It turns out that not having a head coach around to prepare for a game on just three days of rest is not a recipe for success. The Broncos committed countless penalties and were out-coached in this divisional battle against a San Diego squad that finally was able to hold on to a lead.
It did appear as though the Chargers were going to blow it. They led 21-3 following a safety, but one of their special-teamers muffed the ensuing kickoff. The Broncos scored a quick touchdown, forced a turnover and drove down the field again. C.J. Anderson appeared to score yet another touchdown, but one of a half-a-dozen holds nullified what was a heroic effort by Anderson in which he broke four tackles to reach the end zone on a would-be 20-yard reception. Following a sack, Trevor Siemian hit Demaryius Thomas for a big gain, but the star receiver lost a fumble. The Chargers recovered, and following a late scare that involved an onside kick recovery, they finally sealed their first victory since they beat the Jaguars in Week 2.
Philip Rivers set the tone for this victory by torching the Broncos on the initial two drives. Rivers was absolutely on fire, slinging precise throws on nearly attempt. In fact, his second possession went for 10 minutes, which was the longest drive of the season for any team. He began 14-of-18 for 148 yards and a touchdown.
However, Denver's defense clamped down on the Chargers after that. Rivers was just 4-of-11 for 30 yards the rest of the way, ultimately finishing 18-of-29 for 178 yards and a score. His overall numbers would've been better had Antonio Gates not dropped two passes, one of which would've moved the chains on a third down. Rivers played a great game despite the injuries he's been dealing with up front; Joe Barksdale was the latest blocker to get hurt, though he did return to action eventually. Rivers passed Dan Fouts as the Chargers' all-time passing leader in terms of yards.
Gates caught only two passes for 16 yards, and he played second fiddle to Hunter Henry. The rookie tight end was terrific, catching six balls for 83 yards and a touchdown. He was dominant, and the struggling Denver linebackers didn't have any sort of answer for him.
Excluding Henry and Gates, only three Chargers caught multiple passes: Tyrell Williams (3-28), Travis Benjamin (3-17) and Dexter McCluster (2-15). Benjamin muffed a punt in the opening half, setting up a Denver field goal. However, he made up for it by drawing a pass-interference flag on Aqib Talib.
Melvin Gordon struggled to find running room for the most part, but finally broke free for a 48-yard gain in the third quarter. Gordon dashed for 94 yards on 27 carries.
Before moving on to the Broncos, I have to say that this was definitely a feel-good moment for Mike McCoy, who was set to be fired if the Chargers lost this game. A teary-eye McCoy addressed the media, which called for his firing during the week, and he told them that he met with his daughter right after the game.
Denver struggled to move the chains until garbage time at the end that nearly turned into an improbable comeback. The Broncos were limited to 60 net yards of offense in the opening half. Part of this was because the Chargers controlled the clock, holding the ball for 20:27 of 30 first-half minutes. The other part was that the entire offense was both ineffective and mistake-prone.
Trevor Siemian struggled. His final numbers don't look horrible - 30-of-50, 230 yards, one touchdown - but at the end of the third quarter, he was just 10-of-19 for only 58 yards. He didn't have any significant yardage, as most came with the Broncos down two or three scores and the Chargers turning into a prevent defense that nearly lost them the game. It's unknown why they changed their strategy, but it nearly clost them.
Siemian had chances to score points in meaningful action, but missed throws. He had Emmanuel Sanders open for a deep touchdown in the first quarter, but overshot him. There were other passes he should've converted, including a gain of 15 or so to Demaryius Thomas that would've moved the chains on a third down, but Siemian just missed him. He also nearly threw an interception, but the ball was dropped.
Mistakes killed the Broncos all evening. For instance, C.J. Anderson rushed for only 37 yards and was outgained by Devontae Booker (5-46), but he had runs of 15 and 12 negated by holds by Max Garcia (who was responsible for the safety) and Matt Paradis. Plus, as mentioned, Anderson's impressive touchdown reception was nullified by another hold. The Broncos racked up 103 penalty yards, indicating that they simply weren't prepared to play, as a result of Kubiak's absence.
Both of Denver's receivers disappointed their fantasy owners. Thomas saw 10 targets, but caught five balls for only 35 yards. He also lost the aforementioned fumble. Sanders (4-40) was only slightly better. Sanders sustained some sort of injury in the second half, but was able to return to action. Both wideouts would've done much better if Siemian didn't struggle with accuracy issues.
Phil Simms, as usual, was horrible. Here were some of his quotes from tonight:
"To get 66 percent of any people to agree on anything is next to impossible."
Simms said this about the Chargers' stadium deal. What's funny about this is that three days ago, the Las Vegas stadium passed at a 76.2-percent rate. Nice one, Phil.
"In golf terms, Jim, it's just like a golf swing keeping that arm straight with his swing."
I have no idea what this means. I guess that was for the 10 golf fanatics watching Thursday Night Football.
Simms also poked fun at fantasy football at some point in the first half. He did the same thing last week, according to Matthew Berry, who went savage on Simms on Twitter. Simms, proving that he's completely out of touch, needs to understand that most people were watching this game because they're fantasy football owners checking out what their players were up to. The completely arrogant Simms just offended most of his viewer base instead. Why the hell is CBS still employing this guy!?
Besides, it's not like Simms has many fans. Check out these tweets that I found:
Redskins 27, Eagles 20
The concern I had about the Eagles entering this game - as well as their next nine contests - was whether Carson Wentz could continue to perform well with worsened pass protection. Lane Johnson's 10-game suspension was finally upheld, so Philadelphia had a horrible matchup against the Redskins, where they had a rookie right tackle going up against the talented Ryan Kerrigan. It didn't seem like that would bode well for the Eagles, and my suspicions were confirmed right away. Kerrigan sacked Wentz twice on the opening drive alone, and Wentz was hit and hurried on nearly all of his drop-backs.
The Eagles, as a result, couldn't do anything offensively. They managed jut 12 first downs and were outgained by more than 250 net yards. They struggled to maintain drives, as their offense was responsible for just six points; the 14 points came via special teams and defense.
With poor protection, Wentz completed only half of his passes, going 11-of-22 for 179 yards. That actually includes some garbage-time totals, as he was only 3-of-8 for 28 yards in the opening two quarters. Wentz did have a chance at a late touchdown at the end, but Zach Ertz was guilty of a drop. Still, it didn't really matter, as Philadelphia needed two scores to overcome the 27-17 deficit.
There was one other glaring mismatch in the Redskins' favor. With Leodis McKelvin out, backup Jalen Mills had to cover DeSean Jackson. Kirk Cousins took advantage of this liability in the early going, as Jackson accumulated 51 receiving yards in the first quarter alone. Jackson only caught one pass after than (4 receptions, 55 yards), but that was part Cousins being inconsistent and part Jackson's ineptitude; Jackson dropped a touchdown at one point, though the Redskins ultimately found the end zone on the same drive.
Speaking of Cousins, he struggled to complete half of his passes, going 18-of-34 for 263 yards, two touchdowns and an interception that happened to be a pick-six; Cousins launched the turnover off his back foot while under pressure. He panicked, and it was the sort of blunder Cousins has been guilty of far too often. Cousins was just 6-of-14 in the second half with a pass that was nearly intercepted in the end zone, as his inaccuracy allowed the Eagles to hang around. Fortunately for the Redskins, Philadelphia couldn't muster anything offensively, so it didn't matter at all.
Both of Cousins' touchdowns went to the players replacing Jordan Reed's production: Jamison Crowder (3-52) and Vernon Davis (2-50). Pierre Garcon led the Redskins in receiving; he caught six passes for 77 yards.
The Eagles had no answer for Matt Jones. He gashed them for 135 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. That includes a 57-yard burst at the end of the game to seal the victory for the Redskins. Robert Kelley (5-59) looked good in his brief action, and I think he could do a good job of handling the workload in the event of a Jones injury.
Going back to the Eagles, their 14 points came on Cousins' pick-six and Wendell Smallwood's kickoff return. Smallwood's score was actually the first kickoff return touchdown in the entire NFL this season. Roger Goodell has done a good job of taking the fun out of the game with his asinine kickoff rules.
Only two Eagles caught multiple passes: Jordan Matthews (3-75) and Nelson Agholor (3-34). Ertz (1-22), as mentioned, was guilty of a horrible drop.
Because of Philadelphia's early deficit, the team couldn't establish the run. In fact, Ryan Mathews had just two carries in the first half. Mathews finished with 60 yards on nine attempts.
It's not all doom and gloom for the Eagles. Not having Lane Johnson hurts, but they have enough talent to overcome this two-game losing streak. However, they need to stop being so sloppy. They've had at least 11 penalties in consecutive games for the first time in 27 years.
Titans 28, Browns 26
It's difficult to judge anything that happens against the Dolphins and the Browns, but Marcus Mariota has put together two consecutive strong performances. This was desperately needed after he struggled so much against the Texans a couple of weeks ago.
Mariota opened the game with a 41-yard run on a zone read on the first play of the afternoon. He then converted a third-and-15 to Kendall Wright for a gain of 26 yards, as Tramon Williams was lost in coverage. This was followed by a touchdown to Rishard Matthews, giving the Titans a quick score and the lead, which Tenessee would never relinquish.
Mariota did a great job of moving the chains the entire afternoon; he was 7-of-13 on third-down conversions, as he absolutely murdered the Browns on several third-and-long situations. He constantly fired toward Kendall Wright, who beat Williams and safety Derrick Kindred like a rented mule the entire contest.
Mariota finished 17-of-24 for 284 yards, three touchdowns and an interception to go along with 64 rushing yards on seven attempts. By my count, Mariota threw only two poor passes on the afternoon. One was a dangerous heave into heavy traffic in the first half. The second was the pick, which was a late throw down the middle that was made when Mariota was off-balance. He made a similar pass at Houston, but it's a positive that Mariota limited his mistakes in this contest.
As mentioned, Mariota targeted Kendall Wright heavily. Wright looked like his former self, and if you were somehow asleep over the past several years, you may have assumed that he has performed this way the entire time. Wright caught eight of his nine targets for 133 yards and a touchdown, as no one on the Browns could cover him with Joe Haden out of the lineup. Rishard Matthews (3-70) and Anthony Fasano caught Mariota's other touchdowns, while Delanie Walker was limited to just one catch (21 yards).
The Titans, shockingly, didn't run the ball very well after Mariota's first scamper. DeMarco Murray was limited to just 65 yards on 21 carries, though he did help out his fantasy owners with a touchdown.
As for the Browns, don't be fooled by this score; they trailed 28-13 with a few minutes remaining in regulation, but Cleveland mounted a furious comeback to cover the spread. They struggled to move the chains for most of the second half, as the offensive line didn't hold up well for Cody Kessler; the unit was clearly missing Joel Bitonio. Kessler took six sacks, with beleaguered center Cameron Erving responsible for a couple of those. As a result, Cleveland had horrible field position most of the afternoon.
Kessler finished 26-of-41 for 336 yards and two touchdowns, but a lot of that occurred in garbage time. I wouldn't say Kessler played poorly or anything, however. He simply didn't have adequate protection from a fierce Tennessee pass rush.
Terrelle Pryor may not reach Charles Woodson's predicted 1,800-yard receiving mark, but he came up big in this game, catching nine balls for 75 yards and two scores. He was Kessler's only reliable receiver, as Ricardo Louis (5-65) dropped some passes. Gary Barnidge disappointed, making only three grabs for 59 yards.
The Browns couldn't run the ball whatsoever, thanks to Bitonio's absence. Isaiah Crowell was limited to 16 yards on nine carries. Duke Johnson (4-18) scored the back-door touchdown and also caught four balls for 56 receiving yards. He also drew a long pass-interference flag.
I saw people on Twitter criticizing Hue Jackson for some bad math late in the game. Jackson went for two following a touchdown, down 28-19. The conversion didn't work, prompting the criticism. Jackson was correct, however, as the Browns had to go for two eventually, and knowing exactly what had to have been done was beneficial. People remarked the Browns would've been down just one score at 28-20, but they already went for two and failed, so what does it matter? Why would the two-point try after the second touchdown have a better chance of being successful than the first? Simple math and logic, Twitter people. Where Jackson screwed up was not kicking a field goal at the end; instead, he wasted time with some runs, though it ultimately didn't matter because the Browns didn't convert the second onside kick.
Saints 41, Panthers 38
The Panthers didn't have a horrible chance of making the playoffs at 1-4. The previous odds were against them pertaining to other 1-4 squads in NFL history. However, the Panthers have more talent than most historical 1-4 teams, and a victory here would've brought them to 2-4, and they'd have a bye to continue to regroup. Unfortunately for the Panthers, that won't happen now. They're not completely done at 1-5, but they need to use their bye to spark a very long winning streak.
One of the things Carolina needs to do during its week off is somehow address the secondary. That'll obviously be difficult with Josh Norman no longer on the roster, but changes must be made because the Saints had open receivers all afternoon. Drew Brees easily sliced and diced Carolina's horrid defensive backfield, going 34-of-49 for 465 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.
The Panthers also must fix their pass rush. Brees was sacked just once, and he wasn't brought down until very late. It didn't matter though, as the Saints ultimately picked up the first down and won the game on that drive.
Carolina's pass protection isn't very good, either. Cam Newton was sacked twice, but the Saints generated a good amount of heat on him throughout the early stages of the afternoon. The Panthers actually trailed 21-0 until they mounted a furious comeback. They managed to tie the contest at 38, but Brees put together one final drive to secure the victory.
Newton wasn't very sharp for the most part, going 27-of-46 for 322 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw an interception, but I wouldn't say it was his fault, as Devin Funchess slowed down on the route for some reason.
Funchess made up for the blunder by securing a touchdown and also drawing pass interference in the end zone - one of three occasions the Saints were flagged for the penalty in that area. Funchess (2-28, TD) didn't do much outside of that, however, as Greg Olsen (6-94) and Kelvin Benjamin (8-86) ranked atop the stat sheet in terms of receiving yardage. Olsen drew one of those interference flags in the end zone, while Benjamin appeared to make a great reception in the first half. He secured a terrific, diving catch along the sideline and got one knee inbounds. However, Sean Payton challenged, and the call was overturned because Benjamin bobbled the ball while falling out of bounds. Payton actually had another terrific challenge late in the contest to overturn an incompletion, which was ruled a touchdown following the review. Watching the game live, I wouldn't have challenged either play, so credit the Saints for having some sharp people watching these replays for their coach.
