NFL – Week 4

The Eagles faced off against the Packers in Green Bay to start Week 4, whilst the Bengals travelled to Pittsburgh to end it. Meanwhile the 49ers and the Jets had their Bye Week, and we were treated to multiple close games.

Thursday

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Philadelphia Eagles v Green Bay Packers

34-27

On a night where Green Bay outgained Philadelphia by 151 yards and ran 14 more plays than their visitors, the Packers came up a touchdown short. The hosts had an easy opportunity to score twice in the final frame, but Matt LaFluer‘s squad failed to score on either occasion, finishing the night 3-for-7 in the red zone with their last two failures the most glaring.

After Philly had gone up 34-27 in the fourth, Green Bay marched 79 yards to the Eagles’ 1-yard line with an opportunity to tie the game. They attempted passes on four consecutive plays, including two jump balls to Jimmy Graham. None were completed. When the Eagles punted the ball right back to them with just over five minutes to go, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers went marching once more, converting two third downs and reaching the 7-yard line with 66 seconds on the clock. Coming out of a prolonged stoppage after Eagles corner Avonte Maddox was carted off (has since been diagnosed with a neck sprain), the Packers finally ran Aaron Jones before Rodgers attempted a slant to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The ball however popped out of a sea of bodies and into the hands of Eagles LB Nigel Bradham, who ran the play out of the end zone and sent the hosts to their first loss of the season. Whilst they moved the ball well all evening, the best they had all season, the Green Bay offense without Davante Adams, who left in the fourth with a toe injury, saw their undefeated run come to an end.

Philadelphia’s injury-depleted receiving core had a huge boost from Alshon Jeffery‘s return, especially early on and in the red zone – he was targeted by Carson Wentz nine times and recorded three receptions, including Philly’s first score. However, the key to the Eagles’ success against what was the league’s second-best scoring defense was their running backs. Newbies Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders were featured more on TNF than they had been all season, cutting through a gap-filled Packers front line to the tune of 159 combined rushing yards. Whilst Sanders was the big-play threat on the ground and in the return game, Howard punished their hosts on the goal line, scoring three touchdowns, including one through the air on a red-zone wheel route. Fox analyst Joe Buck noted during the broadcast that the Eagles lead the league with 31 consecutive games without a 100-yard rusher – now it’s 32. Philly don’t mind, they saw two running backs go over 70 yards in the same game for the first time since Week 10 of 2016.

The visitors’ secondary found it hard without Ronald Darby (sidelined) and Sidney Jones (left with a hamstring injury) to contain Davante Adams. The Packers receiver, whose usage had been under scrutiny, was Rodgers‘ go-to on the night, especially in the first half when he nearly set a career-high in yardage (158 yards, eight catches). Adams eventually set the mark in the second half, finishing with 180 yards. Maddox and Rasul Douglas took turns being defeated by the wideout, until he left the game with that toe injury which forced him to miss Green Bay’s first blown goal-line possession and the ensuing comeback bid that ended inside the 5-yard line.

Thursday night was full of injuries. The affair opened and closed with a player from each team getting carted off after sustaining possible head or neck injuries – Packers’ Jamaal Williams, Eagles’ Avonte Maddox (both players were said to have had movement in all their extremities). Williams‘ loss dealt a blow to GB’s ability to run the ball, whilst Maddox‘s departure thrust special-teamer Craig James into the starting lineup. Also lost to injury were the aforementioned Jones, Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga and defensive backs Kevin King, Tony Brown and Will Redmond. The long-term effect of Thursday night’s triage has seen Eagles GM Howie Roseman bring back CB Orlando Scandrick, and as of Tuesday (Oct 1) they’ve traded safety Jonathan Cyprien to the Falcons for LB Duke Riley.

The victory sees Philly secure their first (impressive) win of the season.

Up Next:

Jets v Eagles – Sunday, October 6 (1pmCBS)

Packers v Cowboys – Sunday, October 6 (4:25pmFOX)

Sunday

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Washington Redskins v New York Giants

3-24

Daniel Jones prevailed in the first of what could be many NFC East showdowns, as he continues to mature in front of our eyes. On his second Sunday under center for the Giants (2-2), the QB began phenomenally as he orchestrated touchdown drives on each of their first two marches. However, he did prove he was not a robot with a pair of picks and ended the game with a 78.0 passer rating. Even so, he was 23-for-31 for 225 yards, one touchdown and also had 33 yards on five carries. The transition from Eli Manning to Jones continues to be celebrated.

