Ten days ago, the Patriots had a losing record, and the talking heads on TV said that they were done. One specific member of an ESPN show, who has covered the Patriots for decades, said that the Patriots' dynasty was "over." And yet, the Patriots are now 3-2 and will be on top of their division if the Dolphins lose as underdogs at Cincinnati.
That said, this was not a very convincing win for the Patriots. They were battling an undermanned Indianapolis squad that looked exhausted coming off an overtime game on just three days of rest. NFL teams shouldn't even be playing on just three days of rest, period, and yet the Colts had to do so following a full five quarters of action. It certainly showed that the Colts were very fatigued; they committed a number of mental errors, including six drops, one of which resulted in an interception that effectively ended the game.
The Patriots established a 24-3 halftime advantage, but the Colts were able to creep back into the game, thanks to a couple of Tom Brady interceptions that weren't his fault. The first went off Chris Hogan's hands, while the second was a Rob Gronkowski bobble inside the Indianapolis 10-yard line that was originally ruled a fumble. The Colts recovered and drew to within 24-17, but the Patriots responded with a touchdown. The Colts had one more chance to draw to within seven again, but an Andrew Luck pass to Zach Pascal bounced off the receiver's hands and popped into the arms of a New England defender to ice the victory for New England.
Brady began the game 9-of-9 and should've posted a better stat line than his 34-of-44, 341-yard, three-touchdown, two-interception performance. He also had a rushing score. The two picks weren't his fault, as Brady was precise for most of the evening. There were a couple of exceptions, including one occasion in which Brady missed a wide-open James White for a 75-yard touchdown. It also must be considered that the Patriots were going up against an Indianapolis stop unit that was missing its best linebacker, top three cornerbacks and a couple of other players. Brady, however, still had a great night, as he looked thrilled to have Julian Edelman back.
Speaking of Edelman, he saw nine targets, catching seven of them for 57 yards. Edelman looked good, save for one occasion in which he dropped what would've been a big gain. Edelman's seven catches trailed only James White's 10. White's receptions went for 77 yards and a touchdown, though he would've gotten another 75-yard score had Brady not overthrown him.
Gronkowski (6-75) was responsible for a Brady pick, as mentioned, but he still posted a decent stat line. Still, it doesn't look like Gronkowski is 100 percent. He was hobbling around on his bum ankle. Meanwhile, Josh Gordon (2-50) caught a late Brady touchdown, leaping over two defenders. Gordon saw four targets.
The Patriots were able to run well on Indianapolis' beat-up defense. Sony Michel nearly hit the century mark, gaining 98 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He nearly had a second score, but was stuffed twice at the goal line.
As for the Colts, Luck posted plenty of yardage and touchdowns in garbage time. He had just 115 yards and no scores by intermission, yet finished 38-of-9 for 365 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Luck's first pick was bad, as he threw the ball right to Patrick Chung with Adrian Clayborn in his face. His second interception bounced off a receiver's hands.
This was just one of many frustrating moments for Luck. His teammates dropped a whopping six passes in this game. I also counted six drops last week. Luck is getting no help with T.Y. Hilton out. Fortunately for Luck, Hilton is expected to return next week after some extra rest.
Eric Ebron naturally had one of Luck's drops, but he had a big game otherwise. He caught nine of his 15 targets for 105 yards and two touchdowns. Chester Rogers (8-66), Ryan Grant (6-58) and Nyheim Hines (7-45) were next on the stat sheet, but all of them dropped balls.
Hines, who was a consistent receiver out of the backfield for Luck, led the team in rushing with 45 yards on 15 carries. Jordan Wilkins (6-39) didn't get much of an opportunity with the Colts trailing throughout the evening. Wilkins lost a fumble when Devin McCourty ripped the ball out of his hands.
Bengals 27, Dolphins 17
It's almost hard to believe, but the Dolphins had a 17-0 lead in this game. They picked off Andy Dalton on a red-zone deflection and blocked a field goal. They scored on a punt return touchdown, and they also reached the end zone on a wide-open Kenyan Drake touchdown. They were outgaining the Bengals by halftime, and their defense, particularly rookie linebacker Jerome Baker, was hounding Dalton. The secondary, looking much better with Reshad Jones, appeared as though it was going to lead the team to a victory.
The Bengals, however, didn't give up. They eventually found an offensive rhythm, starting with a great A.J. Green back-shoulder catch for 22 yards that led to a field goal. Dalton then converted a terrific third-and-9 pass to Green while rolling right to escape pressure, and this allowed him to throw a prayer to Joe Mixon for a touchdown to trim the margin to 17-10. Meanwhile, with Cincinnati showing signs of life, the Dolphins began choking. Tannehill threw a pick-six when he released the ball as he was hit. The ball took a weird bounce off a helmet, and the Bengals took it back for a touchdown to tie the game. The Dolphins then blew a couple more chances. Ja'Wuan James' hold ruined a good-looking drive, and then Tannehill lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, giving Cincinnati a 10-yard advantage to clinch the victory.
Dalton had a rough start to this game, but finished with a respectable stat line, going 20-of-30 for 248 yards, one touchdown and the aforementioned interception. He made the early mistake, but came up with some clutch throws following intermission to lead his team back from a 17-point deficit. Dalton had lots of pressure in his face for most of the afternoon, but was able to overcome it. It's also worth noting that he was battling a Miami secondary that was much better in the wake of Jones' return.
There was talk leading up to this contest that Joe Mixon wouldn't be able to handle the entire workload. That turned out to be a lie. Mixon was given every single carry. He had 22 of them, which he turned into 93 yards. He also caught three passes for 22 receiving yards and a touchdown. Not bad for his first game back since getting hurt in Week 2! Mixon lost some passing-down work to Mark Walton, and I thought it was clear that the Bengals missed Giovani Bernard because Walton was largely ineffective.
Green, to no surprise, led the Bengals in receiving yardage. He caught six passes for 112 yards, while Tyler Boyd (4-44) was a minor disappointment.
As for the Dolphins, Tannehill went 20-of-35 for 185 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a lost fumble. Tannehill wasn't horrible in the opening half, but was just 8-of-17 for 71 yards and three turnovers following intermission. Two of his give-aways gave the Bengals 14 free points.
I wrote that Tannehill "wasn't horrible" prior to intermission, but that was actually a lie. Tannehill did some good things, but his output could've been so much worse. Bengals cornerback William Jackson dropped two interceptions of his, and Tannehill overshot an open Kenny Stills for what could've been a 90-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Tannehill continued to show that he's a bad quarterback, and while he's been a major upgrade over Jay Cutler from last year, he must be replaced this upcoming offseason. Here are the 2019 NFL Draft Quarterback Prospect Rankings.
