NFL Week 7 awards for Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, Bears safety Eddie Jackson and more. Plus stats, quotes of the week
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Ezekiel Elliott, running back, Dallas. A dominant performance from the Cowboy on Sunday in a 40-10 win over San Francisco: 26 carries, 147 yards, two rushing touchdowns; and a 72-yard touchdown reception on a screen pass. Oh, and he barely played the fourth quarter. But don’t get too attached, Cowboys fans. If legal proceedings don’t go Elliott’s way this week or next, he still could be facing a six-game suspension.
Derek Carr, quarterback, Oakland. Seeming to be on his way to his sixth straight loss to division power Kansas City, Carr drove the Raiders 85 yards in the final minutes for a 31-30 win. His 417 yards, three touchdowns and no picks were vital in the Raiders having playoff hopes after seven weeks.
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Eddie Jackson, safety, Chicago. The rookie fourth-round pick from Alabama was the last of 10 Crimson Tide players drafted in 2017, but he made history Sunday against the Panthers. Jackson won a starting job in camp, and against Carolina he repaid the coaches for their faith in him. He scored two long touchdowns in the first 18 minutes of the Bears’ 17-3 upset win. Jackson ran 75 yards with a recovered fumble nine minutes into the game. And early in the second quarter he grabbed a tipped pass from Cam Newton and romped 76 yards down the right sideline. He’s the first player in the NFL’s 98 seasons to have two defensive touchdowns of at least 75 yards in a game, and he was the biggest factor in Chicago’s third win of the season.
Yannick Ngakoue, defensive end, Jacksonville. The Jags may have missed badly on their quarterback of the future by picking Blake Bortles third overall in 2014, but through free agency and the draft, GM Dave Caldwell has built a deep and productive defense. Nobody’s ever heard of Ngakoue, a third-round pick from Maryland last year, but his 2.5 sacks led Jacksonville’s 27-0 shutout of the inept Colts.
Kevin Byard, safety, Tennessee. He completes the Sunday Early Games Middle-Round Hall of Greatness. The third-rounder from Middle Tennessee in 2016 had the Titans’ first three-interception game by a defender in 10 years, helping surprisingly shaky Tennessee to hang on in Cleveland, 12-9. Byard had picks in the second, third and fourth quarters, and they were key because of where they happened: at the Tennessee 7, the Cleveland 41 and the Tennessee 8.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Ryan Succop, kicker, Tennessee. Four times he broke a tie to put the Titans ahead in an offensively inept game at Cleveland. His 43-yard field goal put Tennessee up 3-0. His 23-yard field goal put Tennessee up 6-3. His 46-yard field goal put Tennessee up 9-6. His 47-yard field goal gave Tennessee a 12-9 overtime win.
Justin Tucker, kicker, Baltimore. Watching Tucker, it’s an upset when he lines up for a 57-yard field goal and doesn’t make it. He kicked one of those, and a 48-yarder. And a 47-yarder. In a sport full of great kickers right now, Tucker is state of the art—and the best offensive weapon the feeble Ravens have.
Travis Benjamin, punt-returner/wide receiver, Los Angeles Chargers. No. No. Please don’t say it. NO! The two biggest plays in the Chargers’ 21-0 skunking of division rival Denver Sunday came from … a former Brown. Remember Travis Benjamin? Johnny Manziel’s favorite receiver? The Browns let him walk to the Chargers in free agency after the 2015 season. On Sunday he sprinted through the Denver punt team for a 65-yard touchdown return to make it 7-0, then Benjamin caught the insurance touchdown pass from Philip Rivers, a 42-yarder, to make it 21-0. There’s a Travis Benjamin every week, it seems—a former Brown who made good on one of the other 31 teams.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Sean McVay, head coach, Los Angeles Rams. It is Oct. 23. The Rams are 5-2. The Rams are averaging a league-high 30.3 points per game. The metamorphosis of this offense is complete. For my money the best example of it this year was Jared Goff—who decidedly is not a running threat—sucking in the Arizona defense at the 9-yard line late in the first half, pulling back the handoff, seeing eight Card defenders run like an amoeba to the center of the line, and there went Goff for a fairly easy touchdown run. McVay is so imaginative, and has created so many intelligent options for an offense that was so awful last year. He is the runaway coach of the year through seven weeks, in my book.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
Josh McCown, quarterback, New York Jets. Love what he’s done for the Jets this season. But that floating pass in the final minute of the fourth quarter, trying desperately to break a 28-all tie, was right in the hands of Miami’s Brice McCain. That brain-lock pick—after a terrific first half and building a 28-14 lead on the road—handed Miami the win, 31-28, on an easy field goal.
Quotes of the Week
“The defense, in my opinion, played winning football. To get shut out, that’s not acceptable.”
—Denver coach Vance Joseph, after the Broncos were blanked by the Chargers 21-0. It's the first time Denver has been held scoreless since Nov. 22, 1992.
