32 things we learned from Week 9 of the 2020 NFL season
The 32 things we learned from Week 9 of the 2020 NFL season:
1. The U.S. presidential election is over – presumably – but there's still half a season before ballots are due for the NFL's 2020 MVP ... and Seahawks QB Russell Wilson may have opened up the race after turning the ball over four times in Sunday's loss at Buffalo, where he was thoroughly outplayed by Bills QB Josh Allen. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, Cardinals QB Kyler Murray, Saints RB Alvin Kamara and perhaps even Allen, Buccaneers QB Tom Brady, Titans RB Derrick Henry and Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger are all poised to start stealing electoral votes from Wilson.
2. Think the NFL quarterbacking paradigm isn't changing? Wilson's brilliance aside, Murray and Miami's Tua Tagovailoa engaged in Sunday's best contest – a 34-31 thriller in the desert won by the Dolphins. Murray bested Wilson and the Seahawks 37-34 in overtime two weeks ago, arguably the game of the year to this point. Sure seems like vertically challenged, mobile passers are becoming de rigueur in a league long dominated by 6-4 guys who could sling it while never leaving the pocket.
3. Hopefully CBS learned a lesson here. It could have sent its broadcast A-Team of Jim Nantz and Tony Romo to cover Murray and Tua. Instead, they were watching ... yes, the Cowboys. Why? Because who doesn't want more of Dallas – and Garrett Gilbert. Sigh.
4. The Bills' 44-34 defeat of Seattle serves as the most impressive showing of the season for the AFC East leaders – Allen playing his best game in a month, and the defense collecting four turnovers and five sacks while turning Seattle away on nine of 12 of third downs.
4a. However Buffalo's highly suspect run game resurfaced Sunday, averaging just 1.8 yards on 19 attempts ... and against the defense that allows more yards than any other (though Seattle is generally better against the run). Still, it continues to loom as a major concern for a Bills team that struggles to close out opponents but must improve on that front it it hopes to be more than one and done in the playoffs yet again.
5. Mahomes now has 25 TD passes against one interception, which would be the best ratio in history, besting Brady's 28-to-2 standard from four years ago.
5a. Mahomes also threw his 100th career TD pass Sunday in his 40th NFL game, a new league record. Hall of Famer Dan Marino needed 44 games to hit triple digits.
6. Speaking of keepin' it 100, Texans DE J.J. Watt notched his 100th career sack in his 120th career game – making him the fourth-fastest player ever to reach the century mark in that department. (Only Reggie White, DeMarcus Ware, and Bruce Smith needed fewer games – pretty select company there.)
7. The AFC playoff race could be wild. The Raiders and Dolphins moved into wild-card spots with victories Sunday, while the Colts and idle Browns were bounced out.
8. The Steelers are 8-0 for the first time in franchise history – even though they struggled to beat a vastly outgunned group of Cowboys – and have a good chance to significantly extend their unbeaten start.
9. Entering Week 9, the Dolphins were allowing the fewest points per game (18.6) in the league – yet the Cardinals became the third team to hang 31 on Miami.
10. What can you do while wearing the cleat version of the Air Jordan X? Just ask Carolina's Teddy Bridgewater and Las Vegas' Derek Carr ...
11. Pittsburgh has a sack in 65 consecutive games, closing in on Tampa Bay's league record (69).
12. Murray and Hall of Famer Charley Trippi are the only Cardinals passers in the past 70 years to rush for at least 100 yards in a game.
12a. Murray's eighth rushing TD is a single-season record among Arizona quarterbacks, and he is the first at his position with that many scores on the ground through eight games.
13. Dolphins K Jason Sanders has converted all 38 of his kicks (17 field goals, 21 extra points), including a game-winning 50-yard FG to beat Arizona.
14. I did a radio show in Washington this week with my buddies Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier, and they asked me to preview the Giants-Washington game. After realizing they were serious, it occurred to me they're also right – every NFC East matchup still on the calendar, no matter how bad it appears on paper, could have significant playoff ramifications.
14a. The Giants prevailed 23-20, improving to 2-7 and finishing off a season sweep of Washington. Don't count New York out of this division, ludicrous a notion as that might seem, now that the scrappy Giants have been in six consecutive games decided by one score (2-4 in those contests).
15. The victory was especially meaningful for Giants DB Logan Ryan, who clinched the win with an interception just days after he nearly lost his wife to an unexpected ectopic pregnancy. "No one really knows what I went through all week emotionally," he said, "but the team supported me great and I definitely wanted to do something for my wife and kids in that situation."
