Another week of NFL action is in the books, and there are plenty more quarterback performances worth praising. This week’s group of five were all part of victories, and three of them led their teams to blowout wins.
Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton
The top quarterback of the week, Andy Dalton made quick work of a horrendous and completely overmatched Minnesota Vikings secondary, and the “good” Dalton definitely showed up on Sunday. He is prone to hot and cold streaks, but he’s as hot as they come when he’s playing his best football. If Dalton is able to play like he did on Sunday in the playoffs, then the rest of the league needs to be put on notice due to the Bengals incredible roster depth. Dalton tore up the Vikings with 366 yards on 27-38 passing for a scorching 9.6 yards per attempt, and he had four touchdowns with no interceptions. Even if it was against the Vikings defense, it was still a remarkable performance that notched a 136.5 QB Rating and earned a 92.0 ESPN TQBR. He and A.J. Green really got it going, and Marvin Jones was able to catch six of seven passes thrown at him for an excellent 85 yards (just over 12 yards per target).
Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles
Foles put on a show against the Chicago Bears dismal defense, and he showed the Green Bay Packers just how awful this Bears defense is. This defense has been bad all season long, but they managed to avoid the ire of the national spotlight until Foles tore them up on Sunday Night Football. He only needed 25 pass attempts, as the Eagles jumped out to a 21-0 lead after the first quarter and never looked back, en route to a 54-point performance. Foles was simply magnificent during the beginning of the game, and the Eagles took their foot off the gas pedal once it became obvious that the Bears were done. From there on out, it was the LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown show, as both RBs trampled the Bears defense for over 100 yards apiece.
Sunday’s marquee performance added more big numbers to Foles’s growing resume, and he increased his TD:INT ratio to a whopping 25:2 with two touchdowns and no picks. Foles was as accurate as ever, and he had the surgical precision of Tom Brady against the Bears woeful safeties with 21-25 passing. That’s an 84% completion percentage, and Foles averaged 9.2 yards per pop overall.
New York Jets QB Geno Smith
It was nice seeing the West Virginia rookie bounce back in a big way against a stout Cleveland Browns defense and secondary, as it’s never easy to have a good day against safeties T.J. Ward and Tashaun Gipson. Smith took full advantage of Joe Haden’s lack of health, and he had an efficient 20-36 outing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The improved ball security was a big plus for him, particularly against a team with two playmakers at the safety position. Smith’s average of under six yards per pass attempt doesn’t do him justice, as he was solid and moved the ball up the field for the Jets. He finished with an 83.1 ESPN TQBR and did a remarkable job of leading his team to victory by pulling away from the Browns in the fourth quarter of the Jets solid 24-13 victory. Smith was steady and outplayed veteran QB Jason Campbell, who had a streaky game. He also had a 17-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to seal the deal for the Jets, showing why he’s definitely a threat with his fleet feet.
Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning
Even though it actually took him more pass attempts to do it, Denver Broncos legendary quarterback Peyton Manning added to the unfathomable legend by breaking Tom Brady’s record for most touchdown passes in a season. His record TD pass was a 25-yard dime to Julius Thomas in the fourth quarter, and I still have no idea why Thomas was matched up one-on-one against Texans linebacker Daryl Sharpton on the outside. Manning probably concocted the mis-match, too, and he definitely saw it and took full advantage of it. Thomas does an incredible job of creating mis-matches with his uncanny speed and athleticism for the position, but give credit to Sharpton for playing good enough coverage that it still took a very good throw from Manning to get the TD.
Peyton was dominant with exactly 400 passing yards, and he averaged a sturdy 7.8 yards per attempt with a ruthless four touchdowns and no interceptions. His 113.2 QB Rating was excellent, but it was almost too easy for Manning. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker were burning the Texans at will, and the Texans safeties are among the worst in the league in deep coverage. Whenever Decker has a monster game (he had ten receptions for 131 yards and two TDs), that’s a sure sign that the safeties played poorly (see the second game against the Kansas City Chiefs as an example). I don’t want to downplay Manning’s 400-yard, record-breaking performance, but the Broncos also benefited from Texans No. 1 corner Johnathan Joseph leaving the game in the second quarter with a toe injury.
One stat that jumps out at me the most from the Broncos win? They had 20 first downs off of passes alone.
San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick
It was a very close Monday Night Football game in which the Atlanta Falcons almost spoiled the San Francisco 49ers farewell game at Candlestick Park, but the 49ers were able to avoid losing to the team they beat in order to get to the Super Bowl last season. The 49ers offense started off slowly due to some ineffective play from Kaepernick and potential mis-communication along the 49ers usually sturdy offensive line, but the first-half struggles turned into second-half excellence from Kaep and the Niners. It was interesting to see the improvement in Kaep’s rushing ability as the game wore on, too, as he had an excellent 22-yard scamper and a four-yard TD run. That touchdown run came as a result of a highly effective audible, as he saw a giant gap in the Falcons defense as the Falcons looked to match the 49ers personnel package that hinted at a pass play.
Kaepernick is playing some incredibly efficient football, and he’s back to the terrific level of play that he showcased last season. That’s the impact that a No. 1 wide receiver has on an offense, especially when that No. 1 wideout is the silky Michael Crabtree, who is one of the game’s best route-runners and has the speed to make big plays. With five receptions for 102 yards, Crabtree certainly made plays, and he and Kaepernick share one of the best QB-WR rapports in the game.
In the end, Kaepernick did a great job of leading the 49ers to victory in a narrow game, as he didn’t commit a turnover and finished with an average of 9.4 yards per attempt in another highly efficient display at the quarterback position. The 49ers are a scary, elite team, and Kaepernick is back to being the maestro of a top-flight offense.