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NFL Week 6 Takeaways: Joe Burrow Dressed for Success Thanks to Ja’Marr Chase

Plus, Falcons coach Arthur Smith chugs beers with his offensive line, a quarterback controversy could be brewing in New England, trouble in Tampa and much more.

More MMQB: For the Bills, It’s All Going According to Plan | Jets Rolling After Robert Saleh Follows Rex Ryan’s Advice | NFL Scouting Notes: Hendon Hooker, Zay Flowers

Joe Burrow wearing Ja’Marr Chase’s LSU jersey to the Superdome was the coolest look of Week 6—and both ex-Tigers backed all of it up. And it really started with a random text from quarterback to receiver asking if he had one of his college jerseys he could bring on the trip back to Louisiana.

“He asked for it before we left Cincinnati,” Chase told me, “so I gave it to him.”

“It’s the game-worn jersey,” Burrow confirmed, via text, from the Superdome. “Just wanted to pay tribute to my time here and thought this was a cool way to do it.”

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow scores a touchdown in Week 6 against the Saints.

Burrow and the Bengals overcame a 10-point deficit to the Saints to even their record at 3-3.

By game-worn, Burrow means it’s the jersey that Chase wore (and Chase confirmed this, too) in LSU’s 42–25 win over Clemson for the national title in January 2020. Burrow threw for 463 yards and five touchdowns in the Superdome, and Chase had nine catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns. And while the numbers in their return to New Orleans weren’t quite as gaudy Sunday, both guys were every bit as clutch as ever in leading the Bengals back from 17–7, 23–14 and 26–21 deficits to get a 30–26 win over the Saints.

With the Bengals’ offensive line still finding its way, they really had to be, especially after a relatively quiet first half for both—the highlight for either was a 19-yard touchdown run from Burrow on a third-and-8 in the second quarter, one that helped keep Cincinnati in the game early.

Into the third quarter, Burrow and the receivers started to connect underneath, with Burrow setting those guys up to make plays, and ultimately setting the defense up for a thread-the-needle, 15-yard touchdown throw to the post to Chase.

“Just a regular post route,” Chase said. “I just had to make a defender miss at the line. They were trying to play their leverage as inside and outside, they were mixing it up a lot, and I feel like Zac [Taylor] definitely worked the game up, with just moving me around and calling crazy-good plays today. We executed well, the whole offense.”

That one got the Bengals to within 23–21, and after the teams traded field goals, the Bayou Bengals doubled back to even the score.

Just before the two-minute warning, the defense forced a punt, which set the Bengals up at their own 40 with 2:10 left in the game. Which is where Taylor dialed up a back-shoulder throw from Burrow to Chase, who cut it at 10 yards, broke a tackle, and 60 yards later, the Bengals had their first lead with 1:57 to go.

“I just made a play with my feet,” Chase said. “Me and Joe were on the same page with the back-shoulder, so that worked out perfectly.”

And the play looms large now in what’s been an imperfect season. Coming off last season’s AFC title, the Bengals are back to .500 at 3–3.

Is it what they expected? No. But the hope is it’ll be a better team in the long run, like the Chiefs were last year, after revamping the line. And handling games like these where the Bengals have a target on their back should lead to more growth.

“Yeah, I feel like we do know how to fight; that’s one thing about us,” Chase said.

And Chase said, as a bonus, on the way out of the stadium, he and Burrow did get some appreciation from Saints fans also loyal to LSU.

To reciprocate that, they put on quite a show.

If the Chase-Burrow stunt was the best pregame idea, give me Arthur Smith chugging beers with his offensive linemen as the best postgame idea. In case you missed the video of it, here you go …

Here’s the backstory—at the team’s Saturday walkthrough, the offensive linemen asked Smith to make a sort of side bet with him, where if the Falcons rushed for 100 yards and won their game over the favored 49ers, they could drink a beer in the field suites with the “looking beer taps.” Smith checked in with team president Rich McKay and GM Terry Fontenot for clearance, got it, and you can see the rest in that video.

Even better, the Falcons hit their linemen’s goals with relative ease.

Atlanta shocked San Francisco, beating the vaunted (but beat-up) 49ers by two touchdowns, 28–14. And they did it while rushing for 168 yards, which is their fifth time in six games this year exceeding 150 yards on the ground.

