You may have never known it if you tuned into the beginning of the fourth quarter and saw that the score was 31-14, but it seemed as though the Cowboys were going to win this game during the opening frame. They had a great initial drive with four third-down conversions. Ezekiel Elliott eventually plunged into the end zone to take a 7-0 lead. They were able to force Mitchell Trubisky into a perplexing interception after that, as Trubisky nonsensically tossed the ball toward multiple Dallas players. The Cowboys had possession with a touchdown advantage at the end of the first quarter, so it was apparent that Dallas would be the team that would improve its record to 7-6.
And yet, the Bears outscored the Cowboys after that, 31-7, prior to garbage time. It was an unfathomable outcome, which was the result of vastly improved play from Trubisky and absolutely horrid coaching from Jason Garrett.
Beginning with Garrett, it was amazing that the Cowboys didn't take advantage of all the injuries the Bears suffered defensively. Already without Akiem Hicks, Chicago ruled out Prince Amukamara and Danny Trevathan prior to this game, and then lost Roquan Smith to an early injury. A smart coach would've found a way to take advantage of this, especially with the Bears having a replacement-level player at one of their outside cornerback spots. And yet, Garrett never bothered to have Dak Prescott target Kevin Toliver. That was completely inexplicable.
Instead, Dallas ran dumb plays. For instance, Prescott targeted a third-string running back on a third down, when the player, who was only on the field because of Tony Pollard's injury, thought he was running a wheel route.
The Cowboys also looked sloppy and lethargic. The receivers dropped multiple passes, while Prescott missed some routine throws. Their defense, meanwhile, showed some horrible tackling, particularly on a third-and-9 that Cordarrelle Patterson never should've converted.
As for Trubisky, he looked like the 2018 version of himself. The 2019 Trubisky had just 26 scrambles on the year heading into this game after being a frequent runner the season before. It was always unclear why Trubisky stopped scrambling, but he changed his attitude against the Cowboys. Trubisky ran nine times in this game alone, picking up 64 rushing yards and a touchdown in the process. The fact that he was scrambling made the Cowboys respect that aspect of the Chicago offense, which allowed Trubisky to convert a key third down late in the evening with a pass by faking the run.
Trubisky wasn't just a successful runner in this game, though scrambling certainly helped him torch the Cowboys, particularly on third down. Trubisky finished 23-of-31 for 244 yards, three touchdowns and the early interception.
Two of Trubisky's touchdowns went to Allen Robinson, who led the team in receiving with five catches for 48 yards (excluding J.P. Holtz and his fluky three catches for 56 yards.) Anthony Miller was next with three grabs for 42 yards, and he hauled in the other Trubisky score.
David Montgomery had some success running on the Cowboys - 20 carries, 86 yards - but one of the dark clouds over this victory for the Bears was that Montgomery suffered an injury in the fourth quarter, causing him to go into the dreaded blue tent. It's unclear how severe Montgomery's injury is.
Ezekiel Elliott nearly posted the same stat line as Montgomery - 19 carries, 81 yards - but he rushed in two touchdowns. Elliott should've had a monster night against a poor Chicago run defense, but he didn't get much of an opportunity because his team was way behind for more than half the game.
Prescott, meanwhile, had a dreadful performance, despite the yardage total. Prescott ended up going 27-of-49 for 334 yards and a touchdown, but most of his numbers came in garbage time. Prescott was just 6-of-13 for 60 yards in the opening half, which is more indicative of how he performed. He was woefully inaccurate for most of the evening, and he also had a potential pick-six that was dropped.
Prescott's lone score went to Amari Cooper. It didn't seem like Cooper was 100 percent, yet he caught six passes for 83 yards. He trailed only Michael Gallup (6-109) in the box score. Gallup had a nice night, save for an ugly drop.
Ravens 24, Bills 17
Lamar Jackson has gotten all of the accolades for Baltimore's great start this season, and rightfully so. However, it was Baltimore's stop unit that came up with a monstrous performance in this defensive slugfest.
The Ravens' defense was able to force an early turnover in a 3-0 affair when it strip-sacked Josh Allen. The take-away set up a touchdown, giving Baltimore a double-digit lead. This was one of six times the Ravens sacked the mobile Allen, which was impressive. Baltimore constantly swarmed the backfield, creating major problems. Allen even limped off the field after being sacked on a third down prior to halftime. Pressure continued to disrupt drives, including the final one. A sack moved Allen into a fourth-and-16, so it looked like Baltimore would come away with a victory. Allen, however, got bailed out by a pass interference, giving him another chance. However, the Ravens stopped the Bills again. More pressure on early downs created a fourth-and-8 situation. Allen fired a pass, but the ball was broken up by new cornerback Marcus Peters.
Baltimore's stop unit limited Allen to 17-of-39 passing for 146 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens did not allow Allen to scramble either, restricting him to just nine yards on the ground on two carries. Allen simply had no hope with all of the pressure he was constantly seeing, and on the occasions in whiche he had time in the pocket, he developed a habit of overthrowing his intended receivers deep downfield. Allen had three deep overthrows in the first quarter alone, though it's worth noting that the heavy winds may have had something to do with it because one of Allen's attempted bombs going the other way in the second quarter was woefully underthrown.
On the other side of the ball, Jackson had a mediocre performance. His stat line looks fine - 16-of-25 for 145 yards, three touchdowns and an interception - but most of his production came on a 61-yard score to Hayden Hurst on a busted coverage. Otherwise, Jackson struggled to move the chains, going just 3-of-11 on third down. Jackson was errant on some passes - including his pick, which was behind Willie Snead - so Buffalo's defense gave the team a chance to win. Allen and his offensive line, however, couldn't come through.
Hurst, as you might imagine, led the Ravens in receiving with three grabs for 73 yards and his long touchdown. He was the only Raven with more than 29 receiving yards. Snead (3-13) and Nick Boyle (2-10) also scored.
Mark Ingram didn't find much running room, as he was limited to 50 yards on 15 carries. He actually outgained Jackson on the ground for once, as Jackson scrambled 11 times for just 40 rushing yards, thanks to Buffalo's talented linebackers.
Devin Singletary paced both teams in rushing with 89 yards on 18 carries. He was also a big factor in the passing game, catching six passes for 29 yards. He was Buffalo's best offensive option, as he looked quick and electric, dancing around Baltimore defenders who looked helpless to tackle him.
Only one Buffalo player outgained Singletary in receiving yardage. That was Dawson Knox, whose 37 yards came on one catch. Knox, however, was guilty of several drops. Cole Beasley (4-29) hauled in Allen's lone touchdown. He dropped a pass on a third-and-5 that would've gone for a big gain.
Browns 27, Bengals 19
It'll be extremely difficult for the Browns to make the playoffs, but they apparently didn't know that, as they didn't lay down against Cincinnati. They tried hard and improved to 6-7, keeping their very slim playoff hopes alive (though not really in the wake of Tennessee's victory later that afternoon.)
That said, Cleveland's defense, which is far worse without Myles Garrett, allowed long drives to the Bengals all afternoon. Cincinnati accumulated 451 net yards, most of which came in non-garbage time. The Bengals may have even prevailed had they been more productive in the red zone, but their final two trips deep into Cleveland territory resulted in a grand total of only three points. Overall, Cincinnati had five trips to the red zone on the afternoon, but came away with just one touchdown and three field goals.
The Bengals looked like they would have a sixth chance in the red zone midway through the fourth quarter, but a Baker Mayfield interception was negated by a pass interference call generated from a replay review, which was a very dubious decision by the officials. There was nothing to warrant the change, and the turnover should have stood.
Mayfield was very lucky the pick wasn't upheld, as it would've made his poor day even worse. The same goes for a dropped interception in the opening quarter on a pass thrown right to a Cincinnati defender. Mayfield failed to complete half of his passes against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. It seems as though his hand is still bothering him, which would explain his stat line of 11-of-24 for 192 yards and two picks, though he rushed for a touchdown. He was off the mark all afternoon, which includes one of his interceptions, thrown way behind his intended receiver. Mayfield's stats were even enhanced by a 34-yard gain by Jarvis Landry on a terrific run-after-the-catch play.
Speaking of Landry, he led the Browns in receiving with four catches for 76 yards. He greatly outgained Odell Beckham Jr., who has been revealed to have a sports hernia. Beckham barely did anything, catching two passes for 39 yards. He nearly had a spectacular catch along the sideline, but he double-caught the ball before stepping out of bounds. Landry, on the other hand, was amazing. In the opening half alone, he made a one-handed grab, caught a pass thrown behind him and snatched a 20-yard reception while getting hit in heavy traffic to convert a third-and-19.
Nick Chubb had a great stat line in this contest, rushing for 106 yards on 15 carries. However, most of his production came on a 57-yard burst, which featured awful tackling by the Bengals. Chubb was vultured following that run, as Kareem Hunt (9-28) ran into the end zone. Hunt also caught two passes for 40 receiving yards.
While the Bengals moved the chains methodically in this contest, two of Cleveland's touchdowns were the result of big plays. One was the Chubb run. The other was an Andy Dalton pick-six, which was thrown behind his receiver. Denzel Ward took it to the house.
Dalton had a decent game otherwise, going 22-of-38 for 262 yards and that interception. He moved the chains well in between the 20s, but his red zone inefficiency cost Cincinnati this victory, which is a good thing for the long term.
Tyler Boyd led the Bengals in receiving, as he caught five of his six targets for 75 yards. He finished ahead of Tyler Eifert (4-49) and Alex Erickson (5-45).
Joe Mixon was fourth on the receiving list with three grabs for 40 yards. He was dominant on the ground as well, accumulating 146 yards and a touchdown on 23 attempts. He was visibly irate that he didn't receive a carry on third or fourth down in the red zone on the team's penultimate drive.
Packers 20, Redskins 15
With two divisional battles coming up, the Packers were predictably flat against the Redskins. That didn't appear to be the case in the early going, as Green Bay jumped out to a 14-0 lead despite there being a dropped touchdown by rookie tight end Jace Sternberger. However, the Packers did nothing after that, outside of settling for two field goals. Some drives were disrupted by pressure, with one instance resulting in a strip-sack in Washington territory right before halftime. Green Bay also squandered some opportunities in the red zone in the second half, allowing the Redskins to hang around.
Washington was ultimately down 20-9 late in the game, but Dwayne Haskins found Terry McLaurin in the end zone to trim the margin to five following a failed two-point conversion. The Redskins would've had a chance to take the lead, but they failed to recover the onside kick.
Rodgers finished 18-of-28 for 195 yards and a touchdown. As mentioned, he would've thrown a second score, but his rookie tight end dropped the ball. Then again, Rodgers missed Jimmy Graham for a deep touchdown. Rodgers also fumbled in what was a very disappointing fantasy performance for him despite being in a great matchup.
Just three Packers logged more than 19 receiving yards: Aaron Jones (6-58), Graham (3-49) and Davante Adams (4-41). Jones had a huge afternoon, as he also rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries.
Speaking of running backs, there was a dark cloud over this close game for the Redskins, as Derrius Guice was lost late in the opening half with what turned out to be an MCL sprain. It's a shame for Guice, as he just can't stay healthy. He was looking great beforehand, rushing for 42 yards on five carries. Adrian Peterson (20-76) did most of the work as a consequence. He also scored a touchdown.
