Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 6 of the 2022 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:
- New York Jets 27, Green Bay Packers 10
- New England Patriots 38, Cleveland Browns 15
- New York Giants 24, Baltimore Ravens 20
- Minnesota Vikings 24, Miami Dolphins 16
- Pittsburgh Steelers 20, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18
- Indianapolis Colts 34, Jacksonville Jaguars 27
- Atlanta Falcons 28, San Francisco 49ers 14
- Cincinnati Bengals 30, New Orleans Saints 26
Grant Gordon's takeaways:
- The drive to 6-0. Absent of offense for most of the second half with an impressive 20-point advantage having been cut to a precarious three-point lead, the Eagles embarked on an odyssey of a 13-play, 75-yard drive to victory. This was an emphatic march led by quarterback Jalen Hurts that was as much of a statement as it was clutch -- symbolic of Philadelphia's win. It began with 14:32 left in the game and ended with 7:02 remaining, having gobbled up seven minutes and 37 seconds of clock and any realistic hopes of a Cowboys rally. There were 10 run plays and three pass plays, with Hurts going 3 for 3 for 30 yards, including a big 22-yard pickup to A.J. Brown after five consecutive runs. It culminated a play after Brown's grab with a 7-yard TD strike to DeVonta Smith. This game had a big-fight feel and the Eagles were piling up 10-8 rounds early, but let the Cowboys rally. It was a gut check against their arch-rival and perhaps the best team they've faced so far, and the Eagles responded with a mighty march. That drive, like this result, was an example of the fortitude of a Philly team that's fought its way to the franchise's first 6-0 start since 2004.
- We know you will, but seriously Dallas, don't panic. As Sunday's night's game came to a close, the Philly faithful serenaded the evening with chants of "Cowboys suck, Cowboys suck." Don't listen Dallas. And don't panic. Five weeks ago when Dak Prescott went down, the end of days were predicted. Instead, a stellar defense and the steady play of Cooper Rush keyed a four-game winning streak. Prescott's on his way back soon and a 4-2 record at this point would've likely been welcomed even with the QB1 in the lineup. There were glimpses of the Zeke of old as Ezekiel Elliott had 81 yards on just 13 carries. The Cowboys defense allowed just 268 yards of offense. Dallas responded to a 20-point deficit with a rally to avoid a blowout and make it a game. In a topsy-turvy NFC, the Cowboys lost a game, not hope for a successful campaign.
- Undefeated, but still searching for a full four quarters. The Eagles have been historically successful piling up points in the second quarter (see below). And though their record might be perfect, they haven't had anything close to a perfect four quarters. Through six games, Philly is averaging 21 points per game in the first half and a dismal 5.8 in the second half, per NFL Research. Facing a staunch Dallas defense, the Eagles scored 20 first-half points -- more than any other team had scored against the Cowboys in an entire game previously. But then Hurts and Co. went silent until the aforementioned game-sealing drive. Owning an absolutely stellar defense so far, an MVP candidate in Hurts and a talented offense at each position group, the Eagles are a complete team. But, undefeated or not, they need to start putting together full games.
Next Gen stat of the game: Micah Parsons had zero QB pressures on 10 pass rushes in the first half. He had two QB pressures on five second-half pass rushes.
NFL Research: The Eagles scored 20 points in the second quarter, bringing their total to 112 points scored in the second stanza in 2022, which is the most points by any team in any quarter in the first six games of a season in NFL history. It's also more than 11 teams, including the Cowboys, Packers and Rams, have total points in 2022.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Bills D stands tall to squelch K.C. comeback bid. All offseason, Buffalo heard about its inability to stop Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in its postseason loss. On Sunday, after Josh Allen led a go-ahead touchdown drive, Kansas City had 64 seconds to respond. This time, the Bills D made the play. Corner Taron Johnson jumped a Mahomes pass for the game-sealing interception to close out a doozy of a matchup between the AFC heavyweights. Buffalo signed Von Miller to a massive contract this offseason for games like this. The star delivered. Miller sacked Mahomes on the Chiefs' penultimate drive to force a punt. Then on the final play, the future Hall of Famer beat a double team to move Mahomes out of the pocket into a rushed throw. Miller earned a team-high five QB pressures, three QB hits and two sacks in the game. He's been worth every penny.
