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Falcons' offensive explosion vs. 49ers one of week's surprises


Roddy White makes one of his eight receptions
for 210 yards against the 49ers.
(Paul Sakuma / Associated Press)

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Falcons 45, 49ers 10
The Falcons' surprising offensive explosion against the 49ers can be attributed to a balanced game plan from the outset. Atlanta quickly established Michael Turner by running a series of power runs from the "I-formation" between the tackles and followed with complementary play-action passes. By using the threat of Turner pounding between the tackles to lure the 49ers' safeties near the line of scrimmage, the Falcons threw the ball deep to Roddy White. He repeatedly burned the 49ers on vertical routes, which put the defense in a quandary because the unit was unable to force the Falcons into a one-dimensional approach. With the 49ers clearly on their heels, the Falcons controlled the game and put on a very impressive offensive show against one of the league's better defenses.

Cowboys 26, Chiefs 20 (OT)
Miles Austin proved to be the Cowboys' answer to the frequent use of blitz coverage used by the Chiefs. He torched Kansas City for 250 receiving yards and two touchdowns by repeatedly winning one-on-one battles on the outside. As Dallas' fastest receiver, Austin can make defenses pay for bringing pressure. His big-play ability was needed by an offense that struggled to find a rhythm for most of the game. With defenses increasingly loading up to stop the Cowboys' formidable rushing attack with a host of blitzes, Austin could become an important asset going forward.

Bengals 17, Ravens 14
The Bengals surprisingly gave the Ravens a dose of their own medicine by relying on their running game to key a 17-14 victory. Cedric Benson gained 120 yards rushing on 27 carries, which enabled the Bengals to stay balanced against the Ravens' menacing defense. Using a mixture of off-tackle runs and lead draws, Benson repeatedly found creases in the middle and became the first runner to go over the century mark against Baltimore in 40 games. With the Bengals able to go toe-to-toe in a physical battle with the Ravens, Cincinnati served notice to the AFC that its sizzling start is no accident.

Broncos 20, Patriots 17 (OT)
Josh McDaniels caught heat for installing Kyle Orton as the Broncos' starting quarterback, but the fifth-year pro is starting to thrive as the triggerman in the team's spread offense. Orton completed 35 of 48 for 330 yards and two touchdowns and hit six different receivers against the Patriots. Orton's willingness to spread the ball around kept New England from tweaking its coverage to take away one of Denver's leading receivers. However, it was the clever scheming of McDaniels that opened up the field for the passing game. The Broncos used an assortment of four- and five-receiver looks with multiple crossing routes to spread the defense and create big passing windows for Orton. The use of spread formations allowed Orton to quickly identify the potential rushers prior to the snap and the crossing routes were an effective counter to the blitz. Denver's offense has hit its stride and the chemistry between play-caller and triggerman is the reason.

Browns 6, Bills 3
The Bills continue to be their own worst enemy with costly errors at critical junctures. Roscoe Parrish's botched punt return set up the Browns for the winning field goal. While Parrish has earned the reputation of being a fearless returner, the risky decision to attempt to scoop up a bouncing ball was not a wise at that point in the game. Although Buffalo would have had to drive the length of the field to score the winning points, there was still nearly three minutes left and the Bills had a timeout and the two-minute warning to come. Fans will express outrage at the coaching staff with the Bills at 1-4, but several of their losses should fall at the feet of a few players who keep undermining the team's chances with their poor decisions.

Panthers 20, Redskins 17
The Redskins' faltering offense kept the door open for the Panthers. Jim Zorn's troops only gained 198 yards of total offense and their inability to move the ball consistently gave the Panthers enough opportunities to rally. Washington's woes continue to revolve around its inconsistent rushing attack and sputtering passing game. Clinton Portis was held to 57 yards rushing on 19 carries, while Jason Campbell completed 17 of 23 for only 145 passing yards with a touchdown. Against a defense that routinely put eight men in the box, Campbell needed to generate more big plays against single coverage on the outside. Until the Redskins find a way to score more points, they'll continue to lose close games.

Steelers 28, Lions 20
The Steelers may have found a remedy for their running game. Rashard Mendenhall followed up his sensational performance last week with 77 yards rushing and a touchdown on only 15 attempts. While Ben Roethlisberger continues to drive the offense, the improvement on the ground has given the Steelers an added dimension offensively. With the team able to show the threat of the run, Roethlisberger can use more play-action to Heath Miller, Hines Ward and Mike Wallace over the middle of the field. The Steelers have put up 28 points or more in back-to-back games and their improved rushing attack has played a part in the success.

Giants 44, Raiders 7
Lost in the Giants' blowout victory of the Raiders is a potential running back battle between Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Bradshaw is pushing for Jacobs' job after enjoying another sensational performance with a limited workload. Bradshaw tallied 110 rushing yards with two scores and added a 55-yard reception. The output dwarfs the production of Jacobs (22 touches for 75 total yards) and continues the season-long trend of Bradshaw outperforming the team's designated starter. In addition, New York may have signified a growing comfort level with Bradshaw by using him on a fourth-and-one carry after Jacobs was denied on three consecutive tries inside the Raiders' five-yard line. The Giants have long preferred a running back by committee, but Bradshaw's emergence may require flipping the order.

Eagles 33, Buccaneers 14
The Eagles used a blitz-heavy approach to force Josh Johnson into an uneven performance. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott frequently dialed up five- and six-man pressures to force the young signal caller to make quick decisions under duress. The aggressive tactics directly contributed to his three interceptions. Both of Asante Samuel's picks were the result of the Eagles bringing heat. Johnson also botched a snap on a fourth-down attempt because of the blitz. The Eagles were always regarded as a high-pressure unit under the late Jim Johnson and it appears McDermott has carried on the tradition.

Vikings 38, Rams 10
The Rams' turnovers in the red zone hurt any chance of upsetting the Vikings. Untimely fumbles by Kyle Boller, Daniel Fells and Steven Jackson not only cost the Rams points, but repeatedly killed the momentum generated in the first half. The miscues allowed the Vikings to go into halftime with a 17-3 lead and forced the Rams to abandon a balanced game plan that was successful early. With St. Louis unable to convert red-zone opportunities into points, a highly competitive contest turned into a blowout in the second half.

Cardinals 28, Texans 21
The Cardinals' first-half offensive explosion against the Texans was sparked by Ken Whisenhunt's decision to attack the Texans with a host of outside flood routes. With Houston playing an extensive amount of two-deep coverage, Arizona's use of the flood concept exploited the aggressiveness of the opposing corners and allowed Kurt Warner to hit Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston repeatedly down the field. Although the Texans made adjustments in the second half, the Cardinals found a rhythm early and raced out to a 21-0 lead that gave Arizona enough of a cushion to beat Houston.

Seahawks 41, Jaguars 0
The return of Matt Hasselbeck keyed the resurgence of the Seahawks' aerial attack. He connected on 18 of 30 for 241 yards and four touchdowns. The Seahawks' use of the no-huddle also gave the offense a boost. The quick-tempo offense got Hasselbeck into a rhythm and forced the Jaguars to stay generic with their coverage. Without having to worry about exotic looks from the opposing defense, Hasselbeck picked apart Jacksonville's secondary and got Seattle into a sustained rhythm.

Colts 31, Titans 9
The Colts' impressive win will elicit kudos from offensive-minded followers, but the defense deserves praise for its superb showing against the Titans. The Colts held the Titans' potent rushing attack to only 90 yards, while harassing Kerry Collins (19 of 32 for 164 yards and one interception). Though the Colts entered the game ranked among the top ten in total defense, the fact that the unit has played so well with multiple starters ( Kelvin Hayden, Marlin Jackson and Bob Sanders) on the sidelines doesn't bode well for opponents in search of a weakness. The defense is playing tough and physical against the run. The Colts' ability to force long-yardage situations allows their relentless pass rushers to get after quarterbacks off the edges. With a defense showing as much grit and explosiveness as the offense, the Colts are positioned to make another run at an AFC title.

 

Seven from Sunday

A look at seven statistical highlights from games played during the fifth week of the 2009 season.

» Dallas wide receiver Miles Austin had 10 catches for a team-record 250 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys' 26-20 overtime victory at Kansas City. Austin, who had a 60-yard winning TD reception in overtime, is the 10th player in NFL history to record at least 10 catches, 250 yards and two touchdowns in a game. He is the only one of those 10 to record the winning score in overtime.

In addition to Austin, Atlanta wide receiver Roddy White had eight catches for a team-record 210 yards and two touchdowns in the Falcons' 45-10 win at San Francisco. This marks the second time in NFL history that two receivers each recorded at least 200 receiving yards and two TD catches on the same day (Kansas City's Stephone Paige and Houston's Drew Hill, Dec. 22, 1985).

» Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner passed for 302 yards in the Cardinals' 28-21 victory over Houston. It marked the 50th career 300-yard passing performance for Warner, the fifth-most in NFL history. Warner, who has now passed for 300 yards in 50 of 113 games (44.2 percent), is the fastest quarterback to reach 50 300-yard games, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (176 games).
Warner has now passed for 13,255 yards as a Cardinal. He threw for 14,447 yards with the St. Louis Rams and joins Pro Football Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton as the only players to pass for at least 13,000 yards with two different teams.

» Baltimore safety Ed Reed had a 52-yard interception return for a touchdown against Cincinnati, the 12th return TD of his career. Reed is now tied with Ronde Barber, Devin Hester and Darren Sharper for the most return touchdowns among active players.

» Dallas tight end Jason Witten played in his 100th career game and had five catches for 47 yards. Witten has 457 career receptions, the second-most all-time by a tight end in his first 100 games. Pro Football Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow had 497 catches in the first 100 games.

» Denver wide receiver Eddie Royal had 10 catches for 90 yards in the Broncos' 20-17 overtime victory over New England. Royal, who now has 109 receptions in 20 career games, is the third wide receiver in NFL history to reach 100 catches in 20 or fewer games, joining Arizona's Anquan Boldin (16 games) and former New England wide receiver Terry Glenn (20).

» Philadelphia rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin had six catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles' 33-14 win over Tampa Bay. Maclin recorded the first two touchdowns of his career on receptions of 51 and 40 yards. He is the fifth rookie since 1970 to have his first two career receiving touchdowns go for at least 40 yards and occur in the same game.

» Cincinnati running back Cedric Benson rushed for 120 yards in the Bengals' 17-14 win over Baltimore. Benson is the first running back since Kansas City's Larry Johnson (120 yards on Dec. 10, 2006) to rush for 100 yards against the Ravens, ending the NFL's longest current streak (39 games) without allowing a 100-yard rusher.

Monday night

Jets at Dolphins: With the Jets coming off their first loss and the Dolphins coming off their first victory, the focus in this AFC East showdown could be on how Rex Ryan's defense contends with Miami's Wildcat offense.
» Game preview

Injury report

» Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: Knee. More ...

» Michael Lewis, S, 49ers: Concussion. More ...

» Matt Light, OT, Patriots: Knee. More ...

» Kawika Mitchell, LB, Bills: Knee. More ...

» NFL.com blogs: More updates

Fantasy studs

Who was this week's best fantasy player? Was it Matt Ryan? What about his teammate, Roddy White? Or, was it Miles Austin? Check out all of Michael Fabiano's nominees and cast your vote.
» Vote for Week 5 fantasy stud

Photos

The NFL delivered more exciting games and performances in Week 5, including the pivotal Broncos- Patriots overtime showdown in old-school AFL throwbacks and a wild finish in Arizona. Check out the memorable moments with the best images from Week 5.

» NFL cheerleaders during Week 5
» NFL.com photo gallery archives

Weekly Countdown

NFL Weekly Countdown, which airs each Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network, lets fans program the show. Check out the 15 nominations for the best performances, and then rank in the order you want to see those on the show. Come back Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. to see the results.

Top 15 moments of Week 5:

» Hasselbeck has glorious return | Vote
» Austin sets Cowboys record | Vote
» Benson runs past Ravens | Vote
» Bradshaw runs over Raiders | Vote
» Broncos move to 5-0 | Vote
» Cards win after goal-line stand | Vote
» Favre 5-0 for first time | Vote
» Harrison's three sacks vs. Lions | Vote
» McNabb returns in style | Vote
» Palmer thrills for Bengals | Vote
» Falcons' Turner, White fly high | Vote
» Romo rebounds for Cowboys | Vote
» Seahawks shut out Jaguars | Vote
» Warner takes to the air | Vote
» Bengals' Zimmer gets game ball | Vote

» Vote: Week 5's top performances

Ahead ... Week 6!

Sunday (all times ET)
St. Louis at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Houston at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
Detroit at Green Bay, 1 p.m.
Baltimore at Minnesota, 1 p.m.
N.Y. Giants at New Orleans, 1 p.m.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Carolina at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Kansas City at Washington, 1 p.m.
Philadelphia at Oakland, 4:05 p.m.
Arizona at Seattle, 4:05 p.m.
Tennessee at New England, 4:15 p.m.
Buffalo at N.Y. Jets, 4:15 p.m.
Chicago at Atlanta, 8:20 p.m.
Monday
Denver at San Diego, 8:30 p.m.

Bye week: Dallas, Indianapolis, Miami, San Francisco.

» Complete schedule


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