Austin Ekeler insists the Los Angeles Chargers cannot get caught up in the hype after their wild Week 5 win over the Cleveland Browns.

The Chargers improved to 4-1 on the season with a thrilling 47-42 victory at SoFi Stadium, scoring 26 points in the fourth quarter.

Running back Ekeler was central to their triumph, finding the endzone three times, including on the Chargers' final score, a three-yard run with just over 90 seconds left in the contest that saw him pushed into the endzone by Browns defenders trying to preserve time for the Cleveland offense to come back.

But the Browns' attack could not do so, meaning the Chargers now lead the AFC West following a stellar performance from quarterback Justin Herbert, who threw for 398 yards and four touchdowns.

The Chargers were also three for three on fourth down attempts as an aggressive approach from head coach Brandon Staley was rewarded, though another fourth down caused controversy as they were able to keep a drive alive thanks to a contentious pass interference penalty against Cleveland.

Herbert now has 11 games of at least 300 yards passing in his career, the most by a player in his first two seasons in the league in NFL history.

And, for Ekeler, the Chargers' offense has an unstoppable feel to it.

"Oh, my goodness. Oh man, I'm still taking in that win and what just happened," Ekeler told Peter King for his Football Morning in America column. 

"It was incredible. Wow. On the touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, it was a screen, a play I fumbled on earlier in the game. That made me sick to my stomach. I'm still sick about it. But that's the great thing about football – you can make up for plays like that.

"Man, it feels like when we get on the field, we're gonna go score. If we have to, guess what? We're going for it on fourth down. That's just the way we roll right now.

"J-Herb's been smart with the ball, finding us, and we've been getting open and giving him an option to throw to. It's that feeling like we're in a zone. We're scoring every time we get the ball.

"Crazy play at the end. I'm not trying to score. Right? I'm trying to waste time. Which, I mean, if I was smarter in that situation I would've just immediately gone down. I was like, 'Oh let me try to waste more time'. And I tried to get cute, kill some time, got greedy, and they came and grabbed me, picked me up, took me in the endzone. Weirdest play ever. Has anybody ever been sad to score a touchdown?

"There's not many situations where you're sad that you scored a touchdown, but that one was like, man, wow, I dropped the ball in that situation by not just going down.

"So now, big win. But we can't get caught up in hype. One of my old running back coaches used to tell me, 'You can smell the cologne but don't taste it. Don't taste it.'

"What does that mean? There's gonna be a lot of people talking about you. You can say thank you, but make sure you know every single week you gotta show up to work. This is the NFL.

"Wow. Today was incredible. I got a feeling you're gonna see this all year."

Patrick Mahomes conceded he needs to re-evaluate his decision-making after his turnover-laden display in a painful loss to the Buffalo Bills for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs are looking to win their third successive AFC Championship this season as they bid to atone for last campaign's 31-9 defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV.

But a month into the season the Chiefs stand at 2-3 following a 38-20 home loss to the Bills, the team they beat in last term's AFC Championship Game, which saw Mahomes commit three turnovers.

Mahomes was intercepted twice, including a third-quarter pick-six following a drop from Tyreek Hill, and lost a fumble as the Chiefs failed to click on offense, their star quarterback taking full responsibility for their unexpected shortcomings. 

"It starts with me," Mahomes said. "It's something I've not usually done in my career, but I have to re-evaluate where I'm at, what decisions I'm making.

"I've been a crazier player as far as scrambling and making throws. But in my career I've never been someone who throws a lot of interceptions.

"I have to look at it now, re-evaluate what I'm doing, and I have to cut it out.''

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said afterward that he did not see their mistake-prone display coming, and he will have to deal with more he did not anticipate after several key Kansas City players suffered injuries.

Hill and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire sustained knee injuries, guard Joe Thuney fractured his hand and tight end Travis Kelce suffered a stinger.

"We weren't on the same page with the receivers and where they were going and with Pat," Reid said of the offense's struggles. 

"Gotta do better with that. Got to make sure that takes place.

"We know we can do better on turnovers, big plays — I know what we are capable of. I see that. We just have to get that done."

Mason Crosby bounced back from three successive missed potential game-winning field goals to kick the Green Bay Packers to a dramatic victory over the Cincinnati Bengals by finding his calm amid a remarkable finish.

Crosby missed from 36 yards and 51 yards either side of Bengals kicker Evan McPherson failing from 57 yards and then, following a Joe Burrow interception that put the Packers deep in Cincinnati territory, sent a 40-yard effort wide left in overtime.

However, McPherson was no good from 49 yards in the extra period as Cincinnati wasted another chance to bring an absorbing battle of 3-1 teams to a close, and Crosby did not spurn his fourth opportunity from the same distance to seal a 25-22 triumph for Green Bay.

