*Here is what we learned from Sunday's Week 10 games: *
- Dak Prescott was enjoying his best passing game of the season, or at least since Week 1. With outstanding protection, the Cowboys quarterback bounced back from a slow start to slice and dice a well-regarded Vikings defense to the tune of 397 yards and three scores. Prescott led Dallas on four consecutive scoring drives (3 TDs, FG), getting all of his top receivers involved in the process; Amari Cooper caught 11 balls for 147 yards, Randall Cobb had six for 106 and Michael Gallup snagged four for 76; each was on the receiving end of one of Prescott's touchdown passes. So why, with the game on the line, with Dallas down four points and driving with under five minutes to go, did the Cowboys take the ball out of Prescott's hands?
After Dak had completed five passes to his three receivers and Jason Witten to get Dallas to Minnesota's 19 at the two-minute warning, the Cowboys followed an eight-yard first-down pass to Cooper with a run up the middle to Ezekiel Elliott. The try was stuffed, but first-year OC Kellen Moore inexplicably tried the same thing on the following play. The result was a three-yard loss and a fourth-and-5. On Dallas' final shot, Prescott stared down Elliott on an out route, and his pass attempt was swatted away by Vikings star linebacker Eric Kendricks. A miscalculated mismatch. The Cowboys (5-4) dropped their fourth game of the season by going away from what was working for them, taking the ball away from the QB they hope to pay and handing it off unsuccessfully to the RB they already had.
- Pitted in a battle of bona fide backs, Dalvin Cook outplayed Elliott in Sunday night's slugfest. Minnesota put a lot on the back's legs, as Cook played a pivotal role in extending drives on the ground and in the air. Cook compiled 183 total yards on 33 touches against Dallas (97 rushing, 86 receiving), becoming just the second player this season to record 80-plus yards rushing and receiving in the same game. The back's devastating blend of physicality and acceleration made it look like Cook was shot out of a cannon when he hit the second level on the photogenic AT&T Stadium turf. Elliott didn't follow Monday night's standout game with a similar outing (47 yards on 20 carries) , but that's partially to blame on Minnesota's top-10 rush defense and Dallas' desire to rely on Prescott and the passing game against Mike Hughes and the Vikings secondary. On the season, Cook (991 rushing yards) is neck and neck with Christian McCaffrey (989) for the honor of the NFL's leading rusher. Elliott (788) is far in the distance, stuffed behind the line of scrimmage.
- For lack of a better phrase, Minnesota "made the leap" on Sunday night, propelled by a quarterback who had a notorious history of struggling in prime-time games. Kirk Cousins (220 yards) played error-free football on a big stage, utilizing play-action to pick up big gains to Cook and an Adam Thielen-less receiving corps. Aside from Cook, Minnesota's leading receiver on the day, Cousins looked to ol' reliable Kyle Rudolph in the clutch on Sunday evening. Rudolph, who was briefly ensnared in a contract standoff with the team this offseason, caught four passes against Dallas, half of them for one-yard TD receptions. The veteran tight end also caught a key two-point conversion that extended Minnesota's lead to seven in the fourth quarter and later forced the Cowboys to shoot for the end zone to win late in the proceedings instead of a potential tying field goal. Cousins' and Rudolph's understated showings in the Vikings' win, just their first victory on the road against a team currently with a winning record, helped prove that Minnesota (7-3) deserve to be regarded as among the cream of the NFC's crop, alongside San Francisco, New Orleans and rival Green Bay.
-- Jeremy Bergman
- With snow flurries whipping around Lambeau Field, the Packers defense bowed up, stuffing Christian McCaffrey inches short of the goal-line to seal a one-score victory. Kyle Allen led the Panthers to the doorstep of a potential game-tying scenario with some beautiful strikes threw the blustering snow. The young signal-caller tossed a career-high 307 yards, completing 28 of 43 pass attempts, many of which were dimes into Green Bay coverages. Allen played big despite the conditions and getting battered by the Packers pass rush (three sacks, nine QB hits). The Panthers moved the ball all game using a good balance of pass and run (McCaffrey 20/108/1). Of Carolina's nine possessions, eight ventured into Green Bay territory, including the first seven. It will be the two miscues from Allen that will hunt the 23-year-old quarterback. He fumbled a snap near midfield that Green Bay turned into a touchdown. Later, Allen threw an ill-advised pass in the end zone that was intercepted, and the Packers earned a field goal on the ensuing drive. The swings proved the difference Sunday. Despite the errors, Allen showed the mettle to bounce back each time and came up just short on the road to a good team. If the end of the season is about finding out what Carolina has in Allen, Sunday's performance is a positive sign, even in a loss.
