It was really quite a day. Even the Week 3 games that stunk had storylines.
• Jacksonville obliterated the wounded Ravens in London. The Jags are averaging 29.7 points a game, have 13 sacks and boast a hard-to-play 2-1 record. The Jags do a lot of things well, and Blake Bortles isn’t losing games.
• Minnesota, playing without Sam Bradford for the second straight game, got a career game from Case Keenum (25 of 33, 369 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, 142.1 rating) in a win over the Bucs. The Vikings hope to get Sam Bradford back for the NFC North trifecta coming up (Detroit, at Chicago, Green Bay), but Keenum’s not so frightening now.
• The Jets held the ball for 36 minutes—a big surprise considering how feeble the offense is—and held the imposing Dolphins to 30 yards rushing. New York 20, Miami 6. Not a lot of fun to watch unless you live in the Todd Bowles home. But that’s how the Jets have to win: sturdy defense, efficient offense.
• Carolina has a Cam Newton issue. Panthers at Patriots next Sunday, in what could be the second and final meeting ever between Newton and Tom Brady. (AFC teams meet NFC teams once every four seasons. I probably should not bet against a 44-year-old Tom Brady playing at Charlotte in 2021.) Last eight quarters: Brady eight touchdowns passes, 142.9 passer rating; Newton zero touchdown passes, 62.1 passer rating. Newton got yanked by the Panthers, who got routed by the Saints, but he was still confident afterward. “Just be patient and know big things are ahead for us,” Newton said.
• Kansas City has a good one in Kareem Hunt. The 86th pick in the 2017 draft has a 113-yard lead in the rushing race after three games. If the Kansas City kid keeps up the 133.7-yard average per game, he might have a decent season.
Two other stories hit me Sunday, and I reached out and talked to the protagonist in both.
• Jake Elliott, hero. I didn’t even notice this until Sunday: the Bengals chose a kicker, Jake Elliott of Memphis, in the fifth round, 153rd overall, from Memphis in the April draft … and cut him Labor Day weekend, choosing to keep Randy Bullock. After a week on the Bengals’ practice squad, Elliott signed with the Eagles when Caleb Sturgis was hurt on opening day. Normal enough story, until one second remained in a 24-24 Eagles-Giants tie at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
The preface: Before the game, coaches watched Elliott kicking on the field and decided they’d call on him if the kick was 56 yards or closer. Coincidentally, that’s the longest kick of his career, 56 yards, when he was in college. But with the ball at the Giants’ 43 with one tick left, Elliott did the quick math … 61 yards.
“I sprinted up to the coaches to put my word in,” Elliott said after the game. “I was real wide-eyed. I said, ‘Let’s go! LET’S GO!’”
The head coach, Doug Pederson, looked at this kid he barely knows, said nothing and pointed out to the field. “I ran out there,” Elliott calmly recounted. “Normal flow. A little jittery. But I was zoned in. I couldn’t really tell you what I was thinking. I felt good about it. When I hit the ball, it felt good. You know when you’re a kicker, and you hit it really well, sometimes it feels like you haven’t really hit it that hard …”
“Like a baseball player hitting the ball on the sweet spot of the bat and not really feeling much?” he was asked.
Then, he said, he kicked it, and “I saw the ball in real life.” It veered a little bit right and kept going and going and appeared to slightly shave the inside of the right upright. Plenty of ball. Good.
The wide-eyed amazement of teammates he barely knows sprinting at him … FOX hustling him over for the Erin Andrews post-gamer on the field … Two teammates, Mychal Kendricks and Kamu Grugier-Hill, waiting to carry him off the field … The crowd, as loud as one observer said he’s heard it in two or three years, going bonkers.
What will Elliott remember most? All of it, probably.
“It’s a little bit stunning,” Elliott said. “Surreal. Really surreal.”
That’s how you feel when you kick the longest field goal in Eagles history, the longest NFL field goal ever kicked in Philadelphia, and the longest field goal by a rookie in NFL history, and a dagger in the heart of the 0-3 Giants. Not bad for a guy who couldn’t beat out Randy Bullock three weeks ago.
• And speaking of strange Septembers … Jacoby Brissett won a game Sunday. Instead of Tom Brady on the sideline giving him pointers between series, it was Andrew Luck. Three weeks ago Brissett walked into a new world as a backup quarterback for the Colts, traded by the Patriots for wideout Phillip Dorsett. And Brissett was playing soon enough, put in while Luck rehabbed from shoulder surgery and after Scott Tolzien struggled badly in Week 1.
It’s clear Brissett will go back to a support role in two or three weeks when Luck returns from a longer-than-expected rehab. But the Colts know they’ve got a good and capable lieutenant for the next three seasons—Brissett is signed through the end of 2019 at the highly reasonable average rate of $735,000 a year. Brissett had a nice game Sunday in the 31-28 survival test against the Browns: 17 of 24, 70.8 percent accuracy, one touchdown pass, no picks, two touchdown runs, 120.0 rating.
I’m not sure if a Colts fans will view this as a positive, but when interviewed, Brissett sounds very much like a Patriot. You can tell he took interview lessons from Bill Belichick.
“It’s hard to win in the NFL,” Brissett said. “I’m going to enjoy this one.”
On the craziness of the past month, since getting to Indianapolis: “It’s been a whirlwind. I’ve been lucky to have good people around me—good players, good coaches. My offensive line’s been great.”
On his smooth-looking touchdown pass, his first as a Colt, to wideout T.Y. Hilton: “I got the ball to the best player on the field, and he did the rest. I had plenty of time, so I’ve got to thank the line for that.”
On the best advice he got from Brady when he left New England: “Have fun. It’s football. And work, just work.”
Who knows how the trade’s going to measure out in three or four years. But Brissett’s got the demeanor—and the ability to win a game the Colts could not afford to lose—to make GM Chris Ballard very happy he made that deal.