A lot of teams passed on Aaron Rodgers — he went 24th to Green Bay — in the 2005 draft, so it’s probably not fair to single out Jon Gruden as one who blew it.
But it’s a gaffe that had to cross Gruden’s mind as Rodgers threw for five touchdowns and rushed for a sixth in a 42-24 victory over Gruden’s Raiders. As coach of the Bucs in 2005, Gruden opted for running back Cadillac Williams at No. 5 overall. Williams flashed early but after a series of injuries he never regained his form. He’s now coaching at Auburn.
Rodgers, of course, has gone on to become one of the game’s greatest. On Sunday, he earned a perfect passer rating, going 25 of 31 for 429 yards and the first perfect passer rating of his career.
Even with top target Davante Adams sidelined for the third straight game with turf toe, Rodgers threw for his most touchdowns in a game since Sept. 28, 2015, against the Chiefs."Yeah, I think this was the most complete that I’ve played," Rodgers said. “I felt good about the timing. There was a lot of balls thrown on time, and obviously the line played fantastic.”
Not since Mark Rypien in 1991 has a quarterback thrown for five touchdowns and rushed for another.
Contenders starting to emerge
The NFL’s top teams started separating themselves from the pretenders on Sunday. The Ravens may head the list after a surprising win in Seattle. Baltimore (5-2) now stands as the only team in the AFC North with a winning record with the Browns and Steelers at 2-4 and the Bengals remaining winless.
The Patriots (6-0), unbeaten as they enter tonight’s game against the Jets, lead the AFC East and the surprising Buffalo Bills (5-1) are one game back. But is anybody really buying the Bills and quarterback Josh Allen?
In the AFC West, the Chiefs (5-2) look good even with the injury to Patrick Mahomes. Kansas City will be without Mahomes for at least three weeks, but it beat Denver on Thursday and the Raiders and Chargers lost on Sunday.
The AFC South may be the most competitive, but the Colts (4-2) got a key victory over the Texans (4-3) on Sunday. Indianapolis can run the ball and Jacoby Brissett is ending the worry over retiring Andrew Luck. Not to be overlooked, the Titans (3-4) and the Jaguars (3-4) and mustachioed quarterback Gardner Minshew.
In the NFC, the 49ers (6-0) stayed unbeaten with a rainy win over Washington, but Seattle (5-2) remains in contention in the NFC West and even the Rams (4-3) have a shot, though I declared them “done” last week.
Meanwhile, the Packers (6-1) and Vikings (5-2)appear to be the favorites in the NFC North with Green Bay beating Oakland and Minnesota knocking off Detroit.
The NFC East remains a bit muddled, but the Cowboys (4-3) beat the Eagles (3-4) Sunday night giving Dallas a decided edge.
And in the NFC South, the Saints (6-1) strengthened their chances witih an easy win over the Bears and now Drew Brees reportedly will practice this week. The idle Panthers (4-2) also may contend if Kyle Allen proves to be real. I still have some doubts about that. And unlike the Saints, where Brees is the unquestioned starter, Carolina will have to manage a potential quarterback controversy if and when Cam Newton returns.
The Bucs (2-4) can’t be ruled out, but the Falcons (1-6) look like a lost cause. Still, it’s surprising that in a year with Brees, Newton and now Matt Ryan enduring injuries, the Bucs don’t have a better chance. Or is it?
After an extended holdout, Melvin Gordon returned to the Chargers (2-5), but he’s not nearly the same player. On Sunday his goal-line fumble cost Los Angeles a win against the Titans. Three times, the officials reversed touchdown calls for the Chargers, making the goal-line gaffe even more difficult to swallow for the team.
“I told our players that one yard can bring us together or tear us apart,” Lynn said. “With the character that we have in that locker room, I do believe this group will rally. We will fight, and we will be back.”
Offensive line woes obviously hurt the Chargers, but I’ll always wonder if the contract dispute made Gordon ineffective and negated Aaron Ekeler’s chances for success. Gordon rushed for 32 yards on 16 carries Sunday and hasn’t rushed more than 47 yards since Nov. 25, 2018.
It looks like another lost season for QB Philip Rivers, who can’t play forever.
Falcons owner backs Quinn
Atlanta owner Arthur Blank said he has no plans to fire coach Dan Quinn after the Rams completely outplayed the Falcons 37-10.
Why he has no plans to fire Quinn remains a mystery. The Falcons are 1-6 and have dropped 11 of their past 15. They’ve been outscored 120-50 in the first half and have trailed by double digits at halftime in five games.
On Sunday, all three phases played poorly but that wasn’t the worse. Falcons running back Devonta Freeman challenged Rams All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald to a fight. At one point, the 284-pound Donald grabbed Freeman by his collar and lifted him off the ground.
Adding injury to insult, Ryan left the game with ankle and foot injuries. If Quinn doesn’t survive, the Falcons might turn to their offensive coordinator on an interim basis. Yes, Dirk Koetter, fired by the Bucs after last season, could end up as a head coach again.
Ask the Armwood Hawks
Two players who stood out on Sunday are all too familiar with kids who played for the Armwood Hawks in 2009-2012.
Long before he starred at Florida State, Miami Central’s Dalvin Cook gave Armwood fits in the 2012 state championship game, rushing for 223 yards and four touchdowns. On Sunday, he was at it again, helping the Vikings to a key 42-30 NFC North win over Detroit. Cook rushed for 142 yards and scored twice as Minnesota stayed a game behind Green Bay for the division lead.
If the Vikes need added hope, the Packers play four of their next five on the road.
Hawks players also had to marvel at the play of Indianapolis’ Jacoby Brissett, who threw for for 326 yards and a career-high four touchdowns in a big win over Houston. As the starter for Palm Beach Dwyer High in 2009 and 2010, Brissett went 1-1 against Armwood, winning a state semifinal as a junior and losing as a senior on a last-second field goal.
Game recognizes game
Bills quarterback Josh Allen wore a Buffalo Sabres jersey with his name and number on the back. According to the Buffalo News, Allen has been a supporter of the NHL team since arriving in town and has become friends with Sabres star and captain Jack Eichel.
“He’s a fantastic dude,” Allen said of Eichel, noting that the two text each other. “Super down to earth.”
Both teams are owned by Terry and Kim Pegula, and they’ve pushed to unite the city around the Sabres and Bills with a “One Buffalo” campaign. So far, so good. The Bills are 5-1 and the Sabres, who will take on the Lightning in Sweden next month, are 7-1-1.
Meanwhile, J.J. Watt arrived at the Texans game against Indianapolis wearing the jersey of Astros second baseman Jose Altuve — backwards. Altuve, of course, propelled Houston into the World Series for the second time in three years with a walkoff homer against the Yankees Friday night.
The jersey didn’t bring Watt any luck. The Colts beat the Texans 30-23, stifling a late drive with an interception by Darius Leonard.