Jonathan Stewart returned for the Panthers, and he made his fantasy owners happy. He scored twice, dashing for 85 yards on 19 carries. I have to wonder if Stewart ever would've scored those touchdowns had Newton never sustained that concussion. The Panthers have discussed using Newton less as a runner, so Stewart's production could be a byproduct of that new decision-making.
Stewart outgained Mark Ingram, who managed only 51 yards on 16 attempts. It's shocking Ingram didn't run that much, given that the Saints never trailed.
I mentioned Brees' numbers earlier. His four touchdowns were thrown to Brandin Cooks (7-173), Michael Thomas (5-78), Coby Fleener (6-74) and Josh Hill (2-23), who was guilty of a dropped pass. Fleener, meanwhile, actually scored twice, running in for a touchdown on a trick play.
It was disappointing that Willie Snead didn't do much, considering he was in a matchup in which he and his teammates were wide open the entire afternoon. Snead caught four balls for 47 yards, though he did secure a very clutch completion late in the game.
Giants 27, Ravens 23
The Giants fans in the stands had a roller coaster of an afternoon. They watched Odell Beckham Jr. lose a fumble on the first play of the game for the Giants, which set up a touchdown for the Ravens, putting them up 10-0. Following some horrible drives in which Eli Manning threw way behind his receivers, the crowd began booing, and the fans actually gave the Giants a sarcastic standing ovation following their initial first down early in the second quarter. The Giants then had more success moving the ball, but Beckham sustained an injury. He left the game, came back in after one play, and then limped into the locker room. He was diagnosed with a hip pointer, but managed to return.
With some renewed optimism, things quickly changed when Manning threw an interception as a result of Sterling Shepard falling down. The Ravens took the lead, but that didn't last very long. Manning, who was horrid in early going, lofted a bomb to Beckham, who managed to secure it for a 75-yard touchdown, torching Will Davis, who was on the field because starting cornerback Jimmy Smith left the game with an injury. The Ravens managed to take the lead, but Manning once again hit Beckham for a long score, this time a 66-yarder on a fourth-and-1 as a result of a two Baltimore defensive backs crashing into each other. Beckham followed that up by ripping off his helmet, running to the kicking net and proposing to it. After the net apparently said yes, he hugged the net, which collapsed as a result, so Beckham did more harm than good to his new fiancee.
The Giants had a four-point advantage with less than two minutes remaining, but the Ravens drove down the field and nearly reached the red zone, thanks to a very bogus roughing-the-passer penalty. Joe Flacco had an open receiver at the 5-yard line, but overthrew him. Flacco then had to try a Hail Mary, and that fell incomplete as time expired.
As you can tell, this game was insane, with so many twists and turns. Either team could have won it; the Ravens failed to convert a first-and-goal at the 1-yard line, turning the ball over on downs. Plus, these teams weren't far apart in terms of net yardage (435-391, Giants), and Baltimore won the time-of-possession battle by more than 10 minutes.
Speaking of twists and turns, that could appropriately describe Eli Manning's performance. Manning began very poorly; as mentioned, he was throwing way behind countless receivers. However, his deep connections to Beckham bolstered his stat line, and he finished 32-of-46 for 403 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. His first score was the 300th of his career. By the way, neither of Manning's interceptions were his fault; I mentioned Shepard fell down during one of them. The other occurred when Manning tried to make something happen at the end of the first half, so the turnover didn't hurt at all.
Beckham had just two catches for 11 yards at halftime, and as mentioned, he was dealing with a hip pointer. However, he came alive following intermission, and he finished with eight catches for 222 yards and two touchdowns, as Baltimore's beleaguered secondary blew coverage after coverage.
Rashad Jennings returned from his hiatus, and he was predictably ineffective. He managed only 15 yards on nine carries.
As for the Ravens, Flacco proved to be inconsistent, going 26-of-48 for 307 yards. He threw no touchdowns or interceptions, though he was extremely fortunate to get away with some bad throws that easily could've been picked off. However, the Giants' defensive backs, including Janoris Jenkins, dropped some potential picks.
I wouldn't completely blame Flacco for this, however. His offensive line is in shambles, and it struggled to protect against a New York pass rush that couldn't generate any heat on Aaron Rodgers last Sunday night. Flacco was also without Steve Smith, so it's not a surprise that Flacco was up and down without his No. 1 threat.
With Smith out of the lineup, Mike Wallace (4-97) led the Ravens in receiving. Kamar Aiken (4-64), Breshad Perriman (3-48) and Dennis Pitta (6-36) posted middling statistics.
Terrance West posted decent fantasy stats - 23 carries, 87 yards, four catches, 36 receiving yards, two total touchdowns - but I don't think he ran very well. On a fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line, West could've cut upfield to potentially score, but he continued to run laterally and was consequently tackled short of the goal line. This play effectively lost the game for the Ravens. They should have tried a field goal, so they would've only needed three points at the very end.
Both teams are now 3-3, with the Ravens dealing with a three-game losing streak. They can recover, however, but they need all of their injured players (Steve Smith, Jimmy Smith, Ronnie Stanley, C.J. Mosley, etc.) to return to action. They also have to stop committing senseless penalties; they racked up 111 penalty yards in this contest.
Patriots 35, Bengals 17
Three penalties absolutely killed the Bengals' chances of winning this game. That may sound odd, given that the Patriots won by a margin of 18, but this was a tight contest in which the Bengals had New England outgained in the opening half. The first crucial infraction was an illegal contact on Dre Kirkpatrick on a third-and-18. The Patriots would've been forced into a punt, but because they were granted a free first down - I have no idea how a 5-yard penalty should warrant a first down on third-and-18 - the Patriots were able to extend their drive and ultimately score a touchdown.
The second horrible penalty came in the third quarter. The Bengals led 14-10, but beleaguered right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi was flagged for a hold deep inside his own territory. Andy Dalton took a sack on the next play, resulting in a safety. Following a short kickoff, the Patriots were able to score quickly on their short field, allowing them to establish the lead that they would never relinquish. The third infraction, by the way, negated a forced punt on third-and-12 that would've given the Bengals a chance, down only eight. Again, a hold moved the chains on a situation of longer than 10 yards on third down, even though it was a 5-yard penalty. Pacman Jones was furious at the call, and understandably so.
This is all a shame for the Bengals, as they did a great job of pressuring Tom Brady early. Brady definitely didn't look like himself, as he was jittery in the pocket. He also took a handful of sacks, as his offensive line isn't in good shape. Cincinnati had control of this game, but couldn't maintain it because of those two infractions. As a result, the Bengals have dropped to 2-4, and their playoff hopes are starting to look pretty bleak.
I mentioned that Brady was jittery early in the afternoon. He looked unsure of himself and seemed concerned with the offensive line. Something the Bengals did was bring their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage, which took away Brady's crossing patterns. The Patriots made the appropriate adjustments at halftime, and Brady's connection with Rob Gronkowski couldn't be stopped as a result.
Brady finished 29-of-35 for 376 yards and three touchdowns. I never would've imagined that Brady would generate numbers like that after struggling in the opening quarter, but credit the coaching staff for making the appropriate changes and putting Brady into great position. Of course, Brady deserves credit as well for constantly hitting Gronkowski, who finished with seven grabs for 162 yards and a touchdown. Gronkowski logged just two catches in the opening half.
Brady's other touchdowns both went to James White, who caught eight passes for 47 receiving yards to provide an upgrade over his pedestrian rushing numbers (7-19). Something else Belichick did was have White take advantage of Karlos Dansby's poor coverage. Dansby has been woeful all season, and he was especially horrid this afternoon. He won't be in the league much longer.
Julian Edelman (4-30) didn't do much, but only because the Bengals took away his routes. I'd expect him to bounce back soon. Chris Hogan (1-39) and Martellus Bennett (5-48) also disappointed following solid performances last week.
LeGarrette Blount didn't get a full workload, but he had some impressive scampers. He rushed for 50 yards and a late touchdown on 13 carries. He did manage to outgain both Bengal running backs, however.
Speaking of the Cincinnati runners, Giovani Bernard (15-49) was better than Jeremy Hill (13-38), and he was also a greater factor as a receiver, catching four balls for 45 receiving yards. Cincinnati's usage of Hill is embarrassing, as it seems like a wasted down every time he touches the ball. Hill also whiffed on a block during Dalton's safety.
Dalton didn't have a bad performance, going 21-of-31 for 254 yards and two touchdowns (one passing, one rushing). However, he missed out on a second aerial score because he underthrew A.J. Green in the end zone. Dalton didn't play as well in the second half, as his center, Russell Bodine, was carted off with a leg injury.
Green had an extremely difficult matchup, as Bill Belichick often takes away the opposing offense's best weapon. Green still managed to catch six passes for 88 yards, but he missed out on a touchdown because Malcolm Butler made a great pass break-up. Butler played out of his mind in this game.
The Bengals once again struggled in the red zone. They were stopped at the 1-yard line, with Bernard being stuffed at the line of scrimmage on a fourth-down try. I keep saying this, but Cincinnati's red-zone offense will improve once Tyler Eifert returns from injury, whenever that may be.
Lions 31, Rams 28
Considering that the Rams have Todd Gurley and a strong defense, I never would've imagined that they would lose a game in which Case Keenum misfired only five times on 32 attempts - including 20 consecutive completions - yet that's exactly what happened in this contest. It appears as though this crazy 2016 campaign just keeps getting more insane.
However, what should be recognized is that the Rams are now undermanned. Robert Quinn and Trumaine Johnson were both ruled inactive prior to kickoff, marking the second-straight game the former has been absent. Michael Brockers, who was questionable coming into this contest, was able to suit up, but he left the game early when he aggravated his hip injury. With three key defenders out of the lineup, the Rams' stop unit clearly wasn't the same.
Matthew Stafford was able to take advantage of this, torching the Rams by going 23-of-31 for 270 yards and four touchdowns. He was every bit as spectacular as those numbers indicate, though it helped that he didn't have to deal with any sort of pass rush. He was sacked only once, as his rookie tackle Taylor Decker put together an exceptional performance, albeit against a reserve.
Stafford's touchdowns went to Golden Tate (8-165), Anquan Boldin (8-60), Andre Roberts (2-13) and Marvin Jones (2-10). Tate actually nearly scored twice, but replay review overturned the call. This was shocking to say the least, as Tate was benched two weeks ago. I wouldn't expect him to maintain this sort of performance, though it's at least clear that he's not a lost cause. As for Jones, he also almost scored twice, but a miscommunication ruined the potential second touchdown.
With Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington out, the Lions had Zach Zenner and Justin Forsett as their two primary running backs. Zenner (14-58) outgained Forsett (5-5) by a wide margin, and he also caught more passes (2) than Forsett (1) did. Forsett may not be on the roster very long.
Speaking of running backs, Todd Gurley didn't have the sort of performance that his owners were expecting prior to this matchup. Gurley gained just 58 yards on 14 carries, though he did catch four balls for 39 yards. Gurley was blown up in the backfield on a fourth-and-1 try in the second quarter. Gurley's low workload may have been a byproduct of him walking off the field gingerly at one point in the opening half. He missed some action, but managed to return to the field. It's unclear if he was 100 percent.
I mentioned that Keenum missed on just five throws earlier. Take a look at his stat line: 27-of-32, 321 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, which was a horrible throw at the end to ruin the Rams' chances. But how does an overall stat line like that even happen? Detroit's banged-up defense got Ziggy Ansah back this week, and he managed to draw a false start at one point, but the back seven continued to be brutal. DeAndre Levy needs to return for the Lions to play well defensively.
Kenny Britt put together a huge performance, snatching seven balls for 136 yards and two touchdowns. He looked like vintage Britt, even securing a one-handed, diving catch at one point. I don't know where this came from, but I wouldn't expect it to continue, given Britt's inconsistency and Keenum's lacking talent. Then again, if the Rams can somehow use their new Los Angeles money to schedule the Lions 16 times per season, perhaps Britt would have a chance to eclipse the century mark every week.
Keenum's other touchdown went to Lance Kendricks (5-34), while Tavon Austin (3-24) didn't do much.
EDITOR'S NOTE: If I would've picked the Bears for some sort of wager, I would've been pissed that they lost despite winning for most of the afternoon. On the bright side, Cameron Meredith may have proven that he's a viable, starting fantasy receiver.
The young Jaguars showed some resiliency with a comeback road win in Chicago. The Bears held a 13-0 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, but Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville defense come up with big plays to pull out a one-point road win. If it weren't for some missed kicks against the Ravens, the Jaguars would be 3-2 and a real threat in the AFC South. In the grand scheme of things, the Bears aren't going anywhere this year, so they are better off losing to get a higher draft position for the 2017 NFL Draft.
On the Jaguars' opening drive, they went 90 yards down the field, but Allen Robinson dropped a would-be touchdown pass, and Tracy Porter caught the deflection for an interception to rob Jacksonville of early points. The Bears took advantage with a drive led by passes to Alshon Jeffery to set up a short field goal for Connor Barth. Chicago got the ball back and moved down the field using Jeffery some more. Jordan Howard then plunged into the end zone from a few yards out to take 10-0 lead into the half. Jeffery abused Jacksonville rookie Jalen Ramsey in the first half to the tune of six receptions for 90 yards.
After trading punts in the third quarter, the Bears got moving when they hit Cameron Meredith for 36 yards on a wide receiver screen. Ka'Deem Carey added a 16-yard run to set up a first-and-goal, but the Jaguars held Chicago to three points. Jacksonville got moving with passes of 25 and 29 yards to Allen Hurns to set up the Jaguars inside the Bears' 5-yard line to start the fourth quarter. Chris Ivory soon plunged into the end zone to cut the Bears' lead to 13-7. The Jaguars got the ball back rather quickly, but Willie Young strip-sacked Bortles, and Chicago recovered at Jacksonville's 30-yard line. A Yannick Ngakoue sack held the Bears to another field goal. The Jaguars responded with a field goal drive of their own. They then got the ball with just over three minutes at their own 20. After a few completions got the ball to midfield, Bortles hit backup wide receiver Arrelious Benn, who made a sliding catch. Benn was untouched and got up to sprint down the field for a 51-yard touchdown. It was Benn's first score since 2011, when he was playing for Tampa Bay.
With about two minutes left, Hoyer got moving with a crossing completion to Meredith (11-113), but on a fourth-and-10, Ramsey came back to break up a pass intended for Jeffery, letting the Jaguars get the ball back.
