Sunday rewind: Week 5

Every Monday, the National Football Post’s Matt Bowen offers a rundown of Sunday’s NFL action.

The Broncos win the matchups

When we watch close games between two good football teams in the NFL, especially two teams that are familiar with each other’s schemes and tendencies like we saw Sunday between the Broncos and Patriots, the deciding factor is players — and winning one-on-one matchups. On defense, the Broncos eliminated Randy Moss, holding him to one catch for 36 yards, and on offense, Denver WRs Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall won their matchups against the New England secondary. When the Pats corners played off-man, Royal and Marshall ran the hitch and the comeback. When they saw press, they ran the fade, which converted to a fade stop in the red zone. The result: Royal finished with 10 receptions for 90 yards, and Marshall filled the stat column with 8 catches, 64 yards and 2 TDs.

This wasn’t a special personnel package or something that was created during the weekly meetings at the Broncos’ facility. It was a classic case of the Denver offense beating the Patriots by the looks they gave them on the outside. They were methodical in the passing game, and although Royal and Marshall should get some well-deserved credit for their ability to continually beat the New England secondary, we need to talk about QB Kyle Orton, too. He was cool in the pocket, controlled this offense at the line of scrimmage and, from my perspective, outplayed Pats QB Tom Brady.

If you didn’t believe in this Broncos team before, now is a good time to start.

Dallas finds a playmaker

I love how players in this league — sometimes little-known players in the national media such as Miles Austin — can take advantage of an opportunity and make plays. With Roy Williams out, Austin showed Cowboys coach Wade Phillips that he belongs on the field with the first unit. He broke tackles, and he showed the speed that’s desperately missing from the Dallas offense. I still don’t see the same Tony Romo in the pocket, but when you have a player like Austin who can take a seven-yard route and turn it into a big gain, there’s some room for error. Balls don’t have to be thrown into tight windows down the field, and the three-step fade route comes back into play — when you have a playmaker on the outside. This is huge for the Cowboys — if Austin can continue to produce. Huge day, folks.

The Bengals break the code

The Ravens came into Sunday leading the league in rushing defense, and for 39 straight games they hadn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher. But that ended Sunday, and it was the key to the Bengals’ upset win on the road. Cincy RB Cedric Benson finished with 120 yards on 27 carries — a workhorse day — and the Bengals were able to control the clock and keep the Baltimore offense off the field — giving the Bengals almost a 10-minute advantage in time of possession. For the second week in a row, QB Carson Palmer constructed a two-minute drive at the end of the game that resulted in points, and right now the Bengals own first place in the AFC North. This is a good football team.

As for the Ravens, they’re far from finished in this race, but for the second straight week — and second straight loss — they failed to run the ball more than 20 times. I don’t like that game plan with Ray Rice and Willis McGahee in the backfield.

Niner Flop

That was a bad loss, and a telling loss, for San Fran because Mike Singletary’s team has to play defense to win and is inept at coming from behind. QB Shaun Hill struggled, and that defense — which had been playing at a high level — was carved up by Matt Ryan and the Falcons for 477 total yards. The loss of Frank Gore hurts the Niners because outside of TE Vernon Davis, there are no playmakers on offense who can stretch the field and provide the big play that can get them back in a game when faced with a deficit. Yes, give credit to Atlanta, because the Falcons came out of the bye week with a great game plan that exposed the obvious lack of speed in the Niners secondary compared with the Atlanta receivers, but that didn’t look like a Singletary-coached team. They were beaten up front and gave up too many big plays. You can’t beat the Falcons when you give up over 200 yards to Roddy White on the outside. Disappointing day for the Niners.

Indy is running away with the South

Do you see anyone in the AFC South challenging the Colts the rest of the way? They are too efficient on offense, and their defense is playing better football than I expected. The Titans have shown us that their record is exactly who they are, and Peyton Manning is playing the best football of anyone in the league. I understand that there’s a lot of football left this season, but if you’re Indy, are you afraid of Houston or Jacksonville? This division race is done if the Colts stay healthy.

Another Giants’ cakewalk

How easy was that win for the Giants? Last week it was the Chiefs, and yesterday in the Meadowlands, the Giants showed the Raiders that they didn’t belong on the field with them. New York racked up 220 yards rushing, and its lead was so big that Tom Coughlin could pull Eli Manning and feel comfortable inserting backup David Carr to give his franchise QB a rest. The Giants rolled up over 480 yards of total offense and held the Raiders to 124 yards for the day. The only strength I’ve seen from Oakland this season was its defensive front, but after Sunday, it’s another issue in a long line of problems for this team. Losing is tough in this league, but when the QB is pulled that early in the game, it’s telling. And right now, I don’t see the Raiders competing with anyone.

