When you bring up the best receivers in the NFL, you have to mention Michael Thomas’ name. Don’t get it twisted — that was the case even before Sunday’s game against the Rams.
Thomas had over 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns in his rookie season, and improved with a Pro Bowl season in his second year. In 2018, he’s been doing much of the same for the Saints, who are now 7-1 after becoming the first team to beat the Rams, 45-35, this season.
Thomas’ role in the victory was indispensable, but even with a game like this, he’s not the first name mentioned. It’s typically Drew Brees, who had 346 yards passing and four touchdowns. That’s definitely a game worthy of recognition by one of the best quarterbacks ever. Alvin Kamara is a close second; he had 116 total yards and three touchdowns. Also a great performance by one of the NFL’s best running backs.
And then we’d get to Thomas, who had the first 200-plus yard receiving game the NFL has seen this season with 211. Those 211 yards were also a career-high and a single-game franchise best for receiving yards.
Thomas also had a pair of touchdowns, including the one that put the Saints up 10 with under four minutes to go.
He topped it off with the most important touchdown celebration in recent memory — a tribute to Joe Horn’s 2003 cell phone surprise:
Michael Thomas broke out the Joe Horn-inspired TD celebration pic.twitter.com/nx7a7K3hbO— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 5, 2018
The celebration was perfect. It had the element of surprise, which always goes over well. It also paid tribute to an iconic moment not just in Saints history, but NFL history as well. Horn’s phone call is one you’d point to when bringing up the most memorable ones the game has ever seen, along with Terrell Owens’ sharpie celebration, or Randy Moss’ mooning at Lambeau Field.
And Thomas didn’t short-change us on the details. He whipped out an old flip phone, too.
Did Thomas roll some dice by doing a celebration he knew he’d get penalized for in what was only a 10-point game against one of the NFL’s best teams? Definitely. But it didn’t come back to bite him or the Saints in the ass, so we can enjoy it for what it was: the cherry on top of a glowing performance and a celebration of his team’s past.
Horn appreciated the gesture:
Ex-Saints WR Joe Horn said he saw Michael Thomas’ honorary TD celebration while working out in Tupelo, Miss. “When I saw him bring out that cellphone it brought a tear to my eye,” Horn said. “For him to pay homage to me in that way, let me know what kind of man Michael Thomas is"— Jeff Duncan (@JeffDuncan_) November 5, 2018
Thomas told FOX’s Erin Andrews after the game, “I had it planned, obviously, because it was under the thing and I said I’d wait ‘til the fourth quarter and not hurt my team and put the game away and that’s what I did so thank God.”
In case you were curious, Thomas had a cellphone under both goalposts. Because the best players in the NFL always come prepared for everything that might happen in a game.
For those who may not have paid Thomas much attention before, you will after everything he did on Sunday.
Let’s dig into the best things from Week 9.
The Peter Man started and finished a game
America’s quarterback, better known as Nathan Peterman or simply “The Peter Man” got his second start of the season on Sunday. On a scale of 1-10 for Peter Man disasters, this one was a solid seven.
The Peter Man completed 31 of his 49 passes for 189 yards and three interceptions, including one that went back for a touchdown. A pair of those picks came off tipped passes, so he loses some style points for having those somewhat taken out of his hands.
Now I’m not going to lie — I’m not entirely sure at what point in the game the Bills tweeted this. But I like to imagine it came after a Peter Man interception, and we’re all so comfortable and outward with our honesty of his game that they just let it fly:
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) November 4, 2018
There were some brights spots for the Peter Man, though. He was the Bills’ leading rusher with 46 yards and a touchdown. Sunday’s game was also the first time he started a game, and finished it.
Congrats on the improvement, Peter Man. Though we like you more when you are a walking dumpster fire.
Joe Flacco doesn’t want Lamar Jackson to succeed!!!!!
It’s Week 9, and Joe Flacco still has his job despite the Ravens having first-round draft pick Lamar Jackson on the sideline. Flacco hasn’t been terrible this season, but he also hasn’t been great.
Sunday, the Ravens sent Jackson out wide on a third-and-goal. Jackson was open, and Flacco didn’t even look in his direction:
Lamar Jackson is wide open for an easy TD but I’m gonna throw it into double coverage. pic.twitter.com/xAcDTYvof0— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 4, 2018
That should be an easy six. However, this isn’t surprising if you’ve been paying attention to the Ravens this season.
[puts on conspiracy hat]
Earlier this season, Flacco actually did throw to Jackson in an identical spot. But he also would have had his clock cleaned by Chris Harris Jr.:
ravens plz pic.twitter.com/QKeMBJgyht— charles mcdonald (lakers 3-5) (@FourVerts) September 24, 2018
Was Joe Flacco trying to get Lamar Jackson killed? The tape sure seems like it. And Flacco didn’t even look in Jackson’s direction against the Steelers on Sunday. I’m not drawing conclusions, I’m just presenting the evidence in front us.
