Alexander underwent an MRI on Monday to confirm the diagnosis.
Alexander suffered the injury with 18 seconds left in the first half of the Bucs’ 26-23 victory Sunday. He was blitzing quarterback Baker Mayfield and planted his foot, going down without contact. Players on both teams immediately knelt down. Alexander was able to leave the field under his own power.
“He said to us before we left out there for halftime, he was like, ‘Never take anything for granted,'” Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston said Sunday. “We see the passion he plays with. We see the heart he puts in the locker room. We are going to have his back just like we had his back today.
“I love Kwon. We’re going to miss him, and I know he is going to make an amazing comeback. That’s just the type of person that he is, and his work ethic has been strong since he’s been here.”
The timing couldn’t be worse for Alexander, who is set to become a free agent next season and has been trying to negotiate a new contract.
The Bucs are now razor-thin at linebacker. Rookie Jack Cichy, who stepped into Adarius Taylor‘s strongside spot (Taylor slid over to Alexander’s middle spot), also left with a knee injury and did not return. Last year’s starting strongside linebacker, Kendell Beckwith, is still recovering from ankle surgery after an offseason car accident.
The team did re-sign linebacker Devante Bond this week to provide more depth. Bond had been waived after suffering a foot injury during the preseason and received an injury settlement.
PHILADELPHIA — What was organic last season seems forced this time around.
In the wake of the Eagles’ collapse against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, coach Doug Pederson said his message to his players in the locker room was that the “pressure’s off of us.”
“Nobody on the outside world is giving us a chance to do much of anything,” he said. “Pressure’s off, so we can go play, have fun, relax.”
The Eagles famously rode the “underdog” theme all the way to a Super Bowl championship in 2017, complete with dog masks the players broke out following each upset win in the postseason — an image the Panthers used to troll Philly following Sunday’s meltdown.
During his epic parade-day speech on the Art Museum steps, center Jason Kelce rattled off a long list of players and execs who had been counted out, capped by a rendition of the chant, “No one likes us. We don’t care.”
It was an easy, natural identity for the Eagles to embrace, considering they were in fact underdogs in every playoff game they played.
It’s more difficult now that they’re the Super Bowl champs. This isn’t a team that is being discounted — not even after it blew a 17-0 lead to Carolina to fall to 3-4. The NFC East is still up for grabs. Most believe the middling division will come down to the wire and the Eagles will be right in the mix for the crown.
Pederson went on to offer some context around his messaging.
“Number one, I think no one has really given us a chance anyway,” Pederson said. “Whether we’re putting pressure on ourselves to perform, to play, whatever it is, live up to a certain expectation, I think that’s the point where I think that no one has given us that type of — maybe with the amount of injuries or whatever it is — given us much credit going into games.
“And I think sometimes we force issues. We try to press just a little bit instead of just — we don’t have to go searching for plays. When the plays come, let’s just make the plays that come to us, and right now, we’re not doing that. So I think that’s the pressure that’s off of us, and we just have to get back to playing and executing better.”
It’s a sharp pivot from the “embrace the target” mantra that he has been pushing since the offseason. Pederson stressed that this group is not going to sneak up on anyone and, as defending champs, will get the opponent’s best shot every week. It’s hard to sell that the Eagles are being dismissed now — injuries and slow start aside — when they’ve been favored in every game they’ve played to this point.
What stands out when you get past the fact that the message doesn’t fit are some of the phrases Pederson used in his explanation: “we try to press,” “we don’t have to go searching for plays,” “we force issues.”
“Sometimes I think players and coaches just put added pressure when they don’t have to, and that’s something that we’ve got to — it starts with me there, just to make sure we’re doing everything, even during the week, getting ourselves in position to win games,” he said.
What seems clear is that Pederson believes his team is trying to do too much and needs to find a way to relieve some of the pressure that is keeping them from performing freely.
It actually seemed like the joy and swagger the Eagles played with last season had returned last week against the New York Giants, and it spilled over for three quarters Sunday. The celebratory touchdowns were back. During one TV timeout, the Eagles’ kickoff unit formed a dance circle, with each player getting a chance to jump in the middle and show off his moves. The fun-loving, dominating squad was back … until everything evaporated in the fourth quarter.
