NFL Nation: 2011 Week 5 Wrap-ups

Wrap-up: Packers 25, Falcons 14

October, 10, 2011

A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers' comeback 25-14 victory over the Atlanta Falcons:

What it means: The Packers improved to an NFL-best 5-0 after their most impressive performance of the season. The Packers also extended their winning streak to 11 games, dating to last season and including the playoffs. Now the Packers will watch Monday night to see if the Detroit Lions can match their record by defeating the Chicago Bears at Ford Field.

Adversity football: That's a phrase coach Mike McCarthy uses often. Sunday night, the Packers faced their first two-touchdown deficit since midway through the 2009 season, trailing 14-0 with nearly four minutes remaining in the first quarter. They outscored the Falcons 25-0 the rest of the way. They also overcame the loss of left tackle Chad Clifton, who suffered what appeared to be a serious hamstring injury in the second quarter. The Packers finished the game with Marshall Newhouse moving from right tackle to left tackle and rookie Derek Sherrod at right tackle.

Newhouse praise: Newhouse looked pretty solid at left tackle, but don't take it from me. Here's what ESPN analyst and former NFL offensive lineman Mark Schlereth tweeted during the game: " Newhouse is gonna be a star in this league at tackle I can't tell you how hard it is to switch from RT to LT and not skip a beat!"

Defensive shutdown: The Falcons rolled up 140 yards on their first two possessions, both of which ended in touchdowns. The Packers defense held them to 111 yards the rest of the way, and safety Charlie Peprah ended the Falcons' only legitimate scoring threat with an interception at the Packers' 14-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. They only sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan once, but they unofficially hit him seven times and clearly knocked him off his rhythm in the second quarter and beyond.

RodgersWatch: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers finished with 396 yards, bringing his two-week total to 804. He tied a Packers record by completing a pass to 12 different receivers. Only one skill-position player who was active for the game didn't catch a pass: Fourth-string tight end Ryan Taylor. We'll give him a pass.

JonesWatch: Receiver James Jones entered the game with nine catches for 88 yards. He complained briefly about his role in the offense but wisely waited his turn. His five-catch, 140-yard performance included a 70-yard touchdown. But I thought his best play came in the fourth quarter, when he made sure to stay in bounds near the sideline at the end of a 21-yard play.

FinleyWatch: Tight end Jermichael Finley had an odd night, dropping a touchdown pass in the second quarter and also a third-down opportunity in the third quarter. Finley failed to come up with a catchable two-point conversion pass as well. But his final catch, a 24-yarder in the fourth quarter, converted a third down and was critical in the Packers' efforts to run out the clock.

CrosbyWatch: Let's not forget that place-kicker Mason Crosby tied his franchise record with a 56-yard field goal on the Packers' second possession of the second half. The kick made the score 14-9. Had he missed it, the Falcons would have held their 14-6 lead while taking over near midfield.

What's next: The Packers will host the winless St. Louis Rams next Sunday at Lambeau Field. Six and oh, anybody?

Wrap-up: 49ers 48, Buccaneers 3

October, 9, 2011
Thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 48-3 loss against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park:

What it means: You can blame it on the long trip across the country. Or you can blame it on the short week after the “Monday Night Football’’ victory against Indianapolis. I’m not taking either route. I’m thinking the Bucs weren’t as good as their record might have indicated. We’d seen some holes even when the Bucs were winning against ordinary or bad teams. The 49ers are pretty good, but it’s not like Joe Montana or Steve Young is leading this team. San Francisco was able to exploit all sorts of Tampa Bay's problems on offense and defense. The Bucs (3-2) fell out of their tie for first place in the NFC South with the New Orleans Saints, who improved to 4-1 with a victory against Carolina.

Injury of note: Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy suffered what appeared to be a serious ankle injury in the first half and did not return. That would be a huge loss if McCoy is out for an extended period because the second-year pro recently had been emerging as a force in the middle of the defensive line. Fellow second-year pro Brian Price also has been playing well. The Bucs can fall back on Roy Miller and Frank Okam, but neither of them has McCoy’s potential for explosiveness.

Stat of the week: Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. That gives Freeman six interceptions for the season. That’s the same number of interceptions he threw all of last season.

Stat of the week II: The Bucs had a chance to put together their first four-game winning streak since Raheem Morris took over as coach in 2009. That didn’t happen.

