The NFL recap, injury report and power ratings will be back this week after a brief hiatus.
It was another week of mostly blowout games, unfortunately. And guess what: not a single game went to overtime this week! I know I complained about how the NFL was almost at the point of “rigging” games with all the penalties late in games that seemed designed to give the trailing team a chance to tie it, but I’ll be honest: it kinda sucks when none of the games are competitive.
We’ve now had 2 weeks of not-so-great games, and I’m already almost losing some interest in this season. I find myself gravitating more towards college football the past couple weeks.
I certainly hope the NFL goes back to fixing the games to make sure half of them go to overtime. Please, Commissioner Goodell, I’m sorry for what I said: I’ll never question your methods again. Just make the games exciting again!
Obviously I’m joking here, but not entirely.
Anyway, let’s move on to the mostly lopsided games:
TNF: Browns 17, Broncos 14
So the Browns were missing Baker, Chubb, Hunt, JOK, Jack Conklin, and CB AJ Green. Odell and Jarvis Landry weren’t 100% but both played, same with Jedrick Wills, Jadeveon Clowney, and a host of key players who were able to gut it out.
I bet the Broncos money line in this game figuring they’d win because while obviously at full-strength I’d take Cleveland, given all the injuries, the Browns weren’t even the same team.
But give a ton of credit to Case Keenum for stepping up. He’s probably the best backup in the league, no? It was only one game, but he was able to go out there and execute that offense well enough to get the win–especially at the end when it was time to ice the game. I continue to respect the hell out of Kevin Stefanski and his play-calling; I think he’s already one of the best coaches in the league, and it feels like this is the start of something great.
And of course we have to give tons of respect to D’Ernest Johnson for showing out when his name was called. A couple years ago, this dude was literally begging AAF teams to give him a shot, now he looks like a guy who should be able to carve out a nice little NFL career for years to come. 22 carries, 146 yards, 1 TD, 6.6 YPC. The Browns were already the best backfield in the league with Chubb and Hunt–now it’s just unfair with Johnson in the mix, too. This Cleveland roster, by the way, is just overflowing with talent. Credit Andrew Berry, the GM, for constructing one of the very best rosters in the league.
The Browns really needed that win. You can’t fall to 3-4, even if it is mostly due to injuries. The NFL season rolls on with or without you. They don’t put the season on hold until you get healthy. Ask the 2020 49ers about that.
The Browns will need to get healthy soon, though. It’s nice that they will be able to rely on Case Keenum for at least a few weeks to give Baker some time to heal. I know Baker will try to get back on the field ASAP, but he has not been all that great this year and I think most of it is due to is completely destroyed left shoulder. It’s not his throwing shoulder, but it still has a major effect on his game. I don’t know how much the injuries he has can heal with just rest and getting constant attention by the training staff, but he’s got to get at least marginally healthier.
The most important thing, though, is getting Chubb and Hunt back. Hunt is on IR so he’ll miss at least 2 more games, but if Chubb can come back (he practiced today, which is a good sign) then the combo of him and D’Ernest Johnson should be able to continue leading the way for the Browns. It’ll be a lot easier for Case Keenum to play QB if he has the league’s #1 rushing attack to wear down defenses.
As for the Broncos, it certainly sucks to lose 4 straight games after starting 3-0, but the fact is, they opened up with the Giants, Jaguars and Jets, and then have played the Ravens, Steelers, Raiders and Browns the past 4 weeks. Truth is, the Broncos should be 3-4 right now. They maybe could’ve beaten the Steelers, and the probably should’ve beaten the banged-up Browns, but really this is exactly what their record should be.
Denver has yet to score over 27 points in a game this season, and so while they do have a good defense, their problem is that they’re offensively-challenged. Teddy Bridgewater is not the answer at QB.
Titans 27, Chiefs 3
I can understand losing to the Titans, but getting blown out like this? What the hell is going on? Patrick Mahomes was getting destroyed out there–sacked 4 times, hit 9 times–by a Titans pass rush that was basically the worst in the league last season. Although they did add Bud Dupree this year and improve somewhat, by no means are they this elite pass rush.
Mahomes even had to go into concussion protocol after a particularly nasty hit late in the game. He cleared the tests, but Chad Henne stayed in and finished out the game.
When’s the last time the Chiefs have failed to score even one touchdown in a game? Well, I guess the Super Bowl against Tampa. But apparently the 3 points the Chiefs scored yesterday was the fewest points they’ve scored in a game since 2012–and that was before Andy Reid got there.
Kansas City has the most turnovers in the league with 17 already, and Mahomes already has more turnovers this year than he had in the entire 2019 season including playoff, and the 2020 season including playoffs.
I know Kansas City is only 3-4 right now with 10 more games to play, so they could still turn it around. But does this look like a team that can just flip the switch and become the best team in the league again? I don’t think so.
