NFL Week 5: What We Learned from Sunday's Action
All of a sudden, the NFL finds itself in the month of October.
And by the way things have unfolded through these first five weeks, we are liable to see even more records “fall” by the wayside this season.
But fall isn’t always a good thing. There are a few teams and players that are spiraling downward these days, and it will be interesting to see if they can snap out of their current doldrums.
The bottom line is that Week 5 proved to be another educational experience, so read on to find out what we learned from Sunday's action.
Better to Receivers?
The New Orleans Saints are off to a 5-0 start for the first time since 2009—the year they opened up 13-0 and eventually won Super Bowl XLIV.
Not surprisingly, quarterback Drew Brees has been on the money. The prolific passer has thrown 12 touchdown passes and just four interceptions this season. But what may surprise some is that 10 of his 12 scoring tosses have gone to tight ends and running backs.
On Sunday against the Chicago Bears, Brees threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns, both to running back Pierre Thomas. Tight end Jimmy Graham continued his monster year as well, totaling 10 catches for 135 yards.
Against the Bears, tight ends and running backs accounted for 238 of Brees’ 288 passing yards.
“One thing about our offense…you never know whose day it is going to be.” said Brees, via Fred Mitchell of The Chicago Tribune. “That’s the way our offense operates. We throw to the open guy. We try to take advantage of the weak link in a defense. We're just going to keep attacking.”
It’s safe to say that your defense better be equipped at linebacker and safety if you’re going to offset what the Saints’ offense is dong these days.
Cracks in the armor?
It has been a humbling two weeks of sorts for the Chicago Bears. In the blink of an eye, a 3-0 start has turned into a 3-2 mark.
And in those two losses—to the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints, respectively—Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has felt the heat. After being sacked just three times in the season’s first three weeks, the strong-armed signal-caller was sacked three times apiece in the two aforementioned losses.
Throw in a combined five turnovers, and Marc Trestman’s club has seemed to hit a speed bump.
Even the Chicago defense continues to have its issues. Against New Orleans, the Bears allowed 340-plus yards for the fifth time in as many games. And for the first time all season, Trestman’s club did not record a takeaway, which remains a big part of their recent success.
It’s all about protection for the Bears. If they can’t do that for Cutler and the opposition continues to hold onto the football, things could once again get interesting in the Windy City.
In the Nick of Time
Apparently, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is saving his best stuff for his new divisional rivals.
Back in Week 1 against the Washington Redskins, Kelly unveiled his offense to the tune of 53 plays for 322 yards in the first half. The Eagles opened up a 26-7 lead at intermission and held on for a 33-27 victory.
After three straight losses—all to teams in the AFC West—the Birds faced the New York Giants on Sunday, and Philadelphia rolled up 45 plays for 303 yards over the game’s first 30 minutes. A 19-7 halftime lead would eventually turn into a 36-21 win.
With a 2-3 record, the Eagles now find themselves tied atop the NFC East with Dallas. However, Kelly’s team is a perfect 2-0 within the division, and both of those wins have come on the road.
To make matters even more interesting, it was quarterback Nick Foles who helped rescue the Eagles on Sunday. The second-year pro took over for an injured Michael Vick (hamstring) late in the second quarter.
But don’t worry, there is no quarterback controversy brewing in the City of Brotherly Love, and Vick expects to be ready to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next week, via Jim Corbett of USA Today:
“Yeah, I’m hoping so. I’ll work extremely hard. I’ve had this type of injury before. You’ve just got to do certain things to get back.’’
No Bunch for Brady
It was all set up.
Entering the 2013 season, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had thrown at least one touchdown pass in 48 consecutive games, the second-longest such streak in NFL history.
The owner of the record is New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who achieved the feat in 54 straight games. Conveniently, the NFL schedule makers had the Patriots and Saints playing the sixth game of the season against each other.
Get the picture yet?
So if Brady could throw at least one touchdown pass in his first five outings this season, he could tie Brees’ mark when the Saints traveled to New England in Week 6.
Obviously, the only record the Cincinnati Bengals were interested in was 3-2. And they not only beat the Patriots, but they also ended Brady’s touchdown streak at 52 games.
Then again, Brady didn't even seem that interested either, via Joe Kay of the AP (h/t Boston.com): “I'm bummed that we lost. I think that’s all that really matters.”
As for that loss, it was the first of the season for New England. They continue to play solid defense, even without defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, but the offense is a work in progress.
And progress needs to be made.
