NFL Week 10: What we learned from Sunday's games

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 46, Carolina Panthers 23

1) A hotly contested first half between division rivals turned into a blowout on a quick-change third quarter. Up three points and backed up to his own 2-yard-line, Tampa running back Ronald Jones blasted up the gut, broke two tackles and outraced Panthers DBs for a 98-yard touchdown. Jones became just the fourth player in NFL history with a run of 98 yards or longer. On the next scrimmage play, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul dropped into coverage and made a fantastic interception of Teddy Bridgewater. The pick led to a field goal, and a comfortable lead Tampa wouldn’t relinquish. A week after setting history with just five carries, the Bucs rode RoJo despite an opening-drive fumble. The starter took 23 totes for 192 yards and the score. Jones rewarded Bruce Arians’ faith after the fumble, running through arm-tackles, spinning out of defender’s grasp, and scampering away from tacklers. The balanced attacked allowed Tampa (7-3) to move the chains consistently, gobbling up 30 first downs, 544 total yards, and didn’t punt once.

2) So much was made about Tom Brady and Mike Evans connection after a poor game last week. TB12 made sure the star wide receiver was in the action often. Evans saw a team-high 11 targets, catching six for 77 yards and a TD. Evans’ stats could have been even more prolific if Brady didn’t miss him long a couple times. Brady’s deep ball wasn’t on target, but in every other area, the veteran QB was money. He threaded several passes on the sideline and remains one of the best touch-throwers in the game. Brady was clinical on third downs, converting eight first downs through the air on 11 attempts. Once again, Brady bounced back from a poor outing, completing 28-of-39 passing for 341 yards and three touchdown passes, adding a TD sneak. The Bucs offensive diversity was on display with Evans, Chris Godwin (6/92), Antonio Brown (7/69) and Rob Gronkowski (2/51/1) all making big plays. Outside of going 4-of-8 in the red zone, there isn’t much to quibble about this week from Tampa. 

3) Bridgewater exited with just over five minutes left in the contest after a low hit and gingerly walked to the locker room of the blowout loss. His status is currently unknown. Before exiting, Bridgewater and the Carolina offense was a mixed bag. Teddy Two Gloves completed his first 13 passes early, staking the Panthers (3-7) to a first-quarter lead, but the QB was slightly off the mark even while completing passes. The Panthers offense was smothered in the second half, earning just four first downs and seven points on six drives. The Carolina run game sorely missed Christian McCaffrey against a good Bucs run D. Matt Rhule supplemented the run attack with a quick passing game, but the lack of downfield shots hurt the Panthers once they got down by two scores. On the whole, it was another spunky effort for a Panthers squad that continues to build blocks for the future. If Bridgewater’s injury lingers, P.J. Walker would take over.

— Kevin Patra

Green Bay Packers 24, Jacksonville Jaguars 20

1) Winds of up to 30 mph gusting at Lambeau Field boded poorly for quarterbacks, but Aaron Rodgers has navigated that challenge many times before, and his counterpart, Jake Luton, was making just his second career start. On the first play of the second quarter, his first snap with the wind at his back, Rodgers took his first deep shot of the game and hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 78-yard score, the Packers’ longest play all season. Despite both of Green Bay’s starting cornerbacks being inactive, Luton couldn’t take similar advantage. The Jaguars got their only boost from the breeze when the Packers’ J.K. Scott outkicked his coverage for a 59-yard punt that went for a 91-yard return by Keelan Cole.

2) Not to be overlooked in the factors that kept Jacksonville (1-8) competitive for four quarters was the effort of Jaguars punter Logan Cooke. He absolutely buried the Packers (7-2) for field position, downing punts at the Green Bay 2, 3 and 9. One of those set up a critical takeaway for the Jaguars defense, which in turn set up a game-tying touchdown pass. Cooke just missed another that bounced out of bounds about a yard behind the pylon, and pinned the Packers at their 14 on his final punt. He averaged 45.8 for the day with a long of 59, giving a valiant Jaguars defensive effort all the field position it could have asked for.

