Patriots off to slow start: Is it too early for Patriots fans to panic? Yes, it is, given that Tom Brady and Co. have suffered early-season adversity in the past, including just last season when they started off 2-2, only to lose just two more games the rest of the way, including the Super Bowl.
Still, New England has some cause for alarm, particularly after a 26-10 loss Sunday to Detroit in which the offense looked disconcertingly moribund. Brady completed just 14 of 26 passes for 133 yards, one touchdown and one interception while his team rushed for just 89 yards and was almost doubled up in time of possession.
This follows an opening-week win at Houston that looks less impressive in light of the fact that the Texans are now 0-3, then a convincing loss at Jacksonville in which Brady was outplayed by (gulp) Blake Bortles. For their part, the Lions had started 0-2, including a Week 1 rout at home by the Jets, and questions had already begun to surface about first-year head coach Matt Patricia’s grip on the team. But now Detroit can feel much better about itself.
The Patriots’ loss shows why they were eager to trade for ex-Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, who possesses game-breaking talent. With their star tight end, Rob Gronkowski, blanketed by heavy coverage for a second straight game, they desperately needs someone who can stretch the field.
The return of Julian Edelman, who is suspended for the first four weeks, should also help the passing attack, and more can be expected from running backs Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel. Belichick has a way of figuring things out as the season moves along, which has to be of great comfort to Patriots Nation. Right now his squad looks unusually beatable.
Lions’ dubious streak is snapped: For the first time since Thanksgiving 2013, a span of 70 games, the Lions have a 100-yard rusher! Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson did the trick in just his third NFL game, albeit barely, with 101 yards on 16 carries.
The last Detroit player do go over the 100-yard mark on the ground was Reggie Bush. The best news for the Lions, though, was that they actually got the win over the favored Patriots, with head coach Matt Patricia besting his mentor, Bill Belichick, for his first NFL victory.
Josh Gordon inactive: Patriots fans are going to have to wait a bit longer to see what Tom Brady does with his newest toy. Wide receiver Josh Gordon, acquired earlier in the week in a trade from the Browns, was declared inactive for Sunday night’s game against the Lions.
That gives Gordon, who has played just 11 NFL games since his breakout 2013 season, some more time to learn New England’s complex playbook and acclimate to his new environment. The talented but troubled receiver has struggled with substance-abuse issues while missing huge chunks of time with lengthy suspensions.
A predictable snub: Come on, did anyone really think that Bill Belichick would slap hands with a pair of eager youngsters on his way to the field in Detroit? No. No one did.
Josh Rosen makes his NFL debut: The NFL draft’s 10th overall pick made his professional debut, and in quite a spot, no less. The Cardinals replaced struggling quarterback Sam Bradford with rookie Josh Rosen late in the fourth quarter, just after the Bears had taken a two-point lead.
Thus Rosen became the last of the quarterbacks taken in the first round of April’s draft to get a regular season snap, following by three days Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick. Rosen’s first pass was a nine-yard completion to tight end Jermaine Gresham, as he attempted to engineer a game-winning drive for Arizona in his first taste of action.
Bradford, who had played poorly in the Cards’ first two games, threw two touchdown passes against Chicago, but he subsequently had two interceptions and lost a costly fumble late in the game. Rosen’s drive ended with him tossing a pick and closing out Arizona’s chances at its first win of the season, but he may get a chance to start the team’s next game.
“I felt like we needed a spark,” Cardinals Coach Steve Wilks said after the game of benching Bradford. “Again, we got out to an early start, 14 points, got a little stagnant there and wanted to try to spark the time, and that’s the reason why I made that decision.”
“We’re going to evaluate Josh as well as Sam, and we’ll watch the tape and we’ll see exactly what I want to do as far as moving forward with that,” Wilks added.
Earl Thomas taunts Dallas: Amid a contract dispute with the Seahawks, Earl Thomas was widely rumored to be a trade target by the Cowboys. For now, though, he’s still with Seattle, and the star safety tormented Dallas with an interception late in his team’s 24-13 win, followed by a bow toward his opponents’ sideline.
