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

1) Why is it far better to have a seasoned veteran holding your QB clipboard than a youngster? Exhibit A: Andy Dalton. The Cowboys backup, who logged 133 starts in nine seasons with the Bengals, calmly led Dallas to 13 points after Dak Prescott's gruesome ankle injury, including a game-winning field goal as time expired. It wasn't all from a storybook for Dalton -- he was sacked on his first play and later lost a fumble on a bad snap exchange, but he delivered some key throws in crucial spots that couldn't be expected of a rookie. Dalton finished 9-of-11 for 111 yards, and given Prescott's pending surgery, he figures to be the Cowboys' man for an extended period.

2) The battle of futility between the NFL's worst scoring offense (Giants, 11.8 ppg entering the game) and its worst scoring defense (Cowboys, 36.5 ppg allowed) offered more hope for New York than Dallas. On the bright side, the rushing combo of Devonta Freeman and Wayne Gallman showed at least a little life (combined 22 for 84, TD), and WR Darius Slayton had his best game of the year (eight receptions for 129 yards). Slayton's speed is legit; the downfield threat every team needs. Still, the Giants offense has yet to score more than two touchdowns in any game this season, and Daniel Jones continues to hold the ball too long. Now, about that Cowboys defense …

3) If any one minute was responsible for the Giants' latest loss, it was the last minute of the first half that comprised an 11-point swing. New York lost four points with 1:00 remaining when a fake field goal for an apparent touchdown was called back on an illegal shift, resulting in three points instead of seven. Then they lost seven more as the Cowboys marched 64 yards in just 34 seconds for a touchdown on a trick play, a TD pass from WR Ced Wilson to Prescott. An unnecessary roughness call on DB Adrian Colbert aided the march. When the half ended, what could've been a 24-17 Giants lead was instead a 24-20 deficit.

-- Chase Goodbread

1) Given Patrick Mahomes' 12-1 record vs. the AFC West entering Sunday, the Raiders didn't figure to be the team to hand the star Chiefs quarterback his first loss of the season. They did it, on the road, as much with defense as a dynamic offense. Mahomes made his usual assortment of big plays, throwing for 340 yards, but a lengthy defensive sequence for the Raiders made all the difference. Trailing, 21-10, late in the first half, the Las Vegas defense limited KC to three points over six consecutive possessions to flip the game. By the time that sequence ended with Mahomes' only interception in the fourth quarter, the Raiders led, 33-24, and finished the job from there.

2) The Raiders running game salted away the last four-plus minutes of clock by bullying the Chiefs beleaguered front with one of the NFL's best rushing offenses. That kept Mahomes on the sideline and out of miracle range. The offensive line pushed K.C. off the ball for much of the game, and when it got late, as Las Vegas nursed an eight-point lead, RB Josh Jacobs dragged a Chiefs defender across the sticks as K.C. coach Andy Reid burned his last timeout. Derek Carr finished it with a fourth-down sneak to move the chains again. For the game, Jacobs scored two touchdowns, but the more explosive runs came from Devontae Booker (seven for 62).

3) Welcome back, Henry Ruggs III. Raw blazing speed, as much as anything, got the wide receiver drafted No. 12 overall by the Raiders in April. And nothing says speed like this stat line: three targets, two catches, 118 yards and a touchdown. Ruggs missed the last two games due to injury and was listed questionable this week, but transferred that designation to the KC secondary in pulling in deep completions of 72 and 46 yards. If he's able to be that sort of deep threat for Carr on a consistent basis, the Raiders offense will have an entirely new dimension. 

-- Chase Goodbread

1) Down five points with a minute and 57 seconds to go 94 yards -- in the rain. No problem. On fourth and goal with 15 seconds remaining, Russell Wilson dropped back, stood strong against the Vikings rush and delivered a dart to DK Metcalf and a dagger to the Vikings. First halves are overrated it would seem. The Vikings scored all the first half's 13 points on Sunday night, only for the Wilson-led Seahawks to snap into ultra-speed and score 21 straight in less than two minutes to take the lead. Then Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen and the Skol bunch rallied off 13 in a row to re-take the lead. But mostly, just to set the stage for Wilson as we all just seem to be living in Russ' world in 2020. Wilson orchestrated his 30th-game winning drive since entering the NFL in 2012, the most in the league in that span (per NFL Research). After three TDs on Sunday, Wilson has 19 through the Seahawks' 5-0 start -- its first ever. At times he didn't look his best, most notably on an interception to Eric Wilson in the fourth quarter and the aforementioned scoreless first 30 minutes. Alas for the Vikings (1-4) and a spirited effort from the underdogs, Wilson cooks in the rain, can seemingly turn brilliance on in an instance and displayed once more why he's leading the polls in the 2020 MVP campaign.

2) As Thielen goes, so too does Cousins it would seem. The Vikings' top receiver and perhaps one of the league's most underrated, Thielen hauled in nine catches for 90 yards and each of his team's second-half scores thanks to 13 targets -- more than double anyone else on Minnesota. In all weathers and through all struggles, Thielen is a constant for Cousins and the Vikes. Dalvin Cook is very much the engine of the Vikings offense, though. He left with an apparent leg injury early in the second half and though he returned, it was still Alexander Mattison in the backfield. Mattison had a terrific day with 112 yards on 20 carries to show for it. With Cook's health something to monitor (coach Mike Zimmer said he will have an MRI on his groin), having Mattison is as good a fallback plan as you can have when it comes to replacing a star such as Cook. A loss is a loss, of course. But this was an odd game against a great opponent. Though it's unlikely, this should be looked at as a step in the right direction for a struggling squad.

3) If you missed the memo, DK Metcalf has arrived. Still just 22, Metcalf's rise has gone step for step, athletic catch for terrific throw with Wilson's much-ballyhooed season. On the evening, Metcalf had six catches for 93 yards and a pair of scores, including the game-winner. That game-winner came just two plays removed from Metcalf dropping a touchdown throw from Wilson that was broken up by Mike Hughes. It showed the second-year sensation's ability to overcome a bad play in quick fashion. Wilson threw his last three passes to Metcalf, who had three catches for 60 yards on the game-winning drive. Wilson's emerging as the MVP frontrunner, but Metcalf's doing a very large part in swaying the vote.

-- Grant Gordon

1) The Steelers started 4-0 for the first time since 1979 thanks to the play of rookie receiver Chase Claypool. The Notre Dame product bamboozled the Eagles secondary, making leaping boundary catches, gobbling up YAC on slants, and darting up the seam for a game-sealing score. Claypool caught seven passes for 110 yards and three TDs and added a rushing score. The 6-foot-4 wideout already has Ben Roethlisberger's trust in key spots, including converting several big third-downs. The Steelers engineered a weaving, east-west offense early in the tilt, utilizing a bevy of WR runs and end-arounds to soften the Philly defense. Then Claypool was unleashed down the field, in the flat, and every which way. The second-round pick owns the size, speed and hands to be Big Ben's go-to target and a matchup nightmare against smaller defensive backs. In a year when rookie receivers are dominating across the NFL landscape, Claypool made sure his name is mentioned along with his first-round classmates.

2) Claypool wasn't the only unheralded receiver to have a big day on the Pittsburgh gridiron. Travis Fulgham tortured the Steelers secondary. A former sixth-round pick by Detroit, Fulgham became Carson Wentz's go-to target, catching 10 of a whopping 13 targets (no one else had more than six targets) for 152 yards and a touchdown. At 6-foot-2, Fulgham found cushions in the Steelers secondary, made tough contested catches and showed an ability to cut off his route to create separation. Wentz found Fulgham for several big third-down throws to keep drives alive. Unless you were an avid Lions fan or closely track practice squad movements, it's likely you hadn't heard of Fulgham before a week ago. Fulgham was waived by Detroit, Green Bay and Philadelphia this offseason. With injuries littering the Eagles WR corps, he got a shot. Fulgham showed he's a keeper, even when Philly gets other WRs back.

