If you like upsets, shocking finishes and record-breaking performances, then NFL Week 4 was your cup of tea.
Starting with a competitive early game featuring two bad teams and ending with a blowout on Sunday night, there was a whole lot of football going on this weekend.
The Buffalo Bills shocked the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium, earning a spot in the winner’s column. The Kansas City Chiefs forgot to show up at Heinz Field against the Pittsburgh Steelers, earning a losing grade.
We took a look at both of those games, along with the rest of your NFL Week 4 winners and losers.
Winner: Bills trample Patriots in shutout victory
In one of the most stunning outcomes of the early 2016 season, Buffalo shut out New England at Gillette Stadium, winning 16-0. Let’s be honest. Besides Rex Ryan and perhaps a few of his staunchest acolytes, nobody saw this coming.
Buffalo’s defense, which has been up and down this season, was dominant in this game — an obvious statement considering the shutout but worth mentioning nevertheless.
The Bills held New England to just 90 yards on the ground, and rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett was harassed all game long. The Patriots coughed up five fumbles, losing three.
Rob Gronkowski was practically non-existent in this one, catching one pass for 11 yards.
Meanwhile, Buffalo’s offense put forth a well-balanced attack. Tyrod Taylor didn’t turn the ball over, completing 27-of-39 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown to LeSean McCoy, who totaled 108 yards on the game.
This is now two huge victories in a row against top NFL teams. Buffalo took Arizona behind the woodshed last weekend before taking the Patriots to task Sunday.
Granted, New England is not at full strength. But this was a big-time win for Ryan’s Bills, who are suddenly relevant again at 2-2 on the season.
Loser: Indy wasting prime of Andrew Luck’s career
It’s no secret that the 1-3 Colts are struggling this year, despite Luck doing everything he can to keep the team alive.
During Sunday morning’s game in London, the former No. 1 overall pick ended up turning the ball over early in the first quarter — a play that led to seven points for the Jacksonville Jaguars (watch here).
It was his only turnover in the game, and it was not his fault. Dante Fowler Jr. got to Luck so quickly that he had no time to get rid of the ball. And it would have been an incomplete pass if not for the fact that Yannick Ngakoue was also in the backfield after beating his man.
This wasn’t even counted among the six sacks that Luck endured in the game. He was hit an astonishing 13 times. These numbers are all the more remarkable when you consider Jacksonville had previously tallied just six sacks in its first three games.
Since entering the NFL in 2012, Luck has been playing behind one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines, year in and year out. Indianapolis’ defense has also been atrocious except for a season of competence in 2014.
Yes, injuries have played a part in Indy’s decline on both fronts this year. But the sad truth is that general manager Ryan Grigson has failed to provide Luck with the foundation of talent on both sides of the ball that any quarterback needs to find consistent success.
It’s not coincidental that Grigson arrived on the scene in Indy the same year Luck was drafted. The roster has gotten continually weaker, and it’s falling apart at the seams right now.
Before the foundation truly began to crumble, Luck had improved every year and had led his team deeper and deeper into the playoffs from 2012-14.
At this point, we’re hoping buyer’s remorse has set in for owner Jim Irsay. He should have gotten rid of Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano when he had the chance this past offseason. Instead, he gave them both lucrative extensions.
Winner: Falcons soar, declaw struggling Panthers
Derek Anderson’s fourth-quarter exploits aside, the Carolina Panthers were humiliated by their NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons. The final score read 48-33, but the blowout felt much more lopsided than that.
Things got so bad at one point that Freddie Falcon threw some shade with a faux kittens-for-sale stand (see that here).
Before getting knocked out of the game with a concussion, Cam Newton struggled to get anything going. He finished with just 165 yards on 14-of-25 passing with a touchdown. Carolina couldn’t run the ball against Atlanta’s defense, which held the Panthers to 49 yards on the ground.
Conversely, the Falcons almost couldn’t miss on offense.
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones were like twins who share a telepathic link, connecting 12 times for 300 yards — the sixth-highest single-game total in NFL history — and a touchdown.
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) October 2, 2016
Ryan was dealing to other receivers as well. He finished with a Falcons franchise record 503 yards on 28-of-37 passing with four touchdowns and one interception.
It was a history-making performance by Ryan and Jones.
