Week 3’s Top NFL Storylines: Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp and the Brady Bowl

Plus, the former All-Pro who is probably going to be making a comeback soon

September 28, 2021 6:55 am
Cooper Kupp throws a stiff arm against the Indianapolis Colts
Cooper Kupp throws a stiff arm against the Indianapolis Colts.
Andy Lyons/Getty

Following the Eagles traveling to Dallas on Monday Night Football for an NFC East rivalry game, the third week of the NFL season is in the books. While we can’t get to everything — like a screwup by NFL officials leading to the longest field goal in league history — here are four of the top storylines to emerge from Week 3 of the season, and whether we’re buying or selling on ’em.

Buy: This is a very dangerous week for Bill Belichick

In what is shaping up to be one of the biggest regular-season games in NFL history in New England, Tom Brady and the reigning Super Bowl champion Buccaneers (2-1) will head to Foxboro to take on Bill Belichick and the Patriots (1-2). While the returns of former Patriots Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown are also both storylines, it is the Brady vs. Belichick angle that is going to dominate discussions from now until the final whistle is blown on the Sunday Night Football matchup.

And there’s good reason for that. With a record of 219-64 together in the regular season to go along with a 30-11 mark in the postseason and six Super Bowl wins, Brady and Belichick were a QB-and-coach pairing like no other. Unfortunately for the coach, it currently appears as if the Patriots’ trusted pigskin partnership was somewhat lopsided, as Brady has gone 14-6 in the regular season, 4-0 in the postseason and won a Super Bowl in his first 24 games without Belichick. Without Brady, 69-year-old Belichick, who also coached the Browns before eventually becoming the boss in New England, has gone just 1-1 in the playoffs and 62-75 in the regular season.

People are aware of it …

Deservedly installed as 6.5-point underdogs to start the week, the Patriots don’t have a great shot to upset Brady in his return. Consider that the team is 5-11 over the last two seasons against teams that aren’t the New York Jets.

But for Belichick, who has been surly as ever with the media despite no longer winning the games that at least theoretically justified his attitude, the real loss could come off the field, in the court of public opinion. Given the magnitude of the game, Belichick will not be able to dodge questions about Brady in the days leading up to the game, and may have to offer some sort of explanation as to why the 44-year-old quarterback is in Tampa Bay. If that explanation seems phony or disingenuous and the fanbase doesn’t buy it, Belichick may, for once, be held accountable.

“I think we’ve been through all the dynamics of that. There were a lot of things there,” Belichick said on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Monday. “He looked at his options and made his decision. We weren’t as good an option as Tampa. You’d have to ask him about that, but it wasn’t a question about not wanting him, that’s for sure. I’m not going to go back and rehash all that. We’ve talked about that. Really my focus is on the game here.”

Belichick’s focus may be on the game, but the focus will be on him once the game is over. He better tread carefully.

Sell: The NFL is telling the truth about Davante Adams 

Before he caught a pair of passes to set up Mason Crosby‘s 51-yard field goal against San Francisco during Green Bay’s game-winning drive on Sunday Night Football, Davante Adams took a cheap shot to the head from 49ers safety Jimmie Ward on a play that wasn’t even ruled a penalty but likely should have resulted in an ejection.

After taking the helmet-to-helmet hit from Ward while trying to haul in a deep pass from Aaron Rodgers, Adams appeared to be knocked out cold and stayed on the ground for multiple minutes before heading to the medical tent to be evaluated for a concussion.

“Well, how I’m able to get through it is I’m different. That’s probably the main thing,” Adams said afterward. “I’ve dealt with a lot of stuff like that and just the mental toughness to get in there. It wasn’t a concussion. On the sideline, they evaluated and saw right away. I was straight. More than anything on the ground was my chest, having trouble catching a breath, but definitely good now.”

Amazingly, Adams only missed one play before returning to the field to help his team get the win. It was a valiant effort on the part of Adams, but even with Green Bay calling a timeout, it seems highly unlikely all the NFL’s concussion protocols were fully followed.

But that didn’t stop the league from insisting on Monday that everything with Adams was on the level during a primetime matchup between two of the NFC’s best teams.

“As with any play that leads to a media al evaluation, we followed up with the Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant and team medical staff to review the sequence of events. All concussion protocols were fully followed,” the NFL said. “Adams was cleared by both the Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant and the team doctor. Additionally, the team medical staff continued to monitor him throughout the remainder of the game as is standard practice.”

It’s also standard practice for the NFL to keep its best players on the field come hell or high water — especially in big games with large TV audiences. (Remember Julian Edelman being tested for a concussion and somehow getting cleared to finish Super Bowl XLIX to catch the winning 3-yard touchdown pass after taking a big hit in the fourth quarter?)

Adams is a football player in a contract year and it’s in his best interest to be on the field playing, no matter what. That’s also in the best interest of the NFL, which is why the league may have been compelled to let him get back out there, concussion or not.

Buy: Cooper Kupp is loving Matthew Stafford in LA

Leading NFL receivers in catches (25), touchdowns (five) and receiving yards (367), Cooper Kupp has only failed to catch eight of the 33 passes first-year Rams QB Matthew Stafford has thrown his way since coming to Los Angeles.

Not exactly a household name coming out of Eastern Washington, the former third-round pick is now in his fifth year in the NFL and might be on the verge of emerging as one of the league’s elite pass-catchers now that Stafford is tossing him the football.

While Rams coach Sean McVay deserves some credit for Kupp, who had a career-best year in 2019 with 94 catches, 1,161 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, Stafford is the primary reason the veteran wideout appears to be in the midst of an All Pro-level season.

Always a solid slot receiver with good hands, Kupp is using his shiftiness and speed to get open at the second level. He’s also emerged as much more of a complete pass-catcher under Stafford. Now averaging 14.7 yards per catch, Kupp already has five plays this season that have gone for 20 yards more and is leading the NFL in average yards per game (122.3) through three weeks of play. It’s also a two-way street, as Stafford has posted career-highs in completion percentage, yards per attempt, quarterback rating and touchdown-to-interception ratio through three games.

“He’s one of those guys that’s about as overlooked as anybody in the league,” Stafford said of Kupp last week. Not for long.

Sell: Richard Sherman will remain unemployed

Arrested in July and charged with five misdemeanors following an alleged domestic violence incident involving his wife’s family, cornerback Richard Sherman is currently a free agent — but he won’t be for long.

Selected to five Pro Bowls and named a first-team All-Pro three times, Sherman was, and maybe still is, a primetime player at a marquee position in the NFL. That position also happens to be one that has seen players dropping like flies through the first three weeks of the NFL season.

From Tampa’s Sean Murphy-Bunting to Carolina’s Jaycee Horn, cornerbacks across the league are going down with injuries, and the league’s daily update page is filled with transactions and moves involving defensive backs. In the coming weeks, it would be a surprise if Sherman’s name doesn’t appear on that page.

Sherman, who played the last three years of his career for the 49ers after playing seven years for the Seahawks, claims to be in as good a physical condition as he was before tearing his Achilles tendon during the 2017 season. At 33, Sherman may be a bit long in the tooth for a DB in the NFL, but considering he has the most interceptions and defended passes of any active player since being drafted out of Stanford by the Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, there’s more than enough upside for a team to take a chance.

And with Sherman’s legal case still pending, a chance is probably something the 49ers’ NFL Man of the Year nominee in 2019 deserves.

“I’ve got a decade worth of resumé that should stand more firmly than a momentary lapse in judgment,” Sherman said in an interview USA Today last week, adding that he had sought counseling. “I’ve got a decade worth of character and tape to be judged off of. If you’re judging me off of a momentary lapse, then I’m probably not the player for you either way.”

Whether it’s the Bucs, Panthers or even the 49ers again, Sherman is going to be a player for someone soon.

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