The Buffalo Bills and wins over the New Orleans Saints had been hard to come by, but Josh Allen threw four touchdowns to fuel a drought-ending 31-6 Thanksgiving rout.

AFC East leaders Buffalo (7-4) had lost five consecutive NFL games against New Orleans (5-6), a winless drought dating back to December 1998.

However, Bills quarterback Allen helped snap that skid thanks to his big performance on the road to the Saints in New Orleans on Thursday.

Allen was 23-of-28 passing for 260 yards, four TDs and two interceptions with a 115.2 passer rating to send the injury-ravaged Saints to a fourth straight loss – New Orleans have not had a longer losing streak since 2015.

Bills star Allen had his sixth career game with four-plus passing touchdowns and all have come in the last two seasons. Since 2020, only superstar duo Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers (both nine) have more games with four or more passing TDs than the Buffalo QB.

Dawson Knox caught two TD passes, giving him a franchise-best seven touchdowns in a single season by a tight end as the Bills scored 24 unanswered points before the Saints finally got on the board early in the fourth quarter.

On a rough night for the Saints, Trevor Siemian completed 17 of his 29 passes for 163 yards, a touchdown and interception, while he was sacked twice.

All-purpose offensive weapon Taysom Hill has agreed to a new four-year contract with the New Orleans Saints. 

Multiple outlets reported the deal, which ESPN says could more than double in value if Hill ends up settling in as the Saints' starting quarterback. 

The 31-year-old is in the final season of his existing two-year, $21million deal and will be paid at a similar rate going forward if he remains a hybrid player for New Orleans. 

He is guaranteed $22.5m but could make up to $40m for staying in his current role or as much as $95m if he takes over as the reguar QB. 

Hill has spent this season as a backup to starting quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Trevor Siemian while also seeing regular time at running back and receiver. 

Injuries have limited Hill's playing time this season. Through seven games, he has rushed the ball 20 times for 104 yards and three touchdowns, caught four passes for 52 yards and completed seven of eight passes for 56 yards with an interception. 

A member of the Saints since the end of the 2017 preseason, Hill saw his most extensive NFL playing time last year. 

He started four games at quarterback in place of the injured Drew Brees, completing 72.7 per cent of his passes for 928 yards with four touchdowns and an interception for the season. He also rushed for 457 yards and eight TDs and caught a touchdown pass.

 

 

NFL officials' emphasis on calling taunting penalties this season has generated complaints from players, coaches and fans, but the league is not backing down from its stance. 

Multiple outlets reported the NFL sent a memo and video to its teams this week reiterating the new officiating philosophy. 

NFL officials have assessed 35 taunting penalties this season, ESPN reported, with 16 of them coming in the last three weeks. 

Perhaps the most controversial of those calls came in the November 8 game between the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers. 

Referee Tony Corrente flagged Bears linebacker Cassius Marsh for taunting following a third-down sack of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter, extending a Pittsburgh drive that ended in a field goal for a 26-20 lead in a game they won 29-27.

Though Marsh insisted he had simply performed the same sack celebration he has used for years, Corrente said he threw the flag because he saw Marsh turn toward the Steelers bench "and posture in such a way that I felt he was taunting them." 

Directing any sort of reaction at an opponent is a key trigger to the new points of emphasis, as NFL senior vice president of officiating training and development Walt Anderson reiterated in the video distributed this week. 

"Avoid any actions where you approach an opponent or his bench and gesture, posture or otherwise demonstrate any verbal or physical form of disrespect," Anderson said.

"Turn away. Take the opportunity to celebrate with your teammates and don't put officials in the position of having to make a judgment about whether or not your actions rise to the level of a foul. Remove all doubt and don't put yourself or your team at risk of a penalty."

The video included examples of what the league considers acceptable celebrations by players in addition to those that cross the newly established line. The ultimate point, according to the NFL, is to encourage sportsmanship not only among its players but among those watching them play. 

"It's an exciting game. It's a game that's very emotional, but there are times that some people are egregious with celebrating and it can be over the top," Bears head coach Matt Nagy told reporters recently. "I think probably the biggest message is 'let's calm this down a little bit' because people watch, and people want to see a little bit of respect and a little bit of doing things the right way.

"It doesn't mean you can't have fun, right? But there's young kids out there right now that are watching games and what happens is you go to some of these sporting events and you might see some imitation going on that's taking it over the top.

"I'm a firm believer in respect and just kids growing and watching, and we have a huge platform as leaders. I'm talking players and coaches.

"So let's understand what the rules are, let's do it the right way, let's still have fun - these guys are still having fun and not taunting, you can still have a great time - but let's stay within the rules when we do it. So that's probably why."

While Nagy and some other coaches have said they support the point of emphasis, New Orleans Saints head coach and NFL competition committee member Sean Payton expressed concern Thursday about the way it is being applied. 

"I think it's being over-officiated," he said on the Dan Patrick Show. "I don't think any of us who discussed it [on the competition committee] saw it going where it is now."

Defending Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers suffered a stunning second successive defeat as they were upset by the Washington Football Team in Week 10.

Despite injury issues at wide receiver and cornerback, normal service was expected to be resumed when the Buccaneers made the trip to FedEx Field having lost to the New Orleans Saints prior to last week's bye.

But a rematch from last season's Wild Card Round instead went the way of a Washington team who entered the week with just two wins to their name.

Taylor Heinicke, whose performance in that playoff matchup catapulted him to cult hero status, led a key game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to close out a 29-19 victory for Washington, who had earlier lost star defensive end Chase Young to what is believed to be a torn ACL, after the Buccaneers had pulled within one score.

Tom Brady was intercepted twice in the Bucs' first three offensive series, with Washington turning that second turnover into a touchdown as Heinicke connected with DeAndre Carter for a 20-yard touchdown pass to put the hosts 13-0 up following a pair of early field goals.

The Bucs' offense could only manage a pair of field goals, sandwiched by another for Washington from Joey Slye, in response before half-time and Tampa Bay continued to struggle to take advantage of what has been a porous defense thereafter even minus the presence of stud pass rusher Young.

They finally knocked down the door in the third quarter with a four-play, 43-yard drive that ended with Brady finding tight end Cameron Brate for the score, only for Washington to reply in kind as Antonio Gibson was pushed over the goal-line by a scrum of team-mates.

A Dax Milne fumble was followed by a 40-yard strike from Brady to Mike Evans to fray Washington nerves with over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. However, Ryan Succop missed the critical extra point to leave Tampa Bay four points adrift, before Heinicke led a clutch clock-killing drive that was capped with Gibson's second touchdown to drop the Bucs to 6-3 and deal their hopes of claiming the number one seed in the NFC a substantial blow.

Titans hold off Saints

The 8-2 Tennessee Titans remain the frontrunner for the top seed in the AFC, having stretched their extremely impressive winning streak to six games by edging the New Orleans Saints 23-21.

Ryan Tannehill threw for 213 yards and a touchdown while running for another, wideout Marcus Johnson emerging with a 100-yard game a day after Julio Jones was placed on injured reserve by Tennessee. The Saints pulled within two late in the fourth quarter when Trevor Siemian hit Marquez Callaway for a 15-yard touchdown, but both the two-point conversion and the subsequent onside kick came up short for New Orleans.

While the Saints lost for the second straight week, the Dallas Cowboys rebounded from a shock loss with a 43-3 rout of the Atlanta Falcons and the Buffalo Bills crushed the New York Jets 45-17 a week on from an upset in Jacksonville.

Lions finally don't lose, but don't win

The Detroit Lions' 2021 season has been one defined by gut-wrenching defeats.

They avoided such a fate on this week, but missed a golden opportunity to claim their first win since last December in a 16-16 tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers, missing starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger due to coronavirus.

Ryan Santoso had a 48-yard field goal to win the game for the Lions in overtime after a Diontae Johnson fumble, but saw his kick come up short of the goalposts.

The Steelers appeared to be driving for a game-winning kick in the waning seconds of the extra period, yet Pat Freiermuth's fumble ensured a bizarre game ended level, Pittsburgh failing to take advantage of losses for AFC North rivals the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, whose quarterback Baker Mayfield was injured in a crushing 45-7 loss to the New England Patriots.

Alvin Kamara will sit out the New Orleans Saints' game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday with a knee injury. 

Star running back Kamara did not practice on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday and will be absent for the crunch Week 10 matchup against the number one team in the AFC. 

The four-time Pro Bowler has rushed for 530 yards and three touchdowns in his eight appearances for New Orleans this season. 

His absence is another significant blow for head coach Sean Payton, with starting quarterback Jameis Winston and wide receiver Michael Thomas already sidelined for the rest of the campaign.

The 5-3 Saints are in with a decent shot of making the postseason but will have to bounce back from a 27-25 defeat to the Atlanta Falcons when they take on the 7-2 Titans. 

Trevor Siemian will again start at quarterback, having completed 25 of his 41 passes for 249 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Falcons. 

Even at the midway point of the NFL season, it is difficult to make definitive judgments about many teams in the 2021 campaign.

The AFC is a jumbled mess with no clear frontrunner, though the Tennessee Titans may feel differently after surging to the top of the conference with a 7-2 record. 

