NFL Week Three: Falcons Sneak Past Cowboys, Bengals Stay Hot


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

Cowboys couldn’t keep up with the Joneses

Sep 27, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones (11) dives for the pylon to score a touchdown in the third quarter against Dallas Cowboys cornerback Tyler Patmon (26) at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

2-0 vs. 2-0. As we know, Realists, Super Bowls are not won in late September, but it does give teams a good chance to establish early season dominance.

If you are an Atlanta Falcons fan, the first couple of weeks of the season under new head coach Dan Quinn has to be a welcome change from what you’ve been witnessing over the past couple of years.
And as we know, the problem has not really been the quarterback. It has been, however, two other things: health and defensive struggles.

But, the Falcons coming into their Week 3 road matchup against the Dallas Cowboys were 2-0 and that’s all that matters.

The team that (brazenly) brands itself as America’s Team also arrived into Week 3 with a 2-0 clip—although they don’t look like the same 2-0 that the Falcons have been so far in the NFC, let alone the Green Bay Packers.

We already know DeMarco Murray is gone and in Philadelphia, but the team has now suffered injuries to its primary wide receiver in Dez Bryant and its star quarterback Tony Romo—a duo that the Cowboys are investing crazy amounts of money to fill up that megapalace of a stadium better known as JerryWorld (AT&T Stadium).

Meaning the Dallas Cowboys had to go into Week 3 with Brandon Weeden as their starting quarterback. Brandon Weeden—still a quarterback at the highest level of professional football, but I do not think they are working on a Brandon Weeden bust in Canton anytime soon unless there is just something we all do not know.

Except early on after this one kicked off in Arlington, Weeden had literally completed all of his passes and at one point had a passer rating of about 115.

And one of his primary offensive weapons was Joseph Randle, who eventually finished the game with 87 yards on 14 carries along with three touchdowns. Who needs Romo or Murray or Dez?
Who needs a defense?


Regardless of how well your offense does, you need a defense when going up against a team like the Atlanta Falcons who Julio Jones said last year had the best wide receiver duo in the NFL (talking about him and Roddy White, of course).

After Dallas went ahead 14-0, the Falcons cracked the scoreboard with Devonta Freeman’s first touchdown of the game with around three minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Cowboys made it a two possession game again when a two-yard touchdown run by Darren McFadden which was followed by a made extra point by Dan Bailey.

Another Freeman touchdown allowed the Falcons to once again trim the lead to one possession at 21-14 in the second quarter before a Randle TD made it 28-14 as the second quarter neared its end before Atlanta brought the score to 28-17 off Bryant’s first field goal of the game.

The Cowboys may have done pretty well in the first half in their first game without #9 but reality set in in the second half as Jones caught both of his touchdowns in the second half and Freeman added another rushing touchdown to his tally. The Cowboys punted on all but one of their offensive series in the second half and the last one was only due to a loss of downs.

Ryan went 24/36 with 285 yards, two touchdowns and no picks. Freeman—along with his three TDs also had 30 carries for 141 yards while Jones had 12 catches for 161 yards and 2 TDs. When your big three on offense is putting up those kinds of numbers, you will win a lot of football games.

Putting up those kinds of numbers may also help Atlanta’s cause next week back at home as the Houston Texans pay a visit to the A-T-L.

As for the Cowboys, their next road trip won’t be that far—to New Orleans to face the Saints.

Final: Falcons 39, Cowboys 28

Offenses flame out and Big Ben will be out

Sep 27, 2015; St. Louis, MO, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) sits on the bench after being injured during the third quarter against the St. Louis Rams at The Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

This game ended up being a classic example of a media-inflated story perhaps being overshadowed by a real story.

Realists, I was not expecting to be writing about the Pittsburgh Steelers/St. Louis Rams game as one of my five games to recap this week—but the NFL likes to throw curveballs at me, expecting I will swing and miss.

Case in point with Pittsburgh and St. Louis where the start of the game was delayed because of a pyrotechnics mishap that had a small portion of the field at the Edward Jones Dome covered in blue flames.

Stadium staff quickly rushed over and put out the blaze, but the delay was because of what would have to be put on the field with the possibility it could be dangerous to the players’ safety.
Here is where things get wild Realists—when some actually blamed the pyrotechnics mishap on one Stan Kroenke—who is the owner of the St. Louis Rams.

Many on social media immediately pointed to Kroenke with the idea that if the city of St. Louis wouldn’t fork over taxpayer money for a new stadium on the banks of the Mississippi River that he’ll do his own job in butchering the current stadium’s turf.

