By Anthony McClean, Editor-In-Chief Emeritus
As we reach the unofficial midpoint of the season, we also take a look at the recent happenings and contributions of the Field Generals through the first eight games. Entering Thursday’s game between Philly and Houston, five of Field Generals are sitting atop their divisions including Jalen Hurts and the undefeated Eagles.
Technically, there was a sixth as rookie Mailk Willis made his first career start on Sunday for the first place Titans. The former Liberty standout was part of an overall successful week for the Field Generals. Including two head-to-head matchups, the Field Generals went 9-3 overall this past Sunday.
One of the head-to-head matchups was a battle for first place in the NFC South between Carolina (DJ Walker) and Atlanta in Dixie. We’ll review that game, Willis’ debut under center, and all the other running stories through the second quarter of another long NFL campaign.
Lamar Jackson, Ravens
While Baltimore now has a modest two-game win streak, the most important thing was that they didn’t blow another fourth quarter lead. As for LJ, he threw for 238 yards and a pair of second-half touchdowns. No. 8 completed all eight of his passes after halftime, and the Ravens finished with 231 yards after only running the ball seven times in the first two quarters. The Ravens (5-3) ran for all but 27 of its 231 yards rushing in the second half, while Jackson finished 27 of 38 passes without an interception. Baltimore averaged 7 yards per carry and topped 150 yards rushing for the seventh straight game, the longest active streak in the NFL.
Russell Wilson, Broncos
A trip outside the country proved to be just the tonic Denver’s struggling offense needed. Despite the sloppiness (12 penalties for 81 yards), Wilson and the Broncos had their most productive day of the season in London. Denver snapped a four-game losing streak as No. 3 led two go-ahead scoring drives in the second half on his return from a hamstring injury. He finished 18 for 30 for 252 yards with a touchdown and interception. Wilson missed last week’s game because of a strained hamstring and threw the aforementioned interception on his second pass of the game. The announced attendance of 86,215 was the largest crowd in the history of NFL international games.
Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins
A month ago, we were wondering if we’d ever see Tua back on the playing field after a horrific injury. Now, Miami (5-3) has won two straight since Tagovailoa returned from a concussion. The third-year quarterback was 29 of 36 for 382 yards with three touchdowns in the win at Motown. Part of that overall resurgence has been the play of wideouts Tyreek Hill (12 receptions for 188 yards) and Jaylen Waddle (eight catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns). The pair have 1,688 yards receiving combined, setting a Super Bowl era record for two teammates through the first eight games of a season. Hill had more than 160 yards receiving for the fourth game, one short of the NFL record set by Roy Green with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1984.
Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs
While Kansas City was off last week, the team and No. 15 was still basking in the glow of a stirring comeback victory at the hands of the 49ers two weeks ago. Mahomes threw for 423 yards and three touchdowns as the Chiefs rallied back from another double-digit deficit in the win at Santa Clara. The comeback improved Kansas City to 13-9 with Mahomes when falling behind by at least 10 points with the most memorable coming in a Super Bowl win over the 49ers following the 2019 season. Down 10-0 early in the first quarter, No. 15 led the Chiefs to touchdowns on six of the next seven drives in what proved to be K.C.’s most productive offensive game of the season.
Jacoby Brissett, Browns
Speaking of teams coming together, the Browns used Halloween night to exorcise some of their offensive demons in the win against their crosstown rivals in Cincinnati. The Browns (3-5) ended a four-game losing streak, and in the process saved their season from slipping away. While Nick Chubb (two TD’s) was the catalyst, Brissett was able to get some consistency as well. He also ran for one score and passed for another, leading Cleveland to its fifth straight win over Cincinnati. He completed 17 of 22 for 278 yards and a career-high 133.7 rating while outplaying Joe Burrow. It was Cleveland’s second blowout of Cincinnati in the past two years. The Browns thumped the Bengals 41-6 in their first meeting last year.
Malik Willis, Titans
Making your NFL debut can be stressful. However, when you have one of the league’s best backs on your side, it can make things go much smoother. Willis was a modest 17 of 29 for 152 yards with an interception and a touchdown while playing without leading wideout Nico Collins who was out with an injury. Leave it to King Derrick Henry to take control of the situation as he dominated the Texans again, running for 219 yards and two touchdowns to carry the Titans to a win. It was Henry’s fourth straight 200-yard game against the Texans, making him the first player in NFL history to have at least 150 yards and two touchdowns on the ground in four consecutive games against the same opponent.
Jalen Hurts, Eagles
With their win at Houston, the Eagles are the 29th team in the Super Bowl era to start 8-0 and the other 28 all made the playoffs. 15 of those teams went on to win their conference and eight won the Super Bowl. Following a slow start, Hurts threw for 243 yards and two touchdowns in the win. The Houston native continued his solid play in his homecoming to win his 11th straight regular-season game, which is the longest active streak in the NFL. It’s actually kind of silly that No. 1’s name isn’t mentioned in this year’s MVP discussion.
Marcus Mariota, Falcons
On his 29th birthday, Mariota was able to help lead Atlanta back to the .500 mark and first place in the NFC South. Mariota was 20 of 28 for 253 yards with three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions, his first coming on the second play of the game. However, No. 1 was good between those picks, completing 12 straight passes at one point. He also ripped off a 30-yard run that set up Younghoe Koo’s game-winner with 1:55 left in the extra period. The teams combined for three touchdowns in the final 3:06 of regulation.
D.J. Walker, Panthers
On the other side of the game, Walker had a mixed bag and really did enough to get the win. However, a questionable penalty call and a missed field goal in overtime proved to be fatal. He was 19 of 36 for a career-best 317 yards, with an interception in his third straight start for Carolina. Walker appeared to have thrown the game-winning TD pass to D.J. Moore with 12 seconds remaining, tying the game at 34 with only an extra point needed to win it. But Moore yanked off his helmet during a raucous celebration in the end zone, resulting in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Moore’s blunder pushed back the PAT to a 48-yard attempt, and kicker Eddy Piñeiro pulled it left of the upright. Piñeiro also botched another kick, yanking a wobbler left again from 32 yards out — shorter than a regular extra point.
Dak Prescott, Cowboys
This win should kill all the “Cooper Rush should remain the starter” propaganda coming out of Arlington via J.J.’s office. The Cowboys (6-2) scored touchdowns on their first four possessions for the first time since 2014 with the win. Prescott was 21 of 27 for 250 yards with an interception in his second game back after missing five with a fractured right thumb. His unexpected 25-yard sneak, which led to the third Dallas TD, boosted Prescott to 34 yards with just the second rushing score since the start of 2021 for the franchise leader in rushing touchdowns for a QB (26).
Justin Fields, Bears
So much for all the momentum gained in the win at Foxboro. However, this was not because of Mr. Fields was trying to do on his end. The Chicago QB was 17 of 23 without an interception (one was negated by a roughing-the-passer penalty) for a career-best 120 passer rating. Both of the 100-plus ratings of his career have come in the past four games. He rallied the Bears (3-5) within five after trailing 28-7 by throwing for two touchdowns and running for a score. However, a David Montgomery fumble in the third and Fields’ missed tackle on Micah Parsons’ recovery was a crushing blow.
Kyler Murray, Cardinals
Close, but no cigar again for Murray and the Cards as they were outlasted by the Vikings. Last year when they met, No. 1 had three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 34-33 win. On Sunday, he passed for 326 yards and a season-high three touchdowns, but he threw two second-half interceptions that proved costly for the Cardinals (3-5). The Cardinals went ahead 17-14 on Murray’s touchdown pass to Zach Ertz early in the third quarter, but the lead lasted only 3:26. The Cardinals crossed midfield on each of their last three possessions over the last half of the fourth quarter while trailing by one score — and never got closer than the 37.
Geno Smith, Seahawks
The continuing story of Smith has been one of best stories in the NFL this season. In Sunday’s win, Smith was 23 of 34 for 212 yards and two touchdowns, including a 3-yard TD pass to DK Metcalf in the second quarter. Smith was 5 for 5 for 75 yards on the drive capped by Tyler Lockett’s scoring catch. He leads the league in completion rate (72.7%) and ranks third in touchdown-to-interception ratio at 13-3. Defensively, the Seahawks corralled Saquon Barkley, who was held to a season-low 53 yards on 20 carries and had three catches for 9 yards.
Jameis Winston, Saints
Winston started the first three games of the season but injured his back in New Orleans’ win over Atlanta in Week 1. He played through the injury for two games before the Saints sat him to get healthy. However, head coach Dennis Allen has clarified that Andy Dalton will remain the team’s starter as long as the offense continues to perform. Since the change, Dalton has gone 2-3 in those games including Sunday’s 24-0 shutout against the Raiders.
NOTE: BASN staff reporter Gary Norris Gray contributed to this story.
Anthony McClean can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.