Remember when Smith angrily responded to tanking allegations a few months ago? Well, there was a reason for it, and you’re seeing it on the field now.

“I think the easy thing to do was look at all the dead money—we’re up to like $70 million now?” Smith said. “And in a way I’ve always been taught, you just find a way, take any obstacle and try to turn it into an advantage. And I believe in our guys. I mean, I felt like last year, toward the end of the year, we were starting to make progress, especially up front. And it’s been fun; it’s been fun having Marcus [Mariota] back.

“And we just got a bunch of guys, and that belief.”

A closer look at the Falcons’ season to this point shows that the belief is pretty well founded. Atlanta got up big on the Saints in the opener and fell apart late. They came back and almost beat the Rams on the road. And last week, were it not for a terrible roughing-the-passer call (my assessment, not theirs), that might be a win, too.

Along the way, a very real identity has been forged through a creative run game built behind, as Smith said, a talented offensive line full of high draft picks.

Is it a finished product? No, and this really is, logistically, a transitional year with Atlanta’s decision to eat so much dead money this year to set itself up for the future. That said, what Smith’s doing in coaching the team isn’t about how things look in 2023 or ’24. As he sees it, he owes it to the players to coach them right now.

“I think we’ve got some really good young players, and they’re selfless,” he said. “I think the easy thing to do would be to rationalize and try to stat-grab and just feed Kyle [Pitts] and Drake [London] and talk about next year and the future. But we’re trying to win, and so it’s hard. There’s good teams, and the Niners are a good team.”

With a cobbled-together roster Sunday, the Falcons were the better team. And, yes, there are the guys such as Pitts and London with strong pedigrees and expectations to be foundational pieces for years to come. But all the same, there are players such as Mariota getting a second chance, and fighting to create a first chance.

“We believe in those guys,” Smith said. “[Caleb] Huntley is a guy that we had in our program, was on the practice squad and liked him coming out of Ball State. A lot of these guys, it’s a big transition from different programs, and I love the fact that guys that can be on our practice squad. Or you have guys like Tyler Allgeier. I loved his tape at BYU; I thought he was a really efficient player who kind of just fits our culture. …

“You talk about [Jared] Bernhardt, the lacrosse player. You got [Parker] Hesse, who was a D-end at Iowa, team captain for Phil Parker, who’s worked his way into a solid blocking tight end and just a really smart, instinctive player. So just a bunch of guys. Elijah Wilkinson is playing good football for us. Drew Dalman is starting to really grow into that center role.”

And, somehow, all these guys are quietly finding a way to take on the look of a potential contender for an NFC playoff spot. It’s happening through the creative run game Smith has built. It’s happening with solid defense. It’s happening with a super-efficient Mariota, who completed 13-of-14 throws for 129 yards and two touchdowns on the 49ers, while rushing for another 50 yards on six carries.

It’s happening, most of all, ahead of schedule.

So you’ll understand, then, why the big men would wanna toast to a big October win.

I don’t think the Patriots have a quarterback controversy … yet. But Bailey Zappe looked efficient and quick with the ball in his second NFL start Sunday on the road in Cleveland. And so, sure, there’s going to be a little more pressure on Mac Jones, who is still working his way back from a high ankle sprain to perform when he’s healthy enough to do so (at this point, signs are that he’ll be cleared to play against Chicago a week from tonight).

Against a pretty flawed Browns defense, the fourth-round rookie out of Western Kentucky finished with 309 yards, two touchdowns and a 118.4 rating on 24-of-34 passing. Five different receivers had four catches, and this was more than a game-manager situation.

On the Patriots’ first possession, Zappe converted a third-and-7, third-and-9, another third-and-7, then threw a touchdown pass in a scramble situation on a third-and-goal from the 1 to Hunter Henry—only to have that one called off because of illegal touching after Henry had stepped out of bounds and come back into play earlier. Oh, and two of those third downs were converted after penalties on the offense, which shows poise on the young quarterback’s part to dig himself out of a hole.

So what do NFL folks think now looking at Zappe? I hit a few up pregame who graded him coming out for the draft, and had studied his tape ahead of Sunday’s game in Cleveland.

“I think he’s as advertised,” said one AFC personnel exec. “Very smart, has picked up their offense pretty quickly. He takes very good care of the ball, makes good decisions. His arm is not great, but he sort of has just enough for most throws. He gets exposed if there is tight coverage, but they do a good job scheming solid situations for him.”

In some ways, he and Jones have a similar skill set. But there are differences. One is in background—Jones came from pro-style offense at Alabama, Zappe’s was spread in college, which is why at least in the passing game, the Patriots have been heavy on spread concepts early this year. And two, Jones has a little stronger arm, is bigger, and may be a touch more athletic.

Thing is, though, the difference between the two physically isn’t cavernous. So what Bill Belichick has now is the chance to use Zappe to turn the heat up on Jones a little. Where Jones freelanced and turned the ball over a little early in the year, Belichick can point to Zappe as an example of what happens when a young quarterback follows the plan. And the hope would be with the Patriots at 3–3, everyone would benefit from going through all this.

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Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady in Week 6 against the Steelers.

A frustrated Brady unloaded on his offensive line during his team's 20-18 loss to the Steelers.

It may be time for concern in Tampa. No one’s gotten rich betting against Tom Brady, so let me get this caveat out of the way first: I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if he winds up getting the ship steered straight down there over the next month or so.

That said, there aren’t a ton of great signs for the Buccaneers right now. They just lost to a 1–4 Steelers team Sunday, one that had its rookie quarterback hurt in-game. Their inactive list was chock full of older players (Akiem Hicks, Julio Jones, Kyle Rudolph, Logan Ryan), the kind you’d worry about making it through the year. And the offensive line, sans Alex Cappa, Ryan Jensen and Ali Marpet, got a tongue-lashing from the quarterback in that ugly 20–18 loss Sunday (I won’t read lips, but it’s fair to say he thinks the line’s underachieving).

In the backdrop of all of this, of course, is Brady himself, more in and out than ever before in his football career. He missed Saturday’s walkthrough this week to attend the wedding of his old boss, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, in New York on Friday night, deciding to go straight from there to Pittsburgh rather than rejoining the team in Tampa first.

The Buccaneers’ saving grace right now might be a manageable schedule and division. And I do think Todd Bowles is a really good coach capable of working through much of this.

But it’s pretty obvious now that he has got his work cut out for him.

While we’re there … can the Packers fix their problems on the fly? Aaron Rodgers does seem to think so—and at least wants to try some different things to accelerate that process.

Rodgers was asked after Green Bay’s 27–10 loss to the Jets how to get the offense on track.

“Simplify some things,” he answered in his postgame press conference.

“I’m not attacking anything," Rodgers continued. “I just think that based on how we’ve played the last two weeks, it’s going to be in our best interests to simplify things for everybody—for the line, for the backs, for the receivers, especially with [Randall Cobb’s] injury. Just simplify some things, and maybe that’ll help us get back on track.”

On top of that, coach Matt LaFleur intimated there wasn’t much for the offense to fall back on at this point when it finds itself in a tough spot, which seems to be another product of going so young at receiver.

LaFleur said to me a couple of weeks back he does think time will solve a lot of this, and that getting rookies Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson reps now, and riding out their bumps in September and October, should bring dividends later in the year. The trouble is the Packers trail the Vikings by two games in the NFC North, and are one loss away from matching a high-water mark for the LaFleur era in that department.

So sure, it’s still early, and Watson and Doubs have time. But the Packers can’t afford too many more clunkers like Sunday on the way to getting where they’re trying to go with their Davante Adams–less attack.

Mike McDaniel’s facing an interesting test now in Miami, with a three-game losing streak leading into Tua Tagovailoa’s return against the Steelers next week. Before he became a head coach, the biggest question facing McDaniel—and he knows this, and has talked relatively openly about it—is how he’d handle things falling off track, as they inevitably do at times for most NFL teams every year.

He’s there now, which means this is a critical point for him. What I like, though, is how up front he’s been handling a very weird, different quarterback situation, with Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater coming out of the concussion protocol this weekend, and rookie Skylar Thompson starting for him before going down with a thumb injury against the Vikings.

“You can look at it as a reason for X, Y or Z—I challenge the guys not to,” he said. “We have a lot of faith in all the players that we have on this team, and the quarterbacks that we’ve been working with since last April, any one of them we have high expectations to go execute and succeed. Now, of course it’s not ideal. You want the guys that get all the reps during the week to play, but you always know that’s a possibility.

“I’m going to demand that the team does not point at that to be a reason for what’s happened or a reason for the loss. I think that’s the easy thing to do. I think that’s the path of least resistance, and generally the path of least resistance doesn’t lend the results that an ambitious, convicted, all-in players’ team, organization wants. Yeah, there’s always difficulties and adversity within NFL football games. I thought we had the capability to overcome that, and we didn’t.”

That, to me, reads like a coach calling his team out without explicitly calling them out. We’ll see how they react Sunday night.

Offensive line coach Kevin Carberry is one of the most important people in the Rams’ building right now. With left tackle Joe Noteboom, Andrew Whitworth’s successor, now likely out for the season, the Rams are really scratching in the trenches. Second-year undrafted free agent Alaric Jackson will take over Noteboom’s spot, moving over from guard. Jackson, of course, got on the field at guard only after David Edwards, Coleman Shelton and Logan Bruss got hurt. Center Brian Allen’s been banged up, too. And, well, that’s a lot.

Unfortunately for the Rams, at these positions, there’s rarely a quick fix. The league already has a numbers issue at those positions—there aren’t enough good offensive linemen to go around—so the champs will likely have to find reinforcements internally while hoping for improved health.

And that puts Carberry, plucked from Stanford in 2021 by Sean McVay to replace Aaron Kromer, in a pretty interesting spot since it’ll be up to him to get these guys ready to play. A lot of coaches say the offensive line coach, on some staffs, is as important as the coordinators. Carberry will be earning his check the next three months.

All the progress the Commanders have made and can make—and there has been some—will be limited as long as Dan Snyder owns that team. Thursday was a weird day for the franchise. It started with ESPN’s searing look into how Snyder’s viewed by other owners, and ended with a tight win over the Bears in Chicago. Along the way, you had Ron Rivera passionately firing back at the assertion that Snyder forced Carson Wentz on him (ending his postgame presser as a result), and the well-connected Al Michaels saying on the national broadcast he thinks the league office would “love” for Snyder to sell the team.

I don’t want to belabor the point, but this is past the point of no return.

Rivera can be a reputable, respectable face for the franchise, and he has been, and even better if he starts winning in bunches again. Team president Jason Wright can do good work to clean up the team’s image, and he has made progress. The front office can bring in high-character players to boost the reputation the team has around DC, and I know Martin Mayhew and Marty Hurney have worked hard to do that.

None of it matters as long as Snyder owns the team. He’s done more damage to his franchise and its brand than any in American sports history. The coaches and players who’ve been through there don’t like him. And he’s been accused of horrible things in the workplace, fostering a culture that led to others being accused of the same things.

Put it all together, and really there’s only one way out for that franchise.

Unfortunately for the fan base, it looks like Snyder’s heels are dug in, particularly with the last piece of the statement he and the team released in the wake of the ESPN report last week, where he and the team said that attempts to coerce a sale “will continue to be unsuccessful.”

So now you wonder when the point will come where the owners either have to welcome him back into their club, or vote on kicking him out. The owners meet in New York on Tuesday.

The Panthers’ fire sale won’t be a fire sale. With one exception—after Robbie Anderson was kicked off the sidelines Sunday after altercations with coaches, I’d think you could probably get him for a deck of cards, and it might not even take all 52. Beyond that, my understanding is Carolina is going to be reluctant to rid itself of players who could be building blocks for the next coach. So here’s a quick look at the landscape.

• DE Brian Burns and WR D.J. Moore have elicited the most outside interest. Burns is 24, among the best defensive players in the league, and plays a premium position. Yes, he’s in a contract year. But the Panthers can tag him in March if need be. As for Moore, his contract is actually pretty manageable for the next three years, but he’s another one who should be a nice piece for the next coach.

• Barring a godfather offer, recent first-round picks Ickey Ekwonu, Jaycee Horn and Derrick Brown won’t be moved. They’re in the midst of rookie contracts, and are the kinds of young players that would help attract a coaching candidate who has options.

• The Panthers would listen to trade offers for Christian McCaffrey and Shaq Thompson. Trading McCaffrey would be a little complicated because of the position he plays, and his contract. And on the 28-year-old Thompson, he’s a different, versatile linebacker, but there are high-mileage questions on him, too.

The interesting thing is, when you really break it down, the Panthers don’t seem to be that far off, given the number of desirable players that are sitting on their roster.

Now, if they could only find a quarterback.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts in a Week 6 victory over the Cowboys.

Hurts and the Eagles are the only undefeated team in the NFL at 6-0 after their win over the Cowboys.

My quick-hitting, bleary-eyed thoughts of Week 6 are here. And they’re here right now …

• One of the most impressive things Sunday—the Eagles’ game-sealing, 13-play, 75-yard drive that ate almost eight minutes off the clock. Philadelphia called runs on 10 of the first 11 snaps. The Eagles have one tough team.

• The clock may have struck midnight on Cooper Rush as a starter Sunday night, but the last month might’ve made him $30 million. He’s going to be a backup in the league for a long time, and at quarterback, that can be a pretty nice, profitable gig.

• The Seahawks’ draft class has a real chance to be one that sets the franchise up for the next half decade, and you got the sense back in the summer the Seattle brass had a good feeling it’d turn out this way. Kenneth Walker’s starting at tailback, Charles Cross and Abe Lucas are the team’s tackles, and Tariq Woolen and Boye Mafe are starting on defense, with Coby Bryant in there a lot, too. That’s more or less six starters. Wild.

• Another week, another solid showing from Geno Smith (20-of-31, 197 yards).

• On the flip side, it was interesting hearing Kyler Murray and Kliff Kingsbury talk so openly after losing in Seattle on how hard a time they’re having running the offense. DeAndre Hopkins is eligible to return this week.

• Kevin O’Connell’s Vikings are 5–1 and he looks like another success story from the McVay tree.

• The Jordan Poyer story is wild (and I think identical to a Deshaun Watson story from a few years back when Watson took a bus from Houston to Jacksonville to play).

• I’m glad Mike Vrabel’s speaking up on the officiating. And I firmly believe the path to improving it is better leveraging all the technology available to backstop the people on the field. There are smarter ways to do this.

• The Falcons’ throwback helmets are great. I wish they’d wear their red jerseys, too.

• Packers-Bills in Orchard Park the night before Halloween, in prime time, is gonna be quite the scene.


1) This will be the Game Management Bowl. Fair or not, Chargers coach Brandon Staley and Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett enter this one facing different but similar questions surrounding their handling of situational football. So when we get to the end of the half, and the game, there’ll be scrutiny—as there will be on almost every debatable fourth-down spot these guys face.

2) The two Chargers who have performed admirably in the face of big injuries to Joey Bosa and Rashawn Slater would be rookie left tackle Jamaree Salyer and versatile veteran edge man Kyle Van Noy. Can they keep it up? Salyer will be tested facing a strong Denver pass rush keyed by Bradley Chubb (who’s being used creatively by new coordinator Ejiro Evero). As for Van Noy, his ability to play a disciplined, sound game should be important for the Chargers facing Russell Wilson.

3) Along those lines, Calvin Anderson is suddenly an important figure in Denver as left tackle Garett Bolles’s replacement. Anderson was an undrafted free agent out of Texas in 2019. He was signed by the Patriots after the draft that year, cut two weeks later, then claimed by the Jets. The Jets waived him at the final cutdown, signed him to the practice squad and the Broncos poached him during the season. He’s been a spot starter as Denver’s swing tackle since and has a pretty good opportunity in front of him now.


NFL owners will meet in lower Manhattan on Tuesday, and there’ll be a lot of attention on the future of the Commanders franchise. It was the same way last year, when a number of former Commanders employees who alleged workplace misconduct showed up to bring attention to their effort to get the league to release investigator Beth Wilkinson’s findings on the team—the league said it asked only for a verbal report from her. I can say, from having been there, there were a lot of owners whose patience with Dan Snyder was wearing thin.

It’ll be really interesting to see where they stand on Snyder a year later.

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