By Roger Sinclair
Eagles 24 Jets 17
Chip Kelly’s “dream team” picked up their first win of the 2015 season and made the Jets look like something they haven’t looked like all season – the Jets. This game was a prime example of a tale of two halves; the Eagles dominated the Jets in the first half 24-7, then proceeded to be outscored 10-0 in the second half. Sam Bradford looked marginally better than he has the first two weeks of the season. However, he finished the game completing 14 of 28 passes for 118 yards and one touchdown. Bradford may have had a better game if Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles had not dropped passes on wheel routes that would have resulted in touchdowns. Philly’s defense also forced four turnovers (3 interceptions and a fumble) and continued to look like the bright spot of this entire team. The Jets did not help themselves the entire afternoon and failed to capitalize on multiple drives. Brandon Marshall, while finishing the game as the leading receiver for both teams, had a boneheaded lateral in the second quarter that was recovered by Philly and then dropped an easy catch that turned into an interception. The Jets were also incredibly one-dimensional; with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing the ball 58 times and the team having little success in the running game without Chris Ivory. No one helped out Fitzpatrick all game, and the Jets signal caller had many opportunities squandered by dropped passes, miscommunications and unlucky plays. The Jets’ defense looked much more effective in the second half, shutting out the Eagles and forcing a turnover. Both teams put up head scratching performances that created more questions than answers for how their seasons will turn out.
Game Note: Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly, depending on your views of the teams) the Jets are 0-10 against the Eagles all-time. The Eagles are the only team the Jets have never defeated in NFL History. Chip Kelly also improves his record to 3-0 in games played in MetLife Stadium.
Falcons 39 Cowboys 28
The first game the Cowboys played without Tony Romo this season was a tough loss, but not because the offense had no production. The Cowboys had their best rushing game of the season, finishing with 127 total rush yards and four touchdowns. The three-headed monster (if that’s what you want to call it) of Joseph Randle, Darren McFadden and Lance Dunbar stepped up their game mightily to help out Brandon Weeden. Dunbar actually finished the game as Dallas’s leading receiver, with 10 catches for 100 yards. Weeden essentially threw the ball no farther than 10 yards the entire game and despite an interception, performed admirably in Tony Romo’s absence. Dallas’s defense, however, was torched by Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman and couldn’t protect a 28-14 lead. Freeman easily had the best game of his professional career, finishing with 141 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Julio Jones continued to look unstoppable, finishing with 164 yards receiving and two scores. The Cowboys’ defense looks like a shadow of their unit last year and is much more of a cause for concern than offensive production. Atlanta, possibly the surprise team of the season, recovered after quickly going down 14-0 to put together another effective performance and continue dominating the NFC East this year. Matt Ryan and rookie head coach Dan Quinn continue to impress, and the Falcons could possibly improve to 4-0 next week when they host the Houston Texans.
Game Note: The Dallas Cowboys have to be scared with the quarterbacks they are using while Tony Romo recovers from his fractured clavicle. Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel have a record of 39-55 and combined have a winning percentage of 41.49%. Romo has a lifetime winning percentage of 61.6%. The only leveling factor is these quarterbacks’ ineptitude in the postseason.
Saints 22 Panthers 27
The Saints made this contest closer than it should have been, but the Panthers eventually proved to be too much for perennial backup Luke McCown. New Orleans held a 16-10 lead after a 74-yard punt return touchdown in the third quarter, and the team looked poised to pick up their first win. Cam Newton, remembering he is one of the best athletes in pro football, proceeded to lead the Panthers to 18 unanswered points. Newton’s rapport with Greg Olsen looks oddly similar to a former QB-TE connection (that being Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham), as Olsen finished the game with 134 yards receiving and two touchdowns. New Orleans refused to back down, and were close to winning this game on a late fourth-quarter drive. Unfortunately, the comeback fell short as Josh Norman intercepted Luke McCown in the end zone. The now 3-0 Panthers continue to impress without star player Luke Kuechly, who missed his second straight game with a concussion. While Carolina has benefited from weak opponents so far this season (their opponents’ combined record sits at 2-7) the team is making the most of their opportunities. New Orleans, on the other hand, looks like a dynasty beginning to crumble. Drew Brees missed his first game since 2009 this week, and the offensive production didn’t really drop off with Brees not in the lineup. The defense also looks unable to stop anyone, as the Saints fall to 0-3. It’s questionable if Sean Payton will make it out of the season with a job.