Speaking to Peter King for his Football Morning in America column after the game, Crosby said: "Sounds boring, but I've been in it for a long time, and make or miss, you move to the next one.

"You kinda go through the process for a play or two and then you have to reload. When [head coach] Matt [LaFleur] came right down to me he just said, 'What are you thinking?' And of course, I wanted to kick it.

"It's my job. I just keep resetting. I haven't missed many kicks the last few years. Unfortunately, it came in a little bit of a cluster here, but I know my ability and when everything is smooth and good, we go out there and execute.

"It was another opportunity. Just couldn't believe with how crazy this game was that we had another chance.

"But when there's chaos, when the challenge gets even higher and the pressure gets greater, you have to find that calm.

"I'm able to do that. I want to be out there. If you get too high, you won't find that calm."

While the game will ultimately be remembered for the kicking misadventures of Crosby and McPherson, there was history for Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers' touchdown pass to Davante Adams in the second quarter saw him go outright fifth on the all-time list with 422 for his illustrious career, moving him ahead of Philip Rivers.

He will hope to add to that tally when the 4-1 Packers visit the 3-2 Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Josh Allen and Emmanuel Sanders called for some calm after the Buffalo Bills saw off a careless Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.

Following a long delay caused by lightning, the Bills avenged their AFC title match defeat last season with a 38-20 victory in Kansas City

Though the Chiefs controlled much of the ball, running 25 more plays than the Bills, their four turnovers were the difference as they dropped to 2-3 this season. 

Buffalo (4-1) intercepted Patrick Mahomes passes on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter, with Micah Hyde taking the first of those 26 yards for a touchdown after plucking a tipped ball out of the air. 

It was just the second pick-six of Mahomes' career after Week 11 of the 2018 season.

While Mahomes completed just 33 of 43 passes for 272 yards, Bills quarterback Allen was 15 of 26 passing for 315 yards, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another score.

It proved a famous match for Allen. The 25-year-old became the first player in NFL history to throw for more than 300 yards and three or more touchdown passes, rush for 50 or more yards and a touchdown, and average 20 or more yards per completion in a single game.

It was also a win to savour for the Bills after they were swept aside 38-24 in the AFC Championship game last season by the Chiefs on their way to their Super Bowl triumph, but Allen was not prepared to get carried away.

"I think this is going to be made a bigger deal than it is. We're in Week 5," he said. "Four wins doesn't get you to the playoffs.

"We ended up with a win. That's our goal each and every week, to come out and be resilient through lightning delays. I'm proud of how our team handled the situation."

Sanders, who ran in a 35-yard score from Allen's pass to give the Bills a 14-10 lead in the second quarter, said: "We're going to enjoy it on the plane back.

"You can tell I'm enjoying it out there; I lost my voice screaming. But at the same time, it's not like we won the Super Bowl. It's Week 5. We have to get back to work."

Similarly, Mahomes saw no reason for the Chiefs to panic.

"We know we have what it takes to be great," he said. "We have a lot of great players that have been really good in other places.

"We know we have what it takes. It's a matter of coming together now and finding a way to do that."

The Kansas City Chiefs continue to struggle on the heels of a Super Bowl season, falling 38-20 to the Buffalo Bills after a series of self-inflicted mistakes on Sunday. 

Though the Chiefs controlled the ball for much of the AFC title game rematch, running 25 more plays than the Bills, their four turnovers were the difference as they dropped to 2-3 this season. 

Buffalo (4-1) intercepted Patrick Mahomes passes on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter, with Micah Hyde taking the first of those 26 yards for a touchdown after plucking a tipped ball out of the air. 

It was just the second pick-six of Mahomes' career after Week 11 of the 2018 season.

That score consolidated the Bills' advantage after the visitors had reeled off 17 unanswered points in the second quarter to take the lead for good. 

Both touchdowns in that sequence came from the arm of Josh Allen, who hit Emmanuel Sanders for a 35-yard score and Dawson Knox for a 53-yard TD. 

For a few moments early in the fourth quarter, it appeared the Chiefs had forced a key turnover of their own, as Rashad Fenton intercepted Allen inside Bills territory.

But Buffalo retained the ball thanks to a controversial roughing the passer penalty on Frank Clark and made it count, marching downfield before another Allen-to-Saunders touchdown pass with 5:51 to play that effectively sealed the win. 

Allen was 15 of 26 passing for 315 yards (12.1 per attempt) and ran for 59 more, including a touchdown. Mahomes completed just 33 of 43 passes for 272 yards (5.0 per attempt) while running for 61. 

 

The New York Giants watched one offensive playmaker after another fall by the wayside in a 44-20 loss to rivals the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL on Sunday. 

Giants running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (knee) were injured in the first quarter – though the latter continued to play through half-time – and quarterback Daniel Jones (concussion) went down late in the second period. 

Golladay, who has battled a series of lower-body injuries this year, said he hyperextended his knee in the opening quarter and tried to play through it but could not continue after the break. 

Initial reports indicated Barkley could end up missing the most time, with ESPN saying he is expected to be sidelined for at least a couple of weeks with a sprained left ankle. 

Any extended absence would be a cruel setback for the former NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in Week 2 last season. 

The injury to Jones may have been the most concerning to watch, however. 

The third-year quarterback was running the ball towards the goal line late in the first half when he lowered his head to meet oncoming Dallas defender Jabril Cox. 

The pair hit helmet-to-helmet as Jones was dragged down and the quarterback lay prone in the end zone for a few moments before getting up, but he was shaky on his feet and had to be helped off the field by medical personnel before being taken to the locker room on a cart. 

Giants head coach Joe Judge had little to share about Jones when he spoke to reporters after his team fell to 1-4 for the season.

"I'm not going to get into any medical diagnosis," Judge said. "I saw him in the locker room afterwards right there. Just checked on him

"In terms of where he'll go next week, I don't have an answer for you right now. We'll see where he goes. Obviously we're all hopeful that he'll be back and he'll be healthy."

Mike Glennon finished the game at quarterback, completing 16 of 25 passes (64 per cent) for 196 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. 

Jones has completed 66.7 per cent of his passes this year, with four touchdowns and just one interception. 

While he had no specific details to offer about the injured players, Judge said he was pleased that the Giants' backups stepped in and did what they could.

"We'll check on the status of the guys who left, see where they're at, I couldn't give you any answers in terms of next week at this point right now," he said. 

"But in terms of how our team responded, that's exactly what I expect. I expect whoever's in the game to play, I expect the entire team to come down here ready to go.

"I tell you guys all the time, whoever's at the game I expect to play and I expect to be productive."

Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers took another step in establishing themselves as NFL Super Bowl contenders as they pulled out a wild 47-42 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

The lead changed hands seven times as Herbert and Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield led their teams downfield almost at will, but the Chargers (4-1) scored last and the Browns (3-2) could not respond on Sunday.

Herbert continued building his MVP case as he went 26-of-43 passing for 398 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions and ran for another score. 

The Chargers trailed 27-13 after a spectacular 52-yard touchdown run by Nick Chubb on the opening drive of the second half, but Herbert led them back to take a 28-27 lead and the teams exchanged touchdowns from there. 

Los Angeles thought they had tied the game when Herbert hit Austin Ekeler for a 19-yard touchdown with 3:15 to play but Tristan Vizcaino missed his second extra point of the game to leave the Chargers trailing by a point. 

The Browns went three and out on the next possession and Herbert led the Chargers to the three-yard line, where the Cleveland defence helped Ekeler cross the goal line on purpose with 1:31 to play so the Browns could get the ball back. 

But Mayfield could not finish the job, throwing three successive incompletions from the Cleveland 47-yard line to give the Chargers the ball and end the game. 

Murray, Cardinals remain unbeaten

The Arizona Cardinals improved to 5-0 and remain the only unbeaten team in the NFL after pulling out a 17-10 win against the San Francisco 49ers. 

Kyler Murray's explosive Arizona offence entered the game averaging 35 points per game but had to scrape out the win as they were out-gained 338 to 304 by Trey Lance and the 49ers (2-3). 

Murray completed 22 of 31 passes for 239 yards and a key nine-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins with 5:13 to play that effectively put the game out of reach. 

Rookie quarterback Lance made his first start for San Francisco and completed just 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards with an interception, though he led all rushers in the game with 89 yards on the ground. 

Cowboys run away from battered Giants

The Dallas Cowboys took advantage of injuries to the New York Giants' two most important players on offence, rolling to a 44-20 home victory. 

The Giants lost quarterback Daniel Jones to a concussion and running back Saquon Barkley to an ankle injury and were outscored 27-7 after Graham Gano hit a field goal on the first drive of the second half. 

Dak Prescott completed 22 of 32 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns for Dallas, while Ezekiel Elliott ran for 110 yards and a score. 

The Jacksonville Jaguars cannot believe their 20-game losing streak as the embattled NFL franchise closes in on an unwanted record following Sunday's 37-19 defeat to the Tennessee Titans.

Not since the 2020 season opener – a 27-20 victory against the Indianapolis Colts – have the Jaguars celebrated a win in the league as they are currently in the midst of the second-longest losing streak in NFL history.

After dropping to 0-5 this season, the Jaguars face the threat of breaking the record for the longest drought since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, which is held by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (26 straight games from 1976 to 1977).

"You can't wrap your head around that," Jags running back James Robinson said afterwards. "We've got to find a way to win.

"We're a really good team. Obviously, our record doesn't show it, but we've got a lot of great guys in the locker room and we've just got to find something that's going to work for us."

Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence threw a touchdown and an interception in finishing 23-of-33 passing for 273 yards and two sacks, while the number one draft pick rushed for a TD on seven carries.

"We don't really talk about that [losing streak]," Jacksonville quarterback Lawrence said. "I don't think that's good to talk about that. You can't get desperate. You've got to just keep going to work. We're going to win some games.

"We're going to turn it around, and we all thought today was the day we were going to get that first win and it wasn't.

"We didn't execute enough down the stretch, but we're going to figure it out. We're going to turn this thing around. It's going to be a lot of fun when we do. We want to win. All the guys.

"We've got so many hard workers and everyone's so invested. It's not a team where you've got guys that aren't really committed or don't care. Everyone's all-in, so it'll come."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady was non-committal on his playing status after suffering a hand injury in his five-touchdown performance against the Miami Dolphins.

Brady threw five TD passes to fuel Super Bowl champions the Buccaneers' 45-17 rout of the Dolphins in Week 5 of the NFL season on Sunday.

The 44-year-old was 30-of-41 passing for 411 yards without throwing an interception against the struggling Dolphins (1-4) in Tampa, where the Bucs improved to 4-1.

Among Brady's touchdown passes was a 62-yard TD throw to Antonio Brown – the longest pass TD he has completed with the Buccaneers, while it was the seven-time Super Bowl champion's 25th career pass TD of 60-plus yards, which is tied for ninth-most in NFL history.

But afterwards, Brady was seen with his right hand bandaged as the Bucs quarterback provided an update on his injury.

"Yeah in my younger days I probably [would have] never showed you guys that I wrapped it up, because I'd probably try to keep it a secret, but I think in my old age I don't care as much," Brady told reporters post-game, with the Bucs due to meet the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday.

"I mean it's just a kind of a football injury. So, do my best you know to get ready for this game. We'll see what happens."

In the win, Bucs wide receiver Brown became the fastest NFL player to 900 receptions in just his 143rd career game, eclipsing Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison (149 games).

Brown – a seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time first-team All-Pro – finished with two touchdowns from 124 yards on seven receptions against the Dolphins.

"I take so much inspiration from Tom. As a professional, as a leader, making sure that I'm doing my job, making sure that all the other 10 guys are doing their job," said Brown, who played alongside Ben Roethlisberger at the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"He just continues to up the standard and raise the bar."

Brown, 33, added: "I've played with some great quarterbacks. Roethlisberger. Tom Brady. It's a blessing."

Brady, who played alongside Brown briefly at the New England Patriots before reuniting in Tampa last season, said: "It's pretty amazing. Just give him a lot of credit.

"He's been through a lot and he's shown a lot of mental toughness, a lot of resilience. Everyone just wants him to succeed.

"We've got a unique group of guys. Very talented, but very selfless too. All those guys are getting opportunities to make plays, and just fun to see when everyone's involved how fun it can be."

The Green Bay Packers went 4-1 for the 2021 season after Mason Crosby's overtime field goal secured a dramatic 25-22 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

Crosby missed two field goals in the final quarter as Cincinnati pegged back the visitors at 22-22, with the Packers #2 then squandering another chance early in overtime.

His third miss came sandwiched in between Bengals rookie Evan McPherson twice hitting the post with field goal attempts of his own.

Yet a brilliant pass from the superb Aaron Rodgers – who threw for two touchdowns to take him into outright fifth place in the all-time list for quarterbacks with 422 – to Randall Cobb teed up the game-winning moment.

Bengals QB Joe Burrow also threw for two touchdowns, having got Cincinnati started when he picked out Samaje Perine from close range in the first quarter. 

Burrow collected his second TD pass of the game in style, throwing 70 yards (the longest pass of his NFL career) for Ja'Marr Chase to cross.

Chase's score came after Rodgers had propelled the Packers ahead with passes to Davante Adams and AJ Dillon, and although Joe Mixon forced OT, Crosby held his nerve at the fourth time of asking.

Brady downs Dolphins

A week on from breaking Drew Brees' NFL passing record, Brady was at his imperious best again for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, throwing for five touchdowns and 411 yards in a 45-17 win over the Miami Dolphins.

