Preseason Week 2: Analysis and key takeaways from every game
Week 2 of the NFL preseason is under way, with PFF is providing recaps, grades, and analysis for every preseason game. Check back each morning for updates from the previous night’s contests.
[More: Miss a moment of preseason Week 1? Full wrap-up here.]
Sat., Aug. 20
Panthers 26, Titans 16
Tennessee rookies Tajae Sharpe, Derrick Henry are making strong pushes for playing time
The Titans fell to the Carolina Panthers by a score of 26-16, but once again got impressive performances from a pair of exciting rookies.
Rookie WR Tajae Sharpe made a couple of fine grabs and earned an impressive grade, playing 24 snaps and looking like not just the starter, but the team’s No. 1 receiver — at least as long as Kendall Wright is still on the sideline. Sharpe had the fourth-highest grade in the draft class among wideouts last season, trailing only Josh Doctson, Sterling Shepard, and Daniel Braverman, and for the Titans so far he has looked like a player capable of having a big impact from Day 1. He runs sharp routes, shows a veteran knowledge of where to settle down and adjust his pattern, and can go up and make spectacular catches when needed.
The other impressive Titans rookie is running back Derrick Henry, who continues to impress but has a less obvious route to a full workload. Henry will likely remain behind DeMarco Murray on the depth chart, but the two will share the workload and look to give Tennessee one of the most punishing two-back combinations in the game. Henry carried five times for 31 yards, generating nearly half of them (14) after contact and gaining 6.2 yards per attempt.
Mariota was efficient, completing nine of 10 pass attempts for 104 yards and a touchdown, but his lone incompletion was a mistake that resulted in an interception, and is a pass he would want to have back.
The Panthers benefited on offense more from exploiting poor Tennessee defending than much they did themselves. Ted Ginn caught one pass on a routine hitch and Ted Ginn turned some horrendous play from the Titans secondary into a 61-yard touchdown. Fozzy Whittaker had a 36-yard reception out of the backfield that he caught without a Tennessee defender within 10 yards of him thanks to a complete coverage bust, so perhaps the most interesting place to focus with them is the defense.
The Panthers are loaded with rookie corners and all three of their draftees figure to see significant playing time this season. They had mixed results in the game. James Bradberry looks the most talented, was the highest draft pick, and performed the best here. He gave up just one catch over his 24 snaps and it went for just five yards. He also broke up another pass intended for Harry Douglas by making a nice read and breaking into the pattern.
Daryl Worley and Zack Sanchez fared less well. Worley surrendered a catch every time he was targeted – six for six – for 67 yards, five of which came against Sharpe. Sanchez gave up five catches for 36 yards from seven targets, but he snared an interception on a deflected ball and could have had another on a quick pass he broke on later in the game. How much the Panthers need to rely on these rookies could be a big defining issue in their season.
Bills 21, Giants 0
QB Taylor shines for Bills; Giants struggle on offense, but get good play from Vernon, Collins on defense
It was a week late, but starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor wowed the home crowd with a couple of big throws to reinforce why the Bills recently signed him to a long-term deal. He was particularly impressive when the Giants tried to blitz him, with a quarterback rating of 102.8 on those plays. Taylor was our ninth-highest-graded quarterback last season, with a lot of success throwing the ball downfield, and if last night against the Giants was anything to go by, he’s looking to become an even better passer in 2016.
On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback Corey White had a standout game, allowing no receptions from the four passes thrown his way, and coming away with three pass breakups. He’s been in the league since 2012, and with the exception of a terrible 2014 season, has generally graded right around average. With the Bills starting cornerbacks set in Stephon Gilmore and Ronald Darby, White had the kind of performance that puts him in position to move higher up the depth chart behind those two.
For the Giants, the score line does tell the story of their offense, with struggles on the offensive line from last season’s first-round draft pick, offensive tackle Ereck Flowers, who allowed a hit and a hurry on 16 pass-blocking snaps. Meanwhile, the Giants’ depth at quarterback continues to look shaky, with Logan Thomas throwing two interceptions on four passes, and Ryan Nassib struggling once again. Although he wasn’t as poor as he was a week ago, Nassib still struggled, and had a quarterback rating on 0.0 on his 21 dropbacks when under pressure, helping him hold onto the title of lowest graded quarterback so far this preseason.
