Week three action in the NFL was memorable in every way. Records were broken, there were comebacks, and eye popping stats not seen since the late 2000s. There were many winners and losers from Sunday, but some stood out more than others.
Winners: Carolina Panthers
It’s fitting to start with Carolina. The Panthers lost some key players in their victory Thursday night against the Texans but they should feel relief going into October. They’re the only undefeated team in the NFC South after three weeks.
Tampa Bay couldn’t keep up with the Matthew Stafford led offense in Los Angeles and it showed middle third quarter. The Rams won by ten and didn’t feel challenged most of the second half. New Orleans did get an easy win in New England, but even if both the Saints and Panthers tie at 3-1, Carolina has the tie-breaker and proved they can outlast Sean Payton’s team.
Undefeated in any division feels great after September. October will be a harder test for a team nobody expected to be above .500. A week and a half off came at the right time.
Joe Burrow and Zac Taylor
The Bengals played a worse game in week two than the scoreboard indicated. At one point, quarterback Joe Burrow threw three straight interceptions. Zac Taylor’s offense collapsed after a Roquan Smith interception was returned for a touchdown. The performance may be a reason why many analysts picked Pittsburgh to win handily against Cincinnati in week three.
Coach Zac Taylor could be on the hot seat most of this season, and he needed an early division win. He called more run plays than pass plays. The result was nearly perfect. Runningback Joe Mixon averaged five yards per run on 18 carries. Burrow threw three touchdowns and four incompletions. The offensive line was in complete control against an anemic Pittsburgh passrush. It was a rare game they didn’t give up a sack.
Thanks to a dominant performance, Cincinnati’s first division win of the year gives them the tiebreaker over an impressive Baltimore Ravens team. They also play the winless Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday night. Definitely a September to remember for the coach-quarterback duo.
Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert is 1-1 against Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid in not even a season and a half of play. That’s impressive for someone who hasn’t gone to the playoffs. This wasn’t an end of the season game where Kansas City had nothing to play for. The Chargers got an early lead and found a way to win at the end, something we’re not used to seeing from the losing franchise.
Yes Los Angeles came close multiple times to losing in the fourth quarter, but Herbert and the offense wouldn’t concede. The Chargers closed out the game with a 16-7 scoring edge after the Chiefs came back to grab a lead in the third. It helps rookie coach Brandon Staley didn’t replicate the same mistakes as his predecessor. Staley’s time management and helping his quarterback by using timeouts correctly contributed to a six point win.
Some credit goes to receiver Mike Williams for a 100 yard game and two touchdowns (both scored in the final quarter). Without Williams, Herbert might have finished with a mediocre game and Los Angeles in last place. Williams could surpass his 2019 season highs if the offense continues high production.
Moral victories are slim in the NFL, but they stand out when multiple teams are involved. The Indianapolis Colts didn’t think quarterback Jacoby Brissett was worth developing or keeping. Hilariously, the Colts are 0-3 and don’t know who their quarterback is if Carson Wentz’s ankles give out. The Miami Dolphins wanted a quality backup behind starter Tua Tagovailoa in case he falters. It’s a wise investment.
Tagovailoa’s out for multiple games with fractured ribs, and last week Miami was just bad against a Buffalo Bills squad that’s playing like the best team in the AFC. Las Vegas was 2-0 and barely won late in overtime. Brissett’s a major reason why the game went longer.
Throwing over 200 yards but no touchdowns, Brissett managed the four quarters Miami stayed in through a solid running game and a defensive touchdown. Yet he completed the throws, ran for a touchdown at the end of regulation, and completed a two point conversion when it mattered most.
A lot of analysts and fans put too much stock into stats and not game-winning situations. Jacoby Brissett won’t lead the league or get the Dolphins to top five in passing, but he has a chance the next few weeks to get Miami back to .500. The next opponent is Indianapolis. Brissett could take a few positive steps with this offense October third.
Losers: Anyone/thing affiliated with the Detroit Lions
Half-time Sunday featured the honoring of former Lions wide-receiver Calvin Johnson’s Hall of Fame induction with a ceremonial ring. The fans in Detroit’s Ford Field rang boos down at Sheila Ford Hamp and the Ford family. They’ve been fed up with their running of the franchise for decades. Detroit has been worse since Johnson’s retirement and they weren’t winning playoff games in his prime.
