Top 10 Things We Learned from NFL Week 3

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With another week of NFL regular season games in the books it’s time again to take a look at what we’ve learned.I’ve narrowed it down to 10 items that most caught my eye from the 15 games played today. This was a wild Sunday of football so there was a lot to talk about. One thing is for sure today was further proof that you just can never tell how a football game will turn out.

Wes Welker Back

New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker lit up the Baltimore Ravens for 142 yards on 8 catches in a losing effort this evening. Ironically just last week the big story in New England was that Welker was being phased out of the offense. It appears he didn’t like the sound of that and decided to do something about it.

I didn’t buy that the Patriots were getting ready to show Welker the door but you just can never tell when Bill Belichick is involved.

After his performance tonight, however, I think its safe to say Welker is staying right where he belongs.

Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting

I can say without embellishing that there was a skirmish of some kind in every NFL game I had an opportunity to watch any part of today. Some were a lot more serious than others but at the end of the day this is a very bad look for the league as well as the players.

I definitely throw a lot of blame at the replacement refs for letting the games get out of hand, but at the same time guys have to remember that all eyes are on them especially when this crap keeps happening.

At some point the replacement refs will be gone, everyone will move on and things will likely settle down. If guys keep engaging in fights through out the games those images won’t be as easily forgotten. I totally understand not letting someone punk you in a game but there also is something to be said for letting little stuff go and just walking away.

Don’t Worry, Just Keep Hitting It

After being roundly questioned for blitzing so much in last week’s lost to the New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers intimated that they might hold off on do so as much against the Dallas Cowboys today.

Evidently they changed their mind as more than a few times today the Bucs sent blitzes after Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and he repeatedly made them pay for it.

I don’t have a problem with Bill Sheridan calling blitzes, they are an important part of any defensive game plan. If the Bucs are having success getting to Romo with the front four I just don’t think you have to blitz as much as they have the last two games, especially when it hasn’t exactly been very successful.

On the other hand the Bucs had four sacks today from defensive linemen that came without blitzing.

There are many reasons why the Bucs lost the game today and I don’t think the play of the defense, over all, was one of them. However I do believe the defense could have limited the Cowboys’ offense even more and better put the team in position to win if Sheridan was just a tad bit more conservative.

This Isn’t Your Father’s Steelers Offense

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball today 49 times in a loss to the Oakland Raiders.

Yes, I said 49 times and no I’m not joking.

I know what you’re thinking, the Steelers were down early and had to throw it a lot to get back in the game, right?

Wrong.

After the first quarter the Steelers led the Raiders by seven, at halftime they led by 3, at the end of the third quarter they led by 10, and yet they lost.

Maybe throwing 49 times isn’t a big deal, after all it had the Steelers ahead for most of the game. I have to believe that by the end of the game it came back to bit them in the butt, however.

When a team like the Steelers that prides itself on being physical starts throwing the ball around like that they tend to lose some of their identity. Then at the end of the game when you really need to be able to run the ball there is no rhythm there. That means you end up being forced to throw the ball try to move the chains even if it means poor clock management.

I know they are still missing starting running back Rashard Mendenhall but surely there’s a running back on the Steelers roster who could have carried the ball more than 10 times in this game. I have to believe this was more of a game plan issue, and not about a lack of talent.

To his credit Roethlisberger threw for over 380 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions on all those attempts and played a magnificent game overall.

In the end it wasn’t enough as the Raiders rallied in the fourth quarter and hit a field goal late in the fourth quarter to bring home the win.

Mario Williams Can Still Rush the Quarterback

When you’re an NFL player who doesn’t play quarterback and you sign a $100 million contract you will of course, attract a lot of criticism as Buffalo Bills defensive end Mario Williams found out recently. The best way to shake the haters off of course is to go out and do your job well, and that’s just what Williams did today in a win over the Cleveland Browns.

Notching a sack and a half for someone like Williams isn’t considered breaking news. As most defensive linemen agree, however, sacks usually come in bunches.

Now that Williams has the monkey off his back of not coming home with a sack in the first two games I expect that he will start to turn it up and return to the double digit sack form we are used to from him.

If Peyton Manning Started the Way He Finishes the Broncos Might Be Undefeated

Last week on Monday Night Football Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw three interceptions in the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons before you could finish popping a bag of popcorn. Even with that terrible start to the game, he just about brought the Broncos back to win the game in the second half. In the end the hole he had already dug was to deep to get out of and they lost that game.

Unfortunately for the Broncos the script remained the same for Manning today in a loss to the Houston Texans.

No he didn’t throw three interceptions this time, but he just didn’t look very comfortable in the pocket in the first half. In fact through three quarters the Broncos’ offense only produced nine points.

Then suddenly in the fourth quarter Manning was the Manning we are used to seeing. Peyton threw two touchdowns on consecutive drives and all of a sudden the Broncos had at least a shot to win the game with 20 seconds left after having been down 20 points with just less than 10 minutes left in the game.

Whatever it is Manning is doing in the second half, or more specifically the fourth quarter, he has to find a way to start the game that way. If not the Broncos are going to have a tough time overcoming second half deficits week after week after week.

It’s Time to Take the Arizona Cardinals Seriously

Yes, I know the Arizona Cardinals were a mess in the preseason and their offensive line is still pretty scary. You also don’t have to remind me that Kevin Kolb is their starting quarterback, only because John Skelton went down to injury in the first game.

On the other hand after their win today I also can’t discount the fact that they are now 3-0 to start to season. Those wins happen to be over some pretty good teams, also.

No, I can’t explain it either.

I will say that their defense is carrying them so far and there is no shame in that. They recovered three fumbles today against the Philadelphia Eagles including one they took back for a touchdown just before halftime. The defense also came home with five sacks and laid several vicious hits on Eagles quarterback Mike Vick.

By the same token, on this day, their offense was productive as well. Kolb took good care of the ball and threw two touchdowns including one to All-Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Running back Ryan Williams also had a good game, notching 83 yards on the ground on 13 carries.

I wish I could tell you how they are pulling this off but I am as confused as anyone else. What I do know is that they have shown they aren’t a fluke and teams better start taking them seriously from here on out.

There’s Yet Another Rookie in Indianapolis Who Can Be a Game Changer on Offense

As much as people talk about Indianapolis Colts rookies quarterback Andrew Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener, and Dwayne Allen as well as running back Vick Ballard, another guy stepped up and balled out today, wide receiver T. Y. Hilton.

The speedster picked up 113 yards on only 4 catches with one touchdown today in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. This after snagging only one catch for 15 yards for the season before today.

I don’t know how many games the Colts will ultimately win this year but it seems pretty clear they are built for long term success with all these quality young players on the roster at the moment.

Cam Newton Still Has Some Growing Up to Do

Listen, I have no problem with Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton taking losses hard. I hated to lose so much I’m not sure I can find the words to appropriately express it. I would definitely much rather have a quarterback on my team that cares to much rather than doesn’t care at all.

Having said that I also have to say that Newton has to find a better way to handle his disappointment. Sulking the way he did after the loss to the New York Giants is just unacceptable for a starting NFL quarterback.

Whether he likes it or not his teammates as well as the media will look to how he handles adversity every time he steps on the field.

If his teammates believe that he will go in the tank when things don’t go his way then they won’t trust him to lead them at crucial times.

If the media comes to the conclusion that the hard times will eventually break them some of them will try to see if they hasten the process.

I don’t know if Newton likes to gamble but he had better find a poker face fast. Winning in the NFL is hard and he is going to take his lumps, however when he sulks like he did against the Giants he gives people even more negative stuff to talk about.

The simple truth is no matter how well he performs individually if the Panthers don’t start winning soon the pressure on him is going to be turned up immensely. If he thinks things are bad now, just wait till the sharks start circling.

The Bengals Can Get After the Quarterback

One way to force rookie quarterbacks into mistakes is to keep consistent pressure on them through out the game. The Cincinnati Bengals obviously recognized this as their defensive line harassed Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III all game today.

Defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson along with defensive tackle Geno Atkins made life miserable for Griffin for most of the day. Dunlap and Atkins had a sack a piece with Dunlap adding a forced fumble to boot. Johnson notched three additions sacks all by himself, quite an impressive feat indeed.

When you can get that kind of pressure out of your front four it makes a defensive coordinator’s life easy. They didn’t totally shut down Griffin but they made just enough plays so they could come out of the game with a win.

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