Defensively, though, they’ll be happy to have seen another strong performance from defensive end Olivier Vernon after his signing him to a huge deal early in free agency. For the second week in a row he graded well, this time notching a sack and a hurry on 20 pass-rushing attempts. In the defensive backfield, we saw an impressive outing from second-year safety Landon Collins. Collins graded negatively a year ago, but has graded positively in both preseason games this year so far. Against the Bills he graded positively both against the run and in coverage, and had three tackles resulting in a defensive stop.
Buccaneers 27, Jaguars 21
Winston struggles, but rookie Hargreaves stars for Bucs; Jags get strong play from Bortles, Ramsey
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers overcame a tough start and held on late to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars by a score of 27-21 on Saturday night.
It was a rough night for star second-year quarterback Jameis Winston. He completed just 3 of 10 passes for only 28 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He had another ill-advised pass that he threw directly into a defender’s hands, only for him to drop the interception. Winston had a tough time locating his receivers deep, as he went 0-for-5 on throws greater than 10 yards downfield. His lone touchdown throw came on an end-zone fade to WR Mike Evans. It was a nice throw, but Evans deserves most of the credit for making a very tough catch.
Defensively, rookie CB Vernon Hargreaves III stole the show for the Buccaneers. He was targeted just three times on 11 coverage snaps, and didn’t allow a catch. What’s more is that he intercepted two of those targets, on both of which he had to make a play on the ball. Hargreaves has yet to allow a catch this preseason, and has picked off or broken up three of his four targets. His overall grade is the highest among corners in the NFL through two preseason weeks.
On the flip side, it was another strong performance from Jaguars third-year QB Blake Bortles. He completed 8-of-11 passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns, and one of those incompletions was a drop. His improvement as a quarterback was evident when compared to backup Chad Henne, who completed just 4-of-10 passes for 33 yards and two interceptions. Bortles has been extremely impressive thus far in preseason action and currently ranks in the top 10 in overall adjusted completion percentage, as well as deep accuracy and under pressure accuracy.
On the Jaguars defense, they’ll be happy with the strong performance that they got from first-round pick CB Jalen Ramsey. In eight coverage snaps Ramsey was targeted just twice and didn’t allow a reception. He also came up big in the run game, making two defensive stops, including a big tackle for a loss.
The Jags’ other big-name rookie, LB Myles Jack, showed improvement, as he posted an above-average run-defense grade on just 13 run-defense snaps. He was solid against the pass, as he wasn’t targeted on any of his first 19 snaps dropping into coverage. However, his one mistake came late in the first half when he blew his coverage assignment on RB Mike James, who was then able to stroll in for an easy five-yard touchdown. Still, just one glaring mistake in 34 total snaps is very encouraging for this Jaguars defense.
Texans 16, Saints 9
Osweiler grades just average for Houston, while Clowney has a big game; Saints DT Fairley grades well
The Houston Texans picked up their second win of the preseason as they beat the winless New Orleans Saints 16-9 on Saturday night.
In his second preseason game with the team, QB Brock Osweiler earned an average grade while playing most of the first half. Osweiler got his first touchdown of the preseason on a well-thrown ball to rookie Will Fuller in the first quarter. But he underthrew Fuller later in the half in the end zone, leading to a P.J. Williams interception. In all, he was under pressure on just three of 20 dropbacks, going 0-for-2. He also was 9-for-10 on passes targeted under 10 yards downfield, but just 3-for-10 on passes 10-plus yards downfield.
Former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney was the most productive player on the Houston defense. As a pass-rusher, Clowney had a hit against Zack Strief, a sack against Andrus Peat, and another pressure against Peat that resulted in a holding call on Peat. He was also quite disruptive versus the run, as he forced runs away from the intended point of attack and picked up a run stop. It was an impressive debut, as the Texans hope he can build upon a good 2015 season.
Texans DE Christian Covington also had a solid game, as he tallied a sack, a hit, and a hurry on just 12 pass rushes. CB Kevin Johnson allowed receptions on all four targets in coverage, but they combined for just 15 yards and none went for longer than six yards. He did miss a tackle, but also forced an incompletion when not the primary man in coverage against Saints WR Brandon Coleman with a hit that jarred the ball loose.
The Saints had several offensive linemen who finished the game with below-average grades, none lower than starting LG Tim Lelito. He allowed a sack, a hit, and a hurry, which led to the lowest pass-blocking grade of the game, and was beaten as a run-blocker multiple times to earn the lowest run-blocking grade as well. After an impressive first preseason game, rookie WR Michael Thomas was far less effective against the Texans. On 30 routes ran, he caught just one five yard pass and his other target led to an interception.
The Saints lost rookie first-round pick DT Sheldon Rankins earlier this week to injury for an extended period of time, but if free agent signee Nick Fairley performs like he did on Saturday night, the Saints will be fine at defensive tackle. Fairley had two run stops on just four snaps in run defense, and caused a holding penalty. As a pass-rusher, he had a sack and a pressure on 14 pass rush snaps. CB P.J. Williams was beaten by Fuller for the 19-yard touchdown early in the game, but he bounced back well with a pass defense and an interception later in the game. With Keenan Lewis released on Friday, Williams is (so far, at least) looking like he could be a solid starter opposite Delvin Breaux
49ers 31, Broncos 23
Denver’s QB battle doesn’t get any clearer; Niners get an excellent performance from OLB Rush
In a matchup where all the pregame focus seemed to be on the Broncos quarterbacks, it was shockingly the 49ers trio of QBs who stole the show. They combined to be accurate on 21-of-23 targeted passes Saturday night. The most impressive of the bunch was Christian Ponder, who despite being new to the team looked like he had been with the 49ers all offseason the way he commanded the offense. All three quarterbacks graded out positively.
Broncos fans must be rather envious of those results, as the two quarterbacks supposedly battling for the starting job in Denver did not grade out positively. Trevor Siemian was mowing along nicely early on until he threw as ugly a pick-six as you’ll see in the league. The Broncos had a two-by-two formation and the 49ers were in cover-4, which means a safety will be somewhat shallow and able to come downhill on any in-breaking route from the outside if the slot man runs shallow. Siemian didn’t recognize it and the double slant concept that he threw to was a terrible one for the coverage. The good news for him (but not Broncos fans) is that Mark Sanchez struggled even more, missing a handful of open receivers and fumbling twice.
That brings us to the man Broncos fans really want to start, however, and that’s rookie Paxton Lynch. There was definitely some very encouraging signs from Lynch, and his accuracy was on point, but he forced far more throws than I would have liked, as the 49ers defensive backs racked up the pass breakups.
Two throws summed up his performance well. The first was a ridiculous in-stride dime of a throw under pressure, which flashed his ability to make big-time throws. The second was a forced throw that got through coverage, but only because these were third-stringers he’s playing against. The result looks great, but any worthwhile slot corner in the NFL would have taken that back the other way.
On the Niners’ defense, one man stood out head and shoulders above the rest. Marcus Rush might be a little undersized. He might be a liability against the run. And he might be a one-trick pony as a pass-rusher. But none of that really mattered Saturday night. The second-year outside linebacker lit up any and all Broncos tackles thrown his way to the tune of three sacks and four hurries on only 21 pass rushes. He has noticeably more twitch to get to the edge than the other 49ers outside linebackers, and when he did win, it was almost immediate.
Rams 21, Chiefs 20
Goff struggles, but L.A. gets positive performances on both lines; Chiefs rookie DL Jones grades well
Rams rookie QB Jared Goff’s preseason struggles continued into his second game, and he definitely looked like a rookie at times. Goff will need to work on his ball security going forward, as he fumbled twice against the Chiefs, both of which where his fault. On his first fumble, he tripped and extended the ball out with his hand. On the second, Goff hung onto the ball too long and had it knocked from his hands late in the play.
