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2021 NFL season, Week 7: What we learned from Sunday's games

Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 7 of the 2021 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:

Indianapolis Colts
2021 · 3-4-0
San Francisco 49ers
2021 · 2-4-0

Grant Gordon's takeaways:

  1. Wentz wins ugly in even uglier weather. This was a crucial game for each squad, both having had lofty aspirations ahead of the season that have crashed from the heavens into the reality of six weeks of struggle. Therefore, it's all the more unfortunate the heavens opened up and drenched this game from start to finish. There were bad passes and worse drops and slipping and sliding as a freaking atmospheric river and bomb cyclone dropped on the Bay Area and blew up this game. It's hard to truly assess how a team executes when it comes amid such a sloppy mess. Still, it's hard not to wipe your eyes dry and see this as perhaps Carson Wentz's best showing so far with the Colts. Despite the elements, he led a comeback and did so with as much accuracy as you could hope for and added key plays with his legs. He finished the day with three total touchdowns, throwing for two on 17-of-26 passing for 150 yards and rushing for one as part of 23 yards on the ground that included a 17-yard scamper on a third-and-16 play. He also garnered 97 yards on three throws that drew defensive pass interference calls. Wentz's departure from Philadelphia and the way things got going in Indianapolis weren't pretty, but he found a way to win ugly on Sunday night.
  2. Deebo still dominant. There's been much made of Brandon Aiyuk's struggles and the 49ers' lack of a consistent No. 2 threat in the passing attack with George Kittle on the mend. But, even in a loss, more should be made of the job Deebo Samuel's doing. On a team that's been defined by its underachievement, Samuel has still been pretty darn excellent. He had his third 100-yard game of the season as he hauled in seven catches for 100 yards and a score on 11 targets. More than half of Jimmy Garoppolo's yards passing (181) were garnered by Samuel. Samuel's been the closest thing to a consistent contributor the 49ers have had on offense.
  3. Colts defense corrals Niners. In the 49ers offense's opening salvos to take 6-0 and 9-0 leads, running back Elijah Mitchell took the lead. But after a terrific first half, Mitchell was held in check by the Colts defense. When Garoppolo carved up the Colts on a 70-yard drive that took only three plays -- all of them Garoppolo completions -- it was a Darius Leonard pass block (more than a breakup) on the ensuing two-point attempt that had Indy holding on to a 20-18 lead. And when the 49ers were driving for a possible go-ahead score late in the game, it was an interception by Xavier Rhodes, who'd come back into the contest despite an injured calf, that essentially sealed a soggy triumph. When the Colts defense is at its best, that's when the Colts are at their best. On Sunday night, the defense was a resilient bunch that came up big when needed most. More of that on a more consistent defense is a must if Indy is to make the postseason and have any hope of keeping up with the suddenly stellar Titans in the AFC South.

Next Gen stat of the game: Colts running back Jonathan Taylor had 12 rushes for 88 yards and a TD on rushes inside the tackles (7.3 YPC).

NFL Research: Carson Wentz has four straight games with exactly two passing touchdowns and zero interceptions, which is the longest active streak of two-plus TDs and zero INTs in the NFL. It's the longest such streak in a season since Patrick Mahomes and 2020 MVP Aaron Rodgers both had four straight in Weeks 1-4, 2020.