What’s next: The Buccaneers host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. The schedule doesn’t get any easier after that. The Bucs will leave soon after the Saints’ game to head to London, where they will play a “home’’ game against the Chicago Bears. After that, the Bucs get a bye week, but they have to travel to New Orleans to play the Saints again the following week.

Wrap-up: Raiders 25, Texans 20

October, 9, 2011
Thoughts on the Houston Texans' 25-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders at Reliant Stadium:

What it means: We gave the Texans leeway when they failed to put away the Saints and lost late in New Orleans. They don’t get that benefit out of this home game, where they did more than enough to beat Oakland and could have finished the day alone atop the AFC South. Instead they fell to 3-2 and gave life to all the same old questions about their ability to finish someone off when they have the chance. Matt Schaub threw a horrific interception to Michael Huff in the end zone on the last play of the game when he could have thrown the ball away and had one more play.

What I didn’t like: It’s hard for me to get beyond that pick. Did I make it clear just how bad it was? Schaub was flushed to his left, and Jacoby Jones tried to shift direction to move with him instead of against him. But Schaub tried to sneak it to him going right and Huff was right there. Awful. If Schaub didn't decide to throw it away, he had a better chance to run it in.

What I liked: They talked all week about needing to spread the ball around and find alternatives with Andre Johnson out. And they got 100-yard receiving days from running back Arian Foster and tight end Joel Dreessen and touchdown catches from receiver Kevin Walter and Dreessen.

Huge injury concern: Mario Williams suffered a pectoral injury as he sacked Jason Campbell and didn’t return to action. If he’s lost for games or, in the worst scenario for the season, the Texans would be in huge trouble. Brooks Reed can do well, but Williams is a singular pass rushing force.

Struggled: The Texans inability to run was a big issue. They turned 25 carries into only 70 yards, which put the game on Schaub. He threw for 416 yards and two touchdowns but also had two picks, one of which you may have heard about.

What’s next: The Texans head to Baltimore to face the Ravens. They’ll likely be without their best player on offense, Johnson, and they best player on defense, Williams.

Wrap-up: Bengals 30, Jaguars 20

October, 9, 2011
Thoughts on the Jacksonville Jaguars' 30-20 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field:

What it means: The Jaguars have lost four in a row and don’t have much reason to hope right now. Their numbers weren't terrible against Cincinnati but they didn’t make the clutch plays they needed, left themselves in a desperate situation at the end and handed away a touchdown on the game’s final lateral-fest that made the losing margin bigger than it needed to be. No matter the margin, a losing streak, a rookie quarterback and a coach under increasing fire is an ugly combination.

What I didn’t like: Beyond Maurice Jones-Drew, who ran for 4.5 yards a carry, and a 74-yard Blaine Gabbert-to-Jason Hill touchdown pass on a busted coverage, there weren’t enough big plays. The Jaguars were unable to translate another reasonably good defensive effort, in which they limited Cincinnati to 77 rushing yards, into a win.

What I liked: Jones-Drew spun and then smashed straight into Bengals cornerback Leon Hall, knocking the defender flat on his back before rumbling into the end zone for a 6-yard touchdown. Beautiful power running.

Battle of the rookie quarterbacks: Statistically, Andy Dalton and Gabbert were almost a wash. Dalton threw a pick, after which he tackled Dwight Lowery near the goal line and saw his defense limit the Jaguars to a field goal. Gabbert lost a shotgun snap he wasn’t ready for from Brad Meester that gave the Bengals the ball back late with a 3-point lead to preserve.

What’s next: The Jaguars draw a trip to Pittsburgh, which is feeling much better about itself after a rout of the Titans. It’s the last of four consecutive games against the AFC South for the Steelers -- who have beaten Indy and Tennessee and lost to Houston.

Wrap-up: Raiders 25, Texans 20

October, 9, 2011
A look at the most emotional game of the NFL season and it’s not even close:

What it means: Could you think of a more emotional and a bigger regular-season game in the history of the Oakland Raiders? Sunday’s game has become the story of the NFL season. Oakland's win in the final seconds is breathtaking and fitting just a day after the death of legendary owner Al Davis.

Tomorrow’s talker: What was Matt Schaub thinking? He had a chance to walk into the end zone on the final play of the game from inside Oakland’s 5-yard line. Instead, he tossed the ball Oakland safety Michael Huff in the end zone to cement the incredible win.

Trending: Oakland’s defense gave up too many big plays and it was often out of position. But In the end, it kept Houston off the scoreboard and made the big play when it counted.

What’s next: The Raiders’ schedule softens considerably. The 3-2 Raiders are in great shape. They have back-to-back home games against Cleveland (which should be an emotional scene in the Raiders’ first home game since Davis’ death) and then Kansas City before having their bye. The Raiders then have another home game against the Broncos. Frankly, it will be a major disappointment if the Raiders don’t run the table in these next three games. This is a great opportunity for Oakland.

Wrap-up: Chiefs 28, Colts 24

October, 9, 2011
Some quick thoughts from the Kansas City Chiefs' 28-24 victory against the Indianapolis Colts.

What it means: The Chiefs are alive. After being the worst team in the NFL in the first two weeks of the season, Todd Haley’s beat-up bunch has shown great spunk. Kansas City has now won two straight games and is 2-3. This win highlights a tough early season for the Chiefs. They trailed 17-0 in the second quarter. For this team to come back on the road is a major statement as the Chiefs head into their bye week.

Tomorrow’s talker: Matt Cassel had a great game. After a slow start to the season, Cassel has steadily improved. He was tremendous Sunday. Cassel led the Chiefs’ wild comeback as he threw four touchdown passes. Cassel was 21-of-29 for 257 yards. He was not intercepted. Cassel is doing his best to show that even in this injury-plagued season for the Chiefs that he is the answer at quarterback.

Trending: Running back Jackie Battle is taking over for Thomas Jones as the Chiefs’ top running back option with Jamaal Charles out for the season. Battle had 119 yards on 19 carries. Perhaps the Chiefs have found an answer for a balanced offense with Charles out. Battle gave his team a huge boost.

No Luck? Now that the Chiefs have won two straight games, they are out of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes until further notice.

Rookie not ready: First-round pick receiver Jonathan Baldwin was inactive. He practiced fully all week. Expect Baldwin to start playing after the Chiefs’ bye next week. He suffered a thumb injury in a reported fight with Jones in training camp.

What’s next: Considering the way this season started, the Chiefs have to feel great going into their bye. This team appears far from simply playing out the string,

Wrap-up: Seahawks 36, Giants 25

October, 9, 2011
Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 36-25 victory over the New York Giants in Week 5:

What it means: The Seahawks head into their bye week with a 2-3 record and significant momentum after pulling off an unexpected road victory in the 10 a.m. PT time slot. This victory, following a big comeback in defeat against Atlanta, casts the Seahawks as a young team heading in the right direction. Charlie Whitehurst's 27-yard touchdown pass to rookie Doug Baldwin after Seattle lost starting quarterback Tarvaris Jackson to a shoulder injury [UPDATE: Pete Carroll told reporters Jackson suffered a pectoral injury] gives Whitehurst credibility moving forward if Jackson needs time to recover.

What I liked: The Seahawks were the better team, particularly early and late. They built off the progress shown during the second half of their 30-28 defeat against Atlanta a week earlier. Seattle allowed no sacks in that game, a victory for the team's young offensive line. This week, Marshawn Lynch and the line took advantage of a Giants defense that has struggled against the run recently. Lynch's 47-yard run helped set the tone early. On defense, Earl Thomas ended his 12-game interception drought and, through his active play, again showed why he's one of the best safeties around. Tony Hargrove's third-quarter safety was another huge play for the defense, breaking a 14-14 tie. Interceptions from Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner and Kam Chancellor showcased some of the Seahawks' young talent on defense. Browner returned his 90 yards for the clinching touchdown.

What I didn't like: Lynch lost a fumble at the Giants' 13-yard line. Fullback Michael Robinson lost one at the Giants' 2. Those first-half turnovers changed the game for Seattle and prevented it from taking control. The Seahawks' inability to stop Giants receiver Victor Cruz, even when they had good coverage, also stood out -- at least until Browner's clinching interception on a pass intended for Cruz.

Rising star: Baldwin continued his impressive play for the Seahawks as an undrafted rookie free agent. He caught eight passes for 136 yards and a touchdown. Jackson and Whitehurst spread the ball around to players other than Sidney Rice. Baldwin and Ben Obomanu each caught a touchdown pass.