In the NFC, it is easier to discern the elite, but picking the teams who will claim the last two Wild Card spots from a crowded field is not a simple task.

What we can do, however, is look at the standings and see which teams are either over or underperforming.

Stats Perform has done just that by assessing the records of every team compared to their power rating, a model that, using X-info data, looks at seven different facets of each team: quarterback, offensive skill players, run blocking, pass blocking, pass rush, run defense and pass coverage, and the player rates associated with each.

These seven facets are weighted according to modelled importance, and then aggregated to a team-level rating.

And that process has produced some clear standouts who either have more wins than the model suggests they deserve or are failing to live up to its expectations.

Overperforming

New Orleans Saints – Power rating: 29th

If Sean Payton isn't getting Coach of the Year hype come the end of the season, something has gone severely wrong.

Payton has the Saints in position to claim an NFC Wild Card berth at 5-3 despite a quarterback situation most would struggle to overcome, with Trevor Siemian stepping in to replace the injured Jameis Winston.

The Saints' most pressing issue beyond signal-caller is at wide receiver. Their most targeted receiver, Marquez Callaway, is registering a burn – or, in other words, winning his matchup with his defender when targeted – 56.4 per cent of the time, below the average of 60.6 for wideouts (min. 10 targets).

That has led New Orleans to lean on running back Alvin Kamara and the defense.

Kamara is unsurprisingly making the most of his significant opportunities as a receiver, his big-play percentage of 23.6 fourth among backs with at least 10 targets.

The defense is allowing a league-low 3.19 yards per carry and leads the NFL in run disruption rate, but comparative struggles against the pass (6.92 yards per play) and in getting after the quarterback could spell trouble if Siemian cannot maintain a surprisingly strong start to his time under center.

Cincinnati Bengals – Power rating: 23rd

The Bengals have been brought back down to earth with a bump over the past two games, losing to the New York Jets before being blown out by the Cleveland Browns.

First in the AFC before that slump, they are now last in the AFC North but, with a 5-4 record, they can still be considered to be outperforming expectations.

The problem area for the Bengals continues to be the trenches. Joe Burrow has been sacked eight times over the past two games, Cincinnati's struggles up front reflected by a ranking of 21st in pass protection win rate.

Things have been worse up front on defense, the Bengals 30th in pass rush win rate despite the best efforts of Trey Hendrickson, who has beaten a pass blocker on 28 of his 43 pressures.

Burrow has the best percentage of well-thrown balls among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts. He is delivering an accurate pass on 84.4 per cent of attempts.

His second-year leap is no mirage and has been aided by the outstanding rookie season of former LSU team-mate Ja'Marr Chase, eighth among receivers (min. 50 targets) with 3.5 burn yards per route. Yet, without improvement in other areas, elevating the Bengals back to the postseason could prove too much of a challenge for that truly dynamic duo.

Arizona Cardinals – Power rating: 16th

The Cardinals being this low down the list may be difficult to reconcile given they are 8-1 and just convincingly beat the San Francisco 49ers with their backup quarterback.

Yet holes have emerged on a defense now without J.J. Watt, whose addition had proven so critical to the interior of the D-line.

Arizona's defense is allowing 4.81 yards per rush, the second-most in the NFL, with the Cardinals in 22nd in run disruption rate.

Their pass rush win rate position of 24th belies the production of Markus Golden (nine sacks) and Chandler Jones (six), with those numbers suggesting the Cardinals' strength against the pass is more a product of the impressive play of a secondary that has surpassed expectations.

Though there is reason for doubt when it comes to the Cardinals' defense, this is a team that will go as far as Kyler Murray and the offense.

Murray is firmly in the MVP mix with a well-thrown percentage of 81.3, and receivers DeAndre Hopkins (80.9) and Christian Kirk (79.2) are each in the top five among wideouts (min. 10 targets) for burn rate.

With an offensive line ranked eighth in pass protection win rate doing an excellent job of keeping Murray clean, the Cards have an offensive recipe well suited to winning in 2021.

Yet their power rating and performance on defense indicates this team is not as complete as their record suggests.

Tennessee Titans – Power rating: 18th

Five straight wins, including victories over the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams, and the Titans are only 18th?!

It may be difficult to believe, but Tennessee's position in the bottom half of the NFL by power rating is one mirrored by the Titans' spot in Stats Perform's Efficiency Versus Expected (EVE) rankings.

EVE looks at several factors to train a model to predict yardage output for any game situation and then compares the projected yards to the actual yards gained or prevented in those situations.

The Titans are a disappointing 17th in EVE, despite Ryan Tannehill enjoying a season that has seen him deliver an accurate well-thrown ball on 83.5 per cent of his passes.

