NFL Committee believes roughing penalties will decrease

During a conference call this week, the NFL competition committee chose not to push for any changes to the roughing the passer rule that has caused so much controversy this season. No changes were proposed regarding defenders putting their body weight on a quarterback when making a hit or sack.

However, according to several people who were on the call, the expectation is that there will be fewer roughing the passer calls moving forward. The league is emphasizing to officials they need to be sure a player applied all or most of his body weight when making a hit before throwing the flag, sources said.

Many of the competition committee members felt the hit by Packers pass rusher Clay Matthews on Vikingsquarterback Kirk Cousins in Week 2 was not a foul, sources said.

The Matthews hit was of the “scoop-and-pull” variety, and it’s considered a judgment call. However, the emphasis on the competition committee call was every element must be present to throw the flag — in this case, a scoop, a pull/lift and body weight — and the consensus was Matthews didn’t land on Cousins with his all or most of his weight.

Accordingly, Matthews was not fined for the Cousins hit, which played a significant role in the Packers‘ 29-29 tie with the Vikings, nor was he fined for his postgame comments. Matthews has had three roughing the passer penalties this season.

The body-weight provision is the primary reason behind the increase in roughing the passer flags. Through three weeks last season, there were 20 penalties. This year, there have been 30.

The NFL released a video this week showing examples of what to do and what not to do with the goal of being consistent and clear. In truth, the league almost never changes the language of a rule during the season. But the belief is roughing the passer penalties will go down moving forward.

NFL executive VP of football operations Troy Vincent released a statement Thursday saying there would be no change to the point of emphasis or to the body-weight rule. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported the focus is on several techniques including, but not limited to, scooping behind the QB’s legs, pulling and landing on him with body weight.

The ultra-simplified message from the competition committee to officials is this: See the entire act. Make sure you see all of it. If you aren’t sure, don’t throw the flag. The NFL can always review the play later and issue fines if warranted.

The approach likely will bring the number of penalties down. Meanwhile, the eight-member competition committee does have a regularly scheduled call this coming week, but sources say roughing penalties won’t be on the agenda.

#nflrules #nfluk #nfl #gmb #stewartlovenfl

Maurkice Poncey doesn’t understand Le’Veon Bell’s strategy

http://www.cbssports.com/general/video/10d40942-afcf-465e-a383-5f9c60914310

Le’Veon Bell continues to hover over the Steelers despite the team’s best efforts to move on from the circus that Bell’s ongoing holdout has created. The Steelers, as a whole, haven’t openly discussed Bell and his situation since several players openly criticized him after it became clear that he wouldn’t be back in time to play in Pittsburgh’s season opener agains the Cleveland Browns. That being said, the Steelers continue to be asked about Bell. Mike Tomlin said that he would not longer discuss Bell during his weekly press conference on Tuesday, two days after reports surfaced that the Steelers are listening to trade offers for Bell.

While Pittsburgh is trying to move on from Bell, Pittsburgh Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey did speak openly about his teammate in a story written by Jenny Vrentas of SI.com. Pouncey was among Pittsburgh’s players that were openly critical of Bell when Bell elected not to show up in time to play in the team’s season-opener.

“Honestly, I don’t [understand his strategy] at all, and I really don’t care for it,” said Pouncey, Bell’s teammate since 2013. “If it was me in that situation, and I signed a franchise tag, if I didn’t get the deal done before the deadline, then I’m just giving money back at that point. And I just feel like, for me, I would just feel like there’s no point of doing that at all.”

Would Pouncey welcome Bell back into the fold if he did re-join the Steelers at some point this season?

“[James] Conner has done a great job,” Pouncey said, “and I wouldn’t mind having him at running back the whole entire year.”

While no one truly knows, it appears that the Steelers, to a man, have accepted and are now OK with the fact that they may never play with Bell again. That doesn’t mean, however, that Bell will unequivocally never play for Pittsburgh again, something that seemed to be a definitive fact following Sunday’s trade rumors. As more (unnamed) NFL executives speak out about the complications of trying to sign him, it seems more and more clear that Bell’s best chance at playing football in 2018 would be with the Steelers, who could still pay him his entire franchise tag of $14.54 million if he signed his tag at any point this season.

Bell’s agent, Adisa Bakari, recently told ESPN’s Lisa Salters that Bell does want to play this season after many speculated that Bell may be planning to skip the 2018 season while waiting for the 2019 free agency season to begin. If the Steelers can’t find the right trade partner, and if Bell does want to play in 2018, that could result in an awkward reunion between Bell and some of his teammates if and when he elects to return to Pittsburgh this season.

#nfluk #steelers #herewego #nfl #gmfb #stewartlovenfl #onlyinthenfl

Steelers-Buccaneers final score, takeaways: FitzMagic runs out as Steelers hang on for the win

The most surprising story of the first two weeks of the 2018 NFL season was the hot start of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Behind ultra-efficient passing performances from backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bucs stunned the Saints in New Orleans in Week 1, then defeated Nick Foles and the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles in Week 2.

The Steelers finally put an end to Tampa’s hot start on Monday night, holding on for a 30-27 win over the Bucs in Tampa behind an efficient display of passing from Ben Roethlisberger and a defensive performance that was better than it looks considering the Bucs hung 27 points on the board. Pittsburgh forced four turnovers in the game, and sacked Fitzpatrick three times as well. They held the Bucs to just two scores on five trips to the red zone and yielded only 63 yards on the ground.

Not that the Steelers put together a flawless performance. Roethlisberger was picked off early. The team as a whole took a ridiculous 13 penalties for 155 yards, including several that extended drives and/or kept the Buccaneers in the game. They mysteriously kept the ball in the air even while protecting a lead in the second half and combined for 32 yards on 11 plays while giving the Bucs a chance to trim the lead and get within just a field goal of tying it up.

After the Steelers pinned Tampa inside the 5-yard line with a perfect punt with just south of three minutes left, only to take two penalties on the play and have to punt again, the Buccaneers had one last shot to mount a potential game-tying or game-winning drive. But Fitzpatrick fired three straight passes that were nearly picked, and the Bucs, who still had two timeouts remaining, decided to punt. They never got the ball back.

After James Conner was stopped in his tracks on first down, the Steelers put the game in Roethlisberger’s hands. And he did what he does best. Roethlisberger was under pressure quickly off the snap, but he spun away and escaped out to his right, then threw across his body while falling down. He found JuJu Smith-Schuster over the middle for the second-year wideout’s ninth catch of the game, and the Steelers were able to run out the clock from there.

Here are a few more things to know about Pittsburgh’s Monday night victory.

Roethlisberger overcomes road woes

We all know about the relative struggles Ben Roethlisberger has had in road games over the past several seasons. Last year, for example, Roethlisberger completed only 61.7 percent of his passes on the road while throwing for 62.2 fewer yards per game than he did at home. And in the season opener on the road against the Browns, Ben went 23 of 41 and was picked off three times.

It looked like he might continue his road struggles early on, as he got picked off by Bucs safety Justin Evans early in the first quarter.

But he overcame that early interception and had himself quite the evening. Roethlisberger ended the night having completed 30 of 38 passes for 353 yards and three touchdowns, with just the lone pick. It marked the first time in his 15-year career that he’s opened the season with three consecutive 300-yard passing performances.

He sprayed the ball around to his wideouts Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, as well as tight ends Vance McDonald and Jesse James. He even got speedy slot man Ryan Switzer involved with a touchdown late in the first half. Even against one of the NFL’s worst pass defenses, it was an impressive performance away from the friendly confines of Heinz Field.

Fitzpatrick’s Fitzmagic runs out

Ryan Fitzpatrick set an NFL record in this week, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400 or more yards in three consecutive games. Fitz ended the night with 411 yards on 50 attempts, to go along with three touchdowns and three picks.

And those picks proved quite costly. One of them came in the red zone on a deflected pass.

Another shut down a scoring drive before it could really get started.

And of course, the third pick became a touchdown itself, as Fitzpatrick overshot his man near his own goal line and saw Bud Depree take the ball back to the house to give the Steelers a lead that eventually proved insurmountable.

Fitzpatrick put in a heck of an effort to bring the team back from a big deficit, throwing second-half touchdowns to Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, but it ultimately was not enough. Speaking of Godwin, by the way …

Chris Godwin’s wild night

Bucs wideout Chris Godwin had himself quite the interesting evening. Godwin ended the night with five catches for 74 yards and a touchdown — a good, if not necessarily spectacular performance. But he had a whole lot more going on than that. With the Bucs trailing 9-7 early in the game, Godwin caught a pass coming across the middle and looked like he was about to pick up a first down, but he instead got stripped of the ball by Steelers corner Artie Burns.

That fumble set up an Antonio Brown touchdown a few plays later. Godwin would later drop a touchdown pass in the second quarter … and another in the third. And that was all before he made a diving catch over the middle of the field, only to pop to his feet and sprint to the end zone because it appeared no Steelers defender had touched him on his way to the ground. Upon review, however, it became clear that Godwin’s foot hit Mike Hilton‘s shoulder pad while he was diving to the ground, so the touchdown was overturned.

Finally, in the fourth quarter, Godwin made a leaping touchdown grab over the top of Coty Sensabaugh to bring the Bucs back within 10 points.

Again, it was quite the interesting game for the Bucs’ young wideout.

That’s gonna leave a mark

Trailing 7-0 in the first quarter, the Steelers faced third and long from their own 25-yard line. What happened next cannot be adequately described with words alone. Just watch what Vance McDonald does to poor Chris Conte, who may never be seen in public again after this.

Seriously. Look at this stiff-arm. LOOK AT IT.

Celebrate it like you are Cameron Hayward. CELEBRATE IT.

Naturally, Conte could not return to the game after that display. The Bucs ruled him out with an injured … knee. But that did not stop people from getting their jokes off about what was really injured. (Things were so bad that people even cracked jokes at the expense of the wrong Chris Conte.)

This is also not the first time Conte has been victimized by a brutal stiff-arm, as those who watched Bills-Bears back in 2014 surely remember. Yikes.

Tony Dungy enters Bucs ring of honor

Tony Dungy coached the Buccaneers from 1996 through 2001. He’s one of the best coaches in Bucs history, recording a 54-42 record in 96 games, making him one of just two Bucs coaches with a record of .500 or better. (The other is Jon Gruden, who won the Super Bowl after replacing Dungy in Tampa.) Dungy was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame back in 2016, making him the first black coach of the modern era to be inducted.

On Monday, the Bucs granted him the franchise’s highest reward, inducting him into their ring of honor in front of several members of the team’s storied late 90s and early 2000s defense. (For some reason the Bucs themselves posted zero pictures of the ceremony so we’re taking this one from the Steelers. which looks like it’s actually from pregame.)

You can, however, watch the full ceremony here.

What’s next?

The Steelers are now tied with the Browns in the AFC North at 1-1-1 and have a ‘Sunday Night Football’ date with the Ravens next week, which they’ll play at home. The Bucs drop to 2-1 and travel to Chicago to take on the Bears next Sunday afternoon. They get Jameis Winston back from his three-game suspension (he violated the personal conduct policy by allegedly groping an Uber driver) on Monday morning, and it remains to be seen whether or not he will get his job back from Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Our live blog of the festivities can be found below.

Thank you for joining us.

#nfluk #stewartlovenfl #steelers #nfl #gmfb #buccs #steelers #herewego

NFL Week 3 Grades: Redskins get an ‘A’ for thrashing Packers, Lions earn ‘A+’ for upset of Patriots

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With a roster that includes Alex Smith, Adrian Peterson and Vernon Davis, the Redskins seem like a team that would be built to win if the year was 2012, but nope, it’s starting to look like they might be a team that the rest of the NFL is going to have to worry about in 2018.

Led by three players who are all over the age of 30, the Redskins fittingly topped the 30-point mark during their dominating 31-17 win over the Packers on Sunday. The Packers had no answer for Adrian Peterson, who gashed his way through Green Bay’s defense for 120 yards on just 19 carries.

Four weeks ago, Peterson didn’t even have a job, and now he’s terrorizing opposing defenses at age 33. Normally, that’s an age when most running backs are retired or thinking about it, but not Peterson, who ripped off several long runs against the Packers, including the 41-yarder you can see below.

The most impressive part about Peterson’s game is that he was able to keep it going for four quarters. Not only did he have several big runs in the first half, but he also helped the Redskins ice away the game with several big runs in the fourth quarter. All Day definitely lived up to his nickname because he ran over the Packers all day.

The only thing more impressive than Peterson’s performance was what Smith did to the Packers defense in the first half.

The Redskins shot out to 14-0 lead in the first quarter, thanks in large part to Smith, who threw for 88 yards and a touchdown in the game’s opening quarter. That total includes a 46-yard touchdown pass to Paul Richardson on his third throw of the game.

Keep in mind, this is a quarterback who has basically been dumped by every team that he’s played for. First, it was the 49ers. Then, it was the Chiefs, but now, Smith seems to have found a place where he can finally fit in.

Not only is Smith handing the ball off to someone his age, but he’s also throwing passes to someone his age in Vernon Davis. The Redskins’ 34-year-old tight end caught two passes for 70 yards against the Packers, including a huge 50-yard catch in the second quarter that set up Washington’s final touchdown of the half.

Old people love the early bird special, and thanks to Washington’s trio of old guys, the Redskins were able to tuck this game in early and put it to bed before halftime. The good news for the old guys is that when they slowed down in the second half, the Redskins defense was able to carry things the rest of the way home.

Washington 31-17 over Green Bay

 

Packers: D

With Aaron Rodgers playing on a gimpy knee in rainy weather, you’d think he would have been an issue in this game for the Packers, but that wasn’t the case. The biggest issue for the Packers was the fact that their defense couldn’t slow down the Redskins. The Packers trailed 28-3 at one point in this game due in large part that they gave up more than 300 yards of offense in the first half.

Redskins: A

The Redskins defense was definitely able to take advantage of the fact that Aaron Rodgers was limping around on Sunday. Not only was Rodgers under constant pressure, but Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis combined to sacked the Packers quarterback a total of four times.

Buffalo 27-6 over Minnesota

Bills: A+

Maybe Vontae Davis was holding the Bills‘ defense back. One week after the cornerback ditched the team at halftime of a loss, the Bills defense responded by playing their best game of the season. Led by Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy — who both caused fumbles — the Bills racked up four sacks on Kirk Cousins. Oh, and we should probably give some credit to Josh Allen, who stiff-armed and hurdled the Vikings defense for 39 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns. In his first road start, the rookie also threw for 196 yards and a touchdown.

Vikings: F

Kirk Cousins might have an $84 million contract, but he played more like a guy with an $84 contract. Although this loss was a total failure from top to bottom for the Vikings, Cousins made several costly mistakes. The Vikings quarterback was personally responsible for three turnovers (lost two fumbles and threw an interception) that the Bills turned into 10 of their 27 points. The ugliest stat from this game for the Vikings might have been their rushing total. Minnesota was held to just 14 yards on the ground, the team’s lowest total since 2005.

Carolina 31-21 over Cincinnati

Bengals: C

Andy Dalton giventh and Andy Dalton taketh away. This game was a textbook example of everything that’s good about Dalton, but also everything that’s bad. Dalton kept the Bengals in the game with 352 passing yards and two touchdown passes, but he also threw four interceptions. Although one interception came on the final play, the other three were still costly: The Panthers turned those three picks into 17 points. Dalton definitely wasn’t on the same page as John Ross, who was the target for two of the picks. Of course, the biggest concern for the Bengals might be a defense that gave up 230 rushing yards, marking just the second time since 2010 that Cincinnati has surrendered that many yards in a game on the ground.

Panthers: B+

Before the season started, the Panthers said they wanted to get 25-30 touches per game for Christian McCaffrey and now we know why. McCaffrey had exactly 30 touches for the Panthers in this game and totaled 194 yards, including a career-high 184 on the ground. Cam Newton was also a beast on the ground, rushing for two touchdowns (and also throwing for two other TDs). The important thing is that the Panthers have now figured out the key to victory: rush for more than 215 yards. Carolina totaled 230 rushing yards against the Bengals and are now 17-0 in franchise history when they rush for 215 or more yards.

Baltimore 27-14 over Denver

Broncos: C-

Before garbage time late in the fourth quarter, the Broncos only had one drive in this game that went for more than 40 yards. For the Broncos, it felt like the only thing that went right on Sunday was their special teams play. In the first half alone, the Broncos blocked a field goal and blocked a punt. Other than that, Broncos fans didn’t have much to cheer about in this game, which included Philip Lindsay getting ejected in the first half. The Broncos also got flagged 13 times for 120 yards, the team’s most penalty yardage since Week 15 of 2015.

Ravens: A-

The Ravens‘ gameplan in this game was clearly to take advantage of the Broncos’ beat-up secondary, and that’s exact what they did. Joe Flacco threw early and often against Denver, completing 25 of 40 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown. The most impressive thing from this game might be the fact that the Ravens converted 8 of 13 times on third down after starting 0 for 3 in the first half. Actually, here’s a more impressive stat: The Ravens scored a touchdown on three of their trips to the red zone and have now scored a touchdown on every red zone trip they’ve made this season.

Philadelphia 20-16 over Indianapolis

Colts: C

Going into the 2018 season, the Colts defense was supposed to be the weak link of the team, but all of a sudden, it’s starting to look like the offense has stolen that mantle. The Colts totaled just 209 yards in this game, which was the team’s lowest offensive output ever in a game that Andrew Luck started. It’s also a number that would have been their team-low last season when Luck didn’t even play. Basically, this was a historically bad performance for the Colts, who were only in this game due to a defense that forced two turnovers, setting up six of Indy’s 17 points. The Colts defense also sacked Carson Wentz five times.

