The 10th Sunday of the 2020 NFL campaign was absolutely epic! Inspiring performances, a prime-time upset and the craziest finish of the season.
But what do these developments mean in the grand scheme of things? What’s truly a big deal — and what isn’t? Allow me to inform you, Schein Nine style!
1) Bills lose on the play of the year
Holy cow! Trailing by four points with no timeouts and the final 10 seconds ticking off the clock, Kyler Murray rolled left, juked a would-be tackler, continued fading toward the sideline, reared back and delivered a majestic bomb into the end zone. DeAndre Hopkins proceeded to out-grapple and out-jump three Bills defenders for the game-winning touchdown grab. It was the catch of the year, off the throw of the year — a pulsating play of the year. Ian Eagle brilliantly captured it on CBS: “Murr-aculous … It’s Murray magic!” Splendid. How did Kyler make that throw on the move?! How did Hopkins make that catch?!?
I can’t stop buzzing. Murray is magnificent. Hopkins is the most talented receiver in the NFL. The connection is insane. What an epic heist of a trade by Cardinals GM Steve Keim. (Nice job, Bill O’Brien.)
All that said … For Buffalo, this isn’t that big of a deal. It stinks, no doubt, but it’s not everything. Josh Allen had just hit Stefon Diggs on a spectacular touchdown pass that put the Bills on top with 34 seconds left. That felt like the throw we’d be talking about all Monday. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. You tip you cap and take your 7-3 record to the bye.
Arizona is a legit playoff team. The loss feels like a punch to the gut, especially with the Dolphins hot on the Bills’ heels in AFC East race. Miami has won five straight games to get to 6-3. Brian Flores is my current Coach of the Year. Tua Tagovailoa is everything we said he was going to be. But I still absolutely believe in the Bills.
There’s no shame in losing on the road to a fellow playoff-bound team. Especially when it’s a classic bout and you’re defeated with one second left on the clock. This game wasn’t about Buffalo blowing it. This was about Murray rallying the Cardinals from a 14-point, second-half deficit for the win.
2) Seahawks lose second in a row, drop to 1-2 in the division
This is an enormous deal. A month ago, Seattle was undefeated, two games up on the rest of the NFC West, and Russell Wilson was a clear MVP front-runner. Now? There’s a three-way tie for the division lead, and Russ has committed seven(!) turnovers in the past two weeks.
The Rams beat the ‘Hawks 23-16 on Sunday. Hardly surprising, considering Los Angeles is more well-rounded and — at least at the moment — just better. Seattle’s pass defense has been completely inept all season — the perfect remedy for Jared Goff, who shook off a recent cold streak with 221 passing yards in the first half alone before finishing with 303 yards on a 73.0 completion rate. Meanwhile, the Seahawks’ quarterback is clearly pressing, trying to carry the entire team on his back. Sunday, against a stout Rams D, Wilson posted season-worst marks in completion percentage (59.5), yards per attempt (6.7), passing touchdowns (zero), passer rating (57.0) and sacks taken (six).
Now the Seahawks, Rams and Cardinals are all 6-3 — and Arizona is about to beat Seattle on Thursday Night Football. Could the ‘Hawks be in third place by next week?
3) Low-energy Packers squeak by one-win Jaguars
Honestly, I don’t think this is a big deal. It wasn’t pretty, that’s for sure. The Jaguars, who carried a seven-game losing streak into Sunday’s trip to Lambeau Field, held a fourth-quarter lead. But the Packers eventually turned the tables with a familiar connection — Aaron Rodgers to Davante Adams — and prevailed 24-20. Also, at the end of the day, Green Bay’s defense yielded a season-low 260 yards of offense. This was a grind-it-out, dog-days-of-November win for a first-place team.
Still, I did appreciate Matt LaFleur seizing the moment to take his 7-2 team to task postgame for not playing with energy and proper emotion. He’s right. The Pack lollygagged against a highly inferior team. It was too close. Green Bay isn’t talented enough to sleepwalk. Good on LaFleur for letting his team know the effort was “disturbing.”
4) Alex Smith enjoys a career day
Wow. This is everything. I don’t care that the Washington Football Team lost Sunday’s contest in Detroit. I marvel at Smith’s resolve to never say die — on his career … and on this game!
After trailing 24-3 midway through the third quarter, Washington came all the way back to tie the game up at 27 apiece with 16 seconds left in regulation. Yes, Detroit subsequently flew down the field — thanks in large part to Chase Young’s roughing the passer brain fart — and Matt Prater hit a 59-yarder for the win as the clock expired. I don’t care. The story of this game was Smith’s unrelenting determination.
