Reacting and overreacting to everything that happened in the Week 6 Sunday afternoon games…
Things That Made Me Giddy
Steelers Punch That Browns O-Line in the Face: Again and again. And again and again and again. Then they gave them a swirlie, a wedgie and the dreaded rear admiral. My point is, what the Steelers defense did to the Browns up front was bordering on obscenity, and if it got any worse the FCC was going to have to step in.
Bears D Delivers the Splash Plays Chicago Needs: One of their three takeaways was a gift from Mike Davis on an open-field fumble—less a strip and more Davis forgetting he was holding a football. But in Carolina the defense had two picks and four sacks of Teddy Bridgewater, who they hassled throughout the day. The 5-1 record feels a little more real when the defense has a day like that (though it still doesn’t feel real because the offense is so crummy).
Derrick Henry Saves Christmas: Ryan Tannehill has been a great fit in that Titans offense and engineered a beautiful game-tying drive, but the quarterback also almost blew it with his two giveaways on Sunday. It was Henry who won this game. There was the 94-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. And the fact that the Titans went Henry in the wildcat on a third-and-goal from the 5 in overtime tells you a lot about what they think of their running back and their quarterback.
Joe Judge Is on the Board!: Good on him, and now there’s no need to call the roster in to run gassers at 3 a.m. tonight.
Julio Jones Plays Football Again: Eight catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns in his return to the lineup as the Falcons jumped on the Vikings early. The below play is goofy, from the Matt Ryan will-he-or-won’t-he at the line of scrimmage to rookie CB Jeff Gladney’s questionable decision to try out rollerblades for the first time in his life during an NFL game, but Julio stiff-arming linebacker Eric Smith and staying in bounds while he does is reminiscent of the good ol’ days.
Philip Rivers Rallies: It was the junior ranger kit, but after last week’s meltdown in Cleveland (which had a lot to do with the absence of LT Anthony Castonzo, who was back on Sunday), it was good to see the Colts climb back from a 21-0 deficit to avoid disaster against the Bengals on Sunday. Rivers finished 29-for-44 for 371, 3 TDs and an INT.
Bud Dupree Will Be a Wealthy Man: He had two sacks and two tackles for loss, taking rookie LT Jedrick Wills to school repeatedly. Dupree also had a play where he chased down Austin Hooper on a second-and-long and de-cleated him from behind—just one of those surprisingly violent tackles. But back to the original point: Dupree is going to have a chance to name his own price this offseason if he keeps this up, and there’s no reason to think he won’t.
Daniel Jones’s First TD Pass Since St. Swithin’s Day: The heat he’s taken this year has been largely unwarranted—he’s made strides and it’s reasonable he could establish himself as a franchise QB before his rookie deal expires. But it was nice to see Abracadaniel snap a four-game TD-less streak by laying in a first-quarter touchdown to Darius Slayton.
Brandon McManus Gets Two-Thirds of the Way to the Number of the Beast: The Broncos ultimately needed his six-for-six on field goals. (I’m also not sure how any kicker, statistically, would get to 6-6-6. Maybe 6-for-66? Or 6-for-6 with a 66-yarder?)
Carson Wentz: Tell everybody waiting for a Superman / That they should try to hold on best they can / He hasn’t dropped them, forgot them, or anything / It’s just too heavy for a Superman to lift. (Another absurd performance from Wentz against a defense that had his unit badly outmanned. The Eagles were a two-point conversion away from forcing overtime against Baltimore.)
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Baker Mayfield on Third Downs: Why yes, I did write about this in Football Things. The Browns offense works on early downs with a combination of zone-rushing attack and play-action boot stuff, on which Mayfield gets out into those wide-open spaces. This offense—and Mayfield, specifically—has issues in obvious passing situations (and you could point to the rib injury or the excellence of the Steelers defense, but it’s been an issue all year). Mayfield’s movements inside a traditional pocket—sliding to find throwing lanes, the subtle moves that, for instance, make Drew Brees Drew Brees—aren’t anywhere near as sharp as they have to be for a 6-foot quarterback. You can’t point out that field vision is an issue for an undersized quarterback without being told you love Brock Osweiler, but field vision is an obvious issue with Mayfield, who was utterly hopeless deciphering blurry coverages post-snap on both interceptions against the Steelers. During their four-game winning streak, Cleveland benefited from early takeaways that created big leads; they didn’t get that in Pittsburgh. They went 1-for-9 on third down while Mayfield was in the lineup. With the investment they’ve made in the supporting cast, Mayfield can’t be such a limited quarterback. We’re good as long as we get three takeaways is not a formula for beating quality opponents.
Cam Is Back (But Not Better Than Ever): Anytime you lose as a 10-point home favorite it’s concerning. But the fact that Josh McDaniels felt the need to resort to multiple gadget plays in the fourth quarter is especially concerning. The Patriots don’t plan on playing from behind often, but they didn’t look capable of doing so on Sunday.
Kirk Cousins Starts Bad and Stays Bad: Cousins made a couple brutal mistakes early against the Falcons, and the Vikings just aren’t really equipped to play from behind.
Drew Lock’s Return: It was good to see him back! And expectations had to be reasonable for a trip to Foxboro. But he sure made things unnecessarily interesting in a game the Broncos led comfortably throughout.
Just, Like, Everything About the Jaguars: Don’t worry though, there’s a lot of good young talent that will blossom in a couple years, just in time to be alienated by the front office, then franchise-tagged and traded for Day 2 picks.
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Moments We’ll Tell Our Grandkids About
Matthew Stafford as Kent Tekulve: To be clear I’m not really dating myself because even I’m too young to have seen Kent Tekulve. But I know he threw like that. Did I ruin the joke? Was there even a joke to ruin in the first place? Anyway, neat throw.
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside Is on the Board: We give him plenty of flack around these parts, but this is a big hustle play on the downfield block, and then he’s rewarded with the fumble recovery in the end zone. Good on him.
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What We’ll Be Talking About This Week
Yeah, the Eagles Will Be Fine: Sunday wasn’t pretty, but they were also out-manned by that Ravens defense. The Eagles are through the Steelers-Ravens back-to-back at a time when their offense is still finding its way. The Cowboys aren’t going anywhere with the NFC East, and Philly gets Giants-Cowboys-Giants coming up. Give them a 72% chance of winning the division.
I’m Good With Romeo Crennel Going for Two: The Texans had taken a seven-point lead and tried to stretch it to nine. If they got it, the game was over. They didn’t, and the Titans were able to tie it at the end of regulation with a touchdown plus PAT (rather than having to go for two). The way the Texans were having their way with a tired Titans defense, I was cool with it. So Coach Crennel has that going for him.
It’s Going to Be a Thing at Some Point Next Offseason: But do the Browns exercise Baker Mayfield’s fifth-year option? My guess is yes—the bigger question is the long-term commitment after that.
Gregg Williams Makes the Least Controversial Comments Ever: The Jets defense is indeed bad. But did people think the offense that ranks last in every significant category wasn’t putting the defense in difficult spots?
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