Things got crazy in week 3 with a handful of games that went down to the wire and could have gone either way. We’ll try to make sense of what happened with the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Baltimore’s defense – There were some serious questions about Baltimore’s defense coming into the season with all the players they had lost and all the new faces, and those questions only grew after their disastrous season opener against Denver, but the Ravens played an outstanding defensive game Sunday against a talented and potent Houston offense. After allowing just six points to the Browns last week, the Ravens held the Texans to just three field goals and scored a touchdown of their own on a pick-six by Daryl Smith. The Baltimore defense has come a long way in a short period of time and is quickly looking like some of the Baltimore defenses of the past.
Cam Newton – He probably didn’t have the best performance of any quarterback in week 3, but considering what he did the first two weeks, Newton is certainly the ost improved, accounting for four touchdowns, including a 47-yard deep ball to Ted Ginn. The Panthers needed a performance like this out of their quarterback, as did head coach Ron Rivera, who was under a lot of heat following a 0-2 start, and Newton’s performance could be just the thing to get the Panthers back on track after losing two close games at the start of the season.
Three great comebacks – Brian Hoyer, Jake Locker, and Ryan Tannehill all led their teams on game-winning drives in the final minute of their games in order to steal a win. All three are young and largely unproven quarterbacks, but they all looked impressive in crunch time on Sunday. Hoyer surprised everybody by throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns, but also by shaking off three interceptions and have the confidence to lead a game-winning drive for the Browns. Both Locker and Tannehill orchestrated their drives with incredible efficiency, both executed difficult throws with the game on the line, and both made big statements about their viability as starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
DeMarco Murray – Rather quietly, the Dallas Cowboys had one of the more impressive wins in week 3, and it was because they finally got their running game going. Murray barely eclipsed the 100-yard mark the first two weeks of the season combined, but against the Rams he ran for 175 yards on 26 carries. St. Louis entered the game the 5th best team against the rush in the NFL, which makes Murray’s performance all the more impressive. A solid running game meant a more efficient Tony Romo, who threw three touchdowns with no interceptions, which helped to give Dallas an easy win.
RG3’s fumble – Griffin may have taken a couple small steps forward Sunday, but he also took a substantial step back after fumbling the ball three times. He may have only lost one of the three fumbles, but it came at a critical time and was something he should have been able to avoid. Griffin lost the ball when he the ground after sliding forward, but had he slid feet first instead the play would have ended when he hit the ground and he would not have fumbled the ball, which is a rule he has to know, not to mention the fact that he should be sliding feet first every time anyway. The fumble came at a time when the game was yet to be decided, and Griffin’s error became a huge reason why Washington eventually lost.
Colin Kaepernick – An off night last week in Seattle is understandable, but Kaepernick looking so bad at home against a team that doesn’t exactly have a top-10 defense is hard to fathom. He was 2-8 throwing the ball in the first half, and didn’t get much better in the second half. Kaeperncik wasn’t all that effective with his legs either, gaining just 20 yards rushing and getting sacked three times. If Kaepernick struggles for a third straight game, it could be time to worry, and he’ll have to bounce back quickly, as the 49ers have a Thursday night game in St. Louis this week.
Josh Freeman – Freeman seems to be making it a habit of making it into the bad part of my article every week. He only threw one interception, but once again he failed to even complete 50% of his passes. He may not have the support of his head coach, but he has the skill players around him to be better than he’s been over the first three weeks, and with one game left before their bye week and the Bucs still winless, Freeman may be running out of opportunities before he’s benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon.
St. Louis in the first half – A week after scoring three points in the first half and putting themselves in a 21-0 hole against the Falcons, the Rams went scoreless in the first half against the Cowboys and put themselves in a 24-0 hole. The Rams have an offense with plenty of potential, but they can’t afford to keep getting off to such slow starts. Sam Bradford was not sharp throwing the ball down the field and for the first time this season was under a lot of pressure, as he was never able to get in a rhythm offensively in a performance the Rams hope is not emblematic of things to come.
Giant’s offensive line – There was nothing pretty about what the Giants did on Sunday, but it started with the offensive line, which allowed Eli Manning to be sacked seven times, most coming in the first half. Even when Manning didn’t get sacked, he got hit and looked extremely tentative in the pocket, looking uncomfortable and rushing his throws. The end result was the worst defeat the Giants have suffered since Tom Coughlin came to New York, and until they can get their offensive line and running game straightened out, things aren’t going to get any better for Manning and the Giants.
Cincinnati and Green Bay’s ball security – These are supposed to be two of the best teams in their respective conferences, but they didn’t look like it on Sunday, as each team committed four turnovers. Of the eight combined turnovers, five were fumbles, which is unacceptable for teams that are favored to win their divisions this season. Both teams ended up returning a fumble for a touchdown, and when Cincinnati did so, it turned out to be the game-winning score. We were expecting to see two good offenses face off in this game, but with all the turnovers, neither offense was at the top of its game.
Washington’s defense – The Redskins came a lot closer to competing for a full four quarters this week, but their defense is still in terrible shape. They can’t cover, they can’t tackle, and they forced just one turnover and recorded just one sack against the Lions. Through the first three games of the season, Washington’s defense has given up the most yards any team has ever given up in the first three games of a season in NFL history. Something needs to change in a hurray because it’s incredibly difficult to win games with defensive efforts like the ones the Redskins have put on the field the first three weeks of the season.
The Bills and Jets – This game didn’t exactly go smoothly, but things just got out of control during the 4th quarter. There was a seemingly endless parade of flags during Buffalo’s drive early in the 4th quarter, many of them unsportsmanlike penalties that displayed a profound level of immaturity and destroyed any rhythm the game might have had. At one point, Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson was benched for his antics. The Jets ended up committing 20 penalties for 168 yards, as they continuously gave the Bills a chance to win a game that was almost too ugly to watch.