Week 8 Takeaways: Steelers Take Advantage of Lamar’s Rough Day, Dalvin Cook Does it Himself, the Season's Strangest Fight

Plus, Saints do it without Michael Thomas (again), Drew Lock has his moment, Chargers let another one slip away, Joe Burrow carries the Bengals to the day’s biggest upset, Tua’s debut, Seattle bounces back, the Rams’ dud in Miami, the AFC East becomes a two-team race (and the Patriots aren’t one of them), and much more.
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Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened in the Week 8 Sunday afternoon games...

Things That Made Me Giddy

Steelers Survive Another Classic With Baltimore: A week ago in Nashville, the Steelers were much more dominant than the final score indicated. This week, the Ravens defense was absolutely taking it to them. Whether you consider it Lamar Jackson making mistakes or the Steelers defense forcing those mistakes (it was a mix, but maybe a bit more of the former), Pittsburgh hung around long enough to figure it out offensively. The Ravens outgained them 457 to 221, but about half of the Steelers’ yardage came on two two long touchdown drives in the final 20 minutes, and situationally they were more than up to the task. The defense held on a fourth-and-3 in the red zone, and Minkah Fitzpatrick played the ball perfectly for the break up on the game’s final snap. These are things that 7-0 teams do.

Because John Harbaugh Was Still Complaining About It an Hour Later: One more look at the complete lack of a penalty on the final play in Baltimore. This is perfectly played and unworthy of even the slightest bit of controversy.

Dalvin Cook Is a One-Man Army: With the wind howling in Green Bay and the Vikings even more reluctant to put the ball in the air (ultimately, 15 dropbacks vs. 49 runs), Cook ended up with 32 touches for 226 yards—many of them after contact—and 4 TDs. If you are going to pay a running back, this is what you want to get from him.

Saints Find a Way Without Michael Thomas... Again: The Bears did them a favor by going soft with their coverage at the end of the first half, but nothing comes easy for a visiting offense in Chicago. The Saints have won four straight and sit at 5-2, with their best days likely ahead of them.

Cairo Santos Is the Right Leg in Chicago: He’s been streaky over the years, but right now he’s in a groove—the kind of groove Bears kickers don’t normally find. He was 3-for-3 against the Saints—including the game-tying 51-yarder with 13 seconds left in regulation—in a game where it was the other guy, Will Lutz, missing a 27-yard chip shot early. Santos is 14-for-16 on field goals and 15-for-15 on PATs this season.

Drew Lock Shows Signs of Life: It was not the most beautiful game-winning drive you’ll see (he misfired badly on what would have been a huge completion to Noah Fant), but after flat-lining for the games first 45 minutes it was encouraging to see this offense scrape something together. On the final drive, Lock took advantage of a defensive pass-interference penalty to set up a final play from the 1, stayed patient on a rollout and found KJ Hamler at the last moment. Maybe this sparks a turnaround for the struggling second-year QB.

Wilson-to-Metcalf Delivers an Early Knockout Blow: Metcalf already had 102 yards and two touchdowns by halftime, including a winding 46-yard catch-and-run TD to open the scoring after a sluggish start.

Joe Burrow Doesn’t Need an Offensive Line: The Bengals’ O-line was already one of the NFL’s worst, and on Sunday they were playing four backups—and it showed. But Burrow consistently navigated through the chaos, going 26-for-37 for 249 and not taking a single sack (largely due to his escapability). The numbers weren’t mind-blowing, but this is a game the Bengals had little right being competitive in, let alone winning decisively.

William Jackson Erases A.J. Brown: It took until midway through the third quarter for Brown to register a catch for positive yardage, and the late-game stat-padding wasn’t nearly enough to get the Titans back in the game. Jackson continues to be one of the most underrated players in the NFL (and if you’re belatedly wondering why the Bengals defense looked so bad in blowing it to the Browns last week, Jackson’s absence was a big reason.)

Josh Jacobs Is a Mudder: The Raiders’ rushing attack hasn’t been quite what they wanted it to be through six games, but on Sunday, on an icy, muddy track in Cleveland, they rode it to victory. Jacobs had 31 carries for 128, and as a team Vegas rushed 45 times for 208, controlling the clock for nearly 38 minutes and winning ugly. They're 4-3 with four very winnable games among the next five on their schedule.

Really, That's the Most You Can Get Out of This Bears Offense: It's back-to-back losses, but the fact that Chicago could get 10 points late in the fourth quarter to hang with a quality opponent is encouraging. Assuming the defense does enough to get them to the postseason, this is the kind of game the Bears want to play.

The Mighty Right Hand of Justin Zimmer: The recent practice-squad call-up DT (and one-time Montreal Alouette) sealed the win in Buffalo with the strip of Cam Newton—the Patriots were in range for a game-tying field goal, and maybe on their way to a game-winning touchdown. It’s just another reminder that only the great ones wear No. 61.

Seahawks Sorted Out Their Protection Issues: Whatever went on last Sunday night in Arizona, with free rushers blasting Russell Wilson repeatedly, it didn’t carry over to Sunday. The 49ers got Wilson once on the first down, but Wilson wasn’t bothered very much at all after that.

The Colts Win Their Way: Conservative offense, situational football and opportunistic defense. It never felt like they were gaining separation in Detroit, but the offense kept the ball for nearly 38 minutes, opened a lead and the defense got two late takeaways. That's how Indy cruised to a 20-point victory.

Le’Veon Bell Revenge Game: Yes! Taking it to the team that awarded him $27 million guaranteed when the market wasn’t there and recently released him so he could sign with the reigning Super Bowl champions. (Six carries for seven yards, three catches for 31, by the way.)