Los Angeles Rams
2021 · 6-1-0
Detroit Lions
2021 · 0-7-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Matthew Stafford dominates on third downs. The Rams quarterback picked apart his former team, making some of his biggest throws on third-and-longs. Stafford showed his worth on the money down, as Los Angeles went 9-of-13 on third downs, moving the ball up and down the field against an undermanned Lions D. The Rams punted just once on the day, as Stafford calmly picked apart Detroit on 28-of-41 passing for 334 yards and three touchdowns. Stafford saved his best plays for third downs, finding Cooper Kupp for a 59-yard pass on a third-and-12 and Tyler Higbee on third-and-10 on a pivotal fourth-quarter drive when the Rams still trailed. Stafford also beat Lions pressure, completing 10 of 11 passes for 142 yards and three TDs versus the blitz, per Next Gen Stats. On a day the Rams D gave up 415 yards, Stafford underscored he is a difference-maker in Sean McVay's offense on big downs.
  2. Lions throw the kitchen sink at Rams, come up short. Detroit recovered an onside kick in the first quarter and converted two fake punts. The winless Lions knew they needed to take chances against the best of the NFC. It still wasn't enough. Dan Campbell's team played hard and kept it close, with Jared Goff overcoming some poor blocking to move the offense. With a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter, Detroit pounded out a chain-moving 9-minute drive into the red zone. But with Aaron Donald getting in Goff's face, the QB threw an end zone INT to corner Jalen Ramsey. The game-changing play is emblematic of Goff's career. Good enough to keep it close against a team with more talent, but can't make the play at the end. On the plus side for Detroit, D'Andre Swift played awesome, generating 144 scrimmage yards, including a 63-yard screen TD to open the scoring. The RB is the Lions' best player on a team with too few weapons to beat good clubs.
  3. Cooper Kupp keeps scoring. The Rams WR was uncoverable once again, catching 10 of 13 targets for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Kupp's deft route-running allows him to get open against any coverage, and Stafford trusts the wideout even in close quarters. Kupp caught all three of his deep targets for 115 yards. He's the trusty slot guy and the deep threat. A complete force. With his second TD of the day, Kupp became the first player in the Super Bowl era to generate 800-plus receiving yards and nine-plus receiving TDs in his team's first seven games of a season.

Next Gen stat of the game: Aaron Donald generated three QB pressures and a turnover forced by pressure. Donald has 19 turnovers forced by pressure since 2016 (most in NFL).

NFL Research: Matthew Stafford became the 13th QB in NFL history with 300-plus touchdown passes in his career. It's apropos he reached the milestone against the club for which threw 282 TDs over the first 12 years of his career.

Las Vegas Raiders
2021 · 5-2-0
Philadelphia Eagles
2021 · 2-5-0

Chase Goodbread's takeaways:

  1. Red-hot Carr can't be cooled. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr continued a torrid pace that's developing into what could be his career-best season. Carr completed 16 consecutive passes at one point in the first half, roasting the Eagles secondary with his customary widespread distribution. The Raiders entered as the only NFL club with four receivers at 300-plus yards receiving for the season (Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow, Darren Waller, Bryan Edwards). True to form, Carr's leading receiver in this one was none of the above (TE Foster Moreau, 60 yards). Carr finished 31-of-34 for 323 yards, and remains paced to break Peyton Manning's NFL record for passing yards in a season (5,477).
  2. Don't pin this one on the quarterback. Before too much blame is laid at Jalen Hurts' feet, consider this: When Hurts threw his 10th pass of the day with 9:06 left in the second quarter -- a nifty 20-yard completion to DeVonta Smith -- the game was tied, 7-7. When he threw his next pass about a quarter later, he trailed 24-7. In between, the game was all but lost for Philadelphia. Running back Josh Jacobs put the Raiders ahead, 14-7, with an 8-yard score with 1:45 left in the first half, and the Eagles bungled a chance to answer by fumbling on their ensuing first-down play. The Raiders took advantage with a short field goal as the half ended. The Eagles then tried a failed onside kick to open the second half, resulting in a short field for a potent Raiders offense, and a 41-yard TD drive. Amid those 17 unanswered Raiders points, Hurts didn't throw a pass and the Eagles offense took just one snap.
  3. Even against Las Vegas, run-stopping isn't easy for Philadelphia. The Eagles run defense, which has struggled this season, should've been able to right itself against a Raiders rushing attack that's looked disjointed all year. It didn't happen. Kenyan Drake recorded a game-high 69 yards on 14 carries (4.9 per) with a touchdown, while Jacobs added a touchdown of his own and averaged nearly five yards per carry himself (six for 29) before he left with an injury. Las Vegas' 120 rushing yards were 50% more than its season average of 80 per game, which ranked 31st in the NFL entering play. If the Raiders' running game is about to take off, Carr's weekly field days will only get worse for opposing defenses. But the sense here is that the Eagles still have a problem, not that the Raiders just solved one.

Next Gen stat of the game: The Eagles defense blitzed Derek Carr on just 8.7% of his dropbacks. Through the first six weeks, Philadelphia's 16.1% blitz rate was an NFL-low.

