NFL Nation: 2013 Week 6 Upon Further Review AFC

Upon Further Review: Colts Week 6

October, 15, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- A review of four hot issues from the Indianapolis Colts' 19-9 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

The Peyton factor: A legitimate argument can be made that the Colts were looking past the Chargers and ahead to this week's showdown against the undefeated Denver Broncos. I didn't think that would be the case after several players declined to talk about Denver when I asked them last week while trying to work ahead on some stories. San Diego was the only thing they would talk about. But how else can you explain the Colts' stinking worse than a baby's diaper while playing in the national spotlight of "Monday Night Football"? They had way too many self-inflicted wounds. Dropped passes. Missed tackles. Penalties at the wrong time. The Colts beat themselves against the Chargers.

[+] EnlargeTrent Richardson
AP Photo/Denis PoroyTrent Richardson, playing in his fourth game for the Colts, only had 10 carries for 40 yards in the loss at San Diego on Monday night.
No running: Indianapolis arrived at Qualcomm Stadium as the fourth-best rushing team in the league. The Colts walked out of there not only with a loss, but they also dropped to sixth (the same spot they’re at in this week’s Power Rankings) in rushing at 130.7 yards a game. The 72 yards gained on the ground are a season low for them. The Trent Richardson show in the backfield continues to remain in neutral. The running back led the Colts in rushing, but it was nothing you can get excited about because he only gained 40 yards on 10 carries. Richardson is now four games in with the Colts, and it’s time for him to get rolling. "We came in averaging [142 rushing yards] per game," Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "And today they held us under 100. We didn't get ourselves in enough third-and-manageables. We popped ourselves a few, but we were inconsistent.”

Harvey steps in: Let’s quickly get the good news out of the way with linebacker Mario Harvey. He led the Colts with a career-high 10 tackles (nine solo) while stepping in for Jerrell Freeman, who sat out the second half with a concussion. Now the bad news. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers constantly picked on Harvey, who had a difficult time keeping up with San Diego’s tight ends and receivers when matched up against them. The Colts needed Freeman because he’s more athletic than Harvey. “When I first got out there, I didn’t have a feel for them because I just came out at halftime,” Harvey said. “I started picking it up once I got a feel.” The Colts better hope Freeman can pass the league’s concussion protocol, because Denver's Peyton Manning will pick on Harvey every chance he gets -- and there will be a lot of opportunities -- in Sunday's game.

Case of the drops: Not that any time is a good time to have a case of the drops, but the Colts picked a brutal time to have multiple players get hit with the bug. They had four drops, including a key one by tight end Coby Fleener. Indianapolis is the third team to have at least four drops in back-to-back games this season. That stat is alarming when you consider the Colts dropped only two passes total in their first four games. “I don’t know, just dropped the ball," receiver Reggie Wayne said. "That’s all I can tell you. Nobody wants to go out there and drop balls, miss blocks and make penalties. That is part of the game. We have to correct them. We know this was out of the norm for ourselves."
SAN DIEGO -- An examination of four hot issues from the Chargers’ 19-9 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Are the Chargers a playoff team? Denver and Kansas City are both undefeated atop the AFC West at 6-0, making dreams of a division title unrealistic for the Chargers. Still, San Diego (3-3) is only a half-game behind 3-2 Miami for the final AFC wild-card spot. The Chargers have impressive wins over Dallas and Indianapolis at home, and disappointing losses at Oakland and Tennessee. They should (never assume anything with this team) take care of business on the road against winless Jacksonville heading into the bye week. Returning from the bye week, San Diego has three of four games on the road, including trips to Washington and Miami. If the Chargers can get through that tough stretch still hovering around .500, they will have a chance to compete for a playoff spot with four of five games at home to close out the regular season.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesThe San Diego defense kept Andrew Luck uncomfortable for much of Monday's game.
Little brother wins again: Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano continues to get payback for all the roughing up he received from older brother and Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano during their younger years. The younger Pagano put together a good, aggressive scheme that created constant pressure in Andrew Luck’s face, and he's now 8-1 against Chuck when the two teams they coach have faced each other in the NFL. San Diego’s defense had been an area of concern after struggling to stop Terrelle Pryor last week. But even without frontline players Donald Butler and Jarret Johnson, the Chargers executed on defense, holding one of the top-scoring offenses in the NFL to just nine points.

Secondary plays to its potential: San Diego had just one interception heading into the Monday night game against Indianapolis, and that occurred on the first defensive play of the season against Houston, a tipped ball by Johnson hauled in by defensive tackle Cam Thomas. So it was important for cornerback Derek Cox to record his first interception of the year on Luck’s final pass of the night to seal the victory. San Diego’s secondary held Luck to 202 passing yards, no touchdowns and a 66.2 passer rating. The Chargers also were helped by five Indianapolis drops, but for the most part, San Diego’s secondary played tight coverage and made plays on the back end. The return of cornerback Shareece Wright to the starting lineup also seemed to improve the team’s pass coverage.

O-line key to success: With the return of left tackle King Dunlap to the starting lineup, the Chargers rolled out their fifth different starting offensive-line combination in six games. Usually, that’s a bad sign for a unit that depends on cohesion and chemistry for consistent play. But no matter what players rotate in, San Diego’s offensive line has been rock-solid in pass protection and jump-starting the run game. Philip Rivers has been sacked just 10 times in six games. And San Diego’s offensive line helped pave the way for Ryan Mathews to run for more than 100 yards for the first time since December 2011. Offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris created some versatility by having all of the linemen learn different positions, and that should pay dividends in the second half of the season once everyone is healthy up front.

Upon Further Review: Jaguars Week 6

October, 14, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Jacksonville Jaguars' 35-19 loss to Denver Broncos:

Who's the starter? Quarterback Chad Henne completed 27 of 42 passes for 303 yards. He did throw two interceptions, but both came after deflections at the line of scrimmage. Coach Gus Bradley, however, was non-committal about whether Henne would remain the starter even after Blaine Gabbert (strained left hamstring) is cleared to return. “He did some very good things, and that's what he's supposed to do,” Bradley said. “He's supposed to come in and lead our team. He's supposed to come in and make plays. He's supposed to come in and [get] the playmakers the ball, and he did some of those things.” Henne still made some significant mistakes. He missed a wide-open Clay Harbor on the first offensive play. He also could have run for a first down on fourth-and-3 from the Denver 11-yard line but threw behind Justin Blackmon in the end zone. Still, Henne has outplayed Gabbert, who has missed three starts because of injuries, all season.

[+] EnlargeJacksonville's Chad Henne
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesChad Henne passed for 303 yards against Denver, but also had some significant mistakes.
Umbrella coverage: The Jaguars' game plan against Peyton Manning was pretty simple: Play two-deep safeties to eliminate big plays down the field and try to flood the secondary with defenders. It worked pretty well. Manning threw for a season-low 295 yards and two touchdowns and was intercepted for only the second time this season. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Jaguars sent four or fewer rushers on 41 of Manning's 42 dropbacks. They blitzed one time and Manning beat them with a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Julius Thomas. Jaguars defenders limited Broncos receivers to season-low 116 yards after the catch and forced Manning to throw to the running backs a season-high 14 times. The result was a season-low in points, total yards, and passing yards.

Brown contributes: Lost in Justin Blackmon's 14-catch performance was the way receiver Mike Brown filled in for Cecil Shorts, who suffered a sprained right shoulder on the game's third offensive play and did not return. Brown caught four passes for 49 yards, including a 19-yard pass on third-and-20 that put the Jaguars in position to attempt and convert on fourth down. Sunday was Brown's first game since he suffered a fractured bone in his back in the season opener. Brown, a converted quarterback from Liberty, will have to produce like he did against the Broncos if Shorts, the team's leading receiver (31 catches), is out for an extended period.

Dead zone: The Jaguars' struggles inside the red zone continue. They scored only one TD in three trips. It was a mix of play-calling and bad decisions that doomed the latter two trips. Henne was penalized for delay of game and then offensive coordinator Jed Fisch called a sweep to the short side of the field. Those plays moved the ball from the 4 to the 12. Henne could have run for a first down on their last trip but instead threw behind Blackmon.

Upon Further Review: Broncos Week 6

October, 14, 2013
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- A review of four hot issues from the Denver Broncos' 35-19 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars:

[+] EnlargeChamp Bailey
Chris Humphreys/USA TODAY SportsThe Denver Broncos could use the veteran experience of cornerback Champ Bailey, who returned to the secondary Sunday for the first time this season.
Air defenses: The Broncos got cornerback Champ Bailey back Sunday, and linebacker Von Miller, who returns next week, says he’s ready to be the impact player he was before his six-game suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse program. During their absences, opposing quarterbacks have found room to work in these pass-happy times. The Jaguars' Chad Henne had the fourth 300-yard passing game the Broncos have surrendered this season -- he’s 29th among league starters in passing yards. In the past two games, the Broncos have surrendered 809 passing yards and registered three interceptions. Last season, the Broncos did not surrender a 300-yard passing game until their playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens in January, when Joe Flacco threw for 331 yards in the Ravens' win.