“I said to Tom, ‘I just wanna go home.’ … I was heartbroken for Tommy.”
—Galynn Brady, Tom Brady’s mother, to husband Tom Brady Sr., during the Super Bowl when the Patriots trailed 28-3, as related by Galynn to Andrea Kremer for her NFL Network feature story Sunday morning.
“Tom” is her husband, “Tommy” her son. But the Brady family stayed, and as Tom Sr., told Kremer: “It’s probably one of the most joyous moments of our life, after everything we’ve been through.”
“After my mom got sick, she told me, ‘Allow me to be your story. All the greats have a story.’ At that time I was like, ‘Hell no, I don't need a story if that means my mom is sick.’ But fast forward, and that's what I'm going to do. Because that was her—I wouldn't say wish—that was moreso her command to me.”
—Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott to Jenny Vrentas of The MMQB for her story on Prescott emerging as a cancer-fighting advocate, after the death of his mother, Peggy, from colon cancer.
“It just doesn’t make sense. We play Arizona. It’s a 45-minute flight [from Los Angeles to Phoenix]. But instead we’ve got Arizona and us [in London]. If we were to travel all the way from LA it’s 13 hours. But hey, whatever floats their boat.”
—Rams running back Todd Gurley, in London for Sunday’s Cards-Rams game, complaining about two western teams traveling to Europe to play a regular-season game.
It’s 10.5 hours, according to FlightAware, to fly non-stop from Los Angeles to London. (And the Rams flew from Jacksonville anyway.) But I get Gurley’s point. Imagine how teams will feel in 2022 or 2023 when the NFL puts a franchise in London, and the London team has a real home-field advantage, welcoming teams that have to fly six to 10 hours to play in England.
“I told [manager] A.J. [Hinch] after we lost Game 4, I don’t care what it is, I want the f- … I want the ball in Game 7. I’ll start the game, if you want me to go three innings, I’ll go three innings. If you want me to come out of the ’pen, I’ll come out of the ’pen … If I have the ball with any opportunity to finish the game, I’m gonna empty the gas tank with every pitch, and I’m just gonna keep going … I did not want to come out of this game.”
—Houston pitcher Lance McCullers to Fox Sports reporter Tom Verducci, after McCullers got his first career save with four innings of one-hit ball against the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS, a 4-0 Astros win.
Stat of the Week
Four running backs have won the NFL Most Valuable Player award this century. Kansas City rookie Kareem Hunt has done something none of those four did: He exceeded 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first seven games of the season. Comparing Hunt’s first seven games versus the first seven games of MVP running backs of this century:
|RB, Team||Year||Rush Yards||Rec. Yards||Total||Avg. Per Game|
|Marshall Faulk, St. Louis||2000||688||494||1,182||168.9|
|Kareem Hunt, Kansas City||2017||717||285||1,002||143.1|
|LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.||2006||656||303||959||137.0|
|Shaun Alexander, Seattle||2005||776||32||808||115.4|
|Adrian Peterson, Minnesota||2012||652||135||787||112.4|
Factoids That May Interest Only Me
By Nov. 3, the Jets will have played five division games in nine weeks, and will be finished with their season series against Miami and Buffalo.
By Nov. 3, the Falcons will have played zero division games. They have five NFC South games after Thanksgiving.
It has been years since the Bears played such a Monsters of the Midway game. The two touchdowns scored in the Chicago-Carolina game were both defensive scores. Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw seven passes. The Bears had five first downs. Chicago won by 14.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note
The month of well-traveled Adrian Peterson:
Sept. 24: The Saints, with Peterson still on the team, depart Charlotte for an overnight flight to London after playing the Panthers. Duration: eight hours. They practice in London all week, then play Miami on Oct. 1.
Oct. 1: After the win over the Dolphins, the Saints fly back to New Orleans (nine hours, 45 minutes) for their bye week. Peterson spends much of his time off in his home state of Texas.
Oct. 10: Back in New Orleans to resume practicing for the Saints, Peterson instead is traded to Arizona. He flies to Arizona, moves into Larry Fitzgerald’s guest house, and begins to cram for his first game as a Cardinal, against Tampa Bay at home.
Oct. 16: The Cardinals leave Phoenix for the 10-hour trip to London. Peterson says he’s able to sleep for much of way. Arrive on Tuesday the 17th and practice for the week.
Oct. 22: After the loss to the Rams, Peterson and the Cardinals board the plane for a 10-hour, 45-minute flight to Phoenix. Peterson was scheduled to walk off the plane at Sky Harbor Airport at 6:30 a.m. ET Monday ... 30 days after his month-long odyssey began with a trip from one continent to another.
Tweets of the Week
This week in "That's So Browns"— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) October 22, 2017
Hue Jackson declines Taylor Lewan facemask penalty on 3rd and 1.
Titans go on fourth.
Browns are offsides.
Looks like we're gonna have to wait another year before inducting Sam Darnold into the Hall of Fame.— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) October 22, 2017
This so called great QB class is very average. 2017 class will go down as much better. None are as good as Trubisky, Watson or Mahomes— Greg Gabriel (@greggabe) October 22, 2017
I know Gabriel. I respect Gabriel. We’re halfway through the college season. I don’t know how you judge this class of quarterbacks until: a.) The season is complete and the full evidence is there; b.) We see who enters the draft. I doubt this class will go down as “very average,” but we’ll see.
LA’s NFL attendance issues will be solved once there’s a new stadium = My wife and I will stop bickering once we have kids.— Sam Farmer (@LATimesfarmer) October 20, 2017
We’ve got a new section of the column the year called My MVP, as part of The MMQB’s partnership with State Farm. Each week, I’ll ask an NFL person what his most valuable possession is, and why.
Preamble: I am finishing a story on ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen’s battle with stage four throat cancer. Last week I spoke with Colts coach Chuck Pagano—who was diagnosed five years ago this month with leukemia—because he counseled Mortensen about what he was going to face early in his treatment in 2016. At the end of our conversation, I asked Pagano about a possession he valued highly.
“I could name so many things. I wear bracelets for cancer patients to this day. I get emotional now. Sorry. Sorry. [A 12-second pause.] It’s not about the things. It’s about the people. It’s the people I value.
“There was … [Five seconds. Pagano is crying.] Let me get myself together. One of the games I got to go to when I was in treatment, I got out of the hospital, I had some time at home, and then they said I was healthy enough and could sit up in the box and watch a game. Before the game, I met two patients, two kids, in the tunnel. One was a girl, Mickey. The other was a boy, Cory. I met ’em both in the tunnel, and we talked and spent some time together.
“Cory [Ten- or 12-second pause] … He had bone cancer. He couldn’t walk, but he lifted himself out of his chair to hug me. [Another pause] He says, ‘You’re gonna beat this! You can beat this!’
“That’s something I’ll carry with me forever. Cory died a few months later. For every story that ends well, many don’t. But Cory will live on with me.”
From “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts.
This week’s conversations: Veteran Packer reporter Bob McGinn of BobMcGinnFootball.com, and longtime Dallas play-by-play voice Brad Sham.
• McGinn, on how he thinks Aaron Rodgers plays on the edge too much for a franchise quarterback: “Rodgers was off to a very good start. He led the league in touchdown passes [after five weeks] and he led the league in something else too—sacks taken. He had 19 and tied with him was Carson Palmer, the immobile one. By my count [Rodgers] also had been knocked down 16 times. If you look at his record in both those categories throughout his career, they are both high. He holds the ball, he takes a lot of sacks, and when he extends plays, he lives a very dangerous life out there. Now this play in question, everybody does this type of thing, it's an escape right, you throw the ball, you get hit by an extremely fast linebacker. But I want to bring a play up in the [Week 2] Atlanta game. They are down 11 with a minute left and the ball is on the Green Bay 12. This game is over; it's garbage time. From shotgun, there's pressure in the middle and he spins out to his left. Just dump the ball, right, Peter? … He holds it for 5.1 seconds and here comes Adrian Claiborne and absolutely levels him. The pass flutters incomplete. He just gets drilled at the goal line. Now … he's extremely tough, but this stuff, he takes too many chances for his own safety and for the health of the franchise. The law of averages can catch up to you every three or four years—the  broken collarbone, and now this one!"
• Sham, on how the Cowboys nearly hired Marty Schottenheimer to replace Tom Landry before the team was sold to Jerry Jones in 1989: “Most people who revile Jerry Jones do it because of his dismissal of Tom Landry. I always say, let's see how much you know, because Tex Schramm wanted to get rid of Tom Landry. I wrote a book in 2003 called ‘Stadium Stories,’ and one of the chapters I did was on Tex, and it was about six months before he died. I'd known him 35 years, but I spent a whole day with him, and he told me things that I didn't know. In 1986, Landry says to Schramm, ‘Get ready. Get the next guy. I'm thinking about [retiring].’ Landry hires the hottest young assistant coach in the NFL, Paul Hackett from the 49ers … He hired Hackett because Landry said get the next guy ready. Landry then proceeded to change everything Hackett did, and that was also the year that Herschel Walker got dropped in their lap in the middle of training camp. Landry then decides, without telling anyone, that he's not going to quit. And either ’87 or ’88 in the spring, Landry holds a press conference, and Schramm had Marty Schottenheimer in Dallas showing him houses. He thought he was going to hire Marty Schottenheimer to replace Tom Landry, who was going to retire. Landry has his press conference, and that's when Schramm finds out that Landry is not quitting. He says there's been a lot of speculation, but I want to tell everybody that I'm staying and I hope to coach into the ’90s, and we all thought he meant into his 90s. That's how Schramm found out.”