Around The NFL breaks down what you need to know from all of Sunday's action in Week 3 of the 2023 NFL season. Catch up on each game's biggest takeaways using the links below:
- Indianapolis Colts 22, Baltimore Ravens 19
- Cleveland Browns 27, Tennessee Titans 3
- Detroit Lions 20, Atlanta Falcons 6
- Green Bay Packers 18, New Orleans Saints 17
- Houston Texans 37, Jacksonville Jaguars 17
- Miami Dolphins 70, Denver Broncos 20
- Los Angeles Chargers 28, Minnesota Vikings 24
- New England Patriots 15, New York Jets 10
- Buffalo Bills 37, Washington Commanders 3
Bobby Kownack's takeaways:
- To no one's surprise, T.J. Watt remains a menace. The 2021 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year's blazing start to 2023 continued Sunday night. Watt paced the Steelers with two sacks of Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to bring his season total to six already. He fought off double teams throughout the victory and finished the game with six pressures, six QB hits and a turnover caused by pressure. Despite Cameron Heyward's absence in the trenches, Pittsburgh's Watt-led unit managed to shore up its run defense -- a massive problem through two games with 386 yards surrendered on the ground entering the week -- to allow just 69 net yards. The secondary behind Watt also showed out with three interceptions, including a game-clincher on Levi Wallace's second pick. Pittsburgh has now corrected course from a dreadful 30-7 loss against the 49ers in Week 1 to rattle off two straight victories. Much of that turnaround can be credited to Watt's extraordinary output and leadership.
- Magical Garoppolo-Adams connection falls short. Davante Adams benefitted from a telepathic understanding with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay before coming to play with his one of his best friends, Derek Carr, for most of one year in Las Vegas. The chemistry appears to be just as strong three weeks into running routes for Jimmy Garoppolo. The QB looked his leading WR's way early and often, giving the six-time Pro Bowler 45.4% of the target share. Adams rewarded that tunnel vision with 13 catches for 172 yards and the team's only two touchdowns. He caught passes where his sharp route-running gifted him wide-open looks, he caught ones made in barely-there windows and he was the brightest spot in Las Vegas' offensive operation. Still, the Raiders couldn't come away with the win. Part of that was the continued bottling up of last year's rushing champion, Josh Jacobs. He didn't finish with negative yardage like in Week 2, but he took far too long to get going and finished with 62 yards on 17 carries against the league's worst-ranked rushing defense. Another element was Josh McDaniels' confounding decision, down eight with 2:25 remaining, to kick a field goal on fouth-and-4 from the Steelers' 8-yard line.
- Steelers offense recalibrates after slow start. Pittsburgh began the night in similar fashion to the previous two weeks. It was a plodding operation through two drives, both of which ended in three-and-outs. The team's third possession seemed destined for the same result when Kenny Pickett instead flipped the script with a 72-yard touchdown pass dropped perfectly into Calvin Austin III's waiting arms. It wasn't all fireworks after that play, which knotted the score at 7, but Pittsburgh matched its blue-collar roots by building a lead in workmanlike fashion over the next two frames. Not counting a one-snap possession to end the first half, the Steelers scored on all four of their possessions in the second and third quarters. Three of those were field goals, but the takeaway is that Pittsburgh kept adding unanswered points until Las Vegas finally responded with 10 unanswered points of its own to pull close in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, 23-18. The Steelers O winded up punting on the subsequent possession, but not before moving the chains twice to give Las Vegas a mere 12 seconds to attempt (and fail) an 86-yard scoring drive.
Next Gen stat of the game: Davante Adams' first touchdown of the night, a 32-yard catch, was his 11th score on a vertical route since joining the Raiders -- three more than any other player since 2022.