As for Jay Gruden pulling the trigger on replacing Case Keenum with Dwayne Haskins, it may well have proved Gruden correct in his hesitation to bring in the No.15 overall pick to lead the Redskins. Unlike Jones, who pulled off a riveting rally last week against the Buccs, Haskins found no such magic, he just struggled. The rookie took over from Keenum in the first quarter and led Washington on a drive for a field goal. It proved to be their only points of the game as a woeful Haskins finished 9-for-17 for 107 yards, three interceptions and a mere 32.8 rating.

With news circulating that Saquon Barkley might be back sooner than expected the Big Blue faithful are celebrating, however, if that doesn’t come to fruition, Wayne Gallman provided reason for relief on Sunday, showcasing his quickness and aggression with the ball and looking comfortable in the offense as he made an immediate impact. Taking a play-fake from Jones in the opening quarter, Gallman ran right into the flats and was left completely uncovered. Jones read it and threw to the rookie for a six-yard touchdown and a 6-0 lead that New York wouldn’t relinquish. The score, despite coming on the opening drive, stands as the game-winner. The fourth-round pick added another TD on the ground and had an all-round impressive outing (18 carries for a game-high 63 yards and a TD; six receptions for 55 yards and a score). Things are finally starting to go the Giants’ way – perhaps the best running back in the league is on the sidelines and yet Gallman is doing an exceptional job of filling in.

Giants fans may have been upset when Odell Beckham was sent out of Gotham and to the west, with Jabrill Peppers best known as the other guy involved in that trade, but Peppers did a great job on Sunday, delivering NY’s grandest defensive highlight – taking a Haskins interception 32 yards to the end zone for the final score of the day.

The Redskins were held to a meager 176 yards of offense and had four turnovers. Unsung names like David Mayo and Ryan Connely (who had a sack and an interception, but was lost to a leg injury) turned in good games. In contrast Washington’s defense, which boasts plenty of big names such as Josh NormanLandon Collins and Ryan Kerrigan, continued on its subpar track, allowing 389 yards of offense, despite four takeaways. Both defenses played against rookie QBs, but it’s clear the Giants are trending up and the Redskins’ D continue their downward spiral.

Up Next:

Patriots v Redskins – Sunday, October 6 (1pmCBS)

Vikings v Giants – Sunday, October 6 (1pmFOX)

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Los Angeles chargers v Miami Dolphins

30-10

After consecutive losses, L.A. got a much-needed road win in Miami.

Despite the Dolphins’ winless record, the matchup, especially before the break, was no easy task for a depleted Chargers squad. Phillip Rivers was without a few of his top targets – Mike WilliamsTravis Benjamin and Virgin Green – but he spread the ball around to several players, finishing the day 24-of-30 for 310 yards and two touchdowns.

Josh Rosen and the Dolphins (0-4) had a hot start in the first half against their visitors. DeVante Parker caught a beautiful 34-yard TD pass on their first drive – it was the first time this season that they’d lead in a game. Meanwhile Kenyan Drake bolted for 44 yards and Mark Walton added 23 rushing yards. Despite those two promising quarters, L.A. pulled ahead and Miami were held scoreless after the break.

The home defense showed glimpses of efficiency. Taco Charlton had his second sack in as many games since donning the teal and orange, but like the Charges, Miami caught the injury bug during the game. Luckily they have a bye week before a hosting the Redskins in Week 6.

Chargers fans had a lot to celebrate with Melvin Gordon activated after ending his contract holdout (he’s been absent since training camp). He didn’t feature in Sunday’s victory though because Austin Ekeler had another stellar dual-threat performance, totaling 60 rushing yards on 18 carries, 62 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Up Next:

Broncos v Chargers – Sunday, October 6 (4:05pmCBS)

Dolphins – Bye Week

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Oakland Raiders v Indianpolis Colts

31-24

The 2-2 Raiders went to Indiana and pulled of a huge road win. They came in hot with three touchdowns in the first 16 minutes of the game. Rookie Foster Moreau scored his first career touchdown – an 18-yard pass from Derek Carr – on the opening drive. Trevor Davis followed with a 60-yard touchdown in his first game for Oakland on the ensuing drive before Tyrell Williams found the end zone to continue his run of scoring a TD in every game this season.

