By: Edwards Kemedjio | September 29, 2021
Highs and Lows is back, my peers and superiors. The NFL continues to be the best production on television, and week three was chocked full of excitement as was the previous two. From record breaking kicks to late game brilliance, the league has given us plenty to talk about. I am simply here to narrow your focus a bit.
Aaron Rodgers and his golden arm are back, and Green Bay is for real. The Packers are officially removed from their nightmare opening week blowout against the New Orleans Saints. While they handled their business in Lambeau against the Lions last week, there were still questions about how they would handle a legitimate challenge. Those questions were answered on Sunday Night as Green Bay defeated the San Francisco 49ers in a 30-28 last second thriller. Rodgers managed to give us another storybook ending. The 2020 NFL MVP got the ball down one with 37 seconds left and no timeouts and somehow led the Packers down the field and set up the game-winning 51-yard field goal by Mason Crosby.
Rodgers finished with 261 yards and two touchdowns, but he wasn’t the only bright spot for Green Bay. The win was a collective effort, and the Packers work in the trenches won the game just as much as Rodgers did. Green Bay’s defensive line sacked 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo four times and hit him 10 times. Facing a formidable San Francisco front, the Packers offensive line led the way to a balanced attack that featured 100 yards rushing and 353 yards total. The Packers were in control for much of this game, and they are real contenders in the NFC.
Tucker for President
Justin Tucker just might be the greatest kicker of all time. The Baltimore Ravens’ star kicker delivered what would have been the most clutch performance of the day if not for Aaron Rodgers Sunday night heroics. Tucker kicked an NFL record 66-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Ravens to a 19-17 victory against the Detroit Lions. Tucker’s monster kick salvaged a forgettable day for the Ravens in Detroit and is the high point of what is already a Hall of Fame career.
I understand why people would automatically go to Adam Vinateri when we mention GOAT kickers, and that’s understandable, but I’m not going to penalize Tucker for not being put in the position to win Super Bowls with his kicks. Personally, when I look at kickers, it’s all about production and being clutch is the separator. The fact of the matter is that Justin Tucker at just over 90% is the most accurate kick in league history. He has an argument for the strongest leg in the league, with Arizona Cardinals kicker Matt Prater being the only other person in the conversation. To top it off he is undoubtedly the most clutch field goal kicker in the league and arguably in league history. Tucker’s kick Sunday was his 50th consecutive field goal in the fourth quarter and overtime. He has never missed a field goal in the final minute of a game. See the light my friends, Justin Tucker is alone at the top.
Good Times in La La Land
The Los Angeles Rams look like the best the NFL has to offer right now. After trading for Matt Stafford the Rams were considered by many to be Superbowl contenders and through three games they have lived up to if not exceeded expectations. Los Angeles took down Tom Brady and the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34-24 and were in control of the game for the majority of the second half. Stafford delivered another brilliant performance with 343 yards and four touchdowns. Desean Jackson burst onto the scene in his second game with his new squad and proved that at 34 he can still take the top off a defense. Jackson caught three passes for 120 and his 75 yarder at the beginning of the second half put Los Angles in control for the rest of the game.
Defensively the Rams also made their mark. While Tom Brady had another game with a high yardage output, he also was forced to pass the ball 55 times. This was the result of the deficits Tampa Bay was facing and the fact that the Buccaneers were unable to run the football. The Rams front seven led by Aaron Donald limited the defending champs to just 35 yard rushing and only 2.7 yards per rush. The Rams pass rush also sacked Brady three times. Tampa Bay came into the game averaging 39.5 points a game and before a garbage time touchdown late in the fourth they had been held to only 17 points. Sean McVay’s squad might just be the team to beat in the 2021 season.
Let me start by saying this: The Chiefs are going to be fine. This isn’t a proclamation at the end of the NFL’s newest dynasty, but the Chiefs are a flawed football team and it is becoming more apparent each week. Kansas City currently has sole possession of last place in their division for the first time since 2015.
