This was one of the most pathetic displays you'll ever see from an NFL team. The Raiders were battling a third-string quarterback in this game. Nick Mullens had previously just seen preseason action, yet was thrust into this start because of C.J. Beathard's wrist injury. Yet, the Raiders surrendered 34 points.
They were a complete and utter no-show. The effort was completely absent, and the defenders were frequently out of position. The players missed tackles and blew coverages, and on one instance, they had just 10 players on the field. Jon Gruden spent a portion of the evening yelling at his defensive coordinator, Paul Guenther, who seems like a dead man walking right now. Guenther must be fired after this abomination of a performance. He completely humiliated himself and the Raiders' organization.
While the Raiders' defense wasn't expected to be great, even against Mullens, the offense was expected to produce against a San Francisco defense missing multiple key starters. Oakland went down the field on the opening drive and kicked a field goal, but that was it.
The key moment for the offense was when left tackle Kolton Miller suffered a knee injury on the initial possession. Miller went to the blue tent, prompting the drive to stall. Miller tried to give it a go on the next possession, but quickly exited. His absence created a major void on the blind side, which was a huge problem because right tackle Brandon Parker committed so many penalties that he was benched at one point. Derek Carr took six sacks as a result, as the poor pass protection prevented him from consistently moving the chains. The Raiders were just 3-of-12 on third downs despite battling a poor defense with multiple injuries.
Mullens, meanwhile, is the hero. The 49ers put forth much more energy than the Raiders did, as the players were excited that he was finally getting a chance. I watched every snap Mullens took in the preseason Thursday morning in anticipation of possibly putting the Raiders in the Supercontest, and I opted not to. While Mullens showed a weak arm, he was very accurate and made some "wow" throws.
Mullens showed more of the same in this contest. He made just two inaccurate passes, but was otherwise flawless. He didn't exactly threaten the Raiders downfield, but picked them apart with short and intermediate precise tosses. The only mistake he made was nearly throwing an interception in the end zone in the second quarter, but he responded with a touchdown pass on the very next play. Also, one of his incompletions should've been a score, as receiver Richie James dropped a potential touchdown.
Mullens finished 16-of-22 for 282 yards and three touchdowns. It's almost crazy to say this, but Mullens' numbers could've been even better. He was very good - much better than Beathard would've been - but it almost must be noted how horrible and lethargic the Raiders were. Still, it's a feel-good story for Mullens, who had a tearful interview with Erin Andrews after the game. Andrews previously reported that Mullens practiced all of the scripted plays in an empty stadium every week, so it's nice to see all of his hard work paying off.
Mullens' touchdowns went to George Kittle (4-108), Pierre Garcon (3-56) and Kendrick Bourne (2-6). Kittle had a 72-yard, one-handed grab that was an intermediate reception on a catch-and-run versus Oakland's sleepy defense. He just missed out on a score because he was tackled around the 5-yard line, but he would end up snatching a touchdown later on the drive anyway.
A dark cloud over this victory for the 49ers was a gruesome arm injury Raheem Mostert suffered in the second half. Mostert yelled in agony as his arm bent backward, which was a shame because he had been playing well; Mostert gained 86 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries. Matt Breida (12-44) was a disappointment for those who used him in DFS.
Moving back to the Raiders, they were the true winners in this game. Even though they looked absolutely atrocious and were blown out against a bad team, they'll stand to benefit, as they'll move ahead of the 49ers for the right to select Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa (see more in my 2019 NFL Mock Draft.)
Going through Oakland's stats quickly, Carr had the same exact completion percentage as Mullens. He went 16-of-22 as well, but for 171 yards instead of 262. He obviously didn't score any touchdowns. Carr tossed way too many checkdowns and didn't challenge a San Francisco secondary missing a starting safety. To be fair, he didn't have a chance because of the poor pass protection.
It's worth noting that Carr nearly had two turnovers. One was a fumble on a strip-sack that he was fortunate to recover, while the other was a dropped interception that actually bounced into the arms of a Raider for a gain of 25.
If you want evidence that Carr tossed nothing but checkdowns, his leading receiver was running back Jalen Richard, who caught four passes for 45 yards. He was the only Raider with more than 30 receiving yards. Martavis Bryant (2-29), Jared Cook (2-20) and Jordy Nelson (2-16) were all non-factors.
Doug Martin temporarily left the game with an injury, but managed to return. It didn't matter, as the Raiders were so far behind that they couldn't run the ball much. Martin gained 49 yards on 11 carries.
Bears 41, Bills 9
This game was obviously an utter blowout, but the Bears were slow to start the afternoon. The Bears were in field goal range early, but Mitchell Trubisky took a bad sack to knock his team out of scoring position. Chicago then stalled again, as Jordan Howard was stuffed on a slow-looking third-and-1 play near midfield. By halftime, the Bears had just 159 net yards of offense. And yet, they were up 28-0.
How did this happen? The Bills had three crushing turnovers that allowed the Bears to establish a huge lead. Yet, to the surprise of everyone, none of them were Nathan Peterman's fault! The first was a Roquan Smith forced fumble on someone named Jason Croom, which Eddie Jackson was able to scoop and score. Peterman then tossed two interceptions, but his receivers were responsible for those. Peterman threw a pass directly to newcomer Terrelle Pryor, and the ball bounced out of his hands. His next interception was a pick-six, which occurred because Zay Jones was hit as the ball was coming to him, which caused it to pop into the air and into the arms of Leonard Floyd for a 19-yard touchdown. The announcers were irate that no interference flag was tossed, but the officials explained that the hit took place at the line of scrimmage, so it wasn't pass interference.
Regardless, thanks to these three turnovers and a couple of nice Chicago drives, the Bears were up 28-0 at the break. The initial positive possession began when the Bills were flagged for a roughing penalty on a punt. Trubisky then converted a third-and-19 on a 26-yard pass to Trey Burton, ultimately leading to a 1-yard Howard touchdown. Howard would score again prior to halftime to extend the lead to four scores.
