Some victories are so convincing they make you re-think what that team is capable of. The Dallas Cowboys had just such a win in Seattle.
Any victory against the Seahawks is eye-opening, but it was scary to see the Cowboys impose their will so easily on Seattle. They had 23 first downs; the Seahawks had only nine. Seattle was lucky to keep the game close. Dallas wasn't the only NFC East team to stand tall. Philadelphia's win over New York on Sunday night made a similarly convincing statement. For five weeks, the Eagles looked like a strangely uneven, lucky squad with a lackluster defense. And then they dropped a 27-0 shutout on the streaking Giants.
Tom Brady made a statement that last week's offensive output was no fluke. Buffalo's defense has been one of the best in the league so far this year: New England scored on their last five possessions of the game to close out a win.
Finally, Cleveland exorcised some demons against Ben Roethlisberger with a 31-10 win over Pittsburgh. The Browns let their fans enjoy a blowout for once, a week to savor a team that is going to be in the playoff mix all season.
So what else did we learn during a fun Week 6? Here are takeaways from all 13 games from the Around the NFL crew:
- The Cowboys' blueprint all season has been the same one the Chargers used to knock off the Seahawks in Week 2: Playing keep away, controlling the clock and winning with physicality. The investment in Dallas' offensive line continues to pay off in a big way, with an unstoppable Murray on pace for 2,100 rushing yards. The flip side is that Murray is also on untenable pace for 425 carries. The coaching staff will have to find a way to keep winning with the same formula while lessening Murray's burden.
- Russell Wilson lost for just the second time in Seattle, playing one of the worst games of his three-year career. Overly conservative from the pocket, his 47.8 passer rating was his third lowest in 42 games. He didn't get much help from an offensive line with a penchant for imploding drives via third-down penalties and a wide receiver corps that couldn't make plays at the point of the catch. The Cowboys nearly doubled the Seahawks in time of possession and total yards.
- Fans of absurdist cornerback debates will note that the Seahawks finally allowed Richard Sherman to "travel," shadowing Dez Bryant throughout the second half. Bryant managed just one catch in that span -- but it was a big one. Bryant and Terrance Williams both had highlight reel catches on key third downs while Murray rushed for 46 yards in the defining game-winning drive. Bryant and Sherman formed a mutual admiration society, exchanging fist bumps and hand shakes near the end of the game.
-- Chris Wesseling
- Ben Roethlisberger rolled into Cleveland with an 18-1 career record against the long-wandering Browns, but Mike Pettine's team buried the past on Sunday with a super-rare rout that saw Pittsburgh outshined in every phase of the game. Since falling behind Pittsburgh 27-3 in the opener, the Browns have since outscored the Steelers 55-13.
- Looking dead on arrival in the first quarter, Cleveland's offense shook off a 3-0 deficit to score 31 straight points off the power of a clock-chewing ground game and just enough big plays from Brian Hoyer. The Browns quarterback completed just eight passes, but made throws of 51, 31, 31, 24 and 17 yards.
- Hoyer promised Jordan Cameron would enjoy a big game on the heels of his quiet September. The Pro Bowl tight end delivered with a 42-yard catch that set up Cleveland's first touchdown before hauling in a 51-yard scoring strike to pad a lead the Browns would never lose.
-- Marc Sessler
- Our first look at Carson Palmer in over a month was encouraging. The Cardinals quarterback found 10 different targets for 250 yards and twoscores. Palmer and his wideouts combined for a string of gutsy grabs in both halves, leaning generously on bunch formations that set John Brown and his peers free for chunk yardage. Palmer threw for just 5.7 yards per attempt -- and his arm isn't at full strength -- but the veteran continues to fit well in this Bruce Arians attack.
- Kirk Cousins remains a project. His best work came courtesy of white-hot DeSean Jackson, who pulled down a 64-yard scoring dart to tie the game at seven. D-Jax flamed CardinalsPro Bowl corner Patrick Peterson on the touchdown before later lashing Arizona for another 42-yard grab. With all three of his touchdowns going for 60-plus yards this season, Jackson looms as one big-money free-agent signing Washington won't regret.
- When Cousins wasn't finding Jackson, he was finding the wrong-colored jerseys. Two weeks after slinging four picks against the Giants, Cousins threw three interceptions down the stretch capped by a game-clinching pick six to Rashad Johnson on Washington's final drive. Cousins also had problems with Jerraud Powers, the Cardinals corner who chalked up one interception and forced a fumble that led to an Arizona field goal.
-- Marc Sessler
- Rodgers was flawless on the opening touchdown series as well as in the two-minute drill on the game-winning drive. He was sporadic in between, with superstar Cameron Wake and the Dolphins' defensive line winning the battle of the trenches. The Packers emerged victorious because of Rodgers' sensational ability to extend the play and find open receivers with improvisation. Over the past three weeks, Rodgers has completed 67 percent of his passes at 8.3 yards per attempt for 10 touchdowns without an interception. He's back in the thick of the MVP discussion.
