The Baltimore Ravens might not get a well-rested Justin Tucker in Week 4 after he rescued them with a miracle field goal against the Detroit Lions.

Baltimore trailed the winless Lions 17-16 with 64 seconds left and faced a fourth down and 19 with 26 seconds remaining.

However, Lamar Jackson hit Sammy Watkins for 36 yards to keep their hopes alive, setting up Tucker for an improbable 66-yard game-winning field goal.

Tucker's effort from an NFL-record distance bounced off the top of the crossbar and over in a remarkable finish that sparked jubilant Ravens celebrations.

The Ravens are now 2-1 and face a tough road game with the Denver Broncos next week, one that Tucker may have to tackle with little sleep.

"When you're that far away, it's just not a normal kick where you treat it like any other kick," Tucker said.

"You do have to kind of juice it a little bit. You gotta let adrenaline just take over. The technique may change just a little bit. It was actually more like a kick-off, where you just lay into it, like you're a competitor in a long-drive contest.

"You just let it rip and you kind of hope it stays straight. And that ball stayed straight as an arrow.

"I did see it hit the crossbar, and I thought that it might have just gone straight up and then fallen short. But when I saw that it did clear the goal post, I can't even tell you how excited I was to get that result.

"Everything just went perfectly. It had to – the snap, the placement, the kick, the ball went exactly how far it needed to go. Exactly.

"I am floating. I won't be able to sleep for days."

There was controversy on the play prior to Tucker's field goal, which saw the Ravens avoid being assessed a delay of game penalty despite the play clock expiring.

It means Lions head coach Dan Campbell is still waiting for his first win, and he was in no mood to discuss that lapse from the officials.

"There's nothing I can say to that, because it's the same thing," Campbell said.

"Tomorrow, you'll get an apology, and it doesn't mean anything. That's life, and that's the hand we were dealt.

"We still had an opportunity to – that was fourth-and-long, a long way to go, and we gave it up."

Kyle Shanahan was rightly worried the San Francisco 49ers left too much time on the clock for Aaron Rodgers in their thrilling defeat to the Green Bay Packers.

The Niners suffered their first defeat of the season in Week 3 as Mason Crosby's 51-yard field goal as time expired gave the Packers a 30-28 victory.

Thirty-seven seconds earlier, fullback Kyle Juszczyk had ploughed into the endzone to give a 49ers team that had trailed 17-0 a 28-27 lead on a 12-yard pass from Jimmy Garoppolo.

Despite having all three timeouts, Garoppolo snapped the ball with 12 seconds left on the play clock, meaning he had the chance to salt more of the clock away and diminish the odds of Rodgers leading a decisive drive.

Instead, Rodgers hit Davante Adams for receptions of 25 yards and 17 yards to set up Crosby to settle the game in Packers' favour.

Asked if he was worried about the amount of time left for the reigning MVP, San Francisco head coach Shanahan told a media conference: "You always worry with Aaron on the other side.

"That's why we didn't use any timeouts. We wanted to take it down. Hell of an effort by Juszczyk to get it in.

"I think [Garoppolo] hit the last guy in the progression and it was a hell of an effort after the catch."

Had Juszczyk been tackled short of the endzone instead of crossing the line with an extra effort, the Niners would have been able to use their timeouts to control the clock and potentially score while leaving the Packers with virtually no chance.

But curbing that instinct to score is near-impossible in the heat of the moment.

"I didn't really have a lot of time to think about it," Juszczyk said. "The entire team was swarming me. I didn't even know how much time was left on the clock to be totally honest with you.

"It wasn't really something that was on my mind during the play. We were down six so we needed a touchdown so I was trying to score."

"We were kind of in a good rhythm,” Garoppolo added. "That's when you tow the line of you have the defense on their heels, it's really hard to score down there in the red zone as it is, do you want to let them catch their breath? 

"When a guy catches it and makes a play like that you’re not going to be upset at him for scoring. It’s tough."