Eagles: B

Carson Wentz wasn’t perfect against Indy, but considering the fact that he hadn’t played an actual game in nine months, we’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt. If Wentz was nervous, he didn’t show it to start the game, going 5 of 7 for 55 yards and a touchdown on Philly’s opening drive. Of course, it wasn’t Wentz who carried the team to the win on Sunday, but the Eagles defense. The Eagles shut the Colts down in the red zone (just one touchdown on five trips) and limited them to just a 2-of-12 performance on third-down conversions. The Eagles defense might have been extra motivated in this game, and that’s because they were going up against former Philly offensive coordinator Frank Reich.

New Orleans 43-37 over Atlanta (OT)

Saints: A

Remember last year when the Saints relied on their defense and rushing attack to win games? Well, we can throw that out the window, because it appears they’re now back to relying on Drew Brees‘ right arm (and surprisingly, his legs). Brees threw 49 passes in this game, which is more than he threw in any game last season, and the Saints needed every single one as Brees threw for 396 yards and three touchdowns. The bigger surprise in this game is that Brees has two rushing touchdowns, including a one-yard run that won the game in overtime. This game marked just the second time in Brees’ career that he’s rushed for two touchdowns.

Falcons: B-

The good news for the Falcons? Their offense seems to have figured out their red zone problems. The bad news? Now their defense can’t stop anyone. The Saints totaled 534 yards and scored a touchdown on five of their six trips to the red zone, including the game-winning TD in overtime. This game marked the first time since 1993 that the Falcons allowed more than 530 yards of offense in a home game, and not surprisingly, that also came against the Saints.

New York Giants 27-22 over Houston

Giants: A

Twenty-seven points isn’t usually considered an offensive explosion, but it is for the Giants. Before Sunday, the Giants had only hit the 27-point mark one time in their past 21 regular season games. The Giants were able to explode thanks to a highly accurate Eli Manning, who completed 25 of 29 passes (86.2 percent). It was the second-highest completion percentage of Eli’s 15-year career. Except for Eli getting sacked four times, it’s probably safe to say that this entire game was basically what Pat Shurmur had in mind when he revamped the team’s offense.

Texans: C-

The Texans have the longest losing streak in the NFL right now, and it’s easy to see why: They look completely lost on offense. Although Houston put up big numbers, most of those game was garbage time as the Texans scored two touchdowns over the final 7:37 of the game. Also, Deshaun Watson (385 passing yards) had no help in the game as the Texans totaled just 59 yards on the ground. It was Houston’s lowest rushing total at home since Week 8 in 2015.

Miami 28-20 over Oakland

Raiders: C-

If you’ve seen one Raiders game, you’ve seen them all. For the third straight week, the Raiders jumped out to a first-half lead, only to completely blow it in the second half. Through the first two weeks of the season, the Raiders had been outscored by 36 points in the second half — to put that in perspective, the next closest team had been outscored by 24 points — and they got blown out of the second half again on Sunday, getting outscored 21-10 by the Dolphins.

Dolphins: B+

Hopefully Albert Wilson DVR’d this game, because he’s probably going to watch it at least once a week for the rest of his life after what he did to the Raiders. The Dolphins receiver single-handedly carried his team to victory with a huge fourth quarter that included him throwing a 52-yard touchdown pass and catching a 75-yard TD pass from Ryan Tannehill. The Dolphins scored twice on short shovel passes that turned into long touchdowns. Basically, Adam Gase brought his coaching ‘A’ game and Jon Gruden didn’t. The Dolphins have been winning oddly all season, and this one was no different. With just 41 rushing yards, this game marked just the third time since 2007 that Miami won in a game where they had 45 or less rushing yards.

Kansas City 38-27 over San Francisco

49ers: D

This game was ugly for the 49ers, and it only got uglier in the second half after Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a knee injury that could cost him the rest of the season.

Chiefs: A

The Chiefs scored on their first five possessions and had a 35-7 lead in this game before anyone even broke a sweat. At the rate things are going, Patrick Mahomes is going to have thrown a TD pass to every single player on the Chiefs’ roster by the end of the season. The Chiefs quarterback has now thrown a TD pass to nine different players, which is just four shy of the NFL record for an entire season. Mahomes also had 13 TD passes through his first three games, which breaks Peyton Manning‘s NFL record of 12.

Tennessee 9-6 over Jacksonville

Titans: B+

The Titans had zero healthy quarterbacks by the end of this game, and they only managed one passing yard in the first half, but they still got the win in Jacksonville thanks to a defense that sacked Blake Bortles three times and a kicker who came up in the clutch. Ryan Succop provided all nine of Tennessee’s points in this game in the form of three field goals (39, 36, 28). The Titans defense came up with several huge stops in Jacksonville, including a first-quarter series where they shut down a Jags fake punt attempt on fourth-and-4.

Jaguars: C-

It’s a good thing that jaguars don’t play the Titans every week; otherwise, they would probably never win again. Since the beginning of last season, the Jaguars have gone 0-3 against the Titans and 12-4 against the rest of the NFL. The biggest reason the Jaguars lost this game is because they couldn’t stop the Titans on the ground. The Jags surrendered 150 rushing yards against the Titans and are now 0-30 since 2011 when they give up 150 or more rushing yards in a game.

L.A. Rams 35-23 over L.A. Chargers

Chargers: C-

It’s a good thing the loser of this game didn’t have to leave Los Angeles, otherwise the Chargers would be headed back to San Diego with their tail tucked between their legs. No team in the NFL shoots themselves in the foot as often as the Chargers, and that streak continued in this game. Not only did the Chargers turn the ball over twice, leading to seven Rams’ points, but they also gave up a blocked punt return for a touchdown.

Rams: A-

Just to give you an idea of how insanely impressive the Rams offense was on Sunday, they did something that not even the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams teams ever did: passing for 350 or more yards and rushing for 170 yards in the same game. In their win over the Chargers, the Rams passed for 350 yards and rushed for 171 yards, marking only the second time the team has done that since 1980 (the only other instance came in 2006). This team has too many weapons to stop with Todd Gurley (105 rushing yards), Robert Woods (104 receiving yards, 2 TDs), Brandin Cooks (90 yards) and Cooper Cupp (71 yards, 1 TD) all tallying over 70 yards. As if that’s not enough, the Rams also threw in a special teams touchdown to rub things in.

Chicago 16-14 over Arizona

Bears: B

Giving up two first-round picks for Khalil Mack continues to look like the smartest decision that the Bears have ever made. In this week’s episode of “How did Mack terrorize the opposing offense?” Khalil registered two sacks and a forced fumble in this game and somehow now has at least one sacked and one forced fumble in every game this season. This game marks just the second time since 2013 that the Bears have held an opponent under 225 yards of offense (the Cards finished with 221).

Cardinals: D

It’s hard to get a “D” when you only lose by two points, but that’s what we’re giving the Cardinals here due to what might have been the ugliest second half that any NFL team has played this season. After taking a 14-3 lead into the half, here’s what the Cardinals did with their first four possessions of the second half: Interception, interception, fumble, interception. Coach Steve Wilks tried to jumpstart the offense by benching Sam Bradford, but his decision to throw Josh Rosen to the wolves in the fourth quarter definitely didn’t pay off. And by wolves, we mean the Bears defense.

Seattle 24-13 over Dallas

Cowboys: D

If Jason Garret wasn’t on the hot seat before Sunday, he might be now. And if he’s not, then you have to think that offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is after another ugly performance from the Cowboys offense. Going into this game, the Cowboys had averaged just 13.2 points in their past five regular season games, so maybe no one should be surprised that they were only able to muster 13 in Seattle. Dak Prescott was under pressure all game and ended up getting sacked five times. The Cowboys’ only bright spot on offense was Ezekiel Elliott (16 carries, 127 yards), but even he made a mistake with a pivotal fourth-quarter fumble.

Seahawks: A

If we’ve learned one thing about the Seahawks under Pete Carroll, it’s that you can’t beat them at home in September. Since Carroll took over in 2010, the Seahawks are 14-0 in September home games, including this win over the Cowboys. The most impressive thing about this win is that the Seahawks offensive line actually protected Russell Wilson. Although the Cowboys went into this game with the second most sacks in the NFL (9), they were only able to register two against Seattle. Of course, the most impressive performance from this game came from Earl Thomas, who picked off Dak Prescott twice. That could make for some awkward conversations if Thomas ever gets traded to Dallas.

Detroit 26-10 over New England

Patriots: D

This game is definitely going to go down as one of the ugliest offensive performances that the Patriots have pulled off in the Brady-Belichick era. The Patriots totaled only 209 yards, their fifth lowest total since 2003. Outside of Gronk, Brady has no one to throw to, which means things might not get better for New England until Julian Edelman returns in Week 5. The Patriots also hope that Josh Gordon starts picking up the offense sometime real soon. With the 16-point loss, the Patriots have now lost by double-digits in two straight games for the first time since December 2002. Just imagine how ugly this game would have gotten if the Patriots had traded Gronk to the Lions. Oh, and the Patriots defense wasn’t great either. The team can’t stop the run, and it’s a problem that Belichick can’t seem to solve. The Patriots have surrendered at least 4.3 yards per carry in every game they’ve played this season.

Lions: A+

This game couldn’t have gone any better for Lions coach Matt Patricia. Not only did the former Patriots defensive coordinator devise a game plan that absolutely shut down his old team, but he also got to watch a Lions running back (Kerryon Johnson) rush for more than 100 yards. That’s mostly notable because no Lions back had rushed for 100 or more yards since November 2013. With one win, the Lions’ season has gone from seemingly hopeless to looking hopeful.

#nfluk #stewartlovenfl #aroundthenfl #stewartlovenfl #gmfb

Colts Should Turn Luck Loose in Philly, Patricia’s D Has Its Hands Full Against His Old Team, Deshaun Watson Ready to Remind You How Good He Is.

Also, the sadness of the Giants’ O-line, the Broncos’ struggles on the road, the Saints started 2018 like they started 2017, stop throwing to Julio in the red zone, get ready to doze off during a lot of Seattle Seahawks primetime games, looking back on the last L.A. vs. L.A. battle, the Super Bowl halftime show that should be, and will the Victory Loose Warm Beers In a Car Trunk™ be cracked open this week? Plus, musical guest: Rage Against the Machine!

1. Carson Wentz and Andrew Luck, twins separated at birth but with different hair and birthdates three years apart, cross paths in Philadelphia on Sunday.

Wentz and Luck are cut from the same cloth: Linebacker size with the ability to extend plays within the pocket. That style is partially responsible for catastrophic injuries, with Luck missing a season while recovering from shoulder surgery and Wentz missing a postseason run to a championship due to a torn ACL. Luck returned to the field two weeks ago and has played a different style this season. Rather than attacking downfield, it’s been a much heavier emphasis on shorter throws. Before the injury, 33.8% of his pass attempts were thrown beyond 10 yards, and 11.5% beyond 20. Those rates are down to 21.4% and 4.8% through two games this year. However, the Eagles’ struggles against Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bucs’ downfield passing attack might give Frank Reich and the Colts braintrust reason to let loose a bit, especially in light of the fact that Tampa’s front five mostly held Philly’s pass rush in check. Even with left tackle Anthony Castonzo still out, when you consider the investment Indy has made in the interior offensive line, this might be the week to throw a little caution to the wind and let it fly.