Of course, all of this was meant in good fun—but any time something out of the ordinary goes on with the Rams, people immediately point to the desires of Kroenke (who also owns teams in the Denver area).

This was also combined with various pictures taken by many a scribe on the social media platforms showing that shortly prior to kickoff, Edward Jones was not exactly filled to the rafters.

Except it is hard for any city to celebrate a football team that has been either bad or mediocre in the last few years. The Rams are also in a unique situation where they arguably play second-fiddle to the Cardinals in the same city.

If we are going to start reigning in fireworks displays prior to games because of this incident in St. Louis, then it is another sign that the league has its priorities all over the place. How about addressing all of the isolated “concussion” incidents?

In the third quarter of a game that only would end up featuring one touchdown by either club (Le’Veon Bell from one yard out early in the second quarter prior to a failed two-point conversion attempt and everything else were field goals from Greg Zuerlein and Josh Scobee)—things took a turn for the worst in the third quarter.

This was when Ben Roethlisberger badly injured his leg and had to be carted off the field. We got to saw what the Michael Vick Experience looks like in 2015 and it (at least from the looks of this game) does not appear to be the same thing as it was circa 2004.

Roethlisberger was determined to have injured an MCL and is said to be out for the next six weeks. Despite a 2-1 start to the season, this is not the kind of injury you want early in the season.
Just as injuries are already affecting the Cowboys, Bears, Packers, and other teams, now said bug has made its way to Pittsburgh. And with the Bengals where they are right now in the AFC North, the Steelers can ill afford to send players to the shelf.

Especially in the case of Pittsburgh where they’ll be on a short week of practice prior to this Thursday when they face arch rival Baltimore Ravens. The Rams will also be running into a buzzsaw in the form of the Arizona-hot Arizona Cardinals.

Final: Steelers 12, Rams 6

Green day

Sep 27, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) catches a pass and runs for a fourth quarter touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 27, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) catches a pass for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Cincinnati Bengals defeated Baltimore Ravens 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Did one mention the Cincinnati Bengals?

This is appearing to be another one of “THOSE” kinds of year, alright, in Cincinnati. One of those years where in the regular season the Bengals appear to fly under the radar as opposed to teams that have bigger names.

Cincinnati was beginning the season at 2-0. It is not an unusual occurrence as of late for the Bengals to have pretty good regular seasons in the Andy Dalton era. What has to be considered somewhat of a surprise is that the Baltimore Ravens were 2-0 and were in danger of going 0-3 if they failed to top Cincy at home.

How rare of it is an occasion for the Ravens? It has never happened. Baltimore in their relatively short history as an NFL team has never started a season 0-3. Accomplishing that dubious achievement is something one would rather keep that way.

Typically, the AFC North has been defined by defense—especially if you are Baltimore or Pittsburgh. But Andy Dalton is who Andy Dalton is and can certainly put up points on the board even though Bengals fans consistently pine to themselves, “Why when it is January can he just pretend it is September again?”

But this ended up being one of those games that was defined by the arms of the two quarterbacks—Dalton and Joe Flacco. Flacco also threw the ball a lot—and threw the ball a lot to Steve Smith, who caught both of Flacco’s touchdown passes today.

In addition, Smith also caught 13 receptions for a grand total of 186 yards. It feels like this guy has been in the NFL forever, Realists.

Baltimore’s defense had problems all game long. They did manage to penetrate the Cincinnati defense two times and get to Dalton. Instead of seeing red, they were green with envy.
A.J. Green that is.

The Ravens could have used several secondaries when covering Green (or putting two bodies on him every time the Bengals ran a play). Green caught ten passes for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns. One of those touchdown passes he caught turned out to be the game winner late in the fourth quarter.

Dalton threw two (plus one) for a grand total of three touchdown passes in addition to completing 20 of his 32 passes. Also take a note of the number 122.3, Realists. That was Dalton’s passer rating for the game.

As for Joe Flacco, he went 32 of 49 for 362 yards, two touchdowns and one interception (Adam Jones).

Realists, it is early so maybe it is not time to go into Overreaction Monday Mode (yet). But, between the fact that the Ravens are 0-3, the Browns are…still the Browns and the Steelers will be without Big Ben for an elongated period of time, early on Cincinnati is looking more and more like the big cats of the AFC North and could be one New England Patriots team shy of being the best team in the AFC.

But, we are only completing Week 3 and there is still a ton of football left to be played—like next week when the Bengals return home as the Chiefs visit the Queen City. As for those Ravens, as mentioned before, they renew hostilities against the Steelers on Thursday night on the NFL Network.

