My goodness, NFL Week 5 featured an ugly slate of games for many of the teams around the league. It also provided some shocking results.
The AFC North’s top squad was akin to a bug on a windshield at home against a mercurial AFC North team that was happy to be the Corvette screaming at 100 miles per hour.
Two teams won despite the fact their quarterbacks didn’t eclipse 100 yards passing. One of the best quarterbacks in the league the past decade-plus threw five — count ’em FIVE — interceptions.
It was nasty.
Though, whenever there’s a lot of bad stuff somebody’s coming out ahead, too. One example: There’s now a three-way tie atop the AFC East, with one team surprising everyone with a better-than-.500 record.
Here are the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 5.
Winner: Myles Garrett made up for lost time
The No. 1 pick of the 2017 NFL Draft missed his first four games with a high-ankle sprain, but he was worth the wait. During Cleveland’s first defensive possession, on his first career NFL snap, Myles Garrett hauled down Josh McCown on a fierce stunt up the middle (watch here). A bit later on, Garrett made his second sack of the season.
This means that, in just one game, Garrett is already tied for the team lead in sacks on Cleveland’s defense with Emmanuel Ogbah and James Burgess. Welcome to the NFL, rookie. For what it’s worth, this scribe hopes we see Garrett terrorizing NFL quarterbacks for years to come. Blessed with extraordinary physical traits, an outstanding work ethic and attitude, he’s the kind of player we love to see succeed.
Loser: Arizona’s defense was a sieve
When the Arizona Cardinals lost Tony Jefferson and Calais Campbell to free agency this spring, it was safe to wonder if their defense would hold up. On top of that, the only cornerback of any consequence on the roster is Patrick Peterson. And he can only cover one guy. After four weeks in which the Cardinals managed gut-it-out wins over powerhouse teams like the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers (sarcasm laid on thick), they were utterly annihilated by the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday.
Carson Wentz had a field day passing for 304 yards and four touchdowns. LeGarrette Blount couldn’t be stopped. Arizona’s defenders were, for all intents and purposes, allergic to tackling in this one. The final score of 34-7 tells us plenty. Here’s a bit more: The Eagles gained 419 yards, converted 9-of-14 on third downs and dominated the time-of-possession battle by over 10 minutes.
This tells us a story about a defense that couldn’t get off the field, which spells disaster for a team like the Cardinals, who can’t run the ball right now, either.
Winner: Jags rip Big Ben to shreds
Ben Roethlisberger threw two pick-sixes on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s only thrown two in a game one other time in his career, and that occurred back in 2006 when he was a third-year pro. When it was all said and done, Big Ben threw five interceptions and failed to throw single touchdown. According to NFL Research, this marks a new career low for the long-time Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback.
Jacksonville deserves all the credit here. While we’ve been noticing a decline in Roethlisberger’s play recently, the Jaguars forced these turnovers by sticking to their receivers like glue in coverage and putting pressure on the quarterback up front. They also kept Le’Veon Bell in check in the running game, holding him to 47 yards on 15 carries.
Loser: Eric Ebron drop comes back to haunt Lions
When are the Detroit Lions going to learn that, despite his physical talents, Eric Ebron is not a star? In fact, it could be argued he’s more of a liability at this point than anything else. We saw this firsthand Sunday on the game’s opening drive against the Carolina Panthers.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford started the game on fire. He completed hitting on four of his first five attempts, and the Lions gained 30 yards on a pass interference call when Stafford targeted Marvin Jones deep down the left side of the field. Then, from Carolina’s 12-yard line on third-and-10, Stafford put a pass right into the hands of Ebron in the middle of the end zone. Only Ebron couldn’t hang on. The dropped pass cost Detroit four points (assuming the extra point was made) in a game that was ultimately decided by three points.
Ebron finished with just one catch on four targets for six yards. For the season he’s caught just 12 passes on 23 targets. And aside from one glorious first half against the New York Giants in Week 2, the tight end might as well be invisible in Detroit’s offense. In the end, Stafford looked for his other tight end, Darren Fells, in the end zone during the second half.
Winner: Jets now tied for AFC East lead
Let’s be honest. Nobody saw this coming. The Jets won their third straight game and are now tied with the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots atop the AFC East. Speaking of three-game winning streaks, it’s the first one the Jets can claim as their own since the end of the 2015 season.
