Week 1 Overreactions

The overreactions column is going up before Monday Night Football because I will not be able to see either game in full tonight (Check my Twitter Wednesday morning for why).

Week 1 is always overwhelming.  But this year it felt a little less so.  For example, Miami did exactly what we expected them to (OK, well maybe not EXACTLY that bad but we knew they’d be bad).  So did Jameis Winston.  The Patriots and Chiefs look fantastic.  A lot happened that we knew would happen.  Here are some of the things that we didn’t think would, though.

Kyler Murray is really bad, wait, no, really good

What occurred Sunday afternoon was why Kyler Murray went No. 1 overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.

And it was why the Cardinals traded away Josh Rosen for practically nothing for him.

The trade, in a way, still hurts.  Not because Rosen was amazing by any means, but because of the public humiliation and shame that came with it.  The dumping of one  top ten pick for another in a single year’s time was unprecedented, and in a way unfair and borderline incompetent.

But man, does it seem like the right move now.

Slightly backed up by his performance Sunday, Josh Rosen does not do what Kyler Murray did in the fourth quarter of Arizona’s game against Detroit.

And sure, Rosen didn’t have talent around him.  That’s the whole case for the pro-Rosen camp.  He had (and still has) zero offensive line.  No real weapons (still true).  A defense that couldn’t carry him (still true).

Those points are good ones, sure.  But it was the same case for Murray Sunday.

That was evident in the first half of the game.  The offensive line, which was already banged up thanks to Marcus Gilbert being out with an injury, was horrendous and couldn’t keep Murray protected in the pocket.  Detroit used their underrated secondary to hover over Arizona wide receivers; the Lions finished the game with 11 pass deflections, four of which came at the line of scrimmage from the front seven (That might be the biggest concern regarding Murray’s height; not his durability).  The defense was fine aside from multiple blown coverages resulting in big plays downfield, and TJ Hockenson becoming the latest tight end to kill them.  Murray missed throws and forced things, leading to bone-headed plays like this one.

It was a simple case of trying to do too much.  Murray looked like a rookie out there in the first half.  And even though the offense was absolutely putrid, and at times hard to watch, it was okay.  Murray was going to struggle at times, and we knew that would happen.  He’s a rookie, and rookies do those things.

Then he turned into a veteran.

With 14:40 left in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals faced a 24-6 deficit and Murray took control.  Those missed throws in the first half turned into completions like this one.

This is more Larry Fitzgerald than Murray.  Give Murray credit for putting the ball in a spot where Fitz could get it, but only Fitz is able to actually get it in that position.  Only Fitz.  Very few side receivers in football make that catch.

Nonetheless, it was progress for Murray and for the offense as a whole.  That play felt like a momentum shifter.  It was the one impressive thing Murray had done all day.  More importantly, it started establishing trust between Murray and his receivers, which then led to this.

Again, not a great ball by Murray.  It was quite high, and David Johnson had to go up a mile to get it.  It would have essentially been a jump ball for the running back (AKA not Fitz) if Jalen Reeves-Maybin didn’t fall down.  But this time, instead of being a feel-good moment, it made things interesting.  It was a one possession game.

Detroit’s slogging around offensively, which was partly due to immense pressure brought on by the Cardinals (That’s the one thing the defense did very well Sunday), continued on the next possession, giving Arizona the ball back with 2:31 down eight.

This was the drive that Murray really showed it.  The skill.  The leadership.  It was all there, because he knew the moment and he knew the clock was ticking.

It was methodical.  For the most part, Murray moved the ball in small increments, gaining enough yardage every play except for this one, when he found Damiere Byrd down the field.

That’s a tough throw!  Murray had to complete that or else Arizona would have been facing 4th and 7.  Cornerback Jamal Agnew was draped all over Byrd too.

This set up the touchdown and following two point conversion, which was creatively designed by Kliff Kingsbury.

Notice how Fitz is in motion when the ball is snapped and starts his route without stopping.  That leaves Justin Coleman trying to catch up and adjust on the fly, giving Fitz just enough separation for Murray to be able to make the throw.

Christian Kirk then ran out route for the two point conversion, beating his man once again.

Murray’s magic didn’t stop there.  Despite the game ending in an underwhelming tie, the rookie almost made the most important throw of the game.  Of course, there were two sides to the play though.

This play is quite similar to the first Murray-to-Fitz pass.  Murray made Fitz work for it, but that almost makes it more effective, since defending a pass like that without committing pass interference is nearly impossible.  It’s what makes Fitz, Fitz.

No one was expecting the Cardinals to be good.  I had them at 6-10.  That’s probably still a realistic record.  No one should still expect them to be good.  But we knew they were going to be one thing: Fun and entertaining as hell.  So far, so good.

The Ravens are going to be unstoppable

Perhaps the most important part of Baltimore’s 59-10 slaughter of Miami was Lamar Jackson’s improved throwing ability.

The second-year quarterback threw for 324 yards and five touchdowns, 147 yards and two of those touchdowns via Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.

Brown had like a Randy Moss-like game.  In the first quarter, Brown had two catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns.

The first was more Brown than Jackson, as Hollywood used his speed to turn on the jets on a slant route.

But the throw was still one we weren’t sure Jackson could make.  He did have to fit it in there.

It was this throw though, that was stunning.

A couple things here:

  1. The amount of time Jackson had to uncork the ball
  2. The throw itself
  3. Brown getting separation then turning on the jets again

If Brown can be this type of receiver, where his speed is unmatched and he can run any route, then Baltimore’s offense is going to be a force rather than what I expected it to be.  After today, where Brown put on his show and Mark Andrews also had 100+ yards, Jackson may not need a ridiculous weapons core around him.  Sure, he was going against a Dolphins team that is confirmed to be not trying, but we didn’t even know Jackson could throw the ball as far as he did Sunday.  That development could go miles for Baltimore.

The Bears are in trouble

It is absolutely fair to say that Mitchell Trusbisky single-handily cost the Bears the game in the Thursday’s kickoff game.

Chicago’s defense was excellent, which is already starting to look like a wrong prediction of mine, but Trubisky was not, which is looking to be a correct prediction.

He only threw one pick, but should have likely had three on the night.

Here was the should-have-been second.

And here’s the third.

There’s likely more.  Trubisky forced balls and made poor decisions.  Chicago’s offense couldn’t get going due to Trubisky’s play and poor play-calling by head coach Matt Nagy, as they continued to throw the ball into the second half well after it was clear that Trubisky didn’t have it and that the running game with rookie David Montgomery did.

Chicago is going to be in trouble if Trubisky continues to play like this.  The Bears defense was outstanding given the loss; they got to Aaron Rodgers most of the night, and only gave up 10 points.  The Bears should have been able to manage that.

Only one of the defense or Trubisky can be bad in a game.  We may not have to worry about the defense regressing now, but them carrying Trubisky’s weight for the second straight season might wear them down, and for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations, that won’t be getting them there anyways.

The Cowboys are contenders

Dallas looked unstoppable Sunday.

Ezekiel Elliott didn’t get a lot of work, which was understandable after not practicing all offseason.  But he did score a touchdown and averaged 4.1 yards a carry on 13 of them.

But the running game, which is what Dallas has prided itself on since drafting Zeke, wasn’t the star of the show.

It was Dak Prescott, who threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns, dropping dimes all over the Giants’ secondary, giving two Cowboys receivers 100 yards each.

The Cowboys unleashed the air raid on the Giants.  New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore changed Dallas’ schemes so that they weren’t so heavily reliant on receivers getting themselves open; an issue that plagued them in the past.  Moore has opted to the RPO, which, when you have Zeke or rookie Tony Pollard in the backfield, is a deadly weapon.

Skip to the 19th second of this video and you’ll see how effective the RPO was.  Dak takes the snap and fakes the handoff, bringing Alec Olgetree, No. 47, down to account for it.

In this incredibly well-drawn and diagramed image, you can see Olgetree (down arrow) moving toward Pollard in the backfield while Blake Jarwin (right arrow) goes right by him, leaving Jarwin wide open for the eventual touchdown.

Another example is at the 57 second mark, where Dak fakes the run to Zeke out of the backfield and hits Michael Gallup for 36 yards.  There, the fake is to Zeke, which attracts a boatload of attention.

The two linebackers in the middle of the field, along with safety Antoine Bethea, all make minuscular movements to play the run.  Despite their slight reaction, it burns Bethea, who doesn’t get back in time to help No. 30 Antonio Hamilton in coverage with Gallup.

This change in scheme for the Cowboys, along with the pinpoint throws Prescott was making – throws that we’ve never seen him make before – makes their offense extremely dangerous.  To think Zeke only had 53 yards today is terrifying.  Maybe Sporting News wasn’t insane.

The Browns were overhyped

This isn’t an overreaction so much as it is actually true.  As I wrote in my preview, anyone who had Cleveland at contender status was buying in a little too much.

Sunday, those people got burned.

The Titans, as in the Marcus Mariota-led Titans, destroyed Cleveland 43-13 at home.

The Browns had a ton of issues.  First, simply put, their defense gave up 43 points to the Titans.  That’s not a good thing.

This may not be some fluke from the Titans either.  Tennessee looked explosive.  Rookie wide receiver AJ Brown had 100 yards on just three catches, including two deep shots, one of which was 51 yards.  Derrick Henry broke loose for a 75 yard receiving touchdown while also adding 84 yards on the ground.  Delanie Walker caught two of Mariota’s three touchdown passes.

Mariota was fine.  He only completed 14 passes; most of the big plays were after-catch products.  But he did enough for Cleveland’s defense to combust, and the offense certainly wasn’t there to save them.

Baker Mayfield had an extremely up and down game.  It felt like one of those Russell Westbrook games where he puts up a ridiculous stat line and dazzles you with a couple plays, but takes over too much in crunch-time and starts air-balling threes, including one at the buzzer.

Like Russ does sometimes, Mayfield tried to do a little too much.  Or completely missed passes like this one.

Yikes.  That ball was way behind his receiver.

Here’s another missed pass.

This was an instant “What the…” when I saw Mayfield throw this ball live.  There was no way it was ever going to get to Odell Beckham Jr.  Kevin Byard was right there in front of its trajectory, and Mayfield somehow never saw him.

The Byard pick was brutal. Cleveland was down just nine at that point with a whole quarter left, and in good field position too.

Mayfield then came back with this brutal throw.

That’s more inexcusable than the first.  Logan Ryan was draped all over Jarvis Landry and jumped the route easily.

It is important to mention that this was Mayfield’s 14th career start.  He hasn’t completed a full rookie season yet.  He’s still young and still learning.  He’s going to make mistakes because he is still kind of a rookie.  No matter what the surrounding cast is, guys are going to be playing their age.

Mayfield playing like a rookie sets Cleveland back a bit in terms of their plans and expectations for this season.  It could be a duel between him and the quarterback mentioned above later on in the season.

Quick hits:

  • We expected the Dolphins to be bad, but holy mother of God, for them to come out and play like that in Week 1 is a completely different level of bad.
  • I can’t tell if I feel bad for Josh Rosen after everything that transpired in Week 1 or not.
  • Who are the Dolphins players that want out?  Like, who is going to generate interest on that team?  DeVante Parker maybe?  They do have nice trade pieces in the secondary (Xavien Howard, Minkah Fitzpatrick).  Maybe those are the guys?  Reports have this as like a mass exodus.  Can someone name me 8-10 other players?
  • The Falcons going 11-5 already seems unlikely.  Matt Ryan looked like a 34-year-old out there yesterday.  Minnesota’s defense, which looks all the way back, swallowed up Atlanta’s offense, forcing two Ryan picks and holding the Falcons to just 73 rushing yards.  Their defense was dominated by Dalvin Cook, who also looks all the way back coming off ACL surgery last season.
  • Minnesota has the potential to be a Super Bowl contender, so maybe we should take this Falcons performance with a grain of salt.  Problem is, I thought Atlanta wasn’t very far behind them.
  • That was an Adam Gase coaching classic yesterday.  No one aside from Case Keenum (More on that soon) can play that well in one half and then do the complete opposite in the second.
  • Also, how does the Jets defense let Josh Allen of all people score 17 unanswered on them?  Allen was putrid Sunday, throwing two interceptions (including a pick six) and fumbling twice in the first half alone.   The Jets defense also got immense pressure on Allen.
  • The offense has to take most of the blame.  Sam Darnold was 28-41 for just 175 yards and a touchdown.  Their longest play of the game was 19 yards.
  • Gase wasn’t a bad hire.  The Jets just need to know that this likely what they’ll be getting in him.  He couldn’t get Ryan Tannehill to that next level. Who says he’ll get Darnold there?
  • Speaking of teams that also turned it around in the second half, the Eagles looked like two completely different teams against Washington.  You can say the same thing for the Redskins.
  • Philadelphia blew coverages and let Case Keenum light them up in the first half.  He finished with 380 yards and three touchdowns.  Washington got unexpected contributions from the everlasting Vernon Davis (DID YOU SEE THAT CATCH AND RUN) and rookie Terry McLaurin (This was less surprising).
  • But Keenum, as we’ve seen in the past, collapsed in the second half and couldn’t find the same spark.  Washington had zero chance running the ball, finishing with just 28 rushing yards total.  That made it hard for Washington to take things slow and kill clock.
  • The Eagles looked like serious contenders later in the game.  A bomb to DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey being used in the run and pass game shows the true potential of this offense.  They split carries between three backs too, with Darren Sproles oddly getting most of the work.
  • It’s amazing the Rams and Panthers put up 57 combined points considering how each offense looked.  Both Jared Goff and Cam Newton missed a lot of throws.
  • Neither were great.  Goff threw for just 186 yards with a touchdown and interception.  Newton threw for 239 yards, no touchdowns and an interception.
  • This season is already going exactly how I thought it would for Carolina.  Despite Christian McCaffrey running all over the Rams and looking quite impressive, nothing else could get going.  They didn’t get any seriously big plays.  Newton’s shoulder, after looking fine on the first drive of the game, came into concern later on.
  • Los Angeles’ usage of Todd Gurley was odd.  He ended with a not-so-bad 97 yards on 14 carries, and had a catch, but it’s clear the Rams are putting him out there less.  There multiple snaps where he wasn’t even on the field.  Perhaps some decoy use would have alleviated Goff?
  • The two scariest teams before the season were the Chiefs and Patriots and that was confirmed this weekend.  Kansas City lost Tyreek Hill and looked fine thanks to Sammy Watkins burning everyone.
  • The loss of Nick Foles is going to hurt regardless of Gardner Minshew’s performance in relief of him Sunday.  Minshew is a rookie who was hardly a NFL quarterback (I was higher on him than most though.  Big yards means big arm and that translates).  He’s going to make mistakes and regress.  Jacksonville needs to be prepared for that.
  • The Chargers’ speed was the biggest factor in their 30-24 overtime win against the Colts.  Their skill positions players dominated Indianapolis.  Austin Ekeler ran wild, scoring three touchdowns and making Melvin Gordon lose any value he has left.  Keenan Allen made a spectacular jump ball catch for a touchdown.  And this was a game where Mike Williams only had 29 yards.
  • This was almost a classic Chargers meltdown though.  They allowed Indy to score 15 unanswered points after being up 24-9, which included a possession where Indy missed a field goal (Bad day for the old man Adam Vinateri).
  • The Colts’ game-tying drive was impressive.  Jacoby Brissett was in control, and the ball to TY Hilton for the winner was a beauty.  It might be their defense that needs to step up.
  • Could the Bengals not be terrible?  They looked really good yesterday against Seattle.  They got pressure against Russell Wilson (A must for their defense) and the offense looked surprising explosive against one of the better defenses in the league (John Ross breakout year?)
  • I think Jameis Winston is going find himself on the bench sooner rather than later.
  • He cost the Buccaneers big-time in that game.  They could have won.  Score was not indicative of how close that game was.
  • The 49ers and their injury luck at the running back position… man
  • The Steelers would have been featured above if I was surprised by what happened last night.
  • I was not, so it wasn’t featured.
  • The Patriots might go undefeated, so maybe Pittsburgh’s performance was is being a little overrated in terms of his terribleness, but if Pittsburgh’s offense is going to generate just three points, then they are going to be in serious trouble.