25 Things We Learned from NFL Week 5
The NFL season is rolling along now, and we are already almost done with Week 5 of the regular season. It's still early, but clearly some teams are starting to rise to the top while others are stuck at the bottom. Everyone else is somewhere in the middle, still trying to push toward the ultimate goal of making the playoffs at the end of the season.
There are young players who are also making a name for themselves, while older veterans continue to live up to their well-earned reputations.
With everything that happened in Week 5 of the NFL, here are the 25 things that stood out to me.
Now That the Patriots Can Run the Ball, the Rest of the League Is in Trouble
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Ridley was the leader, with 151 yards and a touchdown all by himself.
Now the Patriots have a legitimate running game that will make quarterback Tom Brady's life even easier. Defenses will have to respect his fakes on play-action passes, and that will open things up down the field in the passing game. It will also help the Patriots offensive line, which had trouble protecting Brady at the beginning of the year.
If I were a defensive coordinator with the Patriots on my schedule later in the season, I don't think I would be getting a lot of sleep at night.
Now These Are the Real Pittsburgh Steelers
Vincent Pugliese-US PRESSWIRE
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been unable to impress thus far this season, heading into Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles with particularly low expectations. The truth is we hadn't had a chance to see the real Steelers team until now, due to all of the injuries.
The trick for the rest of the season will be keeping all of those guys healthy and avoiding any other major injuries. Of course, that's easier said than done for any NFL team.
The Bears Defense Is Offensive in a Good Way
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To understand how impressive that is, heading into this weekend, there were three teams in the NFL that had only scored six touchdowns combined in four games.
If their offense ever starts clicking on all cylinders consistently, it's going to be curtains for the rest of the teams on their schedule.
Drew Brees Is Now the King of Consecutive Games with a Touchdown Pass
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In the first half of the New Orleans Saints' win over the San Diego Chargers, Saints quarterback Drew Brees tossed a 40-yard pass to Devery Henderson for a touchdown. This was Brees' 48th consecutive game with a touchdown pass, breaking Johnny Unitas' record of 47 set all the way back in 1960.
It's one of those records that seemed as if it would stand forever, even in this new passing era of the NFL.
It goes to show not only how well, but also how consistently Brees has played over the course of the last few years.
Robert Griffin III Better Learn to Throw It Away
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Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III took a monster hit in the second half of a loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. He ended up being knocked out of the game with a head injury, on a play in which he had plenty of opportunity to throw the ball away.
Griffin has played well so far this season, and the Redskins can't take away his ability to use his legs—but Griffin also can't continue to put himself in harm's way like this, or there is no chance he'll remain healthy for a full season.
Arizona Cardinals Offensive Coordinator Mike Miller Hates Kevin Kolb
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How else do you explain why the Arizona Cardinals aren't giving their offensive tackles any help when they run pass plays?
Both quarterbacks are below average, and teams are increasingly exploiting them. However, there has been little to no adjustment to the offensive game plans—aside from sending running backs to chip-block at the end of the win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 4.
All told, in the last two weeks, the Cardinals have given up 17 sacks combined, and quarterback Kevin Kolb has been battered relentlessly on additional hits where he just barely got the ball away.
Even a blind man can see that Kolb is going to keep getting killed if the Cardinals don't start leaving people in to help the offensive tackles. At this point, I only half-jokingly have to wonder if that's actually offensive coordinator Mike Miller's plan.
Ray Rice Is Going to Have to Slap Somebody to Get More Carries
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For some reason, though, the Ravens refuse to feed Rice the ball. It would open up everything by keeping defenses honest, and in fact make Flacco's job much easier.
There is no reason in the world for Rice to have finished their win to the Kansas City Chiefs with only 17 carries, especially when four of those carries came when they were just trying to run the clock out at the end.
That's just ridiculous.
No matter what he says publicly, Rice can't be happy about the situation, and I'm betting he isn't alone in that locker room. The Ravens are going to mess around and lose some games to teams they should beat if they keep following that same game plan.
