If you're reading this, there's almost a one in five chance that the team you root for is 0-3. Chronic Winless Syndrome is real and it can strike anywhere, so get your team tested today. Don't let the next five touchdown shutout loss to Ron Rivera happen to a team you love.
Green Bay 30, Cincinnati 34
Time of Death: With four minutes to go and the Packers holding the lead, rookie running back Johnathan Franklin fumbled on fourth-and-inches. The Bengals returned said fumble 70 yards for a touchdown.
Cause of Death: That was Green Bay's seventh possession that wound up reaching the Cincinnati 30-yard-line, and the other six were similarly hit-or-miss in their ending: two touchdowns, an interception and field goals from 41, 26, and 19 yards. Field goals in a close game are the equivalent of telling James Bond your fiendish plan while he's strapped to some elaborate device: you're just fooling around when you should be delivering a killing stroke.
St. Louis 7, Dallas 31
Time of Death: Tavon Austin had a punt return touchdown called back for holding with 3:40 on the clock in the second quarter, and the Rams down 17. (Punt return touchdowns are worth triple points, right?)
Cause of Death: Through all of last season and their first two games this year, the Rams had only allowed an opposing running back to gain 120 yards from scrimmage three times. DeMarco Murray had 124. After the third Dallas drive.
San Diego 17, Tennessee 20
Time of Death: Rookie receiver Justin Hunter caught the decisive touchdown from Jake Locker with fifteen seconds left in the game. Thankfully for the rest of us, there was still time on the clock for San Diego to get weird.
Cause of Death: The Chargers got weirdly comfortable sitting on a small (or no) lead in the second half, calling only seven passes out of the 25 plays they ran before the Titans pulled ahead. Just one of those passes took place on first down. Because if there's one thing you want to be on offense, it's conservative AND predictable.
Minnesota 27, Cleveland 31
Cause of Death: Brian Hoyer appeared in 37 games at Michigan State and threw at least twenty passes in 24 of them. Hoyer only hit 300 yards passing in four of those games (all losses) and only threw three touchdowns in three of them. Brian Hoyer was, it seems fair to say, a pretty mediocre quarterback when he faced a college defense.
Brian Hoyer threw for 321 yards and three scores against the Vikings.
Tampa Bay 3, New England 23
Time of Death: 10:35 into the second quarter, at the New England 38, the Bucs were stopped for no gain on third-and-one, then stopped again for no gain on 4th and 1. After reviewing the tape, this is because the Bucs are a bad team that don't want their fans to be happy.
Cause of Death: So much of the box score in this game looks even: yards per pass attempt, yards per rush, sacks allowed, turnovers forced. If you have to identify a figure that explains this very un-close score, go with this one: the Patriots went 4-of-8 on third downs in the second half while Tampa only went 1-of-6.
Arizona 7, New Orleans 31
Time of Death: The Cardinals had a chance to cut the lead to 10 points with twelve minutes to play, but then Carson Palmer threw a brutally bad interception inside the red zone and things went downhill from there.
Cause of Death: These are Carson Palmer's statistics over his first three games with Arizona.
- Week 1: 65% of passes completed, 8.18 yards per passing attempt, 2 TDs, 1 pick
- Week 2: 56.4% completed, 6.36 yards per attempt, 1 TD, 1 pick
- Week 3: 51.4% completed, 5.34 yards per attempt, 0 TD, 2 picks
This confirms that Carson Palmer is one of the more unstable elements occurring in nature, decaying at a rate that will leave him completing two passes for 0.7 yards and 11 interceptions by Week 9.
Washington 20, Detroit 27
Time of Death: It looked as though Washington had taken the lead with roughly nine minutes to play in the game after RGIII threw a 57-yard touchdown bomb to Aldrick Robinson, but replay ruined that party and the Redskins punted two plays later.
Cause of Death: Through Week 2, Washington's defense had given up 15 plays that gained 20 yards or more, the most in the league. They gave up six more to Detroit and still hold the lead through Week 3. Jim Haslett better hope this is just the product of playing three of the NFL's most explosive offenses to start the year, because otherwise he's probably not getting that head coaching job with the Vikings.
New York Giants 0, Carolina 38
Time of Death: Early in the second quarter, David Wilson had a 17-yard rushing touchdown negated by a holding penalty, which in retrospect, the referees should have let slide because dear lord is this one sad final score.
Cause of Death: Eli Manning finished the first half 6-of-9 for 37 yards. That's a dreadfully low yardage number for that many attempts, but at least he was finding his receivers. Oh, one more thing: Manning was sacked six times for a loss of 36 yards in the first two quarters. Subtracting those sack yards, the Giants averaged 2.4 inches per dropback in the first half. That's staggeringly useless, like a box turtle who wins the lottery.
Houston 9, Baltimore 30
Cause of Death: Part of why this game stayed so close in the first half was Houston's defensive effort on third down, where they prevented a Baltimore conversion on four attempts out of seven. Part of why this game stopped being close in the second half was Houston's defensive effort on third down, where they prevented just two Baltimore conversions out of nine.
Atlanta 23, Miami 27
Time of Death: Dion Sims made his first catch as a professional a memorable one, snagging the game-winning touchdown with 38 seconds left in the game.
Cause of Death: After only missing on two throws in the first half, Matt Ryan's accuracy left him in the second, where he went 8 of 21. That left the Falcons attempting field goals when touchdowns would have put the game away. And, yes, this means Matt Ryan can't win in a frequent Super Bowl host city; that's a really good point.
San Francisco 7, Indianapolis 27
Time of Death: The Niners, down six points early in the fourth quarter, faced a third down near midfield. A conversion might have turned things in San Francisco's favor. The sack that came instead did not.
Cause of Death: Maybe it's the injuries in the receiving corps or it's because defenses are adjusting to his talents, but Colin Kaepernick has not looked great in his last two games, his only two starts averaging under six yards per passing attempt. Nor was Kaepernick a threat on the ground, only picking up twenty yards on seven rushes. That all adds up to the first start of Kaepernick's career where he didn't account for at least 200 yards combined passing and running, which I'm sure Jim Harbaugh will take in stride.
Buffalo 20, New York Jets 27
Time of Death: Just after the two minute warning, EJ Manuel's last meaningful pass easily missed Robert Woods on fourth down, and the Jets advanced to 2-1, just like you predicted.
Cause of Death: Much has been said of the twenty penalties the Jets committed, but there's another number you should note here: eight, the number of sacks the New York defense collected. That's the most they've tallied in a game since 1988, when they sacked Phil Simms eight times. And now you're thinking about Phil Simms getting sacked eight times, which has to make you happy even if you're a Bills fan.
Jacksonville 17, Seattle 45
Time of Death: 52 seconds away from halftime, the Jaguars were looking at their best scoring opportunity on the Seattle 18. Then the predictably unpredictable happened:
Cause of Death: Here's the thing about Jacksonville: their defense isn't abjectly terrible. It's not great against the run, and the sack numbers are a little low, but it's a unit that can get some stops. The offense though? Horrific. Like, banned in every country except a former Soviet state horrific. Other than that gem of an interception, the Jaguars offense ran 27 plays in the first half and gained 52 yards. That's less than 2 yards per play.
That means you could give the Jaguars a fifth down and they still wouldn't convert on average.
Pittsburgh 23, Chicago 40
Time of Death: Earl Bennett's tiptoe touchdown catch with a little under six minutes left in the game put Chicago up by 11 and sealed the third straight loss for the Steelers.
Cause of Death: Turning the ball over five times is a problem on its own, but it becomes catastrophic when it turns into 24 points for your opponent. Four of Pittsburgh's five giveaways were either run back for a score or left the defense with less than 30 yards to defend.
The Steelers have a bigger turnover problem, however: they're the only team who hasn't forced one three weeks into the season. Last year, NFL teams were 23-101-1 in games where they didn't get a takeaway, although I suppose that winning percentage would still be an improvement for Pittsburgh.
Oakland 21, Denver 37
Time of Death: Approaching the end of the first half, the Raiders had the ball at the 50 with time for one more play. They were already down 27-7 and were not going to win this game. But they had Sebastian Janikowski, a man who was literally only allowed to stay in this country because he can kick the shit out of the ball. Just two years ago, in Denver, on Monday Night Football, Janikowski had tied the record for longest field goal with a 63 yarder. Why not let him try to hold the record outright?
Naturally, the Raiders elected to call for a Hail Mary, which Terrelle Pryor didn't even manage to throw. Assholes.
Cause of Death: At the end of the first half, Peyton Manning had three touchdown passes and three incompletions. Terrelle Pryor had three incompletions before the 8 minute mark in the first quarter. If you're putting this all together and coming to the radical conclusion that Terrelle Pryor, improved though he has looked this year, isn't as good as Peyton Manning, congratulations! (Unfortunately, now the Raiders have to turn to Matt Flynn, who is not only not Peyton Manning, he's also not even Brian Hoyer.)