clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Winners and Losers of NFL Week 10

The Vikings and Bills delivered the game of the year, Jeff Saturday won his Colts coaching debut, and Tom Brady still can’t catch. Here are the rest of our winners and losers from this week in the NFL.

Associated Press/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Every week of the 2022 NFL season, we will celebrate the electric plays, investigate the colossal blunders, and explain the inexplicable moments of the most recent slate. Welcome to Winners and Losers. Which one are you?

Winner: The Stefon Diggs–Justin Jefferson Catch Competition

Last year, the NFL attempted a dunk-contest-style best catch competition at the Pro Bowl, with both Justin Jefferson and Stefon Diggs competing. Like the NBA dunk contest, it was prop-heavy (Diggs made a catch while jumping through a foldable table for Bills Mafia) and featured some questionable judging (a panel that included Anthony Mackie from the MCU and 8 Mile gave the win to … Stefon’s brother, cornerback Trevon Diggs). But it was fun as hell. Nothing wows us like a phenomenal catch—the athleticism, the coordination, the catching ability and grip strength, all manifesting themselves in a matter of milliseconds. Quarterbacks might be the most important players on the field, but wide receivers are the ones we want to watch in slo-mo.

Sunday, we got to see the same thing in an actual game. In the third quarter of Sunday’s Bills-Vikings classic, Stefon Diggs made the catch of the year, reaching high into the air to snag a Josh Allen pass with one hand.

Normally, when someone grabs a one-hander, they’re cradling a lob that descended into their hand. Not this one! Diggs ripped an Allen bullet out of the sky. And he caught the ball by the tip, giving him less surface area to grip. Catching that pass like that was like snagging an arrow by the arrowhead. It felt like a moment: Diggs was facing his former team, the Vikings, for the first time since they traded him in 2020.

But in the fourth quarter, Justin Jefferson made the catch of the decade, or maybe the century, or maybe all time. On fourth-and-18, Jefferson ripped a catch away from a Buffalo defender to keep Minnesota’s hopes alive:

It would’ve been a spectacular play if Jefferson had merely reeled in a one-hander to convert a mega-long fourth down. But he did that while winning a contested catch against a defender in perfect position. The Bills cornerback on the play, Cam Lewis, had two hands on the ball. Jefferson had one. All Lewis needed to do was make the ball hit the ground. Jefferson had to keep it off the turf and take it away from Lewis, who, we should repeat, had two hands on the football. There’s a moment when Lewis had pushed the ball down and Jefferson’s hand was twisted backward, so he was palming it a few inches from the ground. And yet Jefferson held on and took the ball away. How strong are this man’s hands? Could he crush a golf ball? If I shook his hand, how many fingers would I walk away with? It was the first fourth-and-18-or-longer conversion of the season, and the Vikings would’ve lost without it. Apologies to Odell Beckham Jr., you’re no. 2 now.

Jefferson didn’t stop there. In the final five minutes of regulation and overtime, Jefferson had five catches for 88 yards.

Diggs had 128 yards in the game; Jefferson had 193 (the most by any receiver in any game this season) including the most critical plays of the game and his all-timer catch. No weird judging here. Jefferson won the catch-off. We’ll see Round 2 either in Las Vegas in February, or in Arizona a week later.

Loser: The QB Sneak

The highlight of Bills-Vikings was the spectacular catches—but the game was decided at the goal line. After another one of Jefferson’s ridiculous plays late in the game, the Vikings had the ball on the goal line with less than a minute remaining. Instead of throwing the ball somewhere in Jefferson’s vicinity and hoping he’d catch it, the Vikings ran a quarterback sneak with Kirk Cousins. This was a good decision! Quarterback sneaks almost always work. Before Sunday, Cousins was 29-for-35 on third-and-fourth-down runs with 1 yard or less to pick up the first down—a remarkable 82.9 percent success rate. But the Bills knew what was coming, and stacked their line with all four defensive tackles on their roster (DaQuan Jones, Ed Oliver, Jordan Phillips, and Tim Settle—approximately 1,250 pounds of beef). Cousins was stuffed.

However, getting stopped at the 1-inch line has one advantage: It gives the other team the ball on the 1-inch line. With just 41 seconds left in the game, the Bills could have kneeled out the clock, but didn’t have enough room to kneel. They needed to move the ball slightly forward, and turned to the most reliable play in football: the QB sneak. Allen is 6-foot-5 and essentially designed to execute this play—he’s even more successful than Cousins, with an 83.6 percent success rate on sneaks in his career.

The Vikings needed something ridiculously unlikely to happen. They could not simply stop Allen at the line of scrimmage—that would just bring up second down, when the Bills could try again. They could get a safety, but it’s pretty impossible to force a loss of yardage on a sneak. Their best chance was to force a fumble in the end zone, but surely, the Bills would be hyper-focused on ball security.


