If you bagged the leaves early enough on Sunday to see the early window NFL games, you had a treat of your own. Wild results, comebacks, close games and high profile performances on every screen you can muster.
The Lions scored an impossible win over the Falcons with a last-second touchdown. The Steelers held the Titans back in a battle of the undefeated. The panthers made the saints sweat it out. Baker Mayfield defeated Joe Burrow in a back and forth fight for # 1. Heck, for a while it looked like the Jets might upset the bills.
And the cowboys played too.
If you missed the cowboys game, congratulations. It was pure rubbish. Sunday's early window slate was a museum hall full of Picassos and Rembrandts, and the Cowboys' 25-3 defeat to Washington was a spot on the wall where someone sneezed. They were out almost instantly and falling 2-0 back – quarterback Andy Dalton fumbled with a sack in the end zone – and was never really challenged.
Dallas ended up with a total of 142 yards, a lower number than the individual Sunday yards of Davante Adams (196), A.J. Brown (153) and Alvin Kamara (148). The Cowboys owned the ball for 23 minutes, 36 seconds of the 60 minutes of play, and had 12 first losses to Washington's 21. They were outclassed, uninterested, and embarrassed.
In short, they were practically begging to head this week's overreaction column.
Mike McCarthy will do well in Dallas
Oh, there are many excuses. Four start offensive linemen and his starting quarterback are missing in Dallas. Backup quarterback Andy Dalton was kicked out of the game with a concussion from a dirty hit and replaced by round seven rookie Ben DiNucci. The Cowboys clearly haven't picked up on the new Defense Coordinator Mike Nolan's scheme, which must involve some kind of sophisticated calculus that Nolan only came up with last March or something.
There are many reasons the cowboys in the historically weak NFC East 2-5 and only ahead of the Giants, but regardless of any or all of them, they expected to be much better than these.
The verdict: NO OVER-REACTION. Look, Jerry Jones' reputation as an owner firing coach for better or worse is out of date and, frankly, never really earned it, based on history. And nobody likes to admit a mistake. But when we get to the end of the season and the NFC East champ only has six or seven wins and the cowboys don't they? They would have to be seen as the biggest failure of any team in the league.
Mike McCarthy's tenure in Dallas has got off to a rocky start as the Cowboys are 2-5. Photo by Patrick McDermott / Getty Images
McCarthy was hired to replace longtime coach Jason Garrett after a year hiatus after his release in Green Bay. The problem with Garrett was that his teams were generally good, but not good enough. McCarthy should get her over the mountain. This team has somehow got stuck under the hump.
Admitting a mistake can be difficult, but isn't it worse to double one? We have more than half a season to go, but when the cowboys are down and still look like that lackluster bunch that haven't bonded with the new hires, it's by no means wild to believe that McCarthy will end up one could be footnote in team history.
The Patriots have to bench Cam Newton and find out what they have in Jarrett Stidham
Newton was horrible for the second straight time on Sunday, and this time he had no COVID-related rust worth two weeks. The 49ers scored 33 points at Foxborough – five more than the combined total of points the Patriots have had in their last three games. In those three games, New England flipped the ball eleven times and scored only two touchdowns. The running game that was so impressive at the start of the season was only 94 meters away on Sunday.
Newton didn't even finish the game – it was so out of control in the fourth quarter that Bill Belichick put Stidham in at the quarterback. When asked after the game if Newton was still the starter, Belichick said: "Yes, absolutely."
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But the Patriots are 2-4, in third place in the AFC East, 2.5 games behind the first-placed Bills they'll play next week in Buffalo. If they lose this game, they might be too far behind to think about the postseason. And if they do, then they need to think about whether to draft a quarterback or find one in the free agency. Knowing what they have at Stidham could help them make that decision.
The verdict: overreaction. As long as he's healthy – and he insists – Newton still gives the Patriots a better chance of winning. They have a run-based offense and the ongoing threat Newton poses makes the run game better when it works. New England isn't out yet and a Buffalo win next week would change the tale.
What the quarterback will do next year remains a mystery. Newton is on a one-year contract and Stidham hasn't shown much so all options are on the table. But a team that has won its division 11 years in a row and 17 of the last 19 years will not be able to give up its season and think about the future while it is mathematically alive in the playoff race.
