The Award Section: Marshawn Lynch Shows Why Raiders Brought Him Out of Retirement

Sunday’s game was Marshawn Lynch’s first NFL action since a January 2016 playoff loss.
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Marshawn Lynch, running back, Oakland. Forget the numbers—pedestrian ones: 18 carries for 76 yards, a catch for 16 more yards. Think of Lynch’s contribution to a 10-point win at Tennessee this way: On his 10 fourth-quarter runs, the Raiders burned 6:01 off the clock. Lynch, personally, was responsible for taking 40 percent of the clock away with positive fourth-quarter carries (10 carries, 38 yards) as the Raiders ran out the clock and even added to their lead in Nashville. This is precisely why Oakland traded for Lynch.

Kareem Hunt, running back, Kansas City. No one saw 246 rushing-receiving yards coming. Hunt, the third-round rookie from Toledo, is about to become the latest Mid-American Conference sensation (Khalil Mack, Antonio Brown) to rock the league. His outside speed was the stunner in the win at New England. “I am shocked,” Hunt told me on my game story podcast after the game. “But I’m not that shocked. I prepared all my life for this moment. I worked 15 years for this.”

DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

T.J. Watt, linebacker, Pittsburgh. When Watt was taking the field in Cleveland, a fan yelled to him that he better hope he turns out half as good as his brother. Well, he’s off to a nice start. The Steelers’ first-round rookie did something his brother has never done in his career in Pittsburgh’s 21-18 win: He had two sacks and an interception. All came in the third quarter.

Calais Campbell, defensive end, Jacksonville. In his first game as a Jaguar, the ex-Card did something he’d never done in his previous 147 NFL games: He had four sacks. Those were four of the 10 Jacksonville had in the stunning 29-7 victory at Houston. 

Terrell Suggs, pass-rusher, Baltimore. The ageless one—he turns 35 a month from today—came up huge in a déjà vu opener for Baltimore, a defensively dominant 20-0 skunking of the Bengals. With the Bengals trailing 17-0 but driving to the Baltimore 6 on the first series of the third quarter, Suggs marauded through the Cincinnati line, sacked Andy Dalton and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Ravens defensive tackle Michael Pierce. Baltimore then drove the other way for nine-plus minutes to a field goal, and that was the game. Suggs finished with two sacks, a pass deflected and the forced fumble. He’s been around a while. I think he played with Unitas.

Mike Daniels, defensive tackle, Green Bay. What a football player. What an underrated football player. Made the play of the game to help the Pack beat the Seahawks. Seattle up 3-0, 11 minutes left in the third quarter, Seattle ball at its 13, Daniels sacks Russell Wilson at the 3 and forces a fumble, Pack recovers. Next play: Ty Montgomery runs for a touchdown, and the Packers don’t trail again. Daniels for the game: 1.5 sacks, four quarterback pressures.

SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Tyler Matakevich, linebacker, Pittsburgh. The special-teams demon from that football hotbed of southwestern Connecticut burst through the Cleveland line after the Browns’ first possession of the season and smothered the Britton Colquitt punt. It was recovered for a touchdown, and the Steelers had the start they needed on a sputtering offensive day.

Giorgio Tavecchio, kicker, Oakland. Might be the only player born in Milan to be named an MMQB player of the week. In fact, I’m rather sure of it. Might be the only played waived seven times to be named an MMQB player of the week too. But when lifetime Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski was put on IR the other day, the Raiders signed Tavecchio for the fourth time. Only this time he kicked when it mattered. And Sunday in Tennessee, he mattered. He kicked four field goals in the final 45 minutes—from 20, 52, 52 and 43 yards.

COACH OF THE WEEK

Todd Downing, offensive coordinator, Oakland. In his first game calling plays for the Raiders, the rookie coordinator matched wits with 80-year-old Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau, the Tennessee defensive coordinator. Downing’s unit put up 26 points and 359 total yards, and dictated the flow late, running the ball on eight consecutive snaps down the stretch to run out the clock in a 26-16 victory.

