Days after Seahawks coach Pete Carroll admitted he was impatient with the running game in the first two games, Carroll showed some restraint from giving in to his previous mentality. A good thing, too, as Carroll's patient approach Sunday produced a ...and more »
Here's what we've learned from Sunday's Week 3 games of the 2018 NFL season:
Detroit Lions 26, New England Patriots 10
1. After two lackluster games, Matt Patricia's Lions put it all together against his former employer, securing the coach's first win with the club in resounding fashion. Matthew Stafford rebounded from his miserable home opener to pilot five scoring drives (of 12, 9, 14, 10 and 8 plays in length), complete 75 percent of his passes and toss two touchdowns. Buoyed by a drought-breaking running attack and patient play-calling, the Lions held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game and racked up 25 first downs for the second week in a row. The defense, victimized just two weeks ago by a rookie quarterback in his first start, shut down the greatest quarterback of all time, sacking him twice, and forced four three-and-outs, including three to start the game. Just like that, Detroit's Week 1 blowout loss and overall rocky start is a thing of the past. The Lions sit a half-game behind the division's top contenders, Green Bay and Minnesota, with a winnable game at Dallas coming up next week. The season has started anew, as has the once-fated-to-flounder Patricia era.
2. There's a reason that the Patriots executed a trade for Josh Gordon this week, however embattled the former Browns receiver may be. They are and remain void of a vertical threat and options at wideout. Dressing only three receivers (Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson) on Sunday night while Gordon rehabs a hamstring injury, New England resorted to dump-downs to running backs and desperate heaves to double-covered receivers and Rob Gronkowski. That is, when they had the ball. Detroit's effective ball-control game plan kept New England's offense sidelined for long stretches in the first half. When the Pats did get the ball, Sony Michel was ineffective on first and second downs, often forcing Brady to beat eight Lions in pass coverage on third down. The result? New England compiled just 209 total yards of offense, its fewest total since Week 17 of 2016.
3. The saddest streak in football, save for Cleveland's now-annihilated winless streak, met its end on Sunday night when Lions rookie running back Kerryon Johnson rushed for 101 yards on 16 carries. Johnson became the first Lions runner since NFL Network analyst Reggie Bush in 2013 to rush for the century mark. Johnson was a chain mover too, accounting for eight of Detroit's 25 first downs. Lacking balance on offense for at least half a decade, Johnson's breakout game, facilitated by the bullies on the Lions' remade offensive line, was a revelation and hopefully for the Motown faithful, a sign of things to come.
-- Jeremy Bergman
Seattle Seahawks 24, Dallas Cowboys 13
1. Days after Seahawks coach Pete Carroll admitted he was impatient with the running game in the first two games, Carroll showed some restraint from giving in to his previous mentality. A good thing, too, as Carroll's patient approach Sunday produced a nicely executed balanced attack against the Cowboys. And it was no easy task when considering Dallas entered Week 3 ranked third overall in the league in total defense. Quarterback Russell Wilson completed 16 of 26 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns, while the Seahawks as a team pounded out 113 yards and a touchdown on 39 carries. The commitment to the run helped the Seahawks control the game with a 32:44 mark in time of possession compared to the Cowboys' 27:16.
2. Seahawks running back Chris Carson solidified his position atop the depth chart over rookie Rashaad Penny with a strong showing against a good Cowboys run defense, which ranked 10th in the league entering Sunday's game. Carson rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries and helped sustain drives with tough runs. Penny, the Seahawks' first-round pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, had three carries for 5 yards and had to recover his own fumble after bobbling a handoff. Carson became the first Seahawk to rush for 100 yards in a game since Thomas Rawls accomplished the feat in late December 2016.
3. The Cowboys entered Sunday's game ranked 30th in the league in total offense (265 yards per game), and slightly improved the average with 303 total yards against the Seahawks. Still, for a team with quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, the lack of consistent production and even imagination in play calling is perplexing. Sure, the Cowboys no longer have wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten, two key weapons from previous seasons, but the team must find a way to get the offense going after converting just three of 13 attempts (23 percent) on third down Sunday. Prescott completed 19 of 34 passes for 168 yards, marking the ninth time in his last 11 games that he has failed to top 200 yards. He tossed two interceptions against Seattle and it would be easy to blame Prescott for the offensive woes. But the third-year quarterback is playing within the scheme and the Cowboys won in Week 2 with Prescott passing for 160 yards. Going forward, however, it wouldn't surprise to see opposing defenses crowding the line of scrimmage until the Cowboys take off the handcuffs from their franchise signal-caller.