Haskins had a poor game before some garbage-time stats helped him. He went 16-of-27 for 170 yards, one touchdown and an interception, which was a late throw that allowed Adrian Amos to jump the route. He also had a throw that was so far behind his intended receiver that the ball hit a Packer player in the helmet. Haskins was just 5-of-11 for 66 yards in the opening half, which should indicate how poor he was prior to late action. It didn't help that Haskins seemingly hurt his ankle at one point, causing him to limp throughout the second half.
Remarkably, only four Redskins caught passes, and only three hauled in multiple balls. Those were McLaurin (4-57), Chris Thompson (7-43) and Steven Sims Jr. (4-40). Sims dropped a ball in the second quarter, but he's fortunate that he did because it otherwise would've been ruled a lost fumble, negating the Redskins' first touchdown of the afternoon.
Vikings 20, Lions 7
David Blough was a nice story on Thanksgiving, but the Vikings weren't willing to let the rookie quarterback have another good game, especially off a loss to the Seahawks this past Monday night. Minnesota's defense suffocated Blough and the rest of Detroit's offense, limiting the Lions to just 66 net yards in the opening half.
Meanwhile, it took the offense a bit to get going, thanks to some stupid play-calling - the Vikings continue to insist on giving carries to C.J. Ham on third-and-short rather than utilize the great talent they possess - but a Detroit defense that lost Darius Slay to injury just couldn't hold up for very long. The Vikings eventually opened a 17-0 lead by halftime, accumulating 252 net yards in the process.
Kirk Cousins misfired on just six passes in this game, going 24-of-30 for 242 yards and a touchdown. It's amazing that the Vikings didn't cover the spread despite Cousins having this stat line, but Mike Zimmer opted to just sit on the ball in the second half, giving Cousins just 10 opportunities to throw the ball.
With Adam Thielen out, Stefon Diggs was Minnesota's top receiver by far. He caught six of his nine targets for 92 yards. Next on the stat sheet was Laquon Treadwell (2-42).
Dalvin Cook should've had a big afternoon, but he was given just five carries after halftime because Minnesota wanted to preserve him, and rightfully so. Still, his fantasy owners had to feel underwhelmed, though not completely disappointed with his stat line of 18 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown.
As for the Lions, Blough was able to throw a garbage-time touchdown to Kenny Golladay. Blough finished 24-of-40 for 205 yards, that touchdown and two interceptions, one of which occurred because he was drifting backward in the pocket. His second pick occurred late in the game as a desperation heave.
Golladay was the team's leader in receiving yards with six catches for 58 yards and the late touchdown. He finished just ahead of Marvin Jones (3-38) and Danny Amendola (5-34). Jones dropped a pass.
Bo Scarbough received most of the workload again, but didn't have a chance for a big day because of the constant deficit. Still, the Lions made sure to give him 19 carries, as they didn't want to put Blough in terrible situations. Scarbrough turned those 19 attempts into 65 yards.
49ers 48, Saints 46
If you couldn't tell by the final score, this was a crazy, back-and-forth shootout that came down to the final possession. Unfortunately, what some will ultimately remember from this contest were the many horrible calls by the officials, which helped decide the game in San Francisco's favor.
It initially looked like the Saints would pull away with the victory when they led by 11 twice, but thanks to some bombs from Jimmy Garoppolo and a touchdown throw by Emmanuel Sanders, the 49ers were able to pull ahead by a point at halftime, 28-27. The 49ers eventually established an eight-point lead, thanks to an Alvin Kamara lost fumble in his own territory, but the Saints came roaring back with a touchdown to give them a one-point lead. This advantage should have been at least four, as the officials failed to flag the 49ers for one of the most obvious defensive pass interferences you'll ever see on a fake punt on a preceding drive. Sean Payton wasn't even allowed to challenge the play, which was absolutely ridiculous. And if that wasn't bad enough, the 49ers were able to score a touchdown, thanks to two bogus penalties on one drive (defensive holding, personal foul.) It was almost as if Tim Donaghy received a furlough to help officiate this game to help San Francisco prevail.
Despite the officiating stain on this game that once again screwed the Saints, it should be noted that Jimmy Garoppolo was absolutely brilliant. He went 26-of-35 for 349 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, which was off the mark. He was great early, heaving a 75-yard bomb to Sanders when the safety fell down, and he was extremely clutch late in the game, leading his team to a field goal to clinch the victory at the very end.
Sanders had a monster game. He caught seven of his nine targets for 157 yards and a touchdown. He also threw a 35-yard score. The Saints tried to cover him with Eli Apple, a strategy that failed epically. It's unclear why New Orleans didn't put Marshon Lattimore on Sanders, as Sanders has been stopped by top cornerbacks this year.
Following Sanders, Deebo Samuel was next on the receiving list with five grabs for 76 yards. George Kittle wasn't too far behind, as he caught six passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. Kittle's 39-yard reception on the final drive - with a face mask flag tacked on - set up the 49ers with their game-winning field goal.
Raheem Mostert continued to lead the 49ers in rushing, despite Matt Breida's return to the field. The Saints had extreme difficulty tackling Mostert, who rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. He also caught two passes for 40 yards and an additional score. Breida (6-54) and Tevin Coleman (3-6) saw less work on the ground, combined!
An unlikely Saint led the team in rushing as well. Latavius Murray gained 69 yards on seven carries, as he far outgained Kamara and his 25 yards on 13 attempts. Kamara, who also caught four passes for 18 yards, killed his team with the aforementioned lost fumble, which set up the 49ers with an easy touchdown.
Drew Brees picked up the slack for Kamara with a monstrous fantasy performance. He went 29-of-40 for 349 yards and five touchdowns, and if that wasn't enough, he pounced into the end zone on a sneak for his sixth score of the afternoon. As great as Brees was, however, he skipped a pass on the two-point conversion following his final touchdown. That put the lead at one instead of three, which allowed the final kick to win the game, rather than to send this contest into overtime.
To no one's surprise, Michael Thomas led the team in receiving with 11 catches for 134 yards and a touchdown. Next on the box score was Jared Cook, who looked like he was going to enjoy a huge afternoon when he caught his first two passes for 64 yards and two touchdowns. However, Cook suffered a concussion when he hauled in his second score.
Brees' two other scores went to Tre'Quan Smith (2-29) and Josh Hill (2-4), who replaced the concussed Cook. Ted Ginn was also a factor with four catches for 50 yards.
Jets 22, Dolphins 21
The Dolphins have been winning games recently for some reason, but they finally found a way to lose. That was via some of the worst red zone ineptitude anyone has ever seen from an NFL team. The Dolphins took eight trips into the red zone in this game, yet came away with seven field goals, one missed kick and no touchdowns.
Miami's final field goal gave the team a 21-19 lead, but the Jets put together one final drive to move into kicking range. The possession included an overturned pass interference call via replay that gave the Jets a first down on a third-and-18 heave. This was one of several dubious calls that went against the Dolphins in this game, with another one being an obvious drop by Demaryius Thomas in the end zone that was inexplicably ruled a touchdown following replay review. The Dolphins got screwed - head coach Brian Flores was fuming when the game was over - but this result was beneficial for Miami over the long haul.
Sam Darnold, helped by that bogus interference, had a negative game overall, mixed in with some bright spots. He went 20-of-36 for 270 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. For every two bad plays, he had a good one. For example, he had Robby Anderson open on a deep throw but missed him, and yet came back to connect with him on a third-and-11. Darnold also had a pick off his back foot and missed Jamison Crowder for a touchdown when he threw the ball too late, but he was able to lead his team to a field goal on the final drive. Darnold whiffed on a number of passes he should've converted. He has regressed with Adam Gase. After seeing what Ryan Tannehill is doing in Tennessee, this is hardly a surprise.
Anderson continued to dominate, as he caught seven of his 11 targets for 116 yards and a touchdown. No one was close to him, as the next-best receiver had 37 yards. Thomas (2-28) caught the other score, while Crowder (3-30) didn't do much with his seven targets, though he would've found the end zone if Darnold hadn't thrown the ball so late.
With Le'Veon Bell out, the Jets utilized a 2:1 touch count for Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery. It was the ultimate wet dream for Gase, who despises talented players. Powell dashed for 74 yards on 19 carries, while Montgomery tallied 31 yards on nine attempts. He also caught three balls for 30 receiving yards.
Remarkably, Miami's leading rusher was Ryan Fitzpatrick. The bearded quarterback was running with reckless abandon, and he even made some dumb decisions, including one instance where he surprised his tight end by lateraling. The Dolphins were fortunate it didn't result in a fumble. Fitzpatrick rushed for 65 yards on eight scrambles. He outgained Patrick Laird, who tallied 48 yards on 15 carries while catching four balls for 38 receiving yards.
As a passer, Fitzpatrick was rather underwhelming, though it wasn't really his fault. Fitzpatrick was 21-of-37 for 245 yards and an interception, but he didn't have his two most-talented receivers in the second half, as both DeVante Parker (2-28) and Albert Wilson both left the game with concussions.
With Parker and Wilson out, someone named Isaiah Ford led the team in receiving with six catches for 92 yards. Allen Hurns (5-68) was next on the box score.
Buccaneers 38, Colts 35
This was almost the prototypical game for Jameis Winston. The Buccaneer quarterback posted pretty stats, all while committing horrible turnovers. However, I made sure to write "almost" because Winston was able to lead his team back from a double-digit deficit in the second half to prevail with a three-point victory.
Things looked ugly for Winston in the early going, as he heaved an interception on a telegraphed throw when he didn't see Darius Leonard in coverage. Winston rebounded with a bomb to Mike Evans, who pulled his hamstring on the score and was ruled out for the rest of the afternoon. With Evans gone, Winston struggled for a while, including a play where he was pick-sixed. Leonard beautifully baited Winston into the turnover, and Winston fell for it.
Winston was far better following intermission, however. He was 13-of-17 for 179 yards, two touchdowns and an interception after halftime despite missing his best receiver. Winston led his team to a victory, helping the team improve to 6-7. Tampa won't make the playoffs this year, but at least it's building momentum for 2020.
One more note on Winston: He left the game for one drive after suffering a hand injury. Bruce Arians later revealed that Winston has a tiny fracture in his hand, though it didn't seem to impact Winston on most of his throws. He was nearly picked late on a poor toss behind his receiver, but he was excellent otherwise in the second half. Winston finished 33-of-45 for 456 yards, five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) and three interceptions.
Chris Godwin led the team in receiving with seven catches for 91 yards. He didn't find the end zone, however, which was a disappointment for his fantasy owners. O.J. Howard (4-73) also failed to score, but at least he wasn't in the dog house again.
Winston's touchdowns went to unlikely players, outside of Evans, whose 61-yard score was his only reception. Breshad Perriman (3-70), Justin Watson (5-59) and Cameron Brate (4-30) also found the end zone.
As if Tampa's running situation couldn't get any more confusing, Ronald Jones and Peyton Barber both had 11 carries for 36 and 34 yards, respectively.
Marlon Mack barely edged out both Buccaneer backs with 38 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Mack was simply stymied by Tampa's elite ground defense. Nyheim Hines, who had just one yard on four carries, lost a fumble near the red zone, which was instrumental in Tampa's comeback.
The Buccaneers have a pass-funnel defense, which would explain why Jacoby Brissett was able to post a solid stat line despite missing T.Y. Hilton once again. Brissett went 19-of-36 for 251 yards and two touchdowns, and he also scrambled four times for 26 rushing yards.
