The 49ers are for real and the blueprint for beating Patrick Mahomes: The 10 biggest takeaways from NFL week six

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The 49ers defense celebrate getting a stop against the Rams - USA TODAY Sports
The 49ers defense celebrate getting a stop against the Rams - USA TODAY Sports

Week six of the 2019 NFL season is almost in the bank - the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers play a divisional match-up on Monday night - and we're left with two undefeated teams.

One of them anyone could have predicted - it's no surprise the New England Patriots are 6-0 and steaming towards an 11th straight AFC East title - but who out there had the San Francisco 49ers sitting at 5-0?!

Here's everything we learnt from another thrilling NFL Sunday.

1. The 49ers are for real

Going into this weekend there prevailing thought was still that the 49ers were a kind of flukey 4-0 team. Now they're a fully deserving 5-0 team that have total control of the NFC West after a commanding 20-7 victory over the Rams.

The Niners defense choked LA after their opening scoring drive, sacking Jared Goff four times and holding his offense to a shocking zero from nine on third down and zero from four on fourth. Goff finished with just 78 yards passing and the ground game didn't fare much better with Todd Gurley sidelined.

Two Aaron Donald sacks weren't enough to stop Jimmy Garoppolo, who did a great job of getting the ball out quickly and rekindled his relationship with tight end George Kittle, who caught eight passes for 103 yards.

The Rams are now in a bit of a situation at 3-3, riding a three-game losing streak and likely now chasing a wildcard berth in the NFC. The good news is they have the Falcons and Bengals up next.

2. And so is the Panthers defense

Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers during the NFL game between Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on October 13, 2019 in London, England - Credit: Getty Images
Luke Kuechly runs the ball back after intercepting Jameis Winston Credit: Getty Images

A sloppy but fun game closed Tottenham Hotspur Stadium's doors to the NFL for what has been a roaringly successful first year. The Buccaneers were technically the home team but Panthers fans heavily outnumbered them in London, and they got to see their team move to 4-2 after a 37-26 win helped in no small part by Jameis Winston throwing a career-high five interceptions. The Panthers also sacked him seven times.

Winston set the tone by tossing a pick to James Bradberry on the very first play of the game. Bradberry finished with a pair, while Javien Elliot, Luke Kuechly and Ross Cockrell also got in on the act. It meant the Bucs, whose offense moved the ball better than Carolina's, never really stood a chance.

Christian McCaffrey was held to just 57 total yards - the second time the Buccaneers have bottled him up this season - but still found the end zone twice. Even when CMC is quiet he makes noise. Kyle Allen meanwhile is somehow 5-0 as an NFL starter - what more can you ask from a backup QB?

3. There is now a clear blueprint for beating Patrick Mahomes

Houston Texans running back Carlos Hyde (23) runs the ball as Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Bashaud Breeland (21) attempts the tackle during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium - Credit: USA Today
Carlos Hyde had a big workload against the Chiefs Credit: USA Today

For the second straight week the Kansas City defense couldn't find a way to get off the field, and for the second straight week they left the stadium with a loss. The Chiefs had the ball for just 20 minutes and 12 seconds - their biggest time of possession disparity at home in franchise history. They only had three drives in the second half and had the ball for just 78 seconds of the fourth quarter. Not even Patrick Mahomes can overturn those odds.

The Texans - 31-24 winners, and now alone atop the AFC South at 4-2 - leant heavily on Carlos Hyde as they chewed up the game clock. Hyde carried 26 times for 116 yards and a touchdown, while Deshaun Watson also ran into the end zone twice. Houston picked up 12 total first downs on the ground as they chewed up game clock and kept Mahomes twiddling his thumbs on the sideline.

The Chiefs might need to make some moves before the trade deadline to sort out a defense which is currently undermining their immensely talented quarterback. 

