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Sunday Evening Quick-Hitters: Reactions from Week 5 in the NFL

Every Sunday evening throughout the 2011 NFL season I’ll compile quick-hit reactions from the day that was in football. I vow to always overreact, side with sensationalism over rationalism, and draw conclusions based on small sample sizes instead of cold, hard facts. It’s the only way I know how to write…

DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING…

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (C) walks off the field with teammates after throwing an interception that was run into the end zone for a touchdown by the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter during their NFL football game in East Rutherford, New Jersey, October 9, 2011. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- The Giants and Eli Manning had the game I thought they would last week in Arizona. Manning threw three touchdown passes but he was also picked off three times as the Giants started slow and finished poorly. Of course, Eli wasn’t the only reason the G-Men dropped a game they simply had no business losing. Their defense couldn’t stop a Seattle offense that has suddenly started to hit their stride after staging a dramatic comeback in the second half last week against Atlanta. Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst and Marshawn Lynch tuned up New York’s defense for 424 total yards. What’s most remarkable about the Seahawks’ 36-25 win is that the Hawks fumbled twice in New York territory. This could have been an even bigger blow out.

- The Steelers winning a home game against the Titans hardly constitutes a “Didn’t see that coming” moment. That said, this was a Pittsburgh team that didn’t have Casey Hampton, James Harrison, Aaron Smith, Chris Kemoeatu, or a fully healthy Ben Roethlisberger. Considering how good Tennessee’s defense has been this season, it was rather surprising to see Big Ben (who threw five touchdown passes) and Pittsburgh bully the Titans for four quarters. It appears those claims about the Steelers being finished were greatly exaggerated.

- Much like the Steelers’ win over the Titans, it’s hardly surprising that the Raiders traveled to Houston and beat the Texans. This isn’t the same Oakland team that was pathetic four or five years ago. That said, Al Davis just passed away yesterday and the Raiders took on a solid Texans team that just bullied Pittsburgh a week ago. Nobody would have been surprised if the Raiders’ hearts weren’t in it and left Houston without a win. But they played hard for four quarters, shut down Arian Foster, and won a huge road game to get to 3-2 on the season. Granted, Matt Schaub did throw an inexcusable interception at the end of the game and the Texans were without Andre Johnson. But “Just win baby?” Absolutely.

AND YOU CALL YOURSELF A PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL TEAM…

Philadelphia Eagles’ coach Andy Reid is seen on the field against the Buffalo Bills in the first quarter of their NFL football game in Orchard Park, New York October 9, 2011. REUTERS/Doug Benz (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- Hey Andy Reid, this is why you don’t hire your offensive line coach as your defensive coordinator. I realize that’s kind of harsh because it’s not like Juan Castillo is the only reason the Eagles are now 1-4 after losing today in Buffalo. (After all, it’s not Castillo’s fault that Michael Vick is careless with the football or can’t manage a clock near halftime.) But there’s no way the Eagles’ defense should be this bad. I don’t want to take anything away from Buffalo because its offense can score on anyone. But Reid’s decision to hire Castillo looks like a massive miscalculation. MASSIVE.

- Mark Sanchez has to raise the level of his play if the Jets are going to succeed this season. For the past two years the Jets have relied on their rushing game and defense to make the playoffs, where Sanchez has been very good. But this year has had a different feel to it for New York. The defense hasn’t been as good and the ground game has been non-existent. Thus, 166 yards against one of the lowest ranked defenses in the league just isn’t going to cut it. He was very good on the 85-yard drive in the second half to cut New England’s lead to 27-21, but that was the only time he looked sharp all day. If Sanchez doesn’t start playing as well in the regular season as he does in the postseason, the Jets won’t make the playoffs this year. That’s just the bottom line for Rex Ryan‘s struggling team, which has lost three in a row after starting the year 2-0.

- What in God’s name was Matt Schaub thinking on the Texans’ final play? He could have waltzed into the end zone from inside the Raiders’ 5-yard line but he gave the game away instead by throwing an interception to Michael Huff. Schaub is going to think about that pass all week.

- Nobody saw them being blown out 48-3 but the Bucs’ loss to the 49ers was hardly surprising. Tampa certainly had some built in excuses coming into Sunday’s action (i.e. a short week, a cross-country trip), but I don’t think the Bucs were as good as their 3-1 record indicated. Their offense lacks explosion, their run blocking hasn’t been good, and opponents can take advantage of their pass defense just like Alex Smith (three touchdowns) and San Francisco did today. The Bucs’ run defense apparently wasn’t up to snuff either, as Frank Gore rushed for 125 yards on 6.3 yards per carry. At 3-2 Tampa is still in good shape but I don’t think this was a loss that Raheem Morris can just chalk up to a bad day. The Bucs have issues that need to be corrected if they want to keep pace with the Saints in the NFC South.

