Who Fed It And Who Ate It: 2018 Week 3
Leave it to the football gods to make the most astute observer of the NFL turn into a blithering idiot who appears to know nothing of which they study. But such as life in the National Football League. Our feature today will be focused on the NFC North, as three games have made for an interesting early season landscape... With one instance in a game opening up a Pandora's box of uncertainty and speculation on the league rulebook.
The Chicago Bears, ostensibly in the middle of a rebuild, are leading the NFC North by virtue of a 2-1 record that was solidified with a come from behind victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Good teams find ways to win when faced with adversity. While it may be premature to call the Bears good at this point, they are certainly deserving of respect after opening 2018 with two consecutive wins to start 2-1. Chicago's defense, whose overall identity has radically changed since trading for LB Khalil Mack from Oakland, rendered Arizona to 221 total offensive yards and caused 4 turnovers after the Cards jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. While the 16-14 result may not look impressive on paper, it certainly makes the desired impact in the win column. One caveat for the revived Monsters of the Midway: the offense, led by QB Mitchell Trubisky in his second year, will be pressured later in the season to beat their opposition outright. In truth, the arrival of Mack has shortened the window to contention by at least two years. Trubisky was to go through his apprenticeship while the rest of the pieces of a strong team were built around him. Mack's presence, not by design, is putting the public pressure on Trubisky to produce sooner than he is ready. It would be wise for Bear fans to temper expectations for 2018. Let the franchise signal caller learn the ropes so that he is the unquestioned leader of the Bears' offense for a decade instead of a tenuous couple of years. But if the offense can get its proverbial sea legs on the fly, this could be a team who comes out of nowhere to make noise in the NFC playoffs. Guess we'll find out soon enough.
The Ass Kicking of the Week... was given TO the Minnesota Vikings BY the Buffalo Bills? Needless to say that this was not an expected result. In fact, the Bills were 10 1/2 point underdogs to the Vikes as US Bank Stadium. Instead, the Purple Norsemen came out painfully flat, with Kirk Cousins coughing up the ball twice deep in their own territory... In the first quarter! Minnesota's defense, both vicious and aggressive, were left dumbfounded by rookie Josh Allen's play in his second pro start. This game was over by all intents and purposes by halftime, as the Bills enjoyed a 27-0 lead when the teams went to recess. The Vikings only points came on a late garbage time, face saving touchdown drive. Not the look of a conference contender, to be sure. The could either fire up the Vikings to remind them that nothing comes easy at this level... Or render themselves fodder to any ascendant NFC power going forward.
The Green Bay Packers took an ugly 31-17 loss to the Washington Redskins. Uglier still was a precedent inadvertently established by Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. Yes, the limited mobility of QB Aaron Rodgers and a compromised secondary made Green Bay easy pickings for Washington, who was motivated to atone for a lackluster home opener one week ago. But an official's penalty flag may have serious reverberations going forward for defenders. Matthews, a proven quarterback sack artist, beat a block and hit Redskins passer Alex Smith flush for a sack. Nothing extraordinary... until the referee threw a yellow flag. The foul? Roughing the passer on Matthews. The reason? An application of a new rule for this season, where a player cannot unnecessarily land their full body weight onto a quarterback. So to review... Matthews, going full speed into Smith, barrels into him, making a form tackle. But because Matthews could not alter the laws of physics, he was flagged. It's understandable that the NFL wishes to protect quarterbacks when they are at their most vulnerable, at the release of a football, as they cannot defend themselves. And in some cases, unable to even brace for impact. However, this feels and seems like a perversion of sound football technique, one preached at the most basic levels of the game. There is already a hue and cry to alter this rule, the league has come out both in broadcast and social media defending the call. While it is their right, there seems to be a disconnect between league officiating and the understanding of basic principles of the sport by players, coaches, and fans alike. And if the powers that be do not strive for clarity, and quickly, it could cause fan alienation at a time the league can ill afford it, and confusion on the part of the players and coaches that could radically alter how each of those entities progress from this point forward. Here is hoping someone at 345 Park Avenue comes to their senses sooner rather than later.