The Schein Nine  

 

Steelers back? Blake Bortles backslide? Week 5 good, bad, ugly

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My head hurts. This is what happens when you are treated -- in prime time -- to the coaching stylings of Bill O'Brien and Jason Garrett for four quarters, and then overtime. Horrendous game management, awful red-zone decisions ... whoever fouls up last loses!

That's the way we closed out the fifth Sunday of the 2018 season: tight game, questionable coaching. Mixed feelings, kinda like the day as a whole. With that in mind ...

Here's the good, the bad and the Bortles, Schein Nine style!

THE GOOD

1) Pittsburgh Steelers' offense

Oh, hey: I remember you!

I wasn't sure we would see this version of Pittsburgh's offense again, but a desperate team finally looked to pound the rock. And against a Dan Quinn defense that cannot tackle, it worked! Le'Veon Bell stand-in James Conner was the focal point of the Steelers' offense on Sunday. Yes, Conner caught four passes for 75 yards, but more importantly, he carried the ball 21 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns. This gave Pittsburgh's offense balance, thus aiding Ben Roethlisberger. After averaging a whopping 47 throws per game in September, Big Ben took to the air 27 times on Sunday, efficiently completing 19 passes for 250 yards and three touchdowns (against one pick). After looking like a pitcher who lost the strike zone against the rival Ravens' on "Sunday Night Football" in Week 4, Roethlisberger appeared far more comfortable and accurate when supported by a potent ground game. And this helped reignite Big Ben's connection with Antonio Brown. Hauling in six catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns, AB resembled the best receiver in the NFL for the first time this season.

For Pittsburgh, which improved to 2-2-1, this was as must-win as a week 5 game could possibly be. And Mike Tomlin's group got the job done by getting back to Steelers football, something I wasn't sure was still possible.

2) 2018 QB class

I've been saying/writing it forever: I'm obsessed with this quarterback class. And on Sunday, the four signal-callers who were selected in the top 10 combined to do something no other set of rookie QBs has ever done in the Super Bowl era: go 4-0 in the same week. Awesome stuff, starting with the No. 1 overall pick ...

If Cleveland wasn't on the wrong side of two brutal calls in Oakland, Baker Mayfield's Browns would be on a three-game winning streak. Yes, the Browns -- a team that hasn't eclipsed three wins in a season since 2014. Baker brings an undeniable energy to this Cleveland team. And in Sunday's 12-9 win over Baltimore, he was poised and made a number of clutch throws during a 342-yard outing. Rookie kicker Greg Joseph's wobbly overtime field goal looked beautiful going through the uprights to give Mayfield his first win as a starter.

For the second straight week, Josh Rosen failed to reach 200 yards passing. And for the second straight week, I came away quite impressed. Despite being plagued by drops yet again, Rosen showcased premium arm talent, decision making, energy and leadership ability at San Francisco, guiding the Cardinals to their first win of the year. That rocket to Christian Kirk for a 75-yard touchdown was a thing of beauty.

Sam Darnold is a stud. The issue is his surrounding talent -- i.e., whether the Jets have enough of it. Darnold and Co. broke loose from their three-week malaise by pasting the Broncos. Darnold threw three touchdown passes and finally got Robby Anderson going deep, which is a huge key for this offense.

And how about Josh Allen bouncing back from a Week 4 shutout to knock off the previously hot Titans? OK, so he only had 82 yards passing. Let's be honest, though: Allen probably has the worst supporting cast in football. A win's a win.

I think these are four true franchise quarterbacks. Yes, they are works in progress, but Sunday was a good day. And there are going to be many more to come. Color me excited.

3) Kirk Cousins

Don't let the Vikings' 2-2-1 record fool you -- Cousins is having a remarkable year. His stamp was all over the impressive (and much-needed) road win in Philly. Cousins -- who completed 30 of his 37 pass attempts for 301 yards and a touchdown without throwing an interception -- made a number of big-league, thread-the-needle throws while spreading the ball around brilliantly. He already has a fine rapport with Adam Thielen (seven catches for 116 yards and a touchdown on Sunday) and Stefon Diggs (10 for 91), but still completed passes to eight different receivers in the 23-21 win.

On the season, Cousins has completed 71.2 percent of his passes and owns an 11:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. So, no, Minnesota's slow start is definitely not the new quarterback's fault.

4) Sean McVay

With the Rams clinging to a 33-31 lead with 1:39 left, McVay faced fourth-and-inches at his own 42-yard line. At first, he sent out the punt team. But then, after a Seahawks timeout -- and some prodding from his own players -- McVay changed his mind and went for it. It made so much sense: A) You don't stop this Rams offense; and B) you don't want to give the ball to Russell Wilson. When Jared Goff barreled two yards on a QB sneak to effectively end the game, McVay improved to 16-5 as Rams head coach, including a sparkling 5-0 in this young season.

This game was much closer than most expected, as a banged-up Seattle team played brilliantly and tough at home. But the Rams, despite losing Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp to concussions, made enough clutch plays to win. This L.A. team can win fights in many different styles. It's OK for great teams to lose regular-season games -- especially on the road, in the division. But McVay has something special going with these Rams.

THE BAD

5) Tennessee Titans

I love Josh Allen. Sean McDermott is a really strong coach. The Bills have a fantastic home-field advantage and fan base. But still, this was an inexplicable 13-12 loss for the Titans, who were fresh off back-to-back wins over the Jaguars and Eagles.

I took the cheese on Marcus Mariota, Mike Vrabel and the Titans following the 3-1 start. Then, after a week full of chatter about Tennessee not getting enough respect, the Titans lay an egg. Wanna know how you get respect? By taking care of business against teams you are clearly better than. And on a day when the Jaguars lose, this one hurts even more.

6) Denver Broncos

When the stuck-in-the-mud Jets break out against you, it's a problem. The final score was 34-16 -- and it wasn't even that close. Isaiah Crowell absolutely gashed the Denver defense, with 219 yards on just 15 carries. That's 14.6 yards a pop! Sam Darnold lit 'em up for three touchdown passes. The "No Fly Zone" is a distant memory in the Mile High City. And meanwhile, Case Keenum has turned back into a pumpkin, which was very predictable. With his seventh pick in five games, Keenum's already equaled his interception total from last season.

Denver is fading fast. On a short week, the team was clearly still hung over from the Patty Mahomes magic act last Monday night. Vance Joseph, now 7-13 as Denver's coach, looks in over his head.

THE UGLY

7) Blake Bortles

I thought Jaguars-Chiefs could be the game of the year, where the unstoppable force meets the immovable object. Not so much. Kansas City improved to 5-0 with a 30-14 win. Chiefs wunderkind Patrick Mahomes (22 for 38, 313 yards, zero touchdowns, two picks) actually had his least productive game of the season. But he still looked like an All-Pro next to Blake Bortles.

This Jaguars team is ready to compete for the Super Bowl in every phase but quarterback. Bortles, who turned the ball over five times on Sunday, remains wildly inconsistent. Just look at the roller-coaster ride so far this season:

Week 1 (20-15 win at Giants): 18-33 (54.5 percent), 176 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 67.2 passer rating.
Week 2 (31-20 win vs. Patriots): 29-45 (64.4), 376 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT, 111.0 passer rating.
Week 3 (9-6 loss vs. Titans): 21-34 (61.8), 155 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 72.5 passer rating.
Week 4 (31-12 win vs. Jets): 29-38 (76.3), 388 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 114.8 passer rating.
Week 5 (30-14 loss at Chiefs): 33-61 (54.1), 430 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT, 1 fumble lost, 54.7 passer rating.

That kind of crazy-erratic quarterback play from week to week is what ultimately compromises this uber-talented, well-coached team.

8) Miami Dolphins

There's no shame in losing at Cincinnati. These Bengals are a really good team; I've stressed quite often this year how I believe Cincy is the top dog in the AFC North. But there's a ton of shame in blowing a 17-0 second-half lead -- watching the Bengals rattle off 27 straight points because you cannot get out of your own way. Grotesque turnovers and leaky defense from Miami allowed the Bengals to run away with a game that saw them enter the fourth quarter facing a 14-point deficit.

Miami's 3-0 start to the season was noteworthy ... but you knew it was flukey. The last two weeks -- featuring games against legit teams -- have proven that.

9) Mason Crosby

What in the world happened to the Packers' previously automatic kicker on Sunday? Crosby was simply wretched in the 31-23 loss at Detroit, missing four field goals and an extra point. Reminder: Ford Field is a dome. No wind/weather conditions. Yet the Packers' all-time leading scorer missed FG attempts of 38, 41 and 42 yards. What?!

The Lions led this game 24-0 at the half. Aaron Rodgers tried his best to forge a comeback in Detroit -- and in the third quarter, I thought for sure the Pack would eradicate a major deficit. But Crosby sucked the life out of the Packers. (You could argue I added six extra words to the end of that sentence.)

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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