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2021 NFL season, Week 10: What we learned from Sunday's games

Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 10 of the 2021 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:

Kansas City Chiefs
2021 · 6-4-0
Las Vegas Raiders
2021 · 5-4-0

Grant Gordon's takeaways:

  1. Chiefs, Mahomes return to form (kinda sorta). Seemingly, nothing has worked this season as it once did for the Chiefs' previously high-flying, roughshod-running offense. That was not the case on Sunday night, perhaps best epitomized when Patrick Mahomes scrambled and chucked up a 38-yard jump ball to running back Darrel Williams that Williams came down with for six. It came to be just three plays after Tommy Townsend's 16-yard fake-punt pass kept the drive going. What the Chiefs had been doing for three seasons just hadn't been working this year. It did Sunday night, though. While Williams' grab might've been the most emblematic play of the Chiefs' dalliance with getting right, the usual standouts were back at it for the Chiefs, as Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce each had stellar outings. Mahomes' five touchdown tosses matched a season-high and his 406 yards were a season-high, as well. He looked sensational, as we've come to expect, and removed from weeks of struggle. He didn't have an interception for the second week in a row -- a first so far this season. And most importantly, the highlight-reel plays equated to a victory. After 10 weeks, the Chiefs are atop the AFC West, just like everyone prognosticated. Nobody predicted it would go like it has, but they're here nonetheless, and the Chiefs' and Mahomes' downfalls have not arrived. Quite the contrary. Will Sunday night be a harbinger of what's to come or was it merely a flashback to what once was? We shall see, of course, but upon this evening, it looks as though the Chiefs, all alone in first place, have begun to find their way and are remedying their ills.
  2. Are Raiders finally fatigued? This has been a season for the Raiders unseen before for really any franchise and hopefully never seen again, ranging from the disturbing and upsetting to the tragic. They have responded on and off the field in commendable fashion, led by interim coach Rich Bisaccia and quarterback Derek Carr. But it would appear the Silver and Black have begun to stumble. Las Vegas lost its second in a row, scoring 16 points or less for the fourth time and falling to 0-4 in said games. Coming off one of his worst outings of the season, Carr didn't play horribly on Sunday (23 of 35 for 261 yards, two touchdowns and an interception), but didn't play at the elite level he had been for most of the first seven weeks. And that's what the Raiders need to be successful, because the running game (50 yards on Sunday) and defense (516 total yards allowed) remain too shaky. It's a lot to ask of Carr to be sensational every week and it's a lot to ask of the Raiders to keep moving past everything off the field and succeeding on it. Fullback Alec Ingold, one of the team's leaders and just an all-around good dude, was likely lost for the season. It's far too early to say the Raiders are lost for the season, but they've arrived at a crucial point in their season on the field.
  3. Kelce continues to torch rivals. As the Chiefs' offense has struggled by its lofty standards, Kelce is still turning in another terrific season as he entered Week 10 leading all tight ends in catches and yards. That certainly wasn't going to change against the archrival Raiders, whom Kelce has terrorized for autumn after autumn. After hauling in eight catches for a game-high 119 yards, Kelce has 781 receiving yards against the Raiders since 2018, the most for any NFL player against one team, per NFL Research. In the opening quarter, Kelce had three receptions for 37 yards to ignite the K.C. offense and spur a blowout that could well be the get-right game the Chiefs need. Kelce is still producing in phenomenal form for the Chiefs, and he's still giving the Raiders fits.

Next Gen stat of the game: Patrick Mahomes became the only player this season with 360-plus passing yards and four-plus passing TDs when not under pressure in a game.

NFL Research: Mahomes recorded his 30th game with 300 or more passing yards, breaking a tie with HOFer Kurt Warner for the most such games in a player's first five NFL seasons. Mahomes finished with 406 passing yards and five touchdowns, which was the third time he's passed for 400 or more yards and thrown for five or more touchdowns in his career. Since Mahomes was drafted in 2017, the rest of the NFL's quarterbacks have combined for four such games with Tom Brady, Jared Goff, Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson each tallying one.

Carolina Panthers
2021 · 5-5-0
Arizona Cardinals
2021 · 8-2-0

Chase Goodbread's takeaways:

  1. Christian McCaffrey returned to dominant form. In his second game back since an extended injury absence, the Panthers' star running back looked much more explosive than he did a week ago against the New England Patriots. The Cardinals couldn't contain him on the perimeter -- a common failure for any defense when McCaffrey's fully healthy -- and had few answers for his rushes between the tackles as well. CMC finished with 161 total yards on 23 touches (13 carries, 10 catches) despite sitting the fourth quarter of a blowout. His presence in the lineup is downright transformative for the Panthers. Coach Matt Rhule's challenge going forward will be to balance the need to make him the centerpiece of the offense with the countervailing need to make sure he's not worn down.
  2. Cam Newton was back in the end zone as fast as he was back in the league. It certainly didn't take long for Newton's return to the NFL to make an impact. On minimal practice preparation, the Panthers' new addition made the most of a short-yardage role with a touchdown run and a TD pass in the first half. He also induced a defensive pass interference call with an underthrown deep ball in the second half, setting Carolina up with a first down at the Arizona 20. It was a feel-good comeback for the former Panther, albeit unindicative of what he might bring to the offense as a full-time starter. On that subject, P.J. Walker played well enough to give the Panthers coaching staff some confidence that he can at least remain in the short-term mix, if needed, as Newton's role begins to expand.
  3. The Cardinals offense was built for and around Kyler Murray. That notion was easy enough to forget a week ago when Colt McCoy deftly led the Cardinals to their eighth win with a 22-for-26 passing performance, but Sunday served as a sharp reminder that backups back up for a reason. McCoy struggled against one of the NFL's top defenses and gave the Panthers pass rush a more stationary target. Former Cardinal Haason Reddick notched 1.5 of Carolina's four sacks in his return to Arizona. An injured McCoy was replaced by Chris Streveler, who fared no better. Thanks to an early deficit, the Arizona running game never had a chance to take the pressure off its quarterbacks, and the Cardinals ended up with a dismal total of 169 yards. With the Rams on the Cardinals' heels in the NFC West, Murray's return can't come too soon for the Cardinals.

Next Gen stat of the week: Christian McCaffrey had 12 rushes for 85 yards versus seven or more defenders in box (7.1 avg).

NFL Research: The Cardinals have now lost their last six matchups with the Panthers by a margin of 10-plus points.

Philadelphia Eagles
2021 · 4-6-0
Denver Broncos
2021 · 5-5-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Jalen Hurts shines in first half as Eagles sprint to lead. The Eagles quarterback picked apart a Denver defense that shut down a high-powered Dallas offense last week. Hurts was calm in the pocket, not panicking or looking to scramble when his first read was covered, and diced up the Broncos secondary. Hurts made several great rifles and showed touch on the move. The signal-caller completed 15 of 20 attempts for 176 yards and two touchdowns in the first two quarters. Perhaps his best ball -- a perfect deep bomb near the end of the half -- was dropped by Quez Watkins in the end zone. DeVonta Smith was a beast early, getting open against Denver defensive backs with ease to the tune of four catches for 66 yards and two TDs in the first half. From there, the Eagles pounded Denver on the ground. Hurts attempted just three second-half passes, one completed and one bad-decision INT. Philly plowed over a tired Broncos D to the tune of 214 rushing yards on 40 attempts, 5.3 per attempt. It was a well-called game from Nick Sirianni, and the Eagles offensive line mauled Denver. The complementary football from Hurts and the ground game showed what the Eagles' offense can be when it's clicking.
  2. Broncos lay an egg. It was a classic let-down game from Vic Fangio's team after belting Dallas last week. The sixth-rated defense entering the week couldn't slow the Eagles' attack, particularly in the run game where the line was blown off the ball repeatedly. In the first half, the Broncos allowed the Eagles to generate four scoring drives with four-plus first downs. The Denver offense never found traction and sputtered time and time and time again in scoring range. The Broncos went a piddling 1-of-5 in the red zone, including two chip-shot field goals, a blocked FG and a turnover on downs. Melvin Gordon also fumbled on a fourth down in scoring range with Denver trailing by just seven points. Teddy Bridgewater was inefficient and missed too many throws behind a sieve offensive line that couldn't handle the Eagles' front four. Teddy B will also be asked about the lack of effort on a fumble recovery by Philly in which he appeared to pull up on a potential tackle. Speaking of which ...
  3. Big Play Slay does it again. With the Eagles clinging to a 20-13 lead and the Broncos driving, Philly forced a Gordon fumble on a fourth-and-1 run. Darius Slay picked up the pigskin and weaved past defenders for an 83-yard score that put the Eagles up two scores and took the life out of Denver. The massive swing is emblematic of what we've seen from the Philadelphia defense the past few weeks. The bend-but-don't-break crew controlled the line of scrimmage, and the defensive backs made tackles in the open field. Philly held Denver to a measly 1-of-11 on third downs, 0-for-2 on fourth downs, and 1-of-3 in goal-to-go situations. Fletcher Cox was a monster, generating seven QB pressures and a 25.0 QB pressure percentage, per Next Gen Stats, both season-highs.

