- Plus, Luck looks like Luck in a losing cause, time to panic about the Saints’ D, Keenum slings guns but not literally, Jimmy Garoppolo is still handsome but no longer undefeated, Harrison Smith is beastly, Buffalo’s offensive line is a crime against humanity, the Steelers need Le’Veon Bell no matter what they say, and an outbreak of Fejedelem Fever
Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened on Sunday afternoon. Get the full Sunday breakdown from Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling on The Monday Morning NFL Podcast. Subscribe to The MMQB Podcasts now and it will be in your feed first thing Monday morning
Things That Made Me Giddy
FitzMagic, Turning Back the Clock to a Couple of Specific and Sporadic Moments From Earlier This Decade: We’ve gotten a little carried away with Ryan Fitzpatrick in the past, so let’s not get fooled again, but he just lit that Saints defense on fire. The Bucs were at risk of falling off the face of the Earth early on, with no Jameis Winston and a tough early slate. Considering the upgraded defensive line (which was better on Sunday), and now a divisional road win under their belts, you can slide Tampa back into “darkhorse” status in the NFC.
Patrick Mahomes Is Also Magic: This throw is all arm. And Tyreek Hill has finished his evolution from gadget player to full-fledged, No. 1 receiver. The Chiefs are going to be the most entertaining team in football.
Mahomes throwing on the run is still probably where he’s most comfortable, which is scary pic.twitter.com/DcRRq9jc9s— Tom Martin (@TomKCTV5) September 9, 2018
Kirk Cousins, Recognizing New Teammates and Throwing the Ball to Them: A couple of nice touchdown throws dropped in against tight coverage. It was a good start. (Though, of course, no one will care what happens until January.)
Andrew Luck: He was sharp, and he absorbed a couple of big hits. If Jack Doyle doesn’t get Fejedelem’d (as the young people say), there’s a good chance Luck completes that fourth-quarter comeback.
James Conner Is a Nice Story!: In case you forgot. Which you probably didn’t.
Also, How ‘Bout that Ramon Foster Pull and Kick on Conner’s First NFL TD: Myles Garrett reacted like a man who just filled his bowl with Golden Grahams and then realized he was out of milk.
De’Anthony Thomas Is a Renaissance Man: A short touchdown catch, and a forced fumble on a punt return that, for all intents and purposes, sealed this game. What can’t this guy do!
Vikings Goal-Line Stand Forever: Four stops inside the 4-yard line, culminating with Harrison Smith stripping Alfred Morris on a second-and-goal at the 1. And that was at the end of a 14-play drive, when the defense is supposed to be gassed.
Harrison Smith: An INT, a sack, a fumble recovery, but one fewer touchdown than Clayton Fejedelem.
I Told You About the Dolphins and You Didn’t Listen: Rohan probably listened, but the rest of you said I was mad. Getting the culture right can go a long way in a weak AFC.
Denzel Ward, Instincts of a 47-Year Veteran: Nice play on his first career pick, falling off his man and catching Ben Roethlisberger searching for Antonio Brown. (Second INT was a ball that went through Jesse James’s hands; I give Ward zero credit on the tote board I keep in my basement.) It’s tough to get a great read on him because of the ridiculous weather conditions in his favor, but Ward seemed to hold up pretty well throughout on Sunday.
Adam Vinatieri From Downtown Again: A 51-yarder to end the first half for the 45-year-old, 23-year veteran. And it gave everyone a chance to break out all that research work about “When Vinatieri made his NFL debut, Player X was age X/not born.” My research team dug up one of those, and I think it’s a gem: When Adam Vinatieri made his NFL debut, America was just 220 years old.
Trent Brown on Brady’s Blindside: Jadeveon Clowney isn’t exactly the kind of edge burner who would give him fits—stylistically, this was a good matchup for Brown—but still, pretty good debut.
Case Keenum: Gunslinger: Go score some points. Three interceptions? Whatever, go get your 329 yards, three TDs and a win. I approve of this debut.
