Peter King hands out NFL Week 4 awards to Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Deshaun Watson and much more
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Cam Newton, quarterback, Carolina. He’ll look back at his career one day and think he had better games than this one. But what makes Carolina 33, New England 30 special for Newton is that it came against Tom Brady, and it came with him adjusting to a newness in the Panther offense, and it came with him still getting in peak game shape after off-season shoulder surgery. Newton completed 22 of 29 with three passing touchdowns and one rushing TD.
Deshaun Watson, quarterback, Houston. The kid is amazing. In camp the Texans knew he’d likely take the QB reins at some point this year, but his performance in the past two games—47 of 67, six touchdown passes, with the Texans producing 90 points—is stunning.
Le’Veon Bell, running back, Pittsburgh. “I did?” That’s what Bell said when I told him had 35 carries (for 144 yards) in a 2016 Bell-like performance as the Steelers handled the Ravens 26-9. He’s on pace for 348 carries this year, and if you want to hear if he thinks he can handle that, listen to “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King” this week. I recorded Bell in the Steelers locker room Sunday afternoon.
Andy Dalton, quarterback, Cincinnati. I thought he permanently had “embattled” as a mandatory adjective in front of his name, or maybe had his name changed legally to Embattled Andy Dalton. He did something about that Sunday in the Bengals’ 31-7 rout of the Browns, completing 17 of his first 18 passes, for three touchdowns and 215 yards. He finished with 286 yards and four touchdowns and, for now, calmed the Dump Dalton movement in Cincinnati.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Andre Hal, safety, Houston. Hal’s first interception of Marcus Mariota led to Houston taking a 7-0 lead early in the half, and his second short-circuited a Titans drive with Tennessee down 30-14 late in the second quarter. Hal has led an opportunistic Houston defense that’s made more plays in the back end than most people expected, and that keyed the shocking 57-14 demolition of the Titans in Houston on Sunday.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Stephen Hauschka, kicker, Buffalo. He’s tried seven field goals in the past two games—from 49, 55, 53, 27, 24, 56 and 55 yards—and made them all. The last three came in the upset of the Falcons on Sunday.
Greg Zuerlein, kicker, Los Angeles Rams. He kicked seven field goals (from 49, 44, 44, 30, 28, 43 and 33 yards) and finished with 23 of the Rams’ 35 points in a dramatic win at Dallas. “Mr Automatic!” coach Sean McVay called him. In a big win, Zuerlein was the only player to get a game ball from McVay.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Dennis Allen, defensive coordinator, New Orleans. It’s been a tough slog for the Saints, one of the most generous defenses in the league in the past few years—and the major reason why the Saints have gone 7-9 three years in a row. But in London on Sunday, Allen’s group pitched a 20-0 shutout. Only once all day did the Dolphins have a drive longer than 22 yards. On the day, the Saints had four sacks and two forced fumbles. With a bye and then three of four at home, and with the defense growing, there may be hope yet for this perennially 7-9 group.
Quotes of the Week
“We cannot forget the fact that sports as a whole brings people together. For the two hours, three hours, whenever a time that a sporting event is on or your team is playing, we know that a lot of people from different shapes, colors, creeds, ethnicities and cultures come together. At that moment, they're rooting for the same thing … A lot of situations that are going on right now in our country are trying to cause division. We get nowhere divided. I stand for the national anthem, and I don't look down upon a person who doesn't feel that they want to. You have to respect another man's judgment for why they're protesting … I just hope and I pray to God that this country finds the energy and the heart to come together as a whole.”
—Cam Newton, after Carolina’s 33-30 win over New England
“It’s not time to panic. We’ve been through way worse than this.”
—Dolphins coach Adam Gase
Really? A 20-6 loss to the Jets followed by a 20-0 loss to the Saints. I’d say panic would be appropriate.
“While some people might focus on a tragic event and an evil act, to me, all I remember are the thousands of acts of kindness and love and warmth that came out of this.”
—Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, returning to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives after he was wounded and nearly killed by a gunman on a baseball field in July
“It would help you make more informed decisions. At the end of the day, maybe there are guys that make the decision that, ‘I’m gonna back off now,’ because they’re dealing with [CTE].”
—Jets quarterback Josn McCown, on the news reported by Jenny Vrentas and others.
Neuropathologist Ann McKee, a leader in the CTE field, says she hopes to have a test, or series of tests, to diagnose CTE in the living sometime in the next five years. As McCown says, it could be a contributing factor for veteran players when it comes to deciding whether to keep playing football later in their careers.
“Whether it’s the President of the United States or somebody in the upper deck who says they’re ruining the game by not letting players bash each other to pieces, you wonder how many times they’ve been hit in the head.”
—Bob Costas, to CNN’s Michael Smerconish on Saturday
Stats of the Week
New Orleans running back Adrian Peterson, healthy, is on pace for a 324-yard rushing season. He’s averaging 6.8 carries per game.
Tom Brady might be the best quarterback of all time. At 40, he’s having one of his best seasons through one month. Which brings us to compare the Patriots’ offense passing numbers with their foes’ passing numbers:
|Passer Rating||Comp Pct.||TDs||Yards Per Attempt|
It’s unsustainable. If Belichick doesn’t figure out a defensive fix (like, overnight, with a short-week Thursday game at Tampa coming up), the shiny numbers Brady puts up will set numerous AARP records, but they won’t allow the Patriots to play in February.
Factoids That May Interest Only Me
“Is there any wonder why play has become so ragged and fundamentals so forgotten in today’s NFL?” writes longtime NFL scribe Rick Gosselin in his Talk of Fame Network column. In 2007, he points out, there were 11 starting lineups with an average age of less than 27; opening-day rosters, in 2017, had 24 starting lineups averaging less than 27 years of age.
Cal has offensive linemen named Poutasi Poutasi and Gentle Williams.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note
Thirteen hours of a football Sunday on the East Coast:
8:28 a.m.: Leave apartment on west side of Manhattan.
8:34 a.m.: Board subway bound for New York’s Penn Station.
8:45 a.m.: Get to Penn Station, retrieve Amtrak ticket.
8:57 a.m.: Board Amtrak Acela train 2205 for Baltimore’s Penn Station.
9:01 a.m.: Depart for Baltimore. Sit in Quiet Car. Write about Kirk Cousins.
11:13 a.m.: Arrive Baltimore. Get in cab for M&T Bank Stadium.
11:59 a.m.: Walk through parking lots at stadium, see two-third Ravens fans, one-third Steelers fans. Go to press box.
1:04 p.m.: Kickoff, Steelers-Ravens.
4:18 p.m.: Steelers 26, Ravens 9. Ballgame ends. Work the locker rooms.
5:59 p.m.: Cab to Baltimore’s Penn Station with NFL.com’s Judy Battista. Nigerian-born cabbie, a U.S. citizen, tells us he voted for Donald Trump, loves Donald Trump, and it’s a disgrace that all football players don’t stand at attention for the national anthem. “If you did that in Nigeria,” he said, and he makes a slashing gesture across his throat. “America’s the great country in the world! You must respect the flag!” I said, “Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘Dissent is patriotic.’ That’s part of what makes us the greatest country in the world—that freedom.” Nice guy, though. He likes the Nats in the World Series.
6:33 p.m.: Board Amtrak Acela train 2224 for New York’s Penn Station.
6:35 p.m.: Depart for New York. Sit in Quiet Car. Write about Steelers win.
8:47 p.m.: Arrive at Penn Station. Take subway home.
9:18 p.m.: Arrive back at my apartment. Get pounced on by Chuck the dog, who I believe smells my halftime crab cake from Baltimore. Ten minutes left, second quarter, in Seattle. Put on some coffee. Write.
That, friends, is one reason why I love living on this coast and in this city. The Acela, the convenience, the access, the simplicity.
Tweets of the Week
Walking in from the parking lot, every single fan I passed was an Eagles fan.— Paul Domowitch (@pdomo) October 1, 2017
So to the GOV&MAYOR of PR🇵🇷 I'm sending 100,000$ as a Start to help you guys out b/c you all are citizens of U.S Just like us..🇵🇷🇺🇸— *Joshua R. Norman (@J_No24) September 30, 2017
I have never understood and still don't understand autographs.— Marquette King (@MarquetteKing) September 30, 2017
We’re in the first month of 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 what his most valuable possession is, and why.
