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Thirty-nine things we learned from Week 6

*Week 6 saw huge games from big names and unlikely players alike. Rob Gronkowski and Odell Beckham posted career-highs in yardage in huge wins. LeSean McCoy saw his revenge game against Chip Kelly materialize to perfection. Jay Ajayi of all people became the first running back this season to break 200 yards! Here's what we've learned from Week 6 so far: *

  1. The game-changing interception was the first target that Julio Jones didn't corral all afternoon en route to 139 yards and a touchdown. The second unsuccessful target came on the Falcons' final play of the game when Richard Sherman got away with an obvious pass interference, grabbing Jones' arm and preventing him from catching a fourth-down heave from Matt Ryan. It's not unusual for officials to swallow the whistle on a game-ending jumpball, but that won't mollify an irate Dan Quinn -- nor should it.
  1. This was a tale of two halves for the Falcons' offense and Seahawks' defense. With Seattle's timely blitzes wreaking havoc on Atlanta's offensive line, Ryan was sacked or hit on 11 of 17 first-half dropbacks. Minus Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor, Sherman and Seattle's secondary tied down Jones and the rest of the Falcons receivers, forcing Ryan to hold onto the ball while Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril took turns battering the MVP favorite.

It was a different story in the third quarter, as Ryan found a rhythm, hitting 13 of 17 passes for 220 yards and three of the four passing touchdowns allowed by Seattle this season. Long scores of 36 yards to Jones and 46 yards to Levine Toilolo were the direct result of busted coverage -- confusion perhaps borne out of Sherman's man-to-man approach to Jones in an otherwise zone defense.

  1. The Falcons surpassed all reasonable expectations in their three-game test against both Super Bowl 50 squads (Panthers, Broncos) and the NFL's top scoring defense in each of the past four seasons (Seahawks). The league's top-scoring offense is legit.

-- Chris Wesseling

  1. Kirk Cousins has suffered endless criticism this season, but the Redskins quarterback deserves credit for making his share of pretty throws on Sunday. Even with productive tight end Jordan Reed out of the lineup, Cousins looked strong directing a clock-chewing attack that, midway through the third period, had outgained Philly 341 yards to 41. Washington's four-game win streak has plenty to do with Cousins, who sports an 8-to-3 touchdown-to-pick ratio over his past four starts after a 1-to-3 mark to start the year.
  1. All seven of Carson Wentz's touchdown strikes as a rookie have come against defensive fronts ignoring the blitz. The Redskins on Sunday chose a different route, going after the Eagles quarterback from wire to wire. The suspension of stout right tackle Lane Johnson hurt right away, as fill-in blocker Halapoulivaati Vaitai gave up a heat-seeking sack to Ryan Kerrigan on Philly's opening drive, a march that saw Wentz absorb a pair of takedowns.
  1. The Redskins have been a mixed bag on the ground, but Matt Jones and from-the-wilderness rookie Rob Kelley were brilliant on Sunday, helping Washington to 230 rushing yards at a wild 7.0 yards per tote. The Eagles rolled into FedEx having allowed just five touchdowns all season, but they failed to control the trenches against the Redskins in this divisional bout.

*-- Marc Sessler *

  1. Controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, the Bengals had the Patriots on the ropes until a pair of penalties instigated an onslaught for New England. A frustrated Tom Brady was pressured and forced to flee the pocket until Dre Kirkpatrick's illegal contact call on third-and-18 gave him new life late in the second quarter. Brady hit James White for a 15-yard touchdown six plays later. After Andy Dalton led an 80-yard touchdown drive to start the second half, the Bengals defense forced a punt and Cincinnati appeared to be in the driver's seat. A holding penalty on right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi not only negated a 15-yard pass to A.J. Green, but also led to a crucial safety on a delayed blitz by Dont'a Hightower -- his second in as many weeks.
  1. Gronkowski and James White exposed the coverage woes of the Bengals linebackers, combining for 209 yards and three scores on 15 receptions. The All Pro tight end was a big-play machine, generating four plays of 25 or more yards in addition to his 4-yard touchdown. Gronkowski was also whistled for taunting after yelling at the Bengals sideline during a two-play sequence that involved an extended back-and-forth with Vontaze Burfict.
  1. A.J. Green is having an All Pro-caliber season, but Andy Dalton needs more help for an offense that has managed just 10 touchdowns this season -- fewer than any teams save the Seahawks and Texans. Ogbuehi, an early-season liability despite his first-round draft pedigree, was benched for Eric Winston in the third quarter.

