The Top NFL Storylines of Week 7: Myles Garrett, Younghoe Koo and Mike Tomlin

Plus, "star" QB Justin Herbert is fortunate to have Brandon Staley as a shield

October 24, 2023 6:00 am
Younghoe Koo of the Atlanta Falcons.
Younghoe Koo and the Atlanta Falcons are defying expectations.
Kara Durrette/Getty

With the NFL season’s seventh installment of Monday Night Football in the books and another 13 games over and done, Week 7 is complete. While we can’t get to everything — like star wideout Davante Adams potentially leaving Las Vegas — here are four of the top storylines to emerge from the NFL’s seventh week. Here’s a look back at Week 6  and a downright filthy catch by Atlanta tight end Kyle Pitts.

Myles Garrett Is a Bad Man

In a game that wound up being a battle of backup quarterbacks but somehow ended 39-38 in favor of the Cleveland Browns, All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett was able to force fumbles on both sacks of Indianapolis quarterback Gardner Minshew, racked up seven overall tackles and jumped over Indy long snapper Luke Rhodes to block Matt Gay’s first-half field goal attempt. With his effort, Garrett became the first player since at least 2000 with two sacks, two forced fumbles and a blocked field goal in a single game.

Though the Colts managed to generate 456 yards and 38 points against the league’s stingiest defense in both categories, Garrett and his defense did just enough to keep Cleveland close after starting quarterback Deshaun Watson was knocked out of the game with a concussion. Kareem Hunt’s TD with 15 seconds left won it for the Browns.

A seven-year veteran, 27-year-old Garrett has now notched 39.5 sacks over the 39 games he’s played in since the start of the 2021 season. He’s the first player ever to post 81 sacks before turning 28 years old. (Reggie White had 80, Derrick Thomas had 77, Bruce Smith had 76.5 and J.J. Watt had 76, according to Sports Illustrated.) Though it truly was a team effort by the Browns, who scored 20 points off turnovers and the blocked field goal against the Colts, it felt at times like Garrett was singlehandedly keeping the Browns in the game. Largely thanks to him, the Browns are now 4-2 on the season, despite essentially playing half of games without Watson under center. The Browns are a rarity in today’s NFL in that the defense is carrying the team. Garrett, one of the favorites to win Defensive Player of the Year, is leading the way.

“I just know I’m having fun doing it,” Garrett said after the win. “It’s been a blast, win or lose, just playing with these guys. This defense is really rocking and rolling. It wasn’t our best showing today. But damn, we fought. Same with the offense and special teams. This team is truly special. I hope I continue to play some really good ball and continue to just turn it up and make that run toward the end of the season. Maybe we’ll be able to say that it’s my best ball. Until then, I’m just going to continue to have fun and lean on my guys.”

Swaggy Jets Rookie Corner Sauce Gardner Is Ready to Cover New York
The fourth overall pick should have a huge role for a defense that finished dead last in yards and points allowed last season

Younghoe Koo Has Been Nails for the Falcons

With their 16-13 victory over the Buccaneers on Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons (4-3) took possession of first place in the NFC South, despite mistake-prone quarterback Desmond Ridder losing three fumbles inside Tampa Bay’s red zone. Ridder’s mistakes were costly, as the Falcons outplayed their opponents and could have blown the Bucs out of the building, but the second-year quarterback was bailed out by 29-year-old Younghoe Koo’s third field goal of the game, a 51-yarder as time expired, snapping an eight-game road losing streak for Atlanta.

Koo broke into the NFL in 2017 with the Chargers, but he didn’t really find a home until he landed with Atlanta prior to the 2020 season. He’s made 13-of-14 field goals and 8-of-9 extra points this season and already had three game-winners in the final minute for the Falcons. Those numbers are right in line with what Koo has done thus far in his career — he’s made 135 of 151 field goals and 128 of 135 extra points overall.

For a team like the Falcons that’s had difficulty getting in the end zone in recent years, Koo’s consistency and coolness under pressure have often been the difference between a win and a loss. The Falcons — who played most of Sunday’s game without first-round rookie running back Bijan Robinson because he was nursing a mysterious ailment that didn’t appear on the injury report — haven’t been able to count on offense much week-over-week. They’d probably prefer it was Ridder, but it’s Koo who’s the exception, as he’s been as steady as it gets.

“At the end of the day, we found a way,” said Falcons coach Arthur Smith. “Koo, as he continues to do, is clutch. Our guys made big plays at big moments. It’s a resilient group.”

And it’s a group that’d probably be 1-6 instead of 4-3 if it wasn’t for Koo.

Justin Herbert Is Lucky Brandon Staley Is His Coach

Often hailed as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, LA Chargers QB Justin Herbert threw a pair of interceptions in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs. He’s now tossed at least one pick in three straight games after playing turnover-free football during the first three weeks of the season. A fourth-year player who has the disadvantage of playing in the same division as two-time MVP Patrick Mahomes, Herbert now has 13 career interceptions in the fourth quarter of one-score games, the most picks thrown with the game on the line by any quarterback since he entered the NFL in 2020.

Now a game below .500 in his career and winless in his lone playoff appearance, Herbert has thrown far more touchdowns (104) than interceptions (39) but hasn’t done the most important thing to be a successful NFL quarterback: win football games. Fortunately for Herbert, this is his third year playing with overmatched Brandon Staley as his head coach, so he is generally able to avoid criticism with most people focusing on the overall issues that have prevented the Chargers from winning ballgames.

Make no mistake, from poor clock management to over-aggressiveness on fourth down, there are plenty of issues with the team. But, whether anyone in LA wants to acknowledge it, Herbert is certainly one of them.

“It hasn’t gone our way the past couple of games, but no one’s going to panic, no one’s going to quit, no one’s going to give up,” Herbert told reporters after the loss. “I know we’re going to attack practice this week the same way we have each of the past weeks. So I’m looking for the challenge, the opportunity. A tough week, but we’re going to get better because of it.”

The door isn’t closed on Herbert and Staley righting the ship and returning to the playoffs for the second straight season, as the Chargers have a trio of beatable opponents on their schedule (Bears, Broncos and Packers). But, unless something changes drastically, there’s no reason to think the Chargers will be anything more than a one-and-done team if they do make it to the postseason. Staley will likely take the fall, but Herbert will deserve his fair share of the blame. Don’t expect the Chargers to admit it.

Give Mike Tomlin His Due

Often left out of conversations about the best coaches in the NFL, Mike Tomlin took over in Pittsburgh in 2007 and has been running his team longer than any other coach in the NFL, besides Bill Belichick in New England. Unlike Belichick, Tomlin has never presided over a losing team and has guided the Steelers to two Super Bowls, winning one.

Coming off their bye week at 3-2 following an upset win over the Ravens in Week 5, the Steelers were underdogs against the Rams on the road in Los Angeles. Despite not getting a touchdown pass from second-year quarterback Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh was able to pick up a 24-17 road win to run their record to 4-2 on the season. Though the win was regarded as an upset, perhaps it shouldn’t have been, given Tomlin’s record following his team’s bye week.

Under Tomlin, the Steelers now have a 13-4 record and haven’t lost coming out of a bye week since dropping a 21-14 game on the road against Baltimore in 2016. It’s time to give Tomlin the same credit that’s handed out to Belichick, Andy Reid and other top-tier coaches in the NFL.

“They don’t blink,” Tomlin said of his team following their win over the Rams. “They cut their eyelids off, and they go at it. Like I told them, it’s not a compliment. It’s required. I’m just acknowledging it. We better be prepared to fight every time we step into the stadium because that’s what the National Football League is about. It’s a fight. It always is a fight. Sometimes it’s man versus himself. Sometimes it’s man versus opponent.”

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.