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NFL Week 8 grades: Saints get an A+ in Drew Brees' return, Bears get a D- for brutal loss to Chargers Here are the Week 8 grades for every team that played on Sunday and Monday John Breech mugshot by John Breech @johnbreech 18 hrs ago

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NFL Week 8 grades: Saints get an A+ in Drew Brees' return, Bears get a D- for brutal loss to Chargers

Here are the Week 8 grades for every team that played on Sunday and Monday


If that was a rusty Drew Brees on the field in New Orleans on Sunday, then the rest of the NFL is probably going to be in a lot of trouble once that rust wears off. 

After missing the Saints' past five games with a thumb injury, Brees finally returned to the field on Sunday and he didn't miss a beat. With Brees under center, the Saints offense exploded for 510 yards in a 31-9 win over the Cardinals. It was the Saints' first time cracking the 500-yard mark since Week 1 when Brees was also under center. 

In his return to the field against the Cardinals, Brees threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns. The most impressive thing about Brees' performance is that it came barely six weeks after he suffered a thumb injury that was supposed to take up to eight weeks to heal. After dicing up the Cardinals, Brees said his goal was always to return this week, even though doctors had suggest a return after the Saints' Week 10 bye might make more sense. 

"This was kind of the week that I had in my mind from the moment that I got hurt," Brees said. "I think the doctors and everybody were saying after the bye week, but I was trying to fast track that as much as possible."

A wild Week 8 is almost in the books and there's a lot to go over. Fortunately Will Brinson, John Breech, Ryan Wilson and Sean Wagner-McGough are here to break everything down on the latest episode of the Pick Six Podcast. Listen to the full show below and be sure to subscribe right here for daily NFL goodness.

Brees clearly made the right call about playing, and once he hit the field, it was pretty much impossible to tell that he had ever missed any time. Fittingly, Brees' first completion of the game went to Michael Thomas, and after that, the two seemed to be reading each others' minds. Brees threw a total of 11 passes to Thomas, who caught all 11 of them for 112 yards and a touchdown. 

The most surprising part of Brees' performance might have been the fact that he put up huge numbers without one of his favorite targets on the field. With Alvin Kamara out against Arizona, the Saints turned to Latavius Murray. Although some NFL teams have a thunder and lightning tandem at running back, Murray managed to fill both of those roles on Sunday. 

When the Saints needed him to be a bruiser, he did it, and when they needed him to be more of a pass-catcher, he did that too. Murray totaled 155 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals with 102 of that coming on the ground and 55 yards coming through the air. 

As for Brees, he did make one mistake -- a third quarter interception to Patrick Peterson -- but mistakes are kind of expected when you have a quarterback returning from a six-week break. 


Brees will now be getting another break, except this one is planned. The Saints have a Week 9 bye, which means they'll likely be at full strength when they return in Week 10 to play the Falcons. With the Saints getting healthy and Brees having already worked off the rust, the road to the NFC title could end up going through New Orleans.  

New Orleans 31-9 over Arizona

The final score is the final score, but the Cardinals did not play like a team that lost by 22 points. In fact, they trailed by just four points as late as halfway through the third quarter. Does that excuse them from putting up only three field goals, completely abandoning the running game and essentially letting the Saints do everything they wanted to do in the red zone late in the game? No. But Kyler Murray deserved more than nine points. If not for an uncharacteristic early Larry Fitzgerald mistake on an end-zone ball, the Cards may have led at halftime, and they can take pride knowing they've got one heck of an athlete under center for the future.
This game was a perfect example of why the Saints are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. In a game where they surrendered a number of chunk plays, turned the ball over and came up short on several early red-zone trips, the Saints still dropped 31 and had their way with Arizona all over the field -- and that was with Drew Brees playing in his first action since Week 2 and Alvin Kamara still sidelined. Their depth is incredible, their offense is balanced, and their defense comes up with plays when it needs to. Saints fans should be thrilled.

