ICYMI: NFC East matters; zero unbeatens; comebacks
Believe it or not, the NFC East might really matter again.
It’s certainly been a while.
That division is the only one in the NFL with two 4-1 clubs, the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Plus, it also includes the New York Giants, who have won three consecutive games to get to 3-2.
Two of the marquee games on next Sunday’s schedule involve teams from a group recently known as the “NFC Least” — the Cowboys are at the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, and the Eagles host the Giants at night.
This Sunday, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant connected for the play of the day, a 37-yard jump-ball completion, to set up the winning field goal as Dallas beat Houston 20-17 in overtime. Philadelphia ran its total to five TDs on defense or special teams in the past two games while holding off St. Louis 34-28. And New York’s Eli Manning threw for two touchdowns while avoiding an interception in a 30-20 comeback victory over Atlanta.
The fourth member of the division, the Washington Redskins, fall into the category of “one of these is not like the others”: just 1-3 under rookie head coach Jay Gruden — with an injured Robert Griffin III and a turnover-prone Kirk Cousins at quarterback — heading into Monday night’s game against visiting Seattle.
In case you missed it, here are the other top topics after the NFL season’s fifth Sunday:
NO UNBEATENS: The Cardinals and Bengals both went from 3-0 to 3-1, and neither defeat was close, meaning each of the league’s 32 teams has at least one loss. You’d have to go all the way back to 1970 to find a season in which everyone had been beaten earlier — it happened by the end of Week 4 in 1970, according to STATS. On Sunday, Arizona lost to Peyton Manning and Denver 41-20, while Cincinnati lost to Tom Brady and New England 43-17.
CHOP BLOCK: Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was outraged by what he called “a blatant chop block” by Broncos Pro Bowl tight end Julius Thomas that left Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell sidelined with a strained MCL in his right knee. “I’ve been coaching for 37 years; it’s the dirtiest play I’ve seen,” Arians said. “It was a flat chop block and put him out of the game. I know John Fox, great coach and great guy. Somebody has got to answer to that. A fine isn’t going to do it, when he’s going to miss three or four weeks.”
MORE INJURIES: In addition to Campbell, the Cardinals lost quarterback Drew Stanton — as it is, the replacement for Carson Palmer — to a concussion after a hit from Von Miller. As usual, the list of significant injuries is long, and among those to keep tabs on in the coming days: Two dynamic members of Detroit’s offense each hurt an ankle, receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush; a trio of Jaguars running backs also each had an ankle problem, Toby Gerhart, Storm Johnson, and Jordan Todman; Giants running back Rashad Jennings sprained his knee; Bills cornerback Ron Brooks spent the night at the hospital after landing on his head in a scary collision during a punt return.
NO LEAD IS SAFE: More than half of Sunday’s nine early games — five — involved a team blowing a lead of 10 or more points and losing, highlighted by Tennessee wasting the largest home edge ever, 25 points, in what would become a 29-28 loss to the Browns. The Bears led the Panthers 21-7 before losing 31-24; the Falcons led the Giants 20-10 before losing 30-20; the Lions led the Bills 14-0 before losing 17-14; and the Buccaneers led the Saints 31-20 before losing 37-31.
QUESTIONABLE COACHING: Lowlights among coaching decisions included Atlanta’s Mike Smith going for it on fourth-and-1 at his own 29 with about 4 1/2 minutes left and down by seven points to the Giants (quarterback Matt Ryan got sacked); and Tennessee’s Ken Whisenhunt going for it and fourth-and-inches at his own 42 with 3:03 left (Charlie Whitehurst was stopped on a QB sneak).
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