NFL – Week 3

Here’s what went down in Week 3 of the 2019/20 NFL season.

 

Thursday

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Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars

7-20

Gardner Minshew received a warm welcome from a group of ‘ mustachioed maniacs’ upon his return to Duval. He responded by throwing two touchdowns within the first nine minutes of game action, including a stadium-shaking 22-yard dime to D.J. Chark.

On the night he completed two-thirds of his throws for 204 yards, and showed veteran mobility and pocket presence over the course of the night’s sloppy affair. Whereas counterpart Marcus Mariota was sacked nine time, Minshew wasn’t taken down once.

With Nick Foles on injured reserve until Week 11, the QB has half a season to win more support in both the locker room and the court of public opinion. Whilst it’s too early to determine whether Minshew deserves to keep Jacksonville’s starting job over the Super Bowl MVP, Thursday night’s game saw him establish himself as a cultural, if not football, forced to be reckoned with.

The Jaguars returned to their former sacking glory – after logging just four sacks in their first two games, they ripped Tennessee’s offensive line apart and took advantage of a consistently hesitant Mariota to rack up nine sacks! Three of those takedowns came via Calais Campbell, who recorded his first three-sack game since his first outing as a Jag in Week 1 of 2017.

The front seven had a field day against a Titans O line that was missing its starting left tackle and was suspect on in the interior, with six Jaguars recording at least a half-sack. The most impressive was their seventh overall pick, Josh Allen, who logged his first two career sacks and forced his first fumble. If Jacksonville can pair their ferocious and familiar pass rush with a stable secondary for the rest of the season, they won’t even need ‘Minshaw Mania‘ to contend in the AFC South.

What’s more worrying than the sacks for Tennessee is the fact that Mariota was lifeless with the game on the line for the second week in a row. His 304 passing yards, his most since Sept. 2018, suggests that he’d figured it out and was lighting it up in Duval, but his garbage-time accumulation hides the fact he took terrible sacks, completed barley 50% of his passes and led just one scoring drive in 11 tries. Mariota‘s performance was so off that Ryan Tannehill‘s name was floated around postgame as an option at QB going forward. Titans headache Mike Vrabel said after the game that Tannehill was “not very” close to entering the game. Though a couple more nights like this one and Vrabel may change his mind.

In what could possibly have been Jalen Ramsey‘s last game in black and teal, the corner let his play speak louder than words. He played on all of Jacksonville’s 75 defensive snaps, made nine combined tackles and forced a fumble. He refused to talk after the game about the possibility of being traded.

Leonard Fournette was enjoying the worst stat line of his young career (4th overall in 2017) on Thursday before breaking off a 69-yard run deep in the fourth quarter. On his other 14 ventures, Fournette gained a grand total of -3 yards, that’s negative three! Just one of his six receptions for 26 yards picked up a first down.

Ultimately it was a game of penalties, driving fans and players into a frenzy. Fifteen were called in the first half alone, more than the 14pts scored at the time. The constant tossing of the yellow flag slowed Thursday’s prime time game to a halt at times, drawing the ire of many around the league. Even quarterbacks, including Tom Brady and Kurt Warner, were frustrated at the over-policing of roughing the passer. You know you’ve gone too far when you’ve even lost the QBs.

 

Up Next:

Titans v Falcons – Sunday, September 29 (1pmCBS)

Jaguars v Broncos – Sunday, September 29 (4:25pmFOX)

 

Sunday

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Detroit Lions v Philadelphia Eagles

27-24

Three weeks in and the Lions remain unbeaten. How good they’ve really become might be made clearer next week when they play host to the Chiefs, but they’ve managed to knock off the Chargers at home and the Eagles in Philly after tying with the Cardinals on opening weekend.

Sunday’s road victory of course didn’t come easy, despite Detroit leading for the final 44 minutes. The Eagles had two possessions in the final three minutes, but the Lions D didn’t allow a first down on either drive, with some help from their opponents – with less than a minute left Carson 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’s hands.