Kirk Cousins, quarterback, Washington. “For me, it’s a 16-inch softball from my senior year in high school [Holland Christian High School in Holland, Mich.]. We were looking for something to do at the end of our senior year to honor the teachers who did such a great job with us in high school. We didn’t know what to do, so we decided to have a party with the teachers. We called it the Man Party. One of the teachers brought a 16-inch softball, and we played a game. After the game, everyone there signed the ball, and one of the English teachers displayed it as a memento of our class and that day. And that teacher ended up sending me the ball with a note. He said I had a big role in making that day happen, and he wanted me to have it. So I put it in a glass case, and I have it at my home now. It’s a great memento for me, from the people in high school who helped raise me and contributed to making me the person I am.”
From “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts. This week’s conversations: Bob Costas of NBC Sports and MLB Network, Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports 1, and Tunch Ilkin, the former Steelers guard and current 20-year Steelers radio colorman.
• Costas on patriotism and the NFL: “At every NFL game, there is a goal line-to-goal line, field-wide-to-field-length American flag, military people showing up, often a flyover. It isn't that there is anything wrong with that, but eventually it is reinforced that that is the only thing that patriotism is about, that's the only thing that the national anthem is about. And as I said on CNN, I believe that patriotism comes in different forms. Dissidents can be still be patriots. Sometimes they aren't because their point isn't well taken or they’re actually hostile, and we don't have to agree with them, but dissidents can be patriots. Social workers are often patriots. Schoolteachers are often patriots. Patriotism is not more a conservative idea than it is a moderate or liberal idea. But somehow through symbolism and reinforcement, it has come to mean, for many people, only one set of values—and it is especially meant to be associated with the military. So anytime anyone protests in connection with the national anthem, it is taken that they are disrespecting the military and disrespecting their service. I don't think that that's a textured view of what is going on.”
• Costas on playing the anthem before sports events: “This is going to be misunderstood, and you and I both understand about being misunderstood. If you go to the theater to see “Hamilton,” it is about the founding of the republic, and no one says, wait a minute, how can they start without the national anthem? … The anthem has been directly associated with sports, understandably so, because sports cuts across so many demographic lines and it can be a uniting force, and you can get goosebumps hearing the national anthem. On the other hand, national anthem 81 times a year at Yankee Stadium, and at the seventh inning stretch, 81 times a year, “God Bless America,” people say keep politics out of sports, but that subliminally represents a certain kind of view that goes beyond universal love of country … This is might sound like heresy, but the national anthem might resonate more if it was reserved for special occasions. Opening day. Memorial Day. The Fourth of July. The All-Star Game. The World Series. Or in the aftermath of a great national event, be it a tragic event, God forbid, terrorist attacks, hurricanes or some sort of great shared national triumph or moment of celebration. If it was used selectively to mark those occasions, then I think it would have more meaning for many people.”
• Whitlock on Donald Trump the Twitter troll: “He is the Troller in Chief, and he has been trolling America for at least a decade. And I think that we in the media and public figures, our addiction to Twitter, in particular make us think, oh my God, Donald Trump has said something incredible! But if we just evaluate what Donald Trump has been doing for the last decade, he is right on brand … Somehow, him using the word SOB metaphorically is the bridge too far? It’s a joke, and it’s proof that we are living way too much on Twitter and in the internet world where this is a big deal. But in reality if you just judge Donald Trump, this is nothing. This doesn’t crack the top 100 things he has ever said.”
• Whitlock on how players and the NFL fell for Trump’s bait: “I include ownership, coaches, executives, Roger Goodell. He baited us, and they fell for it unbelievably. Oh my God, he says we shouldn’t kneel, so let’s everybody kneel together. Let’s show Donald Trump! … Everybody that Trump says something bad about should go absolutely batcrap then. Did President Obama go batcrap? Did Senator McCain go batcrap? Is there no standard we can hold African-American athletes to? … So there is an opportunity and I think a responsibility to put away emotion and occasionally act strategically when someone is trolling you. These guys are involved in a business where they make millions of dollars, and Trump just baited them into being adversarial with their customer base.”