The Patriots and Cowboys dominated overwhelmed opponents. Patrick Mahomes continued to dazzle. The Vikings are back to their winning ways.
Here is what we've learned from Sunday's games:
- The Browns' offensive explosion has yet to materialize. Save for a few chunk plays by Odell Beckham against New York and a Nick Chubb catch-and-run on Sunday night, Cleveland's offense in its first full year under Freddie Kitchens and Todd Monken has specialized in spurty play. Seven of Cleveland's 11 drives lasted four or fewer plays. The Browns averaged just 4.3 yards per play, opting to lean on Chubb than Baker Mayfield in crunch time. Cleveland was also set back again by penalties, committing eight against the Rams. And yet... down seven in the fourth quarter, the Browns were in a position to tie the defending NFC champions. Cleveland stumbled into the red zone with 43 seconds to go following a deep midfield completion to Jarvis Landry and another 16-yard strike to Damion Ratley. On the four-yard line, Cleveland went five-wide on four consecutive plays, flexing Chubb (23 att, 96 yards) so far left that he was essentially off the field. "I should've called more of a direct run," Kitchens lamented after the game. Too late. Mayfield targeted Landry on first and second down and tried a double-covered Demetrius Harris on third down in the back of the end zone before finding himself with a fourth-and-game. After a timeout from both the Browns and Rams, Cleveland came back in the same formation. Mayfield took the snap, rolled right to get a better view over his collapsing offensive line and, pressured by Clay Matthews and falling backwards, launched a desperate dart toward Ratley in the end zone. It never made it there, as Rams safety John Johnson snagged the pass for a game-winning interception. As Kitchens and his Browns players took the field to soak in their 1-2 start, they were met with boos from an angry, impatient home crowd, who, at least so far, has been sold a false bill of good offense.
- Believe it or not, the Rams (3-0) are off to a terribly slow start -- if not in the standings, then in-game. Against Cleveland, the Rams failed to score a first-half touchdown for the second time this season, something that happened only once in 2018. Los Angeles fared much better in the second half when it led with Todd Gurley (14 attempts, 43 yards) and established the play-action off of the ground threat. The beneficiaries of L.A.'s stretch play-action on this night were Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp, the latter of whom followed up his brilliant Week 2 with another standout game. Seemingly always open and always on time, Kupp led all players with 11 receptions for 102 yards and two scores. Los Angeles is not quite operating at the level of previous Sean McVay offenses; the run game has been mostly neutralized, the youth and health of the offensive line is suspect and points are harder to come by. But Los Angeles is still undefeated, and with their NFC West rivals in San Francisco keeping pace, that's all that matters.
- Sunday night saw the reigning Defensive Player of the Year (Aaron Donald) and a potential future DPOY (Myles Garrett) take the field against one another for the first time. The two didn't quite go head-to-head but each logged a sack at crucial points of the game. Garrett's sixth sack of the season forced a Goff fumble and led directly to a Browns field goal that set Cleveland up with a 6-3 lead heading into halftime. In the Browns backfield all night, Donald finally notched his first QB takedown in the fourth quarter. The most dangerous rusher on the night might have been Matthews, whose entire family was in the building to celebrate the Browns inducting his father into the ring of honor. With two sacks and a forced fumble of his own, Matthews was a consistent threat off the edge, providing Los Angeles a one-two-three punch alongside Donald and Dante Fowler.
*-- Jeremy Bergman *
- The Daniel Jones era is underway in New York (1-2), and thank goodness for that. Making his first start in place of Giants legend Eli Manning, Jones quickly made people forget about the lead-footed veteran. The QB known in the streets as Danny Dimes flashed mobility (in and out of the pocket), touch and accuracy outside the hashes and overall resilience during his comeback win over Tampa Bay. On two first-half scampers against the Bucs, Jones posted two of the four fastest max speeds among QBs this season (Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson boasting the other two). He was responsible for 364 total yards and four total TDs. It wasn't all silver dollars for Mr. Dimes. Jones' play was not supported by and could not ignite a D.O.A. running game that was shut down by Tampa Bay's reborn defensive line under Todd Bowles. The loss of all-universe tailback Saquon Barkley to an ankle injury didn't help, though he had just 10 yards on eight carries before his exit. Jones also took a page out of Manning's book in the turnover department; the Giants QB was strip-sacked twice by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Shaq Barrett, whose four sacks on Sunday gave him eight on the season.
But Jones also channeled Eli's penchant for heroics. Saddled with an 18-point halftime deficit, Jones led three second-half touchdown drives, including a game-winning 75-yard march of Dimes with just over three minutes remaining. Down six, Jones completed 5-of-7 passes to get New York inside the 10-yard line. On fourth-and-5, Tampa Bay rushed four, sent seven defenders scrambling and inadvertently left the middle of the field wide open. Unafraid to tuck it and run, Jones sped through the void for the game-winning score, sealing New York's largest come-from-behind win in over 49 years. After Tampa Bay kicked away the game (more on that later), Manning was seen on camera congratulating Jones on his comeback. If you looked close enough, you could see Manning passing the torch, or more accurately, Jones ripping it from the vet's grasp.
- The Giants' dilemma? Danny Dimes can't play nickel corner, or any defensive position, for that matter. New York's defense struggled again in the first half, notably starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was locked on Mike Evans. Jenkins said last week he couldn't "cover nobody for 10 seconds," referring to New York's subpar pass rush. Jackrabbit couldn't blame the front seven on Sunday afternoon. Evans torched Jenkins in the first half for 146 yards and three touchdowns. Evans was largely shut out in the second half. That was, until Tampa Bay's final drive. With the game surely in hand, all Jenkins had to do was keep Evans in front of him to avoid a big play. But on first-and-10 from Tampa Bay's 47, Evans beat Jenkins on a streak, immediately raised his hand and hauled in a 44-yard bomb to set up what should have been the game-winning kick; the WR finished with 190 receiving yards, his most since his rookie season in 2014. Surrendering 499 yards to the Bucs on the day, New York's defense did it all it could to give away a surefire win. Fortunately, Tampa Bay's special teams one-upped James Bettcher's unit.
- Strange day for Matt Gay, Tampa Bay's fifth-round rookie kicker out of Utah. The first-year booter missed two extra points in the first quarter, but then proceeded to make four straight field goals, including one from 52 yards. When Tampa Bay reached the nine-yard line on its final drive, it appeared that Gay would be set up with a 26-yard chip shot to seal a wild victory. Then, the Buccaneers took a delay of game penalty to push the game-winning attempt to a 34-yarder; Bucs coach Bruce Arians said after the game he took the foul on purpose to help out Gay. It didn't work. The rookie kicker pushed the gimme field goal right and sent the Buccaneers (1-2) to a three-way tie at the bottom of the NFC South. Three years after selecting Roberto Aguayo in the second round, Tampa Bay's woes at the haunted kicker position persist.
*-- Jeremy Bergman *
- The reigning NFL MVP stays hot. Patrick Mahomes led another explosive second quarter, in which the Chiefs (3-0) scored 23 straight points to open up a lead they would hang onto late. Mahomes continues to dive-bomb defenses with huge plays. Sunday it was rookie Mecole Hardman who blasted off for an 83-yard touchdown. Mahomes spread the ball around to eight receivers, including seven times to Travis Kelce, who was repeatedly open over the middle, for 89 yards. Mahomes' mastery of Andy Reid's offense keeps even good defenses off balance, and he can score from any platform from anywhere on the field. Mahomes' 374-yard passing day gives him 1,195 through three games -- on pace for a redonkulous 6,373 yards. With the performance, Mahomes passed Hall of Famer Kurt Warner for the most 300-plus passing yards in a QB's first 20 games with 13. Even when the Chiefs' offense gets bogged down at times, Mahomes' unique ability to explode at any moment is the NFL's greatest advantage going.
- Lamar Jackson couldn't find the range deep throughout Sunday's loss. The second-year quarterback missed a bevy of shots early and overthrew Marquise Brown multiple times as the Ravens got down big early. Credit Jackson and running back Mark Ingram (103 rushing yards, 3 TDs) with helping the Ravens (2-1) battle back to make it a game late, but the miscues in the passing game hurt Baltimore early. Jackson's 51.2 completion percentage on 43 attempts was his lowest in a regular-season game in his young career -- only game lower was last season's playoff loss (48.3). Outside one beautiful deep shot to Brown late in the game, Jackson's wayward long balls zapped some of the dynamic play-making we'd seen from Baltimore's offense through two games. The Chiefs' D also did a great job bottling up Jackson's run (8/46, long of 9 yards). Off the bat, Ravens coach John Harbaugh signaled that he knew he'd need to keep up with Mahomes. Harbaugh repeatedly went for fourth downs in the first half (converting two of three) and attempted three two-point tries, all of which failed. Some might question Harbaugh's aggression, especially going for two, but the coach stuck to his game plan coming in against the most explosive offense in the league.
