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NFL Sunday takeaways: Eagles beat Colts, Bills win in Detroit, Vikings sputter

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts scores the game-winning touchdown against the Colts in Indianapolis. (Darron Cummings/AP)
11 min

INDIANAPOLIS — The Philadelphia Eagles got back into the win column and kept the Indianapolis Colts from improving to 2-0 under Jeff Saturday, albeit just barely.

The Buffalo Bills made the most of their snow day in Detroit.

The New England Patriots, who always beat the New York Jets, found a new way to do it.

The Minnesota Vikings followed a memorable game with an outing to forget.

So it went on the Sunday of Week 11 of the NFL season.

Saturday suffered his first loss as interim head coach of the Colts. But he and his team were oh-so-close to making it two victories in two games since owner Jim Irsay made his much-criticized coaching switch from Frank Reich to Saturday, the former all-pro center and erstwhile ESPN analyst who never had coached above the high school level previously. The Colts fell to the Eagles, 17-16, here at Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Colts led, 13-3, entering the fourth quarter. They still led, 16-10, when the Eagles faced a third-and-goal play from the Indianapolis 7-yard line with just more than a minute to play. The one thing the Colts could not allow the Eagles to do was beat them with a quarterback draw by Hurts. Inexplicably, that’s exactly what happened.

The Colts left the middle of the field wide open. Hurts took the snap, ran straight ahead and easily reached the end zone untouched. The Eagles took the lead with the extra point and thwarted the Colts’ last-gasp effort on offense with a third-down sack of quarterback Matt Ryan, followed by a false-start penalty by Indianapolis and a fourth-and-21 completion far short of a first down.

The Colts certainly had their chances. They went straight down the field, behind the running of tailback Jonathan Taylor, for an opening-drive touchdown, following the Washington Commanders’ script in their triumph last Monday night over the Eagles in Philadelphia. But the Colts never reached the end zone again. They missed a third-quarter field goal attempt. Taylor lost a fourth-quarter fumble struggling for extra yards in a pileup of players. The Colts managed only a field goal with less than five minutes left after getting a first down at the Philadelphia 5-yard line. They aided the Eagles’ winning drive with a 39-yard defensive pass interference penalty.

The Eagles were listless for much of the game but managed to rebound from the defeat to the Commanders and improve their record to 9-1. Some of the players who committed major blunders during the mistake-filled loss Monday had big plays in crunchtime Sunday in Indianapolis. Wide receiver Quez Watkins, who lost a key fumble Monday, had a 22-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter Sunday to narrow the Eagles’ deficit to 13-10. Veteran defensive end Brandon Graham, who had a silly penalty to seal the loss to the Commanders, sacked Ryan to all but seal Sunday’s victory. Coach Nick Sirianni won in his return to Indianapolis, where he previously was the Colts’ offensive coordinator under Reich.

The Bills felt right at home at Ford Field. Their hectic week concluded with a 31-23 victory over the Cleveland Browns in the home-away-from-home game the NFL relocated from Orchard Park, N.Y., to Detroit because of the massive snowstorm in western New York.

The game had an announced paid attendance of 52,146, a relatively remarkable figure considering the NFL made the decision to move the game Thursday. Simply getting to Detroit was a considerable task for the Bills, as fans and team employees helped to clear snow at players’ homes to assist them to make it to Saturday’s flight to Detroit. The Bills didn’t practice Friday. They planned to return to Buffalo after the game and will make another trip to Detroit for their Thanksgiving Day game there against the Lions. The Bills chose the visiting locker room, sideline and coaching booth Sunday because that’s where they’ll be Thursday.

They ended their two-game losing streak, but it came after a sluggish beginning. The Bills had only 15 yards of total offense in the opening quarter. They got far better from there, as they ended up amassing 171 rushing yards. Quarterback Josh Allen contributed a touchdown pass to wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Kicker Tyler Bass provided six field goals.

The Patriots defeated the Jets for a 14th straight meeting. But their 10-3 win Sunday in Foxborough, Mass., came in unique fashion. The game’s only touchdown came on an 84-yard punt return by the Patriots’ Marcus Jones with five seconds to play.

It was the first punt return for a touchdown in the NFL this season. It came on the 17th punt of the game. The Jets had 10 punts and only nine completions by quarterback Zach Wilson. The Patriots prevailed despite two missed field goals by usually reliable kicker Nick Folk.

For all the talk of the Jets’ revival and the Patriots’ issues this season, the two teams now have matching 6-4 records. After Wilson threw three interceptions in a 22-17 defeat to the Patriots three weeks earlier in the Meadowlands, he reminded reporters the rematch was coming soon. He didn’t exactly take advantage of his chance for redemption. Wilson didn’t throw an interception Sunday but connected on only nine of 22 passes for 77 yards.

It was a bad day for both residents of Exit 16W. The New York Giants were playing at home but faltered badly and lost to the Lions, 31-18, in East Rutherford, N.J. The Giants dropped to 7-3 and played more like the rebuilding team they were supposed to be this season than the contender they rapidly have become under Brian Daboll, their first-year coach. The Lions somehow will take a three-game winning streak into their Thanksgiving matchup with the Bills as they reclaim their stadium.