His 72 touchdown passes against the Dolphins mean he is the joint-leader, alongside Dan Marino (72 v. the New York Jets) for TD passes against a single opponent in the Super Bowl era, while his 62-yard pass for Antonio Brown on Sunday was the longest he has thrown while at the Buccaneers. 

Pitts stars in London

The NFL returned to London on Sunday, with the Atlanta Falcons overcoming the New York Jets 27-20. Rookie receiver Kyle Pitts was the star of the show at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, taking nine catches for 119 yards and a touchdown, the first of his NFL career.

Star tight end George Kittle has been placed on injured reserve by the San Francisco 49ers.

On the same day he turned 28, the Niners confirmed their two-time All-Pro had been subject to the roster move due to an ongoing calf problem.

The decision means Kittle must miss at least three matches, including the upcoming NFC West divisional matchup at the undefeated Arizona Cardinals, a game for which he had initially been listed as doubtful.

San Francisco are already without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who also has a calf problem, against the Cardinals, meaning rookie Trey Lance will start.

The team, who are 2-2 after losing two straight games, will hope Kittle is good to go again by Week 8 when they meet the Cardinals once more.

Kittle has struggled with his nagging injury for much of the 2021 season and has made just 19 catches for 227 yards, as he waits to score his first touchdown of the year.

He was restricted to just eight regular season games last year after suffering a broken foot.

Prior to those injury problems, Kittle had been utterly dominant in 2018 and 2019, helping the Niners to the Super Bowl in that period with 2,430 yards and 10 receiving TDs across 30 regular season games.

Kittle was a fifth-round draft pick ahead of the 2017 season.

So far, so good, Dak Prescott. At least from a personal perspective, though, it was a similar story through four weeks in 2020.

The Dallas Cowboys quarterback set a record-breaking pace last year, his 1,690 passing yards comfortably the most by any player over the first four weeks of a season since 1960. In fact, in at least the past 40 years, no QB can match that total across any four-game span.

Going back to 1960, only Jameis Winston had previously thrown for 450 yards in consecutive games. Prescott became the first to do so in three in a row against the Atlanta Falcons (450), the Seattle Seahawks (472, a career high) and the Cleveland Browns (502, another career high) in Weeks 2, 3 and 4.

Yet the Cowboys were only 1-3, and when Prescott went down for the year against the New York Giants in Week 5, any hopes of recovering their season were dashed. Dallas went from averaging a league-leading 509.5 total net yards and third-ranked 31.5 points per game through Week 4 to 325.9 yards and 22.5 points over the rest of the year — ranking joint-21st and 25th.

In 2021, however, they are 3-1 heading into another Week 5 matchup with the Giants, despite having played three other 3-1 teams. And although Prescott has again been outstanding, this year's Cowboys do not look quite so fragile.

'The best I've ever played'

Of course, Dallas' excellent start begins with the man under center. Prescott is back this season having finally signed a four-year, $160million extension, and he is quickly proving worth that investment.

Although his 1,066 yards pale next to last year's early efforts, the 28-year-old has thrown 10 touchdown passes, up on 2020's nine and the second-most ever at this stage of a season by a Cowboys QB, behind Tony Romo's 11 in 2007. Only Don Meredith (twice — in 1966 and 1968) has bettered Prescott's 116.9 passer rating to this point.

After three TDs and no interceptions in the Week 3 win against the Philadelphia Eagles, Prescott said he had gained "a different perspective" from his spell on the sidelines. "I feel like I'm playing the best I've ever played," he added. He then had four TDs and no interceptions versus the Carolina Panthers in Week 4.

Prescott is undoubtedly excelling — he has delivered a well-thrown, accurate ball with 84.7 per cent of his passes this year, third among QBs with 100 or more attempts — but he is also getting help. In the Panthers game, he did not take a single sack. His seven for the year are fewer than 21 other QBs through four weeks.

Indeed, the Dallas number four said coming into the season offensive linemen Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, who all missed at least large chunks of 2020 through injury, were "the most important" members of the offense.

Of the 32 pressures Prescott has faced this season, 20 came in the opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when Martin was on the COVID list. He has won 57 of 58 pass protection attempts, allowing only a single hurry. Smith has won 90 of 93 attempts, giving up a sole adjusted sack. The Cowboys still have the suspended Collins to come back in.

Even when Prescott is pressured, he is performing well, getting the ball out quickly and accurately, his 2.84-second release time the fourth-fastest under duress (minimum 10 attempts) and his 81.3 well-thrown percentage the fourth-best.

Having top-level talents to give the ball to makes the job easier, though.

Sharing the ball around

Prescott completed at least 80 per cent of his passes in consecutive weeks against the Los Angeles Chargers (85.2) and the Eagles (80.8), while the Cowboys also put up more than 150 rushing yards in both matchups (198 and 160). The 1984 San Francisco 49ers, led by Joe Montana, had been the last team to achieve that feat in back-to-back games.