Cardinals-Saints grades by Cody Benjamin (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

L.A. Rams 24-10 over Cincinnati (in London)

Cooper Kupp might want to think about requesting to have all the Rams games moved to London after the way he played on Sunday. Kupp ran circles around the Bengals secondary in a game where he finished with seven catches for 220 yards. The receiver's biggest play came in the first half when he caught a 65-yard TD on a trick play. Kupp's receiving total was the second biggest of the year for any player in the NFL. Although the Rams almost looked like they were just going through the motions at times against an overmatched Bengals team, they did come up with a few big plays. The Bengals were no match for a Rams defensive front that racked up five sacks, with 1.5 of those coming from both Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Dante Fowler
It took eight weeks, but it looks like the Bengals have finally figured out the secret to get their running game going: play in a different country. Going into Sunday, the Bengals were dead last in the NFL in rushing with an average just 53.1 yards per game, but against the Rams they almost doubled that total, finishing with 104 yards on the ground. The Bengals' ability to control the ball kept them in the game, but they never really came close to pulling off the upset due to the fact that they were dealing with too many other issues. For one, they couldn't protect Andy Dalton, who was sacked five times. Also, they couldn't stop Cooper Kupp, who went off for 220 yards. 

Seattle 27-20 over Atlanta

Even though Seattle was going up against one of the worst pass defenses in football, it's almost like the Seahawks' plan for this game was to just run out the clock so they could leave Atlanta. The Seahawks ran early and often against the Falcons in a game where they ended up running the ball 33 times in 53 plays. For the most part, the game plan worked thanks to Chris Carson, who rushed for 90 yards on 20 carries. The Seahawks offense was also perfect in the red zone with three touchdowns on three trips. A big reason for that was Russell Wilson, who threw two touchdown passes to D.K. Metcalf from inside Atlanta's 4-yard line. The Seahawks defense is still a mild concern. The Falcons put up 512 yards of total offense, which is the most Seattle has given up in a regular season game since November 2015. 
Dan Quinn was already on the hot seat before this game even started, and if you're wondering how hot things are now, just imagine a seat that's in an oven, which is in a furnace, which is in a volcano that's being shot to the sun. Although this game ended up being close, the Falcons got off to a disastrous start with two turnovers and two missed field goals from Matt Bryant in a first half where they fell behind 24-0. One mild surprise for the Falcons was Matt Schaub, who started in place of an injured Matt Ryan and proceeded to throw for 460 yards, which was the third-highest total of any quarterback in the NFL this year. Falcons owner Arthur Blank has insisted that Quinn won't be fired midseason, but with the way the Falcons have been playing, it might be smart to finally make a move. 

L.A. Chargers 17-16 over Chicago

After a season of brutal losses, the Chargers finally got out-Chargered by another team. They definitely won't get any style points for this win, but ugly wins count the same as pretty ones in the NFL. The Chargers got outgained on the ground (162-36) and they got outgained through the air (226-195), but they were able to escape Chicago with a win thanks to defense that bent a lot, but never broke against the Bears. On three different possessions in the first half, the Bears drove inside the Chargers' 10-yard line, but L.A. was able to keep Chicago out of the end zone each time. The Chargers' pass rush had Mitchell Trubisky running for his life for nearly all four quarters, and that rush was led by Joey Bosa, who tallied two of L.A.'s four sacks. The Chargers also got a huge fumble recovery from Melvin Ingram in the fourth quarter that set up what eventually proved to be the game-winning touchdown. 
It's hard to say who had a worse day for the Bears: their coach, their kicker or their quarterback. Matt Nagy made lot of questionable calls in this game, but the worst one came when he decided to let 40 seconds run off the clock at the end of the game instead of trying to get Eddy Pineiro closer for a game-winning field goal attempt. In the end, Pineiro had to try a 41-yarder as time expired, which he missed to give L.A. to win. The miss capped an ugly day for Pinieiro, who also missed from 33 yards in the game. Although Nagy and Pineiro were both bad, Mitchell Trubisky might have had the ugliest day of all. Not only was the Bears quarterback erratic, but he had two pivotal turnovers on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter. A big reason the Bears lost this game is because they came away with zero first half touchdowns despite the fact that they drove inside of the Chargers' 10-yard line on three separate possessions in the half.

Detroit 31-26 over N.Y. Giants

The 2019 season has basically been one long nightmare for the Giants defense, and that nightmare continued in Detroit. The Giants had no answers for Matthew Stafford, who torched them for 342 yards. The Giants' biggest problem is that they couldn't get off the field on third down in a game where the Lions converted 8 of 14 third downs. The good news for the Giants is that the offense seems to slowly be getting better. Saquon Barkley totaled 143 yards and a touchdown while Daniel Jones threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns. Jones actually had a solid game, but he also had one of the ugliest plays that you'll ever see a quarterback make: He threw a backward lateral to Barkley that landed nowhere near his running back. The Lions then picked up the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown. 
Matthew Stafford got off to a slow start with an interception on the Lions' first possession, but after that, he spent the rest of the game abusing the Giants' defense. The most impressive thing about Stafford is that he had his long ball working perfectly on Sunday. The Lions quarterback completed two passes for 40 or more yards, which both went for touchdowns. The Giants defense had no answers for Kenny Golladay, who caught six passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Although the Lions weren't great on defense, the unit did come up with one big play when Devon Kennard returned a fumble 13 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. The defensive TD came on the possession after Stafford threw his pick and gave the Lions a lead they would never relinquish. 

Tennessee 27-23 over Tampa Bay

In what has basically become the story of Jameis Winston's career, the Buccaneers quarterback killed his team in this game with multiple costly turnovers. Winston totaled four turnovers against the Titans -- two interceptions and two lost fumbles -- and two of those turnovers came in the first quarter and set up Tennessee for two easy touchdowns. As a matter of fact, the Titans only had to drive 16 offensive yards for the two scores after recovering a Winston fumble at Tampa Bay's 10-yard line and then picking him off at Tampa Bay's 6-yard line. Despite Winston's struggles, the Bucs still almost pulled off the win. Tampa Bay appeared to take the lead late in the fourth quarter after returning a Titans fake field goal for a touchdown, but refs ruled that the whistle had blown before the return started, so the score was taken off the board. 
When you're a defense playing against Jameis Winston, you're almost always going to get a chance to make several big plays, and that Titans took advantage of those opportunities in this game. The Titans forced four turnovers, which ended being the difference in the game. One of the biggest plays of the first half came when Winston threw a pass directly to Malcolm Butler, who returned it to Tampa Bay's 6-yard line. Although the Titans offense wasn't flashy, it came through every time Tennessee needed it too. The Titans only had two drives in the game that went for more than 50 yards, and one of those came in the fourth quarter when Ryan Tannehill took them 90 yards for a touchdown. Tannehill capped the 12-play drive with an eight-yard TD pass to A.J. Brown that ended up being the game-winner. Tannehill, who ended the game with 193 passing yards and three touchdowns, found a new favorite receiver in Jonnu Smith, who was filling in for an injured Delanie Walker. Smith caught six passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. 

 Indianapolis 15-13 over Denver

You know things are getting bad in Denver when Joe Flacco starts complaining about things and that's exactly what happened after his loss. Flacco was rightfully upset with the Broncos' late-game play calling. Instead of going for the win on third-and-5 with just under two minutes left, the Broncos ran it up the middle to force the Colts to use their final timeout. The strategy didn't work and the Broncos ended up losing. The loss overshadowed a stout performance by a Broncos defense that sacked Jacoby Brissett four times while limiting Indy to just one touchdown. 
It's a good thing Adam Vinatieri decided to keep playing football, because the Colts definitely needed him in this game. Although Vinatieri missed a field goal and an extra point, the Colts kicker came through with three big field goals, including a 51-yarder that put the Colts ahead with under 25 seconds left to play in regulation. Not only did Vinatieri make that kick, but he also nailed a 55-yarder and a 45-yarder in the game. Vinatieri's performance -- he struggled early, only to come on late -- basically epitomized the Colts on Sunday. After only scoring three points in the first half, the Colts offense exploded for 12 points in the second half. 

Jacksonville 29-15 over N.Y. Jets

Sam Darnold didn't see any ghosts this week, but he might have been seeing stars from all the hits he took. The Jets quarterback was sacked eight times in a game where New York's offensive line looked like a turnstile. Although Darnold led the Jets to a touchdown on their opening possession, things went downhill after that for the offense. The constant pressure from the Jags forced Darnold into throwing three interceptions. Two of those picks came on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter and basically ended all hopes the Jets had of winning this game. 
Gardner Minshew must have spread some of his mustache magic all over the Jaguars roster, because the entire team looked unstoppable against the Jets. Although Minshew had a big game (279 yards, three touchdowns), the most impressive performance came from a Jags defense that sacked Sam Darnold eight times. The Jets couldn't figure out how to block Yannick Ngakoue or Josh Allen, who both tallied two sacks. Tre Herndon also had a big day with two interceptions. 

Philadelphia 31-13 over Buffalo

Have to give the Eagles credit after a tumultuous week of controversy inside the locker room. The Eagles showed up as the team that wanted it more, pounding the Bills defense to the tune of 218 rushing yards (the most ever under Doug Pederson) and scoring 31 points, the only team to score more than 21 against the Bills all year. The Bills had allowed less than 20 points in five of their six games and the Eagles scored 20 points in the second half alone. Miles Sanders had 118 total yards (74 rushing, 44 receiving) of offense in just over two quarters, including a career-long 65-yard touchdown run that gave the Eagles a double-digit lead they wouldn't relinquish. In heavy rain and wind, Carson Wentz completed 17 of 24 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown, finishing with a 104.9 passer rating. Wentz also had two runs of 10 yards or more in the fourth quarter on third down as part of a drive that took over eight minutes off the clock and sealed the 18-point win. This was a win the Eagles needed as they arguably played their best game of the year. 
The Bills played another team with a losing record, but lost this game thanks to a Josh Allen fumble at their own 24-yard line coming out of the two-minute warning in the first half with a 7-3 lead. The Eagles capitalized off the fumble recovery, taking 1:28 off the clock on a short field and scoring on a five-play, 24 yard drive to take a 11-7 lead heading into halftime, despite the Bills dominating in the first 30 minutes. That hurt Buffalo in the second half as they allowed the Eagles to score 20 points and gash the run defense to the tune of 218 yards. The Bills defense came into this one ranking third in points (15.2), yards (292.7), and yards per play (4.7) but the Eagles averaged 5.5 yards per play, scored 31 points, and had 371 total yards as they outscored the Bills 20-6 in the second half. The Buffalo defense couldn't get off the field either as the Eagles had a 14-play, 83-yard touchdown drive that broke the back of the Bills defense and took 8:17 off the clock to ice the win. Just a bad day for a Bills defense against an Eagles offense that was struggling heading into this one. 

Eagles-Bills grades by Jeff Kerr (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

