What Have We Learned From Week 5 of the 2017 NFL Season

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Chargers Giants Football

Los Angeles Chargers free safety Tre Boston (33) celebrates after intercepting a pass from New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Here is What Have We Learned from Week 5 of the 2017 NFL Season, thanks to the AP Pro 32 for photos & help in this article.

Ups

  • Chargers eager to build off first victory in 315 days– After 315 days, an 83-mile franchise relocation, nine defeats and one head coaching change, the Chargers are winners again.

    The flight from New York to Los Angeles was a pleasure after the Chargers’ resilient 27-22 victory over the Giants on Sunday, even if coach Anthony Lynn was already thinking about how to turn their first victory in their new hometown into a streak.

    “Guys played with a lot of character, a lot of resolve,” Lynn said Monday. “We didn’t execute at times very well, but they still found a way to get the job done. Sometimes, I think there’s a very important lesson in that. We talked about that today a little bit. When a team can do that, I think you can build off of that.”

    A win was sorely needed by the Chargers (1-4), particularly in a close game. Since last season, the Chargers had lost 12 of their last 13 games decided by eight points or fewer — but they rallied from a five-point deficit in the fourth quarter and held off the winless Giants.

    “We’ve lost a lot of games like that, and we finally won one of those games, one of the close games,” running back Melvin Gordon said at the Chargers’ training complex. “That definitely gives you confidence and momentum going into the next one.”

    The next one is a trip to Oakland for an AFC West showdown with the Raiders (2-3), but the Chargers have a day to enjoy the feeling of success that had eluded them in LA this year.

    The Chargers didn’t force a turnover during their entire recent three-game homestand, but the defense came through late against Eli Manning.

    Melvin Ingram continued his spectacular start to the season by stripping the ball from the Giants quarterback during a sack and then recovering the fumble in the fourth quarter.

    Ingram has 7 1/2 sacks already this season, sitting one sack behind Dallas’ Demarcus Lawrence for the NFL lead.

    “When (Ingram) got the contract that we gave him, for him to come out and just not slow down, but try to get even better, (and) with the humility that he has, it’s been really encouraging,” Lynn said. “He has become one of the leaders on our football team.”

    Joey Bosa is also catching Lynn’s attention, even if the second-year pro’s season numbers haven’t yet matched Ingram’s eye-popping statistics. Bosa matched Ingram with two sacks and six tackles against the Giants, who couldn’t handle the Chargers’ bookend edge rushers.

    “He’s having a really good season. He hustles,” Lynn said. “Just because he doesn’t have the sack numbers of maybe Melvin doesn’t mean he isn’t having a good season. He’s playing really well against the run. He brings it every single down, and that’s hard to do for four quarters.”

    Gordon scored the go-ahead TD on a pass from Philip Rivers with 2:58 to play. Tre Boston then picked off Manning’s final pass with 49 seconds left to seal the Chargers’ first win since Nov. 27, 2016.

    To win two consecutive games for just the second time since 2014, the Chargers likely will need to commit fewer than the 11 penalties for 87 yards that plagued them against the Giants.

    Penalties were the first area of concern cited by Lynn when asked about Los Angeles’ plans for the upcoming week. The Chargers’ 38 penalties are the eighth-most in the NFL.

    “Some of the aggressive penalties, those are going to happen,” Lynn said. “It’s the pre-snap penalties that we need to clean up. You just keep emphasizing it. You keep working it. You’ve got to hold the guys accountable.”

  • Surprising 3-2 Jets preparing to play Patriots for 1st place

    Surprise, surprise. The New York Jets are playing for first.

    No, not the No. 1 draft pick — as so many predicted. But for the top spot in the AFC East, with a matchup against the rival New England Patriots on tap for Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

    Both teams are 3-2, with the Patriots’ struggles nearly as stunning as the Jets’ early-season success. But Todd Bowles knows better than to take Bill Belichick’s bunch lightly.

