We learned a whole lot from the sixth Sunday of regular season NFL action this year. Seemingly prepared to take a stranglehold on the NFC North, the Chicago Bears laid an egg at the worst possible time in South Beach.
Out west, the Los Angeles Rams continued to dominate. This time, it came against what has quickly become a bad Denver Broncos team. What does that loss mean for Case Keenum and Co.? Meanwhile, Dallas made quick work of the Jaguars in another late-afternoon game.
And in the Sunday Night Football tilt, the New England Patriots made a major statement in a thrilling 43-40 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. It was a battle for supremacy in the AFC. And Tom Brady came through big time. These are among the top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 6 NFL action.
Patriots with that annual statement win
It was not easy Sunday night against the then-undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. While it looked like New England would win this game in a route early on, Patrick Mahomes and Co, came back and made a game of it. In fact, Kansas City took a fourth quarter lead before Tom Brady did Tom Brady things. That included a go-ahead touchdown run late in the fourth quarter and a long connection with Rob Gronkowski that culminated in the game-winning field goal as time expired.
It’s the signature win we’ve come to expect from the Brady-led Patriots. In no way was it perfect. Rob Gronkowski continued to struggle prior to that late catch, the passing game wasn’t going early on. And one defense, the Patriots allowed too many big plays in a 43-40 win. Even then, they took out the talk of the NFL on national television.
Cowboys shockingly dominate the Jaguars
Despite losing to the Chiefs last week, no one could have foreseen just how poorly Jacksonville would play Sunday in Dallas. From the minute this game kicked off, the Cowboys were in domination mode. They allowed less than 70 total yards in the first half, taking a 24-0 lead into intermission. Dak Prescott played the best football we’ve seen since his rookie season. Meanwhile, the Cowboys forced two second half turnovers to come away with a blowout 40-7 win.
Skeptics will wonder whether the Jaguars just didn’t show up in this game. Some will conclude that the blowout win was more about Jacksonville than the Cowboys. That’s fine. But for the first time this season, Jason Garrett’s squad looked like a playoff contender. Now, at 3-3, that’s exactly what the Cowboys are heading into Week 7.
Texans need to get Deshaun Watson some help
Houston might have come out on top against Buffalo on Sunday for its third consecutive win. In no way does that mean Bill O’Brien’s squad is out of the woods quite yet. Sure winning three consecutive after an 0-3 start is good. But the beating that second-year quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to take is anything but good.
Dealing with a chest injury heading into the game, Watson didn’t look anywhere near 100 percent. He was then attended to on the sideline for an unrelated injury after seeing a plethora of pressure in his face. All said, Watson was sacked seven times and hit a total of 13 times in the 20-13 win. Opposing teams have now taken him to the turf 25 times in six games. Houston must fix this in short order if it wants him to remain healthy throughout the remainder of the season.
Buccaneers defense is a complete disaster
Tampa Bay headed into Week 6 having yielded 78 total points in the two games prior to its bye. Most figured head coach Dirk Koetter and Co. would have spent that week off attempting to improve their defense. While that might very well be true, it didn’t show on the field Sunday against a previously struggling Atlanta Falcons squad.
Burnt time after time in the passing game, Tampa Bay yielded 275 total yards and 24 points in the first half. That included Matt Ryan completing 20-of-25 passes for 240 yards with two scores. From that point on, the Bucs’ rally fell short in a 34-29 loss to Atlanta. Now at 2-3 on the season, it appears this squad is dead in the water. It’s a far cry from a 2-0 start to the season.
One-man show in Indianapolis
Andrew Luck entered Week 6 on pace for the most pass attempts in single-season NFL history. He was averaging about 50 attempts through the first five games. A lot of this has to do with Indianapolis playing from behind. Though, a lack of any real threat on the ground has also played a role in this.
That didn’t change Sunday against the New York Jets. Finding themselves down 30-13 early in the third quarter, Luck was forced to drop back to pass 45 times in what ended up being a 42-34 loss. For comparison’s sake, Indy ran the ball a total of 23 times. Given that Luck is still recovering from a shoulder injury that cost him all of last season, one has to wonder whether this is sustainable moving forward. It doesn’t seem to be.
The Titans are broken
We’ve previously focused on Marcus Mariota’s struggles under center. And for good reason. He’s been absolutely dismal since the start of the 2017 season. That didn’t change Sunday against an elite Ravens defense. In leading his team to exactly zero points, a banged up Mariota threw for a grand total of 117 yards.
