Giants tight end Jake Ballard hangs onto the ball for a catch after getting… (William Perlman / US Presswire )
First, we turned back the clocks. Then the NFL did.
Four years after upsetting New England in the Super Bowl, the New York Giants did it again Sunday, knocking off the Patriots, 24-20. New England was favored by nine and had won 20 regular-season games in a row at home.
San Francisco improved to 4-0 on the road by winning at Washington, 19-11. The 49ers have their best record away from home since 1992, and all four of those victories have come in the Eastern time zone — once a dead zone for them.
In another example of how wacky the league can be, Miami stomped the streaking Kansas City Chiefs, 31-3, the Dolphins tasting victory for the first time in 11 months.
"We had a couple of big plays, which kind of lit the fire," Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore said. "You make a couple of big plays early and there's no telling what can happen."
Well, sometimes you can tell. Set your watch by this: The Colts lost. Again.
Asked if he could have ever dreamed this season could start with nine consecutive losses, Colts Coach Jim Caldwell said: "I haven't had nightmares like that in a long time."
But for every team that falls back, another springs forward. And no one is springing like the Green Bay Packers, the league's only undefeated team, who had another spectacular performance from Aaron Rodgers in a 45-38 win at San Diego.
Green Bay is the third defending Super Bowl champion to start a season 8-0, joining the 1998 Denver Broncos and 1990 49ers.
Rodgers, who lives in Del Mar during the off-season, said he was amazed by the sheer number of Cheeseheads in the stands.
"The crowd was incredible," he said. "When you're on the road and up by seven and it's late in the game, and [the home team has] to go on a silent count, that's pretty impressive."
Unfazed by a steady rain, Rodgers showered touchdown passes on the Chargers — four, to four receivers — although San Diego battled back to make it interesting.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, for years the team's most reliable player, had a career-high three interceptions to go with his four touchdowns. Rivers leads the NFL with 14 interceptions and 17 turnovers.
"We're fighting through a rough time right now," he said. "These tough times, you find out a lot about guys, a lot about yourself."
San Diego has lost three in a row to drop to 4-4. The only consolation for the Chargers was that both the Chiefs and Oakland Raiders lost, meaning the AFC West is knotted even more tightly with those three .500 teams tied for first. Right behind them is Denver, which improved to 3-5 by winning at Oakland.
Is Tim Tebow the right quarterback for Denver? Tebow Nation has to be excited by the way he played in the Broncos' 38-24 victory over the Raiders. He ran for 117 yards in 12 carries, frequently fooling the defense with his option keepers. Denver rolled up 298 yards on the ground, the most since 2000, and the Broncos' most against the Raiders.
"As long as it worked, that's all I care about," said running back Willis McGahee, who ran for 163 yards with two touchdowns. "[Tebow] did a great job as far as reading the ends on what he had to do as far as keeping it or giving it."
Meanwhile, the Raiders were outscored 24-0 in the final 17 minutes 57 seconds. They play at San Diego on Thursday.
Oakland's Carson Palmer, acquired in a trade with Cincinnati after Jason Campbell was injured, had three touchdowns and three interceptions.
"It's kind of a crash course the last couple weeks," Palmer said of learning the offense. "It's like you're jamming or cramming for a final or a test. But I've just got to continue to work, continue to study, continue to have it down and learn from every opportunity I get."
Change of scenery
In six years in Washington, cornerback Carlos Rogers saw the wheels fall off some promising seasons. Rogers, who now plays for the 49ers, doesn't envision the same type of meltdown in San Francisco.
In explaining the contrast, he fired a one-two punch at Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and Coach Mike Shanahan.
"Different team, different organization," he said. "It's different from the top down. That's all I can tell by. Once you've got that, everybody together collected as a team, it's not about this head coach's way and there's no other way. It's not about this owner's way or no way. It's not about the star players on our team trying to get their way."
The surprising Cincinnati Bengals have stormed into the AFC picture, improving to 6-2 with a 24-17 victory at Tennessee.
The Bengals have won five in a row, something they haven't done since 1988, when they made it to the Super Bowl.
Rookie quarterback Andy Dalton is playing great, and so is Cincinnati's defense, which came into the game ranked fourth in yards allowed. Sunday, the Bengals yielded only 95 yards in the second half, with 30 of those coming on the last play. The defense also nearly scored a touchdown for the fourth straight week.
Now comes the most challenging half of the season for the Bengals, who have both Pittsburgh and both Baltimore games yet to play.
That's what Rex Ryan's team calls it — Jet-i-tude — the defensive swagger that they relocated in Sunday's 27-11 victory at Buffalo. The Jets forced three turnovers and twice stopped the Bills on fourth down.
"Everybody loves Cinderella stories," Jets linebacker Bart Scott said of the up-from-the-ashes Bills. "We've always been portrayed as the bad guys, but we relish in that role."
So is it time to write a new chapter?
"I'm sure there's going to be something written about the Jets being back," Scott said. "And we won't listen to that either, because at the end of the day, we know that you guys [in the media] don't know what the hell you're talking about."