Week 11 of the NFL season began with a tightly contested fight for the NFC West, and this weekend’s games brought no less intrigue.
Here’s what you need to know about Sunday’s action.
LANDOVER, Md. — Top pick Joe Burrow was carted off with a left knee injury before Alex Smith rallied Washington past the Cincinnati Bengals 20-9 Sunday to keep his team in the thick of the NFC East race.
Burrow, Cincinnati’s franchise quarterback, was injured early in the third quarter when he was hit high and low by two Washington linemen after throwing a pass. His left leg bent awkwardly, and he couldn’t put any weight on it, ending his day at 22-of-34 passing for 203 yards and a touchdown.
His season appears over, too. Burrow tweeted: “Thanks for all the love. Can’t get rid of me that easy. See ya next year.”
Burrow’s departure allowed Smith and Washington (3-7) to take over and move a half-game back of Philadelphia for first place in the NFL’s weakest division. Just after Burrow left, the 36-year-old Smith — who broke his right tibia and fibula on the same field just over two years ago — led a go-ahead, 55-yard scoring drive that ended with a 3-yard TD pass to Steven Sims.
LAS VEGAS — Patrick Mahomes threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce with 28 seconds to play, and the Kansas City Chiefs avenged their only loss in the last 12 months with a 35-31 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday night.
Mahomes passed for 348 yards and led two go-ahead scoring drives in the frantic fourth quarter for the defending Super Bowl champions, who split their season series with Las Vegas (6-4) in dramatic fashion.
Kelce caught eight passes for 127 yards for the Chiefs (9-1), who are in firm control of the race for their fifth straight AFC West title _ but only after another thrilling comeback led by their Super Bowl MVP, who bounced back from his second interception of the season late in the first half.
The Raiders led 24-21 on Darren Waller’s TD catch on the first play of the fourth quarter, but Mahomes led a 91-yard scoring drive midway through the period capped by Le’Veon Bell’s first TD for Kansas City.
Derek Carr and the Raiders replied with a crisp drive ending on Jason Witten’s 1-yard TD catch with 1:43 left.
But the Chiefs’ powerhouse offence needed only 75 seconds to go 75 yards for another score, with Mahomes going 6 of 7 on the drive. Kelce got open across the middle for the go-ahead score.
Daniel Sorensen then picked off a heave to midfield by Carr with 19 seconds left, and the Chiefs kneeled out their 18th win in the last 19 games since Nov. 10, 2019.
Carr passed for 275 yards and three touchdowns in a strong performance, but the Raiders couldn’t match their offensive excellence in their 40-32 win at Kansas City last month. The Chiefs have won five straight since that defeat.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Pittsburgh’s most dominant defensive performance of the season kept the Steelers perfect.
Terrell Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted two passes each and the Steelers steamrolled their way to a 10-0 record with a 27-3 win in Jacksonville on Sunday.
Rookie quarterback Jake Luton looked lost most of the day against the Steelers, who allowed 206 yards and finished with two sacks. They celebrated each turnover by running into the end zone and posing for the cameras.
Ben Roethlisberger and Co. gladly shared the spotlight with one of the league’s most disruptive defences. Roethlisberger completed 32 of 46 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns. He found Chris Claypool and Eric Ebron for scores.
NEW ORLEANS — Taysom Hill rushed for two touchdowns and passed for 233 yards in his first NFL start at quarterback, and the New Orleans Saints beat the Atlanta Falcons 24-9 on Sunday for their seventh straight victory.
With 41-year-old quarterback Drew Brees sidelined at least three games with multiple rib fractures, Saints coach Sean Payton gave Hill the nod over off-season free-agent acquisition Jameis Winston.
Hill, who started his career as a utility player with the Saints in 2017, looked comfortable running the scheme Payton designed for him this week. He completed 18 of 23 passes (78.3 per cent) without an interception and used his all-around athleticism to run intermittently on scrambles or designed read-option plays, finishing with a team-high 51 yards rushing.
He had a considerably better day than Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, who was sacked eight times and finished 19-of-37 passing for 232 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions to defensive backs Marcus Williams and Janoris Jenkins. Cameron Jordan sacked Ryan three times, while Trey Hendrickson and David Onyemata each had two sacks.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — P.J. Walker threw for 258 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL start, the much-maligned Carolina defence earned its first shutout since 2015 and the Panthers defeated the Detroit Lions 20-0 on Sunday to snap a five-game losing streak.
Walker, a former XFL player, was made the starter less than two hours before kickoff when Teddy Bridgewater was officially ruled out with a knee injury.
Walker did plenty well, connecting on a perfect 52-yard strike to D.J. Moore along with a well-placed 17-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Samuel. But he also had two terrible mistakes, twice throwing interceptions in the red zone, essentially hitting the defender right in the hands.
Still he did enough to win, as Moore had seven catches for 127 yards and Samuel had eight grabs for 70 yards. Mike Davis ran for 64 yards and a touchdown.
HOUSTON — Deshaun Watson threw for 344 yards and accounted for three touchdowns, and J.J. Watt defended a career-high four passes to lead the Houston Texans to a 27-20 win over the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Watson’s two touchdown passes and scoring run all came in the first half as the Texans (3-7) built a 21-10 halftime lead.
