New Orleans Saints 12, Dallas Cowboys 10
1. In a rematch of last season's surprising defensive slugfest, Dallas and New Orleans treated Sunday night viewers to a beat-for-beat sequel -- with a twist. In 2018, the two sides combined for 23 points and 484 total yards; this year, just 22 points were scored and 523 yards were gained. Though not broadly entertaining, Week 4's clash between the Cowboys and Saints was a slow burn, relying on defensive stands, field goals and the rare Big Play to provide thrills. The difference this time around, other than Drew Brees being sidelined by a thumb injury in favor of Teddy Bridgewater, was that Alvin Kamara, New Orleans' most dynamic and unique offensive talent, showed up and the Saints (3-1) came out victorious. As he did in Seattle last week, Kamara carried the Saints to victory with 89 total yards on 20 touches. Whereas Michael Thomas (nine catches on nine targets) helped move the chains, Kamara moved mountains against the Cowboys' front seven. When he was able to split Dallas' rangy linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch on the edges, he did so with precision. In a "head-to-head" matchup with his contemporary Ezekiel Elliott, he outgained the Cowboy by 24 total yards. Kamara picked up four first downs on New Orleans' final three drives, which resulted in just three points but knocked over 17 minutes off the clock. On a night when offensive heroes were few and far to come by, Kamara was the late game-changer. (That is unless you count Wil Lutz, whose four field goals were the only points the Saints could muster.)
2. Let's have a toast for the defense. Neither Dak Prescott, an MVP candidate heading into this week, nor Bridgewater played particularly well in prime time, but chalk that up to outstanding play from both front sevens. Both defensive lines played inspired ball thanks to the return of recently injured and suspended players. In his second game wearing the star, Robert Quinn beat Terron Armstead for a game-high two sacks and three QB hits. On the other side, Sheldon Rankins returned from a torn Achilles to play 35 snaps, record two tackles and pressure Prescott late in the game. But it wasn't just the fresh fish that stood out. As they were last year, Smith and Vander Esch were sideline-to-sideline guard-dogs, snuffing out most east-west attempts in their path; the former's late-game 16-yard sack of Bridgewater nearly swung the final result. But the standout defender on the evening was dressed in black and gold. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who until Sunday had enjoyed a disappointing start to the season, shut down Amari Cooper, allowing just four catches on eight targets for 39 yards. Lattimore's lockdown coverage, in conjunction with the Saints' reinvigorated pass rush, complicated things for Prescott, who threw for a season-low 223 yards at a 6.8 YPA clip.
3. After playing three toothless defenses from the eastern seaboard to start the campaign, the Cowboys (3-1) finally ran into a competitor in the Bayou. The result was humbling. Knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten, Kellen Moore's offense doesn't have to go all the way back to the drawing board. However, the Cowboys will want to address bubbling issues, chief among them, the offensive line, which failed to pave a way for Elliott (1.9 YPC) and allowed a season-high seven QB hits on Prescott. Consequently, the aerial explosion that was so apparent in their opening victories against New York, Washington and Miami went AWOL in N.O. The Cowboys' 4-for-11 third-down conversion rate was also their worst on the short season. With tests against Green Bay and Philadelphia coming in the next three weeks, the Cowboys can't afford to backslide on offense and surrender their lead in the conference and in the NFC East. Hopefully, Sunday night's setback was an exception.
-- Jeremy Bergman
Kansas City Chiefs 34, Detroit Lions 30
1. Even when Patrick Mahomes doesn't have his best day, the gunslinger always gives the Chiefs a chance to win. The reigning NFL MVP led a game-winning drive on the road, silencing a raucous Detroit crowd. Mahomes used his legs to pick up several huge first downs late, and found soft holes in the Lions defense, which was only rushing two and three defenders much of the final drive. In his first-ever NFL start in a dome, Mahomes was just a tad off on his deep shots all afternoon, missing a bevy of bombs by a hair. The normally dive-bombing signal-caller generated no completions of 20-plus-air yards on the day. Mahomes came in with 14 straight games with two or more passing TDs. Matt Patricia's defense held him out of the end zone, but Mahomes made enough plays between the 20s and K.C. ran for three TDs, including Darrel Williams' game-winning score. Sunday was a reminder that even when the Chiefs (4-0) don't have their best day, and can't hit the deep shots, Mahomes can still find a way to get a W.
2. The third quarter was a fumble-palooza. The teams combined for five fumbles in the stanza, the most in a single quarter since 1991, per the FOX broadcast. K.C. committed three of the botches, opening the quarter with a kickoff fumble and coughing up the ball on each of its next two possessions. The Lions, however, couldn't capitalize on the miscues. Matthew Stafford fumbled inside the 5-yard-line, a play after a touchdown pass to Kenny Golladay was overturned. Following the Chiefs' next fumble, Kerryon Johnson had the ball knocked out trying to stretch out for a score at the goal line. Chiefs defensive back Bashaud Breeland scooped up the ball and ran 100 yards for a score. Referees -- the same crew that blew a call dead against New Orleans two weeks ago -- let the play go as Detroit players thought Johnson was down. The touchdown stood upon review giving K.C. a massive score -- and its first lead of the tilt -- in a tight game.
3. Moral victories are for the birds. The Lions (2-1-1) will be kicking themselves for not taking advantage of Chiefs miscues. Four times on its first seven possessions, Detroit had the ball inside the K.C. 8-yard-line. The Lions scored just 10 points in those drives. Coming into the tilt, there were questions about whether Detroit was real after beating two banged-up teams. The loss hurt, but Patricia's team showed it isn't a fluke through four weeks. The Lions D caused turnovers and didn't give up big plays. Corner Justin Coleman was a monster on the back end. Kerryon Johnson ran well, gashing the Chiefs for 125 yards on the ground. Stafford threw with conviction and launched several lasers to Golladay and Marvin Jones. For large chunks of the game, Stafford (three touchdown passes) outplayed Mahomes. In the end, however, Detroit once again came up short.
-- Kevin Patra
New York Giants 24, Washington Redskins 3
1. Spotted 14 points, Daniel Jones prevailed in the first of what could be many NFC East showdowns with fellow 2019 first-rounder Dwayne Haskins, who made his debut Sunday and struggled exceedingly as the Giants defeated the Redskins, 24-3, to improve to 2-0 in the Danny Dimes era. Perhaps Daniel Dimes is a better moniker, as Jones continues to mature in front of our eyes. On his second Sunday under center for the Giants (2-2), Jones began phenomenally as he orchestrated touchdown drives on each of Big Blue's first two marches. However, he did show his mortality with a pair of picks and ended the game with a pedestrian 78.0 passer rating. Still, he was 23-for-31 for 225 yards and a touchdown and also had 33 yards on five carries. The move from Eli Manning to Jones continues to be a celebrated one. As for Jay Gruden pulling the trigger on replacing Case Keenum for Haskins, it may well have proved Gruden correct in his hesitation to bring in the No. 15 overall pick to lead the Redskins (0-4). Unlike Jones the week prior when he pulled off a riveting rally to propel the Giants past the Buccaneers, Haskins found no such magic, only struggles. Haskins took over for a sputtering Keenum in the first quarter and led the Redskins on a drive for a field goal. It proved to be their only points of the game as Haskins was woeful to the tune of a 9-for-17 line for 107 yards, three interceptions and a 32.8 rating. After the first two-plus quarters of playing time for Haskins, questions most certainly still remain and missteps are likely still ahead. As for the second chapter in the tale of Danny Dimes, it was a victorious story once again and all that suddenly, the Giants have a spring in their step, a winning streak at hand and a season of promise to play for.
2. There's a chance that Saquon Barkley might be back quicker than expected. If that news -- pleasant as it would be for the Big Blue faithful -- does not come to fruition, though, Wayne Gallman provided reason for relief on Sunday. Gallman showcased quickness and aggression with the ball and looked plenty comfortable in the offense as he made an immediate impact. Taking a play-fake from Jones in the first quarter, Gallman ran right into the flats and was completely uncovered. Jones read it and lofted it to the rookie back for a six-yard touchdown and a 6-0 lead New York would never relinquish and a score that would stand as the game-winner despite it coming on the Giants' opening drive. Gallman added another touchdown on the ground and had an all-around impressive outing (18 carries for a game-high 63 yards and a TD; six receptions for 55 yards and a score). As foreign as it was to think not that long ago, fortunes are going the way of the Giants. Perhaps the best running back in the NFL is on the sidelines and yet Gallman has filled in excellently. It's also further evidence that the Giants offensive line, for so long a most problematic quandary, is steadily improving.
