We want to be first in just about everything, and it seems that’s particularly true for burying young quarterbacks.
The reviews on Mitchell Trubisky has mostly been negative through the Chicago Bears‘ first three games. Trubisky wasn’t great, and that brought out sweeping opinions. Search “Trubisky bust” on social media and you’ll run out of time before you get to the end. Yet, Trubisky entered Sunday with 15 career starts. And 12 of those came with John Fox’s coaching staff last season, which was as quarterback unfriendly as you could find after Jeff Fisher was fired. Those almost shouldn’t count.
In Trubisky’s 16th career start, he looked like a former second overall pick in a dominant 48-10 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had 354 yards on just 19 completions. He ran for another 53 yards on just three attempts. He had six touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a 154.8 rating, just short of the perfect 158.3, which means there are some flaws in the passer rating stat.
One big game doesn’t mean Trubisky is great or has arrived. Also: Trubisky’s uneven first 15 games didn’t mean he was bad. There’s no way we can know this soon, no matter how hard we want an immediate answer.
We want quarterback evaluation to be like making instant oatmeal. Every game, sometimes every pass, seems to be a referendum on a young quarterback. We didn’t learn from putting Jared Goff through the ringer for a bad rookie season. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL now. Sometimes we get a Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson, incredible talents who play like superstars from their first game on. It doesn’t mean everyone is on that timetable.
Trubisky looked Sunday like he should end up being a good starter. Even if you discount one of his six touchdowns because it was a quick-flip goal-line play that has becomes popular suddenly, what he did the rest of the day was fantastic. Playing his fourth game in a brand-new offensive system that promised to be quite complicated, Trubisky looked more comfortable than he had in his first three up-and-down games. He spread the ball around. He’s the second quarterback in NFL history to throw five touchdown passes to five different receivers in the first half of a game. When receivers were schemed to get open, he found them.
The Bears hadn’t had a five-touchdown game from a quarterback since 1949. Trubisky did it in the first half. He had 289 yards before halftime. Had the Buccaneers been more competitive, Trubisky could have tied or set the NFL record of seven touchdowns in a game. This sure looked like a coming-out party.
“Hopefully, this will be something I can look back on and say, ‘This is where it all started,’” Trubisky said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
And maybe when the Bears return from their Week 5 bye, Trubisky will struggle again. It will be his 17th career start. He’ll still be 24 years old, in the first year of a brand-new offense. He’ll miss some passes, the Bears will probably lose some more games, and he’ll be the subject of scorn again. Patience isn’t a virtue often afforded to NFL quarterbacks anymore.
Trubisky has shown the ability to be a good quarterback before, albeit in short spurts. He has a good arm, plus athleticism – there’s a good reason he was the No. 2 overall pick a year ago. And maybe he’s right, and what we saw Sunday is the start of something really big. It’s common for a quarterback to make a leap in his second season, or even his third. It’s too early to say, good or bad, what Trubisky will be.
But, for one week at least, Trubisky doesn’t have to worry about his every pass being dissected. Just some peace and quiet for the quarterback who has now started one full season’s worth of games.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 4 of the NFL season:
Give Carr credit for getting hot when he needed to and helping the Raiders to a crazy 45-42 win over the Cleveland Browns. He finished with 437 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. That came against a Browns defense that is good.
Carr’s best work came after a controversial call that took away a Browns first down and forced a punt. Carr drove the Raiders 53 yards on six plays, tossing a touchdown to Jared Cook – who is having a big breakout season – to tie it and hitting Jordy Nelson on a two-point conversion to tie it in the final seconds. He also made some big throws in overtime, many under duress.
Carr was on the rise a couple years ago. A few injuries the past couple years may have factored into his inconsistent play since. His huge contract has become a regular topic of conversation, especially after the Raiders traded Khalil Mack because they didn’t want to give Mack a big extension. But Carr has his moments. He didn’t look so overpaid on Sunday.
Deshaun Watson and J.J. Watt: The hope for the Houston Texans this season rested on Watson and Watt making healthy returns from major injuries. The Texans are just 1-3, but maybe Watson and Watt will lead them out of that hole.
Both stars helped get the Texans a season-saving win. Colts coach Frank Reich’s fourth-down call helped too, but Watson and Watt played major roles. Watson had probably his best game of the season, throwing for 375 yards. His 24-yard pass in the final seconds of overtime to DeAndre Hopkins, who also had a huge game, set up the game-winning field goal after Reich’s gamble didn’t work. Watson hasn’t played poorly in his return from a torn ACL, but he hadn’t come close to last year’s rookie heroics either.
On the other side of the ball, it looks like Watt is all the way back. Watt has dealt with back injuries and a nasty broken leg last season, but he had two sacks and two forced fumbles Sunday. Last week Watt had three sacks. The past two weeks have looked like vintage Watt.
One overtime win over the Colts doesn’t mean the Texans are back, but their two stars getting hot provides hope.
Mike Davis: Introducing the guy who will be the hot pickup in your fantasy league this week.
If you hadn’t heard of Davis before Sunday, that’s fine, even though he was a good college runner at South Carolina and had his moments last season. Davis was awesome for Seattle in a much-needed win at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. He had 101 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and another 23 yards receiving. That was the difference in a 20-17 win the Seahawks won on a last-second Sebastian Janikowski field goal.