Eric Kendricks’s stunning fumble recovery gave the Vikings a three-point lead, but didn’t end the game. The Bills hit a game-tying field goal to force overtime; Jefferson made some more incredible catches to set up a Vikings field goal; Allen had a chance to win the game with a touchdown but instead threw a game-ending interception. The Vikings moved to 8-1; the Bills fell to 6-3. It was universally referred to as the best game of the NFL season—and somehow, the most fascinating moments came when teams were unable to move an inch.

Winner: The German Crowd

Last week, former 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula tried to sell me on coming to a Rhein Fire game. He’s taken by the German fans, who have just as much passion for football as we do in the United States, but provide a more easygoing, friendlier atmosphere. “It’s one hell of a party,” Tomsula told me over the phone about the team he coaches in the European League of Football. “They’ve got a bucking bull you can ride, we’ve got a big stage with bands playing, beer all over the place, all kinds of things for the kids. … You’ll have some singing, whistles going all over the place. … And there are no hooligans. When it’s over, the result is the result, and we go have a beer.” Tomsula kept telling me I had to see it in person, even though I kept making clear that I do not live in Germany. I promised him that I’d check it out if I’m ever in Dusseldorf.

That atmosphere was on display Sunday in the historic Buccaneers-Seahawks matchup in Munich, the first regular-season NFL game played in Germany. The league claimed it had 3 million ticket requests for the game, although unfortunately only 70,000 could fit in the stadium. Fans were massed outside the stadium waiting to get in hours ahead of time. They enthusiastically cheered just about every snap of the game. And as the clock wound down, they stunned American viewers with a stadium-wide rendition of “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” (Yes, they know our game and our songs.)

The crowd kept singing after the stadium audio cut out, drowning out the actual audio of gameplay. This simply does not happen at NFL games—I can remember a few instances of it happening at college games, but never in the NFL. We are simply not conditioned to entertain ourselves while the ball is in play.

The German fan base clearly wowed everybody involved. Brady called it “one of the great football experiences I’ve ever had.” (Sorry, Super Bowl victories five through seven, you’ve been bumped down the list of Brady’s greatest football experiences.) The crowd stayed in the arena well after the game ended, surprising players and journalists trying to give postgame interviews on the field.

The game was not perfect. Players repeatedly slipped on the soccer turf, which seemed to be coming apart under the weight and power of NFL players. The NFL used to have this problem at Wembley Stadium in the early years of its games in London, which is why it partnered with Tottenham Hotspur to build a football-specific field. It’s a player-safety issue, and the NFL is lucky nobody got seriously hurt. And the Seahawks looked like a team playing at 6:30 a.m. Seattle time, perhaps because they were playing at 6:30 a.m. Seattle time.

But we’ve gotta keep playing in Germany. Sunday’s game showed us what football can be. It showed that our sport can be popular in countries all around the world, even places you’ve never thought of as football countries. But it also showed what fandom can be here in the U.S. Football games don’t have to be so stuck-up and stale and serious! Football can be fun! Hypothetically, that’s why we love it! The more I think about it, the more I think I’m going to take Coach Tomsula up on his offer to go to a Fire game. I just need to figure out how to get to Dusseldorf.

Loser: Das Trickspiel

Gisele Bündchen once gave an iconic quote about the quarterback position: “My husband cannot fucking throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time.” Many things have changed—notably, her marital status—but she’s been proved right time and time again about Tom Brady’s catching ability. He dropped a catch on a trick play in New England’s Super Bowl loss to the Eagles in 2018, and introduced a new nation to his lack of receiving ability on Sunday.

The Buccaneers totally dominated Sunday’s game in Germany against the Seahawks. The 21-16 score line looks close, but the Bucs outgained the Seahawks by 136 yards and went 10-for-15 on third down. It felt like Seattle couldn’t get the Bucs off the field—but in the third quarter, the Bucs decided to get cute.

Up 14-3 and moving the ball with ease, the Buccaneers ran the ball out of the wildcat formation, snapping the ball directly to running back Leonard Fournette with Brady split out wide. According to TruMedia, it was the first time the Buccaneers had run the wildcat in the three years since Brady came to Tampa Bay. Which makes sense: When your quarterback is Tom Brady, you’re better off using him as a passer than running a funky gimmick package. The play didn’t work. Fournette gained only 2 yards, and the Bucs essentially played 11-on-10 since the defense didn’t even pretend to defend Brady as a pretend wide receiver.

