After years of totally depending on Drew Brees to carry the team, the Saints finally proved they can win with two things they have almost never been able to win with during Brees' time in New Orleans: a strong defense and an even stronger running game.
The most shocking part of the Saints' 47-10 rout of the Bills on Sunday wasn't that they blew out a Buffalo team that had yet to lose at home, but that they won easily even though Brees didn't throw a single touchdown pass.
Before this season, the Saints had gone seven full years without winning a game where Brees didn't throw a touchdown pass (2010-16). Now they've already done it twice in nine games this season.
The reason they're able to win without a big game from Brees is because he doesn't have to be the focal point of the offense anymore thanks to the emergence of a ground game with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara that has slowly turned into one of the best 1-2 punches in the league.
Ingram (131 yards, three TDs) and Kamara (106 yards, one TD) helped the Saints total 298 yards on the ground in Buffalo, marking only the third time in franchise history that New Orleans has rushed for more than 290 yards in a game, and the first time since 1981.
Brees almost never gets this kind of help on the ground. Since signing with the Saints in 2006, New Orleans had never even hit the 250-yard rushing mark with Brees. The Saints didn't need any touchdown passes from Brees because they took care of everything on the ground. With six rushing touchdowns, the Saints became the first team since 2004 to hit that number in a regular-season game. Oh, and there's also this.
On the other side of the ball, Brees has already proven he doesn't need a great defense to be successful in New Orleans, but that's exactly what he has anyway. With the emergence of the Saints defense, Brees no longer has to single-handedly win shootouts. The best thing about the Saints on Sunday is that they basically took the Bills' game plan -- win with defense plus a strong run game -- and beat them over the head with it.
The Saints' defense was dominant, limiting the Bills to 119 yards of total offense through the game's first 57 minutes before Buffalo tacked on garbage-time yardage in the final three minutes. The Bills finished with 198 total yards, marking the third time this year that the Saints have held an opponent to 200 yards or fewer. The last time time the Saints pulled that off three times in one year was back in 2000.
The Saints have won seven in a row, and all of the sudden look like the most unstoppable team in the NFC. After watching the Panthers get to the Super Bowl in 2015 and the Falcons in 2016, the Saints seem to be next in line to get the Super Bowl berth that has unofficially come with winning the NFC South recently.
New Orleans 47-10 over Buffalo
Before Sunday, the Saints had never scored more than 27 points in a game where Brees didn't throw a TD pass. Although Brees didn't score through the air, he did throw many, many passes to Michael Thomas. Thomas caught nine for 117 yards, which accounted for more than half of Brees' yardage (18 of 25 for 184 yards).
The Bills should probably just go ahead and burn every piece of film from this game because there's no reason to relive the total disaster that played out in Buffalo on Sunday. The offense couldn't move the ball, the defense got trampled by a Saints running game that almost never tramples anyone, and all of that led to the Bills' worst home loss since 2012. This game marked only the third time since 1988 that the Bills have surrendered 290 or more yards on the ground.
Green Bay 23-16 over Chicago
Solider Field has officially turned into the Packers' home away from home. Even without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers were able to walk out of Chicago with a win, marking the seven consecutive time Green Bay has won a regular-season game in the Windy City. After struggling through his first two weeks of action, Brett Hundley rebounded with a strong performance that included 212 passing yards and a touchdown. Hundley got some serious defensive help from Nick Perry, who racked up three sacks in the game.
The worst challenge of the week award goes to John Fox, who Benny Cunningham caught a 23-yard pass from Mitchell Trubisky that would've given the Bears a first-and-goal at Green Bay's 2, Fox challenged that Cunningham actually got in the end zone. After reviewing the play, officials ruled that Cunningham had fumbled the ball out of the end zone, which gave possession to the Packers. One thing the Bears did do in this game was unleash Trubisky. The rookie quarterback threw for 297 yards, but didn't get much protection; he got sacked five times.after a second-quarter challenge completely went against him. After
Tennessee 24-20 over Cincinnati
The Bengals might have officially clinched the award for the worst second-half team in football with their lost to Tennessee on Sunday. If you tune in to the second half of a Bengals game, you're almost guaranteed to see a puntfest. Since the fourth quarter of Week 8, the Bengals have had 16 second-half possessions, and 15 of them have either ended with a punt (12) or a turnover on downs (3). The only time the Bengals have scored in that period came against Tennessee when Andy Dalton connected with A.J. Green for a 70-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. The Bengals seem to have no idea what they want to do on offense. Against the Titans, they completely gave up on their run game and ended up finishing with their lowest rushing total (53 yards) since 2012.
