We predicted that week six could hold some big surprises, and it certainly did. While Russell Wilson's coming of age performance against the Patriots was one of the biggest, there were plenty of other big showings throughout the weekend that were worth noting.
Did you miss some big performances amidst all the weekend's action?
Two Rookies Take Big Steps
Just a couple of weeks ago, Russell Wilson’s job in Seattle was thought to be on shaky ground. His numbers weren’t anything to write home about, and some observers felt that the Seahawks coaching staff didn’t really trust Wilson to run the offense. The Seahawks were running the ball early and often, essentially “hiding” Wilson.
Down two possessions against Tom Brady and the Patriots in the fourth quarter on Sunday, there was nowhere for Wilson to hide – and that’s exactly what he needed. No longer could Marshawn Lynch carry the offense. Seattle couldn’t try to play it safe, and hope that their defense could bring them a victory. This was the rookie’s chance to shine, and shine he did.
Wilson led a furious comeback, leading the Seahawks to two touchdowns in the final eight minutes of the game. The first, to Braylon Edwards was a ten yard play where many would have expected Seattle to try to get the score with their running game.
But the Seahawks had put all their hopes on Wilson, leading to the most impressive pass of the game, and perhaps Wilson’s young career. Wilson found Sidney Rice for a 46 yard touchdown, completing the comeback and silencing anyone who doubted his ability to be a successful starting quarterback this early in his NFL career.
What Wilson has been able to accomplish has been remarkable. Some quarterbacks could go their entire careers without beating the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in the same season. Wilson has accomplished that feat before playing half his rookie season.
Wilson credited his success to his teammates and a dedication to being as prepared as possible. That sort of dedication has earned him the respect of his teammates, and it’s why he was named the starter at least a year ahead of schedule. It’s been a winning formula so far, and that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.
Wilson isn’t the only rookie quarterback that’s exceeding expectations early in his career. In Miami, Ryan Tannehill is playing well through six games, and is running an offense that many veterans would struggle to run effectively.
The Dolphins are running a no huddle offense more than any other team in the league. They’re move the offensive at that quick pace nearly 60% of the time, and the responsibility of controlling that offense has been all Tannehill’s.
During a time in his career where most players are still adjusting to the speed of the game, Tannehill has been intentionally speeding the pace of the game up. He’s performed surprisingly well, even with the lack of a consistent running game like the Dolphins had to deal with against the Rams. His numbers and highlight plays weren’t as pretty as Wilsons, but the results were the same. Both quarterbacks led their teams to big wins, and both have cemented their roles as starting caliber NFL quarterbacks.
Recapping the Match-Ups to Watch
Cincinnati WR AJ Green vs. Cleveland CB Joe Haden
It would have been expecting too much from Joe Haden if Cleveland was expecting to corner to return from his four game suspension and immediately play like the Pro Bowl corner he can be. It was inevitable that he’d need some time to knock the rust off and get back into the flow of the game. Unfortunately for Haden and the Browns, going against a player like AJ Green demanded nothing but a stellar effort to shut down the wide out down.
Haden couldn’t deliver that, and Green had the best game of his career against Haden. Green torched Haden for a 57 yard touchdown in the third quarter, and finished the day with seven catches, 135 yards, and two touchdowns. Haden didn’t allow every catch, as he didn’t follow Green to the slot, but regardless it wasn’t a good day individually for the corner.
Philadelphia LG Evan Mathis vs. Detroit DT Ndamukong Suh
Detroit needed the first solid game of the 2012 season from Ndamukong Suh in order to slow down LeSean McCoy and the Eagles, and they finally got it. Suh looked like the force he’s supposed to be for most of the game on Sunday, and there wasn’t much that Evan Mathis or anyone else on Philadelphia’s line could do about it.
To be fair to Mathis, Suh was a bigger factor in the passing game than in stopping McCoy, but the defensive tackle made definite impacts in the both phases of the game. The Eagles finished the day with 12 yards rushing on called runs, meaning that their best player McCoy was almost a non-factor for the entire game.
Atlanta TE Tony Gonzalez vs. Oakland S Tyvon Branch
Oakland’s defense had some serious match-up problems heading into this game, and with those problems came the question of who would be charged with covering Tony Gonzalez. However, the Falcon’s offensive line made that question irrelevant.
Quarterback Matt Ryan was under pressure often, and even when he wasn’t truly under pressure he’d imagine he was. The result was the sloppiest performance of Ryan’s 2012 season, including three interceptions. The passing offense never got into a rhythm, and Gonzalez suffered. He ended the day with just four catches for a pedestrian 42 yards.
Scouting Notes from Across the League
When the Giants’ pass rush is on, they’re usually winning games. That was the case on Sunday, when they turned a game that was thought to be one of the week’s best games into a blow out. But this time, it wasn’t usual suspects like Jason Pierre-Paul doing the most damage. On this day, that most disruptive player on the New York defensive line was tackle Linval Jospeh, who showed good explosion off the snap while recording a sack and two more hurries.
Rookie St. Louis corner Janoris Jenkins has had an outstanding start to his season, but he had what was easily the worst game of his career against the Dolphins. Not only did he give up a ton of catches, including a touchdown to Marlon Moore, but he also missed tackles and fumbled a punt return.
Philadelphia had what looked to be a great defensive game plan working through three quarters. Nndami Asomugha had shut down Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford was having a horrible game. Inexplicably, in the fourth quarter the Eagles put Dominique Rodgers Cromartie on Johnson. That move likely cost the Eagles the game, as well as costing Juan Castillio his job.
The Jets had a big day overall, but individually Antonio Cromartie had a brutal day. He was beaten multiple times by Reggie Wayne and Donnie Avery. Andrew Luck wasn’t able to capitalize on those plays, but had Luck been having a better day the outcome in this game would have been much different.
The Ravens suffered a huge loss when Lardarius Webb went down with a torn ACL, and while they have Jimmy Smith behind him on the depth chart there’s still plenty of reason to be concerned here. Smith didn’t play well in Webb’s place on Sunday, and he’s going to have to make some dramatic progress over the next few weeks if the Ravens want to build on their early season success.