The Texans did not look prepared to play this game early on. They committed plenty of blunders. DeAndre Hopkins dropped a pass on a third down that would've moved the chains. The special-teams unit was completely unprepared for an onside kick against the only team in the NFL that has been successful in that regard this season. Cornerback Kareem Jackson looked like he was trying to avoid contact with T.Y. Hilton on a long pass. Hilton got up, seemingly untouched, and tumbled into the end zone. Replay eventually ruled that Jackson barely brushed Hilton, but it didn't really matter because Trent Richardson scored on the next play.
The Colts were eventually up 24-0, and by the end of the first quarter, they had outgained Houston, 218-2. The Texans were averaging just 0.2 yards per play and looked so incredibly pathetic.
And then, something happened. The light switch flipped on, and Houston suddenly began playing well, as it seemingly got a spark when the Colts had an illegal formation on a field goal attempt that ultimately led to a Texan touchdown. Arian Foster picked up big chunks on the ground, Ryan Fitzpatrick actually completed some passes, while J.J. Watt dominated the line of scrimmage on the other side of the ball. Watt was an animal, finishing with seven tackles, two sacks, several passes batted down and a fumble recovery for a touchdown that finally put the game in reach for the Texans. Watt, who is the first player in the NFL since 1961 to have a receiving touchdown, a pick-six and a fumble returned for a score in the same season - and it's only Week 6 - cut the deficit to five.
Houston had two possessions after that to potentially come away with a victory, but simply couldn't make it happen. Andre Johnson screwed up the first time, getting called for offensive pass interference and then losing a fumble. The second drive ended quickly, as former first-rounder Bjoern Werner strip-sacked Fitzpatrick. The Colts recovered, clinching a victory.
Both Andrew Luck and Watt didn't disappoint in their latest of many epic battles to come. Watt, as mentioned, was awesome, but Luck was a bit better. The former No. 1 pick generated 300-plus yards for the fourth-straight contest, going 25-of-44 for 370 yards, three touchdowns and an interception that was tipped by Jared Crick. Luck's performance was exemplary, especially considering that he was dealing with two backup guards and a center making his second career start. The center screwed up on one play, snapping the ball before Luck was ready. This was when Watt scooped up the ball and returned it for a touchdown.
Luck targeted T.Y. Hilton early and often. The speedy wideout hauled in all nine of the passes thrown his way for a whopping 223 yards and a touchdown. His yardage total was just one shy of Hall of Famer Raymond Berry's single-game record for the Colts. Dwayne Allen (3-49) and Reggie Wayne (4-35) were next on the receiving list.
I'm a bit perplexed about Indianapolis' decision to feature Trent Richardson more than Ahmad Bradshaw once again. Bradshaw garnered more of a workload last week and was once again the superior runner in this contest. However, Richardson was given 17 carries compared to 11 for Bradshaw. Richardson barely outgained Bradshaw, 41-34, but had that aforementioned touchdown. Bradshaw had the best run of the night, a 13-yarder, in which he leapt over Johnathan Joseph and hurdled Brian Cushing to pick up a key first down. He also caught three balls for 25 receiving yards and a touchdown. Richardson, meanwhile, spent too much time dancing around, searching for holes that just weren't going to open up.
Foster, as mentioned, had a huge outing. He started slowly, like all of the other Texans, but he ultimately finished with 109 yards and two touchdowns on just 20 carries. He also caught three balls for 32 receiving yards.
Fitzpatrick also got hot late, and the loss wasn't on him because he would've been in position to win had Johnson not coughed up the ball late in the game. Fitzpatrick misfired on just eight attempts, going 15-of-23 for 212 yards, one touchdown and the lost fumble. He had to deal with lots of pressure in the pocket, as the Colts mustered five sacks and hit him on many other plays.
Fitzpatrick's sole score went to Johnson, who had a big game outside of that one fateful drive. Johnson logged seven receptions for 99 yards. Hopkins, meanwhile, never rebounded from that early drop. He managed just one catch for 12 yards on the evening.
Patriots 37, Bills 22
If the Bills couldn't beat the Patriots in this game, they never will. They had everything going for them entering this contest. They had an enthusiastic crowd behind them; they owned a top-10 NFL defense; the Patriots, meanwhile, were coming off an emotional victory on national TV and had a Thursday divisional battle coming up.
And yet, Buffalo still dropped this game by 15 points. Both the offense and defense were major disappointments, and some horrific officiating didn't help matters.
The Bills' offense single-handedly allowed the Patriots to enter halftime with a lead. The Patriots scored all 13 of their first-half points off turnovers. An early Tom Brady touchdown to Tim Wright came after a Kyle Orton interception when he didn't see Jamie Collins dropping into coverage. Two fumbles followed the pick, as Orton was strip-sacked and then C.J. Spiller lost a fumble near midfield with 10 seconds remaining prior to intermission. The Patriots, who sputtered in the red zone early on, settled for a pair of Stephen Gostkowski field goals.
Buffalo's defense, which limited the Patriots to just 101 net yards in the first half, completely wilted following the break, surrendering 295 net yards. Bill Belichick adjusted by rolling Tom Brady out to negate pressure, and the Bills simply had no answer for it. Brady caught fire as a consequence, misfiring just twice after halftime. He finished 27-of-37 for 361 yards and four touchdowns.
Brady had some brilliant moments. His second touchdown was a great heave into triple coverage to someone named Brian Tyms. Brady then marched down the field, up just eight points, beginning from his own 7-yard line. He moved the chains and ultimately threw a score, thanks to a third-and-16 conversion to Rob Gronkowski. If the Bills had a legitimate stop unit, they wouldn't have allowed that; instead, they had Preston Brown trying to cover the monstrous tight end. That's just not going to work.
I mentioned that Brady threw touchdowns to Wright (1-1) and Tyms (1-43). Brady's other scores went to Brandon LaFell (4-97). Gronkowski (7-94) and Edelman (9-91) didn't find the end zone, but they both made big contributions. The former appeared to hurt his shoulder in the second half, but he didn't miss much action.
Before moving on to the Buffalo stats, I should mention that this was a Pyrrhic victory for the Patriots. They lost Stevan Ridley, Dan Connolly and Jerod Mayo in this contest, yet they were still able to prevail. Ridley struggled to find running room (10-23) before leaving with what might be a torn ACL.
Orton had a relatively decent outing, going 24-of-38 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and the pick. However, the turnovers were costly, and Orton was guilty of holding on to the ball too long.
Orton's scores were fired to Robert Woods (7-78) and Chris Hogan (5-72). Scott Chandler led the team with 105 receiving yards on six grabs. Sammy Watkins (2-27) barely did anything because he had to deal with Darrelle Revis. Watkins was also flagged for offensive pass interference on one play, which I'll discuss in a bit.
Spiller, as mentioned, cost his team with a horrible fumble, and he saw just two touches after that. He finished with a mere 19 yards on six carries, while Fred Jackson, who was questionable heading into this contest, outgained him by a slim margin (10-26, TD). Anthony Dixon, for whatever reason, was given seven attempts in meaningful action.
I wrote earlier that the Bills were screwed by horrible officiating. As my LVH SuperContest partner Matvei wrote, "If the refs aren't lead out of Orchard Park in chains, we may as well defund the FBI." There were terrible calls throughout, but the most egregious were a pair of awful offensive pass interference infractions called on them during one drive. There were legitimate penalties too, as Jerry Hughes was a yellow-flag machine with a barrage of late hits throughout the contest.
Bengals 37, Panthers 37
I think we can all agree that this should be the final tie in NFL history. There's really no reason there should be ties anymore, especially in the wake of the new overtime rules. The Bengals would have prevailed because of their initial field goal according to the old guidelines, but ties will now be more prevalent. They're so anticlimactic; even FOX played some strange, neutral music when time expired in the extra session.
Besides, who wouldn't have wanted to watch more action between the two quarterbacks in this matchup? Both Cam Newton and Andy Dalton were exceptional down the stretch - especially the former, who looked like he was completely healthy for the first time all year.
Newton went 29-of-46 for 284 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but what he did on the ground was most prominent, as he scrambled a whopping 17 times for 107 rushing yards and a third score. Newton had previously shied away from running, but he did whatever it took to move the chains in this contest. It was the Newton of old, as he glided on several of his scrambles.
Newton was mostly great, but he nearly cost his game with the pick, which he unnecessarily forced to Kelvin Benjamin in a tie game. Reggie Nelson snatched the ball and returned it deep into Carolina territory. However, the Bengals were ultra conservative and settled for a field goal, leaving just enough time for the Panthers to drill a kick of their own to send the game into overtime. Newton also lucked out a bit on that ensuing drive. Already in field-goal range, he foolishly tried to force the issue downfield and was nearly intercepted in the process. He also checked the ball down on one occasion with no timeouts, and his target had no hope of getting out of bounds. The clock may have expired had linebacker Emmanuel Lemur not suffered an injury.
Newton's aerial scores went to Greg Olsen (6-62) and Kelvin Benjamin (7-49). The latter was flagged for offensive pass interference that negated another touchdown, while Olsen spent most of the afternoon hobbling around.
As for the Carolina ground attack, Fozzy Whittaker (9-25, TD) and Darrin Reaves (8-15) split touches with both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart out with injuries.
Dalton, meanwhile, misfired on just 10 occasions, going 34-of-44 for 323 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Dalton did all of this despite missing both A.J. Green and Marvin Jones. He did a good job of moving the chains for the most part, but the picks were pretty brutal. One was a weak-armed attempt off his back foot, which the Panthers returned 80 yards to set up a Whittaker touchdown. The second sailed on Dalton and led to another Carolina score.
With Green and Jones out, Mohamed Sanu had a career performance. He caught 11 of his 15 targets for 120 yards and a touchdown. He also drew a defensive hold to help move the chains. Sanu's only blemish was a drop in overtime, but he made up for it with a reception on a first-down conversion. Jermaine Gresham (6-68) was second on the team in receiving.
Giovani Bernard also had a big performance, rushing for 137 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. He missed some action with an injury, but managed to return to the game. Jeremy Hill (8-22) also scored following a Pacman Jones return to the 3-yard line.
Vontaze Burfict had a frustrating afternoon. He was flagged twice for personal foul penalties, one of which was completely bogus. He also had to leave the game temporarily because of an apparent concussion, but he was able to return.
Browns 31, Steelers 10
The Steelers came into this game at 3-2, but they were a shaky 3-2 because they had been blown out at Baltimore, lost to the Buccaneers at home and barely squeaked by the Jaguars. They had committed numerous mental blunders in each of those contests, and that happened to be the case once again throughout the entire afternoon.
There were small issues and big problems. For instance, the Steelers burned a timeout coming out of the first quarter. How they were unprepared following a stoppage is beyond me. Markus Wheaton then dropped a pass when the ball hit him directly in the chest, and this was followed by a botched field goal because of a bad hold. This wasn't the first time the Steelers squandered a scoring opportunity, as they opted to run with LeGarrette Blount on third-and-goal at the 3-yard line, which was absolutely insane. Why give the ball to a backup on such an important down?
The mistakes and poor play-calling continued, as Pittsburgh opted to throw a deep pass toward Wheton on a third-and-1, down 14-3, which sailed out of bounds. Lance Moore then followed that up with a dropped third-and-17 conversion. There was also an epic failure of a red zone trip in the fourth quarter. Kelvin Beanchum kicked things off with a personal foul at the Cleveland 1-yard line. Wheaton dropped a pass, which was followed by Roethlisberger completely missing an open Wheaton with no pressure on his face. On fourth down, a Roethlisberger-to-Wheaton attempt fell incomplete because Wheaton wasn't even looking for the football.
Roethlisberger had an awful afternoon, going 21-of-42 for 228 yards, one touchdown (in garbage time to Moore) and an interception, which was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Much of his yardage came in meaningless action. Roethlisberger has awful chemistry issues with all of his receivers not named Antonio Brown (7-118). He and Wheaton haven't gelled at all. I'd say the Steelers should think about getting Wheaton off the field, but it's not like they have any other options. Roethlisberger targeted Wheaton a team-high 11 times, but the second-year wideout hauled in only four balls for 33 yards.
With Phil Taylor out and Armonty Bryant carted off early, Pittsburgh had a great opportunity to establish the run. Le'Veon Bell gained 82 yards on just 18 carries, but he didn't get the appropriate volume because his team was behind throughout.
As for the actual winners, Brian Hoyer continued his magic. He led the team to victory despite completing just eight passes, as he went 8-of-17. However, his yardage total (217) more than made up for it, as Hoyer hit passes of 51, 31, 31, 24 and 17, thanks to the Steelers leaving many of his receivers wide open. Hoyer did this without Alex Mack, who suffered a serious leg injury. The Browns already think he could be out an extended period of time.
Hoyer's sole score went to Jordan Cameron, who hauled in three balls for 102 yards. He dropped a pass because of a hard hit in the red zone. Miles Austin (2-29) was the only other Cleveland player with more than one reception.
The Browns were able to run the ball well, eclipsing the 150-yard barrier on the ground. Ben Tate saw most of the workload (25-78) and scored twice. Isaiah Crowell (11-77, TD) was more effective overall, but he fumbled twice, losing the ball on one occasion.
Packers 27, Dolphins 24
Joe Philbin is not going to be Miami's head coach for much longer. Not with performances like this. The Dolphins blew this game late, and they can point to Philbin for not being able to prevail.
Philbin had coached Aaron Rodgers for years, so he was supposed to have success against his former quarterback. Head coaches have previously enjoyed victories against their former signal-callers, yet Rodgers was able to just march down the field on the team's opening drive, thanks to an 8-yard run on third-and-8. The Dolphins were able to put a considerable amount of pressure on Rodgers - one Cameron Wake sack ultimately led to a blocked punt - but the All-Pro quarterback was still able to finish 25-of-43 for 282 yards and three touchdowns.
Philbin screwed up beyond failing to game plan well against his former pupil. He made terrible decisions throughout the afternoon, with the first occurring following that aforementioned blocked punt. The Dolphins eventually worked their way to the 1-yard line, but were stymied on second and third down. Philbin left his offense on the field for fourth down, which was the initial error; coming away with no points following that block would be crushing. But the actual play call was brutal, as Philbin had Knowshon Moreno take a carry up the middle. Moreno, who hadn't played football for several weeks, was predictably stuffed in the backfield.
Philbin continued to try to involve Moreno in the offense, but that strategy backfired. Moreno gained just 10 yards on six carries. He did not look ready to play whatsoever. He should've sat out another game at the very least. Meanwhile, Lamar Miller, who had been playing very well, was given just four attempts prior to halftime. That was just absurd. Philbin awarded Miller more work following intermission, and Miller predictably gashed a weak run defense, gaining 53 yards and a touchdown on his 14 tries (he also had three catches for 40 receiving yards).
Philbin also screwed up toward the end of the game. The Dolphins were unbelievably conservative on their final possession, as they didn't even bother to test a Green Bay secondary that had been reeling in the heat and humidity. Miami meekly punted away and gave Rodgers just enough time to engineer a game-winning drive.
While Rodgers was brilliant toward the end of the contest, Ryan Tannehill was mediocre throughout. Tannehill did some nice things like pick up a 40-yard run on a read-option and fire a great completion to Mike Wallace after getting out of a potential sack. However, his two picks were brutal. He stared down the receiver on his first, and he forced it to a covered receiver on his second.
Tannehill's touchdowns went to Wallace (5-67) and rookie Jarvis Landry (6-75). The Dolphins said they wanted to involve Charles Clay more on offense, but the athletic tight end managed just three grabs for 35 yards.
As for the Packers, Jordy Nelson logged nine catches for 107 yards and a touchdown despite being shadowed by Brent Grimes. Nelson beat Grimes on a fourth-and-10 on the final drive. Davante Adams (6-77) caught an ensuing Rodgers fake spike, taking the ball inside the Miami 5-yard line and stopping the clock because Cortland Finnegan foolishly didn't force him inside. Andrew Quarless (2-11) reeled in the game-winning score.
Elsewhere, Randall Cobb (5-58) also found the end zone, while Eddie Lacy (14-40) struggled against a stout Miami front.
I have to conclude this recap by noting that the Dolphin fans are pathetic. The team was a solid 2-2 entering this contest, yet half the stadium was empty. I'd say about 80 percent of the people actually in the seats were Packer fans. The crowd cheered heavily whenever Green Bay did anything positive, and there was even a loud "Kuuuuhn" chant when John Kuhn got the ball. This begs the question: Why aren't there any Dolphin fans? And does Miami even deserve an NFL team? Jacksonville gets more support than this.
