With the NFL season’s 11th installment of Monday Night Football in the books and another slate of games over and done, Week 10 is complete and more than half of the season is in the rearview. While we can’t get to everything — like the Super Bowl preview that may have occurred last night on MNF — here are four of the top storylines to emerge from the NFL’s 11th week. (Here’s a look back at Week 10 and a clip from Sunday that sums up the Zach Wilson experience, which is now over, quite nicely.)
DaRon Bland is going to make NFL history with Dallas
Drafted out Fresno State with the 24th pick for the fifth round in 2022 by the Dallas Cowboys, cornerback DaRon Bland had five interceptions during his rookie season but was unable to return any of them for touchdowns, which is no knock on the 24-year-old as pick-6s are few and far between. Or as least they were.
This season, Bland has picked off the opposing quarterback six times and has run the ball back for a score on four of those occasions. Bland’s most recent theft and score came on Sunday when the Cowboys won for the fourth time in their last five games with a 33-10 rout of the Carolina Panthers. Already destroying the Panthers in the fourth quarter, Bland picked off No. 1 pick Bryce Young and returned the ball 30 yards for his fourth touchdown of the season.
With his fourth pick-6 of the season, Bland has accomplished what only three others — Philadelphia’s Eric Allen (1993), Kansas City’s Jim Kearney (1972) and Houston’s Ken Houston (1971) — have done, and he has an excellent chance of getting his own chapter in the NFL record books as the Cowboys (7-3) still have seven games remaining this season.
The first of those seven comes on Thanksgiving when the Cowboys host the Commanders, and there’s reason to believe Bland will set the single-season pick-6 record before he tucks into his turkey, as Washington quarterback Sam Howell is coming off a game where he threw three interceptions.
Bland is probably licking his chops at getting a shot at Howell, who has thrown 12 interceptions overall this season, as he made it very clear that setting the record is on his mind. “It just makes another goal to break it,” Bland, who played receiver in high school and is used to having the ball in his hands while searching for the end zone, said. “I think it was when I touched the end zone, it was like, ‘Wow, I just did it. I tied the record.’ I’m level-headed now and I want to go break it. It wasn’t really about the record. It’s really about being in the history books, being remembered.”
With seven games left to play and Howell on tap in two of them, odds are Bland is going to be.
Haason Reddick and the Eagles Are Ready to Run It BackReddick led Philadelphia’s top-ranked defense with 16 sacks last season
Brock Purdy isn’t always great, but he can be perfect
Coming out of their bye week riding a three-game losing streak, the 49ers flew across the country to Jacksonville in Week 10 and put a 34-3 beatdown on the Jaguars, who had won five in a row heading into the game. San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy, who had three touchdowns and five interceptions during the Niners’ losing streak, was nearly perfect against the Jags as he threw three TDs, zero picks and posted a sparkling passer rating of 148.9.
Playing at home against the Buccaneers in Week 11, Purdy was even better as the Niners rolled Tampa 27-14.
Facing a Tampa defense that isn’t great but is also far from being one of the worst in the league, Purdy had a career day as he completed 21-of-25 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns and recorded an actually perfect passer rating of 158.3. Purdy is the first 49er to post perfect passer rating in a full game since Joe Montana and Steve Young both did it in 1989. As if being in the same sentence as Montana and Young isn’t impressive enough, Purdy also has the highest passer rating by any NFL quarterback over a two-start span (157.3) since QB starts were first tracked in 1950.
“What an honor,” Purdy said. “But at the same time, I feel like there’s still some plays and stuff that I wish I had back. So, I’m not completely content with just that, but I thought it was a great game with the guys around me, the coaching and the playcalling, all of it. I think that’s a testament to the team, really.”
Through Sunday’s games, Purdy, who took over as the starter in San Fran last season and played well enough that the Niners were fine sending former top pick Trey Lance to Dallas for peanuts, ranked first in the NFL in QBR (76.6), passer rating (109.9) and yards per attempt (9.7). Neither fast nor flashy, Purdy may not look the part of a superstar NFL quarterback, but he’s certainly been playing that role to nearly literal perfection over the past two weeks for the Niners and has looked nothing like the QB who lost to the Bengals, Vikings and Browns.
It’s unfair to expect Purdy to play like he has over the past two weeks, but the NFL should look out if he does.