As for Wentz, a torn ACL is far less of a long-term concern than shoulder surgery for a quarterback, but it seems much more likely that the Eagles take a conservative approach. That’s in large part because they have no weapons on the outside if Alshon Jeffery sits again—and even if he returns, he figures to be playing at far less than 100%. Four years from now this will be a heavyweight battle. On Sunday, we should hope to see a few more glimpses of the old Andrew Luck.

2. There are things we know about first-year Lions head coach Matt Patricia. He’s a scientist. He is banned from dozens of mini-golf courses in the six New England states due to his habit of dumping the basket full of those little scorecard pencils into his fanny pack. He has a beard. But what you might not know: He used to work for none other than Bill Belichick, who—ironically—does not himself have a beard, and who will be his opponent Sunday night.

Aside from the clichéd teacher vs. student angle on Sunday Night Football, this will be an especially fascinating test for Patricia’s young Detroit defense. The Patriots have a lack of weapons on the outside—at least until Josh Gordon is ready for a bigger role than run straight upfield then catch it/catch it then run straight upfield. But the Patriots have the kind of mismatch weapons at running back and tight end (well, one tight end) to give this Lions team fits. I am sticking to my assessment of Jarrad Davis as a future star once he gets the reps he needs to improve in coverage, but he’s not there yet. Christian Jones has also had issues; neither guy looks anywhere near comfortable in the new scheme. Though the one positive you can take away from an ugly first two games for Detroit: It seemed like this thing might go off the rails after the embarassing opener and a defecit in San Francisco, but they played hard and battled back a week ago.

Tom Brady has been to the postseason 14 straight seasons, and in that span the Patriots have only lost back-to-back (meaningful, Brady playing four quarters with something on the line) games six times. Detroit’s linebackers are going to have to be significantly better—or Matthew Stafford is going to have to stand on his head again—if it’s going to be seven.

3. I’m not gonna sit here and list the reasons why Maroon 5 isn’t a very good choice for the Super Bowl halftime show. I’ll just reiterate how disappointed I am that my idea for the halftime show—an alarm-clock radio that plays Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean” four consecutive times—has once again not received proper consideration.

4a. We live in the world obsessed with symbolism over any kind of deep, substantive assessment—no more so than in politics and sports—and one week ago Deshaun Watson was very much in danger of falling prey to a new narrative. In case you missed it, Watson’s gaffe last week was essentially running out the clock with a three-point deficit. With the ball at midfield and 17 seconds left, rather than trying to get the ball out to the sideline to try to set up the Texans (who were out of timeouts) for a desperation field goal try, and facing a two-man rush, Watson loitered for nine seconds before scrambling, at one point fully crossing the line of scrimmage then running back behind it. He eventually threw the ball to DeAndre Hopkins in the middle of the field, ending the game. It was indeed a bone-headed play, erasing what little chance Houston had to force overtime in Nashville. But it’s also a largely meaningless data point in what remains an exceedingly promising first eight starts of Watson’s career.

The social media pitchforks were out. (And make no mistake: Twitter might be a giant comments section—98% of which is the intellectual equivalent of a giant, smoldering crater that was filled with soiled diapers immediately after being formed—but it’s still where most media members form their world view. Anyway, follow me on Twitter!) Watson was spared when someone reacted to his mistake by saying something irredeemably stupid, and then everyone forgot what they were so worked up about in the first place even though they never should have been so worked up about it. The circle of life.

Watson will likely be better than “fine” going forward; there’s no reason to doubt his ascension. And with the Giants shorthanded in the secondary (it’s a long drop from Eli Apple to B.W. Webb), this game represents a chance to re-establish himself as a budding superstar.

And if nothing else, last week’s gaffe did remind me of my favorite moment of the past five seasons:

[Paul Harvey voice] And that little boy who nobody liked grew up to be… Kirk Cousins. And now you know the rest of the story.

4b. As for the other side of the battle of disappointingly winless teams, the Giants are being done in by their offensive line. They have the skill-position talent to win a lot of games. They can’t do it if they’re completely incapable of blocking people.

In the opener, they were overpowered by the Jaguars’ front, which happens. Last week against Dallas, they were clearly unprepared for all those slot blitzes from a familiar division opponent who has never come after them like that. The individual talent on the Giants’ line is good enough to be passable, but O-line coach Hal Hunter has his work cut out for him. His guys were collectively curling into the fetal position and softly weeping every time the Cowboys ran a simple twist last Sunday night.

But besides finding general cohesiveness, how about some power runs with Will Hernandez paving the way for Saquon Barkley? That was the most exciting vision for Giants fans coming out of last April’s draft. And if you got a little bit of power going, you can start in with some RPOs, opening up some catch-and-run opportunities for Odell Beckham Sr.’s kid.

5a. Denver is a lovely part of the country, and far be it from me to rain on anyone’s proverbial parade, but this 2-0 start for the Broncos has a little bit of a déjà vu feel to it.

Two games into the 2017 season, the Broncos were 2-0—outlasting the Chargers in the season opener then destroying the Cowboys in the second game—both wins at Mile High. Trevor Siemian was tied for the NFL lead in touchdown passes (they had their quarterback!). The defense was elite again, holding Ezekiel Elliott to eight yards on nine carries in the Dallas win. Then, the Broncos came east to Buffalo in Week 3, where they were depantsed by the Bills. The wheels came off soon after.

Ultimately, the Broncos were one of the worst road teams in football last season. They were 1-7, the only win coming on a Thursday night in Indianapolis, four days after the Colts had played a snowy, overtime slugfest in Buffalo. Six of the Broncos’ seven road losses were by double-digits, with the seventh a 21-14 defeat to a bad Oakland team.

