There was incredible action on the field, but the spotlight was on the sidelines. Here’s a recap of Week 3 in the NFL:

Locked Arms & Bended Knees Cause Stir

Houston Texans v New England Patriots
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While there were plenty of amazing games on Sunday, the primary storyline was not gameplay: many players — and a few owners — took a knee or locked arms during the national anthem as it was played before their respective games. The actions followed President Donald Trump's remarks at a political rally in Alabama earlier this week, where he advocated the dismissal of NFL players who kneel in protest during the patriotic song.

This week’s demonstrations started in London, where Jaguars owner Shahid Khan locked arms with his players in solidarity prior to the Jacksonville-Baltimore game at Wembley Stadium. In Chicago, the Pittsburgh Steelers stayed in the locker room during the anthem, save for left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan. He stood at the end of the tunnel during the song.

In Nashville, both the Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans chose not to be on the field during the national anthem, with each team issuing unifying statements of solidarity. Elsewhere around the league, some players knelt while others locked arms. Some owners joined in, while others, such as New England’s Robert Kraft released statements critical of Trump’s remarks.

Fan sentiment was mixed, with some supporters applauding the actions and others loudly booing protesting players prior to the anthem. Neither the league, nor the players’ association has indicated that any punitive measures will be handed out to anyone as a result of the protests. The demonstrations had little to do with the on-field action, but they created a more intense discussion around the issue.

Upsets Ruled The Day

Oakland Raiders v Washington Redskins
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It’s early enough in the season that true contenders haven’t fully emerged, but several teams who were expected to win games on Sunday were knocked off by lesser squads.

Kirk Cousins threw for 365 yards and three touchdowns, and the Washington Redskins thoroughly dominated the Oakland Raiders, 27-10, on Sunday night. Washington (2-1) sacked Derek Carr four times and intercepted him twice. The Redskins held previously undefeated Oakland (2-1) to just 128 yards of offense and controlled the ball for 38 minutes.

In Buffalo, Tyrod Taylor threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns and the Bills shocked the Broncos, 26-16. Buffalo (2-1) intercepted Trevor Siemian twice and they stuffed Denver (2-1) on two key fourth down attempts. Coming into the game, the Broncos were flawless thus far this season, including last week’s 42-17 win over Dallas.

Josh McCown threw for 249 yards, including a 69-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson, and the Jets beat the Miami Dolphins, 20-6. Expected to be one of the NFL’s worst teams, New York (1-2) looked very capable while dominating Miami (1-1) and quarterback Jay Cutler. The still-new Dolphin was 26 of 44 for 220 yards with an interception and a touchdown. The Dolphins were 1-for-12 on third downs. Ugh.

Drew Brees passed for 220 yards and three touchdowns and the New Orleans Saints crushed the previously unbeaten Carolina Panthers, 34-13, in Charlotte on Sunday. After looking lost in the season’s first two games, New Orleans (1-2) got its offense rolling against Carolina (2-1). Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s day was as bad as his defense’s. He threw for just 167 yards and three touchdowns.

Jordan Howard ran for 138 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown in overtime, and the Chicago Bears upset the Pittsburgh Steelers, 23-17, on Sunday. Rookie Tarik Cohen set up the game-winning score for Chicago (1-2) with a 73-yard run on which he appeared to score, but officials ruled him out of bounds at the 37-yard-line. Howard ran the ball into the end zone a few plays later. Favored Pittsburgh (2-1) somehow couldn’t beat a team with Mike Glennon throwing for just 101 yards at quarterback. Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger passed for 235 yards and a touchdown.

The Falcons, Eagles and Packers All Won in Exciting Fashion

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles
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In addition to the Bears overtime victory (above) and the Patriots fantastic finish (below), several other games came down to their final minutes.

Officials ruled that Matthew Stafford's completion to Golden Tate was short of the goal line with eight seconds to play, allowing the Atlanta Falcons to beat the Detroit Lions, 30-26, on Sunday. The video review overturning the play — initially called a touchdown — necessitated that 10 seconds be run off the clock, thus ending the game without Detroit (2-1) taking another snap. Atlanta (3-0) remained undefeated despite Matt Ryan's three interceptions.

Jake Elliott kicked a 61-yard field goal — the longest in team history — as time expired, and the Philadelphia Eagles beat the New York Giants, 27-24, on Sunday. Eli Manning threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter for New York (0-3), which trailed 14-0 heading into the final 15 minutes. Philadelphia (2-1) gave up 24 points in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles rallied twice to win.

Mason Crosby kicked a 27-yard field goal with 6:26 remaining in overtime, and the Green Bay Packers rallied past the Cincinnati Bengals, 27-24, on Sunday. Aaron Rodgers overcame a first-half pick-six to throw for 313 yards and three touchdowns. His 72-yard pass to Geronimo Allison in overtime set up Crosby’s game-winning kick for Green Bay (2-1), which rallied from a 21-7 halftime deficit.

Andy Dalton threw for 212 yards and two touchdowns for Cincinnati (0-3), which scored its first touchdown of the season when Dalton hit A.J. Green with a scoring pass with 9:40 left in the first quarter. The Bengals’ continuing struggles might soon mean the end of the Marvin Lewis era in Cincy.

Of Course, the Patriots Found a Way to Win

Houston Texans v New England Patriots
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Tom Brady threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks with 23 seconds to play, and the New England Patriots rallied to beat the Houston Texans, 36-33, in Foxboro, Mass on Sunday. Brady finished with 378 passing yards and five touchdowns. Cooks had five catches for 131 yards and pair of scores in the game for New England (2-1), but it was his toe-tapping catch of a nearly intercepted Brady pass in the end zone that sent fans home happy.

Rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson completed 22 of 33 passes for 301 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for Houston (1-2). The Texans’ defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney was also stellar, sacking Brady twice and returning a fumble 22 yards for a touchdown.

Both the Patriots and the Texans figure to be a part of the AFC playoff picture. If these two teams can meet again in the post-season, fans might expect a rematch as exciting as this first game.

Other Games

Thursday, September 21
L.A. Rams 41, San Francisco 39

Sunday, September 24
Jacksonville 44, Baltimore 7
Indianapolis 31, Cleveland 28
Minnesota 34, Tampa Bay 17
Tennessee 33, Seattle 27
Kansas City 24, L.A. Chargers 10

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