NEW YORK — It was a Tuesday afternoon in early October and New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley was sitting in the back seat of an old-school yellow taxicab stamped with logos for Campbell’s Chunky Soup and the NFL’s Play Football initiative. This was supposed to be his off day, a respite from the craziness of a promising — but often frustrating — rookie season filled with losses.
Barkley was filming a commercial, and he was set to pop out of the cab to surprise the Cardinal Hayes High School football team in the Bronx.
As the young Giants star waited, he admitted to nerves. Barkley had been in the NFL for only a short time. Maybe the rookie would be an unfamiliar face.
“You never know. That’s embarrassing if nobody notices and is like, ‘Who is this cat?’” Barkley said.
It didn’t go that way. He was met with a reaction befitting a rising star.
It’s this vulnerability — and more — that makes Barkley such a likable and impressive addition to the Giants. At 21, he’s as self-effacing as he is talented, with the world seemingly at his disposal.
As an example, Barkley works with the Covenant House of Newark, New Jersey, to get tickets for every Giants home game for three homeless children. Then he goes out of his way — win or lose — to spend 15 minutes or so with them after the games.
All that attention he’s receiving from being the No. 2 overall pick in the draft and having early success hasn’t blurred his focus.
“So far, what I’ve seen is he has handled it like a real pro,” Giants running backs coach Craig Johnson said recently.
Barkley entered Week 7 leading all NFL running backs with seven runs of 20-plus yards. He was tied for the league lead with three rushes of 40-plus yards.
To Barkley, those are just numbers. After rushing for 130 yards and adding another 99 yards receiving last Thursday night, he was hardly content. In his estimation, it meant nothing because the Giants had lost 34-13 to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The jump cuts that made defenders look silly and the 50-yard touchdown weren’t any sort of consolation prize. Not for this rookie running back, who became just the second player in NFL history to top 100 total yards in each of his first six career games.
Barkley will have a chance to tie Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt’s record on Monday night (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) against the Atlanta Falcons. He has already proved capable of doing things on the football field through his first six games that leave everyone, including the opposition, in awe.
“Saquon is a beast,” Eagles running back Corey Clement said. “It’s hard not to say it. If I was saying anything otherwise, I’d be a hater.”
That’s what makes the situation in the Bronx all the more extraordinary. Barkley seems to be keeping it together despite all that has come at him over the past year — praise, fame, money, on-field success and a newborn daughter. His trademark smile, flashed for the teenagers during the commercial shoot when they trailed him with their phones, seemed sincere.
“That’s what it’s about,” Barkley said. “I was able to have genuine conversations with some kids, give them stories about how I got here, what drives me, what motivates me. That is something I want to continue to do.”
He took as much away from that moment as the young men he was there to advise.
Life was different at Penn State, where Barkley was the big fish in a small pond. He was a student tucked into a campus in central Pennsylvania, an amateur getting a taste of what was about to come.
“I was able to have genuine conversations with some kids, give them stories about how I got here, what drives me, what motivates me. That is something I want to continue to do.”
A lot has changed since. Barkley signed endorsement deals with Nike, Pepsi and Visa, among others. He’s financially set, and even bought a new home for his parents in his hometown of Whitehall, Pennsylvania, and vowed to save or invest all his paychecks, a la Marshawn Lynch and Rob Gronkowski.
Barkley quickly became part of a circle that includes Giants wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard. They have become fast friends, even hanging out before the draft. He has a close-knit team that begins with his family and childhood friends.
They’re all within a reasonable car ride. New York/New Jersey is Barkley’s new home. He lives in an apartment on the Jersey side with a picturesque view of Manhattan. His girlfriend, Anna Congdon, and their 6-month-old daughter, Jada, live with him.
The days of being a faceless star are gone. Barkley notices the stares, points and pictures when he’s out and about. He oddly doesn’t view himself as famous, but more as a recognizable face or body. He knows his every move matters — on the street, at home, or on the sideline.
“It’s different than in college. More of a spotlight. National attention,” Barkley said. “It reminds you that you have to be responsible. There are people that view you in a different way, look at you in a different way and you are a role model to some kids. You have an impact on kids. Little things like what you say. Things you’re doing. And you have to be aware of that.”
It’s all still strange, in a way you would imagine when people continually ask to see your quads and calves. That happens to Barkley more than he ever expected.
