Hogan (4-91), Julian Edelman (4-37) and Danny Amendola (3-29). Hogan was particularly impressive going against his former team. He is no more than a WR3 most weeks in fantasy, but feel free to fire him up in weaker matchups.
LeGarrette Blount was used as the workhorse back once again. He got 18 carries, but only managed to turn them into 43 yards. The Bills' run defense was able to bottle him up, but he still got a touchdown. Blount is definitely a must-start most weeks in fantasy, especially if he keeps getting these types of workload splits. James White only ended up with two carries, but he appears to be settling into a role as a receiving back.
Final Note: There were a couple of weird plays in this game for the Bills. The first came on a punt, where Colton Schmidt just dropped the snap. The punter went to kick the ball and just dropped it before he swung his leg. As a result, he picked it up and somehow ran it 15 yards for the first down. Had that not happened, the Patriots would have gotten the ball deep in Bills territory with a big chance to pull away.
The other weird play came on a designed halfback pass. Reggie Bush got a pitch from Taylor and looked to throw it. Nobody was open, and as Bush was being tackled, he chucked it backward toward Taylor. Taylor had to jump on the ball to prevent the Patriots from recovering the fumble. The Bills have to stop using Bush. He simply is not efficient and will hurt the team the more it uses him.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Look, I appreciate the back-door covers and pushes. I really do. But Hue Jackson needs to take a time management logic class, as he was running down 11 with 40 seconds left from the 2-yard line. The Browns should've been either passing quickly or kicking a field goal to preserve time. Jackson was guilty of this before against the Titans. Unless Jackson has a deal with sportsbooks where he tries to amass as many covers as possible, I don't understand his decision-making whatsoever.
Once again, Cleveland threatened its draft status for the No. 1 overall pick, but another second-half collapse from the defense kept the Browns in the lead for the first selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Jets (3-5), meanwhile, won their second game in a row to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
On the first drive of the game, Josh McCown moved the Browns down the field and then hit Andrew Hawkins (5-31-2) for a five-yard touchdown. McCown led a field-goal drive to give the Browns a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. New York got moving with Matt Forte ripping off an 18-yard run to get across midfield, and then Bilal Powell (6-76) broke up the middle and to the outside for a 35-yard touchdown run. Late before the half, McCown moved the ball into Jets territory, attacking New York's cornerbacks. A Calvin Pryor pass interference in the end zone on Gary Barnidge (3-42) set up a first-and-goal at the one. Isaiah Crowell promptly plunged into the end zone. The Browns got the ball back and used Duke Johnson (4-29 rushing, 6-87 receiving) to set up another field goal before the half. Cleveland took a 20-7 lead into the locker room. At intermission, Fitzpatrick was only 3-of-14 for 30 yards, while McCown was 16-of-27 for 228 yards with a score.
The second half was a reversal for the signal-callers. Fitzpatrick finally put a drive together with passes to Brandon Marshall (4-68) for 26 yards. The possession was capped with a pass to Quincy Enunwa, who he fought through a few tackles to get into the end zone with a 24-yard score. The Jets soon got the ball back, and Fitzpatrick fired a laser to Enunwa as he beat Jamar Taylor on the deep post for a 57-yard gain. Forte scored from four yards out to give the Jets a 21-20 lead.
The Browns defense continued to struggle into the fourth quarter and couldn't stop the Jets' offense as Fitzpatrick spread the ball around. Forte had a 15-yard screen to the two-yard line, and then he powered it into the end zone two plays later. That put New York up 28-20, and the Browns continued to collapse. Terrelle Pryor pulled up on a route, and that allowed a pass to float to Marcus Gilchrist for an interception. After the Browns got the ball back deep in their own territory, McCown threw short for Duke Johnson, but a staggering hit from Calvin Pryor created a deflection that was caught by a diving Lorenzo Mauldin for an interception inside the 10-yard line. The Jets settled for a field goal, but that put the game out of reach.
McCown completed 25-of-49 passes for 341 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Pryor (6-101) led the Browns in receiving.
Crowell had 11 carries for 29 yards with a score and two receptions for 34 yards.
Fitzpatrick was 16-of-34 for 228 yards with one touchdown. He made enough plays to lead the comeback, but before long, the Jets should considering finding out what they have in Bryce Petty and/or Christian Hackenberg.
Forte had 82 yards on 25 carries with two scores. Enunwa (4-93-1) led the Jets in receiving.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The good news for the Packers is that Aaron Rodgers played very well for the first time in quite a while. The bad news for the Packers is that Mohamed Sanu beat them. That's how bad things are for their secondary. Sanu shouldn't beat a powderpuff football team; let alone an NFL playoff contender.
