Here's what we learned from Sunday's Week 5 games of the 2018 NFL season:
- In Sunday night's Texas Tussle between two of the game's most promising young quarterbacks, Deshaun Watson came out on top, making the pivotal throw that Dak Prescott couldn't make to the trusty receiver that Prescott doesn't have. After the Texans and Cowboys couldn't work it out in 60 minutes, the game went to overtime where Dallas received first. The Cowboys picked up two first downs, but when faced with a fourth-and-one from Houston's 42, Jason Garrett opted to punt instead of attempt a short conversion, a super-conservative move that belied his faith in his offense. After the Cowboys punted, Watson connected on a 49-yard catch-and-run by DeAndre Hopkins to get into field-goal range. Ka'imi Fairbairn won the game with his fourth field goal of the night, keeping the Texans (2-3) within striking distance in the AFC South.
Watson and Hopkins were the two fitting saviors for Houston on Sunday night. Battling a rib issue that required multiple trips to the medical tent and lotion application, according to the NBC broadcast, Watson completed 75 percent of his passes and put up his fourth-consecutive 300-yard passing game. His reckless scrambling will eventually catch up to him -- Watson took multiple shots inside the red zone that brought back memories of Carson Wentz diving headfirst into the Coliseum end zone last season -- but the QB's confidence is growing week by week. Hopkins went M.I.A. at certain points against Dallas but showed up when it mattered most, finishing 151 yards and the game-sealing spin-cycle reception.
- Dallas' front seven is developing into a top-tier unit, if it wasn't already, thanks to the emergence of Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch and other youngsters in the absence of veteran Sean Lee. Smith was a sideline-to-sideline predator against Houston, recording 11 tackles, three TFLs and two QB hits and thwarting with authority one Watson goal-line rush, while Vander Esch contributed 10 tackles. In his third season in the pros, Smith is finally resembling his Notre Dame self. Sophomore defensive tackle Daniel Ross racked up a game-high five QB hits on Watson in just 16 snaps. Just wait until Maliek Collins gets healthy and David Irving returns to the lineup now that he has served his four-week suspension. Dallas' defensive front can keep this team in the playoff conversation into November.
- Falcons red-zone woes are so Week 1. The hottest new football trend is Texans tumult inside the 5-yard line. Houston made it inside the 5 on five occasions on Sunday night, but came away with just 16 points -- one TD, three FGs and a turnover on downs. The Texans were undone on the goal line thanks to a mix of poor play-calling on Bill O'Brien's part and risky decision-making by Watson. The QB was lined up under center on just one of nine snaps inside the five. Even worse, Watson was asked to, either by design or circumstance, scramble for the goal line and surrender his frame to punishment by the likes of Smith and Tyrone Crawford. That type of scheming verges on coaching malpractice, especially considering Watson's very recent injury history.
-- Jeremy Bergman
- It's a whole new world in the NFC West, where formerly stout defenses have given way to high-flying offenses churning out yards as easily as a mower cuts grass. In a back-and-forth offensive affair, the Seahawks and Rams traded punch for punch, score for score. Seattle put up points on five of its first seven drives. L.A. scored on six of nine, including three straight to open the second half. The rollercoaster tilt included five lead changes, 834 total yards, and 49 first downs. Seattle couldn't get the one stop it needed on defense in the final two quarters.
Facing fourth-and-1 their own 42-yard line with 1:39 remaining, Sean McVay opted to play for the win, sending Jared Goff back onto the field for a QB sneak. The conversion allowed the Rams to salt away the victory without giving Russell Wilson a chance for another miraculous home comeback. It's the type of gutsy decision not all coaches would make on their own side of the field. The aggressive style is also why the Rams remain undefeated.
- Rams receivers Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp exited the game for the second half after suffering concussions. Missing two of his top targets didn't slow down Goff. The Rams' QB found target after target running open through the Seattle secondary, and put the ball in perfect spots. With Todd Gurley stymied most of the game outside of the red zone (where he scored three times), the Rams relied on Goff's arm to move the ball. The third-year signal-caller continued his spectacular play, completing 23-of-32 passes for 321 yards a TD and two INTs (one on a tipped ball and another on an end-of-half Hail Mary). Credit McVay with scheming wide open routes for whoever was on the other end of Goff's passes. Whether it was Robert Woods galloping through open space, Josh Reynolds with back-to-back-to-back first down plays to open the second half, or KhaDarel Hodge playing an important role, Goff spread the ball around with aplomb. Sans Cooks and Kupp, the Rams offense didn't miss a beat against the current Legion of Gloom in Seattle.
- Taking advantage of the Rams weakness on defense, Seattle plowed forward with running backs Chris Carson and Mike Davis repeatedly picking up chunk gains between the tackles. L.A. entered Sunday ranked 23rd in rush-D DVOA by Football Outsiders. That grade should sink lower after Sunday. Carson led the way with 116 yards on 19 attempts (6.1 YPC), powering through arm-tackles. Davis continued to impress, earning 68 yards on 12 carries and a score (5.7 YP) before coming up gimpy in the second half. Both backs felt like they broke 45 tackles with each run. The success of the ground game opened the play action for Russell Wilson. Two long TD throws (to Tyler Lockett and David Moore) came off play action shots, in which the receivers burned corner Marcus Peters. When the Seahawks rushing attack is churning, it takes pressure off Wilson to work magic on his own. With the emergence of Moore as a legit target, the Seahawks offense should continue to improve deep into the season.
-- Kevin Patra
- Defense, defense, defense. Both teams' units were excellent, producing a game the youths might not enjoy but a traditionalist likely loved. Until the final two minutes of the game, Cleveland led 9-6. Hard hits and chippiness could be found throughout the contest. Neither team broke 400 yards of total offense until overtime (Baltimore finished with an average of 4.9 yards per play; Cleveland, 5.5). Baltimore didn't convert a third-down attempt until its seventh of the game. Every drive with potential for fireworks seemed to fizzle out.
Denzel Ward had a lot to do with the Browns' defensive success, recording another interception and blocking a Justin Tucker field goal attempt just before half that proved to be valuable. He also blanketed receivers for much of the afternoon, recording three passes defensed to lead the team.
The Ravens did an excellent job at making Baker Mayfield uncomfortable, especially after he ripped through them on a two-minute drill that produced a 19-yard touchdown pass to Rashard Higgins just before the half. Baltimore squeezed the outsides of the pockets down on Mayfield, limiting his ability to scramble and make plays with his feet. It wasn't until he completed a few unlikely attempts that Cleveland moved within range. The majority of quarterbacks -- in fact, probably all 29 who preceded Mayfield -- replace him, and we're likely looking at a tie or a Ravens victory. The responsibility shouldn't fall on the Ravens' defense today.
- Michael Crabtree finished with six catches for 66 yards, but will likely want to forget this game. The wideout struggled with drops, including one in the end zone that would have been a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth. It was more indicative of the Ravens' offense seeming to lose its identity for much of the game, with Flacco completing just a hair over 50 percent of his attempts (29 of 56) for 298 yards and an interception. As a team, the Ravens ran the ball 25 times for 116 yards and a healthy 4.6 yards per carry, but Alex Collins' second-half absence was noticeable when the Ravens needed a backfield hammer but were forced to throw. Neither team was good on third down, but Baltimore -- a team that threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Steelers a week ago -- didn't produce the clutch completions expected from a group that has seen success with its revamped receiving corps.
- Overtime is fleas on the backs of the Browns. No matter what they do -- oatmeal baths, full shaves, flea medication -- Cleveland cannot shake the extra period (or penalties, with 10 in Week 5). Of the Browns' first five games this season, four have gone to overtime, with Cleveland going 1-2-1 in those contests. Perhaps Sunday's win is what it takes for a team that has needed a Herculean efffort to slowly rise out of 0-16 to 2-2-1. For yet another week, the Browns failed to salt away a close victory in regulation, but to their credit they didn't lose it, either. As fans were still raining boos on the officials after a missed illegal contact/pass interference call in overtime, Cleveland's defense stood firm and forced a punt with only 25 yards or so of space before entering Justin Tucker's range for a game-winning field goal. On third down and under pressure, Mayfield found unheralded Hard Knocks cameo appearance-maker Derrick Willies for an improbable catch and run. And then, Greg Joseph overcame an earlier pair of misses by hitting a knuckler of a kick that just barely crossed through for a game-winning field goal. It was ugly, and much of it was unnecessary, but it produced a win in a game that sure felt like the Browns would find a way to lose, again.
-- Nick Shook
- Thanks to a brilliant afternoon from Kirk Cousins and a ruthless Vikings front seven, Minnesota (2-2-1) avoided falling way behind in the competitive NFC North. Cousins played worth his pay-stub against the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles (2-3), completing 81 percent of his passes for 301 yards and a score, the second straight game against a reigning division champion and highly regarded defense in which the Vikings QB has lit up the stat sheet and made his receivers better. Cousins did all this, too, with no Dalvin Cook yet again and sluggish running from Latavius Murray and Roc Thomas (3.33 YPA combined). As if the victory wasn't sweet enough, Cousins made history too, becoming the first player in NFL history to record 30-plus completions in four consecutive games.
Complementing Cousins on the other side of the ball was Minnesota's defensive front, which is still short Everson Griffen. The Vikings' quick pass rush, led by Linval Joseph and Danielle Hunter, sacked Carson Wentz thrice and forced him into uncomfortable pockets and throws early on. The turning point of the game came in the second quarter just after Dan Bailey missed his second field goal of the night and Philly was driving to take the lead. Stephen Weatherly, Griffen's replacement at defensive end, burst past Lane Johnson to strip sack Wentz near midfield and Joseph, all 329 pounds of him, took the fumble 63 yards to the house, giving Minnesota a lead it would not relinquish.
- The aggressive vertical attack that Nick Foles piloted in Philly's NFC Championship Game slaughter of the Vikings in January was nowhere to be found on Sunday, as Wentz and the Eagles offense failed to overcome an incredibly slow start until it was too late. The Eagles didn't record a third-down conversion in a first half in which they held the ball for less than 11 minutes. Sans Corey Clement and Darren Sproles, the Eagles struggled to develop a ground game with Jay Ajayi (29 yards). Ajayi was the go-to threat out of the half, but fumbled on the goal line to sabotage Philly's best scoring opportunity of the night at that time. The Eagles adjusted well by playing and targeting Wendell Smallwood more (11.8 yards per touch) and attacking the middle of the field in the second half. But the Eagles, now 2-3, squandered too many opportunities in the red zone and committed too many unforced errors to complete the comeback. The honeymoon is very, very over.
- Who's the true No. 1 receiver in Minnesota? The numbers, and now the record books, say it's Adam Thielen, not $72-million man Stefon Diggs. Thielen broke the century mark in receiving yards (116) yet again against the Eagles, the fifth time he's done so this season. The former UDFA out of Minnesota State became the first player in NFL history to start a season with five straight games with at least 100 receiving yards. Thielen also passed Hall of Famer and team legend Randy Moss (515 yards, 2003) for most receiving yards through five games in Vikings history. One year later, the Vikings signing Thielen to a four-year contract extension at a yearly rate of just $4.8 million (48th among wide receivers) looks like one of the smartest, cost-effective roster decisions in recent NFL history.
-- Jeremy Bergman
- Any hopes of a Jaguars comeback were dashed at the end of the first half. After safety Tashaun Gipson became the first player to pick off Patrick Mahomes this season, Blake Bortles experienced the nightmare sequence of a lost fumble, a pick-six on a screen pass to defensive end Chris Jones and another interception that bounced off the back of his own offensive lineman's helmet and into cornerback Steven Nelson's hands in the end zone. Under pressure from edge rusher Dee Ford, he unfurled a third interception at the goal line early in the fourth quarter and added yet another in the end zone as time expired in the final frame. One of the byproducts of Bortles' sloth-like elongated throwing motion is an exceptionally high number of passes deflected at the line of scrimmage, which has contributed to his NFL-high 71 interceptions and 13 pick-sixes since entering the league in 2014. He's had much worse throwing exhibitions this year, but the five turnovers were a killer on the road.
- Myles Jack's inability to contain Travis Kelce is emblematic of the stiff challenge defenses face against Andy Reid's scheming and Patrick Mahomes' arm talent. Jack is the best coverage linebacker on one of the NFL's premier defenses, but it's asking a lot to stay disciplined enough not to bite on Tyreek Hill's pre-snap motion, run step-for-step with an All Pro tight end and make a play at the catch point when Mahomes delivers a perfect strike. Through four games this season, all tight ends combined had managed just 135 yards on 14 receptions against Jacksonville. Kelce had five catches for 100 yards by the start of the fourth quarter on Sunday. The Chiefs are so creative and deploy so many different weapons that defenses are forced to pick their poison each week.
- Although opportunistic with the five takeaways, Kansas City's overly generous defense was far from a shutdown unit, surrendering a career-high 430 passing yards to Bortles. It didn't help matters that Bob Sutton's three most important players failed to finish the game. Jones was ejected for throwing a cheap shot, Ford was booted for a pair of personal fouls and outside linebacker Justin Houston was sidelined with a hamstring injury. Prior to his exit, Ford continued his impressive contract-year campaign, tallying three QB hits, a pass deflection and a forced fumble. He's going to get paid next offseason if he can avoid the injury bug.
-- Chris Wesseling
- After a dazzling performance filled with daring-do against the Eagles, Tennessee's offense morphed into a raging dud on Sunday, stuck watching from afar as Buffalo's Stephen Hauschka nailed a 46-yard field goal at the buzzer for another surprising upset by the Bills (2-3). The Titans (3-2) came out flat and never rose to life, with wideout Taywan Taylor losing a fumble on the team's first possession before a subsequent doomed toss by Marcus Mariota landed in the arms of Bills fourth-rounder Taron Johnson. Tennessee's troubles extended into the second half with a killer fumble by Dion Lewis. Hanging around with four field goals by Ryan Succop simply wasn't enough. It's fair to ask what happened to the aggressive attack that nipped Philly a week ago, but chalk that up to a Buffalo defense that played well from wire to wire and held Mariota to just 129 yards at 5.0 yards per throw.
- This game showed us once again what Josh Allen can do on the ground as Buffalo's rookie signal-caller opened the scoring with a tantalizing, 14-yard scoring scramble through Tennessee's top-ranked red-zone defense. The Bills left points on the board, though, when punter-holder Corey Bojorquez melted down on an apparent fake field goal in the second quarter before Allen saw a pass bounce weirdly into the arms of Tennessee's Adoree' Jackson. What impressed me was a Bills ground game that saw LeSean McCoy (24/85) and Chris Ivory (14/43) make a handful of big, clock-chewing runs down the stretch against a Titans defensive front that was overpowered in key moments.
- Results aside, Sunday served as another reminder that knocking out the Bills in Buffalo is no simple task. The play of Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy and the team's defensive front seven often echoed the team's stunning win over Minnesota. Buffalo controlled the line of scrimmages for drives at a time and took away Mariota's first read.
-- Marc Sessler
- Quarterback Philip Rivers led the charge Sunday with a highly efficient outing, completing 22 of 27 passes for 339 yards and two touchdowns for a 143.4 passer rating. Rivers connected with seven different receivers, led by Keenan Allen's eight catches for 90 yards on nine targets. Anchored by Rivers, the Chargers seized control early, taking a 17-3 lead into halftime and never looked back.
