No lead was safe on Sunday, with several teams engineering huge second-half comebacks (yes, the Falcons collapsed again). There was a little of everything — there was even a tie! — and a week that was expected to be an appetizer for Monday night’s matchup between Kansas City and Baltimore proved to have plenty of its own entertainment value.
Here’s what we learned:
The bad version of Josh Allen still exists — but sometimes that’s OK. The Buffalo Bills raced to a huge lead, but the team’s defense — and the officials — let the Los Angeles Rams back into the game, and Allen showed some of his worst tendencies along the way. He threw an interception on an ill-advised throw (that should have been overruled by officials), he fumbled away a drive and he was constantly running away from Rams defenders. On a memorable game-winning drive, however, he had a truly wild ride. He took a huge sack, was called for unsportsmanlike conduct when he face-masked a defender, converted a third-and-22, and threw incomplete on fourth-and-8 with less than a minute to play, seemingly ending the game. A pass interference call gave the Bills new life, and the good version of Allen suddenly reappeared, throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Kroft to win the game.
Allen has thrown for at least 300 yards in all three games this season after not doing it a single time over his first two seasons.
Russell Wilson might need his own cooking show. For years, fans of the Seahawks implored Coach Pete Carroll to “Let Russ Cook.” The conservative coach seems to have finally gotten the message, and Wilson is no longer being held back in a run-focused attack. He followed up last week’s five-touchdown performance against New England with another five against Dallas — including a 29-yard go-ahead score to D.K. Metcalf with 1:47 left in the game — and now has 14 in the first three weeks of the season, breaking Patrick Mahomes’s N.F.L. record of 13, which was set in 2018.
The Vikings needed Xavier Rhodes more than he needed them. Would one 30-year-old former All-Pro cornerback be enough to make Minnesota (102 points allowed in an 0-3 start) a relevant team? Probably not. But it’s hard to not be wistful for Vikings defenses of the past when Rhodes had a monster day for Indianapolis, pulling down two interceptions and returning one of them 44 yards for a touchdown.
There is still nothing more demoralizing than Aaron Rodgers’s hard count. Late in the fourth quarter, with Green Bay clinging to a 3-point lead over the Saints, Rodgers used his signature hard count to draw Demario Davis offside. Once Rodgers had earned a free play, you knew exactly what was coming: The veteran took his time in the pocket, found a receiver in the end zone and launched a perfect pass. Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins was left with no other choice than to blatantly interfere with Allen Lazard, setting the Packers up at the 1-yard line, where a few plays later they scored the insurance touchdown they needed in an eventual 37-30 victory.
At least Jenkins put on a good show, acting outraged that he was penalized for a play in which he was hugging Lazard’s arm with the ball still in the air.
Mike Evans is nothing if not efficient. Tampa Bay’s supersize wide receiver had a line for the ages: 2-2-2 (two catches for 2 yards and two touchdowns). He’s the third player since 1950 to have such a day, according to Pro Football Reference, joining Lee Folkins of the Cowboys, who did it in 1963, and Howard Cross of the Giants, who did it in 1994. Evans’s efficiency helped power Tom Brady’s best passing game (297 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions) since Week 1 of last season.
The N.F.L. should consider relegation. The 49ers were playing without their starters at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end and center, and their defense was missing two defensive ends and its top cornerback. Led by the forgettable trio of quarterback Nick Mullens, the third-string running back Jerick McKinnon and the rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, the 49ers somehow beat the Saquon Barkley-less Giants, 36-9, on the road. San Francisco just might get through this injury mess unscathed thanks to a remarkably soft schedule. After wins over the Jets and the Giants, the 49ers face the struggling Eagles and the middling Dolphins. The Giants, on the other hand, appear to be hapless, and despite its being just Week 3, they are a strong contender for ending up with the N.F.L.’s worst record.
Sunday’s Top Performers
Top Passer: Russell Wilson
Wilson has reached the point in his career where if he has the ball, his team is within a score and there is any time left on the clock, you simply assume he’s going to win. He did just that on Sunday, outlasting Dak Prescott in a shootout in which the stars combined for 787 passing yards and eight touchdowns.
Top Runner: Derrick Henry
After leading the N.F.L. in rushing yards last season, and carrying nearly the entire load in Tennessee’s playoff run, there was some fear of a drop-off from Henry this season. Thus far, he’s up to 319 yards through three games — 109 more than he had at the same point last season — and his two touchdowns on Sunday were crucial as Ryan Tannehill couldn’t find the end zone and threw his first interception of the season.
Dalvin Cook’s huge yardage day was spoiled with a fumble and his team’s loss, and Sony Michel’s incredible 13 yards a carry certainly warrants mentioning, but no player’s running was more important to a win than Henry’s.
Top Receiver: Tyler Lockett
There was no denying Justin Jefferson’s explosiveness, as the Minnesota wide receiver — who was selected with one of the draft picks the team acquired in the Stefon Diggs trade — had a 71-yard reception and averaged 25 yards a catch. But the game is about scoring touchdowns, and Lockett did that more than anyone, scoring on a 43-yarder, and twice on goal-line plays. He finished the day with nine catches for 100 yards.
One* Sentence About Sunday’s Games
*Except when it takes more.
Seahawks 38, Cowboys 31 Dak Prescott kept up with Russell Wilson for nearly the entire game, throwing for 472 yards — his second straight game with 450 or more yards passing — and three touchdowns, but after getting Dallas as close as the Seattle 22-yard line on his team’s final possession, he scrambled around before throwing an interception in the end zone that cost his team a potential upset.
Bills 35, Rams 32 Los Angeles controlled the time of possession, had a 103-yard advantage in total yards, took all the second-half momentum as they erased a 28-3 deficit, and then they lost. Maybe this season isn’t so different from last season for the Rams, who seem to have used up all their good luck during the 2018 regular season.
Packers 37, Saints 30 Green Bay’s streak of 40-point games ended at two, but the Packers have still set a franchise record with 122 points through the first three weeks of the season.
Patriots 36, Raiders 20 New England ran what amounted to a modified version of the Air Raid offense during Tom Brady’s best seasons, but the Patriots are loving running the ball thus far in the Cam Newton era, with 250 rushing yards on Sunday — the second time they have gone over 200 this season. They dedicated the run-heavy win to running back James White, who missed a second consecutive game after the death of his father.
Steelers 28, Texans 21 At halftime in Pittsburgh it looked like an upset could be brewing, with Deshaun Watson having no trouble scoring against the Steelers’ vaunted defense. In the second half, Houston managed just 51 yards and two first downs.
Titans 31, Vikings 30 Derrick Henry chewing up yardage, Ryan Tannehill finding room to work downfield, Tennessee’s defense looking absolutely useless and Stephen Gostkowski trotting onto the field in the final two minutes to win the game with a field goal. It’s a bit like “Groundhog Day,” but it’s also a recipe that has worked just fine for the Titans in all three games this season.
Buccaneers 28, Broncos 10 There wasn’t much hope for a decent game once Denver starting quarterback Drew Lock was injured last week — his backup, Jeff Driskel, was pulled in the second half, leading to snaps for third-stringer Brett Rypien — but a turn-back-the-clock game from Tom Brady made it a laugher. That Brady looked young again in a game in which Rob Gronkowski seemed to shake off the rust was likely not a coincidence.
Colts 36, Jets 7 Philip Rivers joined Drew Brees (553), Tom Brady (547), Peyton Manning (539), Brett Favre (508) and Dan Marino (420) as the only players in N.F.L. history with 400 or more career passing touchdowns.
49ers 36, Giants 9 The most interesting aspect of a game in which San Francisco’s practice squad embarrassed the Giants’ starters in New Jersey was the fact that it was a Scorigami, i.e., it was the first time this score has happened in a game — the 1,056th unique score in N.F.L. history.
Bears 30, Falcons 26 Mitchell Trubisky somewhat surprisingly beat out Nick Foles for the starting quarterback job to start the season, but that experiment is likely over, as Trubisky was pulled for ineffectiveness against Atlanta, and Foles engineered a thrilling comeback with three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. For Atlanta, a second straight week with an epic collapse could have Coach Dan Quinn on the hot seat.
Lions 26, Cardinals 23 In retrospect, predicting a 5-0 start for Arizona may have been a rash decision. The win for Detroit snapped an 11-game losing streak.
Panthers 21, Chargers 16 Despite playing without running back Christian McCaffrey, Carolina won for the first time since Week 9 of last season, ending a 10-game losing streak. And while Justin Herbert lost again, the rookie threw for 330 yards, becoming just the fifth player to have 300 or more in each of his first two starts.
Browns 34, Footballers 20 Washington kept things fairly close for three quarters, but Cleveland asserted itself in the fourth, Nick Chubb continued to thrive and the Browns (2-1) have a winning record for the first time since 2014.
Bengals 23, Eagles 23 (overtime) A 59-yard field goal is hardly a gimme, but Matt Pryor, a Philadelphia guard, has to be blaming himself for his team’s failure to win after his false start late in overtime took away Jake Elliott’s chance at hitting what would have been a game-winner.