- Plus, the Patrick Mahomes Traveling Road Show brings thrills and chills to Pittsburgh, questionable (ahem) call on Clay Matthews, Case Keenum makes things interesting, Foles‘s potential last start for Philly, Aaron Rodgers looks good, the Falcons get it right in the red zone, Darnold is a dud in Game 2, a bad day for kickers, Texans still struggling, Colts D overachieving and much more
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
That’s Why You Signed Kirk Cousins: Yup, he caught a lucky break on that Clay Matthews roughing penalty that shouldn’t have been, but after that he made a bunch of big-time throws on the game-tying drive. This was a game that the Vikings trailed by two possessions at two different points in the fourth quarter, Cousins put them in position for overtime field goals twice, and they end up with a tie in Green Bay. As Kirk’s signature catchphrase goes: Did you enjoy the thing I just did? Yes. Yes, we did enjoy the thing you just did.
FitzMagic II: The Fitzening: He’s at his most dangerous inside his own 30-yard line. Bad Fitz will surely rear his bearded head at some points—ask Bills and Jets fans. But right now, dude has 13.5 yards per attempt and eight touchdowns after facing what were two of the NFL’s top defenses last season. He is unreal right now. And he looked very handsome when it was all over.
Bucs Can Also Rush the Passer. Nice!: That was the issue last season, so this is encouraging.
Patrick Mahomes Is Incredibly Rude: Showing up in other people’s buildings and doing what he’s been doing to these defenses. He’s certainly not welcome in my home.
That Rams Defense Might be Terrifying: Let’s not get carried away; the linebackers are still a concern and the edge rushers are kinda meh. But my goodness do they cover—the corners and the safeties—and then there’s Suh and Donald.
Tyrod to Callaway: If you’re rolling with Tyrod Taylor (and, again, if you have Baker Mayfield you shouldn’t be), that that deep shot to tie the game was the kind of play you set up for him frequently. He’s limited as a passer, but his deep-ball accuracy is outstanding.
Blake Bortles Lowering the Shoulder: Not a great habit to get into, but if you’re going to treat a matchup with the Patriots like the Super Bowl in September, go for it, guy! Bortles and the Jags stayed aggressive and rolled up 481 yards of offense, going 10-for-14 on third downs.
Chiefs Special Teams Are Special. Teams.: Setting things up early again. Last week it was Tyreek Hill with the 91-yard punt return TD to set things up, this time it was De’Anthony Thomas with a 48-yard punt return to the Steelers’ 10 to set up the first score.
God Loves Jimmy Garoppolo: I mean, first he made him look like that. But then he pulled back what might have been a game-losing interception by inspiring an official to call a ticky-tack defensive holding call away from the ball (to be clear, there have been much more ticky-tack calls over the years, this one wasn’t egregious. A saying I made up and like to say at times like this: “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”
Colts D, Not Bad: Let’s not go nuts, it was only Alex Smith. But they put some heat on Andy Dalton last week—something the Ravens didn’t do on Thursday night. And they got the best of a Washington run game that steamrolled the Cardinals last week. First-year defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus has a serious lack of talent he’s working with, and through two weeks they’ve overachieved as much as any unit in football.
Josh Allen Pretty Good, All Things Considered: Remember, with that offensive line he’s basically playing seven-on-seven, but against an 11-man defense. The Chargers took their foot off the pedal, but this one could have gone much, much worse.
Falcons Get in the Red Zone and Score… Touchdowns?: Four red-zone trips, four touchdowns for Steve Sarkisian’s group. Weird!
Titans Use the Power of Imagination: A fake punt TD, Derrick Henry threw one. It was an ugly weather day, at home, against a superior division opponent, with the starting quarterback out. Nice work by that coaching staff.
Case Keenum Will Give You a Heart Attack: The Broncos took their first lead with six seconds left in the game, as Keenum overcame a day of less-than-ideal ball placement to take the offense 62 yards on 10 plays to set up that game-winning score. It’s going to be a wild year in Denver.
Larry Ogunjobi Rules: It takes a great player to don uniform No. 65, and that’s what Ogunjobi wears for Cleveland. He has to be the top line of Sashi Brown’s résumé going forward.
Tampa Had the Eagles in a Third-and-41: Three penalties on blocks set it up. Did the champs convert? I’m not gonna spoil it for you Game Pass viewers.
Dolphins Are For Real: I knew it. Rohan knows it. Now you know it. (And by "for real," I mean capable of going 9-7 and stealing a Wild-Card spot in the AFC.)
Browns’ Fumble Fortune: Well, this will have him hanging around. The old Football Outsiders (you want their annual almanac, by the way) rule of thumb: Fumble recoveries are luck, expect to get them at a 50/50 rate. So far this season, Browns opponents have fumbled five times and the Browns have recovered all five. The Browns themselves have fumbled three times and have recovered all three. The kicking woes have been bad luck, but this is something else.
Carr-to-Cooper As It Always Should Have Been: It’s not exactly an explosive offense, but Marshawn Lynch was grinding it out and Derek Carr was more aggressive, and this time he found Amari Cooper (9 catches, 103 yards, then one more meaningless one to wrap things up). The victory got away from them, but there were encouraging signs for the offense.
Johnny Hekker Can Place-Kick Too: With Greg Zuerlein out with a groin injury, Hekker came on and hit a 20-yard field goal and a PAT, four key points as they just held off the Cardinals.
Dirk Koetter, We Salute You: And credit ownership in Tampa for keeping him around. Dude can coach.
Sam Darnold, Taking Some Queues From the Lions After Last Week: It’s good it came now; the hype train was getting out of control. Darnold is still as promising as any of this year’s impressive rookie QBs. It’s going to be an up-and-down year though.
The Texans Look Disjointed: Deshaun Watson’s stat line will please fantasy owners, but Houston ultimately needed two long TDs to hang in with the Titans on a messy weather day. That final play—on which with 17 seconds and no timeouts, Watson ran off 10 second scrambling in the backfield, crossed the line of scrimmage, ran back (a flag wasn’t thrown because the game ended), and then threw to DeAndre Hopkins in the middle of the field to kill the remaining seconds, will not be remembered fondly since a move into field-goal range was a possibility. There’s no need to panic yet, but it’s a reminder that Watson has only made eight career starts, he’s a unique talent who takes some getting used to for his supporting cast, and the offensive line stinks. They get their home opener next week against the Giants.
Your Rookie Kicker: Whoa, boy. Daniel Carlson goes wide-right three times for the Vikings, including from 35 with a chance to win it in overtime. It’s time to get some vets in the building.
Vontae Davis Retires at Halftime: On one hand, I guess it’s up to the man if he wants to go out on his own terms. On the other hand, you’ve made a commitment when you suit up on Sunday—was Davis caught off-guard that the Bills were getting their butts handed to them by a far more talented team? After last year’s fluke-filled accidental run to the playoffs, Sean McDermott is going to have his hands full with this locker room.
Matthew Stafford Is Really Close: Shades of the Falcons last year, where a handful of deep shots were overthrown by inches. The Lions have issues, but a big play or two going their way would do a lot to cover up those flaws.
Patriots Didn’t Have the Wideouts to Beat Jacksonville: With the way the Jaguars can guard Gronkowski—the corners are special, but having Telvin Smith, Myles Jack and Tashaun Gipson up the middle is something few teams can replicate (and it helps when the officials let ’em play). Things will be more interesting in January assuming Julian Edelman is around, though the Jaguars certainly made a statement in this one.
Bring on Josh Rosen: I’m not sure specifically why, but Sam Bradford hurt his knee last September and then turned into Nathan Peterman from the future. Rosen and Baker Mayfield were the two most pro-ready options in this year’s draft; it’s time for the rookie.
The Lions are supposed to Have the Special Teams Edge: On Monday they gave up 137 yards worth of punt return yardage on three returns, including a 78-yard TD. On Sunday, they gave up a 90-yard kickoff return to open the second half, leading to a quick seven points. Considering they have one of the game’s top return specialists in Jamal Agnew, they shouldn’t be getting their pants pulled down every week in the return game.
That Chiefs Defense: It’s gonna feel like the Chiefs are playing in Big 12 games all season long.
They Gotta Stop Handing Out Uniform No. 2 in Cleveland: Couch. Manziel. Poor, poor Zane.
Terrell Edmunds Trying to Tackle Kareem Hunt: Aw, you got the sideline, too, guy!
Someone Help Fouts Out on the Illegal Forward Pass Rule!: Dan Fouts is absolutely one of the best, but someone in the truck had to help him out when he repeatedly claimed Ben Roethlisberger had thrown an illegal forward pass because the ball was beyond the line of scrimmage. Rule 8, Article 2, Item 1(a): It is a forward pass from beyond the line of scrimmage if the passer’s entire body and the ball are beyond the line of scrimmage when the ball is released, whether the passer is airborne or touching the ground.
Relegate the Arizona Cardinals: The roster isn’t even that bad. The fact that they haven’t been competitive (yes, it was at L.A. today, but at home against Washington?) is… meh, I don’t know. It’s just, like, really disappointing.
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
That Clay Matthews Roughing the Passer Call?: My goodness, that’s as dicey as it gets. And by “dicey,” I mean atrocious. Officials are adjusting to new rules, but Tony Corrente has to be better than that.
Clay Matthews with the cleanest sack I’ve seen and it gets called for a 15 yard penalty.... National Flag Football League!!!!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/16kFFCPdhg— Abdul Memon (@abdulamemon) September 16, 2018
Keelan Cole Should Donate His Second Hand to a Family in Need This Holiday Season:
Domantae Kazee, Filthy in a Bad Way: Sure, things are a little different when the quarterback coming at you outweighs you by 60 pounds. But this is unacceptable. The already short-handed Falcons defense is probably going to be short another player next week.
Kazee is gonna be ejected for this. Late hit, helmet to helmet pic.twitter.com/hxZf3vJvqQ— Carlton (@SlopingGiraffe) September 16, 2018
Kevin Byard, Touch: He’s got Blaine Gabbert looking over his shoulder.
This Ryan Tannehill Fumble: Even Mark Sanchez would be blushing.
Ryan Tannehill just drops the ball on the ground.pic.twitter.com/Q8wKGZ1voD— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 16, 2018
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Changing of the Guard in the AFC! Or Something!: Yes, it’s way too early to talk about homefield advantage in the playoffs, but the Jaguars are now a game-and-a-half up on the Patriots in what figures to be a battle for the AFC’s top seed. The Patriots were a weapon or two short in this one (it was Danny Amendola last January, it could be Julian Edleman in a rematch). But, perhaps more importantly, the Jaguars stayed aggressive and showed everyone that they can close out the Patriots, and on Sunday they did it with ease.
Quarterback Controversy in Tampa: It might not even be a controversy; at this rate, the Jameis Winston era might be over. If Ryan Fitzpatrick does to an injury-plagued Steelers defense what he just did the first two weeks of the season to two superior defenses, the Bucs can’t possibly go back to Winston.
Aaron Rodgers Looked Like He Was, Let’s Say, 80%: He moved around much better than he did in the second half last Sunday night. He even decided to keep it on a zone-read play in overtime (it might have worked if he didn’t Mark Sanchez it up and knock the ball out of his own hands). Still, all is well.
Foles’s Finale: I wrote about it this morning, and it sounds like Carson Wentz will be back next week. If this was the last we saw of Nick Foles—and he made a couple of nice throws under pressure, though his arm strength looks weirdly zapped—is he starting for someone next season?
Calls for Baker Mayfield: Yes, the Browns could very well be sitting at 2-0 considering the turnover breaks they’ve gotten through two weeks. Tyrod Taylor, though the game-tying TD to Antonio Callaway was superb, has been his usual over-conservative self and has even sprinkled in a couple of devastating INTs. But if you’ve held back your NFL-ready No. 1 overall pick to this point, you’re not going to throw him in there on a short week, against a Todd Bowles defense.
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