The champs appear done. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was cleared Friday under the NFL concussion protocols after missing one game, returned to the Los Angeles Rams’ lineup Sunday in New Orleans. But Stafford left the game to be evaluated for a concussion, according to the Rams, as they lost to the Saints, 27-20.

The Super Bowl triumph in February is a fading memory now for the Rams. They have a record of 3-7. Wide receiver Cooper Kupp is sidelined with a high ankle sprain. The Rams perhaps should consider withholding Stafford for the remainder of the season, regardless of what is determined under the protocols.

Cordarrelle Patterson made kick-return history. Patterson had a touchdown on a 103-yard kickoff return in Atlanta to help the Falcons beat the Chicago Bears, 27-24, and remain in contention in the NFC South — such as it is — at 5-6. They’re a half-game behind the first-place Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are on their bye and are the division’s lone .500 team.

It was Patterson’s ninth career touchdown on a kickoff return, an NFL record. He broke a tie with Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington. According to NFL Research, Patterson has seven career touchdowns of 100 or more yards; no one else in league history has more than three.

There was no encore for the Vikings. A week after outlasting the Bills in overtime in Orchard Park in the most compelling game of the season, they gave a dud of a performance at home and lost to the Dallas Cowboys, 40-3.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw for only 105 yards on 12-for-23 passing. Wide receiver Justin Jefferson was limited to three catches for 33 yards. The Cowboys amassed seven sacks. On offense, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott threw two touchdown passes, and tailback Ezekiel Elliott ran for two touchdowns. The Cowboys did have a frightening moment when star pass rusher Micah Parsons left the field with a knee injury, but he returned to the game.

The Vikings lost for only the second time this season, falling to 8-2. They still have a four-game lead in the NFC North and are only a game behind the Eagles for the No. 1 seed in the NFC. But this game will contribute to the notion, fair or not, that Cousins and the Vikings cannot be trusted to show up consistently in meaningful games.

Bills-Browns in Detroit, Jeff Saturday goes for 2-0

The Buffalo Bills play a home-away-from-home game, Jeff Saturday seeks a 2-0 start as interim coach of the Indianapolis Colts, and the Minnesota Vikings see what they can do for an encore on the Sunday of Week 11 of the NFL season.

The Bills and Cleveland Browns will play at Ford Field in Detroit at 1 p.m. Eastern time. The NFL relocated the game Thursday from Orchard Park, N.Y., because of the massive snowstorm in western New York, with accumulations being measured in feet rather than in inches.

It’s not an ideal scenario for the Bills as they attempt to end a two-game losing streak that knocked them from first place in the AFC East and led some observers to question their once widely acknowledged status as the Super Bowl favorite. Quarterback Josh Allen has thrown six interceptions over the past three games and has been dealing with an elbow injury.

It will be an interesting scene for a rare neutral-site NFL game within the United States; Bills fans usually travel well but face weather-related obstacles in the Buffalo area if they want to get to this game. The Bills canceled their practice Friday and met virtually. The Browns traveled by bus from Cleveland to Detroit for their second-to-last game without suspended quarterback Deshaun Watson.

The Colts host the Philadelphia Eagles in another early-afternoon game as Saturday coaches his first game in Indianapolis. He never had coached above the high school level when Colts owner Jim Irsay hired him to replace the fired Frank Reich.

Expectations were decidedly low, at least outside the organization. But the Saturday-led Colts, after a last-minute starting-quarterback switch to Matt Ryan, began with a road triumph last Sunday over the Las Vegas Raiders. The competition is far more formidable this time: an Eagles team coming off its first loss of the season following an 8-0 beginning.

Bills-Browns game moved from Buffalo to Detroit because of snowstorm

The Washington Commanders used their running game to control the clock in their victory Monday night over the Eagles in Philadelphia. The Eagles gave a sloppy performance. The offense had four turnovers. The defense allowed a dozen third-down conversations. Veteran defender Brandon Graham committed a silly penalty at game’s end to seal the defeat. As the Eagles seek a rebound, they probably will have to demonstrate they can slow down Colts tailback Jonathan Taylor.

The Vikings host the Dallas Cowboys in a late-afternoon game in Minneapolis, trying to improve their record to 9-1. They’re suddenly on even footing with the Eagles in the race for the top seed in the NFC playoff field and the first-round bye that comes with it.

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They beat the Bills in Orchard Park last Sunday in the most compelling game of the NFL season thus far. Wide receiver Justin Jefferson provided a memorably great catch on a key fourth-down play. The Vikings took the lead late in regulation with a touchdown on a fumbled snap by the Bills on a quarterback sneak to try to move the ball away from their own goal line. The Bills forced overtime with a quick rush down the field for a field goal, but the Vikings prevailed in the extra session.

Now they host another NFC contender, the Cowboys. The Vikings can take another meaningful step toward showing that they can be trusted to be considered a true upper-tier team and a viable Super Bowl contender.