NFL Sunday takeaways: Without Winston, Saints bedevil Bucs and Brady

Winston on crutches after taken to hospital with ‘significant’ knee injury

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Strange things do indeed happen in New Orleans on Halloween.


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After losing quarterback Jameis Winston in the first half, with what appeared to be a nasty knee injury, the Saints did not fold and instead held off the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 36-27.

NBC reported that Winston, who was carted off after a long game delay, was taken to a hospital for an MRI. His left knee bent unnaturally sideways on an illegal horse-collar tackle.

Saints head coach Sean Payton told reporters he thinks Winston’s injury is “significant … He felt something, and he’s on crutches right now.”

With regular backup Taysom Hill concussed and not even dressed, third-stringer Trevor Siemian quarterbacked the last two-plus quarters for the Saints.

But guess what? Siemian, the former Denver Broncos starter, didn’t suck. At all. He completed 16-of-29 for 159 yards, one touchdown, a lot of safe throw-aways but, importantly, no interceptions.


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Tom Brady could not say the same thing, and surely wishes he could. After Winston went down, Brady committed three killer turnovers — a lost fumble and two interceptions. Otherwise, Brady was exceptional against one of the NFL’s top defences, completing 27 of his other 36 throws for 364 yards and four scores.

But his turnovers were the difference.

The Saints (5-2) thus moved to within a half a game of the first-place Bucs (6-2) in the NFC North.

The 44-year-old Brady is now 0-3 as a Buccaneer vs. the Saints — in the regular season. He and the Bucs, though, did win that crucial NFC playoff game at New Orleans last January.

The Saints play at the Bucs on the last Sunday night before Christmas, Dec. 19.

Tennessee Titans defensive back Chris Jackson (35) knocks the ball out of Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal (14) hands in the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium. *(Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Tennessee Titans defensive back Chris Jackson (35) knocks the ball out of Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal (14) hands in the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium. *(Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)



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It’s almost a certainty already that the Tennessee Titans will play host to a playoff game in January, as division champs.

This, after their 34-31 victory in overtime at Indianapolis.

The signature victory, however, ought not overshadow the disastrous officiating gaffe that effectively ended the Colts’ first possession in overtime.

On third-and-six from the Indy 34, three snaps into overtime, Colts quarterback Carson Wentz lobbed a great ball up the deep middle that appeared would drop squarely into the hands of sprinting receiver Zach Pascal. Only Pascal got blown up from behind well before the ball arrived by Titans cornerback Chris Jackson, and the ball fell to the ground.

It was obvious defensive pass interference (DPI) on Jackson, but no flag was thrown. A mere incompletion, officials ruled.


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Incredible. Truly incredible.

That might have been the worst non-call of DPI in the NFL in a huge moment since TWNCE — The Worst No-Call Ever, which likely prevented the New Orleans Saints from reaching the Super Bowl three seasons ago. Too bad the league experimented only in 2019 with replay reviews of called or uncalled pass interference, before scrapping it thereafter.

Why was it a huge moment in Indy, on the last Sunday in October, so early in the season?

Because the Titans entered the day in first place in the AFC North, at 5-2, with the Colts in second, at 3-4. An Indy win would have brought the Colts to within a game of the Titans — with Tennessee 5-3, Colts 4-4. And, in such a scenario, each team would have defeated the other, as their season head-to-head series now is done.


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So, yeah, that’s why. The game meant everything to the Colts’ season.

See, this is why a booth umpire still is desperately needed in the NFL, even if only in the final two minutes of a game, and in overtime.

When there is a possibly game-determining, BLATANT officiating mistake — one so obviously wrong a judgment call that a roomful of 10-year-old kids unfamiliar with football all would agree was wrong, if shown the play — the NFL must figure out and institute some means of correcting that error.

Must. Even if it’s a judgment call. No one could watch that play and fairly conclude there was no defensive pass interference.

As it was, Tennessee wound up beating the Colts in overtime, 34-31, to improve to 6-2, while Indy fell to 3-5.


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Division race basically over.

Look, the Colts might well have still lost.

But if they’d had a first down in Tennessee territory there, who knows? That they didn’t even get the chance, blows.


Quarterback Dak Prescott warmed up on his injured calf, but was scratched by the Dallas Cowboys prior to their Sunday night game at Minnesota. Cooper Rush got the start instead.

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Josh Palmer (5) makes a catch for a touchdown while defended by New England Patriots strong safety Adrian Phillips (21) and cornerback Jalen Mills (2) during the second half at SoFi Stadium. (Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Josh Palmer (5) makes a catch for a touchdown while defended by New England Patriots strong safety Adrian Phillips (21) and cornerback Jalen Mills (2) during the second half at SoFi Stadium. (Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports)


Toronto-born, Brampton-raised Josh Palmer of the Los Angeles Chargers caught his first pro touchdown pass, in a 27-24 loss to the visiting New England Patriots. Justin Herbert heaved a 24-yard lob to the rookie wide receiver, who out-fought two Patriots defensive backs to snare the ball. Each quarterback, Herbert and New England rookie Mac Jones, completed 18-of-35, but Herbert threw two interceptions, including a fourth-quarter pick-six that put New England ahead for good.