3) Neither defense played well Sunday. The Eagles couldn't track Claypool, who beat top corner Darius Slay several times. Stunningly, Philly DC Jim Schwartz dialed up a scheme that called for Claypool to be covered by a linebacker Nate Gerry on a pivotal third down with the outcome still in doubt. Predictably, Big Ben burned the coverage for a game-sealing score. New year, same secondary issues for Philly. Pittsburgh's defense started strong, but allowed the Eagles to move the ball up and down the field in the second half to cut a 17-point lead to two points. Pittsburgh's secondary got exposed time and time again by Fulgham. The front sacked Wentz five times, but when it didn't get pressure, the back end got picked apart. Pitt allowed the Eagles to convert a bevy of third-and-longs, including a third-and-9 draw that Miles Sanders took 74 yards to pay dirt early. Expected to have one of the better defenses in the NFL, the Steelers didn't play up to their reputation Sunday.

-- Kevin Patra

1) The Browns and Colts entered Week 5 with identical 3-1 records, and the same could be said of both: How good really are these guys? While we won't know the exact truth for a couple of months, Cleveland ended up emerging as the better team Sunday, recording its most emphatic win of 2020 while also reaching 4-1 for the first time since 1994. In 1994, Bill Belichick coached the Browns. Nick Saban was the defensive coordinator. Jim Schwartz was a scout. Ozzie Newsome was a front office executive, and had yet to become the first Black general manager in the NFL. Most millennial Browns fans cannot recall the last time their team won four of their first five games. Point being, it's been a long time. Cleveland's greatest challenge since its blowout Week 1 loss to Baltimore arrives next week, when the Browns meet the 4-0 Steelers, who have their own question to answer when it comes to their legitimacy after running through a fairly easy opening slate. The Browns will carry a handful of injuries into that game, with Wyatt Teller (calf) exiting in the first half, Sheldon Richardson and Baker Mayfield also appearing to play through ailments, and Ronnie Harrison exiting to be evaluated for a concussion. For at least one night, though, they can enjoy their best start in 26 -- yes, 26 -- years.

2) The tale of the Browns' wins usually relied on one element in an offensive explosion, most commonly being the ground game, but Sunday was their first win in which they won with balance. Mayfield attempted his second-most passes in a game this season (37) and broke 240 yards for the first time in 2020. Cleveland didn't have a rusher break 90 yards for the first time since Week 1. Neither Odell Beckham or Jarvis Landry reached 90 receiving yards. And yet, it seemed to be the Browns' most complete win, minus the kick return touchdown allowed to Isaiah Rodgers. The Browns' beleaguered defense even scored a touchdown on Harrison's pick-six, bringing some hope for a defense that hasn't held up its end of the bargain beyond the continued excellence of Myles Garrett. Credit is due to Kevin Stefanski, who appears to be in complete control of his team's offense in his first season as head coach. We'll see how well they perform in a key early divisional meeting next week.

3) For a team that entered Sunday touted as perhaps the best defense in the NFL, the Colts didn't perform to such a lofty standard. Indianapolis surrendered 385 yards of total offense, allowed Cleveland to convert 10 of 17 third-down attempts, and lost the time of possession battle by nearly 10 minutes. The Colts managed to intercept Mayfield twice and tackled effectively in one-on-one situations -- limiting Kareem Hunt to 72 yards on 20 attempts -- but without Darius Leonard, the Colts lacked the punch they needed to get a road win. Philip Rivers' performance (21/33, 243 yards, two interceptions, 60.5 passer rating) didn't do them many favors, but on Sunday, Indianapolis took a step back from its strong defensive start in the season's first month.

-- Nick Shook

1) Jared Goff started off Sunday's blowout like he was playing in a summer seven-on-seven camp session. Rams pass-catchers scampered wide open, and Goff played the good point guard, hitting his targets in stride for big yards after catch. The Rams scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the game, including a 56-yard bomb from Goff to Robert Woods. It was nice to see a field-stretching element to an offense that had missed that element the past few weeks. As the rain picked up in DC, however, Goff and the offense stalled for stretches of the game. The QB bounced back late with a great TD drive to wrap up the blowout, but against better squads, the offensive lulls -- particularly in the elements -- is something Sean McVay needs to iron out to keep up in the toughest division in football.

