Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 11 of the 2021 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:
- Los Angeles Chargers 41, Pittsburgh Steelers 37
- Kansas City Chiefs 19, Dallas Cowboys 9
- Cincinnati Bengals 32, Las Vegas Raiders 13
- Arizona Cardinals 23, Seattle Seahawks 13
- Minnesota Vikings 34, Green Bay Packers 31
- Washington Football Team 27, Carolina Panthers 21
- Houston Texans 22, Tennessee Titans 13
- Cleveland Browns 13, Detroit Lions 10
- San Francisco 49ers 30, Jacksonville Jaguars 10
- Baltimore Ravens 16, Chicago Bears 13
- Indianapolis Colts 41, Buffalo Bills 15
- Philadelphia Eagles 40, New Orleans Saints 29
- Miami Dolphins 24, New York Jets 17
Grant Gordon's takeaways:
- Justin case you forgot. Any thoughts of a Justin Herbert sophomore slump should have been put to slumber in his first Sunday Night Football appearance. From a blowout win to a blown opportunity to a dramatic triumph, Herbert rode the wave of ridiculousness and led the Chargers to victory. What Herbert can do with his arm has been something to behold since his sensational rookie season. What he can do with his legs was showcased on Sunday night. But what he does with his head, in terms of being a player wise beyond his 23 years, might well be the most impressive. He had three touchdowns, 382 yards passing and a career-high 90 yards rushing, but his decision-making and presence amid the storm of the game and a crazy fourth quarter that saw a combined 41 points was truly spectacular. As the Steelers rallied back from a 27-10 deficit to take a 37-34 lead, Herbert took over needing 75 yards and six points with 3:24 to go. Two plays later, Herbert exploited a blown coverage and hit Mike Williams in stride for a 53-yard game-winner. Herbert hasn't been consistently stellar this season, but he's been outstanding more often than he's not. And he was outstanding on Sunday night. With the Bolts having lost three of their last four coming into Week 11, they needed this one badly and they needed their star QB to lead them. That's just what Herbert did in every which way.
- The little big man stands tall. Hidden away on a Chargers squad that rarely gets an abundance of attention, Austin Ekeler has quietly emerged as one of the most well-rounded backs in the NFL. Getting a chance in prime time Sunday, he made the most of the stage and turned in a terrific outing. Ekeler scored four total touchdowns -- two receiving touchdowns and two rushing scores. He has 13 total touchdowns on the season and became the third running back in the last 30 seasons with five-plus rushing and five-plus receiving scores in his team's first 10 games, per NFL Research. And he was the first back since Maurice Jones-Drew in Week 14 of 2011 to have multiple running and receiving scores in a game. His biggest play might've come without the ball, though. A drive after Ekeler had been stuffed on fourth-and-1 for a turnover on downs, he made a splendid pickup of a blitz on the edge to allow Herbert time to make the game-winning TD throw. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder demands notice at this point.
- Steelers need T.J. and Minkah back soon. The greatness and impact of special players is often glimpsed in their absence. The Steelers dropped to 0-3 on Sunday in games T.J. Watt has missed due to injury, and missing Minkah Fitzpatrick certainly did them no favors, either. It's hard to imagine Williams' touchdown happening or going down as easily as it did with Fitzpatrick in the game. And it's difficult to believe Herbert would've had so many chunk gains with his legs had Watt been tracking him down. The Steelers defense wasn't without its big plays, but it allowed 533 yards and 41 points. It took a while, but the Pittsburgh offense had one of its better showings. An uncharacteristically bad day for the Steelers defense was the culprit in this one.
Next Gen stat of the game: Justin Herbert was 7 for 10 for 143 yards and a touchdown vs. the blitz.
NFL Research: Justin Herbert became just the third quarterback to reach 7,000 passing yards in his first 25 games, joining Patrick Mahomes (22) and Kurt Warner (25).
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Chris Jones: Destroyer of Cowboys. The Chiefs defensive tackle dominated the Dallas offensive line, living in the backfield. Jones discombobulated everything the Cowboys tried to run. The Pro Bowler hogtied Dak Prescott for 3.5 sacks on the night (he came in with three total sacks in eight games). Jones beat every lineman the Cowboys threw at him, including All-Pro guard Zack Martin, generating seven quarterback pressures, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Fittingly, Jones ended the game with a tipped pass that was intercepted to keep the Cowboys out of the end zone. Sunday's performance was a reminder of what a game-wrecker Jones can be from the interior. Jones highlighted a stingy Chiefs defense that stifled the Cowboys with pressure and good coverage on the back end. Perhaps previous weeks left questions about whether Steve Spagnuolo's defense was simply beating lesser talent. Holding Dallas' offense to just 276 total yards and zero touchdowns while forcing three turnovers underscores the K.C. defense is here to say. The Chiefs D has allowed fewer than 20 points in four straight games (all wins). The last time they did that was a five-game streak from Weeks 11-16, 2019.
