The Titans weren't expected to play their best game. They were battling a 1-4 team following a big win on national television against the undefeated Bills. After this game, they were set to take on another undefeated opponent, the Steelers. Surely, Tennessee would take Houston lightly.
That didn't appear to be the case when the Titans took a 21-10 lead into intermission, but things began to turn around when Ryan Tannehill was strip-sacked by J.J. Watt. Two Tennessee linemen had an opportunity to pounce on the ball, but the Texans recovered and parlayed that into a touchdown. It appeared as though the Titans were able to retain control of this game on a 94-yard Derrick Henry touchdown run, but two long pass plays gave the Texans a lead with possession. Deshaun Watson launched a 53-yard scoring bomb to Will Fuller, while Tannehill was picked on a deep shot.
It seemed as though the Texans, up seven with less than two minutes remaining, would suddenly pull off the upset, but a failed two-point conversion gave Tannehill one more chance. Tannehill came through in the clutch, ultimately firing a game-tying touchdown to A.J. Brown. The game went to overtime, and upon losing the coin toss, Deshaun Watson shouted in frustration. He knew the game was over, and Henry made sure of that with a 53-yard reception in which he blew past some bewildered Houston defenders. Minutes later, Henry plowed into the end zone to give the Titans the victory.
Henry saved the day for the Titans, as he posted some ridiculous numbers. Not only did he rush for 212 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries; he also caught a pair of passes for 52 receiving yards. Henry typically begins the year slowly, but now that it's the middle of October, he's ready for his typical late-season surge.
Tannehill made the two mistakes I highlighted, but performed very well otherwise. He went 30-of-41 for 364 yards, four touchdowns and the aforementioned two turnovers.
Brown found the end zone twice, snatching five of his seven targets for 56 yards. He also drew an interference flag. Tannehill's other touchdowns went to Adam Humphries (6-64) and tight end Anthony Firkser. Remarkably, Firkser led the Titans in receiving with eight catches for 113 yards. He also drew an interference flag. Firsker isn't even the top player at his position on the roster, but was able to benefit from Jonnu Smith getting hurt. Smith, who caught just one pass for 13 yards, injured his quad.
As for the Texans, Watson had a huge second half to give his team a chance to perhaps stay alive for one of the three wild cards. You can't blame him for this loss, as Watson went 28-of-37 for 335 yards and four touchdowns. Had the Texans won the coin toss in overtime, as Watson really had hoped, Houston may have prevailed.
All of Watson's touchdowns went to different players. Fuller led the way with six catches for 123 yards. Darren Fells (6-85) was another tight end who posted a big game due to injury, as Jordan Akins was sidelined. Fells made a key mistake, however, as he dropped a pass on third down.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Brandin Cooks (9-68) reeled in all nine of his targets, while Randall Cobb (3-17) was the least of the four producers.
David Johnson also found the end zone, but didn't have much overall success. He ran for just 57 yards on 19 carries. He caught only one pass. The CBS color analyst was quite bearish on Johnson throughout the broadcast, opining that the Texans weren't getting their return on the DeAndre Hopkins trade and citing that Johnson no longer has the same "explosion" he once possessed.
Colts 31, Bengals 27
The Colts could not stop shooting themselves in the foot to begin the game. It started right away, as Jack Doyle lost a fumble on the opening drive near midfield despite not being touched, setting up a touchdown for the Bengals. A dumb, unnecessary roughness penalty led to another Cincinnati score. With Darius Leonard sidelined, the Bengals ran the ball down Indianapolis' throat to open a 21-0 lead. By that time, Indianapolis had run just eight plays.
The Colts' attempt at a comeback were halted by more unforced blunders. T.Y. Hilton appeared to score a touchdown, but it was negated by penalty and then Philip Rivers helplessly tossed an interception into double coverage.
Nevertheless, Cincinnati's defense offers no resistance, so the Colts were eventually able to take the lead, as Doyle made amends by reeling in the game-winning touchdown. Joe Burrow had a chance to prevail at the end, but this time it was his turn to commit a blunder, as he telegraphed an interception to help the Colts improve to 4-2.
Despite the final pick, Burrow played well once again after last week's disastrous showing against the Ravens. Burrow went 25-of-39 for 313 yards and the final pick. He also rushed in a score on a sneak, scrambling thrice for two rushing yards. Burrow was lucky he wasn't intercepted a second time, as an Indianapolis linebacker dropped a second-quarter pass when Burrow didn't see him in coverage.
The Bengals scored three rushing touchdowns in total, as Joe Mixon (18-54) and Giovani Bernard (8-15) both found the end zone. Mixon impressively moved the pile seven yards on his touchdown. He left the game with an injury in the second quarter, but was able to return following intermission.
It took a while, but A.J. Green finally performed somewhat well. Green hasn't been able to get open this year, but that finally changed in this contest. Green caught eight passes for 96 yards, including one clutch reception on the final drive that put the Bengals over midfield before Burrow's interception.
Despite the big game from Green, he didn't lead the Bengals in receiving. Rookie Tee Higgins did that, as he secured six of his eight receptions for 125 yards. His big play was a 67-yard reception to set up a Mixon touchdown. He also made an impressive catch over some defenders in heavy traffic over the middle of the field. Tyler Boyd (5-54), meanwhile, was the only other Bengal to eclipse 15 receiving yards.
While Green finally stopped disappointing, Indianapolis' veteran receiver, T.Y. Hilton, continued to struggle. As mentioned, he had a touchdown called back by penalty. He needed it, as Hilton was able to catch just one of his five targets for 11 yards. He was also screwed by two other calls. The first was when he made a nice toe drag while falling out of bounds, but replay review said he wasn't in the field of play. The second was a 21-yard gain nullified by offensive pass interference. Conversely, Hilton dropped a pass that may have gone for a long gain.
With Hilton doing nothing on the stat sheet, someone named Marcus Johnson led the Colts in receiving. Johnson caught five passes for 108 yards. Johnson would've had a much better day had Rivers not overthrown him for what would've been a 60-yard touchdown. Meanwhile, the two tight ends combined for three touchdowns. Trey Burton (4-58) found the end zone twice, while Doyle (3-29) gave the Colts the win.
Jonathan Taylor also had a good receiving day. He caught four passes for 55 receiving yards. His fantasy owners needed that, as Taylor couldn't run much because of the constant deficit. Taylor was given just 12 carries, which he turned into 60 yards.
Rivers, meanwhile, didn't make the usual couple of mistakes in this game, as he was responsible for just one interception. The pick was a horrible decision Rivers made to force the issue into double coverage. Excluding the pick and the aforementined missed 60-yard bomb for Johnson, Rivers had a great outing, going 29-of-44 for 371 yards and three touchdowns.
Falcons 40, Vikings 23
The Vikings apparently put everything they had into trying to beat Seattle last Sunday night. They quite literally left everything on the field, as they showed absolutely no signs of life versus an Atlanta team that fired its coach following Week 5.
Of course, how could the Vikings muster any sort of energy when they had abysmal play from their quarterback? Kirk Cousins performed well in the two games leading up to this affair, but he was absolutely miserable against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. Cousins' troubles began early when his first pass was intercepted. It was telegraphed, and it led to a Julio Jones touchdown. He fired a second interception a bit later on an inaccurate pass, allowing rookie corner A.J. Terrell to make a great play. There was a third pick right before the half, but that wasn't on Cousins because his arm was hit as he released the ball.
Cousins was terrible - he was 8-of-14 for 102 yards and three interceptions in the opening half - but not all of the offensive ineptitude was his fault. The Vikings had a golden opportunity to score in the opening half with a first-and-goal situation right at the goal line following a Brian Hill lost fumble. However, Alexander Mattison was stuffed twice, then Irv Smith Jr. dropped a touchdown. The Vikings opted to go for it on fourth down, and Mike Boone was promptly stuffed inches shy of the goal line.
The Falcons, meanwhile, couldn't be stopped. The Vikings didn't see to have enough energy to prevent Atlanta from doing whatever it wanted. Matt Ryan was surgical, misfiring just four times in the opening half. He finished 30-of-40 for 371 yards and four touchdowns. The Vikings could do nothing to slow him down.
Of course, it helped Ryan that Julio Jones is healthy for the first time since the Dallas game. Jones was a terror for the Viking secondary, hauling in eight balls for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Elsewhere in the Atlanta receiving corps, Calvin Ridley also found the end zone, as he snatched six of his seven targets for 61 yards and a touchdown. Hayden Hurst (4-57) caught the fourth Ryan score, albeit in garbage time.
The one thing the Falcons didn't do well offensively was run the ball, which was not a surprise because the Vikings are much better against the rush than the pass. Todd Gurley was limited to just 47 yards on 20 carries.
Going back to the Vikings, they're worth discussing again because they posted some garbage-time numbers. I showed you Cousins' dreadful first-half stats earlier in this recap. He ended up going 24-of-36 for 343 yards, three touchdowns and the three interceptions. Most of his meaningless yards and touchdowns went to rookie Justin Jefferson, who secured nine of his 11 targets for 166 yards and a pair of scores.
Excluding Jefferson, no Viking tallied more than 55 receiving yards. Adam Thielen didn't do much - he caught three passes for 51 yards - but he scored a touchdown to save his fantasy owners.
Stuck in a constant deficit, the Vikings couldn't run the ball whatsoever. Mattison was limited to just 26 yards on 10 carries, though to be fair, he missed out on the two touchdown opportunities mentioned earlier.
Giants 20, Redskins 19
Despite these teams combining for a 1-8-1 record heading into this game, this NFC East matchup had playoff implications because of how dreadful the division happens to be. The Giants prevailed to stay "alive" at 1-5, though they didn't really deserve the victory.
The Giants scored 20 points, but nearly all of that came via Kyle Allen incompetence. The former Panther quarterback made several blunders in this game, two of which gave the Giants 14 points. The first seven came after Allen tossed an interception into quadruple coverage. Yes, quadruple coverage. Daniel Jones took over on the Washington 27-yard line and was able to find Darius Slayton for a quick score. Later, with the game tied at 13, Allen lost a fumble on a strip-sack, which was returned for a touchdown.
The Giants led 20-13 because of these give-aways, yet Allen inexplicably drove down the field and found Cam Sims for what appeared to be the tying touchdown. Riverboat Ron Rivera, however, opted to go for the win via a two-point conversion. Allen disappointed his coach by throwing a helpless pass into the end zone that fell incomplete.
Allen didn't play well, but his fantasy stat line was actually somewhat decent; he went 31-of-42 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and the pair of turnovers.
