- Plus, Mahomes on cruise control, Brees-less Saints get it done, Steelers are punchless, Kyle Allen is sharp again, Packers winning despite uneven offense, Bills rally in Buffalo, Lions stay unbeaten, Vinatieri rides again, onside dropkicks and much more.
Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened in the Sunday afternoon games. Get the full Sunday breakdown 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
The Superheroics of Daniel Jones: They call him “Danny Dimes” because the vanity plate on his Pontiac Aztec intended to express his love of eating three square meals daily—“Danny Dines”—was subject to a clerical error. However, the nickname could take on a new meaning after his strong passing day in his first career start. Jones was pretty good within structure. He was outstanding late in the down. And he was spectacular late in the game. He has to develop a better feel for securing the ball when things get muddy—if anything, he was too cool in the pocket. It might be too early to get working on his bust in Canton, but, y’know, maybe if he plays well again next week.
Jacoby Brissett Becoming More Than Just a Game Manager: The Colts padded the lead in the first half through the air, and Brissett sealed the game with perfect execution on an RPO on a great third-and-medium call. He finished 28-for-37 for 310 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. The Colts can win games in a variety of ways.
Deshaun Watson Creating Magic: You hold your breath because of the kind of hits he tends to take, but Watson made a couple of huge plays late in the down as the Texans held on in L.A.
Kyle Allen Can Keep the Panthers on Schedule: For what it’s worth, he looked pretty good in a meaningless Week 17 game in New Orleans last year. And on Sunday he looked sharp again, in Arizona. It’s not a QB controversy with Cam, but it’s at least confusing as to why they drafted Will Grier.
The Rich Baritone of Aaron Rodgers: Bradley Chubb thought the ball was being snapped. But, ironically, it was not. (And the long touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling followed.)
Ravens Go For It From Their Side of the Field: On a fourth-and-2 in the first half. And they didn’t get it. But you know what? In 2019, NFL football is a game that rewards the aggressors. John Harbaugh is doing it right.
Kirk Cousins Gets Right: It felt like more like a joint practice with a Raiders team that was completely out-classed, but after looking so erratic and unsure in Green Bay last week (and falling down on the first play from scrimmage this week), Cousins bounced back nicely.
A Buffalo-Style Winning Drive: With the proper amount of urgency. Josh Allen did it with his arm and his legs and Frank Gore capped it off. They went 78 yards in seven plays and faced only one third down along the way.
Jamal Agnew’s Wheels: It’s been a couple years since he had a return TD (and those were both on punts), but the stud return specialist gave the Lions a lead early.
Dalvin Cook: Pretty much everything he does, but especially this:
Matthew Stafford Vs. the Free Runner: With Andrew Sendejo bearing down, Stafford’s sidearm flick on third-and-4 at the end of the third quarter found Marvin Jones on the deep crosser. That was the key play on a touchdown drive that proved to be the game-winner.
Mecole Hardman: And this isn’t even the 83-yard touchdown he caught. Hardman made what should’ve been a significant loss into a solid gain (and all that with Patrick Mahomes selfishly refusing to lead-block!).
Adam Vinatieri Is Good Again: Perfect on five kicks (three PATs, field goals of 49 and 21 yards). Whew, that was a close one.
Malcolm Jenkins Is Everywhere You Want Him to Be: Specifically, the star safety blocked a Matt Prater field goal to put Philly in great position for a comeback in the final two minutes.
Kyler Murray’s Legs: It was a rough day for the rookie, but it was good to see his legs incorporated more, both in the read-option and on a few scrambles.
Dawson Knox After the Catch: No wonder they gave him Pete Metzelaars’s jersey number!
Patriots Defense Is Allowing 1.0 Points Per Game This Season: (The Jets’ 14 points on Sunday came on a muffed punt recovered for a touchdown and a Jamal Adams pick-six of Jarrett Stidham.)
Aaron Rodgers, Off-Schedule All the Time: The supporting cast has been better and the defense has been great this season, which is why the Packers are 3-0 while the offense has been just as disjointed as it was a year ago.
Sure, Tough Day for Lamar Jackson: Early, he was showing all the good habits he had displayed through the first two weeks. Things went a little sideways, his supporting cast got outplayed, and he looked shaky as the day went on, but he still did enough out-of-structure to keep the Ravens hanging around. His bad day was still mighty impressive.
The Penalty on Keanu Neal Is an Insult to Human Decency: This crew needs to get a grip—they got together and discussed the flag and still didn’t do the obviously right thing. It came after a first-and-goal incomplete pass on which Neal suffered a ruptured Achilles. Afterward he slammed his helmet on the ground. As trainers tended to Neal—who at this point is in tears—and a cart came out to get him, referee Alex Kemp announced the penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct because he removed his helmet. If you lack common sense to this extent, you are unfit to officiate an NFL game.
The Rudolph-Led Steelers Offense: Yeesh. Aside from two busted coverages they took advantage of (which, to be clear, is a good thing)—and with a boost from five 49ers turnovers—there was little in the way of consistent offense from the Steelers. They had 241 yards on 51 plays (4.7 per). So outside the two long TDs, they had 2.6 yards per play, which works fine if you’re willing to go for it on fifth down on every series.
It Kinda Felt Like This for the Seahawks in All Three Games: When you have Russell Wilson on one side of the ball and Bobby Wagner on the other, you’re never out of the playoff conversation. But they squeeked by the Bengals at home, and held on against the aforementioned Mason Rudolph on the road. They didn’t look good early last season either before turning it around, but you wonder if they’ve sunk to a firm third in the NFC West.
