Jim Nantz called this one of the biggest victories for the Browns in years. He's absolutely right. Cleveland had some nice wins versus the Saints and Steelers this season, but both of those came at home. No one was really going to believe in the Browns until they beat a highly regarded team on the road, especially on a national stage. They did just that in dominant fashion, slaughtering their in-state rival by three touchdowns. In doing so, they snapped a 17-game road division losing streak.
This game was not nearly as close as the score indicates. The Browns outgained the Bengals, 368-165. They limited Cincinnati to just 2.6 yards per play. The pass rush got to Andy Dalton, while the secondary was fantastic. Joe Haden completely shut down A.J. Green, limiting the All-Pro wideout to three catches for 23 yards.
The offense, meanwhile, was highly efficient. Brian Hoyer's numbers weren't great - 15-of-23, 198 yards - but he played with confidence and made accurate strikes despite missing his top two targets (Jordan Cameron, Andrew Hawkins). Hoyer was guilty of a couple of errors - he overthrew an open Travis Benjamin downfield and had a possible interception dropped on a high pass over the middle of the field - but he played well otherwise.
The Browns also ran effectively. As projected, Terrance West handled most of the workload, gaining 94 yards on 26 carries. Things really opened up for him when Geno Atkins was knocked out of the game with a troubled knee. Meanwhile, Isaiah Crowell (12-41) and Ben Tate (10-34) made West's fantasy owners frustrated early on when they each vultured touchdowns away, but West found the end zone later on when he converted on a 1-yard plunge. West fumbled, but he had crossed the goal line prior to coughing up the football.
No one Cleveland receiver stood out. Miles Austin led the group with five grabs for 48 yards, while Gary Barnidge (2-46), Benjamin (3-46) and Taylor Gabriel (3-31) all contributed. Things will only get better for the Browns, as Hawkins will be back next week, and Josh Gordon will return in Week 12.
The Bengals, meanwhile, did not look like they were prepared to play. Every single NFL Network analyst picked them to win by double digits, so perhaps Cincinnati took this game for granted. The Bengals made so many mistakes all evening, such as an early timeout, a personal foul because of a Greg Little head butt, a flag for 12 men in the huddle, an offsides at the goal line, a Jeremy Hill fumble and countless drops.
Having said that, Andy Dalton was the main culprit. He had one of the most dreadful performances of any quarterback in recent memory. Most of his passes were high and/or wide of the mark. He also made mental mistakes, including one instance where he threw the ball despite being close to five yards past the line of scrimmage.
Dalton went 10-of-33 for 86 yards and three picks, ultimately getting pulled in favor of Jason Campbell with four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Dalton opened the contest with an interception on the first drive when he didn't see a Cleveland linebacker. The second pick wasn't his fault, as Jermaine Gresham ran a bad route. However, Dalton had some interceptions dropped, and then he heaved his third on an overthrow, which Buster Skrine wrestled away from the intended target.
As mentioned, the Bengals were guilty of many drops, so while Dalton was dreadful, this performance wasn't entirely his fault. Green, who was limited by Haden, let several balls fall through his hand.
I noted that Hill lost a fumble. He had some nice runs otherwise, tallying 55 yards on 12 carries. The Bengals made a huge mistake by limiting Hill's attempts. Even though they were behind early, they should have kept feeding the ball to Hill, as the Browns have struggled against the run all year. Then again, Cincinnati's ground attack wasn't going to be as potent as normal, given that mauler Andre Smith was out. Desmond Bryant took advantage of this, sacking Dalton on back-to-back plays.
Gresham led the Bengals with 29 receiving yards off three catches. Mohamed Sanu (2-20), like Green, was a big disappointment.
Ravens 21, Titans 7
The Ravens did not look like they were prepared to play this game at the very beginning. They allowed the Titans to march down the field on the opening drive, and they appeared completely befuddled that Zach Mettenberger could actually complete passes. In the first quarter alone, Mettenberger had conversions of 17, 17, 17 15, and 15, and Tennessee would've maintained a lead greater than 7-0 had Shonn Greene not fumbled at the goal line. The decision to go with Greene on such a crucial play was very curious, to say the least, given that Bishop Sankey had been somewhat effective earlier on the possession.
Baltimore's offense, meanwhile, had issues keeping possessions alive. It had just five first downs in the opening half, as the Titans placed heavy pressure on Joe Flacco. He took one sack on the afternoon, but Flacco had to hurry his throws, and Baltimore couldn't get into any sort of rhythm as a result.
Things completely changed following intermission, as the Ravens made the appropriate adjustments. It was their goal to pound the ball with Justin Forsett, who totaled 92 of his 112 yards (on 20 carries) in the second half. He also scored twice, including one instance in which he broke outside on a fourth-and-1 try in the red zone and outran Kamerion Wimbley.
Flacco, meanwhile, converted 9-of-13 attempts in the second half after going 7-of-14 prior to intermission. He finished 16-of-27 for 169 yards and a touchdown, which was thrown to Torrey Smith. It was a 32-yarder that sealed the victory for the Ravens, putting them up 14.
Smith led the team with five catches for 75 yards. He was the only Raven with more than 26 receiving yards. Steve Smith saw seven targets go his way, but converted only three of them for 17 yards.
The Ravens lost center Jeremy Zuttah to an injury late in the game. They're fortunate they have a bye coming up, so Zuttah will have an extra week to get healthy.
