NFL Week 8: Saint Equalize NFC North, Titans Seize Complete Control

NFL Week 8 featured several key divisional matchups

Updated: Nov 1, 2021 3:49 pm

NFL Week 8 didn’t look like much on the schedule when people were making their picks this week. Four teams were supposed to be absolute blowouts, with several more seeming unwatchable. The late afternoon slate seemed to be the worst one of the season, and without Dak on for the primetime game, SNF seemed to be less than appealing.

And then, the action began. The Jets rearranged the AFC by knocking off its top team, rather than getting blown out by them. Tight division matchups reigned supreme as the Panthers, Steelers, Saints, and Titans had big wins. The Dolphins and Texans even managed to make things interesting for a bit versus the Bills and Rams respectively. Here’s how it all happened.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints

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The Buccaneers came out ready to show that they had overcome a Saints’ defense that embarrassed them twice last year. It took them a drive to get started, but before too long Tom Brady connected for a 12-yard touchdown with Chris Godwin. It appeared they were well on their way to continuing the streak of dominance their offense has displayed this season.

That drive was too easy for Tampa, so the Saints decided to do what they could to begin changing the narrative. Over the next 13 plays and almost 6 minutes, New Orleans drove 75 yards, satisfying the drive with a touchdown pass from Jameis Winston to Tre’Quan Smith. They answered back, stalling the Bucs’ momentum.

A couple of short drives exchanged punts before the New Orleans defense was ready to make their mark on this game. The Buccaneers had driven to the Saints 31 when they finally struck. Cameron Jordan came racing through for a 3rd down sack and forced a Brady fumble. Daniel Onyemata scooped it up, ending the Tampa threat and leading to a field goal. Sadly, for the Saints, they lost Winston on that series.

That was only the beginning, however, as lightning struck on back-to-back defensive series for the Saints. Brady led the Bucs to mid-field before the drive fell apart. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson intercepted him and set up the Saints backup QB, Trevor Siemian, with a great field position.

The backup made quick work of that field position and led the team on a 35-yard drive. It was capped off when Siemian threw a 1-yard TD pass to Armah. With the extra point missed, the Saints went into the half with a 16-7 lead, resembling the team that was brilliant against Tampa in the regular season last year.

New Orleans continued the statement on the first series of the second half. They received the ball and ground 13 plays and 6 minutes off of the clock, leading to a 1-yard touchdown run from Alvin Kamara. It looked like it was going to be clear sailing for the Saints from here.

Except for the fact that Brady was still on the other sideline, and this Buccaneers’ offense cannot be held down forever. This was their time. Over the course of the next 8 minutes, Tampa erased all of the good that the Saints’ D had done up until that point.

As dynamically as ever, Brady led the Bucs on the back-to-back, high-flying, touchdown drives, covering 149 yards and 17 plays in 6 and a half minutes. A short pass to Gio Bernard satisfied the first, while a 41-yard launch to Mike Evans finished off the second. The Bucs closed the gap to 23-21.

It looked like Tampa was going to continue the stretch of dominance, but a key holding penalty stalled out their next series. New Orleans got a huge break and now needed to capitalize.

And that they did. After the punt, they put together a 30-yard field goal drive, highlighted by a long run from Mark Ingram. This glory would be short-lived, however.

Halfway through the 4th quarter, right after the field goal drive, Brady and the Bucs’ O put their stamp on the game yet again. Just 7 plays in, Brady dialed up the launch codes to Grayson for a 50-yard touchdown strike. New Orleans saw their control evaporate as Brady now had 4 touchdown passes and the Buccaneers had the lead.

This did not stop them, however, as they shifted gears yet again. New Orleans buckled down, going on a 14 play, 4-minute drive to kick the field goal and reclaim the lead. The Saints’ defense would have to come up big one more time, as they needed to preserve a 2 point lead for the final minute and a half of the game, versus one of the greatest ever in that spot.

However, this would not be Brady’s night for heroics. Just 4 plays into the drive, PJ Williams intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown to put the Saints up by two scores and seal the victory.

The New Orleans Saints close out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in dramatic fashion, 36-27

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts

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It looked like it was going to be a long afternoon for the Titans, when halfway through the 1st quarter they were down 14-0, having run only 3 offensive plays. The Indy offense and defense both came ready to play. Carson Wentz already had his first 2 touchdown passes, both to Michale Pittman. And Kenny Moore already had already intercepted Ryan Tannehill. Something had to change for this game to live up to the hype.

It took a while for the Titans to answer back, but their defense was able to slow down the game later in the 1st quarter. At that point, the offense went to work. Tennessee delivered a 12-play, 60-yard drive, grinding 6 minutes off of the clock. The drive was satisfied with a 6-yard touchdown pass from Tannehill to Geoff Swain, cutting the Indy lead in half.