San Francisco 51-13 over Carolina 

This matchup really was one of the more highly-anticipated games this week, but it ended in a 51-13 bloodbath. Sure, the Panthers had a backup quarterback, but Kyle Allen was undefeated as a starter this year. Carolina also had a bye week to prepare for the undefeated 49ers, but they didn't look rested -- they just looked rusty. Allen threw three picks, the offensive line struggled to contain all of the 49ers' pass rushers and the defense gave up several big plays. There were problems in every area, minus what Christian McCaffrey did of course. It would have been interesting to entertain the idea of Allen keeping his starting job over Cam Newton, but after Sunday, it's hard to imagine that will happen. The Panthers were absolutely dominated. 
Everything went right for the San Francisco 49ers this week. Tevin Coleman had four touchdowns, San Francisco's defensive line got to the quarterback seven times and No. 2 overall pick Nick Bosa had three sacks and an interception. If you didn't think the undefeated 49ers were for real coming into this week, you definitely do now. Allen had yet to throw an interception this season, but the 49ers forced three from him on Sunday. The defense did a relatively good job of bottling up McCaffrey and allowed just 230 yards of total offense. On the flip side, the 49ers offense was almost unstoppable. They registered 338 total yards and we saw a few new exotic formations, including one play which resulted in a Deebo Samuel touchdown.

Panthers-49ers grades by Jordan Dajani (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)


Houston 27-24 over Oakland

The Raiders played well enough to win but could not come up with a key defensive stop during the fourth quarter. After containing Houston's rushing attack for most of the game, the Raiders' defense allowed several big runs by Carlos Hyde and Deshaun Watson during the second half. While Oakland's offense -- playing without center Rodney Hudson for most of the game -- played extremely well for most of the contest, they struggled to generate big plays on the ground or in the air during the final stages.
While Houston's pass defense struggled without T.J. Watt (who left the game in the second quarter after sustaining a shoulder injury), the Texans' defense made enough plays in the fourth quarter while helping set the stage for Watson and Houston's defense. Speaking of Watson, Houston's quarterback enjoyed a stellar day, throwing three touchdown passes that included his game-winning throw to Darren Fells. DeAndre Hopkins (11 catches, 109) came up big once again, while Houston -- led by Carlos Hyde -- outrushed the Raiders, 130-93.

Raiders-Texans grades by Bryan DeArdo (Love the grades? Hate the grades? Let him know on Twitter.)

New England 27-13 over Cleveland

Cleveland couldn't get out of its own way in this game. The Browns had three straight offensive snaps that resulted in turnovers and one of those was returned for a touchdown. They were also called for over a dozen penalties. You simply can't do that when facing the Patriots or any team for that matter and still expect to win. 
New England was able to take advantage of nearly every mistake made by the Browns. The Patriots' defense continued to look historic and once again helped the offense by putting points on the board. While they were overall great, they did allow Nick Chubb to run all over them, which is the second game in a row they've been susceptible to the run. 

Browns-Patriots grades by Tyler Sullivan (Love the grades? Hate the grades?Let him know on Twitter.)

Green Bay 31-24 over Kansas City

After eight weeks, Aaron Rodgers finally seems to have mastered Matt Lafleur's offense, and for the second straight week, the Packers were borderline unstoppable on that side of the ball. Although America didn't get the Rodgers against Patrick Mahomes duel that we were all hoping for, Rodgers almost single-handedly made up for Mahomes' absence with multiple jaw-dropping plays. The Packers quarterback threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns, and he did that even though he faced constant pressure from a Chiefs defense that sacked him five times. With Davante Adams on the sideline, Rodgers turned to running back Aaron Jones, who caught seven passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, the Packers have a rough first half against Matt Moore, but they did seem to figure things out in the second half, holding Kansas City to just seven points while also forcing a turnover.   
With Matt Moore under center, it didn't seem like there was anyway the Chiefs would be able to keep this game close, but that's exactly what they did, thanks in large part to Moore, who threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns. With Patrick Mahomes on the bench, the Chiefs needed to play a nearly perfect game to win, and they almost did that. They really only made two mistakes in the game, but both were costly. The first mistake came when Harrison Butker missed a 50-yard field goal in the first half. After the kick, the Packers took over and scored a touchdown just four plays later. The second mistake came when LeSean McCoy fumbled in the third quarter. The lost fumble set the Packers up at Kansas City's 27-yard line, which made for an easy Green Bay touchdown. If the Chiefs proved one thing in this game, it's that they're not just going to roll over while Mahomes is on the sideline. 

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