With Sunday's action in the books, here's our batch of takeaways from Game Rewind and the glorious All-22 footage:
- Sunday's epic tie with Carolina was Mohamed Sanu's finest game as a pro. The Bengals wideout looks bigger and stronger this season, helping him to win multiple one-on-one matchups against the Panthers. After an early drop, Sanu lined up all over the field for chunk gains of 22 and 34 yards in a frenzied fourth quarter. The wideout shrugged off one would-be tackler with a powerful stiff arm in open space and badgered the defense into a pair of coverage penalties. With A.J. Green and Marvin Jones on the shelf, Sanu stood out for a Bengals attack that still managed 37 points.
- I'm still standing behindPanthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for Offensive Rookie of the Year. He made a string of big-time catches against the Bengals and continues to loom as a matchup nightmare for lone cover men. He knows how to use his dominant size. After many saw him as a boom-or-bust candidate before the draft, I'm impressed with the rookie's consistency and growth over the first six games of his career.
- The Cowboys did an outstanding job shutting down Percy Harvin. On six total touches, the Seahawks X-factor totaled minus-1 yard. Seattle tried to get him the ball on bubble screens and out in space, but each time, a beehive of Dallas defenders swarmed the wideout. When Harvin was used on a jet sweep, the Cowboys snuffed it out. I lashed the Cowboys defense before the season -- and I was wrong. They're well-coached and played with more fire than Seattle on Sunday.
- Speaking of the Cowboys, Rolando McClain's game-clinching pick of Russell Wilson was another reminder of how well he's played this season. The former top 10 pick and potential Comeback Player of the Year never took his eyes off the Seahawks passer while trailing Luke Willson in coverage. Plenty of linebackers can't be trusted to make this play in coverage.
- The Rams are finally using Tavon Austin creatively. Monday night's game against the Niners saw play-caller Brian Schottenheimer line up the second-year jitterbug in the backfield and all over the formation. In a departure from their typically vanilla attack, St. Louis dialed up multiple looks and personnel groupings out of the gate before resorting to more basic looks down the stretch. Using Austin in motion as a diversion behind an unbalanced line, St. Louis caught San Francisco asleep at the wheel on Tre Mason's 24-yard rumble. It's on Schottenheimer to get his young players more involved for all four quarters, week after week.
- Two weeks ago, society was in a full-on panic over New England's offense. Those days are laughable now. It starts with Rob Gronkowski, who looked superhuman against the Bills. Buffalo's secondary is banged up, but don't blame it on that. The Patriots tight end resembled some sort of futuristic Humanoid WarDroid, showing his old speed and raw power at the point of the catch. The race for the AFC East is over.
- It's easy to forget that Pittsburgh dominated the Browns out of the gate, holding Brian Hoyer and Cleveland's offense to minus-8 yards in the first quarter. I pin the momentum shift on this special teams gaffe that wiped out a Steelers scoring march and gave the ball back to the Browns. Cleveland linebacker Craig Robertson puts holder Brad Wing into next week:
- Pittsburgh allowed the momentum to shift entirely behind a secondary that continues to give up big plays. It helps the Browns that Hoyer's timing and anticipation on this throw to Jordan Cameron is picture perfect. Kyle Shanahan deserves credit for his ability to dial up big plays at ideal moments over the first five games of the campaign.