By Cal Braid
Sunny South News
Last time we wrote this column, we affirmed that the 49ers Jimmy G. was in fact a worthy and legitimate starting QB for a great team. As quickly as the column went to print, Jimmy broke his foot. In an instant, young Brock Purdy became the league’s zero-to-hero story, and he’s the real deal, for now. Speaking of injuries, Jalen Hurts injured his shoulder in week 15 against the Bears and that made us wonder: What’s the most appropriate headline for his situation? ‘Hurts is hurt’ is one option; an even better option would be ‘Hurts hurts.’ Yep, that’s it.
Since the NFL expanded to a 14-team playoff last year, the idea of making a late playoff run is now more plausible than ever, but it still doesn’t mean much of anything. Teams going in as a sixth or seventh seed this year are basically undeserving of any nod of approval. The same goes for whichever substandard team goes on to win the NFC south. Their only consolation is the fact that they made the playoffs, and by doing so provided themselves with a little extra job security. These teams vying for a playoff seed are hopelessly inconsistent—they get on track for a week or two and then get derailed. How many real contenders are there at this point? The Bills, Chiefs, Bengals, Cowboys, 49ers, and Eagles, assuming that Hurts isn’t in pain. Six teams. The Dolphins got swept away to sea after starting 8-3, the Vikings look like they could get pillaged at a moment’s notice, and the Ravens have hobbled along since Lamar hurt his knee. The Jets, Giants, and Seahawks have all faded after exciting starts. The only deadbeat team that’s risen from the ashes is the Detroit Lions. They pulled this same routine last year to a lesser extent. They actually look pretty good, at least good enough to win a playoff game.
Two boring-turned-exciting games in week 13 and 14 stood at 16-3 late in the fourth quarter, and caught our attention. In the first one, the lifeless Bucs resurrected against the Saints, as Brady led two late TD drives, the second of which demanded that Brady throw the game-winning TD twice (the first was called back by a penalty, so he simply went back out and threw another one.) The second miracle comeback was the now infamous Baker Mayfield audition in LA for the Rams. Same scenario; down 16-3 to the Raiders late in fourth, Mayfield had what might end up being his most memorable moment as a pro QB, leading two scoring drives for the week’s second 17-16 last-gasp victory. How he did this is anyone’s guess, but sure detracts from the narrative that the NFL is a complex game ruled by gurus and geniuses. Mayfield had been on the team for a grand total of two days, and knew neither his teammates or the playbook. He got by on rudimentary knowledge and athletic instinct, nothing more. The Rams and Bucs however, did not use these moral victories as a springboard to reasserting themselves as the NFC’s elite. They continued to collapse. The Raiders and the Saints didn’t use those moral defeats as an excuse to roll over dead on the season. Both bounced back, and no matter how lethargic their fourth quarter instincts were, those instincts are still far better that those of the ‘we blew a 33-0 halftime lead’ Indianapolis Colts. They should change their team name to the Donkeys.