Photo By: Thomas Park from Unsplash
Game of the week – Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
Sunday night’s primetime game certainly did not disappoint this week, as these two NFC teams squared off in the Bay Area. The 49ers came in undefeated after the first two weeks, while the Packers sat at 1-1 following a Monday night thrashing of the Detroit Lions. The Packers jumped out to an early first half lead, but the 49ers quieted them down in the second half, holding Green Bay to just 10 points until the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo led the team on an impressive drive down the field with under two minutes remaining, ultimately setting up FB Kyle Juszczyk for what looked to be the go-ahead touchdown. Unfortunately for the 49ers faithful, Aaron Rodgers was left with too much time on the clock. Rodgers led the Packers offense down field in just 37 seconds, setting up a game-winning 51-yard field goal for Mason Crosby that split the uprights.
Special special teamers
Crosby’s game-winning field goal wasn’t the only notable special teams play of the week. The Baltimore Ravens and Detroit Lions battled it out in a game that was shockingly close given the apparent talent disparity between the two clubs. The Lions came back from a 10-0 halftime deficit to grab a 17-16 fourth quarter lead. Lamar Jackson, like Rodgers, was able to lead his team down the field, but not quite far enough for a sure-fire field goal. Enter Justin Tucker, the 10-year veteran kicker who has been solid as a rock for Baltimore for the better part of a decade. Tucker lined himself up from 66 yards out, and as the ball looked like it might fall just short, it bounced off the crossbar and between the uprights. The Ravens won the game, and Tucker took home the new NFL record for longest ever completed field goal.
This record was previously held by now-Cardinals Kicker Matt Prater (64 yards in 2013), who was also featured in a special teams highlight play this week. Prater attempted a 68-yard field goal at the end of the first half, and the Jaguars wisely sent a man back to retrieve the kick in the (likely) event that it would fall short. This is exactly what happened, as return specialist Jamal Agnew not only caught Prater’s miss, but then completed the oh-so-elusive “Kick-6”, by running the ball all the way down to the other end of the field for a touchdown as time expired. The 109-yard touchdown run tied a record for the longest return touchdown in NFL history.
Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo got in on the game-winning field-goal-fun this week as well, drilling a 40-yarder as time expired to give Atlanta the 17-14 win over the New York Giants, in a game that probably very few people tuned into.
NFC West watch
What appears to be the most loaded division in football now boasts two of the league’s five teams with a 3-0 record. Both the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams had strong performances this week, with the Cardinals taking care of business against the Jaguars by a score of 31-19. It was the Rams though who may have had the most impressive outing in week three’s action. Matt Stafford has put together an extremely underrated start to his 2021 campaign, and kept things rolling this week in a 34-24 win over the defending Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Stafford threw for 343 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions, and has made Cooper Kupp into a dangerous looking receiver. The division’s other two teams, the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks, had strong showings as well, but ultimately dropped both of their games to the Packers and Vikings respectively.
Best (and worst) of the rest
Miami Dolphins backup QB Jacoby Brissett had a spirited effort this week against the unbeaten Las Vegas Raiders. Ultimately, it was Derek Carr’s Raiders who came out on top, taking down the Dolphins in overtime by a score of 31-28 (Daniel Carlson kicked a game-winning field goal as well, this was the week of the kickers!).
Sam Darnold continues to look like a brand new player in Carolina’s offense, throwing for over 300 passing yards in a 24-9 win over the Houston Texans. The Panthers are 3-0 and haven’t exactly played anybody amazing yet, but their schedule is sure to get more challenging soon when they play the (checks notes), Cowboys, Eagles, Vikings, Giants, and Falcons in their next five? Were the NFL’s schedule makers this year diehard Panthers fans?
The Kansas City Chiefs dropped to 1-2 on the season after a 30-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday. The Chiefs have appeared to be on autopilot for the early part of this season, but their defense will definitely need to improve going forward. Allowing your opponent to score 30+ points every week and then asking Patrick Mahomes to just bail you out is surely not a sustainable strategy. Or maybe it is?
The Buffalo Bills put on an absolute clinic against the Washington Football Team this week, taking them down by a score of 43-21. The lights out Bills offense was led by Josh Allen’s 358 passing yards and four touchdowns. This could be Allen’s year to make a real MVP case if the Bills continue to look like this.
The last game I’ll mention is the Bengals-Steelers game, in which the Bengals beat the Steelers 24-10. Pittsburgh’s offense has looked pretty sluggish to start the year, and their defense somehow looks even worse. The Steelers have only managed to muster up just under 17 points per game over the first few weeks, and this loss in particular, is a tough blow for one of 2020’s most dominant teams.
Games to watch next week
Week 4’s action will see the NFC West’s four juggernaut teams squaring off, as the Cardinals head to Los Angeles to face the Rams, and the 49ers host the Seahawks. Even though it’s still early in the year, these divisional matchups could have massive implications come playoff time, especially in a division as stacked as this one. The Steelers will look to get their act together against Aaron Rodgers’ Packers on Sunday as well. Finally, Sunday’s primetime game will see Tom Brady’s first return to New England in front of Patriots fans to take on his former club.