Home » What we learned in NFL Week 11: Cowboys surge, Lions stretch, Chargers still stunted

What we learned in NFL Week 11: Cowboys surge, Lions stretch, Chargers still stunted

The two men behind the Dallas Cowboys’ 1990s dynasty officially squashed their decades-long beef Sunday, with team owner Jerry Jones finally — finallydeciding to induct former coach Jimmy Johnson into the team’s Ring of Honor.

Only took 30 years.

“I really thought it was time, and I wanted to do it this year,” Jones said Sunday as his Cowboys kicked off their game against the Panthers.

That was about the most interesting thing that happened in Charlotte, where Dallas moved to 7-3 after a convincing 33-10 win against the worst team in the league. It’s the Cowboys’ sixth win this season of 20 points or more, keyed again by a strong day from Dak Prescott (two touchdowns, no interceptions) and a defense that forced two turnovers. Keep an eye out for cornerback Daron Bland over the regular season’s final seven games: He had another pick-six Sunday, giving him four this year. One more and he owns the league’s all-time record.

In Buffalo, five days after coach Sean McDermott fired offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey and four after quarterback Josh Allen admitted “our backs are against the wall, the clock’s ticking,” the Bills routed the Jets, 29-6. It’s Buffalo’s first win in three weeks, though it remains unclear how much a victory against this version of the Jets really means. New York finally benched Zach Wilson in the fourth quarter, and Robert Saleh said postgame he’s not sure who he’ll start Friday against the Dolphins. For the Bills, a stiffer test awaits next week in Philadelphia.

In Miami, the Dolphins edged a rejuvenated Raiders squad, 20-13, as wideout Tyreek Hill stayed on track for the first 2,000-yard receiving season in league history.

In Washington, the struggling Giants earned their third win of the season behind two Saquon Barkley touchdown catches and six takeaways from the defense.

In Los Angeles, the Rams scored the game’s final 10 points, then survived a 55-yard attempt from Seahawks kicker Jason Myers that just missed to escape with a 17-16 win. It was Myers’ first miss since Week 4, and the Rams’ first win in a month.

In San Francisco, Brock Purdy and the 49ers picked up right where they left off a week ago in Jacksonville, beating the Bucs 27-14. After three losses midseason, San Francisco’s ripped off two convincing wins, and Purdy’s been excellent, going 40-for-47 for 629 yards, six touchdowns and no picks since returning from the bye. (He had a perfect 158.3 passer rating Sunday.) An NFC Championship Game rematch with the Eagles looms in two weeks.

Here’s what stood out from Week 11:

Don’t sleep on Denver… 

Maybe Russell Wilson’s back.

Maybe the Broncos are, too.

For the second consecutive week, a beautiful, high-arcing throw from Wilson to Courtland Sutton was the difference in Denver’s win.

Denver trailed the Vikings by five with 3:17 left when Wilson commenced a 10-play, 75-yard drive. It culminated with a 15-yard touchdown to Sutton in the corner of the end zone with 1:09 left, the decisive play in a 21-20 comeback win. It was the first touchdown for the Broncos all night after the offense stalled repeatedly in the red zone, settling for five field goals. Denver has won four in a row, with the last three against the Chiefs, Bills and now the Vikings, all teams above .500 at the time. And Wilson has led four game-winning drives already this season.

The Broncos (5-5) very much remain a contender in the AFC playoff picture. That 1-4 start feels like a lifetime ago.

It was Joshua Dobbs’ first loss in three games with the Vikings since being traded from Arizona last month — he technically didn’t start his first game with Minnesota but threw for two touchdowns in the win. He’s piled up seven total touchdowns over that span, wins against Atlanta and New Orleans and the loss to Denver, but he tossed an interception Sunday night — and nearly threw a few more. Any chance at a game-winning drive of his own was shuttered quickly in the face of a relentless Denver pass rush, and the Vikings turned the ball over on downs.

Chargers Charger (again) 

With rare exceptions during the past decade — and probably going back even farther — the Chargers have been the exact same team. Capable quarterback. Talented roster. Underwhelming results.

Now, it seems, the Brandon Staley era has reached a critical juncture, and it’s not a stretch to think the next seven games will determine if he’s back as the team’s head coach in 2024. The Chargers are once again underachieving this season despite having one of the best quarterbacks in football in Justin Herbert and a defense that ranks third in total salary ($97 million against the cap). The preseason hype was there — it usually is with this team — but 10 games in, the results aren’t.

Los Angeles is now 4-6, third from the bottom in the AFC. And since Staley took over in 2020, his defenses have ranked 29th, 21st and 24th in points allowed.

Sunday’s 23-20 loss to a bad Packers team spoke to all of this. The defense allowed Green Bay quarterback Jordan Love the first 300-yard passing day of his career without forcing a single turnover. Herbert threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns despite three drops by his receivers, including one from Keenan Allen on the goal line. Austin Ekeler fumbled inside the 5. Asante Samuel Jr. committed a grievous pass interference penalty on a third and 20 that gifted the Packers a first down.

Despite Justin Herbert accounting for more than 330 yards, Rashan Gary (center) and the Packers found a way to frustrate the Chargers. (Tork Mason / USA Today)

By game’s end, the Chargers had again found a way to lose a one-score game. So far, five of the Chargers’ six losses this season have come by a field goal or less. And they’ve yet to beat a team with a winning record.

