NFL Week 5 Round-Up

A comprehensive look back at all of Sunday's action.

LEAD OFF

The Cleveland Browns are 2-2-1 this season. It doesn't seem much, but having gone 1-31 over the last two campaigns, you begin to see why even small steps matter. The most moribund franchise in American sport over the past twenty years is rising, Phoenix-like from the ashes. There may be no more LeBron in The Forest City, but in his place are names like Jarvis and Myles and Denzel and Baker, heroes to the working class town on the shores of Lake Erie. And their record belies the fact that this team, this crazy team put together by the man who built the unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs, should really be 5-0 as well. Denied two wins against Pittsburgh and New Orleans because of last second kicking disasters when victories were in their grasp, and a third in Oakland after a horrendous refereeing decision that effectively cost them the game, this Browns team could start to make a serious push for the playoffs. They showed why yesterday, knocking off a tough Baltimore side 12-9 in overtime thanks in large part to this year's rookie class headed by QB Baker Mayfield and CB Denzel Ward, the 1st and 4th overall picks. Ward has been a lockdown corner all season, rare for a first year player, and his critical interception of a Joe Flacco pass inside the 5 halted an almost certain scoring drive. Mayfield has already shown flashes of why GM John Dorsey took him first overall and his drive in overtime that put Cleveland in position to win it underlined why, first scrambing from his own endzone for 13 yards, then hitting Derrick Willies on a 39 yard pass to put Greg Joseph in range to win it.

Cleveland have been in the doldrums for so long that even two wins seems akin to an unbeaten season for most teams. Yet this is a legitimate playoff candidate. In Mayfield they have a Brett Favre type character who has enough weapons at the skill positions to be dangerous, and the defense is as good as there is in football. It's finally a good time to be a Browns fan.

There's not quite the same feeling in Philadelphia this morning after the Super Bowl champions lost for the third time this season, this time at home to the Vikings in a rematch of last season's NFC Champonship game. WR Adam Thielen was the star of the show again, recording his fifth straight game of 100+ yards, becoming only the third player in NFL history to do so in each of team's first five games of the season. He also recovered Philly's last-gasp onside kick to seal the win after Carson Wentz had closed the gap to 23-21. The Eagles are 2-3 and struggling for the sort of consistency that they found in bundles during their run to the title last season. "We're shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties and turnovers that are hurting our offense," coach Doug Pederson said after the game. And for everyone out there who loves a big man touchdown, here's one of the finest you'll ever see as 330lb defensive tackle Linval Joseph rumbles 64 yards to score on an interception. Have you ever seen a 24 stone man move like this?

Frankly it's scary that a human being that big can move that quickly. But is it as scary as a 24 stone man in a skull cap, sunglasses, beard and an oxygen mask? You decide.

Didn't think so.

After the Browns made Baker Mayfield the first pick in April's draft, the New York Giants eschewed the chance to take one of the quarterbacks still on the board to replace 37-year old Eli Manning who's well into the winter of his career. Instead they took Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, viewed by many as a transcendent talent and pound for pound the best player in college football in 2017. And it was Barkley who provided a spark for the Giants when they needed it on Sunday, first catching Odell Beckham's 57 yard pass on a trick play, then leaping into the endzone to seemingly win it for the G-Men with 1.08 left to put New York up 31-30.

But it was to no avail: back came Carolina as Cam Newton drove them 30 yards to set up Graham Gano's 63 yard field goal with one second left. Gano’s kick was tied for the second-longest in NFL history, trailing only the 64-yarder made by Denver's Matt Prater in 2013. Holder Michael Palardy said Gano hit the ball so hard it would have been good from 70. Here's the game winner from the sideline:

And it sounded even better on Spanish radio:

The Giants, at 1-4 are done for the season. Carolina go to Washington for a very winnable game that would move them to 4-1. Another team in the NFC for whom the end is nigh is the Atlanta Falcons. Sunday's defeat at Pittsburgh, in a game that wasn't even as close as the 41-17 scoreline would suggest, has almost certainly consigned them to a season without playoff action, even after just 5 weeks. Too many defensive injuries have been their kryptonite this year as the Steelers, behind big performances from running back James Conner and receiver Antonio Brown, moved to 2-2-1 on the year. Whether they have enough defensively to compete at the sharp end remains a doubt, but on this day they were more than good enough. With superstar running back Le'Veon Bell set to return to the team, it'll be interesting to see what happens to Connor's touches moving forwards. Unless of course Bell is traded. Philadelphia or even Jacksonville could be potential landing spots, as could Cleveland. Celebration of the week? How about JuJu Smith-Schuster's gift of life after his sensational catch?