- Josh Allen wills Bills to victory. With the game on the line, Allen played like an MVP. Trailing by three, on the first play after the two-minute warning, Allen dashed on a QB keeper to the right edge, hurdled a defender and plowed his way for a 16-yard gain. The moment epitomized Allen's rugged play throughout the bout. Two plays later, the QB threaded a beautiful pass to Dawson Knox for the go-ahead 14-yard TD. After a wonky start to the game, which included a botched pitch fumble, Allen shined. He finished 27-of-40 passing for 329 yards and three TDs. During one string, Allen completed 13 straight passes. Things got a little sideways for Allen in the second quarter, as he went 0-for-7 against the K.C. blitz at one point, but he responded each time to adversity. He beat the Chiefs' blitz for a late TD in the first half and again to Stefon Diggs for another score. When Allen is on fire with his arm and legs like he was Sunday, the Bills are a menace to defenses.
- Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs come up short. The K.C. QB bookended the game with interceptions. His first INT on the opening drive came on a forced pass in the end zone. His final toss came under pressure. Between the flubs, Mahomes matched Allen throw for throw. The K.C. signal-caller finished 25-of-40 passing for 338 yards with two TDs and the two INTs. Mahomes connected on several dimes to Travis Kelce (eight receptions for 108 yards), and JuJu Smith-Schuster (5/113/1) had several big YAC plays. The Chiefs moved the ball seemingly at will in the second half until the final two drives (three-and-out, INT). In a game between two AFC powers, the back-and-forth affair came down to Mahomes' two picks. Sign us up for a postseason rematch.
Next Gen stat of the game: Josh Allen excelled on passes outside the numbers in Week 6, completing 16 of 20 attempts for 229 yards and three touchdowns (+17.2% CPOE).
NFL Research: Patrick Mahomes (168) passed Peyton Manning (167) for the second-most pass touchdowns in a player's first six seasons in NFL history. Mahomes now only trails Hall of Famer Dan Marino (196). Mahomes played one game as a rookie in 2017.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Finally, the Rams found an offensive rhythm. They didn't produce a bunch of points or 500 yards of offense, but for the first time in what feels like ages, the Rams found a way to move the ball effectively, thanks to the creativity of Sean McVay. The Rams put together touchdown drives of 13, 10 and five plays Sunday, converting 6 of 12 third-down attempts and getting deep into opposing territory with a variety of methods. The best call of the day from McVay was a jet sweep to Ben Skowronek, who took the handoff around the right end and used a block by Allen Robinson to win the race to the pylon for his first career touchdown. Matthew Stafford still threw an interception, but instead of allowing such a mistake to snowball, the Rams were able to bounce back to produce points later in the game. Perhaps best of all was the Rams' team effort on the ground, finishing with 111 rushing yards thanks to six players -- a group headlined by Darrell Henderson -- gaining positive yardage on rush attempts. They're still not the explosive offense most expected to see, but it's a start for the 3-3 team.
- Panthers' mess is going to take a while to sort out. Matt Rhule and Phil Snow are gone, but fixing Carolina's football team is going to take more than a couple of firings. Take Sunday, for example, when receiver Robbie Anderson got into a shouting match with receivers coach Joe Dailey in which the two needed to be separated. Not long after, interim head coach Steve Wilks sent Anderson to the locker room for the rest of the game. It wouldn't be surprising to see Carolina part ways with Anderson as soon as Monday, considering his availability in trade talks. (Editor's note: The Panthers traded Anderson to the Cardinals on Monday). The team's current rudderless state -- one that cannot put points on the board offensively -- also calls into question just who will be around at this time next year. At 1-5, this season might end up being little more than an audition to stick around in 2023. Otherwise, even with the in-season coaching change, it's safe to expect more of the same from the Panthers for the foreseeable future.
- Allen Robinson might have a place in this offense after all. The receiver's first season in Los Angeles has been a struggle, with Robinson disappearing in most games and occasionally resurfacing to make a difference (i.e., Week 2 vs. Atlanta). On Sunday, the latter became reality once again, with Robinson winning a press at the line of scrimmage and catching a back-corner fade for a touchdown, and hauling in a 22-yard pass one play after a completion to Cooper Kupp went for 20. That drive ended in the Skowronek touchdown, giving the Rams a 17-10 lead they'd eventually extend to 24-10. If Robinson can carry this play into the weeks ahead, the Rams could start to find some much-needed momentum -- and a return on their offseason investment.
