Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys continued their stellar early-season play. The Atlanta Falcons proved their worth among the league’s elite.
In Cleveland, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots didn’t miss a beat in his first game back from suspension.
Meanwhile, boneheaded plays defined the outcome of games in Detroit and Baltimore.
These are among the top-10 takeaways from Sunday’s Week 5 NFL action.
1. Tom Brady is back alright
The future Hall of Fame quarterback didn’t take too long to make an impact in his first game back from a four-game suspension. Seemingly out to prove any remaining skeptics wrong, Brady dazzled against a hapless Cleveland Browns team on Sunday.
Brady completed 18-of-25 passes for 271 yards with two touchdowns in the first half alone. He didn’t have to do too much after that.
In the end, New England won 33-13 against a talent-stricken squad. It did so behind 406 passing yards and three touchdowns from Brady, three of which went to Martellus Bennett (watch here).
The NFL itself should be worried here. Brady played like a man possessed — a man that’s out to prove to the world that he’s still the best. If that is indeed the case, the other 31 teams can pretty much call it a day on the season.
This isn’t an overreaction, nor is it basic water-cooler talk. It’s the reality of the situation, and the NFL should be worried. Sunday’s performance was a prime example of this.
2. Cowboys dismantle Bengals in shocking performance
It didn’t take much time for the young Dallas Cowboys to jump on the visiting Cincinnati Bengals in Texas on Sunday afternoon.
An Ezekiel Elliott 11-yard touchdown run less than four minutes into the game opened the scoring onslaught. That acted as the bread to a sandwich that also included two Dak Prescott touchdown passes before Elliott broke a huge 60-yard touchdown (watch here).
With that, the Cowboys finished off a teetering Bengals team 28-14 to move to an impressive 4-1 on the season.
It was a game that Cincinnati had no chance to win from the start. Dallas opened up a 21-0 halftime lead before Elliott’s dazzling third quarter run put the team up by four touchdowns.
In reality, it was all about the rookies today. Prescott continued his mistake-free football, putting the ball in the air 24 more times without throwing an interception. That extended his record of consecutive passes to begin his career without a pick to 155 passes.
All said, he completed 18-of-24 passes for 227 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions in the blowout win.
Meanwhile, Elliott headed into Week 5 as the league’s top rusher. He responded by putting up 134 yards and two scores on just 15 rush attempts. The rookie first-round pick has tallied 627 total yards and five scores through five games.
By virtue of these two players dominating a reigning division champion, the Cowboys find themselves at 4-1 and in first place in the NFC East. No one would have figured this possible heading into the season.
3. Minnesota Vikings defense continues to dominate
This unit is absolutely making a mockery of NFL offenses. If it wasn’t for a garbage-time touchdown from DeAndre Hopkins, Minnesota would have held the Texans to two useless field goals in what ended up being a 31-13 whitewashing of the defending AFC South champs.
Overall, the Texans put up 214 yards of offense and 16 first downs in a completely inept showing. Brock Osweiler completed just 19-of-42 passes for 184 yards with a touchdown and an interception. It was the latest substandard performance for the high-priced free agent signing.
The Texans are 3-2, but is Brock Osweiler really the solution at QB? pic.twitter.com/QznaQzFsQ0
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) October 9, 2016
Meanwhile, Minnesota’s defensive front absolutely dominated the trenches. Osweiler was sacked four times and brought down to the turf a total of 13 times in the 18-point Minnesota win.
Now, through five games, the undefeated Vikings have given up a total of 63 points. No team has scored more than one touchdown against their defense in any of the five games. More than that, Minnesota has now gotten to the quarterback for a total of 19 sacks and 49 hits. These are some absurd stats.
They also speak to the domination the likes of Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter have displayed on the still young season. Minnesota now heads into mid-October as the best team in the NFL. That’s amazing considering the squad’s rash of injuries thus far on the season.
