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NFL Week 6: Papal blessings for the Saints and other observations

Road To Miami: Quarterback play continues to soar, for some teams - allowing us to realize who’s coming

Some are older but not as old as we think. Some are young but defying their ages. And some are struggling.

In a quarterback-driven league, the best signal callers are shining, while the teams without great players under center are finding new depths.

Meanwhile, everyone searches for a bit of good fortune, and the Saints may have found it.

Here’s what we learned in Week 6 of the NFL.

Divine intervention for New Orleans …

The Saints got an unexpected — and probably unintentional — backer for their game at Jacksonville. Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, included the Saints’ Twitter logo in a tweet Sunday morning — one New Orleans football fans took as a good omen for their team.

Pope Francis' tweet saluted saints, and the New Orleans Saints. [ ALESSANDRA TARANTINO | AP ]

“Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new #Saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession,” the Pope tweeted after canonizing five new saints at a Mass at Vatican City.

The hashtag and capitalization of Saints added the fleur-de-lis, the emblem that adorns the team’s helmets.

Or help for those who help themselves?

The NFC South appears to be enjoying a changing of guard at quarterback. Maybe. The Saints’ Drew Brees likely will regain his starting role on return. The New Orleans offense has not been as prolific — save for an explosion against the Bucs — but Teddy Bridgewater continues to win with the help of coach Sean Payton’s tutelage.

Bridgewater guided the Saints to their fourth consecutive win on Sunday, completing 24 of 36 for 240 yards in a 13-6 win over Jacksonville and affable Jags quarterback Gardner Minshew. Bridgewater broke the deadlock in the third quarter, engineering a 75-yard drive for the game-winning score. Equally impressive, Bridgewater led a smart drive that killed the last 6:40 of the game.

The Saints have won all four games during their winning streak by seven points or less, signaling that if nothing else, Bridgewater knows how to manage the game and minimize turnovers. New Orleans helped itself by wisely signing Bridgewater to a hefty $15 million contract.

“I’m definitely getting comfortable just with all the guys,” Bridgewater said.

The same is being said about Carolina’s Kyle Allen, the other young NFC South quarterback enjoying success. And unlike Bridgewater, there’s a growing movement to hand Allen the starting role even when Cam Newton returns from a foot injury. Like Bridgewater, Allen has gone 4-0 and appears to make great decisions and good throws. Just ask the Bucs.

A new MVP leader

Kansas City’s Pat Mahomes won the 2018 NFL MVP, but the man who outdueled him could earn the award this season. If you ask yourself which team could least afford to lose its star, it has to be the Texans’ Deshaun Watson, who continues to miraculously pull out victories. On Sunday, Watson engineered a 93-yard touchdown drive and converted a two-point pass to give the Texans a 31-24 win over Mahomes and the Chiefs.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) and Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) meet following an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. The Houston Texans won 31-24. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley) [ COLIN E. BRALEY | AP ]

Watson threw for 280 yards and a touchdown while running for two more, and helped Houston put together a game-ending drive that drained the last 5:03. Watson succeeded in the battle of top young guns, and he’s now one of the top MVP contenders for 2019. Anyone who was at Raymond James Stadium on Jan. 10, 2017, knows Watson possesses game-changing greatness.

Don’t forget about this guy

Russell Wilson can still play. It’s not that anyone ever doubted him, but as Seattle re-tooled its defense over the last couple of years, the Seahawks sputtered a bit. Now, at 5-1, they appear to be stout, and much of the credit goes to Wilson. In Week 5, he brought the Seahawks back in the closing seconds to beat the Rams. On Sunday, he stole another victory on the road with a masterful nine-play, 79-yard drive that provided the winning points in a 32-28 victory over the Browns. Wilson has had a passer rating over 100 all six of his starts this year.

The worst game ever?

According to ESPN’s Field Yates, ESPN’s Football Power Index has previewed every game by assigning a matchup quality score on a 0-100 scale. The Washington-Miami game registered the lowest score ever: 0.0. Still, the game contained a few highlights and did come down to the last play. Ryan Fitzpatrick entered in the fourth quarter, rallied the Dolphins to within a single point but Miami failed to convert a two-pointer and Washington won 17-16. The Fins and the Bengals now stand as the only winless teams in the league. They play in Week 16. Wonder where that game will rank.

Want stuffing with your Rams?

I’m not saying the Rams (3-3) are done, but I think I saw that little red stick on the funky thermometer pop up. There’s a formula — first displayed by Patriots coach Bill Belichick — on how to derail Sean McVay’s offense. The 49ers (5-0) implemented and held Jared Goff to a career-low 78 passing yards in a 20-7 win. Only Arizona stands between L.A. and NFC West cellar.

Falcons keeping Bucs company

It’s lonely at the bottom, unless you have company. The Falcons made sure the Bucs didn’t land in the cellar of the NFC South by losing their third straight to Arizona. Yes, those Cardinals, who entered Sunday with only a victory against the winless Bengals. Atlanta appeared set to tie the score after trailing by 17, but former Bucs kicker Matt Bryant — whose departure 11 years ago seemed to curse Tampa Bay’s kickers — missed an extra point. Arizona got the ball back and ran out the clock.

Odds and ends

Wharton High alum Auden Tate was one of the few bright spots for Cincinnati with five catches for 91 yards. … The Ravens’ Lamar Jackson became the first QB in the Super Bowl era (from 1966) to pass for at least 200 yards and rush for 150 in a game.

Ernest Hooper, Times assistant sports editor, compiled from Times news services





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