Sunday’s win over Cleveland wasn’t pretty. The Browns actually got going offensively in the second half and out-gained the Jets by over 200 yards. Thankfully the defense came up with some timely turnovers in the red zone to keep the winning streak intact. Another troublesome angle is that Bilal Powell was injured. Without him and Matt Forte in the lineup, New York managed just 34 yards on the ground.
Still, we knew the Jets were deficient in many areas heading into the season. Despite that, they’re over .500 and have already exceeded our wildest expectations.
Loser: Titans pay for putting game in Matt Cassel’s hands
Matt Cassel isn’t a fantastic NFL quarterback. There’s a reason he’s been a backup the past half decade. But Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Mularkey must not have gotten the memo. In a game that wasn’t over until the clock struck zeroes (16-10 in favor of Miami), there was no need for Cassel to pass the ball very much. Especially considering how good the Titans’ rushing attack can be when both Derrick Henry and DeMarco Murray get involved.
Well, let’s just say wisdom did not win this battle. Cassel threw the ball 32 times and managed a meager 119 net yards of passing offense. He was also sacked six times, one of which turned into seven points for the equally hapless Dolphins (watch here). Meanwhile, Murray and Henry combined for 18 rushing attempts. Granted, they gained just 67 yards. But these guys can break a big one at any point. And in a game like this — where your opponent’s offense is just as bad, if not worse — putting the ball in Cassel’s hands was an inexcusable lapse in judgement.
Winner: Frank Gore passes another milestone in win
Looking at the stat sheet, you might be excused for thinking Frank Gore had a ho-hum day. After all, he only rushed for 48 yards and had two fumbles, though both were recovered by Indianapolis. But this was not a normal Sunday for The Inconvenient Truth, who passed Eric Dickerson on the NFL’s all-time rushing list when he rumbled for nine yards in the first quarter. Gore is now No. 7 in the all-time record book.
After Sunday’s game, Gore now has 13,304 career rushing yards. He’s only 358 yards behind The Bus, Jerome Bettis, who is No. 6 on the all-time list.
Loser: Bills’ passing offense falls apart in second half
Tyrod Taylor isn’t the best quarterback in the NFL. But he’s far from the worst. Buffalo’s receiving corps, however, is another matter altogether.
Rookie Zay Jones entered Week 5 with just four catches on 17 targets and was one of the players we highlighted with a lot to prove. All he proved is that the NFL stage is a bit too big for him right now, catching just one pass on four targets. Overall, Buffalo’s receivers were abysmal. It says a lot that tight ends Nick O’Leary and Charles Clay, along with LeSean McCoy, were the only real playmakers, catching 13 of Taylor’s 20 completed passes in the game.
The issues in the passing game were compounded in the second half. Taylor completed 7-of-12 passes but went for just 39 yards. And when the game was on the line late in the fourth quarter, he badly overthrew the rookie Jones and was picked off. Thus the game ended, 20-16 in favor of Cincinnati, which wasn’t all that great in this one, either.
Winner: Chargers finally win a close one
It seems like forever ago that the Los Angeles Chargers won a close game. Down by two points with under two minutes remaining, they finally did what has for so long seemed impossible. They forced a turnover, scored the game-winning touchdown and then clamped down defensively to make it stick.
Chargers fans must be rubbing their eyes in disbelief. We touched on how hard it’s been for this team to win close games the past couple of years after it lost by two points to the Philadelphia Eagles last weekend. Winning the turnover battle was key, as was getting Melvin Gordon going on the ground. In the end, a nine-game losing streak was broken, which is no small thing.
Loser: Oakland’s defense was tonic for ailing Ravens
You know you’re in trouble when a struggling team comes into your building and dominates. And it’s more than safe to say the Baltimore Ravens came into Week 5 struggling. They had lost their last two games by a combined score of 70-16. Joe Flacco threw four interceptions in those games, and the Ravens looked as lost as any team in the NFL.
Now, we know that EJ Manuel does not equate Derek Carr, who was out of this one with a back injury. But Manuel wasn’t the problem. And yes, the Ravens did score on a fumble recovery. But even discounting that score, Baltimore would have won. The reason? Once again, the Raiders were just awful defensively.
Mike Wallace, who’s totaled 76 yards receiving this year, went off for 133 yards on three receptions. He caught all three passes that came his way, going for 54, 52 and 27 yards. Just burning Oakland’s awful secondary. The Ravens also ran the ball consistently, shoving the ball down Baltimore’s throat to the tune of 143 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries.