This is the first time in the Super Bowl era that a QB had 500 pass yards (Ryan: 503) and a WR (Jones) had 300 rec yards in the same game https://t.co/R8PAWwN6mM
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) October 2, 2016
Carolina’s defense, which is used to getting its way and dominating opponents, was helpless to stop the Falcons in this game.
It’s now the second time in a row between these teams in which Atlanta has taken down Carolina. Remember, this is the team that kept the Panthers from going undefeated in 2015.
Loser: Ryan Fitzpatrick has officially lost his magic
Fitzpatrick threw an unconscionable six interceptions last week against the Kansas City Chiefs. He threw three more in a losing cause at home Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.
All three came in the second half of the game, leading to 10 points for the Seahawks — the exact difference in the contest.
Before the game, Todd Bowles expressed confidence in his quarterback. He said he would not be looking to make a change unless Fitzpatrick had another horrible performance (more on that here).
Fitzpatrick now has thrown just four touchdowns compared to 10 interceptions. After the game, Brandon Marshall, who hauled in the only touchdown thrown by the struggling quarterback, expressed dismay about the team’s struggles on offense.
#NYJ Brandon Marshall said he is "shocked" by O struggles. "It's disappointing but that's just the story of life. It's never easy."
— Kim Jones (@KimJonesSports) October 2, 2016
We’re just spitballing here, but the struggles might have something to do with Fitzpatrick missing the entire offseason program.
It seems safe to say at this point that the Jets, now 1-3, have nothing to lose by seeing what Geno Smith has to offer.
Winner: Derek Carr and Michael Crabtree unstoppable in crunch time
The Oakland Raiders have lived up to their hype so far this season, starting with a 3-1 record after taking down the Baltimore Ravens on the road.
The Ravens gave the Raiders all they could handle in this one, going up by six points late in the fourth quarter after trailing the entire game. But like they had done all game long, Carr and Crabtree connected on a touchdown to win it, 28-27, on their third scoring combo of the game (watch here).
Two of the three touchdowns came in the fourth quarter, as Crabtree became Carr’s go-to guy with the game on the line.
It’s worth mentioning that Oakland’s defense had a big impact on this game after some questionable efforts early in the season. Khalil Mack finally forced his first sack of the season, the Raiders finished with two sacks and six hits on Joe Flacco.
Road wins like this one against quality teams with veteran leadership are invaluable to an up-and-coming team like the Raiders.
Crabtree and Carr developed excellent chemistry last year, combining on nine touchdowns (tying a career high for Crabtree). Now they have connected on four touchdowns in four games this year.
We can’t wait to see what they will do next.
Loser: Matthew Stafford and Detroit’s inept offense
On paper, the Detroit Lions are better than the Chicago Bears. But that’s why they play the games, as the old adage goes.
Stafford threw two key interceptions, both of which likely cost his team points in a game that was won by three points. Both occurred right outside the red zone, meaning the Lions were denied two chances to at least attempt field goals.
The first interception was likely the fault of receiver Golden Tate, who ran a vertical route instead of an out route. Bears cornerback Jacoby Glenn was watching Stafford’s eyes the entire way, and he pounced on the pass for an interception right before the half.
Stafford’s second was thrown into traffic and intercepted by Deiondre’ Hall. He was trying to get the ball to tight end Eric Ebron, but the throw was well off target. This one was all Stafford’s fault. It was quite simply a bad throw and the second disturbing error by Detroit’s offense.
Playing poorly on the road is an unfortunate Stafford trademark. He finished with 213 yards on 23-of-36 passing with no touchdowns and the two costly interceptions.
Meanwhile, Brian Hoyer reversed those critical numbers with two touchdown strikes and no interceptions in a winning cause.
Winner: Dak Prescott remains flawless in road victory over San Francisco
No Dez Bryant. No Tyron Smith. No La’el Collins. No problem for Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys’ 24-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The rookie quarterback continues to play like a seasoned veteran. On the road, playing without some key components, Prescott shined. He tallied 245 yards on 23-of-32 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Through four games, the Mississippi State product has completed 89-of-131 passes (67.9 percent) for 1,012 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. Prescott has added two rushing scores.
The most impressive thing about what Prescott is doing is that he has barely been rattled in four games. He has full command of Dallas’ offense and is almost always always cool under pressure.