It almost happened today.
Geno Atkins Is Consistently Good
Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE
With another sack on Sunday in a loss to the Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins now has six on the year. Most impressively, he has at least one sack in four out of the first five games to start the season.
Tony Gonzalez Can Still Beat You
Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE
In the game Sunday against the Washington Redskins, Gonzalez caught 13 balls for 123 yards and a touchdown. For much of the game he was the only guy consistently getting open against the Redskins defense, and he made the most of all of his opportunities.
Ahmad Bradshaw Is Back
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In a win over the Browns on Sunday, Bradshaw rushed for 200 yards on 30 carries with one touchdown. This is after he started off the year with just 133 yards on 35 carries and a touchdown in the first four games combined.
That doesn't mean Bradshaw will continue to be as productive the rest of the year, but the Browns haven't been that bad on defense.
Don't Make the 49ers Angry, You Wouldn't Like Them When They're Angry
Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE
I don't think it's a coincidence that those two beatdowns came after they went on the road and lost to the Minnesota Vikings, their first and only loss of the year so far.
Whether it was a wake-up call or it made them mad, the 49ers now seem to be looking to embarrass teams. I don't know how long they can sustain this level of domination, but it's going to be fun to watch while it lasts.
Matt Forte Appears to Be Healthy Again
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Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte, who had been hampered with an ankle injury, rushed for 107 yards on 22 carries in a win today over the Jacksonville Jaguars. It was the first time this year Forte had gone over the century mark, and that was his highest number of carries on the season as well.
So far, the Bears defense has been playing lights-out, while the offense has kind of just sputtered along. If Forte can get back to the form he had last year before his knee injury, that should give a huge boost to their offensive output.
Cassel Getting Injured Might Be a Blessing in Disguise for the Chiefs
Denny Medley-US PRESSWIRE
They also evidently don't think his backup Brady Quinn is the answer.
So while they have some excellent wide receivers, the Chiefs were relegated to riding Jamaal Charles and their other running backs for most of the day.
That's not really that bad of an option, as Charles had more than 100 yards rushing in the first half alone. You aren't going to win many games in the NFL, however, if you are scared to throw the ball.
You never want to see a guy get hurt, but when Cassel was injured in the fourth quarter, it forced the Chiefs to put Quinn in the game. Quinn ended up completing all three of his passes and what appeared to be a touchdown that would have put the Chiefs up with under six minutes left in the game.
Unfortunately, that play was called back for offensive pass interference, and the Chiefs had to settle for a field goal. Even in that limited playing time, Quinn looked much better throwing the ball than Cassel had until that point.
Now it looks like the Chiefs will be giving him a chance to show what he can do as a starter. If he ends up playing well, Chiefs fans may be left to wonder at the end of the season what could have been had they pulled the trigger on the switch earlier.
Victor Cruz Got Loose
The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE
But three of those five catches went for touchdowns, and Cruz was doing the salsa all over the end zone.
With Hakeem Nicks out, a lot falls on Cruz in the Giants' passing game. Today he showed again that he is more than able to carry that load.
Michael Vick Needs Stickum
Vincent Pugliese-US PRESSWIRE
One of those fumbles was inside the Steelers' 1-yard line, giving away potential points in a game that came down to a Steelers field goal to win at the end.
If you have followed Vick and the Eagles this year, this looked all too familiar to you. They keep turning over the ball and expect to win the game at the end with a strong comeback. The thing is, as the saying goes, if you play with fire enough times, you will end up getting burned.
The Eagles simply cannot continue to turn the ball over this way and expect to get into the playoffs this year. It's a shame, because they have more than enough talent to get there, but their lack of ball security shows a severe lack of discipline.
The Rams Will Struggle Without Danny Amendola
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The St. Louis Rams won the game against division foe Arizona Cardinals on Thursday evening, but it came at a very steep price. Leading receiver Danny Amendola injured his collarbone and will be out about six or seven weeks.