More pressure: To that end, the Broncos have to find a way to consistently pressure opposing passers. Miller should help if he has done the work he and those around him keep saying he’s done, but Malik Jackson had both Broncos sacks Sunday, and the two plays came during the same series in the third quarter. And that was against a battered Jaguars offensive line that has surrendered the fourth-most sacks in the league (22) after Sunday’s games.

Catch-and-run: With defenses consistently dropping at least seven players into coverage, including linebackers often sprinting away from the line of scrimmage at the snap, the Broncos have picked their spots and still found big plays. Quarterback Peyton Manning has been patient much of the time with at least 15 completions of 10 or fewer yards in each of the past five games and at least 18 completions of 10 or fewer yards in four of those games, including Sunday, when he had 19 completions of 10 or fewer yards against the Jaguars. Yet, the Broncos still lead the league with a gaudy 8.7 yards per pass attempt.

Power up: The Broncos again showed they can go big on offense, with two- and three-tight-end sets effectively moving the ball. After right tackle Orlando Franklin left the game in the third quarter, the Broncos used tight ends Julius Thomas, Joel Dreessen, Virgil Green and Jacob Tamme in a variety of situations, including a pile of snaps on scoring drives in the third and fourth quarters. Thomas played all 74 snaps on offense against the Jaguars, while Dreessen played a season-high 19 snaps on offense, Green played 15 and Tamme nine. Using more of these sets may be something the Broncos give a long look at since Franklin is expected to miss several weeks.

Upon Further Review: Browns Week 6

October, 14, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Cleveland Browns' 31-17 loss to the Detroit Lions:

[+] EnlargeBrandon Weeden
Ron Schwane/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Brandon Weeden played well at times on Sunday but wasn't able to lead Cleveland to its fourth straight victory.
Quick change: Things change in a hurry in the NFL. One week ago, the Browns were fresh off a win over Buffalo, Brandon Weeden had completed some big passes in relief of Brian Hoyer and a home game separated them from four wins in a row. But instead of heading into a tough three-game stretch with a 4-2 record, the Browns looked bad in losing and now wonder where they’ll be after playing Green Bay, Kansas City and Baltimore before the bye. That’s life in the league among most of the teams not named Denver or Jacksonville. One loss, or win, changes much in a hurry.

Quarterback quandary: When Rob Chudzinski was asked last week why he believed the Browns could get Weeden ready to play, he said, “Because we have no choice.” Weeden had a good first half, but did little besides throw a pass for the follies reel that cost the Browns their last and best chance to stay in the game. The options that remain for the Browns are few -- neither Hoyer nor Brian Sipe is walking through that door. The Browns still have no choice, but nobody could blame them if they have a little less faith.

On film: NFL teams study what others do carefully, and the Browns now have a defensive weakness on film. The Lions took advantage of inside linebacker Craig Robertson in the pass game, and didn’t even try to hide it afterward. There were times Robertson was a step slow, but there were also times he was there and the Lions simply made the play, while he did not. Robertson is a dedicated player, a hard worker and after the game stood up to what happened. But the Browns may need an alternate plan on defense if they want to play more man coverage.

Shared duties: Tashaun Gipson admitted what everyone knew: The defense isn’t helped when the offense has 5 yards and no first downs in the third quarter. Not because the defense gets tired (why wouldn’t the other team’s offense get just as tired?), but because the lack of offensive production puts more pressure on the defense to be perfect. The Browns' second-half offensive struggles were exacerbated by the fact that the Browns' defense could not get off the field -- the Lions were 6-for-7 on third downs. Symmetry wins. The Browns had it in some games, but not against Detroit.

Upon Further Review: Raiders Week 6

October, 14, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Oakland Raiders24-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
AP Photo/Reed HoffmannDespite what the numbers said, Terrelle Pryor maintained, "I didn't take a beating."
Growing up? Terrelle Pryor was sacked 10 times, and the Chiefs registered 14 quarterback hits on him. Pryor carried the ball six times and gained 60 yards, but he was also picked off three times, and those interceptions resulted in 17 points for the Chiefs. You could say Pryor took a physical, as well as a mental, beating, no? “I didn’t take a beating,” he said. “I’m a big man, a grown man. They just tackled me. They got me and they made great plays. It was not a beating, though.” For what it’s worth, Pryor is listed at 6-foot-4 and 233 pounds. But you have to wonder how he rebounds from the biggest, ahem, beating of his young NFL career.