Next Gen stat of the week: DeVonta Smith's magnificent first-quarter TD catch had a 19.0% completion probability (49.6 yards of air distance, 0.7 yards of target separation).

NFL Research: The Eagles rushed for 175-plus yards for the third consecutive game this season. It's the fourth time Philly has rushed for 175-plus yards in consecutive games in the Super Bowl era.

Minnesota Vikings
2021 · 4-5-0
Los Angeles Chargers
2021 · 5-4-0

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. The Vikings faced their fears and beat them Sunday. Minnesota reached halftime with a three-point lead -- a position it's found itself in earlier this season, but hasn't been able to maintain -- and the nervousness started to creep in. It intensified when the Chargers covered 75 yards in 10 plays, finishing the drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Justin Herbert to Austin Ekeler. Here we go again. But then, the Vikings responded, and the way they did so is what matters most. Minnesota covered 66 yards on nine plays and capped it with an unlikely touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal to Tyler Conklin (his second of the day). Then, the Vikings forced a punt and replicated the drive with another more methodical march that included multiple third-down conversions and sent a statement to the Chargers by running the ball on eight of the drive's 12 plays. Slamming it across the goal line with Dalvin Cook sent a message: We dare you to try to stop us. Los Angeles responded with a field goal drive, then didn't touch the ball again. Finally, the Vikings closed out a game in a fashion their fans have been waiting to see. It might be a blueprint for the future.
  2. Early season flowers for Brandon Staley have wilted. The Chargers have lost three of their last four games and have gone from an explosive offense capable of putting plenty of points on the board to a unit that hasn't broken 28 points in the last month. The defensive-minded Staley has seen his defense give up at least 24 points in each of the last five games. On Sunday, his defense couldn't get a stop on any of its final three series, giving up consecutive long touchdown drives and then failing to get the ball back after giving up third- and fourth-down conversions. Staley, a noted proponent of going for it on fourth down, chose to take the three points when trailing by 10, putting the onus on his defense to get the ball back for the Chargers. While it makes sense mathematically, it seemed passive for a coach like Staley, especially when his defense wasn't able to force a punt from the midpoint of the third quarter onward. The Chargers have shown they have the potential to win games, but they haven't seized the opportunity to take control of the AFC West. They are trailing Kansas City in the division by a half-game, and only have themselves to blame.
  3. Sunday was a highlight for Minnesota's key playmakers. Justin Jefferson caught nine passes for 143 yards, including a few fantastic grabs that came in key situations and ultimately helped the Vikings seal the victory. Adam Thielen added five catches for 65 yards, and his final reception set up the Vikings for a fourth-and-1 they converted on a toss to Cook, who carried the ball 24 times for 94 yards and a rushing score. Even Conklin got involved, turning two of his three receptions into touchdowns. It was a team effort to take home the win Sunday, and the Vikings should be proud of all of their key players -- including Kirk Cousins, who finished with 294 yards, two touchdowns and a 109.5 passer rating -- for getting the job done.

Next Gen stat of the game: Justin Jefferson caught five of his six targets of 10-plus air yards, gaining 114 yards on those receptions.

NFL Research: Kirk Cousins owns the best TD-INT ratio in the NFL this season (18-2), which stands as the best TD-INT ratio in a season in Vikings history (minimum 200 pass attempts) and also includes a perfect 12-0 ratio in five road games this season.