- LeSean McCoy is getting back in sync with Andy Reid. Starting for injured Damien Williams, McCoy looked spry early after entering with an ankle injury. Shady galloped for multiple chunk gains, including a 25-yarder to open up the second half. A dual-threat ideal for Reid's offense, McCoy generated 54 yards on eight carries (6.8 average) with a TD, and added 3 catches for 26 yards and another score. McCoy exited early in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. Darrel Williams took over and ripped off a 41-yard run setting up a key field goal late. In classic Reid fashion, Williams caught a perfectly executed screen-pass call to earn a first down to ice the game. The lesson: Andy Reid is a gawd at generating RB production.
-- Kevin Patra
- It was a punt that ended the first drive of the game for the Jets and the Patriots responded with a nine-play, 88-yard touchdown drive. Tom Brady was a sensational, if not standard, 7-for-8 on the drive, with a 41-yard hook-up to tight end Ryan Izzo mixed in. And then Sony Michel ran in for a 5-yard score. That was it, the predicted rout was on, ending with the Patriots besting the Jets, 30-14, in a game far more one-sided than the two-score final margin. The Patriots (3-0) scored touchdowns on each of their first three drives of the game, a Stephen Gostkowski missed PAT serving as the only blemish to an otherwise sterling start against the depleted Jets (0-3). Along the way, Brady threw two touchdowns to give him 524 for his career, untying him with the injured Drew Brees for the second-most career TD passes. As Sunday morning dawned, the now-former Patriots wideout Antonio Brown tweeted up a storm of discontent, but the Patriots prevailed despite two weeks' worth of distractions as they seemingly always do. Perhaps emblematic of just how well things are going for the Patriots came in the news of a streak's conclusion. An incompletion to receiver Phillip Dorsett in the third quarter broke a streak of 26 straight targets to Dorsett resulting in a completion, per NFL research. The randomness of the Patriots dominance is perplexing. Julian Edelman left Sunday's game with an injury, but X-rays are negative, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Josh Gordon was sidelined twice, but returned and made a phenomenal sideline catch. Things keep working out for the Patriots. It's a familiar storyline.
- Perhaps it's come against sub-par opposition, but it really matters not as results are results and dominance is dominance and that's what the Patriots defense has displayed over the first three games of the season. The defense still hasn't allowed a touchdown through three games, as the Jets found the end zone twice late on Sunday via special teams and defensive scores. A muffed punt recovered in the end zone by the Jets snapped the Patriots' run of 86 straight points scored dating back to the third quarter of their opener against the Steelers. It was also the first touchdown scored against New England since last season's AFC Championship Game. So far, the Patriots have pummeled opponents by a combined 106-17 tally. Devin McCourty has interceptions in every game so far. Led by Jamie Collins (seven tackles, two sacks), the Patriots allowed only 105 yards of Jets offense. Everyone's contributing and the Patriots are rolling along in emphatic fashion. A first-place showdown against fellow undefeated Buffalo awaits in Week 4. Thereafter, games against the Redskins, Giants and another versus the Jets await. Translation, don't expect the Patriots' one-sided ways to wane.
- Injuries and illness have more or less colored Gang Green's three weeks of driving the struggle bus. It's hard to judge Le'Veon Bell's contributions with the Jets having used three starting quarterbacks in as many games and opposing defenses so easily being able to key on him. However, what could become a factor for a team riddled by injuries is Bell's workload. On Sunday, he was bottled up by the Patriots' defense, garnering only 35 yards despite a game-high 18 carries. He also had a team-high four catches. That ups his touches to 76 over three losses. Bell's hardly looked like his Steelers-self, but placing the blame on him considering the setting would be foolish. Nonetheless, only time will tell how long he can keep this up, even though it's clear the Jets offense is all about him.
-- Grant Gordon
- Deshaun Watson is Harry Houdini, David Copperfield and Evel Knievel rolled into one. The Houston Texans quarterback escaped pressure with magical ease and fearless abandon time and again Sunday in L.A., repeatedly finding pass-catchers downfield. The epitome of Watson's day came midway through the fourth quarter. Watson appeared to be swallowed in the backfield but escaped the blackhole, pranced toward the line of scrimmage, pulled back at the last second and slung a perfect ball off balance to tight end Jordan Akins who rumbled for a 53-yard touchdown, which ended up the game-winning score. Behind solid pass protection for much of the day, Watson spread the ball around with aplomb, picking up a bevy of chunk gains, completing 73.5 percent of 34 attempts for 351 yards and three TDs. With the Chargers doing a good job of slowing DeAndre Hopkins, Watson hit Kenny Stills multiple times deep, and found his tight ends for three TDs. Watson was the difference as the Houston overcame a 17-7 halftime deficit with 20 straight points on three scoring drives in the second half. The road conference win could prove huge for the Texans (2-1) in a wide-open AFC South race.
- The Chargers are reliving the same nightmare week after week. Anthony Lynn's squad can once again only look in the mirror and blame themselves for the second-half collapse. Sunday was another mistake-filled afternoon in Chargerland. A holding call wiped out a Justin Jackson touchdown again this week, costing L.A. four points. A Philip Rivers fumble in field-goal range cost L.A. more potential points. The Chargers gave up five sacks. A facemask penalty wiped out an interception. Several receivers had brutal drops, including Travis Benjamin on a beautiful deep ball from Rivers that could have been a game-tying TD. And a plethora of holding calls killed the Chargers, including one in the final minute with the game in the balance that forced desperation heaves instead of setting L.A. up from the doorstep. The miscues wasted Keenan Allen's monstrous day. The Texans couldn't cover the Pro Bowl receiver, who had 183 receiving yards and two TDs. Allen generated 186 of the Chargers 376 total yards on the day. It all goes for naught as L.A. falls to 1-2 after botching back-to-back winnable games.
- J.J. Watt is back. After compiling just two total tackles through two games, the former Defensive Player of the Year consistently pestered Rivers on Sunday, compiling two sacks, five QB hits and two tackles for loss among his five tackles. Watt took advantage of a limp Chargers offensive line, living in the backfield and was part of a Texans defense that held L.A. running backs to just 62 total yards on the ground. Paired with Watt, Whitney Mercilus continued his hot start to the season, generating another sack and forced the Rivers fumble. With the Texans secondary continuing to give up big plays, Houston needs repeat performances from its defensive front as the season rolls forward.
-- Kevin Patra
- So far so healthy, and so far so outstanding for Dalvin Cook. Leading the league in rushing entering Week 3, Cook rattled off his third consecutive 100-yard game to start the season as he led the Vikings past the Raiders. Cutting past would-be tacklers and running through them when needed, Cook sparkled for Minnesota (2-1) with 16 carries for 110 yards and a 1-yard second-quarter score as he spent much of the final stanza on the sideline in a blowout victory with a smile on and his helmet off. Having already set a career-high with four touchdowns, his 375 yards rushing have eclipsed his rookie tally of 354. That was when the NFL world briefly glimpsed what could be for the running back and for the Vikings with him as their engine. Injuries derailed him in 2017 and 2018, but so far so healthy for Cook. And so far so outstanding, just ask the Raiders (1-2).
- Amid all the noise that he flounders under the pressure of the big game, Kirk Cousins continued his NFL-best streak of 19 straight games with a touchdown pass and put together a fine performance. Complementing a terrific team victory against an overmatched opponent will not silence critics, but Cousins captained a squad that looked every bit as brilliant with its overall superiority as it did in a Week 1 blowout of the Falcons and every bit the opposite of the struggling squad it became in a Week 2 loss to the Packers. Cousins had 174 yards, just six incompletions, one TD throw and a 112 passer rating. He was good. The Vikings were great. Their running game (which included Alexander Mattison adding 58 yards and a TD in 12 carries) was outstanding. Cousins' will be judged by how he performs in big games until he clutches up in one, but for now and yet again, he did his job and did it well and the Vikings won. Thus, when all goes to plan, the Vikings, with Cousins at the helm, are an impressive team.
- The autumn wind has been a struggle for the Raiders since a Week 1 Monday night triumph. A week after tallying but 307 total yards in a loss to the Chiefs, the Raiders mustered only 302 yards of offense against the Vikings. It took a little razzle-dazzle, but a Derek Carr-to-J.J. Nelson 29-yard score on a flea-flicker ended the Raiders' scoreless drought of four-plus quarters in the second quarter. It was already too late, though. The offense of Jon Gruden, who was a perfect 4-0 against the Vikings in his previous coaching life, couldn't find a rhythm and the defense was ground down by the Vikings' ball control and rushing attack. Tight end Darren Waller had 13 catches on a whopping 14 targets for 134 yards, but it was reminiscent of last season when Jared Cook put up solid numbers though the offense as a whole was insufficient. With a late TD throw to Tyrell Williams, who played despite a painful hip-pointer, the offensive numbers looked better in the box score than they really were. NFL nomads who began the first of five straight games (over six weeks) away from Oakland (including a home game in London), the Raiders are sputtering on offense and showing no signs of remedying their ills.
-- Grant Gordon
- The Lions are unbeaten. How good they are might be clearer next week when they host the Chiefs. But they managed to knock off the Chargers at home and the Eagles in Philly in consecutive weeks, this after tying the Cardinals. Of course. Sunday's road win didn't come easy, even though Detroit led for the final 44 minutes. The Eagles had two possessions in the final three minutes, the latter starting at midfield after Malcolm Jenkins blocked a field goal. The Lions D didn't allow a first down on either drive, with a little help from the Eagles. With less than a minute to play, Wentz dropped a dime from midfield on fourth-and-15 to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside inside the Detroit 5, but it bounced off the rookie wideout's hands.
- The Eagles knew life wouldn't be easy on offense without Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson. Losing tackles Jason Peters and Andre Dillard in the first half further complicated matters. A Nelson Agholor fumble, which Darius Slay picked up and returned 38 yards, put Philly in an even bigger hole in the first half. The Eagles would rally, thanks to two TD passes from Wentz to Agholor. Philly's QB was sacked three times and under constant duress while completing 19 of 36 passes for 259 yards. Rookie running back Miles Sanders had 126 yards from scrimmage, but fumbled twice, losing one of them.
- The Lions manufactured another win without a star turn on offense. A week after scoring 13 points, Detroit got on the board before Matthew Stafford took the field as Jamal Agnew returned a kickoff 100 yards. Stafford was neither efficient (18 of 32) nor spectacular (one TD, 201 yards) but guided two 75-yard TD drives in the absence of a run game. Marvin Jones showed he's still capable of being a go-to target, hauling in six passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, which gave the Lions a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
-- Adam Maya
- Everything went right for the Colts (2-1) in the first half and it was enough to hold on for the win. Coach Frank Reich designed an impressive game plan and Jacoby Brissett executed it perfectly. The QB picked apart the zone defense and made it look easy. Wideout Zach Pascal's 18-yard touchdown in the first quarter capped off a 93-yard drive for the Colts. It was their longest TD drive since Week 3, 2017 when they went 97 yards for a touchdown, per NFL Research. Brissett was also the QB for that drive. He finished the game with 28-for-37 for 310 yards and two touchdowns. And after three weeks, Brissett put his name among NFL legends Peyton Manning and Johnny Unitas as the only Colts with a 115-plus passer rating in two of the first three weeks of the season.
Side note: After two weeks of struggles, Adam Vinatieri went 2 for 2 in field goals and nailed all three extra points.
- Without Darius Leonard, the Colts defense did its job. The Colts held the Falcons to 152 yards with just three points in the first half. Matt Ryan threw his sixth interception of the season. He only had seven interceptions last season and didn't have his sixth until Week 14, per NFL Research.
- The first half was brutal for the Falcons (1-2) but the second half was the exact opposite. If it wasn't for penalties and missed tackles, the Falcons could have won this game. Matt Ryan's 13-yard touchdown to Austin Hooper was the drive they needed to start the second half. The Falcons controlled the ball from there. Ryan found Hooper again in the fourth quarter to cut the Colts' lead by one score. But then the penalties took over again and the Falcons kept missing opportunities to get the Colts offense off the field. A touchdown by Julio Jones in double coverage wasn't enough to win the game. The Falcons finished the game with 16 penalties for 128 yards.
-- Lakisha Wesseling
- While it wasn't his best showing, Dak Prescott did what he needed to do to lead the Cowboys to their first 3-0 start since 2008. Prescott (19-of-32, 246 yards, three TDs, one interception) completed just 59.4 percent of his passes against the league's worst defense, his lowest since Week 3 of last season. Despite those down numbers, Prescott connected with lead receiver Amari Cooper (six catches, 88 yards) twice in the end zone and turned an 8-yard scramble into a score. The run helped Prescott reach a couple milestones, per NFL Research: His 19 career rushing TDs are the most by any QB since 2016 (his rookie year) and his eight games of two-plus passing TDs and one-plus rushing TDs are three more than any other QB in that span.
- It was a moment many anticipated but perhaps not this soon: Josh Rosen made his regular season starting debut for the Dolphins. Looking to secure the Dolphins' first win in a hostile environment like the one at AT&T Stadium is a tall task for any QB and Rosen did all he could against Dallas' formidable defense. His most impressive play of the day came right away on a 40-yard pass to wideout DeVante Parker on the game's third play, but that was about it for the former 10th overall pick. His 200 passing yards (18-of-39, 46 percent completion rate) indicate a decent outing, but the three sacks and 11 QB hits provide a snapshot of how under pressure he was all game.
- Here's a stat for a struggling Miami team now 0-3 on the year. Warning: You may want to look away if you're a Dolphins fan. Through the first three games, Miami has been outscored 133-16 and allowed a 100-plus yard rusher -- Ezekiel Elliott (125) and Tony Pollard (103) in Week 3 -- three times. Woof. And to make matters worse, receiver Allen Hurns exited with a concussion a year after his devastating leg injury as a Cowboy, and cornerback Xavien Howard was ejected in the fourth for unnecessary roughness. Rough start to 2019 for Brian Flores' crew.
-- Jelani Scott
- Kyle Allen has more TDs in one game than Cam Newton has had in his last four regular season starts. Do with that information what you will. There isn't a QB controversy in Charlotte but when you have a day like Allen did on the road against Arizona, it's OK to raise at least a single eyebrow. With Newton recovering from a foot injury, the onus was on Allen to ignite what has been a stagnant Panthers offense up to this point, and he did just that.
After succumbing to a Chandler Jones strip-sack on the opening drive, Allen would settle in after watching former college teammate Kyler Murray lead the Cards to an early 7-0 lead. Six straight Allen completions led to an eventual score -- a five-yard pass to wideout Curtis Samuel -- to tie the game. From then on, Allen and the offense cut loose, scoring TDs on four of their nine drives and setting up a field goal on another. Running back Christian McCaffrey ripped through the Cardinals for 125 rushing yards, including a career-best 76-yard TD, and tight end Greg Olsen roared down the field for a game-high 75 yards and two TDs on six receptions, but it was Allen's stat line (19-of-26, 261 yards, 4 TDs, 144.4 passer rating) that really turned heads. Oh, and how about this for a nugget: Allen is the the first QB in franchise history to put up such numbers in a game, according to NFL Research. It was an emphatic first win for Carolina, and if Allen continues his groove in Cam's absence, Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Norv Turner might have a lot to discuss.
- Murray's NFL resume now reads 0-2-1 following a long evening against the Panthers. Like many QBs before him, Murray managed to find Larry Fitzgerald for an early TD, but the veteran receiver's impact (five receptions, 36 yards) was relatively muted after two big games (217 total receiving yards) to begin the year. Ideally, coach Kliff Kingsbury would like to see Murray show off his speed as part of a designed play or after going through his progressions, not as a necessity to survive. While he managed to turn some of those runs into positive gains (eight carries for a team-high 69 yards), Murray was swarmed constantly and hit often. He did "enjoy" his best completion rate (69.8 percent) of the season thus far but when it comes after completing 30 of 43 pass attempts for 173 yards, two TDs and two picks in a loss, that number reads much differently.
