The Giants are usually the ones that make mistakes and cost themselves victories, and it appeared initially that would be the case again in this contest when Victor Cruz dropped a pass on third down of the opening drive. However, the Redskins were the ones that capsized, repeatedly making errors all evening. The Giants, as a consequence, improved to .500.
New York probably didn't even need Washington's blunders to win this game. Eli Manning struggled during the exhibition and preseason opener, but he has improved since and was razor sharp in this matchup. Out of 23 first-half passes, he had only one incompletion that wasn't dropped compared to three touchdowns. He converted first down after first down, moving the sticks on 7-of-9 on third downs prior to intermission. The Redskins, missing DeAngelo Hall, had no answer for New York's aerial attack, and couldn't get any sort of pass rush going. This was puzzling, as Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Jason Hatcher were battling an offensive line with some glaring holes.
Manning finished 28-of-39 for 300 yards, five touchdowns (four passing, one rushing) and an interception. His pick wasn't his fault at all, as Rueben Randle seemed to secure a touchdown, but had the ball knocked out of his hands. It probably would've been ruled a score if the NFL's rules made any sense.
All but one of Manning's aerial touchdowns went to upstart tight end Larry Donnell, who caught seven balls for 54 yards. As my LVH SuperContest partner Matvei put it, "What a fantasy season! Jimmy Graham (ADP 1.08) is behind Larry Donall (ADP who the hell is that?)"
Manning's top options on the evening were Cruz (6-108) and Randle (8-89), who saw 10 targets each. Both committed errors that would've cost their team in a close game, but the Redskins just weren't competitive.
Rashad Jennings fantasy owners had to be frustrated. Jennings was given just 13 carries for 55 yards, and he flat-out dropped a receiving touchdown. He was then pulled when the game was out of hand, allowing rookie Andre Williams (14-64) to vulture a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Williams was responsible for a drop in the first half.
The Redskins, as mentioned, continuously shot themselves in the foot. It began when Mathias Kiwanuka beat Tyler Polumbus to strip-sack an oblivious Kirk Cousins. A short field set up a Manning touchdown to Donnell. After that, a hold negated a 16-yard reception to Pierre Garcon near midfield. DeSean Jackson followed that up with a drop, and the Giants proceeded to march down the field for another score.
With Washington down early, the blunders multiplied. There was holding in the red zone. Logan Paulsen, playing for a concussed Niles Paul, then fumbled deep in New York territory to cost his team at least three points. After that, Cousins began firing countless interceptions. The first occurred because he predetermined where he was going to throw the ball and fired it to a covered receiver. The second was heaved carelessly downfield as he lofted the ball out of the back of the end zone. The third was heaved right at Trumaine McBride, and I just don't know what Cousins was possibly thinking on that play. The fourth was a dying pass because Cousins had pressure in his face and couldn't step up in the pocket.
Cousins finished 19-of-33 for 257 yards, one touchdown and the four picks. He was solid at times early on, but by the end of the evening, he looked defeated as he sat on the bench. It appears as though all of his confidence is gone, so it's a good thing that he'll have 10 days of rest to figure things out before the next game. The bad news? Washington has Seattle in Week 5.
As mentioned, Paul was knocked out of the game on a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit over the middle of the field. Paul (3-60) appeared to lose consciousness. He was helped off the field and never returned.
Neither of the primary Washington wideouts did anything. Garcon hauled in two balls for 28 yards, while Jackson reeled in just one pass for nine yards. Jackson had a nice sideline catch taken away from him by a poor officiating ruling. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie completely shut him down otherwise.
The Redskins were down early, so they didn't get a chance to run very much. Alfred Morris was given just 12 carries, but still managed to turn them into 63 yards and a touchdown.
Adding injury to insult, left tackle Trent Williams left the game with a knee injury. He had trouble walking in the locker room.
Phil Simms, the color analyst for this game, refused to say "Redskins" throughout the telecast. Simms, however, actually said "Redskins" during last week's broadcast when promoting this contest. Jim Nantz, meanwhile, seemed to mock Simms by saying "Redskins" as much as possible. It was pretty odd to listen to, though still much better than Brad Nessler's constant errors last year. I'll never forget when Nessler said a punter "kicked it into the night sky" when the game was inside Minnesota's dome. Simms is extremely bland and can be very annoying at times, but he at least actually pays attention to the game.
Ravens 38, Panthers 10
Steve Smith said there would be blood and guts on the field as he tried to get revenge on his former team for releasing him this past offseason. Smith's prediction came to fruition, as Carolina came out of this contest absolutely battered and humiliated.
Smith made his presence known right away when he caught Joe Flacco's first pass of ths game. He threw a punishing stiff-arm to pick up a 17-yard gain. Smith was then the recipient of two first-half touchdowns, both of which occurred under extremely fortunate circumstances. The first was actually targeted for Owen Daniels, but the tight end tipped the ball into the air, which landed right into Smith's arms. The second happened right after Flacco dropped the snap. He was able to pick the ball up before any Panther tackled him and managed to fire it right to Smith in the end zone.
By halftime, Smith had five catches for 122 yards and the two touchdowns. He finished with seven grabs for 139 yards. He's been awesome for Baltimore so far, but Smith only has himself to blame for not being in Carolina anymore. He played lethargically in 2013 and simply looked done as a result. The Panthers made the right move by getting rid of him based on his performance this past season.
The Panthers, meanwhile, were bludgeoned quite literally. Greg Olsen limped off early, and then DeAngelo Williams followed him. I've always said that the toughest thing NFL coaches have to do is making in-game adjustments to injuries to their high-impact players. The Panthers couldn't do anything once Williams left the field. With Jonathan Stewart also out, Carolina had no choice but to turn to scrubs like Darrin Reaves and Taurean Poole. Reaves couldn't do anything on the ground with his 12 carries for 26 yards, while Poole lost a fumble near midfield in the second half.
Cam Newton was also beaten to a pulp. He didn't leave the game until it got out of hand, but he was constantly hit and harassed. His offensive line couldn't do anything to protect him, as Terrell Suggs was in the backfield all afternoon. Newton, who went 14-of-25 for 197 yards and a touchdown, once again was reluctant to scramble around. He only ran twice for seven rushing yards. There was one play in particular that stood out. Newton bobbled a shotgun snap and scrambled left to avoid pressure. The old Newton would've tried to pick up the first down with his legs, but this battered version basically hobbled out of bounds. Carolina's front office only has itself to blame for this; the offensive line is a joke and looks pathetic trying to block for him.
Newton's sole touchdown went to Kelvin Benjamin, who caught five balls for 76 yards, though most of that came during garbage time in the second half. Benjamin nearly secured a second score, but after replay, the officials ruled that his toe was out of bounds. Benjamin had some drops and was also whistled for an offensive pass interference, which knocked Carolina out of field goal range on what looked like a promising opening drive.
Carolina's defense was equally disappointing, as it surrendered big play after big play throughout the afternoon. The team had major problems tackling, while the defensive interior was easily pushed around by Baltimore's front. The Ravens basically had anything they wanted in the middle, which would explain how Justin Forsett (14-66, TD) and Lorenzo Taliaferro (15-58, TD) combined for 124 yards on the ground. Forsett also logged three catches for 31 receiving yards. Taliaferro, meanwhile, racked up his yardage in garbage time. Bernard Pierce was nowhere to be seen despite being probable.
Joe Flacco also had an easy afternoon. He had zero pressure in his face throughout despite Eugene Monroe's absence, allowing him to go 22-of-31 for 327 yards and three touchdowns. As mentioned, two of the scores went to Steve Smith. The other was thrown to Torrey Smith, who made two catches for 53 yards and drew a pair of long pass interferences. The latter Smith's touchdown came after the Panthers were whistled for 12 men on the field on a Baltimore punt. The Panthers didn't seem focused at all in this game.
Owen Daniels (4-43) was second on the team with six targets. He was part of an offense that impressively converted 10-of-13 third-down attempts. Carolina's defense doesn't look even close to the unit that was so dominant in 2013. Greg Hardy's absence is huge, but that doesn't excuse the poor tackling and mental errors.
Packers 38, Bears 17
This looked like it was going to be one of the all-time high-scoring games for a while. Neither offense punted in the first half, as both offenses were completely unstoppable. Aaron Rodgers was very sharp, while Chicago looked nearly as good, though it benefited from some great luck. For instance, Jay Cutler fumbled two snaps, yet was able to make great plays on both instances. He scrambled and picked up a first down the initial time and then threw a completion for a first down on the second occasion. Meanwhile, the grass caused corner Davon House to fall down a couple of times on a pair of big Chicago plays.
However, the Bears' great fortunes quickly ran out, and it began just before halftime. Martellus Bennett was tackled inches short of the goal line just as time expired. Cutler then was erratic as he was trying to come from behind, tossing two interceptions in the second half. One of them was a miscommunication that led to a Packer field goal attempt. The Bears held on the play, granting Green Bay with a first-and-goal opportunity. Rodgers took advantage with a touchdown on the very next snap. That put the Packers up 21, icing the second victory for them.
Cutler had a miserable second half, going 7-of-13 for 83 yards and the two picks following intermission. He had a third potential interception that was dropped. Green Bay's defensive improvement after halftime was inexplicable, though Cutler melting down had something to do with it.
Rodgers, meanwhile, was brilliant throughout. He backed up his message about relaxing despite the team's 1-2 start by going 22-of-28 for 302 yards and four touchdowns. Whereas Cutler struggled immensely following halftime, Rodgers misfired on just two of his 11 attempts during the same time span. One of the incompletions was actually a drop by Randall Cobb in the end zone. Rodgers also had another potential touchdown negated because of a hold. It was a shame because Rodgers navigated the pocket so beautifully to find Davante Adams (2-18) deep downfield.
Cobb redeemed himself by scoring two touchdowns while catching seven balls for 113 yards. Jordy Nelson, who logged 10 receptions for 108 yards, also found the end zone twice.
Eddie Lacy also scored, which finally made his fantasy owners happy. However, he managed just 48 yards on 17 carries, as the Green Bay offensive line couldn't open up any holes for him.
Some Chicago stats:
- Cutler's final numbers were 22-of-34 for 256 yards, two touchdowns and the pair of interceptions. He made some great plays in the first half, especially when ad libbing after those botched snaps, but his mistakes cost his team late.
- Bennett had a big game. He led the team with nine receptions for 134 yards. As mentioned, he nearly missed out on a touchdown because he was tackled inches short of the goal line.