Philly knew life wouldn’t be easy without Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson on their offense. Losing tackles Jason Peters and Andre Dillard in the first half definitely didn’t help either. A Nelson Agholor fumble, which Darius Slay picked up and returned 38 yards, put the hosts in an even bigger hole. They eventually rallied thanks to two TD passes from Wentz to Agholor, though the signal-caller was sacked three times and under constant duress while completing 19 of 36 passes for 259 yards, meanwhile rookie running back Miles Sanders had 126 yards from scrimmage, fumbling twice and losing one of them.

Detroit manufactured another win without a star on offense. A week after scoring 13pts, the Lions 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) or spectacular (1TD, 201 yards) but he did guide two 75-yard touchdown drives in the absence of a running game. Marvin Jones showed he’s still capable of being a go-to target, hauling in six passes for 101 yards and a score, which gave the visitors a 10pt lead early in the final quarter.

 

Up Next:

Chiefs v Lions – Sunday, September 29 (1pmFOX)

Eagles v Packers – Thursday, September 26 (8:20pmFOX)

 

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New York Jets v New England Patriots

14-30

New York’s first drive of the game ended in a punt which the Patriots responded to with a nine-play, 88-yard touchdown drive. Tom Brady was a sensational 7-for-8 on the drive with a 41-yard hook-up to tight end Ryan Izzo thrown in, before Sony Michel ran in for a 5-yard score. After that the Jets knew the predicted rout was on, with the affair ending in a 30-14 trouncing and a far more one-sided game than the two-score final margin.

New England (3-0) scored touchdowns on each of their first three drives with a Stephen Gostkowski missed PAT serving as the only blemish to an otherwise sterling start against the 0-3 Jets. On the way to victory Brady threw two touchdowns to give him 524 for his career, untying him with the injured Drew Brees for second-most career TD passes.

The only worries for the Patriots during the game were injuries to Julian Edelman and Josh Gordon – Edelman left the game but x-rays were negative, and Gordon was sidelined twice, but returned and made a phenomenal sideline catch. It’s a familiar storyline for the Patriots, who as always overcame their obstacles and dominated.

Some might say the win came against sub-par opposition, but it matters not because results are results and dominance is dominance, and that’s what the Patriots defense have displayed over the first three games of the season. They still haven’t allowed a single touchdown this season as the Jets found the end zone twice late on Sunday via special teams and a defensive score. A muffed punt recovered in the end zone by the Jets ended the Patriots’ run of 86 straight points scored dating back to the third quarter of their season opener against the Steelers. It was also the first touchdown scored against New England since last year’s AFC Championship game. So far the hosts have pummeled opponents by a combined 106-17 tally.

Devin McCourty has interceptions in every game so far and, led by Jamie Collins (7 tackles, 2 sacks), the Pats allowed only 105 yards of Jets offense. Everyone’s contributing as the Patriots roll along in emphatic fashion, however a first-place showdown next week against fellow undefeated Buffalo awaits, so we can expect that matchup to not be so one-sided.

Injuries and illness have been the main factor of the Jets’ three week struggle. It’s hard to judge Le’Veon Bell‘s contributions with the Jets having used three starting QBs in as many games and opposing defenses so easily being able to key in on him. However, Bell‘s workload could be vital for a team riddled by injuries. On Sunday, he was bottled up by the Patriots’ D, gathering just 38 yards despite a game-high 18 carries. He’s hardly looked like his former Steelers self but placing the blame on him considering the circumstances would be ridiculous. Nevertheless, only time will tell on how long he can keep this up, especially with it being crystal clear the Jets’ O is all about him.

 

Up Next:

Jets – Bye Week

Patriots v Bills – Sunday, September 29 (1pmCBS)

 

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Oakland Raiders v Minnesota Vikings

14-34

Leading the league in rushing entering Week 3, Dalvin Cook rattled off his third consecutive 100-yard game to start the season as he led the Vikings past Oakland. He cut past would-be tacklers and ran through them when need, impressing with 16 carries for 110 yards and a 1-yard second-quarter touchdown. He spent much of the latter part of blowout victory on the sideline 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.

Whilst talk of Kirk Cousins floundering under big game pressure, the QB continued his NFL-best streak of 19 straight games with a touchdown pass and put together a fine performance. Whilst completing a fantastic team victory against overmatched opponents won’t silence critics, Cousins captained a squad that looked every bit as brilliant as it did in a Week 1 blowout of the Falcons and every part the opposite of the team it became in the Week 2 loss to Green Bay. The signal-caller had 174 yards, just six incompletions, one TD throw and a 112 passer rating. On top of Cousins‘ terrific performance there was their much improved running game, which included Alexander Mattison adding 58 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.

It took something special, but a Derek Carr-to-J.J. Nelson 29-yard touchdown ended the Raiders’ scoreless drought of over 4+ quarters in the second period of play. It was already too late tough as the offense couldn’t find a rhythm and the defense was ground down by Minnesota’s ball control and rushing attack. Despite tight end Darren Waller making 12 catches on 14 targets for 134 yards it was reminiscent of last season when Jared Cook put up solid numbers but the offense as a whole was insufficient.

With a late touchdown pass to Tyrell Williams, who played despite a painful hip-pointer, the offensive numbers looked better than they really were as the sputtering Oakland offense are showing no signs of improvement.

 

Up Next:

Raiders v Colts – Sunday, September 29 (1pmCBS)

Vikings v Bears – Sunday, September 29 (4:25pmCBS)

 

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Baltimore Ravens v Kansas City Chiefs

28-33

Reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes led another explosive second quarter in which the 3-0 Chiefs scored 23 consecutive points to open up a lead they would hang on to. The signal-caller continues to dive-bomb defenses with huge plays – he spread the ball around to eight receivers, including seven times to Travis Kelce, with the 6ft 5 tight end repeatedly open over the middle, for 89 yards. Rookie Mecole Hardman also impressed  on Sunday shooting off for an 83-yard touchdown.

Mahomes‘ 374-yard passing day gives him 1,195 through three games – on pace for a ridiculous 6,373 yards. With his mastery on Sunday he passed Hall of Hamer Kurt Warner for the most 300+ passing yards in a QB’s first 20 games (13). Even when KC’s offense gets bogged down, Mahomes‘ unique ability to burst at any moment keeps the NFL exciting.

In what could have been the most exiting battle between QBs, Lamar Jackson couldn’t find the range deep throughout Sunday’s defeat. The second-year signal-caller missed a bevy of shots early and overthrew to Marquise Brown on multiple occasions. Although all credit to Jackson and Mark Ingram (103 rushing yards, 3 TDS) with helping Baltimore battle back to make it exciting late on, but miscues in the passing game hurt the Ravens early. Jackson‘s completion rate of 51.2% on 43 attempts was his lowest in a regular-season game, whilst the Chiefs’ defense deserve credit for doing a great job of bottling up his run (8/46, long of 9 yards).

Kansas City have now racked up 25+ points in 24 consecutive games to set a new NFL record.

 

Up Next:

Browns v Ravens – Sunday, September 29 (1pmCBS)

Chiefs v Lions – Sunday, September 29 (1pmFOX)

 

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Atlanta Falcons v Indianapolis Colts

24-27

The first half was pure ecstasy for the Colts with coach Frank Reich designing an impressive game plan which Jacoby Brissett executed perfectly, and thankfully was enough to hold on for the win.

Brissett, who finished with 28/37 for 310 yards and two touchdowns, picked apart the zone defense and made it look easy. 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 of 2017 when they went 97 yards for a score, per NFL Research. Brissett was also the QB for that drive. After just three weeks, the QB has put his name among NFL legends Peyton Manning and Johnny Unitas as the only Colt with a 115+ passer rating in two of the first three weeks of the season.

Despite the absence of Darius Leonard, the Colts defense did their job. They held the Falcons to 152 yards with just three points in the first half, helped by Matt Ryan throwing his sixth interception of the season – he only had seven the whole of last season and didn’t throw his sixth until Week 14.

The first half was brutal for Atlanta but they improved dramatically after the break to turn things around. If it wasn’t for penalties and missed tackles, the Falcons could have won the game. Ryan‘s 13-yard touchdown throw to Austin Hooper was the drive they needed to gain momentum. From then on they controlled the ball and Ryan found Hooper again in the fourth quarter to cut their hosts’ lead to a single score, before the penalties took over once again and Atalanta kept missing opportunities to get the Colts offense of the field.

A touchdown by Julio Jones in double coverage wasn’t enough to win the game and the falcons finished with 16 penalties for 128 yards.

 

Up Next:

Titans v Falcons – Sunday, September 29 (1pmCBS)

Raiders v Colts – Sunday, September 29 (1pmCBS)

 

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Denver Broncos v Green Bay Packers

16-27

The entire Packers defense deserve praise for their efforts against Denver. From the off, Mike Pettine‘s unit came to play, holding Joe Flacco and his offensive to -4 yards on a quick three-and-out to start the afternoon. Linebacker Preston Smith secured his first of two sacks on the drive, before the group conceded a touchdown on Denver’s next drive, but showed incredible resolve after to prevent another on the following play. On third-and-goal with Broncos in striking range from the GB 2, Za’Darius Smith sacked Flacco for a 10-yard loss. The drive ended with a 30-yard Brandon McManus field goal. Green Bay lived off of well timed defensive plays for the rest of the day, with two Denver drives halted by forced fumbles resulting in touchdowns from the Packers offense. By the time the clock had run down the home defense had racked up six sacks, seven tackles for a loss, seven QB hits, two forced fumbles and a pick.

It might only be his second year, but it’s safe to say Phillip Lindsay hasn’t quite looked himself at the start of this one off (24 carries, 79 yards, 0 TDs). Against the Packers he made up for the quiet start with a promising show – his 21 carries 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). Sunday’s game was a bounce-back game for one of the league’s most promising talents.

The Broncos pass rush is MIA right now. Bradley Chubb and Von Miller have all the skill in the world to be the best defensive tandem in the NFL, but neither has produced a sack through three games. It’s not just those two either, the whole Broncos D-line hasn’t produced a single sack this season. Add that to the lack of pressure and takeaways by the defense over all (zero forced fumbles or interceptions) and they look like a group of has-beens. Sure Aaron Rodgers was forced to make a number of throws on the move, completing just 17 of 29 attempts for 235 yards and a touchdown, but he made the most of his windows.

Denver have now lost five in succession in Green Bay and fall 0-3 for the first time since 1999.

 

Up Next:

Jaguars v Broncos – Sunday, September 29 (4:25pmCBS)

Eagles v Packers – Thursday, September 26 (8:20pmFOX)

 

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Miami Dolphins v Dallas Cowboys

6-31

Whilst is wasn’t his best performance, Dak Prescott did what had to be done and led the Cowboys to their first 3-0 since 2008 and himself to a record – he’s the fastest QB in franchise history to reach 75 career pass touchdowns.

Prescott (19/32, 246 yards, 3 TDs, 1 interception) completed just 59.4% of passes against the league’s worst defense, his lowest since this time last year. Despite those numbers he connected with Amari Cooper (6 catches, 88 yards) twice in the end zone and turned an 8-yard scramble into a score. His run helped him reach more milestones – his eight games of two-plus passing TDs and one-plus rushing TDs are three more than any other QB since 2016 (his rookie year) and his 19 career rushing TDs are the most by an QB in that span.

Josh Rosen made his regular season starting debut for the Dolphins, a lot earlier than most expected. Looking to secure his side’s first win in a hostile environment like the one at AT&T Stadium is a tall task for anyone and Rosen did all he could against Dallas’ intimidating defense. His most impressive play came straight away on a 40-yard pass to DeVante Parker on the game’s third play, but that was about it. His 200 passing yards (18/39, 46% completion rate) indicates a decent outing, but the three sacks and 11 hits provide a more accurate picture of how much pressure he was under the entire afternoon.

Through the first three games Miami have been outscored 133-16 and allowed a 100+ yard rusher – Ezekiel Elliott (125) and Tony Pollard (103) in Week 3 – three times. To make matters worse for the Dolphins, receiver Allen Hurns exited with a concussion a year after his devastating leg injury as a Cowboy, and Xavien Howard was ejected in the final period for unnecessary roughness.

 

Up Next:

Chargers v Dolphins – Sunday, September 29 (1pmCBS)

Cowboys v Saints – Sunday, September 29 (8:20pmNBC)

 

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Cincinnati Bengals v Buffalo Bills

17-21

Whilst Buffalo’s winning formula under Sean McDermott might not be a pretty one it’s tried and true. The Bills have scored just 66 points through three games, yet are 3-0 thanks to their defense and Josh Allen‘s playmaking. The D sealed the win on Sunday as Tre’Davious White plucked a tipped ball out of the air with 12 seconds left. Apart from a slight moment where it looked like Andy Dalton was going to win the game for the Bengals, completing five of six passes prior to a spike and the interception, the Bills had an otherwise dominating performance, forcing four turnovers, including two INTs from White and held Cincy to 306 yards of offense.

Allen continuing his unconventional ways relied on his legs just as much as he did his arm while leading another fourth-quarter comeback. With Buffalo trailing by three late in the fourth, he completed a couple of short passes, scrambled for 21 yards, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run for Frank Gore (76 yards on 14 carries). It’s worth noting the Bills’ 175 rushing yards, which included 46 from Allen, allowed them to take up nearly 37 minutes of the clock.

The 0-3 Bengals’ run game finally got out of first gear, but the offense was still practically non-existent until half way through the third quarter. Their first touchdown, a 1-yard run by Dalton, was gifted to them by a Darius Phillips interception at the Bills’ 22. It looked like Cincy had finally figured something out during the final 20 minutes with Dalton repeatedly connecting with Tyler Boyd and Joe Mixon breaking free for a pair of long runs and completions, as the visitors strung together three consecutive scoring drives. Unfortunately for the Bengals it was too little, too late. They’ll be hoping their game in Pittsburgh and the one at home to Arizona will be easier than their last three.

 

Up Next:

Bengals v Steelers – Monday, September 29 (8:15pmESPN)

Patriots v Bills – Sunday, September 29 (1pmCBS)

 

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New York Giants v Tampa Bay Buccaneers 

32-31

Giants fans are relived that the Daniel Jones era is underway in NY (1-2). Making his first start in place of Eli Manning‘Danny Dimes‘ (as they call him in the streets) flashed mobility in and out of the pocket, touch and accuracy outside the bases and an overall resilience during their comeback win over Tampa Bay.

On two first-half runs against the Bucs Jones posted two of the four fastest max speeds among QBs this season and finished with a total of 364 total yards and four touchdowns. Whilst it wasn’t all positive due to the running game being shut down by Tampa’s reborn defensive line, the loss of Saquon Barkley to an ankle injury, and Jones taking a page out of Manning‘s turnover book (strip-sacked twice), he did lead three second-half touchdown drives, including the 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. Then on fourth-and-5 Tampa rushed four, sent seven defenders scrambling an left the middle of the field wide open. Unafraid to tuck and run Jones sped through the gap for the game-winning score, sealing the Giants’ largest comeback win in over 49 years. Afterwards Manning was seen on camera congratulating Jones on his comeback.

The downside of New York’s performance was their defense, who struggled again in the first half, most notably starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was locked on Mike Evans, who completely torched Jenkins for 147 yards and three touchdowns. To their credit NY largely shut Evans out in the second half, that was until Tampa’s final drive which saw Evans (190 receiving yards – his most since his 2014 rookie season) beat Jenkins on a first-and-10 from TB’s 47, raise his hand and haul in a 44-yard bomb to set up what should have been the game-winning kick.

It was a strange day for Tampa Bay’s fifth-round rookie kicker out of Utah. Matt Gay missed two extra points in the first quarter, but then proceeded to make four field goals in succession, including one from 52 yards. Then when the Bucs reached the nine-yard line on their final drive, it appeared Gay would be set up with a 26-yard chip shot to seal a crazy victory. That didn’t happen because they took a delay of game penalty to push the kick to a 34-yarder, which coach Bruce Arians said he took on purpose to help out the kicker, it didn’t work as the kick went to the right of goal and sent the Buccaneers to a three-way tie at the bottom of the NFC South with one win from three.

 

Up Next:

Redskins v Giants – Sunday, September 29 (1pmFOX)

Buccs v Rams – Sunday, September 29 (4:05pmFOX)

 

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Carolina Panthers v Arizona Coyotes 

38-20

Kyle Allen has more touchdowns in one game than Cam Newton has had in his last four regular season starts. With Newton recovering from a foot injury, the onus was on Allen to ignite what’s been a stagnant Panthers offense up to this point, and he did just that.

After a shaky start that saw Chandler Jones strip-sack him on the opening drive, Allen settled in after seeing former college teammate Kyler Murray lead the Cardinals to an early 7-0 lead. Six straight completions from the Panthers playmaker led to an eventual score – a five-yard pass to Curtis Samuel – to tie the game. From that moment on Allen and his offense cut loose, scoring TDs in four of their nine drives and setting up a field goal on another. Christian McCaffrey ripped through the Cards for 125 rushing yards, including a career-best 76-yard touchdown, whilst Greg Olsen raced down the field for a game-high 75 yards and two TDs from six receptions, however it was the QB (19/26, 261 yards, 4 TDS, 144.4 passer rating) that really impressed. According to NFL Research he’s the first quarterback in franchise history to put up such numbers in a game. If Allen continues his groove in Cam‘s absence, Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Norv Turner will have a lot to discuss.

Murray managed to find Larry Fitzgerald for the early touchdown, but the receiver’s impact (5 receptions, 36 yards) was relatively muted. Whilst Murray managed to turn some of his own runs into positive gains (8 carries, 69 yards), he was swarmed almost constantly and hit often. Whilst he achieved his best competition rate (69.8%) of the season, when it comes after completing 30 of 43 passes for 173 yards, two touchdowns, eight sacks and two picks in a loss, the number reads much differently.

Despite their 1-2 start, Carolina’s 2019 defense have been solid for the most part. Their performance on Sunday, led by Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson, who combined for 21 total tackles, will make the coaches very happy. They were relentless, bringing Murray down eight times – their most sacks in a game since 2016. Defensive end Mario Addison led the charge with three sacks. First-round pick Brian Burns continued to impress, securing a sack and four tackles, whilst second-year corner Donte Jackson snagged his first (and second) interceptions of year, making him the first Panther with multiple picks in a game since he did the same thing this at this point last season.

 

Up Next:

Panthers v Texans – Sunday, September 29 (1pmFOX)

Seahawks v Cardinals – Sunday, September 29 (4:05pmFOX)

 

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Pittsburgh Steelers v San Fransisco 49ers

20-24

The majority of the game was a battle of defenses as both offenses struggled to get going until the second half. The hosts (3-0) pulled off the win even with their offense having five turnovers in total and not being able to get out their own way in the first half. Four of their turnovers came in the second quarter, that’s more than they had in their first two games combined (two). The Niners defense did all they could to keep themselves in the game trailing just 6-3 at the break. The offense finally arrived just after with two Jeff Wilson rushing touchdowns and Jimmy Garoppolo finding Dante Pettis in traffic to take the lead again in the final quarter. With 1:15 left the D-line created huge pressure to stop Pittsburgh’s offense on their final drive to seal the game. The victory sees the 49ers go into Week 4 undefeated for the first time since 1998.

The traveling defense carried their team in the first half – before the break they’d recorded two interceptions (T.J. Watt Minkah Fitzpatrick) and had a couple of fumble recoveries.