Honestly, it’s a bigger surprise that they’re even 3-4 right now given those horrific stats, especially on defense. They would be much worse if they didn’t have Mahomes.
The Chiefs season has gone thusly, and I’m going to narrate here:
- Week 1: Chiefs beat the Browns, and we think “Alright, even though they looked like shit in the Super Bowl, they’ve still got it.”
- Week 2: Chiefs lose to the Ravens after fumbling the game away. The thought is, “Well this is a tough loss on the road, but the Ravens are a good team. Nothing to worry about.”
- Week 3: Chiefs lose at home to the Chargers and Mahomes has some ugly INTS; “This is a bit concerning. Mahomes is careless with the ball and their defense looks bad, but they should be okay.”
- Week 4: Chiefs beat the Eagles on the road 42-30, and we think, “Yeah, they sorta let the Eagles back into it, but they’re back on track.”
- Week 5: Chiefs get blown out 38-20 at home by the Bills, “Okay, this is a bit concerning now. They’re 2-3.”
- Week 6: Chiefs beat Washington 31-13 on the road, “The Chiefs are back. They’re all good, right?”
- Week 7: Chiefs get absolutely dumpstered by the Titans on the road, and now the thought it, “Okay, they’re in some real trouble actually.”
Apparently teams have figured out how to stop the Chiefs: because they can’t stop the run, you can burn them with play action. And the two-high safety look on defense, which didn’t work against them from 2018-2020, now apparently works because their offensive line can’t protect Mahomes long enough.
The Chiefs almost certainly are not going to get the first-round bye for the playoffs this year. And this is a big deal because Patrick Mahomes has never played a road playoff game in his career. 2018, 2019 and 2020, the Chiefs had home-field advantage all throughout the playoffs. I guess the Super Bowl against Tampa was technically a road game, but it wasn’t a full stadium, and even then, it was the worst game Mahomes ever had as a pro (up to that point of course).
The real debate is whether the Chiefs are even a playoff team. As of right now, they would not be one. They’re currently the 11-seed in the AFC at 3-4.
Now, they’re still only 2 games back of the the top team in the AFC–the Bengals (!). There’s a four-way tie for best record in the AFC between the Bengals, Raiders, Ravens and Titans at 5-2.
Honestly there are 11 teams in the AFC with legitimate playoff hopes right now, it’s a pretty packed playoff picture. The only teams out of it in the AFC are the Jets, Jags, Dolphins and Texans.
But the Chiefs don’t look like a team that can just flip a switch and rattle off a 5-game win streak right now. They just don’t.
They do, however, have a potential bounce-back game next week on Monday Night Football against the Giants, and KC has been able to beat bad NFC East teams this year, but then they have the Packers, Raiders and Cowboys. Their bye follows the Cowboys game. 5 of their next 6 games are at home, which is a plus for them. (Is it just me or does it feel like the Chiefs never play road games?)
But if they keep playing like this they could easily be 4-7 by the time the bye week rolls around. As great as Mahomes is, there is no quarterback out there that can overcome the level of dysfunction that’s around him right now.
Now for the Titans.
I’ll admit it: I doubted the Titans coming into this season. I kind of wrote them off as a team that would regress and probably miss the playoffs this year. I figured Derrick Henry was about to hit the wall after having 378 carries last year; I thought their offense would suffer after losing Arthur Smith. And their pass rush was awful last year–really their whole defense was just bad last year–so I figured given that, while they did sign Bud Dupree, their defense wouldn’t be a whole lot better this year.
When the Titans got blown out 38-13 at home by the Cardinals in week 1, I took it as confirmation that I was right, the Titans suck this year, forget about them.
I was wrong about the Titans. Turns out that when you have Derrick Henry, AJ Brown and Julio Jones on offense, it doesn’t really matter who your offensive coordinator is. In other words, the Titans’ offense was good last year not because of Arthur Smith, but because they just have really good players. And then they added Julio Jones. Ryan Tannehill has regressed a bit, but he’s still pretty good.
The Titans now have wins over the Chiefs, the Bills, the Seahawks and the Colts, plus the Jags.
They do have that ugly 27-24 overtime loss to the Jets in week 4 in which Tennessee gave up 7 sacks, but they were missing both AJ Brown and Julio in the game, as well as Bud Dupree and Caleb Farley on defense, and they didn’t even have their starting punter. It’s not a full excuse, but I think we can all see that was a fluke game by now.
Bengals 41, Ravens 17
Okay, the Bengals are officially good. I’ve seen enough. I’m a believer.
And JaMarr Chase is no longer just a really good rookie wide receiver. He’s a really good receiver, period. He is now 2nd overall in the league in receiving yards with 754, behind only Cooper Kupp’s 809. He has 6 receiving TDs, and only Kupp (9), Mike Evans and D-Hop (7 each) have more.
Chase has done this on only 51 targets, which ranks 20th in the league. Kupp has 81 targets.
Joe Burrow was 23-38 passing for 416 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT, with a 113.5 rating and a 79.7 QBR. I said a few weeks back I was already sold on Joe Burrow, but the dude is absolutely the real deal.
But the Bengals defense is the real story here. They are something else, and I don’t know about you, but I did not see this coming at all. How did the Bengals’ defense suddenly get so good?
As for the Ravens, when it was 27-17, I was thinking, “Okay, they’ll probably lose, but I’m not worried.” Then by the end of the game when it was 41-17, I was thinking, “Maybe it’s time to be slightly concerned about Baltimore.”
Look, they’re 5-2 right now and probably could’ve come into this game being 6-0 had they not blown that game against the Raiders in overtime in week 1.
But then again, the Ravens easily could’ve lost to the Chiefs in week 2. They should have lost to the Lions in week 3. They probably should have lost to the Colts in week 5 has the Colts not literally run out of players on defense.
Just as much as the Ravens could have been 6-0 coming into this game, they also could’ve been 2-4.
Patriots 54, Jets 13
There is nothing Bill Belichick loves more than destroying the Jets. The Patriots were up 34-13 going into the 4th quarter of this game and Bill still felt the need to pile on an additional 20 points to make it a complete massacre.
Why can’t the Patriots play this well against every other team in the league?
Probably because the Jets are an awful team with a rookie QB that got injured in the game (Zach Wilson has a PCL injury and is expected to miss several weeks).
Packers 24, Washington 10
Okay, I just want to focus on the goal line nonsense from this game. Yeah, the Packers are really good again, we get that, Davante Adams is amazing, Aaron Rodgers is on a mission, defense is much-improved, they added Whitney Mercilus–all well and good. Also, the Packers are like the Chiefs in that they apparently never have to play road games, ever. Cowboys are also in that group. Has anyone ever seen the Cowboys play a road game?
Anyway, what the hell was this:
This is Taylor Heinicke rolling into the endzone. You can see that his knee is down, but in the NFL, you are not down until somebody on the defense touches you. Heinicke rolled into the endzone without being touched, it was originally ruled a touchdown, but then the referees overturned it because they said he was “giving himself up,” and when a QB gives himself up he’s automatically ruled down the second his knee touches the ground.
So the referees believed that Heinicke was “giving himself up” at the half-yard line.
I’m sorry, but are you fucking kidding me? This is a call that only the Green Bay Packers would get to go their way.
Heinicke was not giving himself up. He was going low so he didn’t get crushed by the defenders that were bearing down on him. He just dove for the goal line. Maybe if he hadn’t tucked the ball at the end it would have been considered a “legit” dive.
But still, in no sane world is this play not a touchdown:
What the hell are we even doing anymore with these arcane, convoluted NFL rules?
You need to go to fucking Harvard Law to make sense of this stuff.
Yeah, he was “giving himself up.” He totally didn’t want to score a TD there. Totally.
And then on the next play, he tried a QB sneak on 4th down and got stuffed, turnover.
This completely changed the game.
I know the league is trying to protect QBs with the “giving himself up” rules. I get that. They don’t want defenders hitting QBs when they’re sliding. Remember that one play a few years back where Joe Flacco was sliding but got hit by Kiko Alonso straight in the head and Flacco started bleeding out of his ear? The NFL doesn’t want that, and I totally understand it.
The NFL also wants the “giving himself up” rule to be fair and balanced, so the QB is down the second he “gives himself up,” not where his slide ends, meaning there’s no brief period of invulnerability where the QB cannot be touched but yet also isn’t ruled down. I get it.
But let’s apply some common sense here. Take the game situation into account, refs. Is it logical to think Heinicke wanted to give himself up on the half-yard line? Of course not.
The rules–or, rather, the refs’ interpretations of the rules–have gotten so out of control that we’re now doubting whether a play like this one is a touchdown or not.
It’s a touchdown. It looks like a touchdown, it smells like a touchdown–it’s a touchdown. The eye test tells you it’s a touchdown. Let’s not overthink this.
This is one of those cases where the refs applied the letter, rather than the spirit, of the rule.
Anyway, the Packers are now 6-1. That beatdown loss to the Saints in week 1 feels like ancient history. We now look forward to the best game of the week 8 slate on Thursday Night, Packers at Cardinals (wow, an away game for Green Bay?!?!?).
Now I will say that while Kyler Murray is definitely capable of scrambling, he usually does so to buy time to make throws. He’s not like Lamar Jackson where Lamar is looking to bust off some big runs. Kyler can do that, but it’s usually around the goal line. His season high in rushing yards this year is 39.
The bigger issue for Green Bay is that they just placed Davante Adams on the reserve/Covid list.
Rams 28, Lions 19
This was the most interesting game of the weekend, for sure. You had the double revenge game factor with Goff and Stafford, plus you had the Dan Campbell Might Kill Somebody If The Lions Don’t Win A Game Soon Here factor.
The Lions went all-out in this one. Left it all on the field and then some. D’Andre Swift was running wild, Dan Campbell called not one, not two, but THREE trick plays on special teams–and all three succeeded!
The first trick play was a surprise onside kick after scoring a TD on the opening drive, and the Lions got the ball.
Detroit then went three-and-out, but called a fake punt and got it for the first down. This was all within the first 5 minutes of the game. I think Dan Campbell’s strategy in the game was to simply never let the Rams touch the ball. Just take Matthew Stafford and Cooper Kupp out of the game entirely.
The Lions had a 13-3 lead in this game early in the second quarter, and I was thinking to myself, “Man, could the Lions actually win this?” But then my rational brain took over and I realized how much time was left in the game, and it quickly became evident that the Lions would not be able to rely on getting an onside kick recovery and a fake punt conversion every quarter.
But then Dan Campbell, the absolute madman, called another fake punt in the third quarter, down 17-16, the Lions converted that one, too.
This game was everything we’d hoped for and more out of Dan Campbell as an NFL head coach.
The problem was, the Lions didn’t get any points off that second fake punt. They got stopped on 4th and 1 at the LA 18. Maybe they should’ve kicked a field goal, but Dan Campbell knows you don’t beat a team like the Rams with field goals. Although he did kick a field goal on the next Lions drive to go up 19-17 heading into the 4th.
Sadly that was the last time the Lions would score in the game. It was all Rams in the 4th.
I feel bad for Dan Campbell and the Lions, and even for Jared Goff, who I never really liked but have gained a lot of respect for after he was traded to Detroit. I always thought Jared Goff was a spoiled little California bitch boy and I thought he would mentally collapse at the idea of having to move to Detroit, but he has actually shown a lot of grit and mental toughness this season. He’s actually bought-in, it seems like.
Of course, it hasn’t worked out thus far, but at least the Lions players know their head coach wants to get a win as badly as they do.
I’m rooting for them. They’re a very likeable team.
Cardinals 31, Texans 5
Look, man, the Texans suck. There’s really nothing more to say about them.
The Cardinals, though, are the best team in the league. That means they’ll probably lose to the Packers on Thursday night, but for now they are Officially The Best Team in the NFL.
AJ Green is having a resurgence. JJ Watt looks like the old JJ Watt. D-Hop is obviously still D-Hop.
Barstool was talking about this the other week, but are the Cardinals a low-key Super Team? Kyler, D-Hop, JJ, Budda Baker, Chandler Jones, AJ Green, Zach Ertz, Rondale Moore, James Conner–they have a lot of big name players on that roster. Maybe not all of them in their primes still, but they’re all playing very well.
Raiders 33, Eagles 22
Interim head coach Rich Bisaccia is now 2-0, with two convincing wins following the surprise departure of Jon Gruden. Now, I know the Raiders have played Denver and Philly in those two games, but it’s at least fair to ask if the Raiders are actually better without Gruden.
Good to see the paesan thriving out there in Vegas. Honestly now that I think about it, the Raiders out there in Las Vegas now–they deserve an Italian coach. Italians and Vegas go together like Tony Soprano and gabagool. Other than New York City, obviously, there’s no city more associated with Italians than Vegas.
As for the Eagles, I feel like every time I watch them play, it’s Jalen Hurts rolling out of the pocket and trying to make something happen after the play breaks down. It’s their entire offense, basically.
Jalen Hurts is now the king of the garbage time points. He’s like the New Dak Prescott: once the Eagles are down 3 TDs, then Garbage Time Jalen is activated. This game was 30-7 at one point.
Bucs 38, Bears 3
Oy vey. This game was over in the first quarter. The most interesting thing about it was that Mike Evans accidentally gave Tom Brady’s 600th TD pass ball away to a fan and a Bucs staffer had to go and try to convince the guy to give it back so Tom could have it.
The sombrero-wearing fan did end up giving the ball back, and I’m sure the Bucs will probably hook him up with a nice “Thank you” package for being cool about it.
But now people are saying that ball would’ve fetched $500k in an auction.
I doubt the Bucs are compensating the fan for anywhere near $500k in value.
The real question is, should the fan have been an asshole and said, “Nah, I’m keeping the ball. You can bid on it with everybody else”?
It’s such a tricky situation. You’re a Bucs fan, you don’t want to be a dick, you want to support your team, you want to do Tom a solid, but on the other hand, $500k is a life-changing amount of money. Pro athletes like Tom Brady have more money than they know what to do with.
The thing is, I don’t know if this fan would ever have been able to actually get $500k for that ball. It was given to him completely by mistake. Mike Evans was evidently the only one who didn’t know the significance of the ball. Immediately the Bucs’ staffers sprung into action to make sure they retrieved the ball.
