TMF: Joe Burrow was right about Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals are here to stay, has the league ‘figured out’ Mahomes and the Chiefs?
Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals are here to stay, Burrow's belief in Ja'Marr Chase, what's happened to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs?
The week of trick plays galore, it was.
Sunday’s slate of NFL games opened with two quick (non-QB thrown) touchdown passes in separate games.
New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne found Nelson Agholor for a touchdown against the Jets. Less than two minutes later, Titans MVP Derrick Henry found tight-end Mycole Pruitt in the end-zone for a touchdown against the Chiefs.
Someone out there had to have won some crazy prop bets from one of these touchdowns, right?
TMF, THE HEADLINE: Joe Burrow was right about Ja’Marr Chase
Joe Burrow told us.
When Ja’Marr Chase was dropping passes in practice and throughout the preseason, Burrow continued to answer the same questions with zero reluctance or concern.
“Not worried about it”
Burrow wasn’t worried about Chase, not in the slightest.
And he was right not to be.
Throughout the offseason, Burrow was never shy towards his admiration for Chase as a player. In fact, one quote he gave out back in August stood out in a big way.
"He’s getting better every day. When you’re practicing in the NFL for the first time, you have revelations every single practice. He’s going to make a lot of big plays for us. We’re going to get him the ball in space and he’s going to score a lot of touchdowns."
Through the first seven games of the season, Chase has 35 catches for 754 yards and 6 touchdowns. Burrow’s prediction on what Chase will bring to the Bengals was on point, even more accurate than Drew Brees’s career completion percentage, I might add.
Ja’Marr Chase has not only ascended onto the NFL scene as the leading candidate to win Offensive Rookie of the Year, but he’s also put his name in an elite category of wide receivers: one of the NFL’s best.
I know, I know; he’s a rookie, so spare me the chirping. If you haven’t yet, go watch the Bengals and particularly; watch Chase run routes, create plays after the catch, eagerly contribute blocking in the run game – and tell me I’m wrong.
At the time, I too believed that Cincinnati should’ve drafted Penei Sewell to protect their franchise quarterback. But at 5-2, Burrow has ascertained that his desire for the Bengals to draft Chase fifth overall was the right decision.
Until Burrow and this Bengals team proves us otherwise, I’m not questioning him or the team any further.
Burrow’s answers to reporters’ constant questions on Chase’s struggles with drops provides us with a glimpse into the type of person – and leader – that Burrow is.
"When a receiver drops a ball, I never say anything. You just let them know you’re going to come right back to them. That’s the way this works."
Burrow was right about Ja’Marr Chase. It does have me pondering what else Burrow could be right about in Cincinnati.
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LEAD TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK SEVEN
Joe Burrow, Bengals are here to stay
While covering the LSU Tigers for USA Today, 98.9% of people I spoke with gave more praise for Joe Burrow than any college player I can remember. Now take that with a grain of salt, because I’m only 30 and haven’t been doing this for 20 years, as several of you like pointing out to me on Twitter. But the point being is that Burrow wasn’t just admired because of his phenomenal 2019 season leading LSU to a National Championship.
Those who covered Burrow years prior knew he was special; he just needed the opportunity to show it.
And in Cincinnati, he’s shown it.
After Sunday’s 41-17 win over their division rival Baltimore Ravens, it’s time we all pay attention to Burrow and the Bengals.
Because they’re here to stay.
Has the NFL ‘figured out’ Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs offense?
You cannot simply figure out Patrick Mahomes, nor can you solve the puzzle that is Andy Reid’s brilliant offensive mind. You can, however, defend the Chiefs offense in a way that limits Mahomes’ options.
Teams are doing that a lot this season – and it won’t stop anytime soon, either.
Behind a struggling rebuilt offensive line, this Chiefs offense is exceedingly stressed. Mahomes has played outside of structure far too often due to his distrust in protection, leading to unwarranted movements outside of the pocket and turnovers.
In Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans, Mahomes endured a scary hit to the head while attempting to make something out of nothing. Mahomes was slow to get up after the dangerous hit in the second half. If the Chiefs weren’t concerned about the offensive line before that game, that hit among many others, hopefully changed that perspective.