As much as we want to blame quarterbacks for struggles on offense, this one really wasn’t on Super Mario. Here’s a dude that was sacked a franchise-record 11 times on 28 drop backs. It was among the worst offensive line performances we’ve ever seen. Now losers of two consecutive games, the Titans are back at .500. Unfortunately, this will likely be the high-water mark for them moving forward on the season.
Bengals’ lack of pass rush dooms them
With the likes of Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Carl Lawson and Sam Hubbard on the field, most figured Cincinnati’s pass rush would be among the most dominating in the NFL. Through the first five games, it was pedestrian, at best. That included just 13 sacks of opposing quarterbacks. Despite this, Cincinnati headed into Week 6’s game against the division rival Steelers at 4-1 on the season.
Unfortunately, this lack of pass rush came back to haunt the Bengals in a big way in a 28-21 loss to the Steelers. Ben Roethlisberger was sacked zero times and hit a total of one time, continuing to have a ton of time to find open receivers. Down 21-20 late in the game, this enabled Big Ben to lead the Steelers on a game-winning drive that culminated in this touchdown to Antonio Brown. For the Bengals, it was a lost opportunity. It’s something that might haunt this team big time as the season progresses.
Jaguars would be smart to add a quarterback
We’re not going to put Sunday’s blowout loss on Blake Bortles. Unlike his four-interception performance in Week 5, this defeat was all about Jacksonville’s defense being unable to stop what was a high-octane Cowboys offense in a shocking 40-7 loss. Even then, no objective person believed that Bortles had what it took to lead Jacksonville back from a large halftime deficit.
Playing from behind in the second half, Bortles was once again a turnover machine. With the Jaguars’ defense having taken a step back this season, they need a better performance from their quarterback. At this point, Bortles can’t provide that. And in reality, it might be time for Jacksonville to add a quarterback before the Oct. 30 trade deadline.
Time for Patrick Mahomes to adjust his game on the fly
It was inevitable. Once opposing teams got more tape on Mahomes, they would adjust their defenses accordingly. We saw it in the second half of last week’s game, as Mahomes threw two interceptions against the Jaguars. It was his first two picks of the season. Then, on Sunday night, Mahomes was picked off twice more in a 43-40 loss to the Patriots.
Both interceptions were clearly on Mahomes. The first one saw him miss underneath coverage from Dont’a Hightower. He was then picked off in the end zone while throwing the ball into triple coverage late in the second quarter. This isn’t a surprise. Teams adjust their schemes to take into account the tape. It’s now up to Mahomes to prove that he can do the same. He did that for the most part during a stirring second half performance, in which Kansas City nearly pulled off the comeback win. We have faith in the youngster.
Matt Ryan continues to play great
Despite a 1-4 start to the season, Ryan had performed at an elite level heading into Sunday’s must-win game against the Buccaneers. Over the course of his past three games, the former MVP looked to be back at that level, completing north of 70 percent of his passes with nine scores and zero interceptions.
In no way did that change in Atlanta’s second win of the season. Ryan dominated a bad Buccaneers defense, completing 31-of-41 passes for 354 yards with three touchdowns and zero picks. He’s playing great football. And while an injury-plagued Falcons defense might be their demise, Ryan kept his Falcoms from complete irrelevance with another stirring performance.
Time for the Bills to move on from Kelvin Benjamin
Even prior to Sunday’s game against the Texans, Benjamin hadn’t done anything of note this year. Then he refused to go through pre-game workouts with rookie quarterback Josh Allen. This came after the struggling receiver caught just 30.8 percent of his targets through the first five games of the season.
Once the first quarter kicked off, it was readily apparent that Benjamin wouldn’t be anywhere near productive. All said, he caught just 2-of-4 targets for 43 yards before Allen went down to injury. With a young team and an even younger quarterback under center, it’s this type of mentality the Bills can’t afford. And now, it’s time for Sean McDermott to make the decision to move on from Benjamin altogether.
Sunday’s loss shows Browns’ imperfection
Cleveland had a real opportunity to announce its presence on a league-wide stage Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. With a win in Week 6, the Browns would have been over .500 through the first six games for just the second time since Bill Belichick was the team’s head coach. It didn’t happen. And it’s not a huge surprise.
