Biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 3

By Jesse Reed
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

What a crazy slate of of football games we were treated to in NFL Week 3. Quite aside from the events that played out in stadiums across American and in London during the national anthem, the play itself gave us more drama in one weekend than we can remember in a long time.

Crazy finishes, huge upsets and uncharacteristic performances by some of the game’s best players were on the menu. We also witnessed one of the game’s all-time greats putting on a show that we won’t soon forget.

These were the biggest winners and losers from NFL Week 3.

Winner: Rams and 49ers put on entertaining show on ‘TNF’

Thursday night games usually aren’t very fun for fans. Usually, bad football is on the menu as teams struggle to perform at a high level on a short week of rest. That wasn’t the case when the San Francisco 49ers hosted the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3.

The teams combined to score 80 points as the Rams eked out a 41-39 win. Todd Gurley and Carlos Hyde both ran wild, Jared Goff was magnificent and Brian Hoyer bounced back from a rough start, nearly pulling off a comeback win.

It was a tremendous display of offensive firepower which highlighted the play-calling prowess of young head coaches Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan. These two rookie coaches figure to help their respective teams take positive strides in the years to come, and we look forward to future battles between these two NFC West squads.

Loser: Marcus Cooper pulls a Leon Lett

It’s hard to even conceive of what was running through the mind of Marcus Cooper when he decided to stop in front of the goal line on a blocked field goal return. There was nobody in front of him but thousands of loyal Chicago Bears fans right at the end of the half (watch here).

A play that should have been a juicy steak 10-point swing in favor of Chicago ended up being the equivalent of a stale cracker when the Bears had to settle for a field goal following a very odd sequence of events. Thankfully for his fans, Cooper’s mistake ultimately did not cost the team a win, as the Bears won in overtime thanks to Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard.

Winner: Deshaun Watson shines in defeat

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson in NFL Week 3

The Houston Texans lost to the New England Patriots Sunday, thanks to a ridiculous finish by Tom Brady, who we’ll get to a bit later on.

Even in defeat, Deshaun Watson was brilliant. He proved once again that the Texans made the right decision to start him over Tom Savage, completing 22-of-33 attempts for 301 yards with two touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions, but one was on a last-second Hail Mary.

In particular, Watson’s two touchdowns showed off his ability to place the ball in spots where only his receiver could possibly make the play (like this), and his late-game magic nearly helped the Texans walk out of Gillette Stadium with a win.

Loser: Rookie mistakes, drops haunt DeShone Kizer

Someone had to lose when the Cleveland Browns visited the Indianapolis Colts. It was the road team that fell, 31-28, thanks in part to some bad throws by DeShone Kizer. The rookie threw three interceptions, one of which led directly to three points for the Colts — the difference in the game.

Browns receivers didn’t do Kizer any favors in this game, either. Drops were an issue, and Kenny Britt, despite his touchdown, remains nearly invisible. He caught three passes on 10 targets, dropping a few, and now has just five receptions in three games.

Winner: Washington’s defense starting to get some swagger

The Washington Redskins were disheveled on both sides of the ball in Week 1 at home against the Philadelphia Eagles. In the two games since, including Sunday night against the Oakland Raiders, they’ve rebounded incredibly, thanks in large part to a defense that has started to get the look of a dominant unit.

Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has his guys up front doing some serious damage. Rookie Jonathan Allen was a monster in the middle against Oakland’s talented interior line. Josh Norman, D.J. Swearinger and Co. have really stepped up their level of play on the back end as well. Derek Carr was frustrated all night long. Michael Crabtree was injured in the game after taking a big hit. He and Amari Cooper (who has a terrible case of butterfingers this year) combined for just two catches and 13 yards.

In total, Oakland gained just 128 yards, converted just seven first downs and turned the ball over three times.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on this defense in the weeks to come. If it continues playing well, then Washington will be a dangerous team come November and December.

Loser: So much for that dominant Panthers defense

After feasting on the San Francisco 49ers and Buffalo Bills the first two games of the season, Carolina’s defense finally faced its first test Sunday. Hosting the New Orleans Saints, it’s safe to say the Panthers failed that test in a major way.

Drew Brees missed on just seven of his 29 attempts, passing for 220 yards and three touchdowns. The Saints averaged 5.5 yards on the ground as their offensive line pushed Carolina’s vaunted defensive front around all game long. The only Saints running back that didn’t romp was the aging Adrian Peterson, who really should not be utilized much at all going forward.

Combined with the continued poor play of Cam Newton, who is certainly ailing, the Panthers were crushed at home by the score of 34-13.

Winner: Kareem Hunt comes through again for Chiefs

Nobody had more rushing yards through two weeks than Kareem Hunt, and after another monster game in Week 3 the rookie running back has actually opened up his lead significantly.

