Adam Gase, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Bill Belichick, Bill O'Brien, Bill Walsh, Blaine Gabbert, Buffalo Bills, Clay Matthews, Detroit Lions, Drew Brees, Green Bay Packers, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jimmy Garroppolo, Jon Gruden, Josh Allen, Josh Gordon, julian Edleman, Marcus Mariota, Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants, NFL, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans, The Score Takes Care of Itslef, William Hayes
So Wednesday marks the transition from one NFL week to the next as I move from catching up on games and highlights, evaluating the news to preparing to make picks, even if I won’t start the coaching tape for Week three until tomorrow, but more of that later.
I’m currently reading The Score Take Care of Itself by Bill Walsh, and whilst I haven’t got very far yet, the section on the 49ers losing to the Miami Dolphins and coping with adversity rings ever so true. This week we have some coaches who will be facing down despair and problems, whilst others will have taken a moment to savour a win before swiftly moving on to the next week’s game.
The usual king of this, as exemplified by his famous, ‘We’re on to Cincinnati.’ press conference back in 2014, is Bill Belichick who will be trying to turn around the fortunes of his 1-2 team who got thoroughly outplayed by the Detroit Lions. I’m not sure too many people saw that one coming and we had a couple of reminders in week 3 of the old maxim that anything could happen on any given Sunday. The Patriots struggled on offensive as they continue to falter when running the ball and haven’t found the right mix in the passing game. We may see Josh Gordon if they can get him worked into the mix this week and after they take on the Dolphins this weekend they will have Julian Edelman back from suspension but it could take a while for this be sorted. I’m not going to overreact as it is early and I’ve written several times about how the Patriots plan to peak later in the season but for context the Patriots haven’t lost three straight since 2002 when they had a four game losing streak and missed out on the playoffs (they still had a winning 9-7 record).
Perhaps more surprising even than the Lions getting a win over the Patriots was the Buffalo Bills travelling to Minnesota and beating the Vikings 27-6 as Josh Allen managed to rushing touchdowns as well as a passing one. The Vikings will be looking to shake things off quickly as they are on the road in LA for the Thursday night game against the Rams and I’ve heard several people suggest that the Vikings had one eye on this game and that is why they had such a surprisingly poor game against a team they overlooked. I always find such talk a little troubling as I have no way of verifying and the infrastructure for the Vikings is such that my default would be to think it was an aberration that will quickly be righted but given the Packers (who the Vikings drew with last week) lost to Washington this week and the only team the Vikings have beat are the 49ers there is perhaps some concern that there might be deeper problems. Definitely one to keep and eye on, whilst I will have to take a look at Josh Allen on coaching tape this week to find out just how he managed to lead the Bills to a comfortable win.
In fact, there’s quite a lot I wish I could watch in more details including games I didn’t even see the highlights for. Apart from the two upsets I have already mentioned, the New York Giants travelled to the Houston Texans and won, surely placing even more pressure on head coach Bill O’Brien, whilst the Tennessee Titans managed to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars despite starting Blaine Gabbert and then having to play Marcus Mariota despite the limitations he has from a nerve injury when Gabbert was ruled out the game with a concussion. It has to be said that Mike Vrabel has done well to win two games given his quarterback situation and whilst it is far too small a sample size to draw any big conclusions about him as a coach, it is encouraging. Less encouraging is a third loss for Oakland Raiders under Jon Gruden who along with the Arizona Cardinals join the Texans as the only teams yet to register a win this season.
The Atlanta Falcons lost a barnstormer of a game 42-37 to the New Orleans Saints, with Drew Brees spinning to get the winning score and the Falcons losing a second starting safety for the season to injury so things are getting increasingly tough for them.
Sadly for the San Francisco 49ers, Jimmy Garoppplo was lost for the season with a torn ACL as he tried to gain some extra yards rushing out of bounds. There has been a lot of focus on the steps the NFL are taking to protect the quarterbacks and with the effect losing that one player has on a team I can understand it up to a point. However, with another seemingly form tackle by Clay Matthews resulting in a penalty, not to mention the string of penalties some linemen are picking up in games the new interpretation of the roughing the passer penalty is definitely a huge talking point. In fact the Dolpins (who I’m sure Dan would like me to remind you are 3-0) lost William Hayes to a torn ACL on a sack that head coach Adam Gase is blaming on the new rules. If players are injuring themselves trying to comply with the new rules and some of the bigger name quarterbacks are suggesting that things have gone too far then perhaps the league will look at it. I don’t want to argue that the league has gone soft, and frankly I think this has more to do with keeping the star quarterbacks playing the safety concerns, but a lot of the plays that have been penalised were simply tackles and I have no idea how a two hundred and ninety pound player fighting his way past an offensive linemen to tackle a quarterback, who are often not exactly small themselves, are supposed to lay said quarterback gently to the turf so they don’t risk an injury. You need a certain amount of momentum to tackle a player and explosiveness to get there before the pass is thrown so a lot of these defenders are being put in a very difficult if not an impossible position.
There have been a number of exciting games, and I think we’d all much rather be focussing attention on say the amazing start to the season Patrick Mahomes has had in Andy Reid’s offence or how the LA Rams are ominously rolling through the season, but until the roughing the passer penalties slow down the conversation about the zebras could keep dominating the conversation and frankly I’d much rather be focussed on the surprises and the good play that is happening in the league. After all, the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills won this week, all things are possible.