The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a bye in Week Five, which means the coaches hunkered down for a round of self-scouting and the players scattered to the four corners to rest and recharge. Me? Oh, nothing. I just planted myself on my couch to do something I almost never get to do: Watch a full afternoon of non-Buccaneers NFL football.
So here's what I discovered: The NFL still rocks. The early round of games had a bit of everything – shootouts, upsets, crazy plays and even a 63-yard game-winning field goal. That's what we call a Matt Bryant Special 'round these parts. I wonder if Charlotte will declare a "Graham Gano Day." And there was so much more. Here are 36 observations I made while blissfully immersing myself in football for an entire Sunday.
One important note: The rambling and occasionally stupid thoughts below are all mine and are not meant to reflect those of anybody else in the Buccaneers organization, all of whom probably had better things to do on a bye weekend.
1. (12:02 p.m. ET) The pregame shows have begun. I am, by nature, thoroughly opposed to pregame shows in all sports. Lots of pontificating, very little information that matters. When I get a chance to watch a game, I tune in exactly when it's supposed to start. However, I went on the WTVT FOX 13 Thursday night pregame show as a guest this week, so I guess it would be hypocritical to completely dismiss the genre. So…sigh…let's see what we can learn.
2. (12:06) Howie Long repeatedly pretends not to know what "Nuthin' But a G Thang" is. Moments later, Jimmy Johnson draws a blank on "Phantom of the Opera." I'm not asking for my football talkers to be music experts but how wide do we have to cast this net to get something they recognize? Have you heard of Elvis? "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas?" The happy birthday song?!
3. (12:11) At nearly the exact same time, the FOX pregame show kicks it to Jay Glazer in a different part of the studio for his Sunday scoops while CBS does the same with Jason La Canfora. Give me Glazer in this battle, in terms of information, delivery and who would likely win in an MMA fight.
4. (12:12) I do appreciate the "Countdown to Kickoff" box on the CBS pregame screen. For me, it's a helpful reminder of just how much more of this pregame 'entertainment' I have to endure.
5. (12:22) Wait, wait, I take that back. I just learned from the CBS show that it's a good thing to have a top-five offense AND a top-five defense at the same time! See, that's information I can use.
6. (12:40) I had to take the dog outside for a bathroom break. Did I miss anything important in the pregame shows? Ha ha, just kidding!
7. (12:44) Oops. Another last-minute break: I somehow forgot until right now to check my fantasy lineups to make sure everyone's playing. There may be a reason why I haven't won a league since Wade Wilson was a quarterback and not a wise-cracking indestructible mercenary.
View the top photos of the first quarter of the Buccaneers 2018 season from Team Photographer Kyle Zedaker.
8. (12:47) Return just in time to learn from Terry Bradshaw that if you have a lead of X points in the fourth quarter and you subsequently give up X-plus-1 unanswered points, you're probably not going to win. I clearly didn't know what I had been missing out on in these pregame shows.
9. (1:00) Okay, I lied. I'm not spending the whole day on my couch. I have met a friend at a nearby establishment so that we can watch all the games at once. This place has 40-50 taps; that's maybe a feature we should look into adding to the press box.
10. (1:08) Frank Gore – still playing. Here's a list for you: Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders. No, that's not three-fourths of an NFL running back Mount Rushmore. That's every running back in the history of the NFL who has run for more yards than Frank Gore. That's amazing. Frank Gore is Teddy Roosevelt.
11. (1:11) I think I just saw Zac Efron fall down an escalator shaft in a commercial for some show called "9-1-1." Not an open elevator shaft, which has been a staple since Rosalind Shays bit it on "L.A. Law," but an escalator shaft. It took a groundbreaking show like "9-1-1" to wake us all up to how terrifying escalators are. I once got stuck on one for three hours. Harrowing.
12. (1:21) Green Bay's Ty Montgomery rips off a great punt return, so by NFL rule there is a flag on the field. Who even watches a punt returner on a breakaway anymore? All you do is scan the rest of the field for yellow.
13. (1:31) The FOX pregame show contended that Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was playing through a knee injury that would knock most players out for eight weeks. Rodgers is quite possibly the G.O.A.T. but that seems like a bit of an exaggeration. Then the game starts and Rodgers is dragged down by a tackle that bends his body in six directions. That's it, he's done, right? Nope. Still in there. Aaron Rodgers might actually be a cyborg.
14. (1:37) Detroit WR Kenny Golladay with an absolutely brutal stiff-arm on Green Bay's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as part of an amazing 60-yard play. Stiff-arms happen, people. Deal with it.
15. (1:39) Hey all those fantasy football players who picked up Lions RB Kerryon Johnson after he had 100 yards against the Patriots and 55 plus a touchdown last week in Dallas: Allow me to introduce you to former Buccaneer LeGarrette Blount, professional touchdown vulture. Yes, I'm one of those who picked up Johnson. No, I'm not bitter.
16. (1:46) Detroit DE Romeo Okwara strip-sacks Aaron Rodgers from behind but, most impressively, manages to roll off the quarterback in midair, thereby avoiding a "landing-on-the-QB" penalty. Nobody in the booth says a word, which stuns me. This is an incredible play! Defensive ends are going to need to start taking gymnastics lessons.
17. (2:05) Matt Bryant kicks a field goal in which the ball appears to phase out of existence, pass through the hands of three Steelers jumping in front of him, then rematerialize and continue on its way. This is the second-most amazing feat of his career after his 62-yard game-winner for the Bucs against the Eagles in 2006. That's a game-ender that might never be topped. (What? No, OF COURSE, I did not come back and edit this after the end of the Carolina game.)