As a team, the Chargers amassed 412 total net yards, converted on 7 of 13 third-down attempts (53 percent) and won the time of possession with 34:40 compared to Oakland's 25:20. When Rivers is clicking like he did on Sunday against an overmatched Raiders defense, the Chargers can be difficult to beat and Los Angeles did it Sunday without two starting offensive tackles. The Chargers (3-2) moved above the .500 mark and have won two straight games.
- Oakland had no answer for the Chargers' one-two punch at the running back position against the Raiders. Melvin Gordon amassed 120 total yards from scrimmage (66 through the air on four catches), while Austin Ekeler made the most of his one reception by turning it into a 44-yard touchdown. Rivers hit Ekeler in the flat on the left side of the field and the running back did the rest of the work by himself, avoiding would-be tacklers as he exploded down the sideline for the score. Sunday marked the second consecutive week Ekeler has found the end zone as a receiver.
Los Angeles must have been feeling pretty good about the running game against the Raiders because the Chargers even lined up linebacker Melvin Ingram as a fullback in the red zone. Facing a second-and-goal play at the Raiders' 1-yard line, Rivers handed the ball to Ingram, but the Raiders stuffed the run. No problem, though, because Gordon punched it on the next play.
- Raiders quarterback Derek Carr completed 24 of 33 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown, and on paper the 72.7 completion percentage is more than solid. But another week produced more mistakes for Carr, who threw a costly third-quarter interception in the end zone with Oakland threatening to score at the Chargers' 1-yard line.
Carr now has eight interceptions on the season against seven touchdowns, and has tossed a pick in three straight games. His mental errors have been present throughout the early part of the season, including a pick-six in the season opener and a drive-killing interception in the end zone in Week 3. It's one thing to be aggressive, but mistakes that prevent opportunities to put points on the board are quite another. The Raiders are now 1-4 on the season and have another game to go before a Week 7 bye to fix the offensive woes.
-- Herbie Teope
- Sam Darnold needed to put in a good performance to stop the hand-wringing among Jets fans anxious to unquestionably anoint the No. 3 overall pick as their football savior. The rookie showed flashes of his top-tier talent even if he benefited, at times, from a lackluster performance by the Broncos' secondary. His 35-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson in the second quarter was a picturesque bomb that fell right into Anderson's outstretched hands as he sprinted at full speed in the end zone and into the MetLife Stadium field entrance tunnel. That one play, which gave the Jets a 21-10 lead going into halftime, encapsulated the combination of big-arm talent and precision accuracy that made Darnold a draft darling. It wasn't the only "wow" moment Darnold achieved. He found Anderson earlier in the game on a 76-yard touchdown pass after the speedy wide receiver broke coverage before snagging a perfectly placed dime. Darnold then put the game away on a 20-yard TD pass to Terrelle Pryor. Darnold's knack for the big play, however, didn't necessarily translate into consistency. He finished the game connecting on 10 of 22 passes for 198 yards. In addition to the three touchdowns, he also threw an interception. Darnold's beauty-or-bust passing game might not be enough to topple most NFL opponents any given Sunday, but it's got to be a confidence builder for a Jets team (2-3) that's back on track after a three-game losing streak.
- Isaiah Crowell simply wiped the floor with the Broncos on Sunday. The running back had a career day, rushing for a franchise record 219 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries en route to the Jets churning out a team record 323 yards on the ground. A large chunk of Crowell's yardage came on a big 77-yard touchdown run -- the biggest Jets TD run since 1996. From there, Crowell was a consistent yard-munching presence, melting through the Broncos' front seven with relative ease to keep drives alive and the ball out of the Broncos' hands. Bilal Powell served as a perfect complement to Crowell's big day, tallying 99 yards on 20 carries.
