Week 9 in the NFL featured a huge win by the Bills, as Josh Allen and his Buffalo offense outdueled MVP front-runner Russell Wilson and the Seahawks. The Chiefs narrowly escaped an upset by the Panthers, the Falcons managed to avoid another blown lead, and Dalvin Cook ran wild yet again for the Vikings. Jacksonville’s Jake Luton almost pulled off a win in his debut, and Alex Smith stepped in under center in a losing effort for Washington.
In the late afternoon window, the Chargers lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Raiders, Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins bested Kyler Murray and the Cardinals, and the Steelers remained undefeated by surviving against the Cowboys.
And there was a one-sided stunner on Sunday night — a 38-3 blowout for the visiting Saints, who dealt Tom Brady one of the worst losses of his career and became the favorite in the NFC South by sweepjng the season series.
All that and more in Week 9‘s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.
Standout performer: Ravens CB Marcus Peters, 5 tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble
Quarterback Lamar Jackson and the Ravens showed they can overcome adversity. Jackson completed all 10 of his passes in the second half, as Baltimore rallied from a halftime deficit for the first time since 2016. This was a difficult week for the Ravens, who lost All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley to a season-ending ankle injury, learned All-Pro cornerback Marlon Humphrey tested positive for COVID-19 and practiced without six defensive players because they were identified as close contacts to Humphrey. But Baltimore rebounded to shut out the Colts in the second half to improve to 6-2. Ravens coach John Harbaugh said the word to described his team was “fortitude.” “They understand the gravity of that win,” Harbaugh said. — Jamison Hensley
Next game: at Patriots (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)
The loss was hard to swallow, and now the Colts have health concerns at a couple of key offensive positions with a short week to prepare for AFC South counterpart Tennessee. Tight end Jack Doyle will have to clear concussion protocol in order to play against the Titans on Thursday, and receiver T.Y. Hilton‘s availability will be up in the air, too, after he missed Sunday’s game with a groin injury suffered in the first half of the Week 8 game at Detroit. — Mike Wells
Next game: at Titans (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)
Standout performer: Bills QB Josh Allen, 415 passing yards, 3 TDs (and 1 rushing TD)
Allen has struggled in his career against teams with records at least three games above .500, but this was his signature moment. He was harassed throughout (sacked a career-high seven times) but tied a career high with 415 yards and three touchdowns. He outdueled the league’s MVP front-runner in Russell Wilson and returned to the level of play he displayed during the first four weeks of the season. Sunday’s win was a monumental start to a difficult four-game stretch with the Cardinals, Chargers and 49ers up next. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Next game: at Cardinals (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)
So much for the signs of improvement the Seahawks’ embattled defense showed last week. And so much for the idea it would continue Sunday with safety Jamal Adams back in the lineup and defensive end Carlos Dunlap making his Seattle debut. Adams and Dunlap did their part, combining for 2.5 of the Seahawks’ seven sacks as the team went with another blitz-heavy game plan. But Allen otherwise had his way with Seattle’s defense, which illustrated the downside of bringing extra defenders after a mobile quarterback with weapons. With as badly as the Seahawks got gashed again on defense Sunday — Seattle had never allowed 44 or more points under coach Pete Carroll — there was no way to overcome four Wilson turnovers. — Brady Henderson
Next game: at Rams (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Russell Wilson struggles against the Bills’ defense with two interceptions and two fumbles as the Seahawks lose to the Bills 44-34.
Standout performer: Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill, 113 receiving yards, 2 TDs
How much longer can the Chiefs live with Harrison Butker‘s struggles in kicking extra points? He missed his sixth PAT of the season on Sunday against the Panthers, and this time it almost cost them a game. Butker remains reliable on longer kicks, but his struggles with PATs will be a problem as the Chiefs head into a difficult stretch of the schedule and then the playoffs. — Adam Teicher
Next game: at Raiders (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday, Nov. 22)
Christian McCaffrey reminded everyone of what we already knew before he missed six games with a high ankle sprain: He’s the best all-purpose back in the league. He rushed 18 times for 69 yards and a touchdown and caught nine passes for 105 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Kansas City. The Panthers reminded everyone, with their fourth consecutive loss, they still aren’t good enough defensively to beat an elite team, particularly one with great receivers like the Chiefs. The secondary has to be a major point of emphasis for Carolina (3-6) in the offseason. — David Newton
Next game: vs. Buccaneers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Titans LB Jayon Brown, 10 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 1 sack, 1 tackle for a loss
The Titans were without Jadeveon Clowney (knee), but they finally managed to get a consistent pass rush, albeit against a Bears offensive line that was without a few of its starters. Tennessee had three sacks, which was their most in a single game this season. The Titans’ third-down defense showed vast improvement as well, allowing the Bears to convert first downs on two of their 15 third-down opportunities. — Turron Davenport
Next game: vs. Colts (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)
It’s hard to find the right words to describe how pathetic the Bears are on offense. The NFL’s most penalized team, the Bears repeatedly sabotaged whatever chances they had to score by routinely self-destructing in critical moments, including not one but two consecutive offensive penalties on fourth-down plays. The Titans entered Week 9 as the league’s worst third-down defense, and the Bears went 2-of-15 on third down. All year, Tennessee struggled to stop the run, allowing 128 rushing yards per game — until the Bears arrived in Nashville. The Bears ran for 56 total yards. The Bears went from 5-1 to 5-4 in the blink of an eye. — Jeff Dickerson
Next game: vs. Vikings (8:15 p.m. ET, Monday, Nov. 16)
Standout performer: Vikings RB Dalvin Cook, 206 rushing yards, 2 TDs (and 46 receiving yards)
Dalvin Cook should be in the MVP conversation. The Vikings running back overtook the rushing lead (858 yards) from Derrick Henry in spite of missing one and a half games because of injury and is one of two running backs averaging more than 100 yards rushing per game. His impact on the Vikings is immense, and it’s not just due to his efforts rushing and catching the ball, with back-to-back games with over 200 yards from scrimmage. Cook made a key block on tight end Irv Smith Jr.’s second touchdown and routinely helped Minnesota stay out of third-down territory. “He’s going to do everything,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “That’s why he’s a captain. That’s why he comes to work every single day. He’s a terrific leader, he’s energetic and guys in the locker room really love him.” — Courtney Cronin
Next game: at Bears (8:15 p.m. ET, Monday, Nov. 16)
It’s been five double-digit losses against Minnesota for Lions coach Matt Patricia, nine straight divisional defeats and, now two-and-a-half seasons into his tenure as head coach, very little progress. Inconsistency continues to be Detroit’s only consistency, and mistakes are piling up. The run defense is poor, allowing 275 yards rushing, including more than 200 to Cook. For the second week in a row, the Lions had only 10 men on the field on a critical play. And Patricia, when asked where he has seen improvement from Week 1, could point only to smaller things. “You know, obviously the punt rush, I thought that was good for another week in a row. So that was consistent. But, overall, all of it just has to be more consistent so that it works together and not one phase here and one phase there.” — Michael Rothstein
Next game: vs. Washington (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Dalvin Cook avoids getting tackled and finds an opening for a 70-yard touchdown, his second score of the game.
