Another NFL Sunday, another night of high drama around the league.
That is just par for the course in today’s NFL and just one reason why we love such a busy slate of games on Sunday evenings. There is always something going on!
Here are six headlines that caught my eye over the weekend.
Front-runners dig deep
AFC front-runners New England and Kansas City had to dig deep on Sunday night to preserve their perfect 4-0 records.
The Patriots were 16-10 winners in Buffalo while the Chiefs fought long and hard to come out on top 34-30 in Detroit – on a day when Patrick Mahomes went 0-of-9 on deep throws and did not launch a touchdown pass.
It was not much easier for Tom Brady in Buffalo as New England’s star man registered a quarterback rating of 45.9 – the fifth-lowest output in his illustrious career.
These wins told us a lot about the resilience of Super Bowl-chasing teams in New England and Kansas City, but they also revealed a great deal about the grit and determination of the Bills and Lions. And both those teams showed they are going to make some noise the rest of the way.
Bucs stun the Rams
There are still going to be ups and downs along the way, but it does appear as if Jameis Winston is responding positively to the coaching of Bruce Arians in Tampa. The Buccaneers made the long trip out west to play the Los Angeles Rams and recorded an eye-opening 55-40 win over a previously-unbeaten team.
Winston did make some mistakes but it should be noted that he was a major factor in the win, throwing for 385 yards and four touchdowns on his way to a QB rating of 120.5. The Bucs are far from a finished product, but Arians has them relevant and alive in the NFC South race at 2-2.
Browns deliver statement win
Much has been made of the poor start from the ‘team of the off-season’ in the Cleveland Browns. The Browns entered Baltimore on Sunday with one win and two losses under their belts. They emerged 2-2 and with the AFC North division lead for the first time since Week 10 of 2014.
In a statement 40-25 win, the Browns got back to what worked so well for them at the back end of last season. Nick Chubb was the focal point of an attack that totalled 530 yards as he scored a hat-trick of touchdowns and rushed for 165 yards.
After a week in which he was criticised heavily in the media, Browns QB Baker Mayfield held up his end of the bargain with 342 passing yards and one touchdown.
These Browns have the talent to record more results like this and they could very well do that now they have remembered the offensive formula that worked so well for them late in 2018. Look out if this team gets hot!
Bears dominate on defense
Strong defensive football is a bit like beer, hot dogs and dodgy weather at Soldier Field – it is expected every single week. Like the Monsters of the Midway outfits of the past, the 2019 edition does not disappoint and Chicago’s defense was the reason the Bears overcame the early loss of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to a shoulder injury.
The Bears – led by destructive, edge-rushing force of nature Khalil Mack – terrorised Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins to the tune of six sacks.
What was more impressive in the 16-6 win was the way Chicago’s D clamped down on NFL rushing leader Dalvin Cook, holding him to 35 yards on 14 carries. And that was without Pro Bowl defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and stud second-year linebacker Roquan Smith in the line-up.
With the likes of Nick Kwiatkoski and Roy Robertson-Harris recording sacks, this game was a reminder that the Bears are more than just Mack – they are deep and dangerous and eight different players have now recorded sacks for them this season.
Mariota answers the call
There is a great deal of pressure on Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota given that an experienced back-up lies in wait in Ryan Tannehill. With the Titans having lost their previous two contests, Mariota rose to the challenge in a way-too-comfortable 24-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Mariota threw for 227 yards and three touchdowns – all to wide receivers (a rarity for the Titans) – and compiled a quarterback rating of 106.2. For someone who is under such pressure, we should note this about Mariota… of the NFL quarterbacks who have started every game this season, he is the only one without a turnover.
As for the Falcons? They are a hot mess and a big disappointment. Owner Arthur Blank is not prone to in-season, knee-jerk reactions but surely head coach Dan Quinn is feeling some heat?
The Oakland Raiders will land in London in a good mood after Sunday’s 31-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Things are not going to be perfect this early in the Silver and Black reboot, but Jon Gruden’s men are playing tough and are 2-2 after four weeks. That is pretty good going.