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Sunday FreakOut: Siemian Becomes What the Broncos Need, Patriots Are Back, 2-0 Panthers Are Not For Real

Plus, Russell Wilson saves Seattle, Cutler's comeback, Bucs show no rust, Travis Kelce does dumb things then good things, the Cardinals somehow survive and we love Joe Thomas

Get the full Week 2 breakdown from Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling on The MMQB: 10 Things Podcast. Subscribe now and it will be in your feed first thing Monday morning

Things That Made Me Giddy

99% of the Things About Trevor Siemian: (Scroll down for the 1% that I don’t like.) Ha! I thought Paxton Lynch would beat him out this offseason. And I found suggestions that the Broncos go get another quarterback to be only slightly absurd. Siemian has some arm limitations, but Mike McCoy has done a wonderful job utilizing his mobility to mitigate that. This is going to work.

Jay Cutler: For all the injuries, not to mention the weird disappearance of Lawrence Timmons, the Dolphins got exceptionally lucky that Cutler (*cough* Texans blew their chance *cough*) was available when Ryan Tannehill went down. Cutler won’t carry this team, but he doesn’t have to. He played efficiently and in control on Sunday, just as he had under Adam Gase in Chicago two seasons ago. The only real issue was a few hiccups in the red zone. I know, I know, you saw a meme once and therefore you forever think he's bad. But the Dolphins are a playoff contenders; they wouldn’t have been if Cutler wasn’t on the street a couple months ago.

Jameis Winston to Mike Evans: Bucs-Bears looked like one of those Alabama-[insert Sun Belt opponent here] matchups, so Winston and Evans only had about 40 minutes to do their damage (Evans finished with seven catches for 93 yards and a TD). But, jeez, the things they’re gonna do this year with DeSean Jackson streaking down the opposite side of the field . . .

Patriots: Good at football.

Rex Burkhead gets more slot snaps: He was underused in the opener. His 19-yard TD out of the slot, matched up against a linebacker, was the first of the Patriots’ one-thousand touchdowns in New Orleans.

Antonio Gates: Career touchdown 112 in a losing effort, surpassing Tony Gonzalez for the most by a tight end. Gates has been so good for so long—for much of his career he was a special player, and he remains an effective player at age 37. I'm in awe of him. I don't have anything witty to add. (Yes, some of these other things are supposed to be witty.)

They should make horror movies based on Tyreek Hill’s speed: I suppose it would appeal to a limited demographic of defensive backs and defensive coordinators, but still. Alex Smith missed him on what would have been an walk-in TD over the defense in the first quarter, but that helped open things up for the rest of the offense. Hill’s impact was much bigger than four catches for 43 yards.

The sequel could feature Martavis Bryant: There it is. He was underwhelming in the opener, but showed off his otherworldly skills (speed and acceleration at his size!) on the opening TD, a 27-year-old catch-and-run. He has to consistently make opponents pay for single coverage.

Todd Gurley Vaults the World: He did it twice, including on an 18-yard catch-and-run TD. I’m not crazy about the vaults—they’re often unnecessary and dangerous—but after that 2016 performance it’s just nice to see Gurley not get tackled.

Cordarrelle Patterson running 43 yards in a straight line, untouched, for a touchdown: Raiders blocked it up nice, Patterson (a tailback on the play) took the handoff on a read-option look and literally just ran straight forward into the black hole.

Dalvin Cook, man: Hey 31 other teams, y’all should have drafted him! A losing effort from the Vikings (completely expected with Sam Bradford out), but Cook’s lateral agility and explosiveness after planting his foot absolutely make him special.

Carson Palmer Guts One Out: I’m not sure how the Cardinals won this game (well, I do—they were playing the Colts), but I had already penned a heartfelt eulogy for Palmer before he led a slow, choppy comeback.

Jaron Brown gets to the sideline: It ended up being all for naught because Phil Dawson missed the kick, but this is what the kids would call “nifty.” Tie game, ball at their own 49, 25 seconds and one timeout left, Palmer hit Brown on a crosser. Brown made a beeline for the sideline to stop the clock on about a 10-yard gain, realized he might not get there, so he cut it back inside, picked up another 10 yards and still got out of bounds saving the timeout. I think we can all agree: nifty!

