Sorting the Sunday Pile, Week 2: Patrick Mahomes sets NFL TD record as Chiefs explode again
The Chiefs put up another pile of points on Sunday behind Mahomes' great performance, plus more storylines around the NFL
Two weeks does not a season make, but Chiefs fans should feel good about the future both immediate and long term. Patrick Mahomes is the truth and . It's almost preposterous to write about him for the second-straight week, but how could anything else lead this column, especially after .
Once again, Mahomes came out of the gates scorching, throwing three touchdown passes in the first quarter alone, giving the Chiefs' pedestrian defense enough of a cushion for Kansas City to win the game 42-37. That was just halfway to his end-of-game total, as Mahomes went toe-to-toe with Ben Roethlisberger from the second quarter on, piling up 326 passing yards. What's scary about his game is the efficiency: Mahomes averaged more than 11 yards per attempt and completed more than 82 percent of his passes in this game.
It helps to have a slew of weapons surrounding any quarterback. The Chiefs have an armada around Mahomes. A week after featuring Tyreek Hill heavily, Andy Reid shifted the focus of the offense to explosive tight end Travis Kelce, who caught a pair of touchdown passes to go along with 107 receiving yards on seven catches.
Sammy Watkins didn't get any buzz because he didn't score, but he finished with 131 total yards, including six catches on seven targets. Hill was a non-factor early, but he ended up catching five balls for 90 yards and a touchdown.
All told, five different players caught touchdown passes for the Chiefs, which means Kansas City now has seven different players with an offensive touchdown on the season.
Watch the fifth touchdown of the day -- it's basically a short-levels attack in the red zone that gives Mahomes several pretty-easy-to-identify reads along with the option to keep the ball himself and run it in. Demarcus Robinson gets open (enough) in the back of the end zone and Mahomes fires the ball in there with the kind of velocity and accuracy a lot of guys don't have the arm talent to pull off.
It is absolutely fair to worry about KC's defense, and it might very well be a problem down the stretch, but right now the Chiefs' plan to just outscore everyone looks like a pretty viable alternative. And that plan is working.
It's because of Mahomes, who gives the Chiefs a much higher upside than Alex Smith. He can make any throw and has a physical skillset you don't see from many human beings. But what I noticed in this game was Mahomes' willingness to take what a defense gives him. He's willing to play within the framework of Reid's system, get aggressive when he needs to and check it down and let his playmakers do the work when it's required.
That's been the case the first two weeks of the season and there's nothing to suggest it will slow down any time soon. The Chiefs have something special cooking and Reid's offseason decision to put Mahomes under center this year is paying massive dividends early.
Fitzmagic might keep Jameis out of a job
As we all expected, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are alone in first place after two weeks of the NFL season. With Tampa having played the Saints in New Orleans and the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles at home, it's a remarkable outcome regardless of the sustainability over the course of the season.
The long haul might be irrelevant for the quarterback position, though, as Ryan Fitzpatrick, AKA FitzMagic, is currently playing Jameis Winston out of a job. Fitzpatrick, through two games, is averaging an impossible 13.4 yards per pass attempt. He's 2/2 on the season in terms of blasting past 400 passing yards in a game, and he's done it against two defenses we thought would be good in the Saints and the Eagles.
He's playing so well he showed up to the postgame media interview after the win over the Eagles dressed in DeSean Jackson's clothes and .
Fitz is feeling himself. And can you blame him? the Buccaneers were left for dead after Jameis Winston was suspended for the first three weeks of the season and written off even more this week as underdogs to the Eagles without anyone on defense. But Tampa bottled up a bad-looking Philly offense led by Nick Foles while Fitzpatrick slung the ball around to the various Bucs offensive weapons.
Both D-Jax and O.J. Howard had 75+ yard plays, while four different players -- Jackson, Howard, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin -- all caught touchdown passes. We've seen Fitzpatrick get unholy hot before and play like a starting-caliber quarterback. He is in a contract year too, so who knows, maybe this is real.
