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NFL Week 5 Grades: Bengals and Browns earn

Hopefully no one in Cincinnati turned off their television at halftime on Sunday, because the Bengals pulled off one of the wildest comebacks of Week 5. 

Although there were more exciting wins on Sunday (the Browns winning with a knuckleball) and there were crazier wins (the Panthers winning on a 63-yard field goal), the Bengals might have pulled off the most improbable win when they came back from a 17-0 deficit to beat the Dolphins 27-17. 

The reason it was improbable is because the Bengals never come back from anything. For one, they were trailing 14-0 at halftime, which is almost always means a loss in Cincinnati. Before Sunday, the Bengals were 0-8 over the past 10 years in games where they were shut out in the first half and they had never won a game in franchise history when scoring zero points and trailing by 14 or more at the half. 

The Bengals were also trailing this game in third quarter (17-3) and if there’s one thing this team is worse at than winning playoff games with Marvin Lewis, it’s coming back from a third-quarter deficit with him. 

The Bengals needed a spark in the second half, and that’s exactly what they got. It’s probably not a coincidence that the spark came on the same day that Vontaze Burfict returned from his four-game suspension. 

With Burfict on the field for the first time this year, an inspired Bengals defense stole the show in the second half with a dominating performance that basically won the game for Cincinnati. 

With the Bengals trailing in the second half, the defense came through with two huge touchdowns. First, Michael Johnson pulled off the wildest pick-six that you’ll see all year when he took a deflected pass from Ryan Tannehill and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown that tied the game at 17. 

The Bengals would later take the lead on a 20-yard field goal from Randy Bullock, but they didn’t ice the win until their defense came through with another touchdown with just 2:37 remaining. This time, Sam Hubbard took a Ryan Tannehill fumble and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown. 

Last week, the Bengals pulled off an improbable win thanks to Andy Dalton and an offense that scored a game-winning touchdown against the Falcons with just seven seconds left. This week, the defense returned the favor. 

The Bengals’ defense was so good against Miami that the Dolphins didn’t run a play inside the red zone a single time the entire game. The Bengals defensive line also had Tannehill running for his life for most of the second half. Tannehill was sacked three times with two of those coming from Cincinnati’s All-Pro defensive tackle, Geno Atkins. 

The Bengals aren’t a team known for their late-game magic, but someone in Cincinnati must have found a football spell book because these Cardiac Cats have perfected the comeback win in 2018. The Bengals’ comeback from 17 points down was tied for the fifth-biggest comeback in franchise history and marked just the third time in Marvin Lewis’ 16 seasons as coach that the team has won a game after trailing by 17. 

A 27-17 win over the Dolphins might not look sexy on paper, but beating a first-place team after falling behind 17-0 does look good, and that’s exactly what the Bengals did. The Bengals might not be the scariest team in the AFC, but they do have the second-best record in the conference, their star linebacker has returned and Andy Dalton is getting closer and closer to looking like the MVP-candidate he was in 2015. The Bengals must be using an invisibility spell, because no one is noticing them yet. However, if they keep winning, they’re going to be impossible to ignore. 

Cincinnati 27-17 over Miami

Dolphins: C

The Dolphins got an impressive game from their special teams (a 70-yard punt return touchdown), an impressive game from their defense, but they didn’t get an impressive game from Tannehill and the offense. Tannehill personally accounted for all three of Miami’s turnovers with two interceptions and a lost fumble. After taking a 17-0 lead, the Dolphins offense fell apart and didn’t reach Bengals territory again until the final 30 seconds of the game, but at that point, Miami was trailing 27-17 and there was no hope of winning.

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Bengals: A-

The only reason the Bengals didn’t get an ‘A’ is because their special teams struggled against the Dolphins. Not only did Miami block a field goal in this game, but the Dolphins also returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown. Offensively, A.J. Green continues to put up big numbers even though everyone in the stadium knows that he’s getting the ball. Green caught six passes for 112 yards and now has more 100-yard games than any other player in Bengals history. 

Pittsburgh 41-17 over Atlanta

Falcons: F

It seems like the Falcons are having a delayed Super Bowl hangover, because this season just keeps getting uglier by the week. Although the Steelers went into this game with the fourth-worst passing defense in the NFL, the Falcons weren’t able to take advantage of that, and that’s mostly because they couldn’t protect Matt Ryan. Ryan got sacked six times playing behind a Falcons offensive line that got massacred by the Steelers defense.  

Steelers: A

With their huge win over Atlanta, we might have finally reached a week in the season where the Steelers won’t have any drama. Antonio Brown probably won’t be complaining about anything this week and that’s mainly because he had his biggest game of the season with 103 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Also, there won’t be any calls for Le’Veon Bell after James Connor totaled 185 offensive yards and two touchdowns. The Steelers’ beleaguered defense, which went into the game ranked 28th overall, even had a big game with six sacks and a defensive touchdown. T.J. Watt led the sack party with three. 

Cleveland 12-9 over Baltimore (OT)

Ravens: C

Somehow, the Ravens’ game plan on Sunday turned into “let Joe Flacco throw the ball as many times as possible,” which never turns out well for Baltimore. Flacco finished 29 of 56 for 298 yards and the Ravens are now 0-9 in his career when he throws nine or more passes. The ugliest play from Flacco in this game came in the second quarter when he threw an interception on a second-and-goal play from the Browns’ 2-yard line. Defensively, the Ravens racked up five sacks and still haven’t surrendered a second-half touchdown through five weeks. 

Browns: A

The Browns might not deserve an ‘A,’ but we’re giving them extra credit for winning their first Sunday game since 2015. This win wouldn’t have been possible with the play of a defense that came up huge in key situations. For one, the Browns absolutely shut down the Ravens offense on third-down attempts, holding them to 4 of 16. The Browns defense also came up big in the red zone by not letting Baltimore score a single touchdown on three different trips inside Cleveland’s 20-yard line, which was impressive, because the Ravens went into the game ranked fourth overall in red-zone scoring percentage. The win is going to allow Greg Joseph to sleep at night. After missing an extra point and a field goal, the kicker redeemed himself with a 37-yard game-winner in overtime. Baker Mayfield wasn’t great, but he did drive the Browns 65 yards in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal by Joseph. 

N.Y. Jets 34-16 over Denver

Broncos: F

The Broncos defense must have gotten tired chasing around the Chiefs’ offense in Week 4, because they looked horrible in New York. The Jets totaled 512 yards in this game, which is the most that Denver has given on defense since 2013. The Jets’ 323 rushing yards was the most that the Broncos have given up since 2010. Basically, the Broncos got steamrolled and there was nothing they could do to stop it. 

Jets: A

The Jets looked like actual Jets in this game as they flew up and down the field on the Broncos defense. The most impressive part of this win is that the Jets had four plays of 50 or more yards (77-yard TD run, 76-yard TD catch, 54-yard run, 51-yard punt return). Two of those big plays came from Isaiah Crowell, who stole the show on Sunday. After rushing for zero yards in Week 4, Crowell exploded for 219 yards on just 15 carries. Crowell’s rushing total was the most in franchise history and the most by any NFL running back since December 2016. Sam Darnold completed only 10 passes in this game, but he made the most of them, throwing for three touchdowns. 

Detroit 31-23 over Green Bay

Packers: C-

Things are probably going to be slightly awkward for Mason Crosby in the Packers’ locker room this week and that’s because he arguably cost his team the win by playing the worst game of his career. Crosby left 13 points on the board by missing four field goals and an extra point. Although one of the misses was excusable (it came from 56 yards), the other three were ugly, coming on attempts from 38, 41 and 42 yards. This game marked the first time in Aaron Rodgers’ career that the Packers lost a game where they put up more than 500 total yards. The Packers are now 5-1 in the scenario after putting up 521 yards against the Lions.    

