More than half of their season remains, but the New England Patriots’ two-decade stranglehold on the AFC East certainly looks as if it’s coming to an end.
Cam Newton fumbled with the Pats in range for a game-tying field-goal try at the Buffalo 14-yard line with 37 seconds remaining, and Dean Marlowe recovered for the Bills to seal their 24-21 victory Sunday in Orchard Park.
“It’s unacceptable. I have to protect the ball better,” Newton said. “It affects you more that I still am jeopardizing this team’s success because of my lackluster performances protecting the football.
“Coach [Bill Belichick] trusts me with the ball in my hands and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I just have to do a better job of protecting it.”
The Patriots (2-5), winners of the AFC East in each of the past 11 NFL seasons, have lost four straight games for the first time since 2002. They also had won the previous seven meetings with Buffalo (6-2) — and 35 of 40 against the Bills under Belichick.
“This is the third time we’ve been in this situation this year and haven’t been able to make enough plays to win,” Belichick said of having a chance to win on the final drive. “All of us have to continue to work hard and play better and improve … and fix the things that need to be fixed.”
The Hall of Fame coach also issued a vote of confidence for Newton, the former league MVP who is in his first year replacing six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady.
“Cam is our quarterback, that’s the way it’s been all year,” Belichick said.
Zack Moss ran for 81 yards on 14 carries with two touchdowns, while quarterback Josh Allen added a 2-yard rushing score in the fourth quarter for the Bills, who last won the division title in 1995.
“Obviously we’re 6-and-2 at the halfway mark, but six wins doesn’t get you to the playoffs. We still have a lot of work to do,” Allen said. “Our mindset was just going 1-0 today.
“We understand what the Patriots have meant to this division for a long time. … We know they don’t handle losing very well over there and they’ll find a way to pull themselves back into it.”
Tua of a Kind
Tua Tagovailoa earned a victory in his first NFL start, even if the prized Miami rookie didn’t have to do much in the rising Dolphins’ 28-17 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
The former Alabama star threw for only 83 yards on 22 attempts, but the Dolphins defense forced Jared Goff into four turnovers (two fumbles, two interceptions). Miami (4-3) scored on a 78-yard fumble return by Andrew Van Ginkel and an 88-yard punt return by Jakeem Grant in the first half on their way to their third straight win.
“I don’t think I played to the standard of what this offense is capable of,” said Tagovailoa, the first lefty quarterback to start an NFL game since Dallas’ Kellen Moore in December 2015. “Thank God we have a good defense.”
Tagovailoa, the fifth-overall pick in the 2020 draft, replaced veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick as Miami’s starter following a bye week after making his NFL debut late in Miami’s Week 6 win over the Jets. He threw his first-career touchdown pass Sunday, zipping a 3-yarder to DeVante Parker on the final play of the first quarter.
Still Perfect, Barely
The Steelers remained the league’s lone unbeaten team at 7-0, breaking up Lamar Jackson’s potential go-ahead pass in the end zone as time expired to hold off the Ravens, 28-24, in Baltimore for a two-game lead in the NFC North.
“I think it’s important that we’re truthful with ourselves. We did not play well today,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “I’m proud of these guys, and I’m proud of the fight, but it’s important that we don’t lie to ourselves.”
The Ravens (5-2) amassed 265 rushing yards against Pittsburgh’s second-ranked run defense (68.3 yards per game previously), but the Steelers’ D stuffed Jackson and forced a fumble 1 yard short of a first down on fourth-and-3 from the 8-yard line with 2:00 remaining.
It marked the reigning league MVP’s fourth turnover of the game, including a pick-six by Robert Spillane on Baltimore’s opening drive.
“The turnovers I feel is the reason we lost the game, and I put that on me,” Jackson said. “Clean those up, and I feel like we win that game.”
Minkah Fitzpatrick also broke up Jackson’s 23-yard pass intended for Willie Snead in the end zone as time expired as the Steelers matched their best seven-game start in history. Pittsburgh’s 1978 Super Bowl team also opened the season 7-0 and finished 14-2.
The Cowboys didn’t score a touchdown in third-string quarterback Ben DiNucci’s first NFL start, falling to 2-6 and losing more ground in the awful NFC East in a 23-9 loss Sunday night to the Eagles in Philadelphia.
DiNucci, Dallas’ seventh-round pick out of James Madison, made the start following injuries to Dak Prescott (ankle) and Andy Dalton (concussion). The rookie completed 21 of 40 attempts for 180 yards, without a touchdown or an interception.
Carson Wentz threw TD passes to Travis Fulgham and Jalen Reagor — and Rodney McLeod returned a DiNucci fumble 53 yards for a defensive score — for the first-place Eagles (3-4-1).
