NFL Week Five: Five things we learnt

A round-up of the action from Week Five of the NFL

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The Independent Online

As the cream starts to rise to the top and other clubs face the bottom of the standings, Zander Swinburne takes us through what happened this week.

The Patriots have a knack for answering their critics

All that talk last week about the Patriots dynasty being over and Tom Brady being past his prime was once again silenced Sunday night. New England took down the previously undefeated Cincinnati Bengals 43-17 on Sunday, with quarterback Tom Brady back in form with nearly 300 yards passing and two touchdowns. This was a classic Patriots performance, responding viciously to harsh criticism with their best games of the season. Cincinnati looked subdued throughout and New England had at last appeared to string an all-round team performance together, with their troublesome offence finally working cohesively. If the win proved anything, it was that fortunes and prospects for a team can change dramatically with just 60 minutes of football.

Peyton Manning moves closer to being the greatest ever

Despite being 38-years-old, an age that most would signify as the point of decline in an NFL player’s career, Peyton Manning continues to break records and guarantee a bust of himself in the Hall of Fame. On top of a 41-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals, Manning became only the second quarterback in NFL history to throw 500 touchdowns in a career (503) and is now closing in on Brett Favre's record (508). Barring an unexpected injury, Manning is sure to pass this record, further solidifying himself as one of the the top quarterbacks ever to play the game.

The Dallas Cowboys are contenders

Written off and underrated, the Cowboys have emerged as a team capable of contending for their division after they triumphed over state rivals the Houston Texans. Their rise to 4-1 and tied first in the NFC East has come as a surprise to most. Dan Bailey's 49-yard field goal may have been the game winner but it was wide receiver Dez Bryant who stole the glory with an exceptional catch to put the Cowboys in range for the kick. Dallas have been criticised this season for their defensive problems as well as a lack of presence in their big playmakers. Despite this, they still only have one loss on their record and seem to have the ability to keep themselves in games, which has proven invaluable. Philadelphia remain favourites to take the division but with wins in Dallas mounting, the Eagles will no doubt be beginning to feel the pressure.

The Saints have shown their true colours

Never mind the overtime win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans is now having to wake up to the fact that the Saints are no longer the dominant team they have been in the past. With a record of 2-3, the Saints were fortunate to come away with a 37-31 win on Sunday after quarterback Drew Brees accounted for three turnovers including a pick six. Brees looked ruffled all day and it was the Saints’ running game that saved the team, combining for 140 yards on the ground. Every week for the Saints there has been this false pretence that they are a much better team than their record shows, but the reality is otherwise. New Orleans showed inconsistency on offence and their defence only just managed to hold a Buccaneers team that has managed a single win this season. This could finally be the year the Saints have to take a back seat in the NFC South.

Injuries were rife this week

Player injuries are a part of the NFL. Squad sizes are big enough to be able to deal with players not being able to get on the field, however this week there were some high profile names that saw their game time cut short. Tight end Jimmy Graham for the Saints was ruled out with a shoulder injury when playing Tampa Bay. Detroit lost both Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush, with the Cardinals resorting to their third string quarterback after Drew Stanton suffered a concussion. The injury list is almost endless, with well-known players such as Jake Locker, Devin McCourty, Darelle Revis, Patrick Peterson, and Fred Jackson all seeing time on the sidelines. This happens in football from week to week but several teams no doubt will be left reeling  following Sunday's games.