In a raucous Week 3, seven unbeatens fell, scoreboards lit up in an offensive orgy, and Tom Brady easily won his quarterback matchup with Peyton Manning.
In other words, things were pretty much back to normal in the NFL.
This was the most revealing week yet of the young season. It featured another circus-like performance from the St. Louis Rams, a stunning nose dive for the Indianapolis Colts and another win for the San Diego Chargers, who look more and more like destiny's darlings with their fifth-place schedule.
Here are the biggest revelations of Week 3:
The Rams are back on a Super Bowl level with that electric mix of big-play offense and quietly efficient defense. They crushed an excellent Miami Dolphins defense, 42-10, with a "Max Q" effort. That's the term the Rams borrowed from NASA this season to address maximizing their potential. "I'm not sure we can play better than that," coach Mike Martz said.
The Ravens re-established themselves as the team to beat in the AFC with a convincing 20-13 victory in Denver. Winning in hostile territory with a gimpy offense and dominant defense seems to be their fate. The loss in Cincinnati is history.
The Chargers just might make one of those worst-to-first runs that have become popular in the NFL. They brought Cincinnati back to earth with a 28-14 win, and finally have an offense to match their still-rugged defense. If they can survive ambushes in Cleveland and New England the next two weeks, the Chargers get the Broncos at home in Week 6, and that could be interesting.
Sunday's losers fell hard. Denver couldn't hold serve at home against the Ravens even after it got a gift touchdown to start the game. Miami's exceptional cornerbacks couldn't cope with Kurt Warner's passing show, and Indianapolis couldn't solve the mystery of Foxboro. They all look like pretenders at this point. You could throw the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in that group, too, after a 20-16 loss to Minnesota.
A not-so-fond farewell
The biggest upset of the week belonged to the Patriots, who throttled the Colts for the sixth straight time at Foxboro Stadium, 44-13. Despite the score, New England won it more with defense than offense. The Patriots intercepted Manning three times, returned two for touchdowns and cashed in 17 points off turnovers. That, of course, was more scoring than the Colts' offense provided.
Brady, the second-year quarterback filling in for injured Drew Bledsoe, never was placed in the position of having to win the game.
There were ominous signs in the loss for the Colts. First, it was reminiscent of three horrid road losses in 2000 (Green Bay, Chicago and the New York Jets). Second, Indianapolis' receivers appeared to be intimidated by the Patriots, starting with a thunderous hit by linebacker Bryan Cox on Jerome Pathon on the Colts' second play. And third, the Patriots' previously pathetic running game gouged out 177 yards. That's what bounced the Colts out of the playoffs the past two years.
Manning is 0-4 in Foxboro, where he has thrown 11 interceptions. The good news for the Colts is the stadium will be demolished after this season.
Rising to the occasion
The third-biggest rushing game of Priest Holmes' five-year career on Sunday was more by chance than design. Holmes rushed for 147 yards in Kansas City's 45-13 romp over the Washington Redskins and had 225 total yards.
The Chiefs had intended to use mostly one-back formations - with Tony Richardson as the back - until the Redskins came out with their nickel (five backs) defense. Kansas City's offensive coordinator Al Saunders answered with a two-back set, and Holmes delivered a batch of big plays. The former Raven rushed for 99 yards and scored three touchdowns in the second quarter alone. Said Chiefs quarterback Trent Green of Holmes: "He had incredible vision."
Holmes' game notwithstanding, there is speculation in Kansas City that his role as featured back is about to change, that Richardson is due to play a bigger role.
When Seattle's Shaun Alexander scored on a 4-yard run in the third quarter in Oakland, it ended a touchdown drought for the Seahawks that spanned 10 quarters, 33 possessions and 164 plays. That wasn't even close to the Ravens' epic drought of 21 quarters, 60 possessions and more than 322 minutes a year ago.