Ugh. Dak. I love him as a player, person and leader. He's everything right with the NFL, which is why Sunday's biggest development felt so wrong.
Dak Prescott's gruesome ankle injury was obviously the story of the day. It's a devastating blow to the quarterback, who had started this contract year in prolific fashion, and the Cowboys, who still finished the day sitting atop the moribund NFC East at 2-3. The stomach-turning/heart-rending setback cast a dark shadow over the rest of Week 5's proceedings. But Dak will be back in 2021. His future's unclear at this moment, but it'd be foolish to bet against this man. Just another obstacle for this inspiring individual to overcome.
Speaking of inspiration, we got it in spades before and after the Dak downer. A number of teams, players and coaches turned heads. Here are the biggest statements from the fifth NFL Sunday of the 2020 campaign, Schein Nine style:
1) The Las Vegas Raiders are for real
The Raiders' Missouri nightmare is finally over! The Silver and Black had lost seven straight games in Arrowhead Stadium, dropping 12 of 14 total against the Chiefs since Andy Reid took the reins in Kansas City. As Derek Carr said last week in the walk-up to this rivalry bout: "If we're being honest, to make it a rivalry, we have to win some games."
Well, if I'm being honest, while I picked Las Vegas to the make playoffs last month and predicted Carr would become a legitimate MVP candidate once again, I absolutely thought the Raiders were headed toward another defeat at the hands of the juggernaut Chiefs. Jon Gruden's team had lost each of its last two games in Arrowhead by 30-plus points. And fresh off two straight losses this season, Las Vegas fell behind 14-3 early in the second quarter. Curtains, right?
Nope! The Raiders (3-2) weathered the early storm and then made the biggest statement of Week 5, snapping the Chiefs' 13-game win streak with a 40-32 stunner. Carr (22-31, 347 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT) outdueled Patrick Mahomes (22-43, 340 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) to earn his first career win in Kansas City. He certainly enjoyed the return of rookie burner Henry Ruggs III, who gave the Chiefs a taste of their own medicine with two electric catches for 118 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown. Josh Jacobs pounded the rock, per usual, with a pair of rushing scores. Even Nelson Agholor got in on the fun, torching K.C. on a 59-yard touchdown.
Meanwhile, the defense was clutch, allowing just eight second-half points. And Gruden was brilliantly aggressive late, putting the game away with a fourth-down conversion at midfield. This is 2020 Raiders football.
2) The Pittsburgh Steelers are for real
Another preseason playoff pick of mine, Pittsburgh just keeps winning. Considering the Steelers were fresh off an unexpected bye week (thanks to the postponement of their game against Tennessee due to the Titans' COVID-19 infections) and heavy home favorites against a disappointing Eagles team, this game had high trap potential. But Pittsburgh jumped out to a 31-14 lead, and then held off a furious Eagles rally, endured some bad officiating breaks and overcame Eric Ebron acting as a double agent, eventually winning 38-29. The star of the day was undoubtedly rookie receiver Chase Claypool. The second-round pick -- how do Kevin Colbert and Co. keep finding stud wideouts beyond Round 1? -- became the first rookie in NFL history with three receiving touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in one game. What a beast.
After missing the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, these Steelers are different. Historically different, in fact. The Steelers are 4-0 for the first time since 1979. Kind of a huge deal.
3) The Cleveland Browns are for real (for real!)
Fire an overmatched head coach, bring in a buttoned-up offensive guru and ... VOILA -- the Browns are 4-1! This is no fluke.
Everyone knows the Browns have talent. Now, with Kevin Stefanski at the controls, they're focused and able to overcome adversity. After hitting the half with a 20-10 lead over the 3-1 Colts, Baker Mayfield had two second-half picks and the Browns gave up a 101-yard kick-return touchdown. And yet, they maintained the lead throughout, slowly sucking the life out of Indianapolis.
The defense, led by edge terror Myles Garrett, flummoxed Philip Rivers all day. The receiver duo of Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry did their thing again. Kareem Hunt and D'Ernest Johnson mitigated the absence of Nick Chubb. The Browns are legit.
4) Russ is cooking
Just when it seemed like Seattle was going to inexplicably suffer its first loss of the season to the downtrodden Vikings, Russell Wilson worked his magic. How Mike Zimmer eschewed a chip-shot field goal (and would-be eight-point lead) to go for it on fourth-and-1 with two minutes remaining, I'll never know. You have to bank the points with Russ waiting in the wings. Wilson predictably pounced at the resulting opportunity to steal this game.
