USA Today Sports

Unpacking the chaos of Week 4 in the NFL

WEEI
October 01, 2018 - 9:53 am
Categories: 

By JOHN ANDERSEN

The kings rise from the ashes, one team takes a turn, an ankle takes a turn, and the crab bandit returns. Here’s everything you need to know from Week 4 in the NFL:

-- BYE WEEKS: (2-1) Panthers, (2-1) Redskins

Greatest Show on Surf

Aqib Talib was out with an injury. Marcus Peters played hobbled. Everson Griffen continues to deal with mental health problems. DT Tom Johnson, whom Vikings fans refer to as “Sebastian Thunderbucket” (dead serious, they do) was held out. In addition to the best offense, the Rams have the best offensive line in football. The Vikings’ offensive line is a known deficiency. This game had shootout written all over it going in. Even though the Vikings were able to halt two Rams drives via a sack and a missed field goal from LA’s interim kicker Sam Ficken (hit the Ficken kick!), Ndamukong Suh and Aaron Donald saw zero resistance on the Vikings’ final drive, which was highlighted by Donald giving Kirk Cousins a pirouette prom twirl and tossing the Vikings’ signal caller to the grass. Cousins and Goff turned in career performances, with Cousins throwing for 422 yards and three TDs, while Goff and the Greatest Show on Surf shredded the gnar to 465 yards and five TDs.

FINAL SCORE: (1-2-1) Vikings 31 @ (4-0) Rams 38

Bortles puts the team on his back

The only option for the Jags to win this game was for Bortles to take the game into his own hands. Technically the game is literally in the QB’s hands every play of every game, but the Jaguars have previously made a point of getting the ball out of Bortles’ hands as quick as possible. That’s difficult when Leonard Fournette, who the Jags’ 2017 offense went through, aggravates a hamstring injury and is ruled out. Center Brandon Linder also went down, but the Jets’ defensive line was lights out in the running game anyways. It didn’t matter whenever New York’s pass rush generated any sort of pressure as their secondary gave Bortles flyover state type of windows. Even if Bortles was unable muster much offense, Jacksonville’s defensive line was all over Sam Darnold. Darnold struggled under pressure but had a fair share of turnover luck.

INJURIES: JAX RB Leonard Fournette, C Brandon Linder; NYJ CB Morris Claiborne

FINAL SCORE: (1-3) Jets 12 @ (3-1) Jaguars 31

Patriots’ dynasty is back on

Despite being canceled by local media after three weeks for the fifth year in a row, a span in which the Patriots have been to three Super Bowls and won two despite perennial slow starts, the same media has already begun its attempts to separate itself by proclaiming others wrote off the Patriots. This comes after the Patriots said, “so long, and thanks for all the fish” to the Dolphins after a 38-7 old-fashioned beatdown at Gillette. Patriots rookie running back Sony Michel proved via 112 yards and TD that he does not “blow” nor “suck”. While several Patriots players proved the critics wrong, Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill failed to convince the pundits that this, 2018, his seventh year in the NFL, would be his long-awaited breakout season. Going by the Alex Smith rule and not including Tannehill’s lost 2017 season, his breakout season could come in 2017.

INJURIES: NE TE Rob Gronkowski, LB Elandon Roberts, DT Adam Butler; MIA slot CB Bobby McCain

FINAL SCORE: (3-1) Dolphins 7 @ (2-2) Patriots 38

Titans take down the Super Bowl champs

Is it time to consider the Titans a serious contender? This isn’t like the previous two seasons in which the Titans had a decent record all year and even made the playoffs but came with a veil of uncertainty due to their Jurassic-era offensive scheme. This year it’s Shanahan/McVay disciple Matt LaFleur calling the plays and despite a debatably slow start Tennessee has overcome three injured offensive tackles and Marcus Mariota’s extended noodle arm syndrome. Rookie Harold Landry also recorded a sack-fumble against Carson Wentz; Tennessee’s pass rush has already improved greatly from what it was last season. That’s a major necessity for the Titans considering Malcolm Butler didn’t break his streak of blowing coverages on the back end. Between the Super Bowl champs and the Titans, this game was truly the clash of the Titans. And the Titans won.

INJURIES: TEN LB Wesley Woodyard, S Kenny Vaccaro

FINAL SCORE: (2-2) Eagles 23 @ (3-1) Titans 26

Frank Reich short circuits, goes for it on 4th-and-4 from his own 43 in OT

Myself and WEEI’s Chris Scheim had the Colts as part of larger parlays so needless to say the ending of Colts-Texans was an emotional rollercoaster. The game itself was a bit of a giveaway by the Colts, as a bad snap from center Ryan Kelly and a strip sack are what ultimately sent the game to OT in the first place. Even Quenton Nelson, who many analysts say was the best player in this year’s draft, whiffed on a Jadeveon Clowney stunt that lead to a sack on a late drive in which the Colts could have taken the lead. Andrew Luck threw the ball *62* times in this game, and Luck played very well down the stretch to give the Colts an opportunity to win. Deshaun Watson also enhanced the Colts’ opportunity to win; even though he put up Avengers box office numbers he still had plenty of errant throws and turnover-worthy plays that didn’t necessarily result in turnovers but were driver killers. In OT, Frank Reich elected to go for the first down on a 4th-and-4 from his own 43 in a move that may be a “damned if you do damned if you don’t” scenario. So far Reich is being crushed in the media, but I’d be intrigued to see the reaction had the Colts converted. If this was a must-win game for the Colts, would punting have given them a greater chance to win, with 27 seconds left in OT? Regardless, the Colts have found ways to lose games thus far in the season.

INJURIES: HOU WR Will Fuller V, Slot CB Aaron Colvin, RT Kendall Lamm; IND WR TY Hilton, LB Darius Leonard

FINAL SCORE: (1-3) Texans 37 @ (1-3) Colts 34

We may have overreacted to the Bills’ start to the season

A strange phrase when the Bills lost this game 22-0. I’m talking specifically about the Bills defense; it was presumed Buffalo’s defensive unit would be as good as last year’s as they adequately replaced those who departed and still have Sean McDermott calling the shots. Their poor outing in week one against the Ravens, which can be chalked up to the ripple effect of Buffalo’s offensive line play and Nate Peterman’s interceptions, had folks bearish on Buffalo’s defense, but the last two weeks they’ve proven to be a great squad. Despite a slow start today to the Packers they eventually found their footing and recorded several tackles for loss and started to get consistent pressure on Aaron Rodgers. The blatant issue is the lack of complementary play from the Bills’ offense, specifically rookie QB Josh Allen. Allen finished the game 16-of-33 for 151 yards, most of which came when the Packers’ defense eased up in the fourth quarter, two picks and a lost fumble.

INJURIES: BUF S Micah Hyde; GB WR Geronimo Allison

FINAL SCORE: (1-3) Bills 0 @ (2-1-1) Packers 22

Ezekiel Elliott.

I’m 101 percent sure that right now, Tony Romo is a better QB than Dak Prescott. Not that Dak gets much help from his receivers or play-calling, but the degree of chaos associated with Romo under center often worked out for the Cowboys -- as much as it inevitably screwed them. Luckily Dak has Zeke Elliott, who put up 152 yards on the ground and 88 through the air during his poaching of the Lions’ defense. Had it not been for Elliott, the Lions would have torched the Cowboys as Matthew Stafford and Golden Tate did just about everything they possibly could have to win this game. It was Elliott keeping the Detroit offense off the field that gave the Cowboys the W.

INJURIES: DET RG TJ Lang, CB Quandre Diggs, S Tavon Wilson; DAL DT Antwaun Woods, S Jeff Heath

FINAL SCORE: (1-3) Lions 24 @ (2-2) Cowboys 26

Tampa runs out of Fitzmagic

Dirk Koetter reportedly was going to bench Ryan Fitzpatrick at halftime last week had it not been for a positive drive right before halftime. But this week there was no more Fitzmagic as the Bucs faced possibly the first elite defense of many on their slate this season, and the Fitzmagic turned Fitztragic. Jameis Winston entered the game after halftime but the game was already out of reach for the Bucs. Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky threw for 354 yards and six touchdowns in what was likely the funeral for the 2018 Buccaneers, who despite the hot start still exist in a powerhouse division and conference.

INJURIES: TB TE OJ Howard, CB Carlton Davis

FINAL SCORE: (2-2) Buccaneers 10 @ (3-1) Bears 48

Injuries are the story in Bengals-Falcons tilt

Aside from the Falcons losing both their starting safeties for the season and still being without starting MLB Deion Jones for a few more weeks, Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert suffered a gruesome ankle injury that is just the next item on the stereotypical scroll that purportedly would unravel, hit the floor, and roll across the room attempting to list Eifert’s injury history. Eifert is on a a one-year “prove it” deal with the Bengals, with not his talent but his health being scrutinized. This injury will surely prevent Eifert from signing a big deal next offseason, and further reinforces Le’Veon Bell’s rationale to hold out for a deal. There’s no question the Falcons offense is capable of putting up big numbers, even against stout defenses such as that of the Bengals, but any offense can’t be expected to outscore the opposition every week. It’ll be a few weeks until the Falcons’ offense has any chance of getting some relief.

INJURIES: CIN TE Tyler Eifert, WR John Ross; ATL DT Grady Jarrett

FINAL SCORE: (3-1) Bengals 37 @ (1-3) Falcons 36

Speaking of which ...