Final score: Bengals 28, Ravens 24

Speaking of green…

Sep 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell (31) gives his gloves to fans after defeating the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New York Jets 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Steven Ryan-USA TODAY Sports

More Eagles talk? More Eagles talk…with a dash of J-E-T-S too.

Firstly, Realists, I am somewhat surprised (and somewhat disappointed) the sporting media did not put more of a papal spin on this game.

After all, Philadelphia and New York were two of the three cities (Washington, D.C.) Pope Francis visited and the City of Brotherly Love’s Team happened to be playing one of Gotham’s two teams (or Long Island’s which is where most Jets fans are).

If only the Pope had visited Philly earlier in the Phillies season. Maybe the Phillies wouldn’t have turned out to be the embarrassment they were in 2015.

Ok, ok, Realists, a little more pigskin and a little less Vatican? Ok…for the time being.

We all know how Philly was projected to be one of the better offenses in the NFL this year under head coach Chip Kelly. In fact, many were even throwing around the g-word “genius” when describing his offense.

This is probably the part where I ask readers to raise their hands if they had the Eagles starting the season at 0-2. Not too many hands are raised and for good reason.

Even less hands would be raised if I were to ask if you had the Eagles starting the season at 0-3 which was staring them directly in the face against a 2-0 New York Jets team.

By the way—raise your hand if you had the Jets starting the season at 2-0 and potentially moving to 3-0 especially after the incident involving IK Enemkpali and Geno Smith where he was punched out to the point where he would miss the first 7-10 weeks of the season.

I don’t see too many hands raised for this one either and the hands I do see raised are in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut Tri-State area.

Sports Radio in Philadelphia had already gone crazy over the first two Eagles losses, especially given how horrible a game they played last week. If they dropped one to a team that is a daily internet meme…

Luckily, the Eagles gave themselves a reprieve as they took a commanding 24-0 lead. They included two TDs from Darren Sproles (one on a one-yard run and the other on a punt return) along with a Ryan Mathews TD reception from Sam Bradford plus a Cody Parkey field goal.

The Jets looked like…the Jets as prior to scoring a touchdown at the end of the half, Philadelphia’s defense forced a punt on all but one of New York’s offensive possessions. The one where they didn’t force a punt—resulted in a fumble.

The Jets finally got on the board when Ryan Fitzpatrick connected with Brandon Marshall, making it a 24-7 game.

Those seven unanswered points later became 17 unanswered points with ten more in the fourth quarter. It may have been a lot more had the Jets had not been forced into three (count ‘em, three) second-half interceptions—and all three were in Eagles territory.

In other words, Philadelphia’s defense got big plays when it needed them for sure.

Sam Bradford only went 14/28 for 118 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Mathews carried the ball a grand total of 25 times for 108 yards. He also caught one touchdown pass while Jordan Mathews caught six passes for 49 yards.

As for Ryan Fitzpatrick? 35/58, 283 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions, and a sack. Marshall also caught 10 passes for 109 yards plus a touchdown. Overall, this was a pretty good Sunday for NFL wide receivers.

And don’t look now but the Eagles are still only one game back of the Cowboys who are still without Romo and Bryant for the forseeable future. When will we learn that one game (whether it be a win or loss) does not a season make and that Super Bowls are anything but won during the fall.

Oh, and speaking of those NFC East standings, the Eagles have an excellent opportunity to improve that next week in Washington against the hapless (and dysfunctional Redskins). Only fitting that D.C. would be the home of two of the most dysfunctional franchises in all of professional sports right now at the moment, by the way (the Papelbon-Harper brouhaha with the Nats).

The Jets will also stay in the division but go on the road. South Beach and a matchup against the 1-2 Miami Dolphins. Fake Spike on deck? Probably not, but we’ve seen crazier things happen in the NFL.

Final: Eagles 24, Jets 17

The D in Denver stands for Defense

Sep 27, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Denver Broncos strong safety David Bruton (30) intercepts a pass from Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (not pictured) during the fourth quarter at Ford Field. Broncos win 24-12. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Realists, stop me before if you have heard of a Denver Broncos team with a high-profile quarterback having at best an average season winning games because of its defense.

Ok, that one may have been specifically directed at the Tim Tebow stans, but I digress.

While everyone and their mothers and cousins are already looking at the first couple of games of this year’s NFL season as a sign that Father Time has finally caught up to Peyton Manning, Father Time seems to be nowhere at all affecting the defense of the Denver Broncos.