NFL Research: Kenny Pickett's 72-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Austin III is the longest score ever by the Steelers against the Raiders. The previous long was Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" in the 1972 AFC Divisional Round.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Kenneth Walker III spearheads Seahawks' win. The running back authored big plays, pushing a Seattle offense that struggled to get over the hump for much of the game. Leading by two points deep in the third quarter, Walker grabbed a 36-yard pass from Geno Smith to turn a first-and-21 from Seattle's 48-yard line into a red zone possession. Five plays later, Walker cashed in a 1-yard run for Seattle's first touchdown of the day. Walker then scored on a 7-yard TD jaunt in the fourth quarter. On the day, the second-year RB compiled 97 rushing yards and two TDs on 18 carries and added 59 receiving yards (second-most for Seattle) on three catches. A punishing ball-carrier with the ability to hit the home run, Walker is a game-changer for Seattle when healthy, particularly when the rest of the offense hits lulls. The punishing combo of Walker and rookie Zach Charbonnet is a fun, effective duo.
- Andy Dalton plays solidly in the loss. Much like his performances in New Orleans last season, Dalton wasn't the reason the Panthers lost. The veteran quarterback performed well in the face of pressure, getting the ball out, adding in a splash play here and there, and getting the Panthers offense into the correct plays. His experience and pocket presence stood in stark contrast to how Carolina's offense operated the first two weeks with rookie Bryce Young under center. With the run game absent, Dalton heaved the pigskin 58 times, completing 34 passes for 361 yards and two touchdowns, including a 47-yarder on a busted coverage. When under pressure, Dalton completed 14 of 22 passes for 205 yards with a TD and a 109.1 passer rating, per Next Gen Stats. In the first two Panthers games, Young generated 299 total passing yards. The Panthers simply don't have consistent weapons on offense to keep pace if a banged-up D is giving up 425 total yards and forcing just two punts.
- 12s help cause a boatload of Panthers pre-snap penalties. Boisterous Seahawks fans certainly aided their club's cause on Sunday. The noise helped lead to eight Carolina false starts. With the Panthers threatening to cut into a nine-point Seattle lead midway through the fourth quarter, Carolina faced a third-and-4 from the Seattle 39-yard line. However, the Panthers earned a flag for a false start twice in a row, turning it into a third-and-14 and, ultimately, a punt. Those hidden yards were significant in a game where Seattle settled for five field goals early.
Next Gen stat of the game: Panthers QB Andy Dalton completed twice as many passes of 10+ air yards in Week 3 (8) as Bryce Young did in Weeks 1-2 (4).
NFL Research: Kenneth Walker III had 156 scrimmage yards in Week 3 (second-most of his career). Seattle is 6-0 when Walker has 110+ scrimmage yds. Walker has multiple scrimmage TDs in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- The Cardinals finally held onto a lead. In the first two weeks of the season, the Cardinals established a (doomed) blueprint: Play with their hair on fire, build a promising early lead, go into a shell on offense, surrender said lead and ultimately lose. Week 3 appeared to be following this plan, with the Cardinals clinging to an 11-point lead and punting on their first two possessions of the second half. But one blown coverage changed everything. A 69-yard pass to rookie Michael Wilson reignited a dormant Cardinals offense. Three plays later, the Cardinals were in the end zone, owners of a 28-16 lead. A defensive stand in the fourth quarter produced a decisive Kyzir White interception, sealing a win. Sunday was an important step forward, as Arizona learned how to finish a game. That alone is worth celebrating.
- Cowboys can't dig out of unfamiliar deficit. Dallas had found the sailing to be rather smooth through the first two weeks, cruising to blowout wins over the Giants and Jets without needing to do too much offensively. Week 3 was a different story, though, with Arizona racing out to a 15-3 lead and applying pressure on the Cowboys for the first time in 2023. Dallas slowly chipped away at the lead and appeared primed to complete a comeback after trimming the deficit to five points in the fourth quarter. Instead, the Cowboys slipped at the worst possible time, failing to convert on fourth-and-3 from Arizona's 4-yard line late in the fourth quarter. When they needed to mount a double-digit comeback, they fell short. Claiming this is a sign of things to come would be extreme, but it is a good lesson for the Cowboys: That star on the helmet isn't going to convince the opponent to surrender on sight.