Brandon Staley says the Los Angeles Chargers are lucky to have "gangster quarterback" Justin Herbert after he outdueled Patrick Mahomes in the fourth quarter at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.

The Kansas City Chiefs are bottom of the AFC West with a losing record for the first time in over five years after they were beaten 30-24 by the Chargers.

Kansas City led 14-3 at half-time, but fought back to lead 17-14 with under four minutes of the third quarter to go.

Reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert took centre stage in the final quarter, connecting on the first of two touchdown passes to Mike Williams and, after Mecole Hardman found the endzone for the Chiefs, leading a field goal drive to tie the game at 24-24.

Mahomes still had over two minutes to potentially clinch victory but threw a critical interception and the Chargers' gamble to eschew a game-winning field goal paid off as Herbert hit Williams for another touchdown and, despite a missed extra point, Los Angeles held on as a late Hail Mary from the Chiefs came up short.

Chargers head coach Staley said: "We're fortunate enough to have a gangster quarterback."

Victory for the Chargers over their AFC West rivals moved them to 2-1 ahead of a showdown with the undefeated Las Vegas Raiders (3-0) next Monday.

Staley hailed the pivotal contribution made by both Herbert and Williams.

"I thought that those two guys really stood out to me," he said. "Justin had four touchdowns, no interceptions. There was a fierce rush out there. I felt like he really played the position how you need to.

"I felt like he was patient when he needed to be. We had a couple play-action shots that didn't quite express themselves. I felt like he was awesome in the check-down game getting the ball underneath.

"They played a lot more two-deep zone coverage with some of their corner situation. He just played the position at a high level. He showed high-level toughness and then certainly in a two-minute drill, the big throw to Keenan Allen and then finishing off with Mike.

"You can't say enough about Mike Williams. I felt like this guy all year through three games, this guy played fantastic and he came through for us today."

Chiefs quarterback Mahomes became the fastest quarterback in NFL history to pass for 15,000 yards, reaching the landmark in the third quarter of his 49th game. 

The 2018 MVP finished the game with 260 passing yards, taking his tally to 15,092.

Aaron Rodgers believes the Green Bay Packers' dramatic late 30-28 win over the San Francisco 49ers could be a catalyst for their season and serves as proof of their credentials as Super Bowl contenders.

The Packers were seemingly heading for a 28-27 defeat, but with 37 seconds remaining, they managed to turn things around spectacularly.

Some last-drive heroics from Green Bay superstar Rodgers – without a timeout left – lifted the Packers (2-1) as Mason Crosby's game-ending 51-yard field goal condemned the 49ers (2-1) to their first loss of the season.

Rodgers finished 23-of-33 passing for 261 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, also surpassing Hall of Famer Dan Marino (51,741) for the fourth most passing yards in a player's first 200 games in NFL history – Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning are the only players with more passing yards through 200 appearances.

But the focus post-game was less about such feats and rather centred around the Packers' turnaround, how they had gone from being 1-2 to 2-1 in almost the blink of an eye.

While the importance of single victories can only be quantified later in the season, Rodgers at least feels such a display of character is evidence of the Packers' potential, as they go in search of a first Super Bowl win since 2010.

"No timeouts, from the 25, you need two chunk throws," Rodgers said. "I knew that, so that's why I wasn't dink-and-dunk. You don't have any time for that. We had to get at least 15 on the first play.

"I like to adjust some routes from time to time to get a look at what it feels like against our defense, so I just adjusted one of the routes [in practice], and we all liked it.

"Matty [coach Matt LaFleur] suggested it right before we went out there. 'What do you think about this play?' I said, 'I like that. I think that would be pretty good.'

"[The turnaround] gives some legitimacy to some of the things we've been talking about: That that was kind of an aberration and that we are a talented football team.

"The energy in the locker room postgame, that felt like a win. It felt like it was such a growth moment for us.

"I'm really happy for the guys to feel that, and it feels like, OK, now we're on our way. Now we can get into this, now we know how to win, and we can get this thing moving in the right direction."

Tom Brady was frustrated by a host of aspects during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 34-24 defeat by the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday and is demanding they learn from their mistakes.

Both teams went into Week 3 of the NFL unbeaten this season and all eyes were on quarterbacks Brady and Matthew Stafford.

But unfortunately for Brady, it was Stafford who stole the show as he inspired a fine victory for the Rams over the Super Bowl champions.

Stafford threw four touchdowns to lead the Rams to a 3-0 start to the campaign, with the 2014 Pro Bowler also recording 27-of-38 for 343 yards and just one sack.

That haul of four TDs improved Stafford's season tally to nine, matching Hall of Famer Kurt Warner (1999) for the most by a Rams quarterback in the first three games of a season. Warner won the NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP that season.

Brady was coming off a five-touchdown performance, making him the fifth player all time to throw four or more touchdowns in each of his first two games of a season, but the 44-year-old was limited to just one against the Rams.

Although he did rush for a score, Brady finished with 41 of 55 for 432 yards and three sacks. While those passing yards were the most he has racked up in a game for Tampa, it only served to further highlight how he struggled to get the Bucs into the end zone.

Brady touched on that, accepting he threw more than should be necessary, but his struggles were seemingly indicative of collective issues.

"They [the Rams] played the kind of game they wanted to play," Brady said. "If we're going to beat a team like that, we have to play well in all phases.

"We've got to get some turnovers and we've got to keep protecting the football. We've got to start fast and get a lead, run the ball well, throw the ball well, play good defense, play good special teams. It all fits together when you play good teams.

"The throwing needs to be better, the all-around offense, the red area, [we must be] better on third down. We definitely had some opportunities to help the team win, but we didn't get it done.

"Those guys up front are trying to create space, and our backs are trying to run hard. But again, when you're losing all day, you're going to get into more throwing than we probably want.

"It's just not a great complementary game by us. We've got to learn from it, but anytime you come up short it's not a great feeling.

"It's a tough loss. I'll just get through the plane trip and evaluate what we need to do. I want to win every time we take the field."

Head coach Bruce Arians struck a similar chord to Brady, adamant the Bucs fell short of their potential, but he has no concerns when it comes to learning from mistakes.

"Our locker room, they know we didn't play up to our ability," he added. "When we play up to our ability, we're a better team than this one.

"We'll make sure that we make the corrections. Everybody's eyes and ears will be open to the coaching, and our guys do a great job with it."

Matthew Stafford is "playing lights out" for the undefeated Los Angeles Rams as Aaron Donald hailed the quarterback following his performance against Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Stafford outduelled superstar Brady as the Rams beat NFL Super Bowl champions the Buccaneers 34-24 in Los Angeles on Sunday.

In a blockbuster Week 3 showdown, Stafford stole the show with four touchdowns to condemn the Buccaneers to their first loss of the season.

With his haul of four TDs, Stafford improved his season tally to nine – matching Hall of Famer Kurt Warner (1999) for the most by a Rams quarterback in the first three games of a season.

Stafford, who arrived from the Detroit Lions via a trade in the offseason, finished 27 of 38 for 343 yards and no interceptions as he earned praise from team-mate Donald.

"He's playing lights out," Rams defensive linseman Donald said. "That's why he's here, we expect that from him and I know he's going to continue doing what he's doing and even at a higher level."

"It's only three games, still got a long season, but obviously that's the ultimate goal [a Super Bowl], that's what we're chasing," said Donald. "That's the only thing I'm chasing."

Stafford – a Pro Bowler in 2014 – was also lauded by Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians post-game.

"He pushes it down the field so easily," Arians said. "You're right up in his face one time, he finds a guy wide-open down the field and gets it to him.

"A lot of guys, they see it but they can't get it to him. He's a special player."

Stafford, who threw a 75-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson in the third quarter to give the Rams a 21-7 lead, added: "I was the new guy coming in and they've embraced me, which was awesome.