After the offense scored, the Titans’ D decided it would step up next. A key 3rd down sack by Harold Landry forced the Colts to send the ball back to Tennessee. and the offense immediately went back to work.

Their offense then drove the field over the course of the next 5 minutes. Tannehill finished off the drive with his first touchdown pass to AJ Brown, a 57-yard strike. The Titans had now made it a game, and the divisional showdown was ready to begin.

The Colts stopped the bleeding and ran out the half on their next series. They connected a field goal on a drive that heavily featured Zach Pascal and Hyheim Hines, proving to all that this would in fact be a game in the second half.

Tennessee received the ball at the start of the second half and immediately went to work. They demolished almost half of the 3rd quarter, taking 7 minutes and 18 seconds off of the clock. This was done on a 17-play, 70-yard drive, that ended with Tannehill’s 3rd touchdown pass. This one was to Westbrook-Ikhine.

Punts were traded before Indy would make their mark yet again. Wentz’s 3rd touchdown pass, this one to Jack Doyle, capped off a 43-yard drive, resulting in the third lead change of the game. The Colts were back on top, 24-21.

The lead was short-lived, however, as another long Titans’ drive resulted in a field goal and tie game. This 5-minute, 13-play drive took the two teams to the start of the 4th quarter before knotting up the score. The usual suspects were at play on this score, as Brown and Derrick Henry both helped the Titans move the chains. Sadly, Henry exited the game on this drive, leaving the Titans with a huge question mark.

The 4th quarter featured the two defenses on full display as long drives were turned into forced punts. Holding penalties (which would have been sacked) stalled a nearly 6-minute drive from the Colts. Then, Kemoko Turay ended a 4-minute Titan drive with a key sack following a holding penalty. This led to a Tennessee punt which pinned the Colts back on their own 8-yard line with a little more than a minute and a half left to play.

On the second play from scrimmage, the game would endure its fourth lead change as a huge play from the Titans’ D looked to reshape the game. In just the second play of the drive. Eric Molden intercepted Wentz and returned 2 yards into the end zone, giving Tennessee a touchdown advantage.

Turns out, this touchdown would be needed, as more late-game heroics were still on the menu. With a little more than a minute to play, Wentz took over from his on 25 and led the magic. A 38-yard strike to Michael Pittman and a 42-yard pass interference penalty were the big plays that set the Colts up with a first and goal from the 1 with less than 30 seconds to play. Jonathan Taylor punched in their final score, sending the game into overtime.

At the start of the extra period, both defenses clamped down. Punts were traded as the teams combined for 12 yards on their first series. The Colts would receive the ball back, entering the sudden-death portion of the game.

Four plays into that drive, the Titans’ D made their final statement of the game. Kevin Byard intercepted Wentz, returning it to the Indy 32. Five plays later, the Titans kicked the game-winning field goal, taking a 3 game lead in their division.

The Tennessee Titans win a slugfest in overtime, 34-31, over the Indianapolis Colts.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

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Bitter divisional rivals. Clock control, smash-mouth football. This game was a beauty for those who enjoy defensive struggles and strong division rivalries. Though the offenses were marred with injuries, defensive superstars like TJ Watt, Joe Schobert, and Myles Garrett were on full display. This was Steelers versus Browns football.

The tone was set early in this one, as the Browns on their first possession held onto the football for nearly 7 minutes. This 14-play, 63, yard drive led to a field goal and an early 3-0 lead.

The next series by each team would help to grind away the rest of the 1st quarter. Pressure from Garrett and an illegal formation penalty forced the Steelers to punt after consuming 4 minutes off the clock. A sack from Loudermilk and clutch 4th-down play from Devin Bush and Watt led to Browns turning over on downs at the Pittsburgh 40.

The Steelers took advantage of this short field, but not before eating up 5 and a half minutes of the 2nd quarter. Strong running from Najee Harris worked them towards the endzone. Ultimately, however, a McDowell sack forced them to settle for a field goal and a tie score.

Cam Heyward, Anthony Walker, Garrett, and Wormley all showed brightly on the next few series, as quick drives and long punts took over the next phase of the quarter. Eventually, Pittsburgh was able to break this trend and establish a time-of-possession advantage.

With 6 minutes left before the half, the Steeler ground out a 12-play, 4 and a half minute drive. Unfortunately, a huge 3rd-down sack from Garrett forced them to attempt a field goal. But wait…it was fake! Chris Boswell jumped up with the football and looked for the open man! Unfortunately, there was none, but that wasn’t even the worse part. He held onto the ball for too long and took a bad hit from Elliot, leaving the Steelers without a kicked for the rest of the game.

