Melissa’s Monday Musings Week 1: Goodbye Hype, Hello Titans

Sunday’s slate of games produced a bevy of mismatches and almost an equal amount of infuriating losses (and the dreaded tie!). But when you take a birdseye view of the final scores, few seem like outliers. The Patriots dominated the Steelers in a slog of a game, the Chiefs put up a ton of points, the Jets and Lions lost massive leads in very Jetsian and Lionsy ways. The Cowboys won in commanding fashion and please, you really think Washington wasn’t going to blow their early lead over Philly? 

Hard to be shocked about the Falcons opening stinker. Maybe some day they will reclaim an identity that’s been missing since losing that 28-3 lead in Super Bowl 51. Nor is it surprising that the Rams barely eked out a win over Carolina, having to compensate for a shaky Jared Goff again.

Of course it appears the main exception to Week 1’s what should have happened happened notion were the Titans marching into Cleveland and outclassing the Browns 43-13. Perhaps the Browns were maybe possibly a wee bit overhyped. 

First off, credit to the Titans, America’s favorite blue-collar NFL team, who stormed into Cleveland not at all intimidated by the Browns’ star power. The Titans struck an effective balance of discipline and aggressiveness, particularly the secondary led by Kevin Byard. (cc: Deion Sanders) The Titans held Odell Beckham to 71 yards and converted Baker Mayfield’s second half miscues into three soul-crushing interceptions. Derrick Henry was sharp and explosive, aided by a deep, talented offensive line that was missing multiple starters on Sunday.

Rookie wideout AJ Brown is already a must watch talent. Marcus Mariota was efficient yet took a few shots when available. It wasn’t a perfect effort from the Titans but there’s a LOT to like in Tennessee. 

As for the Browns…

Well, it’s Week 1. As Browns head coach Freddie Kitchens told reporters after the game, “The world’s not ending today, contrary to popular belief.” But…. the Browns, in a performance highlighted by penalties, fights and a befuddled Mayfield, proved that having some supremely talented players on a roster doesn’t mean a Super Bowl ring is imminent. Cleveland’s seven wins in 2018 were a monumental step over whatever curse word you want to use for the two seasons that proceeded, but there was still never an established culture of winning especially with the continuous coaching turnover.

Mayfield electrified Cleveland last year, Myles Garrett is an undeniable talent, Beckham Jr is a force, Landry has swagger for days and well, Freddie Kitchens was entertaining on Hard Knocks. They form an exciting collective who are fun to dream about and ooze with potential but in reality have never won anything of significance in the NFL. (Unlike, say, the Titans, who at least have won a recent playoff game with many key players from their current roster.)

Mayfield is young and still needs mentorship. The Browns lost this game in a multitude of ways but the most telling was in the penalty disparity. Six for the Titans. EIGHTEEN for the Browns. 

Kitchens’ job now is to press reset on the season and establish a real culture that translates to disciplined play on Sundays. The magical hype ride has ended.

Other Musings From Week 1

Ok, so can thwart the Patriots efforts for a seventh Super Bowl ring? The answer is not no one, it’s the Ravens!  Yes, they crushed a team who’s players already want to be traded. But Lamar Jackson’s breakout party as a QUARTERBACK was beautiful. He was so poised on the play action passes to Marquise Brown and commanded the pocket all day, leading to five touchdown passes before he was pulled after the third quarter. Best of all, Jackson only had three rushes. The talented secondary was also on display (welcome Earl Thomas!) and may be the only AFC unit who can ultimately match up against New England’s receivers. Pats at Ravens plays 11/3 on Sunday Night Football. Don’t make other plans! 

Too many ejections on Sunday. Browns LT Greg Robinson kicked Titans safety Kenny Vaccaro. Jags linebacker Myles Jack punched Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins. 49ers LB Kwon Alexander drove his helmet into Jameis Winston’s. The onus lies with the individual players but this was a very bad look for the NFL. 

What a return to Philadelphia for DeSean Jackson. Standing ovation. 8 catches on 10 targets. Two scores. Name a current wideout that has been more consistently underrated than Jackson. 

Of course any team would miss Andrew Luck but the Colts appear to be in great hands with Jacoby Brissett. He looked adept in the pocket, made few mistakes and engineered an 80-yard-drive to send the game to overtime. The Chargers marched down the field and won but had Adam Vinatieri not missed two field goals, the Brissett era likely would have started off 1-0.

It appears the ability to challenge pass interference isn’t going to make as many heads explode as first anticipated. Pete Carroll lost a DPI challenge on a third down against Cincinnati. As evidenced by Carroll’s challenge and the entire preseason, a play is going to need to be very clear and obvious to warrant an overturn. Hopefully this trend will lead to coaches picking their spots and only throwing the flag when it’s a situation like Nickell-Robey Coleman in the NFC Championship.  I think it will.

Loved second half Kyler Murray almost as much as I loved Larry Fitzgerald’s reaction to Murray after the two connected on the touchdown that sent the game to overtime. The Cardinals aren’t likely to win a Super Bowl in the Fitzgerald era yet you could see the rebirth in Fitzgerald’s face and game. Speaking of births, Murray was 8 when Fitzgerald started playing.

Considering the Cardinals scored 18 unanswered points, they were satisfied tying the Lions. But I’d like to see ties eradicated in the NFL and replaced with a skills competition if teams are still knotted up after 10 minutes of overtime. Three events:  Accuracy toss. Wideout speed. Field goal distance. Winner gets the W. Seems fair, no? 

Matt Patricia is my early leader for first coach to get fired. 

Have all the faith in the world in Bruce Arians’ ability as a quarterback whisperer but perhaps Jameis Winston isn’t transformable. 

Pay Dak. Man, the Cowboys look solid across the board.

Finally, please take a second to listen to the season premiere of Football Date Night. My husband, Dave and I give our unique views on all the NFL action with some saucy marital bliss thrown in.