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Thirty-six things we learned from Week 10

*Time to check your radar, football fans. You might find some playoff teams flying under it. Week 10 saw a bundle of statement games from postseason hopefuls. Marcus Mariota and the 5-5 Titans smashed Aaron Rodgers, thanks to a 35-point first half. Kansas City won its seventh game of the season and its 17th game in its last 19, escaping Carolina with 20 unanswered points and a share of the AFC West lead. The 5-3-1 Redskins stifled Sam Bradford and the Vikings, who have briefly fallen out of the playoff race. Don't change the channel, this season ain't over yet. Here's what we've learned from Week 10 so far: *

  1. Marcus Mariota tossed four touchdowns for the sixth time in 22 career games, picking apart the Packers secondary with precision passes, dynamic downfield throws and brilliant reads. Late in the first half, the Titans quarterback boasted a perfect passer rating, which only began to explain how well he performed early. Mariota's combination of pinpoint accuracy and athletic creativity allows him to surgically dismantle defenses. When Mariota plays like he did Sunday (19-of-26, 295 yards, 4 TDs), the Titans are a playoff-caliber offense.
  1. The Packers looked collectively hungover to start the game. With eight seconds remaining in the first quarter, Aaron Rodgers had one completed pass and the Packers were being outgained 231 yards to 17 yards. Mike McCarthy's team couldn't get off the field on defense, consistently shot themselves in the foot with penalties and muffed a punt, which led to a touchdown and put the Packers down 35-10, the largest first-half deficit in any game started by Rodgers, per NFL Research. 
  1. The Green Bay defense entered the week allowing a league-low 75.8 rushing yards per game. DeMarco Murray almost equaled that total on his first tote. The running back took the Titans' first play from scrimmage 75 yards untouched for a touchdown. On the next drive, Murray threw a touchdown pass to Delanie Walker. Murray finished with 17 carries for 127 rushing yards, a touchdown, two receptions for 33 yards and the 10-yard TD pass. The fresh running back easily outflanked a limp, injured Packers defense.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. The spiraling Vikings looked cooked after letting Washington build a 14-0 lead, but Minnesota's slumbering offense finally came to life. After opening with three lifeless punts, Sam Bradford and the Vikings ripped off 20 unanswered points, the most scored in a game by Minnesota since Week 5. Making his best start in over a month, Bradford (31 of 38 for 307 yards) found tight end Kyle Rudolph and wideout Adam Thielen for touchdowns before the offense went to sleep again in the second half. Watching the Redskins control the clock for 11-plus minutes of the third quarter, Bradford and the Vikings were held to a pair of punts and Bradford's pick over the final two quarters before a failed two-minute drive ended the Vikings for good.
  1. Kirk Cousins and the Redskins field one of the league's most intriguing attacks. In a game that saw both clubs trade clock-chewing drives, Washington's quarterback largely shrugged off Minnesota's top-ranked scoring defense to throw for 262 yards and two touchdowns while leading six scoring drives on the day. Spreading the ball to seven different targets, Cousins made excellent use of tight ends Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis (with a combined 107 yards and a score off five grabs) and leaned on Pierre Garcon (6/81) with deep-threat DeSean Jackson out of the lineup. It was impressive to Washington seal up the game with a trio of field goal drives that took a combined 14:44 off the clock over 30 plays of the second half.
  1. It's no fun to report this, but embattled Vikings kicker Blair Walsh missed another extra point, botching a kick just before halftime after Minnesota went up 20-14. With four whiffed field goals and just as many missed PATs, Walsh could be looking for work as soon as Monday night.

-- Marc Sessler

  1. The Eagles designed their game plan to control the clock and keep the NFL's highest-scoring offense off the field. After playing just 18 snaps combined in the past two weeks, Mathews was the focal point of Philadelphia's attack behind a surging offensive line that controlled the line of scrimmage and bullied the Falcons' perennially spineless defense. Mathews' 109-yard rushing performance was the Eagles' first over the century mark since October of last season -- and the first versus Atlanta since Adrian Peterson last November.
  1. Matt Ryan played better than his numbers would suggest, but the Falcons had no chain-moving running game and failed to exploit the Eagles' weakness at cornerback. With the exception of Taylor Gabriel's devastating double-move on Leodis McKelvin for a 76-yard touchdown, Ryan got little help from the supporting cast behind Julio Jones. Although Ryan and Jones connected on a series of passes with high degrees of difficulty, the All Pro receiver suffered a key third-down drop and failed to pull in a back-shoulder throw in tight coverage with the game on the line.
  1. The Falcons have nothing about which to hang their heads entering the Week 11 bye. Their mettle has been tested as much as any division leader in the league this season. They should welcome back a healthy Tevin Coleman and Jacob Tamme after the bye, rounding out an offense that was one-dimensional Sunday for the first time all season. With New Orleans and Carolina each suffering last-minute, heart-breaking losses in Week 10, Atlanta still has a commanding lead in the AFC South.