Aside from finding a new quarterback, the Dolphins must also stop using washed-up players over better ones. What I'm referring to is the fact that Frank Gore received 12 carries compared to Drake's six. Gore outgained Drake, 63-46, but Drake had a better average. He also caught seven of his 11 targets for 69 receiving yards and a touchdown. One of his receptions was a nifty third-and-16 conversion in which he made some nice moves, aided by some poor Cincinnati tackling efforts. It makes no sense that Gore would get work over Drake, but bad teams simply don't understand that talented players should get the ball more over washed-up veterans.
Drake led the Dolphins in receiving. Albert Wilson (5-43) was next. Stills (2-17) was a huge disappointment. He saw just five targets, though, as mentioned, he should've reeled in a 90-yard touchdown had Tannehill not overthrown him.
Browns 12, Ravens 9
There were questions heading into this game about whether or not Baker Mayfield would struggle against Baltimore's defense. The Ravens have an extensive history of making rookie signal-callers struggle, and that appeared as though it would continue in the early going. Mayfield threw an interception on what appeared to be a miscommunication, setting up a Baltimore field goal. A bit later, Mayfield took a bad sack to move his team out of field goal range.
The Browns didn't have any points until right before halftime, but that's when Mayfield came alive. He orchestrated a tremendous 2-minute drive, finding Rashard Higgins in the end zone as he was getting hit. The Browns went up 6-3, thanks to a missed extra point, which turned out to be crucial late in regulation, as it allowed the Ravens to tie the game at nine with a field goal, rather than having to get into the end zone for the first time on the afternoon. The Browns' kicking woes were apparent again late in the fourth quarter, as the kicker whiffed on a try after Mayfield hit Jarvis Landry with a pass. Landry, however, failed to go out of bounds, so the Browns didn't have enough time to give Joseph an easier try.
The two teams traded a pair of punts/turnover on downs each in overtime, albeit amid some controversy. A Baltimore defensive back tackled a Cleveland receiver for what should've been an obvious penalty, but the officials deemed the ball uncatchable. Fortunately for the Browns, the Ravens couldn't do anything with the possession, so Mayfield had one more chance. Thanks to a horrible play on a failed end-around, Mayfield was stuck in a second-and-long situation, which he turned into a third-and-manageable, thanks to a scramble. He then found undrafted rookie Derrick Willies for a 39-yard gain, moving into Baltimore territory. Some Duke Johnson runs later, and Joseph was in position to hit a 37-yard field goal with six seconds on the clock. He doinked a knuckle ball that appeared to be deflected, but the ball somehow found its way through the uprights, giving Cleveland its first victory on a Sunday in more than 1,000 days and its first victory inside the division in exactly three years.
Mayfield had some early struggles, save for a zipped pass to Rashard Higgins to convert a third-and-16, but he made some clutch plays as the afternoon progressed. He finished 25-of-43 for 342 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He also scrambled twice for 23 rushing yards. He made some mistakes beyond some incompletions he should have hit, including one instance where he took a sack because he didn't see Eric Weddle blitzing, but he's way ahead of the four other first-round rookie quarterbacks, as Mayfield would be a perfect 3-0 as a starter right now if the officials didn't screw the Browns in Oakland.
Mayfield's top targets were David Njoku (6-69) and Landry (5-69). Both had good games, but they also committed mental blunders. Landry, as mentioned earlier, refused to run out of bounds as the clock was ticking down, while Njoku dropped a ball on third down. Antonio Callaway (3-22) dropped a ball that would've converted a third-and-9.
Carlos Hyde gained 63 yards on 17 carries, while Nick Chubb (3 carries, 2 yards) didn't do much. It's worth noting that Chubb had a 14-yard rush negated by a hold. He also dropped a pass.
As for the Ravens, Joe Flacco went 29-of-56 for 298 yards and an interception. The pick was off a deflection in the red zone. Flacco had some issues with the Browns' defense. The Cleveland front hounded him, while star rookie cornerback Denzel Ward made tremendous plays to break up some of Flacco's passes. It didn't help Flacco that he his receivers dropped several of his passes. Flacco was lucky to have an interception dropped in the fourth quarter.
With Flacco struggling, Baltimore's receiving numbers were suppressed. Michael Crabtree (6-66) led the team in receiving yardage, while John Brown (4-58) struggled to convert most of his targets (14). Willie Snead (5-55) wasn't too far behind.
Alex Collins ran well, gaining 59 yards on 12 carries, so it's curious why the Ravens didn't give him more opportunities. Buck Allen (8-34) lost a fumble, but he also had a key reception on a screen to set the Ravens up with a field goal late in regulation. Allen hauled in six of his eight targets for 44 receiving yards. He also had a very tough run to pick up a first down, dragging multiple defenders in the process.
Lions 31, Packers 23
The Lions were up 24-0 in this game, but that's when Aaron Rodgers began a furious comeback. He managed to sneak the margin to within one score, but there's a chance he could have won had it not been for Mason Crosby. The long-time Packer kicker had the worst game of his life. He missed four field goals and an extra point. That's 13 points in total, so it's reasonable to believe that the Packers would have prevailed had it not been for Crosby's incompetence.
It's a shame for Green Bay that Crosby ruined this potential victory because Aaron Rodgers had to battle through this game with an injured knee and a decimated receiving corps. Of the top three wideouts, only Davante Adams played, and he wasn't 100 percent. With Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison out, the Packers had to rely on Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Eqaunimeous St. Brown to catch passes.
Nevertheless, Rodgers still threw for 442 yards. He struggled mightily in the early going, as he was just 9-of-19 for 141 yards in the opening half. He overthrew Jimmy Graham early and then did the same with St. Brown in the end zone. He tossed the ball at the feet of Valdes-Scantling, and he didn't see an open Adams in the end zone. Worst of all, Rodgers was guilty of two lost fumbles that turned into 10 Detroit points. However, Rodgers caught fire after intermission. He began by connecting twice to Adams, one of which was on a fourth-and-11 following two sacks, and he was nearly unstoppable after that.
Rodgers finished 32-of-52 for 442 yards and three touchdowns. He could've posted even better numbers had Adams not dropped a deep ball late in regulation. It was a gritty performance by Rodgers, who is still not completely healthy, despite what the injury report says. Rodgers did not look like he was moving around all that well on some of his drop-backs, though he managed to scramble thrice for 10 rushing yards.
Despite the deep drop and the injured status, Adams led the Packers with nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown. Rodgers' other scores went to Valdes-Scantling (7-68) and Lance Kendricks. Valdes-Scantling, who saw 10 targets, nearly had another touchdown, but replay review ruled him down at the 1-yard line.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, St. Brown snatched three passes for 89 yards, but was way low on the targets tracker with just five. Graham (6-76) had a good stat line, but couldn't find the end zone, partly because he slipped on a pass thrown to him for what could've been a touchdown. Graham later dropped what would've been a 21-yard score.
The Packers couldn't run the ball very much because they were in a deficit the entire game. Still, it's noteworthy that Aaron Jones (7-40) saw slightly more work than Jamaal Williams (6-33). There was a drive in which Jones had several nice runs to move into field goal range, but Crosby whiffed from 42.
Moving on to the Lions, they were vastly outgained by the Packers, 521-264. Much of that came in garbage time, but the Packers had the yardage edge at halftime, 201-145, and were gaining 1.2 more yards per play than Detroit. The Lions simply took advantage of Rodgers' aforementioned two fumbles, as well as Crosby's incompetence. There was also a weird gaffe on special teams where a muffed punt was recovered at the Green Bay 1-yard line.
Matthew Stafford, meanwhile, was 14-of-26 for 183 yards and two touchdowns. The numbers don't look great, but Stafford should've thrown four scores, as a 46-yard bomb touchdown of his to Kenny Golladay was negated by an illegal hands penalty on rookie lineman Frank Ragnow, who poked Packers nose tackle Kenny Clark in the eye. Later, Marvin Jones dropped a touchdown. However, Stafford was nearly intercepted in the second half.
Golladay, who missed out on an early touchdown, ended up scoring anyway. He caught four of his nine targets for 98 yards and a touchdown. Golladay had a great catch where he made a leaping grab and then stiff-armed a defender on a 60-yard gain. This set up a LeGarrette Blount touchdown. Golladay is quickly becoming Detroit's No. 1 receiver.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Jones (1-8) caught Stafford's other score, but he would've had two touchdowns had he not dropped the ball in the end zone. Jones saw just four targets, as he didn't look quite right coming off an injury. Golden Tate (5-42) saw seven targets.
The Lions, once again, foolishly refused to give their better running back more work than the veteran plodder. Both Kerryon Johnson and Blount had 12 carries. Predictably, Johnson outgained Blount by a wide margin, 70-22. Blount is effective in short yardage - he scored twice - but it is so incredibly stupid not to feature Johnson more often. It's worth noting that Johnson left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.
Chiefs 30, Jaguars 14
This was supposed to be the best game of the week, as many considered this a potential preview of the AFC Championship. That was hardly the case, as this was a one-sided affair completely dominated by the Chiefs. In a way, it was predictable, given the major disparity at quarterback. MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes continued to perform on a high level, while perennial disappointment Blake Bortles struggled mightily.
Facing his toughest test yet - not including crowd-noise and altitude implications - Mahomes eclipsed the 300-yard barrier. He threw the first interception of the season - a high pass on a third-and-10 - but he shook it off and beat the Jaguars downfield on enough occasions. A key to this was the play of the offensive line. It wasn't perfect - an ugly Eric Fisher hold disrupted a drive - but Mahomes had enough time in the pocket to be successful. This was apparent on an early drive when he had an eternity in the pocket, and as a result, he was able to move the Chiefs into field goal range.
Mahomes finished 22-of-38 for 313 yards and two interceptions. He found the end zone once on the ground. Despite the two picks and zero passing touchdowns, Mahomes played very well considering the sort of defense he was battling. The second interception was a poor decision while having pressure in his face. However, Mahomes also threw some beautiful passes, delivering deep strikes to Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. The connection to Kelce was a perfect tear drop for 40 yards.
Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey scoffed at Hill's ability leading up to this game. Ramsey did a good job on Hill early on - Hill had just two receptions for 15 yards in the opening half - but Hill caught a 36-yard pass following intermission, beating Ramsey. He also had a long rush on an end-around early in the game, but that was nullified by a hold. Hill appeared to be interfered with on one play and asked for a flag. Hilariously, safety Barry Church mimicked Hill by asking for a flag himself. Hill caught four passes for 61 yards.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Kelce led the Chiefs with 100 receiving yards on five catches. He tied Sammy Watkins for the team lead with eight targets, as Watkins snared six of those passes for 78 yards.
The Chiefs struggled to rush the ball for most of this game, but Kareem Hunt broke some long runs as the afternoon progressed. Hunt finished with 87 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
This was a Pyrrhic victory for Kansas City, as the team suffered some injuries. Most notably, right guard Dr. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif suffered a roken fibula, so he'll be placed on injured reserve.
As for the Jaguars, Bortles had a very misleading stat line. He went 33-of-61 for 430 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. Don't be fooled, however, as Bortles had a miserable afternoon. His halftime numbers were 10-of-22 for 126 yards and two picks, so most of his yardage, as well as his touchdown, came in garbage time.
Bortles spent the early part of the afternoon throwing bad passes. The one exception in meaningful action was a beautiful 38-yard ball to D.J. Chark, but Bortles lobbed ugly ducks otherwise. One of these was a weird deflection of his own lineman's helmet in the red zone. Another was a meekly tossed checkdown, which was thrown right to Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones, who took the pick back for six. Jones, by the way, was ejected for apparently punching another player's balls in the second half. And by "balls," I don't mean footballs.
With Bortles checking down as usual, it's no surprise that his running back, T.J. Yeldon, led the team with eight catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. Yeldon also gained 53 yards on 10 carries. His one mistake was a dropped pass. It sounds as though Leonard Fournette will be out next week as well, so Yeldon should continue to have tons of touches.
Donte Moncrief was the leader in receiving yardage for Jacksonville. He caught six of his 15 targets for 76 yards, while Keelan Cole (4-70) wasn't too far behind him. Dede Westbrook (3-55) was a disappointment, considering that Kansas City struggled against slot corners entering this game. Westbrook made a great diving catch in the third quarter, but was blasted by some fierce hits by the Kansas City defensive backs, causing incompletions.
Like the Chiefs, the Jaguars suffered some injuries. Left tackle Josh Allen, running back Corey Grant and safety Tashaun Gipson were all knocked out. Grant will be out for the year with a Lisfranc injury.
Jets 34, Broncos 16
The Jets had struggled after Week 1 coming into this game, but there were some difficult circumstances. They were caught looking ahead to a Thursday night game in Week 2, then blew a lead to the Browns because of Baker Mayfield. They then wilted in 88-degree heat and humidity in Jacksonville last week. This, however, was their chance to bounce back, and that's exactly what they did.
The Jets won this game via some big plays early, which was a surprise, considering that they dinked and dunked on most of their drives following Week 1. Isaiah Crowell broke a 77-yard touchdown run in the early going, and then Sam Darnold followed that up with a touchdown bomb to Robby Anderson for 76 yards on an ensuing drive. Just prior to halftime, Darnold tossed in a terrific touchdown, dropping the ball into the bucket to Anderson for 35 yards.
Following intermission, Crowell had another long run, this one being a 54-yarder. It would've been a better gain, but the defender tackled Crowell by the hair, leaving me wondering why any running back or receiver in the NFL would ever have long hair.
All of these big plays gave the Jets a monstrous lead. They spotted the Broncos a 7-0 advantage because of a Bilal Powell fumble, but they scored 34 of the next 37 points after that.
Darnold failed to complete half of his passes, going 10-of-22 for 198 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The completion percentage is far from ideal, but it's actually a step in the right direction because Darnold actually took some downfield shots. The pick was tipped at the line of scrimmage, causing the ball to pop high into the air and into the arms of a Denver defender. Two of Darnold's misfires were dropped, while three were deflected by Denver's front-seven players.
Anderson finally came alive with Darnold being more aggressive. He caught three passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns, seeing five targets in the process. Quincy Enunwa saw five balls go his way as well, but failed to reel in any of them, thanks to a pair of drops. Terrelle Pryor caught Darnold's other touchdown, a one-handed 20-yarder. That was Pryor's only reception.
Crowell, if you couldn't tell, had a huge performance. He gained 219 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. His day would've been even better had he visited his barber. Powell, who had the aforementioned fumble, did well otherwise, tallying 99 yards on 20 attempts.
Meanwhile, Case Keenum posted some terrific stats - 35-of-51, 377 yards, two touchdowns, one interception - but this was another case of a quarterback generating stats in garbage time. More than half of Keenum's yardage came after halftime. One of his touchdowns did as well. Keenum's first score occurred because of Powell's lost fumble, giving Keenum a very short field to work with.
As bad as this loss was for the Broncos, it could've been much worse for Keenum. The Jets dropped an interception when he fired a pass to Emmanuel Sanders, and Keenum later was strip-sacked, but a teammate of his was in the right place to pounce on the loose ball.
Keenum once again targeted Sanders more than anyone else. He threw to Sanders 14 times, and Sanders snatched nine balls for 72 yards. Sanders was guilty of one drop. Demaryius Thomas (5-105) had more receiving yards, and he also caught a touchdown on a garbage-time jump ball. Courtland Sutton (2-18) caught Keenum's other score. Sutton took a crushing hit in the second half, but didn't miss many snaps.
Phillip Lindsay once again saw more work than Royce Freeman. Though Freeman started, Lindsay had more than double the number of carries, 12-5, and he naturally accumulated more rushing yardage, 61-31. Lindsay also caught three passes for 20 receiving yards. Lindsay had a great run on the first drive, which may have convinced the coaching staff to go with him on the majority of the snaps.
Panthers 33, Giants 31
Odell Beckham Jr. caused some controversy this week, criticizing Eli Manning and the rest of the offense. However, Beckham was the one who let his team down early in this game. Beckham dropped a pass on fourth-and-3, and he was responsible for muffing a punt that gave Carolina a touchdown. Beckham was trying to block someone, but the ball hit him and bounced into the end zone. The Panthers pounced on the ball.
The Panthers led for most of the early portion of the game as a result of these two plays, holding a 17-3 advantage, but the Giants finally showed some life just prior to halftime. They ran a trick play when Beckham heaved a deep pass to Saquon Barkley for a 57-yard touchdown. This sparked the Giants, who engaged in a shootout with the Panthers in the second half. Both quarterbacks were responsible for mistakes, but the Giants took a 31-30 lead on a 40-yard passing touchdown to Barkley in the final moments of regulation. Unfortunately for the Giants, they left just enough time for the Panthers to engineer a last-second field goal drive to win the game.
Beckham, despite his early blunders, caught eight passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. He also threw a 57-yard score, as mentioned. Early on, he made a terrific one-handed catch for 33 yards, though the Giants couldn't do anything on the drive. Beckham also nearly caught another touchdown later in the game, but a Carolina defensive back knocked the ball away at the last second.
Barkley, meanwhile, had a huge receiving day, if you couldn't tell. He caught all four of his targets for 81 yards and two touchdowns. He couldn't do much on the ground though, mustering only 48 yards on 15 attempts versus Carolina's stout front seven. He had one great run though, which featured a terrific spin move.
Eli Manning didn't have a bad performance, going 22-of-36 for 326 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. One was his fault, as he telegraphed a pass near the red zone. The other was a miscommunication. Manning's been putrid this year, but aside from his first pick, he was halfway decent in this contest.
Elsewhere for the Giants, Sterling Shepard was expected to have a big game, but he caught just four passes for 75 yards. He was so frustrated at one point that he knocked over a trash can on the sideline. Russell Shepard (3-52) appeared to catch a touchdown late in the afternoon, but he was ruled down by contact in the middle of the field following replay review.
Moving on to the Panthers, Cam Newton may have led his team to victory at the very end, but he did his part to keep the Giants around with some mistakes. The Panthers appeared flat to start the afternoon, as Carolina had two procedural penalties near its own goal line. Newton fumbled, but was lucky a Giants player was out of bounds when he recovered. He later threw two interceptions in the second half. One was a telegraphed throw, while the other was a very inaccurate pass. The second pick allowed the Giants to score a touchdown to trim the margin from 11 to three. And if that wasn't bad enough, Newton wasted so much time on the final drive. The Panthers could have gotten a closer field goal had they hurried, but Newton and the rest of the team moved lethargically. As a result, Carolina had to settle for a 63-yard field goal for Graham Gano, which is a very difficult feat outside of altitude. Gano, however, drilled the kick, allowing the Panthers to move to 3-1 amid some controversy, which I'll get to later.
Newton finished 21-of-35 for 237 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. He also rushed for 29 yards on eight scrambles. Newton had some good moments in this game - namely a 27-yard conversion to Jarius Wright on a fourth-and-1 around midfield in the final quarter - but he hurt his team with mistakes and lethargic play. The Panthers were lucky to win this game.
Newton once again didn't get much out of his receiving corps. Devin Funchess led the way with four catches for 53 yards. A positive development was first-round rookie D.J. Moore snatching all four of his targets for 49 yards.
Newton's touchdowns went to Curtis Samuel (2-37) and Christian McCaffrey. Samuel's score featured some ridiculously bad tackling by the Giants, while McCaffrey caught five passes for 35 receiving yards to go along with some mediocre rushing numbers (17-58).
As mentioned earlier, there was some controversy in this game. The Panthers had a third-and-1 on the final drive. McCaffrey ran inside, but failed to get the first down. With the clock ticking down on a fourth-and-1, Newton spiked the ball. That should've been the end of the contest, but the Panthers were awarded a fifth down, which is what they used to hit the game-winning field goal. It may have been that the officials moved the chains on the McCaffrey run, but he clearly didn't reach the line to gain. It was a horrible instance of officiating, which seems to be getting worse each year.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I called Mike Vrabel my leader for NFL Coach of the Year prior to this week. Well, forget about all that. You can't lose to the Bills and win NFL Coach of the Year.
The Titans stole late wins the past three weeks over the Texans, Jaguars and Eagles, but their luck ran out in Buffalo. Turnovers killed the Titans and wasted a good defensive effort. The Bills' defense also played extremely well, carrying a weak offense. If Tennessee narrowly misses the playoffs this year, this loss is going to haunt the team. It was a very winnable game against a struggling rookie quarterback in Josh Allen.
