Photo credit: si.com
By Joe Hawkes
With the Chicago Bears visiting the Nation’s capitol to take on Washington to close out Week 3 on ESPN’s Monday Night Football, Sunday’s games had some big-time performances that stood out to me headlined by a rookie quarterback, a dynamic running back, and a vastly improved defense.
Here are my game ball recipients for Week 3:
Offensive game balls – QB: Daniel Jones, New York Giants; RB: Christian McCaffrey, Carolina Panthers
The Giants needed a spark after dropping their first two games of the season.
The decision to bench two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning in favor for rookie quarterback Daniel Jones could prove to be the right one that saves the Big Blue’s season.
Jones, the sixth overall pick by the Giants in this year’s NFL draft, threw for 336 and two touchdowns and also ran for two more scores, including the go-ahead score with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter to give New York its much needed first win of the year, 32-31, on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
New York rallied from an 18-point halftime deficit with Jones at the controls of the Giants’ comeback. He scored on a 7-yard run in the second quarter that gave the Giants the lead, then he put New York ahead with another 7-yard run on fourth-and-goal.
As well as he ran the football, it was his arm that Jones really made his mark. Jones would hookup with tight end Evan Engram for a 75-yard TD on New York’s first play of the second half. Then, the former Duke signal-caller would find wide receiver Sterling Shepard for a 7-yard score midway through the fourth quarter.
One word to describe Jones’s demeanor throughout the game: poised.
Jones didn’t let the moment get too big for him in his debut, finishing 23 of 36 passes with no interceptions.
Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey racked up a Week 3 high 153 yards on yards on 24 carries, which aided hugely in Carolina’s 38-20 road victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday without starting quarterback Cam Newton.
Like the Giants earning their first win of the year, the Panthers earned their first win of 2019 behind a strong showing by McCaffrey.
With the Panthers clinging to a 21-20 lead midway in the third quarter, McCaffrey’s 76-yard TD run through the middle of Arizona’s defense kept Carolina in complete control of the game.
Through three games this year, McCaffrey ranks second in rushing behind Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook (375 yards and 4 TDs) with 318 yards and three TDs.
Defensive game ball – The entire San Francisco 49ers defense.
Listen, when your offense committed five turnovers (including three fumbles inside your own 25-yard line), and only allowed six points off those turnovers?
Credit the defense.
San Francisco’s offense gave everything away but the game, committing four turnovers in the first half alone then lost a fumble in the fourth quarter before holding on to a 24-20 win at Levi’s Stadium thanks to its vastly improved defense.
The 49ers spoiled rookie quarterback Mason Rudolph’s first career start in place of the injured Ben Roethlisberger for the winless Steelers (0-3). San Francisco limited Pittsburgh to 3 of 12 on third downs and held the Steelers to just 79 yards rushing.
Sure wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster (76-yard TD in the third quarter) and Diontae Johnson (39-yard TD in the fourth quarter) stunned the 49ers, but San Francisco’s defense did force two takeaways (an interception and fumble recovery) leading to 14 points by its much maligned offense, including the go-ahead TD from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to wide receiver Dante Pettis with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter.
For the first time since 1998, the 49ers (3-0) are undefeated through the first quarter of the season.