NFL Week 6 Recap
Philadelphia Eagles @ Minnesota Vikings
Two 3-2 teams met in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with both the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings coming off wins in the previous week. Kirk Cousins was unstoppable against the Eagles defense and led them to a 38-20 victory. The Vikings moved to 4-2 and the Eagles dropped to 3-3.
Kirk Cousins Roasts Eagles
The talk of the week going into the game was Eagles linebacker Zach Brown, a former Washington teammate of Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, claiming Cousins was the weak link of the Vikings offense. After relying on their run game in previous weeks, the Vikings trusted Cousins to test the Eagles secondary early and often. With 9.8 average completed air yards on the day, he led quarterbacks in Week 6. All four of his touchdown passes were thrown 13 yards or deeper downfield and completed nine passes overall out of 14 thrown 10 yards or deeper. He was sharp in the short passing game with only one incompletion when throwing 10 yards or shorter. Cousins would finish 22 of 29 with 333 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. To his credit, Cousins was stayed his usual class self after the game, listing Brown as one of the better linebackers he’s played with or against and claiming he never saw what Brown said about him. Way to keep it cool, Kirk! Meanwhile, Zach Brown was released shortly after the game.
Eagles Offense Missing Explosive Options
Carson Wentz finished 26 of 40 with 306 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception and was able to use the weapons he had. The Eagles offense clearly missed wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who has been out since Week 1 with an abdominal injury. The Vikings relied on Stefon Diggs to stretch the offense downfield and the Eagles are missing that spark to open up the run game for Miles Sanders and Jordan Howard. Without big plays, the Eagles offense can’t possibly hope to outscore opponents as quickly as their secondary gives up points to good offenses.
Seattle Seahawks @ Cleveland Browns
The 4-1 Seattle Seahawks notched another win against the 2-3 Cleveland Browns. The Browns led early in the game but turnovers allowed the Seahawks to push past for a 32-28 win. The Seahawks are now 5-1 and firmly entrenched as a playoff contender, while the Browns fall to 2-4 with issues to figure out.
Turnovers Plague Browns
The Browns were a solid team overall, starting the game out with a 74-yard kick return by running back Dontrell Hilliard that put them in prime scoring position. Running back Nick Chubb picked up 122 yards on the ground with 20 carries. Although his longest run of 52 yards clearly boosted his yardage on the day, the Seahawks were selling out to stop the run with eight or more defenders in the box 35% of the time and Chubb still averaged a decent 3.7 yards per carry without his longest run. Cleveland simply turned the ball over too often against the Seahawks. A blocked punt gave the Seahawks the ball at Cleveland’s 20-yard line and interceptions ended the two promising subsequent drives before the end of the first half. The first drive of the second half for the Browns was ended by a Nick Chubb fumble and the Seahawks forced a third interception to end the Browns’ attempt at a comeback.
Russell Wilson a Future Offensive Coordinator, Seahawks Offense Clicking
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson made headlines in the preseason donning a coaching headset during the final preseason game and calling plays for a touchdown drive. In the third quarter, the helmet communication with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was disrupted, so the veteran QB continued with the game plan, calling his own plays and leading the offense for a touchdown to take the lead from the Browns. He would finish the game 23 of 33 with 295 yards and two touchdowns. The Seattle offense was also bolstered by running back Chris Carson, who carried 24 times for 124 yard and a touchdown, and continues a streak with his third-straight game over 100 yards on the ground.
Houston Texans @ Kansas City Chiefs
Two AFC powerhouses met in Kansas City as the 3-2 Houston Texans faced off against the 4-1 Kansas City Chiefs. Both teams showed out offensively but it would be the Texans run game that would power them past the Chiefs, with both teams ending up at a 4-2 record.
Chiefs Defense Still An Issue
Despite the various upgrades in the offseason to the KC defense, it remains a weak link for the team. They came into the game ranked 30th in the league against the run. Running backs Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson, as well as quarterback Deshaun Watson, would account for 192 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 41 total carries. This would open up the quick passing game for Watson, as 28 of his 30 total completions were made at 10 air yards or less. Watson would end the game 30 of 42 with 280 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions, both of which were thrown 15 air yards or further.
Mahomes and Chiefs Limping Along
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is known for having one of the best deep balls in the league, but his ankle injury has been reaggravated several times since Week 1 and it showed in his throws. According to NFL Next Gen stats, Mahomes completed 61% of his passes over 20 air yards from Weeks 1 through 3, but has dropped to 26% in Weeks 4 through 6. He hasn’t been able to comfortably move and plant his feet to throw and it’s causing uncharacteristic issues with his accuracy and throw power. Against the Texans, he completed only two out of 11 passes thrown 10 air yards or deeper and was intercepted once. Mahomes ended the game 19 of 35 for 273 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. For any other quarterback, those are solid stats for the game, but Mahomes is the reigning MVP and we know exactly what he’s capable of when he’s healthy. It’s a tough break for the Mahomes and the Chiefs as they face the Broncos on Thursday night, leaving Mahomes unable to fully rest his ankle.
