Goal-line Stand: NFL protests take center stage

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Updated: September 28, 2017
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Man, Week 3 of this NFL season will go down as one to remember for a very long time. And not just because of all the incredible games we had a chance to witness, but teams from across the league also decided to take a stand against social injustice and protest during the national anthem.

It was a historical moment, and something that could translate over to other sports.

But, the players still had to go out on the field and perform their jobs. There were some astonishing outcomes this past Sunday, and we found out quite a bit about several teams along the way.

This week, we’ll focus some attention on the NFL protests, analyze the season Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs is having, discuss the Washington Redskins‘ dominating victory over the Oakland Raiders, and take a closer look at the Detroit Lions, who were one inch away from defeating the Atlanta Falcons.

 

First-and-goal: NFL players unite during national anthem

Some teams took a knee, some locked arms, some did both and others didn’t even come out of the locker room during the national anthem this weekend.

It was all in reaction to President Donald Trump’s statement during a recent rally in Huntsville, Alabama:

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired!’ You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s gonna say, ‘That guy disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it. They don’t know it. They’re friends of mine, many of them. They don’t know it. They’ll be the most popular person, for a week. They’ll be the most popular person in the country.”

We’re fully aware by now that Colin Kaepernick took a stand last season by kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protesting. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said last year after a game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Kaepernick still hasn’t been signed to an NFL roster, while it’s pretty obvious he deserves to be on a team. There aren’t 64 quarterbacks in the league better than the 29-year-old who led the San Francisco 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in 2012 and the NFC Championship game the following season. Yet, he’s still without a job.

Teams united this weekend in their own unique way. The Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t even leave their locker rooms during the national anthem on Sunday, while the Dallas Cowboys knelt as a group before the anthem and remained in locked arms, with owner Jerry Jones, during the anthem.

Some fans didn’t agree. Some did. But all in all, this was a movement started by the NFL that could trickle down to other sports and bring light to what’s taking place in the world today.

 

Second-and-goal: Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs playing at an elite level 

It doesn’t seem to matter who’s playing quarterback in Minnesota, the offense just continues to excel. More specifically, receiver Stefon Diggs. The 23-year-old is in his third year with the Vikings and appears to be on his way to stardom.

With Case Keenum leading the troops on Sunday, Diggs caught eight passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who many predict to be a playoff team. Sam Bradford, who is hampered by a lingering knee injury, connected with Diggs for two touchdowns in the season opener against the New Orleans Saints.

Diggs is leading the NFL in touchdown receptions (4) and is third in the league, behind Antonio Brown and his teammate Adam Thielen, with 293 receiving yards. Diggs has big-play potential and has been a handful for opposing cornerbacks. He showed signs of this ability last season, catching 84 passes on the year, but you can see his confidence growing as a wideout more and more by the week.

The Vikings (2-1) will be tested once again this week as they face their division rival Detroit Lions (2-1). It’ll be fun to watch Diggs matched up against cornerback Darius Slay.

 

Third-and-goal: Redskins annihilate the Raiders at FedExField 

Oakland entered the game as the favorite to defeat Washington on the road. Derek Carr was playing flawless football and Marshawn Lynch had just finished turning up on the sideline during a blowout victory over the New York Jets the week before.

But then they ran up against a Redskins team that came into the game immensely prepared. Washington completely dominated from start to finish — literally. On Carr’s first pass, he dropped back and tried to test the Redskins’ secondary by going deep. He was picked off by rookie safety Montae Nicholson, and that set the tone for the rest of the night.

Washington squandered only 128 total yards to the high-powered Raiders offense, compared to its 472 total yards. Carr was 19-of-31 for 118 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Kirk Cousins, on the other side, was 25-of-30 for 365 yards and three touchdowns. He was on fire, connecting with five receivers two or more times.

Chris Thompson, who has been an absolute star for the Skins this season, continued his immaculate play. He had 188 total yards (150 receiving and 38 rushing) and a touchdown. He has been Cousins’ go-to target, and it has paid off tremendously. In just three games, Thompson has already equaled his receiving touchdown total from last season and one TD shy of tying his rushing total.

But the Redskins’ defense is what deserves the biggest round of applause. They were in complete control on Sunday night. Lynch ran for only 18 yards on six carries. The Raiders rushed for a total of just 32 yards. And the biggest stat of them all: Oakland was 0-for-11 on third downs. Ouch.

 

Fourth-and-goal: Lions were this close to taking down the Falcons

After it appeared to be a game-winning touchdown by Lions wide receiver Golden Tate, the call was later reversed and the game ended in a 30-26 victory for the Falcons.

Matthew Stafford, who threw for 264 yards and a touchdown on the day, found Tate on a quick slant from the Falcons’ 1-yard line. Tate dove toward the goal line and seemed to have won the game, but he was called down short of the marker after an official review. The Lions were on the cusp of a 3-0 start and sending shockwaves throughout the NFL.

But they at least proved on Sunday that they can compete with any and everyone. The Falcons have looked every bit like the team that went to the Super Bowl last season, as they’ve gotten off to a 3-0 start themselves. And Detroit went toe-to-toe with the NFC beasts.

The Lions trailed 17-3 at one point, but Stafford didn’t allow his team to go down without a fight. And the controversial decision to overturn the touchdown is the only thing that prevented his team from coming out on top. There was a 10-second runoff following the overturned call, which didn’t give the Lions another opportunity to score.

Detroit isn’t surprising us anymore. The Lions have become a team that you’ve got to pay attention to in the NFC. They’re in a tough division, the NFC North, that includes the Green Bay Packers, Vikings and Chicago Bears, who defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, but they have the talent on both sides of the ball to be a playoff team for a second consecutive year.

Jim Caldwell has instilled confidence in the Lions. Don’t be surprised if they’re challenging for the NFC North crown come season’s end.

Josiah Turner

Josiah Turner

Josiah is the founder and editor-in-chief at Sideline Sports Report. He is a writer for ESPN, and has written for Rant Sports and FanSided covering the Washington Redskins. He's also covered high school basketball for Virginia Preps (Rivals.com). Josiah is from Chesapeake, VA and a college graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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