3. Though he's a former first-rounder, Jabrill Peppers is perhaps best known as the other guy involved in the trade that sent Odell Beckham out of Gotham and west to The Land. On Sunday, he delivered the Giants' grandest defensive highlight when he took a Haskins interception 32 yards to the end zone for the final score of the day. The Giants are improving all around and that includes the defense. The Redskins were held to a meager 176 yards of offense and had four turnovers. Unsung names such as David Mayo and Ryan Connelly (who had a sack and an interception, but was lost to a leg injury) turned in good games. In contrast, the Redskins defense, which boasts plenty of big names such as Josh Norman, former Giant Landon Collins (nine tackles in his return to New York) and Ryan Kerrigan, continued its subpar play, allowing 389 yards of offense despite four takeaways. Both defenses ended up playing against rookie quarterbacks, but it's clearly the Giants D that's trending up and the Redskins D that's continuing to spiral down.
-- Grant Gordon
Chicago Bears 16, Minnesota Vikings 6
1. Six plays into Sunday's NFC North tilt, Mitchell Trubisky exited with a left shoulder injury and did not return. Veteran Chase Daniel stepped in and immediately guided the Bears to their only touchdown of the game on the opening drive. The 11-year pro made good, quick decisions getting the ball out of his hands, completing 22 of 30 passes for 195 yards and a TD. With a stifling defense at his back, Daniel didn't make boneheaded mistakes, got the Bears (3-1) into the right plays and moved the chains on several long drives that ate the clock. Chicago didn't ask the veteran to do too much -- just three attempts of more than 15 air yards -- but he managed the game well and conducted Matt Nagy's preferred plan. With Daniel's ball placement superior to Trubisky, there is an argument that Chicago could be in a better situation with the backup against good defenses. Depending on how long Trubisky is out, we could see the 32-year-old Daniel for an extended period. Nagy has to be confident in what he saw from his backup Sunday.
2. The Bears defense played without Akiem Hicks and Roquan Smith, two massive parts to its smothering front. It mattered not. Chicago's defense destroyed the Vikings offensive line with ease. Khalil Mack obliterated nearly every attempted block, constantly eating Kirk Cousins' lunch, compiling 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a host of other pressures. Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski filled in for Smith and was a heat-seeking missile all game, gobbling up nine tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a QB hit. Nick Williams, stepping in for Hicks, cleaned up with two sacks and seven tackles. The Bears' defensive front absolutely controlled the contest, holding Dalvin Cook to 35 yards on 14 attempts with a late TD, and sacked Cousins six times. Sunday showed that even with starters out, the Bears have the depth to continue to dominate and win games seemingly on their own.
3. The Vikings offense continues to be a rudderless ship stranded at sea. When Cook and the run game is stymied, Cousins has no answers. The quarterback turned into Captain Checkdown far too often, even when trailing by two scores late. Cousins completed just two of four pass attempts of 10-plus air yards, per Next Gen Stats. Adam Thielen was blanketed all day, earning just two receptions for six yards. Stefon Diggs went for 108 yards on seven catches, but much of that was empty calories, and his second-quarter fumble squashed early momentum. Behind a beleaguered offensive line, Cousins took sack after sack and fumbled twice -- losing one and having the other knock them out of scoring range. The Vikings (2-2) had just two first-half possessions. Their second half went little better. On five of their eight second-half possessions, Minnesota generated eight or fewer yards -- including three of negative yardage. Only on a late-game drive going up-tempo did the Vikings move the ball. It was too little, too late. When Cook isn't churning out yards, the Vikings offense simply can't find enough explosive plays through the air to beat good defenses.
-- Kevin Patra
Carolina Panthers 16, Houston Texans 10
1. So much for the Texans' revamped offensive line. A week after giving Deshaun Watson one of the cleanest days of his career against the Chargers, Houston's protection reverted to form against the Panthers' supercharged pass rush. It was apparent that Watson was headed for a long day when he was taken down on back-to-back sacks to end the first drive of the day, and Carolina's front seven turned up the heat up from there. Watson was unable to get anything going through the air for the now 2-2 Texans, finishing 21-of-33 for 160 yards (a paltry 4.8 yards per attempt). Panthers cornerback James Bradberry did an admirable job negating DeAndre Hopkins, and the loss of Kenny Stills to a hamstring injury sapped much of the big-play threat from Houston's attack. But the larger focus should be on Watson's line as Carolina finished with six sacks, 12 QB hits and 18 hurries.
2. Kyle Allen garnered the majority of the headlines during the week, but as Christian McCaffrey goes so does the offense in Carolina (2-2). The Panthers star running back had 37 touches (10 catches on a team-high 10 targets for 80 yards to go along with 93 yards and a score on the ground). As Allen struggled with ball security (three lost fumbles), Carolina simplified its game plan to rely on McCaffrey as a sure-handed security blanket for the young QB. No other play exemplified Carolina's reliance on CMC to make something out of nothing than on this third-and-7 conversion:
The Panthers have battled their way back to 2-2 without Cam Newton under center playing the style of football Ron Rivera loves to see: a stifling defense supported by a dynamic running attack.
3. The Panthers have a bona fide kicking weapon in Joey Slye. Slye connected on all three of his field goal attempts, including a 55-yard go-ahead field goal he made with ease to put Carolina ahead in the fourth quarter for good. After missing his first field goal of the season, Slye is a perfect 10-for-10 and he has made all nine of his extra point attempts.
-- David Ely
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 55, Los Angeles Rams 40
1. After a crushing defeat against the Giants last week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) came out and put on an offensive clinic in Los Angeles. The Bucs were up 21-0 with 5:34 left in the first half when the Rams finally put some points on the board. The Bucs went into halftime up 28-17. The fourth quarter is when things got interesting. Both offenses scored two touchdowns to bring the score to the Bucs up 45-34. Then cornerback Marcus Peters intercepted a pass from Jameis Winston and ran it 32-yards for a touchdown to bring the Rams within 5 points. Bucs kicker Matt Gay hit a 21-yard field goal. And then ...
2. With 1:06 left in the game, Jared Goff was stripped sacked by Shaq Barrett and Ndamukong Suh scooped up the fumble and scored a defensive touchdown to win the game. Welcome back to the Los Angeles Coliseum, Suh. The Bucs signed the unrestricted free agent in March after his one-year deal with the Rams ended.
It was surprising how well the Bucs' offense played against a Rams defense that carried the team for much of the first three weeks of the season. The Bucs were able to put up a franchise-record 55 points against what had been a vaunted L.A. defense. The points the Rams allowed Sunday are the third-most in a game in franchise history, per NFL Research.
Barrett had another incredible game and continues his early Defensive Player of the Year candidacy. He finished with four tackles, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble.
3. This was an overall horrible performance by the Rams (3-1). Goff ended the game with 45 of 68 passing attempts, 517 yards for two touchdowns, three interceptions and a fumble. That's right: 68 passing attempts. That's a career-high for the L.A. quarterback. The Rams only ran the ball eleven times. These stats bring to question how the Rams plan to use Todd Gurley this season. The running back had two touchdowns but only ran the ball five times for 16 yards.
"Ultimately it's our job to figure what we think is the best way to move the football and to score points. That's what we decided. That's what I decided on today," coach Sean McVay said after the game when asked by reporters about the high passing attempts. "There were so many different snaps, so many opportunities where we threw the football today. So, there's going to be a lot of things we can go back and look at. I loved the way that he [Jared Goff] continued to battle. [He] took some shots and continued to respond. And those are things we can take away from a positive."
The Rams have fallen out of first place in the NFC West for the first time since McVay was hired, according to J.B. Long with the Rams.
-- Lakisha Wesseling
Cleveland Browns 40, Baltimore Ravens 25
1. The Browns defense held Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense in check. Cleveland might have put up 40 on the Ravens (2-2), but its defense was a crucial part of its success. Aside from a Willie Snead garbage-time touchdown, the Ravens offense couldn't make big plays, struggled on third down and turned the ball over in critical moments. The Ravens filled the stat sheet with yards, but their offense was rhythm-less to the point where Jackson had to take matters into his own hands and scurry to make plays when his receiving corps was bottled up. The Browns (2-2) also did it with a banged-up secondary as Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams and Morgan Burnett were held out of the game, but their replacements were superb. Damarious Randall blitzed from his corner position to sack Jackson on a big third-down play in the first quarter. Jermaine Whitehead had a beautiful interception in the fourth quarter, and deflected a pass during a corner blitz that allowed DT Devaroe Lawrence to get another late interception of Jackson. Cleveland's defense also forced Mark Ingram to cough up his first turnover of the year. They were short-handed but the Browns had the upper hand with effective scheming from DC Steve Wilks against a dynamic Ravens offense.
2. Nick Chubb was the motor behind a Browns offense that nearly doubled its point total for the year. Chubb found the end zone three times and sealed the game in the fourth quarter with an 88-yard run to the house. Behind an improved Browns offensive line, the second-year running back finished the day with 165 yards on 20 rushes, three catches for 18 yards and five first downs to go with his three scores.
3. The Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. receiving tandem was lopsided, but effective. Landry had a career-high 167 yards on eight receptions, and did it all before exiting late in the third quarter with a concussion. Landry was the go-to playmaker for the Browns in the first half of what started out as a defensive chess match, and he could've had an even bigger day with a score if he didn't lose his footing at the tail end of a 60-yard catch and run. On the other hand, Beckham had a day to forget but his presence was certainly felt. Per NFL Research, OBJ went three quarters without a catch for the first time in his career before getting his two catches in the fourth. Beckham received plenty of attention from the Ravens secondary, however, and it certainly helped the Browns offense break big plays. In the second quarter, Beckham was given a chance to throw on a double-reverse play, and was close to completing a bomb but the would-be TD went through Damion Ratley's hands.
-- Michael Baca
New England Patriots 16, Buffalo Bills 10
1. While first place was the purse at stake on a Sunday morning in Western New York, few believed it would be a heavyweight battle. But the Bills very much showed their might and reserve and showcased a stellar defense. However, as has become a standard in the AFC East and beyond, it was the Patriots who prevailed over the Bills (3-1), winning a game that was as ugly as it was surprisingly close. This was a day won by the Patriots defense (even though it gave up its first TD of the year) and certainly not lost by the Bills' contingent. Buffalo's defense held Tom Brady and the Patriots offense to only 224 yards and one offensive touchdown. But the Patriots came away with four turnovers -- all interceptions -- the last of which clinching victory when Jamie Collins grabbed a Matt Barkley pick. Barkley came on in relief of an injured Josh Allen, but a storybook comeback wasn't to be had on this day. J.C. Jackson had two picks for the Pats and Devin McCourty had the other, his fourth in as many games to start the season, becoming the first New England player to pull off that feat and the first in the NFL since 2003.
2. Tom Brady wins. Plain and simple. On Sunday, an outstanding Bills defensive effort held him to a horrendous line of 18-for-39 for 150 yards with a dismal 3.8 average per completion, no touchdowns, an interception and a 45.9 rating. But Brady's experience and knack for winning the big game was still evident in comparison to his counterpart. Every game in which Brady performs in un-Brady-like fashion will call upon the naysayers that he's looking very much 42 years old rather than 42 years young. This has happened before, though. The Patriots (4-0) are a dynasty for myriad reasons and Brady knows full well how to manage a victory even in the cold light of a bad day. Hence, Brady's bad day was still a good one for the Patriots.
3. Athleticism and fortitude have never really been in question for Bills quarterback Josh Allen, but on Sunday, playing in likely the most important game of his short NFL career, he struggled in a variety of ways that far overshadowed his positives. The second-season signal-caller began the first-place tussle going 0-for-5 with an interception to McCourty included. McCourty's pick set up the Patriots' first score and had Buffalo playing from behind all afternoon. Under pressure often, Allen never looked comfortable and was woefully inaccurate in a fashion that's quickly becoming infamous for a QB with a rifle for an arm, but one that too often misses ridiculously off-target. His day ended early following a bad helmet-to-helmet hit from Jonathan Jones and concluded with a 13-for-28 line that offered just 5.5 yards per attempt, three interceptions that truly told the story of the game, four sacks and a miserable 24.0 rating.
-- Grant Gordon
Jacksonville Jaguars 26, Denver Broncos 24
1. Week 4 will be known as the moment "Minshew Mania" met the "Fournette Frenzy." There's no telling how long this new craze will last, but for at least one week, Leonard Fournette put on a show the likes of which Jaguars fans haven't seen since the days of Fred Taylor. On the road against a Denver defense still looking to live up to expectations, Fournette rushed for a career-high 225 yards on 29 carries, the most since Taylor rushed for 234 in 2000. The number is impressive on its own, but it's even crazier when you consider that Fournette combined for 179 rushing yards through the first three weeks. His big numbers may have outshined Gardner Minshew (19-of-33, 213 yards) in the box score but it's the rookie QB who made the plays that capped off the scoring drives on the comeback bid. The Jaguars (2-2) took the lead after Minshew capped the team's first two drives of the second half with TD passes; an absurd 81-yard Fournette run from the JAX 7 helped set up the second score. Both players were undeniably special, but the biggest star of day was kicker Josh Lambo, whose two clutch fourth-quarter FGs -- particularly the 33-yard game-winner with time expiring -- propelled the team to the second-largest comeback win in franchise history. Lambo may not have a catchy craze but he'll definitely go home with the game ball for his efforts.
2. Despite the Broncos' defense earning its first sacks of the season (5), the once-hyped unit still surrendered 20 unanswered points en route to Denver's fourth straight loss. It certainly doesn't help when the offense goes cold after scoring two TDs and setting up a field goal in the first half, but the collapse spoke volumes to the group's inability to play complementary football through the first four weeks. Fournette was held to 35 yards on the ground and Minshew limited to 91 through the air in the first 30 minutes, but obviously that stagnant play wouldn't hold on. Couple another tough showing with the fact that Von Miller earned his 99th and 100th sacks in the loss and things only look more disappointing for the underperforming Denver D.
3. No Jalen Ramsey? No problem (for now). With Ramsey's trade request still looming, the Jaguars defense got its first taste of life without the player who had never missed a game prior to Sunday. Giving up three TDs to Joe Flacco -- the most he's had in a game since Week 1 last season -- isn't ideal but the group stepped up when it needed to. Denver (0-4) was held to 371 total yards, converted only 4-of-11 third-down attempts and registered only 20:48 on the field. Jags safety Ronnie Harrison also recorded his first interception, a play that proved crucial as it led to a Lambo 40-yarder to end the first half.
-- Jelani Scott
Los Angeles Chargers 30, Miami Dolphins 10
1. After back-to-back losses, the Chargers (2-2) got a much-needed win on the road in Miami. Despite the Dolphins' winless record, the matchup, especially in the first half, was no easy task for the depleted Chargers squad. Philip Rivers was without a few of his top targets -- receivers Mike Williams and Travis Benjamin and tight end Virgil Green -- but he spread the ball around to several targets, finishing the day 24-of-30 for 310 yards and two touchdowns. Veteran Dontrelle Inman, who returned to his old team last month, had an impressive 75-yard outing before exiting the game with a quad injury. Inman came up big in a tight spot with the Bolts. He's clearly comfortable which made for an easy transition for Rivers.
2. Josh Rosen and the Dolphins (0-4) had a hot start in the first half against the Chargers. Receiver DeVante Parker caught a beautiful 34-yard touchdown pass on the Dolphins' first drive of the game (which was the first time the Dolphins have led in a game this season). Running back Kenyan Drake galloped for 44 yards and Mark Walton added 23 rushing yards. Despite two promising quarters, the Chargers pulled ahead, and the Dolphins were held scoreless in the second half. The defense did show glimpses of efficiency. Taco Charlton had his second sack in as many games since donning the orange and teal. Like the Chargers, the Dolphins also caught the injury bug during the game. But they luckily have a bye week on deck before a Week 6 matchup at home against the Redskins.
3. Chargers fans rejoiced when Melvin Gordon ended his contract holdout this week after being away since training camp. Sans fellow back Justin Jackson, the Bolts had Gordon activated in case the RB needed to be used in case of an emergency. But Anthony Lynn had no need to break the glass case on Gordon. Austin Ekeler had another stellar dual-threat performance Sunday, totaling 60 rushing yards on 18 carries and 62 receiving yards, and a pair of touchdowns. With Jackson sidelined and Gordon back, it will be interesting what the RB depth will look like going forward as Gordon is eased back into game action. Until then, Ekeler and Troymaine Pope proved once again to be solid options.
-- Andie Hagemann
Oakland Raiders 31, Indianapolis Colts 24
1. The Raiders (2-2) went to Indianapolis and pulled off a big win on the road. They came out hot with three touchdowns in the game's first 16 minutes. Rookie tight end Foster Moreau scored his first career touchdown -- an 18-yard pass from Derek Carr -- on the opening drive. Then wideout Trevor Davis scored a 60-yard touchdown in his first game with Oakland on the next drive. Wide receiver Tyrell Williams has scored a touchdown in every game so far this season. The Raiders looked good on both sides of the ball. Their defense forced two turnovers; defensive end Maxx Crosby hit Parris Campbell from behind to jar the ball loose in the second quarter and safety Erik Harris snagged a pick-six in the fourth quarter to seal the game.
2. The Colts (2-2) got off to a great start without Andrew Luck this season. But against the Raiders, everything that could go wrong did. Jacoby Brissett had a 20.0 completion percentage in the first quarter. He entered Week 4 leading the NFL with 95.0 in the first quarter, per NFL Research. The Colts just couldn't keep hold of the ball with five drops in the first half, including three by Eric Ebron. The defense could neither put pressure on Carr nor stop the Raiders' run game. Oakland had 110 rushing yards in the first half compared to the Colts' 58 yards.
Even with the Raiders racking up penalties in the second half and suffering a few drops of their own, the Colts couldn't take advantage. Oakland had three false starts in one drive in the fourth quarter. The Colts defense made a huge stop on third-and-5 to force the Raiders to punt with a chance to take the lead. But Oakland got the ball back three plays later and scored.
3. Injuries really hurt the Colts this week. Without wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (quad), linebacker Darius Leonard (concussion) and safety Malik Hooker (knee), Indy missed out on several opportunities on both sides of the ball. The Colts couldn't make plays downfield without Hilton, especially when their receivers couldn't hold on to the ball. The drops killed them on offense. The Colts are now 0-5 when Hilton does not play, according to Mike Chappell with FOX59/CBS 4 Sports.
-- Lakisha Wesseling
Tennessee Titans 24, Atlanta Falcons 10
1. Just when you thought you had him figured out, Marcus Mariota puts together his best game of the season. The fifth-year QB moved with purpose throughout the first half, avoiding contact and dicing the Falcons defense up with smart, efficient throws. Rookie wideout A.J. Brown had himself a day against the Falcons secondary, finishing the half, and eventually the game, with three catches on three targets for 94 yards and two TDs. His first score was a 55-yard catch-and-run TD and his second came on an 11-yard fade route into the right corner of the end zone. Brown, in addition to Corey Davis' praise-worthy first half (four catches for 75 yards and a TD) helped give Mariota a 14-of-19, 189-yard, three-TD and zero-interception (144.5 passer rating) stat line through the first 30 minutes. Though it got a little shaky for Mariota (4-of-8 for 38 yards) in the second half, the Titans (2-2) managed to ride their hot start to a 24-10 win.
2. There's no denying Julio Jones' greatness will make him a regular in the record books, but on this day, it wasn't enough. A 20-yard pass on his first target pushed Jones past Lions legend Calvin Johnson (127 games) to become the fastest receiver (115) to reach 11,000 career receiving yards, per NFL Research. Unfortunately, he was unable get on the same page with his QB from there. He finished the half with two more catches for a combined 14 yards and was held without another until the 9:40 mark of the fourth. His four catches for 52 yards were the fewest he's had since Week 1; he also finished without a TD for the first time since Week 12 of last season.
3. Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees' unit turned Matt Ryan (35-of-53, 397 yards, 0 TDs) into a human pinball machine, sacking him five times and hitting him a total of 11 times. The Titans batted down several balls and were also all over the run, holding Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith to a combined 39 yards on 14 carries. The group even snuffed out an attempt to get Jones going on a reverse. Their most impressive stop came late in the second quarter on fourth-and-1 on their own 39. Freeman built up a head of steam out of the backfield but was stuffed by safety Kenny Vaccaro, who led the effort, and DE Jurrell Casey for a two-yard loss. To that point, Atlanta (1-3) was 3-for-3 on fourth-down conversions this season.
-- Jelani Scott
Seattle Seahawks 27, Arizona Cardinals 10
1. Even in a dominant win, it was a tale of two halves for the Seahawks (3-1). In the first half, Seattle played a near-perfect game scoring 20 points, allowing just a field goal, accruing zero penalties and forcing punter Michael Dickson to twiddle his thumbs on the sideline. Led by Russell Wilson, who went 22 of 28 for 240 passing yards and a TD, the Seahawks were efficient through the air and tough to bring down on the ground thanks to the churning legs of Chris Carson, who ended the day with 104 rushing yards on 22 attempts. Entering the second half it seemed as though things would only get worse for the Cardinals (0-3-1), but that's when the Seahawks started making their mistakes via penalties, inefficiency on third down and breakdowns in pass protection. The Seahawks didn't score at all in the third quarter and allowed the Cardinals to gain some momentum early in the fourth after giving up their only touchdown of the game. Once it got down to a two-score game, the Seahawks proceeded to ice the game with a 15-play, eight-minute drive that ended with a C.J. Prosise TD run to put them up by 17. Though the game wasn't completely out of their hands, it will certainly be a half of football coach Pete Carroll will harp on entering their big NFC West matchup against the Rams next Thursday night.
2. Newly acquired Seahawks pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney commenced the first-half drubbing with a first-quarter pick-six for the game's first touchdown. Anticipating a screen pass to David Johnson, Clowney corralled the ball with his left hand and went untouched for a 27-yard touchdown return. Surely K.J. Wright's pressure affected Kyler Murray's short throw, and along with virtually all the other Seahawks defenders, he joined Clowney for the photo-op celebration in the end zone. It was the first regular-season INT for Clowney, who nabbed one against the Raiders in the 2017 wild-card round.
3. While Murray's growing pains continue, there were some flashes of brilliance. The rookie QB was hounded all day by the Seahawks pass rush but during Arizona's mini-comeback attempt in the fourth quarter, Murray made a play and scrambled to find the end zone for his first career rushing TD, making it a two-score game. There were several times Murray evaded a would-be sack to net positive yards, but Seattle manhandled the Cardinals offensive line to make it tough for him to look downfield. A good amount of Murray's 241 passing yards came on check-downs to Johnson, who led the Cardinals is receiving with 99 yards on eight receptions. On a side note, Larry Fitzgerald made history by surpassing Tony Gonzalez for second on the all-time receptions list, but that moment had to wait for garbage time against a Seattle prevent defense. In the lead-up to this particular matchup of QBs, Murray and Wilson were viewed as one of the same kind, and while there were few moments when that comparison wasn't far-fetched, perhaps it would be better served for when Murray has a complete team around him.
-- Michael Baca
1) Will Teddy Bridgewater play outside of his comfort zone?
The Cowboys' fourth-ranked scoring defense stands in the way of Teddy Bridgewater's second straight win as the Saints' starting quarterback. Protecting Bridgewater could be the most important aspect of this game, and making sure DeMarcus Lawrence is double-teamed is key. Bridgewater has not been much of a deep passer since taking over for Drew Brees, averaging fewer air yards per attempt and per completion than the veteran. He has attempted just one deep pass this season as 75.4 percent of Bridgewater's passes have traveled 10 or fewer air yards. Throwing deep against the Cowboys could pay dividends as cornerback Chidobe Awuzie has been beaten with double moves and speed cuts and Cowboys safety Byron Jones has at times had trouble making plays on the ball.
The Saints will have their hands tied with the Cowboys' dynamic offense but can limit Dak Prescott and friends by executing assignments and winning matchups on the line of scrimmage. Along the line of scrimmage, look for the Saints to beat right tackle Landon Collins with quick moves and left guard Connor Williams with strength in the run and pass games. In terms of stalling the Cowboys, it all starts with containing Ezekiel Elliott. The Saints' defensive linemen need to set the edge and stay disciplined in their lines inside to prevent Elliott from big plays on cutback runs. Taking away the ground game forces Dak Prescott to beat you in the pocket. He's been much better from the pocket this season than in the past but is much more dangerous outside of it where he thrives as a runner and passer. The final member of the Cowboys new triplets, Amari Cooper, is an exceptional route runner so tackling the catch is huge in this game.
2) Can Cowboys' offense continue hot streak?
If the Cowboys want to stay undefeated, they must take down the Saints in a hostile environment at the Superdome. Both offenses are potent so this one could come down to one defensive stop late in the game. There are several things offensively that will help the Cowboys avoid falling behind on the road. Ezekiel Elliott has proven during his career that he can be productive against any defensive front, and he can keep his career pace up Sunday by running away from one guy -- Cam Jordan. The Saints defensive leader is a beast against the run and pass and can wreak havoc at any point. Dallas must double team Jordan, who has 27 sacks since 2017, on pass plays to give Dak Prescott time to look downfield.
Prescott's improvement as a passer has the Cowboys ranking in the top five in several major offensive categories. Look for him to pick on cornerbacks Marcus Lattimore, Eli Apple and PJ Williams in Sunday's contest. Lattimore has had spurts of being a shutdown corner but needs more consistency. Amari Cooper can win this matchup by using double moves if Lattimore is playing off, and by using a stutter step or beating him off the line of scrimmage on deep routes. And I like Michael Gallup (if he's healthy) and Randall Cobb's chances against Apple and Williams, who can be undisciplined.
3) Kirk Cousins has tools to take advantage of Bears' CBs, but will he?
The Chicago Bears have one of the best defenses in the NFL, but there is one vulnerable area: the cornerbacks. Buster Skrine, who was often penalized as a member of the New York Jets last season, isn't as instinctive as others in this secondary and can be beaten with quick moves -- look for Vikings receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs to take advantage of him with their precise route running. Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara can fall victim to sudden moves as well, and the latter has had problems playing the deep ball. Minnesota's run game led by Dalvin Cook should give Kirk Cousins several chances against this Bears' secondary, if his offensive line can hold up against Chicago's ferocious pass rush.
4) Will Seattle follow Panthers' blueprint of how to stop Kyler Murray?
The Carolina Panthers may have shown the rest of the league how to fluster Kyler Murray, who completed 30 of 43 pass attempts but for just 173 yards (4.0 yards per target). Carolina kept Murray uncomfortable all day by pressuring Murray from both the inside and outside. The Panthers were able to sack the rookie quarterback eight times in that game by using a mix of defensive coverages. Blitzing from the inside often forced Murray out of the pocket where teammates on the edge waited to feast, as six of Carolina's eight sacks came from outside linebackers.
