Week 6 in the NFL saw near-perfect performances from Drew Brees and Tom Brady, statement wins from the Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys and another chapter in the on-going mystery of Aaron Rodgers.
Here is a closer look at the best and worst from the NFL’s sixth week of the 2016 season.
QBs Drew Brees, Tom Brady
Both ageless wonders produced passing masterpieces in Week 6. Brees threw for 465 yards and four touchdowns to power the Saints’ shootout win over the Panthers, while Brady completed 29 of 35 passes for 376 yards and three scores as the Patriots blew out the Bengals.
Brees is now tied with Peyton Manning for the most 400-yard passing games in NFL history (15). Brady became the fourth quarterback to complete 5,000 passes in his career, joining Brees, Brett Favre and Manning. Age is just a number for the stellar starting quarterbacks in New Orleans and New England.
Ground and pound is officially back for Rex Ryan and the Bills. Buffalo won its fourth straight game on Sunday, using 312 rushing yards and a dominant defense to take down Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers. The Bills scored a season-high 45 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter, while Ryan’s defense allowed San Francisco to convert just three of 15 opportunities on third and fourth downs.
Now 4-2, the Bills have averaged 211 rushing yards and allowed just 13.3 points per game during their season-saving winning streak. Credit Ryan for getting the Bills to play his style of winning football.
RB Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
Just as everyone predicted, Ajayi became the first player this season to rush for over 200 yards in a single game. He carried the ball 25 times for 204 yards and two scores, helping the Dolphins spring an upset over the Steelers in Miami. He also became the first running back to go over 200 yards against the Steelers in over 15 years, and he even delivered the dagger late in the fourth quarter when he burst off the right side for a 62-yard touchdown.
How unlikely was Ajayi’s explosion on Sunday? He came into Week 6 with only 117 rushing yards this season, and zero career games with over 50 yards rushing.
WR Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants
OBJ might have saved the Giants season on Sunday. He caught eight passes for a career-high 222 yards, including two go-ahead touchdowns that each went for over 60 yards in the second half, as the Giants snapped their three-game losing streak with a 27-23 win over the Ravens.
Beckham’s 75-yard touchdown late in the third quarter gave the Giants a 17-13 lead, but it was his 66-yard score with 1:24 left in the game that saved New York from a fourth straight loss. The game suddenly looks fun again for one of the NFL’s most talented receivers.
The Cowboys made winning at Lambeau Field look easy on Sunday. Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns, rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 157 yards against the NFL’s top ranked run defense, and the Cowboys made their biggest statement of the 2016 season with a 30-16 victory.
Dallas also forced four turnovers, including two from Aaron Rodgers. With five straight wins, including back-to-back victories over 2015 playoff teams, the Cowboys look like legitimate contenders in the NFC.
The Steelers are widely considered one of the top teams in the AFC, but you wouldn’t believe it based on Sunday’s disaster in Miami. A pair of interceptions from Ben Roethlisberger turned into 10 Miami points, and the Steelers defense gave up almost 500 total yards, including over 200 rushing yards.
Pittsburgh is now 3-0 at home and 1-2 on the road, with back-to-back road losses by a combined 46 points. Getting blown out in Miami is no way to get ready for next week’s showdown with the New England Patriots at Heinz Field.
The Bears held the Jaguars scoreless for three quarters but still managed to lose. Jacksonville came alive and scored 17 points in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead touchdown with 2:49 left, to shock Chicago at Soldier Field.
Amazingly, the Bears lost despite running more plays, gaining more yards, holding the ball longer and having fewer turnovers than the Jaguars. Bad teams find ways to lose. The Bears, who are 1-5, now face a trip to Green Bay to play the Packers on Thursday night.
Philadelphia Eagles offensive line
Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz learned life is going to be difficult without tackle Lane Johnson, who started his 10-game suspension on Sunday. The Redskins sacked Wentz five times, including twice on Philadelphia’s final drive, as Washington handed the Eagles their second straight loss after a 3-0 start.
Ryan Kerrigan exploited Johnson’s absence, tallying two sacks and four of Washington’s 11 quarterback hits while lining up against new right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai for the majority of the game. Philadelphia will have to rethink its approach to replacing Johnson, especially with a rookie quarterback under center.
Carolina Panthers defense
Rarely does an NFL team score 38 points in a game and lose. The Panthers accomplished the feat on Sunday, largely thanks to a defense that had no answer for Drew Brees and the Saints. Brees threw for 465 yards and four touchdowns, and he led the Saints into field-goal range for the game-winning kick with 11 seconds left.
New Orleans gained 523 yards and scored 41 points, marking the second time during Carolina’s four-game losing streak that an opponent has managed over 500 total yards and 40 points. The defending NFC champions are 1-5 for a bunch of reasons, but a defense incapable of stopping the pass has to rank high on the list.
QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
The surface numbers weren’t terrible for Rodgers, who completed 31-of-42 passes for 294 yards against the Cowboys on Sunday. However, the Packers quarterback had two game-changing turnovers, including a fumble inside the 5-yard line, and he badly missed Randall Cobb on a potential touchdown in the second half.
Most alarming was the fact that the two-time MVP was thoroughly outplayed by a rookie (Prescott) at Lambeau Field. The “What’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers?” mystery will continue on, and is still unsolved.