The 10 Biggest NFL Storylines from Week 3
Week 3 provided us with about as much excitement as you can hope for early in the NFL season.
Several games came down to plays that were made, or not made, in the final minutes. Some teams were able to stave off disaster, some appear to have their season on the brink and others continue to surprise.
While we still must refrain from making too much out of these early games, teams are beginning to establish themselves as the ones to beat in their respective divisions.
Here's a look at the biggest stories from this week.
1. Minnesota and Dallas Avoid 0-3
These two teams needed someone to step up and deliver a big game in must-win situations. Adrian Peterson of the Vikings and Roy Williams of the Cowboys answered the call.
Peterson went off for 160 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yarder that sealed a 24-10 win over Detroit late in the third quarter.
Williams was equally impressive, catching two touchdowns on a five grab, 117 yard day in Dallas' 27-13 victory over the Houston Texans.
While the wins are good for both teams, there is still cause for concern in Minnesota as Brett Favre threw two more interceptions, bringing his season total to six compared to just two touchdowns. He is on pace to throw 32 interceptions and is not at all resembling the man we saw in 2009.
Looking ahead a little bit, the two teams will face each other in Week 6; a game that could define the season for each team.
They both have byes next week.
2. Atlanta Knocks Off Super Bowl Champs In Thrilling Overtime Win
For one week at least, the Saints' luck ran out.
New Orleans has shown a knack for finding ways to win and it appeared they were about to it again. After tying it up with four seconds left in regulation, the Saints set up a 29 yard field goal in overtime.
Garrett Hartley missed the kick, however, and Atlanta drove down the field, winning 27-24 on a 46-yarder by Matt Bryant.
The game had a playoff atmosphere and on one second quarter drive, the Falcons went for it twice on fourth down, converting both times, on what would eventually be a 19-play drive that chewed up nearly 11 minutes of clock and was culminated by a Michael Turner touchdown.
Atlanta's game plan was to run the ball, control the clock and keep the Saints' offense off the field. The Falcons ended up with 50 rushing attempts (50!), for 202 yards and held the ball for 45:50.
Drew Brees uncharacteristically threw two interceptions, as Atlanta was able to consistently put pressure on him in the pocket.
The teams will meet again in a Week 16 Monday night matchup that could determine the winner of the NFC South.
Atlanta hosts San Francisco and New Orleans will look to rebound against Carolina next week.
3. Jets Beat Rival Dolphins in Big Sunday Night Game
After a week full of controversy and distraction, the Jets showed up to play on Sunday night, beating Miami 31-23 in another game that was close all the way.
New York ran the ball seemingly at will with LaDainian Tomlinson leading the way. The Jets had 146 yards on 29 attempts.
Mark Sanchez played very well again, throwing for 256 yards and three touchdowns. While he got lucky a few times when the Dolphins came close to picking him off, almost doesn't get you very far, as Miami learned on Sunday.
Miami had some questionable play calls late in the game out of their Wildcat formation, opting to have Ronnie Brown pass, an attempt that fell incomplete, and running a reverse that resulted in a big loss. Brown was having success rushing, and the Dolphins may have been better off not trying to get so cute. Both plays put the 'Fins second and long situations that eventually led to punts.
The Jets travel to Buffalo next week while Miami hosts New England on Monday Night Football.
4. Pittsburgh Wins Without Ben, Again
If Pittsburgh's defense continues to be this strong and Ben Roethlisberger is the same guy we've grown accustomed to seeing upon his return, who is going to beat this team?
The Steelers' D forced two turnovers and had four sacks in a 38-13 win over Tampa Bay.
Charlie Batch threw three touchdowns, Rashard Mendenhall ran for 143 yards and Mike Wallace gained 100 receiving yards as Pittsburgh's offense clicked into high gear as well.
The Steelers need to hold on for just one more week before Roethlisberger's return, and while it's no guarantee that he will play as well as he has in the past after all that's gone on in his life, the team is looking scary-good right now.
Pittsburgh will take on the visiting Ravens in what should be a hard-hitting, tight game.
The Bucs have a bye week.
5. Michael Vick Spectacular In Win Over Jacksonville
Michael Vick is making Andy Reid look like a genius for signing upon his release from prison.
Vick threw for three touchdowns and added another on the ground in a 28-3 win over the Jaguars in his first game after being named as the official starter for the Eagles.
Vick appears to be beginning to live up to the potential he showed earlier in his career, throwing with accuracy, using his legs to buy more time for his receivers and proving he can still be deadly running with the ball when he needs to.
As far as Jacksonville is concerned, what happened to David Garrard? In 2007 he had a 102.2 passer rating in twelve games after replacing Byron Leftwich, throwing 18 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions, but has not looked anything like that quarterback since. The Jags' owner has even questioned his work ethic. He needs to get it together quick if he wants to continue being a starter in the NFL.
Donovan McNabb, who was instrumental in bringing Vick to Philadelphia last season, returns to Philly next week.
Jacksonville could be looking at 1-3 when they host the Colts.
