NFL winners and losers: Bill Belichick continues to make history, now with an unlikely QB

NFL winners and losers: Bill Belichick continues to make history, now with an unlikely QB

Bill Belichick is still the best coach in the NFL. He just doesn’t have the best quarterback in the NFL anymore.

Belichick took a big step on Sunday. He won his 324th game, counting the playoffs, which tied him with George Halas for second place in NFL history. He has 23 victories behind Don Shula in this category.

And he’s on a winning streak with rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe. How many coaches would be able to pull this off?

The Patriots looked like they were done for a few weeks ago, but it’s common for them to play poorly at the start of the season and anyone who writes them off looks bad. The Patriots are 3-3 after winning 38-15 over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. This follows a 29-0 win over the Detroit Lions last week.

Nobody likes it when you praise Belichick. He is not cuddly and friendly. When Tom Brady left and had success with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the Patriots’ record slipped, it became easy for Belichick’s critics to find reason to say he wasn’t really this well, as ridiculous as that is. It got very noisy at the start of this season when the Patriots started 1-3, with an offense led by Matt Patricia and Joe Judge, which seemed to make no sense.

But the Patriots still find a way. In 2020, they were in playoff contention with Cam Newton, who threw eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions that season. Last season they made the playoffs with the rookie quarterback Mac Jones, the fifth QB selected in his draft class, although everyone seemed to forget that during the offseason.

Now Belichick has his winning team with Zappe. On Sunday, the Patriots’ offense was much better than the Browns’, even though Cleveland has a more talented player in almost every position. It’s training. The Patriots defense stifled the Browns in every way, and the New England offense looked good with Zappe in charge. No one would have seen this coming. Zappe had 309 yards, two touchdowns and a 118.4 passer rating. He looked good, but part of it is that the Patriots put him in positions to succeed. That’s what they do.

Zappe was an odd choice in the fourth round. It was ahead of where most draft analysts thought he would go, and the Patriots had Jones coming off of a strong rookie season. Then Jones suffered a sprained ankle, Brian Hoyer suffered a concussion and the Patriots had to turn to Zappe. At the time, it looked like they were in a lot of trouble, although an overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers with Zappe playing in an emergency wasn’t a bad loss. But they were 1-3 with an unheralded rookie quarterback for a few weeks.

It turns out OK. The Browns aren’t great, but they’re not bad. And the Patriots dominated them with Zappe. What Belichick does is not easy. It’s not like the Browns look good with it Jacoby Brissett, who has way more experience than Zappe.

It’s more fun to dislike Belichick than to give him his due as the greatest coach of all time (he’s the GOAT, that’s out of the question if you’re remotely unbiased), but he continues to make the most of his Patriots rosters after they’ve been buried by everyone. Like Belichick, he’s building his own legacy without Brady, even if no one wants to give him credit. He will continue to collect victories and records.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is bringing his team down to .500 this season.  (AP Photo/David Richard)

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick is bringing his team down to .500 this season. (AP Photo/David Richard)

Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 6 of the NFL season:

WINNERS

Brian Daboll, NFL Coach of the Year? : It’s early days, but Daboll is making a strong case for the head coaching honor.

The The New York Giants are 5-1 after their second straight win. They came back to beat the Packers last week and came back to beat the Baltimore Ravens 24-20 Sunday. The defense forced two Lamar Jackson comes back in the last minutes. One was an interception that led to a touchdown and the other pretty much put the game away. The second was a fumble caused by first-round pick Kayvon Thibodeaux. After that, Saquon Barkley slipped at the 1-yard line instead of scoring, and the Giants ran out of time in the win afterwards.

There will be questions about the true quality of the Giants, but their record is good enough to put them in the hunt for the playoffs. And that’s enough for Daboll, in his first season as head coach, to get plenty of positive buzz.

Robert Saleh: The other New York coach is doing pretty well too.

As we debate whether Sunday’s result was due to a good New York Jets or bad Green Bay Packers, all that matters after a shock victory is that the Jets are 4-2. That’s right, 4-2 – did you miss that?

The Jets are playing much better and Saleh deserves credit for that. The 27-10 victory over the Packers – goodbye, remaining players in the survivor pool – comes after a victory over the Miami Dolphins, which isn’t a bad pass. The Jets played very well on defense against Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay — again, the debate over what this has to do with the Packers’ struggles will go on all week — got key special teams to play on a blocked punt for a touchdown and leave the Wisconsin with a big win.

Saleh wasn’t going to have endless patience, so a streak like this to start his second season is a good sign. Maybe the Jets can keep going for a while.

Ja’Marr Chase: He has yet to have a huge season for the Cincinnati Bengalsbut he is still one of the best in the league.

When the Bengals needed a big play on Sunday, Chase delivered. Chase turned a short catch into a 60-yard touchdown, using his explosive speed to pass two Saints defenders in the end zone with 1:57 left. This gave the Bengals a 30-26 lead.

The Bengals didn’t play well. They trailed, then a poor punt late in the fourth quarter set up the drive that ended with Chase’s touchdown. It hasn’t been the easiest start for Cincinnati (3-3) this season, but they still have stars like Chase. That was enough for Sunday’s win.

matt ryan: He doesn’t look good this season for the Indianapolis Colts, but he had a signature moment on Sunday.

Ryan hit rookie Alec Pierce for a 32-yard touchdown with 17 seconds left and the Colts earned a massive win in the AFC South run. They won 34-27 after it looked like they could lose the season series to the Jaguars. Ryan came in with a huge game-winning drive after Trevor Lawrence led the Jaguars into the lead with less than three minutes left.

The Colts were without Jonathan Taylor (ankle) and Nyheim Hines (concussion) on Sunday. Their offense had struggled most of the season. But the victory keeps the Colts (3-2-1) in the AFC South race. If that leads to a resurgence of Ryan, great.

LOSERS

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had to switch to Mitchell Trubisky due to an injury to Kenny Pickett. It’s really bad.

The Bucs offense in particular looked helpless in Sunday’s 20-18 loss. They had very few explosive plays despite multiple injuries in the Steelers secondary. The Buccaneers scored late but couldn’t get the two-point conversion, then couldn’t get the ball back to Tom Brady. They might not have done much anyway. And you can’t really blame the injuries anymore; the Bucs are about as healthy on offense as they will be. They always struggle.

Brady took a memorable 40-day retirement this offseason, and that’s probably not why he came back. The Bucs are 3-3 and the biggest thing in their favor might be playing in a bad NFC South. There’s not much else positive to say.

San Francisco 49ers and their wounds: The 49ers are a good team but you wouldn’t have known that on Sunday.

Two things worked against San Francisco: travel and injuries. Probably not in that order.

The 49ers were playing their second straight game in the Eastern time zone, and Sunday’s was an early start. It’s not easy for a West Coast team. And the 49ers were missing several players, including offensive tackle Trent Williams and defensive end Nick Bosa, two of the best players in the NFL.

Consequently, the The Atlanta Falcons controlled a 28-14 victory. Against a depleted 49ers defense, the Falcons had a big day. Marcus Mariota had a passer rating of 144.6, with two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. The Falcons are 3-3, like the 49ers.

San Francisco still has a chance for a good season, but it needs to get healthy soon.

Miami Dolphins‘ chance: Even Mike McDaniel’s game planning can’t save the Dolphins if they lose a quarterback a week.

In three straight weeks, the Dolphins have lost their starting quarterback in the first half. On Sunday, rookie Skylar Thompson suffered a thumb injury in the first half of a 24-16 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Teddy Bridgewater, the quarterback who was knocked out of the game last week, came in and was ineffective. The Dolphins defense tried to keep Miami in the game, but ultimately a huge fourth quarter turnover led to a long Touchdown from Dalvin Cook and that was it.

The Dolphins started 3-0 this season, then lost three in a row as their quarterbacks slumped. This took away all the positive momentum from the start of the season.


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