If the third week of the NFL season taught us anything, it was that players and coaches are never going to stop committing costly blunders. In some cases, the blunders boil down to just one or two costly mistakes. In other cases, it’s more of a game-long, slow-motion disaster.
Week 3 gave us plenty of both.
The week got off to a bang with the Cleveland Browns winning their first game in nearly two years. Cleveland’s efforts were aided by significant mistakes from a veteran New York Jets defender. On Sunday, the dominant Minnesota Vikings were pretty clearly looking ahead to a big Week 4 showdown. As a result, they were embarrassed by Josh Allen and the previously winless Buffalo Bills.
Ezekiel Elliott was dominant when he got the ball for Dallas Cowboys. But, in what’s become a recurring theme, that didn’t happen nearly enough. In another recurring theme, the NFL again has egg on its face because of a well-intentioned but horribly thought-out rule.
These were the most notable blunders from Week 3 of the NFL season.
Trumaine Johnson’s penalties assist Browns in comeback
With the Jets up 14-0 late in the first half, Johnson committed two penalties — taunting and unnecessary roughness — on three plays. One of them came after the Browns failed on a third down. The other offset a Cleveland penalty that would have set up a second-and-long. While New York still forced a punt on the drive, here’s what the penalties did.
One, they kept the Jets from getting the ball back in decent field position. If Johnson never taunts Jarvis Landry, New York would have gotten the ball back in good field position having scored a touchdown on its two previous possessions. Two, allowed the Browns to flip the field position. That made the Baker Mayfield-led field goal on Cleveland’s next drive much easier. Three, Tyrod Taylor was hurt on the final play of the possession. Without those penalties, he’s off the field by then and maybe Mayfield isn’t even brought into the game. He did make quite a difference once there.
Johnson was signed to a big money deal in the offseason to help the Jets win games. On Thursday, he did the opposite.
Vikings caught looking ahead to Thursday showdown
With a “Thursday Night Football” showdown against the Los Angeles Rams looming in Week 4, Buffalo appeared to be an ideal Week 3 opponent for Minnesota. Appearances can be deceiving. The Bills, who had looked completely hapless in the first two games, dominated the Vikings from the start on Sunday. Buffalo held a 27-0 lead at halftime and was only denied a shutout by a late, garbage-time touchdown.
For Minnesota, it was a classic look-ahead game. The Vikings clearly had their eyes on their next opponent and not the one in front of them. As a result, they were beaten — and beaten handily — by one of the league’s worst teams.
Raiders burned by big plays in Miami
For the third week in a row, the Oakland Raiders took a lead into halftime. This time against the Miami Dolphins. The Raiders actually started the second half well, forcing a punt on the opening possession and then scoring a touchdown to go up 17-7. That’s when things took a turn.
The Dolphins went on second half touchdown drives of 70, 70, and 80 yards. That’s only the beginning of the story. Those drives took a combined eight plays. For those of you scoring at home, that means that the Raiders allowed more than 27 yards a play. We all know what’s happened to the defense and who’s not there. But this goes beyond just Khalil Mack being gone. His presence might have prevented at least some of these plays. But his absence is no excuse for the defense allowing this to happen. What happened on Sunday was simply ineptitude from the players who are on the team.
Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett neglect the bell cow
Going back to last season, Prescott has failed to throw for even 200 yards in five straight games. The interesting thing about that is that he’s attempted no fewer than 25 passes in any of them. What makes that even more notable is that the Cowboys have Elliott on the roster. Yet, Linehan and Garrett seem opposed to feeding the superstar back. Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks was a great example of that.
Yes, Elliott lost a fumble on Sunday. But he also ran for 127 yards on 16 carries. That’s nearly eight yards a pop. Even still, Prescott attempted 34 passes. He also scrambled twice and was sacked five times.
Whether we’re talking about the quarterback, the offensive line, or the receivers, Dallas simply doesn’t have a good enough passing game to get away with that. The Cowboys don’t have the most talented roster in the league. But Linehan (who will still call the plays) and Garrett are not doing the team any favors with these plans.