(Not) The Chicago Way
Wil Lutz nailed his fourth field goal of the game, a 35-yarder with 1:40 left in overtime, as New Orleans won its fourth straight game to improve to 5-2 with a 26-23 road decision at Chicago.
Drew Brees (280 yards) added two touchdown passes to retake the all-time lead (560), one ahead of Tom Brady entering the latter’s game Monday night against the Giants.
Nick Foles completed 28 of 41 for 272 yards with two scoring throws for the Bears, who have dropped two straight games following a 5-1 start. Cairo Santos had connected on a 51-yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining in regulation for a 23-23 tie.
The Hurt Locker
Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley, signed last week to a five-year extension worth $98.8 million ($70.9 million guaranteed), was carted off the field with an ankle injury and will miss the rest of the season, according to Baltimore coach John Harbaugh.
Browns defensive end and NFL sack co-leader Myles Garrett suffered a knee injury and will undergo an MRI on Monday.
Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler was stretchered off the field and taken to an area hospital with a neck injury. The team later said he had “full movement of his body.”
Titans receiver Adam Humphries also was carted off with a head injury, but Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel said he was “up and moving around” after the game.
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo limped to the locker room with an ankle injury in the fourth quarter of San Francisco’s 37-27 loss to Seattle. He was replaced by Nick Mullens. Niners tight end George Kittle also left the game in the fourth with an ankle injury.
Other injuries: Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton (groin), Lions receiver Kenny Golladay (hip), Jets defensive lineman Quinnen Williams (hamstring), Steelers defensive linemen Tyson Alualu (knee) and Cameron Heyward (leg), 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (knee).
Broncos quarterback Drew Lock rolled out and found K.J. Hamler in the back of the end zone as time expired as Denver (3-4) came back from 21 points down in the third quarter for a 31-30 win over the Chargers (2-5). … Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw four TD passes, including two to DK Metcalf, as Seattle (6-1) downed the Niners. The MVP front-runner joined Dan Marino and Peyton Manning as the only players to reach 250 touchdown passes in their first nine NFL seasons. … Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (226 total yards) became the first Minnesota player since Ahmad Rashad (1979) to score four touchdowns in one game in the Vikings’ 28-22 win over Green Bay (5-2). … Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow went 26-for-37 for 249 yards with TD passes to Tyler Boyd and Giovani Bernard as Cincinnati (2-5-1) posted a 31-20 upset win over Tennessee. … NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry ran for 112 yards for the Titans (5-2). … Raiders running back Josh Jacobs had 128 rushing yards and Derek Carr connected with Hunter Renfrow for the game’s lone touchdown early in the fourth quarter as Las Vegas (4-3) downed the Browns (5-3), 16-6, in Cleveland. … Colts QB Philip Rivers flipped two of his three TD passes to Nyheim Hines as Indianapolis moved to 5-2 with a 41-21 win over Detroit (3-4). … Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon was ejected for making contact with an official. … Bears receiver Javon Wims also was booted for sucker-punching Saints defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs QB
Mahomes completed 31 of 42 passes for a season-high 416 yards and five touchdowns in Kansas City’s 35-9 pasting of the winless Jets.
2. Dalvin Cook, Vikings RB
In his first game since Oct. 11 due to a groin injury, Cook ran for 163 yards and scored four TDs (three rushing) in Minnesota’s 28-22 win over Green Bay.
3. DK Metcalf, Seahawks WR
The second-year wideout had 12 receptions for a career-high 161 yards and two TD catches in Seattle’s 37-27 win over San Francisco.
Fantasy Insanity Fifth Down
- Aaron Rodgers defied our wind worries Sunday with three TDs — all short ones to Davante Adams. Rodgers finished with 291 passing yards, though most were accrued during garbage time. The Vikings-Packers was one of three games played under wind advisories. The other fives QBs in those games averaged 144.4 passing yards and totaled two passing TDs and one interception.
- Facing a Lions team with a bottom-six fantasy run defense, Colts rookie Jonathan Taylor could get nothing working (11-for-22 rushing, 2-for-9 receiving). His backfield mates had significantly more fantasy success (Jordan Wilkins 20-for-89 rushing with one TD, 1-for-24 receiving; Nyheim Hines 5-for-8 rushing, 3-for-54 with two TDs receiving). This should be worrisome for teams regularly using Taylor in starting lineups.
- Corey Davis continues to post strong fantasy receiving numbers (8-128-1 Sunday with a team-leading 10 targets). He has at least five catches in four of five games he has played, and he has produced double-digit fantasy outings in all of them. He is rostered in fewer than half of leagues.
He Said What?
“At the end of the day, you are measured by wins and losses. I didn’t get the job done today. It’s extremely frustrating, but this league is not about ‘what you have done before,’ this league is about ‘what have you done for me lately?’ I understand that.”
— Patriots quarterback Cam Newton after New England’s fourth straight loss to fall to 2-5 for the first time since 2002.
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