As for Mettenberger, he had a horrific second half. He completed just three passes following intermission, as it hurt him that he was missing Delanie Walker, who was carted into the locker room in the second quarter with a scary-looking concussion. Mettenberger finished 16-of-27 for 179 yards, one touchdown and an interception in desperation time. He also took a bad sack at the goal line that should have been ruled a safety. Mettenberger needs to stop holding on to the ball too long in the pocket. He took five sacks as a consequence.
Mettenberger's leading receiver had just 53 yards. That was Kendall Wright, who converted four of seven targets thrown to him. Walker was next (3-37) even though he missed a complete half of action.
As mentioned, Sankey was way more effective than Greene. He tallied 58 yards on 17 carries, and he also caught three balls for 19 receiving yards. Greene (3-5) was not seen following his fumble.
Chiefs 17, Bills 13
The Bills absolutely blew this game. They had a victory in their pocket to improve to an impressive 6-3, but they squandered it with numerous blunders, particularly in the second half.
The back-breaking play was Bryce Brown's fumble. The former Eagle was about to run into the end zone, when the ball was slapped out of his hands. It dribbled forward, and Scott Chandler looked like he was going to pick it up, but it took a weird bounce out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. The Chiefs were then able to take the lead with an Alex Smith touchdown run because Leodis McKelvin muffed a punt. The Bills were still in position to win the game despite those two errors, but Chandler was flagged for offensive pass interference, which negated a key third-down conversion. The crowd let the officials have it for what they thought was an awful call - there were several shady penalties, including an early ticky-tack roughness on Smith that gave the Chiefs a field goal - but it ultimately allowed Kansas City to prevail.
Kyle Orton, meanwhile, was also responsible for leaving some points off the board. He was very inaccurate in crucial moments, missing multiple touchdowns to open players. He had Chandler and Robert Woods available for scores at various points of the game, but he just completely whiffed on his throws.
Orton finished 29-of-48 for 259 yards and a touchdown to Chris Hogan. He had some issues with the Kansas City pass rush, and it was evident at times that he was concerned with his protection. Orton was brought down only once, but that's not even close to being indicative of the amount of pressure he was under.
Both Sammy Watkins and Fred Jackson were game-time decisions, but both played. Neither did much, however. Watkins saw 10 targets come his way, but snared only four of them for just 27 yards. He didn't look completely healthy and probably should have rested. Jackson, meanwhile, didn't get much of a workload, carrying the ball just three time for 10 yards. He was a bigger contributor in the passing game, hauling in four balls for 39 receiving yards.
Brown and Anthony Dixon shouldered most of the carries. Dixon (9-62) outgained Brown (7-35), but the latter led the team in receiving. He caught six balls for 65 receiving yards, but had that costly fumble. Coughing the ball up was his problem in Philadelphia, so the turnover was far from a surprise. It's discouraging to see that he hasn't been able to remedy his primary issue.
As for the victors, Alex Smith also had problems with the opposing pass rush. He was sacked a whopping six times, as Marcell Dareus, who registered three of them, completely dominated the line of scrimmage. The Bills would've produced more sacks if Smith wasn't so elusive; he scrambled four times for 25 yards and a rushing touchdown.
Smith's passing numbers were 17-of-29 for 177 yards. It's nothing special, but Smith simply didn't have a chance because his offensive line couldn't block Buffalo's front.
Buffalo's defense line stymied Jamaal Charles in the first half, but the All-Pro runner eventually found holes to produce some big gains following intermission. This includes a 39-yard scamper on a fourth-and-1 pitch that brought Kansas City back into the game when it was down 13-3. Charles ultimately finished with 98 yards and that touchdown on 15 carries. He was also one of two Chiefs to catch more than two passes, as his three snags went for 20 yards.
Dwayne Bowe led the Chiefs in receiving yardage by a wide margin, as he was the only one to accumulate more than 27 yards. Bowe's eight catches went for 93 yards, but still hasn't found the end zone.
Lions 20, Dolphins 16
Calvin Johnson made his return in this game, so it's not a surprise that the Lions prevailed. They nearly lost though in typical Detroit fashion despite limiting the Dolphins to negative yardage in the first quarter. They hurt themselves with the normal sort of blunders, but they ultimately won this contest to improve to 7-2.
What Detroit's defensive line did in the early going was just amazing. Ndamukong Suh blasted Lamar Miller for a loss of two yards on the first play, and then he followed that up by sacking Ryan Tannehill for a loss of 10 on the ensuing snap, as he was able to beat Mike Pouncey with a power rush. Ziggy Ansah then took over on the next drive. He snuffed out a reverse and was able to tackle Jarvis Landry eight yards behind the line of scrimmage. He then sacked Tannehill, dropping him for minus-11.
The Lions' offense, meanwhile, was able to go up 10-0, thanks to a fake punt that the Dolphins weren't prepared for and a 49-yard bomb to Calvin Johnson on the first play following a Miami punt. It appeared as though Detroit would run away with this contest, but the mistakes surfaced. This includes:
- The Dolphins were able to convert a fake punt of their own, though that was negated by an illegal shift.
- Detroit tried a second fake punt, which the Dolphins were prepared for that time. I'm all for one fake punt, but it's not like the Lions were going to catch Miami off-guard again.
- Matthew Stafford launched a pass toward Megatron deep downfield, but Brent Grimes was able to snare it with an amazing one-handed catch. It was one of the best interceptions you'll ever see.