Next Gen stat of the game: After catching just three of eight intermediate targets for 56 yards combined between Weeks 1-5, Allen Robinson caught all three intermediate targets for 50 yards Sunday.
NFL Research: Matthew Stafford's interception Sunday was his 29th career pick-six, tying Hall of Famer Dan Marino for the second most by any player since at least 1950.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Cardinals offense hits the skids again. The Seahawks had one of the worst defensive teams in the NFL by many metrics coming into the game, but the Cardinals' self-inflicted mistakes prevented them from a great chance to get back on track offensively. After kicking a field goal from the Seattle 5-yard line on the opening drive, the Cardinals failed on a fourth down, punted three straight times, missed on another fourth down, lost a fumble and failed on their third fourth-down try. Got all that? Kyler Murray had some missed throws. The offensive line (missing Justin Pugh after an early injury) was leaky. Eno Benjamin couldn't charge up the run game versus the league's worst run defense. Murray's scrambling and a few big pass plays kept them in the game -- not to mention the Cardinals' strong defensive effort -- but this offense is way too all or nothing. The fourth-down decisions were compounded by having a backup kicker (who missed an extra point), so there's only so much piling on we can muster. But the first three missed fourth downs (all inside 44-yard field-goal range) plus the missed extra point come out to 10 points -- in a game they lost 19-9.
- Kliff Kingsbury is in need of answers. Fast. The Cardinals made the playoffs a year ago, but we all know it was a story of what might have been. They started last season 7-1 and 10-2, and it ended with a blowout playoff loss to the Rams. Now this season, Arizona is 2-4 with three home losses, and the offense is floundering. The Cardinals signed Murray to a contract extension, so he presumably will stick around, even if he's struggling. But is Kingsbury part of the reason Murray hasn't fully gotten on track? Absolutely. And could the coach be scapegoated if things keep going awry for Arizona? There's no doubt. It's less about placing blame on one person, though, and more about the nature of this league. Coaches have been fired for lesser breakdowns, and the relationship between Kingsbury and Murray will carry a lot of weight. If they can't figure it out, it could cost Kingsbury his job.
- Kenneth Walker III is coming on for first-place Seattle. The first-round rookie back was caught in Seattle's annual RB gaggle early in the season, ceding carries to Rashaad Penny and snaps to Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas. But with Penny out for the season, Walker is staking his claim to be the lead back with back-to-back strong outings. A week after running for 88 yards and a touchdown on only eight carries, Walker received more work Sunday -- and delivered more goods. He finished with 97 rushing yards on 21 carries and a fourth-quarter touchdown that made it a two-score game. His first two carries went for 17 and 34 yards, setting up an early field goal and giving Seattle two big plays on a day when they were at a premium. Walker was only fourth among rookie backs in rushing yards entering the game, but he could finish near the top of that list this season the way things are lined up.
Next Gen stat of the game: Geno Smith was 1-of-6 passing for 17 yards on passes of 10-plus air yards in this game. Prior to Sunday, Smith had registered a 129.7 passer rating on such passes in Weeks 1-5, which was the third-best mark in NFL over that span.
NFL Research: Seahawks rookie cornerbacks continue to make an impact. Tariq Woolen had his fourth consecutive game with an interception, only the third rookie since 2000 to do so. He also had a fumble recovery, giving him six total takeaways this season (no one else in the NFL has more than four). Fellow rookie Coby Bryant forced that fumble, his fourth forced fumble in 2022, which also leads the NFL.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Quinnen Williams stars as Jets D drops hammer on Packers. Robert Saleh's defense dominated all afternoon, discombobulating Aaron Rodgers. Williams played like an All-Pro on Sunday, destroying Green Bay's interior and living in the backfield. Williams earned two sacks, three QB hits and two tackles for losses, and chipped in a blocked field goal. The Jets defensive line owned the line of scrimmage, sacking Rodgers four times and earning five tackles for loss. It was a statement game for Saleh's defense, which held Green Bay to just 278 yards on 69 plays (4.0 yards per play). Cornerback Sauce Gardner played darned near flawless, allowing just one catch for eight yards on seven targets, per Next Gen Stats. When the defensive line is wrecking the game, and Gardner and Co. are smothering receivers, the Jets D is scary.
