Sunday’s Week 6 NFL action was rife with drama from the get go. The early games saw Jay Cutler and his Miami Dolphins come up with a major upset win on the road against Atlanta. The New England Patriots pulled off a comeback against a surprising Jets squad, enabling Tom Brady to make history in the process.
In New Orleans, the Saints used three defensive touchdowns to defeat Detroit. Remaining in the NFC, Packers quarterback and MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers suffered what could be a season-ending injury.
While the late slate of action lacked the same drama, Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders lost their fourth consecutive game. Fortunately for a Raiders team that appears to be toast, Big Ben and the Steelers went into Kansas City and handed the Chiefs their first loss of the season.
These are among the top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 6 NFL action.
Falcons’ early-season struggles continue
It was a comedy of errors for the Falcons coming off their bye at home against a Dolphins team that had put up 22 points in its past three games. After jumping up 17-0 at the half, a reminder of last year’s Super Bowl crept up for fans in Atlanta on Sunday.
Whether it was mistakes on special teams, coverage break downs on defense or a costly mistake from Matt Ryan at quarterback, this was a downright horrendous performance.
Matt Ryan's pass is picked off…
— NFL (@NFL) October 15, 2017
When all was said and done, Miami scored 20 unanswered second-half points in a game that culminated in a Ryan pick to close things out in favor of the road team. Now a 3-2 on the season, one has to wonder if the dreaded Super Bowl hangover is alive and well in Hotlanta.
Tom Brady sets another record
It wasn’t pretty. New England had to work real hard to overcome what has been a surprising New York Jets team. But in the end, Tom Brady and the Patriots did just enough to win. For the future Hall of Fame quarterback, it represented the 187th regular season victory of Brady’s career — surpassing Peyton Manning for the all-time NFL record. An interesting side note, one that will tear into Jets fans the world over, Brady now has as many overall wins as the New York franchise since 1989.
Again, it didn’t come easy. New England fell down 14-0 in the first half, making Josh McCown look like a variation of Brady himself. That’s when the team turned it up big time. By virtue of two touchdown passes to Rob Gronkowski and this questionable call, the Pats overcame a two-score deficit to win by the score of 24-17 in New Jersey. For the Patriots, there are still a lot of issues here. McCown threw for 347 yards. The Jets had four different pass catchers go for 50-plus yards. Meanwhile, New England turned the ball over twice in the first half. Even then, Brady’s performance was enough for the team to come out on top against a game New York squad.
Raiders are toast
Oakland entered Sunday’s action mired in a three-game losing streak and facing the possibility of falling into last place in the AFC West. This was seemingly an impossibility after the team opened the season with a 2-0 record and looked like potential Super Bowl contenders. But after Derek Carr struggled for a two-game stretch, the quarterback suffered a back injury and missed last week’s game. Backup EJ Manuel would ultimately stink it up under center in a loss to the pedestrian Baltimore Ravens.
The hope here for Oakland was that it would be able to take advantage of the worst team in the division at home. Instead, it was Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers who handed Oakland what has to be considered a potential season-dooming loss. On offense, Derek Carr threw two more interceptions. The struggling Amari Cooper tallied just 28 receiving yards. And Oakland gained just 224 total yards.
Defensively, it was a much better all-around performance. But with the game on the line late in the fourth and Oakland up 16-14, the Raiders’ defense allowed Melvin Gordon to run the ball down the field, chewing up clock in the process. Forced to use their timeouts on defense before Gordon picked up a dagger first down, the Raiders were left to watch as the recently signed Nick Novak kicked a game-winning field goal. Now losers of four consecutive games, the Raiders find themselves in last place in the AFC West. Ouch.
Wacky and wild Saints win
After opening up a 45-10 second half lead over Detroit on Sunday, New Orleans allowed the Lions and Matthew Stafford to get back in the game big time. By virtue of two consecutive touchdown-scoring drives, a punt return for a score and a Drew Brees pick-six, the Lions pulled to within 45-38 late in the final stanza.
That’s when the Saints’ defense, which had yielded a grand total of 13 points in its previous two games, came up big again. After pinning an injured Stafford back inside his own one, Cameron Jordan picked off a pass in the end zone to give New Orleans an insurmountable 52-38 lead and, ultimately, the win.
— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) October 15, 2017
It was the third defensive touchdown of the game for a suddenly ball-hawking unit led by defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. We’re not too sure if this type of performance is sustainable. But the Saints are now in the midst of a three-game winning streak and clearly in contention in a wide open NFC South. Imagine that.
