Pittsburgh came back from an early deficit against Dallas to improve to 8-0, Kansas City had to sweat a little against Carolina, Buffalo throttled Seattle and Baltimore’s defense carried the team against Indianapolis. Sunday didn’t have any huge upsets, but there was plenty of excitement.
Here’s what we learned:
Buffaloes can hibernate. Remember how great the Buffalo offense looked during the team’s thrilling 4-0 start to the season? Josh Allen and Co. threw away much of that momentum by going entirely dormant over a forgettable four-game stretch in which the team went 2-2. But with the sun shining brightly in Orchard Park, N.Y., and with plenty of help from Seattle’s inept defense, the Bills roared back to life in a 44-34 win that didn’t feel anywhere near that close. It was Buffalo’s first game with 40 or more points since 2018 and gave Josh Allen the second 400-yard passing game of his career. The Bills improved to 7-2, which matches the team’s best nine-game start since 1993.
While the offensive output was nice, Buffalo was probably just as excited by a defensive performance in which the Bills, who have disappointed on that side of the ball all season, had five sacks, 11 quarterback hits and forced four turnovers against the top-scoring offense in the N.F.L.
Dalvin Cook would be in the M.V.P. conversation if his team was better. Cook had 226 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns in Minnesota’s upset win over Green Bay last week, and he was right back at it on Sunday with 252 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in an easy 34-20 victory over Detroit. Cook’s career-high 206 yards rushing put him in the N.F.L. lead in that category and he increased his N.F.L. lead to 13 total touchdowns, which is three more than Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill in second place. The Most Valuable Player Award race is currently between Seattle’s Russell Wilson and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, with Mahomes probably pulling into the lead following Sunday’s win. But if the Vikings weren’t 3-5, you’d have to at least consider if Cook’s incredible season was worthy.
An interception can look a lot like an incomplete pass. Indianapolis was leading by 10-7 early in the third quarter when the team forced a fumble and took over at its own 23-yard line with a chance to increase its lead. On the first play of the drive, Philip Rivers attempted a pass to Marcus Johnson that was briefly in the hands of Baltimore cornerback Marcus Peters before falling harmlessly to the turf. Ravens Coach John Harbaugh challenged the ruling of an incomplete pass, contending that Peters took multiple steps with the ball before losing control of it, and the officials — somewhat shockingly — agreed with him, a decision that league officials confirmed was correct. Ten plays after the interception, Baltimore, which struggled offensively for most of the game, punched the ball into the end zone with a 1-yard run from Gus Edwards, giving the Ravens a lead they would not relinquish and a crucial win on the road.
The interception call did not sit well with Rivers. “It’s gotten so jacked up how the catch rule is,” Rivers said during his postgame news conference. “No one who has been around football or watched thought that was a catch, including the guy who dropped it. But some guy who has probably never thrown a football in his life gets to decide.”
Alex Smith might be back for real this time. It was an emotional and amazing moment when Smith returned to the field in Week 5 after missing nearly two years following a horrifying leg break. But Smith’s Hollywood-like story took a hit when he played poorly and went right back to the bench. Smith got another chance on Sunday after an injury to Kyle Allen, and at times he looked a lot like the player who had so much success in San Francisco and Kansas City. He threw for 325 yards — his first 300-yard game since Nov. 4, 2018 — and while he threw three interceptions in Washington’s 23-20 loss to the Giants, the Footballers outscored their division rival by 17-13 after the quarterback switch. With Allen’s injury looking fairly serious, Smith will start next week against Detroit.
Jake Luton just might stick around. Luton, a sixth-round pick in 2020 out of Oregon State, had big jorts to fill in Jacksonville when subbing in for the injured Gardner Minshew, and while he ultimately couldn’t pull off an upset of Houston, he did enough to earn another start next week. The second pass of Luton’s pro career went for a 73-yard touchdown to D.J. Chark, and with the game on the line in the final two minutes, Luton spun and bullied his way to a 13-yard touchdown that got his team within a 2-point conversion of tying the game (the conversion failed). He threw for 304 yards, making him just the 10th quarterback in N.F.L. history to throw for 300 or more yards in his first N.F.L. appearance.
