The evening games might've been a little boring with blowout wins by the Cardinals, Seahawks and Bills, but the early group of matchups did not disappoint. There were 10 games at 1 p.m. ET on the NFL slate this week and six of them ended up as one-score contests, including crazy barn-burners between Cincy and Baltimore and Indy and Tennessee.
The Colts were staring at an 0-3 start and a lot of questions to answer as they trailed 27-14 with three minutes remaining in the third frame. Marcus Mariota and the Titans had picked off Andrew Luck twice and looked to be rolling, ready to snap Indianapolis' 13-game AFC South winning streak. Undeterred, Luck and the Colts bounced back and put together three straight scoring drives to take the lead 35-27 with 1:51 remaining. Tennessee wasn't done, and they would drive back down the field and score with 47 seconds to go. Their failed two-point conversion ended it, though, and so while hands might be hovering over the Panic Button in Indianapolis this week, the comeback win keeps those hands at bay for now.
Meanwhile, in Dallas, the Cowboys shot out to a big lead early on as their offensive line opened up big lanes for Joseph Randle, but the Falcons didn't roll over. Dan Quinn's defense tightened up and allowed the Falcons offense to capitalize -- they mounted a late comeback, erasing a 28-14 deficit with the help of two 11-play touchdown drives in the fourth quarter. Julio Jones is really good, by the way, and finished with 12 catches for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
Neither of these games could hold a candle to the shootout in Baltimore though, as the Ravens and Bengals traded the lead four times in the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter before Cincinnati put it away for good. Steve Smith and A.J. Green traded haymakers -- A.J. Green's 80-yard catch and run touchdown put the Bengals up 21-17, then Smith's 16 yard grab gave Baltimore the lead at 24-21 with 3:56 to go. Green got the last laugh, though, as he caught a 16-yard score with 2:10 remaining to give Cincy the lead for good. It was a huge game for both star receivers -- Smith finished with 13 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns while Green put up final line of 10 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns.
The Saints-Panthers, Raiders-Browns, Texans-Bucs, Steelers-Rams and Eagles-Jets all came down to the wire as well. Not a bad Sunday of football.
SB Nation presents: A.J. Green put the Bengals on his back against the Ravens
Win the water cooler
First things first: The NFL still doesn't know what a catch is
I'm not here to debate whether the overturned touchdown for Tyler Eifert was the correct interpretation of the NFL's rules regarding a "catch." I'm here to say that the NFL's rules are dumb if this isn't a touchdown.
Still, as we've all learned over the past two years, "He has to maintain control all the way to the ground," as head of officiating Dean Blandino explained. "When you're going to the ground, you have to hold onto it regardless of any reach." Even when it clearly breaks the plane of the end zone, Even when he clearly catches it.
While the Dez Bryant catch/no-catch last year was frustrating because of the enormity of the situation, this one is even worse in principal because of the NFL's "break the plane" rule regarding the goal-line. This catch was ruled incomplete despite the clear reach across the goal line -- where in every other situation as soon as the ball crosses it's an instantaneous touchdown -- because Eifert had failed to "establish himself as a runner," the new "make a football move." However, since Eifert had apparently not established himself as a runner, or whatever, he had to hold on to it all the way to the ground.
The Dez "no-catch" didn't feel right. This doesn't feel right either. The rule has led to way too many of these illogical overturns -- every piece of rational thought says that this should be considered "a catch." I don't care what the rule says.
Notes for that Fantasy Football fanatic
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you're trading notes with Donnie in Human Resources, the fantasy football freak.
First of all, there were a few running back breakouts to monitor this week. The Cowboys came into this weekend with 56 rushing attempts for 189 yards, a 3.38 yard per carry clip, and there were questions as to what had happened to the run game with this elite offensive line group. Joseph Randle helped put those concerns to bed, as he finished with 14 attempts for 87 yards and three touchdowns, a 6.2 yard per carry rate.
It looks like Randle is still the unquestioned leader of the pack when it comes to Dallas' backfield, and more importantly, he was able to do what many thought he would behind that line.
On the other side of the ball, with Tevin Coleman out, Devonta Freeman feasted, racking up 30 carries for 141 yards and three scores, rewarding owners that had him stashed on their bench as a handcuff to Coleman, particularly in that he'd previously put up 1.9 YPC on 22 carries. Both Freeman and Randle owners could be sitting pretty over the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, in Seattle, there may be a situation to monitor. Marshawn Lynch had been battling a calf injury and then left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. He was replaced by rookie Thomas Rawls. The former undrafted free agent out of Western Michigan looked good in Seattle's scheme, running with power and burst while racking up 104 yards on 16 attempts.
It wasn't a monster day, obviously, but if Lynch is out for any extended period of time with that hamstring pull, Rawls could see a ton of carries in the Seahawks' run-heavy philosophy. Per ESPN's Stats and Info, Rawls averaged 3.56 yards after contact per carry, the second-highest mark for any running back in a single game this season. Is he a mini-Marshawn? He'll likely be a big add on the waiver wire this week.
One more waiver-wire addition for this week is Cleveland TE Gary Barnidge, who caught six passes for 106 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders. With Josh McCown consistently looking his way, he may be worth a speculative add at a thin position.
The stats nerd
Looking to impress that stats nerd in your office? Here are a few interesting tidbits.
- When you combine the finish of last week's game with Sunday's matchup with Atlanta, Brandon Weeden completed 21 straight passes, which becomes an all-time Cowboys record (the NFL record is 22). Similarly, Miami's Ryan Tannehill hit an interesting mark -- 158 straight passes without an interception, which is a Dolphins franchise record -- and then he threw a pick on his 159th attempt.
- In Foxboro, Tom Brady threw his 400th career touchdown pass, joining elite company as one of only four quarterbacks to hit that milestone: Peyton Manning (533), Brett Favre (508) and Dan Marino (420) being the other three. Meantime, Adrian Peterson's 126 rushing yards on the day pushed him to 25th on NFL's all-time list -- he reached 10,481 yards, passing Eddie George and Tiki Barber.
- As pointed out above, Andrew Luck shook off a tough start to help lead the Colts to victory, but we can't really ignore a troubling trend that he needs to correct: An increasing number of turnovers. Luck now has 29 turnovers since the beginning of the 2014 season, three more than the next closest quarterback -- Jay Cutler.
- The Cardinals are rolling, and after blowing out the Bears last week, they destroyed the Niners at home on Sunday. They now have 17 touchdowns this year, becoming just the fourth team in NFL history to hit that benchmark through their first three games, and the first to do so since 1968. Wow. Look out for this team.
- Raiders rookie receiver Amari Cooper had eight catches for 134 yards and became just the second player in the last 30 years (with DeSean Jackson) to record two 100-yard performances in their first three games. Seahawks rookie receiver Tyler Lockett returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown, becoming just the second rookie in NFL history (with Tony Green in 1978) to have both a punt-return touchdown and a kickoff return touchdown in his team's first three games.
Did you see that?
In case you missed it, here were a few amazing plays from Sunday's games:
1. Brandon Marshall, what in the world are you doing? (In his defense, Marshall called it maybe the worst play in the history of the NFL. He owned it.)
2. Adrian Peterson is back! After admitting that he hasn't felt like himself to this point, he looked to be in vintage form out there on Sunday.
Remember this Adrian Peterson guy? pic.twitter.com/lsDNOb9yXL— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) September 27, 2015
3. Steve Smith tries to save the day.
4. The amazing Bradley Roby pick.