The 49ers entered this game severely undermanned. They were missing Jimmy Garoppolo, George Kittle, their best three receivers, their top two three running backs, their left tackle and their center. And yet, it was the defense that looked completely inept in this completely, one-sided affair.
Of course, this couldn't have been a surprise. The 49ers were down five defensive starters entering this contest, and they were tasked with stopping a motivated Aaron Rodgers, who was looking to both bounce back off a loss and avenge his defeat to the 49ers in the NFC Championship this past January. Rodgers, as a result, torched San Francisco mercilessly.
Rodgers finished with just six incompletions, going 25-of-31 for 305 yards and four touchdowns. Rodgers' only miscue was missing Davante Adams for a big gain in the opening quarter. One of the incompletions was a drop.
The 49ers had no answer for Adams. Despite Rodgers missing him for a nice gain early on, Adams still was able to haul in 10 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. He also drew an interference flag that set up a touchdown on the following play.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, it looked like Marquez Valdes-Scantling would have another rough night when he dropped a pass on third down. However, he bounced back to catch two touchdowns, rewarding those who were bold enough to play him on DraftKings. Those were his only catches, and they were good for 53 yards.
Aaron Jones was a surprise active. Dexter Williams and Tyler Ervin were expected to split the workload, but Jones started and was able to have a solid performance. Jones gained 58 yards on 15 carries to go along with five catches for 21 receiving yards. Ironically, Williams left the game with an injury.
Speaking of injuries, a dark cloud over this game was a concussion suffered by cornerback Jaire Alexander. Luckily, the Packers have extra time off for the Pro Bowler to recover. Besides, with the Packers hosting the Jaguars next week, they won't even need him.
Meanwhile, the 49er offense did nothing until garbage time. This was a 34-3 game until the very end, when the Packers stopped trying. Nick Mullens gave San Francisco no chance behind his injury-ravaged offensive line.
Mullens went 22-of-35 for 291 yards, one garbage-time touchdown, an interception and a lost fumble. The pick occurred when Mullens was hit as he released his pass, but he should have been picked on two other occasions. The fumble happened as a result of backup left tackle Justin Skule being easily beaten by Za'Darius Smith. Skule was embarrassed so much in this game that his future grandchildren will have to deal with the humiliation.
With the top three receivers out, Richie James was the star performer for the 49ers. James caught nine balls for 184 yards and a touchdown. Much of this came late, but James logged 72 receiving yards in the opening half.
Excluding James and backup tight end Ross Dwelley (3-52), no other San Francisco player registered more than 16 receiving yards. Trent Taylor (1-9) was a major disappointment.
Speaking of disappointments, JaMycal Hasty barely did anything, mustering only three yards on four carries. Jerick McKinnon (12-52, TD) was far more productive.
Falcons 34, Broncos 27
There was so much optimism for the Broncos following last week's comeback win against the Chargers. Drew Lock had an incredible fourth quarter to pull out a victory, so the expectation was that he would continue to play well against an Atlanta defense that was missing its top two edge rushers and dealing with problems in the secondary.
Instead, this game was an uncontested blowout, as the Broncos failed to do anything offensively, while the Falcons scored at will. By halftime, the Falcons held a 17-point lead, all while outgaining the Broncos, 258-112.
Then again, it wasn't exactly a surprise that Atlanta had so much success offensively. The Broncos were expected to be without cornerback A.J. Bouye, forcing Bryce Callahan out of the slot to cover Julio Jones. And yet, Callahan was shockingly ruled out an hour-and-a-half prior to kickoff. This made things very difficult for a defense already missing its entire front line. The Falcons, consequently, didn't punt on a single occasion until the third quarter.
Denver simply had no chance without Bouye and Callahan. Matt Ryan took full advantage of the injury-ravaged Denver secondary by going 25-of-35 for 284 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, which was an underthrown ball. Ryan was seldom under pressure, as he had all the time in the world to dissect the Broncos' defense on most downs.
With Ridley out, Julio Jones was poised to have a big performance. Jones caught five passes for 54 yards and a touchdown to go along with a drawn interference flag. This was a stat line that didn't exactly meet expectations. Instead, the standout receiver was Olamide Zaccheaus, who caught four passes for 103 yards and a touchdown. This was a shocking result, as Christian Blake (3-31) is usually the replacement for Ridley. Zaccheaus was excellent, and he even drew an interference flag in the red zone as well, though this was overturned by replay review because the ball was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
Russell Gage was another disappointment in the Atlanta receiving corps. With no Callahan to cover him, Gage was expected to do well, but he reeled in just two of his six targets for 11 yards. Hayden Hurst, meanwhile, was second on the team with seven grabs for 62 yards.
Todd Gurley didn't do anything in this game until scoring a late touchdown off a turnover. He was limited to 53 yards and that score on 19 attempts.
By looking at the score and stats, this 34-27 result may seem like it was a shootout. Lock, after all, threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns. This, however, was incredibly misleading, as all of Lock's positive plays came in garbage time when the Falcons stopped trying, up 27-6 at the end of the third quarter.
Lock's final numbers included 25-of-48 passing and an interception, which was a horrible throw off his back foot. Lock, who missed several passes, including an open Tim Patrick for an easy touchdown, was a colossal disappointment in a positive matchup. He really needs to improve his pocket presence, as he tends to panic sometimes, even when he's not under heavy pressure. He has a habit of moving backward instead of stepping up in the pocket. He did this on several occasions in this contest.
The Broncos couldn't run the ball at all on Atlanta, as Lock finished as the team's leading runner. He gained 47 yards and a touchdown on seven attempts. Phillip Lindsay (8-23) and Melvin Gordon (6-18) offered nothing.
The silver lining for the Broncos in this defeat was that Jerry Jeudy finally had a breakout performance. Jeudy caught seven passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, and he also drew an interference flag. Granted, all but one of Jeudy's catches came in the second half when the game was out of hand, but he still looked great. K.J. Hamler (6-75) and Patrick (4-29, TD) also did well in garbage time, though Hamler dropped a pass in the second quarter.
Bills 44, Seahawks 34
The Bills just achieved a monumental victory for their franchise last week, finally beating the Patriots to establish full control of the AFC East for the first time since the 1990s. They could have easily rested on their laurels, but instead put together a terrific game plan against the Seahawks. They generated 292 yards of offense in the opening half, leading 24-7 at one point.
Buffalo was fully aware that the Seahawks are much worse against the rush than the pass. We know this because the Bills called a grand total of two runs in the first half, with Zack Moss getting both of them for 13 yards. Instead, Josh Allen ceaselessly attacked Seattle's beleaguered secondary and had great success against it despite Jamal Adams' return. The Seahawks, quite simply, couldn't generate any sort of pressure on Allen prior to halftime, so they adjusted by blitzing way more frequently following intermission. This worked for a couple of drives, the Bills adjusted and hit some big plays to counter the blitz.
In the opening half alone, Allen was 24-of-28 for 282 yards and three touchdowns. Allen had struggled a bit in previous weeks, but rebounded extremely well in this game. Granted, it was an easy matchup, but it was encouraging to see Allen revert to the high level of play he maintained at the start of the season.
Allen ultimately finished above the 400-yard plateau, going 31-of-38 for 415 yards and three touchdowns. He also scrambled in a fourth score, running seven times for 14 yards. His only blemish was a fumble on a strip-sack, but the ball bounced back right to him. Allen, not Russell Wilson, looked like the MVP in this matchup.
Speaking of Wilson, he posted a terrific stat line, that is, if turnovers are ignored. Wilson went 28-of-41 for 390 yards and two touchdowns. That looks great until factoring in a whopping four give-aways. The first was a desperation heave into the end zone on fourth down. The second was a lost fumble. The third was a hurl right to Tre'Davious White on a third-and-25 instance. The fourth was another lost fumble on a strip-sack.
This was a very disappointing outcome for Wilson, who entered this game as a field goal favorite. He's still the front-runner for MVP, but that will change with more results like this.
Stefon Diggs was the leading receiver in this contest, catching nine passes for 118 yards to go along with a drawn interference flag in the end zone. He and John Brown (8-99) posted great yardage totals, though neither scored touchdowns. Allen's scores went to unlikely players like Gabriel Davis (4-70), Isaiah McKenzie and Tyler Kroft. Davis would have scored twice had Sean McDermott challenged a play in which Davis appeared to reach the end zone in the second half.
D.K. Metcalf, meanwhile, nearly matched Diggs' yardage total, and unlike Diggs, he managed to score. Metcalf snatched seven of his nine targets for 108 yards and a touchdown, and he also drew an interference flag for a significant gain. Metcalf and David Moore (4-71) had Wilson's scores. Tyler Lockett (4-40) didn't do as well, though he just missed out on a touchdown in the opening half when he was tackled inches shy of the goal line.
Neither team had much success running the ball. DeeJay Dallas was limited to 31 yards on seven carries, but he had a touchdown. Zack Moss (9-18) also scored, while Devin Singletary was nowhere to be found. Singletary was given just two attempts, turning those into a single yard. He caught three passes for 33 receiving yards, but his decreasing usage is very perplexing.
Despite the win, the Bills saw a couple of offensive linemen - Cody Ford, Brian Winters - suffer injuries in the first 18 minutes of the game.
Titans 24, Bears 17
The Bengals were missing five offensive linemen against the Titans last week, and yet they were still able to pull out a victory. Thus, there was the possibility of lightning strike twice with the Bears missing three blockers in this game.
The Bears, however, don't have the offensive talent that the Bengals possess. Their offense, by contrast to what Cincinnati accomplished last week, was absolutely miserable. Chicago gave more points to Tennessee than it scored in meaningful action, as a David Montgomery lost fumble was returned for a touchdown by newcomer Desmond King. Otherwise, the Bears accumulated just 105 net yards of offense in the opening half.
Tennessee, meanwhile, didn't have much more success. It hit a couple of big plays, courtesy of A.J. Brown's brilliance, but the rest of the offensive snaps comprised of Ryan Tannehill sacks, ineffective Derrick Henry runs and Anthony Firkser drops. The Titans were actually being outgained by the Bears, 190-145, when the Montgomery lost fumble occurred in the third quarter. Ultimately, it didn't matter, as Chicago self-destructed far too often to give it a chance to pull the upset.
The stats say that Nick Foles threw for 335 yards and two touchdowns on 36-of-52 passing, but believe me, he did not play nearly as well. All of this came in garbage time. If you want evidence, Foles accumulated just 85 yards in the opening half. He also had two potential interceptions that were dropped. One of the dropped picks was "woefully short," to quote FOX play-by-play announcer Dick Stockton.
Thanks to garbage time, Allen Robinson was able to rebound with a one-catch first half to finish with seven grabs for 81 yards. Anthony Miller and Darnell "Mad Eye" Mooney each caught five passes for 59 and 43 yards, respectively. Jimmy Graham (6-55) caught a touchdown.
