Kansas City, Mo. — It was supposed to be a prime-time showdown between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, division leaders each led by two of the most talented and exciting quarterbacks in the NFL.
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers lived up to the billing.
Patrick Mahomes never got the chance.
Rodgers threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Aaron Jones on a big night for the Green Bay running back, and the Packers held off fill-in quarterback Matt Moore and the rest of the banged-up Chiefs for a 31-24 victory Sunday night.
“I totally trust our quarterback,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said, “and I trust Aaron Jones as a receiver. He made some great plays all night long.”
Jones, who briefly left with a shoulder injury, had seven catches for 159 yards and added 67 on the ground — a big chunk of them in the closing minutes, when the Packers (7-1) sealed their first win at Arrowhead Stadium since Nov. 4, 2007.
“He’s very talented,” Rodgers said, “and I think this scheme is giving him the opportunity to do a lot more out of the backfield. You know, we’re splitting him out and throwing the ball to him. We kind of caught lightning in a bottle there a couple of times. Hit him on a slant-and-go for 50 and on a screen pass for 70 or whatever. He’s a talented guy. I’m very proud of him.”
The Chiefs (5-3) hoped Mahomes could make a miraculous recovery 10 days after dislocating his kneecap in Denver in time to play. But after the league MVP was limited all week in practice, coach Andy Reid announced Friday his franchise quarterback would be inactive for the game.
Moore took the reins of the high-powered offense and fared well, throwing for 267 yards with two touchdowns and no picks in the ex-high school coach’s first start in more than two years.
It wasn’t the Rodgers-Mahomes matchup everyone wanted, but Moore and Co. made sure it was still an entertaining game between teams with Super Bowl aspirations.
It started like most outside the walls of 1 Arrowhead Drive expected, with Rodgers slicing up the defense and Green Bay marching for two quick touchdowns.
But after a shaky start by Moore, the journeyman quarterback found a groove. He led the Chiefs on an 89-yard drive that ended with a make-it-rain 29-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce, then found Mecole Hardman on a 30-yard pitch-and-catch to knot the game.
The Chiefs led 17-14 at halftime, raising some eyebrows across the league.
“Once we got in the flow,” Moore said, “we were kind of rolling for a little while.”
LaFleur made a couple adjustments, though, and Rodgers and Co. began to move the ball once more. They used a 15-play drive that soaked up more than half the third quarter to get a tying field goal, then got the ball back when LeSean McCoy fumbled on the very next play.
Five players later, Rodgers conjured up more of his magic.
With third down at the 3, he dropped back and was flushed from the pocket. He rolled to his right and threw a blind pass to the back corner of the end zone, where Damien Williams somehow took the ball away from Chiefs linebacker Ben Niemann while tapping both feet inbounds.
Rodgers was lying flat on his back, staring at the sky, as the official signaled touchdown.
“I truly believe he was throwing it away,” Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said.
The Chiefs answered with another long drive, and just when it appeared they had finally been stopped, the Packers’ Tramon Williams was flagged for illegal use of hands. That gave Kansas City the ball inside the 5, and Damien Williams scored on the next play to tie it again.
It took the Packers all of 56 seconds to score the eventual winner.
Rodgers again found Jones out of the backfield, and this time he found a lane through the entire Kansas City secondary. It was a foot race from there, and the speedy running back hop-skipped over the goal line to finish off the 67-yard touchdown reception.
“He’s an explosive weapon,” LaFleur said. “You don’t find too many running backs that can go out there and produce like that. You don’t see many running backs that you can put them on the outside and run a slant-and-go. I think he’s dynamic as a runner, a receiver, a pass protector.”
The Chiefs were forced to punt on the ensuing possession and never got the ball back.
“We played hard and aggressive,” Reid said, “but you know? When two good teams play each other, sometimes a turnover here or there can affect you and that’s a little bit what happened tonight. But we can all do better, starting with me and my guys.”
(At) New Orleans 31, Arizona 9: Drew Brees passed for 373 yards and three touchdowns in his first game in more than five weeks since thumb surgery, and the Saints won their sixth straight.
With few exceptions, Brees was accurate and looked composed even as his pass blocking collapsed, completing 34 of 43 passes.
He was intercepted once, by Patrick Peterson, but was not pressured before throwing that aggressive, risky pass down the left sideline, where fullback Zach Line was double-covered.
The Cardinals were unable to capitalize on that turnover early in the second half, however, and Brees made them pay by leading three touchdown drives after that, ending with passes to running back Latavius Murray, dynamic reserve QB and utility player Taysom Hill, and leading receiver Michael Thomas.
Cardinals rookie Kyler Murray completed 19 of 33 passes for 220 yards, but Arizona never found the end zone. Eight of his completions went to Christian Kirk for 79 yards in the receiver’s return from an ankle sprain. Arizona was held to 40 yards rushing and the Saints’ defense held a fifth-straight opponent below 260 total net yards.
L.A. Chargers 17, (at) Chicago 16: Chicago kicker Eddy Pineiro missed a 41-yard field goal as time expired and Los Angeles hung on for the win.
The Bears (3-4) took over at their 35 with 1:33 remaining and had a chance to win it after driving all the way to the 21. Chicago had quarterback Mitchell Trubisky take a knee with about 40 seconds left rather than try to get closer to the goal line. And Pineiro, who hit an upright on a miss earlier, hooked the potential winner wide left as time expired.
That allowed the Chargers (3-5) to snap a three-game losing streak and avoid their first 0-4 October since 2000, while the Bears dropped their third in a row. Los Angeles also picked up its first victory in seven road games all-time against Chicago and its first win at Soldier Field after losing four.
Philip Rivers threw an 11-yard touchdown to Austin Ekeler in the fourth quarter for the go-ahead touchdown with just over eight minutes left in the game after Melvin Ingram recovered a fumble by Trubisky in Chicago territory.
Rivers was 19 of 29 for 201 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Melvin Gordon ran for a score. Joey Bosa had two sacks, and the Chargers picked up their first victory since a win at Miami on Sept. 29.
Philadelphia 31, (at) Buffalo 13: Rookie Miles Sanders scored on a career-best 65-yard touchdown run and Philadelphia snapped a two-game skid with a win over Buffalo.
Carson Wentz finished 17 of 24 for 172 and a touchdown passing in a game the Eagles blew open by scoring TDs 83 seconds apart spanning halftime.
Dallas Goedert scored on a 5-yard catch. Jordan Howard had a team-best 96 yards rushing and scored on a 3-yard run, and Boston Scott scored on a 4-yard run after Sanders left the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter.
Linebacker Brandon Graham had one of the team’s four sacks, and also forced and recovered quarterback Josh Allen’s fumble, which led to Goedert scoring the go-ahead touchdown.
The Eagles improved to 4-4 in bouncing back from a 37-10 prime-time dud of a loss at Dallas last week
The Bills (5-2) squandered an opportunity to open 6-1 for the first time since 1993 and failed to answer skeptics as to whether their hot start is a result of a soft schedule.
(At) San Francisco 51, Carolina 13: Tevin Coleman scored three of his four touchdowns in the first half, rookie Nick Bosa had three sacks to go along with an acrobatic interception and San Francisco remained unbeaten with a victory over Carolina Panthers in its highest-scoring game in 26 years.
The Niners (7-0) are off to their best start since winning their first 10 games in 1990 but still faced questions because five of those first six victories came against teams that have losing records.
But San Francisco delivered perhaps its most complete performance of the season against the streaking Panthers (4-3), who had won four straight games and featured one of the league’s top defenses.
Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense had little trouble carving Carolina’s defense with 232 yards rushing and a pair of touchdown passes for San Francisco’s most prolific offensive game since beating Detroit 55-17 on Dec. 19, 1993. The Niners stellar defense did the rest.
San Francisco intercepted three passes from Kyle Allen, who came into the game with no interceptions on 153 career attempts while winning his first five starts in place of injured starter Cam Newton. They also had seven sacks, with Bosa getting three of them to go along with his leaping interception and 46-yard return on the final play of the third quarter.
(At) Tennessee 27, Tampa Bay 23: Ryan Tannehill threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Brown with 6:55 left, and Tennessee rallied to beat Tampa Bay for its second straight win.
Tennessee came in with the NFL’s No. 4 scoring defense, having not allowed more than 20 points in a game all season. The Buccaneers entered with the league’s fourth-best offense, averaging 28.8 points a game, and they became the first to top the mark.
The Titans (4-4) led 14-3 after turning a pair of first-quarter turnovers into two TD passes by Tannehill.