Allen couldn't get Terry McLaurin to have a huge game, though James Bradberry's excellent coverage had something to do with that. McLaurin led the Redskins with seven catches for 74 yards. Logan Thomas (3-42) caught Allen's other touchdown.
The Redskins divided touches in their backfield equally between J.D. McKissic and Antonio Gibson. Gibson (9-30) had slightly more carries than McKissic (8-41), though the latter was more productive, both as a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. McKissic snatched six balls for 43 receiving yards. Gibson, meanwhile, caught four of his five targets for 25 receiving yards.
As for the "winners" of this game, it's at least a positive that Jones was able to throw his first touchdown pass since Week 1. That said, Jones' stat line, 12-of-19, 112 yards, one touchdown and an interception, was rather depressing. His interception was a panic decision made under pressure in the direction of Slayton. Jones clearly is not progressing, so it would be in the Giants' best interest to make an offensive coaching change during the extra rest following the Week 7 Thursday night affair against the Eagles.
While Jones struggled as a passer, he at least ran well. He scrambled seven times for 74 rushing yards. He outgained Devonta Freeman (18-61).
Slayton, as mentioned, caught Jones' touchdown. He ended up with two catches for 41 yards and the score. He appeared to get injured on the touchdown, but remained in the game. Evan Engram (2-30) was the only other Giant with more than 15 receiving yards.
Ravens 30, Eagles 28
Don't be fooled by this score. The Ravens dominated this game from start to almost finish. They had leads of 17-0, 24-6 and 30-14. They had full control the entire afternoon, and they would've maintained larger leads had they not shot themselves in the foot with penalties. Still, the Eagles were doing nothing. In the first 20 minutes of the game, Philadelphia had minus-7 yards, as Carson Wentz took three sacks.
Things appeared to be getting worse for the Eagles as the afternoon progressed. Zach Ertz and Jalen Mills both left the game with injuries, yet the Eagles were able to mount a comeback, thanks to some luck and more Baltimore penalties. One such infraction was a nonsense 49-yard pass interference drawn by emerging receiver Travis Fulgham. The Eagles moved into a first-and-goal, as Wentz somehow completed a pass while throwing off his back foot and getting blown up by Matthew Judon. Wentz then scored on a sneak to nearly erase the entire deficit. The Baltimore lead dwindled down to 30-28, so the Eagles had to try a two-point conversion. Judon created heavy pressure once again, this time stopping the play, as he blew up a Wentz-Boston Scott option. This sealed the win for the Ravens, who should have won this game by far more points.
Wentz went on a tear at the end of the game to salvage a strong fantasy performance. He finished 21-of-40 for 213 yards and three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing.) His first-half numbers were very ugly (7-of-14, 54 yards and a lost fumble), thanks to poor protection and a 48-yard drop on the initial drive, so his fantasy owners should be thrilled with how the second half unfolded despite that a potential third aerial score was dropped by Miles Sanders. Wentz should've had much better numbers if it wasn't for the drops, but he also could've been intercepted on two occasions. The Ravens dropped a pass that was deflected in the opening half, and then a Baltimore defender had the ball slip through his hands in the fourth quarter.
Speaking of Sanders, he was bottled up except for a 74-yard run in the third quarter. It should've been a 75-yard touchdown, but Sanders fumbled prior to reaching the goal line. Luckily for him, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was Johnny-on-the-spot to pick up the touchdown. Thus, Sanders fantasy owners have to be very frustrated that they missed out on a couple of scores even though their running back ran for 118 yards on nine attempts.
Fulgham had yet another strong output. He caught six of his 10 targets for 75 yards and a touchdown, and he also drew a deep interference flag. He was the only Eagle with more than 50 receiving yards, as Ertz (4-33) couldn't finish the game. John Hightower, who caught just one pass, dropped a potential 48-yard reception on the opening drive.
As for the Ravens, Lamar Jackson finally had a big performance on the ground, which has been lacking this year. Jackson decided to take things into his own hands, or rather, legs, as he scrambled nine times for 108 rushing yards and a touchdown. He wasn't great as a passer though, going 16-of-27 for 186 yards and a score. Jackson certainly did not have a clean game, as he took a horrible sack in the second quarter to move his team out of field goal range.
Jackson led the Ravens in rushing by a wide margin. Mark Ingram (5-20) left the game early with an injury, which is why Gus Edwards was given 14 carries. Edwards, however, turned those attempts into just 26 rushing yards, though he scored once. J.K. Dobbins (9-28) was more productive with fewer opportunities.
With Jackson not throwing very much, Marquise Brown (4-57) was the only Raven with more than 33 receiving yards. Mark Andrews (2-21) was a huge disappointment, as his fantasy owners saw Nick Boyle "vulture" a touchdown.
Steelers 38, Browns 7
The narrative that the Steelers have owned the Browns over the past couple of decades has been a bogus one when attempting to determine the outcome of this game, as Cleveland has a first-year coaching staff, a young quarterback and new supporting players. They weren't around to lose to the Steelers since the Browns reentered the NFL, and yet they played like they had in this game. They made countless errors to put themselves in a huge first-half hole they couldn't escape.