Trubisky didn't have to throw much, which would explain his depressed stat line of 12-of-20 for 135 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The score occurred at the very end of the game in garbage time, while his interception was a horrible overthrow way over Burton's head. That pass was actually so bad that it even might have been a miscommunication. Trubisky, as mentioned, also took a bad sack to knock his team out of field goal range when this contest was still in doubt.
Trubisky's leading receiver was Anthony Miller, who had five grabs for 49 yards. Taylor Gabriel (3-45) was next, while Burton (2-28) corralled a late touchdown to help his fantasy owners salvage what appeared to be a miserable day. Both Miller and Gabriel drew deep interference flags. Gabriel would've had a long touchdown had a Buffalo cornerback not tackled him before the ball got to him.
Howard didn't find much running room against Buffalo's great front, as he was limited to just 47 yards on 14 carries. However, he scored twice. Tarik Cohen had even less success running the ball, as his six attempts went for just five yards.
As for the Bills, Peterman's completion percentage doesn't look bad - 31-of-49 - but he had just 189 yards. He also tossed three picks. As mentioned, two interceptions weren't his fault, but the third was an underthrown ball. Peterman just checked down the entire time and never challenged a Chicago defense missing its best defensive player, Khalil Mack. His sole touchdown occurred on a garbage-time drive where the Bears gave the Bills a couple of free first downs, thanks to a face mask on a second-and-30 play and a pass interference in the end zone on third down.
If Peterman did one thing well, it was scramble. He rushed eight times for 46 yards and a garbage-time touchdown. If Peterman fails as a quarterback in the NFL, perhaps he can make a positional switch to running back. OK, maybe not. Actually, a chunk of Peterman's rushing yardage came on the final play of the opening half when he eschewed a Hail Mary attempt for some reason, opting to run for meaningless yards instead as the clock expired.
With Peterman struggling, no Buffalo receiver eclipsed 40 receiving yards. Both Logan Thomas (7-40) and Kelvin Benjamin (4-40) had that exact total. Thomas played with Charles Clay banged up, while Benjamin showed an alarmingly low level of effort in this game. He gave up on some routes and didn't try to catch a pass, intentionally flopping to the ground instead. Benjamin drew an interference flag in the end zone, which was his one positive contribution on the afternoon.
The Bills stubbornly refused to trade LeSean McCoy despite being in rebuilding mode. Continuing to rot away in Buffalo, McCoy mustered just 10 yards on as many carries. Chris Ivory (7-36) posted good numbers, but all of his rushing yardage came when the Bears stopped trying late in the game. Ivory even had one long run where he carried defenders for 15 yards. This wouldn't have happened earlier in the afternoon.
Chiefs 37, Browns 21
Another week, another blowout win for the Chiefs. They are now 8-1 after defeating the Browns in a game with a somewhat misleading score.
This was a 21-15 Kansas City lead at halftime, as the Browns were able to keep pace with the Chiefs for a while. However, a sequence in the third quarter widened the margin. The Chiefs scored on a touchdown to open the second half. The Browns took over and then had a punt blocked, setting up the Chiefs near the red zone. Following a Kareem Hunt touchdown, Kansas City was suddenly up 34-15, finally putting this game out of reach.
Patrick Mahomes was terrific once again. Misfiring on just nine occasions, Mahomes went 23-of-32 for 375 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, which was just a desperate heave on a Hail Mary right before halftime. Mahomes was otherwise relentless, commanding a Kansas City offense that accumulated 499 net yards of offense. The Browns had no chance, especially after losing several players to injury, including cornerbacks Denzel Ward and E.K. Gaines, as well as linebacker Christian Kirksey. Ward was lost midway through this game with a hip injury.
Mahomes' pick, by the way, was part of an "interesting" sequence by a horrible officiating crew. Mahomes spiked the ball to stop the clock in the 2-minute drill, but the officials flagged him for intentional grounding. Yes, intentional grounding on a spike. Then, following an illegal procedure, the officials tried to run 10 seconds off the clock, telling Kansas City that the first half was over, but they needed to be reminded that the Chiefs had a timeout to prevent the 10-second run-off. I have no idea why the refs were so awful in this game, but someone needs to tell them that a spiked ball to stop the clock shouldn't constitute as intentional grounding.
At any rate, two of Mahomes' touchdowns went to Travis Kelce, playing for the first time in Cleveland, which is his hometown. It wasn't a surprise that Kelce had a huge game - seven catches, 99 yards - as the Browns have struggled against tight ends all year. Kelce also drew an interference flag in the red zone.
Tyreek Hill (4-69) had a tough matchup against Ward until the rookie corner left the field. Ward was doing a good job shadowing Hill. Meanwhile, Sammy Watkins (5-62) had a 27-yard reception negated by a hold.
Mahomes' other score was caught by Kareem Hunt, who had a monstrous afternoon. Hunt rushed for 91 yards on 17 carries and caught a 50-yard pass. He found the end zone three times.
The Browns, meanwhile, appeared to suffer a key injury on offense when Baker Mayfield left the field after taking a huge loss on a sack in the red zone. Mayfield went to the blue tent, as Tyrod Taylor took some snaps under center, but Mayfield was able to return to action after a few plays.
Mayfield finished with a solid stat line, going 29-of-42 for 297 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, which occurred late in the game when he was baited into a throw late across his body. Mayfield faced a poor defense, but was able to move the chains well for most of the afternoon. He also saw his receivers drop more passes, though that aspect wasn't as bad as usual. Mayfield was lucky that he didn't throw a second interception earlier in the game, as Chiefs cornerback Kendall Fuller dropped a potential pick on a slant throw.
With Mayfield's left tackle out, the No. 1 overall quarterback had to resort to plenty of checkdowns to Duke Johnson. That would explain why Johnson led the team in receiving, catching all nine of his targets for 78 yards and two touchdowns. David Njoku (4-53) was next, while Jarvis Landry hauled in six of his seven targets for 50 yards. Landry went into the locker room after hurting his right arm in the second quarter, but he was able to return to the field.
While Johnson had a big receiving day, second-round rookie running back Nick Chubb had a nice performance on the ground. Despite his team trailing throughout, Chubb was able to run for 85 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Chubb converted an early fourth-and-1 at midfield, though it was clear that he didn't get past the first-down marker. Andy Reid didn't challenge for some reason. Nevertheless, the drive was ruined by a Damion Ratley drop on third down.
Dolphins 13, Jets 6
The Giants have gotten lots of flak for not selecting Sam Darnold with the second-overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but aside from a couple of games, Darnold has struggled mightily. He continued to play poorly with perhaps his worst game yet against a mediocre Miami stop unit.
Darnold was responsible for a quartet of interceptions in this game, with one gift-wrapping a victory to the Dolphins. The pick in question occurred in the fourth quarter. It was a tight 6-3 game, as the Dolphins had no hope of moving the chains at all with Brock Osweiler at the helm. The Jets had possession to potentially take the lead or tie the game with a field goal. Darnold took a high snap and panicked. He heaved the ball carelessly right to rookie Jerome Baker. The linebacker ran back to the end zone, icing the game for the Dolphins.
That wasn't the only turnover to lead to Miami points. Darnold was responsible for an interception in the first half on a telegraphed throw. Linebacker Kiko Alonso read his eyes perfectly and snatched the ball. This set up a Miami field goal. If you subtract these 10 points, the Jets would've won, 6-3.
Losses for the Jets are good at this point because they'll be in better position to get a dynamic edge rusher like Clelin Ferrell in the 2019 NFL Draft. However, Darnold's failed progression has to be alarming. Darnold, who went 21-of-39 for 229 yards and four interceptions, showed no ability to sustain drives. The thing is, while Darnold launched four picks, he easily could've had six, as Miami defenders dropped a pair of his passes in the middle of the third quarter. His receiving corps is poor, but he should've been able to play better in this game, as both Robby Anderson and Quincy Enunwa returned from injury. That said, it's worth noting that center Spencer Long had a number of bad snaps in this game, which really bothered Darnold.
Speaking of Anderson and Enunwa, the former had four catches for 32 yards, while the latter hauled in three balls for 40 yards. Enunwa's stat line may not have been great, but he had a pair of special plays. One was an incredible diving catch, while the other one saw him carry multiple defenders for about 15 yards. Both Anderson and Enunwa trailed rookie tight end Chris Herndon on the receiving chart, as he reeled in all four of his targets for 62 yards.
Isaiah Crowell handled most of the rushing workload, gaining 49 yards on 13 carries. Elijah McGuire saw some work as well. He returned from injury to gain 23 yards on six attempts. More significantly, he handled the receiving workload rather than Trenton Cannon; he had five targets and snatched three of them for 37 yards.
The Jets would've won this game had they just enjoyed below-average quarterback play. That's because Miami couldn't sustain any drives. The Dolphins were just 3-of-16 on third down and accumulated only 168 net yards of offense. They averaged a truly pathetic 3.1 yards per play, which was 1.3 worse than the Jets' figure of 4.4.
None of this should've been surprising because Brock Osweiler was truly atrocious. He went 15-of-24 for only 139 yards. Osweiler spent most of the afternoon completing checkdowns and sailing bad passes downfield. He overshot Danny Amendola on a deep throw, then fired behind DeVante Parker, who had just one catch for eight yards. Osweiler also took four sacks, thanks in part to left tackle Laremy Tunsil's injury.
With Osweiler just having success on checkdowns, Amendola led the way with five catches for 47 yards. Kenyan Drake (4-26) was the only other Dolphin with more than 20 receiving yards. Kenny Stills (1-19) was close to eclipsing that mark.
While Drake did some work in the passing game, he barely saw any carries for some reason. He had just three rushes for nine yards, while Frank Gore wasted 20 carries, turning them into 53 yards. It's unclear why the Dolphins think the ancient Gore is a better option than the promising Drake. However, it's worth noting that Gore, who converted a fourth-and-1 on the second drive, passed Barry Sanders to be sixth on the all-time rushing list.
Vikings 24, Lions 9
Someone saying that games being won in the trenches is a cliche, but cliches are said often for a reason. That cliche definitely applied in this game, as the Vikings absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
This was most apparent when the Lions had possession. Minnesota suffocated Matthew Stafford, sacking him a ridiculous 10 times, a career-high number for Stafford. The offensive line wasn't responsible for all 10 sacks - Stafford held on to the ball too long on four of the 10 sacks - but the Vikings swarmed him mercilessly. One instance in which this was apparent didn't even involve a sack. Stafford scrambled right under pressure in a 17-6 game. He was about to get hit, so he pitched the ball backward to Kerryon Johnson, who wasn't prepared to catch it. It was a fumble as a result, and Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter was able to scoop and score to put the game out of reach.
It's unclear why the Lions couldn't block the Vikings, aside from Golden Tate no longer being on the team, resulting in some coverage sacks. They've spent several resources on improving their blocking over the past few seasons, yet it looked like they had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL against Minnesota. Obviously, the Vikings' front is ferocious, but the Lions' blocking should be better than this.
Meanwhile, the Vikings were able to protect Kirk Cousins and open up a huge hole for Dalvin Cook, who made his return from an extended absence. Cook exploded for a 70-yard run in the second quarter to set up a Cousins touchdown to Adam Thielen.
Cook and Latavius Murray ended up splitting carries evenly. Both had 10 attempts, with Cook outgaining Murray, 89-31, thanks to his 70-yard burst. However, Cook made a mistake in this game, dropping a pitch from Cousins in what resulted as a lost fumble while in field goal range that the Lions were able to recover. Murray, meanwhile, scored a touchdown on what initially appeared to be a fumble recovered by Kyle Rudolph.
Cousins finished 18-of-22 for 164 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Cousins had just four incompletions, but one was an ugly interception tossed into double coverage. He also missed Thielen for a third-down conversion in the first half. Cousins should've had a second score, but Aldrick Robinson dropped a deep pass. It was a disappointing fantasy day for Cousins, but it needs to be noted that he didn't have Stefon Diggs at his disposal.
With Diggs out, top Lions cornerback Darius Slay was able to shadow Thielen, who didn't do much outside of the touchdown. Thielen failed to reach 100 receiving yards for the first time all year. He didn't even get a quarter of that, as his four catches went for just 22 yards. Laquon Treadwell (2-37) led the Vikings in receiving. Rudolph (2-28) was a major disappointment, especially after the fumble recovery touchdown was removed from his stat line.
Going back to Detroit's offense, Stafford's numbers weren't impressive, which shouldn't be a surprise, given the 10 sacks and Tate's departure. Stafford completed 25-of-36 passes, but for only 199 yards. He also lost the aforementioned fumble on the horrible lateral to Kerryon Johnson.
Speaking of Johnson, he got most of the workload once again. Johnson had 12 carries compared to LeGarrette Blount's five, outgaining the big back, 37-8. The blocking just wasn't there. Blount actually took a 4-yard loss on one occasion as he was trying to pitch back a flea flicker to Stafford. That's how dominant the Vikings were on the line of scrimmage.
Marvin Jones led the Lions in receiving yards with six catches for 66 yards. Kenny Golladay once again disappointed (3-46). Stafford simply didn't have the pass protection to locate his talented receivers. This was quite apparent when Stafford scrambled away from pass-rushers to throw to Golladay while on the run. Golladay was open for a huge gain, but Stafford misfired because of the pressure.
Panthers 42, Buccaneers 28
Ryan Fitzpatrick may have dazzled in the second half of last week's loss to the Bengals in what was nearly a furious comeback, but whatever "Fitzmagic" he had in that contest completely disappeared in Carolina. This was evident when Fitzpatrick set up Carolina's first touchdown, as an ugly pass of his was picked off and returned to the Tampa 10-yard line. A quick touchdown later set the tone for the afternoon, as the Panthers were able to establish a 35-7 lead.
Some Tampa screw-ups helped the Panthers - including a poorly attempted fake punt - but Carolina would've triumphed in a blowout anyway. The Buccaneers had no answer for Christian McCaffrey. The dynamic back had an early 32-yard screen pass that featured a hurdle, setting up his own 3-yard touchdown run to put Carolina up 14-0. McCaffrey would end up reaching the end zone once again in the second quarter, and he was able to accumulate 99 net yards of offense in the opening half alone. Meanwhile, Curtis Samuel scored on a double reverse, featuring the worst tackling efforts you'll ever see, while Greg Olsen later hauled in an impressive one-handed touchdown catch, which gave Carolina an insurmountable 35-7 advantage. The Buccaneers tried to mount a comeback and came within seven, but the Panthers were able to put them away.
McCaffrey's huge first half extended after the break. He rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries and caught five passes for a team-leading 78 receiving yards. McCaffrey had an early touchdown vultured by someone named Alex Armah, so it's nice that he was able to bounce back with a couple of scores for his fantasy owners.
As for Cam Newton, he didn't have a great fantasy afternoon, but was highly efficient. Newton misfired on just six occasions against Tampa's atrocious secondary. He went 19-of-25 for 247 yards and two touchdowns. Newton, of course, did some damage on the ground as well, picking up 33 yards on 11 scrambles. Newton appeared to run for a touchdown on one occasion, but the score was negated by an illegal procedure penalty.
Newton's touchdowns went to Olsen (6-76) and Samuel (2-25). Olsen, as mentioned, had a fantastic, one-handed touchdown that's worth checking out if you didn't see it. Meanwhile, D.J. Moore was a huge disappointment following last week's breakout performance. Moore caught just one of his two targets for 16 yards.
As for the Buccaneers, Fitzpatrick was able to bloat his numbers because of some major garbage yardage that occurred when the team was down 35-7. Fitzpatrick went 24-of-40 for 243 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. He also fumbled on a Mario Addison strip-sack while down 35-21, but he was lucky a teammate recovered.
It was mentioned that one of Fitzpatrick's picks set up the Panthers with a quick score. The other ended the game, as it occurred when the Buccaneers were down by 14 in the final quarter. It was an underthrown ball, picked off by rookie cornerback Donte Jackson. Fitzpatrick was only able to register significant numbers late in the afternoon, as he saw lots of pressure in the early going.
Adam Humphries was one of the primary recipients of Fitzpatrick's garbage-time performance. He caught all eight of his targets for 82 yards and two touchdowns. There might be a rush to acquire him on the fantasy waiver wire, but I don't think he's a viable starter in non-PPR leagues.
Meanwhile, O.J. Howard (4-53) also caught two touchdowns. He and Humphries were well ahead of the other Tampa receivers, as Chris Godwin (2-40), DeSean Jackson (2-32) and Mie Evans (1-16) were huge disappointments. Jackson drew an interference flag in the red zone, while Evans was extremely inefficient, failing to haul in all but one of his 10 targets. Fitzpatrick just didn't have time to locate Evans properly downfield.
Peyton Barber struggled to find any room versus Carolina's terrific front seven. He was limited to just 31 yards on 11 carries. Making matters worse, Barber injured his ankle late in the game.
Atlanta's offense came alive in a dominating performance against Washington to keep the Falcons in the playoff race with a much-needed road win. The Redskins are seeing their hold on the NFC East get more precarious, but they are still in the driver's seat at 5-3.
The Redskins really struggled to stop the run in 2017, but entering this game, they were second in the NFL at stopping rushing attacks. The defense fell apart against Atlanta, which had a huge performance. The Falcons dominantly totaled 491 yards on offense with 154 on the ground.
The Falcons found the end zone on their opening drive, as Matt Ryan moved the ball with some short passes. A screen to Tevin Coleman resulted in a 39-yard touchdown, and Atlanta had some great blocks to spring Coleman, including a great one by Mohamed Sanu (4-45). On his next possession, Ryan continued to move the ball, but Calvin Ridley (6-71-1) ran the wrong route in the red zone and Quintin Dunbar picked off the pass. That briefly slowed down Ryan, but on the next possession, he ripped the ball down the field using Julio Jones and Austin Hooper (3-41) for gains over 20 yards. Ito Smith then (10-60-1) charged into the end zone.
The Redskins finally got on the board after Alex Smith used his tight ends to move the ball and then made a great play himself, breaking three tackles to avoid a sack and running downfield for 22 yards. To finish the drive, Smith threw a fade to Josh Doctson (3-31-1) for the score. Ryan then moved the ball across midfield before hitting an on-the-run Ridley, who exploded down the field for a 40-yard touchdown. That gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead at the halftime.
Ryan continued to rip the Washington defense to open the third quarter, moving the ball down the field and then scoring a pass in the flat to Coleman for a 10-yard touchdown. Washington got moving when Smith found Maurice Harris downfield for 33 yards. Harris made a tremendous leaping grab over a defender to bring in the pass. Smith went back to Harris for 15 yards, and two completions to Vernon Davis then set up a first-and-goal situation that led to Kapri Bibbs (3-20-1) running into the end zone.
Atlanta added to its lead early in the fourth quarter after Josh Norman was assessed a 47-yard pass interference penalty against Julio Jones. That set up a short field goal for a 31-14 lead with seven minutes remaining. Falcons safety Davonte Kazee soon intercepted a deflected pass to set up the Falcons for more points. To ice the game, a wide receiver screen to Julio Jones resulted in a 35-yard touchdown. That was his first score of the season.
Ryan completed 26-of-39 for 350 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. Julio Jones caught seven passes for 121 yards with a touchdown.
Coleman ran for 88 yards won 13 carries with five receptions for 68 yards and two touchdowns.
Alex Smith completed 30-of-46 passes for 306 yards with a touchdown and interception. Harris had 10 receptions for 124 yards to lead Washington through the air.
Adrian Peterson was held to 17 yards on nine carries.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I can't believe Josh Dobbs converted that second-and-20 from his own end zone. Unreal. That was the key moment in the game. Oh, and by the way, did anyone actually believe Ben Roethlisberger was injured when he was rolling around on the ground for a while? What a drama queen!
The Steelers were dominated by the Ravens at Heinz Field just over a month ago, pushing Pittsburgh to a 1-2-1 record and a home loss to their division rivals, while the Ravens improved their record to 3-1 as they battled Cincinnati for the top spot in the AFC North. But, what a difference a month makes in the NFL. Coming into Week 9, Pittsburgh led the division at 4-2-1, while the Ravens had fallen to 4-4 after receiving a beatdown in Carolina. That set up a huge game for both teams, as the Steelers needed a win to keep from losing two games and a tiebreaker to the Ravens, while Baltimore needed to get back ahead in the win column to keep up with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh had lost four of their last five in Baltimore, and Roethlisberger had accumulated just nine touchdown passes to 13 interceptions in his 10 games played in Baltimore for his career. The Steelers' past was not looking kindly on the Steelers' present, but of course this was a new day and we watched as Roethlisberger led his team into Baltimore, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for another, as he put up his best game in Baltimore for his career.
The Ravens did get on the board first after a promising drive, punctuated with a great grab by Chris Moore for 30 yards, ended with a 23-yard Justin Tucker field goal. This has been a problem for the Ravens, not being able to close out drives, and that falls on Joe Flacco's back.
The Steelers' defense has shown marked improvement since their loss to the Ravens in Pittsburgh, and that can be seen in Flacco's numbers especially, as he threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns at 8.64 yards per attempt, a 66.7 completion percentage and a 109.5 quarterback rating at Heinz Field, but was held to 209 yards passing for no touchdowns at 5.6 yards per attempt, a 62-percent completion rate and a 77.4 quarterback rating at home. His inability to stretch the field with John Brown this time around hurt and was due in part to a strong Steelers pass rush that got to Flacco twice, but also hurried him enough to keep him from finding anyone deep.
After a strong start to the season, Flacco has now thrown four touchdowns to four interceptions over his last five games, and his team has slipped to two games behind the Steelers and 1.5 games behind the Bengals in the division. Flacco's hot start appeared to be linked to a renewed energy after the Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson in the first round, but that energy appears to be fizzling a bit and Jackson continue to see work. I don't expect Jackson to take over with the Ravens just two games out of first, but I do think they will keep working him in the offense, and if Baltimore can't make a move in the standings, Jackson could be given starts in a lost season.
Flacco also missed a wide-open Jackson in the end zone on third-and-goal, leading to Baltimore's first stalled drive of the game. Jackson couldn't have been any more open than he was, and Flacco was oblivious, making a weak throw into coverage over the middle.
James Conner only saw nine rushing attempts in these rivals' first matchup and only put up 19 rushing yards, as the Steelers abandoned the run due to their scoreboard deficit. This week, it was a different story, as Conner topped his 19 yards gained in Week 4 in his first two rushing attempts. His presence was felt all game, with runs that always seemed to go a couple more yards than the Ravens appeared to allow. He totaled 163 yards and a receiving touchdown, his 10th score of the season, which sets a Pittsburgh record through eight games. Conner's 107 rushing yards also mark the first time an opposing back has topped 100 yards rushing against Baltimore since Week 7 of last season.
If Le'Veon Bell ever returns, will he get his job back? There is no doubt that Bell does some things on the field that Conner can't, but the proof is in the statistical pudding that Conner has outperformed Bell in many ways. Bell's return would probably be a great problem to have, but I could also see it messing with each back's game flow if they were to split work.
Flacco and company did make a move on the Ravens' first drive of the second half, as Alex Collins ran in a 1-yard touchdown to bring them within seven points. The Steelers, however, never felt in jeopardy to let the afternoon slip through their fingers, as they held the Ravens to 50 offensive yards over the rest of the game.
The Steelers have a quick turnaround as they take on the red-hot 6-2 Carolina Panthers at home on Thursday night. That should be a good game. The Ravens get a bye next week and then take on the Bengals in what appears to be a must-win.
EDITOR'S NOTE: What a great strategy Vance Joseph had to settle for a 51-yard field goal to potentially win the game! It truly was remarkable, and I imagine that this is something NFL teams will be able to copy over the coming weeks. Rather than giving themselves a better chance to prevail, they'll just settle for 51-yard field goals. What truly flawless innovation!
The Texans have had a lot go their way in their six-game winning streak, and that luck continued in Denver, where they escaped with the road win. Both teams played well defensively, but the Broncos' special teams let them down, and they fell to 3-6 on the season.
The Texans took the opening drive down the field with two receptions to the newly acquired Demaryius Thomas (3-61) for 49 yards, and then Jordan Thomas beat Josey Jewell to the back corner of the end zone for a short touchdown reception. Denver took advantage of good field position and had a 21-yard pass to Courtland Sutton to set up a field goal. Houston once again drove into Denver territory, but Bradley Chubb came up with a tackle for a loss on fourth-and-1 to get the ball back. A huge play in the game happened shortly later when Devontae Booker demonstrated terrible ball security and fumbled the ball back to Houston at the Denver 22. A few plays later, Deshaun Watson found DeAndre Hopkins wide open for a 17-yard touchdown as Justin Simmons blew the coverage. Houston mixed the extra point, but was up 13-3.
Denver got moving when tight end Matt LaCosse got open along the sideline and took the catch downfield for a 44-yard gain. Case Keenum used tight end Jeff Heuerman for two receptions for 24 yards, and Booker (3-15-1) then ran the ball into the end zone from 14 yards out. Just before the half, the Texans tacked on a field goal to lead to 16-10 at intermission.
Keenum used Sutton (3-57) to move the ball across midfield to start the third quarter, and then Philip Lindsay started to rip off yards to get inside the 10-yard line. On third-and-goal, Keenum threw a magnificent pass between Kareem Jackson and Benardrick McKinney to Heuerman for a 12-yard score. Houston then moved down the field thanks to a 15-yard completion to Hopkins, and a huge penalty on Su'a Cravens gifted the Texans a first down. Chubb came through with a sack to force a field goal, but Houston retook the lead 19-17 early in the fourth quarter.
Both teams' defenses came up with stops until late in the fourth quarter, when Denver was down to its final chance. Keenum made critical third-down and fourth-down conversions with passes to Heuerman. On a fourth-and-8, Emmanuel Sanders ran a great route to beat Kareem Jackson and Justin Reid for an 18-yard gain inside the Houston 40-yard line. However, on the final play of the game, Brandon McManus missed a 51-yard field goal to give Houston the win.
Watson completed 17-of-24 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. Hopkins had 10 receptions for 105 yards and one of those scores.
Alfred Blue (15-39) led Houston in rushing, while Lamar Miller (12-21 rushing, 2-27 receiving) was held in check.
Keenum completed 26-of-42 passes for 290 yards and a touchdown. Heuerman led the Broncos in receiving with 10 catches for 83 yards and a score.
Lindsay ran for 60 yards on 17 carries.
The defensive stars of the game were Von Miller, J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Chubb. They all played well with some huge plays, and each one recorded a sack.
Chargers 25, Seahawks 17
The fact that the Seahawks had a chance to win at the end is a testament to how incredible Russell Wilson is. Nothing was going right for the Seahawks in this game. Their offensive line, which seemingly had improved recently because of some easy matchups, couldn't block the Chargers at all. Wilson took four sacks and was hurried on countless drop-backs. He couldn't keep drives alive. He was even pick-sixed. The Chargers led 25-10, and it appeared as though Seattle wouldn't have a chance.
That's when Wilson came alive. He engineered a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and then got the ball back once the Chargers punted on the ensuing possession. Wilson drove the Seahawks all the way to the 1-yard line, thanks to a pass interference in the end zone. Unfortunately for Wilson, that's when his teammates let him down once again. Guard J.R. Sweezy false started, taking the ball back to the 6-yard line. Wilson then delivered a strike to receiver David Moore, but he dropped the ball, which went right to his hands. Game over.
Wilson finished 26-of-39 for 235 yards, two touchdowns and a pick-six, which occurred when Wilson didn't see Desmond King, who read the quarterback's eyes perfectly. Wilson also scrambled five times for 41 rushing yards. Wilson showed that he can keep his team competitive, but he needs help. He has no viable receivers outside of Doug Baldwin, and his offensive line predictably took a step backward.
The Chargers, meanwhile, should never have been in position to lose. Kicker Caleb Sturgis whiffed on a 42-yard kick and missed two extra points. The Chargers should've been up 30-17 at the end, negating any sort of chance for Wilson. San Angeles may have won, but the kicking game will continue to be a huge worry.
It's hard to believe, but Philip Rivers converted just half of his passes. However, his 13-of-26 day went for 228 yards and two touchdowns, as Rivers located his receivers for several deep strikes. The Chargers averaged a ridiculous 10 yards per play in the opening half. They struggled to sustain drives following intermission, however, allowing the Seahawks to creep back into the game. Rivers was also lucky to get away with a potential interception, but the Seahawks dropped the ball.
Keenan Allen was one of the Chargers who hauled in a deep pass, snatching a 54-yard bomb on a third-and-15. Allen caught six passes for 124 yards. He also dropped a ball. Meanwhile, Mike Williams caught a 30-yard touchdown even though replay review clearly showed that he stepped out of bounds, while Tyrell Williams (2-23) secured the other score.
Melvin Gordon had a great return from injury, picking up 113 yards and a touchdown on only 16 carries. Gordon didn't have as much of a workload as you'd expect because the Chargers lost the time-of-possession battle by 11 minutes as a result of the Chargers hitting big plays throughout the opening half.
Going back to the Seahawks, they had some success running the ball during the opening half, as Chris Carson gained 40 yards on eight carries. Carson, however, was knocked out with a thigh injury and didn't play in the second half. That allowed Mike Davis (15-62) and Rashaad Penny (4-11) to split the workload late in the game. Davis, who also caught seven passes for 45 receiving yards, will be worth adding to fantasy rosters if Carson misses action.