The Ravens lost this one, 23-16.
This was bad, even for the Browns
The Browns had an OK week considering they just fired head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. They lost 37-21 against the Chiefs, who have been mauling opposing defenses week in and week out.
But not all was great with the Browns, because things almost never are great with the Browns. On this Chiefs extra point, a pair of Browns defenders ran into each other like cartoon characters:
The Browns are always gonna Browns. At least they only lost by 16 points.
Aaron Donald could probably fight a bear and win
Alvin Kamara had a nice game against the Saints with a trio of touchdowns. One of those came after this bulldozing from Aaron Donald:
This isn’t meant to laugh at Kamara, because ultimately his team came away with the win and he had his way with the Rams defense for a solid chunk of the game.
But goodness, if 99 percent of humans on the planet took a hit like that, they might never get up. Donald’s the best defensive player in the NFL, and explosive bursts like this are just a small reason why.
You might be better off getting hit by a Mazda Miata at a slightly faster speed.
Curtis Samuel carved up the Bucs defense
Talk to any Ohio State fan, and they will tell you that this is the stuff Samuel is capable of if — and that’s a big IF — he gets the ball in his hands.
On this reverse, Samuel basically got a look at every Bucs defender before finally making his way into the end zone.
CURTIS SAMUEL MY GOD DUDE pic.twitter.com/0SN7C1lbX9— Cardiac Carolina (@CardiacCarolina) November 4, 2018
The touchdown is going to go down as a 33-yarder in the box score, but in reality, Samuel ran for much, much more:
That Curtis Samuel TD run officially was 33 yards. But he ran 103.85 per @NextGenStats.— Marcas Grant (@MarcasG) November 4, 2018
The Carolina offense has been one of the most creative this season, and when you have weapons like Samuel, it becomes that much easier to create.
JULIO JONES SCORED A TOUCHDOWN
November 26, 2017. Prior to Week 9’s game against Washington, that’s the last time Julio Jones had been in the end zone for a touchdown. On that afternoon, he scored twice and had 253 yards against the Buccaneers.
It took Jones nine weeks, but he finally got his first touchdown of the 2018 season, and it was a good one:
JULIO. JONES. TOUCHDOWN. pic.twitter.com/Cvs1ony5jy— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) November 4, 2018
Jones has been having a fine year, minus his inability to score. He entered Sunday’s game with 812 yards on the season, second only to Adam Thielen.
Maybe now this will get Jones on some sort of touchdown streak. Or, it could be another year until we see another. Who knows.
Tarik Cohen did his best Dante Hall impression
There’s only a handful of kick returners that are truly memorable in NFL history, and Tarik Cohen shares a nickname with one of them.
We’re talking about Dante Hall, of course. Cohen, The Human Joystick, gave a small glimpse of why he has also earned the nickname with this return that went from “NOOOO WYD!?!?” to “SHIT HE’S GOOD!”:
This one didn’t go back for a touchdown, but it was still damn impressive.
.... Even if it did come against the Bills.
The Seahawks had the celebration of the year
The NFL hasn’t really had any groundbreaking celebrations this season. However, the Seahawks have got something here with some of the best choreography we’ve seen from a celebration this year.
Unfortunately, the Seahawks didn’t get style points for this one, and still lost to the Chargers, 25-17.
By the way, the Chargers are 6-2 now, not far behind the 8-1 Chiefs in the AFC West. I’m not implying they’re going to win the division or anything like that. Though it might be time to start paying the team who hasn’t had a true home game since they played in San Diego some attention.
Romeo Okwara’s arm cannot be undone
The Vikings had a rather easy time with the Lions in their 24-9 victory in Minneapolis on Sunday. Throughout everything that happened in that game, I am most impressed by this tied up pair of Notre Dame alums:
Lmaoo his arm strong as shit pic.twitter.com/fzSjbwT3Or— skol gang (@dayonnethedon) November 4, 2018
Okwara has a grip on Rudolph that could probably pop a football. Rudolph tries delivering a blow to Okwara’s elbow to free himself, and the defensive lineman is unfazed.
Okwarda then holds Rudolph for another second or two, and then releases him like a dog that’s been told he’s now able to go eat his dinner. Boss moves.
Drink your milk, kids, and aspire to bone and muscle strength like Romeo Okwara.
(h/t Sports Illustrated’s and SB Nation alum Jessica Smetana on that find)
OTHER THINGS FROM WEEK 9 IN THE NFL
- Lee Corso picked the Saints in his first-ever NFL mascot pick.
- The Broncos thanked Demaryius Thomas after trading him just days earlier.
- Adam Stites explains why Ben Roethlisberger’s punt is a brilliants and underutilized strategy.
- Johnny Hekker had a nice fake punt for a first down that probably should have counted.