"I'm just trying to be myself every single day, bring my best every single day and see where that takes us."

Aaron Rodgers showcased flashes of his MVP form after leading the Green Bay Packers to a thrilling 30-28 victory at the previously unbeaten San Francisco 49ers.

The Packers were facing their second defeat of the season after Jimmy Garoppolo's 12-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Juszczyk gave the 49ers a 28-27 lead with 37 seconds remaining on Sunday.

But some last-drive heroics from Green Bay superstar Rodgers – without a timeout left – lifted the Packers (2-1) as Mason Crosby's game-ending 51-yard field goal condemned the 49ers (2-1) to their first loss of the season.

Rodgers finished 23-of-33 passing for 261 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, while team-mate Devante Adams also starred with 132 yards and a TD on 12 receptions.

Three-time MVP Rodgers also surpassed Hall of Famer Dan Marino (51,741) for the fourth most passing yards in a player's first 200 games in NFL history. Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning are the only players with more passing yards through 200 appearances.

In eight regular-season games versus the Niners heading into this matchup, Rodgers had thrown 18 touchdowns to only two interceptions, and owned a passer rating of 106.9 – the highest against San Francisco in the Super Bowl era (minimum 100 attempts).

The 49ers rallied at home to the Packers, overcoming early 10-0 and 17-0 deficits before falling behind 24-14 at the start of the final quarter.

Trey Sermon's one-yard run and the Juszczyk-Garoppolo combination during the closing stages had the 49ers on the cusp of a third straight win and a completed comeback, however, the Packers still had enough time to snatch a last-gasp victory.

Garoppolo finished 25-for-40 passing with 257 yards, a pair of touchdowns, one interception and four sacks.

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is in a stable condition and "doing well" after he was transported to hospital following Sunday's defeat to the Los Angeles Chargers.

Reid was on the sidelines as the Chiefs suffered consecutive NFL losses, beaten 30-24 by visiting AFC West rivals the Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium.

The 63-year-old Super Bowl-winning coach, however, fell ill and left the stadium in an ambulance.

"Head coach Andy Reid felt ill at the conclusion of the game," the Chiefs said in a statement amid reports the veteran was treated for dehydration.

"He was evaluated by our medical staff in the locker room, and [as] a precaution, was transported to The University of Kansas Health System for further evaluation. Coach is doing well, currently resting and in stable condition."

Reid did not address the media as a result, with assistant head coach Dave Toub speaking to reporters after the Chiefs fell to 1-2 to start the season.

The Chiefs – two-time defending conference champions – have a losing record for the first time since Week 11 of the 2015 season.

"This is unusual for us, to be honest," Toub said. "It's a little bit of a crossroads for us, I think. We've got great leadership and our guys are going to battle back.

"Our guys are going to battle back strong. We're going to have a great week of practice and clean it up. We've got to clean up the game, clean up the turnovers, execute on the offensive side of the ball, create turnovers on defense and stops on defense and play solid special teams. We'll get back on track."

Patrick Mahomes admitted the Kansas City Chiefs' situation "looks real dim right now" but the star quarterback remains optimistic in the wake of back-to-back NFL defeats.

The Chiefs are surprisingly 1-2 to start the season following Sunday's 30-24 defeat at home to AFC West rivals the Los Angeles Chargers.

Entering the matchup, two-time defending conference champions the Chiefs were 19-6 at home since the start of 2018 – tied for the second best in the NFL behind the Green Bay Packers (20-4-1).

But the Chiefs went down to the Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium, where they have a losing record for the first time since Week 11 of the 2015 season.

"I think we're getting better. If you watched us, I think the offense played well, other than the turnovers," said Mahomes, who finished with 260 yards and three touchdowns to go with his two interceptions.

"I thought the defense stepped up and really kept us in the game for a long time there. I think we're getting better as a unit. This game, it's a tricky deal. If you don't play your best football every single week, you're going to lose.