- Despite the 1-2 start, the Panthers' defense has been mostly solid in 2019. Their performance in Week 3 likely made their defensive-minded head coach very happy. Led by linebackers Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson, who combined for 21 total tackles, the Panthers' D was relentless, bringing Murray down eight times (their most sacks in a game since 2016). Defensive end Mario Addison spearheaded the charge with three sacks. First-round pick LB Brian Burns continued to look impressive coming off the edge, securing a sack and four tackles. Second-year corner Donte Jackson snagged his first (and second) interceptions of the year, making him the first Panther with multiple picks in a game since he did it in Week 3 a year ago.
-- Jelani Scott
- This game was a battle of the defenses as the offenses struggled to get going until the second half. The 49ers (3-0) pulled off the win even though their offense had five turnovers total and just couldn't get out of their own way in the first half. They had four turnovers in the second quarter, which is more than they had in their first two games combined (two). Their defense did all they could to keep them in the game and San Francisco trailed just 6-3 at the half. The offense finally showed up after the break with two rushing touchdowns from Jeff Wilson then Jimmy Garoppolo found Dante Pettis in traffic to take the lead again in the fourth quarter. With 1:15 left in the game, the defensive line created a lot of pressure to stop the Steelers' offense on their final drive to seal the game. The Niner go into Week 4 undefeated for the first time since 1998.
- Now let's turn to the Steelers' defense. They carried their team in the first half as well. Before halftime they recorded two interceptions (T.J. Watt & Minkah Fitzpatrick) and two fumble recoveries. Fitzpatrick forced a fumble that was recovered by Devin Bush. Minkah Fitzpatrick, welcome to the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's one way to bond with your new teammates. Watt recovered a fumble in the fourth to give the Steelers a chance to seal the game. But a few plays later the Niners got the ball back on a fumble.
- In his first start as the Steelers QB, Mason Rudolph (14 of 27, 174 yards, 2 TDs, one pick) did not look as good as he did last week when he took over after Big Ben went down. He missed high on all his throws downfield in the first half. It wasn't until the second half that he finally settled down. Just when you wondered where JuJu Smith-Schuster has been, Rudolph hit him on an inside crossing route and JuJu took it in for 76 yards. Then the Steelers took advantage of Jason Verrett after CB Ahkello Witherspoon left the game in the fourth quarter. Verrett (playing is his first game since Sept. 2017) was called for an obvious pass interference then he was beat on a 39-yard touchdown.
-- Lakisha Wesseling
- The Bills' winning formula might not be pretty under Sean McDermott. But it's tried and true. Buffalo has scored just 66 points through three games, yet is 3-0 on the strength of its defense and Josh Allen's playmaking. The former sealed the Bills' home opener Sunday as Tre'Davious White plucked a tipped ball out of the air with 12 seconds remaining at his 10. It almost looked like "Afternoon" Andy Dalton was going to win the game, completing five of six passes prior to a spike and the INT. The Bills had otherwise dominated, forcing four turnovers, including two INTs from White, and holding Cincy to 306 yards of offense.
- The unconventional Allen leaned just as much on his legs as his arm while leading another fourth-quarter comeback. With the Bills trailing by three late in the fourth, he completed a pair of short passes and scrambled for 21 yards, setting up a 1-yard TD run for the ageless Frank Gore. That description rings just as true now as it did five years ago, as Gore found his way to 76 yards on 14 carries (5.4 yards per carry). Gore entered the league the year Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk and Curtis Martin played their final seasons. He'll join them in Canton (you know, assuming he retires one day). It's also worth noting the Bills' 175 rushing yards, which included 46 from Allen, allowed them to eat up nearly 37 minutes of the clock.
- The 0-3 Bengals aren't trying to lose. They're just bad at winning. Cincy's run game finally got out of first gear, but its offense was basically non-existent for two-and-a-half quarters. The Bengals' first TD, a 1-yard run by Dalton, was gifted to them by a Darius Phillips interception at the Bills' 22. They had five first downs until that point and had punted or turned the ball over on their first nine possessions. Perhaps Cincinnati figured something out over the final 20 minutes. Dalton repeatedly connected with Tyler Boyd -- Auden Tate was the only receiver he seemed to be on the same page with earlier -- and Joe Mixon broke free for a pair of long runs and a long completion, as Cincy strung together three consecutive scoring drives. It was too little, too late. But the Bengals' next two weeks (at Steelers, vs. Cardinals) might be a bit easier than their past three.
