Welcome to Around the NFL, where Cale Berger of Steelers Now will recap early-week action and take a look ahead at some of the most important matchups from the Pittsburgh Steelers perspective.
AROUND THE NFL THIS WEEKEND
Tennessee Titans 42 Houston Texans 36 (OT)
The Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers were supposed to meet as 3-0 unbeaten teams back in Week 4, but a COVID-19 outbreak shut down the Titans’ facility and had the game rescheduled to Week 7.
But that hiccup and unexpected early bye week hasn’t slowed the teams down at all. As the Steelers were dismantling the Cleveland Browns to improve to 5-0, the Titans escaped with an overtime win over the Houston Texans to set up a battle of unbeaten 5-0 squads.
The Titans jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but had to come back to force overtime. Ryan Tannehill completed eight of nine on the final Titans drive of regulation, the last a 7-yard scoring strike to A.J. Brown. In overtime, do-it-all back Derrick Henry took a pass 53 yards to set up his own game-winning score.
Earlier in the game, Henry did this.
🎥 👑 Henry again. 94 yards.
— tnsports (@tnsports) October 18, 2020
He finished with 22 carries for 212 yards and two touchdowns and becomes the man that will keep the Steelers defense up at night as the 5-0 squads prepare to meet.
Indianapolis Colts 31 Cincinnati Bengals 27
The 2020 NFL season has been the year of the comeback thus far, and the Colts added to that narrative against the Bengals on Sunday, erasing a 21-point deficit to top Cincinnati 31-27. This is the first season in league history in which at least one team has overcome a deficit of 16-or-more points and won in each of the first six weeks of the season.
The key to Indianapolis’ impressive comeback proved to be the wily veteran Philip Rivers, who passed for 371 touchdowns and three touchdowns in the win. Rivers became the sixth player to post 30 career games with at least 300 passing yards and three touchdown passes in NFL history, joining Drew Brees, Dan Marino, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Brady.
Opposite Rivers was the stellar rookie Joe Burrow, who bounced back against a stout Colts defense after a poor showing in Baltimore last week. Burrow threw for 313 yards, his fourth 300-yard passing over the last five games, but he failed to toss a touchdown and was picked off once. He did rush for a touchdown, as did running backs Joe Mixon Giovanni Bernard. Rookie wideout Tee Higgin was another one of the few bright spots on the day for the Bengals, as the former Clemson Tiger caught six passes for 125 yards.
Cincinnati will look to snap their losing skid in a rematch with the Browns next week. The banged-up Colts will get a much needed bye before travelling to Detroit.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38 Green Bay Packers 10
A game that many expected and hoped to be shootout Sunday evening between two legendary quarterbacks ended up being a one-sided drubbing thanks to the Tampa Bay defense and the game plan of coordinator Todd Bowles.
The Buccaneers orchestrated an exceptional strategy pressuring Aaron Rodgers and halting a Packers offense that came in averaging a league-high 38 points per game. Under constant duress Sunday, Rodgers was sacked four times and tossed two interceptions. It was the first time Rodgers tossed no touchdowns and threw multiple picks since Dec. 14, 2014 against Buffalo.
Although not overwhelming, Tom Brady was surgical for the Bucs, carving up Green Bay’s defense to the tune of 166 yards and two touchdowns. Brady was also finally able to connect tight end Rob Gronkowski, who caught five passes for 78 yards and a score, his first as a Buccaneer. Brady and Gronkowski now have 91 touchdown connections over their careers, which surpassed Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates for the third-most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver duo in NFL history.
Tampa was also dominant on the ground, as running back Ronald Jones II rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns. In comparison, Packers star Aaron Jones rushed for just 15 yards on ten carries with a score.
The Packers will get an opportunity to right the ship next week in Houston, while the Buccaneers will head west to face the Raiders on Sunday Night Football.
Chicago Bears 23 Carolina Panthers 16
The Panthers had no answers against the smothering Bears defense Sunday, as Chicago is 5-1 for the first time since 2012.
Carolina’s offense continues to struggle in the absence of injured star running back Christian McCaffery, with the Bears forcing three turnovers and putting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater through hell all afternoon. Chicago sacked him four times and intercepted him twice, as Bridgewater posted a quarterback rating of just 50.3, his lowest since Week Ten of 2018. Bears defensive end Khalil Mack accounted for one of those sacks and two tackles-for-loss.
While not a flashy day for the Bears offense, the unit did its job Sunday led by quarterback Nick Foles, who passed 198 yards and a touchdown with an interception. He also rushed for a score. The offense was never able to kickstart the run game otherwise, but they were efficient, scoring on five of their first eight drives of the game.
Chicago will look to keep their hot start rolling when they travel to face the Rams next week on Monday Night Football. Carolina attempts to get back on track at New Orleans in Week Seven.
MONDAY NIGHT PREVIEW
Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills, Monday, 5:00 p.m., WPGH-TV
Before it became the first half of a tantalizing Monday night double header, Week Six’s monster matchup between the Chiefs and Bills was supposed to be played on Thursday night. The game had to be moved to Monday after last week’s Buffalo-Tennessee was played as one of the few Tuesday games in NFL history.
Monday’s early evening face off will pit two of the NFL brightest, young star quarterbacks against each other in the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and the Bills’ Josh Allen. Both signal callers are off to tremendous starts this season with remarkably similar stats. Allen is second in the league with 14 touchdown passes, while Mahomes is third with 13. Allen is also second in the league in passing yards, Mahomes is fourth. Mahomes has thrown only a single interception. Allen has tossed only three.
With both quarterbacks performing at such high levels, Monday’s matchup could be decided by the defenses, and Kansas City has the edge against the pass. The Chiefs have allowed just seven passing scores this year, and intercepted six passes, which is tied for the third-most in the league.
Buffalo’s best option could be to turn to the run game with Allen and running back Devin Singletary. Allen has 20 rushing touchdowns over the last three season, while Singletary is averaging 109.2 scrimmage yards over his last five home games. The Chiefs are 30th in the NFL in rush defense and have allowed five yards-per-carry.
REST OF THE SCHEDULE
Atlanta Falcons 40 Minnesota Vikings 23
Denver Broncos 18 New England Patriots 12
New York Giants 20 Washington 19
Baltimore Ravens 30 Philadelphia Eagles 28
Pittsburgh Steelers 38 Cleveland Browns 7
Detroit Lions 34 Jacksonville Jaguars 16
Miami Dolphins 24 New York Jets 0
Los Angeles Rams at San Francisco 49ers, 8:20 p.m., WPXI-TV
Arizona Cardinals at Dallas Cowboys, 8:15 p.m., ESPN