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What we learned from Sunday's Week 7 games

Week 7 brought us a handful of historic performances. Aaron Rodgers threw for five touchdowns -- and ran for one, too -- in Green Bay's win over Oakland. Marvin Jones hauled in four touchdowns but tallied less than 100 receiving yards in Detroit's loss to Minnesota. The 49ers and Redskins played just the fifth 9-0 game in NFL history and the quickest game (2 hours, 36 minutes) since 2009! Here's what we learned from a weird weekend of football:

  1. The most highly anticipated matchup of the week was over in six minutes. A week's worth of pregame hype and analysis gone in 360 seconds. Dallas' defense forced two fumbles on Philadelphia's first two possessions (one on Dallas Goedert, one on Carson Wentz) and turned both into first-quarter touchdowns; Tavon Austin earned a rare touch on the ground and juked Orlando Scandrick into a vortex on his rushing score, before Ezekiel Elliott (111 yards) banged home a goal-line rush for his TD minutes later. Playing from behind out of the gate, Philly (3-4) never recovered from that early two-score deficit, surrendering 27 first-half points (the most of the Doug Pederson era), and Dallas (4-3) rolled over its division rival to take a one-game lead in the NFC East. This race is not over by any stretch of the imagination; even the Giants have an opportunity to compete with these injury-riddled sides. But Dallas' victory gives the Cowboys a 3-0 division record, while no other team has more than one such win, and gives them their first "respectable" win of the season. Sunday's assured triumph doesn't quite right the wrongs of Dallas' three-game losing streak, but it sets the Cowboys up for success in the near future and keeps the online wolves howling for Jason Garrett's firing at bay.
  1. Welcome back, Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins. Sunday night saw this quartet's return to Kellen Moore's offense after all four players sat out all or most of Dallas' surprising defeat to the Jets in Week 6. The results were encouraging. Cooper caught all five of his targets for 106 yards, including one brilliant 44-yard catch over a blanketing Jalen Mills. Cobb picked up two first downs on first-half scoring drives. Smith and Collins kept Dak Prescott (239 yards) relatively clean, though the former was called for a TD-negating holding penalty. Unfortunately, for four to stay on offense, two had to go on defense. Leighton Vander Esch and Robert Quinn both exited this one with neck and ribs injuries, respectively. Quinn's loss was particularly disappointing, as the defensive end had just notched a sack and a pass defensed on consecutive plays before his exit; the engine of Dallas' pass rush, he has six sacks on the season in five games played. Only injuries can desecrate this playoff-caliber roster to the point of non-contention. The football gods are experimenting with such a reality.
  1. Pederson said Monday his Eagles were going to go down to Dallas, "win that football game" and take first place in the NFC East. They did not. While falling flat on national television just days after making such a confident proclamation is embarrassing, it does not mean the season is over. However, there are disturbing trend-lines. The secondary, with or without the healthy Jalen Mills, continues to be picked on. Wentz is playing recklessly (three turnovers) and inefficiently. Injuries are piling up; Jason Peters, DeSean Jackson and Nigel Bradham were inactive, Ronald Darby didn't play and both Fletcher Cox and Hassan Ridgeway missed time Sunday night with ailments. Philly's schedule is unforgiving, too; the Eagles' next four opponents boast a combined record of 19-7. In a deep NFC, winning the East might be Philadelphia's only shot to crack the postseason. The Eagles did little on Sunday evening to guarantee that future.

*-- Jeremy Bergman *

  1. Wesley Woodyard had not registered a forced fumble since 2015. I'll give you a moment to read that again... OK, now that you're all caught up, how unreal is it that this game ended the way it did? If you're a Chargers fan with a weak stomach, you may want to look away because this is the part where we recap what happened. Situated on the TEN 1 with 19 seconds to go, Chargers RB Melvin Gordon -- in only his third game of the year after a summer-long holdout -- attempted to plow his way into the endzone, only for Woodyard to jar the ball loose. Titans defensive end Jurrell Casey, hellbent on decorating his locker with a game ball, recovered it for a touchback, icing a dramatic three-point victory for Tennessee. Woodyard's strip and Casey's scoop punctuated what was an overall impressive day for the Titans' D. Cornerback Logan Ryan notched eight tackles, a forced fumble and three pass deflections, including a major breakup against Keenan Allen on a deep pass to the endzone with 49 seconds remaining. Rashaan Evans recorded a game-high 10 tackles and 2019 first-rounder Jeffery Simmons earned the team's only sack in his first appearance after tearing his ACL in August. Coordinator Dean Pees has a lot to be excited about after such a gritty win but, if Woodyard and Casey don't clinch the game with their heroics, the outcome of this one likely would've been very different.
  1. The Gordon fumble will be the headline but the Chargers' offensive struggles started way before the game-sealing turnover. Prior to that play, L.A. had three shots at a TD: the deep Allen pass, an Austin Ekeler catch-and-run that was downed at the TEN 1 and Gordon's first goal line carry that was originally called a score but reversed after he was ruled down by contact. Prior to that, the Chargers' offense spent all of the fourth quarter trying to climb out of the hole they were firmly entrenched in all evening. After accumulating 190 yards of total offense in the first half, the Chargers possessed the ball for 3:35 and managed just two yards in the third. Ekeler and Gordon, who combined for 32 rushing yards before halftime, added seven for the rest of the night. Despite the poor play, the Chargers were down 16-10 early in the fourth; a passionate Philip Rivers (24-of-38, 329 yards, 2 TDs) worked double overtime to set-up two scoring drives to cut the lead but it was too little, too late. Just another reminder of why avoiding self-inflicted mistakes are so important.
  1. Ryan Tannehill is by no means new to being a QB1, and the veteran journeyman made sure to make the most of his fresh start in Tennessee. In his first start as a Titan, Tannehill threw for 312 yards (23-of-29), two TDs and a pick en route to snapping the team's two-game losing streak. The last time Tannehill threw for 300-plus yards was as a member of the Dolphins in 2016. Perhaps Mike Vrabel's decision this past week to bench Marcus Mariota was a good idea? Though Chargers DE Joey Bosa (two sacks, six tackles, QB hit) made his life nightmarish, Tannehill showed competent chemistry with receivers Corey Davis (six catches, 80 yards, TD) and A.J. Brown (six catches, 64 yds), as well as TE Jonnu Smith (three catches, 64 yards). The 24-year-old Smith replaced vet Delanie Walker who exited in the first half after re-aggravating the ankle injury that had him questionable coming into Week 7. Running back Derrick Henry eased Tannehill's burden, as well, with his 90 yards and a TD on 22 carries, a bounce-back outing after going for 28 yards against Denver last week.

