When Oregon's Kenjon Barner rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns on Saturday night, it was safe to assume that would be the best running back performance of the football weekend.
Tampa Bay's Doug Martin at least threw himself into the discussion Sunday.
Martin, playing near his hometown of Stockton, Califl, rumbled for 220 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries ... in the second half of his team's 42-32 road victory over the Oakland Raiders. Up until halftime, Martin and the Tampa Bay offense was sluggish at best -- he had eight carries for 31 yards during the first two quarters, and the Bucs took a 10-7 halftime deficit into the locker room.
There was no stopping either Martin or the Buccaneers from then on, however.
And each of Martin's first three touchdown runs was more sensational than the next. He opened the fireworks with a 45-yarder up the middle, in which he broke a tackle at the line, bounced outside and schooled both of Oakland's safeties. Later, he took one to the house from 67 yards and then from 70. A 1-yard TD plunge late put the game away -- and looked entirely humdrum by comparison.
Martin's four-TD performance more than doubled his rookie season touchdown total (he had three before Sunday), but it also marked the third consecutive game he's crossed the goal line.
Even on a day when running backs league-wide enjoyed an abundance of success, Martin's breakthrough showing stood out as special. ([si_launchNFLPopup video='c16b081cc1dc44ad9d37f9a178a707fe']Check out the best of Doug Martin's breakthrough day.[/si_launchNFLPopup])
Here are more of Week 9's best and worst performers:
The Steelers headed into an emotionally-charged Meadowlands Sunday minus RBs Rashard Mendenhall and Jonathan Dwyer, then lost WR Antonio Brown and KR Chris Rainey to injuries. And they didn't miss a step.
Redman turned in a man-sized performance in the backfield, rushing for 147 yards and a touchdown, often making something out of nothing against the Giants' front. His teammate, Sanders, caught a TD in the first quarter and later delivered a huge punt return that helped flip field position.
Don't look now, but Pittsburgh's 5-3 with a game against Kansas City forthcoming.
• Fourth Down: Washington's 2012 season.
"Now you’re playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come," Shanahan said. "Now we get a chance to evaluate players and see where we’re at."
He added that "we're not out of it statistically," but realistically the playoffs will have to wait at least a year. Still, it's surprising to hear a coach admit as much with seven games left on the schedule.
• First Down: Eric Decker.
Sunday will wind up far from Peyton Manning's greatest hits list. But he still managed to throw three touchdown passes in a 31-23 win over Cincinnati, with two of them ending up in Decker's hands.
The first put Denver ahead 10-3 in the second quarter -- Decker caught one cutting across the middle, turned upfield at the sideline and stiff-armed Nate Clements to get into the end zone. Manning and Decker then connected to more or less put Cincinnati away late in the fourth, as Decker went up and over Terence Newman for six.
Manning looked Decker's direction on 11 of his 35 passes Sunday, three more shots than Demaryius Thomas received. Decker, clearly, has earned his QB's trust.
• Fourth Down: Brandon Weeden.
The Browns had posted a 2-1 record over their previous three games and they, along with their rookie QB, appeared to take some very serious steps in a positive direction. Sunday marked a bump in the road, especially for Weeden.
He tossed a pair of interceptions and never really seemed to settle in. The Browns also settled for field goals on five possessions, something that came back to haunt them in a 25-15 loss to Baltimore. Weeden's lone touchdown pass, a connection over the middle with Josh Gordon, was wiped out by an illegal formation penalty.
• First Down: The Indianapolis Colts' organization.
For starters, if you haven't watched Chuck Pagano's speech to his team after the Colts' 23-20 win, [si_launchNFLPopup video='f8a7a94cb3184e958e145a82ba7b507e']go do it[/si_launchNFLPopup]. Pagano, away from the team since Sept. 26 while battling cancer, delivered one of the season's most poignant moments as his supportive players circled around him.
What a day for the Colts. Not only was Pagano in attendance, but also Andrew Luck set the single-game rookie passing record with 433 yards and Indianapolis pulled off a critical win over Miami. Suddenly, Indianapolis is 5-3 and a legitimate playoff contender in the AFC.
When you talk about franchises that operate the right way, the Colts have to be right up there at the top of the list. They committed to rebuilding around Luck this offseason, letting Peyton Manning go in the process. It's already paying off, and even better days should lie ahead.
• Fourth Down: Tennessee's ball security.
But Tennessee should be embarrassed by what happened, especially since it came on home turf. The Titans put the ball on the deck six times (Chicago recovered four), Matt Hasselbeck threw an interception and the Bears blocked a punt for a touchdown. It's no wonder Chicago waltzed away with a 51-20 victory -- and the Titans are lucky it wasn't even worse [si_launchNFLPopup video='6eba951ec57042feb5eb3fa0118ab437'](see all six Bears touchdowns)[/si_launchNFLPopup].
• First Down: The Lions' ground game.
Sure, Matthew Stafford put up 285 yards and Calvin Johnson had 129, but the Lions mashed Jacksonville up front to the tune of 149 yards and four touchdowns. The star? Mikel Leshoure, who became the first player in Lions history with [si_launchNFLPopup video='3208eea60e16403fadeb25deba7b64f7']three rushing touchdowns[/si_launchNFLPopup] in the first half. Joique Bell chipped in 73 yards and a TD of his own -- and he saw a lot of snaps late as Detroit ground down the clock.
• Fourth Down: Buffalo's play calling.
Bills coach Chan Gailey said a couple weeks back that he wanted Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller to combine for "between 30 and 40" touches per game. They only got to 22 on Sunday, despite Buffalo staying in its game against Houston.
Two issues: 1. The Texans' defense is terrific against the run (Buffalo rushed for just 78 yards); and 2. Spiller had way more success Sunday -- 6.5 yards per carry and 12.6 yards per catch compared to 3.5 and 2.8, respectively, for Jackson.
The Bills might not have mustered enough offense regardless to pull the upset Sunday, but they did themselves no favors by forcing a Spiller/Jackson split or by bailing on their run game early.
• First Down: Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers' completion percentage was ugly: 46.7 on 14-of-30 passing. He made those 14 connections count, though.
Rodgers threw four TDs -- two to Randall Cobb, one to James Jones and [si_launchNFLPopup video='98c0e55817594ebbb21ab743de5f9275']a 72-yarder to Tom Crabtree[/si_launchNFLPopup] that put Arizona away late. Rodgers also scrambled for 33 yards on eight rushes, simply surviving and getting the job done without Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson or right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
• Fourth Down: Minnesota's defense.
The Vikings were one of the league's best early-season stories as they raced out to a 5-2 record. But they have now lost two straight, and three of four, counting Sunday's 30-20 setback in Seattle, and allowed 30-plus points in all of those defeats. Minnesota had absolutely no answers for the Seahawks, either on the ground or through the air -- Marshawn Lynch churned out 124 yards and a touchdown, while Russell Wilson tossed three TD passes. The porous defensive effort ruined a marvelous Adrian Peterson effort, too. Peterson had 182 yards and two touchdowns on just 17 carries, nearly 11 yards per carry.