Melissa’s Monday Musings Week 3: Welcome to the National Fluff League

What a strange day of football. All of my terrible “Bills are the new Browns” jokes are already obsolete. My snarky, even jokier  Week 1 tweet about the Patriots having a legitimate challenger after Sam Darnold’s early mastery may actually be true, but in the form of Dolphins not Jets.  The Vikings and Jags and Packers and, of course, Patriots all looked pedestraian at best. In some cases, that’s putting it very nicely. Week 3 left us with far more questions than answers.  So let’s start with just about the only certainty and then I’ll share my various thoughts from there.

The NFL is not football anymore. Not the football that any of us grew up with or shared with our parents and grandparents. The league’s heavy focus on quarterback protection in recent years is in many ways a good thing … but to an extent. The new look roughing the passer rules are completely absurd, illogical and actually defy physics. Another week, another call on Clay Matthews illustrating the big fallacy in the rule, namely that there’s no right way to tackle a quarterback anymore.

Matthews was flagged for the new “body weight” provision, which essentially warns against “landing with all or most of a defender’s body weight”on a passer. This is, of course, impossible to avoid.

“When you have a hit like that, that’s a football play,” Matthew told reporters after the game. He’s right. Moreover, in the video you can see Matthews positioning his head to one side to avoid helmet contact with Alex Smith, and he even lifted his hands immediately as defenders are taught to do to comply with the rule. This was the third roughing the passer call on Matthews this season, and the second of which looked in no way a foul to the naked eye. Even Dean Blandino, who was the head of NFL officiating two years ago, was folded into the FOX broadcast to rail on the rule. Nice gig for Blandino who is basically one of us now, skeptical about rules and enforcement.  And like us, he’s right.

Beyond the inherent issues of science or gravity, roughing the passer isn’t being called consistently. How do you know if a defender is using 49% of his body weight to tackle (not a foul) vs. 51% (a foul)?  Also, the referees aren’t explaining the specifics when their make these calls in the stadium. When Matthews was flagged we just heard, “Roughing the passer. Defense. Number 52.” No additional “tackling a player with too much body weight.” Maybe that’s just too embarrassing to say out loud. The FOX broadcasters initially thought Matthews was flagged because of the placement of his tackle on Smith’s shoulder pads until Blandino corrected them. Public outrage over the helmet rule influenced the league to dial back on those calls. We can only for a repeat with this rule because status quo is an absolute disaster.

More Musings from a Weirdo Week 3

– Trying to put a silver lining on the Jimmy Garoppolo injury which is feared to be an ACL tear. There is none. Garoppolo single-handedly changed the trajectory when he arrived in San Francisco last year, not just with his talent but by blending into that locker room so well. The team also loves C.J. Beathard, the second year QB from Iowa who will step up but there’s a reason the 49ers were 1-5 when Beathard started last season, and 5-0 when Garopppolo was under center. Garoppolo is, as Beyonce would say, irreplaceable.  The 49ers also lost starting RB Jerick McKinnon just a couple days before the season, so with Garoppolo’s absence the exotic scheming has official gone out the window.  Now Shanahan is likely to be forced to simplify his playbook a bit which mitigates his greatest strength as a coach.

– The Chiefs offense has the best collection of weapons I can remember seeing in several years. The Steelers are close when Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell share a field but Kansas City’s depth and insane speed between Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins is next level. I’m not sure any defense in the NFL can stop them with the exception of the Rams, Jags and maybe the Bears. Then again, this is an Andy Reid coached team and the magic carriage has been known to turn into a pumpkin.

– There were two incredibly cringe-worthy moments in broadcasting on Sunday. In the third quarter of the Bears-Cardinals game, Dick Stockton called the Cardinals defense”aroused.”  Then on Sunday Night Football after a sidebar about Lions owner Martha Ford and Bears owner Virginia McCaskey, Cris Collinsworth declared in the creepiest, most lawyerly voice possible, “There’s just a difference when there’s a lady in the room.” I’ll be having nightmares about both comments.

– When Collinsworth wasn’t extolling the virtues of having ladies in the building he was calling a game that, along with the Bills topping the Vikings, would eliminate a lot of folks from their office pools. The Patriots got smoked by the Lions 26-10 as their former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia earned his first win in Detroit. New England failed to make their typical halftime adjustments which was hardly surprising given the Patriots depleted offense and the fact that Patricia knew how to scheme for their weaknesses. One big play that sealed it for the Lions was a deep Brady ball underthrown to Phillip Dorsett that was intercepted by Darius Slay. After the game, a salty Brady was asked about the play and gave a response that will fuel his detractors: “Slay had his eyes up before Phillip did. It was an easy interception.” Brutal deflection of blame.

There’s no need to panic about New England unless they have another horrid game or two after Julian Edelman returns in Week 5 and Josh Gordon takes the field.

– How many years of respect did Josh Allen earn form his teammates for this hurdle?

As mentioned in this week’s Football Date Night podcast, someone give Allen a raise because that boy has some hops. He also possesses that keen pocket awareness that can take him far in this league.

– Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks was oh so close to his first win but the Bears kicked a filed goal to take a two-point lead with about four minutes left in the 4th quarter. Instead of staying status quo with the quarterback who put your team in a position to at least win, Wilks benched Sam Bradford and put in rookie Josh Rosen. Why on earth would you put your future QB in that position, across from Khalil Mack??? Early reports suggested that Wilks might bench Bradford if he is ineffective. If he was just waiting for Bradford to officially be ineffective, what’s the point of delaying Rosen’s anointment. He should have announced last Monday that Rosen was the starter and given him a full week to practice with the first teamers. Or if Wilks didn’t deem Chicago a safe first opponent, let Bradford finish out the game and make the switch now. Don’t get putting Rosen in that situation at all.

Khalil Mack has the same number of sacks as the entire Raiders defense (3).

– What happened to super create touchdown celebration dances? Did all the good ideas get used up last season?

– I really wish NFL broadcasters were not so nonchalant about suspended players. I get it. The numbers are robust and there’s only limited time to get a report out. But what if instead of, “Julian Edelman will be returning in two weeks following a suspension,” announcers said “…following a suspension for PED use.” I think the act causing the suspension should be mentioned as a rule of thumb.

– Except for the Rams and Chiefs, I have no idea who’s actually good in the NFL.