Demarus Dye| BKD TV Insiders
Here is a recap of Week 9 of the 2018 NFL Season with a Tuesday Morning QB & thanks again to AP Sports/ Pro 32 for photos & articles.
Bye: Cardinals, Bengals, Colts, Jaguars, Giants, Eagles
Raiders 3, 49ers 34
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Nick Mullens got several hundred congratulatory text messages, a phone call from Brett Favre and his Twitter account verified.
Delivering the most productive game by a quarterback in his NFL debut since the merger leads to many accolades.
Mullens threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns and the San Francisco 49ers thoroughly dominated the Battle of the Bay, beating the Oakland Raiders 34-3 on Thursday night.
The former undrafted free agent out of Favre’s alma mater Southern Mississippi finished 16 for 22 in place of the injured C.J. Beathard and had a 151.9 passer rating, the highest for a quarterback with at least 15 attempts in an NFL debut since the 1970 merger.
“I think I’m here for a reason. This is my opportunity to prove that I can play,” Mullens said. “Today’s thing was just attack your job and worry about what matters. What mattered most tonight was the team and how we played.”
The Niners (2-7) couldn’t have played much better in snapping a six-game losing streak and winning for just the second time in two years without Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback.
Mullens threw TD passes to Pierre Garcon and Kendrick Bourne on the opening two drives and connected on a 71-yard one-handed catch-and-run play to George Kittle to set up a third TD pass to Kittle. Raheem Mostert added a 52-yard TD run and the defense generated eight sacks for the first time since 2009.
But the story of the game was Mullens, got rid of the ball quickly and took advantages of several breakdowns in coverage for big plays, including the 24-yard TD pass to a wide-open Garcon on the opening drive.
“It was cool that he didn’t change under the big lights and these circumstances,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “We’re not really surprised. We’ve seen him do it in practice. He plays with a lot of confidence.”
With Garoppolo out for the season and Beathard having lost nine of 10 career starts, the inevitable question will be whether Mullens will take over as starter for the next game Nov. 12 against the New York Giants.
“We’ll definitely consider it,” coach Kyle Shanahan said. “I’m definitely not thinking about it right now. Our whole team played very well. They definitely did.”
The Raiders (1-7) clearly didn’t, losing for the fourth straight time, getting outscored by 85 points during the skid.
“I know it’s not looking pretty right now,” coach Jon Gruden said. “I’ve heard a lot of negativity over the last six, seven months and rightfully so. But we’re going to build a championship football team here.”
In what was perhaps the worst prime-time matchup in NFL history, only the Raiders played down to expectations. They provided little resistance on defense against an undrafted quarterback making his NFL debut, did nothing offensively after driving for as field goal on the opening drive and put together the most listless performance yet in Gruden’s second stint as coach.
Carr finished 16 for 22 for 171 yards and was sacked seven times before being replaced by AJ McCarron in the fourth quarter. McCarron was sacked once behind a banged-up offensive line.
“It’s a frustrating thing to be sitting on the record you have, be going through some of the things we’re going through as an offense and still not being able to put points on the board,” tight end Jared Cook said. “It’s definitely frustrating because we know the talent we have in this room is way better than that and way better than what we portray on the field.”
Carr was sacked four times in the first half for the first time in his career as the Raiders struggled to provide much protection against a 49ers defense that has not generated much pressure all year. Dekoda Watson had 1 1/2 sacks in his first game of the season after getting activated from IR earlier in the day.
Former Niners receiver Terrell Owens was presented his Hall of Fame ring at a halftime ceremony. Owens was voted into the Hall of Fame earlier this year but skipped the induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio, to hold his own celebration at his college in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Owens said he was upset at the voters who made him wait three years for the honor, saying he believed they brought in off-field issues into their deliberations instead of focusing solely on what Owens did as a player.
“This is awesome,” Owens said before the game. “This is an opportunity to give something to the fans. Ever since I left in 2003 and went on and did some great things, but this is where it started my first eight years of my career.”
Raiders left tackle Kolton Miller left with a knee injury. … Mostert broke his forearm in the third quarter and will miss the rest of the season.
Raiders: Host Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 11.
49ers: Host New York Giants on Nov. 12.
Falcons 38, Redskins 14
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Julio Jones set his sights on the end zone, twisted to break a tackle and lunged toward the promised land.
A swarm of teammates rushed over from the sideline, jumping around in jubilation to celebrate the end of the star receiver’s 12-game touchdown drought.
Jones was back in the end zone where he belongs, and the Atlanta Falcons looked like the team they were predicted to be in a 38-14 blowout of the Washington Redskins on Sunday that extended their winning streak to three games.
“We’re a brotherhood,” said Jones, who made seven receptions for 121 yards and caught his first TD pass since Nov. 26, 2017.
“We support one another. If anybody scores, I’m trying to be the first one over there. Nobody hates on each other on this team. Everybody loves when other people go out here and excel and make plays.”
The Falcons (4-4) made plenty of plays in flexing their offensive muscles with the kind of balanced attack they’ve lacked in an injury-marred season that so far has failed to live up to expectations. Matt Ryan completed 26 of 38 passes for 350 yards and four touchdowns, including the 35-yard screen to Jones that set off a team-wide celebration.
Even though losing four of its first five games didn’t give Atlanta much to celebrate, putting up 491 yards on Washington has players excited about their current position and what more they can accomplish this season.
“The start to the season was not what we were looking for, but we’re halfway through it, we’re 4-4 and we’re in the mix,” said Ryan, who had touchdown passes of 39 and 10 yards to running back Tevin Coleman and a 40-yarder to rookie receiver Calvin Ridley .
“The good football teams that I’ve been a part of in my career are the ones that have gotten better as the year’s gone along. Halfway through, I think we’re a better football team than we were at the start and we’ve got to keep it trending in that direction.”
Nowhere is that progress more evident than on the ground, where Coleman ran for 80 yards and Ito Smith had 66 yards and a rushing touchdown. The Falcons surpassed 100 yards rushing for the first time since Week 2.
“The big guys, they put the work in,” said coach Dan Quinn, whose team didn’t punt until midway through the third quarter and converted its first eight third-down opportunities. “We know we are at our best when both the run game and our pass game are in balance. And today we had that, and the results were there.”
Atlanta’s 30th-ranked defense did its part, too, holding Washington to 35 first-quarter yards and making a crucial stop after Ryan was picked off by Quinton Dunbar — just the quarterback’s third interception this season.
The NFC East-leading Redskins (5-3) could blame poor tackling, ill-timed penalties and a series of injuries along the offensive line for the end of their three-game winning streak.