On the bright side, Goff was accurate against the Chiefs. He completed 8 of his 12 passes, but three of his incompletions were drops. Goff also threw his first touchdown pass of the preseason. The former Cal standout’s numbers through two games now stand at 12 of 22 passing for 120 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Hopefully Goff continues to improve over the course of the preseason, as the flashes of great throws are there, but he needs to clean other things up.
Rams left tackle Greg Robinson played 15 snaps against the Chiefs and graded positively both as a run-blocker and a pass protector. Rams running back Malcolm Brown played very well in a reserve role. He had 12 carries and averaged 5.7 yards per attempt and forced two missed tackles, showing that the Rams’ running back group is loaded with talented players. Fellow running back Benny Cunningham carried the ball four times and averaged 9.5 yards per carry.
Michael Brockers and Aaron Donald both graded positively as run defenders and pass rushers on their limited reps. Dominique Easley was the Rams highest-graded run defender against the Chiefs.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was efficient against the Rams, completing 9 of his 12 passes with one drop and one touchdown. Nick Foles took the majority of quarterback snaps for the Chiefs and looked better than their other backup QB options. Foles completed 18 of his 22 pass attempts (81.8 percent) for 133 yards. Aaron Murray completed five of his nine passes (55.6 percent) with one of his passes batted in the air and getting sacked once.
Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles didn’t play, but the most impressive RB in his stead was Darrin Reaves, carrying the ball six times for 32 yards and average 3.7 yards after contact per attempt.
Rookie defensive end Chris Jones only played 16 snaps against the Rams but made his presence felt by grading positively as a pass rusher, with two hurries on nine rushes and grading positively as a run defender, as well. Thus far in his two preseason games Jones has impressed and should be a significant contributor if he can keep up this level of play.
Ravens 19, Colts 18
Average grade for QB Andrew Luck good news in first game since Week 9 of 2015
It was an encouraging performance for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, completing all eight of his passes for 69 yards as he looks to bounce back from the worst season of his young career. Seven of those eight passes came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, and that short game is going to be crucial for Luck, as he’s been excellent on downfield throws throughout his career, but it’s the short stuff that can keep him healthy and protect the offensive line. The line is where the Colts invested much of their draft, and first-round rookie center Ryan Kelly looked the part on his 25 snaps, as he’s yet to allow a pressure this preseason and showed impressive reach-blocking ability in the Colts’ zone-blocking scheme. Defensively, the Colts need an infusion of talent, and a number of rookies are vying to contribute this season. Fourth-round DE Hassan Ridgeway had his ups and downs, finishing with two run stops, but also got blocked on a couple of his eight plays against the run. Undrafted free agent OLB Curt Maggitt is one to watch, as he continued his disruptive preseason with a hurry and a batted pass on only 10 rushes.
Quarterback Ryan Mallett got the start for the Ravens as he battles Joshua Johnson for the backup spot behind Joe Flacco. Mallett’s night was uneventful, but Johnson showed impressive poise under pressure, completing all four of his pressured passes, including a well-thrown corner route for a touchdown. Free-agent safety Eric Weddle made his presence felt on his 25 snaps as he closed quickly in both the run and pass game to pick up stops, while also recovering a fumble. Rookie fifth-round OLB Matt Judon continued his strong preseason, as he played the most snaps in the front-seven, with 39, and finished with a sack and a hurry on his 27 rushes to match his exact output from the previous week. He’s making an early claim for playing time on the edge, and he should be in the mix as a situational pass rusher. The one other performance of note was up front as right tackle Ricky Wagner had a perfect night in pass protection while sustaining his run blocks on his way to the top offensive-line grade of the game. After a breakout 2014 season, Wagner struggled last year, and a return to form will help solidify a Ravens offensive line that fell from fourth to eighth in pass-blocking efficiency last season.
Fri., Aug. 19
Redskins 22, Jets 18
Jets QB Bryce Petty making case for No. 2 QB spot?
Had you only caught the final few minutes of Friday’s showdown between the Jets and the Redskins, you would have left thinking rookie QB Nate Sudfeld might give the incumbent starter, Kirk Cousins, a run for his job. However, despite leading an epic fourth-quarter comeback, Sudfeld still finished the game with a negative grade. Prior to that drive he was a train wreck, making poorly-located throws, and in many cases, even worse reads. Surprisingly, Sudfeld actually handled pressure alright; when given time, though, he crumbled, evidenced by the table below.
Something clicked at the end, though, and Sudfeld found himself connecting with fellow rookie WR Kendall Thompson for an incredible touchdown (likely the best catch of the preseason) in the back of the end zone, followed by another impressive grab on a fade route for a two-point conversion.
On the defensive side of the football, it was a roller-coaster ride of an evening for rookie CB Kendall Fuller. Fuller allowed four of nine targets to be caught, including a 50-yard go route to Robby Anderson, but he also recorded three pass defenses. When everything was all said and done, Fuller exited the game with an average coverage grade.
Could QB Bryce Petty supplant Geno Smith as the Jets’ backup QB? Petty finished Friday’s game with an above-average overall grade for the second week in a row, while Smith finished the night with a below-average mark. Petty was a bit off early on, but he really had things clicking as the game progressed. Petty completed 11 of 22 attempts on balls that traveled at least 10 yards in the air for 243 yards, two TDs, and a strong passing grade.
The guy who was primarily hauling in those passes was the aforementioned Robby Anderson, who had himself quite a game. Anderson caught six of his eight targets for 131 yards and a TD, he had an above-average receiving grade (led the team) and Jets QBs had a 156.3 QB Rating when targeting him.
On defense for the Jets, it was a fairly disappointing night for their third-round pick, Jordan Jenkins. Jenkins was able to get into the backfield a total of four times to create pressure on the QB (two hits and two hurries), but they were of the unblocked/clean-up variety, and when Washington did put a body on him, he was often pushed out of the play.
Cowboys 41, Dolphins 14
Dak Prescott impressive again, but Ryan Tannehill earns top QB grade
Who else to talk about but Dak Prescott? The rookie fourth-round pick was scintillating from start to finish. Now he did put two balls in harm’s way — one interception getting called back by a roughing the passer penalty and another slipping through Bobby McCain’s hands — but the good certainly outweighed the bad. Of his 14 targeted passes, only two were off target. He also picked up 72.4 percent of his 199 passing yards prior to the catch. Not a bad day at the office for his second straight above-average outing.
Defensively we saw some encouraging play from maligned cornerback Morris Claiborne. In 28 snaps he collected the highest grade of any Cowboys defender, earning positives versus both run and pass. The former top-10 pick was targeted four times, yielding three catches for only 21 yards.
While Prescott may have stolen the show, it was actually Ryan Tannehill who was tops from a grading perspective. His stat line would have had a much nicer ring to it if the Dolphins wideouts hadn’t dropped three of their 15 catchable passes. On 19 targeted attempts, Tannehill truly only had one off target throw (an out route with 5:01 remaining in the 2nd quarter). The QB’s performance was highlighted by an absolute dime rolling to his right that traveled 45 yards downfield and landed in Kenny Stills’ hands without the receiver breaking stride.
There was far less to get excited about for Miami on the opposite side of the ball. Jordan Phillips and Tony Lippett, two players from the 2015 draft class the Dolphins will be relying on heavily this season, both earned negative grades versus run and pass for their performance Friday night. Phillips was completely blanked on the stat sheet in 30 snaps while Lippett allowed a catch on his only target for 14 yards and also got nicked for a pass interference penalty on a hitch route to Dez Bryant. It’s rare that anyone really stands out when a defense allows 41 points and that certainly was the case for the Dolphins.