Game Note: Pundits have been raving about Cam Newton’s abilities and the quarterback was given a nice paycheck in the offseason. While the Panthers made the right call to sign their QB to a long term deal, Cam’s rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, pass attempts, completions and pass yards have decreased almost every season since his rookie campaign in 2011. While the Panthers may be winning more games, it most likely is not because Cam Newton is lighting teams up.
Buccaneers 9 Texans 19
Houston picks up its first win and Tampa Bay continues to be a head scratcher. Ryan Mallett put together an up and down performance, finishing the game with 228 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception. Alfred Blue was Arian Foster-esque against the Bucs, finishing with 139 yards rushing and a score. Blue was the catalyst to the Texans offense that continues to struggle without an effective passing game and also desperately awaits the return of Arian Foster. JJ Watt and the rest of Houston’s defensive unit played consistently, most importantly capitalizing on facing a rookie QB. Speaking of that rookie quarterback, Jameis Winston regressed mightily after a very good game against New Orleans in Week 2. The rookie out of Florida State completed under half of his pass attempts, had an interception, and was incredibly inefficient on third down, finishing the game 1/12 on 3rd down efficiency. Tampa Bay was also not helped out by rookie kicker Kyle Brindza, who missed 3 field goals on the day. Houston should be happy they came away with this victory, especially since Tampa Bay had ample opportunity to get themselves more points. Famous Jameis needs to perform more consistently, and Lovie Smith needs to find a way to help out his quarterback or he’ll be out of a job.
Game Note: While the Texans have only been in existence since 2002, the team has crushed the Bucs in their last three games. Houston is 3-1 all time against Tampa Bay and as won three straight matchups, all by double digits. The Texans have averaged 28 PPG in their last three matchups, while Tampa Bay has averaged 10.67 PPG.
Colts 35 Titans 33
The Colts held on for their first win of the season, despite another sloppy and uneven performance. Heading into the 4th quarter, Indianapolis was down 27-14 and was in fear of dropping to 0-3. Andrew Luck and company began quite the comeback, scoring 21 straight points to secure the win. Tennessee did have a late chance, but a horrible 2-pt conversion attempt destroyed any hope of a comeback. Andrew Luck has to be happy that his running backs finally had a productive game. Frank Gore finished with 2 touchdowns on top of 86 yards rushing and the Colts finished with 133 combined rush yards. While there were some positives from this game, Indianapolis still struggled to find consistency offensively. Andrew Luck had two bad interceptions, once again demonstrating his incredible ability to turn the ball over and jeopardize his team’s chances to win. Luck saved his stat line with two fourth quarter touchdowns to rookie Philip Dorsett and Donte Moncrief. Marcus Mariota continued to tear it up, raising his touchdown total on the season to eight. While the Titans may be 1-2, they look much improved with Mariota at the helm and the entire team seems to be reacting positively to his energy. Tennessee might be a long shot for AFC South contenders, but after Sunday all four teams in the AFC South own a 1-2 record and all look equally horrid. Tennessee has its bye week next week, which will allow the team to readjust after back-to-back losses. Indianapolis gets a gift next Sunday as they host the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Game Note: For all of the hype surrounding Andrew Luck, there is equal blame for his inability to hold onto the ball. Through three games, Luck has turned the ball over eight times and has more turnovers than touchdowns. Luck has struggled overall this season, only competing 56% of his passes and having a QB rating of 65. For a player of Luck’s caliber, this needs to improve if Indy hopes to be a contender outside the AFC South.