Joe Flacco-to-Nick Boyle Forever: O.K. Apparently this will continue to be a thing, which is fine. Three catches for 40 yards on the opening, scoring drive for Boyle.
Flacco Done Good For Real, By the Way: He’s still unnecessarily drifting as he throws despite a lack of pressure, but he picked up where he left off in the second half of last season, and it seems the Lamar Jackson Era in Baltimore will probably have to wait a year.
Josh Gordon Takes Candy From Baby: His touchdown over backup CB Cameron Sutton was a reminder that, when he’s on the field, Gordon is easily among the five most talented receivers in football.
It Was an Alex Smith Day: Jay Gruden’s offense for Smith was highly schemed, with a heavy dose of Adrian Peterson and the duo of Chris Thompson and Jordan Reed toying with Cards. I’m not sure it’s a long-term recipe for success, but it’s certainly enough if they can jump on teams early.
Adrian Peterson Can Still Run It: Right? Behind that line? Washington has something if—again—they can play with the lead on a regular basis.
Ball Skills, Brought to You By Tyrann Mathieu: Heck of a shoestring pick on a tipped ball that required a quick adjustment.
Reports: Everyone Attempted to Trade for Everyone In the Past Year: That’s mostly what I picked up from the pre-game shows.
Dolphins-Titans Took Seven Hours to Play: I know it’s not ideal, but c’mon, that’s pretty neat.
This Browns Offense: [audible sigh]. If they can get six giveaways from an opponent every week, they might one day be able to win a home game with that “attack.” I can’t reiterate this enough: If you are a professional football team, and your your opponent gives it away six times in your building, it doesn’t matter what your recent history is: Win the game. This isn’t progress.
I Shame You As Well, Roethlisberger, Conner, Jesse James, Etc.: You’re facing a team that showed no interest in scoring points. Protect the dang ball!
Jimmy Garoppolo, You Handsome, Gorgeous, Beautiful Fool: Well, he was bound to lose at some point, and when an already short-handed group of skill position players (the absence of Jerick McKinnon was big) lost Marquise Goodwin early on, that became a nearly impossible task on the road in Minnesota.
The Soft Tissue of Leonard Fournette: You have to worry about him holding up considering his violent running style and the fact that the Jaguars do nothing but ram it up the A and B gaps. A bad hammy is an ominous start to his second season.
Dak Prescott’s “Weapons:” This is probably the new normal in Dallas, but Prescott didn’t to himself any favors by misfiring to an open receiver a handful of times.
Ereck Flowers: Calais Campbell ate his lunch on the first play, resulting in a tripping penalty, which seemed a little too on-the-nose for the beleaguered left tackle-turned-beleaguered right tackle. In Flowers’s defense, the holding penalty that erased a big gain two plays later was in part due to Eli Manning unexpectedly flushing out of the pocket. Still, Pat Shurmur must be asking himself: Are the Giants better off draping a jersey over a pile of lightly soiled laundry, which would give them similar value in pass protection but without the penalties.
Bodyweight, Man: Get used to it, pass rushers. It’s one dicey rule, though.
The Bills’ Offensive Line: They should petition the NFL to play a 12th offensive player, because as it stands they can not function against NFL defenses with that front five.
Holy Crap, There’s Another Commercial With The Fixx’s “Saved By Zero”?!?!?!: (Fidelity, maybe? I only caught it once.) It would seem the long national nightmare of a decade ago is going to be revived. I can’t overemphasize how important this is. Write your congressman.
My Confidence in the Arizona Cardinals Might Have Been Misplaced: For shame Steve Wilks and Sam Bradford. Larry Fitzgerald didn’t come back for this s---.
Nick Chubb in Blitz Pick-Up: On a second quarter play, he tried to block Jon Bostic with all the urgency of when you wake up on the couch at 5 a.m. and feel around in the dark for the remote because Adult Swim has switched back over to Cartoon Network.
The Mariota-LaFleur Marriage Off to a Rocky Start: A real bummer, as Mariota went down with an elbow injury. Meaning it was Blaine Gabbert time. And you know what that means. (It means sadness.)
