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Week 5 takeaways: The most complete team in NFL

The Denver Broncos get the headlines. The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers are known as the bullies of the NFC. The New Orleans Saints might be better than all of them.

The Saints are arguably the most complete team in football because they have a difference-making offense and a difference-making defense. Rob Ryan's Saints defense hasn't blitzed much this season until Sunday when Ryan decided to blitz the Chicago Bears seemingly every snap. Quarterback Jay Cutler and Chicago's offensive line had a lot of trouble recognizing where the pressure was coming from.

Drew Brees leads a Saints offense that is controlling the ball more than any team in football; they easily lead the league in time of possession. The offense knows how to take the air out of the ball with a controlled passing game.

The Saints are known as a dome team, but they won convincingly on the road against a quality team in Chicago. The dominant defense doesn't quite make sense, but you can't argue with the results.

Here's what else we learned Sunday:

  1. Tight end Jimmy Graham seemingly is the Saints' only vertical threat. The Saints have no running game. The Saints' offense succeeds because Drew Brees faced absolutely no pressure on Sunday against Chicago and got the ball out of his hands quickly. Chicago's pass rush is a concern.

On NFL Network
NFL Replay
will re-air the New Orleans Saints' 26-18 win over the Chicago Bears from Week 5 on Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. ET.

  1. The Bears fell to 3-2, but they have to be thrilled with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery's development. He continued to make incredibly tough grabs on his way to 10 catches, 218 yards and one touchdown. Brandon Marshall had just 30 yards and made some interesting postgame comments about his lack of usage.
  1. Safety Kenny Vaccaro might be the second most valuable Saints defender. He was everywhere on Sunday, making plays in the passing game and as a run defender.
  1. With Michael Vick sidelined by a hamstring injury, Nick Foles calmly guided Philly to 17 second-half points. Chip Kelly angled the game plan to stress the backup's strengths. Vick crushed the Giants with his legs; Foles picked on Big Blue with a rash of passes to the sideline. We saw three, sometimes four wideouts flooding areas of the field and the Giants had no answer for it.
  1. Before Vick was injured, Giants running back David Wilson left the game with a neck injury and didn't return. Fox Sports's Mike Garafolo reported the injury isn't believed to be serious, with Wilson being held out for precautionary reasons. We'll know more Monday.
  1. The Giants went after Eagles running back LeSean McCoy from the start, almost ignoring Vick at the mesh point. The Eagles countered with a handful of designed runs for Vick, who wound up with 79 yards on the ground. McCoy finished with just 46 yards on 20 carries. It only works if you stop both.
  1. Don't blame Tom Brady's poor day on the rain. The Bengals' defense blitzed the Patriots into submission for much of the day. Brady was bothered by the pressure and missed a number of easy throws. This wasn't just about his young receivers. It was a dominant defensive performance and a rough day for Brady.
  1. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis repeatedly tried to limit Andy Dalton's exposure Sunday, and he responded well. Dalton made a number of nice plays on third down to move the ball in the second half with his legs and his arm. He threw a terrible interception in the first half on a throw across his body, but otherwise this was a step forward. He outplayed Brady.
  1. Give Lewis credit for being aggressive when the situation demanded it. His decision to go for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal midway through the fourth quarter was a huge difference-maker.
  1. The Wisconsin Curse struck the Lions again. Without Megatron in the game, Matthew Stafford looked like a 3-year-old child without his blanky. Stafford didn't have much help, but he didn't make the receivers he did have any better.
  1. The Packers' offense continues to struggle in the red zone. The Packers moved with ease, but couldn't finish drives. This game should have been a blowout early. Mason Crosby's confidence benefited though, as he converted all five of his field-goal attempts.
  1. Eddie Lacy was the workhorse this week, getting 23 of the 26 running back carries. He finished one yard shy of giving the Packers three consecutive weeks with a 100-yard rusher. Lacy wasn't spectacular, but he moved the chains when the Packers needed first downs.
  1. Alex Smith was imperfect, but his team is undefeated. The Chiefs QB threw an interception, was often inaccurate and the offense continually stalled after the defense gave it great field position. However, Smith made enough plays down the stretch to get the Chiefs to 5-0.
  1. Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looked awful early, but he did his best Jake Locker impersonation in the second half. Fitzpatrick's ad-libbing got the Titans back in the game and his 9-yard TD run gave them the lead. However, his inaccurate gun-slinging did him in with two comeback-killing interceptions.
  1. The Chiefs' defensive front was dominant again, allowing just 55 rushing yards to running backs. If it weren't for a couple Houdini moments from Fitzpatrick, the defense could have pitched a shutout.
  1. It's time for the Blaine Gabbert experiment to come to an end. His play under center hasn't devolved, and he can't stay healthy. Before Gabbert left with a hamstring injury, he cost Jacksonville points with two interceptions -- one of them a pick six -- and a ghastly pair of fumbles.
  1. Jaguars rookie left tackle Luke Joeckel is out for the year after suffering a broken right ankle. It's a disastrous loss for Jacksonville, a team down to just Austin Pasztor and Cameron Bradfield at offensive tackle after trading away Eugene Monroe.
  1. St. Louis has a flock of young players but few difference-makers. Tavon Austin finally caught a pass in space and turned it into a 17-yarder. It's a play design the Rams should run 10 times a game, but most of Austin's targets still came just yards off the line of scrimmage. Right now, the most intriguing pass-catcher on this team might be Austin Pettis.
  1. Ryan Tannehill continues to take a beating. The Dolphins quarterback took six more sacks Sunday and has been brought down a league-high 24 times in five games. This is a recipe for disaster.
  1. Terrell Suggs has regained his Defensive Player of the Year form. The Ravens' outside linebacker had three sacks Sunday and now has seven on the season. He has a sack in all five games, a franchise record.
  1. Ray Rice is playing with a bad hip and behind a suspect offensive line. The Ravens' running back deserves credit for finding the end zone twice Sunday, but he also lost another fumble -- that's five turnovers in the Ravens' last eight games.

On NFL Network
NFL Replay
will re-air the Indianapolis Colts' 34-28 win over the Seattle Seahawks from Week 5 on Tuesday, Oct. 8 at 3:30 p.m. ET.

  1. Time to start taking the Colts seriously as an AFC contender. Indy is 4-1, with high-profile wins over the 49ers and Seahawks. Andrew Luck made so many pretty throws Sunday -- he's going to be seen as a top five quarterback in this league by the end of the year.
  1. Russell Wilson has such tremendous awareness, and he always seems to know the exact time to bail on the pocket. He killed the Colts with his legs, posting the first 100-yard rushing game of his career.
  1. Richard Sherman says he's the best cornerback in the NFL -- and he might be right. But Sunday wasn't his greatest performance. Both T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne found some success against the All-Pro.
  1. The current iteration of Peyton Manning might have the weakest arm of any starting quarterback in the NFL, but he's playing the position better than we've ever seen due to his preternatural touch, accuracy, anticipation, blitz recognition and pre-snap adjustments. Manning now has more touchdown passes (20) than nine teams managed for the entire 2012 season. Denver's 230 points are the most through five games in NFL history, leaving them on pace to become the first team to surpass 600 and 700 points in a season.

On NFL Network
NFL Replay will re-air a special 3.5-hour version of the Denver Broncos' 51-48 win over the Dallas Cowboys from Week 5 on Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 9 p.m. ET.

  1. Football Outsiders metrics ranked the Broncos just 19th among defenses entering Week 5. An easy schedule masked their deficiencies over the season's first month. They missed too many tackles, had no answer for Dallas' tight ends and generated no pass rush on Sunday. Von Miller and Champ Baileywill be welcomed back with open arms.
  1. Romo is playing at a high level this season and just produced the best game of his career despite the absence of his No. 2 receiver. Even with three losses, the Cowboys remain the favorite in the NFC East largely because their quarterback is severely outplaying his divisional counterparts.
  1. The Panthers imploded in the red zone. Cam Newton was sharp early on, but Steve Smith dropped an easy touchdown and Brandon LaFell muffed a fourth-down pass near the end zone on separate drives. Newton went in a funk after that, showing no touch and scattershot accuracy. It's disturbing that Ted Ginn is leading the wide receiving corps in yards this season -- with half of Smith's targets. This was an undisciplined performance for an offense coming out of the bye week.
  1. The Cardinals are winning games in spite of their quarterback. Carson Palmer has just four touchdowns versus nine interceptions, too many of which have been thrown in the red zone. This team is one game out of first place in the NFC West because of its defense, which just got a lot better with the return of Pro Bowl linebacker Daryl Washington, who was the best player on the field Sunday.
  1. How did Cardinals running back Andre Ellington fall to the sixth round? The former Clemson star is providing big plays in the same role that Giovani Bernard is playing for the Cincinnati Bengals, as a change-of-pace back and a receiving threat out of the backfield. Look for his playing time to increase at Rashard Mendenhall's expense.
  1. Matt Schaub gave Gary Kubiak no choice but to bench Schaub in the fourth quarter of this game after his third interception. But Kubiak announced after the game that Schaub will start next week. The Texans don't have a lot of faith in backup T.J. Yates, so they are going to ride out this Schaub slump.

  1. The 49ers won by 31 points despite not completing a pass in the second and third quarters. You don't see that too often. Their defense is doing what you are supposed to do against poor quarterbacks: Stomp them. They are looking more like the 2011 49ers every week.
  1. New defenders are stepping up for San Francisco each week. Safety Eric Reid and cornerback Tramaine Brock stood out with terrific efforts on Sunday night.
  1. Terrelle Pryor completed his first 10 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns as the Raiders raced out to a 17-0 lead. Toying with Chargers defenders throughout the first half, Pryor was composed, kept his eyes downfield, showed great touch on deep balls and continued to burn defenses that allow him to roll out to his right. If he can string together more games like his last two, the Raiders' brass will have to initiate discussions about Pryor as the quarterback of the future.
  1. Credit San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt for resurrecting the aerial attack. Philip Rivers went over 400 yards for the third time in five games and completed more than 73 percent of his passes for the fourth consecutive week. The offense just made too mistakes, though. Rivers tossed three interceptions, Antonio Gates dropped a touchdown, Vincent Brown had a 30-yard score nullified by an illegal formation penalty, and Danny Woodhead was stuffed on a fourth-down goal-line carry and lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
  1. The Chargers' wide receiver corps is better than anticipated. Keenan Allen has played like a third-roundsteal the past two games, and Brown's eight catches for 117 yards would have been a 9/147/1 line if not for the nullified touchdown. Allen also had a touchdown overturned when it was ruled that his second foot didn't come down in bounds.

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