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NFL Week 10: Giants’ Saquon Barkley looks like a star again; more Sunday lessons

It was another action-packed NFL Sunday, and the theme of Week 10 seemingly involved statement wins.

A statement by the Buccaneers: We’re not done yet.

A statement by the Vikings: Yes, we belong among this year’s elite.

A statement by Jeff Saturday: I do know how to lead (at least for one week).

A statement by Saquon Barkley: I’m most definitely back, and better than ever.

And the list goes on.

Week 10 also featured some impressive comebacks, four from double digits. The Lions and Packers both rallied from 14 down, the Titans came back from a 10-point deficit and Minnesota erased a 17-point lead to prevail.

There’s lots to get into, so let’s take the dive with a game-by-game, team-by-team look at the biggest lessons, observations and takeaways from Sunday’s slate.

San Francisco: Exiting their bye with a victory to make it two straight, the 49ers (5-4) are returning to full strength at the right time. It’s clear Kyle Shanahan is still figuring out the best ways to use his vast collection of offensive weapons, which includes ball-carriers who double as talented pass-catchers, and a number of exceptional pass-catchers who also double as darn good ball-carriers. Once they figure it all out and pair that potent attack with a defense that pitched a second-half shutout and also has the potential to reach another level, the 49ers could be very scary down the stretch.

Los Angeles: Brandon Staley’s team really battled, but all of their injuries have piled up and prevented them from pulling off hard-fought wins against teams on San Francisco’s level. As a date with the Chiefs looms next Sunday, they need Keenan Allen and Mike Williams back in the worst way.

Indianapolis: Experience is overrated. Jeff Saturday (no coaching resume at the college or pro level), new 30-year-old offensive coordinator Parks Frazier (no play-calling background on any level) and the Colts snapped a three-game losing streak and scored their second-highest point total of the season after going back to Matt Ryan and receiving a clutch red-zone stand from their defense.

Las Vegas: What are the chances Josh McDaniels shows up to Raiders headquarters tomorrow and finds the locks have been changed?

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Packers 31, Cowboys 28 (OT)

Green Bay: Did word of the Packers’ efforts to find a leading receiver at the trade deadline light a fire under Christian Watson? After recording just 10 catches for 88 yards and no touchdowns in his six previous games, the rookie erupted for 107 yards and three touchdowns on four receptions. The start of something special? … Meanwhile, amazingly, that was the first three-touchdown game of the season for Aaron Rodgers, who last year passed for three or more touchdowns six times.

Dallas: So much for a happy return. Mike McCarthy, who spent 13 seasons as Green Bay’s head coach, watched his current team blow a 28-14 fourth-quarter lead. The Packers scored 17 unanswered points to close out regulation and overtime while snapping a five-game losing streak.

Vikings 33, Bills 30 (OT)

Minnesota: Despite their 7-1 start and six-game win streak they carried into Sunday’s game against Buffalo, it was still hard to tell if the Vikings were good, very good or just NFC good. After rallying from 17 down, getting four huge takeaways from their defense and winning in overtime, passing their toughest test of the season, it’s safe to say Kevin O’Connell’s now 8-1 team is indeed very good, while quite possibly still only scratching the surface.

go-deeper

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Buffalo: This week’s that-about-says-it-all quote from Josh Allen, who has now thrown four red-zone interceptions in the last two weeks, including Sunday’s dagger in overtime: “Losing sucks. Sucks this way even worse. Horrendous second half. I have to be better.”

Tampa Bay: Don’t. Doubt. Tom. Brady. No matter how bad things look. Building on the momentum from last week’s improbable comeback win over the Rams, Brady and the Bucs made it two straight to get back to .500 as they enter their bye. In 2020, the Bucs — after an up-and-down opening stretch — exited their bye and went on an 8-0 march that culminated with a Super Bowl victory. Do they have a similar run in them this year?

Seattle: There’s a reason why they call it the money down. A 1-for-9 showing on third downs will haunt the Seahawks, as will a red-zone fumble that killed a drive that began with a rare interception off Brady. Props for showing life late with two fourth-quarter Geno Smith touchdown passes, but it was too little too late. Seattle’s win streak ended at four.