- Dak Prescott, Cowboys offense offer another clunker. For the second time in three weeks, the Cowboys' offense couldn't move the ball. Missing left tackle Tyron Smith proved disastrous, as the O-line couldn't protect Prescott a lick. The QB was uncharacteristically inaccurate throwing under pressure. Amari Cooper's absence (COVID-19) hurt the Cowboys' ability to create mismatches. When CeeDee Lamb exited at halftime with a concussion, Dallas' situation became more dire. The Cowboys lacked explosive plays, with Dak forced to throw it underneath all game. The QB didn't complete a pass of 20-plus air yards all game and generated just three of 10-plus air yards. With the run game also stymied, the Cowboys slogged their way through the game to little effect. Just three of 12 Dallas drives generated more than 25 net yards. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has to figure out a way to help manufacture more yards when the explosive plays are negated, or we'll see more games like this from Dallas down the stretch.
- Chiefs offense gets off to a fast start. Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs offense to 16 points on their first three possessions of the game to generate a double-digit lead they'd carry the rest of the way. Tyreek Hill (9/77) got off to a fast start early, proving unguardable in open space. Then it came screeching to a halt. The Dallas defense made life difficult for Mahomes, who finished completing 23 of 37 passes for 260 yards, zero TDs and one interception. The QB was sacked three times. On the Chiefs' final eight non-kneel drives, they generated 194 total yards and just three points. Much like Prescott, there wasn't much available deep for Mahomes, who completed just two passes over 15-air yards (on three attempts). But with Clyde Edwards-Helaire returning from IR, the Chiefs found a run game (126 total yards) to churn the clock late and leaned on the defense to win their fourth-straight game.
Next Gen stat of the game: The Chiefs defense pressured Prescott on 33.3% of dropbacks. K.C. has pressured opposing QBs on 29.3% of dropbacks in its seven wins this season and just 23.1% in four losses.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- The Bengals took their Week 9 beating into the bye and came out a different defensive beast. Cincinnati held Derek Carr to just 80 passing yards on his first seven possessions of the game and only gave up one notable drive all afternoon, a three-play, 75-yard sprint for a touchdown to make it a three-point game. Otherwise, the Bengals returned to their ferocious display that helped them rise to the top of the conference for a moment in October, denying all but one of Las Vegas' seven third-down attempts, intercepting Carr once and bottling up the Raiders' rushing attack, allowing just 63 yards. The combined defensive showing and excellent ground attack saw the Bengals dominate time of possession by more than 15 minutes and put together a much-needed, complete performance that countered a bit of a rough going offensively prior to the final quarter. Most importantly, it quelled the negativity surrounding the team after its surprise blowout loss to Cleveland two weeks ago.
- The Raiders' offense owes its defense an apology. Las Vegas played well enough defensively to win, giving up just one touchdown and limiting three Bengals possessions to Evan McPherson field goals through three quarters and into the first couple of minutes in the fourth. Cincinnati finished with less than 300 yards of offense. The game was there for the taking, and for one drive, the Raiders seized the opportunity. But by then, it became evident it was too late, as Cincinnati put together a 12-play, 62-yard scoring march to extend its lead to nine and make the comeback climb too steep for the Raiders to complete. Simply, Las Vegas' offense needs to wake up earlier than the start of the fourth quarter. Games like this will sting because they're winnable when playing complementary football -- but errors (seven penalties), a lack of execution on key downs (1 of 7 on third down) and a slow start will often sink a team's chances, and they did Sunday.
- The Bengals are back to riding Joe Mixon, and it paid off once again. Mixon was a steady producer on the ground, racking up 123 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries and pacing a Bengals offense that needed a good running game to counter Las Vegas' feisty pass rush. It wasn't a stellar day from Joe Burrow (20 of 29, 148 yards, one touchdown) but it didn't need to be because of Mixon, who gained 98 yards and scored both of his touchdowns on runs outside the tackles, per Next Gen Stats. This is Cincinnati's best winning formula, and when paired with a stingy defensive effort, it will be a tough out on a weekly basis.
