Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 8 of the 2022 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:
Grant Gordon's takeaways:
- Allen has emerged as a great leader, not just a great talent. Unequivocally, Josh Allen is in the conversation for being the best quarterback in the NFL. However, it was incredibly transparent on a chilly night in Buffalo how much he's grown as a leader and a galvanizing force for the league's best team. Allen doesn't run safely. He should play safer; he should slide a bit more. Allen doesn't always stay composed. He should be a bit more level-headed when he takes exception to an opponent's physicality, rather than having to be pulled away by teammates. But these are reasons why it's clear Allen is beloved by his teammates and the guiding force in the Bills' quest for a first-ever Super Bowl championship. Allen runs to the fray, he doesn't shy away from it. He inspires not just with his play but with the fire in his belly. The ability of Allen -- who had a rather ho-hum night by his standards with 267 yards of offense and two touchdown passes -- to lift his teammates is just as impressive as his weekly statistical success. To see Allen ascend from a one-man adventure in his early seasons to a truly special talent has been astounding. But to see him emerge as a leader ready to fight, scratch and captain his team through all weathers has been pretty damn special, too. The best teams often have the best leaders, and that appears to be the case with the incandescent gunslinger from Firebaugh.
- Too little, too late for Packers? Green Bay's offense showed some life when Aaron Rodgers threw a beautiful ball to a wide-open Samori Toure for a 37-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Alas, it was separated by nearly two full quarters of game time from the Pack's previous TD -- a splendid 19-yard scoring catch by rookie Romeo Doubs -- and cut the score to 27-17 with 6:32 to go. In what could be a microcosm of the season, it proved to be too little too late for Green Bay to have a realistic chance at a comeback and that might be the case for the Packers' cause overall. The offense's baby steps forward in progress aren't enough to stop Minnesota from lapping them in the NFC North. The Vikings (6-1) now own the biggest division lead in the league, while the Packers' status as perennial Super Bowl favorites has fallen to that of hopeful playoff contenders. Green Bay lost its fourth straight and has failed to score more than 22 points in each of those defeats. There will be the tri-weekly comments from Rodgers that keep the Packers in the headlines, but time is starting to run out for them staying in the conversation as contenders in their division and perhaps for the postseason.
- Diggs setting winning tone. There is no dearth of offensive weaponry in the Bills' arsenal. That written, Stefon Diggs, the yin to Allen's yang, is a driving force. He's a tone-setter and it showed in prime time yet again. Diggs' scintillating 26-yard touchdown catch at the top of the second quarter ignited the Bills and got the wideout going for another phenomenal performance. At night's end, Diggs had game highs of six receptions and 108 yards. Allen's passer rating was an eye-popping 156.3 when targeting Diggs, who hauled in nearly half of Allen's passing yards. This was Diggs' fifth 100-yard game this season and it's little surprise the Bills are 5-0 in such games. Throughout Diggs' tenure in Buffalo, the Bills are 13-1 when Diggs hits the century mark. When Diggs gets going, wins follow for Buffalo.
Next Gen stat of the game: Josh Allen had a 22.5% completion probability on his 26-yard touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs in the second quarter, which came under pressure from Jarran Reed and with 41.4 yards of air distance.
NFL Research: The Bills' 6-1 start is their best since 1993 when Buffalo began the season 7-1, finishing the regular season at 12-4 en route to a loss in Super Bowl XXVII. Buffalo has advanced to (and lost) the Super Bowl in each of its last three seasons starting 6-1.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Derrick Henry is still the king. After a slow-ish start to the 2022 season, Henry now has strung four straight 100-yard games together. And no, Sunday does not count doubly just because Henry topped the 200-yard plateau. He finished the game with 219 yards on 30 carries, adding two touchdowns. On a day when the Titans had trouble generating much through the air with rookie Malik Willis at quarterback for an injured Ryan Tannehill, Henry and Dontrell Hilliard were the breadwinners for Tennessee in a prolonged slog of a game. But it was effective, and the Titans were never in trouble. Henry has shown lately he is fully back following his injury-marred 2021 season in which he missed nine games with a foot injury and didn't look like himself in his playoff return. He now has six career games with 200-plus rushing yards and two or more rushing scores (with four coming against the Texans). He's hit the 200-yard mark four straight games against them. Houston had to know Henry was going to get the ball often yet was utterly helpless to stop it.
- What to make of Malik Willis' first start? Willis' first NFL victory as a starter is hard to judge based on the fact that the Titans took the ball out of his hands and let the run game take care of business. It was the right call. But what we saw from the rookie QB in the first half brought back memories of the preseason, when it was clear Willis remained very much a work in progress. His first big mistake was a throw over the middle in the first half that was behind Cody Hollister, resulting in an interception deep in his zone that led to the Texans' only points of the game until late in garbage time. Willis also took three sacks on 13 dropbacks. The Titans asked him to throw the ball once in the second half. Once. In a game the Titans led 7-3, then 14-3 for most of the second half. Willis did connect on a 16-yard strike right after the pick, hitting Robert Woods on a tricky sidearm throw, teasing his immense talent. But otherwise, it was hard to give him a strong grade for a game in which he completed 6 of 10 passes for 55 yards and ran only five times for 12 yards. The Titans remain in the hunt for a top playoff seed, but it makes you wonder if Willis could step in on a big stage for Tannehill and lead this team to another win versus a better opponent.
- The Texans are worse than we thought. There were some early glimmers of hope this season in Houston, as the Texans hung on for a Week 1 tie and beat the Jaguars in a defensive battle. But the past two games have shown us what the Texans really are: a young team that is a few drafts away from competing. Their lack of physicality up front on defense versus the run is disconcerting, and they have very few ways to generate offense. They totaled 161 yards of offense, with a whopping 90 of them coming on the game's final drive with the Titans in full-on prevent mode. The Houston fans were successful and impressive in their maintaining a dull boo for four quarters, so they won the game ball for the day. But with second-year QB Davis Mills, the offensive line and most of the defense struggling again, it's hard to get too excited. Just remember: Two high first-rounders might be coming your way in April. That's about all we have for now.
Next Gen stat of the game: Davis Mills was 5-of-8 passing for 17 yards and an INT on passes of fewer than 10 air yards and 0 of 3 on passes of 10-plus air yards in the first half Sunday.
NFL Research: Derrick Henry's second score Sunday was the 75th touchdown of his career, surpassing Eddie George for the most TDs in franchise history.
Christian Gonzales' takeaways:
- Christian McCaffrey has all-star all-around performance. McCaffrey didn't take a long time to get acclimated in Kyle Shanahan's offense. On San Francisco's second drive Sunday, McCaffrey threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Aiyuk for the 49ers' first points. It was McCaffrey's second touchdown pass of his career (2-of-4 for 84 yards and two touchdowns as a passer). In the third quarter, Jimmy Garoppolo floated a pass near the end zone and McCaffrey displayed his athleticism on an incredible leaping catch for a 9-yard touchdown. McCaffrey carried the 49ers' offense to start the fourth quarter, as his number was called on three out of four plays en route to a 1-yard rushing TD. McCaffrey finished his afternoon with 18 rushes for 94 yards and a touchdown, while catching eight passes for 55 yards and TD. The former All-Pro running back seems to have the Rams' number (158 scrimmage yards in Week 6 when he was on the Panthers).
- Rams offense goes missing in the second half. Los Angeles looked ready to redeem itself after only putting up only nine points in a Week 4 loss in San Francisco. Following a three-and-out on their first possession of the game on Sunday, the Rams took 17 plays on the second drive to put some points on the board. After defensive pass interference penalties on the 49ers near the goal line, Matthew Stafford scrambled right and squeezed through multiple defenders for a 1-yard touchdown. Stafford's hot start continued as he found his favorite target Cooper Kupp right down the middle of the field for a 16-yard TD. The flow of the offense went missing after Kupp's score, however. Stafford finished the game 22-of-33 for 187 yards and one touchdown. Sean McVay's backfield of Ronnie Rivers, Darrell Henderson and Malcolm Brown combined for 17 rushes and just 47 yards. With Cam Akers involved in trade talks, Los Angeles could look at trading for another running back before Tuesday's NFL's trade deadline.
- Shanahan continues regular-season dominance over McVay. The 49ers have now won eight consecutive regular-season games over the Rams. Garoppolo moved to 8-0 in the regular season against Los Angeles after completing 21 of 25 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns. It was an impressive performance by Garoppolo, who didn't have Pro Bowlers Deebo Samuel and Kyle Juszczyk in this NFC West tilt. Aiyuk stepped up huge, as the third-year wide receiver caught six passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. George Kittle may have not have his best game statistically, but he gave McCaffrey some big blocks throughout the afternoon and finished any of the Rams' chances at a comeback on a 7-yard TD catch late in the fourth quarter. Even though the Rams won in the 2021 NFC Championship Game over the 49ers, Shanahan has responded with two convincing wins over Los Angeles for the regular-season sweep.
Next Gen stat of the game: Christian McCaffrey's touchdown pass is the third 49ers passing touchdown of 30-plus air yards since 2020 (Trey Lance and C.J. Beathard also had one.).
NFL Research: Christian McCaffrey is one of three running backs with a passing touchdown, rushing TD and receiving TD in a single game since the 1970 merger. LaDainian Tomlinson in 2005 and Walter Payton in 1979 are the others.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Terry McLaurin rips the heart out of hometown fans. An Indianapolis native, McLaurin Mossed Colts corner Stephon Gilmore at the goal line with 26 seconds left in the ballgame to set up Taylor Heinicke's game-winning touchdown plunge. The 33-yard monster grab punctuated McLaurin's homecoming, in which the big-play wideout went for 113 yards on six catches, including a 42-yard catch-and-run early in the contest. Heinicke lived up to his gunslinging ways. For the bulk of the contest, Washington's offense was a snoozy production. Eight of the Commanders' first nine possessions went for 29 or fewer yards. Heinicke threw a bad fourth-quarter interception that put Washington down nine points. But the QB battled back, leading an 82-yard field goal drive and the 89-yard game-winning TD drive. Sunday marked Heinicke's fourth fourth-quarter comeback since 2021. It wasn't a pretty offensive performance, with Washington going 2 of 12 on third downs, but Ron Rivera's club clawed its way to a third-straight win thanks to McLaurin's incredible ability.
