Week eight is nearly finished and audiences have a better collective picture of which teams will head to the playoffs. Most of yesterday’s games revealed who’s staying in the race for an additional month and who’s packing up and getting ready for the offseason. Half the league needs to use the trade deadline to their benefit and fill in some gaps to make longer postseason runs or trade up for the draft. Without further ado, it’s time to discuss who or what stood out yesterday, positively and negatively on the first week of November.
Winners: Offensive Rookie Debuts
There aren’t many rookies on offense making debuts half-way into the 2020 season, but the ones who did, made plays when needed and look to have expanded roles later in November and December.
Tua Tagovailoa and DeeJay Dallas contributed to important wins for their teams even if there weren’t breathtaking stats. Tagovailoa threw only 93 yards, but his first career throwing touchdown went to DeVante Parker to tie the Los Angeles Rams at seven. The Dolphins didn’t trail again, and the defense forced four turnovers from the Rams’ offense (more on them later).
DeeJay Dallas started his first NFL game since fellow runningbacks Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde were out for Seattle. Dallas didn’t run for over 50 yards, but he scored twice. One was a run cementing Seattle’s double digit win over San Francisco, and the other on a critical third and goal throw from Russell Wilson.
You don’t need big numbers to have an impact. Both Dallas and Tagovailoa will be fun to watch years from now, but their teams got exactly what was needed in their debuts.
Calvin Johnson was considered to be the scariest wide receiver to suit up for an NFL team in the last 15 years. Johnson has nothing on the Seahawks’ D.K. Metcalf, now in his second season. Last week Metcalf showed his hustle chasing down one of the best safeties in the modern NFL on an interception return. Arizona’s cornerbacks kept him quiet most of last Sunday, so he sent a message to San Francisco and the league yesterday, notching a career day with 12 catches for 161 yards. Russell Wilson had 100 yards thrown to receivers outside of Metcalf. Both the touchdowns he caught showed both his out-of-this-world athleticism and size advantages.
In the highlights, I took notice and appreciated Mark Schlereth breaking down Metcalf’s two yard touchdown grab as he played inside and not far out from the offensive line. Seattle finally figured how to not just give D.K. one-on-one matchups which favor him, but how to use their second year star in different formations. All the other receivers on the opposite end, especially Tyler Lockett, will press defenses harder and make scoring opportunities better for Seattle’s offense. This may cause a team like the Arizona Cardinals, who contained Metcalf most of the past three games to adjust for their next rivalry game in Seattle.
The Minnesota Vikings appeared to be sellers during their bye week, shortly before playoff chances were eliminated. Of course, the NFL can change week to week. Minnesota picked up a needed and certainly unexpected win against the best team in their division.
Dalvin Cook scored 24 of the 28 points, and the defense contained Aaron Rodgers the second half in Lambeau field, a place where Rodgers typically excels later in games. Quarterback Kirk Cousins didn’t turn the ball over, throwing for enough yards and one touchdown.
The coaches used the bye week how they should have especially since they did a horrible job planning against Atlanta the week prior. Chicago and Detroit lost to playoff caliber teams, so the Vikings aren’t done yet.
It’s possible Lock needed to get some rhythm and didn’t have any the past two weeks. He also may not have fully recovered from his shoulder injury. Either way, he can play and when possible, elevate unknown receivers.
Runningback Phillip Lindsay got the Denver Broncos their first touchdown in the third quarter. The Los Angeles Chargers added nine points to their seven point lead after, trying to keep a comfortable lead against a division rival.
Lock came alive after the first touchdown. He threw three touchdowns after Lindsay scored, including the game winner to KJ Hamler with one second left. While he threw for 248 yards, Lock spread the ball to seven different receivers. Hamler and Albert Okwuegbunam combined had four catches, but they had two of the three touchdowns. This is one of many reasons the Broncos want Drew Lock to be their starter for the next few years.
Losers: Sean McVay
There’s no way Los Angeles should’ve lost to Miami. Kenny Albert’s broadcasting team talked during pre-game about how McVay intended to beat the Dolphins running the ball on offense. Analysts knew it too, which is why many picked them to win in South Florida. The Rams pummeled an awful Bears team last Monday, so it made sense to give the offense an easier time Sunday running the ball, controlling the clock and tempo, and head home. That didn’t happen.
Turnovers, special teams and failing to hold a seven point lead was part of the unpleasant surprise. It happens to the best teams. Quarterback Jared Goff didn’t need to throw the ball 61 times. That contributed to four turnovers, three the Dolphins turned into touchdowns. The Rams didn’t score again until five minutes into the fourth quarter.
The runningbacks didn’t put up bad numbers either. Outside of receiver Robert Woods’ two runs, all runningbacks averaged a 3.9 yards per carry. Even when the Rams were down 28-10, they could’ve controlled tempo knowing Tua Tagovailoa didn’t crack 100 yards passing. That’s on coaching, especially since Seattle won and Arizona had a bye week. It’s harder making a playoff push when you’re in third place and not second.
When Cortland Finnegan and Andre Johnson fought, that was personal for many reasons. Andre Johnson has a great reputation, but with a known agitator he faced twice a year, it made some sense especially seeing the plays before that fight.
Javon Wims was neither playing a divisional opponent nor was he well-known around the league. He’s known now but for all the wrong reasons.
It doesn’t matter what the reasons were for him punching C.J. Gardner-Johnson were–twice. Starting fights leads to ejections and costs teams needed players, especially playing teams vying for the playoffs.
Last Monday when the Rams and Bears faced off, play-by-play announcer Steve Levy talked on how the locker room voted wide receiver Anthony Miller for the Most Likely to be Late for a Meeting Award. Miller and Gardner-Johnson were going at it the possession before Wims started the fight. All the questions on play-calling and who to start at quarterback are valid, but so is self-discipline and accountability. These problems aren’t all football related but they must be fixed now.
It’s safe to wonder if the Bills are a threat to anyone in the AFC when playoffs start in January (hopefully). The only game the Bills have won by double digit points was against the New York Jets the first week of the season. While they’re 2-2 in their last two games, they’ve looked awful and should be 0-4.
The New England Patriots played well in the second half in Buffalo, losing at the end because of a Cam Newton fumble deep in Bills territory. Buffalo shouldn’t have won by causing a turnover at the end. The Bills have weapons and somehow can’t run the ball to close out games. That’s a red flag and partially explains why they’re winning close games.
They’ve struggled the past two weeks against two teams in their division who lack talent on both offense and defense, putting up less than 45 points in those two combined games. The Titans and Chiefs were expected hurdles for the Bills, but struggling in your own depleted division is a problem. Those issues won’t go away with Seattle and Arizona next on their schedule.
That awful punting and onside kick plan the Dallas Cowboys had late in the fourth quarter.
At least Dan Orlovsky running out of bounds in his own end zone looked accidental. The fact this play was on purpose for a 50/50 chance to receive an onside kick (which Dallas didn’t recover) makes this a nomination for worst play of the month, year, decade and 21st century. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth threw shade. It is THAT bad.