Already without left tackle Trent Williams after surgery to repair his dislocated right thumb, Washington lost left guard Shaun Lauvao to a left knee injury, right guard Brandon Scherff to a left shoulder injury and struggled to stop the Falcons when it mattered.
“It wasn’t the preparation, just the executing,” Washington safety D.J. Swearinger said. “Got to be better. Got to be disciplined. Got to be disciplined in our efforts.”
Swearinger and other players blamed officials for part of the Redskins’ disciplinary trouble that added up to 10 penalties for 147 yards.
Adrian Peterson was held to 17 yards on nine carries a week after rushing for 149 yards at the New York Giants. Alex Smith was 30 of 46 for 306 yards, an interception and a touchdown pass to Josh Doctson.
KAZEE’S PICK AND THROW
Falcons safety Damontae Kazee effectively ended any chances of a Redskins comeback when he picked off Smith with about seven minutes left. After the play, Kazee ran toward the corner of the stadium full of Falcons fans and did his best Ryan impression by throwing the ball to the top of the lower deck.
Kazee said he was trying to get the ball to his nephew in that corner of the stands and isn’t worried about punishment.
“I get fined every week,” Kazee said. “I don’t care.”
As inconsequential as Washington’s ground game was, Smith had its longest gain of the day on a scramble that helped set up a touchdown. With Peterson blocking for him, the 34-year-old picked up 22 yards before being stopped on a crushing shoulder-to-shoulder hit from Brian Poole at the Atlanta 19.
Falcons: Calvin Ridley was cleared to return after being evaluated for a head injury. … K Matt Bryant missed his second consecutive game with a right hamstring injury, and CB Robert Alford was out with an ankle injury, the first game he has missed since 2015.
Redskins: Played stretches without three-fifths of their starting offensive line and lost Lauvao to a potentially serious knee injury. Lauvao injured his left knee on the third play of the game, was taken off the sideline in a wheelchair and did not return. RT Morgan Moses injured his right knee in the first quarter before returning in the second. Coach Jay Gruden said Lauvao and Scherff would have MRIs Monday. … Dunbar left twice with leg injuries. … TE Jordan Reed left briefly with a neck injury.
Falcons: Aim for their fourth win in a row when they visit the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Redskins: Look to rebound at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Buccaneers 28, Panthers 42
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton can’t keep from grinning when he looks around at the playmakers that surround him in the Panthers’ locker room.
“The talent level we have on this team is extremely scary,” Newton said.
The Panthers proved that again Sunday.
Newton completed 19 of 25 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns, running back Christian McCaffrey racked up 157 total yards and scored twice and second-year wide receiver Curtis Samuel scored on a 33-yard double reverse and hauled in a 19-yard TD catch midway through the fourth quarter to seal Carolina’s 42-28 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
The Panthers (6-2) are on a roll midway through the season, scoring 99 points in the last nine quarters.
They have wide receivers that can run the ball, running backs that can catch, a big body receiver, a third-down receiving specialist, one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league and, of course, a one-time league MVP at quarterback who can do it all.
Those weapons were all on display in the first half as the Panthers scored touchdowns on five straight possessions to build a 35-7 lead en route to their 10th straight win at home.
Even a little “Fitzmagic” wasn’t enough for the Buccaneers (3-5).
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who started in place of the turnover-prone Jameis Winston, finished with 243 yards passing and four touchdowns — two each to Adam Humphries and O.J. Howard — and led the Bucs back to within 35-28 in the fourth quarter before running out of steam.
Fitzpatrick threw two costly interceptions — one on the game’s second possession which led to Carolina’s first touchdown, and other late in the fourth quarter that sealed the Bucs’ fate.
“We know we have the talent, it’s just we can’t keep digging ourselves in these holes, especially on the road,” Fitzpatrick said.
The deficit — and Carolina’s offensive firepower — proved too much.
Tight end Greg Olsen called the versatility the Panthers now have on offense with players like McCaffrey, Samuel and D.J. Moore is unlike anything he’s seen since his arrival in Carolina in 2011.
“We have guys who are so explosive, so dynamic and so good in the open space,” Olsen said. “We can give them balls on handoffs, throw it to them all — they’re very unique in that regard. I don’t know what we have had this many guys who are that dynamic with the ball in their hands.”
That was evident throughout.
McCaffrey leaped a defender on a reception in the flat and kept going, racing 32 yards for a first down. Samuel’s 33-yard TD on the reverse included the speedster reversing field and running a combined 103 yards , according to NFL’s Next Gen Stats. And Olsen, the cagey veteran, hauled in a one-handed catch in the end zone — his third TD in three weeks.
“We were playing with momentum and when you’re playing like that, we have a lot of juice coming our way so it does make it very fun,” McCaffrey said.
Said Newton: “When it’s clicking, it’s clicking.”
BREAKING THE PATTERN
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter is eager to find a solution for his team, which seems to be stuck in a repeating pattern.
“We go out, we get behind, we get killed in the second quarter, then rally like (heck) in the third quarter and then everybody thinks we’re back in it and then we fade off at the end,” Koetter said. “That’s definitely the pattern that we’re in. If I knew one thing to fix it I’d do it right now, but I don’t know what that is.”
ADDISON TURNS IN TRIFECTA
Panthers defensive end Mario Addison had a big game with three sacks to raise his team-leading total to 7½.
“I’m a pretty strong guy,” said the 6-foor-3, 260-pound Addison. “People underestimate me because I look kind of small but I pack a punch. By the time they miss and my hands get on the inside of them, I’m running them back and they’re like ‘Dang, this guy’s stronger than I thought.'”
SLAMMING THE DOOR
The Panthers have been touting James Bradberry as their shutdown cornerback and he did quite a number on Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans, who finished with one catch for 16 yards despite being targeted 10 times.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera called Bradberry’s defense “as solid as it gets.”
The Panthers secondary is coming up with big turnovers this season. Carolina has 11 interceptions at the midway point of the season after just 10 picks last season. Jackson, a rookie, has four of them.
“The secondary is shaping up nicely and the more they play together the more chances they will have,” Rivera said.
Panthers safety Eric Reid took a knee during the national anthem to protest racial and social injustice.
Buccaneers: None reported.
Panthers: Reid left in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury, but returned to the game.
Buccaneers: Host Washington on Sunday.
Panthers: Play four of their next five games on the road, beginning Thursday night at Pittsburgh.
Bears 41, Bills 9
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Linebacker Khalil Mack broke into a wide grin when it was pointed out the Chicago Bears defense didn’t need him for a second straight week.