- New QB, same issues for Colts. Sam Ehlinger got the start, but turnovers continued to plague the Colts. The second-year quarterback fumbled in scoring position early in the second quarter as Indy finally seemed to get things cooking on the ground. Later, Jonathan Taylor fumbled again in scoring range on what would have been a first-down run inside the red zone. The turnovers wiped out a chance for Indy to put some distance between itself and a Washington club that it thoroughly outplayed most of the game. Then the defense collapsed late. The Colts held the Commanders to a single first down and 22 yards of offense with a Shaquille Leonard interception on four drives to open the second half. Then they allowed Heinicke to Houdini his way down the field, avoiding sacks and picking up chunk gains. It's the same shoulda-woulda-coulda feeling Colts have had most of the 2022 campaign. The ship continues to sink in Indy.
- Ehlinger doesn't get a lot of help in first start. The mobile quarterback helped open up certain aspects of the offense. He stepped up in the pocket well and avoided rushers behind a sieve offensive line for the most part. But Taylor found few holes to jaunt through, and offensive holds negated multiple QB runs for solid gains. Head coach Frank Reich got more creative with Ehlinger under center, getting Parris Campbell involved on the edge and using a nice design on a Nyheim Hines fake pitch-run. Ehlinger also tossed several nice dimes, including a 47-yarder to Alec Pierce. You can see why the Indy staff believes Ehlinger could be the answer under center. But some of the same issues that Matt Ryan had reared their heads. The Colts struggled in the red zone (1 of 3) and in short-yardage situations, going 5 of 12 on third downs. The flashes from Ehlinger are there, as he displayed accuracy and good pocket presence. The loss wasn't on the young QB, who needs help if he's going to dig the Colts out of their season-long depression.
Next Gen stat of the game: Terry McLaurin's 33-yard catch to set up the game-winning TD has a 28.3 completion percent probability with a 0.9 target separation.
NFL Research: Entering Week 8, Washington had been 1-128 since 2000 when trailing by multiple scores in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter (previous win was Week 2, 2005 at Dallas).
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Slow and steady wins the race for Seattle. Neither of these teams were able to establish a consistent offensive rhythm for much of this game, which proved to be a battle of opposing kickers. But the Seahawks showed a glimpse of potential in the third quarter when Geno Smith found Tyler Lockett open for a touchdown, and the ball glanced off Lockett's facemask for an incompletion. A possession later, Lockett didn't let a second opportunity go to waste, catching a nearly identical pass for a 33-yard touchdown. That score seemed to wake up Seattle's offense, and the Seahawks were able to turn Richie James' second giveaway of the game into a touchdown, thanks to Kenneth Walker III's bulldozing, 16-yard touchdown run. That score effectively sealed the victory, which wasn't the prettiest, but in a game between two surprising teams that looked eerily similar to many of New York's wins, Seattle held tough long enough to win. It earned that 5-3 record.
- New York is suddenly searching for answers offensively. As mentioned above, neither team stuffed the stat sheet when possessing the football, but New York's performance was pretty dreadful for most of the game. Saquon Barkley, an essential part of New York's 6-1 start, finished with 53 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries, averaging 2.7 yards per carry. With 12:01 left in the fourth quarter, Daniel Jones stood at 99 passing yards, and the only Giants touchdown on the day came from one yard out thanks to a fumble forced by Adoree' Jackson. Brian Daboll was hired to turn the Giants offense around, and it has certainly showed glimpses of such a transformation, but Sunday was not one of those examples. The Giants built a 6-1 mark by winning many of these odd, ugly games; they weren't able to do that Sunday. At 6-2, they're definitely still a playoff contender, but if New York wants to sustain this success, Daboll needs to unlock this offense in the next month.
- Tip your cap to Pete Carroll. Look, no one expected anything of these Seahawks, a team in transition that was staring at a last-place finish in the NFC West in 2022 -- at least on paper. Carroll ignored outside opinions when he chose his starting quarterback, going with the veteran Smith despite the doubt that has followed Smith throughout his career. Carroll's confidence in Smith has paid off, and on Sunday, Smith gave him 212 yards and two passing touchdowns. Carroll's group of young defenders is playing above expectation, with Jordyn Brooks leading a defense that stifled Barkley and sacked Jones five times. And Carroll's special teams played a huge part in this win, recovering two fumbles on punts and turning the second one into a game-deciding score. Seattle's ceiling isn't in the stratosphere, but because of Carroll's direction and belief in his team, the Seahawks are two games over .500 and in the thick of the race for the division crown. He's making a strong case for Coach of the Year consideration as we head toward the de facto midway point of the regular season.
