Wild finishes defined the fifth week of the NFL season; here are the biggest stories from all the action:
1) Overtime game 1 of 3: the Atlanta Falcons improved to 5-0 with a hard-fought victory over the Washington Redskins. The game would have been remembered for a controversial call late in the fourth quarter if the Falcons had lost; running back Devonta Freeman thought he had scored a touchdown to put the Falcons ahead with 52 seconds remaining, only to have the call on the field overturned due to him losing possession as he hit the ground while stretching for the end zone. Freeman broke the plane, and had the ball secured while doing so, so the call was very debatable, bringing back memories of Dez Bryant’s incomplete touchdown reception in the playoffs last year. There is clear debate to be had over this rule, but right now, Falcons fans won’t care too much.
2) Overtime game 2 of 3: another 5-0 team came from behind to win in overtime, this time it was the turn of Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals as they overcame the Seattle Seahawks 27-24. It was a remarkable turnaround from a Bengals team so used to choking with the game on the line, as they were down 24-7 to begin the fourth quarter. Nothing epitomised the calmness in the face of adversity more than kicker Mike Nugent slotting a field goal to tie the game, all while having less than 10 seconds to get the kick off due to the Bengals burning all their timeouts. The AFC North is firmly in their grasp.
3) Overtime game 3 of 3: stick a fork in the Baltimore Ravens in 2015. After their luck looked to turn last Thursday with an improbable win in Pittsburgh, the Ravens once again failed to convert a fourth quarter lead into a victory, this time against the Cleveland Browns. Browns quarterback Josh McCown had over 450 passing yards, including a touchdown pass to tight end Gary Barnidge that saw him make a ridiculous grab between his ankles. The Ravens’ playcalling on offense in the fourth quarter was abject, and their defense in the same period even worse. An overhaul is needed; the question will be where to start.
4) Aaron Rodgers interception-free streak at Lambeau Field is over! Rodgers went 1,043 days and 587 attempts without a throwing a pick, but that was changed on a tipped ball that fell into the waiting arms of St. Louis Rams’ linebacker James Laurinaitis. Even more incredibly, the Green Bay Packers quarterback then only notched seven attempts on his next streak before turning the ball over again, this time to Trumaine Johnson. Still, they managed to secure a 24-10 victory, and with it, become the third team to go 5-0 in 2015.
5) Sunday was the day my faith in the Baltimore Ravens (mentioned above) and the Detroit Lions was shattered. In Detroit, their offense turned the ball over FOUR times in the first half alone. After starting 7-0 up, the Lions allowed the Arizona Cardinals to score 35 unanswered points, eventually getting trounced 42-17. After his third interception, quarterback Matthew Stafford was benched in favour for Dan Orlovsky, who threw for a touchdown and an interception apiece. I would say that the crowd were stunned into silence, but the truth was that most of Ford Field had emptied at half time. It was so quiet, that the referee and stadium announcer’s microphones reverberations were being picked up loud and clear by the television audio feeds. The Lions finished with six total giveaways, while having to watch the two quarterbacks that orchestrated their 0-16 season of 2008 compete on the field: Orlovsky and Drew Stanton.
6) In a bitter blow for the International Series and Kansas City Chiefs fans, premier running back Jamaal Charles reportedly tore his ACL in a 18-17 loss to the Chicago Bears. A season that has rapidly come off the wheels since week 1, the Chiefs could ill-afford a loss on Sunday and an season ending injury to their biggest playmaker on offense. They got both. Lost in that will be the quietly great play of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who, with the game on the line, drove the Bears down the field, handled a bad snap, then calmly lofted the ball into the waiting arms of Matt Forte in the end zone.
7) The Oakland Raiders‘ Charles Woodson waited 18 years to intercept old foe (no pun intended) Peyton Manning. He got the Denver Broncos QB twice on Sunday, which, at the ripe old age of 39, made him the oldest player since 1960 to intercept two passes in one game. The first was in the end zone; the second was a beautiful grab on an attempted ball down the sideline. Like Aaron Rodgers picks at Lambeau, Woodson interceptions of Manning bear striking similarities to London buses. The combined age of the two? 78 years, and 205 days. What’s even harder to believe is that is only good enough for the third best mark for a QB-DB pick age combination! I’ll have what they’re having…
8) The Dallas Cowboys season may be under threat due to the injury bug. They have lost all three games since Tony Romo went down, which came after the injuries to Dez Bryant and Orlando Scandrick. They have failed to get off the field on defense, while they had virtually no offense to speak of against the New England Patriots on Sunday – just two field goals and six points to be exact, while Brandon Weeden threw for 188 yards and an interception. The aforementioned guys can’t come back soon enough for this flagging franchise.
9) The New York Giants kept the pressure on the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East with a hard-fought 30-27 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. On a day where it was reported that tight end Daniel Fells might lose his foot due to MRSA, the Giants played with great spirit, especially in coming back to win in the final 90 seconds of the game. Eli Manning completed 41 passes in a clutch performance that saw him become the winningest quarterback in Giants history.
10) All the undefeated teams won on Sunday, with the Packers, Bengals, Falcons and Broncos improving to 5-0, with the Patriots one game back at 4-0. Of those teams, the Packers, Bengals and Patriots look like real contenders. The Falcons have an easy schedule but remain under threat from Carolina (who are also 4-0) in a battle for the NFC South. The Broncos have a 16-0 defense, but a 5-11 offense. They are very reminiscent of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, who went on to win the Super Bowl. 5-0 teams have a 91% chance of making the playoffs, so expect to see these teams playing in January.
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