It began innocently when the Browns dropped an interception on Ben Roethlisberger's first pass. The Steelers were able to hit a field goal on the drive, and then they scored a touchdown defensively when Baker Mayfield telegraphed a pick-six. Pittsburgh then had an offensive scoring drive right after the Browns false started on a fourth-and-4 they were going to attempt. Down 17-0 now, Mayfield panicked and threw another ugly interception while under pressure. The Steelers took over in Cleveland territory, and Roethlisberger capitalized on a short field with a 28-yard touchdown to James Washington. At 24-0, this game was over despite it not even being halftime yet.
The Steelers' offensive numbers weren't even very good. They accumulated just 277 net yards of offense. They didn't need to do much when they had the ball, however, as the Browns gave them the win via Mayfield's poor passing. Mayfield was clearly not right after suffering a rib injury last week. The Browns listed him as a full participant in practice on Friday, leading me to believe that he was healthy, but that clearly was not the case. That'll at least excuse Mayfield's poor passing.
Mayfield was just 10-of-18 for 119 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, one of which was the aforementioned pick-six. The Browns benched him in the third quarter, much like the 49ers did with Jimmy Garoppolo a week ago versus the Dolphins.
With Mayfield laboring through the injury, neither Jarvis Landry nor Odell Beckham Jr. did well. Landry caught just three passes for 40 yards, while Beckham snatched just two balls for 25 yards.
Kareem Hunt was also a disappointment as a receiver, as he caught just two passes for 17 yards. Given how great of a weapon Hunt is, it's confusing as to why the Browns limited him as a pass-catcher. Hunt obviously could not run very much because of the constant deficit; he rushed for just 40 yards on 13 carries.
The Steelers had much more success running the ball despite missing two starting offensive linemen. James Conner bulldozed through the helpless Cleveland defenders, tallying 101 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts. Conner had a nice stat line, and it could've been even better had Benny Snell (6-17) not vultured a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Roethlisberger didn't have to do much with Mayfield self-destructing. He was 14-of-22 for 162 yards and a touchdown. As mentioned earlier, he was lucky his initial pass wasn't intercepted.
Chase Claypool was outstanding once again despite Roethlisberger's diminished passing numbers. Claypool caught four passes for 74 yards, and he also had a rushing touchdown. Claypool nearly had a second score, falling inches shy of the goal line after hauling in a beautiful 36-yard catch. Conner ran into the end zone on the very next play.
Elsewhere in the Pittsburgh receiving corps, Washington was next on the stat sheet with four catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. JuJu Smith-Schuster (2-6) was a big disappointment.
The dark cloud over this victory for the Steelers was a bad-looking knee injury linebacker Devin Bush suffered. The Steelers fear Bush tore his ACL.
Lions 34, Jaguars 16
No team in NFL history has been better at blowing double-digit leads in the first five weeks of the season than the Lions thus far. They once again led by double digits in this contest, thanks to some miserable play from the Jacksonville defense and Gardner Minshew. The Lions had a 17-3 advantage entering the third quarter when it seemed as though the tide would be turning against them once again. A Matthew Stafford batted pass turned into an interception to set up the Jaguars with a quick red zone opportunity. Minshew, however, lobbed some helpless passes into the end zone, and then a fourth-and-4 throw was nearly intercepted.
The Lions took over and drove down into the red zone, easily navigating through Jacksonville's inept defense. The Jaguars finally got a third-down stop in the red zone, albeit with a dropped touchdown. Detroit, unsatisfied with the idea of going up just 17, went for it on fourth down, and Stafford found T.J. Hockenson for the score to go up 24-3 to effectively end any possibility of yet another blown double-digit lead.
The big take-away from this game was that the Lions finally gave D'Andre Swift a heavy workload. Swift handled 14 carries, which he turned into 116 yards and two touchdowns. Now, the Lions aren't completely smart because Adrian Peterson still had more attempts - 15 carries, 40 yards, one touchdown - but at least Swift is way more involved in the offense. It took the Lions a bye week to figure it out, but at least they did.
Stafford let Swift do all of the work, but moved the chains when needed. Stafford was 19-of-31 for 223 yards, one touchdown and the aforementioned interception that wasn't his fault. Stafford nearly had a couple of other scores, but a defender interfered with Kenny Golladay, and a potential touchdown heading toward Hockenson was dropped when another player got in the way.
Speaking of Golladay, the talented receiver caught four passes for 105 yards. He had a chance at a touchdown, but drew an interference flag in the end zone instead.
Elsewhere in the Detroit receiving corps, Marvin Jones was a big disappointment with just two catches for eight yards. Hockenson also caught two passes (17 yards), but saved his fantasy owners with a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville's offense struggled for most of the afternoon, only finally finding the end zone in garbage time. This was frustrating, as the Jaguars were expected to perform better with D.J. Chark returning from injury. A major part of the problem was the loss of talented guard A.J. Cann to injury early in the contest. Minshew didn't have very good blocking with Cann out of the lineup.
Minshew finished 25-of-44 for 243 yards, one touchdown, an interception that was woefully underthrown and a lost fumble. Minshew also missed Chark for what should've been a 50-yard completion. I'm not sure why Minshew keeps trying helpless fades into the end zone, but he needs to stop because it's clearly not working for him.
Chark was a disappointment as well despite seeing 14 targets. He caught half of those for 45 yards, though his stat line would've been much better had Minshew been able to deliver a gimme 50-yard completion to him in which Chark was open. Chark trailed Keelan Cole, who had a monster stat line. Cole caught six passes for 143 yards.
