31 things you need to know from Saturday's games

  • By Around The League staff NFL.com
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On a night when Sam Bradford tore his ACL again and Michael Sam sacked Johnny Manziel, the most impactful moment of Saturday's eight NFL games came in Denver.

Broncos receiver Wes Welker took a hard hit to the helmet from the Houston Texans' D.J. Swearinger, who was penalized for unnecessary roughness. And then Peyton Manning lost his cool in a way we have rarely seen during his 17-year career.

Manning jawed at Swearinger, nearly head-butting him. The officials called Manning for taunting. Swearinger was at the center of tension during practices this week, but perhaps Manning was so upset because of Welker's injury history.

Broncos coach John Fox confirmed that Welker suffered a concussion on the hit, a very worrying sign after Welker suffered two concussions in short order last season.

The Broncos can only hope this concussion isn't a long-term problem for Welker. Here's what else you need to know from Saturday's eight games:

Miami Dolphins 25, Dallas Cowboys 20

1. Making his Dolphins debut, Knowshon Moreno looked exactly like he did in a Broncos uniform, leading the team with 10 carries and 64 yards. He and Lamar Miller rotated with the first-team offense, which is a model for how the two backs will be utilized during the regular season.

2. The Dolphins made good on their promise to move Mike Wallace around. Wallace led the team with eight targets, six catches and 67 yards in two quarters of work. He should have had a long touchdown, but was overthrown by Ryan Tannehill. Wallace is playing the DeSean Jackson role in Bill Lazor's offense, which borrows from Chip Kelly's.

3. Tony Romo's surgically repaired back survived a stiff test, as he was drilled right between the numbers by Olivier Vernon. Romo kept on ticking after taking several hard hits from an impressive Miami pass rush.

4. The Dolphins might be in the market for a kicker. Caleb Sturgis has been battling a groin injury. His competition, John Potter, was forced from Saturday's game with a hip injury of his own, leading to a two-point conversion attempt after wide receiver Damian Williams set up running back Damien Williams for a third-quarter touchdown.

--Chris Wesseling

Tennessee Titans 24, Atlanta Falcons 17

1. Devin Hester as a receiver is a real thing. He had four catches for 56 yards in the first half, including a long touchdown where he broke a pair of defenders' ankles. Hester also looked spry as a returner. He might be a factor again playing indoors.

2. Julio Jones is back, if there was any doubt. He broke a pair of tackles on a long touchdown, and showed off extremely strong hands while making another tough grab in traffic. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta passing game was very sharp.

3. Rookie running backs Devonta Freeman and Bishop Sankey are buried on the depth chart. Freeman is clearly still behind Jacquizz Rodgers and Antone Smith. (Rodgers had 13 first-half touches.) Sankey hasn't taken a snap with the starters all preseason. He's No. 4 on the Titans depth chart.

4. Jake Locker played well despite terrible protection. He made a gorgeous long touchdown throw on a play where he took a big hit. Locker has his faults, but he stands tall in the pocket.

--Gregg Rosenthal

Baltimore Ravens 23, Washington Redskins 17

1. The Ravens played it safe with Ray Rice, who didn't suit up after suffering a minor shoulder injury last week. Co-starter Bernard Pierce was sent to the locker room for concussion protocol after taking a hard hit from Brandon Merriweather. The noted head hunter also laid a wicked helmet-to-helmet hit on Torrey Smith, which could result in another suspension for Meriweather.

2. Baltimore offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak loves H-back Kyle Juszczyk, a fourth-round draft pick out of Harvard in 2013. Juszczyk hauled in five passes for 53 yards in just one half of action with the first-team offense. We would be surprised if Owen Daniels, currently battling leg soreness, has a bigger role than Juszczyk this season.

3. Robert Griffin III has yet to lead the Redskins' first-team offense to a touchdown this preseason. The concern is that he hasn't come close to 2012 form.

4. The 'Skins defense, on the other hand, looks much improved from last season. Keenan Robinson is an upgrade on the 2013 version of London Fletcher at inside linebacker. Defensive end Jason Hatcher served notice that he is recovered from offseason knee surgery, putting a clownsuit on Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda for a first-quarter sack.

--Chris Wesseling

New Orleans Saints 23, Indianapolis Colts 17

1. One night after the Seahawks looked unbeatable in Seattle, New Orleans' starters played a near-flawless first half in Indianapolis. The Saints have looked fantastic all preseason on both sides of the ball. The defense disrupted Andrew Luck play after play, while Drew Brees was razor sharp. Sean Payton pulled Brees after only one quarter.

2. Mark Ingram continued his terrific month. He ran very hard on eight carries with 66 yards. Pierre Thomas was dynamic as a receiver. The Saints' running game has looked on point all preseason.

3. Reggie Wayne was only targeted once in his first game back from a torn ACL, and didn't have a catch. It's always a concern when a 35-year-old is coming off such a serious injury.

4. Trent Richardson has 51 yards on 20 carries. He hasn't looked great, but Indianapolis' offensive line has looked worse in pass protection and the running game.

--Gregg Rosenthal

Minnesota Vikings 30, Kansas City Chiefs 12

1. The Vikings' quarterback battle should be over. Matt Cassel had his worst performance of the preseason, but he did enough by leading a touchdown drive on his first possession. Teddy Bridgewater didn't even play until the end of the third quarter. Two of Bridgewater's drives started inside the 10-yard line, and he produced two touchdowns. Expect the Vikings to announce Cassel as the starter this week.

2. Kansas City's offensive line has been an abomination all preseason. Alex Smith was pressured all night, and couldn't find open receivers. There's a lot of Albert Wilson and Frankie Hammond at receiver for the Chiefs. It's a rough looking group.

3. Smith had an ugly performance, with two interceptions and 140 yards on 24 attempts. The Chiefs' starting offense only scored three points in eight drives.

--Gregg Rosenthal

St. Louis Rams 33, Cleveland Browns 14

1. Rams starting quarterback Sam Bradford limped off to the locker room in the first quarter with a left knee injury suffered during a first-quarter incompletion. Bradford was wrapped up by Browns pass rusher Armonty Bryant on a play that saw left tackle Jake Long beaten off the edge. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday that a battery of tests confirmed Bradford tore his ACL and will miss the 2014 season.

2. The Rams also lost starting cornerback Trumaine Johnson with an apparent knee injury and guard Rodger Saffold to a leg injury.

3. Brian Hoyer doesn't look like an NFL starter. His chemistry with Cleveland's wideouts was improved, but his first four drives led to three punts and an interception before he fired a scoring dart to Andrew Hawkins -- the first touchdown by Cleveland's starters in the preseason. Scary stuff.

4. Johnny Football hit the scene in the third quarter to lead a quick touchdown drive capped by a crowd-pleasing 7-yard scramble to paydirt. He looked more comfortable and his throws were crisp, but what little success Manziel enjoyed came against a horde of future plumbers and accountants.

5. Are the Rams unhappy with No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson?

--Marc Sessler

Houston Texans 18, Denver Broncos 17

1. The Broncos didn't exactly ease Montee Ball (appendectomy) back into action. His number was called on the first three plays of the game. He's going to be a workhorse in Denver this year.

2. All of the Broncos' major offseason acquisitions, including first-round cornerback Bradley Roby, have acquitted themselves well so far. Wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was particularly impressive Saturday night, hauling in a pair of deep balls for touchdowns of 67 and 29 yards in the second quarter. He led the team with 128 yards on five receptions and eight targets.

3. Arian Foster (hamstring) and Jadeveon Clowney (undisclosed) were held out of action for the Texans, so there will be no crazy Clowney highlights this week. On a positive note, Andre Johnson made his 2014 debut, catching three of five targets for 18 yards. Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes split time with the first-team offense in Foster's stead.

4. The Texans' offense was underwhelming for the second time in three weeks. Ryan Fitzpatrick has averaged a disturbing 5.4 yards per attempt this preseason.

--Chris Wesseling

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27, Buffalo Bills 14

1. Optimism usually buoys fans through the preseason, but Bills devotees were already in mid-season frustration form, loudly serenading EJ Manuel and the offense with boos into halftime. Manuel gave nothing for Buffalo to be thrilled about. He missed passes, failed on reads and looked lost when his offensive line faltered. Manuel made most of his hay against the Bucs' second-team defense.

2. Tampa's O-line remains a huge problem. Josh McCown was under siege early and the line got no push in the run game. When McCown gets time he will be effective. On a drive late in the first half the signal-caller led a beautiful 11-play, 82-yard drive ending with a 26-yard touchdown dime to Mike Evans.

3. Doug Martin will be the Bucs' workhorse. Martin took 12 of the 15 first-half carries. Bobby Rainey didn't show much in his opportunities.

--Kevin Patra

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