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When the Green Bay Packers decided to end the Mike McCarthy era, it was with the hope that things would look like they did on Sunday.
This was Aaron Rodgers, back in vintage form. It didn’t matter on Sunday in a 42-24 win against the Oakland Raiders that Davante Adams was out, Marquez Valdes-Scantling was hobbled and Geronimo Allison wasn’t cleared to play until late in the week after a concussion. Wasn’t a big deal that guys like Jake Kumerow, Allen Lazard and Danny Vitale — all of whom would likely be afterthoughts elsewhere — were key pieces of the passing game.
This was what Rodgers can do in a better system, when it’s clicking. A 74-yard touchdown by Valdes-Scantling in the fourth quarter put the Packers ahead 42-17 and it pushed Rodgers to a perfect 158.3 passer rating on the day. Rodgers entered Sunday as the all-time leader in passer rating, but had never posted a 158.3 in a game. He finished 25-of-31 for 429 yards, five touchdowns, no interceptions and ran for a TD too.
And he reached a perfect game without Adams, one of the best receivers in football.
When the Packers moved on from McCarthy, it was because his offense was stale. He and Rodgers had a strained relationship. Rodgers will turn 36 this season. Relatively speaking, time was running out.
Matt LaFleur was brought in to fix things. It hasn’t always looked great. The Packers have struggled in some games this season, and the defense kept carrying them. Detroit Lions fans would argue that it was the officials that carried the Packers to a win this past Monday night.
No matter the path the Packers have taken, here’s where they are now: They’re 6-1 with a defense that is much improved, with plenty of quality wins stacked up, and all of a sudden the offense looks like it has figured out LaFleur’s scheme. Oh, and Adams will be back at some point. That helps a little bit too.
The Packers are a good team whose Super Bowl hopes rest on Rodgers. If Rodgers plays like he did Sunday, Green Bay can beat anyone in the NFC. What we saw against the Raiders — who were 3-2 with wins at the Colts and a win over the Bears in London, so they aren’t terrible — wasn’t much different than Rodgers in his prime, when he was the best quarterback in the NFL and one of the best ever. Even in his mid-30s, he still has moments in which you’re reminded of his place among the greatest.
Rodgers needed a reset. The Packers did too. They’re suddenly 6-1, with wins over NFC playoff contenders like the Bears, Vikings, Cowboys and Lions. And on Sunday, it looked like they were ready to hit another gear.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Sunday’s Week 7 action:
Latavius Murray: How were the New Orleans Saints going to move the ball without Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara? Murray had the answer.
The story from Chicago on Sunday was the awful Bears defense, but don’t overlook Murray either. With Kamara out, Murray had a good day against a tough Bears defense, leading the way to a dominant win. He had 119 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
The Saints have found different ways to win as they’ve gone 5-0 without Brees. The defense has played well, they’re getting big plays on special teams and the offense has done enough. On Sunday they were content to hand it to Murray and let him pound away at the Bears defense. It worked.
When it lost Andrew Luck to a sudden retirement, it didn’t seem like a division title was still on the table. But the Colts looked very good in turning aside the Houston Texans 30-23 on Sunday. Reich is doing a masterful job and Brissett has stepped up to the challenge of replacing one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. Brissett had 326 yards and four touchdowns on Sunday. The Colts are 4-2, a half-game ahead of the 4-3 Texans with a tiebreaker edge.
The Jaguars or Titans could have a strong second half, but it still seems like division will come down to either Indianapolis or Houston. And Round 1 went to the Colts.
Kirk Cousins: All of a sudden, Cousins is one of the hottest quarterbacks in football, after both of his star receivers were unhappy with the offense a few weeks ago.
Cousins had 337 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions as the Vikings beat the Detroit Lions 42-30. The Vikings are 5-2, right behind the Packers in the NFC North.
Cousins will hear the critics the moment he has another bad game, but that comes with his huge contract. Right now the Vikings look like the best version of themselves, a team that had Super Bowl hopes when they signed Cousins. And the past few weeks Cousins hasn’t been just along for the ride. He has been a big reason the Vikings look like one of the NFC’s best teams.
The Miami Dolphins, kind of: Hey, the Dolphins didn’t look as bad as usual on Sunday.
Miami actually led for a stretch, causing panic in survivor pool participants everywhere. But the Bills took a lead early in the fourth quarter, and then returned an onside kick at the end for a touchdown to seal a 31-21 lead. It’s rare to say this about the 2019 Dolphins, who fell to 0-6, but the game was a lot closer than the final score indicated.
The Dolphins have been more competitive with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Mark Walton looks like a decent find at running back. DeVante Parker, a former first-round pick the Dolphins have waited on forever, has caught a touchdown in three straight games. There are faint signs of hope. Perhaps the Dolphins won’t go 0-16 after all.
Chase Edmonds: If you had Edmonds in your fantasy lineup, you probably play in a really deep league, and you caught one of the more random huge performances of this season.
With David Johnson banged up, Edmonds had a career day in a 27-21 win over the Giants. The rest of the Cardinals didn’t do much, but they didn’t need to. Edmonds had 126 yards rushing and three touchdowns, and another 24 yards receiving. No other Cardinal had more than 28 yards rushing or 29 yards receiving. Kyler Murray threw for only 104 yards.
The Cardinals are 3-3-1 and much more competitive than last season. They’ve found different ways to win, and on Sunday it was with their backup running back carrying them home.
Melvin Gordon: Gordon held out at the beginning of the season. He came back, the Chargers struggled on offense after he did, and Gordon believed the solution was to give him more carries.
Gordon’s fumble in the final seconds ended a zany finish to the Titans 23-20 win. Gordon had 32 yards on 16 carries. He was stuffed twice at the goal line in the final minute, and fumbled the second one. The Chargers took a sure win and turned it into a loss. Gordon has not been productive upon his return to the Chargers, and his fumble on Sunday was brutal.
Gordon presumably won’t be stumping for more carries next week.
That ugly Redskins-49ers game: Apparently, playing in a monsoon isn’t good for offensive football.
It’s hard to imagine any Redskins fans stuck it out until the end of the rainy 9-0 loss to San Francisco, if they bothered to show up at all. Washington, coming off a win against the putrid Miami Dolphins, were shut out by the 49ers.
San Francisco got almost nothing on offense — no touchdowns, and Jimmy Garoppolo had 10 passing yards in the first half — but still won. It wasn’t pretty, to say the least, but the 49ers will take it. They’re 6-0 for the first time since 1990.
And hopefully, NFL Films destroys all evidence of the game.
And it would be surprising if Dalton is around for the rebuild. The Bengals are trying their best to steal the No. 1 overall pick from the awful Miami Dolphins, and at very least they’ll draft in the top two or three. Cincinnati is 0-7 and Dalton was particularly bad in a 27-17 loss to the Jaguars. He threw three interceptions and didn’t get much going.
Next year’s draft is heavy in quarterback prospects. The Bengals will have a chance to take one of the top QBs in the draft and let Zac Taylor (if he survives for a second season) develop him. Dalton’s poor play is probably contributing to the Bengals landing his replacement.
Dan Quinn, again: How long does Quinn have left as Atlanta Falcons coach?
Each week gets worse. The Falcons were awful in a 37-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. The defense looked bad again, and the offense was surprisingly bad too. It looked like a team that has lost all of its will to play. The only fight they had was Devonta Freeman trying to take on Aaron Donald, and that turned out as expected.
Quinn’s Falcons are 1-6 and among the most disappointing teams in the NFL. Quinn is very, very unlikely to remain head coach next season. The only question is if he survives this season, and when team owner Arthur Blank might make a change.
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