New York: If the Giants had lost this game, something would have been seriously wrong. But even so, Saquon Barkley’s resurgence remains one of the best stories of the year. Last season, Barkley mustered just one 100-yard game and had everyone wondering if we’d ever again see the back the Giants deemed worthy of the No. 2 pick in 2018. Sunday, he rushed 35 times for 152 yards and a touchdown, surpassing the century mark for the fourth time this season and placing himself on target for a career-high 1,759 yards.

go-deeper

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Houston: Self-inflicted wounds were a common theme for the now 1-7-1 Texans, who had both a fumble and interception in the red zone.

Lions 31, Bears 30

Detroit: Look out. Aidan Hutchinson is coming. The No. 2 pick made two very clutch plays to help steer the Lions to their second straight victory and first road win in two years. He didn’t bite on a screen pass and instead abandoned his rush and covered tight end Cole Kmet and forced Justin Fields into a fourth-quarter pick six. Then he came up with a big sack with 1:40 left, helping foil the Bears’ comeback bid.

Chicago: As his development continues, the Justin Fields experience will resemble a roller coaster with all kinds of highs (another 147 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and two more passing touchdowns) and plenty of lows (a game-changing pick six, and two late back-breaking sacks). But as the Bears coaching staff continues to embrace his strengths, Fields is looking like the best quarterback from the 2021 draft. I know, I know. It’s still early. But still.


Kadarius Toney is already looking right at home with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. (Jay Biggerstaff / USA Today)

Kansas City: Welcome to the show, Kadarius Toney! The wide receiver, traded to Kansas City two weeks ago, had four catches for 57 yards and a touchdown, and two carries for 33 yards. A third-rounder and a sixth for the Giants’ 2021 first-round pick just might have been a steal.

Jacksonville: The Jaguars got a relatively solid 259-yard, two-touchdown performance out of Trevor Lawrence, and three takeaways (two on defense, one on special teams), and still found themselves sorely overmatched while losing for the sixth time in seven games.

Miami: The Dolphins improved to 7-0 in games that Tua Tagovailoa started and finished. Can you imagine if they had forked over a half-dozen premium draft picks and an ungodly amount of guaranteed money to acquire Deshaun Watson when they already had Tagovailoa, who just needed an eternal optimist, mad-scientist head coach and weapons to transform into a bona fide star?

Cleveland: The Browns actually did a good job of taking away the Dolphins’ top weapons — Jaylen Waddle had just four catches and 66 yards; Tyreek Hill had five catches and a touchdown on 44 yards. But that’s about all that went right for them.

Tennessee: The Broncos seemed determined to force the Titans to abandon the run (limiting Derrick Henry to only 53 yards) and rely on Ryan Tannehill’s arm. Tannehill did just enough, throwing for 250-plus yards and two touchdowns for only the third time this season. Fortunately for the Titans, they faced a team with a more anemic offense than theirs.

Denver: Russell Wilson passed for 286 yards and a touchdown, but also had an interception and completed only 50 percent of his passes while losing for the fifth time in six games. The Broncos signed up for how much more of this?


Colt McCoy won a battle of backup quarterbacks in Cardinals-Rams. (Robert Hanashiro / USA Today)

Cardinals 27, Rams 17

Arizona: Much-needed relief for Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals, who had lost four of their last five, and had dropped seven straight to the Rams on Kingsbury’s watch. It took facing an L.A. team that also had lost four of five and (like Arizona) was without its starting quarterback, but a win’s a win. … This game highlighted the importance of quality quarterback depth. Colt McCoy improved to 4-1 in the last two seasons combined when filling in for Kyler Murray. Meanwhile, John Wolford looked largely inept in key moments while filling in for Matthew Stafford.

Los Angeles: The Rams, now 3-6, just cannot catch a break. Already utilizing a patchwork offensive line and missing Stafford (concussion), the injuries continue to mount. Sean McVay and company now await a diagnosis on Cooper Kupp’s ankle.

Pittsburgh: Mike Tomlin and the Steelers have their work cut out for them if they are to avoid the first losing season of the coach’s 16-year career. But Sunday’s post-bye win over the Saints was a step in the fight direction. The best recipe for supporting a young QB? A strong rushing game, and Pittsburgh delivered just that: 217 rushing yards, led by Najee Harris’ 99 on 20 carries.

New Orleans: The Saints rode that Andy Dalton train as long as they could. But after Sunday’s two-interception, one-touchdown, 174-yard outing dropped him to 2-5 as a starter, it’s time to go back to Jameis Winston.

(Top photo of Saquon Barkley: Brad Penner / USA Today)

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