Coach Dan Campbell’s doing his best and is a coach the Lions haven’t had in a long time (if ever). The team plays hard and every game was close at some point. The Baltimore Ravens were expected to win easily on the road and almost lost.
Detroit got calls that went their way on what many thought was a game winning drive. Then Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson and the offense faced a fourth and 19 at the Baltimore 16 with 26 seconds left. The Detroit secondary imploded on coverage and gave up a 36 yard catch to Sammy Watkins.
For those who aren’t hardcore football fans or you’re just starting to learn about the sport, this isn’t the first time a kicker has set an NFL record for longest field goal made against the Lions. The record that was tied for decades at 63 yards originated from Tom Dempsey’s game winning kick against Detroit in 1970. The final score of that game was also 19-17. It has to stop somewhere…right?
Chicago Bears offensive line
The Bears offense Sunday had one of the worst games in the 21st century NFL. You have to go back to 2009 when the Kerry Collins led Tennessee Titans put up minus seven yards passing overall to find an offense that couldn’t do anything right. While quarterback play is a big reason the offense was non-existent, it started with an offensive line giving up more sacks than quarterback Justin Fields completed passes.
39 year old left tackle Jason Peters is at the end of his career and was tasked to face former number one pick Myles Garrett. Peters had little help at best and it showed. Right tackle Germain Ifedi, one of the worst busts on an offensive line this century, was bull-rushed constantly and gave up a sack to former Seattle Seahawk teammate Jadaveon Clowney. They couldn’t pass protect nor cover more than three seconds, yet they played the whole game. Guards Cody Whitehair and James Daniels were useless and second year center Sam Mustipher was overwhelmed.
Chicago somehow scored six points and didn’t lose a fumble. One has to think they can put up more than one overall passing yard against Detroit next week.
Two straight weeks Seattle had a double-digit lead against an opponent and both times they lost because of no second half adjustments. Russell Wilson was undefeated against Kirk Cousins and the Seahawks defense caught a break not having to face a top five runningback in Dalvin Cook. You wouldn’t know by the score.
The offense again looked great in the first half. The Shane Waldron playbook put 17 points on the board (missed field goal would be 20). DK Metcalf had a 100 yard game, Chris Carson ran for a long score and the offensive line gave quarterback Russell Wilson plenty of time.
The defense let Kirk Cousins do any and everything he wanted to in the Vikings’ first win of the season. The secondary played horrendous. Anyone who’s read Winners and Losers since last year knows Tre Flowers guards receivers such as sophomore phenom Justin Jefferson further apart like they’re the Indianapolis Greyhound bus station urinals. He then had the nerve to say, “we gotta watch more film. Sadly, y’all want me to be Richard Sherman.” His sorry ass of an NFL player shouldn’t be on the roster, but it’s been enabled and now it’s taking a toll.
D.J. Reed is an outdated Marcus Trufant at CB1. He’s small and gets beat regularly by bigger receivers and teeters on the edge of pass interference. He’s yet to cover DeAndre Hopkins and Brandon Aiyuk, two of the biggest pass catchers in the NFC West. The “replacement for K.J. Wright” gave up a touchdown to backup tight-end Tyler Conklin for Minnesota’s first score.
The Seahawk defense has successfully defended five passes this season. The only one Sunday was Carlos Dunlap’s tip at the line of scrimmage. Defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. has been gifted with All-Pros and Pro Bowlers, yet they play surprised when opposing quarterbacks throw screen passes to backup runningbacks. This team deserves to be at the bottom of the NFC West and should stay there if they can’t stop a mediocre quarterback tandem in Santa Clara next Sunday.
New York Jets
Adam Gase damaged Gang Green in a lot of ways. It’s too early to judge anything second overall pick Zach Wilson and head coach Robert Saleh do. The team’s that bad.
Vic Fangio’s Denver Broncos could’ve won 3-0 with a practice squad quarterback. The Jets’ offensive line is almost as bad as Chicago’s without Pro Bowler Mekhi Becton. The receiving core is damaged by lack of coaching from the previous staff. Nobody knows who the first string runningback is.
Saleh and Wilson will notch a couple of wins but this season could be uglier than last season, and that’s saying something.