Russell Wilson MVP pace, Trubisky benched
SportsPulse: Week 3 had so much action we provide a jumbo sized version of overreactions this week. Mackenzie Salmon reacts to all the biggest storylines from a wild Sunday in the NFL.
There were some big road wins, some struggles with extra points and even a starting quarterback being benched – perhaps for the long haul – but Week 3 in the NFL is almost in the books.
There’s still a huge matchup, and a potential AFC championship game preview, set for Monday night between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Ravens. But even though the season is young, some clear narratives and hierarchies of contenders are starting to take hold.
And players like Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks and Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills are starting to make their arguments for individual awards.
Here are the winners and losers from Week 3 in the NFL.
Packers’ offensive line
The New Orleans Saints’ pass rush is solid, entering Sunday having generated six sacks. The Packers, in their 37-30 victory in New Orleans, completely set the tempo and fended off the Saints’ front,allowing just one sack of Aaron Rodgerswhile affording him ample time to pass.
Rodgers managed to exploit a hard count that drew the Saints offsides multiple times. And even though the Packers didn’t get huge numbers in the running game, Green Bay had steady production and froze the defense on play-action passing. And that all started up front.
Russell Wilson’s MVP case
At one point Sunday, he had 10 touchdowns on the seasonwith just 12 combined incompletions. He would misfire on some more passes later, but by the time the Seahawks had topped the Dallas Cowboys 38-31 in a thrilling game, Wilson set an NFL record with the most touchdown passes through a team’s first three games in a season: 14.
Wilson finished Sunday with 315 yards and five touchdowns. His line so far this season is a crisp 76.7% completion rate for 925 yards, the 14 scores and just one interception. More importantly, the Seahawks are 3-0, have huge victories against Dallas and the New England Patriots in back-to-back weeks and look like one of the best teams in the NFC.
Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After the season-opening disappointment against the Saints, which was a sloppy, penalty-ridden game, the Buccaneers have cleaned their play up drastically. They’re now 2-1 after taking down a Denver Broncos squad that was missing its starting quarterback, top receiver and edge rusher.
The Buccaneers sacked the Broncos six times and the defense has clamped down on red zone trips, allowing Denver and the Carolina Panthers to convert just three of six trips inside the 20 into touchdowns over the last two weeks. But the offense’s new pieces clicking in an efficient performance Sunday is what should have Bucs fans happiest. Brady completed 25 of 38 passes for 297 yards and three scores, and Tampa converted half of its 16 third-down tries. The last two opponents have been a little weaker than the rest of the slate, so the Buccaneers will have to show they can do this against tougher competition before proving the Brady experiment is a success.
To be sure, this was almost a near disaster after the Buffalo Bills blew a 25-point lead and faced a deficit late in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Rams. The biggest blame for that, however, should go to Buffalo’s defense, which allowed far too many big plays. Buffalo ended up winning, 35-32, after a controversial pass interference call allowed quarterback Josh Allen to find tight end Tyler Kroft for the game-winning score. Allen (319 total yards, five total touchdowns) has blossomed into a matchup nightmare in his third season given his dual-threat ability. And Daboll, Buffalo’s offensive coordinator, deserves a ton of credit for building a scheme that suits his passer’s talents.
One year after the Bills were tied for 23rd in the league in scoring (19.6 points per game), Buffalo entered Sunday tied for sixth (29 points per game). The second half slowdown is a concern the team needs to address, but Buffalo looks like a real threat in the AFC. And if this continues, Daboll, who has worked under Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Alabama coach Nick Saban during his career, is likely to be a hot candidate for head coaching vacancies this offseason.
Let’s be clear: Not having star running back Saquon Barkley (torn anterior cruciate ligament) is a massive blow to the second-year New York Giants quarterback. But Jones, in a 36-9 loss against a severely depleted San Francisco 49ers team, showed that his future as a reliable franchise quarterback is in serious doubt. Jones completed just 17 of 32 attempts for 179 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
Jones missed open targets, failed to sustain drives and, perhaps most damning, simply could not make plays when the Giants needed him to step up. And at times, it almost looked like Jones was having a tough time seeing the field well. During the two-minute drill at the end of the first half, with the Giants down 13-6, Jones telegraphed a pass that was intercepted by San Francisco linebacker Fred Warner in Giants territory. It led to a Niners field goal that extended their lead to 10. Then, in the second half, the Giants had just four drives and could never get in a rhythm.
Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals’ play in OT
For fans of crisp, well-executed football, overtime in the 23-23 tie between the Eagles and Bengals was about as bad as it gets. There were six possessions after regulation, excluding the one-play series at the end of the game in which Cincinnati ran out the clock. All six resulted in punts, three for each team. The average length of each drive spanned 4.2 plays. The combined net yardage of those six drives: 36.
The Eagles had the chance to attempt a 59-yard, game-winning field goal by Jake Elliott – who made a 61-yard game-winner in September 2017. But an inexcusable false start by guard Matt Pryor pushed it back to a 64-yard attempt. Rather than give it a go, with just 19 seconds left in the game and the Bengals not having any timeouts, Pederson opted for a delay of game penalty and punted the ball away to play for a tie. Oddly, the Eagles actually gained ground in the NFC East since the other teams in the division lost, so Philadelphia isn’t a complete loser. But the struggles of quarterback Carson Wentz, offensive line issues and general poor play should be very alarming.
This may be the last we’ve seen of Trubisky as the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears. Trubisky (13 of 22 for 128 with one touchdown and one interception) was benched in favor of Nick Foles midway through the third quarter in a wild, 30-26 come-from-behind victory against the Atlanta Falcons.
In relief, Foles was much better, moving the offense with more efficiency and tempo. He completed 16 of 29 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns with one pick that wasn’t necessarily his fault. He helped the Bears erase a 16-point deficit and made the offense look far more capable than it did under Trubisky. The Bears already declined Trubisky’s fifth-year option for the 2021 season, so there’s a very good chance Trubisky has thrown his last pass for the franchise.
Speaking of that Falcons loss, this could just the latest sign that Atlanta may need to blow it all up in order to compete again in the NFC South. For the second time in as many weeks, the Falcons lost a game in which they held a lead of at least 15 points in the fourth quarter. This time, it was to the Bears.
In fact, according to Elias, this is the fifth time since 2016 that Atlanta has lost a game when leading by at least 16 points, including postseason games. No other squad has more than two such losses in that stretch. The Falcons suffer from discipline issues, lapses of concentration, a lack of situational awareness and an absence of finishing ability – all of which are signs of poor coaching.
If you love talking football, we have the perfect spot for you. Join our Facebook Group, The Ruling Off the Field, to engage in friendly debate and conversation with fellow football fans and our NFL insiders. Do the right thing, sign up now!