More heat coming for Zorn, ‘Skins

I fully expect Jim Zorn’s job security to come into question again today after another offensive performance by the Redskins that had to leave their fans and owner Daniel Snyder shaking their heads. Jason Campbell completed 17 passes for only 145 yards, and Clinton Ports carried the ball 19 times for only 57 yards. The results: a 6.3 average for Campbell and 3.0 average for Portis. Where are the big plays, or is this as good as it’s going to get? Somehow, the ‘Skins are going to have to throw the ball down the field, and somehow they will have to give Portis running room, because right now this offense can’t get anything going. But watching them, there are no big plays down the field to be made, and the running game looks stagnant — at best. And in saying that, I don’t see a quick fix on this roster right now.

Hasselbeck’s return

Isn’t it obvious that the Seahawks are that much better when QB Matt Hasselbeck is under center? This team looked awful the last couple of weeks, but with Hasselbeck playing in the west coast system, they’re able to control the clock and let their defense pay with a lead — which makes a huge difference in how they attack. This is a good enough team to win the NFC West when Hasselbeck is healthy.

The Texans show their finesse style

Watching an offense on the goal line can tell you a lot about a football team, and yesterday in Arizona, the Texans did nothing to dispel the notion that they’re a finesse team that relies on big plays to win. I won’t go as far as calling Arizona physical — after failing to run the ball once again and allowing Houston to get back into this game — but it did play solid goal-line defense and won the game on a fourth-down stop. Somehow, some way, Houston has to be able to run the ball in that situation. I understand that QB Matt Schaub missed on an easy throw in the back of the end zone to tie the game, but beyond that, if you can’t line up and score from the 1-yard line, you shouldn’t be satisfied going home with a loss. You can’t rely on Schaub and WR Andre Johnson to bail you out every Sunday with the big play because sooner or later, you have to line up and win.

Steelers D

I didn’t think the Pittsburgh defense was great Sunday. It allowed the Lions to convert 11 of 18 third-down conversions, gave up over 100 yards on the ground and lost the time of possession battle. But what I did like was its ability to make plays in the backfield. The Steelers sacked Lions QB Daunte Culpepper seven times, and although plays still aren’t being made with great regularity in the secondary, getting to the QB is a key element of this defense. It wasn’t a great win, but with Troy Polamalu likely coming back next week, I think this defense is primed for a big run.

Maclin’s breakout

Coming into the game against the Bucs, Eagles rookie WR Jeremy Maclin had caught six passes for 45 yards — with no TDs. But after breaking out with six receptions for 142 yards and 2 TDs Sunday, it’s time to add him to the long list of playmakers for McNabb to work with. How do you game plan the Eagles’ offense right now? That’s a good question.

No offense in Buffalo

I still can’t get over the fact that Lee Evans and Terrell Owens aren’t factors for the Bills. Is it Trent Edwards? Is it the play calling? Is it their preparation during the week? Something isn’t right, because I still view Evans as one of the better deep-ball threats in the league, and T.O. should be able to win one-on-one matchups in the intermediate passing game. But they were shut down again, catching a combined six passes for 55 yards and no TDs. That is bad football.

Quick hits

* Brett Favre was very good again, and I like the relationship he’s starting to build with Percy Harvin. The rookie is the type of receiver Brett can find in the middle of the field when he keeps plays alive out of the pocket.

* Would Ralph Wilson cut ties with Dick Jauron this early in the season? Right now, the Bills seem to be taking backward steps with every game.

* Niners CB Dre’ Bly isn’t fast enough to celebrate with over 50 yards of field in front of him. I can’t see that fumble after the interception going unnoticed by Mike Singletary in meetings today.

* How ugly was Derek Anderson’s game? Try 2 of 17 for 23 yards and a pick. But he heads to meetings today with a 1-1 record as the Browns’ starter.

* Jacksonville isn’t consistent enough to be considered a contender. One week, the Jags are explosive on offense, and the next they can’t generate points. What’s the deal down there?

* Peyton Manning has thrown for 300 yards in every game this season, and I don’t see why it would stop. Do you?

* I loved seeing coach Josh McDaniels play up to the crowd after the Broncos’ win in Denver. Outside of the Super Bowl, I can’t see him winning a bigger game as a head coach.

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