Week seven was a week of records. Drew Brees became the fourth ever player to eclipse 500 career touchdowns, and only the third to have beaten every NFL team. Adam Thielen became the second person to have seven straight 100 yard receiving games to start the season, and could become the first to do eight on the bounce. Chandler Catanzaro broke the record for both the longest overtime winning field goal.
Being 17-0 down in the fourth quarter against the reigning Super Bowl champions is not usually considered a power move. However, the Carolina Panthers are clearly big fans of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and thus know the Hungarian fencing term Hosszú Gorcs. According to Captain Holt’s deep, treacly voice, this means giving up early points to inspire a sense of complacency in your opponents. At 17-0 down, they put this plan into full effect.
The Panthers staged a late game comeback, and two touchdown throws by Cam Newton, along with a rush by Curtis Samuel sealed a 21 unanswered points rally to give the Panthers a 17-21 victory. Vindicated!
Houston Texans Medical Staff
I am a big fan of the brutal toughness in watching battle-weary players drag their teams to victory. That being said, the Houston Texans medical staff need to start running their ideas past other people sometimes, or at least saying them aloud to hear how bad they sound.
The team lives and dies by quarterback DeShaun Watson on offense as much as they do JJ Watt on defence, so you can understand why they’d go to great lengths to get him on the field. For the last few weeks, Watson has had a knock which was described on the injury report as a “chest” injury. Turns out it was a bruised lung. The man is playing with a bruised lung.
The extent of his chest injury only came out when the Texans had to travel to Jacksonville to embarrass the Jags. Turns out the Houston medical staff was unsure what being in a plane would do to Watson’s bruised lung, so they decided to drive him there instead.
They drove a man unfit to fly to an American football game so he could be charged at by a gaggle of giant defenders who were keen on decapitating him.
The NFL has made incredible strides in taking care of head injuries in recent years, but perhaps they need to expand that level of care to other vital organs too.
Kareem Hunt/Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
People are trying hard to brand the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs a reincarnation of “The Greatest Show on Turf” and it’s not hard to see why; they’re young, dynamic, high scoring, and it’s easier to use a 20-year old pun than think of a new one. This week it was the chances of quarterback Patrick Mahomes and running back Kareem Hunt to shine.
I’ve written enough love letters to Mahomes over the last few weeks, so let’s give Hunt his dues. The guy ran for 86 yards and a touchdown, and put up 55 yards and two scores through the air. The high media interest in Mahomes lets Hunt fly under the radar a bit, but you can’t pass without a solid running game. Hunt is a perfect compliment to the Mahomes air show, and his two receiving touchdowns show that they can link up just as well.
The traditional Andy Reid playoff meltdown is going to be utterly spectacular this year.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
As several NFL journos have pointed out already, the Jags signed Cody Kessler as Blake Bortles’ backup purely because he was so bad there’d be no way that Bortles could be benched for anything other than a crippling injury.
Then he got a bad case of butter fingers against the Houston Texans, and Blake Bortles became Benched Bortles as the Jags limped to a 20-7 loss. Tempers flared in the locker room after too, and players were shouting and shoving as the media came in to do their interviews. The team who blew out the Patriots to earn a 3-1 start to the year are now 3-4, dead last in turnovers (Bortles himself being the main culprit), and have been outscored 90-28 in their slump.
Bortles has always had an questions around him, and you have to respect the Jags for sticking by their man and empowering him as undisputed number one rather than making a free agency bid for one of the many, many talented quarterbacks who were on the market this summer. That move now looks like a miscalculation, though, and short of his benching inspiring a dramatic comeback in Bortles, this could be the start of a long march towards the end of his days as an NFL starter.
The Jaguars are in London next, and Doug Marrone has said the starting QB berth is up for grabs. It is hard to see them not giving Bortles one more shot away from the intense media pressure at home, but if he has another nightmare it could all be over for him. The flight back to America from London is infamous for being the time when underperforming coaches get the sack, and anything less than a career day could well see Bortles given a parachute and jettisoned over the mid-Atlantic.
In the window between writing and publication, the Jaguars have confirmed Bortles will start at Wembley against the Eagles.
Khalil Mack, Chicago Bears
LA Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald ate just about every Weetabix in the northern hemisphere as he wreaked havoc over the San Francisco 49ers. Admittedly with the 49ers injury woes it’s a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, but he was still the man on his team who stood up and dropped in a stick of dynamite. Take a deep breath and get ready for this: Donald managed 4 sacks, five further QB hits, eight tackles (plus an assist), forced a fumble and recovered.
However, the recipient of this week’s Khalil Mack Award for Being Khalil Mack is Khalil Mack of the Chicago Bears. He only had the one tackle this week, but also had an injured ankle so did that on one leg. I’m not that good at maths, but I think it adds up to him winning.
Points Make Prizes
Next week’s Sunday Night Football headliner sees the New Orleans Saints visit the Minnesota Vikings. Despite having defensively minded head coaches, the two teams are struggling on that side of the ball: the Vikings are middling at the 14th best in the league, while the Saints are somehow 27th based on points conceded. Meanwhile, their offences are both top 10, with the Vikings ranked 9th for points scored and New Orleans 4th.
Add into this Saints QB Drew Brees’ charge to get as many records as possible, plus Vikings WR Adam Thielen attempting to become the first receiver in history to start a season with eight back-to-back 100+ yard games, and you can expect a shootout.
Defences might win championships, but teams who overly rely on simply outscoring opponents keep me up and watching until 5am, and then who’s the real winner? Exactly.