Winners and losers from NFL Week 7

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

If we’re being honest, there was a ton of really bad football on display during the action in NFL Week 7.

We should have seen it coming, though, after what transpired as NFL Network reporter Melissa Stark was previewing the London game.

Thankfully some outstanding performances did take place, somewhat balancing out the scales. But overall, Week 7 was one many players and teams would rather forget.

With that in mind, let’s dive into the biggest winners and losers.

Winner: Denver’s defense feasts 

The Denver Broncos were in a tailspin heading into NFL Week 7. Thankfully for them, the remedy to their woes — a matchup against the Arizona Cardinals — was handed to them on a silver platter.

Von Miller certainly backed up his promise that Denver would win. He had two sacks, five quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. The Broncos racked up six sacks, hit rookie quarterback Josh Rosen 13 times and created five turnovers, including a pick-six on Arizona’s first possession (watch here).

Granted, this display of dominance did come against the lowly Cardinals, who ended up firing their offensive coordinator, Mike McCoy, one day later. But this was exactly what Denver needed to get out of its funk. At least for one week.

Loser: Justin Tucker proves even the best of us fail sometimes

Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker is widely considered to be the best player at his position in the NFL.

As he lined up for the game-tying extra-point attempt Sunday afternoon against the New Orleans Saints, both he and the Ravens had to feel good about their chances. After all, throughout his career, he had attempted 222 extra pointers and converted every single one.

On his 223rd career attempt, Tucker finally missed one. In the process, he cost Baltimore a win in gut-wrenching fashion. It really was an improbable way to end such a tremendous game by both teams.

Winner: Aaron Donald was a monster

Los Angeles Rams superstar Aaron Donald came into Week 7 with nine solo tackles and four sacks. Pretty decent numbers for an interior defensive lineman, but not nearly as dominant as fans have grown to expect.

Well, he rectified that in a big way on Sunday on the road against the San Francisco 49ers. Donald racked up eight solo tackles, six tackles for a loss and four sacks, along with a forced fumble and a recovery.

In one fell swoop this big man doubled up his season totals. He’s a nightmare, and much like last year it feels like he’s only going to get better the more he plays.

Loser: Potpourri of sadness from Dallas in D.C.

The Dallas Cowboys lost by three points on the road against the Washington Redskins, and there is plenty of blame to spread around.

Ezekiel Elliott never got going and finished with 34 yards on 15 carries. A lot of that had to do with Dallas’ offensive line getting bullied up front — something that happened on both running and passing plays.

Dak Prescott had some really nice throws. He also took an unconscionable sack and lost a fumble at the goal line, leading to a Washington defensive touchdown (watch here).

Then there’s Jason Garrett, who once again showed up small with the game on the line. Dallas had a chance to win, down by three points at Washington’s 37-yard line with a timeout in his pocket. All the Cowboys managed to do was run two plays, which were both tactically asinine.

As a result of that, and a five-yard illegal snap penalty, kicker Brett Maher barely missed a 52-yard field goal to tie it with time expiring.

Winner: Kareem Hunt had one of THOSE games

It didn’t take long for Kareem Hunt to announce he was going to put on a show in primetime on “Sunday Night Football.”

In a two-play stretch midway through the first quarter, he made it clear that Sunday night was his time to shine. Hunt pulled off one of the best runs we’ve seen all year, gaining 21 yards after breaking multiple tackles and hurdling over a defender. One play later, he scored the game’s first touchdown (watch here).

That score proved to be the first of three total for the dynamic running back. He was outstanding both running and catching the ball, finishing the game with 141 total yards on 20 touches as the Chiefs ran the Cincinnati Bengals out of the building, 45-10.

As an aside, Patrick Mahomes (four more touchdowns Sunday night) is the league MVP right now. Hands down.

Loser: Sam Darnold endures learning experience

After a short hiatus earlier this year, the Minnesota defense has become fearsome once again. Not surprisingly, rookie quarterback Sam Darnold didn’t fare well as he attempted to push the New York Jets over the .500 mark at home against the Vikings on Sunday.

It was already going to be tough, as the Jets are short-handed at receiver right now. Minnesota’s offense put pressure on Darnold early with an immediate score to open the game, and then the defense did the same with stifling coverage and pressure in Darnold’s face.

The end result was a miserable game for the rookie. He finished with 206 yards on 17-of-42 passing with one touchdown and three interceptions. It was a rough game, but it’s one he’ll learn from.

Winner: Kerryon Johnson powers Lions to big road win

The Detroit Lions got to .500 with an impressive win on the road against the Miami Dolphins Sunday. Matthew Stafford was razor sharp, missing on just four of his 22 pass attempts while throwing a pair of touchdowns.

The big reason Stafford was so sharp, however, was that he was hit just twice the entire game. Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson was the catalyst for Detroit’s offense, racking up 179 yards on 21 touches, including 158 yards on the ground.

