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NFL: Cowboys Stun Seahawks To Maintain Winning Streak

football

It was a weekend of statement games for a lot of NFL teams. Make or break time, with big divisional clashes, old rivalries and the new kids on the block stepping up to take on the established big teams. The order of power is forever on a revolving axis in the NFL, with the hot new things often becoming has-beens overnight.  There were a few examples of all these things in week six. With no shortage of talking points, we will get right to reviewing the action.

Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks (30-23)

It is hard to accurately state the magnitude of this victory, but it was a colossal one for the Dallas Cowboys. Going to Seattle, playing in the face of “the Twelfth Man”, and then dominating from the start? It is a massive momentum boost for the Cowboys, and puts all the detractors back in their place. There had been legitimate questions about Dallas’ record so far. The calibre of the opposition was the biggest one. Well, they just went to the toughest venue in football, took the Super Bowl Champions on at their own game, and literally ran right over them. DeMarco Murray is headed for an MVP award if he can stay healthy. That, of course, has never been his strong suit. But if he stays fit, keeps making big yards and opening the passing lanes for Tony Romo, who knows how this ends?

This is not the first time the Seattle Seahawks ever lost a home game. They lost there to Arizona last year. But this was different. In that loss to the Cardinals, they were headed safely towards top seeding in the NFC. This time, they lost a game they really needed to win. There were some mitigating factors, such as the abnormal amount of injuries they suffered on defense. But the aura is gone, and teams don’t fear facing Seattle any more. Their own frustration is evident, with Doug Baldwin blowing up on the sideline at Russell Wilson. The Seahawks just do not let teams run on them and, even though Murray had been playing phenomenally up to now, it was still surprising to see him breeze through the defensive line time and again. Seattle are facing big questions.

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills (37-22)

The New England Patriots re-asserted themselves as the dominant team in the AFC East with a big win in Buffalo. The damage was almost entirely done through the air, with Brandon LaFell, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman all gaining over ninety yards. Tom Brady has looked a lot more comfortable these past two weekends, and has re-affirmed his elite quarterback status in the eyes of his many doubters. It was staggering to see the amount of criticism the future Hall of Famer was taking, but he took advantage of some average coverage to dissect the opposition. The lack of a run game can be written off somewhat as they played against a very talented defensive line, but Steven Ridley did suffer an injury which may haunt them down the road.

The Buffalo Bills fought valiantly in this one, but they just didn’t have enough to contain the Patriots. While their defensive front four is monstrous, the better quarterbacks who faced the Bills this year have been able to put up big numbers against their secondary. Philip Rivers and Tom Brady were the keys to both of Buffalo’s home losses. Brady racked up 361 yards and four touchdowns through the air, while they were only able to sack him twice. The Bills gave up a lot of silly penalties, as they struggled to control their temperament in this rivalry game, and it set them back. Scott Chandler continues to be a reliable option at tight end, but Kyle Orton may not be the answer at quarterback.

Carolina Panthers at Cincinnati Bengals (37-37)

This fascinating tussle between the Carolina Panthers and Cincinnati Bengals ended in that rarest of all NFL results- a tie. This clash between two dominant defenses with depleted wide receiving options turned into a barnstorming shootout, naturally. It raises further questions about the big game mentality of the Bengals, who seemingly always fail to produce the goods against better opposition. In back to back games against playoff sides from 2013, they have conceded 80 points and failed to record a win. Andy Dalton threw two more interceptions to make life hard for his side, but it is still hard to account for a kicker missing a 36-yard attempt with two seconds of overtime remaining. The Bengals have so much talent on their roster, and it is a genuine mystery why they can’t win big games. These flat-track bullies will be under pressure if they lose their first playoff game once again, or if they fail to get that far. Undefeated two games ago, in crisis mode now. Such is the NFL.

The Panthers are hanging on in there, despite their running-gam woes. Cam Newton shrugged off the lingering concerns about his summer surgery to keep them in this one until the very end. He did throw an interception, but he also threw for 284 yards, two touchdowns and ran for another 107 yards. It was a desperately needed return to form, and if he gets one or two of his talented running backs on the field next week, Carolina suddenly looks like a threat. That defense has suffered badly from the off-season departures, though. There are only so many times you can build a secondary on a shoestring.

New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (0-27)

Mission accomplished for the Philadelphia Eagles, and in some style too. Not too many sides will pitch a shutout on Sunday Night Football, and to do so with a defense that is not really considered to be an elite unit is all the more impressive. The defense shut them out, and the offense steadily and precisely wore them down. Philly scored ten points in both the first and second quarters, before tacking on another seven in the third. A rarity, there was no score in the fourth quarter here. That is a testament to how completely they had beaten their opponents down. No morale, no fight back. Nick Foles threw two picks, and that is an area of concern for the bye week. Fix him and get the offensive line back healthy, and Philly are a threat to anyone. LeSean McCoy returned to form, meaning they can focus their attention on areas of more pressing concern now.

That was really poor from the New York Giants. No West Coast offense is going to be successful if you can’t run the ball and you don’t complete a high percentage of passes. In a big game during prime time to get yourself back into the divisional race, the Giants just didn’t turn up. Victor Cruz is gone for the year now, too. Pretty hard to see a path back to the post-season now.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (10-31)

The Cleveland Browns are a force to be reckoned with. As surprising as that sentence sounds, it is pretty accurate. Brian Hoyer may have only completed eight passes, but they were all for huge plays. His eight completions went for 217 yards.  The shortest completion was nine yards to Jordan Cameron. Cameron exploded onto two other passes, totalling 102 yards. The ground game wore down their divisional rivals, with Ben Tate 25 carries for 78 yards, while Isaiah Crowell took his mere eleven carries for 77 yards. The defense played hard football, keeping the receivers in front of them for the most part. The Browns are set up well to compete, but the loss of center Alex Mack to a broken leg will be a big blow.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were clearly second best throughout the entirety of this contest. The Browns had obviously gotten their number in the comeback attempt in game one, and the Steelers had precious little in the way of innovation or creativity to throw at them. It was far too easy for Cleveland to move the ball. The only bright sparks for this flaky Pittsburgh team were, once again, Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.  The Steelers now have been overtaken by the Browns, and occupy bottom position in the AFC North. This team is headed straight for do or die territory.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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