Tuesday Afternoon Football: Week 5
Week Five of the NFL season was many things, boring was not one of them. We got to witness two of the greatest players ever break records and accomplish incredible milestones. We got to see the Cleveland Browns win their second game in a single season for the first time in three years. We also got to see Jason Garrett show why he probably shouldn’t still be an NFL head coach anymore. Anyways, Week Five was incredible and full of jaw-droppingly incredible moments, so let’s just jump right into the column.
Tom Brady eclipses 500 touchdowns and the Patriots return to Dominance.
After three weeks of play the New England Patriots were 1-3, and the Miami Dolphins were undefeated atop the AFC East. Tom Brady looked disinterested, the team appeared to be unhappy, and Bill Belichick was still grumpy (because some things never change). They lost to the lowly Detroit Lions and the dominant defense of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Patriots were without major weapons on offense other than Rob Gronkowski. Julian Edelman was serving a PED suspension, Danny Amendola was busy being a Dolphin, and Chris Hogan hasn’t been as good as he was last year. They addressed these issues by bringing in Josh Gordon, the often-suspended/absent wide receiver from the Cleveland Browns, and are trying to turn him back into the deep threat he used to be. Many viewed that move as a longshot, and it might have been, but if there was one team that could turn around Gordon’s career it would be a team as regimented as the New England Patriots.
After adding Josh Gordon the Patriots have won their last two games, are back above .500, and look to be in control of the AFC East once again. I’m not saying that Josh Gordon was the difference maker, because he wasn’t, his addition is being used to mark the timing of this resurgence for the Pats.
Their last two games saw them obliterate the Miami Dolphins (who were undefeated) 38-7, and then beat the Indianapolis Colts 38-24. They averaged 300 yards per game in their first three games (when they went 1-2), and have averaged 443.5 yards per game in their last two games. The Patriots appear to be back, not just back in the thick of things, but back to their dominance that has seen them win five Super Bowls in the last 18 years.
The two constants of their success throughout those years have been Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and while much has been made about reported power struggles within the organization between the two, it is still abundantly clear that they are still at the peak of their powers.
In their most recent game, their 38-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts, Tom Brady accomplished another major milestone that has only been done three other quarterbacks. He threw his 500th career regular-season touchdown pass. He connected with Josh Gordon in double coverage for the score, which was significant in itself, but he now has joined a group with two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.
Brady is widely considered the greatest quarterback of all time, but with his 500th touchdown pass he now joins Peyton Manning and Brett Favre as the only players to ever do so (Drew Brees will likely join this club next week, as he currently has 499 touchdowns). He is only 39 touchdowns behind Peyton Manning for the all-time record, but Brady has also thrown for 71 playoff touchdowns which is perhaps more impressive.
He holds the record for most playoff touchdowns, and his lead in that category will continue to grow because Joe Montana retired in 1994 and Brady had 26 more touchdowns than him in the playoffs. Brady also has shown no indication that he is slowing down, the game still looks easy to him, perhaps easier than it ever has. His passing yardage by game this season started off rather mediocre, but since Week 3 he has exploded again and threw for 341 yards this week when Julian Edelman returned to the field and Josh Gordon actually played.
The point is, Brady is as sharp as ever, and he still has weapons that are more than capable. While his weapons might be aging out of their dominant ways (this is mostly the case with Rob Gronkowski), they definitely still look like they could piece together another Super Bowl run, and the AFC is wide-open for them. Brady still looks sharp, his weapons look primed to explode, and the Patriots look like they are ready to dominate for the rest of the season once again.
Drew Brees is the All-Time Leading Passer, and the Saints are Legit.
While the story of the 2018-19 New England Patriots and Tom Brady has been well chronicled to this point, but a solid team that has flown under the radar to this point has been the New Orleans Saints. The Saints are currently 4-1 and stand alone atop the NFC South. There are several reasons for their early-season brilliance, but their driving force remains the same.
Their motor is Drew Brees. He has been the heart and soul of the Saints since arriving in 2006. He is the face of the franchise, and yesterday while leading the Saints to a 43-19 victory he became the NFL’s all-time leading passer. He passed Brett Favre (71,838) and Peyton Manning (71,940) and now stands alone in the history books. After the game Brees’ career yardage sat at 72,103 yards, and his lead will only grow.
Tom Brady has been heralded as the best quarterback in the NFL for most of his career, with times people would make the argument about Peyton Manning. Drew Brees was rarely brought up in that discussion, but he definitely should have been. Brady and Manning had much better offensive weapons around them throughout their career, and it isn’t particularly close. Brady has been able to throw to players like Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman. Manning threw to players like Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Pierre Garcon, and Dallas Clark.
The best recievers that Drew Brees has thrown to were Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Lance Moore, Antonio Gates, Brandin Cooks, and Michael Thomas. Brees now has legit weapons around him, and those weapons might be the second-best in the NFC (behind the Rams, obviously). Michael Thomas is the most underrated receiver in the league, but has been one of the most dominant players of the last three seasons. Alvin Kamara was the offensive rookie of the year last season and is just as good of a receiver as he is a running back.
With the league changing in the ways that it as (protecting offensive players/quarterbacks from major injuries), Drew Brees can continue to thrive and tighten his grip on the all-time passing yardage record. Not only can he continue to accomplish individual feats of greatness, but he has the opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl this season and for several seasons to come.
Cleveland Browns win for the Second Time.
The Cleveland Browns winning games is still a weird thing to think about. It doesn’t feel real, like this has to be a dream or an aberration. No, this can’t be real, the Cleveland Browns haven’t won more than one game since 2015, when they won three games. Regardless of how weird it may feel, the Cleveland Browns are winning again.
They won their second game of the season on Sunday, taking down the Baltimore Ravens with a final score of 12-9. This was their second win in three weeks, and to this point this season none of their games have been won or lost by more than five points. The Browns are 2-2-1 and could easily be 5-0 (and yes, just as easily be 0-5). The Browns have a different feel to them this year though, and it’s not just because they are winning.
They have a new quarterback, a quarterback who has been doubted and is now one of the most enticing players in the league. The ball looks special coming out of his hands, it has this zip that few quarterbacks can match. The team around him looks energized in a way that they haven’t looked in years, and that changed as soon as Baker Mayfield came into the game during Week Three. The change was instantaneous.
He has been pretty solid in his playing time so far this season, completing 58.9% of his passes for 838 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions. The offense looks completely different with him at the helm, but the real strong suit of this team so far has been the defense. That isn’t because of Baker, it is because they have stockpiled defensive talent at the top of their drafts for a long time.
Their defense currently ranks 27th in yards per game, and that isn’t great, but what they are great at is creating turnovers. They have eight interceptions through five games, which is tied for third in the NFL with the Chicago Bears and just behind the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks. They are tied for second in the NFL in terms of forced fumbles with eight, and they are ninth in the NFL in terms of sacks with 14.0 sacks in five games. They have some young studs on the defense in Myles Garrett, Denzel Ward, and Jabrill Peppers.
Not only are the Browns winning on the field, they are quickly becoming a must-watch on Sundays. They are easily one of the most exciting teams in the league, and they could become the most successful team in the history of Hard Knocks.
Their division, the AFC North, is as wide-open as it has been in a long time. The Bengals are 4-1, but they just lost Tyler Eifert which could lead to an offensive regression which their defense might not be able to make up for. The Ravens are 3-2, and their defense is LEGIT but Joe Flacco looked pretty apathetic last week which could be a sign of things to come for them. The Browns are third ar 2-2-1 and look to be getting more competent by the week. The Steelers are tied for third with the Browns at 2-2-1, and the organization appears to be pretty dysfunctional or more dysfunctional than normal. The point is, the Browns have a real shot at becoming a playoff team for the first time since 2002, and that is super exciting.
Update from the Jimmy G Hype Train:
The Good, the Bad, and the Odd:
The Good: Drew Brees became the all-time leading passer and Tom Brady threw his 500th career regular-season touchdown. I continue to be amazed by the fact that I have been able to witness some of the greatest quarterbacks of all time continue their dominant play into their 40’s.
The Bad: The San Francisco 49ers outgained the Arizona Cardinals by 227 yards and lost their game by 10 points. The Cardinals were winless heading into the game and only had 10 first downs in the whole game while the 49ers had 33 of them. The Cardinals only ran for 56 yards while the 49ers had 147. Josh Rosen only completed 10 of his 25 passes and won the game while C.J. Beathard committed four turnovers. The 49ers had the ball for 40:12 while the Cardinals had the ball for less than 20 minutes and won. That’s an inexcusable loss.
The Odd: Mason Crosby, who has made 79.77% of his field goal attempts since entering the NFL. He missed FIVE field goals in the game this weekend that the Green Bay Packers lost by eight points. If he makes all those kicks, they win by seven points. That’s truly odd.
CK Collusion QB of the Week:
Marcus Mariota, who lost to the Buffalo Bills this week by a final score of 13-12. He threw for 129 yards, which is his second-best game of the season. He has thrown for over 130 yards this year one time. He has been a well below-average quarterback for the entirety of his time in the NFL despite winning the Heisman and being a top draft pick.
I mean it makes sense why this team hasn’t given Colin Kaepernick a look though, I mean it’s not like their system is designed for a quarterback who is a running threat to put pressure on the defense...oh wait...
Breakout Player of the Week:
Isaiah Crowell broke out this week for the Jets, running for 219 yards on just 15 carries with a touchdown. That’s an average of 14.6 yards per carry. He absolutely carved up the Denver Broncos, who have a loaded defensive line.
Loser of the Week:
Blake Bortles, who somehow threw for 430 yards despite throwing four interceptions. He was as wild as ever on Sunday, and even threw a ball off the back of the helmet of one of his offensive lineman. He was bad, and it is still clear that he isn’t the long-term answer for the Jaguars at quarterback. To be a real Super Bowl threat the Jaguars need a better quarterback.