So consider this an official pumping of the brakes on the undefeated Broncos as they head to Baltimore on Sunday. Case Keenum has gotten the job done through two games, but he’s looked just as uneven as Siemian did during the early going last season. The defense has played well overall, but gave up some plays to a rebuilding Raiders offense last week. We’ll have a much better read on the Broncos’ outlook after they play a middling—though well-rested—Ravens team on the road

5b. Conversely, two games into last season we were shaking our heads and chuckling “same old Saints” after New Orleans allowed 29 to the Vikings in the opener then 36 to the Patriots at home. The start to this season has been even more disconcerting for a defense that was very much on the rise last year, allowing 48 to FitzMagic’s Bucs and 18 to Tyrod Taylor’s Browns (the latter doesn’t sound that bad, but consider Taylor threw for 246 yards and 8.2 per attempt with a 94.6 passer rating against New Orleans, and 216 yards, 4.0 yards per attempt and a 46.5 rating in his season’s other six quarters). There’s something to be said for the Saints defense having potentially maxed out a year ago; it’s not often that a unit has two players (Cam Jordan and Marshon Lattimore) perform at a Defensive Player of the Year level. But there’s at least precedent for this group starting slow

6. New Orleans goes to Atlanta this week, a battle of two should-be Super Bowl contenders who were tripped up Week 1. In the case of the Saints, it’s been the aforementioned defense. As for Atlanta, this offense might go as their red-zone efficiency goes.

During their record-setting 2016 season, the Falcons scored 5.19 points per red-zone possession, eighth-best in the NFL, including 39 red-zone TDs, third in the league. Last year, those numbers slid to 4.48 points per RZ possession (23rd) and 27 RZTDs (11th). They would have dropped off from that 33.8 points per game they averaged in 2016 regardless—the big plays just weren’t there—but the drop wouldn’t have been nearly as sharp if their red-zone effectiveness had held.

In that regard, Atlanta’s Week 2 was as encouraging as Week 1 was discouraging. In the opener at Philadelphia, Atlanta made five red zone trips and came away with nine points combined on them. In Week 2, they made four red-zone trips and came away with 28 points.

Looking at the ball distribution in the red-zone, in Week 1 Julio Jones got three targets (with no catches and one interception), Austin Hooper got two, Devonta Freeman got one, and they ran the ball five times. In Week 2, Calvin Ridley caught a TD on a slant on the opposite side of the field from Jones, and later Austin Hooper scored on a corner route as the single receiver on his side of the field with Jones lining up with a trips grouping on the other side. The other TDs were Matt Ryan on a sneak at the goal line, and Ryan on an eight-yard scramble out of a spread look.

Jones didn’t get a single red-zone target in Week 2, and maybe there’s something to that. The conventional wisdom has been to force-feed Julio in the red-zone, but during that record-setting season in 2016 he was sixth on the team in red-zone targets (9), scoring just two RZTDs on the year. Last year he had twice as many RZ targets, leading the team with 18, and scored half as many touchdowns. I’ll save you the trouble of doing the math by disclosing that half of two is one.

In a nutshell, if you look at 2016 vs. 2017, and Week 1 vs. Week 2 of the current season, the Falcons might be better off going elsewhere near the goal line. And as good as Julio is, he just hasn’t been the kind of back-shoulder force you’d think he’d be down there. He’s caught only half of his 110 career RZ targets, with just 23 TDs among them. His best use down there might be as a decoy.

7. I know, it happened Thursday night, but no one jostles me awake from my trademark 40-hour naps until Saturday, so I’m now going to write a couple things about the Browns’ historic victory:

a. Thursday was what Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold were supposed to be right now. Mayfield was very much pro-ready. Darnold was probably not quite there. So if, last May, you were having a conversation about how Mayfield and Darnold would look in their Week 3 matchup, Thursday is probably pretty close to what you would expect. And also you have boring conversations.

b. It is a little weird seeing Darnold asked to run a conservative, misdirection-heavy attack while Mayfield was typically hitting his back foot and ripping it. It feels like that’s what Darnold should be doing more of. Though, considering the absurdly conservative decision to sit Mayfield for two-and-a-half games, Hue Jackson might have taken a different tack if the Browns weren’t trailing by 14 points when Mayfield came onto the field for his first NFL action.

c. Not a big deal; Mayfield deserves all the praise he’s getting for his Thursday night performance, Hue Jackson deserves to be heckled until our voices are hoarse for sitting Mayfield behind Tyrod Taylor for any period of time let alone two-plus games. BUT! Mayfield did lose track of a safety on a third-quarter red-zone throw, and if Doug Middleton catches one of the easiest interceptions he’ll ever be offered up, we’re all singing a different tune. Something sad. Emo.

d. Apologies for pointing this out, but poor Jamar Taylor. He’s a fine cornerback (despite a rough start to his new life opposite Patrick Peterson in Arizona), and after spending the last two seasons in Cleveland he is currently on a personal 19-game losing streak. I’d be crazy to pass up this marketing opportunity, so here goes: Those three loose cans of Genesee, plus one Busch, from two summers ago will remain locked in the trunk of my car—snuggled in my Jake Plummer Arizona Cardinals replica jersey from the Champion Outlet in Waterloo, N.Y., in order to keep them at room temperature—until he gets a win. Or until someone jimmies the lock a little bit; it will pop right open.

8. Far be it from me to critique any network’s programming choices—I’ve seen every episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force approximately 14 times apiece and unlike most Adult Swim viewers I watched every one of them sober if you don’t count alcohol and inhalants. But the number of times the Seahawks will be nationally televised in 2018 seems regrettable.

The first issue is that the most fascinating and talented player on the roster (for now), Earl Thomas, plays free safety and therefore spends most of his time off-screen on the broadcast angle (long live the Madden cam). But, of course, the main problem is that offense.

New offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer deserves more than two games to prove himself in Seattle (even if his Jets tenure was… less than inspiring), and it’s exceedingly difficult to design for Russell Wilson, who’s at his best playing out-of-structure and off-schedule. Still, through two games (and, really, dating back to late last season), the offense is basically Russ patting the ball five or six times before the pocket collapses and swallows him up. And then Michael Dickson comes out. Which is actually the best part of a Seahawks game at this point.