“Ha, I might be looking for another job here soon,” Mack told The Associated Press.
Sidelined by a right ankle injury, Mack had plenty of reason to joke.
He had just finished watching his teammates force four turnovers, including two returned for touchdowns 3½ minutes apart in the second quarter of a 41-9 rout over the Bills in what proved to be another comedy of errors for Buffalo’s anemic offense on Sunday.
Sandwiched between Jordan Howard’s two touchdown runs, Eddie Jackson scored on a 65-yard fumble return and Leonard Floyd returned a tipped pass during Chicago’s decisive 28-point second-quarter surge.
“It’s always great to go out and perform the way we did,” linebacker Roquan Smith said. “We definitely did focus on getting the ball out, and we knew when they do come, they come in bunches. So that was one of the main things.”
The only disappointment, perhaps, was becoming Buffalo’s first opponent in three weeks to give up a Bills touchdown. It didn’t happen until quarterback Nathan Peterman scored on a 1-yard run with 5:41 left.
It was the first TD run the Bears have allowed this season, and it ended the Bills’ touchdown drought at 187 minutes and 19 seconds — dating to Peterman’s 16-yard pass to Zay Jones in a 20-13 loss at Houston on Oct. 14.
The Bears, coming off a 24-10 win over the New York Jets, won their second in a row and improved to 5-3 to match their best start to a season through eight games since 2013.
And the Bears are winning without Mack, the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, who was acquired in a trade from Oakland just before the start of the season.
The Bills are going from bad to worse in losing their fourth straight, and dropping to 2-7 — their worst record through nine games since a 1-8 start in 2010.
Buffalo hasn’t topped 10 points five times this season, and the four turnovers were one short of a season-worst. The Bills had five in a 37-5 loss at Indianapolis two weeks ago.
“I’ve never been on a losing streak like this,” receiver Kelvin Benjamin said. “I’m frustrated now. I’m going to go home and be frustrated, but tomorrow once I come back in, try to brush it off my shoulders and get ready for the Jets.”
Peterman threw three interceptions in his first start since a 47-3 season-opening loss at Baltimore. The Bills had no choice but to return to the second-year player with rookie Josh Allen missing his third game with a sprained throwing elbow and Derek Anderson sidelined by a concussion.
Peterman continued playing down to his turnover-prone reputation, though two of the interceptions weren’t entirely his fault.
Newly signed receiver Terrelle Pryor caught Peterman’s pass and lost control as he turned up field, with the ball landing in defensive back Adrian Amos’ hands.
Three snaps into Buffalo’s next possession, Peterman’s hard pass over the middle struck Jones in the hand and bounced directly to Floyd, who returned it for a touchdown.
“I don’t see anybody who’s not trying to give it their all,” Jones said. “That’s just the most discouraging thing about the whole situation right now is that the effort is there.”
But is the talent?
Coach Sean McDermott responded defiantly when asked if the Bills have enough talent on offense to compete.
“I believe we do,” he said.
The Bills have been outscored 157-46 in their past six.
Peterman finished 31 of 49 for 187 yards and the second-year player has now thrown 13 interceptions on 133 career attempts, including playoffs.
Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky finished 12 for 20 for 135 yards with a 2-yard touchdown to tight end Trey Burton and an interception.
Bills running LeSean McCoy remains stuck in neutral, and didn’t stick around to talk about an outing in which he managed just 10 yards rushing on 10 carries, and six days after he had 13 yards on 12 carries in a 26-5 loss to New England. McCoy, who declined interview requests this week, was spotted exiting the locker room before reporters were allowed to enter.
The Bills have now turned the ball over 22 times, including 16 interceptions.
The Bears entered the game ranking second in the NFL with 11 interceptions and 17 takeaways.
Bears: TE Dion Sims was being evaluated for a concussion. … WR Taylor Gabriel did not return after hurting his leg. Coach Matt Nagy said Gabriel is fine.
Bills: TE Charles Clay hurt his hamstring in the first half and did not return. … Backup RB Chris Ivory favored his left arm while being escorted off the field after being stopped for no gain on first-and-goal from the 1 with 6:27 remaining.
Bears: Host Detroit on Sunday in the first of three straight against NFC North rivals.
Bills: At New York Jets on Sunday.
Lions 9, Vikings 24
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings turned their defensive line loose on Matthew Stafford in a dominant performance that would have made the old Purple People Eaters proud.
This unstoppable pass rush was led, predictably, by Danielle Hunter.
Hunter had 3 1/2 of Minnesota’s franchise-record 10 sacks plus a fourth-quarter fumble return for a touchdown , tormenting Stafford and the Detroit Lions all afternoon in a 24-9 victory by the Vikings on Sunday.
“We knew he liked to throw the ball down the field, so that’s something that really helped us a lot because he held on to the ball,” said Hunter, who moved into the NFL lead with 11 1/2 sacks for the season. “So as long as we executed the rush plan, we knew we’d be able to get back there.”
Hunter also was credited with nine tackles and four quarterback hits. The Vikings (5-3-1) limited the Lions (3-5) to a season-low 214 total yards, and their pressure on Stafford was so intense he literally had pieces of rubber pellets from the artificial turf flushed out of his left eye in the second quarter. The Lions had a streak of 25 consecutive games with at least 14 points come to a crashing halt.
“The fault is on everybody,” said Stafford, who was sacked a total of 13 times over the first seven games. “I have to get the ball out faster.”
After Dalvin Cook dropped a pitch from Kirk Cousins and A’Shawn Robinson recovered at the Detroit 28 with Minnesota leading 17-6, the Lions converted a fake punt to keep that drive alive. Two plays later, Stafford ran right on the short side of the field and tried an option-style flip that Kerryon Johnson was unable to secure, and Hunter scooped it up on his way to the easy score.
“I don’t know why he pitched it. He could’ve just run,” Hunter said. “I thought it was a pass all the way, but I guess he didn’t want to get hit or something.”
That happened a lot, including a total of three times in the second quarter on two separate possessions inside the Minnesota 20 that forced the Lions to settle for field goals by Matt Prater.
After a throw by Cousins to Adam Thielen near midfield was intercepted by Darius Slay, the Lions made it as far as the 12-yard line. Hunter sacked Stafford on consecutive snaps, sharing the first one with Everson Griffen.
“He’s a freak of nature. He looks like a superhero,” Griffen said of the fourth-year defensive end. “I expected that from him.”