Randall Cobb can’t hold onto the football
Cobb struggled for the Green Bay Packers in Sunday’s loss to the Washington Redskins. He caught only four passes for 23 yards. But in the overall bad day, two plays really stand out. One came when he dropped a fourth down pass from Aaron Rodgers. The Packers would have still been down 11 had he caught it. But it was only the third quarter and they would have been set up in Washington territory. Then in the fourth quarter, Cobb fumbled a ball around midfield, essentially ending the game.
The fumble happened late enough in the game that we can say that Green Bay wasn’t winning anyway. But who knows what happens if he holds onto the fourth down pass? Even a field goal on that drive would have brought the Packers to within a touchdown. We credit Cobb for owning up to his struggles, but that only goes so far. For this team to win, he needs to play much better.
Andy Dalton throws four interceptions in loss to Panthers
We can give Dalton a pass on his final interception, which came via a Hail Mary on the game’s final play. But he gets no reprieve on his first three. The Cincinnati Bengals have good enough receivers that he shouldn’t be forcing the ball into anyone. They also have a good enough defense that throwing the ball away and punting it is not a bad strategy. By and large, he remembered that in Weeks 1 and 2. He didn’t in Week 3.
Two of the interceptions came when he tried to force the ball to a covered John Ross. That’s just not how a speedster like Ross should be used. Give him the ball on reverses and short screens. Toss it to him when he blows by his defender. But he’s not the kind of receiver who should be going up to catch passes in traffic. Dalton tried way too hard to make that happen on Sunday. It was a heavy contributor in the loss to the Carolina Panthers.
David Johnson left on the bench for idiotic reason on crucial play
The Chicago Bears were nearly upset by the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Late in the game as Josh Rosen and the Cardinals were nearing field goal range, they faced a third-and-2. Arizona dialed up a run not to David Johnson, but Chase Edmonds. In fact, Johnson wasn’t even on the field. The play lost three yards. That’s a blunder. The reason he was left off the field takes blunder to a whole new level. Johnson had missed a block on the second down play. So, he was pulled off of the field to talk to running backs coach Kirby Wilson.
We only wish this was a joke. In high school or even college, we might be more on board with this. We’d criticize it if it happened earlier in the game, or maybe on first or second down. But it would be more understandable. But when you’re down two late in the fourth quarter and just outside of field goal range with a rookie quarterback on the field, that is not the time for a teaching moment. Your best player needs to be on the field. He wasn’t. It’s not exactly a fluke that Arizona is 0-3.
James White neglected in embarrassing loss
White is one of only a few active New England Patriots who’s been integral to the team’s success. He’s a capable pass-catcher and runner. As such, he should have gotten more than seven touches (four of which came in garbage time on the final possession) against the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
What New England really needs to do is free up Rob Gronkowski. That’s easier said than done. We concede that. But White’s prowess as both a runner and receiver at least gives the other team something to think about. Detroit’s defense lined up against Gronk like they would a gunner on special teams. That opens up holes for someone to take advantage of. The Pats just couldn’t do that. White deserved a chance. But he was left in the garage too much on Sunday. The 26-10 loss is pretty indicative of that.
New rule continues to stain the NFL
In recent years, the NFL has been plagued by some lackluster early season games. There have been some clunkers this year but by and large, the play has been okay in the early part of the season. It’s enough to make us really look forward to the rest of the year. Unfortunately, the NFL is dealing with another problem. This one is completely of its own making.
For the third week in a row, Green Bay’s Clay Matthews was flagged for a controversial hit. Of course, the NFL defended the call. But really, that’s worse. Bad calls are frustrating, but they happen. Bad rules are much harder to explain. Additionally, this same bad rule led to Miami’s William Hayes getting hurt trying to avoid a penalty.
This rule has led to a lot of criticism and embarrassment for the league. Worse, we fear that things will only get worse before they get better.