NFL Week 3 grades: Vikings get an 'A-' for blowing out Raiders, Dolphins avoid another 'F'

It was a wild Week 3 slate in the NFL with heroic rookie debuts and exciting finishes. The Vikings have finally found the perfect recipe for winning games, and it's a recipe that coach Mike Zimmer loves: Run the ball as often possible on offense and then let your defense do the rest. That's exactly what the Vikings did on Sunday as they steamrolled the Raiders for 211 rushing yards in a 34-14 win. Not surprisingly, Zimmer was pleased with how his team ran the ball against Oakland.

So what has made the Vikings ground game so successful this season? Zimmer explained after the game what he's seen from his team, which went into Week 3 as the NFL's third-best rushing team. 

"Number one: Our coaches are doing a good job scheming," Zimmer said. "And number two: I think the offensive line is doing a really good job of getting on the right people and creating some space."

Week 3 is in the books and there's a lot to go over, so be sure to check out John Breech, Ryan Wilson and Sean Wagner-McGough join host Will Brinson to break everything down on the latest episode of the Pick Six Podcast. Listen to the full show below and subscribe here for your daily dose of NFL goodness. 

You want good scheming? Check out this one-yard run by Adam Thielen. Although one-yard runs aren't usually too sexy, the Vikings called an inside hand-off to their wide receiver that caught the Raiders completely off-guard. 

That was one of two touchdowns on the day for Thielen and put the Vikings up 21-0 in the second quarter. 

As for Zimmer, he also noted that a big part of the running game's success had to do with the amount of space the offensive line has been creating, and that was on display against Oakland. 

Just look at the the hole below that was created for Alexander Mattison on his 10-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. 

Mattison, who rushed for 58 yards, probably could have crawled through that hole and still scored. 

There's also one other thing that makes the Viking rushing offense go and that's Dalvin Cook. Cook, who was the NFL's leading rusher heading into Week 3, will likely keep that title after rushing for 110 yards against the Raiders. Zimmer has been especially impressed with Cook this season. 

"He doesn't need a lot of space, because he's really good at slithering through holes," Zimmer said. "Maybe the most impressive thing with him is his toughness in [between] the tackles, he doesn't ever want to go down. He's a physical runner with great speed and home run ability. 

We can't show you all of Cook's runs here, but we can show you a 16-yard carry he had in the third quarter that basically epitomizes his abilities. 

As you can see in that run, he "slithers" through the first hole, before making multiple people miss on a play that went for a first down, which was especially impressive because it was second-and-15 on the play. 

Cook has been so good this season that he's doing things not many other players in NFL history have ever done. Thanks to his performance against the Raiders, Cook is now just the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 110 or more yards and a touchdown in each of his team's first three games of a season.

The Vikings have now gone over 200 yards rushing a total of five times under Zimmer and they're 5-0 in those games.

Running over the Raiders is one thing, but if the Vikings want to prove they're actually a contender in the NFC this year, they're going to have do it against a better defense, and they'll get that chance in Week 4 when they travel to Chicago to face the Bears.

Here are the grades for every Week 3 game on Sunday.

Minnesota 34-14 over Oakland

D-
This was the first game of a 48-day road trip for the Raiders and things couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. They couldn't run the ball, they could't pass the ball and they couldn't protect Derek Carr, who was sacked four times. The Raiders defense also had no answers for a Vikings ground game that pounded them for 211 yards. The Raiders are now 1-15 over the past 10 years when an opponent rushes for 210 yards or more.
A-
Although Dalvin Cook and the Vikings ground game stole the show, nearly everyone on Minnesota's roster had an impressive game. Defensively, the Vikings harassed Derek Carr, sacking him four times with Eric Wilson coming up with two of those. And let's not forget about Kirk Cousins, who shook off his struggles from last week to throw for 174 yards (15 of 21) and a touchdown. 

Indianapolis 27-24 over Atlanta

B
Matt Ryan didn't make many mistakes in this game, but he'd probably like to have back the one he did make. Although Ryan threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns, he threw a killer interception in the second quarter after the Falcons had driven down to Indy's 28-yard line. The Falcons also looked completely undisciplined, getting flagged 16 times for 128 yards. The 16 penalties were the most for Atlanta since 1990 and was also tied for the second highest total in team history. 
B+
Jacoby Brissett came out on fire in the first half, which ended up being the difference in this game. Brissett completed his first 16 passes while leading the Colts to a score on each of their first four possessions (field goal, touchdown, field goal, touchdown) as Indy shot out to a 20-3 halftime lead. Overall, Brissett completed 28 of 37 for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Although Brissett had a big game, the Colts were probably more thrilled with the play of Adam Vinatieri. After struggling through the first two weeks of the season, Vinatieri rebounded by hitting all five of his kicks against Atlanta, including a 49-yard field goal in the first quarter. 