Next Gen stat of the game: Daniel Jones completed just 4 of 14 passes of 10-plus air yards for 82 yards.
NFL Research: Geno Smith has six games with multiple passing touchdowns this season. He had seven such games in his first nine career seasons combined.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- If this is Alvin Kamara's last game as a Saint, he went out big. The Saints are in a funny spot: They're 3-5, but in the NFC South, that's actually pretty good. So the next few days, with the trade deadline looming, will be fascinating to watch play out. Kamara has been a subject of trade speculation for a minute now, but the Saints might decide they have a path to back-dooring their way into a home playoff game if they can steal the division with the Buccaneers flagging, the Panthers in rebuild mode and the Falcons at 4-4. They also might decide he's too good to trade. Sunday was evidence of that. Kamara ran for a score and caught two more touchdown passes, bouncing off multiple tackle attempts on each, racking up 156 yards from scrimmage. Kamara has been on a mini-heater of late, and this was a vintage performance. He's still a special player in his prime. Will they keep Kamara?
- Raiders came out looking sluggish and never recovered. Bury this game ball somewhere in the Nevada desert. The Raiders, who were coming off an encouraging win over the Texans, were absolutely miserable against the Saints. They found themselves down 17-0 -- which marked their biggest deficit of the season – midway through the second quarter, thanks to two punts, a turnover on downs and an interception. The first turnover came on a poor fake punt that never had a chance, and Derek Carr forced the pick into traffic. Carr looked poor playing with a bad back and with poor pass protection (four sacks, six QB hits), and he didn't have Darren Waller (hamstring). Carr had Davante Adams, who was playing through illness, and Hunter Renfrow, who has struggled all season, but they each only caught one pass apiece. How bad was it? The Raiders didn't cross midfield until the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter.
- After allowing 132 points the past four games, this was the game the Saints defense needed. It was clear that if the Saints were going to stay in the race, they needed the defense to step up in a big way. This was the group that came into the season harboring visions of being a top-10 unit, but those have gone out the window. They hadn't allowed fewer than 28 points since September and had only four takeaways in the previous six games coming in. So pitching a shutout -- which came down to the final play, by the way -- is a huge feather in their cap as the Saints remain in contention, albeit with a lot of work to do. Payton Turner was back from injury with two sacks. Marcus Davenport had two big tackles for loss. The secondary played great, with an INT, seven passes defensed and zero receptions allowed for more than 18 yards. Pete Werner was everywhere, with 11 tackles and a deflection that caused the INT. More of this.
Next Gen stat of the game: On his two TD receptions, Alvin Kamara had only 6.4% and 20.1% chances of scoring on those plays.
NFL Research: Alvin Kamara is the first player in NFL history to record 10 games with at least one rushing and one receiving TD in his first six seasons.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Dak Prescott hits a groove as Cowboys offense displays its potential. In his second game back, Prescott shined, ripping apart the Bears defense with his arm and legs. Prescott led four consecutive touchdown drives to open the contest as Dallas sprinted to a 28-7 lead before fending off a Chicago comeback. Prescott was in rhythm, finding all of his targets, throwing darts and dropping dimes all over the field. The quarterback added big plays with his legs (three carries for 36 yards, touchdown). It was the type of performance we'd become used to seeing from Dak in previous years. He made one bad decision, tossing a pick late in the first half. But as the Bears threatened to make it a close game in the third quarter, Prescott threaded his best pass of the season. The QB put it in a perfect spot to Dalton Schultz over the middle on a third-and-9 for 30 yards when things felt like they could go sideways. Four plays later, the Cowboys had their double-digit lead back. Cooper Rush was a nice story earlier in the year, but with Dak back and throwing well, the Cowboys can be a true contender.
- Any more questions about Tony Pollard being a difference-maker? With Ezekiel Elliott sidelined, Pollard took control, authoring a 131-yard, three-touchdown performance on 14 carries. Pollard displayed an ability to be more than just an edge runner, making hay between the tackles. His one-cut in the hole on his first 18-yard TD scamper made the safety look silly. Then the RB capped his day off with a classic Pollard run to the edge, where he slid through arm tackles and outraced the defense for a 54-yard score. Pollard had 15 touches, 147 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns against the Bears. Dallas improved to 8-0 when Pollard has 15-plus touches in his career (37.0 points per game), per NFL Research. Pollard's performance will surely raise questions about why Zeke continues to see the bulk of the carries when healthy. Pollard deserves more touches. He showed why Sunday as the Cowboys scored seven TDs.
