What Have We Learned From Week 6 of the 2017 NFL Season

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Buccaneers Cardinals Football

Arizona Cardinals running back Adrian Peterson (23) runs for a touchdown as he gets past Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves (28) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

 

Here is What Have We Learned from Week 6 of the 2017 NFL Season, thanks to the AP Pro 32 for photos & help in this article.

Ups

  • Buoyed by addition of Peterson, Cardinals head to London

    The Arizona Cardinals were in fine spirits as they boarded a plane for London on Monday, buoyed by the addition of Adrian Peterson and his impressive debut against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    There was a noticeable uptick in the team’s energy and the home fans’ enthusiasm from the time Peterson first touched the ball on Sunday. In fact, he got a standing ovation after his first carry, which went for eight yards.

    “That’s the type of impact I want to make with my teammates and fans,” he said in front of his locker on Monday. “For me, I’m just happy to have the opportunity.”

    Five days after being acquired in a trade with New Orleans, Peterson rushed for 134 yards in Arizona’s 38-33 victory over the Buccaneers. He scored on a 27-yard run on the team’s first possession and punched one across from one yard out later in the game, giving him 99 career rushing touchdowns.

    He said he felt no worse for wear after his 26 carries on Sunday.

    “My body feels good,” Peterson said. “I feel really good, not banged up. I got my squats in today, did some cardio. Ultimately I came out well. A couple of bruises, but outside of that I’m fresh.”

    The Cardinals (3-3) head to London for an NFC West showdown with the vastly improved Los Angeles Rams, who lead the division at 4-2.

    While the Rams are staying in Jacksonville after beating the Jaguars there on Sunday and won’t leave until Thursday, the Cardinals chose to depart late Monday afternoon, in part so they can adjust to the 8-hour time difference. Coach Bruce Arians said the team was to arrive in London about noon, local time, on Tuesday.

    “We’ll unpack and go straight to a workout and break a sweat, try to keep them up and stay awake,” he said. “If you’re going to take a nap, take it a little bit later in the day and then get a night’s sleep.”

    Arizona’s offense, which had sputtered through the first four games, looked like its old high-powered self on Sunday, with season highs in points (38), touchdowns (five), net yards (432), rushing yards (160), average yards per play (7.3), rushing average (4.6) and average yards per pass play (11.3).

    “It was refreshing,” defensive lineman Frostee Rucker said, “to see some movement, to see some big plays. Our offense is capable of a lot of big plays. They have playmakers all across the board. Just to see their hard work pay off and A.P. (Peterson) coming in and doing a fantastic job. It’s great and we’re going to try to keep in rolling.”

    With Peterson running the ball so effectively, and the line bolstered by the return of left tackle D.J.Humphries and left guard Alex Boone, there was a lot less pressure on Carson Palmer. That meant he had to throw fewer times and had much more time when he did. With the Buccaneers packing the box to stop the run, receivers often ran wide open, especially in the first half, when Arizona built a 24-0 lead.

    “Probably the best first half of offensive football, team football, that we’ve played in a long time,” Arians said.

    The second half? Not so much.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick, stepping in for the injured Jameis Winston, threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns to bring his team back from a 31-0 deficit. The contest wasn’t clinched until Larry Fitzgerald gathered in an onside kick with 2:02 to play.

    “I thought we relaxed after we scored and went up 31-nothing,” Arians said. “I thought we relaxed at that point in time and started giving up plays we hadn’t been giving up during the game.”

    With the running game working, Palmer threw only 22 times. He completed 18 (including his first 14 attempts) for 283 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. In his first five games, Palmer threw 49, 36, 48, 51 and 44 times, and took a lot of vicious hits along the way.

    Arizona entered the contest averaging a league-worst 51.8 yards per game on the ground. Peterson eclipsed that on the first series.

    Now he is off to London for the second time in less than a month. Peterson was there with the Saints when they beat Miami 20-0 on Oct. 1.

    His advice:

    “It’s still a business trip at the end of the day because the main objective is to come back with a ‘W,'” he said. “Just take it all in, of course enjoy when you have down time … but stay within the ultimate goal of the journey, and that’s winning.”

  • Overcoming adversity, Dolphins rejoin playoff race

    The Miami Dolphins’ season suddenly seems headed in the right direction, their backup center leading the way.

    Jake Brendel replaced injured Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey and played the entire second half as the Dolphins rallied from a 17-point deficit to win at Atlanta. With the 20-17 win the Dolphins are 3-2, and only three AFC teams have a better record.