Even if that fan got the ball and just instantly tried to sprint out of the stadium and to his car, with this sombrero flying off in the process, they probably would’ve caught him before he could escape.
And then at that point, he’s not getting any compensation for the ball. He might even get banned from the stadium.
So I don’t think it’s fair to say this dude willingly parted with a $500k payday. But still, he could’ve negotiated a little bit better, right? He could’ve told the guy, “I’ll give up the ball, but I want to give it to Tom personally.” Or he could’ve said “Give me free season tickets including playoffs,” or “Free beer and food for life,” or something like that. Even a signed ball by guys like Brady, Evans, Gronk, AB, Godwin, Fournette, Arians–that would be an awesome thing ot have, and would probably fetch a pretty penny as well.
Actually, I’m watching the Manning Broadcast right now and Tom Brady is on, and of course they had to ask him about the situation with the ball yesterday. Brady said he’s giving this dude a Bitcoin for returning the ball, which is really awesome. One Bitcoin is worth $63,000 right now. Not bad at all. Maybe it’ll be worth $500,000 some day.
As for the Bears, I’m just wondering here, how exactly did they beat the Bengals? I know they picked Joe Burrow off several times late in that game, but they held him in check for most of the game even before that. The Bears are a very confusing team. They’re definitely not a good team, I know that, but they they have also beaten the two best teams in the AFC right now: the Bengals and the Raiders.
The Bears’ 4 losses have come against some really good teams: the Rams, the Browns, the Packers and the Bucs. And none of those games were even close. The closest one was a 24-14 loss to the Packers last week. The other three were by 20 points or more.
Can they only play well against AFC teams? I don’t get them.
The more pressing concern for them is Justin Fields, though. Now I’m not going to say this game was Justin Fields’ fault, because it was just an all-around team failure. They played a much better team. The broadcasters for the game talked about how Justin Fields was only 1 year old when Tom Brady got drafted into the NFL, and that is pretty wild to think about.
Fields had 5 turnovers in the game, though–3 INTs and 2 fumbles. The first one was when he was told through his helmet headset that the Bucs had 12 men on the field and that he needed to snap the ball quickly. The whole play was a mess, he threw an INT, and it turned out the Bucs were able to get their guy off the field before the snap, and the pick counted. That kind of set the tone for the whole game. It’s hard for a rookie QB to overcome that stuff.
As of right now, Justin Fields has been sacked 22 times already, including 9 times in that Browns game. Tampa got to him 4 times and hit him a total of 6 times.
The Bears just did not play well at all in this game. They punted on their first possession of the game and allowed a 40-yard return by Jaylon Darden to the Bears 35. Then a PI call gave the Bucs the ball at the 12. Shortly after that it was 7-0 Tampa.
On the next drive, Fields hit Cole Kmet for what should’ve been a third down conversion at the Bucs’ 36, but Kmet just dropped the ball. It was a perfect pass.
The next Bears’ possession, Fields got flushed out of the pocket and threw one on the run, trying to hit Allen Robinson, who fell down, which allowed the Bucs’ Dee Delaney to pick the ball off (that was the 12-men on the field debacle). Delaney returned it to the Bears’ 40, and the Bucs got another TD to make it 14-0. Fields probably wouldn’t have tried to force it to A-Rob if he knew there wasn’t a flag thrown on the play, so this was more of a coaching error than a Fields error.
On the next Bears’ possession, Fields got strip-sacked and the Bucs recovered. This was still in the first quarter. A few plays later, TD pass #600 for the 🐐.
On the Bears’ next possession, Darnell Mooney dropped a perfectly thrown pass from Fields on 3rd and 2 that would’ve gone for a first down around the Bears’ 44. They had to punt. The next time the Bears got the ball, it was another strip-sack fumble for Fields. The protection wasn’t great–it hasn’t been great all season–but Fields definitely has to know to get rid of the ball quicker, or just go down. That’s going to be a learning process.
Fields was able to drive the Bears all the way down into the red zone but had a potential TD pass go off Jesper Horstead’s hands. It would have been a very tough catch to make as Horstead was covered well, and the ball was right where it should’ve been, but it was just a high degree of difficulty play. The Bears settled for field goal to make it 21-3, but the Bucs responded with another TD and that was pretty much the ballgame. The Bucs would even get another TD to make it 35-3 just before the half.
The rest of the game was basically practice reps against a real defense for Fields. He made some decent looking throws, although a slightly overthrown ball to Mooney was tipped and picked midway through the 3rd quarter. Fields’ final pick came at the start of the 4th quarter, the Bears were backed up to their own 1 yard line on a 2nd & 11 and called a deep passing route for some reason to Allen Robinson from a shotgun 4-wide set. The ball was underthrown but never stood a chance, as Robinson was double-covered. It was a terrible, terrible play call and play design, with two receivers running outside go-routes and the tight ends running short crossing routes over the middle. Who calls that play from their own 1 yard line? Maybe, like I said earlier, it was just practicing some concepts in a game that was already decided, I don’t know. But typically teams don’t ask their rookie QBs to make plays like that.