- Loss isn't on Chicago's offense this time. Justin Fields and the offense continued to show development as the season wears on despite the surroundings. Fields avoided costly turnovers, made some great strikes and helped the Bears offense churn out yards and first downs once again. He doesn't put up prolific passing numbers, but Fields was quicker getting through his reads Sunday and dropped several dimes. The QB played better in the red zone, including a nice touch throw for a TD to Cole Kmet. He put a deep shot to Velus Jones to open the third quarter on the money, but the rookie receiver couldn't hang on. That sums up much of the Bears' deep-passing game. Chicago bulldozed its way on the ground, netting 240 yards rushing despite being down multiple scores much of the contest. If the Bears defense hadn't been steamrolled for 442 yards Sunday, the story of the game could have been much different for Chicago. It was the inverse of what we'd seen from this Bears club earlier this season.
Next Gen stat of the game: Micah Parsons traveled 92.0 yards of total distance on his 36-yard fumble recovery touchdown.
NFL Research: The Bears have rushed for 200-plus yards in three straight games for the first time since Weeks 7-9 in 1968. Gale Sayers led the Bears in rushing in 1968.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- No QB controversy in New England this week. Mac Jones started and played wire-to-wire as the Patriots knocked off the Jets for the 13th consecutive time, dating back to 2016 and including seven straight on the road. Jones got off to a slow start, with a three-and-out to open the game. Later in the first half, he was hit and intercepted. The Pats settled down in the second half, and Jones got the ball out quicker, finding a rhythm on four scoring drives to open up a double-digit second-half lead. There were still a few missed passes from Jones, and with DeVante Parker hurt early, there were few deep shots. The New England QB attempted just three passes of 20-plus air yards. The Pats' offensive line struggles didn't help, as Jones was sacked six times. The QB went 0-of-4 passing with an INT under pressure. It was a fine outing from Jones (24-of-35 for 194 yards, TD, INT) as he makes his way back from injury, but nothing spectacular. The Pats simply let New York implode and give the game away.
- Zach Wilson melts down again vs. the Patriots. The Jets asked Wilson to make plays against Bill Belichick's defense. The second-year quarterback wilted under pressure. Wilson made a few plays early out of the pocket, finding rookie Garrett Wilson for chunk gains, including a 54-yarder. But as the game wore on, Zach Wilson got rattled by persistent pressure and made awful decisions. Some might say he was seeing ghosts. The QB threw three INTs, one inexplicably on an attempted throwaway. Later, Wilson scrambled and, instead of throwing it away, tossed another INT. With rookie RB Breece Hall out for the season, the Jets don't have a home-run hitter. It showed Sunday. Outside of Garrett Wilson, it was a gross display from the Jets offense outside the start and garbage time. That starts with the quarterback, who looked like his head was more scrambled than Sunday morning eggs.
- Patriots dominated special teams. Bill Belichick prides himself on having good special teams. On Sunday, the third unit was the difference-maker. Nick Folk made all five of his field goal attempts. Marcus Jones had a big punt return to set up an easy field goal. Meanwhile, the Jets' special teams unit was exposed. It started with an atrocious punt. A missed field goal from Greg Zuerlein to open the third quarter snuffed out a chance to tie the game. Inadequate coverage gave New England hidden yardage and free points. The Gang Green special teams and offense let down a defense that played most of the contest solidly.
Next Gen stat of the game: Deatrich Wise Jr. generated seven QB pressures on 39 pass rush snaps, while Matt Judon earned four QB pressures and a pass defensed.
NFL Research: With the Patriots' win over the Jets, Bill Belichick (325) passed George Halas (324) for the second-most wins by a head coach, including playoffs, in NFL history. Next -- and last -- on the list ahead of Belichick: Don Shula, with 347 career wins.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- D.J. Moore alternated between hero and goat quickly. Moore went from mini-goat to hero back to full-on goat in a short span. He couldn't haul in what would have been a fourth-and-17 conversion on the penultimate possession of regulation, giving the ball back to the Falcons deep in their end. Atlanta tacked on a field goal, and the Panthers looked to be in deep trouble down six points with 36 seconds left. But somehow, P.J. Walker escaped pressure and gunned a perfect bomb to Moore for a stunning 62-yard touchdown. An extra point would have given Carolina the lead with 12 seconds left. But Moore had taken off his helmet -- a no-no -- during his end-zone celebration, the Panthers were penalized 15 yards and, yep, Eddy Pineiro missed the try. We'd go to overtime, where Pineiro and the Panthers blew a chance to win the game after C.J. Henderson's interception. Eventually, the Falcons won it. And though the Panthers had chances to win in regulation and OT if the kicker made either one, Moore must be sick at how the game played out. He's a special player who has had a tough season with everything going on in Carolina.
