There were some truly stunning events unfolding around the league in NFL Week 7 that will have a significant impact going forward.
The NFL’s last threat to the 1972 Miami Dolphins was dealt with harshly. A couple of teams that appeared to be lost causes took huge steps to resurrect their seasons with huge wins over top teams. An unheralded running back did something that only three other players had accomplished in NFL history.
Huge plays were the order of the day. In one case, a defensive struggle resulted in five straight turnovers as two quarterbacks engaged in a comedy of errors. In another game, a promising young safety broke loose with one of the craziest defensive touchdowns we’ve seen in a while.
We’ll be looking into these stories and more as we examine the biggest winners and losers from Week 7.
Winner: Eagles serve Sam Bradford nothing but sadness in return to Philly
In one of the most anticipated games of the week, Sam Bradford and the Minnesota Vikings visited the Philadelphia Eagles — the team he was supposed to help lead in 2016 before Teddy Bridgewater’s terrible injury.
Let’s just say Bradford might have wished, at least for this game, that he was still a member of his old team. Minnesota’s offensive line was overwhelmed from the start by Fletcher Cox, Connor Barwin and Co. up front, leading to six sacks and 19 quarterback hits on their old teammate.
For a minute, it looked like the game might end by the score of something akin to 3-2. Bradford and rookie Carson Wentz went on a turnover spree, combining on five in a row during the first quarter.
But after the Vikings scored their only points of the game, receiver Josh Huff returned the following kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown (watch here).
Thankfully for the Eagles, Minnesota’s defense softened up a bit, allowing Philadelphia to slowly get the offense going.
That did not happen for Bradford’s Vikings however. The Philly defense continued to hammer away at Bradford all game long. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that he finally broke through with a touchdown pass to a guy who has been coming on strong of late, Cordarrelle Patterson.
By that time, the game was already settled. The Eagles won handily, 21-10. It was an especially rough homecoming for Bradford, who left the field early instead of saying farewell to his rookie replacement in Philly.
Loser: Blake Bortles and the Jags are regressing under Gus Bradley
This was supposed to be the year Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars took a big step out of the AFC’s basement. The franchise made big waves in free agency and via the draft to fill some holes on the roster, and expectations were high they’d at least challenge for a wild card spot.
It’s safe to say that’s not going to happen.
Jacksonville hosted the Oakland Raiders Sunday, losing badly, 33-16. And the game was never even that close. Bortles threw an early interception into the end zone, and things spiraled out of control from there. As usual, his fantasy owners were blessed with a garbage-time touchdown, but it mattered not to the outcome of the game.
The Jags have two wins to their credit this year, having beaten the hapless Chicago Bears and struggling Indianapolis Colts.
Their defense, which was supposed to improve given the offseason moves, continues to cough up touchdowns under Gus Bradley. And the offense, which appeared to be trending up after breaking out last year, has regressed in a major way.
Sunday’s loss to Oakland featured three turnovers and 13 penalties for 122 yards. The Jaguars now feature a minus-seven turnover mark. You just cannot win with that formula.
We’ve highlighted Bradley as a coach that needs to be replaced on more than one occasion this year. Nearly at the midway point of the season, we’re as convinced as ever before that he is not going to provide the answers this franchise needs to troubleshoot out of the mire.
Winner: Dolphins send Bills packing for second impressive win in a row
The Dolphins were dead in the water after Week 5. With a record of 1-4, the offense was stagnant and the defense couldn’t stop a toddler waddling across the lawn.
Rookie head coach Adam Gase appeared to be in over his head, but his players certainly weren’t executing his vision, either.
After losing badly at home to the Tennessee Titans a couple of weeks back, Mario Williams challenged his team, saying it was “put up or shut up” time. It seems the Dolphins are not ready to shut up just yet.
One week after burying the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami put the kibosh on the four-game winning streak of Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills, winning 28-25.
Also for the second week in a row, running back Jay Ajayi (thought to be undraftable by some teams due to cartilage issues in his knees) went for over 200 yards on the ground. His performance put him in rare company.
Jay Ajayi joins OJ Simpson, Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams as only NFL players with back-to-back 200-yard rush games.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 23, 2016
No other running back in the NFL has one 200-yard game this year.
Speaking of running backs, the Bills should have let LeSean McCoy take this week off after he tweaked his hamstring on Wednesday. A guy who had last season somewhat marred by a nagging hammy, the last thing the Bills should have done was rush him back. Not surprisingly, he did not make it through this game and ran for just 11 yards on eight carries.
On both sides of the ball, the Bills were dominated at the line of scrimmage. That’s not something we saw coming. Perhaps the past two weeks are a sign of better things to come for the long-suffering Dolphins fan base.
Loser: Ravens get burned in Fitzmagic’s return from short-lived benching
You have to believe the Baltimore Ravens were licking their chops for the chance to go up against Geno Smith, who supplanted Ryan Fizpatrick this past week as the starter for the New York Jets. Smith’s resume speaks for itself — he’s a below-average backup who you don’t want playing unless there is an emergency. But Fitzpatrick’s early season struggles were too bleak to tolerate, which is why the switch was made in the first place.
