Four sacks and one interception almost feels like a disappointing effort for the Vikings’ defense. Almost. Such are the standards the Vikings have established for themselves. That one pick of Brock Osweiler gave Mike Zimmer’s all-resiliency squad a league-best plus-11 turnover ratio.
We can’t give the defense all the credit for that. Sam Bradford still hasn’t thrown a pick, and even Shaun Hill didn’t throw one in his lone start of the season. The Vikings are only the second team since 1933 to open the season 5-0 and do it without throwing an interception (the 1969 Rams were the other team, nice).
Let’s talk about Bradford, the guy we all thought the Vikings were crazy to trade a first-round pick for right after Teddy Bridgewater went down with a gruesome knee injury.
Bradford was 22 of 30 with 271 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the day. He’s completing 70 percent of his passes this season. High completion percentages are nothing new for Bradford, but he hasn’t been the same dink-and-dunk guy we got used to seeing. He averaged 9 yards per attempt this week and has averaged 7.9 yards per attempt on the season, mixing in some beautiful downfield throws with the rest of his work.
A lot was made about the Pat Shurmur connection, but it’s the union of Bradford and Norv Turner we should be talking about. It’s working better than most of us ever thought it would.
If there’s one major concern about the Vikings, it’s their offensive line. Injuries have forced them to shuffle people around this season. Bradford was pressured on 19 of his dropbacks and sacked twice.
Where the Vikings are really feeling the pinch from their offensive line is in the running game. They mustered 96 yards on 37 attempts on Sunday, bringing their production to a pathetic 2.45 yards per attempt. At some point, they’re going to need to be able to run the ball, right?
That feels like nitpicking. The Vikings are 5-0, the league’s last undefeated team.
This week’s biggest loser: Fun
Waving a big yellow flag with “taunting” written on it in big, bold letters, the NFL sent its referees out to take the fun — the twerking, the hip thrusts, the bows and arrows, chalk tosses, etc. — out of the game this season.
It worked. Touchdown celebrations were incredibly lame this week as players went out of their way to avoid penalties.
Antonio Brown is probably tired of getting fined - jogs over and hands TD ball to fan with large Antonio Brown head pic.twitter.com/y65rNEQUVw— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) October 9, 2016
You broke Antonio Brown, you bastards.
This came the same week we learned the NFL is cracking down on its own teams sharing highlights, celebrations, and other clips from their games on Twitter and other social media platforms. It’s in part a reaction to the league’s sagging ratings.
Think about that. The NFL is concerned about people seeing its games, so it cracks down on their ability to enjoy them online. Then, it takes away player celebrations, something universally enjoyed by fans everywhere.
Makes a ton of sense to me!
A rusty Tom Brady was probably the best hope the Browns had hosting the Patriots for his first game back from his suspension. Nope. Not a bit of rust to be found, which is what happens when your diet consists of avocados and broccoli smoothies.
Brady finished with a mere 406 yards, three touchdowns and a 127.7 rating in New England’s 33-13 win. He even broke out the awkward celebrations he’s known for.
Touchdown Tom is only part of the story here. The Patriots’ offense with Brady was a much bigger story because we saw just how threatening it’s going to be.
Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett, channeling his inner Luke Cage, combined for 176 yards and three touchdowns. Bennett did all the scoring. The Browns were thoroughly confused about who they should be covering. Then there was Chris Hogan, the outside man, ending his day with 114 yards. And this was the first time Brady has played with Bennett and Hogan.
The point here is that this offense is going to be stifling. It may not reach the same level the 2007 Patriots reached with Randy Moss, but it’s going to be real tough for anyone else to keep up. And if they can, there’s still the Patriots’ defense to contend with. Holding the Browns to 13 points isn’t necessarily the world’s greatest football accomplishment, but they’re holding all opponents to less than 15 points per game this season.
Things can change with 11 more games left to play. I’m just not sure they can change enough for any other team in the AFC, maybe the entire NFL, to keep pace with the Patriots.
The Packers are meh
So much for a compelling prime time game to give Americans a break from the debate. The Packers did enough to get by, which doesn’t take much against the Giants anymore.
This game could have used some Bone. Ken Bone.
Down goes Denver
The Broncos are still a very good team, but I don’t think many of us thought they were going to finish the season 16-0. I don’t think ANY of us thought they’d lose at home to the Falcons, either.
Last year, Atlanta revealed the formula for beating the Panthers. They did the same thing this year with the Broncos. Quick passes, lots of work for the running backs (especially as receivers matched up with the inside linebackers) and put lots of pressure on the right side of Denver’s offensive line.
Vic Beasley had 3.5 of the Falcons’ six sacks in the team’s best defensive performance of the season. There’s a lesson here for Dan Quinn’s defense: be aggressive. That’s how they can take the momentum from this 4-1 start throughout the season, unlike watching last year’s 5-0 evaporate.
Hope and struggle in the AFC East
The Bills are definitely the second-best team in the AFC East, which means they have a shot at a Wild Card berth to the postseason. Their 30-19 win over the Rams gives them three in a row and a 3-2 record on the season.
Firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman and replacing him with longtime Rex Ryan associate Anthony Lynn worked. The Bills have 535 rushing yards during their three-game win streak after failing to top even 100 in the first two games of the season. LeSean McCoy has been the primary beneficiary, finishing with 150 yards this week, his third in a row over the century mark.