I will say for the Bears that rookie running back Khalil Herbert looked really good, rushing 18 times for 100 yards. This Tampa run defense is historically good, and it’s not very often that anybody–much less a rookie–gets 100 yards on the ground against them. So that’s a positive for the Bears.
And again, I thought Fields had some good throws in the game, but the combination of coaching, drops, and yes, some poor execution by Fields, resulted in the Bears getting completely destroyed. As I said earlier, Fields does not have great protection, but some of the sacks he takes are his fault for holding the ball too long. Whether those were coverage sacks or simply Fields being hesitant to throw to covered receivers (in the NFL, guys don’t often get as open as Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson did at Ohio State), it’s tough to say because we can’t see the secondary on the TV broadcast.
But this chart does indicate that a lot of the sacks Fields takes are his fault:
The Bears’ offensive line is definitely below-average, but there are many offensive lines in the league that are way worse than theirs. Fields is going to have to get used to playing in an NFL pocket. He’s not going to have all day to throw like he did at Ohio State.
I also don’t think it’s a good situation that his head coach is Matt Nagy, who is obviously on the hot seat but, even worse, doesn’t seem to understand how to develop a young quarterback. The stuff that this guy has been saying throughout the season, he’s gotta go. The Bears need to find a coach that is fully committed to developing Fields. Nagy is not the guy. People point to Nagy’s tenure with the Chiefs, but Nagy was in Chicago by the time of Mahomes’ first season as a starter (2018). Sure, Nagy was the OC in 2017 when Mahomes was a rookie, but Mahomes didn’t play that year. Are we really going to sit here and act like it was Matt Nagy who developed Patrick Mahomes? Come on.
Falcons 30, Dolphins 28
Kyle Pitts is an absolute monster.
I know they normally say it takes at least 2 years, usually 3, for tight ends to come into their own when transitioning from college to the pros, but for Kyle Pitts, it took like 2 months. This dude is special. 7 receptions, 163 yards for an average of 23 yards a reception.
Pitts does not look like a tight end out there. He’s not as thick as a typical tight end; he’s way more athletic. When he makes a catch, I always find myself going, “Wait, who’s that dude?” He’s like a tight end-wide receiver hybrid. He’s too big for DBs to cover and too fast for linebackers. He’s an absolute nightmare for defenses. It’s good to see the Falcons have finally realized how dangerous he can be.
And the Falcons got the win, too, on a last-second kick by Younghoe Koo. The Falcons are now in the “not that bad” territory at 3-3, although it’s worth pointing out their wins have come over the Jets, the Giants and the Dolphins, which isn’t really saying much.
For this game, though, I was most interested in seeing how Tua looked. I know there’s a lot of talk that the Dolphins are looking to trade for DeShaun Watson, so naturally the big conversation these days is whether or not the Dolphins are giving up on Tua too soon.
And the thing is, even if you’ve already concluded Tua is Not The Guy, you still have to admit he’s really not been given much of a chance. In his rookie season, he was basically splitting time with FitzMagic, and the second Tua would look a little bit shaky, he’d get yanked for the “reliever.” That is not a good way to develop a young quarterback and grow his confidence.
But this year, Tua has been given the starting job and doesn’t have to look over his shoulder constantly. He has been hurt for a few games–and the big knock on him coming out of Alabama is that he’s injury prone, which has kind of been the case for Tua’s NFL career as well–but he hasn’t looked all that bad in the games I’ve seen him play.
Against the Falcons, he was 32-40 passing for 291 yards, 4 TDs and 2 INTs. He is not comfortable throwing the deep ball yet, and that is an issue. But he is extremely accurate on short to medium range throws.
I said last week that he looked hesitant to pull the trigger on a lot of his throws, but this week I saw him making quick throws and being decisive.
Now he doesn’t have the greatest arm in the world, in fact it’s pretty average when you think about how he stacks up to the top quarterbacks in the league. I don’t know how high the ceiling is with him. Also he’s just small, and that’s not a dealbreaker if you’re either athletic or have a cannon of an arm, but Tua has neither. I just don’t see how he can return value on the draft pick they spent on him given that he’ll always be compared to Burrow and Herbert.
I guess my big question about Tua is, what is the comp? With NBA draft prospects, they often provide a “comp” (comparison) to a current or former NBA player to try and identify the prospect’s playing style, and where his ceiling is. For example, Zion’s comp was like a mixture of Charles Barkley and Shawn Kemp. What is the best case scenario for the guy? What is the blueprint? How should his skill set be utilized and how should he be developed?
