The unpredictable NFL strikes again.
Just as teams begin to give some clarity, chaos ensues.
Here are some of the noteworthy happenings from the weekend.
GREEN BAY MIGHT’VE PACKED IT IN
As Aaron Rodgers goes, so go the Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately, Rodgers broke his collarbone, which could shelve him for the season. The entire offense is built around Rodgers’ uncanny ability, and it showed when backup quarterback filled in with three interceptions in a 23-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The Packers could only muster 224 yards of offense without Rodgers to compensate for an anemic running game. Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery, because the NFL is less exciting without Rodgers making jaw-dropping throws.
49ERS DON’T STRIKE GOLD
San Francisco set an NFL record against the Washington Redskins, and not the good kind. The 49ers became the first team in league history to lose five consecutive games by three points or fewer (3, 2, 3 in OT, 3 in OT, 2). In both of the two-point losses, the 49ers were driving late in the game to kick the potential game-winning field goal but were crippled by offensive pass interference penalties that knocked them out of field goal range and made picking up the first down a tall order. Such was the fate against the Redskins in a 26-24 loss in D.C. One silver lining may be rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard. With the team trailing 17-0, Beathard engineered a comeback in the town where his grandfather Bobby built a Super Bowl winner as general manager. With the youth movement in full swing (the 49ers recently released beloved veteran Linebacker NaVorro Bowman), it doesn’t seem likely head coach Kyle Shanahan will return to journeyman quarterback Brian Hoyer anytime soon.
The defending NFC champions appear to be one of the most schizophrenic teams in the league. After a 3-0 start, Atlanta lost back-to-back home games to struggling AFC East teams. Last week it was Buffalo. This week it was Miami. Compounding the perplexity, Atlanta had a comfortable 17-0 lead but surrendered 20 unanswered points to lose 20-17. The Falcons will need to figure things out quickly because they embark on a three-game road trip starting with Super Bowl Champion New England.
The Denver Broncos have a Super Bowl-caliber defense with serious questions at quarterback. Those questions were on display when the Broncos inexplicably lost a primetime home game against the winless and spiraling New York Giants. The NFL East cellar dweller limped into the game without their top four wide receivers, but lead wire to wire and won comfortably 23-10. Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian contributed to the meltdown with two interceptions and a lost fumble. Siemian wasn’t alone in fecklessness; Broncos running backs looked as if they were playing against the 1986 version of the Giants, mustering a measly 38 yards on 15 carries. The Broncos need to get their offensive woes rectified soon, or else they’ll be wasting a wrecking crew on defense.
PITTSBURGH STEALS ONE
Similar to the Giants, the Pittsburgh Steelers were backed into a corner and responded with a huge road victory. In what could be an AFC Championship game preview, the Steelers knocked off the Kansas City Chiefs, the last undefeated team. The Steelers had a lot on the line after a disgraceful 30-9 home loss to Jacksonville, a game in which Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions (two returned for touchdowns). Roethlisberger rebounded with a solid game, running back Le’Veon Bell broke out with 179 yards and a touchdown, and superstar receiver Antonio Brown made the play of the day with the game hanging in the balance:
HOWWWWW? @AB84 goes the distance! Touchdown @Steelers! #HereWeGo https://t.co/SAERohxsRF