Buffalo 21-17 over Cincinnati

C
The Bengals almost won this game despite playing an absolutely disastrous first half where they only totaled 77 yards of offense. They also couldn't get out of their own way, turning the ball over four times. This game likely would have been a blowout if not for the play of a Bengals defense that didn't give up any points to Buffalo following the four Cincinnati turnovers. The Bengals offense finally came to life in the second half with scores on three straight possessions to take a 17-14 lead, but they came up short on a potential game-winning drive that ended with an Andy Dalton interception off of a tipped pass.  
C+
The Bills should give a game ball to every player on their defense, because they shut down the Bengals for nearly the entire game. Not only did the Bills force four key turnovers (two interceptions, two fumble recoveries), but they also limited Cincinnati to just 3 of 11 on third down conversions. Offensively, the Bengals had no answer for the oldest man on the field: Frank Gore. The 36-year-old averaged 5.43 yards per carry in a game where he totaled 76 yards and one TD on 14 carries. Josh Allen didn't make many mistakes -- he threw one interception -- and seems to be getting better by the week. If Allen continues to improve, the Bills offense could soon be as good as their defense. 

Kansas City 33-28 over Baltimore

B
The Ravens made a valiant effort to come back late in the game and nearly did it. They found a way to hang points on the board even without Jackson's leading targets getting going. Mark Ingram was ridiculously awesome. But the defense allowed four consecutive scoring drives while the offense went on an extended drought, and after a couple stops to let Jackson lead them back into the game, Baltimore was victimized by a brilliant screen pass designed by Andy Reid, which ultimately iced the game.
A
Kansas City took care of business at home, again using a four-score second quarter to propel itself to a win. This time it was Patrick Mahomes leading three touchdown drives and a field goal drive, but it was ultimately enough to come away with the victory and move to 3-0. Let's also be sure to give props to the defense, which held Lamar Jackson and company without a score for a quarter and a half, allowing the offense time to build a lead.

Ravens-Chiefs grades by Jared Dubin

Dallas 31-6 over Miami

D
Yes, Miami imploded in the second half, but give them credit for holding the Cowboys' high-powered opponent to just 10 points in the first half. An upset was certainly a topic of discussion at halftime with the Dolphins down by just four points, and even more impressive was how poised Josh Rosen looked in his first start for Miami. There wasn't much of a rushing attack to help him balance the contest, but Rosen continued to escape pressure for most of the game and took more than one successful shot downfield. In the end, the Dolphins found a way to prove they're a still a bad team, but not before making the Cowboys sweat profusely for two whole quarters, saving them from an F.
B-
This was very close to being an average C for the Cowboys, when you consider the difference between the two halves. They were wholly disappointing in the first half, with their slow start fueled by questionable plays and a litany of penalties that granted the Dolphins extra possessions and allowed them to remain in reach of an upset by the time halftime rolled around. Whatever they put in the Gatorade after the second quarter apparently did the trick, though, because they came out their usual dominant selves in the third quarter and never looked back en route to a 31-6 route. Grant them extra credit for adjusting at halftime, but this game could've and should've been a much more definitive dismantling of a bad Miami team. They'll learn from this and remember to never take any team for granted.

Dolphins-Cowboys grades by Patrik Walker

New England 30-14 over N.Y. Jets

C
The Jets are in a tough spot with third string quarterback Luke Falk. The talent just isn't there for them to take down the Patriots, but they were able hang around late. New York's defense did pressure Brady well in the second half and they took advantage of the Patriots' miscues. It was a passable effort.
B+
New England was dominant out of the gate with three straight touchdown drives, but then kind of stalled out. A muffed punt and a pick-six thrown by rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham allowed New York to get on the board twice. The defense was still dominant, but overall the Patriots can be better than what we saw Sunday.

Jets-Patriots grades by Tyler Sullivan

Detroit 27-24 Philadelphia

B
Credit the Lions for getting a huge road win in Philly, even though they had to hang on for the victory. Jamal Agnew had a 100-yard touchdown return just one week after being benched on kickoffs and Marvin Jones torched the Eagles secondary for six catches for 101 yards and a score. The Lions never relinquished their 10-point lead, finding a way to respond every time the Eagles cut the deficit to three. Head coach Matt Patricia was conservative at the end of the game as Matthew Stafford missed a wide open Marvin Jones to ice the game, which led to Malcolm Jenkins blocking Matt Prater's 46-yard kick that would have put the Lions up six. Fortunately, the Lions stopped the Eagles twice down three in the final minutes with two back-to-back four-and-outs. A huge win for the Lions, who remain unbeaten through three games. 
C
This time the Eagles started off fast, but two fumbles by Miles Sanders (one recovered by Eagles) and a fumble by Nelson Agholor put the Eagles in a double-digit deficit they could not overcome. Carson Wentz did his best to overcome the miscues (three fumbles, seven dropped passes, three offensive pass interference penalties), but the Eagles quarterback went just 2 of 7 for seven yards on the Eagles' final two drives with the team down three and Malcolm Jenkins blocking a field goal and putting the Eagles at midfield with 1:37 left. The Eagles could not get a first down as Darren Sproles fourth-down catch was taken away by offensive pass interference and Wentz's fourth-and-15 pass to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside was dropped that would have put the Eagles in a first-and-goal at the 5-yard line with 49 seconds left. Just a bad loss for the Eagles, who were without Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson in this one. 