*-- Jelani Scott *

  1. The MVP favorite entering Week 7, Russell Wilson was no match for his counterpart on Sunday afternoon in Seattle. Lamar Jackson bounced back from an inconsistent first half to captain one of the most impressive second halves a quarterback has played this season. After going three-and-out on the Ravens' first possession out of halftime, Baltimore took a lead it would not relinquish on two lengthy march, both of which bore the mobile Jackson's mark. The first, which took 11 plays and 5:26 and traveled 57 yards, ended on two Jackson runs, the second going for six. After sending the FG unit on a fourth-and-2 from Seattle's 8, Ravens coach John Harbaugh called a timeout after Jackson affirmed on the sideline he could pick up the first down and break the 13-13 tie. Harbaugh trusted his QB and the odds and called a designed single-wing run; Jackson converted and then some, gliding into the end zone for what would be the game-winning score. Baltimore started its next drive on its own 10 and, after being backed up to its 5, racked off a 13-play, 86-yard drive that lasted a full nine minutes and featured just one third-down conversion. A patient Jackson extended the drive with a 30-yard third-down run, a 13-yard second-down scamper and a 20-yard sidearm strike to Nick Boyle into the red zone. Baltimore's time-consuming march ended in a field goal, and that's all the Ravens (5-2) would need. Jackson's aerial numbers (9-of-20, 143 yards) were nothing to tweet home about, but the Ravens QB managed the second half brilliantly and topped 100 yards on the ground (116 yards) for the third time this season. The 12th Man silenced by one man.
  1. Welcome to Charm City, Marcus Peters. The newly minted Ravens cornerback, traded from the Rams midweek, started against Seattle for the second time in three weeks. This time, Peters' club notched a victory and the cornerback contributed in a big way. With Seattle up 10-6 in the second quarter, Peters jumped an ill-advised cross-field attempt from Russell Wilson to Jaron Brown and returned the interception 67 yards to the house. It was Wilson's first pick of the season and Peters' fifth pick-six of his career. Logging 61 of a possible 68 defensive snaps in his Baltimore debut, Peters wasn't the only member of the Ravens' secondary to have a standout afternoon. Marlon Humphrey enjoyed a game-sealing scoop-and-score; Brandon Carr earned a pass defensed; and Earl Thomas' impact was felt in his first return to Seattle. Without the injured Tony Jefferson, Baltimore's secondary feels reborn overnight. Go figure.
  1. Sunday marked the first time all year Wilson truly appeared flustered and hurried. Without left tackle Duane Brown (out with a biceps injury), the Seahawks QB took eight hits and completed less than 50 percent of his passes for the first time since Week 15, 2017. Wilson (241 yards) was sacked just once but struggled to complete passes downfield whilst hurried by the likes of L.J. Fort and Brandon Williams (3-of-9 on passes over 20 yards past LOS). Perhaps that anxiety about Baltimore's pressure led to Peters' crucial pick-six, which was one of two touchdowns Seattle surrendered directly off turnovers. The Seahawks (5-2) didn't play poorly as a whole but made too many poor decisions on offense and not enough big stops on defense when needed. A get-right game next week in Atlanta should help matters.

*-- Jeremy Bergman *

  1. No Alvin Kamara. No Jared Cook. Still no Drew Brees. On the road. Facing a desperate team coming off a bye. No problem for Sean Payton's squad. The Saints dominated the Bears at Soldier Field with a crushing defense, big special teams play, and a ball-control offense that churned out first downs against a suffocating D. Off the bat, the Saints "win every phase" play that has come to epitomize this team showed up with a blocked punt for a safety on the first possession of the tilt. New Orleans' defense was the best one on the field Sunday, forcing two fumbles, allowing just four first downs through three quarters, and held the Bears' offense out of the end zone until two garbage-time TDs. The only blemishes of the day were a 102-yard kick return TD by Bears' Cordarrelle Patterson and an onside-kick recovered by Chicago that made the score look closer than the play on the field showed. It mattered naught in the end. We've seen the Saints carried by Kamara with Brees out. The dynamic running back missing Sunday's tilt seemed like it could spell gloom against Chicago's D. Instead, Latavius Murry churned out 119 yards and two TDs. The offensive line dominated, opening holes and allowing just one sack and four QB hits. Teddy Bridgewater managed the game well. He missed a few open passes but didn't make mistakes and added a couple of chunk plays to stretch the defense. Sunday was a reminder that even without some of their top offensive weapons, the Saints remain a great team.
  1. Matt Nagy's offense is broken. Mitchell Trubisky, returning from a left shoulder injury, was inept. The QB couldn't make simple throws. He either airmailed wideouts repeatedly or buzzed worms with darts into the dirt. With no run game to speak of (just five attempts in the first half, seven for the game), the Bears' O was a heaping pile of steaming poo. Of Chicago's first 10 possessions, just two went five or more plays. A six-possession string running from the second and third quarters went 3-and-out, 3-and-out, 3-and-out, 1 play and fumble, 3-and-out, 3-and-out. Through three quarters, the Bears totaled 85 yards of offense and four first downs. Three garbage-time drives will make the box score better, but the product on the field was miserable to watch. The ineptitude of the offense was partially responsible for the Bears' defense being worn out by the end. The play-calling was suspect (where was the run game early in a close tilt with a QB coming back from injury?). The play of Trubisky was abysmal. Falling to 3-3 with back-to-back losses to the Raiders and a Brees/Kamara-less Saints, Chicago is now well behind in the NFC North. The offense isn't close to playoff-caliber at this point, and the Bears are wasting a great defense once again.
  1. Sean Payton is the Coach of the Year for the first half of the season. It's not particularly close. Sans Brees, the Saints have won five straight games, three of which have come on the road, including back to back tilts. If anyone says they expected the Saints get to 6-1 after Brees went down, feel free to call them a liar. Yet, Payton has done a masterful coaching job, and the New Orleans defense is a smothering hellion, keeping the Saints as the team to beat atop the NFC South. Sunday, Payton rode Murray against a stout defense and made some masterful play calls, including a freakadelic fullback-option pitch to Taysom Hill that went for 23 yards. Beating this Bears defense without Brees and Kamara underscores Payton's exquisite job through seven weeks. Keep it up, and he'll lock down the COY award before Christmas.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. Playing a dying Falcons squad is the panacea the Rams needed after three straight losses. The offense, after an anemic Week 6, looked more like the unit we are used to seeing under Sean McVay. Jared Goff looked comfortable in the pocket against a Falcons pass rush that couldn't take advantage of a struggling Rams O-line. Goff tossed several dimes en route to two TDs on 22-of-37 passing for 268 yards, including a picture-perfect throw that Todd Gurley marvelously hauled in for the first touchdown of the game -- the RB's first receiving score since Week 8, 2018. After being stupefied last week, L.A. converted 8-of-16 third downs and punted just once on its first five possessions of the game. The run game continues to come and go behind some mediocre blocking, but was able to churn out yards late in the blowout. When Goff isn't under heavy pressure, he can dice up secondaries. Facing Atlanta was the perfect opponent for the QB and the rest of the offense to right the ship, moving to 4-3 before a game against the winless Bengals next Sunday.