Doug Baldwin led Seattle in receiving with four grabs for 77 yards. He played well, and his numbers would've been even better had a reception of his that moved the Seahawks into the red zone not been wiped out by a completely bogus offensive pass interference by David Moore. And speaking of Moore, he and Tyler Lockett (3-22) were big disappointments. Moore (2-16) dropped two touchdowns, including the last play of the game.
Meanwhile, Wilson's touchdowns were thrown to tight end Nick Vannett (6-52) and Jaron Brown (1-10). It wasn't a surprise to see Vannett play well, as the Chargers have issues in their linebacking corps.
Saints 45, Rams 35
The Rams didn't have a marquee road victory all year, as their top wins as visitors were against the likes of the Seahawks and Broncos. They finally had a real road test in New Orleans, and they came up short.
This was a tie game at 35 in the fourth quarter, but only because the Saints fell asleep at the wheel. They were up 35-14 at one point in the second quarter, thanks to a sequence that began with a fake field goal attempt by the Rams. Eschewing three points following a Mark Ingram punt, the Rams had punter/holder Johnny Hekker run for the first down. He was inches shy, and the Saints took over and marched down the field twice. Following a missed 51-yard field goal by the Rams, and a Jared Goff interception in the 2-minute drill - a great catch by linebacker Alex Anzalone - the Saints were able to score once again to go up 21.
The Rams made some great adjustments at halftime to make a comeback, but the Saints finally awakened when it mattered most. They scored a field goal and a touchdown on a long bomb from Drew Brees to Michael Thomas on two possessions, and they were able to limit the Rams following those scores. They got the ball back, up 45-35, and they never relinquished possession, picking up a first down on a well-designed Alvin Kamara fourth-down run to ice the game.
Brees was magnificent as always in the Superdome, lighting up the Rams' banged-up cornerbacks relentlessly. Brees finished 25-of-36 for 346 yards and four touchdowns. If it wasn't for Patrick Mahomes, Brees would have just established himself as the leader in the MVP race.
Thomas was a monster in this game, eating the Rams' decimated secondary alive. He caught 12 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown, which was a 72-yard bomb to put the Saints up 10 at the very end of the game. Thomas then "found" an old cell phone underneath the goal post, evoking the touchdown celebration that former Saints receiver Joe Horn performed 15 years ago. The FOX announcers didn't quite seem to recognize what this was an homage too, but it was very cool to see.
Earlier in the game, Thomas drew a deep pass interference flag on struggling cornerback Marcus Peters. Thomas routinely broke tackles after most of his receptions. He had an incredible game.
Brees' other three touchdowns were thrown to Ben Watson (3-62), Kamara and Tre'Quan Smith (2-23). Watson made an amazing catch in this game, snatching the ball over a linebacker's head.
Kamara, meanwhile, found the end zone thrice. He rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, while also catching four balls for 34 receiving yards and another score through the air. The Rams had no answer for Kamara, who picked up the final yard to seal the victory for the Saints. Mark Ingram, on the other hand, didn't do much, tallying just 33 yards on nine carries. He also lost a fumble in his own territory, but the Rams didn't capitalize because of the aforementioned failed fake field goal.
As for the Rams, Jared Goff posted some terrific numbers, going 28-of-40 for 391 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. This loss wasn't really Goff's fault, as he led a furious comeback from down 35-14. However, he could've been better on third down, as he converted just 3-of-8 attempts, while the Saints were 7-of-12. There were a couple of occasions in which Goff threw short of the first-down marker on third down on a conservative approach, which was odd, given that the Rams have been so aggressive under Sean McVay. Perhaps they'll approach the rematch differently if these teams meet in the NFC Championship.
While the Saints had trouble stopping Goff's downfield throws, they were able to put the clamps on Todd Gurley. They limited the MVP candidate to just 68 yards on 13 carries. Gurley also didn't do much as a receiver, as he caught six passes, but for only 11 receiving yards. The Saints made it their mission to restrict Gurley, and that's exactly what they were able to do.
Goff's touchdowns were thrown to Brandin Cooks (6-114), Cooper Kupp (5-89) and Malcolm Brown, who somehow tight-roped the sideline after catching the ball. Robert Woods didn't score, but he saw the most targets (9). He reeled in five of them for 71 yards.
Patriots 31, Packers 17
This was a tight game for most of the evening. It was actually tied heading into the fourth quarter, and the Packers were driving into New England territory. They were a few yards shy of the red zone, so they were about to take the lead, when disaster struck. Aaron Jones lost a fumble, and the Patriots recovered. New England responded with a touchdown and then tacked on another seven to put this game out of reach for the Packers. The victory was the sixth straight for New England, while the Packers dropped to 3-4-1.
It was odd to see the Patriots stuck on 17 points after three quarters, but Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine called a terrific game. However, three things happened. First, Green Bay safety Jermaine Whitehead, taking the place of the traded Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, was thrown out of the game for slapping a Patriot, which was a bogus call, per the NBC announcing crew. Second, the Packers roughed a punter - another shaky call, as it should've been a 5-yard penalty - on a fourth-and-21 to give New England a free first down, which flipped field position. And third, star Packers linebacker Blake Martinez was carted off the field in the second half with a rolled ankle. He was able to return to the field by the end of the game, but by then, it was too late.
The Packers were able to use Martinez as an occasional blitzer, and Brady had some negative moments in this game. In fact, he misfired on a career-high seven consecutive passes. However, he was able to come through in the clutch.
Brady finished 22-of-35 for 294 yards and a touchdown. The numbers don't look great, but he had a big fourth quarter on two touchdown drives to put the game out of reach for the Packers. Also, remember that Brady didn't have Rob Gronkowski at his disposal. Gronkowski's absence was huge even though he hasn't played at a very high level this year, as he would've commanded lots of attention from the Green Bay defense.
