In the first two weeks of the season, the Ravens went 2-0 while outscoring the Bengals and Browns 44-10.
Things flipped around in Week Three. The Jaguars throttled the Ravens from the first whistle to the last in a 44-7 win that made those first two games feel like they happened a long time ago. The Ravens went from forcing 10 turnovers to giving the ball away three times, they allowed four touchdown passes to Blake Bortles and generally looked like they’d rather be anywhere but a football field throughout the game.
“Nothing went according to plan,” tight end Benjamin Watson said, via the Ravens website. “I’ll give their defense credit. They pretty much imposed their will.”
The Jaguars’ first two weeks didn’t provide the same kind of uniformity. They beat up on the Texans to open the season and then got routed by the Titans before moving back to the right side of a blowout. Those swings make it hard to know what to expect from week to week, which makes the Jags one of the more intriguing teams in the league through three weeks.
Tyrod Taylor was all smiles yesterday — and not just because the embattled Bills quarterback was excellent in a win over one of the league’s top defenses.
Taylor also laughed off Von Miller‘s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the fake handshake/too slow move, which both players seemed to enjoy in the moment.
“Me and Von came out the same year [in the draft] and we’re good friends and we were laughing on the field,’’ Taylor said, via Leo Roth of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. “I honestly didn’t know it was going to be a flag. Like I said, we were laughing (about it). It ended up working in our favor. I guess a bad play by him at the time, pretty sure he wishes he could have that back.’’
The penalty cost the Broncos 15 yards, and the Bills were able to extend their drive for 10 more plays and burn four minutes from the clock, capping the drive with a field goal which pushed their margin to 10.
It was part of a strong day for Taylor, who came under fire during the preseason, leading some to wonder if he was about to be benched for rookie Nathan Peterman.
Sunday, he had a career-high completion percentage (76.9, 20-of-26) for 213 yards and two touchdowns, for a 126.0 passer rating which was the third-best number in his career.
And, more importantly, he got the win to go with the last laugh.
There was discussion about the Steelers’ slow offensive start after each of the first two weeks of the season, but the concern didn’t swell to a particularly high level because the team won both times.
The offense fell short of expectations again in Chicago on Sunday and it was more of a talking point because the Bears pulled out a 23-17 win in overtime. The Steelers managed 282 yards, down from their modest totals in the first two weeks and way below the bar set for the unit coming into the season.
Tight end Jesse James called 17 points a waste for a team with the talent the Steelers have on hand and guard David DeCastro agreed with that assessment.
“We’re so much better than this. It’s tough to waste all the talent we have,” DeCastro said, via ESPN.com. “Look at the offense we have. If we’re not putting up 350, 400 yards a game, it feels like we’re wasting it.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said “this one is on me” after going 22-of-39 for 235 yards and losing a fumble, but the entire unit has failed to click as hoped through the first three weeks and it will take a change across the board for the Steelers to get where they want to go this year.
The Dolphins have had to jump through some hoops early this season thanks to a hurricane-induced change to their schedule and a player going AWOL the day before a game on top of the normal stresses that come with life in professional football.
Several Dolphins players said the team didn’t practice well this week, which may have been related to their extended stay in Los Angeles before coming back to Miami or could have been linked to overlooking a Jets team that looked overmatched in the first two weeks of the season.
None of those things came up as part of coach Adam Gase’s diagnosis of why the Dolphins lost 20-6 to the Jets on Sunday afternoon and he made sure to make it clear that excuses from others aren’t going to fly either.
“They just beat the s— out of us,” Gase said, via the Palm Beach Post. “That’s the best way to put it. … All I know is we’re going to line up on Sunday and play. So if somebody has an issue with that, they better check their profession.”
The Dolphins have another extra test this week with a game against the Saints in London on the schedule. They’ll need to handle it a lot better than they handled this week if they’re going to get to their delayed first home game with a winning record.
The Eagles are bracing for some bad news on running back Darren Sproles.
Sproles suffered a broken arm in today’s game against the Giants, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. Sproles is currently out indefinitely, with an MRI Monday likely to reveal the full extent of the injury.
