1) Though there were stars missing from the opening credits, this was still the Sunday night showdown that was hoped for when the schedule was released. All-time contemporaries Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees looked like their surefire future Hall of Fame selves and the Packers continued an impressive run to start the season, improving to 3-0, as Rodgers was spotless with three touchdowns and 280-plus yards. Brees' stat line almost mirrored Rodgers, with another record a footnote on the night. The Saints are 1-2 and scrutiny will continue, but this was a far better squad than the one which took the field in Las Vegas six evening earlier. No, this was a good Saints team that was not as good as the Packers (3-0) on this night. Green Bay was the NFC runner-up last year, but many were never quite won over. With Rodgers looking like the MVP from falls before, this Packers team already looks better than it did a season ago and though it is tied atop the NFC North, is clearly the class of the division and one of the NFC's early frontrunners.
2) Maybe it was forgotten during a 2019 campaign in which he was hampered by injuries, but Alvin Kamara is a great running back. Not good, but great, and he's been such for quite a while. Seemingly always absent from the discussion of who's the very best among NFL running backs, Kamara continues to go about his business, a dual threat with a smooth game who can seemingly do it all even though you really don't notice as much as you should. Sunday night was that reminder. As the Saints continue looking for a receiver to step up in Michael Thomas' absence, Kamara is just doing more. He had a game-high 13 catches for a team-high 139 yards with two scores and 58 yards rushing on just six carries. In case you forgot, Kamara's one of the best in the game.
3) With no Michael Thomas or Davante Adams, each team had a colossal vacancy at the No. 1 receiver spot. Green Bay was the team which had somebody step into a larger role and shine. That was Allen Lazard, who had a huge 72-yard gain as part of a six-catch, 146-yard, one-TD night. This isn't Lazard's first big game. If the Packers are to truly become a contender, Lazard truly becoming a go-to guy whether with or without Adams in the lineup could be crucial. As for the Saints, contributions here and there from Emmanuel Sanders and Tre'Quan Smith need to become bigger and more consistent -- with or without Thomas.
-- Grant Gordon
1) Russell Wilson has now cooked enough to allow us to officially refer to him as executive chef. Wilson became the first quarterback in the history of the NFL -- which is in its 101st season, mind you -- to throw for four or more touchdowns in each of his team's first three games Sunday, cementing his current standing as the hottest quarterback in the NFL. DK Metcalf was starting to grow little bumps that could've become horns by Sunday evening because of his goal line fumble when Wilson eyed him and lofted a well-placed pass to the second-year receiver for the go-ahead touchdown. The connection between Wilson and Tyler Lockett is producing at an incredible clip. When Dallas took a one-point lead with a Greg Zuerlein field goal, it felt as if it was only a matter of time before Russ once again entered the kitchen and started cooking. He produced yet another five-star meal in Week 3.
2) The Seahawks are 3-0, but they're going to need help from some unlikely contributors going forward after sustaining multiple key injuries Sunday. We'll have to pay attention to the status of Chris Carson (knee), Jamal Adams (groin), Quinton Dunbar (inactive Sunday with a knee injury) and Jordyn Brooks (knee), among others in the weeks ahead. All but one of the aforementioned losses occurred on the defensive side of the ball, and their absences were evident late when Dallas found the going easier, putting up 16 points in the final quarter. Thankfully for Seattle, a sack by rookie Alton Robinson and a near-sack by Benson Mayowa (both via three-man rushes) effectively put an end to Dallas' offensive aspirations. That might not be enough against a better opponent, especially in a full game.
3) This wasn't a bad loss for the Cowboys, but there were some concerning notes, including Mike McCarthy's strange (but not entirely uncommon) clock-management strategy near the end of the half that forced urgency from Dallas' offense and resulted in a Dak Prescott interception. There was also the play of replacement left tackle Brandon Knight, whose struggles were magnified by the untimely sack of Prescott by Robinson late in the fourth. In all, Dallas should be encouraged by how competitive it was against a red-hot Seahawks team, as well as the way Prescott spread the ball among multiple targets (Michael Gallup and Ced Wilson each broke 100 yards receiving, and CeeDee Lamb was an important player late). In a different scenario, perhaps Prescott isn't forced to throw 57 times, instead allowing Ezekiel Elliott to establish a rhythm. These Cowboys still look better than they did last season, and in an NFC East that appears to be weak for the second straight season, that's good news.