- Packers look broken. It was an abysmal performance from every aspect for Matt LaFleur's team. The offense is a sporadic mess that can't sustain drives. Rodgers has to make perfect throws to generate any explosive plays, and the wideouts couldn't earn separation Sunday. The defense got blasted by the Jets late, allowing 179 rushing yards. And the special teams was a disaster, getting a punt blocked for a touchdown and a field goal deflected. There wasn't anything redeemable about the Packers' performance Sunday. We've seen Rodgers play the R-E-L-A-X card in the past after bad losses, but this week's beatdown felt different.
- Breece Hall continues to shine. The Jets want a backfield timeshare between the rookie and Michael Carter, but Sunday, in sloppy conditions, Gang Green saddled Hall 20 times for 116 yards and a beautiful 34-yard weaving TD run that sealed the victory. While Hall and Carter nearly split snaps, the rookie saw 22 touches to Carter's seven. The backs were on the field together on 20% of Sunday's snaps. At this point, it's clear that Hall, who is leading the league with 6.4 yards per touch (minimum 80 touches) entering Sunday's late games, is a difference-maker who deserves the bulk of the carries. And the Jets are smartly headed in that direction.
Next Gen stat of the game: Quinnen Williams, who leads all defensive tackles in pressure rate (14.8%) and sack rate (3.7%), had a career-high seven QB pressures with two sacks on 34 pass rushes.
NFL Research: Sauce Gardner had two passes defensed. He joins Desmond Trufant (2013) as the only players since 2000 with a pass defensed in each of his first six career games.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Take a bow, Bailey Zappe. The rookie quarterback handled his second-career start with grace, calmly delivering the ball to eight different targets while completing 24 of 34 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns. No matter the situation, Zappe was poised and confident, trusting his protection to find open pass catchers all afternoon. New England converted 7 of 14 third-down attempts and finished one yard shy of 400 as a team. Zappe accounted for more than 75% percent of those yards, and the only blemish on his performance was a fumble that didn't end up hurting the Patriots at all. Zappe Fever continues in New England for another week.
- Sunday was a low point in Kevin Stefanski's tenure. Cleveland's coach had an incredibly rough outing when it came to game management and play-calling, botching an end-of-half sequence in which he called two passes with just a yard to gain and two timeouts in his pocket. Things grew worse from there, with Stefanski strangely abandoning the run against the league's 22nd-ranked rush defense early in the second half in an 11-point game. Instead of exercising patience and trusting the NFL's leading rusher, Nick Chubb, entering the weekend, Stefanski repeatedly looked to Jacoby Brissett -- who struggled through his worst outing as a Brown, turning the ball over three times -- to attempt to spark the offense. The results were predictable, and even when a couple of fantastic catches helped the Browns reach the end zone, Stefanski made another puzzling call by going for two instead of taking the extra point to preserve a one-score difference. Stefanski's team is playing uninspired and disorganized football, and against the legendary Bill Belichick, the difference in coaching was obvious. It might also be the beginning of a steep descent for the Browns, who have now lost three straight games.
- Don't sleep on New England's defense. After shutting out the league's top offense (Detroit) last week, the Patriots were just about as good Sunday. New England stifled Cleveland's rushing attack, allowing just 70 yards on the ground for the day, and forced a handful of key turnovers on defense and special teams. The Patriots held the Browns to 4-of-15 on third down and dominated time of possession by more than 10 minutes, taking control of a game that was close at halftime and weathering Cleveland's late comeback attempt. Even 12 accepted penalties couldn't sink the Patriots, who were simply the better team in all phases Sunday -- especially defensively. Ignore their statistical ranking: These Patriots are playing better than the numbers indicate.
Next Gen Stat of the game: Three Patriots defenders -- Deatrich Wise, Matthew Judon, Anfernee Jennings -- recorded four or more quarterback pressures in Sunday's win.
NFL Research: With a win over his former team, Bill Belichick tied legendary Bears owner and coach George Halas with 324 career wins (including playoffs), the second-most by a head coach in the history of the NFL. It was also Belichick's 257th regular-season win, tying Don Shula (with Miami) for the second-most wins by a head coach with a single team.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Brian Daboll is your Coach of the Year favorite now. Daboll waited patiently for his first head-coaching opportunity, and he's making the most of it so far. The Giants are 5-1 for the first time since 2009 after Sunday's comeback win over the Ravens, and it followed the same pattern as we've seen in each of New York's five victories. New York trailed 20-10 early in the fourth quarter, but roared back with a 75-yard touchdown drive, followed by an interception and a fumble by Lamar Jackson in the final three minutes. Hat tip to ex-Ravens defensive coordinator Wink Martindale, who no doubt deserved a game ball Sunday. Hiring Martindale was one of many terrific moves so far by Daboll, who is dealing with a quarterback the team deemed unworthy of a fifth-year option in Daniel Jones, banged-up offensive line and wide receiver units and a defense that had zero interceptions coming into today. Give Daboll Coach of the Year until someone takes it away from him.
