Take 5: Patriots, pass-rush, Patrick Mahomes



New Chicago Bears pass rusher Khalil Mack holds up a jersey during a press conference on Sunday, Sept. 2, at the PNC Center at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Ill. (Erin Hooley/Chicago Tribune/TNS)

By The Pitt News Staff

In a week with an abundance of compelling NFL storylines, The Pitt News staff provides some insight on the top talking points.

The Patriots are going to win it all … again

Unfortunately for non-Patriots fans, the teams that could have challenged New England in the postseason this year have hit a few hurdles. The Jaguars — who nearly toppled the Patriots in the 2017 AFC Championship game — just lost starting left tackle Cam Robinson for the year due to an ACL injury, and their workhorse running back Leonard Fournette keeps dealing with injuries.

Meanwhile, the Steelers’ offense has been plagued with drama, from Antonio Brown to Le’Veon Bell, and their defense has severely underperformed. With the struggles of the two toughest challengers to the Patriots, the last thing that needed to happen was the acquisition of Josh Gordon.

The last time Tom Brady had a receiver with the talent of Josh Gordon, he led the league’s most prolific offense with an undefeated record. If Josh Gordon somehow manages to stay healthy and substance-free, the Patriots will win the Super Bowl. It may seem like a stretch, but the last time Gordon played to his ability he snagged 87 catches for more than 1,600 yards and nine touchdowns. His quarterbacks over that incredible 14-game stretch consisted of no-names like Jason Campbell, Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer.

I have no doubt the Patriots will make the Super Bowl and that Bill Belichick will scheme his defense against whatever team has to face them. If Gordon can be the weapon that New England traded for, all the rest of the league can do now is watch and hope that some team gets lucky and knocks the Pats out of the playoffs.

— Sami Abu-Obaid, For the Pitt News

The time is over for NFL overtime

After two ties in the first two weeks of the season — the Steelers and Browns followed by the Packers and Vikings — the National Football League should take a page out of college football’s playbook and switch to its overtime format.

NFL games are often uneventful and unexciting as is, and this is made worse by the fact that after 70 minutes of football, there still might not be a true winner. Viewers want excitement, finality and closure out of extra game time, and ties typically yield none of these results.

In the NFL, overtime lasts just 10 minutes or until the first touchdown is scored. If both teams kick field goals or fail to put points on the board at all during their first possession, the game goes until the first points are scored — touchdown or otherwise. Sometimes overtimes are ugly stalemates, in which no points are scored at all before the 10-minute period ends — like both ties that have occurred thus far.

College football overtime has a unique style that infuses drama to the game and forces teams to make plays to win. There is no clock and both offenses have a chance to win the game for their teams. Teams start with the ball at the 25-yard line, making a touchdown more likely and a field goal almost a given. After each team has a possession, whoever leads wins the game. If the game is still tied, play goes on.

This style of overtime has many benefits. Each team has a guaranteed possession. The close proximity to the end zone allows for highlight-worthy scores and thrilling defensive stands. Two incredible, evenly matched teams could go at it for four to five possessions before one stands victorious. The NFL, which often lacks the glam and glitter of college football, should open its eyes and adopt this NCAA technique for the benefit of players and fans alike.

— Nick Carlisano, Staff Writer

Mack attack

The Oakland Raiders made the most newsworthy transaction of the NFL offseason by trading linebacker Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears for future draft picks. The move came after months of unsuccessful negotiations between Mack and the Raiders, with the star skipping voluntary offseason training programs and a mandatory three-day minicamp.

Mack immediately signed a $141 million extension upon his arrival in Chicago, making him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history. The Bears went from 100-1 odds to win the Super Bowl to 40-1 after the trade.

So far, Mack is making the Raiders look foolish for the deal. He bullied Aaron Rodgers and DeShone Kizer in the first half of the season opener, forcing a fumble and returning an interception for a touchdown. In the Bears’ win over the Seahawks in Week 2, Mack had another sack and forced fumble. After two games, Mack alone has as many — or more — sacks, forced fumbles, interceptions, fumble recoveries and touchdowns than the entire Raiders’ defense, which has fallen to 0-2 on the year.

Head coach Jon Gruden has said many times that he doesn’t regret the trade, but if Mack continues this dominance through the season then even Gruden may have to admit the Bears got the better end of the deal.

— Alex Lehmbeck, Staff Writer


Drafted 10th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, former Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes was meant to take over the dynamic Kansas City offense once the Chiefs moved on from starting quarterback Alex Smith. Kansas City traded Smith to the Washington Redskins in January, essentially handing Mahomes the keys to the offense.

Experts and fans of the NFL were skeptical if Mahomes would be able to handle the pressure of starting at quarterback in just his second NFL season. But Mahomes has proven all the doubters wrong in this young NFL season — and is proving why he should be in the NFL MVP conversation.

With Mahomes at the helm, the Chiefs have scored a combined 80 points in their first two weeks of the season. Mahomes dominated in both games, throwing for a combined 582 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. Six of those touchdowns came against the struggling Pittsburgh Steelers in a game that showed his Week 1 performance was no fluke.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a young quarterback in the MVP conversation. Just last year Houston Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson tore apart NFL defenses for the first seven weeks until his unfortunate season-ending ACL injury. If Watson hadn’t gotten injured, he would have been on pace to possibly get the MVP nod over Carson Wentz. Mahomes is producing at a rate similar to Watson in 2017, and with perennial superstars Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady struggling, Mahomes could take home the award if he keeps up this form.

— Tyler Moran, For The Pitt News

Tomlin’s seat is feeling the heat

The Steelers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday to drop to 0-1-1 so far in this young season. Although it’s premature to hit the panic button with plenty of time to turn everything around, it’s not too early to start questioning the job security of head coach Mike Tomlin.

Ever since the Steelers lost on a botched call on what should have been a game-winning touchdown by Jesse James to beat the Patriots in Week 15 last season, a lot has gone wrong for Tomlin’s club, on and off the field.

For starters, All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell held out for a new contract throughout training camp and preseason. Bell’s holdout reached a breaking point when he didn’t show up during the week before Pittsburgh’s first game, causing his own offensive linemen to finally lash out and criticize him. Through the first two games, Bell has shown no signs of returning soon.

Antonio Brown, another veteran leader on the team, skipped practice Monday following a Twitter spat with a member of the media. With Bell still holding out and the Steelers without a win through two weeks of the season, this could not have come at a worse time. At this point, Tomlin has lost control of the locker room.

The Steelers are 116-61-1 since Tomlin was hired prior to the 2007 season, including a Super Bowl victory in his second season as head coach. However, since the Steelers lost to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV eight seasons ago, the team is just 3-5 in the playoffs, including three first-round exits, two of which were at Heinz Field. It may be time to hold Tomlin accountable.

— Michael Nitti, Staff Writer