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What we learned: 34 takeaways from Week 8

Sunday was a dominant one for the NFL's recognized Super Bowl contenders.

The San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers all came out of the day with wins, many of them coming in dominant fashion. The average margin of victory for The Big 7 was 20 points.

It's the Chiefs, of course, who count as the new kid on the block within that venerable clique of Lombardi favorites. They're also the only member of the club that hasn't lost this season. Andy Reid rules the world and we are his disciples.

Here's what else we learned during 11 games played on the Sunday of Week 8:

  1. The Packers used their running game to dictate the flow of the game, holding the ball for nearly 41 minutes. Eddie Lacy finished with 112 total yards and one touchdown and continues to look like the NFL's offensive rookie of the year. James Starks was a factor in his return to the lineup, rushing for 57 yards on seven carries with his own score. The Packers haven't skipped a beat on offense without receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones. The running game is a big reason why.
  1. Watch Aaron Rodgers' first touchdown pass again. Then watch it again. And again. And again. And again. How many quarterbacks on this planet can make that throw? I'm going with one.
  1. The Vikings need to find a way to get Cordarrelle Patterson the ball. Very few players have the natural explosion that the rookie wide receiver possesses. His 109-yard kickoff return to begin the game was a thing of beauty.
  1. Like Michael Vick a decade ago, Terrelle Pryor is getting by on sheer athleticism as a sandlot player. His 93-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage is the longest by a quarterback in NFL history. Pryor is especially tough to defend on third downs, when man coverage leaves a defense susceptible to scrambling. Another similarity to Vick is that Pryor's freelancing opens up running lanes for running back Darren McFadden, who ran with more explosiveness in the first half than he did at any point in the past two years.
  1. Raiders defensive end LaMarr Houston and rookie linebacker Sio Moore keyed a defense that sacked Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger five times and held Le'Veon Bell under 2.0 yards per carry. Houston has played at a Pro Bowl level versus the pass and the run this season. Moore racked up two sacks and two quarterback hits Sunday after recording one sack and three hurries versus the Chiefs last week. He's quickly becoming one of the most impressive defensive rookies in the league.
  1. Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham's two missed chip shots were the difference in a tight game. The two teams were within two seconds in time of possession, three total yards and three points. That is the kind of performance that can land a kicker on the hot seat.
  1. The Broncos' 32nd-ranked pass defense turned in a dominant performance, holding Robert Griffin III to the lowest passer rating and yards per attempt figures of his career while hitting him at least 15 times and ultimately knocking him out of the game in the fourth quarter. All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller channeled 2012 form after failing to make a major impact in last week's loss to the Colts.

On NFL Network
NFL Replay
will re-air the Denver Broncos' 45-21 victory over the Washington Redskins from Week 8 on Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

  1. Peyton Manning hasn't been clicking on all cylinders the past two weeks like he was early in the season, but his offense still has more points through eight games than any team in NFL history after closing out Sunday's game on a 38-0 run. The NFL's most effective screen-pass team blew the game wide open behind twin 35-yard screen touchdowns to Knowshon Moreno and Demaryius Thomas in the fourth quarter.
  1. Griffin told Fox's Pam Oliver before the game that he's faster than ever as a runner. If that's true, it's not showing up on game film. RGIII eventually will return to 2012 form, but he wasn't there last week and won't be there next week. He sailed too many passes, held the ball too long and failed to recognize open receivers Sunday. Dr. James Andrews told NFL Media's Omar Ruiz after the game that Griffin's left knee is "OK." The quarterback was held out of the final two drives only because the game was out of reach.
  1. It seems like just yesterday people were questioning whether Andy Dalton was the answer in Cincinnati. He's squelched that chatter over the last three weeks, passing for 1,034 yards with 11 touchdowns and one interception in three wins. He threw five TDs (four of them to Marvin Jones) against the Jets, setting a career high. The Glowing Ginger Man is getting it done.
  1. This was the worst defensive effort of the Rex Ryan era, a complete meltdown at all levels of the unit. The secondary was particularly terrible. Antonio Cromartie hasn't been the same player since hurting his knee in practice three weeks ago. First-round draft pick Dee Milliner wasn't competitive before being benched in the second quarter.
  1. The GenoCoaster went into a straight vertical drop in the second half. The game was long decided by the time Smith threw pick sixes to Chris Crocker and Adam Jones, but this still stands as a setback in the rookie's development. In an act of mercy, Matt Simms replaced Smith early in the fourth quarter.
  1. We were two quarters away from roughly six million "What's wrong with Tom Brady?" think pieces this week. Instead, Brady and the Pats came to life, scoring 24 unanswered points in the second half to keep the critics at bay. Brady -- playing with a clearly swollen finger on his throwing hand -- rebounded from a first half in which he threw for 24 yards and an interception.

On NFL Network
NFL Replay
will re-air the New England Patriots' 27-17 win over the Miami Dolphins from Week 8 on Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 2 p.m. ET.

