Resident NFL writer, Eoin Purcell is here to look back at the good, the bad and the crazy from NFL week seven.
When Manning returned to play this season with the Denver Broncos it became a matter of when, not if he would break Brett Favre’s record of 508 total touchdown passes. Manning equalled and broke that record in typically Manning fashion on Sunday night with a near perfect performance against the San Francisco 49ers.
The record breaking strike was thrown to WR Demaryius Thomas, who had an outstanding performance himself. Like the professional that he is Manning told reporters after the game that the win was more important than breaking the record, but when he looks back after his career is over, he will surely be proud of such an achievement.
Manning had a solid performance completing 19 of 22 passes for 318 yards and 4 TD’s. His QB rating of 157.2 shows exactly how well Manning performed on the night.
The Green Bay QB may not be in the same league as Peyton Manning when it comes to overall career stats, but if discussing who the best QB in the league is at the moment, Rodgers again showed on Sunday why he is in contention.
One week on from his game winning heroics in Miami, Rodgers orchestrated an offensive performance that head coaches and offensive coordinators can only dream of.
Rodgers and his incredibly talented offensive unit torched the Carolina Panthers 38-17, which keeps the pressure on NFC North divisional rivals Detroit Lions. For his part Rodgers completed 19 of 22 passes for 255 yards and 3 TD’s, and a QB rating of 154.5. In a golden era for NFL quarter back’s, Rodgers is one of the top performers year after year.
The Colts won their fifth game in a row Sunday to continue their hot streak, which makes them arguably the most in form team in the league at the moment. It’s not only the fact that the Colts are winning, but it’s the nature of the wins which is so impressive.
The Dallas Cowboys may argue that they are the best team in the league right now, but the Colts have a better score differential at +80 to the Cowboys +49.
Add to that the fact that Indianapolis just shut out Cincinnati in a 27-0 domination and Indi get the nod as the league’s hottest team. QB Andrew Luck is in MVP type form, and his supporting cast of WR Ty Hilton, RB’s Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw; and even the defence are playing at a championship calibre level.
Although Watkins may not have had the best statistical performance of all WR’s this weekend, his effort in the Bills’ last gasp win over the Vikings deserves a mention.
Watkins ended the game with 9 catches for 122 yards and 2 TD’s, including the game winner as time expired. Watkins has shown glimpses this season of the potential that lead many scouts to believe he would be a superstar in the NFL when he entered the draft in April. Sunday’s performance is something Bills’ fans hope to see for many years to come.
Not for the first time this season the NFC South features in this section. With the whipping boys of the division Tampa Bay on bye week it makes the whole fiasco even worse. The NFC South is not the worst division in football (yet). It is the division that is performing the furthest below its pre-season expectations.
New Orleans lost a match to Detroit that seemed impossible to lose with 5 minutes remaining. Following a Matthew Stafford TD, Drew Brees attempted an ill-advised pass which ended up in the arms of a Detroit DB.
This interception set up a Detroit Lions get out of jail game winning TD late in the 4th quarter. The Atlanta Falcons yet again showed their vulnerability when playing on the road in a lopsided defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.
The Falcons never made a game of this one as the Ravens dominated from start to finish. The division leading Carolina Panthers had the worst showing of all as they were totally outplayed by the Green Bay Packers. Carolina still lead this division, but it’s not unreasonable to think that 8 wins could be enough to win the NFC South.
Remember when there was an argument as to whether Cousins should replace RGIII as the starter in Washington. 5 weeks later and Cousins has seen himself benched for 3rd string QB Colt McCoy. McCoys first play of the 2014 season was a TD pass to Pierre Garcon, so Cousins should probably get comfortable on that bench.
With RGIII expected back from injury in the next couple of weeks Cousins should not expect to see too much playing time in the coming weeks. Washington may regret not trading Cousins when he had trade value, similar to what Green Bay did with Matt Flynn not too long ago.
Jake Cutler and the Bears’ offence is one of the more frustrating units in the NFL. In Matt Forte the Bears have a RB who can do everything, built in the mould of Marshall Faulk. The Bears boast two Pro Bowl calibre WR’s in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey, both of whom dwarf most CB who try to guard them.
This was again the case Sunday as Marshall (6’4”) and Jeffrey (6’3”) spent most of the game lined up opposite Brent Grimes (5’10”) and Cortland Finnegan (5’10”). Even with this physical match up Chicago could only manage 14 points en route to a loss against the Miami Dolphins.