More SeaBass drama: Sebastian Janikowski has now missed more field goals (four) in six games than he did all of last season (three). And each of the left-footed kicker’s misses have come from the left hashmark. “I don’t know what the deal is with that there,” said long-snapper Jon Condo. “I mean, it’s probably just more coincidence.” Sunday’s miss, from 51 yards, was short after he seemed to stub his toe on the grass. “Right as soon as he kicks it, I can tell if he strikes it good, and I knew, I heard it,” Condo added. “Even the ball flight, you saw it kind of got up. The wind was coming the opposite way, and the rotation on it, we didn’t get a drive.”

Missed opportunities: The Raiders are rebuilding, no doubt, but they still need to learn how to tighten their grip. Two crucial mistakes cost them in the first half. First was Janikowski’s missed field-goal attempt with 12:26 to play in the first half. One series later, Pryor hit Denarius Moore for a 39-yard touchdown, meaning that had Janikowski connected earlier, the Raiders could've been looking at a 10-0 lead with their defense dominating. At least until Mistake No. 2: D.J. Hayden’s pass-interference penalty while covering Dwayne Bowe on third-and-10 from the Oakland 24-yard line. Hayden never turned to look for the ball. Kansas City went on to score a touchdown, and so what could've been a 10-3 halftime lead for Oakland was instead a 7-7 tie.

Of explosive plays VI: And now for our weekly tracking of “explosive” plays. As deemed by coach Dennis Allen, such a play is one that gains at least 16 yards through the air or 12 yards on the ground. The Raiders had five such plays against Kansas City (two runs and three passes), while the Chiefs had three explosive plays (one run and two passes). In six games, the Raiders have 45 explosive plays (15 runs, 30 passes), with one TD on a run and four passing scores. Oakland’s opponents, meanwhile, have 41 explosive plays combined (nine runs and 32 passes) with a touchdown each running and passing.

Upon Further Review: Chiefs Week 6

October, 14, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Kansas City Chiefs' 24-7 win against the Oakland Raiders:
[+] EnlargeJamaal Charles
Denny Medley/USA TODAY SportsThanks to running back Jamaal Charles, the Chiefs' offense continues to hum along. But what happens if Charles isn't scoring touchdowns?
Too much Charles, Part I: Running back Jamaal Charles supplied 128 of the Chiefs’ 216 yards and both of their offensive touchdowns. Otherwise, the Chiefs produced next to nothing offensively, a troubling development for a team trying to identify reliable offensive threats in addition to Charles. The Chiefs had trouble handling the Oakland defensive front, the result being consistent pressure on quarterback Alex Smith. He completed just 14-of-31 for 128 yards, and his season completion percentage slipped to a feeble 56.5. Smith hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in the past two weeks. The Chiefs can survive with such meager offensive production as long as their defense continues to strangle opponents. If the day comes when the defense collapses, the Chiefs appear headed for trouble.

Too much Charles, Part II: Another offensive failure has been the inability of rookie RB Knile Davis or RB Cyrus Gray to develop into players who can produce while Charles gets some rest. Davis was in for one snap against Oakland and fumbled after catching a short pass. The Chiefs are understandably fearful of using Davis; given his fumbles, lining up in the wrong place, and running the wrong play, he is completely unreliable. Gray didn’t play at all on offense. He isn’t as much of a threat as Charles, particularly in the running game. But Gray is a dependable receiver and solid pass protector who should get a few snaps in the hopes of preserving Charles for an entire season.

Catching Houston: The team sack race appeared over after three games when one outside linebacker, Justin Houston, had 7.5 sacks while the other, Tamba Hali, had just 1. But Hali, after sacking Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor 3.5 times on Sunday, is within range of Houston. Houston has 9.5 sacks, which is tied for the NFL lead with Robert Mathis of Indianapolis. Hali is fourth at 7.5. The Chiefs lead the NFL with 31 sacks.