Standout performer: Falcons QB Matt Ryan, 284 passing yards, 3 TDs
The Falcons continue to surge under interim coach Raheem Morris, making them a team to watch over the second half of the season despite their horrendous start. The Falcons (3-6) improved to 3-1 since parting ways with Dan Quinn and elevating Morris. They still have a big hole to climb out of after an 0-5 start, but following their Week 10 bye, they play two of their next three games against the rival Saints, providing them a chance to make further inroads in their climb out of the NFC South basement. — Tim McManus
Next game: at Saints (1 p.m. ET, Sunday, Nov. 22)
For the fifth time in the past seven games, the Broncos trailed by at least 10 points at halftime Sunday, as the Falcons led 20-3 and quarterback Matt Ryan had 216 yards passing. The Broncos held the Falcons to 105 total yards in the second half, while their own offense scored 24 points in the third and fourth quarters combined. And, again, it wasn’t enough. While clearly improving, the Broncos won’t be a playoff team until they are far better at minimizing mistakes from the veteran players who remain in the lineup. — Jeff Legwold
Next game: at Raiders (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Giants CB Logan Ryan, 6 tackles, the game-deciding interception
Coach Joe Judge stressed finishing before and throughout Sunday’s game. The Giants finally did so against Washington. Despite almost allowing a 17-point halftime lead to evaporate, the Giants hung on, so maybe they finally have figured this out. Quarterback Daniel Jones didn’t commit a turnover for the first time this year, and now the Giants (2-7) really are on the cusp of being in the NFC East race. They have a big game next Sunday against the Eagles (3-4-1). — Jordan Raanan
Next game: vs. Eagles (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Washington coach Ron Rivera will stick with veteran Alex Smith at quarterback, who looked sharp at times but also threw three picks in the loss to New York after Kyle Allen suffered a dislocated ankle. Rivera’s other option was returning to second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. In truth, neither is a great option and neither likely will be around next season. Smith’s age and cap hit make him expendable after this season, while Haskins disappointed the coaches and others in the organization with what they considered poor preparation habits. At 2-6, Washington is in the division race in name only unless it goes on an unexpected run. — John Keim
Next game: at Lions (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Texans WR Will Fuller V, 100 receiving yards, 1 TD
The Texans chose to let receiver Fuller play on his fifth-year option rather than sign the oft-injured receiver to a contract extension. With five catches for 100 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, Fuller again made a strong case for Houston to re-sign him — or for another team to sign him to a large contract when he becomes a free agent. On Sunday, Fuller set the Texans’ franchise record when he had a receiving touchdown in his sixth straight game. — Sarah Barshop
Next game: at Browns (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Rookie quarterback Jake Luton nearly led the Jaguars into overtime against the Texans in his first game since last November with Oregon State … but his two-point conversion pass was off-target. However, he was good enough (304 yards, TD pass, TD run and an INT) to at least make the Jaguars’ QB situation interesting whenever Gardner Minshew II returns from his thumb injury. This was the closest the Jaguars have come to a victory since the season opener, thanks in large part to Luton leading the team on a two-minute drive. — Mike DiRocco
Next game: at Packers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Deshaun Watson floats it for Will Fuller V, who toasts the Jaguars’ defense for a 77-yard touchdown.
Standout performer: Raiders CB Isaiah Johnson: 2 pass break ups in the end zone on final two plays to end the game.
Check that first box on the Las Vegas Raiders‘ three-game march through the AFC West. With a 31-26 win at the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, the Raiders not only improved to 5-3, but, perhaps more importantly, 2-0 in the division. On the schedule the next two weeks at home are the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, who were handed their lone loss of the season by Las Vegas. The Raiders, who were missing both starting offensive tackles, gave themselves a greater opportunity to actually make some second-half-of-the-season noise. — Paul Gutierrez
Next game: vs. Broncos (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)
The Chargers found yet another way to lose a game, this time on the last play after an apparent game-winning touchdown catch by Donald Parham Jr. was reversed by instant replay. That now gives the Chargers six losses by a combined 24 points in 2020, and a 3-15 record in one-score games dating to last season. A Chargers assistant coach spilled out of his coaches box seat, whooping and hollering, believing his team had won, only to find out the truth on the way to the locker room. It’s been that kind of season. — Shelley Smith
Next game: at Dolphins (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)
One year removed from “tanking” talk, the Dolphins are playoff contenders. The Dolphins are 5-3 after winning their fourth consecutive game, including back-to-back wins against NFC West playoff contenders in the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals. The Dolphins aren’t a fluke, and they could sneak into the playoffs a year earlier, thanks to an aggressive defense and an exciting young quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa. — Cameron Wolfe
Next game: vs. Chargers (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Despite rushing for a career-high 106 yards, Kyler Murray proved in Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins he can’t do everything. The rest of the running game didn’t show up and a pair of questionable playcalls by Kliff Kingsbury will linger. For Arizona to become a player in the NFC West, it needs to find ways for the rest of the offense to make enough plays to have an impact and take some of the responsibility for winning off Murray’s shoulders. — Josh Weinfuss
Next game: vs. Bills (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Tua Tagovailoa throws two touchdowns as he leads the Dolphins to a 34-31 win vs. the Cardinals.
