It was apparent that this would be a one-sided affair on the opening drive of the game. The Cardinals had a miserable sequence where David Johnson was stuffed on the first play. Arizona then wasted a timeout on the second snap of the evening because of confusion. Following the timeout, first-round rookie quarterback Josh Rosen had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage by Derek Wolfe. The ball popped into the arms of linebacker Todd Davis, who returned it for a touchdown.
This was just the beginning of a horrifying evening for the Cardinals. Denver's defense overwhelmed Rosen and his putrid offensive line. The team forced Rosen into two more interceptions and a pair of lost fumbles. Meanwhile, the Broncos did enough offensively to put this game away by the middle of the second quarter. Denver went into intermission with a 35-3 lead.
The Broncos may have won this game, but the big story was how awful Rosen and the rest of Arizona's offense looked. Coordinator Mike McCoy is almost certain to be fired soon, as he failed to have his players in position to succeed. It's inexcusable that he had his players out of sorts on the second play of the game. McCoy also couldn't figure out Denver's weaknesses and exploit them. The Broncos really struggle to defend pass-catching running backs and tight ends, yet Johnson had just one reception by halftime. Ricky Seals-Jones was nowhere to be seen. McCoy's inability to get the most out of his athletes is appalling, and it's a major reason for why he should lose his job immediately.
Rosen, meanwhile, had many skeptics in the pre-draft process. Our NFL Draft senior analyst Charlie Campbell compared him to Jay Cutler. I've heard a Jimmy Clausen comparison as well, and that makes a lot of sense. Rosen is a partier, like Blake Bortles, and he doesn't seem fully dedicated to football. He also doesn't have great leadership skills and can't galvanize a team. Rosen proved to be a Cutler-like turnover machine in this contest. The first interception wasn't on him, but the other picks were ugly. He also had countless poor passes, heaving overthrows and hurls that were wide of the mark. Even worse, Rosen had several interceptions that were dropped. He ended up tossing three picks, but he easily could've had a five- or six-interception night.
Rosen finished 21-of-39 for only 194 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions, two of which were returned for six. Rosen, who became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw two pick-sixes in the opening quarter, also lost two fumbles, both forced by Ambassador Von Miller. He nearly had a third but was able to recover a strip that Bradley Chubb forced. Rosen has high upside, and he's being hurt by poor coaching and horrible offensive line play. If you paid attention to the NFL Draft analysts who weren't blinded by an infatuation with Rosen and his non-football situation, this performance was definitely not a surprise.
Adding injury to insult, Rosen hurt his ankle on the final play of the game. The good news is that he has extra time to recover for a much easier matchup against the dreadful 49ers.
I mentioned that McCoy didn't understand that getting Johnson in space would've been beneficial. Johnson ended up catching three passes for 31 yards, but two of those receptions came late in garbage time. It was utterly ridiculous that McCoy gave Johnson one reception in meaningful action. Johnson couldn't do much on the ground (14-39), but he could've been a great receiving weapon in this matchup.
Larry Fitzgerald finally looked somewhat healthy, as he caught four of his eight targets for 40 yards and a touchdown. Fitzgerald was drilled in the helmet on a hit late in the game, yet no penalty was called. Fortunately, Fitzgerald was not concussed.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Christian Kirk led the team in receiving with three catches for 57 yards, thanks to a late gain. Seals-Jones (2-12) was invisible.
As for the winning team's offense, the Broncos really had just two successful offensive drives, as they didn't need to produce because of their prolific defense. The Broncos generated just one more first down than Arizona did (15-14), and they averaged 5.6 yards per play, which is a middling figure. However, Denver hit big plays on its two successful possessions. The first was a trick play where Emmanuel Sanders took an end-around and threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Courtland Sutton. The second also involved Sanders, as he got wide open on a busted coverage for a 64-yard touchdown.
Case Keenum had a nondescript night, going 14-of-21 for 161 yards, one touchdown and an interception on an overthrow. As mentioned, 64 of Keenum's yards came on a score to Sanders on a busted coverage. Otherwise, Keenum was 13-of-20 for 97 yards and a pick. Keenum will be the catalyst for Denver's downfall at some point this season.
Sanders, who had a 28-yard passing touchdown, caught six of his seven targets for 102 yards and a score. As promised, he's Keenum's preferred target because Keenum loves throwing to the slot. Demaryius Thomas (5-42) was mediocre once again, dropping a ball. Sutton (1-28) failed to convert his other two targets, but he managed to draw a pass interference flag in the end zone.
Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman continue to share carries for some reason when it's very obvious that Lindsay deserves way more touches. Lindsay barely had more attempts than Freeman, 14-13, yet outgained him by a vast margin, 90-37. Lindsay also had a long run negated by a hold. Both players scored once on the ground.
Chargers 20, Titans 19
The Titans were humiliated on their home field last week by the Ravens in a shutout loss. Marcus Mariota took 11 sacks in that game, so Tennessee was bound to perform better in this 9:30 a.m. London contest.
As expected, the Titans were much better this week. In fact, it could be argued that they performed better than the Chargers. They held the ball for 11 more minutes and achieved nine more first downs. They converted 9-of-15 third downs. They moved the chains up and down the field, but some killer mistakes ruined their chances of winning.
Tennessee's greatest error occurred just prior to halftime. Taking over on their own 5-yard line, the Titans drove down all the way to the goal line. Mariota had a receiver open in the end zone, but because he threw into a tight lane, Melvin Ingram made a terrific play to bat the ball into the air. The ball then sailed into the arms of a Charger defender, nullifying at least three points. In the fourth quarter, both Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor dropped passes for big gains on the same drive. The Titans had to settle for a 51-yard field goal as a result, and Ryan Succop was wide left. Then, at the very end, after Tennessee scored a touchdown with 30 seconds remaining, the Titans opted to go for two, eschewing overtime. They had two chances because of a Charger holding penalty, but failed on both occasions. I personally didn't mind Mike Vrabel's decision to go for it, but the decision to not have Mariota sneak from the 1-yard line seems like a huge error.
Mariota ended up finishing 24-of-32 for 237 yards, one touchdown and the Ingram-tipped interception. Mariota had a couple of possible interceptions that were dropped in the early going, but he settled down after that. He did a great job of converting third-and-long situations all morning, and he should've had an even better stat line, but was hurt by drops. Mariota, who also had seven scrambles for 38 rushing yards, was sacked just twice, as the offensive line was much better in this game. The line really was responsible for just a single sack, as Mariota was brought down once in the backfield because he held the ball way too long.
It's pretty clear that the Titans need to involve Dion Lewis in the running game way more than Derrick Henry. Lewis gained 91 yards on just 13 carries, and he also caught six passes for 64 receiving yards. Lewis had some explosive plays, including one where he broke tackles and carried defenders for 35 yards. Henry, meanwhile, was very sloth-like, mustering only 33 yards on 12 carries. He scored a touchdown to help his few fantasy owners, but it's obvious that he's a huge drain on the offense. It seems like a wasted play every time he touches the ball, unless he's being used as a short-yardage hammer.
