There wasn’t much excitement around the NFL in Week 6, but the few instances provided enough adrenaline and emotion for the entire weekend.
The Patriots’ 30-27 comeback win over the Saints offered the biggest jolt of the weekend, as Tom Brady gave one of his now classic comeback kid moments trailing late in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. No one will remember the interception on the drive before when looking back on this game in a few years, instead the focus will always be on the exhilarating touchdown pass he threw to Kenbrell Thompkins in the back of the end zone. Some people in New England are probably still in disbelief about it.
As for the rest of the weekend’s slate, aside from Cincinnati pulling out an overtime thriller in Buffalo there wasn’t much to gasp at. The Jaguars actually put up a fight. The Broncos didn’t cover the spread. The Steelers finally won a game. The Giants didn’t. And the Texans threw another pick-six — that’s five weeks in a row now, even though this time it wasn’t courtesy of Matt Schaub.
Even without all the drama and excitement usually associated with a week in the NFL, there was plenty to ooh and aah at in Week 6. So, let’s take a dive deep into the week that was and see what we might be able to pull out.
**Editor’s Note: Each week, I’ll break down 10 thoughts from around the NFL in the NESN.com “First and 10.” That being said, here are 10 more thoughts from around the NFL after another week of football.
1. The hurry-up may save Tom Brady – Tom Brady finally looked like Tom Brady again on Sunday. The late-game heroics were something that New England hasn’t seen in quite some time from the golden boy. It’s also been quite a while since it’s seen the no-huddle offense. For years it seemed that the Patriots embraced the hurry-up attack, and Brady seemed to thrive in the set. With Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Danny Woodhead and the rest of the bunch now gone, though, the fast-paced attack apparently went along with them. With a whole new group of receivers to work with and plenty of kinks along the way, Brady and the offense didn’t pull out the hurry-up much during the first five weeks. But then things changed.
With Rob Ryan and the pressure-driven Saints defense coming into Foxboro, Brady and the offense pulled the lightning strike offense back out of the bag and it worked beautifully. Brady, who had been struggling mightily with his accuracy during the few weeks prior, was lights out for much of Sunday, especially when the Patriots went sans huddle. He started off the game 9-for-9 for 97 yards, all of which came in the hurry up. Brady cooled off a bit as the game went on, finishing just 16 of 34 the rest of the way, but knowing that he has the capability to pick up the pace when he wants might be just what Brady needs to turn around the otherwise mediocre season he’s pushing through.
2. Rams are playoff contenders — I said it before the season even started, and the Rams are for real this year. A tough start to the season didn’t instill too much confidence in Jeff Fisher‘s crew making the jump from 8-8 to the playoffs, but two straight wins, including one against the Texans on Sunday, has them at least looking toward the postseason. Sam Bradford is finally showing the efficiency that made the Rams take him No. 1 overall just three years ago, completing 60 percent of his passes and throwing 13 touchdowns to just three interceptions. Meanwhile, the defense continues to build each week, especially against the pass and boasts the league’s fourth-best turnover margin. There are no guarantees in such a tough division, but the Rams have the look of a playoff team.
3. Learn the name – You might know Joseph Fauria best for his hilarious end zone routines, but that’s because he’s finding the end zone. Fauria, an undrafted rookie out of UCLA, made the Lions’ roster right out of camp and has become a touchdown machine ever since. The 6-foot-7 tight end has just seven catches on the season but five of those have gone for touchdowns, including all three of his grabs on Sunday. He probably won’t make it to Hawaii anytime soon, and I wouldn’t expect him to overtake Brandon Pettigrew on the Lions’ depth chart. But, much like Browns tight end Jordan Cameron, he is a budding star who deserves the attention.
4. Keenan Allen is best rookie WR — Keenan Allen wasn’t the first wide receiver taken in this April’s draft — heck, he wasn’t even one of the first seven receivers to come off the board — but he is the best of the bunch, at least right now. Allen, who was originally projected as a fringe first-round pick, dropped down draft boards because of a lingering knee ailment and a super slow 40-time (4.72). That didn’t keep the Chargers from scooping him up in the middle of the third round and quickly turning him into one of Philip Rivers‘ favorite targets, though. Allen enjoyed his second straight 100-yard receiving game on Monday night, catching five passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in the win. He is now second on the Chargers with 332 yards to go along with 23 grabs and two scores on the year. Those numbers may not earn him a trip to the Pro Bowl, but they do have him looking like the best rookie receiver in the league this season.
