What an exciting week four. A narrow field goal miss in London, another win for Cooper Rush’s Cowboys and an eye-opening performance from the Kansas City Chiefs will be talked about much of the week. The first Sunday of October delivered with a bang much like the first weekend in September. A lot of good and bad stood out in the afternoon games. It’s time to break down who or what won/lost Sunday.
Winners: Austin Ekeler
The injuries at wide receiver for the Los Angeles Chargers’ offense narrows down the number of dependable players to trust any given week. The fragile ribs in quarterback Justin Herbert mean starting runningback Austin Ekeler should be the main playmaker and focus. In typical Chargers fashion, the team led by double-digits until the opposition made a comeback. This time the Chargers won and it’s because Ekeler stepped up and guided the offense.
Ekeler started hot and ran for two touchdowns in the second quarter. That gave Los Angeles a 21 point lead before the Houston Texans could score. When Houston chipped the deficit to three points, he stepped up when needed and caught a second down pass from Herbert at the Texan 14 yard-line, running to and diving in the endzone.
One of the coveted parts of Ekeler’s game is his ability to run well and catch passes. He was the Chargers’ second leading receiver with 49 yards on six catches. His 13 runs for 60 yards (4.2 yards a carry) makes him hard to tackle and creates problems for opposing defenses. The more he’s relied on, the better position Los Angeles has within their division and conference for at least a wild-card spot.
The Titans looked mediocre at best heading into October. After Sunday it appears head coach Mike Vrabel and the team turned 180 degrees after a winless two game start.
Tennessee’s victory against Las Vegas was questioned due to the Raiders’ poor coaching. Beating an Indianapolis Colts team soundly on the road shows progress. On offense star runningback Derrick Henry ran for 114 yards on 22 carries (5.2 yards per carry) and quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw two touchdowns and completed all but four passes.
The defense played well too. Defensive lineman Teair Tart intercepted Colts quarterback Matt Ryan on a tipped pass. While Ryan was sacked three times, starting runningback Jonathan Taylor left the game with a leg injury. That left Indianapolis one dimensional on offense and the Titans defense exposed a lot of weaknesses despite the Colts scoring the lone touchdown in the second half.
This helped Tennessee in their division. Houston is still winless and the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles handed the Jacksonville Jaguars their second loss of the season. While it’s a two-way tie for first place, the Titans are the more experienced team and have beaten the Jaguars all but once since 2017. The AFC South is Tennessee’s for the taking if they continue to play like they did Sunday.
Geno Smith, Rashaad Penny and the Seattle Seahawks offensive line
It’s hilarious how many people expected the Seattle Seahawks to have one of the worst offenses in the 2022 NFL season. It couldn’t be further from the truth after one month.
The Seahawks offense scored 42 points in the most exciting Sunday game. New starting quarterback Geno Smith completed all but seven passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns for a 132.6 rating. He also ran seven times for 49 yards and a touchdown. All three were in the first two quarters and were the reason Seattle led by nine at intermission.
Former first round pick Rashaad Penny had his best game of the season and is picking up where he left off last year. The runningback had 17 carries for 159 yards (just under nine yards a carry) but his two touchdowns in the second half cemented a Seahawk win. The Detroit defense couldn’t stop him when it mattered most and Penny’s runs on third down led to massive gains.
The best performance for Seattle’s offense wasn’t on the scoreboard. For years the fans, analysts and even captains on offense complained the offensive line was one of the top weaknesses on the team. The Lions’ pass rush is pretty good despite how they can’t stop runningbacks. The Seahawks offensive line gave up zero sacks and dominated the line of scrimmage. The interior of Damien Lewis, Austin Blythe and Gabe Jackson are core reasons why they’ve succeeded so far, but the surprising play of rookies Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas at both tackle positions propel Smith and the passing game to another level.
Seattle’s offensive stats after four weeks vaults them to the top half of all teams in passing, running, scoring and total yards despite being bottom five in time of possession. Geno Smith is the only quarterback in the NFL who’s completed 75 percent of his passes and has 1000 yards passing with five touchdowns or more. It’s a bit early to hype up Seattle’s season and their playoff chances, but it’s safe to say neither the offense is the problem on coach Pete Carroll’s team, nor was their trade of franchise quarterback Russell Wilson detrimental as many thought.
There was disappointment when Dobbins missed all of last season due to injuries. He played his second game of 2022 Sunday and the impact was felt early.