Lions: A

Although Matthew Stafford was slightly off against the Packers, going just 14 of 26, no one else on the Lions roster seemed to struggle at all in this game. Not only did the defense sack Aaron Rodgers four times, but the unit also forced the Packers quarterback to lose two fumbles. Offensively, the Lions were perfect in the red zone with four touchdowns on four trips and it also seems that they might finally have a running back. Kerryon Johnson continued to look explosive with 12 carries for 70 yards. Of course, you might not want to grab him in fantasy because LeGarrette Blount was scoring all the touchdowns for Detroit. Blount scored two touchdowns against Green Bay, which matched his output for ALL of last season. 

Kansas City 30-14 over Jacksonville 

Jaguars: D-

The Chiefs don’t need any help when it comes to scoring points, but Blake Bortles gave them some anyway. Not only did the Jaguars quarterback throw a pick-six in this game, but he also threw three other ugly interceptions that both came inside of Kansas City’s 25-yard line. If the Jags have proven one thing with Bortles, it’s that they can’t overcome a bad game by him. The Jags are now 2-18 in Bortles’ career when he throws multiple interceptions. 

Chiefs: B+

Patrick Mahomes played the worst game of his short career, but that didn’t matter, because the Chiefs defense finally stepped up. The Chiefs defense forced five turnovers, marking just the sixth time that’s happened since Andy Reid took over as coach in 2013. The Chiefs defense also racked up five sacks, which is a big number because the team is now 17-0 under Reid when recording five or more sacks. As for that Mahomes thing, bad for him is still good for most people. Despite Mahomes’ two interceptions, the Chiefs still put up 23 offensive points on the Jags, which is the most that any team has put up on them all season (Kansas City’s other seven points came on a pick-six). 

Carolina 33-31 over N.Y. Giants

Giants: B-

The Giants’ best shot at winning games from now on might just be to let Odell Beckham throw the ball to himself. After pouting about Eli Manning’s accuracy in an interview, Beckham went out and threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Saquon Barkley in this game. Beckham also caught eight passes for 131 yards and a touchdown. Of course, Beckham also made the biggest mistake of this game on a punt return when he let the ball hit his foot. The ball then rolled in to the end zone and the Panthers recovered it for a touchdown. Beckham also dropped an easy pass on a fourth-down attempt in the first quarter. Converting on any big down proved to be impossible for the Giants. Not only did they fail on Beckham’s fourth-down drop, but they also went 0-for-7 on third down conversions.   

Panthers: B

The Panthers might want to build a statue for Graham Gano after what he did for the team against the Giants. The Panthers kicker drilled a 63-yard field goal as time expired to give Carolina the wild win. Cam Newton threw two second-half interceptions, but no one will remember those after Gano saved the day with his kick, which was the second-longest field goal in NFL history and tied for the longest game-winning kick ever. 

Buffalo 13-12 over Tennessee

Titans: C

The Titans have had some ugly offensive performances this season, but this one was definitely the worst. Tennessee didn’t even hit 225 total yards (221) plus they turned the ball over three times. This game marks only the fifth time in Marcus Mariota’s career that the team didn’t hit 225 total yards. Not surprisingly, the Titans are 0-5 in those games. If the Titans could protect the football, they might have won. Taywan Taylor’s first-quarter fumble led to a Bills touchdown. Dion Lewis followed that up with a lost fumble in the third quarter that led to a Buffalo field goal.

Bills: B+

The Bills offense isn’t flashy, but it doesn’t need to be when Buffalo’s defense played like it did. Buffalo’s defense came up with two huge fumble recoveries, which the offense was able to turn into 10 points. The Bills defense was so rock solid in this game that the Titans got inside of Buffalo’s 20-yard line only once the entire game. Offensively, Josh Allen put up some ugly numbers (10 of 19, 82 yards) but he came through in the clutch. Not only did he score the Bills’ only touchdown of the game on a 14-yard run, but he drove Buffalo straight down the field for Steven Hauschka’s  game-winning field goal in the fourth quarter. Coach Sean McDermott also deserves some credit for finally embracing risk. The Bills went for it on fourth down three times and converted two of them. 