The 34-year-old Sproles is getting old by NFL running back standards, but he still an effective playmaker for Philadelphia. So far this year he has 15 carries for 61 yards, seven catches for 73 yards and one punt return for 10 yards.
Philadelphia is deep at running back, with Wendell Smallwood, LeGarrette Blount and Corey Clement all running the ball well today. But no one does everything Sproles does, and the Eagles will miss him if he’s gone for an extended period of time.
Washington has been waiting for Josh Doctson to become a big-play threat since the day they drafted him.
What he did in the third quarter suggests he might be worth the wait.
The oft-injured wide receiver hauled in a 52-yard touchdown pass, which gave Washington a 21-0 lead in the third quarter.
He had to come back to an underthrown Kirk Cousins pass, and jumped over Raiders cornerback David Amerson to haul it in before slipping away to the end zone.
It was his first career touchdown, after he struggled through a year of injuries which limited him to two games as a rookie. In the absence of departed free agents DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, they need him to become more of a factor this year.
The Patriots sufficiently disliked the the playing surface they’d installed in May to remove it after two preseason games, one practice. and one regular-season game. The NFL Players Association doesn’t like what they replaced it with.
“Player Health and Safety remains a top priority of the NFLPA and we sent our field expert to Gillette Stadium to evaluate the newly installed FieldTurf,” the NFLPA said in a statement issued to PFT. “The Gmax numbers that reflect surface hardness came back extremely low, indicating a very soft field; however, the testing results passed the NFL Mandatory Practices for field surface testing.”
The NFLPA had specific advice for players who will be performing on that surface.
“We have encouraged players to consult their equipment managers to ensure they are not wearing cleats that will penetrate too deep into the surface, which would increase the risk of lower extremity injuries. The NFL Foot & Ankle Committee has coordinated extensive research on athletic shoe safety and performance. Based on the results, the Committee has provided information distributed to all clubs.
“We will continue to monitor field testing and work to establish evidence-based standards for the safety and performance of NFL playing surfaces across the League.”
The Patriots removed the prior surface because it was too soft. The NFLPA had concerns about that one, too.
The Bears earned their first win of the season today despite Marcus Cooper making the dumbest play of the year. Bears coach John Fox hopes Cooper learns from it.
Cooper was en route to an easy touchdown off a blocked field goal when he inexplicably started celebrating before he reached the end zone, allowing Pittsburgh’s Vance McDonald to catch him from behind and knock the ball out of his hands. Fox said after the game that Cooper knows he can’t do that again.
“He will learn from it,” Fox said of Cooper. “Nobody feels worse than he does. It’s a matter of focus and finishing. He understands that.”
The Bears ended up winning the game in overtime, and Cooper acknowledged afterward that if they’d lost in overtime, everyone would be talking about the touchdown he cost his team.
“It’s a great feeling,” Cooper said. “Thankfully guys backed me up and we came out with the ‘W.'”
Fox will hope Cooper finds himself with the ball and a clear path to the end zone again, but next time doesn’t slow down.
Sam Bradford didn’t attend Sunday’s game. He missed seeing his backup earn a game ball by passing for 369 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-17 drubbing of the Buccaneers.
“Case Keenum played outstanding,’’ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “I usually don’t give out game balls after a game. I thought he played great, made great decisions.”
Because the Vikings knew Bradford wasn’t going to play “at an earlier point” in the week, Zimmer said it allowed offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to tailor the game plan for Keenum. In Week 2, the Vikings didn’t rule out Bradford until pregame.
So when will Bradford return?
“It’s day to day, and we’ll go from there,” Zimmer said.
Bradford injured his left knee on a non-contact play in the season opener against the Saints. He was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday before seeking a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews in Florida. Andrews twice surgically repaired Bradford’s left knee twice, fixing the quarterback’s torn ACL in 2013 and 2014.
Zimmer has said Bradford doesn’t need surgery, as medical tests on Bradford’s knee revealed no structural damage. But the Vikings remain uncertain about Bradford’s status for next Sunday’s game against Detroit.
If the Raiders are going to continue to turn it over, they’re going to pay for it.
For the second time tonight, Washington answered an interception with an impressive touchdown drive, good for a 14-0 lead.
After Derek Carr‘s second pick (this one by Kendall Fuller), Washington embarked on an 11-play drive, capped by Kirk Cousins‘ 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Vernon Davis.
At the moment, Cousins is 15-of-16 for 145 yards and two touchdowns, for a 144.0 passer rating.
Carr’s 3-of-8 for 23 yards and the two picks, for a 6.2 rating.
That tells you most of what you need to know about this game so far.
Some folks in Washington got off to a good start today.
Taking advantage of an early interception of Derek Carr, Washington’s out to a quick 7-0 lead on the Raiders.
After safety Montae Nicholson picked off Carr on the second play of the game, his teammates moved downfield in a hurry.
Kirk Cousins capped an eight-play, 67-yard drive with a 22-yard touchdown pass to running back Chris Thompson. Cousins did most of the work himself, as Samaje Perine gained just 9 yards on his first five carries.
Three teams stayed in the locker room during the national anthem on Sunday. The Raiders would have been No. 4, but they ultimately chose not to.
As explained by Michele Tafoya of NBC’s Sunday Night Football, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said that, due to the timing of prime-time games, they wouldn’t have been able to get out in time for the coin toss. Which means that they automatically would have lost the toss, forfeited their second-half option, and possibly lost 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The vast majority of the Raiders players sat or took a knee during the anthem, arguably the largest protest by any one team of the day.
Many players have made their feelings known about President Donald Trump’s recent remarks, and Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith noted a lack of consistency in his recent attacks on players who won’t stand for the national anthem.
Smith referred to Trump’s days of equivocation after a woman was killed during white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, Va.
“I find that very alarming,” Smith said, via Adam Teicher of ESPN.com. ” This is the same guy who couldn’t condemn violent neo-Nazis but he’s condemning guys that are taking a knee during the national anthem.”
Trump called players who knelt during the anthem “sons of bitches” who should be fired.
Trump called some of the protesters in Charlottesville — “very fine people” — after the march which included torch-wielding white supremacists who chanted: “Jews will not replace us.”
The Lions thought they had a last second victory over the Falcons when officials ruled wide receiver Golden Tate got into the end zone with eight seconds left to play in Sunday’s game, but a replay review and the rulebook ensured they’d leave as 30-26 losers.
The replay showed Tate was down just short of the end zone and a league rule calling for a 10-second runoff left no time for another shot at a touchdown. The runoff can be avoided by taking a timeout, but the Lions didn’t have any left after using them to stop the clock on the Falcons’ final possession of the game.
After the game, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said one could make the argument that the ruling was unfair to Detroit, but that “they ruled it correctly and that’s the way it is.” He was also asked if he thought the rule about the runoff should be changed.
“I don’t think so,” Caldwell said, via the Detroit Free Press. “It’s tough to digest all that right now in terms of how it works. We all kind of know exactly what the situation could and would be, and in hindsight we can complain all we want but they administered the rule exactly the way that it’s written.”
Caldwell said the Lions “certainly” could have gotten to the line in time to get a play off if the officials had made the correct ruling in the first place, although that’s a what if that won’t be answered.
The Broncos appeared set to get the ball back down seven points with just under eight minutes to play in Sunday’s game against the Bills when a penalty flag changed the scenario.
Linebacker Von Miller was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on a third down incompletion after he initially put his hand out to Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor and then pulled it back in a move familiar to elementary school students everywhere. The Bills went on to kick a field goal after holding the ball for more than four minutes and won the game 26-16
Broncos coach Vance Joseph didn’t seem to like the call — “It’s pro football, but he called it” — but Miller castigated himself for not doing the smart thing.
“I can’t put my team in situations like that,” Miller said, via ESPN.com. “… I’ve got to be smarter than that. I’m always on the rookies and the young guys about being smart, doing this, doing that. And in a crucial situation in the game — I’ve just got to be better than that … I killed the game today with that play. I’ve just got to be better than that.”
Miller said that he and Taylor were “laughing and joking” the entire game, something Taylor confirmed along with answering “both” when asked if he was laughing because what Miller did was funny or because of the outcome.