National Sports

NFL Sunday takeaways: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers look old, creaky and cranky

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Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are all-time-great quarterbacks and future first-ballot, no-questions-asked Hall of Famers.

Brady is a seven-time Super Bowl winner. He is arguably the best quarterback in history. He is, almost inarguably, the sport’s greatest winner. Rodgers is a four-time league MVP, putting him one behind Peyton Manning for the most ever.

But on Sunday, Brady and Rodgers looked old, creaky and cranky. And their teams, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers, resembled NFC also-rans more than championship contenders, suffering losses to leave them with identical 3-3 records. It is not necessarily time for them to R-E-L-A-X, as Rodgers famously said during another time of high anxiety for Packers fans. It might be time to P-A-N-I-C.

Brady was seen yelling at the Buccaneers’ offensive linemen on the sideline during the team’s 20-18 defeat at Pittsburgh. One has to wonder if the linemen were thinking maybe things would have gone differently if Brady had not reportedly missed Saturday’s walk-through and team meetings after attending New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s wedding Friday night in New York.

Look, Brady has earned the right to a few days away from the daily commitments of football without his on-field readiness and competitive commitment being questioned. He is a one-of-a-kind player, still playing at an elite level and winning Super Bowls well into his 40s. He can say what he wants to teammates, without the boundaries of decency. But he has spent this season, at 45, smashing tablets on the sideline and now berating teammates publicly. If things don’t turn around, it will be fair to wonder if he would have been better off staying retired in the offseason.

The Steelers ended a four-game losing skid during a game in which rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett was ruled out due to a concussion. Former starter Mitchell Trubisky finished the game.

Rodgers was spotted shaking his injured right thumb during the Packers’ 27-10 loss to the New York Jets at Lambeau Field. He got up off the turf particularly slowly following one first-half hit when he landed hard on the ground after having his feet swept out from under him.

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The Packers’ issues at wide receiver continued while Rodgers tries to get by without Davante Adams. Veteran wideout Randall Cobb was emotional as he was taken from the field on a cart with an ankle injury. “We’re just searching here offensively,” Packers Coach Matt LaFleur told Fox at halftime.

They didn’t find anything. The Jets won their third straight game to improve their record to 4-2. Coach Robert Saleh said earlier this season he was taking receipts of those mocking the team. At the time, that seemed like a full-time job itself with a franchise so accustomed to losing and dysfunction. But give credit to Saleh. He has the Jets headed in the proper direction.

And they’re not even the best team based off Exit 16-W of the New Jersey Turnpike. The other occupants of the Meadowlands, the New York Giants, are 5-1. They scored the game’s final 14 points Sunday to beat the Baltimore Ravens, 24-20, in East Rutherford, N.J.

Week after week, it seems, the reaction to watching the Giants play is to say that their opponent was the better team, but the Giants somehow won. That was the case again Sunday, at least for most of the game. But the Ravens again failed to hold a lead, this time on the road. And it might be time to say the Giants are for real as they turn things around under Brian Daboll, their first-year coach. The revival of the NFC East continues.

There is a quarterback “thing” in New England. The Patriots might not have an all-out quarterback controversy, not yet. At least not until Mac Jones is ready to play. But there is something happening, as rookie Bailey Zappe threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns Sunday in Cleveland while the Patriots defeated the Browns, 38-15.

Zappe, an unheralded fourth-round draft choice from Western Kentucky, continues to thrive with Jones sidelined by a high ankle sprain. Zappe has won his first two NFL starts. The Patriots have evened their record at 3-3. Jones made the trip to Cleveland with the team but was on the inactive list. Coach Bill Belichick declined to say during the week that the starting job definitely belongs to Jones when he’s healthy enough to play. And now, there’s plenty of room to wonder about that. Why mess with success? Belichick secured his 324th career victory - including postseason triumphs - to tie George Halas for second place all-time, behind only Don Shula with 347.

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The Miami Dolphins are headed the other direction. They suffered their third straight loss after their 3-0 beginning to the season. The injury woes for their quarterbacks continued as they fell, 24-16, at home to the Minnesota Vikings.

Rookie Skylar Thompson made his first NFL start Sunday because Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater were in the NFL’s concussion protocols last week. But Thompson left the game in the first half after suffering a thumb injury to his right hand. He completed seven of 13 passes for 89 yards before exiting.

Bridgewater replaced Thompson. The veteran backup was cleared Saturday under the concussion protocols. He started last Sunday’s loss to the Jets at the Meadowlands but was removed from that game and placed in the concussion protocols under a newly implemented provision. Tagovailoa also was cleared Saturday under the concussion protocols. He could return to the Dolphins’ lineup for their game next Sunday night at home against the Steelers.

It was a victorious return to New Orleans for Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Burrow arrived for the game at the Superdome wearing the national championship LSU jersey of Chase, also his teammate in college. Burrow then threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Chase with less than two minutes remaining to beat the Saints, 30-26. Burrow threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns. Chase had seven catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Just like old (although not that old) times.

