That left the NFC without a clear-cut choice for its third-best team. The Rams are 5-0, pending Sunday’s outcome at the Denver Broncos and quite obviously are the conference’s superpower. The Saints have the NFL’s newly crowned king of career passing yards, Drew Brees, and have showed some signs of being able to have the sort of versatile team around Brees that they had last season. They’re 4-1.
But would-be NFC heavyweights like the Philadelphia Eagles, the defending Super Bowl champs, and the Minnesota Vikings have struggled early in the season. The Green Bay Packers have looked less than imposing with quarterback Aaron Rodgers hindered by a knee injury. The Atlanta Falcons have sunk to the bottom of the NFC South.
That has provided an opening for teams like the Bears and Panthers. And they couldn’t do anything about it Sunday.
The Bears began the day ranked second in the league in total defense and scoring defense. They got to face Osweiler, with Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the inactive list because of an ailing shoulder. Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, coming off a six-passing-touchdown game, was beginning to resemble a franchise quarterback.
And yet, the Bears found a way to lose in overtime, 31-28.
They pretty much had to go out of their way to do it. They faced a seven-point halftime deficit after tailback Jordan Howard lost a first-half fumble at the Miami 1-yard line. But they regrouped and led 21-10 in the third quarter. It was 21-13 in the fourth quarter when Trubisky was intercepted in the end zone at a time when the Bears could have all but put the game away with just a field goal. The Dolphins promptly tied the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion.
Trubisky provided a go-ahead touchdown pass. And again, the defense couldn’t hold the lead, and the Dolphins forced overtime. In overtime, it was the Dolphins who fumbled at the Chicago 1-yard line. But the Bears could not take advantage, when kicker Cody Parkey missed a 53-yard field goal attempt. Miami’s kicker, Jason Sanders, connected on a 47-yard field goal as time expired in overtime to give the Dolphins the victory. Osweiler ended up throwing for 380 yards and three touchdowns, albeit with two interceptions.
So the Bears missed their chance to be 4-1. So, too, did the Panthers, who allowed old friend Josh Norman to have a standout day against them as the Redskins prevailed, 23-17. That’s after the Panthers needed a miraculous field goal to beat the lowly New York Giants in their previous game.
What now? The Vikings, with two straight victories, are showing signs of becoming the team that they were expected to be all along. The Eagles are coming off a triumph Thursday night over the Giants and trail the Redskins by a half-game atop the NFC East. The Bears and Panthers aren’t done, even as feeble as they were Sunday.
There is plenty of season left, and someone undoubtedly will emerge to challenge the Rams and Saints for NFC bragging rights. But at this point, there is no way of knowing which team or teams that will be.
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