Image Credit: Douglas DeFelice, USA TODAY Sports
Welcome back, everyone! The last time we all got together, we were in the midst of an NBA Finals run by the Toronto Raptors. Now, Kawhi Leonard has bolted for the Western Conference and has formed a dynamic duo with Paul George on the Los Angeles Clippers. See how much things can change in just over three months!?
I’ve done some updating and renovating of the site, and I think we’re ready to rock and roll. In honor of the first The Best Foote Forward Radio Show taking place Monday evening (from 10-12 p.m. on bakerradio.org) Footenotes are officially BACK! Each weekly installment will serve as both a roadmap and supplement for the show, in case you miss it. Today: an NFL special. Let’s jump in.
Chiefs dominate Jaguars on the road
It wasn’t quite as close as the final score may have predicted. Analyzing the box score for this game would be doing all the events that transpired during it quite the injustice. Both Kansas City and Jacksonville had players go down due to injury. Scrappiness was at an all-time high. A sixth-round draft selection went 22/25.
Coming off a 12-4 season that featured both an MVP campaign from Patrick Mahomes and a trip to the AFC Championship game, the Kansas City Chiefs picked up where they left off. Losing Tyreek Hill to a shoulder/clavicle injury (a unique one, at that) early in the contest didn’t prove to be much of an obstacle. Sammy Watkins stepped up in a huge way for the Chiefs, reminding fans of how prolific he was at Clemson years ago. Recording 198 receiving yards and finding the end zone three times throughout the game, the “Lizard King” kicked off his 2019 with a tremendous boom.
Mahomes suffered a sprained ankle early in the game as well, but still finished the day with 378 yards and a trio of touchdowns. An underrated story from the game: LeSean McCoy’s impact. The 31-year-old running back rushed for 81 yards on just 10 carries and had a 12-yard reception to boot. The longtime Philadelphia Eagle and recent Buffalo Bill proved he still has something left in the tank. Andy Reid appears to be the perfect coach to tap into that energy.
Let’s shift our focus back to the rookie quarterback. Coming out of Washington State, Garnder Minshew was a sixth-round selection by Jacksonville in this year’s NFL Draft. When starting quarterback Nick Foles broke his clavicle on a long touchdown pass to DJ Chark, Minshew was thrust into the spotlight on a nationally-televised game. He did a pretty solid job, too.
Completing 88 percent of his passes for 275 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, the 23-year-old performed well enough to leave at least a sliver of hope for Jaguars fans. The franchise traded for former Steelers backup, Josh Dobbs, earlier today. Until Foles is cleared to return, which won’t be for several weeks, Jacksonville will have to make due with what it has at QB.
Overall, this game spoke a lot more about the Chiefs than the Jags. Critics expecting Mahomes to take a step back were let down, especially considering the Hill injury. Without their second-best player, Kansas City put up one of the best performances against Jacksonville in their own house in quite some time. Because Hill is expected to miss several weeks with his own injury, Kansas City will rely heavily upon Watkins and rookie Mecole Hardman. If Sunday’s game was any indication, though, that shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Lamar Jackson’s surprising day
There haven’t been many people more critical of Lamar Jackson over the past couple of years than myself. The former Louisville Cardinal was drafted high and the hype surrounding him has always been immense. I fought it for as long as I can but after watching the second-year quarterback tear apart the Dolphins, I’m starting to believe.
I know what you’re thinking. “Jordan, it’s the Dolphins!” Miami is still an NFL defense. Jackson completed 85 percent of his passes for 324 yards and 5 touchdowns. No matter how you slice that data and try to use it to fit your narrative, it comes out as an impressive stat line. One of the best dual-threat talents at the QB position in NFL history, Jackson’s ability to keep defenses on their toes has never been a question. His ability to throw the ball with consistency and accuracy has been the question.
The season is still young and it’s entirely possible that Jackson turns into a pumpkin between now and next weekend, but head coach John Harbaugh can’t possibly be more proud of and excited about his young signal-caller’s performance. Jackson ran the ball just three times throughout the entire game and displayed a variety of traits. His deep ball has always been beautiful. With rookie receiver Hollywood Brown now in the fold, that pass should be perfected more and more often by Jackson.
Before the season, I believe I had Baltimore winning nine games. A thwarting of the lowly Dolphins probably doesn’t change my mind by even a game — and next week’s contest against the Arizona Cardinals probably won’t, either. But if Jackson and company can string together a month’s worth of good performances in a row, I hope there’s a seat left for me on the bandwagon.
Kyler Murray’s tale of two games
This pretty much sums it all up:
It was literally a tale of two completely different displays of talent for Murray. Starting his NFL career in about the worst fashion possible, the former Oklahoma standout channeled the magic he routinely displayed in college with a valliant comeback effort vs. the Detroit Lions. A man possessed later in the second half of the game, Murray led the Cardinals to a touchdown and subsequent two-point conversion. This eventually led to the contest going into overtime. While Arizona couldn’t pull out the victory, the fact that it was simply in the game at the end was a testament to its quarterback’s ability to snap out of an extended slump.
One of the more exciting prospects in recent memory, Murray has every physical gift besides size. He’s got a cannon of an arm and the ability to keep defenses honest with his legs. Game-breaking speed and shiftiness. He’s also in possession of some solid intangibles. His magnetism was on full display during the comeback. Murray’s teammates gravitate towards him and rally around him.
It’s WAY too early to form a conclusion on Murray. One thing is for sure, though: He’s not as bad as he played in the first half. Could he end up being as lethal of a threat as he was in the second half? Time will tell.
Time to hit the panic button already for Atlanta, Cleveland?
Both the Atlanta Falcons and Cleveland Browns entered the season with lofty expectations. Atlanta, just a few years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, got bitten pretty hard by the injury bug a season ago and is now entering the 2019 season with a loaded, competitive, healthy roster. Cleveland acquired former New York Giants sensation Odell Beckham Jr. in hopes that he can complete the team’s offense. With a young and hungry defense, many picked the Browns to win the AFC North before the season began. Fast forward, and now both teams are 0-1.
Let’s start with Atlanta. Through three quarters against the Minnesota Vikings, Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense scored a grand total of… zero points. 12 fourth-quarter points made the final score improved cosmetics by quite a bit but when taking into account that Minnesota had 28 points heading into the final frame, it’s not hard to see how much of a blowout this game was.
Minnesota did all that damage with quarterback Kirk Cousins attempting 10 passes. Known for having one of the best defenses in the league for the last few seasons, the Vikings will only go as far as their offense takes them. Atlanta, on the other hand, is going to need to improve on both sides of the ball if it wants to achieve the goals set by coach Dan Quinn.
Final score-wise, the opposite can be said about the Cleveland/Tennessee game. Although the Browns played some extremely poor football on Sunday, they were within a couple points of the Titans nearing the end of the third quarter. The final deficit of 30 points does a bit too much justice to Tennessee.
Marcus Mariota, facing immense pressure to perform this season, delivered in his first game of 2019. Tossing three touchdowns on the day, he fueled a balanced attack for offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. On the other side of the field, Baker Mayfield had one of the worst games of his young career. Throwing a trio of interceptions on the day and failing to keep his team in the game late, the second-year quarterback had an opportunity to open the season up and make a statement. Instead of doing so in a positive fashion, Mayfield raised questions about Cleveland’s legitimacy among AFC contenders.
Patriots already looking scary… without Antonio Brown
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The New England Patriots look like a Super Bowl contender. You’ve heard it for nearly two decades now. The defending champs kicked off their season at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Although Pittsburgh isn’t a member of the AFC East, it’s certainly one of New England’s biggest rivals. Tom Brady & co. made sure to assert themselves as the big brothers of that rivalry on Sunday night.
The 42-year-old Brady still has it. Shredding the Steelers’ defense to the tune of 341 yards and three touchdowns, Brady alerted Father Time that he isn’t ready to go anytime soon. The *younger* quarterback in the game, Ben Roethlisberger, didn’t throw a single touchdown in the game and tossed his first interception of 2019.
Bill Belichick’s team’s formula is simple. Tom Brady + stout defense = championship appearance. Tom Brady + weapons + stout defense = championship win. Compiling 465 yards of total offense against a Steelers team that takes pride in its defensive abilities, the Pats are close to peak form without Antonio Brown.
Acquiring the troubled wide receiver following him demanding his release from the Oakland Raiders, Brown will present Brady with yet another weapon to throw the ball to. Assuming Josh Gordon can keep his nose clean and Julian Edelman can remain healthy, the Patriots are now in the conversation of the scariest offenses in the entire NFL. Without Brown playing a single down, New England won by 30 points. Imagine that offense with Antonio Brown lined up wide. Yeah… scary.
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