As a side note, fellow rookie, running back Ezekiel Elliott, put together his second straight 130-plus-yard rushing performance and now has three rushing scores on the season.
Dallas reportedly expects Tony Romo to return to action in Week 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles following the bye (more on that here). But until then, the Cowboys continue to be in good hands with Prescott.
Loser: Chargers need new batteries after another fourth-quarter failure
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 3, 2016
The New Orleans Saints had no business winning on the road in San Diego Sunday afternoon. The Chargers had full control of the game, leading by the score of 34-21 with less than seven minutes left on the clock.
At this point in the game, most teams’ fans would be gearing up for a victory dance and after party. Not so for Chargers fans, who are used to watching their team screw up at the worst possible time. Heading into Week 4, San Diego had already lost two games this way, and it’s been an issue ever since Mike McCoy took over for Norv Turner in 2013.
With that in mind, it’s not shocking that the Chargers had no juice to close out the Saints.
Melvin Gordon fumbled the ball away, giving the Saints a chance to pull to within one score. They obliged.
On the next possession following New Orleans’ score, it was Travis Benjamin’s turn to develop a case of late-game butterfingers. His fumble gave the Saints a chance to pull ahead with a touchdown. They obliged.
And then, with one final chance to come from behind, it was Philip Rivers’ turn to send Chargers fans into a deep depression. On cue, he threw an interception on San Diego’s final offensive possession, throwing away any hope the Chargers had of winning in the process.
"You try to laugh to keep from crying." – Philip Rivers
— Ricky Henne (@RickyHenne) October 3, 2016
It was a comedy of errors that has become all to common for fans of the franchise. Suddenly, instead of looking at a respectable 2-2 record at the quarter mark of the season, San Diego is 1-3, with its only win coming against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
Winner: Von Miller and Co. put Jameis Winston through the meat grinder
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had no chance in this one. Despite playing in front of their home crowd. Despite taking out quarterback Trevor Siemian. Tampa Bay was doomed from the start.
The reason for this is that Denver’s “No Fly Zone” secondary was in full effect. And the front seven was on Winston like a puppy when confronted with a peanut butter-filled chew toy.
Von Miller and his mates up front absolutely wrecked the Bucs’ offensive line, sacking Winston five times for 36 yards and hitting him 16 times. In particular, defensive end Derek Wolfe was unstoppable. He came up with 2.5 of the team’s sacks and finished with five quarterback hits.
Winston finished with 179 yards on 17-of-35 passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions, both of which were hauled in by Aqib Talib. The second-year quarterback did manage to score once on the ground — the only points mustered by Tampa Bay against Denver’s defense on this day.
The Broncos are now the only undefeated team in the AFC. And just like last year, the team’s success stems from the incredible defensive efforts we see on a weekly basis.
Next in line to receive the meat-grinder treatment are the red-hot Falcons. That game should be loads of fun to watch.
Loser: Chiefs come out flat on Sunday night
The Pittsburgh Steelers deserve plenty of credit for playing an excellent game on Sunday Night Football, but the shocking 43-14 outcome was more about the Kansas City Chiefs just not showing up than anything else.
Nothing worked for Andy Reid’s squad.
Whether by air or on the ground, Pittsburgh was able to move the ball almost at will against Kansas City’s defense. By halftime, Ben Roethlisberger had thrown four touchdown passes to three different receivers (no wonder Antonio Brown was in a celebratory mood).
Le’Veon Bell finished with 178 total yards, and he owned the second half when Pittsburgh practically abandoned the passing game to kill clock.
On the other side, while Alex Smith tried his hardest to keep his offense going in a positive direction, the rest of the offense didn’t get the memo that there was a big game on Sunday night.
Smith was sacked four times and hit six times. Kansas City also couldn’t run the ball for anything until a late 46-yard run by Spencer Ware, finishing with 87 rushing yards.
Drops were a huge problem, and it seemed like Chiefs receivers were incapable of hanging onto the ball.
How many drops and semi-drops do the Chiefs have tonight? Fifty-seven?
— scott pianowski (@scott_pianowski) October 3, 2016
In weeks past, the Chiefs had been able to overcome slow starts to finish strong. Not only did they not show up in the first half, but this team barely woke up at all.
It was a disheartening performance from a team many picked as a dark-horse to win the AFC West before the season began.