Much like the one that preceded it, NFL Week 4 was a thoroughly baffling week of football. Individual performances, as well as those put forth by teams, left those of us watching completely confused.
Logic told us that, at least, the Atlanta Falcons would put up big offensive numbers at home against the Buffalo Bills. It did not happen that way. At the beginning of the year, one would have been hard pressed to find a person who would predict that the Los Angeles Rams would go on the road and emerge victorious in a high-scoring game against the Dallas Cowboys. But that’s exactly what we saw in NFL Week 4.
The Oakland Raiders, considered to have one of football’s best offenses, struggled to get on track for a second straight week. Meanwhile, the Houston Texans matched three weeks of production in one game.
The NFL season is one-quarter of the way in the books. These were the strangest, oddest, most ridiculous developments that we saw from NFL Week 4.
Explosive Falcons offense fizzles in Atlanta
Whether at the Georgia Dome last year or the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2017, Atlanta has been explosive at home over the last two seasons. Including the playoffs, the Falcons have averaged 36 points a game since the start of the 2016 season. The three road teams that have won in Atlanta during that stretch averaged 31 points a game. On Sunday, Buffalo scored only 23. So, it was an easy win for the Falcons, right?
Not at all. The Falcons were hindered by injuries to both Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. But they still gained 391 yards and out-gained the Bills by 110. Unfortunately for Atlanta, Matt Ryan committed three turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble) and put up only 17 points. Ryan now has five interceptions in the last two weeks for a team that, while 3-1, is a little less daunting than we thought it would be.
Texans absolutely drub Titans
Entering Week 4, one of the more intriguing games involved the Tennessee Titans going on the road to take on their division rivals, the Texans. A close game was expected. A close game was not what we got.
Deshaun Watson passed for 258 yards, threw four touchdowns and ran for another — something only one other rookie has ever done — in this absolute laugher. Houston blew the doors off of Tennessee, scoring a team record 57 points in the process. How surprising was this output? Consider that in their first three games, the Texans scored 53 total points.
A win from Houston wouldn’t have truly surprised many, even those of us who picked the Titans. But the Texans putting up a team record and more than doubling their season output in points? Good luck finding someone who called that.
Saints win a different kind of game in London
Sunday marked the New Orleans Saints’ 23rd win since they last made the playoffs in 2013. In the previous 22 wins, New Orleans averaged roughly 34 points a game, with Drew Brees averaging about 325 yards. Sunday was much different, with the Saints scoring only 20 points and Brees going for a fairly modest 268. The New Orleans defense also pitched its first shutout since 2012.
Now, does this mean that the Saints are maybe better than we thought? Other results from Sunday suggest that that’s at least possible. But keep in mind that in Week 3, the Miami Dolphins’ only points came on the very last play of a game that was already decided. In Week 4, Miami couldn’t even manage that. With Jay Cutler under center (or doing his darnedest to fail as a Wildcat receiver), the Dolphins look to be in a lot of trouble.
Bills’ great effort in Atlanta
Certainly, the effort of the Falcons left much to be desired. With that said, the Bills deserve ample credit for the win. Tyrod Taylor wasn’t great, throwing for only 182 yards and adding only 12 on the ground. With 20 carries for 76 yards, LeSean McCoy has certainly had better games, as well.
But both men did enough to apply pressure to an Atlanta team that was struggling. In general, the offense did enough to put the game in the hands of a defense that through four games has been quite solid. We don’t know what the rest of this season will bring for Buffalo. We do know that right now, that the Bills are 3-1. They’re lone loss came against another 3-1 team, and it was nearly a win.
One-quarter of the way into the season, Buffalo sits in first place in the AFC East. More pressing, while the end of the year could still bring dramatically different results, it doesn’t feel like a fluke.
Bears steadfastly stick with Mike Glennon during blowout loss
The week got started when Green Bay Packers blew out the Chicago Bears on Thursday. That surprised few people. Glennon struggled throughout that game. That surprised few people. The ridiculous development came when Chicago stayed with Glennon for all four quarters — even during garbage time.
There are holes in the argument. Still, we’d understand if the Bears just wanted to keep Mitchell Trubisky on the bench. But then reports emerged that Trubisky will start over Glennon in Week 5. So, why couldn’t Trubisky get a Week 4 cameo? Glennon lost not one, but two fumbles. He could have been pulled then. He also could have been yanked after one of his two interceptions. Glennon was so bad on Thursday that he was getting trolled by a candy bar.
Heck, Chicago was just running he ball at the end of the game anyway. Trubisky certainly could have handed it off as well as Glennon. If the Bears were prepared to roll Trubisky out in Week 5, then he should have come in at some point in Week 4. It was baffling when it happened and more baffling now.