-- Chris Wesseling

  1. The attention has been on the Bills' defense, but this was another game won by Rex's dream offense. LeSean McCoy and Tyrod Taylor are making strong cases as the toughest players to tackle in the NFL at their respective positions. McCoy overcame an injury scare to shake and bake past 49ers tacklers from a variety of formations for 140 yards and three scores. Taylor (68 rushing yards) repeatedly beat free rushers and scrambled to buy time before converting third and long. This team knows how to play with a lead.
  1. Kaepernick was an upgrade from Blaine Gabbert, which is damning with faint praise. Kaepernick's throws were erratic on a gusty day in Orchard Park, but he is clearly a better scrambler than Gabbert, showing impressive vision on the way to 66 rushing yards. While Kaepernick avoided big mistakes while completing 13 of 29 passes for 187 yards and a score, he is hardly a cure-all for this team's problems.
  1. The final score is misleading. It was a one-score game late in the third quarter but Buffalo's run-heavy approach wore down a 49ers defense that has been on the field more than any team in football. The Bills finished with 312 yards rushing, the most the 49ers have given up since 1958. The Bills are handing off to McCoy on third-and-22 and converting. Rex's change to Anthony Lynn as offensive coordinator has shown immediate dividends in four consecutive wins.

*-- Gregg Rosenthal *

  1. Odell Beckham Jr. has the ability to single-handedly lift a team to victory, and that's what he did against the Ravens. The sometimes strange, always dynamic wide receiver set a career high with 222 yards and two touchdowns, including the 66-yard game winner with 1:24 to play. Six of his eight catches and 211 of his yards came in the final two quarters. Beckham punctuated both scores with more tiresome kicking net bits, and got a potentially costly excessive celebration penalty after his final score, but his overall greatness as a playmaker cannot be overstated.
  1. The Ravens have now followed a three-game winning streak to start the season with a three-game skid, and injuries are piling up. Cornerback Jimmy Smith left the game with a concussion, helping to set the stage for Beckham's second-half fireworks. Terrell Suggs also exited with an arm injury. Baltimore entered the game without three starters on their offensive line and wide receiver Steve Smith. That the undermanned Ravens took a lead into the final two minutes makes the loss all the more painful.
  1. A 400-yard, three-touchdown day from Eli Manning should quiet the dumb narrative that age might explain the quarterback's recent slump. Meanwhile, Manning's first TD to Beckham came on a go route that went for 75 yards. It was encouraging to see Manning and the Giants offense get away from their dink-and-dunk high-volume tendencies.

-- Dan Hanzus

  1. Ben Roethlisberger was nowhere near 100 percent. Let's get this out of the way first. The Steelers are still one of the best football teams in the league, but operated with a roughly 50 percent effective Roethlisberger for the entire second half. Roethlisberger threw his first pick on the play he got injured on, then returned after the break to hurl a wobbling pass at a receiver with two defenders lurking clearly underneath.UPDATE:NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Roethlisberger will undergo surgery to trim a torn meniscus on Monday and will miss Sunday's game against the Patriots.
  1. This was probably the most physical we've seen the Dolphins all season. Jay Ajayi had a career-best 204 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard exclamation point at the end of the game to put the Steelers completely out of reach. Ajayi was physical and confident, breaking tackles at the second level and accelerating through open windows. The Dolphins were on a long search to find their bell cow running back and, despite Arian Foster making his return on Sunday, this might have been Ajayi's coming out party.
  1. Byron Maxwell was tremendous. Taking into consideration that Roethlisberger had no zip on his passes during the second half, this was by far the best performance Miami got out of Maxwell all season. The much maligned cornerback got a hearty handshake and hug from coach Adam Gase after the game, a nod to a performance that seemed to be as much about Maxwell's game prep for Antonio Brown as it was his physical play at the line. Brown finished with four catches for 39 yards.

-- Conor Orr

  1. Welcome to the 2016 season, Golden Tate. The Lions receiver paced an efficient offense that diced up a Rams secondary, which struggled without top corner Trumaine Johnson. Tate entered the game with 134 receiving yards in five games this season. He gobbled up 165 yards on eight catches and a touchdown Sunday. Tate finally got loose, breaking tackles after the catch and caught a deep bomb from Matthew Stafford. Stafford spread the ball around superbly again, but Getting Tate involved was clearly a focal point with a beat up backfield.
  1. The Lions defense made Case Keenum look like Joe Montana most of the afternoon. The Rams quarterback completed 19 consecutive passes at one point, a franchise record. (Let's say that again: Case Keenum holds a Rams passing record! Case Keenum.) Keenum picked on pathetic Lions pass coverage over the middle, taking advantage of linebackers that couldn't cover in space. The Rams' passer went 27-of-32 passing (84 percent) for three touchdowns and added another score. Keenum was unstoppable until turning back into a pumpkin on his final pass, which was picked off.
  1. Kenny Britt's career renaissance continued Sunday. Britt burned Detroit for seven catches on eight targets for 136 yards and two touchdowns. Britt used his 6-foot-3 frame to shield defenders from the ball on crossing routes and stretched the field for Keenum with two 40-plus yard receptions. Britt's yardage didn't all come against second-rate corners either as he beat Lions top CB Darius Slay several times. As Around The NFL Seer Chris Wesseling pointed out this week, Britt is one of the most overlooked reborn misfits in the NFL this season.