That statistic speaks to the threat Dallas pose on offense this year.

Through the air, Prescott has had three outstanding weapons to target at the start of this season. Wide receivers Amari Cooper (22) and CeeDee Lamb (20) and tight end Dalton Schultz (20) have each made at least 20 catches, making the Cowboys the only team to have three players reach this mark through four weeks in 2021.

In just Lamb's second season in the league, he and Cooper have already established themselves as one of football's premier wide receiver duos — they are one of seven pairs of team-mates to each have 250 receiving yards at the position through Week 4 (258 for Cooper, 264 for Lamb).

Against the Panthers, when Lamb was limited to just two catches, four other Cowboys caught TD passes — among them breakout star Schultz, who has three scores in four games after four in his first three years in the league.

Two of those prior four TDs came in the first four games of 2020, though, with Prescott targeting Schultz with 28 passes, leading to a career-high four-game span of 219 receiving yards. Of those, 105 yards came after the catch, showing his power as he ranked fifth at TE in the NFL. So far this year, his 131 yards after the catch trail only Travis Kelce and George Kittle — good company to be keeping.

Crucially, however, Dallas also have multiple options on the ground. Ezekiel Elliott looks back to his best and is boosted by having Tony Pollard emerge as an effective alternative.

"We've got some younger guys who can play and produce, so it's not necessary for Zeke to run the ball 25, 30 times a game," head coach Mike McCarthy said in July. "When you get to December, January football, you want him to be in top form to be able to run the ball 25, 30 times if needed."

Elliott is certainly being used more efficiently; his 342 rushing yards fall well short of the Week 4 marks set in 2016 (412) and 2018 (426), but only in the latter year (5.84) has he averaged more yards per carry than this year's 5.34. The 26-year-old's four rushing scores are his most at this stage of a season. He still played a key role against Carolina, with 143 rushing yards his most in a game since 2018.

The Cowboys are difficult to stop, with Pollard (4.29) and Elliott (4.00) ranking third and fourth among running backs for yards per carry on plays where run disruption occurs and defenders get the better of the O-line. It is easy to see why Dallas are now running the ball on 47.0 per cent of plays, fifth-most in the league, easing the burden on Prescott.

Young defense delivering

This outstanding offensive production would all count for little if the Cowboys were not also showing improvement on the defensive end. The reasons for their 1-3 start in 2020 were the 430.5 total net yards (third-most) and league-high 36.5 points allowed per game.

Happily, with Prescott returning and faith in the offensive options, the Cowboys were able to focus almost solely on defense in the draft. Their first six picks, including 12th overall selection Micah Parsons, were on that side of the ball.

Linebacker Parsons has quickly established himself, leading the team with 2.5 sacks and 32 sack yards while registering 13 pressures on 46 pass rush attempts — a strong 28.3 per cent. At defensive tackle, third-round pick Osa Odighizuwa has been similarly impressive, pressuring at a 21.4 per cent rate and registering an adjusted sack on 7.1 per cent of plays when lined up on the interior. With Jaylon Smith released, fourth-rounder Jabril Cox could also now get an opportunity.

The undoubted star of the season so far, however, is second-year cornerback Trevon Diggs. Dallas have registered 10 total takeaways, only behind the Buffalo Bills, and Diggs' five interceptions — at least one in each game, including a pick-six against the Eagles — account for half of them. Since 1960, only three players have had more interceptions heading into Week 5; since 1980, just two have had a longer streak of games with picks to start a season.

As a team, the Cowboys had 10 interceptions in the whole of 2020, with Diggs, then a rookie, contributing three.

The Cowboys have now given up 24.3 points per game, tied for 16th in the league, but they have allowed just six points — from two field goals — in the fourth quarter of one-score games, giving Prescott every opportunity to win the game.

Unlike the QB, the key men in the defensive unit are largely too young to have worked with former Cowboys coach and current Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, but on the evidence of this season so far they will relish making life hell for his man Daniel Jones on Sunday.

In their last game against weak NFC East rivals until a kind end to the schedule starting in Week 14, the Cowboys will look to lay down a marker, extending this strong start and encouraging hopes they can be a genuine contender this year. Getting Jones off the field and allowing Prescott, Elliott and Co to get to work should ensure they do that.

The Buffalo Bills' 2020 season came to an end as their defense was gashed by Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. After an offseason seemingly geared towards preventing that from happening again, in Week 5 they will get the clearest indication yet of whether their moves were the right ones.

Buffalo and Kansas City will renew acquaintances on Sunday for the first time since the Chiefs crushed the Bills 38-24 in the AFC Championship Game.

