Week five in the NFL had a lot of thrills, surprises and hair-pulling moments. Audiences are finding out which teams could be contenders and which ones could be one and done if they reach the playoffs. Despite a lot of storylines off the field with some coaches and players, Sunday’s games revealed what to expect from next week to even next year.
Winners: Tom Brady
All the years, games and highlights we’d seen of Brady there was never a stat-line where he threw five touchdowns and over 400 yards. Not until yesterday. The Miami Dolphin defense was competitive for one half but broke down and Tampa Bay’s receivers ran whatever routes they wanted.
What’s more special is what happened to Brady mid-game. Reports on CBS and after the victory said the 44 year old quarterback injured the thumb on his throwing hand. When he wasn’t passing touchdowns to Mike Evans or Antonio Brown, he was icing his thumb on the bench.
We’ve often heard how once-in-a-lifetime Tom Brady’s career is. Three of his first five starts he’s thrown four touchdowns and over 300 yards in. Only a handful of quarterbacks have done that. George Blanda looked haggard and somewhat reliable when he was in his mid-40s. Brady could win an MVP award and shatter more of his own records this year at 44.
It was fair to wonder if Sean McDermott’s team were pretenders heading into Sunday night’s game in Kansas City. They pummeled three awful teams and lost their first game of the season to a one and done Pittsburgh squad. After Sunday night, this team is the best in the AFC.
Buffalo’s opening drive was eight plays and 75 yards, ending with a touchdown run by quarterback Josh Allen. The Bills’ offensive line allowed no defender to tackle Allen that play. Kansas City’s defense was alert for three quarters, not blitzing a quarterback many see as a legitimate dual threat. They couldn’t stop the running game but didn’t need to when receiver Stefon Diggs and tight end Dawson Knox were open all night. The best highlight was Allen hurdling over L’Jarius Sneed on a wet and slippery grass field. He finished the night with three touchdowns, over 300 yards passing and a 139.1 quarterback rating.
The Bills’ defense aced their first true test of the season. The secondary limited Patrick Mahomes’ favorite targets Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. They played physical with receivers instead of the track and field style used in last year’s games. Mahomes was intercepted twice, one of which from Micah Hyde was returned for a touchdown. Greg Rousseau recorded the other turnover and one of the two sacks on Mahomes in the game.
What sets the Bills apart from a lot of teams is their depth from defensive line to quarterback. NBC’s Cris Collinsworth pointed out how backup Mitchell Trubisky can run the same type of offense if Josh Allen’s injured. Buffalo’s defensive front was eye-opening and the network’s graphic calculated at least nine players recording over 30 snaps (or plays) the whole game.
Last but not least, their schedule eases up. After a clash next Monday night in Nashville, the Bills have a bye week, followed up by an easy divisional home game and two road games against the Jaguars and Jets. They could clinch a playoff spot before Thanksgiving.
While he isn’t having the same year Bengal’s star receiver Ja’Marr Chase is, Calloway’s production is growing and he’ll be a fun receiver to watch. The undrafted sophomore is averaging just over 17 yards a catch with Michael Thomas and Tre’Quan Smith not playing. That’s not an easy mark to accomplish. Two of his three touchdowns this season were scored yesterday.
Calloway lived a receiver’s dream catching a Hail Mary touchdown pass to end the first half in a road game versus the Washington Football Team. That score gave the New Orleans Saints a 20-13 lead, and they didn’t trail the rest of the game. His second touchdown came minutes into the fourth quarter to cement an eleven point lead, effectively ending the game and helping the Saints receive their third win of the season.
Last year Tre’Quan Smith turned into a reliable option for Drew Brees when Michael Thomas was injured. It’s possible Sean Payton can help Calloway grow into a dangerous, reliable third option for quarterback Jameis Winston.
The Ravens have yet to play their Monday night home game but they’ve already won week five. Cincinnati and Cleveland lost gut-wrenching games yesterday, dropping to 3-2. The Steelers aren’t a threat to the divisional race yet despite their win against Denver. The worst the Ravens could do Monday night is lose against a one win Colts team.
