Los Angeles Chargers @ Chicago Bears
The 2-5 Los Angeles Chargers and 3-3 Chicago Bears both came into the game hoping to end their losing streaks. The Chargers came off a heartbreaking loss to the Titans while the Bears had a beating put on them by the Saints last week. In the end, it would be the Chargers coming away with a 17-16 victory and moving to 3-5, while the Bears drop their third in a row to fall to 3-4 and in the cellar of the competitive NFC North.
Soldier Field’s Turf - 1, Keenan Allen - 0
Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen missed practice on Thursday and Friday with a hamstring injury and had a day to forget as the Soldier Field turf showed him absolutely no mercy. All game, it seemed as though he was unsure of his footing and constantly slipped while running routes or trying to make plays after the catch. Phillip Rivers completed 19 of 29 for 201 yards, a touchdown, and an interception with moderate success throughout the field with a respectable average completed air yards stat of 7.5. Although the run game was unable to find any success, held to 36 yards on 12 carries, the defense did enough to carry the team to victory after sacking Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky four times and forcing a fumble and interception to give their offense good field position.
Bears Offense Returns to Historic Roots With 38 Carries
Just a week after the Bears carried the ball seven total times in an ugly loss to the Saints, coach Matt Nagy and the Bears showed a newfound dedication to the run game with 162 yards on 38 carries. Rookie back David Montgomery was finally able to fill the role he was believed to be drafted for as he carried the Bears offense on his back and gave them the balanced attack they’ve needed to set up the passing game with 135 yards on 27 carries. Trubisky played arguably his best passing game of the season with seven completions that were 10 air yards or further downfield. He still struggled with missed deep opportunities but it was good to see a little more consistency from him after weeks of simple screens and five-yard checkdowns. Still, he accounted for both of the team’s turnovers with an interception off a bad read and a lost fumble. Meanwhile kicker Eddy Piñeiro, who has been solid for the Bears thus far, created a stir in Chicago when he bounced his first field goal of the game into the right upright. It was almost as though the sound of a ball colliding with the post hinted at what was to come as he would miss the game-winning 41-yarder just a tiny bit to the left as time ran out. The Bears only converted one of their five red zone opportunities into a touchdown, but the small spark in the offense seems to hint that the offense is trending upwards.
Oakland Raiders @ Houston Texans
The 3-3 Oakland Raiders went on the road to face the 5-3 Houston Texans with both teams seeking to gain an advantage in two very competitive AFC divisions. The Raiders have ridden a solid run game with rookie Josh Jacobs leading the charge, while the Texans have had some struggles against winning teams throughout the season. Both Derek Carr and Deshaun Watson had good statistical days, but it would be clutch play by Watson that led to a 27-24 Houston victory as they move to 5-3 and drop the Raiders to 3-4.
Deshaun Watson Accidentally Invents the “Eyes Closed” Pass for Winning Touchdown
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes might be busy running through a brainstorm list of new passes to throw while he recovers from a dislocated kneecap because Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson might have one-upped him. Late in the fourth quarter, Watson stepped up in the pocket to avoid the rush, spun out of a sack, and received a defender’s foot to his left eye as he scrambled right before throwing the game-winning touchdown while falling. He would later explain his left eye closed after the kick and his right eye was starting to close as he was throwing to tight end Darren Fells. Watson was the hero of the game for Houston with 27 completions out of 39 attempts, 279 yards, and three touchdowns. The pass rush by the Raiders was fierce but he showed off his improvisational skills, only taking three sacks and carrying ten times for 46 yards. This forced him to check down often, with his completed passes averaging 6.4 air yards. For the Texans, the offensive line continues to be a problem and it is well-known that Watson has taken a beating through his three NFL seasons. Running back Carlos Hyde picked up 83 yards on 19 carries, but Houston needs to make some changes if they want Watson to keep playing at this level in the long run.
Steady Performance By Derek Carr Overshadowed By Penalties
The Raiders seemed to do everything right with the defense chasing Deshaun Watson all over the field and Derek Carr playing good statistical football. He finished the day 18 of 30 for 285 yards, three touchdowns, and no sacks. His average completed passes only averaged 4.5 air yards as he only completed four out of his 11 passes thrown 10 air yards or further, but his receivers gained plenty of yards after the catch to make up for a lack of success downfield. Rookie running back Josh Jacobs was slightly less productive than the previous weeks with only 66 yards on 15 carries. Still, the Raiders fell by three points as penalties took away several chances at continuing drives. An offensive pass interference call in the first quarter created a three-and-out and a key holding penalty on the last Oakland drive of the game led to a punt for the Texans to run out the clock.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Buffalo Bills
Reeling after two straight losses, the 3-4 Philadelphia Eagles came into Buffalo with something to prove following a 10-37 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The 5-1 Buffalo Bills have a better record than anyone would have expected in quarterback Josh Allen’s second year, with their only loss being to the Patriots. However, they had no answers for a rumbling Eagles run game that accumulated 218 total yards for a 31-13 win, with the Eagles evening out at 4-4 and the Bills dropping to 5-2.
Eagles Run Game Thrives in Wind, Rain
On a day when the wind took away deep passing options and even moderate-length field goals, the Eagles relied on a physical running back committee to keep the chains moving. Jordan Howard provided the power with 96 yards off 23 carries and a touchdown. Rookie Miles Sanders ran for a 65-yard touchdown, ending with 74 total yards on three carries after a shoulder injury ended his day. As a team, the Eagles picked up 218 yards on the ground while quarterback Carson Wentz protected the football. Of his 17 total completions out of 24 attempts, 12 were thrown less than five air yards or behind the line of scrimmage, and he ended the day with 172 passing yards and a touchdown.