The Bears couldn't run the ball whatsoever on the Titans, as Montgomery was limited to 30 yards on 14 carries to go along with his aforementioned lost fumble returned for a touchdown. He was stuffed on a fourth-and-1 on a slow-developing play in the first quarter and then got nothing on a third-and-2 after a converted fake punt in the second frame. His game ended when he left with a concussion. For reasons unknown, the Bears continue to line up Cordarrelle Patterson in the backfield. It makes no sense why they keep doing this.
As mentioned earlier, A.J. Brown made some great plays. He caught four passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, finishing well ahead of everyone else on the roster. His longest gain, a 40-yarder, came with several broken tackles. Jonnu Smith (2-32) was the only other Titan with more than 20 receiving yards, and he caught a score late in the game. Corey Davis didn't catch a single pass, thanks in part to a deep drop.
Ryan Tannehill failed to complete half of his passes, which was the result of some terrific play by Chicago's defense. Tannehill was victimized by some drops, but the Bears gave him lots of problems with their pass rush. Chicago also dropped a potential interception of Tannehill's.
Chicago also did a great job of limiting Derrick Henry. The monstrous runner was held to 68 yards on 21 tries.
Ravens 24, Colts 10
If the Colts couldn't beat the Ravens in this game, then they wouldn't stand a chance against the top-tier teams in a potential playoff run. Baltimore came into this contest with some injuries, including a couple on the offensive line. With a potentially limited Lamar Jackson, and Baltimore missing some key defensive personnel, this would be Indianapolis' chance to make a big, statement victory to help its seeding in the AFC playoff race.
The Colts were in complete control of this game in the opening half. Their terrific front seven limited Jackson and the Ravens' offense to just 55 net yards by intermission, with Baltimore netting 2.2 yards per play. The Colts should have been up 10-0, but the Ravens had seven points because Jonathan Taylor lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Still, the Colts seemed in complete command despite being up just 10-7.
The reason the Ravens couldn't do anything offensively in the first half? Darius Leonard. Arguably the best linebacker in the NFL, Leonard was everywhere. If Jackson tried to make a play, Leonard was there to stop him. It was a truly terrific performance.
Curiously, everything changed instantly in the third quarter. The Ravens suddenly had success moving the chains, and Indianapolis' defense couldn't get off the field. The Ravens even overcame Gus Edwards fumbling near the goal line, though it helped that the Colts gave them possession again with a quick turnover. Still, Indianapolis' great run defense couldn't tackle the two Raven running backs, which made things easier for Jackson, who was able to bounce back from last week's four-turnover struggle against the Steelers.
The reason the Colts suddenly couldn't stop the Ravens in the second half? Darius Leonard. With the Colts up 10-7 in the third quarter, Leonard suffered an injury, going to the ground in pain. He missed just one snap, but he was not the same player upon his return. I carefully watched him on every snap, and he was clearly a step slower than he was in the opening half. He also looked hesitant to get in on some plays. With Jackson and fellow linebacker Anthony Walker hurt, Jackson's attempted scrambles worked, while the Baltimore ground attack was far more effective.
Jackson, despite his horrible first-half ineptitude, misfired on just four passes. Jackson went 19-of-23 for 170 yards, and he also led his team in rushing with 58 yards and a touchdown on 13 scrambles. He was fortunate not to throw an interception, as he heaved a first-half pass right to Walker, who dropped the ball.
Jackson, as mentioned, was able to feed off the Colts needing to pay extra attention to the running backs once the Indianapolis defenders forgot how to tackle in the second half. Neither of the stat lines for J.K. Dobbins (12-30) and Edwards (11-23, TD) were overly impressive, but considering that they had just four total rushing yards in the first half, it just shows how much better they were following intermission.
With the Ravens running all over the Colts in the second half, it's no surprise that only three Ravens topped Mark Andrews' 22 receiving yards. Those were Nick Boyle (4-46), Marquise Brown (3-38) and Willie Snead (4-37). Brown had a drop on a third down, which accounted for one of Jackson's four incompletions.
Meanwhile, the Colts couldn't do anything following halftime, as they were stuck at 10 for the duration of second-half play. Philip Rivers crushed his team's chances with extremely mediocre quarterbacking, which included an interception on a dumb, deep shot. It could be argued that the pass should've been incomplete, as the ball was slipping out of Marcus Peters' hands before he fumbled, but replay review gave Baltimore the interception.
Rivers finished 26-of-44 for 227 yards and the sole interception. He was hurt by some drops, but his diminishing arm strength, lacking mobility and underwhelming receiving corps will prevent the Colts from making a deep run into the playoffs.
Rookie Michael Pittman led the Colts in receiving with four catches for 56 yards, followed by Zach Pascal (5-55). Marcus Johnson (2-14), meanwhile, had an abysmal game. He dropped a pass and also couldn't see the ball on a deep shot when he had the Raven corners beaten. Even though Rivers hasn't clicked with T.Y. Hilton, it was clear that Indianapolis missed its top wideout.
Taylor, who had the aforementioned lost fumble returned for a touchdown, was a disappointment once more, finishing with 27 yards and a touchdown on six carries. Jordan Wilkins once again handled more of the workload, gaining 39 yards on 11 tries.
