NFL Week 9 Takeaways

Week 9 served up some tasty treats, so let’s see what made it to our takeaway menu this week…


QB or not to continue with the QB, that is the question

Two quarterbacks made their first NFL starts in Week 9 and while both were on the wrong end of the result, they were at the right end of the critique.

Jake Luton, or the “Bedfordshire Bomber” as we call here at the Full10Yards, announced himself quite sharpish in his game against the Texans with a long strike to DJ Chark to open the scoring.

Packers to face Jaguars rookie QB Jake Luton on Sunday
Reinhold Matay – USA TODAY Sports

Luton ended up with over 300 yards passing and two total touchdowns, and guided the hapless Jaguars to within a successful two-point conversion of taking the game into overtime. Luton also has the highlight reel of a rushing TD coupled with a stiff arm and a nice spin move to boot.

Meanwhile, Garrett Gilbert took the reigns for America’s Team against an undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers team favoured by two touchdowns going into the match-up.

A lovely throw to CeeDee Lamb opened the scoring and was the fourth consecutive different passer to throw a touchdown for Dallas. Gilbert did pretty much all that was asked of him and more; he looked confident and stepped into throws, which may have surprised people considering the career Gilbert has had to date.

Cowboys' Garrett Gilbert positioned to challenge Andy Dalton for starting  role after strong debut vs. Steelers - CBSSports.com
Roy Chenoy

From playing in the AAF and then bouncing around a few practice squads, you could have forgiven Gilbert for being a bit camera shy when the spotlight was thrust upon him. Gilbert though, got the Cowboys within four minutes of taking an unlikely victory and, even on the final drive, was able to muster an effort into the end zone to win it all.

Going forward, it seems likely that Luton will remain in control of the Jags’ offence in Week 10 and you have to wonder if this is the end of “Minshew Mania” in Jacksonville. In Dallas, they have a bye now to sort out their plans for the rest of the season. Has Gilbert done enough to warrant further inspection in Week 11, with all signs pointing to a return from Andy Dalton.

At the very least, they’ve had their 60 minutes of fame.


You know the (one) score

The Los Angeles Chargers: what further pain and suffering must that team and its fanbase have to go through? It’s way too long of a running joke now how the Chargers continually find ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

For the last two weeks running, their games have come down to the last play. Drew Lock’s TD pass in Week 8 defeating the Chargers coupled with Justin Herbert’s incomplete pass to Donald Parham in Week 9 ensures all the losses by Anthony Lynn’s team this season have been within one score.

NFL: Chargers suffer another ridiculous loss to Raiders
Alex Gallardo – AP

Many thought it was all Philip Rivers’ fault in years past, while others blame the coaching and the playcalling. Or maybe there is just a curse placed upon them that no-one knows how to shake?

However you look at it, if I am Justin Herbert, I am still somewhat happy with my performances to date in my rookie season. But surely it’s only a matter of time before the constant disappointments tot up and have an adverse effect on him.

That being said, his performances have put him firmly in the reckoning for the OROY award come the end of the season. He’ll probably need to notch a few more wins to claim that prize though. Here’s hoping the tide turns for Herbert and the Chargers.



A WEEK FOR THE RUNNER

Over the last few years, we have seen the NFL transition back toward a ‘throwing league’. Teams heave begun to place less emphasis on the running back position and, instead, they have invested heavily in the man under centre to lead the team; that much is evident from Patrick Mahomes’ contract with the Chiefs and Deshaun Watson’s contract with Houston. Even further back than that, QBs were getting paid, and not particularly good ones either (yes, I’m looking at you, Brock Osweiler…).

This weekend, the RB position hit back with a couple of stellar performances from the best in the league. With most teams asking their man in the backfield to be multi-dimensional in the 21st century NFL, plenty contributed with multi-purpose yards too.

Dalvin Cook needs to be in the MVP conversation. In the last two weeks, he has logged 476 yards and six rushing TDs, and leads the league in rushing yards with 858 and 12 rushing TDs. This week against Detroit, he added 206 rushing yards, 46 receiving yards and 2 TDs.

