Peter King doles out NFL Week 2 awards to Antonio Gates, Joe Thomas, Trevor Siemian, Chris Jones and more. Plus quotes, factoids, travel note and more
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Antonio Gates, tight end, Los Angeles Chargers. Gates’ 113th career touchdown catch set the NFL record for TDs by a tight end, breaking a tie with Tony Gonzalez. It was a classic Gates touchdown. He snuck between coverage into the end zone from seven yards out, caught a well-aimed high toss from Philip Rivers, and held onto the ball despite a good and legal mugging from Miami safety Nate Allen. Gates has had a terrific career, and he’s playing like he’s going to put some distance between himself and the field in tight end touchdowns.
Joe Thomas, tackle, Cleveland. The Browns are 4-35 since Thanksgiving 2014, and they’re on their way to another lost season. It is not Thomas’ fault. The walk-in Hall of Famer (and if you know me, you know how much I hate pronouncements like that—but this one is easy) has now played every snap of his 11-year career, and passed snap No. 10,000 Sunday at Baltimore. He plays the game right, and he makes no excuses, and he doesn’t want pity because he’s on a consistently lousy team. Celebrate Joe Thomas.
Trevor Siemian, quarterback, Denver. Still early, but the first two games of 2017 show that Siemian may be moving away from The Guy You Hope You Can Win With and toward The Guy Who Can Beat Playoff Teams. That’s what Siemian was in the 42-17 victory over Dallas, with a 22-of-32, 231-yard day, with four touchdown passes and one pick.
Tom Brady, quarterback, New England. An affirming performance at New Orleans, with Brady proving that the Patriots should be able to win important games even with half the offensive skill players starting the game hurt or finishing it hurt. Brady (30 of 39, 447 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions) used James White and Chris Hogan the way he finished last season with them, targeting the two 14 times collectively and completing 13 of those passes.
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Chris Jones, defensive end, Kansas City. At 6'3" and 311 pounds, Jones is not a quick edge rusher, obviously. But he’s become a force for a defense with multiple weapons, and one few could see coming when he was the 37th overall pick in 2016, by ex-GM John Dorsey. In the 27-20 win over the Eagles, Jones had three sacks, a forced fumble and an unlikely interception. I ask this about the Kansas City defense: Even without Eric Berry for the rest of the year, who exactly do you key on if you’re an opposing offensive coordinator?
Von Miller, outside linebacker, Denver. With such a torrid start to his career, it’s becoming rare to sit up and say, ‘Wow!’ when you see one of Miller’s stat lines. But that’s exactly what happened to me Sunday. Per Pro Football Focus, the Broncos pass-rushing force tallied a league-high 12 quarterback pressures, with two sacks, two hits and eight QB hurries. Dak Prescott will be checking his bedsheets before crawling into them all week for fear Miller might be in there.
Julius Peppers, defensive end, Carolina. I thought this was supposed to be a victory-lap season for the 37-year-old Peppers. Come home to Carolina, where Peppers played the first eight years of a starry career, collect the gold watch, play a few snaps, teach the kids how to be great. Well, he’s been an impact rusher through eight quarters. In the 9-3 win over Buffalo, Peppers had two sacks and six tackles (including one behind the line). Turning out to be a good going-away gift for the locker room from the stunningly fired GM Dave Gettleman.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Shane Lechler, punter, Houston. In a game featuring a first-time starting quarterback, field position was going to be huge. And the 41-year-old Lechler did what he was supposed to, and more. He punted nine times for a 48.9-yard average in Houston’s 13-9 victory over Cincinnati. What a career for Lechler. He had 13 great years for Oakland, and at 37 moved to Houston, and here’s what he’s averaged in four full seasons as a punting senior citizen: 47.6 yards, 46.3, 47.3, and 47.5.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Steve Wilks, defensive coordinator, Carolina. When defensive coordinator Sean McDermott left for Buffalo be to be the head coach, Ron Rivera took about 10 seconds to decide on Wilks to run his defense. Wise move, if the first eight quarters are an indication. Wilks’s unit has allowed six points, zero touchdowns and just 292 total yards in Carolina’s 2-0 start.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
Kalif Raymond, punt returner, New York Jets. At the two-minute warning of the first half, with the Jets hanging around and Josh McCown making some plays and the New York defense holding its own, Oakland led 14-10 and was punting to the Jets. Raymond faded back and muffed the punt at his 14-yard line, and Oakland recovered at the 4. Three Marshawn Lynch pileups later, Oakland had a huge touchdown before the half on Lynch’s first TD at home for his hometown team. The Jets, instead of running out the clock before halftime and then taking the ball to start the second half down four, limped into halftime down 11, and the game was never closer than eight the rest of the way.