From there, the game would quietly trickle into halftime, to pick back up again on the Browns’ first possession of the second half. Up until this point, you could tell that Baker Mayfield was struggling with his injury, and as a result, the Steelers were able to gang up on the Browns’ elite rushing attack.

On this drive, however, the running backs were able to breakthrough. D’Ernest Johnson finished off a 9-play, 81-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run. This drive took 4 minutes and 19 seconds off of the clock, giving the Browns the edge in time-of-possession again. It was time for the Steelers to answer the call.

And that they did. Pittsburgh realized the importance of a touchdown on their next drive, especially since they were playing without a kicker. Field goal attempts were out of the question both by game-script and roster necessity. Big Ben and company put together a 15-play, 78-yard drive that consumed almost 6 minutes off of the clock. This drive was satisfied with an 8-yard touchdown run from Harris, who really excelled in the second half. Sadly, they missed the 2pc and continued to trail the Browns by a point.

It was clear that the Steelers’ offense had clicked, so the Browns were going to have to keep the pressure on them the very next series. Unfortunately for them, their inability to establish Nick Chubb and a delay-of-game penalty sunk their next series.

Pittsburgh used this misstep to seize control of the clock, the momentum, and the game. They embarked on a 15-play, 88-yard drive that killed 5 minutes and 38 seconds off of the clock. Big Ben finished it off with the game’s only touchdown pass, a 2-yard score to Pat Freiermuth. The kicker woes continued, as this was yet another 6-point drive.

The last serious Cleveland threat started with about 11 minutes left in the game. The Browns methodically drove 59 yards on 9 plays, taking 5 minutes off of the clock. They were about to enter into the red zone and finish off what looked like a game-winning drive when the Pittsburgh D struck for a final time.

An 11-yard pass to Jarvis Landry ended in disaster for the Brownies as Schobert popped the ball out of his clutches, forcing the game-deciding fumble. Watt scooped it up, ending the drive and deflating the Browns.

The Pittsburgh Steelers pinned down the Cleveland Browns, 15-10

NFL Week 8 SNF: Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings

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Without Dak Prescott playing, it took the Cowboys offense a while to get started. When they finally did, however, Cooper Rush proved what he was capable of doing with this team.

Down 10-3 and coming out of the half, Rush dialed up a beautiful catch-and-run to Cedric Wilson who split between 3 defenders. This score tied up the game and more importantly, gave Dallas the confidence they needed to win.

At the beginning of the 4th quarter, it looked like Dallas was driving to take the lead, when former Cowboy, Xavier Woods collected his second big play of the game. In what turned out to be a bit of a revenge game, Woods’ first-half interception helped set up a Viking score, and his second-half fumble recovery helped silence a promising Cowboy drive.

In the end, however, with the game on the line, Rush came through in a big way. With less than 2 minutes to play, he utilized his top three weapons (Ezekiel Elliot, CeeDee Lamb, and Amari Cooper) to lead his team up the field for the victory. His connection with Cooper showed strongly as the two connected for a big play to put them into the red zone, and then, the game-winning touchdown.

In his first start ever, Cooper Rush threw for 325 yards, 2 touchdowns, and an interception. Cooper, Lamb, and Wilson were hands down his favorite targets. Cooper hauled in 8 passes for 122 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Lamb had 6 receptions for 112 yards. Wilson caught 3 passes for 84 yards and his first touchdown pass.

For the defense, Micah Parsons was absolutely unstoppable, piling up 11 total tackles, with 4 of them being for a loss. Anthony Brown also added 5 tackles and 2 clutch, defended passes to stall Viking drives.

Without Dak, the Dallas Cowboys show grit in knocking off the Minnesota Vikings on MNF, 20-16.

In Other Action

New York Jets 34, Cincinnati Bengals 31

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Knowing that Joe Flacco is waiting in the wings, Mike White takes advantage of his opportunity and throws for 405 yards and 3 touchdowns on 37 of 45 passing. In addition to this, he also added a successful 2pc on a reception.

Rookie running back Michael Carter adds 172 offensive yards and a touchdown, as the Jets knock off the former number one seed in the AFC.

Their final score was set up by a Shaq Lawson interception. All total, the New York D came up with 3 sacks and 7 tackles for a loss to go with the turnover.

In defeat, the Cincy D came up with 3 turnovers in the afternoon.

Los Angeles Rams 38, Houston Texans 22

Cooper continues his blinding pace, going over 900 yards and 10 touchdowns in just 8 games this season. Versus the Texans, he added on 7 receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. Darrell Henderson Jr also added 93 offensive yards and a pair of scores as the Rams routed the Texans for most of the relevant game.