The Raiders needed their defense to step up, but instead it was a liability. Now the Raiders are 2-3 on the season, looking up at Kansas City and Denver in the AFC West.
Winner: Tom Brady on the verge of another record
There’s a strong argument to be made that Tom Brady is already the GOAT. He’s won five Super Bowls and continues to play at an insanely high level at the age of 40. He’s won more playoff games than any other quarterback, is No. 4 on the all-time passing yards list, No. 4 on the all-time touchdown passing list, No. 3 on the all-time passer rating list and has numerous other achievements that mark him as an all-time great.
Then on Thursday when the New England Patriots took down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Brady reached another career milestone. With his 186th career regular season win, Brady tied Brett Favre and Peyton Manning for the all-time lead in this prestigious category.
Look out, New York Jets. You’re next.
Loser: Why aren’t the 49ers running the ball?
Either Carlos Hyde (No. 6 rusher in the NFL before this weekend) is hurt worse than the San Francisco 49ers are letting on, or Kyle Shanahan needs a timeout. Heck, even if Hyde is hurt, meaning we can brush aside the fact he only touched the ball nine times Sunday against Indianapolis, backup running back Matt Breida averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 10 attempts. Yet these two running backs only got 18 chances to make plays on the ground.
Meanwhile, Brian Hoyer (NFL’s 30th ranked passer before this weekend) attempted 46 passes in the team’s second straight overtime loss. Okay sure, he threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns to help force overtime. But this game wasn’t out of hand until the third quarter when Indy scored 17 straight points on three consecutive drives. The running game was never a high priority, which is mind boggling.
Winner: Aaron Rodgers is a late-game deity
When the Dallas Cowboys went up by three points on a Dak Prescott touchdown Sunday with 1:13 still left on the clock, we knew. Everybody knew. That was way too much time to give Aaron Rodgers.
And it was.
Rodgers, who didn’t have all that great an overall game (19-of-29 for 221 yards and three touchdowns), calmly engineered a nine-play drive that went 75 yards in just over one minute. He finished off the drive with a gorgeous back-shoulder pass over the top of rookie cornerback Jourdan Lewis. Davante Adams, who was hospitalized during the team’s last game due to a brutal hit to the head, hauled in the score, his second of the game (watch here).
It’s an all-too common scene — Aaron Rodgers destroying another team’s hopes with a brilliant game-winning drive. He’s the grand master these days, and the Cowboys have now felt the bitter sting of defeat at home against him twice in a row, as a similar event occurred last year in the playoffs.
Loser: Jared Goff gets an atomic wedgie, courtesy of the Legion of Boom
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff has been really good this year. Leading up to Sunday’s game at home against Seattle, he was the head man for the NFL’s top-scoring offense. He had also been very much in control of the passing game, completing 66.7 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and no interceptions, sporting a 112.2 passer rating to boot.
All of that changed Sunday against the famed Legion of Boom. The Seahawks dominated the line of scrimmage, shutting down the running game for the most part and making Goff beat them with his arm. He couldn’t. Completing just 46.8 percent of his passes, he failed to throw a touchdown and was picked off twice, including one by defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
Goff did come close to beating the Seahawks in the end, but overall he was treated to a good, old-fashioned atomic wedgie by Los Angeles’ big brother in the NFC West, the Seahawks.
Winner: Alex Smith’s mastery of Kansas City’s offense is a sight to behold
Five weeks have shown us that there isn’t a better team in the NFL than the Kansas City Chiefs. And while there are many reasons for this, one rises above them all: Alex Smith is running Andy Reid’s offense to perfection. Much maligned in the past for his penchant for dinking and dunking his way down the field, Smith is showing us all he can do it all. Whether it’s a pitch play behind the line of scrimmage, a deep pass downfield to Tyreek Hill or one of the many mid-range throws he makes to Travis Kelce, Smith is doing it right.
On Sunday night in Houston against a Texans defense that wasn’t quite right due to injuries, Smith had his biggest game since the opener against the New England Patriots. He completed 29-of-37 passes for 324 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Speaking of interceptions, Smith has yet to throw one all year. He masterfully avoided the rush all night, enduring just one sack for a loss of one yard. He moved around in the pocket, finding his receivers at the last moment or throwing the ball away to avoid losing yards.
And the best part is that it looks effortless. Smith is truly a master at his craft right now. And the Chiefs are still the only undefeated team in the NFL.