As mentioned earlier, both Davis (3-10) and Taylor (1-8) dropped passes. Both had lackluster performances, particularly Davis, who converted just three of the seven targets thrown his way. Davis also ran a very poor route on a third down. Shockingly, Tajae Sharpe led the Titans in receiving with seven catches for 101 yards. Aside from Sharpe, Lewis and Davis, no Titan had more than 11 receiving yards.
Moving on to the victors, Philip Rivers wasn't on the field for very long. The Chargers either stalled around midfield or hit big plays. It was all or nothing, but it was the two "all" plays that ended up winning the game for San Angeles, which is now 5-2.
The big plays were 75- and 55-yard touchdown bombs from Philip Rivers to Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams, respectively. The CBS announcers pointed out that the Chargers schemed the Tennessee corners well, as the Titan players were caught peeking in the backfield, allowing the two Williamses to beat them deep. This was a great coaching job by the Chargers, as they needed these bombs to prevail. If you take away the two big plays, the Chargers produced just 214 net yards of offense.
Rivers' stat line was obviously great because of his two deep balls, as he finished 19-of-26 for 306 yards and the pair of touchdowns. Rivers nearly had a third score, but Mike Williams couldn't bring the ball in the end zone, although it would've been a tough catch.
Tyrell Williams led the Chargers in receiving with four grabs for 118 yards and a score, while Mike Williams' touchdown was his only catch of the morning. Keenan Allen, meanwhile, logged five receptions for 72 yards. Allen was so frustrated on one play that he kicked a pylon and yelled incoherently on the sideline. Allen was open in the end zone when Mike Williams dropped the ball, but he was double-teamed, so Rivers didn't look his way.
Melvin Gordon missed this game, so Austin Ekeler handled the full workload. Ekeler gained 42 yards on 12 carries, and he also caught five balls for 26 receiving yards. He dropped a pass.
Patriots 38, Bears 31
This game was ridiculous, as both teams appeared to try their hardest to give it away. The Patriots made the mistakes during the early stages. Cordarrelle Patterson fumbled on a kickoff, setting up the Bears on a short field, which they converted into a quick touchdown. Sony Michel then fumbled on the ensuing drive, though it's difficult to blame him because he suffered a gruesome knee injury on the play that forced him to get carted into the locker room. Chicago once again found the end zone on a short field, thanks to countless penalties from New England's defense.
The Bears established a 17-7 lead, but it was their turn to commit errors. They allowed Patterson to redeem himself with a kickoff return for a touchdown. Another special-teams gaffe gave the Patriots another touchdown, as they were able to block a Chicago punt. That put New England up 31-24, but the Bears had plenty of opportunities to get into the end zone again. They drove into New England territory twice prior to the midway point of the fourth quarter, yet both possessions ended with Mitchell Trubisky interceptions. The first occurred when he tried to force a pass into tight coverage while scrambling toward the sideline. The second was an underthrown ball toward the goal line that was hurled off his back foot. An accurate pass would've resulted in a touchdown, but Trubisky didn't put enough power into the toss.
That last mistake was seemingly the final nail in the coffin. The Patriots took over and drove down the field on a deflated and less energetic Chicago defense. The drive was highlighted by a 55-yard Josh Gordon reception in which he broke several tackles from deflated Bear defenders. New England went up 14, but the Bears later obtained possession, down seven with only 30 seconds and no timeouts remaining. Following some short passes, Trubisky moved into position to try a Hail Mary. With a linebacker in his face, he launched the ball toward the end zone - and it was caught by Kevin White! Unfortunately, White was tackled one yard shy of the end zone, ending the game. Trubisky and White needed 55 yards, but they got just 54.
Trubisky could've been the hero at the end, which would've made up for his countless errors throughout the game. Trubisky was awful as a passer. He was horribly inaccurate throughout, and he didn't see open receivers, opting to scramble instead. He had the two aforementioned interceptions, but it could've been an uglier day for him, as he had two other possible picks that were dropped. Trubisky, who threw off his back foot way too often in this game, finished 26-of-50 for 333 yards, two touchdowns and the pair of interceptions. The yardage number looks nice, but remember 54 yards came on the "failed" Hail Mary.
I specifically said that Trubisky struggled as a passer because he was excellent as a runner. He did a good job of moving the chains with his legs throughout the afternoon, as he scrambled for 81 yards and a touchdown. The score was a sight to see, as Trubisky found the end zone on an 8-yard run, but scrambled around for 71 yards, per Next Gen Stats.
Trey Burton ate up the Patriots' struggling linebacking corps. He led the Bears in receiving with nine catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. Only two other Bears had more than 26 receiving yards: Tarik Cohen (8-69), who scored a touchdown, and White (2-64), only because of the Hail Mary. Allen Robinson, banged up entering this game, caught just one of his five targets for four yards. He dropped a pass that would've moved the chains on third down.
Jordan Howard didn't run well, but managed to find the end zone. He nearly scored a second time, but an illegal formation nullified a touchdown. Howard was limited to 39 yards on 12 carries otherwise.
Meanwhile, Tom Brady went 25-of-36 for 277 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. The pick, which occurred near the end of the game, wasn't his fault, as his fullback bobbled the ball. Brady otherwise played very well, especially considering that he was missing Rob Gronkowski, as well as his right tackle against Khalil Mack.
With Gronkowski out of the lineup, Gordon had to pick up the slack. Gordon caught four passes for 100 yards. He converted a fourth-and-1 with a terrific 21-yard leaping grab that set up a touchdown. Gordon also had a 55-yarder that I referenced earlier, which also set up a short score. Gordon dropped two passes, but continues to earn Brady's trust.
Two of Brady's touchdowns were thrown to James White, who was a big factor in this game. He caught eight of his 10 targets for 57 receiving yards. White, who picked up 40 yards on 11 carries, had to play a lot because of Michel's knee injury. Kenjon Barner (10-36) also saw more action than anticipated. It's a shame that Michel went down, as it looked like he would have a big game. He picked up 22 yards on just four carries in the opening quarter.
Brady's third score went to Julian Edelman (5-36), while Chris Hogan reeled in six passes for 63 yards.
Colts 37, Bills 5
The Colts, at 1-5, had entered this game having dropped 19 total passes in the previous three weeks. However, there was hope, as T.Y. Hilton would make his return after exiting early in Week 4. Hilton's presence on the field was certainly felt.
Hilton caught only four passes for 25 yards because of Tre'Davious White's great coverage, but secured every target thrown to him. He also had a 10-yard catch wiped out by penalty and drew an interference flag. Two of his receptions were touchdowns. The sure-handed Hilton wasn't going to let his quarterback down after the rest of the supporting cast did in his absence. Luck, as a result, had just six incompletions after his receivers averaged 6.3 drops per game the past three weeks.
