|Griffin got rocked, but only, um, mildly. (AP)|
Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action and figures out the most important storylines for you to digest. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Listen to the Pick-Six Podcast below and go ahead and subscribe via iTunes.
Robert Griffin III got hit so hard on Sunday afternoon that he didn't, according to Mike Shanahan, know what quarter it was or what the score was. It was the third quarter and the Redskins were about to kick a field goal to take a 10-7 lead. Everyone knew that, except the guy with the concussion.
Wait, sorry, make that a mild concussion, which is how Shanahan described Griffin's injury following the game. In using that term, Shanahan is doing his superstar rookie quarterback a disservice. And in allowing teams to use phrases like "mild concussion" or "neck injury" to describe what are obvious injuries to a player's head, the NFL is doing a disservice to player safety.
Concussions aren't chicken wing flavors. Calling something a "mild concussion" is like telling someone that your wife is "kind of pregnant." A concussion is, medically speaking, known as TBI. That stands for Traumatic Brain Injury. Not mild brain injury, spicy brain injury or Caribbean jerk brain injury. Traumatic brain injury.
The term "mild," within the context of concussions isn't even mean to say that a concussion is less damaging. In fact, the only reason that the term mild is thrown around by doctors and health care professionals is because it's not life-threatening. But don't take my word for it, especially when the Center for Disease Control can tell you that.
"Health care professionals may describe a concussion as a 'mild' brain injury because concussions are usually not life-threatening," the website reads. "Even so, their effects can be serious."
So what's it going to take, NFL? An actual on-field death by concussion for the term mild to be outlawed? Because that's the direction we're headed with the league continuing to allow teams to circumvent the spirit of rules and requirements designed to improve player safety.
To top things off, the Redskins informed the media in the pressbox during the game that Griffin's injury status was "shaken up" and that he was questionable to return. What is he, a freaking martini? Shaken up might work if you nearly got in a wreck on your way to work. Shaken up does not apply to getting hit so hard in the head that you don't know where you are or what time it is.
RG3 never returned to the game, thankfully, and it meant Kirk Cousins under center for Washington. Cousins threw two picks to ultimately give Atlanta the win. But the logic behind things like "neck injury" and "shook up" is that it allows players who sustained a concussion to potentially return to the game.
Griffin, without basic brain functionality, was considered questionable to return. Questionable, under NFL guidelines, means 50-50 chance. That's a coin flip and it's unfair and irresponsible to attach that sort of casual behavior to the livelihood of a young man like Griffin. Good for the Redskins for not putting him back in, but the fact that they were allowed to describe his injury they way they did and even consider putting Griffin in the game afterwards illustrates a serious flaw in the NFL's process for handling in-game injuries.
The league talks up and down about the need to improve player safety. If they want to back those words up with actions, they need to hold the feet of teams, coaches, players and trainers to the fire and demand honesty for in-game injury reports.
Ideally, the implementation of a sideline concussion test could happen. (Doctors we've previously written about are working on one.) If you've got a concussion -- regardless of severity -- you're done for the game. And if a team wants to report something different in the hopes of bringing that player back in the game, the league should hammer them for doing so.
No more neck injuries. No more mild concussions. No more dancing around the injury status when it comes to concussions. Mild is something reserved for picking out a salsa flavor. Not for describing the state of someone's brain functionality.
2. Two sub stories from CHUCKSTRONG
Andrew Luck's incredibly impressive game-winning drive against the Packers will get most of the attention when people look back at the Colts come-from-behind 30-27 win over Green Bay. That's totally fair, because it was a signature march down the field for an emotional victory.
But let's focus on two other things real quick: the defense and Reggie Wayne.
Indy shutting down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense in the second half can't go overlooked. The Colts recreated their defense this offense in an attacking 3-4 mold under new coach Chuck Pagano's preferred style of play. And Indy doesn't win this game without a substantive effort from their defense, which limited the Pack to six points despite being down 21-3 at the break. After three 50-plus-yard drives that led to touchdowns in the first half, the Colts didn't give up a drive of longer than 50 in the second half, and only one of the Packers possessions led to a touchdown.
In other words, the comeback doesn't happen without the defense. It also doesn't happen without Reggie Wayne, who put up an all-time performance, catching 13 passes for 212 yards. Five of those passes were on the final Colts drive and another one was this freaking gem:
Wayne's not just making folks remember who talented a receiver he is, he's making Indy GM Ryan Grigson look like a genius for re-signing him this offseason. The Colts landed Wayne on a three-year deal for just $17.5 million and it seemed like a silly signing of an older receiver, especially when many assumed he'd simply latch on wherever Peyton Manning went.
Instead Wayne's proved to be a perfectly capable receiver at his age, and he's doing for Luck what Manning did for Wayne, by easing his transition to the league and giving the rookie a reliable target. Luck was superb on the final drive, but he couldn't have done it without a veteran difference-maker like Wayne helping him out.