This may have been one of the best games of the entire season. Both pass offenses were operating at full force, and neither team was ever out of the game. There were a couple of late lead changes, but at the end of the day, the Falcons came out on top. Still, the Packers have to be happy with how their offense played today.
The most impressive part of this game was the fact that the Packers ran a completely one-dimensional offense and were still able to put up 32 points. The team really did not have a rush offense. Ty Montgomery was surprisingly inactive due to an illness, so the team did not have much in the backfield. Fullback Aaron Ripkowski led the way with six carries and 34 yards. Aside from him, the team did not have much, especially if you exclude the six carries by Aaron Rodgers. This will continue to be the case until either Montgomery or James Starks returns to the lineup.
With that said, the passing game was simply terrific. Aaron Rodgers had what was by far the best performance of the season. There had been some questions about the veteran quarterback, as he had struggled at times during the 2016 season. Some were wondering if he was starting to decline as he got older. Rodgers was able to silence those critics with his play today.
Rodgers went 28-of-38 on the day, throwing for 246 yards, and running for 60 as well. He tossed four touchdown passes and single-handedly carried the Packers' offense to victory. Rodgers made numerous sharp throws and finally looked comfortable in the pocket. His offensive line gave him ample time to complete his passes, and it really showed.
On all of Rodgers' touchdowns, he threw the ball to the perfect location. One of his best passes came on his touchdown to Trevor Davis (3-24). Davis was at the front right pylon, and Rodgers threw it to where only Davis could reach it. On his first touchdown, Rodgers waited for Jordy Nelson to get open and fit it into the window where Nelson was. Rodgers was simply able to pick apart the Falcons' defense, and he may be able to build on this performance in the future - especially when he gets some of his offensive weapons back.
Without the talents of the injured Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson (4-94) and Davante Adams (12-74) led the way for the team. Nelson finally appears to have come on after a slow start to the season. He had a huge 58-yard catch in the first quarter that got the Packers on the board early.
Meanwhile, Adams has emerged as a reliable target for Rodgers. He has 25 catches over the last two games and should continue to be heavily targeted as he continues to get open. The only concern about Adams today was a fumble that rolled out of bounds. He tried to do a bit too much to get extra yardage and lost the ball. You cannot fault him for effort, but he needs to be more careful in the future.
One of the most important plays of the day came on the final touchdown drive for the Packers. Rodgers hit Nelson for what would have been a first down, but Nelson backtracked and was short of the first down. However, upon video review it was revealed that Brooks Reed never got off the field for the Falcons. As a result, a 12-men-on-the-field penalty was called, giving the Packers a first down. Three plays later, Rodgers tossed the ball to Jeff Janis (3-23) for the score. Rodgers then ran the ball in for the two-point conversion to make the score 32-26.
The Falcons were able to battle back, however, thanks to an equally as impressive performance from quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan went 28-of-35 on the day for 288 yards and three touchdowns. He was on fire, and his game-winning drive was fantastic. Ryan marched the team down the field for 75 yards in just over three minutes. He threw crisp passes and left only 30 seconds on the clock for the Packers to strike back. It was a signature moment for him, as he proved that he can be a clutch quarterback for the team.
Ryan made some great passes during the rest of the game as well. On his first touchdown, he lofted a perfect pass to Taylor Gabriel in the end zone. Gabriel, a 5-foot-8 receiver, was well covered in the end zone, but Ryan managed to put the perfect touch on it. The ball dropped straight into Gabriel's hands on what was the best throw of the day for Ryan.
The receivers for the Atlanta Falcons were expected to have a huge day against the banged-up Green Bay secondary, but Julio Jones (3-29) was a disappointment. He hurt his knee at some point in the contest, and did not look comfortable out on the field. His injury will definitely be something to monitor in the future.
While Jones had a tough game, Mohamed Sanu put together a really strong performance. Sanu saw 10 targets from Ryan and caught nine of them. He turned those nine balls into 84 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Sanu is worth consideration as a bench receiver, but he should only be started in favorable matchups. That said, if Jones is out, Sanu could end up being a WR3 due to the volume of targets he would see. Aside from Sanu, Gabriel (3-68, 1 TD) and Austin Hooper (5-41) racked up some receiving yards. Devonta Freeman caught the other touchdown.