Loser: Giants drop No. 5, offense suffers catastrophic rash of injuries
In the battle of the 0-4 squads, though the score was close there can be no doubt the New York Giants was a huge loser this weekend. In addition to the fact the Giants lost to the Los Angeles Chargers on a late touchdown/interception combo to win their first game, 27-22, New York was decimated by injuries.
The big ones are at the receiver position. Odell Beckham Jr. reportedly suffered a fractured ankle and surgery is being considered. Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard both left the game with ankle injuries. Dwayne Harris was carted off the field during the game as well and was determined to have a fractured foot.
Now at 0-5 on the season, the Giants — a team many thought would contend for the NFC title — are in the Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold sweepstakes.
Winner: Leonard Fournette had a great game, then he finished like a champ
The Jacksonville Jaguars had the game in the bag. They were up, 23-9, after intercepting Ben Roethlisberger for a fifth time, and there was just over three minutes left on the clock. At this time, Leonard Fournette had already had a tremendous game. He had ran the ball 24 times for 87 yards and a touchdown. Then he pounded the rock three more times for four yards as the Jags wore down the clock.
The two-minute warning marked the point in the game at which it looked like the Jags would just continue to chip away on the ground. Then Fournette found a hole and blasted through it like he was shot out of a cannon. The powerful back showed he’s got plenty of speed to burn, outrunnning the entire Steelers defense for a 90-yard score (watch here).
This is why he was selected No. 4 overall. This is why you love backs who get stronger as the game gets longer. Fournette should always be option No. 1 for the Jaguars. Sunday he was. His ability to pound the rock, combined with Jacksonville’s defense, is the reason why people like myself have been saying the Jags have a playoff team.
Loser: Nick Folk proves Bucs’ kicker woes far from over
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did enough to win Thursday night at home against the New England Patriots. Unless you’re counting the awful performance put forth by kicker Nick Folk, who missed three field goals, two of which he absolutely should have made, in what turned out to be a five-point win for Tom Brady and Co.
If you remember, Folk was the guy who took over for Roberto Aguayo, who was cut this summer after the Bucs traded up into the second round last year to draft him. Through four games this season, the veteran kicker has now connected on just 6-of-11 field goals, and he’s missed two extra points.
He’s not going to keep his job. No way. But that doesn’t help the Bucs, who still don’t have a kicker. That’s a huge problem. They’ll be reportedly bringing in four kickers on Monday.
Winner: Panthers starting to click on both sides of the ball
It wasn’t a complete game of domination. The Detroit Lions went up early and rallied late. Carolina couldn’t run the ball to save its life. But overall? The Panthers were darn good Sunday on the road, beating a Lions squad that is nine points away from being undefeated this year.
Cam Newton rebounded nicely on the field after making a huge mistake off it. The former league MVP passed for 355 yards with three touchdowns, helping Carolina gain a 27-10 advantage early in the third quarter. From there, the Panthers did just enough to come away with the win. The Panthers crushed Detroit’s running game to bits, sacked Matthew Stafford six times and held him to net 192 yards passing.
For a team that started the year so shakily on offense, Newton’s awakening is a huge positive. It’s also a sign that this team could be for real heading into the final months of the year.
Loser: DeShone Kizer clearly in over his head
The Cleveland Browns benched rookie DeShone Kizer for the second game in a row. Unlike last weekend, Kizer didn’t even play in the second half. After turning the ball over twice inside the New York Jets’ five-yard line and completing just 8-of-17 passes for 87 yards, he got the hook at halftime.
As noted by NFL Research, the two turnovers inside his opponent’s five-yard line marks the first time since 2009 that an NFL quarterback had done so. Through four-plus games, Kizer has now turned the ball over 13 times, which is (by far) the most in the NFL.
At this point, it’s clear the rookie is in over his head. He hasn’t gotten a ton of help from his receivers, but Kevin Hogan has been markedly better when given his chances.
Bonus Winner: Nelson Agholor did something amazing
One of the players who benefited from Arizona’s awful defensive effort was Nelson Agholor. The Philadelphia Eagles receiver absolutely thrashed rookie safety Budda Baker on a 72-yard touchdown pass. First he beat him downfield, then he put on a series of moves that befuddled the poor defender before dramatically falling into the end zone. Here’s the play, courtesy of the NFL on Twitter. Agholor finished with four catches for 93 yards.