Current Hawkeyes aren’t scoring touchdowns, but former Hawkeyes are! Let’s take a look at the week that was in the National Football League.
Jack Campbell, Sam LaPorta, and Matt Nelson
Hawkeyes Lions continue their solid start to the year. After a minor set back in Week 2 against Seattle – Seattle sort of has their number; they beat Detroit last year as well – the Lions got back in the win column with an impressive 20-6 win over Atlanta. The Falcons came in with one of the best ground games in the league, but the Lions defense held the Falcons to just 44 yards rushing.
A primary piece for the Lions was Campbell. The rookie linebacker recorded 6 tackles (3 solo) and picked up his first career sack, taking down Desmond Ridder right before halftime.
Burying the lede – LaPorta recorded his first career touchdown as a pro, a 45-yard strike that had the Atlanta defense completely fooled. It’s the easiest TD LaPorta will score in the NFL.
He finished with 8 receptions (11 targets) for 84 yards and a score as he’s quickly becoming one of Jared Goff’s favorite targets.
The one negative from this game is Matt Nelson. Nelson started Weeks 2 and 3 at right tackle, but he suffered an ankle injury that Lions coach Dan Campbell said requires surgery. After two starts, Nelson is now on injured reserve.
George Kittle, Dane Belton, and Casey Kreiter
After a somewhat slow start to the year, Kittle came alive in San Francisco’s 30-12 win over the New York Giants. Kittle hauled in 7 receptions on 9 targets for 90 yards. That is a good day at the office for Kittle as the 49ers continue their impressive start to the season, moving to 3-0.
Meanwhile, the Giants just stink. Dane Belton recorded no stats for the second-straight week and saw just a single snap on defense (19 on special teams), while Kreiter saw 8 snaps as the Giants slumped to 1-2.
AJ Epenesa and Micah Hyde
Admittedly, I lose track of Epenesa. He’s had an up-and-down career so far. He had a quick start last year, notching 1.5 sacks in the season opener and looked borderline unblockable. Then he had 5 sacks the rest of the year. This year, he had nothing through Week 2.
Sunday he changed that, notching his first sack of the year in Buffalo’s 37-3 demolition of Washington. Even better, Epenesa recorded his first career interception, taking the pick 32 yards to the house for his first career touchdown.
And an AJ Epenesa pick-6?! Hawks in the league are fired up today pic.twitter.com/p88VF5W6sX— Barstool Iowa (@BarstoolUIowa) September 24, 2023
Epenesa was central to Micah Hyde recording his first pick of the year, pressuring Sam Howell into the bad throw that Hyde snagged. Hyde also finished with 2 tackles in Buffalo’s rout of the Commanders. After a tough Week 1 with the Jets, the Bills look to be back on their feet heading into an early contender for game of the year with Miami heading north. More on the Dolphins in a moment.
TJ Hockenson and Nick Niemann
Hockenson was again a favorite target for Kirk Cousins in Minnesota’s 28-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. Hockenson was targeted 11 times by Cousins and finished with 8 catches for 78 yards. But it’s another loss for the Vikings, who dropped to 0-3 and are nearing blow it up status.
Niemann had another solid outing for the Chargers, recording 8 tackles as the Chargers picked up their first win of the year.
Noah Fant and Ihmir Smith-Marsette
After no stats in Week 1, Fant has been targeted more in Weeks 2 and 3. He followed last week with 4 more receptions for 41 yards. Good bounce back the last couple of weeks for Fant. He’s now at 8 receptions for 97 yards after no targets Week 1.
On the other sideline, ISM had no receptions and had a two punt returns for -3 yards.
Josey Jewell/Bronco Corner
I’m jumping here to close us out. Jewell recorded 4 tackles Sunday before he was forced from the game with a groin injury.
“What game was that?” you ask? A 70-20 loss to the Miami Dolphins. 70. Points. Allowed. 70 points and 726 yards of offense for Miami. Both totals were the second-most in a single game in NFL history. They could’ve set the points record and looked a good bet to get the yardage total, but coach Mike McDaniel – born in nearby Aurora and a Mike/Kyle Shanahan protégé– opted for the mercy kneel down inside the 30, well inside field goal range. Here’s McDaniel from his youth, then him in those goofy sunglasses on the sideline Sunday, looking very South Beach:
Mike McDaniel put on a coaching clinic against his hometown team. Talk about full circle pic.twitter.com/CPrKgvaZUP— NFL (@NFL) September 25, 2023
Honestly? I wanted Miami to break the records. You go for those records if they are there to be broken. It was a huge talking point the last 2 or so minutes on the broadcast, that the NFL is a small community and you don’t want to embarrass someone, but I imagine Sean Payton would’ve understood. You’re that close to points and yardage records, records that have stood forever – you go for it.
As for the Broncos, this photo sums it up. I don’t think I’ve ever seen 6 defenders on the floor on a single play.
I don't think any photo covers the Miami/Denver game better than this one. McDaniel had the Broncos in hell. pic.twitter.com/p0MX57XjbG— Jake Burns (@jake_burns18) September 25, 2023
Denver has been a Broncos town since the mid-1970s. Between 1976 and 2015, the Broncos had just six losing seasons. The Nuggets were the only second banana for most of this but were never a serious threat to win anything, never a serious threat to take the crown. The Rockies showed up and stole some thunder but they’ve settled into becoming an unserious organization. The Avs showed up and won immediately, but they also entered a period of losing before their recent upswing. The Broncos have had six losing seasons since winning Super Bowl 50, and it’s likely to be seven after an 0-3 start. Their grip on the city might be loosening ever so slightly. The Avs have a couple of the best players in the NHL and won the Stanley Cup two years ago. The Nuggets just won their first title and have the undisputed best player in the world in Nikola Jokić. Both teams will be among the favorites to win the title again, if not the outright favorite in the case of the Nuggets. Fortunately for everyone here the Nuggets start training camp next week.
The Broncos have to be over the Moon to share this city with the Rockies. The Rockies are an organization that has no desire to win anything, who play in what is essentially a giant outdoor bar with excellent mountain views. They will lose 100 games for the first time in franchise history, maybe as early as Tuesday (series with the Dodgers at Coors Field, so they’re definitely losing at least one of those games). The Broncos are so lucky they’re around.
Let’s leave it on something a little lighter.