Deja vu: Last season, a victory at Chicago in the Seahawks' fifth game proved critical in their ability to win the NFC West. Scoring another road upset in the fifth game improves the Seahawks' chances considerably in 2011. This was a game most of us would have marked down as a likely defeat heading into the season.

What's next: The Seahawks have a bye in Week 6 before visiting Cleveland in Week 7.

Wrap-up: Saints 30, Panthers 27

October, 9, 2011
Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints’ 30-27 victory against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium:

What it means: The gap in competitive balance between the top and bottom of the NFC South has narrowed. The gap in the standings has not. As they’ve been doing most of the season, the Panthers kept things very close. They played a New Orleans team that’s been to the playoffs the last two seasons very tightly. But, ultimately, Drew Brees and the Saints rallied to score (on a touchdown pass to Pierre Thomas) with 50 seconds remaining. That puts the Saints at 4-1 and, depending on how Tampa Bay does in its later game at San Francisco, no worse than a share of first place in the division. The Panthers are much improved and there’s little doubt they’ll pull of some upsets later in the year. But the bottom line is Carolina is 1-4.

Weirdest scene of the day: John Kasay in a Saints’ uniform. Yes, this was the fifth game Kasay has played for the Saints. But seeing him go against the Panthers in Bank of America Stadium seemed very odd. Kasay joined the Panthers when they were an expansion team in 1995 and was with them until he was released as the lockout came to an end.

Weirdest call of the day: A timeout by the Panthers with two seconds left in the first half as the Saints were scrambling to get on the field to kick a field goal. It appeared the clock would have run out before New Orleans could get a kick off. But the timeout allowed the Saints to get set and Kasay made the field goal to give New Orleans a 20-13 halftime lead.

Unconventional wisdom: Who says the option can’t work in the NFL? It can when Carolina’s Cam Newton is running it. He pitched to DeAngelo Williams out of the option for a 69-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Newton also kept the ball on an option play for a crucial first down early in the fourth quarter.

Keeping his cool: Carolina receiver Steve Smith got into a scuffle after catching a touchdown pass late in the first quarter. That’s not unusual for the feisty Smith. But before you go saying Smith was up to his old tricks, he wasn’t. Smith didn’t start this one. New Orleans safety Roman Harper started it when he hit Smith, after it was clear the receiver already had crossed the goal line.

Rising star: Much like safety Malcolm Jenkins did last year, New Orleans cornerback Patrick Robinson is emerging in his second season. Robinson picked off Newton early and had a nice return to set up a New Orleans touchdown early in the game.

What’s next: The Saints play the Buccaneers next Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. The Panthers play the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome next Sunday.

Wrap-up: Vikings 34, Cardinals 10

October, 9, 2011
A few thoughts on the Minnesota Vikings' first victory of the season, a 34-10 win against the Arizona Cardinals:

What it means: The Vikings avoided the second 0-5 start in franchise history with the first victory in Leslie Frazier's tenure as their permanent coach. (Frazier was 3-3 in an interim capacity last year.) They are now 1-4 heading into a two-game swing through the NFC North.

Salty atmosphere: Sunday might have been the brightest moment of the Vikings' season, but their inability to hold leads to this point made for a nervous and itchy crowd at the Metrodome. Not even a 28-0 first-quarter lead felt safe until midway through the fourth. Fans chanted for rookie quarterback Christian Ponder and booed the Vikings off the field at halftime when Frazier was content to take a 28-3 lead to the locker room rather than push the ball upfield.

First quarter romp: The Vikings' big lead featured three Adrian Peterson touchdowns, but field position was the big story. Three of the four touchdown drives started inside the Cardinals' 26-yard line thanks to a pair of turnovers and a 22-yard punt return from Marcus Sherels. Their fourth scoring drive was aided by a 36-yard pass interference call on a pass that quarterback Donovan McNabb overthrew in the direction of receiver Michael Jenkins.

McNabbWatch: McNabb completed 10 of 21 passes for 166 yards and one rushing touchdown, once again playing below his career standards but well enough to ensure the starting job moving forward.

Edge rushing: The Cardinals couldn't block Vikings defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison, each of whom finished with two sacks. Robison also induced an illegal-use-of-hands penalty on right tackle Jeremy Bridges, nullifying a touchdown that would have pulled the Cardinals to 31-17 midway through the fourth quarter.

Personnel changes: Frazier pledged to stay the course after an 0-4 start, but he did make two notable changes. As we've already discussed, receiver Bernard Berrian was deactivated despite not appearing on the injury report this week. We'll let you know how Frazier explains that move. Also, cornerback Cedric Griffin didn't play until the second series because for what might have been a disciplinary reason. Griffin, meanwhile, didn't seem worse for the wear after Cardinals tailback Beanie Wells steamrolled him and dislodged his helmet in the second quarter. It was one of the most violent collisions of the NFL season, to be sure.

What's next: The Vikings will play in front of a national television audience next Sunday night at the Chicago Bears.

Wrap-up: Bengals 30, Jaguars 20

October, 9, 2011
Thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals' 30-20 win at the Jacksonville Jaguars:

What it means: The young Bengals are starting to show they are able to handle some success. After a comeback win over Buffalo, Cincinnati rallied once again in the final two minutes of the game. At 3-2, the Bengals are one win away from matching their win total from last season.

Thumbs up: Bengals' poise. Down 20-16 in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati took advantage of great field position (a 22-yard punt gave the Bengals the ball at the Jacksonville 28) and punched the ball into the end zone on seven plays when it couldn't settle for a field goal. Calling a 2-yard run on third-and-goal from the 2-yard line was risky but successful. Bernard Scott scored the touchdown, but left guard Nate Livings and center Kyle Cook opened the hole. Wonder if Cedric Benson will be upset that Scott was the one who got the touchdown.

Red hot red-zone defense: Yes, a breakdown in coverage allowed for a wide-open 74-yard touchdown that put the Jaguars ahead 20-16 in the fourth quarter. But the Bengals defense didn't allow a touchdown twice when the Jaguars had a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line or closer.

Receiving praise: Rookie receiver A.J. Green is showing why he was one of the top prospects coming out of the draft. He had five catches for 90 yards including a 37-yard touchdown grab that tied the game at 7.

What's next: The Bengals return home to play the Indianapolis Colts before their bye week.

Wrap-up: Vikings 34, Cardinals 10

October, 9, 2011
Thoughts on the Arizona Cardinals' 34-10 road defeat against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5:

What it means: The Cardinals are 1-4 heading into their bye week and looking like a team that is regressing. Falling behind 28-0 in the first quarter against an 0-4 team reflects poorly on Arizona coaches and players alike. Quarterback Kevin Kolb contributed to the problems early and will rightfully face tough questions about his production to this point in the season. Arizona has now gone 3-13 in its last 16 games under Ken Whisenhunt, who will also face some tough questions in the weeks ahead.

What I liked: The Cardinals turned the 28-0 deficit through one quarter into a 28-10 score by the third quarter. They stopped the bleeding, in other words, but by then the damage was done. Beanie Wells, who entered the game leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns, added another one in this game.

What I didn't like: Arizona set up the Vikings in prime field position repeatedly in the first quarter. The Cardinals lost the punting and punt-coverage game early, allowing Minnesota to begin its first two drives at its own 42 and at the Arizona 18. Kolb's interception and lost fumble on a sack gave the Vikings possession in Cardinals territory two more times. A fourth-quarter pick compounded Kolb's problems. When Arizona tried to get something going in the second quarter, rookie tight end Rob Housler dropped a play-action strike from Kolb for what should have been a decent gain. An Arizona defense that had struggled mostly against the pass had no answer for Adrian Peterson and the Vikings' ground game. Peterson topped 100 yards rushing and scored three first-half touchdowns. The Cardinals' inability to get Larry Fitzgerald more involved was another problem.

Lay off the line, a little: Ripping the Cardinals' offensive line for poor second-half pass protection would be easy, but protecting the passer in the Metrodome while trailing by a wide margin is tough duty for any team. The Cardinals also lost left guard Daryn Colledge, arguably their best offensive lineman, to a head injury.

Historic performance: The Cardinals became the 11th team since 1940 to allow 28 or more point while scoring none in a first quarter, according to Pro Football Reference.

What's next: The Cardinals have a bye in Week 6 before facing the Pittsburgh Steelers at University of Phoenix Stadium.




Thursday, 9/18
Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22