Even though the 49ers are on the road against the Falcons, they are favorites in the NFC Championship game. Can Jim Harbaugh get the job done and get San Fran over the playoff hump?This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
ProFootballTalk: Will Harbaugh crack under pressure?
Bills coach Rex Ryan said last week that the Cardinals might be exactly the team that the Bills needed to face after two losses to open the season and it certainly looked that way during a 33-18 victory on Sunday afternoon.
That moves the Bills to 1-2 ahead of their Week Four trip to New England to face a 3-0 Patriots team that will be playing its final game without Tom Brady. Who will be playing quarterback is an uncertain matter thanks to injuries to Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, but Ryan said that the plan will be the same regardless of who gets the nod.
“I can sit back and say I don’t care who plays quarterback, because [Tom] Brady ain’t,” Ryan said, via CSNNE.com. “I don’t care who plays quarterback. Steve Grogan can play quarterback. If [Bill] Belichick’s playing quarterback, we’re coming after him, I promise you that.”
Belichick didn’t offer any hints about who would be at quarterback during a Sunday conference call, although it’s probably a good bet that neither he nor Grogan will be wearing Grogan’s old neck roll when the Bills roll into town.
Whether that quarterback leads the Pats to a win or not, they’ll be in first place in the AFC East when Brady comes back to work. The Bills’ ability to pressure that quarterback will go a long way toward determining how far behind they are heading into Week Five.
The Bengals held a 17-16 lead over the Broncos early in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s home game, but things would not go their way for the rest of the afternoon.
Trevor Siemian threw two touchdown passes sandwiched around a Bengals three and out and Andy Dalton was intercepted one play after the second touchdown to seal the Bengals’ fate as losers for the second straight week. That’s certainly not the way that the Bengals want things to play out, but it’s not enough to have cornerback Adam Jones questioning the team’s chances.
“Why would we hit the panic button? Vontaze [Burfict] is coming back. Our team is a good team,” Jones said, via ESPN.com. “We let two of them slip away. [Tyler] Eifert is on the way back. … First quarter of the season. Let’s get out of the first quarter .500. That’s the goal.”
Burfict will be back this week after serving a three-game suspension and Eifert was back at practice last week as he continues on the road back from ankle surgery. Both should help, but the Bengals need more than Burfict to juice a quiet pass rush and Eifert alone may not be enough to put an end to the offense’s inconsistency.
Neither of those things is a reason to panic for a team that’s made the playoffs five years in a row and the question of worries may disappear completely with a win over the Dolphins on Thursday.
A positive report card for the Patriots.
How much did play calling contribute to the Jets’ red zone failures?
The Ravens haven’t been perfect, but they are 3-0 all the same.
Third down penalties took a toll on the Bengals.
A look at how the many rookies of the Browns fared against the Dolphins.
The Steelers running game ground to a halt on Sunday.
The Texans get back to work on Monday.
If coffee is for closers, the Chargers will be drinking tea this week.
The Eagles defense turned in another excellent performance.
A bye week will be welcomed by a banged-up Packers defense.
Can the Falcons pass rush get going on Monday night?
The Saints are looking for their first win of the season on Monday night.
The Cardinals may be in the market for a new long snapper.
49ers coach Chip Kelly said that Sunday’s loss wasn’t a defining moment for the team.
The Seahawks offensive line wasn’t hearing the same criticisms after Sunday’s win.
The Buccaneers had plenty of time to think about how they were going to handle their two-minute drill.
But they apparently wasted the 69-minute lightning delay, as well as precious seconds of yesterday’s loss to the Rams.
When the Bucs took over after the delay, they had the ball at their own 44, but quickly drove to the Rams’ 27 with 49 seconds left. But then a short pass to running back Charles Sims gained 12 yards, but he didn’t get out of bounds and coach Dirk Koetter didn’t call the first of the two timeouts he had left.
“Yeah, there was an opportunity [to call timeout],” Koetter said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “I got a lot of confidence in our two-minute [drill], and I sometimes push the envelope on that, on getting to the next play. I thought we were slow getting lined up on that next one. I thought we still had time to check it down again and use it. But as it worked out, we were a little slow, so I probably should’ve used [the timeout] there.”
Instead, another 23 seconds rolled off the clock, which could have been at least two more plays. The game ended with an awkward Jameis Winston scramble and pump-fake, even though he was past the line of scrimmage and couldn’t throw.
“I was just trying to bait them and get closer to the end zone,” Winston said. “In that moment, I’ve just got to give somebody a chance in the end zone. That was just dumb on my part.”
Of course, his coach still has one of those timeouts in his pocket, in case they want to pause today to decide how best to give themselves a chance next time.
Panthers players wanted to make a gesture yesterday.
But perhaps with protesters and the National Guard in the streets, they decided it wasn’t the right time, or they just couldn’t come up with the right message.
Via Kelsey Riggs of WCNC, Panthers safety Tre Boston said players and coaches and General Manager Dave Gettleman discussed some degree of tribute/protest, after the police shooting of Keith Scott triggered six days of protests on the streets of Charlotte.
“I felt today was our biggest platform as a city, this Sunday, after everything happened,” Boston said.
But only one player, reserve safety Marcus Ball, raised a fist and an index finger during the national anthem, and when asked about it after the game, would only say it represented: “One love.”
“We’re trying to do it the right way. We’re trying to do it fast,” Boston explained. “But sometimes when you do it fast it can come out of control. So I think we want to do a good job of really coming together and figuring out how we want to do it. . . .
“I think we’re going to find a way to do it so nobody can twist what we’re trying to do, no one can misinterpret the direction we want to go with our protest. We want to show something that is so powerful and so right, that it can’t be made wrong.”
Other than Ball’s lone salute, quarterback Cam Newton warmed up prior to yesterday’s loss to the Vikings wearing a shirt with the Martin Luther King Jr. quote: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“We have to find a way to show them, not only will we play for you, but we want to be with you in these times. We recognize what’s going on,” Boston said.
Tensions are beginning to calm in Charlotte, with city officials lifting the midnight curfew that had been in place since protests turned violent last Wednesday night.
After the Jets’ nightmare of a 24-3 loss to the Chiefs came to an end on Sunday, coach Todd Bowles said that the team was “s—-y all around” during the game.
While no one on the team may have bathed themselves in glory during the course of the proceedings, many people who watched the game would point to eight turnovers, two of which were returned for touchdowns, as the key reason for the loss. Six of those turnovers were interceptions by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, which would seem to do even more to localize the culprit for the loss.
Fitzpatrick, who threw two of the picks in the end zone while the Jets were still very much alive in the second half, didn’t run from that position after the game.
“I mean, I’ll take it. I’ll put it on me,” Fitzpatrick said, via the team. “I didn’t play well. When I don’t play well like I did today, then we’re going to have a hard time winning games. That’s the nature of the NFL and the nature of being a quarterback. I have to forget about this one, move on and show up next week. It’s hard and it hurts, it hurts for me to play that poorly, but fortunately and unfortunately I’ve played bad before and I know how to rebound from it.”
As he mentioned, Fitzpatrick has had other bad days over the course of his career and interceptions usually play a big role when things go wrong on the field. One of those bad days came against the Texans last season and he rebounded with five strong games in a row, something the Jets have to hope will happen again with the Seahawks, Steelers and Cardinals on tap in the next three weeks.
The NFL’s rule calling for players to be ejected if they receive two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties was an outgrowth of the way things spun out of control in last year’s Odell Beckham–Josh Norman messiness, so there was some nice symmetry to the fact that it was first implemented in this year’s first meeting between the two players.
Neither Beckham nor Norman was the one sent for an early shower, however. Giants center Weston Richburg was flagged early in the game for arguing about a call and then dispatched after hitting Norman in the back at the end of a play in the fourth quarter. After the Redskins had put the final touches on their 29-27 win, Richburg addressed the ejection by suggesting umpire Undrey Walsh was paying him undue attention.
“The guy that threw [the flag] was after me,” Richburg said, via the New York Post. “They were probably trying to cut down on things seeing what happened last year with that matchup. But it’s on me. I can’t control how many flags they want to throw. I’ve got to be a leader and be in there for my team. … I deal with him a lot because he is the umpire and spots the ball, so I am talking to him about calls and what not. But like I said, I just have to be that consistent presence for my team and today I made a mistake and let it pull me out of the game.”
The game was generally calmer than last year with officials speaking to Beckham and Norman before the contest to make sure they knew that the same behavior would have immediate consequences this time. The Giants had serious problems avoiding penalties in general, though, and their 11 penalties for 128 yards go right next to three turnovers as major reasons why the team lost on Sunday.
Few expected the Steelers to lose to the Eagles on Sunday. No one expected it to be historic.
As noted by Adam Schefter of ESPN, the 34-3 outcome on Sunday was the largest margin of defeat for the Steelers since Week Two of the 1989 season. On that September afternoon more than 27 years ago, the Steelers lost to the Bengals, 41-10.
Chuck Noll was the coach. Bubby Brister was the quarterback. But the season turned out well, notwithstanding the 31-point loss at Cincinnati and a 51-0 splattering by the Browns in Pittsburgh on week earlier. The two-game 92-10 debacle became an unlikely Week Three win over the Vikings, who were a trendy Super Bowl pick at the time. The upset sparked an eventual playoff berth for the Steelers, who would beat the Oilers in the wild-card round and lose to the Broncos the following week.
So there’s still hope for the 2016 Steelers, even if they have squandered bragging rights in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the next four years. Good luck getting anyone in Pittsburgh to see it that way today, as the city processes being on the wrong end of an ugly beating at the hands of a rookie quarterback who was playing for North Dakota State a year ago.
The Carson Wentz Express rolled on Sunday as the rookie threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns to pace the Eagles in a 34-3 rout of the Steelers that moves their record to 3-0 ahead of their bye week.
There has been plenty to like about the Eagles’ performance over the first three weeks, particularly with a defense that has allowed just 20 points so far this season. It’s a quarterback-driven league, though, and the ones picked at the top of the draft always get the most attention, so Wentz was the man of the hour again on Sunday.
Coach Doug Pederson said “the sky is the limit” for the rookie while Steelers coach Mike Tomlin complimented Wentz on an “awesome job” against his team. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said that “what he’s doing is special” and tight end Brent Celek is feeling invigorated by the rookie’s spot in the offense.
“I told [Pederson] being 10 years in, this kid is inspiring me,” Celek said in comments distributed by the team. “He’s adding youth to my game just by the way he’s acting, being in the huddle, taking command, it’s beyond impressive; it’s great. We have to keep it going. I’m not going to sit here and say we’re the greatest team but I’m excited with how he’s playing and he’s elevating everybody else’s play by the way he’s handling it.”
With Wentz taking over the job just before the start of the regular season after initially being ticketed for the No. 3 job, expectations were modest about what he’d do. Three weeks of winning, turnover-free football will bump those expectations up significantly, but it’s clear the Eagles believe that Wentz has what it takes to continue thriving after the bye.
The Cardinals anticipated being much better than this, after being a missed field goal in the final minute away from being 2-0.
But the mistakes have continued to build, and so has coach Bruce Arians’ frustration.
After yesterday’s 33-18 loss to the Bills, Arians couldn’t find much right about his team’s performance.
“We talked a lot all week about getting off to a fast start and it’s the slowest one we’ve had in four years offensively,” Arians said, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “We just did a poor job of running routes, finding guys, getting open and protecting the quarterback.
“Just continue to make mistakes in all three phases.”
The flat tire came right out of the parking lot, as they were outgained 142 yards to 2 by the Bills in the first quarter. They needed 18 plays to get a first down, and at one point had more punts (seven) than yards (five). Then there was the comedy of errors stuff, like a high snap on a field goal which was returned for a touchdown by the Bills.
They haven’t scored a point in a first quarter yet this season, which put them in a hole to set up late mistakes. Carson Palmer threw four interceptions, all in the fourth quarter when they were playing desperately.
The Cardinals are now 1-2, the same hole as their NFC Championship Game opponent the Panthers find themselves in. And like Carolina, it’s hard to point to a reason that these things have gone south so quickly, because neither roster suffered major defections this offseason.
Some players wait to hear from the doctors.
But a tweet last night from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson suggests he’s got it on good word his knee’s OK from a higher authority.
Wilson had an MRI last night on his left knee, the latest in a series of injuries for the diminutive quarterback. He suffered a sprained right ankle in the opener.
The bubbly Wilson was always upbeat about playing through that one, and he did, though his mobility was obviously limited in a loss to the Rams.
He was able to finish yesterday’s game on what was speculated to be an MCL sprain, which is possible depending on the severity.
But Wilson’s gratitude — unless he’s just one of those weirdos who give thanks for everyday blessings — seems to indicate he has dodged another bullet.
The Seahawks only have rookie quarterback Trevone Boykin in reserve, though they signed one to their practice squad to give themselves an alternative for practice. Now the only question will be how effective Wilson can be, since much of his game and the Seahawks offense is built on his mobility.
Bears coach John Fox wasn’t happy after his team dropped to 0-3 with a loss at Dallas on Sunday night.
“This game’s only fun when you win. There’s not a whole lot of fun when you lose,” Fox said. “It’s frustrating. I’d rather be 3-0, but that’s not reality.”
Although Fox insisted that “We’ve got the right guys in that locker room,” he also noted that the Bears are playing shorthanded because of injuries.
“It’s not an excuse, but it is an excuse,” Fox said of the Bears’ injuries.
The Bears are, along with the Browns and Jaguars, one of only three 0-3 teams in the NFL. Chicago has been outscored by a total of 38 points, the worst mark in the league. This is looking like another frustrating season in Chicago.
But they’re checking him out today anyway.
