It’s hard to deny that Week 5 of the NFL season was a bit of a bummer. The week was marked by drama stemming from a number of COVID-19 outbreaks, which led to the league postponing the Patriots-Broncos game and moving Bills-Titans back to Tuesday. The NFL announced a flurry of schedule changes on Sunday, and with teams running out of bye weeks, things feel like they’re close to spiraling out of control.
Then, Sunday afternoon saw one of the NFL’s most harrowing injuries in quite some time. Dak Prescott appeared to have his ankle break backwards on a run in the Cowboys’ game against the Giants, a gruesome scene for one of the league’s star quarterbacks (and a durable one at that – Prescott had never missed a start since entering the league). He was diagnosed with a compound fracture, and the injury served as a grim reminder of how violent the sport can be.
There were still a number of exciting moments and major storylines that emerged from the day. Here are the big ones:
Jimmy Garoppolo benched in brutal 49ers loss to Dolphins
This was the team that went to the Super Bowl last year? The San Francisco 49ers looked nothing like the unit that ran roughshod through the NFC in 2019, getting blown out 43-17 on their home field by Ryan Fitzpatrick and the middling Miami Dolphins. The 49ers were 8.5-point favorites as Garoppolo returned from injury, but that turned out to be a downgrade for the San Francisco offense, as Jimmy G was benched after throwing two interceptions in an awful first half.
All of a sudden, the playoffs are looking like a long shot for the reigning NFC champions. They rolled to 13-3 in 2019 on the strength of a dominant defense and running game, but the D-line is now down its two best players, Nick Bosa (injured in Week 2) and DeForest Buckner (traded in the offseason to the Colts). And without their No. 1 cornerback Richard Sherman, also out with injury, they allowed Miami to jump out to a lead – which exposed their biggest problem.
The 49ers are a run-first offense, and like the Ravens, they thrive playing with the lead. But when forced to play from behind, Garoppolo looks more like an average system QB. The 49ers are 16-6 since 2019 in Garoppolo’s starts, but in games where he has thrown 31 or more passes, they are just 5-4, including their Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs. He totally unraveled on Sunday and didn’t even get a chance to throw that many passes, as he was benched in the second half for C.J. Beathard.
Shanahan said the benching was “to protect” Garoppolo, who also took three sacks and may not yet be fully healthy after suffering a high-ankle sprain. Still, one has to wonder what Garoppolo’s future looks like in San Francisco after his roughest outing yet. The 49ers signed him to a five-year, $137 million contract in 2018, but they have a relatively easy out after 2020 with no guaranteed money left on his deal. If they want to return to the Super Bowl, they might need a QB who can take them over the top – instead of one that, at best, can only gently guide them there.
Raiders upset Chiefs, 40-32: statement win of the season?
In another stunning upset, the Las Vegas Raiders hung a 40-burger on the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs – the biggest upset of the week by point spread (Kansas City was favored by 10.5) and the Raiders’ first win in Arrowhead since 2012. The Raiders have been up and down this season, with another impressive win against the Saints bookmarked by losses to the Patriots and Bills. This was undeniably their best win of the season — and perhaps the best any team has had.
Jon Gruden wants this Raiders team to play tough, and that’s what they did on Sunday, from Josh Jacobs plowing through tacklers into the end zone to the defensive line getting enough pressure on Mahomes to force him into mistakes. But the most important takeaway might be the play of Derek Carr, who threw for 347 yards and three TDs in the winning effort. Carr has had very little success against the Chiefs – he had only two previous victories in 12 tries. He has also been labeled a Checkdown Charlie, but threw the ball all over the field on Sunday, averaging a massive 11.68 air yards per attempt.
The Raiders currently sit in the seventh seed in the AFC and have a 49-percent chance to make the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight. The end result probably depends on Carr. If he can keep up his current play, which has him as a top-10 QB by a number of metrics, Vegas has a chance to sneak in. Sunday saw them passing their biggest test of the season with flying colors – now they need to keep their foot on the gas.
Seahawks come back to stun Vikings: is Russell Wilson already the MVP?
The Sunday night game between the Seahawks and the Vikings flipped the switch from being an epic snoozefest to straight up epic. At the half, the Vikings were up 13-0, Russell Wilson had thrown seven passes and it felt like the rain had sucked the life out of the explosive offense.
Then, the second half started. After the two teams traded punts, Wilson got hot, marching his team into the end zone on four plays. “Prime Time Kirk” Cousins responded by making two errors, fumbling and throwing an interception on back-to-back drives. The Seahawks were quickly up 21-13, but Minnesota responded with two more touchdown drives of 11 and 15 plays, respectively. Wilson then made an increasingly rare mistake, throwing an interception with less than six minutes to play.
In an attempt to ice the game, Mike Zimmer went for it on fourth down deep in Seattle territory instead of kicking a field goal to go up by eight, but Alexander Mattison couldn’t convert, giving the ball back to Wilson with two minutes remaining. It is here that Wilson crafted his masterpiece, driving 94 yards down the field in one minute and 42 seconds for the game-winning TD. He converted two ridiculous fourth downs to DK Metcalf on the drive, one a 39-yard bomb down the left sideline and another for the decisive score. All with the rain pouring down in a scene straight out of a movie.
It’s absurd to crown an MVP five weeks into the season, but Wilson has done as much in those five games as some winners do in an entire year. He already has 19 TD passes, putting him on a 16-game pace of 60. He is completing 72 percent of his passes on 8.9 yards per attempt. And Sunday night gave him the ridiculous, against-all-odds comeback to bolster the narrative. Quite simply, there is no other quarterback in the league playing at Wilson’s level, and it would take an injury or a serious decline in play for this award to go to anyone else.