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ben volin | on football

NFL Week 7: Sunday was the best Red Zone Channel Day ever

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray went all-out in an overtime win over the Seahawks.
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray went all-out in an overtime win over the Seahawks.Norm Hall/Getty

Hope you were wearing a seatbelt Sunday. The Patriots may have played a clunker, but otherwise the Week 7 action in the NFL was an incredible thrill.

There were close games — six decided by a field goal or less, the most in any week this season. There were amazing finishes — the Lions improbably taking down the Falcons, Baker Mayfield and Joe Burrow trading touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and the Steelers and Titans going down to the final play. And there were astonishing statistical feats — from guys like Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Kyler Murray.

It was, without question, the Best. Red Zone Channel. Day. Ever.

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Let’s look back at all of the fun in the Week 7 review:

▪ In a battle of undersized, uber-athletic quarterbacks, Murray outdueled Russell Wilson in a 37-34 comeback, overtime victory for the Cardinals over the Seahawks. The Cardinals improved to 5-2 and are a surprising threat in the NFC.

Murray was transcendent, throwing for 360 yards and three touchdowns against one interception, while also leading the Cardinals with 67 rushing yards and another touchdown. Most impressively, Murray dropped back to pass 52 times (48 attempts, four scrambles), and did not take a single hit — no sacks, no official QB hits. Compare that with Wilson, who took nine official hits in the game, and two sacks.

The other Cardinals stat that jumped off the page: linebacker Isaiah Simmons, their first-round pick, played only five out of 84 snaps, but he intercepted Wilson with 1:04 left in overtime to set up his team for the win.

▪ As for the Seahawks, who dropped to 5-1, they have an absolute monster in second-year receiver DK Metcalf. His streak of five straight games with 90 receiving yards came to an end (two catches for 23 yards), but his tackle on Cardinals safety Budda Baker’s interception return will go down as one of the great hustle plays in NFL history.

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Reminiscent of Ben Watson’s playoff chase-down of Champ Bailey in January 2006, Metcalf traveled 114.8 yards down the field to track down Baker at the 8-yard line. Metcalf reached 22.64 miles per hour, the second-fastest speed by a tackler this season, per NFL Next Gen. The hustle paid off, as the Cardinals were stuffed on four straight plays and didn’t get any points out of the interception.

Metcalf and Tyler Lockett (15 catches, 200 yards, three touchdowns Sunday) may be the most entertaining WR duo in the NFL.

▪ Murray wasn’t the only quarterback to have a clean day. Brady dropped back to pass 45 times, yet was not sacked and took only one official hit (from Maurice Hurst Jr.) in the Bucs' 45-20 win over the Raiders.

Brady threw for 369 yards and had his sixth career game (and first since 2014) with four touchdowns, no interceptions, and no sacks. The 5-2 Bucs are rolling on offense, rolling on defense, and now they’re getting Antonio Brown.

Tom Brady reacts after completing a touchdown pass against the Raiders.
Tom Brady reacts after completing a touchdown pass against the Raiders.Isaac Brekken/Associated Press

▪ You want quarterbacks who weren’t hit? Let’s not forget Rodgers. The Texans did not sack Rodgers and recorded only one official QB hit (from Charles Omenihu) in the Packers' 35-20 win that wasn’t as close as the score suggests. Rodgers, like Brady, also threw four touchdowns with no sacks and no interceptions, marking the fifth time he has done so in his career.

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▪ The best distillation of Sunday’s wackiness came with 1:12 left in the fourth quarter in Atlanta, with Falcons running back Todd Gurley hanging his head in disappointment while Lions linebacker Jamie Collins signaled "touchdown” with his arms on the Falcons' go-ahead score.

Gurley was supposed to stop short of the end zone to help the Falcons burn the clock, but instead gave Matthew Stafford just enough time to march 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown on the final play.

The poor Falcons had a 96.6 percent chance to win with just 34 seconds left, per ESPN Win Probability. Scoring that touchdown with 1:12 left reduced their chances of victory by 9.1 percent, per analytics website EdjSports.

▪ The wildest game was in Cincinnati, where the Browns and Bengals alternated scores 12 times in Cleveland’s 37-34 win. The game featured five touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and three in the final five minutes. Burrow led the Bengals 75 yards and threw a touchdown with 1:06 left, and Mayfield answered with his own 75-yard drive and the game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds left.

Mayfield threw for 297 yards and five touchdowns, and didn’t seem to miss Odell Beckham Jr., who left the game early and is now out for the season with a torn ACL.

▪ The most important game was in Nashville, where the undefeated Steelers hung on for a 27-24 win over the previously undefeated Titans after Stephen Gostkowski missed a 45-yard field goal in the closing moments.

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The 6-0 Steelers are the early front-runners for the AFC No. 1 seed, and this win should be important for playoff tiebreakers. But the Titans showed impressive fight in clawing their way back, and this just might have been a preview of the AFC Championship game.

Ben Roethlisberger looks downfield against the Titans.
Ben Roethlisberger looks downfield against the Titans.Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

▪ The Bills defeated the Jets, 18-10, despite not scoring a touchdown, and Josh Allen has turned into a pumpkin in October.

Allen’s September stats (4-0 record): 331.5 passing yards per game, 12 touchdowns, 1 interception, 70.9 completion percentage, 9.0 yards per attempt, 122.7 passer rating, and 3 rushing touchdowns.

Allen’s October stats (1-2): 230.7 yards per game, 4 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 63.1 completion percentage, 6.2 yards per attempt, 81.4 passer rating, 1 fumble lost, no rushing touchdowns.

▪ The Chargers have atoned for drafting Ryan Leaf No. 2 overall in 1998. The last three quarterbacks they drafted to be the starter: Drew Brees (2001), Philip Rivers (2004), and Justin Herbert (2020), who threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday’s 39-29 win over the Jaguars.

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is making a splash in his rookie season.
Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert is making a splash in his rookie season.Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

Herbert has 12 touchdown passes and three interceptions; he and Cam Newton are the only quarterbacks with 1,500 passing yards through their first five games. The Chargers are only 2-4, but Herbert has kept them competitive in every game.

▪ The NFL dubbed Sunday National Tight End Day, but it was kind of a flop. Tight ends combined for just 11 touchdowns this week, tied with Week 5 for the fewest this season. And it was also just the second week this season that no tight end had a 100-yard game. The Browns did throw three touchdown passes to tight ends, at least.

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Tracking former Patriots

▪ Bucs TE Rob Gronkowski: Five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown for Gronk, who has a TD catch in consecutive weeks.

▪ Titans K Stephen Gostkowski: A roller-coaster season hits a nadir, as he missed the game-tying field goal attempt against the Steelers and is now 1 for 4 in his last two games.

▪ Texans WR Brandin Cooks: Had a quiet seven catches for 60 yards, but is better than anything the Patriots have right now.

▪ Seahawks TE Jacob Hollister: Ditto for Hollister, who only had three catches for 22 yards but would be the Patriots' No. 1 tight end.

Ex-Patriots coaches

▪ Mike Vrabel, Tennessee: EdjSports rated his decision to go for it in the fourth quarter on fourth and goal from the 1 as the best coaching decision of the week, increasing the Titans' chances of winning by 6.2 percent.

▪ Matt Patricia, Detroit: Has suffered a lot of bad losses in three years, but this win was magical and should cut him a little slack with Lions fans.

Former Patriots assistant Romeo Crennel has started 1-2 with the Texans.
Former Patriots assistant Romeo Crennel has started 1-2 with the Texans.Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

▪ Romeo Crennel, Houston: Head coaching record of 28-55 (.337) before this season wasn’t great, and he’s off to a 1-2 start in Houston.

▪ Joe Judge, NY Giants: His 1-6 team can’t close games, but at least they are competitive, with three straight games decided by a field goal or less.

Stats of the week

▪ This marked the fourth week since 1990 that three game-winning touchdown passes were thrown in the final minute of regulation (Mayfield, Stafford, Carson Wentz).

▪ Stafford joined Tim Couch as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era with multiple game-winning touchdown passes with no time on the clock.

▪ The Chargers' win over the Jaguars was the first 39-29 score in NFL history, and the Chiefs' win over the Broncos was just the second 43-16 game ever (Seahawks over 49ers in 2018).

▪ Bills kicker Tyler Bass attempted eight field goals, the second most in NFL history. Jim Bakken of the St. Louis Cardinals went 7 for 9 in a 1967 game.


Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin.