Week 6 of the NFL season came and went. Barring a few upsets most of the favorites took care of business including a few of the teams we will discuss today. Let’s take a glance at five of this weeks’ major winners and pinpoint the keys to their success.
Kansas City Chiefs 31 – Washington Football Team 13
Chiefs Key Stat: 1 Red Zone Play Allowed
Even with the struggles that Kansas City’s defense has had this season, they managed to hold up against a surprisingly proficient Washington offense that had scored 20-plus points in four consecutive games. Although QB Taylor Heinicke managed a long TD to TE Ricky Seals-Jones and K Dustin Hopkins peppered KC territory with a trio of FG attempts, Washington only had a single play within the 20-yard line throughout the entire game. With that play (an early third-quarter screen losing 4 yards), it’s perhaps no surprise that the Chiefs came out with the win.
Minnesota Vikings 34 – Carolina Panthers 28
Vikings Key Stat: 5.8 Yards per Rush
A week after RB Alexander Mattison managed 113 yards on the ground and 7 catches, Dalvin Cook returned with his own masterpiece, taking 29 carries for 140 yards and a touchdown. QB Kirk Cousins has been excellent this year, but perhaps the OL should get more credit after their fourth game of 120-plus rushing yards, including two with a backup runner. They paved the road for Cook to the effect of a full 1.9 yards before contact per attempt, nearly 40% of his yardage on the day, and OC Klint Kubiak relied on Dalvin for a key 25 yards on the game-winning drive. This team clearly has the offensive firepower to make some noise.
Dallas Cowboys 35 – New England Patriots 29
Cowboys Key Stat: 1 Drive of 6-plus Plays Allowed
It may not have always been pretty, but the Cowboys steadfastly refused to allow the New England offense to build any kind of rhythm. Whether it was with their three forced 3-and-outs, or (more disturbingly) a trio of touchdown drives of under three plays, DC Dan Quinn and the Cowboys defense gave their offense nearly 40 minutes on the field to overpower the Patriots. The New England defense was clearly gassed by the second half, allowing five consecutive scoring drives (or field goal attempts), and WR Ceedee Lamb’s ability to simply run past DB Jalen Mills on the game-ending TD will be the fitting, lasting image from this one.
Arizona Cardinals 37 – Cleveland Browns 14
Cardinals Key Stat: 0.434 EPA/Pass
Despite passing for slightly fewer yards than the Browns and managing a similar number of 15-plus yard completions, Arizona actually was far superior with their situational passing, gaining nearly 0.434 EPA/pass compared to Cleveland’s -0.374. What exactly does this mean? The Cards picked up key passing yards to stay ahead of the sticks, converting on eight third downs and scoring a touchdown on four separate red zone drives (of seven attempts). Arizona scored on every first-half drive to pull away early, then re-accelerated with three second-half drives of 7-plus plays to put it out of reach. Kyler Murray continues to have the breakout season everyone expected last year.
Pittsburgh Steelers 23 – Seattle Seahawks 20
Steelers Key Stat: 78 Air Yards Allowed
With Russell Wilson out, the Steelers defense stepped up in the third overtime game of the week, forcing Geno Smith into a dink-and-dunk playstyle with an average depth of target (ADOT) at only 4.1 yards downfield. For comparison, Seattle entered the week with the 11th-highest ADOT of 9.7 yards downfield, so this was a markedly different offense and one that Pittsburgh feasted on for large stretches of the game. If not for some heroics from next-men-up Alex Collins and DeeJay Dallas, this game wouldn’t have made it to overtime.