- Trevor Siemian and Carson Wentz just keep winning, the Browns just keep losing, and the NFL just keeps churning out the intrigue three weeks into the season.
Another week, another slew of surprising results around the NFL. Josh Norman lost his share of battles with Odell Beckham Jr. (but his team won the war), Trevor Siemian and Carson Wentz pushed their teams to 3–0 with stellar afternoons, and the Jaguars and Browns were both foiled in their quests for the first win of the season.
Read on for all the standout performances and biggest stories from an eventful Sunday in Week 3, as selected by SI.com’s editors.
Carson Wentz makes no sense.
A rookie from North Dakota State out-dueling Ben Roethlisberger in a 34–3 win over the Steelers? Leading the Eagles to a 3–0 record in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year? His extremely unintimidating smile?
Wentz—along with a frisky defense and some offensive sparkplugs—has Philadelphia playing some really exciting football this fall. Wentz was supposed to be the Eagles' third-string quarterback to start the season. Instead, a butterfly flapped its wings, Teddy Bridgewater blew out his knee, and one Sam Bradford trade later Wentz was thrust into a starting role months after the Eagles heavily gambled on a QB who was originally seen as a mid first-round pick.
Through three weeks, Wentz is completing nearly 65% of his passes, and has thrown five touchdowns against zero interceptions. Is this just an early career hot streak? Will Wentz go more the way of Robert Griffin or Cam Newton? It's obviously too early to answer those questions, but it’s shocking how Wentz has already brought a level of competence to Philly likely envied by many general managers around the league.
If anything, Wentz is the latest example of how picking a great quarterback is truly a shot in the dark. Jared Goff—the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2016 draft—isn’t close to seeing the field. Meanwhile, the only other quarterbacks with a 3–0 record this season are seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian and Wentz’s fellow FCS alum Joe Flacco. (The other undefeated teams—the Patriots and Vikings—have used multiple QBs.)
The Eagles obviously—and rightfully—look like geniuses for trading every last draft pick known to man to draft Wentz. But I have my doubts even the Eagles thought he would be this good, this soon.
After an aggressively meh offensive performance through the first two weeks of the season, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers woke up Sunday in a 31–24 win against the Lions.
Rodgers was sublime, completing 15 of his 24 passes for 205 yards and four touchdowns. That's pretty much a touchdown pass every four completions, and Detroit had no answer for the Green Bay offense. The Packers only punted twice all game, and also got a huge effort from Eddie Lacy, who ran for 103 yards on 17 carries.
Two years ago, Rodgers famously told Packers fans to “R-E-L-A-X" after an early season loss to Seattle. He didn’t have to go that far Sunday, easing any concerns—at least for one week—with his big performance. Rodgers also got the passer rating monkey off his back against Detroit, recording a 129.3 rating after failing to eclipse a 100 in his last 14 games.
The key to Rodgers’ resurgence may have been Jordy Nelson, who had his first 100-yard receiving game of the season Sunday. Nelson, of course, missed all of last season with a torn ACL, and had not gived Green Bay an efficient return on his high number of targets through its first two games. That all changed Sunday when he caught six passes on seven targets against the Lions, racking up 101 yards and two touchdowns.
Playing against the 23rd-ranked pass defense entering Week 3 likely helped the Packers find their mojo. But if Rodgers can build off this game, the Pack may find themselves as the favorites to come out of the NFC.
In a matchup between two hapless 0–2 teams, the Browns and Dolphins delivered on low expectations Sunday. The game started with the teams trading turnovers on their first two possessions, and mostly went downhill from there.
While both teams were awful—Miami won 30–24—the Browns were less awful, and somehow still managed to lose. “I don't think we deserved [the win], but we'll take it,” Ryan Tannehill said after the game, summing up this ugly affair.
Cleveland played Sunday with its third-string quarterback, second-string center, a kicker signed off the street Friday and without its best player, cornerback Joe Haden. Despite this massive handicap—the Dolphins essentially set the game difficulty to Rookie—the Browns still manufactured an 11-point fourth quarter comeback to tie the game at 24, and then strip-sacked Tannehill (in no surprise to Miami fans) to set themselves up for a game-winning field goal.
That's when Cody Parkey missed his third field goal of the day to send the game into overtime. In the extra period, Hue Jackson curiously opted to put his defense on the field first, a decision that almost worked until Cleveland's offense imploded on its only drive of OT.
