NFL Nation: 2013 Week 3 Upon Further Review NFC

Upon Further Review: Redskins Week 3

September, 23, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Washington Redskins' 27-20 loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Richard LipskiHaving to dig out of deficits all season, the Redskins and QB Robert Griffin III have been especially pass-heavy on offense.
QB progress: After three games, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is on pace to set an NFL record for number of passes per game. Griffin has averaged 46.3 passes, putting him on pace to break Matthew Stafford’s record of 45.4, set last season. Griffin is on pace to throw 741 passes; Stafford threw 727 passes in 2012. But the Redskins' offense worked best last season when the focus was on running the ball, not just with Griffin but with running back Alfred Morris. He’s looked good the past two weeks, but has just 40 carries -- mostly a byproduct of two lopsided games. For the offense to change, Griffin can’t stay on a record-setting pace.

Digging out: The 0-3 start has left the Redskins in a familiar spot, needing to emerge from a bad start. The problem is, this start feels a whole lot worse than last year’s 3-6 record because they were still within shouting distance in most of those games. During their winning streak last season, the Redskins believed they could overcome anything that happened in a game. They won on the road minus Griffin; they won with a less-than-100 percent Griffin. They won when the passing attack wasn’t working. But they’re not playing with the same confidence now. Will one win change that? Probably not, but it would allow them to enter the bye week feeling much better.

Defensive issues: The Redskins struggled to find answers defensively once again. They switched strategies Sunday, using man coverage in their base defense but with three corners and one safety. That enabled them to stay in their base defensive front -- they were getting hurt on the ground in the first two games because they were mostly in their nickel package. They stopped the run and at times did well in man coverage. But the secondary has struggled in coverage and the more chances Detroit had to throw the ball, the more likely they would give up big yards.

Return to sender: Rookie Chris Thompson was replaced by Josh Morgan on the final two kick returns of the game. Not that it made much of a difference: Morgan averaged 21.5 yards on two returns compared to 22.5 for Thompson. But it’s clear that Thompson is still learning how to return kicks at an NFL level. For example, on one return he took the ball up about a yard or two too far before making his cut. At times he seems to underestimate the speed of those coming at him and he’s unable to get wide. During the preseason, he was a patient returner and then made a decisive cut. Now, after his first cut, there is still hesitation.

Upon Further Review: Bears Week 3

September, 23, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Chicago Bears' 40-23 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers:

Front four still not pressuring quarterback: The Bears sacked Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger twice, but they were only able to do that when they manufactured pressure by blitzing linebackers. One hallmark of Chicago’s scheme is the ability to generate pressure with the front four. The Bears did that on occasion, but not enough to where they weren’t putting the secondary in a bind by forcing them to cover receivers too long.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesThe Bears managed to pressure Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday night, but not without blitzing.
“We got good pressure from the pressures we called,” defensive end Julius Peppers said.

But the Bears wouldn’t be forced to make those calls if the front four was pressuring sufficiently.

Too many explosive plays: Going into the game, the Bears had surrendered eight completions of 20 yards or more through the first two games, only to allow the Steelers to more double that in one outing. On the way to throwing for 406 yards and two touchdowns, Roethlisberger completed 10 passes for gains of 20 yards or more, while receiver Antonio Brown caught nine passes for 196 yards and two scores.

In addition to those completions, the Bears surrendered a 25-yard run to Jonathan Dwyer in the second quarter.

That’s too much. Turnovers, obviously, offset some of those gains. Still, the Bears can’t always rely on takeaways to bail them out of trouble.

“Our goal is always to be plus-2 [in turnover ratio], but if you can get three more it’s always a bonus,” cornerback Charles Tillman said.

Overly conservative with lead: Major Wright’s 38-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter gave the Bears a 24-3 lead. But from there, the Bears took a conservative approach that nearly allowed the Steelers to rally.

“It was just that type of game to get up that quickly like that,” quarterback Jay Cutler said. “We were sitting pretty good early on, and we didn’t want to give them anything easy.”

Injuries to key players: Already slowed by a sore knee, Tillman suffered a groin injury that forced him out of action. The Bears also lost defensive tackle Henry Melton for the season with a torn ACL. So that’s two starters on defense. Obviously, the pass rush -- which was already struggling -- will be weakened significantly by the loss of Melton. Then, with the Bears set to take on the Detroit Lions, it’s probably fair to ponder whether Tillman can be effective against receiver Calvin Johnson.

Upon Further Review: Seahawks Week 3

September, 23, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Seattle Seahawks' 45-17 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars:

[+] EnlargeSidney Rice
AP Photo/Stephen BrashearSidney Rice pulled in two touchdown passes in a 45-17 rout of the Jaguars.
A cleaner and better offense: The Seahawks offense accomplished two big goals Sunday of cutting down on senseless penalties and getting off to a better start, especially in the passing game, than in the first two games. Seattle had only three offensive penalties for 20 yards. Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes, including three in the first half, and Tarvaris Jackson also had a touchdown throw.

Was Pro Bowl tackle Russell Okung missed?: Well, not much when you play a team as weak as the Jaguars, but the real question is whether it will hurt the Seahawks in coming weeks against better opponents. First up are the Houston Texans and monster defensive lineman J.J. Watt. Paul McQuistan had some good moments and some bad moments Sunday in Okung's left tackle spot. “He did alright and hung in there pretty nice,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of McQuistan. Carroll was happy rookie tackles Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey got to play in the lopsided game. “To have a chance to get them in the game was awesome,” Carroll said. “They got significant playing time.”

An abundance of riches on the defensive line: With the return of defensive end Chris Clemons, who looked good in pressuring the quarterback on passing downs, the Seahawks have a scary bunch up front. The coaches had a goal in the offseason to shore up the pass rush with free-agent acquisitions, and it worked. Defensive end Michael Bennett has been sensational. He had 1.5 sacks Sunday and a tackle for loss. O'Brien Schofield has been a solid contributor, starting at linebacker Sunday for injured Malcolm Smith. And defensive end Cliff Avril is another pass-rush specialist who adds to the attacking defense. Defensive end/linebacker Bruce Irvin will add to the depth in two weeks when he returns from suspension.

Staying focused: The Seahawks pounced on the Jaguars from the outset, not allowing for any type of letdown or lack of effort against a lesser opponent. Seattle led 31-0 before Jacksonville scored. The Jaguars had only 20 yards rushing in the first half and only 44 yards passing. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch had 55 yards rushing in the first quarter on nine carries. Seattle came out smoking and had the game won by halftime, when they were up 24-0. The final score is misleading because the Seahawks were playing mostly reserves in the second half, and all of Jacksonville points came in garbage time long after the outcome was decided.

Upon Further Review: Packers Week 3

September, 23, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Packers' 34-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday:

All about Rodgers: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers wasn't the one who ran the wrong route, an error that led to the first of his two interceptions. That was receiver James Jones, who admitted his mistake. Rodgers wasn't the one who fumbled on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter, an error that led to the Bengals' game-winning touchdown. That was running back Johnathan Franklin, who admitted his mistake. Yet the bottom line is the Packers need their quarterback to play well in order to win. Sure, that could be said about most NFL teams, and give Rodgers credit for admitting Sunday that he "played poorly, and the defense played well enough for us to win." Rodgers' frustration boiled over in the second quarter, when he and coach Mike McCarthy had a heated exchange on the sideline. Whatever their issues are, if there are any, they need to be ironed out immediately, because the Packers need Rodgers to be on top of his game.

[+] EnlargeJermichael Finley
Pat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsThe Packers had a difficult time recovering from the loss of Jermichael Finley.
Change of plans: When tight end Jermichael Finley got knocked out of the game with a concussion on the Packers' first series, it changed their offensive plans. Finley had been on a tear the first two weeks with 11 catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns, and he was going to be a major part of the game plan against the Bengals. "You have to be able to adjust on the sidelines," McCarthy said. "Losing Jermichael early like that, he was a featured player [Sunday]. So, you adjust, and I thought Ryan Taylor did some good things. I thought Andrew Quarless started slow, but he did some good things. It affects your rhythm. The guy that ultimately is probably affected the most by that is our quarterback." Finley got drilled by Bengals safety George Iloka on a seam route, something he hasn't run a lot of early this season. In fact, just last week he said he was fine with the short throws that have allowed him to show off his ability to break tackles and run after the catch. "I'm getting 25 [yards] on a drag route so why not nickel and dime them instead going down the seam and getting my head knocked off," Finley said last week.

Defensive differences: For all the production by the Packers defense, the unit wasn't the same without linebacker Clay Matthews in the second half. Matthews forced two of the Bengals' four first-half turnovers but then left late in the second quarter with a hamstring injury he sustained while forcing his second fumble of the game. The Packers didn't have another defensive playmaker step forward in the second half. Last year, the Packers lost Matthews for four games because of a hamstring injury. In three of those games, they had either zero or one sack.

Return questions: McCarthy and special teams coach Shawn Slocum might have to think long and hard about putting receiver Randall Cobb back on kick return duties full time. Given Cobb's importance to the offense, it would be risky, but it's hard to imagine them living with another mistake by Jeremy Ross. On Sunday, he misplayed a kickoff in the first quarter, when he failed to run up far enough to cleanly field a short kickoff and fumbled it. The Bengals recovered at the Packers' 2-yard line and scored an easy touchdown. It was the second time in four games dating to last season that Ross mishandled a kick. He muffed a punt in the playoff loss at San Francisco last January.

Upon Further Review: Cardinals Week 3

September, 23, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Arizona Cardinals' 31-7 loss to the New Orleans Saints:

No stopping Jimmy: The Cardinals shouldn’t feel bad. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is doing this to everyone he plays against. He finished with 134 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches, and just abused whoever the Cardinals sent out to defend him. However, stopping big tight ends has been troublesome for the Cardinals this season without linebacker Daryl Washington.

“I mean, he’s tough,” cornerback Patrick Peterson said. “He’s a big body. It’s hard to cover those big-body guys, especially by him being a basketball player. He knows how to maneuver his body real well and he did a great job of boxing us out and going up and getting the ball.

“All Drew has to do is throw it in his vicinity.”

Everyone knew he was good when he averaged 65 yards per game, but he's at another level thus far in 2013, averaging 119 per game.

[+] EnlargeArizona's Tyrann Mathieu
AP Photo/Bill HaberRookie Tyrann Mathieu, who intercepted this pass, is looking like a third-round steal.
Third-down progress?: Winning can heal a lot, such as last week’s 1-for-11 performance on third down. However, a loss and a 5-for-13 day on third downs? That won’t please anyone. The Cardinals can’t seem to figure out how to get first downs when the down marker rolls to third. Palmer was 3-for-11 on third-down dropbacks against New Orleans, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Just on third downs, Palmer was 4-for-9 for 46 yards, threw for three first downs and was sacked twice. And the Cardinals aren’t looking for their best receiver on third downs, either. In the past two weeks, Palmer has targeted Fitzgerald just once on third downs in each game.

Mathieu proving himself: Three games, three big plays. The cream of the rookie class may be rising from the third round. Tyrann Mathieu proved he doesn’t just make big plays in the NFL, but he does it on the biggest stage. Sounds familiar? It’s the storyline of his career. Mathieu had another play Sunday, intercepting Drew Brees in front of Mathieu’s hometown crowd at the Superdome. Mathieu downplayed the pick, but it was hard to ignore the media attention he received. He could be the biggest steal of the 2013 draft when it’s all said and done.

When it rains it pours: Any time a player tweets the words, “God has a plan,” attached to a photo of his foot on a private jet, it can’t be good. Those words and that photo came from linebacker Sam Acho, one of three starters left Sunday’s game and didn’t return. He was out with an ankle injury, while linebacker Lorenzo Alexander suffered a foot injury and safety Rashad Johnson left the game with a finger issue. Injuries are a part of the game, and they can quickly derail a season (see: 2012), but the Cardinals have enough depth at those positions to help make up for their losses. With how poorly the offense played after that initial touchdown, the injuries were adding insult to literal injury.

Upon Further Review: Saints Week 3

September, 23, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the New Orleans Saints' 31-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals:

Legit D: Safety Malcolm Jenkins didn’t want to go too far in declaring the Saints’ defense as “legit.” But he did say that it's doing a better job of creating pressure with just a four-man rush than in any of his five years with the team. “They’re doing a phenomenal job, even in the run front,” Jenkins said. “I think I’ve made one open-field tackle in three games, which is a lot different than last year.”

The Saints’ coverage on the back end has been equally impressive. Through Sunday, the Saints rank fifth in the NFL in yards allowed (295.7) and points allowed (12.7). The defense has allowed only 10.3 points per game, since one of the opponents’ touchdowns came on an interception return by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2. The Saints have also forced six turnovers and eight sacks.

[+] EnlargeKenny Vaccaro
AP Photo/Bill HaberKenny Vaccaro recorded his first career interception in Sunday's win over the Cardinals.
Obviously there will still be some growing pains to come with this revamped unit. But it’s clear that the Saints have bona fide young talent, and their confidence continues to grow under new coordinator Rob Ryan’s energetic approach and versatile schemes.

Back in the red: The Saints' offense cleaned up its red zone problems on Sunday, scoring touchdowns on three of its first four trips inside the 20. And their 31-point outburst was by far their best offensive showing to date. Quarterback Drew Brees said it still wasn’t perfect, because they lagged for a long stretch in the middle of the game. But he was especially happy with the way they finished strong, scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Brees and go-to guys Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston were especially solid.

Run down: The biggest issue with the offense remains the run game. The Saints finished with a season-high 104 rushing yards, nearly half of which came on the final drive, but they started way too slow. They had a total of minus-5 yards on just three carries in the first half (not counting a kneel-down by Brees). And primary runner Pierre Thomas had just 17 yards on his first 10 carries. Coach Sean Payton said he’s not concerned, because the Saints made a strategic -- and effective -- choice to pass against a heavy Arizona front. And players said they were happy with the in-game adjustments they made. But this was the Saints’ biggest offseason concern on the offensive side of the ball, and that still hasn’t changed.

Rookie watch: First-round safety Kenny Vaccaro continued his impressive start. Not only did he have his first career interception in the fourth quarter, but his open-field tackle against running back Stepfan Taylor to force a punt on the Cardinals’ second drive was just as impressive and important.

On the flip side, undrafted rookie guard Tim Lelito struggled in his starting debut in place of All-Pro Jahri Evans, in both pass protection and run-blocking. Lelito has impressive potential, which earned him a spot on the 53-man roster. But the Saints need Evans to heal quickly from his hamstring injury. Evans said after the game he’s hoping to be back as soon as next Monday night’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

Upon Further Review: Falcons Week 3

September, 23, 2013
An examination of the four hot issues from the Atlanta Falcons' 27-23 loss to the Miami Dolphins:

Tightening up on defense: Yes, the Falcons had five sacks, including two by Osi Umenyiora and 1.5 by Akeem Dent. Umenyiora forced a turnover that resulted in a touchdown, while William Moore thwarted a drive with an interception. But when the Falcons needed to tighten up the most, they allowed the Dolphins to march 75 yards in 13 plays for the game-winning score. The Dolphins converted three third downs along the way. And no play during the drive seemed more critical than when linebacker Joplo Bartu -- Sean Weatherspoon’s replacement -- was beaten by tight end Charles Clay for a 21-yard gain with Miami facing second-and-10 from the Atlanta 29. It’s hard to blame Stephen Nicholas for surrendering the game-winning 1-yard touchdown to tight end Dion Sims when the Falcons shouldn’t have allowed the Dolphins to drive that deep to start. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan might get scrutinized, but Nolan wasn’t the one missing tackles.

[+] EnlargeJacquizz Rodgers
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesJacquizz Rodgers led the Falcons in rushing Sunday with 86 yards on 18 carries.
Not in the zone: Falcons coach Mike Smith emphasized how his team failed in the red zone on both sides. Nothing symbolized Smith’s thoughts more than when the Falcons had first-and-10 from the Dolphins’ 11 in the second quarter and couldn’t punch it in the end zone. They settled for Matt Bryant’s 20-yard field goal rather than attempting to score a touchdown on fourth-and-1 from the 2; three points instead of seven in a game decided by four. The Falcons were 2-of-5 in red zone efficiency while the Dolphins were 3-for-3. "We know when we go against a good football team like Miami, that number has to be higher,’’ quarterback Matt Ryan said. The 3-0 Patriots are another good team the Falcons will have to be more efficient against.

In the running: How did the Falcons respond with Steven Jackson sidelined by a hamstring injury? Well, Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling simply combined for 139 rushing yards on 29 carries as each averaged 4.8 yards per carry. Snelling also caught four passes for 58 yards, including a 7-yard score off a shovel pass from Ryan. More impressive was the number of yards each player gained after contact. Their production means the Falcons don’t have to rush Jackson back too soon. And even when Jackson returns, the Falcons can spread carries around to preserve his body for the duration of the season.

On the line: Left guard Justin Blalock promised the line was focused on keeping Ryan clean. The quarterback didn’t get sacked Sunday after absorbing five sacks in the first two games. Ryan helped his own cause by getting the ball out quickly. Not to mention Dolphins pass-rush specialist Cameron Wake played only 13 snaps while nursing a knee injury. However, the line overall played solidly. Blalock threw a crushing block on Snelling’s touchdown, and new starting right tackle Jeremy Trueblood overcame a rough start. Lamar Holmes, who shifted to left tackle after two games on the right side, had his moments. But Holmes also allowed 6-foot-6 defensive end Dion Jordan to get pressure on Ryan in the final moments. Jordan hit Ryan’s arm, leading to game-clinching interception by safety Jimmy Wilson.

Upon Further Review: Panthers Week 3

September, 23, 2013
An examination of five hot issues from the Carolina Panthers' 38-0 victory over the New York Giants:

[+] EnlargeBrandon LaFell
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsComing in with just four catches on the season, Panthers wide receiver Brandon LaFell was a playmaker against the Giants with two touchdown grabs.
Playmakers make plays: That was the mantra by coach Ron Rivera after the last-second loss to Buffalo. It apparently took. Defensive end Greg Hardy had three sacks after getting none in the first two games and the front four collected six of the team's seven sacks. The much-maligned secondary allowed a completion percentage of 52 percent after giving up 72.2 percent to Seattle and Buffalo. Quarterback Cam Newton rushed for a touchdown and threw for three. Wide receiver Brandon LaFell had two TD catches after coming in with four catches. You get the picture.

Fourth-and-what? Rivera took a lot of grief last week for not gambling on fourth-and-1 from the Buffalo 21 with 1:42 remaining and a three-point lead. So when the Panthers went for it on fourth-and-1 from the New York 2 with 2:38 left in the first quarter of a 0-0 game, the fans cheered. What they didn't know was Rivera initially kept the offense on the field because he thought Carolina got the first down on the play before. But since the offense already was there and the defense was playing well, Rivera decided "we're going for it anyway." The Panthers not only got the first down, they got the touchdown. They also went for it on fourth-and-8 from the New York 31 with 4:02 remaining. They ran up the middle for a yard. It wasn't a gamble. It was a mercy play.

Inside the Chase: For two weeks, linebacker Chase Blackburn wondered when he would get on the field for a defensive snap. It finally happened against his former team. Blackburn played 17 snaps, or 33 percent of the plays. That was good news for Jon Beason, who has been struggling coming off knee surgery. He played only one snap a week after playing 31. The Panthers also took advantage of Blackburn's knowledge of the Giants. "When you have a guy who knows the other team and you sit there and you listen to him when he is watching tape, before the play even happens he calls the play," Rivera said.

Don't forget DeAngelo: Amidst Newton's four touchdowns and a stifling defense, Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams rushed for a season-high 120 yards on 23 carries. He's averaging 97 yards rushing in three games, which puts him on pace for 1,552 yards. The good news is he may not have to carry the load much longer. Rivera says Jonathan Stewart is on schedule to return from the PUP list after two more games. "Double Trouble" could be back.

Out of deep trouble: Newton was 3-for-12 on passes of 15 yards or more before Sunday. After starting 0-for-5 against the Giants he completed his last five passes of that length for three touchdowns. Two went to LaFell, who has been criticized for not being more of a go-to guy as the No. 2 receiver. “It’s great because it gets people to stop coming down on him, saying he’s not doing his job,” said Steve Smith, the No. 1 receiver.

Upon Further Review: Vikings Week 3

September, 23, 2013
An examination of four hot issues after the Minnesota Vikings' 31-27 loss to the Cleveland Browns:

[+] EnlargeChristian Ponder
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsDespite returning five starters on the offensive line, the Vikings couldn't stop the Browns from sacking quarterback Christian Ponder six times.
Line play is offensive: There's no easy explanation for why the Vikings' offensive line play has been so poor in the team's first three games. The group returned all five starters from a year ago, when it was one of the best units on the Vikings' roster. But Christian Ponder was sacked six times on Sunday, and the group was unable to open holes for Adrian Peterson, whose longest carry was 9 yards on an 88-yard afternoon. Whatever the problems are, they stretch back to the preseason, when left tackle Matt Kalil was struggling in pass protection and center John Sullivan botched a shotgun exchange with Ponder.

No pressure on Hoyer: Playing at home and facing an offensive line that had allowed 11 sacks in its first two games, the Vikings figured they'd be able to get to quarterback Brian Hoyer early and often on Sunday. But left end Jared Allen was shut down by Pro Bowl tackle Joe Thomas, and although the Vikings sacked Hoyer three times, they had to compensate for their lack of defensive line pressure by blitzing more than they usually do -- or probably would like to do. Linebacker Erin Henderson had two of the Vikings' three sacks, and his second one came on a blitz where he followed linebacker Chad Greenway. The Vikings typically are at their best when their front four is causing trouble and shielding whatever issues they have at linebacker and defensive back. But the Browns' max-protect schemes worked, and Hoyer had time to rebound from his mistakes and threw for 321 yards.

Peterson slowed again: Maybe all that chatter about fullback Jerome Felton being overpaid was off-base; the fullback, who got a three-year, $7.5 million deal in the offseason, has clearly been missed during his three-game suspension for a prior drunken-driving arrest. Peterson averaged just 3.5 yards a carry against a stout defensive front on Sunday, and without Felton to open holes for him, the running back has looked out of sorts, seeing holes close up when he's trying to turn decent gains into game-changing runs. Felton returns this week against the Steelers, and as much trouble as the Vikings have had putting Peterson in control of a game, they'll be happy to have their Pro Bowl fullback again.

Embarrassing day for special teams: Vikings special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer was upset enough about his group allowing Bears kick returner Devin Hester to rack up a NFL-record 249 yards in Week 2. One can only guess what he's saying to the Vikings' special teamers this week after defensive back Josh Aubrey gained 34 yards on a fake punt and punter Spencer Lanning threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron on a fake field goal that turned out to give the Browns their margin of victory. Coach Leslie Frazier said after the game that the Vikings simply "didn't recognize" the fake field goal, and Aubrey wound up being the Browns' leading rusher because of the fake punt. One can make the argument that those two plays cost the Vikings the game.

Upon Further Review: Giants Week 3

September, 23, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the New York Giants' 38-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers:

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
AP Photo/Mike McCarnEli Manning has been sacked 11 times this season and has been knocked down 22 times.
Beatty beaten: The entire offensive line was miserable in a game in which quarterback Eli Manning was sacked seven times, but the worst game of all belonged to left tackle Will Beatty, who admitted he let the first sack he allowed stick with him too long and affect his play later in the game. The Giants signed Beatty to a five-year, $37.5 million contract ($19 million guaranteed) this offseason on the premise that he'd be their franchise left tackle. But so far this year I've seen sloppy technique, particularly inconsistent hand placement that opposing defenders are exploiting. Beatty isn't a big, mauling left tackle. When he's great, it's due to his superior athleticism and sound technique. When the technique suffers, he becomes extremely vulnerable, especially to pass-rushers as good as the ones in Carolina.

Rookie struggling, too: On the right side, first-round pick Justin Pugh wasn't necessarily supposed to be starting at this point. But a preseason injury to David Diehl elevated the rookie to the starting role, and he got eaten up Sunday, as well. I continue to believe Pugh is talented and will be a valuable part of the Giants' offensive line as the front office reworks it in the coming years. I think the reason they drafted him is because they do not know what their line needs will be in 2014 and beyond, and they believe he can play multiple positions on the line. Some folks said before the draft that Pugh profiled as an NFL guard, not a tackle, and that may be the case. Right now, his classroom is in the fire, which could help him long-term but is not helping the Giants in the present.

Sloppy with the ball: The Giants added three turnovers Sunday, bringing their season total to a league-leading 13 through three games. Factor in their four takeaways so far, and their minus-9 turnover differential is tied for the worst in the league with the 0-3 Steelers, who have committed nine turnovers and forced none. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the last time an NFL team had 13 turnovers in its first three games was 2001, when both the Lions and the Cowboys did it. (They were both 0-3, as well, surprisingly.) Last year's Giants didn't commit their 13th turnover until Week 10.

One positive. (Positive?) Yes, positive: Running back David Wilson looked the best he's looked since the preseason. Perhaps more importantly, Wilson was singled out for unsolicited praise by coach Tom Coughlin in the postgame news conference. The called-back touchdown cannot be counted, since I don't think he scores without Beatty's hold. But he continues to look great running the ball. He is carrying it more securely and it is clear he is one of the Giants' highest-ceiling offensive weapons. Things could be turning around for Wilson.

Upon Further Review: Lions Week 3

September, 23, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Detroit Lions' 27-20 win over the Washington Redskins:

Playing for first: It may still be September and the season is still less than a quarter of the way complete, but Detroit has something to play for this Sunday against Chicago -- first place in the NFC North and a 3-1 September record. These are both important because the Lions start October by heading to Green Bay, a place they haven’t won in a long, long time. At least a split over the next two games could go a long way toward a potential playoff push.

[+] EnlargeJoique Bell
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesRunning back Joique Bell more than held his own in his first NFL start.
No more Washington streak: The players and coaches continued saying after Sunday’s win that ending the forever losing streak in Washington did not really matter and maybe that’s the point for this Detroit team. Maybe it is why this particular Lions team was able to avoid what had been a typical Lions collapse of the past and hold on to beat the Redskins for the first time in the Washington, D.C., metro area. It is just one of a host of storylines Detroit is trying to eliminate by the end of this season -- and getting one out of the way could be a confidence boost.

Running back depth: Detroit always seemed confident with its running back depth behind starter Reggie Bush, but the Lions got a better idea of what their offense could look like if they were to lose Bush for any portion of time the rest of the year. Joique Bell received his first career NFL start and played well enough to be a decent dual threat. Bell ran strong, often not going down on the first hit. His yards per carry wasn’t great -- 3.2 yards a rush -- but he gained 63 yards rushing and also 69 yards receiving, so the 132 total yards is decent production for a player making a spot start. Detroit has good news, too, because Bush declared after Sunday’s game he would be ready to play against Chicago this weekend. The Lions will need him for this two-game stretch against the Bears and Packers.

Strong defensive line play: There was never really much question that if Detroit’s defensive line could stay healthy, it might be one of the best units in the NFL. Through three weeks -- and even with a season-ending injury to Jason Jones on Sunday -- the Lions’ defensive line has been dominant. That starts with Ndamukong Suh. He may not be putting up huge numbers, but he is consistently pressuring opposing quarterbacks. The play of ends Willie Young and Ziggy Ansah has been the biggest benefit for the Detroit defensive line, as both have shown good speed on the edges and the ability to get to the quarterback. They have combined for 3.5 sacks in the first three games and many more quarterback hurries.

Upon Further Review: Rams Week 3

September, 23, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the St. Louis Rams31-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

Falling behind: Getting off to a slow start has been an ongoing problem for the Rams in the first two weeks, but they raised (lowered?) the bar on themselves Sunday in Dallas.

[+] EnlargeAustin Pettis
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsWide receiver Austin Pettis, who had two receptions for 20 yards and one touchdown, reacts to the Rams' Week 3 loss in Dallas.
At halftime, the Rams trailed 17-0 with only 18 yards of offense and a single first down while having allowed allowed 202 yards and 12 first downs. It’s hard to pinpoint why the Rams can’t get off to a good start, but it’s a problem they better fix in a hurry.

Defensive regression?: The Rams were off to a good start defending the run in the first two weeks, limiting Arizona and Atlanta to 61 yards per game on an average of 2.9 yards per carry. Dallas running back DeMarco Murray erased any of that goodwill by trampling the Rams once again with 175 yards and a touchdown.

Pass defense was the primary issue for the Rams in the first two games, but the Cowboys didn’t even need to attack St. Louis through the air. Supposedly the strength of the team this season, the Rams' defense has shown more signs of regression than progress through three weeks.

Running in place: Starting running back Daryl Richardson left the game early after aggravating a foot injury and did not return. No matter, the running game picked up where it left off in the first two weeks, which is to say it was essentially nonexistent for the third week in a row.

Yes, the Rams fell behind early and were forced to throw to try to catch up, but even before that, the Rams showed no signs of a running game ready to break out. They attempted 12 runs and gained 35 yards, with the longest rush coming on an 11-yard gain by Isaiah Pead.

Suddenly, Steven Jackson “only” rushing for in the neighborhood of 1,000 yards doesn’t sound so bad.

Special flags: Jeff Fisher didn’t agree with the majority of the four special teams penalties that went against his team last week in Atlanta, and it remains to be seen how he’ll feel about the three more that went against the Rams on Sunday.

Nevertheless, those penalties happened, and this time, they were even more costly because the Rams earned two apparent infractions that wiped out a punt return for a touchdown by Tavon Austin. Field position remains a problem, and the biggest reason for it continues to be the team’s penalty issues.

Upon Further Review: Cowboys Week 3

September, 23, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Dallas Cowboys' 31-7 win against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

Scoring early: The Cowboys have put up points on their first drive in every game so far this season but scored a touchdown for the first time Sunday when Tony Romo hit Dez Bryant from 2 yards. But it was the touchdown on the Cowboys’ first drive of the second half that put the game away. Thanks to DeMarco Murray’s legs (59 yards) and Romo’s right arm (24-yard TD to Gavin Escobar), they put the game away for a 24-0 lead.

[+] EnlargeOrlando Scandrick
James D. Smith/AP PhotoCowboys CB Orlando Scandrick sacks Rams QB Sam Bradford for his first sack of the 2013 season.
“Obviously, the game wasn’t over at that point, but it’s a tough one to come back from that amount,” Romo said. “We knew getting the ball that we had a chance to really put some pressure on them to make them become one-dimensional right away.”

Running from the spread: The Cowboys do not have a fullback on their roster and prefer to use multiple-tight end packages, but Murray’s work out of “11 personnel” showed you what worked best for the Cowboys.

Murray had 15 runs for 101 yards when the Cowboys used three wide receivers. His longest run of the game -- a 41-yarder -- came out of “12 personnel" (two tight ends), but that was the only carry of more than 10 yards he had out of that grouping.

Sack-master: The Rams entered Sunday as the only offense to not allow a sack but left Sunday having given up six. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick started it off with a blitz off the slot to bring down Sam Bradford. Scandrick has 7.5 sacks for his career, which is the fourth most in team history by a defensive back.

“He’s got good timing, and he wants to be around that football,” coach Jason Garrett said.

Nice comeback: If Garrett is looking for a teachable moment, he can point to second-year defensive end Kyle Wilber. With 3:19 left in the second quarter, Wilber was blindsided on a punt return by T.J. McDonald and needed medical attention.

In the fourth quarter, Wilber was able to record the first sack of his career when he dropped Bradford for a 10-yard loss.

Upon Further Review: Bucs Week 3

September, 23, 2013
An examination of four hot issues from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 23-3 loss to the New England Patriots:

Freeman’s future: After the season-opening loss to the New York Jets, I laid out a hypothetical scenario for quarterback Josh Freeman to be replaced by rookie Mike Glennon coming out of the bye week. Well, that scenario seems to be becoming more plausible. If the Bucs lose to Arizona on Sunday, they’ll be 0-4 heading into their bye week. As long as the Bucs stay winless, coach Greg Schiano is going to have to start thinking about saving his own job. His best bet to buy another season might be inserting Glennon and hoping the rookie shows some promise.

[+] EnlargeGreg Schiano
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesFans are already calling for Greg Schiano to be fired after an 0-3 start.
Schiano’s future: During our in-game chat Sunday, a lot of fans were very vocal in saying Schiano should be fired after (and some were saying during) this season if things don’t change dramatically. The thing to keep in mind is that Schiano has three more years on his contract. Unless things continue to go really badly, ownership likely will be hesitant to fire him.

A kicking dilemma: The Bucs basically are on their third kicker and they soon could be on their fourth. Rian Lindell has missed a field goal attempt in each of the last two games and both have hurt the Bucs badly. Connor Barth was supposed to be Tampa Bay’s kicker, but he suffered a torn Achilles tendon in an offseason charity basketball game. The Bucs replaced him with Lawrence Tynes, who came down with a staph infection and will miss the season. Lindell is a veteran who has made some big kicks in his career. But there are other experienced kickers available and the Bucs have to decide if they’re going to stick with Lindell.

Nothing from the tight ends: The Bucs got two catches for 9 yards from their tight ends against the Patriots. They need more production out of that position because it would take some of the defensive attention from Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. But there might be some reason for hope. Schiano said Tom Crabtree, who probably is Tampa Bay’s best pass-catching tight end, is progressing well from his ankle injury. Crabtree isn’t going to fix all that ails the offense, but he can make it a little more diversified.

Upon Further Review: 49ers Week 3

September, 23, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the San Francisco 49ers' 27-7 loss to the Indianapolis Colts:

Time without Smith: It takes a major story to overshadow a second straight blowout loss by the defending NFC champion. After Sunday’s loss, star pass rusher Aldon Smith vowed to restore his personal life. Team CEO Jed York announced Smith is leaving the team for an indefinite amount of time. Smith, who turns 24 Wednesday, was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving Friday morning. He is expected to seek treatment.

[+] EnlargeSan Francisco's Patrick Willis
AP Photo/Ben MargotPatrick Willis left Sunday's game with a groin injury. The 49ers have a quick turnaround with a game on Thursday.
Banged-up stars: Smith may not be the only key 49er not on the field Thursday night at St. Louis as they try to stop the bleeding. Star tight end Vernon Davis missed Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. It was his first missed game in six years. Also, late in the third quarter, star inside linebacker Patrick Willis left with a groin injury. It will be very difficult for him to return on a short week. Michael Wilhoite would likely replace Willis.

Kaepernick looks lost: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was brilliant in Week 1 at home against Green Bay. But his production has sagged in the past two games. He looked rattled, lacked confidence and was far from the superstar he looked like two weeks ago. It’s not all Kaepernick’s fault. The 49ers’ receivers, other than Anquan Boldin, did not help him Sunday against the Colts and Kaepernick missed Davis. But here’s the deal: Elite quarterbacks find a way to get the job done in bad situations. Kaepernick needs to show he can.

Run defense sags: For years, the 49ers’ toughness has been represented by their stout run defense. Sunday, the Colts had their way on the ground. They ran for 179 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. It was the highest mark the 49ers allowed in three seasons. Two years ago, San Francisco allowed three rushing touchdowns all season.