Most of the favored teams won on Sunday, but there was still a little drama, including a mistake-filled performance by the leading candidate for the Most Valuable Player Award, an unbelievably bad day for a veteran kicker and an upset led by a rookie quarterback making his first start. And the Pittsburgh Steelers, who started the season 11-0, have lost two games in a row.
Here’s what we learned:
Top Passer: Drew Lock
Lock says he wants to let the ball fly on every play, but has mostly shown a conservative approach under the guidance of John Elway, the Broncos’ president. “He has preached to me just doing your job and not trying to force anything,” Lock said. “Once you force it, those are the ones you want back.” The approach worked well on Sunday, with Lock lulling Carolina into a false sense of security and then beating them with a pair of long touchdowns to K.J. Hamler. Lock finished the day with a career-high four passing touchdowns.
Top Runner: Derrick Henry
After a 215-yard performance in Tennessee’s 31-10 win over Jacksonville on Sunday, Henry has four career games with 200 or more rushing yards and two or more touchdowns, breaking a tie he held with Jim Brown, Barry Sanders and LaDainian Tomlinson, each of whom is in the Hall of Fame. Henry is leading the N.F.L. with 1,532 yards rushing this season — just 8 short of the total he led the N.F.L. with last year — and he has run for 100 or more yards in his last nine road games, one short of Sanders’s N.F.L. record.
Jacksonville Coach Dough Marrone stacked the box for much of the game, but was left at a loss when asked if there was more his team could have done to slow down the Titans superstar. “I don’t think we could get any more people up there,” Marrone said.
Top Receiver: K.J. Hamler
Arizona’s DeAndre Hopkins and Kansas City’s Travis Kelce shared the N.F.L. lead with 136 yards receiving each, but it’s hard to match the efficiency of Hamler’s day in which Denver’s rookie wide receiver had just two catches, but they went for touchdowns of 37 and 49 yards. The second touchdown gave the Broncos the insurance they needed to hold off a Carolina comeback.
“I beat the guy, just ducked my head down, same as I did the last one, just ran full speed to the upright,” Hamler said of his 49-yard touchdown. “Next thing I know it’s in the air. I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got me a play.’ Drew threw a great ball and I just had to go get it.”
One* Sentence About Sunday’s Games
*Except when it takes more.
Colts 44, Raiders 27 There were so many things you could focus on in this convincing Indianapolis victory: Philip Rivers’s two touchdown passes; Jonathan Taylor’s career-high 150 yards rushing (and two touchdowns); or Khari Willis’s 50-yard pick-6. But when you factor in the degree of difficulty, the highlight to remember is Kenny Moore’s one-handed interception in the end zone in the second quarter.
Chiefs 33, Dolphins 27 It looked like it could be a long day for Kansas City when the Chiefs fell behind by 10-0 in the second quarter, but thanks to touchdown drives of 75 and 74 yards, the Chiefs led at halftime, and never trailed again.
Titans 31, Jaguars 10 Jacksonville has lost 12 consecutive games — one short of the franchise record — and a switch at quarterback to Gardner Minshew in the second half led to a quick touchdown, but that wasn’t nearly enough to make this game competitive.
Buccaneers 26, Vikings 14 Tampa Bay had the ball for less than 21 of the game’s 60 minutes, and while Minnesota had the game’s leading passer, leading rusher and leading receiver, the Buccaneers walked away with a fairly easy victory thanks largely to mistakes forced by the team’s terrific pass rush.
Packers 31, Lions 24 Aaron Rodgers had 290 yards passing, three touchdowns and only seven incompletions — a typical day for him at this point — and Green Bay clinched the N.F.C. North. Of larger concern for Detroit than the loss was an injury sustained by quarterback Matthew Stafford in which he took a hard hit by Green Bay’s Kenny Clark at the end of a run and appeared to hurt his ribs.
Bills 26, Steelers 15 Stefon Diggs had 10 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. He is the first player this season to reach 100 receptions.
Seahawks 40, Jets 3 Last week felt like the bottom for the Jets, but the team’s former star safety, Jamal Adams, was credited with a sack of Sam Darnold in the second quarter, giving him the N.F.L.’s single-season record for sacks by a defensive back with 8.5. Adams only needed nine games to break Adrian Wilson’s record of eight, which was set over the course of 16 games in 2005. Rubbing some salt in the Jets’ wounds, the team’s former quarterback, Geno Smith, came on in relief of Russell Wilson for mop-up duty at the end of the blowout. The Jets are 0-13.
Eagles 24, Saints 21 Taysom Hill passed for a career-high 291 yards, but he also threw an interception and lost a fumble. The loss broke a streak of eight consecutive wins by backup quarterbacks for New Orleans.
Cardinals 26, Giants 7 Arizona’s Haason Reddick became the 16th player to record five or more sacks in a game (since the statistic became official in 1982), leading an all-out assault in which the Cardinals produced eight sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Reddick, who came into the day with only 12.5 sacks in 60 career games, also forced three fumbles.
Chargers 20, Falcons 17 It looked like the Chargers were throwing away yet another potential win when Justin Herbert was intercepted with less than a minute remaining. But Michael Davis stole momentum right back for Los Angeles by intercepting a Matt Ryan pass, and Herbert was able to get his team close enough for Michael Badgley to win the game with a 43-yard field goal as time expired.
Footballers 23, 49ers 15 A lot of things went wrong for Washington in this game, but the rookie defensive end Chase Young put on a show with six tackles, a sack, two passes defended, two quarterback hits and a 47-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Bears 36, Texans 7 Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has taken his lumps over the last few years — largely as a result of his being drafted ahead of Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Houston’s Deshaun Watson — but he had a terrific game against Watson’s Texans, completing 24 of 33 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns.
Cowboys 30, Bengals 7 In his return to Cincinnati, Andy Dalton was hardly perfect, but he did enough to beat the lowly Bengals, tossing two touchdown passes without committing a turnover. Aldon Smith, a defensive end who missed four seasons because of off-field issues, contributed to the scoring with his first career touchdown.
Broncos 32, Panthers 27 A lot went right for Denver in this one, with Drew Lock throwing a career-high four touchdown passes, Diontae Spencer returning a punt 83 yards for a score and the Broncos’ defense holding strong against Carolina’s comeback attempt.