Bears flex their muscles; Mahomes’ latest trick; Belichick’s non-mea culpa: Just another week in the NFL. We’ll give you all the 2018 NFL news you can handle in under three minutes (Disclaimer: you can stay longer than three minutes. Time is relative). Here’s the best—or worst—of the NFL from Week 14.
Bears Make A Statement
Ok, admit it, you were getting a little tired of the NFL looking too much like your basic flag football-league game, as dazzling as all the offense has been this season. Basically, you just needed to be reminded defense still matters.
And up stepped the Chicago Bears, a franchise defined by ferocity, from Dick Butkus to Mike Singletary to Brian Urlacher.
Indeed, by shutting down the high-flying Rams 15-6, holding them without a touchdown after they’d averaged 34.9 points per game this season, the Bears didn’t just flex their pass-rushing muscles.
They also announced themselves as a genuine Super Bowl threat. Maybe, if Mitch Trubisky stops overthrowing receivers by 10 feet, as he gifted Rams defensive backs with three easy interceptions.
For that matter, the second-year quarterback’s inaccuracy is a major concern for the Bears, and yet it didn’t matter last Sunday night because they swiped four passes of their own from Jared Goff, who’d never thrown more than two interceptions in an NFL game—even under Jeff Fisher.
So besides getting some good old-fashioned defense, what do we make of such an eye-opening result? Is this really a latter-day version of the ’85 Bears? Or were the warm-weather Rams, with their Cali quarterback, adversely affected by the freezing-cold night at Soldier Field.
So perhaps securing home-field advantage in the playoffs will prove crucial in the NFC for the Rams—or the Saints, for that matter. Even so, the Bears have made it clear that defense ain’t dead yet in the modern NFL.
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For His Latest Trick, Mahomes Makes Like LeBron
So we know Patrick Mahomes has Brett Favre’s arm strength and Russell Wilson’s mobility…
But who knew he had some LeBron James in him as well?
A no-look pass in football? Favre would try anything. He never tried that. Yet Mahomes pulled it off on Sunday against the Ravens, looking toward the middle of the field as he threw to his left, hitting Demarcus Robinson in stride for a 17-yard gain.
Afterward, Mahomes told reporters it’s something in his bag of tricks that he has tried, mostly in practice, going back to his days at Texas Tech.
“I realized it was actually a tool I can use in games.”
He said he did it on that play because as Robinson was coming open, “I needed to move the safety” by looking him off. Andy Reid said he’s never seen a quarterback do that but had no issue with it, saying “he actually froze (safety Chuck) Clark" by doing it.
One more reason Mahomes is the must-see QB this season.
Belichick Owns His Mistake? Eh, Not Really
The Boston media couldn’t wait to throw bouquets at Bill Belichick for taking responsibility for the infamous two-lateral 69-yard TD (a.k.a. the "Miami Miracle") that beat the Patriots on the game’s final play.
“Refreshing,” one reporter wrote.
But was it really?
“It starts with me,” Belichick said Monday. “We have to play better situational football. We’ll work to achieve that.”
Ok, fine, but when asked if he made a mistake having Rob Gronkowski in the game for that final play, apparently anticipating a Hail Mary throw of some 70 yards, Belichick essentially said no.
“It was a little too far to get to the end zone,” he said, “but certainly a deep pass in that situation is a possibility. I wouldn’t rule that out.”
That’s not exactly a mea culpa. Especially considering no less an expert than former Patriot linebacker and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi tweeted that it was a mistake having Gronk in the game with the ball out of Hail Mary range.
In any case, losing on such a play was the height of embarrassment for a coach renowned for his attention to detail, so of course it starts with him. If Belichick had said, “Let’s face it, I screwed up,” now that would have been a mea culpa.
Better you wait for his explanation as to why he didn’t play Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl last February.
The Barkley-Darnold Debate Heats Up
Saquon Barkley looks a little more like Barry Sanders every Sunday, it seems, and Sam Darnold last week did his best Joe Namath impression since becoming a Jet.
The two items are not unrelated, as New Yorkers are well aware.
Eventually there is bound to be a winner and a loser in this scenario, but for now the Giants are still the team on trial for drafting Barkley with the No. 2 pick when they clearly needed a long-term answer at quarterback to replace Eli Manning, which allowed the delighted Jets to scoop up Darnold with the next pick.
Still, Barkley has been such a game-changer, helping revive the Giants’ season, that maybe Dave Gettleman’s selection in the draft wasn’t so dumb after all. That is, of course, if the Giants can find Manning’s successor via the draft or free agency in the off-season. Otherwise, Barkley’s breathtaking running—he racked up 170 yards rushing against the Redskins to go to 1,124 for the year—likely will ring hollow on losing teams.
Meanwhile, Darnold returned after a three-game absence from a foot injury to make big throws and lead the Jets to a late game-winning drive over the Bills, once again looking like the QB who floored his coaches from the start of training camp with his poise and presence.
Barkley or Darnold? It might take 10 years to reach a verdict, but right now Barkley has the leg up.
$84 Million For This?
The honeymoon is over in Minnesota for Kirk Cousins, who isn’t living up to the hype that came with the $84 million contract.
But at least he still has his job. Not so for his offensive coordinator, as John DeFilippo was fired one day after the Vikings lost 21-7 to the Seahawks on Monday night.
Cousins was supposed to be the final piece to winning a championship for a team that went 13-3 and reached the NFC Championship game last season. Instead, the Vikes are 6-6-1, struggling to earn a wild-card spot, and Cousins’ play has been spotty at best.
And after failing to generate much of any offense against the Seahawks, Cousins is still winless in games against teams with winning records this season.
Case Keenum, anyone?
*Out-of-market games only. Select int'l games excluded.