Coming into the game, Amendola had 31 catches after four games, the second-highest production at his position in the NFL this year.
That averages out to over seven catches a game.
In contrast, on Thursday, Rams quarterback Sam Bradford completed only seven passes in the game. Period.
For now, the Rams have a 3-2 record, are over .500 for the first time since 2006 and have looked much improved, especially over the last two weeks. The next six or seven weeks are going to be rough without Amendola, however.
Andrew Luck Is so Clutch
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The Colts started the drive at their own 20-yard line, down six points with 4:30 left on the clock. Luck looked as if he had been in that situation millions of times before, as he surgically sliced up the Packers secondary, even while under heavy pressure at times.
After just 47 seconds were left on the clock, Luck moved his team down to the Packers' 11-yard line and faced 3rd-and-7 with the game on the line. He didn't panic when his receivers were covered and instead ran straight ahead and dove for the first down.
On the very next play, Luck found his favorite target on the day, Reggie Wayne, for the four-yard score that ended up being the difference in the game.
Something Is off in Green Bay
Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Still, it seems that something has been missing from the Packers all year, and the team looks unfamiliar.
One issue that seems readily apparent is that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is getting hit much too often. The Colts had five sacks on him today, and two weeks ago the Seattle Seahawks got him down eight times.
Of course, better offensive line play wouldn't solve all of their problems, but it also surely couldn't hurt.
No matter what the problems the Packers have, or even if they are easily fixable, the truth is they are 2-3 after five games and will need to find a way to turn things around if they want to make the playoffs this year.
Since His Arrest, Michael Turner Has Been More Productive
Brad Mills-US PRESSWIRE
That gives him 250 yards combined in the three games since the arrest.
I can't say that's the reason for his improved play, but it sure is one heck of a coincidence.
Brandon Marshall Is Back in Beast Mode
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After catching seven balls for 138 yards and a touchdown in Monday night's Week 4 win over the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall was in beast mode again Sunday, with 12 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Marshall seems to have rekindled the connection he had with quarterback Jay Cutler in Denver, and they appear to be back in sync. If they can keep that chemistry going, the Bears are going to be tough to beat the rest of the season.
Meet the New Blaine Gabbert, Same as the Old Blaine Gabbert
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Additionally, he hasn't thrown a touchdown in their last three games.
I was one of the people who thought Gabbert showed a lot of improvement this preseason, but it hasn't translated over to the regular season.
Even When Peyton Manning Is On, the Broncos Can Be Beat
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Manning had a huge day, throwing for 345 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Unfortunately, his defense couldn't stop the run all day, giving up yards on the ground by the time the game ended.
The Broncos have a lot of talent on that team, but they are too inconsistent right now on both sides of the ball. They had better get it together soon, or they will have a hard time making the playoffs this season.
The Titans Can Start Getting Ready for the Offseason
Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE
The Tennessee Titans were absolutely embarrassed today in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings, dropping their record to 1-5 to start the season. I tried to look for a positive for them in the game and kept coming up empty.
The Dolphins Are a Threat Every Week
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Two of their losses were by three points apiece, however, and could have gone either way at the end.
The Bengals, on the other hand, came into the game 3-1 on the season and riding high after winning their last three.
What you have to understand is that even though the Dolphins are solid, they're starting a rookie quarterback who has had a hard time closing out games. As soon as QB Ryan Tannehill proves consistent and reliable, Miami is going to be a hard team to beat.
Ryan Mathews Has Played His Way out of the Doghouse
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If it was a motivational play, it appears to have worked based on the way Mathews performed Sunday night in a loss to the New Orleans Saints.
With 80 yards rushing on just 12 carries and a touchdown to go along with six catches for 59 yards in the air, Mathews looked like he was playing at a different speed from everybody else on the field. He was also careful to cover up the ball in traffic while continuing to advance it up the field.
I'm not sure if that means he is going back to being the full-time starter, but he has definitely taken a big step forward in that direction.