Trouble brewing in the Motor City…
Starting Thursday night in Santa Clara and ending Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, NFL Week 9 provided football fans with plenty to chew on.
We learned there’s some serious trouble brewing in the Motor City, and that the Los Angeles Rams are, in fact, only human after all. We also found out that Julio Jones hasn’t actually forgotten how to get into the end zone.
Those are among the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 9.
Winner: Welcome to the NFL, Nick Mullens
It’s pretty hard to top how Nick Mullens announced himself as a pro quarterback on Thursday night against the Oakland Raiders.
Before Thursday’s game, it was announced that C.J. Beathard was unable to play, hence Mullens got the start. He proceeded to shred the Raiders to the tune of 262 yards and three touchdowns through the air to lead San Francisco to a blowout win over Oakland.
An undrafted rookie out of Southern Miss last year, he’s such an unknown quantity that his Wikipedia bio (which was hilariously updated during Thursday night’s game) features an extremely fuzzy image from college. Now he might be the 49ers starter going forward. Crazy.
Loser: Detroit’s offensive line is a train wreck
In general, it’s pretty sad how poorly the Detroit Lions have been playing of late. They had a nice stretch early when they won three of four games. But since then, it’s gotten real ugly, real fast.
A big reason for the struggles is that Detroit’s offensive line is awful. Despite pouring money and draft picks into fixing it, this unit is getting Matthew Stafford wrecked on a regular basis. On Sunday, things broke down in the worst possible way. Minnesota racked up 10 sacks, nearly doubling the Lions’ seasonal total.
Additionally, the offensive line was unable to create any running room. Kerryon Johnson and LeGarrette Blount combined for 45 yards on 17 carries as Detroit’s offense imploded.
Winner: Deshaun Watson leads Texans to sixth straight win
The Houston Texans were on the road playing at a very tough venue against the Denver Broncos. This wasn’t a pretty game, by any means. Both teams scrapped and clawed their way through it.
Deshaun Watson had another strong game leading his team to a narrow 19-17 win. Playing without Will Fuller (lost for the season due to ACL injury) and Keke Coutee (hamstring injury), he was also trying to integrate newly signed receiver Demaryius Thomas while dealing with a determined Denver pass rush.
Watson got Houston on the board early with a seven-yard touchdown to Jordan Thomas. Then, making Denver pay for its only turnover of the game in the second quarter, he found DeAndre Hopkins on a 16-yard touchdown to put the Texans up 14-3. He also led a field-goal scoring drive before halftime, and then once again made Denver pay after the Broncos went up by one in the third quarter.
Denver nearly came back to win it, but fell short. Now the Texans have won six straight games, and the AFC South lead is well in hand.
Loser: Russell Wilson’s rookie mistake sinks Seahawks
There was only one turnover committed by both teams on Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks hosted the Los Angeles Chargers. It was the difference in a very tight contest that was ultimately won by the Chargers, 25-17.
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks were down 19-10 midway through the fourth quarter. After a couple of successful runs to set up first down at their own 36-yard line, Wilson committed a rookie mistake, staring down his first read and throwing to a predetermined spot.
Desmond King read Wilson like an open book, pounced in front of the pass and took it to the house for six points.
The Seahawks immediately engineered a touchdown-scoring drive on their next possession and had a chance to potentially tie it at the end of the game if not for a David Moore drop (assuming they had converted the two-point attempt), but this loss is on Wilson’s shoulders, to be sure.
Winner: Pats keep turning lemons into lemonade
The New England Patriots didn’t have Rob Gronkowski or Sony Michel playing on Sunday night. Without a reliable running back, they once again unleashed return specialist and sometimes wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who actually was awesome.
Josh Gordon is coming along nicely. He caught five passes for 130 yards and the game-sealing touchdown. The drive that really got things turned in New England’s favor, however, was sparked by a trick-play throw from Julian Edelman to James White that went 37 yards and set up the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
It doesn’t seem to matter who the Patriots throw out there. It doesn’t matter how discombobulated things look early in the year. Josh McDaniels, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick always seem to figure out how to put the ingredients together so everything works out in the end.
Loser: Nathan Peterman is still a turnover machine
There comes a time when something is so broken you have to try anything else, even if said other thing doesn’t seem ideal. This is the situation the Buffalo Bills are in currently with Nathan Peterman.
The second-year passer’s stats from Sunday’s debacle in Buffalo are stunningly bad: He had a total of 189 yards on 49 attempts (3.9 yards per) with no touchdowns and three interceptions, including a pick-six that deserves the “Benny Hill” theme song.