- Kayvon Thibodeaux strip was the big play the Giants needed. When the Giants met with Thibodeaux at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, little did they know it would foreshadow Sunday's big win over the Ravens. Daboll grilled Thibodeaux: "You've always had success. So if you don't have success immediately (in the NFL), how are you going to deal with it?" Prior to Sunday, Thibodeaux did not have a sack after missing the first two games of the season. But Sunday, he gave the Giants his final answer to the combine question: Thibodeaux would come up big. With just over 90 seconds left, he worked around Ravens right tackle Patrick Patrick Mekari, stripped the ball from Jackson and it was recovered by the Giants for a game-changing defensive play. That's what the Giants expected out of their No. 5 overall pick. Thibodeaux had been coming on of late, but this was the performance that he needed.
- Giants had no answer for Kenyan Drake. Drake put the Ravens up in this game with 119 rushing yards on only 10 carries. In his first five games, he had a mere 65 yards on 21 carries. Drake's 30-yard touchdown (aided by the Giants having only 10 defenders on the field) put Baltimore up early, plus later runs for 30, 21 and 15 yards, setting up a Mark Andrews TD that put the Ravens up 10 in the fourth. J.K. Dobbins was a non-factor in this game, and Jackson had trouble generating big pass plays with Rashod Bateman out of the lineup and the offensive line falling apart on the final two drives. Drake fully looked to be the team's RB2 behind Dobbins, but there might be a case for him to earn more touches to see if he can replicate his effort on Sunday.
Next Gen stat of the game: Lamar Jackson's fourth-quarter INT gave the Giants a 39.8% increase in win probability, going from 16.7% to 56.5%.
NFL Research: This is the seventh time -- and the first since 2009 -- that the Giants have started 5-1 or better in the Super Bowl era. They also did so in 1986 and 1990 and went on to win Super Bowl both of those years.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- Dolphins once again forced to Plan B at QB. Last week, Skylar Thompson was forced into action for an injured Teddy Bridgewater (who replaced an injured Tua Tagovailoa). This week, Thompson earned the start against the Vikings but was knocked out when his right thumb hit the helmet of a Vikings defender, forcing Bridgewater into the game. Bridgewater took four sacks and had one bad-luck interception, but otherwise he was the more effective of the two quarterbacks prior to throwing what would amount to a game-ending pick with the Dolphins down two scores. We already know that Tagovailoa has been cleared for next week’s game against Steelers, but it will be interesting to see who his backup will be. Mike McDaniel seems to have a thing for Thompson, but the rookie's results have been decidedly mixed in two outings.
- Jaylen Waddle's two critical mistakes haunt Dolphins. Waddle's dropped passes have been a subject of consternation since he was drafted, displaying somewhat inconsistent hands, and the issue arose again Sunday. Bridgewater's pass down the seam to Waddle very late in the first half looked to be on target. But the ball glanced off Waddle's hands and into those of Vikings safety Harrison Smith. Minnesota moved 26 yards in the final 18 seconds of the half to steal a field goal and made it a 10-3 lead. Then in the final moments, Waddle's ball security came up short. Down, 16-10, he fumbled the ball after a long catch inside the Minnesota 30-yard line, ending the Dolphins' chances to win. Waddle had six catches for 129 yards, but his two crucial mistakes arguably cost his team 10 points in an eight-point loss. Making matters worse, Waddle -- who was nursing a groin injury coming in -- looked to be hit hard on his pectoral area, adding injury to insult in a really tough game.
- Vikings' defense comes up big, but Dolphins' mistakes help. Give credit to a Vikings defense for forcing three turnovers, holding the Dolphins to 4-of-14 on third-down conversions and containing Miami's run game. But in addition to Waddle's mistakes, the Dolphins lost a huge chance to take an early, dominant lead. On their second drive, in a scoreless game, the Dolphins were called for a shocking five penalties, wiping out gains of 20 and 22 yards and moving the team back an additional 40 yards. They were forced to punt and were also hurt by two dropped passes on the possession. That's no way to support your rookie QB, and Miami lost control of the game, letting it slip away completely.
