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What we learned from Sunday's NFL games

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It was a night for the record books in New Orleans. Not only did Drew Brees break Johnny Unitas' NFL mark for consecutive games with a touchdown pass Sunday, but Marques Colston broke the Saints' franchise TD reception record.

Brees badly needed Colston to step up with Lance Moore out and Jimmy Graham hurt. Colston delivered three scores and 131 yards.

Here's what else we learned on a fun Sunday of Week 5:

New Orleans Saints 31, San Diego Chargers 24

»Former Saints wideout Robert Meachem finally developed some chemistry with Philip Rivers, flaming his old team for two big plays for touchdowns.

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»Turning-point moment: A pick six by Chargers linebacker Demorrio Williams was wiped out by Melvin Ingram's roughing-the-passer penalty. Five plays later, Brees hit Colston on a 16-yard touchdown. Fourteen-point swing. It was a shaky call.

»Graham was reduced to a decoy in the second half because of an ankle injury. Saints cornerback Jabari Greer had a hip issue and left the game.

»The Saints' defense remains messy. They don't apply enough pressure and still have tackling issues in the second level. We saw funky coverage on Rivers' second scoring strike to Meacham. Safety Malcolm Jenkins appeared to bite on play action and never recovered. There's too much confusion on this side of the ball.

»Ryan Mathews' usage by the Chargers remains confusing. He lit up the Saints for 139 yards from scrimmage, but Norv Turner didn't trust Mathews at the end of the game, leaving in Ronnie Brown.

»NBC's Cris Collinsworth went mystical on us on the game's last play. After spotting that Chargers left tackle Jared Gaither was in noticeable back pain, he predicted Martez Wilson would heat-seek Rivers, and he was right. Wilson's sack-fumble on Rivers came at Gaither's expense and sealed the win.

-- Gregg Rosenthal and Marc Sessler


Pittsburgh Steelers 16, Philadelphia Eagles 14

» Rashard Mendenhall's return to the Steelers made all the difference. Unlike his backups, Mendenhall picks up yards on plays when his offensive line doesn't block. He used power and elusiveness.


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» Eagles quarterback Michael Vick fumbled three times and had another fumble overturned by replay. He continues to get hit too much, although Vick did a great job on a fourth-quarter touchdown drive to take the lead.

» Andy Reid showed some serious courage going for fourth-and-1 from the Eagles' 30-yard line early in the fourth quarter. LeSean McCoy made his coach look smart.

» The Steelers were in control for most of the contest. Over 100 penalty yards and a number of near misses for possible touchdowns gave the Eagles a chance.

» Nnamdi Asomugha is struggling. Eagles opponents are picking on him in man coverage. Hard to believe.

-- Gregg Rosenthal


New York Giants 41, Cleveland Browns 27

» Eli Manning has thrown for 200-plus yards in 24 consecutive games after compiling 259 against the Browns. Eli shines against the blitz and picked apart the defense with accurate passes and long snap counts that kept Cleveland off balance.

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» Victor Cruz's three-touchdown afternoon came with one play that showed off his growth. On Cruz's first score, he totally sold an inside route, before breaking outside. Browns cornerback Buster Skrine bought it -- and paid hard.

» There are two Brandon Weedens. The first is the guy who launched a beautiful 62-yard scoring strike to rookie Josh Gordon. The second is the guy who threw high and behind Gordon on an interception that killed a Browns drive before halftime and shifted momentum. The second Weeden is why this not-so-young passer is kept out of most rookie quarterback conversations.

» The Browns' early lead was a mirage. Sloppy play and turnovers allowed the Giants to score 17 points in the final 2:52 of the first half. New York has made a habit of climbing back into games before dominating late. We saw this against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Big Blue delivered again Sunday.

» Jason Pierre-Paul didn't have much success against All-Pro left tackle Joe Thomas, but Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw turned a slow start into 200 yards on the ground. How does Browns coach Pat Shurmur keep his job if this continues?

-- Marc Sessler


Atlanta Falcons 24, Washington Redskins 17

» The Redskins were very conservative using Robert Griffin III before his injury. They made sure he wasn't hit much. Then again, Washington's offense scored just three points in almost three quarters while RG3 was in the game.

» Kirk Cousins found Santana Moss for a long touchdown, but it was a blown coverage. After that, Cousins looked like a rookie in telegraphing two interceptions.

» The Redskins might have to consider cutting Billy Cundiff after another missed field-goal attempt.

» Tony Gonzalez is having the time of his life getting single coverage while Roddy White and Julio Jones run wild outside. The Falcons' veteran tight end caught 13 passes and converted so many key first downs.

» Jones had a few drops, but Matt Ryan kept feeding him. It paid off with a massive fourth-quarter touchdown and a key third-and-long conversion for Atlanta.

» Jacquizz Rodgers had just 12 yards, but two of his plays kept Falcons drives going when he should have been stopped on third down. He used power and elusiveness.

-- Gregg Rosenthal


Baltimore Ravens 9, Kansas City Chiefs 6

» A disastrous day for Matt Cassel. Before he left with a fourth-quarter head injury, Kansas City's embattled quarterback threw just two passes in the first quarter. He has lost the trust of this team. Cassel tossed two picks, and his third-quarter fumble on a quarterback sneak at the Baltimore 1-yard line seemed to symbolize the error-prone play that eventually will cost him his job.

» The Ravens allowed a 100-yard rusher in the first half for the first time since December 1998. The Chiefs fed Jamaal Charles over and over and over. Baltimore knew it was coming but couldn't stop it. Charles had 20 rushes for 125 yards at halftime before the Ravens adjusted and shut him down in the second half.

» The Chiefs have yet to lead a game in regulation this season, suggesting just how far they've drifted from being the sexy preseason pick to win the AFC West.

» Also not a good day for Joe Flacco, who barely saw the field early and never found his rhythm. Ray Rice bailed out the offense, but Ravens teams of old would have lost this stinker. This year's team finds ways to win.

» Chiefs fans are on fire over what appeared to be a Flacco fumble in the final frame that would have handed Kansas City possession deep in Ravens territory. The refs didn't agree.

-- Marc Sessler


Indianapolis Colts 30, Green Bay Packers 27

» Andrew Luck is no pretty-boy quarterback. The Colts rookie was sacked four times, but that doesn't do justice to the brutal hits he took. Luck didn't get gun shy and led his team to victory after a 21-3 deficit. He threw for two touchdowns and ran for one in the second half, making clutch throws along the way.

On NFL Replay
NFL Replay
will re-air the Indianapolis Colts' emotional 30-27 win over the Green Bay  Packers from Week 5 on Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 8 p.m. ET.

» NFL Network schedule

» Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne is still good. Really good. He caught 13 balls for a career-high 213 yards and the game-winning touchdown. He had a one-handed catch that made the entire stadium gasp. The Packers couldn't do anything about it.

» The Colts can rush the passer. Dwight Freeney returned, and the Colts sacked Aaron Rodgers five times. The ankle didn't seem to bother Freeney, and Cory Redding posted two sacks himself. That will make life much easier for Indianapolis if it can have that type of effort on a consistent basis.

» The Packers' offense just isn't right. Coach Mike McCarthy said Green Bay isn't playing with any clarity. Rodgers isn't nearly as consistent as he has been in the past. Defenses have taken away the deep ball and have better defended the back-shoulder throw. Jerraud Powers picked one off -- a rare sight.

» The Packers are banged up. Receiver Greg Jennings (groin) sat out and could miss several weeks. Running back Cedric Benson (foot), tight end Jermichael Finley (shoulder) and nose tackle B.J. Raji (ankle) all left this game. That certainly doesn't help.

-- Kareem Copeland


San Francisco 49ers 45, Buffalo Bills 3

» San Francisco's 621 yards of total offense broke a franchise record dating to the Steve Young-led 1992 team that totaled 598 yards -- also against Buffalo.

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» Critics insist on burying Alex Smith, but the 49ers' starting quarterback was machine-like Sunday, going 18-of-24 passing for 303 yards and three touchdowns. Even his incompletions were a revelation. Smith smartly chucked a few passes out of bounds when the old Alex would have been pickpocketed.

» Meanwhile, Buffalo has to be asking itself if Ryan Fitzpatrick is the guy. I can't stop thinking about that terrible third-quarter deep ball that fell short of Donald Jones -- and right into the hands of 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver.

» Is there a better offensive lineman on the 49ers than right guard Alex Boone?

» San Francisco has made mincemeat of the AFC East. On the heels of a loss in Minnesota, the 49ers outscored the Jets and Bills 79-3.

» How bad are things in Buffalo? The Bills are the first team to give up 550-plus yards in back-to-back games since the 1950 New York Yankees.

-- Marc Sessler


Minnesota Vikings 30, Tennessee Titans 7

» Vikings rookie safety Harrison Smith was ejected in the second quarter after pushing a referee. Roger Goodell was in the crowd. This won't go well.

» Bizarro Chris Johnson is back. He had another one of those games, with 24 yards on 15 attempts. Another ugly chapter in a wildly uneven season.

» Tennessee is going nowhere with Matt Hasselbeck at the wheel. Solid backup, in theory, but this offense was grounded Sunday by the Vikings' front seven. What's more disturbing is the Titans' defense, which can't seem to get off the field.

» Giving the ball to Percy Harvin in the red zone makes more sense with each new day. He turned a Christian Ponder screen pass into a 10-yard score on which he juked Titans defenders out of their shoes. Another reminder to us all: Tennessee isn't tackling well.

-- Marc Sessler


Miami Dolphins 17, Cincinnati Bengals 13

» The Dolphins just might be better than advertised. They are 2-3 and have two losses by a combined six points. Ryan Tannehill has been the third-best rookie quarterback behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Outside of the 30 points the Houston Texans scored, the defense has given the Dolphins a fighting chance each week.

» A.J. Green continues to make the argument that he's the best receiver playing in 2012. He's certainly putting up the numbers. After being named AFC Offensive Player of the Month, Green caught nine balls for 65 and a touchdown. He's big, strong, fast with soft hands and excellent body control. That's not a bad combination for a receiver.

» Two inconsistent teams can make for a funky game. It featured five turnovers and 11 punts. There was just an odd flow as neither team reached 300 yards and the ball regularly changed hands. Oh, and both teams missed a field-goal attempt. Just a strange game to watch.

» Running back Bernard Scott brought a nice little spark to the Bengals before getting banged up. He had 40 yards on five carries, including a 29-yarder.

-- Kareem Copeland


Chicago Bears 41, Jacksonville Jaguars 3

» The Jaguars' offense is no better under Mike Mularkey. It might be worse. Blaine Gabbert has regressed and is showing his old bad habits again. He sees the pass rush before it's there. All that offseason turned out to be just that -- hype.

» The Bears gained 501 yards and gave up 189. They outscored Jacksonville 38-0 in the second half. That's as big a beatdown as you'll see.

» Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs are the first pair of teammates in NFL history to return interceptions for touchdowns in back-to-back weeks.

» Chicago has not played a tough schedule so far, but it has taken advantage. Going 4-1 with three road wins is a huge start to the season.

» Brandon Marshall is the first Bears receiver since 1999 to post back-to-back 100-yard games.

-- Gregg Rosenthal


New England Patriots 31, Denver Broncos 21

» Willis McGahee has carried the Broncos at times this season, but he let them down Sunday. His drop killed one fourth-quarter drive; a fumble killed another.

» Tom Brady's numbers haven't been huge, but he is playing very well. He's throwing the ball very accurately.

On NFL Replay
NFL Replay
will re-air the New England Patriots' 31-21 win over the Denver  Broncos in Week 5 on Tuesday, Oct. 9 at 9:30 p.m. ET.

» NFL Network schedule

» Danny Woodhead picked up a third-and-14 on a pass and a third-and-17 on a run. Those were backbreakers for Denver.

» Peyton Manning's arm did not look great on his deeper throws, but we're not sure it makes a difference. He was sharp. He threw for more than 300 yards with three scores. The Broncos could have won this game if not for three lost fumbles.

» New England's running game is legitimate, topping 240 yards for the second consecutive week. Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Bolden are an effective three-headed monster. Shane Vereen even scored a touchdown. The Patriots ran the ball 54 times.

-- Gregg Rosenthal


Seattle Seahawks 16, Carolina Panthers 12

» Russell Wilson threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. The Seahawks also took an intentional safety late in the game. That means Cam Newton and the Panthers' offense scored just three points. Yikes.

» At one point, Newton was 3-of-16 passing. The Panthers had fewer than 30 passing yards entering the fourth quarter. Steve Smith didn't come up with a few possible grabs. Newton threw the ball into the ground with a chance to take the lead on a fourth down late in the game. Carolina's passing game looked broken only one game after its best effort of the year.

» Not many linebackers can catch Newton from behind on a rollout. Seattle's Bobby Wagner can.

» Seattle tried to be a little more aggressive throwing the ball, and it mostly worked. Wilson moved the ball better. One of his interceptions came on a drop from Marshawn Lynch. Late in the game, however, Wilson missed open receivers and failed to pull the trigger a few times. The Seahawks are 3-2 despite Wilson.

-- Gregg Rosenthal

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