It definitely wasn't pretty, but the Bengals saved their season. They would've fallen to 1-3 with a defeat, but they managed to rise back up to .500 by beating the hapless, injury-ravaged Dolphins.
The Bengals did a good job of moving the chains throughout the contest and controlling the clock in the process. They won the time of possession by about 16 minutes, with the Dolphins holding the ball for less than 22 minutes. Cincinnati managed to outgain Miami by 140 yards, and this margin would've been much greater had the Bengals been more efficient in the red zone, which has been a problem for them throughout the young season thus far. It's not too much of a concern, however, as Tyler Eifert figures to return next week. Eifert will help the red-zone offense immensely.
Andy Dalton had a solid showing, going 22-of-31 for 296 yards and a touchdown. It was an easy game for Dalton, who was able to pick apart Miami's horrific secondary, which benched Byron Maxwell prior to kickoff. A.J. Green torched Tony Lippett and Xavien Howard mercilessly, and all Dalton had to do was air the ball out to his dynamic receiver. The fact that Dalton threw just one touchdown is a disappointment, but he'll start firing more scores when Eifert returns.
As for Green, he caught 10 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown, and his stats would've been even greater had the Dolphins kept up; the Bengals took the air out of the ball in the second half, throwing just nine times compared to 22 in the opening half. No one in Miami's secondary could cover Green, who caught strikes of 51 and 47 yards. Green's best catch was a diving 21-yarder. There was a scary moment in which Green began limping after taking an uncalled late hit out of bounds, but he appeared to be fine eventually.
Speaking of banged-up players, the Bengals lost guard Clint Boling in the second half, though he walked into the locker room on his own power. Jeremy Hill also left the game twice with shoulder issues. He gained 71 yards on 21 carries. He had some opportunities at the goal line, but couldn't convert. Giovani Bernard barely did anything on the ground in relief (10-18), but he did manage to catch three balls for 24 receiving yards.
Excluding Green and Bernard, only two other Bengals caught more than one pass: C.J. Uzomah (4-45) and Brandon LaFell (4-44). Promising rookie Tyler Boyd logged just a single reception for 10 yards.
The Dolphins, meanwhile, appeared as though they'd be able to make this a competitive matchup when Ryan Tannehill launched a 74-yard bomb to Kenny Stills, who torched Cincinnati's inept safety tandem. The speedy receiver made the deep catch this time and put his team up, 7-3. Miami, however, didn't score a single point after that.
The primary issue for Miami was the state of the offensive line. The team was missing its starting left tackle and top two centers, and it showed. Tannehill had tons of pressure in his face, and despite throwing mostly short passes, he took five sacks, one of which resulted in a lost fumble. Things will improve for the Dolphins once they get Branden Albert and Mike Pouncey back from injury.
Thanks to heavy pressure, Tannehill went just 15-of-25 for 189 yards, one touchdown and an atrocious interception in which he fired right to a Bengal defensive back. He nearly threw a pick-six off a deflection. The back-door push seemed to be there for Tannehill the entire fourth quarter, but the interception, some sacks and a Jarvis Landry drop on fourth down ruined three separate drives.
No Dolphin posted quality stats aside from Stills, who didn't log another reception outside of his deep bomb. Landry, who was guilty of the game-ending drop, snatched seven balls for 61 yards. DeVante Parker (2-20) was a non-factor.
The Dolphins rotated their running backs once again, with Jay Ajayi leading the way with six carries for 33 yards. Ajayi didn't log a single carry following the opening drive in the second half. Ajayi had some nice runs, so I'm not sure why he was taken off the field. Kenyan Drake (2-15), Damien Williams (2-9) and Isaiah Pead (3-5) barely did anything.
Phil Simms Fun Time: CBS still has Simms as its primary color analyst for some reason, so let's discuss some of the strange things he said during the telecast...
"It was an obvious but not obvious passing situation on second down." - I have no idea what this means. I guess we can say that this is an obvious but not obvious stupid quote from Simms.
"Maualuga gets a little rubbed on the inside." - I have to imagine Matt Millen was watching this telecast and began touching himself a little bit upon hearing this quote.
Jaguars 30, Colts 27
I'd like to not discuss how ridiculous it is that the NFL has installed these horrible 9:30 a.m. Eastern starts in London. These games are way too early, and it's no surprise that the half-asleep players have committed numerous errors in these contests. This one was no different, as the Colts, who aren't used to these insanely early kickoffs, were guilty of many of these mistakes.
It was apparent early on that this would be a long day for the Colts when Josh Ferguson dropped a pass on third-and-2 that would've moved the chains on the opening drive. Dwayne Allen then was guilty of a drop that would've gone for about 15 yards, and this was followed by an Andrew Luck interception; Luck was hit as he threw by Dante Fowler, setting up a short Jacksonville touchdown.
Two more drops occurred on the next drive, coupled with another sack of Luck. An Allen false start then ruined a possession, as the Colts were set up with a third-and-1 in Jacksonville territory. Indianapolis then committed tons of senseless penalties on defense, including numerous, unnecessary late hits.
There was a lot of talk about Gus Bradley possibly getting fired following this contest, but Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson should be the ones left in London. Grigson has screwed up repeatedly, failing to improve Luck's pass protection, which was a major issue in this game, as Luck was hit seemingly on every other play. Pagano, meanwhile, did a horrible job of preparing his team for this divisional battle. With the AFC South improved, it's difficult to imagine the Colts having consistent success as long as both Grigson and Pagano are employed.
Luck finished 27-of-42 for 234 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, but those numbers are very deceiving. Most of Luck's yardage, as well as his two scores, came when his team was down double digits, so most of his production came in garbage time. Luck was only at about 80 yards entering the fourth quarter!
That said, Luck didn't play poorly. He was victimized by countless drops. Pressure was also a factor. He was sacked six times and hit on numerous other occasions. His right guard and right tackle were out of the lineup, but those missing players weren't very good. It's almost a crime that Grigson is derailing Luck's career.
Luck's touchdowns went to T.Y. Hilton (7-42) and Phillip Dorsett (1-64). Neither receiver had anything going prior to the fourth quarter - Jalen Ramsey did a great job on Hilton for the most part - but luckily, garbage time counts just as much as regular production when it comes to fantasy. Paired with a horrible defense, Luck will be accumulating tons of garbage yardage this year.
Indianapolis' best offensive player was Frank Gore, who gained 68 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. He also chipped in with five catches for 27 receiving yards. Gore will likely pass Jim Brown's heralded career-rushing yardage mark of 12,312 next week.
As for the Jaguars, this was a nice win after losing close games to the Ravens and Packers in two of their first three games. However, they nearly blew it at the end because of some poor clock management. Fortunately for them, Indianapolis was worse.
