By Nick Shook
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For the second week in a row, Week 5 was one that called for some credit for road squads. Of the first 13 games of the week, six were won by teams away from home. The visitors brought home a few statement wins, including a game that saw the return of one future Hall of Fame quarterback. These are your best performers in unfriendly confines.
Greatest on the Road …
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
It was just a typical lost Sunday in Cleveland for the Browns. Nothing to write about here. Oh wait, that’s right, a certain quarterback, wildly popular in the New England region and one of the best to ever play the position, was set to take the field for the first time this season. Seems notable enough for a little extra attention.
Tom Brady took the field to much fanfare — literally, there were thousands of Patriots fans who strolled into FirstEnergy Stadium wearing their No. 12 jerseys and made their presence known for the entire game — and did not disappoint. The 39-year-old signal-caller and surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer didn’t take long to start cooking, going 80 yards in eight plays on the first drive of the game to score a go-ahead touchdown. He kept it going from there, finding receivers all over the field, renewing his connection with tight end Rob Gronkowski (five catches, 109 yards) and helping Martellus Bennett have quite a day (six catches, 67 yards, three touchdowns).
Brady’s final stat line: 28-of-40 passing, 406 yards, three touchdowns and no doubt left in his skills, even after serving a four-game suspension. The Patriots keep on rolling with the franchise’s best player its history back at the helm.
Also considered …
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Mariota’s performance is deceiving from a box score analysis. The quarterback completed 20 of 29 passes for a pedestrian 163 yards, but tossed three scores and kept Tennessee firmly in control. Where he was additionally effective was in the read option game. Mariota ran the play he was notorious for at Oregon with ease, and capped a drive with his own sweeping run from five yards out, outrunning Miami’s Byron Maxwell to the pylon for Tennessee’s first score of the game.
Mariota also found veteran Andre Johnson for a five-yard touchdown, former Dolphin Rishard Matthews for a four-yard score and tossed a pretty pass down the seam to Delanie Walker for six. His performance, while not eye-popping statistically and certainly not a game tape to rave about, was crucial for Tennessee, which went into Miami and dominated, thanks to a three-headed rushing attack of DeMarco Murray, Derrick Henry and Mariota. The end result: the Titans‘ second win of 2016.
Vic Beasley, Atlanta Falcons
Beasley has largely underperformed since being selected eighth overall out of Clemson. Sunday was a different story.
Beasley was a critical part of an Atlanta defense that harassed rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch all afternoon, recording 3.5 of the Falcons‘ six sacks. The pressure Atlanta provided forced Lynch to make quick decisions — typically a tall task for a rookie — limiting him to an average of 2.38 seconds of time to throw per dropback, according to Next Gen Stats. The second-year linebacker put right tackle Ty Sambrailo in a clown suit a trio of times in getting to Lynch, who experienced a rude welcoming to the NFL in Denver’s first loss of the season, and Atlanta’s fourth-straight win.