THIS AND THAT

Sunday Night Football produced a great game as Houston won the battle of Texas beating Dallas 19-16 in overtime, the second week in succession that the Texans have won in the game's fifth stanza. They got a huge performance from quarterback Deshaun Watson who's starting to return to the superstar form he showed last season before tearing his ACL. The game turned on Dallas's decision to punt on 4th and 1 from the Houston 42 with less than six minutes left in the extra period. You sense the clock ticking for head coach Jason Garrett as the Cowboys fall to 2-3, especially with the comments made by owner Jerry Jones after the loss.

Special mention to DeAndre Hopkins whose brilliant 49 yard catch and run set up the winning field goal.

Elsewhere, Cincinnati came from 17-0 down to beat the Miami Dolphins, scoring 27 unanswered points in doing so. The Bengals got a pair of defensive touchdowns that tipped the balance their way as Miami QB Ryan Tannehill undid much of his early season good work with another ghastly performance. It may be time for the Dolphins to look elsewhere for their quarterback because after seven years it's beginning to look as if Tannehill isn't it......Kansas City dominated Jacksonville thanks to another terrific showing from young passer Patrick Mahomes who failed to throw a touchdown for the first time this season, but controlled the game against the vaunted Jags defense. Bigger tests await, notably in the shape of the resurgent New England Patriots next Sunday night. But for now.......

Two of the more difficut teams to get a handle on this year are the Titans and Bills. Tennessee lost to Miami, but beat Jacksonville and Philadephia. Buffalo looked awful in losses to Green Bay and Baltimore but hammered the Vikings on the road. So when they matched up, you'd probably have expected the Titans to come away with the win. Right? Wrong. Kicker Stephen Hauschka drilled a game-winning 46-yard field goal as time expired to give Buffalo a 13-12 win.......Another team with multiple personalities are the Packers. With the knee of Aaron Rodgers getting better by the week, they were expected to march into Detroit and beat the Lions. And they probably would have done if kicker Mason Crosby had brought his boots and not his clown shoes as he missed four field goals and an extra point that essentially cost Green Bay the game. “I don’t get this much attention unless it’s really bad or extremely good,” Crosby said afterwards. “This one unfortunately was really bad and I'm going to have to really look at this one. This one hurts a bunch. Left a lot of points on the field for this team. Disappointed in my performance. Yeah, this is … look back I’m thinking to my childhood, high school, this is definitely one of the worst. So bummed about that.” Meanwhile, the Rams continue to look the strength of the NFC as they travelled to Seattle and came away with a 33-31 victory after another MVP-type performance from QB Jared Goff, despite losing his two best receivers, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp with concussions....... The Rams had a key defensive stand in the fourth quarter and then head coach Sean McVay made a gutsy fourth-down call to clinch the victory. Jason Garrett was clearly not watching.

There was a first win of the season for the Arizona Cardinals as they beat the 49ers 28-18 in the Bay Area in Josh Rosen's first start at quarterback. The 10th overall pick in April's draft did enough, hitting fellow rookie Christian Kirk with a 75-yard touchdown on his first throw as the Niners, who've lost three games in a row and fall to 1-4, also completed their own unwanted piece of NFL history in defeat.

There were records in New York as well as the up and down Jets eased past the Broncos. Running back Isaiah Crowell ran for 219 yards, setting a franchise record for most rushing yards in a single game. Todd Bowles's team ran up more than 500 yards of offense on Denver, with Sam Darnold having arguably his best game of his short career, tossing a pair of beautiful touchdown passes to Robby Anderson.......Finally, on the West Coast, Phillip Rivers led the Chargers past the hapless Raiders, who are a bad officiating decision away from 0-5. Head Coach Jon Gruden was supposed to come in and turn this team around, but if anything they've regressed and the form of franchise QB Derek Carr has gone from a concern to a borderline crisis. Sixteen months on from signing a 5 year, $125 million dollar contract, Carr looks shorn of the confidence that Gruden was supposed to give him. Quite how the Raiders pull this one around remains to be seen but after a decade away from the sidelines it's beginning to look more and more as if the NFL left Gruden back in 2008.

Monday Night Football

It's Drew Brees night tonight as the Saints face-off against Washington. He needs just 201 passing yards to break Peyton Manning’s all-time career record of 71,940. Given the sense of occasion there'll be in the Superdome, I can only see one outcome.

PREDICTION: New Orleans 31-21 Washington