Melissa’s Monday Musings Week 13: The Good, The Bad and the Boneheaded
On Sunday night the Eagles got sucked into that vortex known as playing in Seattle and just like that the NFC became even more interesting. I’ll be discussing several of the bonafide Super Bowl contenders including the Saints, Vikings and Seahawks. Plus musings on a future Hall of Famer that will still be playing in 2082, two particularly idiotic plays and much more. But first, everything’s coming up Jimmy in the San Francisco Bay Area.
It took exactly one drive to see that San Francisco’s new starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is special. Potentially very special. Garoppolo may not yet have a command of Kyle Shanahan’s complex offense after four weeks – Matt Ryan says it took him two seasons – but he absolutely displayed a stellar command of the field as the 49ers notched a 15-14 win over Chicago, its second of the season.
On that first drive Garoppolo showcased what had been missing under center in San Francisco all season: confidence and accuracy. He scanned the field with ease. He fit balls into tight spaces with velocity. He even called an audible in the first two minutes. The first drive only resulted in a field goal, and ex-Bear Robbie Gould’s subsequent four field goals accounted for all of San Francisco’s points as the team stalled in the red zone all day. But on the scale of the season, having five chances to score is a massive improvement.
It was Garoppolo’s ease in the pocket and ability to escape pressure when necessary that guided the 49ers long, sustained drives that more often than not had them in field goal range. The 49ers under Garoppolo were a stunning 10-of-18 on third-down attempts, many of them third-and-longs. As opposed to his counterpart Sunday, Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky, Garoppolo wasn’t remotely scared to take chances and consistently released the ball in what felt like a nanosecond against a Bears upper echelon defense. This was no fluke game. We don’t need to wait until he faces a “real defense.” Garoppolo saw the Bears’ defensive prowess first hand when CB Kyle Fuller ripped the ball out of WR Louis Murphy’s hands for what ridiculously has to be called an interception. Garoppolo’s the real deal.
2017 is obviously lost on the 49ers but the idea of pairing their new quarterback with some actual weapons, because let’s face it no one in SF remotely resembles Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, and the future is suddenly very exciting. Even though this game was devoid of a 49ers offensive touchdown, and even though Garoppolo is still studying that playbook, he already showed he is close to the perfect person to Shanahan’s system. Perhaps next year’s 49ers will be this year’s Rams. On a broader note, the league should be ecstatic that it just gained another starting quarterback who actually belongs on a football field.
– After destroying the Eagles on Sunday night, Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner tweeted, “Great team win – don’t sleep on us.” LB K.J. Wright said the same thing in the locker room. They’re right. Before this win, Seattle was difficult to encapsulate since the only powerhouse they had beaten were the Rams in Week 5. But Sunday proved the Seahawks could beat anyone if Russell Wilson is doing Russell Wilson things, as they say. The true salvation of this team, however, may be its defensive depth. To field a defense that is missing Richard Sherman Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril, and hold the no. 2 offense in football to 10 points is astonishing.
– When the Vikings beat the Saints 29-19 in Week 1 who knew that twelve weeks they would both be heavy contenders for the NFC title. Both had season-defining wins Sunday. The Saints bounced back from the loss to Rams and the Vikings survived the stingy Falcons defense, while its own defense absolutely stymied Matt Ryan and co. Both of these franchises field complete teams that feature dynamic offenses. Would love to see them play again, and perhaps they will in late January.
– Congrats to Frank Gore for passing Jerome Bettis and Ladanian Tomlinson to move up to fifth all-time in rushing yards. When Frank Gore signed with the Colts in 2015 it seemed another shot at the Super Bowl could be in the cards. Instead things have been disastrous in Indy but the fact that now 34-year-old Frank Gore is still ticking and climbing up records books is a miracle. While Gore has never been the best running back in football, his longevity and consistent production at a high level make him a Hall of Famer, not a shoo in, but in. The guy hasn’t missed a game since December 2010, which is remarkable since he was labeled injury prone coming out of college due to a knee injury. When you consider Gore’s place in rushing history nestled between names like Barry Sanders and Jim Brown, or that everyone else in the top ten has a bust in Canton, he becomes a shoo in. Gore has never been Mr. Flashy but he’s always been Mr. Reliable.
– Love having Josh Gordon back looking like Josh Gordon. Gordon had 4 catches for 85 yards and pretty much dominated elite CB Casey Hayward all day. It seems impossible that Gordon hadn’t touched an NFL field since 2014. What an amazing talent.
– The NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats is an inspiring week and a lovely reminder that these players are real humans, many with tragic backstories. The only downfall to the campaign is the difficulty in keeping up with such a monstrous number of causes. Perhaps the NFL should add a second week earlier in the season so we have another opportunity to learn about the causes. Better yet, how about just featuring one NFC and one AFC team each week so the cleats truly get the attention they deserve?
– The Chargers bandwagon seems to have cooled a bit after they just eked out a win over Browns but I still believe they and the Steelers are the only teams in the AFC who can challenge the Patriots. I give the edge to the Chargers largely because of how disruptive their defensive ends might be for Tom Brady, but also because the Steelers are traditionally stymied by the Pats in the postseason.
– Even with Kareem Hunt sputtering this rookie running back class is the best I can remember. Imagine if Dalvin Cook was still healthy.
– Horrible horrible horrible non-challenge by Doug Pederson on Russell Wilson’s running lateral to Mike Davis on 3rd down that was a forward pass. Bear in mind this happened in the fourth quarter on the ensuing drive after the Eagles had cut the lead to one score. Instead of 3rd and 22 from about their own 42, the Seahawks were suddenly deep in Eagles territory. Of course they scored to put the game out of reach. There were other breakdowns throughout the game but that one was particularly ill timed.
– The Broncos QB carousel continues to be an eyesore. Trevor Siemian was 19-of-41 for 200 yards and 3 interceptions in a blowout loss to Miami. Slim pickins but Brock Osweiler is Denver’s best option for now and it’s not even close.
– I don’t like to call out broadcaster mistakes because I can’t fathom the difficulty calling a game. However, the play-by-play announcer in the 49ers-Bears made so many mistakes, mostly by calling some obvious players by the wrong name. I don’t need to name the announcer and it doesn’t really matter but I kept thinking of the reaction if that were Beth Mowins or another woman. I find it astonishing that the same people who “can’t stand the sound of a woman in the booth” are ok with a male announcer flubbing up names left and right.
– Rob Gronkowski’s cheap hit on Bills CB Tre’Davious White caused a concussion. If the league doesn’t suspend Gronk, they must stop feigning concern about player safety.
– Geno Smith was right to call Rex Ryan a coward for this comment from Ryan on Sunday Countdown: “I love Geno Smith. Great guy. I just don’t want him playing quarterback for me.” How petty of Ryan though it’s kind of a mute point since no one’s playing quarterback for him any time soon.
– Marcus Peters went bonkers by throwing a ref’s flag into the stands after a penalty on a Jets’ failed two-point conversation. It was such a ridiculous act that I admittedly laughed. I’m guessing Andy Reid did not.
– Not on the same level as the others in this category but I was struck by this quote from Archie Manning in relation to his son’s future, “Eli might say, ‘I’ve had enough. I’m feeling good, I’ve got a beautiful wife, three little girls, I’m healthy. And that’s it.’ So there’s no sense speculating.” You literally just speculated, Archie.
Self Promotion Time
I have a new podcast, The Football Girl Podcast, where I talk to an array of fascinating women who are whip-smart when it comes to the NFL. Episode One featured Ex-CEO Amy Trask and SI’s Maggie Gray, both of whom were incredibly insightful. I also closed the show with a musing of the league’s QB woes.