The switch didn’t last long. After throwing a touchdown in the first quarter, thanks to the insane wheels of Quincy Enunwa, Smith was injured on a sack and left the game.
Proving he learned his lesson after throwing 11 interceptions in the first six games, Fitzpatrick rallied the Jets. Down by six, he threw a touchdown to Matt Forte right before the half to take the lead. Baltimore responded with a field goal to take a 16-13 lead into halftime, but the lead wouldn’t last.
The veteran led a second-half surge that included a renewed effort by the defense of Gang Green, which forced two Joe Flacco interceptions.
At this point, it appears Fitzpatrick will keep his job once again. While Smith did throw a touchdown, he wasn’t very effective outside of that play, which was really the result of Enunwa’s effort.
Back to the Ravens, it’s just astonishing when you look back at the stats and realize they ran just 12 times for six yards. Flacco was banged up coming into this one, yet he ended up being placed in the unenviable position of carrying the offense — a position he could not handle on this day.
Baltimore’s defense gave the Jets the opportunity to gain some momentum on offense for the first time in weeks. All in all, it was a miserable effort by the Ravens, who’ll be glad to be back home after two straight road games at MetLife Stadium.
Winner: Matthew Stafford once again steals victory from jaws of defeat
The Washington Redskins looked ready to steal a win on the road against the Detroit Lions. After trailing by a touchdown in the fourth quarter, quarterback Kirk Cousins came alive with two fourth-quarter touchdowns — one on the ground and one through the air.
The final touchdown occurred late in the fourth quarter. Running the offense with precision, down by three, Cousins led Washington down the field on a nine-play, 76-yard drive that chewed up over four minutes of clock. When he capped it off with a 19-yard run, there were just 65 seconds left on the game clock.
Washington’s defense had done quite a decent job keeping Matthew Stafford and Co. in check throughout the game. At this point, it had surrendered just 13 points and 269 total yards. So when the Lions needed a touchdown and had 75 yards to go following the touchback on the kickoff, it seemed reasonable to think they’d escape with a win.
Stafford had a different take on how the game should end. The dynamic passer completed 4-of-5 passes on what would prove to be a game-winning drive, capping it off with a laser to veteran receiver Anquan Boldin (watch here).
This left just 16 seconds on the clock, and Washington never got close to scoring range on their final desperation attempts afterwards.
It was the second time in as many weeks that Stafford led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter and his fourth on the season. The Georgia product now has 21 career fourth-quarter comeback wins. This one helped the Lions improve to 4-3 on the season after losing three of their first four.
Loser: Rams leave London with more questions than answers
The New York Giants did not necessarily play well enough to beat the Los Angeles Rams. Yet they came away with the 17-10 win, simply because the Rams were worse in what was a stinker of a game at Wembley Stadium.
Eli Manning wasn’t particularly sharp and averaged just 5.3 yards per attempt, throwing no touchdowns. The running game was abysmal, as New York managed just 36 yards on 20 carries. As a whole, the offense managed just one touchdown and 10 points.
But thanks to a ridiculously poor showing by Los Angeles’ offense, Big Blue comes back across the pond with a win.
Case Keenum was awful, throwing four interceptions. Though it must be pointed out that two were on tipped passes his receivers should have hauled in — one of which went for six points the other way on a spectacular return by safety Landon Collins (watch here).
He finished with one touchdown to go along with the four interceptions. And after getting his team in position to potentially tie the game, he finished by throwing a perfect pass … to New York’s Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the end zone.
Afterwards, head coach Jeff Fisher wouldn’t even fathom the idea of benching Keenum. Instead, he placed more blame on his receiving corps (more on that here).
What’s baffling is that, in a close game, Todd Gurley carried the ball just 15 times. Granted, he wasn’t particularly effective, going for just 57 yards. But Keenum heaved up 53 times, for crying out loud. It’s not like we’re talking about Peyton Manning in his prime — this is a guy who has been mediocre throughout his entire career.
This team won three straight following a Week 1 shutout against the San Francisco 49ers. Now it has lost three straight. We’re of the mind that a continued downward spiral might be just a tad more likely than a turn for the better in coming weeks.
Winner: Colts finish strong in must-win game
Heading into Week 7 in last place in the awful AFC South with a 2-4 record, the Colts absolutely had to win on the road against the Tennessee Titans. This was especially true considering the team was 0-2 against the division and had only beaten the likes of the Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers.
Throwing his support behind embattled general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano, owner Jim Irsay made it clear earlier in the week he expects his team to rebound this year.
For at least one week, he was right.
Now, the Titans are not exactly an AFC powerhouse. But they have been surprisingly dangerous and were in this one as well, taking an early lead on a Taylor Lewan touchdown reception.
But Andrew Luck was stellar going up against Tennessee’s formidable defense. He responded with two touchdown of his own to give the Colts a 14-6 lead. Then head coach Chuck Pagano rolled the dice — something he’s lived to regret in the past.