Earl Thomas left this game with a cast on his leg, flipping the bird to seemingly everyone present. He’ll reportedly be fine by ... free agency. This further enforces Bell’s rationale. Thomas held out all of training camp, showed up for the regular season, eventually stopped showing up for practice during the week, but has been the best player on the field every Sunday. And down he goes with a clean break in his leg and no new contract. This is why players hold out to maximize their value; they have such a small window to make their money and they want to make the most the possibly can in that span. Sam Bradford would probably just quit football and be a professional golfer if teams stopped giving him $18M every year, but he’s making the most of his value. This year, that value involves a demotion to third string, an inactive tag, and everyone waiting for him to be traded to the 49ers. Bradford’s replacement, 10th overall pick Josh Rosen, actually played well but was vexed by dropped passes. In unison with Rosen taking the reigns is David Johnson seeing the workload he should’ve had the past few weeks. Even with the drops the Cardinals had the chance to win this game, but Arizona’s underachieving front seven didn’t get much pressure on Russell Wilson despite the Seahawks’ pee wee offensive line.

INJURIES: SEA S Earl Thomas, TE Will Dissly

FINAL SCORE: (2-2) Seahawks 20 @ (0-4) Cardinals 17

Derek you can drive my Carr

Carr’s 2016 MVP-caliber season was ended by a broken leg. Since then Carr has struggled with his footwork and hasn’t lived up to his contract-- the bane of what made Khalil Mack too expensive for the Raiders. Carr has shown two nice games in a row and today kept pace with Cleveland’s rookie duo of Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb despite Oakland’s receivers dropping quite their share of passes and Myles Garrett residing in Oakland’s backfield all afternoon.

INJURIES: OAK RT Donald Penn; CLE CB Terrance Mitchell

FINAL SCORE: (1-2-1) Browns 42 @ (1-3) Raiders 45

Alvin & the [placeholder; find something that rhymes with “chipmunk” and indicated Kamara was great.]

There’s a tale of two sides of the ball with New Orleans: Alvin Kamara broke 200 yards from scrimmage and scored twice while Michael Thomas continues to not be acknowledged as an elite wide receiver. The other side is the Saints’ 2017 draft class that makes up  New Orleans’ secondary; they’ve been the Saints’ Achilles heel. Marshon Lattimore finished 2017 as a top-5 rated CB on Pro Football Focus but is approaching the halfway point of the total yards he allowed all of last season. Had Eli Manning not been so inaccurate on downfield throws this game Lattimore may have reached that mark. Manning’s arm strength isn’t the only obsolete aspect of the Giants, as New York’s defensive line is one of the best run-stopping DLs in the NFL, but as Wade Phillips allegedly claims, run defense does not matter. Defenses need to be able to rush the passer, and the Giants’ can’t.

FINAL SCORE: (3-1) Saints 33 @ (1-3) Giants 18

Jimmy Who?

The Chargers handed the 49ers 14 points right off the bat via a pick-six on a bad overthrow from Philip Rivers, who was obviously thinking about what he’d name his 12th daughter, and a missed field goal. But that should not obstruct CJ Beathard’s performance, as CJ will surely hold off Sam Bradford for at least a couple weeks. One of Beathard’s two interceptions came via a dropped pass and the other came when Beathard was hit as he threw. Meanwhile, the Chargers’ defense continues to sputter without Joey Bosa. Teams need more than one viable pass rusher, and right now for LA it’s Melvin Ingram and nobody. Luckily the Chargers didn’t start 0-4 again this year but may not see Bosa until after their bye week. They need to hope their season doesn’t get out of hand before then (or, hope Melvin Gordon can continue to bail out their offense).

INJURIES: SF LT Joe Staley

FINAL SCORE: (1-3) 49ers 27 @ (2-2) Chargers 29

Is John Brown a No. 1 receiver?

Brown dealt with injuries the last two seasons and as a result the Cardinals let him walk in free agency this past offseason. Before that, Brown displayed versatility and big-play ability in those 2014 and 2015 Cardinals teams that have faded into the folklore of recent NFL memory. This season Brown, if my calculations are correct, has the seventh-most receiving yards in the NFL. That’s ahead of Julio Jones, but unlike Jones Brown actually catches touchdown passes, as he has three in four games. Although Browns doesn’t have a high number of receptions, Joe Flacco isn’t afraid to sling it and the Steelers’ pass rush couldn’t have even looked at Flacco if they wanted to. On the Steelers’ side of the ball, Ben Roethlisberger’s postgame comments say it all: “I’m not on the same page with anybody.”

INJURIES: PIT S Nat Berhe, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey

FINAL SCORE: (3-1) Ravens @ (1-2-1) Steelers (SNF)

MNF: (3-0) Chiefs @ (2-1) Broncos - 8:15pm (ESPN)

John Andersen is an award-winning NFL journalist and has written books on Alge Crumpler and Dennis Northcut ... maybe. You can follow John on Twitter @_JohnAndersen.

Comments ()
Tags: