The biggest story of Week 3 in the NFL was a big bummer.
The 49ers lost their $137 million man, Jimmy Garoppolo. Finally given his own team and a chance to prove himself after four years of sitting patiently by Tom Brady, Garoppolo lasted only three games this season. He tore his left ACL late in Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs, a noncontact injury that will cost him the rest of the season. The 49ers now turn to C.J. Beathard, who led the team to a 1-9 record last year.
“I’m not going to sugar-coat it. It was hard waking up today,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday. “We were down, disappointed about it, because we were looking forward to a lot playing with Jimmy this year, and going through the good and the bad that would happen, knowing that he would benefit from all of it.
“Now, we don’t get to do that. I know Jimmy is really down about it.”
Garoppolo’s injury is where we start our Week 3 review:
■ Equally disappointing is that we still don’t have a good read on Garoppolo. Like many people in New England, I’m genuinely intrigued to see how good he is, and what Bill Belichick saw in him.
We have seen glimpses, but Garoppolo has only 10 starts on his résumé. He’s still an unknown quantity, and we won’t know any more about him until next year. He was great at the end of 2017, and had three solid performances to start this season (though the 49ers are 1-2), but he remains more hype and potential than known quantity.
Garoppolo’s injury doesn’t prove that the Patriots were right to trade him and keep Brady — it’s not as if Garoppolo were a torn ACL waiting to happen. But this is the second time in Garoppolo’s young career that he has suffered an injury while trying to do too much. In 2016, he sprained the AC joint in his shoulder when he took a hit trying to make a throw on the run. Now he tears his ACL trying to pick up extra yardage on the ground when he should have stepped out of bounds.
“I think it’s a reminder to all quarterbacks and coaches,” Shanahan said. “I think that’s something that Jimmy will probably look at differently going forward, because I know he’ll remember this the rest of his life.
“Nothing against him. I think this happens with everyone. I think it’s just a reminder for everyone why that is the obvious coaching point.”
The 49ers have to feel snakebitten. There was much excitement about them in the offseason as they invested all that money in Garoppolo and signed scatback Jerick McKinnon for $12 million to be his secret weapon in the passing game. But McKinnon tore an ACL a week before the season, and now Garoppolo has torn one in Week 3.
The duo will spend the fall working together not on the football field but in rehab. And the 49ers have to slog through 13 games with backup quarterbacks.
■ The best video you will watch from the weekend is the Lions’ locker room reaction following their 26-10 win over the Patriots. It’s hard not to feel good for Matt Patricia, who took a ton of heat after two bad losses to start the season.
Patricia got bear hugs from Lions president Rod Wood and general manager Bob Quinn, then jumped around in celebration with his players, who tousled his hair and gave him the game ball. This video should put to bed the notion that Patricia had lost the locker room (Patriots players almost universally seemed to love Patricia when he was in Foxborough).
But Patricia still has one significant issue to clean up. The Jets players said after their big Week 1 win that they knew the Lions’ signals and what plays were coming, and that popped up again Sunday night against the Patriots.
Midway through the first quarter, Matt Stafford makes an audible at the line of scrimmage, and a Patriots defender (possibly Kyle Van Noy) calls out, “It’s a toss.” Van Noy points to his left — and sure enough, the play is a toss to LeGarrette Blount to the left. Van Noy blows up the play in the backfield but misses the tackle, and Blount makes it back to the line of scrimmage.
■ NFL teams just can’t help themselves. The Browns, Jets, Bills, and Cardinals all put veteran quarterbacks in place so they could take their time with their first-round rookies and not rush them into action. Yet here we are after three weeks, and all four teams have turned to their rookies, with Baker Mayfield (Cleveland) and Josh Rosen (Arizona) set to make their first starts this week.
It’s the right move in each case, of course. You’re spinning your wheels and going nowhere with the veterans. The difference between Mayfield and Tyrod Taylor last Thursday night was dramatic. While sitting for a year certainly helped Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City, today’s NFL is built for quarterbacks to play right away, and there’s no learning experience like taking real NFL snaps.
With Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Mayfield, and Rosen set to start this week, it will mark only the second time in NFL history that four first-round rookie QBs will start in the same week. It happened several times in 2012 (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden).
■ Meanwhile, Sam Bradford may not be long for Arizona. While he received a $10 million signing bonus and a guaranteed $5 million salary, Bradford also makes $312,500 for each game he is active. If Rosen is going to play, and Mike Glennon is also on the team, the Cardinals can save more than $4 million by making Bradford inactive each week (or more likely, releasing him).
■ It remains to be seen whether Jon Gruden can still coach — his Raiders are 0-3 and his roster is one of the oldest and worst in the NFL — but the man is a Hall of Fame quote machine.
Gruden said Monday that he anticipates the Browns will use jet sweeps against them this Sunday because the Raiders have been hit by several of them this season.
“If there’s $20 bills being spit out of a teller right down the street, you and I are going to get in line,” Gruden told reporters.
■ Got to love the creativity and no-holds-barred attitude from Dolphins coach Adam Gase. Trailing at home to the Raiders in the fourth quarter, Gase called a double-reverse option pass that resulted in a 52-yard touchdown from Albert Wilson to Jakeem Grant, and then an end-around flip pass that resulted in a 74-yard touchdown for Wilson and a nice win for the Dolphins.
Gase said he got the reverse pass from former Rams coach Mike Martz, who visited during training camp.
“It was just straight thievery,” Gase said. “I mean, we stole it. It’s an old Martz play. It’s just nobody watches his old stuff. They might now.”
Many expected Sunday’s Patriots-Dolphins game to feature a 1-2 team vs. a 3-0 team, but no one expected that undefeated team to be the Dolphins.
■ Like many people, I would like to see NFL officials dial back the roughing-the-passer penalties, with 13 more called this week and 34 for the season, on pace for a record number by a significant amount. And there’s no doubt that William Hayes’s injury is unfortunate; he tore an ACL while twisting his body during a sack, trying not to land with his full body weight on Derek Carr.
But let’s stop whining about the latest Clay Matthews hit. The Week 2 penalty was absurd, but this one was obvious. Matthews grabbed Alex Smith up high, drove him into the ground, and landed on Smith with his full body weight. The NFL has been quite clear that this would now be a penalty, and Matthews’s hit was a textbook example.
Complain about the rule and the NFL’s emphasis if you want, but the application of it in this case was 100 percent correct.
Tracking current and former Patriots
■ Rob Gronkowski could have a tough time earning all $3.3 million in performance incentives. He has 13 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown, a pace of 69 catches, 1,008 yards, and 5 touchdowns (he needs 70 catches, 1,085 yards, and 9 TDs). But Gronk is certainly doing his part when it comes to playing time. He needs to hit 80 percent, and so far he has played 181 of 184 snaps (98 percent).
For someone who skipped offseason workouts and wants to do his own thing when it comes to training, Gronk’s durability and conditioning have been impressive so far, and he is certainly holding up his end of the bargain.
■ It was another big day for Brandin Cooks, with 7 catches for 90 yards in the Rams’ win over the Chargers. Overall Cooks has 19 catches for 336 yards (17.7-yard average), on pace for 101 catches and 1,792 yards, though he doesn’t have a touchdown yet. He’s a terrific fit in Sean McVay’s offense
■ Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler had a much better day after an inconsistent first two weeks. He finished with just three tackles, but was part of a defense that shut down Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles, holding him to 155 yards and a long completion of 15. The Jaguars also scored just 6 points on the day.
■ Dion Lewis is averaging only 3.7 yards per carry and had a tough time against the Jaguars, rushing nine times for 26 yards. But opposing defenses are keying on the run with Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota hurt.
■ Danny Amendola isn’t playing like a $6 million receiver, as he caught just three passes for 42 yards Sunday, and has just 11 catches for 100 yards so far. But the Dolphins are 3-0, Amendola has caught 11 of his 13 targets, and he brings a solid veteran presence. The Dolphins are more than happy to have him.
Our favorite stats and nuggets from Week 3
■ The Chiefs are just the third team in NFL history to score at least 38 points in each of their first three games, joining the 1967 Colts and 2007 Patriots. Hope it ends better for them than it did for those Patriots.
■ Drew Brees is now the all-time NFL leader in pass completions, with 6,326 (and counting). He also become the first player in history with 350 passing yards, three TD passes, two TD runs, and no interceptions in a single game.
■ Saints receiver Michael Thomas, meanwhile, is the first player in NFL history with at least 10 catches in the first three games of a season. Thomas has 38 catches for 398 yards and three touchdowns, a pace for 202 catches, 2,122 yards, and 16 touchdowns. I say he gets there.
■ The Falcons have figured out their red zone woes. After just one touchdown in five trips in the season opener, they have scored touchdowns in eight straight trips.
■ The Ravens are even more efficient in the red zone, scoring touchdowns in all 12 trips this year.
■ Chicago’s Khalil Mack has a sack and a forced fumble in all three games this year. The last player to record a sack and forced fumble in three straight games? Mack, in 2016.
■ Cowboys QB Dak Prescott has thrown for less than 200 yards in five straight games, averaging 5.6 yards per attempt with only three touchdowns and four interceptions. No Cowboys QB had gone five straight games under 200 yards since Quincy Carter in 2003.