Marcus Johnson caught a 50-yard bomb, allowing him to lead Indianapolis in receiving with three catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. Zach Pascal (5-74) also scored, and he saw more targets than anyone, with nine. Second-round rookie Parris Campbell had three grabs for 12 yards on five targets. He nearly caught a 50-yard bomb at the beginning of the game, but Brissett overthrew him.
Jack Doyle, who just signed a new contract, was a big disappointment with two catches for 27 yards. He dropped a pass, though the ball was thrown a bit behind him.
Broncos 38, Texans 24
The Broncos had a nice victory over the Chargers last week - aside from the fact that they ruined their draft positioning - but it didn't seem likely that they would win this game, given that they had a rookie quarterback playing in his first road start against one of the top defensive coordinators in the NFL. Romeo Crennel had been undefeated against rookie signal-callers with Deshaun Watson playing for his offense, but that streak came to an end in epic fashion, as Drew Lock thoroughly embarrassed his defense.
It was apparent that the Texans would be in trouble in the early going. Phillip Lindsay seemed to score, but had the touchdown negated by an illegal block in the back (by Garett Bolles, of course.) It seemed as though the Broncos would have to settle for a field goal, but Lock had other ideas. He fired a 14-yard dart to Noah Fant to go up 7-0. Following a Denver defensive touchdown - Keke Coutee fumbled, and Kareem Jackson scored when the linebacker who scooped up the ball gave him a lateral - Lock had a nice third-and-9 conversion to Tim Patrick from deep in his own territory, setting up a touchdown to Jeff Heureman, who was wide open for some reason. This was the second of Lock's three touchdowns in the opening half. Remarkably, Lock's three touchdowns tied the number of incompletions he threw prior to intermission.
Lock didn't have to throw very much after halftime, but his stat line was still tremendous, as Lock finished 22-of-27 for 309 yards, three touchdowns and an interception that he heaved into double coverage off his back foot for some reason. He also scrambled three times for 15 yards. It's still early to make any sort of determination, but Lock looked like a franchise quarterback in this game despite battling a legendary defensive coordinator in his first road start. He made just two mistakes - not throwing to an open receiver on a flea flicker to go along with the aforementined interception - so I'm excited to see what he does going forward.
Lock threw more to Courtland Sutton than anyone, but Sutton's seven targets went for just five catches for 34 yards, thanks to Bradley Roby's great coverage. Fant (4-113) was the leader in receiving yardage, and he also caught the aforementioned touchdown.
Lindsay was screwed out of the early touchdown, but ended up scoring later anyway. He ran for 51 yards on 16 carries. He out-touched Royce Freeman by about a 2:1 clip.
The Texans, meanwhile, were very flat in this game. They were dumb as well. It seemed as though Bill O'Brien finally realized last week that Duke Johnson was better than Carlos Hyde, and yet he gave Johnson just one carry in this contest. Hyde, conversely, got 14 carries, which he turned into 73 yards. Johnson saw some work in the passing game - six catches, 40 receiving yards - but that came late when this game was out of hand.
Speaking of late production, most of Deshaun Watson's stats came toward the end of regulation. Watson finished 28-of-50 for 292 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, with more than half of his yardage coming after intermission. One of his picks came on a tip on a desperation fourth-down throw.
DeAndre Hopkins' numbers came late as well. He had three catches for 30 yards in the opening half, but finished with seven grabs for 120 yards and a touchdown. He was on the negative end of a highlight, as he was blown up on a vicious - but legal - hit by Karee Jackson. Coutee (5-68) and Jordan Akins (4-49) were next on the stat sheet, though the former had the aforementioned costly fumble returned for six.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the beginning of the end of Carolina's relevance, as it seems like new owner Bobby Axelrod is going to ruin the franchise.
It was going to be interesting to see if the firing of Ron Rivera would give the Panthers a jolt and have them play better, or if they would pack it in with their season over after losing four in a row. Carolina was inclined to do the latter, and this was the best outcome for the team, as it can continue to climb the draft order to hopefully land a young quarterback. On the other side, the Falcons notched a win that may help save Dan Quinn's job.
The Panthers struggled to stop the run in the first quarter, and that led to Atlanta scoring first, via a field goal. Carolina responded with a pass to Ian Thomas for 19 yards, and that set up a game-tying three points.
Atlanta's dynamic duo struck when Matt Ryan lofted in a beautiful pass to Julio Jones for 39 yards, and a few plays later, Ryan threw a bullet to Calvin Ridley (5-76-1) for a touchdown. On the ensuing drive, Thomas had a pass bounce off his chest and Damontae Kazee caught the deflection for an interception that was not the fault of Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen. The Panthers used Christian McCaffrey to move the ball to the goal line before Thomas helped redeem himself with a touchdown catch. Just before the half, Ryan led a field goal drive to give Atlanta a 13-10 lead.
At the start of the third quarter, Vic Beasley beat backup left tackle Dennis Daley to get a blind-side strip sack of Allen that the Falcons recovered. Devonta Freeman scored a few plays later. Later in the third quarter while facing an all-out blitz in the end zone, Ryan lofted a pass deep downfield. Olamide Zaccheaus (1-93-1) came down with the ball around midfield and broke a tackle to coast into the end zone with a 93-yard touchdown. Carolina then fumbled the kickoff away to Atlanta, which was turned into a field goal. Kazee added another interception on the final play of the third quarter, and the Faclons converted that into three more points.
Ryan completed 20-of-34 passes for 313 yards with two touchdowns.
Freeman ran for 84 yards on 17 carries with a touchdown.
Julio Jones had five receptions for 66 yards.
