(Adrian Peterson, Mike Zimmer photos courtesy of the Minnesota Viings)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
So now we know how Adrian Peterson's injury affects Minnesota.
Reason: Peterson doesn’t play defense, and defenses not only win championships; they’re winning games for Minnesota sans Peterson, its best player.
It happened in Game One when Peterson ran for 31 yards, and the Vikings defense scored twice. It happened again in Game Two when it lost Peterson, and the Vikes shut down Aaron Rodgers. And it happened again Sunday when it hammered Cam Newton, sacking him eight times, intercepting him three times and scoring on a safety, en route to a come-from-behind win that snapped the Panthers' 14-game home winning streak (including the playoffs).
Put it all together, and you have three opposing quarterbacks completing 50 percent of their passes (61 of 112) for 746 yards, with three touchdowns, five interceptions, 14 sacks, two lost fumbles and a passer rating of 65.6.
Good defense? No, it’s great. In fact, Newton's passer rating of 47.6 Sunday was his lowest since October, 2014, when he rolled a 39.4 in a 28-10 loss to New Orleans. `
Great defense carried Denver to the Super Bowl last year. It carried Seattle to the Super Bowl in 2013. And it could … I said could … put Minnesota in a Super Bowl this year. If nothing else, it puts the Vikings back in the conversation.
Yeah, I know, it's way too soon to start choosing a Super Bowl field. I also now that Sam Bradford is an injury waiting to happen. But, hey, why let that stop us? The Vikings' defense isn’t going away … and that makes Minnesota a tough out for everyone.
- Philadelphia should send a thank-you note to Teddy Bridgewater. Without him going down, the Eagles are playing with Bradford … not Carson Wentz.
- Jay Ajayi didn’t win that one for Miami. Cody Parkey lost it for Cleveland.
- No, Dallas isn't that good. But, yes, Chicago is that bad. Remember, the Cowboys did all that without their Pro Bowl left tackle.
- The Eagles are good for nothing … as in zero turnovers through three games. They're a plus-six in the takeaway/turnover department, and start there when you wonder why they're 3-0.
- So what does Washington's locker room think of Kirk Cousins now?
- Trevor Siemian or Brock Osweiler? That’s why John Elway makes the big bucks.
- So Le'Veon Bell is back next weekend. The Steelers better plug the holes in that defense. With the Chiefs up next, I have a feeling they will.
- Sorry, Dan Bailey, but there's no kicker I trust more with a game on the line than Justin Tucker.
- Now for the silver lining, San Diego: The Bolts' next two opponents are the Saints and Oakland. Entering Sunday, the Raiders ranked last in defense and the Saints next to last. Of course, Indianapolis was 30th, and look what happened.
- So Cleveland lost. Nothing new there. But I love what Hue Jackson is doing. He's making things interesting by shuttling quarterbacks and handling Cody Kessler with care.
- If that was supposed to be a statement game by the Jets, this is the statement: Look out below. The Jets have next, in order, Seattle; at Pittsburgh, at Arizona and Baltimore.
- No, that was not a defining performance for the Oakland defense. It was Tennessee.
- Next time Eli goes over to brother Peyton's place on Tuesday, he might pass on the nachos and ask Big Brother how to avoid stupid interceptions that short-circuit drives.
- The NFL is serious about enforcing that Two-Strikes-And-You're-Out threat with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and Giants' center Weston Richburg is the proof. Richburg has been praised for his leadership, but that was one stupid penalty he took to get himself tossed.
- Nope, I don’t feel better about Indianapolis after that come-from-behind win, and it's not just that its defense leaks. It's that Andrew Luck just doesn’t seem the same.
- Welcome back, Jimmy Graham.
- Don't tell Arizona's Bruce Arians special teams don't matter. Their failures have contributed to both of the Cards' losses this season.
- Make Philadelphia's Jim Schwartz the early frontrunner for Assistant coach of the Year. And make Philadelphia the team to beat in the NFC East.
- It's performances like that that keep me from believing in Arizona. Reason: Carson Palmer.
- Now, more than ever, you can trust rookie quarterbacks. They're 9-2, with one of those losses by Cody Kessler, who deserved better Sunday.
WHAT WE LEARNED …
The Browns are cursed. Period.
So is Tennessee. Bad teams find ways to lose, and the Titans proved it again by taking two brutal penalties on what should have been a game-tying drive in the last minute.
Russell Wilson is better with two bad legs than Blaine Gabbert is with none.
(Russell Wilson photo courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks)
What's wrong with Aaron Rodgers. Yep, nothing.
Todd Gurley is who we thought he was.
Dallas doesn't completely trust Ezekiel Elliott after last week's fumbles. Yeah, I know he ran for over 100 yards, but what happened inside the 5? I'll tell you what: His number wasn't called. There were three rushing TDs there, including two from the Chicago 1, and Elliott never touched the ball.
When the clock starts ticking on the Jags' Gus Bradley.
It pays to complain. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas did in Denver, saying they wanted to be more involved, and … presto, just like that … Sanders scores twice, Thomas once and each has 100 or more yards in catches.
… AND WHAT WE DIDN’T
What to make of Cincinnati and Andy Dalton.
Why the Jets believe Ryan Fitzpatrick can take them to the playoffs when he's never done it before.
When and how the bleeding stops in Chicago.
Why the 49ers hired Chip Kelly. They’ve been outscored 83-45 the last two weeks.
(Ben Roethlisberger photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Steelers)
How significant that Russell Wilson sprained knee is.
Why the Steelers left Ben Roethlisberger on the field long after a Steelers' blowout was assured.
Why the Jets ignored Matt Forte inside the Kansas City 10. The Chiefs had the 30th-ranked rushing defense, for crying out loud. So the Jets trusted trust Ryan Fitzpatrick rather than Forte? Someone's gotta explain that one to me.
SUNDAY'S HALL OF FAMER
Denver QB Trevor Siemian. He threw four touchdown passes vs. Cincinnati. He had one the previous two weeks. Plus, he threw for over 300 yards and, most important, didn’t throw an interception. When GM John Elway said "a lot of times the deals you don’t make are the best ones" he was talking about choosing this guy over Broc k Osweiler.
SUNDAY'S HALL OF SHAMER
N.Y. Jets QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Never has Geno Smith looked better, and he didn’t play. Maybe he should have. Fitzpatrick flat-out stunk, with a career-high six interceptions – including three in the end zone – to sabotage a Jets' team that mysteriously kept relying on Fitzpatrick … not Matt Forte … inside the 20. The guy has a career record of 44-63-1. Enough said.