2) The Kyle Allen experiment in Washington lasted less than a half before the QB was knocked out by Jalen Ramsey on a scramble. Enter Alex Smith. The veteran QB appeared in an NFL game for the first time in 693 days, since suffering a brutal leg injury in Week 11, 2018. Smith looked about what you'd expect a 36-year-old who missed an entire season with a potentially career-threatening injury to look like. Smith was pulverized by the Rams defensive front, getting sacked six times in just over two quarters of play. Washington's offense with Allen and Smith was a dink-and-dunk operation -- scatback J.D. McKissic led Washington in receiving. Smith didn't have a completion of more than six air yards, per Next Gen Stats. Smith either dumped it off quick or got sacked. He did try a couple of deep shots late in the blowout, but those heaves were off the mark. Given the streaking rain, it's impossible to know if Smith could have been more mobile in better conditions. The veteran looked like a player who had been in a rehab room for more than a year. Despite Allen being cleared to return, Ron Rivera stuck with Smith in the second half, likely in an effort to get the QB reps. Sunday was a feel-good story for Smith's return, but Rivera said Allen would return to the starting lineup. The hope is that next time Smith gets on the field, it'll be under better circumstances.

3) Aaron Donald and the Rams defensive front feasted on Washington's line, battering Smith and Allen throughout the game. The Rams compiled eight total sacks. Donald himself earned four QB takedowns on the day. Fortunately, the former DPOY didn't cripple Smith, though the veteran QB is sure to feel the bruises from the damage Donald inflicted. Second-year pass rusher Troy Reeder hadn't generated a sack in his career but gobbled up three Sunday. When L.A.'s front is as domineering as it was Sunday, with Donald wrecking plays, it makes life much easier on the back end of the defense to suffocate receivers.

-- Kevin Patra

1) The Ravens defense extended the NFL's longest active streak of consecutive games forcing at least one turnover (18), getting three for the game and maintaining its penchant for causing fumbles. Add three more forced fumbles this week for a total of nine on the season and a rate of nearly two per game. Rookie LB Patrick Queen stripped his former LSU teammate, Joe Burrow, and recovered the fumble for one, and in the second half, when CB Marlon Humphrey forced another, his second in as many weeks, it was Queen who scooped it for a 53-yard touchdown return. Ball carriers beware — two hands on the ball to finish plays is the only way to go against this team.

2) The Bengals had no offensive balance to speak of, and that kept Burrow in too many obvious passing situations throughout the game. The No. 1 pick of the draft has the arm, the athleticism and the moxie, but the Bengals can't lay the entire offense on his shoulders. And on days Joe Mixon runs for just 59 yards on 24 carries, that's what will happen. Given Cincinnati's struggles with pass protection this year, the result was predictable: Burrow was heavily pressured for much of the game against one of the NFL's best third-down defenses, sacked seven times.

3) Credit Cincinnati's defense, at least, for containing Lamar Jackson's rushing. The 2019 NFL MVP had battered the Bengals on the ground — 342 yards in his career, his highest total against any team — but had negative-4 yards rushing at the half and just three yards on two carries for the day. Jackson was patient and scrambled to throw, not run, but that was in part because the Bengals' defensive front limited easy escape lanes.

-- Chase Goodbread

1) Ryan Fitzpatrick has no interest in your Tua Tagovailoa think-pieces. FitzMagic put on a show in Santa Clara, bedeviling a disintegrating 49ers defense with a bevy of downfield shots. Fitzpatrick tossed three TDs and for 350 yards, picking apart his opponent. The Niners had no answers for FitzMagic's ability to stand in, take a hit, and still release a pinpoint pass. The Dolphins offense moved up and down the field, punting just twice on 12 possessions, and gobbling up 436 total yards. Fitz's playmakers all showed up. Preston Williams went for 106 yards and a TD on just four catches, with a long of 47. Mike Gesicki had a 70-yard catch and run. DeVante Parker had catches of 28 yards and 22 yards. Former Niner Matt Breida took a short pass and scampered 31 yards. Fitzpatrick and Co. took whatever they wanted Sunday. The veteran QB once again quieted the Tua questions and speculation.

2) Jimmy Garoppolo's return after missing two games due to an ankle injury lasted just two quarters. Coach Kyle Shanahan sent Jimmy G to the bench at halftime, citing a need to "protect" the QB, according to the FOX broadcast. The truth was Garoppolo looked lost the entire first half, tossed ducks short of targets, and was rattled by consistent pressure. Whether he didn't trust the rehabbed ankle or came back too soon, the QB didn't step into throws, leading to two terrible INTs. It wasn't just that he floated overthrows twice in the first half for picks, it's that he also wasn't processing the game quick. Both picks were poor choices. Garoppolo completed just 7 of 17 passes (41.2%) for 77 yards and two INTs for a 15.7 passer rating. C.J. Beathard entered and didn't fare a ton better but led two scoring drives -- aided by Miami penalties -- in his first two possessions. Beathard also lost a fumble to close out the game. Jimmy G looked terrible in his return, but the whole 49ers squad was a shell of what we saw last year. Piling on Garoppolo is superfluous. The O-line struggled to block, QBs made mistakes, runners missed holes, the secondary is decimated, and the pass rush has been obliterated. In the toughest division in the NFL, Shanahan has his work cut out in the coming weeks.

3) Credit Brian Flores' defense with making life miserable on 49ers QBs. The Dolphins blitzed early and often, bringing an array of pressure all afternoon. Miami compiled five sacks -- three on Jimmy G -- forced quick throws and poor decisions. Flores clearly trusted his secondary against the Niners receivers, bringing additional pass rushers often. Miami held San Francisco to just 259 total yards and 2-of-10 on third downs. Five Dolphins players racked up sacks. Emmanuel Ogbah continues his stellar season for the Dolphins' front. The veteran has been in the thick of it all year and was again Sunday, earning a strip-sack, three tackles, and a QB hit. The base is there for Flores' defense to become a difference-making unit in a league devoid of good Ds.

-- Kevin Patra

1) The Texans had an unusually difficult schedule in the first month of the season, but received a break in Week 5 with Jacksonville. After slogging through losses to Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Minnesota, Houston (1-4) welcomed -- and I mean welcomed -- Jacksonville to Texas Sunday for a chance to record its first win and followed through. It wasn't a perfect game by any means, with Deshaun Watson throwing two interceptions, but Houston managed to put together a few solid drives and enjoyed a better day defensively. Other than the interceptions, Watson was largely sharp, finding eight different pass-catchers throughout the course of the game, completing 25 of 35 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns, and helping the Texans break 24 points for the first time in 2020. If anything, Sunday provided enough of a feel-good win to make the week ahead worth fighting for under interim head coach Romeo Crennel.

2) What an ugly day for the Jaguars (1-4). Stephen Hauschka set a dreadful tone by missing a chip-shot field goal on a drive that stalled deep in Houston territory, then followed that up with another miss from 49 yards, twice leaving the Jaguars empty-handed at the end of promising possessions. Doug Marrone decided he'd seen enough from his kicker, opting to go for it on fourth and one from the Houston 8, but the call was regrettable. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden dialed up a peculiar trick play that saw Gardner Minshew motion wide and the center direct snap to James Robinson, who trotted right, appeared to be looking to throw and fumbled the ball, resulting in a turnover that would've come on downs if not the fumble. That play defined Jacksonville's day -- and its last three weeks -- in a nutshell.

3) Watson and Brandin Cooks have finally established a connection. The quarterback looked to his speedy receiver early and often, finding him for a 36-yard completion in the game's first three minutes, and hooked up with Cooks for 20-plus yards five times throughout the course of the afternoon. Their fourth connection produced Cooks' first touchdown as a Texan on a 28-yard completion on fourth and four, effectively sealing Houston's first victory and giving Texans fans a reason to be excited about the passing game in Houston.

-- Nick Shook

1) The Cardinals (3-2) ended a two-game skid with what has become a routine win for road teams at MetLife Stadium in 2020. Arizona had nearly 500 yards of offense against the Jets in a sloppy game where the time of possession was nearly split. Quarterback Kyler Murray scored a touchdown through the air and on the ground, finishing the day with a career-high 380 yards passing (27-for-37; one interception). Per NFL Research, Murray is the third player since 1950 with five-plus passing TDs and five-plus rushing TDs in his team's first five games of a season, joining Cam Newton (2011) and Kordell Stewart (1997). Murray found DeAndre Hopkins (six catches, 131 yards) on two big fourth-quarter plays including the game's final score on a 37-yard TD that put the game away. The Cardinals ran the ball particularly well up the middle using either a draw or the run-pass option. Chase Edmonds went untouched for a 29-yard touchdown in the game's first score, which was a precursor to the Jets' flimsy run defense in this one.

