Week 3 reminds us why we love football

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Now that was a fun week of football.

Starting Thursday night and through Sunday, the NFL action was outstanding — everything we want the NFL to be, as long as we’re able to keep politics from interfering with our enjoyment of the game. It had shocking upsets, thrilling comebacks, and the kind of late-game action that makes your head spin even if you have Red Zone Channel and multiple screens.

If you were watching as the early-afternoon games came to a close, some of the things you saw were:

• Tom Brady throwing a sensational last-minute touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks to beat back what was close to becoming a huge upset by the Texans.

• The Eagles shocking the Giants by kicking a 61-yard field goal as time expired. That was just the seventh time in NFL history a kicker hit a field goal longer than 60 yards.

• The Lions appearing to win yet another crazy fourth-quarter comeback . . . only to have a replay review rule that they’d been stopped short inside the 1-yard line, handing the victory to the Falcons.

• The Bears earning their first win of the season, and handing the Steelers their first loss of the season, with two big plays in overtime.

• The Colts intercepting the Browns’ last pass of the game to hang on and win their first game of the season.

That was five games, all going down to the wire, all ending around the same time in the middle of the afternoon on Sunday. There’s no better experience than sitting on your couch and taking all that in.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. The first two weeks of the NFL season had plenty of dull, listless games, and not a lot of drama. People were complaining that the NFL is unwatchable, the ratings were down, there was a general malaise among football fans across America. And, of course, the president’s comments on Friday didn’t exactly help for those who see sports as an escape. But that’s the thing about the NFL: It’s the best entertainment on offer anywhere. That’s why we love it.

Here are some more Week 3 thoughts:

Bill O’Brien. Not smart. I have two problems with Texans coach Bill O’Brien, one specific play call and one big picture. The specific play call was kicking a field goal rather than going for it on fourth-and-1 while nursing a two-point lead with 2:24 remaining on Sunday in New England. What was he thinking? Why would you willingly kick off to the Patriots, knowing that if Tom Brady drives them down the field for a touchdown, they win the game? Why not go for it on fourth down and try to run out the clock? Which do you think is harder: Gaining one yard, or stopping Tom Brady with the game on the line? By putting the ball in Brady’s hands, O’Brien cut his own throat.

The big picture issue is that O’Brien made Tom Savage the Texans’ Week One starter, only to bench him for rookie Deshaun Watson at halftime of the first game. Watson has played pretty well since then and has shown promise, but he’s also made his share of rookie mistakes. Maybe if Watson had been anointed the starter from the day he was drafted, and worked with the first-string offense all through training camp and the preseason, he wouldn’t make so many rookie mistakes. It was foolish of O’Brien to start Savage, and it set back both the development of Watson and the Texans’ 2017 season.

Matt Prater. Incredible. Prater, the Lions’ kicker, had field goals of 57 and 55 yards on Sunday. In Week One he made a 58-yarder and in Week Two he made a 56-yarder. That’s four field goals of 55 yards or more in only three weeks, and going back to last year he has made 13 in a row from beyond 50 yards. That’s unbelievable. Do you realize how much better NFL kickers are than they used to be? In the entire 1978 NFL season, the longest field goal kicked was 52 yards. Yesterday, just during the early afternoon games, we had field goals of 61, 57, 55 and 55 yards. And Prater, in an NFL environment where kickers are amazing across the board, stands out as the best of the bunch.

The replay got it right, but the Lions still got screwed. When NFL head of officiating Al Riveron overturned the Lions’ apparent game-winning touchdown, he made the right call: Lions receiver Golden Tate was down before the ball crossed the goal line. And when the officials then ran 10 seconds off the clock, that was the right call as well. The problem is that the officials got the call wrong on the field, and that prevented the Lions from running one more play. If the officials had made the right call and ruled Tate down at the 1-yard line with eight seconds left, the Lions would have been able to hurry up to the line and run one more offensive play. Teams routinely hurry up to the line and get a snap off in less than eight seconds. But the officials got it wrong, which means the Lions didn’t have that opportunity. Would the Lions have scored the game-winning touchdown on the final play? We’ll never know. And that’s a shame.

Richard Sherman is lucky he wasn’t ejected. I’m shocked the officials allowed Sherman to keep screaming at them after he was already flagged for one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. A second penalty would have been an automatic ejection, and it would have been justified. A Major League Baseball umpire or an NBA referee wouldn’t hesitate to eject a player who was going after them the way Sherman did. NFL officials show a lot more patience.

