Tuesday will be interesting here in Manhattan, with owners set to meet through the day and the Dan Snyder news of last week still on the front burner. Until then …
• The Eagles did plenty of impressive things in their Sunday-night win over archrival Dallas. Maybe most impressive to me, though, is what I mentioned in the morning column: how they leaned on their run game to close the Cowboys out. Philly got the ball 21 seconds into the fourth quarter, up 20–17, at its own 25. And from there, the best thing head coach Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen did was not overthink it.
They hit Dallas for 13 yards on the first play of the possession, with Miles Sanders carrying off right guard, and then came back to the concept again on the next play, only flipping the formation, for five yards. Seven plays later, they circled back to it again, with Kenneth Gainwell going for another six yards. And they repeated a couple of other run concepts on the drive, too, sticking with what was working against a Dallas front they’d worn down.
The result: Sanders for 13, Sanders for five, Sanders for one, Jalen Hurts for five, Boston Scott for five. Then a Hurts dump-off to Sanders for a yard, then Gainwell for five and six yards, plus Hurts for another three and two. Once Sanders was eventually stoned for no gain, the Eagles opened it up to throwing for a 22-yard catch-and-run to AJ Brown before going tempo to catch the Dallas defense with a seven-yard touchdown to DeVonta Smith.
When the drive was over, the score was 26–17, and on Dallas’s next offensive snap there were less than seven minutes left in the game.
The tape of that drive probably won’t be studied by other staffs for its creativity. But the beauty in it, for the Eagles, was in its simplicity — and knowing what they can lean on when they’re in big spots. Usually, that stuff matters when you get to December and January.
• Pending any second opinions, Commanders QB Carson Wentz is looking at six weeks on the shelf, which means things could get interesting in Washington from here. Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner have had to adjust the offense to fit Wentz (which is just part of coaching) but, in turning to Taylor Heinicke, they should get a good side-by-side of their retrofitted scheme with Wentz vs. the scheme they ran the last two years — one that guys like Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Antonio Gibson were so effective in.
If somehow Wentz’s absence winds up being shorter, and he’s back a couple of weeks from now, then, sure, Heinicke’s more than likely just a stand-in. But if he gets a month, and the Commanders start winning, there might be a bigger decision to make.
• One thing I left out in my morning column, from my conversation with Giants safety Julian Love, was his reaction when I asked whether Wink Martindale’s defense has been fun to play in.
“Oh, it’s so fun,” he says, glowingly. “I’m having the time of my life playing for Wink. And he allows for that environment, which I can’t be more grateful for. “
And one thing Love was explicit on was the raw amount of things Martindale allows for his players to do: Love said he’d never been used as a blitzer before this year but loves doing it now. That, in turn, makes for a flexible defense that can play games like a chameleon, adjusting and adapting in whatever way it needs to.
That paid off Sunday against a Ravens offense and quarterback that Martindale had practiced against, as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator, for the last three years. He bet that Greg Roman would eventually tire of running the ball, and was ready for that by continually changing coverage picture on Lamar Jackson as the game went on. And then, in the fourth quarter, after having pressured all afternoon, Martindale backed off, and mostly rushed just four down the stretch while throwing a double team on star tight end Mark Andrews.
The Ravens didn’t anticipate it and, sure enough, Kayvon Thibodeaux’s crucial strip sack came on a standard four-man rush.
And what’s really interesting here — add this flexibility to how creative Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka have been on the other side of the ball, and the Giants are becoming one difficult team to prepare for.
• While we’re there, it’s worth giving a shoutout to Jets’ fourth-year star Quinnen Williams, who was an absolute force in the team’s upset of the Packers at Lambeau. For all the talk about Robert Saleh’s institutional knowledge of Matt LaFleur’s offense — which was a factor that we covered in this morning’s column, with LB CJ Mosley — the guiding principle he and DC Jeff Ulbrich tried to drive home to the players last week was remarkably simple.
They told Jets players the best way to beat any elite quarterback is by being able to get to him with just four rushers.
And Williams was a massive part of that: The pressure he got allowed for Ulbrich to mix coverages enough to make things hard on Rodgers and the young receivers around him. So while the third pick in the 2019 isn’t quite Nick Bosa (the second pick that year), he looks like a guy who’ll be worthy of a hefty second contract after the season.
• I thought it’d be interesting to ask Falcons coach Arthur Smith about how his players handled the crappy (I said it, not him) roughing call against Grady Jarrett last week in its aftermath. And I mentioned to Smith how it could cause some guys to lose their heads — and go through a week thinking they got screwed (which Atlanta did, because if that flag isn’t thrown, they’ve got a very legit chance to win the game).
Turns out, the coaches did everything they could to not let that happen
“You could feel it. And it’s like a lot of things, it’s hard, ”Smith said. “I told them, ‘Look at all the things that we could’ve done earlier in the game that never would’ve put us in that spot.’ … Sure, you can get frustrated because it didn’t go your way, but those aren’t things we can control. And the things we can control is we can play better.
“You can’t tell people how they have to feel, but you can try to give a perspective and say, ‘Hey look, here’s the reality. We got to turn this around, we got a really good team coming into Atlanta that’s playing pretty good football coming in here. ‘ … It’s about perspective and not making excuses and letting one loss become two. “
It’s fair to say the Falcons took care of that.
• And one more thing from Smith, on the way Marcus Mariota’s playing and Atlanta’s pursuit of him after Smith had been part of his benching in Tennessee.
“I’ve always believed in Marcus,” he said. “I was with him for every snap he took in Tennessee as an assistant tight ends QC to a tight end coach to an offensive coordinator. It was a weird start to his career di lui, and he had some good years and he had some good games and then he had a lot of change and, ironically, there’s a lot of things that I saw in Ryan [Tannehill]when we got Ryan from Miami that I kind of saw in Marcus.
“I think he wouldn’t be playing as well as he is if he hadn’t gone through those experiences in Tennessee at the end, and then sitting behind Derek Carr. He’s at a different point in his life di lui and he doesn’t put the pressure on himself that he used to. That’s ultimately what it was. He was pressing in Tennessee. “
• The Robbie Anderson situation is interesting. The Cardinals gave up a 2024 sixth-rounder and ’25 seventh-round picks to get him, which, in this case, is like throwing a couple of quarters in one of those claw machines, at the off chance you wind up with a giant stuffed animal.
The more interesting element of it is what it means for Hollywood Brown, who’s likely now out for the year. He had a chance to earn an extension in his first year as a Cardinal, but now it seems more likely that they’d let him go into 2023 on his $ 13.41 million fifth-year option. Meanwhile, DeAndre Hopkins is set to make $ 19.45 million, and Anderson is due a nonguaranteed $ 12 million in cash next year,
So wouldn’t something here have to give? Will Anderson be cut? Or Brown traded again? It’ll be an interesting circumstance for the Cardinals to work through.
• Always appreciate Von Miller’s honesty — the Bills pass rusher is usually very forthright in explaining what he’s going through, and it was no different Sunday. In taking me through his departure from LA, he actually said a Super Bowl loss would’ve made him more likely to stay.
“If we would have lost the Super Bowl, I probably would’ve went back,” he said. “We won, and you just gotta assess the teams and [the Bills] had built up the team before me. They had already signed DaQuan Jones, and they had signed Jordan Phillips before I had even got here. And Tim Settle had signed. They already had Ed Oliver and all of these guys, and Josh Allen.
“Whenever Buffalo approached me, I just knew that was the best decision for me. It was a hard decision to make, but I knew it was the best decision. “
Sure looks that way now.
• Todd Bowles isn’t lying — and we’ve been over this a few times the last couple of months — when he says that Tom Brady isn’t the only Buccaneer getting breaks during the season. In fact, it’s been a point of emphasis for Bowles since he got the job in April, because he thought the team was worn out last January and didn’t want that to happen again.
That said, it’s not normal for a starting quarterback to miss the Saturday walkthrough. And it’s not like Brady couldn’t have gotten there after attending Robert Kraft’s wedding celebration in New York. (He wouldn’t be running to Terminal B at LaGuardia to get back to Florida like the rest of us.)
• The NFL trade deadline is two weeks from Tuesday. And I think this week, with teams sniffing around the Panthers, we might start to see a little uptick in activity. Stay tuned.
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