Next Gen stat of the game: Cincinnati didn't waste time with deep pass drops, orchestrating an offense that saw Joe Burrow post a career-high quick-pass attempt rate of 72.4%. Burrow completed 17 of 21 quick pass attempts for 133 yards, and was 18 for 22 for 125 yards on passes of fewer than 10 air yards.
NFL Research: Joe Mixon scored a TD in his seventh straight game, breaking the Bengals' franchise record for consecutive games with a touchdown by a running back.
Chase Goodbread's takeaways:
- The Seahawks offense was sleepy in Seattle. Two weeks into Russell Wilson's return from a finger injury, the offense has been as ineffective with him as it was without him. A week removed from a shutout loss to Green Bay, Seattle was listless again thanks largely to third-down conversion problems (2 of 10). It wasn't all on Wilson -- the quarterback was disadvantaged by a few dropped passes and by pass protection issues that have plagued this offense all year. This time, the Cardinals pass rush notched four sacks, three of them via the blitz, and two by Chandler Jones. Wilson was able to extend a few plays outside the pocket for big gainers downfield, but there was little, if any, consistency or rhythm from down to down. Arizona blanketed throws underneath coverage for incompletions, or in the alternative, sound tackling.
- Colt McCoy rebounded from Arizona's worst offensive outing of the season. As bad as McCoy was in Week 10, he delivered a much better performance against the Seahawks. He engineered first-half scoring drives of 82 and 92 yards, both ending with touchdown passes to Zach Ertz, as the Cardinals never trailed. When Seattle made it close with a late touchdown, McCoy countered with a 67-yard TD march, successfully targeting Ertz throughout the drive. Between Ertz and Rondale Moore, who was constantly fed short throws that were well-defended, McCoy connected on 19 of 20 targets. McCoy completed 35 of 44 passes for 328 yards, and would've had the game put away sooner were it not for two missed field goals. As the Cardinals continue to wait for Kyler Murray (ankle) and DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) to return to the lineup, McCoy has now kept the club afloat with two wins over three starts.
- The Cardinals secondary took DK Metcalf out of the game. Arizona defensive backs bracketed Metcalf downfield with airtight coverage, and it's not the first time it's happened. Metcalf finished with four catches for just 31 yards on eight targets, and had just five yards after the catch on the day, per Next Gen Stats. A frustrated Wilson took a couple of deep shots to Metcalf in the second half despite that tight coverage, both very accurate, but Metcalf couldn't come up with either. Entering the game, Metcalf had averaged just 18.8 yards per game against Arizona over four career meetings. Perhaps due to the emphasis on stopping Metcalf, the Cardinals had a much harder time staying with Tyler Lockett, who caught passes of 36 and 48 yards on a four-catch, 115-yard day, the latter of which set up a fourth-quarter touchdown that got the Seahawks back in the game.
Next Gen stat of the game: Arizona's Markus Golden recorded five pressures and a sack on 21 pass rush snaps.
NFL Research: Sunday marked the first time Colt McCoy has started three games in a season since 2014 with Washington, and the first time he's had two wins as a starting QB since 2011 with Cleveland.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Vikings overcome Packers' furious comeback. It had all the makings of another Minnesota collapse after Mike Zimmer's squad gave up multiple 13-point leads. But following a 75-yard Marquez Valdes-Scantling touchdown to tie the score at 31, the Vikes powered their way for an eight-play 64-yard drive, ending with a Greg Joseph chip-shot field goal to secure a big win to keep Minnesota in postseason position. Kirk Cousins got lucky on a near interception, but a review showed Darnell Savage couldn't control the catch going to the ground. After the good luck, Cousins, who threw for 341 yards and three TDs, drove the field to ice the victory. In a season characterized by giving up leads, the comeback finally changes the fortunes for a tough-luck Vikings squad that has played better than its 5-5 record.
- Justin Jefferson and Davante Adams dominate. In a marquee matchup between two of the top receivers in the NFL, both shined. Jefferson came out of the gate with big plays, catching three passes for 104 yards in the opening quarter, including plays of 43 and 56 yards. The second-year wideout continued to torture the Packers' secondary on his way to 169 yards on eight catches with two TDs. His second score was an amazing adjustment on a ball Cousins had to get rid of quickly due to pressure. Jefferson's ability to get open against any coverage was on display against a Packers defense that entered ranked third against the pass. On the other side, Adams destroyed the Vikings' secondary in the second half, making defensive backs look lost at times. For the day, the Pro Bowl wideout caught seven of eight targets for 115 yards, with a 6/70/2 line in the final two quarters. Adams caught his 11th career receiving TD against the Vikings, now the most by any player versus Minnesota in NFL history (broke a four-way tie with Jerry Rice, Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings), per NFL Research. If you want to watch two All-Pro receivers put on a route-running clinic to make DBs look silly, pop on this tape.