Green Bay Packers
2021 · 8-2-0
Seattle Seahawks
2021 · 3-6-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson struggle in returns. Both quarterbacks looked rusty on a snow-flecked afternoon at Lambeau Field. Coming off finger surgery, Wilson was particularly inefficient on the day, missing throws high, low and behind receivers. The Seahawks quarterback completed just 20 of 40 attempts for 161 yards and two interceptions and took three sacks. Rodgers, who missed last week after a positive COVID-19 test, likewise missed several passes, particularly behind targets, and seemed to have miscommunications with receivers that plagued the Packers offense until late. Rodgers finished 23-of-37 for 292 yards and one INT. Much of Rodgers' production came on short throws on which his targets generated YAC. A-Rod completed just 1 of 5 deep passes for 41 yards and an INT, per Next Gen Stats. The two offenses led by Pro Bowl quarterbacks generated a paltry three total points through three quarters. The struggles of the star QBs were highlighted by back-to-back drives that ended in each throwing an end-zone INT while under pressure. They are the types of miscues we're not used to seeing from two of the game's top signal-callers.
  2. Packers D dominates once again. This week a sterling performance by the Green Bay defense was rewarded with a shutout victory. The unit was the perfect cocktail of complementary play. The defensive front, led by Preston Smith's six QB pressures, battered and bullied the Seahawks offensive line, making Wilson's life miserable. And the secondary stuck to Seahawks receivers like mites on a bird. Even without star corner Jaire Alexander, the Packers' defensive backs locked down every attempt by Seattle to puncture deep. They held DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to a measly five catches on 16 targets for 49 yards. The Packers D frustrated Metcalf to such a point the big wideout was ejected late after an altercation.
  3. A.J. Dillon is a bulldozing menace. With the Packers' offense unable to cash in on multiple trips into the red zone, it was Dillon who ended the nonsense when he dragged Bobby Wagner into the end zone on a mean 3-yard run to put Green Bay up 10-zip in the fourth quarter and all but ended the game. Dillon added another 2-yard TD blast for good measure. The big back showed power between the tackles and nimbleness in space, catching a short pass and rumbling for 50 yards on the final scoring drive. Dillon gobbled up 128 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns on 23 total touches. The RB's importance will be highlighted in the coming weeks after Aaron Jones went down with what is believed to be a sprained MCL. Luckily for the 8-2 Packers, Dillon is capable of handling the load if Jones is sidelined for a long spell.

Next Gen stat of the game: Russell Wilson went 0 for 7 with an interception on deep passes (the most deep attempts for Wilson without completion in NGS era, since 2016) and just 2 of 15 for 34 yards, 2 INTs on passes of 10-plus air yards (the second game for Wilson with 0 TD and multiple INTs on such passes since 2016).

NFL Research: Sunday marked the first time in Russell Wilson's 150 career regular-season starts that the Seahawks have been shut out. It's the first shutout for the Seahawks since a defeat at Pittsburgh in Week 2 of the 2011 season, Pete Carroll's second season with the club -- the late Tarvaris Jackson was the QB.

Dallas Cowboys
2021 · 7-2-0
Atlanta Falcons
2021 · 4-5-0

Chase Goodbread's takeaways:

  1. The boys are back. The ingredients for a big pile of points for the Cowboys were all there Sunday, from the return of wide receiver Michael Gallup from injury, to the bounce-back factor coming off an ugly performance against the Broncos, to the Falcons' soft defense. It all manifested to generate a 43-3 rout that would've been worse had Dallas not emptied the bench. Dak Prescott had more than enough time to throw against the NFL's worst pass rush, and the Cowboys have far too many offensive weapons for Atlanta to handle. The Falcons' budding star at cornerback, A.J. Terrell, is only one man. For Prescott, this was target practice.
  2. Armstrong makes his splash. With both Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory injured, the Dallas pass rush came into the game severely short-handed. But it wasn't standout rookie Micah Parsons, who's been called on for pass-rush help, who made up the difference on Sunday. Instead it was career backup Dorance Armstrong, who recorded his first sack of the season when he beat rookie left guard Jalen Mayfield with an inside move. He also came up with three pressures. Add in his blocked punt just before halftime that created a touchdown, and Armstrong enjoyed a career-best afternoon for the Cowboys.
  3. Matt Ryan deserves better than this Atlanta team. It's true enough that a good quarterback is a must to play championship football in the NFL, but the Falcons continue to prove that a good quarterback alone isn't nearly enough. The pass protection is spotty, the running game is an afterthought and the defense is porous. The Ryan-to-Kyle Pitts connection continues to strengthen, and Cordarrelle Patterson's rebirth is legit, but without better line play and without WR Calvin Ridley, the Falcons offense is not hard to contain. Ryan didn't play well, to be sure (9 of 21, two interceptions), but this Atlanta team needs more of an identity than Ryan constantly navigating third-and-longs. He's plenty good enough to win games with an effective supporting cast, but on Sunday, he was way short on help.