Chiefs 33, Panthers 31
The Panthers clearly came into this game with the plan of keeping the ball out of Patrick Mahomes' hands as much as possible. Their opening drive was a thing of beauty, holding the ball for a grand total of nine minutes. This possession culminated with a touchdown on a very ballsy fourth-and-3 call, resulting in a Teddy Bridgewater touchdown to Christian McCaffrey.
This, of course, was McCaffrey's return to action since getting hurt in September. There were reports that McCaffrey would be limited in this game, but that clearly didn't turn out to be the case. McCaffrey was given 28 touches in his first appearance since Week 2. He made some great plays, helping the Panthers lead for most of the afternoon. Carolina was up 14-3 at one point and then led 17-13 going into intermission.
However, keeping Mahomes off the field forever was an impossible task. Mahomes, who had some uncharacteristic misfires to open the game, eventually caught fire and ultimately threw for 372 yards and four touchdowns. He eventually gave the Chiefs a 33-24 lead, but Bridgewater and McCaffrey made some amazing second-half magic to keep the game close, including one drive that featured some terrific catches and a fourth-and-14 conversion where Bridgewater scrambled successfully, flying through the air "like Superman," as the TV announcer called it. Bridgewater ultimately ran into the end zone to score a touchdown to cap off that possession.
Bridgewater needed one more score to get the win. He drove the ball into Kansas City territory, but with no time remaining, the Panthers had to settle for a 67-yard field goal, which wasn't close.
Bridgewater was masterful in this game, going 36-of-49 for 310 yards and three total touchdowns (two passing, one rushing.) He was every bit as good as the numbers indicate. Now, the Panthers just need a defense to match their underrated quarterback.
As mentioned, McCaffrey handled 28 touches. Eighteen of those were carries, and they were turned into 69 yards and a touchdown. He also caught all 10 of his targets for 82 receiving yards and a second score. All media reports said he and Mike Davis would split the workload in this contest, but Davis had just six touches.
Curtis Samuel was the only Panther who had more receiving yards than McCaffrey. He caught all nine of his targets for 105 yards and a touchdown. This game was highlighted by a great, diving catch Samuel made in the second half.
Elsewhere in the receiving corps, Robby Anderson also did well with nine grabs for 63 yards. D.J. Moore, conversely, had just two catches for 18 yards.
As for the victors, Mahomes was a stellar 30-of-45 for 372 yards and four touchdowns. The Chiefs would have lost this game if they had most other quarterbacks, but Mahomes is special enough to lead a team to victory when there seemingly is no chance.
Two of Mahomes' touchdowns went to Tyreek Hill, who logged nine catches for 113 yards. He would have scored a third touchdown if it wasn't for a rare Mahomes miss early in the game. Hill finished behind only Travis Kelce, who caught 10 balls for 159 yards, but didn't score.
Mahomes' other touchdowns went to Demarcus Robinson (3-34) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (3-20). Mecole Hardman, meanwhile, didn't find the end zone, but contributed with three catches for 48 yards.
While Edwards-Helaire did well as a receiver out of the backfield, he did nothing as a runner. He managed just 14 yards on five carries.
Giants 23, Redskins 20
The Redskins lost to the Giants a few weeks ago because two crucial turnovers gave the Giants 14 free points. Apparently, all the Redskins know how to do versus the Giants is commit mistakes because they killed themselves with blunders throughout the afternoon.
The miscues began early when Antonio Gibson lost a fumble on the opening drive, setting up the Giants with a field goal after Daniel Jones connected with Austin Mack on a deep pass. Following a dropped Logan Thomas pass on third down, the Redskins muffed a punt to give the Giants possession in the red zone. New York quickly turned that into a touchdown via a Wayne Gallman run to go up 10-0. For those tracking, that would be 24 points the Redskins' offense surrendered to the Giants in just six quarters this year.
The mistakes continued, however, as the Redskins botched a first-and-goal opportunity with two offensive line penalties to force a long field goal. Soon after that, Alex Smith was intercepted because J.D. McKissic fell down. All of this was just in the opening half alone!
And yes, it was Smith who committed the turnover. Kyle Allen suffered a gruesome ankle injury to force Smith back into action. It was an ideal matchup for Smith, unlike his first appearance, which would explain why he threw for 325 yards and a touchdown on 24-of-32 passing. However, Smith made too many mistakes. He had three interceptions in total. The first wasn't his fault, but the other two ruined potential chances to win the game at the end. His second interception was thrown off his back foot, while the third occurred because Smith didn't see Logan Ryan.
With Smith playing better than excepted - save for the two latter interceptions - two Redskin receivers accumulated more than 100 yards. Terry McLaurin was the expected player to do so despite James Bradberry's coverage. McLaurin snatched seven of his eight targets for 115 yards and a touchdown. Cam Sims (3-110) also eclipsed the century mark.
Gibson, who had the aforementioned fumble, rushed for 20 yards on six carries, but salvaged his afternoon with a touchdown. McKissic, who was responsible for Smith's first interception, caught nine passes for 65 receiving yards, as Smith's checkdown habits resurfaced.
The Giants, meanwhile, were gifted a second win by the Redskins in a span of a few weeks. Jones made some nice throws, but didn't really have to do very much overall. He went 23-of-34 for 212 yards and a touchdown. He was robbed of a second score by replay review, but the Giants ended up with six on the drive anyway.
Mack, of all receivers, led the Giants in receiving. Given his performance, as well as Golden Tate's locker room issues, perhaps the Giants will use him as the third receiver moving forward. Still, it was disappointing for owners of Sterling Shepard (6-39) and Darius Slayton (1-6) to see this happen. At least owners of Evan Engram (5-48, TD) were happy.
