For as seemingly melodramatic as the first two weeks of the NFL season might have been, Sunday’s Week 3 action more than made up for it.
The early slate included a walk-off touchdown, 61-yard game-winning field goal and a questionable late-game call from the officials. Then in the afternoon slate, Aaron Rodgers helped his Green Bay Packers escape a major upset at home against the Cincinnati Bengals with an overtime miracle.
In between all this, National Anthem protests could be seen from London to Los Angeles marking the culmination of what has been a dramatic past few days off the field.
These are among the top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 3 NFL action.
Huge statement from Skins on ‘SNF’
Fans around the NFL entered Sunday Night Football wanting to see what all the talk was about surrounding the Oakland Raiders. Instead, they witnessed one of the most-dominating performances from a team in recent NFL history. It came in the form of a 27-10 win for the Washington Redskins in front of their home team. And the game itself wasn’t even that close.
Kirk Cousins completed 25-of-30 passes for 365 yards with three scores and zero interceptions. Running back Chris Thompson added 188 yards on 14 touches. Meanwhile, Washington’s defense held the vaunted Raiders’ offense to seven first downs and 128 total yards, including a 118-yard night from Derek Carr. It was domination in every sense of the word. And other NFC East teams now have to pay attention to the men in burgundy.
Seattle, we have a problem
Russell Wilson completed 29-of-49 passes for 373 yards and four touchdowns without an interception on Sunday. Seattle tallied 24 first downs and 433 yards of total offense. Despite this, Pete Carroll’s squad dropped to 1-2 on the season following a 33-27 loss to the Titans in Nashville. Seattle’s only win on the season has came against San Francisco in Week 2 — a game that saw the team win by just three points.
This lends some credence to the idea that everything is not right in the Pacific Northwest. Whether it was Richard Sherman acting the part of a child or Seattle failing miserably to stop DeMarco Murray on this 75-yard touchdown run, there are ample issues in Seattle right now. Sure Wilson was sacked just one time, but he felt pressure that wasn’t even there on Sunday. It led to some questionable passes from the quarterback. Meanwhile, Seattle’s offense could only muster 69 yards on 22 rushing attempts. All said, Sunday represented the latest in a string of games that leads us to believe the Seahawks are regressing. And at 1-2 on the season, there’s definitely a problem in Seahawk-land.
Ravens leave fuel somewhere over the Atlantic
The Baltimore Ravens arrived in London with hopes of going 3-0 on the season. They had allowed a grand total of 10 points in the first two games of the season and were set to take on a Jaguars quarterback in Blake Bortles who turned the ball over three times last Sunday.
This optimism was quickly thrown out the window and replaced with the unfortunate thought that the Ravens’ first two games were outliers of sorts. When all was said and done Sunday evening in London, Baltimore dropped the game by the score of 44-7. Joe Flacco threw for just 28 yards with two interceptions en route to being replaced under center by Ryan Mallett.
Meanwhile, Bortles torched Baltimore’s defense with four touchdowns, three of which went to Marcedes Lewis. It was a good old-fashioned butt whooping, and the Ravens are left to wonder if they have enough fuel to return home for Week 4.
Eagles overcome late Giants flurry with 61-yard FG
The New York Giants entered the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game with zero points. It was the culmination of 11 quarters to start the season that saw Eli Manning and Co. put up a grand total of 13 points. Then, in that final stanza against Philadelphia, the Giants ran off 24 points. It was a run that included two ridiculous touchdown catches from Odell Beckham Jr. and a long strike from Manning to Sterling Shepard.
Unfortunately for the Giants, none of this really mattered by the time the clock struck zero in Philadelphia. Eagles rookie kicker Jake Elliott lined up for a 61-yard field goal and hit it right through the uprights as time expired to give the home team a 27-24 win. In an early slate that was filled with drama around the NFL, this one game between two bitter division rivals lived up the hype, and then some. The Eagles moved to 2-1 on the season, while New York sits at 0-3 heading into October. That’s how big one kick was.