Next Gen stat of the game: Vikings edge rusher Za'Darius Smith totaled 10 QB pressures, which tied the most pressures in a game for Smith since 2016, and two sacks on 40 pass rushes.
NFL Research: Adam Thielen's touchdown was the 51st of his career, passing Wes Welker (50) for the third-most by an undrafted player in the common draft era. Only Antonio Gates (116) and Rod Smith (68) have more.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Mitchell Trubisky replaces Kenny Pickett (concussion), helps lead Steelers upset. Pickett got the Steelers off on a good foot, leading an 11-play touchdown drive to open the contest. However, the rookie was knocked out midway through the third quarter. Trubisky entered and played well, completing 9 of 12 attempts for 144 yards and the game-winning TD. In a quarter and a half, Trubisky didn't make a bad mistake. Instead, he converted some huge third-and-longs to Chase Claypool to seal the win. After the Bucs pulled within two points, Trubisky converted on third-and-15 and third-and-11 to keep Tom Brady on the sideline. Trubisky then executed a QB sneak for a first down to ice the clock. Trubisky did what a backup should do: Enter in the heat of battle and not lose a beat.
- Bucs can't overcome red-zone struggles. Once again, Brady and the Bucs offense struggled to punch in scores early, settling for three first-half field goals. Tampa went just 1-of-4 in the red zone Sunday and 0-of-2 in goal-to-go situations. A failed two-point try typified the Bucs' short-yardage and red-area struggles. Despite facing a Pittsburgh defense that was missing basically its entire secondary, Tampa couldn't take advantage. Brady was off the mark more than usual and couldn't find a rapport with Chris Godwin early. Brady finished 25-of-40 passing for 243 yards and a TD on a swing pass to Leonard Fournette. Tampa was putrid on third downs (4-of-14) and particularly poor in short yardage. Brady was even stuffed on a QB sneak at one point, which had been the most automatic play in the league for decades. Tampa went three-and-out four times and never found the consistency we're used to seeing from a TB12-led squad.
- Mike Tomlin reminds the world he's still a hell of a coach. Starting a rookie QB against the Bucs and missing a host of defensive starters, not many gave the Steelers a chance. They led wire to wire. Tomlin's defense took advantage of the Bucs' protection issues. Larry Ogunjobi pushed the pocket early, creating havoc. The secondary, missing Minkah Fitzpatrick and its top three corners, didn't suffer communication errors or surrender many big plays. Pittsburgh made the Bucs earn every yard. And with the offense unable to churn the ball, Tomlin trusted Trubicky on the final drive to overcome poor circumstances. The QB delivered. Despite the injury situation, Pittsburgh outplayed the Bucs. That's a sign of great coaching.
Next Gen stat of the game: Chase Claypool caught all four targets for 65 yards and a TD on passes of 10-plus air yards (seven catches for 96 yards, TD on the day).
NFL Research: The Steelers won their first game without T.J. Watt since he was drafted in 2017 (0-8 entering the game). Tom Brady lost his first game vs. a rookie starting QB since 2014 (entered game 12-0).
Bobby Kownack's takeaways:
- Colts exorcise their demons. All Indianapolis needed to do to clinch a playoff spot in Week 18 of last season was defeat the two-win Jaguars. The Colts were instead dominated to the tune of a 26-11 defeat. Then, they missed their chance at a measure of revenge just one month ago by being shut out, 24-0, running their deficit against the Jaguars to 50-11 in the teams' two most recent matchups. Sunday started out heading in a similar direction when the Jaguars roared to an early 11-point lead. That's when Frank Reich's team locked in and displayed a grit that's been largely absent from the 2022 version of the Colts. Indianapolis converted its final five drives into 29 points while holding Jacksonville to 13 on the Jags' next seven possessions. Down one with 23 seconds remaining and faced with a third-and-13 at the Jaguars' 32-yard-line, the Colts committed themselves to going for the jugular. Instead of a safe run to set up a long field goal, Matt Ryan unleashed his deepest pass of the game down the sideline to Alec Pierce. The rookie caught the game-winner, his first career TD, and the Colts earned the W with a flourish. Gutting out a victory in this way over such a pesky foe could prove a turning-of-the-page moment for Indy going forward.
- Ryan airs it out. It wasn't just the game-winning touchdown pass to Pierce. The Colts were intent on attacking Jacksonville through the air all day. Ryan threw an absurdly high 37 passes in the first half, seven more than he attempted in the entire game Week 2 against the Jaguars. Thirty of those first-half attempts traveled fewer than 10 yards through the air, serving as an extension of the run game with star running back Jonathan Taylor out due to an ankle injury. As the game continued, Ryan's appetite grew. Thirty-eight percent of his second-half passes traveled over 10 yards in the air, and he finished the game 42-of-58 passing for 389 yards, three touchdowns and zero giveaways -- after leading the league with 10 coming into Week 6. Michael Pittman shined thanks to the Colts' determination to work through the air. He set a new career high with 13 catches and turned those receptions into 134 yards. Running back Deon Jackson also tallied double-digit catches (10) while filling in for Taylor in exemplary fashion. Fifty-eight pass attempts likely shouldn't be the strategy moving forward for the 37-year-old, but it certainly worked today.
- Jaguars' ground game bullies Colts in losing effort. Jacksonville didn't just find breathing room against the NFL's fourth-ranked rushing defense. It dismantled the unit, picking up huge chunk gains on the way to a 243-yard outing on the ground. Travis Etienne set the tone early with a career-long 48-yard run on the team's first drive, and JaMycal Hasty got in on the action with a 61-yard touchdown. Three running backs had 50-plus rushing yards, and Jacksonville scored three of its four touchdowns on the ground. It seemed to be a winning formula, but the Jaguars failed to come close to that production in the air when Indianapolis finally clamped down late. Trevor Lawrence played turnover-free after giving the ball away seven times in his last two games, and he had just two incompletions, but he managed only 163 passing yards on 22 attempts. Despite the loss, the Jaguars finally have the makings of a two-headed beast in the backfield with James Robinson and the emergence of Etienne, who averaged 8.6 yards per carry on his 10 runs. It also can't hurt to have a home-run threat in Hasty as the Jags look to get back in the win column next week.
Next Gen Stat of the game: Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman collected five receptions between the hashes, tied for most in a game since 2016.
NFL Research: Colts quarterback Matt Ryan (61,500) passed Hall of Famer Dan Marino (61,361) for seventh-most passing yards all time.
Michael Baca's takeaways:
- Marcus Mariota shines with efficiency. Accounting for all three of Atlanta's offensive scores, Mariota had a near-perfect outing by completing 13 of 14 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns while adding 50 rushing yards and another TD. Mariota set the tone by orchestrating an 11-play, 74-yard TD drive to open the game against the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense, and bewildered San Francisco throughout with his dual-threat capabilities in short-yardage situations. That dynamic was crucial for a Falcons team that converted 9 of 14 third downs and found the end zone on all three red-zone possessions. Mariota directed another long drive to end the first half and break a 14-14 tie with his 3-yard rushing score, then found star tight end Kyle Pitts (three catches, 19 yards) for the game’s final TD in the third quarter to make it a two-possession game. Mariota, who didn't throw his first incompletion until the fourth quarter, showed the type of dependability that's desired in the Falcons' offensive construct. And while Atlanta certainly needed their defense to step up in order to maintain a late lead, Mariota's performance against the Niners will be referenced to how this Falcons offense is supposed to work.
- An ultimate team win for Arthur Smith's Falcons. With an efficient offense powered by its rushing attack and a defensive effort that pitched a second-half shutout, it was the kind of game that will put a smile on the face of Atlanta's no-nonsense coach. Falcons safety Jaylinn Hawkins cleaned up A.J. Terrell's fumble recovery TD to open a 14-0 lead. Running backs Tyler Allgeier (51 yards) and Caleb Huntley (59 yards) filled in nicely for Cordarrelle Patterson's continued absence, giving 49ers defenders no easy tackle all afternoon and aiding Mariota's efficient day. Defensively, the next-man-up mentality went to another level after top cornerbacks Terrell (thigh) and Casey Hayward (shoulder) exited the game in the second half. Dee Alford, Darren Hall (two passes defensed) and Isaiah Oliver (interception, pass break-up) collectively stepped up as the Falcons forced two turnovers (INT, downs) in the 49ers' two fourth-quarter possessions to hold a lead and exorcise a recent demon for Atlanta. The Falcons not only looked good in their throwback uniforms on Sunday, but evidently felt good as they played well as a team to earn their third win in four games.
- 49ers feeling rash of injuries, turnovers. Without defensive stars Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw and Emmanuel Moseley, the 49ers gave up a season-high 28 points to an Atlanta team that came into Week 6 with the 25th-ranked offense. It all started with the Niners giving up their first first-half touchdown of the season on Atlanta's opening drive, and losing cornerback Charvarius Ward (groin) in the first half only made matters that much harder. Jeff Wilson's lost fumble early in the 49ers' second drive of the game led to a 14-0 deficit by the end of the opening frame, but Jimmy Garoppolo found wideout Brandon Aiyuk (eight catches, 83 yards, two TDs) twice in the second quarter to square it all up. Uncharacteristically, the 49ers defense gave up another long TD drive to bookend the first half, but San Francisco's loss wasn't all on the defense. The 49ers offense was blanked in the second half and Demeco Ryans' unit only gave up seven points in the final two quarters. Garoppolo's interception to start the fourth quarter was ultimately a back-breaker for a team that lost the turnover battle 3-0, and his inability to complete passes downfield made the offense predictable in the screen game and disabled in long-yardage situations.
Next Gen stat of the day: Jimmy Garoppolo completed 4 of 11 passes for 72 yards with two interceptions on throws of 10-plus air yards (0-4, INT on deep passes).
NFL Research: Players with two-plus passing touchdowns, one or fewer incompletions, 50-plus rushing yards, and one-plus rushing TD in an NFL game since 1950: HOFer Walter Payton in 1983, and Falcons QB Marcus Mariota versus the 49ers on Sunday.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- The LSU boys love Louisiana. Joe Burrow arrived to Sunday's game wearing teammate Ja'Marr Chase's LSU jersey from their national title game win at Caesars Superdome in 2020. Then, the two put together a vintage performance fitting for all jungle cats -- LSU Tigers and Cincinnati Bengals -- connecting seven times for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Their last was the most significant, with Burrow starting a pivotal possession by finding Chase on a short pass to the left. The star receiver did the rest of the work, covering 60 yards and trotting into the end zone for a triumphant score to take a late lead. Burrow finished with a 28-of-37 line for 300 yards and three scores, capping a comeback with the Chase score. Thanks to Burrow's ability to convert late Sunday, it lifted the Bengals to a win and a return to .500.
- Saints nearly run their way to a win. New Orleans entered Sunday ranked 10th in the league in rushing as a team, but few could've predicted what the Saints did on the ground against the Bengals. A total team effort pushed New Orleans over the 200-yard mark, with Alvin Kamara leading the way by averaging 5.2 yards per carry on 19 attempts. Mark Ingram chipped in 46 yards, Taysom Hill added 39 yards, and recent practice squad call-up Rashid Shaheed put his name on the map by taking a jet sweep 44 yards for a touchdown. The rushing attack brought much-needed balance to New Orleans' offense, but the only thing the Saints couldn't do on the ground was close out the game. Clinging to a 26-24 lead with less than four minutes to play, New Orleans failed in a four-minute situation, taking just 1:32 off the clock before punting it back to Burrow and Co. The Bengals made them pay, and the Saints never had a legitimate chance of coming back after that.
- Bengals deny Andy Dalton's revenge bid. This game was rather even statistically, and even after giving up over 200 yards on the ground, the Bengals can hold their heads high because of how their defense responded in the second half. Cincinnati gave up 20 points in the first half, then locked things down, surrendering just six points in the final two quarters and buying Burrow enough time to author a comeback. Cincinnati's final two series were the most important, getting the ball back in Burrow's hands thanks to a quick three-and-out produced by stopping the run on first and second down. Dalton wasn't the engine that powered New Orleans' offense, but he looked poised to score a win over his former team for a good portion of this game. Thankfully for Cincinnati fans, Dalton's replacement got the job done.
Next Gen Stat of the game: Ja'Marr Chase's 60-yard touchdown reception had a completion probability of just 32.8%. Chase added the cherry on top of the unlikely sundae by gaining +47 yards after the catch over expected on the score, the third most YACOE on a reception in his career.
NFL Research: Ja'Marr Chase has recorded 16 receptions for 353 yards and four touchdowns in his last two games in New Orleans (2020 College Football Playoff National Championship and Sunday against the Saints).