5. The ‘Skins can’t score – The Washington Redskins are averaging the fourth most yards in the NFL this season with 399.2 per game. All those yards aren’t leading to many points, though. The ‘Skins are scoring just 21.4 points per game this season, ranking them 20th in the league, and are scoring touchdowns on exactly half of their red zone trips, which is a far cry from the 62 percent they averaged last season. Robert Griffin III‘s inefficiencies at quarterback, completing just 59 percent of his passes and throwing six touchdowns to five interceptions, certainly don’t help either. With one of the worst scoring defenses in football on the otherside of the ball, RG3 and Co. need to start scoring more or else they’ll be back picking in the top 10 of the draft next year.
6. Philly is different, but better, with Foles – A hamstring injury kept Michael Vick out of Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers, and the Eagles may be better off for it. The Eagles’ offense was No. 2 in the NFL through five weeks with Vick at quarterback, and they remain there in the one week without him. While Vick’s speed offers Philly a unique dynamic on the ground that Nick Foles can’t offer, Foles is efficient through the air in a way that Vick never has been. Foles was so good that it was hard to ignore on Sunday, hitting on 22 of 33 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns. The offense still threw up 425 yards and 31 points, meaning it didn’t miss a beat without Vick. Chip Kelly has a big decision to make, but it seems like Foles, who also happens to be nine years younger, might be the better choice at this juncture.
7. Justin Blackmon might be Jaguars only hope — Justin Blackmon has been active for just two weeks this season, but he’s already proving worthy of the Jaguars’ decision to draft him fifth overall in 2012. After a very up-and-down rookie campaign and an offseason substance-abuse violation leading to a four-game suspension, Blackmon seemed to be falling into the black hole of NFL troublemakers. But he’s been a beast since his return to the Jags, catching 19 passes for 326 yards and a score through two games. The Jaguars boasted one of the NFL’s worst passing offenses at the start of the season, but Blackmon has provided a major spark for them since returning. We’re looking at the beginnings of maybe one of the NFL’s top-five receivers come 2015. So, take notice now before everyone else jumps the bandwagon.
8. Sacks = Success in KC – The Chiefs managed just 27 sacks in totality during the 2012 season, which ranked 29th best in the NFL. This season, they have already exceeded that total through six games with 31, including a pair of pass rushers in Tamba Hali (7 1/2) and Justin Houston (9 1/2) who might be fighting one another for the NFL record come December. The Chiefs sacked Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor 10 times on Sunday, with Houston and Tali combining for 4 1/2 of those takedowns. The pressure they’re generating is almost unbelievable and has been the primary key behind their 6-0 start on the season. At this rate, the Chiefs may well challenged the 1984 Bears NFL record of 72 sacks in a season.
9. Playoff Parity – It’s still a bit early to start talking about playoffs, but screw it I’m going to start talking about playoffs — apologies, Jim Mora. Through six weeks, eight teams have four wins or more and only two of them are left undefeated. That means we’ve got a nice big logjam in the middle of the NFL standings right now. There are currently 21 NFL teams with a .500 record or better on the season. Meanwhile, four playoff teams from a season ago — the Falcons, Redskins, Texans and Vikings — are at least two games under .500 on the season. The parity is only enhanced in my mind, when considering that the past two teams to draft No. 1 overall are both among the teams with four wins, including the Chiefs (2-14 in 2012) at a perfect 6-0 so far.
10. Congrats, Mr. 1,000 – He’s not quite to Bernie Mac‘s level, but Reggie Wayne became just the ninth player in NFL history to catch 1,000 passes during Monday night’s game. Wayne joins a pretty high-profile crew in the 1,000-catch club, including former Colts teammate and future Hall of Fame receiver Marvin Harrison. In fact, Wayne will break Harrison’s all-time total with another 102 catches — that seemed almost impossible even five years ago when Marvin retired. Wayne has been one of the most consistent and reliable receivers in the NFL over the past decade, so he deserves the lofty feat.