Murray has at times been able to limit pressure this season by getting rid of the ball quickly. But when under pressure, Murray's been sacked on 66.7 percent of his dropbacks (more than double the NFL average), according to Next Gen Stats. Now with Carolina providing a blueprint for how to rattle the young passer, I'm interested to see if the Seattle Seahawks, who rank tied for 21st in sacks, can get their lacking pass rush going in a big divisional bout.
5) Will winless teams turn seasons around?
Seven teams have yet to earn a win entering Week 4, and one of those teams, the New York Jets, must wait another week for a chance to get in the win column due to the bye week. Throughout my time in the NFL, I've watched many teams have rough starts only to turn things around and finish with successful seasons. In observing and talking to a number of people around the league, I want to share how several teams and coaches have handled a poor start.
It starts with the head coach, who must stay positive and stick to the plan. Chuck Noll is a perfect example of this. In his first year as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1969, Noll won the season opener but lost the next 13 games to finish 1-13. Well, you know the story. Noll went on to win four Super Bowl titles. Head coaches are hired for a reason. They have a vision and aren't easily swayed. By sticking with the plan -- long- or short-term -- the kinks get worked out more often than not.
Staying the course might not be the best option in some cases, in which struggling teams will start to adjust what they do if the initial game plan doesn't fit the personnel. After Joe Gibbs started his career 0-5 with the Washington Redskins, he transformed from a wide-open offense he ran in his previous job as OC of the Chargers to a one-back power offense. The team went 8-3 the rest of the way and the following year, the Redskins won the Super Bowl with Gibb's one-back power offense.
These are just two philosophies but teams can right their seasons with any number of tactics. My hope is that we see several winless teams turn their fortunes around starting Sunday.
WOW. Ok. That was a lot to read. I am not going to blame you if you didn't get through the whole thing...
I tried to give the professor the benefit of the doubt, to keep an open mind about his position...but you know what? This guy is completely full of shit.
According to him, Tom Brady isn't popular because of how successful of a QB he is, not because of all the Super Bowl rings, nope...somehow it's because that mother fucker DARES to appear in TV commercials. TV commercials make him the symbol of "omnipotent white masculinity" apparently, especially because those commercials focus on the appeal of a meritocracy and individualism...truly dreadful concepts!
Further, ESPN is to blame, because of their 30 for 30 special, "The Brady 6", which showed Brady as a "self-made man". Since when is that a bad thing?
Oh, and if you disagreed with the NFL's punishment of Deflategate, it was because you are racist, and and mad at Goodell for breaking the bonds of white brotherhood.
Next, he blames horses. Because Tom Brady goes to the Kentucky Derby, which is watched by white people. Even his diet and workout regiments are somehow symbols of white supremacy, apparently.
However, I think I know the real cause of his hatred of TB12. While he is now a professor at the University of Rhode Island, he is originally from....New York. The dipshit is most likely a New York Jets fan!
ESPN Staff Writer
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson insisted all offseason that he would be running less.
After three games this season, Jackson offered another revelation.
"I hate running," Jackson said. "Only if I have to, but my job is to get the ball to the receivers, the tight ends, running backs. If I have to run, I'll do it, but I'd rather just sit back and pass it. I like throwing touchdowns instead of running them."
In three games, Jackson is averaging 33 passes and nine rushes per game -- which is down from his 17 carries per game as a starter last season.
Jackson still has confidence in his rushing ability. In Sunday's loss at Kansas City, he scored a touchdown by faking out one defender and spinning past another to reach the end zone.
"I only could run it. There was no one open," Jackson said. "I had to make him miss. I'm one-on-one. I like my chances over anyone one-on-one."
Jackson is on pace to gain 917 yards rushing, which would rank as the fourth most by a quarterback. When Jackson takes off, he often creates highlights with his ability to sidestep, fake out and hurdle defenders.
"He's wild, man. He's amazing," running back Mark Ingram said. "I don't think there is anything like him in the league, as far as just extending plays and being able to juke defenders. He's special. He can extend plays and buy time for us to get open, receivers to get open, or him take off and run at the last resort and juke people, spin around people, make people fall."
Jackson has made dramatic improvements as a passer this season. In the season opener, the 22-year-old became the youngest player ever to record a perfect passer rating. Jackson then set a team record for touchdown passes in the first two weeks of a season (seven).
Entering Week 4, Jackson has the NFL's fifth-best passer rating (113.9).
The Browns had high expectations going into this season. They have the talent. Are they poorly coached? Do they need to swap out some players? What do you people think they need to be successful?
Quick thoughts so far:
- Mitch Trubisky is going to have a long career as a backup in the NFL once the Bears get sick of him being garbage.
- The rest of the Bears offense is likely to join him.
- The best offensive weapon the Bears have is their defense.
- The Redskins are really bad.
- Really looking forward to the Redskins - Dolphins matchup in a few weeks. The winner of the game will likely have the inside track for the number 1 pick next year.
New York Giants 32, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31
1. The Daniel Jones era is underway in New York (1-2), and thank goodness for that. Making his first start in place of Giants legend Eli Manning, Jones quickly made people forget about the lead-footed veteran. The QB known in the streets as Danny Dimes flashed mobility (in and out of the pocket), touch and accuracy outside the hashes and overall resilience during his comeback win over Tampa Bay. On two first-half scampers against the Bucs, Jones posted two of the four fastest max speeds among QBs this season (Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson boasting the other two). He was responsible for 364 total yards and four total TDs. It wasn't all silver dollars for Mr. Dimes. Jones' play was not supported by and could not ignite a D.O.A. running game that was shut down by Tampa Bay's reborn defensive line under Todd Bowles. The loss of all-universe tailback Saquon Barkley to an ankle injury didn't help, though he had just 10 yards on eight carries before his exit. Jones also took a page out of Manning's book in the turnover department; the Giants QB was strip-sacked twice by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Shaq Barrett, whose four sacks on Sunday gave him eight on the season.
But Jones also channeled Eli's penchant for heroics. Saddled with an 18-point halftime deficit, Jones led three second-half touchdown drives, including a game-winning 75-yard march of Dimes with just over three minutes remaining. Down six, Jones completed 5-of-7 passes to get New York inside the 10-yard line. On fourth-and-5, Tampa Bay rushed four, sent seven defenders scrambling and inadvertently left the middle of the field wide open. Unafraid to tuck it and run, Jones sped through the void for the game-winning score, sealing New York's largest come-from-behind win in over 49 years. After Tampa Bay kicked away the game (more on that later), Manning was seen on camera congratulating Jones on his comeback. If you looked close enough, you could see Manning passing the torch, or more accurately, Jones ripping it from the vet's grasp.
2. The Giants' dilemma? Danny Dimes can't play nickel corner, or any defensive position, for matter. New York's defense struggled again in the first half, notably starting cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who was locked on Mike Evans. Jenkins said last week he couldn't "cover nobody for 10 seconds," referring to New York's subpar pass rush. Jackrabbit couldn't blame the front seven on Sunday afternoon. Evans torched Jenkins in the first half for 146 yards and three touchdowns. Evans was largely shut out in the second half. That was, until Tampa Bay's final drive. With the game surely in hand, all Jenkins had to do was keep Evans in front of him to avoid a big play. But on first-and-10 from Tampa Bay's 47, Evans beat Jenkins on a streak, immediately raised his hand and hauled in a 44-yard bomb to set up what should have been the game-winning kick; the WR finished with 190 receiving yards, his most since his rookie season in 2014. Surrendering 499 yards to the Bucs on the day, New York's defense did it all it could to give away a surefire win. Fortunately, Tampa Bay's special teams one-upped James Bettcher's unit.
3. Strange day for Matt Gay, Tampa Bay's fifth-round rookie kicker out of Utah. The first-year booter missed two extra points in the first quarter, but then proceeded to make four straight field goals, including one from 52 yards. When Tampa Bay reached the nine-yard line on its final drive, it appeared that Gay would be set up with a 26-yard chip shot to seal a wild victory. Then, the Buccaneers took a delay of game penalty to push the game-winning attempt to a 34-yarder; Bucs coach Bruce Arians said after the game he took the foul on purpose to help out Gay. It didn't work. The rookie kicker pushed the gimme field goal right and sent the Buccaneers (1-2) to a three-way tie at the bottom of the NFC South. Three years after selecting Roberto Aguayo in the second round, Tampa Bay's woes at the haunted kicker position persist.
-- Jeremy Bergman
Kansas City Chiefs 33, Baltimore Ravens 28
1. The reigning NFL MVP stays hot. Patrick Mahomes led another explosive second quarter, in which the Chiefs (3-0) scored 23 straight points to open up a lead they would hang onto late. Mahomes continues to dive-bomb defenses with huge plays. Today it was rookie Mecole Hardman who blasted off for an 83-yard touchdown. Mahomes spread the ball around to eight receivers, including seven times to Travis Kelce, who was repeatedly open over the middle, for 89 yards. Mahomes' mastery of Andy Reid's offense keeps even good defenses off balance, and he can score from any platform from anywhere on the field. Mahomes 374-yard passing day gives him 1,195 through three games -- on pace for a redonkulous 6,373 yards. With the performance, Mahomes passed Hall of Famer Kurt Warner for the most 300-plus passing yards in a QB's first 20 games with 13. Even when the Chiefs' offense gets bogged down at times, Mahomes' unique ability to explode at any moment is the NFL's greatest advantage going.
2. Lamar Jackson couldn't find the range deep throughout Sunday's loss. The second-year quarterback missed a bevy of shots early and overthrew Marquise Brown multiple times as the Ravens got down big early. Credit Jackson and running back Mark Ingram (103 rushing yards, 3 TDs) with helping the Ravens (2-1) battle back to make it a game late, but the miscues in the passing game hurt Baltimore early. Jackson's 51.2 completion percentage on 43 attempts was his lowest in a regular-season game in his young career -- only game lower was last season's playoff loss (48.3). Outside one beautiful deep shot to Brown late in the game, Jackson's wayward long balls zapped some of the dynamic play-making we'd seen from Baltimore's offense through two games. The Chiefs' D also did a great job bottling up Jackson's run (8/46, long of 9 yards). Off the bat, Ravens coach John Harbaugh signaled that he knew he'd need to keep up with Mahomes. Harbaugh repeatedly went for fourth downs in the first half (converting two of three) and attempted three two-point tries, all of which failed. Some might question Harbaugh's aggression, especially going for two, but the coach stuck to his game plan coming in against the most explosive offense in the league.
3. LeSean McCoy is getting back in sync with Andy Reid. Starting for injured Damien Williams, McCoy looked spry early after entering with an ankle injury. Shady galloped for multiple chunk gains, including a 25-yarder to open up the second half. A dual-threat ideal for Reid's offense, McCoy generated 54 yards on eight carries (6.8 average) with a TD, and added 3 catches for 26 yards and another score. McCoy exited early in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. Darrel Williams took over and ripped off a 41-yard run setting up a key field goal late. In classic Reid fashion, Williams caught a perfectly executed screen-pass call to earn a first down to ice the game. The lesson: Andy Reid is a gawd at generating RB production.
-- Kevin Patra
New England Patriots 30, New York Jets 14
1. It was a punt that ended the first drive of the game for the Jets and the Patriots responded with a nine-play, 88-yard touchdown drive. Tom Brady was a sensational, if not standard, 7-for-8 on the drive, with a 41-yard hook-up to tight end Ryan Izzo mixed in. And then Sony Michel ran in for a 5-yard score. That was it, the predicted rout was on, ending with the Patriots besting the Jets, 30-14, in a game far more one-sided than the two-score final margin. The Patriots (3-0) scored touchdowns on each of their first three drives of the game, a Stephen Gostkowski missed PAT serving as the only blemish to an otherwise sterling start against the depleted Jets (0-3). Along the way, Brady threw two touchdowns to give him 524 for his career, untying him with the injured Drew Brees for the second-most career TD passes. As Sunday morning dawned, the now-former Patriots wideout Antonio Brown tweeted up a storm of discontent, but the Patriots prevailed despite two week's worth of distractions as they seemingly always do. Perhaps emblematic of just how well things are going for the Patriots came in the news of a streak's conclusion. An incompletion to receiver Phillip Dorsett in the third quarter broke a streak of 26 straight targets to Dorsett resulting in a completion, per NFL research. The randomness of the Patriots dominance is perplexing. Julian Edelman left Sunday's game with an injury, but X-rays are negative, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Josh Gordon was sidelined twice, but returned and made a phenomenal sideline catch. It's a familiar storyline.
2. Perhaps it's come against sub-par opposition, but it really matters not as results are results and dominance is dominance and that's what the Patriots defense has displayed over the first three games of the season. The defense still hasn't allowed a touchdown through three games as the Jets found the end zone twice late on Sunday via special teams and defensive scores. A muffed punt recovered in the end zone by the Jets snapped the Patriots' run of 86 straight points scored dating back to the third quarter of their opener against the Steelers. It was also the first touchdown scored against New England since last season's AFC Championship Game. So far, the Patriots have pummeled opponents by a combined 106-17 tally. Devin McCourty has interceptions in every game so far. Led by Jamie Collins (seven tackles, two sacks), the Patriots allowed only 105 yards of Jets offense. Everyone's contributing and the Patriots are rolling along in emphatic fashion. A first-place showdown against fellow undefeated Buffalo awaits in Week 4. Thereafter, games against the Redskins, Giants and another versus the Jets await. Translation, don't expect the Patriots' one-sided ways to wane.
3. Injuries and illness have more or less colored Gang Green's three weeks of driving the struggle bus. It's hard to judge
-- Grant Gordon
Houston Texans 27, Los Angeles Chargers 20
1. Deshaun Watson is Harry Houdini, David Copperfield and Evil Kenevil rolled into one. The Houston Texans quarterback escaped pressure with magical ease and fearless abandon time and again Sunday in L.A., repeatedly finding pass-catchers downfield. The epitome of Watson's day came midway through the fourth quarter. Watson appeared to be swallowed in the backfield but escaped the blackhole, pranced toward the line of scrimmage, pulled back at the last second and slung a perfect ball off balance to tight end Jordan Akins who rumbled for a 53-yard touchdown, which ended up the game-winning score. Behind solid pass protection for much of the day, Watson spread the ball around with aplomb, picking up a bevy of chunk gains, completing 73.5 percent of 34 attempts for 351 yards and three TDs. With the Chargers doing a good job of slowing DeAndre Hopkins, Watson hit Kenny Stills multiple times deep, and found his tight ends for three TDs. Watson was the difference as the Houston overcame a 17-7 halftime deficit with 20 straight points on three scoring drives in the second half. The road conference win could prove huge for the Texans (2-1) in a wide-open AFC South race.
2. The Chargers are reliving the same nightmare week after week. Anthony Lynn's squad can once again only look in the mirror and blame themselves for the second-half collapse. Sunday was another mistake-filled afternoon in Chargerland. A holding call wiped out a Justin Jackson touchdown again this week, costing L.A. four points. A Philip Rivers fumble in field-goal range cost L.A. more potential points. The Chargers gave up five sacks. A facemask penalty wiped out an interception. Several receivers had brutal drops, including Travis Benjamin on a beautiful deep ball from Rivers that could have been a game-tying TD. And a plethora of holding calls killed the Chargers, including one in the final minute with the game in the balance that forced desperation heaves instead of setting L.A. up from the doorstep. The miscues wasted Keenan Allen's monstrous day. The Texans couldn't cover the Pro Bowl receiver, who had 183 receiving yards and two TDs. Allen generated 186 of the Chargers 376 total yards on the day. It all goes for naught as L.A. falls to 1-2 after botching back-to-back winnable games.
3. J.J. Watt is back. After compiling just two total tackles through two games, the former Defensive Player of the Year consistently pestered Rivers on Sunday, compiling two sacks, five QB hits and two tackles for loss among his five tackles. Watt took advantage of a limp Chargers offensive line, living in the backfield and was part of a Texans defense that held L.A. running backs to just 62 total yards on the ground. Paired with Watt, Whitney Mercilus continued his hot start to the season, generating another sack and forced the Rivers fumble. With the Texans secondary continuing to give up big plays, Houston needs repeat performances from its defensive front as the season rolls forward.
-- Kevin Patra
Minnesota Vikings 34, Oakland Raiders 14
1. So far so healthy, and so far so outstanding for Dalvin Cook. Leading the league in rushing entering Week 3, Cook rattled off his third consecutive 100-yard game to start the season as he led the Vikings past the Raiders. Cutting past would-be tacklers and running through them when needed, Cook sparkled for Minnesota (2-1) with 16 carries for 110 yards and a 1-yard second-quarter score as he spent much of the final stanza on the sideline in a blowout victory with a smile on and his helmet off. Having already set a career-high with four touchdowns, his 375 yards rushing have eclipsed his rookie tally of 354. That was when the NFL world briefly glimpsed what could be for the running back and for the Vikings with him as their engine. Injuries derailed him in 2017 and 2018, but so far so healthy for Cook. And so far so outstanding, just ask the Raiders (1-2).
2. Amid all the noise that he flounders under the pressure of the big game, Kirk Cousins continued his NFL-best streak of 19 straight games with a touchdown pass and put together a fine performance. Complementing a terrific team victory against an overmatched opponent will not silence critics, but Cousins captained a squad that looked every bit as brilliant with its overall superiority as it did in a Week 1 blowout of the Falcons and every bit the opposite of the struggling squad it became in a Week 2 loss to the Packers. Cousins had a 174 yards, just six incompletions, one TD throw and a 112 passer rating. He was good. The Vikings were great. Their running game (which included Alexander Mattison adding 58 yards and a TD in 12 carries) was outstanding. Cousins' will be judged by how he performs in big games until he clutches up in one, but for now and yet again, he did his job and did it well and the Vikings won. Thus, well all goes to plan, the Vikings, with Cousins at the helm, are an impressive team.
3. The autumn wind has been a struggle for the Raiders since a Week 1 Monday night triumph. A week after tallying but 307 total yards in a loss to the Chiefs, the Raiders mustered only 302 yards of offense against the Vikings. It took a little razzle-dazzle, but a Derek Carr-to-J.J. Nelson 29-yard score on a flea-flicker ended the Raiders' scoreless drought of four-plus quarters in the second quarter. It was already too late, though. The offense of Jon Gruden, who was a perfect 4-0 against the Vikings in his previous coaching life, couldn't find a rhythm and the defense was ground down by the Vikings' ball control and rushing attack. Tight end Darren Waller had 13 catches on a whopping 14 targets for 134 yards, but it was reminiscent of last season when Jared Cook put up solid numbers but the offense as a whole was insufficient. With a late TD throw to Tyrell Williams, who played despite a painful hip-pointer, the offensive numbers looked better in the box score than it really was. NFL nomads who began the first of five straight games (over six weeks) away from Oakland (including a home game in London), the Raiders are sputtering on offense and showing no signs of remedying their ills.
-- Grant Gordon
Detroit Lions 27, Philadelphia Eagles 24
1. The Lions are unbeaten. How good they are might be clearer next week when they host the Chiefs. But they managed to knock off the Chargers at home and the Eagles in Philly in consecutive weeks, this after tying the Cardinals. Of course. Sunday's road win didn't come easy, even though Detroit led for the final 44 minutes. The Eagles had two possessions in the final three minutes, the latter starting at midfield after Malcolm Jenkins blocked a field goal. The Lions D didn't allow a first down on either drive, with a little help from the Eagles. With less than a minute to play, Wentz dropped a dime from midfield on fourth-and-15 to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside inside the Detroit 5, but it bounced off the rookie wideout's hands.
2. The Eagles knew life wouldn't be easy on offense without Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson. Losing tackles Jason Peters and Andre Dillard in the first half further complicated matters. A Nelson Agholor fumble, which Darius Slay picked up and returned 38 yards, put Philly in an even bigger hole in the first half. The Eagles would rally, thanks to two TD passes from Wentz to Agholor. Philly's QB was sacked three times and under constant duress while completing 19 of 36 passes for 259 yards. Rookie running back Miles Sanders had 126 yards from scrimmage, but fumbled twice, losing one of them.
3. The Lions manufactured another win without a star turn on offense. A week after scoring 13 points, Detroit got on the board before Matthew Stafford took the field as Jamal Agnew returned a kickoff 100 yards. Stafford was neither efficient (18 of 32) nor spectacular (one TD, 201 yards) but guided two 75-yard TD drives in the absence of a run game. Marvin Jones showed he's still capable of being a go-to target, hauling in six passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, which gave the Lions a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
-- Adam Maya
Indianapolis Colts 27, Atlanta Falcons 24
1. Everything went right for the Colts (2-1) in the first half and it was enough to hold on for the win. Coach Frank Reich designed an impressive game plan and Jacoby Brissett executed it perfectly. The QB picked apart the zone defense and made it look easy. Wideout Zach Pascal's 18-yard touchdown in the first quarter capped off a 93-yard drive for the Colts. It was their longest TD drive since Week 3, 2017 when they went 97 yards for a touchdown, per NFL Research. Brissett was also the QB for that drive. He finished the game with 28-for-37 for 310 yards and two touchdowns. And after three weeks, Brissett put his name among NFL legends Peyton Manning and Johnny Unitas as the only Colts with a 115-plus passer rating in two of the first three weeks of the season.
Side note: After two weeks of struggles, Adam Vinatieri went 2 for 2 in field goals and nailed all three extra points.
2. Without Darius Leonard, the Colts defense did its job. The Colts held the Falcons to 152 yards with just three points in the first half. Matt Ryan threw his sixth interception of the season. He only had seven interceptions last season and didn't have his sixth until Week 14, per NFL Research.
3. The first half was brutal for the Falcons (1-2) but the second half was the exact opposite. If it wasn't for penalties and missed tackles, the Falcons could have won this game. Matt Ryan's 13-yard touchdown to Austin Hooper was the drive they needed to start the second half. The Falcons controlled the ball from there. Ryan found Hooper again in the fourth quarter to cut the Colts' lead by one score. But then the penalties took over again and the Falcons kept missing opportunities to get the Colts offense off the field. A touchdown by Julio Jones in double coverage wasn't enough to win the game. The Falcons finished the game with 16 penalties for 128 yards.
-- Lakisha Wesseling
Dallas Cowboys 31, Miami Dolphins 6
1. While it wasn't his best showing, Dak Prescott did what he needed to do to lead the Cowboys to their first 3-0 start since 2008. Prescott (19-of-32, 246 yards, three TDs, one interception) completed just 59.4 percent of his passes against the league's worst defense, his lowest since Week 3 of last season. Despite those down numbers, Prescott connected with lead receiver Amari Cooper (six catches, 88 yards) twice in the end zone and turned an 8-yard scramble into a score. The run helped Prescott reach a couple milestones, per NFL Research: His 19 career rushing TDs are the most by any QB since 2016 (his rookie year) and his eight games of two-plus passing TDs and one-plus rushing TDs are three more than any other QB in that span.
2. It was a moment many anticipated but perhaps not this soon: Josh Rosen made his regular season starting debut for the Dolphins. Looking to secure the Dolphins' first win in a hostile environment like the one at AT&T Stadium is a tall task for any QB and Rosen did all he could against Dallas' formidable defense. His most impressive play of the day came right away on a 40-yard pass to wideout DeVante Parker on the game's third play, but that was about it for the former 10th overall pick. His 200 passing yards (18-of-39, 46 percent completion rate) indicate a decent outing, but the three sacks and 11 QB hits provide a snapshot of how under pressure he was all game.
3. Here's a stat for a struggling Miami team now 0-3 on the year. Warning: You may want to look away if you're a Dolphins fan. Through the first three games, Miami has been outscored 133-16 and allowed a 100-plus yard rusher -- Ezekiel Elliott (125) and Tony Pollard (103) in Week 3 -- three times. Woof. And to make matters worse, receiver Allen Hurns exited with a concussion a year after his devastating leg injury as a Cowboy, and cornerback Xavien Howard was ejected in the fourth for unnecessary roughness. Rough start to 2019 for Brian Flores' crew.
-- Jelani Scott
Carolina Panthers 38, Arizona Cardinals 20
1. Kyle Allen has more TDs in one game than Cam Newton has had in his last four regular season starts. Do with that information what you will. There isn't a QB controversy in Charlotte but when you have a day like Allen did on the road against Arizona, it's OK to raise at least a single eyebrow. With Newton recovering from a foot injury, the onus was on Allen to ignite what has been a stagnant Panthers offense up to this point, and he did just that.
After succumbing to a Chandler Jones strip-sack on the opening drive, Allen would settle in after watching former college teammate Kyler Murray lead the Cards to an early 7-0 lead. Six straight Allen completions led to an eventual score -- a five-yard pass to wideout Curtis Samuel -- to tie the game. From then on, Allen and the offense cut loose, scoring TDs on four of their nine drives and setting up a field goal on another. Running back Christian McCaffrey ripped through the Cardinals for 125 rushing yards, including a career-best 76-yard TD, and tight end Greg Olsen roared down the field for a game-high 75 yards and two TDs on six receptions, but it was Allen's stat line (19-of-26, 261 yards, 4 TDs, 144.4 passer rating) that really turned heads. Oh, and how about this for nugget: Allen is the the first QB in franchise history to put up such numbers in a game, according to NFL Research. It was an emphatic first win for Carolina, and if Allen continues his groove in Cam's absence, Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Norv Turner might have a lot to discuss.
2. Murray's NFL resume now reads 0-2-1 following a long evening against the Panthers. Like many QBs before him, Murray managed to find Larry Fitzgerald for an early TD, but the veteran receiver's impact (five receptions, 36 yards) was relatively muted after two big games (217 total receiving yards) to begin the year. Ideally, coach Kliff Kingsbury would like to see Murray show off his speed as part of a designed play or after going through his progressions, not as a necessity to survive. While he managed to turn some of those runs into positive gains (eight carries for a team-high 69 yards), Murray was swarmed constantly and hit often. He did "enjoy" his best completion rate (69.8 percent) of the season thus far but when it comes after completing 30 of 43 pass attempts for 173 yards, two TDs and two picks in a loss, that number reads much differently.
3. Despite the 1-2 start, the Panthers' defense has been mostly solid in 2019. Their performance in Week 3 likely made their defensive-minded head coach very happy. Led by linebackers Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson, who combined for 21 total tackles, the Panthers' D was relentless, bringing Murray down eight times (their most sacks in a game since 2016). Defensive end Mario Addison spearheaded the charge with three sacks. First-round pick LB Brian Burns continued to look impressive coming off the edge, securing a sack and four tackles. Second-year corner Donte Jackson snagged his first (and second) interceptions of the year, making him the first Panther with multiple picks in a game since he did it in Week 3 a year ago.