3. Dolphins closer than we think?
Coulda/shoulda/woulda stuff applies here, but it's really worth noting that the Dolphins are dangerously close to being 4-1 this year. They barely lost to Arizona in Week 4 in overtime and they were a Dan Carpenter field goal from beating the Jets the week before that.
This isn't to say that you should fear Miami or anything. But they're a much better team than most people are giving them credit for.
"We had two tough weeks leading up to this one," Ryan Tannehill said after the game. "Guys really talked all week about how we've got to finish. We were two plays away from having a winning record."
It's impressive what Joe Philbin's done with the Dolphins who, based on Hard Knocks and the preseason, appeared prepared for a long year. They're not going to win the division and they're not going to make Karlos Dansby's bold prediction come true, but they're a much better team than anyone could have expected.
Yes, 18th. Ryan gets a bad rap because he's never won a playoff game. The response of critics to Ryan's lack of postseason success is understandable (kind of anyway) because that's how this whole thing works, even if it's silly.
Ryan took the Falcons down the field early in the fourth quarter and hit Julio for an 18-yard touchdown (which featured an absolutely beautiful toe-tap from Jones). Replacement quarterback Kirk Cousins immediately answered with a bomb to Santana Moss when the Falcons blew their defensive coverage, and Ryan came right back down the field to set up a game-tying Matt Bryant field goal. When Cousins threw a pick on the next play, Ryan engineered a six-play drive that led to a Michael Turner touchdown which ended up making the difference in Atlanta's win.
Because of his lack of playoff success, Ryan's clutch-i-ness often times gets overlooked. But there's not many folks bigger in the fourth quarter than Matty Ice. And it's exactly why the Falcons are 5-0.
5. Angry San Francisco
It's really fun to watch good football teams play when they're angry, and the 49ers clearly got mad after losing to the Vikings in Week 3. After two weeks of being told they were the best team in the NFL, San Francisco laid a surprising egg in Minnesota. People quickly pointed to Houston and Atlanta as better overall teams.
The Niners responded over the last two weeks beating the Jets and Bills by a combined 79-3. That's some smackdown regardless of who you're playing. Against Buffalo on Sunday, the 49ers became the first team in NFL history to pile up 300 yards passing and a 300 yards rushing in the same game.
Alex Smith sure looked like a good bet to regress this season, and it's just not the case. He's gotten much better, completing 68.6 percent of his passes and just throwing a single interception through five games. Criticize him for not throwing the deep ball much all you want, but he sure looked improved on it Sunday: he had three highlight-reel-worthy tosses that stood out. A teardrop to Michael Crabtree for a score, a laser that Kyle Williams turned into a long touchdown, and a bomb to Vernon Davis all looked nothing like the guy we think Smith is.
Anyway, the 49ers are quite good. Kendall Hunter's one of the sneaky best backup running backs in the NFL and Frank Gore's not nearly as done as many folks thought. The defense is quite good as well. This team isn't going anywhere.
6. Percy Harvin is ridiculous
Go back and watch Harvin's 10-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. He catches it five yards behind the line of scrimmage, jukes four guys out of their pants (and evades a few more) and works his way into the end zone for a score.
Harvin's one of the most dynamic weapons in the NFL. He's so scary that defenders apparently give him some awkwardly kind compliments for his work on the field.
"A couple of them tell me to slow down that, they can't catch up," Harvin said when asked about defenders reacting to his speed. "I just look at them and laugh and say that's my job."
His teammates have even nicer things to say. Christian Ponder called Harvin "a beast" and "one of the best players in the NFL right now." Adrian Peterson called Harvin "the best player I've ever played with."
He's leading the NFL in all-purpose yards right now and he's making a legitimate case to be considered a very-much-early-but-still-worth-talking-about MVP candidate.
7. Good on Eric Winston
Cassel's definitely not the best quarterback in the NFL. And he had a terrible game against the Ravens on Sunday. But when he got injured, Chiefs fans cheered the injury and started chanting Brady Quinn's name.
The ridiculousness of getting excited about Brady Quinn running your team aside, that's an absolutely embarrassing thing to do as a fanbase, regardless of how bad your quarterback is.
And Eric Winston, who's the new guy in town, called Chiefs fans out on it.
"Boo him all you want, boo me all you want," Winston said as part of a lengthy rant. "Throw me under the bus, tell me I'm doing a bad job. Say I got to protect him more, but if you're one of those people that were out there cheering or even smiled when he got knocked out, I just want to let you know and I want everybody to know that I think it's sickening and disgusting."
Good on Winston and good on everyone else who let the fans know that's not acceptable behavior. Rooting for an injury for any reason -- fanhood, gambling, fantasy football -- is short-sighted, embarrassing and the kind of thing that deserves the kind of scorn Winston handed out on Sunday.
GIF O' THE WEEK
You don't often see a player throw two passes on one play. But that's exactly what Brandon Weeden did against the Giants. No, the second one doesn't actually count.