Lions-Eagles grades by Jeff Kerr

Green Bay 27-16 over Denver

B-
The Broncos may have suffered their third straight loss, but there were some good things we saw on Sunday. The offense was more consistent, Phillip Lindsay returned to form and Joe Flacco was effective as a game manager. You won't see it in the box score, but the Broncos did a good job of eating clock with long drives that ended in points. That's exactly how you beat the Packers in Green Bay, but the three turnovers cost them their chances in this one. 
B+
The offense was again inconsistent, but they didn't need to put up 40 points in this matchup. The defense was outstanding, as the new acquisitions are proving their worth early in the season. Preston Smith had three sacks, Za'Darius Smith had two sacks and Darnell Savage recorded an interception. The three forced turnovers were the deciding factor on Sunday, and Green Bay has to be happy with how this unit is coming together. 

Broncos-Packers grades by Jordan Dajani

Carolina 38-20 over Arizona

A
What else can you say about Kyle Allen's performance? Allen was exceptional filling in for Cam Newton, finishing 19 of 26 for 261 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 144.4 passer rating. This is the same Panthers team that struggled to throw the ball over the first two games with Newton. Greg Olsen looks back to his Pro Bowl self with two touchdown catches, leading Carolina with six catches for 75 yards. Christian McCaffrey broke the Cardinals' back with a 76-yard touchdown run and the Panthers defense wore the Cardinals offensive line out in the second half, forcing an interception from Kyler Murray and sacking him eight times. Allen may have bought himself another start.
C-
The Cardinals deserved better with the way they played the first half and how Murray kept them in the game, but they have a lot of work to do to become competitive this year. Murray had no chance to throw the ball downfield with a poor offensive line, and a crucial drop by Trent Sherfield stalled a drive in the third quarter that led to a field goal (Murray's pass wasn't great, but the ball was questionable). The Cardinals defense allowed 410 yards and let Allen pick them apart several times throughout the afternoon. Murray had a few highlights and can play in this league, but he needs help from his offensive line and the defense in order to win games. Murray tried to do too much down two scores and paid the price for it with a late interception. 

Panthers-Cardinals grades by Jeff Kerr

San Francisco 24-20 over Pittsburgh

D+
Pittsburgh's defense shouldn't take full credit for San Francisco's five turnovers, with the 49ers deserving blame for some of those miscues. The Steelers' defense also failed to make key stops in the second half after Pittsburgh's offense started to find its footing. While Mason Rudolph made strides after a slow start, Pittsburgh's offense was a trainwreck during the first half, scoring just six points despite the Steelers' defense forcing four turnovers in the game's first 30 minutes. Pittsburgh went 3 of 12 on third down while failing to rush for over 100 yards as a team for the third time in as many games. 
C+

San Francisco's offense continues to enjoy success, amassing 436 yards and 26 first downs on Sunday. While Jimmy Garoppolo was erratic, his running game, led by Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert, amassed 168 yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries. The 49ers' defense enjoyed a near perfect first half before allowing two deep touchdown passes in the second half. The unit made up for those mistakes by forcing two second half turnovers that led to 14 points. Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner's forced fumble of Pittsburgh running back James Conner set up Garoppolo's game-winning touchdown pass to Dante Pettis

Steelers-49ers grades by Bryan DeArdo

Houston 27-20 over L.A. Chargers

A-
We knew this Texans team was tough, and they proved it in Week 3. Trailing by 10 points at halftime, Houston just didn't look like they were playing their kind of game. Star wideout DeAndre Hopkins wasn't very involved, Deshaun Watson wasn't making the best decisions and as a result, the Chargers had all the momentum. The Texans weren't rattled, however, and came out of the halftime break and scored 20 unanswered points. The defense stepped up as well, and only allowed three points in the entire second half, which was good enough for a Texans victory. Houston's pass rushers got to Philip Rivers a total of five times, while Watson had to pick himself up off the turf only twice. That's enough for an "A" performance right there. 
B
The Chargers' offense looked explosive in the first half, but faltered in the second. One bad third quarter was enough to put them away, which was surprising considering they were up by 10 points at halftime. It's hard to criticize this team due to the numerous injuries they are dealing with, but man, they should have gotten to Watson more than just twice. This team can be competitive with anyone in the NFL. Sunday just wasn't their day.  