Ramsey showed his resiliency by holding Jeffery (7-93) to just one reception for three yards in the final two quarters. Brian Hoyer was 30-of-49 for 302 yards, but Chicago really struggled in the red zone, and that ended up being the difference in this game.
Ka'Deem Carey (9-50) and Jordan Howard (15-34-1) split the workload for Chicago.
Blake Bortles was 20-of-33 for 271 yards with a score and an interception. Bortles got in a funk after his fluky interception and didn't snap out of it until late in the third quarter.
Chris Ivory (11-32-1) led the Jaguars on the ground, and T.J. Yeldon (6-21) didn't get many opportunities.
Allen Hurns (5-74), Marqise Lee (6-61), Allen Robinson (3-49) and Julius Thomas (2-28) all chipped in for the Jaguars.
Defensively, Willie Young played really well for Chicago with two sacks. Paul Posluszny had an excellent game for the Jaguars with 11 tackles.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I think this result shocked most people - the Steelers were favored by a touchdown, after all - but this was the first game in which the Dolphins had their entire offensive line intact. It just goes to show how dire offensive line injuries can be, yet the public doesn't ever seem to recognize it because none of the blockers are on their fantasy team.
The Pittsburgh Steelers came into Miami as seven-point favorites, and with the way they had been playing, that seemed too small of a line. Unfortunately for the Steelers, today belonged to the Miami Dolphins, who dominated Pittsburgh in a 30-15 drubbing.
The big-play ability of the Steelers was on display early when Darrius Heyward-Bey took an end around 60 yards for a touchdown, making the Dolphins' defense appear to be in slow motion. Pittsburgh went on to covert a two-point conversion to Le'Veon Bell, and after the end of the first quarter, the Steelers led the Dolphins 8-3.
The second quarter would be when the wheels fell off for the Pittsburgh offense because Ben Roethlisberger had to leave the game due to a knee injury. Landry Jones, the Steelers' backup quarterback, relieved Roethlisberger for a series before halftime and did his usual, which was zero, but Roethlisberger, as he is wont to do, limped back on the field in the second half.
The Dolphins looked okay in the first half, and they even scored a touchdown along with three field goals - a 1-yard punch-in for running back Damien Williams - to make it 16-8 at half, but their offense didn't really get rolling until the second half when Jay Ajayi went to work.
Ajayi was a healthy scratch for Week 1 and, obviously, has spent much of his time in head coach Adam Gase's doghouse, but Ajayi has also been the healthiest and most productive back for the Dolphins, even if the numbers didn't amount to much.
Arian Foster returned this week from his hamstring injury, so the prevailing thought was that he would be the lead back, but instead it was Ajayi, who fended off the committee to take over as the bell-cow back in the second half.
Ajayi looked strong all game, but as the Steelers had trouble moving the ball, their defense spent too much time on the field, allowing Ajayi and Miami's offensive line beat them down to the tune of 25 carries for 204 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard scoring scamper that iced the game.
The Dolphins played inspired ball at times, but you can't devalue the injury to Roethlisberger. After returning to the field, he quickly floated a pass right to the Dolphins and just never looked right without his mobility. The Steelers are no doubt a much better team than the way they played in Miami, but they also very much need Roethlisberger healthy, much like last season.
That begs the question, why is Landry Jones still Pittsburgh's backup? He is awful and should be on a scout team at best. I understand there is a huge dearth of quality quarterbacks in the league, but a decent backup should have been a major priority after their offense tanked when Roethlisberger was out last season.
This was a weird game. It's hard to tell how much better the Dolphins were due to Roethlisberger's injury, but 222 yards on the ground at 6.2 yards per carry against the Steelers, who had allowed just 70 yards per game to running backs. And to heap some more crazy statistical insults, the Dolphins had come into this game averaging 58 yards rushing per game.
Roethlisberger will get an MRI on his knee, and then the Steelers take on the red-hot Patriots at home. Pittsburgh will need Roethlisberger healthy, or it will be a massacre. The Dolphins, on the other hand, also face a red-hot team as the Buffalo Bills head into Miami, coming off four straight wins.
EDITOR'S NOTE: I thought something that was interesting in this game was when Colin Kaepernick didn't get an obvious face-mask call in the first half. I saw it from a mile away, and so did the coaching staff, and everyone on the 49ers was furious. I'll just say that Kaepernick should not be expecting to get these sorts of calls in the near future.
Do not look now, but the Buffalo Bills are absolutely on fire. The team started the season 0-2, but has won four straight games for the first time since 2008 to improve to 4-2. Buffalo is now challenging the New England Patriots in the AFC East, and it is all thanks to some of the offensive improvements that the Bills have made.
LeSean McCoy played what might have been one of the best games of his career on Sunday afternoon. Against the 49ers' putrid run defense, McCoy was unbelievable. He absolutely gashed the 49ers, carrying the ball 19 times for 140 yards and a whopping three touchdowns. It was his second straight week of averaging more than 7.4 yards per carry. That is absolutely ridiculous.
As great as the numbers were for McCoy, he actually outperformed them. Nobody could keep track of McCoy on the field. He had numerous runs where he waited for his blockers to set up a lane, and then he was able to burst through. Arguably his best run came on a third-and-20 situation. He started running to the right before cutting back and running around multiple defenders to get the first down. He also was explosive on his touchdowns, bursting through the holes in the line with great speed and going in untouched almost every time.
There is no question that McCoy is currently the best running back in the NFL. The change to Anthony Lynn as an offensive coordinator has done wonders for McCoy, and he should continue to be great for the rest of the season.
Tyrod Taylor was another member of the Bills' offense who played a stellar game. Taylor has been efficient since the start of the season, but today he was better than that. He went 17-of-26 on the day with 179 yards and two passing touchdowns. Taylor was able to complete most of his short to intermediate level passes with great accuracy. He was throwing darts to his receivers that had the perfect touch on them. He could stand to improve his deep accuracy, but it has not been a major issue.
Taylor also had an impact for the Bills on the ground. During the contest, he scrambled eight times for 68 yards. He was able to make quick decisions about when to scramble, which really helped the Bills. His mobility also allowed him to scramble around the pocket and avoid San Francisco's defenders. Taylor's mobility saved him from a few sacks, and it was critical to his offense's success.
In terms of receiving, Taylor once again relied on a couple of receivers to carry the load. Charles Clay (5-52) and Robert Woods (5-44-1) were each targeted heavily by Taylor. Both players have been solid since Sammy Watkins was placed on the injured reserve. Clay is a high-end TE2 in fantasy at this point, and I would consider picking up Woods at this point as well. Woods does have issues with drops at times, but he is going to catch five passes most days. He is worthy of a bench spot in most 12-team leagues.
For the 49ers, this game was actually not all that bad. The final score is actually less lopsided than the scoreboard indicates. In fact, the 49ers were down 24-16 early in the fourth quarter. A lot of this was thanks to the early play of Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick was nowhere close to perfect, but the veteran was an upgrade over Blaine Gabbert. Kaepernick's numbers do not look all that good - 13-of-29 for 187 yards and one touchdown - but he played better than they indicate. He hit some downfield passes that Gabbert would not have made.
