There were a few less games on the schedule in week 8, but the games that were played did not disappoint. Let’s try to wrap our heads around everything that happened with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Calvin Johnson – There was just no stopping this man at all on Sunday. Johnson had an immortal performance against the Cowboys, with 14 catches for 329 yards. What Johnson did against Dallas could end up being the best performance by a single player all season long.
Matthew Stafford’s leap – All of Johnson’s efforts would have been for naught had Stafford not made an incredibly heady play to leap into the end zone when the defense was expecting him to spike the football. Despite a pair of interceptions, Stafford owned the Cowboys, with nearly 500 yards passing, and the final dagger was his leap over the pile in the closing seconds, which was a huge step forward for both Detroit’s season and Stafford’s career.
Drew Brees – Brees got knocked around a bit by the Buffalo defensive line, but he would eventually get it going against the Bills and ended up with five touchdown passes and well over 300 yards, doing so against his former offensive coordinator Doug Marrone. Perhaps most impressive about Brees’ performance is that he connected with 10 different receivers, and not one of his receivers had more than four catches. The combination of a quarterback as talented as Brees and that many viable receiving options is simply unstoppable over four quarters.
Andy Dalton – Dalton matched Brees with five touchdown passes of his own, as the Bengals crushed what was supposed to be a good Jets defense. Of all people, Marvin Jones became Dalton’s go-to guy, making eight receptions, four of which went for touchdowns. Both Jones and A.J. Green were over 100 yards receiving, with Dalton throwing for 325 yards, as Cincinnati made a huge statement and continue to asset themselves as one of the top teams in the AFC.
Tony Romo – He may have thrown for three touchdowns, but Romo had an off day, as some of his passes sailed on him, and he missed on some throws that he usually makes with ease. He barely reached the 200-yard mark and completed fewer than 50% of his passes. Romo’s numbers were pitiful compared to his counterpart, and considering the fact that he didn’t get sacked and wasn’t facing a particularly good defense Romo should have been far better than he was on Sunday.
Dallas’ ability to close – The Lions did everything they could to give the game away to the Cowboys, committing four critical turnovers, but Dallas would just not allow themselves to win. The Cowboys ran for just 62 yards, averaging 2.4 yards per rush, and they failed to run out the clock when they had a 4th quarter lead with time running out and the Lions out of timeouts, giving Detroit one too many opportunities to win the game. The Dallas defense didn’t help either, completing folding on the final drive of the game when all they had to do was keep the ball in front of them.
The Giants in the red zone – The Giants aren’t in any position to be picky about how they win, but they were dreadful any time they got in or close to the red zone. Josh Brown was a perfect five for five on field goal tries, providing the only scoring the Giants were able to muster, and luckily for them, it was enough to win, but it wasn’t pretty. For a team with such a talented group of receivers and an accomplished quarterback, they have been truly terrible at executing on offense this season.
Detroit’s turnovers – The Lion’s dramatic win aside, there is no excuse for committing four turnovers. Detroit was a minute away from a devastating loss that would have changed the entire shape of their season, and all because they had trouble holding onto the football. The Lions should have run the Cowboys out of the building, gaining nearly three times as many yards, but instead they played with fire with those careless turnovers, which is unacceptable, whether they won the game or not.
Philadelphia’s offense – With Philadelphia’s special teams providing the only touchdown of the game, the Eagles were held without an offensive touchdown for the second straight week. Michael Vick was ineffective and then left the game with an injury, and then Matt Barkley was also ineffective, as was Philadelphia’s running game. Three total points scored by the offense the last two weeks, especially at home, is as ugly as it gets for an offense that was supposed to run up and down the field against everybody this season.
Thad Lewis’ ball security – Lewis has become a suitable replacement for the injured E.J. Manuel, and he’s done some good things to keep the Bills competitive the past few weeks, but he has some serious issues with ball security. Lewis fumbled the ball three times against the Saints, losing two of them, and Buffalo is not the kind of team that can lose the turnover battle and still hope to win games. If not for Lewis’ fumbles, the Bills could have been within striking distance of the Saints in the 4th quarter and had a better chance to pull off the upset.
Davone Bess’ fumble – They don’t get any worse than the fumble by Bess on a punt return. If he could have held onto the football, he would have set up the Browns in great field position to potentially take the lead, or at least tie the game against the only undefeated team left in the NFL. Cleveland fought hard and had a chance to win the game, but Bess ended up committing the only turnover of the game, and it ended up being the biggest difference maker between winning and losing.
More Ryan Tannehill Turnovers – Tannehill committing critical turnovers at inopportune times has become a trend during Miami’s four-game losing streak. The Dolphins led by two touchdowns at the half, but Tannehill fumbled the ball deep in his own territory, allowing the Patriots to tie the game midway through the 3rd quarter. Tannehill then threw two 4th quarter interceptions, ending any chance of Miami winning. It was a complete second half meltdown by the Dolphins, and Tannehill was right in the middle of it.
Shaun Suisham – Few people had a worse day than Suisham. Pittsburgh can’t pin their loss to the Raiders entirely on him, but missing two field goals in a game that was ultimately decided by three points is something that just can’t happen. The Steelers had built up a lot of momentum over the past two weeks, but losing to the Raiders has put a stop to it, and Suisham missing those two field goals is a big reason why.