- Both quarterbacks deserve more starts. Walker was a hero in Carolina's dramatic victory over the Buccaneers last week, and yet he saved his best for late in Week 8. After a tough first half (6-of-15 passing, 67 yards, one pick-six), Walker was on fire. In the second half, he threw for 250 yards and led the Panthers on four scoring drives. With Baker Mayfield seemingly in limbo after his injury, and the clock started on Sam Darnold's return from injured reserve, there are myriad QB options in Carolina. But we've seen Mayfield, and it doesn't feel like his future is in Carolina. Maybe Darnold gets a shot at some point. But Walker's teammates seemed to rally around him, and he was shooting some dimes late. For Atlanta, Marcus Mariota was far from perfect on his birthday, starting the game with a pick and nearly losing it on his overtime INT. But the first was a great play by the DB, and Mariota was clobbered on the OT pick. Overall, he did well with three touchdowns and a big first-down run in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal. There have been calls for rookie Desmond Ridder, but head coach Arthur Smith hasn't given much indication of a change. Let Mariota start against the Chargers and table the inevitable discussion for another week. These 4-4 Falcons are in first place, after all.
- Falcons defense bends, then breaks (but gets lucky). Atlanta's defense has been good against the run this season but pretty suspect against the pass. The Falcons weren't great in either area Sunday, all told, but they made just enough plays to help seal a batty victory. They took a 14-10 lead just before the half on a 28-yard pick-six by Lorenzo Carter, setting up a wild second half. After a three-and-out on Carolina's first second-half possession, the Falcons somehow let Walker catch fire. Dee Alford's pass defense on the fourth-and-19 throw to Moore late in regulation looked like it could be a game-winner, but the secondary was roasted on Moore's improbable TD with 12 seconds left. Let's face it: Even with some timely plays, Atlanta's defense was fortunate to earn the win. It let Walker throw for a career-high 317 yards and D'Onta Foreman gash it for 118 rushing yards and three touchdowns. With Atlanta's ball-control offense, the Falcons defense knows it can't be this generous next week against the Chargers.
Next Gen stat of the game: Marcus Mariota was 0-of-4 passing with two interceptions on deep passes in Week 8. He had one TD and one INT on deep passes in Weeks 1-7.
NFL Research: There have been four passing TDs of 60-plus yards to tie or take the lead in the final minute of the fourth quarter in the past 10 seasons: the Miami Miracle, the Minneapolis Miracle, Aaron Rodgers' TNF Hail Mary and P.J. Walker's TD pass to D.J. Moore on Sunday.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- A.J. Brown is that dude. After falling short of a 100-yard receiving game in each of his last five contests, the Eagles' prized offseason acquisition exploded on Sunday. Brown caught six passes for 156 yards, with half of his receptions going for touchdowns. Each came with two Steelers defenders converging on Brown, yet that didn't matter for the big-bodied receiver, who hauled in each perfectly placed pass from Jalen Hurts for scores. His final reception served as the cherry on top of Philadelphia's blowout win, gaining 43 yards and setting up the Eagles for yet another score via an 11-yard Miles Sanders touchdown run. Pittsburgh had no answers for Brown, who dominated the Steelers secondary on a joyful day at Lincoln Financial Field, winning the Keystone State battle and bolstering the Eagles' standing as an elite Super Bowl contender through eight weeks.
- Pittsburgh's offense still has a stalling problem. The scapegoat for this issue -- offensive coordinator Matt Canada -- was identified by Steelers fans nearly a year ago, but things aren't getting much better for Pittsburgh. The Steelers gained 300 yards of offense on Sunday, but converted just 1 of 12 third-down attempts. Three of their first four possessions ended in punts, and a game that was tied at 7 quickly became a 14-point deficit for the Steelers. Pittsburgh managed to convert a handful of fourth-down attempts (including one on a fake punt), but all it got out of the 15-play drive was a field goal to make it 28-13. It was as close as the Steelers would get, fumbling away their ensuing possession, then giving up one more long completion to Brown and the Sanders touchdown. With Pittsburgh's offense failing to pose much of a threat, Hurts spent most of the fourth quarter wearing a headset on the sideline. That's simply not good enough for Pittsburgh's hopes of digging itself out of a now 2-6 hole -- and it's about much more than the fact it's rolling with a rookie quarterback.
- Eagles keep rolling. Philadelphia took a perfect 6-0 record into the bye, and instead of coming out of the off week with a little rush, the Eagles looked as polished as ever. Pittsburgh's creative touchdown pass from Chase Claypool to Derek Watt suggested the Steelers might keep pace with the NFL's only remaining undefeated team, but that belief didn't survive into the fourth quarter. Credit is due to Brown, Hurts and the Eagles offense, but the Philadelphia defense deserves praise, too, especially for Javon Hargrave. The former Steelers defensive tackle twice powered past Pittsburgh guard Kevin Dotson, recording a key sack to end the first half, and doubling up on those efforts by strip-sacking Kenny Pickett early in the fourth, setting up the Eagles for their game-icing touchdown drive. As a team, Philadelphia racked up six sacks and intercepted Pickett late in the game, forcing two turnovers in a resounding victory. These are the types of wins that leave a city feeling very good on Monday morning.
Next Gen stat of the game: A.J. Brown is the first player since Next Gen Stats route classification began in 2018 to record three receiving touchdowns on go routes in a single game. He scored all three touchdowns in the first half Sunday.
