The Patriots and Browns have something in common besides a Bill Belichick coaching tenure: they will each be starting a third-string quarterback in week three. It’s arguable the Browns have trotted out third-string quarterbacks every Sunday since 1999, but I digress. Both Jimmy Garropolo and Luke McCown suffered shoulder sprains Sunday, an injury Steelers fans are all too well aware can really hurt a quarterback’s prospects of playing.
Elsewhere, Baltimore still looks bad, and they are lucky they just happened to be playing the Browns this week. Keep reading to find out more about that debacle.
Oh, and Aaron Rodgers is human, after all. Find out what else we learned in week two.
It might get even worse for the Bengals.
A week after barely squeaking past the New York Jets, who only look like a football team right now because Rob Ryan’s defenses could make a team from the Island of Misfit Toys look like an All-Pro squad, it took the Bengals more than 56 minutes to finally get into the end zone against the Steelers. The Pittsburgh defense (more on that later) is markedly improved from 2015, but they are still sorting things out. The Bengals, meanwhile, face Denver next week. The Broncos’ defense, if anything, is better than the one that won Super Bowl 50. Could the Bengals be 1-2 after three weeks? It’s certainly not:
Speaking of the Bills...
Nepotism and cannibalism are alive and well in Buffalo.
The Bills’ defense, led by the same guy who ruined defense in New Orleans and Dallas, is nothing if not spectacularly bad. Rob Ryan, brother of head coach Rex Ryan, has brought three solid defenses to their knees in his last three cities, and he’s dismantled Buffalo’s faster than any other. So, when your defense, run by your own flesh and blood, gives up 37 points to an offense led by average-at-best Ryan Fitzpatrick, what is the obvious course of action?
Simple: fire the guy who runs your offense, that just scored 24 points. This team is so screwed up, it’s now eating itself to stay alive.
If you ask most pundits today, they would probably agree that averaging 24 points should be enough for a team with a defense that at least half-asses it for the entire contests to win 67 percent of their games. But your defense giving up 37 points is tolerable? Hey, that’s Ryan family logic. Let’s not forget, the late patriarch of this family, Buddy Ryan, once punched Kevin Gilbride during a game in Houston.
They were on the same team. And they were winning, 14-0.
The Los Angeles Rams just won their Super Bowl.
For a team that has failed to finish with a winning record in each of the last 12 seasons, the Rams’ first game back in Los Angeles since 1994 had to have the feel of a playoff game. While the game itself was about as exciting as watching ceiling paint dry in the dentist’s office while having a routine cleaning, the outcome had to be thrilling for the long-suffering fans in Los Angeles. Bereft of a football team since both the Rams and the Raiders left the city after the 1994 season, you have to feel for these folks. And to beat the Seahawks — a division rival and one of the top teams in the NFC — in their home premier? That may actually be worthy of a ticker-tape parade.
It’s actually not without precedent, though — and these Rams set that precedent themselves. Since the start of the 2014 season, the Rams are 4-1 against the Seahawks. They are 10-19 against the rest of the NFL.
The Browns may not be worth the cost of the hotdogs sold in the stadium.
Only the Browns could manage to lose a game 25-20 after leading 20-0 in the first quarter. If not for the entertainment value of watching them find even more comedic ways to lose each week, I’d stop saying things like, “they can’t possibly get any worse.” Their game recaps are beginning to read like the NFL equivalent of the Darwin Awards.
The Buccaneers have come a long way -- but have a long way to go.
When Jameis Winston entered the league last year, I saw a guy who was easily flustered, and who didn’t seem to have his head in the game well enough to be a long-term star. As last season wore on, however, I began to feel like he was proving me wrong.
I don’t think Sunday’s game was indicative of a deeper problem, but it did show that he still has a long way to go. Winston was responsible for five — five! — turnovers Sunday in Arizona, including two interceptions and a lost fumble on three of the team’s first five drives. He finished with four interceptions, including a last-gasp Hail Mary that was picked off in the end zone as time expired.
It’s certainly not all on Winston. This is a team unaccustomed to success, and they haven’t tasted it much outside of Tampa. The Cardinals are a very good team, last week notwithstanding. But these are the games in which the Bucs need to at least become competitive, and that starts with a quarterback becoming more consistent and not lofting so many of his throws. Three of his interceptions happened because he put too much air under the throw, giving the defense time to adjust and make a play. Winston has one of the strongest arms in the league, and he has to learn to trust it.
College Football Bonus! If I was a coach, I’d bench a player who drops the ball as he crosses the goal line.
I don’t care if it was a legitimate touchdown or not. It’s become trendy for players to let go of the ball as close to the goal line as possible when scoring a touchdown, for reasons that continue to elude me. At least twice on Saturday, the drop occurred before the goal line. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept, that’s a fumble, and that’s bad.
The first was Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon, as he was about to return an Ohio State kickoff for a touchdown. The second was Cal running back Vic Enwere, who was approaching the goal line on what should have been the game-sealing, 55-yard touchdown run. In Mixon’s case, officials didn’t even notice it on the automatic review following a score. What’s worse, it was another Big 12 officiating crew, just one week after a different Big 12 squad totally botched a call against Oklahoma State that ended up giving Central Michigan a win they didn’t deserve.
Cal also ended up keeping the ball, as official inexplicably determined Texas did not recover the live ball fast enough to conform to NCAA rules. By my count, it was less than four seconds later and it was picked up by the second Longhorn who reached the ball. I’m not sure what else Texas could have done there.
At least, going forward, Cal head coach Sonny Dykes has stated it is now team policy for players to hand the ball directly to an official upon scoring to prevent this from happening again.
Moral of the story: players, you don’t look “cool” dropping the ball at the goal line. You look like a nincompoop. Because you are one.
And finally...the rest of the league should be on alert: this is what the Steelers look like on an off-day.
Over the previous three seasons, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been among the NFL’s most accurate quarterbacks. So, on a day when he completes barely more than 50 percent of his passes against a 2015 division winner, the team should lose, right? Logically, yes. But the reality is that this Steelers team is deep and talented at just about every offensive position, and the defense has been surprisingly stout. That the Bengals didn’t crack the end zone until there were less than four minutes to go, as I mentioned earlier, should be a wake-up call to the rest of the league: defense is back in Pittsburgh, and this time around, there’s an unrelenting offensive attack to go with it.
Even on a bad day.