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Tuesday Morning Football: Tom Brady's return to New England, Cowboys rolling behind Dak Prescott.
Week four in the NFL gave us Tom Brady's triumphant return to New England, and many more storylines.
That was some week of football, some night of football, we all just experienced. The top headline around the nation is obvious: Tom Brady’s return to New England.
And the game and spectacle certainly lived up to the hype – down to the very last minute of the fourth quarter when Patriots kicker Nick Folk missed a potential game winning 56-yard field goal.
When discussing the outcome postgame and the next morning, most diehard Patriots fans used a word that describes that moment seamlessly.
After the game, reports began swirling that Bill Belichick had walked into the Buccaneers visitors locker room to meet with Brady. As minutes went by – it rapidly became a national headline across social media.
23 minutes later, both Belichick and Brady walked out of the locker room together. Brady spoke with NBC Sports Senior NFL Writer Peter King after the game and shed more light on what transpired in that private conversation with Belichick:
“It was a very personal, private thing, we’ve always had that type of relationship where we can say things to each other. You know, whoever characterizes our relationship is completely wrong. People want to focus on so much stuff that’s so unimportant. We were together for 20-plus years and we were so productive and successful and I learned so much from him.”
Brady told King.
“Loved my experience here, loved my relationship with him.”
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BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS FROM WEEK FOUR
Tom Brady’s victorious return to New England
On Sunday night we witnessed what was arguably the biggest regular season game in the history of the sport. Sunday Night Football featured Tom Brady making his return to Foxborough, Massachusetts to face his former team, the New England Patriots.
The national hype surrounding this game was comparable to a Super Bowl. All day pregame sports talk on numerous networks, ceremonial pregame shows galore – Sunday night was a regular season spectacle.
In game, Tom Brady was regularly bewildered by his former coach, and incessantly bothered by a Patriots defense that finally looked the part. When Patriots kicker Nick Folk missed a potential go-ahead 56-yard field goal, the crowd went silent. Belichick looked on as his team would ultimately lose a gritty, hard fought performance.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers emerged victorious Sunday night, but let there be no doubt: Tom Brady wasn’t the only winner Sunday night.
Bill Belichick wants to win, and from the looks of it Sunday night – he may have found the next quarterback who shares that same mindset.
I know what you’re thinking, I know. You’re 30 years old, so the ‘millennial’ is handing out trophies to everyone because we’re all winners.
But hear me out before tweeting mean things at me.
Both Belichick and Brady seem content with where things stand between them. And after last night’s performance, Belichick and the Patriots have themselves a quarterback. Forget about game script, offensive weapons, or his limitations at the position – last night was proof that the moment was not too big for Mac Jones.
And given the magnitude of what that game meant for the entire New England region, that’s saying something.
After the game, Mac Jones was asked what Brady told him when the two embraced on the field.
"He (Brady) just told me to keep my head up and keep working."
Tom Brady looking up at Jumbotron in Gillette stadium pregame. Possibly observing Mac Jones, or the six banners he helped the Patriots franchise win. (Photo credit: Phil Perry, NBC Sports Boston.)
There are no moral victories for a 1-3 NFL team. At the end of the day, winning is what matters in football, and in all sports.
Nevertheless, Sunday night’s 19-17 loss to the Buccaneers will be remembered as “The Return of Tom Brady.”
Ten years down the road we might look back and remember it differently.
We may remember it as “The Passing of the Torch” in New England.
Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys are real contenders
We’ve been fooled by the Cowboys plenty in the past, but this team is legit. Led by one of the most underappreciated quarterbacks in the entire league in Dak Prescott – this offense is as good as any in the NFL. And the defense is much better than past years.
The Cowboys debatably have the most potent balanced offense in the entire league. With the rushing attack behind Elliott and Pollard – to the dynamic passing attack led by Prescott and his talented receiving corps. This offense is dangerous, and the 36 points put up against a tough Carolina defense is a testament to that.
Dallas must work on their consistency in games as the season progresses. If they do that, there’s no reason to believe they won’t be a playoff team and a real threat in the NFC.
Behind Any Reid’s brilliance, the Kansas City Chiefs continue to roll in different ways on offense
Andy Reid’s brilliance on offense was on full display Sunday afternoon when the Chiefs beat the Eagles 42-30. Reid made several key adjustments to help the Chiefs offense put together numerous 10+ play drives, helping the Chiefs maintain control of the high-scoring win over the Eagles.
This Chiefs defense is still a major concern. They’re bad, really bad.
But one thing this defense has going for them is the confidence within its offense. The defense needs to improve if Mahomes and Reid wish to make another run at a Super Bowl this season. Luckily for the defense, there is time to work through some of the personnel issues and see if things can gel as the season progresses.
TWO-MINUTE DRILL: QUICKHITTERS FROM THE WEEK
Detroit Lions rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown continues to prove me right with his toughness. Detroit has a few years to build, but their roster is filled with young talent, St. Brown included.
I guess Zach Wilson doesn’t suck after all, right?
Kyler Murray is the MVP favorite as of today. If Murray continues this elite level of play, he may run away with the award.
The Pittsburgh Steelers resemble a team attempting to avoid an inevitable rebuild. And given the talent on both sides of the football, that would be a shame.
Even after Sunday’s troubling loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Matt Stafford and the LA Rams are still my pick to come out of the NFC.
Even after Sunday’s win, my confidence level in Carson Wentz being the guy to lead a team to a Super Bowl is dwindling.
Joe Judge deserves a tiny bit of credit for the New York Giants overtime win over the New Orleans Saints. But don’t get too excited yet, Giants fans.
Andy Reid showed us once again this weekend that the title of best offensive head coach in all of football still belongs to him.
