So much for the unfolding quarterback crisis around the NFL. In the wake of multiple injuries to starting quarterbacks, it appeared as if we had a problem on our hands, one that was going to be severely highlighted in the afternoon games thanks to four different backup quarterbacks starting in the late slate of games in Week 3.
But to everyone's surprise, all four quarterbacks acquitted themselves pretty well, coming away with a 3-1 record despite all operating in the role of the underdog. With Eli Manning benched, Cam Newton floating in some vague injury limbo and Ben Roethlisberger/Drew Brees both out for a while due to surgery, the league was lacking some serious star power on Sunday.
But their replacements -- Daniel Jones, Kyle Allen, Mason Rudolph and Teddy Bridgewater -- stepped in and performed more than admirably. All four were on the road, all four were pretty hefty underdogs and all four either pulled off an upset or came close. Let's look at how some of them did on an individual basis.
Week 3 is in the books and there's a lot to go over, so be sure to check out John Breech, Ryan Wilson, Sean Wagner-McGough and myself 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.
Daniel Jones, Giants
What a day to be a Giants fan. It was probably a touch bittersweet: Saquon Barkley suffered an ankle injury that will keep him off the field for the next several weeks and the superstar running back was seen on crutches and in a walking boot, hopping off the field in celebration after the Buccaneers missed a short field goal wide right to give the Giants their first win of the season.
Matt Gay was set up for a chip shot that would have really taken the wind out of the Giants' sails, but no matter what the outcome of the game, the impressive performance from Danny Dimes was going to make Giants fans excited about what they saw on Sunday.
The controversial No. 6 overall pick made history for New York, becoming the first rookie quarterback to record 300 yards passing, two passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in a single game since 1970. The second of those rushing touchdowns was a game-winner, with Jones sprinting up the middle to tie the game before an extra point put the Giants up for good.
Jones didn't just impress the viewing public -- he apparently shocked some teammates midway through the second quarter with his in-huddle demeanor.
There was a point in the second quarter Daniel Jones went into the huddle and said, “Let’s fu***** score!” Guys were taken aback. Had never seen that side of him, seen him curse. Moments later he pulled a zone read and ran in a touchdown. Had the sideline buzzing. #Giants— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) September 23, 2019
The former Duke standout finished the game going 23 of 36 for 336 yards and four total touchdowns, plus no interceptions. He also led an otherwise non-existent ground game for New York, rushing four times for 28 yards. Aside from just the pure statistical production, Jones changed what the Giants were able to do on offense. They implemented a ton of read-option looks; maybe those will be less effective without Barkley and when teams have time to prepare, but (I think) we all knew this was coming and the Bucs were not entirely prepared for what Pat Shurmur dialed up in the second half.
Suffice to say, the Eli Manning run in New York is over, barring an injury from Jones. Jones distributed the ball evenly -- three different receivers topped 75 yards on the day. He showed poise, he was accurate and he delivered the ball down the field in a way that Eli just can't do anymore. Look at this throw down the field to Darius Slayton -- Jones gets pressure quickly, shifts calmly inside the pocket and makes a long thrown down the field while on the move. Eli just can't do that anymore and it's been a problem for a while.
I would be remiss not to praise Eli for how he's handling this transition, including the way he greeted Jones after the rookie's first touchdown and then following the game on Sunday.
Kyle Allen, Panthers
Oh man, it did not take long for the anti-Cam Newton folks to pop up and start peacocking around on Sunday. The reason? Kyle Allen looked awesome against the Cardinals, and the Panthers nearly hung a 40-burger on Arizona during Allen's second career start for Carolina. After a four passing touchdown performance, Allen is undefeated in his career. More impressively, he injected a vibe of confidence in a lifeless, winless Panthers team that was watching its season circle the drain after they lost twice at home to start the year.
Look, Cam is hurt. I don't want to get into the whole issue with people piling on him for being bad when he's clearly injured. Allen made a world of difference for Carolina just by being healthy and capable of delivering the ball accurately. Cam couldn't do it last week against the Buccaneers; I'd love to know why Carolina never considered putting in Allen against Tampa with Cam struggling to complete even the most wide-open throws.
