Week 5 in the NFL brought a few wild upsets, another coaching change and a devastating injury.
The season of the reigning NFC champion San Francisco 49ers may be unraveling after another loss. The Atlanta Falcons fired both their coach, Dan Quinn, and their general manager, Thomas Dimitroff. And Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a compound ankle fracture and dislocation that almost assuredly will end his season.
Meanwhile, some teams like the Cleveland Browns are already starting to string together a series of impressive performances as they look to strengthen their early-season resumes for the playoffs.
Here are the Week 5 winners and losers:
Could this finally be the year when Cleveland is a contender? The Browns toppled the Indianapolis Colts, 32-23, in a matchup of 3-1 teams. Cleveland has now won four in a row and has scored 30 or more points in each of those victories.
The Browns are 4-1 for the first time since 1994, when Bill Belichick was the team's head coach and Alabama coach Nick Saban was the defensive coordinator. The second half revealed some offensive struggles — the team's possessions after intermission were an interception, punt, punt, interception, field goal. There also were a few mental lapses and drops by receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. But the Browns showed just how vital their small tweaks this offseason have been. Adding offensive line coach Bill Callahan and investing in the group with rookie offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. and veteran right tackle Jack Conklin have helped quarterback Baker Mayfield settle in the pocket.
We may have seen a rookie become a legitimate star in real time when Steelers receiver Chase Claypool scored four total touchdowns in a 38-29 victory against the Philadelphia Eagles. Credit Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner for moving Claypool all over the field to exploit favorable matchups.
The Steelers put rookie Chase Claypool in a position to succeed in his breakout four TD performance today.
All four of Claypool’s touchdowns had over a 10% TD probability (three exceeded 40%), according to our expected YAC and rush yards models.#PHIvsPIT | #HereWeGopic.twitter.com/aPIUdyeXcv
It was a remarkable day for Claypool, as the only other rookie to score more touchdowns in a single game was Chicago Bears great Gale Sayers in 1965. And for the Steelers, who have a history of drafting and developing receivers into legitimate play makers, this is just the latest case of the team reloading at a vital position. And for a 38-year-old Ben Roethlisberger, having another versatile target only makes the undefeated Steelers that much more dangerous.
Sometimes a change is just what a team needs to reset. And after the Texans fired former coach and general manager Bill O'Brien last week, Crennel stepped in as the interim. Houston, with its 30-14 victory against the Jaguars, overcame some recent problems.
Even though the performance was against a weaker opponent, for the first time in 17 games, including the postseason, the Texans put up 30 points. The offensive line, which entered Sunday having allowed a league-worst 16 sacks in four games, allowed Deshaun Watson to be taken down just once. And Crennel, as the oldest coach in NFL history at 73, got the victory.
Not only was he active for the first time, but the Washington Football Team quarterback took the next step in his remarkable comeback from a leg injury that required 17 surgeries. Smith stepped in after starter Kyle Allen was knocked out of the game with an arm injury. Washington lost to the Rams, 30-10, and Smith was sacked six times. His numbers (nine of 17 for 37 yards) were pedestrian.
But that Smith made it all the way back to this point is something worth celebrating. Throughout his career, he has been a steady passer who limits his mistakes. Washington coach Ron Rivera said Allen would be the starter if healthy after second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins was demoted to the third team. The team is in a rebuild, but Smith should be lauded for his perseverance and work ethic, no matter what happens with the quarterback position in Washington.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) leaves the field with an injury in the third quarter against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium. (Photo: Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports)
This is exactly what makes the franchise tag and contract negotiations all the more urgent for young, star players. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a significant ankle injury in a 37-34 that will require a lengthy recovery. Prescott's face, tears streaming down his cheeks as he was carted off, said just how devastating this is for Prescott.
4️⃣ 🙏 pic.twitter.com/k3R7WcKzfW
After tough and ultimately fruitless negotiations with Dallas' front office, Prescott signed the franchise tender the team gave him in March. It gave him a guaranteed salary of $31.4 million for the 2020 season. But after the league year ends, he is set to become a free agent, though the Cowboys could tag him again. Now facing a potentially career-altering injury, Prescott's long-term stability is clouded in uncertainty.
Kansas City Chiefs
To be clear, even with a 40-32 letdown against the Las Vegas Raiders, the Chiefs are still one of the top teams in the NFL. But the loss exposed some serious issues facing the defending Super Bowl champs, and both involved passing. On defense, they allowed Derek Carr to complete 22 of 31 passes for 347 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Often, it was breakdowns in coverage that led to massive chunk plays, including a 72-yard touchdown to rookie Henry Ruggs III, a 59-yard score to Nelson Agholor, and a 42-yard catch to Hunter Renfrow on a pivotal third-and-18 in the fourth quarter.
3rd and 18 means nothing to @renfrowhunter.#LVvsKC | CBS pic.twitter.com/6el1lYBZk3
On offense, Kansas City stagnated after the Raiders appeared to unlock a potential blueprint to contain Patrick Mahomes. Las Vegas often sent three or just four receivers and dropped back additional defensive backs. It also left a defender to spy to make sure Mahomes didn't have outlets when he broke the pocket. And all of that worked only because the Raiders' pass rush generated pressure.
Even though 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has backed Garoppolo as the team's starter, an abysmal performance in a 43-17 loss against the Dolphins may alter that support, even if just a little. Garoppolo, who made his return from a sprained ankle that forced him to miss the previous two games, completed seven of 17 passes for 77 yards with two interceptions and was benched coming out of halftime in favor of C.J. Beathard.
Garoppolo was off his game and may have been limited still by the injury. He often threw off his back foot, and the rest of his mechanics suffered from his poor footowkr. Shanahan said during the game that the move was "to protect Jimmy" and added after the game that the ankle was an issue. Garoppolo has been underwhelming this season. For the Niners (2-3) to turn their season around, they're going to need much more out of their franchise quarterback.
Given that the NFL isn't playing in a bubble, it was seemingly an inevitability that COVID-19 would force the league to adjust its schedule at some point this season. And while the league and its players have done an excellent job of keeping transmission low, the situations involving the Tennessee Titans and New England Patriots show that even when most of the league isn't facing a string of infections, just two outbreaks can have a cascading effect on the slate.
Great @NFL games happening now, more to come. A look at schedule changes for the weeks ahead. pic.twitter.com/r60l7KwgG0
The Titans last played on Sept. 27. On Sunday, as they prepared for their game against the Bills that got pushed back to Tuesday, another staffer tested positive and the team again temporarily closed its facility. That was the 24th confirmed infection since Sept. 24. The Patriots, meanwhile, closed their facility for the third time in 10 days.
So far, the league has managed to piece a schedule together, including an announcement Sunday that affected eight teams. But the virus incubation period and limitations of testing as a mitigation measure could hint at future issues. And some teams can't afford more disruptions, with no more wiggle room for their scheduled bye weeks, as infections are increasing in many regions across the country. Moving forward, flexibility will be at a premium, and an 18th week added at the end of the season to make up for any potential lost games might just be necessary.
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