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Regrets

Lamar Jackson Takes a Step Back: The Steelers will make a lot of quarterbacks look bad, but Jackson was downright sloppy on Sunday, reckless with the ball on a day when the Ravens defense was making his job easy. He was responsible for putting Pittsburgh’s first 14 points on the board, unacceptable against a quality opponent and turning what should have been a double-digit win into a loss.

Lamar Disregarding Game Situation: He had already thrown a pick-six and another near-interception at the end of the first half at this point. But this interception, on the Ravens’ first play from scrimmage in the second half, was unforgivable. Baltimore was up 10, their defense was in complete control and it was first-and-10, so there’s no reason to put the ball in danger. But this is beyond “in danger”—everyone has eyes on him, this ball isn't going to get there. And if that’s not enough, it was also very reminiscent of an ugly pick Jackson threw in Pittsburgh last season.

Jimmy Garoppolo Just Isn’t Good Enough Right Now: It’s a tall order to go into Seattle and win, especially when your defense isn’t getting it done. But Garoppolo was scattershot again, and after a season-and-a-half of this it might be time to accept this is just who he is: a quarterback the 49ers need to hide. It was Nick Mullens who dragged the 49ers back into it on Sunday.

Rams Get ALL the Mistakes Out of Their System: How they ended up having to travel three time zones on a short week is something for Howard Katz and his team of schedule-makers to answer at a Congressional hearing, but the otherwise efficient Rams managed to cram four turnovers and allow a punt return TD into the game’s first 30 minutes at Miami.

Chargers Find a Way: In a game that they utterly dominated most of the way, their come-from-ahead loss included allowing a 55-yard TD run and committing a wholly unnecessary pass interference penalty in the end zone on a fourth down. It's tough to stomach how a defense with this much talent can let one get away against an offense struggling so badly.

Emmanuel Moseley as the Washington Generals: The 49ers let him battle D.K. Metcalf one-on-one early on Sunday. Moseley has had a fine season, but that didn’t work out.

Bills Run Defense Is an Issue: Facing a Patriots offense with no real threat in the passing game—New England was overly conservative in passing situations on Sunday, understandable considering the past two weeks—the Bills still got gashed by the ground game. New England ran it 34 times for 188 yards, and you had the feeling that if not for Justin Zimmer stripping Newton deep in Buffalo territory on the final drive, the shorthanded Patriots were going to steal one in Orchard Park.

That Rams Secondary Is Getting Thin: They lost Jalen Ramsey during the first half in Miami, one week after losing stellar rookie Terrell Burgess on Monday night, and Ramsey on Sunday. This team wasn’t built with the kind of depth to sustain these kinds of injuries.

Matt Judon’s Accidental Right Hook: Connects with the official’s forearm—the most fragile part of the human body—and earns him a first-half ejection.

* * *

Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About

Javon Wims Just Loses It: C.J. Gardner-Johnson had poked a finger into Anthony Miller’s face earlier, which is what set this off. But Wims starts this as… an improv skit? Ripping off an imaginary chain? I don’t think Gardner-Johnson was wearing a chain. (UPDATE: Ahhh, he was ripping off Gardner-Johnson's mouthpiece, as retaliation for this.) But then it gets very real, except for the fact that you're not going to hurt a guy by punching him in the helmet. But I guess what probably hurts the most are his feelings; Gardner-Johnson doesn’t even give him the satisfaction of fighting back. (Also, this is after a five-yard gain for the Bears on first down, so it turned a second-and-5 into a second-and-20, which was intercepted.)

Who’s Tripping Down the Streets of the City / Smiling at Everybody She Sees / Who’s Reaching Out to Capture a Moment: Everyone knows it's Windy.

Mahomes Perfects the Underhand Flip: Someone’s putting those Tom Emanski tapes to good use.

T.J. Watt Becomes the New ‘Why Not Both?’ Meme: His responsibility is the back here, but he still swallows up the most dangerous running QB the league has ever seen. Sorry, little girl from taco commercial.

Nyheim Hines’s Celebration: The competition committee should really consider adding a seventh point for a touchdown if you do this immediately afterward…

Tua’s First Drop-Back: Yeah, those NFL pockets are a little tighter than the ones at Tuscaloosa.

It Got Better Though!: This is an accurate throw and an absurd catch by DeVante Parker through the pass interference for Tua’s first NFL touchdown pass.

Chargers' Fourth-Down Pass Interference: I could have lived without the flag, but I'll defer to friend of the show Joe Rowles.

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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week

The Saints Become Tampa's Biggest Challenger in the NFC: The Seahawks and Packers might have their say come January, but once the Saints get Michael Thomas back, they're best-equipped to take on Tampa as the NFC's best team. (And it doesn't hurt that they already have a head-to-head win over the Bucs.)

Patriots Played Their Game and It Wasn’t Enough: They ran it and controlled the clock on offense, and limited big plays on defense. The lack of a passing offense (along with Cam Newton’s struggles, they had no Julian Edelman or N’Keal Harry in Buffalo) and struggles of their run defense were there again. Sitting at 2-5, if they have a chance to sell at the deadline they might as well do it.

It’s Bills vs. Dolphins in the AFC East: Buffalo has a game-and-a-half lead and got to four wins within the division with the victory over the Patriots at home, but still have to go to Foxboro and host Miami. And with the Bills’ schedule getting rough over the next month, it might be Week 17, when the Dolphins go to Orchard Park, that decides it.

Tua’s First Test: Incomplete: I know, “incomplete” is a class grade not a grade on an individual exam. The point is, with a first half featuring four defensive takeaways and a Jakeem Grant punt-return TD, there wasn’t much for Tua to do in his first start. The limited sample size showed an accurate passer on the short and intermediate levels, and a guy who will have to get used to managing tight NFL pockets after playing in some wide-open spaces at the college level. At the moment, his career trajectory ranges from surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer to all-time draft bust.

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