Week 10 Takeaways: Kyler-to-Hop Saves Cards, Rams Wreck Russell Wilson, Giants Back In It

Plus, Brees goes down, a dominant Dolphins defense, the Rams lose a star, Alex Smith does a different kind of comeback, Stafford and Prater bail out Matt Patricia, Browns and Packers survive the elements, two more entries for ‘worst call of the year,’ and much more.
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Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened in the Week 10 Sunday afternoon games...

Things That Made Me Giddy

Kyler-to-Hopkins for the Win: Sometimes you do everything you can to give one away to a short-handed opponent. And sometimes your ultra-talented quarterback escapes, throws one up to your ultra-talented No. 1 receiver, and your prayers are answered. Kyler did a great job extending the play and threw the moon ball (as the kids call it) perfectly, but this is just an otherworldly play by a special wide receiver. The kind of guy you might even trade a second-round pick and a backup running back for.

Jalen Ramsey Erases DK: Metcalf had two catches for 28 yards in L.A.—and only one of them came when he locked up with Jalen Ramsey (though there was also a near miss downfield in the fourth quarter). Ramsey is an absolute force.

Abracadaniel Carves Up Eagles: Since the laughable overreaction to negative plays in a Monday night loss to Tampa two weeks ago, Daniel Jones has put together two straight turnover-free and all-around sharp performances in victories. On Sunday, he hit on throw after throw outside the numbers, going 21-for-28 for 244, while also leading the Giants in rushing (64 yards and a TD).

Dolphins Defense Delivers Again: They held a red-hot Chargers offense to 273 yards and 4.3 yards per play as once again the Xavien Howard–Byron Jones tandem was dominant. Keenan Allen (3 catches, 39 yards) and Mike Williams (2 for 38) were nonfactors.

Alex Smith and Comebacks: It was something he had never done as Washington’s quarterback—and granted, things come much easier against this Detroit defense—but this was the kind of performance no one would have expected from Smith ever again after his return from injury. Along with 24 points over the final 20 minutes to tie it, he finished 38-for-55 for 390 yards, even mixing in a couple of intermediate and deep-intermediate throws with the usual underneath stuff.

Josh Allen Magic: He’s a streaky quarterback—so I’ve said—and for most of Sunday it was a bad streak—credit Vance Joseph for making things blurry. But the Cardinals kept giving Buffalo chances, and Allen delivered a pinpoint touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs when it mattered most.

Browns Get One They Had to Have: They’re objectively better than the Texans, and they’re built for the muck with this ground game. But the rain and wind whipping to the degree in was in Cleveland became an equalizer, and they lost in similarly ugly conditions to the Raiders. They had to handle Houston in order to hang on in the wild-card race, and they did just that. If you are even vaguely familiar with this franchise, it is all very un-Browns-like.

Matts—Stafford and Prater but not Patricia—Keep the Lions Alive: Stafford staked the Lions to a 21-point lead midway through the third quarter, but Matt Patricia’s defense will not let the quarterback take it easy, even for a quarter. Detroit managed to allow 24 points in 20 minutes to an Alex Smith offense. With the game tied and 16 seconds left, Stafford completed a 10-yard quick-hitter, absorbed a foolish roughing penalty from Chase Young, then hit Marvin Jones for nine yards to set up Matt Prater’s game-winner from 59 as time expired. Detroit is now 4–5 and living on the fringes of the playoff picture.

Three Straight for Vegas: And four of five, to move to 6–3. Don’t look now, but the Raiders are winning with the run game and defense. And until Sunday, when Drew Lock came bearing gifts, they hadn’t been benefiting from a lot of takeaways.

Nick Chubb Doesn’t Need Your Stat-Padding TD: On a third-and-3 from Cleveland’s 40, and Houston out of timeouts, he broke free down the sideline and stepped out of bounds at the 1, allowing the Browns to come out in victory formation rather than having to play another defensive possession.

Tyler Bass Is Football’s Steph Curry: Buffalo’s rookie kicker connected from 54, 55 and 58 in the second quarter in Arizona.

Bucs Against Anyone But the Saints: You got the sense that Tampa could have scored somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 points in Charlotte if it wanted to. Instead the Bucs settled for 46, piling up 544 yards of offense. They scored on all 10 of their possessions (excluding the end-of-game kneel-downs).

Jamal Adams’s Game-Changing Strip Sack: It’s been a rough first season in Seattle, but the Seahawks seem to have settled on blitzing him nonstop. The approach might be too predictable, but every now and then he delivers, like on the second-quarter strip sack to take it away from a Rams offense that was doing whatever it wanted. (Unfortunately, Russell Wilson followed it up with an ugly interception, but it still provided a much-needed stop for a struggling defense.)

Logan Cooke Teaches Us the Meaning of Punting: The Jaguars’ stud put the Packers inside their own 10 four times, including inside their own 5 twice. That’s how you hang around as a two-touchdown underdog!

Aqib Talib’s Broadcasting Debut: I didn’t recognize the voice on Detroit-Washington but kept thinking, Huh, this guy’s pretty good!

Steelers Beat the Bengals: Did that surprise you?

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Regrets

Drew Brees Sidelined: He was shaken up on a sack when he landed on that increasingly balky right shoulder (the play drew a pity roughing flag, by the way) in the second quarter. The Saints, somewhat unconvincingly, called it a rib injury. Brees stayed in for the remainder of the second quarter, but it was Jameis Winston under center to start the second half.

