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Surprising NFL Stats Through Week 3

The early part of the 2014 season has been filled with off-field drama and some interesting performances on the field. It hasn’t necessarily been all too pretty, but we can all hope that the final 14 weeks of the regular season will bring more drama on the field than off it.

With that said, we figured it made sense to compile 10 of the most interesting statistics around the NFL world through the first three weeks of the year. From record-setting penalty numbers in San Francisco and amazing rookie performances from wide receivers to some awesome comebacks, there has been a lot that’s already happened on the young season.

The Dallas Cowboys conducted the largest comeback in the heralded history of the franchise on Sunday. It was one heck of a go-ahead drive from quarterback Tony Romo, who completed all four of his pass attempts for 40 yards while adding a 16-yard run on the 11-play, 84-yard fourth quarter drive. An interception return for a touchdown by Bruce Carter sealed the victory for the Cowboys, who overcame a 21-point deficit against the fledgling St. Louis Rams.

Courtesy of ESPN.com: Lack of discipline is an issue in San Francisco.

Courtesy of ESPN.com: Lack of discipline is an issue in San Francisco.

Through three games, the San Francisco 49ers have compiled 32 percent of the total amount of yards they were penalized for last season. This means that Jim Harbaugh’s squad is wasting over 100 total yards per game thus far this year. That’s just not going to get it done. Sure some of the calls have been pretty bad, but the 1-2 49ers need to be more disciplined moving forward.

Richard Sherman has allowed six receptions over the past two games. For comparison’s sake, he allowed 29 receptions all of last season. In total, Seattle’s cornerbacks have allowed 52 percent of the total receptions they gave up in 2013. Does this mean that Seahawks secondary is exposed? Considering that Byron Maxwell is yielding an 80 percent completion rate and on pace to give up over 1,300 receiving yards, it’s safe to assume this isn’t the same unit as a year ago. The good news here, neither is Seattle’s offense, which looks to be somewhat improved from 2013.

A total of 13 running backs are currently on pace for 1,000 yards this season. Considering a running back has to average just 62.5 yards per game to reach this milestone, it’s not necessarily a high number. For comparison’s sake, the same amount of running backs (13) reached that plateau in 2013. All you need to know about how much the NFL has moved towards a passing league, 23 players at this position tallied 1,000-plus yards back in 2000.

A total of 14 quarterbacks are currently on pace for 3,800-plus yards this season. In addition to this, 28 quarterbacks are on pace to hit the 3,000-yard plateau. Looking back at 2000 again, five quarterbacks reached 3,800 yards and just 13 tallied 3,000-plus yards. That’s yet another example of the league trending to a pass-first philosophy.

Despite perceived issues on this side of the ball, both the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks still rank in the top-10 in total defense. San Francisco comes in sixth at 312 yards per game, while the defending champs rank seventh at 316 yards per outing. Interestingly enough, Seattle ranks 15th in scoring defense (22.0) and San Francisco comes in 17th (22.7) per game.

Courtesy of USA Today: Rookie receivers are set for record-breaking campaigns.

Courtesy of USA Today: Rookie receivers are set for record-breaking campaigns.

Rookies Kelvin Benjamin and Brandin Cooks are both on pace to catch 85-plus passes this season. Looking at previous seasons, only three rookie receivers have caught more than 85 passes since 1992. Even Keenan Allen, who had one of the best rookie seasons for a receiver in recent history, caught 71 passes last year.

Of the 32 quarterbacks that are slated to start for their teams moving forward, the only veteran that wasn’t with his current team last year is Houston Texans’ signal caller Ryan Fitzpatrick. This is a representation of just how much teams value quarterbacks under the new collective bargaining agreement, especially considering some of the lackluster veterans under center in 2014.

The last eight teams to appear in the Super Bowl over the past four seasons are a combined 15-15 thus far this year. This tells us a story of the parity that Roger Goodell and Co. have been attempting to build for some time now. As we saw on Sunday, both the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks figure to be in the conversation for the Super Bowl come January, but there is a real expectation that some other playoff teams from a season ago could be in trouble. The New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts are a combined 5-10 in 2014.

Courtesy of ESPN.com: There is a reason running backs aren't valued anymore.

Courtesy of ESPN.com: There is a reason running backs aren’t valued anymore.

Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Ryan Mathews, Eddie Lacy and Frank Gore all rushed for at least 1,100 yards in 2013. Due to varying factors, these five running backs have combined for 420 yards on 134 rushes for an average of just 3.1 yards per rush this season.

If we needed any more evidence that the running back position is less valued than almost any other position in the NFL, consider this: of the last 15 running backs selected in the first round of the draft, only Donald Brown and Darren McFadden compiled more than 11 rush attempts last week. Even more surprising, nine of those 15 running backs didn’t even suit up for action in Week 3 and six are no longer in the NFL.

Photo: USA Today