By Around the NFL staff
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Another Motor City Miracle! Matthew Stafford led yet another fourth-quarter comeback, Matt Prater kicked a 58-yard field goal to tie and Golden Tate topped Detroit’s win off with a game-winning touchdown catch-and-run in overtime. Also on this episode of football: Doug Pederson refuses to kick field goals; the Jets and Dolphins play flag-happy football; and the Browns lose. Here’s what we’ve learned from Week 9:
1. If we were looking for an example of high-flying, aesthetically pleasing football, we failed miserably in Kansas City. The CBS broadcast team’s first postgame question for Chiefs quarterback Nick Folesbegan with “Nick, we know it wasn’t pretty at times …” and that ugliness didn’t spare Foles, who was making his first start as a Chief in place of the injured Alex Smith. Instead of appearing as the calm, cool and collected Foles from last week in Indianapolis, the quarterback was frequently inaccurate, coming up short on some and narrowly avoiding what should have been an interception, if it wasn’t for Jacksonville’s Tashaun Gipson and Prince Amukamara colliding in pursuit of the same pass. TheChiefs are better with Smith, and with Spencer Ware, whom they also missed dearly in the running game.
2. Jacksonville lost this game as much as Kansas City won it. The Jaguars twice handed gifts to the Chiefs, fumbling a punt return deep in Jacksonville territory to set up Foles and Co., which capitalized with a touchdown pass to Albert Wilson. Jacksonville, on multiple occasions, dropped passes in the open field that would have gone for big gains. No one was immune from the disappointments except for Marquise Lee, who has assembled three games of 60-plus receiving yards in his last four, finishing with four receptions for 84 yards.
3. Not all waist-hung cloth is made equal. That’s what Travis Kelce learned on Sunday. The tight end was tossed from the game early in the fourth after rebelling against officials in a colorful tirade that included the tossing of his towel at a zebra. One thing is for certain: Kansas City needs its playmakers back to avoid a similar performance in weeks ahead, in which they might not be as fortunate. It’s much murkier in Jacksonville, which has a laundry list of issues that need to be addressed by Gus Bradley before he’s shown the door.
— Nick Shook
1. Points — points for everyone! That was the tone of the first half, when Drew Brees threw for two touchdowns and Mark Ingram rushed for two more. Colin Kaepernick countered with two touchdown passes of his own, including a 65-yard catch and run by tight end Vance McDonald. The two teams combined for a league-high 51 first-half points. And then, it screeched to a halt. The big plays for the Niners disappeared, and we saw just one touchdown in the second half and 13 total points combined.
2. Michael Thomas has arrived. The rookie wideout caught two touchdown passes, with the second being a 32-yard score that left fans in the stands and viewers at home slack-jawed. Thomas showed a penchant for the incredible when at Ohio State, and he’s proving New Orleans right in selecting him 47th overall in the draft. The rookie finished with five catches, 73 yards and two touchdowns, and pushed past the halfway-to-1,000 mark with 573 yards on the season. Sunday was his first multi-touchdown game of his pro career. And really, just watch that catch. With Thomas, Willie Snead and Brandin Cooks, Brees’ passing attack seems poised to flourish in the coming weeks.
3. After starting off 1-3, it seems as though the Saints are starting to figure it out. A win over the hapless Niners isn’t much of a statement, but last week’s close victory over Seattle sure sent a message, and New Orleans’ avoidance of a letdown game this week is very encouraging for Sean Payton’s squad. Their defense still struggles and allows almost any offense to score with ease. But the halftime adjustments and improvement in shutting down San Francisco in the second half is another sign of life, a week after limiting Seattle to 20 points.
— Nick Shook