NFL Research: Derek Carr threw for a career-best 90.9 completion percentage Sunday, the best single-game percentage of the NFL season to date among qualified passers. Carr's previous career high was 90.6.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2021 · 6-1-0
Chicago Bears
2021 · 3-4-0

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. Another week, another explosive showing from the Bucs. Tampa Bay didn't rack up a gaudy offensive total, but that's only because the Bucs didn't need to. Their first three scoring drives each required less than 50 yards to reach the end zone, and on the day, only one possession that ended in a touchdown needed the Buccaneers to cover 75% of the field. That's what happens when you force five turnovers on the day, of course, and if any team is going to capitalize, it's the defending champions. Antonio Brown's absence wasn't the least bit noticeable, as Brady instead connected with Mike Evans for three touchdowns and Chris Godwin on another. Leonard Fournette joined the points parade, and the Buccaneers broke 150 yards on the ground. There must be something comfortable about the confines of Raymond James Stadium: Sunday marked Tampa Bay's second straight home game in which it won by a 28-plus points. Home cooking sure tastes good.
  2. Lack of execution, crushing mistakes made this a tough watch for Bears fans. It's an ongoing issue for the Bears, who don't always bury themselves with turnovers but often fail to do the little things right. The former was the primary issue Sunday, as the Bears prematurely ended three possessions due to turnovers, then squandered their longest drive of the day with a sequence that defined Sunday -- and a decent amount of their season. Justin Fields had Damien Williams open for a first down, if not a touchdown, but couldn't quite put enough on a difficult, on-the-run throw to get the ball to Williams. The next play, a catchable pass thrown to Darnell Mooney glanced off his hands for a Jordan Whitehead interception. When it rained, it poured for the Bears on Sunday, as Chicago didn't stand much of a chance after falling behind 21-0. The Bears wasted a solid day from Khalil Herbert (18 rushes, 100 yards) and continue to work through the struggles with Fields, who accounted for all four of Chicago's turnovers (two interceptions, two lost fumbles). When Chicago's defense can't carry the load, it ends up looking like Sunday did.
  3. Is there a better-looking team in the NFL right now than Tampa Bay? Well, the Cardinals can make a strong argument for that title, but the Buccaneers sure do look good. Save for their loss to the Rams, the Bucs have taken care of business consistently and appear exactly as a defending champion should. Tom Brady continues to play at a premier level, Tampa's defense is capitalizing on opponents' mistakes, and the Bucs are turning games into track meets. They're deep, they're familiar with their schemes and expectations, and they don't appear to be slowing down any time soon. Sunday was setting up to test Tampa's offensive mettle against one of the NFL's better defenses, and the Buccaneers responded by smashing through their resistance and watching their own defense make the going even easier for them.

Next Gen stat of the game: Mike Evans caught three of his four tight-window targets Sunday, gaining 56 yards and scoring two touchdowns.

NFL Research: Sunday marked Tom Brady's 97th career game with three-plus touchdown passes and his 37th career game with four-plus touchdown passes. He's tied with Drew Brees in both categories for the most all time.

Arizona Cardinals
2021 · 7-0-0
Houston Texans
2021 · 1-6-0

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. This might end up serving as a valuable lesson for the Cardinals. Arizona came out of the locker room flat on Sunday, punting after five plays on the opening drive, losing a total of 12 yards on its second possession and giving up a safety on its third possession of the game. Stunningly, Houston took a 5-0 lead early in the second quarter. Then, the Cardinals awoke from their slumber, scoring 24 unanswered points and taking control. Kyler Murray was again sharp, establishing a new connection with recent arrival Zach Ertz that included a 47-yard touchdown. Chase Edmonds and James Conner combined for over 140 rushing yards, and three different pass-catchers snagged touchdown passes. Arizona is extremely talented, and that talent difference was enough to turn a 5-0 game into a 31-5 win. The Cardinals will just need to be better earlier against a stronger team.
  2. The Texans can't afford to be sloppy when operating with such a thin margin. Penalties and mistakes (including a lost fumble) erased that margin Sunday. Houston racked up penalty yards on four of its first eight possessions, sinking positive momentum in what was once a close game. Arizona capitalized, scoring on four straight possessions (three touchdowns and a field goal) from early in the second quarter through the middle of the third. Houston deserves credit for battling even after watching its small, five-point lead disappear quickly, playing hard through the end of a game in which no one expected them to compete. But the same lack of attention to detail reared its head on fourth-and-5, when Davis Mills found Brandin Cooks open near the line to gain, but Cooks dropped the pass. The going isn't going to get any easier for the Texans, who can only continue to battle and try to clean up the minor issues that end up combining for a major problem.
  3. Latest week of proof that this Cardinals defense is starting to come together. A week after limiting the banged-up Browns to 14 points, Arizona topped that effort against a worse team. Houston managed just five points, finished 2 for 13 on third down, averaged 3.3 yards gained per play and gained a grand total of 160 yards. The Texans aren't a litmus test, but they did give Arizona a chance to test some things out (12 blitzes on 34 dropbacks, for example), which also allowed them to continue to build positive momentum into a four-game stretch that includes meetings with Green Bay, San Francisco and Seattle. In their last three games, the Cardinals have given up a combined 29 points. They'd have beaten all three opponents with the 31 points they scored Sunday.

