We needed a Sunday of NFL football like this. We needed to get away from what was happening. And boy, did the league not disappoint here.
Wacky endings were the name of the game in New Orleans, Carolina, Pittsburgh and San Diego as the road teams came away with huge wins in each affair. Meanwhile, in Nashville, Super Mario and Co. absolutely took it to the Green Bay Packers.
A Sunday that defined what we loved about this grand old game of football culminated in a highly-anticipated Super Bowl rematch between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. In the end … (insert after game).
These are among the top 10 takeaways from Sunday’s Week 10 NFL action.
1. Statement win for the Seahawks in New England
The Seattle Seahawks had to travel from the west coast to back east on a short week. They had to do so preparing to take on a red-hot New England Patriots team that was coming off a bye.
Pretty much everything seemed to point in the direction of Seattle being blown out in front of a national audience on Sunday night.
Instead, Pete Carroll’s squad didn’t use any of this as an excuse. It went into Gillette Stadium and defeated the Patriots by the score of 31-24.
It was a tremendous overall performance from the Seahawks. Showing no real sign of the injuries that had plagued him earlier in the season, Russell Wilson played a great game. He was as mobile as we’ve seen in the past, displayed plus-level accuracy and led his Seahawks to 31 points in the huge win. All said, Wilson completed 25-of-37 passes for 348 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. All three touchdowns went to Doug Baldwin.
Though, it was Seattle’s defense that stood up when it counted the most. With New England driving for potentially the game-tying touchdown, the Seahawks held Tom Brady and Co. out of the end zone on four plays from the two-yard line.
First, it was Kam Chancellor sticking his nose in there to stop LeGarrette Blount from reaching across the goal line. Then, on fourth down, a fade to Rob Gronkowski fell incomplete to preserve a Seahawks win.
Now at 6-2-1, Seattle has overcome early-season struggles to take a commanding lead in the NFC West. It is also now second in the conference behind the Dallas Cowboys.
2. The Green Bay Packers are an utter mess
We can talk about the struggles of Green Bay’s offense until we’re blue in the face. That’s been the bread and butter of the team’s success dating back over two decades. That’s fine and dandy. In Green Bay, we know very well the focus is going to be on the quarterback. It’s in this that the normally electric Aaron Rodgers has struggled.
The former NFL MVP threw two more interceptions and led the team to a substandard 4-of-14 conversion rate on third downs. That’s not necessarily a recipe for success. Though, it was the Packers’ defense that absolutely laid an egg in the team’s 47-25 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
From the get go, it was an absolutely disastrous performance from this unit. It started with this 75-yard touchdown run from DeMarco Murray and snowballed from there. Tennessee racked up nearly 250 total yards and three touchdowns en route to taking a 21-0 lead before Green Bay could even get on the scoreboard. Talk about failing to put your team in a position to win.
When all was said and done, the Titans put up 446 total yards and scored touchdowns on their first four possessions en route to scoring five first-half touchdowns. One ridiculous score from Murray to Delanie Walker pretty much summed up the Packers’ defensive effort on Sunday (watch here).
Now at 4-5 on the season, Green Bay is facing the real possibility of falling completely out of the NFC Playoff picture heading into Week 11.
With games coming up on the road against the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay needs to find a way to reverse course here soon. Should that not happen, there will surely be questions about Mike McCarthy’s job status and the overall direction of the franchise.
3. So are the Minnesota Vikings
Following their loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday, the Vikings are now just the third team in NFL history to lose four consecutive after starting a season 5-0. That’s how bad it’s gotten for Mike Zimmer’s squad. And in reality, using Norv Turner as a full guy here doesn’t look so awesome in retrospect.
More than anything, it’s a lack of ingenuity on offense that’s led to this ridiculous downfall for the Vikes. Sure Sam Bradford completed 31-of-40 passes for over 300 yards. That will look great on his stat card. However, it was the team’s offense that put Minnesota down early.
Here’s a unit that put up a grand total of 42 yards in its first three possessions en route to helping the Washington Redskins put up an early 14-0 lead.
Not to be outdone, the previously dominant Vikings defense was torched early by Kirk Cousin. The Skins’ offense put up two consecutive touchdown scoring drives to open the game, both going for 68-plus yards.
And when it looked like Minnesota might be rounding into form after putting up 20 second quarter points, it was time for Sam Bradford to make his one major mistake of the game.
The embattled quarterback was picked off by Skins edge rusher Preston Smith with the Vikings driving and down by just three points more than midway through the final quarter. Washington would tack on a field goal to win going away by the score of 26-20.
Minnesota might be a talented team. There’s a ton of high-upside youngsters on both sides of the ball. But you can’t win consistently in the NFL with all three facets of the team making dumb mistakes and failing to live up to their end of the bargain. In the end, this cost Minnesota big time on Sunday. And it could eventually cost the team a playoff spot.