Blake Bortles finished 19-of-33 for 207 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored on a third occasion on the ground, capped off by Bortles punting the ball into the stands, which should've been a penalty. Bortles rushed for 36 yards on seven scrambles. Overall, he was fine enough to win, but he missed some throws with his trademark lackluster accuracy. Had Bortles been sharper, the Jaguars would've won in a blowout.
Allen Robinson had a big game, though the stat line doesn't show it. He caught five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown, but he drew a couple of deep pass-interference flags. Robinson, however, dropped a couple of passes, one of which occurred in the end zone.
As for Bortles' other weapons, Allen Hurns finally bounced back with two grabs for 47 yards and a touchdown, though his 42-yard score came very late.
As predicted, T.J. Yeldon handled the majority of the workload. Yeldon gained 71 yards on 14 carries to go along with four catches for 46 receiving yards. He was far more effective than Chris Ivory (8-29), who is an afterthought at this point.
Seahawks 27, Jets 17
Much was made about Russell Wilson's leg injuries entering this game. Wilson, who was limping around in the second half of last week's contest, injured his other leg on an awkward tackle. There was some question about his status, but he decided to put on a knee brace to battle the Jets. As we quickly discovered, the MCL sprain proved to be a complete non-factor, at least as far as Wilson's passing was concerned.
Wilson finished 23-of-32 for 309 yards and three touchdowns. He mercilessly torched the Jets' secondary, which looks completely lost right now. In fact, Darrelle Revis was removed from the game toward the end of the afternoon. I thought he might have been benched at first, but he was dealing with a thigh injury. It didn't matter though, as neither he nor anyone else in the defensive backfield could stop Wilson from torching them. They couldn't cover anyone and also blew some coverages, including an awful one on a long touchdown to some guy named Tanner McEvoy.
That said, Wilson definitely wasn't himself. He couldn't move around at all, losing five yards on five "scrambles." One of his only real rushing attempts caused him to fall down helplessly for a loss. Despite this, Wilson was able to perform on a high level because his offensive line held up. The Jets supposedly have a great defensive front, but that wasn't apparent in this contest, as they struggling to put pressure on Wilson, sacking the immobile quarterback only twice throughout the afternoon.
Speaking of injured players, Jimmy Graham continues to defy the odds, becoming only the second player ever to return successfully from a torn patellar tendon (Robert Brooks). Graham caught six passes for 113 yards, and one of the receptions was an amazing, one-handed, extended grab thrown behind him. Doug Baldwin (4-54) also made a terrific reception on a 38-yard gain just as he was rocked by Calvin Pryor. Baldwin was checked for a concussion, but managed to return to action.
Two Seattle running backs are worth noting. Christine Michael didn't do much on the ground - 18 carries, 58 yards - but he managed to catch five passes for 32 receiving yards and a touchdown. C.J. Spiller also caught a score. He was given four touches and turned them into 19 yards. He might be able to serve as a decent gimmick player for the Seahawks, but it's doubtful that he'll turn into a major contributor.
As for the Jets, there was some fear that Ryan Fitzpatrick's meltdown would continue. Fitzpatrick was responsible for six interceptions at Kansas City, and Seattle's defense posed an even greater challenge. Fitzpatrick, however, was better in this game despite the defeat. He started well, going 14-of-20 for 188 yards and a touchdown in the opening half. He was nearly picked right before the break when Brandon Marshall tumbled and the ball fell right into Richard Sherman's lap, but replay review ruled it incomplete.
Things unraveled in the second half for Fitzpatrick, unfortunately. Fitzpatrick had an interception dropped by Earl Thomas, and then was actually picked by Sherman in Seattle territory, as Sherman read the back-shoulder throw to Marshall better than Marshall did. Fitzpatrick threw two more interceptions after that. One wasn't his fault, as a pass to Robby Anderson was tipped into the air. The next one occurred late in desperation time.
Fitzpatrick finished 23-of-41 for 261 yards, one touchdown and three picks. People will see the three interceptions in the box score and assume Fitzpatrick performed poorly again, but that's not the case. He was not the problem in this game, at least not as much of one as the Jets' secondary was.
Despite the matchup against Sherman, Marshall was able to catch four passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. He did this on 12 targets, however. Quincy Enunwa (6-60) did a decent job of filling in for the injured Eric Decker.
Matt Forte couldn't find any running room, which was hardly a surprise. He managed just 27 yards on 14 carries and sustained some sort of injury at the end of the game. Bilal Powell (4-26) nearly equaled Forte's rushing total and also caught six passes for 54 receiving yards. Powell appeared to lose a fumble early in the game, but he was ruled down after a review. If Forte is injured, Powell will need to be picked up.
Bears 17, Lions 14
Everyone knew that the Bears both couldn't score or stop opposing offenses because of numerous injuries. Well, everyone except for the Lions, that is, who sputtered on offense and couldn't get off the field despite having to defend Brian Hoyer.
The Lions managed just six points prior to a late punt return. They have some players on offense who are slacking off, namely Golden Tate and Eric Ebron. Tate was horrible, catching only one of his four targets, and he was responsible for Matthew Stafford's initial interception by running the wrong route. Stafford was furious on the sideline, prompting the coaching staff to bench Tate in the second half. Eric Ebron, meanwhile, dropped a pass on third down, committed a false start, missed a block and appeared to give up on a play late in the game. He's been a colossal bust and will need to be replaced soon.
Stafford struggled as a result of some of his horrible teammates, and the offensive line didn't help matters, surrendering a ton of pressure to a defense in shambles. Stafford finished 23-of-36 for 213 yards and two interceptions. His second pick occurred late in desperation time.
Marvin Jones is Stafford's only reliable receiver; he caught five of his seven targets for 74 yards. Only three other Lions caught more than one pass: Anquan Boldin (6-31), Ebron (4-42) and Theo Riddick (4-27).
Speaking of Riddick, he led the team with 31 rushing yards on 11 attempts. Dwayne Washington was expected to shoulder a greater workload, but he was given just two carries, which he turned into six yards. Washington left early with an ankle injury, but he wasn't getting much work behind Riddick anyway.
As bad as the Lions were offensively, they probably should be more embarrassed for what occurred on the defensive side of the ball. Brian Hoyer misfired on just eight occasions, going 28-of-36 for 302 yards and two touchdowns. That's not a typo. The Lions actually allowed for this to happen. It's evident now that they miss Ziggy Ansah and DeAndre Levy so desperately, but there's really no excuse for this.
There were two offensive stars for the Bears outside of Hoyer, and neither was Kevin White nor Alshon Jeffery. Eddie Royal caught seven balls for 111 yards and a touchdown, with 64 of those yards coming on one reception. Jordan Howard, meanwhile, was excellent in his initial start, gaining 111 yards on 23 carries. He also caught three balls for 21 receiving yards. He also drew a pass-interference flag near the goal line. Howard thrived in the preseason, so it's hardly a surprise that he looked so dynamic in his first start. If he keeps performing like this, Jeremy Langford won't be getting his job back.
As for the Bears' dynamic receivers, both are dealing with injuries, which would explain the meager stat totals. Jeffery caught three balls for 46 yards and didn't look like quite himself. White, meanwhile, had been enjoying a solid afternoon - six grabs, 55 yards - but left the game with an ankle injury and never returned.
It needs to be mentioned that Connor Barth whiffed on a field goal. He was wide right from 50, prompting the fans to chant, "We want Robbie!"
Redskins 31, Browns 20
The Redskins may have won this game by double digits, but it definitely didn't seem like this game had that sort of scoring disparity. Perhaps that's because the Browns were up by a field goal in the second half when they began committing mental errors. Two lost fumbles and an interception gave the Redskins the victory, but it certainly wasn't a pretty one.
The good news for the Redskins is that Kirk Cousins played much better this week than he had earlier in the year. He started the game 10-of-11 for 70 yards and two touchdowns, and he threw just six incompletions the entire afternoon. He was guilty of one horrible mistake - an interception thrown into tight coverage - but was otherwise clean and efficient. The Redskins will certainly take that after his turnover-prone outings to begin the year.
That said, Cousins could have been better. On one occasion, he had DeSean Jackson wide open for a deep shot, but opted to toss a checkdown instead. This sort of decision-making would indicate why Cousins' YPA was an underwhelming 6.78. He was playing it safe, which worked against the Browns, but he'll need to improve versus superior competition.
Cousins spent the majority of the early part of the afternoon firing passes to Jordan Reed, whom the Browns had no answer for. Reed caught nine passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns. He logged just two receptions after halftime, as the Browns made the appropriate adjustments. DeSean Jackson, meanwhile, made just one grab for five yards.
Matt Jones was Washington's second-best offensive player on the afternoon. He rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, running powerfully against the undermanned Browns.
Before moving on to the Browns, it needs to be noted that Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams hobbled off the field at the end of the game. His current status is unknown, and his absence would be a crushing blow for this team.
I mentioned that the Redskins' good news was that Cousins played better than he had in previous games. The bad news was that their defense struggled to stop the Browns, surrendering 380 net yards. If it wasn't for untimely Cleveland turnovers, the Browns probably would've prevailed. The Redskins' secondary is in shambles because of injuries, while the pass rush was non-existent after Ryan Kerrigan was knocked out with an injured elbow.
The Browns held a field goal lead in the second half when fullback Malcolm Johnson fumbled in the red zone, ruining a great drive in which the Redskins seemed to have no answer for what Cleveland was doing. Duke Johnson then lost a fumble in Washington territory on the ensuing possession. An interception then set up a quick Redskins touchdown, giving Washington the undeserved cover. Duke Johnson's fumble, by the way, was recovered by a Cleveland player, who raised the ball in the air to show the officials, yet the refs ruled that Washington would obtain possession. I have absolutely no idea what happened here, and there were jokes that the officials started the Redskins defense in fantasy.
Cody Kessler was solid for the most part, going 28-of-40 for 223 yards, one touchdown and the pick, which was an ugly throw behind Terrelle Pryor. He didn't face much pressure, but most of his passes were on the money. It's apparent that he's limited, however, which was evident when all he could do was dink and dunk when down 11 with only about six minutes remaining.
Speaking of Pryor, he caught Kessler's sole score, reeling in five balls for 46 yards. Josh Norman, who picked off Kessler, did a great job of shutting Pryor down in the second half, limiting him to one reception following the break. Gary Barnidge (7-57) led the Browns in receiving.
Isaiah Crowell had a great performance, tallying 112 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He had one gain in which he broke three Redskins tackles to move the chains on a third-and-8, but the Browns fumbled immediately afterward. Duke Johnson (9 carries, 53 rush yards; six catches, 31 rec. yards) had a solid afternoon prior to his crushing fumble past midfield.
Raiders 28, Ravens 27
The Raiders were in an extremely difficult scheduling spot. Not only was this an early game on the East Coast, but it was their second-consecutive 1 p.m. Eastern start time. Many teams have faltered in this situation in the past, but the Raiders, who appeared to be running out of gas after blowing a 21-12 lead midway through the fourth quarter, engineered another last-minute, terrific drive to seal the victory.
Derek Carr proved to be extremely clutch on that final offensive possession, and he once again capped off the drive by throwing the ball to Michael Crabtree in the end zone. It was Carr's fouth touchdown on the afternoon, as he went 25-of-35 for 199 yards overall. The numbers could've been even better - Carr was hurt by some drops - but it's a great sign that he has been unstoppable at the end of numerous games thus far in the early stages of this season.
Crabtree's game-winning touchdown was just one of three scores he hauled in on the afternoon, as he generated seven catches for 88 yards. Crabtree torched Shareece Wright mercilessly. Amari Cooper caught five balls for 48 yards, but Carr saw a matchup he liked a lot more on Crabtree's side, which would explain the disparity in terms of stats between the two Raider receivers.
The Raiders announced that they wanted rookie DeAndre Washington to see a larger workload this week. The coaching staff simply hasn't been fans of Latavius Murray, who did next to nothing in this game, generating 19 yards on eight carries. Washington's stats were better (5-30), but all but two of those yards came on one carry. Washington also appeared to cost the Raiders the game; they were leading, yet he fumbled the ball inside his own 20-yard line. The Ravens quickly took the lead with a touchdown, but Carr was able to answer back and secure the victory.
Oakland's defense has been a big problem this season, but had played better ever since Karl Joseph returned from injury. The pass rush was non-existent prior to this contest, but Khalil Mack finally got on the board with a sack. He also drew a holding penalty in the early going.
The Ravens, however, still were able to generate 412 net yards. Joe Flacco had a mixed afternoon, finishing 32-of-52 for 298 yards and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). He hurt his team by being guilty of a strip-sack after holding the ball too long, but he was hot in the fourth quarter, leading the Ravens on a furious comeback. However, Flacco was hurt by drops throughout the afternoon, including two on the final drive. The game actually ended when Kamar Aiken bobbled a potential fourth-down completion, though a crushing hit by Reggie Nelson didn't help matters. The Ravens passed on a 68-yard field goal on the play, and I have to admit that I wanted Justin Tucker attempt that try. It would've been the longest kick in NFL history, but according to the CBS announcers, Tucker had been drilling 60-yarders with some distance to spare in warmups.
Steve Smith seems to be getting better each week. He's shown no signs of any sort of torn Achilles, catching eight passes for 111 yards and a touchdown. Mike Wallace (4-44) struggled to do much, as he and Flacco failed to connect on some deep shots. Breshad Perriman (3-24) was guilty of a drop.
Justin Forsett was a healthy scratch, so Terrance West shouldered the majority of the workload. West didn't disappoint, gaining 113 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Buck Allen served as the receiving back, catching two passes.
Texans 27, Titans 20
It appeared as though the Texans were going to run away with this AFC South battle when they established a 14-0 lead right away. Bill O'Brien took the play-calling duties from his assistant during the extended work week, and it appeared to be working beautifully, as Brock Osweiler began the game 9-of-10 for 112 yards and two touchdowns. And then reality set in, and Houston's offense managed just six points after that.
Osweiler struggled following his opening two drives. He was just 14-of-27 after that with two interceptions, finishing 25-of-37 for 254 yards, two scores and two picks overall. Osweiler made a number of poor throws following his early start, throwing low and high on numerous occasions. His first pick was thrown behind his target, which set up a Tennessee touchdown.
With the Texans' offense bogging down, it appeared as though the Titans were going to have a chance to pull the upset. However, with the game tied at 20, Will Fuller returned a punt for a 63-yard touchdown, as no Tennessee players were even around him. The Titans had no chance after that, and Mike Mularkey's poor game and clock mismanagement didn't help matters.
Speaking of Fuller, the dynamic rookie had another big game, catching seven of his nine targets for 81 yards and a touchdown. DeAndre Hopkins, conversely, secured just one reception for four yards. He was targeted six times. The struggling Osweiler simply couldn't conect with Hopkins despite the easy matchup, as both of his interceptions occurred when targeting his No. 1 receiver.
Lamar Miller ran well, gaining 82 yards on 19 carries. However, he was off the field when the Texans attempted a fourth-and-inches run in the final quarter. Fullback Jay Prosch was given the attempt, and he was stuffed.
While Osweiler struggled following a hot start, Marcus Mariota was pedestrian throughout the afternoon. He failed to complete half his passes, going 13-of-29 for 202 yards and an interception. The pick was horrible, as he scrambled left and threw late across his body. Mariota looked rattled the entire contest, as he seemed unsure of what he was doing, all while displaying poor mechanics. He didn't do much on the ground either, scrambling four times for 20 yards. Mariota has looked great at times throughot his brief career, but he seems to be regressing. Better coaching would be a huge boost.
DeMarco Murray was Tennessee's entire offense. He found the end zone twice, barely missing out on the century mark. He gained 95 yards on 25 carries. Derrick Henry (3-9) was barely a factor.
Only one Titan caught more than two passes: Andre Johnson (3-33). Delanie Walker made just two grabs for 34 yards despite being targeted on eight occasions.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Call me crazy, but I think the Panthers might miss Josh Norman just a bit. I just can't see Julio Jones going off like that with Norman on the other side.
This was a huge win for the Falcons as they improved to 3-1 and now have a two-game lead on the 1-3 defending NFC Champion Carolina Panthers. This game wasn't as close as the score indicates. Until the fourth quarter, Carolina's offense was inept, but by then, Atlanta already had a huge lead. The Panthers' defense was completely incapable of stopping Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, as the latter set a franchise record for receiving yards in a game while the former totaled nearly two games of production versus Carolina.
The Panthers' offseason decisions to let Josh Norman leave and not improve their offensive tackles came back to bite them against Atlanta. They had no defensive back who could contain Jones, while offensive tackle Mike Remmers was a crushing liability. These predictable weaknesses have put Carolina in a huge hole after a quarter of this season.
Immediately in the first quarter, the Falcons got moving with three completions to Julio Jones for 50 yards. Atlanta finished the drive with Ryan rolling out to hit Jacob Tamme (2-3) for a short touchdown. Starting at their own two-yard line, the Falcons continued to move the ball with a 44-yard pass to Jones. Devonta Freeman (13-57-1) then rumbled for a 12-yard run before gashing the Panthers up the middle on a 13-yard touchdown run. Atlanta center Alex Mack hit a great block on Luke Kuechly to spring Freeman.
After a Carolina punt was downed just outside of the end zone, Thomas Davis then made a superb play to deflect a pass from Ryan that was picked off by Kurt Coleman, who coasted into the end zone to get the Panthers back into the game. The Falcons and Panthers traded field goal drives before the half, but Carolina was lucky to be in the game as Atlanta dominated with the pick-six being the only thing that kept the Panthers close at 17-10. By the half, Jones had seven receptions for 170 yards.
The Falcons expanded their lead after halfrime as the Panthers had busted coverage where they completely forgot to cover Austin Hooper (1-42-1). That 42-yard touchdown pass gave Atlanta a 24-10 lead. Another long pass to Jones set up Ryan to loft in a beautiful 35-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson (2-48-1).
In the fourth quarter, Atlanta added a 53-yard field goal from Matt Bryant. Down by 24, Carolina got its first offensive touchdown of the game with a six-yard strike to Kelvin Benjamin. Newton ran in the two-point conversion, but took a massive hit from Deion Jones. That hit sent Newton into the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion.
Derek Anderson took over to lead a drive down the field, and Greg Olsen made a superb one-handed 14-yard touchdown catch. They connected again on the two-point conversion attempt. However, the Falcons put the Panthers in a bigger hole as Ryan hit Jones on the run and he exploded down the field for a 75-yard touchdown. Anderson led another touchdown drive with a short pass to Corey Brown for pay dirt.
The Panthers got the ball back with 1:25 around their own 25-yard line down by eight points, but Anderson floated a terrible pass that was picked off by Atlanta's Robert Alford, who then coasted into the end zone from 35 yards out.
Jones was the star of the game with 12 receptions for 300 yards and a touchdown. It set a Falcons franchise record, and Jones was sensational dominating a weak Carolina defense. Panthers cornerback Bene Benwikere was especially dominated by Jones.
Matt Ryan was tremendous, picking apart the vulnerable Carolina secondary. He completed 28-of-37 passes for 503 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.
Prior to leaving the game, Cam Newton completed 14-of-25 passes for 165 yards with a touchdown. Newton's footwork and accuracy were off all game. Derek Anderson was 17-of-23 for 172 yards with two scores and two interceptions.
Greg Olsen (6-76-1), Kelvin Benjamin (3-39-1) and Corey Brown (5-48-1) chipped in touchdowns for Carolina.
Atlanta's defense got a good game from Dwight Freeney as he put a ton of pressure on the quarterback, taking advantage of the inept Mike Remmers. Not only did Remmers give up a sack and multiple hits, but he committed multiple penalties. Remmers played left tackle as Michael Oher was out with a concussion. Robert Alford hauled in two interceptions for Atlanta.
Luke Kuechly had 12 tackles with a sack, and Kawann Short had five tackles with a sack. The Panthers' edge rushers needed to play better, but weren't nearly as bad as the secondary.
EDITOR'S NOTE: So much for Bill Belichick being great with so much time to prepare. Goodbye, sweet Survivor Pool hopes.