Whatever chances the Dolphins and Jets had left took another blow this week. And both teams owe that, in part, to their stubborn decisions to stand by struggling quarterbacks.
Ryan Tannehill was 12 of 18 with 191 yards and two picks in a loss to the Titans (yes, those Titans and their “exotic smashmouth” offense). Over 100 of his yards came on just two plays. This outing was just as bad as his effort last week in a Thursday night loss to the Bengals. In the fifth year of his career, he still doesn’t appear to know what he’s doing with any kind of pass pressure. I’m honestly not sure if he hasn’t gotten worse since his rookie year.
At one point Dolphins fans were chanting “we want Moore,” i.e. backup QB Matt Moore, which is a really confusing chant if you think about it.
Well, forget it, Dolphins fans. Adam Gase, the guy who was hired to fix Tannehill, is having none of it.
Adam Gase says definitively Ryan Tannehill is the #Dolphins QB for the season. Will not reconsider at any point.— Jason Lieser (@JasonLieser) October 9, 2016
The Jets joined the Dolphins at 1-4, vying for last place in the division. The good news for the Jets is that Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t turn the ball over. But he really didn’t do much else to make himself look like anything more than a replacement-level quarterback.
Gang Green has another problem: its pass defense.
Not enough has been said about how bad this Jets pass defense has been. pic.twitter.com/3qXlejUFii— Football Perspective (@fbgchase) October 9, 2016
Darrelle Revis sat this week with a hamstring injury, but the Jets’ secondary has been bad with or without the once luxurious Revis Island. Oh, and now the locker room is getting weird.
A new era in Dallas
Whether or not Tony Romo gets the starting job back when he returns is irrelevant. Eventually, next year or the year after, the Cowboys will be Dak Prescott’s team. Prescott went 18 of 24 with 227 yards and a touchdown and added a rushing touchdown in a 28-14 win over the Bengals. He’s got 1,239 passing yards, a 101.5 rating and still hasn’t turned the ball over yet this season.
Ezekiel Elliott isn’t going anywhere, except down the field, with 134 rushing yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. His 546 rushing yards leads the NFL.
Don’t sleep on the Steelers
Who is the second-best 4-1 team in the AFC? It’s either the Broncos or the Steelers. Right now, I’ll take Pittsburgh.
Le’Veon Bell racked up 154 yards from scrimmage. Sammie Coates broke out for 139 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Ben Roethlisberger is making a strong case for the MVP award. He has nine touchdowns in his last two games. His 15 touchdown passes lead the NFL. That’s his best start to a season ever. He’s been especially effective at home, throwing 50 touchdown passes in his last 16 home games.
In two weeks, the Patriots travel to Pittsburgh, making for one of the most interesting games this season.
Week 5 scores
New England Patriots 33, Cleveland Browns 13
Detroit Lions 24, Philadelphia Eagles 23
Washington 16, Baltimore Ravens 10
Indianapolis Colts 29, Chicago Bears 23
Tennessee Titans 30, Miami Dolphins 17
Minnesota Vikings 31, Houston Texans 13
Pittsburgh Steelers 31, New York Jets 13
Atlanta Falcons 23, Denver Broncos 16
Dallas Cowboys 28, Cincinnati Bengals 14
Buffalo Bills 30, Los Angeles Rams 19
Oakland Raiders 34, San Diego Chargers 31
Green Bay Packers 23, New York Giants 16
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers, Monday, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Colts mascot Blue was forced to pay up after losing a bet last week to Jags mascot Jaxson De Ville.
Cody Kessler was having a good day until he threw the ball out of the end zone for a safety. And then got hurt. Things escalated quickly.
Everyone is excited that Tom Brady is back (except for the Browns).
One Vikings fan bit the head off a live fish during the tailgate. Are Vikes fans trying to give Bills fans a run for their money?
The Vikings don't even know how to spell the name of their own Pro Bowl defensive end, Everson Griffen.
The NFL made Antonio Brown take off his Muhammad Ali cleats, a week after it allowed him to wear Arnold Palmer ones. Death, taxes, the No Fun League.
The Ravens turned a pick-six into a 17-yard gain for Washington after linebacker C.J. Mosley fumbled the ball out of the end zone. Better to be lucky than good if you're Washington, though.
The Eagles' first lost of the year came after a controversial fumble call.
Rex Ryan was actually being nice when he named all USC alumni as his captains before the Bills played the Rams in the L.A. Coliseum.
One of the USC alums, cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, felt right at home with a pick-six.
Tyrod Taylor lined up behind the wrong lineman. Whoops!
Brandon Marshall said the Jets were in the perfect place at 1-4. Let's just say the Jets' locker room was a really weird place after their latest loss.
The Chargers' fourth-quarter curse continued after they botched a game-tying field goal attempt.
A few players went out of their way to avoid fun TD celebrations because of the NFL's draconian taunting rules.
Odell Beckham Jr. made up with the kicking net he previously beat up, a truly touching moment.
Browns rookie QB Cody Kessler is considered day-to-day after exiting with a chest injury. Charlie Whitehurst took over and became the fifth player to take snaps at quarterback for the Browns this season. Whitehurst also briefly left with a knee injury but returned.
Josh Norman headed to the locker room after injuring his right wrist, but he returned in the second quarter.
Steve Smith left against Washington with an ankle injury and did not return.
Jets linebacker David Harris injured his hamstring and was ruled out for the rest of the game.
Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph suffered a concussion and did not return.