Ernest Jones was stellar for the defense, as the rookie LB racked up 9 tackles, a half of a sack, tackle for loss, and an interception. Aaron Donald tacked on 1.5 sacks and a tackle for a loss, as Leonard Floyd also put on a pair of sacks and tackle for loss. All total the Rams’ D came up with 5 sacks and 4 tackles for a loss.

Davis Mills and the rest of the Texans made the game a little interesting, rattling off the final 22 points of the game. However, the Rams were never in any real jeopardy.

Philadelphia Eagles 44, Detroit Lions 6

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The Philly D limited Detroit to just 228 yards on the day, collecting 6 quarterback sacks, 7 tackles for a loss, and a turnover. Being that the turnover was a scoop and score for Darius Slay, the Eagles D officially accounted for more points than the Lions’ offense. Josh Sweat led the assault on the QB, with 2 sacks and 2 tackles for loss to go with 4 tackles.

Meanwhile, the offense ran for 236 yards. Jalen Hurts paced all rushers with 71, as both Boston Scott and Jordan Howard added 2 rushing touchdowns apiece. This game was a start to finish domination, as the Eagles held onto the football for 35 minutes.

San Francisco 49ers 33, Chicago Bears 22

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Deebo Samuel’s 6 receptions for 171, gave him 819 yards through 7 games, the most in the modern era of the NFL. Samuel was not the only elite performance from the 49er offense, as Eli Mitchell added 137 and a score on the ground.

Josh Norman excelled for the defense, gathering a clutch interception to go with 7 tackles and a forced fumble. Nick Bosa also added a monster game for that unit with 2 quarterback sacks and 3 stuffs. All total the defense put together 4 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss.

In defeat, Justin Fields had the best game of his rookie campaign, rushing for 103 yards and passing for 175. He also threw and ran for a touchdown.

Carolina Panthers 19, Atlanta Falcons 13

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Stephon Gilmore had an incredible debut for the Panthers, holding Pitts all but irrelevant and sealing the game with an interception. Shaq Thompson also added a pick to go with his 10 tackles, including 1 for a loss. And the Carolina D limited a high-powered Falcons offense to just a mere 213 yards.

On the offense, the Panthers ran for 203 yards, controlling the clock for well over 35 minutes. Chuba Hubbard led all rushers with 82 yards and the game-sealing touchdown.

Sam Darnold left the game after taking a huge hit in the second half.

Buffalo Bills 26, Miami Dolphins 11

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It took the Bills a while to get rolling, but once they did, Josh Allen was unstoppable. Allen threw for 249 and a pair of touchdowns while running for 55 yards and another score. Cole Beasley paced all receivers with 10 receptions for 110 yards.

Jordan Poyer starred for the defense with a 4th quarter interception to go with his 9 tackles and stuff. Their defense as a whole only gave up 262 yards, while turning the Fins over twice and hitting them with 6 negative plays.

New England Patriots 27, Los Angeles Chargers 24

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Adrian Phillips came up huge for the Patriots not once, but twice, with a pair of interceptions to go with 3 tackles. His first int set up a Pats’ field goal right before the half, while his second he returned 26 yards for a score to give New England a 24-17 lead in the 4th quarter.

Matthew Judon also excelled for the defense, putting pressure on Herbert all game, while racking up 1.5 sacks and 3 tackles, including 1 for a loss.

Damien Harris helped the New England offense control the ball for over 35 minutes by rushing for 80 yards and punching in a score.

In defeat, the Chargers ran for 163, led by Justin Jackson and Austin Ekeler. Derwin James had one of the top defensive performances of the week, piling up 13 tackles, 1 for a loss, and a forced fumble.

Seattle Seahawks 31, Jacksonville Jaguars 7

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Tyler Lockett broke out of his Wilson-less funk and put on a show to the tune of 12 receptions for 142 yards. Meanwhile, his counterpart, DK Metcalf caught 6 passes and a pair of touchdowns.

The Seahawks’ domination of the Jags lasted from start to finish and was thorough. And when the Jaguars finally did score on them, Seattle returned the ensuing onside kick for a touchdown.

Denver Broncos 17, Washington Football Team 10

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Justin Simmons had 7 tackles and intercepted Heinicke twice, with the second coming late in the 4th quarter when the WFT was driving. Malik Reed also came through huge in the end game, imposing 1 of his 2 sacks on Washington’s final drive, to help them stall. As a whole, the Denver D accounted for 2 turnovers, 5 sacks, and 4 tackles for a loss.

For the offense, Melvin Gordon added 81 total yards, scoring the Broncos only 2 touchdowns.

In defeat, the Washington defense did step it up a little this game, limiting Denver’s offense to just 273 yards. They also created a turnover and added 4 sacks.

A Few More Highlights

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