It looks like the Patriots actually may have psyched themselves out in this game. Heading into the Week 4 matchup against their divisional rival, the Patriots had a lot of questions at quarterback with their only two options on the roster being hurt. Jimmy Garoppolo was battling a shoulder injury, while Jacoby Brissett had a banged-up thumb. With 10 days between games, Bill Belichick figured that one would be healthy enough to start on Sunday.
However, that did not end up being the case. Garoppolo had to sit due to weakness in his shoulder, so the rookie Brissett had to run the show. In his second start, Brissett looked mediocre. He ended up going 17-of-27 for 205 yards and lost a fumble. Brissett was high on many of his throws. On one notable occasion, he had a wide-open Danny Amendola for what would have been a long, first-down completion. Instead, the rookie overshot him.
Brissett just could not help the team move the ball. The Patriots had numerous three-and-outs in the first half, and did not convert on any of the five third downs they faced before the break. He also tried to do too much in the red zone during the contest. Brissett nearly threw a pick once, and on another occasion, he tried to scramble for a first down. There was no chance of making the marker, but instead of sliding, he ran straight into a tackle. Brissett fumbled as a result and cost the Patriots some points. In short, he looked like a rookie today, making a lot of mistakes. It seems like his thumb was not fully healthy.
Because of Brissett's troubles, New England's receiving corps was unable to do much today. Martellus Bennett (5-109) looked terrific and made a few big-time catches, but aside from him, the unit was mediocre. James White (5-50) was the second leading receiver, but he picked up a good chunk of his yardage in garbage time.
Both Julian Edelman (1-16) and Rob Gronkowski (1-11) were huge disappointments for the team. Edelman had trouble getting open against Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby, so Edelman can chalk this up to a tough matchup. As for Gronkowski, he was very quiet despite having a decent matchup. It appears as though Gronkowski is still not fully healthy, as he was not on the field for all of the Patriots' snaps. Definitely monitor his status going forward. So long as he is limited, he is nothing more than a high-risk, high-reward play in fantasy.
For LeGarrette Blount, this was his worst performance of the year. He was supposed to carry the load for the Patriots in this game, but he only received 13 carries. Though Blount turned those carries into 54 yards, the Bills did a very good job of containing the bruising back. Because of his early struggles, the Patriots gave some carries to James White, who was not very effective. White ran the ball four times for 12 yards.
This game was a huge, signature win for Rex Ryan and the Bills. The team really needed to get a big victory this year to help ensure that Ryan's job was safe. This definitely qualifies. After beating the Cardinals in the previous week, the team went on the road to play a divisional rival and shut them out. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the play of Tyrod Taylor.
Taylor was simply superb during the game against the Patriots. From the opening snap, Taylor just looked ready to go. He went 27-of-39 on the day for 246 yards and a touchdown. He was hyper accurate, and allowed the Bills to do a lot through the intermediate passing game. Taylor came up clutch on multiple occasions as well, throwing a bullet on a 2nd-and-20 to extend a drive. He also converted a couple of critical third downs to allow the Bills to control the game.
Taylor was able to do some damage with his legs as well. He ran five times for 28 yards, but also used his mobility to move around the pocket. On one drive, Taylor scrambled out of multiple sacks before throwing the ball down the field. New England's defense looked helpless to stop him.
Of course, Taylor did have some issues that he can improve upon. He overthrew a few passes, so he needs to be able to demonstrate better ball control in order to become a truly top-level quarterback. Still, his performance on Sunday was a strong one.
One of the main beneficiaries of Taylor's performance was wide receiver Robert Woods. Woods is now the No. 1 option since Sammy Watkins is out with a foot injury, and he looked good in the role. Woods recorded seven catches for 89 yards and was able to get open on many occasions. Aside from him, LeSean McCoy (6-38, 1 TD) and Charles Clay (5-47) helped to pace the team in receiving.
Speaking of McCoy, he was once again stellar. McCoy was able to gash the Patriots' defense on multiple occasions, recording 70 yards on 19 carries. He was able to have success running on the edge and up the middle, and was the biggest weapon for Buffalo during the game. McCoy will continue to be top-five fantasy running back, and will only get better as his offensive line gets healthier. McCoy did cede some carries to Mike Gillislee (6 carries, 30 yards) but he was used more in wildcat sets.
There were a couple of defensive players on each team who were involved in seemingly every play. For the Bills, linebacker Zach Brown played the best game of his career. He recorded a whopping 18 tackles with a sack and three tackles for losses. He helped to put pressure on Brissett, and that was critical for Buffalo's defense.
For the Patriots, cornerback Logan Ryan made a great deal of tackles as well. Ryan totaled a ridiculous 17 tackles, though part of that was due to some completions that he allowed. Still, it is rare to see a corner have so many tackles in any NFL game.
One final note: there was a pregame shoving match featuring Bills safety Robert Blanton and some members of the Patriots offense. Blanton went up to Brissett and rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell went over to Blanton and shoved him. A mini-scrum ensued as a result. The event had minimal impact on the game, as it was not a particularly chippy affair.
EDITOR'S NOTE: It was amusing to me that the 49ers' final chances were dashed by both horrible quarterbacking and coaching. Chip Kelly had to waste a timeout, and then Blaine Gabbert somehow threw short of the first-down marker on fourth down. This amused me because San Francisco's decisions to hire Kelly and go with Gabbert as the starter were ridiculous. It's apparent now that this is the worst team in football.
This historic NFL rivalry served as a backdrop of two great franchises going in opposite directions. Dallas enjoyed another win with rookie quarterback Dak Prescott managing the game well, while rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott ripped the 49ers' defense. San Francisco illustrated once again that it is in for a long season with a serious lack of talent to build on for the future.
The Cowboys moved the opening drive into field goal range before Dan Bailey missed a 47-yard field goal. San Francisco then marched down the field with Gabbert hitting Jeremy Kerley, who was wide open in blown coverage, for a 33-yard score. The next drive by the 49ers was led by completions to Garrett Celek (5-79) for 38 yards and a 17-yarder to Kerley. That set up a short touchdown run for Carlos Hyde.
The Cowboys answered with a drive that was aided by the officials as they made a terrible roughing call on Jaquiski Tartt. Dallas took advantage with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams (4-44-1). Before halftime, Prescott led a 2-minute drill that ended with a short touchdown pass to Brice Butler (5-41-1) with only a dozen seconds left on the clock.
To start the second half, Hyde rumbled for 32 yards, and Gabbert threw a beautiful pass to Celek for 29 yards. The 49ers settled for a short field goal, but that was all the offense they could muster in the final two quarters.
Dallas got going when Elliott ripped off a 23-yard run. Prescott connected on a couple of passes, and then Elliott plunged into the end zone for the game-winning score. Early in the fourth quarter, Gabbert threw a poorly placed pass, and it was intercepted by Morris Claiborne. Elliott continued to run wild as Dallas added on a field goal. The Cowboys' defense shut the door with Claiborne making a tackle on Torrey Smith on a fourth down to end the game.
