Bengals 45, Bears 10
' decision to retool the running game in the offseason is paying huge dividends for the
. Cincinnati has been able to successfully pound Cedric Benson between the tackles, and the emergence of its rushing attack has made the offense nearly impossible to stop. Against the
, the running game offered an effective counter to the two-deep coverage used on early downs. With only seven defenders in the box, Benson repeatedly found bubbles along the line of scrimmage and busted a series of big runs in the first half. With the established, the
were able to routinely throw down the middle of the field off play-action. Chad Ochocinco and
frequently hooked up on square-ins and digs as the
were unable to muster much of a pass rush after falling for the run fakes. The offense is starting to hit its stride and Cincinnati's formidable ground game has been the key.
Saints 46, Dolphins 34
After watching the
suffocate their aerial attack with a combination of blitzing and press coverage, the
turned to Jeremy Shockey.
exploited Shockey's matchup with
to loosen Miami's tight coverage. By frequently targeting Shockey over the middle, Brees eventually diverted some of the attention away from the outside receivers and opened up the field for
and Devery Henderson. New Orleans' passing game has been lauded for its versatility and depth, and those factors enabled the
to overcome a defense that seemingly had an answer for their wide-open tactics.
Packers 31, Browns 3
put together another balanced offensive showing against the
orchestrated a dynamic attack that took advantage of Cleveland's soft coverage with a variety of short and intermediate routes. The quick, high percentage throws allowed Rodgers to get the ball to his playmakers and, in turn, the receivers gobbled up chunks of yardage after the catch. The
complemented the low-risk tactic by repeatedly running Ryan Grant between the tackles. He gained 148 yards on 27 carries, which helped the
dominate the critical time of possession battle 35:54 to 24:06.
Texans 24, 49ers 21
lost a close one in Houston, they may have found a remedy to their offensive woes in
. The former No.1 overall pick was sensational in the second half against the
and the offense finally looked like a potent unit under his direction. Smith connected on 15 of 22 for 206 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. He made quick decisions in the pocket and pushed the ball up the field while showing excellent accuracy. In addition, he appeared to have great chemistry with Michael Crabtree and
. With the trio showing promise, the
may have uncovered a suitable complement to
and their formidable running game.
Chargers 37, Chiefs 7
' defense revved up its pass rush to dismantle the
called a variety five-man overload pressures with their safety (
) blitzing off the edge out of both the nickel and dime packages. The increased use of the blitz resulted in four sacks and three interceptions. In addition, the constant harassment resulted in
completing on only 10 of 25 for 97 yards. Although he tossed a touchdown to
, Cassel never found a rhythm and the
rarely challenged a secondary that had been maddeningly inconsistent heading into the game. Coaches always talk about a pass rush improving a team's coverage, but the
' performance against the
clearly validates the theory.
Colts 42, Rams 6
The offense continues to grab all of the headlines for the
, but it is their defense that continues to lead the way. The unit harassed Marc Bulger all day on the way to recording three sacks. Whereas most teams opt to blitz five and six defenders to create pressure, the
were able to generate consistent heat with their front four. The ability to rush with only its defensive line allowed Indianapolis to use an assortment of zone coverage to suffocate St. Louis' passing game. With two interceptions and allowing just 117 net yards passing, the combination of pressure and coverage worked to perfection.
Patriots 35, Buccaneers 7
The offense is beginning to show the potency that most expected with the return of
rolled up 414 yards of total offense and tallied 28 points against an overmatched defense. The impressive showing was keyed by the coaching staff's decision to move around their personnel in various formations to exploit favorable perimeter matchups. The team cycled from conventional two-back formations to empty sets to get their playmakers in one-on-one situations against Tampa Bay's linebackers. Sam Aiken's 54-yard touchdown was the result of him racing past Barrett Ruud in coverage. Ben Watson's 35-yard touchdown reception was a byproduct of the
emptying the backfield to get their athletic tight end in single coverage against the
. Throw in the numerous bubble screens and quick passes to
and the varied attack slowed down the Bucs' aggressive defense. With their offense starting to hit its stride, the
are beginning to reemerge as a serious contender in the AFC.
Steelers 27, Vikings 17
' opportunistic defense shined in a big win over the
. The unit recorded four sacks and forced two fourth-quarter turnovers that were returned for touchdowns. In addition to producing 14 points, the defense contained
(18 rushes for 69 yards with one score) and forced the
into a one-dimensional attack that put the onus on Brett Favre. While he had 334 yards passing, the
were able to force the
away from their strength by relentlessly blitzing on early downs to force long-yardage situations. Pittsburgh's defense has been overshadowed for most of the season, but the outstanding performance against Minnesota shows that the unit remains the class of the league.
Bills 20, Panthers 9
The defense continues to carry the
by coming up with timely turnovers. The scrappy unit forced four turnovers against the
and only surrendered nine points. The success in those two categories continues a theme that has been an emphasis of
since his days as a defensive coordinator in Jacksonville. The veteran coach has always believed that yards allowed is an overrated stat and that good defenses are judged by their ability to keep opponents out of the end zone while forcing critical turnovers. The
converted their four takeaways into 17 points, which was the difference in a game that will look like a lopsided win on for the
on the stat sheet.