"Every team has NFL players, every team is good. I think we're getting better and we'll find ourselves over time. With the guys we have in the locker room, I'm sure we'll find ways to win."

Kansas City trailed 14-0 in the second quarter and were behind 14-3 at half-time, however, Mahomes rallied the Chiefs to a 17-14 advantage with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter and then a 24-21 lead midway through the fourth.

But reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert outduelled Mahomes in the final period – the later throwing a crucial interception as the Chargers scored another touchdown and withstood a late Hail Mary attempt.

Mahomes added: "Obviously, everybody is, I'm not going to say down, but is not happy with how we played. When you take a loss to a division opponent at home, it's not usually a good thing.

"We haven't done a lot of that in my time here. So, it’s just how you respond. We have a long season ahead of us, it looks real dim right now, but if you can find a way to get better from this and find a way to win these games at the end of the games, we'll be where we want to at the end of the season."

Jacksonville Jaguars rookie Trevor Lawrence vowed to not "play timid" after his rough start to the NFL season continued against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Number one draft pick Lawrence has seven interceptions through three games following a 31-19 loss to the Cardinals in Jacksonville.

Lawrence threw a pair of interceptions, including a throw that was returned for 29 yards and a touchdown, and lost two fumbles as the Jaguars fell to 0-3.

The 21-year-old became the fifth quarterback since the 1970 merger to throw multiple interceptions in each of their first three games, joining Blake Bortles (2014), Peyton Manning (1998), Troy Aikman (1989) and Jim Zorn (1976).

"You learn from all of them, but you can't let it change the way you play," Lawrence said afterwards, having completed 22 of his 34 attempts for 219 yards, a touchdown and three sacks.

"As far as making better decisions, that does need to change for sure, but I've got to be the same guy. I still have to go play. I can't play timid, and not take any shots or chances."

Lawrence's seven interceptions from his first three starts is tied for the third most in NFL history by a number one draft pick, behind only Manning (eight) and Alex Smith (eight).

"I'm the same person," he continued. "Like I said, that's not going to change. I think that's part of the reason why I'm here. I'm going to be the same person every day."

 

Matthew Stafford won the battle of the quarterbacks and the Los Angeles Rams stayed unbeaten while ruining the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' perfect record in a 34-24 victory.

All eyes were on Rams QB Stafford and Buccaneers superstar Tom Brady as the two undefeated teams went head-to-head in Week 3 of the NFL on Sunday.

Stafford, who was 27-of-28 for 343 yards and just one sack, stole the show in Los Angeles, where the 2014 Pro Bowler threw four touchdowns to lead the Rams to a 3-0 start to the campaign.

With his haul of four TDs, Stafford improved his season tally to nine – matching Hall of Famer Kurt Warner (1999) for the most by a Rams quarterback in the first three games of a season. Warner won the NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP that season.

Brady was coming off a five-touchdown performance, his ninth career game with five-plus passing TDs (including playoffs) – the fifth player all time to throw four or more touchdowns in each of his first two games of a season.

But the 44-year-old was limited to just one TD pass against the Rams, finishing 41 of 55 for 432 yards and three sacks though he did rush for a score as Super Bowl champions the Buccaneers fell to 2-1.

After a scoreless opening period, Stafford threw touchdown passes to Tyler Higbee and Cooper Kupp as the Rams earned a 14-7 half-time lead.

The Rams never trailed despite Brady's best efforts after the Buccaneers signal-caller rushed for a TD in between Stafford's scoring passes to DeSean Jackson and Kupp in the third period.

After Matt Gay's field goal stretched the lead to 34-17 in the fourth, Brady's first touchdown pass of the game gave the Buccaneers a glimmer of hope with just over a minute remaining but it was a mere consolation.

Carlson lifts Raiders in OT

The Las Vegas Raiders won their third straight game to open the season thanks to a thrilling 31-28 overtime victory against the Miami Dolphins.

Daniel Carlson was the hero for the high-flying Raiders in OT, his 22-yard attempt seeing off the Dolphins in Las Vegas.

Derek Carr completed 26 of his 43 attempts for 386 yards, two touchdowns and an interception with three sacks as the Raiders improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2002.

The Kansas City Chiefs have a losing record for the first time in over five years, suffering a second successive defeat as they were stunned 30-24 by AFC West rivals the Los Angeles Chargers.

Kansas City trailed 14-0 in the second quarter at Arrowhead Stadium and were behind 14-3 at half-time, however, a lead is rarely safe against the Chiefs and quarterback Patrick Mahomes and, when they went 17-14 ahead with fewer than four minutes left in the third quarter, the outcome seemed inevitable.

But reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert continues to polish his increasingly impressive resume and he outdueled Mahomes in a bewitching fourth quarter that could prove pivotal in their division and the AFC playoff race.

Herbert connected on the first of two touchdown passes to Mike Williams and, after Mecole Hardman found the endzone for the Chiefs, led a field goal drive to tie the game at 24-24.

Mahomes still had over two minutes to work with to potentially win it for Kansas City but threw a critical interception and the Chargers' gamble to eschew a game-winning field goal paid off as Herbert hit Williams for another touchdown and, despite a missed extra point, Los Angeles held on as a late Hail Mary from the Chiefs came up short.

That missed extra point was the second of the day for the Chargers, the first coming after Keenan Allen caught a four-yard pass from Herbert, who then found Austin Ekeler for a 16-yard score.

Harrison Butker's 34-yard field goal was all the Chiefs could muster in the first half but Jody Fortson caught a high two-yard pass from Mahomes to narrow the gap and Clyde-Edwards Helaire scampered into the endzone to give Kansas City the lead on a 10-yard reception.

Herbert and Williams responded quickly but the Chiefs were in front again after Hardman scooted in on a six-yard pop pass. Tristan Vizciano's field goal levelled matters and, after Mahomes was picked off for the second time – Alohi Gilman snatching an ill-advised throw –  the Chargers were rewarded for their aggressive approach.

A fourth down was converted via a pass interference penalty and Herbert then hit Williams on a four-yard back-shoulder throw. Vizciano's errant extra point gave Kansas City a chance but 32 seconds and a timeout was not enough for Mahomes as the Chiefs dropped to 1-2, their first losing record since Week 11 of the 2015 season.

Tucker's record kick gives Ravens remarkable win

The Baltimore Ravens, winners over the Chiefs last week, avoided a stunning loss in the most improbable fashion thanks to the leg of Justin Tucker.

Baltimore trailed the winless Detroit Lions 17-16 with 64 seconds left and faced a fourth down and 19 with 26 seconds left.

However, Lamar Jackson hit Sammy Watkins for 36 yards to keep their hopes alive and Justin Tucker's 66-yard field goal bounced off the top of the crossbar and over, his kick from an NFL-record distance sparing the Ravens in an incredible finish.

Bills roll, Steelers slump

There was no such drama in Buffalo, where the Bills routed the Washington Football Team 43-21 behind quarterback Josh Allen's 358-yard, five-touchdown performance.

The team the Bills lost to in Week 1, the Pittsburgh Steelers, suffered a second straight defeat as they were beaten 24-10 by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Justin Fields was sacked nine times in his Chicago Bears debut, which saw them lose 26-6 to the Cleveland Browns, while Jamal Agnew tied the record for the NFL's longest play with a 109-yard return of Matt Prater's missed field goal but the Jacksonville Jaguars still lost 31-19 to the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals.

The San Francisco 49ers are among the ranks of the seven teams to start the season unbeaten, with victories – albeit expected ones – over the Detroit Lions and the Philadelphia Eagles underlining their status as playoff contenders.

Though there is satisfaction regarding their start, outside of the 49ers' facility questions about when the Niners should bench starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in favour of Trey Lance are starting to increase.