- Arizona's offensive line deserves a game ball. The Cardinals put 28 points on the board despite finishing with just 189 passing yards against a Cowboys defense that dominated its first two opponents this season. How did they pull off such a feat, you ask? It's quite simple. Arizona rode its backfield -- including a couple of unlikely contributors in quarterback Joshua Dobbs and receiver Rondale Moore -- to 222 rushing yards. James Conner rumbled through Dallas' defense as if it hadn't seen a power back since the 1970s, racking up 98 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. I have to give credit to the group that never gets enough of it, the offensive line, for executing effectively and consistently throughout the day, allowing the Cardinals to take responsibility off Dobbs' shoulders against a ferocious pass rush that features all-world defender Micah Parsons. It was the Cowboys' defense -- not the Cardinals' pass protection -- that was on its heels. And none of that happens if the guys up front don't open lanes for Conner, Moore and Co. to run through.
Next Gen Stat of the game: The Cardinals had 21 carries for 207 yards, +94 rushing yards over expected and 2 TDs running outside the tackles, the second-most outside rushing yards by the Cardinals in the NGS era (since 2016).
NFL Research: The Cardinals rushed for 222 yards on 7.4 yards per carry with two rushing touchdowns. That's the most rushing yards for Arizona since Week 6 of the 2020 season, a 38-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- The Bears' awful start continues. The winless Bears had an opportunity to dramatically change the narrative on Sunday, but that chance evaporated early on. They'd been fairly competitive in first halves, but that's two weeks straight the Bears have let an offense move up and down the field on them in the first 30 minutes. That might not be a game killer against the Bucs, but versus the Chiefs on the road? Matt Eberflus called the defense again after the resignation of Alan Williams, and outside of the first series -- when the Chiefs made their only punt of the game -- it was a lot of bad. Other than a few Yannick Ngakoue pressures, the Bears' pass rush was mostly nonexistent, and they really had trouble defending the middle of the field. Oh, and Justin Fields and the offense did absolutely nothing until it was 41-zip. Even knowing things could get worse for the Bears on Sunday, it was about as bad as you could imagine. They're 0-3 with few signs of hope.
- Chiefs make Swift work of Bears, as defense dominates. With Taylor Swift in attendance -- sitting alongside Travis Kelce's mother, Donna, in a suite -- the Chiefs looked a tad sleepy early but snapped out of it pretty quickly and made this one a laugher before halftime. For Chiefs fans (and Swifties), however, there was plenty to watch. The big questions: Would the defense pitch a shutout? And would Kelce score a TD with Swift looking on as rumors swirl about them? Two Blaine Gabbert INTs helped the Bears score 10 points, but the Chiefs' defense dominated most of the game, containing Justin Fields as a runner and passer and blanketing DJ Moore until late in the contest. The Chiefs intercepted Fields and forced a Khalil Herbert fumble, helping push the lead from 21-0 to 31-0. As for Kelce, he appeared to play a cleaner game than last week. And like any good wingman, Patrick Mahomes made sure to get his guy in the end zone. Everyone wins.
- Jawaan Taylor's penalty woes continue. For most of the game, the Chiefs' offensive line dominated the Bears' defensive line. But that doesn't mean the Chiefs should be completely thrilled with their OL play. RT Jawaan Taylor was flagged a stunning five times last week and had two illegal formation calls against him in the second quarter on Sunday. The first was declined, but the second wiped out a 50-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. So far, Andy Reid has deflected attention away from Taylor and gone to bat for the Chiefs' big free-agent addition, but the results to this point have to be concerning. Reid said after the game that he felt like officials might have been picking on Taylor this week. The coach also mentioned Taylor suffered a cut after being hit in the mouth during the game, but said the RT should be fine.
Next Gen stat of the game: The Chiefs targeted Bears LB Tremaine Edmunds 11 times in coverage. Edmunds allowed 10 receptions, 88 yards and one TD.
NFL Research: Patrick Mahomes is the fastest player to reach 25,000 career passing yards since at least 1970, taking only 83 games to do so. The next-fastest on the list, Matthew Stafford, reached the mark in his 90th career game.
Michael Baca's takeaways:
- Matt Gay comes up clutch. The wet conditions in Baltimore made for a sloppy affair between rivals, but that didn't matter for Gay, who made all five of his field goals, including a 53-yard game-winner in overtime. He became the first player in NFL history to make four FGs of 50+ yards in a single game. After forcing a turnover on downs near midfield in OT, Indianapolis didn't need much to get into Gay's range. In fact, the Colts fired off four straight runs before reaching fourth down at the 35-yard line. Gay's clutch kick was a no-doubter, similar to many of those booted by his fellow kicker on the other sideline, Justin Tucker, whose 61-yard attempt at the end of regulation fell short. Gay accounted for 16 of the Colts' 22 points, turning in a historic performance in front of one the greatest kickers of all time.
- Ravens' mistakes on offense lead to downfall. A seamless 12-play, 80-yard TD drive to open the game set the table for a potential Ravens showcase, but their next three drives ended due to an inability to hold onto a wet ball. Lamar Jackson and Kenyan Drake lost fumbles and a botched snap by backup center Sam Mustipher forced a punt. The Ravens didn't find any offensive footing again until the third quarter, when Jackson led an 81-yard drive that ended with an impressive TD run. The Colts defense refused to be pushed around, holding the Ravens to just one more score -- a field goal midway through the fourth quarter. The offense was offered a clean slate in OT but managed just 11 yards on seven plays in extra time.
- Shane Steichen is getting the most out of Colts' roster. There's a lot to be said about how the rookie head coach earned his second win: Indianapolis showed plenty of poise in hostile territory, with veteran Gardner Minshew starting in place of Anthony Richardson (concussion). Steichen's game plan was certainly crucial in the Colts' victory, and its genius was in the simplicity of it all. The Colts took what the Ravens defense gave them, executing short throws and running the ball at a stubborn pace. The blend of pass and run calls were timely, too, with Zack Moss (30 carries, 122 yards; receiving TD) rattling off big runs to start drives and Michael Pittman (nine receptions, 77 yards) coming up with clutch plays on third down. Minshew (27-of-44 passing for 227 yards, TD) was never asked to do too much, but didn't make any big mistakes despite getting sacked five times by an attacking Baltimore defense. Steichen used the Ravens' aggressiveness against them, with less-than-flashy plays that got the ball out Minshew's hand quickly.
Next Gen stat of the game: Colts RB Zack Moss totaled a career-high 30 carries for a game-high 122 rushing yards and +30 rushing yards over expected.
NFL Research: Lamar Jackson had his second career game with 200+ pass yards, 100+ rush yards and 2+ rush TDs. No other player has ever hit each of those marks in a single game.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Cleveland's defense continues to stack wins. Through three weeks, the Jim Schwartz-coordinated Browns have done nothing but provide a bounty of reasons to believe this is an elite group. Schwartz's defensive front continues to cause nightmares for opposing offenses, and on Sunday, it suffocated the Titans. Derrick Henry was a nonfactor, finishing with 20 yards on 11 carries. Ryan Tannehill was sacked five times, with Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Garrett accounting for 3.5. It wasn't just Garrett causing problems, though: Ogbo Okoronkwo split a sack with Garrett, Alex Wright tallied one of his own and, as a unit, the Browns pressured Tannehill on 40 percent of his dropbacks. Cleveland's defense is playing about as cohesively as possible so far this season and made this contest a walk in the park.
- Titans need to clean things up. Tennessee should review this tape and then promptly bury it in a Nashville-area meadow without a marker. The Titans had a terrible day on both sides of the ball, and their eight penalties certainly didn't help. Tennessee gave the Browns second chances on multiple occasions because of penalties, struggled to establish a semblance of a rhythm offensively and failed even when trying to accomplish one simple task. Need an example? Consider a third-and-12 early in the fourth quarter, when the Titans dedicated seven players to pass protection and still surrendered a sack to Garrett, one of just four pass rushers on the play. The Titans couldn't do anything right.
- Browns offense takes a step forward. Deshaun Watson compiled his first impressive statistical showing of 2023 on Sunday, completing 27 of 33 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns. His tape wasn't as pretty as his stat line, but for the first time since joining the Browns, it was Watson propelling Cleveland's offense toward victory. Give credit to the team, too, for refusing to give in after losing Nick Chubb to a season-ending knee injury last week. The combination of Jerome Ford (who finished with two total touchdowns), Kareem Hunt and Pierre Strong didn't stuff the stat sheet, but accomplished enough to keep the offense moving. It was a job well done on a day that easily could've gone in the other direction.
Next Gen Stat of the game: Derrick Henry faced a stacked box (eight-plus defenders) on six of 11 rushing attempts on Sunday, averaging -2.3 yards before contact per carry on such attempts, his lowest in a game since Week 2 of 2022. His 20 yards on 11 carries were the second-lowest rushing total of his career. His lowest also came against the Browns, in Week 7 of the 2022 season.
NFL Research: Deshaun Watson's 123.4 passer rating was his best rating in a game since Week 16 of the 2020 season and his 81.8 completion percentage was the second-best mark of his career.
Nick Shook's takeaways:
- Detroit grinds out a win. The Lions have figured out the takeoff portion of their offensive flight through three weeks, and on Sunday, they reached cruising altitude relatively easily. But they still endured some turbulence at times. Take their 13-play, 73-yard drive late in the second quarter, when they had five chances to score from a goal-to-go situation and ended up settling for a field goal. Atlanta's defense didn't make the going easy on the Lions, but chunks of this game remained rather positive. Jared Goff is very comfortable in the offense and executes it well, save for the occasional missed throw. The Lions missed David Montgomery on Sunday, but they still managed to rush for 115 yards. Most of the game went well -- they just didn't produce the points total one might have expected from a unit that was humming for a good portion of the game. Instead, they had to dig deep to find solutions. Goff's touchdown run in the fourth quarter served as a great example, icing a solid victory.
- You have to love the Falcons' toughness. Offensively, it was a day the Falcons will want to forget. None of their playmakers were able to string anything together, Younghoe Koo missed a field goal and they converted just 4 of 14 third-down attempts. But this team fights, going toe-to-toe with the Lions for much of this game, even if it wasn't reflected on the scoreboard. Detroit earned this win, no doubt, and the Falcons have some things to work out offensively, but I have come to appreciate their attitude. They matched Detroit on third-down conversions and kept the game within reach until the fourth quarter. They're certainly not going to let anyone walk over them, even if QB Desmond Ridder wasn't good enough to lead them to a win on Sunday.
- Lions' young cats lead the way. Detroit's much-discussed, often-criticized 2023 draft class has done nothing but thumb its nose at the haters through three weeks. Brian Branch, Sam LaPorta and Jack Campbell all made plays that were pivotal to Detroit's win on Sunday. LaPorta recorded his first career touchdown reception, Campbell notched his first career sack and Branch was a defensive hammer who set the tone throughout the game for Detroit. If Jahmyr Gibbs can get it going a bit more, there will be no reason to knock any of GM Brad Holmes' selections from April.
Next Gen Stat of the game: Sam LaPorta was wide open on his first career touchdown catch, creating 12 yards of separation on the 45-yard scoring strike, the second-most separation gained by a receiver on a scoring play this season.
NFL Research: Sam LaPorta joined T.J. Hockenson as the only Lions tight ends since 1970 with 75+ receiving yards in a game.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Jordan Love finds late magic in first start at Lambeau Field. It was an ugly beginning for the Packers QB. Starting with a Yakety Sax-worthy fourth-down try on the team's opening drive, the offense looked rickety early on. Love was a tad off on passes and missed several deep shots. The run game was sluggish, with Aaron Jones (hamstring) out again. The Packers were in a 17-0 hold after another failed fourth-down try in the red zone early in the fourth quarter. Then Love and the Packers' offense began to make plays. A couple of Saints penalties on deep balls helped Green Bay move quickly, and Love cashed in a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line to pull within 6 points. After the defense forced a three-and-out, Love thew darts, rookie Jayden Reed made a spectacular catch and Romeo Doubs capped the game-winning drive with a TD. The offense remains a work in progress in Green Bay, but escaping with a win without playing their best is promising for Matt LaFleur.
- Saints offense collapses after Derek Carr's shoulder injury. The offense wasn't dominant with Carr under center, but it moved the ball in the first half. That all changed when Carr exited after getting slammed to the turf on an early third-quarter sack. With Jameis Winston entering, the Saints managed just two first downs on their next four drives, allowing the Packers back into the contest. Winston settled in on the final drive. The QB hit Chris Olave a couple times to get into field goal range. However, Blake Grupe pushed a 46-yard field goal wide right to cement the loss. Winston is a capable backup if Carr's injury lingers, but it would sap some of the explosiveness from the Saints' offense.