He’s had people approach him in airports and say, “Hey, nice legs.” He’s almost unsure how to respond. He usually just replies with a thank you. While the exchange is odd, he figures compliments come in different forms. This is his new norm.
Barkley believes being a father helps keep him grounded.
“He’s a good dad,” Barkley’s mother, Tonya Johnson, added. “He changes diapers. So far, so good. He’s doing what he needs to do.”
No matter how disappointing a loss might be, there are always those private moments when baby Jada looks at him without any idea he’s something special. The yards and touchdowns don’t matter to her or his family.
“[Fatherhood] humbles you. Brings you back down to life,” Barkley said. “Makes you understand what really matters. The spotlight, attention, all that doesn’t really matter. You go home to your daughter, even after a loss when you’re upset and you don’t want to talk to anybody. You see her crack that smile, and it changes your day.”
Shepard, who’s also a new father, has admired his teammate’s approach.
“He’s a great father to his daughter,” Shepard said. “Very family-oriented. That is what I admire most about him, how close he is with his family. He always talks about his daughter.”
Shepard says Barkley is sneaky funny. He talks a lot. Never shuts up, really, but is always upbeat, and there is rarely a dull moment when he’s around.
This is the beauty of Barkley, capable of being as measured and reserved when needed off the field, explosive and elusive when on it. As the football legend grows (and the early returns suggest he’s destined for big things), so will the pressure, demands and fame.
“I tell him, ‘Don’t think about what other people think of you,’” his mother said. “Think about what you would want for yourself, and you also have a child. Because people are going to judge you regardless. But you have a child, be the role model you want for your child.”
Barkley said: “There will be times when I mess up. I’m human, but I want to be a role model for the good things I do and the bad things I do. And the times I do make mistakes, learn from those mistakes.”
Beckham, who is just two lockers down, is an example of how difficult stardom can be. Beckham has compared it to living life as an animal on display at the zoo.
Barkley has said since he was drafted that his approach was to be himself.
The nerves before getting out of the taxi and surprising a high school football team? It shows he’s doing pretty well so far.
The unit put on its worst performance of the season with a national audience watching, allowing 551 yards in a 45-10 loss to the Chiefs. But the final score didn’t show just how bad it was. Then again, losing by 35 says a lot.
Players missed tackles all night, allowed Chiefs players to get wide open for scores and essentially looked like they were a step behind the other team all night. Even linebacker Vontaze Burfict, arguably one of the Bengals’ best defensive players, looked completely inept when matched up against the speed of the Chiefs’ offense. Burfict had only two tackles before leaving in the third quarter with a hip injury.
The Bengals have a problem, and it’s not going to go away. While they might be able to pull out wins when their defense is generating turnovers, they don’t match up well against any type of speed or quick-paced offense. On nights like Sunday, when the Bengals’ offense also isn’t clicking, the issue becomes even more obvious.
For whatever reason, the Bengals’ defense has not gotten going under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, and it’s hard to say what percentage falls on the players vs. the scheme. There’s not exactly a solution waiting in the wings either.
The Bengals’ defensive line has failed to get any pressure the past two games, and both their linebacker and cornerback depth are razor thin outside of the starting players.
That’s not to say the offense shouldn’t take its share of the blame. The Bengals failed to capitalize on several breaks against a porous defense that came into Sunday’s game ranked last in the league. A kickoff that went out of bounds and an interception by Shawn Williams gave the Bengals good field position, but the offense responded by going three-and-out both times. Quarterback Andy Dalton threw a pick-six and couldn’t get the ball to anyone but A.J. Green.
That’s not to mention the head scratching aborted punt that resulted in a quick Chiefs’ touchdown, or the decision to punt with 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter when the Bengals were trailing 45 to 10. At that point, it seemed clear the Bengals had thrown in the towel.
The Bengals need to change their mindset, whether it’s a more aggressive scheme or a different approach. If there’s no savior on the roster, then it’s on the coaching staff to reassess what has gone wrong with the team in the past two weeks and figure out how to cater to the strengths of the players they have.
The Bengals couldn’t stop the Steelers in the final minute of last week’s loss, and they couldn’t stop the Chiefs at any point on Sunday. Unless they go back to forcing timely turnovers, it’s almost a given that the defense will cost them more games. The Bengals certainly have talent at key spots, and that’s why these performances are so puzzling.
