Around the NFL

Thirty-nine things you need to know from Week 8

Nine quarterbacks threw for more than 300 yards on Sunday. Two stood above the rest.

We'll start with Tom Brady, who hasn't just silenced his doubters -- he's banished them to the cornfield. Brady was nearly perfect against the Chicago Bears, completing 30 of 35 passes for 354 yards and five touchdowns in a 51-23 win. Brady finally looks comfortable with his receivers and is back to terrorizing the opposition with security blanket Rob Gronkowski. There might not be a better one-two punch in football right now.

Brady's first two quarters against the Bears were probably the best by any quarterback this season. Then Ben Roethlisberger took the field.

Simply put, Roethlisberger delivered one of the best performances in NFL history. He set franchise records with 522 passing yards and six touchdowns in a 51-34 demolition of the Indianapolis Colts. If not for a mercy decision to stop throwing the football, Roethlisberger would have shattered Norm Van Brocklin's long-standing single-game record.

Roethlisberger spread the ball to nine receivers, sending Antonio Brown and Heath Miller both over the 100-yard mark and generally looking like a man playing against boys. It's odd that we sometimes overlook Roethlisberger's casual greatness, rarely placing him in the same category as Brady, Manning and Rodgers. Roethlisberger absolutely belongs in any conversation about the game's top signal-callers.

The Broncos have rightfully earned favorite status in the AFC, but the performances of the Patriots and Steelers -- led by their future Hall of Fame quarterbacks -- allows a reminder that Peyton Manning won't have an easy return trip to the Super Bowl.

Here's what else you need to know from Week 8:

  1. The Saints need to stop jerking Mark Ingram around and start treating him like one of the NFL's top tailbacks. Ingram has looked dynamite going back to the preseason. Even after getting shut down in Detroit last week, Ingram is averaging a sterling 5.7 yards per carry on the season. Going back to the end of last season, he has the same average of his last 102 carries.
  1. We finally got a glimpse of the explosive offense we expected the Saints to unveil this season. Drew Brees hit Kenny Stills and Brandin Cookson deeppasses; Jimmy Grahamwas a mismatch in the red zone; and Ingram ran like a man possessed. Brees was 11-of-11 passing with three touchdowns in the second half. This was easily his best performance of the season, a promising sign going forward.
  1. Aaron Rodgers' 203 first-quarter yards were the most in any quarter of his career. He's now 31 of 37 (84 percent) in his last five first quarters. The Packers' second-half collapse coincided with a tweaked hamstring for their star quarterback. He wasn't as comfortable in his mechanics and was reluctant to scramble outside the pocket. His twointerceptions -- both tipped by his receivers -- were back-breakers for the Packers. Rodgers still finished with his fourth career 400-yard game.

-- Chris Wesseling

  1. This was a tale of two halves. Matt Ryan and the Falcons owned the first two quarters, overpowering Detroit's top-ranked defense to forge a 21-0 lead at the break over the sleepy Lions. Matt Ryan was pristine out of the gate, standing strong in the pocket to complete 14 of his first 17 passes to seven different targets for 160 yards and two scores. The attack slowed to a halt from there, while the Falcons' defense crumbled to allow 22 unanswered points, capped by Matt Prater's game-winning 48-yard field goal as time expired.
  1. That game-winning boot didn't come without plenty of drama as Prater's first attempt from 43 yards was wide -- but saved by a delay of game flag on Detroit. With another try, Prater was money.
  1. Across the way, Matthew Stafford was a mess for two-plus quarters before drawing Detroit back into the game with five straight scoring drives. His pretty 59-yard scoring strike to Golden Tate in the third quarter gave Stafford 119 career touchdowns with the Lions, snapping Bobby Layne's ancient franchise record. Without Megatron, Reggie Bush and his top three tight ends, though, Stafford threw a slew of ugly passes and made plenty of head-scratching decisions. His ball placement can make life tough for Detroit's wideouts, but give Stafford credit: He did enough to give the Lions life.