On the 53-yard touchdown strike to Torrey Smith, Kaepernick released a well-timed throw to Smith that hit him in stride. That allowed the speedy receiver to make it to the end zone with virtually no issues. However, Kaepernick did have some issues on deep throws earlier in the game. He had a tendency to overthrow his receivers if they were closely covered. It was likely a result of him trying to avoid making mistakes. Still, he needs to improve on this moving forward.
Kaepernick was unsurprisingly at his best on the ground. He ran the ball eight times for 66 yards and used his mobility to his advantage. In the third quarter, when the 49ers were trying to get back into the game, Kaepernick helped to lead a drive and picked up a couple of first downs using his legs. So long as running is not his first option, he could end up being a decent starting quarterback.
During the contest, Kaepernick threw mostly to three receivers. All of them actually received seven targets apiece. Torrey Smith (3-76-1) and Quinton Patton (4-52) were the leaders in terms of yardage. Smith did most of his damage on the touchdown catch, but Patton looked impressive. It seems that the coaching staff wants to get him more involved in the passing attack. The third receiver to get seven targets was Jeremy Kerley (2-12). He was inefficient and was not always on the same page as Kaepernick.
In the running game, Carlos Hyde carried the ball 14 times for 52 yards. He did not do anything great against Buffalo's defense. He probably should have done better considering that Marcell Dareus was out with an injury.
Speaking of the rushing attack, Chip Kelly made an idiotic decision that really hurt the team. On a third-and-1 at the Bills' 40-yard line, Kelly gave two carries to Mike Davis. Davis did not move the pile at all on either, and the 49ers turned it over on downs as a result. Kelly should have altered his approach after the first failure. He needs to go back to the college ranks.
One bright spot for the 49ers was the performance of DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead. The duo combined for three sacks during the day, and they were able to get into the backfield a fair amount. Armstead crushed Taylor on one play that he came in unblocked and forced a fumble. Buckner ended up recovering it. Buckner and Armstead should help make the defensive line a strength for the 49ers for years to come.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Good news, bad news. The good news is that crazy Raider fans will stop calling me stupid for having their team too low in my NFL Power Rankings. The bad news is that crazy Chiefs fans will start calling me stupid for having their team too low in my NFL Power Rankings.
This was a critical game for Kansas City to keep pace in the AFC West. The Raiders could have taken a commanding lead over their rivals, but Kansas City pulling out a road win keeps hope alive for not only the Chiefs but also the Broncos and Chargers. The Chiefs' defense came alive while the Raiders' defense struggled to stop Kansas City's stable of running backs. The Chiefs looked like the playoff team from last year in their road win at Oakland.
The opening drive saw Carr rip the ball through the Chiefs' secondary, and Carr hit Andre Holmes in the back of the end zone for a short touchdown. Shortly later, the Raiders had Michael Crabtree open deep, but Carr was hit as he threw, which let the ball fall short to Marcus Peters for his fifth interception of the year and let Kansas City take over at the Raiders' 43-yard line. The Chiefs ran the ball well to set up Spencer Ware to plunge into the end zone from two yards out. Oakland moved the ball again, but Sebastian Janikowski missed a 52-yard field goal. The Chiefs took advantage of the shorter field with a nice run by Jamaal Charles and a 26-yard pass to Albert Wilson. Charles finished the drive with a 4-yard touchdown. The Chiefs had another good drive going with a 38-yard pass to Jeremy Maclin, but they missed a 38-yard field goal. On the final play of the first half, Janikowski hit a 46-yard field goal to cut Kansas City's lead to 13-10 at the half.
Following intermission, the Chiefs' defense dominated. On the opening drive of the third quarter, Ware ripped off a 45-yard run to the Raiders' 3-yard line. The Chiefs then ran a screen with a quick lateral going to Dontari Poe, who plunged into the end zone for the score. Kansas City was set up for more points thanks to a 50-yard punt return from Tyreek Hill. Ware ripped off 30 yards on a wheel route to get inside the 10, setting up a Kansas City field goal for a 23-10 lead. Ware ran well again to set up Cairo Santos for a 44-yarder and a 26-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. Oakland moved into Kansas City territory, but Dee Ford strip-sacked Carr and Tamba Hali recovered to take points away from Oakland midway through the fourth quarter. That turnover pretty much ended any hopes for a Raiders comeback, and Ford added a fourth down sack in garbage time.
Derek Carr was 22-of-34 for 225 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Carr was fortunate a few passes weren't picked off. Amari Cooper was excellent with 10 catches for 129 yards.
Once again, the Raiders didn't have much of a running game as they were led by DeAndre Washington (10-49) with Latavius Murray out.
Alex Smith was 19-of-22 for 224 yards with zero touchdowns and zero interceptions. Jeremy Maclin led the Chiefs in receiving with three receptions for 49 yards. Travis Kelce was held to three catches for 32 yards and wasn't targeted much.
Spencer Ware was superb, running for 131 yards and a score on 24 carries with two catches for 32 yards. Jamaal Charles had nine carries for 33 yards with a score and two receptions for 14 yards.
Defensively, Karl Joseph played well for the Raiders with nine tackles. Oakland's Khalil Mack beat Eric Fisher for a sack and added seven tackles. For the Chiefs, Derrick Johnson was very good with nine tackles and Dee Ford added two sacks.
Seahawks 26, Falcons 24 By Jacob Camenker - Riggo's Rag
EDITOR'S NOTE: I'm kicking myself for not betting the Falcons, especially when the line rose to +7. I've been harping about betting great quarterbacks as underdogs of more than a field goal, so I was stupid for not following my own rules. In the immortal words of the great Vivian Williamson, "I must issue an apologize."
This was an extremely exciting game. Both sides had a chance to win this contest, and it seems like both of these teams have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs. Though the Falcons ended up losing, they should definitely feel optimistic about their chances moving forward.
Matt Ryan continues to surprise his critics. Although many wrote him off prior to the season, Ryan has been extremely impressive. He came into the game as the league leader in passing yards with 1,740 yards, and he added to that total today. Ryan went 27-of-42 on the day with 335 yards and three total touchdowns. He did throw one pick on a deflected ball, but that was virtually his only mistake. Ryan looks to have regained his form from past seasons, and he is putting the Falcons in position to contend for a playoff spot. It also helps that his protection has improved significantly.
Of course, it does help Ryan's cause that he has one of the best receivers in the league at his disposal. Julio Jones was once again on point for the Falcons. After having some trouble in the first half, Jones caught fire against the Seahawks' defense. He hauled in seven passes for the team on nine targets, totaling 139 yards and another touchdown pass. His excellent athleticism was on display, and if he stays healthy, he should lead the league in receiving yards.
In terms of the other receivers, the Falcons got some help from No. 2 wideout Mohammad Sanu (5-47-1) and tight end Levine Toilolo (3-69-1). Sanu caught a nice touchdown pass from Ryan and should have success if Jones continues to play well. Sanu is only a bench player, at best, in fantasy, but he could see an uptick in production as the year goes on.
Toilolo's performance was more surprising. He caught a 46-yard touchdown from Ryan, on which he was wide open, so that helped to skew his numbers. He is definitely not be worth an add in fantasy, but he should be monitored. Perhaps Toilolo could take over for Jacob Tamme in the future.
The running game for the Falcons was not at its best today. The strong Seattle front had a lot of success bottling up Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Freeman led the way for the two-headed attack, getting 12 carries and 40 yards. Coleman was uninspiring. He toted the rock five times for 10 yards. He should do better against less physical defenses, as his physicality is his strength.
For the Seahawks, this win was actually somewhat of a struggle. The team had multiple chances to pull away from the Falcons, yet the Seahawks put themselves in a situation where they had to kick a 54-yard field goal to win the game.
Part of the problem actually was the kicking game today. Steven Hauschka went 2-for-3 on field goals and 2-for-3 on extra points. The field goal miss was not his fault; long snapper Nolan Frese, an undrafted free agent, threw a bad snap that holder Jon Ryan could not handle. However, Hauschka's kick on the extra point was too low, and as a result, it was blocked by the Falcons. That was absolutely critical, as the score was 24-23 when the kick was blocked. Regardless, Hauschka saved the team with his field goal, so he deserves some credit.
Russell Wilson had a pretty good day. He went 25-of-37 for 270 yards total, with no touchdowns and no picks. However, his bigger impact was his ability to move around the pocket. Wilson was only sacked once during the game, which is huge considering the sorry state of his offensive line. Granted, he only ran six times for seven yards, but he was able to avoid negative plays. Wilson is still one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, but the front office needs to upgrade the offensive line. Otherwise, he will get hurt.
Wilson's top receiver during the contest was Jimmy Graham, who caught six passes for 89 yards. Graham appears to have been reborn in this his second season with the Seahawks. After suffering a nasty patellar tendon tear, he has bounced back nicely. Graham is becoming the matchup nightmare who he was in New Orleans, and he should continue to be the top receiving option moving forward.
The Seahawks' trio of wide receivers were decent during the game. Doug Baldwin (4-31), Jermaine Kearse (3-35) and Tyler Lockett (3-23) all got five targets and will continue to split Wilson's targets. The veteran quarterback likes to spread it around, and that likely will not change.
In the running game, the Seahawks got some solid production out of Christine Michael. It appears as though Michael is the team's lead running back moving forward. Though the back only got 64 yards on 18 carries, he did total two touchdowns and ran with a physical nature. Michael is becoming the back the team envisioned him to be when it took him in the second round back in 2013. He just needed to grow up, and being released changed that. When Thomas Rawls comes back from injury, I think Michael should still be the leader. That will put the Seahawks in a good position.
C.J. Spiller looked terrific today for the Seahawks. He is a perfect fit as the team's third-down back, given his explosiveness and his pass-catching ability. Spiller only ran the ball once for minus-3 yards, but he caught three passes for 38 yards. He should continue to operate in this role, and general manager John Schneider looks like a genius for signing the veteran recently.
Seattle's defense looked good today. Cliff Avril was particularly strong, and he managed to sack Matt Ryan twice. Avril was able to beat Atlanta's tackles easily, and he is a huge part of the Seattle's defense. The Seahawks were also without Kam Chancellor today, but Deshawn Shead filled in admirably, recording eight tackles and defensing three passes. The Seahawks should continue to be one of the best defensive units in the league.
Cowboys 30, Packers 16
Brett Favre was honored at halftime in this game. During his speech, a fan was heard shouting, "Put him in the game!" I thought that was extremely telling, as it seems as though some in Green Bay have grown tired of Aaron Rodgers' pedestrian play of late.
The $64,000 question is: What's wrong with Rodgers? Green Bay's Super Bowl-winning quarterback struggled mightily in this contest and hasn't been quite himself since the beginning of last season. I thought it might have been because of a slight shoulder injury he dealt with last year, but he still hasn't recovered. I thought Troy Aikman said it perfectly in this contest when he cited that Rodgers isn't seeing the field clearly. It could be possible that his fame - filming tons of commercials, dating Olivia Munn - could have something to do with it, as it might be taking away from his film study. That's my best guess, as there probably aren't many people who really know what's going on. We can only speculate, but it is clear that Rodgers has regressed.
On the other side, Dak Prescott continued to impress. He managed to pass Tom Brady as having the most completions to begin a career without an interception. It appeared as though that streak would be broken in the first half when his arm was hit as he threw, but the turnover was ruled a fumble. However, Prescott ultimately fired an interception, so his very impressive streak concluded at 176 pass attempts. The pick occurred on a pass that was behind Jason Witten, but it appeared as though there may have been a miscommunication.
Prescott finished 18-of-27 for 247 yards, three touchdowns and that pick. Prescott was precise on most of his throws, but he did fumble twice. He was fortunate to recover one of those, as he simply dropped the ball without getting hit. It ruined a trip into the red zone, as Dallas ultimately had to settle for a field goal.
The scary thing about all of this for the Cowboys is that Prescott is winning and thriving without Dez Bryant, who sounded like he was close to returning. With Bryant out, Prescott was able to spread the wealth. Terrance Williams led the way with four grabs for 75 yards, while Cole Beasley (6-58) scored twice. Witten caught four passes for 42 yards, seeing the most targets (8). Brice Butler (1-20), snatched Prescott's other touchdown.
Prescott doesn't have to do everything because of Ezekiel Elliott's great running. Elliott gashed the league's No. 1 rush defense, gaining 157 yards on 28 carries. He also caught two passes for 17 receiving yards.
Before moving on to the Packers, the dark cloud over this victory for Dallas was a concussion that star cornerback Morris Claiborne sustained when he collided with his own teammate in the second quarter. Claiborne was ruled out pretty quickly. The good news is that the Cowboys have a bye next week, so Claiborne will have plenty of time to recover.
Rodgers, as mentioned, performed poorly. His numbers don't look that bad - 31-of-42, 294 yards, one touchdown, one interception - but this includes garbage-time numbers, including one drive in which Rodgers went 7-of-7 for 73 yards and a score while down 27-9.
Rodgers made tons of mistakes. He threw behind Richard Rodgers for a long gain. He didn't see Barry Church on his interception. He lost a fumble at the 1-yard line while trying to run in a touchdown. He overthrew a wide-open Randall Cobb in the end zone and also missed him for a deep gain down the sideline. He whiffed on several other throws. Rodgers, for whatever reason, doesn't look like himself.
With Jordy Nelson covered by Claiborne for about a half, Rodgers spent a ton of time throwing to Ty Montgomery, who caught 10 balls for 98 yards. Nelson ultimately finished with three grabs for 68 yards, though he lost a fumble early in the game. Cobb hauled in Rodgers' sole touchdown, but as mentioned, he could've had another. Cobb finished with seven receptions for 53 yards.
Eddie Lacy continues to look way more spry than last year; he tallied 65 yards on 17 carries. He successfully hurdled numerous defenders in this contest, but he once again failed to reach the end zone.
The Packers sustained two injuries. One was to Davante Adams (2-34), who was down for a while, but walked off with an apparent concussion. Damarious Randall was also knocked out, further thinning Green Bay's injury-ravaged secondary.
Texans 26, Colts 23
When the Colts went up 23-9 in the middle of the third quarter, I never would've imagined Brock Osweiler leading his team back to a victory. It just didn't seem remotely possible, and yet, Houston roared back from a two-touchdown deficit to prevail in overtime.
