What we learned in NFL Week 10: Vikings’ positive trajectory, Patriots’ plummet and more

Never in the NFL’s 103-year history have five games been decided by game-winning field goals on the same Sunday.

But it happened this week, with the Cardinals, Browns, Lions, Texans and Seahawks all winning with field goals at the buzzer. Notably, 10 of 13 games in Week 10 have been decided by one score or less, and to date, almost 70 percent of games this season have been within eight points.

In other news, the Josh Dobbs story adds a new chapter. The Steelers keep winning, the Packers keep losing. Dan Campbell’s Lions are 7-2. The Cowboys did what they’ve done most of the season — they routed a bad team, beating the Giants 49-17 — while Deshaun Watson had his finest moment as a Brown.

The Patriots’ mess is getting worse, and serious questions are being asked about Bill Belichick’s future.

DeMeco Ryans’ Texans look like they’re for real. And after a long, long time away, Kyler Murray is officially back — and making highlight plays again.

Here’s what stood out from the NFL’s Week 10:

Josh Dobbs for MVP?

Kidding.

Sort of.

The Vikings are having the strangest season in football: They started 0-3, lost their franchise quarterback for the year, have been without their All-Pro wideout for a month, and yet, somehow, have won five in a row.

Josh Dobbs began his Sunday by showing up to U.S. Bank Stadium needing directions from a stadium employee on how to get to the home locker room. (In his defense, he’d never been there before.) He finished it with his second consecutive win as the Vikings’ quarterback — and, remember, he’s been with the team for all of 12 days. Twelve days! Dobbs’ 312 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns were enough in Minnesota’s 27-19 victory against New Orleans.

“This is fun,” he said after the game. Hard to blame him. A surprise move at the trade deadline is paying off in a big way for a Minnesota team that suddenly is back in the NFC North race.

Dobbs’ 7-yard touchdown run in the second quarter might have been the game’s biggest play, a highlight-reel scramble that he somehow turned into six points. So far, Dobbs has 426 passing yards, 110 rushing yards and no interceptions in his first two starts with the Vikings, becoming the first player in NFL history with at least 400 passing yards, 100 rushing yards and no picks in his first two games with a team.

Tight end T.J. Hockenson was incredible for the Vikings, hauling in 11 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown. A season that felt doomed early suddenly has new life — with wideout Justin Jefferson primed for a return, potentially as early as next week. With the Broncos and Bears up next, the Vikings (6-4) could very well just keep on winning and push the Lions (7-2) in the division race.

The Saints, meanwhile, fall to 5-5. Quarterback Derek Carr left the game with a concussion and right shoulder injury; backup Jameis Winston entered and threw two touchdowns to pull New Orleans within a score but two interceptions followed.

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Patriots stumble to a 23-year low

Not since his first year in New England, way back in 2000, has Bill Belichick faced serious questions about his job security. Six championships and a two-decade run of unprecedented success will do that.

But after Sunday’s ugly 10-6 loss to the Colts in Germany — a game owner Robert Kraft wasn’t shy about boasting how badly he wanted to win — it’s fair to wonder how this all ends for one of the game’s greatest coaches.

Because every week, it feels like it gets worse.

“We’re all disappointed in the season,” Belichick said glumly after the game.

And now, his players are being asked about their belief in him — something that would have been unthinkable as recently as a year ago. But Sunday’s loss dropped the Patriots to 2-8, their worst start to a season since Belichick’s first in New England. The team is on track for its first top-five draft pick since 1994.

“I have as much faith in Bill Belichick as I’ve ever had,” said veteran special teams ace Matthew Slater.

The results simply aren’t there this season. The Patriots are among the worst teams in football. They’re averaging 14.1 points per game, second-fewest in the league. They’ve failed to score a touchdown in three games this year, including Sunday, and Mac Jones tossed an incomprehensible red-zone interception in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead. Belichick then benched Jones for backup Bailey Zappe, who threw another errant interception to seal the loss. Fitting.

It feels like the Patriots’ belief in Jones has evaporated.

Whether they feel the same about their legendary coach remains to be seen.


Despite his decades of success, questions continue to mount about Bill Belichick’s future. (Nathan Ray Seebeck / USA Today)

‘Ice in his veins’

After playing mistake-free football for the better part of three quarters, his team up 10 points on the road against a Super Bowl contender, C.J. Stroud finally cracked. The Texans’ rookie quarterback threw an ill-timed, awful interception late in the fourth quarter in Cincinnati, and for a moment, it looked like it was going to be the spark the Bengals needed for a stunning fourth-quarter rally.

On the sideline, Stroud went up to his coach, DeMeco Ryans, and left him with three words.

