Let’s be clear, the biggest moment during Week 3 of the 2022 NFL season was when news broke that Rihanna is going to perform at halftime of the Super Bowl this season. If you don’t believe me, believe the official NFL Twitter handle. This is what it looked like this afternoon, and it didn’t change after that Sunday Night Football contest that ended with an LA Fitness pickup basketball game score — for those who don’t play, win by two.
Personally, I don’t know what has changed with police brutality and the NFL’s relationship with Colin Kapernick — the reason she said she turned down the offer to perform at the 2019 Super Bowl in that infamous Vogue story, in which the writer admitted she didn’t prepare any questions in advance — but hey, the world is a sad and terrifying place. We need a dynamite musical performance during the biggest television event on the American calendar.
As for the football, the NFL favorites to share the stage with Rihanna in February got an early regular-season wake-up call. According to many preseason predictions, the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs were headed for one of those 1990s Dallas Cowboys-San Francisco 49ers conference championship games that would turn out to be the de facto Super Bowl.
The 2022 NFL season may still turn out that way, but a couple of potholes rattled both franchises on Sunday.
While the AFC is the strongest conference, that has little to do with the AFC South. No one expected any one of those four teams to contend for a Super Bowl this season, but the Indianapolis Colts were at least supposed to be competitive.
At the end of last season, they were one of the hottest teams in the league, and a dark horse Super Bowl pick, until Carson Wentz put up a stinker in the season finale in that cursed game in Duval County. In the offseason, they brought Matt Ryan in to quarterback an imperfect, but still talented team. The curse got him, too, but the Colts also began the season with a tie against the Houston Texans who are in the running for worst NFL team.
There was no reason to believe that the Colts would get their first win against the Chiefs until they opened the game with a touchdown. They would end up trailing at half, but there was dissension in the Chiefs’ ranks with Mahomes upset with offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy going into halftime, and he admitted after the game that he expressed his displeasure because they didn’t try to score on the last drive after a penalty.
They had little trouble moving the ball against the Colts — who were still without Shaquille (formerly known as Darius) Leonard — in the second half, but couldn’t finish drives, were a bit conservative with the playcalling, and also suffered some special teams miscues.
The Colts hung around and would eventually score their second touchdown of the game with 29 seconds remaining. But they were only up by three, and we all know that’s 16 more seconds than Mahomes needs to get into field-goal range. Except this time, after the Chiefs got across midfield, Mahomes’ throw into coverage got tipped, and then picked.
If you have paid any attention to the Miami Dolphins in recent years, you either mocked them, or became a real live “scratching my head’’ emoji while taking in a story that went viral. There was bully-gate 2014 that made NFL hazing no longer a cute Hard Knocks scene, and also the 2017 incident in which a self-described “professional tease” posted a video of the Dolphins’ then offensive line coach snorting cocaine in his office. He has since gone to rehab and now has the San Francisco 49ers offensive line rocking — sans the play that ended Trey Lance’s season — until Trent Williams’ injury on Sunday night.
Well, the San Francisco 49ers’ 2021 offensive coordinator, Mike McDaniel, in his first year as head coach has the Dolphins at 3-0. It’s their best start to a season since one-time offensive genius Adam Gase led them to the same record, but ended up finishing 2018 at 7-9.
However, unlike Gase, McDaniel’s Dolphins did not fail the big early-season test. The 3-0 Dolphins lost 38-7 against the eventual Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots in 2018. In fairness, that was on the road, and these Dolphins took on the 2022 Super Bowl favorite Buffalo Bills at home. Still, a Bills offense that couldn’t be corralled during the first two weeks of this season, left Hard Rock Stadium with only 19 points even though Josh Allen completed 42 passes for 400 yards.
No place in America is as humid as Miami in late September, but it’s not as if the heat only affected the Bills. Melvin Ingram dropped to the turf as soon as the game ended. It was a brutal day, but the Dolphins stayed step for step with the Bills the whole way. Yeah, that goofy punt literally hit someone in the “tuchus” as it was so elegantly described by Scott Hanson, but that safety gave the Dolphins defense the opportunity to make one final stand. It did so against arguably the best team in the NFL.