Standout performer: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger: 306 yards, 3 TD
It was another ugly, come-from-behind win for the Pittsburgh Steelers — but it was a win. The Steelers are 8-0 for the first time in franchise history, but they did it after trailing by 13 points, their largest deficit of the season. But for yet another week, the defense showed it can make the big plays when needed. Minkah Fitzpatrick came up big with two second-half end zone stops, including one interception and one game-ending pass breakup. T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward also got the sack of the day, bringing down Garrett Gilbert on fourth down with a minute and a half to go. Roethlisberger joked after the game that he’s “getting too old for this,” but he’s having fun winning — and the Steelers are, too. — Brooke Pryor
Next game: vs. Bengals (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)
The Dallas Cowboys were better in their loss to the Steelers, but better wasn’t good enough. They still let leads of 13 and 10 points slip away because of turnovers on offense and ill-timed penalties. The Cowboys’ two giveaways were turned into six Steelers points. The defensive penalties wiped out a takeaway and a potential fourth-down scenario in the fourth quarter. At 2-7 and losers of four in a row, the Cowboys aren’t out of the NFC East race, but they aren’t exactly in it either as they enter their bye week. “There’s no moral victories here,” Ezekiel Elliott said. “We’re still here to win football games, and we’ve got to figure out ways to win. We’ve go to get back to the lab and get better.” — Todd Archer
Next game: at Vikings (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday, Nov. 22)
Standout performer: Packers WR Davante Adams, 173 receiving yards, 1 TD
No, the Packers didn’t add a receiver — or anyone else — before last week’s trade deadline. But as long as they have receiver Davante Adams, it might not matter. In another game in which just about everyone knew the ball was going to Adams, the 49ers still couldn’t stop him. As telepathic as Aaron Rodgers and former Packers great Jordy Nelson were, the Packers’ quarterback seems to have transferred that superpower to Adams. Yes, the 49ers were a shell of the team that blew out the Packers twice last season, but this game will be remembered as another standout performance by Rodgers’ go-to guy. — Rob Demovsky
Next game: vs. Jaguars (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)
For the 49ers, the road to the end of the season has the look of a painstaking march toward an offseason of uncertainty. Through eight games, the Niners managed to keep their heads above water, but with $80.8 million worth of cap space on injured reserve, they were simply outmanned and overwhelmed by the Packers on Thursday night. That could become a trend, as San Francisco must still deal with a schedule considered one of the three most difficult in the league the rest of the way. All of which means the final seven games will likely lead to a larger focus on what’s to come in the offseason, a disappointing likelihood for the defending NFC champions. — Nick Wagoner
Next game: at Saints (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)
Standout performer: Saints DT David Onyemata, 4 QB hits and first career interception
Apparently the return of Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders helped to wake up a sleeping giant Sunday night. The Saints’ fifth consecutive win was one of their most convincing and thorough victories in the entire Sean Payton-Drew Brees era — a rout at Tampa Bay that was equally dominant on offense and defense. The Saints (6-2) moved into first place in the NFC South while completing a season sweep over the Buccaneers (6-3). More importantly, they found the complete, consistent performance that had been eluding them all season. — Mike Triplett
Next game: vs. 49ers (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)
The bright lights of prime-time TV, even on home turf, proved to be too much for Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who didn’t just flop on national television for the third time this season, they got throttled. After narrowly escaping with a 25-23 victory last week over the New York Giants on Monday Night Football — a game they entered as 12.5-point favorites — the Bucs were decimated by the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night Football to fall to 6-3 and hand Brady the worst loss of his career. “It was shocking. To watch the way we practiced all week and the confidence we had coming in — we have to go back and look in the mirror, coaches, players, everybody,” coach Bruce Arians said, adding, “They kicked our ass in every phase.” — Jenna Laine
Next game: at Panthers (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)