Sunday got off to a rocky start when the N.F.L. announced it would delay this week’s game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots because of continuing issues with the coronavirus. The decision led to a cascade of changes in the coming schedule, and is sure to be a frequent topic of conversation as teams adjust on the fly.
As for the games, there were surprising results, exciting action and a comeback by Alex Smith that almost no one predicted. But there was also a devastating injury in Arlington, Texas that appears to have ended Dak Prescott’s season.
Here’s what we learned:
Dak Prescott’s record-setting season is almost assuredly over. Prescott had scrambled for a 9-yard gain in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Giants when the Cowboys quarterback had his legs tangle underneath him as he was tackled. His right foot appeared to spin around and the veteran sat on the field clenching his calf as medical staff ran to help him. He was in tears as he was taken off the field on the back of a cart and was replaced by Andy Dalton, who led the team to a narrow 37-34 victory.
Prescott, who threw for at least 450 yards in each of his three previous games — an N.F.L. first — set a record for the most passing yards through the first four games of the season, with 1,690. The outburst of productivity followed an off-season in which he failed to come to terms with Dallas on a long-term contract extension.
No official timetable was given for his recovery, but the team confirmed that Prescott sustained a compound fracture and dislocation of the ankle and that he would have surgery on it immediately. Team owner Jerry Jones said he has “no doubt” Prescott will be back and Prescott’s brother shared a photo of Dak in the hospital smiling. But on top of an arduous recovery, the ramifications of the injury will likely affect Prescott’s contract negotiations with Dallas this off-season.
One* Sentence About Sunday’s Games
*Except when it takes more.
Browns 32, Colts 23 In October 1994, “Pulp Fiction,” “Forrest Gump,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” and “Jurassic Park” were all in theaters and the Browns, coached by Bill Belichick, were 4-1. Since then, the Browns picked up and moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season, were resurrected in Cleveland in 1999 and had 56 players throw at least one pass. But until Sunday they had not managed another 4-1 start.
Raiders 40, Chiefs 32 Not only did the Chiefs lose a game for the first time since Nov. 10, 2019, they did so at home while watching a team look an awful lot like them with the rookie wide receiver Henry Ruggs III using his game-changing speed to burn Kansas City’s defense for 113 yards on just two receptions, one of which was a 72-yard touchdown.
Cowboys 37, Giants 34 Dallas has to be happy that they invested in a veteran backup, as Andy Dalton may not be perfect, but he’s a lot better than what many teams would have if they lost their franchise quarterback for the season. Salvaging a win in this game was a start, but the execution will obviously need improvement.
Ravens 27, Bengals 3 Lamar Jackson had a day well below his typical standards, but Baltimore didn’t need much from its offense thanks to a terrific effort from its defense, which reminded Joe Burrow that he is a rookie by having seven players record a sack, including Patrick Queen, who had nine tackles, a sack and two fumble recoveries, the second of which he returned 53 yards for a touchdown.
Steelers 38, Eagles 29 A win is a win, but Pittsburgh should be concerned both by its secondary struggling against Philadelphia and one of the team’s top off-season acquisitions, tight end Eric Ebron, having a rough fourth quarter in which he fumbled the ball away in a key situation on one drive and got pushed out of the way for a near interception — the ball hit the ground before it was caught — on the next one.
Dolphins 43, 49ers 17 Miami had more than twice as many total yards as San Francisco, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three touchdown passes and Jimmy Garoppolo was benched for his own safety in a game that went off the rails immediately for the defending N.F.C. champions.
Rams 30, Footballers 10 It was hardly a perfect game for Los Angeles, but Jared Goff threw for 309 yards, the rookie running back Cam Akers returned from an injury to average 6.8 yards a carry, Robert Woods hauled in a 56-yard touchdown pass and Aaron Donald tied his career high with four sacks.
Cardinals 30, Jets 10 DeAndre Hopkins’s injured ankle appeared to be healed, as he torched the Jets for six catches, 131 yards and a touchdown, ruining Joe Flacco’s first start since Week 8 of last season.
Panthers 23, Falcons 16 Todd Gurley turned the clock way back with 121 yards (on just 14 carries) and a touchdown, Calvin Ridley had eight receptions for 136 yards and Atlanta still lost by a touchdown, at home, to a team missing its best player. It makes you wonder how this team, as constructed, could ever win a game.
Texans 30, Jaguars 14 You’d have to work hard to find a play executed more poorly than a fourth-and-1 at the opponent’s 8-yard line in which a team trailing by 13-7 (Jacksonville) did a direct snap to a running back (James Robinson), had him roll out as if he was going to pass only to have him simply drop the ball with no contact for a turnover that all but decided the game in Houston’s favor.