Since last year, Peterman has now thrown 12 interceptions on 130 attempts. As a point of reference, Aaron Rodgers had 11 interceptions in his last 993 attempts leading up to Week 9.
At this point, Buffalo needs to seriously consider letting newly-signed Terrelle Pryor take over until Josh Allen is ready to roll.
Winner: Melvin Gordon shredded Seattle’s defense
Gordon had to sit out his team’s last game due to a hamstring issue, but he was back at it on Sunday after showing up well during practice and before the game during warm-ups.
That hamstring is clearly doing just fine now. He absolutely destroyed Seattle’s defense, rushing for 113 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries (7.1 yards per attempt).
Philip Rivers had some excellent throws and managed to convert 28 attempts into 228 yards and two touchdowns. One of those went to Mike Williams, who made the best play of his pro career to get into the end zone. But the Chargers were rolling mostly because Gordon was able to find holes and exploit them.
Loser: Marcus Peters stinks
Marcus Peters has been getting picked on a heck of a lot this year, and for good reason. Opposing offenses are feasting whenever they throw his way. He’s been awful.
Sunday’s trip to the Bayou only further accentuated this, as Peters was repeatedly, and brutally torched by Michael Thomas. Early in the game, he was called for pass interference and holding on two separate plays, and Thomas still made catches on both those plays.
Then, capping off his miserable day, Peters got burned badly when Thomas blew right past him on the game-sealing 72-yard touchdown pass that saw Thomas pay homage to Joe Horn with a cell phone celebration.
Winner: Julio Jones finally scored a touchdown!
The drought is over! It’s officially over! Julio Jones has scored a touchdown, restoring the hopes and dreams of many.
Heading into Week 9, Jones’ last touchdown reception was over a year ago, when he caught two against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the end of October. He still didn’t have one with under four minutes remaining in Sunday’s game.
Then, lightning finally struck. Matt Ryan found his big-play receiver on the left sideline, and Jones did the rest. Thirty-five yards later and he was finally into the end zone for the first time in over a calendar year. He finished with seven receptions for 121 yards. And, of course, the touchdown.
Loser: Sam Darnold’s rookie season gets rougher
It’s not easy being a rookie quarterback on a bad team. Just ask Sam Darnold. The No. 3 overall pick of last year’s draft is trudging through a brutal first half. He entered Week 9 tied atop the NFL with 10 interceptions, which was tied for the worst mark in the league.
We can add four more to that tally after Sunday’s debacle in Miami. Darnold was picked off by four different Dolphins defenders, and rookie linebacker Jerome Baker made him pay with a touchdown. Darnold’s final interception occurred right at the end of the game as he attempted to pull off a comeback in what was a very winnable game for Gang Green.
Winner: KC’s offensive firepower knows no equal
It’s hardly shocking that the Kansas City Chiefs blew out the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. It’s also not surprising that they racked up 499 yards and 37 points against the rudderless Browns.
What really stands out as the wow factor in all this is just how the Chiefs are dominating. It’s a pick-your-poison offense in which opposing defense are going to die no matter what they choose.
Kareem Hunt had three touchdowns, including this incredible 50-yard reception. Travis Kelce went for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Three other Chiefs players had at least 62 yards receiving. There’s just no weakness here.
Patrick Mahomes once again easily eclipsed 300 yards passing and threw three more touchdowns. He now has 3,042 yards and 29 passing touchdowns through 10 career games, which is more than any player since 1950.
Loser: Ravens fall flat in must-win scenario
The Baltimore Ravens came into Sunday’s AFC North rivalry game against Pittsburgh having lost three of their last four games. There were rumors that John Harbaugh is on the hot seat, and that a third straight loss could lead to some serious discussions about his job security.
Needless to say, the pressure was on for Baltimore to respond with something positive. That did not happen. Instead, the Ravens got railroaded. Their offense was toothless, and their defense let Pittsburgh dominate the line of scrimmage all afternoon.
The scoreboard says it was a close game (23-16), but the truth is that once Pittsburgh went up 14-3, this game was really over.
Winner: Norv Turner’s offense is getting even more dangerous
The Carolina Panthers have done an outstanding job of assembling talent to feature around Cam Newton. But last year the offense was consistently underwhelming as the scheme never really took advantage of all that talent.
Norv Turner’s arrival this past offseason has done wonders for Newton and Co. Sunday’s outing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers really highlighted what Turner’s been able to do, which is find ways to get the ball into the hands of Carolina’s playmakers.
Christian McCaffrey is being featured like a featured back. He racked up 157 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie D.J. Moore and second-year receiver Curtis Samuel both had huge plays, and Samuel’s 33-yard touchdown run will be featured on highlight reels the rest of the season. Greg Olsen is involved heavily again as well.
Granted, this was the Bucs. But the past two weekends we’ve seen Carolina drop a combined 78 points on Baltimore and Tampa Bay. That’s going to win some games.
Loser: Where didst thou go, AP?
Adrian Peterson has been the catalyst for Washington’s offense, and for the team’s success overall of late. Heading into Week 9 he had piled up 360 yards and two touchdowns in his last three games, all of which were wins for Washington.
The matchup this weekend against Atlanta seemed to lend itself to another huge performance from the veteran running back. The Falcons were giving up 4.8 yards per carry and had allowed nine rushing scores this year, after all.
But Peterson was pretty invisible on Sunday. He gained a total of 33 yards on 12 touches and was a non-factor as Washington got blown out at home, 38-14.
Winner: Saints keep marching on
It’s impossible to highlight just one person when discussing the New Orleans Saints’ 45-35 win over the previously undefeated Los Angeles Rams.
Everyone came to play.
Drew Brees had a monster game, passing for 346 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Alvin Kamara was a demon on third downs, repeatedly finding open spaces and finishing with 116 yards and three touchdowns. Michael Thomas went off, catching 12 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown. Linebacker Alex Anzalone made a brilliant interception that changed the complexion of the game.
It was a complete team effort, and it led to the Saints winning their seventh straight game while knocking off the top team in the NFL.
Loser: Brandon McManus chokes at the worst possible time
Denver’s offense and defense did (just) enough to win at home Sunday against the Texans. Case Keenum came up huge in the fourth quarter, converting two fourth downs and moving the offense into field-goal range.
All McManus had to do was drill a 51-yarder through the uprights, and the Broncos were going to win their first game at home since Week 2. Instead, he completely shanked the attempt, pushing it way outside to the right. I mean, it wasn’t even close.
This wasn’t McManus’ only miss on Sunday, either. He also failed to convert from 62 yards out before halftime, though we’ll cut him some slack for that one.
Winner: James Conner continues to be driving force for PIT
It’s not Ben Roethlisberger. It’s not Antonio Brown. It’s not JuJu Smith-Schuster. And it’s certainly not Le’Veon Bell driving Pittsburgh’s offense these days.
Instead, it’s all about second-year running back James Conner, who is emerging as one of the league’s best. On Sunday against Baltimore, Conner racked up 107 yards on 24 carries, and as usual he piled on more yardage through the air, catching seven passes for 56 yards.
The running back also hauled in a touchdown reception, earning a place in franchise history as the fastest Steelers player to reach 10 career touchdowns. He’s one of the true unstoppable forces in the NFL right now and is the biggest reason the Steelers lead the AFC North.
Loser: Aaron Jones’ fumble changed everything
It may seem unfair to point at one mistake and say that’s the reason a team lost. But Aaron Jones’ fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter changed the entire complexion of Sunday night’s game against New England.
The game was all tied up at 17-17. The play before Jones coughed up the football, Aaron Rodgers hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a 26-yard pass to get Green Bay into scoring range. Then, from the New England 34-yard line, Jones fumbled away the chance to take the lead.
From there, New England engineered a 10-play, 76-yard touchdown-scoring drive, and the Packers never recovered. Before all this occurred, the Packers had overcome some significant defensive losses, forcing a turnover on downs at their own goal line while holding Brady and Co. somewhat in check.
This one turnover was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Winner: Danielle Hunter, Have. A. Day!
Sunday certainly was fun day for Danielle Hunter and the Minnesota Vikings as they teed off on a helpless Detroit offense.
Of the 10 total sacks racked up by Minnesota’s defense, 3.5 were attributed to Hunter. He was an absolute nightmare off the edge. Hunter also racked up nine tackles (six solo), including three behind the line of scrimmage, had four quarterback hits, and he had a touchdown on a scoop-and-score to put the game away in the fourth quarter.
There’s your NFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Loser: Raiders are officially the worst team in the league
The debate is over. No other team in the NFL right now can claim to be as low as Jon Gruden’s Oakland Raiders. Thursday night’s 34-3 deboning at the hands of the 49ers, who had previously been beaten by none other than the Cardinals (twice), was the new low point.
Heading into Thursday night’s game (which, by the way, was technically a road game but doesn’t qualify like most road games on Thursday nights because Oakland is right down the road from Santa Clara), San Francisco’s defense was among the worst in the league. Yet Oakland managed just 242 yards and three points of offense. The defense quit, too, and let Nick Mullens have one of the best debuts in recent memory.
It was the most embarrassing loss any team has suffered through this season.