Jets 38, Raiders 0
finally pulled the plug on JaMarcus Russell after the former No. 1 pick turned the ball over three times in the first half. The abysmal start led to 14 points for the
, a deficit too much to overcome for the
. Although the insertion of
did little to ignite the offense, Russell had to be benched to maintain a level of accountability within the locker room. Now, the challenge falls to Russell to pick himself up and show his teammates that he has the moxie to be the leader of the franchise for the foreseeable future. How well Russell handles this bout of adversity could determine Oakland's fate for this season and beyond.
Cowboys 37, Falcons 21
The emergence of
has given the
the playmaker they desperately needed in the passing game. He caught six passes for 171 yard with two touchdowns and is quickly becoming the team's No.1 receiver. Austin has not only given Dallas more speed on the outside, but he is making plays over the middle of the field on an assortment of intermediate routes. Whereas Roy Williams was expected to do most of the damage in those areas, it has been Austin handling the bulk of the dirty work the past two weeks.
Cardinals 24, Giants 17
used some unconventional methods to disrupt the
' offense. Operating out of their hybrid 3-4 defense, the
with a host of five-man blitzes to keep
off balance. The
cleverly varied their attack points on the pressure package, and often sent a combination of overload pressures to hurry Manning's throws. The
also mixed in some three-man rushes, dropping eight defenders into coverage to shrink the passing windows. This constant switching kept Manning out of sorts, resulting in his dismal passing performance. The
' defense has started to come on in recent weeks, and their stellar performance against the
sent a message to the rest of the NFC that they will not relinquish their NFC crown easily.
Seven from Sunday
A look at seven statistical highlights from games played during the seventh week of the 2009 season.
» There were three return touchdowns of at least 75 yards in the fourth quarter of
Pittsburgh's 27-17 win over Minnesota
a 77-yard fumble return
an 88-yard kickoff return
and Pittsburgh linebacker Keyaron Fox had
an 82-yard interception return
. It marked the first time in NFL history that a game featured three return touchdowns of at least 75 yards in the fourth quarter.
New England Patriots
defeated Tampa Bay 35-7
NFL International Series
game in London, England, have won 17 consecutive regular-season games against the NFC, the longest winning streak any team has posted against the opposite conference since the 1970 merger.
Over the last two weeks, the
had a streak of 80 unanswered points, the most consecutive points by a team since Buffalo scored 86 in a row in 1992.
New York Jets
rushed for 316 yards in
a 38-0 win at Oakland
, who rushed for 318 yards last week, are the second team since 1960 to record at least 300 rushing yards in consecutive games in a season (Buffalo, 1975).
» Indianapolis quarterback
completed 23 of 34 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns in
the Colts' 42-6 win at St. Louis
. Manning now has 3,995 completions and passed Pro Football
Hall of Fame
(3,988) to move into fourth place all-time.
Manning has completed 3,995 of 6,175 career passes for a 64.7 completion percentage, the highest mark of any quarterback with at least 2,500 completions.
» Houston wide receiver
had 62 receiving yards in
the Texans' 24-21 win over San Francisco
. Johnson, who now has 7,013 career receiving yards, reached the 7,000-yard mark in his 93rd game, tying Chad Ochocinco for the seventh-fewest games to reach the milestone.
» New Orleans safety Darren Sharper had
a 42-yard interception-return touchdown
the Saints' 46-34 win at Miami
. Sharper has 11 career interception-return touchdowns, the second-most in NFL history behind
Pro Football Hall of Fame
's 12. Sharper has three interception-return touchdowns this year, tied for the fourth-most in a season.
» Indianapolis rookie head coach
improved to 6-0 with
the Colts' win over St. Louis
. Caldwell tied the best start by a rookie head coach since 1970 and combined with Denver's
to become the first pair of rookie head coaches to each start 6-0 in the same season since the merger.
Caldwell is only the fourth head coach in NFL history to lead his team to a 6-0 start the year after replacing a head coach with at least 100 career regular-season victories (Tony Dungy). McDaniels accomplished the feat last week for the
Eagles at Redskins:
How do the
close out a week rift with controversy? With a prime-time, nationally televised game against an
team still smarting from an upset loss to the
. This all makes for an intriguing 147th meeting between these two teams.
Ahead ... Week 8!
Sunday (all times ET)
Denver at Baltimore
, 1 p.m.
Houston at Buffalo
, 1 p.m.
Cleveland at Chicago
, 1 p.m.
Seattle at Dallas
, 1 p.m.
St. Louis at Detroit
, 1 p.m.
San Francisco at Indianapolis
, 1 p.m.
Miami at N.Y. Jets
, 1 p.m.
N.Y. Giants at Philadelphia
, 1 p.m.
Oakland at San Diego
, 4:05 p.m.
Jacksonville at Tennessee
, 4:05 p.m.
Minnesota at Green Bay
, 4:15 p.m.
Carolina at Arizona
, 4:15 p.m.
Atlanta at New Orleans
, 8:30 p.m.
Cincinnati, Kansas City, New England, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington.