D.K. Metcalf stamps all over rivalry Sunday
It was rivalry Sunday in the NFL, with AFC titans Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers facing off in the AFC North. Over in the NFC West, last year’s Super Bowl runner up, the San Francisco 49ers, travelled to Seattle to play the high flying Seahawks.
Historically, these matchups have been heavyweight battles. The Steeler and Ravens are held up as model run organizations, between the personnel and playing side. Since 2000, Baltimore and Pittsburgh have between them accumulated four Super Bowls. Hall of Famers such as Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Troy Polamalu have graced this rivalry. The Ravens have been in charge of the fixture in recent times, but came into this game as slight underdogs to the 7-0 Steelers, the AFC’s outstanding team to date.
I’ll focus on Seattle first, before returning to the outcome of the Baltimore game. Game of the Week: San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
Led by star wide receiver D.K. Metcalf’s towering performance, the Seattle Seahawks blew
away the San Francisco 49ers 37-27. With an injury ravaged 49ers team welcoming back players, and on something of a run, the game was billed as a return of the great Seattle-San Francisco rivalries of old. It was nothing of the sort: instead, it was Seattle one-way traffic most of the afternoon.
Played under gorgeous fall Seattle skies, the 49ers defense known for its speed could not live with Seahawks wideouts D. K. Metcalf, David Moore and Tyler Lockett.
Metcalf scored two touchdowns and gained 161 yards. His first touchdown was a real feat of athletic beauty. He ran a crossing route sideline to sideline, sprinted around a corner and managed to stay in bounds, while somehow accelerating to score.
Russell Wilson brushed off last week’s game against the Arizona Cardinals, and returned to his brilliant pass throwing best.
The much maligned Seattle defense that has given up the most points in the league turned up to make several key stops. Bobby Wagner played as if he heard the ‘best linebacker tag’ attributed to 49ers star defensive player Fred Warner. Wagner responded with a virtuoso performance and he gave 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo a torrid afternoon. The Seahawks defense exposed the shortcomings in 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo's game, and the limitations in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. The 49ers desperately need to get talented offensive players Raheem Mostert and Deebo Samuel back from injured reserve.
For Seattle, this was the perfect riposte to losing in Arizona. This game was a reminder that the NFC West, if not the NFC, will continue to run through Seattle.
Week 8 Highlights
MVP of the Week: Mike Zimmer, head coach of the Minnesota Vikings. I gave the Vikings a fair amount of stick in this column last week. In classic midwestern winter conditions, Zimmer designed a play scheme simple enough to address a Green Bay Packers fatal flaw: they can’t stop the run. Dalvin Cook destroyed the Packers on the ground, scoring four touchdowns in total. The final touchdown was a screen pass that he took 50 yards to the end zone. Zimmer will be content with sticking it to Green Bay.
Cincinnati Joe: The Bengals recorded their second win, and they beat a team that was in the AFC Championship game last season in the Tennessee Titans. Joe Burrow pulled a Houdini act three times in the same play to escape certain sacks and scamper for some yards on the ground. His porous offensive line had their best game, and created some great lanes for Cincinnati's running to thrive. Burrow continued to demonstrate his ability to get the ball out quickly. Beating Tennessee is a nice feather in the Bengals cap.
Bradywatch: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers play tonight.
NFC West: The L.A. Rams lost to the Miami Dolphins, in which Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa played his first full game. The Arizona Cardinals are on bye. Seattle march on.
Stat of the Week: Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has passed Tony Dungy for the most wins by a Black head coach in NFL history with 140.
Quote of the Week: “Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense has to get back to the fundamentals”, the Baltimore Sun laments the lackluster feel to the Baltimore Ravens offense, that last year was one of the NFL’s most explosive ever.
Woefully Disappointing Award: Blown apart by Minnesota, the Green Bay Packers struggle to beat competitive teams, and can’t contain a serious ground game threat. As I wrote recently, the knives are out for defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. They travel to the Bay Area on Thursday night to face their nemesis, the 49ers.
Dominant NFC and AFC teams roll on
It was another big-game disappointment for the Ravens, as Lamar Jackson turned the ball over four times as Baltimore (5-2) fell two games back of Pittsburgh in the AFC North. Baltimore’s run game gave Pittsburgh a headache, but their passing game was sluggish and unreliable. They are the poor relation of the offense that terrorized the league last year. It continued a trend of Baltimore taking care of teams with losing records but struggling against the AFC’s best.
Rivalry Sunday did not deliver a grandstand game. Instead, the prominent feature of each contest was that the commanding team in each conference marches on. Seattle and Pittsburgh are very different in style, but at the season's midpoint, they are in rude health.