Chargers 19, Cardinals 3
Cardinals O-line with negative grades across the board
The Chargers had our second-lowest grade for collective run-blocking last season, and against the Cardinals on Friday, the starting offensive line went full-retro 2015. The entire unit posted negative grades in the category, highlighted by the right side’s D.J. Fluker and Joe Barksdale combining for a below-average on just 11 run snaps apiece. Center Matt Slauson was the closest to having an average grade, but he also gave up two pressures and was the unit’s lowest-graded pass-blocker. Not surprisingly, RB Melvin Gordon struggled to get going behind his line’s awful performance, gaining just 18 yards on six carries, with 12 of those yards coming on the first-string’s only real positive play.
In the passing game, Kellen Clemens got the nod over a resting Philip Rivers, but failed to stand out. However, while his stat-line of 11 completions on 20 targets for 139 yards was not impressive, his efficiency on intermediate passes was. He completed five of his seven attempts that fell in the 10-19 yard range in the air from the line of scrimmage for 83 yards.
Kellen Clemens’ passing chart
The Chargers’ secondary made life miserable for the Cardinals, in particular in the first half when it intercept both Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton, also dropping what should have been the third interception of the half, and second pick six charged to Palmer. While the backups failed to register the impact plays the starters did in the first half, they also held their own against San Diego’s passing attack. The Chargers QBs combined to complete just 16 of 30 passes for 154 yards, good for a dismal QB rating of 40.1, just above the 39.6 barrier, which is essentially the rating given to a regular incomplete pass.
The Arizona QB play last night was nothing short of disastrous in the first half. We’ve already highlighted the three critical errors made by Palmer and Stanton, but what’s probably most notable about them is the fact that none of them were under duress. In fact, by completing just one of four combined passes when under pressure and taking a sack, the duo actually posted a better QB rating than it did on 12 dropbacks with a clean pocket. This indicates that both struggled with their reads, a notion that the film certainly supports.
As a collective unit, Arizona’s defense showed significant improvement in both its pass rush and tackling efficiency over last week’s performance against Oakland. Last week, the Cardinals managed just one hit and six pressures while missing eight tackles; during Friday’s game, they notched 15 total pressures and just four missed tackles (two of them from reserve ILB Alani Fua). The secondary also had a strong performance, breaking up four passes. 2016 third-round pick CB Brandon Williams was particularly impressive, as he gave up just one catch on four targets against for 13 yards and broke up two passes.
Thursday, Aug. 18
Eagles 17, Steelers 0
QB Sam Bradford’s accuracy on display in shutout victory
One of the biggest storylines for the Eagles all offseason has been at quarterback, and Sam Bradford put together a performance to remind Philadelphia fans why he should remain their starter. While he didn’t put up huge numbers, he was very accurate, completing 14 of 19 passes, with two of his incompletions a result of drops by his intended targets.
The Steelers rested plenty of their star players for this game, but one thing that became more clear is the competition at left tackle. With Marcus Gilbert out for the game, both Alejandro Villanueva and Ryan Harris played with the first-team offense. Harris allowed more pressure than Villanueva and graded out better in pass protection, which could help Villanueva secure the job. The big story during the game last night was the fact that Steelers QB Landry Jones threw four interceptions on 20 passing attempts. That doesn’t tell the full story however, with one of those interceptions coming off of a pass breakup in the end zone, and another coming as a result of Jones being hit as he got rid of the ball. On the night, he completed 12 of the 20 passes he attempted, but three of his four non-intercepted incompletions came as a result of dropped passes, so it wasn’t all bad.
On defense, Stephon Tuitt shined with three run stops on just five run plays.
Bengals 30, Lions 14
Lions WRs Marvin Jones, Golden Tate working well to replace Calvin Johnson’s production
Even though the score got out of hand at the end of the game, the Lions’ first-team offense has no reason to hang their heads. The question of the offseason was how will they replace Calvin Johnson? On Thursday, it was a group effort. Marvin Jones and Golden Tate played only 12 passing snaps a piece, yet combined for seven catches for 106 yards on nine targets.
On the other sideline, the biggest takeaway came along the offensive line. The Bengals had multiple running plays beautifully blocked for, only for a whiff by center Russell Bodine to blow it up. It may only be preseason, but it is abundantly clear after two awful grades in two games from Bodine that he hasn’t made the necessary improvements; it may be time for Cincinnati to find a new center.
Falcons 24, Browns 13
Offense tailored to Robert Griffin III’s skills clicking for Browns
The Browns centered the offense around RG III’s skill-set, allowing him to run at times and unleashing his deep-ball ability. Most of their running plays—with Griffin in the game—had an option element where he could keep the ball, which he did for a 22-yard scamper at the start of the second quarter. But the highlights of the night were his touchdown throws to TE Gary Barnidge and 50-yarder to WR Terrelle Pyror over Falcons CB Desmond Trufant.
On the other side of the ball, the Falcons’ offensive line dominated the Browns’ defensive line in the run game. All five of the Falcons’ starting unit finished with positive grades, while the Cleveland starting D-line line all graded negatively. The Falcons used their success in the run game to set up the play action, and the Browns struggled mightily to get off the field on third down.
Patriots 23, Bears 22
Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo earns above-average grade in second outing
With Tom Brady on the sidelines for the duration of the game, Jimmy Garoppolo played the entire first half and the opening drive of the third quarter (44 snaps). After a rough initial drive, he moved the ball efficiently downfield for the rest of his snaps, posting a QB rating of 117.4, highlighted by a 16-yard TD pass to A.J. Derby at the end of the first half. RB LeGarrette Blount was also highly effective, as he consistently found the cutback lanes and averaged 6.3 yards per carry, looking quicker and more fit than he has at any point the last couple of seasons.
On the other side, the Bears’ starting offense struggled to match the consistency of the Patriots. While they got strong run blocking from LT Charles Leno, Jr., rookie LG Cody Whitehair, and RG Kyle Long, Bobby Massie was outmatched in pass protection, giving up multiple pressure to Chris Long. The highlight of their day was a 34-yard run by RB Jeremy Langford that was aided by excellent blocking at all three levels.
Packers 20, Raiders 12
Packers’ top RBs—Lacy, Starks, and Crockett—all earn positive grades against Raiders
It was QB Brett Hundley’s time to shine for the Packers, as he got the start with Aaron Rodgers getting the night off. Unfortunately, Hundley went down with an ankle injury after a few easy passes and an impressive back-shoulder throw for a 31-yard gain. Green Bay’s top three running backs—Eddie Lacy, James Starks, John Crockett—combined for 97 yards on 21 carries, to go with two touchdowns and eight forced missed tackles between them. All three runners had strong nights as the Packers’ run game stayed consistent from start to finish. Defensively, Green Bay was led by DT Mike Pennel and ILB Carl Bradford, as both third-year players turned in impressive nights in the run game.
As for the Raiders, QB Derek Carr wasn’t quite as sharp as he was the previous week, though his connection with second-year wide receiver Amari Cooper remains strong as he threaded the needle for 20 yards on one pass. Rookie QB Connor Cook showed the good and the bad we expected to see after his Michigan State days.
Vikings 18, Seahawks 11
Seahawks DE Frank Clark earns team’s highest grade against Vikings
Russell Wilson appeared in regular-season form when he delivered a dime to second-year WR Tyler Lockett midway through the first quarter, but the Seahawks’ offense otherwise struggled to move the ball, despite keeping Wilson in for the entire first half. Drops were an issue—Seattle dropped four passes in the game, three on balls thrown by Wilson—as were sacks, with four taken before halftime. Viking linemen Everson Griffen and Tom Johnson gave Seattle’s starting front five some issues in pass protection, but the the unit had their share of positive plays in the run game, particularly against Johnson, who was the victim of several double-teams.
For The Vikings, QB Teddy Bridgewater sat the contest out, which might have been a good thing, considering the performance of Seattle’s front-seven against the Vikings’ offensive line. Tackles Matt Kalil and Andre Smith had particularly rough outings, while on Seattle’s side, no one stood out more than defensive end Frank Clark. He was the team’s highest-graded player after collecting five total pressures and a batted pass to go with three stops in run defense.