Gallman and Alfred Morris split the workload, with Gallman edging out Morris, 68-67. Gallman, who led in carries, 14-9, scored the aforementioned touchdown.
Texans 27, Jaguars 25
One year ago, the Jaguars were heavy underdogs against the Texans with a late-round rookie quarterback making his first start. Down double digits, the Jaguars were able to come back with their raw signal-caller, ultimately scoring a touchdown at the very end. They tried a two-point conversion, but failed, resulting in a close loss.
Somehow, the same exact thing happened in this game, as Jake Luton couldn't quite get there while supplanting Gardner Minshew, who was the quarterback in question in the previous paragraph. Luton had some bright moments, including a 73-yard touchdown bomb to D.J. Chark on the opening drive. Luton also scrambled for a touchdown at the very end to force the two-point conversion.
This was the ideal matchup for Luton, who was battling an injury-ravaged Houston defense missing its best pure edge rusher (Whitney Mercilus) and top two cornerbacks. Luton faced no pressure for most of the afternoon, though J.J. Watt was able to record his 100th-career sack on Luton, which actually resulted in a fumble that was recovered by a Jacksonville player. Otherwise, Luton was mostly accurate, as he finished 26-of-38 for 304 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
That said, this was nearly a nightmare result for Luton. He threw two passes that easily could have been intercepted. The first was fired right to Zach Cunningham, who dropped a sure pick-six. The second was nearly dropped as well.
Chark certainly won't complain about the quarterback change, as Luton offers more downfield ability than Minshew. Chark caught seven of his 12 targets for 146 yards and the deep touchdown. Chris Conley (7-52) and Tyler Eifert (4-48) also were Luton's preferred targets.
James Robinson also had a good game, finishing just one yard shy of the century mark. His 99 yards came with a touchdown on 25 carries. His one blunder was a dropped pass.
While the Jaguars ran very well, the Texans couldn't do much on the ground, which resulted in them nearly blowing a double-digit lead in the second half. David Johnson left the game in the first quarter with a concussion when he was blown up when he saw the ball thrown to him. So, it was up to Duke Johnson, who mustered only 41 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts. Duke Johnson lost a fumble in Jacksonville territory.
Deshaun Watson was actually Houston's leader in rushing, as he scrambled for 50 yards on 10 carries. He was also effective as a passer, going 19-of-32 for 281 yards and two touchdowns. He did well and hit some deep throws, which was expected against Jacksonville's poor defense.
Will Fuller (5-100) and Brandin Cooks (3-83) were the recipients of Watson's touchdowns, with the former drawing a 53-yard interference flag. Tight end Jordan Akins (2-19) had a chance at a couple of touchdowns, but the passes into the end zone were just slightly off the mark.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Week 9 was so frustrating for so many reasons, and one of those reasons was Matthew Stafford's injury, which prevented any chance of a back-door cover happening.
Dalvin Cook continued his amazing season, running all over Detroit's weak defense. Cook had almost 250 yards from scrimmage with a couple of touchdowns, leading the Vikings to an easy victory. If Cook maintains this prolific play, and the defense continues to improve, Minnesota will be a dangerous spoiler in the second half of the year and maybe has an outside shot at becoming a wild-card contender with the expanded postseason.
The Vikings got on the scoreboard first, taking their opening possession down the field thanks to Cook rolling over Detroit before powering into the end zone. Detroit got moving with D'Andre Swift running hard and setting up Matt Prater, but the veteran kicker missed the field goal. Cook kept running well, and Cousins hit Adam Thielen (2-38) for a gain of 30 yards. To finish the drive, Cousins connected with Irv Smith Jr. (2-10-2) for a nine-yard score, giving Minnesota a 13-0 lead after missing the extra point.
Detroit produced a field goal drive and then Stafford got into a groove, hitting Quintez Cephus for 19 yards and then Marvin Jones (3-43-1) for a 15-yard score. Toward halftime, the Vikings ripped the ball down the field and then used a 22-yard screen pass to Ameer Abdullah, which found pay dirt and put the Vikings up 20-10 at intermission.
Midway through the third quarter, the Vikings put together another drive thanks to Cook and a 35-yard pass to Justin Jefferson. A short touchdown toss to Irv Smith expanded their lead to 27-10. A Detroit drive moved into Minnesota territory, but Stafford made a bad read and threw an interception to linebacker Eric Wilson. However, the Lions special teams came through when defensive end Austin Bryant blocked a punt to set up Stafford at the Vikings' 22. The Lions moved close to the end zone, but Stafford again tossed the ball into the bread basket of a linebacker, giftng Eric Kendricks an interception in the back of the end zone.
Stafford left the game early in the fourth quarter with a possible concussion and was replaced by Chase Daniel. Daniel led a field goal drive to cut Minneosta's lead to 14. Dalvin Cook then put the game away with a 70-yard touchdown run. In garbage time, Harrison Smith picked off a horrible pass from Daniel, but Detroit blocked another punt to get set up just outside the end zone. Daniel then tossed a short scoring pass to T.J. Hockenson (5-39-1).
Cousins was 13-of-20 for 220 yards with three touchdowns.
Cook was incredible, producing an amazing game for the second straight week. He ran for 206 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries plus had two receptions for 46 yards.
Justin Jefferson led the Vikings in receiving with three catches for 64 yards.
Stafford was 23-of-32 for 211 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Swift led the Lions on the ground with 64 yards on 13 carries. Detroit needed to give Swift more carries, as he was running well.