James Robinson couldn't take advantage of a soft Detroit run defense because of the Cann injury, as he was limited to just 29 yards on 12 carries. However, he made up for it with four catches for 24 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Broncos 18, Patriots 12
The Patriots were hit hard by some positive tests for minor illnesses in the days leading up to this game. They initially lost backup center James Ferentz, who was starting for the injured David Andrews. Then, it was reported Saturday afternoon that Pro Bowl guard Shaq Mason would miss this game as well. The Patriots, down three starting offensive linemen, lost a fourth blocker when Jermaine Eluemunor suffered an injury early in this contest.
If you can't block in the NFL, you can't win, and the Patriots could not block the Broncos whatsoever with four absent offensive linemen. Cam Newton had a miserable afternoon, as he saw tons of pressure, taking four sacks in the process. Newton also had a drive disrupted when an errant snap from the third-string center caused him to take a big loss.
The relentless Denver pressure forced Newton into a couple of interceptions as well. One pick was tipped at the line of scrimmage as a result of heavy heat from Denver's front, while the second interception was a hurried throw that ended up being slightly deflected. Despite all of this, Newton had a chance to engineer a game-winning drive, but his final pass on a fourth down was way off the mark because of pressure.
Newton finished 17-of-25 for 157 yards and the two interceptions. He also fumbled on a strip-sack, but was fortunate that a teammate of his recovered. Luckily for his fantasy owners, Newton was able to scramble 10 times for 76 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Drew Lock, meanwhile, didn't have the same problems as Newton. His issues were going against Bill Belichick and a talented secondary. Despite this, Lock had some bright moments in this contest. He connected on some deep passes to Tim Patrick, one of which was a 35-yard connection where he hit Patrick in between two defenders. It was an exceptional play that showcased Lock's potential. Lock also missed out on two potential touchdowns, as a couple of his passes into the end zone were dropped by Albert Okwuegbunam and DaeSean Hamilton.
Lock, however, had his struggles as well. He took a couple of putrid sacks for big losses as a result of holding the ball too long in the pocket. Lock also nearly threw the game aay with a couple of interceptions in the fourth quarter. One may not have been his fault because there was a miscommunication, but the second was unacceptable; he heaved the ball downfield into double coverage while under heavy pressure. It gave Newton one final chance, but Denver's defense came up big.
Lock finished 10-of-24 for 189 yards and the two picks. He didn't throw any touchdowns, but he would have tossed two if it weren't for the aforementioned drops. He had a roller coaster of a game, making great throws while also committing stupid mistakes. This was quite the learning experience from Lock in his first matchup against Bill Belichick.
Patrick, as mentioned, caught some deep passes. He hauled in four balls for 101 yards, and he also drew a defensive hold in the end zone. Jerry Jeudy (2-32) didn't perform as well, while tight end Okwuegbunam (2-45) made some nice plays starting in place of the injured Noah Fant. Okwuegbunam nearly caught a touchdown, but the ball was knocked out of his hands at the last second. Perhaps the Redskins can trade for him.
Melvin Gordon was also sidelined, which allowed Phillip Lindsay to start. Lindsay reached the century mark, running for 101 yards on 23 carries.
Newton, meanwhile, led his team in rushing. The Patriots simply couldn't get anything going on the ground, with Damien Harris managing just 19 yards on six carries.
James White paced the Patriots in receiving with eight grabs for 65 yards. The top wideout was Damiere Byrd with three catches for 38 yards. Julian Edelman was way worse, with his two catches going for just eight yards.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I don't get it. I don't know how the Bears are 5-1. Then again, I don't know how Nick Foles out-dueled Tom Brady in Super Bowl LII, so let's enjoy the ride.
This was a big road win for Chicago in the competitive NFC, and it ended the Panthers' three-game win streak. Like the 1983 White Sox, the Bears played their brand of "winning ugly" to improve to 5-1. Nick Foles did just enough, and the Chicago defense did the rest to hold down Teddy Bridgewater.
The opening possession was a disaster for the Panthers with a penalty and a Bilal Nichols sack, and on third down, Jaylon Johnson deflected a pass to Tashaun Gipson for an interception that set up the Bears' offense at the Carolina 7-yard line. Chicago's offense took advantage with Nick Foles throwing a perfect strike to Cole Kmet for a 9-yard touchdown. Carolina responded by using D.J. Moore and Mike Davis to produce a field goal drive.
After a Khalil Mack sack forced a punt, the Bears offense got moving via passes to Jimmy Graham, David Montgomery and Cole Kmet to get a field goal. Carolina responded with a good drive that used Moore, Davis, a hit-to-the-head penalty, and the Bears jumping offsides on fourth-and-2 inside the 10 to give Carolina a first down. But the Chicago defense produced a stand to force another field goal. The Bears led 13-6 at intermission.
The game got sloppy in the third quarter on the part of both the teams and the officials. A terrible pass interference on an uncatchable ball gifted Chicago 21 yards to get the Bears into Carolina territory, but a punt pinned the Panthers deep in their own territory. Mike Davis fumbled the ball to Chicago at the Carolina 21-yard line, but on the very next play, Jeremy Chinn picked off Nick Foles. On the following play, Eddie Jackson caught a deflected pass that he returned for a touchdown. However, a pass interference penalty on Kyle Fuller saved Carolina and negated the score. Robby Anderson (4-77) made an incredible diving catch for a 38-yard gain, but Joey Slye missed a 54-yard field goal.
Finally, there was some positive execution as Foles took advantage of the field position and distributed the ball to move it down the field before scoring on a quarterback sneak to put Chicago up 20-6 entering the fourth quarter.
Carolina's next drive was aided by two 12-men-in-the-huddle penalties on Chicago and a Mike Davis converted fourth down. A misguided pass interference on Jaylon Johnson put the ball at the 1-yard line, and Davis scored to cut the Bears lead to 20-13. Foles then made a clutch third-down conversion to Allen Robinson for 30 yards to set up a Santos field goal to put the Bears up 23-13. A 38-yard pass to Moore set up a 48-yard three-pointer from Slye.
Carolina got the ball back with just over five minutes remaining inside their own 20. The Panthers moved to midfield, but Bridgewater threw an inaccurate pass on a fourth-and-2 that Moore could not haul with an acrobatic catch. An accurate throw could have gone for a touchdown because Moore was behind the Chicago defense. Matt Nagy also made a coaching blunder not running the ball on a third-and-2, and Rasul Douglas broke up the pass to save the Panthers their final timeout and give Bridgwater one more chance. DeAndre Houston-Carson, however, intercepted Bridgwater to clinch the Bears' victory.
Foles completed 23-of-39 passes for 198 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Montgomery ran for 58 yards on 19 carries while catching four passes for 39 yards.
Robinson caught five passes for 53 yards.
Bridgewater completed 16-of-29 passes for 216 yards with zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Bridgewater ran for 48 yards on eight carries.
Davis ran for 52 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown, but also had a fumble.
Moore led the Panthers in receiving with five catches for 93 yards, but this was a bad game overall from Moore. He dropped multiple passes, including a touchdown and another difficult catch late in the fourth quarter that could have tied the game.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I got a kick out of Joe Flacco taking a 26-yard sack in this game. I literally laughed out loud for about 30 seconds. That was needed after the poor Week 6 pick results.
Even though Miami destroyed New York, the Jets got a huge victory on Sunday with the Giants and Falcons getting their first wins of the season. That leaves the Jets as the sole winless team in the NFL. Getting the No. 1 pick of the 2021 NFL Draft to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence would be worth going 0-16, so Week 6 ended up being excellent for the Jets. The Dolphins, of course, cruised over the Jets, so Miami improves to 3-3 and is a legit contender in the AFC playoff race.
The Dolphins scored early, ending the drive with Ryan Fitzpatrick finding Adam Shaheen from four yards. Myles Gaskin helped set up Miami's second touchdown, with the score coming when Fitzpatrick fired a strike to Preston Williams. The domination continued, with Xavien Howard picking off Joe Flacco. Fitzpatrick then found Shaheen for a 43-yard completion and then tossed a short touchdown pass to Durham Smythe. Miami was threatening to score again, but Fitzpatrick threw an interception to Brian Poole, so the Jets entered halftime down 21-0.
In the third quarter, the Dolphins added a field goal and the Jets missed one. New York's Marcus Maye made an incredible interception, holding the ball against his back while rolling over to negate another Miami scoring opportunity. Shockingly, the first third-down conversion of this game came on the 20th third-down attempt, with Flacco finding Breshad Perriman (4-62) to cross midfield. Hilariously, Flacco took a sack of minus-26 yards to kill that drive.
Late in the fourth quarter in garbage time, Tua Tagovailoa made his debut for the Dolphins, completing 2-of-2 passes for nine yards and handing the ball off to kill the clock.
Fitzpatrick completed 18-of-27 passes for 191 yards and three touchdown with two interceptions.
Gaskin ran for 91 yards on 18 carries.
Shaheen led Miami with three receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Flacco completed 21-of-44 passes for 186 yards and an interception.
Frank Gore ran for 46 yards on 11 carries.
Buccaneers 38, Packers 10
Aaron Rodgers hadn't thrown an interception all year heading into this game. In fact, the Packers hadn't committed a single turnover in 2020. That's all history now, as the Buccaneers were able to capitalize on some very unusual Rodgers blunders to open up a big lead in an unexpected blowout victory to make a big step in their efforts to secure a high seed in the NFC playoff race.
It's almost hard to believe by looking at the score that the Packers had a 10-0 lead in this affair. That advantage was quickly sliced to three when Rodgers stared down his receiver, allowing talented young cornerback Jamel Dean to snatch the pick-six. Rodgers then had another interception on a deflection that was also nearly taken back for a touchdown, but the defender was tackled just shy of the goal line. That ultimately didn't matter, with Ronald Jones scoring right after that to give the Buccaneers a lead they would never relinquish.
Rodgers was a mess the entire afternoon. The second pick wasn't really his fault, but he was just way off in most instances. He missed Marcedes Lewis for a big gain, then took a delay-of-game penalty because he wasn't looking at the play clock. He nearly tossed a third pick, but a Tampa Bay defender dropped the ball. It was a truly, ugly performance from Rodgers, and the lack of protection didn't help matters. The Buccaneers dominated the trenches, especially after All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari left the game in the second quarter with a chest injury. Rodgers took four sacks, as Ndamukong Suh made life extremely difficult for him. Suh was trash talking to Rodgers all afternoon.
Rodgers finished with an appalling stat line, going 16-of-35 for 160 yards and the two picks, making this the first time Rodgers had a multi-interception game since 2017. This outcome was clearly an anomaly, as Rodgers will be better off this embarrassing loss. That said, he'll need Bakhtiari healthy in order to have his best chance of leading his team to a Super Bowl.
With Rodgers struggling, it's almost a miracle that Davante Adams caught six passes for 61 yards. He was the only Packer with more than 32 receiving yards. Robert Tonyan (3-25) missed some action with an injury, but was able to return to the field.
The Packers have the best run defense in the NFL, which would explain why Aaron Jones was limited to just 15 yards on 10 carries. He scored a touchdown to salvage things for his fantasy owners. Jones also caught three passes for 26 yards.
Tom Brady got off to a rough start in the first quarter, but performed better as the afternoon progressed. He did a fine job of managing the game and allowing his defense to dominate Rodgers. He exited the field midway through the fourth quarter, finishing 17-of-27 for 166 yards and two touchdowns.
Brady's top target in this game was Rob Gronkowski, who finally did something in a Tampa Bay uniform. Gronkowski caught five passes for 78 yards and a touchdown, showing signs of life for the first time in a couple of years.
Gronkowski and Chris Godwin (5-48) were the only Buccaneers with more than 10 receiving yards. Mike Evans had that exact amount on just one catch, as he was bottled up by stellar cornerback Jaire Alexander.
With Leonard Fournette ruled out, Ronald Jones handled the entire workload. He had a huge game, rushing for 113 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
49ers 24, Rams 16
The 49ers came into this game with several problems, all of which magically disappeared in the win over the Rams. Let's review:
- Pass protection: San Francisco's offensive line has been terrible the past couple of weeks. The interior blocking had been poor, while Trent Williams struggled as well. That, however, completely changed against the Rams. Jimmy Garoppolo wasn't sacked on a single occasion, as the 49ers had a great game plan prepared for neutralizing Aaron Donald.
Garoppolo happened to release the ball quickly, allowing him to complete a high percentage of his throws. Garoppolo went 23-of-33 for 268 yards and three touchdowns. He played an excellent game after being removed in the second half of last week's blowout defeat against the Dolphins.
That said, the 49ers' offense didn't function as well when Raheem Mostert left the game with an injury. Mostert played like a human bulldozer, trampling right over pathetic Rams tackling attempts. He ran for 65 yards, but only doing so on 17 carries. Mostert was bound to eclipse the century plateau had he not been removed frm the game.
- Pass rush. With Nick Bosa and Dee Ford out with injuries, the 49ers haven't been able to put much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That was not the case tonight, as they rattled Jared Goff. The stat sheet will show that Goff didn't take a sack, but he had to hurry some throws because he had some pressure in his face.
Quarterbacks obviously perform worse when they're pressured, but it's to the Nth degree with Goff, who can only succeed with a clean pocket. Because of the circumstances in this game, Goff completed just half of his passes, going 19-of-38 for 198 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that was thrown into the end zone. Kupp had some opportunities for big plays, but couldn't connect with Cooper Kupp, overthrowing him badly in the early stages of this contest.
- Coverage. The 49ers were missing four of their top five cornerbacks in Weeks 4 and 5. They got Emmanuel Moseley back from injury in this contest, which was enormous. Moseley and Jason Verrett provided the 49ers with the ability to cover the Rams' dynamic receivers.
Robert Woods and Kupp were stymied as a result. Woods caught four passes for 29 yards and a touchdown, while Kupp was limited to three grabs for 11 yards. That said, it wasn't all about the 49ers' corners, as Kupp dropped two touchdowns in this game. It was an extremely disappointing performance for the young Ram receiver.
Elsewhere in this game, George Kittle was the leading stat-producer of all the play-makers. The Rams couldn't cover him at all, as Kittle caught seven passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. Deebo Samuel (6-66) also scored, and he picked up the final first down of the game to seal the victory for the 49ers. Brandon Aiyuk (2-12) found the end zone as well.
The Rams' primary tight end also led his team in receiving, as Tyler Higbee snatched three balls for 56 yards. Josh Reynolds (2-45) also outgained both Woods and Kupp.
The best element of the Rams' offense was Darrell Henderson's running. Henderson could only rush the ball 14 times because of the constant deficit, but he turned those opportunities into 88 yards. He had all but two of the carries in the Rams' backfield, as Malcolm Brown (2-4) was given the others. Cam Akers was nowhere to be found.
Chiefs 26, Bills 17
Major injury news broke for the Bills prior to kickoff. They were waiting to see if Tre'Davious White and Matt Milano would return from injury. White was set to be back, but that was not the case for Milano. This was a huge problem for the Bills, as they wouldn't be able to cover the middle of the field against a Kansas City team with tons of talent to exploit that liability.
And exploit it, they did. The Chiefs' first half saw Patrick Mahomes pepper Travis Kelce with targets, and the dynamic tight end had plenty of success. Kelce reeled in five of his seven targets for 65 yards and two touchdowns. Then, in the second half, the Chiefs decided to keep most of the plays on the ground to avoid the rainy conditions and nurse a lead, so Kelce could have been in for an even greater output had the Bills been a bit more competitive.
