There is always amazing play by the quarterbacks in each week of the NFL season, and the goal of this feature is to highlight the play of five quarterbacks who were especially exceptional this past week. It’s never an easy task (in fact, it might even be a fool’s errand on my part) to whittle it down to just five quarterbacks, so there are always going to be honorable mentions who just missed the cut. So apologies to E.J. Manuel, Peyton Manning, Nick Foles, and Carson Palmer for missing out on this list.
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton
Two quarterbacks from last night’s Monday night-er made this list, so that should just about tell you how entertaining the game was. Even though both teams combined for just 44 points, Newton and Tom Brady were at their bests. It was a game all about a long-time elite QB facing a QB who could be elite in the near future, and Newton’s team pulled it out. He was definitely at the front and center of that impressive, very close win, and the gameplan has done wonders for Newton this season. The Panthers are reigning in some of Newton’s recklessness by allowing him to make better reads out there, and he’s done an absolutely amazing job of seeing the whole field, making the right reads, playing very efficient football, and getting the ball to his playmakers in space. That touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr.? That was all about getting a deadly speed demon in space where he can do some deadly damage to the opposition.
Newton completed 67.9% of his passes with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and it’s safe to say that he was nearly flawless through the air. It was another ruthlessly efficient outing from a maturing quarterback, and it was yet another game in a row in which Newton has stamped out the old narrative. For more on Newton, read Fade #3 from last week’s “Friday Fades” feature. That should give you some more background on his season, as well as my thoughts before the game on what Newton needed to do. Needless to say, he definitely succeeded out there.
Oh, and did I mention the running? What a physical specimen.
New England Patriots QB Tom Brady
And now for the other quarterback. Brady knew he had a tough task this week against the Carolina Panthers top-flight defense, and he honestly delivered as well as any QB could against this bunch. The Patriots were able to get a lot of quick passes going, which was crucial against a lively Panthers front seven. Like Peyton Manning did against the Kansas City Chiefs, Brady knew that he needed to get the ball out quickly to his pass-catchers in order to keep the Panthers front seven off-balance (and also to avoid sacks). Even though he was hit six times, Brady was only brought to the ground for a sack on two occasions.
It’s now been two straight games in which we have seen the “old Tom Brady”, which means that he’s fully hitting his stride. That’s crucial, since the Patriots face the Denver Broncos next week. Brady was as precise as ever, and he did a great job of moving the ball against a tough Panthers defense. He averaged a solid 7.4 yards per attempt and was especially good early on in the game. He actually played worse at the end of the game, but he had the fourth-highest EPA and fifth-highest WPA among QBs this week.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson
The competition was weak, but it was the dominance that Russell Wilson exerted upon a truly helpless Minnesota Vikings defense that was especially noteworthy. Wilson has everything you look for in a quarterback, and he absolutely dialed up an elite performance against the Vikings. It was more of the same from Wilson, who is as efficient as they come. He completed over 70% of his passes and only needed 18 attempts to notch 230 yards. It was a clean day at the office for Wilson, and it was almost unfair watching him toy with the Vikings defense. He was just about flawless and was quite honestly the best quarterback this week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon
The Buccaneers just flat-out dominated the Atlanta Falcons defense, as Bobby Rainey won our “Player of the Week” award for his splendid performance on the ground. While Glennon didn’t get that honor, he gets a spot on this list for his brutally efficient day against the Falcons. On Saturday, I wrote about how Glennon has quietly impressed and has been the best rookie QB this year. Even though it came against a dysfunctional Atlanta Falcons pass defense, Glennon deserves plenty of plaudits for his best game of the season.
Glennon missed just three passes on a spectacular 20-23 night, and he averaged an even ten yards per attempt by throwing for a total of 230 passing yards. The Buccaneers have tried to make things as easy as possible for Glennon, who had an extremely efficient outing. He’s done a great job of avoiding interceptions and did not throw a pick against the Falcons. Greg Schiano vowed to get superstar WR Vincent Jackson more involved after two severely underused weeks, and Jackson blew up with ten receptions for 165 yards and a TD on 12 targets. Jackson is definitely Glennon’s best target, and the Buccaneers were able to get Jackson in a position to consistently get the ball. It was a big day for Glennon, and hopefully it’s a sign of more to come from him.
Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger
Again, there were guys who deserved to be on this list and just missed it, and Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning were two of them. But I couldn’t leave Ben Roethlisberger out, since he did such a great job in the Pittsburgh Steelers 37-27 win over the Detroit Lions. The Steelers started off fast with a 14-0 lead, but a huge second quarter from Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and the rest of the Lions offense caused the Steelers to be down at the half. Stafford was poised to earn a spot on this list after a monstrous second quarter, but the Steelers defense clamped down and did not allow the Lions to score the rest of the way (needless to say, not a good second half for Stafford).
Roethlisberger was absolutely clutch out there (per the usual, of course), and he finished the game with a 119.4 QB Rating. Big Ben averaged 8.2 yards per attempt, had 367 total passing yards, and he also had four touchdowns to no interceptions. He had plenty of help from Antonio Brown, but most of Roethlisberger’s success was due to his own terrific play. What need to be more cerebral? What rumors? Those were all put on hold after his masterful performance on Sunday, and it would have been criminal for me to leave Roethlisberger off of this list, especially given how critical his performance was. Roethlisberger made it look like backyard football out there with his arm strength, but Brown should also get plenty of credit for the YAC that helped pad Big Ben’s stats a tad.