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Tuesday, September 17, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A Grip on Sports: One Sunday in, everything about the NFL is an overreaction, except when it comes to Minshew

Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew III (15) scrambles for yardage past Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark (55) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) (Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP)
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew III (15) scrambles for yardage past Kansas City Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark (55) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) (Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • You looking for an overreaction from the first week of the NFL season? How about this one: The NFC West is the best division in the league. After all, everyone played Sunday and no one lost. No other division can say that. And they did it all without Gardner Minshew.

•••••••

• The Seahawks won, holding off the hard-charging and always-feared Cincinnati Bengals. The 49ers won, routing the always-feared Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Rams won, earning a tight road victory against always-feared Carolina. And the Cardinals? They somehow tied the rarely feared Detroit Lions.

So the first Sunday was a red-letter day for the NFC West.

Yes, we’re being a bit sarcastic here. The first week of any season, most especially the NFL’s, is rarely indicative of what will follow. Do we expect the Patriots, the Chiefs and the Rams to be really good? Sure. They have talent, experience and a track record from last season. But the same can be said of the Bears and they lost their opener at home. Other teams with question marks, or offseason issues, also won on Sunday but still have a lot to prove.

And then there is the injury factor. As the season wears on, the most successful teams usually dodge the worst of the injury bug. Even great NFL teams have depth problems in certain areas. A hard-to-absorb injury can torpedo a promising season. Or reveal a hidden gem.

• Which brings us to Gardner Minshew.

The made-for-Hollywood nature of his recent personal history took another plot twist yesterday. In the usual narrative, he was expected to bide his time backing up Nick Foles as the Jacksonville Jaguars tried to scale the heights of the AFC South.

Then Foles, who led the Eagles to a Super Bowl win and the Jags big free-agent offseason signing, went down, the victim of a broken collarbone.

Hey, you. You’re up.

When that statement is aimed Minshew’s way you can be sure of two things: He’s going to be ready and the ride will be fun.

There was no storybook ending Sunday. The Jags were facing the Chiefs and they were doing it with a defense that was hell-bent on self-destruction. Even a perfect showing from Minshew probably wouldn’t be enough.

Not that he didn’t try to deliver such perfection, completing his first 13 passes – the best for a rookie to start a career in the past 40 years, or since such a stat has been kept.

And he did it just like he did everything in leading Washington State to a school-record 11 wins last year. He exuded confidence and calmness in the pocket. He didn’t seem to rattle. Yes, he threw an interception late, while he was taking more chances trying to rally the Jaguars from a double-digit deficit. But he also kept them in the game with his two touchdown passes.

His final numbers: 22-of-25 passing for 275 yards.

In the postgame he also exuded confidence, poise and humility. He’s the Joe Hardy of football, the wonder kid who came out of nowhere to save a season. He’s already done it once, in Pullman. Now he’ll try to do it in the land of Waffle Houses and alligators.

Yes, it’s too early to overreact. But it’s not too early to say one thing. Don’t bet against him.

•••

WSU: Northern Colorado was overmatched Saturday. The final score showed that. But underneath the shiny veneer of a 52-17 rout, the Cougars weren’t happy with certain aspects. Theo Lawson has more in his weekly rewind. … Theo also covers the national reaction to Minshew’s NFL debut. … It was voting day in the polls. Theo shares his ballot and how Washington State fared. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, Washington is still trying to figure out what went wrong in the second half against California. … Oregon did a lot right in a 71-point rout against Nevada. … Oregon State’s offense was MIA in the second half at Hawaii. Next up is Cal Poly. … New coach Mel Tucker passed his first real test as Colorado’s coach. … Utah moved up in the polls but needs to be able to move downfield quickly. … It’s only two games into season two at UCLA, but some folks believe there are cracks showing in Chip Kelly’s philosophy. … The freshman quarterback got most of the ink, but USC’s defense was the real key. … Arizona won easily but still didn’t play all that well.

Indians: Tri-City evened the Northwest League championship series with Hillsboro at a game apiece.

Seahawks: The Hawks held on to a 21-20 victory, pleasing the 12s in one way but displeasing them at the same time. John Blanchette was in CenturyLink and has this column from the season opener. … Winning ugly is still winning. … The Hawks may not of won without Jadeveon Clowney’s presence. … Tyler Lockett is now the guy defenses want to stop. … The Bengals passed for more than 400 yards. The Hawk secondary failed. … DK Metcalf did well in his first game.

Mariners: In all the years the M’s have been playing baseball, they have never lost by 20 runs. Until yesterday. And Felix Hernandez played a big role in it.

•••       

It's a short week in some regards. The college football weekend in this area begins Friday night. In Houston. It's only expected to be in the high 90s there when the Cougars play, well, the Cougars. Until later …

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