Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened on Sunday afternoon. Get the full Sunday breakdown from Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling on The MMQB: 10 Things Podcast. Subscribe now and it will be in your feed first thing Monday morning
Things That Made Me Giddy
Russell Wilson, Three Plays In Seattle: He got a little help from what seemed to be a badly blown defensive assignment on the winning touchdown (how do you miss Jimmy Graham, he's eight-feet tall!), but the two preceding throws were otherworldly: a 48-yarder to Paul Richardson then a 19-yarder to Tyler Lockett. This was Wilson at his best, and Wilson at his best is special.
Deshaun Watson Toasts Earl Thomas, Earl Thomas Toasts Watson: This game was a ton of fun, right from the start. The deep TD pass to Will Fuller was an emotionally moving experience. Fuller’s speed and Watson’s throw were an unbeatable combination. And the next series Watson stares down DeAndre Hopkins and Thomas takes advantage, then jukes Watson (we’ve seen he can tackle) en route to a 78-yard pick-six.
Welcome Back Luke Kuechly: The offense was up-and-down again, but it didn’t matter. Kuechly can’t be run on, and he added a pick on a little Cameron Brate stick route. With Kuechly (and Kurt Coleman) back, this defense is capable of carrying Carolina in plenty of weeks.
Jerick McKinnon: Swift and crafty with more explosiveness than you’d expect once he heads upfield. He’s not Dalvin Cook, but he’s not that far behind.
Tyler Lockett and Paul Richardson: Nice to see guys on the perimeter making plays in Seattle, especially as the run game fails to get going and Jimmy Graham often appears on a milk carton.
Another Blocked Kick for the Patriots: Bill Belichick loves special teams!
Everything’s Coming Up Buffalo: This was the exact blueprint of a Bills win: +4 in turnover margin, more than 35 minutes of possession, 167 rushing yards. And as an added bonus, they managed to get something while getting out from under Marcell Dareus’s contract. That’s a good week.
Akiem Hicks: Is the greatest player that no one realizes is a great player.
Don’t Worry About the Patriots Secondary: Malcolm Butler was caught off-guard by the snap when he was beat over the top by Travis Benjamin, but that was about all they allowed. (Though with no Dont’a Hightower, the run defense is what to keep an eye on in Foxboro.)
Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs: You do not appreciate them enough!
Everson Griffen: Sack streak extends to eight games! He’s really good, but the image of him sitting on the field holding his foot as the game ended was disturbing. We need some closure on that, NFL Network!
Ricardo Louis Beats Xavier Rhodes: A Buster Douglas-sized upset; the 37-yard play down the left sideline was the key play on the Browns’ late-first half TD drive. Bizarro!
Kirk Cousins as a Punching Bag: Washington was down three starters then lost a fourth, left guard Shawn Lauvao, to a stinger. So, shruggy shoulder emoji guy. I’m not sure the Cowboys pass rush was great on Sunday, but Cousins had no hope.
Jordan Reed, Ryan Kerrigan and Other People In Maroon Also Go Down: Because a plague has beset Washington. Kerrigan ended up returning to the field, but was not anywhere near his usual self playing through a groin injury. Reed left with a hamstring, Niles Paul with a scary concussion after a helmet-to-helmet collision with Sean Lee (so those two-tight end sets went out the window for Jay Gruden). In the end, we move that much closer to Dan Snyder just having to suit up and take the field himself.
Seahawks Run Game: Was and is terrible. Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls combined to go 12 carries for -1 yards. And they’re screwing up even when they’re supposed to just be a decoy; on a second-and-goal, Rawls committed a blatant chop-block on the backside of a play-action bootleg, erasing a touchdown and backing them up to the 22. (He was bailed out by defensive pass interference in the end zone on the next play.)
Matt Ryan and Alex Mack Can’t Get It Together: In the inclement weather, four botched center-QB exchanges, resulting in two lost fumbles and a missed two-point conversion. As the old saying goes, when it rains it pours and you should have done more of those wet-ball drills Peyton Manning always talks about after he’s had a few beers which is why no one wants to hang out with Peyton Manning at parties.
Raiders Turnovers: O.K., so you thought you were going to come into Ralph Wilson Stadium, give it away three times (plus one more in garbage time) and win? No, no you are not. Two unforgivable fumbles lost by the mini-backs (Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, playing expanded roles with Marshawn Lynch suspended) and one of those trademark deflected INTs in Buffalo.
Flops: Save it for Duke basketball walk-on tryouts, McKissic.