Such was the frustration at the lack of offensive production that Marshall told reporters he felt the offence was playing below par. Head Coach Mark Trestman had to deny rumours of a locker room rift between Cutler and Marshall following these comments. The performance of the Bears has been substandard this season and they are in danger of falling out of touch with the division leaders Detroit and Green Bay.
Louis Rams Special Teams
When game planning for the defending champions Seattle Seahawks, what areas can most teams identify as potential weaknesses? The Seahawks defence is one of the stronger units in all of football so that’s advantage Seattle. The offence boasts QB Russell Wilson, RB Marshawn Lynch and a bunch of WR’s who consistently perform above the level they are expected to. This is again usually advantage Seattle.
The Rams identified Special Teams as an area to possibly exploit the Seahawks, and they managed to do just this on Sunday. The first of three big Special Teams plays came from Benny Cunningham who delivered a 75 yard kick return which lead to the Rams first score of the day.
Later in the first half the Rams extended their lead on a punt return for a score. Tavon Austin and a host of Rams moved to the right side of the field motioning as if they were going to catch the punt. In reality the ball sailed to the far side of the field where Stedman Bailey fielded the ball and returned it 9 yards for a score. So good was the execution that even the camera was fooled.
The biggest special team’s play of the night came late in the fourth quarter with the Rams up by two points. On their own 18 yard line the Rams faced 4th and 3 with 2.55 remaining.
Punting the ball would have given Seattle plenty of time to march the length of the field and set up a game winning field goal. Instead punter Johnny Hekker tossed a pass to Benny Cunningham for a first down which allowed the Rams to run out the clock and win the game. It was a gutsy call, which paid off in a big way.
Game of the Week
This weekend produced a number of close matches right up until the end. There was a total of seven matches which finished as one score games. There were six matches decided by three points or fewer. The game of the week award goes to the NFC West battle between Seattle and St. Louis. The Seahawks have totally dominated the Rams for the past five years, and few people expected anything other than a Seattle win in this match.
Coming into this match the Rams had managed just one sack of the opposing QB all season, the lowest number in the NFL. Although the Seahawks were coming off the back of a tough loss at home to the Cowboys they were heavy favourites to earn a victory here.
The Rams approached this game with an attitude of any means necessary to get the win. Their underperforming defence played its best match of the season, and their special teams unit produced some of the plays of the season.
For their part Seattle played some good football. Russell Wilson had over 100 yards rushing on seven carries, a new career high. Marshwan Lynch was largely held in check by St. Louis but the Seattle passing game looked sharp in spots.
Ultimately it was the heroics of the Rams Special Teams which was the difference in this game. This unit was responsible for a punt return TD where they fooled the Seahawks into thinking Tavon Austin was catching the ball, allowing Steadman Bailey to return the ball 90 yards for the score.
In the 4th Quarter, leading by two points the Rams executed a fake punt pass for the first down which allowed them to run out the clock and win the match. The Rams coaching staff made a lot of brave calls, which had they backfired, could have been called reckless. The end result was an impressive win for the St. Louis Rams, against their great rivals, the Seattle Seahawks.
Top 5/bottom 5
- Dallas Cowboys (6-1) – The Cowboys keep winning, and remain top of the rankings.
- Denver Broncos (5-1) – A historic night is enough to move the Broncos into second spot in the rankings.
- Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) The Eagles move down one spot due to the bye week.
- Arizona Cardinals (5-1) Results elsewhere, paired with the Cardinals win strengthen their position in the NFC West.
- Indianapolis Colts (5-2) – The Colts have won five straight matches, quite convincingly, to move into the top five rankings.
- Tennessee Titans (2-5) – Losing to the weak Washington Redskins is enough to demote the Titans into the bottom five.
- New York Jets (1-6) – The Jets have played much better football the last two weeks. Unfortunately they have still lost both games. Can the addition of WR Percy Harvin spur the Jets on.
- Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) – The Jags first win finally lifts them off the bottom spot. Denard Robinson started at RB and rushed for 100+ yards. Is this the Jags’ new blueprint?
- Tampa Bay (1-5) – The bye week only served to move the Buc’s down one spot.
- Oakland Raiders (0-6) – The Raiders are the only winless team left in football, but the play of Derek Carr at QB is cause for optimism.
Eoin Purcell, Pundit Arena
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