Week 3 NFL Game Recaps
Giants 36, Panthers 7
Instead of folding and using the injuries as an excuse, New York absolutely dominated this game, leading in total yardage, 398-219, when they went up 33-7 in the fourth quarter. The team just had way more energy than Carolina, who looked completely lethargic and slow all evening. The Panthers were featured on national TV for the first time in the Cam Newton era, so I figured they would be fired up in order to prove that they're an NFC South contender. Instead, they sleepwalked through the entire game, almost as if they expected a win to be handed to them in the wake of all of New York's injuries.
But this is about the Giants, whose "next man up" philosophy was clearly evident early on. Diehl's absence wasn't felt, as Eli Manning, with absolutely no pressure in his face, scored 20 points on his first four possessions, finishing 27-of-35 for 288 yards and a touchdown.
Manning's top target was Ramses Barden, who had just 15 career receptions in three seasons going into this year. Barden snagged nine balls for 138 yards, as he found an open spot between the linebackers and the safeties in Sean McDermott's completely flawed defense. Barden needs to be picked up in fantasy leagues; the Giants have proven that they can maintain three productive fantasy receivers.
The most impressive Giant replacement was Andre Brown, who may have Wally Pipped Ahmad Bradshaw. Brown, who gained 113 yards and two touchdowns on just 20 carries, is a really patient runner with power and a nice burst of speed. He looked much better than the injury-prone Bradshaw ever did, and the Giants should absolutely think about making him their featured back, even when Bradshaw gets healthy.
Bears 23, Rams 6
Cutler was sacked just twice, but that's a misleading statistic. He was frequently harassed in the pocket and seldom had time to throw. As a result, the Bears were just 4-of-14 on third-down conversions, though they managed to somehow move the chains on a 3rd-and-17 on a short pass to Michael Bush.
Cutler went 17-of-31 for 183 yards and a bizarre interception. The pick was tipped by Brandon Marshall (5-71; two drops) into the hands of Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan ran about 30 yards downfield and then fumbled. The ball was scooped up by Devin Hester, who ran the ball back to where Marshall initially fumbled. It was a crazy sequence of events, but the play was challenged, and it was ultimately ruled that Finngean was down by contact.
You have to admire Jackson's courage to play through pain, but it was really a stupid idea. Jackson should have taken the time to heal; instead, his football arrogance hurt his team because it kept a healthy Daryl Richardson, a better option considering the circumstances, on the sideline.
Bills 24, Browns 14
As you can imagine, Buffalo's offense sputtered afterward. The team scored just 10 points and lost a fumble in the final three quarters without Spiller. Tashard Choice put together a nice statistical performance (20 carries, 91 yards) thanks to great run blocking, but he's obviously nowhere near the playmaker that Spiller is. Still, you'll want to pick up Choice because Fred Jackson may not be able to return until Week 5.
Fitzpatrick's touchdowns went to Spiller, T.J. Graham (3-24) and Johnson (7-61).
Weeden's late score was to Travis "Private" Benjamin (2-44). Cleveland's leading receiver was tight end Jordan Cameron, who had five catches for 45 yards.
Cowboys 16, Buccaneers 10
By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
The Tampa Bay defenders produced sacks at clutch times to negate potential points. McCoy had a sack-fumble on Tony Romo to bail out Tampa Bay from allowing at least a field goal. McCoy rocked Romo again in the fourth quarter, and Dallas was lucky that its quarterback held onto the ball. Doug Free was getting whipped by Bennett for pressures, hits and holding calls. He had a sack-fumble of Romo in the third quarter to set up the Bucs at the Cowboys 31-yard line, but the Dallas defense forced a punt.
Romo later threw a deep ball for 50 yards to Miles Austin who beat Eric Wright running down the field. That set up a field goal. Romo finished 25-of-39 for 283 yards with zero touchdowns and an interception. He never could get in rhythm because of the terrible play of his line.
Freeman completed only 10-of-28 attempts for 110 yards, one touchdown and an interception. Vincent Jackson had one catch for 29 yards. The Bucs pounded Doug Martin (19-53) without good results and, curiously, continued to run him late in the game when down by two scores.
Jaguars 22, Colts 17
Taking advantage of linebacker Pat Angerer's absence, Maurice Jones-Drew trampled the Colts, gaining 177 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. Jones-Drew was so dominant that he actually accounted for 193 of Jacksonville's 333 total net yards.