No word yet on whether Luton can match Minshew as a fashion icon.
Pittsburgh is in uncharted territory. The Steelers are one of two teams to have won six Super Bowls, have the second-most conference championships and are fourth in wins in N.F.L. history. But until now, the team had never started a season 8-0. Sunday’s win was far from pretty, with the Steelers having to overcome an early 13-0 deficit against lowly Dallas. But Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, the second of which involved tight end Eric Ebron hurdling a defender on his way into the end zone, and Pittsburgh scraped by, 24-19.
One* Sentence About Sunday’s Games
*Except when it takes more.
Bills 44, Seahawks 34 Want an idea of how bad Seattle’s defense has been this season? Despite giving up 44 points — the most the team has allowed in Coach Pete Carroll’s 11 seasons with the team — the Seahawks actually performed better than they typically do in multiple measures. The 420 total yards they gave up were 40 fewer than they were allowing per game coming into the day and the seven sacks they had were a season-high.
Ravens 24, Colts 10 It was a quiet day for Baltimore’s offense, with just 266 total yards, but Lamar Jackson’s 9-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter put the Ravens over 20 points for a 31st consecutive game. The Ravens broke the previous record of 30 that they had shared with Denver, which had its streak stretch over the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons.
Steelers 24, Cowboys 19 Pittsburgh did not score until there was one minute and 10 seconds left in the second quarter, and was trailing until there was just 2:19 left in the game, but the Steelers scraped by with yet another win and Dallas, despite a great deal of improvement from last week, fell to 2-7.
Chiefs 33, Panthers 31 It got way too close for Kansas City’s comfort toward the end of the game, with Carolina’s offense firing on all cylinders thanks to the return of running back Christian McCaffrey who, along with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the do-everything receiver Curtis Samuel, makes Carolina a threat to score in bunches for the rest of the season.
Titans 24, Bears 17 After six games, Chicago was 5-1 and it started to look almost inevitable that the Bears would be a playoff team. After all, 83 percent of teams to start that well over the previous 10 seasons qualified for postseason play, and the Bears would benefit from this season’s expanded playoff format. After three consecutive losses, however, Chicago is 5-4 and such a record over the last 10 seasons has led to a playoff appearance just 26.5 percent of the time.
Raiders 31, Chargers 26 Isaiah Johnson should have teammates buying him dinner all week as the Las Vegas cornerback broke up two passes in the end zone in the game’s final five seconds, either of which would have won the game for Los Angeles.
Dolphins 34, Cardinals 31 In a matchup of 2018 finalists for the Heisman Trophy, Arizona’s Kyler Murray had a more exciting game, but Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa walked away with the win. Tagovailoa looked much improved from last week’s start, throwing for 248 yards and two touchdowns that combined with plenty of help from his rapidly ascending team to hold off Murray, who passed for 283 yards and three touchdowns while running for 106 yards and another score.
Vikings 34, Lions 20 It was a hard day for Detroit, as Matthew Stafford was intercepted on consecutive possessions in the third quarter and left the game for concussion evaluation in the fourth while his team’s defense was humiliated by Minnesota’s offense.
Falcons 34, Broncos 27 Atlanta got a solid win at home, and Matt Ryan had one of the prettier 51-yard bombs for a touchdown you’ll ever see, but it’s worth noting that Denver quarterback Drew Lock once against inspired some fourth-quarter magic, leading the team to 21 points a week after putting up 21 in the fourth in a come-from-behind win over the Chargers. If only Lock could play like that in the other three quarters.
Texans 27, Jaguars 25 Houston is a deeply flawed team, but given a chance to exploit Jacksonville’s porous secondary, Deshaun Watson did not disappoint, throwing a 57-yard catch-and-run touchdown to Brandin Cooks on his team’s first possession and a 77-yard score to Will Fuller V in the third quarter.
Giants 23, Footballers 20 Daniel Jones did not commit a turnover in a game for just the second time in his 22-game career and improved to 4-0 against Washington — he’s 1-16 against all other teams in his 21 career starts.