“I got you.”

Translation: I’ll make up for that.

Ryans nodded.

“I trust you,” the coach said.

Good thing he did. Stroud was right. Even after the Texans’ 10-point lead disappeared, and a raucous Paycor Stadium crowd started to think comeback, the rookie was unflappable. With just 93 seconds on the clock and one timeout, Stroud coolly drove his team down the field in five plays to set up a 38-yard, winning field goal from a kicker, Matt Ammendola, who had been on the roster all of five days.

No matter. Texans 30, Bengals 27.

Houston’s suddenly won four of five — their revival spurred by Ryans’ influence and Stroud’s quick ascent — and the Bengals’ five-game winning streak is over.

“Ice in his veins, that’s all I’ll say,” said Texans cornerback Shaquil Griffin, referring to Stroud, who’s now led two game-winning drives in as many weeks. “For a guy to make a mistake like that, then immediately tell his coach, ‘Put the game back on me,’ then go out and win it? That’s a guy I can go to battle with any day of the week.”

Through nine games, Stroud has passed for 2,626 yards, the third-most by a rookie over that span in history, trailing only Justin Herbert (2020) and Andrew Luck (2012).

49ers’ losing streak is history

Something had to give in Jacksonville on Sunday: Two teams, each coming off their bye, arrived on very different streaks. The Jaguars had won five straight, climbing to the top of the AFC South, while the 49ers — once a perfect 5-0 — were coming off three consecutive losses and facing questions about quarterback Brock Purdy and a defense that suddenly didn’t look all that intimidating.

San Francisco silenced those concerns Sunday with the type of dominant performance this team had grown accustomed to in the first month of the season. This was the 49ers looking like the 49ers again, whipping the Jags 34-3, reminding everyone that they’re still very much a contender for the Super Bowl in February, three-game losing streak or not.

Purdy was sharp, throwing for 296 yards and three touchdowns in three quarters of work; Deebo Samuel scored a touchdown in his first game in a month, and the defense picked off Jags QB Trevor Lawrence twice. The only bit of bad news: Christian McCaffrey’s touchdown streak ended at 17 games. It remains tied for the longest in league history.

Along with the Eagles, the 49ers remain a top contender in the NFC. Sunday reminded us why.


Deebo Samuel averaged more than eight yards per touch Sunday in his first action since Week 6. (David Rosenblum / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Browns put out their own fire

For stretches Sunday in Baltimore, Deshaun Watson was simply awful. In the first quarter, the Browns’ $230 million quarterback was 1-for-9 for 19 yards, a pick-six and a 0.0 passer rating. Yikes. He finished the half a dismal 6-for-20 for 79 yards and no touchdowns. Yikes again.

But by game’s end, he’d scripted his top comeback of his short tenure in Cleveland, leading the Browns back from a 15-point deficit and to a 33-31 win against their division rivals.

Watson finished the second half 14-for-14 for 134 yards and a touchdown. And after kicker Dustin Hopkins missed an extra point that would have tied the score midway through the fourth quarter, he earned a bit of redemption as time expired by drilling a 40-yard field goal for the win.

“I feel a bit like an arsonist that gets to put out his own fire, then gets a pat on the back,” Hopkins said after the game.

And just like that, a muddy division gets muddier. It’s a costly loss for the Ravens, who were in command for most of the game and led 31-17 early in the fourth quarter. With Pittsburgh also winning Sunday, the AFC’s toughest division is even more bunched up. The AFC North now looks like this: Baltimore still leads at 7-3, but the Steelers and Browns are just a half a game back at 6-3, and the Bengals are lurking at 5-4.

Just what the Cardinals needed

Welcome back, Kyler Murray.

The Cardinals’ starter told his new coach, Jonathan Gannon, to “let me ride” in his first game in 335 days. Murray tore his ACL last season and was making his first start of 2023.

It proved memorable.

After the Falcons took a 23-22 lead with 2:33 left, Murray orchestrated an 11-play, 70-yard drive that culminated with a 23-yard Matt Prater field goal to win it, 25-23. Murray’s 13-yard scramble — this was vintage stuff, with the QB probably running about 40 yards in all in order to evade defenders in the backfield — and 33-yard connection with tight end Trey McBride were critical in setting up Prater’s winning kick.

Murray finished 19-for-32 for 249 passing yards, a rushing touchdown and an interception. Arizona has its second win of the season, and its six-game losing streak is over.

After starting 2-0, the Falcons have hit a wall midseason, falling to 4-5 on the year after dropping four of their last five.

(Top photo of Josh Dobbs: Adam Bettcher / Getty Images)


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