NFL Week 3 Monday Night Football Takeaways: Joe Burrow, Bengals Save Season and More
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AP Photo/Darron Cummings
Another Monday night double-header had a lot to live up to after a historic weekend of NFL action.
The meetings between the Philadelphia Eagles and Tampa Bay Buccaneers followed by the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals had a high standard to maintain.
Both games fell short, for entirely different reasons.
No one was lighting up the scoreboard like the Miami Dolphins or completely dominating on defense like the Cleveland Browns. Instead, two teams made fewer mistakes and overcame their opposition based on superior talent.
The Eagles continue to show why they are the NFC’s best team, though they’re still not quite ready for the big time.
Conversely, the Buccaneers’ idyllic start was ruined and looked more like a mirage than an oasis in the middle of a rebuild.
The Los Angeles Rams were clearly outmatched and poor Matthew Stafford endured a constant barrage from the Bengals’ defense. How the team protects the veteran signal-caller will determine the Rams’ success in the coming weeks.
Similarly, Joe Burrow clearly isn’t 100 percent. But he played because the Bengals desperately needed a victory after an 0-2 start. They claimed one and now hope Burrow’s ailing calf and a Monday’s defensive effort hold up.
Each of these topics will be discussed as part of Week 3’s Monday Night Football takeaways.
Eagles Still Have Room for Improvement Even After 3-0 Start
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The Philadelphia Eagles are the NFC’s best team. They were entering the season. They are after a 3-0 start. But the conference’s standard-bearer has yet to hit its stride, which is a scary thought for future competition.
A 25-11 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium separated the contender from the pretender (more on that in a bit).
As always, everything starts at quarterback, where Jalen Hurts feels like he’s just warming up.
Through three games, Hurts has a three-to-three touchdown-to-interception ratio, including a pair of turnovers against the Bucs. As a runner, the quarterback is averaging 33.3 yards per game. Comparatively, he provided 50.7 yards per game during the 2022 regular season.
Extenuating circumstances did affect Hurts Monday since he’s been dealing with flu-like symptoms.
It’s quite logical to assume the quarterback will improve as the season progresses, especially when he’s fully healthy.
Furthermore, the team’s utilization of De’Andre Swift makes what was already the league’s best ground-and-pound attack even better. Over the last two contests, Swift has amassed 305 rushing yards.
“Super elusive,” head coach Nick Sirianni told reporters after the game. “He’s a weapon, too, catches the football. He’s elusive. Explosive. Tough.”
On the other side of the ball, further improvements should be expected.
First-round rookie Jalen Carter is turning into a difference-maker, even though he’s technically not a starter. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, his 15 total pressures rank second among defensive tackles through three weeks. His role should progressively increase.
Middle linebacker Nakobe Dean is currently on injured reserve, but he’s scheduled to return next month.
The Eagles are now operating at a Super Bowl standard. They’re talented enough to win even when the team doesn’t play it’s best. The next step is finding a rhythm and getting on a roll to set up for another deep postseason run.
Eagles Expose Baker Mayfield, Buccaneers as NFC Pretenders
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A 2-0 start for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers forced everyone to consider whether Baker Mayfield rejuvenated his career with the franchise and if the organization could exceed expectations as one of the NFC’s top squads.
Instead, reality smacked the Bucs in the proverbial face Monday when they hosted the reigning NFC champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles dominated in the trenches and captured the victory.
To Mayfield’s credit, he did play extremely well through the first two weeks. The 2018 No. 1 overall draft pick completed 69.1 percent of his passes with three touchdown tosses and no interceptions. Mayfield performed particularly well against the blitz and was graded as the league’s third-best passer.
However, the Eagles’ defensive front is different. While sacked only twice, Philadelphia consistently applied pressure. Beyond left tackle Tristan Wirfs, Tampa Bay’s offensive line struggled to contain a front that comes at opposing quarterbacks in waves.
As a result, Mayfield threw his first interception of the season and struggled particularly when attempting downfield throws.
The quarterback received little to no help. Besides the offensive line’s struggles, the Bucs’ ball-carriers provided basically nothing. Rachaad White and Sean Tucker carried the ball a combined 16 times for 39 yards.
“We didn’t have one,” head coach Todd Bowles told reporters when asked about the team’s lackluster run game.
Defensively, Bowles’ squad surrendered 472 yards from scrimmage, including 201 rushing yards. D’Andre Swift torched Tampa’s defense, rushing for 130 yards on 16 carries, with an average of 8.1 yards per carry.
Philadelphia’s offensive line is the league’s best. It’s big, physical and athletic. The Buccaneers have multiple high draft picks along their defensive line. It didn’t matter.
Obviously, a 2-1 start remains a good spot in a week-by-week league. But it’s difficult to envision this Buccaneers team overcoming the likes of the San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys and even the Detroit Lions after seeing what the Eagles did.
Rams Protection Woes Has Potential to Ruin Season
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Matthew Stafford’s toughness can never be questioned. At the same time, the Los Angeles Rams quarterback’s recent injury history is scary after dealing with right elbow soreness, a concussion and spinal cord contusion last season.
Seeing the 15-year veteran pick himself up off the turf time and time again during Monday’s 19-16 loss portends disaster.
Left tackle Joe Noteboom, who was already dealing with a deep shoulder bruise, suffered a knee injury against the Cincinnati Bengals. Noteboom’s immediate backup, Alaric Jackson, left the contest with a thigh injury and didn’t return.
As a result, the Bengals feasted on the Rams’ patchwork offensive front.
Cincinnati officially sacked Stafford six times, with 10 quarterback hits. Defensive end Trey Hendrickson roasted the Rams’ backup offensive tackles. His speed rush is deadly under normal conditions. With the Rams’ setup, Hendrickson registered a pair of sacks, two tackles for loss and two quarterback hits.
If Noteboom and Jackson miss any time, the Rams don’t have an immediate answer to handle Stafford’s blind side as quality free-agents options are non-existent. A major concern arises since Los Angeles doesn’t have the same flexibility among their front as other teams do.
Rob Havenstein is a career right tackle dating back to his Wisconsin days. A similar statement can be made of right guard Tremayne Anchrum Jr., except at Clemson. Rookie Steve Avila didn’t play left tackle in college, either. Clearly, Zach Thomas looked completely outmatched when covering the blind side.
The Rams need either Noteboom or Jackson to be ready for next week. Otherwise, the entire offense and season could be tanked, even when Cooper Kupp returns in Week 5.
Joe Burrow’s Injury Will Linger, but Bengals Can Find Ways to Win
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A sideline shot of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow receiving treatment between offensive series during Monday Night Football encapsulated where the AFC North squad currently sits, the obstacles it must overcome and how it can battle through adversity.
Much like the previous two games—both of which the Bengals lost—Cincinnati started slowly. The Bengals are only one of two teams not to score a first-half offensive touchdown so far, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Burrow’s lingering calf injury severely limited the Bengals’ offense through 10 quarters of play. The highest-paid player in franchise history can’t drive off his plant leg. As a result, the offensive approach is often limited to quick throws under five yards. According to ESPN Stats & Info, 4.7 yards per attempt is the third-worst average through three games over the last 20 years.
Yet the Bengals found a way to claim a victory Monday. The defense certainly played its part, as detailed earlier. The offense finally established a rhythm in the second half, too.
“You can see a lot about this team by how they responded in the second half,” head coach Zac Taylor told reporters. “The defense got a lot of turnovers and sacks. The offense moved the ball and ate up time of possession. We got points on the board. … All in all, the second half was a complete team effort.”
To put it more plainly, the Bengals looked like the Bengals again. Running back Joe Mixon registered a 14-year touchdown scamper. Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase got more involved and finished the contest with 12 catches for 141 yards. More importantly, Burrow looked a little more comfortable.
When asked about the injury post-game, the quarterback’s response can be construed either through the lens of his recovery or his team’s status after a 1-2 start.
“Every week will be better,” Burrow said during the telecast. “As long as we don’t suffer any setbacks.”