Opposing defenses will continue to defend this offense the same way until Andy Reid and Mahomes force them to do otherwise. Two-man coverage and two-deep – essentially removing the deep ball entirely. Limiting the big chunk plays from Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce may seem like a tall ask, but teams are doing it effectively. And a lot of that could be improved with a more proficient Chiefs passing attack. But it truly needs to start with improved protection from this offensive line group.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s return won’t be the answer to this puzzle, nor will adding a secondary depth player on defense before the NFL trade deadline approaches. The Chiefs have far too many holes to fill and I’m not entirely sure that two future first-round picks in a trade would be enough to bring in the pieces this team needs.
Patrick Mahomes deserves better than what this Chiefs team has shown in 2021. And that truly should not be a contentious take.
With every week that goes by, it’s becoming more of a fact, and less of an opinion.
Deshaun Watson’s next team could surprise us
The reporting surrounding an impending Deshaun Watson trade continued to intensify over the weekend. While many around the league still firmly believe that the Miami Dolphins remain the leaders in pursuit of Watson, a second team has quietly emerged as a contender: The Carolina Panthers.
After starting the season with such promise, the Panthers have lost their last four games and now sit at 3-4. The pre-season expectations for this team surely weren’t that of Super Bowl desires. Yet, a downhill trajectory after trading for Sam Darnold in the offseason is not what this franchise had envisioned.
Since David Tepper purchased the Panthers in 2018, he’s made numerous bold moves that many applauded. Matt Rhule looks to be a great hire for the franchise. And Rhule bringing in the creative young-minded Joe Brady looks great from what we’ve seen so far. But it won’t stop there.
Tepper doesn’t just want to win – he wants to build a team capable of sustained winning for years to come. If Darnold doesn’t turn his game around and begin helping the Panthers win games, I guarantee he will not be the Panthers quarterback in 2022.
The question then becomes, who will be?
Sure, the 2022 draft could be an avenue Carolina looks at after the season. But if they were willing to pass on Justin Fields and Mac Jones last draft, which quarterback in this class do they like more?
The more likely scenario with this team would be a heavy aggressive pursuit for a starting quarterback via trade.
The biggest available fish in the quarterback sea right now is Watson. And if Tepper is willing to take a swing with Watson and his off the field legal issues surrounding the 20+ sexual assault allegations?
I think he’ll be aggressive in taking that swing.
I like Penei Sewell that much more after seeing him stand up to Aaron Donald and even get into a minor scuffle with him. Tough SOB, as Dan Campbell would say.
Terry McLaurin is one of the most underrated talents in the league at wide receiver. Washington needs a quarterback, ASAP. Probably a new owner, too.
Titans running back Derrick Henry should absolutely be in the MVP conversation after Sunday’s performance – and win – over the Kansas City Chiefs.
The NFL should hand deliver Ja’Marr Chase the OROY award today.
It never gets old seeing how much Bill Belichick still despises the New York Jets organization.
After Sunday’s loss to the Giants, the Panthers season may be over. Sam Darnold isn’t the answer in Carolina. And from what we know of David Tepper, I would guess that he isn’t willing to wait too long before finding that answer.
The Raiders have not allowed Jon Gruden’s departure to affect their on-field performance. A good sign for a young team.
Which team should start tanking for Kayvon Thibodeaux, Detroit or Houston?
Tom Brady threw his 600th career touchdown pass on Sunday and Mike Evans unknowingly handed the football to a fan in the stands. Fortunately, Buccaneers staff were able to obtain the football from the fan shortly after. According to the reporting out of Tampa Bay, that fan will be compensated quite nicely for his willingness to cooperate, too.
We know the real problem with the Giants: Daniel Jones is a wide receiver playing quarterback. First OBJ, now Danny Hands. Giants clearly have an eye for receivers.
Chicago should consider sitting Justin Fields the rest of the season if they’re not planning on firing Matt Nagy. It’s one or the other, because the evidence is apparent four games in.
Tua Tagovailoa is not the problem in Miami. I’m not sure even the Dolphins know what the problem is. And that’s a scary thought if you’re a fan.
ASK ME ANYTHING FROM THE WEEK
-You hate on McDaniels and Bill (Belichick) like you could actually do a better job. 6 SBs means nothing to you apparently.
I’m not an NFL head coach, nor am I an NFL offensive coordinator. Yet, I do have eyes and contrary to popular belief, I might know a thing or two about this team. Like you, I spent over a decade watching this offense run methodically behind the greatest quarterback of all time. And if you can honestly tell yourself that Brady had nothing to do with the scheme, then you’re simply not watching the same games that I am.
