Sam Howell is cruising. He's been every bit as good as Brock Purdy as the best second-year quarterback in football after back-to-back awesome performances against the Eagles and Patriots. And with Purdy on the bye in Week 9, Howell took center stage. Oh, and Tyson Bagent was much better than his three-interception outing in New Orleans indicates.
Let's dive deep into the individual efforts of each quarterback and assign a grade on a per-snap basis, taking every individual aspect of their performance into account. More than 10 attempts were needed to qualify for this piece, which publishes weekly on Tuesdays.
- Late in the second, O'Connell dropped one in the bucket 50 yards downfield to Tre Tucker.
- His first throw of the second half was a perfectly placed, tight-window throw on an outbreaker Davante Adams that was dropped as the receiver was hit.
- While could've been a miscommunication, O'Connell threw a ball deep into the end zone on a route in which he receiver stopped at the goal line. Even had the receiver continued to run, it would've been woefully overthrown.
Summary: This was a vintage O'Connell game -- based on how he performed at Purdue -- ball out in a flash, majority of his completions underneath, found the open receiver in a hurry in most occasions. Loved his decisiveness and the way he took care of the football.
Season Grade: C-
- Young found a wide-open Hayden Hurst deep down the field. The throw wasn't super challenging but needed some anticipation, and the young quarterback was hit as he threw.
- He made a defender miss on a third-and-3 and got 6 yards to move the chains.
- He missed Stephen Sullivan on a checkdown under pressure in the first.
- Young later missed Jonathan Mingo underneath.
- With under a minute to go in the first half, Young was late and didn't see Kenny Moore waiting near his checkdown. The ball was easily intercepted.
- After the pick-six, Young took a bad sack when he could've stepped into the pocket but didn't.
- An airmailed screen led to another interception by Moore.
- He threw behind and short on a seam throw that was picked in the fourth.
Summary: After his finest game of the season to date, Young regressed against the Colts. Very timid throwing the football, predominantly worked the flats, and was inaccurate. Not his best effort.
Season Grade: D+
- While breaking a rule of quarterback, Howell made a Derek Jeter-esque leaping throw across his body for a 26-yard gain to Byron Pringle in the first.
- Howell started looking right, bounced around in the pocket, then got all the way to the left side of the field to find Jahan Dotson midway through the second for a 24-yard gain.
- On a third-and-23 in the second, Howell scrambled, absorbed a hit, stayed on his feet, and accelerated toward the sideline for the first down.
- In the third, Howell placed a teardrop perfectly into the arms of Dotson for a 33-yard touchdown with two Patriots defenders in tight.
- Howell, while being hit, found Terry McLaurin on outbreaking route near the sideline for a 26-yard gain against good coverage.
- Late in the second quarter, Howell threw over the head of Pringle, who was open, after the quarterback rolled left.
- He totally airmailed a late first-half seam shot to a wide-open John Bates (in the end zone).
- Before the half, he didn't see Kyle Dugger underneath his target into the end zone and was intercepted.
Summary: Howell continues to stack dazzling performances against challenging defenses. Last week, it was the Eagles, this time, the Patriots on the road. He's starting to take less hits/sacks in the pocket too. The wow throws pop each week, and he's making more of them while being smarter with the football.
Season Grade: B-
- Pickett showed great creativity navigating through a muddy pocket before checking it down to Diontae Johnson for 13 yards.
- In the fourth, down three, Pickett delivered his best ball of the day, a rope over the shoulder of the cornerback down the sideline to Johnson for 32 yards.
- Early on, Pickett airmailed a deep comeback at the numbers to Johnson.
- On a third down late in the first, he threw behind George Pickens on a shallow cross.
- Late in the first half, Pickett skipped a throw in the end zone to Allen Robinson that could've been a touchdown.
Summary: Far from impressive -- very far -- but Pickett reasonably held it together in a gritty game at home against the Titans on "Thursday Night Football" to begin Week 9. Still, there were more concerning throws than positive ones in this outing.