4. Russell Wilson is the current MVP

Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks is tackled by Sheldon Richardson #98 of the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 13, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio - Credit: Getty Images
Russell Wilson was brilliant again against the Browns Credit: Getty Images

Russell Wilson continued to be the season's standout quarterback as he posted his sixth straight passer rating of over 100 in a 32-28 win over the Browns in Cleveland. Only three other players in NFL history have started a season with six back-to-back 100+ passer rating games. Wilson completed 23 of 33 for 295 yards and two touchdowns, and once again was without an interception. He led the Seahawks on a 64-yard game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, and didn't panic even after the Browns jumped out to an early lead.

That drive was finished off by Chris Carson, who now has three straight games with over 100 yards rushing. His combination with Wilson makes up one of the league's most devastating backfields, and with Seattle at 5-1 it looks to be one which is heading to the playoffs. In fact, it's not difficult to imagine the Seahawks going all the way with Wilson playing like this.

The Browns off-season hype certainly burned too bright. They started brilliantly, with three touchdowns from their opening three drives, but the interceptions which have plagued Baker Mayfield's season reared their ugly head again. He threw three in total, the last of which ended any chance of a comeback victory. Mayfield is not being helped by a terrible offensive line, but the picks are killing this offense. He now has 11 on the season with just five touchdowns. Freddie Kitchens needs to work hard with him to fix this problem, because it's one which might just be the undoing of Cleveland's entire season.

5. The Steelers are slowly clawing their way back

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner (C) finds an open lane as he rushes for a touchdown in the first half during the NFL American Football game between the Pittsburg Steelers and the Los Angeles Chargers at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, USA, 13 October 2019 - Credit: REX
The Steelers ran the offense through James Conner Credit: REX

The Steelers started the season horribly, but they're not dead in the AFC North quite yet. A 24-17 win over the Chargers in Los Angeles means they've pulled themselves back to 2-4, and still have a hope of chasing down the Ravens.

Undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges was Pittsburgh's fourth string quarterback heading into the season, but he came away with a win from his first NFL start after running the offense through James Conner. Conner caught seven passes for 78 yards and a score - no other receiver caught more than two balls - and finished with 119 scrimmage yards before leaving the game with an injury in the third quarter. Hodges barely threw the ball beyond the sticks, but he didn't need to, and was efficient enough in this very limited offense to get the job done.

The Chargers were nothing short of a hot mess. Philip Rivers threw two interceptions and a backward pass which rookie linebacker Devin Bush took to the house. There were also the type of special teams blunders you've come to associate with bad Chargers teams - something, sadly, this outfit looks to be, after such a promising 2018.

6. The Vikings are formidable at home

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The Vikings are a totally different team at home and on the road. There were excellent on both sides of the ball as they dispatched the Eagles in Minnesota, as Stefon Diggs finally entered the show after being publicly upset with the way this offense has run all year. Diggs caught seven passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns - two of more than 50 yards. I bet he's feeling a little happier after that.

Kirk Cousins (22 of 29 for 333 yards, four TDs and a pick) also tossed a touchdown to Adam Thielen, with Dalvin Cook adding another on the ground as Minnesota ripped apart an injury-ravaged Philadelphia defense. They were, if anything, even more impressive on defense, turning the ball over three times and leaving Carson Wentz embattled and unsettled. The Vikings are a team that will blow hot and cold, and I don't expect them to put together many of these types of performances outside of Minnesota, but this might have been the most impressive showing from any team this week, and shows they have the potential to light it up on both offense and defense when things click.

This defeat will hurt the Eagles, who are now 3-3 and just starting out on an incredibly tough stretch. They have the Cowboys, Bills, Bears, Patriots and Seahawks as their next five games, and you figure they'll need to win at least three of them to keep pace at the top of the NFC East.

7. The Cowboys aren't who we thought they were

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What a difference a franchise quarterback makes. Sam Darnold returned from his teenage kissing illness against the Cowboys and immediately led the Jets to their first win of the season. The three touchdown drives he orchestrated in the first half alone were more than New York had in their first four games combined, and suddenly there is hope again for fans of Gang Green. Not this season, but for the future.