That 13-play, 94-yard march for the win was a thing of beauty, with Wilson throwing for 77 yards and running for the remaining 17. The fourth-and-10 floater to DK Metcalf to keep the game alive was special. The fourth-and-goal touchdown strike to Metcalf was pulsating. It was the 30th game-winning drive by Wilson -- the most in the NFL since the quarterback entered the league in 2012.
This is a majestic talent at the height of his powers, a first-ballot Hall of Famer who's must-see TV. And consequently, the Seahawks are 5-0 for the first time in franchise history.
5) The new-look Carolina Panthers are cooking
I spent much of the offseason lauding the Panthers' extreme makeover across multiple media platforms, including this one. Carolina absolutely nailed its choices for head coach (Matt Rhule), offensive coordinator (Joe Brady), quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) and receiver (Robby Anderson). And it shows, with the Panthers stunningly tied for the NFC South lead at 3-2.
Rhule is amazing -- and I don't remotely hesitate to use that word. What he did in college at Temple and Baylor was simply sensational. Getting Brady, the LSU offensive mastermind, to join him in Carolina was genius. Brady and Rhule getting Bridgewater to come play quarterback was everything. Brady and Bridgewater already had a pre-existing relationship from the season they spent together in New Orleans. And when the Jets foolishly let Anderson walk in free agency, his old Temple coach swooped in with a savvy two-year, $20 million deal. Just a deep threat? Not quite. Anderson ranks third in the NFL in catches (36) and receiving yards (489), and fourth in yards after catch (223).
I routinely made the case this past offseason that Carolina has the right guys in place, but that the Panthers' "success" shouldn't be judged by wins and losses. Well, looks like I was selling this upstart group short. Despite the fact that the best running back in the NFL (Christian McCaffrey) has been on the shelf since Week 2, Carolina's riding a three-game winning streak. The defense still has holes, but as that youth grows -- and is eventually supplemented by more talent next offseason -- watch out. I LOVE where these Panthers are going.
6) Bill O'Brien had to go
Truer words have never been written.
Bill O'Brien torpedoed his own roster with a series of nonsensical moves, damaging the trust of his players and the great Texans fans. Who the heck trades DeAndre Hopkins? And who (reportedly) feuds with Watt? O'Brien should've never been given the GM responsibilities -- he sucked the life and the fun out of the team.
With a 30-14 win over Jacksonville on Sunday, Houston's now 1-0 under interim boss Romeo Crennel, who's officially the oldest head coach in NFL history. Talk about fun!
7) Kyle Shanahan benched Jimmy Garoppolo
I know Shanahan said he was protecting Jimmy G from himself, with the QB having missed two games due to injury. "You can tell he was affected by his ankle," the coach said in the postgame. Yeah, OK, maybe. But let's look at the facts here: Garoppolo was absolutely dreadful in his one half of play vs. Miami, completing just 41.1 percent of his passes while throwing two picks and sending San Francisco into the locker room facing a shocking 30-7 deficit. He fully deserved a seat on the pine. It was the only way to go. A rightful statement.
The 137.5 Million Dollar Man is just not a great quarterback. The Niners have to know this. Suddenly, that $2.8 million dead-money figure next offseason looks quite enticing.
8) Aaron Donald is the best non-QB in the NFL
Just name the Defensive Player of the Year trophy after him. Talk about a game-wrecker. Donald had four sacks in Sunday's 30-10 win over Washington. He's now recorded three-plus sacks in five different games, the most in the NFL since he entered the league in 2014. With an NFL-high 7.5 sacks this season, he's on pace for 24, which would be an NFL record. And lest we forget: He's doing this as a defensive tackle.
Don't ever take Donald's domination for granted. The five-time first-team All-Pro is an absolute force of nature, and a big reason why the Rams are back in contention at 4-1.
9) Alex Smith is the best
My love and appreciation for Smith is well-documented. I think he was a historically underrated quarterback in San Francisco and Kansas City. And he's an all-time great guy, leader, teammate and mentor.
After a catastrophic leg injury in 2018 -- followed by an extraordinary series of infections and follow-up surgeries that put his leg (and life) in jeopardy -- it was conventional wisdom to believe his career was over. Smith rehabbed like no other, made it to the active roster and, after an injury to Washington starter Kyle Allen, returned to the field of play on Sunday, with his wife and kids cheering him on from the stands. I don't care about the stats. This was about so much more than simple numbers. This was a triumph in human spirit. It was absolutely beautiful.