By Ross Jones and Sid Saraf, FOXSports.com
Want to be a contender in this league? Then you must win games you aren’t supposed to. What does that mean? Well, when teams are faced with adversity (injuries, large deficits, etc.), it’s how they respond that defines them. Every team in the NFL will deal with such challenges. The elite teams don’t let it bother them. Injuries to premier players ruled the NFL world in Week 7. This week, the cream of the NFL crop has begun to rise. The teams that we expect to watch in early January took care of business in their own respective way. Let’s call Week 8 Separation Sunday. The
cruised to a win at home, while the
overcame a 17-3 deficit after a slug-it-out first half against the
. The Chiefs remained unbeaten and the
ripped off 38 unanswered points against the
. Meanwhile, the
delivered the five-score beatings we expected out of them. OK, let’s get into what we can take away after this eventful week of football:
Lions 31, Cowboys 30 – Matthew Stafford’s moxie cannot be contained
The Cowboys had the lead, the ball and all of the momentum very late in the fourth quarter. After questionable play-calling and a failure to run the ball with
, they kicked a field goal to go up by six points. That gave Matthew Stafford the ball with 1:02 left. Let's be real, nobody gave the Lions much of a chance. Well, how do you like that? Stafford piloted a six-play, 80-yard drive which was capped by a QB sneak for a touchdown with seconds remaining. Boom. While everyone assumes the NFC North is the
’ to lose, the Lions continue to find ways to win ugly games. They’ve beaten just one team (
) with a winning record, but can separate themselves from their competitors in the division after their Week 9 bye.
had a historic day, hauling in 14 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown (a team record for yards and just seven yards short of Flipper Anderson's NFL record). The other star wide receiver on the field, the Cowboys'
, made some highlights on the field, but made more noise with
his heated altercation with Jason Witten on the sideline
Saints 35, Bills 17 – Young stars emerge in New Orleans
news wasn’t good on Sunday morning. NFL on FOX insider Jay Glazer reported that Graham has partially torn plantar fascia and that he would be on a “pitch count.” While Graham’s snaps were limited (with only three catches), he made the most of them, catching two touchdown passes.
connected with 10 different receivers, but none of the targets were as electric as rookie
. The Oklahoma rookie caught three passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns and is clearly becoming a home-run hitter. The Saints defense continued to show why it is one of the league’s best, keeping the pressure on second-year quarterback Thad Lewis and forcing three turnovers out of him. Although Bills receiver Stevie Johnson has been limited with injuries the past couple weeks, he had an admirable performance with seven catches for 72 yards a TD. The Saints get into the meat of their schedule beginning next week with a trip to the Meadowlands to play the
Broncos 45, Redskins 21 — Broncos exploded like a champion
So much so, the Redskins didn’t seem to know what hit them. After all, things were looking up for Washington in the third quarter when
picked off a
pass and returned it for a touchdown and a 21-7 Washington lead. Then the Broncos got to work. First,
scored on a 4-yard run. Then Manning connected with Joel Dreesen for a 1-yard TD pass. Thirty-seven seconds later, Manning delivered a 35-yard strike to
Then another 35-yarder to
Oh, by the way, Redskins star
Robert Griffin III
got hit hard and knocked out of the game on this play.
Feeling dizzy yet? Sorry, we’re not done. Redskins backup quarterback
completed Denver’s scoring party when he threw an interception to
that was returned 75 yards for the final touchdown. If you’re counting at home, that’s 38 unanswered points from the Broncos, 31 of them in the fourth quarter. Ouch. What’s more, Manning came into the game nursing two sprained ankles. He still threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns — giving him a passer rating of 94.3 despite three interceptions. Manning will have plenty of time to get back to 100 percent as the Broncos head into their bye week sporting a 7-1 record. For the Redskins, it was scary to watch Griffin, who had offseason surgery, go down like that. Head coach
says the injury isn’t considered serious and Griffin was kept from returning to the game for precautionary reasons. However, with the team sitting at 2-5, things aren’t looking good.
admits the play did scare him. However, all is still not lost as the Redskins are in an NFC East that is … disgusting at best. Despite their record, the ‘Skins are just 1-1/2 games behind the division-leading Cowboys. So, if they can find a way to clean things up, a playoff spot isn’t out of the question. And isn’t that kind of sad?
Bengals 49, Jets 9 — Hell hath no fury like Marvin Jones
Bonus points for anyone who knew about the second-year receiver out of Cal before Sunday. But if you didn’t — like most people — you sure do now. Jones and Cincinnati QB
made mincemeat out of a dilapidated Jets secondary as Jones pulled down a team-record FOUR touchdown catches on the day. He made amazing plays like this:
Jones ended up with eight catches for 122 yards. Dalton? He turned in his third straight dominant game, completing 19 of 30 throws for 325 yards FIVE touchdown tosses (another team record). The Bengals are now sitting pretty at 6-2, winners of four in a row and owners of a 2 1/2-game lead in the AFC North. Now we come to the 4-4 Jets. All we can say about Gang Green and rookie quarterback Geno Smith is: Gross! Smith threw for just 159 yards and also had both of his interceptions returned for touchdowns, including this one by
This came just a week after he played arguably his best game of the season against the Patriots. One step forward, one giant leap back. To his defense, the Jets’ running game also was a liability. When backup quarterback
, who came on in relief of Smith late, is the team’s leading rusher with 35 yards on 3 carries, that’s just embarrassing. Back to the drawing board, Rex.
