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Week 3 Observations
By Matt Horkman

Fortunately, for Baltimore, the highlight of Houston’s afternoon was their opening drive. The Texans took up over half the first quarter on their 16-play drive that resulted in a field goal. Balance was the key with Houston calling eight passes and seven runs. Five of those passes went the way of tight end Owen Daniels, who drew a team-high nine targets on the afternoon.

Four consecutive Cincinnati turnovers led to 13 Green Bay points. Amazingly, however, the Bengals defense did not allow an offensive touchdown off turnovers, despite the Packers starting every possession inside Cincinnati territory. Green Bay’s lone touchdown came via safety M.D. Jennings’ 24-yard touchdown return.

A big problem for Cincinnati’s offense was the lack of involvement from wide receiver A.J. Green. The Packers held Green without a first-half catch. The Bengals’ star receiver was covered by Sam Shields rather than Tramon Williams, who surrendered big numbers to San Francisco wide receiver Anquan Boldin in week one. This could be an indication that Shields -- an unrestricted free agent at years end -- has surpassed Williams as Green Bay’s No. 1 cornerback. Green finished the game with just four catches for 46 yards and one score.

On Sunday, Green Bay running back Johnathan Franklin rushed 13 times for 103 yards and a touchdown. He also added three catches for 23 yards. Remarkably, he did this all in the second half, as the Packers were relying on James Starks (14 carries for 55 yards) in the first half. Starks suffered a knee injury at the end of the half, forcing Green Bay to depend on the rookie running back.

Had Cincinnati gone onto lose this game, many Bengals’ fans would’ve been second-guessing head coach Marvin Lewis’ decision to send kicker Mike Nugent out for a 52-yard field goal. It was fourth-and-9, so going for it wasn’t much of an option, though Lewis did toy with the idea. Why not punt the ball and flip the field position? I know teams respect Green Bay’s offense, but they were having trouble moving the ball on Mike Zimmer’s defense. Like quarterbacks, coaches need to manage the game from the sidelines, and this was one of those cases where Lewis’ decision-making could’ve backfired.

Because head coach Mike McCarthy had no confidence in pass protection, the Packers went to a short-passing game during their attempt at a game-winning drive. It was working at first, as Green Bay drove inside Cincinnati’s 25-yard line, but the Bengals caught onto the Packers’ strategy. Instead of just going for a sack, Bengal defenders went to knock the ball own at the line of scrimmage, as they knew Rodgers was looking to get rid of the ball quickly. In fact, Rodgers’ final two passes were batted balls.
Brian Hoyer
A Brian Hoyer interception setup Minnesota with good field position in the second half. The Vikings were unable capitalize, however, as running back Adrian Peterson was stripped of the ball by linebacker D’Qwell Jackson two plays later. Peterson now has a fumble in back-to-back games.

Hoyer took Browns fans on a rollercoaster ride. He finished the first half going 14-of-23 for 173 yards and two touchdowns. His second half started less inspiring. He completed just 16-of-23 passes for 148 yards and one touchdown. Two of his three interceptions also came in the second half. However, he was brilliant on his final drive, completing six of those 16 second-half completions for 55 yards and one touchdown.

Atlanta and Miami combined for 24 plays in the first quarter. Of those plays, Miami ran just three of them, while Atlanta ran 21. Over the course of the game, the Falcons possessed the ball 14-plus more minutes than Miami did, yet the Dolphins still prevailed with a 27-23 victory. 

On Indianapolis’ opening drive touchdown, San Francisco safety Donte Whitner was flagged for leading with his helmet. However, running back Ahmad Bradshaw was the one lowering his helmet. The play looked more violent than it was, as their helmets did not collide. Nevertheless, the NFL needs to do something about the officiating, as they pretty much handed the Colts 15 extra yards.  Maybe it’s time to make helmet-to-helmet calls reviewable.

The 49ers scored 34 points in week one versus Green Bay. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns. In his last two games, however, Kaepernick has just 277 passing yards, zero touchdowns, and three interceptions. The 49ers also have just 10 points over this two-game skid. The low output against Seattle wasn’t shocking, given the quality of their defense, but Indianapolis’ dominance in Candlestick was surprising. Are the 49ers not as good as we thought or are the Colts better than we anticipated?

Missing tackles is among the biggest issues facing San Francisco right now. The 49ers struggled against both Green Bay and Seattle. They’re tackling woes continued against Indianapolis.

The season is young, but Bears quarterback Jay Cutler continues to step up during the most critical junctures of a game. Leading 27-23 in Pittsburgh, Cutler converted two long third downs en route to a Chicago touchdown. On third-and-10, Cutler scrambled for 13 yards, giving the Bears a fresh set of downs. Three players later, he completed a 41-yard pass to wide receiver Brandon Marshall converting a third-and-12.

In 2012, Atlanta, Green Bay, San Francisco, and Washington combined for a record of 45-18-1. Each team won their respective division. Through three weeks in 2013, their combined record is 3-9 with neither team producing a road victory. If you include Minnesota, who qualified as one of the two wild cards, the combined records of these 2012 NFC playoff teams drops to 3-12.

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