Davis’ big game, as normal starter Chris Carson was inactive with an injury, is another reason the Seahawks using a first-round pick on running back Rashaad Penny was weird. Penny was fine on Sunday, with 49 rushing yards on nine carries, but Davis was better. Running backs are fairly easy to find, and the Seahawks are really good at finding them. Davis’ big day was another example.
Andy Dalton: The 2018 season will probably go down as the greatest season we’ve ever seen for passing offenses. Rules that are geared against the defense help, but it has been an amazing year for quarterbacks too. Let’s give those guys some credit.
Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons threw for 419 yards and three touchdowns, a week after having the higher passer rating ever in a losing effort. And Ryan lost again, because Dalton made some huge clutch plays.
Dalton had 337 yards and three touchdowns, including a 13-yard touchdown to A.J. Green with seven seconds left to win the game 37-36. The Bengals needed a touchdown and Dalton delivered a great throw, with a very nice route and catch by Green.
Dalton wouldn’t be on anyone’s list of the NFL’s top quarterbacks. But he’s having a good start to the season. We’ve never had this many NFL quarterbacks playing so well at the same time, and Dalton is in that group.
Alvin Kamara: This season, with multiple quarterbacks on pace to post incredible statistics, it will be just about impossible for a non-quarterback to win MVP. If there was a non-QB MVP award, Kamara might make a run at it.
The Saints started the season slow, and then went on a two-game road trip that would shape their outlook for the rest of the season. Kamara, along with the great Drew Brees, carried the Saints to two wins.
Kamara had a career-high 31 touches last week in an overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons. On Sunday, when the Giants took red-hot Michael Thomas out of the game with cornerback Janoris Jenkins, Kamara was the Saints’ offense. Kamara had 181 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-18 win over the Giants. All three touchdowns came in the second half. He was remarkable, just like he was last season when he won NFL offensive rookie of the year. He has made a strong case as the best running back in football, though Todd Gurley would disagree with that.
There was concern that Kamara couldn’t handle a bigger workload, and he has answered those. In the process he has helped the Saints to a 3-1 record, which they’ll take after a rocky start.
Anyone hoping the Dolphins’ 3-0 start was for real: At one point, when the New England Patriots led the Miami Dolphins 38-0, Pats rookie running back Sony Michel had more rushing yards than the Dolphins had total yards. It was that bad.
The Dolphins came into New England 3-0, presumably hoping to legitimize that start by knocking off a limping Pats team. They were instead run off the field. Nobody can erase the Dolphins’ three wins off the standings, no matter how bad they looked Sunday, but it wasn’t promising.
Any team is allowed a bad game, but the Dolphins’ start looked fraudulent before Sunday. After Sunday, it’ll take a few good performances before we take Miami seriously again.
Philadelphia Eagles: The most entertaining part of the Tennessee Titans’ 26-23 win over the Eagles was Mike Vrabel’s fourth-down gamble that worked out. The anti-Frank Reich, let’s call it (though there was a big difference in the risk involved with each situation).
The underlying story is that the Eagles still aren’t on track.
Philly had a lot of yards Sunday, but were stuck on 17 points until a late game-tying drive. When the Eagles needed a touchdown in overtime to win, they got only a field goal and that kept the game alive for the Titans. It’s not that the Eagles have been bad on offense. But they haven’t hit the stride they had during last year’s Super Bowl season.
It should get better. Carson Wentz, in his second game back off ACL surgery, had 348 yards. Alshon Jeffery made his 2018 debut and had 105 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles will get healthier and better. But a 2-2 start isn’t what they wanted.
All momentum for Matt Patricia and the Detroit Lions: For a few moments, the Lions looked like they might be getting on a roll. It didn’t last long.
The Lions trailed for most of the second half against the Dallas Cowboys, but Matthew Stafford’s 38-yard touchdown to Golden Tate gave them a lead with 2:17 left. The Lions had a bad 0-2 start, but beat the Patriots last week and a comeback win at Dallas would have been huge.
Then a Dallas team that has gotten almost nothing out of any tight end or receiver all season marched downfield to win the game. The big play was a very nice 34-yard pass from Dak Prescott to Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott is the only player on the Cowboys who should concern any defense, and Patricia’s defense let him make the play that basically won the game. Elliott had 240 total yards when nobody else on the Cowboys was capable of beating the Lions. That’s a bad game plan for the Lions’ defense.
The Lions aren’t finished at 1-3, even in a tough division. But life would have been a lot easier at 2-2, and they should have finished with a win Sunday.
The Buffalo Bills’ win over the Vikings last week was strange, and by the end of the season it might look like the weirdest result we’ve seen in years. On Sunday the Bills looked exactly like the same awful team they looked like in Weeks 1 and 2 as the Packers beat them 22-0. Josh Allen was 16-of-33 for 151 yards and a 36.3 rating. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t great for the Packers, but he didn’t need to be.
The whole time the Bills flailed around on offense in Green Bay, it became more clear that the Vikings will have a lot of regrets about getting blown out – at home – by what looks like a really bad Bills team.
More NFL coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Cardinals QB Bradford loses small fortune after demotion
• Report: Steelers ‘actively shopping’ star player
• Rookie head coach makes bold call to win in OT
• Bears star ejected for shoving ref in blowout win
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