The visitors looked good on both sides of the ball. Their D forced two turnovers; Maxx Crosby hit Parris Campbell from behind to jar the ball loose in the second quarter, whilst safety Erik Harris reeled in a pick-six in the fourth to seal the game.

The Colts (2-2) have got off to a great start without Andrew Luck, but everything that could go wrong on Sunday against the Raiders did. Jacoby Brissett completed just 20% of passes in the first quarter after entering Week 4 leading the NFL with 95% completion in first quarters. They just couldn’t keep hold of the ball with five drops in the first half, including three by Eric Ebron. Meanwhile the defense couldn’t pressure Carr or stop their opponents’ run game. Oakland had 110 rushing yards before the break compared to the Colts’ 58.

Even with the visitors 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 fourth quarter drive. The home defense then 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.

Injuries really hurt the hosts this week. Without WR T.Y. Hilton (quad), LB Darius Leonard (concussion) and safety Malik Hooker (knee), Indy missed out on several opportunities on both sides of the ball. They couldn’t make downfield plays without Hilton, especially when receivers couldn’t hold on to the ball, those drops killed them on offense. According to Mike Chappell with FOX59/CBS 4 Sports, Indy are now 0-5 when Hilton doesn’t play.

Up Next:

Bears v Raiders – Sunday, October 6 (1pmFOX)

Colts v Chiefs – Sunday, October 6 (8:20pmNBC)

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Carolina Panthers v Houston Texans

16-10

A week after giving Deshaun Watson one of the cleanest games of his career against the Chargers, Houston’s protection reverted to form against the Panthers’ supercharged pass rush. It was apparent the QB was in for a long day when he was taken down on back-to-back sacks to end the first drive of the afternoon, and Carolina’s front seven only turned up the heat from there. Watson wasn’t able to get anything through the air for the 2-2 Texans, finishing 21-of-33 for 160 yards, a poor 4.8 per attempt. James Bradberry did an admirable job against Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins, and the loss of Kenny Stills (hamstring) dissipated much of the big-play threat from the hosting attack. Most of the attention should be on the O-line as Carolina finished with six sacks, 12 QB hits and 18 hurries.

Kyle Allen may have garnered most of the headlines leading up to Sunday’s games, but as Christian McCaffrey goes so does the offense. The Panthers star running back had 37 touches, 10 catches from a team-high 10 targets for 80 yards, along with 93 yards and a score on the ground). As Allen struggled with ball security (three lost fumbles) Ron Rivera and his Panthers simplified the game plan and relied on McCaffrey as a security blanket.

Carolina have found a genuine kicking weapon in Joey Slye. He connected on all three field goal attempts, including a 55-yard field goal to put the visitors ahead in the fourth, a lead they would not relinquish. After missing his first field goal of the season Slye is a perfect 10-for-10 and has made all nine extra point attempts.

 

Up Next:

Jaguars v Panthers – Sunday, October 6 (1pmCBS)

Falcons v Texans – Sunday, October 6 (1pmFOX)

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Kansas City Chiefs v Detroit Lions

34-30

Patrick Mahomes, making his first-ever NFL start in a dome may have been a little off, but nonetheless he led a game-winning drive on the road to silence a raucous Detroit crowd. In true Mahomes fashion he used his legs to pick up several huge first downs late, and found holes in the Lions defense, which was only rushing two and three defenders much of the final drive.

The dome atmosphere may explain why his deep shots were a tad off all afternoon, with him missing a bevy of bombs. The normally dive-bombing playmaker generated no completions of 20+ air yards. The reigning NFL MVP came in with 14 straight games with two or more passing TDs. Whilst Matt Patricia‘s defense may have held him out of the zone, Mahomes made enough plays between the 20s and K.C. ran for three TDs, including Darrel Wiliiams‘ game-winning score. Sunday served as a reminder for the rest of the league that even when the 4-0 Chiefs don’t have their best day, Mahomes can still find a way to seal the deal.

NFL.com summarized the third quarter as a “fumble-palooza”. Both sides combined for five fumbles, the most in a single quarter since 1991. The Chiefs committed three, opening the quarter with a kickoff fumble and coughing up the ball on each of their next two possessions. Detroit however couldn’t capitalize on the miscues with Matthew Stafford fumbling inside the 5-yard line, a play after a touchdown pass to Kenny Golladay was overturned. Following K.C.’s next fumble, Kerryon Johnson had the ball knocked out when trying to stretch out for a score at the goal line. Chiefs DB Bashuad Breeland scooped up the ball and ran 100 yards for a score.

 

Up Next:

Colts v Chiefs – Sunday, October 6 (8:20pmNBC)

Lions – Bye Week

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New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills

16-10

Whilst it was one of, if not the most talked about Week 4 meeting and first place in the AFC East was at stake, few believed it would be a heavyweight, high scoring affair.

Whilst the Bills showed their might and reserve with a stellar defense, as has become standard in the AFC East and beyond, it was the New England Patriots who prevailed, winning a game that was as ugly as it was close. The day was won by the Pats’ defense (even though it gave up its first TD of the year), however Buffalo’s D did hold Tom Brady and the Patriots offense to just 244 yards and one offensive touchdown. New England came away with four turnovers – all interceptions – the last of which clinched victory when Jamie Collins grabbed a Matt Barkley pick. Barkley had come on in relief of an injured Josh Allen, but a storybook ending wasn’t to be had for Buffalo, with J.C. Jackson getting two picks for the Pats and Devin McCourty another – his fourth in as many games, becoming the first Patriots player to pull off the feat and the first in the league since 2003.

Whilst an outstanding defensive effort from the hosts held Brady to a horrendous 18-of-39 for 150 yards, no touchdowns and an interception, the veteran signal-caller’s experience and knack for winning the big game was evident in comparison to either of his counterparts. Every game in which Brady performs in an un-Brady-like fashion will see the naysayers say he’s looking very much 42 years old rather than 42 years young. This has happened before, and you can bet it’ll happen again, but the 4-0 Patriots are  a dynasty for a multitude of reasons and the quarterback knows full well how to manage a victory even on a bad day. Hence, Brady‘s bad day still being a good one for Pats Nation.

Allen, playing in likely the most important game of his short NFL career, struggled in a variety of ways that far overshadowed the positives. The QB, in his second season, began the affair going 0-for-5 with an interception to McCourty included. That pick set up the Patriots’ first score and had Buffalo playing from behind all afternoon. Allen, under pressure often, never looked comfortable and was woefully inaccurate in a fashion that’s quickly becoming infamous for a QB with such a powerful arm, but one that too often misses ridiculously off target. His day ended early following a helmet-to-helmet hit form Jonathan Jones and concluded with 13-for-28 (5.5 yards per attempt), three interceptions, four sacks and a solemn 24.0 rating.

 

Up Next:

Patriots v Redskins – Sunday, October 6 (1pmCBS)

Bills v Titans – Sunday, October 6 (1pmCBS)

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Cleveland Browns v Baltimore Ravens

40-25

All credit to the Browns defense for holding Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense in check. Whilst the offense may have put up 40 points, Cleveland’s defense was a crucial part of their success.

Aside from a garbage-time touchdown from Willie Snead, Baltimore’s 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 couldn’t find a rhythm, so much so that Jackson had to take matters in to his own hands and scramble to make plays when his receivers were bottled up. What made the defensive feat for Cleveland extra special was they did it with a banged-up secondary as Denzel WardGreedy Williams and Morgan Burnett were held out of the game, though their replacements were on point. Damarious Randall blitzed from his corner position to sack Jackson on a big third-down first quarter play, whilst Jermaine Whitehead had a beautiful interception in the fourth, and a deflected pass during a corner blitz allowed Devaroe Lawrence to get another late interception. The traveling defense also forced Mark Ingram to produce his first turnover of the year. They may have have been short-handed but the Browns had the upper hand with effective scheming from Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks against a dynamic Ravens offense.

Nick Chubb was the motor behind a Browns offense that nearly doubled its point total for the year. The RB found the end zone three times and sealed the game in the fourth quarter with an 88-yard run to the house. He finished the day with 165 yards on 20 rushes, three catches for 18 yards and five first downs to go with his three scores. Cleveland have won their first two road games of a season for the first since since 1994.

 

Up Next:

Browns v 49ers – Monday, October 7 (8:15pmESPN)

Ravens v Steelers – Sunday, October 6 (1pmCBS)

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Tennessee Titans v Atlanta Falcons

24-10

Marcus Mariota had his best game of the season. The fifth-year QB moved with purpose throughout the first half, avoiding contact and slicing the Falcons defense with smart, efficient throws.

Rookie A.J. Brown impressed against Atlanta’s secondary, finishing the half, and eventually the game, with three catches on three targets for 94 yards and two TDs. His first scored was a 55-yard catch-and-run, his second came on an 11-yard fade route into the right corner of the end zone. Brown, along with Corey Davis (four catches for 75 yards, a TD), gave Mariota a 14-of-19, 189-yard, three TD, zero-interception stat line through the first 30 minutes. Whilst it got a little shaky in the second half, the 2-2 Titans managed to ride their hot start to a 24-10 win.

There’s no denying how great Julio Jones is and how it will make him a regular in the record books, but on Sunday 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. Unfortunately, he was unable to get on the same page with his QB after that, finishing 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 since Week 1. He also finished without a touchdown for the first time since Week 12 of last season.

Dean Pees, the Titans Defensive Coordinator, and his unit turned Matt Ryan (25-of-53, 397 yards, 0 TDs) into a human pinball machine. He was sacked five times and hit 11. Tennessee batted down numerous balls and were all over the running game, holding Devonta Freeman and Ito Smith to a combined 39 yards on 14 carries. The D even snuffed out an attempt to get Jones on a reverse. Their most impressive stop came just before the break on fourth-and-1 on their own 39. Freeman built up a head of steam out of the backfield but was blocked by Kenny Vaccaro, who led the effort, and Jurrell Casey for a two-yard loss. Up until that point Atlanta were 3-for-3 on fourth-down conversion this season.

 

Up Next:

Bills v Titans – Sunday, October 6 (1pmCBS)

Falcons v Texans – Sunday, October 6 (1pmFOX)

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Los Angeles Rams

55-40

After a crushing defeat against the Giants last week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) came out and put on an offensive clinic in L.A. to score a franchise record 55pts.

The visitors were up 21-0 with 5:34 left before half time when the Rams finally put something up on the board. Tampa went in at the break with a 28-17 lead. The final quarter is when things got interesting though. Both offenses scored two touchdowns to bring the score to 45-34 to the Bucs. Then cornerback Marcus Peters intercepted a pass from Jameis Winston and ran it 32 yards for a touchdown to bring the Rams within 5pts. Tampa kicker Matt Gay hit a 21-yard field goal. Then with 1:06 left in the game, Jared Goff was strip sacked by Shaq Barrett and Ndamukong Smith scooped up the fumble and scored a game-winning defensive touchdown.

It surprised the footballing world how well the Bucs’ offense played against a Rams defense that carried the team for much of the first three weeks. TB were able to up their franchise record against what had been a boastful L.A. defense. The points the hosts allowed Sunday are the third-most in a game in franchise history.

Overall it was an afternoon the Rams will want to forget quickly. Goff ended the affair with 45 of 68 passing attempts, 517 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions and a fumble. Whilst it’s a career high in passing attempts for the QB it just didn’t go as planned. The Rams only ran the ball eleven times.

The hosts have fallen out of first place in the NFC West for the first time since Sean McCoy was hired.

 

Up Next:

Buccaneers v Saints – Sunday, October 6 (1pmFOX)

Rams v Seahawks – Thursday, October 3 (8:15pmFOX)

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Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals

27-10

Even in a dominant win, it was the usual tale of two halves for the 3-1 Seahawks.

