There was an offensive explosion in the NFL’s latest round of games, starting on Thursday night and continuing into Sunday with no fewer than six games decided in the dying seconds. The Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks kicked last-second field goals to collect wins, while Andy Dalton threw a touchdown pass with seven seconds left on the clock as the Cincinnati Bengals beat Atlanta. Remarkably, the Falcons have scored a combined 72 points over two weeks and lost both games.
Three games went to overtime and the Oakland Raiders collected their first win since head coach Jon Gruden returned with a last-minute two-point conversion to tie with the Cleveland Browns before winning 45-42 with a field goal in overtime.
Another team who picked up their first win were the Houston Texans, who also needed overtime.
The Tennessee Titans also needed an extra ten minutes and quarterback Marcus Mariota converted three fourth downs on the winning drive before hitting Corey Davis for a TD.
In Chicago where quarterback Mitchell Trubisky threw five first-half touchdowns – more than any Bears player in the last 75 years – the Bears thrashed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-10. Meanwhile, all is well again in New England with the Patriots ending September with two wins and two losses after a blow-out over the Miami Dolphins, showing once again that head coach Bill Belichick is the master of adjustments.
The two predominant mentalities in the NFL are “win now” or “rebuild”, although it could be argued there is a third way – that of Belichick in New England – continually win while rebuilding.
The LA Rams are definitely “win now” and spent a lot of money on their defence in the off-season. While they do have four straight wins, the defence has not been as proficient as expected. The Rams acquired cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib and added defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as they set their sights on a long play-off run. Suh is due £10.7million for one year and Talib £8.4m.
Peters is only £1.5m this year but £7m next. Add to that re-signing Aaron Donald on a six-year £103.5m contract and you can see why head coach Sean McVay is definitely expected to deliver wins.
Although they beat the Minnesota Vikings 38-31, the Rams defence was torched on Thursday for 422 yards through the air. That was similar to the week before, when the Phillip Rivers-led Chargers offence scored three touchdowns. In that game, both Talib and Peters left with injuries but that is the nature of the NFL. After all, it is “next man up”.
Another approach is that of the Miami Dolphins and until a humbling defeat in Foxborough on Sunday, their plan seemed to be working.
Head coach Adam Gase chose to re-tool his team with players who are willing to buy into his methodology. He traded British running back Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles midway through last season, taking a fourth-round draft pick in exchange. The Dolphins also let Suh leave after choosing to bring Robert Quinn in from the LA Rams for a comparable salary.
The Dolphins clearly believe in a mentality they are familiar with as they share a division with the Patriots, a team known to let a player leave if they don’t adhere to the team-first philosophy. Ultimately, time will tell. Miami are a team with time to spare; they have a loyal fanbase whereas the Rams have less assurance. Los Angeles is a fair-weather fan city and people will only show up as long as they are competitive. With a new multi-billion dollar stadium being constructed, the NFL and Rams know they need to garner good favour while they have a team that is ambitious, so winning now is the only option.
As the Rams improve, the man who broke their hearts in 2002, when they were in St Louis, with a Super Bowl-winning field goal, gets an honourable mention this week. Adam Vinatieri, now with the Colts, kicked his 566th field goal to become the all-time leader in kicks made. The 45-year-old achieved the feat in 38 fewer tries than previous leader and Hall of Famer Morten Anderson.