In his first start in nearly two years to the day — after 17 surgeries on his mangled right leg — Smith almost carried the Football Team to a rollicking comeback victory on the strength of his right arm. The 16th-year pro set career passing highs in completions (38), attempts (55) and yards (390). There were questions about Smith walking — let alone playing — again. This is one of the most inspiring stories in sports. I get the chills just writing about it. Special, special stuff.
5) Ben Roethlisberger rolls out of bed to shred
This is a GIGANTIC deal. Roethlisberger didn’t practice last week, spending five days in isolation after being deemed a high-risk close contact in the wake of tight end Vance McDonald’s positive COVID-19 test result last Tuesday. But he was cleared on Saturday and authored his best individual performance in two years on Sunday.
Pittsburgh lambasted Cincinnati 36-10 in front of a limited crowd at Heinz Field. Big Ben posted season highs in passing yards (333) and touchdowns (four), while brilliantly spreading the wealth among his bevy of playmakers: JuJu Smith-Schuster led the group in catches (nine), Diontae Johnson in yards (116) and Chase Claypool in touchdowns (two).
Pittsburgh is 9-0. Ben is the team MVP. The Steelers’ run game is basically a non-factor, ranking 24th in the league in yards per game. Consequently, Roethlisberger — who’s 38 years old and fresh off major elbow surgery — has been forced to carry the load. And boy, has he ever delivered, with a 22:4 TD-to-INT ratio and 103.0 passer rating. It’s a treat, seeing a future first-ballot Hall of Famer deny the degenerative effects of age and injury. Incredible stuff.
6) Buccaneers bounce back with a divisional beatdown
There’s been a bit of an off-putting front-running element to these talented Bucs. So, in the immediate aftermath of the inexplicable clobbering at the hands of the Saints on Sunday Night Football, the 46-23 win at Carolina was indeed a big deal.
Tom Brady bounced back from one of the worst starts in his storied career to completely dismantle the Panthers, throwing for 341 yards and three touchdowns and adding an additional score on the ground. Brady deftly distributed the ball across all of his weapons, with receivers Chris Godwin (6/92), Mike Evans (6/77/1) and Antonio Brown (7/69) all producing in volume and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate each hitting paydirt. Meanwhile, RB Ronald Jones set a career high with 192 rushing yards on 23 carries, including the 98-yard scamper that broke the game open.
Tampa Bay (7-3) needed an explosion to get confidence back on track. A season-high in yards gained (544) and a season-low in yards allowed (187) should do the trick.
7) Giants jump squarely into the divisional race
Disparage the NFC East all you want — it’s deserved — but this is a big deal. First-year head coach Joe Judge has done an excellent job of getting this talent-poor team to play hard, week in and week out. Over the first couple months of the season, that kept the Giants in games. Now? It’s allowing Big Blue to win games. New York is officially on a win streak!
The Giants built on a Week 9 win over Washington with their first win over Philadelphia since 2016, snapping an eight-game losing streak with the 27-17 result. Daniel Jones didn’t turn the ball over for the second straight week, and this time around, he finished the long touchdown run vs. Philly. (No faceplant!) These are all huge deals.
And factor in how dreadful Carson Wentz and the Eagles (3-5-1) looked once again. The NFC East is historically inept. The Giants, at 3-7, have a pulse, seeing how they’re tied with division-leading Philadelphia in the win column. Could the G-Men finally have a viable head coach in the post-Tom Coughlin era?
8) Raiders annihilate Broncos in all facets
Yep, major deal. Denver came into this game looking to close the gap on a division rival, but the Raiders (6-3) broke the will of the Broncos (3-6) in a 37-12 shellacking, pounding the rock on offense and taking it away on defense.
This was Las Vegas’ fifth game with 30-plus points this season. Over the last two years combined, they logged four. With the Raiders’ outstanding offensive line leading the way, Josh Jacobs (21 rushes for 112 yards and two touchdowns) and Devontae Booker (16/81/2) ran wild on Vic Fangio’s defense. Meanwhile, after recording just five takeaways in their first eight games of the season, Las Vegas notched five on Sunday alone, including four picks of Drew Lock.
With the 25-point win over Denver, the Raiders are a perfect 3-0 against AFC West teams. This is really starting to come together under Jon Gruden.
9) Patriots log second straight win with upset of Ravens
For Baltimore, sure, this is a disappointing loss. And it dropped the Ravens (6-3) three games behind the Steelers, so the AFC North might be out of reach.
But from a Patriots perspective? Let’s not blow this out of proportion.
Bill Belichick and Co. deserve all the credit in the world. They cooked up a brilliant game plan for this weather-impacted contest. Would you expect anything else from the Hoodie? That said, the Patriots are still below .500 at 4-5. They’ve still given up 22 more points than they’ve scored this season. New England is hardly “back,” definitely not a contender. This is a well-coached team that capitalized on adverse conditions flattening the talent discrepancy. Don’t think of this win as a harbinger of things to come for the Pats.
Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.
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