4. Young guns lead Cowboys to eighth consecutive win
If there was any doubting whether the Dallas Cowboys were real, we can put that to rest right now. In a season that’s been full of astonishing performances from first-year quarterback Dak Prescott and fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott, the two took that to a completely different level Sunday in Pittsburgh.
It’s almost impossible to explain what Dallas did while giving you all the full context. But here goes.
Down 24-23 with under eight minutes remaining, Prescott led the Cowboys on a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive that culminated in an Elliott 14-yard touchdown to give Dallas the lead.
Following a failed two-point conversion attempt, one of six failed opportunities by the two sides, Pittsburgh then took over with a chance to seemingly win the game.
And in just the matter of 1:13, it looked like the Steelers did just that. Ben Roethlisberger pulled off his best Dan Marino impersonation on a fake spike to hit Antonio Brown for what many considered to be the game-winning 15-yard touchdown (watch here).
There was no way Dallas could come back and get into field goal range with just 42 seconds left, right? Well, half right. Prescott completed 3-of-4 passes to start the final drive before a dumb face-mask penalty was called on rookie Steelers defensive back Sean Davis. This put Dallas into field-goal range for Dan Bailey.
In an attempt to get a couple extra yards, Dallas ran the ball up the middle with Elliott, who proceeded to take it to the house from 32 yards out for the win (watch here).
Legends were made on the football field in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Rookies stepped up and brought their team to an eighth consecutive win, the first time a Dallas team has accomplished this feat since 1977.
For his part, Elliott finished the day with 209 total yards and three touchdowns, including this pass and catch for 83 yards in the first half. Now, through the first nine games of his rookie season, the No. 4 overall pick from Ohio State has tallied 1,255 total yards and is on pace to break Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing mark. It’s an accomplishment he touched on prior to the season. It’s also a goal few took seriously.
While he might get overshadowed by Elliott following Sunday’s stunning performance, Prescott has clearly done enough to retain his starting job when Romo returns to the field, presumably next week. He completed 22-of-32 passes for 319 yards with two touchdowns and zero picks. This means that Prescott has now tallied 18 touchdowns compared to two picks in his first nine NFL starts.
More than their individual accomplishments, these rookies stepped up big time when the Cowboys needed it the most. Following an early-afternoon slate that saw both Philadelphia and Washington come out on top, Dallas maintained its clear lead in the NFC East. If one of these two youngsters had failed to step up, that wouldn’t have been the case.
5. Chargers find a way to blow it again
San Diego had an opportunity to pick up some ground on the idle Oakland Raiders while keeping pace with both Kansas City and Denver in the AFC West. And in true Chargers fashion, the team failed at every turn.
Heading into Sunday’s game, San Diego had won three of four. That doesn’t seem like a major improvement from the past year-plus. But we have to put this into context for a second. All three of those wins were by one score. This came on the heels of the Chargers boasting a 3-13 record in one-score games dating back to the start of last season.
Unfortunately, this inability to win close games came rearing its ugly head again Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. With the game tied at 24 and just over a minute left, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers made a rookie mistake.
He threw the ball to the left hash without looking off the receiver. It was one read and toss. Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso made a play on the ball, not the receiver. The end result was a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown to give Miami the win (watch here).
It was a rookie mistake at a time when a veteran such as Rivers simply can’t drop the ball like that. To make matters even more disturbing for the Chargers, it came on first-and-10 and about eight yards from being in field goal range for the win.
At 4-6 on the season, San Diego can pretty much call it a night on the team’s playoff aspirations. It is 3.5 games behind both Oakland and Kansas City and a full three games behind Denver in the AFC West. Ouch!
6. Huge win for the Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have Marcus Peters and his elite-level ball-hawking ability to thank for this win. In reality, Kansas City had absolutely no business beating Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte on Sunday.
Newton himself put on a dazzling early-game performance as it looked like Carolina was going to continue righting the ship with a third consecutive win. Meanwhile, Alex Smith looked all sorts of uncomfortable without top receiver Jeremy Maclin on the field.
All this led to a 17-3 Carolina advantage heading into the final quarter. That’s when things changed for both squads. Waking up for the first time all game, Kansas City put up 17 unanswered points to come away with a shocking 20-17 win.
It started with an amazing pick-six by reigning NFL Comeback Player of the Year winner Eric Berry, who intercepted a Newton pass and returned it 42 yards for the score (watch here).
Then after Kansas City tied it up on a Cairo Santos field goal with just over three minutes remaining, it looked like Carolina was going to drive for the game-winning score.
Much like what we saw in New Orleans at about the same time, shock took over the fan base in Charlotte. Known for his turnover-creating ability, Peters legitimately stripped the ball from Kelvin Benjamin at the 34-yard-line, returning to the Panthers’ 20 and setting up the game-winning field goal (watch here).
It really is a tale of two teams. One going in the right direction, and the other failing to capitalize on last year’s historical run. Kansas City now finds itself with a 7-2 mark and tied with the Oakland Raiders for first in the AFC West.
