Sunday’s game featured teams with two quarterbacks vying for the NFL record for consecutive touchdown passes, but it turned out that Jimmy Garoppolo and Marcus Mariota’s signal-calling challenges will be reserved for late November. With Drew Brees’ march into the record books, Garoppolo won’t be trying to break it this season – his career-high 34th, which came on a third-quarter scoring pass in the 49ers’ 26-6 rout of the Buccaneers. But Garoppolo was undoubtedly the better quarterback Sunday, completing 15 of 22 passes for 293 yards and one interception. His scoring throw, a 59-yard throw down the sideline to Marquise Goodwin, made the difference in helping the Niners build a 24-0 lead by halftime.
Marcus Mariota scrambles out of trouble against the Falcons. Photograph: Deborah Baic/AP
In what might end up being an intriguing divisional showdown, the Cardinals host the Rams next Sunday in a game that could determine who holds a commanding lead in the division. While both defenses are among the league’s best, it’s the potent offenses from both the Rams and Cardinals that tend to get most of the credit. Whereas the Cardinals have been overachieving so far this season, the Rams have set an NFL record for points scored through the first five games of the season. According to ESPN, the Rams are averaging 52.5 points per game, while the Cardinals are second in the league at 31.5.
Getting back to work
After Thanksgiving, what’s left of the NFL season follows the post-Thanksgiving holiday route, starting with another Bears/Patriots rematch. New England hung 58 points on Chicago in the snow in December of last season and have scored 41 points in each of their first four contests of the season. Last week’s comeback win over the Dolphins was more like a runaway train for New England, a fact that likely played into the decision to sit Tom Brady after he completed an NFL-record 63% of his passes (22-for-30) and totaled 226 yards. On the downside, the 31-13 win was an abrupt ending to the season-long turmoil that enveloped the Patriots in the wake of the Deflategate scandal.
And then there are the Titans, who are in the NFL’s No Fly Zone – for now, anyway.
If Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk was hoping for additional fireworks this season, this appears to be the season that fate has decided to deliver. Still, with the Titans off to a 3-0 start, and Marcus Mariota looking more like an MVP candidate each time he steps on the field, today’s matchup with the Falcons can’t come soon enough.
The Jets and Cardinals return to action following Thursday’s games. Photograph: Ken Blaze/Getty Images
Feeling similar pain?
Both of today’s early games feature teams desperate for a win – and two teams that recently got a much-needed extra rest.
The Saints have looked sluggish in losses to Carolina and Atlanta, and now they’ll get a chance to turn things around against the 49ers, who have been a trendy pick to make the postseason this season. But these are the 49ers, whose quarterback is Jimmy Garoppolo, who made his first start of the season Sunday in the soggy win over the Buccaneers. Garoppolo was impressive in his performance against Tampa Bay, but the early returns suggest the rookie has a long way to go in his attempt to shake the “imperfect passer” label that has lingered since his redshirt freshman season at Eastern Illinois in 2013.
Those who saw a glimpse of Garoppolo at his best in the Niners’ Thursday win over the Titans will be understandably tempted to let his foot off the gas pedal, and not do enough to limit the damage of San Francisco’s talented defense. The Vikings, as well as the Falcons and Redskins, are likely beneficiaries of Garoppolo’s backups today.
And the New York Jets appear to be on the losing end of an increasingly ugly spectacle this year. The Jets may find themselves at the bottom of the league with their two-game losing streak coming to an end against the Jaguars, who have two new-look secondaries to go along with the quarterback play of Blake Bortles and Allen Robinson.