-- Nick Shook
1) Dan Quinn's team is authoring a doctorate thesis on ways to lose big leads. Once again, the Falcons built a double-digit fourth-quarter lead and watched it slowly whittle away. The Falcons owned a 26-10 lead in the fourth quarter with a chance to extend the lead or at least take some time off the clock. They did neither. Younghoe Koo missed a field goal early in the quarter. The next three drives took a combined 2:58 off the clock: 1:36, three-and-out; 1:00, three-and-out; 0:22, three-and-out. Despite the Bears dropping a potential TD on a fourth down and missing a two-point try, Atlanta still lost its fourth-quarter lead. The defense remained a sieve. More stunning, the offense couldn't move the ball in the final period (with seven straight incompletions from Matt Ryan at one point) and questionable play-calling. Clearly, the Falcons didn't trust their RBs to churn the clock. Quinn's tenure in Atlanta feels like it can't survive these back-to-back ridiculous collapses.
2) Matt Nagy watched Mitchell Trubisky struggle for stretches early, and badly misread a zone defense that led to an INT early in the third quarter. The Bears coach had seen enough from the up-and-down QB. Nagy, looking for a spark down two scores, turned to Nick Foles. It took time for the veteran to gain his stride, looking like a QB who didn't see a ton of practice reps with his wideouts. Once he found a groove, however, Foles ran the offense with more pace and got the ball out on time, where Trubisky hesitates. The chemistry isn't built yet, but Foles gave his wideouts a chance to make plays, including Allen Robinson, who earned 123 yards on 10 catches and a TD (and almost had another that was ripped away by Darqueze Dennard in the end zone). Foles finished 16-of-29 passing for 188 yards, three TDs and one INT in less than two quarters. With the ground game stymied for the first time this season, the Bears needed Foles' precision passing to score three straight TDs in the final 10 minutes to steal the win. While Trubisky also led a comeback in Week 1, it feels like this was a change for the future in Chicago. Foles runs the offense much more fluidly and how Nagy envisions.
3) With Julio Jones out and Russell Gage hurt early in the tilt, the Falcons relied on Calvin Ridley, who is proving he can be a No. 1 target. As with all things Atlanta, however, it fell apart late. Ridley compiled 110 yards on five catches early in the third quarter. He didn't have a catch the rest of the way despite 13 total targets. Credit the Bears back end adjusting, knowing Ryan's other receivers couldn't pick up the slack. Chicago took advantage of the Falcons missing linemen up front, battering Ryan often. Akiem Hicks generated a whopping five QB hits and 1.5 sacks. Khalil Mack was a monster off the edge, earning two QB hits, half a sack, and disrupted many more plays. The Bears gave up chunk plays early. Once they took those away, the Falcons offense was dead in the water. And Atlanta couldn't adjust.
-- Kevin Patra
1) The expected mismatch between the Steelers pass rush and the much-maligned pass protection of the Texans offensive line played out how one might expect -- Blitzburgh notched five sacks and Texans QB Deshaun Watson often had to put his near-magical escapability to use. The only real bright spot for Houston was the protection Watson got on a crucial TD drive at the end of the first half. Houston kept him clean on a five-play, 75-yard drive that took only 50 seconds and gave the Texans a 21-17 lead entering the half. Short of that, however, the Texans are back to the drawing board on pass protection. An improved rushing attack might be a big help, but Houston's running game was non-existent for the second week in a row.
2) The first-ever meeting of the Watt brothers in the same NFL game -- Houston's J.J. and Pittsburgh's T.J. and Derek -- resulted in family bragging rights for T.J. While the Steelers offensive line kept J.J., the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year, largely in check, T.J. Watt finished with a sack, two tackles for loss, and was generally a pain the Texans' neck. He forced an incompletion with heavy pressure on Watson on the first play of the game, leading to a three-and-out, and consistently worked his way into the Texans backfield. Derek, the Steelers' fullback, exited with a hamstring injury.