2) Adam Gase's seat must be getting hotter by the week. The Jets' (0-5) self-inflicted struggles were exemplified in a second-quarter sequence that would deflate any team's morale. After three three-and-outs to start the game, the Jets took advantage of two penalties by the Cardinals defense that landed them in the red zone, down 7-0. On a third and one from the Arizona 13-yard line, the Jets called a handoff to third-string tight end Trevon Wesco for no gain. An ensuing handoff to Le'Veon Bell (13 rushes, 60 yards) for no gain led to a turnover on downs. Avery Williamson's INT (created by Neville Hewitt's pass deflection) on the subsequent Arizona possession put the Jets offense on a first and goal from the 10-yard line. A delay of game pushed them back five yards and their threat ended with a Sam Ficken chip-shot field goal. Jamison Crowder, who had eight receptions for 116 yards and the Jets' only touchdown, seemed to be their only player on offense with a pulse. Whether it was dropped passes, untimely sacks or inaccurate throws from Joe Flacco, the Jets were fortunate to only lose by 20. No one will need Sam Darnold's return faster than their head coach, as the Jets hit 0-5 for the first time since 1996. 

3) Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones left the game in the first half with an apparent biceps injury, which could be season-ending. Safety Budda Baker's return to the lineup was felt; leading the team with 10 tackles and coming up with a timely sack that halted a Jets drive in the second half. Third-year LB Dennis Gardeck had himself a day, notching two sacks that are now his career total. The Cardinals took advantage of a hobbled Jets offense that lacked identity, but their energy couldn't go unnoticed. Holding the Jets to under 300 yards of total offense, Vance Joseph's defense held New York on third down (4-of-13) and forced two turnovers on downs. It was certainly a confidence booster for a defense that was gashed the last two games, but others will need to step up in Jones' absence going forward. 

-- Michael Baca

1) The legend of "Teddy Two Gloves" continues to grow in Carolina (3-2). Teddy Bridgewater's efficient play buoyed yet another balanced showing for the Panthers offense. Carolina controlled the pace of the game and put together scoring drives (two FGs, TDs) on four of its five first-half series, all of which covered 50-plus yards. Mike Davis (16/89) and Curtis Samuel (4/28) embodied the "Keep Pounding" mantra to a 'T,' powering through defenders for several gutsy runs. Both were reliable targets out of the backfield, as well, combining for 14 catches, 96 yards and a Davis score. "Mr. Reliable" Robby Anderson (8/112) and DJ Moore (4/93/1) also contributed big days through the air. Bridgewater finished 27-of-37 for 313 yards (0 sacks, INT).

2) Todd Gurley (14/121/1) accounted for 59 yards on Atlanta's 87-yard opening drive. After turning the clock back with a 35-yard TD run to cap that series, Gurley wouldn't see another carry until the start of the second half with Atlanta (0-5) down, 20-7. That is a problem. Rather than continuing to mix in Gurley, who tallied his first 100-yard rushing game since December, 2018, Atlanta relied heavily on the passing game, which was again without Julio Jones. After looking out of sorts most of the day, Matt Ryan (21-of-37, 226 yards) found a rhythm, mainly with Calvin Ridley (8/136), in the second half, leading two 10-plus play drives. However, neither proved impactful as the series led to a Younghoe Koo FG and a deflating pick on a tightly covered pass to Russell Gage in the end zone in the fourth.

3) Outside of the game's first TD, Carolina's defense had another dominant week. Although his afternoon ended early due to injury, Brian Burns left a mark, earning a strip-sack that halted a second-quarter Atlanta drive. Another standout sequence came late in the quarter when Efe Obada and rookie Yetur Gross-Matos knocked Ryan down on back-to-back incompletions before Marquis Haynes put a lid on the series with a sack. The group forced three punts and held the Falcons to three FGs, the third of which came in the game's closing seconds with Carolina up 10. Shaq Thompson led the way with 10 tackles, and safety Juston Burris earned his fifth career INT.

-- Jelani Scott

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