SHANKS A BUNCH
Kicking-game misfires are order of day, as chip-shot field-goal tries go awry to cost Saints and Raiders, and Chargers give up two kickoff-return TDs in loss.
Blew Dat. Garrett Hartley, who eight months ago booted New Orleans into the Super Bowl, missed his chance to bury Atlanta on Sunday when he shanked a 29-yard field-goal attempt in overtime.
“I missed basically an extra point,” said Hartley, who watched the Falcons come right back and make a 46-yarder for a 27-24 victory. “It was clearly my mistake. . . . It’s the highs and lows of being a kicker.”
Don’t worry, Garrett, you’ve got distinguished company.
Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski, the highest-paid kicker in NFL history, missed a 32-yarder as the clock expired on a 24-23 loss at Arizona. So sure was Raiders Coach Tom Cable that the victory was in the bag, he charged onto the field with his arms up, only to quickly drop them in disbelief.
Janikowski, in his 11th season, has made 90.2% (74 of 82) of his attempts from 30 to 39 yards, and he hadn’t missed from that range since 2007.
Then, there’s the Chargers. It wasn’t their kicker who failed them but their kick coverage unit. San Diego gave up two kick returns for touchdowns to Seattle’s Leon Washington. The runbacks were 101and 99 yards.
Washington is the 10th player in NFL history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game.
The Chargers, off to yet another sluggish start, clearly have some holes to patch. They gave up a 94-yard punt return to Kansas City’s Dexter McCluster in the opener.
In one of the early shockers of the season, those Chiefs are now 3-0 after beating winless San Francisco, a team that was widely tabbed as the class of the NFC West.
What’s more, it took three weeks for two of the preseason Super Bowl favorites, Dallas and Minnesota, to pick up their first victories.
“The thing about this league is you either feel good or feel bad after Sunday,” Cowboys Coach Wade Phillips said after his team handed Houston its first defeat. “We feel good right now.
“Our team . . . showed the way we can play. The little things that were missing in the first couple of games, I think we came through with. We played solid all the way around.”
Buffalo, Carolina and Oakland changed starting quarterbacks this week, and all three teams lost. But those particular moves generated mixed results.
The Bills’ Ryan Fitzpatrick put up a good fight in a 38-30 loss at New England, completing 20 of 28 passes for 247 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Bruce Gradkowski put the Raiders in position to win at Arizona, completing 17 of 34 for 255 yards and a touchdown with one interception.
Jimmy Clausen completed 16 of 33 for 188 yards with an interception and a fumble in a 20-7 loss to Cincinnati.
In the only game of the day between undefeated teams, Pittsburgh throttled Tampa Bay, 38-13. Charlie Batch, making his first start in three years, threw three touchdown passes and looked remarkably comfortable running the offense.
From the look of things before the season, the Steelers would have been fortunate to get through Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension at 2-2. Now, with a tough home game against Baltimore coming up, Pittsburgh could be 3-1or 4-0 when it welcomes Roethlisberger back (after an open date) for a Week 6 home game against Cleveland.
If Batch turns in another game looking as poised as he did against the Buccaneers, a defense that was playing very well, the Steelers would have to think hard about whether to immediately replace him with Roethlisberger, even though Batch is ultimately destined for the sideline.
After the game, Batch was quick to dispel any notion of a budding quarterback controversy. “Everybody knows Ben’s the starter,” he said. “One thing I didn’t want to do was be that weak link, to go out there and not be able to provide a spark or put this team in the end zone.”
Going for it
Is punting passé? It seemed that way Sunday in light of how many teams opted not to punt, and instead went for it on fourth down. That used to be a rarity.
But in the nine morning games Sunday, 11-teams chose to go for it on fourth down at least once. The 49ers, Cowboys and Falcons each attempted it three times. Dallas, in fact, did it twice on its opening drive, converting one and failing on the next.
As kickers go, Dallas’ David Buehler is a physical freak, a guy who can outrun some receivers and out-lift some offensive linemen. But he also hadn’t made a field goal of 50 yards or longer since he enrolled at USC, and he seldom had to kick any for the Trojans’ touchdown machine.
So it was huge for Buehler on Sunday to make field goals of 49 and 40 yards, especially because he had missed two in the first two weeks, including the potential score-tying kick in a loss to Chicago a week earlier.
“I just tuned everybody out and [did] what I had to do,” Buehler told reporters Sunday. “I worked hard and everybody had faith in me and I had faith in myself and I wanted to go out and prove it.”
8 In beating Washington, St. Louis won at home for the first time since Oct. 19, 2008.
8 In a loss at Seattle, San Diego’s Philip Rivers completed 29 of 53 for a career-high 455 yards.
8 Tampa Bay’s LeGarrette Blount, the controversial Oregon running back who sat out most of last season after slugging a Boise State player in the jaw following a loss in the 2009 opener, resurfaced Sunday with a one-yard touchdown run.
8 The New York Giants have had at least three turnovers in each of their three games. They haven’t done that in three consecutive games since 1999.
FALCON SHOWMAN: Quarterback Matt Ryan celebrates after throwing a touchdown pass for the Atlanta Falcons, who defeated New Orleans, 27-24, on a field goal in overtime — after Saints kicker Garrett Hartley had missed a 29-yard attempt.
OFF-LINE: Sebastian Janikowski missed from 32 yards on last play of Oakland’s 24-23 loss to Arizona.
TO THE HOUSE: Seattle’s Leon Washington returned kickoffs 101 and 99 yards against San Diego.
K.C. SUNSHINE: Quarterback Matt Cassel, giving receiver Dwayne Bowe a lift after throwing a 45-yard touchdown pass to him, has taken the Chiefs to a 3-0 start, making them perhaps the biggest early surprise of the NFL season.