That there is an external desire for the Niners to turn to Lance is no surprise given San Francisco traded three first-round picks to move up from 12 to three in this year's draft to earn the right to select him as their quarterback of the future.

Lance also offers a dual-threat skill set beyond that of Garoppolo, who had 11 rushes against the Eagles but did his most impactful work on the ground on quarterback sneaks, including one for a touchdown.

Garoppolo's display in the win over Philadelphia is a reason for the growing calls for Lance. After an offensive explosion against the Lions, the Niners averaged only 4.5 yards per play in their 17-11 success at Lincoln Financial Field.

That kind of offensive production will not put San Francisco in the Super Bowl mix and, with the Niners about to take on a difficult section of their schedule, it does beg the question: when should head coach Kyle Shanahan hand the keys over to their inexperienced but high upside rookie?

Unleashing Lance the runner

Though he threw the 49ers' first touchdown of the season with his first career pass against the Lions, Lance's true potential has yet to be seen at the NFL level.

In terms of the extra diversity he should provide the Niners as a running threat, that appears likely to change in Week 3 against the Green Bay Packers in a primetime clash that starts an imposing three-game stretch that will also see them face two divisional foes in the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals.

Lance's combination of size and speed enabled him to average 6.5 yards per carry in his lone full season as a starter for North Dakota State in 2019, putting him fifth among all quarterbacks at the FBS and FCS levels. His touchdown tally of 14 was tied-fifth.

With the 49ers in the midst of an injury crisis at running back that may see only one player at the position, Trey Sermon, who started the season on the roster feature against the Packers, the window is very much open for San Francisco to utilise Lance's gifts on the ground versus an opponent allowing 4.81 yards per rush, seventh-most in the NFL, through the first two games.

Green Bay gave up 46 yards on four carries to Lions quarterback Jared Goff in their win on Monday. Goff is nowhere close to being in the same realm as Lance as an athlete, and it is tough to envision Shanahan watching that game film and not wanting to unleash his rookie on the Packers' defense.

Even with San Francisco lacking healthy bodies at running back, the 49ers' rushing attack could be spectacular against Green Bay with Lance infused into it. However, after an up and down start to the year from Garoppolo, fans may want to see what the man picked to be the long-term face of the franchise can do through the air as well.

Garoppolo's mixed bag

Garoppolo was superb in Week 1, gashing the Lions to the tune of 314 passing yards and a touchdown, averaging 12.56 yards per attempt.

He added a league-high 5.495 yards per attempt in expected passing situations versus Detroit, according to Stats Perform data; however, in a low-scoring struggle against the Eagles, Garoppolo came back down to earth.

Indeed, he finished with just 189 yards and a touchdown, averaging 6.3 yards per pass attempt. His rate of yards added in expected passing situations dropped to 0.358, 20th among quarterbacks to have featured in Week 2.

Still, those two contrasting performances averaged out to leave Garoppolo sixth in that metric prior to the start of Week 3 on Thursday.

Additionally, Garoppolo is delivering an accurate, well-thrown ball 82.7 per cent of the time, the 10th-best ratio among quarterbacks with at least 10 passing attempts.

Yet for all the good Garoppolo has done so far in 2021, it was tough not to leave Week 2 with the feeling that the Niners' passing game is being limited by keeping Lance on the sideline.

Downfield doubts

Grinding out games against an imposing defensive front for a narrow victory is satisfactory early in the season; however, a lack of explosiveness that was all too evident for the Niners in Philadelphia will not be acceptable in duels with opposing offenses that can move the ball against DeMeco Ryans' defense, which held the Eagles to just 177 net yards passing.

While Garoppolo's well-thrown percentage in Week 2 was an impressive 86.7 per cent, he averaged a league-low 3.47 air yards per attempt, with San Francisco's gameplan built around getting the ball out quickly to keep the Eagles' pass rush from making an impact.

It worked as Garoppolo was pressured only nine times and did not suffer a single sack. Despite stellar protection from his offensive line and a gameplan where he was rarely required to push the ball down the field, Garoppolo still threw a pair of pickable passes.

The task of making short throws accurate is not a difficult one by the lofty standards to which NFL players are held. Garoppolo succeeded in that task and led the 49ers on two decisive long touchdown drives of 97 and 92 yards that helped clinch victory.

But he still risked turning the ball over in the process and, when asked to complete more difficult throws, was unable to rise to the challenge.

Garoppolo sailed a far-hash deep out throw over the head of Mohamed Sanu, was almost intercepted on a throw too high for Brandon Aiyuk running a post delivered with pressure from Josh Sweat, sent another deep out wide of an open Trent Sherfield from a clean pocket and went close to being picked by Darius Slay on a far-hash ball thrown behind Deebo Samuel.

To Garoppolo's credit, he demonstrated mobility he is not regarded for to evade pressure and avoid negative plays and produced a perfect ball on the Niners' first touchdown drive, hitting Samuel in stride on a throw between two linebackers and setting San Francisco up inside the red zone after the defense had just delivered a goal-line stand to deny Philadelphia in a turning point in the game.

Though he can complete such passes with impressive accuracy and regularly excels doing what is asked of him, consistency on the higher-difficulty attempts has continually eluded Garoppolo and, in an NFC where Aaron Rodgers' Packers, Tom Brady and the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Matthew Stafford-led Los Angeles Rams are all contenders, the Niners realistically need a quarterback who can frequently hit on explosive plays with his arm.

Lance is raw and might not have handled the situation in Philadelphia with the same composure as Garoppolo, but he is a quarterback for whom the big-time throws come naturally and one who likely would have connected on those string of misses from San Francisco's starter.

With the Packers and the Seahawks each allowing over six yards per pass play, the next two weeks present an ideal opportunity for Garoppolo to prove himself as a consistent downfield passer.

A potential reluctance to throw Lance in against a division rival like Seattle means Garoppolo should get at least the next two games, yet if he cannot take advantage of those opportunities, Shanahan may be forced to turn to the heir apparent at quarterback to ensure a playoff-calibre roster stays near the top of both a loaded NFC West division and an ultra-competitive conference.

Even in a raucous road environment, an Arizona defense that gave up 7.3 yards per pass play to the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2 would appear to be a close to perfect opponent against whom to give Lance his first start.

Could Week 5 see a matchup of two of the most exciting dual-threat prospects to enter the NFL in recent years? The answer may rest on the performance of the oft-criticised arm of Garoppolo in two crucial in-conference showdowns.

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt said the door is open for him to face the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3 of the NFL season.

Watt is listed as questionable for Sunday's clash after injuring his groin in last week's 26-17 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders.

But the three-time Pro Bowler is hopeful of suiting up at home to the Bengals at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

"Doesn't matter how many reps I get throughout the week," Steelers star Watt said on Friday. "I was able to still run around here and do a lot of things that I need to do to keep the door open for Sunday.

"I'm excited to get the rest of today and tomorrow to continue to improve my body and see where I'm at on Sunday.

"... This isn't going around and playing Pee Wee football. This is playing against guys doing this for a living, so trying to be smart.

"At the same time, knowing your body more than anything. I felt like I did a good amount this week to leave the door open for Sunday."

Cincinnati ended a 10-game losing streak to Pittsburgh when the Bengals (1-1) beat the Steelers (1-1) 27-17 in Week 15 of last season.

In the all-time series, the Steelers have 65 wins in their 101 games against the Bengals, which is the most wins by any team against Cincinnati.

The Steelers, meanwhile, were held to 39 yards rushing in their loss to the Raiders, bringing the team's season rushing total to a league-worst 114 rushing yards.

Since Mike Tomlin became head coach in 2007, Pittsburgh have been held to under 40 yards rushing in 20 different games with only the Arizona Cardinals having more such games in that span (22).

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