Mason Rudolph went 14-of-27 for 174 yards, two touchdowns and a pick in his first start as the Steelers QB, with Big Ben injured. The playmaker missed high on all of his throws downfield in the opening half. It wasn’t until after the break that he finally settled down. JuJu Smith-Schuster took one Rudolph lob for 76 yards, before the Steelers took advantage of Jason Verrett after CB Ahkello Witherspoon left the game in the fourth quarter. Verrett (playing for the first time since Sept. 2017) was called for an obvious pass interference before being beaten on a 39-yard touchdown.

 

Up Next:

Bengals v Steelers – Monday, September 29 (8:15pmESPN)

49ers – Bye Week

 

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New Orleans Saints v Seattle Seahawks

33-27

Playing just their fourth game since 2006 without Drew Brees, the Saints marched into Seattle and showed why they’re still NFC contenders. They led by as many as 20pts (and double digits until the final play), in part because of a pair of return touchdowns in the first half. Deonte Harris scored three minutes in when he tore right through the punt coverage team for a 53-yard score. Then in the second quarter, Vonn Bell scooped up a Chris Carson fumble and took it 33 yards for another score, enabling New Orleans to be conversation on offense.

Teddy Bridgewater, making just his second start at QB since 2015, played smart. He got the ball out quickly and accurately (19 of 27, 2 TDS, 0 INTs) whilst throwing for only 177 yards. He also converted a third down through the air on each of his three scoring drives. The signal caller also hit Michael Thomas on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to put NO 27-7 ahead in the third quarter. Bridgewater‘s main target of the game was Alvin Kamara (69 rushing yards, 92 receiving, 2 TDS), whilst his O-line didn’t allow a single sack. The visitors were efficient enough that they didn’t even need to call upon Taysom Hill (1 carry for 5 yards).

When Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called it an unusual game he wasn’t kidding. He was struck by a football in program and needed stitches, before seeing his team waste and all-world effort from its QB. Russell Wilson threw for 406 yards and run for 51 more, producing four touchdowns in the process. Seattle had nearly twice as many yards (515-265) but had just seven points to show for it through three quarters. Take Wilson out of the running game equation and it continues to be a concern – Chris Carson tallied just 53 yards whilst C.J. Prosise had 5.

 

Up Next:

Cowboys v Saints – Sunday, September 29 (8:20pmNBC)

Seahawks v Cardinals Sunday, September 29 (4:05pmFOX)

 

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Houston Texans v Los Angeles Chargers

27-20

Deshaun Watson escaped pressure with magical ease and fearless abandon time and time again on Sunday, repeatedly finding pass-catchers downfield. The epitome of his day came midway through the fourth when he appeared to be swallowed in the backfield, yet somehow escaped the blackhole and ran toward the line of scrimmage, being pulled back at the last second and lobbed a perfect ball off balance to tight end Jordan Akins who took it for a 53-yard touchdown, which ended up being the game-winning score.

Watson , who was helped by a solid pass protection for the majority of the afternoon, spread the ball around with confidence, picking up a number of chunk gains, completing 73.5% of his 34 attempts for 351 yards and three scores. The Chargers did a good job of slowing DeAndre Hopkins but that didn’t phase the playmaker who hit Kenny Stills instead, and found his tight ends for three TDs. Watson was definitely the difference as the visitors overcame a 17-7 deficit with 20 straight points on three second half scoring drivers.

Sunday was another mistake-filled affair for the Chargers. A holding call wiped out another Justin Jackson touchdown this week, costing L.A. four points. Then Philip Rivers fumbled in field-goal range costing his side more potential points, whilst his O-line gave up five sacks. A facemark penalty wiped out an interception and several receivers had brutal drops, including Travis Benjamin on a lovely deep ball from Rivers that could have easily been a game-tying touchdown. Add the above to a plethora of holding calls, especially one in the final minute of the game and the Chargers were beat. The only bright light on their offense was Keenan Allen whose monstrous day was wasted. Houston couldn’t cover the Pro Bowl receiver, who had 183 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He generated 186 of L.A.’s 376 total yards.

J.J. Watt is back to normal, he consistently pestered Rivers on Sunday, accumulating two sacks, five QB hits and two tackles for loss amongst his five total tackles, taking advantage of a limp Chargers O-line, living in the backfield and being part of a Texans defense that held their hosts’ running backs to just 62 total yards on the ground.

 

Up Next:

Panthers v Texans – Sunday, September 29 (1pmFOX)

Chargers v Dolphins – Sunday, September 29 (1pmCBS)

 

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Los Angeles Rams v Cleveland Browns

20-13

Aside from 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 yet to materialize. Seven of Cleveland’s 11 drivers last four or fewer players with the Browns averaging just 4.3 yards per play and opting to lean on Chubb rather than Baker Mayfield in crunch time.

The hosts were also set back again by penalties, committing eight in the game. Despite being down seven in the fourth quarter, the Browns were in a position to tied the defending NFC champions, stumbling into the red zone with 43 seconds to go following a deep midfield completion to Jarvis Landry and another 16-yarder to Damion RatleyMayfield then 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 sides, Mayfield took the snap, rolled right to get a better view over his collapsing O-line and, pressured by Clay Matthews and falling backward, launched a desperate effort toward Ratley in the end zone, but it never made it, with Rams safety John Johnson snagging the pass for a game-winning interception.

At the final whistle Kitchens and his Browns players were met with boos from an angry and impatient home crowd, who have been sold a false bill of good offense.

Sunday night’s meeting 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. Whilst they didn’t quite go head-to-head each logged a sack at crucial points of the game. Garrett‘s sixth sack of the season forced a Jared Goff fumble and led directly to a Browns field goal that set them up with a 6-3 halftime lead. Donald finally notched his first QB takedown in the fourth quarter.

 

Up Next:

Buccs v Rams – Sunday, September 29 (4:05pmFOX)

Browns v Ravens – Sunday, September 29 (1pmCBS)

 

Monday

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Chicago Bears v Washington Redskins

31-15

After Chicago opened the game with a long drive ending in a punt, the Bears intercepted Case Keenum on Washington’s first drive, with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix taking the pick to the house. From there the Bears were playing from a position of strength and never really let Washington back in the game. The home O-line were no match for Khalil Mack, whose first half included two sacks and two forced fumbles. Mack wasn’t the only one wrecking havoc as Clinton-Dix followed up his first quarter interception with another in the third. Chicago closed the game with five takeaways and 24pts off of those takeaways.

After scoring just twice in his first year in Chicago in 2018, Taylor Gabriel hauled in three receiving touchdowns – all in the second quarter. His first two came on short routes from inside the five-yard line, but his third and final score was one for the highlight real. On Mitchell Trubisky‘s best throw of the night, the Bears QB stepped up out of pressure in the pocket, launched a dime down the right sideline in the direction of Gabriel, who had Josh Norman by a step or two, with 1.83 yards of separation, he hauled the pass in and fell toward the end zone with two feet just barely in-bounds. With his completion probability of 10.4%, Gabriel‘s third TD grab was the least probable completion this season. In doing so he became just the 35th player in NFL history with three touchdowns in one half.

There’s not much to say about Washington’s offense. The run game without Derrius Guice is dull (69 yards on 21 carries); the O-line can’t protect their QB, who is doing himself no favors with his inaccurate strikes. The rising star is Terry McLaurin, a second-round selection that’s been playing like a number one wideout through the three weeks of his rookie season. He found the end zone for the third time in as many games, displaying strong hands and a good get-off on his third-quarter TD reception. McLaurin became the first rookie WR in league history with at least five receptions and a TD in each of his first three games.

 

Up Next:

Vikings v Bears – Sunday, September 29 (4:25pmCBS)

Redskins v Giants – Sunday, September 29 (1pmFOX)

 

ALL TIMES U.S. EASTERN

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