The Dolphins ended the game on their second drive of overtime, ruining the efforts of Cody Kessler, who made his first career start and threw for 244 yards, completing 21-of-33 passes. Terrelle Pryor was also sensational, playing quarterback, rusher and receiver to the tune of 35 yards passing, 21 yards rushing and 144 yards receiving.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins inspired no confidence in their prospects for the rest of the season, routinely struggling to match the execution level of a team missing most of its important players. Miami looked more or less like it has for the last decade: absolutely no better than slightly below average.
You have to imagine Cleveland will be signing a new kicker tomorrow. Unfortunately, it will be one day too late.
Trevor Siemian has been the king of obscure history-making through the first three weeks of the NFL season.
To begin the year, Siemian became the first quarterback to start for a defending NFL champion despite having never thrown a regular season pass. Sunday, he added another quirky note to his bio, becoming the first player in NFL history to throw for over 300 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in his first career road start.
That's right, after two weeks of solid game-managing, Siemian carried the Broncos to a win against a talented Bengals team on the road. The Northwestern grad was outstanding, completing 23-of-35 passes for 312 yards and the four scores. He thoroughly outplayed Andy Dalton, who had the unfortunate task of dealing with the Broncos defense.
Siemian's performance came against a solid defense in its own right, and this week he operated without the benefit of an effective rushing attack, as the Broncos managed only 2.3 yards per carry against Cincy. Siemian sliced and diced the Bengals' D through the air, spraying the ball all over the field. Many of the throws were beautiful—a floater down the left sideline for an Emmanuel Sanders touchdown, a bullet toward the pylon for Sanders’s second score and a deep ball down the left hash to Demaryius Thomas among the highlights
With Siemian dealing, Denver's receivers put up gaudy stat lines—nine catches for 117 yards and two scores for Sanders, and six catches for 100 yards and a touchdown for Thomas.
Even if Siemian never reaches the level he played at Sunday but merely approaches it, the Broncos will be much better off than they were last season, when Brock Osweiler and Peyton Manning limited the offense in different ways. And as long as Siemian continues to make history in weird ways, the Broncos will be validated in their decision to hand him the keys to a Super Bowl contender.
Numerous members of the NFL media made a show of support Sunday for players who have been kneeling during the national anthem. In unison at 1 P.M. ET, they tweeted: "I stand with those who kneel."
The act of kneeling, which 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began in the preseason, has become a widespread practice throughout the league for players protesting racial inequality and police brutality in America. Among those who tweeted their support for the kneeling players include The MMQB’s Peter King, The Nation’s Dave Zirin and ESPN’s Jim Trotter.
I stand with those who kneel.— Peter King (@peter_king) September 25, 2016
I stand with those who kneel.— Melissa Jacobs (@thefootballgirl) September 25, 2016
I Stand With Those Who Kneel. Because mainstreaming racism isn't "politics." It's just wrong.— Aaron Schatz 🏈 (@FO_ASchatz) September 25, 2016
I Stand With Those Who Kneel.— Mike Tanier (@MikeTanier) September 25, 2016
It's only a matter of time until Denny's ruins this with a brand tweet.
Four Redskins players joined the growing movement of protesting before the national anthem on Sunday.
DeSean Jackson, Niles Paul, Greg Toler and Rashad Ross each raised their fists before Sunday’s game against the Giants.
Washington head coach Jay Gruden previously expressed displeasure with the protests.
“For three minutes, for us to take our helmet off and stand up and give respect is how we treat it here with the Redskins,” he said in August.
Elsewhere Sunday, Cam Newton wore a shirt with a Martin Luther King quote in warmups and several NFL media members tweeted their support of the protests.
As citizens of Charlotte continue to protest the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton made a statement with his pregame attire.
Newton warmed up for Sunday’s game in a shirt with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” the shirt reads.
At his press conference on Thursday, Newton spoke at length about the shooting.
“I’m an African-American. I am not happy how the justice has been kind of dealt with over the years,” Newton said. “The state of oppression in our community. But we also, as black people, have to do right by ourselves. We can’t be hypocrites.”
The protests in Charlotte turned violent earlier in the week but were peaceful on Saturday night.
After beating Redskins corner Josh Norman for a pair of nice catches on a drive in the fourth quarter, and seeing quarterback Eli Manning throw an interception in the red zone, Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr. lost his mind on the sideline.
Beckham, apparently frustrated he couldn’t score against his foe, took out his emotions on a kicking net on the sideline, and was seen crying. It comes a year after he feuded with Norman on the field when the corner was a member of the Panthers.
Beckham had four catches for 87 yards after the drive concluded, and the Giants trailed 26–24.
Giants center Weston Richburg became the first player ejected under a new NFL rule on Sunday.