Brady had a whole lot to do with how this offense ran. Between the game planning and playcalling, it’s evidently clear that Brady was basically an offensive assistant to McDaniels.
My concerns with the Patriots aren’t that outrageous. Belichick wants to win with sound defensive play and by running the ball, controlling clock and minimizing mistakes offensively.
I’m not completely sold that’s a winning formular in today’s NFL.
-With the Chiefs struggling this season, which AFC team would you predict to make the Super Bowl?
Regardless of what the Chiefs do before the trade deadline, I really like the Buffalo Bills this season. They’ve had their fair share of ups and downs, but I kind of like a team that’s had to face adversity.
The Bills are clearly comfortable swimming or sinking with Josh Allen. I like that mentality, and I believe it’ll help them when the playoffs arrive.
-Are you still picking the Rams to come out of the NFC even after struggling early against the Lions and with the Cardinals 7-0?
And I believe the Stafford-McVay Super Bowl train still has a few tickets left if you’d like to hop on and enjoy the ride.
-Could the Raiders make some noise in the playoffs?
Sure. If they make it.
FOURTH AND LONG: FINAL THOUGHTS HEADING INTO WEEK EIGHT
The problem with how we view rookie quarterbacks
I can give you a long list of quarterbacks that have succeeded or failed over the past two decades. The common theme among the guys that had early success in this league: coaching and protection (staying healthy)
We talk about the importance of coaching a lot, but I don’t believe we hit the nail on the head nearly enough.
And with or without a good head coach, I’m 99.7% certain a rookie quarterback will never become the face of your franchise if he’s rehabbing from injuries his first two seasons.
Any average to above average quarterback needs solid protection in order to properly function within the offense, regardless of the scheme. Rookie quarterbacks need that much more protection given how historically difficult the transition is from the college level to the NFL.
My argument on this topic is that offensive tackles are the most important prospects to target if you already have – or are planning to draft – any young quarterback.
Let your young quarterback develop gradually behind sound protection. Because if he’s constantly running for his life outside of the pocket in attempt to make plays happen, how much is he actually learning and developing as a player?
Behind finding my guy at quarterback, building a stout offensive line would be the next priority if I were an NFL GM. And although this shouldn’t come off as a hot take, we’ve seen several teams in the league not only fail at this, but not even attempt to succeed at it.
Protect the player that you drafted hoping he would alter the future of the franchise for years to come.
What’s the plan in San Francisco?
After Sunday night’s loss to the Indianapolis Colts, I’m curious what Kyle Shanahan is thinking behind the scenes. Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t getting it done, and when Trey Lance was on the field, it looked like he definitely needs more time to sit and learn. Let’s not kid ourselves, the 49ers are not a rebuilding team like a Detroit or Houston.
The 49ers are less than two years removed from making the Super Bowl. So, what happened?
Kyle Shanahan was named the 49ers head coach in 2017, since then, the team’s record sits at 31-39. Since their Super Bowl LIV loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the 49ers are 8-14. If you remove the magical 2019 13-3 season, the 49ers record under Kyle Shanahan is 18-36.
With a head coach as highly touted and respected as Kyle Shanahan, that record is simply not good enough.
We understand some of the injuries this team has had to endure over the past few seasons, most notably with Garoppolo. Yet, we’re left wondering if the 49ers decision-makers, specifically John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan, have truly nailed their draft picks the way a patient rebuilding team should.
If I’m being honest, I’m not sure they have.
Brandon Aiyuk was a first-round wide receiver who displayed great promise in his rookie season. This season, however, he’s struggling mightily. To the point where Shanahan hasn’t even provided Aiyuk with the snaps he saw a year prior.
I’ve previously written how Bill Belichick finishing his coaching career in New England is uniquely tied to the success of Mac Jones. The same could be said for Kyle Shanahan’s coaching future in San Francisco. He’s certainly not on the hot seat now, and probably won’t be at any point this season or in the off-season.
If Trey Lance isn’t the quarterback that elevates the 49ers back to a Super Bowl caliber team, even Kyle Shanahan won’t be able to overcome it.
It’s easy to see why a patient approach makes sense when building a sustainable winning football program. The level of patience we should be anticipating, however, is the big question.
That question remains to be answered in San Francisco.