3) James Conner was not the tonic a beleaguered Texans run defense needed. The fourth-year pro ran wild for the Steelers, particularly in the second half when a worn down Houston defense began yielding at the point of attack. He's well-suited as a power runner behind a physical offensive front, which sets up QB Ben Roethlisberger nicely for play-action. It marked Conner's second consecutive game over the 100-yard and 6-ypc marks, and Roethlisberger found him in the passing game for another 40 yards receiving. Meanwhile, the Texans run defense, ranked 30th in the NFL entering play Sunday, showed no signs of climbing from that position.
-- Chase Goodbread
1) Backs on backs on backs. The Patriots deployed a trio of running backs in a punishing ground game galloping over a Raiders defense that was pulverized into pulp late. After starting slow, New England got the outside run going with undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor (11 carries 43 yards). The pint-sized bulldog loosened the Raiders interior by repeatedly getting to the edge. Sony Michel (9/117) then blasted up the middle. Rex Burkhead resumed his Swiss Army-knife roll, rumbling for 49 yards and two scores on six totes and led the Pats in receiving with seven catches for 49 yards and another score. New England once again proved it can change game plans by the week flawlessly. In Week 1, Cam Newton led the ground game. In Week 2, the QB threw more and accounted for 95% of the yards. In Week 3, the Pats rushed for 250 total yards, with Newton gaining just 27 yards on the ground and throwing for 162. With Newton's versatility, the 2020 Patriots can move the ball in a myriad of different ways.
2) Darren Waller entered the week after a dominant Monday night performance and was second in the NFL in targets and receptions. New England wiped him out. As is Bill Belichick's MO, New England forced the Raiders to go elsewhere. Waller had just one target and zero catches through three quarters. He finished with two catches for nine yards on four targets. The Pats used a variety of bodies to keep the TE quiet, from double coverage with a safety over the top, to deploying DPOY Stephon Gilmore, to 6-foot-3 DB Joejuan Williams. With Waller blanketed, Derek Carr held the ball far too long and was forced to either check down or eat it.
3) Jon Gruden's team is going to kick itself for blown opportunities early that allowed the Pats to run away with the game. Vegas lost three fumbles on the day (including a game-sealing one by Carr in the end zone) and missed a field goal. The Raiders had a chance to pounce early, holding a 103-38 first-quarter advantage in yards, but held just a 3-0 lead. Eventually, the Pats run game ate up a defense that started off strong. There were some bright spots for Vegas, including a flawless end-of-half drive that took 28 seconds to go 75 yards for a TD. The margin for error, however, is too small at this time to overcome the missed opportunities.
-- Kevin Patra
1) We might never know what a technically sound Josh Allen looks like, but who cares? Now in his third year, the Buffalo quarterback's play is at once exhilarating and exasperating. Never was it more evident than Sunday, when he led four consecutive TD drives to open a 28-3 lead, then unraveled long enough to help the Rams engineer a furious comeback, then snatched the win with a three-yard TD pass to Tyler Kroft with the final seconds ticking away. His unorthodox style only gets more fun to witness. One sequence in particular drove that truth home when Allen, on a second-quarter TD drive, slung a 39-yard completion to Gabe Davis while on the run, throwing off balance, and with no pressure from the Rams pass rush anywhere near him. It would've been easy to set his feet, but doing so couldn't have placed the ball in Davis' hands any more accurately. A few plays later, Allen burrowed into the end zone on an option keeper for the Bills' second TD.
2) If the rib injury to Rams rookie RB Cam Akers hampers him on an ongoing basis, the L.A. rushing attack should still hold up just fine. Darrell Henderson shredded the Bills defense with decisive cuts that got him into the Bills secondary on numerous runs. Credit the Rams offensive line for opening some nice lanes, but Henderson picked up plenty of yards on unblocked defenders with a quick, slashing style. What was expected to be more of a platoon between Henderson and Malcom Brown ended up being Henderson's show: He finished with 114 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown.
3) The Bills are for real. After knocking off less impressive foes in the Jets and Dolphins to start the season, the Rams were supposed to have been a far stiffer test. For nearly three quarters, they weren't. But in taking the Rams' best second-half punch – Los Angeles took its only lead of the game late in the fourth quarter to cap a remarkable comeback – Buffalo regrouped and managed a game-winning TD drive despite incurring a 12-yard sack and a 15-yard penalty on the possession. The Bills defense struggled mightily in the second half and wound up allowing nearly 500 yards, but until further notice, consider this Buffalo offense good enough to carry a winning team.
