Tua Tagovailoa and Lamar Jackson put on a show in Baltimore, but the real story is how impactful Tyreek Hill is, and how he changes the game.
The Miami Dolphins overcame a 35-14 fourth-quarter deficit. Thank Tyreek Hill.
On Sunday, Miami scored 28 points in the final 15 minutes to beat the Baltimore Ravens 42-38, moving to a shocking 2-0 on the young season. The headlines will largely center around Tua Tagovailoa, who polarized the football world all offseason, throwing for 469 yards and six touchdowns. Understandable and fair.
But the comeback doesn’t happen without Hill, who continually tortured the Ravens in the fourth quarter. Entering the stanza, Hill had a quiet day of six receptions and 48 yards. Then, an explosion, powered by touchdowns of 48 and 60 yards. The quarter saw Hill go for 142 yards on five catches.
In the NFL, there are two ways to quickly erase big leads: turnovers and explosive plays.
Hill is the king of the latter.
On both touchdowns, Hill broke away from Baltimore coverage, providing wide-open targets for Tagovailoa. To the third-year quarterback’s credit, he didn’t miss, even with the second scoring strike being a bit underthrown.
The Tua-Tyreek connection took the shine off a splendid day for Lamar Jackson, who had a highlight-reel afternoon for the Ravens. Jackson accounted for 437 total yards and four touchdowns, but in the second half only went 8-of-12 passing for 84 yards, save the garbage-time drive to finish the afternoon. Of course, Jackson can’t be completely suppressed, running for a 79-yard touchdown in the third quarter.
Still, the story is Miami’s offense and how under first-year head coach Mike McDaniel, there’s a clear dedication to using the speed of Jaylen Waddle and Hill to stretch opponents in every way. In Week 1, the effort was middling in a 20-7 win, which included a defensive score. Seven days later, the Dolphins were so-so for three quarters before going off in the fourth to capture an impossible victory.
For Tagovailoa, this type of game can change a career. Confidence is the ultimate game-changer, and he should have plenty after an effort for the ages. And, perhaps most importantly, Tagovailoa has a pair of burners on the perimeter who force defenses to double one and single up the other, constantly providing open weapons who can instantly alter the complexion of an afternoon.
For three quarters, the Dolphins were blown out and facing the Buffalo Bills next week. Then, Hill went wild and Tagovailoa found his new leading man.
Miami is still facing Buffalo next week, but now it won’t be about proving its mettle.
It’ll be about first place in the AFC East.
Fewest career wins for coach who won a Super Bowl
1. Don McCafferty – Baltimore Colts (28-17-2)
2. Doug Pederson – Philadelphia Eagles (42-38-1)
3. Sean McVay – Los Angeles Rams (55-26)
4. Jimmy Johnson – Dallas Cowboys (80-64)
5. Brian Billick – Baltimore Ravens (80-64)
6. Bruce Arians – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (80-48-1)
7. Gary Kubiak – Denver Broncos (82-75)
8. Bill Walsh – San Francisco 49ers (92-59-1)
9. Vince Lombardi – Green Bay Packers (96-34-6)
10. Tom Flores – Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders (97-87)
"“I’ve never been so happy for a missed tackle in my life. That was our only chance.”"
– New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh on Nick Chubb’s touchdown-turned-error
The most improbable win of the season belongs to the Jets, who stunned the Cleveland Browns 31-30. In the final two minutes, Cleveland scored on a 12-yard Nick Chubb run, who could have slid down and iced the game. However, Chubb got his third touchdown of the day before rookie kicker Cade York missed the extra point, putting the Browns up 30-17.
The Jets then scored, grabbed an onside kick and scored again with 22 seconds left, leaving the Dawg Pound stunned.
For the Jets, elation. For the Browns, utter devastation.
Fifty-two years ago this month, the Cleveland Browns hosted the New York Jets in the inaugural Monday Night Football game. Cleveland won 31-21.
Info learned this week
1. Trey Lance’s season ends, and Niners are back to Jimmy G
Holding onto Jimmy Garoppolo at a reduced rate may save the San Francisco 49ers.
On Sunday, with 2:33 remaining in the first quarter against the Seattle Seahawks, second-year quarterback Trey Lance scrambled for two yards. He then got up, went straight down, and quickly was put in an air cast with a season-ending broken ankle.