Per Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN.com, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said his star wide receiver was going to have an MRI today but was hopeful the outcome would be good. Bryant went down on the second play of the game, but was able to continue later in the drive.
“We feel OK,” Jones said. “We’re going to do some other things, too. But right here, yes. Right now, we’re fine. We’ll give it another look-see with the MRI. . . .
“I saw how the knee took it. That was a little concerning. I did see him moving around, but I saw Michael Irvin — I’ll never forget that — go back out and play [after an ACL injury]. Let’s just see how the MRI goes. We’ve got what we’ve seen in here, and that’s not something I would be alarmed about.”
Of course, if Dr. Jones didn’t want to incite alarm, he could have forgotten about mentioning Irvin’s torn ACL. But because he did, his team’s fans will be worried until the results from an actual doctor are in.
Bryant’s coming off a season when he missed seven games with a foot injury, and he had surgery this offseason to repair it.
Dak Prescott is still just a rookie.
Prescott led the Cowboys to an easy 31-17 win over the Bears, looking nothing like a first-year player in the process. He was efficient enough passing, but is able to move in the pocket and keep plays alive and run and get back up again, things that Tony Romo can’t always do (especially that last one).
Prescott finished 19-of-24 passing for 248 yards and a touchdown.
He’s played so precociously that it’s almost a surprise that his fourth-quarter touchdown to Dez Bryant was his first touchdown pass, but the fact we’re still waiting to see his first interception speaks to what makes the Cowboys love the almost-afterthought fourth-rounder so much.
It would be as irresponsible to suggest that he’s going to make Romo obsolete as it was when some were getting moon-eyed over Jimmy Garoppolo in New England the first two weeks of the season. But Prescott walked into a situation nearly as attractive as being coached by Bill Belichick when he got to take his first NFL snaps behind the Cowboys’ offensive line and surrounded by such skill-position talent.
That gives them two wins in three games without Romo, which is double what the Cowboys won in 12 non-Romo starts last year (Cassel had the one). There are plenty of people contributing to that, but unlike past situations, the Cowboys feel like they have a chance with Prescott at the helm.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. Prescott’s been good, but fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott is helping to make it easy for his quarterback.
Elliott finished with 30 carries for 140 yards, dramatically improving his totals. He went for 51 yards in the opener and 83 last week, and after a slow preseason, this was the first time he flashed star quality. As a pro, at least. His hurdle of Bears safety Chris Prosinski gave him a poster-worthy shot, and may have summed up the evening for both sides.
The idea behind drafting the Ohio State running back fourth overall was to help Romo-proof the offense anyway, and his ability to keep chains moving is going to be of assistance when the old guy comes back too.
2. On the other sideline, we probably should have seen this coming.
The Bears walked in the door undermanned and on a short week, after an embarrassing loss to the Eagles last Monday, with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.
While it’s uncertain that Jay Cutler would have made things any better, there’s a certain hopelessness that descends with veteran backups of Hoyer’s ilk. But the Bears were in a transitional phase anyway, and then kept getting hurt.
To recap: In addition to starting Cutler, the Bears were without pass-rushers Lamarr Houston (IR) and Pernell McPhee (PUP), and center Hroniss Grasu (IR). That doesn’t even get into the recent injuries, including defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and linebacker Danny Trevathan, who were inactive because of problems of shorter-term nature.
3. While the lack of punch of the Bears offense was certainly a factor, the Cowboys’ defense looked almost competent at times.
They’re still short on pass-rushers, and will be for another game until Demarcus Lawrence returns a week from now after his four-game drug suspension.
But considering they get the punchless 49ers next week, they might be able to survive the wait.
4. The Cowboys are going to be at their best when they can play from ahead, especially until Tony Romo returns.
But the way they got up on the Bears would have allowed many quarterbacks to have looked good.
The Cowboys had more first downs (19) than the Bears had plays (18) in the first half, leading to a 24-7 lead at the break.
5. There were some bright spots for the Bears.
Sort of. OK, not many.
Tight end Zach Miller caught a couple of touchdowns, but we already knew he was pretty good.
Rookie running back Jordan Howard popped a 36-yard run in the first half, and might have had more if they were in a position to run more often.
The fifth-round pick from Indiana (via Alabama-Birmingham) has shown some promise, but may need some time to gain traction because Fox is generally averse to playing rookies unless he has to.
Maybe he has to.
Sunday’s game had plenty of surprising outcomes. So the question of the day for Monday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN is this: Which win was the most surprising?
The choices appear below. Pick one and make your case in the comments — or complain about how we left out the win secured by your favorite team.
Tune in for the radio show at 6:00 a.m. ET, which slides over to NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET.