Melissa’s Monday Musings Week 2: The Losses That Linger
Fun fact: There are now seven 2-0 teams in the NFL. They are quarterbacked by Andy Dalton, Blake Bortles, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Patrick Mahomes, Ryan Tannehill, Case Keenum and Jared Goff. Like we all predicted, right? We’ll get to some of their performances in my Week 2 awards below but first go hug your nearest errant kicker.
As Giants and Lions and many other fans know, the most stunning kind of soul-crushing loss is the Hail Mary. One moment. It’s quick. It’s painful. But it doesn’t come with a lot of second-guessing. It happens because Aaron Rodgers morphs into a superhero or because the AFC North gods want Andy Dalton to knock a division rival from the playoffs. Hail Marys require some semblance of skill but they’re mostly rooted in luck. They’re fluky. There may be missed tackles or some turnover to give the other team a shot at a play but the act of the Hail Mary itself is the other team performing a miracle to win, not the losing team mucking it up.
Sunday’s slate had three losses that were of the much less favorable variety. These are the type of losses where the team that should have won didn’t because they shot themselves in the foot. The types that sting and impact an entire season if the head coach lets it. Sometimes they cost someone their job. They are extra painful because you can often feel the swell of their inevitability.
Enter Zane Gonzalez, Browns kicker. (Or maybe ex-Browns kicker depending on when you read this.) Last week Gonzalez had the game-winning kick blocked. On Sunday against New Orleans, he missed an early field goal, missed two extra points and then painfully missed the game-tying field goal to keep the Browns’ remarkable streak of not winning still alive. The optics were gut-wrenching. Gonzalez on the bench almost inconsolable. The disgusted faces of Hue Jackson and Baker Mayfield and any Browns player CBS could find. It all felt bigger than football.
Football is a team game and there are many aspects that factor into a loss but this team, so starved for a win, set itself up to be at least 1-1 and maybe 2-0. With a different kicker they may be. But it is this type of loss that perpetuates the culture of losing despite all the hope and personnel changes.
The latest Cleveland loss came under the backdrop of Josh Gordon’s looming departure. Think about what these players have had to endure with Gordon alone. They prepared for their media-proclaimed “best player” to participate in training camp, then he’s a no show, then came the mystery of when he’d return and if he could stay out of trouble. Now a pending trade. The last thing this mentally spent Browns’ organization needed was such a devastating loss.
Meanwhile misery apparently loves company. Minnesota tied Green Bay (thanks in part to an awful roughing the passer call on Clay Matthews late in regulation) to send their game to overtime. Vikings kicker Daniel Carlson was, like Gonzalez, spooked and missed 49 and 35 yard field goals in the extra period. A tie is better than a loss but the dejected reality of missed opportunities set in.
In Denver, the Raiders blew a 13-0 halftime lead, cemented when Case Keenum and company marched down the field in the final two minutes to complete Denver’s demoralizing come-from-behind victory.
As cameras panned after all three losses, players on the losing side were shown absolutely crushed. With Hail Marys, jaws are dropped, mouths agape. The expressions are rooted in surprise. The lingering losses look different. Faces are dejected. Crushed beyond words. Week 2 brought too much of this painful variety.
On to to my Week 2 Awards
MOST ELECTRIFYING OFFENSE: This one’s a slam dunk. All hail Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense. Mahomes not only has 10 touchdowns in his first two starts, the most by any quarterback to start a season, he’s putting on one hell of a show unlike any we’ve seen since possible Brett Favre. Mahomes is certainly aided by Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Kareem Hunt and an array of weapons as good as any in football. He has thrown so many ropes with such a quick release that the only downside to the Chiefs offense is the difficulty in keeping up with the naked eye.
Among Mahomes’s impressive stat sheet is 0 interceptions. Right now Mahomes has a 143.3 passer rating, a number unheard of for a gunslinger that hurls it downfield with relative frequency. I thought he might have a lot more accuracy issues than we’ve seen given how wired his balls are, but Mahomes’ downfield awareness and ability to anticipate have added to his early legend. The Chiefs are now must see tv.
MOST IMPROVED COACHING: Cowboys OC Scott Linehan. After the Cowboys sputtered in Week 1, scoring only 8 points on just 232 total yards, a different Cowboys offense took the field Sunday night against New York. It was fresh and creative and dynamic. We saw more RPOs and quick release passes designed to take advantage of New York’s pass rush.
Sorry guys, I’m just not feeling this column any more. I’m done. Right now. Nice interacting with you all and good luck in the future.
WEIRDEST MOMENT: So that’s what it feels like to quit in the midst of something, in my case the after football words relied upon by trillions of readers? Yeah, can’t do it. Different story for Bills CB Vontae Davis who left New Era Field at halftime with the Bills down 28-0 to the Chargers. He told his teammates, ‘I’m done,’ put on his street clothes and walked into the sunshine.
I respect the whole idea of you know when you know and most humans have at some point known they were going to quit a job or just weren’t invested in something anyone. Davis should have waited until the game was over, though. We’re talking another 90 minutes not to disrupt and embarrass an already sullen team.
WORST BROADCATING MOMENT I SAW: The Steelers had the ball and it’s 4thand 3 from the Chiefs’ 13 yard-line. 4:08 left in the game. Roethlisberger stepped up and ran a hair from the line of scrimmage before hitting JuJu Smith-Schuster for a first down. CBS analyst Dan Fouts insisted it was a foul, claiming that the football crossed the line, which it did. Fouts was adamant that the call would be overturned. Only problem is the passer’s entire body has to cross the line of scrimmage to be a foul.
Not the most egregious mistake but Fouts should still know the rule before emphatically sticking to a position not aligned with the refs.
WORST OFFICIATING CALL: Clay Matthews was irate after the Packers-Vikings tie, and rightfully so. On the first play of Minnesota’s final drive in regulation, Kirk Cousins threw an interception that sealed the game for the Packers. Oh wait, Matthews was flagged for a roughing the passer call on what looked to the naked eye of anyone with eyes to be a very clean hit. Head ref Tony Corrente later explained that Matthews’s violation was due to “picking up the quarterback and dragging him to the ground.” That may be a rule but the call was absolutely absurd. How on Earth was Matthews supposed to tackle him any differently?
Of course the Vikings followed the errant call by driving and scoring a touchdown and the game-tying two-point conversion.
BEST CATCH (aka an excuse to show you a catch for the ages): Duh. Jaguars WR Keelan Cole. This will be the catch of the year. I can’t stop watching. Cole, an undrafted free agent in 2017, had 7 catches 116 yards and a score in this statement win over New England. The Jaguars are 12th in passing yards, in large part due to Cole’s emergence. Life is about evolution, thus it’s nice to see a wideout not named Allen getting it done in Jacksonville.
Keelan Cole with an UNREAL one-handed grab vs. the Patriots
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 16, 2018
FAVORITE SUNDAY MOMENT: Dolphins RB Frank Gore passed Curtis Martin to fourth place on the All-Time rushing list. Gore has rushed for 14,112 yards in a career built more on durabaility than flash. The 35-year-old hasn’t missed a game since 2010. Try finding a more astonishing NFL stat.
The only three backs ahead of Gore on the all-time ist are Barry Sanders (15,269), Walter Payton (16,726) and Emmitt Smith (18,355)
FAVORITE SUNDAY MOMENT II: MVP candidate Ryan Fitzpatrick entered his postgame presser dressed like an Irish gangster after a little clothing swap with WR Desean Jackson.
In closing, I have a new life motto to share. Never cross former Raiders turned Broncos punter Marquette King. Seriously.
— Marquette King (@MarquetteKing) September 17, 2018