Now, I don't want to take anything away from Gabbert for that 80-yard strike. It was a nice throw over the middle of the field, but Gabbert really struggled until then. In fact, he was 6-of-11 for 48 yards at halftime. As I commented in the forum, "Big improvement from Gabbert - he has more than TRIPLE the yardage than he did at halftime last week!"
Luck's two scores went to Ty (don't feel like hitting caps lock and the period button twice) Hilton (4-113) and Mewelde Moore. Hilton, drafted to be Luck's deep threat, had a monstrous afternoon, though he did have a bad drop.
Jets 23, Dolphins 20
I really don't understand what the Jets think they're doing offensively. Tim Tebow plays receiver frequently, but he's not a receiver. In one humorous instance, Sanchez heaved a pass toward Tebow, who didn't look for the pass and consequently had the ball bounce off his helmet. But then when the Jets need to use Tebow, he's nowhere to be found. For example, the Jets had a first-and-goal at the Miami 1-yard line in the third quarter, but they didn't use Tebow a single time. As a result, they couldn't find the end zone, when Tebow probably could have scored easily.
Vikings 24, 49ers 13
Smith didn't make any mistakes when the game was still in question, but he was extremely mediocre, going 24-of-35 for 204 yards, one touchdown and a late, desperation interception. His longest completion in non-garbage time was to Vernon Davis for 20 yards. In fact, he had just two connections greater than 12 yards when he still had a chance to win.
And it's not like Gore ran poorly or anything; he gained 63 yards on just 12 carries. He did lose a fumble, but there's no excuse for feeding him the ball so seldom.
Michael Crabtree had the most receptions on the team (6), but tallied only 40 yards. As for Randy Moss, he hauled in just three grabs for 27 yards. There's no real reason he should be on the roster, and he'll only be a distraction as reporters ask him why he's not piling up awesome stats.
Chiefs 27, Saints 24
Poor blocking was once again the culprit. Chiefs' second-year rush linebacker Justin Houston was absolutely dominant, tallying three sacks, one of which resulted in a safety. He and the rest of Romeo Crennel's defense led the charge down 24-6 to win in overtime.
Of course, Jamaal Charles also played a big part. Charles gashed New Orleans' pathetic defense for 233 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries (with six catches for 55 receiving yards). This included a 91-yard touchdown burst when the team had that 18-point deficit. The game seemed over at that point, but that score gave the Chiefs life and sparked their incredible comeback.
Thomas is worth noting because he should have caught a touchdown. He found the end zone after a reception, but it was ruled incomplete following a review. It was incredibly obvious that the ball never hit the ground, yet the inept officials found some way to overturn the original call. The Saints would go on to miss a field goal.
Titans 44, Lions 41
The first instance occurred in the third quarter. They were up 20-9, but two missed field goals by Rob Bironas helped the Lions come back. Detroit actually took a 27-20 lead, but Tennessee roared back with a 105-yard kickoff return, an insane Nate Washington touchdown and a strip-six.
The second occurrence took place at the end of regulation. This game was apparently over. The Lions scored what appeared to be a garbage touchdown when Shaun Hill, replacing an injured Matthew Stafford, tossed a touchdown to Calvin Johnson. Detroit then recovered an onside kick, and Hill launched a Hail Mary that was answered when a crowd of players tipped the ball to Titus Young.
And finally, the Titans kicked a field goal in overtime, which gave the Lions a chance. They moved it deep into Tennessee territory and looked like they might find the end zone, but they botched a quarterback sneak on a fourth down when they should have tried a game-tying kick. Jim Schwartz said afterward that he wanted to lure the Titans offside and that snapping the ball was a mistake.
Locker's two scores went to Washington (3-112) and Jared Cook (4-77), who suffered a shoulder injury that doesn't appear to be too serious. Washington's touchdown was awesome, as he caught the ball over the defender and ran 71 yards into the end zone.
Bengals 38, Redskins 31
Griffin did what he could. He went 21-of-34 for 221 yards and a passing touchdown as well as 85 rushing yards and second score on the ground on 12 scrambles. Matching the Bengals, point for point, proved to be too difficult, however, especially with No. 1 wideout Pierre Garcon out for the second consecutive week.
Pass protection was a big issue. Despite his elusiveness, Griffin was sacked five times. Michael Johnson, heading for free agency in March, had three sacks. As a result, Griffin fumbled the ball thrice, losing the ball once. The problem was that left tackle Trent Williams suffered a knee injury in the first quarter. He'll have an MRI on Monday.
Dalton's scores went to Andrew Hawkins (2-66), Jermaine Gresham (5-64) and Armon Binns (3-63), who torched a secondary that lost Cedric Griffin in the first quarter. As for Green, he had a monstrous performance, hauling in nine balls for 183 yards and the aforementioned score.
Cardinals 27, Eages 6
QBDK was awful yet again. He didn't throw any interceptions this time, but he lost two fumbles, including one at the end of the first half that was returned for a touchdown. I honestly thought he was playing with a concussion; he banged his head several plays beforehand and didn't seem right when he got up. On the strip-six, he stood in the pocket like an idiot despite the fact that the clock was at about the 4-second mark. He was sacked, and the ball came out. James Sanders took it back 93 yards.
QBDK finished 17-of-37 for 217 yards otherwise. He took numerous crushing hits from Arizona's unbelievable defense. The Cardinals sacked him five times, as center Jason Kelce was sorely missed.
Kolb's touchdowns went to Larry Fitzgerald (9-114) and Michael Floyd (1-8). Fitzgerald was a monster, rebounding from two poor performances to kick off the season. It just goes to show that elite players can't be silenced forever, even when battling elite competition.
Falcons 27, Chargers 3
Rivers went just 21-of-38 for 173 yards and two interceptions, both by safety Thomas DeCoud. He had absolutely no time to throw. It was pathetic how poor his blocking was in this contest. He was somehow sacked only once, but he was running for his life on every other play.
Texans 31, Broncos 25
By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
Manning threw a bullet into the end zone for Demaryius Thomas on the next possession, but the big wideout didn't tap his back foot and stepped out of bounds for an incompletion. A pass bounced off Eric Decker later in the drive, but dropped into tight end Joel Dreesen in the back of the end zone. That put the Broncos down 31-25 with six minutes remaining.
Denver didn't get the ball back until there were only seconds on the clock, and the Broncos were too far from the end zone to have a real shot at stealing a win. Manning finished 26-of-52 for 330 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Decker (8-136) led Denver through the air. Stokley (6-73), Thomas (3-34) and Jacob Tamme (3-31) contributed.
Raiders 34, Steelers 31
One play that may not make it into the SportsCenter highlights is a Philip Wheeler low hit to the back of Ben Roethlisberger's knee. I was shocked there was no penalty until I remembered that there are inept replacement officials on the field. Big Ben limped around for a while, but it eventually seemed like he was fine.
The Raiders punted just three times, as Palmer seldom threw incomplete passes, finishing 24-of-34 for 209 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. I thought Oakland's offense would be deflated after losing Heyward-Bey, but Palmer couldn't be stopped.
Palmer's touchdowns went to Denarius Moore (5-45), Heyward-Bey (2-14) and Richard Gordon (1-1).
Big Ben's scores went to Mike Wallace (8-123), Antonio Brown (7-87) and Heath Miller (8-60) twice. It's not surprising to see Miller find the end zone so much after Roethlisberger told the media that he really wants to make his tight end a Pro Bowler this year.
Ravens 31, Patriots 30
This was such an intense game. There were so many fierce hits (despite all of the points) and the players constantly got into it with each other. The officials lost control of this contest by letting stuff go early, and it got really bad. They then overcompensated by calling everything - there were 24 combined accepted penalties - prompting both coaches to scream incoherently at the refs. The crowd continuously chanted "bull-s***" for what seemed like 10 minutes, and after the Ravens seeminglynailed a game-winning field goal - I still don't know why they didn't review that (it is reviewable) - Belichick ran after one of the officials and grabbed his arm.
I've never seen Belichick that animated. It just goes to show how much of an atrocity the officiating crew was in this game. It's become such a farce, but it doesn't matter because Roger Goodell has proven that he doesn't give a damn about player safety as long as players can't sue him for it.
Meanwhile, Joe Flacco was even better, finishing 28-of-39 for 382 yards, three scores and a pick. Flacco's reaching the level where you're scared to death when he's about to throw if you're betting against him. He had so many great throws in this contest, though there were three situations in which the Patriots missed out on an interception. Two potential picks were dropped, while the third never occurred because Kyle Arrington tripped over his own feet.
For thoughts on Packers-Seahawks, check out my updated 2012 NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.
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