The Titans came dangerously close to throwing this game away with several huge mistakes, including a missed field goal, a fumble out of the end zone on a play that was originally ruled a touchdown and a dropped touchdown pass by Rishard Matthews. If the Titans hadn't made so many mistakes, they probably could've won this game by two touchdowns. The good news for the Titans is that ugly wins count the same as all other wins, which means they're now 6-3 and in the driver's seat for a potential AFC playoff berth.
Detroit 38-24 over Cleveland
It's almost ironic that the Browns were coming off a bye this week because they seemed to take a bye in the fourth quarter of this game. After taking a 24-17 lead in the third quarter, the Browns offense started to go in reverse ... literally. On three straight possessions spanning late in third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Browns totaled negative-14 yards. That's negative-4.7 yards per drive. That's not good. The rough ending overshadowed an impressive first three quarters by a Browns offense that rushed for a season-high 201 yards. The rough ending also wasn't completely unexpected; after all, the Browns haven't held a fourth quarter lead all season. The Browns are also probably going to want to figure out at the end of a half before next week.
Although Matthew Stafford got beat up in this game -- he was hit often and sacked four times -- he did manage to stand upright just long enough to throw three touchdown passes. The Lions' defense got torched for most of the game, but but they did come through with several key plays in this game, which was much closer than the score indicated. The biggest play for the Lions' D came in the second quarter when Nevin Lawson returned a Browns fumble 44 yards for a touchdown.
Jacksonville 20-17 (OT) over L.A. Chargers
Going up against the best defense in the NFL, the Chargers only made one mistake in this game, and it cost them dearly. That mistake was a Philip Rivers interception in overtime that led to the Jaguars' game-winning field goal. Rivers' pick spoiled an impressive performance by a Chargers defense that sacked Blake Bortles three times and bottled up Leonard Fournette (17 carries, 33 yards).
Blake Bortles seemingly tried to throw this game away with two fourth-quarter interceptions, but the Jaguars' defense wouldn't let him. On the Chargers' final four possessions of the game spanning the fourth quarter and overtime, the Jags limited them to zero total yards. The Jags also got some serious help from their special teams in the first half when Corey Grant took the snap on a fake punt 56 yards for a touchdown.
Minnesota 38-30 over Washington
Teddy Bridgewater might be healthy, but the Vikings are going to have a tough time benching Case Keenum if he continues to play the way he played against the Redskins. The journeyman quarterback went off against Washington, throwing for 304 yards and four touchdowns. At halftime of this game, Keenum actually had a perfect QB rating after going 11 of 14 for 188 yards and three touchdowns. Adam Thielen probably wouldn't mind if Keenum were to keep the starting job. Thielen caught eight passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.
One of the most frustrating things for an NFL defense is when you can't stop a team on third down, which was a huge issue for the Redskins in this game. The Vikings made the Redskins' defense look helpless on third down, converting 8 of 12 attempts. The Vikings actually made the Redskins defense look helpless on almost every down as they rolled up 38 points and 406 yards. The scoring total by the Vikings means the Redskins have now surrendered 33 or more points in three of their past four games.
Tampa Bay 15-10 over N.Y. Jets
After getting off to an impressive start to the season, the Jets' offense finally came crashing back to Earth on Sunday with a bad game against the Buccaneers. The Jets' offense was basically a disaster for four straight quarters in this game. Not only did six of the Jets' possessions end with a three-and-out, but they also turned the ball over twice. Amazingly, only two of the Jets' 12 drives in this game lasted for more than six plays.
The Buccaneers' defense helped Ryan Fitzpatrick beat his old team by beating up the quarterback who took his job in New York. The Bucs racked up six sacks in this game, which came from six different players. The Bucs' defense was so overwhelming that Jets quarterback Josh McCown was basically under constant pressure for four straight quarters. The six sacks from the Bucs was a surprising number, because going into Week 10 they had only racked up eight sacks in their eight other games combined.