Kansas City put together a typically prolific offensive performance, Mahomes averaging 8.55 yards per pass attempt as he racked up 325 yards and threw for three touchdowns in a game that was not much of a contest after the Chiefs responded to falling 9-0 behind early by scoring 21 unanswered points.

The Bills pressured Mahomes 12 times, having tallied 33 across the first two rounds of last season's playoffs, and sacked him only once.

That anaemic pass-rush display prompted Buffalo to spend major draft capital on the defensive front this year.

Miami edge rusher Gregory Rousseau was selected with the Bills' first-round pick, and they followed that up by adding Carlos Basham from Wake Forest to their defensive line in the second.

Those additions have not seen the Bills leap to the top of charts when it comes to total pressures – their tally of 60 is 22nd in the NFL – however, they are doing a significantly better job of getting to the quarterback.

Buffalo's 11 sacks for negative yardage is a total bettered by only six teams so far this year, with Rousseau registering two sacks in an encouraging start to his career despite having a year away from competitive football after his college career effectively ended in 2019 due to his decision to opt out in 2020.

With Buffalo excelling in preventing opponents from getting going on the ground and through the air, the Bills are first in the NFL in opponent yards per play allowed with an impressive average of 4.00, while their 11 takeaways are also a league high.

The issue is that the Bills haven't faced an opponent close to the calibre of Mahomes and the Chiefs, who lead the league in yards per play. Of the four teams they have played this year in a 3-1 start, only the Washington Football Team (eighth) rank in the top half of the league in yards per play. The Pittsburgh Steelers, the Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins are all in the bottom seven.

Similarly, none of the four quarterbacks the Bills' defense has gone against is above the league average for signal-callers with at least 10 attempts in well-thrown percentage (78.5). Mahomes is third in the NFL in that metric, delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball 84.8 per cent of the time and performing at the kind of level that saw him named MVP in the 2018 season.

When a quarterback of Mahomes' physical gifts is displaying that kind of accuracy, he can be near-impossible to stop. If the Bills cannot do it this time, then Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen and Mahomes would likely end up in another shootout expected to tilt in the direction of the Chiefs star.

Early signs against inferior opposition have been encouraging, but Sunday's primetime duel at Arrowhead Stadium will provide a true picture of whether the Bills' defensive improvement is for real.

No franchise wants to rebuild. Tanking your immediate hopes of success to collect assets that can eventually propel the team back to the top can be a miserable experience. However, the Miami Dolphins attacked rebuilding with remarkable zeal and have endured relatively little pain as they have constructed their roster on a new foundation.

Brian Flores oversaw a 5-11 season not short on reasons for encouragement in 2019 even amid a fire sale that saw the likes of Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick sent off to pastures new in exchange for major draft capital. Last season, the Dolphins finished 10-6 and narrowly missed the playoffs, raising hopes that their project would imminently yield dividends.

As such, this season was always likely to be seen as a measuring stick for the franchise, with Flores entering his third year as head coach and the man they picked to be the quarterback of the future faced with a make-or-break campaign, the Dolphins entered 2021 with expectations with which they are unfamiliar.

And, following a 1-3 start, with a franchise quarterback at least temporarily on the shelf and the defending champions coming to town to potentially put Miami in a deeper hole, tough questions will start to be asked about the direction of the organisation.

Few teams recover from a 1-4 start to reach the postseason. There is the unlikely possibility the Dolphins could upset the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, but the more plausible scenario is a fourth successive defeat that would beg the question: is Miami's rebuild a failure?

Defense developing, but results declining

The biggest feather in the cap of this Dolphins' regime has been the play of Miami's defense, which last season led the NFL in takeaways with 29.

Yet those turnovers masked the fact that the Dolphins' defense was one teams generally had success moving the ball against. Indeed, Miami ranked 24th in opponent yards per play allowed in 2020, giving up an average of 5.90.

The Dolphins have improved in that regard so far this season, sitting 13th with 5.51 yards per play allowed, but are 23rd in offensive points allowed despite generating six turnovers through four games.

Miami's defense is one that appears to have grown more efficient when it comes to stopping the progress of offenses on a per-play basis and still takes the ball away but is not keeping offenses from putting up points.

Why is that the case? Put simply, they are on the field too long because of the failures of an offense that is not living up to the amount the Dolphins have invested.

A lack of possession

Miami's offense ranks 30th in average time of possession, having control of the ball for just 26 minutes and eight seconds. Their defense, as a result, has been on the field for an average of 33 minutes and 52 seconds. Only the defenses of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Seattle Seahawks have had to exercise greater endurance this season.

And the offense has shown little in the way of efficiency when on the field.