That defense so far has made a living off making big plays and coming through in the clutch. Look at what that defense did to the Ravens in Week One.

Look at how that defense played a major role in stunning the Kansas City Chiefs last week in front of a nationally-televised audience on Thursday Night Football on NFL Network. Kansas City was poised to advance its record to 2-0 before late TDs on both offense and defense made it a 31-24 Broncos game and a 31-24 Broncos victory.

With those corners and those pass rushers, Denver’s defense may only need Manning to be 80 percent of what he typically is. And given The Sheriff’s track record, I’ll take an 80 percent Manning over a 100-percent Matthew Stafford any day of the week.

Realists, after watching this Sunday Night Football game, I cannot help but go back to that game on Monday Night Football about a decade ago when Dennis Green, at the time the Arizona Cardinals coach, gave us one of the greatest football soundbytes of all time.

“The Bears are who we thought they were! That’s why we took the d*mn field! Now, if you wanna crown them, then crown their A**! But they are who we thought they were, and we let ‘em off the hook!”

This was after a stunning come-from-behind victory the Bears engineered on Arizona in Arizona in primetime.

Is it safe to say the Lions are who we thought they were.

I do not get the opportunity to watch too many Lions games, but I am always watching Stafford and the Lions with the notion that this is the game that finally turns things around for that team.
Given that they have the best wide receiver in the game in Calvin Johnson, and a QB who can throw with the best of them, I watch Detroit thinking that THIS is the game where they come through in the clutch and get a big win against a playoff-caliber opponent.

And then, I’m left eating a bunch of crow because the Lions prove themselves to be who we thought they were. At one point, they were only down 14-12 and couldn’t tie the game because a two-point conversion attempt had failed. The next three Lions possessions resulted in a punt, a punt, and a fumble on the Broncos side of the field.

The ensuing three possessions of the game (all in the fourth quarter, by the way) resulted in a Brandon McManus field goal, an interception, and a Manning touchdown pass to Owen Daniels—making the score 24-12 and sealing it for the Broncos.

Again, it is early. We have not even played half the season so it may be too early to start placing tags of Super Bowl contenders on teams. Plus, even with as lights out as the Denver defense appears to playing thus far, one wonders if a playoff scenario occurs where they face New England and have to do the same thing to Brady, Edelman, and Gronk.

But, as mentioned earlier, Denver’s defense is appearing to be a force to be reckoned with and if this keeps up throughout the season…maybe Manning at 39 years old doesn’t have to look entirely like Manning at 29 Y.O.

Manning did complete 31 of his 42 passes for 342 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. His passer rating was 101.7 (radio station frequency, by the way, so that’s a good thing for those keeping score).

Denver’s leading rusher—C.J. Anderson only notched 18 yards on eight carries, but Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders had big games. Thomas: nine receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown. Sanders: six receptions, 87 yards.

In a losing Lions effort, Stafford threw 31/45 for 282 yards, one touchdown, and two picks. Ameer Abdullah ran for 23 yards on 8 carries while it was an eight catch, 77 yard outing for Megatron.

The Lions are now 0-3 at the bottom of the NFC North with the lowly and banged up Chicago Bears. If the Bears and Lions faced each other right now, I would have to pick Detroit over Chi, especially if the Bears’ 0-fer to the Seattle Seahawks is any indication of where they are at right now as a team.

Unfortunately for the Lions, they are not facing the Bears who right now resemble something closer to a college team instead of an NFL franchise. They get…the Bears’ opponent from this week—the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football at CenturyLink where the 12s await.

Denver is staying within the NFC North themselves as they head back to its home base in the Mile High City to play the Vikings, who are coming off a somewhat bloody divorce…with its mascot. Realist…confused?

Final score: Broncos 24, Lions, 12

Other Games

Sep 20, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; General view of golden NFL shield logo to commemorate Super Bowl 50 on the field before game between Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants defeat Washington Redskins 32-21

Indianapolis Colts defeat Tennessee Titans 35-33

Oakland Raiders defeat Cleveland Browns 27-20

New England Patriots defeat Jacksonville Jaguars 51-17

Carolina Panthers defeat New Orleans Saints 27-22

Houston Texans defeat Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-9

Minnesota Vikings defeat San Diego Chargers 31-14

Arizona Cardinals defeat San Francisco 49ers 47-7

Buffalo Bills defeat Miami Dolphins 41-14

Seattle Seahawks defeat Chicago Bears 26-0

Kansas City Chiefs at Green Bay Packers (8:30, Monday Night Football)

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