NFL Research: Jalen Hurts threw four passing touchdowns of 25-plus yards Sunday, falling just one such touchdown pass short of the all-time record in a single game, held by Dan Marino (Week 1, 1994).
Michael Baca's takeaways:
- Dolphins' trust in Tua shows. Completing 29 of 36 passes for 382 yards and three touchdowns, Tua Tagovailoa was the straw that stirred the drink for a Miami offense that gained 476 total yards. Throwing the ball on this day was necessary for the Dolphins after they fell to an early deficit that was maintained until the third quarter, but Tagovailoa's wildly efficient day was best encapsulated on his final two throws of the game to seal the win. With a four-point lead and two minutes to play, Mike McDaniel drew up a pass play on first down and Tagovailoa came through with a perfect throw to Tyreek Hill to secure a much-needed first down. Two plays later after the Lions spent the rest of their timeouts, Tagovailoa found Hill again on third-and-8 to secure a game-clinching first down and fittingly end the game in victory formation. Tagovailoa's accuracy on those throws punctuated what had been a phenomenal day spinning the football whether it be in short or deep passing situations. Hill and Jaylen Waddle combined for 20 receptions for 294 yards and two touchdowns. The Tagovailoa-led offense reflected its quarterback's efficient outing as a whole by converting 8 of 12 third downs, and was perfect on fourth down (1 of 1), red-zone possessions (3 of 3) and goal-to-go downs (2 of 2).
- Lions spoil a great first half. Right out of the gate Detroit put to bed its recent scoring struggles with touchdown drives on its first three possessions, and came up with points every time it had the ball in the second quarter to enter halftime with a 27-17 lead. The Lions' first two quarters of play were near perfect, with Dan Campbell's squad energized in all three phases and seemingly ready, willing and able to engage Miami in a shootout. But the second half couldn't have been more different for the Lions, with the offense barely seeing the field (three second-half possessions for 67 total yards) and the defense ultimately succumbing to Miami's dynamic passing attack without any help whatsoever. Their second-half demise was simply due to an identity crisis on offense, unable to run the ball and unable to convert endless third-and-longs with a passing game that fizzled down the stretch. While it was a good sign to see Jared Goff get back to his early season form (321 passing yards; zero interceptions) upon the returns of Amon-Ra St. Brown and D'Andre Swift, all the good Detroit built in the first half was just as quickly forgotten in the final 30 minutes, and it all amounted to another frustrating postgame presser from Campbell.
- Dolphins defense shows it's well-coached. After giving up 27 first-half points, the Dolphins defense made the necessary adjustments to blank the Lions in the second half and stave off a shootout. The effort was a clear indication of Josh Boyer and his defensive staff coaching up their players in the face of adversity. The Dolphins found their footing by first stopping a Lions rushing attack that was limited to 20 rushing yards in the second half, and it led to Detroit unraveling into a panicky mess that couldn't convert on third down. Zach Sieler came through with the team's only sack of the day in a big third-down situation in the fourth quarter, and Jevon Holland continued his Pro Bowl-worthy play through clutch pass breakups and sure-handed tackling. Their disciplined play in the second half could've been erased during the Lions' final possession, but the Dolphins stood true on Goff's final heave into the end zone on fourth-and-1. Although there are things needing fixing for Miami's defense going forward, it wasn't going to allow the blame fall on it in this one.
Next Gen stat of the day: Tua Tagovailoa was 15 of 18 for 290 yards and three TDs on passes of 10-plus air yards (tied for most such completions in a game this season; Joe Burrow in Week 7 vs ATL).
NFL Research: Tyreek Hill has four games with 160-plus receiving yards this season. All other NFL WRs have four such games combined. The only player with more such games in a season was Roy Green, who did so five times and led the NFL in receiving yards for the Cardinals in 1984.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Bye week doesn't slow the Vikings. Minnesota entered the week off on a four-game winning streak and didn't miss a beat after the break, putting together an effort that was strong on both sides of the ball. Kirk Cousins authored a quality performance, completing 24 of 36 passes for 232 yards and two passing touchdowns, and even added in a surprising rushing score. Dalvin Cook rushed 20 times for 111 yards and a score, and Alexander Mattison's rushing touchdown made it three different Vikings putting points on the board via the ground. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen combined for 165 receiving yards. Patrick Peterson had a nice pass break-up on third down in the end zone early in the game against his former team. And finally, Za'Darius Smith had himself a day, recording two sacks, exiting with an injury, and returning to record another late in the one-score game. It wasn't perfect, but it was complementary, and it counts the same. That 6-1 record looks good in Minnesota right now.
- DeAndre Hopkins is certainly back. In just his second game of the 2022 season, Hopkins carried Arizona's offense, catching 12 of his 13 targets for 159 yards and yet another highlight-reel touchdown. When Kyler Murray needed a completion, he frequently found Hopkins, who looks to be in mid-season form despite missing the first six contests of the campaign. Until Rondale Moore picked up 65 yards and scored a touchdown late in the third quarter, Hopkins was essentially the only source of big plays for the Cardinals, who dropped back Murray 48 times to pass and gained just 78 yards on the ground as a team. Arizona needs more than Hopkins in the weeks ahead, but it's nice to see an All-Pro returning to form quickly.
