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Victor Oladipo, Pacers

5 takeaways from NFL Week 9

NFL Week 9 saw the Miami Dolphins win their first game of the season, while the New England Patriots lost for the first time in 2019. The San Francisco 49ers (8-0) are the lone undefeated team, while the 0-8 Cincinnati Bengals are the league’s only winless squad.

In this week’s edition of NFL takeaways, we react to some exceptional quarterback play and an awful QB performance, among other topics.

1. Jimmy Garoppolo plays like 2017 self

When the 49ers traded for Jimmy Garoppolo in Oct. 2017, they were confident in handing him the keys to a struggling franchise. They held a 1-10 record before Garoppolo took over that season. Making an immediate impact, Garoppolo led the 49ers to five consecutive wins to close out the year.

The 2018 season, unfortunately, was essentially a wash for Garoppolo. He tore his ACL in the third game of the season. The 49ers won one of his three starts and finished with just four victories overall.

Despite his club’s unblemished 2019 record, Garoppolo had been inconsistent through the first seven contests of the year. The 49ers relied mostly on their strong rushing attack and tenacious defense.

Garoppolo came through with the best performance of his career in a 28-25 road win over the Arizona Cardinals. Looking like his 2017 form, he tossed for 317 yards and a career-high four touchdowns with a 136.9 passer rating. Garoppolo was great on third down, finishing 12-of-14 for 159 yards. Moreover, three of his TD passes came on third down.

Garoppolo and receiver Emmanuel Sanders—who the 49ers acquired in a deal with the Denver Broncos Oct. 22—have remarkably found instant chemistry. Sanders caught seven passes for a team-high 112 yards and a TD, his second score in as many games with San Francisco.

George Kittle also shined in the passing attack. The 2018 Pro Bowl tight end caught seven balls for 79 yards and a touchdown. The TD reception was undoubtedly the play of the night, as Kittle fought off two defenders for a 30-yard catch-and-run score.

Thursday’s contest marked the first time this season San Francisco had more passing attempts than rushing tries. In a game in which the 49ers’ stout defense did not play its best, Garoppolo and the offense propelled the team to victory. The 49ers will be tough to beat if Garoppolo replicates the level of excellence he showed against Arizona.

Garoppolo has won 14 of 16 starts with the 49ers. The 28-year-old holds an outstanding 16-2 career record as a starting QB.

2. Jets hit rock bottom

The Dolphins (1-7) won for the first time since engineering the “Miami Miracle” in Week 14 last season.

Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three touchdowns, all coming in the second quarter, to defeat the rival New York Jets.

Losing their third consecutive contest, the Jets (1-7)  fell below the Dolphins in the AFC East standings due to the head-to-head tiebreaker. Despite a favorable matchup, Jets QB Sam Darnold threw only one touchdown and an inexcusable interception. The dreadful pick came with the Jets two yards away from the end zone. Jomal Wiltz intercepted Darnold, as the Jets squandered a golden chance to score a TD late in the first half.

Darnold has thrown more interceptions (9) than touchdowns (6) in his nightmare sophomore campaign. He has regressed this season, which is bad news for first-year head coach Adam Gase. Hired to fix New York’s offensive woes, the Gase-led Jets rank dead-last in total offense, including the worst passing offense and the 30th-ranked rushing attack. The Jets have scored an NFL-low 96 points all season.

Barring a turnaround in the second half of the season, Gase is likely to be one-and-done in New York.

3. Russell Wilson is the midseason MVP

The Seattle Seahawks’ subpar defense put the team in a 21-7 deficit against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fortunately, the offense is spearheaded by Russell Wilson, who proved on Sunday why he is the runaway favorite to capture MVP honors.

Wilson completed 29-of-43 pass attempts for 378 yards and five touchdowns. It was the third time in his career he registered five passing scores without an interception.

The Seahawks won 40-34 in overtime. Wilson tossed the game-winning 10-yard TD pass to Jacob Hollister on the opening drive of OT.

Tyler Lockett torched the Bucs’ secondary, amassing a career-high 13 receptions for two TDs and 152 yards. He had a receiving score in the first quarter and tacked on another in the third period on a tantalizing reception in the end zone.

Rookie wideout DK Metcalf had his best game as a pro, catching six balls for a career-high 123 yards and a touchdown. Metcalf was also on the receiving end of a successful two-point conversion pass from Wilson.

Wilson’s passing numbers for the season inflated to 2,505 yards, 22 touchdowns and just one interception following the victory. He is completing 68.3 % of his passes. Additionally, he has rushed for 203 yards and three TDs. Wilson is the driving force of the Seahawks, who sit at 7-2 despite holding the 25th-ranked defense.

4. Christian McCaffrey is the midseason Offensive Player of the Year

The NFL MVP doesn’t always win the Offensive Player of the Year (OPOY). In 2017, Tom Brady was named league MVP, but Todd Gurley seized the OPOY honors. Christian McCaffrey’s sensational season has him on pace to grab the OPOY award, even if his MVP chances are somewhat slim.

McCaffrey scored three TDs (two rushing, one receiving) against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. Leading the Carolina Panthers to a 30-20 home victory, McCaffrey posted 166 yards from scrimmage. He put the game out of reach with a 58-yard TD scamper. McCaffrey has three rushes of 50+ yards, two more than any other player.

McCaffrey leads the NFL with 1,244 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns. He ranks first in rushing yards per contest (110.1). McCaffrey has a chance to set the all-time single-season record in yards from scrimmage.

The Panthers rely heavily, to say the least, on McCaffrey. Their passing game, quarterbacked by the undrafted Kyle Allen, is below average. Allen has struggled to throw the ball downfield, forcing McCaffrey into copious workloads as a runner and as a receiving back. McCaffrey has accumulated the third-most receptions (42) among running backs, averaging 45.4 receiving yards per contest.

5. Ravens get statement win

The Baltimore Ravens handed the Patriots (8-1) their first defeat of the season. The Ravens were by far the more physical team, manhandling the Patriots on both sides of the ball.

Despite getting pummeled 37-20, the Patriots’ rest-of-season outlook looks great entering the bye week. Four of their remaining seven contests will be played at Gillette Stadium, where they are unbeaten since 2017. One of their away games is against the hapless Bengals. A loss to a Ravens team coming off their bye week is no cause for concern, especially considering the Patriots lost five road games in 2018 (all against non-playoff teams) and still won the Super Bowl.

The Sunday Night Football upset reflects more on the surging Ravens, than it does the Patriots. The Ravens (6-2) demonstrated why they are among the league’s elite teams. Two weeks after upsetting the Seahawks on the road, the Ravens put on a show in front of their home crowd.

The Ravens mustered a wire-to-wire victory behind another brilliant outing from Lamar Jackson. Jackson completed 17-of-23 passes for 163 yards and a TD. He wrecked havoc as a runner, rushing 16 times for 61 yards and two touchdowns. His 107.7 quarterback rating was his best mark since posting a perfect passer rating in Week 1.

Jackson is the first quarterback in Ravens’ history to rush for two TDs and post a 100+ QB rating in the same game. The Patriots usually have their way against younger quarterbacks, but simply had no answer for Jackson.

Jackson guided the Ravens to a 37-point explosion. This was particularly impressive against a Patriots’ defense that had allowed just 7.6 points per game before Sunday night.