Week 5 on the NFL schedule is almost in the books (we still have Monday Night Football to go) and the best performances deserve to be recognized by our MMQB staff. Even if you’re feeling down because your team didn’t win, maybe one of your favorite players or coaches gets awarded a game ball by our staff. Let’s go!
Mitch Goldich: Josh Allen, QB, Bills. I normally go into this exercise thinking it’s fun to pick non-quarterbacks, but somebody had to take Allen today. He completed a 98-yard catch-and-run TD to Gabe Davis on the Bills’ third play from scrimmage, and his day somehow got … better from there? His 348 yards in the first half put him within striking range of Norm Van Brocklin’s single-game record of 554 that has somehow stood for 71 years. He ended his day with 424 yards passing and four touchdowns, numbers that could have been much higher if the team hadn’t taken its foot off the gas with a huge lead over the Steelers. He also, unsurprisingly for him, made an impact with his legs, rushing for 42 yards on five carries to help put the game away. Allen was the preseason MVP favorite and clearly looked the part today.
John Plume: Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings. I’ve watched a lot of great receivers during my time as a Vikings fan: John Gilliam, Sammy White, Ahmed Rashad, Cris Carter, Randy Moss and Adam Thielen, to name a few. But I think I might be watching their best receiver in their more than 60-year history. Jefferson had 12 receptions for 154 yards against the Bears, including a key catch on a two-point conversion to give Minnesota a 29-22 lead late in the fourth quarter. Coach Kevin O’Connell has been great for Jefferson, who now in his third year, tied Moss and Lance Alworth for the most games (six) with 150-plus receiving yards in a player’s first three NFL seasons since at least 1950, according to NFL Research. Jefferson’s goal going into the season was to put up 2,000 receiving yards and be the best receiver in the league. Through five games, he has 40 catches for 547 yards with 12 games to play. So he’s on pace to finish with close to 1,900 yards receiving. Can he get to 2,000 yards? Pretty hard to say no at this point.
Conor Orr: Brandon Staley, head coach, Chargers. Part of me feared Staley was taken into a storage room deep in the Chargers’ facility and bullied by a conservative management type into stopping his outlier fourth-down decisions, which, mathematically, aren’t really outlier fourth-down decisions. His call to go for a fourth-and-1 against the Browns with 1:14 left in the fourth quarter, even if it didn’t work out (and even if it wasn’t the right play) was the right call from a mathematical standpoint. I am all for Staley doing what makes sense, even if it’s not from a place on the field that Mark Schlereth would approve of during a game.
Gary Gramling: Nick McCloud, CB, Giants. The story in London is, rightfully, Daniel Jones—or, as he’s known to most, “Abracadaniel”—continuing to establish himself as a quality starting quarterback in the face of assorted melvins cackling over his inability to put up consistent 40-burgers while playing under Jason Garrett or, now, throwing to members of the famous string quartet “David Sills and the Street Free Agents.” But what a day for McCloud, who is on his third team after going undrafted in 2021 and with 14 career defensive snaps under his belt. On Sunday, McCloud woke up in a strange country where they speak a different language (“crisps” are what?!). And after an Adoree’ Jackson injury at the end of the first half, he found himself lining up as a boundary corner with a bright, flashing arrow above his head for Aaron Rodgers to see. McCloud got nicely toasted on a handful of snaps, but he also delivered one of the key plays of the game, chasing down and breaking up a second-down crosser intended for Randall Cobb, instrumental in forcing a three-and-out and getting the aforementioned Abracadaniel the ball back for the game-winning drive.
Michael Fabiano: Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers. Ekeleer put a statistical shock into the Browns. For the second consecutive week, he put the Chargers and fantasy managers on his back. The talented runner rushed for 173 yards and one score while also posting four catches for 26 yards and a second touchdown in a 30-28 win over the Browns. All told, Ekeler posted 35.9 fantasy points, which bested the 34.9 points he scored in Week 4. After what some folks would consider a slow start, Ekeler has once again proven he’s an elite fantasy runner.
Claire Kuwana: Emmanuel Moseley, CB, 49ers. If I could divide my game ball into pieces and hand it out to the 49ers’ entire defense, I would. Their defensive line deserves some serious credit (and low Deebo Samuel is one of the main reasons they are a maybe-contender this year). But today it was former undrafted free agent Moseley, who stole the spotlight with his pick-six toward the end of the second quarter, giving San Francisco a comfortable 17-3 lead going into the second half. Moseley ended up going down with what looked like a left leg injury with just four minutes left in the fourth quarter—if he’s out, it’s a huge loss for the 49ers’ secondary, especially with the season he’s been having as one of their best passes -coverage options.
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