Next Gen stat of the game: Dak Prescott now has 16 touchdown passes against the blitz this season, most in the NFL.

NFL Research: With the Cowboys pulling their starters early, the Falcons still have yet to allow a 300-yard passer this season. Only the Bills and Packers entered Week 10 able to make the same claim.

Buffalo Bills
2021 · 6-3-0
New York Jets
2021 · 2-7-0

Chase Goodbread's takeaways:

  1. The Bills offense is back on track. Consider last week's ugly 9-6 loss to the Jaguars an effective wake-up call for the Buffalo offense. Josh Allen certainly didn't hit the snooze button on Sunday in carving up the Jets for 366 passing yards on 21-of-28 passing, consistently finding targets deep downfield for big-chunk gains. Stefon Diggs averaged 20 yards per catch with a long of 57, and Gabe Davis averaged 35 with a long of 49. It was an aerial assault the likes of which the entire AFC should fear from Allen. Meanwhile, the Bills defense came up with five takeaways to extend the NFL's best turnover differential. Yes, it came against the Jets, but when Allen is hot, the Bills look like the league's most complete team.
  2. Jets QB Mike White was overwhelmed by the Bills defense. The Mike White Experiment enters a new phase now that the career backup has been exposed in a way that adds a reality check to the Jets' quarterback quandary. White threw four interceptions and could never find any rhythm against a Bills defense that blanketed his receivers downfield and were all over most of the checkdowns. With the season all but lost and rookie Zach Wilson nearing the end of his injury recovery, have we seen the last of White for the season? Is it Joe Flacco time? Whatever the move, this was not the sort of performance White wants to end on.
  3. Diggs had a field day against the Jets secondary. The Bills' star receiver caught eight passes for 162 yards against the Jets for his best game of the season and his first 100-yard game in more than a month. It didn't help the Jets' cause that Brandin Echols went out with an injury. His replacement, Javelin Guidry, struggled with Diggs even more and allowed a touchdown pass to Diggs just before halftime. Diggs is too quick and too sure-handed for any secondary that doesn't have an elite cornerback, and that includes New York's. The Jets defense, bad all season, is of late reaching a new depth of bad. Over its previous three games, the Jets D allowed 43 points and 467 yards per game; in this one, 45 and 489.

Next Gen stat of the game: Josh Allen compiled 305 passing yards on play-action passes, the second-highest total of the Next Gen Stats era, behind Jared Goff (326, Week 4 of 2018).

NFL Research: The Bills won by 25-plus points for the sixth time since 2020, most in the NFL.

Tennessee Titans
2021 · 8-2-0
New Orleans Saints
2021 · 5-4-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Titans survive another heavyweight bout. The AFC leaders hung on late to win their sixth straight game and fifth in a row against playoff teams from a year ago. Tennessee took advantage of Saints miscues, turning a fumbled kickoff to open the second half into a TD to take a 20-6 lead. The Titans' offense struggled sans Derrick Henry, generating 264 total yards, 66 on the ground. No Tennessee running back carried for a gain longer than six yards, with D'Onta Foreman (2.7 yards per carry), Adrian Peterson (2.6 YPC), and Jeremy McNichols (1.8 YPC) all stymied at the line of scrimmage. The lack of a grinding run game kept the Saints close into the fourth quarter. With A.J. Brown (1/16) silenced, Ryan Tannehill did his best to spread the ball around. Tennessee's offense befuddled New Orleans with crossing routes. Marcus Johnson (5/100) feasted, beating Marshon Lattimore several times. Once again, it wasn't a pretty game from Tennessee. But who cares what it looks like. The Titans are playing complementary playoff football, pounding quality opponents.
  2. Saints offense looked lost without Alvin Kamara. For most of the first three quarters, the Saints struggled to gain traction without their star running back. Save for a couple of chunk gains, Trevor Siemian's chemistry with his receivers remains a work in progress, and the QB took some brutal sacks. The veteran QB bounced back in the fourth quarter, making some great throws to the boundary on two scoring drives to get the Saints back into the game. However, questionable red zone play-calling from New Orleans ultimately sealed its fate, as it had to settle for a 20-yard field goal after six tries to punch it in failed. The Saints also suffered from brutal miscues, including two bad missed PATs to set up the loss. Tight end Adam Trautman's false start on a potential game-tying two-point attempt late summed up the Saints' afternoon.
  3. Jeffery Simmons continues his All-Pro season. The big man is finally being noticed nationally for destroying offenses every week. Simmons lived in the backfield, generating two sacks, two tackles for loss, a batted pass and three QB pressures. Give the beast his due! The entire Titans defense stood tall, making life difficult for the Saints' offense, particularly in the red zone. The defensive front didn't allow the Saints to run between the tackles near the goal line and squeezed receivers. Holding New Orleans to a FG on a long red zone sequence and negating a two-point try proved the difference for the streaking Titans.