L.A. Chargers 26-10 over Oakland

Raiders: D

Not even a stadium full of their own fans could help the Raiders on Sunday. The biggest sequence in this game came in the third quarter, when the Raiders drove down to the Chargers’ 1-yard line. All they had to do was give the ball to Marshawn Lynch (sound familiar Seahawks fans), but they didn’t. Instead, Carr threw a pass on first-and-goal and it got intercepted. The Raiders gave up on their ground game (41 rushing yards) and they still have no pass rush, which is a big reason why Philip Rivers was able to shred them for 339 yards. 

Chargers: A-

If any team wants to know how to milk the clock with a lead, they just need to pop in film of what the Chargers did in this game. After leading 17-3 at halftime, the Chargers possessed the ball only three times in the second half and each one of those possessions lasted more than five minutes. Philip Rivers was nearly perfect in this game, finishing 22 of 27 for 339 yards and two touchdowns. 

Arizona 28-18 over San Francisco

Cardinals: A

When you’re the last team to pick up a win in the NFL, we give you an automatic ‘A.’ The Cardinals owe this win to their defense, which forced five turnovers against the 49ers and sacked quarterback C.J. Beathard four times. The biggest turnover for the Cardinals came in the fourth quarter, when Josh Bynes returned a fumble 23 yards for a touchdown that gave the Cards a two-score lead and iced the game. 

49ers: C

No team in the NFL has been hit harder by injuries than the 49ers. Not only were they playing without the obvious guys like Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon, but they also had to play Sunday’s game without Marquise Goodwin. Oh, and running back Matt Breida got injured in the first quarter. Despite all those issues the 49ers still were able to put up 447 yards of offense. The problem is that they turned the ball over five times and it’s not easy to win when you turn the ball over five times. As a matter of fact, it’s basically impossible. The 49ers are now 0-9 since 2000 when they turn the ball over five or more times in a game. 

L.A. Rams 33-31 over Seattle

Rams: B

This win wasn’t pretty, but the Rams took the Seahawks’ best punch on Sunday and they survived, which is all that matters in the NFL. Of course, your fantasy team probably didn’t survive if it was going up against Todd Gurley. The Rams’ workhorse running back was unstoppable inside the 5-yard line: Gurley scored three rushing touchdowns, which all came on runs of five yards or less. Sean McVay continued to prove that he’ll do whatever it takes to win. With the Rams facing a fourth down at their own 42-yard line and clinging to a 33-31 lead late in the fourth quarter, McVay had his offense stay on the field. The gamble paid off as Jared Goff was able to sneak his way to a first down. If the Rams had failed, the Seahawks would have needed only about five yards to get in range for a game-winning field goal. 

Seahawks: B+

The Seahawks weren’t perfect, but they did arguably play their best offensive game of the season. Not only did the Seahawks have a 100-yard rusher for their third-straight game, but the offensive line actually did an adequate job of protecting Russell Wilson (for most teams in the NFL, adequate isn’t a good thing, but for the Seahawks it’s pretty much the most you can ask for). Wilson threw for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Of course, the big reason the Seahawks were able to stay alive is because they rushed for 190 yards as a team, including 116 from Chris Carson. Without Earl Thomas, the Seahawks surrendered 321 passing yards to Jared Goff. 

Minnesota 23-21 over Philadelphia

Vikings: B+

There’s a reason the Vikings gave Kirk Cousins a fully-guaranteed $84 million contract and he showed why in Philadelphia. The Eagles had no answer for Cousins, who completed 30 of 37 passes for 301 yards and a touchdown. The win probably won’t make their NFC title game loss feel any better, but the Vikings should feel good knowing that they’re back to .500 with two very winnable games on deck (Cardinals, at Jets). 

Eagles: C

After watching the Eagles offense light up the scoreboard in 2017, fans are probably starting to wonder what’s going on this year. In Carson Wentz’s second game of the season, the Eagles offense continued to struggle. Not only did Philly get off to a slow start with two three-and-outs, but they also handed the Vikings seven free points when Linval Joseph returned a Carson Wentz fumble for a touchdown. The Eagles also had another costly fumble when Jay Ajayi lost the ball after Philly had driven inside of Minnesota’s 10-yard line. The Eagles have now lost three of four, and things aren’t going to get any easier with the Panthers and Jaguars coming up in the next two weeks. 

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