Week 5’s winners and losers
Week 5 in the NFL was a wild one. Three of the early-window games – not counting the Falcons topping the Jets in the really early window in London – came down to electric finishes. And Packers, Patriots and Vikings won their games on field goals at or near the end of regulation or in overtime, on a day in which place kickers struggled at historic levels.
We also saw an upstart team with a rookie coach, the Los Angeles Chargers, outlast another powerful AFC opponent in the Browns in what could end up being a potential playoff preview. The same went for a rematch of last year’s AFC championship game, though this time, it was the Bills who prevailed over the Chiefs in convincing fashion.
Elsewhere, a rough week got tougher for embattled Jaguars coach Urban Meyer, who saw his team drop to 0-5.
Here are the Week 5 winners and losers.
L.A. Chargers: In the track meet that was a 47-42 victory, the Chargers outslugged a worthy contender in the AFC, the Cleveland Browns. Questions about defensive lapses abound for both teams after this game, but that the Chargers had to battle back from a 14-point, thirdquarter deficit shows just how far Los Angeles (4-1) has come in Brandon Staley’s first season as head coach.
First, let’s highlight what the Chargers did do well on defense. One of the main reasons Los Angeles was able to keep the deficit manageable was because in three of Cleveland’s first five trips inside the red zone, it clamped down and forced the Browns to settle for two short field goals and forced one turnover on downs. But quarterback Justin Herbert is quickly becoming one of the young star passers in the entire NFL. Herbert is on a historic pace in his young career, bolstered by his 26-of-43 performance against the Browns for 398 yards with four touchdowns.
Arizona: A team coached by Kliff Kingsbury always was going to have dynamic playmakers on offense. But the Cardinals have remained the lone undefeated team in the NFL also because of a really talented and efficient defense. Going up against a dynamic athlete and passer in 49ers rookie Trey Lance, who was making his first career start, the Cardinals prevailed, 17-10.
Arizona was excellent in high-leverage situations. The Cardinals limited the 49ers to 3-of-11 conversions on third downs, kept the Niners out of the end zone in their only goal-to-go scenario of the game and stopped San Francisco on fourth downs on four out of five tries.
Lions: Yes, they fell in heartbreak, again. And players and coaches in the NFL almost never want to hear about silver linings. But what rookie coach Dan Campbell is doing in Detroit, getting his team to punch above its weight and nearly pull off two improbable upsets in as many weeks, should be admired.
The Lions lost to the Vikings, 19-17, on a crushing game-winning field goal after Detroit had battled back from a 10-point deficit with a little more than five minutes left to play. This came just one week after the Lions lost (also 19-17) when Ravens kicker Justin Tucker set an NFL record with a 66-yard, game-winning field goal.
Chiefs: The Kansas City Chiefs – at least as they currently stand – are not the same team that has dominated the AFC. The Bills smashed the Chiefs, 38-20, in a rematch of the AFC title game. And for the Chiefs (2-3), it’s familiar issues that have plagued this team in 2021. It starts on defense, where the secondary is a mess and gives up far too many explosive passing plays.
But the offense and slow starts are a problem, too. Despite upgrades to the offensive line, the unit still suffers from lapses in pass protection.
Kickers: The NFL, when it changed its rule in 2015 to push back the extra point, wanted the play to have more drama. In Week 5, the league got its wish. There were 12 missed extra points going into Monday night’s game. Extra points weren’t the only kicking struggle. There have also been 12 missed field goals.
Urban Meyer: With each passing day, Urban Meyer is showing that the head coaching job of the Jacksonville Jaguars is too big for him. It wasn’t so much that the Jaguars (0-5) lost to the AFC Southrival Titans, 37-19. It was the effort they showed. Early in the third quarter, with the Titans holding an 11-point lead, the Jaguars defense did not look interested in tackling Titans running back Derrick Henry on a 9-yard touchdown rush.
Brian Flores and Chris Grier: Memories of Miami’s surprise 10-win season in coach Brian Flores’ second season with the Dolphins feel so long ago. And after the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers throttled the Dolphins, 45-17, both Flores and general manager Chris Grier have some significant questions to answer.
The Tampa roster is better than Miami’s. It might be the best in the entire league. But Flores, a coach with a specialty on defense, spent 15 seasons on the Patriots’ coaching staff, each of those when Tom Brady played in New England. He should have at least a decent idea of how to fluster Brady.
Instead, Brady completed 30-of-41 passes for 411 yards with four touchdowns.
Panthers: They had a hot start to the season, but after consecutive losses, Carolina has regressed to the mean. Granted, last week’s defeat came against a powerful Cowboys team and both have been with star running back Christian McCaffrey sidelined. But Carolina (3-2) blew a 12-point lead it held in the second quarter and squandered several chances to extend their lead in a disappointing 2118 loss against the Eagles.
Carolina’s defense held its end of the bargain early in the game. Other than the three first downs the unit gave up on Philadelphia’s end-of-half drive in the second quarter, the Panthers had allowed the Eagles to move the chains just twice in their other 10 possessions to start the game. The Panthers defense constantly put the offense in great field position, but Carolina stalled when it got into plus territory. Quarterback Sam Darnold has now thrown five interceptions in the last two weeks after tossing three against the Eagles.