But Tannehill is now without his security blanket with Derrick Henry, who was threatening Eric Dickerson's rushing record and averaging 3.05 yards per carry on disrupted runs, and is throwing to a receiving corps that has just one member, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (63.6), with a burn percentage above 60.

Their stunning primetime win in Los Angeles was largely a product of turnovers and a startling amount of pressure from the defensive front, and the latter appears unlikely to be sustainable.

In the bottom half of the league in pass rush win rate (31st) and run disruption rate (27th), the production the Titans have got from the likes of Harold Landry, Denico Autry and Jeffery Simmons has not been the result of consistent dominance up front.

The story is the same for an offensive line ranked 29th in pass protection and 17th in run block win rate. Beyond Tannehill and Henry, areas where the Titans consistently excel are not obvious. The receivers will need to step up or the defense will need to prove a breakout performance against the Rams was not an anomaly for Tennessee to turn the doubters into believers.

Underperforming

Kansas City Chiefs – Power rating: 3rd

The uneven nature of the Chiefs' performances to this point makes them moving to 5-4 last week actually seem pretty impressive.

Yet, for all their issues on defense, and the doubts about an offense lacking the explosiveness of years gone by, the Chiefs should have fared even better over the first nine games, at least according to their power rating.

Though Kansas City only managed 13 points in their win over the Green Bay Packers, it is the Chiefs' offense that provides the most cause for optimism.

Patrick Mahomes' well-thrown percentage of 79 is above the league average of 78.5 for quarterbacks with a minimum of 10 attempts, and he is being well protected by the Chiefs' reworked offensive line.

The Chiefs rank fourth in pass protection win rate and first in run block win rate, with their rushing average of 4.62 yards per play the eighth-best in the NFL.

It is those game-changing downfield shots that are conspicuous by their absence for the Chiefs, with Tyreek Hill's underwhelming big-play percentage of 24.8 illustrating their struggles in that regard.

But this remains a team set up for offensive success, and if a defense that has not allowed a 300-yard passing game since Week 5 can continue making incremental improvements, Kansas City could yet enjoy the season many envisioned.

San Francisco 49ers – Power rating: 8th

A route to contention is not as easy to plot for the 3-5 49ers, who continue to beat themselves with mistakes that negate their overall efficiency.

The 49ers are eighth in EVE, with their position in offensive yards over expected (eighth) and yards allowed under expected (14th) painting the picture of a top-half team on both sides of the ball.

Yet a turnover differential of -9 that is superior to only that of the New York Jets (-12) makes a losing season a more realistic possibility for the Niners than a playoff push.

The offense is the primary source of hope. Deebo Samuel is on pace for over 1,800 receiving yards and his 4.1 burn yards per route are second for receivers with at least 50 targets, while George Kittle had a 100-yard game on his return from injury last week and ranks second among tight ends (min. 10 targets) with 3.1 burn yards per route.

With rookie Elijah Mitchell impressing at running back, Brandon Aiyuk emerging from Kyle Shanahan's doghouse and a line ranked in the top 10 in pass protection and run block win rate, the Niners theoretically have the offense to compete with anyone.

Poor execution has prevented them from doing so. If the Niners are to somehow stay in the hunt, the turnovers must stop, but change is also required on defense.

The 49ers have struggled to disrupt the run, and disappointing secondary play has limited the impact of a stellar season from Nick Bosa, whose adjusted pass rush win rate of 41.09 per cent is way above the average of 21.88 for edge rushers.

Time is running out for San Francisco to figure it out; if the Niners cannot do that, it will be another frustrating year for a team too talented to be struggling this much.

Minnesota Vikings – Power rating: 10th

It has been a typical Vikings season, with a talented and potent offense seeing their efforts go largely unrewarded as they have flirted with both triumph and disaster late in games on a near-weekly basis.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins might have an MVP case were the Vikings in a better position to contend. He has been extremely accurate, posting a well-thrown percentage of 81.8, and has generally avoided turnover-worthy plays, throwing just four pickable passes on 285 attempts.

Dalvin Cook's missed tackle per touch rate of 0.269 is the best among running backs with at least 50 carries, and Justin Jefferson is again one of the league's elite separators at receiver, as evidenced by his burn rate of 72.1 per cent.

Yet the Vikings are only 13th in offensive yards over expected, speaking to an issue that continues to hold this team back, with Minnesota again in the lower reaches of the league in pass protection win rate.

It has been a different story on the other side of the trenches, the Vikings seventh in pass rush win rate, though the absence of Danielle Hunter with a torn pectoral muscle may see them lose that position.

Soft against the run, allowing the third-highest yards per rush (4.77) in the NFL, the Vikings are a team whose lofty power rating is easily explained through a loaded passing game and a pass rush that has excelled through their first eight games.

But their 3-5 record is reflective of an incomplete team that maintains an obvious weakness in the trenches and lacks the defensive solidity to put games to bed. The Vikings may be a top 10 team on paper, but it is tough to trust them to perform to that standard consistently.

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas will miss the rest of the 2021 season having suffered a setback in his recovery from ankle surgery.

Thomas underwent the operation in July following a 2020 season that saw him battle ankle issues.

He had hoped to return for the 5-2 Saints at some point this season, but will not feature in 2021 after it was reported Thomas was dealing with a new ankle injury separate to his previous problems.

Confirming the news on Twitter, Thomas wrote: "As many of you know, early last season I injured my ankle and worked extremely hard over the next few months to get back in time to finish the season.

"Unfortunately, the rehab didn't go as planned and earlier this offseason it was apparent I would need to have a procedure to repair the injury.

"Since then, the team and I have worked diligently, day and night to rehab and get me back on the field.

"Unfortunately, there has been another small setback which we will have to address.

"To my displeasure, I will not be able to make it back in time for this season but will do everything in my power to get back to the player I have always been."

A two-time first-team All-Pro, Thomas led the league in receiving yards with 1,725 in 2019 as he set the NFL record for most catches in a single season with 149.

Injuries restricted him to 40 catches for 438 yards in 2020. The Saints, who lost starting quarterback Jameis Winston to a torn ACL last Sunday, face the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9.

Jameis Winston has been ruled out for the remainder of the NFL season with a torn ACL.

The New Orleans Saints starting quarterback suffered the injury during Sunday's shock win over his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Saints coach Sean Payton said after the game the damage done was "significant" and has since confirmed reports over the injury diagnosis, meaning Winston will miss the second half of the 2021 campaign.

Winston sustained his knee injury in the second quarter during a horse-collar tackle by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White and was carted off the field with the score tied at 7-7, later leaving the stadium on crutches.

The Saints still went on to complete a shock 36-27 Week 8 win that thrust them into contention to challenge the Bucs in the NFC South.

Winston had completed six of 10 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown while scrambling for 40 yards before exiting the game.

This season he has thrown for 1,170 yards, 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions, his passer rating of 102.8 being far and away the best of his career to date.

The injury will come as a bitter blow to Winston as he attempts to rebuild his career after being replaced by Tom Brady with the Bucs after the 2019 season and then spending last season as a backup to Drew Brees.

With fellow QB Taysom Hill ruled out of the Bucs game due to a concussion, it was third-string Trevor Siemian who replaced Winston and helped the Saints (5-2) top the Bucs (6-2).

Siemian threw a touchdown and finished 16-of-29 passing for 159 yards.

The Saints, who are well placed to push for a place in the playoffs, have another home divisional match against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9.

Winston will be forced to watch on and is scheduled to become a free agent at the end of the campaign, having only re-signed for the team on a one-year extension in March.

Brady, meanwhile, passed for 375 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in the Bucs' defeat.

The MVP candidate now has 38 games in his career with four or more TD passes, surpassing Brees for the most in NFL history.

The veteran also became only the fourth player to record at least 2,500 passing yards and 25 TD passes through the first eight games of an NFL season.

Brady joined Peyton Manning (2013), Patrick Mahomes (2018) and Russell Wilson, who achieved the feat for the Seattle Seahawks last year.

Tom Brady shouldered the blame after throwing a pick-six in Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 36-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

The NFL Super Bowl champions incurred the wrath of coach Bruce Arians, who described the display as "embarrassing".

And Brady did not hide from his part in what was the Bucs' first loss in five as he lamented his uncharacteristic lapse.

"I think I just threw it to the wrong guy," Brady said, having thrown an interception before watching on as it was returned for a 40-yard touchdown by P.J. Williams.

"I had Mike [Evans] open. It cost us the game.

"It's tough to win when you turn the ball over like we did. So, I have to not throw interceptions. That's the key."

Coach Arians was angered by the performance at the Superdome against a Saints side who lost Jameis Winston to a serious-looking injury.

"I thought that it was an embarrassing display of football," Arians said.

"Of all the things that we talked about coming down here about what it takes to win, and to play like that, it starts with me.

"Obviously, we weren't ready to play, penalties, turnovers, you're not beating anybody that way.

"Sean [Payton] did a hell of a job bringing in [Trevor] Siemian; and, did a hell of a job winning the game. And, we didn't make the plays."

On Brady, Arians added: "He forced the one at the end. That was not characteristic of him."

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton fears quarterback Jameis Winston suffered a "significant" knee injury in the team's shock 36-27 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

The Saints stunned Tom Brady and the reigning NFL Super Bowl champions in New Orleans, however, the win was overshadowed by Winston's injury.

Facing his former team, Winston was carted off the field in the second quarter after sustaining a knee injury during a horse-collar tackle by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White.

Winston had completed six of 10 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown while scrambling for 40 yards before exiting the game with the score tied 7-7.

Afterwards, Payton told reporters of the two-time Pro Bowler: "I think it's significant.

"He felt something and he's on crutches right now. I don't want to say until I have a chance to talk with the doctors."

Payton added: "I cried when I saw him coming in. It's hard."

Veteran backup Trevor Siemian replaced Winston and helped the Saints (5-2) top the Buccaneers (6-2).

Siemian threw a touchdown, finishing 16-of-29 passing for 159 yards.

P.J. Williams sealed the win after picking off seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady for a late 40-yard interception return.

"First I want to say how gutted I am for Jameis. This win was for him," said Siemian. "I just feel for the guy, I love him so much. Just being around him, you can't help it, he's got this infectious personality.

"And you're just frickin' gutted when you see anybody hurt. But watching him get hurt was tough."

Tampa Bay's White, who played alongside Winston before the QB joined the Saints in April last year, added: "He's a great guy. I'm gonna put an emphasis on that. All last year when they was playing and we was playing, he was texting -- I don't know if he was texting everybody, but me and him was close.

"When I came in, he kinda showed me around -- and just telling me how proud he was of me. Even when we won a Super Bowl, he was one of the first texts, like, 'Congratulations, man. I wish I could be a part of that, but y'all deserve it. You put a lot of work in, and we always talked about how special you all could be.'

"He's a great guy. You hate to see that happen. I hope it's not serious, man. I'm just praying for him. But it's a long season. [I] hope he can come back and fight with his team."

Tom Brady threw a costly pick-six to ice a 36-27 win for the New Orleans Saints over NFL Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

All eyes were on Saints quarterback Jameis Winston in his reunion with the Buccaneers, having moved to New Orleans in April last year following five mixed seasons with Tampa Bay.

But Winston was carted off the field in the second quarter against his former team, suffering a knee injury during a horse-collar tackle by Buccaneers linebacker Devin White.

Winston had completed six of 10 passes for 56 yards and a touchdown while scrambling for 40 yards before exiting the game with the score tied 7-7.

Led by veteran backup Trevor Siemian, the Saints (5-2) still held on to sink Brady's Buccaneers (6-2) on home turf, despite the latter becoming the all-time leader for most three-plus passing TD games in NFL history (98).

Four touchdown passes from seven-time Super Bowl champion Brady helped the Buccaneers overturn a 23-7 deficit – Tampa Bay moving ahead 27-26 following a 50-yard throw to Cyril Grayson just over five minutes from the end.

But Brian Johnson's field goal with less than two minutes remaining restored New Orleans' lead, albeit by two points, before P.J. Williams picked off Brady – his second interception of the contest – for a 40-yard interception return to seal the win.

 

Broncos block two field goals

The Denver Broncos and their defence held firm to see off the lowly Washington Football Team 17-10.

Denver blocked two field goals en route to their fourth win of the season, snapping a four-game skid.

Dre'Mont Jones (in the fourth quarter) and Shelby Harris (in the second period) each blocked field-goal attempts from Chris Blewitt as the Broncos avoided going winless in October for the first time since 1967.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers head into Week 8 with a 6-1 record, though their form will be tested against the New Orleans Saints.

Tom Brady threw for four touchdowns and 211 yards in the Bucs' 38-3 thrashing of the Chicago Bears last week, though Tampa Bay's recent record against the Saints is poor.

The Los Angeles Rams are also 6-1, and are looking to extend their strong start when they take on the Houston Texans, who are out to avoid a franchise first.

Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase, meanwhile, have been linking up to superb effect for the Cincinnati Bengals, who are at the New York Jets on Sunday. 

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-1) @ New Orleans Saints (4-2)

Tampa Bay may have picked up from where they left off last season, but their recent run against New Orleans has not been at all profitable.

New Orleans have won five straight games against NFC South rivals Tampa Bay, which is the longest active losing streak for the Buccaneers against any single opponent.

However, the Bucs did set franchise records for points in a first quarter with 21, and points in a first half with 35, in their 38-3 win over the Bears. The 21 first-quarter and 35 first-half points are also the most scored by any NFL team this season.

Mike Evans caught three touchdowns against the Bears with all of them coming in the first half. He joined Marvin Harrison, Marvin Jones Jr, Jerry Rice, and Sterling Sharpe as the only players since the merger to have multiple games with three first-half touchdown catches.

The Saints beat the Seattle Seahawks in their last outing, and had 35 passing attempts in that win. Both teams have combined to win 76.9 per cent of their games this season, the highest combined winning percentage that the teams have ever had when facing each other.

Los Angeles Rams (6-1) @ Houston Texans (1-6)

This will be only the fifth all-time meeting between the Texans and the Rams, and just the second game since the latter moved back to Los Angeles.

The Rams have outscored the Texans by an aggregate of 71-20 over the last two meetings, and, at 6-1, Los Angeles are enjoying their equal second-best start to a season this century, behind the 7-0 run in 2018.

They are also looking to win each of their first four road games of a season for the fourth time since 2000, having also done this in 2001, 2017 and 2018.

Matthew Stafford has thrown for 2,172 yards this season, the most by any Rams player in the team's first seven games of the season since Kurt Warner threw for 2,445 yards in the first seven games of 2000.

Houston, meanwhile, have lost six straight, with each of the last two losses coming by over 25 points. The Texans have not lost three straight games by at least 25 points in franchise history – the only team to do so in a single season in the last 25 years were the Miami Dolphins in 2019.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) @ New York Jets (1-5)

The Bengals have won each of the last three meetings between these teams, matching their longest-ever win streak over the Jets (1973-81). Cincinnati's 23-22 win in New York in 2016 snapped a nine-game losing streak when visiting the Jets.

Cincinnati only managed four wins in 2020, but they surpassed that figure with a brilliant 41-17 victory in Baltimore last week, with quarterback Burrow and wide receiver Chase turning in stellar performances.

Burrow passed for a career-high 416 yards and tied a previous career high with three touchdown passes. It was his seventh consecutive game with multiple TD passes, tying a franchise record set twice before by Carson Palmer (2004-05 and 2010).

Chase, meanwhile, had 201 receiving yards, the most all-time by a Bengals rookie and the most by any rookie since Mike Evans had 209 in 2014. Chase's 754 receiving yards in 2021 ranks are the most by any player through seven career games in NFL history.

The Jets' 54-13 loss to the Patriots last week was their largest defeat since a 45-3 loss in Week 13 of the 2010 season, which also happened in New England. The 54 points are the fourth-most that New York have allowed in a single game and the most since 1980.

Elsewhere...

The Detroit Lions are still winless, going 0-7 so far, but could snap the losing streak against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Lions have won three straight against Philadelphia, with each of the last two games being decided by three points or fewer. 

Strugglers the Miami Dolphins travel to Buffalo. With two receiving yards on Sunday, Stefon Diggs will reach 2,000 as a Bill in just his 23rd game with the team. That would be tied for the second fewest games needed by any player with any single team in the Super Bowl era (Odell Beckham Jr. – 21 with the Giants, Vincent Jackson – 23 with Tampa Bay, Brandon Marshall – 23 with Chicago).

Fresh from their win over the Jets, the Patriots will aim to maintain the momentum against the Los Angeles Chargers, against whom they have five straight wins and are 16-3 in the last 19 meetings.

An AFC North clash sees the Browns (4-3) host the 3-3 Steelers. Pittsburgh have not won in Cleveland since 2017, as the teams tied in 2018 before the Browns won in 2019 and 2020.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston is trying to keep his emotions in check by not dwelling on the past ahead of his first start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he made it clear "I want to beat 'em bad".

Winston joined the Saints in April last year after five mixed seasons with the Buccaneers to begin his NFL career, while Tampa Bay turned to superstar Tom Brady, leading to Super Bowl glory.

The first overall pick in the 2015 draft, Winston made 72 appearances for the Buccaneers, starting 70, completing 61.3 per cent of his passes and throwing 121 touchdowns and 88 interceptions.

This season, Winston has led the Saints to a 4-2 record behind 89 completions for 1,114 yards, 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions, with a career-high 102.4 rating.

Winston's passing touchdown percentage (8.6), meanwhile, leads the NFL.

Previewing Sunday's NFC South showdown with Brady and former team the Buccaneers (6-1), 2015 Pro Bowler Winston told reporters: "This week is big. But I mean every week is big for me. Being out a year, you get a chance to see how much you miss being away from this game.

"Yeah, I'm playing against the old squad. But I love this game, and I'm trying to go out there and beat everybody we play, no matter who it is.

"I've always been an emotional football player. I think that's something that I'm trying to work on -- being present instead of being stuck in my feelings.

"As a quarterback, we have to be present all the time and aware of everything that's going on. Sometimes too much emotion can lead us places that we don't want to go.

"Obviously I want to beat 'em, I want to beat 'em bad. And in my heart, I'm ready to rock. But at the end of the day they're another opponent -- another opponent that we gotta beat that's in this division. And they've got a good team, they're coming in here hot. So we've gotta stand our ground and represent at our house."

New Orleans have won five straight games against Tampa Bay, which is the longest active losing streak for the Buccaneers against any single opponent, per Stats Perform.

The Saints have ran on 53 percent of their offensive plays this season and are the only team in the NFL to have more running plays than passing plays in 2021 – New Orleans had 35 passing attempts in their win over the Seattle Seahawks, their most in a game this season.

DeMario Davis delivered a supreme defensive effort and earned plaudits from coach Sean Payton after the New Orleans Saints rallied for a 13-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

The Saints linebacker impressed for the visitors with 10 tackles in all as he and his team-mates had five sacks in the hard-earned victory at Lumen Field.

"We take a lot of pride in our defense," Davis said. "We've got to be able to play complementary football. We have a very high standard for our group and there's no other way that we would take it. Defense on the field with the game on the line. We get excited, and we play with a lot of energy in those situations."

Speaking about the string of sacks, which went 5-2 in New Orleans' favour, Davis said: "That's a credit to the cover guys. We can take away the first read, and he has to hold the ball. Credit to the D coordinator and the D line having a good rush plan for us. And then guys just executing their job.

"It's fun to play on defense when you know that all you have to do is do your job and it's going to work. Guys did their job. I think we were getting pressures early on, but we weren't getting them to the ground, we've got to find a way to get him on the ground."

Payton was full of appreciation as he watched on, with the Saints recovering from allowing a stunning 84-yard pass from Geno Smith (12 for 22 passes, 167 yards and one touchdown) to star team-mate DK Metcalf.

With Davis on his game, Payton savoured watching his team improve to 4-2 for the season, dealing the Seahawks (2-5) a fourth straight loss.

The Saints coach said of Davis: "Man, I just love the way he leads and plays with enthusiasm. He's really developed into not just run but pass as well. He's someone who has good instincts, can close the cushion on a run or a play in space. He tackles well. He's playing well, and I'm sure when we look at the tape, we'll see a lot of good efforts. That was a good hard-fought win."

There had been pre-game talk of a bomb cyclone hitting the Seattle area, but the worst-case weather threat failed to materialise.

Payton said such a forecast "kind of gets your attention", but in the end the storm was relatively tame, and the same could be said for the sniping among the sides.

Davis said of the at-times tetchy atmosphere: "Sometimes guys want to be tough on the field and talk after the play, and this is the most physical sport there is. You've got seven seconds to be as physical as you want to be, you got to prove it between the whistles.

"I'm never going to be the guy to talk after the whistles and doing extra because at that point you're just trying to bully someone. I've always been the guy that's going to bully the bully. And team-mates appreciate it when you have their back like that.

"I try to stay pretty level-headed between the whistles and while I'm on the field, but I'm always going to have my team-mates' back, and I think they appreciate it, and it gives them motivation."

Alvin Kamara's 13-yard touchdown reception gave New Orleans their lone TD of the night. Kamara caught 10 passes for 128 yards, becoming the first running back with eight-plus receptions and 100-plus receiving yards in the first half of a game since 2004.

Kamara said of his own effort: "I didn't know what to expect. Every game has a life in of its own self and the flavour of this week ended up getting a lot of touches."

The New Orleans Saints flexed their defensive muscles in a hard-fought 13-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks in NFL action on Monday.

This was the first meeting where neither future Hall of Famer Drew Brees (retired) nor Russell Wilson (injured) started at quarterback since 2004, per Stats Perform.

Leading the Saints following Brees' retirement, Jameis Winston (19-of-35 passing for 222 yards, one touchdown and two sacks) helped New Orleans improve to 4-2 for the season against the slumping Seahawks – who dropped their fourth consecutive game – in Seattle.

But it was a defensive battle at Lumen Field, where Saints linebacker Demario Davis fuelled the visitors with five sacks and multiple tackles.

The Seahawks set the tone in the opening quarter following a stunning 84-run pass from Geno Smith (12 for 22 passes, 167 yards and one touchdown with five sacks) to star team-mate DK Metcalf.

It was the longest pass TD for the Seahawks since an 87-yard connection from Matt Hasselbeck to Ben Obomanu in 2010 and the third-longest in franchise history.

New Orleans, though, took a 10-7 leading into half-time thanks to Brian Johnson's 21-yard field goal and Alvin Kamara's 13-yard touchdown reception – the team's lone TD.

Kamara caught 10 passes for 128 yards, while he became the first running back with eight-plus receptions and 100-plus receiving yards in the first half of a game since 2004.

After Seattle kicker Jason Myers levelled proceedings with a monster 50-yard field goal in the third quarter, Johnson settled the contest by nailing his attempt two minutes from the end of the game.

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