There can be no doubt that Tom Brady’s return put the New England Patriots in the winners column in NFL Week 5, both on paper and in general.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Houston Texans and high-priced free agent quarterback Brock Osweiler put forth an effort that can only result in a losing grade.
We’re taking a look at these stories and more winners and losers from Week 5.
Winner: Tom Brady and the Pats have a touchdown party in Cleveland
Okay, so it’s not shocking that the New England Patriots put a beating on the winless Cleveland Browns in Tom Brady’s first game back from his four-game suspension. With that out of the way, let’s just bask in the glow that was New England’s red-hot offense on Sunday in the team’s 33-13 win.
Brady wasn’t perfect, but he was darn close to it. He opened the game with precision on the first offensive possession, completing 5-of-6 passes for 65 yards, including two to Rob Gronkowski for 53 yards. LeGarrette Blout cleaned up the drive with a one-yard touchdown.
Brady’s first touchdown pass of the 2016 season came on the very next drive. He found tight end Martellus Bennett in the end zone from seven yards out — the first of three connections between the two on the day (watch here).
The veteran finished with 406 yards in 28-of-40 passing. Both Gronkowski and receiver Chris Hogan went over 100 yards, and Bennett was a fantasy dynamo with his three touchdown scores.
We all knew Brady would return with a vengeance after missing out on the fun the first four weeks of the season. He did not disappoint.
Loser: Brock Osweiler continues to underwhelm
The Houston Texans are paying Osweiler $21 million to quarterback the offense in 2016 — the sixth-highest amount in the NFL this year.
It’s safe to say the franchise is not getting what it paid for. In fact, he’s looking more like a Texas-sized bust than anything else — something we pointed out a few weeks go, though the idea was met with much criticism.
Sunday in Minnesota against a dominant Vikings defense, Osweiler was wildly inaccurate, got rattled under pressure and was generally atrocious. Not surprisingly, the Texans lost by a wide margin, 31-13.
He finished with just 184 yards (much of which was gained in garbage time) on 19-of-42 passing with a late touchdown to DeAndre Hopkins and one interception.
Granted, the Vikings make a lot of quarterbacks look bad. But this isn’t a one-game thing for Osweiler. He’s been merely average even on his best outings in 2016.
The Texans are 3-2, but is Brock Osweiler really the solution at QB? pic.twitter.com/QznaQzFsQ0
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) October 9, 2016
Because the Texans play in the AFC South, they might still get into the playoffs by default this year. But unless Osweiler turns the corner in a major way the next handful of games, it’s likely Houston will be once again in the market for a quarterback next season.
Winner: Big Ben + Le’Veon = sweet music
The past two games have proved the value of Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. Now that he’s back in the lineup and defenses have to account for him busting off a huge run on any given play, Pittsburgh’s offense is rolling.
Of course, it all starts with Big Ben Roethlisberger, who is one of the best quarterbacks in the league before the snap. He diagnoses defense with precision these days and more often than not dials up the right counter.
Going up a darn good defensive front Sunday against the New York Jets, Roethlisberger and Co. played the Darrelle Revis-less secondary like a fiddle, winning 31-13.
On a relatively quiet day for Antonio Brown (just nine catches for 78 yards and a touchdown, he wrote sarcastically), it was none other than Sammie Coates who (as expected) came through with the monster performance. Coates finished with 139 yards and two touchdowns (including this 72-yard bomb) on six catches.
And while Bell was bottled up somewhat on the ground, he finished with 154 yards.
Pittsburgh’s offense piled up 433 yards and an astonishing 30 first downs Sunday. The past two games, the Steelers have totaled 869 yards and 58 first downs against the Jets and Kansas City Chiefs.
Roethlisberger threw for 680 yards with nine touchdowns and no interceptions in these two games. Bell has totaled 362 yards in his first two games back after serving his three-game suspension.
It doesn’t get much better than this offensively. Now the Steelers, at 4-1, are sitting pretty atop the AFC North for at least one week with the lowly Miami Dolphins being their next potential victim.
Speaking of the Dolphins, this leads us nicely to our next loser.
Loser: Dolphins swimming in reverse
Have the Dolphins hit rock bottom? It sure feels like it after the Tennessee Titans went into Hard Rock Stadium and made it their own, winning 30-17.
Second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota ruled over Miami’s pathetic, overpaid defense with the authority of Genghis Khan in his heyday. He finished the game with just 223 total yards but made them all count, scoring four times — once on the ground and three times through the air.
DeMarco Murray added to his strong campaign with 137 total yards, and Derrick Henry got into the action with 54 yards on seven carries.
Tennessee’s defense dominated Ryan Tannehill and Co. for most of the game, allowing just 200 yards and eight first downs. Tannehill, who was sacked a ridiculous six times, appears to be regressing under the tutelage of Adam Gase.
Oh, and DeVante Parker might want to invest in some sort of hand strengthening gadget (more on that here).