The star of the game offensively was Elliott. He ran for 138 yards on 23 carries with a touchdown and had one reception for 19 yards. Dallas was without Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, yet still controlled the line of scrimmage.
Dak Prescott was 23-of-32 for 245 yards with two touchdowns. Dez Bryant was out, and Cole Beasley totaled 66 yards on three receptions. Jason Witten (7-47) chipped in some clutch catches to move the chains.
Blaine Gabbert was 16-of-23 for 196 yards with one score and one interception. Jeremy Kerley led the 49ers in receiving with six catches for 88 yards and a touchdown.
Carlos Hyde ran for 74 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown.
Defensively, Sean Lee (10 tackles) led Dallas. Tyrone Crawford had a sack and played well for the Cowboys. Antoine Bethea had 12 tackles to lead the 49ers. NaVorro Bowman had eight tackles and a sack, but injured his knee or Achilles. Rookie DeForest Buckner flashed well for San Francisco.
Broncos 27, Buccaneers 7 By Jacob Camenker - Riggo's Rag
EDITOR'S NOTE: So, I'm beginning to think my whole "Buccaneers are underrated" campaign isn't working out.
Leave it to the NFL to complete screw up the schedule once again. A week after the Buccaneers were delayed against the Los Angeles Rams due to a thunderstorm, Tampa Bay's game against the Denver Broncos was delayed by over an hour because of another storm. This should come as no surprise, given that there is a thunderstorm almost every night in Tampa Bay at this time of the year.
There is no need for the Bucs to have a 4:00 game just because they are playing West Coast teams, or because of the humidity (Jacksonville and Miami had 1 p.m. home games in September). By the time the delay ended, there was practically nobody left in the stands. Roger Goodell and company absolutely have to re-think their plans for East Coast games in the future.
In terms of the actual game, this was dominated by the Broncos. The team had a very solid performance in the passing game, despite what could be a big injury to Trevor Siemian. Siemian was off to a good start in the contest, going 5-of-7 for 68 yards and a touchdown. He was looking like a solid all-around starter before he hurt his shoulder. On a sack, Siemian was driven into the ground and hurt his left shoulder in the process. He did not return to the game and was replaced by rookie Paxton Lynch.
Considering that it was his first NFL action, Lynch looked good on the field. He ended up going 14-of-24 for 170 yards and a touchdown in this contest. He was very comfortable in the pocket, and his throws were picturesque. He has a perfect spiral, and the ball just looks natural coming out of his hand. Lynch's accuracy was only decent, but it is clear that he has the skill set to be a top-level NFL starter. If Siemian misses any time with his injury, Lynch should not be much of a drop-off. He would be a potential QB2 with upside in fantasy.
Of course, Lynch did get some help from his stellar receiving corps. Demaryius Thomas (6-94) and Emmanuel Sanders (8-88) were able to absolutely torch the Buccaneers' weak secondary. Thomas was very strong during the day, making many nice catches, including a couple where he rose up to perfectly catch the ball at its high point. Sanders was every bit as good as Thomas, though he saw 13 targets and appears to be a favorite of the Broncos' quarterbacks. Both receivers were able to score a touchdown and should continue to be great plays in fantasy.
Denver's running game was surprisingly ineffective against the Buccaneers. C.J. Anderson was bottled up repeatedly in the first half of the game, and he only finished the day with 49 yards on 19 carries. However as the afternoon went on, Anderson got better and was able to keep his legs churning and move the pile. He did add a touchdown to his stat line as well. Aside from Anderson, Devonte Booker and Kapri Bibbs got some carries. Booker posted 30 yards on seven carries, while Bibbs put up 14 yards on three totes. They will continue to only spell Anderson in short bursts.
Defensively, the Broncos were once again stellar. Their defense has been the strength of their team for the past couple of years, but they were on a different level against the Buccaneers. Aqib Talib set the tone for the team early with two picks of Jameis Winston. One came on the first possession for the Buccaneers and seemed to discourage the young quarterback. Talib ultimately helped to shut down Mike Evans. which was huge for the Broncos.
Elsewhere, Denver was able to sack Winston on a whopping five occasions. Derek Wolfe led the way, getting to Winston 2.5 times. Wolfe is a force to be reckoned with, and he may now be the best 3-4 end in all of the NFL. Shaq Barrett and Sylvester Williams each contributed one sack, while Von Miller was able to record a half sack on the day.
For Tampa Bay, the offense was just abysmal. The Bucs battled one of the league's top defensive units and lost miserably. As mentioned earlier, Jameis Winston was constantly under pressure and just could not get anything done in the passing game. He finished the day a lowly 17-of-35 for 179 yards and threw the two picks. On the bright side, Winston did manage to scramble for the team's lone touchdown. Though he made some poor throws, the entire performance was hardly his fault. Every single time Winston dropped back, a Broncos player immediately broke through the line. The Buccaneers have to do something about this issue, or Winston's confidence may get rattled again in the future. Or worse, he could get hurt.
Because of the problems on the offensive line, Tampa Bay's receiving corps did not do much outside of garbage time. The team was led in receiving by tight end Cameron Brate (5-67). Brate is establishing himself as a decent starter, and he can be considered a good TE2 in fantasy. Meanwhile, Mike Evans recorded five catches for 59 yards. The Broncos did a good job of keeping Evans in check early in the afternoon. About half of his yards came after the game was out of reach. Vincent Jackson (3-38) was relatively quiet as well.
The run game was also a struggle for the Buccaneers. Charles Sims got a good chunk of the workload - 15 carries - but only managed a measly 28 yards. He simply could not get going against the Denver defense. Tampa Bay definitely missed Doug Martin in this game and has to hope that he will be able to return soon.
The Bucs were decent on defense early in the game, and they actually recorded three sacks when Siemian was in at quarterback. Unfortunately for them, Lynch's mobility allowed him to avoid sacks, and that exposed the team's weak secondary. This is an area that the team must improve in the offseason.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I typed this when the Saints were trailing by two scores in the fourth quarter: "Nice job by Sean Payton punting this game away. Literally. The Saints were down 13 with seven minutes remaining, and they had a fourth-and-6 on their own 44-yard line. And yet, they punted. Oh, and the Chargers fumbled and the Saints recovered, so what does Payton do? Run the ball three times in a row! It's like he was trying to lose this game." More like cover epically!
The Chargers seemed to take control of this game after a Melvin Gordon 1-yard touchdown run, his second of the day, to take a 34-21 lead with seven minutes left in regulation, but three Chargers turnovers and two Saints touchdowns later, New Orleans walked off the field 35-34 winners.
This game promised a bunch of scoring with an over/under at 54 points, and it didn't disappoint.
Philip Rivers looked great all game, especially in the first half, completing 14-of-17 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He ended the day with 321 yards, two scores and his first interception of the year, which came on a fourth-and-21 to end the game. Rivers was sharp all afternoon and had very little to do with the Chargers' eventual collapse, but collapse they did.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Chargers are 1-2 this season in games they've led by 13 or more points in fourth quarter. The rest of the NFL is 25-0 in such games. Melvin Gordon and Travis Benjamin both fumbled this game away in the fourth quarter, but Drew Brees still had to lead his team to touchdowns off of each turnover to win the game.
Brees completed 23-of-36 passes for 206 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was not at his best this game. His accuracy was off, and he threw a bad interception that looked like a killer, but the Chargers were feeling generous this game.
There was plenty of scoring in this contest, but Dontrelle Inman led the way in your fantasy league, catching 7-of-11 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. Coming into this game, Inman had totaled five receptions for 45 yards on the year.
Melvin Gordon was close behind Inman, rushing 19 times for 36 yards and two touchdowns, plus adding six receptions for 43 yards. The two scores raised his total to six on the season, but his 1.9 yards-per-carry average against a bad New Orleans defense is not even close to good enough. The offensive line was hurting, but there were yards there for him. He actually looked much better in the receiving game, making a few guys miss after the catch. But in the end, his fumble that gave the ball back to the Saints in scoring position with seven minutes left in the game was the biggest knock on him Sunday. He'll need to step his game up.
The big scorer for the Saints was none other than John Kuhn, who rushed for two touchdowns and caught another on four total touches. If you play fantasy football, he has stolen many a touchdown from you throughout his career, and this week he picked the pocket of Mark Ingram twice and Coby Fleener once. Why Coby Fleener? Well, Fleener appeared to be the target when Kuhn jumped in front of him and caught the touchdown. If you're a Saints fan, you don't care all that much and you now enjoy yelling "KUUUUUHN!"
Willie Snead returned from his toe injury and looked fine on his only target, which he caught and ran with for a 23-yard gain. It seems that Snead was fine but just didn't get the targets today.
Michael Thomas led New Orleans with nine targets, catching four for 44 yards and a touchdown, while Mark Ingram was just behind him with seven, catching six for 49 yards, while also rushing 18 times for 56 yards and one touchdown. Ingram appears to be the receiving back of choice now, as Travaris Cadet saw zero targets.
San Diego rookie Hunter Henry looked good this week, and thankfully for him, he wasn't one of the players who fumbled away the game - last week he had a costly fumble himself. For the day, Hunter caught 4-of-7 targets for 61 yards and a touchdown, plus had two other just misses in the end zone. We may be seeing Antonio Gates' replacement sooner than expected.
In the end, the Chargers gave this game away, but the Saints were good enough to take advantage. Neither team has the defense to win many games this year, but both will continue to put up points.
Rams 17, Cardinals 13
The Rams are 3-1, and they defeated the Cardinals, who are 1-3. Think about that for a second. If you were to tell anyone that this would be the case prior to the 2016 season, you'd probably be carted off to a mental institution or be branded a heavy drug user. And yet, here we are. The Rams, who were demolished 28-0 at San Francisco in the Monday night opener, now sit atop their division, holding a tie-breaker over the Seahawks.
So, how did the Rams do it? Their defensive line made a huge impact. They swarmed Carson Palmer and David Johnson and forced multiple take-aways as a result. Palmer and Johnson had some big gains on occasion, but they were hit hard repeatedly and both ultimately exited with injuries. Johnson's issues don't seem that serious, as they were briefly mentioned afterward, but Palmer could struggle to play in Week 5. Palmer suffered a concussion and had to be taken into the locker room after spending some time with the trainers on the sideline. The Cardinals play on Thursday, so Drew Stanton will likely start because of the short work week.
That said, Los Angeles didn't win because Palmer and Johnson were knocked out; they held a lead before they both left the game. Palmer and Johnson were also responsible for three turnovers. Palmer heaved an interception early on when he underthrew his target in the end zone. He was later strip-sacked by Aaron Donald in the second half, and Johnson was then guilty of a lost fumble in Rams territory, ruining what appeared to be a promising drive with the Cardinals up three points.
Palmer ended up 23-of-36 for 288 yards, one touchdown and the two turnovers. He was hurt by some drops, a couple of which were by Michael Floyd, but Palmer once again didn't seem like himself. He wasn't horrible, but Arizona's offense isn't nearly as dynamic as it was last year, as Palmer clearly has regressed. Stanton, in relief, went 4-of-11 for 37 yards and two interceptions, one of which was a horrific attempt at a Hail Mary in which Stanton didn't even bother waiting for his receivers to run to the end zone. Stanton was abysmal in the preseason, and I thought Matt Barkley should've been rostered instead.
Johnson's injury ruined what was a solid afternoon, aside from the lost fumble. Johnson gained 83 yards on just 17 carries, and he also caught four passes for 41 receiving yards. He'll probably be in the lineup on Thursday, but if he's not, Chris Johnson (6-34) probably won't be available either because he also left the game with a dreaded non-contact injury. Andre Ellington is the next man up.
John Brown got off to a slow start this season because he was dealing with concussion ramifications, but he seems back to his old self. He caught 10 passes for 144 yards. Larry Fitzgerald (5-62) was next on the receiving chart, while Floyd's yardage was minimal (3-36), but he caught a touchdown. The drops hurt, however. There were three in total, and one occurred at the end when the Cardinals were attempting to mount a comeback. A monstrous hit by T.J. McDonald didn't help matters, but Floyd still should've been able to hang on to the ball.
As for the Rams' offense, Todd Gurley went off the last time he visited Arizona, but the Cardinals made sure to make his life miserable. He was restricted to just 33 yards on 19 carries, but managed to make up for it as a receiver out of the backfield; he caught five passes for 49 receiving yards.
Case Keenum has come a long way since his dreadful debut. He opened the game with some shaky throws, including one where he fired way behind Tavon Austin for what would've been a big gain, but he improved as the afternoon progressed. He did lose a fumble on a strip-sack in the third quarter, but did a good job of moving the chains and giving his defense rest. Keenum finished 18-of-30 for 266 yards and two touchdowns, and his numbers would've been even better had his receivers not dropped a pair of long passes.
Keenum's primary targets were Gurley and Lance Kendricks, who caught all five of his targets for 52 yards. Kenny Britt paced the team in yardage with 82 off four catches, while Brian Quick (2-69) found the end zone twice. Austin, meanwhile, managed just two grabs for 14 yards, but was unfortunate. As mentioned, Keenum missed him for a big gain on one occasion. On another, Austin nearly hauled in a Keenum bomb, but the ball barely hit the ground.
Speaking of that play, Jeff Fisher was guilty of two horrible challenges in this game, throwing the red flag to review a pair of dropped passes on long throws. The FOX announcers stated on both occasions that they didn't understand why Fisher would be challenging those plays, since they were so obvious. Fisher ended up costing his team two precious timeouts in the second half, which would've hurt if the Rams were the team trying to come back at the end.
