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Things That Made Me Giddy
Tom Brady Is the Only Man Who Could Have Won That Game: On a day when the offensive line couldn’t block, and the defense (for the second time in three weeks) couldn’t get off the field, the Patriots lose this game if anyone other than Tom Brady is their quarterback. It was an exceptional final drive that included two sacks and a narrow miss when Corey Moore almost made an exceptional pick.
Deshaun Watson Looking Off Devin McCourty: It’s a fairly defined read—first down, Patriots piled in the box to stop the run, single-high safety with Devin McCourty naturally eyeing DeAndre Hopkins on the left sideline. Still, a great job by Watson drawing McCourty away from the middle of the field with his eyes, then hitting slot man Bruce Ellington, who was one-on-one up the seam with Jonathan Jones (not Cyrus Jones, as I said earlier today). It was a touch of veteran quarterback play. Watson also got McCourty on a back-shoulder, end-zone throw to Ryan Griffin later.
Bill O’Brien: I’m not 100% convinced I was wrong, maybe 92% convinced. The Texans rolled out enough bells and whistles (designed runs, fly sweeps everywhere) to keep the Patriots on their heels, and then Watson’s pure playmaking ability took care of the rest. I’m not sure how expansive this offense can become, but so far so good.
The Texans Own the Patriots Offensive Line: The O-line in New England has not blocked anyone in the Houston Texans’ pass rush in almost a calendar year.
Aaron Rodgers Finally Wins an Overtime Game: About time that loser accomplished something.
Jaguars pass rush: Yes, it was another flawed offensive line, but more than anything the Jaguars’ front four is what decided this game early. The Jags seem to have hit on the Calais Campbell/A.J. Bouye signings like the Giants hit on Jenkins/Harrison/Vernon a year ago.
Case Keenum: Over the last couple years I’ve said a lot of things about Case Keenum that simply can’t be taken back, so I won’t even try. (I mean, it’s really just a result of a backup quarterback who ends up playing a lot because the starters on his teams keep getting hurt, he’s fine, really). But Keenum made a couple of big throws in Pittsburgh last week, and while he got a lot of help from Stefon Diggs (stud!) Keenum provided more than enough on Sunday for the Vikings to win a lot of games with him under center.
Bengals Get Better: Keep in mind, the Bengals had some tough sledding in their first two games, facing very good defenses in Baltimore and Houston. But things were better under Bill Lazor on Sunday in what became something of a get-right game. More Joe Mixon. More open receivers downfield. If Andy Dalton didn’t miss on a couple deep balls, this might have been a big day.
Matt Prater: Fourteen straight makes on attempts of 50-plus. Guy thinks he’s Justin Tucker or something.
Nathaniel Hackett: Things are simpler, and much easier when the Jaguars are playing with an early lead. But Hackett is putting Blake Bortles in a position to succeed, and a month ago that didn’t seem possible without the assistance of some variety of black magic.
Drew Brees: Is ageless and incredible and is all we’d talk about if he played on a team that had a defense (and Tom Brady didn’t exist).
Jacoby Brissett’s Spin-O-Rama: The quarterback had the wherewithal to perform a mid-play homage to Indianapolis Colts legend Dwight Freeney, and scores on the play to boot!
Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye: It’s early on Sunday, but why not start the day off with a hot take: Over the next four years, this will be the best cornerback tandem in the NFL.
Geronimo Allison Follows up Terrible Fourth-Quarter Drop with Great Fourth Quarter Catch: Good on you, guy! That was key to Green Bay's game-tying drive, then Allison had the 73-yard catch-and-run in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal.
Tarik Cohen: Is my favorite player in the NFL. I know I’m supposed to be objective, but I’m not afraid to say it. He had rushes of 26 and 36 against Pittsburgh, the latter keying the game-winning score in overtime. Three of his 24 rushes on the season have gone for more than 25 yards.
Josh McCown: Slinging It!: It’s easy to criticize the Jets. It’s also fun. On Sunday, they outclassed the Dolphins and McCown made a couple of big-time throws, including that frozen rope to Robbie Anderson (which came right after a suspect holding call had erased a long run by Bilal Powell, way to bounce back, gents!).
Sean McDermott and the Bills’ Secondary, Tyrod Taylor and Rick Dennison: The secondary seemed to make play after play against a hapless Broncos passing attack. On the other side of the ball, a great game plan by Dennison, operated to near-perfection by Taylor (picking their spots against those Denver linebackers and safeties). A great team win for the Bills.
Odell Beckham Jr.: Two exceptional touchdown catches. He’s the kind of unique, otherworldly talent that can turn casual fans into diehards. More importantly for the Giants, Beckham is definitively back; defenses are going to have to respect that, and that’s going to make everything easier for this offense.
That Eli Manning to Brandon Marshall Thing: It took two-and-a-half games, but they finally started getting Marshall facing the line of scrimmage, using his big frame to make some catches. It’s like they had never seen him play before they brought him in. But maybe they’re getting there!
Marcedes Lewis: You forget about the guy; he’s 33, they had signed Julius Thomas to usurp him, and he hasn’t caught more than 25 balls in a year since 2012. The three touchdowns on Sunday were impressive, and beating C.J. Mosley up the seam for the second one was especially legit.
Leonard Fournette Protecting a Lead: Playing the role of Kyra Sedgwick in The Closer (I use that line a lot). The Jaguars were wrapping things up early in the third quarter, but in general, when Jacksonville has a lead it will be a nightmare for tired defenses to have to tackle Fournette.
Fournette/Lewis Towel-Snapping Celebration: Good celebration!
And I like to think they were reenacting this:
Presumed Londoner in the Jalen Ramsey Jersey: Great one-handed catch on the souvenir ball from Ramsey. Great reactions from the fans around him, particularly the woman in white on his left—that’s the correct amount of aggression in the index-finger points, then she has the wherewithal to spin and land a high-five. I’m sure I’ll find some flaws when I look at the coaches’ film later this week, but that seemed pretty close to flawless. (And also, great jersey choice for a Jaguars fan. Good chance you’ll be able to wear that proudly for a decade-plus, maybe even post-retirement.)
Richard Sherman Hit on Marcus Mariota:
If a quarterback’s gonna run then sure, hit him, make him feel it. But the way Sherman lowered his shoulder, and the angle he came in at, that hit was going to be delivered out of bounds and only out of bounds. Lame.
The Panthers Are in Deep Doodoo: I know, there’s no need for the profanity, but this isn’t going to work out without Greg Olsen, not to mention a potentially hurt Cam Newton (it doesn’t look like his shoulder is right, but it also doesn’t look like he’s comfortable in the new offense).
Stop Peeing On Stuff: Even if you’re just pretending to pee on stuff, and even with the relaxed celebration rules, it’s still considered unsportsman like. And that’s a penalty. So I guess we all learned something today.
Grimes-Less Bucs Secondary: They are thin, really thin at cornerback. The Bucs were outclassed on the outside by Minnesota.
Big Ben on the Road: He leaves Heinz Field, and he just misses throws he shouldn’t miss. I don’t know what the deal is. The Steelers are 12-10 and averaging 20.8 points on the road since the beginning of 2015 (14-4, 29.3 at home). Roethlisberger has a 83.3 passer rating on the road, 108.6 at home in that span. They almost lost in Cleveland in the opener. Now they’ve lost at Chicago. The Steelers can’t win a Super Bowl if Ben doesn’t get better away from home.
That Ice-Cold Jaguars Fake Punt: Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some baseball-type “unwritten rules” trash. There’s no such thing as “running up the score” in the NFL. These are all professional football players, and if you don’t want a team scoring points then stop them from scoring points. But the fake punt, up 37-0 at the end of the third quarter . . . there were already a few chippy moments in this one. You’re making a proud, veteran-laiden defense that’s been getting its butt kicked re-take the field after a stop. If you’re the Jaguars, you’re really just inviting a cheap shot or two.
Remember When the Packers Used to Block Forever?: Like the time last January when Aaron Rodgers patted the ball 174 times and then threw a touchdown against the Giants? Aaron Rodgers sometimes holds the ball for too long, but he rarely got time on Sunday, against a Bengals pass rush that’s sometimes very good and sometimes very invisible. I don’t know if a healthy David Bakhtiari is the difference. This might just be a new normal in Green Bay.
Doug Pederson and Fourth Downs: Teams don’t go for it often enough on fourth downs, and as I always say, part of the equation that goes into that decision is whether or not you have a play that will work. (Is there something in your back pocket, something you’ve set up with previous playcalls?). Pederson, who made a couple of shaky fourth-down decisions last year, going for it on fourth-and-8 at midfield with less than three minutes left, resulting in a Carson Wentz sack, was indeed regrettable.
Eagles Goal-Line Stand/Giants’ Goal-Line Pants Pooping: Joe Buck was all over Ben McAdoo for the playcalls down here, but let's not go nuts, especially since Sterling Shepard dropped a ball that you can’t drop if you’re an NFL wide receiver. (I mean, clearly you can drop it because we saw it, but it’s really bad if you do.) Anyway, the bigger issue was the fourth-down play, in which they tried to send Orleans Darkwa over the top from four inches out, and, well . . . basically the line of scrimmage was pushed back two yards immediately after the snap.
Marcus Cooper, You Are A Crazy Person: This was not the time for a Leon Lett impression. (And Don Beebe has to be happy about the casting choice of Vance McDonald.)
Trevor Siemian: Speaking of premature celebrations, I think I carved his Hall of Fame bust too soon.
Yanda-Less in Baltimore: The Jaguars are good, maybe really good, up front, but this Ravens line was already looking flawed and unathletic this season. Without Marshal Yanda, the front five is a serious liability.
The Fragile Game Flow for the Ravens and Jaguars: The Ravens are in the same boat as the Jaguars now: If they fall behind early, it’s all over. This offensive line can’t pass protect, and even with the arrival of Jeremy Maclin this is a D+ group of receivers.
The Wave at Wembley: Don’t do that, guys. The Wave is the worst.
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Lions Lose By Inches: Guh. I like that 10-second runoff rule. I really do. It’s only fair; you can't give a team a free timeout there. But that’s a heartbreaking way to lose a game, with Golden Tate ruled down with the ball on the four-inch line, and the final eight seconds run off due to the review (and subsequent overturn of the touchdown ruling). Could the Lions have gotten another play off if it was ruled properly on the field? Maybe. I dunno. If you’re a Lions fan, you have permission to punch something harder than your hand (if you have health insurance).
Jake Elliott from 61 to Win It: He was not good in his debut last week. But, as they always say, there’s no redemption like kicker redemption
Brandin Cooks Pit-Pat: It’s nice to have Brandin Cooks on your team.
Jadeveon Clowney’s First Career NFL TD: Of course, Whitney Mercilus made this play, using E-Z Pass to go by Nate Solder. But a 270-pound man pound man moving that swiftly is utterly terrifying. I was scared enough that I gathered my wife and kids and brought everyone to the panic room. (Except we don’t have a panic room, so we just hung out in the basement, watched some cartoons and drank grape soda for a while. It was fun!) But, anyway, no one Clowney’s size should move like that.
Jalston Fowler Will Block Jeremy Lane Until the End of Time: We all need a fullback like this in our lives. Their destinies first meet at the Titans’ 28. Then Fowler finished off the play at the Seattle 18. A third-grader’s understanding of arithmetic tells me that those two blocks are 54 yards apart(!), clearing the way on DeMarco Murray’s 75-yard TD run.
Demonstrations By Players, Statements By NFL Ownership: I wrote a little bit about it last night and we’ll be covering it all day at The MMQB; I’m not going to deep dive the nation’s atrocious political situation because while I have thoughts and hypotheses and do my best to stay informed I have no true expertise in the area (though I have no expertise in football either, and that never stopped me). But what’s going on today is important and historic. It will be a while before we can look back and properly gauge the impact, but for now I’ll say this: I never thought we'd have a President who would go too far right for the tastes of NFL ownership. Just as the league and its owners (many of whom are huge Trump supporters) seem to be doing, perhaps this is a time to step back and reassess the reasons behind some of the choices we’ve made and the paths we’ve chosen.
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Is the NFL Still In Trouble?: The league and the sport has its issues, but Sunday was a reminder that the NFL at its best brings drama and entertainment that is unparalleled in the sports world. I understand a small faction of folks have pledged that they won’t watch the NFL anymore (they email and tweet at us a lot), accusing a league comprised of thousands of individual human beings—each responsible for their own thoughts and words and actions—of being “too political” as a whole. That’s their choice. I’ve tried to understand that mindset, and I really don’t. And man, on days like this, those guys are missing out.
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