Sunday featured one of the most memorable days of football for several reasons, one which goes beyond football.
I’ll address that first.
Rarely will I use “I” or write from a first-person narrative, but this week’s intro will be one of the few exceptions.
After President Donald Trump, or “45” many call him, decided to infuriate the sports world with his takes on the NBA, NFL and national anthem, several owners, coaches, players and reporters galvanized as a group united against racism, bigotry and the oppression of minorities. The results were heartwarming and incredible.
The NBA has done a better job than the NFL at being outspoken in promoting social equality, there’s no denying that. LeBron James sticking up for Steph Curry was just the latest example.
With the exception of Colin Kaepernick taking a knee and other players supporting him through the media, the NFL had been criticized for not taking a stand, specifically the owners.
Today, several owners showed their hand in sticking with their players. Not all, but some. Certain owners did it better than others in their official statements. Some called out Trump specifically, while some shied away from tackling the issue head-on, but still supported the players they compensate.
Overall, I believe the league came together in what will be remembered as one of the more special Sundays in the history of pro football.
Most teams had one or both of a group of players kneeling or players of all creeds and color locking arms while the anthem played.
It was a beautiful site.
Some may take offense that others would “disrespect” the flag, but that’s no what’s happening. It’s never been about that for these peaceful protesters. Many players knelt with their hands over their hearts, choosing both to bring awareness to the oppression minorities while also paying homage to the men and women of service, who are among the most brave beings in the history of this planet.
Frankly, I believe Trump’s “son of a bitch” comments were outrageous as much as they were disappointing. Just one month ago, Trump refused to use such terms against an angry group of protestors that marched through the University of Virginia’s campus in Charlottesville. Although I respect the President, no matter who is in office, it appears his comments and actions are continuing on a downward spiral in terms of public approval. I don’t have much to say on topics I know minimal about, but as far as his meddling in the sports world, it’s ill-advised.
To see the NFL, including commissioner Roger Goodell, unite in such a way that they demonstrated on Sunday, was a shining light on what seems to be an impending era of doom for the most popular sport in our country.
The NFL is a brotherhood. Yesterday was a prime example. While some may not agree with me on this, I know many do. I was proud of the National Football League and its players for using their rights to stand together for a good cause.
Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers come through in the clutch
In two different time slots on the same Sunday, the NFL’s two best quarterbacks faced late deficits at home against teams they were fully expected to beat. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. Both picked up the slack from their team’s deficiencies to lead memorable comebacks.
In New England, the start of what may be Brady’s most impressive regular season drive ever began at the 25-yard line. Texans 33, Patriots 28 with 2:24 remaining on the clock. Brady converted a masterful 3rd-and-18 to the always-clutch Danny Amendola before finding Brandin Cooks for a 25-yard score to take the lead with 23 seconds remaining.
In just two games, Brady has flung to the top of just about every passing category at 40-years old. The kicker is that instead of working the short and intermediate middle of the field, he’s consistently throwing deep, and better than he ever has.
Above is a list of Brady’s deep threats and their 2016 statistics. We should have known the Patriots were going to throw more deep passes, but Brady is bombing throws downfield with pinpoint accuracy and peak velocity.
Brady now ranks second in the NFL in yards per attempt (9.9 YPA) while Brandin Cooks leads the NFL in yards per catch (25.6 YPC).
For a team that’s allowed an average of 31.6 points per game through Week 3, the Patriots still have a lot to be happy about. That starts with what looks to be an all-time great passing offense. The Patriots are doing it again on offense in a different way. That’s all thanks to Brady, who still has some magic left.
The Packers 27-24 overtime win over the Bengals began ugly. The Bengals led 21-7 after a 75-yard pick-six by William Jackson, and the Bengals had gotten a few of their eventual six sacks on Rodgers already.
Still, the Packers kept fighting and Rodgers ultimately got his chance to tie the game on his last possession. He delivered with a magnificent drive ending in a patented game-tying touchdown to Jordy Nelson with just 17 seconds remaining.
In overtime, Rodgers made a play that should almost be copyrighted to his name. After baiting the Bengals to jump offsides, he bought enough time evading the Bengals pass rush, to throw an off-balance heave right on the money to Geronimo Allison. The play accounted for 72 yards. After a strategic knee to set up better position for a field goal, Mason Crosby promptly delivered a Packers victory.
There is no one better at improvising and making downfield plays than Aaron Rodgers. Possibly no one in NFL history. Whether it be Hail Mary’s, low-risk “free plays” or just incredible extended plays, Rodgers is the best. His 28 free plays are the most in the NFL since he became a starter in 2008, and this last one to Allison set up his first career overtime victory. He was previously 0-7 in overtime games.
Surprises across the league
Yesterday five 2-0 teams lost to teams that were 1-1 or worse. Throw in losses for the Lions, Dolphins and Buccaneers and now there are just two undefeated teams through Week 3. Both the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons are 3-0 and look like the best teams in football at the moment.
But to focus in on some of the surprising losses: the Jaguars destroyed the Ravens in London, the Jets basically shut out the Dolphins and the Bears upended the Steelers.
But none were more surprising than the statistical beatdown the Washington football team gave to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday night. The final score read 27-10 in favor of Washginton, but easily could have been around the likes of 44-0.
The Raiders were manhandled in every statistical category. The loss, along with many other for 2-0 teams on the day, forces us to re-examine the Raiders and other teams that looked great throughout the first two games of the season.
The Raiders, along with the Steelers, are in the best shape of any of the teams with disappointing losses. But nonetheless, the bad loss leaves the reeling Raiders 2-1 with a trip to Denver next week. Pittsburgh will travel to Baltimore, as one of those clubs will look to bounce back.
As for Washington? They’ll go to Kansas City next Monday night to prove that last night was no fluke.