The Top NFL Storylines of Week 5: D.J. Moore, De’Von Achane and Bill Belichick

Plus, the Dallas Cowboys are pretenders not contenders, like usual

October 10, 2023 6:04 am
Miami Dolphins running back De'Von Achane.
Miami Dolphins running back De'Von Achane has been running wild.
Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty

With the NFL season’s fifth installment of Monday Night Football in the books and another slate of games over and done, Week 5 is complete. While we can’t get to everything — like the COVID-related Mr. Pfizer namecalling between two stars — here are four of the top storylines to emerge from the NFL’s fifth week. (Here’s a look back at Week 4.)

D.J. Moore may have saved Justin Fields’s career

It may have gotten buried given all of the standout performances from Sunday, including Ja’Marr Chase snagging 15 catches for 192 yards and three touchdowns as the Bengals got their season off of life support with a much-needed win against the Cardinals, but Chicago Bears wideout D.J. Moore had a game on Thursday night that may also have saved something: a career.

Winless to start the season at 0-4 after blowing a 28-7, second-half lead against Denver in Week 4, the Bears began Thursday’s game against Washington on a 14-game losing streak dating back almost a year. The Bears dominated the Commanders 40-20 behind a strong effort from third-year quarterback Justin Fields, who completed 15 of 29 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns against a previously stout Washington defense.

Three of those touchdowns went to D.J. Moore, who set career highs with 230 yards and three scores on eight catches. Moore, whose previous career high was 157 yards, had touchdowns from 20, 11 and 56 yards, with the final one icing the game for Chicago with 4:09 left remaining on the clock.

The effort from Moore, who could have had a fourth score but was ruled out of bounds on a questionable call as he ran down the sidelines, gave Fields his first win of the season and just his sixth in 30 attempts as the starting quarterback in Chicago. The single victory, which ties the Bears with the directionless Vikings for third place in the NFC North at 1-4, does not get Chicago even close to contending for a playoff spot, but it does at least give the team a shot at generating some positive momentum with Fields under center.

Fields could certainly use some positive momentum as the Bears have the opportunity to lock him up for two more years by exercising his fifth-year option over the offseason, but will also probably have the chance to draft his replacement if they so choose as Chicago projects to potentially have the top two picks in the April’s draft.

Facing Minnesota in Week 6 with the chance to move to 2-4 with a win, Fields will want to keep Moore, who has 16 catches for 361 yards and four scores over the past two games after having just 11 for 170 and one score TD through the first three weeks of the season, heavily involved in the game.

“It was just fun,” Moore said after the win. “Football is fun. We’re out there playing a kid’s game at the end of the day. I just looked at it that way. Tonight, the stars aligned.” For his own sake, Fields needs to keep them that way.

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De’Von Achane has been ridiculous for the Dolphins

After their impressive 31-16 win over the New York Giants in Miami, the Dolphins have the most yards of offense (2,568) through the first five games of a season in NFL history. On Sunday, the Miami offense was led by star wide receiver Tyreek Hill (nine receptions for 181 yards and a touchdown), but it was rookie running back De’Von Achane who really popped off the screen for the Dolphins.

Entering Sunday’s game averaging an absurd 11.4 yards per carry, Achane had such a stellar afternoon that he raised his average to a ridiculous 12.1 yards per carry on the season.

With Sunday’s effort, which included a touchdown, Achane now has 38 carries for 460 yards this season and is the first player to score seven touchdowns in his first four career games in the Super Bowl era, according to NFL Research. According to CBS Sports, Achane also became the first player in league history to rush for 100 yards and average 10 yards per carry in three straight games during the dismantling of the Giants. Hall-of-Famer Barry Sanders, a running back who was prone to racking up chunk plays, never did even once in his entire NFL career.

A third-round pick and the sixth running back taken in April’s draft, Achane reached 21.76 mph on his 76-yard touchdown run against the Giants and has established himself as an explosive option in a Miami offense that is able to score quickly and frequently due to the skill — and speed — of its players. Tua Tagovailoa who is leading the NFL with an average of 9.7 yards per pass, is a surprise MVP favorite, but Achane who is averaging more than two yards per run more than his quarterback is per pass, has been the biggest eye-opener for Miami this season.

“It’s very promising to know that he knows where he’s going to line up and then basically if he’s getting the ball, you know it’s going to be a big play more often than not,” Tagovailoa said of his speedy teammate.

Sorry, Bill Belichick isn’t losing games on purpose

Prior to his press conference following New England’s second consecutive loss by more than 30 points, this one a 34-0  loss to the New Orleans Saints at home, Patriots coach Bill Belichick grabbed the center microphone from the lectern and got it away from his face as he prepared to give vague answers and mumbled explanations as to why his team is now one of the worst in the NFL at 1-4. Removing the mic, unquestionably, was on purpose.

Unfortunately, the state of his once-dominant team, despite what Boston sports radio callers like Carlton on the Cape, Mike in Milford and Derek in the car have convinced themselves to believe, is not intentional at all.

The rationale behind that theory, which harkens back to the prevailing notion that Belichick is always playing chess while the rest of the NFL is playing checkers, is that the 71-year-old is deliberately rolling out a team that, while designed to look at least somewhat competitive, is truly built to lose football games so that the Patriots can slide down the standings and secure the No. 1 spot in April’s draft in order to select a franchise quarterback like Caleb Williams out of USC.

In addition to the fact that the Patriots used the No. 15 pick in the 2021 Draft to select Mac Jones out of Alabama as their franchise QB (even though he clearly isn’t one), the problem with that theory is that Belichick is just 18 wins (330) short of passing Don Shula (347) on the NFL’s all-time victories list (playoffs included) and he is running out of time to do so. While it appears there is no love lost between Belichick and Jones, it is in his best interests to win games with his current quarterback, not let his team sink to the bottom of the league so they can get a player he won’t get a chance to coach for long, if at all.

The Patriots, who have now lost 15 games at home since the departure of Tom Brady after only losing 21 times at Gillette Stadium during the seven-time Super Bowl winner’s two decades in New England, were designed to win games by playing an antiquated style based on running the ball, playing good defense and excelling on special teams. The reason they haven’t had success isn’t because Belichick is playing chess, but rather because the rest of the league is playing football the way it is currently being played.

“I’m gonna do the best I can to help our football team,” Belichick said on Monday. “That’s my job.”

Belichick is doing a terrible job of doing his job, a bit funny given one of his favorite slogans, but it’s not on purpose.

The Dallas Cowboys are the same old Dallas Cowboys

A slight underdog in what was projected to be the best game on the schedule in Week 5 of the NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys were outclassed by the 49ers in a 42-10 loss on Sunday Night Football that established San Francisco as the best team in the NFC, sorry Eagles (also 5-0), and revealed the losers to be the same team they typically are.

Usually hyped before the start of the regular season and then again in the early going after they start the year strong, the Cowboys typically topple back to earth when confronted with playing the iron of their schedule and this year is no different. Touted as a team that could compete with the Niners and Eagles for the top spot in the NFC, the Cowboys are now 3-2 on the season with their second loss on the season coming at the hands of the tanking Arizona Cardinals (1-4). Hailed as a contender, the Cowboys have only beaten the Giants (1-4), the Patriots (1-4) and Jets (2-3). Dallas can only play the games on the schedule, but that doesn’t change the reality that they have not beaten a quality opponent with a decent quarterback through five weeks of play.

Year after year, that seems to be what happens with the Cowboys, who have become adept at fattening up on the dregs of their schedule but are almost always the nail instead of the hammer when they take the field against a team with legit Super Bowl aspirations. The 49ers are certainly a team with those aspirations and the Cowboys, who managed just 197 yards of offense and didn’t have a first down until their fifth drive, were unable to put up much of a fight against them despite having added motivation after being knocked out of the playoffs for two consecutive seasons.

“I don’t foresee a whole lot of winning grades coming out of this performance,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said on Sunday. “I think the most important thing for all of us, and you know I expressed it, is just be accountable. Be accountable for what you did tonight, and how you played. We gotta clean our own house up. It’s a punch in the gut, it’s a kick in the ass, whatever phrase you want to put on it. We’ve been knocked down. They beat us in all three phases. We will clearly acknowledge it.”

The Cowboys might acknowledge it. The question is whether they will do anything about it. They usually don’t.

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