NFL Week 3 game balls: Darren Sproles, Devonta Freeman, Latavius Murray among Sunday's stars

Each week NFL Nation team reporters award a game ball to a player, coach or unit. Here are the game balls for Week 3:


Devonta Freeman. He rushed for 141 yards on 30 carries and scored three touchdowns in helping the Falcons have offensive balance. Matt Ryan passed for 285 yards and two scores. -- Vaughn McClure

Joseph Randle. He had 85 yards on his first three carries, including a 37-yard touchdown run. He had three touchdown runs in the first half, the first by a Dallas runner since Ron Springs in 1981. But that would be as good as it got. He had minus-5 yards on four second-half carries. Still, with how things went for the Cowboys, he still gets a game ball. -- Todd Archer


Luke McCown. He made a valiant effort in place of injured starter Drew Brees, completing 19 of his first 20 passes and finishing 31-of-38 for 310 yards. But a late rally fell short when he threw his lone interception with 1:17 remaining – a sensational snag by Panthers cornerback Josh Norman in the end zone. -- Mike Triplett

Cam Newton. He didn’t do any flips, but he gets my game ball for the second consecutive week after passing for 315 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for a touchdown. Newton was 1-7 in his previous games with 300-plus yards passing and 0-2 under offensive coordinator Mike Shula. -- David Newton


Dwight Lowery. The safety intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown. His second interception in the fourth quarter put the Colts in position to take the lead for good. -- Mike Wells

Marcus Mariota. The rookie QB drove the Titans to a late TD, but it wasn’t enough. Mariota finished 27-of-44 for 367 yards and two touchdowns. -- Paul Kuharsky


Latavius Murray. He had his first 100-yard game of the season, finishing with 139 yards on 26 carries, including a 54-yard run. Murray came into the game with just 26 carries in two games. But the Raiders took advantage of the worst run defense in the NFL by using Murray as the bell-cow back they envisioned him to be in training camp. -- Bill Williamson

Gary Barnidge. The tight end had a career-high 105 yards on six receptions, including a 28-yard TD catch. On a day when the offense was AWOL for half the game, Barnidge came up with several big catches to keep the offense going. -- Pat McManamon


A.J. Green. He had a tough time standing out in the Bengals’ offense after tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard stole some of his thunder in the first two games. At Baltimore on Sunday, he turned in his typically strong performance against the Ravens, hauling in nine passes and a key go-ahead touchdown late. His 227-yard performance ranked third among the most yards the Ravens’ defense has ever allowed a pass-catcher in a game. -- Coley Harvey

Steve Smith. He put the offense on his back Sunday. His 50-yard touchdown -- which made it a one-score game -- came after he broke two tackles on fourth-and-5. He is the only consistent wide receiver on the team, producing 100-yard games in back-to-back weeks. -- Jamison Hensley


Allen Hurns. Not many guys made plays on offense, but Hurns made the biggest one when he hauled in a 59-yard touchdown pass from Blake Bortles in the third quarter. Hurns got behind the corner and had an easy trot into the end zone after the safety missed him. Hurns finished with two catches for 70 yards. -- Michael DiRocco

Tom Brady. In a game where there were plenty of choices for the Patriots, one can’t overlook that Brady became just the fourth player in NFL history to record 400 career regular-season touchdown passes. The Patriots’ offense is on fire and Brady is leading the charge. He finished 33-of-42 for 358 yards and two TDs. -- Mike Reiss


Darren Sproles. He earned a few game balls last season, when he seemed to come up with a big play at the most opportune time. With the Eagles off to an 0-2 start, Sproles delivered an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown. He also scored on a 1-yard run, accounting for 12 of the Eagles’ 24 points. Not bad on a day when DeMarco Murray was unavailable. -- Phil Sheridan

Brandon Marshall. He faced constant double-teams, yet he still managed 10 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. It was a gutty performance by Marshall, but he made one killer mistake -- trying a lateral after a reception. It was a dumb play and it resulted in a fumble, setting up an Eagles touchdown. But without Marshall’s contributions, the Jets never would’ve been in the game. -- Rich Cimini