  1. Just a complete core meltdown by the Dolphins in all three phases in the second half. The game's turning point occurred early in the third quarter, with Miami up 17-3 and marching toward another score. Mike Wallace got open near the 5-yard line but was unable to pull in a slightly errant Ryan Tannehill pass. Tannehill took a sack on the next play, then Caleb Sturgis put a 45-yard field-goal attempt off the upright. The Patriots scored 14 points in the 106 seconds that followed.
  1. Key players on each side appeared to suffer season-ending injuries. Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Gibson was carted off in the first half with what is likely a torn patellar tendon, according to NFL Media's Albert Breer. Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer also was carted off after suffering what is very likely a broken leg.
  1. Matthew Staffordsilenced critics with a huge game-winning drive. Prior to the thrilling comeback, the Lions' three best offensive players -- Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush -- combined for four turnovers. It was the Lions defense that kept the game close. Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Co. put pressure on Tony Romo all game. It was also the Lions secondary's best-played game of the season, holding Cowboys QB Tony Romo to just 206 yards passing.

On NFL Network
NFL Replay
will re-air the Detroit Lions' 31-30 win over the Dallas Cowboys from Week 8 on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 9 p.m. ET.

  1. Johnson had a historic day, going for 329 yards on 14 catches and a touchdown. He destroyed Brandon Carr and any other Cowboys defensive back who took a shot at him. Meanwhile, Dez Bryant had three catches for 72 yards and two touchdowns (but the only thing anyone will remember is his demonstrative sideline filibuster directed at Romo).
  1. The Cowboys might have a lot of overpaid players, but Sean Lee is worth every penny that Jerry Jones is paying him. His two first-half interceptions single-handedly gave the Cowboys the lead in a game they should have trailed big early.
  1. Chip Kelly's offense is in crisis. The Eagles have scored three combined points the last two weeks. Don't blame this all on Michael Vick's re-injured hamstring, which knocked him out late in the second quarter. The Eagles were dominated from the first snap.
  1. The Giants, who now have won two consecutive games, have some things to build off. They protected Eli Manning well and converted a number of impressive third-down throws to Hakeem Nicks, Jerrel Jernigan and Brandon Byers. They looked like a competent offense, even with their makeshift running game.
  1. Matt Barkley did a poor job when pressured. He lost a fumble in the red zone and fumbled two snaps. Otherwise, he did not look terrible for a rookie quarterback. The Eagles moved the ball, but couldn't finish drives. It was similar to last week against Dallas. The Giants' pass rush had another resurgent week.
  1. Browns starter Jason Campbell overcame an ugly start to carve up a normally reliable Chiefs secondary for 293 yards. That came with no interceptions and a distinct absence of the wacky (sometimes underhanded) off-target passes we saw from Brandon Weeden, who's shifted into a permanent clipboard-holder role.
  1. Jamaal Charles made another strong case for MVP consideration: Despite missing part of the game with a knee injury, he rumbled for 74 yards on 18 carries and hauled in five passes for another 46 yards from Chiefs QB Alex Smith, who also made good use of fullback Anthony Sherman through the air.
  1. Amid ongoing whispers that receiver Josh Gordon is available in a trade, Cleveland's best player scorched the Chiefs for 132 yards and one touchdown on five catches. He's more than a deep threat and deserves credit for staying productive no matter who the quarterback is.
  1. With receiver Michael Crabtree out of the mix, San Francisco is happy to run the ball, and run it some more. The 49ers dialed up a liberal dose of plays out of the pistol, leaning heavily on Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter to lead a ground game that rumbled for 221 yards. Like last week, quarterback Colin Kaepernick did his part, rushing for 54 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
  1. When Chad Henne has time to throw, Jacksonville's air game shows a pulse with Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon and Mike Brown catching passes. It came far too late, but Henne's long, third-quarter touchdown strike to Brown might be the play of the year for the Jags.
  1. Three cheers for Corey Lemonier, the 49ers outside linebacker who's filling in for Aldon Smith and held his own again Sunday. That said, this was the rare game in which neither team registered one sack.
  1. Keep an eye on Drew Brees as a sleeper candidate in the MVP race. The All-Pro quarterback threw five touchdowns Sunday and is on pace for another monster statistical season. If Peyton Manning comes back to the pack a little, Brees will be in good position.

  1. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was able to make an impact despite that bothersome foot injury. Graham's snaps were limited, but he scored touchdowns on two of his three receptions. He only played one snap in the second half. Naturally, he scored a touchdown.
  1. Kenny Stills was the 17th wide receiver taken in the 2013 NFL Draft. He's continuing to show why he could end up being one of the draft's best bargains. Stills enjoyed his best game as a pro, finishing with three catches for 129 yards and two touchdowns. His deep-ball chemistry with Brees is growing.
  1. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians might want to re-think his limited-snap plan for Andre Ellington. With Rashard Mendenhall out, Ellington took advantage of his first career start to rush for 154 yards on 15 carries. He created an 80-yard touchdown on a play that looked bottled up. Wideout Michael Floyd, who made a nice touchdown grab, helped spring Ellington loose with a block.

  1. The Falcons' season is all but over at 2-5. There are too many good teams in the NFC and the Falcons have a brutal schedule coming up. They have one of the worst defenses in the league, and applied very little pressure on Carson Palmer. All-time Falcons sack leader John Abraham, playing for the Cardinals, was better than any Atlanta pass rusher.
  1. The Cardinals put together one of the best defensive performances of the season. They hit Ryan 11 times. They had 12 passes defensed, and eight tackles for loss. Daryl Washington has been one of the best defenders in football since he returned from a suspension. Karlos Dansby is playing like a new man. Tyrann Mathieu, Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett all had great games.

*The latest "Around the League Podcast" has takeaways from every Week 8 game. *

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