Lions screwed out of win following horrible call
It sure looked like Matthew Stafford was about to lead his Detroit Lions to a 10th fourth quarter comeback since the start of last season. With his team down 30-26 late in the fourth quarter, Stafford hit Golden Tate for what was seemingly a game-winning touchdown with eight seconds left.
As you can see in the video, Tate looked like he crossed the goal line before being touched. At the very least, he didn’t have possession of the ball until he crossed the goal line. Despite being called a touchdown on the field, officials ultimately overturned the call — making it fourth down. But there’s more. Some random NFL rule dictates if a clock is running during a review, a 10-second run-off would then occur. This ended the game with Atlanta winning by the score of 30-26.
The objective observer here will conclude that officials screwed the pooch on this one. In absolutely no way should a game end in this manner. That’s only magnified by the fact that 11 seconds were seemingly left on the clock when Tate was “touched down.” This would have given Detroit one more play and an opportunity for the win. Ouch.
Frustrated Aaron Rodgers leads Pack to comeback win
Rodgers really wasn’t feeling his teammates or coaching staff on Sunday aginast a bad Cincinnati Bengals team on Sunday. We saw frustration from Rodgers throughout the day, including these remarks he made to the sideline after a play was sent on to the field. It also didn’t help that Green Bay found itself down by two touchdowns at halftime.
Once again proving he’s among the game’s best, Rodgers picked himself up and led the Packers to a comeback win in front of his home crowd. Despite being sacked six times on the evening, Rodgers would lead Green Bay to two scoring drives in the fourth quarter, the last of which culminated in a three-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson to tie the game. Then, after Cincinnati went three-and-out to start overtime, Rodgers hit the little known Geronimo Allison on a 72-yard pass to set up the game-winning field.
There’s still a ton wrong with this Green Bay team. Its two starting offensive tackles are injured. There’s no real running game to speak of. Rodgers has been under constant harassment throughout the first three games. Even then, the Packers find themselves at 2-1 due to the stellar play of one Aaron Rodgers.
Bad Jay Cutler shows up in Jersey
Fresh off a strong start to his Miami Dolphins career, many expected Jay Cutler to take advantage of a weak New York Jets defense on the road Sunday. But much like we have seen throughout his career, Cutler came up short of expectations. Miami tallied a grand total of less than 50 yards before halftime, putting up its only score of the game on a garbage-time touchdown from Cutler to DeVante Parker as time expired. It was bad. Really bad.
Cutler finished the day having completed 26-of-44 passes for 220 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Jay Ajayi and the Dolphins’ rushing attack put up 30 total yards on 15 attempts against a Jets defense that yielded 370 rushing yards in its first two games. Meanwhile, the Dolphins went 1-of-12 on third down in the 20-6 loss. It’s this type of inconsistent performance against a bad team that should worry fans in South Beach.
The Bengals will Bengal
The Bengals looked primed for an upset in Green Bay on Sunday. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw just the second pick-six of his career into the waiting hands of William Jackson to give the road team a 21-7 lead heading into the half. For Cincinnati, this represented the first three touchdowns of its season after being held to field goals in the first two weeks.
Even then, this was not enough to win. Cincinnati would go on to put up three points and 103 net yards of offense in the second half. As rookie broadcaster Tony Romo would note, Andy Dalton simply failed to do anything of real substance. He missed wide-open receivers, struggled recognizing pressure in the pocket and was inaccurate when he actually did throw down the field. It all led to an embarrassing late-game performance for a Bengals squad that now sits at 0-3 in the AFC North.
Deshaun Watson impresses in loss to Pats
The Houston Texans might have come out of Sunday’s game in New England with a loss, but the team definitely found its franchise quarterback. Making the second consecutive road start to begin his career, rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson impressed big time. Sure the stat line will show he had two interceptions, but the reigning national champion went tit for tat with the great Tom Brady.
He threw two amazing touchdown passes in the 36-33 loss, including this dime to Bruce Ellington in the first quarter. Watson also did a tremendous job evading pressure behind what is still a weak offensive line. All said, the Clemson product completed 22-of-33 passes for 301 yards in the game.
In fact, it took a huge mental lapse from Texans head coach Bill O’Brien late in the fourth quarter to force Watson into a Hail Mary attempt as time expired.
