LOS ANGELES, September 22, 2014 — Summer is officially over, which means it is time to get serious about football. For those who do not spend every waking minute criticizing football, here are some lessons learned and not learned from Week 3 of the 2014 NFL season.
Atlanta Falcons 56, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14 — Tampa Bay partied like it was 1976 and creamsicle orange jerseys were in fashion. If John McKay were alive today, he would be in favor of the 2014 Bucs execution. If one overlooks the 56-0 Falcons lead, the Buccaneers dominated the fourth quarter. Devon Hester may be a better return man than Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, but White Shoes remains the greatest end zone dancer in NFL history.
New England Patriots 16, Oakland Raiders 9 — An optimist would praise the Raiders for giving New England all they could handle before a freak interception sealed the Patriots win one play after the tying touchdown was nullified by penalty. A realist would note that Derek Carr is being shackled by a West Coast Dink and Dunk with Dennis Allen West Coast Offense that refuses to let him throw past the first down marker. The game is not too big for Carr but it is for Allen.
Cincinnati Bengals 33, Titans 7 — The 26-0 lead the Bengals built up could just be the case of a far better team walloping a weaker team at home. However, this game could have been decided before it began. The Titans were rocked by the news that recently released kicker Rob Bironas died in a single car accident. Now Bironas is in football heaven with Steve McNair.
San Diego Chargers 22, Buffalo Bills 10 — It took three weeks to expose the Bills as pretenders, but the Chargers dominated from beginning to end. A pair of short touchdown passes from Philip Rivers to Eddie Royal was more than enough. San Diego has a solid offense, but it was the Chargers defense that harassed Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel from the beginning to the safety that locked up the game.
Baltimore Ravens 23, Cleveland Browns 21 — For the third straight week the Browns game went down to a field goal try on the final play, and for the second time it meant an agonizing loss. Former Carolina star Steve Smith showed he is still a playmaker, making the key catch on a long ball to set up the winning kick. Even in defeat, Bryan Hoyer is recreating the 1980 Cardiac Kids led by Brian Sipe. Hoyer is a leader who could keep Johnny Clipboard on the sideline for awhile longer.
Philadelphia Eagles 37, Washington Redskins 34 — The Eagles got to 3-0 because of their third straight shootout thriller. The unwritten law that players, especially quarterbacks, should not lose their job to injury seems to be fading. Nick Foles replaced Michael Vick last year and in this game was 27 of 41 for 325 yards. Even in defeat, Kirk Cousins was a magnificent 30 of 48 for 427 yards. Both quarterbacks had three touchdown passes and Cousins is doing his best to bring a stunning possible end to the RGIII era in DC.
New York Giants 30, Houston Texans 17 — The Giants jumped to a 17-0 lead and never looked back. No NFL coach knows how to get more out of less than Captain Grumpy Tom Coughlin. He has a bad Giants team, and yet in his entire coaching career his players have never quit on him. Coaching jobs like this are why he should make the Hall of Fame.
Indianapolis Colts 44, Jacksonville Jaguars 17 — Rarely does a winless team losing 30-0 generate excitement, but the Blake Bortles era began with a bang. After Chad Henne was benched, rather than play it safe, Borltes threw a 63-yard touchdown bomb. Despite the lopsided loss, Gus Bradley named Bortles to his very first start next week.
Detroit Lions 19, Green Bay Packers 7 — Pass-happy Mike McCarthy’s Packers won a Super Bowl while only running the ball half a dozen times. After this game, he may never run the ball ever again. Eddie Lacy’s fumble was returned 40 yards for one Detroit touchdown and his being caught in his own end zone meant a safety.
Dallas Cowboys 34, St. Louis Rams 31 — Both quarterbacks Tony Romo and Austin Davis threw touchdown passes to both teams. Davis can be forgiven since nobody knows who he is. As for Romo, he may be the most unfairly criticized quarterback in the last decade. He did throw the interception that put the Rams up 21-0. He also led the comeback that had the Cowboys outscore the Rams 34-3 before St. Louis scored once more. Win or lose, Romo never makes excuses and always puts the blame on himself. On this day he deserves a ton of credit.
New Orleans Saints 20, Minnesota Vikings 9 — Drew Brees was his typical lights out self, going 27 of 35 for 293 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Although it took a 90-yard fourth quarter drive to put the game away, the big story was not Brees or the first action for Teddy Bridgewater. The best Vikings player was suspended because our recent puritanical culture wants to tell fathers how to raise their sons. Athletes should not be treated better than society at large, but treating them worse is just as bad.
Arizona Cardinals 23, San Francisco 49ers 14 — For the second straight week the 49ers collapsed and blew a lead, as the Cardinals overcame a 14-6 third quarter deficit. For the second straight week Drew Stanton, who previously had not thrown a pass since 2010, led Arizona to a win. His two touchdowns and 244 yards passing were the difference. The Cardinals are 3-0 and could face a quarterback controversy when Carson Palmer gets healthy.
Kansas City Chiefs 34, Miami Dolphins 15 — Game manager Alex Smith dined and dunked his way to three touchdown passes and 186 yards passing as the Chiefs broke open a 21-15 lead late. What remains a mystery is why a city as exciting as Miami should subject its people to somebody as unbelievably boring as Joe Philbin. Boring is fine when the team is good. The team he coaches is just as boring.
Seattle Seahawks 26, Denver Broncos 20, OT — Peyton Manning led the Broncos back from a 17-3 fourth quarter deficit in what can only be described as a miracle comeback. To get the Broncos within two points, he moved the Broncos 80 yards in 40 seconds with no timeouts against the vaunted Legion of Boom defense. The tying two-point conversion required Manning fire high to the end zone between three defenders. The reason Seattle won was because Manning never saw the ball in overtime. Even in defeat, the only five-time NFL MVP is making an early case for number six, twice as many as anyone else.
Pittsburgh Steelers 37, Carolina Panthers 19 — While Carolina fans can grouse about one of their best defensive players being suspended, that only tells half the story. Yes, the Panthers defense was gashed for 265 rushing yards, but it was turnovers that did Carolina in. A sack of Cam Newton meant a fumble that set up one touchdown, and a fumbled punt gave the Steelers another gift touchdown. Mike Tomlin is a great motivator, and this win was Steelers football through and through, with strong running and hard-nosed defense.
Chicago Bears 27, New York Jets 19 —Geno Smith has talent, but starting the game by throwing a touchdown pass to the other team is not helpful. Down 14-0, the Jets kicked too many field goals. Nick Folk did his job, but Gang Green lost because the red zone became the dead zone. As for the Bears, two road wins in six days on nighttime television is a big deal.