- Ryan Tannehill threw a pair of interceptions in one of the worst first-half performances of his three-year career. With starting cornerbacks Tramon Williams (ankle) and Sam Shields (knee) nursing injuries in the second half, Tannehill bounced back impressively, leading touchdown drives of 80, 80 and 77 yards.
- The Dolphins have a player in second-round wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who is excellent after the catch and a threat on kickoff returns. He might be second in the pecking order behind Mike Wallace by the end of the season.
-- Chris Wesseling
- The Chargers barely beat a winless team, but credit is deserved for coming back from a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter. The Chargers scored the game's final 10 points, then got the defensive stop to end it. Philip Rivers was again MVP-like, throwing for over 300 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
- Derek Carr did something on Sunday that his older brother, David, never did in the NFL: He threw four touchdown passes in one game. His big mistake was a killer: Trailing by three and approaching field-goal range with 1:20 to play, Carr forced a deep ball into tight coverage and Verrett made him pay. It was a rookie mistake the Raiders can only hope Carr learns from. On balance, this was an extremely promising afternoon for the second-round pick.
- Branden Oliver was a difference-maker for a second straight week. The Chargers running back finished with 124 total yards and the go-ahead touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. It took some injuries, but Mike McCoy appears to have found some buried treasure on their own roster.
-- Dan Hanzus
- Bengals kicker Mike Nugent gives one of the best games of the season an eerily appropriate ending. The normally sure-footed kicker missed an attempt from 36 yards out as time expires in overtime, pushing it wide right and solidifying the highest-scoring tie game in NFL history.
- Ron Rivera and the Panthers wasted a brilliant performance by Cam Newton, who finished the afternoon with 284 passing yards and 17 carries for 107 yards. He had threetotaltouchdowns. On the sideline, we kept seeing shots of Newton getting a (clearly) injured thumb worked on, yet he continued to take the openings on read option plays and bull through a physical Bengals defense. Carolina needs more than Luke Kuechly on the other side of the ball.
- Andy Dalton was cool when he needed to be, especially on a 24-yard strike to rookie James Wright with a defender closing down on him in overtime. With the penalty, the Bengals went from their own 45 to the Carolina 16. Of course, Dalton needs to do a better job of playing two complete halves. After beginning the game with a snap to throw time of under two seconds, which bolstered a mammoth nine-minute touchdown drive, Dalton came out in the second half and tossed a pairof interceptions.
-- Conor Orr
- The Titans are going nowhere fast with Charlie Whitehurst at the helm, but Jake Locker's backup did enough to manage the game against a floating Jaguars defense. Whitehurst remains uncomfortable against pressure and misses too many wide-open targets, but Jacksonville couldn't take advantage of this juicy matchup, allowing 370-plus yards for the sixth straight game.
- Take heart, Jaguars fans: You have a quarterback. Blake Bortles opened the game completing 11 of his first 12 passes to seven different targets. On an offense with five rookies, Bortles led the team in rushing and helped pile up 27 first downs. Bortles continues to push the ball downfield and take risks. His third-quarter pick to Blidi Wreh-Wilson -- which wasn't his fault -- was a killer, but Bortles nearly pulled off the stunner with a nine-play, 83-yard touchdown march that brought Jacksonville within two points with less than a minute to go.
- Jacksonville recovered the subsequent onside kick and drove its way to the Tennessee 37 with 12 seconds left. Instead of trying one more pass, though, coach Gus Bradley curiously opted to try a 55-yard field goal on third down. Josh Scobee's kick was blocked. Game over.
-- Marc Sessler
- Tom Brady's didn't just back up his boffo performance against Cincinnati. He improved on it. The Patriots scored on every second-half possession, gaining 297 yards after intermission. Brady was aggressive throwing deep passes and hit on long connections to Brian Tyms, Rob Gronkowski and Brandon LaFell. Brady's 361-yard, four-touchdown performance was especially impressive because the Patriots had no running game and the Bills got plenty of pressure on him throughout the day.
- Darrelle Revis is no longer playing much zone coverage for the Patriots. He latched on to Sammy Watkins all afternoon, and Watkins wound up with only two catches for 27 yards on the day.
- The Patriots are back in first place in the AFC East at 4-2, but this was a costly win. Linebacker Jerod Mayo and Stevan Ridley left with knee injuries that appear to be serious. The ever-changing offensive line also lost Dan Connolly. New England is already thin at linebacker, and Mayo's injury looked particularly bad.
-- Gregg Rosenthal
- Despite all the preseason talk, the Falcons are one of the least "tough" teams in football. Chicago's pass rush finally woke up because they were playing Atlanta's dreadful line. Meanwhile, the Falcons got no pressure on Jay Cutler all day. He responded with 381 yards and no turnovers.