After Lance left, the 49ers watched Garoppolo go 13-of-21 for 154 yards with a touchdown in a 27-7 victory. Still, the win is muted by the loss of a signal-caller so many have been excited to watch.
The Niners will say all the right things. Stuff about believing in Garoppolo and knowing what he can do. But that’s nonsense. If they believed in the veteran, they wouldn’t have handed the job to Lance this spring, or traded three first-round picks to acquire him in 2021. San Francisco believes its potential is capped by Garoppolo, and while the 49ers have reached two NFC Championship Games over the past three years with him, it’s a hard notion to argue.
Garoppolo provides stability and familiarity, but Lance’s presence gave an air of potential. That potential, at least for this season, is now gone.
2. Herbert injury threatens to detail Chargers’ run
The Los Angeles Chargers may have lost twice on Thursday night.
During a 27-24 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs, Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert took a shot to the midsection from defensive lineman Mike Danna. Herbert stayed down, and Friday tests revealed fractured rib cartilage. While Herbert is listed as day-to-day and will certainly wear a flak jacket, the question is whether he can hold up throughout entire games and play his normal style.
And that question will loom for a Chargers team positioned to go on a nice six-game run over the next seven weeks — bye included — in which Los Angeles will certainly be favored in each contest provided Herbert is under center. If the Chargers are going to spar with the Chiefs in the AFC West, they might need to go 5-1 or 6-0 in this span before facing a gauntlet over the final nine games, including a rematch with Kansas City in Week 11.
If Herbert is active and himself, Los Angeles shouldn’t have a problem. If not, a season so promising for the Chargers will be thrown into peril.
3. Bucs winning ugly, but winning in part because of Saints’ blunders
The Buccaneers have scored two offensive touchdowns in two games, and won them both easily.
Tampa Bay has showcased what appears to be a dominant defense in the early going, which has buoyed an injury-riddled offense.
On Sunday in a 20-10 victory over the New Orleans Saints, the defense created five turnovers including four in the second half and three interceptions, highlighted by a 68-yard pick-six courtesy of Mike Edwards. Last week against the Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay’s defense was the only unit to not relinquish a touchdown, limiting Dak Prescott to 134 passing yards and an interception on 29 attempts.
While the defense has starred, the offense has smarted. Tom Brady has 402 passing yards through two weeks. The rushing game was anemic in New Orleans, only notching 2.4yards per attempt behind a wounded front.
It’s been rough offensively, but it could also be somewhat temporary.
Receivers Chris Godwin (hamstring) and Julio Jones (knee) could return soon. Left tackle Donovan Smith (elbow) is also possible for Week 3. The injuries are many, and important, but unlike those to guard Aaron Stinnie (ACL) and center Ryan Jensen (knee) they aren’t season-ending.
What matters for the Buccaneers is a 2-0 record with nine home and six road games remaining, a lead in the weak NFC South, and reason to believe their defense is an elite unit.
4. Expected contenders who began 0-1 had mixed results
After Week 1 disappointments, a few contenders stepped up. A few fell flat.
As aforementioned, the 49ers handled the Seahawks, but lost their second-year quarterback for the season with a gruesome ankle injury. Staying in the NFC West, the Los Angeles Rams showed their might early and then almost fell apart, holding onto a 31-27 win over the Atlanta Falcons. It’s a win, but it leaves one wanting for a better, more complete showing.
The same can be said for the Denver Broncos, who saw another awful performance from head coach Nathaniel Hackett — three blown second-half timeouts for starters — but rallied to in 16-9 over the Houston Texans. It’s a win, but the Broncos will need to be much better against the 49ers next weekend.
In Las Vegas, the Raiders slipped into the AFC West fray by falling apart the Arizona Cardinals. Once again, Arizona was overwhelmed at the start, falling behind 20-0 at the half before an unfathomable comeback to win 29-23 in overtime, capped by Byron Murphy’s 59-yard scoop-and-score. For the Raiders, beyond crushing.
Then there’s the Cincinnati Bengals, who fell behind 17-3 at halftime against Cooper Rush and the Dallas Cowboys, only to tie the game with 3:45 remaining before forcing a punt. However, the Bengals went three-and-out, punted, and allowed Dallas to drive for a game-winning 50-yard field goal as time expired.
5. MNF doubleheader will say plenty about all four teams
We’re blessed with two games on Monday, and both are quite intriguing.
In the early tilt, the Buffalo Bills host the Tennessee Titans. Buffalo is coming off a long rest after opening the season with a resounding 31-10 win over the Rams. Now, the home opener in primetime, trying to earn a 2-0 start before heading to Miami. Of the four teams playing on Monday, the Bills have the least to prove, but could gain a valuable victory to keep rolling.
As for Tennessee, there’s a sense of desperation. The Titans are already without edge rusher Harold Landry after he sustained a torn ACL prior to Week 1. Star receiver A.J. Brown was traded in the offseason. Tennessee needs to show much, much better.
Then, the nightcap provides the Minnesota Vikings visiting the Eagles in Philadelphia. Both are undefeated, and both are on the short list of NFC teams who could challenge the old guard. Whoever wins is 2-0 and owns what could be a crucial tiebreaker down the line. It’s early, but each is trying to make a statement, hoping to prove it’s more for real than the other.
The New York Giants may lack talent, but they’re proving to be long on heart.
In a 19-16 win over the Carolina Panthers, a defense nobody expected anything of once again stood tall, holding Baker Mayfield to 14-of-29 passing for 145 yards while sacking him twice. Offensively, much-maligned quarterback Daniel Jones avoided any turnovers, played a conservative game and did enough to allow the rest of the team to win.
Is this a process for a playoff team? No. The Giants are going to play more talented teams, and they’ll lose without Jones making some plays down the field. This isn’t a team loaded with skill.
However, first-year head coach Brian Daboll is changing the culture in New York, not with words, but with action. He’s getting the Giants to play hard, finish games and make winning plays.
That’s a huge step in a positive direction after a decade in darkness.
Inside the league
There’s a saying in NFL circles that says dysfunctional teams must begin by putting an adult in the room. The Jacksonville Jaguars and Texans have done just that.
While the wins aren’t flowing for these AFC South foes, both Houston and Jacksonville are showing much-improved efforts under head coaches Lovie Smith and Doug Pederson, respectively. Jacksonville lost narrowly to the Washington Commanders prior to Sunday’s hammering of the Colts in its home opener against Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Houston earned a Week 1 tie against the Colts before losing a tight 16-9 decision against the Broncos.
It would be foolish to believe the Jaguars and Texans are suddenly going to become playoff contenders with flawed rosters and years of malpractice at their backs. However, with new coaches comes new belief, and for good reason in two cities far too accustomed to being afterthoughts by Halloween.
BetSided‘s best bet
Falcons +3 at Seahawks
The Seahawks should be public darlings at home this week against an 0-2 Falcons team that’s given their fans two different heart attacks in both weeks.
Seattle is back at home where they pulled off the upset on Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos back in Week 1 in primetime, and since lost a game where they were near double-digit underdogs that nobody watched.
I see a lot of 2021 Detroit Lions in this year’s Dirty Birds. The Lions were 3-13-1, but 11-6-0 against the spread. And for what it’s worth, those heartbreaking Falcons are actually 2-0 against the spread this year.
This line has already ticked down to +2.5 at several books, and don’t be surprised if we see this closer to a pick ‘em by kickoff.
– Ben Heisler
Have you ever heard of BLESTO? If not, take a minute.
The acronym BLESTO was created after four NFL teams joined forces to scout collegiate talent more efficiently. In 1964, the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers came together and formed LESTO (Bears-Lions-Eagles-Steelers-Talent-Organization) before the Bears became a member the following year, giving us BLESTO. It was groundbreaking at the time.
To this day, the organization works to collect data for teams who pay a fee to belong.
Panic time for the Indianapolis Colts? If not, we’re rapidly approaching.
Indianapolis is 0-1-1 after road divisional games with the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars. In both games, the Colts have trailed by at least 17 points. Against Houston, Indy had a miracle rally to force a tie. In Jacksonville, no miracle came, and the Colts lost 24-0. After three quarters, Frank Reich’s club had four first downs and fewer than 100 total yards.
Against the Jaguars, the Colts allowed quarterback Matt Ryan to be sacked five times. Meanwhile, Indianapolis only got three total pressures on 30 attempts from Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence, letting him complete 25 passes. Lawrence only had two more incompletions than Ryan had interceptions, resulting in a lopsided blowout.
For the Colts, it’s been uneven defensively and awful offensively through two weeks.
The good news? Indianapolis has its home opener on Sunday.
The bad news? The Chiefs come to town.