Another great week of NFL football is in the books and with eight of the 16 games being decided by one possession, there’s a lot to unpack. In the NFC, the 49ers slugged out a 17-11 victory over the Eagles, but the win came at a cost, as they lost all three of their active running backs in the 4th quarter. San Francisco can ill-afford to be plagued by injury as they try to compete in an NFC West division which has lost just one game cumulatively.
That loss came last weekend at the hands of Derrick Henry (and I guess technically the rest of the Titans) whose 237 yard effort spoiled the Seahawks home opener in a 33-30 OT thriller. For Tennessee, the win was much needed as they look to make their name as a heavyweight in the AFC. However, the game of the week was the Sunday night matchup between the Ravens and Chiefs, which produced the first of our winners/losers from this week.
Winner – Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Final Score: Baltimore Ravens 36, Kansas City Chiefs 35
“Big Truss” earned his nickname on Sunday night by accounting for 346 yards, three touchdowns and being the franchise quarterback that Baltimore needs. Lamar once again showed his composure and intelligence by being patient in the pocket, finding open receivers and delivering accurate passes. Yes, his athleticism and rushing ability are elite, but he has evolved as a passer to the point where his skills through the air are just as refined and dangerous.
Those who support the view that eventually the NFL will “figure Lamar out” were punching the air after watching on Sunday. Every season it seems there’s a new narrative, a new white whale for Lamar to hunt.
On draft night, critics were skeptical of whether his skill set would transfer to the pro level. 2019 NFL MVP. Last season it was his inability to win a playoff game that would hold him back. Ravens 20, Titans 13. This season there was just no way he could beat Patrick Mahomes and the back-to-back reigning AFC champions. Ravens 36, Chiefs 35. Lamar has been doubted at every stage of his career, and has always responded in the same way. A cheerful smile, an electric performance, and a subtle mic drop.
Winner – Carolina Panthers
Final Score: Carolina Panthers 26, New Orleans Saints 7
When GM Scott Fitterer took a gamble on former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, the reaction was mixed.
There were those who thought that Darnolds struggles in New York were primarily his fault, and that blaming the team around him was a lazy excuse for a high draft pick who didn’t work out. Then there were those (myself included) who felt it was unfair to judge Darnold when his team was disorganized in the front office, uncoordinated on the sideline, and untalented on the field.
In week one, the USC product played host to his former team and spared little hospitality, handing them a 19-14 loss. Darnold, who accounted for both of his teams touchdowns, used his eyes well and found seven different receivers on the day.
An opening day victory over the Jets is nothing to write home about, but it showed that Darnold was meshing with his receivers, fitting the system well and understanding how to execute. Week two was scheduled to be a better test, with the Panthers taking on the divisional powerhouse Saints who were coming off a statement week one win against the Packers.
This time, Carolina won with confidence and dominance. Darnold threw for over 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns while the defense dug in and made problems for Jameis Winston. Jameis, who looked sharp against Green Bay, was sacked four times and intercepted twice by the Panthers, whose defensive unit looks to be one of the league’s best.
The Saints had a depressing 128 total yards of offense and were smothered from start to finish in both the run and pass game. For perspective, four individual receivers had more yards in week two.
Loser – Zach Wilson, New York Jets
Final Score: New York Jets 6, New England Patriots 25
Sam Darnold was surely laughing in the locker room after checking his former team’s box score. Darnold, who served as the Jets quarterback for three years before getting traded, faced backlash for failing to produce wins during his tenure in the Meadowlands despite having a terrible roster around him.
After flipping the former 1st round pick, the Jets then cashed in their No. 2 overall pick for Zach Wilson, who will soon take the role of franchise scapegoat when he undoubtedly also struggles to win games.
Okay, enough history, now back to Sunday. What happened to Zach Wilson last weekend was sad, disappointing and if you’re Sam Darnold, at least a little funny. Wilson was straight up not safe behind his offensive line, whose best contribution to the game was picking their mangled quarterback up off the turf.
The Patriots defense registered four sacks and an additional seven QB hits, which means that Wilson got knocked down on a third of his 33 dropbacks. That’s insane. There’s a famous saying that goes “pressure makes diamonds” which, while motivational, was proven false by Wilson, who threw four interceptions en route to a pitiful 37.0 passer rating.
While it is just the second game of his career, dejected Jets fans everywhere are surely getting flashbacks to the numerous times their franchise has drafted “The truth” at quarterback. Of course, those truths have all turned out to be lies told to them by a franchise whose greatest accomplishment came in 1968. That’s before the first Star Wars was released.
Loser – Indianapolis Colts
Final Score: Indianapolis Colts 24, Los Angeles Rams 27
This season has been a tough pill to swallow for Colts fans, who spent all offseason talking about how their team was going to be able to contend with the Titans for the division. That has not been the case through two weeks.
The stout defense that kept offensive coordinators up at night has been exposed, allowing 27+ points in both of their opening contests, and giving up a combined 752 yards of offense. On offense the story is similar. The Carson Wentz move has not paid dividends as he has already missed time due to injury, forcing backup Jacob Eason into action.
The run game has felt the effects of the drop in pass production, with defenses no longer threatened deep, stacked boxes have become routine, and effective. Of the running backs on the Colts roster, none are averaging 4.0 yards per carry on the season, a sad mark for an offensive line unit which prides itself on running the ball. While it is still early and there is certainly time to turn things around, the Colts have already dug themselves an early season hole, and climbing out in a competitive AFC will be difficult.
DK Metcalf – 6 catches, 53 yards (Seattle Seahawks 30, Tennessee Titans 33)
AJ Brown – 3 catches, 43 yards (Tennessee Titans 33, Seattle Seahawks 30,)
Elijah Moore – 4 catches, 47 yards (New York Jets 6, New England Patriots 25)
Dawson Knox – 2 catches, 17 yards, 1 touchdown (Buffalo Bills 35, Miami Dolphins 0)