32 things we learned in NFL Week 3: Bewilderment abounds in Cowboys' loss, Chargers' win

The 32 things we learned from Week 3 of the 2023 NFL season:

1. Being a one-percenter might be a dream for most, but not in the context of the NFL. Entering Sunday, of the 99 teams to start 0-3 since the league expanded to 32 clubs in 2002, exactly one – the 2018 Houston Texans – recovered to reach the playoffs. That means, yes, a 1% shot for the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings and possibly the Cincinnati Bengals (0-2), who host the Los Angeles Rams on Monday night. Of the 32 teams to even start 0-2 since 2019, Cincy (last year) is the only one to salvage a postseason berth.

2. In the NFL, you want to be an 86-percenter. Entering Sunday, 12 of the past 14 teams to start 3-0 extended their seasons into the playoffs. That’s very encouraging news for the unbeaten Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers, who (barring a tie) will be joined by either the Philadelphia Eagles or Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.

2a. Overall, though, rough weekend for the undefeated, five 2-0 clubs losing Sunday.

3. But speaking of one-percenters, how about Taylor Swift showing up at Arrowhead Stadium to root on new (rumored) beau Travis Kelce, who scored a TD in the Kansas City Chiefs’ 41-10 demolition of the Bears?

4. Hopefully for Swift and (mostly) Kelce this goes well ... though a rematch of Super Bowl 57 could be problematic given Swift is a Pennsylvania native and Eagles fan. It may be a “You Belong With Me” “Love Story” right now, but could it end with “Bad Blood”? Sunday went well, but it’s hard not to flash back to that Tony Romo-Jessica Simpson debacle if you’re a Chiefs fan.

4a. To be clear Swifties and Kelce admirers, we openly acknowledge your idols are at the tops of their chosen professions in ways Romo and Simpson never were.

5. Speaking again of one-percenters, give it up for Kansas City head coach Andy Reid, who won his 271st game (including playoffs) Sunday, moving him past Dallas Cowboys legend Tom Landry and into fourth place all-time.

6. As for the – uh, 99-percenters? – the Bears' franchise-record 13-game losing streak only begins to spotlight their misery on a day when QB Justin Fields was horrible in the wake of his blame-the-coaching news conference last week. After vowing to play more instinctively, he passed for 99 yards and rushed for 47 as Chicago was embarrassed yet again.

7. Maybe Da Bears will win a game at some point. But until that time, gonna be hard to top the Arizona Cardinals’ handling of the previously undefeated Cowboys in a 28-16 victory that could end up rating as the upset of the season. Losing CB Trevon Diggs to a season-ending ACL injury in the days before the game was a blow, but no excusing this setback for America’s Team and its vaunted defense to a Cards squad that lacks the talent of the flawed Jets and Giants, Dallas’ first two victims of the season.

8. Back to the Fins … seventy-burger? Seriously? You guys know this isn’t the BCS, and no style points are awarded, yeah? (Net points are a low-level tiebreaker, but I digress.) Regardless, what an obviously impressive performance as Miami became the fourth NFL team to reach the 70-point plateau in the Dolphins’ 70-20 dismantling of the Broncos, the most points scored by a team since Washington had 72 in 1966.

8a. Wondering if former Denver coach Nathaniel Hackett cares to weigh in on poor coaching jobs ...

9. The Dolphins’ 726 total yards are a record for one team in the Super Bowl era (since 1966). They averaged 10.2 – more than a first down – per snap. Miami had four plays exceeding 50 yards and four others that went for at least 20.

10. Dolphins RBs Raheem Mostert and rookie De’Von Achane had four TDs apiece, the second pair of teammates to achieve that in a game. Achane also rushed for 203 yards on 18 carries.

11. Elsewhere, in a game that was entertaining for different reasons, the Los Angeles Chargers and Vikings both piled up 475 yards, though it was the Bolts who outlasted HC Brandon Staley’s decision making and the Vikes for a 28-24 triumph in what was effectively an elimination game between clubs that started Sunday 0-2.

12. Staley’s team secured the victory thanks to LB Kenneth Murray’s end-zone interception with 7 seconds left, absolving the coach of his (failed) decision to go for it on fourth-and-1 from his own 24-yard line – on a day when his team rushed for all of 30 yards without injured RB Austin Ekeler – in a bid to end the game.

13. Chargers WR Keenan Allen caught 18 passes for 215 yards and threw a 49-yard TD pass to Mike Williams. Allen’s 18 catches were the most ever by a player who also threw for a touchdown, surpassing the previous standard by six grabs.

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) reacts as Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) looks on during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) reacts as Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) looks on during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium.

14. Vikings WR Justin Jefferson finished with seven grabs for 149 yards and a TD. He finished 1 yard shy of becoming the first player to ever start a season with three consecutive 150-yard receiving games, but his 458 total yards tied Wes Welker’s mark for the most ever through three weeks.

15. Minnesota is 0-3 despite not losing any of its games by more than six points. The defending NFC North champions were 11-0 in one-score games in 2022.

16. The Vikings have lost seven fumbles this season. Seven.

17. The New England Patriots have now beaten the reeling New York Jets 15 consecutive times. Fifteen.

18. How much longer can the NYJ wait to go quarterback shopping before another season with Zach Wilson goes down the chute? (Answer: Not long, despite what the Jets are saying publicly.)

19. The Buffalo Bills defense served reminder that this isn’t just the Josh Allen Show. Even with LB Von Miller (knee) at least weeks away from returning, Buffalo hung nine sacks, five takeaways and one pick-six on the previously unbeaten Washington Commanders, who managed all of 230 yards in a 37-3 rout.

20. In a game marred by the remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia, the Indianapolis Colts returned to their birthplace and beat the Baltimore Ravens 22-19 in overtime. Upstaging legendary K Justin Tucker, who was short on what would have been a game-winning 61-yard field goal at the end of regulation, the Colts’ Matt Gay became the first man in league annals to hit four FGs from 50+ yards in a single game, including the game-winner from 53 with 69 seconds left.

21. The matchup – and the victory – of 2023 first-round running backs goes to the Detroit LionsJahmyr Gibbs, who finished with 82 yards from scrimmage on 18 touches in Sunday’s 20-6 win against the previously unbeaten Falcons. Atlanta counterpart Bijan Robinson was limited to 60 yards on 14 touches after averaging nearly 130 total yards in his first two games.

22. But the best rookie between the lines Sunday at Ford Field was Lions second-round TE Sam LaPorta (8 catches, 84 yards, TD).

22a. LaPorta’s 18 receptions in his first three NFL games establish a new record for tight ends.

23. We’re not saying Cleveland Browns QB Deshaun Watson takes our (on-field) advice, but maybe? Despite the loss of Pro Bowl RB Nick Chubb to season-ending knee surgery, Watson responded with his best performance as a Brown, connecting on 27 of 33 throws for 289 yards and two scores. He distributed the ball nicely in Cleveland's 27-3 runaway against the Tennessee Titans, hooking up at least twice with a half-dozen receivers. Watson’s 123.4 passer rating was his best with Cleveland and only the second time in nine starts with the Browns that he’s topped 100.0. He had a 104.5 career mark during his time in Houston.

23a. Browns DE Myles Garrett had 3½ sacks, one shy of his personal best in the NFL.

24. Green Bay Packers OLB Rashan Gary had a career-high three sacks, one injuring the throwing shoulder of Saints QB Derek Carr, in the Pack’s 18-17 defeat of New Orleans. Expect Gary to be a highly sought commodity in next year’s free-agent market.

24a. The Saints were up 17 when Carr suffered what's apparently a sprained shoulder in the third quarter.

25. Consequently, Green Bay doesn’t win its 11th consecutive home opener if new QB1 Jordan Love hadn’t rallied the Packers out of what became a 17-0 fourth-quarter hole. Sunday was Love’s first career start at Lambeau Field.

26. Las Vegas Raiders HC Josh McDaniels went full Staley on Sunday night, opting to take a field goal off the board – maybe understandable given the eight-point deficit – and extend a drive late in the fourth quarter that ... ended with a field goal nearly a minute later. The Silver and Black eventually got the ball back with 12 seconds left, enough time for QB Jimmy Garoppolo to serve up his third pick in a 23-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Maybe Jimmy G. could have been more judicious with, say, another 50 seconds to work with had McDaniels simply taken the three points the first time?

27. Titans WR DeAndre Hopkins has at least one catch in all 154 of his NFL appearances, including all 148 in the regular season. His streak of consecutive games with at least a reception is currently the league’s longest.

27a. That's barely halfway to Hall of Famer Jerry Rice’s all-time record (274).

28. The home-field advantage at Seattle’s Lumen Field remains real, the Panthers committing eight false starts in their 37-27 loss Sunday.

29. One of the NFL’s more inexplicable subplots? The Jacksonville Jaguars’ inability to handle the AFC South rival Houston Texans, who won their fifth straight in Duval County. The Jags have dropped 10 of their last 11 (and 16 of 19) to Houston.

30. The Texans did produce, arguably, the most memorable play of Week 3, FB Andrew Beck returning a kickoff 85 yards for a score. The unlikely hero, at 255 pounds, became the heaviest player in league history to score on a kickoff.

31. With the Texans’ DeMeco Ryans and Cardinals’ Jonathan Gannon getting their first career victories, the Broncos’ Sean Payton and Panthers’ Frank Reich – both established head coaches – are the only new ones this year who are still winless.

32. All due respect to Beck, but our favorite moment of Week 3 was former Colts QB Andrew Luck showing up for Prime Video’s postgame show at Levi's Stadium in full Civil War regalia. May your retirement be replete with Squirrel Oil, good sir.


Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on X, formerly Twitter @ByNateDavis.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL Week 3 takeaways: Raiders, Chargers among biggest head-scratchers