If the Bengals want to be considered a legitimate playoff contender this year, they certainly have a long way to go before proving they’re in the conversation. So far, they haven’t proven anything yet.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The career of Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes through eight games has been like no other — at least when it comes to touchdown passes.
Mahomes threw four scoring passes in Sunday night’s 45-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium. That gives him 22 touchdown passes in the first eight games of his career, breaking the NFL record of 21 set by Kurt Warner.
“You think you’re going to have success, but I didn’t expect this much,” Mahomes said. “But at the same time, I knew the weapons we had, and I knew if I just ran [the offense] and did what Coach [Andy] Reid wanted me to do that there was a chance we could be really, really good.”
Mahomes is closing in on the Chiefs’ single-season record for touchdowns. Len Dawson threw 30 touchdown passes in 1964, and Mahomes has nine games to catch him.
“We have a lot of season left. … We’re going to try to get a couple more and keep doing what we’re doing,” Reid said.
Mahomes threw four touchdown passes this season in games against the Chargers and Patriots. He had six scoring throws in a game against the Steelers.
Mahomes, the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick in 2017, said he has never had as much fun playing football as he’s having this season.
“To be able to learn every day from Coach Reid, to be able to get out here with all these guys … we literally have fun every single day,” he said. “We love coming to work, I guess you would say, and just getting to play this game that we’ve loved since we were little kids and winning a lot of football games.”
Mahomes threw three touchdown passes in the first half as the Chiefs built a 24-7 lead. He had scoring throws of 6 and 15 yards to Kareem Hunt and 17 yards to Demetrius Harris.
Mahomes’ 22nd touchdown pass of the season came in the fourth quarter. Tyreek Hill caught the 3-yard throw.
Mahomes failed to throw a touchdown pass in two of his eight career games: last season against the Broncos and this season against the Jaguars.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers brought back their all-white 1994 throwback jerseys for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. The Niners didn’t do much to conjure memories of that world championship season. As it turned out, going back to a 1980 look would have been more appropriate.
That’s because the 49ers didn’t do much to give themselves a chance against the heavily favored Rams. To be sure, the Rams are the better, healthier, more star-studded team and their undefeated record should tell you all you needed to know about the expected outcome against the Niners.
But given an opportunity to pull off an NFL-shaking upset, the 1-6 Niners turned the ball over four times, coming up with zero takeaways and falling into an early hole that eventually became a 39-10 blowout loss at Levi’s Stadium.
“It’s inexcusable,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s impossible to win in this league when you turn the ball over like we are and we don’t get any [takeaways]. We had four today, 4-0, and I think it was 24 points off turnovers. In order for us to be able to play in a football game, we have to tighten up with the ball and get the ball.
“We have to fix the turnovers. Once we fix the turnovers then we have a chance to start playing football.”
The 49ers never had much of a chance in Sunday’s loss, as they wasted little time giving the Rams’ potent offense prime field position. Two of the offense’s first three possessions resulted in a C.J. Beathard fumble that gave the Rams the ball at San Francisco’s 44 and another from running back Matt Breida that gave it to the Rams at the Niners’ 21. Those giveaways resulted in an early 10-0 hole from which the 49ers could not recover.
Later, Beathard threw two interceptions, both of which also resulted in Rams’ touchdowns. Four turnovers, 24 Rams points, ball game over.
“It’s extremely frustrating because we know we’re a lot better team than that and we have just got to get it stopped,” Breida said. “We’re doing nothing but hurting ourselves and I feel like we’re the reason why we’re losing these games, so the sooner we get that corrected, I feel like we’ll be in a lot better direction.”
Meanwhile, the defense was again struggling to get takeaways despite a pair of golden opportunities provided by Los Angeles quarterback Jared Goff. One went through the hands of safety Jaquiski Tartt on a play that might have been a pick-six had Tartt secured it. Another came later when cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and free safety Adrian Colbert collided as a catchable ball fell to the ground.
The Niners haven’t come up with a takeaway since the opening moments of a Week 4 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. The Niners have turned the ball over 14 times since without getting a takeaway of their own. That lack of production has come despite a consistent emphasis from coordinator Robert Saleh in practice.