Meanwhile, Newton and the Panthers are licking their wounds after yet another disastrous loss. Carolina finds itself with a 3-6 mark and pretty much completely out of the NFC Playoff race. Such is the nature of the beast in a sport where a couple plays can dictate the outcome of a game, and in all honesty, the outcome of a season.
7. Crazy ending in the Bayou
This was absolutely absurd. Crazy in the way you have to watch it about 10 times before understanding that it actually happened. After Drew Brees hit Brandin Cooks for what was seemingly a game-winning touchdown with just over one minute left, all the New Orleans Saints needed to do was kick the extra point for the win.
Then, this happened.
After review, the call of the field stands.
— NFL (@NFL) November 13, 2016
Yes folks, Denver blocked the extra-point attempt and returned it the distance for two points and the win. No, really. This actually happened (full details here).
It’s a heck of a way for the Saints to lose in front of their home crowd. They entered Sunday’s action having won four of five after an 0-3 start to the season. Now, instead of being firmly entrenched in the playoff race, Sean Payton’s squad finds itself tied with Tampa Bay in third place in the NFC South and behind a whole host of teams for one of the two wild card spots in the NFC.
On the other hand, this was a much-needed miracle for a Broncos squad that headed into Week 10 coming off a disheartening Sunday night performance against the division-rival Oakland Raiders. By virtue of Oakland’s bye and the Kansas City Chiefs’ win, Denver find itself just a half game out of first place in the AFC West.
8. Could Kaepernick actually be the answer in San Francisco?
It sounds absurd. The San Francisco 49ers are now in the midst of an eight-game losing streak after dropping a hotly-contested affair against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. How can a team that’s lost eight in a row possibly boast a quarterback that might be its long-term answer?
Well, it’s rather simple. San Francisco doesn’t have a single quarterback outside of Kaepernick that boasts any type of upside. We saw what Blaine Gabbert brought to the table, and it was about as ugly as it gets. We also know what Christian Ponder is. At the very least, Kaepernick is giving San Francisco’s offense some signs of life.
A week after Kaepernick put up 421 total yards against the New Orleans Saints, he actually performed extremely well against the league’s top pass defense in the desert on Sunday. Playing mistake-free football and working within the confines of Chip Kelly’s system, Kap put up 265 total yards and accounted for both of San Francisco’s touchdowns in a narrow 23-20 loss.
At this point, winning games will probably act as a detriment to the 49ers. They’re going to want to head into the offseason with the highest possible first-round pick. In the process, we’re pretty sure San Francisco wants to find out what it has at multiple positions on both sides of the ball.
Likely picking in the top two next spring, the obvious target will likely be a quarterback. But with seven more games left to prove his worth, Kaepernick has an opportunity to show a skeptical organization that he might be that answer. If the last two games are any indication, he could be on the verge of doing just that.
9. Jared Goff time in Los Angeles?
Immediately prior to their game against the New York Jets on Sunday, reports came out that the Los Angeles Rams were considering Jared Goff as the team’s starter as early as Week 11. We have no idea if their win over the Jets changes this.
Sure the Rams found a way to win their fourth game of the season and break a month-long losing streak. They also did this in the form of an ugly 9-6 win over the Jets. It’s a game that saw embattled starter Case Keenum complete 17-of-30 passes for 165 yards en route to leading the Rams to 10 points or less for the fifth time this season.
Unfortunately for those of us who want to see the rookie No. 1 pick actually see time here soon, the Rams now find themselves at 4-5 and somewhat alive in the NFC Playoff hopes. Could that play into Jeff Fisher’s decision moving forward? A false hope of remaining relevant in the playoff race leading to him refusing to give his team the best chance to win? Based on Fisher’s checkered history, this is a real possibility.
10. Texans continue to win despite getting nothing at quarterback
In his previous two games leading up to Sunday’s outing against the Jacksonville Jaguars, struggling Houston Texans signal caller Brock Osweiler combined for 317 yards on 70 pass attempts. Yes, that’s an average of 4.5 yards per attempt.
To put this into perspective, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott concluded Sunday’s action averaging over five yards per attempt on the season.
It didn’t get any better for Osweiler against a substandard Jacksonville Jaguars team on Sunday. The much-maligned quarterback completed 14-of-27 passes for 99 yards. That’s 3.7 yards per attempt. Also, that’s pretty darn hard to do in today’s NFL.
We can talk about Osweiler’s stats and find a way to indicate Houston is winning in spite of him. That’s fine. And that’s probably true. But it’s also important to note that he threw two touchdowns without an interception.
On the other side, Jaguars signal caller Blake Bortles threw an early pick-six, which pretty much was the difference in the game (watch here).
The main question we have to ask here moving forward is whether Osweiler can be a game manager. After all, the did throw nine picks in the first eight games. If Sunday’s mistake-free performance is any indication, maybe he has turned the corner.
It won’t be enough for the naysayers to stop pointing to the massive contract the former Broncos quarterback signed. That’s fine. But it could be enough to propel Houston to conference title contention.