Next Gen stat of the game: Ryan Tannehill averaged 6.1 air yards per attempt and an average time to throw of 2.58 seconds, which was slightly improved from 4.3 air YPA and 2.43 TTT in Week 9 at Rams, but notably worse than the 7.9 air yards per attempt, 2.68 seconds time to throw from Weeks 1-8. He has no deep completions in two games since Derrick Henry's injury (0-2 in Week 10).

NFL Research: The Titans' five-game win streak over playoff teams from last season matches the 2003 Philadelphia Eagles as the only other team to win five consecutive games versus postseason teams from the previous year.

New England Patriots
2021 · 6-4-0
Cleveland Browns
2021 · 5-5-0

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. Bill Belichick's well-earned reputation as a strategic master shined through. Cleveland found offensive success on exactly one possession -- its first -- before Belichick's defense put the clamps on Kevin Stefanski's offense for the rest of the day. Belichick played all of the hits to great success: Load up against the run on early downs, take away mostly everything quick underneath, attack right tackle Blake Hance on third-and-long. Offensively, coordinator Josh McDaniels dominated Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods, proving to be a step ahead of Cleveland throughout the afternoon by negating Myles Garrett's presence with a simple approach: double-team or chip the defensive end, run away from his side and attack the flats beyond his range. By the time the clock hit triple zeroes, New England emerged with an easy, convincing win capped in perfect fashion with Jakobi Meyers' first career touchdown. Heck, even Brian Hoyer outperformed both of Cleveland's quarterbacks, throwing for 85 yards and a touchdown on just three completions. The Patriots outclassed the Browns on Sunday, plain and simple.
  2. As soon as Cleveland lost Nick Chubb, the Browns had to know they were fighting an uphill battle. Following an 11-play, 84-yard touchdown march to open the game, the Browns lacked offensive punch for the rest of the day. Cleveland finished with 217 total yards of offense, converted 1 of 11 first downs, lost the time of possession battle by roughly eight minutes and turned the ball over once via an ugly Baker Mayfield interception. The Patriots added insult to injury by knocking Mayfield out of the game and running up the score in the final quarter, finishing off a dominant performance against a Cleveland defense that became a sieve Sunday. A Week 10 loss doesn't count for more than any other defeat, but this one had the feeling of a potentially destructive failure. Cleveland looked more like a bottom-feeder than a team still in the thick of its divisional race. The Browns have a lot of soul searching to do after this loss, and there aren't any clear answers -- not even the return of Chubb -- in sight.
  3. The Patriots might not be a 38-point-margin-of-victory-type of team, but Sunday's result isn't a surprise. New England has played complementary football in each of its last four games -- all victories -- and Sunday served as the pinnacle of such performance. The Patriots were sharp on offense, with Mac Jones setting career-high marks in completion percentage (82.6), passing touchdowns (three) and passer rating (142.1). Rhamondre Stevenson was a bully on the ground, gaining five yards per carry (100 yards total) and scoring two touchdowns. And New England's stifling defense was so effective, it had a full final quarter to enjoy the fruits of its labor, seen smiling and laughing through their facemasks while savoring a dominant performance. Jones is officially a legitimate quarterback and he's part of a team that is strong in every phase of the game. The rest of the AFC should be on notice.

Next Gen stat of the game: Mac Jones posted his highest completion rate over expected (+16.2%) in a game in his career.

NFL Research: Jones became the first Patriots rookie quarterback with three or more passing touchdowns in a game since Drew Bledsoe did so in 1993. Jones is also the first Patriots rookie quarterback to throw three passing touchdowns and go without an interception in the franchise's history.