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Rookie Carolina running back Chuba Hubbard of Edmonton fumbled on the first play of game, but rebounded to rush for a game-high 82 yards and a touchdown, as Carolina ended a four-game losing streak at Atlanta, 19-13.

Panthers QB Sam Darnold was concussed late.

Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, in his first game as a Panther, clinched the victory with his first interception as a player in the NFC, after five years in Buffalo and four in New England.


Atlanta wideout Calvin Ridley missed his second game of the month for what the Falcons described as personal reasons.

He explained during the Falcons-Panthers game, via social media, what those reasons were, and that he is leaving football for the time being:


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“These past few weeks have been very challenging, and as much as I’d like to be on the field competing with my teammates, I need to step away from football at this time and focus on my mental well-being. This will help me be the best version of myself now, and in the future.”


After destroying the Ravens in Baltimore last week, the Cincinnati Bengals proved what we all thought before last week: They’re a work in progress.

Cincinnati coughed up a 31-20 lead at the New York Jets with 7:29 left, and lost 34-31.

Joe Burrow had a pass tipped late, with Cincinnati up 31-26, that was intercepted and cashed in by the Jets for the winning score — a 13-yard TD toss to ex-Bengal Tyler Kroft from Mike White, in the QB’s first pro start. White caught the two-point conversion on a Philly Special type of end-around pass-back to the QB.


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“We were out-coached and out-schemed,” Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said, in a hit-tip to first-year Jets head coach Robert Saleh. “We’re still in good shape if we take care of business.”

Bengals players admitted to coming out flat after taking that 31-20 lead. In other words, they couldn’t keep their focus for four full quarters just seven days after ascending to the top AFC playoff seed.

That’s not “good shape.”


These are not the best of times for the 1-7 Miami Dolphins.

On Sunday, by a score of 26-11, they lost their seventh straight game to the Buffalo Bills, and their seventh straight this season since narrowly winning their opener.

Once again, the Dolphins offence of head coach Brian Flores fired blanks on far too many possessions. The Miami defence, which Flores oversees, admirably hung in there (for a change this season) giving the Dolphins a chance. Miami limited Bills quarterback Josh Allen midway through the third quarter to 10-of-19 passing for just 80 yards. Too often for Bills fans’ liking, they made Allen look far more like his 2018 or 2019 self, than last year’s near-MVP.


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Allen this season seems to be getting too greedy in the pocket, looking for long-developing deeper throws, which is leading to too many poor decisions by him. That could prove Buffalo’s post-season undoing come winter if this continues to be a trend.

Understandably, however, as the Dolphins defence tired, Allen and crew grew more formidable. And effective. Allen began spraying accurate passes everywhere, and he himself sealed the deal late with his 28 th career rushing touchdown, in his 50 th NFL game — the most by any quarterback in his first 50 games in league history, breaking Cam Newton’s previous mark of 27.

As for Miami’s quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, he completed a lot of passes — 21 of 39 — but, with Miami’s rushing attack again anemic, for too few yards (205) and for far too few chunk plays or scoring strikes.


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This is an unmistakable trend. Decent stats, ugly results. That’s the materializing picture of Tua midway through his second NFL season. Is it mostly because of him, or because of poor protection by his offensive line, or a pitiful rushing attack? Whatever, a lot of it is on him.

“We struggle at the end of halfs with turnovers,” Flores said. “It was more execution on Buffalo’s part, and a lack of execution on our part.”


Will the Dolphins, as reported for weeks now, conclude a trade with Houston for Deshaun Watson by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. EDT in-season NFL trade deadline? Stay tuned.

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Can anyone figure out the enigma that is Jared Goff? Could any other NFL quarterback complete 18-of-22 for 152 yards through three quarters, but fail to produce a single point?


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That’s what happened to Goff and the Detroit Lions, who got blown out at home by the lowly Philadelphia Eagles, 44-6.

The Eagles — who led 38-0 entering the fourth quarter, when Goff was 18-of-22 — rushed for 225 yards and four touchdowns for the first time in nearly eight years.

Lions head coach Dan Campbell absorbed all the blame.

“We got pushed around bad. We weren’t ready,” he said. “I felt like we got out-coached today, we got out-played — across the board. And that does start with me, man. Starts with me. It really does.”

OK, but Goff shouldn’t get off lightly.


The Steelers have a pulse. With Baltimore idle and Cincinnati losing, Pittsburgh was the only AFC North team to win this week. The Steelers defence outperformed Cleveland’s in a 15-10 road win … Washington Football Team placekicker Chris Blewitt blew it twice, getting two field goals blocked (from 45 and 47 yards) in a 17-10 loss at Denver. Denver tried to blow it even more egregiously, with running back Melvin Gordon fumbling in the last minute during run-out-the-clock time. But Washington couldn’t cash in the shocking gift … Jacksonville’s feeble attack under Urban Meyer failed to advance into the red zone until the final three minutes, in a 31-7 loss at Seattle. Yeah, against that bad Seahawks defence.





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