Week 6 in the NFL had interesting storylines, as teams start to separate from each other. Then again, every team in the AFC West lost, so there was no movement in that division. A head coach has a nice problem, but he may be leaning toward the wrong long-term decision. Three quarterbacks that appeared to be next for the hot seat answered the challenge with solid performances.
1. Keep Kolb on the field
I know Andy Reid announced Michael Vick gets the starting job back when he's healthy but things have changed in the past two weeks and it is time to reconsider the decision. Kolb is looking like the next Aaron Rodgers and his two-game winning streak is highlighted by a 326-yard, three-TD day against the Falcons. Atlanta is considered one of the best teams in the NFC. Kolb is four years younger than Vick, he's under a long-term contract and Vick is in the last year of his deal. It seems to make sense to let Kolb keep going with his development. If he fails, bring Vick off the bench. But if Kolb keeps rolling, the long-term future is very bright.
2. Good, smart return for Roethlisberger
I had a long talk with Dan Marino before Roethlisberger took the field for his first real game action since last Jan. 3. That's nine-and-a-half months between games, and Marino explained how the decision making, coverage reading and game fitness issues affected him when he missed significant time during his career and he thought it would be a good idea to bring him back in a conservative plan. Roethlisberger only threw 11 passes in the first half and finished up completing 16 of 27 for 257 yards and 3 touchdowns. Roethlisberger averaged 35 pass plays a game last year and he just wouldn't be ready for that amount of work. Plus, the Steelers reinvented their run game in his absence and it was good to see the team run the ball 57 percent of the time with their franchise QB on the field. In the next few weeks, the pass numbers will naturally go up, but he also proved he doesn't have to get sacked the way he has in the past. No sacks this time against a Browns team that sacked him eight times last year in a late-season loss.
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3. Three QBs respond to the heat
This is a very tough year for NFL quarterbacks and there seems to be a quick hook in many cities. It was great to see Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck, Miami's Chad Henne and even San Francisco's Alex Smith respond to mounting complaints about their recent performances with winning efforts and solid production. These three signal callers combined to go 3-0, completing 64 of 112 passes for 669 yards, five touchdowns, one interception and two sacks. I always appreciate when competitors answer their critics with winning play on the field. What I liked most of all is how all three of them decided to "just let it go."
4. Patriots' plan, post-Moss
Life without Randy Moss on the field wasn't going to be easy. Just because the Patriots didn't win a Super Bowl with Moss in a Patriots uniform doesn't mean he was replaceable. Defenses would set up differently; teams would be encouraged to blitz more, play the run more aggressively and double Wes Welker whenever they wanted to. Well, facing a top-rated defense like the Baltimore Ravens would give us all a real look at the post-Moss plan. The Patriots will still be a passing team, but the run game generated 127 yards at 4.9 yards a clip, which is a perfect complement to the Tom Brady air game. Deion Branch was a brilliant addition, and after one week of practice he let the team with 12 targets. The two rookie tight ends delivered five receptions for 113 yards and young Danny Woodhead is sure starting to look like Kevin Faulk coming out of the backfield. A week ago, it looked as if the Patriots were letting the Jets get away from them in the race for the division title, but once again "In Belichick we trust" is the cry from New England and it looks like the truth.
5. Extra special issues
What would a week in the 2010 season be without a kickoff return for a touchdown? Percy Harvin had a 95-yard return of the second half kickoff and logged the 10th kick return TD of the year. Keep in mind, there were only 13 return TDs in 2008 and 18 returns last year. With Monday night's game still to be played, we have already seen 21 kickoff returns of more than 50 yards. We have already seen eight punts blocked this season -- there were only six blocked punts last year. And, with nine blocked field goals/extra points in six weeks, we are on pace to challenge last year's total of 36. The problems will not go away with the limited rosters, pace of injuries and inexperienced players being used on these units. I feel sorry for the special teams coaches in the NFL this year. I couldn't believe the Chargers had another kick blocked. But there they were, down 17-10 in the fourth quarter, and James Hall of the Rams got a block pretty close to where two kicks were blocked last week.
6. Good teams, bad problems
The Texans pulled off a great late win over the Chiefs on Sunday, but their pass defense issues are going to hold them back from a serious playoff run. There's time to fix it, but when Matt Cassel and the conservative Chiefs offense comes to your stadium and throws three touchdown passes, the problems are serious. The Chargers special teams problems are well documented but now you can add pass protection to the list. San Diego QB Philip Rivers suffered the worst sack day of his career with seven. The Packers injuries have left Green Bay a shell of itself; with a limited run game and Aaron Rodgers getting beat up, things are starting to look bad. Rodgers was sacked five times and hit 10 times and with games coming up against the Vikings and Jets, it needs to be fixed.