The Bengals’ savage loss showed why the long snappers, the NFL’s invisible men, matter | NFL

Jhe latest episode of the Steelers-Bengals rivalry was an anxiety-inducing thriller, even for those with no interest in either team. A display of football mastery for the ages, it was not. But Pittsburgh’s 23-20 overtime win had more twists and turns than an entire season of Stranger Things.

As such, there were several key takeaways, starting with TJ Watt and a fierce defense intimidating a supposedly improved Bengals offensive line. Joe Burrow was sacked seven times: Watt single-handedly had a sack, an interception and three tackles for a loss (the reigning Defensive Player of the Year would later leave the field with a dreaded torn pectoral).

As for the man so often on the floor on Sunday, well, if we hadn’t seen Burrow at SoFi Stadium in February with our own eyes, it would be hard to believe he started the last Super Bowl. At least for the first half. Yes, Burrow had minimal time to throw, but when he did, his accuracy and decision-making were off the mark. He was only able to adapt in the second half when his vision became an asset and his exit was quicker.

It also helped Cincinnati that the Steelers offense seemingly lost its pulse in the second half. The Steelers were always going to be conservative with Mitch Trubisky starting at quarterback, but three points and less than 100 total yards in the second half are inexcusable.

Luckily for Trubisky, he still got the opportunity to play hero thanks to a slew of missed chances by the Bengals, starting with Zak Taylor. not hard when a clear Ja’Marr Chase touchdown was ruled incomplete with just over 2:00 remaining in regulation. Dwelling on non-challenge can blow our collective brains – Taylor said after the game Chase was in a difficult part of the field to see – but silly is a very polite way to describe it.

Taylor’s blunder started a wild domino streak that ultimately made Trubisky look like Ben Roethlsiberger in his prime as he led the Steelers from their own 20 to the winning field goal.

It also led to a new appreciation for Clark Harris and his ilk. Come on, you really hadn’t heard of Harris before Sunday or even now? For the uninitiated, Harris is the long snapper of the Bengals. He, along with starter Kevin Huber and kicker Evan McPherson are a well-oiled machine, each a cog that needs to be precise. Harris with the perfectly angled seven-yard snap, Huber with the perfect hold, and McPherson with the perfect leg. It was the team on the field for McPherson’s incredible kicking streak last season, as well as McPherson’s 59-yard first-quarter hit on Sunday.

Then Harris suffered a bicep injury and poor Mitchell Wilcox (usually the team’s tight end) had to fill in. McPherson’s extra point that would have sealed the win was blocked by Minkah Fitzpatrick. Then his 29-yard field goal that would have again sealed the overtime victory sailed well.

McPherson, to his credit, was diplomatic about the failed field placement attempt: “The operation went well. I just missed it, he said. That’s a good thing to say, but with Harris slamming the ball, the operation is Actually well, and bengals Actually to win.

Long snappers aren’t just essential to special teams. They’re the coolest guys in the locker room, and the good ones are models of longevity. Former Eagles snapper Jon Dorenbus is a professional magician who made it to the finals of America’s Got Talent. Don Muhlbach, the longtime Lions snapper, was the second-oldest player in the NFL (behind a certain quarterback) when he retired in 2020. He also used to cut a banana into 17 pieces before each game and do the same air drum solo before exiting the tunnel. With all due respect to offensive linemen, these are the guys you want to have a beer with. There are countless fun facts about long snappers, but no one knows them because they have always been in the shadows.

Clark Harris arrives in Los Angeles for the Super Bowl last season. Photography: Caroline Brehman/EPA

So far. Harris’ absence illustrates how crucial a skilled long snapper is to the kick operation. In the case of the Bengals, it was the difference between a win and a loss.

MVP of the week

Patrick Mahomes, quarterback, Kansas City Chiefs. It’s safe to say Mahomes will be just fine without Tyreek Hill. In a 44-21 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Mahomes was 30 of 39 for 360 passing yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. The four quarters were a bold reminder that no one has ever played the job like Mahomes. No one has near his bag of tools. And to boot, he earns some fine teammate honors for running to catch the ball that rookie Isiah Pacheco used to score his first touchdown.

Patrick Mahomes was unstoppable for most of the Chiefs' win over the Cardinals on Sunday
Patrick Mahomes was unstoppable for most of the Chiefs’ win over the Cardinals on Sunday. Photograph: Matt Kartozian/USA Today Sports

quote of the week

“He is a man of his word. He told us he was going to be aggressive… That’s exactly what he did” – Giants running back Saquon Barkley on his new head coach, Brian Daboll.

Trailing 13-0 at halftime against the Titans, the Giants formed a new team in the second half. Daboll made the adjustments that successful coaches make. But he also did something few coaches do, he bet on his players. After a 13-game drive that culminated in a touchdown with a minute left, Daboll had a choice. Go for one to tie or two to win. Daboll later revealed that he planned to go for the win from the start, and his gamble paid off. Barkley took a shovel pass in the end zone and ran towards his coach with a smile to match the moment. Finally, the Giants feel like a winner.

Related …

“McDaniel is going to need a wheelbarrow so his nuts can carry them” – The Dolphins have released Tyreek Hill from head coach Mike McDaniel.

Daboll is not the only one to have been immediately adored by his players. Hard enough to dispute the result of McDaniel’s unconventional decision to go fourth-and-seventh with 24 seconds left in the first half.

video of the week

Not only did rookie Cade York’s game-winning 58-yard field goal secure the Browns an emotional win over Baker Mayfield (oh, and the rest of the Panthers, too), but it ended one of the most embarrassing streaks in the game. NFL. The Browns won their first season opener in 18 years. Seriously. York won’t have to buy Cleveland a meal anytime soon.

Statistics of the week

61-10. That’s how many points Green Bay have been outscored in opening games over the past two seasons.

The Packers were outscored 61-10 in the final two games of Week 1 combined.

— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) September 12, 2022

Considering Green Bay reached the Divisional Round last year and the NFC Championship the previous year, it’s safe to say they won’t worry too much about Sunday. Lost 23-7 against the Vikings.

Elsewhere in the league

Chicago’s Matt Eberflus joined the group of rookie head coaches who won in Week 1. It looked like it was going to be a long day for the Bears after San Francisco took a 7-0 lead and Chicago went on to throw after calling screens in the third and long in the first half. But Trey Lance and the 49ers offense struggled to generate anything in the torrential downpour at Soldier Field. Justin Fields was the top quarterback on Sunday, showing arm strength on a fine 51-yard touchdown pass to former 49er Dante Pettis. As for Lance, there will inevitably, and very unfairly, be some thinking this week about whether the team should go back to Jimmy Garoppolo.

Rain didn't dampen Bears morale after opening weekend win
The rain didn’t dampen Bears morale after an opening weekend win. Photograph: Daniel Bartel/USA Today Sports

Josh McDaniels failed in his Las Vegas head coaching debut largely because Justin Herbert is extremely good at football. Herbert picked up where he left off last season, except his team this time beat the Raiders 24-19. I still haven’t gotten over the Chargers’ exclusion from the playoffs last season.

Notable performances from Sunday: Saquon Barkley with 164 rushing yards, one touchdown and the aforementioned two-point conversion; Davante Adams in his debut with the Raiders: 10 receptions, 141 yards and a touchdown; Justin Jefferson, nine receptions, 184 yards and two scores; Jonathan Taylor, 161 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown; AJ Brown in his Eagles debut had 10 receptions and 155 receiving yards (including 128 in the first half while mostly stifled).

New Colts quarterback Matt Ryan passed for 352 yards and a touchdown and all he has to show is a 20-20 draw against a Texas team he should have beaten. Equality in soccer: acceptable. Tie in the NFL: throw up.

Too late to change my Super Bowl pick to Buffalo? I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the NFL opener featuring Josh Allen tearing apart the Rams’ defense with passing accuracy (83.9% completion rate), smart reads, and sheer willpower. Conversely, brash Rams corner Jalen Ramsey played like he did in the Super Bowl: pedestrian and beatable.

The Cowboys’ listless performance in a 19-3 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday Night Football was alarming enough, but things somehow got worse after the final gunshot when team owner Jerry Jones announced that star quarterback Dak Prescott will require surgery for a fracture near his thumb. of his hand which throws and must miss “several weeks” (read: six to eight, ESPN reports). It’s a season-altering development for a team set to face the Eagles for the NFC East title.

This must be related to some seedy Dan Snyder business venture, right?

In closing, go kiss your nearest long snapper.

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