After Sunday’s disheartening Week 3 loss to the Tennessee Titans, the Las Vegas Raiders are 0-3, and lightyears away from where Josh McDaniels’ team expected to be.
In Week 2, the Raiders coughed up a 20-0 lead in a 29-23 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals, but Sunday’s loss may be even more disheartening.
During Las Vegas’ latest debacle — a 24-22 loss in Nashville, Vegas only converted 1-of-12 third downs and were outscored 17-7 in the second quarter, leading to a closed-door meeting between McDaniels and owner Mark Davis in the game’s immediate aftermath, according to ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez.
“It’s all the little things that are costing them,” a league source told Heavy, when asked to identify the Raiders’ biggest issues. “Their untimely penalties and mistakes just kill them. They’ve been close in every game with a chance to win, but can’t overcome their own mistakes.”
Mistakes and familiar struggles have done in the Raiders, so far, who have lost by 13 combined points in each of their first three games.
Las Vegas’ dreadfully disappointing start has the potential to doom the Raiders’ postseason chances, as only six teams have ever overcome an 0-3 start to make the postseason since the NFL’s 1979 playoff expansion.
A critical issue to Las Vegas needing a late surge in 2021 just to make the playoffs was a red zone offense that ranked 29th in the league, converting just 49% of trips inside the 20-yard line. Sunday in Nashville, the Raiders were just 2-of-6 in the red zone, as the Titans scored touchdowns on all three trips.
McDaniels to date, despite All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams and his 10 red zone touchdowns in 2021, has not been able to solve one of Las Vegas’ biggest offensive deficiencies.
New coach. Same old Raiders.
All three of the Raiders’ losses are by seven points or less, but Sunday’s game saw Vegas dominated in all three phases, and ultimately coughing up yet another winnable game.
The margin between winning and losing is paper-thin in the NFL, and if the Raiders don’t find some sort of identity and some sort of red zone consistency, they risk digging a hole that’s insurmountable to climb out of.
Here are 10 other takeaways from Sunday’s Week 3 action across the NFL.
Unforced Error Costs Tom Brady Chess vs. Aaron Rodgers’ Packers
Tampa Bay had to love their chances.
Tom Brady had the football in his hands, with 18 seconds on the clock, after leading a 90-yard touchdown drive to pull the game within two.
Brady and the Buccaneers needed only a two-point conversion to force overtime against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
But, in the biggest moment of the game, the greatest quarterback to walk the planet let the play-clock tick down to zeroes which took a possible Leonard Fournette plunge into the end zone for the conversion off the board.
For all the meetings between these two legends, and games where Brady and Rodgers were the star attraction with the familiar trope of not leaving enough time for one of them to lead their team down the field for the win, there’s a bit of irony in Brady not getting a critical play off in time.
After the penalty, Packers linebacker De’Vondre Campbell knocked Brady’s pass on the conversion try to the turf, ball-game, Green Bay tucks away a potentially pivotal victory in terms of future playoff seeding, 14-12.
Brady was without playmakers Chris Godwin and Julio Jones, Rodgers without wide receiver Sammy Watkins and second-round rookie Christian Watson. But, these two legends delivered a game for the ages, right down to the final seconds.
However, Brady squandering his last chance was certainly out of character. The Buccaneers are always going to be a tough out, though, as long as he’s behind center.
Eagles Defensive Line Shifts Into High-Gear
The Philadelphia Eagles‘ defensive line set the tone on Sunday afternoon in the nation’s capital.
Embodying how Jonathan Gannon drew up his multiple scheme, the Eagles’ front produced results even the second-year defensive coordinator probably struggled to imagine.
Philadelphia sacked Carson Wentz nine times, applying relentless pressure up the middle, off the edges, while rarely needing to blitz the quarterback the Eagles chose No. 2 overall in 2016.
All afternoon long, the Eagles’ defensive line overmatched the Commanders’ offensive line, with interior pressure from Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave and Jordan Davis, as Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham raced to Wentz off the edges.
Philadelphia’s line alternately pushed Wentz deeper into the pocket and into the teeth of its edge rushers, or collapsed the pocket from the outside, forcing Wentz into the arms of its interior linemen, relentlessly applying complementary pressure.
In the first quarter, Wentz was sacked 4.0 times, the most sacks record by a defense in a quarter since 1991. The Eagles established early on that it was going to be a long afternoon for Wentz.
Philadelphia’s sack parade was the most by any team this season, and the most Wentz has absorbed in his career.
Much has been made of the prowess of the Eagles’ secondary, led by Darius Slay and James Bradberry at corner, but this defense is going to be even tougher to beat if the defensive line can continue to play at this dominant level.
Lamar Jackson Playing Some of the Best Football in the NFL
The Baltimore Ravens may live to regret not reaching a long-term contract with Lamar Jackson prior to the regular season.
Through three weeks, Jackson is playing the most dominant football of his career, and at a nearly unsurpassed level compared to the rest of the league, seemingly raising the price of his extension each week.
Sunday in New England, Jackson was Baltimore’s offense.
Jackson completed 18-of-29 passing for 218 yards with 4 passing touchdowns to 1 interception, and he also rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown. In addition to his prowess through the air, Jackson averaged 9.7 yards per rush, leading a Ravens 37-26 victory.
Perennially one of the NFL’s most electrifying talents, Jackson is flourishing and growing before our eyes as a quarterback.
After Week 3, Jackson leads the league in passer rating (119.0), combined with his 7 passing touchdowns, showing significant growth from the pocket.
Each week so far this season, Jackson is quieting his doubters having run the Jets out of East Rutherford, taken the Dolphins to the brink, and coming home with a hard-earned victory in New England. And likely padding his future earnings.
Miami Dolphins Achieve Legitimacy
Through two weeks of the season, the Buffalo Bills looked like runaway Super Bowl favorites, before a monumental AFC East clash in Miami against the Dolphins.
A banged-up Buffalo ran into a buzzsaw in South Beach.
In the biggest game of his professional career, Tua Tagovailoa solidified the Dolphins as legitimate contenders, and authored a signature victory, while further cementing himself as the steward of Mike McDaniel’s offense.
Tagovailoa completed 13-of-18 passes for 186 yards with 1 touchdown for a 123.8 passer rating, even getting briefly knocked from the game in the first half after suffering an apparent head injury.
Even though the Bills continue to attack in waves with a breadth and depth of weapons unmatched in the NFL; 11 different plays caught a pass from Josh Allen, who passed for 400 yards with a pair of scores, Miami’s defense slammed the door on a potential game-winning Buffalo drive as time expired.
Buffalo has arguably the most talented and deepest roster in the NFL, but the Dolphins are flying under the radar no more.
Sunday’s Bills loss shouldn’t change a thing about how this team is perceived. Especially after dropping the game-winning touchdown, and playing without Micah Hyde, Ed Oliver, Jordan Poyer, Dane Jackson, and Jordan Phillips on defense. This is still a team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
For the Dolphins, though, it is time perception catches up to Miami’s reality.
Miami entered Sunday with the second-rated offense in the NFL, averaging 427 yards through the first two weeks, adding 212 more against Buffalo’s defense, and continuing to win with a blend of big plays in the vertical passing game and timely runs.
Now, the Dolphins are undefeated at 3-0, sitting atop the AFC East, and Tagovailoa continues to both gain confidence and the trust of his teammates and coaches.
This team is for real, and getting better each week.
Aaron Donald’s History Further Cements His Legacy
Aaron Donald is the most dominant defensive player of his generation and made history Sunday in Arizona against the Cardinals, becoming the fastest defensive tackle in league history to record 100.0 career sacks.
Donald, who nearly singlehandedly sparked the Los Angeles Rams in the second half of the Super Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals by sacking Joe Burrow twice and producing 9 total tackles, remains as dominant as ever.
Through the first two weeks, Donald is the No. 3 ranked interior defender in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, and on Sunday afternoon his 6 tackles and history-making sack once again powered a big Rams win, this time over a division rival to return to the NFC West’s catbird seat.
Falcons Rookie WR Drake London Is Already a Superstar
Atlanta Falcons rookie wide receiver Drake London is already a worthy co-star to Kyle Pitts in the Falcons’ offense, and continues to emerge as one of the game’s premier young receivers. After just three games.
At 6-foot-4 and 214 pounds, London has all the size to be a reliable red-zone weapon, plus the 4.5-second speed to take the top off a defense, with the reliable hands to emerge as a quarterback’s favorite target. He’s shown all of those dynamic traits, so far in his career.
Following Sunday’s 3-catch, 54-yard and 1-touchdown effort, London has 2 touchdowns on the season, is averaging 12.3 yards per reception and continues to see his role expand in the Falcons’ passing game.
It’s Time to Take the Jaguars Seriously
Doug Pederson’s Jacksonville Jaguars look the part of legitimate playoff contenders.
One week after shutting out the division rival Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville ran Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers out of their own building on Sunday afternoon, going away 38-10.
Sunday’s game wasn’t even that competitive.
Remember, both the Colts and Chargers garnered some preseason Super Bowl buzz, both among those inside the league and NFL observers. Jacksonville handled both with ease.
Trevor Lawrence’s rapid ascension into the top 10 quarterbacks by passer rating has certainly been critical to the Jaguars’ early-season success, but this is a complete team that’s loaded with premium young talent that’s starting to come together.
Sunday in Los Angeles, rookie linebacker Devin Lloyd was a magnet for the football, producing 7 total tackles with 1 interception, major offseason addition Foyesade Oluokun paced the Jags with 8 tackles, and on offense, Lawrence hit seven different receivers against one of the NFL’s more talented secondaries.
Suddenly, with the drama of Urban Meyer’s disastrous 2021 campaign in the rearview, replaced by Pederson’s calming presence at the helm of a roster that includes five top-10 picks buttressed by some marquee free agent signings along both lines of scrimmage, Jacksonville is gaining confidence each week.
The Jaguars just may be the team to beat in the AFC South.
Bears Offense Is Woefully 1-Dimensional
The Chicago Bears desperately need to give Justin Fields some help.
If Fields is to make any strides as a potential franchise quarterback — or a new regime is going to be able to evaluate whether he is the answer to build around — Chicago has to add some veteran receiver help either via free agency or a trade.
Sunday against the Houston Texans, only five Bears receivers recorded a reception, and only tight end Cole Kmet (40) surpassed 30 receiving yards against the Houston Texans. Fields was held to 106 passing yards and 2 interceptions on 8-of-17 passing.
Sure, the Bears survived and moved to 2-1 after Roquan Smith’s timely fourth-quarter interception of Texans quarterback Davis Mills and Cairo Santos’ game-winning 30-yard field goal at the final gun, 23-20, but this isn’t a winning formula in today’s NFL.
It is difficult to determine just how effective Fields is at this level. Especially with a receiving corps that through three weeks produced just 23 receptions. Perhaps more worrisome, the Bears’ receiving first down percentage is just 40%. That’s 1.5% higher than the league-worst New York Giants.
The Bears’ running game, which produced a staggering 281 yards, led by Khalil Herbert’s career-high 157 yards, was once again the offense’s lone dimension.
Chicago averaged 7.02 yards per carry against the Texans, which is plenty good enough to keep them in games. But, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the Bears contending without a competent aerial attack.
For Fields, and for the Bears, something significant needs to change.
Chiefs’ Sloppiness Proves Costly in Indy
The Kansas City Chiefs couldn’t have been more out of sync in Indianapolis.
In the first quarter, Skyy Moore both muffed a punt that the Colts converted into a Jelani Woods touchdown three plays later, and later let a punt bounce over his head that was downed inside the one-yard line. They may have been the least of Kansas City’s concerns.
The Colts hung around long enough to hand the Chiefs one of the more disappointing losses of the Patrick Mahomes era.
Mahomes never really found a rhythm, averaging only 7.4 yards per passing attempt, with 1 touchdown to 1 interception, amid frustrations that boiled over with offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy as Kansas City made its way to the tunnel at halftime.
It would be easy to suggest this was a fluky loss for a team that has made a pair of Super Bowl berths and four straight trips to the AFC Championship Game, but this defeat seemed to expose some of the flaws that exist in a once high-potent offense.
With Tyreek Hill in Miami, the Chiefs have yet to be able to establish a consistent vertical passing game. And, on Sunday, Mahomes lost his first game in his career where he was blitzed at least 12 times, as well as the first defeat to a team that failed to score 26 points.
Mental lapses and strife cost the Chiefs in Indianapolis, and both will need to be fixed ahead of next Sunday night’s 2021 Super Bowl rematch in Tampa Bay against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Allowed to linger, Kansas City’s grip of a loaded AFC West could quickly get a bit slippery.
Time for Texans to Step up NFL Draft QB Evaluations
If the regular season ended today, the Houston Texans would own the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft, with the Raiders picking first, according to Tankathon. General manager Nick Caserio should be zeroing in on the top quarterback prospects.
The Texans chose Davis Mills in the third round, in 2021, and some believed he would rise to the level as Houston’s franchise quarterback this season. That hasn’t happened.
In the fourth quarter Sunday afternoon, Mills’ costly interception to Bears linebacker Roquan Smith snatched defeat from the jaws of victory for the Texans. Mills was 7-of-9 passing for 49 yards and the interception in the fourth quarter Sunday, after closing out last week’s loss to the Broncos 5-of-12 for 75 yards in the final frame.
Whether it is C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young, Will Levis or Cameron Ward, it’s time Caserio sets his sights on Mills’ replacement.
Week 3 Breakout Star: Packers WR Romeo Doubs
Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers desperately needed someone to step up in what has been a wildly inconsistent receiving corps on Sunday in Tampa Bay against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
With Sammy Watkins and fellow rookie Christian Watson sidelined, Romeo Doubs made a strong case that he should be a focal point of Rodgers’ arsenal. Doubs caught all 8 of his targets for a team-high 73 yards and a touchdown.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, Doubs is just the second Packers wide receiver since Randall Cobb in 2018 to catch eight passes in a game. With Rodgers behind center, Doubs has the chance to quickly develop as a game-breaker, which just might change the outlook of this Packers offense.
Week 3 MVP: Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence
Doug Pederson’s Super Bowl pedigree and track record of developing young quarterbacks is already making a tangible impact on Trevor Lawrence.
Lawrence is getting better each week. Sunday, Lawrence led Jacksonville into Los Angeles, where he out-dueled Justin Herbert, passing for 262 yards with 3 touchdowns en route to a 115.5 passer rating in a 38-10 blowout win.