There’s a lot that happened during Sunday’s Week 7 NFL action. A previously undefeated Minnesota Vikings team went into Philadelphia and laid a complete egg against the Eagles, furthering skepticism regarding their hot start to the season.
Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, the New England Patriots continued to dominate their opposition with Tom Brady at the helm. After yet another tremendous performance, one could argue Brady is playing the best football of his career.
We’re not too sure what to make of the rest of what happened during Sunday’s slate of action. Were the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals completely inept on offense or did both teams dominate on defense? What’s Chip Kelly’s plan in San Francisco following yet another embarrassing loss for the 49ers?
And in Los Angeles, fans and pundits alike are left wondering what Jeff Fisher is going to do at quarterback after Case Keenum absolutely imploded in London on Sunday.
These are among the top-10 storylines for Sunday’s Week 7 NFL action.
1. Glaring holes show for Minnesota Vikings
Anyone who expected Sam Bradford to play at the level we’ve seen over the past four games for the remainder of the season received a rude wake-up call on Sunday. Playing in his old stomping grounds, the former Philadelphia Eagles’ signal caller struggled big time.
Bradford completed 24-of-41 passes for 224 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He was also sacked six times while losing two fumbles. It’s in this that we have to draw a couple major conclusions.
Minnesota possesses some major question marks in pass protection. Sam Bradford himself struggles handling pressure. All this came rearing its ugly head in Philadelphia on Sunday. And in the end, it resulted in a 21-10 Vikings loss, their first of the season.
For the Eagles, it was all about providing pressure all over the field. Defensive backs and linebackers got in on the sack parade, as the Jim Schwartz-led Philly defense threw multiple blitz packages Bradford’s way. With starting left tackle Matt Kalil lost for the season, protection broke down big time on that side of the line.
And while he can’t be blamed for the pass protection breakdowns, Bradford simply failed to handle the pressure well. His interception in the end zone is a true representation of this (watch here).
That’s definitely something to keep an eye on as the season progresses. At the very least, Philadelphia might have provided the blueprint to handle an injury-plagued Vikings offense.
2. Tom Brady’s domination continues
Brady is really good at this football thing. Really, really, really good. In just his third game back from suspension, Brady completed 19-of-26 passes for 222 yards with two touchdowns and zero picks. That was more than enough to defeat a Pittsburgh Steelers team playing without Ben Roethlisberger. Now, three games into his season, Brady’s stats are absolutely stunning.
Tom Brady through three games: 75.3 completion %, 1,004 yards, 8 TDs, 0 INTs, 132.6 rating. pic.twitter.com/FYulqgEY6Q
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) October 24, 2016
It could be said that Brady is playing the best football of his already awe-inspiring career. But it’s not all about statistics here. It’s about a sense of calm in the pocket. An elite-level understanding of the personnel he has on offense. The fact that he’s continually standing taller than whoever defenses might want to throw his way.
New England put up a solid 3-1 record when Brady was suspended, but Sunday’s outing against Pittsburgh tells us a story of a team that’s taken it to a completely different level.
LeGarrette Blount (127 yards and two touchdowns) is doing his thing on the ground. New England’s pass protection is holding up, as evidenced by the fact that Brady wasn’t sacked and found himself hit to the ground just three times on Sunday. Needless to say, the Patriots were in domination mode as they defeated Pittsburgh 27-16.
This has to be scary to the rest of the NFL. If Brady is indeed playing with a chip on his shoulder, there’s no reason to believe his production will dip a whole lot moving forward. And with the rest of the Pats falling in line, this perennial Super Bowl contender looks like the favorite to hoist the Lombardi in Houston come February.
3. Washington Redskins blow golden opportunity
Kirk Cousins and the Redskins had a real opportunity to make a major move in the NFC Playoff race in Detroit on Sunday. They responded by blowing a late-game lead against a lesser opponent. Up 17-13 with just over a minute left, all Washington had to do was keep Detroit out of the end zone.
Instead, its defense yielded an absurd six-play, 75-yard touchdown scoring drive that was capped off by this touchdown pass from Matthew Stafford to Anquan Boldin.
Don’t play prevent. Most definitely don’t play prevent on the road with the game on the line. Play the same defense that got you to the lead with just over a minute remaining in the game.
Apparently, the Redskins failed to get the memo here. And in reality, it could really hurt them moving forward. With the Dallas Cowboys on a bye this week, Washington could have pulled even in the win column in the NFC East. Instead, it is now two games back in the loss column and in third place in the division.
One drive. One set of mistakes. An inability to understand the situations at hand. This all played a role in the Redskins blowing a golden opportunity in the NFC East.
4. It’s time for the Rams to turn to Jared Goff
Case Keenum might have performed at a decent level to start the season, but his disastrous outing for the Los Angeles Rams in London on Sunday isn’t acceptable. You can’t throw four interceptions in a NFL game and expect to win. You can’t throw the ball directly to the defender (watch here) and expect to keep your starting job.
After winning three of their first four games, the Rams have lost three consecutive. They now sit at 3-4 on the year and on the outside looking in when it comes to the NFC Playoff race.
If the decision was made to sit Goff early because the Rams wanted to have a real opportunity at the playoffs, that’s fine. The team realistically no longer has that opportunity. If it was made in order to somehow allow Goff to sit back from afar to learn the nuances of the NFL, that’s also fine. Now seven games into his rookie season, Goff should be more than ready to take over under center.
Unfortunately, it looks like Rams head coach Jeff Fisher remains clueless here.
“The quarterback is not the reason, by the way, that we lost three (straight) games,” Fisher said following Sunday’s outing.
Fisher then went on to indicate that he’s going to stick with Keenum following the Rams’ Week 8 bye. Maybe it’s the head coach attempting preserve his role within the Rams’ organization. After all, if the team were to struggle moving forward, it’s more than likely he would be out of a job. But that’s simply not fair to the players on the field and the newfound fans in Southern California.
Simply put, it’s time for Fisher to put his ego aside and go with the quarterback Los Angeles invested a lot into. Should that not happen, it will set the organization back a great deal. Surely he understands this. Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants in a game the Rams could have won is a prime example of this.
5. Andrew Luck saves Chuck Pagano’s job
A loss on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans might have spelled the end of Pagano’s tenure as the Colts’ head coach. Sure owner Jim Irsay has thrown support his coach’s way publicly. General manager Ryan Grigson has done the same thing.
That’s just company line stuff there. Internally, there’s no real reason to believe the Colts weren’t contemplating a coaching change. Boasting a 2-4 record through six weeks is bad enough. Sitting in last place in the worst division in football is absolutely brutal.
If the Colts had found a way to drop another game on Sunday, they would have found themselves at 2-5 on the year and pretty much out of contention for a playoff spot.
Fear not, because Andrew Luck was here to say the day. The franchise signal caller completed 27-of-39 passes for 353 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in the Colts’ 34-26 win.
Down 23-20 with just over six minutes remaining in the game, Luck proceeded to lead the Colts on a 12-play, 70-yard scoring drive that was capped by by a seven-yard scoring strike to Jack Doyle. Then, on the ensuing kickoff, the Colts returned a fumble 11 yards for another score to put the game away.
These two plays could have very well saved the Colts’ season. More than that, it’s possible they saved Pagano’s job.
6. Cleveland Browns are officially embarrassing themselves
Cleveland’s quarterback situation is more about bad luck than anything else. With both Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown sidelined the team had to turn to rookie Cody Kessler. Unfortunately, the USC product suffered a concussion on Sunday and was replaced under center by fellow first-year signal caller Kevin Hogan. It’s bad. It sucks. It’s the Browns’ bad luck coming back in droves.
That’s not the issue here. Instead, it’s all about just how horrendous Cleveland performed on the defensive side of the ball. Taking on a Cincinnati Bengals team that’s struggled to a 2-4 start to the season, the Browns let Andy Dalton and Co. do whatever they wanted.
An inability to even understand basic defensive schemes played a major role here. How do you fail to maintain the edge with Jeremy Hill running outside the hashes? This isn’t Reggie Bush in his heyday. It’s a bulldozer of a back, one that rarely finds success on the outside. The end result? A 74-yard touchdown for Hill (watch here).
Just a few minutes later, Andy Dalton would toss the rock up down the right sidelined to A.J. Green. With absolutely no help over the top, Green beat the defender for a 40-plus yard play (watch here).
Just as batting down a hail may pass at the end of the half should be second nature, this is basic stuff. Basic stuff defenses should know. Basic stuff NFL players should comprehend. In the end, Cleveland yielded 559 yards of total offense and 23 first downs in a 31-17 loss.
This really makes us wonder whether the Browns will actually be able to win a game this season. It’s not a joke or hyperbole. Instead, it’s a legit question that needs to be asked. Cleveland had to go with its fifth-string quarterback on Sunday. Its top receiver is still suspended. A total of forty percent of the team’s offensive line from last season is gone.
If the defense can’t do anything to stop the opposition, this current seven-game losing streak to open the season may last deep into December. That’s the harsh reality.
7. Horrible loss for Rex Ryan and the Bills
The Buffalo Bills headed into South Beach winners of four consecutive games. If the playoffs were to have started Sunday morning, Rex Ryan and Co. would have made it to the second season. That’s fine and dandy. Unfortunately for the Bills, they failed to show up against the lowly Miami Dolphins.
Primarily unable to do anything of substance on the defensive side of the ball, Buffalo yielded a grand total of 26 first downs and 454 yards, including 256 on the ground in a 28-25 loss to Miami.
It’s one of those games that have come to define the Bills’ organization since 1999. It’s also one of the games that have defined Ryan-led squads over the past five-plus seasons. Things were looking up. The fan base was excited. A potential five-game winning streak was mere hours away.
Instead, Buffalo laid a complete egg. Its defense couldn’t stop a running back in Jay Ajayi who was a healthy inactive in Week 1. And in reality, Ryan’s own stubbornness reared its ugly head once again.
First off, Ajayi went for 214 yards and a touchdown on 28 attempts. It’s the second consecutive game the former Boise State standout has tallied 200-plus yards.
On the other side, Buffalo figured it was worth risking further injury to LeSean McCoy by playing him in a mid-season game and with a 4-2 record. As most likely would have predicted, McCoy went down after aggravating his hamstring injury and didn’t return.
That’s the issue with Ryan. He has tunnel vision. He refuses to look at the long term. One loss to a division rival in October won’t destroy the season-long ambitions of a team. Losing a Pro Bowl running back to a potential long-term injury surely will impact a team’s ability to succeed. It’s in this that the Bills and Ryan failed themselves, even more so than losing a single game against an inferior opponent.
8. Raiders get back on track
Sunday’s outing against the Jacksonville Jaguars acted as a get-right game for the Oakland Raiders. That in and of itself should tell us what we need to know about this up-and-coming team.
Fresh off an embarrassing blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last week, some figured the Raiders would be up to their old tricks on Sunday. That is to say, a team that’s been cellar-dwelling for well over a decade finding a way to somehow continue its ineptitude.
This didn’t happen. From the opening kickoff, Oakland was the better team on Sunday. The defense made Blake Bortles look like the overrated quarterback he is. Overall, Bortles tallied less than 150 passing yards before he once again put up some misleading stats during garbage time. Leading up to that, it was all Raiders.
Oakland forced three Jaguars turnovers, held the home team to 4-of-13 on third-down conversions and found a way to limit Allen Robinson to two catches for nine yards on eight targets. That’s the pleasant surprise from this blowout win. If the Raiders can continue to get this type of production from their defense, they are going to be a force moving forward on the season.
Despite a less-than-stellar all-around performance from Derek Carr and Co. on offense, the Raiders found a way to win their fourth road game in as many tries this season. They did so by the score of 33-16. Now at 5-2 on the season, Jack Del Rio’s squad has the look of a true contender in the AFC. That’s how big this rebound performance was.
9. The San Francisco 49ers are really bad at football
On the other side of the bay, Chip Kelly’s 49ers are an absolute mess. Up 14-0 early on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, San Francisco found a way to lose 34-17 in front of its home crowd. In reality, there’s not an area of this team that didn’t embarrass itself on Sunday.
Colin Kaepernick completed just 16-of-34 passes for 143 yards with one touchdown and two turnovers. More than basic stats, it’s now clear that Kaepernick himself has not improved over what we saw over the past two seasons. He was erratic with his throws, struggled making reads from the pocket and simply couldn’t show any consistency in terms of accuracy throughout the day.
Not helping matters much here, the 49ers’ receivers dropped a good half dozen passes. Some were on throws that needed to be put in better spots. Others were drops that NFL receivers simply can’t excuse.
More to the point, the 49ers’ atrocious defense took another step back in the team’s sixth consecutive loss. It allowed 249 rushing yards to a team that was missing its top two running backs in Doug Martin and Charles Sims. Now, over the course of this six-game losing streak, the 49ers have given up a grand total of 1,233 rushing yards. That includes 562 over the past two games. Yuck.
There’s not much to like here. Sure the 49ers have some nice young talent. But they don’t have a quarterback. They lack any sort of a receiving threat. And their front seven has been brutalized by marginal running backs.
The best fans in Santa Clara can hope for here is a high draft pick next year and a complete shake-up of San Francisco’s front office. Boy, how the once mighty have fallen.
10. Bad football game ends how it should have … in a tie
Sunday Night Football was the most anticipated game of the weekend. It pitted two Super Bowl contenders against one another in a game that had wide-ranging playoff implications.
It bombed out big time. The Seattle Seahawks struggled on offense throughout the game, putting up less than 200 yards of total offense in regulation. And while they appeared to dominate from a statistical lens, the Arizona Cardinals couldn’t close the deal prior to overtime.
It was another bad nationally televised football game. Bad offense. Bad coaching. Horrendous game plans all the way around. The end result being a 6-6 tie between two teams that no longer deserve to be mentioned among Super Bowl favorites.
The kickers will surely be blamed here. Multiple missed field goals in overtime. That’s easy. Blame the kickers. But in reality, there was so much more to the dumpster fire in the desert.
A combined 13-of-35 on third-down conversions. An average of less than five yards per play. Disastrous performances from the receivers. Horrendous performances from the quarterbacks. You name it. What could go wrong actually did go wrong. It wasn’t great defense. It was downright horrendous offense.
And in the end, the game ended in a tie. That’s fitting. It makes perfect sense, especially considering how nationally televised games have turned out this season.