Luck finished 17-of-23 for 156 yards and four touchdowns. The yardage number isn't very high, but the Colts didn't have to throw very much because they were up by double digits for most of the afternoon. He made just one poor throw, and his other mistake was mishandling a high snap that turned into a safety.
Indianapolis has long lacked a running game, but Marlon Mack had a tremendous performance against a strong Buffalo run defense. Mack converted a fourth-and-1 just shy of midfield toward the end of the opening quarter to set up a touchdown. Mack then had bursts of 23 yards on the ground and 29 aerially to set up more scores. Mack finished with 126 yards and a score on 19 carries. He also caught two passes for 33 receiving yards and another touchdown. With more showings like this, the Colts may not need to spend an early pick on a running back early in the 2019 NFL Draft.
While Hilton caught two touchdowns, Chester Rogers led the team in receiving with four grabs for 40 yards. Tight end Erik Swoope (1-17) caught Luck's third touchdown, while Eric Ebron (3-31) disappointed fantasy owners. Ebron simply didn't have an opportunity to collect garbage-time stats for a change.
Adam Vinatieri had a rough day. All the kicking focus was on Justin Tucker for missing an extra point, but Vintatieri whiffed on two. He also doinked a close kick off the upright, but the ball bounced through.
As for the Bills, there isn't much to say about them. They had just two positive drives in the first three quarters. One ended with a Charles Clay fumble, while the other concluded with a field goal. When Buffalo had the ball, I felt that Indianapolis had a better chance of scoring.
The Bills simply didn't stand much of a chance with Derek Anderson at quarterback. His magical flask produced four turnovers: three interceptions and a lost fumble. His two early turnovers led to 10 points for the Colts, as a pick on a floated pass gave the Colts a field goal, then a strip-sack turned into a touchdown. It could've been worse for Anderson, as two possible interceptions were dropped, and it's possible that both potential picks would've gone back for six.
Anderson was 20-of-31 for only 175 yards and the four turnovers. The Bills obviously need Josh Allen to come back from injury to be competitive again. Until then, they're the worst team in the NFL.
LeSean McCoy suffered an injury on the second offensive play and was lost for the afternoon. He was replaced by Chris Ivory, who gained 81 yards on 16 carries. Ivory got banged up as well at one point, losing some touches to someone named Marcus Murphy, but he was able to return to the field shortly afterward.
Kelvin Benjamin finally posted a somewhat respectable stat line, catching four balls for 71 yards. He made a couple of nice, leaping catches in the early going. However, it's worth noting that Benjamin's longest completion, a 32-yarder, occurred in garbage time, and an offensive pass interference should've been called on an obvious push-off by Benjamin.
Lions 32, Dolphins 21
The Lions have been searching for a stellar running game ever since Barry Sanders retired. Matthew Stafford has certainly never been paired with a dynamic ground attack, as Detroit has gone through pedestrian running back after pedestrian running back. That appears to have finally changed.
Kerryon Johnson hadn't been utilized nearly enough at the start of the season, inexplicably sharing too many carries with LeGarrette Blount. It was going to be interesting to see if the Lions used their bye week to evaluate this, and it appears as though they've finally discovered that they need to give Johnson way more touches than Blount. They did just that at Miami, and it paid off in a big way.
Johnson hit a big play in the early going to set up a Matthew Stafford touchdown to Michael Roberts. Johnson then broke free for a 71-yard burst, giving Blount some opportunities at the goal line, which he failed to convert. However, these two long gains gave the Lions 10 points, and Johnson wasn't done. He ran for 158 yards on 19 carries, and that doesn't include an 11-yard gain negated by a chop block. He also caught two passes for 21 receiving yards. Detroit's offense has been inconsistent over the years, but if Johnson provides them with a huge threat out of the backfield, the Lions will be very difficult to stop. Blount, by the way, managed to find the end zone once. He tallied 50 yards on 10 carries.
Stafford had an incredibly efficient day, as the Dolphins had to respect Johnson coming out of the backfield. Stafford misfired on just four passes, one of which was dropped. He went 18-of-22 for 217 yards and two touchdowns. Stafford should've had a third score, but Kenny Golladay's touchdown was wiped out by an illegal formation. Golden Tate then dropped a ball in the end zone.
Both of Stafford's touchdowns were thrown to tight end Michael Roberts (3-48), who did nothing outside of catching vultured balls in the end zone. Because Robinson ruined many fantasy days, Golladay (2-37), Tate (4-36) and Marvin Jones (3-29) all posted meager numbers. As mentioned, Golladay was robbed of a touchdown because of a trivial penalty, while Tate let a pass fall through his hands in the end zone. He also fumbled the ball in the red zone, but was lucky to recover. Both Golladay and Tate drew interference flags.
Moving on to the Dolphins, Brock Osweiler didn't have a bad performance, but it didn't seem like Adam Gase didn't trust him in the early stages of the game. Miami had a third-and-10 in Detroit territory near the end of the opening quarter, yet Gase called a run.
Despite this, Osweiler played relatively well, going 22-of-31 for 239 yards and two touchdowns, which were very impressive throws. Osweiler didn't commit any turnovers, which would be shocking until you recall that the Lions have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Osweiler, however, took some sacks where he held the ball for too long. He also had an interception dropped by linebacker Christian Jones. Otherwise, he had a decent performance.
Like the Lions prior to the bye, Miami is giving a veteran back more carries than a promising, young runner. Frank Gore had more attempts than Kenyan Drake, 10-6, yet Drake outgained Gore, 72-29. Granted, most of Drake's yardage came on a 54-yard touchdown, but Drake, being younger, has more big-play ability than Gore. It's astonishing that Miami's coaching staff doesn't understand this.
The Dolphins lost one of their top play-making receivers, Albert Wilson, to a hip injury. He caught three passes for 32 yards. With Wilson out, Danny Amendola (6-84) led the Dolphins in receiving, and he caught one of Osweiler's touchdowns. Kenny Stills (1-5) had the other.
Vikings 37, Jets 17
Despite there being 54 total points in this game, this was a sloppy, offensive battle for most of the afternoon. Neither team had 110 net yards of offense by halftime. At that point in the game, both the Jets and Vikings were averaging less than 3.7 yards per play. And to top it off, neither team converted a third down. The Jets and Vikings were a combined 0-of-14 on third down!
Both teams had stellar defenses, but the weather played a factor as well. Kirk Cousins was throwing inaccurate balls because of the brisk wind, while pressure was more of a problem for Sam Darnold. He took three sacks, but the hurries forced him into some poor passes. It took until the 10:32 mark of the third quarter for the first team to convert a third down in this game when Cousins found Adam Thielen beyond the first-down marker. This got the Vikings going, as they generated 213 net yards following intermission. Conversely, the Jets continued to struggle, as Darnold was responsible for three interceptions in the second half.
Cousins went 25-of-40 for 241 yards and two touchdowns. He was slow to start, but was incredibly hot following halftime. He was 13-of-17 for 137 yards and a score in the second half. Cousins had a tremendous matchup against a banged-up Jets secondary, but he simply couldn't do much in the heavy winds in the early going. He was better as the game progressed, and he put the Jets away with a touchdown throw on fourth down from the New York 34-yard line, though Aldrick Robinson could've been flagged for pushing off. Cousins also had a fumble on a weird play deep in his own territory, but was lucky a teammate of his recovered.
Cousins' initial score was thrown to Adam Thielen, who once again eclipsed the century mark, catching nine of his 10 targets for 110 yards and a touchdown. By doing so, Thielen tied the NFL record for most 100-yard receiving performances to start a season. It remains to be seen if anyone can stop him.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Stefon Diggs saw 14 targets. He converted eight of them, but for only 33 yards. Diggs was affected more by the wind than Thielen was, as Thielen operates out of the slot. Morris Claiborne's coverage didn't help, and neither did a drop in the second quarter. Kyle Rudolph (1-16) nearly had a touchdown, but the pass was slightly off the mark.
Dalvin Cook was out, so Latavius Murray saw most of the workload. He gained 69 yards on 15 carries, scoring twice. The New York safeties took bad angles on Murray's runs. Marcus Maye's replacement was responsible once, but it was surprising to see Jamal Adams guilty of this on Murray's first score.
Vikings' top cornerback Xavier Rhodes had to be carried off the field after suffering a foot injury in the second half. Fortunately, Mike Zimmer told the media that Rhodes suffered just an ankle sprain.
Meanwhile, Darnold struggled mightily, going 17-of-42 for 208 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Darnold had a successful drive early in the game where he completed a perfect pass to Robby Anderson for 35 yards, then hit rookie tight end Chris Herndon with a score. Darnold was woeful after that, however, as numerous things were to blame. The wind and the pass rush were both factors, but the biggest problems for Darnold were drops and his own woeful inaccuracy.
Darnold sailed passes and was wide of his targets all afternoon. He began by missing Anderson for a first down at the beginning of the second quarter. He then whiffed on a basic pass to the sideline for what should've been a gain of 12. He overthrew Anderson for a potential 80-yard touchdown when Anderson beat his defender. Two of Darnold's three interceptions were way off the mark, and he was lucky he didn't throw more picks.
As for the drops, I counted five for the Jets. One drop, by Charone Peake, resulted in Darnold's third interception. Darnold was also hurt by two poor snaps by the center.
With Quincy Enunwa out, Jermaine Kearse was expected to be Darnold's favorite target in this game, especially with Minnesota's first-round rookie slot corner Mike Hughes out. Kearse, however, failed to convert either of his two targets. Anderson, who had a 25-yard catch at the beginning of the game, managed to convert just three out of his 10 targets for 44 yards, thanks to Darnold's wild inaccuracy. Anderson nearly hauled in a 50-yard bomb in the first half, but the ball got knocked out as he was falling to the ground.
The top two receivers struggled to post quality numbers, so who had all of the Jets' receiving yards? That was running back Trenton Cannon, who took over for an injured Bilal Powell. Cannon led the team in receiving with four catches for 69 receiving yards. Meanwhile, Herndon (4-42) saw seven targets. He's a talented rookie tight end who seems to have a promising future.
As for Powell, he was knocked out with a neck injury early in the second quarter. Powell was featured heavily early on, as he had 20 yards on five carries to go along with a 5-yard reception. Isaiah Crowell handled most of the workload after that, but generated just 29 yards on 11 carries. Crowell was responsible for a fumble on his own 44, but he did not get a clean hand-off from Darnold, thanks to a high snap. Crowell also dropped a pass.
Panthers 21, Eagles 17
If you were to tell me at the end of the third quarter of this game that the Panthers would prevail, I wouldn't have believed you in a hundred years. The Eagles were completely dominating this game. They were up 17-0, as Carolina had no answer for Carson Wentz's connections to his two talented tight ends. The Panthers, meanwhile, constantly bungled their chances whenever they crossed midfield. For instance, they had a sequence where they were deep in Philadelphia territory when Cam Newton walked into a sack, and then the Panthers were taken out of field goal range because of two false starts. Earlier, Devin Funchess dropped a pass to move deeper into Philadelphia territory. Newton was also guilty of intentional grounding on one occasion after crossing midfield. Because of all of this, the Eagles had outgained Carolina, 222-83, by halftime, averaging nearly two more yards per play. This was a blowout, and the Panthers seemingly had no chance to win.
And then, the fourth quarter happened. The Panthers finally stopped screwing up once they crossed midfield and scored a pair of touchdowns. They still trailed by three and were on their final play when they had a fourth-and-10 deep in their own territory. Newton, battling a fierce pass rush, converted a pass to former Eagle Torrey Smith for a 35-yard gain. This ultimately led to another score to Greg Olsen.
Suddenly down 21-17, the Eagles had just one more chance. They moved down the field quickly via an Alshon Jeffery pass interference flag, but Wentz was nearly picked on an acrobatic catch by Eric Reid, who did some jawing with Malcolm Jenkins during the coin toss. Replay review showed that the ball hit the ground, but it didn't matter because Wentz was strip-sacked on fourth down to end the game, giving Carolina an improbable comeback victory. Wentz had a chance to move the chains one play earlier when he had a running back open in the flat, but opted to take a shot into the end zone instead. The pass fell incomplete because of tight coverage.
Newton was awesome in the second half, as he was 21-of-30 for 245 yards and a pair of scores following intermission. Newton finished 25-of-39 for 269 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the team in rushing, scrambling seven times for 49 yards on the ground. He struggled early, thanks to poor pass protection, but the Eagles had no answer for him in the final quarter.
Funchess became the latest receiver to have success against Carolina's struggling secondary. He caught six of his 11 targets for 62 yards and a touchdown. He was guilty of three drops, but came up big in the fourth quarter. Torrey Smith (4-61) was next on the stat sheet, thanks to his long gain at the end of regulation. D.J. Moore (3-29) wasn't too productive.
The Eagles have a great run defense, so it's not a surprise that Christian McCaffrey was limited to just 29 rushing yards on seven carries. However, he was a bigger factor in the aerial attack, as he hauled in six balls for 51 receiving yards.
As for Philadelphia, while Wentz failed at the end of the game, he still had a stellar afternoon. He converted a pair of fourth downs in the opening half - a sneak on fourth-and-1, a completion to Jeffery on fourth-and-5 - and he completed 15 consecutive passes in the second half. The streak ended on a misfire to the end zone, on a play that could've been called pass interference on safety Michael Adams covering Dallas Goedert. However, the Eagles ended up scoring a touchdown on that drive anyway.
Wentz finished 30-of-37 for 310 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't scramble very much (3 carries, 3 yards), so I wouldn't say he's 100 percent yet, but he definitely played well enough to lead his team to victory. The defense let him down.
As mentioned earlier, the Panthers had no answer for the Eagles' tight ends. Zach Ertz had a huge game, hauling in nine of his 11 targets for 138 yards. Goedert also played well, snatching four balls for 43 yards and a touchdown.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Jeffery reeled in seven passes for 88 yards and a touchdown. He also had the aforementioned deep pass interference flag on the final drive, and he made a couple of acrobatic catches. Nelson Agholor caught six balls, but for only 20 yards.
The Eagles can't run the ball, so it's not a surprise that Wendell Smallwood (9-32) and Corey Clement (8-6) were limited to fewer than 40 total rushing yards. Philadelphia may want to make a move for a running back prior to the trade deadline.
Philadelphia kicker Jake Elliott continued to struggle, whiffing from 36 yards. That miss cost the Eagles the game, as they could've tried a field goal following Jeffery's drawn interference flag.
Buccaneers 26, Browns 23
The Buccaneers may have prevailed over the Browns in overtime, but this was a lopsided affair. Tampa led throughout, holding advantages of 16-2 and 23-9. However, the Buccaneers self-destructed with countless mistakes, nearly costing them a victory to keep their season alive.
Up 16-2, Jameis Winston began the comedy of errors by throwing an interception where he didn't see Christin Kirksey in coverage. The Browns couldn't take advantage of the give-away, and the same thing happened when they were given a red-zone possession when Cameron Brate lost a fumble deep in his own territory. The Browns later reached the end zone when Myles Garrett strip-sacked Winston, setting up a Baker Mayfield touchdown to David Njoku.
Tampa still had the lead, but the blunders ensued. O.J. Howard dropped a pass on a third-and-3 with nine minutes remaining in regulation near midfield, and the Buccaneers allowed a long punt return to Jabrill Peppers to set up yet another Cleveland touchdown to tie the game at 23. The Buccaneers were in position to win at the end of regulation, yet they settled for a 40-yard field goal for some reason despite the extensive kicking woes the franchise has endured. Chandler Catanzaro, who whiffed on an extra point, missed from 40, sending the game to overtime.
The Buccaneers continued to play dumb football in overtime, as Winston threw an interception, as linebacker Jamie Collins read his eyes perfectly. However, because Peppers fumbled a punt return, the Buccaneers were able to try another field goal, this one from 59 yards. Inexplicably, Catanzaro connected from that distance. Mayfield's mouth was agape upon seeing the kick go through the uprights. The Buccaneers barely edged out the Browns despite having double the number of first downs (34-17) and accumulating more yards, 456-305. Tampa's constant mistakes nearly cost them, and this sort of sloppy play won't work against superior opponents.
Winston posted a big yardage number, going 32-of-52 for 365 yards, but he threw two picks. He managed to score a touchdown on the ground - he scrambled 10 times for 55 rushing yards - but he needs to take better care of the football to give the Buccaneers a better chance to beat good teams. Winston also had trouble with accuracy, missing several passes he should've completed throughout the afternoon.
Mike Evans led the Buccaneers in receiving, snatching seven of his 11 targets for 107 yards. Howard (5-67) and Chris Godwin (5-59) were next on the stat sheet. DeSean Jackson (2-25) didn't do much aerially, but he scored a touchdown on an end-around.
Winston had more rushing yards than anyone, as Peyton Barber was limited to just 30 yards on 11 carries. He appeared to score a touchdown in the opening half, but it was negated by a holding penalty. He left in the third quarter with an ankle injury. Ronald Jones had a worse yards-per-carry average (6-13), but he scored a quick touchdown. He also dropped a pass.
This was a Pyrrhic victory for the Buccaneers. In addition to Barber, Kwon Alexander also got hurt. Alexander may have torn his ACL.
As for the Browns, Mayfield appeared much healthier than last week, and this was especially apparent on one drive in the fourth quarter. Mayfield, pinned down with a second-and-26, scrambled for 35 yards on a play. He drove the Browns down to Tampa's 1-yard line, and he tried to leap into the end zone on a sneak, but was stuffed. Nevertheless, Mayfield later found Jarvis Landry for the game-tying score to go to overtime.
Mayfield finished 23-of-34 for 215 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran four times for 43 rushing yards. It's a great sign that Mayfield is healthy again, but more was expected of him against Tampa's poor defense. One of his biggest errors was taking a sack in Tampa territory on a third-and-3 attempt. Had Mayfield thrown the ball away, the Browns could've gone for it on fourth down.
Starting his first game in the wake of the Carlos Hyde trade, Nick Chubb had a solid performance. He gained 80 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He probably would've eclipsed the century mark had the Browns had more of an opportunity to establish the run, but that was difficult, given that they were in a two-touchdown deficit for most of the game.
Meanwhile, Duke Johnson was also expected to see more touches, but he had just one carry (minus-4 yards) and four catches (23 yards). It's disappointing to see Johnson's usage decrease this year, as he's a dynamic receiving back.
Landry led the Browns in receiving with 10 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown. He saw 15 targets. Njoku (4-52) was next on the stat sheet, while Antonio Callaway (1-14) saw only two targets. Callaway drew an interference flag in the end zone, setting up Chubb's score.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Dear gambling gods, please please please please please let the Jaguars start Cody Kessler in the London game so I can bet against him, please please please please please.
The Texans have won four straight after their 0-3 start and sit in first place in the AFC South, while one has to wonder if the Jaguars have quit on Doug Marrone. In league circles, Marrone is known to be one of the least-popular coaches with his players. While playing at home in a critical divisional game, Jacksonville came out flat after being blown out by Dallas last week, and the Jaguars seemed disinterested from start to finish. Blake Bortles was awful once again, gifting the Texans 10 points before he got benched. The decision to not bring in any legit competition for Bortles last offseason has really come back to bite the Jaguars this year.
On the first third down of the game, Bortles scrambled to dive for first-down yardage, but Whitney Mercilus stripped him of the ball, and Jadeveon Clowney recovered the fumble to set up Houston inside the Jaguars' 40. Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler then got a third-down sack of Deshaun Watson to force a field goal. DeAndre Hopkins then got the better of Jalen Ramsey to make a beautiful one-handed 31-yard catch to move the chains. Lamar Miller followed that up a few plays later with a 16-yard run that put Houston in position for another field goal. A terrible Jaguars punt on the ensuing position set up the Texans with good field position, and Houston moved the ball with Miller, an 18-yard completion to Will Fuller, and a Jalen Ramsey holding call, and then Miller charged into the end zone from a few yards out to put the Texans up 13-0 at halftime. Over the last three games, the Jaguars have been out-scored 57-0 in the first half.
Bortles goofed again in the third quarter. As he scrambled out of his own end zone, he was stripped by Zach Cunningham, and Kareem Jackson recovered the ball at the Jacksonville 12-yard line. Two plays later, Hopkins beat Ramsey for a 10-yard touchdown. After that fumble, the Jaguars benched Bortles for Cody Kessler, who breathed some life into the Jacksonville offense, leading his team inside the 10-yard line on his second drive before throwing a short touchdown pass to T.J. Yeldon, who made a superb one-handed catch. Kessler moved the ball into Texans territory later in the fourth quarter, but a dropped pass by Yeldon flew right to Tyrann Mathieu for an interception, and that clinched the win for Houston.
Watson completed 12-of-24 passes for 139 yards with a touchdown. DeAndre Hopkins caught three passes for 50 yards with one touchdown. Fuller led the Texans with 68 yards on six receptions.
Miller ran for 100 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown. It was shocking that the Jacksonville front seven allowed the terrible Texans offensive line to have that kind of success running ball.
Bortles was 6-of-12 for 61 yards before getting benched. Kessler was 21-of-30 for 156 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Bortles was the Jaguars' leading rusher with 30 yards. Yeldon ran for 28 yards on 12 carries.
Donte Moncrief led the Jaguars in receiving with seven receptions for 76 yards. Keelan Cole dropped three passes, including a few critical first downs in the first half.
Defensively, Clowney was phenomenal for the Texans. He led the Texans to shutting down the Jacksonville rushing attack with seven tackles in the opening half. Clowney had two huge sacks following intermission. Mercilus, meanwhile, had been in a slump this season, but he broke out of it with one sack.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I had a hate mailer tell me I was an idiot for going against the 49ers' "high-powered offense" on Monday night against the Packers. You'll see it in its entirety on the NFL Picks page this upcoming Tuesday, but I laughed at this dude even prior to this game. The 49ers' high-powered offense ... buhahahahaha.
The Rams were heavy favorites in this contest, and there was no doubt that they came in looking like the better team than the injury-ravaged 49ers. After San Francisco committed three first-half turnovers, the rout was on, making this game resemble Alabama playing Arkansas State. Todd Gurley scored three touchdowns and Aaron Donald had four sacks as Los Angeles dominated in San Francisco.
Early in the first quarter, 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard was hit as he threw and fumbled the ball away to the Rams. That set up a 35-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein. Matt Breida was then stripped by Donald, who recovered the fumble deep in 49ers territory to set up a 7-yard touchdown run for Gurley. Rams special teams ace Corey Littleton followed that up by blocking his fourth punt since the start of last season, and the blocked ball rolled out of the end zone for a safety. Los Angeles turned the safety field position into another field goal and a 15-0 lead. Rams defensive back Troy Hill then picked off Beathard, and that possession ended with a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks (4-64-1). Just before the half, Beathard led a 2-minute drill that ended with a touchdown pass to George Kittle and cut the Rams' lead to 22-7 going into halftime.
The Rams tacked on a third-quarter field goal before Rams safety John Johnson outfought Kittle for an interception. A few plays later, Gurley added a 1-yard touchdown run, putting this game out of reach for the 49ers.
Jared Goff was 18-of-24 for 202 yards with two touchdowns. Robert Woods led the Rams through the air with five catches for 78 yards.
Gurley ran for 63 yards on 15 carries with two touchdowns, plus made four receptions for 23 yards with a score.
Beathard was 15-of-27 for 170 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
Raheem Mostert led the 49ers in rushing with seven carries for 59 yards and had four receptions for 19 yards. Breida, who had the lost fumble, left the game with an ankle injury just prior to halftime.
Through the air, San Francisco was led by tight end George Kittle with five receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown.
EDITOR'S NOTE: F**k you, Justin Tucker. Or rather, f**k the wind that blew your extra point away.
Drew Brees on the road, outdoors on a windy day going against one of the best pass defenses in the league seemed like a recipe for disaster, but clutch throws under duress and Justin Tucker's first extra-point miss ever, helped the Saints go into Baltimore and pull out the victory.
On the first drive of the game, the Saints set the tone - well, sort of set the tone - as they went for it on all four fourth downs of the first drive! The trouble was, they turned the ball over on their last fourth-down attempt near the goal line after over 10 minutes of possession. The fact that they put Taysom Hill behind center and had him doing a run/pass option toss to Alvin Kamara that was a bit high and tight is something I won't understand, but that was 10 minutes of offense right down the drain for the Saints to start the game.
The Saints did right the ship though, and they were the first to get a touchdown, as Brees hit Michael Thomas for a 32-yard reception and then Ben Watson on a short touchdown pass to give New Orleans a 7-3 lead with under two minutes left in the half. That touchdown to Watson was Brees' 500th of his career. Only Peyton Manning, Bret Favre and Tom Brady have hit that pinnacle in their careers. The Saints lead, however, was short-lived, as Joe Flacco and company went on the offensive.
The Flacco-to-John Brown connection had fizzled out in the last couple games, but was the bulk of the Ravens offense this week. And that connection hit big for a 56-yard gain over the middle while the Ravens moved the ball with the clock ticking toward halftime. That long completion set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Lamar Jackson, the first of his short career, and gave the Ravens a 10-7 lead at half.
Jackson was used well on that touchdown run, but he was also brought in on a third-and-8 from the Saints' 19-yard line earlier in the game. Jackson was unable to convert the first down, so the Ravens kicked the field goal. I like Jackson and think he can become a force in the league, but Flacco is the quarterback and he should be the one throwing the ball on third-and-8 in the red zone!
The Ravens backed up their pre-halftime touchdown with another touchdown on their second drive of the second half. They took advantage of good starting position at their own 39 yard-line and matriculated the ball down field, ending with an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Andrews, giving them a 17-7 lead.
The Ravens' defense hadn't allowed a touchdown in the second half of any game this season, giving up just four field goals over their first six games. That would change on the Saints' next possession, as Brees hit Tre-Quan Smith on back-to-back pass plays of 26 and 11 yards to get them to the Baltimore 17. From there, it was Alvin Kamara, who ran the ball four times for 17 yards, ending with a 2-yard run up the middle for a touchdown.
Kamara had taken a backseat last week to Mark Ingram after his return, but this week, Kamara carried the ball 17 times to Ingram's 12 and both had two receptions. Give Kamara 19 touches, and he will get something done. It was rough sledding against this Ravens defense, but he did manage 75 yards and a touchdown to Ingram's 42 yards and no touchdown. Kamara's fantasy backers will be glad to see he got that goal-line carry over Ingram as well.
Down by three points now, the Saints' defense came up big on the Ravens' next possession, stuffing Alex Collins for no gain and sacking Flacco for negative 10 yards on third-and-10 to force the Ravens to punt, which gave the Saints the ball at their own 44. Brees chipped away at Baltimore's defense, setting up a perfect throw to Michael Thomas from five yards out to take the 21-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Thomas, like Kamara and Brown, had fallen off the big-stats radar a bit of late, not having reached a 100 yards or scored a touchdown since Week 3, but he's one of the best receivers in the game and he showed up when needed. On the day, Thomas caught 7-of-9 targets for 69 yards and the touchdown. His 69 yards show you just how tough this Baltimore pass defense is to make chunk plays against, but as I said, he got the job done and gets a Minnesota defense next week that may be without Xavier Rhodes.
The Saints went on to kick a field goal to push the lead to seven, but the Ravens weren't done, getting the ball back with 2:07 on the clock. Flacco was on target after getting a facemask penalty on their first play to move the to their own 40-yard-line at the 2-minute warning. From there, Flacco and friends didn't let the ball touch the ground, as they completed six straight passes. The last was a 14-yarder to John Brown in the end zone, which capped off a huge day for Brown and brought Baltimore within one point of tying the game and likely going into overtime.
Before we get to that last point, let us just take a look at Smokey Brown's numbers. I was worried about him with the wind gusts being reported up to 35 mph, but he showed that he's more than just a deep-ball receiver in this game, catching all seven of his targets for 134 yards and a touchdown, which should have tied up the game.
You, of course, already know that this game didn't go into overtime and for the craziest reason possible, Justin Tucker missed the extra point. Yes, that Justin Tucker. Tucker, who is in his seventh year, had never missed an extra point. He was 222-for-222 and was the only kicker without an extra point miss since they moved the kick back in 2015. So, he missed it. That was the ball game. As far as unlikely reasons to lose a game, that one ranks way up there.
The Ravens go to 4-3, falling from a tie for first place to third in the division, but thankfully for them, Kansas City took it to the Bengals, whom they were tied with. The Pittsburgh Steelers have ended up in first place after this week despite their bye. The AFC North looks like a mess at the moment and up for grabs. The Ravens will head to Carolina this week to take on the 4-2 Panthers.
The Saints have now won five in a row after being embarrassed by Tampa Bay in Week 1 and lead the NFC South at 5-1. They will head to Minnesota next week for a rematch of their embarrassing defeat in last season's playoffs on a last-second Stefon Diggs 61-yard touchdown catch-and-run. That game should be fun.
Redskins 20, Cowboys 17
The Cowboys demolished the Jaguars last week, but it was pretty evident that their victory was more about Jacksonville slacking off than Dallas solving its problems. The Cowboys' biggest issues are on offense. The receivers can seldom get open, while the offensive line struggles to block at three positions. Those problems surfaced once again in this divisional loss at Washington.
The Redskins won this game in the trenches. Their terrific defensive line, headlined by the "Bama Boys" - Jonathan Allen and Da'Ron Payne - won at the line of scrimmage versus Dallas' depleted front. They prevented the Cowboys from establishing the run at all, as Ezekiel Elliott was limited to just 33 yards on 15 carries. They also did a great job on an attempted Dak Prescott sneak on a fourth-and-1 in the early stages. It appeared as though Prescott converted, but the Redskins managed to strip the ball away from him to force a key turnover.
Meanwhile, Washington's defensive backfield smothered Dallas' receivers. Aside from a couple of big gains, the Cowboys couldn't get anything going aerially. Cole Beasley, who had a monstrous stat line last week, couldn't get open because of stellar slot corner Fabian Moreau until late in the game when Moreau got hurt. Beasley had just three receptions until near the end of regulation.
Despite all of this, the Cowboys were still in position to send the game into overtime. However, they settled for a 47-yard field goal when they could've gotten closer. Inept head coach Jason Garrett paid the price. Following a completely bogus snap infraction, Dallas whiffed from 52 yards, as kicker Brett Maher's attempt hit the upright. It's very possible that he would've connected from 47, though after Justin Tucker missed in Baltimore, no kick should be taken for granted anymore. Still, this was once again an example of poor game management from Garrett. The Cowboys easily could've gotten 10-15 yards closer on their final drive for an easier kick, but Garrett's incompetence prevented that from happening.
Prescott finished 22-of-35 for 273 yards and a touchdown. That stat line isn't bad, but it doesn't include two lost fumbles, one of which was scooped up for a score. He also had a dropped interception on an early deep shot. Prescott was a bigger factor on the ground, as he actually tied Elliott for the team rushing lead, scrambling six times for 33 yards and a touchdown. There was a scary moment in the opening half when Prescott took a nasty elbow to the helmet. He was checked for a concussion, but the neurologists cleared him.
If there's a silver lining in this loss, it's that Michael Gallup was finally productive, catching three passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. He had a 49-yard score in which he beat a Redskin corner on a double move. Allen Hurns (5-74) and Beasley (7-56) were the only other Cowboys to accumulate more than 25 receiving yards.
The Redskins, meanwhile, somehow produced 305 net yards of offense despite all but one of their top receiving options being out. Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson and Chris Thompson were all missing, so Jordan Reed had to step up. Yet, Reed caught two passes for 43 yards, although that yardage mark led Washington in receiving. That's the sort of day it was for the Redskins.
So, how did Washington move the chains? Adrian Peterson. The future Hall of Fame running back broke tackles, carried defenders and made players miss every time he touched the ball. He was amazing, finishing just one yard shy of the century mark on 24 carries.
With a depleted receiving corps, Alex Smith failed to reach 200 passing yards. He was 14-of-25 for 178 yards and a touchdown. Smith had some bad moments in this game. He had a tight end named Jeremy Sprinkle open in the end zone, but missed him. He then ran out of bounds late in regulation when the Redskins should've been running out the clock. Smith will be better when Crowder and Thompson return from injury, but the Redskins won in spite of him in this game.
Chiefs 45, Bengals 10
This was apparently a battle between two divisional leaders in the AFC that was flexed into a prime-time spot. And yet, it wasn't even competitive. This score isn't nearly indicative of how much of a blowout this game was, as the Chiefs could've won by 50 had they pushed the pace in the fourth quarter rather than slowing down.
The Bengals had absolutely no answer for Patrick Mahomes. The first-year starter continued to torch the opposition, and he toyed with Cincinnati's defense. Mahomes completed third downs with ease (9-of-12), which included some long-yardage conversions. One of the few exceptions was on a third-and-17 in which he fired a pass to Sammy Watkins that appeared complete, but replay review showed that the ball hit the ground.
Mahomes made some unbelievable throws throughout the night. One that sticks out is when he launched a 51-yard bomb to Watkins despite a Cincinnati defender dragging him down. He made just one mistake during the evening, heaving an underthrown pass to Tyreek Hill into triple coverage. Mahomes would've connected with Hill for a touchdown had he hit him in stride, but the ball being underthrown allowed the safety to make the play. Still, that was Mahomes' lone error, and he committed it when the game was already out of reach.