Think of it this way; Baltimore’s chances of winning the AFC North come from beating their division rivals, and those are six games yet to be played. Even if there’s a three-way tie, Baltimore’s chances of splitting with any of those three teams are none. They’ve shown who’s better in every rivalry.
Losers: Special Teams
There hadn’t been ten missed field goals AND extra points since the extra point distance was made longer in 2015. If there’s anything that stood out in week five, it’s the missed chances teams had to win or contain leads.
All three extra points in the first half of the New England-Houston game were missed. Chargers kicker Tristan Vizcaino missed two extra points, one in each half. Mason Crosby and Evan McPherson missed five straight field goals before Crosby kicked a game-winner in Cincinnati.
It wasn’t just field goals or extra points. Matt Gay committed two illegal procedure kicks out of bounds on kickoffs, keeping Seattle alive late in the game Thursday. Cameron Johnston had a blocked punt…from the back of his lineman’s helmet. Byron Pringle fumbled early Sunday night to give the Bills a second straight possession.
Thankfully the league doesn’t see these mistakes as a trend week-to-week. Week six should be a smooth time for this side of the ball.
Usually a rookie quarterback who throws the first three touchdowns of his career and a 141.7 rating against a Bill Belichick defense doesn’t wind up in this section. However, when you lead 22-9 in the second half and allow an opponent to come back by playing mediocre football, the offense will face a lot of questions and criticism.
It’s not fair to say a rookie quarterback in his third start should get the majority of the blame for the offense stalling and blowing a 13 point lead. Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn had his chances and missed. The Texans run defense broke down. However Mills is the leader of Houston’s offense and knew he had to close the game out running the ball or using play-action passes, not gambling downfield and going three and out against one of the league’s best coaches. The special teams may have given the Patriots hope, but it was Mills’ job to slam the door on a comeback and he failed to.
For any long-time NFL fans, ask yourself when was the last time a rookie head coach lost a locker room four or five games into a season. Chances are it’s really hard to pick one. Adam Gase, Greg Schiano, Cam Cameron and Matt Patricia at least kept interest for 12 games or even a full season before they epically flamed out.
Halloween is three Sundays away and the Jaguars players are not only quitting on plays (Steve Smith Sr. even acknowledged they changed nothing in their Thursday night loss to Cincinnati), but they’re laughing at the head coach after he leaves and finishes talking with them.
It worsened when Urban and number one pick Trevor Lawrence disagreed on play-calling in a blowout home loss to Tennessee in post-game interviews. Meyer’s not only far apart when it comes to plays with the franchise star, he’s lost with veteran players in the locker room and has been lectured to re-build trust with an owner who may or may not know what he’s doing.
At least Nick Saban avoided linebacker Zach Thomas’s fists in his tenure with the Miami Dolphins. Meyer might not have that luck.
Las Vegas Raiders
No team in the league could’ve had a worse week on and off the field. Regardless of what you think about the Urban Meyer situation, it pales in comparison to Jon Gruden’s.
Let’s start with on-field issues. Derek Carr’s career almost ended on a quarterback sneak. Thankfully he’s ok. Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields however didn’t feel the love. The Raider defense targeted Fields early, resulting in three unnecessary roughness penalties. Fans not wearing the silver and black should be relieved the rookie quarterback didn’t suffer a serious injury. Backup Bears runningbacks Khalil Herbert and Damien Williams averaged over four yards a carry against the defense, including a touchdown. A Darnell Mooney reception on third and 13 doomed a comeback.
Former franchise star Khalil Mack had a sack and seven pivotal tackles against the Vegas offense. Josh Jacobs ran over three yards a carry in his return from injury. The team didn’t look ready to play a home game against a .500 Bears team transferring play calling duties from head coach to offensive coordinator.
The off-field issues are more concerning. Coach Gruden has over five years left on his current contract. He won’t be fired anytime soon. It’s possible some players will want out or try to throw games by not playing well, elongating an already slow re-build. Then Raiders owner Mark Davis proved his father Al right again claiming he knew of no such racial issue involving Gruden despite his disappointment.
The bigger problem ahead is what else is in the 2,000 emails the Wall Street Journal leaked out involving the Washington Football Team and what is still buried. Until more is revealed, Gruden, Davis and the NFL need to be held accountable.