Week 3 in the NFL: The New England Patriots during the national anthem on Sunday.
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

In response to President Donald Trump’s criticism, more than 200 NFL players took a knee, sat or raised their fists during the national anthem on Sunday. There was drama once the games started, too

By Jacob Feldman
September 25, 2017

Though Colin Kaepernick wasn't on a field to see it, the protest he started more than a year ago was stronger than ever on Sunday, just two days after NFL players drew the ire of President Donald Trump for taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality. After Trump called for protesting NFL players to be fired, and referred to them as sons of b------, more than 200 players sat, knelt or raised their fists during Week 3 (compared to just a handful last week). Many others linked arms in a show of unity, or wore #IMWITHKAP shirts, or stayed in the locker room for the national anthem altogether. Love them or hate them, the demonstrations were historic. And the play on the field? It was by far the most compelling action so far this year. Here’s a recap of The MMQB’s coverage of the drama on and off the field.

On the Protests:

• For this week's MMQB, Peter King spoke with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who said “The way we reacted today, and this weekend, made me proud ... I’m proud of our league.”

We kept tabs on all of the notable demonstrations on Sunday, from the Steelers’ Alejandro Villanueva standing for the anthem while the rest of the team waited in the locker room to Jaguars owner Shad Khan linking arms with his players. Also, almost all of the Raiders sat during the anthem on Sunday Night Football.

Many Oakland Raiders sat during the national anthem before suffering a Sunday Night Football loss to Washington.
Alex Brandon/AP

We also captured voices of numerous NFL players on their motivations, including Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers, who said, "I felt like [Trump] attacked our brothers." Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro said, "I don’t think it is a fight against Trump. I think we need to focus on the real problem." (Meanwhile, one of the most personally affecting post-game comments came from Dolphins safety Michael Thomas, who choked up while talking about his daughter. Also of note: The New York Times' sport section cover this morning.)

Jonathan Jones talked to former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who called Trump's words "insulting and disgraceful." Jenny Vrentas noted that, despite the divisive weekend that inspired Sunday's demonstrations, a message of unity won the day. Richard Deitsch covered how the TV networks handled it all

On the Games:

Gary Gramling summarized all of the action in his weekly Sunday FreakOut.

Writers on the scene had takeaways from the Eagles’ last-second win, The Jets' first W of the year, and the Patriots' comeback victory. Peter King also caught up with Brandin Cooks after the New England wideout was booed pregame for kneeling but later exalted for making every play he could down the stretch.

In the prime-time matchup, Washington found its identity. Max Meyer has more.

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PRESS COVERAGE

The Tennessee Titans beat the Seahawks at home as Marcus Mariota played a clean game.
Mark Zaleski/AP

1. Titans 33, Seahawks 27. Tennessee earned the win with three straight third-quarter touchdowns after falling behind 14-9 at home. Throughout, the Titans were the more physical team, and while Seattle managed to score more than it did in the first two weeks, it wasn't enough. Russell Wilson & Co. now return to the Pacific Northwest, where questions about another slow start to the season await.

2. Jaguars 44, Ravens 7. Sunday started with the most surprising result of the day: Blake Bortles lighting London up with four touchdown passes against what was presumed to be one of the best defenses in the league.

3. Bills 26, Broncos 16. There was a belief that Buffalo was maybe looking to tank this season. But nobody told coach Sean McDermott or his defense, which ranks first in the league in points allowed per game (12.3).

4. Falcons 30, Lions 26. Matthew Stafford appeared to pull off another come-from-behind win by throwing a one-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds remaining. But upon review, Golden Tate was ruled down inches short of the end zone. And because of the review, the mandatory 10-second runoff that followed prevented Stafford from getting another shot.

Running back Jordan Howard helped the Chicago Bears get their first win with an overtime touchdown.
Robin/Alam/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

5. Bears 23, Steelers 17 (OT). Don't expect to hear too much Mitch Trubisky talk on Chicago radio today, even if Mike Glennon was bad to very bad. That's what happens when you win, as Chicago did on the back of its backs, Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard. The two combined for 266 scrimmage yards, including Howard's game-winning 19-yard run in overtime.

6. Washington 27, Raiders 10. This game actually wasn't even as close as the score makes it seem. Washington had 472 yards of offense to Oakland’s 128 in a dominant performance. We'll see if they can match that level of play next Monday night in Kansas City.

7. Patriots 36, Texans 33. Deshaun Watson appeared capable of becoming the first rookie QB to beat Bill Belichick in Foxborough, but he could not outduel Tom Brady. The 40-year-old finished with five touchdowns, finding newcomer Brandin Cooks for the go-ahead score with 23 seconds to go.

8. Eagles 27, Giants 24. We saw the same New York team that lost its first two games during the first three quarters. Then it seemed to turn a corner with 24 fourth-quarter points. But Philadelphia’s rookie kicker, Jake Elliott, spoiled the Giants' day, setting an Eagles’ record by booting a 61-yard field goal as time expired.

9. Packers 27, Bengals 24 (OT). New Cincinnati offensive coordinator Bill Lazor breathed life back into the Bengals’ offense. Still, Aaron Rodgers was able to carry a banged-up Green Bay team on a 75-yard game-tying drive in the final four minutes. In the extra period, Rodgers connected with Geronimo Allison for a 72-yard gain that set up Mason Crosby’s game-winning 27-yard field goal. Somehow, this was A-Rod's first overtime victory.

10. Vikings 34, Buccaneers 17. Case Keenum and the Minnesota offense had its way with the Bucs’ D. Keenum, filling in for Sam Bradford for a second straight week, finished with 369 yards passing and three scores. Dalvin Cook had 169 scrimmage yards while Stefon Diggs continued his star turn with 173 receiving yards. On the other side, Jameis Winston finished with three interceptions; the running attack meanwhile only managed a combined 26 yards.

11. Chiefs 24, Chargers 10. At least L.A. didn't lose another close one? Kareem Hunt dominated the Chargers’ run defense, finishing with 172 yards (he's on pace for 2,138​ yards this season). Philip Rivers completed half his passes and threw three interceptions as his team's season continues to go sideways. At 0-3, is it too early to call them the losers of the Battle for L.A.?

12. Jets 20, Dolphins 6. New York's defense held their visitors to 225 total yards (including just 30 on the ground) to quiet all of that 0-16 talk.

NFL
Three & Out: Takeaways from the Jets’ Ugly Win Against the Dolphins

13. Colts 31, Browns 28. Jacoby Brissett stole the show in Indianapolis, guiding the home team to its first victory with two rushing touchdowns and a third through the air, throwing no picks while rookie DeShone Kizer had three for Cleveland, which is now one of five winless NFL teams (the others: Giants, 49ers, Chargers, Bengals.)

14. Saints 34, Panthers 13. I think it's time to start worrying about Carolina's "revamped" offense. Cam Newton finished with a QBR of 7.2 before Derek Anderson came in for mop-up duty. The Panthers now sit between Cleveland and the New York Jets in points per game.

15. Monday Night Football: The Cowboys are at the Cardinals (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Have a story you think we should include in tomorrow’s Press Coverage? Let me know here.

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THE KICKER

After a devastating loss, the Lions entered the bowels of their home stadium only to find a raging food fire. But don't worry, because evidently Detroit employs the calmest stadium employee of all time.

Question? Comment? Story idea? Email me directly or let the team know at talkback@themmqb.com

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