Steelers 43, Chiefs 14
Mike Tomlin called this game "Redemption Sunday" following his team's blowout defeat at Philadelphia. His players took that to heart, jumping on the Chiefs early. The Steelers established a 22-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, and Kansas City never had a chance.
Here's a crazy stat: Ben Roethlisberger had just as many incompletions as touchdowns in this game. Roethlisberger went 22-of-27 for 300 yards and five scores. Kansas City's secondary isn't as good as it's been in the past this year, and that was evident in this contest. With Sean Smith gone, the cornerback play has regressed, and Justin Houston's absence hasn't helped matters.
Two of Roethlisberger's touchdowns went to Antonio Brown, who caught four balls for 64 yards. He was once again whistled for taunting in the end zone after doing an "inappropriate" dance following a touchdown, though it wasn't as egregious as his twerking earlier in the year.
Roethlisberger's other scores went to Darrius Heyward-Bey (1-31), Markus Wheaton (1-30) and Jesse James (2-15). Sammie Coates had a solid showing for once, snatching six balls for 79 yards. He also led the team with eight targets. Coates has immense upside, so perhaps he's finally beginning to live up to expectations.
Le'Veon Bell made his 2016 debut in this debut following his three-game suspension. Bell didn't disappoint, generating 144 yards on only 18 carries. He also caught five passes for 34 receiving yards. The only downside was that DeAngelo Williams (4-7) vultured a touchdown late in the evening.
Before moving on to the Chiefs, it's worth mentioning that the Steelers sustained ankle injuries to Marcus Gilbert and Jarvis Jones. A Gilbert loss would be substantial against teams with better pass rushes.
Speaking of Jones, he caught Alex Smith's single interception when it slipped out of his hands and was tipped by Cameron Heyward. Smith posted what appear to be solid numbers overall - 30-of-50, 287 yards, two touchdowns and the pick. However, these stats are totally bogus. Smith was just 13-of-21 for 131 yards and the interception in the opening half, and he was able to throw his two scores in garbage time when the Steelers stopped trying.
Smith wasn't completely at fault for this loss, but the Chiefs didn't have much of a chance with him because of his limitations once they fell behind so early. The mistakes were a huge problem. There were numerous drops, while Spencer Ware's fumble led to a quick Pittsburgh touchdown. A bit later, Dustin Colquitt booted a 23-yard punt out of bounds, setting up another brisk Steeler score.
Ware actually ended up losing two fumbles, but Andy Reid stuck with him. Ware gained 82 yards on 13 carries, and nearly scored at the end, but the Steelers stuffed him on three separate occasions. Meanwhile, Jamaal Charles played sparingly. Charles was given two carries, which he turned into seven yards. He also dropped a pass on his first offensive play of the season.
Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce were both looking like they'd have dud outings until the latter caught a late touchdown. Kelce didn't get much yardage though (5-23), and he trailed Maclin (5-78), who dropped a pass.
This needs to be mentioned: Al Michaels' constant references to the total of this game were awesome. He flat out said that the over-under was 48 at one point - it had risen to 48.5 prior to kickoff - and when a late touchdown eclipsed the total, Michaels said, "If you ever had a doubt, now you know, it's 'over.'" Michaels is a living legend.
Vikings 24, Giants 10
Anyone who has paid close attention knew how great the Vikings were prior to this game. It could've been argued that they were the top team in the league, yet it seemed like most people refused to recognize that for whatever reason. Minnesota was favored by only 3.5 points in this contest, for crying out loud. Well, thanks to their brilliant performance on national TV, the general public may finally begin recognizing the Vikings as one of the top teams in the NFL.
The Vikings really got after Eli Manning, who had major issues with their defense. Manning wasn't sacked a single time, but only because he repeatedly threw the ball into the ground to avoid getting hit. This is something Manning obviously thought about prior to kickoff, so the Vikings' stop unit was clearly in his head. Manning's stat line doesn't appear to be horrible - 25-of-45, 261 yards, one interception on a careless deep shot - but a big chunk of his yardage (67) came on a screen to Paul Perkins in which Eric Kendricks missed a tackle. Manning seldom tried anything downfield, as the Giants knew Manning wouldn't have much time behind his problematic offensive line, which was clearly outclassed in the trenches by one of the best fronts in football. Manning also should've thrown a second pick, but Kendricks dropped the ball.
A major issue for Manning was that Odell Beckham Jr. couldn't get open. Beckham had to deal with one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, Xavier Rhodes, who restricted him to just three receptions for 23 yards. Beckham saw nine targets, but Manning failed to connect with him. It didn't help that Beckham dropped a pass, failed to reel in one of his trademark one-handed grabs, and got whistled for bumping into an official. The Vikings got into Beckham's head, and he was awful as a result. Perhaps Ben McAdoo was on to something when he told the media he wants Beckham to control his emotions.
New York's other receivers didn't do much either. Victor Cruz led the non-running backs with 50 receiving yards on five catches. Sterling Shepard (4-30) disappointed his fantasy owners.
The Giants rotated their running backs with Rashad Jennings out. Orleans Darkwa had the most carries (12) and gained 48 yards. He rewarded those who started him with a short touchdown plunge. Bobby Rainey (4-22) was a factor in the passing game, reeling in seven of Manning's checkdowns for 43 yards. Perkins, meanwhile, touched the ball only four times. He didn't do much outside of his aforementioned 67-yard screen. Perkins has a lot of ability, but Jon Gruden hinted that he may not have all the protection schemes down yet, which will affect his playing time in the near future.
While the Vikings' defense was dominant, the offense was efficient enough to control the game. They won the time-of-possession battle by about 11 minutes and converted 8-of-16 third downs, compared to New York's 2-of-12 attempts.
Sam Bradford was very effective again. He finished 26-of-36 for 262 yards and a touchdown. He was very accurate and clutch on third down. His only poor pass was overthrowing an open target on a third down in the third quarter, which would've moved the Vikings deep into Giants territory for another potential score.
It helped Bradford that Jerick McKinnon ran very well, which was surprising considering the behemoths the Giants have in the interior of their defensive line. McKinnon gained 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Matt Asiata (6 carries, 6 yards) vultured a score.
One of the few Vikings who had a disappointing outing was Stefon Diggs, whose production (5-47) didn't match what was expected of him against the Giants' banged-up secondary. Diggs dropped a ball on third down that would've moved the chains in the opening half.
Another Viking who struggled was Blair Walsh, who whiffed on a 46-yard field goal. Walsh looked nervous as hell when he attempted his next try, but he was good from 44 yards.
I mentioned Rhodes' terrific play earlier. Rhodes left the game early with an apparent injury, but it turned out to only be cramps. Right tackle Andre Smith was also knocked out with an elbow issue. Mike Zimmer said Smith will be fine.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.