Another key back to his team is Christian McCaffrey. He has been out since Week 1 with an ankle injury, but his return this week against Kansas City proved how pivotal he is to Carolina’s offence. Matt Rhule certainly didn’t hesitate to get McCaffrey back into the attack. The Stanford alum took 18 of 22 handoffs on Sunday and caught 10 of 10 targets. McCaffrey played 52 of the Panthers’ 75 snaps.

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Orlin Wagner – AP

BREES BLOWS AWAY BRADY’S BUCS

A 38-3 victory over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was always going to be pretty sweet for the New Orleans Saints, but it couldn’t have gone more plan than it did on Sunday night. Over the last couple of years, certain qualities and abilities of the Saints have become staples of a good win for Sean Payton’s men and they were all shown in abundance last night.

It started with spreading the ball around to different receivers, which Drew Brees did to an excellent level. He found 12 pass catchers in the win, with the returning Michael Thomas leading in yards with just 51. There were touchdown catches from Adam Trautman, Emmanuel Sanders, Josh Hill and Tre’Quan Smith, and the always-dangerous Alvin Kamara added a fifth on the ground.

Brees himself had a confident and assured day, spreading the ball well as the rushing triplet of Kamara, Latavius Murray and Taysom Hill provided 133 yards on the ground to aid the cause. Thanks to the on-the-ground help, Brees didn’t need a ton of yards. Instead, he went for quality over quantity with 222 yards and four touchdowns as he managed 26 of 32 through the air.

The return of star receiver Thomas was noticeable, as the connection between him and Brees proved to have lost very little in the Ohio State alumnus’ five week, and partially unexplained, absence. Some of the regular questions about Brees will still continue, despite the Saints becoming the first team to sweep Tom Brady in his long, fabled career. The 41-year-old needs a decent run up to get any real velocity in his throws these days.

That fact is unlikely to bother Brees though, who only has a second Super Bowl in mind. Even Jay Glazer confirmed on the Fox Sports talk-show “Undisputed” in midweek that this could very well be Brees’ last season in the NFL before retirement. That said, he probably woke up the next day feeling as fresh as he has in a long time with another emphatic victory over his biggest rival.

Ryan Clark Tips Drew Brees-led New Orleans Saints for Super Bowl Run -  EssentiallySports
Kim Klement – USA TODAY Sports

Your dish of the day is… Fish

Let’s roll up the jacket sleeves to the elbow, take our soft-top to A1A Beachfront Avenue and blast out some Will Smith from the Bang & Olufsen fitted speakers – it’s all positivity in Miami. When Head Coach Brian Flores decided to give rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa the keys to the Ferrari, there were a few puzzled looks in the car park but two weeks later, that call is being seen as the right one. Tua had a fine performance in only his second outing: almost 250 yards passing, two TDs and no picks.

With a pretty dreadful running game, led by the unknown Salvon Ahmed, Tua found seven different targets, keeping the Cardinals secondary on their toes. Down 7 heading into the fourth quarter, the Dolphins defence rose to the challenge and held the other #1 scoreless in the final period, with Jason Sanders nailing what turned out to be the winning FG with three-and-a-half minutes left. This is a Miami team that has quietly crept up on the entire league by winning five of their last six, after a 1-3 start.

Beating the Rams and Cardinals in consecutive weeks is enough to make Flipper do a triple somersault. 

NFL: Tua Tagovailoa now 2-0 after showdown with Kyler Murray
Chris Coduto – Getty Images

Ravens road record requires respect 

Anyone who saw the first half of the Ravens v Colts game on Sunday can be forgiven that Baltimore were on the edge of some sort of cataclysmic collapse.

Lamar Jackson, the reigning NFL MVP, again looked like a rookie, and the Ravens running game was still in Maryland. The team were missing LT Ronnie Stanley in the biggest way. Down 0-7, the future was as dark as their helmets when CB Marcus Peters stripped the ball from Colts rookie RB Jonathan Taylor’s grip and safety Chuck Clark scooped up the loose pigskin, running it back 65 yards to paydirt.