Not this time around. Calling an onside kick following Luck’s second pass of the game in the second quarter, his players executed the surprise attack to perfection. This gamble led to three points.
They ended up going into halftime with a 17-13 lead after DeMarco Murray scored a touchdown to close out the half. It was a lead that would not hold, however. Colts fans likely braced for another loss after Tennessee went on top 23-20 in the fourth quarter.
But instead of folding like they did a week ago against Houston, Luck threw his third touchdown of the day, which was followed up by a defensive touchdown. Finishing strong hasn’t been the Colts’ strong suit this year, but they pulled it off this time around.
Loser: Kap? Gabbert? It matters not — the 49ers stink
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t the worst team in the league, but they’re a beatable team for most teams in the league. This is why it seemed feasible to think perhaps, just maybe, the San Francisco 49ers might finally win their second game of the year at home Sunday.
They didn’t come close, despite going up early by two touchdowns.
For the second week in a row, Colin Kaepernick was extremely inefficient passing the ball. He made Tampa Bay’s defense look like the Legion of Boom, completing just 16-of-34 passes for an anemic 143 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Without Carlos Hyde — the only bright spot on San Francisco’s offense this year — the running game was pathetic as well. Even counting Kaepernick’s 84 rushing yards, the 49ers totaled 273 yards in the 34-17 blowout loss.
The past two weeks, the 49ers have totaled 280 passing yards.
The most astonishing part?
This isn’t a terrible aberration. The 140 yard average isn’t that much worse than the team’s 170 yards per game average heading into Week 7.
Compounding the team’s problems is this: An offense that can’t do anything positive and that is being run in hurry-up fashion only hurts an average defense all the more.
Chip Kelly's quick-tempo offense is keeping his defense on the field far too long, far too often. pic.twitter.com/mkkueIyKaW
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) October 24, 2016
Many have criticized Kelly for continuing to shove his square-shaped offensive philosophy into a circular hole, and some have done so in mocking fashion.
While it remains to be seen if Kelly’s offense is definitively an NFL dud, what we do know at this point is that neither Gabbert nor Kaepernick have the chops to make it work.
That said, at least one of the players on Kelly’s team thinks the Niners are one of the best teams in the NFL (yes, really).
Winner: Mike McCoy’s Chargers finally win a close game
Three weeks ago, San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy’s job was on the line. After two wins in a row over the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons, it’s safe to say he’ll at least make it a couple more weeks.
The Chargers absorbed Atlanta’s best shots on Sunday and came out a winner, 33-30, in overtime. This is significant, because San Diego had previously lost every close game it was in this season and many more last year.
Down by 17 points in the second quarter after the Falcons rattled off three touchdowns in a row, the Chargers rallied in the second half for an epic comeback.
Melvin Gordon was spectacular in this one. He totaled 121 yards and three touchdowns — two of which he scored in the second half.
The defense shut down Atlanta’s high-flying offense in the second half unlike any other team we’ve seen this year.
Falcons entered today averaging 18.7 second-half points per game. Scored 31 in Week 4 vs. Panthers. Today, held to 3.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) October 24, 2016
It took a team effort, but everyone pitched in to help the Chargers pull even at 30-30 with just 18 seconds to spare.
Then Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant failed to convert a 58-yard attempt — it clanked off the left upright — with time expiring, and overtime beckoned.
The Chargers took the overtime period over, stopping the Falcons on a 4th-and-1 before Rivers got the offense in range for the game-winning field goal. And unlike what we’ve seen in weeks past, San Diego took advantage of its opportunity.
Loser: Yet another terrible prime time game
The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks used one another as punching bags for 60 minutes on Sunday night. Then they needed overtime to finish a miserable game that ended in a 6-6 tie.
It was so bad, even the NFL Twitter account got in on the trolling action.
And this was before Chandler Catanzaro’s missed field goal in overtime that would have finally ended the misery.
This was Patrick Peterson’s reaction to that missed kick — one we could all relate to at that moment.
The Seahawks had their chance to win it on a field goal, too. And shanked it.
Arizona and Seattle put on a show that was just hard to watch. And if not for the play of David Johnson (171 total yards) it would have been much, much worse.
Yes, both teams have strong defenses. But the offenses were just awful. It was not entertaining football and had many of us looking for other means of entertainment or dreaming about the upcoming World Series.
This ugly affair capped off a terrific Sunday of football about as well as a shot of whiskey after brushing your teeth. This is something NFL fans have grown to expect, however, and that’s a shame.
Thursday nights are a debacle. Neither team has rested or prepared enough, and the road team is usually chewed up and spit out.
Ever since the Sunday night opener when the Cardinals hosted the New England Patriots, we’ve been treated to low-scoring duds or one-sided blowouts.
Monday nights have been equally disastrous.
It’s like the schedule makers need to go ahead and use the George Costanza “opposite” theory next year just to see if they can land some big hits.
All we know for sure is that prime time football has never been more disappointing.