Welcome to our first NFL Sunday of October, the spookiest month. Week 5 will haunt a few teams — and most of the kickers in the league, especially Mason Crosby — but it was a huge day for a couple teams that really needed wins, like the Steelers and Vikings.
Home teams went undefeated in the early afternoon window, including the Panthers beating the Giants on a 63-yard field goal and the Browns getting an actual win on a Sunday (in overtime, naturally, because that’s what the Browns do now).
The Chiefs and Jaguars staged a battle of offense vs. defense, and as is emblematic of today’s NFL, the offense won. Patrick Mahomes had his worst game yet — he threw two picks and no touchdowns — but he was still better than Blake Bortles in the Chiefs’ 30-14 win.
The Texans and Cowboys finished up the day with an overtime Sunday Night Football matchup because everything’s bigger in Texas or whatever.
Catch up all the action Sunday with our best and worst moments:
Best: Dak and Nuk go for a spin
Dak Prescott didn’t have the best statistical game against the Texans. He threw two picks — both of which bounced off his receivers’ hands, like every other interception he’s thrown this year.
But did escape from several would-be tacklers to make this big-time throw:
That helped get the Cowboys into field-goal range. They tied it up and the game eventually went to overtime …
… where DeAndre Hopkins did this, which made the game kinda worth watching:
That got the Texans into field-goal range, and the 36-yarder gave them a 19-16 win.
Worst: The Texans’ goal-line offense
The Texans have Deshaun Watson, a dual-threat quarterback who can make conjure up plays on the fly. But he’s not exactly a bulldozer out there. And he has a cheesecloth offensive line. So why do they keep trying this at the goal line?
Over and over again. Five red zone trips. One touchdown.
But, hey, they got the win.
Best: Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley righted the wrongs of the Giants’ offense
Beckham made waves before he took the field in Week 5, throwing his offense into the spotlight with a too-honest review of New York’s flawed performances in 2018. His coach, Pat Shurmur, heard those complaints — and gave Beckham every opportunity to right those wrongs by making him a receiver, punt returner, and quarterback.
His tenure as a returner was a net negative for the Giants, but the second pass of his five-year career turned out to be the longest touchdown throw, in terms of airtime, New York’s had in a year:
Barkley’s first receiving touchdown of his pro career was good. His second was great. Barkley defied the laws of physics (and, fortunately, avoided major injury).
That should have been enough to carry New York to its biggest win of the 2018 season. But …
Best: Graham Gano wouldn’t let the Giants win
An inefficient two-minute drill left the Panthers’ comeback effort stalled at the Giants’ 45-yard line with 10 seconds to play. That was just enough time for Gano to shine. The veteran kicker blasted one of the longest field goals in league history through the uprights with room to spare to push Carolina out to a 3-1 start.
Gano’s kick tied the NFL record for longest game-winning kick in league history.
Worst: Nick Williams’ killer drop
Presented without comment:
Best: Josh Allen is already a Bills’ record holder
In four games as a starter, Allen has led the Bills to a 2-2 record with wins against the Vikings and Titans — a pair of 2017 playoff teams.
The doubters still have plenty of reason to remain convinced he’ll be a bust. Allen only completed 10 of 19 passes for 82 yards with no touchdowns and an interception Sunday. It was mostly the defense that held the Titans in check for a 13-12 win.
But if there’s one thing Allen proved earlier this year against the Vikings and validated even more Sunday, it’s that he can run. The only touchdown of the day for Buffalo was a 14-yard rushing touchdown right through the teeth of the Titans defense.
The Titans defense isn’t an easy one to do that against. The Bills are the first this season to score on them right out of the gates:
The touchdown was Allen’s third of the season, already giving him a franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a season by a rookie quarterback. The record for rushing touchdowns by any Bills quarterback has been in place for over 50 years with Jack Kemp’s eight touchdowns from the 1963 season standing untouched. Allen may have a shot.
Aside from that, not a whole lot went right for the Bills offense. Trick plays? Nope.
Bills first offensive play is a flea flicker. No, it did not work.
— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) October 7, 2018
Coaching challenges? Nope.
Oh man. Sean McDermott challenging a spot is… something else.
About to be out of timeouts.
— Buffalo Rumblings (@BuffRumblings) October 7, 2018
Field goal attempts, that are also possibly trick plays? Nope.
Bill botch the field goal attempt, and punter Corey Bojorquez was injured on the play. Can’t tell if the Bills were planning a fake there or if Bojorquez screwed something up. Might have been both.
— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) October 7, 2018
But Allen leads the Bills in rushing and that’s worked for two wins.
Best: James Conner got the Steelers back on track
It’s hard to call a Week 5 matchup a must-win, but falling to 1-3-1 before an AFC North game on the road against the 4-1 Bengals would’ve been grim. The Steelers desperately needed to get back to .500 and they came up big with a 41-17 win against the Falcons.
Leading the Pittsburgh revival was a player who needed a jolt of his own. James Conner opened the year with 192 total yards and two touchdowns against the Browns, but was held to just 97 rushing yards on 32 carries in the next three weeks combined.
That slump ended in a big way Sunday with 110 rushing yards, 75 receiving yards, and two rushing touchdowns. The day started with the Steelers’ first opening drive touchdown of the year and it featured Conner, Conner, and more Conner:
Best: Kenny Golladay stiff-armed Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to the underworld
That play led to a touchdown two plays later, extending a lead the Lions wouldn’t relinquish in Week 5.
