The New Orleans Saints (3-2) enter their bye week in Week 6 of the NFL season. While the Saints did not play this past weekend, the other three teams representing the NFC SOUTH were in action. The Falcons, Panthers, and Buccaneers all battled NFC NORTH foes Sunday afternoon.
Below are three things to watch in the NFC SOUTH in Week 6 while the Saints take their BYE Week.
Falcons Play Best Game of Season Under Interim Head Coach Raheem Morris
Following a disappointing 0-5 start to the 2020 NFL season, the Atlanta Falcons parted with Head Coach Dan Quinn and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff. The Falcons announced Monday that Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris would take over the coaching duties as the Falcons' interim head coach. Morris is no stranger to coaching in the NFC SOUTH, serving as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach from 2009-2011.
The 0-5 start to 2020 is the worst start in quarterback Matt Ryan's career and for the Falcons, their worst overall start since 1997. Sunday, against the Vikings, the Falcons provided their best game of the season. The league's 31st ranked defense forced QB Kirk Cousins to throw three INTs in the first half, setting up Matt Ryan's offense into short field situations where they capitalized. Ryan threw for 371 yards and 4 TDs and connected with WR Julio Jones 8 times for 137 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Atlanta played true complementary football that led to their first win of the season. The defense's ball-hawking ability allowed the offense to hold the ball for 40 minutes. That is double the time of possession for the Vikings, who possessed the ball for just 20 minutes on Sunday afternoon. The Falcons have an uphill battle to salvage anything from this season, but for now, Raheem Morris looks to have his team on the right track.
Panthers Still Have Not Beat a Team Above .500
Without injured superstar RB Christian McCaffery (ankle), the Panthers have won three consecutive games and have found a diamond in the rough in RB Mike Davis. The Panthers entered Week 6 in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC SOUTH with the Saints and Buccaneers as they hosted the Chicago Bears Sunday afternoon in Charlotte.
The Panthers offense struggled to find the end zone again against at plus .500 team. QB Teddy Bridgewater failed to throw a TD pass and finished the game with 216 yards and 2 INTs. Bridgewater did lead the Panthers on multiple 12-play drives; however, two drives stalled out inside the Bears 5-yard line resulting in a pair of Joey Slye field goals from under 22-yards.
Chicago's offense was held in check throughout the contest, only racking up 261 yards, but excellent field position on three first-half scoring drives matched with Carolina's inability to punch it in the end zone was the story of the game. The Panthers are eager for RB Christian McCaffery to return to the lineup but until then have to find a way to avoid a 4-point swing, scoring TDs rather than field goals.
Buccaneers Look Like Contenders in Drubbing of Packers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were coming off of a 1-point loss to the Bears at Soldier Field on Thursday and were tasked with another tough NFC SOUTH vs. NFC NORTH battle as they hosted the Green Bay Packers. The offseason winners had yet to click on all cylinders, but Tom Brady still looks to be an ageless wonder throwing 12 TD passes through 5 weeks.
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers jumped out to an early 10-0 lead with two 10-play scoring drives, but turnovers flipped the game's script in the second quarter. After a 32-yard pick-six by Tampa Bay's Jamel Dean, the Buccaneers' defense picked off Rodgers for a second consecutive drive, setting up their offense at the Packers 2-yard line. Ronald Jones II gave the Buccaneers a 14-10 lead, punching it in from 2-yards out, and his team did not look back.
Thirty-eight unanswered points sprung the Bucs to victory and into sole possession of first place in the NFC SOUTH. The dominant win against one of the NFC's top contenders, Tom Brady, now has his staple win in his young Tampa Bay career.
With a great performance by the defense and an offense creating more chemistry, the Buccaneers look to be among the NFC's best. As we approach the mid-way point in the season, time will only tell if Tampa is a pretender contender, but after 6 weeks, it appears to be the latter.
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