NFL Week 5 recap: The pressure of being America’s quarterback

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AP

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) scrambles out of the pocket before throwing a pass in the second half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

James Krause, Senior Reporter

It’s hard to believe the emotions that poured out of Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott while being carted off the field Sunday were purely from the pain, though he wouldn’t be blamed if it was.

Prescott suffered a compound fracture and separated his ankle on a tackle in the third quarter of the Cowboys game against the New York Giants. The injury was so gruesome that Prescott was taken straight from the field to a hospital to have surgery to clean out the wound and repair his fracture, according to a Monday ESPN article.

What might have drawn the emotion out of Prescott was how control over his life and future was once again taken out of his hands.

Prescott has had to deal with the questions of his worth as a quarterback for months now. The Cowboys, unable to allow Dak to sign a four-year deal instead of a five-year deal, punted long-term negotiations and franchise tagged Prescott in March.

In an interview with Graham Bensigner that aired right before the start of the season, Prescott opened up about his depressive state over the offseason due to his brother Jace committing suicide and dealing with quarentine. He carried himself as he always has, with confidence in his voice and a composure you’d expect from leaders.[

These qualities were called into question by media members, most namely by Skip Bayless from Fox Sports.

Since the season’s start, there has been no more exciting player to watch than Prescott. In part due to his team’s lackluster defense, Prescott has been called on to bail the Cowboys out of holes and make them competitive in games that seemed far out of reach.

Against the Falcons, Prescott almost single-handedly pulled the Cowboys back from a 20-point deficit to get one of the biggest comebacks in recent memory and get a 40-39 win.

Facing the no-doubt best quarterback in the league right now in Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks, Prescott was called on to throw the ball 57 times to keep the Cowboys close at the end. He delivered with 472 yards and three touchdowns.

When his defense had their doors kicked in by the Cleveland Browns, Prescott wow’d everyone again by nearly bringing the Cowboys back from a 28-point deficit in the fourth quarter. His defense didn’t hold up and he lost despite a 502 yard throwing effort.

Prescott was on a path to becoming the league’s hero of the season, reaching feat after feat in astonishing dismissal of the odds and adversities he’s faced with. He’s done it all while holding the most important position on one of the most popular American sports franchises ever. The pressure has been laid on thick for Dak all year, and he’s worn it better than anybody can.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws a pass under pressure fro Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones (45) in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. (Ron Jenkins | Associated Press)

2020 has made a lot of people crack, and when his ankle broke Sunday, I think it Dak did too. I don’t blame him.

The Cowboys won the game, but even a game-winning field goal at the buzzer felt secondary to Dak and his injury. He is, as former teammate Tony Romo said on the CBS broadcast, “one of the good ones,” and the proof is in the support the entire football world has given him.

The notorious Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his son Stephen, the Cowboys Vice President and CEO of Player Personnel, have both said they want to take care of Prescott and to keep him in their future plans. It’s still totally possible Dak plays again, probably next year.

It’s still months from the time to negotiate a new deal for Prescott, but everyone rightfully is assuming the worst. If several years of balling out under a rookie contract didn’t convince the Cowboys to give Dak his wish of a four-year deal, how will a five game season that cost $31.4 million?

There’s one way I can think of. It’s for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys front office to sit in their suite at AT&T Stadium every game, watch Mike McCarthy make bizarre playcalls, see their defense get gutted, and know that there isn’t anyone else on their roster worth more than the man off of it.

Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb are only going to be able to go so far with Andy Dalton at quarterback. Dalton at any age probably couldn’t do the things Dak has already done this year, let alone at 32.

When this season ends, the Cowboys better put their money where their mouth is now, by putting money in Dak’s wallet and security in his mind that he’s earned.

 

Titans return from quarantine with win against the Bills

Due to a COVID-19 breakout in the organization, the Tennessee Titans had only one practice between their game on Sept. 27 and their game against the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday. The Titans didn’t forget how to win in that time, winning 42-16 at home in Nashville.

The Titans offense was clicking better than before the outbreak, with quarterback Ryan Tannehill throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for another. Running back Derrick Henry didn’t just light up the internet with his stiff arm of Bills defender Josh Norman, but also had a pair of touchdowns. 

The defense was also lifted by a pair of interceptions by cornerback Malcom Butler. While not ranking highly in terms of yards and points allowed per game, the Titans left the game with a plus five turnover differential. Only the Cleveland Browns and Seattle Seahawks have better differentials. 

The battle of preparation was fought on both sides, with the Bills having to also deal with a changing schedule having the Kansas City Chiefs next on the schedule. The Bills may have been caught looking ahead as two of their turnovers were turned into quick scoring drives for Tennessee.

While this game may be decided, questions still linger on the affect schedule changes could have on both teams. Can the Titans stay healthy as an organization and get back into the groove of preparing for a new game each week? Can the Bills find a game plan to beat the Chiefs in less than six days? Turns out, they may not have to look far.

 

How the Raiders ended defending champion Chiefs’ 13-game winning streak

For the first time since Patrick Mahomes became the Chiefs starting quarterback, the Las Vegas Raiders stood toe-to-toe with the defending Super Bowl champions and came out the 40-32 winners.