-- Chase Goodbread
1) With Peyton Manning in attendance and limited fans in the stands, Tom Brady made himself at home at Mile High Stadium. He came into Sunday just 4-7 all-time in Denver. He came out of it a winner after producing three touchdowns, no interceptions, 66% completions and 297 yards. This is 43 for the purported G.O.A.T., although he made throws both vintage and wild. It's clear he's still working through timing and tendencies with his new supporting cast, but a pair of TD passes to Mike Evans looked like second nature. Brady did a lot of his damage on underneath throws, but threaded the needle downfield to O.J. Howard for a big gain amid defensive pass interference. He also connected with old friend Rob Gronkowski six times. Blocking is so last week.
2) Shaquil Barrett had been waiting for this one. The former undrafted free agent out of Colorado State built himself into an overqualified reserve in Denver, only to not receive a contract offer before heading into free agency last year. He's averaged more than a sack per game with the Buccaneers since. Barrett collected two more against his former team, including a safety to put Tampa Bay ahead by 15 in the fourth quarter. In addition, he had three tackles for loss in what was another dominant defensive performance. While the Bucs' offense is still finding its way, the defense is the primary reason Tampa Bay is 2-1.
3) Speaking of Manning, the Broncos have started eight quarterbacks since the beginning of the 2016 season. And the latest was just benched. Brett Rypien replaced a struggling Jeff Driskel in the fourth quarter and proceeded to complete his first eight passes, before getting picked off in the end zone. Blake Bortles, anyone? Rypien's sequence was actually an upgrade to Driskel, whose single touchdown drive was sandwiched between a series of three-and-outs. The Broncos weren't playing particularly well on offense with Drew Lock behind center. They've been about the same without him. And that's largely why they're 0-3.
-- Adam Maya
1) If you've been paying attention, you know this truth: Nick Chubb is very good. Chubb became the first Browns runner to break 100 yards and score two rushing touchdowns in two straight games since Hall of Famer Leroy Kelly in 1967, which was just two years after the legendary Jim Brown retired. It took Kevin Stefanski a dreadful, lifeless third quarter to finally commit to the ground game, but for the second week in a row the Browns pounded the run when it mattered most, with Chubb scoring his second touchdown of the day on a 20-yard rush to give the Browns a two-score lead. Kareem Hunt found his victories in between, gaining 46 yards on 16 carries, and made his biggest mark as a receiver, catching a touchdown pass and making an incredible grab on third down to extend a drive that allowed the Browns to burn more than five minutes of clock and tack on three points on a Cody Parkey field goal. It was tough sledding early against Washington's stellar defensive front, but these Browns continue to prove they will go as their runners go.
2) Dwayne Haskins looked like an improved quarterback in Week 1, but he took a couple of steps back Sunday that will take plenty of film study and practice field work to correct. Haskins looked more like the rookie he once was, tying a career high by tossing avoidable interceptions on three occasions and fumbling late in the fourth, allowing Cleveland a clock-eating possession that put the game away. With less than two minutes left and the Browns facing fourth down, Ron Rivera elected not to use any of his three timeouts, instead waving the white flag and accepting Sunday just was not his quarterback's day. Washington has handed the keys to the former Ohio State standout, and while he's not working with the best cast, he needs to be better than he was in Week 3.
3) It's tough to tell if the Browns are a quality football team, or just playing lesser competition in the last two weeks, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Haskins' interceptions were pretty ugly passes, and he should've had another in the first half had his teammate not played excellent defense, while Cleveland's defense again couldn't do all that much to stop Washington's progress. Myles Garrett came through with another clutch strip sack and Larry Ogunjobi again made an impact up front, but the Browns' secondary continues to have a tough time. Against better competition, the Browns likely watch their lead slip away in a loss, not a two-score victory heavily aided by mistakes made by the opposing quarterback.
