The only thing that can stop Tom Brady is Tom Brady , and not even a week-old, self-inflicted scissors wound could slow down the quarterback in New England’s 19-17 win over the Carolina Panthers on Friday.
After sitting out the first two weeks of the preseason, Brady finally made his debut, and it didn’t look like there was much rust. On his first play from scrimmage, Brady hit Aaron Dobson for a 37-yard gain. On his second possession, Brady hit Chris Hogan with a perfect 33-yard touchdown pass.
Brady wasn’t perfect in the New England Patriots ‘ 19-17 win (3 of 9 for 76 yards, one touchdown), but no one really expected him to be after not playing a single play through the first two weeks of the preseason.
Anyway, hopefully everyone got their fill of Tom Brady on Friday because that’s the probably last time you’re going to see him on the field, playing in a game, until October. Unless Bill Belichick gets crazy and plays Brady in New England’s preseason finale, we won’t see Brady back on the field until the New England Patriots Week 5 (Oct. 9) game against the Cleveland Browns .
A quarterback who you will see on the field is Jimmy Garoppolo , which might not be good news for the New England Patriots . In his first real test, Jimmy G had some trouble getting anything going against the Carolina Panthers defense. Garoppolo was on the field for six possessions and didn’t produce any points. The only time he came close came in the first quarter on a drive that ended with a missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski .
Garoppolo’s numbers weren’t horrible (9 of 15, 57 yards), but he wasn’t asked to do much. For the most part, he was only asked to make shorter throws, and he even looked kind of tentative making those. Maybe the New England Patriots should just let Jacoby Brissett start.
Brissett picked apart the Carolina Panthers ‘ backups, going 9 of 9 for 85 yards and a touchdown.
If starting Brissett isn’t an option, maybe New England can just give the ball to LeGarrette Blount on every play for the first four weeks of the season.
If that’s not an option, then maybe the Patriots should just run the Wing-T for the first quarter of the season.
Here are six more Week 3 preseason takeaways from Friday night’s games:
2. Cam Newton didn’t look like an MVP
When Cam Newton gets to the Carolina Panthers ‘ practice facility on Saturday, the first thing he’s probably going to want to do is burn the film from this game, and then pick up the ashes of the burnt film and burn those. That’s how bad this game was for Newton.
The Panthers quarterback looked out-of-sync the entire night, something that was obvious to both Newton, and Panthers coach Ron Rivera. Rivera was clearly frustrated by Carolina’s offense because he kept Newton in the game until almost the fourth quarter. The extra time didn’t help though, Newton couldn’t do anything against the Patriots’ first or second-team defense.
Here’s how ugly things got for Newton: On the Panthers’ first five possessions, Carolina punted twice, turned the ball over on downs once and lost the ball on two separate Newton interceptions.
After the second interception, Rivera pulled Newton from the game and let Derek Anderson play. Newton did return in the first half so that he could run a two-minute drill, but that ended up being just as ugly as everything else he did on the night. Newton finished 8 of 20 for 61 yards and 2 interceptions in the first half.
The Panthers quarterback was slightly better in the second half, going 5 of 9 for 39 yards.
The good news for Newton is that the Panthers defense looks like it’s in midseason form. Per usual, Luke Kuechly spent most of the game destroying people.
If the Panthers defense is as dominant as it was last season, the Panthers offense will have plenty of time to workout any kinks during the first few weeks of the season.
The only thing we really learned from the Panthers offense is that Devin Funchess might be Newton’s new favorite receiver. Funchess was targeted 10 times while Newton was in the game and ended up catching five passes for 49 yards. You might want to sneak him onto your fantasy roster with a late-round pick.
3. The Pittsburgh Steelers offense is going to be very good and the New Orleans Saints defense is going to be very bad
Remember when Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley said this offseason that the goal was to score at least 30 points a game in 2016, and we all collectively rolled our eyes? In case there’s any confusion, he wasn’t joking. Ben Roethlisberger made his first appearance of the preseason on Friday night against the New Orleans Saints , along with Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell , and they all looked to be in Hall of Fame form.
So sharp, in fact, that the first two offensive series looked like they were running plays without the defense on the field. And maybe that’s an apt description of the Saints’ D, at least from the perspective of mid-August, but by the time Big Ben traded his helmet for a cap, he orchestrated a 14-play, 74-yard touchdown drive that included passes to five different receivers, and followed that up with a 57-yard pitch and catch with Brown that ended up in another score.
And lest you think it was just the Steelers’ first team that was giving the Saints’ fits, consider this:
In 1st half, Ben: 12-of-17 for 148 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT, 136.4 rtg. Landry: 12-for-15 for 116 yards, with 1 TD, 0 INT, a rating of 121.1.
— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) August 27, 2016
It was so bad, so early, that the Saints broadcast team mistook Landry Jones for Roethlisberger for almost an entire series.
It’s hard to overstate just how good this offense can be. Of course, it all starts with Big Ben, but the Steelers also have the league’s best wideout in Brown and it’s most dynamic back in Bell. Unfortunately, Bell is suspended for the first three games of the regular season, but 33-year-old DeAngelo Williams filled in capably for Bell last season, and the expectation is that he’ll do the same in September.
Just like a year ago, the biggest issue facing Pittsburgh is on the other side of the ball; the secondary remains a concern, even after the team used its first two draft picks on a cornerback and a safety. Still, the Steelers’ D is in much better shape than the Saints, a group that finished dead last last season, and nothing appears to have changed with Dennis Allen replacing Rob Ryan. (Hey, maybe Ryan was onto something when he said this offseason that being employed by the Saints was a “waste of time.”)
If you’re looking for a silver lining, this might be it: Drew Brees is again going to have to carry this team, something he’s certainly capable of doing. The problem is that Marques Colston or Jimmy Graham ain’t walkin’ through that door, and we’re still waiting for offseason acquisition Coby Fleener to develop some — any — chemistry with Brees.
4. Let’s pump the brakes on the Buffalo Bills playoff talk, but the Washington Redskins are a different story
Last week, some idiot watched the Buffalo Bills manhandle the New York Giants and stupidly bought into what Rex Ryan was selling. Namely, that the defense which regressed in Ryan’s first year, would rebound into one of the league’s best, and that Tyrod Taylor could put the offense on his back and help lead Buffalo back to the postseason for the first time since 1999.
Go ahead, we’ll wait while you stifle the laughter.
Look, maybe this is the year the Bills sort things out and make the playoffs. But after watching them against the Washington Redskins on Friday, in a game there most closely resembles a regular-season game, we’re left with a lot more questions than answers.
Against the New York Giants , Taylor finished 7 of 10 for 132 yards with a fantastic touchdown pass to LeSean McCoy . Fast forward six days and Taylor and the Bills’ offense looked, in a word, terrible. The starting quarterback finished 2 of 5 for 11 yards, but the first series encapsulated an otherwise forgettable evening: Taylor was sacked on his first pass attempt, and on the very next play, he threw incomplete after being blasting by an unblocked Preston Smith .
The good news, if you want to call it that: Taylor headed to the bench after the next possession, and in his place, EJ Manuel looked the part of the capable backup. (The bad news: Manuel was the team’s 2013 first-round pick, and he’s not battling for the No. 2 job. Not exactly how the front office planned it.)
Meanwhile, the Redskins look very much like a team that could defend their NFC East crown and return to the playoffs. Kirk Cousins threw an interception on the first drive, but that had more to do with bad luck than bad judgment. And he more than made up for it the rest of the half. By the time he gave way to Colt McCoy , Cousins was 12 of 23, but three of those completions went for touchdowns. Here’s No. 3, a beautifully lofted pass into the back of the end zone that finds Pierre Garcon .