Season Grade: Cƒ
- Late in the first, from his own goal line, Levis threw a rocket to DeAndre Hopkins at what looked like an impossible angle with the underneath defender trailing on a play that ultimately amounted to a 29-yard gain.
- While being hit on a third-and-13, Levis threw with anticipation and perfect placement near the sideline for a 23-yard gain. The receiver was open, but the throw had to be made before the wideout had plenty of space around him.
- With under a minute to go in the half, Levis ripped a seam laser to Kyle Philips through layers of coverage for 24 yards.
- Not the most difficult throw of his life, Levis demonstrated his arm-talent capabilities on the final drive by slinging it sidewarm to his tight end from a collapsing pocket.
- In the early stages of the second half, Levis had a long throw toward the sideline undercut and nearly picked.
- With under two to go in the game, Levis had a sinking outside cornerback nearly intercept a target for Hopkins.
- He skipped a throw over the middle to Philips.
- The Steelers deep middle safety stepped in front of a seam throw late in the game and dropped the interception.
- On the game-sealing interception, Levis didn't see -- or notice the depth -- of linebacker Kwon Alexander.
Summary: Upon the rewatch, I wasn't quite as impressed with Levis as I was live, but there were a collection of awesome throws -- mostly under duress -- in his first NFL road start against a quality defense. Some misses and dropped-interception luck factored in, but this was another positive performance for the rookie.
Season Grade: B-
- Early in the game, Stroud delivered a football to Dalton Schultz with one of the quickest releases I've seen all season. Major velocity too for a 21-yard gain.
- In the third, he placed a beautiful ball to Tank Dell on a double move for a 29-yard touchdown.
- The 9-yard touchdown to Schultz in the fourth quarter was a rocket against tight coverage.
- Later in the final quarter, Stroud stepped into the pocket and threw with perfect trajectory to Noah Brown for a 31-yard gain.
- On his second-to-last throw of the game, Stroud threw with perfect rhythm and placement on a much-needed deep flag to Dell for 26 yards.
- The game-winning touchdown was a glorious post to Dell in which Stroud looked left first before coming back to his right to deliver the pass.
- He overthrew Dell on a deep out route in the first quarter.
- Midway through the second, Stroud overthrew an open Dell on a deep over and was nearly picked.
Summary: Stroud was sensational against the Buccaneers. He threw with immense confidence, and while he did take a few sacks, he very much countered those few negative plays with many more high-caliber throws in the high-scoring affair.
Season Grade: B-
- In the fourth, Tune somehow squeezed through a collapsing pocket and scampered for 5 yards when it looked like a guarantee he'd get sacked.
- Early in the second, a high throw led to an interception.
- From deep in his own end in the third, on a third-and-long, Tune threw late over the middle and should've been intercepted.
- Without being able to step into a late third-quarter throw, Tune wasn't able to get enough velocity on the pass and was picked by an underneath, sinking linebacker.
Summary: Incredibly difficult position for Tune, to make his NFL debut on the road against arguably the league's most ferocious defense. He took a ton of sacks, didn't throw with much confidence at all and had a few misfires.
Season Grade: F
- While the play was more about the ridiculous grab by Cole Kmet, Bagent made an incredibly long throw rolling left back to the right portion of the end zone and gave his tight end a chance to make play for the score.
- Bagent demonstrated his speed and wherewithal diving in hopes of picking up the first down on a third-and-12 early in the second.
- The 9-yard touchdown to Kmet was made with perfect trajectory over a trailing defender.
- After checking to his left then coming back to the right side of the field, Bagent was late on a comeback and was intercepted.
- In the fourth, on his second read, Bagent was a split-second late over the middle and was picked by Marcus Maye, who made a spectacular diving grab.
- The third interception was simply a throw made into a tight window in which the defender made a more aggressive play on the ball than the receiver.
Summary: Typically a three-interception effort equates to a very bad grade. That's not the case here, as Bagent ran with conviction, made a small collection of impressive throws, and worked through his reads like a seasoned vet on the road against a sound defense.
Season Grade: C-