- Both Brandon Marshall (2-19) and Alshon Jeffery (4-39) scored touchdowns, but disappointed with their yardage. Marshall nearly had a second score, but Cutler overshot him in the end zone.
- The Bears ran the ball often early to keep Rodgers off the field. Matt Forte gained 122 yards on 23 carries, but rushed the ball just six times after intermission. Forte also caught five passes for 49 receiving yards.
I have to mention this because I found it amusing. I enjoy making fun of NFL preseason announcers because they're so incompetent, but I don't get much of a chance during these national broadcasts. However, one of the FOX announcers in this game called Ha Ha Clinton-Dix "Courtney Ha Ha-Dix." I have no idea where he got Courtney from.
Texans 23, Bills 17
If two 2-1 teams squared off, and no one saw them play, did one of them really improve to 3-1? Though Houston was 2-1 entering this contest, there were many empty seats at Reliant Stadium. Perhaps the fans knew that the team's first two victories were a farce. After all, Ryan Fitzpatrick was the quarterback, so how could they possibly be excited?
Fitzpatrick is now 3-1, but this performance once again wasn't very encouraging. He completed 25-of-37 passes for 268 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw two interceptions. One was tipped at the line of scrimmage and popped into the air, but the other was carelessly heaved downfield across his body. Fitzpatrick, who could only convert 5-of-14 third-down attempts, also tossed some ugly incompletions, including a couple that could have been intercepted. He also misfired on an easy throw while the team was trying to run the clock out. It gave the Bills an extra possession, but E.J. Manuel was even more incompetent.
Manuel had a miserable performance for the second week in a row. He endured some drops early on - there were three on as many drives to open the game, including two by Sammy Watkins - but that doesn't excuse some of the passes he made later on. Manuel hurled two interceptions and could've easily thrown several more. One of the picks was heaved right to J.J. Watt, who took the ball back to the end zone for six. The other sealed the victory for Houston on a horrible overthrow in the final minute of the game. Manuel also had several casual misfires. One that stood out occurred with a few minutes remaining in regulation. He had a receiver open on third-and-6, but launched the ball out of bounds.
Manuel finished 21-of-44 for 225 yards, two touchdowns and the pair of picks. Buffalo's offense as a whole was a mess; the team was discombobulated, as it wasted timeouts and was flagged for procedural penalties early on and failed to block Watt throughout. It has to be completely embarrassing for the Bills that their first-round quarterback was outplayed by Fitzpatrick, who was run out of town after four pedestrian seasons. The humiliation showed when some lethargic Buffalo defenders didn't even bother touching Arian Foster when he had the ball on the ground very late in the game. Foster rolled forward past the first-down marker, giving Houston the win. The poor effort they displayed was staggering.
Watkins overcame his early drops by finishing the game with four catches for 30 yards and a touchdown. Mike Williams (2-84) reeled in Manuel's other score, thanks to a breakdown in coverage.
Fred Jackson was the star in the Bills' backfield last week, so C.J. Spiller naturally grabbed the reins in this contest, gaining 60 yards on 15 carries, while Jackson took his mere seven attempts for 33 yards. However, Jackson was used more in the passing game. He logged six catches for 52 receiving yards, while Spiller secured all three targets thrown his way for 24 receiving yards.
Surprisingly, both Jackson and Spiller outrushed Arian Foster. It appeared as though Foster struggled during warmups, but his health wasn't the entire issue. He mustered only six yards on eight carries because his offensive line couldn't do anything to open up any holes against Buffalo's stalwart front. Foster made up for it with seven catches for 55 receiving yards.
DeAndre Hopkins secured Fitzpatrick's only touchdown. He finished with five grabs for 64 yards. Andre Johnson (6-71) was the team's leading receiver.
Colts 41, Titans 17
The Titans are unfortunate that the Colts had to battle the Broncos in Week 1 and were screwed over by the officials in a loss to the Eagles the following Monday night. Had the Colts been 3-0 or even 2-1, they may not have taken Tennessee very seriously. Instead, the Colts had to escape their losing record, so they prepared a terrific game plan versus the Titans. They even prepared some trick plays, including a double reverse and an onside kick, which they recovered.
Of course, Indianapolis may not have needed a strong plan to defeat the Titans, given that Charlie Whitehurst was starting in place of the injured Jake Locker. Ken Whisenhunt could have gone with rookie Zach Mettenberger, who was brilliant in the preseason, but he gave the pedestrian Charlie Whitehurst the nod. Whitehurst responded with a predictably poor performance, as he gave his team no chance to win this game.
The Whitehurst-Andrew Luck difference simply proved to be too much. Luck misfired just 12 times, finishing 29-of-41 for 393 yards, four touchdowns and an interception that looked like it slipped out of his hand. He barely missed out on a fifth score; T.Y. Hilton was incorrectly ruled short of the goal line, but Trent Richardson found the end zone on the next play anyway.
Luck was particularly brilliant in the second half, going 12-of-14 for 178 yards and three touchdowns following intermission. His team made a couple of errors early on, including some holding penalties and such, but they cleaned everything up after the break.
Luck's touchdowns went to Reggie Wayne (7-119), who had his greatest outing of the season by far, Dwayne Allen (3-38), Coby Fleener (2-26) and Ahmad Bradshaw. Hilton, who missed out on a score, led the team with 10 targets. He reeled in six of them for 105 yards.