-- Chris Wesseling

  1. Every football Sunday comes with the promise of something different. A blocked extra point returned for a score to win a crucial game for the Broncos is something different. Broncos special teamer Will Parks returned a kick blocked by safety Justin Simmons to break a tie and help Denver win. The play comes with plenty of controversy as it appeared Parks stepped out bounds as he returned the ball the distance. The lack of a quality camera angle and Parks' clean white cleats made the call hard to conclusively overturn, and might have just won the game for Denver. As a wise man once said, it's gotta be the shoes.
  1. The blocked kick was particularly devastating because the Saints had just completed an incredible touchdown drive. Drew Brees and Brandin Cooks hooked up on two of the toughest connections possible for a total of 61 yards to tie the game. After a back-and-forth contest, the Saints were given the ball with under three minutes left, needing a touchdown against the vaunted Broncos secondary to win. Brees and Cooks delivered despite a Broncos pass rush and great coverage.
  1. This was a game of battling back for both quarterbacks. Trevor Siemian was savaged, sacked six times and hit 11 overall. His first interception, thrown with a 10-point lead, turned the game around. His second interception was worse. Yet we couldn't help but be impressed with the number of quality throws Siemian still made under duress in a gutty performance. He helped the Broncos play keep-away with almost 40 minutes time of possession.

--Gregg Rosenthal

  1. On a day when Rivers reached the 300-touchdown club and bypassed Hall of Famer John Elway for eighth place on the all-time list, he tied a single-game career high with four back-breaking interceptions. All four came in the fourth quarter of a back-and-forth contest. The first was thrown in the end zone after the Bolts were gifted four plays inside Miami's 5-yard line due to a muffed punt and a defensive holding penalty. The second was picked off in the red zone with a chance to take the lead. The third was the go-ahead touchdown by Alonso in a tie game. The fourth ended any chance of a comeback attempt in the one-minute drill. Rivers had been enjoying a Pro Bowl-caliber season, but his miscues in the final 13 minutes of Sunday's tilt dropped the Chargers out of realistic postseason contention in a stacked AFC West.
  1. In contrast to Rivers, Ryan Tannehill enjoyed one of his finest afternoons, extending plays and taking shots downfield. His 130.6 passer rating was the second-highest single-game mark of his career. On one of the most impactful sequences of the day -- and perhaps, ultimately, the season -- Tannehill slipped from Melvin Ingram's clutches and scampered 18 yards for a first down. Three snaps later, he lofted a perfect pass into Damien Williams' hands for an 18-yard touchdown and a 21-17 lead. In yet another display of toughness, Tannehill took a shot to the neck from Corey Liuget on a 56-yard bomb to Devante Parker, leading to the tying field goal. Jay Ajayi's emergence as a top-flight power back means it's no longer incumbent on Tannehill to carry the offense. To his credit, he was more than a game manager on Sunday.
  1. Ajayi and Melvin Gordon entered the game as the two hottest running backs in the league, combining for 998 rushing yards over the previous four weeks. Both defenses did a commendable job of bottling up the two hard-charging runners. Half of Ajayi's production came via one early-third quarter run of 40 yards. Gordon was more effective in the passing game, becoming just one of six backs with 300 receiving yards this season.

-- Chris Wesseling

  1. Fresh off an underwhelming performance against Baltimore, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tore through the enemy for an outrageous 408 yards and three scores -- earning everything but the victory. Picking on a roster missing safety Barry Church and cover man Morris Claiborne -- and Orlando Scandrick for parts of Sunday -- Big Ben confidently fired the ball downfield while leaning heavily on Brown. The All-Pro pass-catcher led the team with 14 catches and 154 yards, both season highs.
  1. Still not impressed with Dak Prescott? In a game that saw him struggle early -- generating a surplus of thunderously tedious Twitter takes -- the Cowboys rookie passer threw a pair of touchdown passes and calmly guided Dallas on seven scoring drives -- including 24 points over the final 20:39 of play. Finishing the day at a gaudy 10.0 yards per throw, Prescott found Dez Bryant on a 50-yard touchdown pass and saw his lob to Elliott turn into an 83-yard scoring catch. Dallas isn't a team that loves to play from behind, but Prescott answered the call time after time. This job is his.
  1. A shoe-in Rookie of the Year candidate, Ezekiel Elliott looked sensational piling up 100-plus total yards in the first quarter alone. The output was sparked by his long touchdown grab, but Elliott's game-saving scoring gallop also put him over 100 yards on the ground for the fifth time this autumn.