Who Needs Eric Berry?: Well, the Chiefs need Eric Berry. But not as much if their pass rush plays like this. Chris Jones is knocking on the door of superstardom, and don’t be fooled by Carson Wentz’s 332 passing yards; Wentz was good, the Chiefs defense was better. Also . . .

Daniel Sorensen blitzing: I heard the FOX analyst (Charles Davis? I can’t remember now) refer to him as a missile, but that’s not quite right because missiles tend to go in a fairly straight path. Sorensen was like a missile in a Looney Tunes cartoon, going around, under and over blitz pickup, and like knocking on closed doors and stuff to trick someone into opening the door. You know what I’m talking about, right?

Xavier Rhodes escorting Antonio Brown to the sideline: Rhodes is so good; he just gets his hip into receivers and runs them right off the field. Let that be a lesson to the rest of the NFL: Antonio Brown can’t even beat him down the sideline, so why even try it?

Jaguars D Better Than the Numbers: They kept the Jaguars in this game for the dam broke late in the third quarter. Watching the Jacksonville offense play—full focus on Leonard Fournette, Blake Bortles unable to take advantage—this defense has to be perfect though.

Three & Out: Takeaways from the Panthers’ Win Over the Bills

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Way Too Much Trust in a Rookie Kicker: I know, hindsight is 20/20. But my family can vouch: I was apoplectic when Philip Rivers centered the ball at the 27, choosing not to utilize the final 19 seconds, putting the game in the hands of a rookie kicker out of the Sun Belt Conference who had already missed from 43 earlier in this game and had a 44-yarder blocked at the end of the late Monday nighter in Denver six days ago. You don’t need a touchdown, but you need to make it an easier kick and there was plenty of time to use the entire field, then get up to spike it. Younghoe Koo, of course, pushed the kick just wide right, another gut-punch loss for the Chargers, this time in front of a near-sellout crowd (in their 27,000-seat soccer stadium).

Poor, Poor Alex Anzalone: The rookie linebacker got beat on the opening Rex Burkhead TD. Then, a little later, he was asked to chase Rob Gronkowski, which didn’t go well. I know Dennis Allen has his work cut out for him with this young, undermanned Saints D, but, c’mon. You owe this poor guy a gift card to Kohl’s.

Tanner McEvoy, hands like feet: A couple of brutal third-down drops for the Seahawks receiver, and there is no margin for error for this offense. If he’s not going to catch the ball, maybe try him on the O-line?

Washington’s blow coverages: It seems like they do this once a week, this time confusion leading to a 69-yard catch-and-run for Rams rookie TE Gerald Everett, setting up the Rams’ first touchdown.

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Kicking Themselves in Philly: The Chiefs defense forced mistakes, but the Eagles made some crucial mistakes at the end of the first half. With the game tied 3-3 and less than 90 seconds to go in the first half, Darren Sproles coughed it up on a punt return, setting the Chiefs up with a short field an eventually a free three points. Then, after a lucky bounce put the Eagles in range for a chipshot field goal at the end of the half, rookie fill-in kicker Jake Elliott (after being iced!) shanks a 30-yardder it wide left. You don’t win a game at Kansas City doing that.

The Ice-Cold Stare of Jared Goff: He’s much improved under Sean McVay (who knew a project quarterback would need time, an offensive line, halfway-decent weapons and a functional scheme to succeed?), but the game-ending INT was an easy one for linebacker Mason Foster. Goff stared Cooper Kupp down. Stared him down like he was doing a Blake Bortles impression.

Trevor Siemian takes the worst sacks: Last Monday, he took back-to-back sacks, the second one a 13-yarder, to turn a fourth-quarter red-zone possession into a 50-yard field goal attempt (which Brandon McManus missed, keeping the Chargers in the game). Today in the second quarter, he tried to escape straight back on a third-and-9 from the back of the red zone, taking a 13-yard loss and turning a 37-yard attempt into another 50-yarder. He got lucky twice in this case: McManus hit the long attempt, and a 15-yard leverage penalty gave the drive new life and they ended up scoring a touchdown. Still, young guy’s gotta break that habit. He’s giving a bad name to Northwestern grads everywhere.

Kai Forbath and PATs: Make an extra point, guy! Forbath is 19-for-19 on field goals since taking over for Blair Walsh in Minnesota, but on Sunday missed his fifth PAT in nine games as a Viking. SAD!

Travis Kelce, Gifting Field Position Again: Listen friend, you know that after every touchdown your team scores, seven officials immediately turn to look at you with hands on flags. So the Eagles started with (at least, assuming a touchback) an extra nine yards of field position and finished a drive with their rookie kicker hitting a 40-yard field goal to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Luckily for him, Travis Kelce bailed him out with a go-ahead TD.

Cam Newton Missing a Gimme Game-Sealing TD: The Panthers were first-and-goal on the 1, leading 6-3, on the verge of sealing an ugly home win over the Bills. They were stuffed on first and second down. The third down play was the sum of all fears regarding this offense. Newton rolled right and Christian McCaffrey broke wide open on the goal line. The throw only had to travel about 12 yards, and Cam managed to miss it by a mile, high and wide. The Panthers settled for three, and if Tyrod Taylor and Zay Jones connect on the Bills’ final play—Jones was open on the goal line, the ball scraping off his fingertips—the Panthers would be 1-1 with a home loss to one of the NFL’s worst teams, with Greg Olsen’s status up in the air after a non-contact foot injury (update: broken foot) . . .


Marshal Yanda Injury Is Completely Devastating: The Ravens are for real on defense—one of the top five in the NFL again. But this offense is littered with question marks, especially on the offensive line. Yanda was crucial for them.

Jets allow Cordarrelle Patterson to 43 yards in a straight line, untouched, for a touchdown: Hmmm. I thought the offense was supposed to be the embarrassment for this team.

Icing Kickers Will Always Be a Thing!: Fresh off the heals of the Broncos icing Younghoe Koo before his make then blocking his second attempt in the MNFL late-nighter, Week 2 saw the Chiefs successfully icing Eagles rookie fill-in Jake Elliott on a 30-yarder at the end of the first half, and good ol’ Phil Dawson getting iced by the Colts at the end of regulation. So this thing that we all hate will be a part of the game forever now.

Calls for Mitch Trubisky: If you think it’s a good idea to play a project QB well before he’s ready, for an 0-2 team that has no starting-caliber wide receivers that have four healthy limbs, then you’re also probably the kind of person who thinks it’s a good idea to drop heavy, blunt objects on your bare feet.

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Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About

Joe Thomas: He played his 10,000th consecutive snap! And he’s a great dude, video evidence below . . .

Russell Wilson’s Atlas Impression in Seattle: The Seahawks were a mess, the defense suffered a couple of big lapses against a 49ers offense that is bad at football. The receivers couldn’t catch. The offensive line (still) couldn’t block. They would have lost this game in humiliating fashion if not for Wilson taking over on a fourth-quarter scoring drive (their first touchdown of the season). It was playground ball because it had to be playground ball, and the game-winning, nine-yard TD to Paul Richardson was the kind of play that only Wilson can make.

The size of the hole Kareem Hunt ran through on his 53-yard TD run: It was four miles wide if it was an inch.


Tyrann Mathieu Saves the Cardinals like Ernest Saves Christmas: If the Cardinals can manage to hang around while they wait on David Johnson (I don’t think they’ll be able to, but if they do), Mathieu’s pick of Jacoby Brissett on the first play from scrimmage in overtime will be why.

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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week

The Broncos Are Super Bowl Contenders Again: Siemian’s improvement is the biggest reason. But the defense seems to have ironed out some issues it had last year and, even without T.J. Ward, is an elite unit. The AFC West is going to be incredible this year, and the Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders (and Steelers and maybe Ravens) are all capable of dethroning the Patriots in January.

If anyone in the Pacific Northwest is willing to block someone: Contact John Schneider immediately.

Tom Brady Will Live Forever: The Patriots didn’t need to jump out big early to win in New Orleans, but they did anyway, and it sure helped take a lot of pressure off a shaky run defense. Granted, the Saints aren’t great, but Brady was on-point all day.

The Panthers, 2-0 but . . . : They were lucky to hold on in what should have been a “confidence builder” kind of day against a Bills team that not only lacks talent, but plays a defense with which the Panthers should have been extremely familiar. The warning signs are bright and garish.

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