Week 6 takeaways: Rams stay unbeaten, but NFC stays jumbled
The Falcons, Vikings and Steelers got important wins, the Ravens made a statement against the Titans, the Chargers showed they deserve to be in the AFC West discussion and the Dolphins pulled out an exciting overtime victory against the Bears.
All that and more in Week 6’s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.
The real Steelers stood up. This was a bad team in September, but Pittsburgh just put together its toughest, most complete performance of the season in Cincinnati. The 28-21 score doesn’t fully illustrate how the Steelers punished the Bengals’ front with James Conner averaging 5.8 yards per carry. This should be Pittsburgh’s identity moving forward — balanced attack on offense, let the defense improve steadily. –Jeremy Fowler
James Conner joins Josina Anderson to talk about the Steelers’ big win over the Bengals and Le’Veon Bell’s return next week.
The Bengals’ defense has serious issues, and it’s going to cost them more games. The Bengals might be without three starting defenders against the Chiefs next week after Nick Vigil, Shawn Williams and Darqueze Dennard left with injuries. That’s going to leave a struggling defense more vulnerable. Whether it’s the scheme or the players, something is going to have to change if the Bengals want to regroup. –Katherine Terrell
The Vikings’ run game was finally able to take some pressure off Kirk Cousins after he endured weeks of throwing upward of 50 times per game. Minnesota punched right through the Cardinals’ 31st-ranked run defense behind Latavius Murray‘s career-best 155 rushing yards and a touchdown. Six weeks in, Minnesota’s run game is beginning to evolve under offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, whose plan for protections helped turn around some of the Vikings’ issues with sustaining the run in prior games. –Courtney Cronin
The Cardinals’ offense continued to struggle, failing to convert any of its 10 third-down chances. It didn’t score in the third quarter for the sixth consecutive week, and didn’t reach 300 yards, also for the sixth consecutive week. But Arizona’s woes this week spread to the defensive side of the ball, where it surrendered 195 rushing yards. It could have a chance to get back on track against Denver’s defense Thursday night, though. The Broncos allowed 270 rushing yards to the Rams on Sunday. –Josh Weinfuss
The Falcons are feeling pretty confident despite a 2-4 record as they snapped their three-game losing streak. But they also understand they aren’t playing their best football, with the offense stalling at times and the depleted defense surrendering 512 yards to the Bucs. “Everybody pats you on your back, ‘Good job. Good job. Good job,’ but we’ve got to go in there and fix things, too,” Julio Jones said. –Vaughn McClure
The Bucs’ comeback hopes against the Falcons were dashed at the Atlanta 21-yard line when, after a series of laterals with seven seconds left, the ball bounced out of DeSean Jackson‘s hands. Jameis Winston threw four touchdowns and two interceptions. “I don’t know what’s going on, man, honestly. I’m very frustrated. I hope other guys in this locker room are frustrated,” Jackson said. It will continue to get worse if Bucs don’t figure something out on defense. –Jenna Laine
The Buccaneers’ final play consisted of a series of laterals deep in Atlanta territory, but the ball goes out of bounds at the 5-yard line.
After being embarrassed by New Orleans on Monday night, the Redskins recovered for a win over Carolina to improve to 15-6-1 following a loss in the past three years under Jay Gruden. Adrian Peterson rushed for 97 yards and the defense made enough big plays, especially corner Josh Norman. If the Redskins want to start a winning streak, they must adopt that same approach this week before playing Dallas. –John Keim
The Panthers had a chance to go 4-1 and keep pace with New Orleans in the NFC South heading into a showdown against Philadelphia. Now, after a sloppy first half in which three turnovers led to a 17-0 deficit, they are mired among a group of contenders. Both of their losses are in the NFC, too, which could be costly come playoff time. –David Newton
The Texans are back to .500 on the season, but their offensive line is still struggling. Deshaun Watson, who is playing with a ribs injury, was hit 12 times and sacked seven times. Watson said he’s focused on getting himself healthy and ready to play for the Texans’ Week 7 game against the Jaguars, but it certainly won’t get easier to stay upright against the Jacksonville defense. –Sarah Barshop
Replacing an injured Josh Allen in the third quarter, Nathan Peterman threw the go-ahead touchdown before telegraphing a pick-six late in the fourth quarter that gave the Texans the lead. He threw another interception to seal the Texans’ win, another mark against Peterman’s ugly record that should result in veteran Derek Anderson becoming the Bills’ No. 2 quarterback as soon as he is ready. –Mike Rodak
Melvin Gordon finished with a season-high 132 rushing yards, and he had his first three-rushing-TD game in his four-year career. “I get a lot of juice when he’s the running the ball like that,” offensive lineman Dan Feeney said. “He was out there making people miss, running through people.” The Chargers, currently on a three-game winning streak, will stay in Cleveland to practice this week before heading to London on Thursday. –Eric D. Williams
Melvin Gordon attributes a collective effort in the Chargers’ 38-14 shellacking of the Cleveland Browns and pinpoints superior blocking for his three-touchdown day.
The Browns felt good after beating the Ravens in overtime last week, but they couldn’t win back-to-back games and were dominated by the Chargers on Sunday. They keep slipping as they try to get over the hill to success. Until they get past the hurdle, they will be a struggling and inconsistent team. –Pat McManamon
The Seahawks have a lot of season ahead of them, but the playoffs no longer seem as far-fetched as they once did. They are 3-3 heading into their bye and have looked the part of a playoff team since their 0-2 start. Plus, the Seahawks will have Ed Dickson and potentially K.J. Wright available for the first time this season when they face the Lions in two weeks. The arrow is pointing up for Seattle. –Brady Henderson
The Raiders, whether they realize it or not, are in a messy rebuild only two seasons after winning 12 games. Necessitated by either injuries, ineffectiveness, trades or all the above, Oakland is again an NFL bottom-feeder, playing a gaggle of rookies and untested players as it enters its bye week with a 1-5 record. “I’m going to lead the heck out of this team,” Derek Carr said after the Raiders were crushed by the Seahawks, “all the way.” Stay tuned. –Paul Gutierrez
The Dolphins overcame injuries to get to 4-2 with an easy schedule ahead, but the health of Ryan Tannehill going forward is important. Coach Adam Gase got testy when pressed about Tannehill’s shoulder injury after the game. Brock Osweiler helped the Dolphins to a big overtime win, but Miami is better with a healthy Tannehill. –Cameron Wolfe
Dolphins rookie kicker Jason Sanders nails a 47-yard field goal as time expires in overtime to lift Miami over the Bears.
Sunday’s overtime loss is a prime example of why enthusiasm for the Bears needs to be tempered. The Bears remain a work-in-progress under new coach Matt Nagy. They aren’t going to turn into a Super Bowl contender in one year after four consecutive last-place finishes in the NFC North. The Bears are clearly a better team, but they can still commit bad mistakes that cost them games, as they did versus the Dolphins. –Jeff Dickerson
The Jets proved they can handle prosperity, winning back-to-back games for the first time since last October. For their next trick, they need to beat a winning team, as they get the Vikings (3-2-1) next week at home. Sam Darnold is gaining confidence, but he and the offense must improve their red-zone efficiency. They were only 1-of-6 against the Colts, cementing their 32nd ranking. –Rich Cimini
The Colts lost running back Robert Turbin and receivers Ryan Grant and Marcus Johnson in Sunday’s loss. They join receiver T.Y. Hilton, tight end Jack Doyle, defensive lineman Denico Autry and safety Clayton Geathers on a long list of Indianapolis injuries. The Colts also dropped six more passes to bring their total to 15 over the past three games. “The common mistakes are drops and penalties and turnovers,” said Colts coach Frank Reich, whose team hosts the Bills next Sunday. –Mike Wells
The Rams held off a late push from the Broncos and improved to 6-0. Todd Gurley set a new career high in rushing yards with 208. While the defense showed improvement in stopping the run, vulnerabilities appeared at cornerback as Aqib Talib remains on injured reserve. –Lindsey Thiry
Todd Gurley rushes for a career-high 208 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams beat the Broncos 23-20.
As cornerback Chris Harris Jr. put it following a close loss to the undefeated Rams, “There are no moral victories.” The Broncos’ penalties cost them at least seven points, and their losing streak has now reached four games. They have a short week with a road trip to Arizona on Thursday night. –Jeff Legwold
The Ravens cranked up their pass rush to a historic level, recording a franchise-record 11 sacks against Marcus Mariota and the Titans. Baltimore also became the first team to shut out the Titans in Nashville. The Ravens have already talked about needing a similar stellar defensive effort Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. The Ravens are the only team that hasn’t yet lost to Drew Brees. –Jamison Hensley
The Ravens’ defense records 11 sacks against the Titans for a new franchise record in a 21-0 win.
The Titans failed to score and only produced 106 yards of total offense. Mariota and the offense have to shore up the protection and figure out how to get the ball in the end zone, starting with next week’s game against the red-hot Chargers in London. –Turron Davenport
The Cowboys finally had a reason to strut. Maybe it was the presence of Conor McGregor on the field before the game. Dak Prescott accounted for three touchdowns and ran for a career-high 82 yards, Ezekiel Elliott ran for 106 yards and Cole Beasley had his first two touchdown catches of the season. The defense had two takeaways. The Cowboys followed a formula for success that has worked since 2014: Control the tempo, convert on third down and keep the defense fresh. But McGregor’s presence might be just as good a reason. “You’d like to say we’re going to have to get him in here every game,” Jerry Jones said. –Todd Archer
The Jaguars like to tell everyone they have the best defense in the NFL, but it sure didn’t look like that against the Cowboys. They gave up 206 yards rushing and pretty much allowed Prescott to do whatever he wanted. The defense is reeling after back-to-back poor performances, and it’ll be facing Deshaun Watson and the Texans’ offense next week in a battle for the division lead. –Mike DiRocco
The offense of last year showed up just in time to potentially save the 2018 season. The catalyst was Carson Wentz, who threw three touchdowns and posted a 122 QB rating. Injuries are mounting — tackles Jason Peters and Lane Johnson didn’t finish the game — but the offense is showing signs of life and Wentz looked like his old MVP-caliber self, which bodes well for the defending champs moving forward. –Tim McManus
The Giants and Eli Manning managed just 13 points and failed to score 20 for the fourth time in six games. Manning did not throw a touchdown pass and has only six in six games this season. This will only increase doubts that already exist in the Giants’ locker room of whether Manning can still get the job done. It already seems like a lost season for the Giants (1-5) with 10 games remaining. –Jordan Raanan