Week 14 was wild, and there’s lots to get to, so here are the Week 14 AFC West superlatives:
UH OH! Was I wrong?
I hate to be wrong, as much as anyone. While I’d like to think I have the guts to admit when I’m wrong, that’s probably not always true. So, at least for two weeks, I’m eating crow on Drew Lock.
He was 22 of 27 for 309 yards and three touchdowns with one interception and one sack.
Perhaps most impressively, he spread the ball around to 10 different Broncos receivers, as he significantly out-dueled established superstar Deshaun Watson.
Two games does not make a career, but he looks good for now.
Some QBs with 1 career road game of 300/3:— Scott Kacsmar (@ScottKacsmar) December 9, 2019
Geno Smith https://t.co/pG8ElktTOz
It’s not a bad start to a career to join this list. Of course, his goal is to join better names on a better list.
To say I’m shocked is an understatement. I take the Mike Leach approach to what makes a good quarterback: accuracy, smarts, and poise in the pocket. I’d add in film rat and leadership—which includes competitiveness, toughness, and being communication skills.
Nowhere in that list is arm strength (arm talent). It’s an overrated trait. But it was the only trait I could point to with Lock at Mizzou that he truly excelled in. So far, I’m wrong.
What were you thinking?
I generally give NFL players and coaches the benefit of the doubt. In reality, there is so much those of us on the outside cannot know, in terms of scheme and game plan that it’s tempting, but usually unwise to criticize decision-making. However, there are instances where it is totally appropriate.
Unfortunately, the most egregious “What were you thinking?” moments came courtesy of the Oakland Raiders. The most baffling is one that I’m sure, should you be reading this, would be your A-1 as well.
Derek Carr throwing the ball away on fourth down, in a have-to-have-it situation, is frankly just egregious. Not much else needs to be said about it that hasn’t already. Instead, I’ll dig a bit deeper.
In Saturday’s Three Key Matchups piece, I outlined how good rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown is. Obviously the Titans have other weapons on their offense, most notably running back Derrick Henry. But Brown is the most explosive.
He’s the one who changes coverages and keeps defensive coordinators up at night. He’s the second round pick who we’ll all look back in a couple years and wonder how he slipped so far.
Much like the Saints’ Michael Thomas (another second round gem), he is big and physical and can you beat in multiple ways. But he’s faster than Thomas, as you saw on his 91-yard touchdown reception.
I get that you have the Titans backed up and you’re expecting run. Maybe Tennessee had shown a tendency to go conservative in that spot. But as soon as you see Brown lined up wide, doesn’t there have to be a coverage adjustment? You cannot have him lined up one-on-one, in a form of press coverage with a deep single high safety so far away.
Call/Play of the Week
Andy Reid is known as one of the most creative offensive minds in the game. It doesn’t hurt that he has athletes galore at the skill positions.
But putting an All-Pro tight end in the Wildcat and coincidentally trolling Bill Belichick in the process is automatically the play of the week in the AFC West.
Give props to Travis Kelce on all fronts. First of all, he sold every element of it. He didn’t try to act pre-snap like he might get the snap. As they’d say in the world of comedy, he was committed to the bit.
After receiving the snap, he rides the zone read part of the option play. It seems he really has the option to hand off to Tyreek Hill if the EDGE defenders bit. Instead, because Kelce’s a tight end, the Patriots played for Hill to get the ball.
Kelce then runs the zone as if he’s a running back, pinching the hole before making his cut into the open running lane.
If that’s not enough, Patrick Mahomes is the pitch man on the opposite side of what is actually a triple-option play. Just a beautifully designed play from one master against another.
Rookie of the Week
Tight end Noah Fant got off to a slow start in his rookie campaign for the Denver Broncos, but he’s had his moments of brilliance.
The second Iowa Hawkeyes tight end drafted in the first round of the 2019 draft caught four passes for 113 yards (28.3 average) and a touchdown this past Sunday. On a day where tight ends really stood out across the league (Jared Cook before leaving with an injury, Travis Kelce—though not always for good reasons, Tyler Higbee, and of course George Kittle), Fant was still second among tight ends in receiving yards and third among all receivers in yards per reception.
Entering the draft, Fant profiled as a true F tight end—a guy who could create mismatches in the slot or out wide, but would be limited as a blocker. His blocking has improved as the year has gone along, which has allowed him to gain the trust of the coaching staff and earn more opportunities for explosive plays.
It probably doesn’t hurt that early on he and Lock took more second-team reps together, making their chemistry a little more in-sync right away. If Lock is the answer for the Broncos at quarterback, this could be a scary duo (or trio with Courtland Sutton).
Defensive Player of the week
Jeremiah Attaochu somehow became a journeyman in the league despite profiling as a good edge rusher when he entered the league out of Georgia Tech. Earlier this year, he was middling on the Broncos’ kick coverage units and could not find a regular spot on the defense.
With Bradley Chubb out since the end of September, and the combination of rookies Malik Reed and Justin Hollins not providing consistent pass rush, Vic Fangio was forced to turn to the veteran pass rusher.
On Sunday, he answered the call, registering two sacks, a tackle for loss, and a fumble recovery. Sure, Houston’s offensive line is still subpar, but considering how much the Broncos struggled to create a pass rush in September with a healthy Von Miller and Chubb, the production they got out of their veteran duo Sunday is impressive.
Honorable mention: Joey Bosa for his two sacks, three tackles for loss, and three quarterback hits. But the Jaguars rolled over in that game seemingly before it began, making his effort slightly less impressive than his former teammate’s.
Who won the week?
There’s no reason to go on or be too cute here. Kansas City won the division and gave themselves a tie-breaker against New England for homefield advantage should the Patriots trip up once more and KC holds serve for the remainder of the regular season.
Game. Set. Almost match.