Struggles for Josh Allen, Bills Offense
Whereas the Eagles rushed the ball a total of 41 times, Bills running backs Frank Gore and Devin Singletary only ran a combined 12 times for 53 yards. Instead, quarterback Josh Allen carried eight times for a team-high 45 yards. The Eagles stuck to the run while the Bills decided to try their luck passing with the strong-armed Allen and it simply didn’t play out for them as the Eagles scored two unanswered touchdowns to ice the game. Allen struggled passing in the wind and ended 16 of 34 for 169 yards and two touchdowns. The passing game was off track throughout the game as he ended with a negative 3.5-yard difference between his average completed air yards and average intended air yards stat. With Gore and Singletary struggling on the ground, Allen faced a fierce pass rush and at a certain point, it seemed as though the Bills gave up too early on dedicating to the run game on a day where passing just wasn’t working. They have been riding wins off the likes of the Jets, Giants, Bengals, Titans, and Dolphins, and facing this stout Eagles team only goes to show how misleading their record is so far.
Carolina Panthers @ San Francisco 49ers
The 6-0 San Francisco 49ers hosted the 4-2 Carolina Panthers, looking to maintain their undefeated record against a Carolina defense that has shown a good pass rush in recent weeks. In a wild blowout, the 49ers put up 51 points to Carolina’s 13 as they added to their undefeated record at 7-0, while the Panthers lost their first away game of the season and dropped to 4-3.
Speedy 49ers Team Races Past Panthers
The 49ers have played some ugly football from time to time this season, including a 9-0 win against the Washington Redskins last week in terrible weather, but they came to play today. Credit goes all around in this one as coach Kyle Shanahan schemed up a beautiful game to counter the league’s defense with the most sacks, the offense executed it to perfection, and the defense smothered quarterback Kyle Allen who had yet to throw an interception until he arrived in San Francisco. Rookie defensive end Nick Bosa was unstoppable as he picked up three sacks, three tackles for loss, three quarterback hits, and an interception. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was efficient throwing the football with 18 completions on 22 attempts, 175 yards, two touchdowns, a badly-thrown interception, and a third-fastest average time until throw of 2.31 seconds. His passes were thrown an average of 3.5 yards short of the sticks but that was all he needed to do as the running game took center stage. Tevin Coleman was this week’s most efficient north-south runner with 11 carries for 105 yards and three touchdowns despite facing eight players in the box 63.64% of the time. Raheem Mostert added 60 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, while Matt Breida added 35 yards on 11 carries. As a team, the 49ers ran 38 times for 232 total yards.
One-Dimensional Panthers Struggle
The aggressive defense that kept the Panthers winning games this season was shredded as Kyle Shanahan took advantage of their over-pursuit of the football with a never-ending mix of play-action, screens, and misdirection plays. Meanwhile, Kyle Allen got a taste of what his defense usually does to opposing quarterbacks as he took a stunning nine sacks and seven hits and threw the first three interceptions of his career. He ended with plenty of bruises after a terrible performance that saw him throwing 19 completions off of 37 attempts for 158 yards and three interceptions. The only bright spot of the day was running back Christian McCaffrey, who continues to shine as arguably the best running back in the league right now. Despite the lack of production from the rest of the team, McCaffrey still gained 117 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries as the second-most efficient north-south runner of the week, and nearly led the team in receiving with four receptions for 38 yards. At one time, it was believed the Panthers seemed ready to move on from Cam Newton, who is still recovering from a Lisfranc injury, but recent performances certainly put that opinion in jeopardy.
Green Bay Packers @ Kansas City Chiefs
The 6-1 Green Bay Packers traveled to face a 5-2 Kansas City Chiefs team missing star quarterback Patrick Mahomes due to a dislocated kneecap. On paper, it seemed almost a sure win with Aaron Rodgers on a winning streak with the Packers while it was questionable whether backup Matt Moore would be able to manage the KC offense. It would turn out to be a Sunday night thriller as the two early playoff contenders each put up big plays before the Packers put the game away as a 31-24 win, moving to 7-1 while the Chiefs dropped to 5-3.
Packers Offense Has Chiefs Seeing Double
As though facing one Aaron wasn’t enough, the Kansas City defense had to face another Aaron for the entire night. Aaron Rodgers was his usual self, completing 23 passes out of 33 attempts for 305 yards and three touchdowns while improvising against a pass rush that sacked him five times throughout the night. The majority of his completed passes were within five yards of the line of scrimmage, resulting in an average 5.3 air yards on completed passes, but it was not all on Rodgers to win the game. It would be his running back counterpart, Aaron Jones, who would steal the spotlight. Jones accumulated 67 yards on 13 carries but did the most damage catching the football with 159 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions. The Chiefs defense could not find a way to stop him and he eventually would catch a pass for a first down that allowed the Packers to run out the clock for a win.
Fear Not, Chiefs Fans
Although the Chiefs lost, it was a much closer game than some predicted. Matt Moore was efficient and effective with 24 completions on 36 attempts for 267 yards and two touchdowns. He might not have the arm strength or athleticism of Patrick Mahomes but he still completed four passes further than 15 air yards, though the majority of his passes were short and intended to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as possible. The defense played a solid game, pressuring Rodgers and forcing him to make throws off his back foot when a rusher had a straight path towards him. Though they were unable to force any turnovers, any time you can hit Rodgers 12 times and sack him five times is a pretty good effort. One of the biggest drive killers for the Chiefs would be a costly LeSean McCoy fumble on the first play of a drive in the late third quarter. With the game tied at 17, McCoy ran up the middle and the ball seemed to pop loose of its own accord. McCoy is known for carrying the ball loosely, extended from his body rather than cradling it in, though he has not had many issues fumbling despite what the running style might suggest.