Indianapolis Colts
2021 · 5-5-0
Jacksonville Jaguars
2021 · 2-7-0

Michael Baca's takeaways:

  1. Too close for comfort in Indianapolis. The Colts squeaked by Jacksonville in a game in which they led 17-0 after 12 minutes of play. Jonathan Taylor started a would-be blowout with a 34-yard run on the game's first play, then Zaire Franklin blocked a punt which E.J. Speed returned for a touchdown before Taylor scored the Colts' lone offensive TD in that sequence. The Jags simply forced Carson Wentz to beat them from the second quarter on, and the strategy worked with the Colts QB struggling with inaccurate, hesitant throws. Wentz finished 22-of-34 for 180 yards (5.3 yards per completion) with no TDs or interceptions and, while Taylor (21/116/1) got over the 100-yard mark again, the Colts offense was figured out rather easily.
  2. Kwity Paye highlights a defensive win. The game essentially ended with rookie Dayo Odeyingbo strip-sacking Trevor Lawrence late in the fourth quarter on the Jags' final possession, and it was the rightful way to secure a win by virtue of a Colts unit that saved the day. The Colts had 10 QB hits and three sacks of Lawrence, who mustered just 162 yards passing. Paye, the Colts' first-round rookie, highlighted the group with the first sack of his career in the third quarter and maintained the pressure on Lawrence with three QB hits, one coming on the Jags' final drive.
  3. Young Jaguars defense keeps fighting. As mentioned before, the Colts offense was suffocated by a Jags defense that kept its energy up when down 17 points in the first quarter. Jacksonville forced three consecutive three-and-outs to stop the early bleeding, focusing its attention on stopping a potent rushing attack with sure-handed tackling and a defensive line plugging the gaps. The unit ultimately was failed by its offense with Lawrence struggling to complete passes downfield. Jamal Agnew, the team's Swiss Army knife of sorts, had another solid game highlighted by a 66-yard TD run that set the franchise's record as the longest from a wide receiver -- if that's what he truly is.

Next Gen Stat of the game: Jamal Agnew reached 21.62 MPH on his 66-yard rushing TD (fourth-fastest in NFL on a rush this season).

NFL Research: Agnew is the first player in the Super Bowl era with a rushing TD, receiving TD, kick return TD and FG return TD in a single season, and the second player in NFL history to accomplish that feat since HOF Timmy Brown in 1962.

Detroit Lions
2021 · 0-8-1
Pittsburgh Steelers
2021 · 5-3-1

Jelani Scott's takeaways:

  1. 16-all. Football purists may hate it, but Lions-Steelers will go down as the first tie of the 2021 season. The dreary weather set the stage for a gritty game that saw both teams struggle to maintain an edge all afternoon. Pittsburgh and Detroit finished a combined 11-for-35 on third down and with 682 total yards of offense on 28 possessions. The Steelers' first and only trip to the end zone came at the end of a healthy 10-play, 83-yard drive to begin the game; only two of their next 12 drives would produce over 50 yards. Detroit would earn its 16 by way of two second-quarter drives and a quick boomer of a series to start the third. Seven of the Lions' eight ensuing drives ended in punts, the other a terrible shank of a field goal attempt by Ryan Santoso that could've lifted Detroit to its first win. In the end, the ugly affair resulted in both teams adding a one to a column best left empty.
  2. Steelers can't chase down a win without Big Ben (and Claypool). Losing Ben Roethlisberger (COVID-19) and Chase Claypool (toe) firmly placed the Steelers' backs against the wall. And the end result provided a lesson in never estimating one's opponent. Mason Rudolph and James Washington stepped in for their comrades, but, despite connecting for the game’s opening points, did little to help the Steelers find any sort of rhythm. Credit to the O-line for keeping Rudolph clean, but his play was far from it, as he went 30-of-50 for 242 yards with one touchdown and a pick. The QB change also impacted the effectiveness of Najee Harris and Diontae Johnson, as the Lions did a solid job of keeping both mostly in check. Harris again saw a heavy workload (26/105), but was unable to find the end zone for the first time since Week 3. Johnson, meanwhile, worked hard to catch six of his 12 targets for 83 yards, the bulk of which came on a 39-yard reception in OT that ended in a crucial lost fumble on the Pittsburgh 19-yard line. A defensive stand gave the Steelers one more shot to win it, but after driving 50 yards to the Detroit 39, a 1-yard completion to Pat Freiermuth was knocked loose by safety Will Harris and recovered by Detroit. A haunting way to end what looked like a winnable game despite the all-around poor play.
  3. Lions run game makes up for Goff's woes. The Jared Goff critics will have plenty to say about his 14-of-25, 114-yard day, but the real story for the Lions offense was the performance of its young running back corps. Even before the Steelers' scrappy run D lost T.J. Watt (hip, knee) late in the third, D'Andre Swift did all he could to keep the Lions in it. Swift thrashed and slashed his way to 33 carries for 130 yards, a monster stat line that would've looked even more impressive had he reached pay dirt. Instead, those honors went to rookie Jermar Jefferson (3/41) and backup Godwin Igwebuike, both of whom ripped off angry runs that would bring a smile to Kyle Brandt's face. Jefferson’s score came in the second quarter, while Igwebuike’s came in the third. For a team likely to add a few more poor outings before it's all said and done, the Lions RB room, which was without Jamaal Williams, should see a lot more work in the weeks to come.

Next Gen stat of the game: D'Andre Swift's 22 rushes for 82 yards versus Pittsburgh's stacked box were the most rushes against a stacked box since Adrian Peterson's 23 in Week 9, 2017.

NFL Research: Prior to Sunday, the last NFL game to end in a tie took place Week 3, 2020 between the Eagles and Bengals (23-23).

Washington Football Team
2021 · 3-6-0
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2021 · 6-3-0

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. Washington's win deserves a ton of praise. The Football Team entered Sunday with little outside expectation of victory, yet Washington took the field as if it was once again hosting Tampa Bay for a playoff game. Washington turned its first four possessions into points, eating up over 18 minutes of game clock in the process and effectively executing the exact game plan needed to keep pace with the defending champions. The best moment of the entire day, of course, came on Washington's final possession in which the Football Team burned over 10 minutes of game clock while clinging to a four-point lead. Ron Rivera reprised his "Riverboat Ron" role in a key moment, opting to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the Tampa Bay 1-yard line, leading to a game-clinching rushing touchdown for Antonio Gibson. The sequence defined the day for Washington, which needed essentially mistake-free football and an incredible amount of determination -- embodied by an 11-for-19 third-down conversion rate -- to hang on for an unlikely victory. In a season filled with struggles, Washington set them (and a collection of Week 10 injuries) aside, focused on the challenge in front of it and got the job done.
  2. Tom Brady's first day back in the office wasn't his best. Brady began Tampa Bay's first game following its bye week by throwing interceptions on the Buccaneers' second and third possessions of the game, allowing Washington to score 10 points off the two turnovers. Before the Buccaneers had even reached the midway point of the second quarter, they were staring up out of a 13-0 hole. Brady eventually rediscovered what has made him the greatest to ever play the position, completing 23 of 34 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns on the day, but his slow start and struggles when pressured (1-of-5 for 5 yards and an interception) directly contributed to Tampa Bay's downfall. When trailing by four early in the fourth quarter, the Buccaneers couldn't get a stop they desperately needed, leaving Tampa with an inadequate amount of time for Brady to complete another signature comeback. He wouldn't have needed to do so had he not made the early mistakes.
  3. Washington needed this win for more than just playoff aspirations. The Football Team built itself a healthy amount of good will with the way it finished the 2020 season by sneaking into the playoffs on the back of a stingy defense. That same defense hadn't shown its face in 2021, ranking 29th in points allowed per game (28.4) entering Sunday, but revived its scrappy play at the perfect time. The result was a 10-point win over the defending champions in a game in which the high-powered Buccaneers failed to break 20 points. Perhaps more importantly, the win gives Washington a fresh injection of hope and motivation as we head toward Thanksgiving -- precisely the point of the season in which last year's Football Team mounted a run to the playoffs. We're not saying that will happen again for a team that is still just 3-6, but it's a lot better than heading into the early darkness of winter with a lopsided record weighed down by a ton of losses.

Next Gen stat of the game: Taylor Heinicke completed 6 of 8 passes for 110 air yards and a touchdown on attempts of 10-plus air yards.

NFL Research: Washington's final touchdown drive was the longest of the season (10:26) and put the Football Team over 25 points, improving its record to 2-0 when scoring 25-plus points (0-6 when scoring less than 25 points). The 29-19 win was also Tom Brady's biggest loss of his career coming off a bye week.

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