Nine of the 10 sacks by the Vikings came from their front four, including 2 1/2 by backup defensive tackle Tom Johnson. During the heyday of the Purple People Eaters, the Vikings had nine sacks in a game in 1968, 1969 and 1970. They also did it in 1993. But this was the record-setter, thanks to a well-timed mix of blitzes called by coach Mike Zimmer and the relentless rush by Hunter and his friends up front.
“We know if we give them time, they’ll get there,” safety Harrison Smith said. “It’s fun to be a part of.”
With one burst through a big hole in the left side of the line , Cook made clear he’s healthy again with a 70-yard gain in the second quarter to set up a short touchdown catch by Thielen. According to the NFL’s NextGen Stats tracker, he averaged 22.07 mph during that run for the fastest in the league this season. The Lions have allowed a rush of 50-plus yards in four different games this year.
NOT THIELEN IT
Thielen’s streak of 100-yard receiving games ended at eight in a row, leaving him in a tie for the record with Lions legend Calvin Johnson. The Lions double-covered him often, taking advantage of the absence of fellow standout Stefon Diggs to rib injury, and Thielen finished with only four receptions for 22 yards.
STACKS OF SACKS
The previous high sack total for Stafford in his career was seven, against the Vikings in 2015. He has been sacked five times or more on 15 different occasions, six of those by the Vikings. The Lions are 3-12 in those games.
“It’s a big shot to our pride,” left guard Frank Ragnow said.
The opening kickoff was ominous for the Lions when Prater slipped after his leg swing, an unintentional squib the Vikings returned to their 35. Practice squad promotion Chad Beebe caught back-to-back passes on the first drive of his NFL debut. The second one netted 13 yards on fourth-and-2 from the Detroit 37. Latavius Murray finished the march with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Lions: DE Ziggy Ansah (shoulder) returned from a six-game absence with had a sack in the closing seconds of the second quarter that forced the Vikings to settle for a field goal. … LT Taylor Decker left in the third quarter with an undisclosed injury but later returned.
Vikings: LB Anthony Barr (hamstring) and LG Tom Compton (knee) were held out for the second straight game, and SS Andrew Sendejo (groin) missed his fourth straight contest. … Backup TE David Morgan hobbled off in the third quarter with a left knee injury.
Lions: Play at Chicago next Sunday.
Vikings: Play at Chicago on Nov. 18, after the bye.
Steelers 23, Ravens 16
BALTIMORE (AP) — Going up against the NFL’s top-ranked defense, Ben Roethlisberger showed his versatility, grit and ability to bounce back from injury.
He also proved his own theory: The only unit capable of stopping the Pittsburgh offense is, well, the Pittsburgh offense.
Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes, ran for a score and put up an unexpected left-footed punt to help the Steelers beat the Baltimore Ravens 23-16 Sunday.
James Conner rushed for 107 yards and caught a TD pass for the Steelers (5-2-1), who have won four straight since falling to the Ravens at home on Sept. 30.
Pittsburgh is averaging 31 points a game during its winning streak. Against Baltimore, the Steelers rolled up 395 yards, converted 10 of 16 third-down plays and held the ball for 36½ minutes.
“We feel that we can do what we want to do,” Roethlisberger said. “We’ve got roadblocks, which are great defenses on other teams, trying to stop us, but we’ve always said — and no disrespect to other teams — they don’t stop us, we stop ourselves.”
That didn’t happen Sunday. Pittsburgh did not commit a turnover, and Roethlisberger went 28 for 47 for 270 yards. His 1-yard run made it 20-6 in the third quarter, and the 36-year-old showed his determination by missing only one play after being flattened during a sprint from the pocket with just over 13 minutes left.
“Ben just got the wind knocked out of him,” coach Mike Tomlin said.
The Ravens (4-5) scored only one touchdown in their third straight defeat, managing two field goals in the first half while falling behind 14-6. Baltimore had converted 72.4 percent of its red zone opportunities into TDs — the fourth-best percentage in the NFL — but on this day a 1-for-4 performance didn’t cut it.
“To hold those guys to field goals in the first half when they were down there was significant,” Tomlin said.
Pittsburgh opened the second half with a drive that lasted nearly seven minutes and ended with a 1-yard plunge by Roethlisberger. The conversion sailed wide to the right, keeping the score at 20-6.
Down by two touchdowns and facing a potential two-game deficit in the AFC North, the Ravens reacted. Joe Flacco completed six passes in a 75-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Alex Collins.
The defense followed by forcing the game’s first three-and-out, but the Baltimore offense failed to sustain the momentum.
After the Ravens punted. Roethlisberger was collared from behind by Za’Darius Smith and remained on the ground for several minutes. Joshua Dobbs came in, completed a 22-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster, then gave way to Roethlisberger.
“That was a huge play,” Roethlisberger said of Dobbs’ first-down toss.
The drive led to a field goal for a 10-point cushion with 8:26 remaining.
Baltimore got another field goal to get within a touchdown with 5:23 to go, but never threatened thereafter. It was not at all the way the Ravens wanted to enter their long-awaited bye week.
“We’ll go into our bye week trying to get rested up, trying to get healthy,” coach John Harbaugh said. “We’ll try to come out swinging the last seven games and find a way to make the playoffs.”
In the first half, Roethlisberger threw 29 passes and showed his kicking prowess as Pittsburgh took control.
With the Steelers facing a fourth down from the Baltimore 38, Roethlisberger lined up in shotgun formation and popped up a 27-yard punt — his seventh career kick.
Eric Weddle drifted back to catch the kick and took it back 18 yards, perhaps the only disappointing aspect of Big Ben’s day.
“It would have been good if Weddle didn’t go back and catch it,” Roethlisberger lamented. “It would have been inside the 5, for sure.”
The Ravens then settled for a field goal one play after Flacco failed to see wide-open Lamar Jackson on the right side near the end zone. Jackson, a rookie quarterback who’s been used in a variety of ways, went in motion on the play and was left uncovered.
Roethlisberger put Pittsburgh ahead with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Conner, and the Steelers made it 14-3 on a 6-yard TD catch by Antonio Brown.
Steelers: None reported.
Ravens: Starting offensive tackles Ronnie Stanley (ankle) and James Hurst (back) were on the inactive list. … CB Tavon Young hurt his right ankle in the fourth quarter and did not return.
TRIBUTE TO SYNAGOGUE VICTIMS
Roethlisberger wore cleats emblazoned with a Star of David in response to the late-October shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. The Star of David was in yellow and served as the upper part of the Steelers logo. There were also the words, “Stronger Than Hate” on each shoe.
Roethlisberger and his wife are friends of Michele Rosenthal, a former team employee. Two of Rosenthal’s brothers were among the 11 killed in the attack.
