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NFL corkboard: The carnage, collapses and comedy of Week 2

The Sports Fan Journal logo The Sports Fan Journal 9/22/2020 Matt Whitener, The Sports Fan Journal
a group of people in a field: Sep 20, 2020; Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) is helped off of the field after suffering an injury during the second quarter against the Bears at Soldier Field.  © Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports Sep 20, 2020; Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) is helped off of the field after suffering an injury during the second quarter against the Bears at Soldier Field. 

Week 2 of the 2020 NFL season is one that will live in infamy. You’d need an 80s montage worthy of a "Rocky" film to get through the sheer number of losses from around the league this weekend. So before we get too far into what happened, let’s pour a little liquor for all the homies we lost along the way this week.

So, as you read this next part, go on ahead and turn on the appropriate soundtrack for looking over this level of loss. I would personally recommend “I Really Miss My Homies” by Master P or the classic “Crossroads” by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, run whatever hits your heart right.

Let us read from the scroll of those that are departed from our NFL lives for time being:

  • San Francisco 49ers: Nick Bosa, Jimmy Garoppolo, Raheem Mostert, and Tevin Coleman
  • New York Giants: Saquon Barkley
  • Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey
  • Denver Broncos: Drew Lock and Courtland Sutton
  • Indianapolis Colts: Malik Hooker and Paris Campbell
  • Baltimore Ravens: Tavon Young
  • Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr 
  • Miami Dolphins: Byron Jones
  • Washington Football Team (ugh!): Branden Scherff
  • Seattle Seahawks: Bruce Irvin
  • Los Angeles Chargers: Tyrod Taylor (more on this later)

For the 49ers, this added onto an already lengthy infirmary list that already included George Kittle, Richard Sherman, Deebo Samuel and Dee Ford. At this point, the Niners have to be wondering how many of their guys are going to have to play on both sides of the ball at this point. Quick, somebody get Jim Thorpe on the phone. See if he’s busy.

Finally, toss in the possibility that the Packers could be looking at hamstring issues for Davante Adams as well and this is just a bloodbath of a week for such a young season. When the dust finally settled, Barkley, Nick Bosa, Barr, Sutton, Hooker, Irvin and Scherff are done for the year, 14 weeks early. This rash of injuries brings up a ton of questions regarding the impact of having virtually no offseason training and an adjusted preseason, lack of prep games or simply a lot of bad luck striking all at once. Regardless of the reason, Murphy’s Law ruled the week.

With the “In Memoriam” section out of the way, here’s a spin around the week that was.

a person wearing a helmet: Sep 20, 2020; Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Lions at Lambeau Field.  © Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports Sep 20, 2020; Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Lions at Lambeau Field. 

The most known unknown

A question: why don’t more people talk about Aaron Jones? After all, he’s only been one of the most productive running backs in the league over the past two years. His 23 touchdowns are tied with Christian McCaffrey for the most in the league since the start of 2019. On Sunday, he exploded for 231 all-purpose yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 75-yard breakaway to start the second half. But whether it is being starry-eyed at Aaron Rodgers or simply looking at all of the other more popular & higher compensated runners — Jones checks in at 33rd among NFL runners cap impact and 86th overall in total contract for 2020 — it’s time to give the man his due.

a person holding a football ball: Sep 20, 2020; Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) walks off the field after throwing an interception during the fourth quarter against the Rams at Lincoln Financial Field. © Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports Sep 20, 2020; Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) walks off the field after throwing an interception during the fourth quarter against the Rams at Lincoln Financial Field.

It’s not too sunny in Philly

Perhaps the toughest to swallow start to the year belongs to the Eagles, who seem poised to post the most head-scratching Ls of the year. A week after taking a loss to the Professional Football Team To Be Named Later to open the year, they looked just as lost against the Rams at home. Carson Wentz averaged 5.6 yards per completion and tossed a pair of picks while failing to get into the end zone. He clearly came out on the short end of the showdown between the top two picks of the 2017 NFL Draft versus Jared Goff ... which is not exactly a distinction to run into the streets to celebrate.

Until recently, Wentz definitely has been held in the higher esteem (and payrate) between the two QBs, but is the red-headed QB becoming the red-headed stepchild of the two? And if this all wasn’t enough, Zach Ertz has seen Kittle and Travis Kelce get shiny new contracts and now wants his, too. All while he’s not even the most targeted tight end of his team (what up Dallas Goedert, we see you — and apparently Wentz does too, a lot). Perhaps the temporary bright side to this all lies in a Week 3 tilt with the Bengals. They seem to make previously rudderless ships sail strong again —  just ask the Browns. Or at least, one would hope.

a group of people on a baseball field: Sep 20, 2020; Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein (2) celebrates his game-winning field goal with receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) against the Atlanta Falcons at AT&T Stadium.  © Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports Sep 20, 2020; Cowboys kicker Greg Zuerlein (2) celebrates his game-winning field goal with receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) against the Atlanta Falcons at AT&T Stadium. 

Oh no, not this again.

On Sunday in Dallas, an unstoppable force met and immovable object. The annual hype around the Cowboys, as well as them quickly throwing it into question, will represent the former. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons’ uncanny ability to blow even the most insurmountable of leads, in record time. The end result falls somewhere between amazing comeback, an epic collapse and natural selection.

But these two forces of football nature collided in an amazing car wreck of destiny on Sunday. The Falcons dominated the first half, while the Cowboys looked damn near like they were on the take early on. However, the Falcons miraculously allowed a 29-10 halftime lead to turn into a 40-39 loss, aided by allowing Dak Prescott to somehow transform into Lamar Jackson. Dak became the first QB ever to throw for over 400 yards, while scoring three rushing TDs. Meanwhile, the Cowboys were able to erase four fumbles and 20-point fourth quarter deficit to "win" their first game of the year (in front of a stunningly high amount of live fans too, by the way).

Was this salvaging of coming back from (literally) fumbling the bag away worthy of celebration? Or was it more relief from the wrath of Jerry Jones and Stephen A. Smith? (It’s hard to tell which one is worse/more annoying). One thing is for sure, this Cowboys season is going to cause the type of high blood pressure that is usually reserved only for a 10-piece of Church’s Chicken.

Meanwhile, I hope Dan Quinn is getting both his Zillow and ZipRecruiter accounts up to date with his off days. Because apparently his boss, Arthur Blank, knows the rules a lot better than he does. Yikes.

a football player holding a bat on a baseball field: Sep 20, 2020; Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) looks to throw a pass during the first quarter against the Giants at Soldier Field.  © Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports Sep 20, 2020; Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) looks to throw a pass during the first quarter against the Giants at Soldier Field. 

A rock and a hard place, starring Mitch & Da Bears

Is there ever a situation where a 2-0 start is a bad thing? I mean the point of this all is to win right ... right?

Well, don’t tell that to many of the good people of Chicago, who would likely be glad to trade a few early season wins for the chance to finish the exorcism of Mitchell Trubisky from their QB-cursed club. I mean, Mitch hasn’t been terrible, yet. But he hasn’t exactly been good either. He broke even on TDs vs. interceptions at two a piece and failed to average seven yards per pass, keeping him ranked at 22nd in yards per completion. Since 2017, Trubisky has averaged the third-fewest yards per attempt of any QB since 2017 with 30 games. So, at the very least, he’s consistent right?

In the end, this is perhaps football’s most preeminent purgatory for the fan base. It feels good to win, but they need for their QB to lose. One foot was already in the grave, with the addition of Nick Foles over the winter. However, he too could be the second foot in said grave. No easy answers here.

a close up of a person wearing a helmet: Sep 20, 2020; Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass against the Patriots during the third quarter at CenturyLink Field.  © Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 20, 2020; Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass against the Patriots during the third quarter at CenturyLink Field. 

Moving the needle

It’s no secret we are WELL past due for the age of the Black quarterback to fully take grip on the NFL. Well, a week after a record 10 Black QBs started around the league, we were one QB shy (barely) of accomplishing a remarkable, simultaneously television presence behind center. On the late slate of games, seven of eight teams were quarterbacked by African American signal-callers. Baltimore at Houston featured the marquee pairing of Lamar Jackson vs Deshawn Watson. Meanwhile, a pair of sophomores in Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins led the Arizona Cardinals vs the Washington TBAs in the D.C. suburbs, while Cam Newton and Russell Wilson put on show as the Seattle Seahawks defeated the New England Patriots on Sunday night.

The sweep was only narrowly missed, when Tyrod Taylor was replaced by rookie Justin Herbert just before the Chargers faced Patrick Mahomes and the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Speaking of that matchup, let’s get a little bit further into that one, because there are some questions that need to be asked.

a baseball player holding a bat: Aug 14, 2020; Chargers quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) throws the ball as quarterback Justin Herbert (10) and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton watch during training camp. © Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports Aug 14, 2020; Chargers quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) throws the ball as quarterback Justin Herbert (10) and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton watch during training camp.

Shenanigans and stun at SoFi?

Just before the Chargers were set to make the second debut at SoFi Stadium in as many weeks versus the Chiefs, there was a late change made at quarterback. In a style more befitting the unmasking at the end of a Scooby Doo episode or a surprise entrant into the Royal Rumble, Taylor was surprisingly replaced by rookie Justin Herbert. Herbert went on to have a memorable debut, throwing for 311 yards and scoring a touchdown through the air and on the ground.

But what REALLY happened with Taylor?

Let’s run this still-unsolved mystery through the mill. Was it really the ‘chest injury’ that was cited as cause? Was it something more sinister that needed to be covered up, like a different type of "health" issue that came up late? The type the league is trying to avoid like the ... um, plague? Mind you, this is all hypothesizing but what is absolutely real now is that Anthony Lynn has full-blown QB controversy on his hands now. One (Taylor) who led them to victory … against the Bengals. But another (Herbert), who fell short of the win, but made them look a lot better in loss than did in victory the week before.

Two-Minute Drill

Replay Video
  • I think I saw that helicopter from the beginning of M.A.S.H. flying in to take 49ers away by the end of that game. Although they thrashed a hapless Jets squad, is it even fair to expect them to mount a realistic division title defense against the trio of undefeated teams joining them out west? Well, don’t call them off quite yet, especially considering that their next three weeks is about as soft as a lap dance (at the Saquon-less Giants, followed by home for the Bears and Dolphins)
  • Unflappable isn’t the word for Joe Burrow. His emotional range falls somewhere between the Terminator and Victoria Beckham. It definitely takes him more effort to smile than it does to scan a defense being an offensive line that is made up mostly of saloon doors.
  • The Jaguars are scrappy as hell and are going to cause some heartache as a team with a ton of upset potential in the AFC South.
  • It’s not panic mode at this point: Drew Brees’ arm is something akin to Ramen noodle-level strength now. It’s not like he has ever been blessed with a cannon as is, but this nearly beer-league softball level tosses now. But you know what, Drew? All arms matter, right? So you’ll find a way.
  • I think the Bills have about three pass plays total and they’re all off Tecmo Bowl. But Josh Allen makes them all exciting as hell to watch.
  • Anybody wanna see an (un)dead body? See Cousins, Kirk. 11/16, 113 yards, three picks ... and $30 million guaranteed dollars. Think that Stefon Diggs was maybe making a difference?

Extra Points

On a parting note, as the season moves along, I realize there is a certain level of intestinal fortitude required for "Thursday Night Football." It is the ultimate expression of the NFL saying “Here, at least we gave you something.” However, this week is the ultimate example of that, as my spirits were dampened a week in advance when I already deep into the so-called "Battle of Ohio" between the Browns and Bengals last week, when the announcement was rolled out that next week’s action packed battle of mediocrity would pair the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins.

Really? And we’re not even likely to get a Tua Tagovailoa debut either? Well, at least Gardner Minshew is keeping things interesting and the Dolphins aren’t exactly toothless. Maybe they’ll be Dolphins more like James than Flipper (very salty language warning)? Who knows.

Perhaps we have to give a lot upfront to get a lot on back-end, with the league’s premiere possible matchup of the Chiefs and Ravens next Monday. But jeesh, this could be quite the price to pay.

See ya after the next 17.

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