Baltimore Ravens set NFL record for 20-point games with win in Indy
AJ Mast – AP

Coach Harbaugh motivated the Ravens at half-time and Lamar looked far more comfortable in the second half, running a quick-paced offence and scoring himself on a nice run. Despite playing some dreadful football in patches, LJax is now 13-2 on the road in his career, a phenomenal record. Sometimes you need a bit of luck (like a dodgy interception call against Philip Rivers), but reaching the halfway point at 6-2, despite what seems like jogging through a sea of treacle, is testament to a defence that knows how to hit their opponents in the mouth. 

Now, if only the offence can show up. Dez-Time anyone? 


IS IT A BIRD? IS IT A PLANE?

No, it’s a quarterback.

In an era where the franchise QB’s first priority is to protect himself – by sliding, running out of bounds or throwing the rock away before taking a sack – it’s unusual to see playcallers rushing into the trenches without a care in the world and risking it all for those vital few yards. You can understand why head coaches fret when their star guys go off-script and off-piste, especially if that lynchpin were to get crocked in the process.

Well, this Sunday, we saw not just one but two quarterbacks put their bodies in harm’s way by diving for the required instance on crucial downs. They probably felt the full wrath of their HCs afterwards but sometimes, when the game is on the line, the bubble wrap just needs to come off.

First off, in the Las Vegas Raiders’ 31-26 win over the LA Chargers, Derek Carr led his team by example. On one of his six rushes on a crucial third and 10, just inside the red zone, Carr scrambled, then threw himself up and over Chargers safety Jahleel Addae. Jon Gruden may have been having kittens watching Carr’s double-footed flying leap but it paid off: the play set the Raiders up with 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard line rather than leaving them with a FG attempt. Just two plays later, Carr found Darren Waller in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown so all’s well that ends well.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 14441064_web1_Raiders-Chargers-Football.jpg
Ashley Landis – AP Photo

In the presser afterwards, the 6’3” QB took mock offence to a journalist wondering if he could play basketball. “Can I dunk? I can do it straight off the ground, no running start, I can go up there and dunk the ball,” he stated. “You give me a running start, I tell my guys every time we play basketball, just throw it up by the rim. I’ll find it.” So the guy can ball. Any ball, apparently.

Carr wasn’t the only QB who went airborne over the weekend. In Carolina’s surprisingly close 33-31 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Panthers gunslinger Teddy Bridgewater also took to the skies with a first down on the line. Much like Carr, he scrambled out of a collapsing pocket and up the middle on a crucial 4th-and-14 in the fourth quarter. Still a couple of yards shy, he then launched himself headfirst to make the distance, despite the best efforts of Chiefs linebacker Ben Niemann and safety Tyrann Mathieu.

Yet again, the Superman act paid off, as Bridgewater kept the drive alive and then ran into the end zone a few plays later, to pull Carolina within three points of their opponents.


“Wow, we beat the Jets!”

If you ever needed confirmation of just how far down the pecking order the New England Patriots have fallen this season, watch the last few seconds of this game. Yes, the Patriots completed a fourth-quarter comeback against the hapless Jets, reeling off 13 unanswered points. Correct me if I’m wrong though, but doesn’t that victory against a winless team only move them to 3-5? That’s still four games behind Buffalo and nowhere near relevance.

The celebrations could have been mistaken for a playoff win as multiple players stormed the field to hump away at the legs of Nick Folk after he drilled the game-winning 51-yarder. I suppose any revival has to start somewhere so maybe this does indeed spark something for the Patriots, although I will be surprised to see too many more wins before their rematch with the said Jets down the stretch.

New England Patriots kicker Nick Folk celebrates with teammates after kicking the winning field goal.
Bill Kostroun – AP

The biggest winners here were probably the team in the black and green jerseys. They take a two-game lead in the Trevor Lawrence Sweepstakes after the weekend’s action.

Both these sides will be hoping for much better days ahead.

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