Kwon Alexander. The Bucs have themselves a middle linebacker in Alexander, the franchise’s only defensive draft pick in the past two years. Alexander had an impact in several areas, finishing with 10 tackles (one for loss), two pass deflections and an interception, the Bucs’ only turnover of the day. -- Jeremy Fowler

Alfred Blue. The Texans failed to reach 100 yards rushing as a team in each of their first two games, but Blue did it all on his own in their third game of the season. He finished with 139 yards on 31 carries and scored on a 20-yard touchdown run. -- Tania Ganguli


Keenan Allen. He rebounded from a poor performance against the Cincinnati Bengals last week, finishing with 12 receptions for 133 yards, including a 34-yard reception for a score in the first half and a 19-yard score in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. -- Eric D. Williams

Adrian Peterson. There are a number of deserving candidates from the Vikings’ win over the Chargers. But Peterson, who scored his first two TDs since his return from suspension and ran for 126 yards, gets it for a second consecutive week. The Vikings still funneled their offense through Peterson on Sunday and he carried the offense on a day when second-year QB Teddy Bridgewater struggled at times. -- Ben Goessling


Antonio Brown. He caught 11 passes for 108 yards. With Ben Roethlisberger’s status unknown after a left knee injury, Brown’s role increases, and he has proved so far this season he has been able to elevate his game when necessary. -- Roman Modrowski

Aaron Donald. He was a menace against his hometown team, racking up four tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and a quarterback hit. Most important, he was integral in the Rams' improved run defense from a week ago, holding the Steelers to 3.2 yards per carry on a day when the defense single-handedly kept the Rams in the game. -- Nick Wagoner


Jarryd Hayne. He offered one glimmer of hope for the Niners. The Aussie's 37-yard punt return set up their lone score, a 12-yard Colin Kaepernick TD scamper on a zone-read play. -- Paul Gutierrez

Chris Johnson. He had 150 all-purpose yards in Sunday's win, including 110 yards rushing, his most since Week 17 of 2013. Johnson finished with 22 carries and two touchdowns.-- Josh Weinfuss


Preston Brown. The Bills have held Ryan Tannehill to a quarterback rating of 75.0 or less in four of their past five games against him. Tannehill was intercepted three times Sunday, including two by Brown. He returned one of them 43 yards for a touchdown. -- Mike Rodak

Rishard Matthews. He was one of the few bright spots for the Dolphins. He had six receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Matthews has three touchdown catches this season. -- James Walker


Jarvis Jenkins. The Bears went the first two weeks without a sack, but Jenkins harassed Russell Wilson in the first half, sacking him twice. Jenkins later made a couple of key stops in the run game before Seattle blew it open. -- Jeff Dickerson

Jimmy Graham. A week after finishing with just one catch against the Packers, Graham went off for seven receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. Russell Wilson went to him on the first play of the game and then connected with Graham for a 30-yard touchdown in the third quarter. It was the kind of performance Seahawks fans envisioned when the team traded a first-round pick for Graham this offseason. -- Sheil Kapadia


Shaquil Barrett and David Bruton Jr. Though it was consistently put in difficult positions by its own offense, the Broncos' defense kept making play after play. Barrett’s fourth-quarter strip sack put the Broncos in field goal position with 7:50 left in the game and Bruton’s interception with 3:37 left prevented a Lions go-ahead drive. -- Jeff Legwold

Calvin Johnson. Johnson had a tough matchup Sunday but he still caught eight passes for 77 yards. He also had a highlight catch over Aqib Talib in the first half. The Lions, again, didn’t go downfield a ton but they got their best offensive player involved in the offense. That has to happen for the Lions to have any success moving forward. -- Michael Rothstein


Randall Cobb. If his sprained right shoulder is still bothering him, as he suggested it was last week, imagine what he might do when he’s fully healthy. Cobb caught three touchdown passes in Monday night’s win over the Chiefs, becoming the first Packers receiver to do so since James Jones in 2012. -- Rob Demovsky

Jeremy Maclin. He did something no Chiefs wide receiver had done in 18 regular-season games. Maclin caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Alex Smith late in the third quarter for Kansas City’s first wide receiver touchdown since Dec. 29, 2013. Later in the game earlier, Maclin had his longest play of the season with a 61-yard catch. -- Adam Teicher