Winning the turnover battle: The Chiefs forced three turnovers and the Raiders one, leaving the Chiefs at plus-12 in turnover differential for the season. Don’t overlook the importance of that statistic in the Chiefs' 6-0 record. The Chiefs and the sluggish offense have benefited from favorable field position several times this season, while the defense has rarely been put in bad spots. The Chiefs have won the turnover battle in every game except against the New York Giants, in which both teams turned the ball over three times.

Upon Further Review: Jets Week 6

October, 14, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the New York Jets' 19-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers:
[+] EnlargeAntonio Cromartie
Seth Wenig/AP PhotoSteelers WR Emmanuel Sanders flips into the end zone for a touchdown as Jets CB Antonio Cromartie chases him in the second half.

A tale of two throws: This might be an oversimplification, but you could say the game came down to two wide-open passes. Ben Roethlisberger made his, Geno Smith didn't. In the second quarter, Smith wasted a great opportunity, overthrowing Stephen Hill (51 air yards) on what should've been a 77-yard touchdown. Hill, showing his vertical speed, blew past CB Ike Taylor and S Troy Polamalu, the only time the Steelers' aging secondary looked embarrassingly slow. A touchdown in that spot would've given the Jets a 10-6 lead, changing the complexion of the game. The misfire was emblematic of the type of day it was for the rookie, who completed only 2 of 10 passes of 15 yards or longer. Meanwhile, Big Ben capitalized on his chance, hitting a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders (35 air yards) for a 55-yard touchdown to make it 16-6 in the third quarter. Roethlisberger showed why he's a two-time Super Bowl champion. Smith showed his inexperience.

What's up with Cro?: This was another subpar performance for CB Antonio Cromartie, who allowed the long touchdown pass and was called for a 25-yard pass interference. This has to concern the Jets because they assumed Cromartie, coming off a Pro Bowl season, would be able to hold down the No. 1 corner job for the second straight year. It's one of the reasons why they felt good about trading Darrelle Revis. According to the Pro Football Focus ratings, Cromartie is ranked 101st among 103 cornerbacks. He has been targeted 41 times, tied for the fifth-highest total, and has surrendered three touchdowns. Interestingly, Roethlisberger went after Cromartie more than anyone else in the Jets' secondary. In case you're wondering, who is PFF's No. 1-rated corner? It's Revis.

Open the screen door: Opponents have discovered the Achilles' heel of the Jets' defense -- short, quick passes, neutralizing their pass rush. The Steelers staged a clinic on screen passes, throwing no fewer than 10, mostly bubble screens to wide receivers. The Jets should've expected this, as the Steelers used 10 screens in their previous game against the Minnesota Vikings. Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman have to figure out a way to stop the trend, because the defense is getting sliced and diced. In the past three games, Jake Locker, Matt Ryan and Roethlisberger have completed 77 of 99 attempts for 732 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. That's a 117.7 passer rating. For a defense, that stinks.

What happened to MartyBall? Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, widely praised for his aggressive play calling in the first five games, got conservative. In the first half, he called 12 runs and 14 pass plays -- and the pass plays were of the dink-and-dunk variety. Ryan acknowledged the Jets tried to run the ball, perhaps thinking they could exploit the Steelers' 25th-rated run defense. Actually, their run defense is a lot better than the ranking, as the Jets discovered. Clearly, Mornhinweg has become more cautious with Smith over the past two games, perhaps because of a directive from Ryan in the aftermath of the Tennessee debacle. It worked against the Atlanta Falcons, but Smith struggled against a Pittsburgh defense that was determined to eliminate the deep strike.

Upon Further Review: Texans Week 6

October, 14, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Houston Texans' 38-13 loss to the St. Louis Rams:

[+] EnlargeSt. Louis' Alec Ogletree
Scott Halleran/Getty ImagesAlec Ogletree returns an interception 98 yards for a touchdown against the Texans.
On the return game: Texans safety Danieal Manning suffered a hyperextended knee against the Rams and is having an MRI on Monday. It looks gruesome in this screen grab. Manning handled kickoff returns for the first time this season while Shiloh Keo handled punt returns. The Texans opted for the two of them instead of Keshawn Martin. Martin was questionable for the game, but did have a role in the Texans' offense. Once Manning left the game with his injury, Martin became the returner again and gave up a costly fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Not a good play from Martin, but it wasn't all his fault. The blocking on that play was lacking and should take a hefty chunk of the blame.