-- Marc Sessler

  1. Bryce Petty led the Jets' first 99-yard touchdown drive since 1995 on Sunday. It was a momentary shot in the arm for a team in quarterback limbo, though almost certainly not enough to earn him the job for the remainder of the season. The Jets allowed him to go deep on their own one-yard line, leading to a 54-yard completion to Robby Anderson but coddled him from there on out. The Rams' defense almost instinctively flocked the quick outs and running back flares, forcing Petty out of his comfort zone. Like any rookie non first-rounder making his first NFL start, there were moments where he was wracked with indecision despite a clean pocket and solid protection. There were moments when he flashed his arm strength and moments where he air-mailed wide open receivers. The ball is now in coach Todd Bowles' court. Will he see enough to invest in Petty over the next several games assuming Ryan Fitzpatrick (knee) is healthy enough to go next week?
  1. The inside placement of Bryce Petty's game-ending throw to Quincy Enunwa likely earns him the blame. Some will say that Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree simply wanted it more and wrestled the ball away from the receiver, but given Enunwa's body positioning, he looked to be in an almost no leverage situation.
  1. While this will go overlooked given the dreadful pace of this game, the Rams' defense was fantastic on Sunday. Take away Matt Forte's long rush of 28 yards and this was a systematic shutdown in every way. Of course it was aided by the inexperience of a young quarterback, but teams jostling for position in a confounding NFC West (looking at you, Arizona), have to wonder how big of a roadblock this unit will be through the remainder of the season.

-- Conor Orr

  1. All night long, the Patriots went to LeGarrette Blount in the red zone -- three times, in fact -- but when the game was on the line, New England abandoned their power back. (Sound familiar?) Down seven with 43 seconds left, Tom Brady attempted his patented goal-line dive from the 2-yard line, but came up short. Blount was stuffed on the next play before Brady recovered his own fumble on third down.

After a five-yard Seahawks penalty took the ball back to the 1-yard line, New England flexed out of a power formation, in which Rob Gronkowski acted as the fullback, and attempted a fade to Gronk who was single-covered by safety Kam Chancellor by the far pylon. Gronk got locked with the Pro Bowl safety and was never able to make a legitimate attempt on the ball. Josh McDaniels, meet Darrell Bevell.

  1. New England was able to drive down and nearly tie the ballgame without risking the result on a two-point conversion because Pete Carroll did the Patriots that favor. Following Doug Baldwin's final touchdown, with Seattle up seven, the Seahawks skipper went in for the kill and attempted a two-pointer to make it a two-score game. An incomplete pass followed -- Seattle doesn't have much luck passing near the goal line -- and the Pats almost stormed down the field to tie. Coaches and their two-point conversions: a tricky romance.
  1. Christine Michael's loss is C.J. Prosise's gain. The latter, a rookie out of Notre Dame, was Russell Wilson's go-to-target on the evening, reeling in seven catches for 87 yards and handling starting running back duties (17 car, 66 yards). Prosise played wide receiver and safety in college and his ball skills showed in the slot, where he ran wheels, rubs and everything in between. When Michael and Thomas Rawls are fully healthy, it'll be interesting to see whether Prosise remains a fixture in the game plan.

-- Jeremy Bergman

  1. The Cardinals should have won this one running away, if not for some careless play from Carson Palmer. The Cardinals quarterback was responsible for three turnovers in Niners territory in the second half, including an interception that led to the game-tying touchdown. With his back against the wall and the team's playoff hopes in jeopardy, Palmer made up for his errors with an 11-play, 69-yard drive that set up Chandler Catanzaro's game-winning field goal. Palmer's inflated statline (376 yards) won't pass the smell test on film -- it came against San Francisco's league-worst defense after all -- but at least he saw the return of the deep ball ...
  1. Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd had to step in for David Johnson, who went M.I.A. when gifted a massive mismatch against the Niners. Johnson barely extended his league-best streak of nine straight games with 100 yards from scrimmage with 101 total yards (only 55 on the ground). The surprising lack of a ground game against a San Francisco front that got toasted by Mark Ingram last week shifted Palmer's attention more toward his receivers. Ol' reliable Fitzgerald (12/133) and Floyd (5/101) capably filled the void, transporting viewers back to 2015 when Arizona's air raid destroyed secondaries league-wide. It's been two consecutive weeks now that Johnson has been held under 60 yards on the ground. The dual-threat's deterioration as the year winds down will be something to watch.
  1. Shades of the old Colin Kaepernick emerged in spurts on Sunday. Fresh off a massive day through the air against New Orleans, Kap's arm strength couldn't carry him or the team in the dry desert. Instead, the embattled Niners quarterback relied on his legs. Often wary of turning upfield, Kap got around the edge on multiple occasions, including on his game-tying four-yard score. The QB led San Francisco in rushing with 55 yards -- Carlos Hyde, hampered by a shoulder injury, had 14 yards on 13 carries -- and kept dying drives alive with his legs. The 49ers don't have much in this life, but at the very least, they might have their quarterback back.

-- Jeremy Bergman

  1. The Chiefs aren't flashy, they aren't high-powered and while it might sound cliché, it's true: they find ways to win. In Week 10 it required overcoming a 17-point deficit, and for the longest time, it didn't seem possible. But with the game in a familiar lull that usually produces a decisive play, Eric Berry came up big, intercepting a pass underthrown by Cam Newton, who let it fly off his back foot under pressure. Berry took the pick on a winding path across the field, crossing in front of the pylon as he ran out of gas to cut the deficit. After coming up short offensively, Marcus Peters -- who had quite a day against Kelvin Benjamin -- stripped Benjamin of the ball, legitimately outmuscling him for possession, which set up the Chiefs for Cairo Santos' game-winning field goal.
  1. The Dab is back, and for three and a half quarters, Cam Newton looked much like his 2015 MVP self. But that's not the problem with the Panthers, and unfortunately, the climb to the top of the NFC South got much more difficult Sunday. Sitting at 3-5, Carolina faced a game that could bring them closer to .500 or deal a major blow to their playoff hopes. After surrendering a 17-0 lead, it turned out to be the latter. The Panthers would need to win seven straight to finish with a record that might get them into the postseason. They aren't left for dead, but they're now in full desperation mode.
  1. The box score looks like a game that produced 37 total points. Spencer Ware won't end up with weekly honors, but he was a crucial part of a Chiefs offense that misses Jeremy Maclin dearly. Ware rushed 13 times for 61 yards, caught a few passes and did the unheralded job of blocking best, picking up an array of blitzes from multiple defensive fronts with authority, planting Luke Kuechly into the ground late in the game on a crucial third down, and also putting a lick on Thomas Davis when blocking downfield for Smith.

-- Nick Shook

  1. Blake Bortles' woes continued Sunday. The third-year signal-caller's opening drive was cut short after he tossed his 11th interception this season just minutes into the first quarter. (Texans safety Kareem Jackson returned the INT for a 42-yard touchdown.) Bortles ended the day 32 of 49 with 265 yards passing and managed to continue another long-standing streak: being sacked. Sunday marked the 23rd-straight game the quarterback has been taken down.
  1. Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler failed to impress, tallying a mere 99 passing yards in his Week 10 outing. The Texans' running back corps comprised of Lamar Miller, Akeem Hunt, and Alfred Blue amassed 158 of 181 rushing yards for Houston (Osweiler added 23 yards). While all three failed to reach the end zone, it's the most rushing yards the Texans have racked up in a single game this season. Fun (but disappointing) fact: The Texans just have two rushing TDs this season -- both courtesy of Lamar Miller (Week 6, 8).
  1. Texans kicker Nick Novak is the recent victim of the inaccuracy bug. Though typically accurate throughout his career (82.5 percent), Novak floundered against the Jaguars, missing two of his three field goals. Novak's 51-yarder in the fourth gave the Texans some relief during the Jags' late rally.

-- Andie Hagemann

  1. Sunday was the first time this season Jameis Winston led the Bucs to a victory without much help from the ground game. Winston only turned the ball over once against the Bears -- a first-half interception that bounced off one of his receivers' hands -- and overcame penalties that earlier this season would have stalled out their drives. He finished 23-of-33 passing for 312 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The Bucs' playoff chances remain slim at 4-5, but with the rest of the NFC South losing Sunday, their season isn't over.
  1. One Winston play in particular will end up on every Week 10 sizzle reel, and it encompassed everything that is good and bad about the second-year franchise QB. On a third down in his own territory up 17-10, Winston dropped back 20 yards into his own end zone, avoided the entire Bears' pass rush before heaving a pass downfield and hitting Mike Evans for a big gain. It was one of those moments that probably had the Bucs coaching staff pulling their hair out until the moment he hit his receiver. One play later, Winston hit Freddie Martino for a 43-yard score to take a two-score lead.
  1. After a promising victory over the Vikings two weeks ago on Monday night, the Bears couldn't take advantage of the time off afforded by their bye to even challenge a very average Tampa Bay squad. Jay Cutler contributed three turnovers in the first half alone, including a pick-six to former Chicago cornerback Chris Conte, as well as a fumble inside Tampa Bay's 10-yard line that ended a scoring opportunity. The Chicago defense played well much of the first half, but Cutler kept letting them down with backbreaking turnovers. The Bears are now 8-16 under John Fox.

-- Mark Ortega

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