The Raiders might have been a lot of people’s pick from the rest of the AFC West to swipe a victory away from the Chiefs during the regular season, but maybe not in the fashion they did it.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) throws under pressure by Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Pernell McPhee (90) during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Sept. 28, 2020, in Baltimore. (Gail Burton | Associated Press)

Against the best offensive attack in football, the Raiders answered with their own deep passing attack. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr didn’t have much difficulty finding his receivers deep, with NFL Next Gen stats showing he went 4-for-5 and scored a pair of touchdowns on passes over 25 yards.

The Raiders kept the running game busy to keep the Chiefs on their toes, running the ball 35 times for 115 yards. Running back Josh Jacobs was a workhorse for the silver and black, rushing 23 times and scoring twice. 

The Chiefs were still a formidable force offensively, but Andy Reid and his coaching staff relied so much on Mahomes and the passing attack late that the Raiders were able to set their defenders back to make finding an open man difficult. A pair of touchdowns in the first half called back due to penalties were also a factor.

It certainly isn’t a loss to panic about for the Chiefs, but another loss could loom if the secondary doesn’t tighten up ahead of having to face Josh Allen and the Bills. The variety the Raiders offer now has them quietly sitting in the top-10 in points, rushing yards and passing yards per game. It’s fair to say that after wins against the Saints and the Chiefs, Jon Gruden’s team isn’t to be counted out against anybody.

The rematch of this slugfest is set for Nov. 22 and is one to circle on your calendar. 

 

The Seahawks’ flaws continue to shine, but their record remains perfect

Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks offense looked mediocre early against the Minnesota Vikings, going scoreless in the first half. By game’s end, Wilson was carving up the Vikings and found D.K. Metcalf for a touchdown with 15 seconds remaining in the game for the 27-26 win on a rainy Sunday night.

The Seahawks offensive line didn’t give Wilson much help early, with Wilson getting sacked four times. Overall, Seattle called on punter Michael Dickson for their first four possessions, who pinned the Vikings inside their own redzone on four of five punts.

After finally reaching the endzone in the third quarter, the turnover issues that have bothered the Vikings bit them, with back-to-back Kirk Cousins turnovers leading to two Seattle touchdowns in less than two minutes of game time.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson passes against the Dallas Cowboys during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson | Associated Press)

The Vikings recovered and put the Seahawks on their heels before Wilson showed why he’s the one and only choice for MVP through five weeks. Wilson didn’t have his best game having to battle the elements and the Vikings pass rush, but when his team needed him most he showed up.

While they came away with the loss, the Vikings ran for 201 yards and put a huge dent in what was a formidable Seattle run defense. With the issues they’ve had in the secondary, a good front seven is needed for Seattle to be in the talk for legitimate super bowl contender.

 

Dolphins wash out 49ers, Jimmy G benched in return from injury

Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t much of an out-of-pocket passer before an ankle injury he suffered against the Jets three weeks ago, but in his return Sunday, Garoppolo looked like he was stuck in the mud trying to throw.

The San Francisco 49ers offense in general looked stuck in second gear against the Miami Dolphins, with Miami winning a 43-17 clobbering. It was the Dolphins’ first double-digit win since 2017.

Though the Dolphins secondary did a good job of locking down the 49ers’ thinned out playmakers, Garoppolo was way out of sync with his receivers who had open looks. After going 7-for-17 and throwing two interceptions, the 49ers brought in C.J. Beathard to mixed results.

The defending NFC champions now sit with a quarterback dilemma on their hands and a rough stretch of games ahead. They host the Los Angeles Rams this coming week in primetime before back-to-back road games against the New England Patriots and Seahawks.

While it might be hard to find positives in a loss that puts you at 2-3 on the year, the 49ers have reason to keep spirits high. Raheem Mostert returned from injury as well and rushed for 90 yards. Plus, reinforcements at cornerback are coming for NIU alum Jimmie Ward, with Richard Sherman and Emmanual Mosely to return in a week or two.

 

The Bears are 4-1 and I can not comprehend that fact

I don’t think there was anyone more shocked at the Chicago Bears win Thursday night against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers than…well…Bears fans.

Thanks to a late field goal from kicker Cario Santos and a miscue by the Bucs offense in keeping track of downs, the Bears won 20-19 and moved their record to 4-1 to start the year.

How can a team as pedestrian as the Bears find themselves with a winning record despite a bottom-tier offense, a terrible offensive balance and a defense that isn’t as strong as in recent years?

Chicago Bears’ Trevis Gipson (99) and Sherrick McManis (27) celebrate their 27-23 win against the Detroit Lions after an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020. (Duane Burleson | Associated Press)

Well, in a series of tight games, turnovers have played a big role. Off of five turnovers this year, the Bears have scored three times including a go-ahead touchdown in the first half against Tampa. Additionally, we’re starting to see some of the old Khalil Mack that was a gamebreaker in his first year with the Bears. Mack had two sacks in the game Thursday.

The secondary seems to have another emerging star in their secondary in rookie Jaylon Johnson. He’s only allowed a 44.7% completion rate while being thrown to the most in the NFL, according to a Wednesday USA Today article. Putting Johnson alongside Kyle Fuller and Eddie Jackson could spell future success for the Bears passing defense. 

The biggest issue the Bears will need to address if they want to prove the record isn’t a fluke is to get their running game on track. They’ve now managed just 63 combined rushing yards in their last two games. By comparison, they were averaging 138 a game in their first three contests.