Welcome to the Week 3 edition of the Sunday FreakOut, where we react and overreact to everything that happened in the Sunday afternoon games. For the full Sunday roundup podcast-style, be sure to subscribe to The MMQB Podcast, in your feed every Monday morning...
Things That Made Me Giddy
Justin Tucker Becomes Immortal: In a game the Ravens really probably shouldn’t have won (lots of drops, 1-for-10 on third down, not to mention a blatant delay of game penalty the officials missed before the game-winning field goal). But the best kicker on the planet, even on a day when he uncharacteristically missed from 49, was there to bail them out. This is an NFL-record 66-yard kick, off the crossbar and through.
Matthew Stafford Continues to Look the Part: He didn’t tackle well in Detroit, and his track record when it came to draft selections for the Lions was extremely suspect. But as far as the things that a quarterback does, he’s basically the same guy he has been for the past decade, only now he’s surrounded by competence.
Raheem Morris Gets Sweet, Sweet Revenge: He got his head-coaching chance in Tampa more than a decade ago and they stuck him with Josh Freeman (while Bruce Arians gets to work with Tom Brady after failing to develop Jameis Winston). On Sunday, Morris’s defense made Brady look bad for the first time in a long time, and in the process answered a lot of questions regarding Morris having to follow Brandon Staley’s act in L.A.
Raiders Show Some Resolve: There’s something to be said for that feeling of déjà vu, with Jacoby Brissett playing the role of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Between the eight-point final possession for Miami, and the fourth-and-20 conversion on the Dolphins’ first possession of overtime, some teams would have leaned into that late-game fold. The Raiders, behind Derek Carr, came back and won it. Vegas is 3–0, same as the Broncos, but two games up on the last-place Chiefs.
Justin Herbert Is a Superstar: And good for the Chargers for acting like he is, getting aggressive on fourth down and letting their quarterback keep it out of Patrick Mahomes’s hands at the end of the game (after a false start on fourth-and-4 on the edge of field goal range late, they left the offense on the field and converted fourth-and-9 with a pass interference call). If the Chargers ever stop lining up wrong and drawing flags, this offense might be the NFL’s best.
Jacoby Brissett Makes His Case: He wasn’t sharp, but his mobility, arm talent and relative comfort operating from the pocket despite a shaky O-line added a level of competence to this Dolphins offense that they just haven’t had for a season-plus with Tua Tagovailoa under center. That was especially true when they needed a drive late. Tua is out for at least two more weeks, but if the Dolphins brass wants to give him one more look before shopping the QB market next offseason (they did, after all, throw away an entire season for the right to draft him), that’s going to be a tough sell to the locker room.
Lou Anarumo Owns the Steelers: Yeah, the Steelers are limping through the season anyway, but Anarumo’s Bengals defense has made them look especially bad in each of the rivals’ last two meetings. They’ve outschemed and out-physical’d Pittsburgh. And now Cincinnati is sitting at 2–1 and might be building toward something nice in 2021.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah Ruins Everything: In the first quarter against the Bears, the Browns’ second-round rookie linebacker beat Jason Peters to blow up a fourth-and-short run play and on the next possession sacked Fields on second-and-long on a green-dog blitz.
Josh Allen Late in the Down: He was back to his usual unstoppable self, on a windy day against a good WFT defense. As was the case a year ago (and will probably be the case for the next decade or so), two straight subpar performances does not spell doom for Allen.
Credit Aaron Glenn: Playing with a shorthanded unit (both because of injuries and the previous regime's mismanagement), the Lions' first-year DC kept Lamar Jackson in check in Detroit.
Ja’Marr Chase, Difficult to Defend: He was the clear-cut No. 1 receiver in the 2021 draft, and he has very much shown why through three games (220 yards, four touchdowns).
Arthur Smith Is on the Board!: It was anything but beautiful—this Falcons offense is a whole lot more Cordarrelle Patterson than you want to have in this day and age—but the Giants invited Atlanta to hang around and win a game, and the Falcons were more than happy to steal one late.
Odell Beckham Jr. Is Back!: And looked pretty good, even on an afternoon when the Browns were limited against a fierce Bears pass rush (and rightfully lacking urgency against a Chicago offense that wasn’t interested in points).
The Broncos Are, Like Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Taking Care of Business: No one is holding a parade to commemorate wins over the Giants, Jaguars and Jets, but good teams beat bad teams in the NFL, and Denver is sitting at 3–0 with a little bit of leeway as they prepare for a four-game run against the Ravens, Steelers, Raiders and Browns.
Hey Look, It’s DeSean Jackson!:
No Delay of Game?: That’s a full two seconds after the play clock hit zero. Tough time for the officials to take a nap.
The Plan for Justin Fields: Forty-seven yards on 42 plays. We’ll take a closer look later his week, but at first glance: yeesh. It looked pretty much like the Andy Dalton offense, but with a read-option look every eighth play. After the sharp regression of Mitchell Trubisky there is rightfully some hand-wringing about Matt Nagy trying to develop another high-first round pick in Chicago. It’s one game—and this Bears offensive line is incapable of handling the Browns' front four—but this won’t alleviate any concerns.
Bears Defense Isn’t Gonna Like This: They were swarming in Cleveland, but the Justin Fields–led offense looked awfully similar to, well, every version of the Bears offense that’s been trotted out over the past three-plus seasons.