- Packers errors catch up to NFC North's top team. Once again, special teams miscues hurt Green Bay, with Mason Crosby's missed 32-yard field goal in the second quarter proving significant. The Packers, who put up 467 yards against Zimmer's D, repeatedly shot themselves in the foot, getting flagged eight times for 92 yards. Missed INTs and a couple of coverage miscues mattered with the game on the line. On a day in which the defense didn't dominate as it has in recent weeks, the mistakes were massive against a division rival on the road.
Next Gen stat of the game: Kirk Cousins went 7-for-7 for 165 yards and a TD on intermediate passes (10-19 air yards), his most such completions without an incompletion in a game in the Next Gen Stats era. He has a 79.4 completion percentage and a 148.2 passer rating on such passes this season, both of which are on pace to set single-season records in the NGS era among qualified QBs.
NFL Research: Justin Jefferson topped 100 receiving yards before the end of the first quarter. Jefferson now has 11 career games with 100-plus receiving yards, tying HOFer Randy Moss and JuJu Smith-Schuster for second-most in a player's first two seasons in the Super Bowl era (behind Odell Beckham Jr., 15).
Chase Goodbread's takeaways:
- Washington's offensive line played bully-ball, and won. Given the opponent and the road setting, consider this the best offensive performance of the season for Washington. The WFT offensive line pushed around Carolina's small-but-quick defensive front and generated a strong day for running backs Antonio Gibson (19 for 95) and J.D. McKissic (seven for 46). Gibson did lose a red-zone fumble early, but Washington overcame the error, finished with 190 rushing yards and improved to 4-0 when scoring 25-plus points. When quarterback Taylor Heinicke wasn't well-protected, he was effectively mobile. He completed 16 of 22 passes without an interception against the No. 1-ranked pass defense in the NFL.
- Carolina's offense needed Cam Newton sooner. Newton's much-anticipated return as a starter in Carolina was met with raucous fan approval and, of course, a new dimension for the Panthers offense. Newton led Carolina to seven points on its opening drive, and at age 32, he later flashed a young man's legs on a 24-yard touchdown option keeper around the left end. Newton completed 21 of 27 passes with two touchdowns, ran for another 46 yards, and didn't commit a turnover. He was also effective downfield, completing six of seven for 94 yards and two scores on passes of 10-plus air yards. Newton's not a cure-all for Carolina's offense, but on Sunday, he certainly looked like a valuable quarterback upgrade.
- WFT defense finishes strong late. Carolina's last two possessions each ended with fourth-and-3 stops by the Washington defense that cemented the upset. On the first, Newton threw complete to Christian McCaffrey, who was stopped just short of the marker by safety Kamren Curl. Washington turned that stop into three insurance points for a 27-21 lead. Carolina took over with 1:50 remaining with another shot at comeback glory, but this time, Newton was sacked on a fourth-and-3 by Daron Payne and James Smith-Williams to put the Washington win to bed.
Next Gen stat of the game: Taylor Heinicke completed five of six passes with two touchdowns against the blitz, giving him a 6-0 TD-INT ratio for the season against blitzes.
NFL Research: In his first game in Carolina in over 800 days, Cam Newton became the first player in NFL history to have a passing TD against a former head coach for whom he won MVP and Rookie of the Year in Ron Rivera.
Chase Goodbread's takeaways:
- The Titans offense is officially off the tracks. The absence of the injured Derrick Henry has taken the heart out of the Titans offense the last three weeks, but on Sunday, it was more evident than ever. The Texans' next-to-worst scoring defense in the NFL pitched a first-half shutout, and induced the first four-interception game of Ryan Tannehill's career. On the first of those interceptions, Houston's Kamu Grugier-Hill took the return 82 yards to flip the line of scrimmage from one red zone to the other. The last three spoiled a gutty effort by the Titans defense that included four consecutive three-and-out Houston possessions late in the game. Emblematic of the day, the Titans also missed a scoring chance when Tannehill was flagged for intentional grounding at the end of the first half. Bottom line, when Henry went to injured reserve, Tennessee's offensive identity went with him.
