Highlighting the most important, intriguing and bizarre stats of the weekend.
NFL football is the greatest reality TV program of all time. The Giants and Colts made sure of that back in 1958. Each NFL fall weekend is a completely new and original experience for every player, fan and coach alike. New stories, new personalities, new winners and new losers. And new statistics.
Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics from Week 3 of NFL play:
24: Total penalties in the Baltimore-New England showdown
On a Sunday with multiple overtime games and crazy endings across the league, the Patriots and Ravens previewed the AFC playoffs in rare fashion. There were 899 combined yards of total offense, 61 combined first downs, six lead changes, a game-winning field goal and one finable illegal contact penalty. The reason Bill Belichick decided to clutch and grab a referee following the loss? An extremely questionable performance by the replacement officials leading to 10 penalties for New England, 14 for Baltimore and a combined 218 yellow flag yards. A great atmosphere between two rivals, a last-second victory and a gut-wrenching, but memorable moment for Torrey Smith should be the reason fans are talking about Sunday night's showdown around the water cooler this week. However, the replacement officials seemed to lack control, waffled on questionable calls and eventually became the top story. Enough is enough, Roger.
332.8: average passing yards from AFC North quarterbacks in Week 3
Who says those North Division are black-and-blue, defensive clouds of dust? Big Ben (384), Joe Flacco (382) and Andy Dalton (328) had the first, second and fifth-best passing days of the week in the NFL through Sunday, while all three teams scored at least 30 points. Brandon Weeden added 237 of his own yards as well to what turned out to be huge day through the air in the AFC North.
4.0: Eagles turnovers per game
This one was a lay-up. Michael Vick was beaten all to hell in the desert on Sunday and his team turned the ball over three more times in the ugly loss to the Cardinals. The Eagles' 12 giveaways leads the NFL by a wide margin and the team is lucky to be 2-1. Meanwhile, Vick is lucky to be walking after Arizona teed-off on him all afternoon, sacking him five times and allowing six total points. This offense has a lot of big-play speed, but will it last the entire 16-game slate? Not if they keep giving the football to the other team four times per game.
43: Ken Whisenhunt career wins as Arizona Cardinals head coach
With the dominant win over the Eagles on Sunday, Whisenhunt became the all-time winningest coach in Cardinals franchise history. Three games into his sixth season with the organization, he has passed the great Don Coryell (42). The Cards are 3-0 for the first time since 1974 and have marquee wins over New England, Philadelphia and Seattle. Currently, Arizona has its second-longest home winning streak in team history with seven straight wins — and is currently in position to claim a bye week and home-field advantage. It's never too early to starting looking ahead because, with that defense, the Cardinals have tremendous staying power. Oh, and Larry Fitzgerald became the youngest player to ever catch 700 passes. Including that dude named Rice.
0: Total combined turnovers and sacks for Christian Ponder
The surprise story of the day has to be the performance of the developing Vikings quarterback against arguably the league's nastiest and toughest defense. Ponder led an incredibly efficient Minnesota squad in the huge upset win over the San Francisco 49ers. Not only did he not turn the ball over or get sacked, but he converted on both redzone attempts, his only fourth down attempt, 7-of-14 third downs and the Vikes had just one team penalty. Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers couldn't beat the Niners, but Ponder did — with a career-high 89.9 QB rating. The loss now puts Atlanta and Arizona one game up in the race for the NFC bye week.
2,092: Total yards of combined offense for Ponder, Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker
The other three guys in the 2011 first-round QB class combined for 194 yards of total offense through three weeks of play last fall. All of it was Gabbert's as Locker and Ponder hadn't even taken an NFL snap at this stage of last season. Ponder (251.3 ypg) and Gabbert (163.3 ypg) have yet to throw an interception this year while Locker (282.7 ypg) provided the Titans with 413 yards of total offense in their first win of the year. There have been many doubters of this class of signal callers, some of which has to be tied directly to poor surrounding casts, but these three youngsters are beginning to acquit themselves rather well in relatively short order. Just for reference, their 2,092 yards of total offense is more than Phillip Rivers, Jay Cutler and Sam Bradford combined (2,051).
18: Seconds it took Detroit to score two touchdowns to tie the game
A three-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill to Calvin Johnson cut the Tennessee Titans lead from to seven points with 18 seconds remaining. Detroit recovered the onside kick and two plays later connected on a Hill-to-Titus Young Hail Mary from the Titans 46-yard line as time expired. After a Titans field goal in overtime, all the Lions had to do was match with three of their own to keep the game going. But on a bizarre 4th-and-1 QB sneak call on the Tennessee seven-yard line, Hill was stopped well short and the game was over. As a bonus amazing stat, the Titans became the first team in NFL history to score five touchdowns of at least 60 yards or more (AP).
230: Difference in yards rushing from Week 2 to Week 3 for Jamaal Charles
The former Texas Longhorn has played in 52 career NFL games and his three yards rushing last weekend in the loss to Buffalo was his worst career showing as a professional. Charles bounced back in a big way with his second-best rushing day of his career with 233 yards in the road win over New Orleans. His 91-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter not only sparked the victory but turned out to be the longest play in franchise history. Most importantly, Kansas City avoids an 0-3 start while putting the embattled Saints in the nearly impossible position of being winless after three games.
- by Braden Gall