Sep 22, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Chicago Bears wide receiver Earl Bennett (80) catches a touchdown pass in front of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Shamarko Thomas (29) during the second half at Heinz Field. The Bears won the game, 40-23. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Bears Remain Undefeated, Niners Struggle Again and All of NFL Week 3—The Monday Morning Realist


Every Monday morning, Section 215’s Akiem Bailum gives an in-depth and unfiltered look at all of the weekend’s NFL action in The Monday Morning Realist. You can follow Akiem on Twitter @Li495Akiem.

The Struggle Is Real

Sep 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams (34) runs as New York Giants outside linebacker Spencer Paysinger (52) defends in the third quarter. The Carolina Panthers defeated the New York Giants 38-0 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Sans a Monday Night Football matchup between the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders, Week 3 is almost entirely in the books. It’s only three weeks into the season and a few teams are already looking like they have plans to be watching football in January from their respective homes.

Exhibit A: The New York Football Giants. Expected to be contenders once again this season, Big Blue has been anything but early on this year. So far, the G-Men have created more hobbies for a Football Follies film for NFL Films than for SportsCenter.

After opening the schedule with the Dallas Cowboys on the road, and the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos, Week 3 would see the Giants heading on the road to play the Carolina Panthers who were also 0-2. A sure win for the Giants, right?

Right?

Anyone? Bueller?

The Giants looked so bad against the Panthers on Sunday that Ferris Bueller could probably make the team at this point. The game didn’t become a blowout when the score was 31-0 Carolina. It later became 38-0 Panthers en route to their first victory of the year.

Cam Newton went 15/27 with 223 yards, 3 touchdowns, and only 1 interception. DeAngelo Williams and Ted Ginn, Jr. also pitched in with huge performances. Williams carried the football 23 times for 120 yards rushing while Ginn caught three passes for 71 yards including a 47-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of reach.

Carolina wasn’t too shabby on the defensive end either as they intercepted Giants quarterbacks twice and sacked Eli Manning seven times. Greg Hardy alone thrice got to Manning.

Speaking of Eli Manning—12/23, 119 yards, zero touchdowns, one interception, seven sacks, benched late in the game for Curtis Painter.

All of that equals an 0-3 record for Big Blue. Right now, the Giants look like the worst of four teams in a down NFC East this year. Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning are the luckiest guys in New York City right now that they have two Super Bowl rings on their fingers, defeating Patriots teams they had no business beating on either occasion.

Because, one can only imagine WFAN and ESPN 98.7 if both were still ringless. The calls for Coughlin to be fired and for Manning to be benched would be hot and heavy from all over the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut Tri-State Area.

Bye weeks begin in Week 4, and the Panthers have one of them. The Green Bay Packers, who lost to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3 have the other. As for the seemingly hapless Giants, their road trip continues on to the 3-0 Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

Candle-Stuck Park

September 22, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne (87) is pushed out of bounds by San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) during the third quarter at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into this Week 3 matchup at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, both the Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers were coming off Week 2 defeats. The Colts lost to the Miami Dolphins, while the Niners were still smarting from the thrashing they endured at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

This game also signified the reunion of Colts quarterback Andrew Luck with his former coach at Stanford, Jim Harbaugh—of course, now the 49ers head coach—in San Francisco nonetheless.

It turned out that for the second consecutive week, a defense completely stifled the 49ers. Seattle last week, Indianapolis this week. Their lone touchdown came on a 13 yard run from Kendall Hunter in the first quarter. Other than that, the offense struggled.

Not Andrew Luck’s offense, though. He would go 18/27 for 164 yards, one touchdown run (zero touchdown passes), and zero interceptions. It was Ahmad Bradshaw that put up their biggest offensive numbers. He rushed for 95 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries. I guess Trent Richardson will have to wait his turn.

Something tells me the Giants are wishing they could have resigned him instead of settling for Brandon Jacobs.

Reggie Wayne also caught 5 passes for 63 yards.

Normally, as elusive as Colin Kaepernick seems to be on a week to week basis, he is extremely difficult for opposing defensive lines to get to as we know what he can do outside of the pocket. But, the Colts were able to sack him on three occasions for a loss of 11 yards. The sacks were credited to Jerrell Freeman (1), Robert Mathis (1.5), and Cory Redding (.5).

In addition, Adam Vinatieri (yes, believe it or not, he’s still in the league after all of these years) kicked two field goals.

For the Colts, this was a huge victory over a team that is seen to be one of the best teams in the NFL this year. Some criticized the Colts last year that too many of last year’s victories came against teams that were inferior to them anyway. The San Francisco 49ers are the reigning NFC Champions—this is not an inferior team. Indy is now tied with the Tennessee Titans (who defeated the San Diego Chargers 20-17) and the Houston Texans (who were dominated by the Baltimore Ravens 30-9) for first place atop the AFC South.

Then, there’s the Jacksonville Jaguars at 0-3. Yep, sounds about right.

