An epic finish in Foxboro presaged a similar drama in baseball, the Packers grind out a big win, the Seahawks and Broncos win fairly ugly and the Chiefs stay undefeated. TheSportsNotebook’s NFL analysis rips through the notable takeaways from the NFL Week 6 games.
New England 30 New Orleans 27: Tom Brady threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds left, setting the stage for an extraordinary night in Boston sports, completed with David Ortiz’ grand slam that turned around the American League Championship Series in Fenway Park. But from a purely football standpoint, the story here is the Patriot defense.
New England forced New Orleans into three-and-outs on two separate occasions when a first down would have sealed the game. The Pats forced Drew Brees into a 17-for-36 night and held Jimmy Graham without a catch. Brady has endured injuries at receiver and in general hasn’t always looked sharp, but keep him in a game and he can pull a rabbit out of his hat. It’s the New England D that made it possible.
Green Bay 19 Baltimore 17: At what point did the Packers start winning with defense and the running game? A.J. Hawk had three sacks to key the defense and Eddie Lacy ran for 120 yards. Aaron Rodgers looks a little off his game right now, but for the second straight week he came up with a big long touchdown pass, this one to Jordy Nelson to open up a close game in the second half.
Denver 35 Jacksonville 19: The Jaguars, a historic 28.5 point underdog only trailed 14-12 at halftime, only 28-19 in the fourth quarter and Justin Blackmon caught 14 passes for 190 yards. Before anyone gets too tough on the Broncos, maybe we should have seen this coming.
Even the worst NFL team is populated by athletes that are, by conventional standards, extraordinary, and are filled with tremendous pride. Spend as much time beating on them, and then pouring salt in their wound with this pointspread and all the media discussion of it, and you’re basically inviting them to turn the game into their personal Super Bowl. And what, short of the win, did Denver have to gain?
Seattle 20 Tennessee 13: This is a deceptively close score, made possible by a botched Seattle field goal that turned into a touchdown runback. Otherwise, the Seahawks intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick twice, ran the ball with Marshawn Lynch and got another efficient performance from Russell Wilson.
Kansas City 24 Oakland 7: The Chiefs are doing a great job in carving out an identity. This was not a game where Kansas City played very well at home. The running attack was basically a wash, and Alex Smith had a subpar 14/31 for 128 yards outing. But Kansas City did not turn the ball over and they intercepted Terrelle Pryor three times.
It isn’t pretty, and you probably won’t win the Super Bowl doing it that way, but you can grind out a lot of wins. Kansas City saw a lot of winning done this way in the Marty Schottenheimer era and now Andy Reid has brought it back.
Dallas 31 Washington 16: The Redskins played their best defensive game of the year, and RG3 was running and looking good throwing the ball. But Washington did not commit to the run and Dallas was able to tee off defensively, ultimately bearing a fruit in a sack/fumble recovery on inside the Washington 5-yard-line. And the Cowboys won it on special teams, with Dwayne Harris returning a punt for a touchdown and kickoff into the Redskin red zone.
Essentially, in a battle of mistake-prone teams, Washington out-Dallased the Cowboys.
Chicago 27 NY Giants 21: When a team is 0-6 you can’t blame everything on the quarterback. Eli Manning really is a big part of the New York woes though, throwing three more interceptions on Thursday night.
Cincinnati 27 Buffalo 24 (OT): I know you never throw back any win in the NFL ,but the Bengals were ahead 24-10 and the Bills had backup quarterback Thaddeus Lewis in the game. Cincinnati still gave up the lead on a 40-yard-touchdown pass with 1:08 left before rescuing themselves in overtime.
It remains hard to take the Bengals seriously for moving beyond the realm of “decent playoff teams.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but after two years of first-round exits as the #6 seed in the AFC, the fans have to be hungry for a little more.
Detroit 31 Cleveland 17: It’s not often we call Lions-Browns a big game, but with both teams 3-2, this one qualified. Detroit rallied from 17-7 down to win it. Brandon Weeden had respectable numbers at 26/43 for 292 yards and found a favorite target in Josh Gordon. But Weeden also threw two interceptions. That ten-point lead might be the high-water mark of the Browns season unless the defense becomes a wrecking crew.
Carolina 35 Minnesota 10: A thumbs-up to Cam Newton for his sharp 20/26 for 242 yards and no interceptions performance. And a nod to Thomas Davis, who had two sacks and led consistent Carolina pressure. But this game was ultimately about Adrian Peterson and the condolences everyone offers him after the terrible death of his son, killed by the boyfriend of the mother. No one should have to live through that and no child should suffer like that.
Pittsburgh 19 NY Jets 9: I’m happy Mike Tomlin got his team on the board with a road win, but the Steelers still didn’t run the ball and they allowed four sacks, with a quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger that’s not easy to bring down. There aren’t any more games left where the Steelers will have two weeks to get ready while the opponent is coming off an emotional Monday Night win. In fact, there would be no games left like that–just an offensive line in desperate need of repair.
Philadelphia 31 Tampa Bay 20: Say what you will about Chip Kelly’s offensive system. Give your kudos to Nick Foles for his strong play at quarterback since Michael Vick got hurt. By all means do all that, but don’t forget that the Eagles succeed because LeSean McCoy controls game with his rush yardage–116 on 25 carries in this one, which in turn keeps the pressure off Foles and the defense on the sidelines.
St. Louis 38 Houston 13: Matt Schaub was injured and replaced by T.J. Yates. A small minority of Houston fans cheered the injury and drew rightful criticism from Andre Johnson who said they had “no class.” The fans are not only classless, they’re stupid–Schaub was 15/21 for 186 yards and no interceptions at the time of the injury. Yates threw two interceptions, one of which taken was back 98 yards for a touchdown and were part of 4-0 turnover advantage for the Rams.
San Francisco 32 Arizona 20: Vernon Davis got rolling, catching eight passes for 180 yards and Frank Gore ran for 101 yards. Colin Kaepernick wasn’t high percentage, completing only 16/29 passes, but he got 252 yards on those completions and when you’re running the ball, getting it to an athletic tight end and forcing four turnovers on defense, it’s plenty to win. Don’t look now but supposedly “struggling” San Francisco has won three in a row.
San Diego 19 Indianapolis 9: The Chargers did it with the running game on Monday night, getting 102 yards from Ryan Mathews, and a solid 22/33 for 237 yards night from Philip Rivers. On the Indy side, Andrew Luck didn’t play badly, at 18/30 for 202 yards. But his one interception was too many on a night controlled by defense, and where the Bolts weren’t making mistakes. And the Colts didn’t get a running game, with Trent Richardson being shut down.