1. The Patriots are going to drive everyone crazy
By Ryan Van Bibber
Any sane NFL fan is going to want to spend the day talking about Kyle Orton. We probably would have gotten the chance, too, but then the Patriots woke up and hung a mere 43 points on the previously unbeaten Cincinnati Bengals, winning a big Sunday night matchup and shaking off a Monday night loss to the Chiefs in Week 4.
The Patriots are now professional football's version of the Rolling Stones. They used to be one of the greatest acts of all time, but these days Mick and Keith and those other guys whose names really don't matter look like worn out leather, still trying to belt out "Brown Sugar" three decades past their prime, occasionally getting it right.
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3 things we learned from the Patriots' win
Tom Brady and the New England Patriots ran over the Cincinnati Bengals, handing the Bengals their first loss while getting the Patriots' offense back on track.
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Columnists and talking heads are going to go on and on about the Patriots all week. They can swap out last week's lazy narrative about Tom Brady's career being over and Bill Belichick out-thinking himself for six days of hero worship. These are essentially the Boomers with bottomless pockets who keep the Stones' filled with formaldehyde by gobbling up $300 tickets to their 1960s review shows at an area near you.
A week full of Patriot takes aside, it was an impressive performance against a team that had previously looked like the league's most complete. After being let down by his replacement level cast of receivers last week, they rolled out the two-tight end formation in heavy doses Sunday night. Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright combined for 11 catches, 185 yards and two touchdowns from Brady.
Just as notable as Brady's bounce back performance was Darrelle Revis breaking out one of his old shutdown corner performances. He shadowed A.J. Green all night, except for a series when he left the field with a sore hamstring; Green scored while Revis was in the locker room.
New England goes on the road for a critical AFC East showdown against the Bills next week. It's their chance to upend last week's other story, the one about the Bills finally making a run at the division title. They get the Jets and the Bears after that. Barring injuries, they should be in fine shape for a visit from the Broncos and Peyton Manning in Week 9, a super jam at the old racetrack no football writer over the age of 50 can resist.
2. Cowboys keep rolling
By Danny Kelly
The Cowboys faced a stiff test in their Week 5 matchup with the defensively stout Texans. They rode their league-best rushing attack and an efficient passing game to an overtime win. DeMarco Murray rattled off another 136 yards rushing, his fifth straight 100+ yard game to start the season. That dominance in the run game kept opening up things for their passing game as well.
With a little less pressure to carry the offense like he was asked to do the past two seasons, Tony Romo has settled into a groove and concerns over his back have abated -- particularly when he uses his patented reverse spin move to shake one J.J. Watt and throw a touchdown bomb.
As teams stack the box to take away Murray, one-on-one opportunities have emerged outside for the Cowboys' receivers, and the Romo-to-Terrance Williams connection has developed nicely. Of course, the Romo-to-Dez Bryant connection remains one of the most dangerous in the NFL these days. That was clear when the Dallas signal caller threw a slick back-shoulder touchdown pass to Bryant in the fourth quarter after three straight Murray runs.
Bottom line, the 'Boys are rolling after rattling off four wins in a row, and they're doing it with balance and power on offense. It starts up front, and their offensive line is probably the best in the NFL right now. The main concerns for Dallas' chances at contention in the NFC, of course, are on the defensive side of the football, and they'll face a tough test next week when the visit Seattle. For now, the Cowboys are sharing first place in the NFC East as quite possibly the biggest surprise team in the NFL right now.
3. The Saints find a way
By Eric Sollenberger
The Bucs and the Saints are two of the most confusing teams in the NFL. They've both looked completely lost at times, but you always got the feeling that at least the Saints were going to be okay in the long run, as long as they had Drew Brees under center.
It might be time to come to grips with the idea that New Orleans is an average team when Jimmy Graham is out of the lineup. Brees has struggled to develop the type of chemistry with his other receivers that he shares with his Pro Bowl tight end. Their offense struggled with turnovers after jumping out to an early 13-0 lead, including a costly pick-six to Danny Lansanah that put Tampa Bay on top, 24-13.
Many expected the Saints to come out and bury the Bucs after the quick start, but Tampa Bay once again showed its resilience by taking an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter before collapsing. New Orleans has been a great home team in recent history, so it was odd to see them trailing by double digits with under 10 minutes left in the game. But they were able to force overtime after a late safety and a 44-yard Shayne Graham field goal, and Khiry Robinson was able to ice it on an 18-yard TD run.
The Saints go on the road next to Detroit next week.
4. 49ers take the luster off of Jim Harbaugh story
By Danny Kelly
The Niners faithful endured a tumultuous week of rumor and reports on Jim Harbaugh's relationship with his team and front office, culminating in a report Sunday morning that put major doubt in his future with San Francisco. Jay Glazer reported that even if the 49ers win a Super Bowl this season, he won't be returning to coach the team in 2015.
That side show lost a little luster Sunday afternoon when Harbaugh's team went out and beat a tough Kansas City Chiefs team at Levi's Stadium. Jim remained stoic nonetheless.
San Francisco trailed until the fourth quarter as the Chiefs played a strong game, but as they have done time and again over the past several seasons, the Niners outlasted and wore down their opponent, taking the lead for good with 8:42 remaining.
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The 49ers' brand of football combines a suffocating defense (they held the Chiefs to 90 yards rushing and only 175 yards passing) with a punishing rush offense (171 yards on 40 rushes), and while it's not always the prettiest to watch, it's incredibly difficult to defeat.
This was most apparent in the fourth quarter. While holding a slim two-point lead with seven minutes remaining, San Francisco put together a demoralizing drive that went 14 plays and knocked five minutes off the clock, ending in a field goal that extended the lead to five points. The Chiefs would need a touchdown drive to win it with 2:17 remaining, but Perrish Cox picked Alex Smith off on Kansas City's second play of the drive.
Perhaps Harbaugh will leave after this season, but right now, he's still coaching a team that can give the NFC a run for its money this year.
5. Peyton's record day helps Broncos knock off Cardinals
By Danny Kelly
Not only did Peyton Manning grab his 500th career touchdown pass (only he and Brett Favre share that distinction) and rattle off a career high 479 passing yards, he displayed his high level linebacking skills in stopping Calais Campbell on an interception return. He really can do it all, folks -- this is just as great a tackle as we may see this year.
In seriousness, for what the Cardinals had billed as their potential "statement game," the Broncos ended up letting their play do all the talking. Manning passed the ball all over the yard against a defense that can be counted among the elite in the NFL, though it should be noted that Arizona played short-handed in the second half after losing Campbell and Patrick Peterson to injuries. It also didn't help the Cardinals' cause that backup-starter Drew Stanton went down in the third quarter and was replaced by rookie Logan Thomas, who threw an 81-yard touchdown pass but was otherwise ineffective (as in, that was the only pass he completed).
The Broncos win validates their place among the best in the AFC, but they're not actually even leading their division quite yet, trailing an absolutely red-hot Chargers team that dispatched the Jets in convincing fashion on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Cardinals leave the ranks of the unbeaten and must retreat to lick their wounds and try to get a key players back to full health. Stanton suffered a concussion, leaving his status for next week up in the air, and Campbell may miss some time from the knee injury he suffered in the third quarter. Their grapple hold on the NFC West looks more tenuous after Week 5.