A couple of rookie running backs are having big receiving seasons. Bears running back Tarik Cohen is on pace for 107 catches this season, while Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey is on pace for 96. No rookie running back in NFL history has ever had more than 88 catches, a record Reggie Bush set in 2006.

Jacoby Brissett should get a real shot. As a rookie in New England last year, Brissett was thrown into a difficult situation, going from third string to first string because Tom Brady got suspended and Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt. Considering how hard it is for a rookie quarterback who hasn’t been practicing with the starters, Brissett played pretty well. This year, Brissett got thrown into an even more difficult situation, getting traded to the Colts just before the start of the season and handed the starting job when Scott Tolzien looked terrible in Week One. Considering those circumstances, I think Brissett has played quite well in Indianapolis as well. Brissett never had a chance to be the Patriots’ long-term starter because Brady and Garoppolo were ahead of him, and he doesn’t have a chance to be the Colts’ long-term starter because Andrew Luck will be back from shoulder surgery eventually. But I hope Brissett gets a chance to be some team’s long-term starter. I like what I see from this young man.

Tom Brady on a record pace. Brady now has 1,092 passing yards this season, putting him on pace for 5,824 yards over 16 games. The NFL record for passing yards in a season is 5,477, and the record for a 40-year-old quarterback is 4,202. There’s little doubt that if Brady stays healthy he’ll have the greatest season ever for a quarterback over 40. He might have the greatest season ever, period.

25 responses to “Week 3 reminds us why we love football

  1. Good article, I thank the author for writing it. It was all about football and made a number of thoughtful points and observations. I agreed with most points, not all. But every point was interesting and valid enough for me to give it pause and consideration. This is the sort of thing I come to PFT looking for, and it shows that when focused on sports these are good sportswriters.

  2. A great weekend of football – I agree, but tell that to my father in-law. I got in a screaming match with him about anthem protests by the time the SNF game kicked off.

    “Protest is a fundamental right when I agree with it” seems to be the motto of a certain generation of Americans.

  3. The protests were equally as compelling. Sports is always intertwined with current events…Breast cancer awareness, Haiti, Hurricane relief, 911, United Way and associated charities. It’s all a part of sports & community. Great week 3!!!

  4. It’s going to be very interesting to see what the Giants do with Odell Beckham contract wise. The man is incredibly talented along with being majorly stupid. He must have thought the Giants were playing the Browns in the “Dog Pound”, that or really had to go bad.

  5. Agree or not, O”Brien knew that failing to get that one yard meant the Patriots would win with a field goal. He played the percentages and made them score a touchdown, which of course Brady did.

    So I will give him a pass there. But the other criticism of how he managed his quarterbacks is pretty spot on.

  6. I agree with Bill O’Brien sending out the kicking team for a field goal at the end. He was only sitting on a two point lead. It’s easy to say he should have gone for it in hindsight, but if they don’t convert that fourth down then all the Pats need is a field goal to win the game. The field goal was the smart, albeit conservative, play. Too many coaches out-think themselves going against the Pats and stay too aggressive late in the game (cough*Falcons*cough). Forcing the Pats to need a TD to win rather than a FG was the right call, but you can do everything right and still not win. Failing to call the timeout and wasting 10 seconds before the Hail Mary, however, that was just dumb.

  7. *Reminds you why you love football*

    *Refs improperly influence / decide a large number of games*

    OK guy. I guess some people might like that….

  8. It should be obvious by now that Tom Brady is the GOAT. Without Brady the Patriots would be 1-2 at best, probably 0-3 with the defense they have. The Pats can lose a bunch of players, but as long as Brady is at the helm they’re never out of it.

  9. Damage control article. NFL is plummeting thanks to the poison of political correctness seeping in it. Trump may be a moron sometimes, but the NFL is giving the finger to half its fans, who would like to watch their football without indoctrination. Going down..

  10. 1) I actually agree with the Texans kicking the field goal. With their defense, you have to give them a chance to keep NE out of the end zone. In hindsight, sure it didn’t work but I think it’s the right call. 2) Sherman should have been ejected for the cheap shot on Mariota even more so than his screaming at the officials.

  11. *Reminds us why we love football*

    I had the exact opposite reaction with the political stuff that finally engulfed the game this weekend. And the games themselves seem like they’ve never meant less.

  12. Market correction week arrived a little early this year, with all of the Week 3 upsets. Eliminated about half of the survivor pools. I guess the Bears are way better than we thought they were! Marcus Cooper owes his teammates a steak dinner though, hehe.

  13. Crazy the amount of upsets this week.
    Jacksonville, Bears, Jets, Bill, Saints, Vikes, Titans…
    And a ton of near upsets too. Packers and Pats almost left with losses Sunday too.

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