“[We’ve got to] just keep attacking the ball, keep having that focus during the week which is trying to create fumbles, trying to get interceptions, not being satisfied with pass breakups and I think it will come,” Witherspoon said.
In this lost season, the sight of opponents coming up with fumble recoveries or interceptions while the Niners fail to get any of their own has become all too familiar. Injuries and other issues aside, the Niners’ whopping minus-15 turnover margin through the first seven weeks is the single biggest issue the team just can’t seem to overcome.
At minus-15, the 49ers are tied with the 1980 Niners for the worst turnover differential in franchise history at this point in the season. Jacksonville has the second-worst turnover margin and is still three better than San Francisco.
That negative turnover margin is the second-worst in the NFL through seven games since 2001, with only the 2012 Kansas City Chiefs posting a worse number.
The 49ers’ three takeaways are the fewest and their 18 giveaways are the most in the NFL.
The Niners had a minus-1 turnover margin in their first 14 quarters of the season. In the ensuing 14 quarters, that number is minus-14.
Sunday’s loss was the fourth time this season that the 49ers were minus-3 or worse in turnover margin. They’ve lost all four games.
The Niners are negative-54 in point differential off turnovers this season, worst in the league by 19 points.
Going into Sunday night’s game between Kansas City and Cincinnati, there had been 23 games this season in which a team was minus-3 or worse in turnover margin. Of those games, only two teams were able to overcome the turnovers and win and one more was able to come away with a tie.
For an injury-ravaged Niners team, finding victories figured to be hard enough without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo but this team definitely doesn’t have the weapons to cancel out such mistakes in its current state.
While it’s easy to put the blame on Beathard — who has thrown an interception in eight straight starts, the longest streak by a starting 49ers QB since Steve DeBerg in 1979, according to Elias Sports Bureau research, and has at least one giveaway in every game in which he has played substantial snaps — the Niners’ problems run much deeper. Which is why Shanahan said after the game he intends to stick with Beathard moving forward.
“If it was just one thing, you’d say one thing. if it was just one guy, you’d say one guy,” Shanahan said. “But it’s an accumulation of a number of things.
“We need to get better. The better you get, the less you turn it over. We talk about the ball and work on going after balls as much as you possibly can. You don’t stop. You don’t wait for it. You keep preaching those same things and you expect it to get better the more you work at it and if it doesn’t, then you’ve got to find people who do take care of it.”
LANDOVER, Md. — Officially, the penalty was a false start in the game book. In the words of referee John Hussey, Dallas Cowboys long snapper L.P. Ladouceur was called for a snap infraction.
Ladouceur, a 14-year veteran, could not recall ever being flagged for such a penalty.
With three seconds remaining, Ladouceur’s penalty moved a potential game-tying field goal attempt from 47 to 52 yards, and Brett Maher‘s kick hit the left upright, leaving the Cowboys with a loss — 20-17 against the Washington Redskins — and at a loss.
“I just adjusted down so I could put my hands on the bottom of it, so I could snap it in the right direction,” Ladouceur said. “Exact same thing I’ve been doing for 14 years … I’m not even trying to get him offside. I know the situation. Just too bad.”
Coach Jason Garrett said he was told that Ladouceur moved the ball in a way that prompted Jonathan Allen to jump offside. Garrett could not recall the last time he saw that called as a penalty.
“Once? Twice? Not very often,” Garrett said.
On Twitter, Al Riveron, the NFL’s director of officiating, said the “illegal ball movement by the center causes the defense to come across the neutral zone and contact a lineman.”
Ladouceur — the longest-tenured Cowboy, having joined the team in 2005 — said he went through the same pre-snap routine he has followed his entire career.
“Never had that before,” Ladouceur said. “I do the exact same thing every time, so when that happens, that’s what I was telling the ref: ‘I do the exact same thing. Yeah, the guy jumped.’ That’s what I thought.”
Ladouceur said he puts one hand on the ball, then a second and lays it down so he can snap it accurately. Entering Sunday, he was perfect as a snapper, with clean snaps on 924 punts, 572 point-after attempts and 419 field goal tries.
What is Ladouceur’s understanding of the rule?
“As long as I don’t pick up the ball,” he said. “The ball was on the ground the whole time.”
Maher had made 16 straight field goal attempts prior to his miss. He said he pulled the kick slightly, and the wind might have played a part as it was coming down.
“That penalty had zero impact on the result of that kick, I can promise you that,” Maher said. “L.P. and [holder Chris Jones], like they’ve done all year, they made my job easy, and it was the same in that situation. Yeah, I felt like I was very capable of making that kick. Just didn’t get it done.”
Aaron Rodgers has overcome a lot of obstacles in his career, and still plays with a chip on his shoulder from falling to No. 24 in the 2005 NFL draft.
He’ll have some more motivation next Sunday at the Los Angeles Rams, courtesy of Las Vegas oddmakers.
The SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas opened the Green Bay Packers as 8.5-point underdogs in Week 8.
If the line stands, it would represent the largest total by which Rodgers has been an underdog in his career, per ESPN Stats & Information data, and biggest since the Packers were 8-point underdogs to the Seattle Seahawks in 2014. Green Bay was an underdog to the Arizona Cardinals by 7 in 2015, to the New York Jets by 6 in 2010 and to the Atlanta Falcons by 5.5 in 2016. All but the Jets game came in the playoffs.
That 2010 meeting with the Jets was the previous biggest regular-season spread as an underdog for Rodgers; the Packers visited New York as 6-point underdogs and won (and covered) 9-0 in Week 8.
The Rams are undefeated (7-0) and have been favored by at least 6.5 points in every game so far this season, going 4-2-1 against the spread.
The 3-2-1 Packers, off in Week 7 for their bye, will enter the game as underdogs for the third time this season. They are 2-4 ATS.
The Chiefs will be difficult to beat if their defense continues to play as well as it did against the Bengals. The Chiefs have played well at times defensively in all of their games except a recent one against New England, but it’s possible they turned a corner with a consistent defensive showing against Cincinnati. — Adam Teicher
Andy Reid expresses his emotions on getting his 200th win, including playoffs, in the NFL and says “everybody is involved” in this milestone.
Where has the Bengals’ defense gone? The Bengals have given up at least 480 yards in three of the past four games, and they couldn’t stop the Chiefs’ offense all night. That doesn’t bode well, as the Buccaneers and Saints are coming to town soon. The Bengals clearly don’t match up well against speedier offenses, and that’s going to be a problem moving forward if they don’t generate turnovers. — Katherine Terrell
Don’t look now, but the Chargers are one of the hottest teams in the NFL, riding a four-game win streak into their bye week after edging the Titans in London. The break comes at a good time for the Chargers, with Melvin Gordon nursing a hamstring injury and defensive end Joey Bosa potentially playing for the first time this season against the Seahawks in Week 9 after missing time with a bruised left foot. “Was it our best game all around? Probably not,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “But the name of the game is to score one more point than the other team, and we did that.” — Eric D. Williams
The NFL Countdown crew breaks down why the Chargers are showing signs of positive growth.
The Titans’ offensive struggles were showcased in their third consecutive loss. They’ll have plenty of time to figure out what went wrong as their bye week comes at an opportune time. “We’re gonna get back to work and we’re going to improve the stuff we didn’t do very well and get better,” coach Mike Vrabel said. Time off will allow the Titans to work on their ineffective red zone offense. Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur will get a chance to showcase his revised scheme Week 9 against the Cowboys. — Turron Davenport
The Patriots wanted to prove they can win on the road after opening 0-2 away from home. They showed mental toughness in overcoming several sudden changes in a win over the Bears. At the same time, three turnovers continues an alarming trend, as Tom Brady called them “frustrating” and an area that has to be corrected heading into Monday night’s road game against the Bills. So while the Patriots were pleased to win, they felt this was far from their best effort. — Mike Reiss
For the Bears to beat a quality opponent like New England, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has to play better. Trubisky had some good moments on Sunday, particularly in the run game, but he missed the mark on 24 pass attempts and tossed a pair of interceptions. Even with Trubisky’s last-second Hail Mary completion to Kevin White, the Bears’ starting quarterback still had a passer rating of below 70.0. Not having Khalil Mack at full strength hurt, but the Bears need better accuracy from their quarterback to win big games. They look to get back in the win column next week against the Jets. — Jeff Dickerson
Coach Ron Rivera called this a “statement” win. Indeed, the Panthers not only overcame a 17-0 fourth-quarter deficit, but also did it on the road where they were 0-2 this season. With two home games coming up against Baltimore and Tampa Bay, the Panthers, 3-0 at Bank of America Stadium, have a chance to keep pace with the Saints in the NFC South. — David Newton
Cam Newton notes Carolina’s persistence as the team kept battling to overcome a 17-point deficit.