Patriots 27, Dolphins 17 — Tom Brady doesn’t need to carry this team
New England has relied on its superstar quarterback to bail it out of countless bad situations over the years. This time, the Patriots returned the favor. The Dolphins came out strong, jumping out to a 17-3 halftime lead. Miami’s running game was flourishing and its defense was putting strong hits on Brady:
Thank goodness games are 60 minutes long, right? Brady led the Patriots down the field for a score to cut Miami’s lead to seven, and on the next Dolphins possession, defensive back
That sack on
and subsequent fumble gave the Patriots plumb field position, which they took advantage of for the tying touchdown. That was 14 points in less than two minutes, and the rout was on. After all the dust settled, the Patriots had scored 24 unanswered points to move to 6-2 on the season. This is with Brady completing just 13 of 22 passes for just 116 yards with one TD and one INT. Good looking out, Patriots.
Giants 15, Eagles 7 — After 0-6 start, Big Blue in the thick of NFC East hunt
Mike Vick’s return to the Eagles offense didn’t go as planned. Not only did every drive he operate end in either a punt or a turnover, he also left the game early in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. Health has always been an issue for the 12th-year quarterback and it seems Chip Kelly’s offense isn’t doing him any favors. Rookie
had his number called, but had an uneven performance. The Giants defense capitalized on a young quarterback who clearly doesn’t fit the spread-it-out, read-option scheme in Philly. Four players (
) tallied a sack on as the defense didn’t allow an offensive score all day. The latter is very troubling for Philly as its offense hasn’t been able to find the end zone for eight quarters (Sunday's TD was scored by the Eagles defense). After the Giants’ 0-6 start, they’ve won their last two games and are only two games out of first place in the NFC East. They enter their bye week and will play the
in Week 10. They need the week of rest as they’re very banged up. And what a day for kicker
as he put the ball through the uprights five times.
Chiefs 23, Browns 17 — 8-0 is 8-0
The Cinderella season continues in Kansas City. You have to hand it to the Chiefs, because that unbeaten record brings highly motivated opponents who can’t wait to hand Kansas City its first loss. "You want the stages to get bigger. That's why you put all the work in. You want this opportunity. You want that honor,” Chiefs quarterback
told the Associated Press. But was this a really grand stage? The Chiefs were playing at home and facing a subpar Browns team starting its third quarterback of the season in veteran
. Yet, somehow, the league’s top-ranked defense allowed the Browns to do this:
Campbell had a nice performance on Sunday, completing 22 of 36 throws for 293 yards and two touchdowns and had the Browns within three points of a tie in the fourth quarter. But, the Chiefs defense made play after play down the stretch to secure the win. However, Kansas City took somewhat of a beating from the “pundits” on Sunday.
Every good team has a hiccup along the way. And the Chiefs are sure to find areas to improve when they watch the film from this game, but for now, it doesn’t matter. A win against a bad team like the Browns is still a win. And yes, 8-0 is still 8-0.
Packers 44, Vikings 31 — Green Bay makes it look easy in Minnesota
The Packers have been absolutely ravaged by injuries this season, but they were the ones who put a beating on the Vikings on Sunday night. While
was making another start in front of his hometown crowd, he didn’t dazzle anyone. Just six days after
, who is dealing with concussion-like symptoms, stunk up the joint, the Vikings went with Ponder against the Packers. The result? Meh. It was
who did his usual Aaron Rodgers things, completing 24 of 29 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The Packers running game, by way of
, has helped lessen the blow of injuries to receivers
. Lacy and Starks each ran for a touchdown and combined for 151 yards on 36 carries.
49ers 42, Jaguars 10 — Not all football is good football
Thankfully, this game was played in England. Sure, it might hurt the NFL’s attempt to spread its brand on the global stage, but at least us Americans weren’t forced to buy a ticket to this garbage. What we saw on Sunday was the equivalent of the school bully taking his frustrations out on the wimpy kid. It started early with
’s 19-yard touchdown run.
And it all went downhill from there. QB
had another fine performance, typified by this nifty touchdown run in the first half.
The 49ers (6-2) earned their fifth straight win while the Jaguars fell to 0-8. Yawn. But hey, the day wasn’t a total loss. Did you know that British fans know the Wave?
Cardinals 27, Falcons 13 — Arizona knows how to protect its house
’s first start as the Cardinals’ running back couldn’t get much better. Ellington, who was filling in for
because of a toe injury, ran for 154 yards on 15 carries. He also rushed his way to an 80-yard score in the second quarter. The Cardinals found success on the other side of the ball, stifling the Falcons’ air attack.
threw four interceptions while trying to claw his way back from a 21-point deficit.
Raiders 21, Steelers 18 — Terrelle Pryor’s run steals the show
Oakland QB Terrelle Pryor set the tempo early with a 93-yard touchdown run and the Raiders never looked back. The Steelers were faked out on a read-option play and Pryor was off to the races, his scoring run the longest in Raiders history and the longest by a QB in NFL history. As time wore on, defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau tweaked his game plan and only allowed one first down over the Raiders’ final nine drives.
, who is playing behind a moth-eaten offensive line, was sacked five times and couldn’t do enough to stage the late comeback. Pryor isn’t the most polished pocket passer, but if he makes plays like he did on Sunday, he will continue to give opposing defensive coordinators fits.
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