NFL Week 5 Takeaways: What We Learned This Week
Week 5 brought many more talking points in and around the NFL. Connor Brosnan breaks down some of the key narratives surrounding another epic week.
Follow Connor on Twitter: @CLBrosnan93
Burrow brought back down to earth
Well, that momentum that the Bengals might have picked up after getting their first win of the season last week never materialised.
It was always going to be a tough ask going up against one of the Super Bowl favourites, but the Bengals were completely dominated right from the first kickoff and Joe Burrow looked outmatched throughout. He didn't have much support from the run game, but apart from a few big plays Burrow couldn't get anything going with the passing game, only throwing for 183 yards with an interception.
Burrow himself wasn't the sole issue, the Bengals just had nothing working with the pass protection being a particular embarrassment as the rookie QB was sacked 7 times, fumbling twice, with fellow star rookie Patrick Queen returning one for a touchdown. We all knew this was going to be a struggle this season so this sort of result is no surprise, but the Bengals can't make a habit of dropping a performance like this and desperately need a much better showing next week.
Up until a consolation field goal in the 4th quarter it looked like Burrow was going to end up with an unwanted piece of history by being shutout by what has to be said was a very impressive Ravens side. It's not a disaster in the grand scheme of things for Joe Burrow, but will definitely be a huge learning curve for him as he discovers just how unforgiving the NFL can be, because this will not be the sort of outing he'll have ever experienced before.
Steelers find another star
I don't know how they do it, but the Pittsburgh Steelers ability to find a star wide receiver in the NFL Draft is unmatched. Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Juju Smith-Schuster and a whole host of others in between have all ended up having huge success either in Pittsburgh or elsewhere in the league, and it's a track record that very few other teams can claim to be close to matching.
More often than not drafting a receiver is one of the biggest hit-or-miss picks. Yet somehow the Steelers seem to get it right the vast majority of the time. The newest name to add to that list seems to be Chase Claypool. The 2nd round pick of the 2020 draft joined a strong receiving group but is already on course to put his name right near the top of the depth chart.
In week 2 against Denver he showed us a glimpse of what he can offer with an 84-yard TD reception, the longest offensive play of the season in the NFL. But it was week 5 where the league stood up and took notice of Big Ben's latest offensive weapon, when Claypool went off for 116 yards and 4 touchdowns. Mind-blowing numbers for a rookie receiver but his size and speed were a major threat for the Eagles defense and they had no answer for him, so naturally Roethlisberger just kept feeding him the ball.
The Steelers are now 4-0 for the first time in the veteran QB's career and with the talent they've got on both sides of the ball there are very few teams that look stronger for a Super Bowl run this year, and they'll need more performances from the likes of Claypool to do that. The rookie receiving class for 2020 seems to be as strong as any in recent years, but Claypool just dropped the best performance of all so far.
Kansas City are human after all
Well, I don't think anybody truly expected Derek Carr to go into a shootout with Patrick Mahomes and come out on top. Recent history tells us that Carr and his Raiders can't get the better of the Chiefs, particularly in Kansas City and since they drafted Mahomes.
No matter how far ahead Las Vegas got in that game, I couldn't help but feel that the Raiders would still manage to throw it away. I feel like I've watched Kansas City go on huge second half comebacks every other week so naturally expected Mahomes to conjure up more magic and do it again. But fair play to Jon Gruden's team as they never let up and every time Kansas seemed like they would get some momentum going, the Raiders would end up hitting them again.
Generally, the pressure of the inevitable Mahomes comeback seems to get to teams and they crumble on both sides of the ball. Las Vegas seemed to almost relish the challenge and never stopped taking the game to their hosts. Huge credit has to go to Jon Gruden who seems to be making some solid progress with this team and you can definitely see the direction they're heading.
They're certainly not the pushovers they looked like they were at one point. With wins over the Chiefs and Saints this season, it's time to take the Raiders somewhat seriously. The defeat snapped a 13-game winning streak for the Chiefs and will serve as a reminder to the rest of the NFL that they can be beaten and just how to do so; relentless pressure.
Devastation for Dak
Only last week I was discussing the incredible numbers Dak Prescott has been putting up this year and how he was on course for an historic season despite the Cowboys themselves struggling. Then this week his world came crumbling down.
I can't remember ever feeling more uncomfortable watching an injury in any sport than I did when the camera panned to Prescott's broken ankle in the second half of their victory over the New York Giants. From the despair in Jim Nantz and Tony Romo's voices, to seeing Jason Garrett coming over to check on his former QB, now rival, to hearing the reception the 25,000 Cowboys fans that were allowed into AT&T Stadium gave him, it was a completely surreal moment and just brutal to think of what this could do for Dak's career.
It is somehow quite telling that the injury came on a play which ultimately was preventable but happened on a play where Prescott's determined attitude saw him fighting with Logan Ryan to try and reach the first down marker. His attitude has always been exactly what you would want from your leader and his performances recently have matched that.
There's a possibility that Sunday was the last time those fans get to see Prescott in a Cowboys uniform, but after all the well wishes were sent his way, talk immediately moved to the contract situation between Dak and Dallas. Turning down a huge offer before the season, Prescott was placed on a franchise tag. The likely move is that he would have been put on the tag again next season if another deal couldn't be finalised, and with the injury it now seems almost certain that he won't get the huge pay day he was hoping for from Dallas and possibly not at another franchise now, certainly not at this moment in time.
Chances are Dallas will place him on that tag again next season and see where things go into 2022, but this again shows the argument that players make that they're justified in sitting out years or insist on getting their huge deals when they do. Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL and things can change so dramatically that they should be paid when their value is at their highest.
The return of Alex Smith
Before we witnessed the horror injury to Dak Prescott, we got the complete other end of the scale with easily the NFL's best feel-good story coming to its conclusion with Washington QB Alex Smith making his return from his own devastating injury.
It has been nearly 2 years since Smith fractured his tibia and fibula in his right leg in a game against the Houston Texans, and it has been an incredibly long journey back for the former No.1 overall pick, which included so many complications from the injury that required him to have to undergo 17 surgeries. It's almost unfathomable to think somebody would even consider trying to get on the comeback trail at that point and not just call it a day, but that tells us all we need to know about Smith's state of mind.
Even when we were told he was planning to play again, many of us never really thought we'd see the day. So that moment on Sunday when he stepped onto the field for the first time since November 2018, to take the place of an injured Kyle Allen, is a moment I'm sure none of us will forget.
I think many of us were watching behind our hands from that first snap just hoping he could stay untouched and get out of there quickly. Instead, Allen remained out for the rest of the game and Smith was basically thrown right in at the deep end. The first time he was sacked was a particularly rude awakening when he really got to test how far his leg had recovered as he had to take the weight of the entire 280lb frame of Aaron Donald on his back. That was the first of 6 sacks on Smith, who was given absolutely no protection by that terrible offensive line.
Thankfully he made it through the game unscathed.
It wasn't the dream return in the sense of performance, but nobody really cared about that. Just the sight of seeing Alex Smith return to the field with his family cheering him on in the empty stadium was enough. It's just a shame that there wasn't a packed house in Washington to give the inevitable 2020 Comeback Player of the Year the reception he deserved.
Another one bites the dust
We're only in week 5 but we've already had our second head coach change of the NFL season, and it's another long serving coach too in Dan Quinn. The timing of the Bill O'Brien firing last week was surprising, but the fact he lost his job itself was not. This time though you'll be hard pressed to find anybody who is surprised by any element of the Atlanta Falcons parting company with Quinn.
Fresh off a loss to a surprisingly impressive division rival in the Carolina Panthers that saw the Falcons drop to 0-5 on the season, reports emerged that the Falcons had fired Quinn as well as their GM Thomas Dimitroff, and these were soon confirmed in a statement from owner Arthur Blank, a man who had stuck by Dan Quinn's side last season despite another poor season which many people thought would spell the end for him.
This is a franchise that has been crying out for a change for a while now and have been in a rut that they just haven't been able to get themselves out for the last 2 years. We can't forget the incredible job Dan Quinn did in the 2016 season which saw the Falcons reach Super Bowl 51 only to be beaten by the New England Patriots, but the manner of that defeat, throwing away a 28-3 lead, has haunted the franchise ever since and that sort of collapse has pretty much become commonplace for the Falcons recently.
A change of leadership and a rebuild of the organisation is desperately needed now to weed out that loser’s mentality that seems to have crept into what is in truth a very solid roster, particularly on offense.
Their defensive issues though have been long standing now and are more prevalent than ever this season. They rank 31st in passing yards allowed and no side has conceded more passing touchdowns than the Falcons this year.
Offensively they are no longer the same either. They can easily march up and down the field on teams, but their inability to turn those drives into the points that their stats suggest they should have had cost them multiple times this season. It has felt inevitable that Quinn was on his way out, and the Falcons have decided to just accept that now and begin the rebuilding phase early, and who knows, talk today suggests that could include moving on from quarterback Matt Ryan.