Bradshaw once again outran Richardson. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone but Pep Hamilton, who is absolutely clueless. Richardson found the end zone once, as mentioned, but mustered only 47 yards on 20 carries. Bradshaw nearly did the same (32 yards) on just nine attempts. It's really ridiculous that the Colts continue to feature Richardson so prominently when Bradshaw is obviously so much better.
Speaking of utilizing the wrong running back, rookie runner Bishop Sankey didn't receive a carry until the second half. It was too late by then, but Sankey looked much better than Shonn Greene did once again. Sankey gained 34 yards and a garbage-time touchdown on just six attempts and also caught two passes for 23 receiving yards. Greene (3-10) didn't have an opportunity to do much, but he would have sucked anyway.
Whitehurst, as mentioned, didn't play well. He barely completed half his passes, going 12-of-23 for 177 yards, one touchdown and an interception that was a tipped high pass. He also missed out on a second score by overthrowing Kendall Wright in the end zone. Having said that, Whitehurst's teammates didn't do him any favors. There were two dropped touchdowns in the end zone, while Kendall Wright lost a fumble on a non-contact play that the Colts eventually turned into a touchdown.
Only two Titans caught more than a couple of passes: Delanie Walker (5-84, TD) and Wright (5-55). Justin Hunter saw five targets, but continued to be inefficient, reeling in just one of them for 12 yards.
Editor's Note: There were chants of "We want Vick! We want Vick!" throughout the second half of this game. I'd like to believe that there were some WF readers in the stands shouting, "We want QBDK! We want QBDK!"
The Lions showed they're ready to avoid trap games and have some versatility with the way they can beat teams. Last year, Detroit's passing offense went flaccid whenever Calvin Johnson (2-12) wasn't in the lineup. Against the Jets, Johnson spent a lot of time on the sideline and was a non-factor. Matthew Stafford used a variety of weapons to score on New York, while the Lions' defensive had no problems showing that Geno Smith is just a backup-caliber quarterback. The score doesn't indicate how the Lions controlled this game and out-played New York decisively in every phase of the game.
I'm sure New York considered benching Smith, but the team doesn't have a good alternative, as Michael Vick is declining athletically and looks completely checked out, happy to cash the checks for not playing.
The Jets actually got on the board first - via a field goal - as they went on a 14-play drive that was led by Chris Ivory posting 51 yards on nine carries. Stafford responded with a 35-yard pass to Golden Tate to set up a 51-yard field goal from new kicker Alex Henery. The Lions took the lead, as Stafford laid out a beautiful 59-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Ross (2-65), who burned Antonio Allen and Calvin Pryor to get wide open. Just before halftime, Stafford rifled the ball down the field before hitting Eric Ebron for a 16-yard score. New York had terrible play-calling in the first half, as Ivory had only five carries after the first drive, while the offense produced steady three-and-outs trying to pass the ball with Smith.
The Jets moved the ball in the third quarter with a nice pass to Greg Salas. On a third-and-7, on the Detroit 11-yard line, Smith hit Eric Decker (4-48), and the big wideout dived into the end zone. Detroit came right back with a 90-yard drive as passes to Ryan Broyles, and Tate moved the ball to the goal line. Stafford ran the ball in on a rollout. Smith responded by setting up the Lions for more points as he sailed a pass over the middle for an easy interception to Darius Slay, who returned his first career interception 41 yards. The Lions then missed the field goal. Smith followed that up with a fumble on a sack by James Ihedigbo.
Chris Johnson (6-44) had a fluky 35-yard touchdown run after a few missed tackles, and some Lion defenders watched the play rather than running to the ball. Detroit, however, salted the win away with Reggie Bush (12-46) to take sole possession of first place in the NFC North.
Stafford completed 24-of-34 passes for 293 yards with two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. Golden Tate was Detroit's featured receiver, as he had 116 yards on eight receptions.
Smith completed 17-of-33 passes for 209 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Decker and Ivory (17-84 rushing, 2-16 receiving) each had a few dropped passes that could have gone for nice gains. The Jets' offensive line had its hands full, as Ndamukong Suh was disruptive. Nick Fairley also had a sack.
Defensively, New York's line kept the team in the game. Sheldon Richardson (1 sack) and Muhammed Wilkerson (1.5 sacks) were excellent.
Dolphins 38, Raiders 14
Have a quarterback controversy? Is the head coach waffling on whom to start? Is the quarterback being undermined? Get rid of all your troubles and schedule a game against the Raiders today!
Ryan Tannehill had a fantastic bounce-back performance following two dreadful outings. It didn't look like things would go his way early on when he overthrew Brian Hartline in the red zone. Miami, as a consequence, had to settle for a field goal instead of a first-and-goal inside the 5-yard line.
The Dolphins actually trailed going into the second quarter, but then reality set in. Tannehill caught fire against Oakland's putrid defense and was close to perfect for the remainder of the first half. He misfired just once until intermission, going 17-of-19 for 204 yards and two touchdowns. He could've had a huge statistical day had the Raiders been remotely competitive, but the Dolphins took the air out of the ball with such a big lead.
Tannehill ended up finishing 23-of-31 for 278 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Consistency has always been an issue for him, so maintaining this success will be a challenge. It should, however, quiet all discussion of Matt Moore taking over as the starter in the immediate future.
Tannehill's two scores went to Mike Wallace (3-35) - a beautifully designed screen - and backup tight end Dion Sims. Wallace lucked out a bit in this game, as he fumbled on a double reverse. Fortunately for him, Charles Clay was right there to pick the ball up.
It helped Tannehill that he had a strong rushing attack supporting him. Lamar Miller carried the ball just 12 times, but gained 64 yards and two touchdowns in the process. Miller, at one point, lost a fumble inches short of the goal line, but he found the end zone right after an ensuing Derek Carr interception.
Speaking of Carr, he left the game early with a leg injury that turned out to be a sprained MCL. It was a merciful exit, as he went 16-of-25 for just 146 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The Raiders' radio broadcaster Greg Papa called this blowout an "international disaster." No one should be surprised at all if Dennis Allen is fired during the team's upcoming bye week.
Maurice Jones-Drew was set to play in this game after missing the previous couple of contests, but was given just two carries for one yard. Darren McFadden handled most of the workload, but didn't get much of a chance to do anything in the ground game because his team was behind for three quarters. He finished with 40 yards on 11 attempts. He also caught four balls for 32 receiving yards.
Perhaps the silver lining for the Raiders is that they finally got Andre Holmes going. The promising wideout saw 12 targets go his way, catching five of them for 74 yards and a garbage-time touchdown. James Jones (6-83) led the team in receiving.
Buccaneers 27, Steelers 24
What a difference 10 days makes. That, and three key players. The Buccaneers were missing some of their best defensive talents in their Thursday night blowout loss at Atlanta and didn't stand much of a chance as a consequence. They returned for this contest, and they were prevalent throughout, especially early on.
The Buccaneers were able to establish a quick 10-0 lead because Gerald McCoy and Michael Johnson both made big plays in their return. McCoy sacked Ben Roethlisberger instantly, and Michael Johnson followed that up with a strip-sack on the ensuing play. McCoy, Johnson and the other Buccaneer linemen wreaked havoc upon Roethlisberger all afternoon, sacking him on five occasions.
Roethlisberger still played well, so the Buccaneers needed Mike Glennon to step up, especially once Pittsburgh's offense started clicking in the second quarter. The Steelers took a lead going into halftime, and it appeared as though they would extend that advantage, but Glennon came up big in the second half. He was 16-of-31 for 245 yards, one touchdown and an interception following the break. This, of course, included a brilliant, improbable, game-winning drive that left Dick LeBeau looking befuddled.
Glennon finished 21-of-42 for 302 yards, two touchdowns and a pick that occurred because Mike Evans pulled up lame. This win was great, and both he and his team should enjoy it, but there are some concerns. Glennon missed some routine throws, including one to an open Vincent Jackson in the end zone during the fourth quarter (before Jackson's actual score a bit later). There were also some mental errors, including an untimely delay of game and a false start. However, Glennon proved to be a major upgrade over Josh McCown, and he'll at least keep the Buccaneers competitive in the near future.
Jackson, who secured the decisive touchdown, caught just three of his 10 targets for 32 yards otherwise. As mentioned, Glennon missed him, so the inefficiency wasn't all his fault, though he did drop a pass. Evans (4-65) hauled in Glennon's other score, but he injured his groin in the third quarter. Louis Murphy, meanwhile, led the team in targets (11) and catches (6-99). He saw an ample amount of action because Evans exited with a groin.
Doug Martin was the other Buccaneer who made his return. He was bottled up for the most part, gaining just 40 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, but the important thing is that he didn't fumble, which is what Bobby Rainey (4 carries, 2 yards) has been guilty of in his absence.
Moving on to the Steelers, I mentioned that Roethisberger played well despite the pressure. He went 29-of-40 for 314 yards and three touchdowns. He could've had a much bigger day - including a fourth score - but Antonio Brown dropped a deep flea-flicker. Still, this performance was impressive considering that Tampa Bay dominated the trenches for the most part.
Despite the deep drop, Brown had another huge outing, catching seven balls for 131 yards and a pair of scores. However, Brown should've been called for an obvious offensive pass interference on one of his touchdowns. Meanwhile, Roethlisberger's other score was thrown to Heath Miller, who had an awesome outing, snagging 10 balls for 85 yards otherwise.
Le'Veon Bell had trouble finding running room against Tampa's healthy front. He tallied 63 rushing yards on 19 carries, but save for a 16-yard gain, he was bottled up for the most part. He did contribute in the passing game, however, snagging six balls for 46 receiving yards.
Editor's Note: The Jaguars were ultimately blown out, but I feel as though they'd have at least one victory thus far if they used Blake Bortles starting in Week 1. There was no reason to ever go with Chad Henne, but Jacksonville ultimately got it right.
Jaguar fans had to hope that having Blake Bortles make his first NFL start would begin the turning of the tide for the downtrodden franchise, but the Chargers had no issues dropping Jacksonville to 0-4. Bortles flashed at times, but the Jaguars clearly aren't capable of playing competitive football against a good team. Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers is on fire, and only a good defense playing at the top of its game is going to slow him down.
Jacksonville had a rough start. On the first play from scrimmage, Toby Gerhart (10-32) fumbled the ball away after a hit from Jarrett Johnson. After getting it back, Bortles moved the ball to midfield before being stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-1. Rivers took advantage to move the ball in range for a short Chargers' field goal. Bortles answered as he went down the field to set up Gerhart for a short touchdown run. Rivers came right back with passes to Keenan Allen and a 47-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Royal.
Bortles responded by connecting with a wide open Allen Hurns (5-68) for 44 yards. Hurns should have taken that in for a touchdown, but Bortles was able to finish the drive with a short scoring pass to Nick Jacobs. In the final minute before halftime, Royal torched the Jaguars' secondary for a 43-yard touchdown.
Rivers stayed red hot after the half, throwing a perfect pass to Malcolm Floyd (3-39) for a 24-yard touchdown pass. Jacksonville set up Rivers for more as Bortles threw a bad interception to Brandon Flowers. Flowers jumped the route, but Bortles should have seen Flowers waiting. Rivers kept moving the ball for field goals, while Bortles threw his second interception to Eric Weddle. Bortles stared down the receiver, allowing Weddle jumped the route. The Chargers' front seven combined to harass Bortles, and the secondary played well for San Diego. Flowers had an excellent game.
Rivers completed 29-of-39 for 377 yards with three touchdowns. Allen (10-135) and Royal (5-105) led the Chargers' receivers, while Antonio Gates (3-30) was held in check. Donald Brown (10-19 rushing, 4-35) didn't have much of an impact, but with Rivers ripping the ball through Jacksonville's porous secondary, San Diego didn't need a running game.
Bortles completed 29-of-37 passes for 253 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Clay Harbor (8-69) led the Jaguars in receiving. Jacksonville's offensive line didn't play well, while the skill-position players were overmatched. Until Bortles has a legitimate supporting cast on offense with at least an average defense, the Jaguars are going to struggle no matter who is starting at quarterback.
Vikings 41, Falcons 28
I've gotten some flak for using large words like "Pyrrhic" when describing victories in which teams suffer multiple injuries to key players. Well, if there was such a thing as a Pyrrhic loss, this would be one for Atlanta. The Falcons lost several players throughout the afternoon, and by the middle of the fourth quarter, they barely had a functional offense.
Five Falcons had to exit the game. Justin Blalock was knocked out with a back injury. Lamar Holmes left with a foot problem. Joe Hawley was carted off with a knee. Devin Hester got banged up. William Moore also exited with a shoulder, but the offensive line was Atlanta's biggest issue. By the end, tight end Levine Toilolo was playing right tackle. Matt Ryan, who didn't see much pressure early on, was suddenly feeling lots of heat and couldn't make a comeback as a consequence. He tossed two picks late, both of which were made out of desperation.
Of course, the most prevalent injury that occurred came when Teddy Bridgewater limped toward the sideline and was carted off to the locker room. It's a shame because Bridgewater had a brilliant performance in his first NFL start. He went 19-of-30 for 317 passing yards as well as 27 rushing yards and a score on the ground.
Bridgewater made some great plays, including one where he juked to avoid a sack and rushed upfield to move the chains. He had the fans in a frenzy, who chanted, "Teddy! Teddy! Teddy!" throughout the afternoon. The FOX sideline reporter said that Bridgewater gave her "two thumbs up" when he was being wheeled off, so hopefully that's a good sign. It would be a shame if Bridgewater missed significant time after this excellent display, albeit against a crappy defense. However, one of the few reasons Bridgewater fell in the 2014 NFL Draft was because some teams were worried about his durability. This might be something Minnesota fans will just have to get used to, unfortunately.
Bridgewater opened the game with mostly short throws to Jarius Wright. The speedy receiver had a huge afternoon, hauling in eight balls for 132 yards. Bridgewater also missed him for a possible touchdown. Meanwhile, it was surprising to see Cordarrelle Patterson (2 catches, 38 yards) do very little once again. Norv Turner talked about designing plays for Patterson, but save for the season opener, the 2013 first-rounder hasn't been much of a factor.
It really helped Bridgewater that his team was able to run the ball so well. Matt Asiata (20-78) scored thrice, but Jerick McKinnon was much more impressive. He gained 135 yards on 18 carries, including a 55-yard burst. He didn't face much of a challenge against Atlanta's pathetic front, but McKinnon still needs to get more touches going forward.
Moving back to the Falcons, Ryan was sharp early on, but as mentioned, his offensive line issues prevented him from doing anything late. Ryan finished 25-of-41 for 298 yards, three touchdowns and the two meaningless picks. He was terrific on third downs, converting 10-of-15 opportunities.
The Vikings didn't seem to have an answer for any of the three primary receivers, as Julio Jones (6-82), Roddy White (4-73, TD) and Hester (5-70, TD) all had big outings. White scored on a complete breakdown in coverage.
The Falcons continued to have their running backs split carries. Steven Jackson barely did anything with his opportunities (13 carries, 49 yards), while Antone Smith burst for a 48-yard touchdown at the end of the third quarter.
I mentioned an announcing blunder earlier. There was a minor amusing one in this game when the FOX play-by-play guy incoherently shouted, "Matt Asiata up the middle and gets an Atlanta first down!" Wow, it's amazing the Falcons lost this game when one member of the Vikings was so traitorous.
49ers 26, Eagles 21
The Eagles were an obvious paper 3-0 entering this contest, while the 49ers, sitting at 1-2 because of two sloppy losses, absolutely needed a victory. San Francisco narrowly pulled out a win, but this was a lot closer than it ever should have been. The 49ers should've prevailed by double digits, but they committed the same mistakes that haunted them in their two defeats.
The 49ers were so sloppy, it was ridiculous. Their mistakes began when they had a punt blocked for a touchdown after Colin Kaepernick took a sack at his own 2-yard line. Kaepernick then launched a pick-six right at Malcolm Jenkins, as the safety was easily able to read him because he stared down his receiver. Following a Darren Sproles punt returned for a touchdown, the 49ers trailed 21-10 despite the fact that Philadelphia had just 47 total yards of offense.
Kaepernick, meanwhile, made some sloppy errors throughout in addition to his pick-six. For instance, he ran out of bounds for a loss of four yards instead of throwing the ball away. He fired behind Stevie Johnson in the red zone. He passed way too high toward an open Anquan Boldin on a third down. He missed an available Michael Crabtree at one point. He was responsible for horrific clock management, forcing the 49ers to waste timeouts or take delay-of-game penalties. On one occasion, Kaepernick took a timeout on a fourth-and-2 when he was trying to force the defense offside. Jim Harbaugh was irate because he wanted to just take the 5-yard infraction, since he planned on punting anyway. It's this sort of lack of awareness that's costing Kaepernick and the 49ers thus far.
Kaepernick ultimately finished 17-of-30 for 218 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He made countless mistakes, but made up for them a bit with his scrambling ability. He ran seven times for 58 rushing yards.
A 49er victory seemed in doubt for multiple reasons. One was their constant mistakes; another was Vernon Davis' injury in the third quarter. Davis (2 catches, 8 yards) was hit cheaply in the back and had to leave the game, which was horrible news for Kaepernick, who has never played well without his prized tight end. However, Kaepernick overcame Davis' absence and was able to lead his team on several second-half scoring drives to lead his team to victory.
Michael Crabtree also got hurt. He suffered a foot injury, but was able to shake it off, save for a dropped pass. He tied Anquan Boldin with five catches each, with Boldin outgaining him, 62-43. Frank Gore and Stevie Johnson (1 catch, 12 yards), reeled in both of Kaepernick's touchdowns.
Speaking of Gore, he was very impressive, rushing for 119 yards on 24 carries. His receiving touchdown, a 55-yarder, came when Kaepernick threw way across his body. Gore, inexplicably, was wide open, and he was able to run all the way to the end zone, thanks to a horrible missed tackle by safety Earl Wolff.
The Eagles, meanwhile, couldn't do anything on offense - they crossed midfield just twice all afternoon - thanks in part to their offensive line troubles. Already missing Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson, the team also saw left tackle Jason Peters exit the game in the third quarter. Peters came back but didn't look like himself; he was flagged for a late hold that ruined a drive.
With no time in the pocket, Nick Foles predictably struggled. He failed to complete half of his passes, going 21-of-43 for 195 yards and two interceptions, one of which came in desperation time. Foles' only real pick occurred as he was hit late, though he was nearly intercepted on another occasion when Perrish Cox caught one of his passes, but only managed to keep a single foot inbounds.
The battered offensive line had issues opening up running lanes for LeSean McCoy. Struggling once again, McCoy mustered just 17 yards on five carries.
Jeremy Maclin saw a team-high 16 targets, but managed to catch just five of them for 68 yards. He made a terrific, one-handed sideline grab in the fourth quarter that was so unbelievable that Jim Harbaugh had to challenge it. He lost. Elsewhere, Riley Cooper (6-54) and Zach Ertz (4-43) both lost fumbles. Jordan Matthews (4-28) failed to maintain the success he had last week.
Cowboys 38, Saints 17
Sean Payton was asked after this game if this was one of the worst losses he's ever been a part of. Payton said no, referencing some playoff defeats, but this is one of the worst games he's ever coached. Everyone wants to talk about how great the Cowboys suddenly are, but the fact remains that the amount of blunders New Orleans committed was alarming. This includes:
- SIX drops, including two by Jimmy Graham.
- The Saints opted to run with Travaris Cadet on a first-quarter third-and-3. They predictably didn't convert and had to punt it away. Why would they run with Cadet on such an important play when they have Drew Brees?
- Shayne Graham missed a field goal from 41 yards in the opening half. This was on a fourth-and-short opportunity right near the red zone. Going for it with Brees should have been considered.
- Brees threw an interception on a tipped pass, though linebacker Justin Durant deserves credit for a great play. He was nearly picked again by Orlando Scandrick.
- Graham (8 catches, 86 yards, TD) lost a fumble in the red zone.
- Brees missed Kenny Stills on the sideline, down 31-17. The team then was whistled for 12 men in the huddle and followed that with a horrible fake punt on a fourth-and-9. Why in the world did they do that? Again, they have Brees. If Payton had Geno Smith or E.J. Manuel, sure. Run a fake punt. But there's a better chance Brees converts it. It's almost like Payton forgot on multiple occasions throughout the evening that he had one of the top quarterbacks at his disposal.
I haven't even gotten to the Saints' defense yet. They continued to be horrific, surrendering 445 net yards of offense while giving up 8-of-14 third-down conversions. Tackling continued to be the primary issue. It's staggering how much worse this unit has gotten compared to last year.
