To quote Depeche Mode: “Words are meaningless and forgettable.”
Words cannot describe the insanity that was week 1. Anything and everything happened to open the 2015 season. From the Giants wrapping a gift basket for the Cowboys with abysmal clock management, to the Browns finding new and innovative ways to lose games, to the Steelers forgetting how to play defense, Marcus Mariota throwing 4 touchdowns in his debut start (in the first half no less), to the Eagles and Falcons figuring out who wants to lose a primetime game more, and to Carlos Hyde taking control, this reminded us that Football was sorely missed. Even if the results were sloppy.
That’s where my weekly awards column comes in. Starting last year, I’ve dedicated each week of the regular season to awarding the best players/teams in certain positions. The awards will look like this; Best QB, Best RB, Best WR, Best TE, Defensive Player of the Week, Best Kicker, Biggest Upset, and Best Team.
So let’s get this started.
In a week where many of the best quarterbacks laid an egg or didn’t perform up to their usual expectations, it was refreshing to see the reigning MVP of the league not succumb to either of those setbacks.
In fact, Aaron Rodgers looks as good as ever, and he was on full display against the Chicago Bears, constantly making great throw after great throw. Rodgers’ ball placement was purely sublime, such as his back-shoulder fade throw to Devante Adams as pictured here.
Skeptics wondered how the 32-year old signal caller would play without his prized receiver Jordy Nelson. Sure, it was the Bears’ defense, but if Rodgers’ accuracy and mobility are of any indication, he’s still at the top of his game, as well as the league.
Rodgers went on to throw for 189 yards (18/23) for 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.
With all due respect to Carlos Hyde (who had an amazing game against the Vikings), I thought Matt Forte did enough to earn this “award.”
Against the Packers, Forte did an excellent job with patience, creating yards and making it look easy. He stumbled a bit in pass catching (dropped a TD pass from Cutler in the end zone), but as whole, his play was phenomenal.
Forte finished with 24 carries for 141 yards (5.9 YPC) and a touchdown.
Julio Jones is an absolute monster. Eagles corner Byron Maxwell was shredded when going up against this dominant pass catcher, as Julio ran excellent routes, used top-notch speed, and was heavily relied on as the Falcons went on to upset the Eagles 26-24 (more on that later).
Julio is coming off a dominant 2014 season, and his light show against Philly is strongly indicating that he refuses to slow down.
Rob Gronkowski got the most hype, but Travis Kelce, in my opinion, had the best game.
Where as Gronk got open based on the Steelers’ awful coverage (as well as his athleticism), Kelce showed us why he was one of the most hyped tight ends heading into 2015. His size, strength, and talent nearly mirror that of Gronk, and used these advantages to get open and explode as Kansas City’s top YAC option. The matchup is not a comparison either.
Kelce quickly exploded for 2 touchdowns, and finished with 6 catches for 106 yards.
Defensive Player of the Week
We’re witnessing one of the great young defensive tackles in the NFL.
Forget it, when it comes to young DTs, there’s no contest.
Aaron Donald, 2014’s Defensive Rookie of the Year, was flawless against the Seahawks, tearing apart Seattle’s offensive line as if it were made of cardboard (well actually…). A perfect example is listed below on a Russell Wilson 1-yard scramble. When Wilson tries to scramble up the middle, Donald recognizes this and makes a fantastic diving tackle, preventing the big play.
Donald has the unique ability to size up favorably against double coverage, simply pushing linemen apart. As a part of a very talented Rams front 7, Donald may just be the standout guy.
No surprise here, as the 40-year-old kicker was reliable in the clutch with a 47-yard-field goal to give the Falcons a 26-24 lead late in the 4th quarter. Matt Bryant was perfect, going 3/3 on field goals ranging from 40-49 yards, and 1/1 on field goals from 30-39 yards.
Coming into Monday Night Football, you’d think the Eagles would have no problem taking down a defense that was arguably the worst a year ago.
Think again. Dan Quinn’s Falcons defense immediately shut down Sam Bradford and the run game, and Matt Ryan (who had a shaky game) and Julio Jones connected constantly, racking up yards and points. Vic Beasley and Desmond Trufant in particular showed tons of promise, with Trufant providing excellent coverage in the secondary.
When it was 21-3 at the half, no one expected the Eagles to come back. With a Matt Ryan interception, things changed, with the Falcons being outscored 21-3 before Ryan himself created a response drive with a terrific deep pass to Julio Jones, setting up a Matt Ryan field goal.
You know what happened next. Chip Kelly rushed Cody Parkley for a missed field goal, and Jordan Matthews let a Bradford pass tip through his hands for a game ending interception. Crazy.
Sustaining a lead will be a problem for the Falcons later in the season, but the defense and offensive line showed amazing signs of life. Well done, Quinn (for now, anyway).
While it seems laughable to put the Bills anywhere on a best team award since 2000, Rex Ryan’s Bills completely shut down the Colts offense, forcing Andrew Luck into dumb turnovers and inaccurate throws. The defense recorded 12 pass deflections (Stephon Gilmore alone had 4) and 5 QB hits on Luck. On the other side of the ball, Tyrod Taylor played with a lot of promise, including a beautiful deep ball touchdown to Percy Harvin in the first half.
All around, it was a very efficient day on both sides, garnering up an impressive Week 1 victory.