-- Herbie Teope
Los Angeles Rams, 35, Los Angeles Chargers 23
1. In a back-and-forth offensive slugfest between Los Angeles' newest gridiron gangs, the older brother got the last licks. The Rams put on an offensive clinic against their counterparts from Carson, cranking out 521 total yards and 33 first downs, tied for the most by a team this season. Jared Goff thoroughly outplayed the elder statesman Philip Rivers, dishing out a near career-best 354 passing yards and three scores. If not for an red-zone pass intercepted by a heat-seeking Derwin James, Goff would have been close to perfect on the day. Goff was blessed with a clean pocket, unperturbed by a Chargers pass rush still sorely missing Joey Bosa, and connected with Robert Woods, his favorite target on this day 10 times for 104 yards and two scores. Last week, it was Brandin Cooks. Two weeks ago, it was Todd Gurley. You get the picture. Sean McVay's offense can beat teams a million ways, and they're getting better every week. Perhaps the league's best offense doesn't reside in Kansas City, but in the City of Angels.
2. Sure, the Chargers have constructed one of the league's deepest rosters, but if they keep committing game-wrecking unforced errors, then their stockpile of skill won't matter. Let's count the miscues. On James' aforementioned interception, the rookie safety caught the ball in the end zone, but decided to run out of bounds at the one-yard line. That decision set up an unmanageable set of downs, a three-and-out and a punt from their own four-yard line. That punt from Drew Kaser was blocked by a free-rushing Cory Littleton and recovered for a touchdown. The Rams went up by one score and took that lead into halftime. Then, down 15 points in the fourth quarter, Anthony Lynn opted to kick a field goal on fourth down from the eight-yard line, inexplicably attempting to turn a two-score game into a ... two-score game. The kick was good, but the Bolts never scored again. It's not enough to conclude the Chargers' continued mistakes are the result of some curse. Blame the coaches and their inability to hold players accountable, not some San Diegan voodoo artist.
3. With a crucial intra-conference matchup looming on Thursday night with the Minnesota Vikings, the Rams could be without their top two cornerbacks. Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib both left the victory over the Chargers with calf and ankle injuries, respectively. The dynamic duo were replaced by Sam Shields and Troy Hill. It's not yet clear how serious either injury is, but if neither corner can recover in the next four days, then Kirk Cousins, Stefon Diggs and Adam Theilen will enjoy a significant advantage in a clash that could determine playoff seeding come December.
-- Jeremy Bergman
Chicago Bears 16, Arizona Cardinals 14
1. The Arizona Cardinals tossed Josh Rosen into the fire trailing 16-14 with 4:31 left in the fourth quarter. The rookie couldn't pull off the comeback. Rosen completed his first pass for nine yards and a first down, eventually moving the Cards to midfield at the two-minute warning. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy then made an inexplicable play call, a run with Chase Edmonds on 3rd-and-2 that lost three yards. On the following play, Rosen had pressure in his face and threw a fluttering interception late to the outside. After stopping the Bears, Arizona got the ball back with 43 seconds left and no timeouts. The rookie got in position for a last-second heave but was sacked to end the game. Rosen showed some mobility in his brief series behind a struggling offensive line, but it wasn't enough against a good Bears front. It was a tough spot for the No. 10 overall pick to make his pro debut, one coach Steve Wilks will surely be grilled about this week. But the Rosen era is underway in the desert.
2. Rosen's debut came after Sam Bradford struggled for almost three quarters. The starter got off to a hot start, behind three big passing plays, including a 21-yard touchdown toss to running back David Johnson that put Arizona up 14-0. Bradford and the Cardinals offense went into the freezer after the first quarter. On the next six possessions, Arizona earned a total of 69 yards. Bradford turned the ball over on the final three drives of the stretch, including two interceptions. The final straw for the starting quarterback was a fumble as the Cardinals were driving into scoring territory. Outside of four plays big passing plays -- 35, 32, 30, and 21 yards -- three of which came in the first quarter, Bradford earned just 40 yards on 15 pass attempts. He ended with two touchdowns, two picks, one fumble, and a seat on the bench that should be permanent, barring an injury to Rosen.
3. The Chicago Bears are in first place in the NFC North! Behind another sterling game by Khalil Mack (two sacks, five tackles, three QB hits, one tackle for loss, forced fumble), the Bears D stood tall after taking the Cardinals' early punch. Chicago's defensive front controlled the game, battering a poor Cardinals offensive line, perplexing an immobile Bradford and holding Johnson to 2.6 yards per carry on 12 attempts. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky struggled for long stretches of the game, dropping his eyes in the face of the pass rush, throwing wayward balls, missing deep strikes, and getting picked on a batted ball by Chandler Jones. Behind an improved rushing attack that took advantage of a winded Cardinals defense (Jordan Howard 61 yards on 24 totes, TD; Tarik Cohen 53 yards on five attempts), the Bears were able to come back slowly for the win. Trubisky did just enough to lead Chicago into scoring position on three consecutive drives off Bradford turnovers. The performance of the second-year quarterback remains a work in progress, but Matt Nagy will take a road win whenever he's gifted one.
-- Kevin Patra
New Orleans Saints 43, Atlanta Falcons 37
1. Saints quarterback Drew Brees willed his teammates to a victory by hurting the Falcons with his arm and legs. Brees, who also set the NFL record for career completions, completed 39 of 49 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions and rushing for two scores. Brees' first rushing score came late in the fourth quarter from 7 yards out and helped send the game to overtime, where Brees won it on a 1-yard run to push the Saints to a 2-1 record.
Meanwhile, Brees entered the game with 71,127 career passing yards, leaving him 813 yards behind Peyton Manning's record 71,940 yards. With Sunday's production, Brees now needs 417 yards passing to set a new mark, which could happen either in Week 4 against the New York Giants or in Week 5 against the Washington Redskins.
2. Brees wasn't the only Saints player to set an NFL milestone in Week 3. With 10 catches on the game, wide receiver Michael Thomas now has 38 catches through his team's first three games of the season, an NFL record. Thomas broke the mark of 34, which was set by Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones in 2015. Speaking of the passing game, running back Alvin Kamara continued to show he could hurt a team lined up wide of the line of scrimmage or as a receiver out of his tailback position. Kamara posted 15 catches for 124 yards on an eye-popping 20 targets against the Falcons. Sunday marked the second 100-yard receiving effort on the season by Kamara, who had 112 yards in Week 1.
3. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan shredded an overmatched Saints pass defense, which entered the game ranked 29th in the league, by completing 26 of 35 passes for 374 yards and five touchdowns. Ryan got in a groove early and found a weakness in the Saints' secondary in cornerback P.J. Williams, who was matched up against rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley. With Williams in coverage, Ryan and Ridley connected for two touchdowns, one coming from 75 yards. Ryan also connected on a 58-yard pass with wide receiver Julio Jones and a touchdown pass to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu. On the game, Ryan found eight different receivers to pace a potent Falcons' offense to 407 total yards.
Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said Thursday in the locker room on the Falcons that "eventually they'll probably get the other 'Bama receiver (Ridley) rolling." Jordan probably hoped it wouldn't be in Week 3. Ridley exploded for seven catches for 146 yards and three touchdowns on eight targets. If Ridley can use this game to build momentum, the Falcons will have quite the formidable wide receiver trio with Ridley, Jones and Sanu.
-- Herbie Teope
Philadelphia Eagles 20, Indianapolis Colts 16
1. Through two games, the Colts led the NFL in third-down offense courtesy of a chain-moving aerial attack designed to get the ball out of Andrew Luck's hands before the pass rush arrives. Was this new coach Frank Reich's way of protecting a fragile quarterback with a checkered injury history and substandard surrounding talent? Or a sign that Luck simply doesn't have the arm strength to attack downfield the way he did before shoulder troubles erased his 2017 season? Sunday's game suggests the latter, as the Colts' most effective offensive threat was the underthrown rainbow that might bring a pass interference penalty on the cornerback assigned to T.Y. Hilton. The most alarming sequence came in the one-minute drill with Indianapolis down by four points. After a series of check-down passes in which Luck was reluctant to look downfield, he was replaced by backup Jacoby Brissett for the Hail Mary attempt at midfield. Luck's throwing arm is a story to monitor going forward. Is this the new normal? Or is he still regaining strength and flexibility after resting his arm until training camp opened in late July?
2. Carson Wentz's return to action was a mixed bag. He started the afternoon with a bang, leading the Eagles on a 12-play, 79-yard touchdown drive in which he flashed his trademark escapability and penchant for extending the play. Although he continued to keep plays alive throughout the game, the offense was stymied for nearly three quarters until he completed all eight of his pass attempts on a 17-play, 75-yard drive -- aided by a series of penalties against the Colts defense -- to take the lead at 20-17 in the game's final two minutes. Second-year pass rusher Derek Barnett sacked Luck on fourth down in the red zone to thwart Indianapolis' most realistic shot at a comeback before the desperate one-minute drill.
3. Even in a losing effort, Matt Eberflus' Colts defense showed once again that it's not to be taken lightly in 2018. Building on last week's AFC Defensive Player of the Week performance, rookie linebacker Darius Leonard was a playmaking demon at Lincoln Financial Field, tallying 13 tackles (five for loss!), two sacks and a pass deflection. Reborn in his sixth NFL season, behemoth defensive end Margus Hunt is playing at a Pro-Bowl level in the new defense, adding three tackles for loss including a strip sack and fumble recovery deep in Eagles territory. If not for a questionable Jabaal Sheard holding penalty on third down, Hunt would have halted Wentz's game-winning drive.
-- Chris Wesseling
Washington Redskins 31, Green Bay Packers 17
1. It was a big week for the Adrian Peterson train. The 33-year-old running back galloped for his 52nd career 100-yard game, pounding through the Packers defensive front for 120 yards on 19 attempts (6.3 average) and two touchdowns. When the Redskins offensive line gave All Day a sliver of light, the running back blasted for big gashes. Peterson's vision remains superb, he jukes defenders in a phone booth and explodes through arm tackles. When Peterson is pounding, the entire Washington offense opens. The Packers defense had no answer for the tight ends Sunday. Alex Smith hit Jordan Reed repeatedly on big plays, including a 34 yarder, and nailed Vernon Davis for a big 50-yard play. Jay Gruden had Mike Pettine's number all day, scheming up wide open receivers repeatedly. Coupled with a smothering defense, the Redskins look like a team poised to make noise in a discombobulated NFC.
2. Credit the Redskins defense for taking advantage of a clearly hobbled Aaron Rodgers. The Packers quarterback looked like a geriatric patient at times, limping around the field Sunday. Rodgers played admirably but was clearly affected by the knee injury. His passes were just slightly off all afternoon. Plays he usually makes with ease were difficult, including several throws behind targets. With the Packers defense giving up early scores, getting down 14-0, it put Rodgers and his balky knee in a bad spot. Outside of a blown coverage on a long touchdown to Geronimo Allison, Green Bay couldn't stretch the field against Washington. Rodgers was sacked four times on the day and was pressured repeatedly. The Redskins interior duo of Jonathan Allen and rookie Da'Ron Payne dominated, gobbling up three sacks and 10 combined tackles. On the plus side for Green Bay, running back Aaron Jones looked explosive in his return (42 yards on six rushes) from suspension. Expect more from the dynamic back moving forward.
3. Another week, another Clay Matthews roughing the passer penalty. The Packers linebacker was flagged for a hit on Smith late in the third quarter with the Packers trailing by 11 points. The controversial call wiped out a 17-yard sack. It's the third week in a row Matthews has been flagged for a roughing call, including last week's game-changing call against Minnesota.
-- Kevin Patra
Carolina Panthers 31, Cincinnati Bengals 21
1. I still want to believe in this Bengals offense. Cincy (2-1) spent Sunday without bell-cow Joe Mixon and lost star wideout A.J. Green to a groin injury, but did just enough to hang around. The jettisoned talent put extra pressure on Andy Dalton to make up for a ground game that managed just 66 yards on the ground. The Bengals passer threw a costly first-half pick and was downright unlucky to see a third-quarter tipped lob land in the hands of Nigerian-born, London-sourced Panthers defensive end Efe Obada. Both turnovers triggered Panthers touchdowns, but Dalton (29-of-46 passing for 352 yards) authored a pair of clock-chewing, 75-yard scoring drives before the break and brought the Bengals back into the game with a 27-yard touchdown rope to Tyler Boyd in the third quarter. The Glowing Ginger Man crumbled from there, though, unfurling a third pick off a wayward deep strike before closing shop with a game-ending interception at the buzzer.