The Baltimore Ravens quickly scored against the Buffalo Bills and led 14-3 by the end of the first quarter. Both touchdowns were from J.K. Dobbins. He caught a one yard pass to give the Ravens their first lead of the game and then scored on a four yard run.
He also had the most carries for any runner in the game. While Dobbins ran for 41 yards, he’s someone quarterback Lamar Jackson can rely on to improvise or score near the goalline. Unfortunately, Dobbins’ touchdowns were in vain because…
Losers: John Harbaugh…again
…his head coach cost the team another home win by gambling with analytics. This is the first time in franchise history Baltimore’s lost five straight homes games. On ESPN’s flagship show Sportscenter with Scott Van Pelt, the eye opening stat was examined deeper. All five losses for the Ravens have been by three points or less. In all five Harbaugh has gambled and gone with the analytical decision to try and score touchdowns on fourth-and-goal decisions against (in recent order) the Bills, Dolphins, Steelers, Rams and Packers.
It didn’t matter whether quarterback Lamar Jackson was intercepted, there was a different quarterback or if receivers dropped passes. All five decisions have one thing in common: coach John Harbaugh is obsessed with the probability chances of scoring six or seven points instead of taking an easy three and giving the opposition a harder time to drive down the field with seconds or a minute remaining in gameplay.
The audience then might question does Harbaugh not trust his defense enough to take a chance. If that’s the case, he needs to fix it and develop better players, especially in the secondary. Lamar Jackson can’t fix everything on the team but the Ravens should be undefeated instead of blowing two double digit leads.
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The Bears might be the most unwatchable team in the NFL. Before Sunday there were jokes that yet again Chicago’s offense needs to step into the new century and learn about the forward pass. Sunday’s game against the New York Giants wasn’t just about the offense. The defense gave up two running touchdowns to quarterback Daniel Jones on a play the Giants ran six times minimum.
The defense did knock out both Jones and backup Tyrod Taylor at one point but the offense mustered 12 points total. Special teams had its moment to shine but then fumbled the return on what would’ve been the the Bears’ last possession. New York mercifully ran out the clock after recovering the ball.
It’s hard to tell if franchise quarterback and former Heisman nominee Justin Fields is any good not even one season of games into his career, but that’s the beginning of concerns. The Bears’ secondary is non-existent and their returners on special teams don’t help. This will be a long season and the fans might be more excited the team moves to Arlington Heights, IL. when it ends.
Speaking of former Bears quarterbacks, let’s keep this section going with Fields’ predecessor. While former head coach Matt Nagy didn’t fully hinder the sophomore’s progress last season, he did a number on Mitchell Trubisky.
Trubisky’s struggled not even four full games as the Steelers’ starting quarterback. In the first half against the New York Jets Sunday, he ran for one yard and was seven of 13 with 84 yards and an interception. He was benched in the second half and cameras caught head coach Mike Tomlin telling his replacement Kenny Pickett, “I’m tired of him Mitching it up” in regards to the offense.
In Mitch’s defense, offensive coordinator Matt Canada is dreadful and both former players and fans are calling for and have wanted him to be fired. Many want Pickett to lead the team into the wood-chipper that is the Buffalo Bills this upcoming Sunday but he threw three interceptions against a Jets defense that’s bottom ten in points per game. His rushing touchdowns were nice but he has to do better than goalline runs.
Unfortunately, when you’re a former second overall pick a team traded up to draft, excuses are slim. It’s possible Trubisky played his last game as a starter.
If anyone was in the mood for bad football Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals versus Carolina Panthers game was available. The only thing disappointing were the number of fans who went to the game.
The Panthers offense is on par with the Bears and Denver Broncos. They’re last in time of possession and points scored. Six of their 16 points were scored by the defense. That broke a scoreless tie and Carolina still found a way to lose.
It’s not just the offense. Their best player (who also had the defensive touchdown) in the game was almost kicked out for fighting and unnecessary roughness after a play finished. The fans boo’d new quarterback Baker Mayfield most of the second half due to his inability to read a field and throwing the ball everywhere but to his receivers.
It was leaked earlier in the week number one receiver D.J. Moore would like a trade out of Carolina. You can’t blame him for wanting to go to another team. Coach Matt Rhule’s team is undisciplined, unorganized and terrible to watch. Last but not least week four is almost over. It could get uglier by the start of November if Rhule isn’t fired by then.
Note: NFL’s Winners and Losers will not be published next Monday due to the writer, editor and publisher having the weekend off for personal reasons.