Top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 4 NFL action

Week 4 of the NFL season was highlighted by upsets on top of upsets. From the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons losing at home to the New England Patriots dropping their second home game of the season, there’s definitely a lot we can take away from that perspective.

Individually, Cam Newton proved naysayers wrong with a tremendous performance against the aforementioned Patriots. Meanwhile, star Vikings running back Dalvin Cook suffered a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. These are among the top takeaways from Sunday’s Week 4 NFL action.

Dolphins offense is an unbridled mess 

Miami Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler

Six points in the last eight quarters of action. Almost shut out two consecutive games against the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints. Shut out in London Sunday evening against a Saints defense that ranked in the bottom two of the NFL in points allowed the past two seasons and was 29th in that category this season heading into Week 4. It’s bad. Really bad.

And in reality, it starts with Jay Cutler under center. He put up zero touchdowns and a red-zone interception during a 20-0 loss to the Saints on Sunday. It’s a game that saw Cutler display questionable effort in a horrendous overall performance for the Dolphins as a team. Now 1-2 on the season, one has to wonder whether signing Cutler simply due to his familiarity with Adam Gase’s system made sense.

Texans offense looks entirely different with Deshaun Watson

Despite throwing a red-zone interception at the end of the second quarter, Houston dropped 30 first half points on the Tennessee Titans in what ultimately became an impressive 57-14 win in this huge AFC South matchup. This comes on the heels of the Texans playing it close against the defending champion Patriots on the road last week.

Primarily, it’s the presence of Watson under center that’s made all the difference here. Watson completed 25-of-34 passes for 283 yards with five total scores in Houston’s absurd 57-point turnout. It was a performance no other rookie besides Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton has ever matched.

More so than moving to 2-2 on the season, this latest performance tells us that Houston is in good hands with this rookie quarterback tossing the rock. Realistically, the only thing this team was missing before Watson replaced Tom Savage under center was a dynamic quarterback. Surely, the first-year signal caller brings that to the table. He showed this and a whole lot more on Sunday.

Statement win for the Rams 

The Los Angeles Rams headed into Week 4 with the NFL’s best scoring offense at 35 points per game. They responded on the road against the Cowboys by putting up exactly 35 points in a surprising five-point win. It came in the form of two touchdown passes from Jared Goff and a whopping seven field goals from Greg Zuerlein.

Down 24-16 at the half, Los Angeles put the Cowboys and the rest of the NFC on notice in the second half. They outscored the home team, 19-6, down the stretch en route to winning for the third time in four games to start Sean McVay’s tenure as the Rams’ head coach. Not unlike the previous three games, it was Todd Gurley who showed himself to be a dominating figure. The running back put up 215 total yards and a score in another tremendous performance. Now, heading into Week 5, Los Angeles finds itself in first place in the NFC West with a 3-1 mark. Whew.

Browns remain NFL’s worst

Cleveland had hopes of notching just its second win since December of 2015 on Sunday. It was hosting a winless Cincinnati Bengals squad that seemed to be mired in disaster itself. Instead, the Browns laid a complete egg in a less-than-full FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.

Rookie DeShone Kizer completed 16-of-34 passes for 118 yards with an interception before being benched in favor of Kevin Hogan. Isaiah Crowell put up just 20 yards on seven attempts. Meanwhile, Cleveland’s defense yielded four touchdown passes to a quarterback in Andy Dalton who had thrown two touchdowns compared to four interceptions heading into Sunday’s action. The end result was a blowout 31-7 loss to bring Cleveland’s record to 1-22 in its past 23 outings. Yuck.

Philip Rivers at a breaking point 

We already knew Rivers wasn’t too keen on the idea of relocating from San Diego to Los Angeles. Now, after his team’s 0-4 start, it’s readily apparent that Rivers is at a breaking point.

It started in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia, when Rivers threw a temper tantrum after the Chargers’ coaching staff failed to get a play call on the field in time. He then absolutely lost it on this reporter during a post-game press conference.

We simply have no idea how much longer Rivers is going to handle this situation. He’s a family man with a lot of real-life stuff going on, including a daily commute to and from San Diego. He contemplated retirement prior to signing a recent extension. And for their part, the Chargers in Los Angeles have proven to be nothing more than a complete and utter disaster.

These aren’t your parents Bills 

Tre’Davious White scooped and scored for a 52-yard touchdown on a Matt Ryan fumble to give Buffalo a surprising 14-10 second half lead against the defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons. Then, on the very next Falcons possession, Micah Hyde intercepted a Ryan pass for a second consecutive Atlanta turnover. This was just a continuation of what we saw from the surprising Bills over the course of the first three weeks of the season.

All said, Buffalo’s stingy defense would force three turnovers in overcoming another questionable effort from the team’s offense in a surprising 23-17 win. It also held Ryan to one touchdown and two interceptions, bringing the team’s four-game total of one touchdown pass allowed. All this with a rookie in White and a Rams’ castoff in the form of E.J. Gaines leading the charge. And now, the Bills head into Week 5 with a 3-1 mark, good enough for first place in the AFC East. Talk about a surprise.

