Maybe this should be called ‘Injured, Not Injured’ NFL Week 2, because the brutal injuries to big-name players on Sunday was nothing short of astonishing, writes Matthew Carolan.
On an actual football level, week two brought us plenty of talking points, with a few teams’ playoff dreams effectively ending, as they sunk into the 0-2 abyss.
The plethora of injuries
Every team gets injuries. The fact of the matter is that football is a high octane, heavy-hitting sport and for teams to escape a season unscathed would be unrealistic. Pair the nature of the game with the lack of pre-season this year and the end result will be the A&E ward after week two of the NFL season.
Key injuries from the weekend included (but were not limited to) Saquon Barkley, Nick Bosa, Jimmy Garoppolo, Drew Lock, Christian McCaffrey, Cam Akers, Sterling Shepard, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. They joined other names ruled out in advance of week two such as George Kittle, Michael Thomas, and Tyrod Taylor (again, to name a few).
If there was any suggestion of cancelling the NFL pre-season after week one for future seasons, then that thought will surely be locked away in an attic never to be seen again. Because the amount of injuries that have occurred this early into the season is not just frustrating from a fan and team’s perspective, it is also indicative of unusual circumstances and the impact that has on player preparation.
There are other factors, too. In San Francisco’s case, players complained about the surface before, during and after their game at Metlife against the always awful New York Jets. Referring to the artificial grass as ‘sticky’, Arik Armstead claimed he and his teammates were anxious about having to play there again in week three against the Giants. Normally getting to play the Jets and Giants back-to-back should be a call for celebration, so you know he means business here.
Between Barkley and Bosa both fearing season-ending ACL injuries, it is possible that the surface was the problem at Metlife. Maybe Barkley sustained a tweak in week one at home against Pittsburgh which led to the actual impact injury in week two against Chicago. One to look out for in week three.
New England’s goal-line call
Mention New England v. Seattle and the first thing that should come to mind is a goal-line decision. Not just any goal-line decision, perhaps the most controversial goal-line decision of our time.
When Russell Wilson got picked off by Malcolm Butler in the Super Bowl all those years ago, it led to players questioning Pete Carroll’s decision-making. It would have been easy to hand it off to Marshawn Lynch, but they went another way. They lost, and the rest is history.
Years later, New England rolled into Seattle and it came down to another goal-line decision. This time, the decision was New England’s. Down 35-23 with 2:14 left on the clock, Cam ran the ball in by himself. That was his second rushing touchdown of the night.
They got the ball back again and Cam led the Patriots down the field until it was first and goal with three seconds left. 35-30, three seconds left. A goal-line decision loomed again. The Patriots lined up with three tight ends and one running back, and much like the play two minutes before, Cam tried to run it in. Again. This time, he came up short and the Patriots lost 35-30.
The play call could be viewed in many ways. The decision to replicate the call from two minutes prior was unexpected, but once they lined up, everyone knew what was coming. It was brazen, sure, but it was the wrong call. With no receivers on the formation, Seattle did the logical thing and stacked the box to prevent any run threat.
Were Cam to have faked the run and pivoted with a throw to one of his three tightends, the end score may well have been different. It was shocking that he did not do that, actually.
The Chicago Bears are 2-0
Just because a team starts 0-2 does not mean they will not make the playoffs. But there is a very good chance that they will miss out. Similarly, just because a team starts 2-0 does not mean they will make it to the playoffs, but their chances of doing so are certainly higher now.
Chicago are not a good team this season. They have a highly inconsistent quarterback with Mitch Trubisky and an offense that blows hot and cold as a result. They do have a good pass rush though, and that might be enough to help them edge out some more wins.
Against Detroit, they rallied to come back and win. They also were playing against Detroit and got lucky due to some mistakes by them. Against New York, they were playing against a bad Giants team whose quarterback loves to turn the ball over. This Sunday coming, they will come up against an Atlanta team that, once again, just blew a massive lead.
It is true that you can only beat who is in front of you. For Chicago, the team in front of them is far from the gold standard so far and indeed the next two weeks look promising too. When the Bears come up against New Orleans, LA and Green Bay in late October and November, we will get a better idea as to how good this team really is.
Check out OTB Sports' latest episode of The Snap, with Ger Gilroy, Ronan Mullen and Cian Fahey below.
The Giants might be the NFL’s worst team
The Giants have started 0-2 in seven of the last eight seasons. They have had four head coaches in that time. They have had two general managers in that time. They have never looked like a team who are on the cusp of making a serious championship run in that time.
The strange thing about the Giants’ mediocrity is that, in spite of always being one of the worst teams in the NFL, they are never the worst team in any given season. They never get the number one pick, and even when they come close to landing a high pick, they decide to win on the last day of the season and wind up picking fifth or sixth. They are incapable of even being a ‘good’ bad team.
So once again, the Giants look like they are in the fast lane towards a high pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. They will in all likelihood move on to their third general manager in four years if they finish any lower than 7-9, and any new general manager will have a lot of questions to answer, like do they take Trevor Lawrence if they have the number one pick, and move on from Daniel Jones? Do they keep going with Joe Judge or Jason Garrett?
It is bizarre to be considering these things in September, but if the Giants cannot get their act together and make a run, then these are the things ownership will be looking at in January anyway. If the Bears have an easy schedule, then Giants have the opposite. Games against the 49ers and Rams lie in wait. It will get worse before it gets better for this once admirable franchise.
The Chiefs’ comeback win
As Super Bowl champions, you expect the Chiefs to win every game they are in. They are the best team in football but so far this season they have not played like the best team in football. Alas, they are still 2-0.
It can be said that it is the mark of a great team to win when you are not at your best, and that is what Kansas City have been so far. Where Mahomes still shows moments of excellence, they are yet to hit their stride. That should scare the rest of the league because while Chicago are 2-0, most of the league will expect them to fade away. With Kansas City, you can only expect them to get better.
In the playoffs, Kansas City made a name for themselves with comeback victories against Houston, Tennessee and San Francisco. No matter the margin they were trailing by, there was a belief from both the team, the fans and maybe even the opposition that they would come back and find a way to win.
The comparison of the Chiefs with another great team, the Golden State Warriors (not this season per se, but in general), is predicated on the fact that they can amass a lot of points very quickly with deep shots. If that is true, then only injuries would derail the Chiefs this year, because, in spite of the ropey performances against LA, they showed they can still do that on an off day.
Atlanta, bottle job aficionados
There is always one game on Redzone that gets more airtime than others. On Sunday, that game was Dallas at Atlanta. There was a point on Sunday where Atlanta were leading 20-0. Even when Dallas put up some points to start a comeback, Atlanta were still scoring. In fact, they led 39-24 with eight minutes left in the game. They had a 99.9% probability of winning the game. 99.9%.
Sure enough, they found a way to lose. Dallas scored a field goal in the dying seconds of the game and Atlanta added another heartbreaking bottle job to the history books. 40-39 was the final score. According to Elias Sports, the Falcons were the first team since 1933 to lose a game in spite of scoring 39 points and giving away zero turnovers. Teams from that position were 440-0.
The reason this is not so shocking is that Atlanta famously bottled their 28-3 lead over New England in Super Bowl LI. They have not been the same team since then.
What was once a high powered offense scoring at will is now a team synonymous with blowing leads. Even their offensive coordinator from Super Bowl LI, Kyle Shanahan, struggled to shed the title of ‘bottler’ when his San Francisco team lost their lead to Kansas City in February this year.
If a team blows a lead famously once, that can be chalked up as bad luck. But when the belief starts to fade and losses start to mount, it generally means one thing. If Dan Quinn was not on the hot seat already, he certainly is now. Watch that space.
Written by Matthew Carolan.