Speaking of Freeman, he had a tough time against the Packers' top-ranked rushing defense. He got 11 carries and only managed 35 yards. He did convert a touchdown attempt at the goal line, but otherwise, he looked average. With Tevin Coleman out, Terron Ward impressed as the primary backup. Ward saw six carries and totaled 46 yards. He had one impressive 26-yard burst, and he should get some more carries in the future as a result of this performance.
Defensively, a few Falcons players stood out. Rookie linebacker Deion Jones had a pretty good game, and his athleticism was on display. He definitely has the ability to be a good player in coverage, and as his instincts improve, he should only get better. Pass-rushers Vic Beasley and Adrian Clayborn were impressive as well. Clayborn notched two sacks and looked like a solid situational rusher. Meanwhile, Beasley looks like a great fit for Dan Quinn's scheme. Beasley now has 7.5 sacks on the season and is one of the best young pass-rushers in the league.
Broncos 27, Chargers 19
Though the Broncos prevailed by eight points to avenge their Thursday night loss to the Chargers two weeks ago, this was a contest that really could've gone either way. The Chargers appeared to have all the momentum early in the game. They were up 7-3 entering the second quarter, as the Broncos couldn't really do anything offensively. In fact, it easily could've been 14-3, as Trevor Siemian had an interception that was dropped in his own territory.
It seemed as though San Diego could've literally sat on the lead, but the team began imploding. It started when Philip Rivers threw a pick-six that was a slightly high pass that was tipped by Tyrell Williams. The Chargers had another chance to score off their defense, but Casey Hayward dropped a potential interception returned for a touchdown of his own. San Diego had more bad luck following intermission, as another Rivers pass was tipped - this time by Travis Benjamin - and that set up a Devontae Booker touchdown. This gave the Broncos a double-digit lead.
At that point, it appeared as though Denver would run away with it, but Siemian was finally picked, as he had a tipped pass of his own returned for six. The Chargers were back in the game, and one drive later, they drove down to the 2-yard line, down just eight. With four downs, all they had to do was punch it in to give themselves a chance to tie, but they couldn't do it. All of the controversy will be regarding their play calls. Melvin Gordon led the NFL in rushing touchdowns entering this weekend and had 108 yards on the ground at that point in the contest, yet San Diego didn't give him a single attempt. Rivers threw the ball four times instead, and he was under such heavy pressure that he had to throw two of those passes away. Rivers went to his tight ends after that, but couldn't connect, turning the ball over on downs. The Chargers had one more chance after that, but without being able to pound the rock with Gordon as time was running out, they didn't have much of a chance.
Not running with Gordon on a single occasion on the goal-to-go situation was strange. Gordon gained 111 yards on 23 carries, and he had a 20-yard burst on that very drive. He was excellent against the Broncos, who have been weaker versus the rush than the pass. Not giving him one opportunity was inexcusable. Gordon, by the way, caught four passes for 44 receiving yards.
Rivers, conversely, didn't perform all that well, though it's hard to blame him. He failed to complete half of his passes, going 20-of-47 for 267 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. None of the three picks were his fault - two were tipped, while the third was the result of a miscommunication with Griff Whalen - but he was just 9-of-23 in the second half. He saw a ton of pressure and had to throw passes away. His tackles didn't have a chance against Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
Rivers' two touchdowns went to Benjamin (3-44) and Antonio Gates (4-33). Dontrelle Inman led the team with four grabs for 72 yards.
As for Denver's offense, it didn't have much success throughout most of the afternoon, save for a couple of possessions. The Broncos accumulated just 15 first downs (compared to 21 by San Diego) and was outgained by 45 yards. Siemian barely completed half of his throws, going 20-of-38 for 276 yards, a lost fumble and his pick-six. As mentioned, he was very fortunate to get away with some potential interceptions, including another one going back for a touchdown. He was very lucky that this wasn't a complete disaster for him.
Only three Broncos accumulated more than 35 receiving yards: Demaryius Thomas (5-79), Emmanuel Sanders (4-68) and Virgil Green (4-55). Both Thomas and Sanders saw a game-high 10 targets.
Booker drew his first start with C.J. Anderson out. He had some nice carries, but ultimately finished with an underwhelming total on the ground, gaining 54 yards and a touchdown on 19 attempts. He also caught five passes for 30 receiving yards. However, Booker lost a fumble inside the San Diego 5-yard line.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips was knocked out of the game in the second quarter on a collision with Gordon during Rivers' interception. Phillips was down for a while and had to be taken to a hospital, but all reports indicate that he's fine. The Broncos deserve major credit for still playing well defensively without their legendary play-caller.