- Tyrod Taylor frustrated Tennessee's defense. The difference Taylor makes for Houston's offense is difficult to calculate, but easy to see. His numbers on Sunday were utterly pedestrian (14 of 24, 107 yards), but his decision-making was outstanding and his two touchdown runs kept the Texans, who never trailed, playing with house money. In a driving rainstorm and with starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil out on injured reserve, Taylor dodged rushers, made some key first downs with his legs, and gave Houston's offense a level of confidence it doesn't have without him. He's not going to ring up fantasy points, but he's unquestionably a valuable leader on a team that needs more of them.
- Special teams play let the Titans down. Apart from Tannehill's interception-fest, a disastrous special teams miscue did a lot to dash the Titans' hopes in the third quarter as well. A Texans punt glanced off the leg of return man Chester Rogers, who had his back to the ball trying to run a gunner off the goal line. Houston recovered at the Tennessee 5-yard line, cashed in seven points for a 19-0 lead and held on from there. It was the kind of mistake that wouldn't normally be a killer against the struggling Texans, but with Houston playing its best defense of the season, Titans errors were magnified.
Next Gen stat of the game: Ryan Tannehill now has thrown four touchdown passes against seven interceptions this season on passes of 10-plus air yards.
NFL Research: Titans edge rusher Harold Landry had a streak of eight consecutive games with at least half a sack snapped -- it had been tied for the NFL's longest active streak, along with Myles Garrett.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- The Browns won a slog of a game, which means nothing more than another tally in the win column. That's it. That's all that was positive about Sunday's game for Cleveland, which barely escaped a rainy, windy day in which the Browns were fortunate to face a backup quarterback who hadn't thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2019. Before Detroit regained possession with 5:16, the Lions had more penalty yards than passing yards on the day. But it took a tackle for loss on third down and what was essentially a surrender of a third-down draw to keep the Lions from winning their first game of the season. From there, the formula was familiar: Nick Chubb (whose return and 130 rushing yards were welcomed) running behind Wyatt Teller to eat up the remaining clock. Cleveland was able to do enough to overcome 10 penalties -- a maddening character trait of the 2021 Browns -- and win Sunday. The game tape shouldn't see the light of day after it's used to correct mistakes.
- Baker Mayfield has reached a new low in his NFL career. Mayfield is clearly injured, yet he insists on gutting out his multiple ailments, and Kevin Stefanski is abiding to the detriment of his offense. Mayfield was again dreadful, completing 15 of 29 passes for 176 yards, one touchdown (a short pass in the flat to Chubb) and two interceptions. Many of his incompletions were to open receivers Mayfield simply missed, the interceptions were typically ugly, and the plays in between inspired so little confidence in Cleveland's offense as it currently exists, Browns fans rained boos down on the field -- while winning the game. Gone are the days of Stefanski's sharp, balanced and unpredictable attack. In its place is an offense stuck in five feet of mud with a banged-up quarterback trying to pull them out of it. Folks wearing brown and orange are seriously considering a future without Mayfield, who looks nothing like the quarterback who helped Cleveland win a playoff game last year. It's tough to evaluate him because of his injuries, but it's even more difficult to understand why the Browns aren't turning to Case Keenum just to give Mayfield a break.
- If they aren't talented enough to win, the Lions certainly are scrappy -- especially against the AFC North. Detroit finished its 2021 go-around with the division with an 0-3-1 record, which included two one-score losses and a tie with Pittsburgh. The only team the Lions didn't keep up with was Cincinnati, yet they all count the same for the still-winless Lions, who again rode D'Andre Swift for the bulk of their offense (136 of Detroit's 245 total yards) but couldn't do so with the game on the line. At this point in a difficult season for Detroit, there isn't all that much to say about a team that still hasn't been able to enjoy a Victory Monday other than they play hard for their coaching staff. After two straight close finishes, it might be fair to say they're getting close to finally winning a game, but the Browns and Steelers aren't good litmus tests. Oh, and the Lions need to stop harming themselves with avoidable penalties. They tallied seven of those Sunday and gave the Browns fresh chances, upon which Cleveland capitalized.
Next Gen Stat of the game: Twenty of Nick Chubb's 22 rushes were outside the tackles. Chubb gained 128 yards on such rushes, averaging 6.4 yards per carry.
NFL Research: Sunday was Cleveland's third win in which they scored 17 or fewer points, the most such wins by any team in the NFL. The three wins also ties the club's record for the most such victories in a single season in franchise history.
Nick Shook Research: This matchup was once an annual preseason tradition in which the Lions and Browns battled for a large trophy modeled after a Great Lakes shipping barge, known as the Great Lakes Classic. There are actually two of those trophies (one is a copy). Neither was up for grabs Sunday.
Adam Maya's takeaways:
- Deebo Samuel is one of the best skill players in the NFL. He's got to be the most versatile. Samuel regularly lined up in the backfield Sunday against the Jaguars. That wasn't completely new, except carrying the rock as opposed to catching it was Samuel's primary function. He entered Week 11 second in the NFL in receiving yards. He exited with just one reception for 15 yards. He also gained a team-high 79 rushing yards on eight carries, helping San Francisco manufacture a potent rushing attack with leading rusher Elijah Mitchell sidelined by a finger injury. Samuel hadn't even been a factor in the Niners' running game until last week's win against the Rams, carrying the ball just six times over the first eight games. This shouldn't be a temporary assignment for Samuel. San Francisco's offense lives and dies by running the ball, and its top wideout is too dynamic to be used strictly in his traditional fashion.
- Nick Bosa is all the way back. Two years ago as a rookie, the former No. 2 overall pick looked like he was on the precipice of becoming an immediate superstar. His ceiling was the top edge rusher in football. That all had to be put on pause after he tore his ACL in Week 2 last year and missed the remainder of the season. Through 10 games in 2021, it's safe to say Bosa hasn't lost anything from injury. Two sacks of Trevor Lawrence gave Bosa a sparkly 10 for the season. But it was his constant presence in Jacksonville's backfield -- the Jags had allowed the eighth-fewest sacks coming into this week -- six days after menacing the Rams that really resonate. There's a good debate to be had about which Bosa brother is better. The younger one remains quicker, even after the knee injury, and simply cannot be contained by one blocker. It's making a world of difference for a spotty Niners secondary.
- Something is amiss with Trevor Lawrence. Taking training camp and the preseason into consideration, none of the five 2021 first-round QBs have taken as many reps as Lawrence. Add to the fact he had the most college experience prior to entering the league and it's concerning that he hasn't demonstrated more progress to this point. The tools are obvious, but they haven't led to much production. Over his last four games, he looks to have regressed. He's completed just 56.4% of his throws during that span and just one touchdown while taking nine sacks. All those numbers are trending in the wrong direction. Jacksonville hasn't leaned nearly as much on the RPOs that Lawrence shined with while at Clemson. Maybe it's time to adjust the scheme to something he's more comfortable in.
Next Gen stat of the game: Nick Bosa registered five QB pressures and two sacks on 21 pass rushes (23.8 pressure pct).
NFL Research: Deebo Samuel is the first 49ers player with five-plus receiving TDs and three-plus rushing TDs in a single season since RB Ricky Watters in 1994.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Holy comeback, Batman! Playing without Lamar Jackson, the Ravens' offense struggled to generate big plays all afternoon, earning just 3.9 yards per play on 76 snaps. The lack of Jackson's dynamic ability highlighted the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust nature to the Ravens' RBs this season. In a tight ballgame, the Ravens were content to play it safe with quarterback Tyler Huntley. But after a busted coverage allowed the Bears to take the lead with less than two minutes remaining, Baltimore had no choice but to let Huntley sling it. The QB connected on a massive deep shot to Sammy Watkins for 29 yards -- Huntley's only attempt longer than 20 air yards on the afternoon. Devonta Freeman powered it in for the game-winning TD. The escape sans Jackson or receiver Marquise Brown is big for the AFC North leaders. It's evident how much the Ravens need the MVP candidate to create to beat better teams.
- Bears offense struggles before and after Justin Fields gets injured. Facing a Ravens defense that entered the day ranked last in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, the Bears couldn't take advantage. Fields was under pressure early and missed throws. It was boom-or-bust for the rookie quarterback, who seemed to either connect on a couple of 20-yard completions or miss completely. Fields exited the game early in the third quarter with a rib injury after completing just 4 of 11 passes for 79 yards and four rushes for 23 yards. Andy Dalton entered and gave the Bears a quick boost, with a two-play drive accounting for 85 yards, culminated by a Darnell Mooney 60-yard WR screen for a score. Dalton also took advantage of an all-out blitz on fourth-and-11 for a 49-yard TD to give the Bears the lead late. The two TDs accounted for 109 of Dalton's 201 yards passing. Dalton got the Bears into rhythm at times, but also missed several throws badly. With Chicago on a short week before Thursday's Thanksgiving game in Detroit, the veteran will likely get another shot at starting.
