The Chiefs and Steelers suddenly learned to play defense and the Browns had a break go their way. It was a weird Week 5 in the N.F.L. Here’s what we learned.
The Steelers are tired of all the talk. Coming into the week it was understood that Pittsburgh couldn’t play defense, couldn’t run the ball and there was something wrong with the connection between Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. Depending on your perspective, a dominant win over Atlanta in which the Steelers’ defense was great, James Conner rushed for two touchdowns and Roethlisberger had two of his three touchdown passes go to Brown was either a sign that things are turning around, or proof that they had been loafing it in previous weeks.
Sean McVay trusts his offense. A Lot. Nursing a two-point lead late in the fourth quarter, the Rams coach sent out his offense to try to convert a 4th-and-1 rather than punt the ball away. In what has been a perfect season thus far, the big bet predictably paid off, with Jared Goff converting the first down and then running the clock out on the game.
The Browns “like the dramatic.” That was the assessment of Coach Hue Jackson, and it seems reasonable since Cleveland went to overtime for the third time in five weeks, this time coming away with a win thanks to an extremely ugly 37-yard field goal by Greg Joseph that barely cleared the upright. The Browns are now 2-1 since they let Baker Mayfield take over, and they would have been 3-0 if not for a controversial respotting of a ball late in last week’s loss. Cleveland’s five games have been decided by a total of 13 points.
Eric Reid is still Eric Reid. A team finally signed the veteran safety and while he played a bit coy about whether he would kneel for the national anthem, he did just that. There wasn’t a lot of booing, Reid’s teammates embraced him when the song finished, and he started and had three tackles in Carolina’s win. The world did not appear to end.
Houston Texans 19, Dallas Cowboys 16
Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson has a knack for making big plays, whether it’s with his arm or his feet.
But after the quarterback took a few too many unnecessary hits in a 19-16 overtime win against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, his teammates wondered if maybe he should dial things back a bit.
“I be in the huddle telling him to get down,” receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. “I need him. That’s what I tell him honestly. Don’t take those hits unless you … have to. But he’s a warrior. He wants to get in the end zone every time the ball is in his hands.”
Watson threw for 375 yards with a touchdown and an interception and ran 10 times for 40 yards for the Texans, who won in overtime for the second straight week.
Houston coach Bill O’Brien agreed with Hopkins that Watson is taking too many blows but added that he doesn’t want to cut down on the hits at the cost of changing the way he plays.
“We’ve got to do a better job of making sure that he doesn’t take as many,” O’Brien said. “At the same time, it’s a fine line because that’s part of his game. That’s the way he plays the game.”
“He enjoys that part of the game to be honest with you,” O’Brien continued. “I think it’s something that we continue to coach and obviously, it’s something we don’t want an abundance of him getting hit, but sometimes it does happen.”
Los Angeles Rams 33, Seattle Seahawks 31
With 1 minute 39 seconds remaining in a hard-fought game, Coach Sean McVay of the Los Angeles Rams sent his offense out on a 4th-and-1 from the Los Angeles 42-yard line. The gamble paid off, as Jared Goff converted the first down, letting the Rams run out the clock in a 33-31 come-from-behind win over the Seattle Seahawks.
The Rams improved to 5-0 despite losing both Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp to possible concussions in the first half. They did it by putting the ball in the hands of Todd Gurley and letting their superstar running back carry them to the win, as he rumbled for three touchdowns in Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.
The Rams were dealing with some of their first adversity in what has been a dominant season. They fell behind 7-0 late in the first quarter, and other than a four-minute stretch in the second quarter they did not lead again until Cairo Santos connected for a 39-yard field goal with 6:09 left in the game.
Even with his receiving corps somewhat depleted, Goff finished the day having completed 23 of 32 passes for 321 yards, though he was intercepted twice by a Seattle defense that had come into the game short-handed in the secondary. The turnovers were offset by Gurley’s brilliance in the red zone, where he scored from 5, 2 and 2 yards.
The Rams joined the Chiefs as the N.F.L.’s only 5-0 teams, and they will try to improve to 6-0 in a road game against the Denver Broncos next week.
Kansas City Chiefs 30, Jacksonville Jaguars 14
Patrick Mahomes finally looked somewhat human, but his Chiefs teammates more than picked him up in Kansas City’s 30-14 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Mahomes came into the game with 14 touchdowns and no interceptions in the Chiefs’ 4-0 start to the season. He completed 22 of 38 passes for 313 yards, but the Jaguars pressured him far more heavily than any other opponent had managed, which helped result in his first two interceptions of the season.
It didn’t matter as Kansas City’s much-maligned defense repeatedly forced turnovers, building up a lead that the Jaguars could not overcome.
“It shows what kind of team we are,” Mahomes said of the performance. “I’m just excited to come out with a win on a day the defense made plays.”
The defensive effort for Kansas City was outstanding all game, with the key plays being a strip-sack fumble that the Chiefs recovered on Jacksonville’s first play following Mahomes’s first interception, and an unlikely pick-six in which Chris Jones, a defensive end who stands 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighs more than 300 points, snatched a Blake Bortles pass out of the air and ran it 20 yards into the end zone.