The 49ers won’t struggle like this for the rest of the season. But, they are also dealing with off the field issues. Aldon Smith, one of their star linebackers, was arrested for suspicion of DWI the Friday prior to the game. Smith did apologize, and is heading into rehab.

The 49ers now have to turn around and travel to St. Louis to play their division rival Rams on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football. The Colts will head to Everbank Field on Jacksonville to face the Jaguars.

Poor Maurice Jones-Drew. Get him out of Jacksonville.

RGIII-In-The-Loss-Column

Sep 22, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) dives over the goal line for a touchdown against the Washington Redskins during the second half at FedEX Field. The Lions won 27 – 20. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

If I remember correctly, this is the first time this season that either the Detroit Lions or Washington Redskins have received mention on The Realist this year, so congratulations…I guess.

Anyway, the Washington Redskins are another one of these teams that are looking up at their competition early on in the first three games of the season. Despite making the playoffs last year on the backs of an explosive running attack featuring Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, DC’s football has not experienced many capital gains in 2013 thus far.

Meanwhile, while seemingly always a less-than-ballyhooed team, the Detroit Lions had a chance to move to 2-1 behind Matthew Stafford and Calvin “Megatron” Johnson. So far, the Lions have been a team that has scored a beavy of points either in defeat or victory. They opened the year at Ford Field in which they defeated their division rival Minnesota Vikings by a final score of 34-24. Week 2, they played the Arizona Cardinals and lost 24-21. Also, it’s a team that’s second in passing yards.

One pass Stafford would’ve liked to get a mulligan on occurred midway through the first quarter when DeAngelo Hall intercepted Stafford for a 17 yard Pick Six. The Skins had an early 7-0 advantage.

That would not last long though as Detroit came back to tie the game later in the opening frame. Joique Bell’s 12 yard touchdown knotted the score at seven a piece.

The Lions threatened again late in the first quarter and completed the drive in the second with a short TD pass to Joseph Fauria. Washington would tie the game again via an Alfred Morris touchdown run. A 32 yard David Akers field goal put Detroit ahead 17-14 going into halftime.

Field goals would be the story of the second half. It was tied 17-17 after John Potter made one from 43 yards out. Akers put the Lions back in front 20-17. The game decider would be an 11 yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Megatron with under four minutes left to play. 27-17 Lions.

Washington attempted to come back, and they did get another field goal from Potter, but field goals only count for three points in this league, not ten. Lions win 27-20.

This is probably not the way Mike Shanahan envisioned his season for his team beginning, but the saving grace for the Skins as mentioned earlier is that they’re in a weak division. They’re 0-3 and so are the Giants. Philadelphia is 1-2, and Dallas, while 2-1, aren’t expected to run away with the NFC East.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions are 2-1 in the NFC North with a lot of season left to go. Currently, they occupy second place in their division in front of Green Bay and the Minnesota Vikings.

Stafford had another Stafford-esque game—25/42 for 385 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 pick. RGIII—32/50 for 326, zero touchdowns, and a pick.

Alfred Morris had 15 carries for 73 yards and a TD in a losing effort for Washington. Santana Moss and Pierre Garcon caught seven and eight passes, respectively, for 77 and 73 yards, (also) respectively.

When it comes to receiving for the Detroit Lions, we normally think of Megatron. There’s a reason he’s doing commercials. He did catch seven passes for 115 yards and a touchdown. But, not too many people talk about Nate Burleson. He did have a huge game himself with 116 yards receiving on six receptions.

The Redskins head to the road in Week 4 to face the Oakland Raiders at the O.Co Coliseum (that will be seeing October baseball as well as football now that the Oakland Athletics have clinched the American League West title). As for the Lions, they head back home for a huge matchup against division rival Chicago Bears.

Bad…Good, Cleveland Browns?

Sep 22, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) passes against the Minnesota Vikings in the first quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

If any team’s fanbase experienced “The Struggle” this week, it was Cleveland Browns fans. Browns fans will, of course tell you, just being a Browns fan itself is a struggle, but that’s another column for another time.

Cleveland is one of these teams whose fans try their hardest to remain optimistic about their season. Any loss by their AFC North division rivals, the Ravens, Steelers, and Bengals is sometimes looked at with greater joy than Browns wins are.

Then, weeks like this are why the NFL Network once ranked the Browns as the league’s “Most Snakebit Franchise”. With only two weeks of the season in the books, Colts owner Jim Irsay started tweeting up a storm about how Indianapolis pulled off a major trade. The rumours as to what this trade was started flying.

The trade: Trent Richardson to the Colts for a first round draft choice.

If the Browns are continuing to rebuild, then the skyscraper they’re hoping to construct is still a work in progress in 2013—even though they broke ground in the mid-1990s. Who engineered this trade—Michael Lombardi and Joe Banner. Banner, of course is a familiar name to Eagles fans as he was once their team president during most of the Andy Reid era. He’s now the Browns’ CEO. Lombardi, prior to landing the Browns general manager position, once touted Trent Richardson as one of the safest picks in the 2012 NFL Draft while serving as an analyst for NFL Network.

And with Brendan Weeden on the shelf with an injury, the Browns had to turn to Brian Hoyer as their starting quarterback for their game against the Minnesota Vikings at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. Cleveland’s ticketed for 0-3, right?

Right?

Anyone? Bueller?

So much for that. The Browns didn’t just play to win, the Browns/Vikings tilt at the Metrodome turned out to arguably be the best game on Sunday. Minnesota assumed an early 7-0 lead with an Adrian Peterson touchdown run, before a TD throw to Josh Gordon from Hoyer knotted the score up at seven.

Early in the second, Hoyer threw to Jordan Cameron for nineteen yards and the Browns went ahead 14-7. Christian Ponder ran into the end zone from six yards out and tied it again at 14 a piece. Billy Cundiff’s field goal midway through the second quarter made it 17-14. Cameron caught his second touchdown pass of the quarter and game with less than four minutes to go prior to halftime. Browns 24-14. The Vikings tried to answer late, but had to settle for a Blair Walsh field goal. It was 24-17 at the half.

Minnesota tied it up in the third, then took the lead in the fourth quarter on another Blair Walsh field goal. Time was running out for Cleveland, but a late touchdown drive capped off by Jordan Cameron’s third touchdown reception of the game would put the Browns ahead 31-27 with less than a minute to go. On the Vikings’ last drive, Ponder would get two chances for a hail mary into the end zone, but he was sacked on his second attempt.

Hoyer was 34/54 with 321 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. They may not have had much of a rushing attack thanks to the Richardson trade, but Cameron had a huge day with all three TD receptions as well as 10 catches for 146 yards. As for the Vikings, Christian Ponder was 25/42 for 228, zero touchdowns, sacked six times (one each by a different Cleveland defender), and an interception. Adrian Peterson—25 carries, 88 yards, and one touchdown. Somewhat of an off day for him by his standards.

The Browns return home in Week 4. Their opponent—their in-state compadres from Cincinnati, the Bengals. Ohio vs. Ohio. Minnesota stays home in Week 4 to face the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Speaking of Whom….

It has been well-documented the laundry list of departures the Pittsburgh Steelers have seen as of late. James Harrison, Willie Colon, Rashard Mendenhall, Mike Wallace, among others. And with it could come a potential departure of attention paid to the team if they don’t get it together because the Pittsburgh Pirates are for once in the throws of a pennant chase.

It would be unusual for a team like the Steelers, who are normally consistent playoff contenders to potentially begin a season 0-3. But, that’s what they were facing at home on NBC’s Sunday Night Football against the Chicago Bears—the undefeated Chicago Bears.

And early on, Chicago showed why they were undefeated. Midway through the second quarter, the Monsters of the Midway led 24-3 as Pittsburgh’s offense looked like it was in for another long game.

Despite being down 24-3, Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers did show signs of an offense that is improving. Unlike in previous games where they’ve done close to nothing, They did get one touchdown late in the half when Big Ben went 33 yards to Antonio Brown. That made the score 24-10 as it was at the half.

The Steelers won the third quarter. After a Robbie Gould field goal extended the Bears’ lead to 27-10, Shaun Suisham answered with a field goal of his own to make it 27-13. Then, it became a one touchdown contest when Antonio Brown caught his second of two touchdown receptions for the game. It was 27-20 at the end of the third quarter. Another Suisham field goal brought the black and gold to within four at 27-23.

Unfortunately for Pittsburgh fans, the curtain dropped on the Steelers after that.

Jay Cutler threw a 17 yard touchdown pass to Earl Bennett to make it 34-23. Roethlisberger was later picked off by Julius Peppers who returned it for a touchdown with under four minutes to play in the game. 40-23 Bears only because the Steelers were able to block the extra point attempt.

Chicago would win by the same score as the Bears moved to 3-0 and the Steelers still are looking for their first W of 2013-2014. There’s an old saying that there are no moral victories in the NFL. Given how bad the Pittsburgh offense looked the previous two weeks, one has to think that this could be a moral victory for the Steelers solely because it looked like they improved.

Even though, it may not as long as their offense is as one dimensional as it seems to be. Roethlisberger was 26/41 for 406, 2 touchdowns, and 2 picks. Jonathan Dwyer was their leading rusher with…12 carries and 39 yards. Brown, in addition to his two touchdowns also caught nine passes for almost 200 yards (196, to be exact).

Jay Cutler—20/30 159, one touchdown. Matt Forte—16 carries for 87 yards.

As mentioned earlier, the Steelers will go on the road to Minnesota in Week 4 & the Bears travel to Detroit to face the Lions.

Other Games

Chiefs defeat Eagles 26-16

Bengals defeat Packers 34-30

Cowboys defeat Rams 31-7

Titans defeat Chargers 20-17

Patriots defeat Buccaneers 23-3

Saints defeat Cardinals 31-7

Ravens defeat Texans 30-9

Dolphins defeat Falcons 27-23

Jets defeat Bills 27-20

Seahawks defeat Jaguars 45-17

Broncos vs. Raiders (8:30 Monday Night Football)

Tags: Philadelphia Eagles