Turnover margin continues to tumble: The Texans entered the game with a minus-8 turnover margin. That has fallen to minus-12. I know the whole playoff discussion is far down the list of things to worry about with this team, but as I don't believe the season is lost just yet, I'll address it here. Most playoff teams have positive turnover margins. It's rare for teams to make the playoffs with negative double-digit turnover margins. I analyzed this with the help of ESPN Stats & Information here.

Yards allowed still low: I was surprised to see this, but the Texans' defense allowed only 216 yards of total offense on Sunday. Think about that. They gave up two 80-yard drives and a 65-yard drive, which included penalties, and still allowed only 216 yards of total offense, well below their season average. Two season-long themes persisted. The Rams' red-zone efficiency was perfect. They entered the red zone three times and scored touchdowns every time. (Meanwhile, the Texans' offense entered the red zone six times and scored one touchdown.) And the Texans did not force any turnovers.

Is it the coaching? After Sunday's game, several Texans players said their losing streak is not head coach Gary Kubiak's fault. "He can’t control penalties and turnovers; that’s on us as football players and men out there battling to get the job done," left tackle Duane Brown said. "It’s not his fault and anybody who says that is wrong." The thing is, penalties and turnovers are related to discipline and that is something coaching can impact. Getting the most out of the talent on the team is also something coaching can impact.

Upon Further Review: Bengals Week 6

October, 14, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Cincinnati Bengals' 27-24 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills:

Dandy Andy: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton has had his share of highlights and lowlights throughout his three-year career. Aside from one second-quarter interception, his performance in Cincinnati's win Sunday was among his career highlights. In his best statistical start since Week 6 of last season, Dalton threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns. It was the first time he had hit the 300-yard passing plateau since the Bengals faced Cleveland this time last year. It also marked the third time since that game that he had thrown three or more touchdown passes. The production earned him his second-highest QBR of the season, a 62.0 rating. Just two weeks ago, he had a season-low 29.7 QBR during a 203-yard passing performance in a 17-6 loss to the Browns.

[+] EnlargeA.J. Green
AP Photo/Gary WiepertYards after the catch by A.J. Green and the Cincinnati receivers played a big role in Sunday's win.
Kings of YAC: One of the reasons Dalton had such a strong day passing the football was that his receivers picked up big yards after their numerous screen, slant and shovel-pass receptions. Of the Bengals' 337 yards receiving, 243 came after the catch. Their average of 9.35 yards after the catch was the highest mark of the season. One example of that style of play came in the first half, when receiver A.J. Green caught a screen pass near the line of scrimmage and sprinted through a hole that formed when a pair of other receivers formed a seal, and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth opened the hole further when he pushed two defenders out of the way. Green picked up 54 of his game-high 103 yards on that play. On that same drive, running back Giovani Bernard caught a short shovel pass from Dalton and juked past a series of defenders for a 20-yard touchdown reception.

Dealing with Thad: All last week the Bengals heard about the unique challenge that Buffalo quarterback Thad Lewis potentially posed. Although he had just been signed off the practice squad last Monday, there were reasons they thought they needed to respect him. They had heard from two of their teammates, linebacker Vincent Rey and defensive end Michael Johnson, about Lewis' big arm and shifty, mobile feet. Rey played with Lewis at Duke four years ago, and Johnson had played against both often while he played at Georgia Tech. With Buffalo's offense being heavy on the zone read while EJ Manuel had been behind center, the Bengals were bracing for Lewis to do much of the same. But once Cincinnati's defense determined it could handle Lewis' ground game, it scrapped those plans and focused on taking away other parts of the Bills' game plan. It worked. Still, Lewis threw for 216 yards and had two touchdowns. He ran for only 17 yards and was sacked five times.

Road warriors: Before Sunday, the road hadn't been very kind to the Bengals, who lost their first two games away from Paul Brown Stadium. With a difficult stretch coming up that includes three of the next four games on the road, the Bengals know they will need to keep up the style of play that made them successful against the Bills.

Upon Further Review: Bills Week 6

October, 14, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Buffalo Bills' 27-24 overtime loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

[+] EnlargeStephon Gilmore
Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY SportsBills CB Stephon Gilmore had a tough time playing in Sunday's game against Cincinnati with his left hand wrapped up.
Flynn in facility: There's no official prognosis on Thad Lewis' injury, which had him in a walking boot after the game. He was not spotted Monday morning, presumably undergoing further tests. As reporters were in the locker room, free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn was working out in the team's field house. "That's the business. Thad played through the injury, but we need to bring guys in so our team can stay strong," wide receiver Stevie Johnson said. "I think it's a good move. We'll see how his workout goes." EJ Manuel, who is dealing with a knee injury, made a brief appearance in the locker room Monday morning and appeared to be moving well.

One-handed Gilmore: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore played just 30 percent of defensive snaps in his return Sunday. Coach Doug Marrone praised Gilmore after the game, saying it was a "tough situation" and Gilmore wasn't "as comfortable as he wants to be." Gilmore wore a large club over his left hand Sunday that left none of his fingers exposed. That caused problems for him as a tackler, and the feeling here is the Bills will continue to limit Gilmore's playing time until he can be more effective. Asked if he would move back to safety with Gilmore returning, Aaron Williams hesitated Monday. "I don't know if I'm going back to safety yet," Williams said. "I feel like Gilmore's still trying to come back to his rhythm. He told [me] that yesterday was awkward for him, especially with a big club like that. It's hard for a cornerback to play with one arm."

Johnson a no-go: Johnson's streak of 53 consecutive games played was snapped Sunday, as was his streak of 48 consecutive starts, which was second among active NFL receivers. Johnson said he first tweaked his lower back against the Ravens in Week 4, and tried to play through it in Week 5, eventually leaving the game. After traveling to California last week, Johnson felt he wasn't sharp enough to make a difference in Sunday's game, had he played. "I was close. Not well enough to be effective," he said. "Unfortunate situation. Me not being able to really focus on the plays and then with how I was feeling in my body, I knew I just wouldn't be a factor in the game." Johnson is optimistic he can play next Sunday.

Bengals' goal-line stand: The Bengals' goal-line stand early in the second quarter, which proved to be a decisive moment in the game, was something the Bills had seen on film from Cincinnati's Week 5 win against the Patriots. "We knew they had a good goal-line defense going in," center Eric Wood said. "We just weren't able to make the plays. Ultimately, that caught up to us, because that changed a lot of the momentum in that point in the game. In an overtime game, all points are crucial." Running back Fred Jackson, who was kept out of the end zone on three straight carries, pinned the failed scoring chance on himself. "That's something that I want to put squarely on my shoulders. I have to make something happen," he said. "As a running back with three opportunities to score on the goal line, you want to put that on yourself. I didn't get the job done, and that's something I need to be motivated about and make sure it doesn't happen again."

Upon Further Review: Ravens Week 6

October, 14, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Baltimore Ravens' 19-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers:

[+] EnlargeRay Rice
Doug Kapustin/MCT via Getty ImagesRay Rice had little success running the ball against the Green Bay Packers.
Running in reverse: The Ravens are averaging 72.7 yards rushing per game, which is the sixth-worst in the NFL. It's the lowest rushing total after six games in the six-year John Harbaugh era, and it's not even close. The previous low was an average of 106.2 yards rushing last season, a difference of 33.5 yards per game. The Ravens are one of only two teams (Jacksonville is the other) gaining fewer than 3 yards per carry (2.7). The running game is suffering because of a lack of explosive plays. Baltimore has two runs over 20 yards and none over 40. Ray Rice's longest run this season is 14 yards. There has been criticism that the Ravens don't stick with the running game long enough, but Baltimore has averaged 26.5 rush attempts per game, which is tied for 16th in the league.

Good stats, bad results: Everyone wants to say quarterback Joe Flacco isn't earning his $120.6 million contract. But consider this: The Ravens are 0-3 when he throws for more than 300 yards this season. Baltimore has come up short when he's had his best passing totals against Denver, Buffalo and Green Bay. Flacco threw for 342 yards against the Packers, 47 yards shy of his career best. What does this mean? Flacco can't carry the team. He is at his best when there is a running game. This trend wasn't always the case. Before this season, the Ravens were 11-1 when Flacco threw for more than 300 yards.

Getting gashed: The Ravens allowed their first 100-yard rusher this year, and rookie Eddie Lacy got over halfway there on two runs. He broke gains of 37 and 17 yards against a Ravens defense that hadn't given up a 20-yard run this season. Baltimore allowed a season-worst 4.7 yards per carry as the Packers hit some big runs after spreading out the Ravens' defense. The Packers were having so much success that they called for runs on 59 percent of their second-half plays, the second-highest percentage for Green Bay in a half over the past three seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Five running backs gained more than 100 yards against the Ravens last season, but Baltimore was 3-2 in those games, including the Super Bowl.

