If you love high drama and outstanding individual performances, then NFL Week 10 provided plenty of fodder for you to enjoy. Of course, it wasn’t all jump-out-of-your-seat excitement. There was plenty of putrescence wafting into our nostrils thanks to some less-than-stellar performances.
One of the best games of the season occurred Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys took on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. Both teams left it all on the field, but in the end it was Ezekiel Elliott who stole the show for Dallas.
While Dallas continues to ride high, the Minnesota Vikings are in a free fall after losing their fourth straight game.
We’ve sorted through the best and worst NFL Week 10 had to offer to bring you the biggest winners and losers from the action.
Winner: Philly defense shuts down Atlanta’s vaunted offense
It’s safe to say the Philadelphia Eagles are a different team at home. Heading into Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons, they had just one win in their last five games, their one coming at home and their four losses all coming on the road.
Back at home again this weekend, the Eagles were sharp in their 24-13 win over the Atlanta Falcons, performing well on both sides of the ball.
Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz didn’t throw a touchdown, but he didn’t turn the ball over either. He played the role of game manager to perfection, letting his running game lead the way. On that note, Ryan Mathews and Wendell Smallwood combined to rush for 179 yards on 32 carries and two touchdowns, both run in by Mathews.
The offensive performance was stellar. But that’s not what won the game for Philly. Instead, the Eagles’ defense shut down the normally high-flying offense of the Falcons.
Matt Ryan completed just 18-of-33 passes on Sunday. Ten of them went to Julio Jones, who went for 135 yards, just over half of Ryan’s 267 yards through the air. Another 76 yards can be attributed to one play, when Taylor Gabriel hauled in a 76-yard touchdown from Ryan — his only score of the game.
At least as impressive was the job up front by Philly’s front seven against Atlanta’s rushing offense. The Falcons gained just 48 yards on 13 attempts, leading offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to absolutely bail on that aspect of his offense.
Winning on the road is a crucial step forward for any burgeoning contender. That’s not something the Eagles have mastered to this point. But they are darn good at home, as the Falcons found out to their peril. Thankfully for Atlanta, they didn’t lose any ground to the New Orleans Saints or Carolina Panthers, who also lost Sunday.
Loser: Another flat performance by the Packers
There is no way to sugarcoat the very real trouble Green Bay is in right now after getting blown out, 47-25, by the Tennessee Titans in Week 10. What’s crazy is that, as lopsided as the score is, you could argue it doesn’t fully indicate the one-sided nature of this contest.
Aaron Rodgers was under assault all day behind his turnstile offensive line. He was sacked five times for 46 yards, hit six more times and would have been smacked around a lot more if he wasn’t so adept at avoiding pressure. As we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from Mr. Discount Double Check, Rodgers did manage to pile up some yards and threw two touchdowns. But he also threw two interceptions and was out of sync with his receivers throughout most of the first half.
The offensive issues plaguing this team are many. The offensive line has been terrible for a few years, and now Rodgers’ best running back is veteran third-down specialist James Starks. On top of that, things haven’t been the same for Rodgers and his receiving corps since Jordy Nelson was injured last year.
But that’s not the most troubling aspect of what is going wrong for Green Bay right now. Defensively, the Packers are dealing with injuries but are also displaying outrageous discipline issues when it comes to every man doing his job. This was evident many times during Sunday’s game against the Titans.
It started on Tennessee’s first offensive snap of the game, when DeMarco Murray ripped off a 75-yard score (watch here). Then Murray struck again on the next possession, actually throwing a touchdown pass to tight end Delanie Walker.
Second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota had a field day as well, going off for 295 yards and four touchdowns on just 19-of-26 passing.
The Packers came into the game on two-game skid, having just lost at home to the Indianapolis Colts. Now having lost three in a row — two to a couple of mediocre AFC South teams — it’s officially time to panic for fans of Green Bay.
Winner: Eric Berry, Marcus Peters steal victory from Cam and the Panthers
For three quarters, the Carolina Panthers had the Kansas City Chiefs on the ropes and appeared to be on their way to their fourth win of the year.
Unfortunately for Cam Newton and Co., NFL games are actually four quarters long.
Down by 11 points in the final stanza, Kansas City’s defense roared to life. All-Pro safety Eric Berry got things started when he picked off Cam Newton and miraculously took the ball 42 yards to the house for a touchdown (watch here).
Alex Smith hit Travis Kelce on the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to three points. Then the offense scored its second field goal of the fourth quarter shortly afterwards to tie the game at 17-17.
The two teams traded punts before Carolina got one final chance to break the tie at home late in the fourth quarter. That’s when Marcus Peters showed up huge for the Chiefs. Newton hit receiver Kelvin Benjamin in stride for a first down. The only problem? Peters wanted the ball just a little bit more. He ripped it from the clutches of Benjamin, setting up the Chiefs in field-goal range.
Three plays later, the game was over after Cairo Santos drilled a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give the Chiefs an incredible three-point road win.
The Chiefs maintained their position within the AFC West with the thrilling victory. They remain tied with Oakland and continue to find ways to win. On the other side of that coin, Carolina, now 3-6, has continually found ways to lose.
Loser: Jay Cutler reminds Bears why they need to draft a quarterback
Hail Mary TD
End of Game pic.twitter.com/mfUDy2tIar
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) November 13, 2016
Blessed with tremendous arm strength, Jay Cutler is constantly making plays that most NFL passers cannot make. Unfortunately, he also has terrible judgement. Since entering the NFL as a rookie out of Vanderbilt in 2006, Cutler has averaged more than one interception per game.
After sitting some games out with a thumb injury, Cutler looked fantastic last week when he helped the Chicago Bears beat the Minnesota Vikings. He was efficient with the ball, throwing one touchdown and no interceptions.
But that solid game was nothing more than a mirage.
The real Jay Cutler came to play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Before halftime, he had already thrown two interceptions…on consecutive drives. The second interception resulted in six points the other way as Chris Conte took a terrible throw by Cutler to the end zone for a touchdown (watch here).
The only touchdown scored all day by Chicago against Tampa Bay came right at the half, when Cutler got some help from the Bucs’ defense on a Hail Mary that pulled the Bears to within a touchdown of the lead.
The veteran finished with 182 yards (50 coming on the Hail Mary), one touchdown and two interceptions on 16-of-30 passing.
An important distinction to make here is that the Buccaneers came into the game sporting one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL. They had previously allowed 18 touchdowns while intercepting just four passes. Then Cutler made them look like the 1985 Chicago Bears.
That the Bears are eager to move on from Cutler after the season is a given.
What is interesting is that at least one of the quarterbacks the team is taking a hard look at right now is Brad Kaaya out of Miami — a guy who is nowhere near ready to step in and lead an NFL offense, let alone one at the collegiate level that can beat top competition.
Stay strong, Bears fans. Stay strong.
Winner: Broncos steal a win in New Orleans
Stop us if you’ve heard this story before. Denver’s defense was the difference Sunday between getting blown out on the road against the New Orleans Saints and eking out a win.
The Broncos, who’ve been struggling of late offensively, didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard. Trevor Siemian led two touchdown-scoring drives but also threw a couple of interceptions, which led to 10 points for the Saints. That’s a net win of just four points.
Thankfully, Denver was its usual opportunistic self defensively. Led by Darian Stewart, who had two interceptions and recovered a fumble, the Broncos forced four total turnovers. Those turnovers led to 13 points for the Broncos in a game that was won by two points.
Because the Saints have Drew Brees, of course they still had a chance to win the game at the end. And it looked like they would after Brees connected with Brandin Cooks late in the fourth quarter to tie the game up at 23-23.
All the Saints had to do to win the game was convert an extra point. Instead, kicker Wil Lutz had his kick blocked and returned for a touchdown by Will Parks (watch here).
As we’ve seen throughout the past year-and-a-half, the Broncos’ spectacular defense continues to win games in which their offense is less than stellar.
Loser: Jets can’t beat Rams, who win despite no touchdowns
The Los Angeles Rams won on the road against the free-falling New York Jets, and this one was particularly ugly.
Starting their third quarterback this year in Bryce Petty, New York’s offense had a moment of sunshine when it pulled off one of the slickest trick-play touchdowns you’ll ever see (watch here).
Unfortunately, not much else went right for the Jets, who either punted, threw an interception or ended a half on the remainder of their 10 drives this day.
Petty finished with 163 yards passing on 19-of-32 passing with the tricky touchdown and a game-sealing interception for the Rams.
If not for the fact that they were facing Case Keenum and the Rams, the Petty-led Jets would have likely been blown out at home. As it happened, Keenum was just as ineffective as Petty. He finished with just 165 yards on 17-of-30 passing.
Sunday’s loss marked the third time this year in which the Jets have scored six points or less. What’s truly remarkable about this loss — the team’s sixth in its last eight games — is that the Rams didn’t score a touchdown yet walked away from MetLife Stadium winners.
Winner: ZEKE owns Pittsburgh’s D, ‘Boys win eighth straight
It’s been a long, long time since the Cowboys strung together eight wins in a row. How long?
8-GAME WIN STREAK…
— NFL (@NFL) November 14, 2016
And their eighth win in a row was a thriller.
Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant one-upped Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown to win one of the best games we’ve witnessed all season.
In particular, Dallas’ rookie running back stole the show. He rushed for 116 yards on 21 carries, scoring twice on the ground, including the game-winner with just seconds remaining on the clock in the fourth quarter (watch here). He also caught two passes for 95 yards, including an incredible 83-yard touchdown on a screen pass (watch here).
The rookie obviously benefits from an outstanding offensive line that continues to dominate every defense it faces. That said, what Elliott does with the opportunities he is given is special all by itself.
Prescott also made outstanding plays to contribute to the win in a meaningful way, including a gorgeous 50-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant. Afterwards, the receiver showed no small amount of emotion kneeling in the end zone as he deals with the unexpected loss of his father.
Dallas needed every single bit of offensive firepower it could muster, because after a poor outing in Week 9, Roethlisberber was on his game Sunday at home. The veteran finished with 408 yards and three touchdowns, including one that Dan Marino would be proud of, but it wasn’t enough.
The Cowboys are clearly the team to beat in the NFC. It’s just as clear Tony Romo won’t be landing in the starting lineup any time soon unless Prescott suffers an unfortunate injury this year. As those of us watching saw Sunday evening in Pittsburgh, even Romo knows “it’s Dak’s time” in Dallas.
Loser: Vikings in tailspin after fourth straight loss
As hot as Minnesota was to start the season, it is just as cold now. Starting out with a 5-0 record, the Vikings have now lost four games in a row after getting beaten by Washington Sunday, 26-20.
Just as we’ve seen in recent weeks, it was a two-fold problem that sunk the Vikings. First off, Sam Bradford just doesn’t have enough protection up front. He was sacked three times, hit eight more times and was unable to attempt a pass to try and win the game in the waning moments because he was being swarmed by Redskins defenders.
He also threw a late interception when the game was tied up 20-20 that led to three points for Washington.
The offensive line problems have greatly affected Minnesota’s ability to run the ball this year as well. That showed up Sunday when the Vikings managed just 47 yards on 21 carries. The 2.2 yards per carry was even below their 2.7 yards per rush average on the season — easily the NFL’s worst mark.
But these offensive problems have persisted all season long and were evident during the team’s five-game winning streak. What has changed for the worst during the losing streak is that Minnesota’s defense is failing to score points to make up for the offensive deficiencies.
During Sunday’s loss to Washington, the Vikings allowed Kirk Cousins to get comfortable in the pocket early and couldn’t stop Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson from running the ball at will. The Redskins finished the game averaging 6.3 yards per play.
That’s not the kind of stuff we were seeing from Minnesota’s opponents earlier in the year.
Given the fact that Jake Long tore his Achilles tendon Sunday, the offensive line issues are only going to get worse for the Vikings going forward. He was an emergency hire to begin with, and now they are up a creek with no paddle.
Vikings fans can only hope that the defense regains its top form as the season moves into the stretch run. Otherwise, we’re talking about a team that is likely going to finish below .500 and well outside the playoffs.
Winner: Seahawks find their mojo in Super Bowl rematch with Pats
For the second weekend in a row, all NFL fans watching Sunday night’s action were winners. After enduring weeks of yawn-inducing, sloppy games, we’re finally seeing the best the NFL has to offer.
The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots put on a tremendous show that went right down to the wire, with the visiting team exacting some Super Bowl revenge.
Tom Brady was pestered into his first interception of the year, and he failed to throw a touchdown in this one as Seattle’s defensive front was in his business all game long. LeGarrette Blount did all the scoring for the Pats, rushing in three touchdowns.
Seattle’s famed Legion of Boom did give up some big plays but managed to hold Rob Gronkowski to just three catches for 56 yards. Without its top playmaker going bonkers, New England’s offense just wasn’t able to keep pace with Russell Wilson and Co.
Wilson was spectacular. He didn’t turn the ball over once, throwing three touchdowns and gaining 348 yards through the air. Doug Baldwin caught all three of his touchdown passes, which is something he’s done more than anyone in the past two years.
Doug Baldwin 3rd game with 3 TD receptions in the past 2 seasons (no other player has more than 1)
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 14, 2016
In some extremely exciting news for Seattle, rookie running back C.J. Prosise showed up in a huge way with 153 total yards on 24 touches. The Seahawks have been struggling to find consistency at the running back position. Perhaps they now have their answer.
It was a total team win by Seattle, which suddenly has a huge upper hand on the rest of the NFC West with six wins.
This loss won’t likely damage New England’s bid to win the AFC East once again. But you can be sure head coach Bill Belichick and his partner in crime Tom Brady will be bitter about the outcome.
Loser: Philip Rivers throws away a win with four fourth-quarter picks
For the first time in his 13-year carer, Philip Rivers threw four interceptions in the fourth quarter.
Yes. Four. Interceptions. In the fourth quarter.
The first cost his team points, for sure. Down at the two-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Rivers threw an ill-advised pass into double coverage, where Tony Lippett was waiting in the back of the end zone.
The second interception was perhaps even more ghastly, as Rivers threw the ball nowhere near Antonio Gates. Byron Maxwell happily hauled in the easy interception, which thankfully did not lead to points for Miami.
Then, after tying the game up with a gorgeous 51-yard strike to Tyrell Williams, Rivers committed his most egregious error of the game. He had driven his offense into Miami territory and was almost in field goal range late in the fourth quarter. It was a first-and-10 with over a minute left on the clock, so there was no reason to press.
But press Rivers did. He felt pressure and appeared to panic a bit, throwing the ball right to linebacker Kiko Alonso, who ran it back 60 yards for Miami (watch here).
Adding insult to injury, Rivers threw his fourth interception of the game on the next drive in a desperation attempt to redeem himself for his earlier blunders. Lippett benefited with his second interception of the game.
It was as ugly a display as we’ve seen from any quarterback in the league this year.
Incredibly, this career-worst performance in the fourth quarter came on a day in which Rivers became just the ninth quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 300 touchdowns.