Texans-Chargers grades by Jordan Dajani

New Orleans 33-27 over Seattle

A+
The Saints went into Seattle without Drew Brees and still routed the Seahawks. How does that happen? An absolutely awesome team performance. Even though Teddy Bridgewater wasn't lighting up Seattle's "D," he didn't have to. Sean Payton wisely rode Alvin Kamara on the offensive side of the ball, the defense came up clutch time and time again, and special teams provided a game-changing score to start things off.
D
Seattle showed glimpses of life on Sunday, namely in the form of Russell Wilson's connection with Tyler Lockett, but let's not sugarcoat it: They were bad. Whether or not they were actually under-prepared, they were definitely outcoached. When the defense wasn't missing tackles or Chris Carson wasn't coughing up the ball, Seattle was dialing up deep shots on fourth-and-1 or calling runs on third-and long.

Saints-Seahawks grades by Cody Benjamin

N.Y. Giants 32-21 over Tampa Bay

A+
The Giants probably don't deserve an A+ due to the play of their defense, but we're going to completely ignore that this week so we can focus on the legend of Daniel Jones. In the first start of his career, Jones made the Giants look like geniuses for taking him with the sixth overall pick. The rookie threw for 336 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, including a game-winning seven-yard run that came with just 1:16 left to play. Keep in mind, Jones did all of this without Saquon Barkley, who left the game in the first half with an ankle injury. Jones didn't get much help from his offensive line either, as the rookie was sacked five times. The Giants' 18-point comeback -- they once trailed 28-10 -- was the biggest that New York has pulled off since 1970. 
B-
The Buccaneers thought they had their kicker problems solved after drafting Matt Gay, but they might be back at square one after Sunday's loss. Not only did Gay miss two extra points, but he also went wide right from 34 yards on a what would have been the game-winning field goal. Gay's showing overshadowed the huge days by Mike Evans and Shaq Barrett. Barrett terrorized Daniel Jones as he accounted for four of the five sacks that Tampa recorded in the game. As for Evans, he caught eight passes for 190 yards and three touchdowns. Evans' biggest catch of the game actually went to waste. With just under 30 seconds left to play, Evans caught a 44-yard pass that took Tampa down to the Giants' 9-yard line, but bad coaching and bad kicking kept the Bucs from capitalizing on the catch.

L.A. Rams 20-13 over Cleveland

B
The Rams turned the ball over three times and made plenty of mistakes in this game, but they were able to overcome those issues thanks to a suffocating performance from their defense. Led by Clay Matthews (two sacks) and Aaron Donald (one sack), the Rams had Baker Mayfield running for his life nearly the entire night, including on the Browns' final offensive play of the game. As for the offense, although Jared Goff threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, he did make some big plays, and most of those went to either Brandin Cooks (eight catches, 112 yards) or Cooper Kupp (11 catches, 102 yards, two touchdowns).
B-
When the Browns hired Freddie Kitchens, the team made the move with the hope that he would bring a high-flying offense to Cleveland, but after three weeks, it's an offense that has been mostly a dud, and that includes Sunday night's performance against the Rams. A big reason the Browns are struggling is because their offensive line isn't giving Baker Mayfield any time to throw the ball. With Mayfield being harassed by the Rams on nearly every play, the Browns quarterback was only able to complete an ugly 50 percent of his passes (18 of 36). The Browns offense especially struggled in the red zone, coming away with just one touchdown on four trips inside the Rams' 20-yard line. Those struggles really showed in the final minute when Mayfield threw four straight incompletions with the game on the line from the Rams' 4-yard line. 

Chicago 31-15 over Washington

A
The Bears defense was so good in this game, they probably could have left their offense in Chicago and still won. The Bears forced a total of five turnovers, including a pick-six by Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who actually had two interceptions in the game. The Bears needed every turnover they got, because they ended up scoring a total of 21 points off of the five turnovers. As for their offense, although Mitchell Trubisky didn't put up any eye-popping numbers, he had a mostly accurate night that ended with him throwing for 231 yards and three touchdowns with all three TD passes going to Taylor Gabriel, who had six catches for 75 yards.
D+
It's not often that a player single-handedly loses a game for an NFL team, but you could argue that Case Keenum did that for Washington. The Redskins quarterback accounted for all five of Washington's turnovers with three interceptions and two lost fumbles. It was an ugly performance and one that should make it harder for coach Jay Gruden to justify keeping him on the field. The Redskins have a rookie quarterback waiting in the wings and no one would blame Gruden if he turned the offense over to Dwayne Haskins after Keenum's disastrous performance against the Bears.
CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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