Some thoughts after Week 3 of the NFL season…
Los Angeles Chargers 30, Kansas City 24
The Chargers played really aggressively for most of the game, and that is the reason they won. The play of the game came down to Los Angeles’ decision to go for it on fourth-and-9 from K.C.’s 35. They did not have faith in a 50-plus-yard kick and giving the ball back to the Chiefs with 40-plus seconds left. That is how losing teams operate. I think Brandon Staley has been very impressive. Defensive coaches who are willing to be really aggressive offensively — like Sean McDermott, Mike Tomlin or Bill Belichick — might be the best coaches in football. Bill Parcells and Joe Gibbs were like that as well. The main problem with this is, too often, the offensive coordinators get promoted, leaving the defensive coach starting from scratch. That is why it is not surprising McDermott is having so much success in Buffalo with Brian Daboll, and Belichick has been able to keep winning while retaining Josh McDaniels. On offense for L.A., Justin Herbert continues to look like a franchise quarterback. For the game, he completed over 68% of his passes for 7.4 yards an attempt with four passing touchdowns.
Los Angeles Rams 34, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24
This game is totally consistent with Sean McVay’s history in Los Angeles. McVay is now 40-0 when leading at halftime with the Rams. In the first half, they passed on over 70% of first downs, while averaging over 5 yards an attempt. Even with a seven-point halftime lead, McVay remained aggressive to start the second half. In the Rams’ first two possessions of the third quarter (which both resulted in touchdowns), they passed on 90% of plays; Matt Stafford was 6-for-9 for 150 yards and 2 TDs on those drives. Once they established a big lead, Los Angeles started to work the clock, not allowing Tampa Bay to get any closer than 10 points. I think this might be an example of their injuries at running back (Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson) actually making them a better football team. I think that has contributed to their philosophy so far this year, and one of the reasons they are having so much success passing on early downs.
Another thing I was really worried about with Los Angeles was how good they would look on defense after losing Brandon Staley to the Chargers. I am not suggesting any conclusions, but based on three weeks, Raheem Morris does not look like a major step down from Staley. It does help having star players like Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey to help carry a defense.
Tennessee 25, Indianapolis 16
I understand the Titans are 2-1, but I think their new offensive coordinator, Todd Downing, might be a downgrade from Arthur Smith, who left to become the Falcons head coach. Derrick Henry already has 80 carries, while no other player has more than 67. I also do not think there is much creativity or anything really strategic to their offense. They are not using motion as successfully or as frequently as they have in the past, which is really forcing them to rely on their running back. All of this may take a toll on Henry, but I am sure they figure he is bigger and stronger than any other back (which he is), so he can take the load. I am not sure that is sustainable through the postseason, if their goal is to really compete for a Super Bowl.
Indianapolis is now 0-3, and they should really start to think about benching Carson Wentz. Injuries aside, he does not look like he can play right now. It is mind-boggling what happened to him, and I cannot think of a real explanation. There is no doubt the injuries have taken a toll, but he just looks so unsure of himself. Even on plays that look like they are designed to get the ball out quick, he is really hesitant. He also has a turnover issue. Wentz is lost right now and playing worse than at any point in his career. After his first few seasons in the league, I am really amazed at how his progressions have gone.
Cleveland 26, Chicago 6
Of all the moves I made in my career, I think I am most fond of the Jason Peters trade, but he has been tough to watch the past few seasons. Subsequently, Justin Fields did not have a shot today. He is a rookie quarterback, making his first career start, with Peters and Germain Ifedi trying to block one of the best pass rushers in the NFL in Myles Garrett. They were not chipping at all and just giving him free rushes all day. I was very concerned with their lack of adjustments to help their young quarterback.
Las Vegas 31, Miami 28
I have been a big proponent of Brian Flores and think he is one of the best hires the past few years, but I was disappointed with his decision in overtime Sunday. Instead of going for it on fourth-and-2, he settled for a field goal, which gave the ball back to Vegas to come down and score. This is a classic example of a coach that did not have much confidence in his quarterback, trying to shrink the game. We saw this not only in OT but really the whole game. They jumped out to an early lead and were content trying to run out the clock. When they actually let Jacoby Brissett throw the ball, he looked decent, but they were content with a lot of checkdowns. I was really surprised that was Miami’s strategy, because they were playing a team that we know can score a lot of points.
Cincinnati 24, Pittsburgh 10
Pittsburgh had a lot of games last year where they were not good on offense because they would not let Ben Roethlisberger throw the ball down the field. In the games they did or when they fell behind, he actually moved the offense and looked decent as a QB. On Sunday, Najee Harris had 19 targets and 14 receptions. What offense is built around a running back getting 19 targets? If Roethlisberger cannot play, they need to go find someone else; running an offense like this will never lead to a lot of success.
Also, they are basically trying to play football without an offensive line, which is impossible in itself — but the only way to overcome that is with a good, aggressive offensive coordinator. I am not sure Matt Canada is that fix as OC.
New Orleans 28, New England 13
This is about what I expected with New England. Other than Matt Judon and Hunter Henry, there was no one in their group of 2021 free-agent signings that I consider to be any better than just a contributor. They lost Joe Thuney in the interior, and they have a rookie quarterback they are holding back. A lot of their long-term success is riding on the development of Mac Jones, which is why it is surprising how aggressive they were in free agency with a lot of players that will be past their prime in a few seasons.
Buffalo 43, Washington 21
Washington only won seven games last season against a lot of bad quarterbacks, and people convinced themselves they were ready to make a deep playoff run. Most of their wins came in the division last year and they got lucky with playing a bunch of backup quarterbacks. I did not think they would be terrible, but right now, they are not a good football team. They do not have good quarterbacks and they have a mediocre offensive line, and they are doing nothing on offense.
Jack Wolov contributed to this story