Darnold completed 23 of 32 for 338 yards and two scores, one of which was a 92-yard strike to Robby Anderson which marked the longest touchdown of the season and also in Jets franchise history. Luke Falk could never.

The Cowboys, flying high at 3-0 three weeks ago, were supposed to be an NFC superpower this season. Instead they're now 3-3 and losing to one of the league's sorriest franchises. They moved the ball, especially through Ezekiel Elliott, who finished with 152 yards from scrimmage, but were ineffective in the red zone and too often failed to turn possession into meaningful points. The loss of Amari Cooper, who went down injured early in the first quarter, could really hurt Dallas going forward if he's out for any significant time. It's crunch time in Big D.

8. New Orleans should be a Super Bowl favourite

New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) tries to block a pass by Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew, left, during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Jacksonville - Credit: AP
The Saints defense made life difficult for Gardner Minshew Credit: AP

The Saints are 4-0 since losing Drew Brees to injury. That's testament to how strong this roster is, because the games they've been handed in his absence have been far from cupcakes. There should be hope of reaching the Super Bowl they felt robbed off after the Rams debacle last season, especially with Brees edging closer to returning.

The Gardner Minshew-led Jaguars have been feeling themselves in recent weeks, but the New Orleans defense bottled up that fizz, going into Jacksonville and limiting them to just six points. Marshon Lattimore picked off Minshew for his first career interception, and it was also the sixth-round rookie's first game with less than 200 passing yards.

The Saints were fairly quiet on offense, their only touchdown coming in the fourth quarter in the form of a Teddy Bridgewater connection to tight end Jared Cook. Bridgewater came to life in the second half after starting slowly, and finished 24 of 36 for 240 yards. Alvin Kamara was strangely absent, rushing for just 31 yards from 11 carries and adding 35 more through the air, though that can probably be chalked up to an ankle injury he's been carrying. The Saints will need him back fully fit against the formidable Bears defense next weekend.

9. Kliff Kingsbury's project is starting to take shape

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) scrambles as Atlanta Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn (99) pursues during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz - Credit: AP
Kyler Murray and the Cardinals have won two in a row Credit: AP

The Cardinals scored on their first five possessions as they made hay against a terrible Falcons defense in their best offensive outing of the season so far. Kyler Murray completed 27 of 37 for 340 yards and three touchdowns, was not sacked and connected with nine different receivers in a 34-33 win that will be remembered for Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant missing an extra point which would have tied the game with little over a minute to go. It doesn't matter all that much, this game will not have any ramifications for January football, but it adds an extra layer of depression for Falcons fans who are now firmly in the mire with their team at 1-5.

Arizona's offensive strides were nearly undone by their defense, which might have been even worse than the Falcons'. Matt Ryan was able to complete 30 of his 36 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns, with Austin Hooper (eight receptions, 117 yards, one TD) continuing to stake his claim for a place among the league's top tight ends, but once again found himself on the losing side. Ryan has been good all season, and doesn't deserve to be in the hole the Falcons have out him in.

10. The Broncos defense is finally a factor

Denver Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Walker (57) celebrates with defensive back Kareem Jackson (22) after a play in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Empower Field at Mile High - Credit: USA Today
The Broncos defense stopped the Titans from scoring a single point Credit: USA Today

It's taken a good quarter of the season, but the Broncos defense finally looks like one being run by Vic Fangio. Denver kept the Titans pointless as they picked up their second win on the bounce, sacking Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill a combined seven times. Tannehill (13 of 16, 144 yards, one interception) was thrown into the fray in the third quarter after Mariota stank out the joint in the first half. Mariota completed just seven of 18 for 63 yards and two picks before being benched, but is unlikely to lose his starting job just yet. It's something worth keeping an eye on, though.

The Titans couldn't get their run game going either - Derrick Henry averaged less than two yards per carry on his way to 28 rushing - and while the Broncos offense didn't exactly light any fires either, they did just about enough. Phillip Lindsay was the difference - he carries 15 times for 70 yards and the only score of the game. Not a showing for anyone who enjoys offense, this one.