-- Nick Shook
1) Nick Mullens stepped up in the absence of Jimmy Garoppolo. The 49ers backup quarterback was efficient, mistake-free and maintained order in Kyle Shanhan's system, finishing the day 25-of-36 for 343 yards and a touchdown. Mullens benefited from Shanahan's superb play-calling, but was especially accurate on crucial plays. The 49ers converted 8-of-11 third downs and attempted a score on every possession they had while their punt team never entered the game. The 49ers had the ball for nearly 40 minutes. The only negative for the 49ers offensively was the black cloud hanging over the head of veteran long snapper Kyle Nelson, who needed to be consoled after one too many low snaps, one of which resulted in a botched field goal try. He would be benched for the final PAT attempt.
2) The 49ers defense also stepped up in the face of adversity. With starting cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon inactive with an injury, the 49ers lost their other CB Emmanuel Moseley in the first quarter, but you'd hardly notice. The Niners defense held the Giants to 231 total yards for the game and out of the end zone. Linebacker Fred Warner shined, leading the team with seven tackles and an interception that prompted the 49ers to run away with the game without ever looking back. For a defense that lost Nick Bosa for the season, and currently have Arik Armstead, Dre Greenlaw, Richard Sherman and Dee Ford shelved with injuries, the backups never allowed a big play by the Giants and their mistake-free day also aided what was ultimately an easy win.
3) Only one can imagine the scolding that transpired in the Giants' locker room after this outing. Two first-half turnovers and a putrid third-down defense had the Giants reeling all game. The offense held possession less than eight minutes in the first half and somehow managed to get two Graham Gano FGs. They doubled that time of possession on their first drive in the second half but it resulted in Gano's third and final FG. QB Daniel Jones had an inaccurate afternoon, ending it 17-of-32 with an interception and a fumble lost on a handoff. In their first game after losing Saquon Barkley, their running attack was nonexistent and the offense was uninspired. Joe Judge's first victory was certainly in play as the defending NFC champs limped into East Rutherford, but the Giants squandered an opportunity to get a big win that could've energized a young team. Surely that will be the message from the Giants' old-school disciplinarian as the Giants are forced to run laps this week.
-- Michael Baca
1) Make that three game-winning drives in as many games for the cardiac Titans. Big props go to kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who converted a career-high six-for-six FGs, including a 55-yarder to win it. A shoutout is also in order for the offense's effort to position Gostkowski to bring it home. Down, 24-12, with 8:04 to go in the third, Tennessee looked for Derrick Henry (26 carries for 119 yards and two touchdowns) to get busy, which he did to the tune of 35 rushing yards and two TDs over consecutive drives to take the lead. After testing Minnesota's ailing secondary with a 44-yard shot on the second play of the game, Ryan Tannehill (321/INT) went back to the well on those two series, finding Corey Davis (5/69) and Kalif Raymond (3/118) for big completions to set up Henry's one-yard plunges.
2) For two and a half quarters, the Vikings put together the bounce-back effort they needed. And then the collapse happened. A monster 71-yard TD toss to rookie Justin Jefferson (7/175/1), who turned in a star-making effort, gave them a 12-point lead midway through the third. Their next drive ended with a quick three-and-out, bringing a defense that just endured a bruising Henry push back on the field. They lost their lead just 1:17 later. Kirk Cousins (251/3/2 INTs), with massive help from Dalvin Cook and his absurd career day (22/181/1), did lead a lengthy TD drive to regain the lead, but it wasn't enough as Minny fell to 0-3 for the first time under Mike Zimmer.
3) The Titans defense possesses the names to bring consistent pressure, but it only matters if it materializes on game day. The pressure this group brought throughout the game is worthy of some praise. Rookie corner Kristian Fulton logged a timely sack on first and 20 with 4:47 left in regulation to pin the Vikings on their 22-yard line. A punt soon followed. Jeffery Simmons' roughing the passer penalty nearly dealt a crushing blow with less than two minutes remaining, but he, along with Jadeveon Clowney, anchored the pressure that all but ended the game. Tennessee notched two takedowns, nine QB hits, two INTs and eight passes defensed on an overall smothering day.
-- Jelani Scott
1) What a showing by Detroit's defense against one of the NFL's hottest teams. After failing to record a takeaway in the first two weeks, DC Cory Undlin's group came away with three and provided the spark that helped Detroit snap an 11-game losing streak. The first came on the Cardinals' opening drive after linebacker Jamie Collins pressured Kyler Murray to fling an errant pass that landed in safety Duron Harmon's hands. Collins recorded a pick of his own in the second quarter after jumping the route on a short pass intended for Larry Fitzgerald, who finished with zero receiving yards for the first time since 2004. Rookie CB Jeff Okudah also played well in his second start and earned his first career pick.
2) A career-high tying three INTs provided the biggest blemish on Murray's box score, but his never-quit attitude shined through. He managed to keep Arizona competitive, completing 65.7% of his passes for 270 yards and two TDs, one of which gave the Cardinals the lead going into the fourth. He also rushed five times for 29 yards and a shifty one-yard scamper into the end zone. Tough games like this are par for the course for young QBs still learning the league, but it'll be interesting to see how he recovers now that the hype train has lost a little steam. Save for the game's final drive, the defense also deserves a mention for its effort. The solid play continued with four sacks and six tackles for a loss while holding Detroit to 2-of-6 in the red zone.
3) After missing the first two weeks with a hamstring injury, Kenny Golladay (6/57/1) made his long-awaited return a triumphant one. The 6-foot-4 wideout came up big for Matthew Stafford numerous times, including on the game's final series. Stafford went 4-for-4 to end the game with his biggest completions going to Golladay for 11 yards and Marvin Jones for 20 to set up Matt Prater's 39-yard game-winner as the clock expired. Although the Lions had trouble punching the ball into the end zone, Stafford turned in a fine day and earned the 'W,' as he finished 22-of-31 (71%) for 270 yards and two scores.
-- Jelani Scott
1) For a moment, Carson Wentz almost awoke long enough to rescue the Eagles from the sadness, but in the end, a false start ahead of a 59-yard field goal try cemented it: Sunday was officially a disaster in Philadelphia. After a lifeless and largely ugly performance, Wentz perked up and delivered for the Eagles, leading an 11-play, 75-yard drive in 2:44 capped by a Wentz scramble that ended with him diving across the goal line just inside the right pylon to score the game-tying touchdown. Philadelphia then returned to form, inching toward the outer reaches of Jake Elliott's range before the penalty pushed them out of it, forcing Doug Pederson to punt and wave the white flag for 2020's first tie. No game fit this strange year better than this. The Eagles struggled mightily to mount much of anything offensively, gave up multiple chunk plays to Joe Burrow's Bengals and missed on their chances at their own, with Wentz overshooting Miles Sanders on what looked to be a great chance to score a long touchdown. Cincinnati, meanwhile, blew its own chances to seal its first victory of the season, twice settling for three points while in Philadelphia's red zone in the final quarter. The finish was painfully fitting. 2020 knows no mercy.
2) The Bengals have to do a better job of protecting Burrow. The rookie was pressured more than anyone else in the NFL in Week 3 (before the later games were complete) in terms of total pressures, facing 21 total pressures on 52 dropbacks (per Next Gen Stats), and only Daniel Jones and Kirk Cousins were pressured at a higher rate. Burrow has been pressured 42 times in the last two weeks. He was sacked eight times Sunday, and took a wallop from Malik Jackson that was flagged for roughing. And in a one-score game, it's inexplicable to finish with that many dropbacks for a rookie quarterback the team has already shown it struggles to protect. Cincinnati is pinning its hopes for the next decade (hopefully) on Burrow. The franchise needs to act accordingly with its personnel and coaching decisions up front.
3) A better, more experienced Bengals team wins this game. Cincinnati's red zone outcomes came back to bite them when Wentz drove the Eagles down the field to tie the game, and a nice defensive play by Nickell Robey-Coleman saved Philadelphia from a potentially back-breaking completion in overtime. The Bengals proved they had what it took to compete for the majority of regulation, but couldn't slam the door shut, allowing the Eagles to limp -- with the additional injuries they sustained Sunday, add emphasis to limp -- to a tie. A record of 0-2-1 doesn't look pretty to anyone, no matter the lighting.
-- Nick Shook
1) Philip Rivers continues to pick up Frank Reich's offense, distributing the ball like a veteran point guard. With little pressure from the Jets behind a studly offensive line, Rivers sprayed the pigskin around the park, hitting eight different targets. Like a golfer on the practice range -- knowing his defense was swallowing a short-manned Jets offense -- Rivers worked on his chemistry with wideouts in freeing fashion. Moe Allie-Cox continued to impress with three catches for 50 yards and a TD. The Colts then gave the 38-year-old quarterback most of the fourth quarter off after he completed 81% of 21 attempts for 217 yards and a TD. The Indy red zone offense still needs work, but with each week, Rivers' mastery of the offense makes the Colts more dangerous as we press further into the season.