“I have full confidence in our way of playing, full confidence in myself as the (defensive) play-caller, and the way that we teach and the way that we scheme, full confidence in that,” Staley said, growing aggravated in his postgame news conference. “We gotta bring this group together and do it consistently.”

Joey Bosa’s ankle injury — the star defensive end left the game in the first quarter and was emotional as he was being driven off the field in a cart — won’t help. For a team that hasn’t won a division title since 2009 and has three one-and-dones in the playoffs since 2010, including last year’s 27-0 blown lead in the wild-card round in Jacksonville, this season feels like more of the same story.

Except this time, even with all the talent that’s on this roster, it’s looking like there won’t even be a playoff berth.

You have to wonder how long ownership can keep watching the same script unfold.

The best Lions team since the Barry Sanders era? Or longer?

It’s been a charmed season in the Motor City, where Dan Campbell’s Lions have become one of the NFL’s best stories. Sunday was the latest chapter, it was and among the most improbable: His team, hampered by three interceptions from Jared Goff and four turnovers in total, trailed the lowly Bears by two scores with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

This was looking like an ugly loss with a nationally televised Thanksgiving game against the Packers looming in four short days.

Detroit then scored the game’s final 17 points and sealed the win with a walk-off safety by Aidan Hutchinson.

“Pressure went up,” Campbell said, “and the heart rate leveled out.”

Campbell’s Lions are now 8-2, the franchise’s best record since the Kennedy administration. He’s among the front-runners for Coach of the Year. Sunday’s 31-26 win against Chicago spoiled a mostly encouraging return for Bears quarterback Justin Fields, who played his first game in a month and finished with 169 passing yards and a touchdown to D.J. Moore.

The Lions’ sixth-ranked offense has scored 25 points or more six times this season. Goff has been essential — the Rams’ castoff has revived his career in Detroit, and Sunday spoke to that: As costly as the three interceptions were, Goff was surgical late in the game, leading 75- and 73-yard touchdown drives to steal the win in the final quarter. Hutchinson’s strip-sack-safety provided the exclamation point.

Despite Stroud’s interceptions, Texans stay red-hot

The Houston Texans won all of seven games across the 2021 and 2022 seasons, churning through five quarterbacks and two head coaches — David Culley and Lovie Smith — in the process.

Then DeMeco Ryans came home, and everything’s been different. A few days before Thanksgiving, Ryans’ Texans are among the hottest teams in football, winners of three in a row and six of their last eight.

Houston (6-4) won its third straight in the final seconds Sunday, holding off a late charge from Kyler Murray and the Cardinals for a 21-16 victory that currently has the Texans as the sixth seed in the AFC playoff picture. C.J. Stroud, the frontrunner for the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award, suffered through the first three-interception day of his career — one came on a tipped pass — but still managed 336 passing yards and two touchdowns, his fifth 300-yard game already this season.

Ten games into his career, he’s thrown for the fourth-most passing yards ever.

Most passing yards, first 10 games

QB Team Year Passing yds



















“Steph Curry don’t ever stop shooting,” Stroud said after the win, asked about his interceptions. “I’m gonna keep letting it ride.”

Browns win on a last-second field goal (again)

Even as they kept winning, it was hard to imagine the Steelers’ formula working over the course of an entire season, Mike Tomlin’s team scraping its way to an AFC North title, or even a playoff spot, despite having one of the most inconsistent — and oftentimes, unproductive — offenses in the league.

Nine games into the year, Pittsburgh was somehow 6-3 despite being outgained in total yards in every contest. Entering Sunday, they ranked 26th in points and 28th in yards. Was it sustainable? No. Not likely, at least. But there was something to be said for Tomlin’s team finding ways to win, as ugly as it often was.

The criticisms of offensive coordinator Matt Canada had seemed to cool, if only slightly, as Pittsburgh ripped off four wins in five games.

Then came Sunday’s 13-10 loss to a Browns team playing without its starting quarterback, the fourth time this season Pittsburgh has scored 10 points or less in a game (all losses). Days after losing Deshaun Watson for the season, Cleveland edged the Steelers on a last-second Dustin Hopkins field goal. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Watson’s replacement, led an eight-play, 48-yard drive late in the fourth quarter to set up Hopkins’ second consecutive game-winner. To date, the Browns have won four games this season on last-second kicks.

Cleveland’s punishing defense again led the way, yielding just 106 passing yards to Kenny Pickett, who didn’t throw a touchdown (and had just 34 passing yards in the first half). Pittsburgh didn’t score until running back Jaylen Warren erupted for a 74-yard touchdown run two plays into the second half. The Steelers are now 6-4, sitting in the seventh and final AFC playoff spot.

In the crowded AFC North race, the Browns (7-3) stayed in the hunt with the win. Just how far can that top-ranked defense take them? Their schedule isn’t all that daunting the rest of the way; they’ll face just two teams that currently have winning records (the Jaguars and Texans).

But it remains Baltimore’s division to lose. Following Thursday night’s win against the Bengals, who lost Joe Burrow for the season a day later, the Ravens are 8-3.

AFC North standings

Team Overall Division









*starting QB lost for rest of season

(Top photo: Kara Durrette / Getty Images)

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