Game balls – NFL Week 2

Week 2 of the fledgling NFL season saw lots of injuries, struggling quarterbacks and the depleted Ravens stick it to the Chiefs. With the slate now in the books, it’s time for me to hand out some Full10Yards game balls to the stars of the last few days. Read on to find out who received the accolades.

Offensive player of the week

Derrick Henry, RB, Tennessee Titans

Joe Nicholson – USA TODAY Sports

Honourable mentions abound for our offensive player of the week – in their own right, they’re each worthy of a game ball. There’s Denver’s Courtland Sutton, who racked up 159 yards from just nine catches. Copper Kupp went even better on the same number of receptions, with 163 yards and two TDs for the Rams, and the Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett got 178 yards. Ker-ching!

Last week’s winner, Kyler Murray, went full Kyler again with 400 yards and 4 total TDs in a 34-33 win over the Vikings, while Lamar Jackson carried the Ravens to victory against the Chiefs, throwing for 239 yards and rushing for 108 more and two touchdowns. It would also be remiss of me not to doff my cap in the direction of the ever-efficient Tom Brady, who threw five touchdown passes in the Bucs’ 23-point victory over the Falcons.

Stop press: Green Bay gave us much to consider last night. Aaron Rodgers threw for 4 TDs in a 35-17 win over Detriot, and three of those went to Aaron Jones. His display makes him the only Packers running back to ever score three receiving scores and one rushing TD.

But it’s hard not to give this week’s game ball to a Titan – and who’d have thought we’d be saying that last week? Step forward and claim your prize, King Henry of Tennessee, whose 237 total yards and three TDs turned a 15-point deficit into an unlikely OT win in Seattle.

In a subdued first half, DERRICK HENRY logged just 35 yards on 13 carries. But with the Titans down 24-9, he went off like a firework after the break, taking another 22 carries for 147 yards and three scores. And all that with two-fifths of his offensive line missing. His 60-yard score early in the 4th quarter – his 10th rushing TD of 50+ yards – was classic Henry, while his four carries on the final drive of OT helped to set up Randy Bullock’s game-winning kick.

In a total of 35 carries, Henry delivered 182 yards (averaging 5.2 yards a clip), and added a further 55 yards from six catches for good measure. His 240 rushing yards after two games already put him 44 ahead of anyone else.

Defensive player of the week

Danielle Hunter, DE, Minnesota Vikings

We liked Washington’s Jonathan Allen, whose standout performance against the Giants included two sacks and three tackles for loss. His second sack in particular was eye-catching, as he dodged center Billy Price before slamming Daniel Jones to the floor like a pro wrestler. We also liked the double-sack games by the Raiders’ Solomon Thomas, the Niners’ Nick Bosa, Josh Uche for the Patriots (for whom JC Jackson also snagged two INTs) and rookie Greg Rousseau in the Bills’ shutout of the Dolphins. Then there was Tampa safety Mike Edwards, who helped to seal an easy win with two late pick-sixes and a couple of INTs by the Honey Badger himself, Tyrann Mathieu, against the Ravens.

But for me, the game ball goes to a guy who ended up on the wrong side of the final score: Minnesota’s DANIELLE HUNTER. In 36 pass-rushing snaps, Hunter finished with seven pressures and three sacks, and the 34-33 loss wouldn’t have been close without him busting a gut off the edge. (Hell, if Minnesota hadn’t missed that last-second field goal, they’d have won…)

Kyler Murray torched the Vikings’ secondary, going 6-of-7 for 200 yards on long throws, but Hunter held up his side of the bargain. In the second quarter, Kyler was looking downfield on a 2nd-and-8 but Hunter beat the left tackle on the outside and hauled the QB down. Then in the 4th quarter, with the Vikings 33-31 ahead and the Cardinals facing a crucial 3rd-and-2, Murray had ages in the pocket. Hunter’s partner-in-crime Michael Dogbe eventually flushed the QB out, before Hunter stretched out his arm like Inspector Gadget to grab his target. Then, with the Vikes down by a point and the two-minute warning looming, #99 made it a hat-trick of takedowns. He fought his way past DJ Humphries and moved in for the kill like a lion brining down a gazelle.

