Backup quarterbacks securing big wins. An overtime thriller in Baltimore. And the end of a ridiculously promising rookie season for Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow. Sunday was a reminder of how unpredictable the N.F.L. can be, as well as how cruel it can be.
Here’s what we learned:
The Texans can beat a team that isn’t the Jaguars. Coming into the day, Houston was 2-0 against Jacksonville and 0-7 against everyone else. But Romeo Crennel, the Texans’ interim head coach, became the rare former New England assistant to beat Coach Bill Belichick by leading the Texans to a 27-20 victory that started fast for Houston before grinding out into a fairly close game. Deshaun Watson passed for 344 yards, ran for 36 and accounted for three touchdowns; J.J. Watt was a hugely disruptive force; and New England, despite a 365-yard passing day from Cam Newton, finds itself contemplating whether last week’s big win over Baltimore was a fluke.
One* Sentence About Sunday’s Games
*Except when it takes more.
Steelers 27, Jaguars 3 Pittsburgh’s Chase Claypool caught a 31-yard scoring pass in the second quarter — his 10th total touchdown of the season, which is the most in a rookie wide receiver’s first 10 games in the Super Bowl era. Odell Beckham Jr. had nine for the Giants in 2014.
Titans 30, Ravens 24 (overtime) Since Baltimore’s bye week, the Ravens have lost three of four games, and Lamar Jackson has been part of the problem with four interceptions in that span — he had only six in 15 starts last season.
Colts 34, Packers 31 (overtime) Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes and Jonathan Taylor rushed for 90 yards, but Indianapolis was nearly undone by a series of penalties late in the fourth quarter that prevented it from running out the clock as it clung to a 3-point lead.
Texans 27, Patriots 20 A loss was bad enough, but New England also presumably lost running back Rex Burkhead for the rest of the season to a knee injury that was severe enough that CBS chose not to show replays of it. The eight-year veteran had six touchdowns in 10 games and was well on his way to surpassing his career-high of eight.
Saints 24, Falcons 9 Taysom Hill had a nice enough day, but it was the New Orleans defense that truly shined, sacking Matt Ryan eight times, intercepting him twice and allowing Atlanta to convert just two of its 14 third-down opportunities.
Browns 22, Eagles 17 Three straight home games for Cleveland have resulted in three consecutive ugly games, but the Browns walked away with two wins by letting the team’s running game and defense do the bulk of the work in adverse weather conditions. At 7-3, the Browns have their best 10-game start since 1994.
Cowboys 31, Vikings 28 Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 103 yards and Dallas came from behind to take the lead with less than two minutes remaining thanks to Andy Dalton’s third touchdown pass of the day. Minnesota put up 430 total yards, but its defense was once again its undoing.
Broncos 20, Dolphins 13 Tua Tagovailoa had just 83 yards passing through three quarters and was benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who led the team to a field goal but also threw an interception with just over a minute remaining. Coach Brian Flores said Tagovailoa will keep his job as the team’s starting quarterback.
Chargers 34, Jets 28 Gang Green was down by 24-6 at halftime and was struggling to contain quarterback Justin Herbert, but Coach Adam Gase appeared to take over play-calling duties and the Jets were far more effective in the second half, with three touchdown drives that each went for more than 70 yards.
Panthers 20, Lions 0 Detroit’s Matthew Stafford played through an injured thumb on his throwing hand, and he probably should have sat this one out as the Lions were shut out for the first time in Stafford’s 159 career starts. It was the first shutout for Carolina’s defense since 2015.
Footballers 20, Bengals 9 Everything was overshadowed by Joe Burrow’s injury, but Washington got solid efforts from Antonio Gibson (94 yards rushing, one touchdown) and Terry McLaurin (84 yards receiving) while inching closer to Philadelphia at the top of the N.F.C. East.