Lions 17, Vikings 3
Matthew Stafford proved that he doesn't need Calvin Johnson to win. Well, he doesn't need Megatron as long as the other offense is completely inept. The Vikings were limited to double-digit net yardage until garbage time and averaged a pathetic 3.4 yards per play. They didn't offer any sort of challenge, allowing Detroit to coast to an easy victory.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this game was that the Lions still have kicking issues. Matt Prater was signed this week, but converted on just one of three attempts. One whiff was excusable, as it was no good from 50, but he also misfired from 44. On the bright side, he drilled a 52-yard try, and it should be noted that there were 17-mph winds gusting in Minnesota. Prater deserves another chance, though it has to be disheartening that Detroit kickers are now a combined 5-of-15 on the year. The Curse of Kickalicious?
Detroit was luckily able to find the end zone twice. Stafford, missing both Megatron and Reggie Bush, went 19-of-33 for 185 yards and a touchdown. He was able to keep drives alive by dumping the ball off to Theo Riddick, who served as the receiving back in Bush's absence. Riddick snagged five balls for 75 receiving yards and the sole aerial score, while Golden Tate (7-44) was the recipient of the most targets (12), though he dropped some passes. Stafford didn't have much of a choice but to dump the ball off to Riddick because he dealt with a ridiculous amount of pressure all afternoon.
While Riddick handled the passing duties, Joique Bell, returning from injury, took on most of the work on the ground. He rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
The Vikings, conversely, struggled to establish the run. Matt Asiata was a complete non-factor, losing five yards on just two carries. He had a decent gain nullified by penalty, but did nothing otherwise. Jerick McKinnon handled most of the workload, but managed just 40 yards on 11 attempts. McKinnon, who made some nice blitz pick-ups, appears to have surpassed Asiata on the depth chart.
Teddy Bridgewater simply was incapable of keeping drives alive. Taking a major step backward from his scintillating debut, Bridgewater went 23-of-37 for 188 yards and three interceptions. The first occurred because Teddy Bridgewater didn't see Glover Quin in the end zone. The second was the result of a high pass that was tipped. The third came in garbage time.
Bridgewater didn't handle Detroit's pass rush well at all. He took a whopping eight sacks. Like Stafford, Bridgewater had to continuously dump the ball off to his running back, which would explain why Jerick McKinnon logged six catches for 42 receiving yards. Bridgewater did not get good protection, thanks mostly to Matt Kalil's struggles. The former top-five pick has been atrocious all year, and he was especially bad in this loss.
Cordarrelle Patterson looked agitated throughout the afternoon. The Vikings simply couldn't the ball to him, as he caught just two of his eight targets for 15 yards. He had a nice reception negated by a hands-to-the-face penalty, and all he could do is wave his hands in frustration. Patterson said later that he was hampered by a hip injury.
Broncos 31, Jets 17
Peyton Manning wanted to improve upon his previous visit to the Meadowlands, which was the blowout loss in the Super Bowl. However, this contest began much like the other one did, save for the very first play when Manning managed to hit Demaryius Thomas for a big gain. However, Manning missed on his next couple of passes and had to settle for a field goal. The second drive was completely ruined with a bad snap and a subsequent sack by Muhammad Wilkerson. Manning then took another sack, while his offensive linemen continuously were flagged for holding penalties that nullified nice gains. With Vegas poised to lose a ton of money with a Denver cover, it looked awfully suspicious that the Broncos' big plays were nullified. However, an Aqib Talib pick-six at the very end ensured that the sportsbooks paid for posting such a short spread. Vegas lost millions because of that score.
Manning struggled early, but ultimately got on track. He finished 22-of-33 for 237 yards and three touchdowns, and he's now just three scores short of breaking Brett Favre's career record. One of Manning's best throws wasn't a touchdown, but ultimately led to one. It was just an 8-yard completion, but he managed to find Demaryius Thomas for the gain while falling down. Thomas, in turn, tapped his toes inbounds, prompting Rex Ryan to throw the challenge flag. I have no idea how Manning managed to convert the pass.
Manning's touchdowns once again went to nothing but Thomases. Demaryius (10-124) snagged one, while Julius (4-51) had a pair. Julius yelled, "It's so f***ing easy! It's so easy!" following one of his scores. He was absolutely right, as New York's secondary once again offered no resistance.
Ronnie Hillman started for Montee Ball and ran well. He tallied 100 yards on 24 carries and had some decent gains wiped out by penalty. Hillman's sole blemish was a fumble that a teammate of his recovered.
The Broncos nearly had a big scare when Von Miller had to leave the game with an apparent concussion in the first half. However, there was just an issue with one of his eyes, and he was cleared to return to action.
As for the Jets, Geno Smith wasn't bad in the first half, but he completely wilted following intermission. Finishing 23-of-43 for 190 yards, two touchdowns and a pick, Smith was just 12-of-25 for 112 yards, one score and an interception in the second half.
Smith didn't get much help from his teammates. There were several drops, including one by Greg Salas, which negated a field goal try prior to halftime. There was also no ground attack, as Smith actually led the team in rushing with his 11-yard scramble. Chris Ivory (8-7) and Chris Johnson (3-9) could not get going whatsoever.
If there's a silver lining in this defeat, it's that the Jets got Jace Amaro involved on offense. Amaro saw 12 targets go his way, and he caught 10 of those passes for 68 yards and a touchdown, though he had a terrible drop. Eric Decker (6-54) secured Smith's other score.
Unfortunately, it's not much of a silver lining because the Jets may have lost both Brian Winters (torn ACL) and Dee Milliner (torn Achilles) to season-ending injuries.
Titans 16, Jaguars 14
I'm not going to spend time recapping this game. There's not much to be learned from watching Charlie Whitehurst. The most important aspect of this contest was the other quarterback, as Blake Bortles had a decent outing.
Bortles went 32-of-46 for 336 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The pick came late in Tennessee territory, but it wasn't the rookie's fault because Allen Hurns slipped on the play. Bortles shook off the turnover and led his team down the field for a touchdown. The Jaguars recovered the ensuing onside kick and suddenly found themselves in field goal range, thanks to a pair of Bortles completions, but Josh Scobee's 55-yard attempt was blocked.
This might be the best possible outcome for the Jaguars. Some of their young players stepped up, but they still managed to lose a crucial game for drafting position. Not only does this loss give them a better pick, but Tennessee's victory moves a divisional rival into a worse position.
The Jaguars once again struggled to run the ball, as Bortles actually led the team in rushing with 38 yards on five scrambles. Storm Johnson started in place of Toby Gerhart, but he proved to be a disappointment. He mustered only 21 yards on 10 carries, but salvaged his fantasy afternoon with a touchdown on a short plunge into the end zone.
Bortles' sole score went to Clay Harbor, who had a 59-yard gain early when he beat Michael Griffin. Cecil Shorts, meanwhile, paced the team with 10 catches for 103 receiving yards. Shorts had a whopping 16 targets, but hurt his team by losing a fumble in Tennessee territory. Allen Robinson pitched in with eight grabs for 68 yards.
The Titans planned to feature their own rookie, Bishop Sankey, as Shonn Greene was out with an injury. Sankey was stuffed twice on the opening drive, but ultimately finished with 61 yards on 18 carries, thanks to a 22-yard burst. Unfortunately, Jackie Battle vultured a touchdown away from Sankey. That was Battle's only carry. Ken Whisenhunt must hate all Sankey fantasy owners.
Whitehurst wasn't bad, as he went 17-of-28 for 233 yards. Then again, all other quarterbacks have dominated Jacksonville's putrid back seven, so perhaps that stat line would indicate a poor outing. Whitehurst and Whisenhunt screwed up on one occasion, using a timeout on fourth-and-2 at the Jacksonville 3-yard line when they initially planned to go for it. They lined up for a field goal following the stoppage, so why did they call timeout in the first place? It didn't end up mattering, but this type of coaching blunder could prove costly in future games.
Justin Hunter paced the Titans with 77 receiving yards on three catches. Kendall Wright, who had a big game last week, managed just a sole six-yard grab.
Editor's Note: The Buccaneers are now 11-26 against the spread in their previous 37 home games. How is that possible? They have passionate fans, so it's not like they don't have a crowd cheering them on. Their home ineptitude makes no sense to me.
The Ravens opened up a can from the first drive of the game and never looked back as they rolled Tampa Bay in epic fashion. Baltimore seriously could have scored 70 points if so desired, but the team took its foot off the pedal in the second quarter; the Ravens were already up by 35. Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco needed only 16 minutes of game time to tie Tony Banks for a franchise high of five touchdown passes in a game.
On the opening drive, Justin Forsett (14-111) ripped off a 52-yard run that set up Flacco to hit Torrey Smith (4-51) on a slant for a touchdown. Promptly, Mike Glennon threw an interception to Jimmy Smith, and a few plays later, Flacco hit Torrey Smith again for a nine-yard touchdown.
After a Bucs' three-and-out, Flacco scored again with a 17-yard strike to Kamar Aiken. The Ravens quickly got the ball back again. With a second left in the first quarter, Flacco threw his fourth touchdown with a 19-yard toss to Michael Campanaro. The first minute of the second quarter was more of the same, as Flacco laid out a bomb to Steve Smith (5-110) for a 56-yard touchdown after he got away with a push-off on Bucs' corner Alterraun Verner.
It was garbage time after that. In the third quarter, Mike Evans (4-55) caught a 17-yard touchdown from Glennon. The Ravens answered with a drive that set up a Bernard Pierce touchdown. Bobby Rainey gave Tampa Bay a boost and set up a touchdown toss to Louis Murphy (7-72).
Flacco finished 21-of-29 for 306 yards with five touchdowns. He destroyed Tampa Bay's porous secondary and put on a clinic of accurate downfield passing.
Glennon was 24-of-44 for 314 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but he was awful in the first quarter when the team needed him to string some drives together. Doug Martin (11-45) led the Bucs on the ground. Vincent Jackson (4-66) had a touchdown taken away when he landed with a heel out of bounds.
The Ravens' defense dominated the Buccaneers' offensive line in ugly fashion. Tampa Bay's offensive tackles of Anthony Collins and Demar Dotson were helpless to block Terrell Suggs (1 sack) or Elvis Dumervil (1.5 sacks), as they were constantly getting to Glennon. Pernell McPhee, Brandon Williams and Daryl Smith also recorded sacks for Baltimore.
Editor's Note: Remember when the Falcons blew out the Buccaneers and looked unstoppable? They've now lost three consecutive games to teams that aren't over .500. It's crazy how much can change in just three weeks.
With Green Bay righting its season in recent weeks, the Bears badly needed a road win at Atlanta to keep pace with the Packers and Lions in the NFC North. Chicago did a good job of cutting out of the mistakes that have plagued the team in other games. Jay Cutler took care of the football and was very efficient.
After trading field goals, Cutler got going with a 47-yard strike to Brandon Marshall on a third-and-7. A few plays later, Cutler hit an open Josh Morgan for a short touchdown. Cutler then led a field goal drive just before the half, and the Bears' offense was moving the ball consistently.
In the third quarter, Matt Ryan hit Antone Smith (2-5 rushing, 4-64 receiving) in the flat, and he exploded down the field for a 41-yard touchdown. Another Atlanta drive led to a tie score after Matt Bryant drilled a 54-yard field goal.