Conner has 10 touchdowns, most by a Steelers player through eight games since 1950. Brown has nine TD catches, a team record through eight games.
Steelers: Host Carolina on Thursday night.
Ravens: Bye, followed by home game vs Cincinnati on Nov. 18.
Chiefs 37, Browns 21
CLEVELAND (AP) — With almost every flick of his right wrist, the legend of Patrick Mahomes grows.
And he’s just beginning.
Only 10 games into his NFL career, Kansas City’s young quarterback is doing things that have never been done before.
Mahomes passed for 375 yards, threw three touchdown passes — two to Cleveland native Travis Kelce — and continued the best start by a QB in 68 years as Kansas City’s impossible-to-handle offense kept rolling with a 37-21 win on Sunday over the Cleveland Browns, who played their first game since coach Hue Jackson’s firing.
Kareem Hunt, who also has Cleveland connections, had two scoring runs and one receiving for the Chiefs (8-1), who came in averaging 36.3 points with an offense overloaded with weapons for Mahomes.
The 23-year-old used all of them in winning his first pro matchup against Baker Mayfield and the Browns (2-6-1).
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Mahomes, who was hurt by a couple drops. “It makes my job a lot easier knowing that I can trust these guys are going to be in the right spot. They’re taking care of their business. They’re running the routes and making route adjustments on the fly just because they’ve looked at the film and know how to do those things.”
Mahomes and Mayfield didn’t match their epic college meeting in 2016, when they combined for more than 1,700 yards in offense. But the Chiefs put on another impressive offensive show with 499 total yards, averaging 8.6 per snap.
Browns defensive end Myles Garrett said preparing for Mahomes and Kansas City’s air-and-ground show is nothing like playing against it.
“Their offense has a nice tempo and he gets the ball out of his hand pretty quick, so it’s hard to stop,” he said. “He spreads the ball around really well and everybody is getting touches. You don’t know who it’s going to go to next.”
In his second season, Mahomes, who made just one start as a rookie, already has 29 TD passes and 3,185 yards, the most by any QB through 10 games since 1950. He has passed for at least 300 yards in eight straight games.
“It’s a weird deal — he just goes out there and plays,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He works hard. He loves doing it. He just goes about his business the way that you’re supposed to do it.”
Cleveland lost its fourth straight, but it looked better under interim coach Gregg Williams than it did with Jackson, fired on Monday after going 3-36-1 in two-plus seasons.
Mayfield threw two TD passes to Duke Johnson and finished 29 of 42 for 297 yards with one interception.
The Browns came in facing a monumental task in trying to slow Mahomes and an offense with speed, depth and no noticeable weaknesses.
Things got much tougher for Cleveland when starting cornerback Damarious Randall (groin) was scratched and E.J. Gaines (concussion) and rookie Denzel Ward (hip) both got hurt in the first half.
Kansas City scored a touchdown on its first three possessions and the Chiefs only had the ball for 11:29 in the first half as the Browns were able to control the clock.
The Chiefs picked up where they left off in the third quarter with Mahomes firing a 13-yard TD pass to Kelce, giving Kansas City a 28-15 lead.
Kelce couldn’t stop smiling as he talked about his QB.
“You mean Showtime Mahomes?” he said. “He came in with the understanding this thing could be very special. We added a few pieces to the puzzle and the offensive line is playing lights out. It’s a combination of everything that’s making him feel comfortable out there.”
MAYFIELD HEAD SHOT
Mayfield was checked for a concussion and cleared after a questionable hit late in the third quarter.
Mayfield was backpedaling and being wrapped up by Chris Joneswhen the rookie QB was struck in the helmet by Chiefs defensive back Ron Parker, who came in late but was not penalized. The NFL’s on-site medical spotter called down and Mayfield had to leave the game to be checked for a head injury.
“I think the rule is if they see me messing with my helmet, they are going to take precaution,” Mayfield said. “When you get hit in the head, your helmet moves around so I am going to shift it so it fits correctly. It is just interesting how it works. I had to come out of the game and take the exam.”
The Chiefs won the coin toss for the ninth consecutive week and elected to defer.
A Cleveland native, Hunt bought more than 100 tickets for the game and had them given to the players and coaches at his high school alma mater.
“It’s a dream come true that I’m able to do something like that,” said Hunt, who rushed for 91 yards. “It’s a stadium I used to drive by almost every day.”
Browns rookie left tackle Desmond Harrison sat out with an unspecified illness and was replaced by Greg Robinson, a former No. 2 overall pick who made his first start.
Chiefs: Host Arizona on Nov. 11
Browns: Host Atlanta on Nov. 11.
Jets 6, Dolphins 13
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Jerome Baker danced, waved, waggled his index finger and clicked his heels. For a first-year linebacker, it was a surprisingly polished touchdown celebration.
Baker bested fellow rookie Sam Darnold, scoring the game’s only TD on a 25-yard interception return with 11 minutes left, and a resilient defense helped the Miami Dolphins beat the hapless New York Jets 13-6 on Sunday.
Darnold threw four interceptions and took four sacks, and the Jets went 2 for 15 on third and fourth down.
The hobbled Dolphins (5-4) endured another wave of injuries and the mysterious departure of safety Reshad Jones, who pulled himself out of the game. But their defense was much improved after three consecutive poor games .
“We never panicked; we knew what our defense was capable of,” Baker said. “When we are executing and do our job and play together, we’re one of the best defenses out there.”
The quality of the opposition helped the defense dominate, however, allowing Miami to win with only seven first downs.
Darnold tried to rally the sputtering Jets (3-6) from a 6-3 deficit, but following a punt the rookie took a high snap and made an ill-advised throw to tight end Eric Tomlinson. Baker stepped in front for his first career interception and scored untouched.
“I didn’t throw it with confidence,” Darnold said. “I just alligator-armed it — threw it a little bit short.”
Much of the game was a slog, but Baker provided a video highlight celebrating with his teammates.
“There is nothing like it,” he said, game ball cradled under his arm. “It is the sweetest feeling ever, especially getting in the end zone, seeing your brothers running toward you.”
T.J. McDonald and Walt Aikens made interceptions to end the Jets’ final two possessions.
“The guys did a good job of complementary football,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said. “They played together. They did a good job of stopping the run and making it as one-dimensional as possible.”
Miami broke a two-game losing streak and won for only the second time in the past six games. Gase improved to 5-1 against the Jets, including two wins this year.
The Jets lost their third in a row and have scored 33 points during the skid. They’ve dropped nine of their past 10 road games dating to 2017.
