By Around the NFL staff
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Week 6 saw huge games from big names and unlikely players alike. Rob Gronkowski and Odell Beckham posted career-highs in yardage in huge wins. LeSean McCoy saw his revenge game against Chip Kelly materialize to perfection. Jay Ajayi of all people became the first running back this season to break 200 yards! Here’s what we’ve learned from Week 6 so far:
1. Conditions weren’t favorable in Oakland, with the game starting in an absolute downpour. Derek Carrlaughed at that adversity, driving Oakland down the field for an opening touchdown. It was the first and last time the Raiders would find the end zone. From there Kansas City took control, bullying Oakland on the backs of Spencer Ware (24 carries, 131 yards, 1 TD; 2 catches, 32 yards) and Jamaal Charles (nine carries, 33 yards, one touchdown). While Oakland floundered on offense, Alex Smith was a tactician, chipping away at the Raiders‘ defense by completing 19 of 22 passes for 224 yards and swiftly moving Kansas City into Oakland territory.
2. Carr didn’t look quite like himself Sunday. You could blame the wet conditions, but he dispelled that notion early on. More of the blame (and conversely, credit) falls on the shoulders of Kansas City’s defense, which played tight coverage, harassed the quarterback and forced him into some awkward throws. On multiple occasions, Carr dropped back and floated passes off his back foot, with one being intercepted by Marcus Peters and another coming dangerously close to being picked off. We spent much of the afternoon waiting for another thrilling comeback win from Carr and BlackJack Del Rio, but it just never happened.
3. Andy Reid is 16-2 in games following the bye, and his ingenuity coming off an extra week to prepare showed in what was undoubtedly my favorite play-call of the young season. Faced with third-and-goal from the Raiders‘ 1, defensive tackle Dontari Poe checked in as an eligible receiver and lined up behind a trips bunch formation. Smith took the snap, pivoted and fired a pass into the massive arms of Poe, who caught the ball and bulled his way through a collection of blockers and defenders into the end zone. The fat guy touchdown put Kansas City up 10 and strengthened the sense that this game was Kansas City’s to own. America loves fat guy touchdowns. We are all Dontari Poe.
— Nick Shook
1. The Browns focused heavily on stopping DeMarco Murray, and you can’t blame them. But as they stacked the box, their already-thin secondary was repeatedly exposed. Kendall Wright and Rishard Matthews made one great grab after another, with the former tallying eight catches for 133 yards and one touchdown. Mariota had his best passing day of the season, completing 17 of 24 passes for 284 yards for three touchdowns and an interception. For the first time all season, Tennessee won a game on big plays through the air. Hope for the Mariota/Mike Mularkey marriage (alliteration!) isn’t dead.
2. It’s remarkable that Cody Kessler is able to stand after these games. The rookie quarterback was again battered and relentlessly pounded by Titans rushers. Led by Jurrell Casey, six different Titans sacked Kessler and laid many more licks on the passer. Clips went around Twitter during the game of center Cameron Erving blatantly missing blocks, only souring the opinion further on the second-year lineman whose struggles are magnified thanks to more injuries on the Browns‘ line.
3. There was a bright side for the Browns defensively. Former first-round pick Danny Shelton, who hasn’t made a noticeable impact in a season and a half (nose tackle isn’t a glamorous position), had his best game of his career. The block-eating defender was there to stop Murray on runs of three yards or fewer three times in the first half, and recorded his first career sack, powering past center Ben Jones to drop Mariota for a loss of 10. Cleveland’s emphasis on stopping the run helped Shelton shine, but the focus on Murray also opened up massive running lanes for Mariota on the read option, resulting a 64-yard day for him.
— Nick Shook