3) Despite the win, the Packers defensive front will have its collective head in its hands in film review. The Jaguars offensive line blew Green Bay off the line of scrimmage for most of the day, paving a path for James Robinson to run 23 times for 109 yards. It’s not as though Green Bay didn’t know it was coming — Luton’s inexperience made the Jaguars’ offensive game plan obvious enough — but Jacksonville opened creases for Robinson all day. The silver lining came in how the Packers pass rush finished the game. With Jacksonville driving for what could have been a game-winning touchdown, Green Bay clamped down with sacks on back-to-back plays to seal the win.

— Chase Goodbread

Cleveland Browns 10, Houston Texans 7

1) After trudging through a life without Nick Chubb, the Browns (6-3) regained their ground-dominant form Sunday. It took a while, though, for Kevin Stefanski to again realize his best chance of victory was on a path cleared by the rushing attack, with the Browns turning to the run in the second half to power a nine-play, 64-yard scoring drive that produced the game’s first touchdown on a nine-yard run by Chubb. Chubb showed some minor signs of rust or lingering effects from his MCL sprain suffered more than a month ago, but by the time came for Chubb to help the Browns ice their sixth win of the season, he took a toss around the left side and galloped toward the end zone. With a touchdown in sight, Chubb stepped out of bounds at the 1-yard line, allowing the Browns to kneel to burn the remaining time in the game to secure the victory. Together, Chubb and Kareem Hunt powered Cleveland’s offense on another ugly weather Sunday along Lake Erie. The two combined to rush for 230 yards and the lone touchdown on 38 carries, with 168 of those yards coming in the second half. As the Browns proved way back in Week 2, they have the best backfield tandem in the NFL, and one that is fully capable of putting a game away.

2) Houston’s Achilles heel — its rushing defense — appeared ready to sneak through Week 10 without being noticed, at least through two quarters. After forcing the Browns to attempt to win the game through the air and keeping things close for a half, Cleveland stubbornly returned to its strength, and the Texans (2-7) acquiesced. Deshaun Watson tried mightily to will the Texans to a victory, but with Houston unable to keep the Browns from finding success on the ground — and winning the time of possession battle by over six minutes — the Texans simply didn’t stand much of a chance. Houston’s offense awoke too late, waiting until there was just 4:59 left to play to finally put points on the board, and dropped its seventh game of the season. A missed Ka'imi Fairbairn field goal attempt can carry some of the blame, but on a day like Sunday, the Texans’ best chance of victory rested in their ability to run the ball — nonexistent for much of 2020 — and convert their few opportunities afforded. The missed field goal and an inability to get a stop proved to be the difference for a team that just hasn’t been able to find ways to win often in 2020.

3) We’re spending a point on weather because it was very significant Sunday. The game’s 1 p.m. kickoff was delayed to 1:35 due to a sudden November thunderstorm that rolled into Cleveland just before the start of the game, bringing with it heavy rain, hail, lightning and gusts of wind nearing 50 mph. Even with the delay, the uneventful first half that saw just three points scored in total helped bring the game in line with the rest of the early slate and hindered both offenses’ ability to move the ball through the air. Watson and Baker Mayfield combined to throw for 295 yards and just one touchdown, with Watson’s strike to former Brown Pharaoh Brown serving as Houston’s lone score of the day. In a more pleasant environment, this one might have looked different, but after the Browns lost an ugly weather contest to Las Vegas two weeks ago, Cleveland can smile thanks to its Week 10 victory.

— Nick Shook

New York Giants 27, Philadelphia Eagles 17

1) In nine career NFC East matchups, Daniel Jones had managed four wins, all of which came against Washington. The 2019 first-rounder’s sharp effort on Sunday finally brought about the good fortune that eluded him in the other divisional contests. Jones led an up-tempo Giants attack that the Eagles struggled to contain en route to an efficient 21-of-28 day for 244 yards. He was unable to log a TD pass, but he did turn a QB keeper into a 30-yard TD run for the game’s first points. He also made timely throws to set up scoring plays. Following a Philly TD that cut N.Y.’s lead to 14-11 in the third quarter, Jones notched back-to-back 25-plus yard completions to Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate that led to three short Wayne Gallman runs for a score. Gallman (18/53/2) and the deceptively quick Jones (9/64/1) anchored another great rushing effort as the Giants (3-7) topped 100 rush yards for a fifth straight week.