18. (2:12) Travis Kelce, I know tight ends. You are no tight end. Tight ends do not move like that in the open field.
19. (2:14) Giants wideout Odell Beckham THROWS a touchdown pass to running back Saquon Barkley. Looks like New York does have a good young quarterback in the wings after all.
20. (2:50) At the start of this football-immersion afternoon, my buddy asked me if I thought that, just maybe, Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles was underrated. I just watched Bortles throw a pass two yards directly at the helmet of his offensive lineman, leading to an end zone interception. A few minutes later, he false-started. False start penalties on QBs are not common. END-OF-DAY EDIT: Bortles will throw the ball 61 times in this game and rack up 430 yards but throw four picks and end up with a 54.7 passer rating. I would say Blake Bortles is rated.
21. (2:51) Raise your hand if you think Aaron Rodgers and the Packers should be favored starting the second half down 24-0.
22. (3:06) Patrick Mahomes just threw a 30-yard pass downfield while standing dead still. Earlier today I made a "Hot Take" joke about Mahomes not actually being that good after he sailed a ball for a pick (his first interception of the whole season). Oh boy, is Pat Mahomes good.
23. (3:20) Titans WR Nick Williams flat-out drops a wide-open touchdown pass. I mean, it happens to the best of them, but you do NOT drop a touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota. The notoriously ruthless quarterback simply turns to his coach and calmly makes a slicing gesture across his neck. (Or maybe I imagined that.) Don't cross Marcus Mariota.
24. (3:24) The Giants pick off Cam Newton! Maybe the Panthers will lose while the Bucs are on their bye! That would be great! Oh, crap. Eli just tossed it right back to Carolina. Maybe we could try that whole Odell-throwing-it thing again?
25. (3:34) Carolina guard Trai Turner has the best tackle of the day…on Carolina RB Christian McCaffrey. He laid McCaffrey out.
26. (3:54) Pittsburgh pouring it on against Atlanta with a defensive TD. Oh, great, the Falcons are going to be extremely motivated in Week Six.
27. (4:24) If you're in an NFL Survivor pool and you somehow survived Buffalo's win in Minnesota, there's a good chance you picked Carolina this week. If that's true, you need to run up to Walgreens for a pack of thank you cards. Graham Gano is awaiting your words of thanks. That was just ridiculous.
28. (5:05) Philly's Wendell Smallwood lets a third-down pass go through his hands, forcing the Eagles to settle for a field goal. Troy Aikman's advice: "Just make the catch." If only Smallwood had thought of that!
29. (5:22) Big-guy touchdown alert! Big-guy touchdown alert! Vikings DE Stephen Weatherly sacks Carson Wentz, forcing a fumble that lands right in the arms of 329-pound DT Linval Joseph. Joseph rumbles 64 yards for an oh-so-glorious touchdown. Joseph ran the 40-yard dash in 5.03 seconds at the 2010 Scouting Combine which is…not bad at all! I counted "eight-one-thousand" while he was running those 64 yards, so he might have slowed down a bit. Did he go right to the sideline and put on the oxygen mask? You bet he did!
30. (5:39) Add this to the list of 1,042 things that constitutes roughing the passer: Grab the QB around the thighs as you're stumbling, get no purchase, have your hands slide all the way down to his shoes and just hold on as he lightly takes a seat. Kirk Cousins somehow shook off that near-death experience to throw an insanely-accurate back-corner touchdown pass to Adam Thielen.
31. (6:05) After the aforementioned roughing call on Michael Bennett and some other notable flags, the notorious Philadelphia crowd is in full throat. The volume kicks up yet another notch, in spectacularly sarcastic fashion, when the Vikings draw a defensive penalty. Then Jay Ajayi fumbles inside the 10 and the place goes dead quiet. This is not a particularly funny or noteworthy moment, but it makes me think of how the Vet sounded when Ronde picked off that pass in 2002, and it always makes me happy to remember that. Thought you might like the reminder, too.
32. (6:44) I have absolutely no idea why the Eagles just went for two after making it 20-12 with 10 minutes to play, but I have a weird feeling it's going to pay off. The NFL is better when coaches push the envelope.
33. (6:46) You didn't come here for baseball talk, but that commercial with Ken Griffey, Jr. telling us to, "Let the kids play" is absolutely perfect. Love the reveal at the end.
34. (6:58) In two weeks we have seen the full spectrum of righthanded-quarterbacks-throwing-lefthanded-passes. Patrick Mahomes, good. Carson Wentz, not so much.
35: (7:05) Pet peeve: In every restaurant commercial that involves food being dunked into dipping sauce, the dunker always goes in so forcefully that the sauce comes spilling out over all edges of the ramekin. Why?! If you do this at my table, we are having words. It's not that hard to dunk without creating a tidal wave of spicy ranch.
36. (7:14) What a weird day for kickers. Green Bay's Crosby missed roughly a dozen kicks and former Cowboys star Dan Bailey started the day by missing a 28-yarder for the Vikings. The Browns had to go to overtime with the Ravens in part because kicker Greg Joseph missed an extra point and couldn't connect on a 55-yarder to end regulation. However, Joseph did end that game with a successful 37-yarder at the end of overtime, the Titans and Bills combined to go six-for-six on three-pointers in a 13-12 final and, of course, Graham Gano made history with a 63-yarder at the end of regulation to give Carolina a 33-31 win over the Giants (boo). Kickers haven't been this inconsistent since the Rockettes went on strike.