-- Marc Sessler

  1. This was an ugly win for the Seahawks, as they played a sloppy game on both sides of the ball. The offense had multiple turnovers for the first time all season. Marshawn Lynch dropped an end-zone pass that was intercepted at the end of the first half. Russell Wilson missed a pair of throws to tight end Cooper Helfet, both of which would have gone for touchdowns. The defense dropped interceptions and flubbed fumble opportunities. The Super Bowl champions are fortunate to be sporting a winning record.
  1. Jonathan Stewart had his most impressive game in two seasons. The offensive line didn't give him much room to operate, but he broke tackles and finished with the most yards by a Panthers running back this year.
  1. Marshawn Lynch is averaging more yards per carry (4.3 to 4.2) than last year, but the Seahawks aren't feeding him. He's averaging under 16 rushes per game compared to 20 over the past seasons. Citing sources close to the running back, NFL Media columnist Michael Silver reported on NFL GameDay Morning that Lynch harbors ill feelings toward coach Pete Carroll from his training camp holdout and offseason proclamations about a reduced workload.

-- Chris Wesseling

  1. On the latest podcast, we propped up Baltimore (5-3) as the class of the AFC North. Not so fast. The Bengals (4-2-1) on Sunday completed a season sweep of the Ravens with an imperfect but gritty triumph that boiled down to one big play: With 47 seconds left and the Ravens down 27-24, Joe Flacco appeared to fling an 80-yard touchdown strike to Steve Smith. The veteran wideout, though, was flagged for offensive pass interference, putting the would-be comeback on ice. 
  1. The Bengals still miss A.J. Green, but the offense was better than last week. After just 135 total yards against the Colts, Andy Dalton and friends opened the game with an authoritative 80-yard touchdown march and pieced together three scoring drives in the second half. Dalton, though, appeared to hand the tilt away in the fourth when he lost the ball on a Haloti Ngata strip-sack that Daryl Smith took 39 yards to the Cincinnati 8. One play later, Lorenzo Taliaferro scored a go-ahead touchdown to put the Ravens up 21-20 with time ticking away. Little did we know 10 more points would be scored.
  1. Two weeks removed from his 10-catch, 120-yard outburst against the Panthers, Mohamed Sanu put on another show with five catches for 125 yards off a team-leading nine targets. He showed off his moves with a 48-yard grab on Cincy's opening scoring march before helping to set up the team's second touchdown with a 26-yard end around. Nobody can replace Green, but Sanu has emerged as a legitimate playmaker.

-- Marc Sessler

  1. Miami won because its defense made life miserable for Bortles. The rookie quarterback was harassed into two costly interceptions and a lost fumble. Louis Delmas opened the scoring with an 81-yard interception return early in the second quarter. Brent Grimes gave the Dolphins breathing room with a 22-yard pick six in the third quarter. The defensive fireworks were timely -- the Dolphins managed just 56 yards of offense in the first half.
  1. Bortles isn't in a great situation, but he's making too many mistakes to be an effective starter right now. Bortles has six turnovers in the past two weeks and has a league-worst 12 interceptions, including four pick-sixes. Don't forget, Bortles didn't even make his first start until Week 4.
  1. The Dolphins' offense woke up in the third quarter, icing the game with a seven-play, 95-yard touchdown drive capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass to Rishard Matthews. Tannehill hit on a 50-yard deep ball to Mike Wallace (a sight for sore eyes in Miami) and Lamar Miller set up the score with a 30-yard run.

-- Dan Hanzus

  1. Jamaal Charles' 25 touchdowns since the start of the 2013 season are the most in the league. Sunday's win was reminiscent of the Chiefs' 8-0 start last season, with Charles carrying Alex Smith's dink-and-dunk, ball-control offense. The Chiefs held a two-to-one advantage in time of possession. Smith's 85.7 completion percentage was the second-highest mark of his career.
  1. Justin Houston is going to land a huge contract. With three more sacks on Sunday, he has passed Von Miller for the NFL lead (10). Houston is averaging over one sack per game the last two campaigns.
  1. Robert Quinn is back. He thwarted a late second-quarter red-zone trip with a pair of sacks and added another forced fumble. Quinn has three sacks in the past two games and is starting to disrupt quarterbacks at the same rate as last season.

-- Chris Wesseling

  1. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski have played a lot of dominant games together. We're not sure they ever played a better first half than Sunday's against Chicago, piling up 38 points. Brady had as many touchdowns (five) as incompletions in 35 attempts, and those incompletions included two drops and a throwaway.

Gronkowski looked like a man among boys, dragging defenders around the field and hauling in tightly covered passes. The Patriots didn't punt until the score was 45-7 late in the third quarter. Brady has 14 touchdowns and no picks since his Kansas City meltdown.

  1. The Patriots have gone no-huddle at times this year, but not nearly at the pace they played the first half Sunday. This was 2011-2012 Patriots'-level speed, and it's partly because their young personnel has a handle on the offense. Tim Wright (six grabs) and Brandon LaFell (11 catches for 124 yards) were big keys to the passing attack.
  1. Chicago's defense looked improved to start the year, but they are really struggling now without Lance Briggs on the field. LaFell beat rookie Kyle Fuller like a drum early in the game before Fuller left with a hip injury. Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen didn't put pressure on the passer ... again.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

  1. Michael Vick had a chance to do exactly what he allegedly set out to do at the beginning of the season and prove he could still be a regular starting quarterback in the NFL. Geno Smithbowed out after just a handful of drives and three interceptions, but the Jets' deficit was still modest. Instead of playing the hero, though, Vick fumbled the ball four times and losttwo. He also added a pick.
  1. This game seems to have sealed the fate of Rex Ryan. The coach not only lost his composure on the sideline and had to be restrained by his own staff when screaming at an official, but he watched a fundamentally unprepared team get blown out at home. The last time the Jets had a losing streak this long, Herm Edwards was in his final year as head coach. As much as Ryan is beloved in Florham Park, general manager John Idzik won't be able to wait much longer.
  1. The Jets used Percy Harvin on 40 snaps Sunday, by an unofficial count. In time, he will absolutely open up the offense for Eric Decker, but Smith and Vick must resist the urge to force the ball to him. Harvin was used sparingly in the slot but was a heavy presence on the outside and in the Jets' backfield. He had four carries.

-- Conor Orr

  1. The kids are alright in Minnesota. No. 32 overall pick Teddy Bridgewater led a clutch two-minute drill to set up the game-tying field goal in the final seconds of regulation. No. 9 overall pick Anthony Barr forced a fumble and returned the ball for a touchdown to win the game in overtime. Barr makes a few plays that make you go "wow" each week. He's adjusted to pass coverage skills well.
  1. Bridgewater had a typical rookie day. He missed a number of routine throws and was not accurate down the field. But he also made a lot of difficult third-down plays under duress from the Tampa pass rush, especially to Cordarrelle Patterson. Bridgewater's touchdown to Greg Jennings came when he took a big hit. The tougher the play, the better the throw from Bridgewater.
  1. The Buccaneers didn't reach the red zone until there was 4:04 left on the clock. They had 51 yards midway through the third quarter, including five straight three-and-outs. The offensive line just can't operate at a professional level. The flip side to that: Vikings pass rusher Everson Griffen has looked worth his big contract the last two weeks with dominant outings. With Sharrif Floyd and Barr playing better, this is an intriguing defensive front.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

  1. Arian Foster went over 100 yards rushing for the sixth time this season, jaunting for 151 yards on 20 carries, two rushingtouchdowns and added a receiving score. The sixth-year pro compiled more than 100 rushing yards for the fourth straight game -- the first such streak in his career, per the Houston Chronicle. Foster's smooth speed and quick-cut ability were too much for a struggling Titans' defense to handle.
  1. Zach Mettenberger made his first career start for Tennessee and struggled. His throws were often off the mark, behind or high, placing receivers in precarious situations. He completed 27 of 41 passes for 299 yards, twotouchdowns and an interception. His pick was a terrible decision and he should have thrown several others forcing balls into coverage. The rookie displayed some poise, standing strong in the pocket, and the Titans did stretch the field more. Mettenberger connected twice on deep balls in the second half, including a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch by Nate Washington. If Ken Whisenhunt sticks with the rookie, he's got a lot of work to do.
  1. Jadeveon Clowney made his return from a knee injury. He played a normal rotation early -- not just on third down in passing situations. The No. 1 overall pick displayed his dynamic first step getting into the backfield on his first two snaps and causing an offensive face mask penalty. He compiled just one tackle and a couple late QB pressures, but his presence allowed J.J. Watt to pick his matchups. Watt continued to sew up his future Defensive Player of the Year award, compiling two sacks, a forced fumble, two tackles for loss and a swatted pass.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. The Browns avoided becoming the first team in NFL history to drop back-to-back games to winless teams this late in the season. Cleveland's offense was punchless for long stretches, but the Raiders couldn't take advantage of it. The defense played its best game of the year -- generatingthreeturnovers -- but the offense remains a concern. This isn't the same Browns attack that battered teams on the ground to climb to 3-2, but beating a bad team at home is part of the learning process for Mike Pettine and Co.
  1. Brian Hoyer overcame a slow start to complete 19 of 28 passes for 275 yards and one score. He continues to gain chunk yardage off play-action looks, but those looks won't be there against better defenses if the running game continues to spiral. Hoyer did enough to keep Johnny Manziel in a ski cap on the bench, but he still throws far too many off-target passes. At least three -- maybe four -- of his lobs should have been picked off. That said, Hoyer is doing more for the Browns than any quarterback since the team's return in 1999.
  1. Win or lose, I'm impressed with Derek Carr. He can make all the throws and seems to thrive under pressure. He hit 34 of 54 passes to nine different targets for 328 yards and one touchdown. He was at his best leading the Raiders on a two-minute drive for a field goal to close the first half. It wasn't a perfect outing, but Carr doesn't kill Oakland with turnovers. There were plays where a less-polished rookie might have tossed the ball into coverage, but Carr wisely threw it away. The Raiders have cycled through a league-leading 21 quarterbacks since 1998 -- the Browns are next with 20 -- but Oakland's search might be over.

-- Marc Sessler

  1. The game ended with a showdown between Eagles coach Chip Kelly and Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Philadelphia steadily marched down the field in the last minute, but Bowles stayed aggressive and continued to send extra rushers at Nick Foles. On the final play, an intense rush forced Foles to backpedal 10 yards before throwing a pass that sailed too far out of bounds for Jordan Matthews to make a play on. Advantage: Bowles.
  1. Foles is impossible to figure out. Every week, he throws a handful passes that make you wonder if it's crazy to think he could wind up holding a clipboard in a few weeks. Then you look at the box score after four quarters and he has well over 300 yards and multipletouchdowns. He's a weekly grab bag. He made two poor throws in the final seconds that helped doom the Eagles. He also threw for 411 yards and set a franchise record with 36 completions.
  1. The Cardinals have their answer to T.Y. Hilton in John Brown. On the go-ahead touchdown, the rookie wideout out blew past Nate Allen and Cary Williams, then made an over-the-shoulder catch on Palmer's perfectly placed deep ball. This was the first 100-yard receiving game of Brown's career. We suspect it won't be his last.

-- Dan Hanzus

  1. Roethlisberger's 522 yards are tied with Boomer Esiason for the fourth-most in NFL history. His six touchdown passes and 40 completions are the most by any quarterback in franchise history. His 81.6 completion percentage is the second-highest ever on more than 45 attempts. The numbers are not misleading in any way. Roethlisberger was on point all afternoon, dropping perfect throws into the hands of nine different receivers. More than just a career game, it was one of the most impressive aerial attacks ever seen on a gridiron. Quarterback play doesn't get any better.
  1. Andrew Luck stood toe-to-toe with Roethlisberger for three quarters. If not for a pair of costly mistakes, the final score would have been a lot closer. Not on the same page with Hakeem Nicks, Luck tossed a pick-six to William Gay early in the second quarter. He was later whistled for an intentional grounding penalty when he tripped and threw from his tuchis at the goal line, resulting in a safety that put the Steelers ahead by 10 early in the fourth quarter. The errors shouldn't overshadow a series of gorgeous throws by Luck, who became the first quarterback in franchise history with six consecutive 300-yard games. With half the season over, Luck is on pace for 44 touchdowns and 5,462 yards -- the latter of which would flirt with Peyton Manning's single-season record.
  1. We wrote last week that the Steelers needed a reliable third option to complement superstars Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. Rookie Martavis Bryant has a chance to fill that role as a red-zone weapon and vertical threat. He's bypassing Markus Wheaton for the No. 2 receiver job.

-- Chris Wesseling

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Week 8 game. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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