The Washington Commanders sit atop the NFL’s porcelain throne but they are also kingmakers themselves — for other offenses. Jack del Rio’s January 6 defense fared better in front of Washington fans than his 2022 defensive unit has. Jalen Hurts and Devonta Smith both feasted on the Commanders’ carcasses. Hurts targeted Smith 12 times for 169 yards and a touchdown.
His 340 yards passing was third best in the NFL this week, fewer than only Josh Allen and Jameis Winston threw for in losses.
Not only did it take Allen 28 more attempts to outgain Hurts by 60 yards, but he also faltered on 4th and goal against Miami. Hurts has some high-caliber weaponry, but he made high-leverage plays as well. The degree of difficulty on this pinpoint pass on 4th and goal to Smith was about a 9.5 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Hurts has exceeded expectations and quieted the Minshew-mania. However, the Week 3 MVP is none other than Lamar Jackson, who continued his Aaron Judge contract-year surge against a Patriots defense that came in allowing 13.5 points per Sunday by throwing for over 200 yards, rushing for triple-digit yardage, and being responsible for five touchdowns. Bill Belichick had nothing for Jackson. He is a different breed, even than Hurts. He’s Ohtani-like in pulling double duty showcasing his homerun play ability and his rushing prowess. Jackson currently ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing, third in yards per attempt (Hurts is first), first in QB rating, and is the league leader in touchdown passes
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Hurts ran for only 20 yards this week, so while he threw for considerably more yardage than Jackson, the latter made up that difference with his legs. We’ve gotten so used to Jackson’s Tasmanian Devil runs that we don’t even blink when he rushes for 107 yards, as he did on Sunday. Hurts and Jackson are in an early MVP tug-of-war, but Jackson is that dude this week. When Washington blitzed him, he’d dot up their secondary. He threw three touchdown passes against the blitz for the second straight game and has been the league’s best passer when teams send extra rushers at him.
Unlike the Eagles’ runaway train victory, the Ravens were in a tight battle with New England all afternoon. They needed all five of Jackson’s touchdowns. Jackson’s third-and-goal lob to Devin Duvernay in the back corner of the endzone put the Ravens up 28-20. Later, Jackson put the Patriots away in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter with a pair of rushes, including a score that extended the Ravens’ advantage from a one-possession game to a two-possession lead.
Least Valuable Player: Jimmy G tops Justin Fields
Our two candidates played their worst to earn this week’s dishonor. For the third weekend in a row, Fields threw for fewer than 130 yards. His eight completions for 107 yards are on-par with his meager season average, and yet the Bears won, which speaks to how unserious the Texans are in 2022 as they tank for a quarterback. Fields tried his absolute best to give the game away, throwing two interceptions, which is even more absurd when you consider the conservative game plan that has defined the Bears’ season. Fields gave the Texans so many chances the NFL’s official YouTube channel forgot what team he’s on. There’s still hope that Fields can turn this around, but it’s dwindling fast.
The veteran gets the nod, though, because he wound up competing against Dan Orlovsky’s historic lowlight. After replacing Trey Lance last week and providing a spark to the San Fran offense, Jimmy G was presented with an opportunity to create some buzz around his nose-diving stock.
Instead, for the second week in a row, Garoppolo missed a wide-open receiver who could have walked in for a touchdown. Early in the first quarter, Garoppolo hit Deebo Samuels for an 18-yard gain then, on the ensuing play, missed him streaking down the right sideline past the Broncos’ busted coverage for what would have been a walk-in touchdown.
On a 2nd and 10, Garoppolo rolled out after a play action, found himself caught in the pincers of an oncoming Denver pass rush, got jittery, and stepped on the backline for a safety. It may have been a blessing in disguise for Garoppolo, because his desperation pass was picked off at the line of scrimmage by Bradley Chubb and returned for a touchdown.
The play wasn’t all Garoppolo’s fault and his safety moonwalk isn’t as egregious as Orlovsky’s. Running a play action on the goal line when the quarterback has no space to maneuver if an edge rusher comes flying in was what preceded the Dolphins’ butt punt. It’s not like he could throw it away, either. An intentional grounding call from the pocket would have also been an easy two. Orlovsky wasn’t running a bootleg, he just decided to start racing to his right and he went further north of the border to make Jon Snow proud. He ran his entire body a half-yard into the white paint when he didn’t have to, then kept running to keep the play alive.
Even after all of those misfortunes though, Garoppolo had a chance to pull out a win for San Francisco and save himself from infamy. He opted to throw a game-ending interception into double coverage with a third defender lurking to pick it off. Geno Smith played better against this Broncos defense than Garoppolo.