Game balls – NFL Week 3

With Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season now in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to hand out some Full10Yards game balls. Can you guess who takes the prize for offensive player, defensive player, coach and play of the week? And who will claim the ‘best’ blunder in our new top gaffe category? Read on to find out…

Offensive player of the week

Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills

Getty Images

There were quite a few 100-yard games in Week 3, although no one went absolutely nuclear. Derrick Henry topped the rushing charts once again with 113 and Davante Adams’ 132 receiving yards was the best haul for a receiver, although Mike Williams (122 yards and 2 touchdowns) for the Chargers also caught the eye. We also had two tight ends (Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews) and a running back (Najee Harris) break the 100 barrier through the air this week, while Kareem Hunt’s 155 total scrimmage yards (81 rushing, 74 receiving) was also worthy of note.

I was also drawn to a few QBs who balled out. Both Los Angeles quarterbacks threw for four scores in their respective team’s wins but for me, the Week 3 game ball has to go to upstate New York. JOSH ALLEN has clearly bounced back from a dodgy opening week, and really hit his stride in the Bills’ 43-21 win over the Washington Football Team – becoming the first player in franchise history with 4 passing TDs, a rushing TD and no INTs in one game in the process.

He completed 32 of 43 attempts (74.4%), logged 358 yards, threw scoring passes to Emmanuel Sanders (two), Dawson Knox and Zack Moss, and sustained no sacks. He also shared the love around to Cole Beasley (98 yards) and Stefon Diggs (62 yards) as well as Sanders (94 yards).

Allen’s passer rating of 129.8 further illustrates how he made WFT’s much-touted defence look pretty feeble. He also ran in a TD on one of his four rushes, which now makes him the franchise leader for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. Quite the day.

Defensive player of the week

Myles Garrett, DE, Cleveland Browns

David Dermer, AP

This week, we tip our hats to Cincinnati linebacker Logan Wilson, who twice intercepted Big Ben in the Bengals’ win in Pittsburgh (one of only two men with three INTs to date). And we must also big up Arizona corner Byron Murphy, who nabbed two INTs of his own in the Cardinals’ 31-19 win over the Jaguars. In fact, he went one better than Wilson, running one of them back to the house for 29 yards after a flea-flicker between Trevor Lawrence and Carlos Hyde went awry.

But for all their efforts, we have an absolute locked-in winner for our defensive game ball this week: Cleveland’s game-wrecking defensive end MYLES GARRETT, who registered half of his team’s nine sacks (as well as four tackles for loss) against Chicago. His 4.5 sacks in one game is not only a career high but also the most for a Browns player since at least 1982, when sacks became an official statistic. His night’s work, as well as those of his defensive colleagues – Jadeveon Clowney’s two sacks and two TFL were somewhat overshadowed – helped keep the Bears to 47 total yards (yes, 47 total yards!). Not surprisingly, that’s the fewest Cleveland have allowed since they joined the NFL over 70 years ago.

Fields was running from Garrett all game. With the game tied at 3-3, Fields got buried under Garrett and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah on a 2nd-and-9. Then Garrett started hunting solo on a couple of third downs, with Fields dancing about in a collapsing pocket to no avail. In the second half, Garrett got to him twice more, also on vital third downs. First, a desperate lunge got just enough of Fields to trip him as he tried to scamper away and his final takedown of the day was just an unhindered charge into the backfield, with the helpless Jason Peters only able to give him a half-hearted shove on his way past.

Garrett’s career day elevates him to the top of the league standings, with his total of 5.5 sacks keeping him ahead of Chandler Jones (5.0) and Haason Reddick (4.5). Furthermore, only Von Miller and Matt Milano can top his five TFL on the season.

So forget F10Y game balls: Garrett’s assault on the Defensive Player of the Year title has begun in earnest.

Coach of the week

Brandon Staley, HC, Los Angeles Chargers

Robert Gauthier, LA Times

Zac Taylor was certainly in the frame here for engineering a rare-as-hen’s-teeth road win for the Bengals in the Steelers’ back yard. In their 24-10 victory, Cincy played complementary football, with passing TDs from Joe Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase (2) and Tyler Boyd, Joe Mixon rumbling for another 90 yards and the D coming up trumps with four sacks and two INTs.

I also contemplated Sean McVay, who’s LA Rams vanquished Tampa Bay 34-24. Matt Stafford has clearly come out from under a cloud since leaving Detroit for sunnier climes (both meteorologically and metaphorically). Clearly thriving in McVay’s system, Stafford uncorked DeSean Jackson (120 yards on just three receptions) with an absolute pearl of a 75-yard TD. Jackson belied his 34 years by finding himself a country mile away from any defensive player. Another 96 yards and 2 TDs for Cooper Kupp now makes him and his QB the most lethal duo in the league right now.   

But with the Rams possibly being the NFL’s top team in their own right (watch out for Josh’s latest power rankings to see if he’s in agreement), maybe they should be beating the Bucs anyway. But BRANDON STALEY leading the LA Chargers to a 30-24 victory at Arrowhead, despite starting as 7-point ‘dogs, in just his third NFL game as a head coach? Now that’s a statement win and more than worthy of our Coach of the Week plaudits. (And while he’s winning the F10Y game ball, he’s also handing out his own…)

Justin Herbert’s four TD passes and no INTs saw them dominate when in possession. Mike Williams (122 yards and 2 TDs from 7 receptions) in particular exposed KC’s secondary, while Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen also chipped in with touchdowns. Staley’s defensive game plan also played out well, as they limited big plays from Mahomes and kept the ball out of his hands by forcing four turnovers, which led to two-thirds of their points.