A lot of credit goes to the much-improved offensive line as well. But make no mistake about it, the reason Detroit’s offense is clicking now is that it finally has a bell-cow running back in Johnson, who figures to be leaned on heavily from here on out.

Loser: Blake Bortles finally (hopefully) reached the bottom

This has been coming for a while. Bortles had a couple of really good games this season, but he’s been teetering toward downright unplayable more often than not.

On Sunday, it happened. After fumbling away the ball for a second time against Houston, early in the second half Bortles was benched in favor of Cody Kessler. Adding insult to injury, Kessler promptly drove the offense downfield and threw a touchdown pass to T.J. Yeldon, scoring the first (and only) touchdown for Jacksonville.

Since the start of the 2014 NFL season, Bortles has coughed up at least two turnovers 26 times. He’s also turned the ball over a total of 90 times since he was drafted. Both of those figures represent the most in the NFL over that span.

The Jaguars had a chance to land a real franchise passer after last year. Instead, they gave Bortles an extension. They are just as much to blame for this disaster as he is.

Winner: Sean Payton’s bold moves pay off

There’s been a lot of talk about how coaches these days are opting more and more to push the envelope, rather than go conservative. On Sunday as his New Orleans Saints scrapped against a very dangerous Baltimore Ravens team, Sean Payton was not conservative.

New Orleans attempted five fourth-down conversions. That, by itself, is a remarkable state. It’s even more remarkable the Saints converted four out of five.

Payton stayed aggressive throughout the game. He utilized Taysom Hill to devastating effect, leaned on Drew Brees when it was necessary and went for the jugular midway through the fourth quarter when a field goal might have been just fine.

The Saints are now 5-1 on the season and in first place, a game ahead of the Carolina Panthers, heading into Week 8. Oh, and Brees was incredible (per usual) en route to joining the NFL’s exclusive 500 passing touchdown club.

Loser: Bills defense falls apart

Nobody expected the Buffalo Bills to do much scoring on Sunday with Derek Anderson under center. That sentiment was boosted infinitely once LeSean McCoy exited the game after just two carries, never to return with a head injury.

But lately, Buffalo has been able to stay somewhat competitive because its defense has been among the league’s best. The past four games, the Bills have allowed just 13.5 points per game. On Sunday, the wheels came off the bus in disastrous fashion.

The previously inept Colts running game burst to life with a 220-yard, one touchdown performance. That allowed Andrew Luck the balance he needed to find his receivers open downfield, and the Colts romped, 37-5.

Winner: Super Cam engineers an epic comeback win

The Carolina Panthers appeared doomed to repeat last weekend’s fate. Heading into the fourth quarter, they were down 17-0 thanks to a pathetic performance on offense and some poor play defensively.

Then, out of nowhere, Cam Newton transformed into Super Cam and carried the Panthers to victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles.

Carolina rattled off 21 unanswered points to win, 21-17. Newton completed 16-of-22 for 201 yards and two touchdowns in that final stanza after going 9-of-17 for 68 yards in the first three quarters. Along the way he converted an epic fourth-down play late in the fourth quarter.

He also led both teams with 49 yards rushing as he propelled the Panthers to 4-2 on the season.

Loser: Bengals offense, outside of A.J. Green

The only person keeping the Cincinnati Bengals remotely competitive on offense in the first half was receiver A.J. Green, who had six catches for 110 yards after two quarters.

By the time Andy Dalton threw his miserable pick-six to Ron Parker, the only other receiver on Cincinnati that had even caught a single pass was Alex Erickson, who lost a yard on his lone reception.

At this point, just a few minutes into the third quarter, the game was over as Kansas City led 38-7.

Joe Mixon did a bit of damage later in the game, as did Tyler Boyd. But when it mattered nobody but Green showed up for work on Sunday night. All told, the Bengals mustered just 15 first downs and 239 total yards in the 45-10 blowout loss.

Winner: Andrew Luck was so happy to have T.Y. back

The Colts got T.Y. Hilton back on Sunday after he missed a couple of games with a hamstring injury. Having him on the field made a huge difference, to nobody’s surprise.

Andrew Luck only threw the ball 23 times. He completed 17 of those attempts, connecting with eight different receivers. Hilton’s ability to take any pass the distance opened up the entire passing game, leading to a nearly flawless performance from Luck.

And while Hilton did only catch four passes for 25 yards, he hauled in half of Luck’s four touchdown passes in the blowout win to help the Colts improve to 2-5 on the season.

Loser: Titans absolutely blew it 

Some very poor defensive looks allowed the Los Angeles Chargers to take advantage with quick, way-too-easy scores (like this one). Despite those lapses, the Tennessee Titans had a chance to win on Sunday in London.

Marcus Mariota finally broke a nearly three-game drought with a touchdown pass to tight end Luke Stocker with seconds remaining on the clock in regulation. That score tied the game up. Rather than kick an extra point, head coach Mike Vrabel called for a two-point conversion, opting to try and win it outright.

Admirable. In no way can this scribe find fault with that. Play to win the game.