  1. The Rams' midweek blockbuster trade for Jalen Ramsey pitted the star corner against all-world receiver Julio Jones for the first time. While the Rams suggested they would bring Ramsey along slowly, DC Wade Phillips deployed Ramsey liberally early in the contest against Jones. Jalen Ramsey played 26 of 31 snaps (83.9%) in the first half, per Next Gen Stats. Ramsey lined up against Julio Jones on 17 of his 26 snaps (65%) through two quarters allowing three receptions for 69 yards, per NGS. With the second-half blowout, L.A. was able to rest Ramsey late. He played 36 of 52 snaps on the game -- 30 of the first 36. Julio still made several plays against Ramsey downfield, but it was easy to see how the Rams plan to use the corner to help boost the pass defense. Phillips brought heat on Matt Ryan and rolled coverage elsewhere with Ramsey mostly one-on-one against Jones. Dante Fowler had a monster game, compiling three sacks, three tackles for loss, a pass defended, a forced fumble and wrecking several other plays. Aaron Donald was again in the middle of everything, including a strip-sack of Ryan, during which the QB was injured. Shutting down an Atlanta offense that came in putting up big numbers is exactly what McVay and Co. wanted to see after acquiring Ramsey for a hefty price tag.
  1. The Falcons are a hot mess. Ryan hobbled off with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter and was ruled out. Running back Devonta Freeman got ejected for throwing a punch at Aaron Donald. Who tries to fight Aaron freaking Donald? Before all that, it was another listless performance from Dan Quinn's team, which dropped its fifth straight to fall to 1-6. The defensive front couldn't find pressure if it was sitting at the bottom of the ocean. The secondary allows pass-catchers to gallop wide open. The offensive line has more turnstiles than an amusement park. The offense converted a sad 3-of-12 third downs and netted just 224 total yards. Matt Schaub led the only TD drive of the game in garbage time. The final Rams punt summed up the mess, with Russell Gage fumbling and L.A. recovering in the end zone to cap a laughable blowout in Atlanta. By all reports, the Falcons hoped to avoid an in-season coaching change. The on-field performances might not allow that desire to ride much longer. Quinn feels like a dead man walking a plank that is getting shorter by the week.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. Sixty minutes of Josh Allen playing football is an adventure. With a rarely accurate rocket for an arm that could dial up an in-stride receiver as easily as an unsuspecting fan in the first row, Allen struggled early before leading a full-speed comeback that resulted in the Bills avoiding an embarrassing loss with a 31-21 victory over the winless Dolphins on Sunday. Buffalo, off to a 5-1 opening for the first time since 2008, scored on each of its first three drives, but they were all Stephen Hauschka field goals. Often missing by a mile with touchless throws, Allen continued to play the only way he seemingly knows how: rearing back and throwing his hardest, running with no fear and ultimately playing with reckless abandon. Two touchdowns, a two-point rush, 202 yards passing and a 111.4 QB rating stood as Allen's final tally. But it's the fearless way in which Allen plays that makes every outing an adventure and has made him a leader of a promising Buffalo team.
  1. Synonymous with late-great Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti smiling from ear-to-ear, a glass of bubbly in his hand surrounded by a gathering of former teammates, the 1972 Dolphins have had a tradition of celebrating every year after the last undefeated team falls to the wayside. It's unclear just how much celebrating will be done when/if the 2019 Dolphins avoid a winless season, but a most-trying of seasons for Miami failed to find its first sunshine despite ownership of a 14-9 halftime lead. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (two total TDs) and running back Mark Walton provided some first-half hope, but a pair of Fitzpatrick turnovers in the second half led to Bills scores. There was life in these Dolphins, but the season is still lifeless and concentrated on an offseason to come as Miami is 0-6 for the first time since 2011.
  1. An attempt at some razzle-dazzle to spark the offense pretty much summed up the Dolphins' day when Albert Wilson was setting up for a receiver-option pass, broke a tackle and was then gobbled up by Ed Oliver for a 10-yard loss. It was the first offensive play for the Dolphins. Miami showed a little something here and there, but the Bills defense was too much and so too was Buffalo's resilience. Tre'Davious White had an interception and a forced fumble that turned the game. And just when a little FitzMagic seemed possible with the Dolphins QB rumbling into the end zone through Micah Hyde, Hyde went vertical for an onside kick, spun and raced for six points to put the capper on the win. That was the last hope for the Dolphins, who just couldn't keep up with a resilient bunch of Bills.