Whoa Boy, the Last-Gasp Play From the Steelers: On fourth-and-goal from outside the 10, with the Bengals showing blitz, Ben Roethlisberger swung it out to the flat for Najee Harris, where zero blockers and four defenders were waiting for him. This was one possession after throwing well short of the end zone on a third-and-goal from a similar area on the field. It could have been the case of a quarterback getting fooled by a pre-snap disguise. But, on a day when Ben was getting hammered and the already shaky offensive line lost a couple bodies, it felt like one of the saddest white flags ever waved.
Joe Judge Chose This: The past two weeks, Daniel Jones has shown that he’s ready for something more. Judge and Jason Garrett have responded by serving up a sampler platter of disconnecting plays in an offense built around a run game that just isn’t very good, let alone dominant enough to carry them. That strategy means inferior teams will stay around with the Giants, and they’re always a bounce or two away from a game swinging one way or another. That’s why they’re sitting at 0–3 when they should be sitting at 2–1.
The Seahawks Defense Does Not Look Capable: Playing against the Colts’ struggling tackles (and their limited playbook) in Week 1 might led to some false hope. It’s been back-to-back ugly performances—they absolutely can not cover—as the season-opening win seems like it was a million years ago.
Man, Do the Steelers Miss T.J. Watt: You can see opposing quarterbacks breathing more easily in the pocket, especially when they work late into the down. Considering how listless they look on offense, Pittsburgh needs their biggest difference-maker back.
Mac Jones Does His Best “Tom Brady in December 2019” Impression: Jones is a guy who will have to be lifted by his supporting cast, especially early in his career, much like Brady is at this point in his career. On Sunday the Patriots couldn’t block the Saints, and there’s not a whole lot a young QB who doesn’t have the mobility to protect himself can do about that.
This Is Atrocious by Trevor Lawrence: Judging by the execution, must’ve been one of those plays they only practiced on the hundreds of first-team snaps they gave to Gardner Minshew this summer.
Colts in Goal-to-Go: After going 1-for-3 (with two turnovers) inside the opponent’s 10 in last week’s loss to the Rams, Indy settled for two chip-shot field goals after advancing inside the Titans’ 10 in Nashville. It's a big part of the reason they’re now 0–3 and 2 ½ back of the Titans in the AFC South.
Zach Wilson Is Learning Some Difficult Lessons: He makes a couple throws every week that make you say, “oh yes, that’s why.” But right now he is just completely overwhelmed by the speed of the NFL.
The Chargers Can’t Stop Shifting Illegally: One week after an illegal shift took a fourth-quarter touchdown off the board, another one negated a fourth-and-4 conversion—and a long gain at that—in the first half in Kansas City. And then yet another illegal shift took a touchdown off the board in the fourth quarter, eventually forcing them to settle for a game-tying field goal with a little more than two minutes left.
The Chargers Also Get Weird With Clock Management: Tristan Vizcaino missed a PAT in the wind at Arrowhead earlier, so… O.K. But in a tie game, on first-and-goal with 42 seconds left and the Chiefs having one only one timeout left, the Chargers could have bled the clock and tried the game-winning chip shot. Instead, they went with the fade to Mike Williams (a free one all day against Mike Hughes). It gave Mahomes one last shot, though the moral of the story is: All’s well that ends well.
Quenton Nelson, Terron Armstead and, Briefly, Brandon Scherff Go Down: Hug your All-Pro offensive lineman a little tighter at bedtime tonight.
Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Jamal Agnew From 109: Coming during a time when we were all younger and a little more naïve, and thought the Jaguars could protect a halftime lead in their own building.
You Can See Why the Jaguars Have Such a Tough Time Drawing Up an Offense for Trevor Lawrence:
Gronk’s Battered Ribs: He went to the locker room but returned after this hit. It wasn’t even a hospital ball—Brady threw it away from the defender—Terrell Lewis just exploded into him shoulder-first.
Derrick Henry With a Head of Steam:
Throw Late, Over the Middle, and With Your Eyes Closed...: And good things happen. Or so the old saying goes.
Shoeless Kirk Cousins: But thankfully not footless. (His shoe came off on the previous play and he couldn’t get it all the way back on. It was silly.)
A Kickoff, Recovered by the Very Man Who Kicked It: Following a 73-yard touchdown, Dustin Hopkins kicked into the wind and ended up recovering that same kick 46 yards downfield. How ironic.
What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
The Chiefs Have Some Issues: Facing a bunch of conservative, two-deep shells are nothing new, but the K.C. defense consistently collapsing late is. Right now, the Chiefs are getting stuck in one-possession games that are swinging on late turnovers. They’ll be fine in the long run, but it doesn’t bode well for January football (which, to be fair, is also a long way away).
Carson Wentz Looks… Fine: I know, you’re supposed to say he’s either the worst quarterback in the NFL or the most under-supported quarterback in the NFL. Through three games he looks like a talented reclamation project who missed the summer and isn’t comfortable with his receivers or his protection (the latter of which has slid back in 2021). If you were optimistic about the Wentz-Reich marriage last spring, there hasn’t really been anything to change your mind. The schedule will get a little lighter, and that's when Indy needs to start stacking wins.
Urban Meyer’s Staff Oversees a Spectacular Collapse: A pretty good microcosm of his NFL tenure to this point.
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