The day’s most perplexing result came in Atlanta as the San Francisco 49ers lost to the Falcons, 28-14. Just when the 49ers had begun to look formidable, with Jimmy Garoppolo back at quarterback and their defense overpowering opponents, they allowed Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota to complete 13 of 14 passes and throw for two touchdowns. Don’t ever, ever try to figure out the NFL.

The Buffalo Bills got their revenge in Kansas City. Well, not really. A regular-season victory in mid-October does not exactly make good for a devastating overtime loss in January in one of the most memorable playoff games ever.

But the Bills did prevail over the Chiefs, 24-20, late Sunday afternoon at Arrowhead Stadium. Quarterback Josh Allen threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to tight end Dawson Knox. The Bills left 1:04 on the clock for the Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But this time, there was no late-game magic for Mahomes. He threw an interception to seal the outcome. And the Bills, not the Chiefs, are the early-season front-runner for the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

It was a new coach but the same team for the Carolina Panthers. They lost to the Los Angeles Rams, 24-10, in Inglewood, Calif., in the first game since owner David Tepper fired Matt Rhule as the team’s coach and promoted Steve Wilks to interim head coach. The Panthers fell to 1-5 with their 12th loss in 13 games, dating to last season.

It was an eventful first game for Wilks, as he sent wide receiver Robbie Anderson off the field to the locker room for sideline misbehavior. Anderson had screamed at wide receivers coach Joe Dailey. Anderson may have been attempting to get himself traded. But good for Wilks for not putting up with it.

Skylar Thompson hurt, Teddy Bridgewater in game for Dolphins

The injury woes for the quarterbacks of the Miami Dolphins continue.

Rookie Skylar Thompson, making his first NFL start Sunday because Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater were in the NFL’s concussion protocols last week, left the Dolphins’ game against the Minnesota Vikings in Miami Gardens, Fla., in the first half after suffering a thumb injury to his right hand.

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The Dolphins called Thompson, a seventh-round draft pick out of Kansas State, questionable to return to the game. He completed seven of 13 passes for 89 yards before exiting.

Bridgewater replaced Thompson. The veteran backup was cleared Saturday under the concussion protocols. He started last Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J., but was removed from that game and placed in the concussion protocols under a newly implemented provision.

Tagovailoa also was cleared Saturday under the concussion protocols. He could return to the Dolphins’ lineup for their game next Sunday night at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

No NFL discipline imminent for Davante Adams

The NFL is considering the disciplinary case of Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams under the personal conduct policy, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Because of that, it is unlikely there will be a decision about a possible suspension or fine until after the legal case involving Adams plays out.

Adams was charged with a city ordinance violation of assault in Kansas City, Mo., for a postgame incident Monday; he shoved a photographer to the ground while leaving the field following the Raiders’ loss to the Chiefs. Adams has issued public apologies for the incident, and his court date is scheduled for Nov. 10.

Sue L. Robinson, the disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players Association, would make the initial ruling in the NFL disciplinary case. If Robinson rules there was a violation of the personal conduct policy, either side could appeal her decision on disciplinary measures to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or a person he designates.

The process would have moved more rapidly if the NFL had considered the case under its system for imposing discipline related to on-field actions during games. Under that system, the NFL makes the ruling; the player can appeal any disciplinary measures to James Thrash or Derrick Brooks, the appeals officers for on-field discipline jointly appointed by the league and the NFLPA.

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Adams remains eligible to play for the Raiders, who are on their bye this weekend.

NFL not eager to make roughing calls reviewable by replay

The NFL and the rulemaking competition committee remain wary of making any judgment call by on-field officials, such as roughing the passer, subject to review by instant replay, a top league official said during a televised interview Sunday.

Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, told ESPN he would welcome any team making such a proposal in the offseason. Teams have made similar proposals in the past, including some to make all personal fouls reviewable by replay.

The league and the NFL’s team owners did make pass interference calls and non-calls subject to replay review in the 2019 season. But they allowed that rule to expire after one unsuccessful season.

“They should propose it,” Vincent said Sunday. “The competition committee will hear it, and, frankly, the membership can vote on it. But . . . we tried to put in pass interference three years ago. [It was] an absolute disaster for the game and the National Football League. . . . We hear all the time, ‘Leave the game in the stadium.’ Let the game be played in the stadium. Why do you want [the NFL officiating department in] New York City involving themselves on a play?”

Vincent said the league supports the controversial roughing-the-passer calls made during the Week 5 games against the Atlanta Falcons’ Grady Jarrett and the Kansas City Chiefs’ Chris Jones.

“If that’s what [the referees who made the calls] saw, the rule allows us to say yes, to support it,” Vincent said.

The NFL clearly is not about to scale back enforcement of a safety rule.

“It’s a different game today,” Vincent said. “It’s a safer game today. It’s a better game today.”

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