    “Well, they’re scary because they’re still winning,” the Jets coach said during a conference call Monday. “They are still the same Patriots. You have to knock them off the ladder. They are kings of the division right now. They won the Super Bowl.

    “We have to come out and work on us and play hard and go into the game and try and compete and win.”

    The Jets have done that the past three weeks, rolling to a dominant victory against Miami and then pulling off close wins against Jacksonville and Cleveland.

    Still, New York recognizes it has quite a few flaws, with penalties a major issue.

    “It’s good to get a win on the road, but obviously we have to correct a lot of things on both sides of the ball,” Bowles said. “And we have to get the penalties down, which keeps hampering us every week, which has to change.”

    The Jets have been penalized 19 times in their last two games, including nine in the 17-14 win at Cleveland.

    “Some of them are ticky-tacky, some of them are legit and some of them you can question,” Bowles said. “But either way, we have to get them down.”

    The defense has also struggled to get to the quarterback, with New York’s seven sacks ranking second to last in the NFL through five games. Only Tampa Bay, with four, has less. The Jets also gave up 140 yards against the Browns, a week after allowing 175 to the Jaguars.

    “We’re building that unity and playing for each other,” defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. “But at the same time, we feel that we didn’t play up to our standards that we’ve seen on film — speaking for my position and our defense, specifically.”

    New York’s offense had a rough day generating much of anything against the Browns until late, going 4 of 12 on third downs and gaining 212 yards compared to Cleveland’s 419.

    “We started slow,” quarterback Josh McCown said. “They mixed the looks, they did a good job of doing some different things and we had some penalties early and kind of got behind the sticks the second drive out there and that really killed that one. So we have to start faster.”

    The Jets were able to capitalize, though, on mistakes by the Browns, who squandered four scoring opportunities during the first half.

    A little luck, maybe, but the Patriots also see a hungry and resilient squad in their division opponents.

    “You’ve got to be impressed with what the Jets have done,” Belichick said Monday. “They’ve had three weeks in a row, they’ve played well. … It’s always tough with the Jets and we know it’ll be tough this week.”

    The Patriots have won five of the last six meetings, with the Jets’ lone win during that span being a 26-20 overtime victory at home during Bowles’ first season as coach in 2015.

    New York knows it could make a huge statement to the entire league if it beats New England, which would also be the Jets’ first four-game winning streak since they won five straight two seasons ago — capped by that last victory over the Patriots.

    New England has allowed a league-high 447.2 yards per game, a stunningly high number for a Belichick-coached defense. That’s 50 yards more per game than the next closest team, Indianapolis (397.4).

    “I’m looking at them right now, and this is a good crew,” quarterback Josh McCown insisted. “It’s going to be a tough matchup. They’re always good at game planning and preparing for you and what you do and what you do best, and so it’ll be a fun challenge.”

    The Patriots opened as 8-point favorites, which is hardly a surprise. Just a few weeks ago, however, the Jets were probably looked at as certain double-digit underdogs for this matchup.

    From the coaches to the players, New York has stressed a sense of unity that has only grown stronger with every victory. And each win has all that preseason talk about being a front-runner for the No. 1 overall draft pick next April fading fast.

    “It’s a wave right now,” Williams said. “We’re on that unity wave of being with each other and playing for each other and playing hard and fast. We’ve just got to keep riding that wave.”

 

  • Panthers finding ways to close out games, stay atop NFC

    The Panthers are closing out games — and keeping pace atop the NFC.

    Carolina (4-1) is coming off back-to-back wins over Detroit and New England in part because of its ability to control the ball on offense in the game’s final minutes. That has left the Panthers tied for the best record in the NFC along with the Packers and Eagles, who they’ll host on Thursday night.

    In each of the last two games, the Panthers have built big leads, only to have their defense surrender two fourth quarter touchdowns to allow their opponent back in the game.

    But the offense has bailed them out.

    On Sunday, the Panthers held on to beat the Lions 27-24 by running off the final 3 minutes, 22 seconds off the clock. A week earlier, the Patriots battled back to tie the game behind two late Tom Brady TD passes before Cam Newton drove the Panthers 36 yards and used all 3 minutes, 6 seconds off the clock to set up Graham Gano’s winning field goal as time expired.

    The Eagles will be with third straight division leader the Panthers face.

    Panthers tight end Ed Dickson said it’s a “huge” mental boost knowing the offense can put the game away when needed.

    “We have the ability to close these teams out,” said Dickson, who had a career-high 175 yards on five catches against the Lions. “You want to finish with the ball in the offense’s hands, kneeling and running the clock out.”

    Newton has started to look like a league MVP again the last two games after a rough start to the season.

    In the past two games he’s completed 77 percent of his passes (48 of 62) for 671 yards with six touchdown passes and one interception. That’s a drastic improvement over the first three games when he completed 61 percent of his passes with two TDs and four interceptions.

    He’s been mentally tough down the stretch of the last two games, including a third-down completion to wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin against the Lions that essentially sealed the victory.

    “The biggest thing more so than anything else is just the trust, the trust factor and Cam making decisions,” coach Ron Rivera said. “We gave an option in terms of where he could go with the ball. He saw what he was looking for and Kelvin was the target. And again, it’s just he’s doing some really good things right now and he’s in real good sync with his receivers. They’re running good routes and making plays for us.”

    Wide receiver Devin Funchess is one of those players with three TD receptions in the last two games.

    “I mean, that’s Panther football,” Funchess said of the final drive. “O-Line toughed it out, running backs toughed it out, Cam (Newton) toughed it out and we just found our way.”

    Now the Panthers must turn their attention to an Eagles team that is 4-1 coming back and coming off a dominating 34-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

    But Rivera is confident the Panthers are ready for anything with Newton improving following offseason rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder.

    “We went through a rough patch early on with the quarterback because he was still working himself back into football shape,” Rivera said. “He had to get that arm strength back. The shoulder was getting tired quickly because it hadn’t been conditioned the way it needs to when you practice as little as he did at training camp. So now he’s starting to feel better and better and stronger and stronger.”

     

Middle

  • Indianapolis still looking for solution to closing out games

    Colts coach Chuck Pagano has had enough thrilling endings for one season.

    Maybe for a whole lifetime.

    After watching the latest episode of the incredible shrinking fourth-quarter lead, Pagano and the Colts returned to work Monday still searching for that elusive finishing touch.

    “A lot of good things on the tape, never going to apologize for a win,” Pagano said. “Made it harder than it had to be. Lot of things to build on, lots of things to clean up.”

    He’ll get no argument in this locker room.

    There are plenty of explanations for why Indy (2-3) has struggled to maintain leads, especially late.

    They couldn’t even keep a 14-point lead against the offensively challenged 49ers, who broke through for two touchdowns in the final eight minutes to force overtime after producing only five TDs in their first four games.

    Pagano was relieved that the Colts offense and defense came up with just enough plays in overtime to beat a winless team for the second time in three weeks.

    But getting there sure wasn’t easy.

    San Francisco started its late charge with a 51-yard pass from Brian Hoyer to Marquise Goodwin. Three plays later, the 49ers cut Indy’s lead in half courtesy of a 6-yard shovel pass.

    The momentum carried over to the next series when Hoyer hooked up with George Kittle for 27 yards, then watched Kittle barely wrestle the ball across the goal line on fourth down to tie the score with 20 seconds left.

    It’s enough to make coaches and players wince.

    “We’ve got a lot of room (for improvement), a lot, especially in the back end,” safety Darius Butler said. “That’s where we’re giving up a lot of big plays, especially in the second half.”

    But it hasn’t always been the young, banged up secondary or even the defense as a whole at fault.

    In Week 3 against Cleveland, Indy’s offense had three chances to run out the clock after taking a 31-14 lead with 10:18 left. Each time, the Colts went three-and-out and the Browns turned two of those possessions into scores before Malik Hooker closed out the win with an interception.

    The dramatic turnabouts have certainly made things exciting — much to the chagrin of anyone in the Colts locker room.

    “We’ll take it right now any way we can,” Pagano said after Sunday’s 26-23 victory. “But you’re exactly right, you’re up 14 (points) in the fourth, you’ve got to find a way. They made plays, they got hot, they found the tight end, they got something going and the guy (Hoyer) made some plays. We made a few more than they made in overtime.”

    Or it might have turned into the same old story from Week 2 when the Colts blew a 10-point lead in the last eight minutes and wound up losing 16-13 in overtime against Arizona.

    The Colts are one game behind AFC South-leading Jacksonville and only one team in the conference, undefeated Kansas City, has more than three wins.

    Quarterback Andrew Luck returned to practice last week, and the Colts remain hopeful they can get two rookie cornerbacks, Quincy Wilson and Nate Hairston, back on the field this week.

    Wilson has missed three straight games with a knee injury. Hairston sat out Sunday with a quad injury.

    The Colts could get even more help if safety Clayton Geathers is activated off the physically unable to perform list with a neck injury. Pagano said Geathers might be one or two weeks from participating in non-contact workouts and that he is expected to play this season.

    Yes, getting healthy will help.

    But the more pressing issue seems to be finding a way to flip the script on this season.

    “It’s just guys making plays,” linebacker Jabaal Sheard said. “We stopped them (the 49ers) in the red zone a few times, we’ve just got to rise up and make the plays.”

     

     

Downs

  • Cardinals trying to move past bad loss

    Once was enough for Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians when it came to watching film from Sunday’s 34-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

    “It’s not one you want to watch twice, but there is a lot of things we can learn from,” Arians said.

    One lesson might be less free time for players on trips to the East Coast, Arians said. But that isn’t the biggest concern for the 2-3 Cardinals after a performance that general manager Steve Keim said was perhaps the worst on defense, offense and special teams since Arizona’s 49-15 loss to Carolina in the 2016 NFC Championship Game.

    Keim made the statement on his Monday morning radio program on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. Arians backed it up.

    “We made errors in the game that we have not made all season,” Arians said. “Things that are easily correctable but my concern is, why were they made in the first place?”

    Injuries, which have been a major storyline for the Cardinals this season, also were a factor in Philadelphia.

    Arians said five long snappers were working out Monday after Aaron Brewer was placed on injured reserve. Brewer will have wrist/hand surgery on Tuesday and is out for the season.

    The Cardinals hope to get offensive linemen Alex Boone and D.J. Humphries back from injuries this week to help an offensive line that has struggled to support a ground game, though the sacks allowed went down from six against San Francisco in Week 4 to two on Sunday.

    “A combination of missed blocks and poor running,” Arians said of a general lack of success at running the ball. “The few that we’ve made, everybody was on the same page.”

    Pass protection is critical to the big plays that have been a staple of the Cardinals’ offense under Arians.

    “We have guys, if we can get them in space, who can get us 15 or 20 (yards), but to get over the top of the defense, you have to protect for at least three (seconds),” Arians said.

    The Eagles gained 419 yards of offense against an Arizona defense that didn’t tackle well at times, 304 yards with four passing touchdowns from quarterback Carson Wentz. The Cardinals gave up a 76-yard punt return to Kenjon Barner and had a field goal blocked on special teams.

    “We’ve just got to regroup. There’s a bunch of fighters in this locker room and this isn’t going to change where we’re trying to go,” defensive lineman Frostee Rucker said. “We have no choice. This is what we signed up to do. We signed up to battle for 16 or 17 weeks, so everything after that is a plus.”

 

  • Cowboys’ Jerry Jones reignites protest conversation in NFL

    Now that Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys has become the first NFL owner with a public suggestion of repercussions for displays during the national anthem, players are opening up more about the delicate balance of team chemistry and politics in the locker room.

    And they’re not necessarily slamming the powerful and outspoken Jones for suggesting his players will be benched if they disrespect the flag.

     “He’s the owner. Either you listen or you don’t,” Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis said Monday. “And if you don’t listen, then you won’t play. It’s all up to each and every individual.”

     

    Jones was responding Sunday night to questions about Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to leave an Indianapolis home game in protest of about a dozen San Francisco players who kneeled during the anthem. President Donald Trump tweeted after Pence’s walkout that he had told his vice president to leave if any players kneeled.

    On Monday night, Trump also tweeted his support for Jones.

    “A big salute to Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who will BENCH players who disrespect our Flag,” the president tweeted. “‘Stand for Anthem or sit for game!'”

    Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the movement early last season when he sat on the bench, and later kneeled, during the anthem to protest racial inequality and police mistreatment of black males. He remains unsigned and wants to resume his career.

    The 74-year-old Jones, also the team’s general manager, said after a loss to Green Bay on Sunday that the NFL cannot leave the impression that it tolerates players disrespecting the flag and said any Cowboys doing so will not play.

    They were the most provocative comments so far from Jones, a powerful behind-the-scenes force in the NFL and recent Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee who had already been clear in his support of standing for the anthem.

    The NFL players’ union had a swift rebuke Monday. Executive director DeMaurice Smith said Jones contradicted assurances last week from Commissioner Roger Goodell and New York Giants President John Mara that players could express themselves without reprisals.

    “I look forward to the day when everyone in management can unite and truly embrace and articulate what the flag stands for, liberty and justice for all, instead of some of them just talking about standing,” Smith said. “We look forward to continuing our talks with them on this very issue.”

    Many of the NFL’s 32 teams have held meetings in various forms to discuss the issue since Trump said more than two weeks ago during a rally in Alabama that owners should fire players who kneel for the anthem.

    In some cases, teams have struggled with their responses.

    After Trump’s criticism, the Pittsburgh Steelers agreed to stay off the field before the anthem. But Army veteran Alejandro Villanueva, an offensive lineman, stood at the edge of a tunnel with his teammates in darkness behind him during the anthem two weeks ago.

    Villanueva said he was not making a political statement or defying his teammates, calling it a misunderstanding that was “very embarrassing on my end.”

    Miami coach Adam Gase recently created a team policy requiring players either to stand or wait in the tunnel. Three chose to stay off the field Sunday at home against Tennessee — Michael Thomas, Kenny Stills and Julius Thomas. All three have kneeled in the past.

    Asked why he was responding to questions on the topic after previously declining to comment, Gase said, “Because I thought it was time for us to address it.”

    After several meetings over two days before a Monday night game in Arizona two weeks ago, the Cowboys and Jones kneeled arm-in-arm before the anthem. All of them stood during the anthem, with arms still locked. Otherwise, the Cowboys have stood on the sideline.

    The Denver Broncos decided two weeks ago that they would stop kneeling after coach Vance Joseph met with his leadership group. The Broncos stood before their most recent game against Oakland, with linebacker Brandon Marshall raising a fist. Denver was off Sunday.

    “We just feel like as a team, it’s bringing more negative attention … than it is positive,” safety Justin Simmons said. “So, we made our point the one time we did it. The awareness of the social injustices are out there.”

    During their bye last week, Atlanta players and coaches had a discussion mediated by a representative from the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality. Falcons owner Arthur Blank invited the outside perspective, and the team has decided to stand during the anthem.

    “There’s no policy that was written or spoken about,” coach Dan Quinn said. “It’s more one that was really in the heart of brotherhood, that what we do, we’ll do it together.”

    Jones isn’t the only owner who feels strongly about players standing for the anthem, but there have been no indications of teams requiring their players to stand. Mara has told Giants players he wants them to stand but supports their right to do otherwise.

    “As a team we’ve had our talks about it and we’re good to go,” said Redskins running back Chris Thompson, among several Washington players to deny reports that they are required to stand. “Our ownership, we’ve all talked about it. I think on our end, we’re good.”

     

  • Dolphins assistant resigns, apologizes after video surfaces

    Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase says offensive line coach Chris Foerster seemed so focused on the team that he would often be at work by 4 a.m. Then a video surfaced that rocked Foerster’s reputation and cost him his job.

    The 55-year-old assistant coach resigned Monday, apologized and said he was seeking medical help after a video on social media appeared to show him snorting three lines of white powder at a desk.

    Hours after the video was posted on Facebook, Foerster announced his departure in a statement released by the team.

    “I am resigning from my position with the Miami Dolphins and accept full responsibility for my actions,” he said. “I want to apologize to the organization, and my sole focus is on getting the help that I need, with the support of my family and medical professionals.”

    The 56-second video was first posted to the Facebook page of model Kijuana Nige on Sunday night. It’s unclear when and where the video was shot, and it was deleted Monday.

    “Since it’s NFL Sunday let’s talk about these coaches folks,” Nige wrote in the post. “Introducing Christopher Foerster Miami Dolphin offensive line coach.”

    Foerster has been an NFL assistant since 1992 and joined Gase’s staff in Miami last year.

    “We were made aware of the video late last night and have no tolerance for this behavior,” the team said in a statement that accompanied Foerster’s resignation announcement. “After speaking with Chris this morning, he accepted full responsibility and we accepted his resignation effective immediately. Although Chris is no longer with the organization, we will work with him to get the help he needs during this time.”

    Gase said he learned of the video late Sunday, soon after the Dolphins’ 16-10 victory over Tennessee.

    “I don’t think I can say what my reaction was,” Gase said.

    The coach said he phoned Foerster, who apologized. Gase declined to say whether Foerster volunteered to resign or was urged to quit.

    “He’s disappointed, he’s upset, he’s mad at himself,” Gase said. “It’s not fun, especially when you’re close to somebody. But you’ve got to take the next step and move on.”

    The NFL said it was reviewing the matter.

    Gase said he has known Foerster since 2008, when both were assistants with the San Francisco 49ers. Foerster joined the Dolphins shortly after Gase became head coach last year.

    “Since I’ve been around him, he has always been a guy who just put his head down and worked,” Gase said. “He was here at 4 in the morning and worked as hard as he could for us.”

    Rookie Eric Smith was the only offensive lineman to speak to the media Monday.

    “I have nothing negative to say about coach Foerster,” Smith said. “It’s an unfortunate situation. I hate to see it happening to him. I saw no signs of it happening. I’m still shocked by it.”

    Team captain Michael Thomas said he had not seen the video but expressed sympathy for Foerster.

    “It’s crazy,” Thomas said. “We’re praying for him.”

    The video appears to show Foerster and the powder on the desk. The man is holding a rolled-up $20 bill in his right hand and appears to adjust the camera with his left hand.

    “Hey babe, miss you, thinking about you,” he says. “How about me going to a meeting and doing this before I go?”

    He then snorts the substance into his nose though the $20 bill and notes “those big grains falling” as residue lands on the desk.

    “What do you think, I’m crazy?” Foerster asks after snorting the second line. “Ah, no, babe.

    “It’s going to be a while before we can do this again … ” he says, “But I think about you when I do it. I think about how much I miss you, how high we got together, how much fun it was. So much fun.”

    Before snorting the final line he says, “Last little bit before I go to my meeting.”

    “Those are his habits,” Nige wrote in a different Facebook post, “and he recorded himself and sent it to me professing his love.”

    Foerster’s offensive line has played poorly this season, and the Dolphins (2-2) rank last in the league in points and yards per game. They planned an announcement later regarding his successor.

    “Any time you lose a really good coach, it’s not ideal,” Gase said. “But we’ll rally. We’ll find a way.”

    Quarterback Ryan Tannehill suffered a season-ending knee injury in training camp, Miami’s opener was postponed because of Hurricane Irma, and linebacker Lawrence Timmons briefly went AWOL. Foerster’s departure becomes the latest chapter in a turbulent season.

    “That’s the NFL, man,” Gase said. “It’s a league of distractions. You move on.”

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