Cowboys 29, Eagles 23
I didn't have a confident opinion regarding this game because I wasn't sure what Dallas' mental makeup would be. The Cowboys were coming off some big victories prior to their bye, and they were likely to come into this contest unfocused as a result of hearing about how great they are for two weeks. I figured it would be telling how prepared they were based on the number of mistakes they made in the early stages of the evening.
As it turns out, the Cowboys were not sharp at all. They fumbled the opening kickoff (though they recovered). They allowed a sack on the opening drive. They were flagged for too many men on the field after forcing the Eagles into a punt on their first possession. They were also whistled for running into the kicker, which was also declined. All of this occurred during the first two drives of the opening quarter!
Dallas made plenty of other mistakes after that. Dak Prescott overthrew Dez Bryant in the red zone. Prescott then threw a careless interception into the end zone, where he didn't see Jordan Hicks. Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott were guilty of a botched exchange, but Dallas once again was fortunate to recover. Prescott followed that up by underthrowing Bryant for a touchdown and then having an interception dropped, only because Terrance Williams had to commit offensive pass interference to break up the play. On later drives, the Cowboys were flagged for a delay-of-game penalty, and then Elliott had a long run that was nullified by a hold, albeit a shaky one.
As you can see, the Cowboys screwed up so many times and clearly didn't have their heads in the game. And yet, they won. I don't know if that says more about the Eagles blowing it, or Dallas having amazing perseverance. Philadelphia did make mistakes of its own, especially late in the contest. Wendell Smallwood lost a fumble, and then it actually appeared as though the Eagles would be able to put it away with a field goal to make it a 10-point margin with a few minutes remaining. However, a bad Jason Kelce snap forced Philadelphia out of kicking range. The Cowboys followed that up with a game-tying drive and then ultimately won in overtime.
Prescott struggled in the first three quarters. On top of the aforementioned miscues, he was just inaccurate for the most part. However, Prescott put together two amazing drives to seal the victory. He hit Bryant for a 22-yard game-tying score, and following a successful sneak on fourth-and-1 in overtime, he connected with a wide-open Jason Witten for the decisive touchdown.
Prescott finished 19-of-39 for 287 yards, two touchdowns and the interception to Hicks. He made up for that horrid completion percentage by moving well on the ground, scrambling seven times for 38 rushing yards and an additional score. His early struggles at least have to be somewhat worrisome, but his ability to come through in the clutch means so much more.
The Cowboys welcomed Bryant back to the lineup for the first time since Week 3. Bryant caught just four of his 14 targets, though that wasn't his fault, as Prescott dealt with accuracy issues. Bryant did have 113 yards and a touchdown, but he really should have found the end zone three times.
Aside from Bryant, only two other Cowboys had more than 25 receiving yards: Elliott (4-52) and Cole Beasley (4-53). Witten, who scored the game-winning touchdown, only snatched two balls for 16 yards.
Speaking of Elliot, he was impressive once again, gaining 96 yards on 22 carries. The Eagles have a strong ground defense, so don't read anything into Elliott failing to reach the century mark. Elliott burst for some tremendous runs in this contest, and he had a long gain negated by a shaky holding call.
Before moving on to the Eagles, it's worth noting that two important Dallas defensive backs - Morris Claiborne, Barry Church - were knocked out with injuries.
Carson Wentz had a solid performance in Dallas despite missing his very talented right tackle. Wentz finished 32-of-43 for 202 yards, and those stats should've been so much better because his teammates dropped a whopping six passes. He only had a couple of bad throws, one of which was a dropped pick-six by Orlando Scandrick in the fourth quarter. Still, Philadelphia fans should take this as a positive, as Wentz would've posted much better stats if he were paired with superior teammates. There will be criticism for Wentz not testing Dallas deep, but with Johnson out, and the lack of talent at receiver, it can't be much of a surprise that the Eagles opted to play it safe.
Wentz's one viable wide receiver is Jordan Matthews, who caught 11 passes for 65 yards and a touchdown. Matthews was guilty of a drop in the red zone, but it didn't matter because the Eagles scored on that drive anyway. Dorial Green-Beckham (5-55) was the only other Eagle who accumulated more than 25 receiving yards. Nelson Agholor (3-25) was guilty of a couple of drops. It's easy to see why the Eagles are desperate to trade for a wideout.
The Eagles have problems at running back as well. Ryan Mathews found the end zone, but was benched in the second half, as he finished the game with only 10 yards on four carries, none of which came following intermission. One of his replacements was Smallwood, who lost a fumble on his only attempt. Darren Sproles carried the workload and did a solid job, registering 86 yards on 15 tries, but he's not durable enough to be a full-time runner, especially at this stage of his career.
