NFL talking points as New England Patriots find mojo and Houston Texans pull off upset

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Is there anything more entertaining than the 2021 NFL regular season? It is currently delivering unbelievable results and storylines on a weekly basis to rival the greatest dramas in television history. This week’s headlines? The Indianapolis Colts crushed the Buffalo Bills thanks to Jonathan Taylor, Mac Jones’ Patriots continue to impress and the Houston Texans defeated the Tennessee Titans in the upset of the week.


Taylor’s five-star performance in Indianapolis rout

There has always been something about Jonathan Taylor. Selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, Taylor dominated college football at Wisconsin, becoming the first player in history to rush for over 6,000 yards in any three-year span. He is continuing the electric form in the NFL.

On Sunday, Taylor was unrelenting in his dismantling of one of the league’s best rush defences. He scored Indianapolis’ first, second, third, fourth and fifth touchdowns as the Bills – deemed one of the top teams in the AFC prior to this harrowing 41-15 spanking – suffered the wrath of Taylor, who is currently embarking on an impressive run of of eight consecutive games with 100 scrimmage yards and a rushing touchdown.

Jonathan Taylor torched the highly-rated Buffalo Bills defence to the tune of 204 total yards and five touchdowns
(Image: Getty Images)

The only other player in NFL history to do that since 1950 is LaDainian Tomlinson, who was named the MVP that year. Taylor is playing at a historic level right now, breathing life into an average Indianapolis offence to lead them to three straight wins.

Taylor scored a franchise-record five touchdowns in the win at Buffalo. The team rushed for 264 yards in total on 5.7 yards per carry, with 185 yards from the sophomore running back. He set the tone early, scoring to cap off an 11-play, 65-yard opening drive before catching a 23-yard pass from Carson Wentz to make it a 14-point lead. He scored three more touchdowns as the Bill simply had no answer to Taylor.

Buffalo had allowed fewer points than any team in the NFL when they welcomed the Colts to town, and were ranked third-best in rushing yards allowed and rushing yards allowed per carry. Things looked bad for Buffalo and quarterback Josh Allen early, with the quarterback throwing an interception on the eighth play of their first drive – which Taylor predictably turned into a touchdown. Later on in the game, Allen threw another pass that was tipped by Kenny Moore and intercepted. Just as Taylor’s MVP case grew exponentially, Allen’s fell dramatically. He didn’t look particularly valuable on Sunday.

After sealing their third straight victory, the Colts are now above .500 for the first time in 2021. Indianapolis have a tough stretch of games now, facing the likes of Tampa Bay, New England, Las Vegas and Arizona as they hope to seal a playoff berth in the topsy-turvy AFC – but they are certainly finding form at the right time.

Jonathan Taylor is in the running for MVP following his historic outing on Sunday
(Image: Getty Images)

Taylor had one of the best statistical performances in NFL history against the best defence in the league on Sunday, taking what he wanted at will. If Taylor wants Indy to make the playoffs, it would be foolish to bet against them.

New look New England showing flashes of old

The pre-draft comparison for quarterback Mac Jones was Tom Brady, simply due to the similar athletic ability and accurate throwing ability. Sure, it is incredibly unlikely that the rookie will accomplish even half of the GOAT’s glittering resume – but Jones’ no-nonsense, methodical approach has allowed the Patriots to look like themselves again as they crushed the Falcons 25-0 in Atlanta.

I don’t even mean the all-conquering Patriots of the last decade, where Brady was joined by the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman as New England collected Super Bowl rings like stamps in the last decade. No, this Pats team resembles the New England outfit that stormed to three championships in four seasons with a young Brady at the helm in the early 2000s.

This is a team that relies on an all-conquering defence to keep the opponents in check masterminded by head coach Bill Belichick, with a powerful, relentless run game. It’s an offence that doesn’t ask much of Jones, allowing him to flourish. He completed 22 of 26 passes for 207 yards with a touchdown and an interception to boot. The 23-year-old even went after Falcons corner A.J. Terrell, who was hyped before the game as being one of the best-performing defensive backs of the season. While he snagged a pick on a poor Jones throw, Terrell was targeted six times in primary coverage allowing five receptions and a touchdown.

The New England defence secured them the 25-0 win in Atlanta thanks to four interceptions
(Image: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

The rookie was efficient as he led New England to their fifth road win out of five excursions from Foxborough, joining Dak Prescott and Ben Roethlisberger as the only rookie quarterbacks to win each of their first five road starts. Jones carries himself with a poise and calmness that veterans would dream of, and it works perfectly in this New England system.

The Falcons tried to deal with the highly-regarded Pats defence with screens and short passes, but the heat brought by Belichick meant that these failed to get the offence going. The Pats almost begged Atlanta to try the deep ball, and the ineffective run game ensured New England’s defence were in complete control. The Patriots got four sacks and four interceptions on a fine mid-week performance.

With Jones at the helm, it appears the Pats have got their mojo back.

Texans stun Titans in pick of Week 11 upsets

The NFL is proving to be a nightmare for the odds-makers in Las Vegas, although the bookies really should know better. Given how insanely random this season has been, it makes perfect sense that the 1-8 Houston Texans rolled into Nashville and defeated the 8-2 Tennessee Titans 22-13.

Obviously the Texans and their NFL-worst record defeated the AFC’s number one seed on the road, as quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for just 107 yards yet still starred with a pair of gutsy touchdown runs. He ensured the Texans were never not in control of proceedings, and instinctively used his legs to secure pivotal first downs with his legs. Taylor didn’t exactly light up the stat sheet, but he made crucial plays in pivotal moments.

Tyrod Taylor threw for 200 yards less than Ryan Tannehill in Nashville, but secured the win for his team by throwing zero interceptions to Tannehill's four
(Image: Getty Images)

If Taylor didn’t light up the box score, Ryan Tannehill ensured it was shrouded in darkness. The 33-year-old endured the worst performance of his career on Sunday, throwing for 323 yards and a touchdown while also gifting the Texans’ awful scoring defence four interceptions. Tannehill was also flagged for intentional grounding near the end of the first half, taking Tennessee out of scoring position. More than anything, this performance highlighted the impact of Derrick Henry on this Titans offence. When the king hit injured reserve, Tennessee’s offensive ideals followed him.

What is perhaps more concerning for Tennessee is Tannehill’s failure to connect on the deep ball. On passes of 10-plus air yards, the former Dolphins signal-caller has thrown four touchdowns to seven interceptions. The addition of Julio Jones – an injury-prone, older version of the superstar wideout – to a receiver corps including AJ Brown cannot mask such blatant deficiencies, particularly with no Henry to rely on.

The 2021 NFL regular season has been a roller coaster thus far. Perhaps the Texans’ win wasn’t as extraordinary as it felt. It is the regular season, after all.