The three guys who stood out to me in Week 17: Jarrett Stidham, Nick Bosa and Daniel Jones.
Jarrett Stidham, quarterback, Raiders. Derek Carr hadn’t thrown for 310 yards in a game all season in this Josh McDaniels offense that’s so quarterback-friendly. Sunday, against the best defense in football, Stidham threw for 365, and he only lost because all-world edge rusher Nick Bosa pushed left tackle Kolton Miller back into Stidham on the first series of overtime in a 34-all game, and Stidham’s pass fluttered into the air, and Niners safety Tashaun Gipson picked it off to set up the winning field goal. I found it highly interesting that Davante Adams, in mourning over his close friend Carr getting benched for a kid who’d never started an NFL game, was generous in his praise for Stidham afterward. Receivers like when quarterbacks hang in if it means taking big shots, and that’s what Adams noticed about Stidham. “He played an amazing game,” Adams said. “He apologized for not being able to finish it off, and every single person on the team said, ‘Man, get out of here. You balled out.’” Stidham had one game left, against Kansas City Saturday, and then will be a free agent. The Raiders would be smart to sign him short-term and draft a young quarterback to compete for the job — for 2023 and beyond.
Nick Bosa, EDGE, 49ers. Bosa’s stat line in non-modern times: zero tackles, zero assists, zero sacks. Not much of a game, I guess. But one of the great things about modern NFL stats is how deep they can dig. Per Next Gen Stats, Bosa had seven pressures of quarterback Jarrett Stidham at Las Vegas Sunday. If you watched the game, you saw Bosa’s impact on it, particularly on the Raiders’ final offensive play of the game. “I flipped sides on the play,” Bosa said from the Niners’ locker room. “The Raiders were sliding protection to me and [defensive tackle] Arik [Armstead], so I made that switch in overtime.” Bosa said pass-rushing is a chess game, because he’s got to keep the offensive lineman across from him guessing. And left tackle Kolton Miller, clearly, on the fourth snap of overtime, wasn’t expecting a bull-rush from the cat-quick Bosa. Bosa pushed Miller — PFF’s fourth-rated left tackle among those who’ve played at least 600 snaps this year — directly back into Stidham, and the pass fluttered downfield for an easy interception. An OT field goal and a 37-34 Niners’ win followed.
With a week to play and Bosa leading the NFL sack derby by 1.5 over Eagle Haason Reddick, he’s a favorite to win his first Defensive Player of the Year. Maybe a heavy favorite. “Just being in the conversation means a lot to me,” he said. “Since I was 3 years old, this is what I wanted to do. Winning the award does cross my mind, but I try to keep my mind on my job.”
Daniel Jones, quarterback, Giants. Jones is in the right place. He needs to sign with the Giants for the near-term this offseason. He fits. On Sunday, after the 38-10 rout of the Colts, fans were chanting his name, loving him for probably the first heavy-decibel time in his four seasons in New Jersey. He threw two TD passes, perfect throws, and had two TD runs. He’s fast enough to outrun linebackers, but when one’s in his way, he has no problem stiff-arming them to the ground — he did it with Bobby Okereke of the Colts Sunday — or bashing into them to win a few yards.
Jones has led the Giants out of the debacle of the Joe Judge era and bought into everything rookie coach Brian Daboll is selling. “Early on,” he said from the Meadowlands Sunday, “it was competing at practice. It was the spirit we developed, the desire to improve every day no matter what was being said about us. Guys want to compete. They love the innovation, the creativity. Guys love how this staff plays to our strengths. I’ve learned a ton of football from him.”
The other thing I’ve heard a lot about with Daboll is how he simplifies things. He keeps the important things important. The outside stuff, meh. Last week, in the first team meeting before the game against the Colts, Daboll wanted to address the elephant in the organization: If the Giants won this game, they’d qualify for the playoffs for the first time in six years. Daboll asked the players if everyone knew what a win would mean Sunday. Yes, they nodded or spoke; we win, we’re in the playoffs.
Fine, Daboll said. That’s out of the way. Now let’s get back to doing what we have to do to get better.
It’s just common sense. State the facts to the players, work with them, and keep working with them till they do the job right and you win. Teaching, coaching, persistence — those are things that go a long way with Daboll. And they’re going a long way with Jones too.