Osweiler was abysmal in the first two-and-a-half quarters. He opened the game by nearly being picked on a Vontae Davis tip, and then he lost a fumble on the same drive, as a teammate recovered for a loss of nine yards. Osweiler later overthrew Tyler Ervin in the end zone and then pulled a Blaine Gabbert by tossing a 4-yard pass on a third-and-8 near the red zone. It only got worse for Osweiler afer that, as he fired a pick on a pass behind DeAndre Hopkins, which Davis impressively secured. Several of Osweiler's other passes were way off the mark.
By halftime, Osweiler was just 7-of-17 for 64 yards. The crowd continuously booed him, and many of the fans left he game early. They'll regret not sticking around, however, as something clicked for Osweiler. He was on fire beginning at the end of the third quarter, and he managed to go 18-of-22 for 205 yards and two touchdowns following intermission. Osweiler was going to receive a ton of criticism for choking in this game, so it was absolutely imperative for him to keep his critics at bay for now.
Osweiler's final numbers looked like this: 25-of-39, 269 yards, two touchdowns, one pick. He was locked in on Hopkins, who caught nine passes for 71 yards. Osweiler focused in too much on Hopkins at times, though that paid off late. Davis had Hopkins' number early on, but the stud receiver got the better of the veteran cornerback in the final quarter and overtime.
Osweiler's touchdowns went to C.J. Fiedorowicz (6-85) and Lamar Miller (3-29). Fiedorowicz is an interesting name, as he has some potential, but he was taking advantage of the slowest linebacking corps in the NFL. Ryan Grigson deserves a trophy for putting this abomination of a defense together.
Speaking of horrible defense, the Colts couldn't stop Miller on the ground. Miller gained 149 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. That's saying a lot, as the Texans were down two starting offensive linemen, and Miller hadn't produced very much prior to this contest.
Andrew Luck did all he could, and for the longest time, it appeared as though he was going to will his team to victory. Unfortunately for the Colts, they collapsed down the stretch. Their defense couldn't stop a red-hot Osweiler, while a number of Indianapolis play-makers left the game with injuries. Dwayne Allen was knocked out early, while Phillip Dorsett (2-12) and a backup receiver both exited. Luck had no one to throw to at that point besides T.Y. Hilton (3-49) and Jack Doyle (4-53, TD). Add in some poor pass protection, and Luck couldn't sustain drives in the fourth quarter and overtime despite having multiple opportunities to put his team in position to win the game with a score.
Luck finished 21-of-32 for 252 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The pick was a forced pass to Hilton inside the Indianapolis 10-yard line prior to halftime. A field goal there would have been huge, and it perhaps would've allowed the Colts to prevail. With poor pass protection and a diminished receiving corps, Luck had to do more running than usual, which would explain his rushing stats (7 carries, 53 yards, TD).
Frank Gore was one of the few Colts who looked good. He gained 106 yards on 22 carries. He needed overtime to get over the century mark.
One thing no one talked about is how Chuck Pagano helped cost the Colts a victory with some horrid decision-making. Late in the third quarter, the Colts had a fourth-and-1 in the red zone. Pagano hesitated to make up his mind, so the Colts had to waste a timeout. He then passed on a field goal, and the Colts had Luck in a shotgun snap. Indianapolis predictably couldn't convert. Pagano hit the trifecta: the wasted timeout, the decision to pass on points, and the poor play call. Pagano needed to be replaced following the disappointing 2015 campaign along with Grigson, but Jim Irsay was too busy sending out stupid tweets during the offseason to make any sort of move.
Cardinals 28, Jets 3
When I took the Jets +7.5 for a single unit Monday night, I severely underestimated how horrible they were. After watching them suffer a 25-point defeat at the hands of a struggling Arizona squad, I've come to realize that New York might just be the worst team in the NFL, aside from the 49ers, of course.
The Jets can't do anything right, and that obviously includes throwing the ball. Ryan Fitzpatrick was absolutely horrible. He missed numerous receivers in this contest, including Brandon Marshall several times in the early going and Quincy Enunwa for a big gain on a third down before halftime. He nearly fumbled a bit later and then was responsible for a delay of game to take the team out of field-goal range. Following an ugly interception in which Fitzpatrick forced a ball into the end zone, throwing across his body, Todd Bowles had seen enough, inserting Geno Smith into the lineup.
Fitzpatrick finished 16-of-31 for 174 yards and the pick. He needs to stay on the bench for good, but Smith isn't the answer either. He went 4-of-6 for 31 yards, but he lost a fumble because he held on to the ball too long. He then fired an interception, though he was just trying to make something happen on fourth down. I would like to see the Jets try Bryce Petty, but per the asinine CBA, Petty hasn't been given any reps in practice. That needs to change, and the Jets should consider cutting Fitzpatrick if it's financially possible.
Marshall has to be extremely frustrated by all of this. He beat Patrick Peterson on some occasions, but Fitzpatrick couldn't always get the ball to him. Marshall caught three passes for 70 yards, and he also drew a pass interference flag on Peterson. He also impressively caught the ball over Peterson on one occasion. Enunwa (3-42) continued to be a major disappointment.
The Jets can't run the ball either. Every time they gave the ball to Matt Forte, it was a wasted down. It's clear Forte's Week 2 performance was a fluke. He mustered only 19 yards on nine carries, falling down right away eight times and gaining eight yards on the other try. He also dropped one of the three passes thrown to him (one catch, three receiving yards). The Jets need to involve Bilal Powell more often, as he's the superior talent at this moment in time. Forte is done.
We already knew the Jets couldn't cover downfield. Carson Palmer went 23-of-34 for 213 yards and a touchdown, and he didn't even play particularly well. Palmer missed numerous throws in the first half, but no one will notice because the Jets were that bad. New York was guilty of countless defensive holding and pass interference penalties, with yellow flags seemingly being thrown on every play, with half of those being called on Buster Skrine. Some of the flags were definitely legit, but numerous others were ticky-tack calls. It severely slowed down the game, and it made me wonder if horrible official Jerome Boger was being paid by the hour. Even the ESPN announcers complained, with the bald play-by-play guy whose name I refuse to learn suggested that this sort of woeful officiating could be one of the reasons why NFL TV ratings are down this year, and I certainly couldn't disagree with that. This game was just miserable to watch, and if covering the NFL weren't my full-time job, I would've turned on something else.
Palmer spread the ball around, as no Arizona receiver registered more than 55 yards. John Brown led the way with five catches for 54 yards, followed by Larry Fitzgerald (6-49), who inexplicably dropped a pass. Michael Floyd made just two grabs for 22 yards, but one of those was a late touchdown. Floyd was called for a block in the back at one point, but it was one of many bogus calls made in this contest.
The Jets can usually stop the run because of their great defensive line, but that wasn't the case in this contest because David Harris was out. The Jets didn't have a viable replacement, as first-round rookie Darron Lee has been struggling. David Johnson, as a result, dashed for 111 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries to go along with three catches for 27 receiving yards. New York held Johnson in check in the first half outside of his 58-yard scoring burst on the opening drive, but Johnson picked up chunks in the second half once the Jets' effort level decreased as a result of their defense realizing that their offense wasn't going to do anything.
The Cardinals saved their season by improving to 3-3. They needed the victory, as three of their next five games are against the Seahawks, Falcons and Vikings. They just don't look the same as last year, however, as this game was only 14-3 until the Jets checked out. Palmer definitely doesn't seem like himself.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.