Skip to main content

The Schein Nine

Titans, Buccaneers, Steelers headline most impressive NFL performances of Week 6

After a week full of COVID-19 coverage, the sixth Sunday of this unparalleled NFL season was played as scheduled -- and the on-field action didn't disappoint. Inspiring individual efforts, clutch play and a number of resounding statements.

So, who was most impressive?

A fine question. Here are the answers, Schein Nine style:

1) Tennessee Titans' offense

The image of the weekend in the NFL was Deshaun Watson's reaction to losing the overtime coin flip. He knew it. We all knew it. Derrick Henry could not -- and would not -- be stopped.

With Watson stuck on the sideline, Tennessee's beastly back capped off another monster day by accounting for 63 of 82 yards in the game-ending touchdown drive, giving the Titans a thrilling 42-36 overtime win against the AFC South rival Texans. Tennessee offensive coordinator Arthur Smith continued to flex his play-calling muscle in that OT march, first setting up Henry on a well-designed 53-yard catch-and-run and then dialing up a walk-off touchdown on a direct snap to the 6-foot-3, 247-pound back.

Henry finished the day with a career-high 264 yards from scrimmage, including 212 and two touchdowns on just 22 carries, equaling a whopping 9.6 yards per carry. And this Mack truck has some serious giddy-up, as displayed in the fourth quarter on a momentum-swinging, 94-yard touchdown run where Henry was shot out of a cannon. The reigning rushing king demoralized Houston all day long, regaining his seat atop the ground-yardage chart with 588 yards on the season (117.6 per game). Henry's presence and dominance allows Ryan Tannehill to do his thing, and he's doing it brilliantly for the second straight year. The Titans QB passed for 364 yards and four touchdowns (against one pick). His connection with second-year wideout A.J. Brown is special, and the game-tying touchdown with four seconds left in regulation was dreamy.

The Henry/Tannehill-led Titans are a perfect 5-0 in 2020. Smith is a sensational play-caller. And Mike Vrabel is the early leader for Coach of the Year. The only downside came Monday, when stud left tackle Taylor Lewan announced that he tore his ACL. A big loss -- no doubt about it -- but this is a well-constructed roster with an undeniable blue-collar identity.

2) Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense

What a performance from Tampa Bay's defense in the 38-10 beatdown of the previously undefeated Packers. If you didn't know about this incredibly talented and well-coached unit, now you know. Todd Bowles' D stole the show in this highly anticipated quarterbacking showdown between Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, controlling the game in a huge spot for Tampa.

Rodgers had been nearly perfect in his first four outings of the 2020 campaign. Not on Sunday. The two-time MVP only managed to complete 16 of his 35 passes (45.7%) with zero touchdowns and his first two interceptions of the season, including one that completely flipped the game's script. Green Bay actually took a 10-0 lead by scoring on its first two drives of the game. In Drive No. 3, though, Rodgers dropped back to pass on a third-and-10 and tried to hit Davante Adams on an out at the sticks. Jamel Dean jumped the pass and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown. The pick-six changed everything. After the first quarter, Tampa didn't allow a point and gave up just 57 total yards, routinely getting the ball back to the offense and allowing Brady, Ronald Jones, Rob Gronkowski and the Bucs' O-line to thrive.

The Buccaneers' defensive front seven was absolutely fantastic. Inside linebackers Devin White and Lavonte David were everywhere, while outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul pummeled Rodgers. Meanwhile, the defensive line -- playing its first game without star NT Vita Vea (broken leg) -- followed Ndamukong Suh's dominant lead.

4-2 Tampa Bay's offense has plenty of headline-grabbing star power, but the defense will routinely wreck games. Just ask Mr. Rodgers.

3) Pittsburgh Steelers' statement win

Statement MADE. Cleveland at Pittsburgh was viewed in many circles as the game of the week -- and rightfully so, with the Browns having reeled off four straight wins while averaging 37.5 points per game and the Steelers entering the contest at a perfect 4-0. But Pittsburgh didn't just win -- the Steelers thumped Cleveland 38-7, reminding the Browns they still have a long ways to go.

Ben Roethlisberger and his receivers rocked steady, with rookie Chase Claypool providing a dynamic presence once again. RB James Conner had his third 100-yard rushing game of the season. But this day was really about Mike Tomlin and Keith Butler's defense. Minkah Fitzpatrick got the party started with a pick-six of Baker Mayfield on Cleveland's first possession. On the day, Pittsburgh's D allowed season-lows in points (7), total yards (220), passing yards (145) and opponent third-down conversion rate (8.3%, 1-12). The Steelers battered Mayfield to the bench.

The win, which kept Pittsburgh along atop the AFC North, did prove costly on one front, though, as linebacker Devin Bush tore his ACL. Overcoming the loss of this second-year standout won't be easy, but at least the Steelers are flush with talent on all three levels of this defense.

4) Chicago Bears' smoke and mirrors (and defense)

After a 23-16 win at Carolina, the Bears are 5-1. I don't believe in this team at all. Nick Foles tried to give the game away. Matt Nagy's time and game management were beyond questionable down the stretch, as per usual. But the Bears are 5-1 -- with all five wins coming by four points or fewer -- because of their defense.

Carolina came into this game riding a three-game win streak with a surprisingly potent offense led by resurgent passer Teddy Bridgewater. But Chuck Pagano's unit stoned the Panthers, holding them to a season-low 16 points while forcing Bridgewater into season-worst marks in completion percentage (55.2), passing yards (216), yards per attempt (7.4) and passer rating (50.4). Chicago caused three turnovers, thanks largely to a ferocious front that caused havoc all game. Akiem Hicks is a monster, while Khalil Mack -- with three sacks in his past two games -- looks like he's back to form.

I continue to doubt this team, and its defense continues to make me look stupid.

5) Kyle Shanahan's play-calling savvy

He's a star. He's a wizard. He's worth every single penny.

Coming into Sunday, San Francisco had lost two straight home games to the Eagles and Dolphins, with the latter being a 43-17 shellacking during which Jimmy Garoppolo was benched. And in rode the red-hot division rival Rams, coached by their own offensive guru in Sean McVay. With the banged-up Niners at 2-3, it looked like the kind of game that could fully cement the Super Bowl hangover. But no -- not on Lil' Shanny's watch!

The mad genius pushed every right button with his brilliant play design, allowing Jimmy G to bounce back with 268 yards passing and three touchdowns (against zero picks). Its was a masterful evening of play-calling, with misdirection on seemingly every snap and a cohesive game plan that kept the Niners in control. A masterstroke of coaching.

My favorite call? The fourth-and-2 slant to George Kittle. The Rams sold out with a zero blitz on the play, but Garoppolo hung tough and delivered a perfect strike to his All-Pro tight end, who turned on the proverbial jets for a 44-yard touchdown.

6) Brian Flores' resourcefulness

Yes, Flores' team beat the Jets. And the Jets are the worst. But don't let that overshadow what is going on with these 3-3 Dolphins.

Miami is playing strong football in every phase. Ryan Fitzpatrick's leading an offense that's averaging a surprising 26.7 points per game (ranking a respectable 14th). Meanwhile, Flores' defense is flying around the field while yielding just 18.8 points per game (the third-lowest figure in the league). The coaches' brilliant stamp is all over this team, just the way the Dolphins compete on a weekly basis. And wait until next offseason, when the Fins have four more premium picks in the first two rounds, thanks to Bill O'Brien's generosity.

The arrow's pointing up in Miami, with a coach who regularly gets the most out of his roster.

7) Vic Fangio's fortitude

This Denver team has been ravaged by injuries. And then the Broncos faced more adversity, with a game postponement that retroactively made Week 5 their bye. (Hope you enjoyed the "off" week!) A visit to Foxborough could have gone very poorly.

But Fangio put together a masterful game plan to flummox Cam Newton and the Patriots in an 18-12 win. Despite completing just 10 of his 24 passes for 189 yards with zero touchdowns and two picks, Drew Lock became the youngest quarterback ever to win at Gillette Stadium. This of course, was thanks in large part to Phillip Lindsay, who flourished in Melvin Gordon's absence, running for 101 yards on 23 carries. And kicker Brandon McManus certainly got the job done, accounting for every single Denver point by converting all six of his field goal attempts. Fangio's D was the true headliner, though, holding the Patriots' offense to a season-low 288 yards while collecting four sacks and three takeaways.

This result was a legit stunner to me. Fangio outdueled Bill Belichick. Very, very impressive stuff.

8) D'Andre Swift's breakout game

I loved this draft pick when the Lions made it in the second round this past April. In fact, I argued heavily for Swift to be taken on the opening night of the draft, lauding him and Jonathan Taylor as the two first-round-quality backs in this class. But neither came off the board among the first 32 picks. And then Swift had a game-losing drop in Week 1, curtailing his playing time for much of September.

But Swift led the way in Sunday's 34-16 win at Jacksonville, becoming the first Lions rookie to rush for 100 yards and two touchdowns since Barry Sanders. With 116 yards, to be exact, on just 14 carries, Swift averaged a robust 8.3 yards a pop.

This Lions team has many issues, and the ground game has been a major bugaboo throughout the Matthew Stafford era. But Swift provides some much-needed excitement and hope in Motown. Lions fans can realistically dream about the talented all-around weapon playing like this on a consistent basis for a long time. This was only the beginning.

9) Philip Rivers' throwback resilience

The Colts were down 21-0 to the Bengals early in the second quarter, and it looked like we were ready to pen the epitaph on Philip Rivers. But the ol' gunslinger engineered a comeback and saved face with a 31-27 win. And the 4-2 Colts reminded you -- in case you forgot -- that this is a strong football team. A resilient football team.

Rivers posted season-highs in passing yards (371) and touchdowns (3) while brilliantly spreading the ball around the field, as seven different Colts logged at least three catches. Rivers outplayed hotshot rookie Joe Burrow and the Colts refused to lose more ground on the red-hot Titans in the AFC South race.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

Related Content