- The Panthers deserve more praise than criticism for hanging with the Saints today, but what was Ron Rivera and his coaching staff thinking when they took a timeout with two seconds remaining in the first half? The Saints were trying frantically to get their field goal team on the field and Carolina saved them the trouble by calling a time out. Naturally, John Kasay made the kick to give New Orleans a 20-13 halftime lead in a game they eventually rallied to win by? You guessed it: Three points.

- Considering how many issues the Vikings have had in the second half of games this year, one would have thought Leslie Frazier would have kept his foot on the gas towards the conclusion of the first half today against Arizona. But instead of trying to increase their lead by pushing the ball up field, Frazier and the Vikings were content with a 28-3 lead. They were promptly booed by the home crowd, which chanted Christian Ponder’s name heading into the locker room. Only the Vikings could make fans uneasy with a sizable lead.

- Peter King speculated on “Football Night in America” that Mario Williams “probably” tore his pectoral muscle in the Texans’ loss to the Raiders on Sunday. That would be a massive blow to a team that lost its best offensive player a week ago when Andre Johnson hurt his hamstring against the Steelers. Suddenly the AFC South looks like a crapshoot.

“CHAMPIONSHIP”…

Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson moves the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles in the second quarter of their NFL football game in Orchard Park, New York October 9, 2011. REUTERS/Doug Benz(UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

- All week I wrote about how the Bills’ loss to the Bengals last Sunday was an aberration. They got caught with their pants down but they obviously learned from it. The Eagles made a ton of mistakes today but let’s not take credit away from a Buffalo team that everyone completely overlooked coming into the season. It wasn’t hard to figure that Fred Jackson would have a big day against Philadelphia’s pathetic run defense and that he did, rushing for 111 yards with a couple of good-sized runs. I’ll be honest, part of me has been waiting for the Bills’ play to fall off but I’m over that notion. This Buffalo team isn’t going anywhere.

- Bill Belichick works in mysterious ways doesn’t he? For weeks the Patriots have kept the ball in the air against opponents while BenJarvus Green-Ellis has largely been an afterthought in the offense. In fact, Stevan Ridley was starting to garner some attention has a better option than Green-Ellis in the ground game. Yet with the Jets in town today, Green-Ellis rushes for a career-high 136 yards and two touchdowns as the Patriots defeated their AFC East rivals, 30-21. Granted, Tom Brady (24-of-33 for 321 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) and the passing game was still highly active but the game was clearly on Green-Ellis’ shoulders. This is one of the many reasons why Belichick is so good. He doesn’t forget about any of his weapons and if he sees a weakness that he can exploit, he attacks it. He also knows how to feed the hot hand and he doesn’t over think the game as it plays out. Some may disagree but he has the best mind in football in my eyes.

- It’s not like I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, but I’ve been really impressed with the Bengals. Yeah, beating the Jaguars and their rookie starting quarterback isn’t earth-shattering news. But who does Cincinnati have starting under center? Andy Dalton, a rookie quarterback, whose main playmaker is a rookie receiver in A.J. Green who has received less attention than Julio Jones and yet is producing week in and week out. The Bengals showed a lot of poise down 20-16 in the fourth quarter on Sunday and rallying to beat the Jaguars. Who would have thought that Cincinnati would be 3-2 with the mess of an offseason they had?

- Championship? Not quite, but the Chiefs do have a pulse after winning their second straight game. Matt Cassel was outstanding in Kansas City’s comeback over Indianapolis, completing 21-of-29 passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns. I don’t want to get carried away after one game but this is the type of performance out of Cassel that shows people that he can be a serviceable starter.

- There’s no need to overreact to his performance today because he’ll probably go back to his inconsistent ways next week, but Alex Smith was very efficient in the Niners’ 48-3 win over the Bucs. It was nice to see him react to the pressure instead of lo0king for it and then making mistakes. He kept his eyes downfield, didn’t stare down receivers and finally played with a sense of purpose. It helped that Tampa’s pass rush is weak and Frank Gore was gashing the Bucs on the ground, but let’s give credit were credit is due. Smith was very good.

- The Giants deserve to be ridiculed for their embarrassing loss to the Seahawks but Victor Cruz was nearly unstoppable today. He turned his 11 targets into eight receptions for 161 yards and one touchdown, and made one of the best catches I’ve ever seen. Just think, we may have never seen what this kid could do had the Giants not suffered as many injuries to their receiving corps. Not that I want to see anyone get hurt but Cruz has been really fun to watch the past couple weeks.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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