Giants show grit, get first win of the season
Everything was stacked against the Giants ahead of Sunday night’s game against the Broncos in Denver. Their opponent was coming off a Week 5 bye. They were facing legitimately one of the best pass defenses in the modern history of the NFL. Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall and Dwayne Harris suffered season-ending injuries the week before. Meanwhile, Sterling Shepard was inactive due to an ankle injury of his own.
It mattered little. Showing themselves to be gritty, the Giants overcame this en route to a 23-10 win over Denver. Eli Manning put up a workmanlike performance, completing 11-of-19 passes with a touchdown, and most importantly, no interceptions. And on defense, Jason Pierre-Paul recorded an absurd three sacks to go with eight tackles and two more quarterback hits.
Sure the Giants are not going to be contending for a playoff spot. Head coach Ben McAdoo still seems a bit lost here. Even then, getting that one win had to be a huge relief for this injury-plagued and drama-filled organization.
Bears continue to remain competitive
After losing one-score affairs to Minnesota and Atlanta while coming out ahead over Pittsburgh, the Chicago Bears notched their second win of the season on Sunday. It was also quarterback Mitchell “Biscuit” Trubisky’s first win in just his second career start.
To be clear here, Chicago did everything possible to give the game away against the Ravens in Baltimore. The team boasted a 17-13 lead before Trubisky fumbled early in the fourth quarter. Even then, the Bears’ defense would step up by intercepting Joe Flacco and returning it to the house 90 yards for a score. Then, after Baltimore kicked a field goal to pull it to within eight, the Bears’ special teams broke down in a big way, yielding a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown. With a two-point conversation, the game headed into overtime tied at 24.
That’s when, for the second time in less than a month, Chicago relied on a ground game to pull out an overtime victory. Led by Jordan Howard’s 53-yard run late in the extra stanza, the Bears pulled off a 27-24 victory. It wasn’t pretty by any stretch of the imagination. This team is surely still talent stricken. Trubisky completed just eight passes. Even then, the Bears continue to prove themselves to be more competitive than most envisioned heading into the season.
Beleaguered 49ers turn to rookie QB
Down 17-0 against Washington in the first half on Sunday, head coach Kyle Shanahan had enough. The first-year head coach benched hand-picked veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer for rookie third-round pick C.J. Beathard.
Like clockwork, the 49ers’ offense really took off for the first time under the young head coach. Beathard would go on to complete 19-of-36 passes for 245 yards en route to leading San Francisco to 24 points on seven possessions. This included a stellar 45-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson.
It wasn’t enough for San Francisco to come out on top. By virtue of a questionable late-game offensive pass interference penalty on Pierre Garcon, the 49ers lost by the score of 27-24. They’re now 0-6 on the season, having lost their past five games by a combined 13 points. More competitive than in the past, San Francisco will now roll with Beathard under center as it looks to see what it has at quarterback. Sunday was definitely a solid start for the Iowa product.
Adrian Peterson turns back the clock in Cards debut
While his former Saints team was busy dropping 50-plus points on Detroit, Peterson was making his Cardinals debut on Sunday. And he didn’t disappoint. Peterson put up 54 yards on four attempts on Arizona’s first drive of the game. This surpassed what the Cardinals averaged on ground during their first five games. It was capped off by this vintage AD 27-yard touchdown run (watch here).
Peterson would go on to put up 134 yards on 26 attempts and two scores for an average of 5.2 yards per rush against a Buccaneers defense that entered Week 6 having yielded the eighth-fewest rushing yards in the NFL. It also came in the midst of a game that saw the previously struggling Cardinals beat Tampa Bay by the score of 38-33.
Talk about one player making a huge difference in his debut in the desert. Whether that translates to future success remains to be seen. But AD definitely gave a jolt to his new team on Sunday.
Deshaun Watson is on fire
The rookie quarterback may have thrown a pick-six in an otherwise lopsided win over the hapless Browns, but he continued to show why the Texans traded up with this Cleveland team for the rights to the former Clemson standout. Watson put up three more touchdown passes, becoming the first rookie in the Super Bowl era to toss three-plus scores in three consecutive games (more on that here).
Now, over the course of the past three games, Watson has scored 13 total touchdowns. And by virtue of Houston’s 33-17 win over Cleveland on Sunday, the Texans are averaging 39.3 points over the past four games. It’s now readily apparent that Cleveland rues the day it traded the pick Houston utilized to select Watson back in April. For the Texans, that’s just sweet music to their ears.
Jay Cutler and Fins quiet critics
It was Jarvis Landry who stood up for Cutler as fans in Miami called for the quarterback’s benching leading up to Sunday game against Atlanta. It was then Cutler who did the talking on the field in a shocking 20-17 victory against the defending NFC champs on Sunday.
