It didn’t take long for the 2018 NFL season to get weird. Week 3 was a turning point where major underdogs rose up for triumphant victories, a first-year starting quarterback eclipsed one of Peyton Manning’s prolific records, and Jon Gruden continued a proud Oakland tradition of blowing second-half leads.
Hell, even Browns fans got in on the action. Cleveland reveled in its first chance to celebrate a win since President Barack Obama was in office, polishing off fridges full of free victory beer in the process.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So what were the most inexplicable moments of Week 3 — and how are they set to leave an impact on the 2018 season?
The Bills pulled off the biggest upset in more than 20 years
Two weeks is all it took for the Bills to settle in as the consensus worst team in the NFL. Narratives were set. Jokes were written. They were so bad that Las Vegas gave them the dubious honor of being the rare early season double-digit underdog, 17-points on the road against the Vikings. Easy money.
Nope. Every NFL writer in the America shredded all their bad jokes by halftime when Buffalo had a 17-0 lead, thanks in large part to Josh Allen’s two rushing touchdowns. He even put up highlight moments like this hurdle over a defender — Olympic shit!
How does this happen? It was a group effort led by an aggressive defense and a smart gameplan that took advantage of Allen’s strengths while hiding his weaknesses. Let’s not forget the Vikings playing like trash either.
The Lions totally outclassed the Patriots
Which is the least predictable outcome:
- Bill Belichick gets owned by a former assistant
- The Lions get a win and look good doing it
- The Patriots lose and look like poo doing it
- Tom Brady throws for just 133 yards
- A Lions running back rushes for 100 yards in a single game
Somehow all of those happened Sunday night, a fitting ending to a Twilight Zone day around the NFL. Matt Patricia got his first win as a head coach when the Lions dominated the Patriots, 26-10. It came against his old team and mentor Belichick, whose record is now 14-9 against his former assistants. Rookie Kerryon Johnson became the first Detroit running back in 70 games (since Reggie Bush in 2013!) to hit the 100-yard mark in a game.
Not only did that help keep the ball out of Brady’s hands, but the defense also kept the pressure on the ageless (?) quarterback so he didn’t have a chance to beat them.
And that gave us Sad Tom Brady, a sequel to the Angry Tom Brady meme from last season:
The Bears are in first place in the NFC North
Coming into the season, most believed the NFC North to be a two-team race between the Vikings and Packers. One team was returning most of a team that went to the NFC Championship, and the other has one of the best quarterbacks of all time who gives you a chance to win any game no matter who is around him.
And here are the Bears, leading the division at 2-1 after three weeks.
Part of that has been the play of Khalil Mack, which was a train that kept chugging along on Sunday when he got a third forced fumble in as many games.
Mack gets sacks @52Mack_ pic.twitter.com/SpO3bcwzmm— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 23, 2018
The last time a player did that? Khalil Mack. He’s helping the Bears win games with defense, something that Chicago is quite familiar with.
It’s surprising. We knew the Bears would be better off with Mack, but if he’s able to keep making game changing plays, the Bears are going to be in most games that they play. That could turn into a few more wins that they might not have had otherwise.
The refs hate, hate, hate Clay Matthews
In Week 2, Matthews’ controversial roughing the passer flag erased what should have been a Packers victory over the Vikings. In Week 3, it was more of the same — only with lower stakes.
Matthews drew a 15-yard penalty after flattening Alex Smith, earning his third roughing call in as many weeks and single-handedly raising head coach Mike McCarthy’s blood pressure in the process.
While that call didn’t swing the balance of a 31-17 Washington win, a non-call on a similar play might have. Aaron Rodgers found himself squashed under Da’Ron Payne for the rookie’s first career NFL sack, but the burly lineman landed with most of his body weight on the two-time MVP in the process. Officials declined to flag the play, and two downs later, Green Bay turned the ball over on downs.
It was another inconsistent call in a season full of them, and it’s got fans, players, and coaches wondering just how the hell you’re supposed to tackle a quarterback in 2018. And if you’re Clay Matthews, wondering if this whole rule tweak was part of a personal vendetta against him.
The Jaguars and Titans throw it back to 2014 (and not in a good way)
There was a lot to like about 2014. Odell Beckham Jr. made THAT catch. We met Groot. The “But That’s None of My Business” Kermit meme was born.
There was also a lot to dislike, including the game that soon gave every Thursday Night Football matchup a reputation as an, in the immortal words of Richard Sherman, “absolute poopfest.” On Dec. 18, 2014, the 2-12 Titans and 2-12 Jaguars played the poop emoji game.
The Jags ended up winning that scatological AFC South showdown, which eventually led the Titans (who were starting Charlie Whitehurst!) to be in a position to draft Marcus Mariota.
Three years later, both teams were making noise in the playoffs. Eight months after that, their Week 3 matchup was for first place in the division. The Jaguars were coming off a revenge-filled win over the Patriots, looking like the best team in the NFL. The Titans were also fresh off a win, but they were starting comic gold Blaine Gabbert for the second week in a row due to Mariota dealing with a pinched nerve.
The game was in Jacksonville too, so it’d be understandable if you thought the Jags would roll, especially after Gabbert left with a concussion and Mariota came in without the ability to properly grip a football.
Instead, it unfolded how you’d expect a TNF snoozer to: nothing happened in this game except field goals. The Jaguars’ top-10 offense came up with just 232 yards. Their leading receiver was running back T.J. Yeldon. Blake Bortles needed 34 attempts to throw for 155 yards. Mariota totaled just 100 passing yards on 18 completions, which at least was admirable considering his injury. Both teams’ defenses came to play, but it’s not like they were lighting things up either. Each defense had three sacks apiece. There was just one turnover in the game.
But hey, if you liked punts, this game had those. Lots of them!
We expect more from the Jaguars at this point — heck, we even expect more from the AFC South. Instead, they reminded us of the old days, and in this case, that’s not a good thing.
Unless they were just paying homage to the Turd Burglar. Then, we get it.
Arizona finally put Josh Rosen in ... late to try to save the game
The Cardinals needed a spark on offense. Sam Bradford had thrown two picks and had coughed up the ball while they were driving up by just one point. After the Bears took the lead with a field goal, the Cardinals decided to put in Josh Rosen to save the game for them.
Rosen then made his debut, with Arizona down by two and with just 4:30 left to play.
Turns out that putting a rookie quarterback on the field against a Khalil Mack-led defense while the game is on the line is bad!
Rosen himself actually looked pretty competent. He threw a couple lasers down the field, but his first drive still ended in an interception. The coaching staff didn’t make it easy on him — they had him throwing down the field on fourth-and-5 after a Chase Edmonds (not even David Johnson!) run went for negative yardage on third-and-2.
This is a prime example. They make Josh Rosen out to be the goat, highlighting his failure. He played 9 total snaps. No mention of the ridiculous play call on 3rd & 2 for the Edmunds run or the other calls that lost the game for Arizona. Just Josh Rosen failing. This is trash. pic.twitter.com/IivAL8URIc— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) September 23, 2018
Rosen and the Cardinals got another chance with the ball before the clock hit zero. But Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio threw a heavy blitz at Rosen on a Hail Mary attempt and he was sacked as time expired.
Chicago didn't give Josh Rosen a chance for a Hail Mary on the game's final play as the #Bears sack the Arizona rookie to complete a 16-14 win over the #AZCardinals. #CHIvsAZ pic.twitter.com/MPrMkmntRz— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) September 23, 2018
The Cardinals put their rookie quarterback in a terrible spot at the end of the game. We get the need to see what Rosen can do, but the Bears’ defense has caused headaches for Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson this season — putting Rosen in against that defense with just a few minutes left didn’t make any sense. What the heck, Arizona?
Oh NOW the Dolphins are fun to watch?
For some reason, the Dolphins had four primetime games in 2017 and, for the most part, they were awful.
Yeah, their 27-20 upset of the Patriots in Week 14 of last year was pretty fun. But there was also that time the Ravens beat them 40-0 on a Thursday in Week 8. They were a bad team. Worse, they were a boring team.
So a 2018 schedule with 15 Sunday kickoffs at 1 p.m. ET was perfect. But ... now all of a sudden the Dolphins are fun? They scored three touchdowns in the second half to come back and beat the Raiders on Sunday, and all three of them were exciting.
The first was a hot potato pass to Jakeeem Grant, the second was a trick play from receiver Albert Wilson to Grant, and the third was a long touchdown from Ryan Tannehill to Wilson:
This is dope lol pic.twitter.com/WjZISyJsYB— Sтαптσп (@StantonThe3rd) September 23, 2018
They’re one of four undefeated teams and it’s because Tannehill is playing like a bonafide MVP. Through three games, he has seven touchdowns, two interceptions, and a 121.8 (!!!) passer rating — putting him right up there with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Patrick Mahomes, and Drew Brees in the unlikely tier of unstoppable quarterbacks so far.
Up next for the Dolphins are the Patriots, who are now two whole games behind Miami in the AFC East standings. Who would’ve guessed it’d be New England trying to avoid getting buried by the Dolphins and not the other way around?