Saquon Barkley Can’t Put Weight On It: He suffered the highest of ankle sprains and needed help just getting to the locker room (and then came out in a boot and crutches to celebrate the win). Luckily for the Giants, they have a quarterback now.
Can You Find the Penalty On This Play?: Because the officials could not. (Hint: Look at Miles Sanders’s helmet. If you still can’t see it, maybe unfocus your eyes maybe, like a magic eye poster.)
James Conner’s Ball Security: He doesn’t fumble that often, but they seem to come at the worst times imaginable. On Sunday, he coughed one up in his own territory with the Steelers protecting a three-point lead in the final six minutes. The 49ers were in the end zone with the winning touchdown a few minutes later. (Maybe Pittsburgh can make the Jets an offer for Le’Veon Bell?)
Carson Wentz Misses His Friends: Seven drops by Eagles receivers, including one by rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (on a tough play) downfield around the goal line, on fourth-and-15, on their final play.
Adam Gase Has Gotta Be Bold: It’s not that the draw play on third-and-15 lost seven. It’s that they ran a draw play on third-and-15 early on. The Jets were not going to be in a field position battle in Foxboro.
Unfair to Keanu Neal: A ruptured Achilles for the Falcons’ underappreciated safety, a major injury for the second straight season.
Tampa Kickers Are Forever Cursed: Though, at least rookie Matt Gay was willing to play along with the Daniel Jones narrative when he pushed the 34-yarder as time expired. Gay also missed a PAT and had another one blocked in this one (though he also connected on four field goals, including a 52-yarder).
Broncos D Splash Plays Are a Myth: Zero sacks and zero takeaways through three games. That is wild, and especially problematic on a day like Sunday in Green Bay when their offense had three giveaways and allowed six sacks.
That Wasn’t a Terribly Creative Saints Offense: Granted, touchdowns by the special teams and defense opened up a lead and they could afford to be conservative. But other than that, it was some Alvin Kamara heroics and little else.
A Chance to Lead in an NFL Game Slips Through the Dolphins’ Fingers: A one-handed 40-yard catch by DeVante Parker set up what was eventually a 47-yard field goal attempt for Jason Sanders on the opening drive, and he missed it.
The Flails of Tyler Lockett: I’m not gonna hold it against him because it’s just gamesmanship. But for the second straight week Lockett drew a suspect flag by flailing his arms straight up at a moment when his arms, physiologically and biomechanically, would not flail if he was actually the victim of a penalty. NFL officials have enough trouble properly calling these games and Lord knows the rulebook doesn’t need to be expanded, but do we need to start penalizing/fining players for flopping? I might be considering thinking about whispering that the answer is maybe.
The Soft, Gentle Coverage of the Houston Texans’ Defensive Backfield: Four defensive backs lining up five yards behind the sticks then immediately backing up out of the end zone. Approximately. All game long. It’s like an homage to the 2018 Cincinnati Bengals.
The Giants Defense Would Give Up 40 to the Washington Generals: They are brutally bad. There’s no pass rush, and James Bettcher has to come up with a new game plan, perhaps one that consistently drops 11 into coverage.
Brandon McManus’s PAT Streak Snapped: At 89, it had been the longest in the NFL. I’ll never forget where I was when the streak ended: sitting by myself, typing on a laptop.
“Interstate Love Song” in a Car Commercial: Is nothing sacred, Madison Avenue?
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Kirk Cousins: Master of the Pratfall: And he was so proud of his skill, he showed it off on the game’s first play from scrimmage.
Phillip Lindsay on the Eighth Effort:
The Onside Dropkick: Because there is nothing Justin Tucker can’t do.
Lamar Jackson Is a Bully: Mean!
The Bonking of Pete Carroll: And the shattering of his nose.
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Saints Might Survive This: One Brees-less game down, maybe four or five to go? They’re playing with a not-very-good No. 2 QB, so going on the road against a 2018 playoff team and getting a win must feel especially good. And with the Falcons sputtering, things are looking pretty sunny for New Orleans.
Colts Are For Real: It’s been only three weeks, but they have looked—to use an exact measurement—miles better than the other three teams in the AFC South and fully capable of making noise in January.
The Steelers Are Probably Done: Their offense looked terrible in Mason Rudolph’s first start. The defense got some takeaways, though three of them were gifts and they allowed 436 yards of offense. It doesn’t look like they have the answers in that building.
Patrick Mahomes Will Be MVP Again, Huh?: The funny thing is, every week he is inches from disaster on some risky downfield throw. But he never gets burned, and at this point it’s time to accept that the luck/skill matrix on those plays is probably 100% skill.
Questions About Antonio Brown: Nope. No no no no. The curmudgeon schtick doesn’t work on this one, and you can get bent with the stare-down of Dana Jacobson. Someone in the Patriots organization must realize that someone in their leadership (owner, coach, maybe even quarterback), at some point, must address the fact that Antonio Brown was welcomed into their building with apparently little to no vetting despite what most would charitably describe as a month of erratic behavior, and how Brown was made to feel so empowered that he thought it appropriate to threaten an accuser while he was part of the Patriots organization. Even if the explanation is, “We really screwed up” (which, hey, sometimes that’s the way it is). That is accountability at its most base level. Until then, Belichick should be asked about Brown at literally every media availability.
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