    They’ve played in Miami just once. They’ve played well just once — on Sunday. But they’ve silenced a simmering quarterback controversy, at least for now, and showed the resilience that typified last year’s playoff team under first-year coach Adam Gase.

    “We have a lot of great personalities on this team that has helped build that culture of challenging and fighting adversity head on,” running back Jay Ajayi said.

    Add Brendel to the mix. The former undrafted free agent played one snap last year, but he was pressed into duty when Pouncey suffered a head injury in the first half, and Miami’s offense improbably came to life.

    After totaling three touchdowns in the first 18 quarters of the season, the unit mounted four consecutive second-half scoring drives for the team’s biggest comeback victory on the road since 1994.

    Did Brendel play that well?

    “He did good,” Gase said Monday. “That’s what this game is about. You’ve got to go next man up, and we expect that guy to play well.”

    With Pouncey in the concussion protocol, Brendel will likely make his first career start Sunday when the Dolphins play host to the New York Jets (3-3). The Dolphins lost at the Jets 20-6 in Game 2, but believe they’re a better team now.

    For starters, Jay Cutler is beginning to look more comfortable. He threw two touchdowns passes at Atlanta, and fans who last week called for his benching will likely hold their jeers Sunday — for a couple of series, at least.

    The offense was aided by stout defense that turned in its best performance yet Sunday by shutting out the potent Falcons in the second half. The Dolphins and Buffalo Bills are the only teams yet to allow more than 20 points in a game.

    “Impressive to watch,” Gase said. “Fun to watch.”

    The defense has helped to compensate for an offense that, even after Sunday’s second-half breakout, ranks last in the NFL in points per game, and yards per game and per play.

    “The way the defense is playing, if we get it going offensively we will be OK,” Cutler said.

    Expectations this year were modest, especially after quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sidelined for the season by a training camp knee injury. Then Miami’s opener was postponed because of Hurricane Irma, linebacker Lawrence Timmons briefly went AWOL, and offensive line coach Chris Foerster resigned after a video surfaced showing him snorting wide powder.

    But it’s dangerous to dismiss the Dolphins. They’re 12-4 in their past 16 regular-season games, and since Week 3 last season, they’ve won a franchise record 11 consecutive games decided by seven points or less.

    “Who cares what people say about us?” defensive end Cameron Wake said. “We believe in us, we are going to go out there and fight regardless of the situation, back against the wall or not. I think that is just how we are built.”

 

  • Bears hoping interceptions become contagious after big win

    Before Sunday, interceptions had been harder to come by this season for the Chicago Bears than victories.

    Now 2-4, the Bears hope they can climb among the NFC North leaders by starting a trend after producing two interceptions and three turnovers overall in Sunday’s 27-24 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

    “When we’re losing, we need to find more turnovers,” safety Adrian Amos said Monday at Halas Hall. “I feel like that’s got to be a force for us moving forward.

    “We got three turnovers and that was a big difference in the game.”

    The interceptions, in particular, had been a problem. They’re hoping this issue is over going into Sunday’s home game with Carolina.

    The Bears started the win over Baltimore among three NFL teams without an interception, and ranked among the league’s three worst teams in terms of turnover ratio at minus-9.

    This came on the heels of making only eight interceptions each of the past two seasons — both team franchise lows for a single season.

    “It’s been an emphasis for us,” linebacker Dannny Trevathan said. “We’ve been playing good defense, but turnovers take a lot of momentum out of offenses, and that’s what we want to do.

    “Our defense has been working its tail off. We’ve been just trying to fly around, get to the ball and bring it to our offense.”

    In particular, Amos has had much to prove in regards to making interceptions. Teammate Akiem Hicks jokingly coined a nickname for Amos, who had no interceptions after starting two seasons and two games.

    “Sometimes, I call him ‘spatula hands,’ because he doesn’t catch a lot of balls,” Hicks said.

    Amos shrugged off the nickname with a laugh. He had the last laugh in Sunday’s win.

    Following his first career interception, Amos made a 90-yard TD return with about 80 friends and family in attendance in his hometown of Baltimore for a 24-13 Bears lead.

    Amos lost his starting job at the start of the regular season when veteran free agent acquisition Quintin Demps and rookie Eddie Jackson took over the safety spots. But Demps’ broken arm in Week 3 led to Amos’ return to the starting lineup.

    “I’m really a self-motivated type of person,” Amos said. “I made my mind up that when I get in there, I’m going to play my game. I feel like I’ve been playing my game.

    “In years past, I’ve played my game, but I needed to make more big-time plays. More plays on the ball, plays that can help our defense out.”

    Nickel cornerback Bryce Callahan had Sunday’s other Bears interception.

    Cornerback Kyle Fuller continued enjoying a strong season in pass coverage with a new contract on the line.

    “He’s been playing very well,” Amos said. “The same Kyle I’ve always known.”

    Both are from the Baltimore area and knew each other before the NFL.

    “He (Fuller) had an injury (knee) last year that held him out the entire year,” Amos said. “But he’s the same Kyle that I’ve always seen. I feel like to me, it’s nothing new to me. He has always been a solid player.

    “Solid in the run, solid in the passing game.”

    Coach John Fox saw one good reason the Bears produced turnovers, and it’s something he hopes occurs more frequently in the future.

    “We’ve gone through all the inadequacies at this point from last season and earlier this season, but I think a lot of it is it helps to play with the lead,” Fox said. “We’ve only done that twice this season, and we’ve won both games.

    “So, I think that helps our defense.”

 

  • Patriots back on track with Super Bowl rematch looming next

    Patience is not a luxury typically afforded to the New England Patriots.

    It simply comes with the territory of being a team that’s hoisted the Lombardi Trophy five times over a 15-year stretch.

    Two weeks ago, the Patriots looked like a team in flux following a 2-2 start. Now, after Sunday’s win over the New York Jets, at 4-2 they are again showing flashes of a team capable of repeating as Super Bowl champions.

    It’s comes just in time, with a Super Bowl rematch against Atlanta looming next.

    “That was something I think we needed,” safety Devin McCourty said. “We haven’t played particularly well in the fourth quarter and I thought this was big for us as a team to win a game when we had to play well in the fourth quarter.”

    Sunday’s win wasn’t anything close to flawless.

    New England started the game sluggish and quickly found itself in a 14-0 hole. But the Patriots responded with 24 straight points, which included a pair of touchdown passes from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. It was the first time that tandem has connected for multiple scores in a game this season.

    The offensive line deserved a lot of the credit after not allowing Brady to be sacked in a game for the first time this season. Coach Bill Belichick said Monday he couldn’t find any major issues in pass protection after reviewing the game film.

    The clean day aside, left tackle Nate Solder said it’s no time to feel satisfied.

    “We’re gonna need a lot more of them,” Solder said.

    The defense produced a pair of turnovers, holding its second straight opponent to less than 20 points. New England entered allowing 28.4 points per game.

    The secondary probably stood out the most, getting interceptions by Malcolm Butler and McCourty on a day the Patriots began down two cornerbacks with starter Stephon Gilmore (ankle) and backup Eric Rowe (groin) out. Butler had what was probably the play of the game in the fourth quarter. He caused Austin Seferian-Jenkins to bobble the ball just enough as he reached for the pylon, and a play originally called a touchdown was ruled a touchback after review.

    The defense also got an unexpected lift from Johnson Bademosi, who had five tackles starting in place of Gilmore. It was the fourth career start for the six-year veteran; he was acquired in a trade with Detroit last month.

    “Next man up,” Butler said. “You have to step up and do what you’re asked to do.”

    Safety Duron Harmon said it’s a positive thing that this team is still finding ways to improve each week.

    “Nothing’s ever going to be perfect. We’re going to learn every game,” Harmon said. “It says that we’re a hungry team, a team that’s not satisfied. In some situations, a lot of teams would be happy to be 4-2. But we’re not. … We know we can play better. We’re gonna play better.”

 

Downs

  • Rodgers breaks collarbone, Winston also hurts shoulder

    Aaron Rodgers’ season may have ended after an injury, just a week after the same thing happened to J.J. Watt and Odell Beckham Jr.

    It’s been a painful stretch for some of the NFL’s biggest stars.

    Rodgers broke his collarbone Sunday in Green Bay’s 23-10 loss to Minnesota, and the Packers’ Super Bowl hopes could be lost right along with him.

    Watt wrote on Twitter that he was “gutted” for Rodgers, who led the Packers to the NFC championship game last season and had them off to a 4-1 start this year.

    “Losing Aaron Rodgers speaks for itself,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “In my opinion, he’s the best player in football. This is the ultimate team game. We need to be better with the 11 people on the field that we have, regardless of the phase that we’re in. Ultimately that’s my responsibility.”

    Jameis Winston also was lost early in Tampa Bay’s game at Arizona, though the Buccaneers made a spirited surge after he left before falling 38-33.

    The Packers couldn’t do anything behind Rodgers’ replacement, Brett Hundley, who finished 18 of 33 for 157 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Practice squad player Joe Callahan is the only other quarterback on the roster, but McCarthy indicated the Packers won’t be out looking for a big-name veteran such as Colin Kaepernick.

    “Brett Hundley and Joe Callahan, that’s what we’re going with,” he said.

    Rodgers was hurt when linebacker Anthony Barr drove him into the turf after he got rid of a roll-out pass. Rodgers writhed on the turf as McCarthy argued for a roughing-the-passer penalty.

    For the first time this season, the Packers’ starting offensive line was intact, though that lasted about half of the game. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga was knocked out of action with a concussion and left tackle David Bakhtiari’s hamstring injury flared up. He missed the past four games.

    The Packers, who were already missing three starting defensive backs, lost backup cornerback Quinten Rollins to an ankle injury.

    If he can’t make it back, Rodgers joins the likes of Watt, Houston’s defensive leader who broke his leg, and Beckham, who broke his ankle in the Giants’ loss last week.

    Like Rodgers, Winston hurt his throwing shoulder when he was tackled. X-rays were negative and he will have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury.

    He said he’s had the injury before.

    “I’ll be back soon,” Winston said.

    Jacksonville’s Leonard Fournette also expects to be fine after leaving the Jaguars’ loss to the Rams with a right ankle injury. He had a 75-yard touchdown run earlier in the game and finished with 130 yards on 21 carries before departing late in the game.

    Already without Jeremy Maclin, the Baltimore Ravens lost another receiver when Breshad Perriman went out with a second-quarter concussion. Tight end Maxx Williams also hurt his ankle while losing a fumble and did not return, but the Ravens nearly rallied before falling 27-24 in overtime to the Chicago Bears. Baltimore came back with a punt and a kickoff return for touchdowns against a Chicago team that lost special teams captain Sherrick McManus to a hamstring injury.

    Pittsburgh linebacker Vince Williams had a pair of sacks in Kansas City but left in the second half with a hip injury. The Steelers also lost right tackle Marcus Gilbert, who had missed three weeks with a hamstring injury, in the first half after he aggravated it.

    Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland will have an MRI on his left knee after being on the receiving end of a low block in a 26-24 victory over San Francisco. Coach Jay Gruden said it was an MCL issue.

 

  • Falcons still hurt by blown leads as they brace for rematch

    Through OTAs, minicamp and training camp, Dan Quinn did his best to deflect questions about the big collapse.

    This week, there’s no avoiding the painful memories for the coach and his Falcons. Atlanta will visit the Patriots on Sunday in a game that brings up old questions about the biggest meltdown in Super Bowl history.

    “We’re not facing any demons here this week,” Quinn said Monday. “It’s the 2017 version of us and them. We don’t get to replay that one. How it ended was a bummer.”

    Quinn says the 28-3 blown lead in the 34-28 overtime loss to New England is in his team’s “rear-view mirror.” That may be because the Falcons (3-2) have similarly painful new concerns, including losing first-half leads in losses to Buffalo and Miami in their last two games.

    Atlanta led the Dolphins 17-0 at halftime before losing 20-17 on Sunday . The Falcons have scored only seven second-half points in the two losses.

    “We were just flat, that’s all,” running back Tevin Coleman said Monday. “We didn’t have any juice coming into the second half.”

    The Super Bowl rematch would be enough to rekindle talk about the Falcons’ inability to finish out a win. Now, just in time for the visit to New England, that problem has carried over to the 2017 season.

    “The scars are definitely deeper when you have it and you let it up than when it goes back and forth, back and forth,” Quinn said. “Those are the ones that … leave a deeper mark.”

    The Falcons have struggled to repeat the offense which powered them to last season’s Super Bowl. The Falcons rank only 11th in the NFL with 24.2 points per game, almost 10 points below last season’s league-leading average. Atlanta was held below 20 points in each of its losses.

    The biggest drop in production is at quarterback. Matt Ryan, last season’s NFL MVP, has a troubling balance of six touchdown passes and six interceptions, including two in the loss to the Bills . He threw 38 TD passes with seven interceptions last season.