Tommy DeVito is a big problem for Daniel Jones
Known more for living at home and having his mom make his bed in the morning and chicken parm at night than for anything he had accomplished on the football field less than a month ago, third-string New York Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito got the first start of his career last week in Dallas against the Cowboys. It did not go well, although the undrafted rookie threw just one interception and did have two touchdown passes in a 49-17 loss that was never in doubt.
With no other real options with starter Daniel Jones and backup Tyrod Taylor both on injured reserve, New York rolled with DeVito again on the road in Washington in Week 11 against the Commanders. Things went much better for DeVito in his second career start despite being sacked a ridiculous nine times as he completed 18-of-26 passes for 246 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 31-19 win for the G-Men, who are now 3-8 on the season.
DeVito, who now has more career games with multiple passing touchdowns than two-year Pittsburgh starter Kenny Pickett (two), has an excellent shot at continued success on Sunday as the Giants will host a largely pathetic Patriots team that has just two wins and may be tanking for a better position in the draft. It’s actually a tricky spot for the Giants, as New York is also in contention for a top-five draft pick and is at least partially in that position because the team’s first-string quarterback, Jones, is not very good.
Each win moving forward for DeVito hurts the Giants in terms of draft position, and also makes it even more likely that the team will look to move on from Jones despite giving him a massive contract in the offseason based on a successful season in 2022 that is increasingly looking like it was based on nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
That said, each win for DeVito only boosts his stock and makes it more likely he’ll be able to stick around in New York as a backup if he’s eventually replaced — Taylor is eligible to return from his rib injury on December 11 — and will make it easier for him to find work elsewhere if the Giants cut him at some point in the future.
“I definitely think he’s proving people wrong,” New York running back Saquon Barkley said after Sunday’s win. “We know what he’s capable of doing. It’s the NFL, the National Football League. You don’t get here by accident. He’s a great football player and he’s stepping up and making a lot of plays for us.”
DeVito’s winning plays are good for him, but they’re probably bad for the team. For Jones, they’re even worse.
The Broncos are playing themselves into contention
Seemingly dead in the water at 1-5 following a loss to the Chiefs, the Denver Broncos could have packed it in with a game against the Green Bay Packers and a rematch with Kansas City on tap. Instead, the Broncos, who went 5-12 last season, have not had a winning record since 2016 and have not played a playoff game since Peyton Manning helped them win Super Bowl 50 over the Carolina Panthers, went the other way and have won four in a row to even their record at 5-5.
It hasn’t been easy as three of Denver’s wins during the four-game streak have come by five points combined, but the Broncos have played themselves back into the playoff race and are largely in control of their own destiny as they have at least six winnable games on their schedule with a matchup against the surging Detroit Lions perhaps being the only surefire loss. (And, given that the Lions nearly lost to the horrendous Bears on Sunday, a win in the Detroit game in early December may even be in play.)
A reason for optimism heading into Denver’s final seven games (Browns, Texans, Chargers, Lions, Patriots, Chargers again, Raiders) is that Broncos have been able to reel off four straight despite getting fairly average play from quarterback Russell Wilson. The 35-year-old was able to fire a game-winning touchdown pass during Denver’s Week 11 win on Sunday Night Football, but it was his only passing score of the evening.
With veteran head coach Sean Payton calling the shots, perhaps average play at quarterback from Wilson, who had only 19 touchdowns in 15 games while taking a league-high 55 sacks last season, is all the Broncos need to have success. Wilson, who already has 19 TDs this season and has thrown just four picks, hasn’t shown he can provide much more than mediocre play at this stage of his career, but maybe that’ll be enough if the Broncos can keep winning the turnover battle. After forcing three turnovers in Sunday’s win over the Vikings, the Broncos now have 12 takeaways over their last three games and have a +11 turnover margin during their four-game win streak. It’s pretty simple: win the turnover battle, win the game.
Continuing to win the turnover battle in Week 12 should definitely be doable for the Broncos, as the Browns will start rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback on the road in Denver on Sunday. Thompson-Robinson finished 24-of-43 for 165 yards with an interception against the Steelers in Week 10 and has looked shaky as a passer in limited action during the regular season after lighting it up in the preseason.
A win against DTR and Cleveland put the Broncos at 6-5 and in the playoff hunt, a place no one thought they would be after the 1-5 start. To do it with turnovers instead of Wilson will be an even bigger surprise.