- The Packers offense showed they're ready for the cold-weather playoff run. Green Bay gashed the Carolina defense on the ground with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams picking up chunk gains. The duo took turns picking up 10-plus-yard blasts. The tandem combined for 156 yards on 26 carries, for 6.0 yards per pop. Jones once again showed his nose for the end zone, plowing for three touchdowns. The three scores gave the dynamic RB 14 on the season, vaulting him into a tie with McCaffrey for most in the NFL. Underscoring Jones' and Williams' ability to blast through tackles into the second-level, the Panthers' three leading tacklers on the day were all defensive backs. When Jones and Williams are galloping, it takes pressure off of Aaron Rodgers to spin magic. On a day when Rodgers was held to 233 yards passing, and Green Bay was out-gained 388 to 401, the Pack proved they could win again with a bludgeoning ground game. With the cold weather upon us, it's a recipe that should play well in December and January in Green Bay.
- The victory pushed the Packers to 8-2, giving Matt LaFleur's team cushion in the NFC North ahead of their bye in Week 11. Coupled with the New Orleans Saints' loss Sunday, Green Bay's win puts them in position to potentially earn a bye in the playoffs. Coming out of the off-week, the Packers will visit San Francisco, who entered Week 10 undefeated. The tilt in Week 12 will provide another opportunity for Rodgers & Co. to gain more ground for a postseason bye. For Carolina, the loss drops Ron Rivera's team to 5-4, but they remain in the hunt in a muddled NFC playoff picture, tied with the Eagles and Rams just one game out of the No. 6 seed.
-- Kevin Patra
- In recent years, the Steelers gradually shifted from a franchise that won with its defense to one that put up gaudy offensive numbers and did enough to win when it didn't have the ball. We're headed back in the other direction, with Sunday's game serving as strong evidence that western Pennsylvania's fans of the Steel Curtain again have plenty to cheer for. Pittsburgh is again a team that wins with defense, with no one making a more obvious play-by-play impact than safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. His highlight Sunday was a fumble recovered and returned for a touchdown, but his actions in between have strengthened Pittsburgh's back end -- you know, the unit's liability for the last three years -- and make it a complete defense. After spotting the Rams attempting to run a rub route to get Cooper Kupp open, Fitzpatrick sprinted upfield on a key third down in the fourth quarter to assist Mike Hilton and keep Kupp from making the catch. Los Angeles had to settle for a field goal because of this play. Fitzpatrick alone finished with two takeaways and a defensive touchdown, a key score in a game that lacked much scoring.
And Pittsburgh's defensive success stretches beyond Fitzpatrick. Joe Haden had a game that was reminiscent of his Pro Bowl years in Cleveland, denying Jared Goff attempts to Kupp and others with diving pass break-ups and intercepting the quarterback once. With those two providing a huge boost in the secondary, the unit as a whole is much stronger and played lights-out football Sunday.
It was appropriate, then, that a defensive stand is what secured the win for the Steelers, thanks to an interception off a Haden tip and -- who else? -- Fitzpatrick interception.
- Where is the offensive imagination that made the Rams a treat to watch a year ago? For too many weeks this season, Los Angeles has been stuck in second gear offensively, and Sunday they downshifted to first before it was over. The only time the Rams had any legitimate offensive life was during a possession late in the third in which Los Angeles went uptempo, moving the ball down the field with precision. That drive ended in a field goal, because once the Rams slowed back to a normal pace, their offense sputtered.
A week after exploding for 10 receptions, 220 yards and a touchdown, Kupp went without a reception on four targets. Goff threw two interceptions and was strip sacked, with the loose ball returned for a touchdown by Fitzpatrick. The worst of all, though, came in a sign of how lost this Rams offense currently is. On third and short, Sean McVay sent in Blake Bortles to run a specific play, which was botched by an unexpected snap. On the next play, in a seven-point game, McVay called a fake punt pass, which ended in an interception thrown by an under-duress Johnny Hekker.