Bears 20, Vikings 10
This game completely befuddled me until I realized what happened: It's Halloween, and both of these teams came dressed as each other. That's the only thing that makes sense to me. If the Vikings and Bears truly didn't swap jerseys, I won't know how to logically explain what happened in this contest.
I've never seen a Mike Zimmer-coached team play so poorly. Conversely, I can't remember the last time Jay Cutler was so incredibly sharp. Minnesota and Chicago came into this contest with 5-1 and 1-6 records, respectively, but the Bears looked like the team with only one loss.
The Vikings couldn't get anything going offensively, and while that's not a huge surprise, it was their defense that was extremely disappointing. They constantly surrendered big plays to Chicago, and it began on the opening drive when Jordan Howard ripped a 69-yard run, as Jayron Kearse, playing in place of the injured Andrew Sendejo, was out of position. Howard proved to be a big problem for Minnesota the entire evening. The Bears then fooled the Vikings, as Jay Cutler was able to toss the ball to Howard on a 34-yard screen to set up a score. Howard was a monster, gaining 153 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries despite getting blocks from two rookie guards who happened to be replacing Pro Bowlers Josh Sitton and Kyle Long. Howard curiously didn't see much action last week, but he showed that he needs to be Chicago's every-down back going forward. He was also effective as a pass-catcher, hauling in all four of his targets for 49 yards. Jeremy Langford had just one touch.
Cutler, meanwhile, definitely was not himself. He was nearly picked early by Xavier Rhodes on the second drive, but didn't make a single mistake after that. The Bears, as a whole, committed just two penalties and no turnovers, and Cutler was a major reason why they were so clean. Cutler used his pocket mobility to avoid sacks, and most of his passes were precise. He finished 20-of-31 for 252 yards and a touchdown, and shockingly, he showed a lot of emotion. He congratulated linemen, fist-pumped, and gave about 50 thumbs-up signs to his teammates and the crowd. This was exactly the quarterback the Bears envisioned when they gave Cutler a big contract. With that in mind, Chicago fans have to feel extremely frustrated that they haven't seen this version of Cutler very often. Was this Cutler present because it was Halloween, or because he was told that he's auditioning for his next contract? It'll be interesting to see if Cutler shows the same type of emotion in his final eight games.
As for the Vikings, they played exactly like the Bears were supposed to. They whiffed on tackles, were frequently out of position and showed no signs of desperation late in the game. They moved at a snail's pace when down 17 at the end of the third quarter. It's like they thought they were 1-6 and had no shot of making the playoffs. This sort of effort, especially following a defeat, is inexcusable.
Sam Bradford, to put it bluntly, sucked. Now, I'm willing to acknowledge that he didn't have a good chance behind his putrid offensive tackles, but he didn't look like a capable starting quarterback. Bradford began the game by overthrowing Stefon Diggs for a 50-yard touchdown. He then began seeing phantom pressure, cowering when there were no pass-rushers in the area. In the second half, he didn't try to rally the Vikings, taking his time when the team needed to show more desperation. Bradford played so well earlier in the season, but he has definitely regressed over the past couple of weeks.
Bradford finished 23-of-37 for 228 yards and a touchdown, but those numbers are misleading, as he picked up a chunk of his yardage in garbage time. A better indication of how he performed were his first-half stats: 8-of-16 for 79 yards. He couldn't take many shots downfield because of the pressure, and when he actually had time, he couldn't connect with his receivers.
Another major problem for Minnesota is a lack of a running game. Jerick McKinnon was out, but he wouldn't have made a difference, given the poor blocking. Still, he would've been better than plodder Matt Asiata, who mustered only 42 yards on 14 carries. It seemed like a wasted down every time Asiata touched the ball. For instance, one drive featured three Asiata rushes, and the Vikings predictably went three-and-out. Asiata also dropped a pass. Ronnie Hillman (4-15) probably should've been used more, but again, it probably wouldn't have mattered.
Only one Minnesota player accumulated more than 40 receiving yards. Stefon Diggs (8-76) helped his fantasy owners with a late touchdown, while Adam Thielen (3-40) was guilty of a drop on third down of the opening drive.
The leading receiver in this entire game was tight end Zach Miller, who snatched seven passes for 88 yards. Alshon Jeffery secured Cutler's sole touchdown, securing four balls for 63 yards. Jeffery couldn't do much in the early going, as he failed to reel in any of his four targets in the opening half, thanks to Xavier Rhodes. However, Rhodes left the game with an injury, and Jeffery caught his touchdown shortly afterward.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.