I can easily argue that the Chiefs have underwhelmed in all three weeks this season. The Cleveland Browns came into Arrowhead Stadium as heavy underdogs and were in full control of the game until the brilliance of Patrick Mahomes paired with their own blunders spelled their demise. The following week the Baltimore Ravens took them down on Sunday NIght Football for their first win over the Chiefs in the Lamar Jackson era. While the game was in Baltimore, the Chiefs had owned this matchup and allowed the Jackson and the Ravens to come back from a double digit deficit in the second half before fumbling the game away on the final drive. This week the Chiefs turned the ball over four times and watched as Justin Herbet led a last minute drive to give them their second loss in as many weeks.
The Chiefs record currently can largely be attributed to turnovers in big moments, so there isn't a need to panic but the defense we saw in the Super Bowl two years ago is nowhere to be found as of late. The Chiefs currently sit 31st in points allowed and 30th in yards allowed on the year. They haven’t been able to stop the three playoff caliber teams they have faced, leaving all on the shoulders of Patrick Mahomes, which isn’t ideal. The Chiefs are struggling to get receiver production outside of Tyreek Hill, and maybe picking up Josh Gordon will help but I wouldn’t count on much. The Chiefs are in one of the hardest divisions in the league, so they don’t have time to dawdle. They need to get right if they want another shot at a Lombardi.
The Rotten Apple
New York football is in shambles. Metlife Stadium is nothing but a chamber of disappointment and there isn’t much light on the horizon. The football franchises the belong to America’s most prominent city are winless through six games combined. The New York Jets traveled to Denver for what can be described only as a mile high misuse of time as they were shutout in a 26-0 cardio session. The Giants actually put on a decent showing, albeit against the Atlanta Falcons. The G-Men were leading in the fourth when Matt Ryan led the comeback that was capped off by a game winning field goal by Younghoe Koo. It was the second consecutive loss at the buzzer for the Giants, the first coming against Washington, who spent their Sunday getting drilled by the Bills.
The Jets have the worst scoring offense in football, and Zach Wilson is not playing well at all. According to Jets X, Wilson ranks last among qualified quarterbacks in passer rating (51.6), QBR (22.1), net yards per pass attempt (4.3), and sacks taken (15). He also has the third most interceptions to start a career since the turn of the century. The Jets should get a pass through. They were not expected to win any of these games and in rebuild mode. This is not the case with the Giants. They chose to stick with their guy in Daniel Jones and Head Coach Joe Judge was supposed to come in and build a winning football team. The Giants are 24th in points, 27th in time of possession, and their leading rusher is Daniel Jones. Things are not trending upwards for either team, and New York might want to focus on the NBA for the time being.
Field(s) of Nightmares
Justin Fields had his first career start against the Cleveland Browns and it was comparable to a three year old rollerblading at an ice rink. Fields’ debut was an unmitigated disaster on all fronts, and featured one of the worst offensive performances put on by a team in league history.
Fields finished 6/20 for 68 yards, no touchdowns, and was sacked nine times on the day for 67 yards lost. If you’re keeping tally at home, this means the Bears had one yard of passing offense against the Browns. The Bears offense total had 47 yards on the day. Yes you read that correctly. 47. Justin Tucker’s game winning field goal was 19 yards longer than what the Bears put forth on Sunday. Any arguments that Matt Nagy was protecting Fields from the paper mache wall that is his offensive line may have gained ground if not for the fact that Fields was given five man protection on 13 of his 20 drop backs, and we all saw the results. The absolute best thing that can be said about the day is that they didn’t turn the ball over. It was a horrid start to the Justin Fields era, and Bears fans can only hope that Fields lives to see brighter days. After what we saw Sunday, that isn’t exactly a guarantee.
That's it for Highs and Lows for Week Three of the NFL season. The league delivered once again, and Week Four should be another spectacle.