It’s hard to get too excited about a win over Cincinnati, but the Baltimore Ravens put on such a clinic that the blowout over a winless team was still impressive. While that result was predictable, Week 10 provided surprises, too: The Saints and the Chiefs lost, the Dolphins won (again) and three teams were forced to try a new starter at quarterback.
Here’s what we learned:
Even the most confident teams can lose, Part 1. The Saints were 13.5-point favorites at home against the Falcons. Matt Ryan’s health was uncertain as he was coming back from an ankle injury, and New Orleans, riding high with the return two weeks ago of Drew Brees, had not lost since Week 2. In a wholly improbable result that qualified as the biggest betting upset of the 2019 season, the Falcons thoroughly humiliated the Saints, looking better on both sides of the ball in a 26-9 win.
Even the most confident teams can lose, Part 2. To much fanfare, Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs was declared healthy enough to play this week, and he showed his scary knee injury was behind him as he shredded Tennessee’s defense to the tune of 446 passing yards and three touchdowns. He had Kansas City up by nine points in the fourth quarter, then watched that lead simply slip away. The Chiefs, who won last week on a last-second field goal by Harrison Butker, lost on Sunday, 35-32, when Butker’s 52-yard attempt to tie the game was blocked as time expired.
The Ravens can do anything. A week after Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram ran right over the Patriots, Jackson showed off his passing ability in a 49-13 blowout of Cincinnati. With three touchdown passes and just two incompletions, Jackson recorded his second perfect (158.3) passer rating of the season, matching the record set by Ben Roethlisberger in 2007. Lest you think Jackson would deprive fans of a rushing highlight, he threw in an electrifying 47-yard touchdown run in the third quarter in which he spun and sliced his way straight through a stream of Bengals defenders on his way to the end zone.
No, really, the Ravens can do anything. For icing on the cake, Marcus Peters, a cornerback Baltimore received in a salary dump trade with the Rams, returned an interception 89 yards for a touchdown. Peters has two pick-6s in three games for the Ravens and three for the season, leaving him one short of the N.F.L. record of four with seven games left to play.
Not all backup quarterbacks are created equal. It has been a big year for second-string quarterbacks, with Teddy Bridgewater of the Saints, Kyle Allen of the Panthers, Mason Rudolph of the Steelers and others stepping up to deliver some huge performances. Three new second-stringers got a chance to start this week — bringing the season total to 51 quarterbacks to start at least one game — but all three lost. Ryan Finley threw one touchdown and did little else in Cincinnati’s loss to Baltimore. Jeff Driskel, forced into an emergency start for Detroit, was thoroughly outplayed by Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky. And the veteran Brian Hoyer, filling in for Jacoby Brissett of the Colts, threw three interceptions in a loss to the Dolphins.
The Dolphins aren’t tanking. If it seems like it was a little over a week ago people that were speculating if Miami was the worst team in N.F.L. history, that’s because it was. Now, thanks to a rapidly improving defense and some fairly weak opposition, Miami is inexplicably on a two-game winning streak. Sunday’s win over Indianapolis was a nail-biter. It involved some serious help from Hoyer, including a turnover on downs in the final minute where a fourth-down attempt was thrown well short of first-down distance, but the Dolphins looked positive plucky and have the best record in the A.F.C. East over the last two weeks.
Kyler Murray’s timing could be better. The Cardinals’ quarterback set an N.F.L. rookie record in the first quarter when he threw his 177th consecutive pass without an interception. The streak reached 211 passes, but ended in spectacular fashion. Arizona was leading, 27-23, in the fourth quarter when Murray attempted a pass in the red zone to Trent Sherfield. Sherfield slipped, Tampa Bay cornerback Jamel Dean leapt over the receiver to snag the pass and, six offensive plays later, Peyton Barber ran the ball into the end zone, putting the Buccaneers ahead to stay. Murray had not thrown an interception since Week 4.
It’s easy to write off Jackson’s matching set of games with a perfect passer rating when you consider they came in blowouts against Miami and Cincinnati, but only one other quarterback (Ben Roethlisberger) had ever accomplished the feat twice in a season, and presumably some of the other quarterbacks in N.F.L. history have also faced two bad teams.
When Henry has things working, there are few running backs as explosive. He found plenty of room to run against Kansas City’s defense and he helped lead his team to a comeback win.
Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas and Amari Cooper all topped Kirk in receptions and receiving yards, but it’s hard to ignore Kirk’s three touchdowns, especially his 69-yard scamper in the third quarter.
*Except when it takes more.
Packers 24, Panthers 16 The snow was falling in Green Bay, and the Packers, showing off some toughness at home, earned a win the old-fashioned way by stopping Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey at the goal line as time expired.
Titans 35, Chiefs 32 Kansas City’s defense falling apart was hardly surprising, but Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry deserve as much credit for winning this game as the Chiefs do for losing it.
Falcons 26, Saints 9 “We didn’t play well enough to win today, really, against anybody,” Coach Sean Payton said of the Saints.
Steelers 17, Rams 12 It wasn’t pretty to watch, but Pittsburgh grinded out an impressive win, forcing four turnovers and showing some serious confidence by throwing for a conversion on a 4th-and-short to help set up a field goal in the fourth quarter.
Vikings 28, Cowboys 24 Dak Prescott threw for 397 yards and three touchdowns, but Dallas played cute with the clock at the end, running the ball in the red zone multiple times, and Prescott threw incomplete to Ezekiel Elliott on fourth down, turning the ball over and handing the game to Minnesota.
Ravens 49, Bengals 13 It was as ugly of a loss as you’ll see, but Cincinnati did manage the unusual feat of outrushing Baltimore, 157-136, becoming the second team to do that since Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback last season.
Browns 19, Bills 16 Cleveland was largely outplayed by the visiting Bills, and Buffalo had a chance to tie it as time expired before Stephen Hauschka’s 53-yard field attempt fell short, but with the way things have gone for the Browns, a win is a win is a win.
Dolphins 16, Colts 12 This win was mostly about Miami’s defense — and Jacoby Brissett’s absence for Indianapolis — but Ryan Fitzpatrick encapsulated the Dolphins’ determination as he impatiently tried to push his way out of a medical tent while waiting to be evaluated for a possible concussion (he was eventually cleared and allowed to return).
Buccaneers 30, Cardinals 27 A truly odd season continues for Tampa Bay, which saw its red-hot wide receiver Mike Evans cool off, and its quarterback, Jameis Winston, throw two interceptions, but won anyway.
Jets 34, Giants 27 Jamal Adams took some heat when he compared himself to Tom Brady and Aaron Donald, but he lived up to his confidence in this one with nine tackles, two sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Bears 20, Lions 13 Mitchell Trubisky will likely turn the TVs back on at Chicago’s practice facility after his three-touchdown performance in a win.