Daryl Williams’s Knee: Man, that was a phenomenal comeback after a pretty serious injury early in camp. His re-injury might have been the bummer of the day. Throw in the Greg Olsen injury, and it was a costly win for Carolina.
Someone Lift the Voodoo Curse Placed on the Chargers Special Teams: I mean, special teams has cost them multiple games in each of the past two seasons. Their first punt on the season, they allowed a 91-yard touchdown return. After cutting the lead to 11 and forcing a punt early in the fourth quarter, J.J. Jones muffed it and gave it back to the Chiefs at their own 1, leading to a touchdown. That’s 14 points given up on terrible special teams play. And a late Caleb Sturgis shank from 48 yadrs for good measure. Stop it, Chargers special teams.
Landry Jones Should Tweet Too: He of the perfect 3-0 career record as a starter against the Browns. Or, maybe neither of them should tweet, especially the guy drawing the ire of teammates.
— Le'Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) September 9, 2018
Odell vs. Ramsey Looked Like a Draw: Tough to say without seeing the All-22, but it looked like a lot of cushion for OBJ, as the Jaguars turned him inside to linebackers waiting for him on catch-and-run stuff.
Fear for Deshaun Watson: You really should be able to hold up against a pretty mild Patriots pass rush. It might be a surprisingly long Year 2 for Watson, whose goal might just be to make it through 16 games.
Lightning at Hard Rock Stadium: It feels like if you truly were a “hard rock” stadium, you’d consider the lightning to be pyrotechnics and play through it while cranking “Holy Diver” at dangerously loud decibel levels. Rest assured, Ronnie James Dio would be ashamed of these lightning delays.
Obviously, I’m Kidding About the Above Note: But as far as I’m concerned, I’ve never been more proud of anything I’ve ever written.
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Shawn Williams, Early Dismissal: Technically not under any of the new rules. A dumb, reckless hit on a player already being tackled anyway. It doesn’t help that it’s a superstar quarterback coming off a season lost to injury.
Bengals Shawn Williams ejected on a clear helmet violation pic.twitter.com/dJ8TZdKW1i— Melissa Jacobs (@thefootballgirl) September 9, 2018
Saquon Barkley: Is neat.
Andre Branch: Venmo CommishRog@NFL.com. That’s some dirty pool, mister.
Tennessee Titan Taylor Lewan appears to be knocked unconscious after hit in Miamipic.twitter.com/rgVMkfY5yf— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) September 9, 2018
They Call Him Fejedelem: Defensive Player of the Year front-runner as long as he can keep up this pace of one scoop-and-score touchdown per game.
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Did Saints D Max Out Last Year?: The turnaround was so drastic a year ago, as both Cam Jordan and Marshon Lattimore performed at a Defensive Player of the Year level. No one would have predicted Ryan Fitzpatrick dropping 48 in the Super Dome, but some natural regression was probably in order. They might need Drew Brees to be Superman again if they’re going to retain that Super Bowl contender status.
The Steelers Will Need Le’Veon Bell: I haven’t taken a close look at the schedule, but I don’t believe the league set them up for a Globetrotters vs. Washington Generals-like season-long series with the Browns. Pittsburgh is going to play teams that will actually score points against them, and will beat them by 30 if they turn it over six times. James Conner is a starting-caliber runner and early-down force, but Bell brings a passing-game element that Conner simply does not. On principle—based on the absurdity of the franchise tag—I like what Bell is doing. I don’t know if the plan is to force a lightened workload to make him more appealing to teams as a free agent next offseason, but giving up $850,000 a week when you’ll likely never get paid at that rate again is a curious business decision. The Steelers will need him back if they’re going to compete with the Patriots, Jaguars and the rest. Something has to give here.
Cam on the Run [sang to the tune of “Band on the Run”]: Norv Turner is a man of his word: 13 rushing attempts for Cam. Can Newton avoid the kind of nagging injuries that have plagued him since his MVP 2015 season?
The AFC West: Make that 19 wins in their last 21 against division opponents for the Chiefs. I’ll let David Byrne take it from here.
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