But credit also goes to Staley for playing to win. He couldn’t afford to be conservative against one of the best teams in recent years, and chose not to settle for a field goal at the very end of the game, tied at 24-24 at the time. After all, we all know what Patrick Mahomes can do with a minute at his disposal (Exhibit A: last year’s OT loss, when their decision to punt on a 4th-and-1 allowed Mahomes to lead a FG-winning drive).

Facing a 4th-and-4, Staley initially sent out the field goal team for a 49-yard attempt. Then he changed his mind and took a timeout. A false start penalty moved the Bolts back 5 yards but Staley still went for it… and aided by a pass interference call, they got the necessary yards that led to the game-winning score two plays later.

“You have to be aggressive but not reckless,” Staley said afterwards. “And I felt like all of our decisions were sound decisions. They weren’t overaggressive, I felt like they were just aggressive.”

Sound decisions and aggressive calls. That’s the definition of a game-ball winning coach in my book.

Play of the week

Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore Ravens

Rey Del Rio, Getty Images

You know it’s been a crazy week when Washington’s Dustin Hopkins recovering his own kick-off only comes in third on my list. And at the risk of upsetting Jags fans for the second time in as many weeks, I’m also not plumping for Jamal Agnew’s record-equalling 109-yard TD. Somehow bettering his 102-yard score a week ago, Agnew caught a failed 68-yard FG attempt by Matt Prater* in his own end zone, then ran through the entire Cardinals team on his way to the other end.

(*Had Prater succeeded from 68, Agnew’s TD wouldn’t have been a thing and the next two paragraphs would be redundant too!)

In any other week, Agnew would have my vote for sure. But unfortunately, it isn’t any other week. It’s the week when the best kicker in football, Baltimore’s JUSTIN TUCKER, proved once and for all that he’s he GOAT. Not only did he break the all-time NFL record with a gargantuan 66-yard field goal in Detroit, the site of his previous best (61 yards) eight years ago, but it doinked off the bar and flipped through with barely an inch to spare. It was also a walk-off game-winner in a match that was way too close for comfort. He’d even missed from 65 in the pre-match warm-up but that game-time adrenaline, and allegedly an extra step in his run-up, delivered that vital extra yard.

It was special in another way too. The Lions had taken a 17-16 lead with just over a minute remaining, then sacked Lamar Jackson twice in three plays to leave the Ravens facing a 4th-and-19 on their own 16-yard line with 26 seconds on the clock. Victory was within reach for Detroit. Then Jackson heaved a 36-yard pass to Sammy Watkins, bringing them inside Lions territory to give Tucker a shot from 66 yards. (But should it have been a 71-yard attempt? See below…)

Gaffe of the week

Ravens v Lions officials

CBS / NFL Game Pass

In a new ‘anti-game-ball’ category, we’ll be handing out booby prizes for head-scratching refereeing decisions, inexplicable fumbles or dumb calls by coaches. But before I announce the Week 3 winner, it seems only right and proper to retrospectively give awards for the previous fortnight.

The Week 1 ‘prize’ goes to the Las Vegas Raiders offence, who nearly blew it in OT against the Ravens. At 27-27, they thought they’d won the game but a would-be TD was ruled down at the 1. They then contrived to whiff on a QB sneak, Alex Leatherwood conceded a false start penalty and then Derek Carr threw an INT in the end zone. Luckily, a Lamar Jackson fumble a minute later handed the ball back to the Raiders and they prevailed.

Then last week, those in charge of the Titans/Seahawks game ruled out what looked like a totally legit Julio Jones touchdown. The pictures seemed to show at least a sliver of green between his heel and the white paint at the back of the end zone. But they took the points off the board and the Titans had to kick a FG instead. The decision cost Tennessee at least 3 points, which would have been enough to win without needing overtime.

So to Week 3, when we saw the Bears end up with 1 yard of net passing offence and an official throwing a flag that hit the ball in mid-flight, causing Arizona’s Rondale Moore to muff a punt return against Jacksonville (never seen that before). But our top blunderers have to be the OFFICIALS IN THE RAVENS V LIONS MATCHUP. I’m not trying not to pick on referees here but everyone could see that the game clock had hit zero well before Lamar Jackson snapped the ball (the screenshot above was taken a good second or two after the clock hit zero). For whatever reason, a delay of game penalty wasn’t called and Jackson was allowed to throw one more pass before Tucker’s FG iced the contest.

Given that the kick bounced in off the crossbar, it would have dropped short if Tucker had been even a yard further out, let alone five. In fact, they would probably have been forced to try a last-ditch Hail Mary if the 5-yard penalty had been called. But it wasn’t and the Ravens won by a point, while Lions fans got kicked in the teeth once again.

There are so many possibilities each week, so it’s highly likely I’ve missed something – do please share your thoughts and suggestions at @Full10Yards. Also, keep your #EyesPeeled for our Twitter polls and check out the NFL review pod each week to see if the guys shoot me down or not! 

Feature image: Michael Reaves, Getty Images

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