After the game, Gase summed up his team’s performance with brutal honesty.
“We’re inept right now,” Gase said after the game via the Palm Beach Post. “We’ve just got to figure something out. We tried to slow it down today, and huddle, and we only had 41 plays and eat up 23 minutes. We’re not getting enough first downs. We had a chance there on the third-and-1, and the ball gets batted down. We think we’re in the end zone to be down by three and we get a holding call. It just seems that we can’t get out of our own way right now.
Miami’s defense, which has been an area of focus for the franchise the past few years, continues to offer little resistance to opposing offenses.
Tennessee is not a good team. So what does it say about Miami that it had no answers Sunday?
Now at 1-4 on the season, there are far more questions than answers for the Dolphins.
Winner: Falcons flying high at Mile High
For the second week in a row, the Atlanta Falcons handily beat the two teams from last year’s Super Bowl.
After taking down the Carolina Panthers in humiliating fashion last weekend, the Falcons took the Denver Broncos to task in Denver. Granted, this game was not as one-sided, with Atlanta winning 23-16, but there was never any doubt about which team was in control of the action.
The Falcons actually did to the Broncos what the Broncos are used to doing to their opponents — they dominated on the defensive side of the ball.
Of course, it’s worth noting that rookie Paxton Lynch looked out of his element for much of the game, only getting comfortable in garbage time after the game was out of hand.
But regardless of Denver’s quarterback situation, what Atlanta’s defense did was remarkable. They sacked Lynch six times for 40 yards, forced him into a bad interception (which promptly turned into seven points) and kept the running game in check to the tune of 3.5 yards per carry.
It was a coming out party for linebacker Vic Beasley, who did his best Von Miller impersonation with 3.5 sacks and eight tackles.
On the other side, Atlanta’s offensive line did a fabulous job protecting Matt Ryan. As such, he was able to remain interception-free and produce a workmanlike performance, passing for 267 yards and a touchdown.
The difference makers for the Falcons on offense were Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman. Together, they combined on 286 yards and two touchdowns.
The game would have been even more lopsided if the Broncos hand’t recovered their three fumbles.
It was a huge team win for Atlanta, which absolutely owned the field in Denver. That isn’t something we see often.
Clearly, the Falcons are for real.
Loser: Ravens lose in agonizing fashion
The Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins threw haymakers at one another most of the day but were unable to put many points on the scoreboard.
Playing at home, Baltimore led at the half, 10-6, but was shut out the entire second half, losing 16-10. The loss was all the more bitter considering the team had legitimate opportunities to win the game.
The first big opportunity came midway through the third quarter. Baltimore had pinned Washington deep in its own territory when Kirk Cousins threw the ball in front of linebacker C.J. Mosley, who intercepted the pass. Mosley then ran towards the left pylon after evading a few tackles and almost scored the go-ahead touchdown.
Unfortunately, almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. Bennett lost the ball right as he stretched for the end zone (watch here). What should have been a first-and-goal for the Ravens at the worst turned into a first-and-10 at Washington’s 20-yard line on a touchback.
That was all the spark Washington needed. After nearly allowing a touchdown on a disastrous throw, Cousins engineered an 11-play drive that ended in a field goal to move Washington ahead, 16-10.
The Ravens had ample opportunities to score again in the fourth quarter but ended up going on a run of three consecutive drives that ended in punts.
Then, with two-and-a-half minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter, Joe Flacco willed his offense back to life. The Ravens engineered a 14-play drive that covered 62 yards.
Unfortunately, Perriman was unable to get his second foot in bounds. It was just that kind of day for John Harbaugh’s squad, which dropped to 3-2 on the season.
Flacco didn’t mince words about the disappointing showing.
“It’s embarrassing to run off the field in front of your home fans, in front of your teammates,” he said, via Clifton Brown of CSN Mid-Atlantic. “Our defense is putting up awesome fights every week, and we’re just running off the field, basically. So, it doesn’t feel good as the quarterback, as the leader of the offense, to continue to do that.”
The Ravens should have won. Flacco knows this. Executing the game plan was not something he and his offense did well.
On the flip side, we must acknowledge the scrappy play of Washington, which won its third straight game.
Winner: Dak, Zeke and the ‘Boys turn Bengals into house cats
It would be just as easy to place the Cincinnati Bengals in the loser category instead of featuring the Dallas Cowboys as winners. But the play of Dallas against the tough AFC North team was so spectacular we chose to focus on the positive aspect from this game.
For the fourth game in a row, rookie quarterback Dak Prescott was practically perfect. He finished with 227 yards on 18-of-24 passing, throwing one touchdown and no interceptions.
The past four games, he has completed 74.5 percent of his passes and has thrown four touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception on the year, making it 155 attempts on the season without one — an NFL rookie record.
He’s also extremely close to breaking Tom Brady’s record for most attempts to start one’s career without an interception.
Dak Prescott is creeping up on Tom Brady's record of passes to start a career without an interception. Carson Wentz's streak ended at 134. pic.twitter.com/Jl91gEGN8q
— SportsDayDFW (@SportsDayDFW) October 9, 2016
Fellow rookie, running back Ezekiel Elliott, was perhaps even more impressive than Prescott. Going up against a Bengals defense that had previously allowed just 3.8 yards per carry and no rushing scores, he was unstoppable.
Finishing with 134 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries, he capped off his brilliant game with a 60-yard score in the third quarter that put the Cowboys up 28-0 (watch here).
Dallas’ defense was all over the Bengals in the first half, forcing four punts on the first four Cincinnati drives. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that Andy Dalton threw two garbage-time touchdowns.
The Cowboys jumped ahead so suddenly that the Bengals never got a chance to establish a running game and run a balanced offense. It was a stunning display of dominance from Dallas, which moved to 4-1 on the season and into first place in the NFC East.
Loser: Giants’ offense is a hot mess
Over the years, we’ve come to understand that Eli Manning has some good games and some really bad ones over the course of a season. Unfortunately for Big Blue, we haven’t seen “good Eli” since Week 1, with Sunday night’s performance at Lambeau being a low point on the “bad Eli” scale.
When he had opportunities to make plays, he was wild. When he was bombarded in the pocket by Green Bay’s pass rushers, he was helpless to avoid the rush.
In total, Manning finished with just 199 yards on 18-of-35 passing. He threw one late touchdown and turned the ball over on a lost fumble, which turned into three points for the Green Bay Packers.
New York’s running game was actually worse, if you can believe that, going for just 43 yards on 15 attempts for a dismal average of just 2.9 yards per carry.
The Giants did a really solid job of keeping Aaron Rodgers in check most of the night. But without much time to rest in between offensive possessions it broke down in the second half of the game.
As a result, the Giants lost, 23-16, despite forcing Rodgers into two interceptions.
In particular, Manning’s inability to produce much in the way of positive momentum this year is troublesome. Since Week 1 when he threw three touchdowns and one interception in a win over the Dallas Cowboys, he’s thrown just two touchdowns and three interceptions, losing his last three starts in the process.
The Giants are now in sole possession of last place in the NFC East with a record of 2-3.
Winner: Frank Gore passes an NFL legend in the record books
If Frank Gore doesn’t make it into the Hall of Fame five years after he retires, it will be a darn shame. One of the best running backs of his era, the Inconvenient Truth went past NFL legend Jim Brown on the all-time rushing yards list Sunday.
And it almost didn’t happen. Gore nearly quit football after suffering a torn ACL for the second time during his tenure at the University of Miami.
“I truly wondered if football was really for me,” Gore said, per Mike Wells of ESPN. “Football was all I knew, but I also knew I didn’t want to keep getting hurt and having my body grow through the rehab over and over again. I told myself I was going to give it one more try.”
Fast forward 13 years later and he’s passing up some of the game’s most recognizable names.
Finishing with 75 yards on 14 carries Sunday, Gore helped the Indianapolis Colts improve to 2-3 when they beat the Chicago Bears at home, 29-23.
Gore now has 12,368 career rushing yards. He now has just 371 yards in between himself and Tony Dorsett, the No. 8 running back on the all-time list. To put Gore’s stats into some perspective, he currently has 643 more rushing yards than Adrian Peterson — regarded as the best pure runner of this era by many.
And he’s not done yet. At the age of 33, Gore is still better than most young backs in the NFL. We can’t wait to see what he does next.
Loser: Chargers gonna Chargers
Before Week 5, a report came out that indicated San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy’s job was on the line, with a potential decision on his future coming after Week 6 (more on that here).
After watching the Chargers choke away their fourth game in five weeks Sunday in Oakland, we’re not sure he’ll last that long.
San Diego finished with four turnovers. Philip Rivers threw two balls away to Oakland, and the Chargers actually fumbled the ball five times, losing two.
Yet despite the mistakes, McCoy’s team was up by eight points in the third quarter. In typical Chargers fashion, however, the defense disappeared right when it was needed most. Oakland ended up scoring a field goal to cut it to a five-point game, then Melvin Gordon fumbled, which resulted in a touchdown to put the Raiders up by three.
Two traded touchdowns later, Oakland led by three still, 34-31.
Rivers led his team down the field on a seven-play drive for a chance to tie the game. From the 18-yard line — a veritable chip shot — it looked like San Diego was going to tie it up.
Unfortunately, as we’ve seen all year long, the Chargers simply could not execute a simple play, botching the snap on the field goal attempt (watch here).
Oakland ran the clock down as much as possible before punting, and the Chargers couldn’t do anything after receiving the ball. The game ended with a whimper when San Diego’s attempted to replicate the Music City Miracle only to see the ball trickle out of bounds on a lateral.
It’s time for a chance in San Diego. Whether it’s Mike McCoy’s fault or not, it matters not. Players are not performing well under his leadership, which is a sure sign that things cannot stay the same.