Vikings suffer devastating loss

Losing to the Detroit Lions at home to start October won’t ruin the Vikings’ season. Losing star rookie Dalvin Cook to a long-term injury surely will. Unfortunately, it looks like that’s exactly what happened. The running back went down with a non-contact knee injury in Sunday’s game. It’s an injury that’s so severe, Cook was seen as an emotional wreck on the sideline.

Following the game, Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer confirmed that the team was fearful Cook suffered a torn ACL. It’s most definitely not a surprise considering the scene in Minnesota on Sunday. But it does hands the Vikings a major blow, especially with starting quarterback Sam Bradford still sidelined. Cook entered Week 4 having put up 370 total yards of offense. It’s hard to imagine the combination of Jerick McKinnon (who was also injured in the game) and Latavius Murray matching that production moving forward.

Raiders are in trouble 

It definitely doesn’t help that the Denver Broncos held court at home against Oakland on Sunday. Such was expected in a battle between two playoff-caliber teams. Though, there are larger issues at hand here. First off, Kansas City remains undefeated heading into its game Monday night. Secondly, the Raiders had to take to the field Sunday without Michael Crabtree. Finally, they exited the 16-10 loss with EJ Manuel under center after Derek Carr suffered a back injury.

We’re not too sure how serious the injury itself is. What we do know is that Oakland finds itself at 2-2 on the season and will potentially be two games out of first place in the AFC West once Week 5 comes calling. That’s a less-than-ideal scenario for a team that entered the season with playoff aspirations.

The Jags will be the Jags

This was the ultimate trap game. Following a 37-point win over Baltimore in Week 3, most figured Blake Bortles and Co. would dominate a talentless Jets team en route to a 3-1 start to the season. It definitely looked like that would be the case early on with Bortles hitting Leonard Fournette for the first score of the game, a 10-yard touchdown pass to put the Jaguars up 7-0.

But everything seemed to go wrong from there on out. Jacksonville yielded this inexcusable 75-yard touchdown run to Bilal Powell to tie the game up at seven. From there, it snowballed. The Jaguars would come from 10 points behind late in the game, primarily due to this Myles Jack scoop and score.

But in overtime, the team’s offense put up 27 yards on 11 plays, pretty much looking for the tie. It didn’t happen. An unsportsmanlike penalty on a late-game punt set New York up for what would ultimately be the game-winning field goal, sending the Jaguars to a loss in the most Jaguars way ever.

Something amiss in Dallas 

After coming on big time in the second half against Arizona last week, most figured the Cowboys would romp all over a Rams defense that yielded 39 points to San Francisco in Week 3. It looked like this would be the case early on, with Dallas putting up 24 points and 300-plus total yards of offense in the first half.

Whether it was Wade Phillips changing scheme against his old team or something completely different, the second half was a new ball game. Ezekiel Elliott couldn’t get it going on the ground. Dak Prescott struggled to find open receivers when he had time. And in the end, Dallas fell by the score of 35-30. It was a momentous second half let down in front of the team’s home crowd. Now at 2-2 on the season, Dallas is in the midst of what promises to be a surprisingly difficult battle with Philadelphia and Washington in the NFC East.

Dalton and the Bengals turning the corner?

It might have come against the hapless Browns, but Andy Dalton and Co. absolutely dominated in a 31-7 win on Sunday. This comes on the heels of a narrow overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field last week. It also tells us a story of a Bengals team that might be on the very of turning the corner.

Dalton missed on just five of 30 attempts, throwing for 286 yards and four scores in the process. Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s defense held the Browns scoreless until a garbage-time last minute touchdown from Duke Johnson. In an AFC North that seems to be mired in mediocrity, a 1-3 record doesn’t doom the Bengals. We now have to wonder whether Sunday’s win was more a product of the talentless squad in Cleveland.

Time for tanking in San Francisco 

Kyle Shanahan put it best following a frustrating 18-15 overtime loss to Arizona on Sunday, saying “You have to throw and catch better, it’s as simple as that.”

The team simply has not executed well enough to win games this season. On Sunday, it was all about Brian Hoyer and the passing game struggling. He continued to show a lack of accuracy. And when Hoyer did put it on the spot, the receivers couldn’t come up with the catch.

A week after putting up 39 points in a narrow loss to the Rams, Hoyer led San Franciso’s offense to just five field goals. In the process, he completed 24-of-39 passes for just 234 yards. Also of note, the 49ers converted on just 5-of-19 third-down opportunities. And now at 0-4 on the season, there’s very little reason to believe this team shouldn’t tank for a high pick in next year’s draft.

Being competitive is one thing. Actually winning games is a completely different thing. Up to this early point in Shanahan’s tenure, the 49ers have yet to prove they can win.

Ravens offense is a mess

Fresh off a blowout 44-7 loss to Jacksonville last week, the Ravens’ offense was back up to its old tricks against Pittsburgh on Sunday. The team put up nine total points in a 26-9 home loss to the Steelers, dropping their record to 2-2 after winning its first two games of the season.

The struggling Joe Flacco threw two more interceptions after being benched in Week 3. He also averaged just 4.8 yards per attempt and was sacked four times in a brutal all-around performance. Meanwhile, Baltimore missed Pro Bowl defensive tackle Brandon Williams in a game that saw the team yield 144 yards and two scores to Le’Veon Bell. Even in an AFC North that doesn’t look too difficult, Baltimore’s performance over the past two weeks has been downright disgusting. That’s a problem.

Cam Newton and Co. answer critics

After throwing two touchdowns compared to four interceptions in his first three games, questions came up regarding whether the former MVP was breaking down physically. Like clockwork, it started out bad for Newton at Gillette Stadium against the defending champion Patriots. Newton threw into double coverage, a pass that was picked off by Malcolm Butler. It was a horrible decision and an equally horrible pass.

Showing himself to be a true leader and still not a shell of his former self, Newton would respond by leading the Panthers to a shocking 33-30 win. The dynamic quarterback would would go on to complete 22-of-29 passes for 316 yards and four total touchdowns, en route to completely outplaying Tom Brady. Now at 3-1 on the season, maybe things are looking up for Cam and Co.

Chargers remain a mess

It started dubiously for the Chargers Sunday afternoon with their new temporary digs of StubHub Center seeing empty seats covered. Obviously, that’s a sign that the team doesn’t think its attendance issues are going to get any better moving forward.

Then, on the field, Los Angeles lost its fourth game in as many tries this season. The game itself wasn’t much to write home about. Philip Rivers padded his stats with 347 yards while Chargers running backs combined for 23 yards on 12 attempts. Really, it was the same old story for Anthony Lynn’s offense. No rushing attack to speak up and a mistake-prone Rivers (lost fumble) turning it over again.

Defensively, the Chargers yielded 214 rushing yards to an Eagles offense that was without Darren Sproles. LeGarrette Blount went for 136 yards, including a 68-yarder. Meanwhile, Wendall Smallwood put up 79 total yards and a score in the Philadelphia Eagles’ 26-24 win. Needless to say, the Chargers’ first season back in Los Angeles has been an unmitigated disaster. Sunday was no different.

Seahawks brush off slow start 

Facing the possibility of a 1-3 start to the season, the Seattle Seahawks came through in the second half against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night. Down 15-10 at the half, Seattle outscored Indianapolis 36-3 in the second half in what was dominating performance following halftime.

In fact, the Seahawks out-gained their lesser counterpart 347-32 in the second half. This came following a three-game stretch to start the season in which Seattle dropped games to both Green Bay and Tennessee while winning a narrow affair at home against San Francisco. A loss would have set the Seahawks back two games in the NFC West heading into Week 5. Instead, the team now finds itself just one game behind the Rams.

Despite throwing two interceptions, Russell Wilson put up 333 total yards and scored two touchdowns. Seattle’s defense added two scores of its own after a sluggish performance against Tennessee. Sure the Seahawks still have their problems, but Sunday’s win against inferior competition could act as the start of a run moving forward on the season.

Winless in New Jersey 

It took a valiant game-winning touchdown scoring drive from Jameis Winston to do it, but the New York Giants now find themselves at 0-4 on the season. It’s the first time this organization has has found itself winless through the first quarter of the season since 2013.

After proving itself to be among the best in the game last season and through the first three weeks this season, New York’s defense struggled big time against Winston and the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay put up 434 total yards, including 323 yards through the air. A previously turnover prone Winston threw threw touchdowns compared to zero interceptions. Meanwhile, the Giants got to him for just one sack.

This is just a continuation of the Giants being unable to put it together on both sides of the ball. When the defense was performing at a high level earlier in the season, Eli Manning and Co. couldn’t do anything of substance. And now that the Giants’ offense is working, its defense has shown itself to have holes. It’s all led to a disastrous 0-4 start to the season.

Something isn’t right in New England 

The Patriots are one late-game touchdown-scoring drive from being 1-3 on the season. After narrowly defeating the Texans and rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson at home last week, New England played host to a struggling Cam Newton on Sunday. The end result was this team’s defense getting blown up for pretty much the fourth time in as many games.

Newton put up four total touchdowns. Carolina gained 28 first downs and 448 total yards of offense. And more than that, the Patriots’ defense simply looked lost. This 28-yard touchdown from Newton to Fozzy Whittaker was a prime example of that.

Sure Brady put up 300-plus yards without an interception. Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan also ate in the passing game. Even then, it was the Pats’ defense that failed the defending champs in a 33-30 home loss, its second defeat at Gillette on the season. Now is definitely the time to worry in New England.