Brady's return, Wentz's first loss and more of Week 5's biggest stories
- Controversial calls, back-and-forth finishes and costly quarterback mistakes have dominated Week 5. A quick look at the stories that mattered from Sunday.
Week 5 has been a cavalcade of showing true colors. Tom Brady made his valiant return without an ounce of rust. Meanwhile, the Carson Wentz train hit a bump on the road to perfection.
John Elway looked like a genius as Brock Osweiler continues to disappoint in Houston, while the man Osweiler replaced, Brian Hoyer, has played well enough in Chicago to likely grab the baton from a downtrodden Jay Cutler.
Read on for more of Week 5's intriguing quarterback drama, plus Frank Gore record-climbing performance, Steve Smith's blip on the road to 1000 catches and much more.
Carson Wentz finally had a rookie moment, and the Eagles lost to Detroit
When Carson Wentz jogged onto the field with one minute and 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter with the Eagles trailing the Lions by one, I immediately assumed he was going to lead a game-winning drive because a) What can’t Wentz do? and b) What team is better suited to give up a rookie quarterback’s first-career game-winning drive than the Lions? Then, the unthinkable happened: Wentz threw his first interception of the season, and the Lions escaped with a 24–23 victory.
Wentz has been phenomenal so far this season, and was solid again in Detroit on Sunday. He completed over 75% of his passes, throwing for over 200 yards and two touchdowns. A major key to his success this season has been an ability to avoid turnovers, but Wentz's 0% interception rate was always unsustainable, and he was finally picked off on the first play of his potential comeback drive, as Darius Slay nabbed a deep ball intended for Nelson Agholor.
It was a rare rookie mistake from Wentz, who’s played within himself even as the hysteria has grown through the first five weeks of the season. The pass wasn’t the most ill-advised throw, but it was certainly impatient, as Wentz had time on the clock to dink-and-dunk down the field instead of launching a ball deep into double coverage on first down. The rookie’s first interception coincided with the Eagles’ first loss, as Philly dropped to 3–1 on the season.
(The Lions, by the way, came away with a win to save their season. Detroit is now 2–3, but will need Matthew Stafford to play more consistently to keep playoff hopes alive.)
The Eagles’ first loss in no way casts a pall on what’s been a shockingly great start to the season. Now Wentz will face his latest test in responding to a tight loss—and it’s hard to imagine him not responding well.
The first-place Cowboys look like real deal in rout of Bengals
Maybe Cowboys rainmakers Stephen and Jerry Jones know what they’re doing after all. At the very least, the jackpot they uncovered in the 2016 draft is undeniable. Fourth-round quarterback Dak Prescott has already established himself as NFL ready to the point that some have suggested a controversy will be brewing when Tony Romo returns from his back injury. But it was first-round draft pick Ezekiel Elliott who put on a clinic today in Dallas to the tune of 123 rushing yards, two touchdowns and a whopping 8.6 rushing yards per carry. The Cowboys routed Cincinnati 28-14, won their fourth straight and now assume sole possession of first-place in the NFC East.
Imagine if I told you Dallas would be without Romo, not to mention Dez Bryant and Orlando Scandrick, and this would be the game that made the league notice.
Prescott attempted his 155th pass without an interception. And the explosive Elliott was simply phenomenal, finding gaps, staying upright and turning on the jets given the opportunity, like on a thrilling 60-yard TD in the third quarter. As Elliott crossed the plane into the end zone, television cameras panned from a celebratory owners box (sans Chris Christie) to a giddy, relaxed Romo keeping a stronghold on the sidelines.
That’s the mood in Dallas these days. Relaxed, hopeful, aware of a loaded roster that starts with a dominant offensive line that was all the more improved today with the return of tackle Tyron Smith. The road ahead is treacherous but manageable given the roster talent. Next week Dallas travels to Green Bay, followed by a bye. Then they host the 3-1 Eagles, likely for divisional supremacy.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, get used to reading a lot about the Cowboys because barring catastrophe, Dallas is the real deal.
Watch: Tom Brady throws first touchdown pass since return from suspension
Tom Brady didn’t take long to throw his first touchdown pass of the season.
Brady returned Sunday from a four game suspension and threw a seven-yard TD to Martellus Bennett in the first quarter.
The score put New England up 14–7, after Brady led a drive earlier in the quarter that culminated in a LeGarrette Blount touchdown run.
Brady found Bennett for two more touchdowns, giving the veteran tight end his third career multi-touchdown game and his first three-score outing.
The second was a five-yard score in the second quarter and the third was a 37-yard strike in the third quarter.
The Patriots went 3–1 during Brady’s absence, with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett handling the quarterback duties.
Brock Osweiler hasn't looked like the answer for the Texans
In Brock Osweiler’s defense, the Vikings have made everyone—from Odell Beckham to Aaron Rodgers—look pedestrian on offense so far this season. But Osweiler was pitiful for the second time in an important road game for the Texans this season, finishing 19 of 42 for 184 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and after a 31–13 loss to Minnesota it’s fair to question whether Houston is any closer than it was last year to finding a quarterback.