In the first half, they played a near-perfect game scoring 20 points, allowing just a field goal. They had zero penalties and forcing punter Michael Dickson was left twiddling his thumbs on the side line. Led by Russell Wilson, who went 22 of 28 for 240 passing yards and a touchdown, the visitors were efficient through the air and tough to stop on the ground thanks to Chris Carson, who ended the afternoon with 104 rushing yards on 22 attempts.

After the break it seemed things could only get worse for Arizona, but that’s when Seattle started making mistakes via penalties, inefficiency on third down and breakdowns in pass protection. They didn’t score at all in the third quarter and allowed the Cardinals (0-3-1) to gain momentum early in the fourth after conceding their only touchdown of the game. Once it reached 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 touchdown that put them up by 17.

Seattle’s newly acquired pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney started the first-half battering with a first quarter pick-six for the game’s first touchdown. It was his first regular-season interception, his only other INT coming in a game against the Raiders in the 2017 wild-card round.

Rookie QB Kyler Murray was hounded all day by the visiting pass rush, but during AZ’s mini-comeback attempt in the final quarter, he made a play and scrambled to find the end zone for his first career rushing TD, making it a two-score game. There were numerous times the playmaker evaded a would-be sack to net positive yards, but Seattle manhandled the Cardinals O-line to make it tough for him to look downfield. A good amount of Murray‘s 241 passing yards came on check-downs to David Johnson, who led the hosts in receiving with 99 yards on eight receptions.

Larry Fitzgerald made history by surpassing Tony Gonzalez for second on the all-time receptions lists (1,326).

 

Up Next:

Rams v Seahawks – Thursday, October 3 (1pmCBS)

Cardinals v Bengals – Sunday, October 6 (1pmCBS)

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Jacksonville Jaguars v Denver Broncos

26-24

Week 4 saw “Minshew Mania” meet the “Fournette Frenzy”, and whilst there’s no telling how long the new craze will last, for this week at least, Leonard Fournette put on a show Jaguars fans haven’t seen since the days of Fred Taylor.

On the road against a Broncos defense who are still trying 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. That stat is impressive on its own, but when you realize that’s higher than his combined 179 rushing yards through the first three weeks, it’s crazy.

Whilst he may have been outshined by his running back, Rookie QB Gardner Minshew (19-of-33, 213 yards) made the plays that capped off the scoring drives during their comeback bid. The Jags (2-2) took the lead after Minshew capped the team’s first two drives after the break with touchdown passes; a ridiculous 81-yard Fournette run from the JAX 7 helped set up the second score. Both players are undeniably special, but the biggest star on the field was kicker Josh Lambo, whose two clutch fourth-quarter field goals – particularly the 33-yard game-winner with time expiring – propelled the visitors to their second-largest comeback win in franchise history.

They may have earned their first sacks of the season (5), but the once-hyped Denver defense still surrendered 20 unanswered points en route to their fourth consecutive loss. The offense didn’t help their cause going cold after scoring two TDs and setting up a field goal in the first half. The collapse spoke volumes to the group’s inability to play complimentary football through the first four weeks.

Whilst Jalen Ramsey‘s trade request looms, the Jacksonville defense got their first taste of life without the player who had never missed a game prior to Sunday. Giving Joe Flacco three touchdowns – the most he’d had in a game since Week 1 last season – isn’t ideal but they stepped up when needed the most. Denver were held to 371 total yards, converting only four of 11 third-down attempts and had just 20:48 on the field. Jags safety Ronnie Harrison also recorded his first interception, a play that proved crucial as it led to Lambo‘s 40-yarder to end the first half.

 

Up Next:

Jaguars v Panthers – Sunday, October 6 (1pmCBS)

Broncos v Chargers – Sunday, October 6 (4:05pmCBS)

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Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears

6-16

Just six plays into Sunday’s game, Mitchell Trubisky exited with a left shoulder injury and didn’t return. Veteran Chase Daniel stepped up and immediately guided Chicago to their only touchdown of the game (on the opening drive). The 11-year pro made quality, speedy decisions getting the ball out of his hands, completing 22 of 30 passes for 195 yards and the TD. Even with the Vikings’ stifling defense headed for him, Daniel didn’t make stupid mistakes, he got the Bears (3-1) into the right plays and moved the chains on several long drives to eat the clock.

