The storm-delayed showdown in Kansas City on Sunday night ended up being a blowout due to the prime-time display of Josh Allen’s skills and the uncharacteristic struggles of Patrick Mahomes. The Bills played like the AFC’s best team to claim a convincing 38-20 victory over the Chiefs.
Sunday’s best game — arguably the best of the 2021 NFL season so far — took place at SoFi Stadium between the Browns and Chargers. The matchup of 3-1 teams featured eight lead changes, four of them coming in a wild fourth quarter that saw the teams combine for an astounding 41 points. The Chargers emerged from the madness with a 47-42 win to improve to 4-1 and take over sole possession of the AFC West lead. Afterward, first-year head coach Brandon Staley had a very simple reason why his team was able to come back from a 27-13 third-quarter deficit and prevail in an old-fashioned shootout.
“To win a game like this, one that turns into a track meet, you have to have a superstar quarterback to win it,” Staley told reporters in publicly anointing second-year QB Justin Herbert with a much-deserved lofty status. “That’s what he is.”
Staley merely stated out loud what has become increasingly apparent: Herbert has indeed arrived.
Since a Week 2 home loss to the Cowboys, the 23-year-old has elevated his game during a three-game win streak, outplaying Mahomes, Derek Carr and Baker Mayfield while throwing for 901 yards and 11 touchdowns against zero interceptions. On Sunday against Mayfield’s Browns, Herbert was so dominant that not even a poor performance by Staley’s defense could delay his star turn. He completed 26 of 43 passes for a career-high 398 yards and four TDs and even ran four times for 29 yards and a touchdown.
Sunday was Herbert’s 20th NFL game and his seventh contest with at least three touchdowns and no interceptions — the most by a QB in league history in his first two seasons. His 5,912 passing yards also ranks second all time through 20 games.
During the draft process, Herbert looked the part as a franchise quarterback with his size and arm strength, but his leadership skills were labeled as a weakness. The Chargers happily selected the Oregon standout with the sixth pick of the 2020 NFL Draft.
They clearly have their star QB — ironically, one who’s “been growing as a leader” too, according to Austin Ekeler.
“I think that takes time, right? And just confidence as well,” Ekeler said. “Just coming in his rookie year, he was kind of figuring out the NFL. But he’s all settled in and he’s had some success. He’s in a rhythm right now. I love to see him talking to us in the huddle. … He’s out there running the show, and it shows he’s growing at his position.”
Best offensive performance
Best defensive performance
Khalil Mack, Bears. Jon Gruden reportedly tried to reacquire Mack in the offseason, and the former Raiders star showed Sunday what his old team has been missing since being surprisingly traded before the 2018 season. The six-time Pro Bowler led a dominant Chicago defense with eight tackles and one sack in a 20-9 road win. He also drew a holding penalty that erased a Josh Jacobs touchdown run, forced a turnover on downs with a fourth-and-1 stop of Jacobs and sacked good friend Derek Carr on a fourth-quarter 2-point attempt to keep the Bears’ lead at 14-9.
Best special teams performance
Blake Gillikin, Saints. On a day in which kickers struggled to convert extra points, competent special teams play was at a premium. After New Orleans’ 33-22 win at Washington, Sean Payton was effusive in his appreciation for Gillikin, who placed three of his five punts inside the Football Team’s 3-yard line — a 60-yarder to the 1, a 57-yarder to the 3 and a 53-yarder to the 2. “He was outstanding,” Sean Payton said of Gillikin, who admitted it’d be best for the Saints if he did “not punt at all.”
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Alexander Mattison takes Detroit’s best hits and still bulls his way into the end zone.
A defender falls down when Joe Mixon puts his foot in the ground.
Watch the nasty Aaron Jones stiff arm at the end of his 57-yard fourth-quarter run.
Courtland Sutton lays out to haul in this Broncos touchdown.
Lorenzo Carter tips the ball to himself for the interception against Dak Prescott.
Rondale Moore’s body control is out of control on this sideline grab.
NFL interception leader Trevon Diggs just wants the ball more than any receiver right now.
Josh Allen hurdles a defender. The guy is 6-foot-5 and 237 pounds.