- Vance Joseph has a lot of issues to figure out. The Broncos coach was beleaguered by a litany of head-shaking moments after the team struggled mightily on both sides of the ball. Denver's offense was mediocre at the best of times and woefully ineffective for the majority of the contest. Case Keenum couldn't generate any consistency in the passing game and the rookie running back duo of Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman went virtually dormant. Aside from a garbage time TD in the final minutes, Keenum's only other touchdown came in the first quarter after Adam Gotsis recovered a Bilal Powell fumble in the red zone to set up an 8-yard pass to Courtland Sutton. Keenum completed 35 of 51 passes for 377 yards and two touchdowns, but struggled to piece together drives. The Broncos (2-3) ultimately were tamed by a 13th-ranked defense that got torched for more than 500 yards a week ago by the Jacksonville Jaguars. They also surrendered more than 500 yards to Jets offense that ranked 29th in the NFL coming into the game. Joseph needs to find a solution to the Broncos' problems soon if he wants to avoid putting his job in the coaching hot-seat crosshairs moving forward.
-- Austin Knoblauch
- The Pittsburgh Steelers made a concerted effort to ride running back James Conner. The tailback touched the ball on seven of the first eight snaps of the game -- 6 carries for 43 yards, TD, and one catch for 29 yards -- as the Steelers drove for their first opening-possession touchdown of the season. The bruising back was the motor of the Steelers on each of their successful drives in the first half. Plowing through arm-tackle attempts, Conner generated three 25-yard plus plays. When Conner can pick up chunk gains and keep the Steelers in positive down and distances it makes life easier for the rest of the offense. The Pitt product paced the Steelers with 110 rushing yards on 21 totes (5.2 YPC) and 75 receiving yards on four catches. On a day Ben Roethlisberger struggled to find the range early in the game -- including an inexplicable INT forcing the ball to Antonio Brown in the end zone -- Conner proved he can be Steelers engine until Big Ben and AB find their spark. After Brown caught just two of eight targets for 15 yards in the first half, he exploded to finish with six catches 101 yards and two TDs.
- Matt Ryan missed the comfy confines of his home dome. The Falcons QB was off-target all day on the road, unable to take advantage of a struggling Steelers secondary. Credit Pittsburgh's defense, which swarmed Ryan with an array of blitzes and pressures, sacking the quarterback six times (including four in the first half). Pittsburgh's pressure forced quick decisions from Ryan, and the quarterback looked discombobulated. Ryan was particularly off-target to Julio Jones early, throwing several balls behind the All-Pro receiver. Julio didn't record his first catch until 13:36 left in the game and the Falcons trailing by 17 points. On a day in which Ryan was battered, his sack fumble for a Pittsburgh touchdown was an emblematic end to the quarterback's forgettable day. In a pivotal game, Ryan's laid egg was reminiscent of his struggles in the season-opening road loss in Philly. With ATL trailing big most of the second half, Devonta Freeman's return from a knee injury was essentially nullified.
- In a battle of disappointing teams to open the season, the Steelers took advantage of playing at home in a much-needed win to keep pace in the AFC North. The key play of the game was a Roosevelt Nix blocked punt late in the third quarter. The play set up an easy touchdown run by Conner to give the Steelers an insurmountable lead. It's the type of game-changing play we haven't seen from the Pittsburgh's special teams or defense through four tilts. After losing their first two home tilts of the season, Sunday was as close to a must-win game for a playoff-caliber team as there is in early October. In a desperate situation, Mike Tomlin's team finally won in all three phases.
At 1-4, the hole could be too steep for Dan Quinn's squad to climb out of in a tough NFC South.
-- Kevin Patra
- Joe Mixon returned for the Bengals, but Cincy's high-flying offense -- averaging a juicy 31.5 points per tilt entering Sunday -- spent the first half in a deep sleep. Andy Dalton saw a shot into the red zone tipped and picked by Kiko Alonso before the Bengals suffered a blocked field goal from 37 yards out. Special teams cost them next, as Jakeem Grant's 70-yard punt return score buried the Bengals in a 14-0 hole at the half. Still, you could feel the tide turning when Cincy capped a juicy, eight-play, 71-yard drive in the final quarter with Dalton's 18-yard scoring strike to Mixon (22/93), who played a huge role down the stretch with a handful of money gallops.
