And then there were none.
Thanks to gutty and downright dominant performances by the New York Jets' and Cleveland Browns (more below) defenses, parity once again reigns supreme across the NFL.
In the span of about four hours on Sunday afternoon, both the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers were each handed their first loss of the season. Somewhere, the 1972 Miami Dolphins are popping champagne.
The Jets' defense forced Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts into some uncharacteristic mistakes, the worst and costliest of the game coming with 2:00 remaining when Hurts forced an ill-advised pass, off his back-foot, into double coverage intended for tight end Dallas Goedert that was intercepted by Tony Adams who returned it to the 10-yard line.
Jets running back Breece Hall made Hurts pay for the interception, scoring a touchdown on the Jets' first play of the ensuing possession, and after New York defense slammed the door, the Eagles must now stare down some significant questions following a 20-14 defeat.
"We didn't play to our standard," Hurts told reporters after the game. "It is the opportunity to look in the mirror and respond. This is about how we respond. Guys are hungry and eager to fix the mistakes. These moments build a ton of character"
For the Jets, Sunday was a signature victory, especially for a defense that has had to lead the way in the wake of Aaron Rodgers rupturing his Achilles tendon on opening night.
"Defensively, we've shifted our entire mindset from thinking we would have a bunch of leads," a high-ranking Jets official told FanBuzz on Sunday evening. "To having to make plays to win the game without a fully-functioning offense."
Sunday afternoon, the Jets certainly embodied that mentality.
Hurts threw a career-high three interceptions, Quincy Williams recovered a D'Andre Swift fumble, as the Jets' defense added 12 pass breakups, four tackles for loss, and sacked Hurts twice.
"Jalen is a play from ahead quarterback," the Jets' executive said. "Both in terms of score, and the sticks. He can't pass them out of trouble on third down, and when they're trailing in a game. Philly's philosophy has worked big-time, but today was the first time he's been truly uncomfortable in two years."
Hurts has been a catalyst for the Eagles' success, truly instrumental to Philadelphia's run to the Super Bowl, but he has rarely been forced to play from behind, especially over his last 21 starts dating back to last season. To date, Hurts has just three career fourth-quarter comebacks.
In situations where the Eagles are leading, Hurts has completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 3,644 yards with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions while when playing from behind he's completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 3,827 yards with 16 touchdowns but 14 interceptions.
While the Eagles entered Sunday at 5-0, the offense had been wildly inconsistent, and Philadelphia's schedule gets significantly tougher from here. Never was that more evident than Hurts' dreadful decision on what turned out to be the game-deciding interception and Philadelphia's inability to respond on their final possession following Hall's game-winning touchdown.
It's not going to get any easier for the reigning NFC champions.
Next week, the Eagles host the Miami Dolphins in prime time on Sunday Night Football, before hitting the road against the Washington Commanders, returning home against the Dallas Cowboys, traveling to Kansas City for a Super Bowl LVII rematch against the Chiefs before returning to Lincoln Financial Field to host the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers in consecutive weeks prior to taking on the Cowboys and Seahawks in back-to-back road contests.
Philadelphia's opponents over the next eight weeks boast a combined 27-12, and overall, the Eagles' remaining schedule is the sixth-toughest in the NFL.
How Hurts and the Eagles respond next week, and navigate the upcoming gauntlet, could very well decide how the NFC bracket ultimately shapes up. Especially with the Lions charging, and 49ers looming, Philadelphia has little margin for error from here on out.
Some inside the league are preaching patience, when it comes to Philadelphia.
"They'll be fine," an AFC Scout told FanBuzz. "Get everyone back on defense and they'll be ready. Bad games happen. Not too big a deal, in my opinion."
Here's a look at the biggest takeaways, storylines, and awards from Week 6 of the NFL season, with insight from sources from around the league:
1st Down: Browns' Defensive Talent Rises to The Occasion
From even before the opening kickoff, the Cleveland Browns took the fight to the previously unbeaten 49ers, and by game's end sent the NFC West leaders home with their first loss of the season.
Jim Schwartz's defense dominated the day, a rainy and miserable afternoon on the banks of Lake Erie.
The Browns' defense held Cinderella quarterback Brock Purdy to just 125 yards with one touchdown and one interception, keeping the 49ers to a mere 215 yards of total offense, while leading the charge in a 19-17 win.
Along the way, San Francisco lost wide receiver Deebo Samuel to a shoulder injury and MVP caliber running back Christian McCaffrey to an oblique injury on what was just a disastrous afternoon for the 49ers. McCaffrey and Samuel's status for coming weeks is far more worrisome than the outcome of Sunday's game.
But, Cleveland's defense was the definition of dominant during the second half.
Schwartz's unit forced punts on four of the 49ers' seven possessions after halftime, after picking Purdy off on the 49ers' first drive after the break.
Schwartz's defense has been the definition of a steadying force, not just Sunday but over past several weeks, as the Browns have been struggling to find an offensive identity with quarterback Deshaun Watson dealing with a shoulder injury that pressed P.J. Walker into action Sunday afternoon.
The Browns entered Sunday as the league's leading defense, allowing just 196.8 yards of total offense per game, the stingiest passing defense in the NFL, and the league's fourth-rated rushing defense, to boot.
"More than anything else the Browns' talent on defense is reaching their prime years," an AFC South executive told FanBuzz Sunday evening. "And, that's huge, because as solid as Schwartz is, the talent across the board on that defense is really good."
For San Francisco, Sunday's game must serve as a wakeup call.
Yes, losing McCaffrey and Samuel are significant to the 49ers' identity and how this team rattled off a 15-game winning streak dating back to last season. But, head coach Kyle Shanahan never really adjusted Sunday, remaining steadfastly committed to trying to run the football, despite Schwartz's defense holding the Niners to 4.3 yards per rush.
Whether hubris, or a belief that Purdy would be limited by the conditions, Shanahan's inability to pivot in-game against such a stingy rushing offense is a concern for the 49ers from here.
Meanwhile, just one game separating the Baltimore Ravens from the rest of the division, if the Browns' defense continues to play at an elite level, Cleveland looks like the type of team that could punch above its weight and make a legitimate postseason run.
2nd Down: Maxx Crosby Solidifying Reputation as Game-Wrecker
The Raiders have won two in a row, and no one has been more instrumental to Vegas' winning streak than defensive end Maxx Crosby.
In the waning seconds of Sunday's game against the New England Patriots, Crosby came screaming off the edge, sacking Mac Jones for a safety to seal the Raiders' 21-17 victory.
— Logan Reever (@loganreever) October 16, 2023
A case can be made that Crosby is the most consistently disruptive edge-rusher in the entire league.
"He defeats every possible block before it happens," NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger told FanBuzz. "He has rare conditioning reflexes and instincts."
The 26-year-old Crosby entered Sunday with five sacks and 34 pressures, and two games that he very nearly single-handedly decided the outcome of, in the span of six days.
Against the Green Bay Packers in Week 5, Crosby harassed Packers quarterback Jordan Love with relentless pressure all night, finishing with five tackles, four pressures, and one sack before capping Sunday's victory with a sack, and seven total tackles.
"The great ones," Crosby told reporters at his locker following Sunday's victory. "The Jordans, the Kobes, they're always in the zone. Whatever that is, whatever I have to do to get to that, by game day, that's what you have to solve to stay at the top and be at the highest-level."
Beyond flash plays, Crosby's impact stems from his consistency, which is even more remarkable when you consider that entering Sunday he played every single defensive snap each of the past two weeks, and appeared in at least 95 percent of the Raiders' snaps in four of the first five weeks.
"I'm constantly searching to be in the zone at all times," Crosby explained. "At practice, the weight room, and directly on Sundays, when I'm out on the field. Yeah, you're in the zone, it comes from preparation, mental strength, and mental fortitude to be consistent with everything you do in preparation leading up to [the game]."
3rd Down: Bengals' Defense Flexing Its Muscle
The Bengals' resurgence from a sluggish start to the 2023 campaign continued Sunday afternoon against Seattle, led on this particular Sunday by Lou Anarumo's defense.
With the Bengals leading 17-13 with 2:05 remaining, Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith dropped back, looking into the end zone on 4th down and 6 from the six-yard line trying to take the lead. That is, until the Bengals swarmed, the pocket collapsed around Smith, and Sam Hubbard sacked him to give Burrow's Bengals the chance to close out the game.
Even after Cincy's offense went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, of course the outcome hinged on the defense's ability to slam the door on 4th down and 8 from the 9-yard line. And, of course, defensive tackle B.J. Hill slammed Smith to the turf to force an incompletion and close out the 17-13 victory.
This is who the Bengals are, it's how they have won in recent years, and it was the defense that made play after play to preserve Cincinnati's latest victory.
Cam Taylor-Britt, one week removed from his first career interception return for a touchdown, broke in front of Seahawks All-Pro wide receiver Tyler Lockett to bat the pass away along the goal-line to hold Seattle to a field goal with 2:31 remaining in the third quarter.
The play was emblematic of Cincinnati's defensive success in big moments on Sunday.
Then, on the Seahawks' next possession, Taylor-Britt intercepted Geno Smith.
While Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, and Joe Mixon garner the headlines and the acclaim, Anarumo's defense has been among the best in the league over the past two seasons, especially deep in its own territory.
As The Athletic points out, the Bengals have allowed touchdowns in goal-to-go situations 39 percent of goal-to-go snaps over the past two years, a full 21 percentage points better than the second-best Denver Broncos. On average, defenses give up touchdowns in goal-to-go situations at a 70 percent clip.
Against Seattle, Anarmuo's troops surrendered just one touchdown in four Seahawks trips inside the 10-yard line.
Now back to .500, and within striking distance of the Ravens atop the AFC North, the Bengals are charging back into the postseason conversation.
If Cincinnati's defense continues to play at this level, they are going to be a difficult out the rest of the way.
4th Down: Chicago Bears Suffer Two Disastrous Losses to Vikings
The Chicago Bears entered Sunday's NFC North battle against the Minnesota Vikings believing they had turned a corner and walked off the field afterwards with more questions than ever.
As if falling to the Vikings, who without Justin Jefferson now face a bit of an identity crisis ahead of the Oct. 31 trade deadline, weren't bad enough, Chicago also lost quarterback Justin Fields to a hand injury.
Sunday's disappointment followed a two-week stretch that saw the Bears topple the Washington Commanders 40-20 and come three points shy of beating the Denver Broncos, despite showing serious signs of life in Week 4. Over that stretch, Fields passed for 617 yards with eight touchdowns to one interception while adding 82 rushing yards.
Just as Fields appeared to potentially be turning a corner, appearing to show meaningful growth in terms of patience and accuracy from the pocket, the 24-year-old's injury casts legitimate doubt about his future with the Bears.
Every snap that Fields misses this season due to injury limits Poles and the Bears' ability to make a reasonable evaluation over whether he has enough upside to commit to for the long-term and invest almost historic draft capital in building around.
Bear in mind that general manager Ryan Poles did not draft Fields, and that Chicago owns both their own selection, and the Carolina Panthers' first-round pick in next April's NFL Draft. If the regular season ended today, the Bears would be picking No. 1 and No. 2 overall, with their pick of potential franchise quarterbacks Caleb Williams and Drake Maye.
Even before getting hurt, Fields' 2023 campaign has been underwhelming. Fields has completed 61.7 percent of his passes this season for 1,201 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions, leading the Bears to a colossally disappointing 1-5 start. If Fields doesn't start stacking wins, doesn't show significant growth, the Bears might not have any choice but to move on. Depending on the severity of his injury, Fields might not even have a chance to fully make his case.
Team of The Week: New York Jets
The Jets' victory over the Eagles was even more impressive when you consider what New York was up against.
Both starting cornerbacks, 'Sauce' Gardner and D.J. Reed were out, and the Jets still intercepted Hurts three times, and sacked him twice. Sunday very much had the feel of a statement game and an opportunity for Robert Saleh's defense to flex its muscles against one of the top quarterbacks in the league after previously making life miserable on Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Russell Wilson.
"Through these first six weeks, we've played a gauntlet of quarterbacks," Saleh told reporters. "I know we haven't gotten all wins, but we've embarrassed all of them."
Beyond a dominant defensive performance, the Jets walked out of MetLife Sunday evening victorious despite quarterback Zach Wilson passing for only 186 yards and the offense accounting for just one touchdown.
If the Jets' defense plays like that this is a team capable of playing the role of spoiler, and perhaps more.
Week 6 MVP: Raheem Mostert, RB, Miami Dolphins
No De'Von Achane, no problem for the Miami Dolphins, as Raheem Mostert's career-season continued Sunday afternoon against the Carolina Panthers, paving the way to a 42-21 win.
For the second time this season, Mostert surpassed 100 yards rushing. Against the Panthers, Mostert finished with 155 yards and two rushing touchdowns, while catching all three of his targets in the passing game for 17 yards and another score. Sunday marked Mostert's third multi-touchdown game of the season.
Mostert wasn't just a driving force Sunday, but a steadying one. After the Dolphins fell behind 14-0, it was Mostert who Tua Tagovailoa hit for a three-yard touchdown pass to get Miami on the board and ignite a run of 35 unanswered points for the Dolphins, of which the running back accounted for 21 of.
"First and foremost, I got to contribute to the guys up front," Mostert told reporters. "They make it a little bit easier and also receivers and pretty much everybody in the offense to help out with that cause. But I'm just trying to do something remarkable for myself, and I'm just trying to set the standard not only for myself but a lot of people who come in as an undrafted guy. Year nine now, so it's truly a blessing and a dream."
Sunday wasn't just the latest example of Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel knowing exactly how to get the most out of Mostert, from their time together dating back to 2017 with the San Francisco 49ers, but also that even without Achane this ground attack with Mostert as its focal point can exact a pound of flesh — or more, from opposing defenses.
Week 6 Breakout Star: Jameson Williams, WR, Detroit Lions
Safe to say, the Detroit Lions have found their field-stretcher.
Second-year wide receiver Jameson Williams, playing his second game of the season after returning from a suspension for violating the NFL's gambling policy, got behind the Buccaneers' secondary and broke loose to pull down a 45-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff with Tampa safety Ryan Neal draped all over him at the goal-line.
According to NFL Next-Gen Stats, Williams had just 0.7 yards of separation against Neal, and a mere 26.2 percent probability of actually pulling down the catch. Maybe most impressive is the fact that while Williams has caught just five passes in his career, two of them have been deep touchdowns, with the other coming on a 41-yard touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings last season.
Detroit's offense is built to bludgeon opponents on the ground, which could take a hit with running back David Montgomery suffering a rib injury against the Buccaneers, and the passing game increasingly funneled over the middle to rookie tight end Sam LaPort and receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds. But, Williams' emergence not just creates optionality for Goff but could create even more space underneath for the Lions' other weapons to operate.
More than anything, Williams' game-altering speed has the potential to be transformational for the Lions' offense.
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