Offensive Players of the Week
Leonard Fournette, running back, Jacksonville. Wow. Did you see him bisect the Denver defense on the 81-yard run? Fournette was the man the Jags expected when they used the fourth overall pick on him in 2017, rushing 29 times for 225 yards in the altitude in a 26-24 last-second win.
Nick Chubb, running back, Cleveland. Wow. Did you see him bisect the Baltimore defense on the 88-yard touchdown sprint in the fourth quarter? He was not touched. Chubb had a terrific game overall, rushing for 165 yards on 20 carries against a good defense. Where he shined was in the second half, with an incredible performance: 10 carries, 131 yards, three rushing touchdowns. Chubb’s 14-yard TD run midway through the third quarter gave the underdog Browns a 17-10 lead. His two-yard TD run at the end of the quarter made it 24-10, and, right after the Ravens cut the lead to six, Chubb sprinted up the right side of the field 88 yards, looking very much like a fleet wide receiver. That clinched the game for the Browns.
Frank Gore, running back, Buffalo. I believe Gore is the only player in the NFL (at least in the time I’ve covered it) to have undergone reconstructive surgery on both knees and both shoulders. Did you know Sunday was his 200th game since the last of those four surgeries? That is only slightly amazing. More amazing is the fact that, at 36, Gore became the fourth player in NFL history to surpass 15,000 rushing yards—and the oldest player ever to rush for 100 yards in a game. He did it against the NFL’s top-rated defense. Man, what a day for Gore: 17 carries, 109 yards. That leaves him at number four on the all-time rushing list, with 15,021 yards … 248 yards from passing the immortal Barry Sanders for third place. The only smudge on his day: Gore was stopped for a one-yard loss in a one-score game in the fourth quarter from the Patriots’ 2-yard line.
Defensive Player of the Week
Shaq Barrett, defensive end, Tampa Bay. Had three significant pressures of Jared Goff as the Bucs built up a 31-20 lead over the Rams in Los Angeles. Then, with 18 minutes left in the game and Jared Goff driving to make it a one-score game, Goff throw a pass in the right flat, sort of a rainbow, and Barrett leaped high in the air to pluck the interception.
Kyle Van Noy, linebacker, New England. On a day of excellent performances across the board in Buffalo—by Patriots players and Bills players both—Van Noy stood out. Then again, he almost always does. One of the best acquisitions of the Belichick Era, Van Noy had two sacks and a team-high eight tackles as the Patriots rode the defense and special teams to a 16-10 win.
Erik Harris, safety, Oakland. With 2:17 left, and the Raiders nursing a 24-17 lead, the Colts started at their 25-yard line. Jacoby Brissett threw a quick out to Zach Pascal … and Harris, from tiny California (Pa.), stepped in front of Pascal for a smooth interception and 30-yard touchdown return, untouched. There were some hairy moments at the end, but the Raiders held on for a 31-24 win on week two of the road trip from hell, the 43-day odyssey away from Oakland.
Jabrill Peppers, safety, New York Giants. Wearing number 21 (the old number of star Giants safety Landon Collins), with Collins watching from the Washington sidelines, Peppers jumped into the flight path of a Dwayne Haskins pass at the Washington and returned it for a 32-yard TD, his first as a Giant. That wasn’t the first time Peppers tormented Haskins, in the Washington rookie’s first game as an NFL quarterback. In the second quarter, from the Giants’ one-yard line, Peppers made a clutch breakup of what looked to be the first TD pass of the kid’s career, saving a sure six points.
Special Teams Player of the Week
J.C. Jackson, defensive back, New England. Had a first quarter of his dreams. Rushing from the punter’s left, he blew past wide blocker Patrick DeMarco of the Bills and smothered a Corey Bojorquez punt; Matthew Slater recovered and scored the first touchdown of his career. New England, 13-0. Late in the quarter, with the Bills driving, Jackson made a pretty pick of Josh Allen at the Patriots’ 10, keeping it a 13-0 game. He had another pick in the second half, rounding out the best game, by far, of his brief NFL career. Not bad for an undrafted college free agent from Maryland, plucked after the 2018 draft by the Patriots.
Joey Slye, kicker, Carolina. The rookie replacement for Graham Gano kicked a 48-yard field goal in the first quarter to open the scoring at Houston. With the game tied at 10 entering the fourth quarter, his 55-yarder put the Panthers up, and his 26-yarder iced it with 26 seconds left.
Coach of the Week
Freddie Kitchens, head coach, Cleveland. After a mostly ugly loss to the Rams last Sunday night in Cleveland, Kitchens openly questioned his own play-calling, and the Browns got into a war of words with ESPN’s Rex Ryan. (Why oh why do you pay any attention to what the guys on TV say, and why oh why do you continue to discuss it even after a huge win, Baker Mayfield?) But in the three hours when football mattered Sunday, the Browns played mostly their A game, and the team certainly looked like the best in the division. That’s the players, of course. But’s it also the coach’s job to have them ready in a tough environment, with a brutal schedule to come. That was a very important win for the Browns. Credit to Kitchens for having his team ready.