- Tyus Bowser starred for Ravens defense. The veteran linebacker made big plays for Baltimore all game, including ending the contest with a sack of Dalton that squashed a Hail Mary chance for the home club. Bowser was in the thick of the game early, not allowing Fields to scamper for big gains. The 26-year-old nailed two sacks, two QB hits, three pressures, and a tackle for loss to go along with five tackles. Rookie Odafe Oweh also generated six QB pressures on 26 pass rushes, tied for the most for the first-year player this season. The Ravens defense took advantage of a porous Bears offensive line, screaming into the backfield with regularity. The cover zero blitz late burned them, but luckily for defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, the offense picked them up.
Next Gen stat of the week: Mark Andrews caught eight of 10 targets for 73 yards, including five receptions for 56 yards on open targets (3+ yards of separation).
NFL Research: Chicago has now lost eight straight games following its bye week -- last win was Week 9, 2013 at Green Bay. It is the longest streak of losses following a bye week since the Raiders lost 10 straight post-bye games from 2003-2012.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Frank Reich received his wish and Jonathan Taylor delivered with a record-breaking day. Taylor powered a bludgeoning offensive attack for the Colts on Sunday, punching Buffalo in the mouth with an 11-play, 65-yard opening drive capped by a Taylor touchdown run. He'd score again later in the first via a 23-yard pass from Carson Wentz. And then he'd score three more times, all on runs of 10 yards or less, often set up by -- you guessed it -- long Taylor runs. Taylor was a one-man wrecking machine for whom Buffalo had no answer, breaking the Colts' franchise record for most touchdowns scored in a single game (five). He also scored the most touchdowns by a running back against the Bills this season, beating Derrick Henry's three scores and the two-touchdown total of every other running back combined. He's been building toward this for a while now, but this tape should stand as concrete proof of his ability for those unfamiliar with his work. Taylor is a s-t-u-d.
- Josh Allen delivered a faceplant of a performance. Allen opened Buffalo's offensive outing by throwing an interception on the eighth play of the Bills' first possession, which the Colts eventually turned into a touchdown and a 14-point lead. He was also stripped once, but fortunately Buffalo was able to recover it. They weren't as lucky later, though, when Allen threw a pass into traffic, which was tip-drilled by Kenny Moore for another interception. It wasn't all bad -- Allen threw two touchdowns, and for a brief moment, the Bills ran the ball effectively with Matt Breida -- but it wasn't nearly enough to keep up with what the Colts brought to the field. It was far from a most valuable performance, that's for sure.
- In the morass that is the AFC, the Colts are in a good spot. Once sitting at 3-5 and looking up at a healthy selection of teams in the conference standings, the Colts have rattled off three straight victories to move above .500 for the first time this season. Sunday was more meaningful than the rest, though, because it was the Colts' first victory that can be accurately defined as a quality win. Indianapolis is heating up and has proven it can trade punches with the league's contenders, which it will have to do down a back stretch that includes games against Tampa Bay, New England, Arizona and Las Vegas. Reich's squad is getting hot at the right time and should ride this win's wave of momentum into a suddenly spicy matchup with the defending champs next week.
Next Gen stat of the game: Jonathan Taylor extended his rushing yards over expected lead Sunday with +47 RYOE, bringing his season total to +322.
NFL Research: Jonathan Taylor is the fifth player with 200-plus scrimmage yards and five-plus scrimmage touchdowns in a single game in the Super Bowl era, joining the likes of Jamaal Charles, Clinton Portis, Shaun Alexander and Jerry Rice.
Michael Baca's takeaways:
- Philadelphia's ground game continues to thrive. And it's doing it by committee. Miles Sanders (94 yards), Jalen Hurts (69), Jordan Howard (63) and Boston Scott (16) combined for 242 rushing yards and kept the ball in their possession for an essential 37:01 of play in the win. Sanders looked strong in his return from injured reserve averaging 5.9 yards per carry. However, the Eagles' charge was buoyed by a stout offensive line and an astounding effort from their quarterback. Even with a well-oiled rushing attack at his disposal, Jalen Hurts (13-of-24, 147 yards) was called upon to make big throws during a key 74-yard, fourth-quarter drive which gridlocked a late Saints comeback after his 24-yard score. Accounting for all three offensive scores, Hurts had three rushing TDs in the game and won back-to-back games for the first time as a starter. It was also the first home win for rookie head coach Nick Sirianni.
- Short-handed Saints make too many early mistakes. Without star running back Alvin Kamara (knee) and Pro Bowl tackles Terron Armstead (knee/shoulder) and Ryan Ramczyk (knee), the depleted Saints offense had a steep hill to climb after a grisly first half that ended with a 27-7 deficit. Trevor Siemian threw two big first-half interceptions that resulted in Eagles touchdowns and didn't do the team any favors with short, point-less drives which quickly tired out a normally stout Saints defense. Somehow, the Saints D helped manufacture a late surge by holding the Eagles to field goals and punts deep into the second half. The Saints scored 22 fourth-quarter points and Siemien ended the day going 22 of 40 for 214 yards and four total TDs (three passing, one rushing), but the first-half mistakes were too much to overcome. Lost in all this was the great game put together by punter Shane Gillikin, who had six punts for 299 net yards (long of 62), three of which pinned the Eagles inside the 20.
- Eagles defense takes care of business with three turnovers. The unit simply dominated at all three levels to start the game and held the Saints to 323 total yards despite giving up 29 points. Linebacker T.J. Edwards started the turnover party with a first-quarter interception that led to Philly's first score of the day. Cornerback Darius Slay had a 51-yard pick-six at a critical point late in the second quarter, extending the Eagles' lead to 27-7 and preventing any chance of a one-score game entering the half. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox then forced a Mark Ingram fumble midway through the third quarter to continue a would-be rout before the Saints' late surge. If it wasn't for a Sanders fumble which set up the Saints for an easy score from the 4-yard line, the Eagles defense would've had a first-half shutout and perhaps the tone of the game would've been different. Nonetheless, the Eagles' three takeaways resulted in 17 points and ensured the Eagles' first win streak of the year.
Next Gen stat of the game: Miles Sanders had 13 rushes for 85 yards on runs to the left (6.5 avg).
NFL Research: Jalen Hurts is the first Eagles quarterback to rush for three touchdowns in one game.
Adam Maya's takeaways:
- Play-action is everything for Tua Tagovailoa. The heavily scrutinized southpaw had a nice day at the office in his first full game in three weeks. He was accurate, decisive and sometimes even aggressive while throwing for a pair of touchdowns and 273 yards on 8.3 yards per attempt. It's the first time in his career he's topped 250 yards and 8.0 YPA, and he completed 81.8% of his throws in the process. The key? Play-action. Tagovailoa was 14 of 16 on such plays for 183 yards, per Next Gen Stats. He's completed 73.4% on play-action passes this season. Against the Jets, the approach wasn't even buttressed with a strong run game. The Dolphins averaged just 3.5 yards per carry. But they committed to pounding the ball, rushing 33 times to give their young QB much-needed balance. Perhaps this will be a turning point for Tagovailoa.
- Michael Carter and Elijah Moore got the goods. The two rookies provided more than a moral victory for the Jets, who are in the midst of their third multi-game slide of the season. The offensive 2021 draft picks are bankable contributors. Carter was averaging a career-best 7.0 yards per carry before exiting with an ankle injury. It was his fifth straight game with at least 65 yards from scrimmage, a figure he reached just once in his first five games. Moore had his best day as a pro, hauling in eight passes for 141 yards and touchdown. That put him alongside Keyshawn Johnson as the only Jets rookie wideouts since the 1970 merger to catch a TD in three consecutive games. New York still has a ton to figure out on offense between its quarterback and offensive line. But it can take some solace in the fact two of its youngest skill players are rapidly finding their way amid all the chaos.
- The Dolphins are faux postseason contenders. With no teams in the AFC able to separate themselves, Miami is firmly in the playoff race after winning three games in a row. It's just two back in the win column behind a group of teams occupying the seventh seed. The Dolphins are only three behind AFC East division leader Patriots. But it's how the Dolphins are winning that gives you pause. Sunday's game versus the Jets, who started newly acquired backup Joe Flacco, shouldn't have been close. Neither of the teams' two meetings were last year, with Miami winning those by a combined 41 points. This one was in the balance until the final minutes of the fourth. Brian Flores' club committed just one turnover, controlled the clock and mostly took care of business in the red zone. Yet it struggled to put away one of the worst teams in the NFL, similar to its victory over the Texans two weeks ago (save for the ball protection). That simply doesn't project to sustained success, no matter how favorable the upcoming schedule is (Panthers, Giants, Jets).
Next Gen stat of the game: All eight of Jaylen Waddle's receptions came on short passes (0-9 air yards).
NFL Research: Elijah Moore had a career-high 141 receiving yards and one receiving TD for the Jets. It marked the most receiving yards in a game by a Jets rookie since Rob Moore had 175 in Week 4, 1990.