After blowing a game at Carolina a week ago in the fourth quarter, the Bears showed some heart by turning the momentum in their direction after Atlanta came out strong following halftime. Cutler and his offense were continuing their trend of struggling in the second half until a 74-yard bomb to Alshon Jeffery (5-136) turned everything around. On the next play, Matt Forte squirted into the end zone from six yards out. Falcons' defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman blocked the extra point.
Cutler kept moving the ball and threw a short touchdown pass to Jeffery, but the big wideout stepped out of bounds before the reception. Forte finished the drive with a 9-yard touchdown run up the middle. Cutler threw a fastball to Martellus Bennett (4-52) for the two-point conversion.
To close out the game, the Falcons had two possessions to do something. The first one ended when Jared Allen and Willie Young combined for a sack. Ryan was under pressure on fourth-and-14, and he threw into triple coverage for Julio Jones (4-68), but the pass picked off by Damontre Hurst. On Atlanta's final possession, Young sacked Ryan again before Will Sutton batted a pass on fourth down to end the game.
Ryan finished 19-of-37 passes for 271 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His supporting cast really let him down, as the offensive line struggled, especially tackles Jake Matthews and Gabe Carimi. Levine Toilolo had an awful game with three dropped passes. The Falcons dropped a total of seven passes versus Chicago. Roddy White (3-40) and Steven Jackson (6-25) were non-factors for Atlanta.
Cutler completed 26-of-38 for 381 yards with a touchdown and zero interceptions. Brandon Marshall had six receptions for 113 yards. Forte was excellent as usual with 17 carries for 80 yards and two scores on the ground with 10 receptions for 77 yards through the air.
Chicago's defense really stepped up with a big game. Allen, Young, Lamarr Houston and Stephen Paea all played well. Bears' rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller had another great game. He had a forced fumble in the first half as well as a clutch pass break-up in man coverage on Jones on a third down to get Chicago's defense off the field. The Bears' defense showed a huge improvement over how they played in the fourth quarter against Carolina a week ago.
Chargers 31, Raiders 28
There weren't many who expected the Raiders to be competitive, as more than 80 percent of the public wagered that the Chargers to win by more than the posted spread of seven. Instead, Oakland had multiple leads in this contest and was in position to nearly pull out a victory, but the team came up just one drive too short.
Derek Carr had a record-setting day for a Raider rookie quarterback. No Oakland first-year signal-caller had thrown four touchdowns in a single contest, but Carr did exactly that against one of the NFL's top defenses, going 18-of-34 for 282 yards and an interception otherwise. The completion percentage doesn't look very good, but Carr was betrayed by countless drops, as Oakland had five of them in the first half alone.
The team was cleaner following intermission, but Carr ultimately cost his squad with some late mistakes. He panicked under pressure and was flagged for intentional grounding. He then fumbled on a strip-sack, but that was nullified by a face mask. And then it all culminated with a game-ending interception into double coverage. It was a horrible decision, as Carr had plenty of time to move the team into field goal range to force overtime. That should've been the worst-case scenario. Instead, Carr's heave was careless and ruined what could have been Oakland's first victory.
Focusing on the positive, the Raiders finally got Andre Holmes going. Holmes, who was awesome down the stretch last year, led the team with eight targets, catching four of them for 121 yards and two touchdowns. It's so odd that Dennis Allen simply refused to utilize Holmes when he's Oakland's most-talented receiver.
Carr's other scores went to Brice Butler (3-64) and James Jones (5-56). The latter was guilty of offensive pass interference in the first half on what was an obvious push-off.
The Raiders continued to feature Darren McFadden primarily in the running game. McFadden gained 80 yards on 14 carries, while Maurice Jones-Drew (4-30) barely saw any touches.
The best running back on the field was Branden Oliver, by far. The undrafted rookie handled a full workload in only his fourth NFL game, tallying 101 rushing yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. He also caught four passes for 23 receiving yards. Despite being small, Oliver ran very tough and moved piles at times. He's completely legit.
The Chargers sputtered on occasion, but don't blame Philip Rivers, who went 22-of-34 for 313 yards and three touchdowns. Rivers was victimized by some drops - including one by Antonio Gates in the end zone - and saw some penalties ruin some promising drives. For example, a shady, late flag negated a field goal try, and then a terrible pass attempt on a fake punt sailed out of bounds.
Rivers' touchdowns went to Malcom Floyd (5-103), Gates (3-27), who missed out on a second score, and Eddie Royal (2-49), who injured his ribs. Keenan Allen (3-27) once again disappointed his fantasy owners.
Cardinals 30, Redskins 20
Anyone who roots for the Cardinals has to be thrilled that Carson Palmer is finally back under center after a four-week absence. No one is happier than Larry Fitzgerald. Looking like he's been finished at times this year, Fitzgerald rebounded with a great performance in a victory over the Redskins to improve his team to 4-1.
Fitzgerald caught all six passes thrown his way for 98 yards and a touchdown. This included a great, diving catch for a gain of 18 yards in the third quarter. It was refreshing to see the future Hall of Famer be competent again; all he needed was improved quarterbacking.
Palmer also had a solid outing, going 28-of-44 for 250 yards and two touchdowns. Palmer was deemed 80 percent heading into this contest, and that's exactly how he looked, as most of his throws were on the mark, but he also tossed some weak-looking passes at times. Still, he was much better than Logas Thomas and happened to be an upgrade over Drew Stanton.
Michael Floyd hauled in Palmer's other touchdown, catching four balls for 47 yards. Andre Ellington, meanwhile, reeled in six receptions for 26 yards on top of his 67 rushing yards on 19 carries.
