Let’s call what we just witnessed Upsetting Sunday.
Not upset Sunday, although that’s exactly what it was because the NFL provided (treated?) us with one unexpected, surprising, even shocking outcome to its slate of games, one after another on Sunday.
But it was also upsetting Sunday. And not just for the folks putting money on the favorites.
It was upsetting because these games changed the natural order of things. And it was three MVP winning quarterbacks losing. It was cats chasing dogs and lambs hunting lions.
And it was people who know better making excuses, and playing below expectations or abilities, or simply just losing because, hey, we had guys hurt.
The Green Bay Packers, considered perhaps the best team in the NFC North, lost to the New York Jets. Former MVP No. 1 goes down.
The Baltimore Ravens, hoping to win the AFC North, lost to the New York Giants by blowing another lead late. Former MVP No. 2 goes down.
And then there’s the San Francisco 49ers, perhaps the NFC’s most complete team when Sunday dawned. San Fran finished the day with a loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
The middling Atlanta Falcons!
New England started their third-string quarterback in Cleveland against the favored Browns. And won.
Down Goes Brady
The reeling Pittsburgh Steelers, still licking wounds from getting “smashed” (coach Mike Tomlin’s word) by the Buffalo Bills a week ago, beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the game’s most accomplished quarterback.
And the Steelers did it after starter Kenny Pickett left the game with a concussion and Mitch Trubisky, benched two weeks ago, outplayed Tom Brady. So former MVP No. 3 goes down.
And, oh yes, the Seattle Seahawks played the Arizona Cardinals as underdogs one week after absorbing a beating from the unremarkable Saints. And Seattle emerged with the upset victory.
If not for the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills there would be no order in the NFL.
(Sorry Minnesota Vikings, your regression to mean is coming.)
So, like, what just happened?
Let’s check in on some of these games to see:
In Green Bay, the Packers were predictably stunned after losing 27-10 to the upstart Jets, who are now 4-2.
“That was very humbling when you’re in your own building and you get taken like that and lose by three scores,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “We all got to be better.”
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers — who talked a lot about retirement during the offseason and didn’t do the hard work to bond with his young receiver corps — now thinks the offense is simply too complicated.
“I don’t want to get too specific and I’m not attacking anything,” Rodgers said. “I just think that based on how we’ve played the last two weeks, I think it’s going to be in our best interests to simplify things for everybody — for the line, for the backs, for the receivers.
“… Nobody works harder than Matt on the [game] plan each week, and nobody comes up with better ideas than him and his staff. But if it’s not working. It’s not because those guys aren’t grinding. It’s because we’re not executing. If you think we have the right players, then we need to simplify things. If you don’t, then that’s a whole other conversation.”
Rodgers and the Packers offense was booed at times on Sunday. That left LaFleur talking about how the unit is in “a bad predicament” and left Rodgers admitting, “I’ve got to raise my game probably a little tick in order for us to come out on the winning side in some of these games.”
Field Goal Fest In Pittsburgh
It’s certain Brady needs to do the same because the Buccaneers settled for four field goals against a Steelers defense missing Minkah Fitzpatrick, T.J. Watt, Cam Sutton, Levi Wallace and Ahkello Witherspoon.
It wasn’t until 4:38 was left to play that Tampa Bay exploded for one touchdown — which wasn’t enough in a 20-18 loss.
“They did a good job,” Brady said. “You know, the guys that were in there [for Pittsburgh] did a good job for them. They tackled well and limited some run after catch. Just missed too many opportunities in the red area.
“And, you know, it’s a game of scoring points and we just didn’t do well enough on third down and in short yardage situations and certainly not well enough in the red area.”
Look, the Bucs are not world beaters now. But their two previous losses were to the Chiefs and Packers (before they got awful). The Steelers were 1-4 and decimated before Sunday’s game.
“We didn’t earn it,” Brady said. “We didn’t earn the win. It’s a game of earning it and it’s a game of playing well and performing well. And we’re just not doing a good job of that.
“I don’t think we’ve done it for six weeks. I think we’re all playing less than what we’re capable of and we’ve all got look at ourselves in the mirror and figure out why.”
The most surprising upset of the game was San Francisco losing to Atlanta.
The 49ers, when healthy, are probably the most complete team in the NFC. The problem is the defense was not healthy without Nick Bosa and Jimmie Ward and Arik Armstead. Ad then Charvarius Ward went out and so that was a lot of talent out.
The Falcons ran it 40 times for 168 yards and coach Kyle Shanahan made the point his defense was “depleted.”
Shanahan also blamed his defense for giving up a big second-quarter run to Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota for a first down that led to a 7-point lead halftime lead.
So the Niners were down a touchdown in the second quarter and that was it? They had players hurt and that was it?
This is the NFL and teams fall behind. And players get hurt every week.
So if falling behind and missing some guys is going to be the rationalization for losing to an unremarkable Atlanta team then the 49ers have something to worry about.
Because that situation is known is Weeks 7, 8, 9, 14, 16, 17 and 18 in the NFL.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero