Week 3 winners, losers: Mason Rudolph doesn't look like the answer for struggling Steelers
There are now just eight teams left as the lone unbeaten teams in the NFL: The Chiefs, Patriots, Bills, Cowboys, Packers, Lions, 49ers and Rams. The emergence of a few young quarterbacks might be shifting the landscape of the league, while some vets might be on notice. The 2019 season is just weeks old, but already key story lines are starting to develop.
Here are Week 3’s winners and losers.
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New York Giants: This was a rollercoaster. The Giants have a woeful defense that Jameis Winston and Mike Evans lit up. And it looks like they could be about to lose star running back Saquon Barkley (ankle) for some time. But rookie quarterback Daniel Jones rallied the team back from an 18-point deficit to beat the Buccaneers, 32-31. Even with Barkley sidelined for the majority of the game, Jones completed 23 of 36 passes for 336 yards and four total touchdowns. The game-winning, 7-yard score might lead the highlights, but a 7-yard touchdown throw in the third quarter to receiver Sterling Shepard paints the clearest picture for why Jones might blossom into a consistent NFL player: he hung in the pocket in the face of pressure, anticipated Shepard coming open and led him to the perfect spot with an accurate throw.
Now, if only this offense still had Odell Beckham Jr. ...
Kyle Allen: Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Cam Newton (foot) would start if he’s healthy, but Allen starred (19 of 26, 261 yards, four touchdowns) in a 38-20 victory against the Cardinals. Maybe now Carolina won’t feel the need to rush Newton back.
Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis Colts: Backup-turned-starting quarterback Jacoby Brissett posted one of the best games of his career (28 for 37, 310 yards, two TDs) in a 27-24 victory against the Falcons. The performance declared to the rest of the league that Indy will be just fine without Andrew Luck. It signaled, even, that the Colts can be competitive in the AFC South. Brissett has completed 71.7% of his passes this year for 646 yards, seven touchdowns and one pick for a QB rating of 112. Indianapolis is now 2-1 and tied atop the division with the Texans. Brissett is a huge reason why.
New Orleans Saints: Credit coach Sean Payton. Rather than let the loss of Drew Brees (injured thumb) derail their season, he crafted an excellent game plan to highlight the strengths of backup Teddy Bridgewater. The Saints toppled the Seahawks, 33-27, in a game that was not as close as the final score indicated. Payton dialed up a heavy dose of do-it-all running back Alvin Kamara. The defense and special teams scored the first two touchdowns of the game. And Bridgewater managed the game effectively on the road against a solid Seahawks defense. Maybe New Orleans will be just fine while Brees is on the mend.
Dalvin Cook: When the Vikings are at their best, Cook powers Minnesota’s offense through the running game. In a 34-14 victory against the Raiders, he became only the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 110 or more yards and at least one touchdown in each of his first three games to start a season. He leads the league in rushing (375) and is second in rushing touchdowns (four) with an average of 6.6 yards a carry. After dealing with some nagging injuries in the first few seasons of his career, Cook’s start to 2019 proves he’s ready to be one of the top backs in the NFL.
NFL WEEK 3:32 things we learned
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Cleveland Browns: After all the offseason hype, a 20-13 loss at home against the Rams dropped Cleveland to 1-2 and reaffirmed some serious issues. The offensive line's woes continue to put unnecessary pressure on quarterback Baker Mayfield, so much so that he's often bailing out of a clean pocket. It's leading to a disjointed offense, and questionable playcalling isn't helping.
Mason Rudolph as an heir apparent: The Steelers said they were confident Rudolph would keep Pittsburgh afloat as the replacement to starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (elbow injury). But in a 24-20 loss in which the 49ers turned the ball over five times, Rudolph struggled to generate any real momentum. He missed open targets and led drives that often stalled. He did have two long scoring throws of 76 and 39 yards. But the first was thanks to the speed and elusiveness of receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and the second was on a blown coverage. If you remove those two passes, Rudolph was just 12 of 25 for 59 yards with one interception.
Broncos pass rush: They have edge rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Rookie coach Vic Fangio is a defensive specialist. But, once again, the Broncos did not get one sack in a 27-16 loss against the Packers. They’re the only team in the NFL without a sack through three games. In fact, Denver only has three QB hits this year — all of them from Chubb. The Broncos are 0-3. It must sting even more that they let outside linebacker Shaq Barrett walk in free agency given that the Buccaneers' new standout leads the NFL with eight sacks after notching four sacks against the Giants.
Eli Manning: The Giants were winners, but Jones’ performance erased any doubts about whether New York was making a mistake by benching Manning.
Chris Carson: The Seattle Seahawks running back is trying to keep his place in a crowded backfield but isn’t doing himself any favors. Against the Saints, Carson — again — fumbled, and the ball was recovered by safety Vonn Bell and returned for a touchdown. That gave Carson three fumbles, all of them lost, through his first 49 offensive touches of the year. That’s the quickest way to lose snaps.
Philadelphia Eagles: In the past, coach Doug Pederson’s teams had been offensively efficient, highlighted by taking care of the football. That was the opposite of what happened in a 27-24 loss against the Lions. The Eagles (1-2) have dropped two in a row and have committed five turnovers in that span. Philly is minus-2 in turnover margin overall. Most concerning was that the Lions offered the Eagles plenty of chances late in the game to take the lead. Instead, turnovers, dropped passes and an ineffective pass rush never let Philly capitalize.
Le’Veon Bell: Sure, the mono diagnosis affecting Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is hurting New York. But the Jets offense looked, once again, utterly useless in a 30-14 beatdown against the Patriots. New England is among the best in the NFL at neutralizing a team’s strength. The Pats knew it would be Bell, basically the only star player on New York’s offense. But third-string QB Luke Falk just couldn’t muster anything to alleviate the pressure on Bell. He now has just 56 carries this season for only 163 yards (2.9 yards a carry). The Jets defense and special teams units have combined for 22 points this year. The offense has scored only 11 points. It might be a lost year for Bell and his teammates.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.
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