Chicagos defense were without Akiem Hicks and Roquan Smith, two huge smothering presences. But it mattered not, their defense destroyed Minnesota’s offensive line with ease. Khalil Mack obliterated nearly every attempted block, constantly pressuring Kirk Cousins, compiling 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a host of other duresses. Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski filled in for Smith and was like a heat-seeking missile all game, racking up nine tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a QB hit. Meanwhile Nick Williams, stepping in for Hicks, also cleaned up with two sacks and seven tackles. The Bears’ defensive front controlled the affair, holding Dalvin Cook to 35 yards on 14 attempts with a late TD, and sacked Cousins six times.

The Vikings offense continues to have no direction. When Cook and the run game is stymied, Cousins has no answers. The QB had just two of four pass attempts of 10+ air yards work. 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 led to nothing, and his second-quarter fumble squashed any early momentum they had. Cousins‘ O-line didn’t show up, allowing him to take sack after sack and fumble twice – losing one and the other knocked them out of scoring range.

 

Up Next:

Vikings v Giants – Sunday, October 6 (1pmFOX)

Bears v Raiders – Sunday, October 6 (1pmFOX)

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Dallas Cowboys v New Orleans Saints

10-12

Last season when these two met they combined for 24 points and 484 total yards. This year they had 22pts and 523 yards gained. Whilst it wasn’t an overly entertaining game – the clash was a slow burn, relying on defenses, field goals and the rare big play to get the crowd going again – the difference this time around, other than Drew Brees being sidelined with a thumb injury, was that Alvin Kamara, NO’s most dynamic and unique offensive talent, showed up and the Saints (3-1) were victorious. As he did last week in Seattle, Kamara carried the Saints to victory with 89 total yards on 20 touches.

In a “head-to-head” matchup with Ezekiel Elliott, Kamara outgained the Cowboy by 24 total yards, picking up four first downs on the hosts’ final three drives, which resulted in just three points but knocked 17 minutes off the clock.

Both defensive lines played inspiring ball thanks to the return of recently injured or suspended players. In his second game for Dallas, Robert Quinn beat Terron Armstead for a game-high two sacks and three QB hits. On the other side, Sheldon Rankins, returning from a torn Achilles, played 35 snaps, recorded two tackles and pressured Dak Prescott late in the game.

 

Up Next:

Packers v Cowboys – Sunday, October 6 (4:25pmFOX)

Buccaneers v Saints – Sunday, October 6 (1pmFOX)

Monday

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Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers

3-27

After a conservative debut last week in which Mason Rudolph threw just two passes more than a yard past the line the scrimmage, many thought he only had room to improve. But on Monday night, the QB rarely attempted a deep shot. With James Connor and Jaylen Samuels in the backfield he didn’t need to. Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fitchner helped his young playmaker out by having the offense revolve around the running backs.

JuJu Smith-Schuster was mic’d up on the night, and whilst all cameras were focused on him, Rudolph most definitely wasn’t. When he wasn’t dumping passes to his running backs, he didn’t even look at his supposed No.1 receiver (3rec, 15 yards) or his former college teammate James Washington. Instead it was third-round rookie Diontae Johnson who got all the attention for a second straight game.

Cincy’s offensive line have been a liability for what feels like a lifetime, and Monday night was no different. Without injured rookie Jonah Williams and veteran Corey Glenn, the Bengals didn’t have many options, subjecting Andy Dalton to a career-high eight sacks and 12 QB hits. Andre Smith, who filled in for Glenn, and Bobby Hart were particularly poor against Pittsburgh, proving no match for T.J. Watt and Bud Dupree. The only faint light in a very dim running game was Joe Mixon, who “broke out” with a season-high 62 rushing yards, but for the most part they failed to move the chains with any consistency.

 

Up Next:

Cardinals v Bengals – Sunday, October 6 (1pmFOX)

Ravens v Steelers – Sunday, October 6 (1pmCBS)

Bye Week

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San Fransisco 49ers & New York Jets

Up Next:

Browns v 49ers – Monday, October 7 (8:15pmESPN)

ALL TIMES U.S. EASTERN

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