Seven teams successfully defended their perfect starts to the 2013 NFL season last weekend, but it was the game at the Paul Brown Stadium that was the stand out fixture of week three as the Cincinnati Bengals’ became the first team in NFL history to lead a match by 14 points, trail it by 16, and still win.
The game started in dream circumstances for the hosts as two touchdowns in just twelve seconds gave them a comfortable first quarter lead over their opponents, the Green Bay Packers. Giovani Bernard ran in the first from the opening drive, before a fumbled kick return by Jeremy Ross allowed BenJarvus Green-Ellis to score from the very next play. Ross has since been released by the Packers.
Cincinnati then set about dismantling their start by turning the ball over to the Packers on their next four drives. Andy Dalton, Jermaine Gresham and Green-Ellis all fumbled possession, while Dalton also threw an interception. The Bengals will have considered themselves fortunate that their mistakes only cost them 13 points – the result of Melvin Delanie Jennings’ touchdown and two field goals from Mason Crosby – as the home side’s defence came to the rescue. A third Crosby field goal then gave the visitors a two point half-time lead.
Touchdowns from Johnathan Franklin and James Jones extended the lead early in the third quarter, but the Bengals struck back thanks to star wide receiver A.J. Green’s 20-yard end zone reception.
Marvin Jones cut the deficit again with a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, but a missed PAT meant the gap stayed at three, rather than two, meaning the Bengals still needed a touchdown, not a field goal to win.
Perhaps appropriately, one of the most topsy-turvy games imaginable was settled by a mistake, as Terrence Newman’s 58-yard fumble recovery ended in a touchdown, and handed the Bengals a 34-30 victory.
Elsewhere, the New England Patriots look to at long last have a challenge for supremacy in the AFC East division. While Tom Brady, with two touchdowns on the day, was busy leading the Pats to a comfortable 23-3 win over the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets were also chalking up victories.
The Dolphins remain level with New England after three wins out of three, their best start since 2002, after defeating the Atlanta Falcons 27-23, while the Jets moved to a 2:1 with a 27-20 win over the perennial divisional strugglers, the Buffalo Bills.
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill was amongst the Miami heroes, as he lobbed a 1-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Dion Sims with 38 seconds left to help his side come from 10-0 behind to eventually claim a memorable victory.
The Eastern pair were two of four AFC teams to maintain their 100% start’s to the year. Only the Houston Texans were beaten for the first time in their 2013 campaign, as they went down 30-9 to defending Super-Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens, with both teams moving to 2:1.
It was the AFC West that was also on form, as both the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs extended their perfect starts, the former breezing past divisional rivals the Oakland Raiders 37-21 thanks to another fine display from Peyton Manning (374 passing yards, three touchdowns), while the latter scored an emotional victory for Head Coach Andy Reid, against his former side the Philadelphia Eagles – the final score 26-16.
In the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks, the Chicago Bears and the New Orleans Saints all moved to 3:0 with emphatic victories. The Seahawks thrashed the Jacksonville Jaguars 45-17, the Bears defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 40-23, and the Saints won 31-7 against the Arizona Cardinals.
The Steelers loss, coupled with the Minnesota Vikings surprise 31-27 reverse against the Cleveland Browns, means that next week’s match-up at Wembley Stadium for the first of two NFL games to be staged in England this year, will involve two team’s still looking for their first taste of success this season.
They are not the only one’s still struggling either. The Super Bowl Champions from just two seasons ago, the New York Giants, were thrashed 38-0 by the Carolina Panthers. The result, which was Cam Newton’s side’s first win of the year, was the Giants worst shutout loss in 40 years and marked their worst start to a regular season campaign since 1996.
Luckily for the Giants their NFC East rivals are hardly in the best of form either: while the Eagles were falling to 1:2, the Redskins lost their third match of the year – as they were beaten 27-20 by the Detroit Lions. The Dallas Cowboys were at least able to prevent all four sides in the division suffering defeat for a second consecutive week, as they moved to 2:1 with a 31-7 win at home to the St. Louis Rams.
They have been joined on a 2:1 record by the Tennessee Titans, who scored a late touchdown to surprise the San Diego Chargers 20-17, and the Indianapolis Colts, who took advantage of a struggling Colin Kaepernick to defeat the San Francisco 49ers by a comfortable score of 27-7. It’s worrying signs for last year’s Super Bowl runners-up, who themselves go to Wembley at the end of October, already two win’s behind the Seahawks in the race for the NFC West title.
Full List of Week Three Results:
Chiefs 26 (at the) 16 Eagles, Texans 9 (at the) 30 Ravens, Giants 0 (at the) 38 Panthers, Lions 27 (at the) 20 Redskins, Chargers 17 (at the) 20 Titans, Cardinals 7 (at the) 31 Saints, Buccaneers 3 (at the) 23 Patriots, Packers 30 (at the) 34 Bengals, Rams 7 (at the) 31 Cowboys, Browns 31 (at the) 27 Vikings, Falcons 23 (at the) 27 Dolphins, Bills 20 (at the) 27 Jets, Colts 27 (at the) 7 49ers, Jaguars 17 (at the) 45 Seahawks, Bears 40 (at the) 23 Steelers, Raiders 21 (at the) 37 Broncos.
Week Four Fixtures:
49ers (1:2) at the Rams (1:2), Ravens (2:1) at the Bills (1:2), Cardinals (1:2) at the Buccaneers (0:3), Steelers (0:3) at the Vikings (0:3), Giants (0:3) at the Chiefs (3:0), Colts (2:1) at the Jaguars (0:3), Seahawks (3:0) at the Texans (2:1), Bengals (2:1) at the Browns (1:2), Bears (3:0) at the Lions (2:1), Jets (2:1) at the Titans (2:1), Redskins (0:3) at the Raiders (1:2), Eagles (1:2) at the Broncos (3:0), Cowboys (2:1) at the Chargers (1:2), Patriots (3:0) at the Falcons (1:2), Dolphins (3:0) at the Saints (3:0), Bye Week – Panthers & Packers.
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