Jets move to 2-2
In a way, the New York Jets’ Week 3 win doesn’t look as impressive anymore. As we already detailed, the Dolphins aren’t exactly overwhelming. But be that as it may, the Jets really validated it on Sunday with an overtime win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While the game went to overtime, New York dominated in some ways. The Jets owned the Jags in the total yardage battle (471-311) and if it weren’t for a defensive touchdown from Myles Jack, probably would have won the game in regulation and won it convincingly.
Miami looks bad and Jacksonville has certainly been inconsistent. But it’s also fair to say that four weeks in, the Jets have been much better than expected.
Raiders offense limps through another one
Ordinarily, we wouldn’t be too surprised about a poor offensive effort against the Denver Broncos. Denver is always a tough place to play and the Broncos have a strong defense, especially at home. But this was Oakland’s second straight poor offensive effort. That just can’t be ignored.
In 2016, the Raiders averaged 26 points and better than 373 yards per game. Over the last two games combined, Oakland has scored 20 points and amassed 382 yards of total offense. Throw all of that in with an injury to Derek Carr and there’s definitely a problem. It may not be time for the Raiders to press the panic button. But they should think about keeping their hands near it.
Cam Newton shows 2015 form, Panthers win in Foxborough
After a completely unimpressive 2-0 start, the Carolina Panthers crashed hard in Week 3 and failed to generate any meaningful offense against the Saints. A Week 4 road game against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots was supposed to bring the 2-1 Panthers completely back to earth. Of course, things don’t always work out as they’re supposed to.
Carolina, a team that had scored only 45 points in three weeks, put up 33 on the Patriots. Cam Newton overcame an early mistake, completing 22-of-29 passes for 316 yards with three touchdowns. He added 44 yards and another score on the ground. Then, after Brady had worked his magic to turn a 30-16 fourth quarter deficit into a tie, Newton responded and led Carolina on a 10-play, 46 yard drive to win it.
As is always the case, we’re going to have to wait to see if this was just a one-week thing, or if it’s something to get optimistic about. But Newton genuinely looked as good as he has since the Panthers’ NFC Championship Game rout nearly two years ago.
Giants continue to find ways to lose
The good news for the New York Giants is that Weeks 3 and 4 have been better than Weeks 1 and 2. The bad news is that we’re only talking about moral victories. Improved or not, New York sits at 0-4.
A week ago, it was a poor final possession and a bad punt that helped get the Philadelphia Eagles in position to make a game-winning 61-yard field goal. This week, the Giants fought back from an early 13-0 deficit, took a lead late in the fourth quarter and put the game in the hands of their defense — the strength of the team. That defense allowed Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to drive 59 yards in nine plays to set Nick Folk up for a game-winning 34-yard kick.
Point out the flaws of Ben McAdoo, Eli Manning, and the offense all you want. But that offense handed a late lead to what we were told was a championship defense. Right now, New York’s worst team wears blue. Who would have predicted that four weeks ago?
Rams offense keeps dominating
While the Dallas offense kept it close, its defense had absolutely no answer for the Rams offense on Sunday. Jared Goff threw for 255 yards with two touchdowns. Todd Gurley was a man possessed, going for 101 yards on 23 carries and adding seven receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown. Again, the Dallas offense brought a good game, scoring 30 points and picking up 440 yards. The Rams were just a touch better.
If you’re trying to figure out why this is surprising, consider this. Aside from coach Sean McVay, the names and faces of the Los Angeles offense are fairly similar to what they were a year ago. In 2016, the Rams scored 224 total points. Through only four games of 2017, they’re more than halfway to that total with 142. If the Seattle Seahawks are planning on marching into the Los Angeles Coliseum and defeating the Rams in Week 5, they’d better bring a darn good game plan. This Los Angeles team has been about as impressive as any in the league through four weeks.
Jaguars continue to baffle
Jacksonville has been, without a doubt, the most puzzling team of the first quarter of the 2017 season. Week 4 was a perfect chance for the Jags to step up and at least, show that they’re a team that can handle some of the NFL’s worst. Instead, they followed up a blowout win over the typically strong Ravens with an overtime loss to the typically weak Jets.
Against Baltimore, we couldn’t even find a way to deliver backhanded compliments towards Blake Bortles. He was too good. Against the New York, he was 15-for-35 for 140 yards with a touchdown and a pick. We can compliment the defense, which notched five sacks and laid seven hits on quarterback Josh McCown. But the same defense allowed 75 yards on one run, 69 on another, and in total surrendered 256 yards rushing on 32 attempts.
Every positive came with a corresponding negative. That was the theme of Sunday’s loss, it’s been the theme of the season, and we’re not expecting that to change any time soon. Get ready for more confusion watching this team.
Chiefs continue to flex offensive muscle in Monday night win
While the Kansas City Chiefs defeating the Washington Redskins on Monday night wasn’t surprising, it contributed to one of the more surprising stories of the first four weeks.
The Redskins actually did a decent job against the Chiefs. Kansas City did score a touchdown on the game’s final play as Washington was trying to lateral. But until that point, the Chiefs had their lowest point total of the season. Still, when the game was on the line, Kansas City relied on the big play, something it couldn’t hit at all a season ago. Standing on his own 25 with the game tied and less than a minute to go. Alex Smith completed three passes for 51 yards to set Harrison Butker up for the game-winning kick.
The Chiefs being 4-0 wasn’t predictable. Still, in and of itself, we’re not overwhelmed by that surprise.
But a year ago, this was a 12-4 team that could rarely make the big offensive play when needed. If Kansas City couldn’t stay on schedule with four and five yard plays, it didn’t score. Now, the Chiefs are team that can make the big plays and frankly, it doesn’t even feel that bizarre. It’s been a radical change that we’ve seen over these first four weeks and perhaps was most prominent in the final seconds of Monday’s game.
Steelers snap losing skid in Baltimore
In recent years, Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium has been something of a house of horrors for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They entered Sunday with a four-game losing streak at the home of the Baltimore Ravens, averaging only 14 points per game in that stretch. In Week 4, Pittsburgh not only broke that streak, but put up 26 points to do it, nearly doubling the average point total of the previous four games.
Ultimately, the Steelers’ offense was guided by Le’Veon Bell. He rushed 35 times for 144 yards and added four receptions for 42. A week ago, he totaled only 21 touches in an overtime loss to the Bears. As a sideline outburst from Antonio Brown will attest, things weren’t always smooth on Sunday. Still, Pittsburgh righted the ship and did so with a lopsided win in a tough venue.
Cowboys can’t get out of their own way in home loss
So much of what made Dallas great a season ago has gone the way of the dinosaur over the first four weeks of 2017. Week 4 was a solid microcosm of that.
Dak Prescott, who threw only four interceptions a season ago, threw his third in four games on Sunday. This one essentially handed the Rams three points. The team’s first turnover of the game came when Ryan Switzer couldn’t handle a punt and fumbled inside of his own red zone. Los Angeles, which was trailing 17-6 at the time, took advantage of the short field to score a touchdown and get back in the game.
This was a game that Dallas led by 11 points twice (17-6 and 24-13). With all due respect to Los Angeles, a good team should never lose those games, especially at home. At 2-2, things could be worse for the Cowboys. With nine of 12 games remaining against teams that are at least 2-2, we might find out just how bad things can get if the problems in Dallas aren’t solved quickly.
Strange case of Andy Dalton
Two weeks into this season, the Cincinnati Bengals offense was a disaster. The team hadn’t scored a touchdown, leading to the firing of offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. With four interceptions, no touchdown passes and a 47.2 passer rating, it didn’t seem like Dalton was that far behind him. Then, he put up good numbers in a Week 3 loss in Green Bay. In Week 4, he exploded, going 25-for-30 with four touchdowns and no interceptions in a win over the Cleveland Browns. Between Weeks 3 and 4, Dalton has posted a 138.2 rating.
This isn’t simply a matter of him getting a little better in the red zone, either. This is a transformation that can’t be logically explained. Dalton threw 15 incomplete passes in each of his first two games this season. Over the last two, he’s thrown a combined 11. Week 5 against the Bills promises to be a big test. But heading into the game, Dalton couldn’t be in a more different position than he was only two weeks ago.
Patriots struggle in another home loss
If you’re a Patriots fan looking to be optimistic, remember that only three years ago, your team started 2-2, finished 12-4, and won the Super Bowl. If you’re a New England fan looking for reasons to be optimistic based on what you saw on Sunday and what you’ve seen this season, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Sure, the fourth quarter was a reminder to anyone who needed it that Brady can never be counted out of a game. But he was hit seven times and sacked three. On the season, he’s been hit 27 times and sacked 13. No quarterback can absorb that for 16 games, especially not a 40-year-old. Defensively, New England has been gashed, allowing 32 points a game. While 2-2 isn’t a disastrous start, it’s important to remember that the Pats are only 2-2 (with three of four games at home, to boot) because of an otherworldly game winning touchdown pass from Brady in Week 3.
Since 2001, Brady, Belichick, and the Patriots have proven a lot of people wrong. If you’re hesitant to worry much about New England because of that, we get it. Just understand that if you’re looking for reasons to be positive, you’re really only looking at the past. The present is showing that the Patriots have a lot of work to do.