No one told the rest of the NFL that all eyes would be on Lucas Oil Stadium in Week 7.
We got our usual complement of drama, including seven games decided by one score. A new rule made a timely debut at the end of the New York Jets' overtime victory over the New England Patriots. Two teams -- the Chicago Bears and St. Louis Rams -- might have lost their quarterbacks for an extended time. And when the dust settled, the Kansas City Chiefs were the first team to reach seven victories in 2013.
Here are the highs and lows of Sunday's games from my biased and uncompromising viewpoint:
1. Bob Sutton, Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator: Many casual fans might not recognize Sutton as the Chiefs' defensive coordinator. He is not a hotshot up-and-comer and has been on few, if any, NFL head-coaching lists. (Sutton, in fact, was the head coach at Army for nine years before spending 13 years on the New York Jets' staff.) But it's time that Sutton gets some credit for the Chiefs' 7-0 start. His defense has been elite against the pass all season, and Sunday, he dialed up some creative blitzes that generated four fourth-quarter sacks in a one-point victory over the Houston Texans. Under Sutton, the Chiefs haven't allowed more than 17 points in a game.
2. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers quarterback: There is no doubt Rodgers has been fortunate to play with some talented receivers and tight ends in his six years as the Packers' starter. In general, however, we don't give enough credit to elite quarterbacks who make the players around them better. Rodgers took the field Sunday without two of his top three receivers, James Jones and Randall Cobb. Later, tight end Jermichael Finley departed after a scary neck/head injury. Still, Rodgers led the Packers to a comfortable 31-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns by making little-known Jarrett Boykin -- once released by the Jacksonville Jaguars -- his favored receiver. Boykin caught eight of the 10 passes Rodgers threw him for 103 yards and a touchdown. Nothing against Boykin, but he doesn't have a game like that with a lesser quarterback.
3. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins quarterback: Multiple injuries to Bears defensive players require us to consider in context the 45 points that Griffin and the Redskins put up Sunday. Still, Griffin's recent willingness to run bodes well for both him and the Redskins' competitiveness in the wide-open NFC East. He gained 84 yards on 11 carries against the Bears, including 70 yards on eight read-option plays. Over the past two weeks, as he continues to regain form after knee surgery, Griffin has 161 rushing yards. No one thinks Griffin should, or could, repeat the rushing success of his rookie year, which helped lead to the knee injury. But simply putting that possibility on tape is critical to limiting the defensive options of opponents moving forward.
4. Seattle Seahawks: What? Yes, I know the Seahawks played the Thursday night game and ordinarily wouldn't be a candidate for this post. But an unusual streak involving the Seahawks is threatening to become interesting. The Tennessee Titans' loss to the San Francisco 49ers means that all six teams the Seahawks have played this season have subsequently lost the following week. At some point, that streak will shift from coincidence to notable fact. Maybe it already has. Regardless, the Seahawks play hard and hit hard, and evidence is growing that it takes some time to recover from games against them.
5. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts quarterback: I'm not going to say that Luck (228 yards, three touchdowns) outdueled Peyton Manning (386 yards, four total touchdowns, one interception) just because the Colts defeated the Broncos. I just think Luck deserves exceptional credit for playing a productive, mistake-free game when the entire storyline for a week centered around Manning's return to Indianapolis. If there was any doubt about Luck's status as an elite NFL quarterback, it should be erased by now. In his own way, Luck has proved as aggressive, competitive and resourceful as the player he replaced.
1. 2013 Official Playing Rules of the National Football League: That's the, well, official title for the NFL rulebook. We've previously seen indications that its length, nuance and detail were weighing on those charged with implementing it during games. (Referee Bill Leavy misapplied rules on two occasions in the first month of the season.) Sunday, a new and never-before-called rule essentially decided the Jets-Patriots game. Referee Jerome Boger caught the Patriots' Chris Jones pushing teammate Will Svitek in an attempt to block a potential game-winning field goal. That move was in violation of Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3, which states: "[P]layers cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation." The resulting penalty gave Jets place-kicker Nick Folk an easier field goal, which he converted in overtime for the win. What's worse, Patriots coach Bill Belichick built a postgame rebuttal based on the wording of a draft of the rule, which was amended before NFL owners approved it last spring. (In fact, it doesn't matter whether the player who pushes his teammate comes from the "second level" or the line of scrimmage.) I'm not sure if the league could ever agree on stripping down the rulebook, but at the moment it appears to be getting in the way of the game rather than helping it.
2. Brandon Meriweather, Washington Redskins safety: The focus on head injuries has created an environment where fans expect a penalty on every crushing hit. (Prime example: a legal shoulder-to-chest hit Sunday on Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson by Cincinnati Bengals safety Reggie Nelson.) But even in that environment, Meriweather is making a mockery of the league's attempts. Does he have any clue how he is expected to play? Already fined $42,000 for a head shot that knocked out Green Bay Packers tailback Eddie Lacy earlier this season, Meriweather earned a pair of 15-yard penalties Sunday. One was for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery and the other was for a hit to receiver Brandon Marshall's face mask on the goal line. Meriweather told reporters that "I feel every hit I took was a legal hit," but I can only assume that response was a simple refusal to incriminate himself. Say what you want about the league's methods for reducing brain injuries, but they are here to stay -- and Meriweather is flat out ignoring them. Anything short of a suspension, upheld by an appeal, won't suffice.
3.The most mild mistakes: You absolutely never know what will decide a game. There are any number of legitimate reasons why the Lions should have defeated the Bengals in regulation at Ford Field, but the game appeared headed for overtime when Lions rookie punter Sam Martin jogged on the field with 33 seconds remaining. The ball was on the Lions' 23-yard line, but if Martin had come anywhere close to his average punt length, the Bengals would have been pinned inside their 30-yard line and almost certainly would have kneeled on the ball. Most of us were looking ahead to overtime when Martin shanked a 28-yard punt. The Bengals took over at their 49-yard line. Quarterback Andy Dalton threw a 7-yard pass, followed it with an 8-yard pass and all of a sudden Mike Nugent was in position for a game-winning 54-yard field goal.
4.Hair-pulling: You read me right. If you were watching the snoozer between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, you saw the Eagles' Bradley Fletcher attempt to "block" the Cowboys' B.W. Webb by pulling the hair that flows from under Webb's helmet. Using the hair to make a tackle is legal under NFL rules -- it's considered no different from grabbing an arm or leg. But with so many players now sporting long hair, I'm not sure I see the connection between tackling and blocking. If you grabbed a player's arm as he was covering a kick, as Webb was, wouldn't that be holding? At the risk of adding another complication to the rulebook, I wonder if we should see holding penalties for hair-pulling in a blocking situation. (I can't even believe I just wrote that sentence.)
5. Game-day roster limits: Each NFL team is allowed 46 active players per game, leading NFL coaches to make difficult decisions that generally go unnoticed. Sunday, San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy had seven linemen in uniform, then watched in horror as his left tackle (King Dunlap) and backup left tackle (Mike Remmers) were injured. Ultimately, the Chargers played with right tackle D.J. Fluker on the left side, guard Jeromey Clary at right tackle and a tight end as his emergency backup. The Lions were forced to send injured left tackle Riley Reiff back into the game when right tackle Corey Hilliard was injured. Finally, the Texans lost tailback Arian Foster and then, briefly, backup Ben Tate. If Tate hadn't returned, the Texans would have had to use fullback Greg Jones as their lead back. Sometimes, 46 just isn't enough.