Complete Week 3 Results
Sure was a weird Sunday, which you always know is going to happen in the NFL. But put aside the Colts getting blown out by New England. Or Cleveland going on the road to beat Jacksonville. Focus on the two games that should give us a vision of how this season could play out.
In my mind, the Super Bowl favorites have emerged: Baltimore and St. Louis.
It's a long season. Still, I have a feeling that the two most recent Super Bowl champions served notice that they could be on a collision course.
The Ravens' 20-13 come-from-behind victory over the Broncos was just as impressive as the Rams' resounding 42-10 win over the Dolphins.
It's a long season. A lot can happen. Still, I have a feeling that the two most recent Super Bowl champions (Ravens and Rams) served notice that they could be on a collision course.
That's why we should pay attention to the decision on the site of Super Bowl XXXVI. If the game is in New Orleans, the Rams would have an edge in the Superdome. If the game is moved to Giants Stadium, outdoors in February, it might be an advantage to the Ravens. If it's in sunny Pasadena, Calif., at the Rose Bowl, it might be even up.
Sure, that's a great leap forward so early in the season. But it is my thought for the day.
49ers 19, Jets 17: When Charlie Garner made his exit via free agency, it put a big question mark on the 49ers. Would this 49ers team that was going forward in a rebuilding stage take a step back because of Garner's absence? Could Garrison Hearst truly come back? Would Jeff Garcia be the same QB? Now we have some early indicators that the 49ers will be fine. They will be fine because Steve Mariucci and staff can coach, and the franchise obviously has regained its touch of finding good young talent, such as RB Kevan Barlow, a third-round pick who showed his promise Monday night with 83 yards on nine carries. Hearst added 95 yards (20 carries) as Mariucci clearly went into this night with a game plan that dictated the 49ers must run the football. The offensive line dominated the Jets. Meanwhile, Garcia just managed the game and made plays when the 49ers needed them.
It had to be a discouraging night for the Jets. Nothing can break a team's spirit more than to see an opponent shove the ball down your throat at will. Sure, DT Jason Ferguson's season-ending injury hurts, but this soft defense was beyond that. The Jets looked like a team that stayed away from the weight room in the offseason. Yeah, they looked weak. The 49ers looked strong.
Ravens 20, Broncos 13: Elvis Grbac led the Baltimore comeback, and while he is no John Elway, the same might be said for Brian Griese -- at least at this stage. Grbac overcame a bonehead interception to Chester McGlockton -- of all people -- that basically gave Denver a 7-0 lead.
After that, the Ravens' great defense stoned them. They pretty much shut down the running game (61 yards). They had five sacks, a bunch of hurries on Griese and produced three turnovers. Think about it. The Ravens trailed 13-7 late in the third quarter at Mile High (Invesco Field) and had plenty of oxygen left to overcome a Broncos team many, myself included, have projected for the Super Bowl.
|Rams QB Kurt Warner went 24-of-31 for 328 yards and four touchdowns Sunday vs. the Dolphins.|
Grbac probably won a lot of fans Sunday. Every throw he made when it counted was with accuracy, including the two TD passes to Qadry Ismail and Travis Taylor, who looks like he's ready to make a contribution. The Ravens also showed a resolve with the running game (116 yards). This was mighty impressive.
Griese shouldn't be slighted -- he competed like a champ -- but the Ravens did show that the Broncos quarterback needs a two-dimensional run-and-pass attack to be highly effective. Elway could overcome almost any circumstance to make plays when everyone knew he had to make 'em. Griese struggled a bit. He needed help and he didn't really get it from his O-line or from his receivers. This game also showed what everyone suspected -- the Broncos will miss Ed McCaffrey. His replacement, Eddie Kennison, had a chance to make plays in the clutch and could not do it.
Next up, another heavyweight bout: Ravens vs. Titans in Baltimore. More fun.
Rams 42, Dolphins 10: Mike Martz has always contended that Kurt Warner is even better than most of us think. The Dolphins will now take the witness stand in his defense, too. In fact, they mentioned Warner in the same breath as two all-time greats -- Dan Marino and John Elway. Said Dolphins DT Daryl Gardener: "We retired something like that -- name of Marino. I never thought I'd see it again." Then All-Pro CB Sam Madison said Warner was the best QB he had faced since Elway in the '99 playoffs.
The Dolphins, to a man, marveled at the depth of the Rams' talent and playbook. They saw formations and shifts they'd never seen before, which prompted Zach Thomas to joke late in the game with Az-Zahir Hakim, "How many plays ya'll got in that playbook?" Truth is, more than anybody. Martz told me Monday morning that he puts in about 70 new plays each week -- which is why Warner takes basically every snap in practice. How can they do it? "It's all variations of what we already do, obviously, and they all stay true to our concepts," the coach said. "It's all about our concepts." Well, it's also all about the Rams' talent, too.
Patriots 44, Colts 13: Speechless. You can't explain it. Well, according to the Patriots, you can. The Pats rushed three men on Peyton Manning and dropped eight into coverage, or as Peyton explained after the game, it looked like "15 guys into coverage." If a receiver bobbles or tips a ball, it's got a chance to get intercepted, which is how two Manning picks were returned for touchdowns. (However, I will say that the Colts' offense showed no tackling or pursuit skills). The most troubling statistic for the Colts came on the defensive side: The Patriots' previous meager running game produced 177 yards rushing.
Packers 28, Panthers 7: You know, this was a more impressive win than the Packers had over the Lions and Redskins. Those were home games against bad teams. I don't think the Panthers are a bad team. A lot went wrong for the Pack in the first half, and they could have used it has an excuse to fold on the road. But Brett Favre rebounded with three second-half TD passes, and the Packers' defense clamped down on the Panthers.
Otherwise, the commentary for this game should be about the shoddy, soddy field at Ericsson Stadium. It was a disgrace. New sod put down three weeks ago to compensate for a bad field not managed properly in spring or summer was a total failure. Neither team could muster a running game because linemen and backs could barely get their footing. Two key injuries may have been linked to the turf. The Packers lost a valuable nickel defensive back, Antuan Edwards, who apparently blew out a knee. Some Panthers attributed a broken tibia suffered by rookie linebacker Dan Morgan to the huge divots on the field. The Panthers' next home game is Oct. 14 against New Orleans. The league and NFL Players Association should seriously consider moving the game, unless some wizard comes up with something professional and safe.
Chiefs 45, Redskins 13: Excuse me, Chiefs fans, while I briefly rant about the Redskins. This is what you bought for yourself, Daniel Snyder. What everybody can see is a bunch of high-priced players who lack respect for themselves and the game. They might blame their sorry attitude on new coach Marty Schottenheimer, but ultimately the players must be accountable for their own efforts in preparation and game day. Schottenheimer started purging players last week with Jeff George, and he must systematically trim the fat cats one week at a time, knowing the salary cap is killing him. The Washington Post cites sources as saying Snyder has no plans to fire Schottenheimer. That's how bad it is: Three games under his belt, and Marty is open to speculation about his job.
|Trent Green turned his game around this week, throwing for three touchdowns in the Chiefs' victory.|
This much I know: Something has to happen. Somebody has to go if this keeps up. I wonder if Schottenheimer remembered to thank Dick Vermeil for getting him into this mess -- Vermeil convinced his pal that taking the Redskins job was perfectly OK.
Chargers 28, Bengals 14: It's interesting that LaDainian Tomlinson's football role model has been Emmitt Smith, because I guarantee you Smith sure would like to change places with the rookie. Tomlinson has Emmitt's favorite offensive coordinator -- Norv Turner. Trust me, this combination of Turner and L.T. will produce the type of running game that will take the heat off Doug Flutie. The Chargers can learn a lesson from the Bengals, however. The Bengals appeared to get a little too full of their 2-0 start. I think Chargers coach Mike Riley will make clear to his team that there is no picnic ahead with road games at Cleveland and New England.