Jones got some style points for a quick cut to his right to shed Bortles’ halfhearted attempt at a tackle but was later thrown out of the game for slamming his arm into the leg of a Jacksonville offensive lineman following a touchdown.
The Chiefs finished the game having forced five turnovers — four of which were Bortles interceptions — and three times prevented the Jaguars from scoring on drives that got inside the Kansas City 5-yard line.
Bortles, who repeatedly threw downfield, completed 33 of 61 passes for 430 yards and one touchdown, looking far stronger in a second half that included a 21-yard touchdown run in which he seemed to be going down well short of the goal line before somehow extending his arms just enough to sneak the ball over the goal line.
That touchdown, combined with a wild onside kick in which Jacksonville’s place-kicker, Josh Lambo, recovered his own kick, made the game seem almost competitive after the first half had looked like it would turn into a rout.
In the end, Kansas City was able to get away with its least impressive offensive performance of the season. The Chiefs generated 424 yards but did not do nearly as much damage in the passing game as they seemingly could have, based on how often the team’s receivers got open against a well-regarded secondary, and had to settle for field goals on three drives.
Kansas City, one of the N.F.L.’s last two remaining unbeaten teams, will have a hard road to 6-0 as it travels to New England to face the Patriots next week.
Minnesota Vikings 23, Philadelphia Eagles 21
A fumble popped up in front of him, and Linval Joseph, the mammoth defensive tackle of the Minnesota Vikings knew just what to do. The 330-pounder secured the ball, ran his closest pursuer into a block, and raced 64 yards into the end zone to give his team a lead.
The Vikings set up the nine-year veteran with sunglasses and an oxygen mask, then fought to keep that lead on the road in Philadelphia, winning the rematch of last year’s N.F.C. championship game against the Eagles, 23-21.
Both teams had different quarterbacks under center than they did in January: Carson Wentz has returned from a devastating knee injury to replace Nick Foles for the Eagles, while Kirk Cousins signed as a free agent to replace Case Keenum for the Vikings.
Both quarterbacks had sensational moments in the game — none better than Cousins absorbing a huge hit from Philadelphia’s Fletcher Cox at his own goal line and still managing to complete an improbable 68-yard pass to Adam Thielen. But it was Wentz’s fumble on a strip-sack by Stephen Weatherly that led to Joseph’s wild run, setting the Vikings up for victory.
Thielen’s big day included seven catches for 116 yards, and he became the first player in the Super Bowl era to have 100 or more receiving yards in each of his team’s first five games of the season. Stefon Diggs added 10 catches for 91 yards, and it hardly seemed to matter that Dalvin Cook, the team’s starting running back, was ruled out before the game.
Cousins completed 30 of 37 passes for 301 yards, crossing the 300-yard mark for the third time in five games for Minnesota, and barely out-dueled Wentz, who passed for 311 yards and two touchdowns.
Detroit Lions 31, Green Bay Packers 23
Mason Crosby had one of the worst kicking performances in recent N.F.L. history, missing four field goals and an extra point, and the Green Bay Packers fell short in a comeback attempt, losing to the Detroit Lions, 31-23.
The division loss comes a week after Aaron Rodgers expressed frustration with his team’s effort in a 22-0 shutout of Buffalo. This time around, Rodgers threw for 442 yards and three touchdowns on the road but contributed to his team’s failures with two lost fumbles.
“I don’t usually get this much attention unless I’ve done something really good or really bad,” Crosby told a crowd of reporters after the game. “This one is unfortunately really bad.”
Detroit had a quick start to the game, with Green Bay’s Kevin King muffing a catch on a punt return following the Lions’ first drive. Jamal Agnew recovered the ball at Green Bay’s 1-yard line, setting up an easy touchdown run for LeGarrette Blount.
That drive was followed by Crosby’s first missed field goal of the day — that one from 41 yards — and Detroit capitalized on the miss by going 69 yards on just four plays. Sixty of the yards came on a deep pass from Matthew Stafford to Kenny Golladay, and the drive ended with Blount once again running the ball in from one yard out.
By the end of the second quarter, Detroit was leading by a score of 24-0, and while Rodgers willed his team into making it somewhat of a game, the 13 points the Packers left off the board thanks to Crosby’s misses made it an impossible deficit. Crosby finished the game with misses from 41, 42, 38 and 56 yards.
He was the first kicker to miss at least four field goals and one extra-point in a game since Rolf Benirschke, who did so for the San Diego Chargers in 1980.
“Mason and I have played together for a long time, and I strongly believe he’s one of the greatest kickers of all time,” Rodgers told reporters after the game. “He and Robbie Gould have mastered kicking in the elements. He had a bad day today, but we still believe in him 100 percent.”
The Packers (2-2-1) and Lions (2-3) both trail the idle Chicago Bears (3-1) in the N.F.C. North. Green Bay will try to get back on track next week with a home game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Pittsburgh Steelers 41, Atlanta Falcons 17
The knocks on the Steelers this season have been that they can’t play defense and can’t run the ball. Naturally, they demolished the Atlanta Falcons, 41-17, by running for 131 yards and two touchdowns while repeatedly snuffing out drives from one of the N.F.L.’s best offenses.
The Steelers, playing at home, were rolling from the first drive of the game. They marched 78 yards on eight plays with James Conner, the second-year running back asked to fill in for Le’Veon Bell, running the ball in from the 1-yard line. Pittsburgh’s defense forced a punt and the Steelers were right back at it, going 97 yards on 11 plays, with Ben Roethlisberger hitting JuJu Smith-Schuster from 18 yards out, giving Pittsburgh a 13-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.
That outburst set the tone in a game in which Conner finished with 110 yards on the ground and two touchdowns while Roethlisberger threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns, two of which went to Antonio Brown.
“We know we got to stay together regardless of what’s being said,” Brown said of his relationship with Roethlisberger. He then referred to a quotation from last week in which he said the Wi-Fi connection was not always great between them, saying: “All of my catches, all of my touchdowns are from him, and that’s my guy. I live and die with him and the Wi-Fi was lit.”
Atlanta’s offense simply could not keep up. Matt Ryan threw for 285 yards, but he was sacked six times and the Falcons made it into the red zone just twice, scoring once. They never developed much of a running game, and their outstanding wide receiver duo of Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley failed to make their typical impact.
Roethlisberger credited the Pittsburgh offensive line with the victory and said it was largely a matter of the offense doing what he knew they were capable of.
“We told you guys that there was no issues,” he said. “We just weren’t connecting, and I wasn’t playing well enough. I’m not saying that I played great today, but we made enough plays and I thought we did what we had to do.”
With their record now 2-2-1, the Steelers will face a division test next week against the Cincinnati Bengals, who improved to 4-1 with a comeback win over Miami on Sunday.
New York Jets 34, Denver Broncos 16
Jets Coach Todd Bowles is known for his even-keeled temperament, for never being too high or too low, which is somewhat remarkable given that his team is as consistent as a coin toss.
One week, the Jets look like a lineup of Pro Bowlers — namely in their Monday-night season opener in Detroit. Then the next three weeks, they regress, and regress, and regress some more, giving fans the maddening, but familiar, feeling that nothing has really improved.
Which brings us to this Sunday, at MetLife Stadium, when the Jets took on the Denver Broncos, a quasi contender with a stalwart run defense. And somehow, the Jets gathered 323 yards on the ground, established a franchise record for an individual rushing performance (Isaiah Crowell’s 219 yards), and, with a 34-16 victory, made their fans start dreaming again.
Carolina Panthers 33, New York Giants 31
Graham Gano connected on a career-long 63-yard field goal with 1 second remaining to lift the Carolina Panthers to a wild 33-31 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday.
Gano’s winning kick came after the Giants erased a 14-point deficit. Eli Manning hooked up with Saquon Barkley on a 15-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline — the rookie made a long dive into the end zone — to put the Giants in front 31-30 with 1:08 remaining.
Gano’s previous career long was 59 yards. He was 4 for 4 on field goal attempts and has made 35 in a row at home dating back to 2016.
Cam Newton threw for 237 yards and had two touchdowns and two interceptions. Christian McCaffrey had 93 yards from scrimmage and an 18-yard touchdown catch for the Panthers (3-1).
Manning finished 22 of 36 for 326 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, both by Panthers 37-year-old safety Mike Adams. Odell Beckham Jr. had a big game as a receiver and passer. Beckham had eight catches for 131 yards and a touchdown and also threw a 57-yarder to Barkley for New York’s first touchdown.
Cleveland Browns 12, Baltimore Ravens 9
Rookie Greg Joseph’s 37-yard field goal — a knuckleball that barely cleared the crossbar — with two seconds left in overtime gave the Cleveland Browns a 12-9 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
After rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield drove the Browns (2-2-1) into position, Joseph, who was signed after Week 2 following Zane Gonzalez’s release, lined his kick through the uprights to give Cleveland its first A.F.C. North win in 19 tries. Mayfield passed for 342 yards and threw a 19-yard TD pass in his first start at home.
This was Cleveland’s third OT game in five weeks.
Buffalo Bills 13, Tennessee Titans 12
Safety Jordan Poyer and the Buffalo Bills couldn’t care less about style points.
After being on the losing end of some lopsided decisions, an offensively challenged, field-goal-dominated 13-12 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday is all that mattered.
“It’s never ugly when you win,” Poyer said.
Stephen Hauschka overcame a botched field-goal attempt in the final minutes of the first half by hitting a 46-yard attempt as time expired. Running back LeSean McCoy broke from a September slump with 85 yards rushing — matching the combined total from his first three games.
And Poyer helped anchor an injury-depleted secondary on a defense that forced three turnovers, held the Titans to 221 yards and limited them to scoring four field goals.
Good Times for the Kansas City Defense
Patrick Mahomes is holding his own at quarterback against the Jaguars, but the star of the first half may just be the Kansas City defense: two interceptions and one fumble recovery.
That kind of half is surely worth a celebration:
Quarterback Controversy in New York?
Should Eli Manning watch his back? Odell Beckham Jr. threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Saquon Barkley:
Source: The New York Times