By Around The NFL staff
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Welcome to Week 5! Tom Brady returned with a vengeance in Cleveland, while the Browns lost their third quarterback due to injury. The Battle for the Beltway came down to the last minute. Marcus Mariota and the Titans got back on track in South Beach. The Vikings are still undefeated. Here’s what we’ve learned so far:
1. The exotic smashmouth was fun to talk about in the preseason. Who doesn’t enjoy exotic things? But when Tennessee’s offensive line is creating holes wide enough for dump trucks to barrel through, that’s when it truly flourishes. That was Sunday for the Titans, who rushed for 235 yards and rarely saw a running play end without of a gain of at least five yards. DeMarco Murray ran with authority finishing with 121 yards on 27 carries. Tennessee mixed up traditional power runs with zone read plays, leading to a 60-yard rushing day for Marcus Mariota. Derrick Henry deserves credit for his 54 yards on seven carries, too.
2. This was a battle of quarterbacks who make you wonder if life is really ever fair. Mariota has struggled in Mike Mularkey’s offense, showing issues with completing passes beyond 15 yards. He did connect with Delanie Walker on perhaps his prettiest pass of the day, a 20-yard completion down the seam for a Tennessee touchdown. Mariota’s stat line — 20-of-29 passing, 163 yards, three touchdowns — looks better than his performance did, but that’s been the case for much of the season.
Ryan Tannehill, meanwhile, continued to struggle, completing 12 of 18 passes for 191 yards and hitting most of his safely open receivers, but also tossing two interceptions, including a late pass he sailed beyond the window and directly into the hands of safety Daimion Stafford.
3. The Dolphins are 1-4 and are struggling to remain afloat. Coach Adam Gase lamented a defense trying too hard to help other teammates who missed assignments, or needed assistance bringing down ball carriers, which he said led to “leaks” springing elsewhere. The situation under center doesn’t help — but neither does a defense that has acted more as a sieve than anything.
— Nick Shook
1. This game opened with a comedy of errors. Brandon Mebane was intercepted Derek Carr, and San Diego responded with an Antonio Gates fumble. Philip Rivers got in on the action before the end of the first, tossing a pass that was intercepted by Sean Smith. Sebastian Janikowski missed a 50-yard field goal attempt at the end of the ensuing drive. Oakland cut down on the mistakes after that, but failed to get in the end zone in the first half. The Raiders created more opportunities via San Diego turnovers in the second half, which is where things got interesting.
2. So much of this contest was about the improvement of Derek Carr, and the trust head coach Jack Del Rio has in him. Carr’s gunslinging, fearless approach shined through on a pivotal fourth-and-2, when Del Rio opted to go for it and his quarterback made him look like a genius. Carr took the snap from the 21, dropped and launched a perfect strike to Michael Crabtree, who came down with a touchdown reception. Immediately after, Carr stood in the pocket and fired a dart to Amari Cooper — who also ended his touchdown drought on Sunday — for a successful two-point conversion to cap a drive that swung the game.
3. Another week, another blown lead and another loss for the Chargers. Entering the game, San Diego was tops in the league in time of game spent with the lead, yet had only one win to show for it. Sunday didn’t help, as the Chargers watched an eight-point lead slip away before the beginning of the fourth. There is hope though, in the form of Joey Bosa, with whom San Diego might regret haggling so much. Bosa immediately improved the Chargers‘ pass rush and finished with two sacks in his NFL debut. They could have used that pressure in past games that ended in close defeats.
— Nick Shook
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