2) Sam Darnold is in a no-win situation. Already without his top three receivers and starting running back, Darnold watched his best offensive lineman, rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton, leave with a shoulder injury. The surroundings are awful for any young QB, but Darnold isn't helping his own cause. The QB threw two pick-sixes, including one on the opening drive, added another INT that came in the red zone, and took a safety. Darnold is playing behind an offensive line that has less cohesiveness than uncooked egg whites. However, the QBs decisions are still head-scratching at times, he sees ghosts in the pocket, and doesn't always put the ball where it needs to be. There are brief flashes that underscore his potential -- like an awesome pocket-escape to throw his lone TD -- yet, it's not consistent enough. It's impossible to properly evaluate Darnold given his surroundings, but it's also true that QB hasn't risen to the occasion.
With the blowout loss, Adam Gase has now lost 30 games by double-digits in his coaching career, per USA Today. He has a 30-38 record as a head coach, including playoffs.
3) Credit the Colts defense with helping make the Jets offense looks worse than a MAC school operation. Xavier Rhodes provided two INTs. The first was a pick-six when he bullied the receiver. The second looked like a botched coverage, but the veteran corner recovered in time to swipe the ball in the end zone. Linebacker Shaquille Leonard was all over the field, gobbling up 11 tackles, one TFL, and a pass defended. The Colts combined for seven QB hits, two sacks, and many more pressures. With DeForest Buckner treating offensive linemen like rag dolls and Leonard cleaning everything up in the middle, the gut of the Colts defense proved once again it's an overbearing strength.
-- Kevin Patra
1) Chargers rookie Justin Herbert flashed a rifle of a right arm and showed much promise in throwing for 330 yards, his second 300-yard game in as many starts. A crucial mistake, however, proved costly. In the final moments of the first half, Herbert failed to see cornerback Donte Jackson on an intermediate throw into zone coverage. Jackson jumped the route and returned the ball 66 yards to the Chargers' 8-yard line, where Herbert made the tackle. The miscue robbed the Chargers of a good chance at a field goal and resulted, instead, in three points for the Panthers and an 18-7 lead entering the half. In a game that ended with a five-point margin, that was definitely one Herbert won't soon forget.
2) The Panthers red zone offense was a mess, forcing K Joey Slye to knock home five field goals -- none of them longer than 31 yards -- to bail out a Carolina attack that sputtered at the L.A. 11, 6, 12, 4 and 13-yard lines. It could've been worse -- the Panthers scored their lone touchdown only after the Chargers were flagged for an illegal formation on yet another FG try, giving the Panthers a first down instead of three more points for Slye. That drive had stalled in the red zone as well, before L.A.'s Damion Square gave it new life with the penalty. Slye is now nine for nine on FG tries for the year, but without injured RB Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers showed no nose for the end zone.
3) Chargers star DE Joey Bosa made just two tackles all day, but both were huge plays at critical junctures. With Carolina threatening with a third and two at the Chargers' 10, Bosa blew past Panthers left tackle Trent Scott with an inside move to stuff RB Mike Davis for a loss and force a first-half field goal. Later, Bosa beat Scott with a third-down bull rush and sacked Teddy Bridgewater on the first play after the two-minute warning to kill another drive, forcing a punt. That's what makes star players who they are -- showing up in a big moment or two even on days they aren't totally dominant – and that's how an opposing player like Scott will be left with a bitter taste despite an otherwise valiant effort in trying to keep Bosa quiet. The Panthers pass rush stirred from a season-long slumber, notching its first two sacks of the year from Brian Burns and Marquis Haynes. Burns, a speedy edge rusher, also came within a whisker of a strip sack of Herbert in the second half, but officials rightly ruled Herbert had begun a forward throwing motion. On the interior, rookie DT Derrick Brown is still looking for sack No. 1, but brought a first-round pick's presence with three tackles for loss.
-- Chase Goodbread