And just like that, Week 6 is just about in the books. Comeback wins, gritty road victories and wild finishes capped a thrilling Sunday of action. Only the Broncos and Chiefs remain unbeaten as the Saints were dealt their first loss in dramatic fashion. Some teams (ahem, the Jets) came crashing back to earth and others found ways to win in adverse conditions. All right, let’s get into what we know:
Patriots 30, Saints 27 – This is Tom Brady’s world
The Patriots (5-1) were on the ropes when Drew Brees hit Kenny Stills with this touchdown pass with just minutes remaining:
Then Brady threw an interception that seemingly put the game on ice.
Against a lesser opponent, the Saints would have been able to waltz away with their sixth win without a loss in 2013. But this is Tom Brady we’re talking about. This guy – despite a bad performance in his previous game – has icewater in his veins.
The Patriots defense stiffened and forced a Saints punt that gave Brady the ball on New England’s 30-yard line with 1:20 remaining. What followed was a thing of beauty.
First, Brady completed a 23-yard pass to Julian Edelman. He followed that with a 15-yard toss to Austin Collie and a 6-yarder to Aaron Dobson. Two plays later, Brady put New England in the red zone with another strike to Collie. Then, came the kill shot.
Brady delivered that 17-yard touchdown to rookie Kenbrell Thompkins with just five seconds left in the game. Boom. Game over.
Is it any wonder that Saints defense coordinator Rob Ryan had this reaction?
We feel your pain, Rob. You just got Bradied.
Cowboys 31, Redskins 16 – Dallas rides defense in win against RG3 and Co.
For a defense that allowed 78 points and 1,023 yards of total offense over the previous two weeks, the Monte Kiffin-led unit played much better on Sunday night.
Besides a 45-yard rushing touchdown by Redskins running back Alfred Morris in the third quarter, the Cowboys defense played with discipline and forced the Redskins offense to kick Kai Forbath field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.
One blow did come when linebacker DeMarcus Ware left the game in the first half with a quad injury.
The Cowboys offense moved the ball down the field methodically and didn’t rely on the big play from Tony Romo. They didn’t need to establish the running game with DeMarco Murray and Joseph Randle, but the duo each found the end zone when his number was called near the goal line. Murray did end up leaving with a knee sprain.
After a week in which Romo was ridiculed, he had a commendable performance, completing 18 of 30 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown.
Third-year wide receiver Dwayne Harris officially made a name for himself, racking up 222 yards in return yardage on a national stage.
The Cowboys are now tied for first place in the NFC East with the Eagles. Of course, the two teams clash next week in Philadelphia. The division race is just starting to heat up.
Packers 19, Ravens 17 – What a difference a running game makes
It didn’t seem like anything was going Green Bay’s way. The Packers were are already without linebacker Clay Matthews (broken thumb) and then lost receivers James Jones and Randall Cobb to injuries.
As a result, QB Aaron Rodgers struggled against an attacking Ravens defense in the first half. So, how did the Packers escape with a win? Simple: By feeding the beast known as running back Eddie Lacy.
The rookie carried the ball 23 times for 120 tough yards, including this impressive run in the first half:
The Packers averaged 4.7 yards per carry, which helped keep them in the lead until Rodgers found his groove in the second half. He gave his team a 13-point lead when he connected with Jordy Nelson on this 64-yard touchdown pass.
When all was said and done, Rodgers finished 17 of 32 passing for 315 yards. With the win, the Packers (3-2) ended the Ravens’ 13-game win streak at home against NFC North opponents.
Rams 38, Texans 13 – Texans Nation doesn’t have Matt Schaub to kick around anymore
It’s not just because Houston’s starting quarterback went down with an ankle injury during this game, drawing cheers from classless people in the home crowd.
No, the blame for the Texans’ fourth straight loss fell on everyone BUT Schaub. The team racked up 95 yards in penalties and turned the ball over four times. One of those turnovers was a pick-six and no, Schaub didn’t throw it. That one came compliments of backup QB TJ Yates:
That’s the fifth time the Texans have had an interception returned for a touchdown in 2013. In case you’re wondering, the record is eight, set by the Dolphins in 2004.
“For the past few weeks the finger has been pointed in one direction a lot,” head coach Gary Kubiak said to the Associated Press. “But we sprung leaks all over the place today.”
One respected veteran added this gem:
“We played our absolute worst football the last two weeks and we’ve got to change it,” Houston safety Ed Reed said.
The key word being “we.” Not “Schaub.”
As for the Rams (3-3), they have to be pleased after an impressive performance that got them back to .500. QB Sam Bradford threw another three touchdown passes, bringing his season total to 14 with just two interceptions. They’re still in striking position in the NFC West. If this team matures rapidly, look out.
Steelers 19, Jets 6 – Pittsburgh’s first win was also its 600th
Strange, right? One of the NFL’s crown jewel franchises celebrated a milestone victory on Sunday. Not only was it the Steelers’ first win of 2013, but it was also the 600th in team history.
Wow, did it come at the right time. Pittsburgh’s running game still is a mess, but Ben Roethlisberger carried the team on his back, throwing for 264 yards and this beautiful touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders:
“I looked up and saw Emmanuel running by himself and kind of had to hesitate for a second because I couldn’t believe he was so wide open,” Roethlisberger said. “The only thought in my head was, `Don’t overthrow him.'”
Pittsburgh’s defense also stepped up, picking off Jets QB Geno Smith twice, the second of which came late in the fourth quarter with New York in the red zone.
Now that the Steelers have that first win, will more be coming? Well, that’s tough to say. They face the Ravens at home in Week 7 before back-to-back road tests against the Raiders and Patriots. But one thing is for sure:
“We’re not going to quit,” Brett Keisel said.
Panthers 35, Vikings 10 – The good Cam Newton showed his face today
Gone was the erratic quarterback who got sacked seven times last week. No, this Cam Newton came through with a gem, throwing three touchdown passes and running for another score. He finished with 242 yards passing and another 30 on the ground.
This game also featured one of the more bone-jarring hits of the season as wide receiver Steve Smith laid out Minnesota linebacker Chad Greenway:
If the Panthers can put together efforts like this on a consistent basis, this team can be a real terror.
As for the Vikings, an already tough season grew worse before the team even took the field. Star running back Adrian Peterson had to deal with the death of his son this week, which was undoubtedly weighing on his mind. Matt Cassel threw two interceptions as the Vikings dropped to 1-4 on the season.
Seahawks 20, Titans 13 – Even mistakes can’t beat Seattle at home
The Seahawks missed assignments, turned the ball over and had one of the strangest botched field goals you’ll ever see.
Yet, they still walked away with the win to move to 5-1 on the season. How? Marshawn Lynch compiled 155 total yards with two touchdowns and Richard Sherman came up with his third interception of the season that helped set up the score that sealed the game.
When the Seahawks are in front of the 12th man, it seems everything comes up roses.
Eagles 31, Buccaneers 20 – Nick Foles: Really good backup or Vick’s replacement?
Does Chip Kelly have a quarterback controversy brewing? Much like Michael Vick earned the job over Kevin Kolb while the latter was out with an injury in 2010, Foles has led the Eagles to two straight wins in impressive fashion.
Kelly, of course, said just seven days ago that Vick was his starting quarterback, but the way Foles played on Sunday could force the first-year head coach to reevaluate his assessment.
Foles looked poised, hooking up with DeSean Jackson twice for scores and Riley Cooper for another. The second-year quarterback seems to have fully grasped the offense as he even rushed for a touchdown. It also helped that LeSean McCoy was given plenty of room to run, totaling 116 yards on 25 carries.
The Buccaneers (0-5) showed some signs of life on offense as Mike Glennon connected with Vincent Jackson twice for touchdowns. The latter will be key in Glennon’s development as he proves to be a sturdy red-zone target.
Bengals 27, Bills 24 (OT) – Cincy slams the door shut in overtime
Everyone wrote off the Bills before the ball was even kicked off. Quarterback Thad Lewis was making his second career start, but you couldn’t tell as he showed zero sign of any nerves.
Lewis, who sprained his right foot and reportedly left Ralph Wilson Stadium in a walking boot, piloted a six-play, 69-yard scoring drive to take the lead in the first quarter. Lewis wasn’t perfect, losing a key fumble and getting sacked five times. He showed great potential sparking the offense, which was without its prized rookie quarterback EJ Manuel due to injury.
The Bengals had a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter by way of Andy Dalton’s 337 yards and 3 touchdown passes, but they still allowed the Bills to rally.
It was Lewis who threw touchdowns to Scott Chandler and Marquise Goodwin in the fourth quarter to force overtime.
The duo of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Gio Bernard were able to get the Bengals into range for the go-ahead score, and Mike Nugent drilled the 43-yard field goal to end the game.
One more note: Bills rookie linebacker Kiko Alonso somehow finished the day with 22 tackles. Yeah, you can say he earned his paycheck.
Lions 31, Browns 17 – Should you buy into the first-place Lions?
While most of Detroit was anticipating its ALCS showdown with the Red Sox, a solid contingent was locked to their TVs watching the Lions gut out another road win in Cleveland.
A few unfamiliar names emerged for Detroit, which was dealing with the balky knee of receiver Calvin Johnson. Undrafted free agent Joseph Fauria proved to be Matthew Stafford’s favorite red-zone target, hauling in three touchdowns catches. Stafford’s college teammate Kris Durham had a career game, with eight catches for 83 yards.
The Lions were trailing by 10 at halftime, but it was Stafford who willed his team to a win. The Browns had a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter, but quarterback Brandon Weeden threw an ill-advised pass that was picked off by linebacker DeAndre Levy.
So, are the Lions for real? Well, fresh off a 22-9 loss at Lambeau Field, we’d advise you to not get ahead of yourself. Over the next two weeks, they host the Bengals and Cowboys before their bye week. That’s when we’ll know if this team can contend for a division title.
Chiefs 24, Raiders 7 — Kansas City could likely be 9-0 going into the bye week
For years, Arrowhead Stadium has been a very unfriendly place to visit. That was until the past couple seasons, when fans demonstrated their disdain for the struggling franchise by showing up to the stadium with brown paper bags over their heads. Well, the Andy Reid era couldn’t be more different.
Arrowhead Stadium rumbled to deafening levels because of Kansas City’s defense, which sacked Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor 10 times. Tamba Hali was a mainstay in Oakland’s backfield, getting five hits on the quarterback, including three sacks. At times, Pryor was able to scramble to extend drives, but Kansas City’s defense would buckle down when it mattered most.
Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson employed a game plan of riding running back Jamaal Charles to grind out the win.
On paper, it doesn’t get much more difficult for the Chiefs. They host the Texans next week, who will either be starting a gimpy Matt Schaub or green T.J. Yates at quarterback. Then, they host the Browns before traveling to Orchard Park to play the Bills in Week 9. The Chiefs are humming and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon.
Broncos 35, Jaguars 19 – It was ugly, but the Broncos earned Sunday’s win
Everyone at Sports Authority Field at Mile High was aware that the Broncos were the largest favorites (-26 1/2) in NFL history.
The Jaguars, who were entering the contest without QB Blaine Gabbert – is that a bad thing? – and tight end Marcedes Lewis, were still searching for their first win of the season and were playing with nothing to lose. Funny enough, they played their best game against the league’s consensus best team. It still wasn’t enough, even though FOX NFL Sunday panelist Jimmy Johnson gave them a special pregame speech:
Peyton Manning overcame multiple three-and-outs, a fumbled snap exchange and a pick-six after throwing two early scores. But it was running back Knowshon Moreno who put the game away in the second half. Moreno, who ran for a career-high three touchdowns, had a nose for the end zone and made the most of his 15 carries.
Manning kept up his pace at breaking the single-season passing touchdown record as he’s thrown 22 through six games.
The Broncos had no answer for second-year wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Although he’s been hampered with off-the-field issues early in his career, Blackmon is finally beginning to show the big-time potential the Jaguars so desperately coveted in the 2012 NFL Draft. Blackmon finished with 14 catches for 190 yards and had a total of 20 targets.
49ers 32, Cardinals 20 – Vernon Davis had one of those monster games
Much has been made of the absence of a go-to wide receiver in the 49ers passing game. Well, Vernon Davis decided he could fill that role admirably against the Cardinals. Davis’ eight grabs for 180 yards and two touchdowns electrified the Niners offense.
It was just a couple weeks ago that experts were panicking about the 49ers. Since then, they’ve been able to put those worries aside by running the ball with Frank Gore and playing solid defense.
Patrick Willis made his return to said defense after missing the previous two games with a groin injury. The seventh-year linebacker was all over the field, racking up eight tackles and forcing a fumble.
The 49ers will make trips to Tennessee and Jacksonville before entering their Week 9 bye week.