The man who should be Tom Brady’s heir was off in another city Sunday, slinging touchdowns for his new team and leading it to victory.
No, not Jimmy Garoppolo. Even Bill Belichick has come to terms with having to trade him away to San Francisco.
But the Patriots appear to have given up on a second franchise quarterback in Jacoby Brissett, who led the Colts to a 27-24 win over the Falcons.
Brissett would have looked awfully nice in a Patriots uniform this season, preparing to take over for Brady in 2020 or ’21. His play for the Colts, who improved to 2-1, is where we begin the Week 3 review:
■ The Colts said all preseason that they believe Brissett is a top-20 quarterback, and he is proving it so far. Making his 20th career start Sunday, Brissett had the best game of his career: 28 of 37 passing, 310 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He completed his first 16 passes, and also led a five-minute touchdown drive in the fourth quarter to essentially seal the win.
“You can’t play quarterback much better than he played today,’’ Colts coach Frank Reich said. “This is the standard. Not that you can play this great every week, but this is what you expect, and he delivered.’’
The Colts weren’t totally fazed by Andrew Luck’s retirement in August because they believed in Brissett. He is averaging only 215 passing yards per game and isn’t pushing the ball down the field (23rd in yards per attempt), but he’s playing efficient football: a 71.7 completion percentage, seven touchdowns, one interception, and a 112.0 passer rating, sixth best in the NFL.
It’s hard not to think that Brissett would be a perfect fit as the Patriots’ quarterback-in-waiting. The timing didn’t work out with Garoppolo, but it lined up much better with Brissett. The Patriots would have had Brissett this season on the final year of his rookie contract, playing for about $2 million. Then they could have signed him to a bridge deal similar to the two-year, $30 million deal he signed with the Colts.
Instead, they traded him at roster cutdowns in 2017 (presumably because Belichick believed he would be able to keep Garoppolo) for receiver Phillip Dorsett, who was a contributor for two years but now has developed into a dependable receiver and an emerging big-play threat.
But a franchise quarterback is far more valuable than a No. 2 receiver. And I’ll bet Belichick would take a mulligan on that Brissett trade if he could.
■ Speaking of Garoppolo, he had another roller-coaster game for the 49ers, throwing one touchdown pass and two interceptions. But Jimmy G pulled out the victory again, throwing a touchdown pass to Dante Pettis with 1:15 left in a 24-20 win over the Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers.
Garoppolo has five touchdowns against four interceptions this year, but the Niners are fifth in the league in scoring (32 points per game) and are 3-0 for the first time since 1998. They won Sunday despite turning the ball over five times, becoming the first team to do so since Week 17 of 2015.
■ This Pat Mahomes kid can play, huh? Another ho-hum day: 374 yards passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions in the Chiefs’ 33-28 statement win over the Ravens.
Mahomes is off to another ridiculous start, leading the NFL with a 134.9 rating, 398.3 yards per game, 10 touchdown passes, and no interceptions. Mahomes’s passer rating is the fifth highest of all time through three games — Brady’s 2007 season (141.8) remains the standard — and Mahomes is on pace for 6,373 passing yards, which would shatter Peyton Manning’s record of 5,477.
The NFL has had back-to-back MVPs five times, most recently Manning in 2008-09. Mahomes may join the club this season.
■ Week 3 was the Week of the Backup Quarterback. Seven teams started a different quarterback than they had in Week 1, and the backups went a more-than-respectable 4-3.
Panthers backup Kyle Allen had a memorable day in his first NFL start. Allen, who went undrafted in 2018, completed 19 of 26 passes for 261 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions in the Panthers’ 38-20 win at Arizona. Allen beat out third-round pick Will Grier for the backup job, and played well enough Sunday that Carolina should be judicious in bringing Cam Newton back from his injuries.
Jaguars rookie sixth-round pick Gardner Minshew picked up his first NFL win Thursday night over the Titans.