This is shaping up to be like the mid-autumn nightmare of 2017, when the Miami Dolphins were on primetime three straight weeks. The Seahawks are on in primetime five times this season, and most of the nation will be subjected to that offense when they host the Cowboys today. It’s a good afternoon for raking the leaves. Or if they haven’t fallen in your yard yet, just mime raking leaves for three hours. It’s good practice for the real thing.

9. The Chargers should feel right at home on Sunday: in greater Los Angeles and with no one in the stadium rooting for them. Their visit to the Rams also marks the first L.A. vs. L.A. game in nearly 24 years.

Let us turn back the clock to 1994, when these United States were a much different place. Physicists Clifford Shull and Bertram Brockhouse’s development of the neutron scattering technique earned them a Nobel Prize. The world watched as Justin Bieber, once a fetus, was birthed in a Canadian hospital. It would be another seven years before the advent of Wikipedia, empowering even the laziest of researchers to, for instance, “turn back the clock to 1994.”

And on a pleasantly warm November afternoon at Anaheim Stadium, the Los Angeles Rams hosted the Los Angeles Raiders in a game that thrilled anyone hoping to see Chris Miller and Chris Chandler for the price of a single admission. (From what I can tell off old game stories, apparently Rams quarterbacks were getting destroyed all season, and the oft-concussed Miller replaced an injured Chandler in the second quarter in this one.)

Super Bowl champion Jeff Hostetler (to be clear, this game was not the Super Bowl) threw for 218 yards and a couple of first-half TDs, the second one to “Rocket” Ismail—who earned his nickname while studying with Matt Patricia at RPI. The Ismail TD had been a counter punch to Chandler’s TD throw to “Flipper” Anderson—who got his nickname for his support of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election. Though in the end, it was a couple of clutch fourth-quarter field goals by “Jeff” Jaeger—who got his nickname from the shortening of his birth name “Jeffrey”—that proved to be the difference. Jaeger’s makes from 44 and 47 yards provided enough cushion for the Raiders in a 20-17 victory that was remembered by no one until you just finished reading this.

10. Ladies and gentlemen . . . Rage Against the Machine! (Appropriate for a number of reasons these days, and today the album title is among them…)

#nfl #nfluk #stewartlovenfl #gmfb #onlyinthenfl #nflukfacebook #nflinternationalseries

NFL Week 3, things to watch for:

NFL Week 3, things to watch for:

FAST START: Through the first two weeks of the season, there have been 174 total touchdowns scored, the most in NFL history through Week 2, and the 1,506 total points are the second-most in league annals (1,556 in 2012) through the first two weeks of a season.

CLOSE GAMES: continue to be the norm in 2018, as 25 of the 32 games (78.1 percent) through two weeks of the season have been within one score in the fourth quarter, tied for the third-most in NFL history through Week 2. Twenty-one games have been decided by eight or fewer points through Week 2, the third-most in league history through the first two weeks of a season. Nine teams, including four last week (Denver, Minnesota, New Orleans and Tennessee), have won or tied after trailing in the fourth quarter this season.

FITZ-MAGICAL: Tampa Bay quarterback RYAN FITZPATRICK completed 27 of 33 attempts (81.8 percent) for 402 yards with four touchdowns and one interception for a 144.4 passer rating in the Buccaneers’ Week 2 win over Philadelphia.

Fitzpatrick, who passed for 417 yards and four touchdowns in Week 1 and plays against Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football, can become the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for at least 400 yards and four touchdowns in three consecutive games.

CHILLING WITH MAHOMES: Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES completed 23 of 28 attempts (82.1 percent) for 326 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions for a 154.8 passer rating in the Chiefs’ Week 2 victory at Pittsburgh. At 22 years, 364 days old, Mahomes became the youngest quarterback in NFL history with at least six touchdown passes in a single game.

Mahomes, whose 10 touchdown passes through Week 2 are the most by a quarterback in NFL history through his team’s first two games, needs three touchdown passes on Sunday against San Francisco to surpass PEYTON MANNING (12 in 2013) for the most touchdown passes in NFL history by a quarterback through his team’s first three games of a season.

COMPLETE CONTROL: New Orleans quarterback DREW BREES has 6,287 career completions during his 18-year NFL career.

With 14 completions on Sunday at Atlanta, Brees would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer BRETT FAVRE (6,300) for the most completions in NFL history.

Brees has at least 30 pass attempts and completed at least 80 percent of his passes in each of his past two games. He can surpass PEYTON MANNING (2013) as the only quarterback in NFL history with three consecutive games with at least 30 pass attempts and a completion percentage of 80 or higher.

OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN: Indianapolis quarterback ANDREW LUCK has 19,576 career passing yards in 72 career games.

Luck, who will play at Philadelphia on Sunday, needs 424 passing yards to join Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (74 games) and MATTHEW STAFFORD (71 games) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for 20,000 yards in 75 games or fewer.

DEEP THREAT: Buccaneers wide receiver DE SEAN JACKSON had 129 receiving yards, including a 75-yard touchdown catch, in Tampa Bay’s Week 2 victory.

Jackson, who had 146 receiving yards and two touchdowns in Week 1, can become the fifth player in NFL history to record at least 100 receiving yards and a touchdown catch in each of his team’s first three games of a season.

GREEN IS GOOD: Cincinnati wide receiver A.J. GREEN had three touchdown receptions in the Bengals’ Week 2 victory over Baltimore.

Green, who has four touchdown receptions through two games, needs two touchdowns at Carolina to become the fourth player in the Super Bowl era to record six touchdown catches through his team’s first three games of a season.

LIKE MIKE: New Orleans wide receiver MICHAEL THOMAS recorded 12 receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints’ Week 2 win over Cleveland. Thomas has 28 receptions in the Saints’ first two games, the most by a player in his team’s first two games in NFL history.

Thomas needs seven receptions at Atlanta to surpass JULIO JONES (34 in 2015) for the most catches by a player in his team’s first three games to start a season in NFL history. #nfluk #nfl #gmfb #stewartlovenfl