15a. Ryan credited Giants trainer Justin Maher for diagnosing his wife's complications last week, believing it helped save her life.
16. What is it about NFC East quarterbacks and terrible lower-leg injuries? Washington's Kyle Allen was the latest to suffer one Sunday, subsequently replaced by Alex Smith – and we all know about his challenging comeback. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott was felled by a similarly gruesome mishap earlier this season.
17. You really have to feel for the Chargers, who had near-miss TDs on the final two plays of a 31-26 loss to the Raiders – the second play originally ruled a scoring catch to TE Donald Parham before being (correctly) overturned.
17a. All six of the Bolts' losses in 2020 have been within one score, the average margin of defeat four points. They are a league-worst 3-15 in one-score games since the start of last season.
18. But at least the Chargers looked dope. I know everyone goes nuts for their powder blue, but I'll always love them in navy.
19. Baltimore posted at least 20 points for the 31st consecutive regular-season game, establishing a new NFL record.
20. Prior to Sunday's 24-10 triumph, the Ravens were 0-6 at Indianapolis – home of Baltimore's previous NFL franchise, the Colts.
21. Colts QB Philip Rivers isn't a very good last line of defense ...
22. Look at the Falcons ... (barely) closing out a game they led by 21 points.
23. Acquired before the trade deadline from the Chargers, CB Desmond King II returned a fumble for a touchdown in his Titans debut, a victory over the Bears that restored sole ownership of the AFC South lead to Tennessee.
23a. DE Carlos Dunlap had a sack in his Seahawks debut.
23b. DE Everson Griffen had three tackles in his Lions debut.
24. Nice keepaway strategy by the Panthers in Kansas City. Carolina ran 18 more plays than the Chiefs, holding the ball for more than 38 minutes. Didn't quite work in a narrow 33-31 loss to the defending champs, but coach Matt Rhule continues to impress in his first year running an NFL squad.
24a. Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey scored two more TDs in his first action since Week 2, when he suffered a high ankle sprain. Yet Carolina is 0-3 when he plays, 3-3 when he doesn't.
25. Panthers K Joey Slye nearly hit a 65-yard field goal in New Orleans two weeks ago. His 67-yard attempt to beat the Chiefs wasn't as close.
25a. The NFL record length for a field goal is 64 yards.
26. Prior to Sunday's beatdown from the Saints, Brady had never been swept by a divisional opponent in his career.
26a. Prior to Sunday's beatdown from the Saints, Brady had never suffered a 35-point defeat.
26b. Prior to Sunday's beatdown from the Saints, Brady was the NFL's all-time leader in TD passes with 561 ... but he now trails New Orleans' Drew Brees, who's suddenly up to 564.
26c. If not for Ronald Jones' 7-yard scamper, the Buccaneers would have had 1 yard rushing.
27. Vikings RB Dalvin Cook deserves the love he's getting after surpassing 200 yards from scrimmage in successive games as Minnesota has strung together its first winning streak of 2020.
27a. But, man, is Vikes QB Kirk Cousins deadly when operating in a balanced offense. He has a 146.7 passer rating while basically serving as a sidekick to Cook the past two weeks.
28. WR Antonio Brown caught three passes for 31 yards while debuting for the Buccaneers, his first NFL action in more than a year.
29. Simply amazing how Packers WR Davante Adams – he has 10+ catches and 150+ yards in three of six appearances this season – continues to run it up on opponents who probably know Rodgers doesn't have a dynamic second option in the passing game. Adams is projected to get one of my wideout All-pro votes, though polls remain open for a while.
30. And yet, Houston WR Will Fuller V caught a TD pass for the sixth consecutive game Sunday. The pending free agent sure would have looked sweet in green and gold ...
31. Does anyone in the NFL have a better name than 49ers WR River Cracraft? Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday ...
32. A loyal reader from Pac-12 country suggested Sunday that (Jake) "Luton Lunacy" will replace (Gardner) "Minshew Mania" in Jacksonville. Luton, a rookie drafted out of Oregon State this spring, made a strong debut (304 pass yards, TD, rush TD) in a defeat to the Texans as Washington State product Minshew sat with a lingering thumb injury.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
If you love talking football, we have the perfect spot for you. Join our Facebook Group, The Ruling Off the Field, to engage in friendly debate and conversation with fellow football fans and our NFL insiders. Do the right thing, sign up now!