A week ago, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians was the imbecile whose kicker missed a game-winning field goal after Arians took a delay-of-game penalty on purpose. This week, Arians is a front-runner for his third NFL Coach of the Year award after knocking out the defending NFC champion Rams with a franchise-record 55 points in Los Angeles.
Two weeks ago, the Saints were 1-1 with Drew Brees. This week, they’re 2-0 with Teddy Bridgewater.
The Panthers were 0-2 with Cam Newton. They’re 2-0 with Kyle Allen.
The Browns started September overrated and 30-point losers at home. They ended September as underdogs sitting atop their division as 15-point winners in Baltimore.
Yessir, of the many rules in the NFL, the smartest and toughest one to obey might be the so-called “24-hour rule.” The unwritten edict to let go in one day the pain or the false sense of security while social media loiters with bouquets of Super Bowl tickets for the winners and pink slips for the losers.
“We have to move on,” Vikings defensive end Stephen Weatherly said after the Vikings embarrassed themselves once again in Chicago on Sunday.
But, Stephen, that wasn’t just any garden-variety loss. Quarterback Kirk Cousins and the offense were plenty bad enough to warrant long-term worry. The line couldn’t protect. Cousins couldn’t pull the trigger. Even Adam Thielen could be seen clenching his jaw in a postgame interview, for goshsakes.
“It’s time to think about the Giants,” Weatherly went on to tell reporters.
That’s a version of Bill Belichick’s famous “we’re on to Cincinnati” postgame interview in 2014. After the Patriots were humiliated 41-14 in Kansas City on a Monday night, Belichick shrugged off the 2-2 start by telling reporters repeatedly that he was on to Cincinnati, the next week’s opponent.
You know you’re great when you create a new cliché for a future generation of athletes to use.
Yeah, but …
Belichick is Belichick. The Patriots are the Patriots. And, of course, Tom Brady is Tom Brady and not Kirk Cousins.
In 31 other NFL cities, fans aren’t on to Cincinnati. Forget Cincinnati, bub. We’re “on to the draft!” with a new general manager, a new coach and visions of the NextGen quarterback dancing in our heads.
Of course, what many don’t realize is you don’t have to be the Patriots to win Super Bowls. Just Google Giants, Eli, defense, stay healthy and peak in December.
The 2007 Giants that felled the 18-0 Patriots were 2-2. They had lost 35-13 to Green Bay. At home.
Granted, at this point, it seems logical to have a dump truck of dirt ready for Cousins’ stint in Minnesota. The Magic 8-Ball is screaming, “It’s over!”
But look around. Even as awful as the Vikings looked Sunday, the NFC is still 13 closely packed teams followed by Atlanta, Arizona and Washington. The Vikings’ strength of victory (.375) ranks sixth in the NFC.
Leaguewide, five undefeated teams lost in Week 4. Four of them at home. Four 2-1 teams lost. Three of them at home.
Meanwhile, nine 1-2 teams won. Eight of them on the road. Arians’ Buccaneers were 9-point underdogs when they scored the third-most points ever against the Rams. The Browns were 7-point dogs when they put up 40 on the Ravens.
Emotion is a bigger factor in the ebb and flow of an NFL season than the analytics crowd accounts for. For whatever reason, humans — even the handsomely paid ones (and sometimes especially the handsomely paid ones) — don’t generate the same oomph every week.
“Offensively, I don’t feel like we matched the intensity of [Chicago’s] defense and we need to do a better job there,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “But, saying all that, this team won’t be judged in September. In the NFC, the leading [teams have] three wins, so we’ll just keep fighting and keep going.”
Zimmer said these words about 20 hours after a completely unacceptable performance by his team, top to bottom. So he was a good four hours ahead of schedule on what has to be the smartest and hardest NFL rule to follow for sleep-deprived coaches and players raised on social media.