Let’s dive into a review of NFL Week 5 …
— That man of adventure, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, was at it again. He tormented Dallas yet one more time, leading the Packers back from a nine-point halftime deficit and sealing a 35-31 comeback win with a dramatic, daring, vintage drive in the in the final two minutes.
And Rodgers pulled this off behind a patched up offensive line, without injured running back Tyrone Montgomery, and with his favorite receiver Jordy Nelson (shaken up on the sideline) for the game-winning drive.
No problem. Rodgers passed for 221 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 32 yards including a crucial 18-yard gallop on the final drive.
After his latest conquest of Big D, Rodgers is 7-1 in his last eight games against the Cowboys, with two of the wins coming as postseason knockout punches. In the eight games Rodgers has 15 touchdown passes, two rushing touchdowns only two interceptions.
Sunday’s comeback was a showcase of Rodgers at his best. In one-score games in the fourth quarter, when it’s getting late, Rodgers has a 101.7 passer rating that ranks second to Tony Romo’s 102.5 since the stat first was tracked in 1991.
— We might as well just give a game ball to the Jacksonville defense, because they would just snatch it and take off with it anyway… in trouncing the Steelers 30-9 in Pittsburgh, the Jaguars intercepted Ben Roethlisberger five times and returned two of the picks for touchdown. With the Jax defense largely responsible for the worst game performance of Big Ben’s career, and rookie running back Leonard Fournette thundering for 181 yards rushing, the Jaguars called on quarterback Blake Bortles to attempt only 14 passes for the entire game … and only one pass… ONE … in the second half.
How good is this Jacksonville defense? Two things: First, Jacksonville leads the NFL with 15 takeaways that have led to 74 points scored this season. This is an incredible stat: 53.2 percent of the Jaguars’ 139 points have come off turnovers this season. Second, this defense is so good, it not only can stop YOUR team’s quarterback … but the Jax defense can turn their own struggling quarterback into a non-factor. By the way, the available data only goes back to 1995, but since ‘95 no defense has generated more than 43.8 percent of the team’s total points via takeaways. That 43.8 percent belonged to the 1999 Eagles.
— Let’s hear it for the 5-0 Kansas City Chiefs and their mad offense, which dropped 42 points on a usually formidable Texans defense to win 42-34 in Houston. It was all there: 324 yards passing and three touchdowns from quarterback Alex Smith; completions to 10 different receivers; 107 yards rushing by Kareem Hunt and Tyreek Hill’s 82-yard punt return for a score. The Chiefs are 5-0, lead the league with an average of just under 33 points per game, and Alex Smith is generating some MVP buzz. Last season the Chiefs scored touchdowns on 19.2 percent of their offensive possessions; through five games this year that TD percentage is way up at 32.2 percent. Including field goals, Kansas City has scored on 52.8 percent of its possessions — the best ate in the league and an increase of 16 percent from last season. Well done, Andy Reid.
–– Just toss a big bag of footballs to Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” defense that went into Los Angeles, punched the Rams in the throat, forced five turnovers, and reminded everybody that the NFC West still goes through Seattle. The Seahawks prevailed 16-10 despite their offense sputtering for only 241 total yards. And while the Rams rolled up 375 yards, Seattle stood guard at the red zone and would not allow Jared Goff or Todd Gurley to trespass. In five possessions that advanced inside the Seattle 25-yard line, the Rams came away with only 10 points. The Sean McVay offense was averaging a league high 35.5 points per game, but couldn’t match Seattle’s toughness in this one. This doesn’t mean that the 3-2 Rams are a joke. It just means that Seattle, also 3-2, ain’t joking around. Our town’s Sheldon Richardson, the defensive tackle, had a big interception and later a fumble recovery for two second-half takeaways in Sunday’s beatdown.
— Another game ball for Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who overcame a controversial and difficult week by leading the Panthers to a 27-24 victory in Detroit. Operating against a Lions defense that came in as one of the top units in the league, Newton completed 26 of 33 for 355 yards and 3 touchdowns. In the last two weeks, in road wins at New England and Detroit, Newton has completed 77.4 percent of his throws for six touchdowns, one interception, an average of 10.8 yards per attempt, and a passer rating of 137.2. Comeback Cam has Carolina atop the NFC South at 4-1.
— A game ball for Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz who passed for 304 yards and four touchdowns in a rout of visiting Arizona. The Iggles are 4-1 and taking command of the NFC East. Among the quarterbacks drafted in 2016, I think pretty much everyone would have put Dak Prescott (Cowboys) at the head of the class following his superb rookie season, with Wentz second and Jared Goff third. I wonder if that ranking will change by the end of the season; Wentz is tracking very well.
On the other side …
WITHHOLDING YOUR PAYCHECKS:
— Roethlisberger, but he sure as hell deserved a game ball from Jacksonville for his role in leading the Jags to victory.
— No paycheck for increasingly testy Miami coach Adam Gase. Yesterday, after the Dolphins barely got by a vanilla Tennessee team that had to start Matt Cassel at quarterback, Gase said that criticism of his quarterback Jay Cutler “drives me nuts.” Yeah, well, coach … you’re driving everyone else wacko by standing by your sleepy quarterback and putting a putrid offense on the field … an offense that has scored three touchdowns in 45 possessions.
— Yo, Oakland Raiders defense, don’t even bother going to the bank. Ya’ll got embarrassed at home, losing 30-17 to fossilized Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco and the Ravens’ sorry excuse for an offense.