The Dolphins rank last in yards per play with an average of just 4.05. The New York Jets (5) are the sole team to have scored fewer offensive touchdowns than the Dolphins' six while only 10 of Miami's 42 offensive drives have ended in points.

That level of offensive ineptitude is unacceptable for a team looking to compete, and much of the blame can be pinned on an offensive line where the Dolphins have spent a large portion of their resources.

Despite having a first-round pick and two second-rounders starting up front, the Dolphins have allowed 80 pressures through four games, the seventh-most in the NFL.

It is difficult for a quarterback to succeed when under duress that consistently but, if the Dolphins continue to struggle, an apparent misevaluation of the class of signal-callers in the 2020 draft will come under even greater scrutiny.

Tua a costly mistake?

The elephant in the room is quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, whom the Dolphins selected fifth overall in the 2020 draft despite his career with Alabama being ended by a dislocated hip.

Miami backed Tagovailoa to eventually put that injury behind him and develop into the NFL star many expected him to become. Yet he failed to prove a superior option to Ryan Fitzpatrick in his rookie year and, rather than taking season-two strides, seemed to be regressing before a rib injury suffered in the Week 2 loss to the Buffalo Bills saw him placed on injured reserve.

In the small sample size of 30 attempts this season, Tagovailoa has delivered an accurate, well-thrown ball a league-low 63.3 per cent of the time. Only two quarterbacks, rookies Zach Wilson and Davis Mills, have a worse pickable pass rate than Tagovailoa's 6.67 per cent.

Tagovailoa was long since pencilled in as the player the Dolphins' grand rebuild was going to be constructed around. Now reduced to the role of spectator for the time being and struggling to live up to his draft status, going with him over reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert looks like a serious misstep.

It is not the only premium pick Miami made from that class whose selection is in question. Left tackle Austin Jackson's inability to make the leap to the highest level effectively is a key reason for the offensive line struggles — he has won under 70 per cent of his pass-blocking matchups in 2021 — and their third first-round choice from 2020, cornerback Noah Igbinoghene, has not played a single defensive snap in 2021.

Any judgement on this year's crop would be a premature one but, although there have been some encouraging signs from first-round picks Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips, the former is being limited by the struggles of the offense, recording a big play on an underwhelming 16 per cent of his targets, and pass rusher Phillips has won only 12 of his 43 rushes this season.

The mediocre starts of Waddle and Phillips are a long way down the list of concerns for the Dolphins, however, and they will not be the primary causes should Miami's poor start lead to a year of unmatched expectations.

Miami's rebuild rested on whom the Dolphins selected to be their quarterback and their fortunes in protecting him. The decisions they made in each of those areas have to this point largely backfired, leaving them with an offense that looks ill-equipped to compete this Sunday with a Buccaneers attack that could hardly be in a better position in the trenches and under center.

There is, of course, time for Miami to right the ship this year and the Dolphins — through their pre-2021 draft trade with the San Francisco 49ers — have more capital with which to improve weaknesses on their roster in the coming years.

But persistent talk of the Dolphins using those resources to strike a deal for quarterback Deshaun Watson is not a sign of a successful rebuild or faith in Tagovailoa to turn things around.

It's becoming increasingly clear the Dolphins bet on the wrong horse at quarterback last year and may have failed to properly evaluate prospects at several other positions. Opportunities for any regime to get the chance to select a second quarterback are rare but, regardless of how the Dolphins try to rescue their best-laid plans to return to prominence, the franchise's future gambles must be more astute.

Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis says the language used by head coach Jon Gruden in an email 10 years ago is "disturbing" amid allegations it was racist.

Davis, who at the time was a lead analyst for ESPN, wrote to the Washington Football Team's president in July 2011 where he said NFL Players' Association executive director DeMaurice Smith had "lips the size of michellin tires" according to The Journal.

Gruden claimed he did not recall the email, while NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy labelled the language as "appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL's values".

The Raiders owner called it "disturbing" and said they were reviewing the matter, suggesting possible disciplinary action.

“The content of an email regarding DeMaurice Smith from Jon Gruden when he worked for ESPN 10 years ago is disturbing and not what the Raiders stand for," Davis said in a statement.

"We were first made aware of the email late yesterday by a reporter and are reviewing it along with other materials provided to us today by the NFL.

"We are addressing the matter with Coach Gruden and will have no further comment at this time."

Gruden claimed that the remark was not intended to be racial, insisting it related to the term "rubber lips" for someone who lies a lot and that he was embarrassed by the situation.

"I'm ashamed I insulted De Smith," Gruden told ESPN. "I never had a racial thought when I used it.

"I'm embarrassed by what's out there. I certainly never meant for it to sound that bad."

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