- Rashan Gary steps up for Packers D. The edge rusher was a menace all game, gobbling up three sacks and four QB hits. Gary did all that despite playing just 23 snaps as he makes his way back from the ACL tear he suffered last season. With Gary streaking off the edge and Kenny Clark bulldozing from the interior, the Packers D smothered New Orleans in the second half, allowing just 101 net yards on six drives in the final two frames. The defense kept the game close enough until the offense got its act together late. That's the recipe Green Bay will need to use throughout the 2023 campaign.
Next Gen stat of the game: Packers pass rusher Rashan Gary turned three of his four QB pressures into sacks. He had four pressures on 20 pass rushes (20% pressure rate).
NFL Research: Sunday marked the largest comeback win for the Packers since Week 1 of the 2018 season versus the Bears (20 points) and tied for the largest fourth quarter comeback victory in Packers history. It was the largest blown lead for the Saints since Week 3 of 2012 vs. the Chiefs (18 points).
Brenna White's takeaways:
- C.J. Stroud and the Texans' offense establish chemistry. Although the Texans started the season 0-2, Stroud showed promise leading Houston to its first win of 2023. The rookie QB launched a 46-yard pass to wide receiver Tank Dell that set up Dameon Pierce's 1-yard TD run for the first score of the game. But that was only the beginning. With a short touchdown pass to Brevin Jordan here and another deep pass to Dell for a touchdown there, the Texans had racked up 34 points with just under nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Houston also had the help of fullback Andrew Beck, who returned Jacksonville's pop-up kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter just when the Jaguars were building momentum. It seemed like almost everything went right for Houston on Sunday, but you have to give the young Texans passer credit. He has yet to throw an INT this season.
- Miscues plague Jaguars. A Calvin Ridley drop on the Jaguars' first possession was a bit of foreshadowing of what was to come on Sunday. Jacksonville did not put a point on the board in the first half, going missed field goal, punt, blocked field goal, punt and fumble on its first five possessions. Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne helped march the Jaguars down the field, eventually leading to a 1-yard touchdown by Tank Bigsby to open the third quarter. The Jaguars cut the deficit to seven with a field goal on their next possession, but that was as close as they would get. Lawrence was picked off near midfield late in the third quarter, setting up a Texans field goal.
- Texans defense steps up. While the Jaguars clearly didn't play a clean game, Houston made some of its own luck with big plays on Sunday, even though it was missing multiple starters on defense. Jacksonville converted just 5-of-13 third downs and went 0-of-1 on fourth downs. The Texans did not record a sack, but they didn't give up a play longer than 28 yards. Houston forced two turnovers and rookie Will Anderson Jr. blocked a field goal to help head coach DeMeco Ryans earn his first career victory. After shutting the Jags out in the first half, bend-but-don't-break worked just fine in the second half.
Next Gen stat of the game: Andrew Beck reached a top speed of 20.37 mph on his 85-yard kickoff return TD, the first time a fullback has reached 20+ mph as a ball-carrier since Jamize Olawale in 2016.
NFL Research: Andrew Beck (255 pounds) is the heaviest player with a kick return TD of at least 50 yards in NFL history.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- The Dolphins have a Super Bowl-caliber offense. It might be obvious by now, but the Dolphins are a juggernaut offensively. In two road games to start the season, they averaged 30 points and a league-best 462.5 yards. On Sunday, we saw what they're capable of at home. The Dolphins scored 10 touchdowns, completely overwhelming the Broncos. Miami nearly hung a 50-burger on the Broncos before the end of the third quarter. Even without Jaylen Waddle (concussion), the Dolphins just ripped through another AFC opponent. Backups such as Chris Brooks, Robbie Chosen and De'Von Achane even joined the run, as the Dolphins became the first NFL team to score 70 points in 57 years.
- Denver's defense remains in awful shape. I'll start with this: 726 yards and 70 points allowed. Need I say more? The Broncos looked completely stunned by Miami's speed early, as Tyreek Hill somehow found himself wide open multiple times. Even All-Pro CB Patrick Surtain II had a rough game. Discipline remains a major problem for coordinator Vance Joseph's group. In addition to blown coverages, the Broncos committed another three penalties (with two defensive penalties declined) on Sunday. After this game and the Week 2 performance against the Commanders, Joseph's defense is squarely in the spotlight. Where was Surtain? Randy Gregory or D.J. Jones? Anyone else? If this Denver defense is going to improve, the players will also need to step up.
- It's time to hop on the Achane. The Dolphins seemed to play it safe with De'Von Achane, their 2023 third-round pick, since he suffered a shoulder injury in the preseason, keeping him out in Week 1 and using him sparingly in Week 2. But on Sunday, the Dolphins unleashed the rookie, who flashed his lethal speed and hard running en route to a four-TD performance. He ran for 203 yards and two scores, and caught four passes for 30 yards and two more TDs. Achane even had one score nullified by penalty but found his way back into the end zone with a nifty looking play design on the no-look shovel pass from Tua Tagovailoa. With Raheem Mostert running the way he is, the Dolphins won't suddenly stop feeding him. But adding Achane to the mix just puts a little more poison on the Dolphins' blade.
Next Gen stat of the game: At game's end, the Dolphins had registered the top five fastest ball-carrier speeds of the 2023 season so far: De'Von Achane (21.93 mph, Week 3 vs. Denver); Hill (21.66 mph, Week 1 vs. Chargers); Raheem Mostert (21.62 mph, Week 2 vs. New England); Hill (21.52 mph, Week 1 vs. Chargers); and Achane (21.50 mph, Week 3 vs. Denver).
NFL Research: Miami became the fourth NFL team to hit the 70-point mark in a game, joining the 1940 Chicago Bears (73 points vs. Washington), 1966 Washington (72 vs. the Giants) and the 1950 Los Angeles Rams (70 vs. Baltimore Colts).
Michael Baca's takeaways:
- Vikings collapse in waning seconds of regulation. There were 41 seconds remaining on a ticking clock following a fourth-down conversion that gave the Vikings a first-and-goal from the 6-yard line, but for some reason the offense didn't show the necessary sense of urgency. Kirk Cousins finally seemed to realize the situation as the clock got down to around 20 seconds and hurried his offense to the next play, but the short throw to T.J. Hockenson was defended well and the tipped ball fell into the hands of Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray for a game-clinching interception. Los Angeles' failed fourth-and-1 attempt on the previous possession gifted the Vikings the opportunity with the ball near the red zone with two timeouts and 1:47 left on the clock. Minnesota's finish signified a team still searching for answers through three weeks.
- Keenan Allen sets franchise mark in career day. The veteran Chargers wide receiver broke his own franchise record with 18 receptions and heaved a 49-yard TD pass to Mike Williams on a trick play to stamp a memorable day for the 31-year-old. Allen's route running gave Vikings cornerback Byron Murphy fits all afternoon to help power a passing attack that accounted for 445 yards of the Chargers' 475 yards of total offense. For his part, Justin Herbert was darn near flawless, completing 40-of-47 passes for 405 yards with three TDs and no interceptions. But it was Allen, with 215 yards receiving, who really stole the show.
- Kenneth Murray Jr., Alohi Gilman unsung heroes of Chargers defense. The Chargers' linebacker-safety due made big plays from beginning to end. Gilman ripped the ball away from Hockenson for a turnover that set the tone in the opening quarter and Murray corralled the game-sealing INT. Murray and Gilman were an energetic life force for a defense that dealt with the absence of Eric Kendricks and, for much of the second half, Derwin James. Also, the Chargers' pass rush (four sacks, 13 QB hits) harassed Cousins throughout the game.
Next Gen stat of the game: Chargers WR Keenan Allen caught all 13 of his open targets (3+ yards of separation) for 140 yards.
NFL Research: Keenan Allen had the most receptions (18) in a game by a player who also threw a passing TD in that game. The previous record was 12, held by Jerry Rice and Tarik Cohen.