The Bucs (2-6) lost their third straight and fourth in five games despite Jameis Winston and Mike Evans putting the Bucs up 23-17 by connecting on a TD pass at the end of the first half and a second early in the third quarter. They wouldn’t score again despite outgaining Tennessee 389-246.
(At) New England 27, Cleveland 13: Tom Brady threw for 259 yards and two touchdown passes and Bill Belichick earned his 300th NFL coaching victory in the Patriots’ win.
Belichick sits behind only Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324) on the NFL’s all-time win list.
The Patriots improved to 8-0 for the third time in team history and the first time since 2015, when they started 10-0. The Browns (2-5) have lost three straight games.
Brady completed 20 of 36 passes, hitting Julian Edelman on eight of them for 78 yards and both TDs.
New England capitalized on three first-quarter turnovers by Cleveland to take a 17-0 lead. Running back Nick Chubb had back-to-back fumbles and quarterback Baker Mayfield had an interception.
Chubb ran for 131 yards, and Mayfield finished 20 of 31 for 194 yards and a touchdown.
L.A. Rams 24, Cincinnati 10: Wide receiver Cooper Kupp caught seven passes for a career-best 220 yards, Jared Goff threw for two touchdowns and Los Angeles beat winless Cincinnati to make for another successful trip to London.
Kupp caught a 65-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter on a double reverse flea-flicker from Goff, and the duo teamed up for a 40-yarder shortly after halftime to set up another score at Wembley Stadium.
Goff went 17 of 31 for 372 yards, 273 of which came in the first half. Kupp had 165 receiving yards by halftime and didn’t catch another pass in the final 27 minutes of the game.
It was a second straight win for the Rams (5-3) in London, where they blanked the Arizona Cardinals 33-0 on their previous visit in 2017.
Cincinnati fell to 0-8 for the first time since 2008 and looked no closer to finding a first win under first-year head coach Zac Taylor – a former assistant to Sean McVay with the Rams.
(At) Indianapolis 15, Denver 13: Adam Vinatieri made a 51-yard field goal with 22 seconds left to help Indianapolis rally for a victory over Denver.
The NFL’s career scoring leader overcame two earlier misses to keep Indy (5-2) atop the AFC South with its third straight victory.
Denver (2-6) has lost two in a row.
The difference this time was the Broncos settled for two short field goals on time-consuming drives in the first half. Brandon McManus made a 21-yarder to cap a 17-play drive that consumed nearly eight minutes and a 29-yarder on their next possession when the Broncos burned nearly 5½ minutes in 13 plays to make it 6-0.
Seattle 27, (at) Atlanta 20: Russell Wilson threw two touchdown passes to DK Metcalf, Chris Carson ran for 90 yards and a score, and Seattle beat reeling Atlanta.
Seattle led 24-0 at halftime as the Falcons offense floundered early in their first start without quarterback Matt Ryan in 10 years. Ryan’s streak of 154 consecutive regular-season starts ended as he was held out with a sprained right ankle.
The Falcons (1-7) have lost six straight games, leaving coach Dan Quinn’s status a hot topic as the team enters its bye week. Team owner Arthur Blank said after the game he will “take the next couple of weeks” before reaching a decision on Quinn’s future.
Wilson completed first-half touchdown passes of 4 and 2 yards to Metcalf. Wilson completed 14 of 20 passes for 182 yards with no interceptions. The Seahawks won the turnover battle 3-0. Carson had a 1-yard scoring run.
Seattle (6-2) improved to 4-0 on the road.
(At) Jacksonville 29, N.Y. Jets 15: Sam Darnold went from seeing ghosts to seeing teal.
Darnold was sacked a career-high eight times and threw three interceptions in Jacksonville’s 29-15 victory over New York.
He was picked off twice in the fourth quarter, including one that set up Gardner Minshew’s game-sealing score to DJ Chark with a little more than four minutes to play. Minshew completed 22 of 34 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns. He scrambled for another 32 yards.
Minshew connected with Keelan Cole and Chris Conley for first-quarter touchdowns for the Jaguars (4-4).
Darnold was 21 of 30 for 218 yards with two touchdown passes to Ryan Griffin, and the three turnovers.
The Jets (1-6) managed 208 yards, with 93 of those coming on their opening drive.