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The Steelers got steamrolled by the Eagles on Sunday in a 34-3 loss and there weren’t any shortage of places to look for reasons why things went so wrong.
The defense gave up 426 yards and generated no sacks or turnovers. The run game produced 29 yards on 10 carries and Ben Roethlisberger turned the ball over twice while being sacked four times by an impressive Eagles defense. There were dropped passes, a slew of injuries and enough other things for Roethlisberger to come up with an easy answer to why the Steelers suffered their worst loss since 1989.
“We stunk,” Roethlisberger said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We all stunk.”
The fact that the failures were so widespread on Sunday should give the Steelers plenty to work on this week as they prepare to host the Chiefs next Sunday night. They’ll get running back Le’Veon Bell back from suspension for that game, which they hope will show Sunday’s performance was an outlier and not a sign of how things will play out over the rest of the season.
Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen should get sick during a game more often.
On Sunday, Griffen temporarily exited the eventual win over the Panthers, was listed as questionable to return with an illness, and notched three total sacks.
“I was sick, but I fight for my team,” Griffin said, via Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I love this game. I love the way we work. . . . We’re 3-0 and we got to keep it going, man. Winning is a lot of fun.”
Tight end Kyle Rudolph told PFT Live on Monday that Griffen fell victim to a combination of “bad food” and heat.
“I don’t know . . . what medicine they gave him, but they need to give me some because he came back and he was a monster,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said.
Rudolph said that Griffen was upset that he didn’t get a fourth sack on Carolina’s final offensive snap of the game, which resulted in Panthers quarterback Cam Newton throwing the ball up for grabs.
Even without the fourth sack of the game, Griffen has 4.0 sacks for the year, which puts him on pace for 21.33 — more than nine more than his career high of 12.0.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton appears to have dodged any problem with his ankle.
A league source tells PFT that Newton’s ankle feels good this morning after concern following yesterday’s loss to the Vikings that he might have suffered an injury that could cause him to miss time.
The Vikings sacked Newton eight times on Sunday, the second-most he’s ever been sacked in his career, and he was hit hard on other plays as well. He suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter that caused him to leave the game for one play, but he said afterward that the injury wasn’t the reason he had a rough outing against the Vikings.
Newton should be fine for Sunday at Atlanta.
Last week in the NFL, no one faced more criticism than Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Bills coach Rex Ryan. But this is the NFL, where every time you think you know something you find out you’re wrong, and so Rodgers and Ryan had two of the most impressive performances in the league on Sunday.
Rodgers was scrutinized heavily not just for his performance in last week’s loss to the Vikings — anyone can have a bad game — but because he had been struggling for a full year. Rodgers went a full 16 games looking nothing at all like Aaron Rodgers, and there were legitimate concerns that he had become nothing more than an ordinary quarterback.
Here’s a tweet of my own from last week, which reflected a common sentiment about how Rodgers was struggling:
Last 16 games: Aaron Rodgers: 3,709 yards, 57.3%, 6.2 yards per pass Josh McCown: 3,854 yards, 59.2%, 7.1 yards per pass—
Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) September 21, 2016
So what did Rodgers do on Sunday? Just completed 15 of 24 passes for 205 yards, with four touchdowns and no interceptions, in a win over the Lions. Rodgers’ passer rating on the day was 129.3, his highest in a game since Week Three of last year.
Ryan, meanwhile, was getting even more withering criticism than Rodgers. After the Bills’ ugly loss to the Jets dropped them to 0-2 on the season, Ryan fired his offensive coordinator Greg Roman in a move widely seen as an attempt to find a scapegoat for Ryan’s own struggles. If the Bills kept losing, everyone said, Ryan would be gone before the season was over.
So what did Ryan do on Sunday? Just prepare a game plan that saw his defense absolutely dominate the Cardinals: The Bills intercepted Carson Palmer four times, sacked him five times and forced him to fumble twice. Buffalo won 33-18 in a game that was never close.
“We know what everybody thought of our football team and we knew we were a better football team than that. We showed up today,” Ryan said after the game. “I don’t know if anybody needed a win worse than we did.”
There are still big questions facing the Bills, and with a trip to New England next week they could easily be 1-3. But Ryan earned himself some breathing room by having his players ready to play against the Cardinals, in a big way.
Rodgers and Ryan stood out, but here were some more statements from Sunday:
The Vikings’ defense made a statement that it’s going to make Minnesota a contender, no matter what happens on offense. The Vikings have already lost starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, starting running back Adrian Peterson and starting left tackle Matt Kalil, but Minnesota’s defense is dominant. The Vikings sacked Cam Newton eight times (including three by Everson Griffen), intercepted him three times and completely took over the game, beating the Panthers 22-10 despite getting just 171 passing yards from Sam Bradford and 58 rushing yards from Peterson’s replacements.
The Broncos’ entire team. Could this year’s Denver team actually be better than last year’s Super Bowl winner? It’s too soon to say that, but the Broncos are 3-0 after an outstanding effort against the Bengals on Sunday. The Broncos’ defense played well, but we knew the Broncos’ defense was good. The key is that quarterback Trevor Siemian was excellent, with four touchdown passes and no interceptions, and receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas both went over 100 yards. The Broncos’ offense may just be better this year than it was with the ancient Peyton Manning running the show last year.
Terrelle Pryor. Yes, the Browns lost. Yes, the Browns are terrible. But how can you not love what Pryor did? The former Ohio State quarterback turned NFL disappointment turned receiver reclamation project caught eight passes for 141 yards, ran four times for 21 yards and a touchdown, and even took snaps at quarterback and completed three of five passes for 35 yards. Pryor is the first player to have at least 120 receiving yards, 30 passing yards and 20 rushing yards in a game since Frank Gifford did it in 1959. No player in NFL history had ever completed three passes and gained 100 receiving yards in a game until Pryor did it yesterday. He’s a special talent.
Jimmy Graham. When Graham tore his patellar tendon last season, there were people who doubted he’d ever be the same kind of player he once was: A patellar tendon injury is a notoriously difficult injury to recover from. But Graham is back and playing great football, with six catches for 100 yards and a touchdown in Sunday’s blowout win over the 49ers.
Sebastian Janikowski. With his 52-yard field goal in the Raiders’ win over the Titans, the 38-year-old Janikowski has 53 field goals of 50 yards or longer in his career, passing Jason Hanson for the most 50-yard field goals in NFL history.
DeSean Jackson. With his 44-yard touchdown in Sunday’s comeback win over the Giants, Jackson now has 29 career touchdowns of 40 or more yards, the most among active players and the 10th most in NFL history. Jackson is an incredible playmaker.
Carson Wentz. Can you believe the Eagles’ rookie quarterback was playing at North Dakota State last year? He looks like a 10-year veteran. He absolutely carved up the Steelers in yesterday’s 34-3 beatdown, and he’s the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw 100 passes without an interception. Wentz is the rookie of the year favorite, but he’s more than that. Through three games, he’s an MVP candidate.
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.