What We Learned in N.F.L. Week 7
Even as the San Francisco 49ers improved to 6-0, matching New England for the best record in the N.F.L., Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers made it clear that they should be in the conversation as one of the league’s best teams. Week 7 offered quite a bit of scoring — outside of San Francisco’s nearly unwatchable win over Washington.
Here’s what we learned:
Aaron Rodgers is starting to get comfortable — which should terrify everyone. Playing without Mike McCarthy’s guidance for the first time in his career, Rodgers looked tentative — at least by his standards — during the Packers’ 5-1 start, with Green Bay cracking 30 points just once. In Week 7, the training wheels of Coach Matt LaFleur’s offense appeared to come off: Rodgers threw for 429 yards and five touchdowns (to five different receivers) while running in a score as well. He had the second perfect 158.3 passer rating in Green Bay history — Bart Starr managed the feat in 1960, but on just nine attempts — and according to Pro Football Reference, Rodgers was the first N.F.L. player since Mark Rypien in 1991 to have five passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in the same game.
Another Sunday, another great showing from the Faithful.
Thanks for sticking it out with us in the rain! #GoNiners pic.twitter.com/2lfuNOkTse
Every 49ers game is, apparently, a home game. A week after seas of red jerseys made Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum look like Levi’s Stadium South, the 49ers spoiled Washington’s “Homecoming Weekend” by spending the second half of a rainy and muddy win being serenaded with chants of “Let’s Go Niners!” San Francisco is 6-0 for the first time since 1990 and just the third time in franchise history. The Upshot’s N.F.L. Playoff Simulator currently gives them a 13 percent chance of getting to the Super Bowl this year, which trails only New England’s 20 percent.
Russell Wilson picked a bad day to make his first mistake. Seattle’s 5-1 start to the season was largely powered by Wilson’s near perfection at quarterback. On Sunday he faltered, throwing his first interception of the season and having the newest Baltimore Raven, Marcus Peters, promptly run it back for a pick-six. Lamar Jackson and Baltimore smelled blood and they never relented, coming away with an impressive 30-16 victory. Jackson surpassed 100 rushing yards for the second consecutive game, and with three such games this season, he is tied with Billy Kilmer, Michael Vick and Wilson for the most by a quarterback in a single season since at least 1950. His team has nine games left to play.
Drew Brees has gotten a lot of help from his friends. The Saints could easily have folded when Brees, their quarterback for all but three games since 2006, injured his thumb in Week 2. Instead they have gone 5-0 since the injury, with Teddy Bridgewater steering the ship admirably. On Sunday, the team’s third quarterback, Taysom Hill, got in on the action, rushing for 21 yards and catching a 4-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater. Brees could potentially return next week against Arizona, but he could easily wait until after the team’s Week 9 bye instead, as Bridgewater, Hill and the rest of the Saints have New Orleans leading the N.F.C. South at 6-1.
Chandler Jones has Daniel Jones figured out. Arizona’s defense was in the middle of the pack with 14 sacks as a team coming into this week’s win over the Giants. Pinning their ears back against a rookie quarterback added eight to that total, with Chandler Jones, a standout linebacker, accounting for a career-high four. Jones also forced one of Daniel Jones’s two lost fumbles, continuing a rapid decline for the Giants’ quarterback who has followed up his electric debut as a starter against Tampa Bay by going 1-3 since, with four passing touchdowns and nine turnovers. Arizona’s Kyler Murray, meanwhile, started the season poorly but has now won three straight.
Top Passer: Ryan Tannehill
You’re not reading the chart upside down, Aaron Rodgers was definitely the best quarterback in the N.F.L. this week. But Tannehill, who was promoted to starter for Tennessee this week, went out and had one of the best games of his career, making a lot of newspaper prediction columns look awfully foolish.
Kirk Cousins also deserves special mention for becoming just the second player to record three consecutive games with more than 300 passing yards and a rating higher than 130. The first was Patrick Mahomes who did it in Weeks 1 to 3 of this season.
Top Runner: Dalvin Cook
With Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey and Cleveland’s Nick Chubb both on bye weeks, Cook took sole possession of the league’s rushing lead with 725 yards. His average of 103.6 a game just barely tops McCaffrey’s 103.
Top Receiver: Marquez Valdes-Scantling
Stefon Diggs of the Vikings led the league in receiving yards for a second consecutive week, but Green Bay’s Valdes-Scantling scored a 74-yard touchdown and was the league’s third-leading receiver despite catching just two passes.
One* Sentence About Sunday’s Games
*Except when it takes two.
Colts 30, Texans 23 “It just says he’s legit, he’s the man,” Coach Frank Reich said of Jacoby Brissett’s 326-yard, four-touchdown performance.
Ravens 30, Seahawks 16 In his return to Seattle, Earl Thomas shared an emotional hug with Russell Wilson following Baltimore’s win — and then ran off the field waving Wilson’s jersey over his head in triumph.
Saints 36, Bears 25 The game was nowhere near as close as the final score would have you believe.
Cowboys 37, Eagles 10 A three-game losing streak for the Cowboys was troubling, but a good day all-around for Dallas has the team back in sole possession of first place in the N.F.C. East.
Packers 42, Raiders 24 It’s hard to imagine how much worse this could have been for Oakland if Davante Adams had played or if several other Packers receivers had been closer to 100 percent healthy.
49ers 9, Redskins 0 The 49ers’ defense has allowed fewer than 100 passing yards in three consecutive games, matching six other teams for the longest such streak since 1978.
Rams 37, Falcons 10 Los Angeles declared itself back on track after beating a 1-6 team that lost its starting quarterback, Matt Ryan, halfway through the fourth quarter.
Vikings 42, Lions 30 It was easy to be down on Kirk Cousins after Minnesota managed just six points against Chicago in Week 4 — since then he’s thrown for 976 yards and 10 touchdowns in the Vikings’ three consecutive victories.
Bills 31, Dolphins 21 Miami led Buffalo for a while and only lost by 10. By this season’s standards that’s practically a victory.
Titans 23, Chargers 20 Down by just three points, Los Angeles got a 1st-and-goal at Tennessee’s 1-yard line with plenty of time to get multiple plays off — and the Chargers still lost. On his first attempt, Melvin Gordon had a touchdown overturned on review, with officials saying he did not break the plane of the end zone, and on his second he fumbled the ball away, sealing the Titans’ victory.
Jaguars 27, Bengals 17 Coach Zac Taylor doesn’t have to worry about the possibility of making history just yet, thanks to Hue Jackson, as Taylor’s 0-7 start to his career as an N.F.L. head coach is only halfway to Jackson’s 0-14 start in Cleveland back in 2016.
Cardinals 27, Giants 21 A loss to a mediocre team in which your rookie quarterback commits multiple turnovers isn’t ideal, but the Giants can brighten their outlook a bit by focusing on Saquon Barkley getting back on the field and looking no worse for the wear.
Benjamin Hoffman is a senior staff editor and regular contributor to the Keeping Score column in sports. He joined The Times in 2005. @BenHoffmanNYT • Facebook
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