Kyle Allen completed 28-of-41 receptions for 293 yards and a touchdown.
McCaffrey was tackled on the goal-line multiple times to frustrate his fantasy owners, but he had 11 receptions for 82 yards and 11 carries for 53 yards.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Great decision by Derek Carr to throw the ball away on the final fourth down of the game. Nice job playing it safe, Derek! You're such a winner!
Tennessee got a huge road win from Ryan Tannehill staying hot and Derrick Henry continuing to roll over the opposition. Halftime adjustments made the difference to shut out Oakland and Derek Carr in the third and fourth quarters. With the Texans getting destroyed by Denver, the Titans move into a tie with Houston for first place in the AFC South, and the two rivals play twice in the final three games to determine the division championship. This was essentially an elimination game for the Raiders. While they aren't technically eliminated, the chances of them going to the playoffs are all but dashed at 6-7.
The Titans' opening drive was led by Henry and lasted almost six minutes, going deep into Oakland territory. However, linebacker Dion Jordan tipped a pass that was intercepted by defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, who raced 52 yards before being tackled. DeAndre Washington went up the gut for a 14-yard touchdown run a few plays later. Tennessee quickly responded by moving the ball down the field and setting up a short rushing touchdown for Henry. In the second quarter, the Titans took the lead when Tannehill lofted a beautiful deep ball from his own goal line to midfield that A.J. Brown hauled in. Brown broke a tackle and then raced into the end zone for a 91-yard touchdown. Oakland promptly tied the score when busted coverage let Rico Gafford get wide open for a 49-yard touchdown pass.
Tannehill kept moving the chains, using his legs and arm to get inside the 20-yard line. On a third-and-13, Tannehill hit Brown on a slant and he broke three tackles to pound the ball into the end zone for a 16-yard score. Carr then moved the ball down the field and hit Darren Waller for 25 yards to get to the Titans' 1-yard line. A few plays later, Foster Moreau caught a touchdown to leave the game tied at 21 at halftime.
Tannehill connected with tight end MyCole Pruitt for 42 yards in the middle of the third quarter, and Henry scored from 10 yards out on the next play. The Titans extended their lead to 35-21 early in the fourth quarter via Henry running well, another chunk completion to A.J. Brown, and a 17-yard touchdown pass to Jonnu Smith. The Titans put the game away when Tye Smith punched the ball out of the hands of Darren Waller along the sideline. Jayon Brown scooped up the loose ball and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown.
Tannehill completed 21-of-27 passes for 391 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
Henry ran for 103 yards on 18 carries with two touchdowns, plus made a six-yard reception.
A.J. Brown continued his superb rookie year by catching five passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
Carr completed 25-of-34 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns.
With Josh Jacobs out, DeAndre Washington ran for 53 yards on 14 carries with a score.
Waller caught six passes for 73 yards to lead the Raiders in receiving, but his fumble detracted from another excellent performance on his part.
Chargers 45, Jaguars 10
This game was even more lopsided as this score would indicate. The Chargers led 31-3 at one point and took their foot off the gas. Philip Rivers was even removed from the field after the Chargers scored their 38th point.
Rivers had a terrific game against the Jaguars, going 16-of-22 for 314 yards and three touchdowns. His numbers would've been even better had some guy named Jalen Guyton not dropped a deep pass of his. The Jaguars simply had no answer for Rivers.
Jacksonville couldn't stop the Charger ground attack either. Austin Ekeler had a huge game, rushing for 101 yards on just eight carries to go along with four catches for 112 receiving yards and a score. Ekeler had four big plays, and his greatest one was when he broke free for an 84-yard burst after catching a ball to expand the Chargers' lead to 31-3. He blew by Jacksonville'e beleaguered defensive players after catching a short toss. Meanwhile, Melvin Gordon also scored, gaining 55 yards on 12 attempts. Gordon nearly found the end zone a second time, but was inches short of the goal line. Fullback Derek Watt vultured the touchdown on the very next play.
Ekeler was the Chargers' leader in receiving. Keenan Allen was next on the list with five grabs for 83 yards. He also drew an interference flag on the opening drive to set up a Gordon touchdown. Mike Williams (2-63) and Hunter Henry (2-39) both were able to reach the end zone, though Henry had an ugly drop to negate a reception of about 25-30 yards.
I thought there was a chance that the Jaguars would be energized by Gardner Minshew's presence. The fans seemed excited for him, but Minshew did not perform well. His offensive line couldn't hold up, and Minshew had to toss short, ineffective passes as a result. Minshew went 24-of-37 for only 162 yards and a touchdown.
Minshew's top target, predictably, was D.J. Chark, who caught nine of the 10 balls thrown to him for 75 yards. No other Jaguar accumulated more than 30 receiving yards. Tight end Nick O'Leary (4-30) caught a touchdown in garbage time.
Leonard Fournette didn't do much in the passing game, catching just three passes for 13 receiving yards. He dropped a pass on the opening drive. Fournette was also stymied on the ground, as he was limited to just 50 yards on 15 carries.
Chiefs 23, Patriots 16
Jerome Boger has been known to be one of the worst officials in the NFL for quite some time. This game will go down as Boger's masterpiece, as he and his crew bungled this contest so much that they, themselves alone, decided who would win this game.
The Patriots lost by one touchdown, but Boger was responsible for removing two of New England's touchdowns. The first came on a Travis Kelce lost fumble. Stephon Gilmore scooped up the ball and had a wide-open field with blockers in front of him, but the officials made the grave mistake of blowing the play dead, ruling Kelce down by contact. Bill Belichick had to challenge the call to overturn it, but the whistle negated a New England's touchdown. Even worse, the incorrect ruling had an impact on the next awful call.
The second call that decided this game occurred when N'Keal Harry appeared to find the end zone in the fourth quarter. Harry clearly scored, but the officials ruled him out of bounds. TV replay showed Harry remained inbounds, but Belichick couldn't challenge because he spent his second red flag on the Kelce fumble. The Patriots had to settle for a field goal as a result. Had the touchdown been correctly called, New England could have kicked a field goal at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime, and that's not even factoring in the negated Kelce lost fumble that should've gone for six!
The officiating was so bad in this game that it almost made me forget about how poor Tom Brady's protection happened to be. Brady was constantly swarmed and never had a chance to find open receivers. This impacted his stat line, which was 19-of-36 for 169 yards, one touchdown and a weird interception where the player who was covering Julian Edelman was beaten so badly that he was in a position to make a pick because he was near Brady's intended receiver.
Speaking of Edelman, he led the Patriots with eight catches for 95 yards and a touchdown. He was the only New England receiver with more than 35 yards. Jakobi Meyers, second on the list, made just one grab for 35 yards, which came on a trick play where James White threw him the ball. Meyers was awful, dropping two passes, including one in the end zone.
The Patriots didn't seem to use White enough. For some reason, Rex Burkhead (7-15) had more carries than White's six, which White turned into 33 yards. New England also wasted some downs feeding Sony Michel (5-8). White helped his PPR owners with five catches for 27 receiving yards.
Kansas City didn't have much success running the ball either. LeSean McCoy was limited to just 39 yards on 11 carries, while rookie Darwin Thompson disappointed with just seven yards on four attempts. Both McCoy and Thompson also dropped passes.
Patrick Mahomes, meanwhile, began by throwing an interception, but caught fire after that with some long-yardage conversions on third down. However, Mahomes seemed to hurt his hand on one occasion. This didn't affect him immediately, but he barely did anything in the second half. Mahomes was 12-of-15 in the second half, but for only 57 yards. He just dinked and dunked following intermission, and the Chiefs had fewer than 100 net yards in that span.
Mahomes finished 26-of-40 for 283 yards, one touchdown and the aforementioned interception. It's difficult to say if his hand injury affected him in the second half. He constantly looked at it in the second quarter, but didn't appear to do so following halftime.
Mahomes' sole touchdown was a 48-yard bomb to Mecole Hardman, which came after the Chiefs blocked a field goal. Kelce (7-66) and Tyreek Hill (6-62) were the leaders in receiving yardage. Kelce scored a 4-yard rushing touchdown on a trick play where he lined up behind the center.
Steelers 23, Cardinals 17
Duck Hodges is now 3-0 as a starter! Hodges helped the Steelers improve to 8-5 with this latest win, doing so in front of a large contingent of Steeler fans in Arizona's stadium. The crowd roared whenever the Steelers did anything well, as the Pittsburgh fans proudly twirled their Terrible Towels. It truly was remarkable how many Steeler fans there were in the stands.
The Pittsburgh supporters watched their team get out to a 10-0 lead, thanks to a punt return for a touchdown. The Steelers then maintained that lead, as Hodges did a good job of keeping the chains moving. Hodges converted a clutch third-and-13 while under pressure in the second half, while rookie receiver Diontae Johnson had a great game, as Arizona had no answer for him.
Hodges ended up throwing just three incompletions, going 16-of-19 for 152 yards and a score. His sole mistake was a fumble on a strip-sack, but his right tackle recovered the loose ball. Hodges played very well. Granted, he was battling Arizona's miserable defense, but Hodges was missing his starting running back and top receiver, and he was making just his third career start.
With JuJu Smith-Schuster out, Johnson was able to lead the team in receiving. He was great, catching six passes for 60 yards and a touchdown. Hodges' hunting buddy, James Washington, was next on the receiving list with four grabs for 33 yards. His stat line would've been better had he not been interfered with twice.
Benny Snell started in place of James Conner again. Snell was guilty of a fumble in his own territory, and he rushed for only 41 yards on 16 carries. The gaffe gave the Cardinals their first score of the afternoon, which was a field goal to trim the margin to 10-3.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, had some mixed play from Kyler Murray. The rookie quarterback had some positive moments, leading the team on two scoring drives, but he also made some terrible mistakes. Two of his three interceptions were awful. His first pick was a telegraphed throw, allowing Joe Haden to jump the route. The second interception was an irresponsible heave into the end zone when he could have scrambled for a first down, or even a touchdown. This was a curious sequence, as the Cardinals, down 20-10, should have tried a field goal on this fourth-down play to trim the margin to seven. The Cardinals scored a touchdown on the next drive, so kicking a field goal would've allowed Arizona to tie the game, rather than going down three. Murray's third pick was a desperation heave on fourth down at the very end, so it's difficult to fault him for that.
Murray finished 20-of-30 for 194 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. The Steelers did a great job of containing Murray in the pocket; Murray tried to scramble six times, but was limited to only two rushing yards. He was under heavy pressure throughout the afternoon, which forced some poor throws, including an overthrow of an open Larry Fitzgerald on a third down. Murray sometimes held the ball too long in the pocket, including two consecutive plays in the red zone during the second quarter, which caused him to take a couple of sacks.
Christian Kirk was Murray's top receiver, as he caught eight of his nine targets for 85 yards. Fitzgerald (3-20) barely did anything while seeing seven balls go his way.
The Cardinals used Kenyan Drake primarily, but Drake (11-37) didn't get much of a chance to run the ball because of the deficit. Arizona had some formations where they used Drake, David Johnson and Chase Edmonds at the same time. Both Johnson and Drake were factors in the passing game, with the former scoring a touchdown through the air.
