The fifth week of the NFL’s 2021 regular season is in the books, and it certainly was an entertaining and eventful one. From the New England Patriots’ perspective it also was a success: the team celebrated its second win of the season by beating the Houston Texans 25-22 on the road, improving to 2-3 on the year and moving up in the AFC playoff picture.
With that said, let’s dig into what we learned in Week 5, starting with our biggest Patriots takeaway of the weekend.
Patriots takeaway of the week: This is a mentally strong team
The first half of their game against Houston was a disappointment from New England’s perspective. The offense once again struggled to finish drives — Damien Harris’ goal-line fumble certainly did not help — while the defense played its worst 30 minutes of football thus far one week after an impressive effort against the high-powered Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Things did not get any better after halftime. First, Mac Jones threw an interception. Two plays later, Houston scored another long touchdown to increase its lead to 22-9. The Patriots answered by going three-and-out.
At that point, something finally started to click for them. The defense finally made a stop, while special teams pressured the Texans into a 0-yard punt. Four plays later, New England scored a field goal. It was the first three of 16 unanswered points for the club, and a sign of the team not giving up just yet.
Staring a 1-4 record into the face, the Patriots were able to play their best football down the stretch against Houston and hang on for the victory. While the performances continue to be up-and-down, and a full 60 minutes have not been played just yet, one cannot deny this team’s mental toughness. It was on full display on Sunday afternoon.
Other takeaways from the NFL
This might just have been the most exciting weekend of the season: Baltimore coming back from a 22-3 deficit against Indianapolis was a fitting final game of the week because it was no less exciting than some of the other contests. The Green Bay Packers’ win in Cincinnati came down to the wire after multiple missed field goals on both sides; the Los Angeles Chargers beat the Cleveland Browns in arguably the best game of the season so far; Detroit suffered a heartbreaking last-second loss against Minnesota. The Patriots’ game in Houston also was decided on a late field goal. All in all, an entertaining product.
Parity is the name of the game: The NFL is designed to promote parity, and five weeks into the season we have just that. Of the league’s 32 teams, 17 have either a 3-2 or a 2-3 record. The Patriots are among them, showing that they are still very much in the hunt for the playoffs — or an early draft pick. The number of teams this close to .500 will go down over the coming weeks, but it will be fun to see how this all will shake out.
It’s been a bad week for kickers: Despite missing an extra point early, New England’s Nick Folk played a good overall game against Houston. Not all kickers around the league can feel that way about Week 5. A record-tying 12 extra points were missed, while the aforementioned game between Green Bay and Cincinnati saw five missed field goal attempts (plus a missed point-after kick). Monday’s game between the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts therefore wrapped things up in style: Colts kicker Rodrigo Blankenship saw one of his field goals blocked and another sail wide left.
Joe Thuney is just built different: Patriots fans know Joe Thuney for his durability. The former third-round guard never missed a game in his five years with the organization and at one point was on the field for 2,004 consecutive offensive snaps. Now in Kansas City, Thuney continues to show he is a different breed: he fractured his hand on the first drive of the game against Buffalo but ended up playing all 86 of his team’s snaps plus three more on special teams.
The Chiefs no longer look like the team to beat in the AFC...: While Thuney’s effort stands out, his team as a whole is in a difficult position five games into the season. The two-time defending AFC champions are just 2-3 and in fourth place within their division. Furthermore, their defense is one of the worst in football — all while quarterback Patrick Mahomes is far from his MVP form. At their present state, the Chiefs no longer look like the team to beat in the AFC.
...but the Bills might just be: Buffalo, on the other hand, has been impressive. Not only did the Bills beat the Chiefs 38-20 on Sunday night, they also are tied for the best record in the conference at 4-1. With the exception of an opening day upset at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers, they have played some flawless football as of late. Consider this: Buffalo won its last four games with a combined score of 156–41. Pure domination.
The Urban Meyer era continues to be off to a rocky start: Not only are the Jacksonville Jaguars one of only two winless teams at this point, their first-year head coach also continues to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. On Sunday, Meyer held a postgame press conference that our friends at Big Cat Country called “bizarre” and “disjointed.”
Trey Lance didn’t necessarily run with the 49ers’ starting quarterback job: With Jimmy Garoppolo out against Arizona due to injury, first-round rookie Trey Lance finally got an opportunity to showcase his talents in a starting capacity. However, the youngster did not have a particularly good game. While he gained 89 rushing yards on 16 carries, he also went just 15-for-29 as a passer for 192 yards and an interception. After the game, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that “nothing has changed” in regards to his team’s quarterback position.
Seattle will be an interesting team to watch down the stretch — and beyond: Russell Wilson has started all 165 regular season and playoff games of his career, but his streak will come to an end in Week 6. The Seahawks’ passer left Thursday’s loss against the Los Angeles Rams with a finger injury, and has since undergone surgery. Wilson will miss substantial time — reportedly between four to eight weeks — which is not only bad news for his team in 2021, but possibly his future in Seattle as well. Wilson will turn 33 in November and is due a $37 million salary cap hit in 2022. After some offseason rumors about his unhappiness with the organization, he will be a player to watch in the coming weeks and months.
The NFL has a long way to go in some key areas: Monday night saw the first head coaching change of the season, with the Las Vegas Raiders’ Joe Gruden resigning from his position after a series of offensive emails emerged. While Gruden’s resignation was the only correct decision, thinking that he would be the only person in the league to use racist, homophobic or sexist language would — unfortunately — be naive. Now it is on the NFL and its 32 franchises to take a definitive stance that goes beyond a good-looking PR campaign.