Worst: Mason Crosby’s kicking and Aaron Rodgers’ infinite sadness
Crosby is one of Green Bay’s longest-tenured players, a man who has made a multitude of important kicks over a 12-year career in Wisconsin. He’s a veteran who has saved his best work for the game’s biggest moments, which includes a 26-of-29 resume in the postseason.
But he unraveled like a broken slinky Sunday, missing four field goals and an extra point against the Lions in a game the Packers went on to lose by eight points. Only a last-ditch 41-yard kick with two seconds left on the clock kept him from setting the NFL’s single-game record for ineptitude.
Meanwhile, everything else you needed to know about Sunday’s game was written on Aaron Rodgers’ face.
Best: Chiefs threw a deep pass to their fullback
The best way to get yards against an overwhelmingly talented defense like the Jaguars is to get creative with playcalling. Andy Reid did just that on a deep throw to fullback Anthony Sherman.
This is a perfect throw by Patrick Mahomes to get the ball to Sherman. Andy Reid called a great game against Jaguars defensive coordinator Todd Wash — this was a creative play to get a big chunk of yards against Jacksonville.
Worst: Blake Bortles is back, baby!
It had been nearly 10 months since Bortles’ last pick-six, a stretch that helped the Jaguars exceed expectations and bully their way to the AFC title game last winter. A rejuvenated quarterback could have been the difference between a run to the Super Bowl and bitter disappointment. A big performance against the undefeated Chiefs could stake Jacksonville’s claim as the AFC’s team to beat.
Instead, the Jags got what Arrowhead Pride called “one of the worst throws of all time.”
It was the 13th pick-six of Bortles’ career — or as many as Tom Brady’s had in a career that’s nearly four times as long. He finished his day with 430 passing yards, which is good, but also four interceptions, including one he donked off his own lineman’s helmet, which is extremely bad.
To add a cherry on top of the crap sundae that was an underwhelming Chiefs-Jaguars game, Jones, the man who made the pick-six, would later get himself ejected for punching a downed Jaguar in the leg during an extra-point attempt.
Best: The Jets offense has life after all!
After three straight weeks of scoring 17 points or less, and three straight losses, the Jets found the same high gear that helped them crush the Lions in Week 1.
Somehow, that was the only touchdown for Crowell, despite the fact he set a new franchise record with 219 rushing yards on the day. But Sam Darnold got involved too with this beautiful 76-yard touchdown to Robby Anderson — the longest passing touchdown for the Jets in 20 years.
There was another Darnold-Anderson connection for a 35 yards in the second quarter. Darnold also threw this 20-yard pass to Terrelle Pryor, who hauled it in with one hand to score his first touchdown with the Jets.
Altogether, the Jets had 512 yards of total offense — over 200 of which came on their four touchdown plays. The Broncos defense definitely isn’t the same that it once was, but that’s an impressive day of offense against any unit.
Best: The Browns got a win on a Sunday!
For the first time since Dec. 13, 2015, the Browns got a win on a Sunday. For the first time since Oct. 11, 2015, they got an AFC North win. And they did it in the same way: in overtime against the Ravens.
It wasn’t without drama because, well, this is the Browns. With two seconds left, Greg Joseph — who they signed after Zane Gonzalez missed several would-be game-winning kicks — lined up for a 37-yarder. Despite missing two kicks earlier in the game, and despite the kick getting blocked, the field goal went through:
And the Browns got the 12-9 win. (Hopefully Hue Jackson was holding up a “2” at the end because it was their second win and not because he thought the game, which was in sudden death, still had two seconds left.)
Worst: Derek Carr didn’t give the ball to Marshawn
Down 20-3, the Raiders were on the one-yard line, close to scoring their first touchdown of the game. Derek Carr faked the handoff to Marshawn Lynch and threw it to a wide-open Melvin Ingram, who is as you know, a Chargers defender:
If you had flashbacks to Super Bowl 49, you weren’t alone. As you can see after the pick, Lynch was pretty upset and ripped his own helmet off.
Best: Linval Joseph for Piesman
Look, we know the Piesman Trophy is a college award, but can there be an exception made for 323-pound Linval Joseph?
Look at how the Vikings defensive tackle picks up the acceleration at the end of this 60-yard fumble return touchdown:
And then after:
We’d say he earned that.
Best: Bold coaching moves pay off
Rather than kick the extra point (a potentially dangerous move on Sunday anyway with all the missed kicks). Pederson decided try for a two-point conversion. And it worked! Smallwood ran it in to make it a 20-14 game.
Pederson’s decision goes against conventional wisdom, but here’s why it was made sense: even if the Eagles had missed, they could have tried a two-point conversion later if they scored a touchdown.
Now down six, they could take the lead with a touchdown and extra point, or they could tie the game with two field goals.
Not long afterward, the Rams were rewarded for a similarly bold play. Los Angeles led 33-31 when it faced fourth-and-inches from its own 42. Punting the ball would pin the Seahawks deep in their own territory with around 90 seconds left in the game. Getting stonewalled on fourth down would mean turning the ball over in a situation where Seattle would only need to gain 10 yards to set up a reasonable game-winning field goal.
But head coach Sean McVay was confident in his team’s ability to pick up six inches. He dialed up a quarterback sneak, then celebrated as Jared Goff crashed through the line of scrimmage with a game-sealing two-yard dive. The Rams kneeled out the clock from there, improving to 5-0 in the process.