Younghoe Koo, kicker, Los Angeles Chargers. Son, you’re not going to last long missing wide right 44-yard game-winners. The Chargers lost 19-17, instead of winning 20-19. Rough indoctrination for a player who was one of the early feel-good stories of 2017.
Quotes of the Week
“The Chargers are hemmed in by anger from the south and apathy from the north.”
—Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke, in a perfect representation of the Chargers’ reality now that they’re playing before scattered empty seats in a 27,000-seat stadium in a southern L.A. suburb.
“Timeout, San Diego. Excuse me, Los Angeles.”
—Referee Tony Corrente, at the Chargers-Dolphins game.
“The idea was to make Prescott beat us because we knew he couldn’t.”
—Denver defensive end Derek Wolfe to Mike Klis of KUSA-TV, after Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott struggled in a 42-17 Broncos’ win Sunday.
“I’m coming back to change the game. Everybody just watch out.”
—Kansas City Pro Bowl safety Eric Berry, in a video from his hospital bed tweeted out by agent Chad Speck, before Berry underwent Achilles surgery last week. Berry will be 29 years and 8 months old when he next plays a football game, assuming he plays opening day 2018.
“It’s still attached.”
—J.J Watt, on his dislocated finger.
“Oh, we’ll stay. It’s the place I’ve been happiest. It’s where I’ll die.”
—Super Bowl-winning NFL coach Jimmy Johnson, a resident of the Florida Keys, to me, on whether he intends to stay in his Islamorada, Fla., home after Hurricane Irma.
As I explained last week, we’re beginning a new section of the column called My MVP, as part of The MMQB’s partnership with State Farm. Each week, I’ll ask an NFL figure about his most valuable possession. (State Farm’s campaign mantra this year revolves around their customers’ most valuable possessions.)
This week’s MVP: Falcons center Alex Mack. “It’s my watch,” he said, showing it off to me in the Falcons locker room recently: the Omega Seamaster CMT GoodPlanet. [Retail value: about $5,100.] “I’ll tell you the story. I always wanted a nice watch. I kept thinking about it, and how much it would cost, so I kept hesitating. Then when I turned 30 [November 2015], I still hadn’t bought the watch, but I decided it was time. For me, after waiting for so long to get it, even though it was expensive, it was time I bought it for myself. I’m really happy with it.”
Mack, including this season, has made about $51 million in nine years playing pro football. He’s allowed to splurge on a watch.
Stat of the Week
If we’re compiling a 12.5 Percent of the Season NFL all-pro team, I’d better see Andrew Whitworth get some consideration. Whitworth was Cincinnati’s left tackle last season. With former first-round tackle Cedric Ogbuehi waiting in the wings, the Bengals let Whitworth go to the Rams in free agency, and the decision has had a profound early effect on both teams. Via Pro Football Focus numbers, check out how Whitworth did in the first two Bengals games last season, and how Ogbuehi has done in his first two at left tackle for Cincinnati this year:
|Year||Left Tackle||Games||Pass-Block Snaps||Sacks Allowed||Hits Allowed||Hurries Allowed||Bengals Points|
In those two games:
Whitworth, pass-blocking errors: 1 per 48 Andy Dalton pass attempts (2 in 96).
Ogbuehi, pass-blocking errors: 1 per 8.7 Andy Dalton pass attempts (9 in 78).
Now for the 2017 performance of Whitworth on the 1-1 Rams. After all, if he’s not playing worth a darn, the fact that the Bengals are awful on offense without him doesn’t mean he merits a nod for his great value.
The PFF numbers for Whitworth’s first two games protecting Jared Goff’s blind side: 61 pass-drops by Goff … one sack allowed … zero hits allowed … zero hurries allowed.
Factoids That May Interest Only Me
As was presaged in this column in August, Adam Vinatieri has now played—playoffs and the regular season—177 games for New England and 177 games for Indianapolis.