- The Vikings still need to be better at closing games. Credit is due to the Vikings defense, which made things incredibly difficult for Murray in the fourth quarter and ultimately won the game with a sack on the final play. But it didn't need to be this difficult for Minnesota, which left at least six points out on the field in the first half, and was forced to play to the final whistle after Greg Joseph missed a PAT following what should have been a win-sealing touchdown. The kick, which clanged off the upright, kept it a one-score game, and Minnesota needed not one, but two defensive stands to preserve its advantage, which should have been two-plus possessions. The Vikings will want to examine their play-calling decisions on third-and-1 (and fourth-and-1) in the first half, a sequence in which they threw the ball twice despite ripping up chunks on the ground. They'll also want to correct their mistakes on the field goal unit, which allowed the Cardinals to block a Joseph attempt near the end of the first half (is there a kicking conundrum in Minneapolis?). A win is a win, but it could've been much more satisfying -- and potentially disastrous.
Next Gen Stat of the game: Kirk Cousins reached a maximum speed of 18.29 miles per hour on his 17-yard touchdown run, marking his fastest ball-carrier speed on a TD as a Viking.
NFL Research: DeAndre Hopkins reached 800 career receptions in his 138th game, the fifth-fastest to reach that mark in NFL history. Only four players -- Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Marvin Harrison and Andre Johnson -- got there faster than Hopkins.
Jeremy Bergman's takeaways:
- Broncos exorcize demons on foreign soil. It could barely have started worse for Denver. Russell Wilson, coming off shoulder and hamstring injuries, nearly threw a pick on the game's first play and then, following a three-and-out, did toss an interception on the Broncos' very next drive, setting up a short Jaguars touchdown march. Deja vu all over again for the stone ponies? Not quite. The Broncos bounced back from a lifeless start (three punts, INT on first four drives) to tally three touchdown drives for 75, 98 and 80 yards, one each in the final three quarters and got back in the win column. Wilson showed more confidence in the vertical passing game than he has all season, keying the Broncos' game-winning drive with a 47-yard sideline bomb to KJ Hamler. A balanced running attack of Melvin Gordon and Latavius Murray (and Wilson, finally!) kept Denver's long marches alive. Buoyed by its top-three bend-but-don't-break defense, which logged two acrobatic picks of its own (one from Justin Simmons on the goal line, another from K'Waun Williams to seal the victory), the Broncos blocked Jacksonville from cashing in on its early momentum and capitalized on their opponent's errors. Denver even turned the tables on its defining bugaboo (a league-worst 23.5 red-zone TD percentage) by scoring all three of its TDs from inside the 10. Broncos country, enjoy that long plane ride.
- Etienne's coming-out party. When the Jaguars shipped leading rusher James Robinson to the Jets for pennies on the dollar earlier this week, the writing was on the wall: This is Travis Etienne's backfield. That reality was solidified on Sunday, as the second-year back enjoyed a career afternoon, flashing the acceleration, elusiveness and decisiveness on the perimeter that made him a top RB prospect out of college. Etienne broke his career-high in rushing (114, set just last week) with 156 yards and tallied over 20 carries (24) for the first time in the NFL. JaMycal Hasty spelled Etienne on fewer than a quarter of Jacksonville's offensive plays. As the Jaguars' aerial attack sputtered and Trevor Lawrence's passes fluttered high and away from his pass catchers, Duval frequently turned back to Etienne for a spark, and he delivered. Through 1.5 seasons, he's the former Clemson Tigers first-rounder in Duval with better tape and potentially higher upside.
- Is Dulcich Denver's skeleton key? The Broncos' once-anemic passing game showed signs of life with Wilson keying in on two reliable receivers: Jerry Jeudy and … Greg Dulcich? The rookie tight end out of UCLA was sprung for a number of big gains in London. On Denver's tide-turning 98-yard drive in the third quarter, Dulcich picked up three first downs with receptions of 18, 22 and 38 yards. In just his third game since returning from a hamstring injury, the field-stretcher was a mismatch nightmare for Jacksonville's defenders, finding soft parts of the zone and beating Jags downfield with equal aplomb. Dulcich's run-blocking also paved the way for Murray, Gordon and Wilson on the Broncos' game-winning drive. His emergence in Denver's offense could spell the end of Albert Okwuegbunam's time with the Broncos, but Mile High times for Wilson and Co.
Next Gen stat of the game: Russell Wilson's 47-yard completion to KJ Hamler on Denver's game-winning drive had a 19.0% completion probability, the second-most improbable completion for the Broncos this year.
NFL Research: Broncos RB Latavius Murray is the first player to score a rushing TD for two different teams in London in the same season.