As for the Redskins, Kirk Cousins had a miserable performance that had many calling for Colt McCoy after the game. The stats show that Cousins went 24-of-38 for 354 yards and two touchdowns, but one of his scores was a short pass that DeSean Jackson turned into a big gain, while the other came in garbage time to Pierre Garcon (4-31). Meanwhile, the picks hurt. The first was high off his back foot, and DeSean Jackson added to it by hitting the Arizona player late out of bounds. Cousins' second interception was forced, while the third was a pick-six to blow the cover. Rashad Johnson skipped into the end zone, seemingly unaware that he cost (or won) bettors precious money.
Jackson had an interesting game. He scored on a 64-yard touchdown, which, as mentioned, was a short pass that he took the distance. He nearly had another long touchdown, but was tackled by his own blocking lineman. Jackson (3-115, TD) had just one reception after halftime; the Cardinals had Antonio Cromartie cover him instead of the struggling Patrick Peterson. Jackson was then whistled for a dirty hit out of bounds. Oh, and to top it off, FOX announcer Dick Stockton called Larry Fitzgerald "DeSean Jackson" at one point.
Jordan Reed was a big part of the offense in his return to the lineup. Reed led the team in targets (11), snagging eight of them for 92 yards. Andre Roberts (5-55), trying his best to claim revenge, lost a fumble on a key play in which his knee appeared to be down. The officials blew it.
The Redskins did not run the ball well despite Calais Campbell's absence. Alfred Morris managed just 41 yards on 13 carries.
Washington lost three players to concussions in this contest: Ryan Kerrigan, David Amerson and Brandon Meriweather. Trent Murphy rushed the passer well in Kerrigan's absence.
Cowboys 30, Seahawks 23
If I didn't see it for myself, I would've had a difficult time believing that the Seahawks were once in control of this game. Tony Romo took a brutal hit from Bobby Wagner early in this contest, and he had trouble getting up. The Seahawks blocked the ensuing punt for a touchdown, going up 10-0. With the crowd going crazy, as usual, it appeared as though Seattle would run away with an easy victory.
And then something strange happened - Pete Carroll and his coaching staff forgot that they had Marshawn Lynch. Facing the NFL's worst run defense, the Seahawks were expected to pound the ball early and often against Dallas, but they did the exact opposite. Lynch was given just two carries in the opening half, which was just mind-boggling.
The Seahawks didn't have nearly as much success passing the ball, which allowed the Cowboys to maintain possession and limit Seattle's time on offense, effectively mimicking what the Chargers did in their Week 2 victory over Seattle. The Cowboys won the time of possession by 15 minutes, leaving many of the players frustrated. Doug Baldwin was even heard yelling at Wilson at the end of regulation and then sounded off to the media, complaining that his teammates were slacking off in meetings and practice. Perhaps he was referring to Lynch, who was seen laughing on the sideline as time expired. Lynch might have been cracking up at his team's atrocious game plan.
Romo, who legitimately looked done after the first-quarter hit, finished 21-of-32 for 250 yards and two touchdowns. He moved the chains mostly with short throws to his running backs. The Seahawks were so concerned about deep balls to Dez Bryant that they left DeMarco Murray (6 catches, 31 rec. yards) and Lance Dunbar (4-48) open underneath. This, however, did not stop Romo from targeting Bryant, who logged four passes for 63 yards. He beat Richard Sherman on a couple of occasions, though Sherman had to move around because Byron Maxwell suffered an injury. Sherman was flagged for a penalty on one occasion, but it was a bogus call. Terrance Williams (2-70) led the team in receiving.
As for Murray, he became only the second player in NFL history to open a game with six consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. The first was Jim Brown. Murray bulldozed a stalwart Seattle front, gaining 115 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. He didn't lose a fumble officially, but the ball fell out of his hands in the first half. Luckily for him, it trickled out of bounds.
Romo's scores went to his tight ends: Jason Witten (2-24) and Gavin Escobar. The latter touchdown came right after Maxwell dropped a potential Romo pick-six early on, which would've made the score 17-0. Romo was also charged with a lost fumble much later, but that was the center's fault, as it was a botched snap on a silent count.
Wilson, meanwhile, completed just half of his passes, going 14-of-28 for 126 yards and an interception, which came very late on an overthrow. He salvaged his fantasy day with 12 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground, but he had a miserable performance overall.
Wilson and the rest of the team simply looked unprepared. The Seahawks were penalized nine times, and many of the infractions were very sloppy, such as flags for 12 men on the field. The Seahawks also uncharacteristically burned through their timeouts in the second half, which they desperately needed in crunch time.
Lynch, as mentioned, didn't get much work. He was given just 10 carries, but ran well when given the opportunity. He managed 61 yards on his limited attempts.
Percy Harvin tied for the team lead in receptions with Jermaine Kearse with three. However, Harvin was bottled up, as he failed to advance a single yard.
Eagles 27, Giants 0
An absolutely humiliating 27-0 defeat would've been bad enough, but the Giants suffered a loss beyond what amounted to a complete beatdown. Victor Cruz dropped a potential touchdown in the third quarter, and he immediately fell to the ground, clutching his knee. He screamed in agony while lying on the grass and being placed on the cart. He was immediately diagnosed with a torn patellar tendon, which is an injury that has derailed many careers. It's a shame, but Cruz may never be the same player again.
Watching the Giants was almost as painful, especially given that they were one of my top plays of the week. It's inexplicable how unprepared they were for this game. They made countless mistakes, which I will detail rather than focus on their fantasy numbers:
- Drive 1: Manning (13-of-23, 151 yards) was strip-sacked because he held the ball too long.