Rams 28, Seahawks 12
It's hard to believe that this is the Rams team we saw get blown out of the water by the Ravens on a recent Monday night. That Los Angeles squad was helpless to stop Lamar Jackson and couldn't generate any offense. This Los Angeles squad put the clamps on the other MVP frontrunner, while the scoring unit accumulated nearly 500 net yards of offense, and probably would have done so had Sean McVay not taken his foot off the gas in the fourth quarter.
Despite what the score says, the Rams' stalwart defense limited Russell Wilson to just six points, as the other half of the total sum came on a pick-six. Wilson was constantly under siege and threw some inaccurate balls as a result. It didn't help that he endured some drops, too.
Wilson finished 22-of-36 for 245 yards and an interception on a deep shot late in the game. Some of this was the result of garbage time, as Wilson logged just 106 yards in the opening half. His offensive line will need to perform better to prevent a similar result like this happening against superior competition in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Jared Goff picked up where he left off last week against the Cardinals. He was mostly surgical, going 22-of-31 for 293 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. One of those interceptions wasn't his fault - Robert Woods stopped his route, resulting in a pick-six - but the other was an ugly overthrow toward Brandin Cooks. Still, Goff was terrific otherwise. He and Sean McVay utilized quick tempo, which the Seahawks were inexplicably unprepared for. Seattle was even shuffling defenders on and off the field when the Rams scored their first touchdown.
Goff's two touchdowns went to the usual suspects: Woods (7-98) and Coper Kupp (4-45). Neither led the team in receiving. That was Tyler Higbee, who continued to post monstrous stats. Higbee collected seven catches for 116 yards.
The Rams had some nice runs from Todd Gurley, who rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Gurley's owners saw Brown vulture a touchdown, but at least Gurley was able to catch four passes for 34 receiving yards. Los Angeles also ran the ball well with some sweeps for the receivers, namely Woods and Josh Reynolds. They had five such carries for a combined 58 yards. It's as if the Seahawks had never seen that play before.
The Seahawks obviously couldn't run as much as the Rams did, thanks to the deficit. Yet, Carson nearly led both teams in rushing with 76 yards on just 15 carries. Carson handled the entire workload because Rashaad Penny suffered an injury in the opening quarter.
Tyler Lockett had another disappointing performance, catching just four of his six passes for 43 yards. He trailed Decaf Metcalf on the receiving list with six grabs for 78 yards. Jacob Hollister (4-34) dropped a pass.
Eagles 23, Giants 17
The Eagles had control of their own destiny entering this game, but based on how they played for three-and-a-half quarters, it's almost as if they didn't know it. Their offense was lethargic and unproductive, while their defense constantly missed tackles and blew coverages. It seemed like Philadelphia had no answer for Eli Manning.
It took the Eagles until the very end, but their offense finally was energized, sparked when Carson Wentz converted on a fourth-down sneak with five minutes remaining. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside then hauled in an over-the-shoulder catch on third down. This led to Wentz hitting Zach Ertz for a touchdown with less than two minutes remaining in regulation to tie the game, erasing a 14-point New York lead.
The Eagles won the coin toss in overtime. Thanks to a couple of big plays from Boston Scott, the Eagles drove down close to the goal line. Wentz then found Ertz in the end zone, as the talented tight end was somehow left wide open for the winning score.
Though Philadelphia prevailed, this was a Pyrrhic victory. The Eagles suffered losses to Alshon Jeffery and Lane Johnson, both of whom were carted into the locker room. Despite this victory, the Eagles won't be able to survive without their top receiver and elite right tackle. Here are the top NFL Free Agent Wide Receivers to replace the injured Jeffery, who ruptured his Achilles.
Wentz struggled for most of the night, as he was 11-of-19 for 97 yards in the opening half. However, he caught fire toward the end of regulation and overtime. As a result, he was 22-of-31 for 228 yards and two scores following intermission.
Wentz's overall numbers were 33-of-50 for 325 yards and two touchdowns. He was miserable early, as he saw the field poorly, and it didn't help that he endured several drops. Wentz finally got some life late in the game, albeit against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL.
Ertz caught both touchdowns at the end to complete his terrific stat line. He caught nine of his 13 targets for 91 yards and the two scores. The only Eagle remotely close to him in receiving yardage was running back Boston Scott, who hauled in all six targets for 69 yards. Dallas Goedert (3-41) dropped a pass. When Jeffery left the field, the Eagles had just two healthy wide receivers, and that number dropped to one when Arcega-Whiteside limped off the field late in the contest.
Speaking of Scott, he ran very well on top of catching some nice passes out of the backfield. He saw action when Miles Sanders (15-45) left the game for about a quarter, though Sanders eventually returned to action. Scott rushed for 59 yards and a touchdown on 10 attempts.
As for the Giants, this was a perfect game for their fans to enjoy. New York supporters saw their team battle the Eagles tough, all while having a side of 'Member Berries as Eli Manning enjoyed a terrific opening half. Even better, the Giants ultimately lost, so the franchise was able to preserve their ability to select Chase Young this April, as seen in my 2020 NFL Mock Draft.
Manning completed half of his passes, going 15-of-30 for 203 yards and two touchdowns. His first pass was tossed behind Saquon Barkley, but he quickly caught fire and threw some great passes to Darius Slayton. The Eagles put an end to this nonsense after halftime, however, as the Giants failed to score a single point following intermission.
Slayton was a monster, catching five passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns, one of which featured an epically horrific missed tackle by beleaguered cornerback Ronald Darby. Slayton was one of only two Giants to accumulate more than 11 receiving yards, with Sterling Shepard (4-28) being the other. Golden Tate, meanwhile, had just one grab for 11 yards, as he had numerous potential catches knocked away, including one in the end zone.
Barkley couldn't really get going against a tough Philadelphia run defense, mustering just 66 yards on 17 carries. He had a 17-yard gain negated by a hold. Barkley caught three balls, but for only one single receiving yard.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.