-- Adam Maya
- Not sure how the Packers defense will divvy up game ball honors, but the entire group deserves praise for its effort against the Broncos. From the onset, Mike Pettine's unit came to play, holding Joe Flacco and Co. to minus-4 yards on a quick three-and-out to start the day. Linebacker Preston Smith secured his first of two sacks on the drive. The group would surrender a touchdown on Denver's next drive but showed incredible resolve to prevent another on the following sequence. On third-and-goal, with the Broncos within striking range from the GB 2, linebacker Za'Darius Smith sacked Flacco for a 10-yard loss. The drive ended with a 30-yard Brandon McManus field goal. The Packers would make a living off timely defensive plays for the rest of the day; two Denver drives halted by forced fumbles resulted in TDs for the Packers offense. A Darnell Savage interception late in the third quarter once again halted Denver's momentum as it drove past mid-field. When it was all said and done, the Packers defense racked up six sacks, seven tackles for a loss, seven QB hits, two forced fumbles and a pick. A ruthless day for Green Bay's smothering defense.
- It's only his second year, but it's safe to say that Phillip Lindsay hasn't quite looked like himself to start 2019 (24 carries, 79 yards, 0 TDs). Against the Packers, Lindsay made up for his quiet start with a promising showing in Week 3. The first two weeks saw Lindsay split carries nearly down the middle with Royce Freeman but that wouldn't be the case at Lambeau. Lindsay's 21 carries to Freeman's 15 afforded him the chance to score two touchdowns, his first scores of the season, and accumulate 81 yards. He also tallied four receptions for 49 yards, the second-most behind Courtland Sutton (five catches, 87 yards). A bounce-back game for one of the league's most promising young talents.
- Has anyone seen the Broncos pass rush? Bradley Chubb and Von Miller have all the skill in the world to be the league's best defensive tandem, but neither has produced a sack through three games. Heck, no one along the Broncos' defensive line has brought a QB down thus far. Add in the lack of pressure with the lack of takeaways by the defense overall (zero forced fumbles, zero interceptions) and the Broncos look like a group of ponies out there. Yes, Aaron Rodgers was forced to make a number of throws on the move and completed just 17 of his 29 attempts for 235 yards and a TD but he made the most of his windows; his connection with receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (six catches, 99 yards), particularly, on a 40-yard TD bomb on the opening drive, proved deadly in the long run. Denver has now lost five straight in Green Bay and fall to 0-3 for the first time since 1999.
-- Jelani Scott
- The Saints (2-1) aren't done. Playing just their fourth game since 2006 without Drew Brees, they marched into Seattle and showed why they're still an NFC contender. New Orleans led by as many as 20 (and by double digits until the final play), in part because of a pair of return touchdowns in the first half. Deonte Harris spotted his interim QB a 7-0 cushion three minutes in when he sliced right through the punt coverage team for a 53-yard score. In the second quarter, Vonn Bell scooped up a Chris Carson fumble and took it back 33 yards for another score. That enabled New Orleans to operate conservatively on offense.
- Teddy Bridgewater, making only his second start since 2015, played smart more than anything. The veteran got the ball out quickly and accurately (19 of 27, two TDs, no INTs) while throwing for only 177 yards. He also converted a third down through the air on each of his three scoring drives, and he hit Michael Thomas on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to put the Saints up 27-7 in the third quarter. Bridgewater's best friends on this day were Alvin Kamara (69 yards rushing, 92 yards receiving, 2 TDs) and an offensive line that didn't allow a sack. New Orleans was efficient enough that it didn't even need to call upon so-called Steve Young clone Taysom Hill (one carry, five yards).
- When Pete Carroll called it an unusual game afterward, he wasn't kidding. The Seahawks coach was struck by a football in pregame and needs stitches. He then saw his team waste an all-world effort from its QB. Russell Wilson threw for 406 yards and run for 51 more, producing four touchdowns in the process. In fact, the Seahawks had nearly twice as many yards (515-265) but somehow just seven points to show for it through three quarters. The running game sans Wilson continued to be a concern, as Chris Carson tallied just 53 yards and C.J. Prosise had 5. Missing from the equation was Rashaad Penny, who was inactive after suffering a hamstring injury in practice. Seattle (2-1) came into the season seeking more balance on offense after being so run-heavy at times last year. Now the ground attack is being grounded.
-- Adam Maya