#10 - Stevan Ridley
Ridley was the centerpiece of New England rushing offense that ran for 251 yards against Denver in a 31-21 victory. The second-year back rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. This is Ridley's second consecutive 100-yard game (106 last week against Buffalo), and his third of the season. The Patriots have now rushed for 200 yards in consecutive games for the first time since 1978.
#9 - The San Francisco 49ers
Although it is difficult not to recognize Alex Smith individually for his performance on Sunday, it was the entire San Francisco team that dominated the Buffalo Bills. The lopsided 45-3 final score does not tell the entire story. The 49ers became the first team in NFL history to rush for and pass for 300 yards in the same contest. Smith recorded the third 300-yard passing game of his career and finished the day with a passer rating of 156.2 (a perfect rating is 158.3).
The San Francisco defense stifled Ryan Fitzpatrick and the rest of the Bills offense from the opening kickoff. Buffalo managed only 204 total yards of offense, and a Rian Lindell field goal early in the second quarter accounted for the only three Bills' points all day.
#8 - Victor Cruz
Cruz was one of two wide receivers with three touchdowns on Sunday as he caught five passes for 50 yards including the three scores. Cruz's first touchdown, a three-yard reception, got the Giants out of an early 14-0 hole in the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns. His second touchdown, a seven-yard reception in the second quarter, gave the Giants a 24-17 lead. This was the first time New York led in the game, and it was a lead they would not relinquish. Cruz now has five touchdowns on the season, tying him for tops in the NFL with Green Bay's James Jones.
#7 - Wes Welker
The New England rushing attack was the group breaking records on Sunday, but it was Wes Welker who provided Tom Brady with a reliable outlet for over half of the quarterback's completions in the game. Welker caught 13 passes (on 15 targets) for 104 yards and a first quarter touchdown.
Welker has battled plenty of scrutiny over the summer thanks to a dropped pass in the Super Bowl, contract talks that soured more than sweetening and finally not even being announced as a starter in the team's season opener. Despite this rocky patch, the veteran wide receiver is currently second in the NFL with 38 receptions, one shy of league leader Tony Gonzalez.
#6 - Tony Gonzalez
Speaking of the league's leader in receptions with 39, Gonzalez had his best week of the season Week 5 against the Redskins. The 36-year-old tight end had 13 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown against Washington, and the Falcons needed every yard. Atlanta edged out a 24-17 victory on the road to remain the only unbeaten team in the NFC.
Gonzalez's touchdown was the 99th receiving touchdown of his career. That ties him for No. 8 all-time with Don Huston.
#5 - Ahmad Bradshaw
Bradshaw reached the 200-yard rushing plateau for the first time in his career as he ran for an even 200 on 30 carries in a 41-27 victory over the Browns. Bradshaw scored on a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, one of four scoring drives in the quarter for New York. Bradshaw also caught four passes for 29 yards in the contest.
Bradshaw's biggest problem throughout his career has been ball security (he did fumble once on Sunday). In his six seasons with the Giants, Bradshaw has fumbled 17 times, including seven in 2010. Bradshaw's fumble on Sunday was his first of the season, the same number he had all of last season. If Bradshaw continues to hold onto the ball in 2012, he should be among the league's rushing leaders at the end of the season.
#4 - Marques Colston
Colston may not have been the star of the show on Sunday Night Football, but he nearly stole the show from his record-breaking quarterback with a nine receptions for 131 yards and three touchdowns. Drew Brees may have thrown his record breaking first touchdown pass to Devery Henderson, but he threw the final three to his favorite target.
A five-yard touchdown reception with 8:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, Colston's third of the game, gave New Orleans its second lead of the game, and the first since midway through the second quarter (when a 19-yard Colston touchdown catch gave the Saints a 14-10 lead).
#3 - Andrew Luck
Luck played like a poised veteran against the Packers, a feat made more impressive by the recent Leukemia diagnosis for head coach Chuck Pagano. The Chuck Strong slogan rung loud a strong on Sunday as the Colts fought back from 21-3 halftime deficit to defeat the NFC North powerhouse Green Bay Packers 30-27.
Luck began the third quarter with a short field after Jerraud Powers intercepted Aaron Rodgers on Green Bay’s opening possession of the second half. Five plays later and the deficit was cut to eleven thanks to an eight-yard reception by fellow rookie Dwayne Allen.
The Colts scored on three of the next four possessions, including an alert three-yard touchdown run by Luck himself as his pocket began to collapse. An Adam Vinatieri field goal with 8:04 remaining gave the Colts a one-point lead. Still, it took a touchdown pass in the final minute to his favorite target on Sunday that gave Indianapolis the final lead of the game.
Luck recorded the third 300-yard passing game of his young career as he threw for 362 yards and two touchdowns. Alex Smith’s third career 300-yard passing outing also came on Sunday. Talk about a difference in No. 1 overall draft picks.
#2 - Reggie Wayne
Andrew Luck may have been leading his team down the field, but it was Reggie Wayne’s effort and stat line that stood out in Sunday’s game. Wayne recorded a 200-yard receiving effort for only the second time in his career during the regular season (he also had a 10/221/2 catches/yards/touchdowns line in a 2004 playoff games against the Denver Broncos).
Wayne had 13 catches in a 30-27 victory against the Green Bay Packers, including the game-winning touchdown with less than a minute remaining on the clock. Those 13 catches were his most in a game since Week 13 of 2010 against Dallas when the twelve-year veteran had 14 receptions and his only other regular season 200-yard game (200 exactly).
It is not just the Week 5 performance by Wayne that is turning heads. The veteran has 36 receptions through his first four games of the season (the most in his career through four games). The play of Luck has rejuvenated Wayne, who many experts thought had lost a step over the offseason. His motivation seemed to be lacking at times during the 2011 season, but two emotional victories early in the season have helped to energize the entire Colts team.
#1 - Drew Brees
It was a special night for Brees on Sunday. The stage was set for something magical to happen. Roger Goodell allowed currently suspended coach Sean Payton to attend a game in which the Saints quarterback was expected break Johnny Unitas’s record for consecutive regular season games with a touchdown pass. New Orleans sat at 0-4 as the only remaining winless team in the NFL. The Saints were bound to break through at some point, right?
It was important for Drew Brees to break that record against the San Diego Chargers. This was the team that essentially gave up on him when he injured his shoulder. Since that time he has rejuvenated a city that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, won a Super Bowl and broken the single season record for passing yards in the season.
The Chargers have not made the playoffs the past two seasons. Norv Turner has the hottest coaching seat in all of football. Phillip Rivers is an above average quarterback, but he has struggled to help his team find a way to win.
Back to the top performance of the week. Brees broke the Unitas record in the first quarter with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Devery Henderson. He would go on to throw three additional touchdown passes to Marques Colston. Brees completed 29 of 45 passes for 370 yards and those four scores. The only dark spot on his statistical line was an interception on the Saints first possession of the second half.
Along with those numbers, Brees put together a comeback in the final two quarters, scoring 17 unanswered points in the final 20 minutes of the game. A great performance and another great record for a great representative of the game.
*Brandon Marshall - 12 receptions for 144 yards and a touchdown in a 41-3 Chicago victory over Jacksonville.
*Arian Foster - 29 rushes for 152 yards and a touchdown in Houston’s 23-17 victory over the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.