Third-and-out: Without a productive running game on first and second downs, the Ravens haven't had too many reasonable third-down conversions. On Sunday, third downs led to more sacks (three) than first downs (two) for the Ravens. The last time the Ravens converted fewer third downs was last year's 34-17 loss to Denver. On Sunday, the Ravens needed at least 10 yards to convert on nine of their 14 third downs and needed at least 15 yards on four of them. You would have thought the Ravens would look to Torrey Smith in those third-and-long situations. But Smith, who was tied for seventh in the NFL with 10 third-down catches, was targeted only once on third down against the Packers.

Upon Further Review: Patriots Week 6

October, 14, 2013
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A review of four hot issues following the New England Patriots' 30-27 win over the Saints:

[+] EnlargeBrady-Thompkins
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesIt was a memorable day for Boston sports fans, starting with Tom Brady's game-winning drive.
Tom Brady magic: The region is still buzzing after Brady led the Patriots on an improbable 70-yard touchdown drive with 1:13 remaining and no timeouts. When the Boston Red Sox followed up with a dramatic come-from-behind victory at Fenway Park in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, it made Sunday one of the most memorable nights in recent Boston sports history. For the record, it marks the 38th time that Brady has led the Patriots to a victory following a fourth-quarter deficit or tie.

Rob Gronkowski's potential return: The tight end missed his sixth straight game as stories on his recovery and how the team views his status have swirled and been all over the map. Even Gronkowski's mother has chimed in. One thing that owner Robert Kraft and president Jonathan Kraft made clear in interviews Sunday is that they are deferring to Gronkowski. Both said that the organization supports what is in the best long-term interests of Gronkowski.

Injuries to starters piling up: Cornerback Aqib Talib (hip), receiver Danny Amendola (head), right guard Dan Connolly (head) and linebacker Jerod Mayo (right shoulder) didn't finish Sunday's game, as the victory came at a significant physical cost. Their status will be closely watched in the days to come.

Fans leave early: It's not an "issue" directly related to the team, but when the Patriots capped off their comeback victory with seconds left, there was a noticeable number of empty seats inside Gillette Stadium. What's up with that?

Upon Further Review: Titans Week 6

October, 14, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Tennessee Titans' 20-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

One change coming: I don’t expect the Titans to make a big shakeup, though they should be considering Brian Schwenke at center when the bye week arrives. But one change that should arrive this week is the re-emergence of No. 2 running back Shonn Greene. He hurt his knee in the opener and had it scoped. He should practice on Wednesday. The Titans will be equipped to run better against San Francisco with a one-two punch of Chris Johnson and Greene, and if Greene gets on any kind of roll they won’t hesitate to go with the hot hand. They are desperate for a hot hand.

[+] EnlargeTennessee's Ryan Fitzpatrick
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonTitans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been struggling lately.
Doling out consequences: While I am ready for Schwenke, there aren’t viable alternatives at most of the Titans’ trouble spots. Ryan Fitzpatrick is struggling, but he has always been streaky. There is a far better chance he plays better next week than there is that Rusty Smith would play well. And the Titans won’t even consider turning to their No. 3 QB. But that Kenny Britt played, by my count, two snaps, shows that Mike Munchak will take playing time away from a bad performer when he has an alternative.

Repeat mistakes: Brett Kern dropped a second punt snap in a month, which is hard to fathom. Darius Reynaud had a 40-yard kickoff return, but let yet another punt bounce and was lucky to get away with it when it turned into a touchback. Rob Turner sailed a couple more shotgun snaps. Guys making mistakes are the No. 1 people who have to be accountable for those mistakes. But when they make the same mistakes repeatedly, I have to wonder about the message of Munchak and his staff, and about how good they are at correcting things. Do they have guys who don’t get what they are being told, guys who aren’t capable of fixing those things or guys who are just mistake-makers? Whatever the answer, it’s a problem.

Look across the field: The Titans aspire to be a physical team that controls both lines of scrimmage and can impose its will as it runs and stops the run. Well, they just lost to two teams, the Chiefs and Seahawks, who follow that blueprint far better than Tennessee does. And the 49ers are of the same ilk and will be in Nashville on Sunday. The Titans pledged what they were going to be, and we’ve seen it a little bit, particularly in the wins in Pittsburgh and over the Chargers. But we haven’t seen it enough. Never mind fans who heard the identity promises. I wonder what owner Bud Adams thinks about the Titans failure to be who they pledged they’d be when he spent more than $100 million on free agents to help them be it?