Doug Marrone, coach, Jacksonville. With the specter of players’ homes and family lives being disrupted due to Hurricane Irma, Marrone had his team ready to play on the road against a heavily favored foe, and the Jaguars embarrassed the Texans. Most impressively, one of the campaign promises by Marrone when he got the Jags job was he’d make the team physically tougher, and he’d turn it into much more of a classic running team. In game one, the Jags ran it 39 times for 155 yards. Marrone is putting his stamp on the Jaguars, and when your quarterback is the shaky Blake Bortles, the more running the better.

GOAT OF THE WEEK

Jordan Howard, running back, Chicago. Bad day all around for this Bear, who may be getting his job taken before our very eyes by a tiny rookie tank from North Carolina A&T, Tarik Cohen. With 16 seconds left in the game and Chicago trailing Atlanta by six, the Bears had the ball, second-and-goal at the Atlanta 5. Howard leaked out of the backfield, and right at the goal line, at the left pylon, Mike Glennon threw Howard a catchable ball that Howard dropped. May have been the touchdown to win the game. May have been third-and-goal from the six-inch line. But the game was there for the Bears to win, and Howard dropped that chance.


Quotes of the Week

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“We got our asses kicked, and credit the 49ers and coach McVay.”

—Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano, after the 46-9 loss to the Rams in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Bad day all around for the Colts.

He did have the right state, however.

II

“It’s my first opening win since I’ve been in the league. Once they found out, hey, they gave me the game ball.”

—Newly minted Steelers cornerback Joe Haden, whose Browns were 0-7 in openers when he played for Cleveland, after the Steelers’ 21-18 win over the Browns on Sunday.

III

“I just wonder: Maybe the platform is more important to him than his play on the field. You know what, Colin? Prove me wrong.”

—CBS pregame show analyst Bill Cowher, on Colin Kaepernick.

IV

“Sometimes I think the Patriots have better Buffalo players than Buffalo has.”

—NBC’s Al Michaels, in the first half of the Patriots’ season-opener against the Chiefs.

Ex-Bill Chris Hogan was a Super Bowl hero for New England last year. Ex-Bill Mike Gillislee rushed for three New England touchdowns Thursday night.


Stats of the Week

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No, this could be the stat of the year. Or the stat you won't believe unless you saw Jacksonville 29, Houston 7:

Sacks By Quarter 1 2 3 4 Total Pass Plays
Jacksonville 1 5 1 3 10 46
Houston 0 0 0 0 0 21
 

The Jaguars got nine sacks in the last 44 minutes of the game. Calais Campbell had four of the team’s 10 sacks in his first game as a Jaguar.

J.J. Watt, in his first game back after 2016 back surgery, had one tackle and one quarterback pressure.

II

NFC East titles since 2003:

Philadelphia: 5
Dallas: 4
New York: 3
Washington: 2

The division hasn’t had a repeat winner since Philadelphia won consecutively in 2003 and 2004. Since 2004, in order, the winner of the NFC East: Philadelphia, New York, Philadelphia, Dallas, New York, Dallas, Philadelphia, New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Dallas, Washington, Dallas.


This fall, we begin a new section of the column called Most Valuable Possession, as part of The MMQB’s partnership with State Farm. Each week, I’ll ask an NFL figure what his most valuable possession is, and why. (State Farm’s campaign mantra this year revolves around their customers’ most valuable possession.) As with many items in the 21-year history of this column, I have no idea where it will take us during the season, but we just might have some fun with it.

Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz took a good 20 seconds thinking about it before he said sheepishly: “My phone. I almost hate to say it, but especially after a long day here [at the Eagles’ practice facility], with my schedule getting pretty jammed these days, my phone puts me in touch with everything I need to know. So I’d say my phone.”


Factoids That May Interest Only Me

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Tom Coughlin, 71, the executive vice president of football operations for the Jaguars, has a resting heart rate of 42 beats per minutes. That’s what he told me in training camp.

To put that into some perspective, a top marathon runner’s resting heart rate would be in the area of 45 to 55 beats per minute. The resting heart rate of an average American male, ideally, should be between 60 and 100. I’m no fitness freak, but I work out, and I just checked my FitBit for my heart rate sitting here writing this column. It’s 63.

Coughlin, most days, runs on a special treadmill (“Alter-G,” an anti-gravity treadmill, designed to decrease pressure on joints or to be used by rehab patients), and also is on a lifting regimen. “Other than the stress of the job,” Coughlin said, “I consider this an ideal job for my health. You almost literally have your own health club. We’ve got doctors here 24/7. We’ve got athletic trainers. We’ve got a fantastic weight room. We’ve got the best cardio equipment in the world.”

Coughlin told me he has the job he wants, and he’s not interested in coaching, and I hear him. But we live in a world when there’s a pair of 65-year-old head coaches of Super Bowl contenders, Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick, who look like they could coach five or eight more years, easy. And there’s an 80-year-old defensive coordinator in Dick LeBeau. All three of them seem healthy as mules. As does Coughlin. So when a 71-year-old football person has the resting heart rate of a marathon runner, you think nothing’s out of reach.

II

There were 12 large jars of HyVee dill pickles in the visiting locker room refrigerator in Foxboro the other night, on the bottom shelf, below four shelves of bottled water and Gatorade. What gives? The Chiefs believe the electrolyte and potassium in the briny pickle juice compare to—and some think are better than—even the high-quality sports drinks. I noticed three of the jars were empty of liquid, with only the pickles in there.

III

The Jets woke up Friday morning above the hated Patriots in the AFC East standings. That was the first morning they’d been ahead of New England in 1,090 days … five days short of three years.


Tweets of the Week

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Pod People

From “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts.

This week, a bevy of guests, including Von Miller of Denver, quarterbacks Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota, and ESPN’s Mike Reiss.

• Carr on whether money has changed him after signing a $125 million contract: “You see what I’m wearing? Free Fresno State Bulldog shorts, some Uggs slippers … I got a free shirt from Carr Elite, which is our [football] camp … our gym that my brother and I own, and I got my Target undershirt on. It has not changed me one bit.”

• Miller on living in Europe and touring with Drake for part of the offseason: “Drake had a European tour overseas and we just followed the tour, we stayed in the same hotels. Whenever they traveled, we traveled. London first, then Paris, Manchester, that was a three-day span. Was in London for two days, and then we went to Amsterdam for two days and came back to London. Then we went to Paris for Fashion Week. Fashion Week was great. I'm big on fashion, so to go over there and witness it in Paris, it was an amazing thing. And that was my first time ever going to Paris. I was kind of disappointed in the food—you would think they have amazing cuisine, but I didn't get that. I had a hard time finding food to eat. I was there for about a week and then we came back to London, he had like six shows in London. It was a true blessing … to go witness someone’s culture. There was some stuff that I learned to appreciate about humanity. They look at things a lot different. Things matter over here to us that don't matter over there, from a fashion sense to a social sense. It's really hard to explain but when you get into a room full of Europeans, it just has a different vibe then what you have over here.”

• Miller on Drake: “I probably saw the same concert about 25 times. Whenever you go see the best, if you go see Steph Curry and Kevin Durant go and play basketball, it doesn't matter if you see them play 30 times, the same time, they are the best at what they do. It's the same concert, but the crowd was totally different and the energy was totally different in every city. Whenever you can go see the greatest do what they do, you can learn something from them. He was consistent every single night. I would say he is definitely a perfectionist, and I think he gives the people a show every single night. Some artists, they have energy one night and then it's down the next night. He was the exact same guy. He had a physical therapist, he worked out. He had a massage guy backstage. He would get in the ice tub. He is up there for two hours running around jumping and getting the crowd into it. To go and see him do it consistently, 25 times, was incredible. That's the same thing I want to bring to my craft. I want to be the same Von each and every game.”

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