Pittsburgh 20-17 over Indianapolis
If the Steelers have perfected one thing over the past few years, it's . Despite having a team with far more talent, the Steelers didn't lock this one up until Chris Boswell nailed a 33-yard field goal on the final play of the game. The most encouraging thing about the win for the Steelers is that they finally got some clutch play from Ben Roethlisberger, who mostly struggled through the first nine weeks of the season. Big Ben threw two second-half TD passes and led the Steelers 70 yards down the field in the final minutes to set up Bosewll's game-winning field goal. The less encouraging for the Steelers is that they got burnt for two touchdown passes that went for 60 yards or more.
Just when you think the Colts couldn't possibly have another late-game meltdown, they go and have another late-game meltdown. Against the Steelers, the Colts blew a 17-3 second-half lead to take another loss at home. The Colts have now been outscored 109-28 on the season in the fourth quarter.
L.A. Rams 33-7 over Houston
If the Texans still have Colin Kaepernick's number, they might want to use it after the way Tom Savage played in Los Angeles. Although this game was a blowout, it could've been much closer if Savage didn't melt down in key situations. Savage threw two interceptions against the Rams, which hurt more than usual because they both came in the red zone. Savage also lost two fumbles in the game, which means he single-handedly turned the ball over four times. Even worse, the Rams ended up getting 13 points off thsoe four turnovers.
Based on the way he's played over the past two weeks, it seems that Jared Goff really wants to be a part of the MVP conversation and he might have actually put himself in it after what he did to the Texans defense. One week after throwing for 311 yards against the Giants, Goff topped himself by throwing for 355 yards and three touchdowns against Houston. That passing total includes a 94-yard touchdown pass to Robert Woods in the second half that was the Rams' longest offensive play since 1964. Over the past three weeks, the Rams have now outscored their opponents 117-24.
Atlanta 27-7 over Dallas
The Cowboys were definitely missing one of their biggest offensive stars on Sunday, only it wasn't Ezekiel Elliott, it was left tackle Tyron Smith. With Smith out due to a groin injury, the Falcons defensive line terrorized Dak Prescott so badly that Prescott will probably be having nightmares about this game for the next six months. The Cowboys quarterback was sacked eight times, which is the most a Cowboys quarterback has been sacked in a game since 1991. The Cowboys were lucky to even get a touchdown in this game. Their only points came after Matt Ryan threw a first quarter interception that gave Dallas possession on Atlanta's 21-yard line. Smith's replacement, Chaz Green, wasn't the only replacement who struggled. Cowboys kicker Mike Nugent missed a key 38-yard field goal early in the second half when this game was still close.
They don't give out the "Defensive Player of the Week" award until Wednesday, but we can probably go ahead and pencil in Adrian Clayborn for the NFC's honor for Week 10. In what might have been the best defensive performance by any player this season, Clayborn set a Falcons' franchise record with six sacks. That's not all though, the Falcons defensive end also forced two fumbles and recovered one of those. The Falcons held the Cowboys to just 233 yards, marking the first time since September 2014 that they've held a team under 250 yards of offense.
San Francisco 31-21 over N.Y. Giants
If you lose to an 0-9 team you get an 'F.' Ironically enough, "fired" starts with an F, which is what the Giants should do to Ben McAdoo after Sunday's disastrous performance. Although several playershasn't given up on McAdoo, their play on the field seems to suggest otherwise.
C.J. Beathard channeled his inner-Joe Montana in this game and gave San Francisco his best performance of the season.
The rookie quarterback finished 19 of 25 for 288 yards with two touchdowns for a 49ers offense that scored more points against the Giants (31) than they did in the past three weeks combined (30). If Beathard loses the starting job to Jimmy Garoppolo this week, he'll know that he went out on a high note.
New England 41-16 over Denver
It's almost fitting that Bill Belichick tied Tom Landry on the NFL's all-time win list on Sunday night because this game was a perfect example of why Belichick is such a great coach. The Patriots dominated in all three phases of the game, which probably delighted Belichick to no end. The star of the show for New England -- besides Tom Brady -- was Dion Lewis, who scored two touchdowns, including a 103-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. As for Brady, he played a nearly perfect game, throwing for 266 yards and three touchdowns. This team seems to be getting better every week, which should frighten the rest of the AFC.
The Broncos might have just successfully pulled off the worst special teams showing of the 2017 season. It all started in the first quarter when they fumbled away a punt return, and that wasn't even the worst part of the night for Denver's special teams because they also gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown, which was followed by the Patriots blocking a punt. Denver's defense was also a disaster. Brock Osweiler's play might have actually been the closest thing to a highlight that the Broncos had in this game.