- Suh was whistled for a face mask on a key third down, giving the Dolphins a field goal try. Miami was able to get three points because DeAndre Levy dropped an easy interception in the end zone.
- A field goal attempt by Detroit was blocked. Dion Jordan scooped up the ball and returned it to the Lions' 5-yard line. The Dolphins immediately converted with a Tannehill touchdown to Mike Wallace.
Despite all of this, the Lions prevailed and (barely) covered. It appeared as though this game was headed to overtime when Calvin Johnson dropped a touchdown, but Stafford found Theo Riddick for the decisive score with 29 seconds remaining.
Stafford finished 25-of-40 for 280 yards, two touchdowns and the aforementioned pick. He was off on some of his passes - notably behind Megatron on one third-down try - but he was unquestionably more effective with his No. 1 receiver back on the field.
Speaking of that No. 1 wideout, Megatron was dominant in his return, snagging seven balls for 113 yards and a touchdown. He had a drop in the end zone, and he would've posted prettier stats if it wasn't for Brent Grimes, who did an outstanding job covering him. Grimes surrendered the long score - partly because Louis Delmas screwed up - but he broke up several passes intended for the league's best receiver.
Johnson wasn't the only Detroit receiver to eclipse the 100-yard barrier. Golden Tate was highly efficient, reeling in 11 of the 13 targets thrown in his direction for 109 yards. Tate made some key catches to move the chains.
The Lions didn't try to run the ball very much. Joique Bell mustered 44 yards on 10 carries, while Reggie Bush (4-20) hurt his ankle in the first half.
In addition to Bush, a couple of Detroit players got hurt. Stud guard Larry Warford was knocked out with a knee injury, and his absence didn't help an offensive line that couldn't block Cameron Wake. Safety James Ihedigbo also left the game, but was able to return.
Despite their slow start, the Dolphins held two separate leads in the second half. They held an advantage until there were 30 seconds remaining, and they easily could have prevailed. A horrible spot gave the Lions a first down, even after a review. Earlier, Charles Clay dropped a touchdown, and that conversion would've at least given Miami a chance to pull through in overtime. And even before that, Tannehill heaved a careless interception in the red zone. Being down by one would've made a difference; the Dolphins drove to their 40-yard line with 10 seconds left, so one long completion would have put them in position to try the game-winning kick.
Tannehill was very inconsistent in this contest. He went 27-of-38 for 201 yards, one touchdown and that pick. He should've had a second score to Clay, and he missed some routine passes he should have hit. The big one was a deep shot to an open Wallace that Tannehill completely whiffed on. He also completely misfired toward Clay for a potential score, so Clay fittingly paid Tannehill back with that aforementioned drop.
Wallace, who caught Tannehill's sole score, posted five catches for 51 yards. He was behind Jarvis Landry in both categories, as the rookie snatched seven balls for 53 yards. Landry, who also had a good return, has been tremendous in his first season.
The Dolphins did not run the ball very well. Lamar Miller, who was questionable entering this contest, did very little (4-10). Damien Williams led the team in rushing with 34 yards on seven attempts.
Horrible news for the Dolphins: They lost Branden Albert to a knee injury in the second quarter. He'll be out for the season.
49ers 27, Saints 24
Welcome to the 2014 season, 49ers. It's nice of you to finally join us.
San Francisco had been playing like crap all year. It has chronically underachieved, blowing winnable games - notably against the Bears, Cardinals and Rams - and the team appeared to be in complete disarray. At 4-4, another loss probably would have finished them, so they were able to rally and win in improbable fashion in New Orleans, as they played their best game of the year.
The 49ers led for most of this contest. They went back to their running game, establishing Frank Gore and Colin Kaepernick on the ground early. They were highly successful in doing so, jumping out to a 14-0 lead. The defense, meanwhile, suffocated Drew Brees with good pressure, forcing him into making poor decisions. Brees tossed a bad interception early into tight coverage, which set up San Francisco with a short field and an ensuing Gore touchdown run.
Despite its big early lead, the 49ers let the Saints back into the contest with some mistakes. An Anquan Boldin 27-yard completion was wiped out by an offensive pass interference. Kaepernick lost a fumble while under pressure. Drops plagued the team in the second half. Boldin let one fall through his hands on what should've been a deep touchdown. Michael Crabtree then screwed up, dropping a pass on a crucial third down along the sideline. Crabtree redeemed himself, however, by hauling in a 51-yard bomb on the very next play that set up a game-tying field goal that sent the contest to overtime. The 49ers ultimately prevailed by recovering a Brees strip-sack and then kicking a short field goal right away.
Kaepernick went 14-of-34 for 210 yards and a touchdown. The completion percentage looks terrible, but once again, he was hurt by several big drops in the second half. Kaepernick also scrambled four times for 24 rushing yards. He took some bad sacks, and that's something he needs to fix.
Kaepernick's sole score was thrown to Boldin, who had six catches for 95 yards. He dropped some balls, as mentioned, but he was the only weapon of Kaepernick's who played well. Crabtree (3-62) had that long completion, but he seemed to be temporarily benched in favor of Stevie Johnson at one point. Vernon Davis (1-8) was dreadful once again.
Frank Gore also scored. He gained 81 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. Unfortunately for his fantasy owners, Carlos Hyde (4-36) vultured another touchdown.