Vikings 20, Bucs 16: No, this game doesn't surprise me, either. The Vikings were bound to put together a decent game, especially at home against a division rival like the Bucs. I liked the game plan with Daunte Culpepper playing little ball instead of big ball. The Vikings moved the chains. Culpepper made high percentage throws. Cris Carter made his once-in-a-lifetime grab, which he does at least once a year. On the flip side, the Bucs know what the deal is. You can't just keep kicking field goals. The first drive should have netted a TD. Blame it on Brad Johnson? I don't think so. No, I'm not writing off the Bucs. But I am going to pay special attention to their next two games against the Packers and Titans.
Giants 21, Saints 13: I might have underestimated the Giants somewhat. Jim Fassel does a great job of preparing his team, and defensive coordinator John Fox continues to scheme with the best. The Giants aren't very sexy right now, but they have bounced back from their Denver loss with two nice wins over the Chiefs and Saints. I was a little surprised the Saints didn't have more success running with Ricky Williams, but I'll chalk that up to Fox. Ron Dayne (111 yards) won the battle of former Heisman Trophy backs. The Saints have a very interesting home game Sunday with the Vikings. The Giants get to relax -- here come the sorry Redskins, although Fassel will make sure they don't relax too much.
A final thought on the officiating: Let the guys play. True, you got the last call right when Willie Jackson pushed off in the end zone, but the replacement officials got it right earlier -- too many flags is bad football for the fans.
Steelers 20, Bills 3: Listen, Buffalo fans, Doug Flutie might have had the same frustration as Rob Johnson did Sunday. The Bills' depleted O-line went without both starting tackles, John Fina and Jonas Jennings, and lost Fina's backup, Kris Farris, in the first quarter. And, clearly, the late preseason injury to Jerry Ostroski has proven costly. Excuses? I guess, but legitimate ones. But as Lou Holtz likes to say, about 90 percent of the people don't want to hear your complaints, and the other 10 percent are glad you have them. I would include the Steelers and Bill Cowher in that 10 percent.
Raiders 38, Seahawks 14: Did you know the Seahawks had more total yards (348-344) and more first downs (21-17) than the Raiders? Did you know that statistics can sometimes be misleading? Ugly game again for Seattle. Matt Hasselbeck now can appreciate why NFL starting quarterbacks get the big money. It's the toughest job in football and maybe in all of sports. The next toughest job isn't close. The Raiders flexed their muscle but appeared to have suffered a major injury for the second straight week -- DE Trace Armstrong was believed to have ruptured his Achilles tendon. Last week, center Barret Robbins (one of the best) was lost for the year with a knee injury.
Browns 23, Jaguars 14: Here's what I already knew -- Butch Davis is a heck of a coach who will always have the Browns well-prepared and playing their butts off; and Tom Coughlin can't afford to play without Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor and Tony Boselli. That's what happened here. The Browns were 2-1 at this point a year ago, so they won't get too excited. But it does feel like a real good 2-1. The Jaguars probably don't feel quite as good about their 2-1, unless Brunell, Boselli and Taylor recover quickly.
Falcons 34, Cardinals 14: Dan Reeves would have been feeling real good about this one, except that Jamal Anderson's left knee buckled without contact. Otherwise, the Falcons were the picture of efficiency in absolutely smothering an Arizona team high on hope but short on talent. Maurice Smith filled in capably for Anderson, and likely will share the load with Rodney Thomas in future weeks. QB Chris Chandler looked exceptionally sharp, as he can, and obviously comfortable without having to leave the game for Michael Vick, who was sidelined with a back injury. Next up, the Falcons host the Bears. The side attraction I'll be watching: The two best middle linebackers in the NFC -- Brian Urlacher (Bears) and Keith Brooking (Falcons).
Eagles 40, Cowboys 18: Well, obviously the Eagles are real good. And, obviously, the Cowboys are real bad. I am glad for Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb. I am sad for Dave Campo and Emmitt Smith. As one excellent NFL head coach told me Monday, "It's embarrassing that an NFL team with a class runner like Emmitt would stick him with that quarterback situation."