Hunter by name, hunter by nature… 

Coach of the week

John Harbaugh, HC, Baltimore Ravens

Getty Images

There was much to admire from the sidelines in Week 2. In the close-but-no-cigar category, we have to give a shout out to Matt Rhule, as he steered Carolina to an impressive win over Sean Payton (last week’s game ball winner, no less) and the Saints. Although Rhule himself admitted to “too many coaching errors in the first half”, Sam Darnold looked smart, patient and efficient, Christian McCaffrey (137 total yards) was a workhorse and the Panthers’ young defence (four sacks and two interceptions) is starting to gel into a decent unit.

Kudos also goes to Jon Gruden. The Las Vegas Raiders are off to a 2-0 start and Derek Carr leads the league with 817 passing yards. They travelled across the country on a short week to play against the Steelers in a game moved to the early window and yet they triumphed, even without injured RB Josh Jacobs and with a makeshift offensive line.

But my game ball this week goes to Baltimore’s JOHN HARBAUGH, for masterminding a sensational 36-35 win against Kansas City. The Ravens were also coming off a short week and have a staggering 15 players on IR, including their top running backs. Then they lost safety DeShon Elliott (concussion) and nose tackle Brandon Williams (neck) during the game – and yet they emerged victorious.

Harbaugh leaned heavily on the run-pass option. In the final quarter, Jackson rushed 10 times for 32 yards – two went for TDs, including the eventual game-winner for which he flipped into the end zone like a circus acrobat – and completed three passes for 25 yards. But the whole shebang was summed up with the last meaningful play of the game: a vital 4th-and-1 on their own 43. Harbaugh yelled at Jackson, asking if he wanted to go for it. There was never any doubt that he would, and Jackson made 2 yards to effectively ice the game.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, it was the right decision. Baltimore had an 82% chance of winning the game by going for it on fourth down, and a 58% chance of winning if they’d punted it away. Harbaugh nailed the call and ensured the Ravens flipped the script against KC for a change.

Play of the week

Damien Harris, RB, New England Patriots

Getty Images

Boy, did I have my work cut out narrowing this one down! The headline makers included Travis Kelce’s fantastic catch and run for the Chiefs, a 53-yard pick-six from Roquan Smith in the Bears’ 20-17 win over Cincinnati and the season’s longest scoring play so far, Jamal Agnew’s stunning 102-yard kick-off return TD in the Jaguars’ loss to Denver.

Elsewhere, Dange’Russ threw two 50-yard bombs to Tyler Lockett, the Raiders’ Henry Ruggs III made a 61-yard TD catch in Pittsburgh, and Philly’s Quez Watkins hauled in a 91-yard gain after a huge throw from Jalen Hurts standing inside his own end zone. I also loved the 64-yard Kirk Cousins-to-KJ Osborn connection inside the first minute of the MIN/ARI game, the Kyler to a wide-open Rondale Moore for 77 big ones later in the same match, and Carson Wentz connecting with Michael Pittman Jr on a massive throw for Indy, despite having Aaron Donald up in his face. We even had Matt Prater blasting a 62-yard FG through the posts for Arizona (who only won by a point, remember).

But when the dust settled, I had to plump for DAMIEN HARRIS’ “angry run” touchdown for New England, which helped to seal a comfortable 25-6 win over the Jets. The third-year pro gave away a costly fumble in last week’s loss to the Dolphins but he wasn’t going to let that define his season. He bounced back in spectacular fashion on Sunday, making Jets QB Zach Wilson pay for his fourth interception of the game midway through the third quarter.

In his 26-yard touchdown rumble, the Teflon-coated Harris evaded all hands as he broke through the line of scrimmage. He then bounced off defender after helpless defender, and left them trailing in his wake, before dragging four of them into the end zone with him. Bryce Hall was trying to rip the ball free but Harris wasn’t letting go, and his legs kept pumping.

Just to be sure, center David Andrews and quarterback Mac Jones helped push their guy over the line in a rugby-style maul but by channelling his inner Beastmode, I have a feeling nothing was going to stop him at that point anyway.

So, a well-deserved game ball to Mr Harris – clearly a man on a mission this week.

Did I miss your favourite play of the day? Do you think someone else should have walked off with any of the other game balls? Feel free to share your thoughts with the @full10yards team.

Feature image: Tommy Gilligan – USA TODAY Sports

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