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Jets
The biggest storyline of the game was the 0-4 New York Jets getting quarterback Sam Darnold back from mononucleosis and strep throat as the 3-2 Dallas Cowboys came into town. In an incredible performance, the underdog Jets notched their first win of the season to move to 1-4 while delivering the reeling Cowboys their third straight loss after a three win start.
Jets Play Inspired Football
The Jets had one of the league’s worst offenses going into the game but the mere presence of quarterback Sam Darnold seemed to spark the team to a greater performance. The run game struggled, with Le’Veon Bell only gaining 50 yards on 14 carries, but Sam Darnold stayed calm in the pocket and delivered 23 of 32 passes for 338 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. The offense had been missing the big play factor until Darnold connected on a deep ball with wideout Robby Anderson for a 92-yard touchdown. Darnold only took two sacks and two hits and was quick to get rid of the football, third-fastest in Week 6 with an average 2.39 seconds to throw. On the defensive side, a blitz-heavy game plan by defensive coordinator Gregg Williams caused issues for Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, finishing with only one sack but eight hits. On what would have been the game-tying 2-point conversion, Jets safety Jamal Adams blitzed up the middle and forced Prescott to throw incomplete only 1.5 seconds after the snap.
Curious Play-Calling and Slow Start Doom Cowboys
It was a shock for the Cowboys as they went into the locker room at halftime down 6-21 after punting three times in the first half. They made it to the Jets seven yard line when they inexplicably went for it on 4th and 2 with what appeared to be a quarterback draw play that ended up stuffed behind the line of scrimmage. Of course hindsight is 20-20 and taking a field goal there would have won the game. Add this to a number of missed opportunities by the Cowboys, such as a missed 40-yard field goal at the start of the fourth quarter, or even the attempt at the tying 2-point conversion attempt. Compared to the Jets, the Cowboys ran 21 more plays, possessed the ball for longer, gained more yardage, converted more first downs, and were penalized for fewer yards. Both teams were equal in terms of drives played. The Jets simply did more with them.
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers
Monday Night Football brought the 2-1-1 Detroit Lions to the 4-1 Green Bay Packers in a tightly-contested NFC North rivalry game. The game would end in controversy as many feel the referees were biased against the Lions at the end of the game and the Packers kicked a game-winning field goal to end the game 23-22, but neither team played good football.
Lions Offense Struggle to Finish Drives
Regardless of questionable officiating, the Lions had every opportunity to score while the Packers struggled in all three phases of the game. The first two field goals by the Lions were from Green Bay’s eight and four yard lines, with the second field goal coming off of a Green Bay fumble. In the third quarter, Green Bay fumbled a punt return that the Lions recovered at Green Bay’s 25-yard line. The Lions went three-and-out and had to take another field goal. The defense took the ball away from the Packers at Detroit’s 3-yard line, brought it 55 yards to Green Bay’s 43, only to go three-and-out again and make another field goal. Points are points, but only scoring one touchdown and five field goals simply isn’t good offensive football.
Packers Receivers and Running Backs Have Butterfingers
The Packers receivers and running backs have kicker Mason Crosby and the referees to thank for the win as they did not lend much help to their quarterback. Running back Aaron Jones and tight end Jimmy Graham both dropped passes in the endzone. Receivers Geronimo Allison, Jake Kumerow, and Darrius Shepherd all dropped passes on third downs that would have moved the sticks. Shepherd was unfortunate enough to have the ball bounce off his facemask and picked out of the air by the Lions for an interception three yards away from the endzone. As if those missed opportunities weren’t enough, Aaron Jones and Darrius Shepherd also accounted for a fumble each that gave the Lions great field position.
Ah, the age-old controversy of referees spoiling perfectly good games. On a 3rd-and-10 in the fourth quarter, Aaron Rodgers was sacked but illegal use of hands was called on Lions defensive end Trey Flowers. Replay showed his hands were in the shoulder pads of Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, with a quick passing brush of the facemask near the end. This would grant the Packers a first down and eventually lead to a touchdown. On the next Packers drive, the offense faced a 3rd-and-4 and Rodgers threw an incomplete pass. Another flag was thrown and Flowers was again called for illegal use of hands, but this replay showed no contact of the facemask. The automatic first down would allow the Packers to run out the clock and kick the game-winning field goal, denying the Lions a chance to strike back.
Were these bad calls? Personally, I believe so. Former Vice President of the Green Bay Packers Andrew Brandt believed so, despite his Green Bay bias. Even Lions Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders hated the calls, and Sanders is known as one of the most modest, quiet, respectable players in the league. Still, Sanders put it perfectly when describing the struggles in the red zone. Both teams had countless opportunities that they missed. Had either team capitalized on more, the game would not have been decided by two phantom penalties and a field goal. And had those two penalties occurred at any point in the middle of the game rather than at the two most pivotal moments, they would still be trashed but they would not be headlines.