Watson and Houston’s offence slowed down after that to allow the Patriots (4-6) to get back into it. But a 46-yard field goal by Kaimi Fairbairn extended the lead to 27-20 with about three-and-a-half minutes to go.
Houston’s beleaguered defence sealed the victory with a stop after that. Watt swatted down Cam Newton’s pass on third down and heavy pressure from Justin Reid forced him to throw the ball away on fourth down to give the Texans the ball back.
It is the first time since 2009 that the Patriots will have at least six losses in a regular season.
BALTIMORE — Derrick Henry ran for a 29-yard touchdown with 5:21 left in overtime to cap another memorable performance against the Baltimore Ravens, and the Tennessee Titans rallied for a 30-24 victory Sunday.
Running against a patchwork Ravens defensive line, Henry finished with 133 yards on 28 carries. It was his sixth 100-yard game of the season and put him over 1,000 yards for the third consecutive year.
It was reminiscent of Henry’s outing last January, when he rambled for 195 yards to carry the Titans to a 28-12 upset of the top-seeded Ravens in the AFC Divisional playoff.
After forcing a punt to begin overtime, Tennessee (7-3) moved 73 yards on six plays to get back on track after losing three of its previous four games.
CLEVELAND — With Myles Garrett not available, the Browns needed others to step up and make plays.
Kareem Hunt went above and beyond.
Hunt hurdled Philadelphia’s Jalen Mills on a touchdown run, Olivier Vernon made up for Garrett’s absence due to COVID-19 by getting three sacks and a safety, and Cleveland stayed firmly in the playoff picture with a wet 22-17 victory over the Eagles.
Hunt’s leaping 5-yard score came shortly after a dazzling 54-yard run by Nick Chubb as the Browns (7-3) finally found traction in their running game in a constant downpour.
“Nobody was stopping him from getting into the end zone,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said of Hunt, who came up just short of the goal line on a fourth-down run in the first half. “Those two guys push each other, root for each other and it’s a sight to be seen.”
DENVER — Justin Simmons intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick’s pass in the end zone with 63 seconds left Sunday, sealing the Denver Broncos’ 20-13 win over the Miami Dolphins.
The Broncos (4-6) not only prevented Tua Tagovailoa from becoming just the second rookie in the past 40 years to win his first four starts but they sacked him a half-dozen times and knocked him from the game in the fourth quarter.
Although the Dolphins (6-4) didn’t announce an injury to Tagovailoa before game’s end, the lefty walked gingerly to the sideline after his final sack, by Bradley Chubb.
On the play, Tagovailoa’s left leg bent awkwardly and guard Solomon Kindley stepped on Tagovailoa’s right foot.
Fitzpatrick entered the game with the Dolphins down 10 points and drove them to a field goal that made it a one-score deficit.
The Dolphins, who had won five in a row, had a chance to tie it after they turned away the Broncos at their 1.
Melvin Gordon was just about to score his third touchdown of the game when linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel atoned for a pair of penalties on the previous play by punching the ball loose at the 1. Safety Eric Rowe recovered.
INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Keenan Allen set a Chargers franchise record with 16 receptions, Justin Herbert threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns and Los Angeles held on for a 34-28 victory over the winless New York Jets on Sunday to snap a three-game losing streak.
The prolific-catch day helped Allen tie Antonio Brown as the fastest to reach 600 receptions. Both reached the mark in their 96th career game. It is also Allen’s sixth game with 13 or more receptions, the most by a player in NFL history.
Allen had 145 yards receiving and a 13-yard TD in the third quarter to extend the lead for the Chargers (3-7) to 31-13. New York would rally to get within 34-28 in the fourth quarter on Frank Gore’s 1-yard run and Joe Flacco’s 6-yard pass to Chris Herndon.
New York (0-10) — off to the worst start in franchise history — drove to the Chargers 32 with under a minute remaining before turning over the ball on downs.
MINNEAPOLIS — Andy Dalton returned from a two-game absence to throw three touchdown passes, hitting Dalton Schultz for a 2-yard score with 1:37 left to lift Dallas over the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 on Sunday to stop the Cowboys’ four-game losing streak.
Dalton went 22 for 32 for 203 yards and one interception after fill-ins Ben DiNucci and Garrett Gilbert started the previous two games. After missing games to a concussion and COVID-19, Dalton directed an 11-play, 66-yard drive down the stretch that was extended with a fourth-and-6 completion to Amari Cooper at the 19.
Kris Boyd stepped in front of Schultz and nearly picked off a first-and-goal pass in the end zone, but Dalton delivered to his wide open tight end two plays later. That snapped the Vikings’ three-game winning streak and kept the Cowboys (3-7) alive and well in the lacklustre NFC East. They’re in a three-way tie for second place behind Philadelphia (3-6-1).
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis defence may have turned Aaron Rodgers into a believer Sunday.
Everyone else might want to take notice, too.
After allowing three touchdown passes and 28 first-half points, the Colts gave up only three second-half points. They also forced a game-changing fumble less than a minute into overtime for a 34-31 victory over Green Bay.
Rodrigo Blankenship won it with a 39-yard field goal with 7:10 remaining.
Indy (7-3) did it with an old-school combination: The offence that played keep-away, a defence that came up with two three-and-outs and a fourth-down stop late in the fourth quarter, and the key turnover in overtime.