At the very least, there's absolutely no reason the Bucs should give Winston the job back in Week 4 against the Bears. There's a couple reasons for this.
One, and most obviously, Fitzpatrick has earned the right to keep playing. You go with the hot hand in these situations and no one's been hotter than Fitzpatrick through the first two weeks of the season. Worst case, the Bucs are 2-1 heading to Chicago, and even then, Winston shouldn't be rewarded just for being a top draft pick. It sends the wrong message to the locker room.
Two, are we sure the fans want Winston? There are a lot of Bucs fans who felt squeamish about the idea of Winston stepping in under center after serving a three-game suspension while capitulating to a sexual assault accusation. The Buccaneers can make a smart football decision and appease fans in one fell swoop.
Three, the bye is in Week 5. That's the best reason: you trot out Fitzpatrick again over the next two weeks, see what kind of magic he can summon up, try to get to 3-0 and then 4-0 and then you can reassess after the bye.
And four, a sneaky great reason for continuing to start Fitz -- if he keeps winning and Winston sits on the bench, the Buccaneers would see their leverage in any potential future contract negotiations with Winston cranked up. I'm not saying they want to talk with Winston about a deal right now, but if they want to talk turkey with him at any point, being able to note that he was outplayed for Fitzpatrick over a lengthy stretch would hurt Winston's claim that he deserves more money.
Packers (ironically?) hosed by roughing the passer call
The Green Bay Packers, who lost Aaron Rodgers for much of the season last year after he was injured on a hit by Anthony Barr, helped push forward a new roughing-the-passer rule that has resulted in more flags than we normally expect to see. There have been some questionable situations, but not many more than the one that cost the Packers a shot at beating the Vikings on Sunday afternoon.
Clay Matthews, who had a boneheaded unnecessary roughness penalty against the Bears last week, got flagged again for roughing the passer. This time, it wasn't his fault -- .
Making matters worse, the Packers actually intercepted Kirk Cousins on this play. The game would have been over and the Packers would be 2-0 and sitting in first place in the NFC North with two division wins under their belt. The gambit of playing Aaron Rodgers would have worked out perfectly.
Instead, the Packers ended up tying the Vikings and Matthews -- along with the rest of us -- remain extremely confused about what happened.
"I mean, I don't know even know where to start to be completely honest with you," Matthews said. "I have so many emotions running through as far as just what a terrible call it was. But at the same time, I don't know what else to do. I mean, I don't know. You let me know.
"Tell me: Did I put pressure on him? I thought I hit him within his waist, his chest. I got my head across, put my hands down. To call it at that point of the game is just unbelievable. Last week, OK, shame on me. But this week, that's unbelievable.
"The worst part is we'll probably send it in and you know what they'll say? They're gonna say, you know ... They'll find fault on me because they're going to agree with the refs. So I don't know. It's just a difficult call to call. You see how it changed the game, and I know there's an emphasis on protecting quarterbacks, but it's gotten out of control here. I don't know what else to do."
Many believed it might have been the new Aaron Rodgers Rule that was instituted this offseason, but ref Tony Corrente said that was not the case.
"It has nothing to do with the rule of full body weight," Corrente explained, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN. "It has nothing to do with helmet to helmet. He picked the quarterback up and drove him into the ground."
How did Corrente come to that conclusion? It didn't look that way in real time and it certainly didn't look that way upon watching the hit on replay. There's just nothing a defender can do if refs are going to flag this. The NFL needs to consider utilizing replay to determine whether or not a play meets the criteria for roughing the passer. It's highly subjective, but whatever.
Right now the league is allowing its officials to legislate intent on the part of 275-pound men who just busted through a line of 300-pound men with one mission (sack the quarterback), and it's not working.
The Packers got hosed here, but they can only be so mad considering they are partially responsible for increasing the focus on roughing-the-passer penalties.
While we're on this game: credit Cousins for rallying back after this moment, making some big boy throws and hitting Adam Thielen for an incredible touchdown pass that would set up the game-tying two-point conversion with almost no time remaining (nice little throw from Cousins on the two-point conversion as well).
The Vikings offense hasn't clicked fully yet. Cousins and his receivers are starting to come around, though. The defense wasn't lights out either against a banged-up Aaron Rodgers, but this is a Vikings team with a ton of potential. We know the defense is going to be good, and if the offense starts clicking like it did during stretches of this game, watch out.
Vontae Davis ... retires?
This is one of the strangest in-game NFL stories you will ever see. With the Bills getting blasted by the Chargers and Buffalo looking like the worst team in football for the second-straight week, cornerback Vontae Davis, acquired this offseason in free agency, . He went up to his coaches and told them he was done with football and later released a statement on the matter.
"This isn't how I pictured retiring from the NFL," Davis said in a statement.
"I meant no disrespect to my teammates and my coaches. But I hold myself to a standard," Davis added. "Mentally, I always expect myself to play at a high level. But physically, I know that isn't possible, and I had an honest moment with myself. While I was on the field, I just didn't feel right, and I told the coaches, 'I'm not feeling like myself.'
"I also wondered, Do I want to keep sacrificing? And truthfully, I do not because the season is long, and it's more important for me and my family to walk away healthy than to willfully embrace the warrior mentality and limp away too late."
It's Davis' prerogative do what he wants and leave when he leaves, but using the word "retire" when it occurs at halftime is a bit questionable. That feels more like the word "quit" than anything else. At least one teammate -- Lorenzo Alexander -- would agree.
Former Bills center Eric Wood -- now a good follow as he enters the media world -- agrees.
Sean McDermott said he didn't want to talk about, but, uh, it's sort of something that needs to be talked about. The Bills have now been drubbed two straight weeks, losing by a bajillion to the Ravens in Week 1 and never having a shot against the Chargers in Week 2 at home. Josh Allen gave it his all and the Bills got within 15, but let's be real here. It wasn't close.
This could go south a la the Browns last year.
The Arizona Cardinals are not off to, ahem, a good start this season. Arizona had a lower win total this season (5.5) the Bills (6.5) when the over/unders came out, and it seemed perhaps too low. Now it looks too high: the Cardinals just got skunked by the Rams, and it was not ever particularly close.
Los Angeles is a great football team. The defense isn't perfect but it's really good, and Todd Gurley is showing no signs of slowing down after an MVP-caliber season last year. They should win 13 games and cruise to this division if everyone stays healthy.
This was the biggest point spread of the weekend, with the Rams favored by 12.5 points. And Los Angeles never let it get close to a non-cover situation. Arizona didn't even cross midfield until the final series of the game. Think about that.
That's humiliating. This game was out of hand long before then too. And yet, the only time we saw Josh Rosen was a camera cutaway to him yawning on the sideline.
Hard to blame Rosen. It stinks to get caught yawning -- someone is probably going to yell at him -- but this was a yawn-worthy game. And given how Sam Bradford played, it warrants questions about Rosen getting in under center.
Coach Steve Wilks wouldn't address the situation and never thought about throwing Rosen in there. How? Bradford finished 17 of 27 for 90 yards, which is hard to do, even with Larry Fitzgerald getting injured. At some point shouldn't Bradford have been tossing it down to David Johnson? Because the guy looking for the 1,000/1,000 season isn't getting it -- he had two targets, catching one pass for three yards. And it appears to be an offensive issue all around.
It's only two weeks, but if the Cardinals refuse to consider seeing what they have with Rosen and can't manage to get Johnson the ball in the passing game more, there should be major questions asked about Steve Wilks and his offensive coaching staff. Having 22 carries and six catches through two games is simply unacceptable in terms of usage for the team's best offensive player.
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