The thing is, Garcon might be the the Redskins’ third- or fourth-best option after DeSean Jackson and Jordan Reed , who made his return to the field on Friday.
The list of humans capable of stopping Jackson is a short one, and it doesn’t even include one of the newest Redskins, cornerback Josh Norman . Luckily, Norman won’t have to face Jackson on Sundays. And if he could play this Bills’ offense every week he’d probably be inducted into the Hall of Fame by December.
It’s way too early to panic, but this still seems like fitting visual description of the Bills’ evening:
5. Kicker meltdown averted in Tampa Bay (maybe)
It’s not often that a kicker becomes a preseason storyline, but that’s exactly what happened after Tampa Bay Buccaneers second-round pick Roberto Aguayo choked his way through the first two weeks of the preseason.
Going into Friday’s game, Aguayo had already missed one extra point and two field goals during the preseason, which is a high number for anyone, but it’s an especially high number if you’re the highest-drafted NFL kicker in 15 years.
In front of a national television audience on CBS, Aguayo could’ve melted down, but that’s not what happened. Instead, the rookie kicker nailed all six of his kicks on the night, which included three field goals and three extra points. Aguayo’s most impressive kick was his first of the game, a 48-yarder in the first quarter. Buccaneers fans were so thrilled to see Aguayo actually make a kick that they gave him the old Bronx cheer.
6. Jameis Winston just won the preseason MVP award and his co-MVP is Mike Evans
Here’s how good Jameis Winston was during Tampa’s 30-13 win over the Cleveland Browns on Friday: He threw for 259 yards in just one half of play. If that sounds like it a lot, that’s because it is. That’s the equivalent of throwing for 518 yards in a four quarters, and Winston probably would’ve done that if coach Dirk Koetter had let him play all four quarters.
The Bucs opened up with a no-huddle offense and Winston ran it to perfection. Winston came out of the gate firing and went 3 for 3 for 40 yards on the Bucs first possession. By the time the second quarter rolled around Jameis couldn’t miss if he tried.
That pass right there was one of five passes that Winston threw to Mike Evans on the night. The good news for Buccaneers fans is that Evans DIDN’T DROP ANY OF THEM. Evans caught all five passes throw his way for a total of 115 yards and one touchdown.
Finally, before we get to the Browns, let’s take a look at one more Buccaneers highlight: A 73-yard punt return for a touchdown by Tampa’s Adam Humphries .
When you’re trying to make an NFL roster, returning a punt for a touchdown can never hurt.
7. RG3 has a new favorite target: Josh Gordon
The Cleveland Browns are turning into Baylor North, and if Friday night’s preseason game against Tampa is any indication, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For the first time since December of 2014, Josh Gordon was on the field for a game and somehow, he didn’t look rusty at all.
The former Baylor receiver caught two passes from his former Baylor quarterback (RG3) and they were both huge plays.
On the first throw, Griffin hit Gordon for 44-yards.
On the second throw, Gordon did all the work and that work led to a 43-yard touchdown catch.
After the game, the Browns were probably pretty excited that they didn’t end up trading him earlier this week. Gordon was only targeted two times in the game and he turned those receptions into 87 yards and a touchdown.
Unfortunately for the Browns, Gordon was pretty much the only highlight for the team in a game that Tampa Bay absolutely dominated. The Browns still have no run game, no defense, and even their special teams looked bad.
The silver lining for Cleveland is that RG3 might be able to keep them in every game if he can stay healthy. And you know what, even if they get blown out a lot this season, at least they’ll be fun to watch. RG3 has made it clear that his favorite play is the long bomb and he’s become a master at throwing it.
RG3 finished the game 8 of 14 for 119 yards and a touchdown, and he did that, despite the fact that he was under constant pressure the entire night — he was sacked five times. If the Browns can field anything that resembles and offensive line this season, RG3 might be able to create fireworks with the Browns offense.
Source: CBS Sports / Tom Brady burns Panthers, James Winston shines, Cam is off: 7 preseason takeaways