Darnold went 21 for 39 for 229 yards and a passer rating of 31.8. He came into the game tied for the NFL lead with 10 interceptions , and the four picks were a new high.
“Two for sure he’d like to have back,” coach Todd Bowles said. “Back to the drawing board.”
Cameron Wake and Akeem Spence had two sacks apiece for the Dolphins, who had allowed 102 points the previous three weeks.
“Everybody playing together, front to back side to side, and getting a win, that’s about as rewarding as it is,” Wake said.
TO THE BENCH
Jones, whose tendency to freelance has been an issue, watched the second half from the sideline. Gase said he didn’t know whether Jones was hurt.
“It sounds like he pulled himself out,” Gase said. “I’ve just got to find out what happened there.”
Jones didn’t talk to the media after the game.
Miami totaled only 168 yards, but Brock Osweiler improved to 2-2 as a starter filling in for the injured Ryan Tannehill . Osweiler went 15 for 24 for 139 yards and took four sacks, but his unit committed no turnovers.
“It was just a good old-fashioned fight on the field, and it was fun,” Osweiler said. “We won.”
Dolphins: LT Laremy Tunsil (knee) left in the fourth quarter. … RT Ja’Wuan James (knee) departed in the first half, but later returned. … CB Bobby McCain was evaluated for a concussion. … DE Robert Quinn limped off in the field in the closing minutes.
Jets: C Spencer Long aggravated an injury to the middle finger of his right hand and had half a dozen off-target snaps before leaving the game. … Backup LB Tarell Basham (knee) left the game in the second half.
The field looked worn but was not an issue less than 24 hours after the Miami Hurricanes and Duke played on it in a downpour.
Dolphins receiver Kenny Stills kneeled during the anthem and Quinn stood with his right fist raised, as they have done before other games.
Dolphins: play at Green Bay for the first time since 2010 on Nov. 11.
Jets: play host to Buffalo on Nov. 11. The teams also meet on Dec. 9.
Chargers 25, Seahawks 17
SEATTLE (AP) — Jahleel Addae saw Russell Wilson’s pass coming in his direction. He didn’t see David Moore running open behind him in the back of the end zone, and as the pass floated past, Addae reached out his right arm as far as he could.
“I got my last fingernail on it,” Addae said. “I barely snipped it.”
Another last-second challenge for the Los Angeles Chargers defense. Another victory for the surging Chargers, holding off Wilson’s late rally for a 25-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.
The Chargers won their fifth straight, putting a capper on Philip Rivers’ 200th consecutive start with another clutch defensive stand. Rivers threw two touchdowns, Melvin Gordon ran for 113 yards, yet those two were standing on the sideline watching after a pass interference call against Michael Davis on the final play of regulation gave Seattle an untimed down and a chance to force overtime.
And just like they did in London when the Chargers denied Tennessee’s 2-point conversion attempt to preserve a 20-19 win, the defense came through again.
“It shouldn’t have come down to that but it did,” Rivers said. “We found a way to win. These kinds of wins are huge.”
Rivers threw touchdown passes of 12 yards to Tyrell Williams and 30 yards to Mike Williams, and let the Chargers defense stymie Wilson until the final minutes. Seattle had won four of five following a 0-2 start.
Desmond King provided the deciding points for Los Angeles (6-2) by stepping in front of Wilson’s pass for Moore and returning it 42 yards for a touchdown with 6:44 remaining to give the Chargers a 25-10 lead.
Wilson managed to make the final minutes nervous for Los Angeles.
“We had a chance to win a game that’s right there for us,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “It was going to be dramatic, but we’re OK about that.”
Wilson hit Nick Vannett on a 6-yard TD with 1:50 remaining to cut the Chargers’ lead to one score. Seattle got the ball back with 1:24 left at its own 22 and after two completions and a roughing the passer penalty on Melvin Ingram, the Seahawks were at the Chargers 44 with 50 seconds left. Wilson scrambled for 16 yards to the Chargers 28 and, after a spike, Seattle had 30 seconds left.
Seattle (4-4) got a break when Davis was called for pass interference in the end zone on the final play of regulation against Tyler Lockett, putting the ball at the 1 for an untimed down. Seattle’s J.R. Sweezy was called for false start backing the play up to the 6, and Wilson’s final attempt for Moore in the back of the end zone was partially tipped by Addae and fell incomplete.
“It’s like winning a playoff game,” Chargers defensive lineman Brandon Mebane said. “That was like a playoff game.”
Wilson was 26 of 39 for 235 yards, and threw a 10-yard TD pass to Jaron Brown on Seattle’s opening drive.
Rivers became the fourth quarterback in league history to start 200 straight games, joining Brett Favre, Eli Manning and Peyton Manning. Favre started an NFL-record 297 straight times in the regular season. This wasn’t like his 2010 performance in Seattle when Rivers threw for 455 yards, but he made key throws at important times, especially in the first half. The Chargers averaged 10 yards per play in the first half and scored touchdowns on three of their five possessions, the last one taking just 55 seconds to find the end zone on a 30-yard catch-and-run by Mike Williams.
Gordon averaged 7.1 yards per carry and ran through huge holes in the second half. His 34-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter gave him 34 TDs in his past 36 games after going scoreless in his first 14 games.
Seattle also didn’t have answers for Keenan Allen, who had 124 yards on six receptions.
“It’s great, any time we can go on the road, loudest place in the league and get a win the way we did,” Allen said. “I thought it was dominating, outside the points we missed, but pretty great.”
Carson didn’t play much after the first quarter, spending most of the time on the sideline with a wrap on his upper left leg due to a hip injury. Carson had 40 yards on eight carries before going to the bench. … Seattle played the second half without starting strong safety Bradley McDougald due to a knee injury. He had been questionable on the final injury report. … Guard D.J. Fluker injured a leg in the fourth quarter.
Seattle played a lengthy tribute video honoring owner Paul Allen who died on Oct. 15 due to complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They also had a moment of silence for Allen and had the “12 Flag” that’s raised before every game lowered to half-staff.
Seattle also had logos added to the field reading “PGA” similar to the patches the team had added to its uniforms.
“We love the spirit that he stood for,” Carroll said. “He affected all of us… his wisdom and his charity and his love for this area.”
Chargers kicker Caleb Sturgis might be looking for a new job after missing two extra points and a 42-yard field goal attempt. Sturgis is the first kicker with a missed extra point and missed field goal in three straight games since Raiders kicker Jim Breech in 1979.
Chargers: Travel to Oakland to face the Raiders.
Seahawks: At NFC West foe Los Angeles Rams.
