When Marquez Valdes-Scantling dropped a potential game-winning touchdown pass in Kansas City’s loss to Philadelphia (Monday Night Football, Nov. 20th), the reverberations were felt throughout the NFL.
Their season-long pass-dropping issues suddenly took center stage—Kansas City leads the NFL in this unfortunate statistic. The Chiefs hadn’t scored a point in the second half of a game since their Week 7 victory over the Chargers (October 22nd). Their 5.3 points per second-half number ranked dead last in the entire NFL. As a result, Kansas City, now 8-3 after last Sunday’s 31-to-17 come-from-behind win over the Raiders, trails the Ravens for the first-round bye in the AFC.
Indeed, that single dropped pass quite possibly could prove to be NFL 2023’s most significant Marker Event Moment.
They can happen any time and they take many forms. In Week 1, on just his fourth snap of the regular season, New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers suffered an Achilles tendon tear. (To what degree remains open to discussion among spiritual healers and speculation among medical professionals.)
Rodgers sudden absence in fatal combination with a backup plan built around third year passer Zach Wilson torpedoed the Jets’ season before it ever got started. And their unlikely Week 1 win over the Buffalo Bills revealed another truth about NFL Marker Event Moments… Sometimes, they are cumulative!
The Buffalo Bills came into this season with Super Bowl aspirations. Then they travelled to England where All Pro linebacker and team leader Matt Milano went down with a season-ending injury, a major blow to the cause. But nothing seems to be affecting Buffalo more profoundly than Josh Allen’s untimely turnovers.
Last Sunday, the Bills outplayed the Philadelphia Eagles for three quarters plus. Then Allen threw an interception, his 15th of the season, tied with Washington’s Sam Howell for most in the NFL. The Eagles scored off the turnover, tied the game late with a 59-yard field goal, then won it 37-to-34 in overtime.
At 6-6, Buffalo might need to run the table just to qualify for the post-season. The Bills defense has played a part in the team’s decline. But Allen’s propensity for fumbling and throwing picks at crucial Marker Event Moments ranks as the Bills biggest issue and shortcoming.
If the 2023 season ended today, the Pittsburgh Steelers would qualify for the AFC Playoffs. Going forward, they may even score a few more points on offense, due in large part to their firing of former offensive coordinator Matt Canada, a recent and very positive Marker Event Moment in Steelers’ history.
Consider these facts: Prior to Pittsburgh’ s16-to-10 win last Sunday in Cincinnati, the Steelers had played 58 consecutive games without amassing 400 yards of total offense, the second longest drought in the last three decades. Against the Bengals, QB Kenny Pickett threw for 268, the Steelers rushed for 153 more, and tight end Pat Freiermuth braved the middle of the field for 120 yards on 9 receptions.
Coincidence? Correlation? Or simple “If A, then B” causality?” My money’s on Option 3, the “If A, then B” thing. I’ve seen Pickett rally the Steelers in fourth quarter comebacks. I’ve seen him throw spot-on deep balls deep down the middle to wide receiver George Pickens. I’ve seen Najee Harris run like the first-round draft pick he was, and I’ve watched free agent Jaylen Warren trample tacklers.
Pittsburgh possesses some talented playmakers. Matt Canada’s offensive designs and game plans watered them down to near extinction. Now, they’ve just got to develop some better red zone strategies. Excellent move, Mike Tomlin!
Last Monday, Frank Reich became the second NFL head coach to lose his job this season. I can only wonder if the Panthers’ decision to select Alabama QB Bryce Young instead of Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud was the Marker Event Moment that doomed Reich’s short tenure in Carolina.
Conversely, how impactful has Dallas’s fifth round selection of cornerback Daron Bland been for the Cowboys? How about five “pick-six” interceptions in his rookie season, a new NFL single-season record! And Dallas still has a half dozen games left on its schedule.
But the most significant Marker Event Moment of the 2023 season dates back to April 30, 2022—and San Francisco’s fateful decision to use the very last pick in the NFL Draft to select Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy.
Since taking over as San Francisco’s starting QB, Purdy has won 13 of 16 regular season games. He’s thrown 32 TD passes with just 10 interceptions, and his career Passer Rating sits at 110.5. To put it mildly, these numbers are ASTOUNDING!
It’s far too early to compare Purdy to 49ers’ legendary Hall of Fame passer Joe Montana’s. But despite Philadelphia’s 10-1 league-leading record, San Francisco looks like the NFL’s best team to me. And Purdy is the guy who makes it all go. Not Deebo Samuel, not Christian McCaffrey—but “Mr. Irrelevant.”
The two teams meet this Sunday in Philly, and the stage will be set for perhaps the most meaningful and telling Marker Event Moment of the 2023 NFL season.
Can’t wait for this one to begin!