Vinatieri is soon to have another freaky factoid. Any week now, health permitting, he’ll have the same number of field goals in Indianapolis as he had in New England. He has 340 for Indianapolis as of this morning. He had 347 in his New England career.
I could come up with Vinatieri factoids for weeks, but I’ll leave you with three more:
• Vinatieri has played football during six presidential campaigns, beginning with Clinton-Dole-Perot in the fall of 1996.
• When Vinatieri began his career, Jerry Maguire and Titanic had not yet been released.
• On the day Vinatieri debuted in the NFL, Sept. 1, 1996, the Baltimore Ravens played their inaugural game, and the Cleveland Browns did not exist.
Until the other day, I had never seen this in my years covering the game: an NFL game book (the official statistical record of every NFL game) with only 10 players in a team’s starting lineup. (See screengrab below.) It happened a week ago, New Orleans at Minnesota, when the Saints defense played the first snap of the season with 10 men on the field. It appears that third corner De’Vante Harris somehow, some way, didn’t take the field for the first play of 2017. Harris played 44 snaps in the game. He apparently should have played 45. Hat tip to Eric Edholm of Pro Football Weekly and FanRag Sports for catching this first.
It really can’t be said enough: J.J. Watt, in the span of 19 days, raised $37,132,157 for hurricane relief in Houston. That’s $36,932,157 more than his original goal.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note
Regarding the Beast Mode Store in downtown Oakland: The store has a barber’s chair in it, and Marshawn Lynch (have you heard he’s beloved here?) provides free haircuts for good students—who must bring report cards to show they’re working hard in school—on Wednesdays.
Cal has a hilly campus. That’s putting it mildly. I wear a FitBit, and I walked from the center of campus up a hill that was more like a mountain to get to the platform where students fire this old cannon. When I saw the terrain I would be walking, I wanted to see how many flights of stairs it would equal on my FitBit. In about 38 minutes, I got the answer: 57 flights of stairs.
Tweets of the Week
LA attendance:— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) September 17, 2017
Chargers - 25,381
Rams - 56,612
NFL combined - 81,993
USC v. Texas - 84,714
This week's opponent: the Washington Redskins— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) September 17, 2017
Last week's opponent: the Washington Generals
What's remarkable about the consecutive snaps streak is something as simple as, your shoe falls off, can end that streak.— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) September 17, 2017
This sentiment is from the former NFL guard, who would know about how amazing it is that Joe Thomas played his 10,000th consecutive NFL snap on the offensive line Sunday in Baltimore.
From “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts.
This week: Tennessee tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin, Tampa Bay COO Brian Ford, and Dallas center Travis Frederick.
• Taylor Lewan on his game-day mindset: “As far as the anger goes, I am not an angry person, but something about when I play football, I just feel the need to hurt everybody I play ... badly. And I don't care about them. I don't care about who their parents are, how they grew up. I don't give a s--- what you did in your life up until this point. I just really care about making sure you never want to play against me again.”
• Lewan, who is well-tattooed, on the Frank Sinatra mugshot tattooed on the back of one hand: “I got Sinatra’s mugshot. My big stupid joke is that, oh yeah, we both have gotten in trouble before. So that's the reason why, but honestly, the reason why I did it wa---
Me: “Every day for the rest of your life you are going to be eating dinner and have Frank Sinatra's mugshot staring at you. You are a bizarre human being.”
Lewan: “I appreciate that. That honestly means a lot to me. No one gets anywhere in life being normal. I've wanted tattoos since I was 8 years old. I am going to get the tattoos I love. A good friend of mine said, ‘Tattoos first and foremost have to look good. And then after that, they can mean something.’ You can get a picture of your grandma, but if your grandma is hideous, it's not going to be a good-looking tattoo. You know what I'm saying? Maybe you can do something with flowers or a dove or something like that. And it's unique too. If you saw this hand anywhere else, and you just saw that hand, you'd know whose hand it was. If I put your hand or Jack [Conklin]'s hand up in a crowd, no one would be able to tell the difference, besides the 17-inch long fingers that Jack has.”
For the record, Lewan also has a tattoo of an otter in a black suit and top hat on one leg. He also has this little fella on his right hand.