NFL Week 3 is history for the 2017 season, and what a weekend it was. Protests took the spotlight away from the games themselves, but plenty of performances stood out. Here are the highs and lows of this past weekend in football.
1. The rebirth of a rivalry
The Los Angeles Rams taking on the San Francisco 49ers once featured one of the best rivalries in the NFL. Unfortunately, the collapse of each franchise during multiple points over the past 27 years tore apart the luster of it.
The rebirth of the rivalry is at hand, though. The 49ers and Rams played one of the most exciting games of the season thus far last Thursday. The Rams’ 41-39 victory displayed the changes currently taking place in both teams that point to their rebirth. A year ago, L.A. ran a “middle school” offense that bored even their own fans. The Rams now sit among the best offenses in the league after three games. Their defense, while struggling, still has one of the most exciting defensive players in football, Aaron Donald. The franchise finally has a future, and it’s bright.
Meanwhile, the 49ers continue to show their own signs of life. Their youthful, talented defensive line will plague offenses across the league for years to come. Offensively, head coach Kyle Shanahan is already working his magic with an offense that, sooner or later, will be among the league’s best.
Together, these two teams showed that the future of the rivalry is brighter than ever before, which is something that longtime Rams and 49ers fans have been waiting for.
2. Kicking under pressure
The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles appeared set for overtime on Sunday. Eagles kicker Jake Elliot apparently thought otherwise. His game-winning 61-yard field goal sealed the last minute turn of fortunes for the Eagles and sent the reeling Giants to 0-3 for the season. What a way for Elliot to leave his mark on the 2017 Eagles season, especially at home in Philadelphia.
3. Dominant Washington Redskins
The Redskins earned a solid win on the road against the Rams last weekend, but few fans expected them to dominate the Oakland Raiders 27-10 on Sunday night. Washington outgained the Raiders 472-128 and held onto the football for over 38 minutes. Raiders star quarterback Derek Carr completed 19 of 31 passes for only 118 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Running back Marshawn Lynch struggled as well, with six carries for 18 yards.
Oakland entered the season widely considered to be a contender in the AFC. The Redskins made them look like the hapless Raiders of five years ago. Look out, NFL. Washington is a team on the rise.
4. The Jaguars finally shine
The Jacksonville Jaguars spent the last three years stockpiling talent with little return. They finally broke out against the division-leading Baltimore Ravens in a devastating 44-7 victory in London on Sunday morning.
Quarterback Blake Bortles led his team downfield on its first drive of the game, paced by a 35-yard play to wide receiver Marquise Lee. Bortles later hit tight end Mercedes Lewis for a 17-yard score on the Jaguars’ second drive. Altogether, Bortles and Lewis connected on three touchdowns.
Defensively, the Jaguars manhandled the Ravens up front. They sacked Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco twice and picked him off twice before he was removed from the game.
Jacksonville last made the playoffs in 2007. Maybe, just maybe, the Jaguars are ready to make their return.
1. Protests expose potentially deeper issue
Let me pretense this by noting that this isn’t meant to be a political commentary. Instead, the whole drama between the NFL and President Donald Trump exposed a serious gap between the fans and the league. The players expressed themselves in various forms of protest throughout the weekend, either through taking a knee during the national anthem, locking arms with one another, or even waiting in the locker room. The resulting backlash from fans both in the stadiums and on social media was visible, with many vowing to stop tuning into the NFL.
A large portion of the American population watches the NFL, including those that do not agree with the protests. Those fans are paying customers for a product, and now the presentation of that product has been altered. It will be interesting to see how this gap between the NFL and some of its fans can be repaired.
2. Growing pains
The Cleveland Browns remain a team loaded with hope for the future, but when they turn in performances like their 31-28 loss at the Indianapolis Colts, it’s obvious they still have work to do. The real concern lies with the Browns’ inability to play fundamental football. Poor tackling, penalties, and dropped passes plagued them against the Colts. Those mistakes shouldn’t be happening with players that have been donning the pads for most their lives. Head coach Hue Jackson bears some responsibility for it, but there comes a point when players must choose to grow.
3. 10-second rule must go
Sooner or later, the NFL must become more proactive about at least some of its more idiotic rules. One example is the 10-second runoff.
According to NFL rules, “if the clock was running and the score is tied or the team in possession is losing, the ball cannot be put in play for at least 10 seconds on the fourth or more time out. The half or game can end while those 10 seconds are run off on the clock.” The fourth time out in question is the review that took place at the goalline on a potential Detroit Lions last second touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons. The review stopped any opportunity for the Lions to snap the ball when the previous play ended with eight seconds left.
There are several rather foolish rules in the NFL, but this rule is definitely one that should be looked at immediately.
4. Tampa Bay’s troubles
The Tampa Buccaneers entered the season as a potential breakout team and looked like it at times during their 29-7 blowout win over the Chicago Bears in Week 2. Unfortunately, their luck ran out going up against Minnesota Vikings backup quarterback Case Keenum on Sunday. Yes, that’s right – Case Keenum. The longtime NFL backup torched the Buccaneers in dominating fashion. Keenum completed 25 of 33 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns as the Vikings crushed Tampa Bay, 34-17.
The Vikings defense did its part by forcing three Jameis Winston interceptions and holding the Buccaneers to 26 yards rushing and 2.9 yards per carry. Tampa Bay needs to win games like this if the team is finally going to get over the hump. It appears that the Buccaneers simply aren’t ready for the postseason just yet.