OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
LeSean McCoy, running back, Buffalo. McCoy reminded me of Emmitt Smith in the 34-14 rout of the Raiders. Not just because of his 151-yard day. If you recall when Smith was at his best, he was great in so many second halves. Jimmy Johnson would use him to bleed the clock in win after win after win. And it was McCoy, with 19 carries for 120 yards (including a 48-yard insurance TD run) in the second half alone, helping the Bills to a 35:37 time of possession and a dominant win. The Raiders knew McCoy was coming, play after play after play, and just couldn’t stop him. Don’t look now, but Buffalo is 5-2 and just a half-game behind the Patriots in the AFC East.
Russell Wilson, quarterback, Seattle. Threw for 453 yards, by far the most in his 99-start career, and put up 41 points on a day when Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls ran 12 times for minus-one yard. “If there was ever any doubts about what Russell can do, there is no limit,” said coach Pete Carroll.
Deshaun Watson, quarterback, Houston.Threw for 402 yards, by far the most in his six-start career, and put up 38 points on the best defense in football over the last five years. “He threw a couple of picks, and nothing changed. He was just totally unafraid,” Richard Sherman said.
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Earl Thomas, free safety, Seattle. Smartest safety in football versus the phenom quarterback. Deshaun Watson got the edge first—not sure who was culpable—with a 59-yard TD throw to Will Fuller IV to start this showdown of hot offense and strong defense. On Houston’s next possession, Watson spied DeAndre Hopkins on an incut, and he apparently spied him too much. “[Thomas] is reading the eyes of the quarterback the entire way,” analyst Rich Gannon said on CBS, and Gannon was absolutely right. Thomas got a great head-start, steaming in from his 15-yard line and picking it off with a running start at the 22. The 78-yard touchdown was vintage Thomas.
Carlos Dunlap, defensive end, Cincinnati.The eighth-year pro from Florida has always been the kind of athletic pass-blocker and pass-rusher who can make a big play at any time. Any time, in this case, was with 7:05 left in the fourth quarter against upstart Indianapolis, with the Colts up 23-17. Jacoby Brissett threw, the ball bonked off Dunlap’s outstretched forearms. The ball bounced straight up, and Dunlap caught it and returned it for a 16-yard touchdown. The winning score, as it turned out. Dunlap added a sack of Brissett too.
Marshon Lattimore, cornerback, New Orleans.Saints 20, Bears 12, 1:22 left, Bears driving in Saints territory. On second down, Mitch Trubisky fires deep downfield … and Lattimore, already one of the best corners in the game as a 21-year-old rookie, picked it out of the air at the Saints’ 27. Ballgame.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Tyrone Crawford, defensive lineman, Dallas. With the Cowboys flailing around and on the verge of being down 16-7 at the half against injury-decimated Washington, Crawford blocked a Nick Rose field goal try, and Orlando Scandrick returned the ball 86 yards to the Washington four-yard line. After Ezekiel Elliott scored a moment later, this was the effect of the Crawford blocked field goal: A nine-point Washington halftime lead turned into a one-point Dallas halftime lead. Crawford added a sack and forced fumble in an excellent all-around day.
COACH OF THE WEEK
Pat Shurmur, offensive coordinator, Minnesota.Shurmur thought he’d have Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater playing quarterback for him this year. Through the first half of the season, the Vikings are 6-2, and Shurmur mostly has had the well-traveled/abandoned Case Keenum playing some of the best football of his itinerant career. What’s most notable is the varied play-calls with injuries (to Stefon Diggs, most notably, and of course quarterback), and the Vikings enter their bye week and the second half of their season as the clear favorite in the NFC North.
GOAT OF THE WEEK
Travis Benjamin, punt returner/wide receiver, San Diego.In a 7-7 game in the first half at Foxboro, Benjamin fielded a punt at his 11-yard line, and promptly began running laterally, and then back, and then back some more, until he was a foot deep in the end zone and tackled for a safety. I praised him for his two-touchdown game last week, and even though he added a touchdown reception at Foxboro on Sunday, the 11-yard loss for a safety was absolutely inexcusable in an eight-point loss to New England.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
“We’re confident in our argument. We’re confident that I’ll be on the field for the rest of the year.”
—Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott, looking forward to the appeal of his six-game suspension this week in New York.
The Cowboys are 4-3. Elliott has played in every game. Dallas has played 0-7 San Francisco, the 1-6 Giants, 3-4 Arizona and 3-3 Denver.
Can you tell me that the Cowboys without Elliott for six of the first seven games this year would be worse than 4-3? Now, if Elliott is suspended this week and has to miss the next six games, Dallas will face Kansas City, Atlanta and Philadelphia in the next three weeks without him.
“They were swashbuckling out there, man. It was something.”
—Seattle coach Pete Carroll, on quarterback Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson, who combined for 855 passing yards and eight touchdown passes Sunday in Seattle.
“I’m not going to play Debbie Downer. There’s lot of teams that would like to be 5-3 right now.”
—Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, after the Panthers beat the Bucs to keep pace with New Orleans in the NFC South. The top three teams—Saints, Panthers, Falcons—are, respectively, 5-2, 5-3, 4-3.
“It will suck the life out of you. It will leave holes in you. But now, you just gotta walk the plank, brother. Eighty percent of your survival is on you. Be you!”
—Merril Hoge, the former NFL running back, cancer survivor and ESPN analyst, on the advice he gave to Chris Mortensen as Mortensen began his 21-month fight with cancer.
Stat of the Week
Point totals in games three through seven for the 2017 Texans and rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson, and for the 2013 Broncos—the highest-scoring single-season team of all time—and quarterback Peyton Manning:
Those five games are the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth starts in Deshaun Watson’s career.
Factoid That May Interest Only Me
When the Dodgers tied Houston 12-12 Sunday night in Game 5 of the World Series, one of the clocks in Minute Maid Park read: 12:00. Midnight Central Time.
The Dolphins have to be one of the most lopsided 4-3 teams of all time. They’ve got a winning record, but have been outscored by 60 points.
In the three losses:
• Miami has been outscored 80-6.
• Miami has had 35 possessions and scored one touchdown and zero field goals.
• Miami has 202 average yards per game, punted 21 times and thrown five interceptions.
“We’re just inept,” said coach Adam Gase. “I’m pissed. I’m tired of the offense being awful.”
Tweets of the Week
The Rams running back tweeted this in the first half of Penn State-Ohio State, when Penn State running back Saquon Barkley already had a 97-yard kick return for TD and 36-yard touchdown run.
New section of the column this fall—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.
LeGarrette Blount, running back, Philadelphia. “That’s easy. In the history of the NFL, there hasn’t been but 51 super Bowls played, and I have won two of them. So it’s my two Super Bowl rings. I have the utmost respect for the Patriots, and I appreciate everything they did for me. It’s a world-class organization. Even though I am here [in Philadelphia] now, I hold no grudge. It’s business. That’s football. You move on. But those two Super Bowls rings are pretty important in my life. They’re put away safely. I bought the two replicas; I don’t wear the real ones. To understand what they mean, think of this: I was a big football fan growing up. As a kid you watch the Super Bowl, and you imagine, ‘I hope I can play in one of those some day.’ It’s pretty cool. I played in two.”
From “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” available where you download podcasts.
This week’s conversation: A lengthy one with ESPN reporter Chris Mortensen, who has battled cancer for 21 months. The cancer in his throat and the back of his tongue was eradicated by chemotherapy and radiation in 2016, but it metastasized to his left lung. He is undergoing treatment for that now.
• Mortensen on the stiff sanction the league gave the Patriots—a four-game ban for Tom Brady, the loss of first- and fourth-round picks, and a $1 million fine—for Deflategate: “The bottom line is that the league—[people] I would call influential executives and people on the competition committee—agree with me: This should have gone to the competition committee as just a tweak, find what your rule is and it could have gotten off with just a letter or even if they want to dock them a fourth-round draft pick or whatever. But for what [the sanction] became, it wasn’t worth it.”