If these Rams hope to stay in the wild-card race, they'll need to figure out their offense quickly before their dreams of a conference title defense evaporate.
- Despite rightfully shredding the Rams' offense in the point above, someone needs to get on a milk crate and start spreading the word of the potential of tight end Gerald Everett. While much of Los Angeles' attack was stymied by a stingy Steelers defense, Everett repeatedly made timely catches and runs to keep the chains moving for the Rams, finishing with eight catches for 68 yards. Two of his catches required sideline tightroping and served as an example of his athleticism, which should help him become a mismatch in the weeks and years ahead.
Everett's best game of his career came in Week 5 in a close loss to Seattle, and he's been spotty since then, but his game Sunday showed Week 5 wasn't merely a fluke. The tight end has the potential to become a go-to target in the years ahead, and when the Rams were without Brandin Cooks and couldn't get Kupp going, he took advantage of it. If they're wise, the Rams will continue to look in Everett's direction.
-- Nick Shook
- Lamar Jackson continues to make his case for MVP honors this season after the Ravens (7-2) beat the Bengals (0-9) in Cincinnati. The Bengals had a bye week to prepare but how can you prepare against one of the best players in the league? The Ravens took only five plays to score their first touchdown. And it didn't slow down after that. Each drive that Jackson played ended with a touchdown. Jackson looked unreal at times. One play he ran for a 47-yard touchdown and had a spin move that made half of the defenders miss. It was his longest career run. He finished the day 15-of-17 for 223 yards and three TDs with 65 rushing yards and a TD. The Ravens ended up putting Robert Griffin III in to play the entire fourth quarter. Don't want to take a chance on your QB getting injured when you're already up 49-10.
- How often do you see three Heisman Trophy winners involved in one play? Only five other teams have had three Heisman Trophy winners on the same roster. For the Ravens this is the first time they have had three in the backfield at the same time, or as Mark Ingram called it after the game, "the Heisman package." They were up 14-3 when offensive coordinator Greg Roman decided to have a little fun. He had Jackson, RG3 and Mark Ingramlined up in the backfield. Jackson ran an option and pitched to RG3 for nine yards and a first down.
- Well, the Bengals continue to be the only winless team in the league. Ryan Finley made his NFL debut as the starting QB. The Bengals benched Andy Dalton to try to get a spark on offense but it was pretty much the same thing. Finley had several drives that went for 10 plays, but only one ended with a touchdown (a six-yard TD to Tyler Eifert). The rookie moved well on his feet but couldn't do much behind this offensive line. Finley finished his debut with 167 yards, one TD, one INT and two sacks. After going three-and-out on their first drive, the Bengals decided to get Joe Mixon involved more. He had a career-high 30 carries and 114 yards.
-- Lakisha Wesseling
- This was the game the Browns (3-6) absolutely needed, even more than last week's loss to Denver. When given the ball and a chance to win the game -- an opportunity they had last week and in Weeks 3 and 6 -- Baker Mayfield made the most of it for the first time in 2019.
It was reminiscent of last season's magical second half and was capped by a touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins, because of course it had to be to Rashard Higgins. After Browns fans have (understandably) spent nine weeks crying to the heavens for more of the receiver nicknamed "Hollywood," the Browns found themselves in the red zone and instead of toying with back pylon fades and shovel passes, Mayfield took a shotgun snap and targeted his old friend. It produced the game-winning score, the Browns' defense held on (thanks to a missed field goal attempt by Steven Hauschka) and Higgins had a chance to deliver this wonderful postgame quote:
It was another solid game for Mayfield, who finished with a line of 26-for-38, 238 yards, two touchdowns (no interceptions) and a 102.7 passer rating. He's strung together four solid games now, but the difference between those contests and Sunday's? The win.
- The biggest story of this game that isn't the result itself is the Browns' red zone woes. They've existed for nearly the entire season, first cropping up on the national stage in Week 3, then significantly impacting the outcome of games in Weeks 6 and 9. They've never been more glaring, though, than they were Sunday, when the Browns ran eight straight plays inside Buffalo's 5 and came away with zero points, then ran three more red-zone plays, nearly went for it on fourth and goal again (Chris Hubbard's false start saved them from themselves) and came away with just three points. For those keeping score at home, that's three points gained from 10 plays inside the opponent's 5.
- Although the Browns inexplicably went away from attacking it for stretches of Sunday's game, the Bills (6-3) should be concerned with their run defense. Nick Chubb found the going far too easy in the first half and was on pace for well over 100 yards before the Browns shifted their offensive priorities elsewhere, even while nursing a three-point lead. A better team likely preserves such a lead by keeping it on the ground against a Bills defense that was surprisingly poor against such an attack.
Conversely, the Bills should be pleased with the play of Tre'Davious White, who did a solid job against former LSU teammate Odell Beckham Jr. Sure, he was caught a little bit out of position a few times, but his body of work over the entire game made for a difficult outing for Beckham and also allowed Buffalo to evenly distribute its defensive resources, holding the Browns to just 12 points until the final two minutes of the game. White's arrow keeps trending upward.
-- Nick Shook
- Mitchell Trubisky woke up from an early-game slumber to engineer three straight touchdown drives to give the Bears enough cushion to stiff-arm the Matthew Stafford-less Lions. After four limp drives to open the game gained just one first down and 25 total yards, Trubisky hit a series of nice passes to propel the Bears to a 20-6 lead they would cling to late. The signal-caller finally looked comfortable against a Lions defense that doesn't bring pressure, tossing three touchdown passes, including a gorgeous looping toss to TE Ben Braunecker and a dime to Taylor Gabriel. The three TD passes were more than Trubisky had thrown in his previous four games combined. The Bears gained 130 of their 226 total yards on two drives to finish the first half and open the second. Outside of the three scoring drives, it was a struggle for Trubisky, as the offense scuttled and afforded the Lions a chance to stay in the game with back-to-back-to-back three-and-outs in the fourth quarter. After taking a 20-6 lead, the Bears gained 46 yards and two first downs on five series. Chicago, however, should focus on the good from Trubisky after weeks of skittish play. When given a clean pocket, the quarterback made several pinpoint throws. Now Matt Nagy's job is to build on those positives and negate the lulls that infect his offense.
- Stafford missed his first start since Week 17 of the 2010 season due to a back injury, forcing Jeff Driskel into the lineup. The backup looked about as you'd expect, operating a dink-and-dunk offense. After generating 72 yards and five first downs on an opening-drive field-goal march, the Lions offense didn't move the ball until it was down double digits, earning five first downs and just 110 total yards on seven drives across the second and third quarters -- fewer than 16 yards per drive. Driskel's second-half interception was brutal, as he threw it right to Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski that set up what ended up being the game-winning score. Driskel refused to stretch the field until forced to late and instead leaned on ineffective dump-offs. With no run game to speak of (Driskel led the Lions in rushing with 37 yards), the Lions still outgained Chicago 357 yards to 226. Driskel was forced to pass 46 times in his first start in Detroit, completing 27 for 269 yards, one TD and one INT. The performance underscored Stafford's importance to Detroit. Outside of one bomb to Kenny Golladay, gone were most of the big plays we'd seen from the Lions' passing game. If Stafford is forced to miss multiple weeks, the Lions will struggle without a QB that can mask the putrid defense Detroit puts on the field. Matt Patricia's D has proven it can't consistently stop anyone as the Lions (3-5-1) have lost five of the last six tilts.
- Kwiatkoski entered for an injured Danny Trevathan and was all over the field for the Bears defense, stuffing the Lions' run game, and getting in Driskel's face on blitzes. The backup linebacker compiled nine tackles, a sack and the pivotal interception. With the front four unable to bring down Driskel, the play of linebackers like Kwiatkowski was key in corralling the Lions' short passing attack. It wasn't a pretty day in Chicago, but Nagy's squad will take the win against a backup quarterback, snapping a four-game losing streak. The victory gets the Bears out of the cellar of the NFC North, but at 4-5, they remain in a big hole in the playoff race.
