Salem Radio Network News Friday, November 26, 2021

Sports

Inconsistency is the NFL norm through 1st month of season

Tom Brady led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in rushing. The Kansas City Chiefs turned the ball over on their first three possessions.

No surprise, both 2020 NFL conference champions lost Sunday.

Three weeks into this season and inconsistency has become the norm, even for some of the league’s top contenders.

The Chiefs (1-2), Seahawks (1-2) and Steelers (1-2) have lost two in a row. The Buccaneers would be 1-2 if it wasn’t for a last-minute field goal in Week 1. Same for the Packers, who needed Aaron Rodgers’ heroics and a last-second 51-yard field goal from Mason Crosby to beat the 49ers on Sunday night for their second straight victory after they were blown out by New Orleans in their opener.

The Ravens (2-1) had to get a record-setting 66-yard field goal by Justin Tucker to avoid losing to Detroit. The Colts (0-3) are winless and the Patriots (1-2) lost by 15 at home to the Saints.

Many teams are feeling their way through September after most of their starters barely played in August. There are exceptions, of course. The Rams held many starters out of exhibition games and they’re one of five undefeated teams, along with the Cardinals, Broncos, Panthers and Raiders.

The defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers saw their weaknesses exposed by the Rams in a 34-24 loss. A depleted secondary couldn’t stop a high-powered offense led by Matthew Stafford and Tampa’s offense didn’t give Brady much help. Brady threw 55 times and led the way on the ground with 14 yards and one touchdown.

“Just not a great complementary game by us,” Brady said after playing in Los Angeles for the first time in his 22-year career. “Got to learn from it. … All around, the offense needs to be better.”

Patrick Mahomes had never lost a game or thrown an interception in September until last week. Now the Chiefs have dropped two in a row, giving Mahomes his first losing record in the NFL. Mahomes threw a pick on the opening possession and another one with the score tied and 1:42 left that led to Justin Herbert throwing the winning TD.

“Everybody isn’t happy with how we played,” Mahomes said. “Whenever you lose a game at home to a divisional opponent, it isn’t a good thing. We haven’t had a lot of that in my time here, but it’s about how you respond. We have a long season ahead of us. It looks really dim right now, but if we can find a way to get better from this and learn how to win these types of games, we’ll be where we want to be at the end of the season.”

Mahomes is right. It’s a long season made even longer by a 17th game, and there’s plenty of time for the Chiefs and others to get on track. Consistency down the stretch — not the first few weeks — is the key to postseason success.

But some of the teams off to rough starts may not have what it takes to turn things around.

Pittsburgh’s loss to Cincinnati could signal a changing of the guard. The Steelers had won 14 of 16 against the Bengals, but Joe Burrow is healthy and he has weapons around him. Meanwhile, 39-year-old Ben Roethlisberger is closer to the end, and Pittsburgh is 2-6 since starting 11-0 last year.

Indianapolis hoped Carson Wentz would help the team get over the playoff hump, but his struggles in Philadelphia have carried over. The only constant for Wentz is he’s banged-up and gets beaten up.

While Wentz’s second chance with a new team hasn’t gone well so far, Teddy Bridgewater is making the most of his new opportunity in Denver. He has a 116.4 passer rating in three games against the winless Giants, Jaguars and Jets. The real test comes when the Broncos face tougher opponents.

Derek Carr is silencing critics and playing like an MVP candidate for the Raiders, who’ve already won twice in overtime. But a Monday night showdown against Herbert and the Chargers next week presents another challenge.

October is coming. It may take a while for consistent play to follow.

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Corrects to show five undefeated teams, adding Panthers.

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter at https://twitter.com/robmaaddi and his work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/robmaaddi

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More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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