On the first drive of the game, Buffalo rookie linebacker Tremaine Edmunds stripped Taywan Taylor (3-30) of the ball, and Matt Milano recovered the fumble near midfield. Chris Ivory soon converted a fourth-and-1, and then Allen finished the drive on a bootleg when Kamalei Correa blew containment, which Allen bolt downfield for his third rushing touchdown of the year from 14 yards out.
Tennessee got moving after Nick Williams returned a punt 38 yards, and that set up a short field goal for Ryan Succop. After trading punts, Mariota made an ill-advised pass to a blanketed receiver and was intercepted by Taron Johnson to set up the Bills at the Titans' 37-yard line. The Bills, however, botched the hold on a field goal attempt to let the scoring chance get away from them. The Titans then added a field goal just before the half to make it 7-6 Bills at intermission.
In the third quarter, Tennessee committed its third turnover when Dion Lewis fumbled the ball away. LeSean McCoy then got loose on a few carries got Buffalo, which helped set up a field goal. Mariota then answered by leading a drive while converting some third downs with his arm and then hurdling a defender on a run, but Nick Williams dropped an easy touchdown catch, so a field goal cut the Bills' lead to 10-9. Josh Allen had a contested pass deflected into the air by Adoree' Jackson, and Jackson snared the ball for the interception. Once again, Buffalo's defense bent but didn't break, and forced another Succop field goal from 50 yards out, but that gave Tennessee a 12-10 lead late in the fourth quarter.
McCoy moved the moved the ball to midfield on runs and receptions at the 2-minute warning. Ivory (14-43) then ran for 15 yards, and on the final play of the game, Stephen Hauschka hit a 46-yard field goal to get the win for Buffalo.
Mariota was 14-of-26 for 129 yards and one interception. Corey Davis led Tennessee in receiving with four receptions for 49 yards.
Derrick Henry (11-56) ran better than Lewis (12-34 rushing, 3-14 receiving, one fumble), but Tennessee did not give Henry enough carries.
Allen was 10-of-19 for 82 yards with no touchdowns and an interception through the air. McCoy ran for 85 yards on 24 carries with two receptions for 23 yards.
To make this loss worse for the Titans, left tackle Taylor Lewan suffered a foot injury.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm sure T.J. Watt will win Defensive Player of the Week because of his three sacks, but I'd give the award to Joe Haden for completely shutting out Julio Jones through three quarters. In fact, I'd give him a Medal of Honor of some sort for helping me cash a three-unit wager!
Both of these high-caliber offenses came into this matchup with just one win each and in desperate need to get their second. Both the Falcons and Steelers' defenses have let them down so far this year, but this was the week the Steelers' defense showed up, which happened to coincide with big games from James Conner and Antonio Brown to have Pittsburgh was clicking on all cylinders.
The Steelers got off to a fast start, giving James Conner six touches on their first seven plays and ending the drive with a 1-yard plunge by Conner into the end zone to give them the lead for good. Conner's day was a big step up from his last three games, in which he had totaled just 97 rushing yards on 32 carries. Atlanta's top run stuffer, Grady Jarrett, was out for this game, and Conner and the Steelers took advantage from the first drive on, as Conner rushed 21 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns. As usual, the Falcons' injured and weak interior pass defense couldn't stop an opposing running back from putting up good numbers in the air, as Conner caught all four of his targets for 75 yards. All-in-all, it was a nice bounce-back game for Conner and the Pittsburgh offensive line.
The Falcons did make a game of it in the first half, as they fell behind by two touchdowns after Ben Roethlisberger hit JuJu Smith-Schuster for an 18-yard touchdown on his second drive, but Matt Ryan and company struck back with a touchdown of their own, as Matt Ryan hit Mohamed Sanu over the middle and Sanu cranked it up a gear to pull away for the 43-yard touchdown. I honestly didn't think Sanu had that kind of speed left in his arsenal. The Falcons then were able to kick a field goal to trail by three points at the half, but that was the closest they'd get, as Pittsburgh scored a touchdown on its first three second-half possessions.
Of those three touchdowns, Antonio Brown ended two of them with scoring receptions after getting off to another troubling start, as Roethlisberger and Brown continued to have trouble getting on the same page, which showed in their first half stats. Brown saw eight targets in the first half, yet only came down with two receptions for 15 yards. In the second half, on the other hand, he caught 4-of-5 targets for 86 yards and two touchdowns. The nail-in-the-coffin reception came with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter when Roethlisberger threw his best pass of the game down the left sideline, hitting Brown in stride for a 47-yard touchdown, which put the Steelers up 34-17.
Much like Brown, Atlanta star receiver Julio Jones was bottled up early in the game, but that bottling continued through the third quarter as he caught zero passes on five targets. Cornerback Joe Haden, who is not the same player as at the height of his powers in Cleveland, was able to keep Jones in check, along with a little help from the safeties. Jones' first reception came at the start of the fourth quarter with the Falcons down by 10 points. He did end up with five receptions for 62 yards in that quarter, but mostly during garbage time. The Falcons need to find better ways to get him open, as we know he is a beast, but they didn't this week, and the Steelers were finally able to slow down a passing game since Week 1 against Tyrod Taylor. They still allowed 285 yards passing to Ryan, but they also got to the quarterback for six sacks, many in crucial situations with the Falcons driving.
The Steelers also blocked a punt that led to a quick touchdown, and T.J. Watt strip-sacked Ryan late in the game, which was recovered for another touchdown. This Steelers defense is not the one we had watched through four games.
Watt was the most active player in the Atlanta backfield, as he made eight tackles, including three sacks and that stripped ball. Watt had gone three games since notching three sacks in Week 1 against the Browns, and Coach Mike Tomlin had harped on the pass rush all week.
So, the Steelers got it done in every phase of the game, while the Falcons could not execute when they needed to, despite being able to move the ball reasonably well. This game never really felt in doubt, as the Steelers scored five touchdowns on nine drives, and now the Falcons take a 1-4 record back home to take on a Tampa Bay Buccaneers' pass defense that just gave up six touchdown passes to Mitch Trubisky. The Falcons will be set up for the win there, but have an extremely deep hole to dig out of.
The Steelers will take their 2-2-1 record to the AFC North division-leading Cincinnati Bengals next week. That game is going to be a huge one for Pittsburgh, as they do not want to get that far behind the Bengals this early in the season, so expect another insane Bengals-Steelers tilt.
EDITOR'S NOTE: It would be great if the Chargers could be somewhat consistent this season. Seriously, would it kill them to look exactly the same two weeks in a row?
With the Chiefs remaining on their hot streak, the Chargers could't afford to lose a game to the rebuilding Raiders. Los Angeles cruised over Oakland, as Philip Rivers moved the ball with ease on a weak Raiders defense. The Chargers' defense had their best game of the season and resembled the unit that played well in the back half of the 2017 season. For Oakland, developing its young players and improving its comfort in the schemes while losing to maintain a high draft pick is about as good as the team can hope for in the 2018 season.
The Chargers opened the game with a field goal drive that was led by a chunk completion to Keenan Allen and by Melvin Gordon adding some yards on the ground. The Raiders then got moving with 29-yard completion to Jordy Nelson (4-43-1) and another reception to Martavis Bryant to set up a short field goal. Los Angeles took back the lead when Rivers found Austin Ekeler open in the flat and he raced down the field for a 44-yard touchdown. The Raiders soon set up the Chargers for more points when Bryant was stripped of the ball, which Los Angeles recovered just past midfield. A 34-yard screen to Melvin Gordon set up a short rushing touchdown for the Chargers' Pro Bowl back. That gave the Chargers a 17-3 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, Rivers converted a third-and long when he found Antonio Gates (2-19) wide open along the sideline, and that set up another Los Angeles field goal for a 20-3 lead. Oakland finally got moving when Carr made a fantastic play to avoid a strip-sack and find Jalen Richard open in the flat for a 32-yard gain. A pass interference on Derwin James then moved the ball to the 1-yard line, but the Raiders self-destructed as Carr threw a bad pass in the end zone that was intercepted by Melvin Ingram. The next play saw Rivers find Tyrell Williams (3-66) deep down the field for a 48-yard gain. To end the drive, Rivers tossed a tight end screen to Virgil Green for a 13-yard touchdown with the usual Charger missed extra point.
That effectively ended the game early in the fourth quarter. In garbage time, Carr hit Bryant for 47 yards. A fourth-down conversion to Seth Roberts set up a short touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson to end the scoring.
Rivers was 22-of-27 for 339 yards and two touchdowns. Allen led the Chargers in receiving with eight catches for 90 yards.
Gordon ran for 58 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown on the ground and four receptions for 62 yards through the air.
Derek Carr completed 24-of-33 for 268 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Bryant led the Raiders in receiving with three catches for 91 yards. Amari Cooper had only one catch for 10 yards.
Marshawn Lynch was held to 31 yards on nine carries.
Vikings 23, Eagles 21
The Vikings lost at Philadelphia in the NFC Championship, and they just looked like they wanted the rematch more. They played sharp football after having extra rest, while the Eagles made countless blunders to screw themselves out of a victory.
The mistakes began early when the Eagles had a confusing play-call on a third-and-inches, opting to toss the ball to fifth-string running back Josh Adams. Wendell Smallwood dropped a ball on third down in the red zone on an ensuing possession. Carson Wentz then was guilty of a lost fumble returned for a touchdown by the massive Linval Joseph, who needed oxygen (and sunglasses) afterward. Lane Johnson was beaten horribly on the play, and the Viking edge rusher was able to lodge the ball out of Wentz's hands, which popped into the air.
All of this occurred in the opening half, and the mistakes continued following intermission. The Eagles drove into the red zone, but Jay Ajayi lost a fumble at the 5-yard line. Doug Pederson then wasted a couple of timeouts, including one that was burned on a challenge, reviewing what was an obvious Minnesota catch.
Meanwhile, despite all of this, the Eagles trailed by six and had a chance to take the lead. They were in a third-and-20 because of an intentional grounding penalty. Wentz fired a laser to Alshon Jeffery, which would've moved the chains. Jeffery, however, dropped the ball. The Eagles were forced to punt, and the Vikings turned that into a 52-yard field goal to go up nine, effectively clinching the victory for them.
The Eagles made countless mistakes, but that shouldn't take away from the game that Kirk Cousins and his receivers enjoyed. Cousins misfired on just seven passes, going 30-of-37 for 301 yards and a touchdown. He shredded Philadelphia's incompetent secondary all afternoon. He made one mistake, which was a missed backward pass that was ruled a lost fumble, but the Eagles couldn't take advantage of it because of Jeffery's aforementioned drop.
Cousins went to his receivers almost evenly. Stefon Diggs saw 11 targets, hauling in 10 of them for 91 yards. Meanwhile, Adam Thielen caught a 68-yard pass deep in his own territory, and that was just a part of his seven-catch, 116-yard performance. He reeled in Cousins' sole touchdown, which came after a nonsensical Michael Bennett roughing-the-passer penalty. Bennett was blocked into Cousins and hit him on the hips first, but the truly incompetent Walt Coleman said Bennett went low. Coleman doesn't even know what year it is, so it's frustrating that he gets to officiate NFL games.
The Vikings were missing Dalvin Cook, so Latavius Murray started. Murray had a 12-yard burst at one point, but did very little otherwise. He mustered 42 yards on 11 attempts versus Philadelphia's excellent front seven.
It's worth noting that Vikings kicker Dan Bailey missed two field goals. However, he drilled a 52-yarder late in the game, giving the Vikings some hope for their kicking game going forward.
As for the Eagles' numbers, some of them definitely look good. For instance, Wentz went 24-of-35 for 311 yards and two touchdowns. Philadelphia moved the ball well in between the 20s for the most part, but as with last week, the team made way too many mistakes in the red zone. Wentz began slowly with a near-interception on his first throw, but he did very well outside of the end zone the rest of the afternoon.
Wentz's touchdowns went to Zach Ertz (10-100) and Smallwood (3-44). It wasn't a surprise to see Ertz have a huge performance, as the Vikings can't defend the middle of the field.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Jeffery (2-39) had a miserable game. On top of his drop, he was very inefficient, failing to haul in six of his eight targets. Nelson Agholor (4-45) didn't do much either.
All of Philadelphia's running backs made mistakes, as mentioned earlier. Ajayi, who had the killer fumble, gained just 29 yards on eight carries. It's easy to see why the Eagles really wanted Sony Michel in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Cardinals 28, 49ers 18
Josh Rosen won his first NFL start, though he had an underwhelming performance. He hit Christian Kirk with a 75-yard touchdown bomb to begin the afternoon, but he didn't do much else. In fact, if you exclude that play, Rosen had just 95 passing yards on the afternoon despite battling a defense that hasn't been able to stop anyone all year.
Rosen finished 10-of-25 for 170 yards and the touchdown to Kirk. Rosen was hurt by some drops - three, by my count - but he also struggled with his accuracy at times. He sailed passes over several receivers' heads. He also panicked upon picking up a bad snap right before halftime, ruining a chance at a field goal.
It was only Rosen's second start, to be fair, but this is one of the easiest matchups Rosen will have all season, and he failed to take advantage of it. This was a step backward from his promising performance last week, but as a rookie, Rosen was always bound to have his ups and downs.
Kirk hauled in the 75-yard bomb early, but did nothing else after that, save for a nice completion that was wiped out by a penalty. Meanwhile, Larry Fitzgerald did nothing, period. Fitzgerald, still nursing some injuries, caught just two passes for 35 yards. Fitzgerald looks like a shell of his former self right now, but he's dealing with a bad back and a balky hamstring. He'll need to get healthier for Arizona's offense to open up.
David Johnson got on the board with two goal-line touchdowns. Those scores salvaged what was otherwise a poor performance. Johnson had a disappointing game in what was an easy matchup for him. Johnson mustered just 55 yards on 18 carries, and he caught only two passes for 16 receiving yards.
Meanwhile, C.J. Beathard posted a quality stat line, going 34-of-54 for 349 yards, two touchdowns and a couple of interceptions. Beathard's numbers look good, but most of his passes were checkdowns. He seldom attempted anything longer than 10 yards downfield. Also, the turnovers killed his team's chances. His first interception wasn't his fault, as the ball bounced off Pierre Garcon's hands. However, Beathard was guilty of two strip-sacks, one of which was returned for a touchdown to ice the victory for Arizona. Beathard nearly had a third pick, but safety Budda Baker dropped the ball.
As if San Francisco's injury woes weren't bad enough, they lost Matt Breida in this game. Breida rolled around on the ground in pain, but the good news is that X-rays came back negative. While it's great that Breida wasn't seriously injured, it's a shame for him that he had to leave the game because he had been performing well, gaining 56 yards on just eight carries. He also caught a touchdown.
Breida's injury was one of the primary reasons the 49ers lost. Not only did they miss Breida; his absence forced fourth-string running back Raheem Mostert into action. Mostert lost a fumble, which was returned for a touchdown. Alfred Morris (18-61) was his usual, mediocre self.
George Kittle led the 49ers in receiving, hauling in five passes for 83 yards. Taywan Taylor (7-61) caught Beathard's other touchdown. Garcon (5-47), meanwhile, was very inefficient on his team-leading 12 targets, dropping a couple of passes, one of which resulted in an interception.
It was a bad day for kickers, and that included long-time great Phil Dawson, who whiffed on a 45-yarder - his first miss since around Halloween of last year!
Rams 33, Seahawks 31
The Rams were seen as invincible heading into this game. Not only were they unbeaten, but they hadn't lost at all against the spread the entire year. However, thanks to injuries and some terrific plays from Russell Wilson, Los Angeles was in a back-and-forth shootout. There were six lead changes in this NFC West thriller, and the sixth gave the Rams a 33-31 advantage. Following a Seattle punt, the Rams were trying to run out the clock, but were one yard short on a fourth down. Rather than punting the ball away to Wilson, Sean McVay elected to go for it. His aggressive decision paid off, as Jared Goff leapt over the line of scrimmage to move the chains and clinch the victory.
While Goff won the game on that play, he had trouble converting third downs - just 3-of-9, compared to Seattle being 7-of-12 - because of injuries to his receiving corps. Both Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp were knocked out with concussions in the opening half. Cooks' concussion came on a brutal play in which he was blasted after appearing to make the catch.
Goff finished 23-of-32 for 321 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Only one pick was his fault, and that was partly because of a great play by two Seattle defenders, who tipped a pass in the red zone. Goff's second interception came on a Hail Mary right before halftime. Goff was also fortunate on one play; he was strip-sacked in the early going, but the ball bounced right back to him, so he didn't lose possession.
With Kupp and Cooks missing action, Robert Woods led the Rams with 92 receiving yards on five catches. Kupp (6-90) caught a first-half touchdown, while Cooks didn't log a single reception. Josh Reynolds (2-39) saw action in relief of Kupp and Cooks, but he wasn't much of a factor.
Todd Gurley had a tough time running against a Seattle ground defense that is often stout when Wagner is on the field. Gurley was limited to 77 yards on 22 carries, but he scored three times. He nearly had a fourth touchdown, but replay review showed that he was inches shy of the goal line. Gurley was also a factor in the passing attack, catching four passes for 36 receiving yards. Remarkably, Gurley playe every single snap for the Rams.
As mentioned earlier, Wilson made some great plays in this game, though his stat line doesn't really reflect that. He went 13-of-21 for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson was a magician on some instances, keeping plays alive while maneuvering the pocket and buying time for his pedestrian receivers to get open. This was difficult for Wilson, as he faced some fierce pressure from the Rams' defensive front. The offensive line really let Wilson down on the team's final offensive drive. The blocking unit was guilty of two penalties and then surrendered a heavy pressure on third down. The Seahawks had to punt the ball away, and they never got the ball back.
Speaking of the Seahawks' pedestrian receivers, someone named David Moore caught two touchdowns, as he reeled in three receptions for 38 yards. One of the scores saw Moore beat a banged-up Marcus Peters, while the other occurred because Wilson was able to buy an eternity in the pocket. Tyler Lockett (3-98) snatched Wilson's other touchdown.
Elsewhere in the Seattle receiving corps, Doug Baldwin caught his sole target for just one yard. Baldwin clearly isn't healthy, which is something he admitted even before his most recent injury. Brandon Marshall, who failed to catch a pass, was also a non-factor.
The Seahawks were able to run all over the Rams. Chris Carson gained 116 yards on 19 carries, while Mike Davis gained 68 yards and a touchdown on 12 attempts. Carson didn't find the end zone, but he had a clutch third-down conversion where he muscled through some defenders to move the chains, which ultimately led to a Seattle score. Carson had tough runs all afternoon. The Rams haven't had to worry about defending the run in most of their games because they've been way ahead, but this has to be a concern for them moving forward.
Texans 19, Cowboys 16
The Texans vastly outplayed the Cowboys on most downs, winning the yardage battle, 462-292. They also averaged 1.2 more yards per play than Dallas. But despite this, Houston and Dallas went to overtime. The Texans kept the Cowboys around with numerous mental errors, horrible red-zone offense and the usual abysmal coaching from Bill O'Brien.
Houston's poor mistakes were apparent right before halftime. The Texans were up 10-6 with possession, and they'd also be getting the ball right after halftime. I thought that they could get 10 points to put this game away - which turned out to be the case, given that the final score was 19-16 - but the Texans had several gaffes. The first possession saw Ryan Griffin drop a touchdown, then O'Brien call for Deshaun Watson to drop back in the pocket on fourth-and-goal on the 1-inch line. Having Watson sneak the ball into the end zone probably would have worked, but O'Brien seemed to forget that this was an option. The Texans came away with no points on that possession, energizing the Cowboys, who came out with great passion following intermission. They forced a fumble of DeAndre Hopkins, who foolishly tried to reach for the first-down marker even though he wasn't close to it. Dallas capitalized with a touchdown on the short field.
So, I thought the Texans could get 10 points on the two drives, and yet they came away with minus-7, effectively. This kept the Cowboys around even though Dallas struggled to maintain drives. Meanwhile, the Texans continued to shoot themselves in the foot in the second half. The Texans once again had the ball on the 1-inch line on third down, and O'Brien had Watson in shotgun. Watson dropped back and threw an incompletion. It's unbelievable that O'Brien doesn't have the play "QB sneak" in his playbook. Then, if O'Brien wasn't coaching poorly enough already, he wasted a timeout on third-and-14, only to have Watson toss a checkdown that led to a punt.
Somehow, the Cowboys couldn't capitalize off O'Brien's incompetence, and the game went to overtime. It didn't look like the Texans would be able to score because a clearly injured Watson was hobbling around, but he completed a pass to DeAndre Hopkins, and the dynamic receiver did the rest. Hopkins broke a tackle and spun away from two defenders on a 49-yard reception to move to the Dallas 27. The Texans nailed the decisive kick shortly later.
Watson had a great stat line, going 33-of-44 for 375 yards, one touchdown and an interception, which occurred when he was hit upon releasing the ball late in regulation. He also scrambled 10 times for 40 rushing yards. Watson was holding his side throughout the second half and was constantly getting checked out by team doctors. Still, this doesn't excuse Watson's ineptitude in the red zone. He's not delivering deep in enemy territory, though O'Brien deserves a big part of the blame for not knowing what a quarterback sneak is.
Hopkins was amazing, save for his fumble. He caught nine of 13 targets for 151 yards despite being smothered by elite cornerback Byron Jones. Hopkins also drew a pass interference flag in the end zone on Jones, which happened to be Jones' first pass interference penalty of his 4-year career.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Keke Coutee (6-51) caught Watson's sole touchdown on a short pitch, while Will Fuller (2-15) was clearly not 100 percent. Fuller saw a pass go his way on a third-and-1, but Jaylon Smith, who had a great game, broke up the pass. Meanwhile, Griffin (6-65) posted nice numbers, but the drop in the end zone was nearly a killer.
Lamar Miller was active, but didn't see the field because of an injury. Alfred Blue handled every carry as a result. He was limited to just 46 yards on 20 carries versus Dallas' stout front seven. However, Blue was a big factor as a receiver out of the backfield, catching eight passes for 73 receiving yards.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, struggled to run the ball as well. Houston has a great front that shuts down the rush, which would explain why Ezekiel Elliott was limited to just 54 yards on 20 carries. However, he was a big part of the passing game, as he caught all seven of his targets for 30 receiving yards. Elliott limped off the field temporarily late in the evening, but he returned shortly afterward.
Dak Prescott had a very mixed performance. He had a great play where he was nearly sacked twice, but remained on his feet and launched a 44-yard completion to Tavon Austin. Prescott's two interceptions came on deflections or drops, so I wouldn't put that on him. However, Prescott was lucky that he wasn't intercepted on several more occasions. Johnathan Joseph dropped a pick-six early in the game, then Kareem Jackson dropped a pick-six late in regulation that would've given Houston the victory.
Prescott finished 18-of-29 for 208 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He had some nice moments, and a couple of great ones, and it's also worth noting that he doesn't have much to work with. However, Prescott also could've posted a far worse stat line had the Houston cornerbacks held on to the ball.
Dallas' receiving corps is so bad that a tight end named Geoff Swaim (3-55) led the team in receiving yardage. Austin (1-44) was next, but he was responsible for an interception, as the ball bounced off his hands.
Saints 43, Redskins 19
When you're taking part in some sort of quiz night at a bar in 20 years, the answer to the trivia question will be Tre'Quan Smith. The question, of course, will be who caught the pass that gave Drew Brees the all-time NFL record for passing yardage.
Brees had two Hall of Fame quarterbacks to eclipse for the record in this game, as he needed 201 to beat Peyton Manning. Brees wasted no time, passing Manning's mark in the second quarter. Up two touchdowns, Brees lofted up a bomb to Smith, who caught the ball and ran it into the end zone for a 62-yard score. Brees reached the all-time record with that throw, and the game paused for about 10 minutes to celebrate one of the NFL's all-time greats.
Brees, in selfless fashion, told his long-time head coach Sean Payton, "Let's go win the game" when the two embraced. And that's exactly what he did.
Brees was nearly perfect on this special night. He misfired on just three occasions, going 26-of-29 for 363 yards and three touchdowns. He nearly had a fourth score, but Mark Ingram was tackled at the 1-yard line at the end of a long reception on their opening drive. The Redskins had no answer for him, and they even aided him with a trio of moronic penalties on third down when they appeared to force the Saints into a punt. Brees took full advantage of the gifts, helping the Saints accumulate 447 yards of net offense with 27 first downs. Brees now has 72,103 passing yards in his illustrious career.
Speaking of Ingram, he was given a handful of carries in his first game back from suspension. Payton purposely fed him the ball as often as possible to perhaps get him into playing shape, which would explain why he had 16 totes compared to Alvin Kamara's six. Ingram gained 53 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and he also had two catches for 20 receiving yards. Ingram fumbled on a Da'Ron Payne strip, but he managed to recover. Kamara, meanwhile, barely did anything; he gained 24 yards on six carries while catching three balls for 15 receiving yards. Kamara will be a bigger part of the offense in future games, but this night was all about achieving Brees' record and getting Ingram integrated into the offense.
Michael Thomas also had a sluggish fantasy night, hauling in four passes for 74 yards. He trailed Smith in receiving yardage, as the rookie wideout caught three passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns. Thomas also was behind Cameron Meredith in receptions. Meredith reeled in five balls for 71 yards, but he made a big mistake prior to halftime, fumbling the ball, which gave the Redskins a touchdown on a short field.
Saints first-round rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport was excellent. He recorded a sack and a forced fumble, and he put lots of pressure on Alex Smith throughout the evening.
The dark cloud over this tremendous night for the Saints was Marshon Lattimore's concussion. He got knocked out of the game in the opening quarter. The good news is that he'll have two weeks to clear concussion protocol because the Saints have a Week 6 bye.
As for the Redskins, they were drowned in the emotion in the Superdome, melting down at times by committing horrible mental errors. I mentioned the three gaffes on third down, and the most blatant one was a Monte Nicholson unnecessary roughness when he pushed down Ingram for no reason. This kept the Saints' drive alive, concluding with a Brees touchdown to Josh Hill.
The Washington offense, meanwhile, moved the chains well at times, but constantly stalled in the red zone. With the Saints scoring touchdowns, field goals simply weren't going to cut it.
Alex Smith went 23-of-39 for 275 yards and an interception. He made some nice third-down conversions early in the game, but he missed way too many throws when it mattered. For example, he had Chris Thompson open in the end zone on one occasion, but threw the ball out of play. Smith's pick was a desperation heave when down 33-13. He threw the ball late, allowing the Saints to come away with an easy interception that was nearly taken back for six.
This was supposed to be a big revenge game for Adrian Peterson, but he barely had a chance to do anything with the Saints constantly trailing. Peterson mustered only six yards on four carries. He was crunched on a pass on the opening drive, and he limped off the field. Fortunately, he was OK. Meanwhile, Thompson ended up leading the Redskins in rushing with 17 yards on eight attempts. He also caught six balls for 45 receiving yards.
Only two Redskins accumulated at least 50 receiving yards: Jamison Crowder (4-55) and Paul Richardson (4-50). Richardson made a terrific leaping catch in the first half to convert a third-and-8.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.