Danny Amendola led the Lions in receiving with seven catches for 77 yards.
EDITOR'S NOTE: As I said, everything that could have went wrong went wrong this week, and that would include two dropped touchdowns by the Chargers in the final six seconds.
The Chargers have been finding ways to manage heart-breaking defeats week after week, and this time, the Raiders' hopes for the playoffs were able to benefit from the Chargers' bad luck. Derek Carr and Justin Herbert both played well, but a muffed punt by Los Angeles and two dropped touchdowns on the final plays of the game gifted Las Vegas the victory.
The Chargers missed a 48-yard field goal in the first quarter, and that ended up coming back to bite them late in the game. Immediately though, that set up the Raiders with good field position. A 19-yard pass to Jalen Richard set up a 23-yard touchdown run from Devontae Booker (8-68-1) to give Las Vegas the lead. Herbert responded with a drive down the field that ended with Kalen Ballage scoring.
A Carl Nassib sack soon helped set up the Raiders with good starting position at the Chargers 45. A short drive after that resulted in a rushing touchdown for Josh Jacobs. Los Angeles came right back to cross midfield and converted a third-and-16 with a pass to Mike Williams (5-81), and Herbert finished the drive with a touchdown toss to Keenan Allen. Carr was strip-sacked by Jerry Tillery with 12 seconds left the half, and Tillery fell on the ball to gift the Chargers' a 44-yard field goal on the final play. Los Angeles took a 17-14 lead into the locker room.
Two minutes into the third quarter, Carr laid out a beautiful deep ball, dropping it into the end zone to Nelson Agholor (2-55-1) for a 45-yard touchdown. On his next possession, Carr made a great play on which he scrambled when nothing was open and then lofted in a superb pass to Hunter Renfrow (2-60) for 53 yards. Carr was feeling it then, converting a third-and-long with his feet including a leaping dive over a tackler to the 5-yard line. Carr soon fired a fastball to Darren Waller (5-22-1) for the touchdown to give the Raiders a 28-17 lead. Los Angeles responded with a field goal to make it 28-20 going into the fourth quarter.
Herbert kept moving the ball in the fourth quarter and tossed a short touchdown pass to Gabe Nabers. Herbert was injured on the play, bringing in Tyrod Taylor, who tried to run in the two-point conversion. Taylor was stuffed at that two to leave Los Angeles holding a 28-26 lead. The Chargers muffed the punt the next time they touched the ball, gifting the Raiders a field goal and a 31-26 lead.
Herbert was able to return to the field and had one more shot with time winding down in the fourth quarter. He moved the ball down the field and then hit Mike Williams at the 4-yard line to give Los Angeles a first-and-goal. The Chargers spiked the ball to stop the clock, and with six seconds to go, Mike Williams had a pass knocked out of his hands. Rookie tight end Darnell Parham couldn't hang on to pass on the final play, so the Raiders got lucky to hang on to a five-point win.
Carr completed 12-of-23 passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
Jacobs ran for 65 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Herbert completed 28-of-42 passes for 326 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Ballage led the Chargers on the ground with 69 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown.
Allen caught nine passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.
Steelers 24, Cowboys 19
The Steelers didn't exactly put forth their best effort in this game, which was predictable. Coming off big wins against the Titans and Ravens, they didn't feel as though they needed to bring that same sort of energy against a woeful Dallas team that has shown no signs of life in recent weeks with their slew of scrub quarterbacks.
Pittsburgh ultimately prevailed in a close call, and now the team can move forward with its 8-0 record. However, there are some great concerns, and those would be to Ben Roethlisberger's throwing arm. Roethlisberger was seen wincing and grabbing his elbow area throughout the afternoon, especially after he hobbled into the locker room just prior to halftime.
Some of Roethlisberger's passes were off the mark, and that could be attributed to his arm. In fact, Roethlisberger was bailed out on some plays in the fourth quarter. He lost a fumble, which would've set up the Cowboys in field goal position with a lead, but illegal contacted nullified the turnover. On the next drive, Roethlisberger heaved an errant pass on third-and-10, but a roughing-the-passer call that enraged Mike McCarthy negated that miscue. Roethlisberger ultimately was able to cap off the possession with a touchdown pass to Eric Ebron to give his team a 24-19 lead.
Garrett Gilbert, who played shockingly well in his first career start despite battling Pittsburgh's defense, had one more chance to lead the Cowboys to victory. However, some poor passes resulted in a fourth-and-long situation, and heavy Pittsburgh pressure forced Gilbert to take a sack for a big loss to effectively end the game.
Roethlisberger finished 29-of-42 for 306 yards and three touchdowns. The stats look good, and they would've been better if it weren't for some drops. However, he was very fortunate that he didn't commit multiple turnovers. In addition to the overturned lost fumble, he also appeared to throw an interception that was dropped. The arm injury could be a big concern moving forward, as it's possible that it could continue to get worse.
Roethlisberger's touchdowns went to JuJu Smith-Schuster (6-93), Eric Ebron (3-22) and James Washington (1-17). Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool didn't score, but both posted solid stat lines. Johnson snatched six balls for 77 yards, and he had a long gain on what ended up being the decisive drive. Claypool, meanwhile, led the team with eight catches for 69 yards, but he dropped a deep pass.
Being in a deficit for nearly the entire afternoon, James Conner didn't have much of an opportunity to run the ball. Conner was limited to 22 yards on nine carries.
With the Cowboys possessing a constant lead, it wasn't a surprise to see them rush for triple-digit yardage. Tony Pollard was supposed to make the start, but Ezekiel Elliott was a surprise active. Elliott should've sat, as he was limited to 51 yards on 18 carries and didn't look quite right. Pollard outgained him (9-57) on half as many attempts.
Gilbert proved to be a functional quarterback, unlike Ben DiNucci. He wasn't great, but didn't make any mistakes beyond throwing an interception in the red zone when he was hit upon releasing the ball. He went 21-of-38 for 243 yards, one touchdown and the pick.
With Gilbert doing much better than expected, CeeDee Lamb (4-71, TD) and Amari Cooper (5-67) were able to post respectable stat lines, which hadn't been the case in the past few weeks. Lamb, however, lost a fumble at the end of the opening half.
Dolphins 34, Cardinals 31
The Dolphins demolished the Rams last week, but Tua Tagovailoa had nothing to do with that. He struggled mightily, in fact, as he was bailed out by his defense and special teams. Thus, there wasn't much optimism from most people with Miami potentially winning against an upstart Arizona squad.
However, those who counted out Tagovailoa because of just one game looked foolish, as the rookie was so much better in his second start. It helped that Tagovailoa battled a softer defense that happened to be missing several players in the secondary, but everyone in Miami's organization has every reason to be far more optimistic about Tagovailoa's outlook in this latest win over an NFC West foe.
Tagovailoa made an early mistake when he tried to throw the ball away, tossing it right to Arizona's Jalen Thompson for what seemed to be an interception. Replay review overturned it, and Tagovailoa responded well by slicing through the Cardinals with some great accuracy while on the move. He also had some important scrambles, including one 17-yard run that the CBS crew deemed "magical." On this play, he appeared to run into an Isaiah Simmons sack, only to spin away from it to pick up a key first down on what would end up being the game-winning drive.
The final stat line looked good for Tagovailoa, as he went 20-of-28 for 248 yards and two touchdowns to go along with seven scrambles for 35 rushing yards. His performance in this game compared to last week's struggle was night and day. The real Tagovailoa is likely the one we saw beat the Cardinals, so it'll be exciting to see what the Dolphins have with him as they continue to build around him.
Tagovailoa lost one of his starting receivers in this game, as Preston Williams was carted off the field after scoring a touchdown. It was a shame, as Williams was having a nice day (4-60). He trailed only DeVante Parker and his six catches for 64 yards. Parker drew two pass interference flags.
With Myles Gaskin and Matt Breida sidelined, Jordan Howard handled more carries than the other backs, yet was limited to just 19 yards on 10 attempts, though he scored a touchdown. Someone named Salvon Ahmed led the Dolphins in rushing with 38 yards on seven tries.
The Cardinals had much more success running the ball, though this was not any sort of surprise because Kyler Murray is arguably the best rushing threat at quarterback in the NFL now. Murray eclipsed the century mark on the ground, tallying 106 yards and a touchdown on 11 scrambles.
Murray also did very well as a passer, going 21-of-26 for 283 yards and three touchdowns without even factoring in some drawn interference flags. Don't take this passing performance lightly, as Murray did this against one of the top secondaries in the NFL. Murray, however, made one crucial mistake when he had a fumble returned for a touchdown on a strip-sack.
Two of those interference flags were drawn by DeAndre Hopkins, who posted a meager stat line of three catches for 30 yards. The Dolphins smothered him, but those interferences helped the Cardinals move the chains on their scoring drives. Arizona was paced by Christian Kirk, who hauled in five balls for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Much was expected from Chase Edmonds, who was starting over the injured Kenyan Drake. Edmonds was a flop, however, as he was restricted to 70 yards on 25 attempts to go along with three catches for 18 receiving yards. He was stuffed on a crucial fourth-and-1 attempt in the final quarter, which helped the Dolphins pull the upset.
Saints 38, Buccaneers 3
Even those who believed the Saints would upset the Buccaneers never saw this coming. New Orleans demolished the Buccaneers from start to finish, dominating in every aspect. This was a huge win for the Saints, as their season sweep over the Buccaneers gives them the tie-breaker, which could come into play late in the year.
It was astonishing to see Tom Brady struggle to much, as this was easily one of the worst games of his career. The Saints' great defensive line made life extremely difficult for him, while the defensive backs, who have endured some struggles this year, clamped down on the talented Tampa receivers. On the rare occasions in which the Tampa wideouts were able to get open, Brady occasionally had some miscommunications with them, particularly with Antonio Brown. Brady and Brown not being on the same page resulted in an interception.
This pick was one of three Brady tossed on the evening, as he finished 22-of-38 for 209 yards otherwise. He also fumbled once, but recovered the loose ball. One of Brady's interceptions was not his fault, as a pass was batted at the line of scrimmage and conveniently deflected into the arms of a New Orleans defender. The other two picks were the byproduct of incompetence by either Brady or the receiver, and some should wonder if Brown is doing more harm than good because he has potentially disrupted the rhythm of the offense. It didn't help that Brady constantly had pressure in his face. Even with better chemistry with his receivers, he wouldn't have enjoyed enough time in the pocket to consistently connect with them.
Speaking of Brown, he made a nice catch of 15 yards, but did little else. He made three grabs for 31 yards, trailing Mike Evans (4-64) and Chris Godwin (3-41). Evans was completely smothered by Marshon Lattimore and didn't catch a single pass while the Pro Bowl cornerback was on the field. Lattimore exited early with an injury, allowing Evans to finally accomplish something. The injury looked serious initially, but Lattimore was walking around without his helmet on the sidelines in the fourth quarter.