4. Oakland Raiders could be the class of the AFC West
— NFL (@NFL) October 9, 2016
This seems a bit absurd on the surface. Some will also conclude that it’s an overreaction to one Denver Broncos loss. Both of these things could very well be true.
What we do know is that the Raiders boast a 4-1 record for the first time since 2002. They have won three consecutive games and continue to perform at an incredibly high clip on offense.
Despite some major early struggles with accuracy on Sunday, third-year quarterback Derek Carr rebounded big time. He led the Raiders on five consecutive scoring drives to help remove an eight-point deficit against the team’s biggest rival.
Carr’s day was capped off by a beautiful 21-yard touchdown scoring strike to Michael Crabtree. That came mere minutes after he connected with Amari Cooper on a 64-yard scoring strike.
It is these types of plays that have defined Carr as he makes the transition from great young quarterback into the world of the elite. Now, through five games, Carr is completing 68 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.
What we saw in Denver on Sunday (more on that later) also plays a role here. It tells us a story of an elite offense that can go into Mile High and come out on top. Time will be the judge here, but the Raiders sure do look like they have the talent to do just that.
5. Ugly performance from Eli Manning the Giants’ offense
For the second consecutive game, the New York Giants failed to do anything of substance against a stout NFC North defense. After putting up just 10 points against the Minnesota Vikings last week, Eli and Co. reached the end zone just once. That came late in the game with the Green Bay Packers already up two scores.
All said, Manning completed just 18-of-35 passes for 199 yards with one touchdown. He didn’t get any help from an inept running game that averaged less than three yards per rush.
And while Odell Beckham Jr. did score a late-game touchdown, he caught just 5-of-12 targets for 56 yards. It was another underwhelming performance from the suddenly enigmatic star.
Now at 2-3 on the season, New York finds itself in the cellar in the NFC East. Interestingly enough, that has more to do with its offense than what many perceived to be a weak defense.
6. New York Jets pass defense remains a disaster
The Pittsburgh Steelers racked up 433 total yards and 30 first downs against what it quickly becoming a horrible Jets defense. And in reality, it’s the big plays that’s hurt the Jets thus far on the season.
This came back to haunt Todd Bowles and Co. again on Sunday when second-year receiver Sammie Coates caught a 72-yard touchdown strike from Ben Roethlisberger early in the first quarter (watch here).
That was just the start of another disastrous outing for the Jets’ pass defense. Overall, Big Ben completed 37-of-47 passes for 380 yards with four touchdowns and zero picks.
To put how bad this unit has been into perspective, opposing signal callers now boast an 81.2 completion percentage and a 129.2 quarterback rating against the Jets this season.
There are a lot of issues here, but it’s primarily about the secondary. Allowing an 80-plus percent catch rate himself, Darrelle Revis had to sit out Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury.
Tasked with stepping up into a larger role, Marcus Williams was destroyed by Coates throughout the afternoon. Adding to the horrendous overall performance, the Jets got to Big Ben just once and failed to put consistent pressure on the immobile quarterback.
That’s unacceptable for a team with three Pro Bowl-caliber defensive linemen on the roster. And now at 1-4 on the season, the Jets are pretty much out of it. Even more so than Ryan Fitzpatrick’s turnover proneness, it’s the team’s defense that needs to be blamed for this.
7. Atlanta Falcons ride the Broncos out of Denver
It didn’t take too long for the Falcons to make their presence known at Mile High on Sunday afternoon. Their high-flying offense took off big time on the first drive of the game, going 75 yards on nine plays to take an early 7-0 lead.
This represented the first touchdown Denver has yielded on an opening drive all season. This furthers the idea that Atlanta boasts the type of offense that can have consistent success against the league’s best defenses.
It wasn’t on par with what we saw last week against the Carolina Panthers. After all, there was very little reason to believe Atlanta would be able to go into Denver and dominate in that manner.
Instead, it was a solid all-around performance from Atlanta’s offense that led the way. Matt Ryan completed just 15-of-28 passes but had four different completions go for 20-plus yards on the day. More important than that, he didn’t throw an interception against a ball-hawking defense.
The two-headed running back monster of Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman also performed at an exceedingly high level. Questionable to play in the high altitude of Denver due to his sickle-cell trait, Coleman racked up 163 total yards on 10 touches. Add in Freeman’s solid day, and these two running backs went for a combined 286 yards on 36 touches.
That’s the key against Denver’s dominating defense. Break off the big play, win the field position battle and find a way to end a few of those drives with six points. This is exactly what the Falcons were able to do in beating the previously undefeated Broncos in Denver on Sunday.
8. Chargers absolutely blow it again
It’s quite possible that the Chargers have found every way known to man to lose this season. And we’re just five weeks into the year.
Another mistake-filled game. Another narrow loss. Another inexcusable late-game error. It all came rearing its ugly head Sunday afternoon in Oakland. It’s also going to lead to more questions about Mike McCoy’s job status moving forward. Questions that were raised before the Chargers’ latest meltdown (more on that here).
With Oakland up 34-31 and San Diego set to attempt a 43-yard field goal to tie the game, the Chargers couldn’t even get a snap right. The end result being yet another late-game loss to move the team to 1-4 on the season.
We can point to the bad snap. We can call out the Chargers’ players for not making plays when they needed to. We can look at the four turnovers. That’s all fine.
Unfortunately, it’s now all about culture in San Diego. And in reality, the culture is not conducive to winning football. Now, five weeks into the 2016 season, all four of San Diego’s losses have come by one score. Dating back to last season, this team has lost 14 one-score games. That’s on Mike McCoy. And that will likely lead to his departure from San Diego here soon.
9. Boneheaded plays on top of boneheaded plays
Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley casually fumbled the ball into the end zone for a touchback (watch here) in a play that pretty much doomed his team’s chances of defeating the Washington Redskins.
Meanwhile in Detroit, Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox roughed up Matthew Stafford (taking the helmet right off his head) in a play that extended a Lions drive, resulting in a touchdown.
These are just two examples of boneheaded plays during a slate of action where it seems certain players left their brains at home.
For the Ravens, that costly Mosley fumble would have resulted in a touchdown if he had just hung on to the ball. In the end, Baltimore lost to the Washington Redskins by six.
Cox’s ill-time personal foul penalty extended a Lions drive, eventually leading to a one-yard touchdown strike from Matthew Stafford to Marvin Jones.
Just a tad bit earlier in the game, Eagles safety Rodney McCleod also committed an unnecessary roughness penalty on Stafford, a penalty that took place on second down and long. Two plays later, Stafford would hit Theo Riddick for a touchdown to put the Lions up 14-0.
You simply can’t give away two touchdowns on dumb penalties and expect to win. Unfortunately, Philadelphia dug its own grave in a narrow 24-23 loss to Detroit. That should be deemed unacceptable to head coach Doug Pederson and Co.
10. Browns quarterback situation worsens
The Cleveland Browns have now used five different quarterbacks this season. Five. The fifth, Charlie Whitehurst, had to take over Sunday against New England when rookie Cody Kessler went down to injury.
If there’s any good news here, it seems that Kessler is day-to-day with an injury to his chest and rib area. That’s pretty much the extent of the good news for the now 0-5 Browns.
Hue Jackson might be a quarterback whisperer, but he simply can’t get water from a rock. Once a team has to turn to Clipboard Jesus to take snaps under center, we can safely assume it’s not going too swimmingly.
At this point, we are pretty much at a loss for words right now. Cleveland will be lucky enough to win one game with this quarterback situation.
And unfortunately, this comes mere months after the team traded away the right to select Carson Wentz. Way to go, Sashi Brown and Co. What a way to start your tenure in Cleveland.