But Tampa Bay liked what it saw. If the defense was going to ignore Brady, he’d surely be wide open for a touchdown, right? So a few plays later, the Bucs ran the exact same play—same formation, same direction, same blocking—but they had Fournette double back and throw to Brady. Except this time, the Seahawks defense didn’t ignore Brady. I guess they figured that the Buccaneers weren’t dumb enough to break character by running the same uncharacteristic, unsuccessful play multiple times when they were rolling, and realized something was up. Enjoy the German commentary:

In a best-case scenario, this was an underthrown jump ball for Tom Brady, a 45-year-old who had one of the worst vertical leaps in NFL combine history more than 20 years ago. (His vert was just 24.5 inches, tied for the sixth lowest of hundreds of QBs in the Pro Football Reference database.) He was going up against 23-year-old rookie Tariq Woolen, who, at 6-foot-4, is one of the tallest, most athletic cornerbacks in the league. (His vert was 42 inches, tied for the 11th highest of hundreds of CBs in the Pro Football Reference database.) But the Bucs didn’t get even the best-case scenario, because Brady slipped on the shoddy German turf and fell on his ass. Woolen easily intercepted the ball, and Brady was flagged for tripping Woolen on his tackle attempt.

From a serious perspective, this moment seems like a lesson about trusting your strengths and rolling with momentum. If they can’t stop you, keep going instead of busting out your trick plays. From a nonserious perspective, they threw a jump ball for Tom Brady, and I’m gonna laugh about it forever.

Winner: Head Coach Jeff Saturday

Before they had their current jobs, the two head coaches in Sunday’s Raiders-Colts game made their opinions about the other franchise publicly known. In 2018, Josh McDaniels was hired as head coach of the Colts, but backed out of the gig to return to his job as Patriots offensive coordinator. McDaniels, now the Raiders’ head coach, perhaps believed he needed to gain more experience in an assistant job under Bill Belichick, the greatest NFL coach of all time, rather than jumping back into head coaching more than seven years after being fired by the Broncos.

And Jeff Saturday, recently named as the Colts’ interim head coach, was a bit more forward. Two weeks ago, when Saturday was an analyst for ESPN, he simply tweeted out “Raiders look horrible.”

Things have gotten weird in Indianapolis. Three weeks ago they benched former MVP Matt Ryan for 2021 sixth-rounder Sam Ehlinger; two weeks ago they fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady; last week they had the worst offensive performance by any team all season, and I wondered what could possibly come next. So on Monday they fired head coach Frank Reich and hired Saturday, a longtime Colts offensive lineman with absolutely no coaching experience above the high school level.

Saturday is just an interim hire, but I’ve spent most of the past week viciously roasting the Colts for the decision. Saturday is the first head coach with no college or NFL experience since before the NFL-AFL merger. We’ve been told for decades that experience is massively important for NFL coaching, and all of a sudden the Colts were employing a guy with none. The Colts were making a mockery of that while simultaneously keeping someone on their staff from getting more experience.

And apparently it didn’t matter. Saturday’s Colts looked generally fine in Sunday’s 25-20 win over McDaniels’s Raiders. They didn’t look disorganized; they had a coherent game plan, and Saturday didn’t botch any game-management decisions. He even made a great coaching choice—after saying earlier this week that he’d stick with Ehlinger at QB, Saturday put Ryan back in at QB. (It seems the decision to play Ehlinger in the first place may have come from owner Jim Irsay rather than Reich; Saturday apparently was able to talk him out of it.) Ryan looked much better than Ehlinger (perhaps because he is much better than Ehlinger), and in a magical moment, he busted out the longest run of his career: a 39-yarder, almost twice the length of his previous career long, a 20-yarder back in 2010:

We know that teams can look better after firing their head coach—the Panthers are 2-3 under Steve Wilks, and a slew of college football teams have had bounce-back games after firing their head coaches. (Congrats to interim head coach Cadillac Williams on his first win with Auburn on Saturday night!) But it’s still remarkable to see the Colts looking generally fine under Saturday when he wasn’t even in the building a week ago.

Maybe this whole “experience” thing is overrated. A man who spent nearly a decade learning the art and science of coaching from the NFL coaching GOAT was outfoxed by a guy who showed up on Monday. Is this whole thing really as easy as saying, “This QB is the best one on my team,” and rolling with it? In my head, I’m imagining a world where this revelation makes it easier for outsiders and traditionally overlooked candidates to advance more quickly up the NFL coaching ladder. In reality, it will probably just lead to an NFL owner hiring their least accomplished son as offensive coordinator.

Winner: The Losing Chicago Bears

I won’t dispute the facts. The Chicago Bears have lost three consecutive games. If you came to this post entitled “Winners and Losers of NFL Week 10” looking for a factual rundown of which teams won games on Sunday and which teams lost games, I apologize. But in spite of the Bears’ three-game losing streak, it’s the most exciting time to be a Bears fan in years. Because JUSTIN FIELDS, FOOTBALL GOD, IS BACK:

Every Justin Fields highlight includes some sort of athletic feat that nobody else in the NFL outside of maybe Lamar Jackson is capable of. On the above clip, it’s the And-1 quality ball fake combined with the ability to swerve around defenders while running about 20 miles per hour. In the clip below, it’s the way Fields switches direction three times, turning a sack attempt into the momentum he needs to zoom into the end zone before lowering his shoulder to score at the goal line.

Fields had 147 rushing yards and two touchdowns Sunday against the Lions. Last week, he set the NFL record for rushing yardage in a regular-season game by a QB, with 178 yards. This week he became the first player in NFL history with 100 rushing yards, two passing touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns. Two weeks, two records. He has 325 rushing yards in the past two games, 90 more than anybody else in the league. Whoever picked him up for nothing in your fantasy football league is probably going to win the championship. Sorry to whoever looked like they had the best team for the first two months of the year! You’re gonna lose to this one guy, who might lead the NFL in rushing while throwing for TDs too! If it’s a keeper league, they’ll win next year’s championship, too.

And now, teams are so worried about Fields’s running, they are leaving guys (notably, tight end Cole Kmet) open for massive touchdown catches.

So the Bears lost. They gave up 21 fourth-quarter points to the Lions, including a pick-six by Fields. Whatever, he’ll get better at not doing that.

You’ve gotta understand. The Chicago Bears and their fans have spent decades watching absolutely terrible quarterbacks. They’ve made the playoffs a few times and even made a Super Bowl. (With Rex Grossman.) One month ago, it looked like they might have screwed up again at QB, as Fields was posting league-worst passing numbers. Now they know he’s not just the QB of the future—he’s the most dynamic player in the league today, and will give this team a chance to win every week. So what if they’ve lost a few of those chances? If you’ve spent 40 years winning and losing with the Grossmans and Ortons and Trubiskys of the world, a loss with the most exciting QB in the league feels like a win.

Winner: Christian Watson

You’re building a prototype wide receiver. He is huge—6-foot-4, long arms, strong legs. He is a freak athlete—he runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, and nearly set the NFL draft combine record in the broad jump. He gets open pretty much every time he runs a route. He’s perfect! He’s a surefire NFL superstar. But you forgot one thing: Hands. Whoops! He may or may not have all 10 fingers. When the ball comes his way, he looks like an American toddler trying to learn how to use chopsticks, leaving a trail of rice and footballs in his wake. The QB tries taking a few miles per hour off his passes; the ball still hits the ground harmlessly. He is this dog.

The player you’ve created is Packers rookie Christian Watson, a second-round pick in April’s draft. His Pro Football Focus draft profile described him as “an all-time athlete at the receiver position” but noted that he “fights the ball in the air, with ugly drops all over the place.” On his very first NFL snap, he dropped a sure touchdown from Aaron Rodgers. For the past two months, he’s battled injuries and Rodgers’s lack of trust, failing to break into a wide receiver rotation in desperate need of talent. Sunday got started poorly: He dropped two more passes from Rodgers in the first quarter.

And then, suddenly, his hands arrived.

Watson entered Sunday with 88 career receiving yards and no touchdowns; against the Cowboys, he had 107 yards and three touchdowns, including a 58-yarder and a 39-yarder. The Packers were trailing 28-14 in the fourth quarter; Watson had two touchdowns to force overtime, where the Packers won 31-28 and avoided a six-game losing streak. Miraculously, Watson seems to have gained hands and lost his memory.

Hopefully the sudden amnesia doesn’t prevent him from remembering the day he hauled in his first NFL touchdown catch, and his second NFL touchdown catch, and his third NFL touchdown catch. Or cause him to forget how to catch again.

Loser: NFL Broadcast Rules

Vikings-Bills may have been the game of the year, but some fans didn’t see the end. Overtime started at around 4:25 p.m. ET—the same time that the late afternoon games kicked off. In most markets, Fox stuck with the game of the week, but the NFL’s broadcast rules mandate that in local markets, networks must show the entirety of local games.

In Texas and Wisconsin, at least fans were getting Packers-Cowboys, a game that wound up being an overtime thriller. In Los Angeles and Arizona, viewers got Cardinals-Rams, a game featuring backup quarterbacks Colt McCoy and John Wolford. Reactions went from “bummed, but understanding” to “mad” to “string of curse words.”

The NFL has figured out how to make fans in Germany become football diehards. Can we really not figure out a method to make sure people can watch the most exciting parts of the best football games on the easiest-to-access channels? Bump the kickoffs to alternate channels and pay feeds; leave the thrilling moments on regular TV.