2) For a team clinging to first place in the NFL’s worst division, the Eagles (3-5-1) did not look like they were fresh off a bye week. The defense couldn’t get timely stops and the offense was out of sync, as evidenced by the number of botched snaps, drops, and passes that either went through a receiver’s hands or were too high. Carson Wentz (21-of-37 for 208 yards) looked off his game and was often seen with his head down or viciously popping his helmet straps off after another failed drive. The Eagles were held without a third-down conversion (0-of-9) for the first time since 2004. The Giants’ pass rush, led by Leonard Williams, Dalvin Tomlinson and Blake Martinez, contributed to his frustration, as well. Their most impressive play came in the third when a lead block from Jason Kelce sprung Boston Scott loose for a career-best 56-yard TD run. But, outside of that, this was a bad day on both sides of the ball.

3) In a game featuring the league’s top-two turnover-prone QBs, giveaways figured to be a big storyline. A second-straight TO-free Jones outing buoyed New York to another W. In the previous nine games, Jones either fumbled or tossed a pick in each. Against Philly, he displayed better decision-making and managed to stay aggressive, averaging 8.7 yards per attempt. Jones also made sure to tuck the ball in close with both hands when he ran and protect it as he went down. Neither defense forced turnovers but New York managed to snuff out enough opportunities and bring enough pressure to lead to a victory. 

— Jelani Scott

Detroit Lions 30, Washington Football Team 27

1) Matt Prater hit a 59-yard walk-off field goal to get the Lions (4-5) their first home win of the season. The sequence of events that got them there was just another repeated chapter in the Lions’ topsy-turvy campaign in 2020. After Washington tied the game at 27, Detroit had just 16 seconds and two timeouts remaining to get Prater within range. Somehow, they got there, but not without a little help. On a play where quarterback Matthew Stafford almost connected on a deep bomb for a game-winning touchdown, Washington rookie pass-rusher Chase Young was flagged for roughing the passer and put the Lions at the 50-yard line. A nine-yard throw to Marvin Jones and quick timeout set the table for Prater’s walk-off, and the Lions avoided what would’ve been the ninth time in the Matt Patricia era where Detroit blew a lead of 10 points or more in a loss.

2) Nearly two years to the day after suffering a life-altering leg injury, Alex Smith made his return as Washington’s starting QB and helped orchestrate what could’ve been a storybook comeback. Washington was down 24-3 midway through the third quarter and seemingly out on its feet as the Lions were in full control on both sides of the ball. Smith and the Football Team never wavered, however, scoring three consecutive TDs that coincided with two consecutive three-and-outs forced by their defense. Down three with 2:37 left to play, Smith led Washington toward an eventful two-minute drive that saw big throws from Smith, untimely penalties from the Lions defense, and a Dustin Hopkins FG that was sure to send this one into overtime until it didn’t. Smith’s day was calculated yet mistake-free, completing 38 of 55 pass attempts for 390 yards that were mostly gained amid their late-game comeback. Washington (2-7) will host the Bengals in Week 11.

3) D'Andre Swift’s first official start was a rousing success for the Lions offense. The rookie running back had 149 total yards from scrimmage (81 rushing, 68 receiving) and his speed threat set up big plays through the air. Following a run where Swift hurdled a defender to punctuate a big gain, Stafford found a wide-open Marvin Hall for a 55-yard touchdown, which was the game’s first score. Jones’ 27-yard TD catch was also the result of a Washington defense wary of Swift’s presence. In the second half, Swift set a tone for the Lions through the air, breaking a big play on third and long to start the third quarter and ending that same drive with a bruising catch-and-run for a TD. It’s a wonder why Swift didn’t get the ball more (16 carries, five receptions), but considering the big-play potential he showed in this one, more opportunities will follow for the Georgia product. 

— Michael Baca

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