With another 172 yards and a touchdown on just 17 carries against the Los Angeles Chargers, Hunt now has 401 rushing yards on the season. He’s also caught nine passes for 137 yards, meaning he’s on pace to total 2,869 yards this season. Best yet, Hunt’s touchdown on Sunday was the game-sealing score. As the Chiefs attempted to run out the clock he busted through the line of scrimmage thanks to some stellar blocking and took off like a shot, going 69 yards for the score.

Loser: Seattle’s defense dominated by Tennessee

We already knew Seattle’s offense has significant issues. But on Sunday on the road against the Tennessee Titans, it was the defense that surprisingly laid an egg. Russell Wilson got better protection than he’s gotten all year so far and threw four touchdowns. Yet it wasn’t enough because Tennessee’s offense did whatever it wanted in the second half of the game.

Marcus Mariota wasn’t sacked once. The hardest hit he took came on a dirty hit out of bounds by Richard Sherman (watch here), who had a major meltdown in which he earned three fouls on a single play earlier in the game. The third-year quarterback finished with 225 yards and two touchdowns through the air and was aided by a punishing rushing attack that gained 195 yards against the famed Legion of Boom.

While Wilson made things interesting with a nice comeback attempt in the end, this game was won before that ever took place when the Titans scored 21 unanswered points in the pivotal third quarter. Seattle’s defense has to step up if the Seahawks are going to snap out of this early-season funk. Now at 1-2 on the season, it’s going to be an uphill climb the rest of the way.

Winner: Aaron Rodgers comes through in the clutch

How many times have we seen Aaron Rodgers figure out a way to get the job done with the game on the line? Before Sunday’s huge win at home against the Cincinnati Bengals, he had registered 17 game-winning drives in his career. Rodgers can tack another to that tally after rallying his team to a 27-24 victory in overtime.

Thanks in part to only his second career pick-six (watch here), Rodgers and the Packers fell into an early 21-7 hole. He was pummeled all game long by Cincinnati’s defensive front, enduring six sacks in total.

But resilience is one of Rodgers’ best qualities. It shined through once again as he led the comeback at home. It culminated with a gorgeous 72-yard strike to Geronimo Allison in overtime, leading to a chip-shot field goal for the win.

Loser: Pittsburgh’s defense got thrashed in the trenches

Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard against Pittsburgh Steelers in NFL Week 3

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost Sunday in Chicago, thanks in large part to the inability to stop Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard. The two running backs took advantage of big holes created by their offensive line, combining for 266 total yards and two touchdowns.

The two sealed the win for Chicago in overtime with four consecutive runs that went for a combined 74 yards, with Howard finishing the game on a 19-yard scamper around the left side of the line.

Pittsburgh’s front seven had no answers for these two running backs, who’ll be a problem for opposing defenses all year long.

Winner: Jake Elliott with the 61-yard walk-off field goal

The Philadelphia Eagles nearly blew a two-touchdown lead to their NFC East rivals, the New York Giants. After going up 14-0 and thoroughly dominating New York’s offense for three quarters, Philly’s defense let Odell Beckham Jr. get loose for two touchdowns (watch here). Then Eli Manning found Sterling Shepard for a 77-yard score that put the Giants up for the first time all game.

After Carson Wentz and his offense responded with a touchdown of their own, the two sides traded field goals to make it a 24-24 game with under a minute left in regulation. New York couldn’t do anything in the end and had to punt after a three-and-out.

Then Eagles coach Doug Pederson made a gutsy decision to let fifth-round rookie Jake Elliott attempt a franchise record 61-yard field goal to win it with time expiring. Like a dream, the ball went through the uprights to give the Eagles a huge win over the Giants, who fell to 0-3 on the season.

Loser: Oakland’s defense is deeply flawed

Thanks to some huge games by the offense in the first two games of the season, defensive woes were somewhat brushed under the rug regarding this AFC contender. After watching Kirk Cousins and the Washington offense shred Oakland’s defense on Sunday night, that rug is nowhere to be found.

Cousins passed for 365 yards, missing on just five of his 30 total attempts. Running back Chris Thompson was a nightmare matchup for Oakland’s linebackers and safeties. He finished with 188 total yards, much to the delight of his fantasy owners and coach Jay Gruden. The only thing the Raiders managed to do in a positive sense defensively was force two fumbles, which led to 10 points on short fields for Derek Carr and his offense.

Given the talented receivers and quarterbacks residing in the AFC West, the Raiders are in deep trouble in the long run if they don’t get some stuff figured out on the back end defensively.

Winner: Marcedes Lewis goes ham 

Marcedes Lewis

Before Sunday’s game in London, Marcedes Lewis has not caught a single pass in 2017 for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The tight end more than made up for it against the Baltimore Ravens, however, catching four passes for 62 yards and hauling in three of Blake Bortles’ four touchdowns.

Lewis’ first catch in 2017 was a beauty, too, as he came down with the ball in the end zone for the first time in over a year on a trick play (watch here). If the former UCLA star can become a regular threat in the red zone, then Jacksonville’s offense will certainly become much more formidable.