- As concerning as last week's no-show against the Patriots was for Miami fans, Sunday's effort raises equally troubling questions. Do the Dolphins know how to close? Ryan Tannehill authored a clean first half -- dialing up a 22-yard touchdown to Kenyan Drake -- but a tilt controlled early by the 'Fins turned entirely dark when the Dolphins quarterback, under intense pressure, saw an errant pass flitter out of his hands and into the arms of Michael Johnson, the Bengals pass rusher who rumbled 22 yards for a game-tying score. Disaster struck again when Carlos Dunlap's strip-sack of Tannehill with 2-plus minutes left in the game triggered a 19-yard scoring rumble for Cincy's Sam Hubbard. Game over.
- Cincy's defense was a major concern after lashings by the Panthers and Falcons, but Sunday marked their most complete showing all season. Beyond the two defensive scores that put this tilt to bed, the Bengals Miami's ground game in check in the second half and limited Tannehill to 169 total yards at 5.3 yards per toss.
-- Marc Sessler
- From turnovers to gritty individual performances on both sides, Sunday's matchup had it all. But with the game on the line, the spotlight fell on Panthers kicker Graham Gano, who calmly nailed a 63-yard field goal as time expired to give the Panthers a win in one of Sunday's most entertaining games. Gano's 63-yard field goal is tied with former New Orleans Saints kicker Tom Dempsey for the longest game-winning field goal in NFL history, and tied for the second-longest league history.
Gano had a busy day with four field goals, and three of the four boots were from long distance. The veteran kicker boomed two 49-yard field goals to go along with his 63-yard game-winning effort, and he was feeling it. Gano raised his arms within moments after the ball left his right foot, and then watched as the football split the uprights. The win moved the Panthers to 3-1 in the NFC South, where it appears the Panthers and Saints will jockey for position the rest of the season.
- In a contest where both teams produced numerous mistakes, the Panthers stood tall when the dust settled. Carolina converted two Giants' miscues into touchdowns, and a perfect example of capitalizing on an error occurred late in the third quarter with the Panthers holding a 20-16 lead and the Giants driving in the Panthers' territory.
With a first down at Carolina's 25-yard line, Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw an interception off his back leg. A questionable personal foul kept the Panthers' drive alive, and then a defensive communication issue between safety and cornerback Janoris Jenkins left running back Christian McCaffrey wide open out of the backfield, and quarterback Cam Newton found McCaffrey for an easy 18-yard touchdown.
- The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as the saying goes. In this case, the wheel needing lubrication was New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who turned heads before the weekend by questioning the team's energy and his role in the offense. On Sunday, it appeared the Giants looked Beckham's way early and often, and the approach resulted in Beckham totaling eight catches for 131 yards and a touchdown on 14 targets. Beckham also tossed a 57-yard touchdown pass to running back Saquon Barkley on a trick play.
But for all the good from the Giants wide receiver, there were two noticeable head-scratching mistakes. Beckham had a dropped pass early in the game when the Giants had an opportunity to gain a first down, and an error on special teams led to a Panthers' touchdown. Beckham, who lined up as a punt returner, went to block Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore, but the ball hit the back of Beckham's foot. The ensuring mad scramble resulted in Panthers defensive back Colin Jones recovering the football in the end zone for a touchdown.
Sidenote on Beckham: There must be something in the water for odd-numbered weeks. In Weeks 1, 3 and 5, Beckham produced more than 100 yards receiving in each game. In Weeks 2 and 4, he produced 51 and 60 yards receiving, respectively.
-- Herbie Teope
- Green Bay's comeback attempt was too little too late after a team-wide meltdown led to a prohibitive 24-0 halftime deficit. In the first half alone, Mason Crosby missed a trio of field goals, Aaron Rodgers lost a pair of fumbles, Marquez Valdes-Scandling made a couple of rookie mistakes filling in at wide receiver, a holding penalty erased Ty Montgomery's long kickoff return and Lions power back LeGarrette Blount was gifted an easy touchdown after a punt was ruled to have bounced off of Kevin King's back deep in Packers territory. Green Bay simply had very little margin for error in the second half, negating their enormous edge in total yards (521 to 264) on the afternoon.