Next Gen stat of the game: Sunday was Kyler Murray's first career game in which he threw three touchdown passes off play-action fakes.

NFL Research: Kyler Murray (7-0 win-loss record, 73.5 completion percentage) is the fourth quarterback since the 1970 merger to start and win each of his team's first seven games of a season and have a 70-plus completion percentage over those seven games. Each of those previous quarterbacks (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers) won AP NFL MVP that season.

Tennessee Titans
2021 · 5-2-0
Kansas City Chiefs
2021 · 3-4-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Titans make a massive statement. Back-to-back impressive wins against AFC heavyweights for Mike Vrabel's club. Tennessee dominated from the jump, controlling the ball with ease against a struggling Chiefs defense. Ryan Tannehill's offense scored on all five of its first-half possessions to leap out to a 27-0 halftime lead. Derrick Henry continued to be a field-tilting beast and started his day with a jump-pass TD on the opening drive. For the first time since Week 1, Henry didn't hit the century mark on the ground. It speaks volumes for the Titans that they didn't need to ride the back to blow out the Chiefs. K.C. stacked the box to slow the RB -- Henry faced seven-plus defenders in the box on 26 of 29 rushes. Tannehill and A.J. Brown then ripped the defense apart with chunk games. It's the type of dual-threat offense that allows Tennessee to bludgeon opponents. Fun note: Henry threw more TD passes than Patrick Mahomes this week.
  2. Patrick Mahomes runs out of magic. The star quarterback threw another forced pass that turned into a turnover, lost a fumble and was knocked out late after taking a knee to the facemask late in the blowout loss. Facing a defense that's been decimated in the secondary, the Chiefs offense was unrecognizable, unable to sustain drives, making unforced errors and looking out of sorts all afternoon. The Chiefs generated a measly 67 total yards in the first two quarters, averaging 3.9 yards per play, never crossing midfield. With the defense unable to get a stop, it seems like Mahomes feels he must be perfect each drive, which has led to forced passes that have ended in turnovers. Sunday's loss was a culmination of issues that plagued K.C. as it fell to 3-4, further behind in the playoff race as we near the midway part of the season.
  3. The Titans pass rush dominates. Not only was the Titans' offense humming, but the defense also swarmed Mahomes all game, smothering K.C.'s offense. Harold Landry and Bud Dupree were all over the field. Denico Autry compiled two sacks and seven QB pressures. Tennessee's defensive line controlled the game, making the Chiefs' reshuffled O-line look bad. The Titans collected four sacks on the afternoon and held Mahomes to just 2-of-7 passing for 12 yards under pressure. Given the injuries in the secondary, the Titans' defensive front proved it can pick up the slack against good offenses.

Next Gen stat of the game: The Titans generated pressure without blitzing, as Tennessee blitzed Patrick Mahomes just once on 39 dropbacks.

NFL Research: Derrick Henry threw his first career pass TD in the regular season, joining LaDainian Tomlinson (2005) as the only players with 10+ rushing touchdowns and a passing TD in his team's first seven games of a season in the Super Bowl era.

Green Bay Packers
2021 · 6-1-0
Washington Football Team
2021 · 2-5-0

Chase Goodbread's takeaways:

  1. Packers defense keys turning point. Green Bay linebacker Rashan Gary sparked a four-play sequence that served as a clear turning point for the Packers with a strip-sack of Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke on the first drive of the second half. The loose ball was recovered by Dean Lowry to give Packers QB Aaron Rodgers a short field at the WFT 27, and it only took him three snaps to cash the turnover in for six points. Rodgers found tight end Robert Tonyan for a 20-yard score on third down, and a 21-7 lead that all but put the game away. Washington somehow had 430 yards of offense with only 10 points on the scoreboard. Four fumbles contributed to that, and the one caused by Gary was arguably the biggest.
  2. This was not Taylor Heinicke's finest game. Ball security was an issue for Washington's quarterback on Sunday, as was decision-making. Most costly was a third-down scramble in the second half, trailing 21-7, on which Heinicke had a relatively easy path to the end zone, and inexplicably slid near the goal line. After a touchdown call on the field and a premature Lambeau Leap by Heinicke, an overturn ruled him down. From there, Heinicke fumbled on a sneak attempt on fourth down, recovered the ball, but was ruled down once again. In the fourth quarter, Heinicke threw an ugly interception into the Green Bay end zone to dash any hope of a comeback. Green Bay's defense entered the game without a red zone stop all season. It got four red zone stops in the second half against Washington, and two of them were squarely on Heinicke's shoulders. His competitiveness and scrambling skills are fun to watch -- one has to respect the way he followed a second-half reverse looking to block downfield far enough to recover a fumble at the end of the play. But grittiness alone isn't nearly enough at his position.
  3. Washington pass rush does its part. Credit the Washington pass rush, which hasn't lived up to its billing this season, for holding up its end against the Packers. Three first-half sacks helped keep the Green Bay offense from running away with this game, including two by Jonathan Allen that each aided in scoreless Green Bay possessions. Montez Sweat added a sack as well, as he and Allen combined for six QB hurries. Matthew Ioannidis nearly came up with a safety later in the game on a pass that Rodgers barely managed to throw away. Green Bay's pass protection improved in the second half, but this loss falls more on Washington's offense.

Next Gen state of the game: Aaron Rodgers completed 2 of 3 deep passes (20-plus air yards) for 46 yards and a touchdown.

NFL Research: With four receptions in the first half, Davante Adams (596 career receptions) passed Sterling Sharpe for second-most in Packers history, behind Donald Driver (743).

New York Giants
2021 · 2-5-0
Carolina Panthers
2021 · 3-4-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Daniel Jones carries Giants offense. Big Blue was missing a bevy of weapons, including Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Sterling Shepard. In response, the Giants put the game on Jones' shoulders. The QB responded with several big runs and moved the chains in the second half as the Giants pulled away. Behind a struggling offense line, New York smartly rolled Jones out of the pocket repeatedly, taking advantage of his mobility and ability to throw on the run. Cutting down the field helped make reads easier for Jones. The QB also made an incredible one-handed catch to jump-start a scoring drive in the second half. Given the playmakers he was missing, Jones did well to move the ball against a Panthers defense that entered the week as one of the stingiest units in the league. After the game, Logan Ryan joked that Jones was QB1, RB1 and WR1 on the day.
  2. Sam Darnold haunted by more ghosts at MetLife. Returning to New York, Darnold struggled mightily before Matt Rhule eventually benched him in the fourth quarter. The coach said after the game that Darnold remains the starter. For how long? Darnold looked lost and missed a host of throws behind and in the dirt. He looked scatterbrained under pressure and made one brutal decision on his interception. Darnold's day ended with 111 total yards on 16-of-25 passing with an INT and three sacks. The Panthers' offense got no better when P.J. Walker took over. With no run game to speak of, Carolina's offense is a bevy of ineffectual short throws that don't go anywhere against good-tackling defenses. The Panthers went just 2 of 15 on third downs. You're not going to beat anyone with that sort of offense.
  3. Big Blue D-front controls game. Leonard Williams was a beast, pushing the pocket seemingly on every snap. The people-mover generated 1.5 sacks, three QB hits and seven QB pressures on 36 rush snaps. Likewise, second-round rookie Azeez Ojulari was impressive all afternoon, living in the Panthers backfield. The rookie compiled eight QB pressures and 2.5 sacks on 29 pass rushes (27.6 pressure percent). When the Giants D-line wins off the snap like it did Sunday, it's a unit that can cause havoc.

Next Gen stat of the game: D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson combined for six receptions on 15 targets for 68 yards when aligned wide.

NFL Research: With 2.5 sacks today, Azeez Ojulari (5.5) has tied B.J. Hill for the most by a Giants player in their rookie season since individual sacks became official in 1982.

New England Patriots
2021 · 3-4-0
New York Jets
2021 · 1-5-0

Chase Goodbread's takeaways:

  1. Patriots continue dominance of Jets. Can someone lean over to the Jets and whisper the news that the Patriots aren't supposed to be scary anymore? New England, 10-13 post-Brady, won its 12th consecutive game against the Jets, completing its sixth straight season sweep of New York since 2016. New England outcoached, outmaneuvered and outplayed its divisional -rival little brother in every facet of a game decided by halftime. The Patriots had 14 points before the Jets had a first down as Gang Green extended a season-long first-quarter scoring drought. Meanwhile, the Patriots have now notched all three of their wins against rookie starting quarterbacks.
  2. Porous Jets defense makes it easy for New England. The Patriots kept it simple offensively and reaped big yardage with basic calls -- inside runs to Damien Harris, who gashed the Jets defense early, and a screen package that the Jets could never figure out. Harris rushed 14 times for 106 yards for his second consecutive 100-yard game, bursting through interior gaps for much of that. He averaged 7.7 yards per carry between the tackles, attributable to New England's interior offensive line. Mac Jones found open men on the screen pass all day, especially running back Brandon Bolden, who took one such screen for a 15-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Yes, New England went with some trickery, most notably a double pass that resulted in a TD throw from Kendrick Bourne to Nelson Agholor. But the Jets defense had trouble with the basics, gave up a stunning 559 yards of total offense and didn't adjust well enough to make the Patriots get away from relatively low-risk play-calling.
  3. White keeps Jets offense in pocket. Jets backup quarterback Mike White saw his first career action in replacing the injured Zach Wilson, who exited with a knee injury, and threw for a touchdown on his first career pass. It was a storybook start without a storybook finish, as he threw a pair of interceptions in a blowout loss. The Jets offense looked decidedly different with White at the helm -- he stood in the pocket and made some nice throws on time -- but the scrambling ability of Wilson, and the off-schedule gains that can result, were suddenly absent. It's painfully obvious the Jets need help all around their quarterback, regardless of who is taking snaps, so White isn't to be judged much from one relief appearance. Still, whether it's Wilson or White running things, there's no indication the NFL's worst scoring offense is ready to climb a rung.

Next Gen Stats: The Jets pass rush turned in its lowest pressure rate of the season (14.3%).

NFL Research: Rookie starting quarterbacks are now 6-23 versus the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era and 0-13 on the road at New England in the Belichick era.

Atlanta Falcons
2021 · 3-3-0
Miami Dolphins
2021 · 1-6-0

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. The Falcons are fun for good and bad reasons. The good: Kyle Pitts' week-by-week growth is making for some jaw-dropping moments and helping open up Atlanta's offense, turning its games into an enjoyable experience. It's not just the Cordarrelle Patterson show (although that is also fun), but a young group of pass-catchers receiving targets from a seasoned veteran who can still put it in perfect spots. The bad: They're still the Falcons, and nearly Falconed their way out of a win Sunday, watching a 27-14 lead melt away in the final quarter. But back to the good: Atlanta's offense quickly moved downfield, thanks again to another beautiful Ryan-to-Pitts connection, Calvin Ridley got back to his touchdown-scoring ways with a nice grab in the second quarter, and Younghoe Koo drilled the game-winning field goal. Along the way, Atlanta's defense forced a couple of turnovers via interception, including one made by promising youngster Jaylinn Hawkins. All in all, fun!
  2. Folks attempting to boil Miami's issues down to one specific problem are likely oversimplifying things. Tua Tagovailoa provided good and bad Sunday, completed 80% of his attempts on the day, but threw two bad interceptions that essentially allowed Atlanta to take its two-score lead. It was easy to pin blame on Tagovailoa, even when he didn't singlehandedly lose the Dolphins the game. Oh, and by the way, he also threw them back into the game, going a perfect 6 for 6 on the possession that followed his second ugly interception, leading a nine-play, 90-yard touchdown drive. He followed that up with another nine-play scoring drive that covered 40 yards and put the Dolphins ahead with 2:27 left to play. Tagovailoa doesn't play defense, and although he didn't do his teammates every favor with his two interceptions, he still rebounded for a four-touchdown performance after yet another week of trade speculation involving his position. He's a work in progress, sure, but perhaps Miami should examine the rest of its situation before its fanbase rushes to find Tagovailoa's replacement.
  3. Sunday provided an interesting assessment for the current state of these franchises. Arthur Smith is in his first year with the Falcons and has them at 3-3 after Sunday's win, while Brian Flores' third season has produced just one win in seven weeks for a Dolphins team that was in playoff contention until the final week of last season. On its surface, that would indicate a regression for Miami and some optimism for Atlanta, but there are additional circumstances (Tagovailoa's early season injury) for which we must account. A 1-6 record is going to heat up the seat of any coach, and the ongoing speculation about Tagovailoa's future doesn't help anyone in Miami. Neither does giving up nearly 400 yards of offense to a Falcons team that doesn't boast a ton of playmakers. Yet that is where the Dolphins stand at this point, and they'll need to turn things around quickly if they don't want the wheels to come completely off. Atlanta, meanwhile, is surprisingly in wild card contention with a ton of the season left to play. It's fair to say the Falcons are exceeding expectations, even if they've gotten here in a bit of an unorthodox way. On paper, this game shouldn't have been this close. But the biggest lesson we learned from this game is one we've known for quite some time: The margin between wins and losses in this league remains incredibly slim.

Next Gen Stat of the game: Tua Tagovailoa completed 13 of 15 passes for 131 yards and one touchdown on play-action passes.

NFL Research: Kyle Pitts' 163 receiving yards Sunday are the second-most in a single game by a rookie tight end since the 1970 merger, trailing only Mark Bavaro (176 yards), who set the mark in Week 6 of the 1985 season.

Cincinnati Bengals
2021 · 5-2-0
Baltimore Ravens
2021 · 5-2-0

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. The Joe Burrow-Ja'Marr Chase connection is ready for the bright lights. Burrow's Bengals entered Baltimore facing quite a challenge and rose to the occasion, racking up 520 yards of total offense against a defense that was coming off a resounding win over the Chargers. The Bengals did so by putting the game in Burrow's hands and he delivered by going to his favorite target (Chase) eight times for 201 yards and yet another long touchdown. Chase published his latest (and perhaps greatest) highlight by catching a pass in traffic, slamming the circle button on his PlayStation controller and putting three Baltimore defenders in a blender, bursting upfield through the space created by his spin and outrunning the Ravens to an 82-yard touchdown. Chase is making history with his play (more on that below) and is rendering the draft-day debate between choosing him or a lineman irrelevant. And on National Tight Ends Day, we can't forget to mention the performance of C.J. Uzomah, who caught two long touchdown passes (55 yards and 32 yards) to twice give the Bengals the lead in a game that was a back-and-forth affair until the final quarter. These Bengals are officially explosive.
  2. Baltimore's patchwork backfield might not be as good as we thought. The same goes for its defense. After limiting the Chargers to 208 yards and six total points last week, the Ravens couldn't do the same against the upstart Bengals. Offensively, Baltimore frequently put itself in long down-and-distance situations, lacking any sort of punch on the ground and forcing Lamar Jackson to attempt to spark the offense. Devonta Freeman, Ty'Son Williams and Le'Veon Bell combined to gain 29 yards on 11 carries, and Jackson again finished as Baltimore's leading rusher. Cincinnati executed its contain-and-harass game plan effectively against Jackson, sacking him four times, limiting him to a completion percentage below 50 and pressuring him at a rate of 47.2%. The Ravens simply lacked the offensive punch necessary to keep up with the Bengals, and they'll have plenty of questions to answer after losing the lead in the AFC North in stunning fashion.
  3. The Bengals made a resounding statement with this victory. Cincinnati entered Sunday at 4-2, but lacked the trademark win to make folks around the league take it seriously. The Bengals undoubtedly got it in Baltimore, trading blows with the Ravens for three quarters before forcefully sending them to bed with a dominant fourth quarter. Burrow threw for over 400 yards, and when the Bengals needed to salt away the win, they were able to turn to Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, who combined to rush for 111 yards and two touchdowns on 23 attempts. Both of those touchdowns came on back-breaking runs in the fourth quarter, putting a bold exclamation point at the end of this victory. We're going to spend the next week rhetorically asking if the Bengals are legitimate, and they'll get plenty of chances to answer it. They certainly gave us a strong response on Sunday.

Next Gen stat of the game: The Bengals had three players (Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, Larry Ogunjobi) record seven or more QB pressures Sunday. Two of those players -- Hubbard (nine) and Hendrickson (eight) -- set or matched career-high marks in that department.

NFL Research: Ja'Marr Chase's 201 receiving yards Sunday are the most by a Bengals rookie in history and pushed his season total to 754 yards, the most by any player in their first seven games of their career in NFL history.

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