There’s no excuse for a fourth-quarter collapse against the Panthers that drops the Eagles to 3-4 and sets up an uphill climb. The defense shut Cam Newton out for three quarters — a first for a Newton-led team — but couldn’t hold late. There are major questions to be answered with their London game against the Jaguars on deck. Eagles coach Doug Pederson said after the game: “Basically told ’em that, ‘Hey, pressure’s off of us. Nobody on the outside world is giving us a chance to do much of anything, and the pressure’s off, so we can go play, have fun and just relax.’ Lot of football ahead, too.” — Tim McManus
The Texans won their fourth consecutive contest and gained sole possession of first place in the AFC South, playing their best and most complete game of the season. Houston did it with another stellar effort from its defense and an improved running game, two areas the team needs to continue to have success with on Thursday night against the Dolphins as quarterback Deshaun Watson plays through ribs and lung injuries. — Sarah Barshop
Things are falling apart for the Jaguars. Players were heard yelling at each other in the locker room, and at one point, Calais Campbell was restraining Yannick Ngakoue. Jalen Ramsey said there’s no secret to what’s going on: It’s a mess right now. Coach Doug Marrone said the starting QB job is up for grabs after benching Blake Bortles along with pretty much every other spot on offense heading into Sunday’s game against Philadelphia in London. — Mike DiRocco
Even after failing to capitalize on great field position created by the special teams unit throughout the game, the Vikings’ offense still hung 37 points on the Jets in their third straight win. As long as Minnesota has Adam Thielen, who recorded his seventh consecutive game of 100 yards receiving, it’s going to be difficult for teams to contain the Vikings’ explosive passing attack. Now the Vikings face their biggest test of the season next Sunday night when they host the Saints in rematch of last year’s “miracle” finish in the divisional playoffs. — Courtney Cronin
Harrison Smith praises Adam Thielen’s performance so far this season, saying “now you see kind of all the fruits of his labor.”
Sam Darnold suffered his worst game in part because the Jets’ pedestrian receiving group — down Quincy Enunwa (ankle) and Terrelle Pryor (released/injured) — was exposed by the Vikings. Now the front office must weigh the pros and cons of acquiring a receiver before the trade deadline. The Jets could be hurting Darnold’s development if they stand pat. — Rich Cimini
The Colts rushed for 220 yards in their 32-point victory over the Bills. Sunday was the first time since the 2011 season that the Colts rushed for at least 200 yards on the ground. Second-year running back Marlon Mack‘s 126 yards marked just the fourth time in Andrew Luck‘s career that he had a player rush for at least 100 yards in a game. “It just gives you a feeling of physical power,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. The Colts could extend their winning streak next week against struggling Oakland team. — Mike Wells
Three interceptions and a lost fumble by Derek Anderson made it clear Buffalo is doomed whatever direction it turns at quarterback. Whether it’s raw rookie moments from Josh Allen, disastrous interceptions from Nathan Peterman or the expected flaws Anderson showed Sunday less than two weeks after being signed, the Bills (2-5) have little choice but to accept their situation at the position. Their defense’s performance Sunday proved it was too soon to call the unit elite and too optimistic to expect that side of the ball to bail out a bottom-feeding offense this season, especially next week against the Patriots. — Mike Rodak
The Bucs turned the ball over four times, but defensively, they were able to pressure the quarterback and their secondary didn’t have the coverage breakdowns we’ve seen much of this season, simplifying things on the back end. Losing linebackers Kwon Alexander and Jack Cichy played a role in allowing the Browns back into the game, but this is a step in the right direction for the Bucs, who play at Cincinnati next Sunday. — Jenna Laine
Another slow start, another struggle in overtime. Coach Hue Jackson said he will have to get more involved in the Browns’ offense. “I got to jump in headfirst, all hands, feet, everything, and go figure it out,” Jackson said after his team fell to 2-4-1. Jackson will take the plunge just in time for the Steelers and the possible return of Le’Veon Bell next week. — Pat McManamon
It was the Lions’ best day running the ball since the Barry Sanders era, and that says something for their future. After gaining 248 rushing yards — Detroit’s best since Sanders had 216 yards against Indianapolis in 1997 — in a road win to get back to .500, the Lions appear to have a more diversified offense than at any time during Matthew Stafford‘s career. And that can make Detroit dangerous with a critical portion of its schedule upcoming with a home game against Seattle followed by road trips to Minnesota and Chicago. — Michael Rothstein
Kerryon Johnson breaks through and takes off for a 71-yard run to set up a field goal for Detroit.