With Gronkowski out, Josh Gordon led the team with five catches for 130 yards and a touchdown, including a 55-yard score in the fourth quarter where Brady fooled the defensive backs by faking a screen. Gordon saw 10 targets, as did Julian Edelman, who hauled in six balls for 71 yards. Edelman also threw a 37-yard pass on a trick play to James White.
Speaking of White, he scored two touchdowns, gaining 31 rushing yards on 12 carries. White was also big in the passing attack, catching six balls for 72 yards. White got injured in the second quarter, but managed to return following intermission. His brief absence allowed Cordarrelle Patterson to have opportunities as a runner. Patterson was impressive, especially on one touchdown drive in the second quarter. Patterson rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown on 11 tries.
Meanwhile, the Packers suffered a major injury on offense to complement Martinez getting knocked out. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga got hurt, and his absence hindered the Packers' pass protection. Green Bay scored just seven points after intermission, in part because of Bulaga's injury. The inexperience of the receiving corps was also a factor, as Aaron Rodgers was visibly frustrated at times at his wideouts not running routes correctly.
Rodgers finished 24-of-43 for 259 yards and two touchdowns. This was his first game without a knee brace, but he's still not 100 percent. He also needs better receivers. Geronimo Allison's absence hurt, but the Packers' inability to replace Jordy Nelson this past offseason is hurting Rodgers.
Rodgers' touchdowns went to Jimmy Graham (4-55) and Davante Adams (6-40). Adams nearly hauled in a second score, but Stephon Gilmore made a terrific play to break up the pass. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who made a great, 23-yard catch while falling out of bounds, led the Packers in receiving with three grabs for 101 yards.
Jones, despite fumbling, paced Green Bay in rushing with 76 yards on just 14 carries. Jamaal Williams (7-34) has clearly taken a back seat, and rightfully so.
Titans 28, Cowboys 14
The Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper during the bye, so expectations were high. In fact, they opened as 6.5-point favorites over the Titans. Things looked good early when they recovered a fumble and scored a touchdown on a Dak Prescott-to-Cooper throw.
And then, they were outscored 28-7 the rest of the way. Cooper played well, but he did not solve the primary issue the Cowboys have, which is their offensive line. They've lost a couple of key players to free agency and injury, and they never properly replaced them. They have three liabilities up front - without even counting Zack Martin, who is playing hurt - and the Cowboys couldn't protect Dak Prescott or block for Ezekiel Elliott as a result. Prescott was constantly swarmed in the backfield, while Elliott didn't have any running room.
Beginning with Prescott, he was sacked five times, and because of the pressure, he was rushed into throws and couldn't deliver the ball with proper accuracy. For instance, he missed Cole Beasley for a deep touchdown on the opening drive. He then heaved an interception into the end zone two possessions later. He whiffed on a receiver in the end zone in the fourth quarter. Prescott was also strip-sacked in the third quarter, setting up the Titans with a short field.
Prescott finished 21-of-31 for 243 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of turnovers. The numbers don't look bad, but Prescott has continued his big step backward following a strong rookie campaign. It doesn't appear as though Prescott will rebound until the Cowboys bolster their blocking.
Elliott, as mentioned, didn't have strong blocking in front of him. Elliott was limited to just 61 yards on 17 carries by a Tennessee defense that has been stout versus ground attacks for most of the year. Elliott helped his PPR fantasy owners with four catches for 51 receiving yards, but this was a disappointing night for him. Like Prescott, Elliott won't return to his 2016 glory until the offensive line is improved.
As for Cooper, the former Raider receiver led the Cowboys in yardage. He caught five of his eight targets for 58 yards and a touchdown. Cooper played well, but he's not the No. 1 receiver Jerry Jones envisions him to be. Cooper is more of a second option. The Raiders got away with pure robbery by stealing Dallas' first-round pick in the trade.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Michael Gallup (3-51) was right behind Cooper in the box score. Allen Hurns (1-23) caught Prescott's other touchdown.
Adding injury to insult, the Cowboys lost two members of their front seven, as Sean Lee and Taco Charlton were knocked out of the game. Lee's injury is obviously more significant, as a balky hamstring sent him into the locker room.
Moving on to the Titans, they absolutely needed this win. They have to battle the Patriots on a short work week coming up, so achieving a victory here was essential if they wanted to keep pace with the Texans in the AFC South.
The Titans, however, didn't appear as though they wanted to win this game in the early going. They were very sloppy with the football. Marcus Mariota was strip-sacked when DeMarcus Lawrence beat talented right tackle Jack Conklin, resulting in Dallas' opening touchdown of the night. Dion Lewis then lost a fumble on the second drive. The Cowboys drove down the field, but they turned the ball over themselves. The Cowboys could've gone up double digits, but the give-away - Prescott's pick into the end zone - allowed the Titans to stay within their game plan and keep the ball on the ground.
Tennessee did just that, engineering a 9-minute drive to tie the game at seven. Dion Lewis picked up some nice gains, while Mariota had key third-down conversions. That continued the rest of the evening, including a second-quarter pass where he connected with receiver Darius Jennings for a 36-yard gain in between three defenders.
Mariota was mostly excellent in this game following the lost fumble. He didn't see Jonnu Smith for a big gain, and he threw behind a receiver for a potential touchdown, but he otherwise was 21-of-29 for 240 yards and two passing touchdowns to go along with 10 scrambles for 32 rushing yards and a third score. Mariota needs to make some improvements to avoid the small blunders, but the potential is certainly there if he can stay healthy.
Like Mariota, Lewis was able to bounce back after giving the ball away. Lewis led the Titans in both rushing and receiving. He gained 62 rushing yards on 19 carries and caught four passes for 60 receiving yards and a touchdown. With Lee out, Lewis was able to have more success as a receiver out of the backfield. Meanwhile, Derrick Henry (6-27) also scored. He saw far less work than Lewis, and rightfully so.
Save for Lewis, Tennessee's leader in receiving was Corey Davis, who hauled in six of his 10 targets for 56 yards. Davis could've had a touchdown, as he was open in the end zone, but Mariota missed him. Jonnu Smith (2-33) caught a score.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.