American Football Expert & Columnist
Pick Six: Lamar Jackson's real-life Madden, a Titans upset and Falcons show their strength
Last Updated: 18/11/19 11:36am
At first glance, the slate of Sunday games for NFL Week 10 did not look all that great.
But the contests themselves proved to be much, much better than we originally gave them credit for. In fact, it was a night of high drama and excitement across the league.
Here are six big storylines that caught my attention on a night in which several downtrodden teams rose up to spring some surprises.
Lamar playing real-life Madden
Lamar Jackson continues to make moves and throws on the football field that are normally reserved for a late-night game of Madden NFL with your mates. He was instrumental in Baltimore's 49-13 destruction of the Cincinnati Bengals and is, for me, the leading candidate for the NFL's Most Valuable Player award.
Jackson, of course, catches the eye with tackle-breaking, spinning touchdown runs like his 47-yarder in Cincinnati, but he is so much more than the latest iteration of Michael Vick at quarterback. He is indeed a very nice thrower of the football and completed 15 of 17 attempts for 223 yards and three touchdowns.
Also of note were two more defensive touchdowns for the Ravens, giving them an NFL-leading five on the year. John Harbaugh's 7-2 team looks very complete and even though this latest win was against the hapless Bengals, I feel Baltimore are more than capable of mounting a Super Bowl charge.
Titans upset the Chiefs
On an evening of upsets around the NFL, few were bigger than the Tennessee Titans recording a 35-32 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
If you hid the scoreline and showed me that Patrick Mahomes threw 446 yards and three touchdowns, Tyreek Hill had 11 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown and the Chiefs controlled the clock to the tune of 37 minutes and 51 seconds, I would have asked how many Kansas City won by?
Yet they continue to have problems stopping the run and that allows often-inferior teams to hang with them pretty much every week. The Titans rushed for 225 yards with Derrick Henry leading the way with 188 and two scores on the ground. If that run defense cannot be fixed, the Chiefs are going to be a week to week adventure the rest of the way.
Throw out the records
The Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints play twice per year in one of the fiercest rivalries in the league and it is often said that records must be thrown out of the window when these teams face off. But nobody really believed that would be the case given that Atlanta had lost six in a row and the Saints had won their last six.
But it did indeed prove to be the case as Atlanta sprung the upset with a 26-9 victory. And it was the Falcons' defense that provided the story of the game, sacking Drew Brees six times when they had recorded just seven sacks on the year up until Sunday night.
It was a constant struggle for Brees and the ineffectiveness of Alvin Kamara, who is clearly still struggling with an ankle injury, hamstrung this entire New Orleans' attack. While this was a morale-boosting win for Atlanta, of more note was the fact this was a damaging loss for the Saints in the NFC playoff race.
Keeping the wolves from the door
Two quarterbacks might have kicked their problems down the road, at least for one more week, as Mitchell Trubisky led the Chicago Bears to victory over the Matthew Stafford-less Detroit Lions while Baker Mayfield helped the Cleveland Browns edge out the Buffalo Bills.
Neither quarterback set the world on fire on Sunday night, but they did silence the doubters for just a little bit. Trubisky threw three touchdown passes either side of halftime to help the Bears snap a four-game losing streak, but that showing also came on a day when he was booed heavily, once again, by his own fans.
Mayfield threw two touchdown passes in a game for the first time this season, including the match-winner to Rashard Higgins with 1:44 remaining but that should not detract from the fact that it was another very shaky display at times, particularly in the red zone. I think the pressure builds on Trubisky and Mayfield again pretty soon.
The Steel Curtain
I have to give credit to Sam Farmer, of The Los Angeles Times, for this observation via Twitter on Sunday night. The Pittsburgh Steelers showed up looking like their Super Bowl defenses of the 1970s while the Rams heading to Heinz Field with the offense that produced just three points in last season's Super Bowl.
Pittsburgh's defense is for real and is powering this team from a 1-4 start to a 5-4 record and a spot - currently - in the AFC Wild Card. The Steelers took the ball away from the Rams four times with Minkah Fitzpatrick scoring on a fumble return and securing his fifth interception since becoming a Steeler. That D makes up for the significant offensive deficiencies which include consistent poor play from stand-in quarterback Mason Rudolph.
At least Rudolph has the excuse of being a stand-in. What is Jared Goff's excuse? He went 22 of 41 for 243 yards, no touchdowns and two picks. The Rams are supposed to be renowned for their offensive wizardry yet they went one of 14 on third down conversions and have now not scored a touchdown in their last 19 offensive possessions.
Lambeau Field on Sunday night was my idea of American football heaven. Old Man Winter had woken up, the snow was swirling and two good teams were going head to head with considerable playoff meaning to the proceedings.
Carolina came up half a yard short at the end of an enthralling contest that saw Green Bay emerge as 24-16 victors. Christian McCaffrey could not break the plane of the goal-line on the final play of the game. To be fair, we couldn't really see if he got in or not and such calls are tough to overturn. But I certainly didn't hate the call to put the game in McCaffrey's hands on a run when a pass might have been expected by many.
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But there were plenty of positives for Carolina to take from this game, including a pretty decent showing from Kyle Allen in a big spot on the road. As for the Packers, they gave us a few magical moments from Aaron Rodgers, reminded us that we should talk more about the other Aaron, Aaron Jones, every now and then and their defense woke up when it mattered the most with the game on the line.