A defensive holding call against the Chargers gave the Titans a one-yard-to-gain situation for the win. Even better. Go for two. Go for the win.

But instead of relying on the run game, or utilizing Mariota on a quarterback sneak, the Titans attempted to pass for two. Not surprisingly (Mariota only has three touchdowns all year, you know), this strategy failed, and it failed miserably.

The Titans have now dropped three games in a row and appear to be sinking to the bottom of the AFC South in a hurry.

Winner: Special special teams from New England

The New England Patriots improved to 5-2 on the season with a closer-than-expected 38-31 road win over Chicago. If not for a couple of special teams plays, they wouldn’t have won at all.

The first huge special teams play came in the second quarter after the Bears had opened up a 17-7 lead. Cordarrelle Patterson, who had fumbled the ball on a previous return that led to the first touchdown for Chicago, ripped off a 95-yard kickoff return for touchdown. He was so far gone at the end that he literally danced his way into the end zone and might have had enough time for a catnap if he wanted to take it.

Then later, in the third quarter after New England had tied the game up at 24-24 and forced a punt, the special teams unit showed up huge again. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower blocked Pat O’Donnell’s punt, and fellow linebacker Kyle Van Noy scooped it up for the go-ahead score.

Those two scores were the difference in the game.

Loser: Turnovers continue to plague 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers came into Sunday’s home game against Los Angeles with the worst turnover margin in the NFL (-11). With four more turnovers against the Rams, and no takeaways from San Francisco’s defense, that number swelled to minus-15.

C.J. Beathard is a tough guy, and he clearly gives 100 percent of himself to every single snap. He also possesses some good qualities. However, he’s become a turnover machine and was so once again, throwing two interceptions and coughing up two fumbles, one of which was recovered by Los Angeles.

The Rams took full advantage of San Francisco’s mistakes, too, scoring points off each one for a total of 24 points.

Winner: Tyrell Williams keeps hot streak going

The Los Angeles Chargers were down a playmaker on Sunday in London, as running back Melvin Gordon was ruled out with a hamstring injury. Without a running game to lean on (Chargers gained just 47 yards on the ground), Philip Rivers had to do damage through the air.

For the second Sunday in a row, his big-play man was the fourth-year receiver out of Western Oregon, Tyrell Williams. Hauling in all four of his targets for 118 yards, Williams scored the first touchdown of the game on the very first play from scrimmage for Los Angeles (watch here).

The past two weekends, he’s caught seven passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns — so hot right now.

Loser: Browns defense is broken

Gregg Williams’ defense started out the year red hot. The past two games, however, it has fallen apart at the seams.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to move the ball at will at home against the Cleveland Browns in their overtime win. They gained 456 yards, converted half of their third- and fourth-down attempts, and racked up 34 total first downs in the game.

Because Cleveland’s defense couldn’t stop this attack, the Bucs ended up running 26 more offensive plays than the Browns, wasting a pretty darn good game from rookie Baker Mayfield.

Silver lining: Cleveland did force Jameis Winston into three turnovers, and four total in this game. So, that continues to be a huge strength of this defense.

Winner: Adrian Peterson defying Father Time

Remarkably, Adrian Peterson is still churning out 100-yard games at the age of 33. Neither multiple knee surgeries nor Father Time himself has slowed this man down.

In a very physical game Sunday, Peterson pounded the rock 25 times for 99 yards and picked up another eight hard-fought yards through the air. His willingness to continue chipping away at Dallas’ excellent front four allowed Washington to stay just ahead of its NFC East rival and eke out a win to improve to 4-2 on the season.

Peterson has now tallied 324 yards and two touchdowns in Washington’s last three wins and has gone over 100 yards in three of his team’s six games.

Loser: Trubisky mistakes doom Chicago

Mitch Trubisky had a Jekyll and Hyde sort of day at home against the New England Patriots.

At times, he confounded the Pats with his legs, at one point scoring a ridiculous eight-yard touchdown after running around for well over 60 yards. He also threw some really impressive passes and finished with 333 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

Unfortunately, Trubisky also made some incredibly poor throws late in the game. He threw two interceptions in the final 17 minutes, the second of which turned directly into seven points for the Patriots in what might have been a 14-point swing — Chicago was down by seven at the time and looking to score.

Then at the end of the game, with a chance to tie or win on a Hail Mary, Trubisky came up short.

One. Yard. Short.

He’ll have a tough time sleeping after that one.

Winner: Adam Thielen continues marching toward history

During Sunday’s blowout win over the New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings star receiver Adam Thielen caught nine passes for 110 yards and a touchdown.

Incredibly, the former undrafted rookie out of Minnesota State University has now rattled off seven straight 100-plus-yard games to open the 2018 season. With Sunday’s performance, he tied former Houston Oilers receiver Charlie Hennigan for the most consecutive 100-plus-yard receiving games to open a season.

Next up is a date with the New Orleans Saints.