6. Bears Move To 3-0 As Packers Give Away Game
For the Bears a win is a win and for the Packers a loss is a loss, but Green Bay has to feel like Monday night's game is one they should have won.
The Packers had 18 penalties in the game and missed many opportunities to intercept Bears' QB Jay Cutler in a 20-17 loss. Green Bay also had a field goal attempt blocked, another miscue that could have swung the game in their favor.
For Chicago, they looked good, but Cutler needs to improve his decision making. As written earlier about Mark Sanchez and his near interceptions, almost doesn't count for anything. It's only a matter of time, though, before balls that are close to being intercepted, are intercepted
Green Bay needs to worry about their ability to protect Aaron Rodgers and, based on the amount of penalties and missed opportunities by the Pack, it's possible this team was somewhat over-hyped coming into the season.
Luckily for Green Bay, there's a long way to go in the season, giving them some time to get it all straightened out, beginning next week when they host Detroit.
Chicago travels to New Jersey to take on the New York Giants in next week's Sunday night game.
7. Kansas City Moves to 3-0, San Francisco Falls To 0-3
It seems Arrowhead Stadium is back to being the intimidating place it once was, as the Chiefs destroyed the 49ers, 31-10.
San Francisco's defense provided no resistance, giving up 457 total yards of offense. They do not appear to be anything close to the team many forecasted them to be coming into the 2010 season. They fired their offensive coordinator on Monday and the season could be spiraling out of control.
For Kansas City, it's all good news. Matt Cassell threw for 250 yards and three touchdowns, Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles combined for 192 yards on the ground and the team continues to show big-play ability.
It could be a season to remember for Chiefs fans as they have an early lock on first place in the AFC West heading into a bye week.
The 49ers have a tough task next week visiting Atlanta, hoping to avoid an 0-4 start.
8. New England Bounces Back Against Buffalo
A week after an awful second half performance by the Patriots' offense, the unit was nearly unstoppable as Tom Brady threw three touchdowns on a 252-yard passing day and a combination of rushers totaled 200 yards, in a 38-30 win over Buffalo.
The downside for the Patriots is that their defense appears to be having difficulties. The Bills, a team not known to be an offensive powerhouse, gained nearly 400 yards of their own.
Whether this is just a case of a young defense taking a while to gel, or signs of a bigger problem for the Pats, the win is all that really matters in the long run, especially in the division.
New England will visit Miami on Monday night and Buffalo will host the Jets next week.
9. Giants Appear To Be Falling Apart
A week after being mauled by the Colts on national television, the Giants threw up another stinker in a 29-10 loss to Tennessee.
New York's offense was able to move the ball easily, but could not get out of its own way. Eli Manning threw two interceptions, including one on a terrible decision when he tried to flip the ball into the endzone with his left hand.
The Giants racked up 86 yards on 11 penalties, including several personal fouls, showing a lack of focus and discipline. A chop block penalty on Ahmad Bradshaw resulted in a safety.
Coach Tom Coughlin could be losing control of the team. If this continues to happen we'll see just how much time a Super Bowl win buys you.
On the other side of the ball, Chris Johnson of the Titans ran for 125 yards and two touchdowns in his quest for 2,500.
Tennessee will take on Denver next week while the Giants have another primetime matchup against the Bears on Sunday night.
10. Seattle Moves to 2-1, San Diego Falls To 1-2
Leon Washington had a huge day for Seattle, running back two kicks for touchdowns in a 27-20 win over San Diego.
The Seahawks are one of the biggest surprises so far, and could make the playoffs coming out a weak division in Pete Carroll's first year as head coach.
Slow starts are nothing new for the Chargers, but they cannot continue to rely on late season charges year after year. Eventually their luck will run out if they can't find a way to play well early. They have already dropped a divisional game to the Chiefs are now two games behind them in the standings.
If the Chargers are unable to win a championship in the coming years, many will look back at general manager A.J. Smith's decision to fire Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 season as a huge mistake. Smith's approach to managing is being questioned after the way the Vincent Jackson situation has played out and the length of time it took to sign Marcus McNeill.
San Diego will host Arizona and Seattle will travel to St. Louis in Week 4.
-Austin Collie is looking like he's going to be some kind of player. The second year pro, who recorded seven touchdown grabs in 2009, is off to a fast start. After three games he has 27 catches for 359 yards and three touchdowns. In Denver on Sunday he went for 171 yards and two touchdowns on 12 catches. Along with Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, Peyton Manning has weapons galore at his disposal.
-St. Louis notched its first win of the season and the first of Sam Bradford's career. Bradford's numbers are not mind-blowing so far, but he's showing why the Rams took him with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. It could be a while before St. Louis rises to prominence again, but they have a big piece in place with Bradford.
-Special teams was the difference in several games this week. Whether it was making a late field goal, missing a late field goal, returning kickoffs and punts for touchdowns or having kicks blocked, an often overlooked aspect of football showed its importance. Having a solid special teams unit is essential to being a good team, particularly when a team can rely on its place kicker to knock in field goals late. Big returns are gigantic in terms of field position and momentum, and having a unit that is a consistent threat in that regard, greatly increases the chances of winning.