Three things we learned from Week 6 of the NFL:
1. The Pack Is Back. Now we know: As long as they have a quarterback such as Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers will remain in the conversation for this season’s Super Bowl. Coming off a stuttering 2-3 start to the year, which included a rough (and ridiculous) loss in Seattle and a complete meltdown last week in Indianapolis, a prime time audience saw the pre-season favorites bounce back to beat the previously undefeated Houston Texans 42-24.
And the symmetry wasn’t just confined to the score but Rodgers himself, who threw for six touchdowns (strangely tying Matt Flynn’s record set at the end of the 2011 regular season, when Rodgers was rested) and completed 24 of 37 passes for 338 yards. Admittedly, the Texans didn’t help themselves. Instead of the Packers punting away their first possession of the game, Houston lined up offside on fourth down, which gave the ball back to Rodgers. Houston, we have a problem: in the blink of an eye, Rodgers found Jordy Nelson for the first of those six TDs and would improve his own line from a 96.9 QB rating to 133.8. From there, it was like a highlight reel, as Rodgers tossed eyecatching scores to the likes of Nelson, Tom Crabtree and James Jones. A hapless Houston will surely point to missing their star linebacker Brian Cushing as well as committing a host of uncharacteristic, untimely penalties, but it’s clear they weren’t ready for primetime. Speaking of which, when Rodgers was asked post-match by NBC’s Michelle Tafoya, “What do you think you told the critics tonight?” his response was short and sweet. “Shhhhhh.”
2. Want To Be a Part of It. While it’s a miserable time to be a New York baseball fan, with the Yankees losing Derek Jeter for the rest of the season and facing elimination from the ALCS (we won’t even discuss what life must be like for a Mets supporter), it was a far better weekend for the football teams. The New York Jets would have been petrified at the prospect of dropping three straight home games, and facing Andrew Luck’s Colts probably didn’t instill much confidence. But with all the talk of how to incorporate a struggling Mark Sanchez and barely seen Tim Tebow at quarterback, the Jets decided to go with a radical new scoring offense as they racked up 35 points to the Colts’s 9. They were indebted to Shonn Greene, who ran for a career-high 161 yards and three touchdowns, Sanchez’s two TD passes and even Tebow, who got involved more than usual. On a fourth-and-11 from the Colts 40, he shaped up as the punt protector. But he took the snap, instead, and threw a jump pass to linebacker Nick Bellore, which was good for 23 yards. Three plays later, Tebow ran 3 yards as QB for a first down, which set up Sanchez’s eventual score to Jason Hill. Tebow met Sanchez by the sideline as they jumped and bumped hips. But will they be doing the same in New England next Sunday?
Over on the West Coast, Eli Manning kept up his dominance of the San Francisco 49ers in a 26-3 blowout. Manning threw for 193 yards and a touchdown but the most impressive part of his line was the completion of eight consecutive passes for 142 yards during the first half. His opposite number, Alex Smith, had a day to forget, as he was intercepted on three occasions and sacked twice as many times.
3. Seattle Surging. When will the Seahawks start to be taken as a serious Super Bowl contender? Not only are they getting lucky breaks this season – a fortuitous final play victory over the Packers will be discussed for years, albeit for the wrong reasons – but have what seems to be the real deal in rookie QB Russell Wilson. His poise led the Seahawks to another comeback victory, this time against the New England Patriots, as he found Sidney Rice for the decisive 46-yard touchdown with just over a minute on the clock. Seattle rallied for 14 points in the final seven and a half minutes to eke out the 24-23 win. In the process, Wilson went 16 of 27 for 293 yards, which was the best performance of his fledgling career, and became the first rookie since the NFL merger to throw two game-winning TD passes in the final two minutes of a game in the same season. The match had been built up as being between the Pats’ no. 1 ranked offense and the Seahawks’s no. 1 defense. But then Wilson went to work and gave Pete Carroll a victory in his first game against the team he coached in the 1990s.