- Crosby has been an institution in Green Bay, excelling for a dozen years. It will be interesting to see how long his leash is after blowing four field goals and an extra point before coach Mike McCarthy bolstered his confidence with a meaningless 41-yard conversion with two seconds remaining. When Crosby went through a similar slump due to technique issues back in 2012, McCarthy gave him a wide berth to work out the kinks. Crosby has been a rock ever since, making 134 of 158 attempts (85.4 percent) before Sunday's collapse in Detroit's kicker-friendly dome.
- Devante Adams' brilliance (nine receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown) aside, the Lions enjoyed a decisive edge in the receiving corps as well as the secondary. Green Bay's rookie wideouts had trouble separating from Detroit's sticky coverage while veteran tight end Jimmy Graham whiffed on a couple of end-zone jumpballs. Without benefit of first round pick Jaire Alexander, the Packers defensive backs had their hands full with Kenny Golladay, who finished with 98 yards and a touchdown on four receptions. The promising second-year receiver also had a gorgeous 45-yard touchdown catch nullified by Frank Ragnow's illegal-hands-to-the-face penalty. On a team with established veterans such as Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, Golladay is emerging as the top big-play threat.
-- Chris Wesseling
- A predictable clunker lived up to the hype, and this much can essentially explain what happened Sunday in Santa Clara: The team with the win didn't play winning football for the majority of the afternoon. With 11:30 left in the fourth and a 14-6 lead, the Cardinals had just eight first downs, as opposed to San Francisco's 23. That's for the game, folks. And yet, Arizona responded in the best way possible after giving up a touchdown pass on fourth down: Chandler Jones batted down a two-point conversion attempt, and Arizona's defense responded to a Cardinals three-and-out by stripping C.J. Beathard and returning the loose ball for a score. Second-year rusher Haason Reddick caused the turnover, Josh Bynes brought it back for six, and then Bene Benwikere followed suit by intercepting Beathard on the ensuing possession. A quick David Johnson rushing TD followed, and a game that was one play from the Niners completing the comeback ended in a blowout -- and even with the late key plays, this one wasn't really thrilling.
- Arizona's offense looked very much like one third of an 0-4 team. Sure, the Cardinals have their first win of the year, but the unit possessing the ball needs tons of work. It starts with an offensive line that PFF ranked dead last in pass protection (by a rather wide margin) entering Week 5 and did very little to help Josh Rosen and Johnson. According to Next Gen Stats, Rosen was pressured on 34.6 percent of his 25 dropbacks in Sunday's win. On the season, he's been pressured on 43.5 percent of dropbacks, the highest rate in the league, so things aren't really improving much. Additionally, his receivers didn't do him any favors, dropping multiple catchable balls, including some in open space. His highlight of the day: a 75-yard touchdown strike to Christian Kirk in what Cardinals fans hope is a sign of the future. Right now, though, even with Rosen looking like a natural, watching the Cardinals' offense is painful.
- Credit is due for the Niners' reserves, who gave a valiant effort in the face of adversity. Alfred Morris and Raheem Mostert filled in for Matt Breida, who left with an injury, rushing 23 times for 72 yards. Beathard was gutsy at best and average at worst, but you have to admire how he gives maximum effort and sacrifices his body to make plays for a team decimated by injuries. The problem, though, was one that usually sinks undermanned teams: Mistakes. San Francisco largely outplayed Arizona, but turned the ball over five times. San Francisco possessed the ball for 40:11 of a possible 60 minutes, doubled the Cardinals' total yardage (447 to 220) and more than tripled Arizona's first down total (33 to 10). It produced 18 points, with 12 being realistic and the last six coming in garbage time. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to explain what needs to be fixed here.
-- Nick Shook