Offensive Players of the Week
Mitchell Trubisky, quarterback, Chicago. Down 23-6 entering the fourth quarter, Trubisky didn’t have to imagine what Bears fans worldwide were saying about him; he knew. All he did in the fourth quarter was throw three TD passes and lead the Bears to the most unlikely win of his star-crossed young career.
Gardner Minshew, quarterback, Jacksonville. This is how magic gets made. The Jaguars, given up for dead in 2020 by most people who have watched at least one football game in their lives (including me), beat up the favored Colts 27-20. The quarterback everyone wants to tank away from, Minshew, completed 19 of 20 passes for 173 yards and three touchdowns, including the 22-yard strike to Keelan Cole for the winning points with six minutes left in the game.
Russell Wilson, quarterback, Seattle. Another case of incredible efficiency by an incredible quarterback. Four touchdown passes, four incompletions. Wilson, in the first game of his ninth NFL season (man, where has the time gone?), completed 31 of 35 throws for 322 yards, with the four TDs and no picks, all while being pressured or sacked 13 times. Maybe this is finally the year Wilson wins his elusive MVP, or at least gets his first MVP vote.
Defensive Players of the Week
Aldon Smith, pass-rusher, Dallas. Interesting—on the official NFL play-by-play from Sunday night’s 20-17 Rams win over the Cowboys, Smith is listed in the starting lineup as DPR. “Designated Pass-Rusher.” He was more than that in his first NFL game in four years and 10 months. Smith, lost to football and adrift as a person back in 2015 because of substance-abuse issues, re-dedicated himself to sobriety and football, and it showed Sunday night. He led the Cowboys with 11 tackles, one sack, two quarterback pressures and a tackle for loss. “I’m tough on myself, but I did some things well,” Smith said. An auspicious reappearance by a once-great player who may be back on the road to greatness.
C.J. Henderson, cornerback, Jacksonville. In his first NFL game, the ninth overall pick, playing a short drive from his college campus at Florida, had three passes broken up and an interception of Philip Rivers in the upset of Indianapolis. I watched a lot of this game, and the thing I noticed about Henderson is how comfortable he was in his first game on pro soil. Imagine no tuneups before your first NFL start, and imagine facing a 38-year-old quarterback with 16 years of experience, and imagine being as cool as the other side of the pillow. I can see why the Jags loved Henderson.
Jamal Adams, safety, Seattle. Let’s hope those three big draft choices Jets GM Joe Douglas got for this latter-day Kam Chancellor pay off. Adams was great in his Seahawks debut as Seattle beat the Falcons 38-25, leading all tacklers with 12, sacking Matt Ryan once and pressuring him twice more, with two more tackles for loss. He made his presence felt with a huge first-half hit on Julio Jones. Adams’ best play of the day: With Calvin Ridley on a Jet sweep at the Seattle 19-yard line, Adams swooped in and stoned Ridley for a loss of one.
Special Teams Player of the Week
Margus Hunt, defensive lineman, New Orleans. The 6-8 Estonian, who played with the Colts last year, got so high on his leap to block a Ryan Succop field-goal try late in the first half that the football hit him in the elbows and chin. Instead of having the Bucs cut into the lead and make it 14-10, Hunt’s block gave the Saints a first down at their 45 with 3:18 left in the half, and New Orleans was able to drive for a field goal before the half.
Justin Hardee Sr, defensive back, New Orleans. The four-year vet from Illinois made a huge play late in the game, with the Bucs trying desperately to get back in the game. Thomas Morstead punted to Bucs return man Jaydon Mickens at the Tampa 10-yard line, and Hardee steamed through Jamel Dean of the Bucs to drop Mickens in his tracks—gain of zero—a millisecond after the punt landed in Mickens’ hands. What a tremendous instinctive play by Hardee.
Coach of the Week
Bill Belichick, head coach, New England. Brought on a quarterback in late June to replace Tom Brady; had to retool (with Josh McDaniels) so much of what they do on offense with Cam Newton playing instead of Tom Brady. Newton ran for two touchdowns Sunday in the 21-11 win over Miami in NFL Week 1. Replaced all four starting linebackers and held Miami to 269 yards. Great coaches take what they have and figure a way to win. Belichick’s only been doing it for most of his adult life, and his first chapter post-Brady was a heck of a good one.
Goats of the Week
D’Andre Swift, running back, Detroit. The second-round rookie from Georgia lost his first NFL game. No exaggeration there. Down 27-23 with six seconds to play, Swift got behind two Chicago defenders and Matthew Stafford found him with a perfect strike in Swift’s chest—and the ball bounced haplessly off Swift’s hands in the end zone. Lots of players contributed to the outcome of their games. But the painful truth about this stunning dropped ball by an open D’Andre Swift is simple: If he catches it, the Lions win. But he dropped it, and the Lions lost.
Philip Rivers, quarterback, Indianapolis. Tough, but familiar-looking way to start his new life as a Hoosier. In the last five minutes at Jacksonville, Rivers threw an interception that was his fault, setting up an insurance field goal, then threw three incompletions in the final minute to lose the ball on downs. That is not what GM Chris Ballard paid $25 million for.
The Browns. Did you watch the 32-point loss to Baltimore?