- The signature play of the game: Matt Forte scoring from the 9-yard line on a third-and-goal in the fourth quarter. That capped a 15-play drive through the heart of the Falcons' defense. Now 3-3, the Bears trust their running game to pull off a play like that. The Falcons were afraid to even try running on third and one for the second straight week. It's a soft team.
- We feel bad for Matt Ryan, who has played well all season. He's saddled with a dreadful defense, lame running game and weak offensive line. To top it off Sunday, the Falcons dropped seven passes. Five of them came from Julio Jones and Roddy White. There's only so much Ryan can do.
-- Dan Hanzus
- The Lions' defensive line absolutely ruled the game. Ezekiel Ansah was all over the field, compiling 2.5 sacks, three tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and made Vikings left tackle Matt Kalil look like a 18th century stone gargoyle. (This was the type of performance we expected when we named Ansah a "Making the Leap" candidate.) The Lions' defense left with eight sacks, 12 QB hits and three interceptions.
- Detroit's dominating defense beat up rookie Teddy Bridgewater. The Vikings' offensive line gave the quarterback zero time and struggled with a multitude of blitzing players. Bridgewater was as off-target as we've seen him on down-field throws. His brief flirtation with success came on short throws, crossing routes and check downs. His first interception was a terrible rookie-level force in the red zone and his two others came on tipped balls. Vikings receivers couldn't get separation to help out Teddy.
- The Lions' offensive ineptitude continued for another week. Matthew Stafford was high and wide on down-field throws and took several terrible sacks in Vikings' territory. Detroit's offensive line is a complete mess. Stafford clearly misses his security blanket (Calvin Johnson). The Lions went 1 for 13 on third downs (a week after going 1 for 11).
-- Kevin Patra
- Peyton Manning was on cruise control here, throwing threemoretouchdowns without an interception. Manning now has 506 touchdown passes, leaving him just two behind Brett Favre for the NFL record. Manning has a good chance to move to No. 1 next week against the 49ers on Sunday Night Football. Manning seems to throw more ducks than ever, but he remains a master of ball placement and timing.
- A week after his benching in a shutout loss to the San Diego Chargers, Geno Smith threw twotouchdowns and kept the Jets competitive against an AFC superpower. Smith remains an underwhelming entity, however. He barely completed half his passes and averaged 4.4 yards per attempt on 42 throws. He's reticent to push the ball downfield and no longer looks to make plays with his legs. He looked lost on the Jets' final drive before throwing a game-icing pick six.
- Julius Thomas had two more touchdowns, giving him nine through five games. The tight end -- who yelled out "It's too easy!" after beating Calvin Pryor on his second score (he was absolutely correct) -- has the most touchdown receptions ever by a tight end through five games. With Manning under center, Thomas could conceivably challenge Randy Moss' all-time record of 23 receiving touchdowns. John Elway must wish he paid Thomas this summer.
-- Dan Hanzus
- McCoy recaptured vintage 2013 form, making sharp cuts and slipping tacklers in tight spaces while averaging roughly 7.0 yards per carry. By the start of the fourth quarter, McCoy had 144 yards from scrimmage compared to 136 for the entire Giants offense. There's nothing wrong with his game.
- Whatever fight was left in the Giants, down 20-0 in the third quarter, seemed to fade when Victor Cruz went down with a torn patellar tendon while attempting to catch a fourth-down touchdown pass. Cruz immediately realized that his season was over and broke down in tears on the golf cart to the locker room. With backup slot receiver Jerrel Jernigan also done for the season, Preston Parker is likely to take over in the slot, with Odell Beckham and Rueben Randle on the outside.
- Darren Sproles was forced from the game late in the third quarter with a knee injury of his own. Per sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, Sproles was unhappy with the results when the Eagles' staff tested the stability of his left knee. He walked to the locker room, never to return.
-- Chris Wesseling
- Flacco reached five touchdowns in a game faster than any quarterback since the 1970 merger. The Ravens should be in the top five in total offense by the end of the day. The last time that happened was 1996, the first year of their existence. Flacco has had hiccups against the Bengals and Colts, but Gary Kubiak's scheme suits him better than any of his seven-year career.
- In his first six games with the Bucs, Lovie Smith's squad has produced two of the most embarrassing first-half performances we have ever seen. The problems are the same as the ones that were evident in the Week 3 blowout in Atlanta. Smith's zone defense allows free releases with open wide receivers roaming through the secondary. There's a lack of team speed. The offensive line can't protect the quarterback, and Mike Glennon has barely moved the offense in the first halves of the past three games.
- The Ravens made a concerted effort to get Torrey Smith off the schneid, and he responded with a pair of touchdowns in the first six minutes of the game. Steve Smith took over from there, jump-starting his afternoon by toasting Alterraun Verner for a 56-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. The ageless wonder is now on pace for 93 receptions, 1,528 yards and 11 touchdowns.
-- Chris Wesseling
We recap all the Week 6 action on a jaunty edition of the "Around The NFL Podcast." Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.