- Drive 2: Manning was sacked thrice, ruining a possession in which Odell Beckham (2-28) had a great, leaping catch. Manning was in a long-yardage situation on two of the sacks because of a delay of game. The Giants also false started on their punt attempt.
- Drive 3: Manning was credited with a 1-yard run on a play that was effectively a sack. This happened after two ineffective runs by Andre Williams (16-58). The Giants stuck with the rush too long, considering that Philadelphia has a strong ground defense. Williams also looked very sluggish.
- Drive 4: The Giants advanced toward midfield, but center Weston Richburg was flagged for unnecessary roughness when he fell on a Philadelphia lineman late.
- Drive 5: Following two useless runs - once again, the Giants ran too much - Manning threw away a pass while under pressure.
- Drive 6: False start. Offensive holding by Justin Pugh, who had a miserable night. Sack.
- Drive 8: The seventh drive was just a nondescript three-and-out. The eighth was when Cruz (2-16) dropped the touchdown and tore his patellar tendon. The kicker is that Cruz never would've gotten hurt if a Larry Donnell touchdown hadn't been negated by a holding penalty. Effectively, the Giants' lack of preparation caused one of their top receivers to suffer what could be a career-ending injury. It just goes to show that not showing up for a football game can be extremely dangerous. The Giants should be ashamed of themselves. In all, New York was whistled for 10 penalties compared to three for the Eagles.
Moving on to the winners, LeSean McCoy actually ran well for the first time in a while. He gained 149 yards on 22 carries. However, it's unknown whether the offensive line played well, or this was just the result of the Giants not trying hard at all. Meanwhile, Darren Sproles (7-39, TD) suffered a knee injury of his own. He'll have a week to heal, as Philadelphia is entering its bye.
Nick Foles went 21-of-34 for 248 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. The first pick was a careless toss to Sproles in which Foles didn't even look to see if his target was covered. The second came off pressure in which Foles displayed poor footwork. These turnovers didn't end up mattering because the Giants didn't show up at all.
Foles' scores went to Zach Ertz (3-47) - a great sliding grab as he was falling out of bounds - and James Casey, whom I forgot was even on the team. The top wideouts disappointed from a fantasy perspective; mainly Jeremy Maclin, who caught just two balls for 16 yards.
49ers 31, Rams 17
The 49ers did not look like they were prepared to play this game in the early going. The number of mental mistakes they committed to start the contest was astonishing.
Some San Francisco penalties, including an Ahmad Brooks illegal hands to the face that negated a sack, allowed the Rams to put together an opening touchdown drive. The offense was even more blunderous. On the first possession alone, Colin Kaepernick had a dropped interception; Vernon Davis false started; a Kaepernick pass was thrown well behind an open Anquan Boldin; and San Francisco was flagged for an illegal substitution. Again, that was just on the opening drive.
The 49ers' mistakes continued throughout the first half. Vance McDonald fumbled in St. Louis territory. Davis dropped a pass. The punt returner fielded the ball at his own 5-yard line. There were more holds and false starts. It looked like yet another one of those games in which the superior squad was going to blow to an inferior opponent - see the Seahawks-Cowboys contest - and then everything changed on one play.
Kaepernick hit Brandon Lloyd for an 80-yard bomb to close out the half. It was a preposterous score because the Rams should've been in prevent to keep the 49ers from hitting a big play. Instead, Janoris Jenkins bit on a double move, and San Francisco found the end zone for the first time all evening. The 49ers still trailed 14-10 going into the break, but that was the exact momentum they needed. Thanks in part to Circadian rhythms, they dominated the second half, winning the yardage battle, 230-108, and most of St. Louis' 108 came in garbage time. The 49ers completely shut down a Ram offense that operated well to begin the game despite losing Patrick Willis to an injury. Jim Harbaugh had some issues with game management toward the end, but the 49ers ultimately iced it with a pick-six.
Kaepernick finished 22-of-36 for 343 yards and three touchdowns to go along with three scrambles and 37 rushing yards. He was victimized by some drops, mostly by Davis (3-30), who did not look like himself. One drop Davis was credited for was when he actually broke up a touchdown intended for Vance McDonald. The two tight ends collided with each other in the end zone, so Kaepernick's numbers could've been even better.
Kaepernick's scores went to Lloyd, Michael Crabtree (3-49) and Anquan Boldin (7-94). Stevie Johnson (5-53) left the game with an injured knee. He, Willis, Mike Iupati and Jimmie Ward all had to exit with various maladies.
The 49ers had issues running the ball. Both Frank Gore (16-38) and Carlos Hyde (11-14) were stuffed on multiple occasions in short yardage, including several times at the goal line.
While the Rams put the clamps on the rush, they once had major issues applying pressure on the quarterback, thanks to Gregg Williams' nonsensical blitz schemes. The 49ers, conversely, put heat on Austin Davis, who took five sacks. Davis completed just half of his passes, finishing 21-of-42 for 236 yards, one touchdown and the game-ending pick-six. He was a train wreck in the second half, going 10-of-21 for 99 yards and an interception following intermission. He dealt with some drops, but he also overthrew Jared Cook for a potential touchdown that could've cut the deficit to three with several minutes remaining in regulation.
Cook, who was guilty of some of the drops, had an inefficient evening, which has become the norm for him. He started well, but ultimately reeled in just four of his 11 targets for 74 yards. Kenny Britt (3-39) quit on a route late in the game, while Brian Quick (1-10) was completely erased by San Francisco scheming.
The Rams split carries between three of their running backs almost evenly. Zac Stacy (8-17), Benny Cunningham (7-21, TD) and Tre Mason (5-40) were all involved, with the latter showing plenty of explosion. St. Louis may want to utilize Mason more often after watching this film.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.