-- Kevin Patra
- If there was any discussion remaining as to whether the Titans are a better team with Ryan Tannehill or Marcus Mariota at the helm, the former Dolphins first-rounder emphatically answered that question with 1:21 left and 61 yards to go. Tannehill and the Titans were down by five when he orchestrated a four-play, game-winning drive with no timeouts, finding Adam Humphries over the middle for a 23-yard score and then rumbling in for a two-point conversion in a riveting 35-32 win for the Titans (5-5) against the Chiefs (6-4). Kansas City offered one last reply, but a Harrison Butker game-winning attempt was blocked by Joshua Kalu. On the day, Tannehill was 13-of-19 for 181 yards, a 133.9 rating and a pair of touchdowns (and the aforementioned very bruising two-point run). On the season, the Titans are 3-1 with Tannehill starting. As storylines go, the comeback of Patrick Mahomes was at the forefront. However, Tannehill is penning a comeback story of his own. A Dolphins castaway slated to be a backup, Tannehill has delivered hope for the Titans and for the resurrection of his career.
- Mahomes rolled right and promptly let fly an ugly pass that was intercepted by Kenny Vaccaro on his first attempt in his return to the field. The call was overturned as replay showed it hit the ground. Then came Mahomes' real return, with his knee once again located and healthy, his arm followed suit. He finished off his first drive back with a shovel pass to Travis Kelce for six and finished the game with a usually spectacular Mahomes line of 446 yards, three touchdowns and a 119.2 rating. Walking away from Sunday, the Chiefs have lost two of three and four of six. That's a problem. The health and play of Mahomes is not, however.
- No doubt overlooked in the drama of the game and the deserved recognition of Tannehill, Titans running back Derrick Henry had an outstanding day. He rumbled for a season-high 188 yards on 23 carries, with a pair of touchdowns, including a one-yard score that followed a 68-yard burst. It was the one-yard score that trimmed the Titans' nine-point fourth-stanza deficit to two points. It was only the second 100-yard game of Henry's season and only the sixth of his career. Perhaps it's of little surprise that the Titans are undefeated when he eclipses 100 yards.
-- Grant Gordon
- Given the current state of the NFC South, there is nothing that can be done to salvage what has amounted to a lost season for the Falcons (2-7). Apparently, no one informed the defense of this, though, because it kept its foot on the gas all game and ran over Drew Brees (32-of-45, 287 yards) and the Saints (7-2). With both teams having the benefit of refreshed legs coming off a bye, it seemed obvious that the Saints offense would outpace a poor Atlanta defense that had given up 33.6 PPG during its six-game losing streak. But the game would end with the Saints not scoring a TD for the third time this season, which everybody predicted I'm sure. New Orleans put up nine points for the second time this season (!) and couldn't get anything going anywhere on the field at any point in this one. After recording just three sacks in the last six games, the Falcons tallied six takedowns (11 total QB hits) on Brees, led by DT Grady Jarrett (2.5) and DE Vic Beasley (1.5), an encouraging stat from what should have been a top pass-rushing tandem in 2019. The defense also somehow managed to limit Alvin Kamara -- four carries for 24 yards, eight receptions for 50 yards -- and keep Michael Thomas (13/152) from scoring, although the latter's day was special; Thomas became the fastest player to reach 400 receptions in NFL history (56 career games), per NFL Research. The talk surrounding Dan Quinn's job status has been loud for weeks but, thanks to his defense, the Falcons coach will live to fight another week in the ATL.
- Even though the Falcons played solid in all three phases, it's hard to overlook the self-inflicted errors that repeatedly snuffed out every inkling of momentum for the Saints. Atlanta's second drive of the game, which would end up being its longest of the season (17 plays, 75 yards), was given new life thanks to a trio of Saints penalties that resulted in automatic first downs (six Falcons first downs came via penalties). After getting a stop on third-and-3 on the NO 32, an illegal use of hands call extended the series; a second illegal use of hands call came two plays later; and, three plays after that, defensive holding put the Falcons on the door step at the NO 9. Matt Ryan would find TE Austin Hooper for an 8-yard pass shortly thereafter to take a 10-3 lead. A pair of offensive penalties for a combined 25 yards would halt a Saints surge to end the half, resulting in a 47-yard Wil Lutz FG from the ATL 29. Tack onto those instances a third illegal hands call on third-and-5 in the third quarter that eventually led to a 10-yard Ryan TD pass for a 20-9 lead and it makes you wonder how New Orleans would've fared without the timely faux pas.
- It was hard to tell which team was 1-7 or 7-1 at times but the Saints defense played well enough in the first half to give its team a chance. The job done to contain Julio Jones was spearheaded by CB Marshon Lattimore, who did a great job before sitting out the entire second half with a thigh injury. With Lattimore on him, Jones was 0-of-3 but, when Lattimore first exited with an injury in the second, Jones put a 54-yard catch-and-run on his highlight reel that invigorated the Falcons offense. Jones would add two more catches in the second half and finish with a team-high 79 yards but it would end up not being as much of a factor as the Falcons feasted in the run game. Thirty-four of their 70 offensive plays were on the ground, leading to nine of the Falcons' 18 first downs coming on runs and a season-high 143 rushing yards, the third-most the Saints have surrendered in 2019.
-- Jelani Scott
- It was a Snoopy Bowl (and Leonard Williams revenge game) for the ages at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. The Giants and Jets, two squads both desperate for a win after disastrous 2019 starts and injury-plagued campaigns. The high-scoring affair certainly wasn't pretty, but the Jets (2-7) survived the tilt against their crosstown rival, securing their second win of the season. The most exciting play in the tilt came in the third quarter when Jets safety Jamal Adams stripped the ball away from Giants quarterback Daniel Jones and cruised to the end zone for a touchdown. A few days after his conversation with Jets brass on his desire to stay and win a title with N.Y., Adams was on a tear, totaling nine tackles, two sacks, two QB hits and two forced fumbles. The Jets' defense brought the heat on Jones. Facing a battered offensive line, who lost veteran tackle Nate Solder due to a concussion midgame, the Jets sacked the rookie signal-caller six times. It felt like Jones was on the ground more than he was upright all game.
- Have a day, Darius Slayton! Sans Sterling Shepard (concussion) and Evan Engram (foot), Daniel Jones connected with Slayton 10 times for 119 yards and two touchdowns. Coming off a one-catch game against the Cowboys on Monday night, Slayton looked like a new man, and Jones was clearly comfortable getting him the ball. Slayton's first TD of the day came in the second quarter on a drive where the Giants (2-8) got their first first down of the game. With Shepard still in concussion protocol and Engram sidelined, Slayton could emerge as one of Jones' top targets along with Golden Tate -- who also had a big day (four receptions, 95 yards, two TDs). The Giants' run game was nonexistent once again on Sunday. Since returning from a high-ankle sprain -- suffered earlier this season -- Saquon Barkley hasn't shown flashes of his old self. Barkley had 13 carries for one yard against the Jets; in total the Giants put up 23 rushing yards. Twenty-three! Obviously the injury-depleted offense and sloppy play continues to haunt the Giants offense.
- Like the Giants, the Jets' run game was also stagnant. Leading into the tilt, there was concern about Le'Veon Bell's availability and productivity after sustaining a knee injury last week. But Bell toted the ball 18 times for 34 yards (plus 34 receiving yards) and added one TD for Gang Green. Bell's performance was another disappointing outing (and stat line) for those hoping to see Bell of the Steelers' days. As for the passing game, Sam Darnold threw for 19-of-30 for 230 yards with one passing TD and a keeper. His performance wasn't pretty but the young QB is starting to appear more confident now, tossing to Demaryius Thomas and Jamison Crowder.
-- Andie Hagemann
- While Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians welcomed his former team, it was a true homecoming for the Buccaneers, who played at Raymond James Stadium for the first time since Week 3. For the first time since Week 13 of last season, the Buccaneers won a home game, as Jameis Winston captained a 30-27 comeback over Kyler Murray and the Cardinals in a battle of former Heisman winners at quarterback. Jameis was Jameis, delivering the good, bad and ugly that's been his roller coaster of a calling card for the Buccaneers (3-6). Peyton Barber's one-yard score with 1:47 left stood as the game-winner, but the winning march was kick-started by a Winston-to-Chris Godwin 49-yard hook-up. However, it was Winston's only completion on the drive against the Cardinals (3-6-1). Still, he was able to throw passes for a pair of defensive pass-interference calls that motored the Bucs downfield. Winston, who surpassed 300 yards for the fourth game in a row, continued his reign as the king of the ugly 300-yard game, throwing for 358 yards and completing 30 of 48 attempts for one score, two interceptions and a 74.8 rating. The Bucs returned home and snapped a four-game skid. Arians bested his former franchise and Winston turned in another entertaining afternoon -- and this time a victorious one.