Richburg was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after taunting Redskins cornerback Josh Norman in the fourth quarter. It was his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty of the day. Under a new rule approved in March, players called for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties are automatically ejected.
On a long catch by Odell Beckham, Richburg blocked Norman and circled back to taunt him after the play.
The rule is being tested on a one-year trial basis this year.
EAST RUTHERFORD — In a league surprisingly bereft of A-list rivalries, Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and then-Carolina corner Josh Norman provided the fieriest matchup of 2015 when they faced off last year.
For their parts, both parties are vowing to keep their focus on the game this week—there is a game being played, after all—as Norman's Redskins look for their first win while the Giants seek to maintain their spot atop the NFC East. But, as another fighter famously said, "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."
OBJ-Norman II is officially over. And the winner is ... Beckham (despite his team's tough loss.) We break the fierce battle down by quarter:
-The Giants open the fourth quarter with a completion to Shepard over the middle. Norman laid out the receiver and was given a personal foul penalty as a result, tacking 15 yards onto a 12-yard-gain.
-On the same drive, Beckham hauled in a catch between Norman and David Bruton Jr., tapping Bruton on the helmet on the way back to the line of scrimmage afterwards. Manning looked OBJ's way again on the following play. Beckham caught the short pass and broke away from Norman with a stiff-arm and a spin move. New York's gains on the play were partially erased by a personal foul penalty by center Weston Richburg, who was ejected as a result of the new "Odell Beckham rule" (he had an earlier personal foul penalty in the game). Still, the play earned Beckham enough yards to become the fastest receiver to accrue 3,000 career yards.
-Norman is called for defensive holding on Beckham during the next play, despite his pleas to officials. Beckham responds by waving his hands to pump up the crowd. After all of that though, the drive ends with a Quinton Dunbar interception in the end zone, leaving Beckham none too happy.
-Beckham sparks another Giants drive with back-to-back receptions to the tune of 26 yards total, giving him his 16th career 100-yard day. The drive ends after Beckham comes up short on a third-down comeback and a field goal puts New York up, 27-26.
-With 1:24 to play, Beckham is called for interfering, setting New York back 10 yards. A Manning INT ultimately ends the Giants last push.
-Beckham finishes with 7 catches for 121 yards, but it's not enough as Washington wins, 29-27.
-Thanks to a fake punt pass by Washington, New York had the ball for less than five minutes in the third quarter. Beckham's only target came on the first play of the half, though he was lined up in the slot (away from Norman) and the catch was called back for an illegal formation penalty.
Winner: Norman (barely)
-Beckham gets his first catch to open the second quarter, beating Norman to the corner for 26 yards. After the play, Norman and safety Will Blackmon share a look of consternation while Beckham appears slightly gimpy. He seemed to get his left foot stuck in the turf.
-Beckham notches catch No. 2 after separating from Norman and Co. on a slant route. He goes for 18 yards before DeAngelo Hall brings him down. Hall sprains his right knee in the process, though, a particularly tough loss given the Redskins have already lost starting corner Bashaud Breeland to an ankle injury. While Hall is on the ground, Beckham (and Victor Cruz) walk over with their helmets off to check on the veteran safety.
-New York is driving with under two minutes to play when Blackmon forces a fumble. Norman walks to the sideline triumphantly as the offense takes over, arms spread wide, before hugging Blackmon.
Two catches for 44 yards on four targets for Beckham at half. The Giants enter halftime up, 21-16, after Cousins is sacked in the red zone with no time left on the clock.
-On the first play from scrimmage, Norman lines up against Sterling Shepard, not Odell Beckham Jr., but switches to Beckham when Shepard goes in motion. None of it matters as the Giants go with a halfback dive for two yards.
-On second down, Norman follows Beckham all the way across the formation nbsp;presnap but sits down in a zone coverage. He's there when Larry Donnell catches a short out and goes hard for a strip. The tackle earns some words from Giants guard Justin Pugh and a bunch of boos from the packed MetLife Stadium.
-Following a Washington special teams turnover, New York scores on a run play. On the weak side, Norman ends up lifting Beckham off the ground and towards a referee before letting him go and sticking his hands in the air.
-With the Giants driving again, motion leaves Norman and Beckham facing off. This time, Manning throws to Beckham on a skinny post, only for Norman to dive in front and get his hands on the ball. But he cannot complete the interception, showing his frustration before lining up for the following play. After New York scored (Manning to Shepard along the seam), Norman walks off the field with his head down.
Last year, Norman held Beckham catchless in the first half for the first time in the receiver's career. He's done the same so far today, but his team's inability to capitalize on offense is the bigger concern, as New York leads its visitors, 14-6.