NFL Week 5: What we learned from Sunday's games

Los Angeles Rams 30, Washington Football Team 10

1) Jared Goff started off Sunday’s blowout like he was playing in a summer seven-on-seven camp session. Rams pass-catchers scampered wide open, and Goff played the good point guard, hitting his targets in stride for big yards after catch. The Rams scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the game, including a 56-yard bomb from Goff to Robert Woods. It was nice to see a field-stretching element to an offense that had missed that element the past few weeks. As the rain picked up in DC, however, Goff and the offense stalled for stretches of the game. The QB bounced back late with a great TD drive to wrap up the blowout, but against better squads, the offensive lulls — particularly in the elements — is something Sean McVay needs to iron out to keep up in the toughest division in football.

2) The Kyle Allen experiment in Washington lasted less than a half before the QB was knocked out by Jalen Ramsey on a scramble. Enter Alex Smith. The veteran QB appeared in an NFL game for the first time in 693 days, since suffering a brutal leg injury in Week 11, 2018. Smith looked about what you’d expect a 36-year-old who missed an entire season with a potentially career-threatening injury to look like. Smith was pulverized by the Rams defensive front, getting sacked six times in just over two quarters of play. Washington’s offense with Allen and Smith was a dink-and-dunk operation — scatback J.D. McKissic led Washington in receiving. Smith didn’t have a completion of more than six air yards, per Next Gen Stats. Smith either dumped it off quick or got sacked. He did try a couple of deep shots late in the blowout, but those heaves were off the mark. Given the streaking rain, it’s impossible to know if Smith could have been more mobile in better conditions. The veteran looked like a player who had been in a rehab room for more than a year. Despite Allen being cleared to return, Ron Rivera stuck with Smith in the second half, likely in an effort to get the QB reps. Sunday was a feel-good story for Smith’s return, but Rivera said Allen would return to the starting lineup. The hope is that next time Smith gets on the field, it’ll be under better circumstances.

3) Aaron Donald and the Rams defensive front feasted on Washington’s line, battering Smith and Allen throughout the game. The Rams compiled eight total sacks. Donald himself earned four QB takedowns on the day. Fortunately, the former DPOY didn’t cripple Smith, though the veteran QB is sure to feel the bruises from the damage Donald inflicted. Second-year pass rusher Troy Reeder hadn’t generated a sack in his career but gobbled up three Sunday. When L.A.’s front is as domineering as it was Sunday, with Donald wrecking plays, it makes life much easier on the back end of the defense to suffocate receivers.

— Kevin Patra

Baltimore Ravens 27, Cincinnati Bengals 3

1) The Ravens defense extended the NFL’s longest active streak of consecutive games forcing at least one turnover (18), getting three for the game and maintaining its penchant for causing fumbles. Add three more forced fumbles this week for a total of nine on the season and a rate of nearly two per game. Rookie LB Patrick Queen stripped his former LSU teammate, Joe Burrow, and recovered the fumble for one, and in the second half, when CB Marlon Humphrey forced another, his second in as many weeks, it was Queen who scooped it for a 53-yard touchdown return. Ball carriers beware — two hands on the ball to finish plays is the only way to go against this team.

2) The Bengals had no offensive balance to speak of, and that kept Burrow in too many obvious passing situations throughout the game. The No. 1 pick of the draft has the arm, the athleticism and the moxie, but the Bengals can’t lay the entire offense on his shoulders. And on days Joe Mixon runs for just 59 yards on 24 carries, that’s what will happen. Given Cincinnati’s struggles with pass protection this year, the result was predictable: Burrow was heavily pressured for much of the game against one of the NFL’s best third-down defenses, sacked seven times.

3) Credit Cincinnati’s defense, at least, for containing Lamar Jackson’s rushing. The 2019 NFL MVP had battered the Bengals on the ground — 342 yards in his career, his highest total against any team — but had negative-4 yards rushing at the half and just three yards on two carries for the day. Jackson was patient and scrambled to throw, not run, but that was in part because the Bengals’ defensive front limited easy escape lanes.

Chase Goodbread

Houston Texans 30, Jacksonville Jaguars 14

1) The Texans had an unusually difficult schedule in the first month of the season, but received a break in Week 5 with Jacksonville. After slogging through losses to Kansas City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Minnesota, Houston (1-4) welcomed — and I mean welcomed — Jacksonville to Texas Sunday for a chance to record its first win and followed through. It wasn’t a perfect game by any means, with Deshaun Watson throwing two interceptions, but Houston managed to put together a few solid drives and enjoyed a better day defensively. Other than the interceptions, Watson was largely sharp, finding eight different pass-catchers throughout the course of the game, completing 25 of 35 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns, and helping the Texans break 24 points for the first time in 2020. If anything, Sunday provided enough of a feel-good win to make the week ahead worth fighting for under interim head coach Romeo Crennel.

2) What an ugly day for the Jaguars (1-4). Stephen Hauschka set a dreadful tone by missing a chip-shot field goal on a drive that stalled deep in Houston territory, then followed that up with another miss from 49 yards, twice leaving the Jaguars empty-handed at the end of promising possessions. Doug Marrone decided he’d seen enough from his kicker, opting to go for it on fourth and one from the Houston 8, but the call was regrettable. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden dialed up a peculiar trick play that saw Gardner Minshew motion wide and the center direct snap to James Robinson, who trotted right, appeared to be looking to throw and fumbled the ball, resulting in a turnover that would’ve come on downs if not the fumble. That play defined Jacksonville’s day — and its last three weeks — in a nutshell.

3) Watson and Brandin Cooks have finally established a connection. The quarterback looked to his speedy receiver early and often, finding him for a 36-yard completion in the game’s first three minutes, and hooked up with Cooks for 20-plus yards five times throughout the course of the afternoon. Their fourth connection produced Cooks’ first touchdown as a Texan on a 28-yard completion on fourth and four, effectively sealing Houston’s first victory and giving Texans fans a reason to be excited about the passing game in Houston.

— Nick Shook

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