Texans 19, Broncos 17
DENVER (AP) — For the first time in his life, Demaryius Thomas celebrated Brandon McManus missing a field goal.
Thomas won his hasty homecoming Sunday when his ex-teammate’s windless 51-yard attempt drifted wide right, allowing the Houston Texans to escape Denver with 19-17 win .
“We wanted him to walk out there as a captain and we wanted him to walk off the field as a winner,” J.J. Watt said of Thomas, whom the Texans (6-3) acquired five days earlier from the Broncos (3-6).
Only, Thomas lost the coin flip and didn’t exactly walk off the field a winner — he sprinted.
“I think that’s the fastest I ran all day,” Thomas said. “I ran inside. We got that W.”
DeShaun Watson targeted Thomas three times and Thomas caught all three for 61 yards, including back-to-back grabs for 31 and 18 yards on Houston’s opening touchdown drive.
But he stood to be the goat after a series of fourth-quarter follies that including a false start, lining up in the wrong spot — even having to run over and ask Watson what to do — and having to burn a timeout.
“I messed up a couple of times and I felt like it would have been on me if we didn’t get that W,” Thomas said.
“He was hearing one thing and doing the opposite,” Watson said. “I had to make sure he was on the same page as me. He did a good job. Some things we are going to fix.”
The Texans joined the 1970 New York Giants as the only teams since the merger to win six straight following an 0-3 start.
McManus’ second miss of the game came after Case Keenum completed an 18-yard pass between two defenders to Emmanuel Sanders on fourth-and-8 from the Denver 45-yard line with under a minute left.
“Terrible kicks,” McManus said. “Even the 62-yarder, it was terrible.”
Broncos coach Vance Joseph blamed himself for the first miss, saying he got greedy. It backfired when the Texans got the ball in Broncos territory and 18 seconds left in the first half and Ka’imi Fairbairn nailed a 46-yard do-over for a 16-10 Houston halftime lead after his errant attempt was wiped away because Joseph had called timeout to ice him.
Joseph said he didn’t try to get closer for McManus’ game-winning attempt because the Broncos had already reached their “line to go” inside the 35.
“I was totally confident in Brandon,” Miller said. “From 62 and 51, my money’s on Brandon. He’s our sniper. He’s our brother. It’s one of the hardest positions in pro sports. Sometimes you just can’t put it through the uprights.”
Said Keenum: “I knew Brandon was going to make it and I still know he’s going to make it when we give him that chance again. I think he’s the best kicker in the league.”
Keenum threw a 5-yard pass to tight end Jeff Heuerman, who had a career-best 10 catches for 83 yards and then running back Phillip Lindsay lost a yard, leaving McManus with a 51-yard attempt.
After the Broncos took a 17-16 lead on Keenum’s 12-yard dart to Heuerman between two defenders, Fairbairn put the Texans back ahead with a 37-yard field goal with 14:06 remaining.
It turned out to be the game-winner when McManus missed again.
“Seeing the kick go wide right was a breath of fresh air,” Texans safety Tyrann Mathieu said.
Particularly for Thomas.
Thomas had started all 114 games for the Broncos since Jan. 8, 2012, when he caught an 80-yard touchdown pass from Tim Tebow on the first snap of overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 29-23.
This time, he drew loud ovations when he emerged from the tunnel for pregame stretch and again during a video tribute after “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Outside the stadium, the Broncos put up a giant “Thank you, D.T.”banner at the bottom of a 10-story-high image of Thomas next to one of Von Miller, who said last week it was “super weird” not having Thomas as a teammate anymore.
After Thomas lost the coin toss, Denver deferred and Thomas went right to work , catching consecutive passes covering 31 and 18 yards as the Texans took a quick 7-0 lead on Watson’s 7-yard TD pass to tight end Jordan Thomas .
Watson’s 36th career TD throw was a 16-yarder to DeAndre Hopkins that put Houston ahead 13-3. The only other quarterbacks in NFL history to have 35 or more TD passes in their first 16 NFL games were Hall of Famers Kurt Warner and Dan Marino.
Texans: OLB Duke Ejiofor left in the first half with a shoulder injury.
Broncos: Center Matt Paradis broke his right fibula when Keenum rolled up on him just before halftime. Paradis had never missed a snap in his four-year career and appeared in line for a contract extension with the money the Broncos saved by trading Thomas.
“It’s a huge loss,” Joseph said, “losing one of our captains and a guy who’s played a lot of football for us.”
Texans: Travel to Washington on Nov. 18 after a bye.
Broncos: Visit Los Angeles Chargers on Nov. 18 after a bye.
Rams 35, Saints 45
Packers 17, Patriots 31
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers spent the week telling anyone who asked that the other guy was the better quarterback.
In the second matchup between the future Hall of Famers, it was the one with five Super Bowl rings who walked off the field with the victory.
Brady threw for 294 yards and a touchdown, and James White ran for two scores to lead the New England Patriots to a 31-17 victory over Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night.
It was the sixth straight victory for the Patriots (7-2).
“We made some plays in the fourth quarter when we needed to,” Brady said. “Anytime you beat a good football team it feels good. So, 7-2 is a long ways from 1-2 where we were.”
Rodgers completed 24 of 43 passes and two touchdowns but failed to rally his team after tying the game in the third quarter. Rodgers won the first matchup with Brady at Lambeau Field in 2014.
“If you play long enough, and you have the sustained greatness that Tom has had, there’s going to be a lot of records,” Rodgers said. “He’s been the gold standard at quarterback for two decades.”
It was 17-all late in the third quarter when Aaron Jones fumbled for Green Bay (3-4-1).
New England receiver Julian Edelman hit White on a 37-yard catch-and-run to set up White’s second score, a 1-yard run. On the Patriots next possession, Brady connected with Josh Gordon for a 55-yard TD.
Gordon caught five passes for 130 yards, the 12th 100-yard receiving game of his career.
With tight end Rob Gronkowski out with a back and ankle injury and leading rusher Sony Michel out for the second straight week with a knee issue, Brady and the Patriots had to get creative.
They again turned to receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to help carry the load in the backfield.
Patterson was effective for the second straight week, rushing 11 times for 61 yards and a touchdown.
“So much of our team is guys being in roles that maybe they didn’t sign up for,” Brady said. “But they’re asked to do it. … A lot of guys down and you’re short at certain spots. Obviously, we have a lot of trust in him that when he’s got the ball in his hands good things are going to happen.”
He worked in tandem with White to keep the Packers defense guessing. White took advantage and found space to turn short completions into first downs.
New England also capitalized on a pair of long flea-flicker passes to set up scores.
Rodgers was on target in the first half. He was elusive in the pocket and extended plays with his feet, keeping the Patriots’ secondary off balance long enough to create space downfield or some big gains.
The longest was a 51-yard pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the third quarter that helped set up Rodgers’ 15-yard TD pass to Jimmy Graham that tied the game at 17. But the pocket got smaller in the second half as the Patriots defense sped him up, hitting him six times and sacking him once.
Brady completed 16 of his first 22 passes but had six straight incompletions in the third quarter.
There wasn’t a turnover in the game until Green Bay’s Jones was stripped by Lawrence Guy early in the fourth quarter. The fumble was recovered by Stephon Gilmore on the Patriots’ 24.
New England quickly capitalized, using four straight completions by Brady and a 37-yard pass from Julian Edelman to get to the Packers’ 2. White scored from a yard out two plays later to put the Patriots back in front 24-17.
“It was obviously a big play in the game,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “That was a turning point.”
The Patriots’ defense tightened on Green Bay’s next drive. It culminated on third down when Adrian Clayborn and Trey Flowers dropped Rodgers for a 9-yard sack and forcing a punt.
It proved costly.
On just the third play of the ensuing drive Brady found Gordon over the middle. Packers cornerback Tramon Williams had a shot at a tackle, but whiffed, springing Gordon for his 55-yard touchdown.
Packers safety Jermaine Whitehead was ejected in the second quarter.
Whitehead was trading shoves with Patriots center David Andrews when second year defensive back from Auburn spun around and slapped Andrews in the face.
He was called for unnecessary roughness and tossed. Whitehead was the replacement for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who was traded to the Washington Redskins last week.
Packers: WR Geronimo Allison was inactive for the Packers with a groin injury. He was a key contributor in the passing game before missing two weeks with a hamstring issue. … Starting RT Bryan Buluga left the game in the first half with a knee injury and did not return. … CB Kevin King left the game with a hamstring injury and did not return. … S Kentrell Brice left in the third quarter with a knee injury.
Patriots: Gordon said he dislocated his finger early in the game while catching a pass but played through the pain. “It was just like a freak accident. Nothing too crazy,” Gordon said. “It dislocated. So I popped it back into place a couple of times.”
The Boston Red Sox continued their World Series championship celebration with a pregame, on-field appearance .
Team owner John Henry, manager Alex Cora and several players including World Series MVP Steve Pearce, J.D. Martinez and Brock Holt stood atop a duck boat hosting their championship trophy as they were driven onto the field before kickoff.
Cora greeted Patriots team owner Robert Kraft and others, and also took a selfie with Brady .
Packers: Host Miami on Sunday.
Patriots: At Tennessee on Sunday.
Titans 28, Cowboys 14
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Kevin Byard secured the interception that sparked the sluggish Tennessee Titans and turned toward midfield.
The flashback for the Dallas Cowboys was just as disheartening as the original.
Byard mimicked Terrell Owens’ mocking celebration on the star logo at the 50-yard line from 18 years ago, Marcus Mariota accounted for three touchdowns and the Titans spoiled Amari Cooper’s Dallas debut with a 28-14 victory on Monday night.
The end-zone pick of Dak Prescott came after Mariota fumbled on the first two Tennessee possessions. Just as T.O. did at old Texas Stadium 18 years ago, Byard ran to midfield, under the huge videoboard at spacious AT&T Stadium, and spread his arms.
Owens did it twice in a blowout San Francisco win over a bad Dallas team that time. This win by the Titans (4-4) ended their three-game losing streak while handing the Cowboys (3-5) their first loss in four home games and making their road to the playoffs a difficult one.
The Cowboys looked like the team headed for a blowout win, but led just 7-0 after Mariota’s early miscues because of Brett Maher’s missed 38-yard field goal and Prescott’s ill-advised throw into double coverage.
Cooper scored the first Dallas touchdown and finished five catches for 58 yards after coming over from Oakland in a trade for a first-round pick during the open week.
Given another chance when what would have been a third straight fumble to start the game was overturned by a review that showed Luke Stocker didn’t have the ball long enough on a catch, Mariota led an 80-yard drive capped by Derrick Henry’s 1-yard plunge for a 7-7 tie.
Then the Titans took control on offense in the second half, converting 11 of 14 third downs.
The Cowboys fell flat in 15-year tight end Jason Witten’s first trip home since retiring to become lead analyst for “Monday Night Football.” Dallas had just 108 yards in the second half — the bulk of those on a desperation drive down two scores late — and was booed several times at the end of failed drives.
After getting sacked on third down with nobody realizing Tennessee had called timeout in a 7-7 game in the second quarter, Mariota completed a 36-yarder to Darius Jennings before a screen pass to Dion Lewis went 18 yards for a touchdown.
Mariota broke a 14-14 tie in the third quarter when he pulled the ball out of Lewis’ gut at the last second and delivered a 7-yard shovel pass to Jonnu Smith to put the Titans ahead for good.
Mariota was 21 of 29 for 240 yards without an interception and had 32 yards rushing. Lewis had 62 yards rushing and 60 receiving coming off a career-high 155 scrimmage yards in his last game.
Star Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott finished with 61 yards after a hot start. Prescott was 21 of 31 for 243 yards and two scores — 4 yards to Cooper and 23 yards to Allen Hurns.
There was something else familiar about Byard’s celebration: a Dallas defender trying to do something about it.
George Teague famously knocked Owens off the star back then, and Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones made a similar move on Byard and the group that joined the celebration. Owens seemed to get a kick out of the whole thing on Twitter.
The Cowboys paid tribute to Witten with a pregame video on the giant board hanging over the field. The franchise leader in games, catches and yards receiving wiped his eyes when a small inset of him was shown during the video, but seemed to have gained his composure when he was shown on the full screen. Witten waved, smiled and tapped his chest around his heart several times as the crowd roared.
Elliott and Mariota were inside AT&T Stadium together for the first time since Elliott rushed for 246 yards and four touchdowns to lead Ohio State to a 42-20 win over Mariota and Oregon for the 2014 national championship.
Dallas LB Sean Lee pulled up with a hamstring injury while trying to cover Smith on a 26-yard completion to the Titans tight end. Lee went the locker room not long after coming off the field. … Titans RT Jack Conklin was being evaluated for a concussion. … Titans WR Tajae Sharpe, who appeared to get injured during warmups but played, limped off the field after a catch in the third quarter but returned on the next series.
Titans: Home against AFC East-leading New England next Sunday.
Cowboys: At Philadelphia next Sunday in the first meeting with the NFC East rival.