Osweiler has already thrown seven interceptions in five games this season, compared to six he threw in 10 games last year. He hasn’t broken a passer rating of 90 yet, or thrown for more than 300 yards in a single game. The Texans offense also hasn’t gotten an incredible amount of help from the running game, where Lamar Miller—despite carrying a big load—is averaging the fewest yards per carry of his career.
Osweiler received big money in the off-season, and he’s owed even more cash next year. Realistically, the Texans are stuck with Osweiler through 2017 before it becomes financially responsible to let him go. It’s the modern, standard contract for a non-elite NFL quarterback, but Osweiler’s deal hasn’t proven to be a smart gamble so far. And while Houston’s offense has struggled, the Broncos—who let Osweiler walk—have hummed along with whoever they’ve played at quarterback. And the man Osweiler replaced in Houston, Brian Hoyer, is on the verge of stealing the Bears’ starting job from Jay Cutler after posting gaudy passing stats for three straight weeks. Hoyer, ironically, hasn’t had a passer rating under 90 all season.
Of course, the Texans are still 3–2 despite Sunday’s loss, which is partly a testament to the talent on the roster even without J.J. Watt. (The schedule has helped out a little bit as well.) In fact, Houston is probably still the favorite to win the AFC South, even with their scuffling offense.
The Texans had to gamble on someone in the off-season, and Osweiler certainly flashed some potential to be a better option than a journeyman like Hoyer. But if Houston is still getting blown out by contenders in big games—the Texans are 0–2 with a minus-45 point differential on the road—then they are still searching for answers under center.
NFL threatens to eject Antonio Brown over Muhammad Ali cleats
Antonio Brown was forced to change his cleats on Sunday after the NFL threatened to disqualify him from the game, according to CBS sideline reporter Evan Washburn.
Brown wore black and yellow cleats honoring Muhammad Ali but changed to a solid black pair during the first quarter.
Brown has worn a different pair of custom cleats for each game this season. A pair of blue cleats he wore in Week 1 earned him a fine from the NFL because they did not match his team’s color scheme. He was not fined for wearing a black and yellow pair in honor of Arnold Palmer last week. Yet the black and yellow Ali cleats were deemed unacceptable.
Brown has also been disciplined this season for touchdown celebrations the league deemed inappropriate.
Frank Gore passes Jim Brown for ninth on NFL’s career rushing list
Frank Gore passed Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown on the NFL’s all-time career rushing yards list on Sunday.
Gore broke Brown’s mark with a 16-yard run in the first quarter of Sunday’s game against the Bears.
Gore, 33, is in his 12th NFL season and his second with the Colts. He also has 3,216 receiving yards. Brown retired at age 29 in 1965 after nine NFL seasons. He led the league in rushing eight times and was an eight-time First-Team All-Pro selection.
Brown needed just 118 games and 2,359 carries to rack up 12,312 yards, while Gore has now played 169 games and racked up more than 2,700 carries. Brown averaged 5.2 yards per carry, compared to Gore’s 4.4 per-carry average.
Ravens receiver Steve Smith ruled out with ankle injury
Ravens receiver Steve Smith left Sunday’s game against the Redskins with an ankle injury and will not return, the team announced.
Smith was injured in the first quarter and went to the locker room for evaluation. He returned to the sideline and was testing his ankle by doing some running but was ultimately unable to return to the field.
Smith, 37, missed 12 games last year with a torn Achilles.
He had three receptions for 29 yards Sunday before he was injured. He needs just 12 more catches to become the 14th player in NFL history with at least 1,000 receptions.
Smith’s injury means more action for backups Kamar Aiken and Breshad Perriman.
Tom Brady: ‘There was plenty of rust out there’
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady returned from his four-game suspension in a big way on Sunday, leading the team to a 33–13 win over the Browns with a 406-yard, three-touchdown performance. But if you ask him, he wasn’t quite himself.
“I think there was plenty of rust out there,” Brady said in his postgame press conference. “I can do better in a lot of areas.”
Brady, who completed 28 of his 40 passes and rushed twice for 14 yards, looked just fine, despite some concerns that he would need a game to ease back into action.
The veteran signalcaller was barred from the beginning of the season due to his role in Deflategate.
– Kenny Ducey
Watch: Lions beat Eagles after controversial ruling on fumble
A late fumble by Eagles running back Ryan Mathews allowed the Lions to come back and win the game, but the referees may have missed a key aspect of the call.
Mathews fumbled near the sideline on a third-down run and the ball was recovered by the Lions. After a lengthy review, the call on the field was upheld.
If you look closely at the end of the clip, however, you can see the ball roll over Jason Kelce’s legs as his upper body is out of bounds.
Under NFL rule 3.21, a ball that touches a player who is out of bounds is considered out of bounds. This is the same rule that Packers return man Ty Montgomery used to gain 40 yards of field position on a kickoff in Week 3.
After the fumble recovery, the Lions took advantage of the short field and Matt Prater kicked a game-winning 29-yard field goal. Carson Wentz’s interception on the first play of the ensuing Eagles drive effectively ended the game.