The Dolphins’ wide receiver room is getting extremely light after injuries to Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson, the Dolphins’ two most productive receivers this season. To make matters stickier, DeVante Parker‘s agent called Adam Gase “incompetent” after his client was inactive once again. That situation seems volatile, but the Dolphins have to turn around and travel to Houston on Thursday with injuries that may force their hand into different personnel in another week of Brock Osweiler. — Cameron Wolfe
The Saints (5-1) won their most important game of the season to date, coming back from a 10-point deficit at Baltimore against the NFL’s No. 1 defense. As coach Sean Payton and his players preached Sunday, these are the types of games that build a team’s character. Mark Ingram II said they proved they are “road warriors.” The tests don’t stop, though. They’re at Minnesota next week, then they host the undefeated Rams. — Mike Triplett
The Ravens need to prove consistency before they can be stamped as a playoff contender. Baltimore has a bad habit of following up big wins with disappointing losses. Earlier this season, the Ravens lost at Cleveland after beating Pittsburgh. On Sunday, Baltimore fell to New Orleans after shutting out Tennessee on the road. Now, the Ravens will have to rebound at Carolina, where the Panthers have won eight in a row. There have been too many close losses over the past two years in September and October, costing the Ravens playoff trips. — Jamison Hensley
After a 4-turnover performance against the 49ers, Sean McVay tips his hat to the defense and looks forward to next week’s test against the Packers.
Even without Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers have found themselves in the position to win games over the past few weeks, coming away with something to build on even if they didn’t win. But Sunday’s blowout loss to the Rams was an example of what happens when you pair an uber-talented opponent with the 49ers’ continued mistakes. The Niners are now a league-worst minus-15 in turnover margin, something no team can overcome. Even with “winnable” games coming against the Cardinals, Raiders and Giants, the Niners won’t return to the winner’s circle until they can forge some sort of turnover turnaround. — Nick Wagoner
The Redskins have found a formula that works, and it’s one they haven’t had for a while: strong defense and a run game. It’s why they’re 4-2, and it’s why they’re optimistic that they can continue to contend in the NFC East. Adrian Peterson has provided an attitude for the offense, while young linemen Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen have done so for the defense. They will need quarterback Alex Smith to play better if they want to be serious contenders, but for now their formula is working. — John Keim
The Cowboys enter the bye week at 3-4 in second place in the NFC East after a game-tying field goal attempt hit the upright on the final play. This team is searching for confidence, especially away from home. “You want to come up here and win this ballgame and do everything you can to scratch and claw and find a way to come out on top but unfortunately that did not happen,” coach Jason Garrett said. The Cowboys have five games remaining at AT&T Stadium, but their season could be decided with back-to-back road games against Philadelphia and Atlanta on Nov. 11 and 18. — Todd Archer
Brett Maher misses a 52-yard field goal with a chance for the Cowboys to tie the game, giving the Redskins a 20-17 victory.
Broncos coach Vance Joseph said the team’s defense “got back to what we do best” on Thursday night, when the Broncos finished with six sacks, three interceptions — they returned two for touchdowns — and the kind of effort they’ve been waiting to see for four quarters. When cornerback Bradley Roby plays with discipline in coverage, the Broncos are better equipped to play man on the outside and rush five or more defenders. The Broncos were at their best defensively against the Cardinals, but will it continue next week against the high-powered Chiefs? — Jeff Legwold
The Cardinals came pretty close to rock bottom in this one. It was a bad enough offensive performance to get offensive coordinator Mike McCoy fired on Friday morning, and it’ll be up to quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich, who replaced McCoy, to right a ship that’s severely off course. When Arizona gets back to work Monday, it’ll be a new dawn for Josh Rosen, Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson. — Josh Weinfuss