OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Jay Ajayi, running back, Miami. He became the fourth back in the 97-year history of the NFL to rush for 200 yards in successive games. Ajayi followed his 204-yard game at home in an upset of Pittsburgh with a 28-carry, 214-yard domination of Buffalo’s resurgent defense in a 28-25, fourth-quarter comeback win over the Bills. Now he’s in the same league—at least in the record book—as O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams. If you called that nine days ago, you need to move to Vegas. Today.
Jeremy Hill, running back, Cincinnati. Pretty impressive when you average more in the running game than in the receiving game—particularly when you’re gaining 12 yards a clip in the air. But the Bengals finally got what they’d been waiting for from Hill in a rout of the Browns with a nine-carry, 168-yard rushing day (18.7 per touch), including a game-changing 74-yard touchdown gallop in the third quarter.
Melvin Gordon, running back, San Diego. After some idiot (me) questioned Gordon’s running ability recently, clearly Gordon was supremely motivated to dominate. He was crucial in the big San Diego upset at Atlanta on Sunday, rushing and receiving for 121 total yards. Gordon had two-yard and three-yard touchdown runs in the first half as the Chargers struggled to stay in the game. With six minutes left he caught a five-yard flip from Philip Rivers for a touchdown. This was a game the Chargers had no business winning, and Rivers and Gordon willed it.
DEFENSIVEPLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Landon Collins, safety, New York Giants.For being the majority of the offense on a feeble day for the Giants … and for making the defensive play of the year, a 44-yard touchdown return of a tipped pass against the Rams in the Giants’ 17-10 win Sunday in London. This was one of the best defensive touchdown returns I’ve ever seen. Six Rams had either one or two arms on Collins in his weaving, instinctive return; at the Rams’ 37-yard line, Collins stuck his foot in the ground to pivot left, and Tavon Austin overshot him and knocked two other Rams off the chase at the same time, like they were bowling pins. Collins played an impactful game as well; check out the highlight reel. If he plays 15 years, he’ll never have as athletic and highlight-filled a play as that 44-yard touchdown. NFL Network said he actually ran 84 yards on the play. With 11 minutes left in the game, Collins had his second tipped interception, giving the Giants a short field and the ability to drive for the winning touchdown. Giants 17, Rams 10, with 14 points directly attributable to Collins.
Leonard Floyd, defensive end, Chicago. The great rookie hope of the Chicago front seven finally had a breakout game at Lambeau Field, with three tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a touchdown—the Bears’ only TD of the night. Floyd, late in the first half, stripped Aaron Rodgers for a 10-yard sack, recovered it in the end zone and helped the toothless Bears stay in the game. With Chicago down to Mike Tomczak at quarterback, Floyd and his mates will have to dominate for Chicago to salvage much of this season.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Bobby Wagner, linebacker, Seattle. Made the special teams play of the year, leaping over Arizona long-snapper Aaron Brewer like a high-hurdler. Wagner’s foot scraped the back of Brewer, which Arizona coach Bruce Arians screamed should have negated the play because of safety concerns with snappers, but he lost the argument. “Incidental contact is not necessarily a penalty,” Al Michaels said on TV. Anyway, Wagner steamed ahead and blocked the 39-yard field-goal try, fair and square. As NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino tweeted a couple of minutes after the play: “In #SEAvsAZ you have to land on the player for it to be a foul. The block was legal.” Not only legal, but epic.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
Sunday Night Football Kickers. How fitting, another tie. Chandler Catanzaro and Stephen Hauschka, two relatively reliable NFL kickers, traded yak jobs on game-winning gimmes and America went to bed without a victor.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Andy Reid, head coach, Kansas City. In his 300th career game (176-123-1), Reid’s Chiefs beat the Saints, and Reid moved two wins behind Jeff Fisher for second on the wins list among active coaches. How the active coaches with the most career games stack up:
Coach, Current Team
Bill Belichick, N.E.
Jeff Fisher, L.A.
Andy Reid, K.C.
John Fox, Chi.
Marvin Lewis, Cin.
The guys on that list will have a long way to go to break the ironman marks of Don Shula (526 games coached) and George Halas (506).
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Right Combination of the Week
Davante Adams, Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery, receivers, Green Bay. A very unexpected combination, this was an incredible occurrence in Green Bay’s victory over Chicago. Adams, Cobb and Montgomery—not Jordy Nelson—combined for this stat line that I can say with confidence these three receivers in tandem will never exceed:
Avg. Per Catch
Avg. Per Rush
The Right Combination’s total yards: 374. Touchdowns: 3.
Ty Montgomery, lead back. Who knew?
Yes, it was the Bears, the totally messed-up Bears thanks to a spate of injuries. But what makes this significant, to me, is how Mike McCarthy and Rodgers—in tandem, and without Eddie Lacy, and without significant help from Nelson—simply invented during a short week a new offensive philosophy. For all those lobbing grenades at the Packers recently (I’m guilty too), it’s a long season, and it’s about adjusting week to week. Thursday’s game, with a strange combo platter in the backfield and at receiver, showed how both Rodgers and his coach can adjust, and flourish, in adverse circumstances.
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Stat of the Week
I don’t know why, whenever Jay Cutler is compared to Jeff George, the first thing you hear, after groaning, is: “Oh, don’t compare Cutler to Jeff George! Different situations!” Disagree. George did start at the bottom with the moribund Colts in 1990, and Cutler had it significantly better by starting with the Broncos in 2006, but the comparison works exceedingly well, I think.
Consider first the difference in passing eras. In the midst of George’s career, 1999, 15 quarterbacks had a rating of more than 80. Fifteen years later, in 2014, some 27 quarterbacks were over 80 in rating. So the numbers are a bit inflated, and when I look at these two careers, the two guys are eminently comparable.
Factoring in the stat-inflation from having been drafted 16 years apart, Cutler versus George looks pretty comparable to me.