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2021 NFL season, Week 5: What we learned from Sunday's games

Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 5 of the 2021 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:

Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills
2021 · 4-1-0
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs
2021 · 2-3-0

Grant Gordon's takeaways:

  1. It might be October, but this was a big one for Buffalo. At this point, a Week 1 loss to the Steelers seems like an outlier that occurred in a different realm of another planet. The Josh Allen-led Bills have now won four in a row and slayed the two-time reigning AFC champs. Though it's but Week 5, much ado can be made that Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs were bested by Lamar Jackson and the Ravens for the first time head-to-head this season and now too the same has happened against Allen and the Bills. A changing of the guard cannot be finalized until the postseason has come and gone, but there is merit that emerges from this AFC Championship Game rematch. Allen, who lost his two previous head-to-head matchups with Mahomes last season, led the way on offense with his arm and his legs. It wasn't always pretty in a soggy game that had a lengthy halftime weather delay, but Allen's ability to galvanize this team took center stage. With the always dangerous Chiefs having cut their deficit to 11 early in the fourth, Allen piloted a 12-play, 85-yard drive that took up 7 minutes, 51 seconds (albeit helped immensely by a very questionable roughing the passer call). On one play, he hurdled a defender for a first-down run. On the last play of the drive, he tossed an 8-yard score to Emmanuel Sanders. It sealed a pretty big win for Buffalo. Just how big, of course, remains to be seen.
  2. Statement showing for Bills defense. Allen's emergence in an otherworldly 2020 season overshadowed that the defense of the Bills, which had engineered the franchise's renaissance, had slipped. Well, Buffalo has found its footing on that side of the ball and is back with a vengeance. Entering Sunday night, Mahomes was undefeated when facing a No. 1-ranked defense. That stat no longer applies. While Micah Hyde's pick-six will be the highlight garnering the most TV time, it was an overall masterpiece for the Bills D. Buffalo didn't blitz once, but still tallied 11 pressures and a pair of sacks while muddying up Mahomes' reads by dropping everyone back in coverage. It forced four turnovers and allowed a season-low 20 points to the high-octane Chiefs on 11 drives. Tre'Davious White, Taron Johnson and first-round rookie Gregory Rousseau all had stellar Sunday nights. In a rainy mess of a night, they shined bright against the NFL's most vaunted offense.
  3. The wrong kind of statement for Chiefs D. The Chiefs' offense is still sensational, but it hasn't been that level of outstanding it needs to be to overcome such a bad defense. The Bills had big chunk gains throughout the night, with four Bills tallying plays of 24 yards or more with Dawson Knox (three catches for 117 yards) scoring on a 53-yard pass and Stefon Diggs hauling in a 61-yard catch. Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu looked frustrated trying to organize an overmatched and out-of-sorts secondary that led to the team allowing 436 yards of offense and was helped little by a Chris Jones-less pass rush. After five weeks, it would seem the struggle is real in Kansas City.

Next Gen stat of the night: The Bills defense did not blitz Patrick Mahomes once in this game or in Week 6, 2020 (no other team in NGS era has played a game without blitzing once).

NFL Research: Mahomes is now 4-1 versus the top-ranked scoring defense (based on ranks entering that week) and 2-1 versus the top-ranked total defense, having suffered his first defeat against such a defense on Sunday night.

Los Angeles Chargers
Los Angeles Chargers
2021 · 4-1-0
Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns
2021 · 3-2-0

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. We all could use a few deep breaths after this one. The leading candidate for game of the year in the NFL exploded in the fourth quarter, with the Browns and Chargers combining to score 41 points in a game that didn't invite much defense. The contest unfolded like a classic heavyweight title bout, with the Chargers storming back from a 14-point deficit to take a 28-27 lead and the Browns responding in kind with big plays of their own both through the air and on the ground. Los Angeles and Cleveland combined to produce 1,024 yards of offense and commit just one turnover: an Austin Ekeler fumble that led to a field goal just before the half for the Browns. Browns fans will point to questionable defensive pass interference flag on fourth-and-4 that gave the Chargers a fresh set of downs (and led to a touchdown), but this sport's games are not determined by one single play or penalty. When the dust finally settled, we all needed a moment (or five) to bring our heart rates down. This type of action is why America remains infatuated with football.
  2. Justin Herbert continues to prove why he's one of the brightest young stars of this league. Fresh off a statement win on Monday night, Herbert was absolutely stellar, completing 26 of 43 passes for 398 yards and four touchdowns. He hooked up with Mike Williams for two long touchdowns that came as a result of blown downfield coverage, and made every throw in between, moving the chains and helping the Chargers convert all three of their fourth-down attempts. Herbert was excellent throughout the high-flying contest, added to his growing candidacy for MVP and should also take a moment to thank his running mate Ekeler for his contributions. As we saw on Monday night, the Chargers' offense is a different beast when Ekeler is involved. His three total touchdowns proved this to us once again Sunday.
  3. The Browns erased doubts about their offense...until it mattered most. Cleveland's early season tale was heavily reliant on its defense, starting with a pass rush that led the league in QB pressure percentage through four games. Without Jadeveon Clowney and rookie corner Greg Newsome II (and a host of others who were lost during the game, most notably Denzel Ward), the onus shifted to the offense Sunday. It responded in kind, racking up 531 yards on 68 plays and doing so by expanding beyond its two-headed monster in the backfield. Sure, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined to rush for 222 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries, but Baker Mayfield had himself a redemption Sunday as well, completing 23 of 32 passes for 305 yards, two touchdowns and a 122.5 passer rating. Sunday was also the best game of David Njoku's career. The tight end caught seven passes for 149 yards, including 71 yards gained on a catch, broken tackle and sprint to the end zone for a touchdown. The lone downside: Browns coach Kevin Stefanski got a little too passive on a key possession late in the fourth, opting to attempt to nurse a one-point lead and bleed clock while only giving Mayfield one opportunity to try to move the chains. It ended up leading to their downfall and should serve as a lesson for the head coach, who is only in his second season at the helm of the promising Browns.

Next Gen Stat of the game: More than half of Nick Chubb's 161 rushing yards exceeded expectation, with Chubb finishing with +87 rushing yards over expected. Chubb's +87 RYOE tied his own single-game high for RYOE in his career.

NFL Research: Justin Herbert recorded his 11th career game with 300-plus passing yards, the most by any player in his first two seasons in the Super Bowl era. That new mark broke a tie with Patrick Mahomes and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino.

Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears
2021 · 3-2-0
Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas Raiders
2021 · 3-2-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Bears grind out a big road win. The Justin Fields era got its first signature win. Chicago came out pounding the rock, blasting open chunk runs. Damien Williams (16/64/1) and rookie Khalil Herbert (18/75) shined, churning through arm tackles and moving the chains. Taking over for an injured David Montgomery, Williams and Herbert complement each other well and offer the Bears a combo of toughness and speed. The RBs combined for 109 yards and a TD on 21 rushes outside the tackles (5.2 average), per Next Gen Stats. The ground game took a ton of pressure off Fields, who generated 111 yards on 12-of-20 passing with a TD. Fields might not have been prolific, but he made two big-time throws on the drive after Vegas cut the lead to five. His strike to Darnell Mooney on third-and-12 is the type of throw that wins games.
  2. Khalil Mack revenge. The Bears' defense dominated a Raiders offense that entered the game with the fifth-best scoring offense in the NFL. Mack was all over the field against his former club, generating four QB pressures, a sack, eight tackles and a tackle for loss and taking down Derek Carr on a two-point try. The Bears executed a brilliant defensive game plan, forcing Carr to check the ball down, negating most of the big plays. It worked with aplomb, with Carr throwing for just 206 yards, 5.9 yards per attempt and going just 1-of-5 for 29 yards and an INT on deep passes.
  3. Raiders' slow starts persist. Vegas continues to get behind early in games, trailing 14-3 at halftime of this home affair. The Raiders struggled to move the chains for long stretches, dropped passes and shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with penalties. Jon Gruden's team was flagged 10 times for 82 yards, several of which short-circuited drives. Carr never looked comfortable behind a struggling offensive line, getting sacked three times and throwing several passes off the mark. After a 3-0 start, the slow starts have led Vegas to back-to-back losses.

Next Gen stat of the game: Justin Fields was 11-of-15 for 99 yards and a TD when not under pressure. He was 1-of-5 for 12 yards under pressure.

NFL Research: Derek Carr and the Raiders have not won the game following a divisional loss in the same season since Week 14, 2018 vs PIT (after Week 13 loss vs KC). They are 0-5 in subsequent games after divisional losses since 2019.

Arizona Cardinals
Arizona Cardinals
2021 · 5-0-0
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers
2021 · 2-3-0

Chase Goodbread's takeaways:

  1. Murray to Hopkins closes the deal. With the Arizona offense out of its usual sync, the Cardinals ultimately rolled to a 5-0 start with a big boost from the Kyler Murray-to- DeAndre Hopkins connection. With 6:05 remaining and Arizona clinging to a 10-7 lead, Murray underthrew Hopkins on a deep ball, but the five-time Pro Bowler made the needed adjustment for a critical catch in traffic. On the very next play, Murray zipped a back-shoulder throw to a well-defended Hopkins for a 9-yard touchdown, providing a crucial two-score lead late. The clincher came on Arizona's next possession when Murray found his man for a first down, which allowed Arizona to sit on the clock instead of giving the Niners a final possession.
  2. Lance learns a lot. Trey Lance's first career start had some exciting moments, but ultimately resulted in evidence that, at least for the time being, Jimmy Garoppolo is Kyle Shanahan's de facto starter for good reason. He threw an early interception, struggled on third downs and wasn't especially accurate (15 of 29). Still, there were positive signs -- his 89 rushing yards were the fourth-highest total for an NFL quarterback making a starting debut, per NFL Research, behind Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts and Randall Cunningham. And it would've helped to have had tight end George Kittle (out with a calf injury) among his options.
  3. Niners defense shows the path. Let it be known that the blueprint for stopping the Cardinals offense, if one can be drawn, should begin with what 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and his crew did on Sunday. San Francisco defended The Kyler Murray Show like nobody has all season. The effort was rooted in pressure up front, forcing Murray to abandon the pocket quicker than he wanted to, and clamping down on the Arizona running game after letting Rondale Moore squirt away for an early 26-yard scamper. The Cards offense had its first back-to-back three-and-out possessions of the season in the third quarter, and nearly gave up a safety when it was flagged for holding at its own 1-yard line. It was a winning performance within a losing effort.

Next Gen Stat of the game: Rondale Moore's spectacular 33-yard catch along the sideline came with a catch probability of just 11.8%, the second-most improbable completion of Kyler Murray's career.

NFL Research: Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins passed Larry Fitzgerald (764) for the most receptions by a player prior to his 30th birthday in NFL history.

Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys
2021 · 4-1-0
New York Giants
New York Giants
2021 · 1-4-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Cowboys offense keeps rollin' rollin' rollin'. The Dallas Cowboys have no weaknesses on offense. Play coverage to slow Dak Prescott, and they'll bludgeon you to death with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Stack the box, and Dak will scorch you through the air. Dallas churned out 515 yards of offense and 26 first downs. If Dallas hadn't gone two of five in the red zone, the score could have been even more lopsided. Zeke (21/110/1) again pounded the rock, looking spry, able to run through tackles on the inside or skate to the edge and plow into the end zone. Prescott showed off early with a 49-yard bomb to CeeDee Lamb and ended the half with a picture-perfect TD to Amari Cooper. Prescott was magnificent avoiding pressure and creating plays when the pocket broke down. All three of his TD passes came against the blitz (4 of 10, 98 yards, three touchdowns, INT versus blitz). When Dallas is rolling like it was against a division rival, defenses are at its mercy.
  2. Giants injuries short-circuit chances to make it a game. Saquon Barkley suffering a freak ankle injury after just six snaps was an ominous sign of bad things to come for the Giants. Despite getting outgained early, Daniel Jones kept Big Blue in the contest, moving the ball well in the first half. But after a goal-line run left the QB with a concussion, the bottom fell out. Backup Mike Glennon just wasn't going to help an offense keep pace with the explosive Cowboys (especially an offense missing so many key pieces). One bright spot emerged for the Giants with first-round rookie Kadarius Toney looking like a star. The wideout showed shifty playmaking ability with the ball in his hands, made several great snags, including a toe-tapping sideline grab. Toney looked every bit the Corvette the Giants thought they were drafting, eating up 10 catches for 189 yards. Then the rookie was ejected late after throwing a punch at Cowboys safety Damontae Kazee. One step forward, one step backward.
  3. Trevon Diggs' star grows. Another game, another Diggs INT. The corner came in with five INTs on the afternoon, leading the league. He snagged another Sunday, perfectly recovering on a deep shot from Glennon. It was Diggs' first INT of a deep pass this season (his previous five were all on passes of fewer than 20 air yards). Diggs nearly had a couple more INTs on the afternoon as well, showing off elite ball skills and the ability to break on routes. These aren't fluke INTs or lucky bounces. Diggs has locked down receivers all season. Sooner or later, QBs are going to stop testing the corner.

Next Gen stat of the game: Dak Prescott recorded his third game this season with three-plus pass TDs versus the blitz (never had any such games from 2016-2020). Dak accounts for three of the NFL's four games with three-plus pass TDs versus blitz in 2021 (Tom Brady has the other, in Week 1 vs. DAL). Prescott also averaged 8.7 air yards per attempt (averaged 7.1 from Weeks 1-4).

NFL Research: Trevon Diggs (six) is tied for the most interceptions through the first five games of a season since 1970 and is now just one game away from tying the record for most games with an INT to begin a season.

Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
2021 · 4-1-0
Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals
2021 · 3-2-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. Mason Crosby redemption! Fourth time was the charm for the Green Bay Packers kicker. A wild finish in Cincinnati included five missed field goals in the final 2:12 of regulation and overtime. Crosby had the yips, missing an early PAT and three field goals that could have brought the Packers the W earlier. With Bengals kicker Evan McPherson joining Crosby in Strugglesville, however, the Green Bay veteran got another final shot in OT, nailing the final 49-yarder. The Packers got the win, but special teams has been an issue for weeks. Crosby's misses highlighted the unit's struggles. Sunday's game was just the latest reminder to coaches they shouldn't be comfortable settling for long field goals in crunch time.
  2. Davante Adams is unstoppable. The Packers generated 466 yards. Adams gobbled up 206 of those. The wideout got wide open with ease on several big plays, catching 11 of 16 targets with a TD. Those 11 catches weren't dink-and-dunk variety either. Adams averaged 18.7 yards per catch, including a big 59-yarder. Even when the Bengals knew Aaron Rodgers was targeting Adams, they still couldn't slow the star wideout. It wasn't a fantastic game on balance from Rodgers, who missed several throws high and long. But when he needed a play, Adams came up big. Adams once again stated his case as the top receiver in the NFL with a huge afternoon.
  3. Joe Burrow-Ja'Marr Chase's connection remains hot. The Bengals' offense struggled out of the gate, including four three-and-outs on their first five drives. Then Burrow uncorked a beautiful 70-yard bomb that Chase corralled and scampered to the end zone to pull Cincy within two points at halftime. Chase continues to eat up DBs with an all-star brand of speed, size and sticky hands. The rookie beat up Packers DBs for 159 yards and a TD on six catches. No other Bengals pass catcher had more than 32 yards. Burrow battled despite getting hammered (eight QB hits, three sacks). The young QB made some gorgeous reads and throws, but his two INTs were bad decisions. It might have been an L, but these aren't your same-old Bengals. There is fight in Cincy.

Next Gen stat of the game: Davante Adams had nine receptions for 193 yards on 10 targets down the seams.

NFL Research: This was the first game since 1991 with more than three missed FGs in the entire fourth quarter or overtime (there were five missed kicks in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter and OT).

Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota Vikings
2021 · 2-3-0
Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions
2021 · 0-5-0

Chase Goodbread's takeaways:

  1. Jefferson goes wild. The Vikings took full advantage of one of the game's biggest mismatches: Justin Jefferson working against a struggling Lions secondary. Much of the damage came against cornerback Amani Oruwariye, who had fairly tight coverage on the first big strike to Jefferson (37 yards), but struggled to stay with the second-year Vikings star thereafter. Jefferson had a 100-yard day by halftime, and the Lions did a better job on him in the second half, but he was largely uncoverable as Minnesota built its lead. Jefferson finished with a seven-for-124 day.
  2. Lions' defensive effort valiant. Credit the Lions defense for keeping things close for a sputtering offense that simply can't take the top off with a vertical passing game. The Lions' stop unit allowed 384 yards and struggled in coverage, but forced enough field goals and turnovers to give the team a late chance. It had to be somewhat demoralizing to hold the score to 13-6 with under 10 minutes remaining, only for the coaching staff to call for a punt on a fourth-and-4 from the Vikings' 42-yard line. It was a possession Detroit ultimately needed points from. Giving up two chunk passes to allow the Vikings' game-winning field goal surely stings, but blame for the loss ultimately falls on Detroit's inability to punch the ball into the end zone.
  3. Alexander Mattison survives scare. As running back Dalvin Cook's injury absence mounts in Minnesota, Mattison is taking full advantage of his opportunity. His second start helped anchor Minnesota's second win, although his late fumble very nearly ruined the effort. When the Vikings offense pulled out a last-second field goal, Mattison got his reprieve. Still, one fumble casts a short shadow on his overall day: he broke a 48-yard run in the third quarter that put him over 100 yards for the day (25 for 113), and added seven catches for another 40 yards and a receiving score.

Next Gen stat of the game: Greg Joseph had a 42.6% field goal probability on his game-winning 54-yard kick.

NFL Research: Since losing in Super Bowl LIII, Jared Goff's record as a starter since, including postseason games, is 18-19.

Philadelphia Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles
2021 · 2-3-0
Carolina Panthers
Carolina Panthers
2021 · 3-2-0

Kevin Patra's takeaways:

  1. How in the world did the Eagles pull off the road win? The Eagles looked dead in the water for two and a half quarters. Philly couldn't get out of its own way with errors stacked upon errors. For the second straight week, a touchdown was wiped out by a penalty. A botched snap led to a safety. A fumble. Multiple penalties stunting any Eagles progress. Jalen Hurts missed badly on an interception. Nick Sirianni's club was a mess. Then all three phases woke up. The defense stifled Sam Darnold. Big Play Darius Slay picked off his second pass of the game. Hurts finally hit a deep shot and found the end zone. The special teams blocked a punt to set the go-ahead score. Steven Nelson added another INT to squash a Carolina comeback bid. And the Eagles finally found a run game to ice it. It was ugly for three quarters, but credit Philly for sticking with it, particularly the defense for not letting the game get away when the offense couldn't move the ball.
  2. Darnold implodes. With the Panthers D destroying the Eagles, all Darnold really had to do was not screw it up. The QB failed. The three INTs were brutal, with Darnold missing badly on the final INT. It wasn't just the picks. Darnold missed several passes, completing just 56.8% of 31 attempts. When the QB can hit his back foot and throw in rhythm, he's fine. When he's forced to hold and ad-lib, or when he feels pressure behind a mediocre O-line, it's a struggle. Chuba Hubbard (101 rushing yards) played well, but the offense needs Christian McCaffrey back to inject easy first downs for the QB.
  3. Hurts rides the roller coaster. The young quarterback spent three quarters plunging into the abyss. Hurts couldn't find the range, spraying the ball everywhere but at his receivers. Once again, he couldn't find the range deep. When the screen game isn't producing YAC, the Eagles offense is ugly. Then Hurts woke up. He found Quez Watkins deep for a massive play, used his legs in the fourth quarter, and threw a few darts for DeVonta Smith. The film won't look good Monday, but Hurts showed again that he'd battle to the end.

Next Gen stat of the game: The Eagles became the second team to have four players with six-plus pressures in a game since start of 2018 season -- also NYJ in Week 4, 2021 at TEN-- (Sweat, Barnett, Cox, Hargrave).

NFL Research: Sam Darnold's three interceptions on passes of 10-plus air yards is T-most in his career (most recently done in Week 7, 2019 vs NE).

Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans
2021 · 3-2-0
Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville Jaguars
2021 · 0-5-0

Chase Goodbread's takeaways:

  1. Home field for Henry. Derrick Henry's latest trip to Jacksonville was another stellar homecoming. The Titans star, who played high school ball just north of Jacksonville in tiny Yulee, Florida, piled up 130 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. Only Eddie George has run for more career yardage against the Jaguars than Henry, and he's now got 14 career rushing scores against the Jags -- more than anyone ever. To its credit, Jacksonville never let Henry bust into the secondary for a breakaway -- his longest run was just 15 yards -- but as usual, he moved some valuable chains in the second half.
  2. Lawrence offers hope. Trevor Lawrence's development on a miserable team continues to be the bright spot in Jacksonville, and darned near the only bright spot. The rookie No. 1 pick completed 23 of 33 passes for 273 yards and looked good doing it -- his arm strength is stellar, and he's clearly getting more acclimated to the speed of the game. He's still showing a tendency to retreat too far when he bails the pocket, but every concern seems correctable, and all the physical tools are as-advertised. Lawrence's receiving corps continues to struggle getting downfield separation, but he can't complain about balance from the backfield -- running back James Robinson rumbled for 149 yards, besting Henry for the game-high, on an 8.3 yards-per-carry average. Overall, it was another step forward for the young face-of-franchise.
  3. Jaguars get to Tannehill. In a matchup of the NFL's least effective pass rush (Jacksonville) trying to pressure the NFL's most sacked quarterback (Ryan Tannehill), something had to give. And the outcome was that the Titans' pass protection still has a lot of work to do. The Jaguars notched a season-high three sacks of Tannehill and knocked him down several more times. He absorbed a couple of especially nasty shots, including one from the blindside by K'Lavon Chaisson that the Jaguars unsuccessfully challenged on an incomplete/fumble ruling. Jacksonville harassed Tannehill and, for the most part, got pressure without much blitz help. Jacksonville recorded eight hurries and also batted down a couple balls at the line of scrimmage.

Next Gen stat of the game: Lawrence completed four of seven passes for 111 yards on intermediate throws, including his only interception.

NFL Research: Henry notched his fifth career game of 130-plus yards and three-plus rushing TDs.

New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
2021 · 3-2-0
Washington Football Team
Washington Football Team
2021 · 2-3-0

Jelani Scott's takeaways:

  1. Vintage Kamara. There's not much any defense, especially one struggling as much as Washington, can do when Alvin Kamara is cookin' like he was today. Through four weeks, Kamara was averaging his lowest scrimmage YPG (89.8) since his rookie season, with his 15.5 receiving yard average being the most glaring discrepancy. Consider Sunday a possible return to normalcy. Kamara recorded a season-high five receptions for 51 yards and a score -- his third receiving TD of the season. The Saints called Kamara's number often (eight targets), primarily utilizing creatively schemed screens to give the dual-threat back plenty of space to rumble down the field. Kamara also got in done on the ground (16/71/TD), giving him his best stat line of the year and Washington's once-promising D yet another troubling outing.
  2. Ugh, those Saints again. During his nine-season stint in Carolina, Ron Rivera coached against the Saints 18 times and won eight of those contests. Led by Demario Davis (eight tackles, sack, three QBH, TFL) and a charged-up defense, Sean Payton's squad once again got the best of a Rivera-led team. With top target Terry McLaurin blanketed by fellow Buckeye Marshon Lattimore, Taylor Heinicke was forced to make plays (often times after being flushed out of the pocket) with his less-stellar secondary options. And let's just say, WFT really missed Logan Thomas (hamstring), most notably during their five red zone trips (2 of 5). The stalled passing game led to an increase in activity for Antonio Gibson, who logged 20 carries for just 60 yards and two touchdowns. Still, as the lead began to build, Heinicke and Co. just couldn't get anything going; the QB finished 20-of-41 for 248 yards, was sacked twice and threw two ghastly picks, one of which came at the Saints' two-yard line. McLaurin, meanwhile, hauled in just four of his 11 targets for 46 yards.
  3. Winston > WFT secondary. In a battle of turnover-prone QBs, it was Jameis Winston who did just enough to eek out a victory. Never mind the poorly thrown INT that prematurely ended the Saints' first drive or the Chase Young strip-sack that stifled their third series; that's all just a part of the "Jameis Winston Experience." Want to know what else that type of ticket comes with? Well, on Sunday, it produced a season-high 279 yards (15 of 30) and four tuddies, one off from his Week 1 explosion. Two of those scores came via a career-best 72-yard bomb to Deonte Harris and an absurd first-half ending Hail Mary to Marquez Callaway. Winston also averaged 9.3 YPA, which ranked just below the 9.8 average he posted versus the Giants, and chipped in six rushes for 26 yards. Those attempts, of course, coming while trying to evade pressure which he wasn't always able to do (two sacks). Losing Harris (hamstring) and Taysom Hill (concussion) were costly casualties for an already ailing offense, but Winston's efficiency and the outcome are enough to provide some temporary relief.

Next Gen stat of the game: Terry McLaurin caught two of his eight targets for 31 receiving yards while guarded by Marshon Lattimore.

NFL Research: Alvin Kamara had a season-high 122 scrimmage yards and two scrimmage TDs. His first game since Week 10, 2020 with a rushing and receiving TD.

Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers
2021 · 2-3-0
Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos
2021 · 3-2-0

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. The Steelers' offense is alive! After trudging through the first month of the season with a maximum offensive output of 17 points in a game, Pittsburgh matched that total by halftime Sunday. They got there by rediscovering their ability to hit the explosive play, first on a Ben Roethlisberger 50-yard pass to Diontae Johnson for a touchdown. Then, it became Chase Claypool's game. Roethlisberger rekindled his connection with Claypool that was lucrative a season ago, finding him five times for 130 yards and a touchdown. Najee Harris finally got going, racking up 122 rushing yards and a touchdown on 23 attempts. Pittsburgh converted seven of 12 third-down attempts and avoided the fourth-down disasters that defined its first month. And when the Steelers needed a big play, it was Claypool's to make on Sunday. For the first time this season, the Steelers were a legitimate threat offensively. That's great news to fans in the Steel City.
  2. Denver needs to invest in an economy-sized bag of coffee. It took the Broncos a full 45 minutes of game time to wake up offensively, putting just six points on the board before finally reaching the end zone to trim an 18-point deficit to 11. Ultimately, it was too little, too late. The Broncos carried over their offensive struggles from Week 4 into the first three quarters of Sunday's game, converting one of 10 third-down attempts prior to Teddy Bridgewater's highlight connection with Kendall Hinton in the contest's final minutes. The Broncos twice wasted great opportunities, failing to gain a first down following a strip-sack of Roethlisberger and settling for a field goal, and going from first-and-goal at Pittsburgh's 5 to a 29-yard field goal. They finally found their stride out of desperation. We can give them a slight pass for not knowing if Bridgewater would be available until the end of the week, but perhaps they should come out of the tunnel desperate in Week 6 after losing two straight.
  3. The Steelers might have their mojo back. Pittsburgh dominated much of Sunday's contest until the final nine minutes of the fourth quarter, at which point it was able to turn to its strength to seal the deal, intercepting Bridgewater on fourth-and-goal from the 3. The Steelers combined to sack Bridgewater just twice, but they have to feel very proud about Denver's inability to convert a third down, and the meager total -- 107 offensive yards -- the Broncos posted in the first half. When the Steelers needed a stop, the loudspeakers once again blared Styx's "Renegade" and Heinz Field erupted. The Steelers responded by denying the Broncos an unlikely comeback, and for a week, all will be right in Pittsburgh, where the Steelers could turn things around if they can replicate Sunday's performance.

Next Gen stat of the game: Ben Roethlisberger has thrown a deep touchdown pass to Diontae Johnson on the opening drive of each of Pittsburgh's last two games. Sunday was Roethlisberger's first game with two deep touchdown passes this season after doing so three times in 2020.

NFL Research: Roethlisberger recorded his highest passer rating (120.9) in a game since Week 5, 2020 (125.4 in win vs. Philadelphia). It was his first 90-plus passer rating of the 2021 season.

New England Patriots
New England Patriots
2021 · 2-3-0
Houston Texans
Houston Texans
2021 · 1-4-0

Michael Baca's takeaways:

  1. Time is of the essence. Tied at 22 with 7:15 left to play, the Patriots ran seven minutes off the clock during a 15-play, 84-yard drive to set up Nick Folk's game-winning chip shot from 21 yards out. New England's final drive was aided by a crucial roughing the passer penalty by Texans defensive lineman Maliek Collins on a third-and-18, but Mac Jones wiped the blood off his mouth after the play and proceeded to manage a methodical drive that killed precious time. There was an opportunity for the Texans to let New England score in order to save time with the Patriots on first-and-goal from the 6-yard line at the two-minute warning. Instead, the Patriots smartly kept control of possession (despite Jonnu Smith's illegal shift which revoked a would-be TD run) and patiently waited for their first lead of the game. Considering the Texans opened the game with a 10-minute, 18-play touchdown drive and converted three fourth downs in the game to extend scoring drives, they were merely allegorical examples of how this game got away from them.
  2. New England wins ugly. Jones helped orchestrate 10 fourth-quarter points in the comeback win, but his day was nothing to celebrate. The rookie QB completed 23 of 30 passes for 231 yards (one TD, one INT) but a couple of drops by Texans defenders helped his stat line. Despite missing four of five starting offensive linemen for this game, protecting Jones (one sack allowed) was the least of the Patriots' worries. The offense failed to gain much rhythm in the first half and New England's leaky pass defense assisted that struggle with long waits on the sideline. It wasn't until the final two minutes of the first half that the Patriots defense started to show up when Matt Judon (two sacks, three QB hits, fumble recovery) came up with two big sacks to stall a Texans drive at the goal line to keep it a one-score game at half. The Patriots were outgained in total yards (360-352), lost the turnover battle (2-1) and continued their struggles in the red zone, but the final score is all that mattered.
  3. The Texans played winning football for three quarters. A team composed of various rookies, journeymen and question marks, the Texans' valiant effort shouldn't go unrecognized. Rookie quarterback Davis Mills had a career day, completing 21 of 29 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns for a 141.7 QB rating. Mills' accurate day was boosted by a receiving corps that played above its pay grade. Chris Moore (five receptions, 109 yards) scored his first TD in three years while Chris Conley (3/84) found the end zone on a perfectly executed flea-flicker. Defensively, veteran cornerback Terrance Mitchell forced a timely fumble at the 1-yard line to prevent a rushing touchdown and CB Lonnie Johnson found the first interception of his career. David Culley's squad may not be made up of headliners, but it's playing tough as a cohesive unit.

Next Gen stat of the game: The Patriots had a 16% win probability down 22-9 with 11:55 left in the third quarter (lowest of game).

NFL Research: Matt Judon has 6.5 sacks through five games this season (team high) and it's the most sacks in the first five games of a season in franchise history. Judon already has more sacks than New England's 2020 sack leader, Chase Winovich (5.5).

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2021 · 4-1-0
Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins
2021 · 1-4-0

Nick Shook's takeaways:

