As Week 5 of the NFL season winds down, we take a look back at some notable performances and key plays.
Sunday's late games
Yes, Demaryius Thomas broke the Broncos' franchise record for receiving yards in a single game with 226, but with all due respect to Thomas, we know who was throwing the ball. Manning didn't just become the second player in NFL history to throw 500 touchdown passes in his career (Brett Favre is the other), he also carved up a very good Arizona Cardinals defense in Denver's 41-20 beatdown. Manning finished the game with 31 completions in 47 attempts for 479 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions (more on one of those picks later), but when the game was close and the Cards were threatening in the third quarter, down 24-20, Manning turned on the jets and lit it up as he tends to do when he's on a roll. Not exactly a surprising pick, but hey -- the greats are the greats for a reason. -- Doug Farrar
LVP: The New York Jets' cadre of quarterbacks
Ugh. New York's 31-0 doinker at the hands of the Chargers was almost not a shutout, but Michael Vick was busted for an illegal forward pass from the San Diego 12-yard line with 4:55 left in the game. Vick then threw a six-yard pass to Jeff Cumberland on the next play. Sadly, it was 4th-and-16. That seemed to typify the game for the Jets' quarterbacks. Geno Smith was pulled after a first half in which he completed 4-of-12 passes for 27 yards and an interception, and Vick -- who Jets fans have been calling for most of the year -- wasn't able to fare much better. He completed 9-of-20 passes for 47 yards and a couple of weird penalties, the Jets nearly failed to cross into San Diego territory for the entirety of the game, and the Jets find themselves in a big pickle now. At 1-4, they host Peyton Manning and the Broncos next Sunday and head to New England the following Thursday. Maybe Vick can turn things around if he's given more time and starters' reps through the week (Ryan did say Smith will start in Week 6), but with this offensive line and these targets, it's hard to imagine any quarterback faring too well. -- DF
Must-see play: Brandon Lloyd's gravity-defying sideline catch
(H/T: Niners Nation)
Head-scratching decision(s): Andy Reid's pass plays on 3rd-and short
No question that Reid is a brilliant offensive schemer, but his in-game playcalling has taken a beating for years, and at times, it's entirely justified. It certainly was so in the Chiefs' 22-17 loss to the 49ers on Sunday afternoon. With a running back rotation of Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, Reid called pass play after pass play on 3rd-and-short. Perhaps he was emboldened by the 3rd-and-2 touchdown pass from Alex Smith to tight end Travis Kelce in the first quarter, but it was all downhill from there.
There was the 3rd-and-5 throw from Smith to tight end Anthony Fasano for no gain early in the second quarter that ended a drive, the incomplete 3rd-and-1 throw to Fasano on their next possession that stopped another drive (especially after a false start call against tackle Ryan Harris on 4th-and-1), the 3rd-and-5 throw to Charles halfway through the third quarter that went for four yards, the incomplete 3rd-and-4 pass to tight end Demetrius Harris at the end of the third quarter, the incomplete pass to Dwayne Bowe on 3rd-and-1 with 7:23 left in the game ... if you extend half those plays with rushes that had a decent shot of success, the Chiefs might be telling a different story than the one about "the 2-3 Chiefs." Alas. -- DF
BONUS: Peyton Manning's touchdown-saving "tackle"
Not so much a head-scratching decision as an opportunity for GIF comedy. Manning probably considers it a tackle, and it might be a decent one for a veteran quarterback, but after the future Hall-of-Famer threw his second interception of the day, he had defensive end Calais Campbell in his sights. We're sure Manning did the math -- that's a 38-year-old quarterback against a 6-8, 300-pound lineman who plays with freakish athleticism -- and decided that an ankle tackle would be best. We're sure head coach John Fox, and everyone else in the Broncos organization, agreed. Still, it did save a touchdown, and Manning can say that he got a tackle in on the same day he made NFL history. -- DF
Just for grins, here's the Andre Ellington touchdown catch. Not a bad throw by Cardinals backup quarterback Logan Thomas, either. --DF
Key injury: Calais Campbell, DL, Arizona Cardinals
No, it was not a good day for Campbell. Not only did he get himself ankle-tackled by America's most prominent pizza spokesperson -- he also found himself on the wrong end of a chop block courtesy of Broncos tight end Julius Thomas and suffered an MCL sprain that will reportedly keep him out of the lineup for 3-4 weeks. That's a crushing blow to an Arizona defensive line that is already without Darnell Dockett and John Abraham. --DF
Sunday's early games
Most of the first half was a nightmare for Hoyer and his team, but when they got rolling, there was no turning back.
Hoyer hit TE Jim Dray for a touchdown with 12 ticks left in the second quarter -- a play that at the time seemed relatively insignificant with Tennessee still up 28-10. Little did anyone know, the Hoyer-to-Dray score was only the beginning.
Cleveland chipped away further at Tennessee's lead with a field goal and safety, narrowing the gap to 28-15. Hoyer then fired a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes, both to Travis Benjamin. The second, a six-yarder, came with 1:15 remaining.
All told, Hoyer finished 21-of-37 for 292 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and one dramatic come-from-behind victory for a Browns team that never stops battling.
-- Chris Burke
Next. The Lions cut rookie Nate Freese after he started the season 3-of-7 on field-goal attempts and added Henery, who himself had been cut earlier by Philadelphia.
Perhaps the Eagles knew what they were doing. Henery is likely on his way out the door in Detroit, too, after he shanked three field goal tries Sunday in a 17-14 loss. His last two kicks, from 47 yards in the third quarter and 50 yards in the fourth, didn't even land in the same vicinity as the uprights. Making matters worse for Henery and the Lions, Buffalo's Dan Carpenter then drilled a 58-yard game-winner after Henery's last miss. -- CB
Must-see play: Dez Bryant's overtime catch
Truth be told, this space had been reserved for Philly Brown's wild punt-return touchdown. Even Tony Romo's spin move/touchdown pass with J.J. Watt coming almost unblocked from the blindside could not bump Brown out because, well, how often do you see a guy pick up his own fumbled punt and run 80 yards to the end zone?
The plans all changed when Dez Bryant made this catch in overtime, on a 3rd-and-9 no less:
Head-scratching decision: Ravens' 4th-and-1 play call
When a team loses by one possession, it's easy to go back and nitpick calls. Still, the Ravens' second-quarter decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 at the Colts' 3 in a 3-0 game was a suspect. And the problem isn't that John Harbaugh opted to roll the dice there, but what Gary Kubiak attempted to dial up on the play call.
After Ravens' running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was stuffed on a 3rd-and-1, Kubiak tried to sneak a play-action pass past the Colts on 4th-and-1. The problem was that play's success relied on a banged-up Baltimore offensive line that struggled in pass protection all day -- Indianapolis finished with four sacks and numerous pressures of Joe Flacco.
One of the four sacks came right there, with Flacco being dropped for a nine-yard loss.
Another clear candidate here: Ken Whisenhunt's decision to go for it on 4th-and-1 from his own 42 late Sunday, with his team up by six on Cleveland. QB Charlie Whitehurst was stuffed on a QB sneak, handing the ball over to the Browns in Titans' territory. Hoyer needed four plays plus a pass interference call to steal a victory. -- CB
Key injury: Jimmy Graham
Nothing is coming easy for the Saints this season, and the loss of tight end Jimmy Graham to a shoulder injury Sunday was about the last thing they needed. Graham initially left the game after a collision with Lavonte David, then exited for good following a 27-yard reception shortly thereafter.
There was no initial word about the severity of Graham's injury, but the Saints ruling him out for good before halftime does not bode well. Graham has 34 catches for 363 yards and three touchdowns this season. Taking him out of the lineup obviously limits what that already-struggling offense can do. -- CB