Mayfield unlocks the beer refrigerators, Garoppolo's ACL, and Rex Ryan blasting Bill Belichick: just another week in the NFL. We'll give you all the 2018 NFL news you can handle in under three minutes each week. (Disclaimer: You can stay longer than three minutes. Time is relative.) Here's the best of the NFL from Week 3.
The Kid Quarterbacks Look Like The Real Deal
Three weeks into the season and already the star-studded rookie quarterback class is living up to the hype, as Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen have forced their way in as starters, joining Sam Darnold in that exclusive club.
So who ya got?
Mayfield is already a cult hero, having famously unlocked the beer refrigerators in Cleveland by leading the Browns to their first win since December 2016, coming off the bench to beat Darnold and the Jets.
Meanwhile, all Allen did was engineer the biggest upset in the NFL since 1995, as the Buffalo Bills, 17-point underdogs, routed the mighty Vikings 26-7 in Minnesota. Along the way, he stopped hearts all over western New York by hurdling a defender in the middle of the field, an insane move that proved the kid from Wyoming is fearless if nothing else.
In Arizona, the Cardinals turned to Rosen out of desperation late in a loss to the Chicago Bears, and while Rosen couldn’t save the day, he was named the starter for Week 4, taking over for Sam Bradford.
As for Darnold, he was upstaged by Mayfield, and two straight so-so performances in losses have slowed the rush to put him in Canton already. Nobody is saying he’s suddenly Browning Nagle or Richard Todd, but nobody has asked him to shoot a pantyhose commercial just yet either, a la Broadway Joe.
In any case, the last time four first-round rookie quarterbacks started in the same week was in 2012, when the names were Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden.
Which brings us back to Mayfield. Weeden happens to be one of 29 QBs who had started for the Browns since the franchise was reborn in Cleveland in 1999, a group perhaps epitomized by the disaster that was Johnny Manziel. Into this breach steps Mayfield as No. 30 in that parade of starting QBs, following his impressive debut off the bench against the Jets. Expectations are already soaring, considering that wide receiver Rashard Higgins told Cleveland.com he thinks Mayfield could replace LeBron James on the massive wall downtown where the departed superstar’s mural was formerly on display.
“I keep saying this is the Baker era and stuff,” Higgins said. “If it pans out, he might be on the LeBron wall, as I like to call it.”
Hey, if Mayfield could unlock those refrigerators, anything is possible.
If Only Belichick Would Take The Rex Ryan Bait
Is this the year the roof finally caves in on the Patriots, or is Rex Ryan going to have to eat his words after essentially declaring them roadkill this week?
It was rather stunning to see the Pats pushed around by the previously winless Detroit Lions on Sunday night, as they fell to 1-2. It's becoming clear that Bill Belichick has left Tom Brady without enough playmakers at wide receiver.
Still it was hard not to chuckle at Ryan’s harsh criticism of Belichick, considering their shared history. During his tenure as Jets’ coach, Ryan made brash and ultimately empty promises about toppling the Patriots’ dynasty, famously saying he hadn’t taken the job to “kiss Belichick’s rings.” As a TV guy now, here was Ryan’s assessment of the Patriots, delivered Monday on ESPN’s “Get Up” show:
“We get it: you’re a Hall of Fame coach. You’ve got Josh McDaniels as your offensive coordinator. But guess what? One of the reasons they’re Hall of Fame coaches is they had great players. I’m sorry, I would run to play these guys right now. I would play them every week.”
Will this quote age well? We should probably check back in a couple of weeks when Julian Edelman is back from suspension and the newly acquired Josh Gordon has time to settle as a deep threat for Brady.
Shanahan: Garoppolo Should Have Stepped Out Of Bounds
The irony of Week 3? While everyone is screaming the NFL has gone too far in protecting quarterbacks after Clay Matthews was called for another controversial roughing-the-passer penalty, Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending knee injury was a reminder that nobody can protect them from their own competitive instincts.
Had Garoppolo stepped out of bounds on his scramble against the Chiefs, instead of cutting back inside for a first down, the Niners might still have their star QB, a point that coach Kyle Shanahan made rather bluntly after an MRI confirmed fears of an ACL tear.
“Those guys are competitive guys who want to do whatever they can to win the game,” Shanahan said. “You’re not assuming by staying inbounds you’re going to tear your knee up, but I think that’s something where Jimmy will probably look at differently going forward because I know he’ll remember this for the rest of his life."
Translated, you could almost hear Shanahan saying, “What were you thinking, Jimmy G? See you in 2019.”
Could Luck Have Reached The End Zone?
Eyebrow-raising moment of the week: Needing a Hail Mary on the final play of the game, Indianapolis Colts’ coach Frank Reich substituted Jacoby Brissett for Andrew Luck, citing the backup’s arm strength.
With the play starting from the Colts’ 46-yard line, Reich wanted to make sure the Hail Mary pass reached the end zone (it was batted down there by Eagles’ defenders) and Luck agreed Brissett has a stronger arm.
Left unsaid, of course, was Reich’s concern that Luck wouldn’t be able to get the ball deep enough, which may explain why the QB hasn’t thrown the ball downfield much so far, in his comeback from shoulder surgery. It's somewhat troubling when your prized QB gets tapped out to throw the long ball.
The Pain Of Getting Posterized, NFL-Style
Sure, sure, the Pittsburgh Steelers got off the deck Monday night, but you couldn’t have been surprised, right? Even with all the drama of Le'Veon Bell’s absence and Antonio Brown’s apparent unhappiness, you knew Mike Tomlin’s team wasn’t going to let this season slip away in September.
So they slowed Fitzmagic, forcing three Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions, and defeated the Tampa Bay Bucs 30-27 for their first win of the year.
But, really, was anyone in line at Starbucks Tuesday morning talking about anything but poor Chris Conte getting stiff-armed into next week by Steelers’ tight end Vance McDonald?
The Bucs’ safety made the mistake of going high to try to tackle McDonald after a short reception, only to be sent flying by an eye-popping show of strength that could only be compared to a little brother trying to tackle his big brother in the backyard somewhere.
Or maybe some opponent foolishly deciding to try and block a DeAndre Jordan dunk in the NBA. indeed, if the term “poster-ized” ever applied to the NFL, this was it.
A word of advice for Conte: go for the legs next time and WRAP UP!
*Out-of-market games only. Select int'l games excluded.