— I’ve been extremely patient with the Cleveland Browns, but enough is enough. After losing to the New York Jets, Hue Jackson is 1-20 as the Browns’ coach, and the franchise is 1-23 in its last 24 games. Hey, outstanding decision to acquire picks instead of just drafting Carson Wentz at No. 2 overall. And it was just so damn smart of the Browns to pass up the chance to draft Deshaun Watson … not once but twice.
— No payday for the New York football Giants. I don’t know what to say. Another loss, this one to the perpetual road team known as the Carson Chargers. At 0-5 the Giants are an oven fire. Eli Manning is 37 years old and taking a vicious beating. The Giants are averaging 16.4 points per game, which ranks 28th among the 32 teams. They are 30th in offensive efficiency, scoring on only 23.7 percent of their possessions. And the Giants have has only one offensive possession all season that’s lasted five minutes or more. And that was before the Giants lost their best player, wide receiver Odell Beckham, to a season-ending ankle fracture. Three other Giants receivers went out with injuries Sunday, leaving the squad with only one healthy wideout late in the game. It was so bad — and I kid you not – that Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson tweeted to the Giants Twitter account after the game, offering to play wide receiver for them.
— No, we won’t cash any checks for the untrustworthy Detroit Lions. They’ve slipped to 3-2 after flubbing their last two home games with losses to Atlanta and Carolina. Here’s what the Lions need to do: spend some money on a top-o-line alarm clock for every player. This season the Lions have a first-half points differential of minus 9. In the second half, they’re a plus 35 which ranks second in the league. And make sure to put the loudest alarm next to quarterback Matthew Stafford; this season he has a terrible 73.5 percent rating in the first half, with one touchdown (yawn) and one interception. But Stafford has a 6 touchdowns with no interceptions and a passer rating of 120.5 in the second half. The Lions trailed Arizona 10-0 before winning. They trailed Atlanta 17-3 before rallying and losing 27-24. The Lions were behind at the half but charged back to win at Minnesota. And in the loss to Carolina, the Lions let the Panthers run out to a 27-10 lead before hurrying back and losing 27-24. WAKE UP.
FINALLY: QUICK SLANTS
— The Giants’ inevitable rebuild must start with the removal of GM Jerry Reese.
— The Cowboys can’t close the deal. They’ve been outscored 76-47 in the fourth quarter. That minus 29 fourth-quarter differential is the third-worst in the league behind the Cardinals (minus 30) and Colts (minus 60.)
— The Bengals are 2-1 and averaging 25 points per game after firing offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and replacing him with Bill Lazor. Under Zampese the Bengals averaged 4.5 points in their first two games (both losses.)
— After an enthralling 32-11 run under coach Bruce Arians, the Cardinals have slumped to a 9-12-1 mark in their last 22. Arizona hasn’t been the same since turning the ball over seven times while getting demolished 49-15 by the Panthers in the 2015 NFC Championship Game. And quarterback Carson Palmer is taking too many hits. In his first 39 starts under Arians (including postseason), Palmer was 30-9 with 73 touchdowns, 38 interceptions and a 94.2 passer rating. But in his last 21 starts, including that 2015 NFC title game, Palmer is 8-12-1. He’s been sacked 62 times, has 33 touchdowns and 23 INT, and a rating of 83.3. Poor old Palmer was hit 10 times in Sunday’s 34-7 loss at Philadelphia. Someone stop the fight.
— Not seeing much from Bills running back LeSean McCoy this season. But I suppose this is understandable when defenses realize that the Bills have no downfield passing attack. Makes it much easier to stop McCoy.
— The NY Jets are 3-2, and quarterback Josh McCown has a higher passer rating (90.5) than Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers, Trevor Siemian, Marcus Mariota, Roethlisberger, Flacco and others. Gotta be happy for McCown, one of the league’s truly good guys. In an NFL career that began in 2002, McCown has thrown regular-season passes for eight teams: Cardinals, Lions, Raiders, Panthers, Bears, Buccaneers, Browns and Jets. When McCown walked off the field with a victory over the Browns on Sunday, he’d won three consecutive games as a starting QB for the first time in his career.
— Since last making the playoffs in 2002, the Browns are 67-162 for a .293 winning percentage that’s easily the worst in the NFL over that time.
— The disappointing Titans have the same record (2-3) as the woeful Colts. One reason: Tennessee has gone three-and-out on 34.4 percent of its offensive possessions, the worst percentage in the league. And head coach Mike Mularkey is supposed to be an offense guy.
— Why is it that the networks never zoom into the luxury suite for some shots of a despondent Jerry Jones when the Cowboys screw up? But when the Cowboys score a big touchdown to take the lead or win the game, the cameras always find Jones celebrating, and the announcers can’t wait to start slurping.
— Most overlooked running back in NFL history? I’m thinking it could be Frank Gore, age 34. After 10 seasons for the 49ers Gore is is in his third year with the Colts. He’s already rushed 75 times for 239 yards and two touchdowns this season. Gore is moving his way up the NFL’s all-time chart for career rushing yards, and for total yards from scrimmage. His 16,813 yards from scrimmage rank 9th all-time. And with 13,304 career rushing yards Gore has moved into seventh place, behind Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Curtis Martin, LaDainian Tomlinson and Jerome Bettis … including his postseason games, Gore has handled the ball 3,620 times from scrimmage. That’s 3,180 rushing attempts and 440 receptions. That’s a whole lotta ice bags for this tough running back.
Thanks for reading…