Mahomes finished 28-of-39 for 358 yards, four touchdowns and that interception. He also scrambled four times for 45 rushing yards. Easily the NFL's candidate at this point in the season, Mahomes is unstoppable. No team has demonstrated a possible solution for him yet. The Patriots came close last week by tricking him in the opening half, and yet Mahomes still lit them up following intermission. If the Chiefs can beat the Rams on a Monday night, it's unlikely that they'll lose the rest of the way.
Hill caught seven passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. He dropped a deep bomb in the fourth quarter, but eventually found the end zone on that same drive. Travis Kelce (5-95) and Watkins (4-74) were ahead of Hill in the box score, but didn't reach the end zone.
Kareem Hunt scored three touchdowns, once on the ground and twice aerially. He had a huge game, picking up 86 rushing yards on 15 carries to go along with five catches for 55 receiving yards. Hunt proved incredibly difficult for the Bengals to tackle all evening.
The Bengals, meanwhile, weren't expected to stop Mahomes, but the thinking was that they could at least keep up with him. That was not the case, as they scored just seven points in meaningful action. An A.J. Green drop, an Andy Dalton strip-sack from Dee Ford, a botched snap on a possible fake punt and a pick-six all helped derail the Bengals in what was a blowout from the second quarter onward.
Dalton managed to recover the strip-sack, but he had bad luck otherwise. He barely completed half of his passes, going 15-of-29 for only 148 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The pick was taken back for six, as Dalton telegraphed his throw. Cincinnati's offense has struggled ever since the team lost Tyler Eifert to a season-ending injury, which is why I have its front office selecting a replacement in the highly athletic Albert Okwuegbunan in my 2019 NFL Mock Draft.
Green saw 14 targets and converted half of those for 117 yards. He dropped an early pass, but otherwise did what he could. Tyler Boyd (3-27) was a major disappointment. Meanwhile, Eifert's replacement, C.J. Uzomah (2-13) caught Dalton's sole touchdown.
The Bengals didn't get to run the ball very much because of their constant huge deficit, which is why Joe Mixon took 13 carries for 50 yards. Mixon caught three passes, but for only one receiving yard. Cincinnati misses Giovani Bernard in the passing game.
Adding injury to insult, the Bengals lost Vontaze Burfict to a hip injury. Cincinnati already had Nick Vigil, a top coverage defender, out of the lineup. They'll be in trouble if both are out versus the Buccaneers.
Falcons 23, Giants 20
Let's just get right to the ending because that's what everyone's talking about. The Giants were trailing 20-6, as they had red zone issues all night. They finally got into the end zone with about 4:30 remaining in regulation, trimming the margin to within seven - except Pat Shurmur decided to go for two for some reason. It made no sense mathematically - the Giants could've gone for the win with their next touchdown - and Shurmur told the media afterward that he simply, "thought we had a play." What that means, I have no idea, as the "play" was a toss to a diving Odell Beckham Jr. in the end zone that fell incomplete.
Now down 20-12, the Giants needed a stop. They eventually got one because of two Atlanta false starts. The Falcons appeared as though they were going to punt, but head coach Dan Quinn opted a 56-yard field goal with his backup kicker. It was a foolish decision like Shurmur's, but this one paid off. Atlanta expanded its lead to 23-12.
The Giants now had to score twice, which meant that they were required to attack quickly. They did just that, as Eli Manning found Sterling Shepard for a 52-yard bomb. Before anyone knew what happened, the Giants were at the goal line with a minute remaining. Eli Manning attempted a sneak, yet he didn't go anywhere because he moved slowly. He looked like an old man at a buffet whose tray dropped, prompting him to bend over at a glacial pace to pick up his plates and silverware. Announcers Jason Witten and Booger McFarland yelled incoherently as this was going on, pleading for the Giants to attempt a real play that would result in a score or a stoppage on the clock, but Manning couldn't hear them. With time ticking down rapidly, Manning lined up under center and tried another helpless sneak. Once again, he fell down slowly like an old lady bending over to search for her glasses that fell on the floor. Witten and McFarland at this point may have had brain aneurysms. That's how irate they were about all of this.
Keep in mind that this sequence started with a minute remaining. Suddenly, there were just 10 seconds left on the clock because Manning was moving at a glacial pace. Manning finally threw a pass, and it was a touchdown to Odell Beckham Jr. Because of the earlier, nonsensical two-point attempt, the Giants needed to go for two again, and they mercifully succeeded on the try with a Saquon Barkley run. Perhaps this is the play that Shurmur was speaking of earlier.
The score was 23-20 with five seconds remaining. The Giants needed to recover an onside kick and attempt a Hail Mary, yet they didn't even try an onside kick! They just kicked it off! None of this made any sense.
This was one of the funniest endings I've ever seen, though I imagine if I had Atlanta -4, I'd be quite pissy right now. My condolences to those who wagered on the Falcons tonight. As a Giants bettor, I had no business covering.
Slow-mo sneaks aside, Manning posted a pretty stat line, going 27-of-38 for 399 yards and a touchdown. However, he did not play well. He hit several bombs, but was awful in the red zone. He misfired toward Beckham for a touchdown in the early going, then didn't see an open player in the end zone on two separate occasions. Manning barely completed any of his passes deep in Atlanta territory. And yet, Shurmur thought the Giants had a "play" for a two-point conversion. Pure genius.
Beckham (8-143) and Shepard (8-167) both caught multiple bombs, and Beckham scored the touchdown at the end. If the Giants had an average quarterback, Beckham would've caught three touchdowns. Perhaps they'll possess one once they select Justin Herbert in April, which is what I have happening in my 2019 NFL Mock Draft.
The Falcons did a good job on Barkley on the ground. Barkley was limited to just 43 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. However, he also caught nine passes for 51 receiving yards.
Matt Ryan, meanwhile, struggled with the Giants' pressure in the early going, but eventually figured them out. This involved torching inept cornerback Eli Apple who was abused all evening. Ryan posted a similar stat line to Manning, going 31-of-39 for 379 yards and a touchdown, but was clearly the superior quarterback.
Julio Jones dominated this game, but once again failed to find the end zone. Jones reeled in nine of his 12 targets for 104 yards. Jones drew a couple of downfield penalties, so he could've posted a better stat line. However, he made a mistake in the third quarter, losing a fumble in the red zone.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Calvin Ridley (5-43) converted a key third down again Apple, while Mohamed Sanu (2-21) was barely a factor. Someone named Marvin Hall (3-63) reeled in Ryan's sole touchdown. Meanwhile, tight end Austin Hooper (3-48) made a highlight catch when he grabbed the ball while leaping over a New York defender for a gain of 36 yards.
The Falcons didn't have much success running the ball against the Giants' defensive line. Tevin Coleman gained 50 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, while Ito Smith (7-16) struggled. Coleman's numbers look fine, except 30 of his 50 yards came on one burst in the second half.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.