DeMarco Murray ran circles against New Orleans' pathetic stop unit. He increased his league lead in rushing, compiling 149 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. One of his scores came on a brilliant run in which he evaded Jairus Byrd, who made a pathetic effort trying to tackle him.
Tony Romo misfired on just seven attempts, going 22-of-29 for 262 yards and three touchdowns. He had an easy time passing against the Saints' dreadful defense, and he even picked up a scramble of 21 yards, which was the longest rush of his career. Romo was exceptional throughout the entire evening; one play that sticks out was when he evaded two potential tacklers who nearly pinned him for a sack, and managed to find Jason Witten for a considerable gain.
Two of Romo's touchdowns went to Terrance Williams, who led the team with six catches for 77 yards. Dez Bryant also scored, but registered just three receptions for 44 yards. Bryant's numbers were limited because the Saints double teamed him on nearly every play until they figured out that they could use Keenan Lewis on him in single coverage.
Chiefs 41, Patriots 14
The Chiefs had a great victory and deserve credit for obliterating their opponent Monday night, but New England's ineptitude is the primary story to come out of this contest. This was the second-worst loss in the Bill Belichick era, and it easily could've been worse than the 31-0 drilling they took at Buffalo in Week 1 of 2003 had Jimmy Garoppolo not thrown a garbage-time touchdown to Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots looked feebile on both sides of the ball. It was awful, and that adjective can be used to describe Tom Brady's play. By the time he was down 24-0, Brady was just 11-of-19 for a mere 86 yards, an interception and a lost fumble. He converted only six first downs in two-and-a-half quarters, as he was inaccurate on his long attempts. Of course, Brady didn't have much of a chance because his offensive line couldn't block the Kansas City pass rush, while his receivers failed to get any sort of separation.
These two items are Bill Belichick's fault. Belichick inexplicably traded Logan Mankins prior to the season for a tight end he has barely utilized. Everyone knew it was a dumb move at the time, so it's no surprise that the Patriots are even worse at blocking than they were last year. Meanwhile, Belichick for some strange reason refuses to use his young, talented receivers. Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompskins were both healthy scratches. Why? Because they haven't fully mastered the offense? Who cares? The Patriots need players who can actually get away from defensive backs. Julian Edelman is a fine slot option, but neither Danny Amendola nor Brandon LaFell can get open.
Brady ultimately went 14-of-23, 159 yards, one touchdown, two picks and the strip-sack that occurred because Tamba Hali got an incredible jump off the snap. Left tackle Nate Solder didn't even touch him. Brady's first interception wasn't entirely his fault because there was a miscommunication with Edelman, but his second pick was heaved carelessly into heavy coverage. Brady made poor decisions throughout the evening in addition to that one. There was one instance that sticks out; he had an open field in front of him to pick up a first down on a third-down attempt, but he eschewed scrambling and instead fired it to Edelman, who was covered well. The pass fell incomplete, and the Patriots were forced to punt.
Speaking of punting, Belichick screwed up twice in this contest. He opted to punt twice on fourth-and-short on Kansas City's side of the field in the second quarter. Brady didn't have his best outing, but Belichick should've trusted his quarterback to pick up a couple of yards against a defense missing some key personnel like Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, were so highly efficient on offense. They generated a whopping 220 net yards just 20 minutes into the game, and they had 303 net yards by halftime. It's not surprising that the Patriots sputtered when they had the ball, but it was shocking that their defense couldn't get off the field because they have good talent on that unit.
If there's one thing that can be said in the Patriots' defense, it's that their players had major issues staying on their feet. Their defenders must have slipped on the grass on a dozen occasions. This allowed the Chiefs to pick up some first downs on crucial situations, but they would have won regardless. They were just so efficient when they had possession. They ran extremely well with both of their running backs, which made life very easy for Alex Smith, who fired the ball to open targets all evening.
Smith missed on just six attempts in this contest, going 20-of-26 for 248 yards and three touchdowns. His only blemish during the evening was when he and Andy Reid bungled clock management at the end of the first half. Philadelphians are all too familiar with this, as Reid always struggled with that aspect of the game when he coached the Eagles.
Jamaal Charles had a fantastic performance. He rushed for 92 yards on 18 carries, caught three balls for 18 receiving yards and scored a trio of touchdowns. He left the game temporarily with an ankle issue, but he reentered later and still looked like the same player. Knile Davis outgained him (16-107), but that's because of garbage time and a 48-yard burst. It's worth noting that Davis dropped a screen pass that had a good chance to turn into a touchdown.
Two of Smith's touchdowns went to Charles. The other was thrown to Travis Kelce (8-93), who is emerging as a very talented weapon. Dwayne Bowe (5-81) also had a nice outing.
Some Patriot numbers:
- LaFell led the team in receiving (6-119) and scored a touchdown, but most of what he did came when the team was down big.
- Gronkowski, as mentioned, scored a garbage-time touchdown. The game was so out of hand at that point that Gronkowski didn't perform his patented "Gronk smash" celebration.
- The Patriots were down throughout, so they didn't get a chance to establish the run. Stevan Ridley led the team with 28 rushing yards on just five carries. Shane Vereen (8 carries, 26 yards) at least helped his PPR owners out with five catches for 41 receiving yards.
- Edelman, meanwhile, had a very disappointing fantasy performance. He caught just four balls for 23 yards.
For more thoughts, check out my updated NFL Power Rankings, which will be posted Tuesday morning.