    Ryan’s numbers have been hurt by at least three dropped passes that were intercepted. The biggest play of the loss to the Dolphins came when the Falcons already were in position to attempt a tying field goal and Ryan’s pass for tight end Austin Hooper was deflected by Cordrea Tanker and intercepted by Reshad Jones .

    Quinn said a review of the play showed Hooper should have tried harder to go for the ball.

    “For us the lesson is you always go aggressively to go catch it,” Quinn said. “Don’t wait for it, you go aggressive to go get it.”

    Quinn assigned some blame for the recent decline in scoring to his run defense. Poor tackling has led to longer drives for opponents.

    There could be no better way for the Falcons to snap their two-game losing string than to win at New England.

    But it wouldn’t avenge the Super Bowl collapse.

    “You don’t get to go replay it,” Quinn said. “Yeah, there’s a part that’s motivation for sure, but it wasn’t a driving force for us because for us only to be in the present moment we couldn’t keep looking back in the rear-view mirror.

    “We wanted to make sure we could be the best version of us we could be. We couldn’t do that if we kept replaying a game we can’t change.”

    NOTES: Quinn said he hopes WR Mohamed Sanu (hamstring) and DE Courtney Upshaw (ankle, knee) will return to practice this week. Taylor Gabriel started for Sanu against Miami and had four catches for 39 yards. There were no new significant injuries reported from the Miami game.

 

  • Sputtering at .500, Ravens ‘need to find way to win’

    Win two, lose two. Win one, lose one.

    The Baltimore Ravens can’t seem to get enough traction to make a run at the playoffs.

    “Spinning your wheels right now and being .500 is in the hunt,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “But we need to find a way to win games. That’s what it boils down to.”

    The Ravens (3-3) appeared to have something going two weeks ago, when they didn’t commit a turnover and played solid defense at Oakland in a 30-17 win.

    Then came Sunday, when they gave the ball away three times and yielded a team-record 231 yards rushing in a 27-24 overtime loss to the struggling Chicago Bears.

    And so, instead of staying tied for first place in the AFC North with a winning record, the Ravens are again looking up a Pittsburgh after losing three of four.

    “There’s nothing more disappointing in the world than mediocrity,” linebacker Terrell Suggs said. “You can’t play good last week, and then we come out here and we don’t play too good. We gave up a ton of yards rushing. It just (stinks).”

    Baltimore went 8-8 last year and missed the playoffs. So it’s pretty obvious what needs to happen from here.

    “We’re going to need to go more than .500 the rest of the way to accomplish what we want to accomplish,” Harbaugh said. “We need to get about 10 wins. So we need to find a way to put wins together.”

    With a trip to Minnesota (4-2) looming this week, the Ravens need to shore up their passing game and correct the flaws in their run defense to get back on course.

    Joe Flacco went 24 for 41 for 180 yards and two interceptions against the Bears. Jeremy Maclin was inactive and Breshad Perriman and Maxx Williams both left with injuries, leaving the quarterback with few veteran talented targets.

    “We’ve got to find some yards in the passing game,” Harbaugh said. “There’s a lot of season left. We have good players, we have good coaches, and we’re capable of putting together a good passing attack.”

    Both of Flacco’s interceptions came on balls that were deflected by the intended receiver. Chris Moore’s miscue turned into a 90-yard touchdown for the Bears.

    “We have to catch the ball better, there’s no doubt about it,” Harbaugh said.

    On defense, better tackling is a must. The Ravens have had difficulty stopping the run without 340-pound tackle Brandon Williams, who has missed four games with a foot injury. Chicago’s Jordan Howard rambled for 167 yards Sunday, including a 53-yarder in overtime that set up the game-winning field goal.

    “The most disappointing run obviously was the one they popped in overtime,” Harbaugh said. “That was really the game-deciding play.”

    It was merely the culmination of an afternoon in which the Ravens were run past and run over.

    “I saw too many yards between the tackles,” Harbaugh said. “We want to be dominant. That’s what we had earlier in the year, and we’ve got to find a way to get back to that. Getting Brandon back would be a big plus.”

    The Ravens could hardly imagine being in this situation after opening the season with a 20-0 rout of Cincinnati and a 24-10 win over Cleveland. But here they are, sputtering at .500 and desperate to get a winning streak.

    “The arrow needs to start pointing up sooner or later,” safety Eric Weddle said.

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