Teddy Bridgewater threw for only 177 yards, but he didn’t commit a turnover and got help from punt-return and fumble-return touchdowns in the Saints’ impressive 33-27 road win at Seattle.
And Daniel Jones was a revelation, leading the Giants back from an 18-point deficit in a 32-31 win at Tampa Bay. Jones threw for 336 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions, while also rushing for 28 yards and two touchdowns. Eli Manning is 0-43 in his career when trailing by 18 points. Jones is 1-0.
But the Jets’ Luke Falk, the Steelers’ Mason Rudolph, and the Dolphins’ Josh Rosen all played like backups. Rudolph threw for 174 yards in the loss to the 49ers, but 76 came on a lucky catch-and-run touchdown by JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Dolphins were still punchless despite the quarterback change, with Rosen throwing for just 200 yards and managing only 6 points in a loss at Dallas. And Falk and the Jets gained only 105 total yards, the fewest allowed by a Belichick defense in his Patriots tenure.
■ It took all of three weeks for the shine to come off Baker Mayfield, Freddie Kitchens, and the Cleveland Browns, who dropped to 1-2 with a 20-13 loss to the Rams.
Mayfield has been awful so far, throwing three touchdown passes against five interceptions and ranking 31st in passer rating (70.3). Sunday night, he completed only 50 percent of his passes, threw for 195 yards, and couldn’t get the Browns in the end zone on four attempts at the end of the game.
Kitchens, meanwhile, is having a rough start in his first year as head coach. The Browns ran a draw play on fourth and 9 that got stuffed, and didn’t run the ball once from the 4-yard line in the final four plays.
“I should have ran it one time,” Kitchens said. “I should have, that’s why I’m kicking myself in the ass for it right now.”
■ Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians apparently lives in an alternate universe, because he said he purposely took a delay-of-game penalty to give his kicker a longer field goal attempt. Matt Gay should have lined up a 29-yarder for the win, but instead was pushed back to 34. Naturally, he missed it wide right, and the Bucs lost, 32-31.
“I just took it on purpose,” said Arians. “He’s better back there. That field goal is easier back 5 yards. We wanted to move the ball, put it in the middle and make it easier.”
Former Patriots players
■ Lions DE Trey Flowers: Had his first sack of the season and added a team-high eight tackles in a 27-24 win over the Eagles. Flowers was limited the first two weeks but finally had his breakout game.
■ Titans CB Malcolm Butler: Gave up a touchdown to Jaguars receiver DJ Chark, but more importantly played every snap and has regained his starting spot after losing it last year.
■ Colts K Adam Vinatieri: Got back on track by making all five of his kicks — three extra points and two field goals, including a 49-yarder.
Former Patriots coaches
■ Lions coach Matt Patricia: Has Detroit at 2-0-1 after a big road win at Philadelphia. The Lions have gone two straight games without allowing a sack for the first time since 2011.
■ Dolphins coach Brian Flores: Miami is 32nd in points, 32nd in points against, and, for the second week in a row, couldn’t cover a three-touchdown spread.
■ Titans coach Mike Vrabel: Dropped to 1-2 with the loss to the Jaguars, and probably has a big decision at quarterback looming between Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill.
■ Texans coach Bill O’Brien: Improved to 2-1 win with an impressive 27-20 road win at the Chargers, erasing a 10-point halftime deficit. Could be 4-1 with upcoming home games against Carolina and Atlanta.
■ For just the second time in NFL history (1998), there are eight unbeaten teams after three weeks (Bills, Chiefs, Cowboys, Packers, Patriots, Rams, 49ers, Lions).
■ The Patriots’ plus-89 scoring margin through three weeks is tied with the 1996 Packers for the best since the 1970 merger.
■ The Jets haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in Gillette Stadium since 2015.
■ Jones became the first rookie in the Super Bowl era with 300 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, and two rushing touchdowns in the same game.
■ The Dolphins’ minus-117 point differential is the third worst in NFL history, behind the 1922 Louisville Brecks and 1923 Rochester Jeffersons.