2. Carolina's offense channeled through Christian McCaffrey, with the fleet-footed runner showing he can mine between the tackles for 99 first-half rushing yards and a career-best 184 on the day. McCaffrey's must-watch artistry included a blazing 45-yard first-quarter gallop into the red zone that set up Cam Newton's 56th career rushing touchdown, second only to Marshawn Lynch since 2011. Cam subsequently got the passing game warmed up with a 27-yard dart to a wide-open Devin Funchess before finding the big-bodied receiver for a touchdown two plays later. Newton (15-of-24 passing for 150 yards) looked comfortable pegging C.J. Anderson on a 24-yard catch-and-run score before plowing through Cincy's defense for his second ground touchdown of the day to bury the Bengals in a 28-14 hole they wouldn't erase.
3. Back to this Panthers defense, now home to a handful of productive new faces. Donte Jackson hauled in two acrobatic picks, giving the rookie corner three interceptions in two weeks. Meanwhile, Obada's pick was paired with a body-crushing hit of Dalton that appeared to generate a fumble. Officials overturned the call, but consider it a saucy pro debut for Carolina's newest difference-maker. Obada wasn't finished, curving around the edge with minutes left in the game to blow up Dalton near Cincy's goal line. On the flip side, it was concerning to see a talented Bengals front bullied by Carolina's ground game. Still, Carlos Dunlap did all he could, tipping a Newton pass to force downs for the Panthers before later causing a Cam fumble that Newton wound up recovering, saying:
-- Marc Sessler
Miami Dolphins 28, Oakland Raiders 20
1. The Raiders entered the game ranked a respectable 11th in the league against the pass, but Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill enjoyed a successful home outing by completing 17 of 23 passes (73.9 completion percentage) for 289 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Tannehill effectively spread the ball around and connected with eight different receivers en route to a 155.3 passer rating. Albert Wilson led the way in receiving with a 74-yard scoring catch, and he showed he could also pass during a trick play in the fourth quarter. Wilson, the recipient of a double reverse, came to the right side of the line of scrimmage before pulling up to find a wide receiver Jakeem Grant, who was wide open and hauled in the short pass before sprinting down the field for a 52-yard touchdown.
2. The Dolphins used a first-round pick on safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and he drew the start with Reshad Jones (shoulder) inactive. Fitzpatrick showed why he was the 11th overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft by totaling 10 tackles, which finished second on the team behind linebacker Kiko Alonso's 15. The Dolphins are off to a 3-0 start because of efficient offense and a capable defense, which entered Week 3 ranked 18th in the league. But Fitzpatrick showed he could be a force with extended playing time and he could only help the Dolphins improve on the current standings if the team sticks with him in the starting lineup going forward.
3. Raiders quarterback Derek Carr's late fourth-quarter interception in the end zone proved a brutal mistake, as the Dolphins capitalized two plays later on Wilson's 74-yard touchdown. Carr has been prone to errors during the Raiders' 0-3 start, but the offense had a bright spot with wide receiver Jordy Nelson. The Raiders have alternated big production weeks with tight end Jared Cook in Week 1 and wide receiver Amari Cooper in Week 2, and Gruden told reporters Wednesday that "hopefully Jorday has one this week." Nelson responded by hauling in six catches for 173 yards and a touchdown on eight targets.
-- Herbie Teope
Buffalo Bills 27, Minnesota Vikings 6
1. Any. Given. Sunday. Coming out of halftime, CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson relayed a comment from Mike Zimmer in which the Vikings coach looked up at one point during the first half and said "Oh my god, it's 27 to nothing..." It was indeed, coach. The Buffalo Bills traveled to Minnesota as a huge underdog and proceeded to dominate the Vikings in all three phases. The Bills D confounded Kirk Cousins through two quarters, sacking the QB three times, forcing two fumbles, allowed just 46 total yards, two first downs and did not allow Minnesota to cross the 50-yard-line until the third quarter. Buffalo's offense made Zimmer's defense look like it was the NFC Championship, dicing up the Vikings through the air. Sunday was a reminder that NFL games aren't played on paper. Despite the low expectations for a Buffalo squad that was walloped the first two weeks, the Bills came to play. Minnesota sleepwalked. The results were evident.