-- Grant Gordon

  1. Don't look now, but the Vikings (5-2) are an offensive powerhouse -- and a balanced one at that. Kirk Cousins and Co. laid waste to an overmatched Lions defense for over 500 yards and 32 total first downs en route to posting a season-high 42 points. Minnesota did whatever it wanted to do on offense, and impressively did not suffer any drop-off after losing Adam Thielen to a hamstring injury in the first quarter. Cousins continued his aerial prowess, tossing TDs to four different receivers and connecting with Stefon Diggs (seven catches, 142 yards) for a game-clinching 66-yard bomb after the Lions made it a five-point game late in the fourth quarter. Cousins now has 10 TDs to one interception since his dreadful Week 4 performance against the Bears, and Sunday marked the first time in his career he's had back-to-back games with 300-plus passing yards and four scores.

Not do be outdone by Cousins, Dalvin Cook continued his All Pro-caliber season on the ground as he took advantage of a struggling Lions run defense for 142 yards with two touchdowns of his own. When Minnesota plays like this, there is little a defense can do as evidenced by the Vikings' four straight TD drives at one point in the game.

  1. It wasn't all roses for the Vikings, as their defense suffered its worst outing of the season and failed to slow down Matthew Stafford and Marvin Jones. Stafford found Jones for an astonishing four touchdowns as the Lions were forced to attack primarily through the air after Kerryon Johnson went down with a knee injury. Behind Stafford's strong arm, the Lions matched the Vikings score for score and entered the first half tied at 21 as Stafford also became the fastest quarterback to eclipse 40,000 career passing yards. But after seeing his defense force only two punts through three quarters, Matt Patricia went for it on fourth down from the Minnesota 41-yard line down 28-24. Stafford's pass to backup RB J.D. McKissic fell incomplete, and the Vikings scored six plays later to push their lead to 11. That sequence proved too big of a hurdle for Detroit to overcome.
  1. This week was not kind to the Lions' postseason hopes. Detroit now sits at 2-3-1 and 0-2 in the NFC North following a controversial loss to the Packers, who improved to 6-1, and Sunday's home loss. It is not an insurmountable hole, but given the strength of the division, the Lions have little margin for error going forward.

-- David Ely

  1. Thanks to the elements turning FedEx Field into the world's largest Slip 'n Slide, neither offense could get a leg up on the other. Luckily for the 49ers, kicker Robbie Gould filled that void, punching in three second-half field goals that proved to be the deciding points. The 2019 season had not been up to the 36-year-old Gould's standards; after converting 33 of his 34 FG attempts in 2018, Gould had made just nine of his 15 attempts coming into Week 7, including a 1-of-4 day against the Browns in Week 5. Gould missed wide left on a 45-yarder on his first attempt in the second quarter when the rain was still at its worst, but the veteran settled in and produced his second three-FG showing of the year. It's also worth noting that all of Gould's makes were within the 20- to 29-yard range, upping his total on the year to 6-for-6 from that distance.
  1. The weather certainly did its part in mucking up the game, but the Redskins (1-6) also deserve some credit for nearly spoiling the 49ers' undefeated season. From the onset, Washington challenged a Niners defense ranked sixth-best against the run, handing the ball off to its backfield 10 straight plays, eight of which went to Adrian Peterson. Washington's opening drive ate up eight-plus minutes of play time, but ended with a 39-yard missed FG from Dustin Hopkins. The defense then came out and got Jimmy Garoppolo off the field in six plays with constant pressure and solid coverage; they would go on to register an interception and two sacks on the day while preventing a 49ers score on their four red-zone trips. By the end of the first half, Case Keenum (5-of-7, 43 yards) had outplayed Jimmy G (3-of-10, 10 yards), Peterson had looked sharp with a game-high 57 rushing yards on 14 carries and the Redskins D had held San Fran to 68 total yards. But it proved to be short-lived; a Peterson fumble on a 'Skins drive late in the third halted the little momentum they had mustered and led to Gould's second FG. Garoppolo also got going, with nine completions on 11 attempts for 141 yards. Keenum finished 9-of-12 for 77 yards and Peterson contributed 81 yards on 20 touches.
  1. For the first time since 1990, the 49ers are 6-0, and their fearsome defense, which celebrated with belly flops on the saturated field, is once again a huge part of the story. Defensive end Nick Bosa (five tackles, sack, four tackles for a loss) once again looked like the Defensive Rookie of the Year while fellow DLs Arik Armstead and Dee Ford combined for five tackles and two sacks. The secondary also impressed in a big way for a second straight week; according to NFL Research, the 49ers have allowed 98 pass yards in their last two games combined, which gives them the third-fewest yards allowed by the team in a two-game span in the Super Bowl era and the fewest in a two-game span by the 49ers since Weeks 8-9 in 1977 (62 yards). Not bad, not bad at all.

-- Jelani Scott

  1. In a slippery bout at MetLife Stadium, the Cardinals (3-3-1) clinched a crucial road win over the Giants (2-5). The victory marked the Cards' third consecutive win and their first three-game winning streak since 2015.

All eyes were on Giants star running back Saquon Barkley, who returned to action Sunday after missing the past three games due to a high-ankle sprain. Despite coming off an injury, Barkley looked like his old self, injecting life into the Giants' offense. Dealing with precarious weather conditions, it was necessary for the Giants to run the ball. Barkley helped spell quarterback Daniel Jones' arm, toting the ball 18 times for 72 yards with one touchdown. The Giants' first quarter was full of gaffes and signal-caller Daniel Jones couldn't get into a rhythm until the second quarter. New York managed to keep the game competitive, pulling within three in the fourth, but the Cardinals' D was too much to handle. Miscues proved to be costly as Danny Dimes fumbled three times. Jones went 22 of 35 with 223 passing yards, a touchdown and interception.

  1. Cardinals running back David Johnson (ankle) was active today but it was truly the Chase Edmonds show in the Meadowlands. The backup running back, who hails from New Jersey, is a star in the making. Edmonds galloped to 126 yards on 27 carries with three TDs. Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury worked his magic to confuse the Giants defense. Prepping for Kingsbury's air-raid offense (and the veteran Johnson), the Giants on a few instances shifted formations as they anticipated the Cards going to the air. Rather, quarterback Kyler Murray handed off to Edmonds, who bolted through the Giants' D. Like Jones, Murray also had a few gaffes, including a scramble that ultimately set up for a punt-block in the end zone for a Giants TD and helped changed the momentum of the game.
  1. The Cardinals defense came to play Sunday. Patrick Peterson was in rare form in his return from his six-game suspension. The cornerback sacked Jones and had a near interception early in the tilt. Linebacker Chandler Jones had a huge game totaling a career-high four sacks and picked apart the Giants offense. In other history-making plays, Terrell Suggs recorded his first sack of Daniel Jones, who is the 75th signal-caller sacked by the 37-year-old linebacker. Perhaps it was Peterson's excitement to be back on the field, but the Cardinals defense gave a phenomenal performance and staved off a Giants comeback in the final minutes of the game.

-- Andie Hagemann

  1. In all but one season over the last decade, the AFC South crown has been worn by the Colts or Texans. When Andrew Luck shocked the sports world with his retirement, Indianapolis' status as division favorites took a hit. But Jacoby Brissett hasn't played like a backup filling in; he's performed very much like the Colts' next franchise quarterback. For the fourth time in four starts, Brissett bested the Texans, as the Colts won their first-place battle, 30-23. Indy's new QB1 was outstanding with four touchdowns, 326 yards and no interceptions. The Colts' first drive was a methodical 94-yard march that culminated with Brissett hitting Zach Pascal (six catches for 106 yards) for the first of his two touchdowns on a breakout afternoon and set the tone for a frontrunning afternoon. Brissett is now 4-0 against the Texans, but this was his first much-ballyhooed head-to-head showdown with Deshaun Watson. Watson was still very much Watson, but his two interceptions loomed large, whereas Brissett was spotless. After Sunday, the Colts (4-2) are in first place in the AFC North, just ahead of Houston (4-3), and a starting quarterback named Jacoby Brissett is quietly leading the way, putting up numbers comparable to anyone else in the game. Think back to August and truly realize how remarkable that is.
  1. In case you forgot in his absence, Darius Leonard is phenomenal; one of the best of the best when it comes to linebackers, never mind his second-season status. Gone since Week 2 with a concussion, Leonard wasted no time in making an immediate and emphatic impact. The game-high for tackles belonged to Leonard with 10 and the game-clinching interception belonged to him, as well. One of the brightest young talents in the game is back on the field.
  1. Watson did everything in his ridiculously exceptional arsenal to fend off two sacks, getting off a touchdown throw to DeAndre Hopkins in the second quarter. That's what it looked like, anyway, but a controversial call ruled the outstanding effort a sack by Justin Houston instead. Usually a cool customer, Watson was ruffled. The Texans settled for a field goal and a 7-6 deficit. In a one-score game, the play lingered large even though it came in the second quarter. Still, Watson had a chance to rally the Texans and his touchdown to Hopkins in the fourth quarter brought Houston to within 28-23, but the score was sandwiched by interceptions. For a player as stellar as Watson, his brilliance was still on stage, but a crucial call went against him and he came up short in the clutch. Even the great ones come up short every now and then.

-- Grant Gordon

  1. Coming off a two-game losing streak, the Jaguars (3-4) needed a win and came to Cincinnati and pulled one off. It was a close game for three quarters, both sides just kicking field goals. Jags quarterback Gardner Minshew had a rough start. He fumbled the ball on the first drive, though luckily it was recovered by Leonard Fournette. Then he was sacked twice by Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins, both in the first quarter. The Jaguars didn't take control of the game until Minshew finally scored a touchdown in the red zone and even converted a two-point attempt to start the fourth quarter. Minshew finished with 15-of-32 for 255 yards and a touchdown.
  1. The one good thing going for the Bengals (0-7) today was their red-zone defense. They were ranked seventh in the league going into this game. Although the Jaguars had 309 total yards compared to the Bengals' 110, Cincy was up 7-6 at halftime. They held the Jags to three field goals in three quarters. Jacksonville only scored one touchdown on six trips inside the 20.
  1. Oh, Andy Dalton. The Bengals could've won this game until Dalton threw three consecutive interceptions -- one a pick-six by Yannick Ngakoue -- all in the span of five pass attempts in the fourth quarter. The Jags outscored the Bengals 18-7 in the fourth quarter. Dalton finished 22-of-43 for 276 yards and a TD. The winless Bengals take on the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8, then they have a bye. Hopefully some good things start to happen for the Bengals in the back half of the schedule or expect some changes to happen in Cincinnati.

-- Lakisha Wesseling

  1. All season long, the Packers offense has been described as a group that would take time to find its way. When Aaron Rodgers (25-of-31, 429 yards, five pass TDs, rush TD) is in his bag like he was at home against the Raiders (3-3), though, it doesn't matter who's leading the way or who's in the way. With Davante Adams out for a third straight week with a toe injury, speedy wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling (two catches, 133 yards, TD) became the apple of Rodgers' eye -- the highlight of the day was an explosive 74-yard TD pass to MVS -- but he wasn't the only beneficiary; the gunslinger had eight completions of at least 20 yards to six different targets. Rodgers' absurd afternoon gave him his fifth career game with 3-plus passing TDs and at least one rushing TD, per NFL Research; only three other QBs have more in the Super Bowl era.
  1. Derek Carr's numbers (22-of-28, 293 yards, two TDs, INT) may not reflect a bad day, but the fifth-year QB is now the lone load-bearer of an undesirable stat. From the Green Bay two-yard line on second-and-2, Carr scrambled to the right side of the end zone and fumbled the ball forward past the pylon and out of bounds, resulting in a touchback. The Packers (6-1) would take over from their own 20 and eight plays (and a roughing the passer penalty) later, Rodgers connected with wideout Jake Kumerow for a 37-yard TD. The fumble gave Carr 23 career fumbles lost, the most in the NFL since 2014 (Carr's rookie season), per ESPN. The play also looked eerily similar to a run Carr had against the Cowboys near the end of a game in Dec. 2017 when he fumbled for a touchback after a seven-yard scramble. To make the loss even tougher to bear, Carr was replaced by Mike Glennon with the team down 42-17 late in the fourth quarter. That's got to sting. Side note: a shoutout is in order for RB Josh Jacobs (21 carries, 124 yds) and TE Darren Waller (7 rec., 126 yds, two TDs), who were both stellar in the loss.
  1. Linebackers Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith may be the most devastating pass-rushing tandem in the NFL, but LB Blake Martinez had himself a game, tying his career-high with 16 tackles. Martinez was also credited with a forced fumble on the Carr 1-yard scramble. Safety Darnell Savage (ankle) missed his second straight game but the secondary made up for his absence. Adrian Amos tallied eight tackles and two pass deflections and CB Kevin King secured his second pick of the season.

-- Jelani Scott

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