Loser: Trevor Siemian takes a step in the wrong direction

Did you now that, through two weeks of play, Trevor Siemian had thrown more touchdown passes than any quarterback in the league? It’s true. With six touchdown throws he started the season on fire with two terrific games at home. Then he and the Denver Broncos hit the road in Week 3 to take on the Buffalo Bills.

It’s safe to say Siemian came back down to earth during Sunday’s game. The Bills forced the third-year quarterback into two bad interceptions, the second being even worse than the first and both occurring while the game was still winnable in the fourth quarter. He was awful against pressure and will have plenty to fix this upcoming week of practice as he prepares for a date with the Oakland Raiders.

Winner: Tom Brady was magnificent

Tom Terrific doesn’t need to do anything for the rest of his career to go down as the greatest quarterback of all time (in this scribe’s estimation). But Brady continues to do things that pad his Hall of Fame resume, which we saw him do on Sunday.

Brady turned the ball over once in the game when he was hit from behind by Whitney Mercilus, leading to a touchdown by Jadeveon Clowney. Considering he was hit eight times and sacked five time in the game, that’s trivial compared to what he accomplished on a positive note. Brady threw five touchdowns and nary an interception, and he won the game with a gorgeous touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks that capped of a seven-play, 79-yard drive late in the fourth quarter.

Even at the age of 40, Brady continues to amaze.

Loser: Obscure rule (and ref mistake?) screws Lions 

NFL Referee

The Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons engaged in one of the most entertaining games of the day. It was a contest that Atlanta controlled throughout, despite some awful interceptions thrown by Matt Ryan (including this pick-six).

As he’s done so often the past few years, though, Matthew Stafford led Detroit’s offense down the field late in the fourth quarter and appeared to throw the game-winner. The play was reviewed, however, and the officials ruled Golden Tate down at like the one-inch line as he was barely touched on his way to the ground.

An obscure rule that dictates a 10-second run-off  on of the clock ended the game after the review. The Lions could have lined up quickly for an attempt to win the game on fourth down if not for that rule. Through no fault of their own, they were screwed out of an opportunity to win the game. It’s also worth pointing out that there looked to have been 11 seconds — not eight seconds as the refs said there was — left in the game.

There’s no way of knowing what could have happened if Detroit — with one second left on the clock — had been able to get up to the line of scrimmage to run one final play.

Winner: Colts rediscover offensive mojo

Jacoby Brissett had himself quite a game against Cleveland Sunday at home, helping the Colts win their first game of the year. The quarterback rushed for two scores and passed for 259 yards with a touchdown, which was hauled in by a revitalized T.Y. Hilton. That touchdown went for 61 yards. Hilton, last year’s league leader in receiving yards, finished with seven catches for 153 yards, and Frank Gore tunneled his way in for a rushing score.

Sure, it all happened against one of the worst teams in the NFL. But given how bad Indianapolis’ offense has been during the preseason and the first couple of games, this was a huge step in the right direction.

Loser: Jay Cutler and the Fins get blown out in New Jersey

So…about Jay Cutler being the savior of the Miami Dolphins. That dream isn’t yet dead, but it was dealt a significant blow when the Dolphins almost got shut out by none other than the New York Jets.

It took a late touchdown to DeVante Parker to keep that shutout from happening. All told, Cutler finished with just 220 yards on 26-of-44 attempts with one touchdown and one interception. The running game was held to 30 yards on 15 carries, and Miami’s defense allowed Josh McCown to average more than 10 yards per pass and complete 78.3 percent of his passes.

It was just an ugly win for a Dolphins team that clearly needs to go back to the drawing board.

Winner: Case Keenum and the Vikings roll over Bucs

We certainly did not see this coming. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, fresh off a blowout win last weekend, seemed to be shoo-ins to win against a Minnesota Vikings squad that was rolling with Case Keenum yet again. The career journeyman was awful in Week 2, but he came alive in a major way Sunday against a Tampa Bay defense that was down a couple defensive backs.

Keenum ended up passing for 369 yards with three touchdowns and no touchdowns — numbers Sam Bradford would be proud of. The Vikings did a fantastic job wrangling Tampa Bay’s high-powered offense and forced Jameis Winston into throwing three interceptions. It was a huge win that keeps the Vikings very much alive in the competitive NFC North as Sam Bradford continues to heal.

Loser: Ravens sleepwalking in London

The Baltimore Ravens came into Week 3 of the 2017 NFL season having never lost by more than 37 points in the history of the franchise. They had also never before played in London, and it showed Sunday as they tied that mark in a blowout loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who won 44-7.

Joe Flacco had his worst career game, passing for just 28 yards and garnering a passer rating of 12.0. He eventually was benched for Ryan Mallett, who led the only scoring drive of the game for the Ravens, who turned the ball over three times, gained just 12 first downs and 186 total yards. The team’s vaunted defense, which had created 10 turnovers in the first two games, was helpless to stop Blake Bortles and Co.

It was just an awful showing by John Harbaugh’s team, which typically doesn’t lay down like this.