Let’s Talk About Sacks
Sunday’s 26-23 loss to the Baltimore Ravens was a microcosm of what has been the Miami Dolphins biggest issue in 2013: a total of 11 rushing attempts for 22 yards meant that, for the second time this season, Joe Philbin’s team was held below 25 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill has also already been sacked 24 times in five games, six of those in Sunday’s loss to the Ravens.
As they head into their bye week, Philbin’s team finds itself just one game behind the New England Patriots in the AFC East. The Dolphins have yet to face any of their divisional opponents in 2013.
Given the Patriots, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills defensive fronts, the divisional games won't be easy either.
Not Just Luck
Chuck Pagano’s Indianapolis Colts have continued to open some eyes, but it’s not because the team has won three straight games and is 4-1 on the young season. Rather, it’s the way the team has evolved from a year ago.
It’s not all about quarterback Andrew Luck, either, who carried so much of the offensive load last season. Because of that and the lack of offensive balance, the former Stanford product totaled 23 touchdown passes and ran for five scores in 2012, but he also committed 23 turnovers.
In five games in 2013, Luck has coughed up the ball just three times (two interceptions, one lost fumble). Conversely, a Colts’ team that totaled only 15 takeaways last season has already forced 10 turnovers in five weeks this year.
Wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks in recent weeks have elevated the Colts stock this season. Now alone in first place in the AFC South, Indianapolis will be an even more intriguing team to watch as the 2013 season unfolds.
Manning Rescues "Enver"
No, that is not a typo in the masthead.
After watching the Broncos hold off the Dallas Cowboys, 51-48, and allow 522 total yards in the process, there is obviously no “D” in Denver.
But what has been bothersome all season is the fact that while John Fox’s team has his club at 5-0 and Sunday was the first game not decided by double digits, the Broncos have still somehow managed to give up at least 20 points in every game.
Yes, Denver had the first four games well in hand, but this fact is at least worth noting, no matter how significant or insignificant.
On Sunday, it all came down to the passing game. Well, at least for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who threw for 506 yards and five scores. Of course, all anyone will remember is the fact that the Broncos won because Romo served up a crucial interception in the final minutes.
Still, allowing 48 points in one afternoon is a little hard to ignore.
No Tony Award
Do you know what 506 yards and five touchdown passes will get you these days?
Not even a cup of coffee if you throw a fourth-quarter interception.
Fair or unfair, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will be hearing plenty about his latest errant pass. The much-maligned multi-millionaire was picked off in the fourth quarter of a tie game with the Denver Broncos on Sunday. The interception set up a game-winning field goal by Denver’s Matt Prater, and the Broncos escaped with a wild 51-48 victory.
As for the interception, the Cowboys quarterback gave linebacker Danny Trevathan his due, via Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com:
The kid made a good play. I didn't get as much on it just with the people around me as I wanted to. I wanted to put it another foot or two out in front. I didn't put it exactly where I need to to complete the pass. And it's frustrating and disappointing.
Make that "frustrating and disappointing" times two if the Cowboys come up short against the visiting Washington Redskins next Sunday night.
Time to Get off the Matt?
Is it time for Houston Texans starting quarterback Matt Schaub to take a seat?
Sunday was the fourth straight game in which a Matt Schaub interception has been returned for a touchdown, and it was the third straight loss for a team that opened the year at 2-0.
The Houston Texans have won two straight AFC South titles and at least 10 games each of the last two seasons. They feature a defensive unit that doesn’t give up a lot of yards and has only surrendered 11 offensive touchdowns in five games. But Gary Kubiak’s club has allowed five non-offensive touchdowns, thanks to Schaub’s four picks and a punt return for a score in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
For the season, Schaub has now thrown eight touchdown passes and nine interceptions. He threw three interceptionz in Sunday night’s 34-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers and was pulled for third-year pro T.J. Yates in the fourth quarter.
“This has to be rock bottom,” Kubiak said, via NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal.
Then again, it could get worse.
Charles Still in Charge
Youth was served in Oakland on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
But it was also a night to remember for the veterans.
The Oakland Raiders forced five turnovers in a 27-17 win over the Chargers. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor completed 18-of-23 passes for 221 yards and two scores, and Dennis Allen’s club played turnover-free football in the win.
It was also a big evening for cornerback Charles Woodson. His 56th career interception ties him with Pat Fischer, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, for 17th on the NFL’s all-time list. Woodson also returned a fumble for a score, his league-record tying 13th defensive touchdown.
“It just means I've been around the game a long time,” Woodson said, via AP writer Josh Tubow (h/t Miami Herald). “I've made a bunch of plays and I'm one of the greatest to ever play this game.”
He may have to be even greater when the Silver and Black head to Kansas City next week to face the 5-0 Chiefs.