That’s what I’m wondering about Tua. What quarterback should the Dolphins (or at this point, probably, whatever team he’s likely traded to in the coming week) try to turn him him to? Or put differently, given Tua’s skillset, his limitations and his play style, what is the best you can hope for with him, and thus set a goal to strive towards? Is it Drew Brees? Baker Mayfield? Chad Pennington? Marc Bulger? I don’t know. Brees seems like a long shot. And I don’t think Tua’s arm is as good as Baker’s.
I just want to know what the path is—if there is one—to him becoming a great NFL quarterback.
The big picture is that it’s hard to not conclude the Dolphins are doing Tua dirty here. Even if they don’t trade for DeShaun Watson, all the rumors are out there are enough to seriously strain the relationship between Tua, his coach and the front office. They act like they weren’t the ones who drafted Tua the way they’ve treated him since basically day one of his NFL career.
They act like they’ve been saddled with him.
They fucking drafted the poor guy! And last year they’re like “Yeah we’ll play him sometimes, but he’s on a short leash.” This year, they’re not doing anything to squash the DeShaun Watson rumors, so you have to assume there’s some validity to them, right?
Brian Flores did the whole, “Tua is our quarterback” at his recent press conference, which is the classic sports non-denial denial.
The Dolphins have treated Tua like shit this whole time. Tua should want to get out of there.
Giants 25, Panthers 3
The only thing I saw from this game was Daniel Jones’ impressive catch on the trick play, and Sam Darnold getting benched.
Look, it’s hard for me to be interested in every game. If I have fantasy implications in a game, I’m more likely to pay attention. But right now, these teams are too banged up to really be fantasy-relevant. Christian McCaffrey is hurt for Carolina. Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard and Kadarius Toney were out for the Giants. There really wasn’t a whole lot to get excited about in this game.
Honestly, Kadarius Toney is now must-see TV in my book. The dude is incredible. Once he comes back for the Giants, I will be all over the Giants and watching every game.
SNF: Colts 30, 49ers 18
Really quickly I want to talk about the Colts but then I have a theory about the 49ers I want to discuss.
Now I know this game was played in an absolute monsoon up there in the Bay Area, but I was impressed by what the Colts did. They had to play in the rain just like the 49ers. Jonathan Taylor is an absolute stud at running back. Michael Pittman is coming along nicely at wide receiver, and their defense is scrappy.
Carson Wentz had a good game overall, but it’s a roller coaster with him. He was 17-26 for 150 yards, 2 TDs and was listed with 0 INTs but we’ll get to that in a minute. Only sacked once, QBR of 82.8, rating 106.2 He hit Michael Pittman on a deep shot early in the game, and it was a pretty ball.
But he also had one of the worst plays I’ve ever seen last night.
If you can’t appreciate Carson Wentz at his:
Then you don’t deserve him at his best.
I honestly just laughed when I watched it live because it was Classic Carson Wentz. It’s part of the deal with him. You get the big plays, but you also get that.
Now it was counted as a fumble for some reason, but Carson, my man, what are you doing here? He’s getting sacked by Nick Bosa, but Carson Wentz never accepts the fact that he’s going to be sacked. He always thinks he can get out of it and still make a play, even if he’s in the process of being tackled.
I know exactly what he was thinking there, too. He saw Zach Pascal running wide open in the endzone, and he thought, “I’m just gonna flip it over this defender and–” picked off by the defender he thought he could flip it over because his leg was being yanked backwards. It’s kind of endearing, in a weird way, to see Carson Wentz do stuff like this. Because you know exactly what’s going on in his head. I personally am a huge procrastinator. I literally wait til the last minute for everything. Carson Wentz is the procrastinator QB. He always thinks he can still make a play, no matter how hopeless the situation. He’ll literally be in the process of getting sacked and still think he can make something happen.
When I watch other quarterbacks play, I’m always wondering why they don’t try to “do more.” Like flip the ball to the nearest guy when they’re being brought down, lateral, roll out, etc. With other quarterbacks, it’s like, “Why didn’t he try to…” or “Why wouldn’t he just…” Carson Wentz, however, does all that stuff. He has never once given up on a play in his entire career. That play above is honestly pretty conservative compared to some of the other stuff I’ve seen the guy do out of desperation.
And at the end of the day, though, it’s a sign that he’s playing hard and he wants to win. You can’t really fault the guy for always trying to make a play. Sometimes it hurts his team (like that play above), sometimes it works out. At the very least, he makes for entertaining football. I respect him for being a playmaker.
The 49ers, however, are not very good. They are now 2-4 and it’s pretty evident that they are not a special team.
They marched down the field on their first drive (when most of the plays are scripted) and scored a TD (missed XP), then got a field goal on their next drive following a Colts fumble (there were a lot of those in this game). So they go up 9-0 at about the halfway mark of the first quarter, but then proceeded to get outscored 30-9 the rest of the game. In fact they only scored 6 points in the final three quarters of the game.
People expected them to be one of the best teams in the league this year and return back to their 2019 Super Bowl form after an injury-plagued 2020, but is it possible that 2019 was just one isolated and hard-to-replicate great year where they caught lightning in a bottle?
Kyle Shanahan’s first year in San Fran was 2017. The team went 6-10. Then, in 2018, they went 4-12.
In 2019, they surprised everyone to go 13-3 and make it all the way to the Super Bowl, and in said Super Bowl they have a 20-10 lead in the 4th quarter more than halfway through the 4th quarter before giving up three touchdowns in the final 6 minutes of the game to lose 31-20. You also had Jimmy Garoppolo overthrowing a wide-open Emmanuel Sanders on what could’ve been the game-winning play with under 2 minutes to go. A lot of people out there also think the 49ers got screwed by the refs in that game–not me, personally, but People Are Saying.
Anyway, the 49ers then go just 6-10 in the 2020 campaign, suffering from the dreaded Super Bowl Hangover (which the Chiefs also appear to be going through this year).
And now they’re 2-4 to start the 2021 season. Kyle Shanahan is 31-39 as head coach of the 49ers, which ain’t great.
They really just had that one great year in 2019, which was led by Robert Salah’s defense (and Salah is now the head coach of the NY Jets, which might explain why San Fran’s defensive regression).
But generally, this is how it goes with teams that rely on playing great defense to win games. It’s not really sustainable over multiple seasons.
The 2017 Sacksonville Jags were a one-year wonder. The 2006 Bears were a one-year wonder. Even the Legion of Boom Seahawks were only truly elite for 2 seasons. The 2015 No Fly Zone Broncos had that one great year.
Even the the mid-1980s Bears, whose 1985 defense is widely regarded as the greatest ever, only managed to win one Super Bowl. 1985 was their lone Super Bowl appearance.
You can’t build a dynasty on a defense. Great defenses are not built to last. And I think it’s because there are so many parts to a defense that it’s impossible to keep them all under contract (and healthy) for an extended period of time. Plus, the rules favor offense, and teams can figure you out quite quickly.
The only way you can have sustained greatness in the NFL is with a great quarterback. QB is the single most impactful and influential position in football, and it’s easier to keep one QB in place than it is a full defense. Defense is way more prone to attrition. This is why QB is by far the highest-paid position in the NFL.
Now obviously you’d like to have a great defense if possible. The Patriots during their dynasty run typically had great defenses to complement the Brady-McDaniels offenses. But they rebuilt their defense multiple times over the course of that 19 year run: at first it was guys like Ty Law, Mike Vrabel, Teddy Bruschi, Willie McGinest and Lawyer Milloy. Then it was led by Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour, Junior Seau, Asante Samuel, Rodney Harrison. After that they had to transition to guys like Donta Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, the McCourty Twins, Patrick Chung, Jamie Collins, Darrelle Revis, Stephon Gilmore, etc. Bill Belichick rebuilt and retooled that defense at least 3-4 times over the course of the dynasty run. It also helps in New England that Belichick is the de facto defensive coordinator, meaning it doesn’t affect them as much when they lose top defensive coaches like Matt Patricia and Brian Flores.
The most underrated part of the 49ers’ dynasty run in the 1980s was their defense, which had guys like Ronnie Lott and Fred Dean. And the Steel Curtain Steelers of the 1970s, who won 4 Super Bowls, were one of the most legendary defenses of all time. They might be the last true example of a team building a dynasty based on defense, but that was way before the modern era of free agency (which began as we know it in 1993), and plus the Steelers had Terry Bradshaw at QB.
You can’t build a team around a defense. It doesn’t work. It falls apart too quickly. And then you’re left in a position like the 49ers are in now.
In 2021, the 49ers’ defense is a far cry from what it was in 2019, when it was the best in the league.
And the 49ers are simply not explosive enough on offense to win games without an elite defense.
It doesn’t help that they’re missing George Kittle (who is now starting to be called George Brittle because of how injury prone he is) and Raheem Mostert (also often injured)
A lot of people thought San Fran was a Super Bowl contender this year, but it should’ve tipped us off when they traded up to draft Trey Lance at #3 overall. Would a team in win-now mode do something like that? If they were in win-now mode, they would have targeted a guy like JaMarr Chase or Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith. Or maybe traded back and picked up Najee Harris.
But they went for a quarterback. You are not “all-in” on winning the Super Bowl if you give up tons of assets to trade up and draft a quarterback. And not just any quarterback, either: the 49ers took the quarterback that was considered the rawest and least ready to play and without a doubt a “project.”
Doing something like that is the start of a rebuild, if anything.
Teams on bye this week: Bills, Cowboys, Vikings, Steelers, Chargers, Jaguars.
Teams on bye next week: Raiders, Ravens.