Allen did not struggle. In fact, he became the first Panthers quarterback to throw for 250-plus yards, four touchdowns and end up with a passer rating above 140 in franchise history. He did an outstanding job distributing the ball, targeting Greg Olsen and Curtis Samuel seven times each. He hit Olsen for a pair of touchdowns, found Samuel for a first quarter score and also hit D.J. Moore on a great catch-and-run score.
Those weapons are real, man, and there's a reason to believe Allen can utilize them enough to help the Panthers win while Newton is out. Allen's development could be enormous for the Panthers' ability to rest Newton without panicking about their place in the standings.
Allen challenged the Cardinals down the field in a way Newton didn't during the first two weeks of the season. Allen averaged 8.3 air yards per completion, the highest number in the NFL through three weeks. His passing chart shows a guy who wasn't afraid to push the ball down the field. That drastically changes what the Panthers can do on offense.
Look at these four touchdowns he threw. This dude wasn't scared to stand in the pocket and make big throws and he has enough mobility to mitigate any offensive line issues.
The one caveat I would put here is this: Allen was playing in a big time spot for him personally. He's from Scottsdale, so playing against the Cardinals was essentially a homecoming situation. And some people didn't realize it, but Allen actually was at Texas A&M with Kyler Murray. The general sense I get from how things shook out is that it wasn't entirely amicable. The two, Allen admitted, aren't close. Allen had a lot of juice for this matchup. But I'm not sure he's a fluke and it could be a major find for Carolina in the form of an undrafted free agent who can keep this season alive.
Mason Rudolph, Steelers
The good news for the Steelers is Mason Rudolph looks like an improvement over a banged-up Ben Roethlisberger. Through five quarters or so, Ben was not looking sharp, and it was causing major stagnation issues with the offense. Things didn't exactly take off with Rudolph under center, but the Steelers should have won that game against the 49ers. They didn't, obviously, falling 24-20 in San Francisco, but I have an inkling we're going to be looking at the 49ers defense as better than most people believed by the end of the season.
Plus, considering how San Francisco managed to dominate the game -- in a way that didn't show up on the scoreboard -- it's fairly impressive the Steelers were even in the game to begin with.
Domination not seen in final score:— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) September 23, 2019
SF: 26 1st downs, 11 3rd downs
PIT: 11 1st downs, 12 3rd downs
SF: 436 yds & 6.0 yds/play
PIT: 239 yds & 4.7 yds/play
SF: 6 red zone trips
PIT: 1 red zone trip
SF: 5 turnovers
PIT: 2 turnovers
What's concerning is the 49ers coughed up the ball five times, with several of them coming early, and the Steelers offense simply could not capitalize. Rudolph finished just 14 of 27 passing the ball for 174 yards, a pair of touchdowns and one horrific interception. His passing chart is a big red flag, with Rudolph not scaring the 49ers vertically outside of the two touchdown throws.
Yikes. The bigger concern here? The touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster was almost all about JuJu ripping off yards after the catch. And the bomb to Diontae Johnson -- Antonio Brown's replacement and newly elevated on the depth chart -- was a busted coverage situation that was essentially a free throw.
There's room for growth here, and Pittsburgh should be enthused by the performance of the defense, but if Rudolph and the Steelers can't get a win on the road when they're handed five turnovers by the 49ers, it's going to be hard sledding for the rest of the season.
Teddy Bridgewater, Saints
On the other side of the coin, Teddy Bridgewater was more than willing to let his defense win the game for him. Filling in for Drew Brees, Bridgewater was spotted a pair of scores thanks to a Deonte Harris punt return for a touchdown and a Vonn Bell fumble recovered for a touchdown. That early deficit threw Seattle off its gameplan and forced Russell Wilson to try and go nuclear for a victory. The result was great news for Wilson's fantasy stats, but not so much for Seattle's hope of winning at home.
It also might have reduced what we could learn about Bridgewater. The former first-round pick attempted 27 passes, but he didn't throw a single pass more than 20 yards down the field. Even his touchdown was a quick hit lateral throw to Michael Thomas to the left. With his defense playing lights out and Alvin Kamara carving up the Seahawks in the short passing game, Sean Payton was content to let Bridgewater just manage the game.
Maybe that's what he'll be in New Orleans? Bridgewater was always a very consistent, high-floor guy when he was in Minnesota prior to his knee injury. If he's that same sort of guy over the next six to eight weeks, the Saints are going to remain contenders in the NFC South and the NFC as a whole.