Through four games, Trevor Lawrence looks like to best rookie quarterback of the 2021 NFL draft class. Ironically, he was selected first overall.
Dak Prescott and Joe Burrow are both doing a remarkable job of leading the Comeback Player of the Year award. It’s impossible to root against either guy – both are lifting their teams to new heights to start the season.
Speaking of Joe Burrow, man is that kid clutch. Bengals fans should be ecstatic with the future of their team with Burrow behind center.
The LA Chargers look legit behind Justin Herbert’s elite play. Oh, and that defense is pretty good, too.
Matt Nagy won’t be getting any credit from me with a 24-14 win over the winless Detroit Lions. I still don’t agree with the scheme on offense and how he’s utilizing Justin Fields early in his development. Show me more, coach.
Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills looked unstoppable on Sunday in a ferocious 40-0 victory over the Houston Texans. It’s the Texans so we’ll hold in the enthusiasm for now. But if Buffalo’s defense can continue making plays, this team will undoubtedly be a deep AFC contender this season.
ASK ME ANYTHING FROM THE WEEK:
– Why are we not criticizing Mike Zimmer after below average seasons year after year?
That’s a fair question, and I think the criticism will commence soon if things don’t turn around in Minnesota. The Vikings signed Kirk Cousins in 2018 to be the quarterback who leads them to a Super Bowl. Since then, the Vikings are 26-25 with just one playoff win in that span. Those numbers are average at best, and the talent over the last three plus seasons warrant more.
I wouldn’t say Zimmer is on the hot seat as of this morning. I would say however, that if the Vikings don’t fix some things fast, the 2021 season could get away from them. And Zimmer would absolutely be on the hot seat if the Vikings see a second consecutive losing season.
– Who’s one rookie that has surprised you through four weeks?
Mac Jones, and it’s not just because I’m a Patriots fan.
To me, Jones was arguably the most criticized rookie coming out of the draft. Maybe Justin Fields could be in that conversation? Nonetheless, Jones was labeled as a limited ceiling player at the quarterback position – and through four weeks, I see much more than that.
We’ve seen countless talented specimens at the quarterback position accomplish absolutely nothing in this league.
If Jones is smart, talented enough, and has the heart and will to win that he’s showcased through four weeks of his rookie season. He’ll be a lot better than you think.
Again, Jones will never be a Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray type player.
But if Mac Jones is a smarter, tougher, and hungrier Matt Ryan – I think he’ll have a pretty nice career for a “game manager”.
– Who’s a dark horse rookie you could predict to win offensive ROY?
Outside of the popular quarterback names, it wouldn’t shock me to see Bengals rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
If the quarterbacks continue to struggle and put up average to slightly above average numbers, and Chase maintains this level of play throughout all 17 games – he could certainly win the award.
Not sure if that’s necessarily a “dark horse” pick, but right now, Chase would be my non-quarterback pick.
– What is the Steelers biggest issue? O-line or QB play?
Great question, and unfortunately it’s a tough one to answer. I’m a big believer in prioritizing building a strong offensive line over adding offensive skill players, even in today’s high scoring style of play. But, Ben Roethlisberger has looked so awful that it’s really hard to judge just how bad this offensive line unit actually is.
Right now, I wonder how much better Roethlisberger would look behind any offensive line in the league. And that’s not ideal, to say the least.
I don’t believe benching Big Ben is the answer right now, especially given the options behind him. However, this Steelers defense is far too talented to undergo a full rebuild.
I would expect this Pittsburgh Steelers team to explore the quarterback market via trade in season, or free agency/draft in the offseason.
FOURTH AND LONG: THOUGHTS HEADING INTO WEEK FIVE
Bill Belichick should reevaluate if the offensive scheme and playcalling is truly what’s “best” for the team.
I’ve seen several people on twitter claim that newly signed players like Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, and Jonnu Smith aren’t showcasing their skills because Mac Jones is a check down guru who won’t throw the ball downfield past 10 yards.
Let me ask you this: Is it not the coaching staffs jobs to work their players strengths into the game plan?
So, if you’re claiming that Jones is what’s holding this offense back then why did the Patriots draft him in the first place? Regardless of your opinions on Jones, that theory either tells us that the coaching decisions in New England are a major problem. Or, it tells us that the Patriots are not utilizing the offensive playmakers to their strengths. In which, derails the scheme due to players being put into situations they’re not comfortable in or not particularly great in.
For example, Nelson Agholor averaged a much higher YPC last season with the Raiders. But, have you looked up the percentage of routes 20 yards or longer that Agholor ran this season versus last. If Jones is the issue then why is Agholor running far less deep routes than he did a season prior?
At least be consistent with me on this one, because your points make sense on paper but the plays on the field tell a different story. If Jones were refusing to throw it downfield when Agholor, Smith, or Henry were consistently running deep routes downfield, then we’d have something to debate.
I do believe that the Patriots aren’t necessarily getting the most out of their new additions on offense. If this team expects to turn things around then this unit needs look better and develop as the season progresses.
The New York Giants finally winning a game doesn’t mean Joe Judge is the head coach of the future.
The New York Giants have been attempting to build a program over the past few seasons and yet, we have not seen a single ounce of progress. Judge is coach that believes in motivation and self-discipline, but where is his? Between the questionable hires he’s made on his coaching staff, to the horrid game day decisions. It is absolutely fair to wonder how good this team could be with a coach like Joe Brady or Eric Bieniemy.
All I hear is how much the players ‘love’ Joe Judge. But if that’s the case, then why does the team look undisciplined? Why do they continuously take their foot off the gas when things get tough?
I’m not completely giving up on Judge, but we have to all agree that this franchise has been rebuilding for awhile now and the results are eerily similar.