Kansas City was just as dominant on the ground as it was when feeding Kelce. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, trying his hardest to prove that the Le'Veon Bell signing wasn't necessary, rushed for 161 yards on 26 carries. He didn't score, but he had a touchdown called back by an obvious holding penalty. There was some drama at the end when Edwards-Helaire fumbled to give the Bills a chance at a victory, but replay review showed his knee was on the ground prior to the ball leaving his grasp.
Patrick Mahomes also did some running in the second half. He picked up 36 rushing yards on 10 scrambles to go along with his precision passing. Mahomes misfired on just five occasions despite the rainy conditions, going 21-of-26 for 225 yards and the two touchdowns to Kelce. He was lucky to get away with a potential interception in the third quarter, as a Buffalo defender dropped a wet ball.
Speaking of Kelce, he was second on the Chiefs' receiving list. Tyreek Hill wasn't first, however, as he had to deal with White's excellent coverage. This would explain why Hill was limited to just three catches for 20 yards. Demarcus Robinson led the way with five grabs for 69 yards. It was surprising that he greatly outplayed Mecole Hardman, who didn't log a single reception.
The dark cloud over this victory was an injury to Mitchell Schwartz. He left the game with a back injury. The Chiefs could have issues going forward if they're down both Schwartz and Kelechi Osemele.
As for the Bills, they didn't handle the rain as well as the Chiefs did. They were guilty of some drops, while Josh Allen missed some deep passes. He had an opportunity to connect on deep throws to Stefon Diggs and John Brown, but the long completions were minimal.
Allen barely completed half of his passes, going 14-of-27 for 122 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in desperation time. His completion percentage should have been better in relation to the drops, but Allen didn't have a good performance by any means.
Despite a couple of miscues between Allen and Diggs, the former Viking receiver caught six of his eight targets for 46 yards and a touchdown, which featured an impressive toe tap in the end zone. Diggs drew two penalties as well; one pass interference and one illegal contact.
Aside from Diggs, Cole Beasley was the only other Buffalo player with more than 13 receiving yards. He caught four balls for 45 yards and a touchdown. John Brown, who couldn't come up with a single reception, dropped a pass and was targeted on a deep shot that Allen overthrew.
Zack Moss returned from injury, but Devin Singletary doubled him up in carries. Singletary mustered 32 yards on 10 attempts, while Moss was restricted to just 10 yards on five rushes. Moss' highlight was dragging a tackler to pick up a first down.
Cardinals 38, Cowboys 10
I thought the Cowboys would want to "win one for Dak" in response to losing their starting quarterback to a season-ending injury. Whatever energy they had was quickly wiped out by three events that took place early in this game. Two were Ezekiel Elliott fumbles, as the star running back coughed up the ball twice in his own territory, setting up two quick touchdowns for the Cardinals to go up 14-0. The third was an injury to Zack Martin. Already down La'el Collins, Tyron Smith and Joe Looney, the Cowboys lost a fourth blocker.
Down all but one starter up front - Martin is their best blocker - the Cowboys didn't stand a chance to keep Arizona out of the backfield. Thus, the Cowboys didn't have much of an opportunity of mounting a comeback from down 14-0, and then 21-0 when Kyler Murray hit Christian Kirk for an 80-yard touchdown bomb. Andy Dalton's blocking made him force some bad passes, and the result of this was a multi-turnover evening on his part as well.
Then again, one could argue that Dalton wouldn't have stood a chance anyway. He can lead a stacked team to the playoffs, but all the Cowboys have are skill-position players and a couple of good defenders. Their defense as a whole isn't very good, while their offensive line is in shambles. Unless Martin and Looney can return soon, and the defense gets better, Dalton won't even be able to win the terrible NFC East.
Dalton, who went 34-of-54 for 266 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, was miserable. The night could've gone much worse for him though, as he had a potential pick-six that was dropped at the beginning of the game when he threw the ball right to linebacker Jordan Hicks. He also had an open Amari Cooper for a touchdown at one point, but simply didn't see him. It's going to be a long season for the Cowboys.
Regarding the winning quarterback, it's hard to believe, given how lopsided the score is, that Murray completed just nine passes in this game despite attempting 24 throws. His accuracy wasn't very good in this game, particularly early before the Cowboys gift-wrapped this win for Arizona. Murray, however, threw two touchdowns, including the aforementioned 80-yard bomb to Kirk.
Thanks to that 80-yard touchdown, Kirk led the Cardinals in receiving with two grabs for 86 yards and a pair of scores. He finished just ahead of DeAndre Hopkins, who also hauled in just two balls for 73 yards. Hopkins, however, had way more targets than Kirk, 8-3. For some reason, Murray and Hopkins weren't on the same page at all, with them having some miscommunications. They'll need to shore up those issues if they want to beat the Seahawks next week.
With Murray completing just nine passes, Kenyan Drake did all the work. Drake has been a disappointment this year, but he finally came through for his fantasy owners, rushing for 164 yards and two touchdowns on just 20 carries.
Drake outgained Elliott by a wide margin. Elliott mustered just 49 yards on 12 carries, though he caught eight passes for 31 receiving yards. He was stuffed at the goal line in the fourth quarter. This loss was all on Elliott; Dallas' best player let the team down, so the rest of the roster couldn't play well either.
Cooper caught a garbage-time touchdown at the very end to pad his stats. He made seven catches for 79 yards, finishing just ahead of CeeDee Lamb (7-64), who dropped a pass. Michael Gallup (2-23) dropped a touchdown when the game was close.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.