The rookie hit DeAndre Hopkins for 21 yards to near mid-field with enough time for two more plays to get into field goal range. Inexplicably, the Texans didn’t use their final timeout until three seconds were left. Despite this major brain fart, we have to give Watson and his team credit for taking New England to the verge of defeat on the road Sunday.
Trevor Siemian, Broncos struggle in Buffalo
The expectation heading into Buffalo on Sunday was that the Denver Broncos might find a way to absolutely blow out a talent-stricken Bills squad. Denver was coming off a Week 2 performance in which it handled the defending NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys, 42-17. It’s a game that saw Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott pressured on half of his drop backs. With Bills starting left tackle Cordy Glenn out of action, most figured the Broncos’ defense would eat Tyrod Taylor alive.
Instead, it was the Broncos’ starter who struggled in a big way. Coming off two stellar performances to begin the season, Siemian was intercepted twice and completed just 24-of-40 passes in the 26-16 loss. To make matters even worst for Denver, former Defensive Player of the Year Von Miller was called for a questionable personal foul penalty late in the final stanza to set Buffalo up for a field goal that ultimately led to a 10-point win.
How bad was it for Denver here? Taylor missed on a grand total of six passes — throwing touchdown passes to Charles Clay and Andre Holmes in the process. It’s the first time since November of 2015 that a quarterback has thrown multiple touchdowns without an interception against Denver. It also came against a quarterback in Taylor who had failed to throw two-plus touchdowns in eight of his past 10 starts.
Colts flash some offense against hapless Browns
All it took was for the Colts to bench Scott Tolzien in favor of Jacoby Brissett. And to play the Cleveland Browns. With those two things mirroring one another on Sunday, Indianapolis’ offense showed up big time in an impressive 31-28 win over Cleveland. Brissett completed 17-of-24 passes for 259 yards with over 200 of them coming in the first half alone. T.Y. Hilton caught 7-of-9 targets for 153 yards and a score in a breakout performance.
Defensively, Indianapolis intercepted three DeShone Kizer passes, two of which came with the ball on their side of the field. And while the three-point win won’t show to be incredibly impressive, Cleveland scored two garbage-time touchdowns to make it closer. The better news here is that Andrew Luck is seemingly close to returning to practice. It’s a minor step in the right direction. But after the Colts’ Week 1 performance, they’ll take anything they can get.
Cam Newton’s struggles continue
Taking on a Saints defense that had yielded an 80 percent completion mark, nearly 800 yards and a 141-plus quarterback rating in the first two games, Week 3 looked like it would be a get-right game for Cam. That obviously did not happen.
Newton threw for 167 yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions in the 34-13 blowout loss at home. Pretty much like we saw for the first two weeks, accuracy was a major issue for the former NFL MVP. This interception was a prime example of that. It also didn’t help that Newton was sacked four times by a Saints defense that had just three quarterback take downs heading into the game. At this point, Newton’s early-season struggles seem to be a trend more than anything. And that has to concern the Panthers big time.
Steelers’ inconsistency shows again
Sunday afternoon in Chicago started out in an awkward manner for the Steelers, with head coach Mike Tomlin being the only member of the team on the field for the National Anthem. On the field itself, things didn’t get any less awkward. Even with the lowly Bears attempting to gift Pittsburgh points, the road team fell by the score of 23-17 in overtime.
The performance as a whole was just putrid. Ben Roethlisberger completed just 12-of-25 passes for 125 yards to players not named Antonio Brown. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s defense yielded an absurd 220 rushing yards, including this game-winner from Jordan Howard in the extra period.
It’s the type of performance that has come to define Pittsburgh over the past few seasons under Tomlin. That is to say, failing to take care of business against inferior competition. Remember, this is the same squad that fell to Philadelphia on the road by the score of 34-3 almost exactly one calendar year ago. Without an improvement from a consistency standpoint, the Steelers will continue to remain second-tier contenders in the AFC.
Chiefs backfield remains dominant
Alex Smith was efficient, but not spectacular, in Kansas City’s 24-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. Everything was pretty much underneath after he opened it up in the first two games of the season. Despite this, Smith was still able to lead his team to three touchdowns en route to completing 16-of-21 passes. Smith is now completing 77 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and zero interceptions on the season.
Though, it was the continued domination of one Kareem Hunt that deserves the most praise here. Having already tallied over 100 yards on the ground, the rookie put this one on ice with a 69-yard touchdown in the final minutes. For Hunt, it was the third consecutive game to start his career with a 50-plus yard touchdown. All said, Hunt put up 183 total yards on 18 touches. This brings him to an absurd 538 total yards through three games. Whew.
Vikings step up, sans Sam Bradford
Raise your hand if you had Case Keenum completing 25-of-33 passes for 369 yards with three scores against Tampa Bay on Sunday. Well, if you did, go ahead and take a trip to Las Vegas, because it was a once in a lifetime performance from the career backup. Replacing an injured Sam Bradford, Keenum led an offense that put up nearly 500 total yards in a shocking 34-17 win over the Buccaneers.
We know that Minnesota will be in trouble if Keenum has to start long term. But he did exactly what a backup is supposed to do on Sunday. The veteran managed the game, made a few big plays and avoided the game-changing mistake. The same can’t be said for Buccaneers starter Jameis Winston (more on him next).
Jameis Winston hasn’t taken that next step
Last season saw Winston put up some remarkable splits. In games that Tampa Bay won, he threw 15 touchdowns compared to six interceptions. For comparison’s sake, Winston tallied 13 touchdowns and 12 picks in the team’s losses. Any hope that his third season in the NFL would be different was thrown completely out the window on Sunday.
Not only did Winston throw three interceptions in defeat, he continued to display the decision-making ability of a rookie signal caller. His picks on Sunday were a prime example of this. And in reality, the Buccaneers are not going to take that next step until Winston learns the nuances of an NFL offense. Up to this point in his career, the former Heisman winner has not done that.
Tom Brady is still a Jedi master
Following a Week 2 performance that saw him put up 447 yards and three touchdowns in a blowout win over New Orleans, Brady was up to his old tricks on Sunday. The game’s all-time greatest threw for 378 yards with a whopping five touchdowns. For the Patriots, every last yard was needed in a 36-33 win over Houston.
Outside of the basic stats, what Brady did in the game’s final possession lends credence to the idea that is he nowhere near close to slowing down. With his Pats down 33-28 and just over two minutes remaining, Brady led a methodical drive down the field. He completed 5-of-6 passes for 93 yards, including this remarkable 25-yard game-winning scoring strike to Brandin Cooks with 23 seconds remaining.
Sure the Patriots have issues on defense (417 total yards against). They also struggled getting it going on the ground (59 yards on 20 attempts). But Brady more than made up for it with another legendary performance. At this point, should we be surprised?
Historic day around the NFL
A day that culminated in some major on-field drama started with members of the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars kneeling for the National Anthem prior to their game in London. That was followed by nearly every other team in the NFL taking a stand in some way during the anthem for equality and justice in the United States.
In a way, it was a mass continuation of the Colin Kaepernick-led protests from last season. In another way, it represented NFL teams and players uniting for values that they seemingly hold dear. No politics here. No opinion here. Regardless of where we stand, Sunday will go down as history-making for the NFL. It also helps that we bore witness to one of better Sundays of football in recent memory.
Nothing goes right for Oakland in nation’s capital
Oakland was looking to cement its status as a true Super Bowl contender in front of a national audience in the nation’s capital on Sunday night. Instead, Derek Carr and Co. laid a complete egg in a brutal overall performance.
Whether it was the lack of protection in front of Carr (four sacks), inaccuracy on part of the quarterback or a horrendous game plan from offensive coordinator Todd Downing, this unit looked completely lost. In total, Oakland’s offense put up 128 yards, 2.7 yards per play and seven first downs in a 17-point loss.
Defensively, the Raiders were equally as bad. Considered a questionable unit heading in, Oakland’s defense yielded 472 total yards at an average of 7.3 yards per play. That’s just grotesque. Sure one early-season loss won’t hurt the Raiders’ Super Bowl chances, but they didn’t even look like a playoff team Sunday night.