Week 3 in Perspective: Plenty of Sunday Action Despite Threats to Replacement Officials

September 24, 2012 • Ben Heck • AFC, NFC, Recap

The replacement officials have continued to struggle to maintain a reasonable game pace and avoid making critical mistakes. Yesterday’s slate of games may have surpassed Week 2 in terms of butchered or missed calls.

Despite being warned by the National Football League prior to Sunday about harassing or “bullying” the officials, players and coaches all over have repeatedly made verbal threats. And in Bill Belichick’s case following Sunday night’s 31-30 loss to Baltimore, even made contact with one official.
Numerous calls involving player safety were missed, costing Matt Schaub a piece of his ear and sending Darrius Heyward-Bey to the hospital. Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers were awarded extra challenges while Mike Shanahan’s Redskins were unfairly penalized an extra five yards.
If this isn’t enough proof that the regular NFL officials are well-qualified for the job and have done a spectacular job over the years, then I don’t know what more to say. It takes a certain set of skills to officiate an NFL game and, clearly, you cannot just replace these guys with officials from the CFL, AFL and Lingerie Football League.
I understand the officials want more money, which the league does not agree with. But at this point, I don’t think it matters how much you pay these guys, just get them back on the field as soon as possible. Unfortunately for coaches, players and fans, the league has shown that they are not in any hurry to get them back out there. Commissioner Roger Goodell knows that people will still be watching, but if the issue isn’t fixed in the next couple of weeks he could start to see viewership drop. And drop fast.Rant over.

Besides the blown calls and illegal hits from yesterday, there really was some good football played around the league. I believe that Week 3’s action surpassed the previous two weeks of play, by far. Some players have continued to stay cold and disappoint while others have broken out from a slow start and turned heads.
Three Early Games Decided in Overtime
Three 1:00 p.m. (eastern time) games were not decided until the fifth quarter of play, in a (partial) sudden death format. The Kansas City Chiefs captured its first win of the season by upsetting the now 0-3 New Orleans Saints in OT, led by the speedy Jamaal Charles and his 233 rushing yards. Charles missed basically all of last season after injuring his ACL in a Week 2 match-up with Detroit. Charles showed he’s back to full health by carrying a full load of 33 rushing attempts and adding a 91-yard rushing TD in the third quarter. The game was won by the foot of Ryan Succop, hitting a game-winning field goal from 31 yards late in OT. Chiefs win 27-24.The Lions and Titans combined for 85 points and just over 1,000 total yards in their match-up in Tennessee. Despite running for just 59 yards as a team, the Titans’ pulled out its first victory of the season by a score of 44-41 after Rob Bironas kicked the game-winner from 26 yards out in overtime. Sophomore quarterback Jake Locker, making his third career start as Tennessee’s QB, had a career day throwing for 378 yards and 2 TDs with no picks. For Detroit, Matthew Stafford sustained an injury and was forced to leave the game. What did backup Shaun Hill, hailing from the University of Maryland, do in his place? Oh, he only completed 10 of his 13 passes for 172 yards and 2 TD passes with :18 to play in regulation. It’s a shame Detroit lost after Hill’s effort.

One of the most poorly played games of the day was a New York Jets/Miami Dolphins match-up in South Florida. The two teams combined for four turnovers and 20 penalties and Miami’s Dan Carpenter missed two field goals, one being the potential game-winner in overtime. The game ended with Nick Folk kicking it in from 33 yards out with just over six minutes to play in the extra quarter. First-year Miami head coach Joe Philbin, however, shot himself in the toe by trying to ice Folk. Folk had his first attempt blocked by Miami, but Philbin had called the timeout before the ball was snapped, therefore giving Folk a second try. When you’re given a second try, you can’t miss. And Folk didn’t, giving New York its second win of the season and dropping Miami to 1-2.
Dalton, Bengals knock off RGIII’s Skins
Yes, I know, there was controversy towards the end of Cincinnati’s 38-31 victory over Robert Griffin III and the 1-2 Skins, like I stated above. But that doesn’t take away from one of the best games of Dalton’s young career. His 328 yards and 3 passing touchdowns marks just the third time he’s accomplished a 300-yard game in his 20 starts (regular and postseason). It was also the first time he’s had back-to-back 300+ yard, 3 TD games. He was near flawless in a match-up with the Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan-less Skins defense. His favorite target, sophomore wideout A.J. Green had a big day as well (9 rec., 183 yards, 1 TD), sending a message to the other wideouts in the league. Green is here to stay. And apparently so is Dalton.Bears’ Defense Assists Cutler in 23-6 Victory

Sure, it would appear as though Jay Cutler redeemed himself after a relatively embarrassing performance against Green Bay last week. The reason for Chicago’s victory, improving to 2-1 in the process, is pretty much because of a defense that forced two Sam Bradford interceptions and limited St. Louis’ offense to 160 total yards and zero red zone trips. Bradford was unable to get anything going all game long against this Chicago defense, and Cutler’s stat-line of 17/31, 183 yards, 1 INT isn’t going to win over any of his fantasy owners. But it was enough to get the job done. That’s all we can ask, right? No 7-sack game this week.
Spiller Goes Down, Choice Steps up in Buffalo Victory
C.J. Spiller had won over fantasy owners in the first two weeks of the season, filling the void for the injured Fred Jackson who was said to miss at least the first month of play this season. Well, another injury to a Buffalo running back occurred in yesterday’s game with the Browns, as Spiller left the game with a left shoulder injury. At the time of the injury he only had four carries for 16 yards. Luckily another running back stepped right in as Tashard Choice ran for 91 yards on his 20 carries to help Ryan Fitzpatrick to a 24-14 victory over the Browns. Buffalo is now 2-1, but injuries continue to cloud up the backfield situation heading into next week’s game with New England.
Romo Prevails vs. Bucs Despite Lack of Offensive Production
Tony Romo’s Dallas Cowboys improved to 2-1, tying the Giants and Eagles for the NFC East lead, defeating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16-10. But it wasn’t pretty, on both sides of the field. Josh Freeman was limited 110 passing yards (10/28, 1 TD, 1 INT) and had a run game that managed just 3.0 yards per carry. Romo led Dallas on just one touchdown drive, capped by a DeMarco Murray 11-yard TD run in the first quarter. Other than that, both teams combined for five turnovers and six sacks. It didn’t really appear to be spectacular defense, just poorly executed offensive drives. Both teams also finished for a combined 2-for-7 in the red zone. Neither lit up the scoreboard, or stat sheet in this match-up. Not sure which Cowboys team to expect this season, to tell you the truth.Jones-Drew Leads Jags to First Victory

Ah, yes. Here’s what we’ve all been waiting for. A big game from Maurice Jones-Drew. MJD held out of camp and preseason and clearly wasn’t fully prepared for the first few weeks of the regular season, combining for 137 yards and 0 TDs in his first two games. But yesterday he broke out for 177 yards and a touchdown in Jacksonville’s 22-17 victory over Andrew Luck’s Colts. Luck was decent, throwing for 313 yards and a pair of TDs, but Blaine Gabbert’s 80-yard bomb to Cecil Shorts with less than a minute to play gave Jacksonville the victory.
Vikings, led by Ponder, Stun 49ers
More controversy towards the end of this game was the main things that caught everyone’s attention, but luckily Minnesota prevailed in the end despite coach Jim Harbaugh’s two extra challenges that were basically conned from the referee. Sophomore quarterback Christian Ponder, much like fellow second year-men Locker and Dalton, looked very impressive throughout. Out-passing counterpart Alex Smith, Ponder got the job done with both his arm (2 TD passes to TE Kyle Rudolph) and his legs (23-yard TD run in 2nd qtr). Minnesota’s defense stepped up as well, sacking Smith three times and forcing three more turnovers in the 24-13 victory. The controversy made no difference in the outcome of the game, luckily.
Big Ben Plays Near-Perfect Football, Stunned by Last-Second Janikowski GWer
Ben Roethlisberger had a career day in a 34-31 loss to the Oakland Raiders. Due to a lack of a running game (54 yards on 20 carries, 0 TD), Roethlisberger was forced to pass the ball 49 times, which is tied for the third-most of his nine-year career. Ben completed 36 of those passes for 384 yards and 4 TDs, with no interceptions. Oakland’s Darren McFadden, finishing with 113 yards and a TD, ran for a 64-yard touchdown early in the game to knot the score at 7 apiece. But Oakland had never led until they tied the game at 34 following an Antonio Brown fumble and then hit the 43-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. Sebastian Janikowski used his leg to score the final six points of the game as the Raiders completed the comeback.Cardinals, Kolb Improve to 3-0 by Shutting Down Vick’s Eagles

The Eagles didn’t have a shot from the very beginning of the game. Head coach Andy Reid even admitted he did a terrible job at preparing his team for the game. Arizona, one of the league’s only undefeated teams left, sacked Vick five times throughout the four quarters and LeSean McCoy only touched the ball 16 times (13 rushes, 3 catches). Vick’s two fumbles proved costly, one of which was returned 93 yards for an Arizona touchdown with six seconds to play in the first half. Kevin Kolb, of all guys, outplayed his former teammate Michael Vick as Kolb and wideout Larry Fitzgerald torched Philly’s secondary all game. I almost want to say that Philadelphia is lucky the final score was only 27-6.
Atlanta Stays Winless After 27-3 Victory
San Diego was at home, and had running back Ryan Mathews (broke collarbone in preseason) back in the lineup, yet Matt Ryan’s 3-0 Falcons were far too much for Philip Rivers and the Charger offense. Ryan threw for three more TDs, giving him a league-leading 8 for the season, spreading the ball out to eight different receivers in Atlanta’s high-powered first half. Atlanta, in addition to Arizona and Houston, is one of three teams left that have yet to lose this season. With the way this passing offense has been playing, I think they could end up being the last to lose a game, too.
Peyton, Broncos Fall just Short of Comeback for Second Straight game
Peyton Manning’s Broncos got off to another slow start against the 3-0 Texans, down 21-5 at one point during the second quarter. But two 4th quarter passing TDs to Brandon Stokley and Joel Dressen put Denver back in the game late, though the comeback attempt eventually failed. Peyton is not looking his regular form as a lot of his passes appear to be dead ducks, or just very loose spirals. It’s disappointing not seeing his normal tight spirals thrown into very small windows, but we all know it’ll take him some time to get back to full health. He’ll be just fine.Ravens Win Rematch in Controversy-filled SNF match-up

There’s no doubt there were a lot of questionable calls, and a couple of critical no-calls as well in this game. In total, 24 penalties were called, adding up to 218 penalty yards (135 of them went against Baltimore). It was a long, yet still entertaining, game that featured two 300-yard passers in Tom Brady and Joe Flacco. Less than 24 hours after his younger brother was killed in a motorcycle accident, Baltimore receiver Torrey Smith had a career game with six catches for 127 yards and 2 TDs. A very inspiring performance indeed, and it was capped off when Baltimore placekicker Justin Tucker hit a walk-off 27-yard field goal as time expired, to give Baltimore a 31-30 redemption victory. Once again, there was some question as to whether or not the FG was good, but it appeared to sail just over top of the right upright, meaning it was, in fact, three points and a win for the 2-1 Ravens.
Key Injuries:
Matthew Stafford, Detroit QB–hamstring. Status uncertain.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo RB–shoulder. Will have MRI, likely to miss Week 4.
Reggie Bush, Miami RB–knee. MRI revealed no structural damage

Austin Collie, Indianapolis WR–ruptured patella tendon. Out for season.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, Oakland WR–concussion and neck strain. Released from hospital on Monday.Adrian Clayborn, Tampa Bay DE–torn knee ligament. Out for rest of season.

Darrelle Revis, New York Jets CB–torn ACL, out for season
Monday Night Preview:
Packers at SeahawksSeattle’s rookie signal caller Russell Wilson is coming off his most impressive performance last week, a 27-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. With Marshawn Lynch taking the pressure off Wilson with his 122 yards and 1 TD, Seattle’s offense scored 17 unanswered points to put the game out of the hands of the Cowboys.

In tonight’s match-up, however, Seattle will need to give Lynch at least 30 carries. Against a team of Green Bay’s caliber, Pete Carroll will need to establish the run early and keep with it. This will be Wilson’s toughest match-up yet and will need to be comfortable. Normally I would say you’d need to attack, but in Seattle’s case a conservative game plan is their best bet to beat the Packers.

After missing last week’s game with a groin injury, Greg Jennings told ESPN’s Lisa Salters that he will be playing tonight and he has been listed as active by the team.

My Prediction: Packers 35, Seahawks 14

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