-- Jelani Scott
San Francisco 49ers 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 20
1. This game was a battle of the defenses as the offenses struggled to get going until the second half. The 49ers (3-0) pulled off the win even though their offense had five turnovers total and just couldn't get out of their own way in the first half. They had four turnovers in the second quarter, which is more than they had in their first two games combined (two). Their defense did all they could to keep them in the game and San Francisco trailed just 6-3 at the half. The offense finally showed up after the break with two rushing touchdowns from Jeff Wilson then Jimmy Garoppolo found Dante Pettis in traffic to take the lead again in the fourth quarter. With 1:15 left in the game, the defensive line created a lot of pressure to stop the Steelers' offense on their final drive to seal the game. The Niner go into Week 4 undefeated for the first time since 1998.
2. Now let's turn to the Steelers' defense. They carried their team in the first half as well. Before halftime they recorded two interceptions (T.J. Watt & Minkah Fitzpatrick) and two fumble recoveries. Fitzpatrick forced a fumble that was recovered by Devin Bush. Minkah Fitzpatrick, welcome to the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's one way to bond with your new teammates. Watt recovered a fumble in the fourth to give the Steelers a chance to seal the game. But a few plays later the Niners got the ball back on a fumble.
3. In his first start as the Steelers QB, Mason Rudolph (14 of 27, 174 yards, 2 TDs, one pick) did not look as good as he did last week when he took over after Big Ben went down. He missed high on all his throws downfield in the first half. It wasn't until the second half that he finally settled down. Just when you wondered where JuJu Smith-Schuster has been, Rudolph hit him on an inside crossing route and JuJu took it in for 76 yards. Then the Steelers took advantage of Jason Verrett after CB Ahkello Witherspoon left the game in the fourth quarter. Verrett (playing is his first game since Sept. 2017) was called for an obvious pass interference then he was beat on a 39-yard touchdown.
-- Lakisha Wesseling
Buffalo Bills 21, Cincinnati Bengals 17
1. The Bills' winning formula might not be pretty under Sean McDermott. But it's tried and true. Buffalo has scored just 66 points through three games, yet is 3-0 on the strength of its defense and Josh Allen's playmaking. The former sealed the Bills' home opener Sunday as
2. The unconventional Allen leaned just as much on his legs as his arm while leading another fourth-quarter comeback. With the Bills trailing by three late in the fourth, he completed a pair of short passes and scrambled for 21 yards, setting up a 1-yard TD run for the ageless Frank Gore. That description rings just as true now as it did five years ago, as Gore found his way to 76 yards on 14 carries (5.4 yards per carry). Gore entered the league the year Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk and Curtis Martin played their final seasons. He'll join them in Canton (you know, assuming he retires one day). It's also worth noting the Bills' 175 rushing yards, which included 46 from Allen, allowed them to eat up nearly 37 minutes of the clock.
3. The 0-3 Bengals aren't trying to lose. They're just bad at winning. Cincy's run game finally got out of first gear, but its offense was basically non-existent for two-and-a-half quarters. The Bengals' first TD, a 1-yard run by Dalton, was gifted to them by a Darius Phillips interception at the Bills' 22. They had five first downs until that point and had punted or turned the ball over on their first nine possessions. Perhaps Cincinnati figured something out over the final 20 minutes. Dalton repeatedly connected with Tyler Boyd -- Auden Tate was the only receiver he seemed to be on the same page with earlier -- and Joe Mixon broke free for a pair of long runs and a long completion, as Cincy strung together three consecutive scoring drives. It was too little, too late. But the Bengals' next two weeks (at Steelers, vs. Cardinals) might be a bit easier than their past three.
-- Adam Maya
Green Bay Packers 27, Denver Broncos 16
1. Not sure how the Packers defense will divvy up game ball honors, but the entire group deserves praise for its effort against the Broncos. From the onset, Mike Pettine's unit came to play, holding Joe Flacco and Co. to minus-4 yards on a quick three-and-out to start the day. Linebacker Preston Smith secured his first of two sacks on the drive. The group would surrender a touchdown on Denver's next drive but showed incredible resolve to prevent another on the following sequence. On third-and-goal, with the Broncos within striking range from the GB 2, linebacker
2. It's only his second year, but it's safe to say that Phillip Lindsay hasn't quite looked like himself to start 2019 (24 carries, 79 yards, 0 TDs). Against the Packers, Lindsay made up for his quiet start with a promising showing in Week 3. The first two weeks saw Lindsay split carries nearly down the middle with Royce Freeman but that wouldn't be the case at Lambeau. Lindsay's 21 carries to Freeman's 15 afforded him the chance to score two touchdowns, his first scores of the season, and accumulate 81 yards. He also tallied four receptions for 49 yards, the second-most behind Courtland Sutton (five catches, 87 yards). A bounce-back game for one of the league's most promising young talents.
3. Has anyone seen the Broncos pass rush? Bradley Chubb and Von Miller have all the skill in the world to be the league's best defensive tandem, but neither has produced a sack through three games. Heck, no one along the Broncos' defensive line has brought a QB down thus far. Add in the lack of pressure with the lack of takeaways by the defense overall (zero forced fumbles, zero interceptions) and the Broncos look like a group of ponies out there. Yes, Aaron Rodgers was forced to make a number of throws on the move and completed just 17 of his 29 attempts for 235 yards and a TD but he made the most of his windows; his connection with receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (six catches, 99 yards), particularly, on a 40-yard TD bomb on the opening drive, proved deadly in the long run. Denver has now lost five straight in Green Bay and fall to 0-3 for the first time since 1999.
-- Jelani Scott
New Orleans Saints 33, Seattle Seahawks 27
1. The Saints (2-1) aren't done. Playing just their fourth game since 2006 without Drew Brees, they marched into Seattle and showed why they're still an NFC contender. New Orleans led by as many as 20 (and by double digits until the final play), in part because of a pair of return touchdowns in the first half. Deonte Harris spotted his interim QB a 7-0 cushion three minutes in when he sliced right through the punt coverage team for a 53-yard score. In the second quarter, Vonn Bell scooped up a Chris Carson fumble and took it back 33 yards for another score. That enabled New Orleans to operate conservatively on offense.
2. Teddy Bridgewater, making only his second start since 2015, played smart more than anything. The veteran got the ball out quickly and accurately (19 of 27, two TDs, no INTs) while throwing for only 177 yards. He also converted a third down through the air on each of his three scoring drives, and he hit Michael Thomas on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to put the Saints up 27-7 in the third quarter. Bridgewater's best friends on this day were Alvin Kamara (69 yards rushing, 92 yards receiving, 2 TDs) and an offensive line that didn't allow a sack. New Orleans was efficient enough that it didn't even need to call upon so-called Steve Young clone Taysom Hill (one carry, five yards).
3. When Pete Carroll called it an unusual game afterward, he wasn't kidding. The Seahawks coach was struck by a football in pregame and needs stitches. He then saw his team waste an all-world effort from its QB. Russell Wilson threw for 406 yards and run for 51 more, producing four touchdowns in the process. In fact, the Seahawks had nearly twice as many yards (515-265) but somehow just seven points to show for it through three quarters. The running game sans Wilson continued to be a concern, as Chris Carson tallied just 53 yards and C.J. Prosise had 5. Missing from the equation was Rashaad Penny, who was inactive after suffering a hamstring injury in practice. Seattle (2-1) came into the season seeking more balance on offense after being so run-heavy at times last year. Now the ground attack is being grounded.
-- Adam Maya
Rams 20, Factory of Sadness 13
1. The Browns continue to come up with new and interesting ways to lose. The clock management and playing calling at the end of the game left a lot to be desired. Mayfield's got a bad case of happy feet that seemed to make him abandon a clean pocket on multiple occasions and actually run closer to Aaron Donald. His success when using this unique technique helped paved the way for the Browns loss.
2. Rams talent is masking problems. The Rams running game will pull off a decent tease about every 8th run but most of the time it is stuck in neutral and doesn't seem to be able to figure out the problem. Add in Goff's talent for throwing amazingly pretty footballs to members of the opposite team and the Rams still have some things to clean up over the next few months.
3. Both coaches seem to struggle with game management. Too many coaches over think the play calling and can't seem to make basic decisions when the game gets stressful and they either go all in aggressive or all in conservative and can't adjust on a play by play basis. The NFL needs to start having coaching clinics so that the head coaches can figure out what they are supposed to be doing on the field instead of looking like they've never contemplated these situations in their lives.
When Antonio Brown learned that he played a week in New England for free, he took to his twitter account to air his grievances. In doing so, he lobbed a grenade towards Robert Kraft and said he's done with the NFL.
Comparing Kraft who got a consensual handjob to his situation where he is accused of rape, indecent exposure, and being a general asshole, is ludicrous. I truly hope that AB is all done from playing football. He must have the worst case of CTE ever. When FSU takes a pass on you, you know you've done something wrong.
I was initially excited for the Patriots signing this guy, until the rape allegations came out. There is no place in football for guys like him.
This thread isn't about any particular games, just comment on whatever comes to mind about any NFL game you happen to be watching.