Matt Schaub outduels Peyton Manning: First Down, Fourth Down
First Down, Fourth Down takes a weekly look at the good (First Down) and bad (Fourth Down) from NFL Sunday.
Week 3 in the NFL brought a boatload of drama -- eight of Sunday afternoon's games were decided by less than 10 points, with three contests going to overtime and a fourth coming down to a last-second field goal.
So, as is the case every week here, there's not enough room to highlight all the spectacular (sorry, Maurice Jones-Drew) nor all the atrocious (sorry, Josh Freeman) from around the NFL. But here are the best of the best ... and worst of the worst from Week 3's Sunday action:
First Down: Matt Schaub
Schaub's day began with him being sacked by Elvis Dumervil for a safety on Houston's first play. He spent the next three hours picking Denver's defense apart. Schaub threw four touchdowns to four different receivers and finished with a 115.3 rating -- about 33 points higher than what Peyton Manning scraped together against Houston's tough defense.
The bad news for Houston? Well, first Schaub took a monster shot to the jaw that knocked his helmet off, left him bleeding from the ear and momentarily sent him to the bench. Even worse, though: Schaub reportedly needed X-rays on his right (throwing) elbow after Houston's win.
Fourth Down: Philip Rivers
The Chargers had to be feeling good after a 2-0 start to the season put them atop the AFC West. To get to 3-0, they needed a big game from Philip Rivers as they tried to keep pace with Matt Ryan and the high-flying Falcons.
Instead, they got this: 21-of-38 or 173 yards, two interceptions, no touchdowns.
Rivers is far from alone in taking the blame for Sunday's San Diego flop, but he was totally outplayed by one of the league's rising superstar QBs.
First Down: Jamaal Charles
With less than six minutes to go in the third quarter, Kansas City trailed New Orleans by 18. And then the Chiefs put the ball in the hands of Jamaal Charles. Charles started his team's dramatic comeback to a 27-24 overtime win with an explosive 91-yard touchdown jaunt. That burst helped him put up staggering numbers on the ground -- 33 carries for 233 yards, a 7.1 yards-per-carry average. He also caught six passes for 55 yards.
Fourth Down: Pittsburgh's defense
Pittsburgh coughed up 34 points to the previously winless Raiders, including 13 in the fourth quarter. When they needed a stop most, with the game tied 31-all in the waning moments, the Steelers simply could not get off the field, as Carson Palmer connected on big pass after big pass to set up a Sebastian Janikowski field goal.
First Down: Chad Greenway
There was a healthy cast of heroes for the Vikings in their shockingly easy win over San Francisco. Greenway led the way defensively with a pair of sacks and a game-high nine tackles. The Minnesota defense simply refused to let the 49ers get going on offense, even when they pulled within 17-13. An Alex Smith-to-Vernon Davis TD with 6:17 left in the third quarter would stand as the last points San Francisco mustered.
Fourth Down: Dominic Raiola
Detroit's defense was a train wreck, the special teams allowed two return touchdowns, Brandon Pettigrew had a ball ripped out of his hands and returned for a TD, and Matthew Stafford left the game with an injury.
And the Lions still had a great shot to win in Tennessee. But their only drive in overtime ended on 4th-and-inches when Raiola snapped the ball to a surprised Shaun Hill, resulting in a fumble. Lions coach Jim Schwartz said after the game that he wanted his offense to try to draw Tennessee offside before kicking a tying field goal. Raiola, apparently, did not get the message.
First Down: A.J. Green
Green continues to establish himself as one of the league's best weapons -- and he sent a statement to the Redskins early Sunday, hauling in a pass from fellow receiver Mohamed Sanu, who lined up in the wildcat, and taking it 73 yards for a score. Green finished with nine catches for 183 yards, part of a balanced aerial attack by Cincinnati that kept Washington's defense on its heels in a 38-31 win.
Fourth Down: St. Louis' offense
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the Bengals ...
Sam Bradford and his Rams offense were sharp in a shootout win over Washington last week. This week, not so much. Bradford mustered just 152 yards passing, the Rams had 160 yards total, and not one of their drives wound up marching into Chicago's red zone. The result of that bumbling was a predictable 23-6 loss.
First Down: The Arizona Cardinals
How 'bout those Cardinals? Arizona is now 3-0 and alone atop the NFC West. This hasn't been a cheap start either, with the Cardinals claiming wins over Seattle, New England and Philadelphia -- all playoff contenders in their own rights.
Their latest triumph may have been the most impressive. Arizona raced out to a 24-0 halftime lead on the 2-0 Eagles and cruised home for a 27-6 win that was as lopsided as the final score indicated.
Fourth Down: Cleveland's chances of winning a game
We're a long way still from the Browns finishing this season 0-16 or locking up the 2013 first-round pick. But ...
Sunday's game against the Bills looked like one of the more winnable on Cleveland's schedule. Coming up for the Browns: at Baltimore, at the Giants, Cincinnati, at Indianapolis, San Diego, Baltimore. And then, after a bye, at Dallas, Pittsburgh, at Oakland. There are some games in there that Cleveland can and will stay close in, and maybe even a couple that the Browns will win. But with Sunday's 24-14 home loss to the Bills, there's trouble a-brewin' in Cleveland.