1. “Neck injury” is the new term for “punished” in Denver
Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Maybe the fact that Denver Broncos’ quarterback Joe Flacco tore his coach a new one for the team’s ultra-conservative approach to the final minutes – leading to their 15-13 loss to the Colts on Sunday – had nothing to do with Monday’s announcement that Flacco was being replaced as the starter this week.
Oh sure, the team is claiming that Flacco has a herniated disc in his neck, forcing him out of the lineup. And maybe he does, although he sure looked healthy at the postgame podium as he gave Vic Fangio a beatdown for playing scared with the game of the line.
This was Flacco after Sunday’s loss on a last-second field goal by Adam Vinatieri, after the Broncos declined going for a game-clinching first down from midfield:
“We’re now a 2-6 football team and we’re like, afraid to go for it in a two-minute drill, you know,” Flacco said. “Like, who cares if you give the ball back to the guys with a minute, 40 seconds left? They obviously got the field goal, anyway.”
Come again, Joe?
“Once again, we’re a 2-6 football team,” Flacco said. “It feels like we’re kinda afraid to lose a game. It’s third and 5 at the end of the game, who cares if they have a time out or not. Getting in field goal range isn’t that tough. So, you’re just putting your defense in bad situations. I just felt like, what do we have to lose, like, why can’t we be aggressive in some of these situations. That’s kinda how I feel about a lot of the game today.”
Brandon Allen will now take over in Denver, who hopes their backup can do even half as well as Indy’s has. The shocking retirement announcement by Andrew Luck in late August was supposed to doom the Colts after making the playoffs in 2018. But Jacoby Brissett has been more than up for the challenge, and his 45-yard heave on the run after escaping a near safety on the game-winning drive was arguably the play of the day on Sunday. Indy is 5-2, and the AFC South is theirs for the taking.
2. The Chargers are now infecting other teams with their disease
A week ago, the Chargers found a whole new way to lose a football game, with Melvin Gordon fumbling away the ball on the goal line in the final seconds in Nashville, allowing the Ryan Tannehill-led Titans to escape with a narrow victory. It was a new scene, but the same-old inept script that calls for the Chargers to find an inexplicable way to lose games they seemingly have won.
But that script was flipped in Week 8, as the Chicago Bears, certainly no stranger themselves to heartbreaking last-second losses, literally kicked another win to the curb on Sunday, with kicker Eddy Pineiro missing a 41-yard field goal in the final moments to seal the Chargers’ 17-16 victory.
Thank god Joe Flacco wasn’t in Chicago yesterday, or he’d have really lost it after the game. For whatever reason, Bears head coach Matt Nagy, once heralded as a genius coach, elected not to try to get Pineiro closer than a 41-yarder in the final moments, even when such a prospect was readily available – Mitchell Trubisky took a knee with 40 seconds left from the Chargers’ 21-yard line. Took a knee! Nagy said he was worried about a fumble. Good job, coach. Good effort.
3. The Patriots defense is waging all-out war on the 2018 Draft
Move over Steel Curtain. Step aside, 46 defense. The 2019 New England Patriots defense is arguably the best in the history of the NFL, and they showed why again on Sunday, forcing the Browns to commit three turnovers in the span of three snapped balls on Sunday, taking the Browns out of the game like so many hapless opponents before them.
That Baker Mayfield was a victim of another mauling was probably not surprising. So far, it has been open season on the top picks of the 2018 Draft, as five of the Patriots’ eight wins have come against four of the top seven picks (or at least their teams) in that draft.
Sam Darnold, the third pick in 2018 who claimed to be seeing ghosts eight days ago, indeed looked scared as he made one ill-advised back-foot throw after another. Mayfield, the No. 1 pick in 2018, was practically handing the Patriots defense the ball after Nick Chubb, the 35th overall pick, coughed it up on consecutive possessions. In all, it was three plays, three turnovers, and the Pats suddenly led 17-0 in the first quarter. Earlier, Darnold watched from the sideline as the Pats took out the Jets and Saquon Barkley was equally helpless in the Giants’ closer-than-it-seemed 35-14 loss earlier this month. And then there was No. 7 pick Josh Allen, whose Bills thought they had the Pats measured in late September, only to get blown out in a loss at home.