As for the Saints, Brees threw for 292 yards (28-of-47) and three touchdowns, but he had a poor outing. He tossed two interceptions, both of which were forced into tight coverage. He was also completely inept in the two-minute drill once again. One of the FOX announcers praised Brees for being so good in these situations, but both he and Sean Payton have been dreadful this year. For whatever reason, Brees refuses to spike the ball or use any of his timeouts. He simply goes to the line of scrimmage and allows the clock to tick, and he makes bad decisions because he has to hurry as a consequence. One of his two picks came as a result of Brees rushing to get a play off. It's almost like Brees and Payton had a private bet on how few stoppages they'd have to utilize in the two-minute drills this year. Their incompetence in such situations is staggering.
Payton was also to blame for another reason. He was so conservative in this game, as he foolishly punted on fourth-and-short near midfield on numerous occasions. Not converting could obviously backfire, but Payton has one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL at his disposal. It's insanely stupid to be so cautious. Choosing to punt the ball away on the first drive of overtime cost Payton the game.
Two of Brees' touchdowns went to Jimmy Graham, who had a silent first half but ultimately finished with 10 grabs for 76 yards. If you didn't see it, Graham caught a game-winning Hail Mary from Brees, but the officials called him for pass interference. Graham slightly pushed off, but the defender slipped and flopped, giving his best Academy Award performance.
Brees' other score went to Brandin Cooks (5-90). Marques Colston (2-36) struggled yet again. He dropped a perfect deep ball in the first half that would have easily set up the Saints in the red zone.
New Orleans ran surprisingly well despite battling a tough ground defense. Mark Ingram gained 120 yards on 27 carries.
Jets 20, Steelers 13
Ben Roethlisberger had thrown 12 touchdowns in his previous two games heading into this contest, so I don't think anyone would have believed that he would be shut out of the end zone until past the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter.
The Jets did a phenomenal job of limiting Roethlisberger. Their offense kicked it off by holding the ball for an 8-minute drive. They didn't reach the end zone on the possession, but they did post three on the scoreboard, as they were able to ram the ball down Pittsburgh's throat. Following that, Roethlisberger was off the field quickly, thanks to a sack on third down, as he held on to the ball too long. The Jets' offense took over again, and QBDK fired a bomb downfield to T.J. Graham for a touchdown. They went up 10-0 and never looked back.
New York's defense dominated the afternoon, but the Steelers killed themselves with some errors. Roethlisberger continued to hold on to the ball way too long. On one instance, he stood in the pocket for what seemed like an eternity. He eventually lofted a careless pass that was picked off. Antonio Brown also hurt his team by fumbling twice - once on offense and once on a punt return. Shaun Suisham whiffed on a field goal, while LeGarrette Blount inexplicably ran backward for a loss of seven yards on second-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
Roethlisberger finished 30-of-43 for 343 yards, one touchdown and the two picks. However, his score and a bulk of his yardage came in garbage time. He generated just 54 yards in the first half.
Martavis Bryant caught Roethlisberger's sole aerial score, as he had another big game with four grabs for 143 yards. Brown hurt his team with the two fumbles, but his PPR owners didn't mind; he had eight catches for 74 yards.
The Steelers could never get their ground attack going. Le'Veon Bell managed just 36 yards on 11 carries. He was a bigger factor in the passing game, hauling in eight balls for 33 receiving yards.
QBDK didn't have nearly as many yards as his counterpart, but he was the superior signal-caller in this matchup. He went 10-of-18 for 132 yards and two touchdowns in addition to 39 rushing yards on eight scrambles against a defense missing Troy Polamalu and Ryan Shazier. He made a nice juke on Brice McCain on an 18-yard run, which led to a score to Jace Amaro.
It should be noted that QBDK made two mistakes that he wasn't punished for. He lost a fumble in the second half, but it wasn't ruled that way by the officials. Mike Tomlin challenged, but the officials inexplicably didn't overturn the call. Later, QBDK fired a terrible pass late across his body in the red zone. William Gay (not that there's anything wrong with that) appeared to have an interception, but he dropped the ball.
Excluding Graham, who had just one catch - his 67-yard touchdown - the Jets' leading receiver was Eric Decker, who caught three balls for just 24 yards. Percy Harvin barely did less aerially (3-23), but he at least contributed as a runner, picking up 33 rushing yards on six carries. Amaro (2-6, TD) dropped a pass.
Chris Ivory paced the team with 51 yards on the ground on 14 attempts. Chris Johnson (7-23) took a step backward after leading the team in rushing last week.
Falcons 27, Buccaneers 17
The Falcons demolished the Buccaneers in that Thursday night game back on Week 3, but you had to figure that this game would be a lot closer. Tampa actually had Gerald McCoy available in this contest, and it was not playing in the Georgia Dome on short rest. Tampa has no homefield advantage, but on the flip side, the Falcons aren't as good outside of the Georgia Dome.
The Buccaneers kept this close - they led in the second half and had a chance to draw to within three during a late red-zone trip - but in the end, the result was the same. The Falcons prevailed, sweeping their NFC South rival.
Matt Ryan went 20-of-31 for 219 yards and a touchdown. He could have easily thrown three scores, but Devin Hester dropped the ball in the end zone. He was wide open, but just let the pass slip through his hands right before halftime. The drop forced the Falcons to kick a field goal. Ryan also missed Julio Jones for a deep touchdown.
Ryan's actual score went to Roddy White, who was highly efficient, snagging all six balls thrown to him for 72 yards. Jones had more receptions (8) and yardage (119), but didn't reach the end zone. As mentioned, he should have secured a deep touchdown, but Ryan's pass was an underthrown.
Steven Jackson also found the end zone, and he actually ran very well for the first time all year, gaining 81 yards on 16 carries. Jackson's score came following three Tampa penalties. Two were sloppy offside infractions, but the third was a terrible pass interference that shouldn't have been called.
Meanwhile, Josh McCown had a mixed performance. He made some nice throws to move the chains, but he also was guilty of poor decisions while under pressure. McCown saw plenty of heat, getting sacked four times.
McCown went 27-of-43 for 301 yards, two touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. One of the picks occurred late on a deflection in the end zone. It sealed the victory for the Falcons, as the Buccaneers had a chance to draw to within one score.
The Buccaneers committed three turnovers in this contest. The third was by Charles Sims. The rookie struggled to find running lanes, mustering just 23 yards on eight carries and a lost fumble in the second half. Bobby Rainey (6-14) also couldn't do anything on the ground. In fact, McCown led the team with 39 rushing yards on five scrambles.
McCown's touchdowns went to Mike Evans (7-125) and Austin Seferian-Jenkins (5-30). Vincent Jackson didn't reach the end zone, but he paced the team with 13 targets and eight catches, tallying 75 receiving yards in the process.
Editor's Note: If the NFL really wants to send the Jaguars to London, they're not doing a very good job of promoting them. Maybe next year Goodell should tell the refs to make sure Jacksonville wins a game to generate some excitement.
After losing two straight to the Redskins and Cardinals, the Cowboys needed a win, so playing Jacksonville was the perfect tonic. Tony Romo returned to the lineup, and Dez Bryant dominated the Jaguars in the first half to put Jacksonville away before halftime. The Jaguars played well in stretches, especially on offense, but they consistently made crushing mistakes to give Dallas ample opportunities to put points on the board.
DeMarco Murray started the day with 40 yards on the first two plays of the game via a 23-yard run and 17-yard screen pass. The drive ended when Romo missed a wide open Jason Witten for a potential touchdown. The Jaguars responded with Blake Bortles hitting Cecil Shorts (5-119) for 24 yards, and Bortles made another nice throw to convert at third down. To cap the drive, Denard Robinson (15-60) exploded untouched on a 32-yard touchdown run.
Jacksonville's defense came up with a stop, but Ace Sanders muffed the punt inside their 5-yard line, and the Cowboys recovered. A few plays later, Romo rolled out and threw a dart to Witten for a touchdown. Romo opened up the lead by hitting Dez Bryant on a short crossing route. Bryant then turned downfield and ran through a few arm tackles before powering his way into the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown. Jacksonville responded to set up a scoring opportunity on apass to Shorts. He broke a few tackles and bolted down the sideline for a 53-yard gain, but on the next play, Denard Robinson fumbled the ball away to Dallas after getting stripped by George Selvie.
Just before the half with less than 30 seconds remaining, Romo threw a bomb along the sideline for Bryant. He fought through tackles from Dwayne Gratz and Jonathan Cyprien to get into the end zone for a 68-yard touchdown. Bryant had 158 yards on six receptions by the half, and his day was done as the Cowboys had a 24-7 lead.
In the third quarter, Murray (19-100) had a few good runs before Joseph Randle (7-56) took off on a 40-yard touchdown run. The Jaguars got a safety via holding penalty in the end zone on a Dallas punt. Bortles flirted with some interceptions during the game, and finally, the Cowboys were able to take advantage of an errant pass with a leaping interception by Bruce Carter.
Romo finished completing 20-of-27 for 246 yards with three touchdowns. He was off on a few throws in his return to the lineup, but playing a last-place team is good for shaking the rust off.
Bortles completed 22-of-37 for 290 yards with an interception. He had another pick taken away by a penalty. That being said, Bortles did make a number of good reads and throws. He looked improved over other performances in recent weeks.
The Cowboys controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Jaguars' offensive line was awful. Brandon Carr, Jack Crawford, Cameron Lawrence and Jeremy Mincey all recorded sacks. Anthony Hitchens (nine tackles) played well while filling in for Rolando McClain.
Defensively, Jacksonville's secondary really struggled, as Dallas' receivers consistently worked themselves open.
Editor's Note: Really, Vegas? How could you not fix this game? Did you really think the Raiders could stay within 12 points of the Broncos without your help? Congrats on losing countless millions.
The Broncos wanted to put their loss to New England behind them, so running up the score on the winless Raiders apparently makes Denver feel better about getting blown out by the Patriots. Peyton Manning, Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas overwhelmed the Oakland secondary, while Derek Carr and the Raiders' offense had no chance.
On the second play of the game, Manning threw a wounded duck that floated too long in the middle of the field. D.J. Hayden tipped the ball to himself for an interception. Carr moved the ball from midfield to set up a 41-yard field goal for Sebastian Janikowski. Manning promptly moved the ball down the field, but couldn't get enough on a throw as he faded back from Khalil Mack to miss short of a wide-open Ronnie Hillman (6-13) for a touchdown. The Raiders' defense came through with a stand to force a field goal.
After another Denver field goal, Oakland's defense came up with a huge play. Defensive end Justin Tuck made a leaping deflection and caught the pass. He got up and rumbled for a few yards to the Broncos' 12-yard line. The Raiders took advantage, as Carr delivered a strike to Brice Butler for a 5-yard touchdown. Surprisingly, the Raiders had the lead at 10-6, but that was short lived.
Late in the second quarter, Carr was pressured and made a bad decision, throwing a ball up for grabs in the middle of the field that was picked off by Bradley Roby. Denver took the lead when Manning threw a check-down pass to C.J. Anderson, who broke four tackles to jet down the field for a 51-yard touchdown. The Broncos got the ball back with 1:40 left before the half and had Anderson rip off two runs for 29 yards. Manning then tossed a 32-yard touchdown to Emmanuel Sanders (5-67), who laid out for a diving touchdown reception. It was a great throw and catch by Manning and Sanders to give the Broncos a 20-10 lead at the half.
In the opening minute of the third quarter, Carr was getting sacked by multiple defenders and tossed the ball to Khalif Barnes. He fumbled the ball to Denver at the Oakland 18-yard line. Manning quickly produced another touchdown with a slant to Julius Thomas (6-63). Another touchdown pass to Thomas put the game away. Carr soon threw an interception to T.J. Ward to set up the Broncos inside the Raiders' 15. Denver ran up the score with Manning throwing another touchdown to Sanders. In garbage time, Carr threw a touchdown pass to tight end Mychal Rivera (6-64), who quietly has emerged this season as a quality receiving tight end.
Manning finished completing 31-of-44 for 340 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. Anderson had a huge game for Denver, as he ran the ball 13 times for 90 yards with four receptions for 73 yards. Demaryius Thomas (11-108) moved the chains, while Wes Welker (4-24) didn't do much.
Carr completed 30-of-47 passes for 192 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. His offensive line was overwhelmed, and his receivers weren't getting separation. Oakland couldn't get the ground game going with Darren McFadden (7-14 rushing, 4-22 receiving).
Defensively, the Broncos got good games from Brandon Marshall (13 tackles), T.J. Ward (7 tackles, 1 INT) and Bradley Roby (4 tackles, 1 INT).
Cardinals 31, Rams 14
The Cardinals improved to 8-1, but this game has ended their Super Bowl aspirations. That's because Carson Palmer tore his ACL in the fourth quarter and will be out for the year. On a play in which Palmer took a sack from new Ram Mark Barron, his foot planted weirdly and bent backward awkwardly. He was carted into the locker room and then diagnosed with his torn knee ligament.
It's a shame for the Cardinals, who own the NFL's best record. They had just extended their quarterback two days earlier - go here for my Carson Palmer extension grade - but will now have to roll with Drew Stanton. The former Michigan State quarterback has done a nice job in relief of Palmer, but he doesn't have the upside that Arizona's veteran quarterback offered. The Cardinals can still win games in close fashion with Stanton at the helm, but their chances of claiming the Lomardi Trophy are extremely minimal at this point.
As for this contest, would you believe me that it appeared as though the Rams were going to win? They held a 14-10 lead, thanks to their defensive line, which made life extremely difficult for Palmer, registering three sacks and plenty of hurries. However, Austin Davis had a complete meltdown in the final minutes to close out the game. Following an amazing deep touchdown from Stanton to John Brown, Davis threw an interception to Patrick Peterson, which he forced into tight coverage. Peterson then secured another pick, which he tipped to himself off a deflection from Kenny Britt. Peterson ran the ball back to the house. On the ensuing drive, Davis was strip-sacked. Antonio Cromartie scooped up the ball and sprinted to the end zone this time. Suddenly, the Cardinals' 14-10 deficit transformed into a 31-14 advantage, prompting the FOX announcers to repeatedly call this sequence a "Cardinals' avalanche."
Palmer had been enjoying a fairly decent outing before getting knocked out of the game. He went 25-of-36 for 241 yards and an interception, which he telegraphed in the red zone. However, Palmer endured some drops and did a good job of brushing off a potential sack and connecting with Larry Fitzgerald on a scoring drive. Stanton, meanwhile, went 3-of-5 for 85 yards and the touchdown to Brown (5-73, TD), which was a 48-yard bomb that looked like it was going to be overthrown before the rookie secured the ball with a diving catch.
Fitzgerald once again had a strong outing, catching nine of his 10 targets for 112 yards. As for Michael Floyd, the young wideout once again did nothing (1 catch, 11 yards).
Andre Ellington's numbers were minimal. He couldn't get anything on the ground against St. Louis' stout ground defense, mustering just 23 yards on 18 carries. Fortunately for his fantasy owners, he found the end zone once and snagged five catches for 19 receiving yards.
Some quick St. Louis stats:
- Davis wasn't having a bad game prior to the Cardinals' avalanche. He was 8-of-10 for 110 yards and a touchdown in the opening half, but that's not indicative of his play, as he struggled with pressure. In his defense, no one was getting open. Davis finished 17-of-30 for 216 yards, one touchdown and the pair of interceptions to Peterson. He nearly had a third pick at the very end - it was getting ridiculous at that point - but defensive lineman Ed Stinson dropped the ball.
- Tre Mason looked decent. His rushing numbers weren't great - 14 carries, 48 yards - but he was going up against a top-five ground defense. Mason had some nice runs, which bodes well for the future. He also caught four balls for 33 receiving yards. He limped off the field at one point, but returned shortly afterward. Zac Stacy, meanwhile, didn't have a single touch.
- Jared Cook led the team with 84 receiving yards on two catches. He had Davis' lone aerial score. Kenny Britt (3-31) struggled to get open.
Seahawks 38, Giants 17
This game was a lot closer than the final score indicates. The Giants led by three at halftime, and the contest was tied at the end of the third quarter. It appeared as though New York would be able to pull off the improbable upset for most of the afternoon. However, the team had a complete meltdown in the final frame, allowing Seattle to run away with what appears to be a blowout at first glance.
The trouble began when Eli Manning heaved a careless pass into the end zone toward Odell Beckham, who was covered by Richard Sherman. Beckham tipped the pass into the air, and the ball sailed right to Earl Thomas. The Seahawks scored on the ensuing drive. On their next possession, they got extremely lucky when both Lynch and Russell Wilson fumbled. The Giants seemed to have a great chance to recover loose footballs, but Seattle inexplicably recovered in both instances. The deflated Giants allowed Lynch to run into the end zone once again. The Seahawks followed that up with another score in garbage time, making it appear as though this game wasn't the close affair that it surely was for three-and-half quarters.
Despite this game being tight, the Giants still looked completely pathetic trying to stop Seattle's ground attack. The Seahawks rushed for a franchise-record 350 yards, led by Lynch, who tallied 140 yards and a quartet of touchdowns on 21 carries. Lynch was extremely tough and moved the pile on most of his attempts. He'll be missed when he moves on next year, but Seattle fans got a taste of the future, as Christine Michael gained 71 yards on just four carries.
Like Lynch, Russell Wilson eclipsed the century barrier on the ground, scrambling 14 times for 107 yards and a touchdown. The Seahawks designed plenty of runs for Wilson, and the Giants didn't have an answer. They were perplexed every single time.
Wilson, however, didn't succeed in the passing game. He went 10-of-17 for 172 yards and two interceptions, and he also was pressured quite frequently. One of his picks was forced into tight coverage, while the second was underthrown. He missed an open Jermaine Kearse for a touchdown as well. It was discouraging to see Wilson struggle, given that some of his missing offensive linemen returned for this game.
Kearse was Wilson's leading receiver, catching three of his four targets for 70 yards. Doug Baldwin had the most balls thrown to him (6), but his 4-31 line was very underwhelming.
The Giants blew this one late, but they can at least be encouraged by Beckham's performance. The No. 12 overall pick continued to show flashes of greatness, snagging seven of his nine targets for 108 yards. He made several great catches at Seattle, including two on a single drive.
Eli Manning went 28-of-43 for 279 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He had a solid afternoon until that game-turning pick. Curiously, Tom Coughlin didn't attempt a pass with Manning at the end of the first half. The Giants had the ball in the red zone with 10 seconds remaining, but he called a run for Andre Williams, appearing to be more than happy to settle for three. This conservative attitude helped blow a potential victory, as this contest would've been much different if the Giants held a lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Speaking of Williams, he had a nice touchdown where he showed good power. Unfortunately, he had no other positive moments, mustering just 33 yards on 13 carries. As I wrote last week, the Giants desperately need Rashad Jennings to return.
Packers 55, Bears 14
Are the Packers that good, or are the Bears that bad? With a result like this, it's both.
One thing is sure - the bye definitely came at the right time for the Packers. Aaron Rodgers was ailing with a hamstring prior to his week off, and there was some question as to how healthy he would be in this contest. Anyone watching this game quickly discovered that Rodgers was undoubtedly 100 percent. He torched the Bears mercilessly, going 18-of-27 for 315 yards and six touchdowns in just slightly more than one half of action. It was clear that he was healthy when he sprinted out and hit Andrew Quarless for one of his scores. There were absolutely no signs of his hamstring injury.
Of course, it helped that the Bears offered no resistance whatsoever. They blew coverages all evening and left so many Green Bay wideouts open by a mile as a consequence. They looked like they completely gave up on a screen to Eddie Lacy. It was just a second-and-18, yet the Bears were completely lethargic and clueless, and they allowed him to score from 56 yards out.
Rodgers threw two touchdowns to Jordy Nelson, who caught six balls for 152 yards in just slightly more than two quarters of action. Nelson nearly had a third score, but he was tackled at the 5-yard line. Randall Cobb proceeded to fumble into the end zone on that same drive, which was Green Bay's only mistake in meaningful action. Cobb, however, redeemed himself with a touchdown later on with an amazing, diving, one-handed snag. He finished with four catches for 72 yards.
Lacy ran pretty well, totaling 50 yards on 14 carries to go along with three catches for 68 receiving yards, most of which came on that aforementioned screen. Lacy would've had a much better statistical outing if the Bears would've been competitive and allowed him to carry the load for the entire 60 minutes. Of course, that could be said for all of the Packers; perhaps Rodgers would've thrown double-digit touchdowns.
It goes without saying that the Bears were a complete disgrace. They surrendered the most points in a half in franchise history (42), and they permitted the Packers to score more points (55) than they ever had at Lambeau in franchise history. Heads can roll after an embarrassing defeat like this, so if things don't turn around, Marc Trestman and/or Jay Cutler could be goners after this season is over.