Vikings Have Nothing But Time at End of First Half: You always have to leave some extra time on the clock, just in case you get a penalty that resets the downs. But there’s no reason, when both teams have all their timeouts, to call one before third down with 42 seconds left on the clock. Instead of giving the Vikings a 15% chance of driving for a field goal (which they did), give them a 0% chance. Though I suppose this is just how 0-8 teams roll.
Missing Dan Bailey: Mike Nugent’s first attempt as a Cowboy is a miss from 49. C’mon Nuge! (He did hit his next four.)
Eagles Sans Jason Peters: Things got a bit hairy for Carson Wentz (at a glance the pressure was coming from across the line, not just at Halapoulivaati Vaitai. It didn’t make a big difference against an overmatched 49ers team, but jangled nerves of Eagles fans were not soothed.
Isaiah Crowell and Ball Security: The Browns enter the second half with a lead for the first time all season, so to start the second half’s opening drive they just need to . . . aw, crap.
More Muffed Punts: Bryce Treggs in London, Jeremy Kerley in East Rutherford. It’s a league-wide epidemic!
Tyron Smith and Flags: Three of them on Sunday (two holds and a false start). A weird day for the best offensive lineman in football.
Mike Remmers Concussed: For Vikings fans, flashbacks to 2016 when Rashod Hill came in at right tackle and had his butt handed to him early. Vikings were fine in the long run though, thanks in large part to some nifty pocket movement by Case Keenum.
Learning to Winnable Games: One of many problems with the Browns rebuild. You can’t win games you’re in a position to win if you don’t know how. Cleveland was outscored 18-0 over the final 17 minutes of this game.
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Everything That Happened in Seahawks-Texans
This Travis Benjamin Punt Return: You could convene 1,000 of the world’s greatest fiction writers and lock them in a room for 1,000 days with a single task: Conjure the most bone-headed American football play imaginable. They would not top this:
Also, great choreography by the officials on the call:
Will Fuller Is Very, Very Fast: And Earl Thomas found out the hard way.
Carlos Dunlap Saves Cin City: This would have been a disaster for Marvin Lewis’s squad, as they looked thoroughly unprepared on both sides of the ball (how you can have a 67-yard screen pass and still not cross the 300-yard threshold against what is basically the Colts practice squad D is upsetting to say the least). But then Dunlap comes along and makes a play that saves everyone’s collective orange butts.
Deshaun Watson Spin-O-Rama: Awesome. And classy (I assume it was an homage to recently unretired pass rusher Dwight Freeney, making his season debut in Seattle.)
Zach Miller TD Catch: Sometimes in this column, I write something like “you might not want to look at this dudes . . . psyche lol totally radical!” Or something along those lines. But really, I strongly urge you to avoid replays of the Miller TD catch. A beautiful throw by Mitchell Trubisky, Miller hauled it in with one hand and, upon landing, snapped his leg. And it was a TD—I can’t for the life of me figure out how it was overturned, apparently the ruling was he didn’t complete the catch because after turning over he set the ball down before reaching for his knee.
Go! DeAndre Hopkins! Go!: Great new kids show.
Malcolm Butler Races Melvin Gordon: Supposedly Butler ran a 4.6 at his pro day, while Gordon ran a 4.52 at the combine. But here, Butler ran the 40 as fast as Gordon ran the 35. (But Gordon because he had to do a lot more running before the straightaway, and because he scored the touchdown.)
A Very Alshon Jeffery Christmas: Catch. A Very Alshon Jeffery Catch.
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Can a Couple Breaks Get the Falcons Back on Track: They were lucky to escape East Rutherford with a sloppy, mistake-filled win sealed by a couple of special teams plays. Their offense showed signs of life; a little more involvement from the tight ends early, and if you take away a couple of wet-weather drops this would have been a much more comfortable win. The problems were more execution than scheme, and they still had nearly 400 yards in a road game. The Falcons still have plenty of rough edges to smooth out, but getting a win when you’re not at your best helps.
Russell Wilson Can Carry These Seahawks: With no running game, a surprisingly horrific day for the defense and (as usual) no protection, Wilson kept the Seahawks in it by extending plays and hitting chunk play after chunk play. If Tom Brady was never born, we might be talking MVP trajectory.
I Demand Re-Alignment to Put the Seahawks and Texans in the Same Division: It is a crime to limit the viewing public to one Russell Wilson vs. Deshaun Watson matchup every four years.
Vikings QB Situation: Minnesota’s O-line wasn’t great on Sunday, but Case Keenum consistently moved well enough (not just designed rollouts, but avoiding pressure within the pocket as well) to cover up the protection issues. That will be a big part of the conversation with Teddy Bridgewater just about ready to return. Bridgewater is the better talent, but can he, on a surgically repaired knee, move well enough to survive like Keenum did?
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