2. The future showed up for Buffalo. Josh Allen played like his hair was on fire early, making heady plays, throwing darts, and using his feet when necessary to baffle the Vikings defense. Credit the Bills coaching staff for giving the rookie quarterback a bevy of quick throws early to get Allen in a groove and aid a struggling offensive line. Playing sans LeSean McCoy, Buffalo supplemented the ground game with short strikes and screens. Allen maneuvered in the pocket well in the first half and made the correct read time after time. The quarterback showed poise on several throws out of the pocket, including finding Chris Ivory on a rollout for a 55-yard catch and run. Allen finished 15-of-22 for 196 yards, 8.9 yards per attempt, one TD throw, a QB rating of 111.2 and two rushing scores. His numbers would have been better had Bills receivers not dropped several passes, including an Allen deep dime that slid through the hands of Robert Foster. As impressive as Allen was Sunday with his arm, it was his feet that confounded Minnesota early. Anthony Barr was a victim of several Allen runs. The LB was out-dashed for a touchdown, got hurdled by Allen (seriously), and stiff-armed on a play in which Barr was called for a horse-collar penalty. There will be ups-and-downs for Allen moving forward, but Sunday's outing was a reminder what the athletic, big-armed QB brings to the table.
3. The Vikings offense laid an egg. Playing without running back Dalvin Cook, Minnesota couldn't sustain a drive. On the team's first nine possessions of the game they earned four total first downs and didn't have a drive longer than six plays through three quarters. Cousins played about as poorly as possible, with most of his hollow stats coming in garbage time. The quarterback looked rattled in the pocket, threw a heap of bad tosses, missing receivers most of the day. The Vikings offensive line was absolutely dominated. Bills edge rusher Jerry Hughes made left tackle Riley Reiff look like he was frozen in carbonite time after time. Cousins couldn't maneuver the traffic, fumbling twice and throwing an interception on a forced ball into traffic that was botched by Latavius Murray. With no protection, the Vikings offense had zero downfield element. Heading into a Thursday night tilt versus a vaunted Los Angeles Rams defense, Cousins & Co. must figure it out in short order or might be embarrassed once again.
-- Kevin Parta
Kansas City Chiefs 38, San Francisco 49ers 27
1. The NFL's leading rusher through two weeks, Matt Breida, escaped an injury scare when his knee buckled in a non-contact situation late in the second quarter. While Breida returned to reel off a few big runs in the second half, his quarterback wasn't so fortunate. As Jimmy Garappolo tried in vain to pick up extra yardage before going out of bounds on a fourth-quarter scramble, his own left knee buckled. Backup C.J. Beathard came on for one play before the Chiefs ran out the clock with Garappolo in the locker room. Coach Kyle Shanahan acknowledged after the game that Garoppolo is feared to have torn his ACL. If that is indeed the case, it's a season-sabotaging loss for the Niners.
2. While the 49ers defense deserves a bit of credit for stiffening in the second half, it was too little too late against a juggernaut Chiefs offense that found pay dirt on all five first-half possessions for the first time in franchise history. Why even bother to establish a ground attack when receivers and tight ends are running scot-free at the intermediate and deep levels of opposing secondaries? No team facing more busted coverages than Kanas City. A rare offensive attack marrying high-level scheming and execution with a cornucopia of extreme skill-position talent, the Chiefs seem to be lining up with 13 players on each down. When one of those playmakers is the uncoverable Tyreek Hill, it's not surprising to see a defense consistently stressed beyond its breaking point.
3. Might Patrick Mahomes earn AFC Player of the Week honors for the third time in his first three weeks as Andy Reid's field general? By halftime of Sunday's action Mahomes had broken Peyton Manning's record for most scoring passes in the first three weeks of the season. He has already tossed touchdowns to nine different receivers, four shy of Matt Ryan's 2016 record. Although Mahomes just missed touchdown bombs to Hill and Demarcus Robinson, he made up for those miscalculations with a spectacular scoring play in the second quarter. With the pass rush closing in, Mahomes escaped left, escaped right, covered nearly 36 yards in the backfield and unfurled a perfect on-the-run strike to Chris Conley in the back of the end zone. It was a play that only a handful of NFL quarterbacks could hope to make. Chiefs fans have to be pinching themselves, watching one of the most exciting players in the league directing the NFL's most high-octane attack.
-- Chris Wesseling
Baltimore Ravens 27, Denver Broncos 14
1. The Broncos started off so hot, and melted down into a disaster. There were turnovers, enough holding flags to fill a shopping basket and even the ejection of a key player in rookie Phillip Lindsay. In all, it reflected poorly on a head coach who appeared lost for a good amount of Sunday's defeat at the hands of the host Ravens. Vance Joseph made a questionable challenge decision, throwing the red flag to review a completed catch that gained eight yards on first-and-10. He lost that challenge, which looked close in real time but didn't carry a great consequence one way if left alone. His team also committed 13 penalties for 120 yards, which wiped out a host of gains. Garrett Bolles accounted for two illegal takedowns of edge rushers, Ronald Leary committed a personal foul that pushed the Broncos out of field goal range and Domata Peko's illegal block above the waist wiped out a blocked field goal return for a touchdown by Chris Harris. A game Denver very easily could have won ended up being an ugly loss that was much harder to watch than the score indicated, and the lion's share of the blame is deserved for Joseph.
2. The Broncos just need Case Keenum to be average. Denver has enough talent -- and a decent enough line, at least until today -- to succeed with Keenum as long as he plays within himself. Problem on Sunday was he rarely did that. Keenum too often tried to extend plays with his legs, rolling out into space he thought was safe until a blindside defender barreled down on him, knocking the ball free. He also made some throws from unstable platforms, even attempting a jump throw across his body when it was essentially unnecessary. Denver didn't protect well enough on Sunday, but Keenum also doesn't need to be a hero. He just needs to do what he did in the first two weeks: Take what the defense gives him.
He also didn't get much help from a rushing attack that was rolling through two weeks, but both missed Lindsay and also ran into the best front it has faced so far. Baltimore largely bottled up Denver's running backs, holding the combination of Lindsay, Royce Freeman and Devontae Booker to 3.77 yards per carry (83 yards on 22 carries). Freeman was the best of the three (13 for 53 and a touchdown), and Denver's rushing numbers are inflated by Emmanuel Sanders' one carry on a reverse for a 35-yard touchdown, but this offense became punchless in the second half because it couldn't run the ball and couldn't complete a pass for a big gain without having it called back by a penalty. This game showed us that perhaps the Broncos have been masquerading as a potential contender with two wins in three weeks. Maybe this is more of what Denver is.
3. Onto the winning team, Baltimore. The Ravens receiving corps is experiencing a Great Awakening with Michael Crabtree (seven catches, 61 yards) and John Brown (five catches, 86 yards). It has made Baltimore's offense incredibly fun to watch when combined with the running of Alex Collins (and potential of tight end Mark Andrews), and the Ravens into a team that cannot be overlooked on a weekly basis. They're also a resilient bunch, overcoming an early deficit with a gusto the Ravens maintained through the end of the game in a win of which they should be proud.
-- Nick Shook
New York Giants 27, Houston Texans 22
1. Eli Manning once again showed why no one should write him off as an aging afterthought in the landscape of NFL quarterbacks. With the Texans edging closer to mounting a comeback, Manning orchestrated a beautiful, nine-play, 77-yard drive late in the fourth quarter that culminated in a 7-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Shepard to put the game away for the Giants (1-2). Manning's calm and assured demeanor during the drive, which came amid a second-half flurry of J.J. Watt pocket invasions, was exactly what Big Blue needed to stay one step ahead of the Texans (0-3) in crunch time. Manning finished the game connecting on 25 of 29 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns to spearhead a Giants offensive effort that benefited greatly from the efforts of rookie running back Saquon Barkley. The No. 2 overall pick of the draft showcased his range of talents in being a potent offensive weapon for New York despite suffering a bruised knee early on that kept him sidelined for a portion of the first half. Barkley carried the ball 17 times for 82 yards and a touchdown -- he also caught five passes for 35 yards. Along with Odell Beckham's 109 receiving yards on nine catches and Shepard's six catches for 80 yards, Barkley served as a perfect complement to a Giants passing game that didn't have much of a problem slicing through the Houston secondary en route to the team's first win.
2. Once again, the late-blooming Texans ran out of time. Houston showed more life on offense in the second half -- much like it did last week against the Titans -- but their passing game once again couldn't quite dig them out of a whole. Deshaun Watson struggled with his aim and consistency playing behind the porous protection in front of him, completing 24 of 40 yards for 385 yards and two touchdowns. He threw a costly interception in the end zone in the fourth quarter when Alec Ogletree stepped in front of Lamar Miller to snipe off the pass, snuffing out a promising-looking drive that started with a 37-yard pass to DeAndre Hopkins. Will Fuller had another strong game, pulling down five passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, and Hopkins made six catches for 86 yards. The running game, however, was virtually non-existent, and the team struggled to piece together drives. With Watson not looking quite the same as he did before he suffered a torn ACL last season, the Texans need to find a way to be consistent on offense throughout an entire game in order to snap out of their funk and revive their quickly deteriorating season.
3. J.J. Watt ended his sackless streak, tallying three QB takedowns in the loss. Watt was prone to over-celebrating a tad after each one, and he should keep in mind they all came against a second-year offensive tackle making his first start. Watt more or less rolled over Chad Wheeler all game when it came to one-on-one matchups. Giants coach Pat Shurmur's decision to start Wheeler came after two frustrating performances by former first-round pick Ereck Flowers. The Giants' woes on the right side of the line are real, and they'll need to find a solution fast if they want to make sure their 37-year-old QB remains upright and healthy for the rest of the season.
-- Austin Knoblauch
Tennessee Titans 9, Jacksonville Jaguars 6
1. Where have you gone, passing league? A week after Blake Bortles lit up the New England Patriots for 376 yards and four touchdowns, he barely broke 150 yards, completing 21 of 34 attempts for 155 yards. That was it. No touchdowns, no interceptions -- essentially a whole lot of nothing. That was the tale for both teams, as Marcus Mariota's passing line was even more uninspiring. The quarterback, who entered the game after Blaine Gabbert was knocked out by a crushing hit from Malik Jackson, showed plenty of proof of why Tennessee didn't want to play him this week. His arm looked weak (likely a result of the lingering nerve issue he's been battling since Week 1) and his receivers didn't do much to help. Drops peppered passing attempts on both sides, and Bortles and Mariota also missed open receivers. Each attempted to make amends with their legs -- Mariota rushed seven times for 51 yards and Bortles five times for 27 yards -- but it simply wasn't enough. That's how you land at a 9-6 finish.
2. Credit Mike Vrabel for salting away his second career win as a head coach. Much like the Mularkey Titans of old, the new Tennessee squad rode Henry late while clinging to a 9-6 lead. The difference, though, came on a third-and-1, when Mariota kept it himself on a read option and rushed 15 yards for a first down to force Jacksonville to burn its final timeout. By the time the Jags got the ball back, there wasn't enough time to get into field goal range. While it wasn't pretty, a lot of credit is due to Mariota making the most with what he could, and Vrabel's defense. Speaking of which...
3. Was this a letdown for the Jaguars, or a small victory for the Titans' defense? Jacksonville and Tennessee each recorded three sacks (Calais Campbell had two for the Jaguars) and four quarterback hits, but it sure felt more like a win for the Titans, who were playing with their injured starter and against the league's most menacing defense, than it did for the Jaguars. Sure, the final score helped sway this, but the clunker put out there by Jacksonville's offense felt much worse than the Titans' subpar day. Lost in the emotion: T.J. Yeldon had a nice day while battling through an injury, which might have ended up tripping up the Jaguars just enough to result in a loss. Had he been healthy for the entire afternoon, perhaps things end up different. But the key stat categories -- turnovers, penalties, time of possession -- all fell in favor of the Titans, too. That was likely the difference in a game we hope we don't see again this season.
-- Nick Shook
Marshawn Lynch,Andy Dalton,Carlos Dunlap,Tyler Boyd,Devin Funchess,Joe Mixon,Christian McCaffrey,Efe Obada,Donte Jackson,Vernon Davis,Clay Matthews,Alex Smith,Aaron Rodgers,Adrian Peterson,Jordan Reed,Aaron Jones,Jonathan Allen,Geronimo Allison,DaRon Payne,Jabaal Sheard,Margus Hunt,Jacoby Brissett,Derek Barnett,Darius Leonard,Matt Ryan,Drew Brees,Julio Jones,Cameron Jordan,Michael Thomas,Mohamed Sanu,Alvin Kamara,Calvin Ridley,Philip Rivers,Robert Woods,Joey Bosa,Jared Goff,Derwin James,Russell Wilson,Dak Prescott,Ezekiel Elliott,Chris Carson,Thomas Rawls,Rashaad Penny,Matthew Stafford,Rob Gronkowski,Josh Gordon,Phillip Dorsett,Kerryon Johnson,Sony Michel,Atlanta Falcons,Carolina Panthers,Cincinnati Bengals,Dallas Cowboys,Detroit Lions,Indianapolis Colts,Seattle Seahawks,Washington Redskins