Cutler’s stats weren’t tremendous. He completed 19-of-33 passes for 151 yards with two scores and one interception. But at the very least, he was able to lead the Dolphins on sustained drives as the team came back from a 17-0 halftime deficit. This included a 75-yard touchdown-scoring drive to open the second half and a game-winning field goal drive late in the final stanza to put Miami up by three.
That final drive saw Cutler complete just one pass. But he didn’t make the mistake that has defined the veteran’s career over the past several seasons. That’s definitely a big deal for a Miami squad that now enters Week 7 with a 3-2 record and a clear shot at a playoff spot in the AFC.
Curious call, slow start dooms Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs entered Sunday’s action against Pittsburgh with the only unbeaten record in the NFL. Most figured they would take advantage of a struggling Ben Roethlisberger at home to move to 6-0 on the season. That most definitely did not happen.
In the first half, Kansas City bored its home fans to the tune of six total net yards and one first down. Despite this, Alex Smith and Co. came alive in the second half, ultimately putting themselves in a position for a potential game-winning drive. But when a Smith pass on fourth-and-18 fell incomplete, the Chiefs had dropped their first game of the season.
Outside of the team’s slow start, the largest issue here was Andy Reid. With his team down 12-3 early in the fourth quarter, the head coach inexplicably went for it on fourth-and-two from the Steelers’ four-yard line. The attempt failed, keeping it a two-score game. If the Chiefs had decided to kick the field goal, they would have been down by just six.
This came back to haunt Kansas City after the team put up an 82-yard touchdown-scoring drive a few minutes later to pull to within 12-10. After the two teams exchanged scores, the Chiefs found themselves down 19-13 late in the game. So instead of potentially playing for a field goal and overtime, the home team was in desperation mode. And following a James Harrison sack, that was pretty much the game. It’s an inexcusable decision from Reid, one that will be talked about for some time now.
Browns’ “Factory of Sadness” remains
Prior to their Week 6 outing against Houston, we focused on just how poorly Browns head coach Hue Jackson has handled the team’s quarterback situation. Benching rookie signal caller DeShone Kizer in each of the past two games made absolutely no sense. And thinking that someone of Kevin Hogan’s ilk would turn it around made even less sense.
It didn’t take too long on Sunday against a suddenly dominating Texans team for us to realize Hogan was in way over his head. He threw three first-half interceptions, including this 82-yard pick-six into the hands of Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph.
That led to a 24-3 halftime deficit, a culmination of a three-week span that has seen the Browns outscored 48-3 prior to intermission.
All said, Hogan completed 20-of-37 passes for 140 yards with one touchdown and those three interceptions. He was also sacked four times while going to the ground a total of nine times. To recap another brutal performance, Cleveland converted on 3-of-14 third-down opportunities and scored 10 points on offense. Now at 0-6 on the season, Jackson boasts a 1-21 record as the Browns’ head coach. The hot seat is definitely getting hotter here.
Broncos embarrass themselves on national television
Everything was seemingly working in the Broncos’ favor heading into Sunday night. They were coming off a bye. The Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders both lost Sunday afternoon. And Denver was slated to host a Giants team that was without its top-four receivers, three of which are lost for the season. Did we mention New York was winless on the season?
None of this really mattered at Mile High. Putting up a stinker of a performance, Denver fell by the score of 23-10. It was so bad that starter Trevor Siemian had to exit the game after attempting to make a tackle on a pick-six. This led to Broncos fans hearing six words that are truly reserved for Pennywise-themed nightmares. “Brock Osweiler is in the game.” And while Siemian would return shortly thereafter, he was incredibly ineffective. The second-year starter threw two total picks and was sacked four times in the 13-point loss to a previously winless and injury-plagued Giants squad. Ouch.
Horrific blow to Packers’ Super Bowl aspirations
In the first half against Minnesota on Sunday, former MVP Aaron Rodgers went down with what initially looked like a shoulder injury after he was driven into the ground by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. After rumors persisted that Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone, the Packers themselves confirmed that to be the case. The team also noted that Rodgers could very well be done for the season.
Needless to say, this could be a dramatic blow for Green Bay’s Super Bowl aspirations. The Packers rely more on Rodger than any other NFL quarterback west of New England. He’s the heart and soul of this team and has missed a grand total of seven games to injury since taking over as the team’s starter back in 2008.
Following the injury, former UCLA standout Brett Hundley took over for Rodgers under center. He would go on to complete 18-of-33 passes for 157 yards with one touchdown and three picks in a 23-10 loss to the Vikings. No matter how well Hundley plays from here on out, Green Bay is now behind the proverbial eight-ball with its former MVP sidelined. That’s not good for anyone involved.