Constantly trailing, the Buccaneers couldn't establish the run. They tried to rush the ball just four times, with Ronald Jones (3-9) and Leonard Fournette (1-0) accomplishing nothing. Fournette at least saved his PPR owners a bit with six catches for 41 receiving yards.
It's difficult to say if the Buccaneers were more pathetic offensively or defensively. While Brady and the receivers were woeful, the defense was constantly on its heels, blowing coverages and missing tackles. Drew Brees toyed with the Tampa defense, which had absolutely no chance of containing him and his weapons.
Brees was a near-perfect 26-of-32 for 222 yards and four touchdowns, which was surprising because he was considered iffy to play this game with a shoulder injury. He spread the ball around to his entire roster, with a whopping 12 teammates somehow catching passes. Brees nearly made a mistake in the early stages of this game when he threw a potential pick-six right to Jason Pierre-Paul, but the defensive end dropped the ball. Brees was flawless after that play.
Michael Thomas made his return since Week 1 and looked good, catching five passes for 51 yards. He didn't score, but those who did were Emmanuel Sanders (4-38), Tre'Quan Smith (1-14), Josh Hill (2-14) and rookie tight end Adam Trautman (3-39). Veteran tight end Jared Cook (2-30) had a nightmare game, fumbling in the red zone and dropping a touchdown.
Alvin Kamara was not expected to perform well against the top run defense in the NFL. However, he still had a decent fantasy output, as he rushed for 40 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries to go along with five catches for nine receiving yards.
Patriots 30, Jets 27
For a while, it appeared as though the Patriots would suffer a humilating defeat, one that would embarrass the franchise forever. The Jets, a team that hadn't stayed within eight points of an opponent all year, had the desperate Patriots on the ropes. They led 27-17 entering the final quarter, and it seemed as though New England's season would be over at 2-6.
Given that the Patriots entered this game as double-digit favorites, no one expected this. It seemed unfathomable that Joe Flacco would be able to torch Bill Belichick's heralded secondary despite losing the protection of Mekhi Becton to injury, yet that's exactly what happened. Flacco lofted bomb after bomb in the first three quarters, and the Jets' receivers came down with nearly every pass. It was inexplicable that the Patriot corners would play so poorly, especially J.C. Jackson, who fell down on a Flacco touchdown to Breshad Perriman.
Cam Newton, however, made some terrific plays on a trio of scoring drives to secure the victory with the season on the line. He held possession for all but four New York offensive snaps in the entire fourth quarter, moving the chains repeatedly, even when stuck in a third-and-20 situation. He willed his team to victory so that it could fight another day, although the next day will be a matchup against the 6-2 Ravens on Sunday Night Football.
Newton's final stats were excellent. He went 27-of-35 for 274 yards. He was nearly flawless, though he badly missed a wide-open Jakobi Meyers for a deep touchdown in the fourth quarter. Newton didn't end up throwing a touchdown, but he scored twice on the ground. Newton barely ran in the first three quarters, but began using his legs more frequently toward the end of the game.
Speaking of Meyers, he was excellent once again. I fell in love with Meyers during the 2019 training camp and preseason, but he was a major disappointment as a rookie. Meyers has finally shown signs of life, and he has actually been quite dominant in the previous two weeks. He caught 12 of his 14 targets for 169 yards. Had Newton not missed him for a deep touchdown in the final quarter, he would have eclipsed the 200-yard barrier.
Elsewhere in the New England receiving corps, Damiere Byrd also nearly scored, but was ruled out of bounds a couple of yards shy of the goal line. He was second on the team in receiving with five catches for 65 yards.
Both of the non-Damien Harris running backs contributed in the passing game. James White was key on the final drive with four catches for 24 receiving yards. Rex Burkhead, meanwhile, snatched three balls for 11 receiving yards to go along with his 12 carries for 56 rushing yards and a touchdown. With Quinnen Williams out for the Jets, Burkhead had his way with the opposing front.
As for Harris, he paced the Patriots with 71 yards on 14 tries. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury in the fourth quarter.
The Jets didn't have as much success running the ball, which isn't a surprise because they fed Frank Gore 12 carries. Gore turned those attempts into a mere 46 yards. Lamical Perine (6-19) should have been used more.
Flacco, as mentioned, lit up the Patriots' secondary, which was shocking, to say the least. Flacco looked dead in his previous two appearances this year, but resembled the Super Bowl-winning quarterback from 2012 in this matchup, at least through three quarters. Flacco went 18-of-25 for 262 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. In fact, he would've thrown for four scores had Breshad Perriman not dropped a ball in the end zone.
Flacco's night ended on a sour note, however. He launched a horrible interception into double coverage on one of his fourth-quarter drives. The other possession was a pathetic three-and-out. It appeared as though the fairy dust Flacco sprinkled on himself prior to kickoff expired at 10:30 Eastern.
Despite the dropped touchdown, Perriman caught five passes for 101 yards and two scores, and he also drew an interference flag deep downfield. It was amazing to see Perriman play so well after mostly being a first-round bust in his career. Meanwhile, Denzel Mims contributed with four catches for 62 yards, while Jamison Crowder was limited to two grabs for 26 yards and a touchdown. Crowder owners are lucky their receiver even did that, given how well Belichick usually does at shutting down the best aspect of an opposing offense.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.