Eric Edholm's takeaways:
- The Jets have a problem at QB. Despite all the Jets' offensive struggles of the first 3 1/2 quarters on Sunday, Zach Wilson had three chances to go win the game in the final three minutes. All three came up short. Wilson led the Jets on their first TD drive of the game earlier in the fourth quarter, cutting the Patriots' lead to 13-10, and it felt like he was finally getting in rhythm after the Patriots had humbled him all game. But he took a safety on the first of the team's final three drives, turned it over on downs on the second and saw his Hail Mary pass fall incomplete on the third. Wilson held onto the ball way too long, as the Patriots once again confused and confounded Wilson. He's now 0-5 vs. his tormentors, taking 14 sacks and barely completing 50% of his passes in those games. The Jets are not out of the race after falling to 1-2, but given Wilson's struggles the past two weeks, how long will it be until the team starts considering all its options at QB?
- Patriots do just enough offensively, but it's still not pretty. New England had a good formula for beating the Jets, gaining more than twice as many yards as them and not turning the ball over. But as we've seen in recent years, scoring points can be an issue for the offense, which received one big play (a 58-yard TD on a busted coverage) and nothing else longer than 18 yards. The rainy conditions certainly played a factor, limiting both teams. But the Patriots drove seven times into Jets territory and only scored 13 points on offense. The run game consistently moved the chains, but Mac Jones and the passing game kept missing chances to increase the lead. Two missed field goals also hurt, but the Patriots must improve at capitalizing.
- Matthew Judon, Christian Barmore to the rescue. The Patriots clearly have a very capable defense, but it's a really tough group when Judon has a game like he did on Sunday. He had a big sack early on a third down and notched a safety with 2:19 remaining, giving the ball back to New England and keeping the Jets from trying for a game-tying field goal. Also, Barmore had his best performance in recent memory. He lived in the backfield all game, registering eight pressures, per Next Gen Stats. Barmore stepping up in a tight game was a huge development.
Next Gen stat of the game: The Patriots generated pressure on 61.5% of the Jets' dropbacks on Sunday, New England's highest rate in a game since 2018.
NFL Research: The Jets have now lost 15 straight games to the Patriots and have scored more than 17 points only once in that span.
Kevin Patra's takeaways:
- Bills D dominates. Hello, Terrel Bernard. The Bills linebacker was all over the field, starting the defensive party with an interception on Washington's first possession. It was all Buffalo from there. Bernard racked up two sacks, a team-leading seven tackles, a fumble recovery and the pick. The Bills' defense stifled Washington at every turn. They intercepted Sam Howell four times, including a pick-six by edge rusher A.J. Epenesa. Buffalo held Washington to 1-of-9 on third downs, 0-for-1 on fourth down and 0-for-2 in the red zone. The Bills' D-line dominated, racking up nine sacks. The pressure overwhelmed Howell, and the back end played on a string all game. The Bills are scary when Sean McDermott's D plays like that.
- Day to forget for Sam Howell. The second-year quarterback experienced his first nightmare performance. Howell's head was spinning all game. Behind an overmatched offensive line, the young QB never looked settled, tossing for 170 yards, the four picks and a host of wayward throws. The bottom fell out in the second half as Howell made a bad read in the red zone and was picked off on the opening drive of the third quarter. Washington generated only one first down on its next four drives while turning it over twice. After opening his career with three wins, Howell must prove he can bounce back from a dismal day.
- Workman-like performance from Josh Allen, Bills offense. Facing a very good Commanders defensive front, Allen avoided pressure well, taking zero sacks, passing for 218 yards with a TD and INT. He iced the contest with a touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Allen's deftness in the pocket kept the Bills in manageable situations, and the QB was efficient on third downs, going 7-of-10 on the key down, including an arm-punt interception. With the defense dominating, Buffalo didn't need a huge day from the offense, but it was an efficient performance with a splash of big plays. Buffalo punted only once while earning 168 total rushing yards on 33 carries. The complementary performance from both sides of the ball displayed the type of upside the 2023 Bills possess.
Next Gen stat of the game: The Bills pressured Sam Howell on 27-of-39 dropbacks (69.2%), the second-highest pressure rate in a game in the NGS era (since 2016).
NFL Research: The Commanders' 34-point loss is tied for their third-largest at home since 1950.