Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season began (Carolina-Houston) and ended (Philadelphia-Dallas) with duds, but there were an awful lot of exciting matchups in between.
And there also were a lot of late-game situations that left coaches up for second-guessing.
Those obviously include Dolphins head coach Brian Flores' decision to kick a field goal to tie the score with just under 3 minutes left in overtime, a decision we've already dissected with a final verdict of a thumbs down.
And we also compared it to what happened in Kansas City, where the Chargers were uber-aggressive and were rewarded with a victory.
But even there, the Chargers could be criticized for leaving Patrick Mahomes too much time by going for a touchdown to break a 24-24 tie — a decision that could have proven disastrous after their kicker missed the PAT.
The Chargers avoided the same fate as the 49ers, who appeared on their way to a 28-27 victory against the Packers until Aaron Rodgers did what Aaron Rodgers does.
Green Bay won on a 51-yard field goal by Mason Crosby on the final play of the game after Rodgers drove the Packers 42 yards in only 37 seconds. Of course, it didn't help that the 49ers snapped the ball on their potential game-winning touchdown with 12 seconds left on the play clock.
When the ball was snapped, the 49ers had the ball at the Packers 12-yard line with 43 seconds left and all three of their timeouts. So if they were going to fail in their attempt to erase that 27-21 lead, it wasn't going to be because of time but rather the inability to gain those final 12 yards.
The moral of the story here: Don't give elite QBs — like Rodgers, Mahomes or Derek Carr — the chance to beat in the final seconds if you can avoid it.
On to other observations from Week 3:
THE BIG WINNERS
-- Should we give the Cowboys the NFC East title right now. They sure look legit after their 20-point pounding of the Eagles and have the luxury of playing in a putrid division. The Eagles are battling offensive line injuries for a second consecutive season, Washington looks like its defense was massively overrated, and the Giants — who the Dolphins will face at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 5 — look like the Giants. It's bad enough to lose at home against the mediocre Falcons, but even worse to do it on the day when Eli Manning is being honored at MetLife Stadium.
-- The marquee matchup in the NFL in Week 3 featured the Rams and Bucs, and the outcome validated the Rams as legit Super Bowl contenders. It also highlighted some massive shortcomings Tampa Bay (who the Dolphins will face Oct. 10) will have to address if it hopes to repeat as Super Bowl champ. After being lit up by Matthew Stafford, Tampa Bay is last in the NFL in pass defense and it doesn't help the Buccaneers also rank last in sacks per pass attempts.
-- It's still very early in the season, but it looks like there might be hope for a turnaround in Cincinnati after a rare victory at Pittsburgh, where Joe Burrow continued his great connection with former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase. It was two touchdowns for Chase in this game, giving him four on the season. It should be noted, though, that the Steelers look like they could be headed for a down year because of continuing offensive line issues and Ben Roethlisberger looking like a shell of a former self.
-- If we're mentioning Ja'Marr Chase, we have to bring up DeVonta Smith because he was the other high-profile wide receiver at the top of the 2021 draft along with Chase and Jaylen Waddle. After a big opener against Atlanta, Smith has been very quiet the past two weeks with only five catches for 44 yards on 13 targets in losses against San Francisco and Dallas.
-- Have to feel bad for former Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell, who appeared headed for his first win in Detroit until Justin Tucker delivered an NFL-record 66-yard game-winning field goal. The Lions continue to play hard and will give that elusive win at some point. What shouldn't be lost about that game was the incredible pass Lamar Jackson threw to get the Ravens into position to even be able to attempt that long field goal. Jackson, whose passing still sometimes gets criticized for some reason, threw for 287 yards in that game and his total would have been a lot higher if not for a horrible afternoon by Marquise "Hollywood" Brown, who continues to underperform as a former first-round pick.
-- A lot has been made about how much the rookie quarterbacks have been struggling, with Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Mac Jones and Davis Mills going 0-5 in Week 3 and their teams combining for only 47 points. And while those QBs did struggle, it shouldn't be lost that Lawrence, Wilson and Mills are playing for the three worst team from last year, while Fields was asked to operate under an atrocious game plan that didn't make use of his best trait. The Dolphins might see all of those quarterbacks except for Jones later this season, including Lawrence in London in two weeks. The first overall pick has obviously physical ability, though his decision-making process needs to get better, as was evident on the pick-six he threw off a flea-flicker against Arizona on Sunday.
-- We close with a thought on the Dolphins' upcoming opponents, the Indianapolis Colts, who are among the five 0-3 teams in the NFL. It's been a disappointing start for a team that made the playoffs in 2020, though facing the Seahawks, Rams and Titans in the first three weeks was a brutal opening schedule. While Carson Wentz clearly has been the focal point for everything Colts so far in 2021, the reality is the defense just hasn't been able to reach the same level where it produced last season — though the quality of the opponents certainly has to play a role in that.