  1. Someone get this man some ice! Age is merely a number, and Tom Brady put some good ones up Sunday. Brady compiled a stellar passing line against Miami -- 30 of 41, 411 yards, five touchdowns, 144.4 rating -- letting it rip throughout and using his 44-year-old arm to send the Dolphins to a discouraging finish. Though the final score begs to differ, this was a one-possession game entering the fourth quarter. Brady then eliminated the Dolphins' hopes, leading three scoring drives, including two possessions capped by touchdown passes to Mike Evans. Tampa Bay had zero fear of airing it out in the fourth, turning a close game into a blowout on the back of Brady and his talented cast of teammates. After appearing to hit his hand on a helmet during the game, Brady carved up the Dolphins and spent his time between possessions on the bench with his hand dunked in a small cooler. It was fitting, as Brady had already eaten Miami's lunch.
  2. Speaking of teammates, Antonio Brown looks his best since his Pittsburgh days. Brown finished with seven catches for 124 yards and two touchdowns, and it was his first score that showed he's healthy and highly dangerous. Brown caught a pass, slipped out to the perimeter and turned on the jets, bursting past two defenders nearby down the sideline into the end zone, looking as if he might need a drag-racing parachute to slow him down. His second score was the exact opposite, with Brown running a hard slant and losing Xavien Howard in the traffic caused by Tampa Bay's trips bunch set. All Brady had to do was fire it into Brown's chest. Tampa's lucrative spreading of wealth capped a tumultuous three weeks in which the Bucs struggled and ultimately failed to keep pace with the Rams, then fought to scratch out a close, low-scoring win over New England before running away with this victory. Maybe the Bucs just needed a week at home to get back to their explosive ways.
  3. It wasn't the Dolphins' day, but not without great effort. We owe Jacoby Brissett a healthy serving of credit for his gutsy performance. Brissett helped the Dolphins take an early lead on a pass to Myles Gaskin, who ran a wheel route right past Jason Pierre-Paul for a 24-yard touchdown. What was most impressive about the play: Brissett completed the pass on an injured hamstring, which sent him to the locker room via cart before returning in time to avoid missing a snap. Brissett labored through the injury for the rest of the game, keeping things competitive until the Bucs pulled away in the fourth. Miami is going to remain in this weird in-between state as long as Tua Tagovailoa is out, but it's fighting -- which is more than some teams can say.

Next Gen stat of the game: Tom Brady completed 7 of 11 passes for 143 yards and an incredible four touchdowns while under pressure. The four scores tied with Jameis Winston (Week 6, 2018) for the most passing touchdowns under pressure in one game in the Next Gen Stats era, which dates back to 2016.

NFL Research: Brady's Sunday performance was the first time in his career (regular and postseason) in which he threw for 400-plus yards and five touchdowns.

Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Falcons
2021 · 2-3-0
New York Jets
New York Jets
2021 · 1-4-0

Jeremy Bergman's takeaways:

  1. Kyle Pitts, 1st Earl of Tottenham. Who needs receivers when you have three tight ends and whatever Cordarrelle Patterson is? Atlanta entered Sunday without its top two wideouts -- Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage. The Falcons didn't need them against New York, leaning on Patterson in the run and pass game and finally getting No. 4 overall pick Kyle Pitts involved on a mass scale. Pitts was Matt Ryan's first target of the day -- for no gain, but still -- and continued that trend throughout, hauling in nine catches on 10 targets for 119 yards, all career-highs; the rookie's four first-quarter receptions were the most of any TE this season. He proved a mismatch nightmare for New York, which had held its own earlier this season, but couldn't find the right coverage to keep the mid-sized Pitts at bay. Patterson enjoyed a career-high 21 touches for 104 yards, doing much of his damage in between the tackles and down the seams. Who would've thought at the start of the season that Patterson, known primarily as an All-Pro returner, would be one of the league's top short-yardage threats in the league?
  2. London fog. Zach Wilson makes the easy things look hard and the hard things ... well, they look pretty hard, too. Fresh off the best game of his young career, Wilson reverted to his rookie settings in front of his first national audience as a professional gridder. The No. 2 overall pick struggled early on short to intermediate passes and, in his first three drives, completed one pass and threw one interception; the Falcons were up 17-0 before New York had its first first down. It's not easy for a rookie to play from behind, and the Jets have been behind nearly the entire season. Wilson and New York clawed back to within three thanks to a run game that heated up on early downs in the second half and unforced Falcons errors -- Wilson's longest gain of the day came on a 41-yard defensive pass interference call on the goal line. But Wilson's indecision down the stretch -- two sacks for 26 yards on New York's final drive -- doomed the Jets' comeback chances. Last week's highlight reel win over Tennessee wasn't a mirage but it wasn't the turning point it felt like at the time.
  3. Matty nice. Aging quarterbacks have been under the microscope this season, from Tom Brady's highs to Ben Roethlisberger's woes. Matt Ryan, 36, isn't quite at his NFC South counterpart's level in the first year of the Arthur Smith regime in Atlanta, but, a tube ride away from London's Big Ben, Ryan proved Sunday he's not like Pittsburgh's Big Ben. Ryan has been near perfect over his past three games, throwing for 868 yards, eight TDs and no picks. The veteran avoided taking a single sack against a physical Jets defensive front that tagged Ryan Tannehill, Smith's former QB, nine times last week. Most importantly, Ryan, who threw his 5,000th completion Sunday, is building chemistry with new faces; four of Atlanta's top five receivers against New York were not on the roster in 2020.

Next Gen stat of the game: Zach Wilson was 1 of 6 for just one passing yard with a time to throw of at least four seconds.

NFL Research: Kyle Pitts' 308 receiving yards are the most by a TE in his first five NFL games since at least 1950. Pitts is on pace for 1,047 receiving yards in 2021, which would make him just the second rookie TE with 1,000 yards in a season in NFL history (Mike Ditka, 1961).

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