Thomas was given a taunting penalty for his act. The ninth-year veteran, a Texas native and college standout for the Longhorns, also had another interception earlier in the game and likely made more than a few Cowboys fans wish their squad had acquired his services sometime before the game.
“I felt like that was just in the moment and if they was going to trade for me and extend me, they should have did it,” Thomas said after the game of his bow to the ‘Boys.
Another week, another overtime.
This time, there was no tie as the New Orleans Saints won a shootout with the Atlanta Falcons, 43-37.
Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that Tom Brady isn’t the NFL’s only geriatric quarterback. Drew Brees, who will turn 40 in January, passed Brett Favre on the NFL’s career completions list with his 6,301st in a game in which Brees let his legs do some work. He “scampered” into the end zone for a touchdown that tied it at 37-37 and his keeper was the winner in overtime, too.
Brees completed 39 of 49 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns; Matt Ryan was 26 of 35 for 374 and five TDs. According to ESPN, the 80 combined points were the most in the history of the Saints-Falcons rivalry, topping the 77 racked up in a 45-32 Atlanta win in 2016.
Jimmy Garoppolo hurt as Patrick Mahomes looks good again: Patrick Mahomes won the duel between quarterbacks of the future, with Jimmy Garoppolo leaving the field on a cart with a knee injury after an ugly collision late in the Chiefs’ 38-27 victory over the 49ers. After the game, Coach Kyle Shanahan said the team fears a torn ACL, telling reporters, “it doesn’t look good,” while Garoppolo reportedly told backup quarterback C.J. Beathard to “lead these guys.”
Mahomes and Coach Andy Reid continue to treat the NFL like their personal, invitation-only sandbox.
In leading Kansas City to a 35-10 first-half lead, he completed 17 of 25 passes for 252 yards and scrambled for hours on his TD pass to Chris Conley, one of three first-half touchdown tosses.
Mahomes became the youngest quarterback in NFL history with at least six TD passes in a game, compiling a 154.8 passer rating in Week 2. His three TD passes Sunday give him 13, pushing him past Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history through the first three games of a season.
The 13 TD passes thrown by Mahomes have gone to nine different Kansas City receivers; the NFL record for such passes thrown to the most receivers by one quarterback in one season is 13, accomplished by Matt Ryan during his MVP campaign in 2016.
Clay Matthews frustrated by another roughing call: For the third straight game, Clay Matthews was flagged for roughing the passer. In the opener, he was deservedly flagged for a call on Mitchell Trubisky. Last week, for a textbook tackle, he was flagged for roughing when he brought down Kirk Cousins on a play that would essentially have ended the game.
Against Washington, he was flagged for bringing down Alex Smith and he couldn’t hide his dismay at being the official poster child for the most hated rule of the 2018 season.
You’re to be forgiven if you are scratching your head over these calls. A year ago, we were all wondering what constitutes a catch. Now, no one, including Aaron Rodgers, Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino, cares for the calls going against the defenders hitting quarterbacks.
“It’s tough man. It’s hard to really play defense now because … I understand they’re trying to protect players, but you know, you tackle a quarterback [and] they say you fall on top of them, putting your weight on top of them. They throw flags for all types of stuff,” the Rams’ Aaron Donald said. “It’s kind of hard to play the game of football now. It’s definitely tough on the pass rushers when they say you’re taking a quarterback down and you fall on top of them and it’s roughing the passer. Ain’t really much you can say, it’s just tough. I just don’t get it.”
Washington (2-1) dropped the Packers to 1-1-1 with the 31-17 victory.
Carson Wentz is back: Carson Wentz returned for the first time since last December and passed for a touchdown on his first series as the Eagles went on to win 20-16. Wentz completed 25 or 37 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown (with an interception); Andrew Luck completed 25 of 40 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown.
Wentz was expecting an emotional return. “I just want to pick up where we left off last year,” he said last week. “We had a lot of big plays last year when we were in situational football. Third down, red zone, things we really excelled in last year. Those are things we want to keep building on. … At the end of the day, I, and really this whole offense and this whole organization, always have high expectations. We expect to start fast, play fast, be clicking.”
Who are these Bills? The Bills’ Twitter account had trouble locating Minnesota, but the team had no problems finding the end zone in a 27-6 victory. Josh Allen passed for 196 yards (and hurdled Anthony Barr on one memorable play); Kirk Cousins passed for 296.
And about that hurdle. Well, you have to see it for yourself:
It was the type of performance that left the Bills with a lot to like. Fans of major NFL upsets — the Vikings were favored by as many as 17 points — were also enthused, and/or amazed.
All McCaffrey: The Bengals’ Andy Dalton was intercepted four times as the Panthers ground out a 31-21 victory behind the running of Christian McCaffrey. He had 28 carries for 184 yards and no touchdowns.
Somebody had to win (or tie): The Giants won, 27-22, for the first time under Pat Shurmur and the Texans dropped to 0-3, extending the NFL’s longest active losing streak to nine games while moving Bill O’Brien to the top of the hot-seat list.
An ugly ejection: The Broncos and Ravens both end up at 2-1 after Baltimore’s 27-14 victory in a game in which Denver’s Phillip Lindsay was ejected for throwing punches in a pile-up during a live ball after a strip sack of Case Keenum late in the first half.
The Chucky watch: Jon Gruden remains winless in his return to the NFL with Miami moving to 3-0 with a 28-20 victory in a game that was, at times, chippy with Dolphins defensive tackle Akeem Spence getting ejected for pulling off the helmet of Kelechi Osemele.
Marcus Mariota steps up: When Blaine Gabbert went out with a head injury, Marcus Mariota was pressed into duty despite his problems gripping the ball because of nerve problems from an elbow injury. And he passed for 100 yards in the Titans’ 9-6 win.
How long had it been since the Browns had won? Sixty-four different quarterbacks started games and 47 won at least one game, ESPN’s Adam Schefter notes, during Cleveland’s losing streak that began on Christmas Eve 2016 and ended Thursday night.
In case you missed it: The Broncos’ Phillip Lindsay became the first undrafted free agent in NFL history with 100-plus scrimmage yards in each of his first two games.
Roughing the refs: Even Aaron Rodgers thinks roughing-the-passer calls are “going in the wrong direction.” (Read more)
Vontae over and out: Vontae Davis doesn’t really care what people say about his decision to retire at halftime, one of the weirder things to have happened in an NFL game. (Read more)
A different Alex Smith: The Redskins may look to be more aggressive against the Packers. (Read more)
Steeler streamer: JuJu Smith-Schuster tackles Call of Duty, Ninja and Le’Veon Bell. (Read more)
Contenders or pretenders? What to make of the NFL’s 2-0 teams? (Read more)
Peters exits with Achilles’ injury: Rams cornerback Marcus Peters was carted off and taken to the locker room with what broadcasters described as an Achilles’ injury.
Wilkerson carted off: Packers defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was carted off after he was leg-whipped by his teammate Kentrell Brice late in the first half of the game against the Redskins. Wilkerson, who could put no weight on the leg, was in tears as he left.
Philly needs running backs: Eagles running backs Jay Ajayi (back) and Darren Sproles (hamstring) will not play against the Colts. Tailback Corey Clement is active, but wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is not.
Josh Gordon’s debut? Wide receiver Josh Gordon was nursing a hamstring injury that helped lead to the Browns’ decision to trade him to the Patriots and he is listed as questionable against the Lions on “Sunday Night Football.”
Thomas uncertain: Seahawks safety Earl Thomas missed practice Friday and Coach Pete Carroll said he was uncertain whether he would play against the Cowboys. “We’ll see how he’s doing and make sure he’s okay,” Carroll said. “He’s got some other stuff going on. That’s what we’re working on. It’s personal. That’s why we’re not going to talk about it.”