Like most young teams, the Browns are going to have their growing pains. Rookie Baker Mayfield struggled big time in the passing game and didn’t get the pass protection necessary for success. It led to him being banged up in the first half. Defensively, the Browns allowed too many big plays to Philip Rivers and Los Angeles. In the end, it led to a blowout home loss by the score of 38-14. The good news? Expectations are high for these Browns. One game isn’t going to change that.
Is Vance Joseph done in Denver?
The final score of Sunday’s home game against an undefeated Rams team will tell us one story. Denver lost by just three points, seemingly proving itself to be competitive in the process. That’s mere box score scouting. The tape tells us a story of a team that gave up 270 rushing yards, including 208 to Todd Gurley. It also tells us a story of a Broncos squad that scored a total of three first half points. It was ugly. Really ugly.
Having lost four consecutive games, it sure looks like second-year head coach Vance Joseph is in over his head. It’s a carbon copy of what we saw during his initial campaign. And based on comments we saw from Denver’s brass prior to Sunday’s loss, Joseph himself could soon be out of a job.
The Raiders are a complete dumpster fire
Even prior to Sunday’s game kicking off against the Seahawks in London, reports surfaced that the Raiders were looking to trade multiple high-profile veterans prior to the Oct. 30 deadline. That includes former Pro Bowl wide receiver Amari Cooper. Once the game itself kicked off, it was clear these Raiders didn’t belong on the field with Seattle.
Dealing with a plethora of injuries along the offensive line, Derek Carr was sacked six times and hit a total of 10 times. On the other side of the field, Oakland decided to go with a new tandem of starting cornerbacks. That resulted in Russell Wilson completing 17-of-23 passes with three touchdowns in what ended up being a 27-3 Seahawks win. Now at 1-5 on the season, Jon Gruden’s squad is dead in the water. And it promises to get uglier as the year continues. That would only be magnified if Oakland trades some of its current core.
Bears lose in typical fashion
Everything seemed to be working in Chicago’s favor coming off a Week 5 bye. The team had just dominated Tampa Bay in its previous outing and was set to take on Dolphins backup quarterback Brock Osweiler. With one of the most stingy defenses in the NFL, this had all the makings of a blowout Bears win. But much like what we saw from this team under former head coach John Fox, it never came to fruition.
After having opened up a 21-10 third quarter lead, Chicago’s defense came up small. Miami scored on four of its final six drives, culminating in a game-winning field goal in overtime. That came after a two-score swing in the fourth quarter in which a Mitchell Trubisky interception in the end zone ultimately resulted in a touchdown for the Dolphins. All said, Chicago yielded nearly 550 total yards in a 31-28 loss to Miami. That’s just ugly.
Todd Gurley is a bad, bad man
If the Los Angeles Rams continue to dominate in the fashion we’ve seen over the first six weeks, this reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year will get a ton of MVP votes when all was said and done. Sunday’s win over Denver was a prime example of this.
With Jared Goff struggling in the passing game, Gurley picked up the slack big time. He went for 208 yards and two touchdowns on 28 attempts. Through the first six games of the season, Gurley is on pace for 2,320 total yards and 29 touchdowns. Is that good?
Typical Jameis Winston performance
Making his first start of the season after serving a three-game suspension, Winston was back up to his old tricks in an important divisional matchup with the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. He put up awe-inspiring plays, mixing in the mistakes that have marred the former No. 1 overall pick throughout his career.
Winston was picked off twice inside Atlanta’s five-yard line, giving away up to 14 points in the process. He also tossed for 395 yards and four touchdowns en route to almost leading Tampa Bay to a comeback win. It’s the inconsistency that has plagued Winston throughout his career. Now in his fourth season, most figured Winston would be past this. He isn’t. And it cost the Buccaneers in a big way, leading to their third consecutive loss after a 2-0 start to the season.
Jets might actually be good
Talk about rebounding after a three-game losing streak. Fresh off dropping 34 points in a blowout win over the Broncos last week, rookie quarterback Sam Darnold and Co. imposed their will in a big way against Indianapolis on Sunday. Darnold completed 24-of-30 passes for 280 yards with two touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Jets forced three Andrew Luck interceptions. That included this game-opening pick-six from Morris Claiborne.
When all was said and done, New York came out on top by the score of 42-34 for a second consecutive win. Now at 3-3 on the season and averaging nearly 28 points per game, the Jets are clearly in the AFC Playoff race. Imagine that.