NFL Week 6 Recap: Saints shock Falcons, Panthers roll
By Anthony Cangelosi
Falcons 21 at Saints 31
ALS stricken Steve Gleason, who had a historic punt block that was returned by Curtis Deloatch for a touchdown on Monday Night Football in the first game back in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina in 2006, was in attendance for this game, and it was only fitting that the Saints scored in similar fashion when Michael Mauti blocked and scooped a Matt Bosher punt for a score. It was one of those nights for Atlanta, who despite a solid 295 yard performance from quarterback Matt Ryan and complimentary 100 yards on the ground from red hot running back Devonta Freeman (2 TDs), could not get a consistent offensive effort going, and lost the turnover battle 3-0. The Saints recovered three of five Falcons fumbles, including scoops by Brandon Browner, Cameron Jordan, and Dannell Ellerbe. Meanwhile the Drew Brees to TE Ben Watson connection was in high gear, trampling a shaky Falcons linebacking and safety corps for 10 connections equaling 127 yards and a touchdown. Brees had 188 other yards, of which breakout second year Ball State alum Willie Snead was the biggest beneficiary (55 yards). Ryan also connected with veteran Roddy White for a touchdown, White’s 63rd of his career, furthering a franchise record. However, stud receiver Julio Jones was, to all of his fantasy owners’ dismay, held out of the promised land despite 93 yards.
Bengals 34 at Bills 21
The Bengals were in for a bit of a halftime scare, with an EJ Manuel to Sammy Watkins touchdown at 00:17 left in the first half putting the pesky Bills up 3. However quarterback Andy Dalton came back with a stellar second half and the Bengals defense stiffened to only allow 7 points towards the end of the fourth quarter as the Bengals stayed perfect through 6 contests. The “game winning” score consisted of talented young Bengals wideout Marvin Jones doing his best Henry Hudson impression by deftly navigating a sea of blue (jerseys) on a quick screen from 10 yards out and flipping over the final defender for the score. Dalton was very good again, to the tune of 66% passing completion percentage with 243 yards and 3 touchdowns and did a fine job dissecting Rex Ryan’s confusing and talented defense, especially more impressive considering AJ Green was held relatively quiet (37 yards). Buffalo was spearheaded by a gutsy EJ Manuel performance (28/42, 263 yards, TD, INT) but the offense wasn’t nearly fluent or proficient enough, halted once by a Darqueze Dennard interception and other times by inaccurate passes on key downs, to beat a Bengals squad vying to be the best AFC team. Watkins left the game on an injury sustained during his go ahead touchdown and did not return. The optimistic take away for Buffalo may be that LeSean McCoy, Pitt alum, may be somewhat healthy and entering mid-season form after a 90 yard performance embellished by a touchdown.
Dolphins 34 at Titans 10
A promising start for the Tennessee Titans seems to be derailing, first from a heartbreaking loss to the Buffalo Bills last week and more recently by this Dolphins thrashing which saw rookie and Heisman winner Marcus Mariota get hit on almost every passing play by a revitalized Dolphins defense. Fronting the effort was former All Pro edge rusher (and Canadian Football League alum) Cameron Wake, who had a stunning 4 of the team’s 6 sacks. Mariota was thrown into the fire and came out burnt, throwing interceptions to Brent Grimes and Reshad Jones, and generally having a difficult time with Miami’s impressive effort on the defensive end. He did have a touchdown pass to receiver/running back Dexter McCluster. It is notable that Mariota suffered a sprained MCL, and his availability is in doubt for the upcoming week. On the offensive end for Miami, embattled quarterback Ryan Tannehill rode an impressive ground attack that totaled 180 yards, including 113 yards from the speedy back Lamar Miller and a 22 yard touchdown scamper from impressive second year offensive weapon Jarvis Landry. Dan Campbell, the former tight ends coach who has stepped in to be the interim head coach after Joe Philbin’s firing, seems to have revitalized a Dolphins team who is much more talented than the effort of their prior performances.
Bears 34 at Lions 37 (OT)
Thankfully for many fantasy owners and Detroit Lions fans alike, the fabled Matt Stafford to Calvin “Megatron” Johnson connection seems to be finding a footing in the Lions offense after Johnson struggled with injury for the first quarter of the year, and it helped propel the Lions to their first 2015 win over the middling Chicago Bears. The aforementioned connection was completed 6 times for 166 yards and a score on 9 targets, the last of the completions being an essentially game sealing 57 yard bomb in overtime (it led to the winning field goal). Also of note for the Detroit offense was a wacky play that happened in the second quarter. Wide receiver Golden Tate caught a ball from Stafford and crossed the goal line, but immediately before going to the ground coughed up the ball and it was caught by Bears linebacker Jonathan Anderson for an interception on a “bang bang” play. The interception was reviewed and Tate was ruled in the end zone for a touchdown, as the definition of a catch remains in question. For the Bears, this was just another disappointing loss in a game they played well enough to win. Quarterback Jay Cutler was okay, and it was a breakout game for big target Alshon Jeffery (8 receptions, 143 yards,TD), who seems to be picking back up after an injury sidelined him early in the season. The Bears defense however continues to be a concern after ceding big play after big play.
Chiefs 10 at Vikings 16
Minnesota continues to impress fans and analysts alike, boasting a top defense containing a stout front, and an efficient offense headed by a revitalized Adrian Peterson and a young, talented quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater. However the biggest surprise seems to be rookie wideout Stefon Diggs from the University of Maryland, who added 129 yards on 7 snags to his growing rookie total. This one was an ugly slugfest that only involved two total touchdowns and lots of checkdowns and missed chances. Captain Checkdown himself – that is quarterback Alex Smith (given the nickname due to his safe and tentative quarterbacking) – could not beat a Vikings defense that hounded him all day. His lone touchdown was a screen pass to quick receiver Albert Wilson, who bolted past purple jerseys for a 42 yard score. Without Jamaal Charles, lost to an ACL tear, the Chiefs offense failed to find a prominent player to shoulder the load for offensive production. On the defensive end for Kansas City, rookie Marcus Peters continues to add to his impressive campaign with another interception, 6 passes defended, and a pair of breakups. He is a bright spot for a team that has possibly regressed the most over the last two years, and is now sitting at 1-5.
Washington 20 at Jets 34
With a mass of dreads sitting on his shoulders, Chris Ivory has burst out for the Jets as their main offensive weapon, and he added on his claim as a top 5 running back with 196 all purpose yards on 23 touches. The Jets struggled in the first half, turning the ball over 3 times (all of those seeming to wind up in the hands of young defensive back Bashaud Breeland, who had 2 fumble recoveries and an interception). Washington capitalized with a few field goals and a nice route by Pierre Garcon to beat Darrelle Revis for a touchdown, and actually went into half up 13-10. However the Jets dominated in the second half, with 3 touchdowns from Ryan Fitzpatrick (one rushing, 2 passing to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker) and Ivory pounding away and continuing to bruise the Washington defense. Kirk Cousins couldn’t play a complete game and the Jets defense capitalized, adding interceptions from Revis (3rd) and free agency acquisition Marcus Gilchrist (2nd), giving the Jets their 14th and 15th turnovers of the season. The Jets defense, despite having a late blocked punt for a touchdown from Washington’s Rashad Ross, continues to hold first place in total defense (269 yards/game), rushing yards allowed (413 in 5 games), and points per game (15), which, considering that last number is marred by 2 allowed special teams touchdowns, is still very impressive.
Panthers 27 at Seahawks 23
The Cam Newton show traveled to Qwest Field in Seattle and remained unscathed as Newton continued to find magic in his arm and legs. A late pair of connections to perennial All-Pro Greg Olson, one down to the one yard line and another for a late score with 26 seconds left, helped clinch a comeback against a Seattle squad looking for redemption after last week’s meltdown in Cincinnati. Instead it was a repeat of last week as the Seattle offense went cold late in the game and the defense looked as vulnerable as ever. Newton (20/36, 289 yards, rushing and passing TD, 2 INTs) wasn’t clean but leaned on the 80 yard, two touchdown effort of running back Jonathan Stewart as well as a gutsy effort from the Carolina defense, which held “Beast Mode” Marshawn Lynch in check (54 yards, TD). Russell Wilson was ineffective moving the ball consistently once again as the Panthers defense shut down the run and forced Wilson to make plays against a secondary containing one of the game’s elite corners, Josh Norman. And although Norman didn’t add any notable stats to his tally the Panthers were able to make the Seahawks predictable and forced them to find the mismatch. The beneficiary of this strategy was Jimmy Graham who, despite the return of Luke Kuechly (14 tackles), roasted the Panthers to the tune of 140 yards on 8 receptions, constituting 58% of Wilson’s 241 passing yards. Ricardo Lockette had quite possibly the highlight catch of the year as he leaped over defensive back Kurt Coleman. However the individual performances of these Seattle players could not overcome the failings of the Legion of Boom for a second week in a row. Something is awry in Seattle, and it goes deeper than Super Bowl hangover.