Week 5 of the NFL season brought with it the kickoff of the league's Breast Cancer Awareness campaign, wherein Roger Goodell drapes his players in pink to convince fans that he truly cares about women's issues.
It's a move that seems a tad hypocritical given the past month of headlines and scandals, and while it's tempting to just slap a big Loser tag on the entire league and call it a column, that wouldn't exactly be fair to the Winners of the week, of which there were many. We saw milestones reached, historic comebacks completed and one very defiant statement made by Tom Brady and Co.
Let's hand out some W's and L's for Week 5.
Winners: Peyton Manning the Thomas Twins
It's just not fair. Whether it was on this 86-yard strike or Manning's 500th career touchdown pass (in 49 fewer games than Brett Favre), "Manning to Thomas" was a phrase heard early and often on Sunday. They beat up on the undefeated Cardinals as Manning threw for 479 yards for 4 TDs and Demaryius Thomas had 226 yards and 2 scores. Tight end Julius Thomas caught 2 TD passes as well.
We were hesitant in include Manning since he'll undoubtedly be a winner once again when he passes Favre to become the all-time leader in touchdowns thrown, but when you put up those kinds of numbers and come up with the softest TD saving tackle of all time, there's nothing left to do but bow in the presence of greatness.
Loser: The New York Jets
It's getting ugly for Gang Green. Geno Smith, the latest symbol of this franchise's failures, was benched yesterday after one of the most miserable halves of football we've ever seen. Smith threw for an adorable 27 yards and 1 interception in the first 30 minutes before Michael Vick took over. For anyone thinking Vick would be the Jets' savior, you might want to take a seat. Vick threw for an underwhelming 47 yards as the Jets were shut-out by the Chargers. Vick didn't throw an interception, so I guess that's something the Jets can hang their sad little hats on. The Rex Ryan era was fun while it lasted.
Winner: Dez Bryant
The Cowboys had many heroes on Sunday. DeMarco Murray became the first running back in Cowboys history to start a season with five straight 100 yard games, the Dallas defense stepped up when it mattered most and Dan Bailey was redeemed as he made the game-winning field goal from 49 yards out.
Despite all of these great performances, the real hero was Bryant, who saved the game with this ungodly catch in overtime. On 3rd-and-9, with the ball on the Cowboys' 30, Romo threw up a prayer to the almighty Dez, and his faith was rewarded. The catch set up the winning field goal and we all marveled at the power of Bryant.
Loser: J.J. (MVP) Watt
Everything's bigger in Texas, and the Cowboys/Texans battle was so huge it gave us a Loser too. Weirdly, though, it goes to my personal MVP, the Texans' J.J. Watt, who had a wide-open chance to wipe-out Romo. Instead, Tony went el matador on Watt, luring him right into a huge whiff. As Watt fell to the ground in utter defeat, the spinning Romo threw a 43-yard touchdown to Terrance Williams. Ole!
Winner: Sad Cleveland Fans
It looked like it would be another emotional night for these poor Browns fans after Tennessee took a 28-3 lead in the first half. But before tears could stain their pillows once again, Cleveland QB Brian Hoyer handed these fans a metaphorical tissue, in the form of the largest comeback by a road team in NFL history. Hoyer threw his third TD to Travis Benjamin with 1:09, sealing a 29-28 victory over the Titans. Hoyer said after the game, "I think our fans are excited. Hopefully none of them are in the ER.''
Despite the win, Browns fans still might cry tonight after they see this footage of Hoyer dropping it.
Loser: Even Sadder Jaguars Fans
It's bad enough there are swimming pools in NFL stadiums, but what in God's name is happening in this picture? There is a fully clothed woman standing in the pool. Go home Jacksonville, you're drunk and probably losing.
Winner: The Carolina Panthers
The Bears were up 21-7 in the second quarter, and Carolina's only offense up to that point had come in the form of Philly Brown's punt return touchdown, unquestionably one of the WTF-iest plays of the year. Dude's got a great name though. He's like an ancillary member of the East Coast Family.
Anyway, Cam Newton gradually eroded said lead, and Carolina's defense shut down the (overrated?) Bears, forcing four turnovers, including a strip on Matt Forte that led to a Greg Olsen TD catch with 2:18 left in the game. Don't look now, but the (underrated?) Panthers are the sole leaders of the NFC South.
Loser: Jim Schwartz
Jesus, I'm still embarrassed for him. Check out Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz getting carried off the field in victory after Buffalo beat Detroit – the team Schwartz coached for five seasons. Keep this GIF mind as you read the following pregame quotes from Schwartz about playing the Lions.
"It doesn't matter. It's about the game. It's about the same as any week."
Sure it is, Jim. Anyway, if this were just another game, I hope Buffalo never wins another one again.
Winner: The New England Patriots, Human Decency
Yes, after the Pats brutalized the Bengals on Sunday night, the headlines will undoubtedly be "Brady's Back!"
But perhaps they should also be about the show of support the New England paid to Bengals lineman Devon Still's has a 4-year-old daughter Leah, who has been battling cancer since June 2014. The Patriots played an amazing tribute video to the brave girl during the game, their cheerleaders wore Still's jersey and team owner Robert Kraft made a $25,000 donation to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital in Leah's name.
The Bengals are selling Stills jerseys online, with all the proceeds going to the hospital and pediatric cancer care and research. In a week where so much went into reminding us that the NFL still cares, all it took was a few human gestures to make us actually believe it does.