While his old team was being smoked by the Niners, Brady was in Vegas throwing four touchdown passes in a 45:20 win over the Raiders. (He set one up too.) Nine different players caught Brady's passes on Sunday. Four different Bucs got touchdowns. He doesn't even really use Mike Evans. The leading recipient of Sunday's victory was Scotty Miller.
But the rich are getting richer, and last week the privateers settled on Brown, the former Steelers, Raiders and Patriots recipient, who is serving an eight-game ban for violating the League's Code of Conduct. Brown, who was recently the top recipient in the NFL, is eligible to join the Bucs in Week 9 provided there is no more league discipline.
Tom Brady ties up with Rob Gronkowski, who takes the ball away from the defender and scores a 5-yard touchdown to give the Buccaneers a 14-10 lead over the Raiders.
The verdict: NO OVER-REACTION. Brown is a Tampa luxury, not a necessity. Coach Bruce Arians can say what he wants about "Tom had nothing to do with", but the facts are Brady and Brown stayed in touch and Brady was so impressed in the one game he played with him last season from Brown was that he is eager to work with him again.
What that means for the rest of the recipients of the privateers is everyone's guess. Brady will likely keep tossing at anyone who is open, and other games he spreads it that way are likely with or without Brown. What it means for the Bucs competition is probably not very good. If Brown is even 80 percent of what he was in Pittsburgh two or three years ago, he's the last Infinity Stone that should enable Brady to wipe out half the universe with the snap of a finger. Or at least bring the Bucs to the Super Bowl.
After a week in which outside speculation (although no inside information) put Mayfield at risk of being used for Case Keenum, the Browns quarterback started Sunday's game against the Bengals with an interception. Worse, broad receiver Odell Beckham Jr. left the game prematurely with a knee injury.
Mayfield bounced back to go 22-23 with five touchdown passes after that difficult start, including 21 consecutive shots. The final of the five put the Browns 11 seconds ahead of the game after Burrow put the Bengals ahead a minute earlier would have. It was the kind of game the Browns have to see from Mayfield – one where he put the team on their backs and delivered in the clutch without his running game carrying him and without his best receiver.
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The verdict: NO OVER-REACTION. What are we talking about here? Mayfield won't make 21 passes in a row and five touchdowns every week. And the Browns offensive will work better with Nick Chubb running back from an injury and leaning on the ground play. But Mayfield's coaches have stood by him through the tough times of this season, believing he can be the quarterback they need.
Sunday was proof that they might be right. The Browns are 5-2 and on the hunt for the postseason. There is no reason to do anything with Mayfield but keep working to make him better and more consistent. What is their plan and was all along.
Todd Gurley is the reason the Hawks lost on Sunday
Let's set the scene: Atlanta followed Detroit 16-14 with the ball at the Lions' 10-yard line and just over a minute before the game started. The Lions had all used their time-outs, which meant the Hawks could run the clock down to near zero, call their own time-out, and score a winning chip-shot field goal.
Instead, Gurley ran 10 yards for a touchdown – trying to stop at the goal line – to give the Falcons the lead. A 2-point conversion gave them a 22-16 lead, but Matthew Stafford also had the 1:04 it took to get the Lions off the field for the winning touchdown.
It was the Falcons' third loss of the season in a game where they had a 98% or more chance of winning, according to ESPN's winning probability metric. The other 31 teams in the NFL have played a total of four such games this season.
Todd Gurley bursts in the middle towards the end zone, trying to move away from goal to reduce the time out of clock, but the ball breaks the level of the goal line for a touchdown.
The verdict: overreaction. I never like the idea of not scoring when you're back. The short field goal is almost automatic, but not automatic. What if the snapshot goes wrong? What if it is blocked You're back and you have a chance to take the lead, you do it. Plus, there's nothing in the rules that says the Falcon Defense can't stop anyone in a big fourth quarter situation.
The Hawks told Gurley not to score there, so yeah, this is a bonehead game of his. But it's difficult to contain a player's instincts (especially one who scores as many goals as Gurley) in order to get into the end zone. And again they were lagging behind in the game. If they were tied or ahead, I see the logic. But when you are behind and have the chance to take the lead, I've always thought it was the right thing to do.