Andrew Whitworth Carted Off: He hasn’t missed a game since 2013, with the Bengals, but the Rams’ soon-to-be-39-year-old rock of a left tackle suffered what looked like a major knee injury on Sunday. It’s a game-changer for a dark horse favorite in the NFC. The Rams have a highly schemed offense that needs strong O-line play but struggled to find stability on the offensive line a year ago. If Whitworth is indeed out, it will be a major test—much tougher than the one they got from the Seahawks' punchless defense on Sunday.

Bills Hold Halftime Tryout for Cornerbacks: Or at least they should have. They lost Levi Wallace and Josh Norman to COVID-19 protocols 24 hours before game time, then had rookie fill-in Dane Jackson limping through the second half due to a knee injury. It’s incredible that this defense almost held on in Arizona.

Eagles Still Completely Out of Sync: Their first half in East Rutherford featured seven penalties—most of the pre-snap variety—frequent bad shotgun snaps from Jason Kelce, a few more off-target throws from Carson Wentz, repeated communication breakdowns in protection, and a third-and-1 on which Wentz was tripped up by his own lineman coming out from under center. In short: The bye week didn’t seem to do them very much good at all! They’re hanging on to a one-game lead in the NFC East.

Eagles Play Like Another Green-and-White Team in East Rutherford: Philly went 0-for-9 on third down, which is enough to make the Jets blush.

Russell Wilson Piling Up the Unforgivable Turnovers: Two plays after the Seahawks defense finally made a play, stopping the Rams and giving Seattle a short field, Wilson missed a read that would have been a walk-in touchdown, scrambled, came back to the read too late and floated one across the field for a punt-like interception in the end zone.

Matt Patricia’s Defense Hits a New Low: When you have a 21-point lead with 20 minutes to go against an Alex Smith offense, your win probability is pretty much a statistical certainty. You almost have to try to lose that lead. Enter Patricia’s hand-picked group, who indeed found a way to let it happen. The Lions escaped with a win, but this defense is fundamentally broken.

The Drew Lock–Pat Shurmur Marriage: It was a tough offseason to switch coordinators on a raw, young quarterback, but regardless, Lock is absolutely not seeing the field right now.

Packers vs. the Wind: It’s been an adventure in the elements, against the Vikings in their last home game and against the Jaguars on Sunday, despite Aaron Rodgers ultimately putting up solid numbers. Against Jacksonville, it was special teams issues and turnovers (two of them, after coming into the game with only three giveaways on the season) that made things much more interesting than they should have been against the Jaguars.

Desmond Trufant Pass Interference: Is this rock bottom for NFL officiating? This call allowed a game-tying drive to stay alive.

Wait! No, Rock Bottom Came About 90 Minutes Later: This is like a parody of a bad roughing-the-passer call. Brees is still holding the ball, and it can’t be bodyweight because Kentavius Street hits the turf next to Brees. Instead of a sack to set up a third-and-17 on the fringe of field-goal range, the Saints get a free 15 yards and score a touchdown three plays later.

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Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About

Josh Allen, Red-Zone Receiver:

This Time, Daniel Jones Hurdles the 19-Yard Line: It’s why they call him Abracadaniel.

Keelan Cole’s 91-Yard Punt Return TD: When you’re two-touchdown underdogs, takeaways and special teams are your friend. (Also, J.K. Scott has to watch some Philip Rivers open-field tackling teach tape.)

The Gods Are Angry at Cleveland: Probably a delayed reaction to letting Mitchell Schwartz and Joe Haden walk.

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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week

Are These the Jameis Winston/Taysom Hill Saints Now?: New Orleans seemed to be getting it together on both sides of the ball, and Winston is physically capable of keeping it going offensively. But when the Saints get into third-and-medium or more, will Sean Payton trust the NFL’s last 30-INT man to take matters into his own hands (he nearly got picked by an underneath defender on Sunday)? Or, with a full week to prepare a new-look offense, will it be Taysom Hill–centric going forward? (Or, is Brees going to be fine?)

Maybe the Seahawks Need Chris Carson More Than We Thought: It’s been back-to-back legitimately bad performances by this Seahawks offense, and the two games before that were against the shorthanded 49ers (against whom they were good) and really shorthanded Cardinals (against whom they were shaky). The argument against “let Russ cook” has been that you want something to keep you on-schedule, to regulate the offense. It’s been the power-running game over the years. Maybe it becomes the power-running game again this year.

The Amazing AFC Wild-Card Race: There were three winners on Sunday, and it’s shaping up to be a good one with the Dolphins (unless they catch Buffalo), Browns, Raiders and Titans chasing two spots. The Browns and Titans are set to go head-to-head in Nashville in Week 13, and the Dolphins visit Vegas in Week 16.

Giants Can Win the NFC East: I don’t think it’s even an unseasonably mild take to claim the Giants, at the moment, are the best team in the NFC East. They’re already at seven losses, with trips to Seattle and Baltimore left, but every other game is winnable (and winning all of them would get them to 7–9). As for the Eagles, their next five games are against teams with winning records. If they drop even four of those five, they’d be sitting at 4-9-1 going into the season’s final two games (Dallas and Washington). Anyway, that’s my chilling look into the future.

Kliff Kingsbury Has Much to Be Thankful For: Arizona has gotten every conceivable break this year, whether it be the DeAndre Hopkins trade, Russell Wilson melting down on a Sunday night in the desert, or the Bills showing up so shorthanded in the secondary that Sean McDermott must have thought about suiting up as a player-coach. And, my goodness, they still couldn't put Buffalo away, even with Josh Allen struggling. The bottom line is this: The Cards now sit at 6–3 in spite of themselves. The postseason is an absolute must.

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