- Sometimes football doesn't add up. The Bucs had three turnovers. The Cardinals had two. Murray outplayed Winston. But it was the Buccaneers who came out on the winning end. Murray had one of his finest days yet. He scrambled, ran when he needed to, passed for 324 yards and threw three touchdowns, all to Christian Kirk (who had a huge breakout day of six catches for 138 yards and three scores). On the same day in which he set a new rookie record for the most pass attempts without an interception, Murray threw his first pick since Week 4. The Cardinals lost their third straight game. It ended with consecutive Murray incompletions and came just short of truly being a signature game for the rookie signal-caller. But loss or not, Sunday was a telling account of why the Cardinals used the top pick to take Murray.
- Most certainly, the Buccaneers can stop the run. Though they entered Sunday as the 31st-ranked scoring defense, the Bucs were tops against the run and feasted upon the Cardinals. In total, the Cardinals ran for only 75 yards, with the fleet feet of Murray carrying for a team-high 38 yards. At the end of the first half, Arizona had just 35 yards on the ground, most of it coming on a Murray 32-yard scamper. Upon his return, David Johnson had five carries for two yards, while Kenyan Drake, just a week removed from a dynamic Arizona debut, was held to 35 yards on 10 carries. Shaq Barrett (who had a sack and has a league-high 11.5) had rightfully drawn plenty of praise, but the run-stopping bunch of Bucs, such as linebacker Lavonte David and defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, put in a strong Sunday's worth of work.
-- Grant Gordon
- The Dolphins' offense looked decent in the first half, with Ryan Fitzpatrick hitting seven different receivers for 122 yards and using his legs to score from 11 yards out. And then the production fell off a cliff in the third quarter -- a net gain of negative-14 total yards -- leading to defense and special teams doing just enough to help Miami eke out a 16-12 win. The fourth quarter began with a Fitzpatrick pick and a seven-play, 34-yard Colts TD drive to take a 12-10 lead with 11:34 to go. A couple of rushes from Kalen Ballage and a 4-of-6 Fitzpatrick stretch for 47 yards got the Fins back on track on the ensuing series and set the stage for a 48-yard Jason Sanders FG. Cornerback Nik Needham came away with an interception on the first play following the kickoff, and Sanders again connected from 48 yards for the eventual game-winning points. Fitzpatrick finished 21-of-33 for 169 yards and an INT; Ballage contributed 43 yards on 20 carries; and wideout DeVante Parker posted five catches (on 10 targets) for a game-high 69 yards. The defense took advantage of an ailing Colts offense, accruing six QB hits, three INTs and nine PDs but saw LB Jerome Baker (sack, eight combined tackles, FF) exit with an injury in the third, a lowlight for what was an overall positive day for the struggling Dolphins (2-7).
- All Brian Hoyer and no Jacoby Brissett makes the Colts a dull offense. With their QB1 sidelined for the first time this season with a knee injury, the Colts (5-4) called upon Hoyer to fill the void. Hoyer, who hadn't started a game since Week 10, 2017, had a tough go of it in his first start for the team, finishing 18-of-39 for 204 yards, a TD and three INTs. Hoyer's difficult day was made worse by the fact that the receiving corps was without top receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) for a second straight week and WR Parris Campbell (hand), leaving TEs Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle to pick up the slack. The duo combined for eight catches (15 targets) for 110 yards and a Doyle TD that nearly won them the game. Marlon Mack contributed 19 carries for 74 yards but, in the end, the team couldn't overcome Hoyer's turnovers and the loss of Brissett.
- Games like this make you wish Darius Leonard had been healthy all season. Week 10 marked Leonard's fifth game of the season after a concussion kept the Colts LB out of action in Weeks 3-5. In his third home game of the season, Leonard was a wrecking ball against the Dolphins, tallying a sack, forced fumble, two pass deflections, an interception that ended with a trip to the end zone that probably should've counted and a season-high 13 combined tackles (11 solo, two for a loss). It's disheartening to see a defense that ranks 13th in total defense lose to the 29th-ranked offense but this one really could've gone either way, and Leonard's effort nearly swung things in the Colts' favor.
-- Jelani Scott