-- Kevin Patra

  1. Dak Prescott made another compelling case to keep his starting job. The Cowboys passer wrote NFL history on Sunday by going pick-free over the first 163 throws of his young career -- overtaking some guy named Tom Brady in the process. Prescott lost a fumble one play later, but rebounded to author a pristine one-minute drive before the half, guiding Dallas on a four-play, 77-yard march capped by the rookie's 20-yard touchdown strike to Brice Butler. It was the kind of quick-thinking scoring drive that plenty of veterans struggle to match on a weekly basis.
  1. This won't be a fun week in Packers Land. Green Bay's underrated offensive line did an excellent job buying time for Aaron Rodgers, but time wasn't enough. While the veteran passer put on a clinic with his pocket movement, Rodgers was slow out of the gate, throwing for only 119 yards in the first half at just 5.7 yards per lob. While he finished with 294 yards on the day, much of that came with game entirely out of hand. I'm not breaking news here, but something is fundamentally missing with Green Bay's air attack.
  1. Ezekiel Elliott was tasked with taking on the Green Bay's top-ranked run defense. Facing a unit that hadn't allowed any club to cross 50 yards on the ground, the Cowboys rookie soared for a season-high 157 yards at 5.6 yards per rush. I'll keep writing this until it's no longer true, but Elliott grew stronger as the clock wound on and completely buried the Packers with a fourth-quarter drive that saw him put this game in the books.

-- Marc Sessler

  1. Brocktober struck with the start of the fourth quarter, as the Texans' $72 million QB redeemed himself with three consecutive scoring drives to end the game, including a six-play game-winning drive in overtime capped by a picture-perfect 36-yard sideline bomb to Jaelen Strong. In a tale of two halves, all that anyone will remember is Osweiler's late-game heroics. The question is why he can't play like that for a full 60 minutes.
  1. With Osweiler struggling to find open receivers, Lamar Miller finally had his breakout game as a Texan. The running back, who came to Houston in the offseason as part of an offensive overhaul in the backfield, had regressed through five games, totaling just 24 total yards against Minnesota last week. Miller found refuge in the Colts' run defense on Sunday night, gashing Indianapolis for 149 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns. The dual-threat back kept the pressure off his quarterback, bursting through the left side of his offensive line on counters and being a vital target on short passes out of the backfield.
  1. The Colts' offensive line held Houston's pass rushers at bay for three quarters, but disintegrated as the clock ticked away. Luck (21/32, 252 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT) looked in control in and out of the pocket early, connecting with his tight ends and rushing for productive yardage on broken plays, including a 14-yard touchdown run in the fourth that looked to be a game-winner. However, Luck was sacked three times in the final 20 minutes as the Texans mounted their comeback and grew more desperate.

-- Jeremy Bergman

  1. Cam Newton's return was quite the roller coaster ride. He broke Carolina's record for most career passing yards, surpassing Jake Delhomme's 19,258 mark. In the first half, Newton looked like a guy who hadn't played this past week. Newton's first-and-goal interception -- he had thrown 42 straight touchdowns inside his opponents' 20-yard line before his last previous red-zone interception -- highlighted those struggles. In the game's final two quarters, the Panthers' QB looked much sharper, especially on throws to the sideline. His legs weren't utilized though -- aside from one late TD run -- which was probably the team's way of protecting their franchise cornerstone.
  1. It's weird to type these words, but the Panthers' secondary looked even worse than that of their counterparts. Drew Brees broke the NFL record for most 400-yard passing games (his 465 yards on Sunday marked the 15th he's reached the plateau, surpassing Peyton Manning) and accumulated his eighth straight home game of at least three touchdown passes (had four today).

Nobody highlights Carolina's struggles defending the pass more than fifth-round rookie cornerback Zack Sanchez. Sanchez was burned by a double move on an 87-yard score to Brandin Cooks, who now owns the two longest TD catches of the season -- he already had one for 98 yards.

  1. Creative, aggressive play calls by coaches are exhilarating to watch, and Sean Payton's decision on the Saints' first drive of the contest fit the bill. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, the Saints lined up in jumbo goal line personnel, and ran a tight end jet sweep with Coby Fleener. Fleener's rushing touchdown was the first one by a tight end since Charles Clay's in Week 2 of the 2013 season. In a game that was decided by three points, Payton not opting for a short field goal or opting for a mundane fourth-down play came up big.

-- Max Meyer

  1. Conditions weren't favorable in Oakland, with the game starting in an absolute downpour. Derek Carr laughed at that adversity, driving Oakland down the field for an opening touchdown. It was the first and last time the Raiders would find the end zone. From there Kansas City took control, bullying Oakland on the backs of Spencer Ware (24 carries, 131 yards, 1 TD; 2 catches, 32 yards) and Jamaal Charles (nine carries, 33 yards, one touchdown). While Oakland floundered on offense, Alex Smith was a tactician, chipping away at the Raiders' defense by completing 19 of 22 passes for 224 yards and swiftly moving Kansas City into Oakland territory.
  1. Carr didn't look quite like himself Sunday. You could blame the wet conditions, but he dispelled that notion early on. More of the blame (and conversely, credit) falls on the shoulders of Kansas City's defense, which played tight coverage, harassed the quarterback and forced him into some awkward throws. On multiple occasions, Carr dropped back and floated passes off his back foot, with one being intercepted by Marcus Peters and another coming dangerously close to being picked off. We spent much of the afternoon waiting for another thrilling comeback win from Carr and BlackJack Del Rio, but it just never happened.
  1. Andy Reid is 16-2 in games following the bye, and his ingenuity coming off an extra week to prepare showed in what was undoubtedly my favorite play-call of the young season. Faced with third-and-goal from the Raiders' 1, defensive tackle Dontari Poe checked in as an eligible receiver and lined up behind a trips bunch formation. Smith took the snap, pivoted and fired a pass into the massive arms of Poe, who caught the ball and bulled his way through a collection of blockers and defenders into the end zone. The fat guy touchdown put Kansas City up 10 and strengthened the sense that this game was Kansas City's to own. America loves fat guy touchdowns. We are all Dontari Poe.

-- Nick Shook

  1. The Browns focused heavily on stopping DeMarco Murray, and you can't blame them. But as they stacked the box, their already-thin secondary was repeatedly exposed. Kendall Wright and Rishard Matthews made one great grab after another, with the former tallying eight catches for 133 yards and one touchdown. Mariota had his best passing day of the season, completing 17 of 24 passes for 284 yards for three touchdowns and an interception. For the first time all season, Tennessee won a game on big plays through the air. Hope for the Mariota/Mike Mularkey marriage (alliteration!) isn't dead.
  1. It's remarkable that Cody Kessler is able to stand after these games. The rookie quarterback was again battered and relentlessly pounded by Titans rushers. Led by Jurrell Casey, six different Titans sacked Kessler and laid many more licks on the passer. Clips went around Twitter during the game of center Cameron Erving blatantly missing blocks, only souring the opinion further on the second-year lineman whose struggles are magnified thanks to more injuries on the Browns' line.
  1. There was a bright side for the Browns defensively. Former first-round pick Danny Shelton, who hasn't made a noticeable impact in a season and a half (nose tackle isn't a glamorous position), had his best game of his career. The block-eating defender was there to stop Murray on runs of three yards or fewer three times in the first half, and recorded his first career sack, powering past center Ben Jones to drop Mariota for a loss of 10. Cleveland's emphasis on stopping the run helped Shelton shine, but the focus on Murray also opened up massive running lanes for Mariota on the read option, resulting a 64-yard day for him.

-- Nick Shook

  1. With his back against the wall and down by 16 points in the fourth quarter, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles arguably led the campaign of his career finishing the day: 20-of-33 for 271 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception -- a finish that seemed unlikely after the Jags' first few possessions. Bortles tossed the game-winning 51-yard touchdown to receiver Arrelious Benn -- a true comeback tale since Benn has spent the greater part of his six-year career battling injuries.
  1. Bears No. 1 wideout Alshon Jeffery tallied six receptions for 90 yards in the first half and finished with seven for 93, marking his best game of the 2016 season thus far. Jeffery has dealt with nagging injuries (knee, hamstring) since training camp. Ka'Deem Carey and Jordan Howard accounted for 84 of the Bears' 92 rushing yards -- a season-best game for Carey.
  1. Chris Ivory scored his first rushing touchdown of the season. Ivory, who missed the Jaguars' first two games of the season with an undisclosed medical issue, amounted for 32 of the team's 54 rushing yards. It's a slow but promising show for a player who exceeded 1,000 yards last season.

-- Andie Hagemann

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