In addition to their awful defense, Cutler was a complete disaster. He opened the game with an interception that he telegraphed, allowing Micah Hyde to come away with his first career pick. Cutler committed a second turnover in the opening half when he was strip-sacked by former teammate Julius Peppers, who was also able to recover the football. Cutler, who had multiple interceptions dropped, tossed a pick-six in the second half, which bounced off Kyle Long's helmet. It was a comedy of errors for the Bears, and Cutler especially.
Cutler finished 22-of-37 for 272 yards, one touchdown and the two interceptions. However, some of that yardage came in garbage time. By the time the Packers pulled Rodgers, Cutler was 14-of-26 for 157 yards and a pick.
Cutler's sole score went to Brandon Marshall, who caught eight balls for 112 yards. Marshall's 45-yard touchdown came in garbage time, but he got hurt in the fourth quarter. He limped off the field, and his status going forward is currently unknown.
Alshon Jeffery saw more targets than Marshall (12-10), but caught just six of those balls for 63 yards.
The Bears wanted to get back to basics, but they weren't able to establish the run because they were down early. Matt Forte had just 54 yards on 17 carries. He chipped in with three catches for 27 receiving yards.
As if the ineptitude on offense and defense wasn't enough, the Bears' special teams had a gaffe when Jarrett Boykin blocked a punt. Boykin did so with his foot, and he humorously kicked the ball before the Chicago punter was able to.
Eagles 45, Panthers 21
The Eagles sustained injuries to a pair of key players last week, as both Nick Foles and DeMeco Ryans went down at Houston. With that in mind, all eyes were on their replacements, Mark Sanchez and Casey Matthews. The early returns are promising, but the jury is still out because the Panthers are one of the worst teams in football, and they confirmed that Monday night.
Carolina's defense is pathetic. The team can't rush the passer without Greg Hardy, while the secondary is completely in shambles, as it once again blew coverages throughout the game. Mark Sanchez was able to hit plenty of open receivers all evening; Carolina's stop unit made him look like a Pro Bowler at times.
Having said that, Sanchez had accuracy issues at certain points of the game. He had some awful throws early on, while some of his later passes were off the mark. He nearly threw an interception in the second quarter; the Panther defensive back actually caught a ball fired right to him, but had one foot out of bounds.
Sanchez finished 20-of-37 for 332 yards and two touchdowns. He undoubtedly looks better than he ever did with the Jets, but this was not an appropriate test for him. The Eagles will have those later, beginning next week in Green Bay. It'll be interesting to see if Sanchez has what it takes to match Aaron Rodgers in what is projected to be a shootout.
It's been two games, but we can confirm that Sanchez loves throwing the ball to rookie Jordan Matthews. The Vanderbilt product caught a touchdown at Houston and then followed that up with seven catches on a team-high nine targets for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Matthews could take off during the second half of the season, as the chemistry he has with Sanchez is undeniable.
Only one other Eagle accumulated more than 40 receiving yards. That wasn't Jeremy Maclin (3-38); it was Brent Celek, who hauled in five balls for 116 yards. Celek got banged up in the second half, but appears to be fine. Zach Ertz (1-17) didn't do much.
The Panthers had one of the NFL's worst run defenses entering this contest, so it was odd to see LeSean McCoy struggle so much. McCoy managed just 19 yards on 12 carries, as he was indecisive with the football, looking for holes that weren't opening up. McCoy at least helped his fantasy owners with a touchdown, but he also dropped a pass, as did Darren Sproles, who returned a punt for a touchdown in the first half. Sproles also found the end zone on a rushing attempt in the first quarter.
Speaking of Sproles, he was part of the misleading offensive output. The Eagles feasted on the Panthers by taking advantage of turnovers and that special-teams score. They didn't move the chains all that well, converting just 5-of-15 third downs. The ineptitude of Carolina's offense just made this victory so easy.
Cam Newton was especially bad, but he didn't have much of a chance. Hobbling around all evening, Newton took nine sacks, as his offensive line looked pathetic trying to block Philadelphia's front. Newton went 25-of-40 for 306 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions, but those stats are very misleading, as a bulk of his yardage and the two scores came in garbage time. A more accurate representation of Newton's evening were the numbers he maintained at the beginning of the fourth quarter: 17-of-29, 165 yards, three picks.
Newton's interceptions all came in the opening half. The first was a forced throw that ultimately led to Philadelphia's first touchdown of the game. The second was a pick-six that featured a miscommunication and an inaccurate pass. The third was underthrown. Newton also had a handful of other attempts that were nearly picked, and he lost a fumble on a strip-sack as well. He also barely ran, scrambling just twice for six rushing yards.
Newton wasn't the only Panther committing turnovers. DeAngelo Williams fumbled on the second play of the game, which led to a Philadelphia field goal. Neither Williams (13-31) nor Jonathan Stewart (11-36, TD) ran well against a Philadelphia defense missing Ryans. However, once again, the Eagles weren't appropriately tested because the Panthers have a beat-up and talent-lacking offensive line.
Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen fantasy owners were at least happy. Olsen snared six of his seven targets for 119 yards, including one 38-yard gain in which he beat Casey Matthews down the seam. Meanwhile, Kelvin Benjamin hauled in three balls for 70 yards and two late touchdowns. He was guilty of a drop, which isn't unusual for him.
The Panthers, already without Hardy in the lineup, could be without Star Lotulelei, who suffered a serious-looking injury in the fourth quarter. Charles Johnson also got hurt early, but he reentered the game eventually.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.